BART song

Jan. 7th, 2013 08:33 pm
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
1. I've made a routine out of my commutes in the morning and evening. I have the good fortune to be located along the BART line at stations where I can generally get a seat going both ways; even during the morning rush, when by Oakland the trains are packed full, standing-room-only, I'm generally tucked into a seat by a window where the morning light (when there is morning light, rather than drifting fog or steady rain) can pour in on me. These days, when I've managed my energy well enough that I'm not completely exhausted, too tired to think, I read. It's a 45-minute ride each way, which clears out a precious hour and a half for me to sit down and devour books. Which is an unparalleled luxury, given how little I was able to read before I came out here.

Little to do with reading. )
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
I had this post roughly sketched out in the back of my head, but then my week got all crazy, my basement flooded, and I got sidetracked by writing about space elevators and hydroponic roses, so here's the distilled essence of the Post That Never Was:

Anna Hazare is awesome. You should all take a look at "Escaping Poverty: The Ralegan Siddhi case," and then we should all get started on sensible watershed development here. And everywhere. Though possibly Iowa City needs a different sort of watershed development program than Ralegan Siddhi needed, given Iowa City's aggravating tendency to either flood the Arts Campus or flood my basement.

Omens

Oct. 5th, 2011 07:38 am
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
You know, I'm agnostic-skeptic when it comes to omens and signs. I think most of the weird coincidences we see are just coincidences, and not actually that weird. It's just that we notice them, and the billions of tiny co-occurrences that don't hold any special similarity go unnoticed because there's no reason to give them any attention. "I wrote a blog post about gluten-free desserts, and then I turned on the radio... and there was a story about an embassy bombing!" ...okay? That sort of stuff happens all the time, with overwhelming frequency, yet it's always the "I was thinking about quitting my job, and a copy of the newspaper classifieds blew onto the sidewalk in front of me!" events that get all the attention. "What are the odds!" As it turns out, just what it took for the event to happen, and all the dreg is still there in your peripheral vision.

But, you know, that doesn't stop me from going after the "signs" and "omens" that do crop up in my life. It's a magical-consciousness thing.

By which I mean: in my low-key, homegrown magical practice, a big central philosophy is bricolage: "to make creative and resourceful use of whatever materials are at hand (regardless of their original purpose)". So when I write a post about being afraid to move forward and then the next day I wake up to a Live Your Legend mailinglist email about how the biggest threat to your success is quitting, and once you get that under control, all the other risks are small potatoes, I still interpret it as basically a message from $god*.

*Here I'm using the PHP variable syntax – $variable_name – to indicate, basically, "god-of-choice". God is another thing I'm both faithful and agnostic on.

And that's because I've taught myself to glean meaning and inspiration from things. Meaning, motivation, inspiration, and direction are things I need in my life, and I know that I sometimes have to be creative in fulfilling those needs. So when I see a coincidence that I can use to feed into my motivation – in this case, it's a "sign from the universe not to give up" – the framework of my thinking goes something like this:

Something called itself to my attention. => Is there meaning I can ascribe to this? => Is the potential meaning helpful or harmful? Can I interpret it in a way that makes it helpful? => If it's helpful, DUDE! It's an OMEN! If it's harmful, whoo, look at that, it's another wacky coincidence, and I go on my way.

This is a pretty blatant logical fallacy, of course – it's the same sort of thinking that contextualizes a misfortune that happens to someone of $x_particular_faith as a "test of faith" and an identical misfortune that happens to anyone else as a sign of $god's displeasure. But I'd rather look at it as a mindhack. Yeah, it's spurious and completely arbitrary, but I'm aware of it and can watchdog it so its net effect on my life is positive and it doesn't harm anyone else. I can glean a spot of inspiration from my own coincidences, and if I ever come across an arrangement of rocks in a stream that seems to spell out KILL THEM ALL, I'll take a picture and share it on Twitter with a note about how wacky patterns in nature can be.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
Every once in a while I realize how idiosyncratic the shapes and conventions of my world are to their particular points in time. The visual arrangement of the walls and ceiling and doors and decorations in my room are only available as I perceive them from the posture and position in which I sit to observe them, in the time when exigencies of finances and the social freedom of being a bachelor-type (if not in all regards a bachelor) drive me toward certain arrangements of housing. In my life, the things which were familiar to me will become foreign to the welling society. As a kid, I used to be fascinated with film canisters; I used to keep small keepsakes in them or fill them with some concoction or other to pretend that they were magical potions. It struck me as I was sitting here that fewer and fewer people are going to recognize them by sight, as time goes on. Fewer people will know what I'm talking about when I mention them. Film canisters.

