What Really Matters

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I can’t say much coherent — I’m doing laundry. Also need to hem up a dress and pick up dry cleaning — so I’m going to say something I realized in the last twenty four hours.  Which will strike some of you as very funny, because you have probably guessed, between the lines, what I’ve been wrestling with a long time, sometimes more or less in public.

But yesterday the dime dropped as I was looking at someone going through much the same thing, and I realized something finally, and with the kind of certainty you can’t deny.

When you’re mad (a little at yourself, too) and depressed, the thing that you threaten to give up or stop doing is that which is most important to you. An important part of you.

Say you always wanted to be the best tiddly winks player in the world (an ambition far better than wishing to be a writer. More attainable too) and you even managed to go pro, and make some money.  When the career falls through, not really because of your fault, but because tournaments are down and there are none in your area, you might view continuing to play at the local level, which you hear makes more money but are afraid won’t, as too much trouble.  You might say “well, it was a good run, and now I’m going to collect bottle caps and exhibit those for money.”  And it might even be true.  The matter is how you do it and what you mean.  If you’re saying it in cool mind and heart and you just walk away and start in on the bottle caps, then whistle as you go, you’re a free man.  But if you do it because there is no way out from where you are that you can see, and you’re afraid you’ll never make any money money off tiddlywinks again, and — most importantly — you are mad and depressed… You probably should go back to tiddlywinks, and find a way, by gum, to not only make it pay, but to make it WORK. Because that’s a part of you, an important part of you and that’s why, being depressed and mad at yourself you’re trying to excise it.  It’s kind of like a smaller (or perhaps bigger) way of committing suicide.

I have often said that my prom date should have realized I was in love with Dan, because I spent my entire prom running Dan down.  He was so fascinating, and it was so utterly annoying that he didn’t notice me (he says he did, but we were both 18 and stupid, so he was hiding it) that I felt compelled to tell my date how horrible Dan was. For three hours. Non stop.

I didn’t realize until yesterday that apparently it’s the same with vocations. The thing you can’t leave behind drive you insane in the same proportion it frustrates you.

You don’t bother thinking about and attacking impulses/activities/interests you aren’t that invested in. I have never, ever, threatened to stop rendering figures. I enjoy it well enough. And if for some reason I couldn’t do it tomorrow, I’d have to find someone to do my covers.  And that’s about it.

I do periodically, and gave it a real try this last year, try to give up writing.  I thought I didn’t want to do anymore.  But no one works that hard at denying what they no longer want.

So I guess I am what I am. I love what I love. I was born to do one thing.

And I’m going to do it. It’s going to be harder than hell, but that’s all I can do, so I’ll do it. (After this week. This week it’s clothes and packing and stuff.)

 

This That and Very Definitely The Other

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So today is crazy-er than usual.  Heck, the whole week will be, for reasons already stated. BUT….

Passing thoughts in no particular order:

-If we ever fill a room with furniture so that I can’t SEE most of it (the room is packed with it until dining room’s floor is done) it can’t be that way for more than a week.  Also, if I can’t get there, neither can the cats.

We found where Euclid has been peeing. I could smell it, but couldn’t find it.  Except, of course, I happened to be on the stairs at the right moment.  Then I shifted heavy furniture around till I could get to it.  He’s probably been going there for MONTHS.  It’s clean now, but I feel like I bathed in cat pee, and have to take a shower. (Probably its aerosolizing in contact with hot water? I didn’t touch the stuff.)
In the future, any room that’s filled with furniture, should be for no more than a week, and hopefully less.  I need to be able to see every corner and clean when cats are bad.

It’s possible this will resolve when Euclid dies.  The others have been known to follow him, but Euclid has always had a problematic relationship with the boxes, since we got him when he was 1.  He’s now 19.

I think I’m getting him a kitty-cage, three floors, and keep him confined, pain-killed and happy.  We’ll take him out to cuddle in the evenings.  Honestly, mostly he sleeps, these days.  It’s that time.  Since we have another 3 cats and the youngest is 9, my guess is the cage will be used now and then over the next 10 years.

It’s also possible the others never engage in this kind of hooliganism.  Euclid was never too sure about the box (he seems to have been trained to paper) and he’s gotten worse.  Most of our elimination problems with the last batch disappeared when Randy died.  Pixie only had this problem when he could no longer walk much.  So… We’ll see.  But for now, Euclid will be confined, so I don’t kill him.

-Making a joke about Trump being the tar baby president, I found the book my kids had of Uncle Remus stories (not given by us, but I assumed it was THE BOOK, you know. So I never noticed) was “expurgated” meaning my kids don’t know a lot of references.  Apparently Uncle Remus is “racist” despite its being mostly African legends.  I find this bewildering.  I mean, it was one of the first books I was read (so before 4 or 5) and things like the Tar Baby and the Briar Patch are my family’s references, as much as anyone else’s. I hate bowdlerizers, whether from moral, historical or politically correct reasons.  I will accept things like “The Bible for children” ONLY on the understanding that they’re an introduction, but at some point children get the real thing.  And you never lie to them that the pale imitation is the real thing.

(Shudders at the idea future generations will try to bowdlerize Heinlein.  Well, me, too probably if anyone reads me in the future. BUT HEINLEIN would be a crime.)

– Somewhere along the line, I’ve missed some things about being an adult in the US.  Mostly because Dan also didn’t know them or assumed I knew them, and when I couldn’t find them when I first moved, in small town NC, I just assumed they didn’t exist.  Apparently, though they don’t go door to door, there are people who professionally sharpen knives in the US.  I’ve just been using the knives till home-sharpening no longer works, then donating them.  It’s fine, most of the sets were cheap, but our first set was good.  Oh, well. Took me thirty four years to find that out.  I wonder if it’s just me, or other people have such blind spots? You don’t even know what to ask, because you don’t know there’s anything to ask.

– looking decent takes a lot of time. I’m divided between continuing to only care about it when I have a special occasion like, oh, a wedding, and resuming just dressing in things that cover all crucial areas most of the time, or, you know, actually trying to make an effort to get to base level, now crazy child raising years are past, and then just maintaining.  Um… part of me thinks my husband deserves something better to look at than me skulking around in jeans and oversized t-shirt.  What to do, what to do… (And yes, sexissss.  Well. I like looking at him too, so turnabout is fair play.)

-This week we’re having warm weather, though I’ve heard of a snow storm approaching this weekend. (March, comes in like a lion and goes out like a wolverine, apparently.) I find I’m very anxious for convertible weather to get here.  Convertible weather is when we quit working at five or six and Dan says “Hey, want to go out in the convertible?”  Usually we drive the scenic route to the park and go for a walk.  Yeah, lame.  But also wonderful. Of such lame things is life made.

 

 

 

We Don’t Make Ourselves

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One of my grandmother’s favorite sayings, usually while excusing someone for something stupid or mean they’d done, or even more for continuous counter-productive behavior, was “we don’t make ourselves.”

True as far as that goes, and in the deep intersection between nature and nurture, it’s often very hard to tell who did what.

One of my kids tests off the scale for verbal reasoning/competency.  One of my kids tests off the scale for math.  Hint, they’re not the kid you’d expect, either for their professions/interests, or from interaction with them.

Partly, I think, because would-be verbal son is so introverted he’s not been around people enough to polish his verbal fluency.

Thing is, he could have, if it were a high value for him and he wanted to do it, get over his introversion and learn social graces and sociability.  I know. I acculturated pretty completely, (I’ll never acculturate as completely as if I’d grown up here, because a lot of the learning we do is before we can speak, but I’m say… 95% of the way there, and no worse than an American who spent his first year or two away from the US with foreign relatives, which you know very well happens) and culture is laid so deeply in that it’s not, but it acts like inborn characteristics.

Now breaking your habits of mind and behavior is hard. It feels like going insane. Our minds have all sorts of safeguards in place to prevent that happening, from distrust of what is strange, to the deep, abiding comfort of habit, which pulls you towards routine, which forms a great part of what you are.

You can’t do it without sufficient wish, sufficient will, sufficient motivation.

But it can be done.

We don’t make ourselves, but we sort of do.  Take the innate differences between male and female.  I realized how massive they were when younger son turned 14. I’ve always been an unusual strong female (perhaps not now. Years of illness have taken their toll.)  I don’t remember, anymore, how much I could lift at 30, but I remember the trainer telling me that it was more than the average male.  And I had greater endurance.  Which I already knew because through the many, many house moves of our thirties, Dan and I would consistently do most of the work, long outlasting any male friends who came to help (and in one notable occasion doing as much as an 8 person team of professionals, because yeah, we were paying but it had to be done sooner than they’d manage.)

HOWEVER that was in a time when I was in exceptionally good shape, and it’s not normal.  When younger son — who is a bit more inactive than the rest of this family and at the time had flab instead of muscles — turned out to be able to dead lift a 100 lb. cement sack when I couldn’t.  And I was in actual decent shape.  And he’d just started getting the call from Mr. Hormone, betrayed by a fall in voice register and a sudden and — to his mother startling — hairiness.

