Saturday, May 3, 2008

Standards and Practices

IMPLICATIONS

It's all relative, isn't it?

After all, we can debate about which sub-section of humanity has it better or worse than others, but if you're reading this, you have access to technology out of the reach of quite a few folks, putting you a bit above them, privilege-wise. The odds are your education is a bit above the curve, too, compared to the rest of the world.

We're facing food and energy crunches in the world for a variety of reasons, one of the more significant being that China and India are reaching the point where a lot of their people are aware of better conditions elsewhere in the world and they'd kinda like to have some measure of the largess we in the Western world enjoy (thus demanding and consuming more food and fuel). But again, it's all relative, since both India and China have produced wealthy people, and there are people in the USA who are desperately impoverished.

When, though, will it be enough?

I'm not what the average US citizen would call "rich", probably not really even "middle class", but I do have a job that keeps me clothed, fed, housed, and bolted up to them Intartubes. Which puts me ahead of a lot of the world's folks, but, y'know, I'd still like more. Would it be enough if I was as rich as, say, Bill Gates? He's got acres of money, enough to run all sorts of philanthropic organizations (interesting paradox about Mr. Gates: often held up as the embodiment of evil capitalism and big business, but if you actually compare how much he's sunk into "doing good works" with the benefits created by those thought of as saints, Gates comes in surprisingly strong).

I'd like to think that if I had even a hundredth, a thousandth, of Bill Gate's money, I'd be satisfied. Maybe. On the other hand, once you have that kind of money, possibilities open up. As I sit here I can't even fathom what it must be like to run a corporate empire, but if I was running a corporate empire, I might well be looking beyond that to what else I could do. So just maybe, even if I were a multi-millionaire I'd be looking to get more wealth. And for the rest of the world's poor, at what point does anyone say (to themselves, or to others, either way), "that's all, you've got enough now", and expect them to say "oh, hey, you're right, I'll stop trying to get more for me and mine"?

REPARATIONS

How much is enough to forgive slavery? Not forget it, mind you, and not to ignore ongoing racism, but when you boil down the idea of reparations, is there anything more to it than "You, Group A, did Group B a wrong, and in order to make it right, you should compensate group B, thereby assuaging Group B's hurt feelings and Group A's guilt trip [if any])"? Or, simplified further, "Pay me this much and we'll call it even."

At first blush, it might seem like an okay idea, but then you look closer at it. Who do we include in reparations? Every African-American? Well, black people didn't stop coming into this country after slavery was ended, and though they may be subject to racism and other problems, it's kind of hard to say someone whose parents, say, came over from Lagos in 1975 deserves compensation for American slavery. So there's sorting that out. And then some might ask how many generations down the line deserve compensation and to what degree. It's a bit easier to justify paying a man bearing whip-scars, but what about his great-grandkids? How much time has to go by before the descendants of victims are expected to handle their own lives themselves and leave past events in the past? (Jerusalem, Northern Ireland, these are not encouraging examples.)

Understand, I'm not saying whether it's right or wrong, just pointing out that it's complicated enough an issue already, and on top of that, the most important question is: how much is enough?

Is there any price sufficient enough for black people to say, "okay, fine, as of now the slavery thing is done and settled, and let's all get on with our lives"? Can you even put a real dollar amount on that?

There's the paradox, though. If you can't settle on a dollar amount, what's the point of reparations if everyone is going to be just as angry as they were before reparations are made? And if you can name a figure, does it truly compensate for the injustice felt?

Or, are reparations meant to be a stand-in for a larger racial issue? "For being a bunch of racists, Group A owes Group B this much money." Except not everyone can be made to accept the idea that you should be compensated in a monetary fashion just because some other guy was an asshole to you.

COMPLICATIONS

Believe it or not, I've been pondering this kind of stuff ever since I discovered The Woman Who Knows Joss Whedon Rapes His Wife. (Well, I always ponder this kind of stuff, so let's just say it's been a little more often than usual.) Yeah, by the date of the original post it's old news, sure. It was brought to my attention when I read a post by Greg Rucka featuring a bit of hate mail he got where the writer assumed Mr. Rucka was actually "Ms. Rucka", and this Whedon critique was mentioned in the comments. If I haven't seen it, it's new to me.

