muckefuck: (zhongkui)
So, the run-in:

I was waiting for the elevator. There was an older man in an electric geri chair and a younger woman with him. She was wearing plastic gloves, so I thought she was a nurse or CNA despite not wearing scrubs. I greeted them and the man engaged me in conversation. "I'm on four. Where are you staying?" I explained that it was my husband who was in residence; he took that in stride, like most people do.

In any case, the elevator arrived (after I showed them how you sometimes have to push the button again to get it to open) and the man manœuvred the chair into it. I started to step in, but the woman said, "Is there going to be enough room? I need a certain amount of room to do things." This kicked off a confusing exchange between the two--the man encouraging her to come in, the woman protesting, until finally I muttered, "This is ridiculous. I'll take the next one" and walked out.

She stepped in, turned to me, and said, "It's interesting that you call it 'ridiculous' when you're gay." It took me a moment to realise what had even happened. I stepped forward and held the door. "Did you just make a thing of me being gay? Why would you even do that?" Turns out she felt personally attacked by my comment (even though it was directed at the situation, not any particular person) and felt--she explained--fully justified in attacking me in return. "I have OCD!" she screamed. Fine, okay, but then maybe have a plan for the utterly foreseeable event of having to share an elevator? And maybe communicate that to the people around you so they have some idea what the hell's going on? If she had simply said, "I'm sorry, I don't feel comfortable sharing an elevator," I would've been like, whatever, and waited.

Instead, she created a situation where she felt she had to say, "I'm not homophobic!" because she'd just demonstrated the opposite. I get that she was feeling embarrassed and uncomfortable. But when you've spent all of a minute with somebody and your mind goes right to, "How can I use the one thing I know about this person against them?" that doesn't say much for your character, does it? The poor guy in the chair was trying to calm things, but neither of us was listening. I could see that nothing I might say would make things better for anyone, released the door, and then stood there fuming, hoping that would be the last I would ever see of her in my life.
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
This election cycle is another gradual coming-to-terms with the fact that I'm not anywhere near as progressive as I'd like to think myself. Because if I were, I'd be on fire for Cranky Grandpa and his New New Deal. You can call it pragmatism--it's been clear since the beginning that the DNC is only interested in nominating the Den Mother of Wall Street; show me someone hoping for a repeat of 2008's insurgency and I'll show you someone with way more faith in Millennials' ability to find their way into a voting booth than I think is warranted--but I think it goes deeper than that. I think at this point I honestly prefer the moneyed centrist who I know won't try anything crazy to the untested luftmentsh who dares to dream big.

I really have to feel sorry for my Republican friends this time: so many options, so few choices. It looks like the GOP is drifting to Rubio by default, which must come as something of a relief after seeing first Trump's star rise and then Cruz'. I'm still expecting Angry Toupee's narcissism to lead him down the road to an independent run, in which case it's a guaranteed loss for their man and another four years of relentless obstructionism for the rest of us.

The one good thing to be said for the whole circus is that it's distracting us from the total shitshow on the state level. Rauner's turning out to be just the big government small government conservative we feared with the stubbornness to match Madigan in dick-measuring while Little Rome on the Prairie continues to burn. And the less said about our lame duck scumbag of a mayor, the less of a desire I have to drink until I wake up in the White City.
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
Yesterday started rough and ended well when we managed to head off yet another fiasco at the Hospital from Hell. Given the community they serve, it can't be that they don't grok people who don't drive, so I'm left with the hypothesis that it's just well-off White people who don't drive that baffles them. When they called to give the GWO instructions for his outpatient procedure, they told him he'd have to be picked up because he wouldn't be good to drive after being sedated. He said this wouldn't be a problem because he planned to take a cab.

Normally, I'd accompany him anyway, but the doctor rescheduled the appointment so that it directly conflicted with a training session at work. I thought about calling in a friend, but [ profile] monshu didn't seem concerned so I tried not to worry about it. The result was that I came back from lunch to a desperate call from him, since without someone there they were going to have to cancel the procedure. I was in the middle of a call to Diego (who lives nearby and works from home) when the Old Man called back and clarified that I just need to be there to pick him up.

But the confusion didn't end there. The GWO texted me a number to call when I arrived. I told the perky nurse who answered that I was there and she told me that if I "brought the car around to the front entrance", she'd bring him down to meet me. I had to explain twice that I wasn't actually in a car but walking through the hospital on my own too legs. Why is it such a hugely difficult concept to understand that people who can well afford to have a car might nevertheless choose not to get one?
Nov. 16th, 2015 04:32 pm

Le naturel

muckefuck: (zhongkui)
My emotional reactions to the attacks in Paris and everything they've stirred up are complex and messy and probably not something I should be trying to sort through in public. But, fuck it, this is LiveJournal, so who's reading this anyway? Somehow I managed not to hear about what happened until I was seated at the dinner table. I hadn't checked social media before leaving work and had to deal with condo nonsense the moment I arrived home, so it was only once that had settled down and I was sipping soup with the Old Man that he brought the conversation around to the events of the day.

My first reaction was to grab my iPhone and scan the news reports. I immediately felt sick to my stomach. It was a stronger sensation than reading the news from Beirut a day earlier. Then my heart sank as I thought, "This is not what they need." Beirut for me is like an elegant and accomplished person who suffered a terrible tragedy years ago and has been struggling ever since to get back on their feet again. Paris, on the other hand, is someone so powerful and celebrated that they should be well insulated from those problems.