I.e. I know that males, including very young males get an advantage from testosterone that I simply don’t have.

If I wanted hard enough however, I probably could have maintained the strength of my younger years and be “stronger than the average male” (probably just stronger, not you know, overwhelmingy stronger.) which would still cause me to fold like wet kleenex when faced with a male with a modicum of training or in good shape (which I’m going to guess doesn’t describe the “average” male.)

I wasn’t willing to do that.  On this side of recovering from serious and prolongued illness, I’m doing my best to actually exercise. I don’t however have any interest in becoming exceptional at strength (if it’s possible, still, at my age, which I doubt.)  I just want to be in reasonable good shape, because I have better things to do with my time.

So, what is this in name of?

Oh. We don’t make ourselves.

There will be some time in your life when you’ll either come up against something you really, really want and aren’t good/strong/smart enough to get.  Or the thing you always wanted and were smart enough to get will disappoint you so greatly, break you so badly, that you won’t be sure you still want it, much less keep chasing it.  What was once interest and desire and the ability to work insanely will turn into “anything but that.”

I don’t know anyone my age who hasn’t experienced times like this at least once: either in career or in work, or with their children.

Sooner or later we all hit the wall and become profoundly broken and find it hard to take one more step, make one more attempt, reach for the brass ring once more.  My friend Dave Freer blogged about this.

You will experience this, even if you’re not a writer.  You will hit this wall. You will find yourself lost, with the beloved thing now an object of aversion, something you will give anything not to do/be/be around.

What then?

Obviously in the case of some marriages, some professions, even perhaps some living situations, for your sanity, for your peace of mind, for your survival you have to walk away.

But what if you don’t have anything to walk away to? What if you molded yourself into this thing you wanted to be for a lifetime, and you have no other goal, no other dream?

Well, then, again to quote grandma, you must forge your gut into a new heart. And you must march on.

Because you have nothing if you give it up. And you die. You either die physically or you kill a part of yourself. And you can’t go on.

No marriage, no career, no child rearing will be as it was in your dreams.  When you embarked on this, with flags flying and trumpets blowing, be fair, you had no clue what it was like.  You didn’t even know what it was truly like.

Just like no plan survives engagement with the enemy, no dream of “I want to be/do/create” ever lives up to the image in your mind.  And every career field, filled — alas — with humans is filled with suckitude and failure.  If you run from this, you’ll meet it again, sometimes over and over again. And you’ll die lost and embittered.

Forge your gut into a new heart and go on. Older, wiser, experienced, prepared.  And make the thing you love into as close as possible as what you imagined.  Ransom yourself from the depths of bitterness and horror and tiredness.

Be not afraid.

And I too will take my own medicine.

 

Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike

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Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike

So what’s a vignette? You might know them as flash fiction, or even just sketches. We will provide a prompt each Sunday that you can use directly (including it in your work) or just as an inspiration. You, in turn, will write about 50 words (yes, we are going for short shorts! Not even a Drabble 100 words, just half that!). Then post it! For an additional challenge, you can aim to make it exactly 50 words, if you like.

We recommend that if you have an original vignette, you post that as a new reply. If you are commenting on someone’s vignette, then post that as a reply to the vignette. Comments — this is writing practice, so comments should be aimed at helping someone be a better writer, not at crushing them. And since these are likely to be drafts, don’t jump up and down too hard on typos and grammar.

If you have questions, feel free to ask.

Your writing prompt this week is: chance

Go On. Pull That Trigger – A Blast From The Past From March 2014

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*A couple of days ago in my instapundit beat, I linked this article.  Apparently trigger warnings don’t diminish the emotional impact of reading whatever follows.  As in DUH.  If people are so frail that printed words disturb them they need psychological help, not trigger warnings.  And if they think ANY emotion at all from reading is a bad thing, they need to desensitize themselves by reading more challenging stuff. Try fiction which is supposed to be a channeling with emotion. Start with something at your level like See Spot Run which is more realistic and emotion packed than the books approved in your college campus. – SAH*

Go On. Pull That Trigger – A Blast From The Past From March 2014

*Trigger warning: this post contains special snow flake melting triggers, you’re not the center of the universe triggers and meltdown triggers for unspanked babies over the age of twenty – you’ve been warned.*

First let me tell you I don’t discount PTSD triggers.  One morning, a few years ago, I came out of the grocery store with my son.  For various reasons I was very stressed, but also very stressed in a way that had been familiar in my youth, where on a few occasions people near me were shot or at least shot at.

When a car backfired, I found myself under a parked truck.  I’d dropped the bags and taken a long dive.  My son was looking at me like I had gone around the bend.  I had to crawl out, grab the bags, and explain.  I was shaky the rest of the day.

Now, this doesn’t even happen every time a car backfires, and I’ve gone to a gun range without looking for shelter.  The noise bothers me, but it’s not that bad (It bothers me because it’s in a range that hurts my ears, not because it gives me flashbacks.)

But put me in the right kind of stress, in the right situation, and the back brain takes over.

I don’t care.  As issues go, it’s not that bad.  Weird, yes, but not that bad.  And it gives me understanding for friends who have much worse triggers to much worse flash backs.

Other PTSD symptoms from growing up in an unstable country are more subtle.  Two hours after hearing about the World Trade Center bombing, I was driving back from the grocery store, my truck filled with groceries, but particularly cooking oil and toilet paper.  This is in no way rational.  There was nothing about the bombings – even when we thought there would be a lot more of them, as we did – that would affect the supply of canola oil and toilet paper in Colorado in the proximate future.  BUT in Portugal in the seventies having these in stock was a very good idea, as they often disappeared from store shelves.  In other words, they  made the confused, scared kid inside me feel safe.  It’s all right.  Took me a year to get through the supply, but it’s all right.

Some of my friends with much worse experiences sleep with a gun at hand, or under their pillow at certain times of the year.  Or completely isolate themselves from humanity for two weeks, because they can’t be trusted not to snap at a triggering incident.

I don’t know anyone – not one person, and trust me I know many sorts of people who are broken in many sorts of ways – who gets their PTSD triggered by a WRITTEN word or a blog post.  I could see, perhaps, a novel that was all-absorbing, about a civil war triggering my feeling of vague stress that could make me vulnerable to PTSD.  This is one of the reasons that, though I love military SF I don’t read it often.  And I have to be careful when I write anything resembling it (I don’t write military sf, I don’t know enough about life in the military, never having served.)  But it would have to be a darn good novel. ALL absorbing.  Way beyond being “a good yarn.”

Normally the triggers are more primal and connected to the gut.  Smell is one of the strongest, in most humans.  You know that, right?  Smell something and suddenly you’re there, when you were three and seeing whatever.  Sight, of course.  Often a certain season/time of year with all the cues.  I thought Pratchett did that beautiful in Night Watch with the smell of lilac.  It was RIGHT.

So what in holy, bleeding, sulphurous h*ll is this about?

Twenty years ago, critics such as Christina Hoff Sommers, Daphne Patai and Noretta Koertge, and Karen Lehrman described the bizarre “therapeutic pedagogy” in many women’s studies classrooms, where female students were frequently encouraged to share traumatic or intimate experiences in supportive “safe spaces.”  Today, at many colleges, academic therapism has spread to other fields.  Welcome to the age of the trigger warning.

The trigger-warning vogue began a few years ago on feminist websites, and then spread to other “social justice” blogs.  The idea behind them is that for people who have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), something that reminds them of the trauma can trigger painful flashbacks and panic attacks.  Initially, the warnings were primarily for sexual assault and partner abuse. Eventually, on some blogs, they spread to just about everything that could be potentially upsetting  to any person of politically correct sensitivities: sexism, racism, homophobia, “ableism,” “victim-blaming,” “slut-shaming,” “fat-shaming,” “body-shaming” and a host of other sins and oppressions.  (My personal favorite, from Melissa McEwan’s Shakesville site, is a warning for “discussion of gender policing”–that is, of norms dictating proper bounds of masculine and feminine behavior.  How startling to find such a discussion on a feminist blog!) Warnings for mere references to gun violence, suicide, self-harm and various mental disorders, as well as things that trigger phobias–from spiders to small holes (really)–have proliferated as well.

I’ve seen those warnings a couple of times, usually on articles about cutting or other addictive dysfunctions.  That I understood.  These are ADDICTIVE dysfunctions.  If you cut, you do it for the endorphins.  There is a seduction to it for you.  The same for drug use.  I can see where a well written, evocative, biographical article on it COULD start you thinking about it and could lead to your wanting to do it again, even though you kicked it.  G-d knows I understand that.  Every time I give up writing, I read a book…  Never mind.  Not the place to joke.  (And I’m not even sure I’m joking.)

