magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
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So, apparently I'll be arguing the literary merits of RP and hyperfiction when I have enough brain to form a post about it.

ETA: I've written out a post and submitted it to the Suggestions box. I'll let people know if/when it gets through the moderation queue.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
Account [Czeslaw Milosz]

The history of my stupidity would fill many volumes.

Some would be devoted to acting against consciousness,
Like the flight of a moth which, had it known,
Would have tended nevertheless toward the candle’s flame.

Others would deal with ways to silence anxiety,
The little whisper which, though it is a warning, is ignored.

I would deal separately with satisfaction and pride,
The time when I was among their adherents
Who strut victoriously, unsuspecting.

But all of them would have one subject, desire,
If only my own—but no, not at all; alas,
I was driven because I wanted to be like others.
I was afraid of what was wild and indecent in me.

The history of my stupidity will not be written.
For one thing, it’s late. And the truth is laborious.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
When you genericize slurs like gay, retarded, or lame into insults, even if you're not referring to people when you use them ("That movie is so gay," etc.), you're training people to react to those words with derision. And you can point out all you'd like that intellectually, you know the difference between a gay person and a thing you call "gay", but slurs and insults don't engage people intellectually. They engage people emotionally. And emotions do flavor the way we interact with things.

If you can undercut someone's sympathy for a person, you can legitimize actions and attitudes taken against them. This is why, on a grand scale, war propaganda has historically tried so hard to dehumanize "the enemy." This is also why things like the gay panic defense works – everyone knows that gay sex is gross, everyone knows that having to endure homosexual attention is terrifying, so isn't it understandable if you flip out under that threat and someone gets hurt, even killed? If a man was approached by a woman romantically and flipped out and killed her, that would be totally unacceptable, but that's not icky in the same way a man approaching another man is. Everyone knows this.

Note that "gross" and "terrifying" and "icky" aren't intellectual arguments, either.

Emotions get people killed.

Attitudes get people killed.

And when they're not getting people killed, they're making their lives hard to navigate in. They're creating worlds in which what someone is can be constantly under attack, because if you identify with one of those terms, or if a family member does, if a loved one does, you're hearing that word spoken with derision as part of casual interchange with the culture around you.

And yeah, on the surface, calling something "gay" or "retarded" or "lame" doesn't seem like much, but it normalizes those negative attitudes. It legitimizes that derision. It's not murder, but it supports the attitudes thereof. It's a part of a culture of judgement and violence.

No one dot on a polka-dot dress is a polka-dot pattern, but every single one of them makes up the pattern it's in.

This is one of many reasons why I'm working hard to eliminate words like lame or crazy or gypped from my colloquial vocabulary, and why I'm grateful to the people who have called me on those words in the past. Because I'm a writer; I rely on the power of words to create pictures of the world, to influence thoughts and emotions, and I refuse to lend those words to the cause of hurting people who have done nothing wrong.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
How many people are socialized into a position where they feel that they have to survive on the scraps of affection left over from other people's "real" relationships?

What are ways of repairing this (broken) social schema?
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
I spent most of last week feeling like crap either physically or emotionally. (Or both. It was sometimes both.) Along with a persistent low-grade fever, I got hit with a case of I'm not doing anything with my life, I'm not going anywhere with my life, I will never amount to anything and I'm never going to mean more than I mean right now. Which is silly, and which I know is silly, because for where I am in my life I'm doing just fine – I've got a college degree, I've got a few publications, I've got a salaried job, and these are not small accomplishments. Which prompted some introspection on my part, and while this was originally going to be a much longer post rambling my way through that thought process, I don't have the focus to write it all out right now, so I'll just hit the highlights:

* I keep thinking that if I just do this or do that, I'll feel a lot better about myself, which isn't, so far as I can tell, true. I mean, when I was 19 I thought that being a Published Author!! would grant me some sort of inner sense of validity, which isn't really true; now that I've got fiction appearing here and there in magazines, what I'm really wondering is why it's not appearing in more. And why all of it is short-form. Honestly, I don't think that finishing a novel or sending it out or seeing it on bookshelves is going to be anything revelatory, either, if I manage it; there's still Ways Up to go.