But why should they get off easier than Madrid or New York City? No real reason at all. And it's not like the city is any stranger to political massacres either. The last one of this magnitude wasn't carried out by non-state actors but by the French state. None of this was in the forefront of my mind as the attacks were still in progress; they came bubbling up the next day as I began to sift through the news updates and the shitpile of responses and responses to responses.

Far from consoling me, the "flood of solidarity" only depressed me further. I don't know if I'd noticed before just how problematic expressions of support can be. Their value consists of their authenticity, but the mediation of a prefab platform very easily gives them the appearance of something else. I felt less like I was witnessing an outpouring of genuine emotion and more just the workings of habitus. Explanations of why a particular person felt strongly connected to Paris or the French in general read like a form of social positioning (since naturally these connexions are far more characteristic of some socioeconomic tiers and segments of society than others).

It got worse when Facebook released an app similar to the one propagated around the time of the same-sex marriage decision which allowed one to overlay profile pics with the Tricolore. With a "gesture of support" only two clicks away, my Wall began to fill up with doctored selfies. Could you find a better metaphor for making a distant tragedy all about yourself? A couple days later and I still see a trickle of Friends playing catchup. Which makes me wonder: How will they know when it's time to stop draping themselves in the flag? Which cool kids do they look to for their cue on that?

Naturally it took very little time before people began pointing out the disparity in reactions between Paris and Beirut, or Ankara a month earlier, or any other place east of Alsace that had been bombed or shot-up. This quickly became it's own kind of tedious posturing and attention-policing, whatever valid observations lay behind it. The covertly-politicised calls not to politicise the tragedy blended in with the overt politicisations and I just had to get away from it all.

What is the "proper" response in this situation? I don't know. I don't know that there is one, to be honest. People respond how they're going to respond, in a way you can largely predict based on their class background and their ideological poles. Is that a surprise? Is that cause for handwringing and headshaking? Isn't that just as determined a response as any other?
Aug. 4th, 2015 02:48 pm

Dork act

muckefuck: (zhongkui)
I really didn't want to get into it with the anti-GMO advocates at the farmer's market. And I wouldn't have if they hadn't pressed me. But the guy seem genuinely surprised that I didn't want to sign a petition urging Durbin to oppose what he called "the DARK Act" (anti-GMO cant for the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2014). I told him that I didn't like siding with a corporation as nasty as Monsanto, but that I found the anti-GMO hysteria even worse.

His arguments were laughable. He first asked me, "If GMOs are safe, why would corporations opposed labeling them?" To which I pointed out that there were a lot of people who believed they weren't safe, which would have a negative effect on sales. The follow-up question really floored me: "If they weren't dangerous, why would people think they were?" And I was like, "Have you never been on the Internet? Why are there anti-vaxxers?"

One of the other activists heard this and said, "Oh well, they're crazy." "So they're crazy but the anti-GMO crowd aren't?" She told me that she didn't buy into the hysteria and for her it was "a consumer advocacy issue". I told her I thought there should be a more compelling reason for mandating companies label something than that a lot of people wanted them to. Then a third chimed in, saying, "Look at expiration dates. They didn't used to be required, and the information on them isn't really accurate." "So we should put more useless information on labels?"

At this point, I took a cheap parting shot and made my getaway. If those are their best arguments, then I can only assume they're getting very little informed pushback from their targets. Depressing, but what else would you expect?
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
I may have managed to catch a summer cold. (One day after switching the AC on at home. Coincidence?) I only meant to take off half a day yesterday, but by the time I woke up from my nap it didn't seem worth going in. And since NetFlix had sent me Midnight Express, I thought I might as well spend the afternoon watching it.

Poor [ profile] monshu got an earful at dinner when he asked me what I thought of it. To summarise what I ranted to him: technically accomplished, politically awful. I guess I'm just automatically supposed to identify with the protagonist because he's a good-looking middle-class White American guy like me? Never mind that he was actually guilty of the crime he was convicted of and only started out with a reduced sentence due to his family's money and pull. Yeah, the conditions inside the prison were terrible. But know what? They're every bit as terrible for the rest of the people in there. But (except for Randy Quaid, whose sad fate is also supposed to pain us though he brings most of it on himself) they're not Americans, so fuck 'em.

Honestly, any bit of sympathy I had for Hayes is extinguished halfway through by his grandstanding speech in the dock where he goes way beyond lamenting the fact that the Turks unaccountably aren't willing to give him special treatment and personally insults every one of them in the most brutal and vicious terms. And the director has the judge look abashed by this? I'd be like, "Fuck your slowly rotting living corpse."

What makes it even worse is the historical perspective that the movie was released just as the USA launched its "War on Drugs" in earnest. We all know how that turned out: sky-high incarceration rates, overcrowded prisons with conditions eventually ruled "cruel and inhumane", the decimation of inner-city communities, etc. It all makes his self-righteous speech about "justice" ring very hollow.

Ironically, those developments helped inform the script: In the featurette, Oliver Stone goes on about how the Turks were just a stand-in for oppressive authority in general. How convenient! Why take on your peers at home when you can demonise a whole country of brown people on the other side of the world who aren't in a position to put up much resistance? And since this is a Stone script, as a bonus we get the consensual homosexual relationship in Hayes' original memoir downgraded to a "thanks but no thanks" and a completely gratuitous (not to mention ludicrous) climactic male-rape-cum-revenge scene.