I get that type of warning and it’s where I’ve seen them.  If you still choose to go ahead and read the article, you should have a quick dial to your buddy or twelve step counselor or whatever.  Right.  That’s fine.  You’re more than allowed.  You’re encouraged to do this.  In certain circumstances, maybe, if you squint, an article on suicide might even lead you to consider it again.  If the article makes it appear as wonderfully seductive as it has to me in my worst times.  NOT normally, but if you’re at just that point.  It’s a small demographic, but I could totally see a warning before playing certain songs or reading stories to a group of people that goes “If you’re suicidaly depressed…”  (Of course, who admits to that?  And to what end personal responsibility?  Most of us who are cyclically inclined towards depression are aware of it, and compensate.  Weirdly, actually, sometimes the more depressive songs are what pulls me out of it.)

But what the heck, people, seriously WHAT THE HECK?  sexism, racism, homophobia, “ableism,” “victim-blaming,” “slut-shaming,” “fat-shaming,” “body-shaming”?  Spiders? Small holes?  WHAT?

You cannot have PTSD to any of those, because none of those are the sort of trauma that causes PTSD.  Guys, I have black friends who lived in South Africa, under Apartheid, who don’t have PTSD relating to racism.  They get upset at it, sure, (everyone does, with real racism) but they don’t have PTSD.  There can be no “trigger” unless your idea of “trigger” is “something that makes me feel uncomfortable.”  If that’s it, then everything is clear, from the “triggers” for mentions of spiders and small holes, to not feeling safe at a convention because someone, somewhere might make a fat joke.  (Actually fat jokes don’t even make me feel uncomfortable.  I know I’m fat.  I don’t like it.  For various reasons I have trouble controlling it.  But you know what?  It’s still funny.  Heck, I make fat jokes myself.  My favorite is that if my local thrift store doesn’t stop putting size 3 suits in the size 18 section, I’m going to find the sorting clerk and sit on her.  At my weight, that’s serious punishment.)  A fat joke can offend you, if you feel it’s directed at you – though then, that’s not a joke, but just a rude remark.  In the same way a sexist/racist/homophobic comment might upset you.  THAT IS NOT A TRAUMA.  That’s just being bothered and upset.  The proper outlet for it is to either roll your eyes, tell the person they’re annoying (if they’re nearby and not like a performer), not listen to/read the person again, OR, if it really gets on your nerves, vent to your friends about it.

I knew we were in some sort of trouble when I stole my kid’s psychology textbook and found that having mood variations of any sort was being classed as “bi-polar” and needing medication.  I have no idea how it’s being applied, but let me tell you, I know what a real bi-polar person is like.  I grew up with one.  Getting mildly upset or happy doesn’t make you bi-polar.  It makes you human.

You can’t feel unsafe because someone near you might possibly eventually say something that could remotely perhaps apply to you and upset you.  You can’t even feel unsafe because someone might turn to you and tell you you’re a fat cow.  You can get angry, but getting angry is okay. To feel unsafe you have to have a reasonable (note, REASONABLE) expectation of physical HARM.

Listen to me – this thing you’re experiencing?  This upset in the pit of your stomach?  It’s perfectly normal.  Trust me.  It’s part of being human.

That thing where whatsherface heard Larry Summers say that at the very top in the sciences there were few qualified women and felt like she was going to faint or throw up?  Learned reaction.  And the fact that she somehow got it into her head that she should never, ever, ever be upset.

Any woman who feels the need to faint when faced with a statistical truth – that women tend to cluster in the center of the bell curve while men cluster in the extremes (  Yes, there’s more male geniuses.  And more male morons.  BUT this is not predictive of any given woman or man.  It’s a statistical universe thing) – is an unspanked baby.

No, I don’t believe babies should be spanked.  (Yes, I can see the twitter storm now.  That’s fine.  I don’t care.  They’re going to play telephone with anything I say anyway, let them have their fun.)  But I do believe that if you’re never been metaphorically spanked, if the world never hands you a set back, if everyone tiptoes around you and tries to make sure that your tender, delicate, lilac scented feelings can’t ever ever ever be offended, you’re not going to grow up.  You’re going to continue to think like a baby who attempts to control his environment by crying and pumping his hands and feet.  And the more mommy and daddy – or total strangers who buy into your entitlement – rush to protect you, the more you’ll try the trick because, oh, my, that must be your G-d given right.

Listen, princess (and it’s mostly women, though some men are also drama queens) I don’t care how privileged your upbringing, how cushioned your adolescence; I don’t really give a good g*ddamn how many people told you that you were special and must be accommodated in all things, you’re human, living in an human world, and sooner or later reality is going to bite you on your pink powdered ass.  And the longer it takes for reality to bite, the worse it will hurt.

This doesn’t make you a victim (and being a victim doesn’t make you a good person, btw) or entitled to compensation.  Depending on how you take it, it either makes you a grown up, or a bloody nuisance.

But you have TTTTTTRAUMA.  Some uncouth man has looked at you too long, slapped your butt, told you that you were hot…  Some guy – trembles lip – tried to get into your roooooom at a con.

Look, my upbringing was no worse than most people’s.  It was probably better than most in my time and place.  My parents were middle-middle class.  By education probably upper middle class.  BUT thank G-d neither of them believed that I should be raised as the bubble girl, with every harsh feature of the world and humanity cushioned and softened for me.

I know they didn’t like to expose me to what was at the time and place quite a rough and tumble world.  I didn’t like to expose my kids, either.  I remember that first day in kindergarten, letting go of the kid’s hand, knowing they’d get in trouble, be made fun of, be spoken harshly to.

I didn’t get advanced from first to fourth grade because fourth grade was the last grade in the village, and after that I’d need to take a bus to the middle school.  Mom thought a girl of eight was too young.

Now let me tell you why she thought so.  Portuguese buses are usually overfull.  There is either a class of men who rides the bus all day practicing frottage, or there are a lot of these men.

Yes, I’ve had total strangers pleasure themselves by rubbing up against me.   When I was as young as 11, which is when I did go to 5th grade.  Do I have PTSD due to that?  Oh, hell no.  It was ewwwwwwwwwwwwww beyond all measure, but it happened to everyone and I had been warned.  On the advice of my female cousin/sister (she was raised with my brother and I) Natalia, I’d provided myself with one of grandma’s hat pins.  It became a game to shift just slightly, then STAB.  Oh, the screams, the clutchings, the moans that they weren’t doing anything.  (At which point more often than not the conductor would come and toss them out.)

There were other worse incidents.  It was the culture.  Does this mean I feel unsafe around men?  Oh, please.  Why should I?  WHY would that be a horrible trauma?  Some stupid idiot thought he could get off by doing this.  It makes me feel disgusted, but disgust – LISTEN TO ME – is NOT TRAUMA.

Being rubbed on by a stranger, or being groped by one, even, or even being cornered in a deserted classroom by a guy six years older who is intent on raping you IS NOT TRAUMA.  NOT if you got out of it unscathed.  It was scary.  Oh, it was very scary.  BUT BEING FRIGHTENED DOESN’T CAUSE TRAUMA.

Rape can very well be trauma.  Very bad trauma.  But how many of you have been raped?  Tell me the truth, princess.  Not “slept with him and found out he was not very nice.”  Not “my friends all thought I was stupid for sleeping with him, so I told them it was rape.”  How many of you have been held down and forcibly raped?

I know there are real cases of this.  And I know it causes trauma.  I have friends – female AND male – who have been raped, and who are still traumatized by it.

But look, honeychild, if being “slut shamed” is enough to traumatize you, you’d expect these people who have been VIOLENTLY and FORCIBLY raped  to be huddled under their beds, crying, right?  For the rest of their lives?

The people I know are all functional human beings.  They might have some scars they have to route around, but I can tell you something, your highness, NONE OF THEM WHO READS THIS (and a few will) will complain I “triggered” them.  They can be triggered, yes.  I’ve handled meltdowns with a couple of them.  But not by reading some words on a blog post.

I know my friend, Amanda, likes to just yell at people like you to “grow up” – yeah.  You should.  But I don’t know if you can.  That is, I don’t know if it’s that easy.  Sometimes I wonder if this panic and “injury” is sort of like the psychological version of humans who grow up in houses that are too clean end up having asthma, because their body reacts to ANYTHING as a major threat.

If that’s the case, you can’t just volitionally do it.  But you should try to do it, nonetheless.  Expose yourself to the company of those who disagree with you and DO try to defend your point, instead of screaming they’re hurting you and running away to the “comfort” of all your friends who will pat you on the back and assure you that it was indeed horrible trauma.  Depending on how capable of immersing yourself in art you are, reading biographies of people who really WERE traumatized and didn’t end up as quivering pools of jelly (the world is full of them.  No, seriously) might help.  Or you could help people who have it worse than you.  Take yourself out of your comfort zone.  Baby steps.  Remember, being upset is not abnormal.  It’s part of human existence.  And you are not a fairy princess.  You’re human like the rest of us.