* Phrased another way, the above can be succinctly summarized as if I just HAVE MORE accolades, I bet I'll be a happier person! I think this is about as useful as buying a new sportscar. ...perhaps moderately more useful. It still won't get me what I'm looking for.

* Honestly, I think some of it is that I keep looking for objective measurements that I'm doing well, and it's a big ol' thorny subjective world out there, and there are six billion different and usually contradictory rubrics available to grade myself against.

* * For example, I am an absolutely wretched conservative Christian.

* * But I like to think I'm at least a competent speculative fiction author.

* So, if I have to discard the HAVING THINGS/ACCOMPLISHMENTS model of Feeling Good About Myself, that leaves me at the common-sense stage of "...maybe instead of focusing on the XBox Acheivements (real life edition) of concepts of self-worth, I actually have to learn to like myself on my own terms, and for my own self (rather than Because It Can Be Demonstrated That I Am Doing Well), which is something I'm still learning how to do.

* * But I'm making some progress, I think.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
There's something I see a lot in discussion of race, of gender, of any sort of marginalized group, really – someone who isn't part of that group will come up to someone who is and say "Wow, I didn't know. Could you tell me more?" And the person they're asking will say "No."

And then it usually explodes.

I want to write out exactly what I see as going on in that situation, to the extent that I know it, to tell people why they're getting that "No." – and this is a lesson I had to learn after looking at posts by people who refused, and thinking Well, that's unreasonable, isn't it?, and really sitting down to try to understand why that refusal was happening. Why someone who was a victim of ignorance would refuse to educate others.

Yes, it's counter-intuitive. But it's not unreasonable. Here's, to the best of my current understanding, why:

Educating others is an arduous and often thankless job, especially when you're educating someone who may be skeptical of your point of view, especially when it's topic which affects you deeply, personally, and emotionally. If you ask someone to put in the time and energy to educate you, whether or not (but especially if) you've given any indication that you might not agree with what they're trying to explain, whether or not (but especially if) it's a topic which is significant and personal to them they are not obligated to educate you.

On an issue like race, or sexuality, or gender, reams and reams of information have already been written. A little digging, at a decent library or on the internet, will give you a wealth of information on the topic – usually written by those who do sincerely want to educate others. By preferring not to sit down and discuss issues, people are not denying others access to that information. They're saying that they personally can't, won't, or don't want to teach it.

No, oppressed and marginalized people are not morally obligated to educate their oppressors or the mainstream. In fact, the constant need to defend oneself or one's lifestyles is a symptom of oppression and marginalization.

I personally don't find it offensive when people ask me to educate them. I may not always have the time, energy, or inclination to do so, and I may scoff at the notion that I am capable of speaking or qualified to speak as though I represented my entire demographic, but I generally assume (unless they indicate hostility or skepticism) that they're asking in good faith. This doesn't mean that I will always step up to educate them – as said before, it takes a lot of time and energy, especially emotional energy. And while I'd try to turn away people I didn't want to educate myself kindly, hopefully with a few edifying links or directions on where to turn, were I in an emotional state, I can't guarantee how that would come out. It might come out in a very hostile way – and if it ever does, I apologize.

The hostility. Not the refusal to educate. Because while I think that basic civility is a right of people in dialogue, having someone personally educate you is not. It is a privilege – yes, I said the P-word – and should never be demanded of anyone.

But, I hear someone say, people need to be educated, and if the marginalized and oppressed don't do it, who will? Excellent question.

The problem here is that people think the marginalized and oppressed can be tokenized down into the particular marginalized or oppressed person they happen to be talking to. People do educate on this. People write, people manage campaigns. People take social and civic action. Yes, people both from and outside of the marginalized and oppressed groups take it upon themselves to educate others and to work for equality and justice.