I'm glad I watched the "making-of", since hearing how Puttnam and Parker had to fight the studio to keep in even the hint of homoromance at least took some of the bad taste out of my mouth. The details of production, from the grueling shoot in Malta to the struggles with casting and the dramatic reversals of Cannes, were interesting to. But mostly, I'm just glad I can cross it off my list--and sad to see the late Paul L. Smith in another thankless part that probably contributed more than the rest to his relentless typecasting.
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
Something amazing happened at the Chicago Pride Parade this year: in the middle of a corporate-sponsored four-hour orgy of assimilationism, an actual challenge to the status quo broke out. You can read about the aims of the protesters here if you want. And then, just for funsies, you can compare this to the coverage in the local gay press. I first learned about this from a couple of a friends of friends who sounded put out less by the inconvenience (it's an overlong event full of delays anyway) than by the effrontery. Like, how dare those black folk turn on the very people who are on their side. I honestly do not understand where this notion comes from that gay White men in particular are such Civil Rights heroes.

It's hard not to view Pride as something that's outlived its usefulness. I remember it as the party which energised us to combat discrimination the rest of the year, but nowadays it feels more like a party for its own sake--a "rainbow St Patrick's Day", to quote one critic, and I don't go to that tedious drunken revel either. Back in the day, it was inspiring to see businesses represented, because for the most part these were delegations from grassroots employee organisations formed to pressure management for recognition and fair treatment and whose permission to exist was tacit at best. Now it's just whoever wanted to get some sun while advertising the company's products or services.

What are the alternatives? Despite having joined it years ago, I managed to forget that the Dyke March is still going on. On the one hand, it's much more in line with what I feel like a march should be. And while I'm tempted to join in, part of me would feel like exactly the sort of tourist the event was organised to get away from. But sometimes I think being a tourist might, in fact, be the best thing we could do. Many of the gay men I know can afford to fly to exotic destinations for their holidays. What if they timed them to coincide with local pride celebrations which don't have the full support of the authorities (like this year's Istanbul Pride)? Even if they find it too risky to participate directly, just their presence in the crowd would constrain the efforts of any government worried about its profile abroad.
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
This is for [ profile] febrile, who was lamenting on That Other Social Network that he misses the political discussion we used to have on LJ. If you see this, pal, post whatever you like and I'll do my best to respond in kind.

Naturally, the uproar over the disturbances in Baltimore is laying bare the limitations of Fakepuck for informed discourse in a particularly heinous. I'm expecting at least one deFriending (no big loss) despite doing my best not to get too deeply into it with anybody. But it's hard to hold my tongue when others are doing so much sanctimonious clucking about a few incidents of looting. (Almost solely from light-skinned people of privilege who have never had to live anywhere as shitty as West Baltimore, natch.) 'Cause that's really the main problem here, not--for instance--the fact that, just since 2011, eleven people have died in police custody in Baltimore and the force have been forced to pay out sums totaling over $5.7 million to settle cases of alleged undue use of force.

And then of course there's Gray's rap sheet, which has been circulating around the conservative blogosphere with such alacrity you'd think it'd just been leaked rather than being something which was widely reported in the dirty liberal media two weeks ago. But that's the most important thing to establish at this juncture: He Got What Was Coming. 33 counts in 8 years, only two violent, and every one of them a misdemeanour. Fully two-thirds are drug offences: possession, possession with intent to distribute, or distribution. Almost all the rest (e.g. violation of probation, lying to a cop, second-degree escape) are related to going through the wringer of the criminal justice system. His last arrest was for possession of a switchblade, which they had to run him down, tackle him (injuring him severely in the process), and search him to find. In other words, he's just the kind of low-level victim of the War On Drugs libertarians would leap to defend--if he were White. (But this isn't about race, oh no, it's about ethics in games journalism or something.)

You know how every time anyone--but especially a Muslim--goes on air to try to explain the reasons why it might be that young Muslims are so fed up with the world that some of them decide to blow themselves up or take hostages or whatever, they always have to preface their remarks with a ritualistic denial of support for terrorism? I think we all agree this is bullshit, but since the expectation doesn't seem to be going anywhere, I'd like to propose an equivalent for any time White people try to talk about the police. We should all be expected to say upfront that police brutality and extrajudicial murder are a Bad Things and that everyone in blue should really try the durnedest to stop doing them. Because I keep seeing people jump right into slamming the victim and condemning the outcry and it makes me honestly wonder if they don't see this as a problem the way the rest of us do.
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
I'm having a mixed reaction to the events at Charlie Hebdo. On the one hand, the massacre is horrific and I absolutely don't hold the victims accountable for it. Whatever the provocation, it was entirely the killers' decision to take up arms and needlessly slaughter people. However, baiting Muslims has been the magazine's stock-in-trade for some years now. Despite the outlandish claims of Islamophobes, Muslims are still very much a minority in France and a disadvantaged one, which means this is punching down. So I'm not eager to see these cartoonists acclaimed as free-speech martyrs.