But you have to do something – other than scream and moan and demand to be protected. — Because I’m going to tell you this, Rapunzel, right now a well protected Victorian maiden would laugh her ass off at you.  As much as they presented the “delicate maiden” to the world, theirs was a rougher environment, and they were likely to withstand a lot more than you can, including death of siblings and worse. Certainly being spoken to harshly and being TRULY discriminated against.

And here’s the thing, Cinderella, if you don’t change your ways, you’re giving Victorian maidens a bad name.  I don’t care how much you roar in your “safe” places that you’re an all conquering warrior queen.  The first time you faint at a harsh word, you’re validating all the stereotypes people like me don’t want to have brought back.

You know the whole frottage thing in buses?  And why it was dangerous for a woman to be out alone after eight pm?  And why a lot of families where I grew up considered it dangerous to send their daughters to mixed-gender schools at all?

Because women were assumed to be too fragile for this harsh workaday world.  They were supposed to be kept cabined, cribbed, confined – PROTECTED by their men.  And any one that was alone out after sunset (or nominal sunset, because sunset is around 9:30 in summer) could not be a virtuous woman, not even an 11 year old girl.

Now I wasn’t in the first generation to break that, not by a long shot, BUT there was still enough of that in the culture that I had to be aware of and fight and show that I could handle things so I’d be allowed to go on.  A lot of that.  And I fought back at it, because I did not want to be “protected.”  I was a human being and I wanted to be treated as one.  I wanted to learn and work, and be, just like my brother or my male cousins wanted to learn and work and b.

But if you keep up with the helpless-flower act, you’re going to end up giving people the impression that ALL OF US need to be protected.  Slut shaming?  Why, darling, you might not end up locked in the house, but the generation after you will.  It’s so easy.  “I don’t let my daughter go to school.  She’d faint if someone made a joke about her body.”

Next thing you know, we’re all in burkas and being kept from that terrible rough and tumble world.  Maybe that’s what you want for the generations of women after us.  It’s not what I want for my potential granddaughters or great granddaughters.

So, princess, get off your tuffet and stop making like you’re a melting special snow flake.  You aren’t.  And before you destroy what much better women than you have worked for, I’ll see you in hell.*

*and if you thought the last was threat and you wanted to faint or run away, then yes, this post is all about you.

The Totalitarian Train Is Rolling Down the Tracks

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If I could communicate just one thing, across the increasing divide of language and thought to the left it would be this: that warm and fuzzy feeling you get when you’re running someone down is not righteousness.

It’s just the feeling apes get when they run off another ape.

If you’re part of a band and all of you were piling on an outsider — or an insider who was just declared an outsider and run off — you’ll also feel very connected to your band, and a feeling of being loved and belonging.

It’s not real. It’s the result of a “reward” rush of endorphins, oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine that flood your body after stress and a perceived “victory.”  Oxytocin, particularly, promotes a feeling of bonding with those around you.

Just remember, as you’re high fiving each other and believing that something that feels so good has to be good and morally “just” you could be the victim tomorrow.  Because the feelings don’t last, and that rush of “righteousness and victory” is addictive. Those who are your comrades today will be looking for someone to kick in the face tomorrow. And it really could be you.

I know there’s no point telling them that. The young ones were never taught to think, and frankly have been given no moral guidance whatsoever, besides (like all places whose communications and power structures have been taken over by leftists) “obey the party.” They have been reduced, in less than three generations to savages who cannot reason their way out of a philosophical paperback, even if it happens to be soaking wet, and instead identify good with “pleases the tribe.” They are therefore prey to the power hungry bullies in their midst, many of which are already addicted to the rush of victory.  (And this is why I tell you not to let strangers raise your children.) And they’re scaring the living daylights out of me. And not the way they think they are.

Not the way they think they are, because the way they’re scaring me is not the way that will make me roll over to avoid confrontation.  To be absolutely honest, I’m not sure there’s a way that makes me do that, anyway. I am broken in that I have a tendency to run screaming (and clutching something heavy) at whatever is scaring me.  But I do have a default mode of “I’m too lazy to bother obliterating you” which causes me to ignore most people making threatening displays towards me (or say, manipulating their cat’s paws to keep me out of a con. Yeah. I saw that.  One more move, missy, and I put in action my plan of taking a line a day from your copious social media use and making it famous for its total absence of thought and vicious idiocy. Keep it up and your name will become a laugh line till even your comrades are afraid of associating with you. You’ve been warned. At this point, only my laziness is saving you from having your lunacy exposed and mocked.)

But that’s besides the point.  This is bypassing my laziness and engaging the “kill it before it grows” mode in my brain.  Which I don’t like. I’m middle aged. My kids are almost on their own. Running around the hills with Kalashnikov has lost all appeal.

More importantly, if this goes hot I don’t think what emerges on the other side is a constitutional republic.  And while not all other forms of government are bad (well run empires are okay. The problem being “well run.”) they all are more dangerous, in the sense that their triggers for going totalitarian are more easily tripped.

I just don’t know if we can avoid going hot.  Not if the left keeps on the path it’s been.

You see, they took the wrong lessons from the 20th century.  You could say they took the wrong lessons because the totalitarian-sympathizers in education and academia made sure they did so.

It simply wasn’t convenient to people who by the time the Nazis fell were mostly communist or socialist to point out that what happened under the Nazis was what happens every time under totalitarian and economically deluded regimes.  Because then someone might take a close look at good ol’ uncle Joe and see his own death camps, massacres and enforced famines.  Or the others around the world in regimes that STILL make the left moist with desire like the PRC.

So instead they took the one form that the National socialists of Germany had given to their murderous craziness and made that what was bad.  I.e. despite the fact that the national socialists murdered in service of an invented theory of greatness that had no basis in reality, the left chose one aspect of that theory to blame for everything: the obsession with race.

Look, racism is insane. And it’s all over the left, right now, in their belief that culture is the same as race, and that therefore to disapprove of cultural dysfunction is to be racist. They, themselves are racist for subscribing to that theory. They’re also wrong on all levels, from genetics to history to human behavior, but never mind.

They are comfortable blaming racism for the evils of the 20th century because they never see their own racism (yes, wanting people of color to behave in a certain way, denying them agency, and also fetishisticizing them as the saviors of Marxism IS racism, kiddies) AND because they are happily and willfully unaware of the much greater numbers of dead under regimes that outwardly had no racial component to their crazy cakes theories.  (Outwardly? Well, yes. Because communism — the Donner party of political theories — reduces everyone to abject poverty and need until they eat each other. And societies under stress enforce conformity. Racial minorities, or anyone visibly different, propaganda to the contrary, did not do well in the soviet union. And I would bet you cash money they’re pretty uncomfortable in Venezuela right now.)

However, what their obsession with the racial component of Germany’s mid-century murder spree has done is make it impossible for them to see what really causes it.

Any regime, any human group who walls out any other group for any difference can end up that way. If you think white males cause all the evil in the world; if you think you have the right to destroy people’s livelihood and careers because their opinions differ from yours; if you get a righteous and unexamined rush of mistreating people that you identify as “evil” and “not really people” you might as well be on the streets in your brown shirts, breaking windows.

This is how our maleducated youth has come around to believing crazy crap like that the Jews control the world, or that the rich are “hoarding the stash” without which we’d all live on unicorn (but not cow) farts and rainbows.

Because it’s easier to blame a group of people who have never actually done you any harm (expressing a contrary opinion is not causing you harm) and going after their ability to survive than to examine history, or look in the mirror and see the angry ape looking back.

And the more crimes you commit for your “victory rush” the less you’ll be willing to admit you were wrong and crazy.

This is how normal Germans — then the most civilized nation in the world — came to lie to themselves about the camps, even when they could smell the smoke and see the victims. This is how they could even pile on, and take the goods of those marched out to the camps with a clear conscience.

They’d made them non-people.

And the important thing there is not that they were doing this to racial (or other) minorities.  The important thing is that they were this to a large group of people that their leaders had told them were bad-evil and not really human.

It’s a very ancient human mechanism. And one that has few brakes, short of an entire group of people having a moment of sudden recognition and rejection of everything they were taught.

And I can’t remember a single time in history that happened without massive military defeat first.

And no matter how much the rest of us wish to hold off, at some point the switch flips, and we’ll go after them as hard as they’ve been going after us.  Only we’re competent. And frankly a lot more vicious than they can even imagine.

I wake up screaming.

 

 

 

Pioneers On the Wild Frontier — A Blast From The Past From May 2013

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The WEIRD thing is how pertinent this post still is.  And also how much someone… okay me, needs to take her own medicine – SAH.