Anyway, I kept wondering about what kind of standards you'd have to have to come to the conclusions she outlines, and how I, at least, would find it to be a miserable existence if I had to hate everything I ever read that didn't fit such narrow, unforgiving standards.

I mean, look: she takes Whedon to task for having the ship's second-in-command, a woman, follow the orders of the ship's captain, a man, and addressing him as "sir". Which, yes, puts a woman in a somewhat subservient position to a man, but what the hell? In a hierarchal command structure, someone is always going to be the person in charge, because running a ship ain't communism. I don't know of many (any) sailing vessels, space or otherwise, that are run by a committee of equals, so the only way this ship's crewing could have met with approval by Madame I Know Joss Whedon Rapes His Wife is if the captain was a woman. You could speculate that any man in the crew with any authority over any woman would have been unacceptable, so how could you make that work? A ship with an amazon command structure lording it over a stock of obedient drone-slaves?

You may snort in derision, roll your eyes, but it's no more outlandish a suggestion than the reasoning behind Joss Whedon Raping His Wife. (I wonder if that phrase shows up much on Google searches.) To wit: Women are a disadvantaged gender, there is a constant pressure on all women to submit to the terms of male society, and that includes sexual relations. Thus, any time a woman has sex with a man, even if she seems to be doing it voluntarily, that pressure is a coercive factor that makes the sex rape. (This part is mentioned mostly in the comments, you'll have to do your own wading to find the particular threads.)

Do I have that right? Do I comprehend the argument correctly?

If so, then this is the fabled "all hetero sex is rape" viewpoint that I've been told by other sources doesn't really exist, that Andrea Dworkin didn't actually espouse, that's supposedly been blown out of proportion by feminist critics. And yet, here it is being used as a cornerstone of a critical media discussion, by someone who seems to fit the profile of the "man-hating lesbian feminist" stereotype that's supposedly a myth as well.

What good points might be found in the critique are overshadowed by a hypersensitivity to any thing at all which gives a man any advantage over any woman, and there's the rub. How could you write anything that meets those stiff requirements without it also becoming unrealistic or forced in some other way? Is it true equality being sought here, where people are treated without regard to gender, or is it just flipping things over into inequality the other way, where women become the flawless rulers of everything?

It begs the question: how much is enough? Not "how much do you want", because everyone always wants more and better, but what is sufficient? When does what you want tip over from "having it as good as the person you stand next to" into "making your lot better at the cost of others"? These are hard questions to answer, since it's all linked together. Pull here, and it pushes there. To raise one thing, you may have to lower another. Can there be balance? Is balance even what people want?

Eh, nevermind me, just thinkin' out loud.

13 comments:

Jack Toast said...

Okay.

You aren't rich, people in china are starving, this has something to do with slave reparations?

And this was prompted by some looney on Livejournal who's been pretty solidly mocked by tons of feminist fans, but who apparently functions in your mind as the secret feminist they're all hiding from you?

And again, you aren't rich...

People in China are starving, so we finish our suppers? Reparations are good? Bad? There's some real danger of that looney being the standard to which popular entertainment is written? Everybody wants more all the time?

I can't even figure out what you're saying in order to critique you. It's like a masterpiece of WTF.

Are you high?

Anon, A Mouse said...

So, what are YOU getting at, then...? Is there some pressing need for you to comment, to critique it? Are you obliged to rapid-blast some rebuttal immediately upon reading it? Why not just mull it around for a while? If it's truly useless, it won't be more or less useless after a night or two of pondering what it may mean.

If you can't see any connection between the things I wrote, does that mean there's no connection, or is there some fault in your perception? How can you be sure?

Start slow, if you feel you must analyze or critique it: Is there any thing in particular in the post that you think is WRONG? If so, what and why? If not, then what's your beef with it?

P.S.: If you have direct links to this solid mocking, I wouldn't mind taking a quick look.

John Foley said...

anon-
I think you really have to stop taking that girl seriously. She's so ludicrous I'm almost inclined to believe that her entire persona and livejournal are made up. Like it's somebody playing a practical joke to see how moronic they can be and still have people saying "right on sister!"

Did you read this one?
http://users.livejournal.com/_allecto_/23504.html

Virtually all heterosexual intercourse = rape, in her mind. At this point, you're either dealing with a very clever practical joker, or a pathetic and deranged loser.

Anon, A Mouse said...