Worse, all they've really gone and proved by pulling the tiger's tail is that if you keep it up long enough, eventually unstable men will take up arms against you. We kind of knew that already, didn't we? Ultimately all this does is play into the hands of extremists on both sides. Seeing those who seek to humiliate Islam taken down a peg is a great recruitment tool for young radicals. Conversely, those demagogues warning of "Eurabia" have further confirmation for their contention that Islam is incompatible with modern civilisation.

So now we have a dozen people dead, thousands more living in fear, and no end in sight to the rising tensions between immigrants and nativists in Europe or elsewhere. I can't and won't criticise these journalists for "getting themselves killed"; that's victim-blaming nonsense. But several of them did contribute to making our world a little bit worse, and for what?

ETA: Given the professionalism of the assassins, Juan Cole posits that this was an al-Qaeda plot to provoke an overreaction that will further alienate young Muslims in Europe.

Sandip Roy shares some of my reservations. Jacob Canfield goes further. ("In summary: Nobody should have been killed over those cartoons. Fuck those cartoons.") Surprisingly good discussion in comments.
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
Sooner or later, I'm going to get banned from the language forum I'm most active on these days. It's not that I'm trying to, it's just that they have one of the most insanely restrictive moderation regimes I've ever seen. It's forbidden to make any open reference to moderator actions, so it's not even possible to discuss the issue with other forum members. My latest run in with a mod came from simply suggesting to another poster that we move our discussion of Ferguson to a more appropriate thread; for this I was publicly censured for "backseat modding" and told I should've reported the comments as off-topic instead.

I'm beginning to wonder if there's a basic underlying cultural conflict. Most all of the mods are Western Europeans (although the one I've had the most trouble with is Francophone Canadian), which might help explain why what seems insultingly paternalistic to me strikes them as perfectly reasonable. (Why on earth would I "report" someone for a minor issue we're capable of working out civilly on our own?) I'm not disputing that, at the end of the day, it's their sandbox to run as they please, but still I'm used to mods (and I am one, on LJ and elsewhere) acting more like primi inter pares and less like tinpot dictators. Strange how little authority it takes to bring out the authoritarian in all of us.
Dec. 4th, 2014 09:59 pm

Word power

muckefuck: (zhongkui)
To be completely blunt about it, [ profile] monshu and I got married for the privileges. It means that I won't have to pay tax on the value of the medical coverage I'm purchasing for him through my employer. Ever since he was diagnosed with prostate cancer six years ago, we've had medical power of attorney on file with all his physicians. But documents are easily misplaced or forgotten about. One of the greatest privileges of marriage is never having to say, "Look in his file" in order to justify your presence somewhere.

So I'm beginning to get stroppy about the slips on the part of the hospital staff. Normally, I don't care how people refer to our relationship. Normally, it doesn't really have any real-world repercussions. If someone accepts same-sex romantic relationships as valid, then the fine distinctions between "partner", "significant other", "spouse", etc. probably don't matter much to them. If they don't, then it will take more than a certificate from the state to change their attitude.

But one thing I absolutely do not want to have to face is the slightest hesitation about informing or consulting me in an emergency situation. HIPPA is restrictive enough that I can see medical personnel doing just that if they have any doubts about my rights. "Spouse" slashes right through those doubts. The first thing I do now when any new person entres the room is introduce myself as "Mr [ profile] monshu's spouse".

So it irks me that the staff at his hospital have apparently been trained to use the term "significant other" with same-sex couples. Today for the first time in four trips I was described by one employee to another as "Mr [ profile] monshu's husband"--and even then only after he'd used the word "partner" before correcting himself. It irks me so much that I woke up in the wee hours yesterday and sent a letter of complaint to the administration (including with it a link to this timely article on LGBTQ sensitivity in a hospital setting).

We may have pinpointed to source of the problem, however. When we registered him for his overnight stay two weeks ago, I noticed that I was listed as "Partner" in the section for "Other relation" and the section for "Parent/Spouse" was left blank. I reported this to the nurse and asked to have it corrected. It wasn't, as I found out this morning when I asked the receptionist as radiology to double-check. She tried to fix it, but couldn't due to a "glitch".

Turns out you have to change the patient's marital status to "married" before you can add a spouse. We were waiting on a cab when I went to the front desk and made this request. They told me it had to come from him, so I beckoned him over to say, "Yes, I'm married." As we were leaving, I told him, "They didn't ask for any ID. I could've just grabbed someone in the lobby and said to them, 'Say you're [ profile] monshu and you're married to me'." Of course, that's assuming the change went through. We'll see what difference it makes in any case.
Oct. 15th, 2014 01:28 pm


muckefuck: (zhongkui)
So, as of right now, I've been married for a year already, even though I woke up today a mere partner in a civil union. Confused? Well, that's where a lot of fighting over semantics and artful legal compromises designed to please no one gets you. But at least that's all behind us now in Illinois (and two thirds of the country, at last count).

The conversion was smooth and would've been the work of a moment if not for the fact that the clerk we got had never done one before and had to be walked through Every. Little. Step. by her colleague. She was none too quick on the uptake either; she couldn't seem to grasp, for instance, that the whole point of a conversion is that we didn't have to pay another fee. On the other hand, a sharper cookie might've spotted that my passport had expired, something pointed out to me by a TSA agent last month when I flew back from St Louis. (As I told her, the agents at Midway never seem to catch these things.)