Pioneers On the Wild Frontier– A Blast From The Past From May 2013

There is a very powerful paragraph in one of Heinlein’s juveniles, a note repeated again when he’s talking about American exceptionalism, and again when he talks of the need to go to space.  It is apparently a paraphrase of a well known quote, which I found attributed to Albert Schmidt, and also as anonymous, and also as being written in some museum, but as that page is no longer available, I can’t say where.  Also, apparently Maya Angelou (!) mentioned this quote.  Of all of the people who made this statement, it fits the spirit of Heinlein’s juveniles the best. “The cowards never started. The weak died on the way. Only the strong arrived. They were the pioneers.”

This in Heinlein’s juveniles is often related with going to space, but it occurs to me that it’s any new technology and any major change in society driven by technology (not the vapid ideas of politicians.)

Changes – major changes of any sort – are always scary to an established society.  History has shown time and again that people will endure near-unendurable conditions rather than revolt, but they WILL revolt against change.  Because we know we are surviving – sort of – right now, but will we after the changes.  And most of us want to be able to visualize what things will look like after the changes.

Which is why when tech starts changing too much too fast and hitting the social structures, people go nuts.  The French revolution was the fruit and manifestation of the industrial revolution.  So was our own revolution, think on.

And if you look at it right the fourteenth century and its unending barrel full of misery was not because things were getting worse, but because there had been some developments that had made life better.  Hence, war plague and famine, of course.

Now, think about it, the fourteenth century was the result of changes accumulating through the eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth, but that was still too fast for us.

The twentieth century… there’s a reason that it was even more blood soaked than the fourteenth.

And now, it’s much faster and much worse.

The revolution we’ve facing, in a hundred different ways of doing things, from manufacturing to data processing (including that peculiar form that involves fiction writing) to a million other things, is so radical that it might be that long waited trans-humanistic thing, even if it doesn’t mean we’ll all live forever or look like the borg.

Just computers will affect the way we mate – both by bringing together unlikely mates (I managed it the old fashioned way.  By stealing time at the phone booth!) and by moving the nexus of work to the house (no, not yet, but like the ebook revolution it’s coming and it will be sudden when it comes) and thus favoring mates in the same profession, who can share work.  It will affect the way we live – I am one of those people who like people, and for me it probably means going very urban so I can, you know, live where I can go out to a coffee shop, or something.  But for other people it means living in the middle of nowhere, working in the big city and shopping wherever you want.

My guess is that no one alive today will see the end of this transformation.  It’s that huge and shattering and it feeds other transformations.

As for people who say “but it’s always changing.”  Sure it is, but it’s punctuated equilibrium.  For a while things seem to be stationary and then it accumulates and it comes crashing on society as a disruptive and sudden force.

Writing is going through it.  I’ve given my opinion a lot of other professional fields are headed for it.  I’ve also said, until you’re probably all tired of it, that this in conjunction with the current political insanity might meant the end of jobs as we know it.  In the future we’re all contractors, with both the risks and the benefits of it.

It’s not a lifestyle that suits everyone, but neither was 9 to 5 and yet mid 20th century it consumed almost everyone who needed to work, and influenced everyone else’s life.

So, in that spirit, and based on what I’ve seen in my own field, here is my take on what will happen and what you need to know.

1 – If your job entails prestige, be willing to make a choice between that and making money.  Right now a lot of writers are not just refusing to go indie, but screaming at everyone who does, and complaining it undermines the prestige.  A result of the “indie revolution” coming everywhere will almost certainly be an end to credentialism.  People will respect what you can do, not where you went to school.  Sometimes they’re related.  More often they’re not. Right now institutions, particularly large ones, rely on credentials to avoid complaints of discrimination.  But when hiring contractors for the job, the job will be more important. Fortunately for me, I was born without any social graces!  But you might have a bigger adaptation.

2- You must work.  This is the biggest barrier, and why managers still dislike sending people home to work.  They’re under the impression people just won’t.  This is silly, since if they don’t, they can be fired.  OTOH because we’ve equated work with time throughout the 20th century, they might be afraid you’re working very fast and goofing off the rest of the time.  Both the stupid laws penalizing employers over a certain number of employees and a certain number of hours, and tech will defeat that.  My kids are used to doing their homework and tests (even) by computer, and to doing group work via computer too.  When their generation rises to managers, they won’t have our prejudices.  And perhaps they’ll be better at working remotely.  My guess, though, is “no.”  Unless you set up a completely separate place in your house, keeping up work surrounded by home and family is difficult.  Almost everyone I know who works from home has issues with it.  It’s a skill, though.  Learn to cultivate it.

3- You must have time off.  Yes, yes, I know.  Sarah, take your own medicine.  But I’m in the time when to launch my career I MUST work hard – very hard – at many things for a few years.  Still, I’m considering taking Sundays off.  I must read SOMETIME.  The point is, if you’re of a certain type (my husband and I seem to be) working from home means working ALL the time.  You forget to quit.  You must control that because

4- Regardless of whether you like people or not, you need to have some people contact, now and then.  In person, not just over the computer.  Even if it’s just your family.  Also, make sure the family knows you don’t hate them, you’re just busy.  Make time for time with them, or you won’t have them.

5- This is important because, you should never, ever, ever count on indie/contractor being easy, or even easier than whatever you’ve been doing.  Yes, going contractor or indie gives you freedom to work the way you want to.  That means you places your bets, you takes your earnings – and sometimes you’ll goof.  (Everyone does.)  It’s important not to build up a beautiful image of the fleshpots of Egypt in your mind.  What I mean is, don’t, in retrospect make “jobs” and the way things are done now into a wonderful thing.  Remember it too had difficulties.  Also remember if you’re one of the ones breaking out in your field, or whatever, that you’re a pioneer.  You might not be on one of Saturn’s moons, but some things as unpredictable as ice storms will destroy your hard-earned stability.  Look at what happened with Rusch and Ella.  Sometimes you’ll be knocked to zero and have to start again.  This doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong.  Just that the high-change state is unstable and the landscape changes ALL the time.

6 – Related to five.  Stay alert.  Keep up with what’s going on.  Ever since I came into writing, people have given me advice that’s out of date.  This is how I ended up writing short stories for years, because I thought that’s how one broke into novels.  This was no longer true when I tried it.  However, people could still give you advice a year or two old and it would work.  Now?  Ah!  I keep up with Rusch and the Passive Guy and a dozen other blogs, plus take recommendations from friends more plugged in than I am, and things still blindside me.  As in an alien planet, keep moving, keep ahead of the shifting landscape.  And evaluate each mutie on his own.  Some are friendly.  Some will eat you as fast as look at you.

7- There are no guarantees.  The future is being built under our eyes.  NO ONE CAN PROMISE what you try will work out.  So keep your fingers in as many pies as you can without killing yourself.  What moves might NOT be what you expect.  (For instance in publishing I’m doing large press, small press and indie.  Because I feel safer that way.)

8 – Help others on the way.  This is not necessary so much as it will help you in the long run.  Except for some right bastards (actually mostly left, but that’s neither here nor there) most people return good with good.  You don’t need to make the trade explicit.  You help a lot of people, some will be there for you when you’re down.  And all contractors have ups and downs.  Cast your bread upon the waters and spread your generosity widely.  And remember to pay it forward.  (This is already making relationships between writers much better than the old hierarchical model where publishers picked winners and losers.)

9- Have a hobby that can become your main profession if you need to.  Yep, if this writing gig goes south, I’m a recreational clothes ironer (totally a word.  Deal.) and a middling filet crochetter – for the win.  Oh, who am I kidding?  I’ll rant at people for a living.  Actually have two hobbies that can become your main profession.  And accumulate as many abilities as you can.  Yeah, okay, I learned seven languages because I thought it would improve my chances of employment.  Then I moved here.  Not the smartest move.  BUT some of them work.  I’d carefully cultivated a knowledge of science fiction for instance (otherwise called how I wasted my youth) and it came in handy.

10 – Don’t brow beat others.  Yes, you’ll be very afraid at times, but projecting your fear onto others and saying if you can’t do it no one can is contrary to the bread upon the waters thing.  It’s also contra productive.  The cowards never started – but lower than a coward is the one who tries to make other cowards.

On a related note, my post at Mad Genius Club today is on Fear.

Now go forth and instead of being scared of these innovative times of ours, be excited about them.  You’re a pioneer.  That means you get to shape the future landscape for your grandkids.

Like most pioneers, you’re being forced onto it by circumstances and by the status quo becoming untenable.  But it doesn’t mean you can’t take the opportunity to build something better.

Now go and do it.

On Being A Frail Flower of Femininity

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This morning in the shower I was talking to Dan (yes, I know we’re unnatural that way, but it’s often the only time we have for conversation. Used to be the only place the boys couldn’t follow to interrupt us) about identity, loss of identity and loss of self.

Part of this was that we’re in the (Please, Lord) final push to get the boys out and on their own.  While Robert isn’t out, he’s effectively off our hands by Summer and off our responsibility completely by Summer next year.  Marshall… well, because of stupid scheduling tricks, he won’t graduate till Summer next year and he’s actually expensive. We’ll see if he succeeds in finding something for the summer, something (part time) for next year, or just gets his typesetting off the ground.  But one way or another, he’s an adult, and so our work is more or less done, save for a final trailing off of financial support.