John:

Either way, joke or not, it's something I think bears some consideration. If it is a joke, then those who DO say "right on," what are they? Part of the joke, like Fluxus or something?

But if not, if it is serious*, then it's not at all that I think this is the seeekrit feminazi agenda hidden within WFA (nice projecting, "jack toast"). I admit to being surprised that the stance actually seems to EXIST, that it isn't some myth invented by Rush Limbaugh or some such goofball, but that's beside the point.

And it's not that I really want to go after the ideas she espouses and expose their flaws (not like that's any too difficult).

What, though, I wonder, could such a person be striving for? What is the ultimate goal? If "the revolution came", and she got everything she dreamed for in the changing of the world, what would that be, and how much would it suck for everyone else if she got her every wish?

[* While I think this "alecto" person's views are not representative of mainstream feminism, and not even representative of the general outlook of the WFA crowd by any means, I have seen a few individuals pull the same sort of nitpicky, unrealistic, hypersensitive twisting and re-defining of words in order to paint some blog enemy as being some slavering sexist/racist/child molesting/whatever Bad Person, so I don't find it TOO unlikely that the views found in yon blog are her honest real beliefs...]

Andre said...

She is scary. Only thing more scary are all the people chiming in saying "Yah!"

I am sure If I gave it a good shot I could rip any show down like that much the same way.

I don't really think she hates men so much as I think she likes feeling righteous rage and latched on to this guy based on his rep of being pro Women.

Anonymous said...

How can you call people who oppose pedophilia cowards, then block comments on a controversial post like a big pussy?

Since you're not man enough to take it there, I want you to know: sexualizing underaged kids is wrong. I have personally suffered because of it. An older family member, one who I trusted and loved dearly, decided that his boner was more important than my well-being and sexually abused me. His temporary sexual pleasure was more important than my psychological health.

Open your mind for a minute. You dislike the eeebil feminists because they don't give you sexual favors, which you see as a god-given right. I am apprehensive about boys like you (because you are not worthy of being called a man) because I have been FUCKING RAPED.

If there were any justice in this world, you would be tied to a post by the docks and used as nothing but a squirming human jizzjar.

Anon, A Mouse said...

Oh, brother. Just piss off.

I've closed comments for only a few posts on this blog, and in most cases so I don't have to deal with some twit who wants to get in the last word three months later on posts I'm no longer keeping track of.

Judging by what you're saying, you've completely misinterpreted something I've said; you've fixated on a few words and phrases and turned them into your own personal outrage trigger, using your own tragedy as an excuse to froth things up a bit without actually, you know, opening up your own mind. That, or you're just another troll here to see if you can start a fight.

Either way, I reiterate: piss off. Your angry scolding means very little to me, and does exactly nothing to change my opinion on whatever I said that got you worked up. (Couldn't even bother to mention WHICH post sparked this blogspasm, could you?)

Come back when you feel like discussing something I actually said, instead of giving a bullshit lecture over something I didn't say.

John Foley said...

Dear Anonymous (the most recent)-
"How can you call people who oppose pedophilia cowards,..."

This is a gross misrepresentation (read: lie), so pretty much anything else you say after it is not worth listening to. If you have to invent conversations that never happened in order to prove your point, chances are you never had much of a point to begin with.

Also, if you can't sign your name to your words at some point, you have very little justification in calling someone else a pussy. You have something to say? Put your name to it. Otherwise you're just blowing smoke up everyone's ass.

Anonymous said...

An older family member, one who I trusted and loved dearly, decided that his boner was more important than my well-being and sexually abused me. His temporary sexual pleasure was more important than my psychological health.

And that has what to do with the right to produce fictional material some jack-offs find offensive? That has what to do with this post here? Nothing? Oh, okay. Just checking.

You know, I might feel sorry for the damaged goods you are now, and will probably forever be for anyone willing to try to form a close relationship or connection with you, but your sickening desire to use this horrible event as your shield of invincibility towards criticism, or worse, a justification for be a judgemental-minded jackass, as you wallow in the privilege of victimhood, disgusts me so much, that I can't feel any compassion or pity for you. All I feel is a mind-numbing disdain for everything the attitude that you dispalyed here represents.

Get some help, before you snap and go on a muderous rampage and do way more damage to others, than was done to yourself.

Bob Johnson said...