I have to say, the whole bureaucracy around personal IDs has only gotten more ridiculous over time. They're now required for more things than ever (last time I saw my doctor, they asked to see one) and I'm presently caught in catch-22 where, in order to get my passport renewed, I have to send it in, but if I do that, I'm unable to entre a bar or get on an airplane for six to eight weeks until the replacement arrives. (As the agent explained, the TSA accepts expired passports for up to a year, but of course what's fine for the Feds is no go for the great minds of the State of Illinois.) What irks me the most is, of course, all I really need an ID for most of the time is to establish my date of birth and that hasn't changed. What does it matter if I can't leave the country with that passport? Exactly what kind of fraud are they ostensibly trying to prevent here?

Meanwhile, I'm trying to get a State ID as a backup. Last time I was in the office, they refused to renew it and are making me reapply from scratch, which means (since they won't accept an "invalid" passport) I need to dig out my birth certificate. I've searched high and low and my last hope is that it's in my safe deposit box which I haven't checked in years--and the key to which I only managed to find last night. I'd honestly given up on finding it again when it turned up unexpectedly on top of the dresser. My relief at not having to pay an exorbitant drill-out fee utterly compensates for the fact that I'll have to make another trip to the DMV to complete the application. Also, the supervisor officially confirmed that they'll accept my notarised letter from the SSA as proof of my social security number (but not my DOB even though it establishes both--again, Illinois, outjobsworthing than the Feds!), so that's one more tedious errand I've been spared.

Over our post-conversion celebration at Lavazza, I drew [ profile] monshu's attention to the fact that, since this is an entirely novel rite-of-passage in our society, we're allowed to make up our own rules for commemorating it. I suggested that, rather than getting new appliances (as we would for a wedding), we're only allowed to get our existing ones refurbished. Like fixing the toaster, or getting a new door for the fridge that's actually stainless steel rather than this cheap aluminium. And, at the reception, I guess everyone buys their own food and we just pay to supersize it?
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
Sis is apparently trying to show that Dad isn't the only one in the family who's mastered the art of the Bärengeschenk. I called her last night to thank her for the gift and ask her for the florist's contact info so I could reschedule the delivery. She said it was in a message on her machine, but she would text it to me "tomorrow morning". I woke up at 8 and there was nothing, so I texted and asked. She replied that she was going to Pilates and she'd have the info "by ten". Seriously? There goes any possibility of scheduling a morning delivery. Perhaps we can still salvage our afternoon plans if we can get a neighbour to stand in for us, but otherwise my sister may have just wasted $50 because she couldn't take 2 minutes to listen to a message and forward me the contents. Now I'm sleepy as hell, but I tried sleeping and I can't until this is resolved. [ profile] monshu is back--the cooperative garage sale down the street was a bust--but he doesn't understand how my antiquated phone works. And now I see that it doesn't even have any bars at the moment! How did such a sweet gesture turn into such a royal pain in the ass?
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
I think the most depressing thing about the events in Ferguson is the complete predictability of the response, from the police rolling up to peaceful demonstrations more heavily armoured than battalions in Iraq to the focus on everything else but the issue at hand. I am seeing a lot of informed and angry dissent from the dominant narrative this time around, but I suspect that's more a product of the composition of my flist and the fact that I rely increasingly on alternative news sources. Whenever I check in with the mainstream media, it's the same sterile privileging of the "official" version.

If there was any question about what's being repeated outside of my echo chambers, it was settled yesterday by an exchange with my sister where she reveals herself completely ignorant of the existence of racism. You know what I mean: She equates it with bigotry and, while she recognises that injustice exists, she doesn't view it as systematic or institutionalised. Fortunately, Buzzfeed put together a clear and simple graphic of the racially-biased policing that goes on in Ferguson which seems to have gotten her attention. She's not dumb or indifferent to abuse, she's just--in her own words--"naïve".

Of course, that only depresses me more. Whereas my high school had more Buddhists than Black people (it was run by a Catholic religious order, mind), hers was reasonably diverse. She bought her house in a suburb with a 50% White population (the one we grew up in was 80-90% White) and insists on sending her children to the local public schools, in part so that they'll be exposed to a broader selection of humanity than we were at that age. In spite of that, she doesn't actually seem to have any Black friends--or at least none who would feel comfortable discussing the deep disparities in their experiences. She's passionate about fighting injustice--when several firefighters got a raw deal from the city council last year, she was rallying people to their cause--but she can't fight what she hasn't learned to see.
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
All week I've been wanting to contribute to the fantastic discussion sparked by the Isla Vista killings, but I've been biting my tongue because if there was ever a time not to open my big XY mouth about something, this is it. Moreover, plenty of other people have addressed the issues better than I ever could. I think there's still some scope for me to point clueless mens to these resources or summarise their content if--as usual--they just can't be bothered to listen to the real authorities in these matters, but that means waiting for opportunities to present themselves rather than trying too hard to create them.

It all should give some added kick to the discussion I'd planned to have with my sister over vacation about teaching consent to boys. It also makes me realise the necessity of widening the conversation to entitlement in general, which seems like the more basic issue at stake. After all, if you didn't feel in some way entitled to access to another person's body, then it shouldn't be hard to take it too heart when they fail to display interest in granting it. There's also a whole constellation of icky Nice Guy behaviour which falls well short of assault to be dealt with. (I cringe to think of some of the stalkerish behaviour I engaged in back when I laboured under the misapprehension that it was "romantic".)