The point being — since we’d just referenced the days when we couldn’t go to the grocery store without one of the boys at least — that our role as parents is coming to an end.  I mean, we’ll always be the boys’ parents, but it can’t be our identity anymore, unless we want to drive them and us insane.

I’m also, as some of you know, making a huge change in my professional identity.  Which I had to explain to Dan (because it’s not intuitive) has always been a great part of my self image, because I grew up convinced no one would ever be stupid enough to marry me.  Therefore, like males, I built my identity around what I can do and my career.  (Which caused me massive problems while motherhood was eating my life, because I felt like a lazy bum.)

The comment about marrying always brings people up short. I know (now) that I’m still not incredibly ugly, (with weight loss I’m becoming downright comely. Maybe even cute for my age) and was very pretty as a young woman.  So why would it require a man to be stupid to marry me…

The answer ties in with Portuguese society and the fact I used to make most Portuguese young men run screaming into the night. (In fact, I never dated a Portuguese male.  Ever. I came close a couple of times, if I’d known how to read signals, which I didn’t, but never in a relationship.)

The reason is… complicated.

First, opinions on whether or not I’m on the autistic spectrum vary.  Some people are vehemently sure I’m not, just as others are sure I am.  One of the people who knows me best and has knowledge of the neurological issue thinks I am, but I became REALLY good at faking, to the point it’s hard to tell.

Me? I don’t have an opinion, because I can’t see myself from outside. OTOH I incline (slightly) to “I’m not, I’m just WEIRD.”

Here’s the thing: Portugal is a highly gendered society and even in these ‘enlightened’ days reflexively patriarchal.

What I mean is despite all the “women’s lib” and a loosening of sexual behavior norms (and more on that, because it’s not the “liberation” it’s preached to be) things like women riding in the back of the car if there’s a male in the group who will obviously get the front passenger side, or women being naturally accorded less weight in decisions, or… it’s there. It’s reflexive. It’s so deep no one thinks about it.

Portugal is still so patriarchal that the frail blossoms who think the US is a patriarchy would have a mental breakdown if transported to Portugal and forced to live the way normal people (not tourists) live.  (They’d probably explode on contact in most Arab countries.  That’s something else.)

In my day, now almost half a century in the past (from when I became aware of it) it was more obvious, in your face and completely unapologetic.

Things like the fact I wore pants as a kid (mostly because mom was convinced cold air on my legs would make me sick, since I was so sickly.  Yes, I know, never mind) or didn’t have pierced ears made people very uncomfortable. This despite the fact that I had hair down to my behind and wore braids. Because women and PARTICULARLY girls had to absolutely fit the standard image. No take backs, no excuses, no variations.

Of course, this also had to do with the fact that Portugal was a country under economic and social stress pretty much the whole time I lived there.  Countries and societies under stress enforce conformity.

Anyway…

It wasn’t that I rebelled against the role of women. Or the rules for girls. That I think they could have understood. The rebel is part of the panoply of compliance.  Some go along, some rebel. Completely understandable.

It’s more that I never bothered paying attention to the rules and never knew were the boundaries were.  Or if I knew it never occurred to me, not for a moment, that any of that applied to me.  Yeah, sure, I knew the rules, in theory. But what the heck did any of that have to do with my LIFE and who I was?

Part of it was that my family was already fairly odd.  It never occurred to me till enough remarks from strangers pierced through the shell, that women who read were weird.  Sure, mom hated my reading. But dad and grandma were cool with it, my brother thought it was normal, and why would anyone mind?  In the same way, it never occurred to me I shouldn’t read science fiction.  My brother did and I found it fascinating, so I read it.  Sure, I read my cousin’s romances, too. But they weren’t as much fun, and had a marked lack of spaceships and other planets, which was a downcheck against them, of course.

The fact that most women and girls spent their time making lace or embroidering or something struck me as downright weird.  Now, part of this might have been that I had the same sensory issues younger son had (only at the time no one could/would diagnose them.)  I remember it was hard to write on a line till 14 or so.  And I had taste and touch anomalies (including being convinced any knit fabric was “prickly.”)  It wasn’t until I saw son’s issues that I realized I’d probably had them.  And girls grow out of them earlier.  So most handicrafts women did were impossible to me till about 14.  At which point I started doing cross stitch and making stuffed animals.  But I did that because I enjoyed them.  Not for my trousseau.

I completely missed that handicrafts are such a part (or were) of Portuguese womanhood that mom was left with nothing to brag on to the other matrons of the village.  I mean, sure, I was in college, had won a couple of writing contests, had a poetry chapbook published, but where was my lace? my embroidery? my exquisitely made apron or kitchen adornment?

Meh.  Even when I started doing handicrafts, I usually did them while reading and watching TV or talking.  And I was as likely to make a tablecloth for a friend’s wedding gift as to make a batch of “lucky frogs” (I should post a picture of Carlos, who was my first stuffed animal and has been with me my whole life.  In fact, when I’m sick Dan brings it to the hospital to look after me.)  Including the famous yellow polkadotted one with a pink tongue that caused my brother to ask me if I was drunk.

In the same way in my interaction with people I tended to think of me as me, not a frail flower of femininity.  Or even a woman who either complied or rebelled against the standard.

Then there was school.  It took a few times of teachers being surprised I had the highest test score, or exhorting the boys to come up to snuff, because obviously it wasn’t that difficult since I could do it for me to get that girls were supposed to do worse than boys.  Not that I cared. I mean, it might make me smirk a bit, but that was it.

Because I was born competitive. And grades were competition. Frankly, if you’re competing with anyone and at some level you don’t want to rip out their heart and eat it raw, you’re hampering yourself.  And I never saw any point in doing anything that COULD be competitive and not competing.

Was the game rigged against me?  Probably. I just never noticed.  I was too busy barreling through life in general and learning in particular.

Humans are great apes.  Not signaling right confuses people. Scares some people.  Most Portuguese males, used to clear signaling, were completely puzzled as to what to make of me.

In my late teens and early twenties, the dime dropped to an extent.  To an extent. I.e. I realized that by wearing certain types of clothes and acting in a certain way I could get away with murder with a side of mayhem. And I did. Oooh, boy, did I. Even if half the time I wore impeccable 30s style costumes, complete with lace silk stockings and stiletto heels.  Honestly, those seemed to mess with people’s heads even more, and men became unable to think rationally around me dressed like that.

But I still remained unconvinced that being a woman should in any way curb what I wanted to do or who I was.  Playing with makeup, shoes and hair was fun.  As were clothes. But they were not who I was.

I still remain unconvinced.  Sure, I do realize there are things I can’t do/can’t do as well because the brain is in a female body.  By and large I don’t have the strength (upper body strength is more or less gone. Look, I’m working on it.) or force or size to, say, fight a man or lift as much as they can.  So, if I need any of that done, I ask a male. Nicely.

But in terms of who I really am, my life inside my skull, I don’t see why I should care what sex the body I’m in is.  Sure. Okay. I’ve been affected by menopause and its attending ills. Yeah. It’s not as though men don’t have their own hormonal ramp ups and cool downs and their own challenges.  And yeah, I’m very happy I’m female because my husband likes that. And it makes life much easier.  And of course, being female allowed me to be a mother.

But in my day to day, in what I am and do… why should I care what people think women can and can’t do?

Are there people who think I should do this or that because I’m a woman?  Sure. There are. And I care for their opinions about as much as I care for the opinions of the village matrons who knew I was useless because I couldn’t embroider pillowcases.

Shrug.

It’s not rebellion.

Most of the things I WANT to do are either female or genderless.  I love cooking. I love writing. I even like sewing. I also like refinishing furniture (which these days is mostly female.)  And I like long, involved debates (preferably over something alcoholic) with friends of a philosophical disposition.  I like natural history. I like walks with my husband.  I’m not 100% sure I like (most of) the cats, but they’re mine to look after, so…

I just refuse to live the only life I have according to someone else’s expectations, be they the expectations of the left, who thinks I should feel oppressed by being born female, or see patriarchy under every stone, or of the right who (at least a segment. Mostly not the American right) thinks I should defer to greater male wisdom and fulfill the calm and sweet role of a wife and mother.

I neither feel the need to comply nor to rebel. I am myself alone, and to me alone do I owe any kind of consistency.  I take in account the opinions of those I love, but that’s because I love them.

I will not be a Marxist just because I happen to have a vagina.  (That is not where my brain is.) Nor do I feel the need to be promiscuous to prove I’m free.  That’s just another type of shackle. (Or as Pratchett put it in Good Omens, it’s just like the homemaking magazines, just a different spin.) I don’t speak as a woman, read as a woman or… okay, I write as a woman, but that’s neurological, not intentional.  I.e. my writing tends to be heavy with relationships, (not romance, in my case, mostly) which is a hallmark of female writing. In my defense I do try and work really hard at having action in there too.