I kinda followed. People in this country/hemisphere/etc. are better off than people other places and while they do have a right to be upset with the treatment they have received in the past you're not exactly sure how we as a society can make it right, right? That's a hard question, anon, and if you ask 100 different people you'd get 100 different answers. I'd start by realizing that the ill treatment, while less than in the past (at least less overt), is still ongoing. That's where the anger and rage (see above) is coming from.

Anonymous said...

People in this country/hemisphere/etc. are better off than people other places and while they do have a right to be upset with the treatment they have received in the past you're not exactly sure how we as a society can make it right, right?

I think Anon's questions go even deeper than that. It's not just being unsure of how to make it right, but wondering if is it even possible to make it right. How can we attain a balance for all, that also allows everyone to retain their own free will and thoughts, and more importantly, is that even what those who complain about being wronged actually want?

I, personally, don't think these people will ever get the balance they claim they want from any external forces. Not just because the right to free will and thought can often get in the way of what these people might consider "balance," but that, deep inside, none of us really wants it.

Honestly, I feel those with their axes to grind don't want balance, they want superiority. They want to be the ones making the rules everyone else has to follow. Part of this is born out of their own overblown ego (i.e., they think only they know what's "right and just" and everyone must follow their way) and part of it is born out of fear from the event(s) that they feel wronged by. It is a fear that overrides everything else and they now feel they must be the one to dictate the terms of what is and isn't acceptable, so they may have the control they feel they need to protect themselves from future harm.

See, it always comes back to the point of control. When someone feels wronged, it is usually something that was beyond their control that caused it to happen. Thus, the most common response is to assert MORE control over things as a measure to prevent the situation from happening again. The pitfall in such thinking, though, is that this stands diametrically opposed to the rights of free thought, expression and will. You can't control everything and everyone who may enter your own personal environment, without taking from them their own personal freedoms to some degree.

And there is the rub. Everyone wants to have their own personal freedoms, but someone who is wronged is less concerned about that and more concerned about their own sense of victimization and what they feel will cause it to happen again.

This is why the victimized might often form groups or organizations to stand against things they disapprove of. And while the intentions of them doing so might be well-meaning, they often fail to see how they themselves are creating more victims from their own words and actions, which are taken up in a supposedly rightous cause. The fact the cause is usually seen as rightous, also makes it hard to speak up against those who claim to support it, because you are then seen as someone who is attacking a helpless victim, who is only trying to protect themselves and others from further harm, even if what you do or say has little to nothing to do with harming them and is only about protecting your own freedoms.

So long as those who are emotionally damaged by the unfair realities of life do not accept that some things are simply beyond their control, or that the right to freedom of expression and thought is more important than the slights (both real and imagined) they wish to eliminate from life, questions like the ones Anon poses here will never really get answered. Because the true answers will never be found from an external source. The true balance these people who are privileged through victimhood, can only be found within themselves. But that will never be enough, as the ego and fear of the human psyche will never accept that being wronged is simply a harsh reality of life itself.

Anon, A Mouse said...

See, "jack toast"? That wasn't so goddamn hard.

Yar said...

Heh ... Y'know, I have to say that I'm pretty much with that last anonymous 100%. I might have even said the same th-- no, that's just another egoistic "what if." But in any event, I probably wouldn't have said it as well.

That said, I'd just like to comment: just this past semester, I learned in a social psychology course about the concept of the self-serving bias, which is pretty much what it says on the box. People, on some fundamental level, have I Am Better embedded in their minds. "Oh, no, if I was in the Milgram experiment, I'd never go all the way to 450 volts!" when, in fact, you never know (and likely never will, now that you actually know about the Milgram experiment and won't fall for it).

And in the right circumstances, people will jump on any rationalization for it -- whether it be "I'm intelligent, open-minded, and talented. Therefore my opinion matters more" (and I make no claims to being either more talented or intelligent than anyone else), or "People who are similar to me on some level have been victimized at some point in history. Therefore, I should have compensation from people who are similar on some level to those who were the victimizers."

(I'm sure nobody's saying that African Americans shouldn't be all fine and dandy with the status quo, but that they have much better, more concrete, and more solvable things to complain about than slavery which ended a hundred and fifty years or so ago.)

Meanwhile, it's nice to see someone who ... um ... You know what, I probably shouldn't finish that, because it would amount to "it's nice to see someone who has the same kind of opiniond I do" and I haven't read enough of this blog to form any other rational way of finishing that sentence.