I spend so much time in the back of my head or off in other worlds that I don't pay much attention to the granular detail of the world around me. As a result, even details of familiar environments seem novel and surprising when I turn my attention to them. I don't consciously process the arrangement of my room. I don't consider the makeup or implication of the clutter on my floor. I don't remember the tiny truths tucked away inside my memories. Except that sometimes I do, and the world gets this cast of realness to it, and it's strange, and frightening, and heartening. And foreign, and familiar, all the same.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
This was hard to write, and even harder to post. Harder still to post publicly. Still, here it is – after having sat in my drafts folder for about four months, but thrown to the world at last.

=

In an effort to help people understand privilege, its forms and complexities, I'm going to use myself as a case study. I'm going to examine a lot of the ways privilege affects my life, positively and negatively. So, while I will be pointing out ways in which I'm disadvantaged, I'm also going to try to own up to a lot of my own privilege, because it's really not a simple thing. You can be privileged in one way and disprivileged in another.

This isn't meant to be comprehensive or exhaustive. It's meant to provide a few glimpses into things people might not otherwise think about, especially with regards to the difference between who and what you are and what privilege you are accorded. It's beginning to unpack the invisible knapsack, but it's not finishing it.

It's a starting point, which will hopefully get people thinking.

So let's start.


Privilege I have



Read more... )


Privilege I sometimes have



Read more... )


Privilege I don't have



Read more... )


Special notes



Privilege is not universally desirable. One of the things that seems to tag along with male privilege is the privilege to be intimidating. While this is useful in warding off some types of harassment, it can be very unsettling when invoked accidentally. When I used to walk home alone while my city was having its big, well-reported problem with people being sexually assaulted walking around after dark, I'd occasionally find myself walking down the same stretch of road, presenting as male, to all appearances following a solitary female pedestrian. As someone who doesn't want to come across as threatening to innocents, this was not a comfortable space to be in.

Privilege is not universally bad. In a lot of cases, the effects of privilege aren't things people should feel guilty for experiencing. The problem arises when they're privileges and not rights - the privilege to escape harassment, for example, is a privilege because it's a right which is denied to people like women, transgendered persons, poor persons. etc. The privilege to be taken seriously by doctors is a right which is often denied to fat people and people of color.

Passing is a way of accessing privilege. If I pass for male, I access aspects of male privilege. If someone passes for white, they access aspects of white privilege. This can happen involuntarily as well as voluntarily, and someone can be passed as well as passing. One example of this is a person of color who's granted "honorary whiteness" by their friends - their friends will stop noticing that they're a person of color, even to the point where they'll have a moment of "Huh, they are" when it's brought up. Another example is a person with a mixed ethnic background who appears white enough that people assume they are white.

Privilege is multifaceted. Even at its most simplistic, we can split it into two parts which have to be evaluated separately: the personal, what one experiences, and the social, what one is accorded. This is how someone with severe gender dysphoria who nonetheless passes for their assigned gender can both experience and lose cisgender privilege; feeling comfortable with one's own body and expected social roles is a cisgender privilege which they have lost, while the ability to exist and function in society without being harassed on the basis of their gender is one they maintain.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
I just ran into this, and I thought it was excellent.

In fact, these kinds of experiences within the black community led Dubois to perceive the nature of the shared but fractured Soul of Blacks/Whites in America as well as the double consciousness of the Black Soul. Dubois is quoted by Long: "A Double consciouness … this sense of always looking at one's self through the eye of another, measuring one's soul by the type of a world which looks on in amused contempt and pity … two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings, two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder."

Out of this strength to maintain a double consciousness of mind and history comes the awareness that the hermeneutical circle of the signifier can be broken, the hierarchy can be rearranged by the community of interpreters who have been signified. You must be in two places at once to have insight!

– Davíd Carrasco, Proem to Significations, by Charles Long
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
"At first I thought, all the more reason to say nothing. But the I thought, that wouldn't be fair. To me, partly. Love has a right to be spoken. And you have a right to know that somebody loves you. That somebody has loved you, could love you. We all need to know that. Maybe it's what we need most."

–Isidra; "Another Story (or) A Fisherman of the Inland Sea", Ursula K. LeGuin
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.

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