And I will not consider my life over because my work “as a woman” is done.

Which is kind of interesting for that detached being behind my eyes, who observes me experiencing things.  What I mean is, I have no role model for this.

Part of it is that life expectancy has gotten longer.  (For some reason there is a determined campaign mostly from the left against this idea, but guys, I grew up in the village.  People in their sixties were OLD.) Part of it is that the type of jobs we do is different form the mostly physical ones in the village. Part of it is we have fewer kids.

I remember in the village when the kids moved out you basically shuttered yourself in and concentrated on being old an preparing to die.  Church became a major component of your life.  You gave up on interests and activities and turned inward.

My parents didn’t do that — well, not as much — but I wasn’t there to see it.

The model inside my head is that my life should be over now, which is what I’ve been fighting for a year plus.

But it’s nonsense. And I’d just get bored with that program.

I think I’ll just continue being myself as hard as I can.

Who I will be and where it will lead, I have no idea. But it will probably be interesting. Perhaps under “may you live in interesting times” even.

All I know is that this delicate flower of femininity (with the spikes and the poisonous pollen) is finally ready to figure out what comes next.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tribe and Trap

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Tribalism seems to be the default setting of the human race.

Maybe it’s because we’re built on the frame of Great (or at least pretty good) Apes. Band seems to be the default unit of a Great Ape.

The people who do those cute and vapid studies on how your toddler is racist — by which they mean he prefers people who look like mommy and daddy, or their surrogates in his life —  don’t seem to understand that.  They don’t seem to understand that for most of human existence, (prehistory is much longer than history) for a toddler to stray outside his tribe meant at best he was raised as a slave, and at worst he became lunch.

I wonder if it’s this uncritical, sort of history-and-genetics free view of the world that causes the left to think that tribes are awesome.

Might just be their usual — and honestly, isn’t it tiresome by now? — view of the world which thinks everything “natural” by which they mean pre-civilized is better. This leads to nostalgie de la boue and therefore elevates primitive/non civilized cultures over western culture.

Or perhaps it is simply the fact that Marxism was “rescued” by Gramsci.  Marxism was bad enough in its inability to see individuals, and ascribing everyone to economic tribes.

I remember when we were studying Marxism in four courses in 9th grade a left leaning friend (she wanted to believe) trying to fit Marx’s view of working class and capitalists into our own peculiar (village) situation. She was bound and determined to make my parents part of the capitalist class, and her own family part of the working class, because only this — in her mind — made sense of the fact I kept poking holes in St. Marx’s theories, and mocking them after class.

The problem was, of course, that her family was considerably better off than mine, both our fathers worked in factories in a supervisory capacity, and generally, really, there was not much difference between one or the other of us by Marxist “class” markers.  (Except my mom had started life as a manual worker, which I don’t think her mom had. OTOH my mom owned her means of production which consisted of a pair of scissors, needles and pins.)  She tried to pin it on my parents being more educated.  But no.  It was more or less the same.

And then in a flash of brilliance that would anticipate things my kids ran into in school when they pointed out to someone their “privilege” consisted of dressing from thrift stores and making everything from scratch because it’s cheaper: she told me my parents were part of the “oppressor class” because they read, studied and learned things all the time and our house was crammed with books.  It’s that famous book-privilege.

This explained to her satisfaction why I kept poking holes in Marxism, and, look you, she wasn’t necessarily wrong.  Growing up with a father who was an ancient history geek; being aware of the exploits of Catalina, and reading deeply into history myself did shape my mocking disdain for the theories of the little angry man who lived at the expense of friends and hatched one of the most murderous theories of history.

This didn’t change the fact that Marxism at best sits crosswise on the real world and misses any contact.  Or that its predictive capacities are as good as those of our climate-predicting computers.

He knew in his heart of hearts that the workers would rise up and kill everyone else and take the means of production, and after a suitable underpants gnome break, paradise would ensue.

Only, of course, as anyone who understood the developments already taking place in his time could have told, the workers — except where manipulated by intellectuals attached to his crazy theories, and even then it was mostly intellectuals and psychopaths, not workers — became wealthier, lived better, and generally didn’t want anything to do with Marx’s revenge fantasies on people who did better than him.

Enter Antonio Gramsci who rescued Marxism from its self made ash heap by claiming by “workers” really Marx meant the dispossessed races of the world.  (And by race, you should understand what Europeans do:each country a race.)

The revolution would surely come, only from the third world.

Part of this is what fuels our intellectual idiots’ “suicide by open borders.” They don’t believe they have the right to stand in the way of the dispossessed masses claiming “their own” (why it’s their own, only the gods know, but remember these are people who believe wealth can’t be created, only passed along like some game of hide the badger. So if we live better than the third world, self-evidently we’re holding their wealth. Which btw, is one of the worst forms of colonialism. Teaching this Marxist twaddle to people in backward economies just assures they continue backward, desperately poor, and resentful of the man who is hiding the stash.); they think that the dispossessed always win in the end, because that’s their comic-book understanding of Marx; they are craven cowards and wish to tell the nice dog they’re helpful and wish to be eaten last.

Anyway, back to our point: one of the great advances of humanity, possibly as momentous as the discovery of fire, was the overcoming of tribalism.

Forging tribe-like bonds based on “we share this land” and in fact, being able to tell ourselves stories about how “everyone in this land is one people” gave rise to the city state, the country, and eventually the “community of civilized men.”

Of course, yes, Christianity had a lot to do with this, but there was some of that going on already in the Roman Empire, where Persian and Greek could both declare (after the appropriate formalities and acculturation) “Civis Romanum sum.”

As bad as the super-states of the twentieth century got — because there’s nothing as a large nation with a good dose of crazy-making philosophical theory — it allowed commerce and industry, which are miles and miles better at creating and keeping wealth than hunting-gathering.

The problem is that the left, led by Gramsci, has re-invented tribalism.  And no, I don’t just mean tribalism of place of origin or color — though they include that — I mean tribalism of EVERYTHING.

Being unable to see individuals (has anyone done studies of their brain? Maybe there’s something missing) they instead keep sorting people into increasingly smaller groups based on things that have bloody nothing to do with what the person IS capable of, or thinks or believes: Color, who people sleep with, what people have between their legs, who people like to sleep with, what people call their deity, etc. etc. ad very definitely nauseum.

Then they itemize these groups according to oppression — because Marx says that workers are oppressed, and Gramsci says people who tan are oppressed and — waves hands — everyone who has ever been looked at sideways is oppressed! — and call it intersectionalism.  Which I suppose is better than “bloody mentally deficient recreation of tribalism by the pampered children of western civilization.”

The problem is this is that we’re fast re-discovering the evils of tribalism.

Sure, tribablism gives you a warm fuzzy.  It cues in to very deep instincts that make you feel safe, when you identify a group as being “just like me.”  It’s that whole toddlers aren’t racist, but leftists are stupid studies thing.

But the warm fuzzy it gives you is like the feeling of sitting by a warm fire in your living room, while a storm hammers at the room.  “You’re safe and warm HERE.”  “You’re safe and warm inside.” “You’re safe and warm as long as you don’t leave.”

The end result is not just the proliferation of “safe rooms” but people panicking and feeling unsafe when they read things that question their beliefs.  Such as their beliefs that, say half-Chinese-half-Japanese left handers are uniquely oppressed and should have everything made nice and easy for them.  It is an actual and real feeling of panic.  I’ve seen people experience this and it isn’t pretty.

Heck, even the larger of tribe of intersectionalist leftists experiences this when their beliefs are disputed.

It’s irrational, it’s back brain, and it’s genuine and insane panic. People suffer from this.  (Which is why they think our speech is violence.) Because at some level they know that if they listen to us, understand us, question their fundamental beliefs, they’ll stop being part of the ideological tribe. Which means being ejected from “one eyed feminists with a lisp” land. It means being alone and defenseless, which is a very old fear of humanity and of humans, individually, too.

This explains why people feel so threatened by the — handy, but not earth shattering — ideas of Jordan Peterson, say, to the point of breaking into an auditorium where he’s speaking carrying a noose.  (This is because most of these misguided and pampered children think in cartoons.  I suspect she expected him to not only have no defenders, but stay very still while she throttled him.  It’s insane. When you let your back brain do the driving, you’re not going to come across as very smart.)

The other side effect of this is that everyone who isn’t a member of the tribe is potentially the enemy.  This is what leads to the internecine fights within the left, and why if they should win (forbid) we’ll be stuck in civil war after civil war forever. Adapting the Arab proverb: Me and my Marxist classmates against the world; Me and my black Marxist classmates against our white Marxist classmates; Me and my black Marxist female classmates against our black Marxist male classmates; Me and my black lesbian Marxist female classmates against our black straight Marxist female classmates… and so on ad infinitum, until the tribe of one is at war with everyone else, and worse stuck in a pit of anger and resentment because he/she isn’t given all the recognition and compensation he/she should have from the rest of the world at large.

