Monday, October 24, 2016

Privilege and Harrison Bergeron

We have reached the point in my blogging where I criticize beloved figures, starting with a beloved author.

I first read "Harrison Bergeron" in junior high. My first reaction was to be disturbed. Most of our class discussion focused on how even though they called Harrison a genius he seemed pretty stupid. It took me much longer to think about the fact that efforts toward equality don't really work that way.

Think about it. Even with affirmative action having been on the books for a while, a black college student has the same change of getting a job as a white high school dropout. When they do get the job, they get paid less. Their efforts to use that salary to invest in a home usually involve worse loan deals and less valuable property - even after those practices were declared illegal - so they lag behind in gaining wealth. People still feel threatened by affirmative action and get angry about it.

The common conception is that the story was a satire relating to wealth equality, and the points in the previous paragraph can apply to that. On the surface it is more about actual physical disabilities. Looking at that, steps toward equality generally involve accommodations like ramps and reserved parking spaces closer to the entrance. Maybe there are larger screens for the visually impaired. They don't remove all obstacles caused by the disabilities, but they allow participation by individuals who do have something to give. It doesn't take anything away from those without disabilities. It certainly doesn't lead to weighing down the strong and putting masks on the beautiful.

The absurdity of it could be seen as the point of satire, and you could hope that Vonnegut's point was to show how ridiculous the fears were for those who worried about talk of equality. That doesn't seem likely. In trying to see if anyone else had addressed those issues, I found this:

It relates to the story "Welcome to the Monkey House", originally published in Playboy but later in a collection (by that name) of stories that included "Harrison Bergeron". And yes, apparently the way you satirize simultaneous concerns about overpopulation and the Pope reconfirming his opposition to birth control (plus equality) is therapeutic rape, done humbly. Right.

I don't think Kurt Vonnegut was a bad man. He sounds like a pretty nice man, but he was white and he was male, and especially in the 1960s that put him in a position where there were things he just didn't need to worry about.

This is a time of finding lots of anger and fear about a change in the social order, and there are people who aren't even that high up in the social order but who still cling to it because they're afraid of being lower still.

When you're accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.

I'm not saying that you can't find Black people who will argue against affirmative action or women who will shame victims of rape - they are out there. You will also find white men who look beyond that. But it's easy not to know if you don't have to know. There are still a lot of people who have to know.

I try to never forget that.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Band Review: Into the Night and Tyler Simmons

I'm combining two follows who do not provide a lot of material on their own.

First is Into the Night. I was followed by one user who had a link to a video in his profile, but now does not, perhaps having moved on. There may or may not be another member of the band who is doing more with his personal Youtube channel.

They do have a an original song, kind of hardcore but with some melodic lyricism, and the guitar is well-played, but I'm not sure there's still a band here. This may be a downside to my long lead time for reviews, though the follow happened in June, so it wasn't even the full six months.

Tyler Simmons followed me about a week after Jonathan. He has more material, but not additional original material, with all but one of the songs being covers. Being relatively young, it may make sense for Simmons to accumulate more life experience and have more things to write about.

I know the names of the other artists he covers, but only one of the songs. I think he has a good voice and sounds good, but I don't know how they compare, except for that one.

That one is a cover of "Imagine", and I hate it. It's a duet, and together they flatten the song and I'm not even really a Lennon fan.

Right now Simmons is a 16-year old Canadian actor who is not bad at guitar or singing and is pretty cute, but he is still growing into whomever he is going to be. One of the covers is a Justin Bieber song, which reminds us there is a wide range of options for how he can turn out.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Band Review: Orisonata

Orisonata is a progressive metal project, a collaboration between Jason Lee Greenberg and his wife Jennifer Grassman, a classically trained vocalist.

Among their influences they cite many bands, but also Jules Verne and J.R.R. Tolkien. It is not surprising that the tracks on their self-titled album refer to works of fantasy ("The Once and Future King"), science-fiction ("Journey to the Center of the Earth"), religion ("The Great Baptism"), folklore ("Robin Hood") and myth ("The Muses").

