A Man Shaken by a Bomb

I picked up a sci-fi novel the other day at a used bookstore. The jacket said it was set after a nuclear war and written by someone who’d rubbed shoulders with a lot of military people. Well, I figured it’d be interesting to see what they imagined life’d be like after a nuclear war. (The pages weren’t blank.)

What can I say, it was slow reading. For example, the author said, “A man who’s been shaken by a bomb knows what it feels like.” So I had to stop and wonder why a woman wouldn’t know. Is he saying women never get shaken by bombs because they’re never in bombed areas? Or they are, but for some reason, they don’t get shaken by them? Or they do, but they nevertheless don’t know what it feels like?

And that was just the preface. Read the rest of this entry »

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Free to be – Offensive (You are such an idiot.)

What does it mean to say you’re offended?

If it means merely that you disagree with what I have said, then surely we have a right to offend. Surely the freedom of speech allows the expression of dissent. Even if your disagreement includes any number of unpleasant emotions (embarrassment, shame, displeasure, irritation, annoyance, anger, distress, outrage, shock, fear, disappointment, frustration, envy, humiliation, guilt, sadness, anxiety, discomfort, disgust, a vague sense that my words are inappropriate or indecent, whatever the hell that means). Though often there is no awareness of disagreement; there is only the unpleasant emotion.

If ‘offend’ is the verb form of ‘offence’ as in ‘offences’, then to offend (also) is to do wrong. But, why, how is it wrong for me to express a view with which you disagree? Are you hurt by dissent? Harmed in any way? Disagreement aside, can words harm? Well, yes. Insults, in part, can cause psychological injury, which in turn may or may not cause physical distress. If I call Dick an idiot, and you disagree, do you feel hurt? Probably not. (Though I suppose it depends on whether Dick is your boss or your son.) But if I call you an idiot, you may feel hurt. Your blood pressure may rise. (Though that may depend on whether I’m your boss.) (Or your son.) So the real questions are do you have a right not to hurt in such a way, do I have a duty not to call you an idiot, is it wrong for me to do so? Read the rest of this entry »

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First (and last) Contact

Women have a long tradition of being diplomats. “Historically, … marriage has been the major alliance mechanism of every society, and little girls are trained for roles as intervillage family diplomats…, the married woman straddles two kin networks, two villages, sometimes two cultures” (The Underside of History, Elise Boulding, p.53-54).

Many women have decades of experience, settling a dozen disputes a day. To whom do the kids go crying “It’s not fair!”? Mom. She’s the mediator, the negotiator extraordinaire.

Girls develop language skills before boys, and their level of proficiency continues throughout their lives to be superior. Women in languages and linguistics degree programs outnumber men. Translators? Women. Writers? Women. In short, women are better at communication.

(And) (So) We talk a lot. (Well, when we’re not interrupted by men.) Although ‘gossip’ can be superficial and mean, much talk among women is unjustly dismissed with that term—when women talk, they’re doing social cohesion work.

But of course communication doesn’t involve just words. Read the rest of this entry »

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Having Kids and Having Religion

Most people associate pronatalism with religionism. Either because of its ‘go forth and multiply’ view, its ‘sanctity of life’ view, or its ‘we have to outnumber them’ view. I agree there’s a relationship, even a causal one. But it’s not that religion ’causes’ pronatalism; rather, some other thing causes both religionism and pronatalism.

What is this other thing? An inability to find fulfilment in the here and now. The sci-fi stories featuring a ‘last’ generation always seem to show some sort of widespread malaise, even despair. What, no kids? Many, not content to die in a few years, decide to kill themselves immediately. If I didn’t know better, I’d call it an existential crisis. One not handled very well. (‘I’m too unimaginative or too lazy, or both, to have made my life worthwhile. I know! I’ll have kids—they’ll make my life worthwhile!) (And then in a really clever leap of logic, they even blame the kids for their existential black hole—’How can I be out following some dream when I gotta put food on the table for you kids?’)

The same people insist on believing there’s a heaven no matter how many photographs of ‘up there’ they’re shown. (Never mind the extensive non-visual physical evidence against the possibility.)

In short, those of us who have purpose and value in our own lives have no need of kids—or heaven. Those of us who don’t, pass the buck.

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Guns

Guns have a tendency to kill people. Usually when injury would have sufficed. What to do. (Assuming killing people isn’t always a good thing.) Hm. I know! Let’s replace bullet guns with dart guns. Darts filled with something that temporarily disables or immobilizes the person, causes an hour of paralysis or unconsciousness. Or severe nausea. Or diarrhoea.

Nah, that’s too humane. It’s okay for elephants, but for people?