This doesn't mean that they, or other members of their community, have to work on the schedule of anyone who asks, or for anyone who asks, or because anyone asked. In the same way that you can't just grab an unemployed person off the streets and say "You, write a letter to your congressman about the economy – well, come on, hurry up; it's your responsibility!", in the same way you can't tell a victim of police brutality or even racial profiling "You, here's a pen and paper, write a letter to the editor of the local paper because the public has to know!", you should be aware that people have their own lives to live and their own concerns and their own apprehensions and hangups about stepping into that role and are not obligated to perform any civic duty to fulfill your sense of moral propriety.

And even asking that question reveals another one: why should it rest on the backs of the marginalized and oppressed? Pragmatically, yes, it usually does, but if you're asking the question, that indicates that you both come from a position of privilege and recognize that there's a problem that needs solving. Kudos to you, and that's a genuine kudos; you're ahead of a lot of people. The next step is to educate yourself.

You can do it. It's not even that difficult. It's the information age.

Educating yourself is likely to give you a much more solid grounding in the state of things, anyway, unless the person you're talking to is heavily involved in social action or has a degree in the subject you're asking about. People are great for personal touches and idiosyncratic experiences, but if you're coming in as someone who knows nothing and wants to learn, you might want more than personal touches and idiosyncratic experiences anyway.

I'd like to say here that I personally don't think there's anything inherently offensive about asking someone else for their opinions or for the basics, so long as you respect them and their right, if they choose so, not to tell you. I have to amend a caveat, though: in saying this I am very much not interested in being used as anyone's marginalized friend in an argument such as "oh, well, [personal profile] magistrate says se doesn't see anything offensive about it." Do not tokenize me. My opinions are what I think, not what every person in my situation thinks or should be expected to think. If you ask someone and they're offended by it, apologize and don't ask any more. If they rip you apart for asking and apologizing, maybe that's not someone you want to talk to about this subject. It happens.

Disclosure. I am a member of marginalized groups. I'm biracial, asexual, non-cisgendered. I am also a member of privileged groups. I'm college-educated, American, able-bodied. Most people are combinations of privileged and non-privileged – this discussion, as with most discussions of privilege, applies to people acting on both sides, and should be considered in this light.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
Like several other states, California allows same-sex couples to enter "domestic partnerships", which afford many of the same rights as marriage.

But activists say such partnerships are not equivalent to marriage.

California Ruling on Gay Marriage, BBC.co.uk


Every time I see this mentioned, I just think: Wait a minute. Didn't we try something like this before? Didn't we decide it wasn't a good idea?

On the rhetoric angle: It seems as though a lot of the furor over same-sex marriage is about sullying the institution of marriage, as though allowing couples a religion doesn't approve of to me married, whether or not that religion has any bearing on the wedding or couple itself, will tear down everything. It's not Christian marriage or Catholic marriage or $religion_of_choice marriage that's in the courts, it's civil marriage, but I can still see the point if I tilt my head. Honestly, I'd be a lot more comfortable if all legal joins of this sort were referred to partnerships because marriage is such a loaded term; same- and different-sex couples would all seek partnerships through civil authorities and marriages through $religious_entity_of_choice. But that's me.

There's an article up on Wired about how a new form of socialism is emerging on the web – not one born out of an ideology or advanced by a political party, but one which emerges naturally out of the ways in which we use the 'net, and the tools and opportunites which the 'net provides. The first page includes this sentiment:

I recognize that the word socialism is bound to make many readers twitch. It carries tremendous cultural baggage, as do the related terms communal, communitarian, and collective. […] Of course, there's rhetorical danger in lumping so many types of organization under such an inflammatory heading. But there are no unsoiled terms available, so we might as well redeem this one.


I have a feeling that a lot of people would take exception to having their marriages "demoted" to partnerships. (Equal in the eyes of the culture, right.) If we're calling it marriage, let's call it marriage. Let's make it truly equal. You can't say "These two things are equal, but." Separation is not equal; maybe in a pure (and therefore necessarily theoretical) ideal society, but separation invites and allows differences in treatment.

C'mon, society, stop making excuses. Or at least know your history.

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