Tracks are long - the shortest is 5:07 - and dramatic: big guitar, big voice, and big keyboards (another listed influence is Johann Sebastian Bach). This band is in the business of epic quests.

I do not think they are being pretentious, but I did feel it was a bit silly and overblown. I feel the same way about Trans-Siberian Orchestra, though, and they have a definite fan base. Fans of Dragonforce might also be interested.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The slippery slope

There are probably two points I should make about yesterday's not comfortable with racism but still passionately anti-globalist tweeter. The first is that he is in the UK. That means that he may be seeing different news coverage than we do here, and a lot of the coverage may be influenced by the lead-in and aftermath to the Brexit vote.

The other thing is that he recently made a movie that was filmed in seventeen countries by getting the help of other people. That initially sounds like someone who would be very into globalism, except I guess that they are all staying in their respective countries.

I do not automatically rule out that there can be legitimate concerns about globalization and immigration, which seems to be the bigger concern among those who mention globalization. I also cannot be blind to the history of ostracizing and blaming immigrants for things that were not their faults. It's been something that has worked very well for the rich - immigrants provide a cheap labor pool for the capitalists to exploit and a scapegoat for social problems caused by their greed. Convenient.

The scapegoating shouldn't work so easily. For example, some people raise security concerns about accepting refugees, but if you look at both the current vetting process and how many incidents that happen come from people who are already citizens, it should fall apart. That it doesn't is - I believe - a result of deeply ensconced prejudices. Often it is racism, but it could be simply Anglocentrism. That those prejudices are part of a structure that enfolds sexism and ableism is not a coincidence.

Let me jump over to two other things that I was reading last week. One was about the toll the news is taking on some survivors of harassment and assault. They see the automatic attempts to discredit the survivors' accounts, and the power structure, and it brings back the memories and the feelings of that time.

Two of the women affected by that are women that I admire a lot. They are so smart, and well-read and deep-thinking. They are hard-working and creative. They were very valuable, until they were women of color accusing a white man who was a prominent feminist of abuse. Then they were targeted and harassed and abused by a lot of people instead of just the one.

One of the recipients of the abuse posted this article:

Having read about the Black Panthers and AIM not that long ago, it resonated. In the case of one of the Black Panther examples and the RNC protester examples, what stands out is the increase in violence. The spy who is supposed to be discovering criminal activity is actually causing it. This can destroy an organization pretty effectively, hurting the image, tarnishing the message, and getting members jailed.

You don't have to be a provocateur to bring a group down. Being a misogynist in an anti-racism group can be enough. Looking down on women of color and valuing them less in a feminist group can be enough. Working for gay rights, but snubbing the members of color or lesbians or bisexuals or holding onto transphobia can be enough.

It happens all the time. I have seen volunteer organizations go through terrible rivalries and turnover, with deeply dedicated people hurt and alienated, and that was just for dog adoption. The issue was still that some people need to exert power over others. Because our society is built on a foundation where the ability to oppress and dominate is often related to race and gender and sexuality, it makes it easy to bring out the worst in us.

It should have been easy for members in the infiltrated groups to turn down the suggested violence. "No. That's not what we're about. That's not how we are doing things." But it is easy to give in to people who are taking charge, and who are higher up in the kyriarchy. In the same way, it can be very hard to challenge them when it appears they are being abusive, and support the victims. It is very easy to tell people whose needs are not being met that they have to wait because this other thing is more important. It's easy to say by going against him, you are damaging us, instead of examining the damage caused by the rotten core.

That's how we sell our souls, except, it's not a clear transaction for a lot of people. Sometimes it's just a continual numbing when you choose the path of least resistance and shun the thing that makes you feel uncomfortable. The more privilege you have, the easier it is to do.

I do not claim to have all of the answers. I do believe that if we are holding on to having superiority against one group, or blaming everything on one group, it corrupts us. It gets us into bed with vile people. You can lose your sensitivity to what is vile. It has been happening all along.