Or probably, more importantly, it’s too expensive. I would guess that a dart costs more than a bullet. But maybe only because of supply and demand. And surely if we add in the lawsuits for accidental injury and death, the price of bullets increases substantially. (We won’t add in the loss of limb or life because apparently that doesn’t count for much—otherwise we wouldn’t have so many bullet guns in the first place.)

Or well, it wouldn’t work. What if you missed, what if, in a shoot-out, the police shot some innocent bystanders instead of the bad guys? They’d be the ones lying there unconscious. Well gee. Some might think better that than lying there dead. Read the rest of this entry »

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Macho Music for the Mensa Crowd

Music and men has always been an iffy combination. If it involves banging on things and making a lot of noise, well, that’s definitely male, on both counts, so being a drummer is okay. And if it involves plugging something in—that ultimate test which separates the men from, well, from the women—that’s good, so playing the guitar, lead or bass, is okay. Especially since holding your hand at cock level is involved.

But what if your tastes are a little more classical? What if you’re a little more intellectually-inclined? Fear no more! Electronic music is here!

To begin, like all good little boys, electronic composers are obsessed with how. Their program notes are paeans to process: “The harmonic matrix for this construction was established with a dominant to non-dominant ratio of 7:5 and intra-note relationships determined according to a chance-randomized method…”

And yet, it sounds like shit. Read the rest of this entry »

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Inner Peace

The problem with inner peace is that it’s really just resignation. It’s giving up. It’s refusing to accept responsibility for one’s actions by refusing to accept that one can act. It’s the epitome of passivity.

Consider the following “symptoms of inner peace”.

A tendency to think and act spontaneously“—That is, without careful deliberation, without thorough consideration. So when one thinks at all, one’s thought will necessarily be superficial and shallow. Actually, perhaps one won’t think at all; after all, to “act spontaneously” is to do so without thinking. So how, exactly, does one ‘think spontaneously’? The rest of the item provides no help: “…rather than on fears based on past experience“. Past experience is what guides us (at least those of us who are rational): the last time we put our hand on a hot stove, it hurt—so the bright ones among us stopped doing that. Granted, if we use only the fears of our past experience, we are being a bit lopsided, but that doesn’t seem to be the point being made here. Read the rest of this entry »

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Gay Bashing

Gay bashing. Now there’s something I don’t understand. ‘Queers are disgusting, man. Men touching other men, that’s really sick.’ So, yeah, go beat ’em up. Get real close and touch ’em all over. And they say men are the logical ones.

But of course it’s not just the no-necks roaming the streets at night. It’s also the ones in the highrises during the day. Consider these words of a cable television program manager: “…men French kissing and …caressing …thighs…the scene [was] offensive…bad taste.” But men hitting each other, bruising and breaking bodies with fists, and men killing each other, spattering blood and guts with bullets and knives—this is, what, good taste? I’d rather see men kissing each other than killing each other any time. (But then I’d really rather see Boston Legal reruns.)

It’s weird, the relationship between sex and violence. I don’t understand it. Mitch, the bouncer, says “They’re either gonna fuck or fight.” He understands it. Okay, think like a man. (I can’t, it hurts.) (Yes you can, try harder.) Read the rest of this entry »

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Networking and Mentoring: Legitimizing ‘Connections’

Networking and mentoring, while two distinct activities, both seem to endorse using people; this is bad enough, but they also, partly therefore, support the ‘It’s who you know, not what you know’ mentality. In the interest of justice based on merit, both should be discouraged.

Consider networking. On a superficial level, networking refers, harmlessly enough, to ‘making contacts.’ But networking is not so incidental, not so accidental. Networking is ‘developing and maintaining contacts.’ For what, you may ask. Good question. An article in Incentive by Steven M. and Harvey J. Krause provides the answer: “The goal of networking is to create a pool of people and information that you can use for a variety of goals: increasing the quality of your product or service, decreasing customer attrition, gaining customers or getting a job that your competition never even heard was available” (July 1995, p.71). The key word, of course, is ‘use.’ Many people think it’s wrong to use people, especially to use them as a means to your own ends—and I’m one of them. Read the rest of this entry »

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Freakonomics’ Big Revelation

So I just read Levitt and Dubner’s Freakonomics, in which they present the astounding connection between access to abortion and crime: twenty years after Roe v. Wade, the U.S. crime rate dropped.

Astounding indeed. That men are so surprised by that! I mean, just how clueless are you guys? —about the power, the influence, of parenting, about the effect of being forced to be pregnant, to be saddled with a squalling baby you do not want, on an income you do not have, because you’ve got a squalling baby you do not want… What did you guys think would happen in situations like that? The women would get “Mother of the Year” awards for raising psychologically healthy adults?

What I find surprising is that access to abortion isn’t related to infanticide. Pity. Given the Freakonomics boys.

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