At the same time anyone outside it is viewed as less than human.  This is why they think they can tell everyone to shut up because “white privilege” or “male privilege” or whatever, and they honestly think there will be no resistance and no back lash.

Which is why Trump’s victory surprised and scared them so much. I mean arguably it should scare them. They continue with their policies of suppression and deplatforming and they’ll get FAR WORSE than Trump (who is not bad, particularly in terms of the economy.)

They are thinking in tribal terms, you know?  “We win, the other tribe disappears.”

The back brain knows very well how the other tribe disappears. History is littered with the gnawed bones of defeated enemies.

But the neo-barbs have no clue. Not a one. They think we just “shut up” and, as someone who is — delightfully — only five years younger than I told our side in the SF/F wars (and keep in mind I’m one of the oldest of that group. I’m old enough to have babysat my friends, if we’d all been in the same neighborhood) that we were old and “should just die.”

Because the future is Marxist and tribal and whatever the hell these perpetual babies have been told.

Only it’s not. It can’t be. Because tribalism isn’t the future. It’s the deep past.  The past of caves and eternal war, and famines, and pestilence, and piles and piles of dead babies.

We can’t let it win.  We must go into the culture and rescue it from this trap.  We must pluck the neo-barbs from their panicky-irrational-self-defense.

We must, once more, rebuild civilization where men and women of good will can communicate, trade, marry and be given in marriage as members of humanity which we all are.

In the end we win, they lose, because we are the future and they’re the deep past and a dead end. One that can’t go forward and is killing the human race.

Here’s your torch. Go into the deep dark and bring our brothers and sisters forth. Eventually they’ll get used to the light and stop clenching their eyes shut.

Be not afraid.

St. Patrick, All American Saint

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Sometimes the left is so predictable, it makes your teeth ache.

Okay then. It makes my teeth ache.

You see, some special critters last week were complaining about how celebrating Saint Patrick is cultural appropriation.

We’ll leave aside, for the time being, the fact that I’m not exactly sure who we’d be appropriating St. Patrick from.  I mean, sure, he’s a Catholic saint, celebrated by … well, pretty much everyone in America, Catholic or not, Irish or not.

He is, I presume, celebrated in Ireland too, but from what I heard it’s a more subdued celebration, a religious one and certainly having nothing to do with pinching people for not wearing green and/or green beer.

The problem with the left is that they don’t understand America.  Yes,  I’m sure a lot of them were born and raised here, and the fact they understand America so poorly is the worst indictment of American education I’ve ever seen.

Because St. Patrick, as he’s celebrated is not cultural appropriation.  He is an American Saint, in the sense we celebrate him, as much as a Catholic saint.

To understand this we need to go back to the history of Irish immigrants in America.

Even I – and on one side my husband is a third generation Irish Immigrant (on the paternal side on that side his ancestors go all the way to the revolution.  The other side is oh, German, Scottish, Amerindian. In other words, my husband is also all American) – hadn’t fully grasped how bad things were for Irish immigrants in the beginning.  I hadn’t fully grasped it until I was reading a history of Cleveland (I was an exchange student to Stow, Ohio) and found out that the procedure of the police when investigating any crimes in the early 20th century was “Find all the micks and the Italians, and interrogate them till they give up the culprit.”

The thing is, as my husband noted when I told him this “that it wasn’t wrong most of the time.”  And, yeah, he’s right. At the turn of the century some of the criminals in these communities had histories that read like a demon’s resume.

But the Irish integrated. They worked, they  worked at being American. They taught their kids to be American.

Oh, but they still celebrated St. Paddy.  And St. Paddy became a point of pride.  And the t-shirts with “Kiss me, I’m Irish” came out.  Till eventually everyone wanted to join in the fun (and, let’s face it – hoists her bottle of stout in the general direction of the screen – the beer.) And because by then the Irish had become Americans, they said “Sure, why not? Everyone can celebrate St. Paddy’s with us. Everyone is Irish for a day.”

This was something totally alien to Europeans.  When my – second generation Irish immigrant — history teacher during my exchange student year asked me what I was doing for St. Patrick’s, I told him I wasn’t Irish. He told me I looked like an Irish lass to him.  (For the rest of the year he referred to me as his Irish lass and kept asking people if I didn’t look Irish to them. Turns out he wasn’t completely wrong. According to genetic report, there’s some Irish in there.  Actually there’s some of almost everything. No wonder I like America.)  And dang it, for St. Patrick’s day, the entire school (mostly German and Polish, judging by both looks and last names) was Irish.  They wore shamrocks, and they dressed in green and they wished everyone a happy St. Patrick’s.  It was in fact the most American thing ever.

Because we Americans are about nothing if not cultural appropriation.

We take what’s best about each group of incoming immigrants, and we shamelessly make it ours.

And groups like the Irish, once reviled and marginalized become central parts of the American story.

You know what’s needed for it, though? That they give up their tribalism.  Which to be fair most Irishmen, and even most Italians have.  Sure. They will still be very proud of their heritage, but when their kids marry outside it, they just pretend  to think that there’s a bit of their heritage in the new spouse.

One of my school friends, who is – almost certainly – pure German, has become an Italian mom by this magic.  And that’s fine, though it’s only in America.

I was thinking about this, when I read this article in the Atlantic.  If you don’t want to lose brain cells by reading it, the gist of it is that Talar Ansari, probably second generation immigrant from some Arab country or other, looked at the shootings in New Zealand, and is sure that the “White Supremacists” are going to get him. And that white supremacists are a far greater terrorist threat than Islamic radicals.

(Will someone get my eyes? They rolled all the way under the sofa.)
Honestly… where to begin? Are there white supremacists in America? Sure. There’s 300 million of us.  There’s people who believe all kinds of crazy things.

Are Muslims in danger of white supremacists?
Well, except for a minority of them, Muslims are white (and most Arab countries were allied with Hitler, btw.)  They’re as white as I am (Latin is a cultural subgroup, not a racial one, though everyone forgets that.)  We’re a member of the Mediterranean sub-race of the Caucasian race.

The prejudice against new immigrants has bloody nothing to do with race. See the prejudice against Irish and Italians.

And, note that I said above, some of it is logical and justified. Marginalized communities often harbor in their midst less than savory elements. Because those hide where people band together for tribal comfort. (See the science fiction fand-and-writer community and pedophiles.) Because users use people. And entire groups of people.

The problem I had with Talal Ansari’s view is that it was entirely tribal and entirely one-sided.  He sees all these threats (real and imaginary. Look, if there were white supremacists under every rock in America it would have saved Jussie Smollet a lot of trouble.) against his people, his tribe, his community. He sees “islamophobia” everywhere.
But he doesn’t note when someone of his religion spreads anti-semitic  “Jewish banker” conspiracies in the house of representatives.  And he’s apparently blind to the very real reason that Americans have to fear Islamic terrorism.

To explain it to the blinkered Mr. Ansari: because people who claim to be of your religion want to kill us for being American. That was the crime of those who died in 9/11, and the ones who died in the Boston Marathon, and of those who have avoided death only because the would-be terrorists were caught in time.

Is it unfair that people – yeah, even me – cringe at a group speaking in Arabic in a public place?  Sure it is.

It was also unfair that the way to investigate crimes in Cleveland at one time was “round up all the Micks and the Eyetalians.”

Was it permanent? Nope. Those people tried to be as American as they could, and, yes, called out their own bad elements, instead of talking about how oppressed their tribe was and holding on to their tribal specialness.

They went forth and raised their kids to be American, and married other brands of American, and shared the good things in their culture – food and drink, mostly. It’s always food and drink, but also devotion to family – while forgetting the ancestral hatreds of the places they’d left behind.

And eventually everyone became Irish for a day. And everyone  faced with a vast quantity of pasta gestures encouragingly and says “Mangia, mangia.”

Because they’re American, the culture that takes the best of every culture in the world and forgets the worst, the evil things, the ancestral hatreds back there.

What Mr. Ansari needs is a shamrock. We won’t push the beer, if he’s keeping to his religion’s prohibitions on alcohol (Remember, Irish and Italians were also once a religious minority.) Saying top o’ the morning wouldn’t hurt either.  Nor would wishing everyone a happy St. Patrick’s day. Or saying that for a day he’s descended from the O’Ansara’s.

Because Americans will accept anyone who makes an effort. (And, yes, steal their best recipes. Sorry, it’s who we are. It’s what we do.)

You’re in America now. You can hold on to all the crazy that made the place you or your ancestors came from a place to leave.

Or you can remember you’re an American first and say it with us “That Ilhan Omar. She’s such an idiot anti-semite.”

Then wish a Happy St. Patrick day to your Jewish co-worker, wear a shirt that says “kiss me, I’m Irish” and have a good time.
Top o’ the morning to you! Welcome to America.