If your revolution isn't intersectional, it's crap.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Changing minds

Yesterday's troll has not been the only person to challenge my sisters politically, though she was certainly becoming the most prominent.

One thing we have discussed periodically is whether there is even a point in having these conversations, because no one is listening. Remember the coworker who is Christian but does not believe you have to love others? He loves discussing politics with her, except "discuss" might be an overstatement because it implies that some listening goes along with the talking.

My response would often revert to having seen two people change their minds. It's rare, and it's hard to say what makes it happen, but it is at least a possibility. I want to go over those, and then something else that recently happened.

For the first one, I don't know what happened. He had been a Sanders supporter and virulently anti-Clinton. One day he posted that he had been wrong; Clinton has been serving people all her life. He seems to be back to supporting third-party candidates now, but for a while it was really encouraging.

I know the turning point for the other, and it was something that freaked me out. It was the video contrasting two men of different races demonstrating their right to open carry an AR-15.

I was shaking mad when I saw it. It seemed like a great way to get the Black man killed, and I was so angry with whoever had decided to risk his life to prove a point. That is discounting his willing participation, and they probably thought the cameras provided a measure of security, but I felt sick. I felt sick not from what I was seeing there, but from fear because of what I already knew.

It was different for her. She had blamed many incidents before on non-compliance and attitude and reverse racism, but with that video she saw it. Not everyone did; there are people who argue about it being a holstering issue and having nothing to do with racism. For at least one person it made a difference, so you never know.

The day after the previously discussed Facebook scuffle, a mutual on Twitter posted that he didn't understand why a certain phrasing that Donald Trump had used was perceived as anti-Semitic. I knew that one, so I responded. Soon it felt like I was down the rabbit hole, because he just didn't see any evidence that Trump was racist. After all, he had an Orthodox Jewish son-in-law and had dated Black women.

Relationships don't automatically heal racism, and there is a lot of evidence for that, but I focused on some of the more obvious signs of racism, and concerns about Trump setting the stage for violence in the wake of his defeat. He knew that wouldn't be a problem, because while he had seen people against both Trump and Clinton in his Twitter feed, there were lots of pro-Trump tweets and none in favor of Clinton.

That can be an interesting commentary on how it is easy to insulate yourself from differing viewpoints, but at the same time, he follows me. I have tweeted things in favor of Clinton, and he's not seeing it. There are a lot of people with her.

That didn't feel like it was going anywhere. He did delete some of his tweets praising Trump during the conversation, so maybe there was some impact, but it was hard to tell. The next day I found an article that was really pertinent, and passed it on to him:

He promised to check it out, and that was the end of our interaction. However, the next day he tweeted that only one person had been against globalism and why did it have to be Trump? Maybe he did see something. Maybe he at least has a better understanding of why some people have concerns.

What may not be obvious from that story is that I found that interaction exhausting. Between him then and Rachel the day before, I wanted to give up all political discourse because it is not worth it. But then sometimes it might be, so I stay in there.

I do have some ideas on why the anti-globalism candidate might necessarily be the groping racist misogynist that is Trump. More on that tomorrow.

Monday, October 17, 2016


I've been fighting on the internet again..

There is a good chance this will keep up. The election is getting closer, there is a lot of bad information out there, and it's important to me; I feel a responsibility to post things. However, that's not how the first one happened.

For a while now, every political post that either of my younger sisters has posted has been attacked by their former hairdresser. They would sometimes ask me for help with rebuttals, but it would always result in more frustration. Sometimes the things she said were too poorly conceived to answer easily, but when they would do a reasonable response anyway she would shrug it off, saying she needed to get back to doing something else, and she didn't want to get unfriendly. She was already so unfriendly that it was hard to take that justification seriously.

She had been getting worse, and I was pretty fed up with her, so much so that on the day of the dust up I had posted a Facebook status about how frustrating she was. It got a lot of likes, but I didn't think that much about it. After all, I know she is not the only person like that out there, and my status also complimented my friends for not pulling that crap. Then she went after both of them again.