And then there's the complication of the killer's diagnosis of "high-functioning Asperger's" and the willingness of everyone who doesn't want the debate to focus on gun control or misogyny to play up this factor to the expense of all others. That's the same diagnosis two of her children have, and it sickens me to see more stigmatism of mental illness along with calls for tougher involuntary commitment legislation. I can't see those doing much to prevent future massacres, but I can see a lot of scope for them being abused to deprive vulnerable individuals of their freedom.

On the plus side, Nuphy made me aware of a new memoir in which a man with Asperger's documents his struggles to become a better husband by means of "excessive note-taking, performance reviews, and most of all, the journal of best practices". He bought a copy for his grandson, and it sounds like the sort of thing which would benefit not only my niblings but also their crazypants uncle Kramer.
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
Yesterday I passed seminude protesters on campus bearing signs which said, "CONSENT IS NOT AN OUTFIT". I wanted to express my approval, but found it hard to come up with something snappy that didn't sound patronising or creepy in the few seconds before I was out of earshot. I still struggle with issues of consent. I like to think I have a thorough understanding of the concept at this point, but there's always that gap between notional and experiential knowledge. Just how wide that gap still is for me was brought home a couple months ago at Touché.

For those of you who don't know the bar, there are two larger rooms linked by a pair of bare hallways. One of these leads from the main room to the restrooms. A tricky threshold divides it from s smaller corridor at a 90° angle which links the emergency with the back bar. The conjunction is a nice place to stand if your back can take it since it's better lit than the rest of the space and everyone has to pass through at some point or another. (Plus the hazardous junction easily identifies the real drunks.) Of course, it also makes you super conspicuous.

At some point, a large pudgy man who I don't recall ever meeting or seeing before came directly up to us, said something lascivious about us being set out for him, and pressed his whole body up against mine. He wasn't bad looking, but I was put off by the too-direct approach and strained to find some way of expressing this without seeming rude. I basically just remained rigid, held my head away from his, and gave noncommittal answers until he got miffed and walked off.

When I write this down, it sounds odd, doesn't it? In essence, I was being sexually assaulted and my response was to try to let the guy down easy. But it's such an odd, unnatural context. The back bar is also a backroom. Twenty steps away, there is a space screened off only by chain link and tires and where men were having full-on sex at the time. It's not an unreasonable assumption that someone standing where I was was looking for someone to take him back there. Also, I'm very conscious of how difficult it is to come up to someone you don't know and initiate a conversation. Having been brutally shot down myself in the past, I didn't want to come across as That Guy.

That wasn't the only incident that night. Not much later, another man I'd never met and hadn't even made eye contact with turned to me on the way to the back and said, "Do you want a blowjob?" When I politely answered, "No", he immediately responded with, "Why not?" And I was momentarily flummoxed. I didn't find the guy at all attractive and I didn't want to be put in the position of having to state this outright. I can't remember exactly what I said, perhaps "Because I don't want one" and after ogling me a while longer, he gave up and left.

That brought to mind something a friend of a friend told us last year about nearly being raped at a con. When she tried to express to her friends her discomfort about how this man had been pressuring her for sex (culminating in a rape attempt at his hotel room), she got little in the way of sympathy. As she told it, there reaction was more, well, what good reason do you have for turning him down? And she couldn't understand why she needed a reason beyond "Because I don't want to!"

She didn't, and I didn't either. But no one had ever put it to us in those terms. (My parents never once addressed the issue of consent during my entire adolscence.) I mean, we both learned "No means no", but it's another step to translate that into "'I don't want to' is reason enough and anyone who won't accept that is a jerk whose behaviour should be stigmatised by society." Men are socialised to be entitled. A lot has been said about how women are socialised to accommodate this behaviour--which is how it should be, because they definitely bear the brunt of it. It's harder to recognise how I, despite being a man (and being no stranger to entitlement myself), have been socialised to accommodate it as well.

If the situation had been more threatening, I would've known how to react. I've told people in no uncertain terms to get their hands off of me and leave me alone before. But there's a lot of gray zone before you cross that line. If the first guy had stopped a foot farther away and exchanged a few more words with me before attempting a grope, it would've been an entirely different dynamic. But a location isn't consent any more than an outfit is and there are worse things to suffer than being thought an asshole by a complete stranger.
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
I didn't realise how long it'd been since I started the process of requesting to have my medical records sent from one doctor's office to another. It's not just that the holidays intervened, it's that every time I have to deal with my ex-provider (the "ex" is for a reason, after all) it's like punching myself in the face. Back in December, they told me I needed to send them a signed letter making the request. So I did. In January, when I was thinking about making another appointment with my new doc, I decided to call and check that they had actually fulfilled the request. The useless receptionist had no idea; I would have to speak to the office manager. Naturally he never got in touch.

So Monday I called and spoke with him. He couldn't find any record of a request either and asked, "Do you have a fax machine?" At which point I barked back, "I don't have a fax machine, I live in the 21st century!" "I'm just trying to help," he retorted. I apologised to him, but what I really wanted to say was, "If you want to help, how about DOING WHAT I ASKED YOU TO DO in the first fucking place?" Finally he admitted they could accept a scan, which would've been nice to know, say, three months ago. We don't have a scanner at home (I'm not that 21st century yet) and I was out half the week, so it's only just today that I managed to send that off. (Getting the scanner to cooperate was a whole nother tale of woe I don't wish to think about.)