A picture of the president with a child (lots of good Obama/child pics out there) and a compliment to his nature drew on a scathing argument that he couldn't be a good kind person because he is pro-abortion. Then on another post she put her incorrect, poorly articulated comment followed by a "Done" so you would know that you are not supposed to answer.

I try to avoid conflict, but once I'm in, I'm in. I came out swinging, and I was pretty clear about her being stupid. The thing is, she's not intelligent, but I wouldn't have made a big deal out of that if she had not been being a jerk, which she continued.

One thing I had not been anticipating was that other friends of mine came to my defense. I don't even know how it happened, because only one of them was a mutual with my sisters and I, and I know none of them were friends with Rachel (and unlikely to become friends now). I'm sure she felt piled on - which is not a good feeling - but she did not learn anything. She claimed I had nothing better to do than be a troll when the precise reason I was there was because she has been trolling my sisters consistently. No sense of irony whatsoever.

It was nice to have others affirming my intelligence and goodness, and this is where it gets interesting. One of the things she threw at me was that I am just a sad, lonely single. She is Mormon, like my sisters and I, and our church is very family-oriented. My friends who contributed are not LDS, so I know that particular insult seemed very wrong to them, though most members I know would be horrified at that being thrown out as an insult as well.

I mention it, because I think in Rachel's mind, well of course we are liberal and pro-choice and can support Clinton and Obama - we are not doing what is right. She had previously ended a lot of arguments to Julie with Julie just not understanding because she doesn't have children. Whether the issue is merely that we have not been quite righteous enough to be blessed with husbands and children (and once you have those, you are never sad or lonely) or we are rebelliously staying single and childless on purpose, I am not sure, but it gives her the moral high ground.

I think that for her - and for a lot of other people - there is a mental block that anyone can be smart and good and still believe differently politically. I don't say it based on this interaction alone. Saturday night one of my posts got an unusually scriptural response from one Mormon, but also a kind of aggressive response from someone who wasn't. And when another friend (who is Mormon) stepped in to defend me, he flew into attack mode on her, calling her stupid and accusing her of being on food stamps. (She has a PhD and has never been on government aid, though that would not be a crime.) Because obviously if she is liberal, she must be poor and stupid, as must I. (But I am only poor, and clearly I have friends who will vouch for the smart part.)

This division is not right. No political party has a monopoly on good or evil. As everything becomes more polarizing, it can seem that way. Certainly, I can feel like people don't question themselves enough, or their political alignment, but even as execrable as I think Trump is, I can't automatically assume someone who supports him is that execrable.

Rachel unfriended my sisters, and that was my goal. I was tired of them getting abused for daring to think differently and they were reluctant to unfriend her because that's like giving up. I deliberately disrupted that. (And although she only unfriended them she said she was blocking them, because she isn't even smart enough to know what those things mean.)

However, I have not unfriended the people from the other interactions. I did delete some posts, but I am going to try to preserve those relationships. Abuse is a reason not too, but if we can manage to disagree without abuse, then we should do that. I'm going to try.

Spell check does not like my use of "unfriend" as a verb, and frankly, it feels weird having a post where I get so specific on everyone's religious affiliation, but it seemed relevant. We'll' see how tomorrow's post goes.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Band Review: Micah Buzan

Micah Buzan is a musician and an animator.

The focus on the animation may result in there being less information about the music. In this case, I wish he had written a little more about his genre or influences, because I am not sure how to describe the music.

There are ways in which it reminds me of Chiptunes. It is never quite that beepy, but there are often mechanical grooves running under the music. That also makes it kind of resemble techno, but maybe with some additional influence from surf music. That probably doesn't make sense, but listen to "Horus V.S. Set" and see if you get what I mean.

As there are many animation videos, and because Buzan makes videos for other musicians, trying to find songs on Youtube can be frustrating. Soundcloud and Bandcamp will work better for that.