So now, as I wait to hear how the scan didn't arrive/was wrong in some way or--more likely--hear nothing and have to follow up yet again, I'm wondering, Why is this my responsibility anyway? Why can't someone from the new provider--who is being paid generously to supply my care--take the lead in fighting my old provider for what they need to provide my treatment? I guess the answer is that they'd have to hire a FTE to do nothing else but. The most galling things of all, of course, is that they're legally my records, why does anyone have to fight for them at all? Why can't they simply be held in a secure third-party database that will release them at the stroke of button from me?

(Don't tell me "security concerns". One of my other former providers--who was equally foot-draggy about forwarding records--got hacked last year, so it looks like what I'm being served is a rancid combination of insecurity and inconvenience. But, you know, let's just privatise everything because commercial enterprises are so much more efficient than the public sector.)
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
I'm still trying to sort out a debate I stumbled into the other day over "homophobia". It concerned a blowhard celebrity, which is bad enough. And it took place on Facebook, which is worse. I suppose YouTube is a less suitable place to attempt any sort of reasonable discussion, but not by much. I'm still not sure I understand the core of the disagreement but today another possibility occurred to me. It would certainly help to explain why we all got so worked up about what is ultimately a rather trivial matter.

Some people have summed up the difference between liberalism and conservatism as whether you think people are basically good or basically evil. Liberals, so the common wisdom goes, think most people (with the exception of some truly hopeless cases with severe untreatable disorders) would be good if given the chance. Their poor choices are the consequence of a lack of opportunity and a deficit of skills. Address these deficits and they'll be free to live up to their full natural potential. Conservatives, on the other hand, believe in the concept of Original Sin (even if the non-Christians among them aren't comfortable with that terminology). People are born subject to evil desires which, unless ring-fenced with an objective morality, will ultimately overpower them and lead society to ruin.

(I expect proponents of both philosophies are bristling at what could fairly be called an oversimplification bordering on caricature. But just wait.)

There's another split, however, which I think cuts across this divide, and that concerns the degree of control we have in this situation. In its most negative form, it manifests as theistic fatalism (on the conservative side) or social determinism (on the liberal side). More positively, it's the philosophy of self-actualisation bzw. Objectivism. The reason I think it spans the divide is because it's linked to privilege. Studies show that those who have experienced less discrimination often overestimate the degree to which they are responsible for their own achievements. On the conservative side, this is the smugness of the person born on third base who thinks they've hit a triple. On the liberal, it's the smugness of the Good Liberal who's done such an outstanding job of raising their consciousness.

So here's where I'm going with this: Just as those born with less privilege are cynical about the role ability rather than luck plays in getting ahead, they also tend to be cynical about how well people have really overcome their own prejudices. They take as a given that our society is racist, sexist, homophobic, classist, ablist, etc. and thus we, as products of this society, are steeped in these prejudices to the point where it's a lifelong struggle to overcome them. That's why they're not shocked when someone prominent is outed as having said or done horribly bigoted things in private; they assume it's generally the case and most people simply don't get caught out.

Since my homosexuality is the chief (and practically only) source of my own privilege deficit, it's here where my cynicism shows itself most plainly. I'm genuinely pleased at how much LGBTQ acceptance has advanced over the course of my lifetime; we're farther along than I ever hoped when I first came out. But as with any sweeping trend, not everyone's commitment is comparable and the latest (and often most vocal) converts are often the most superficial as well. I see this all the time in supposedly "pro-gay" humour (such as many of the images and videoclips circulated on the occasional of the Sochi Olympics) that makes use of every camp stereotype and queer trope in the playbook--the same fag jokes I grew up with, just repackaged and relabeled.

So that's why when a famous actor (or whoever) who's been outspoken in his support of same-sex marriage is revealed to have used homophobic slurs like "cocksucking faggot", I'm not especially surprised or shocked. And if some pundits call him a "homophobic bigot" on account of that, I don't have much of a problem with it. And when ordinary people (who just happen to be straight) object to this label and denounce the unfairness and inaccuracy of it (even while protesting too much that they're by no means defending his "un-PC" remarks, mind you), I find myself questioning their motives. Well, not so much questioning, as I feel I know what their ulterior purpose is: To preserve the acceptability of this sort of low-level homophobia in their own milieux. Their reaction would be much the same (in kind, although not necessarily in degree) if someone they liked had said something bigoted against people of a particular gender or race or class or what have you.

And it's bullshit. If you spent as much time combatting your imbibed homophobia (or racism or sexism or classism) as you did fighting the suggestion that you're as subject to it as the rest of us (yes, even us homos--that's why internalised homophobia is a thing), just imagine how much further along we'd be. And if those who are dedicated to fighting these biases didn't have to expend so much energy reassuring supposed allies that, yes, we know, you're one of the good ones, not like those awful bigots (in Russia or the South or Downstate--you know, wherever is far enough to be a comfortable distance away)--well, the mind just boggles.

So the next time you find yourself in the position of defending someone who's made comments even you admit are offensive, ask yourself: Why am I doing this? Do I know what concerning trolling looks like and am I willing to admit when I'm indulging in it? And the next time I'm confronted with this, hopefully I'll have a better notion of which buttons of mine are being pushed and why and make more intelligent decisions about how many spoons I'm willing to lay down.
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
[ profile] monshu drew my attention to an article in the most recent Economist about the adoption of English by foreign companies (a process it terms "Englishnisation"). He was particularly struck by this bit:
Still, Englishnisation is not easy, even if handled well: the most proficient speakers can still struggle to express nuance and emotion in a foreign tongue. For this reason, native English speakers often assume that the spread of their language in global corporate life confers an automatic advantage on them. In fact it can easily encourage them to rest on their laurels. Too many of them (especially Englishmen, your columnist keeps being told) risk mistaking their fluency in meetings for actual accomplishments.
Naturally, this got me thinking about the issue of linguistic privilege more generally. (That last line in particular is an almost perfect summation of the whole phenomenon of privilege.) I went looking for examinations of the concept online and found this excellent essay (with links to research findings! Those of you who aren't new to the privilege discussion--which should be everyone reading this--can safely skip the first half-dozen paragraphs.)

Of course, since the author has bigger fish to fry than I do, he leaves off mentioning some manifestations of native English-speaking privilege that are more salient to me because I encountre them on a daily basis. For instance, he talks about English as capital and how mere possession of a fluent command of it secures speakers good-paying jobs at home and abroad. In the language fora I frequent, one of the ways this plays out is that even the most unsophisticated speakers can present themselves as experts and receive a certain amount of deference. Time and again I've seen natives capture the benefit of the doubt in a disagreement with a much better-educated non-native speaker. American youngsters in particular are prone to consider their opinions authoritative when really they're hardly in a position to generalise about their own dialect of American English, much less the totality of varieties going under the name of "English". I've made this mistake many times myself and now am far more cautious about branding something "incorrect" as opposed to simply unidiomatic in the varieties most familiar to me.

Related to this is a certain lack of humility about the extent of one's own ignorance of anything not in English. Before it became fashionable to say "Everything's online nowadays" it was common to hear "If it's important, it'll be translated". Of course, anyone who's tried to do serious research in any field that isn't very limited in both time-depth and geographic scope knows this isn't true. But still an English-speaker can be dismissive about works which aren't available in his native language and receive a more sympathetic hearing than, say, a Finn or a Bengali would.

Another area of particular interest to me is that of borrowing. An English-speaker takes for granted that words from his native language have permeated every significant vernacular on the planet--often in large number. Moreover, if the usage in the foreign language doesn't match the usage in his own, it is somehow wrong. I've witnessed the embarrassment of Germans over the use of such words as Handy and Bodybag, which sound ludicrous to a German-speaker. Meanwhile, English-speakers freely and unapologetically create mock Germanicisms like "Freudenschade" and "Blinkenlights". (A similar double-standard involving Spanish has been criticised by Ana Celia Zentella in the book José, can you see?, who laments that English-speakers' disregard of all grammatical norms of Spanish "passes as multicultural 'with-it-ness.'")

Of course there's much more to be said in this vein, but it all adds up to "The English-speaker is right even when they're wrong". And that's on top of English-speakers hogging the space for discourse purely on account of not having to put as much thought into how to structure what they're saying. It will be interesting to see how this dynamic shifts if there comes a time when "native-speakers" become a minority and cease to wield such disproportionate economic power. (Not in my lifetime, I don't think, but the world is full of surprises.)
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
This article lamenting how urban Chinatowns are becoming "playgrounds for the wealthy" annoys me, and this is why:
"Chinatowns are turning into a sanitised ethnic playground for the rich to satisfy their exotic appetite for a dim sum and fortune cookie fix," says Andrew Leong, one of the authors of a recent report that charted gentrification in New York, Boston and Philadelphia's Chinatowns.
Notice anything wrong with that last sentence? "Chinatown" can be used broadly to refer to any part of town with a high concentration of Chinese businesses and organisations or narrowly to refer to specific neighbourhood with an extended history of hosting such businesses and organisations. Guess which definition the report used. Depending on how you count them, there are as many as nine Chinatowns in and around NYC, six of them within the Five Boroughs. Out-of-towners, of course, are generally only aware of the one in Manhattan. Is it really surprising that the one all the tourists go to is becoming too touristy? Moreover, everyone without a six-figure income is being priced out of Manhattan (and, increasingly, Brooklyn and Queens as well), so why should they Chinese be any different?

Talking about some of the newly-emerged and -emerging Chinatowns would've added some nice balance to the article: It's not that Chinese aren't coming here or are instantly assimilating when they step off the plane, it's just that they're settling elsewhere. This isn't a new phenomenon either: IIRC, Chicago's Chinatown relocated twice before it ended up established at Wentworth and Cermak. (It's still flourishing, btw, since property prices on the South Side can't even touch those of the Outer Boroughs, much less Lower Manhattan.) St Louis didn't have anything resembling a traditional Chinatown when I was growing up. (It got bulldozed to make way for Busch Stadium right around the time that the Hart-Cellar Act eliminated national quotas, spawning the new wave of Asian immigration.) It does now, along Olive Boulevard in U City. So do Sun Belt cities like Austin and Orlando--places which never had a critical mass of Asian immigrants before.

And when I say "added balance", I mean "made it interesting to read". Instead, it's the same old article about gentrification vs poor immigrants, Disneyfication of ethnic enclaves, blah blah blah that I've read dozens of times by now. Of course, who would really expect a BBC reporter with a plum posting in Manhattan to want to take more than a thousand steps from their hotel if it's all the same to their editors?


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