Blackface

I’ve really been giving this some thought lately. Well… as much as my paltry capacity to be able to deeply consider complex issues allows… and then post rumination (which to the casual observer smells a lot like something burning) occasionally manage to string two vaguely coherent sentences together, one of which will almost certainly express the heartfelt need to eat a sandwich.

I’ve really struggled with this. I think this is likely because of two reasons. One, I’ve never been discriminated against. And if I have been, I didn’t notice, either because I’m incredibly dimwitted (very possible) or that I am protected from such barbarity by an inflated sense of self that deflects these sorts of barbs away from my squishy core.

I think any overt act of discrimination towards me would likely evoke a sense of incredulity that my brain would immediately dismiss as some sort of aberration. I wouldn’t even know how to be offended. There is a bulwark in being an affluent white male that is difficult to emulate inorganically and difficult to circumnavigate without a trebuchet.

So there’s that. Problematic on the whole empathy front. I have to pretend to know what discrimination feels like… and I think we can agree that reality versus make believe are often quite far apart.

Two. My stoicism. When confronted by something to which I should (under normal social conventions) take umbrage with, I simply, eh… don’t. I mean I have to choose to be offended by someones actions… so unless they are punching me in the face (in which case a different set of problem solving skills come into play)… but people mocking me… would and should generally illicit some sort of ‘meh’ response. These things can’t really hurt you. Can they?

I started off by thinking about things that I thought were innocuous but for some or other reason I moderated my behavior not to do that something because of another persons feelings. I didn’t have to think very hard about this. I often moderate my behavior for my wife’s benefit. I resist the urge to scratch my testicles in her presence, I curb the desire to burp the alphabet, pee in the garden, pick my nose (and examine it) or pass wind in thunderous fashion and then hold her head under the blanket. I mean none of these things are inherently damaging, but I consider her… ummm… proclivities on the subject matter and moderate my behavior accordingly. I don’t tell her to get over it. Or to ‘toughen up’. Or negotiate. Or ease her into some sort of acceptance of the situation. I just don’t do it. That seems fairly considerate of me. But then again I kinda like my wife (plus that whole reciprocity dynamic we’ve got going on) As people decay out of my immediate social orbit I’m inclined to care less and less about their feelings.

But then what about basic civility and potentially just good manners. Menschkeit as it were. I believe this is important.  Of course now I run into degrees of scale where I have to remember who is offended by what and to what degree. Make fun of Mormons, totally fine. Make fun of Islam, bad. That one is pretty easy to remember. I mean either everyone (and everything) should be on the cards or no one right? Believing some humans ideals to be more sacrosanct than others doesn’t feel very egalitarian. Of course then again, its easy for me to espouse this kind of moralist equal playing field bullshit because… well… point one.

Let me think about this another way. Is it acceptable to don an SS uniform and a Nazi armband for a Halloween party? Weirdly that’s one is easy for me. I mean I suppose you could (you can do anything you want), but really, there are some very unwholesome connotations associated with that particular outfit.

Isn’t Blackface in the same ballpark? When I think about it that way, it starts to make more sense to me. Besides you can emulate someone of differing pigment without having to resort to tincture and shoe polish and thereby associate yourself with a practice that was on the whole meant to degrade a segment of humanity at some point in the past.

Case in point.

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Brody Shafer dressing up as Neil deGrasse Tyson. Kudos to him for a great choice.

Of course at this point when I’m almost there I throw a libertarian spanner into the works. If a pale skinned compatriot of mine were to don blackface because either he doesn’t know its offensive to some… or indeed has decided that everyone should just get over themselves, whose side would I pick..

*heartfelt exhalation*

Fuck. I’d probably inch towards the pale skinned compatriot. Not because I agree or endorse his decision… in fact I would likely find him quite loathsome (and likely tell him that), but perceived harm through his actions is so difficult to quantify… as opposed to actual physical harm…. so the decision comes down to defend this persons freedom to be an asshole or stand with the aggrieved.

Unfortunately I have to stand on the side of the asshole. Which sucks. I don’t think you can pick and choose your freedoms. I really do believe that.

Put up your Dukes

The fine people of Minnesota (to be enunciated clearly in Minnesotian) have again demonstrated their penchant for progressive politics.

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Duke, a nine-year-old Great Pyrenees, has won his third term as mayor of Cormorant, Minnesota, in a landslide election victory. He also (apparently) has the highest approval ratings in the United States.

This story pleases me more than it probably should. But I’m happy to just roll (around on the grass) with it.

Yay Duke yay!

Zeno-ness

I’d never heard this particular anecdote about Zeno before. (In all honesty I don’t know very much about the founder of the philosophy I’d most like to… eh… aspire to). As far as I remember pretty much all of Zeno’s writings have been lost… and so whatever we know of him is apocryphal at best, or is commentary on his work by another philosopher in their own work.

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A non extant text called Republic notes that Zeno advocated for the abolishment of civil institutions, including money, temples, law courts and marriage. He also thought genders should dress alike from head to toe and also practice free love. All of this, he believed, were constraints that held us down, and abolishing them would free us to live much simpler lives.

Entry on stoicism, Ethics 101, Boone, Brian, Adams Media, 2017

There are some definite libertarian ideas in there. Probably more of an anarchist than a middle of the road libertarian. I could likely get behind most of them. Except for the abolition of money… I kinda like money.

Walking the talk

It is said that, just before the Sino-Soviet split, Nikita Khrushchev had a tense meeting with Zhou Enlai at which he told the latter that he now understood the problem. “I am the son of coal miners,” he said. “You are the descendant of feudal mandarins. We have nothing in common.” “Perhaps we do,” murmured his Chinese antagonist. “What?” blustered Khrushchev. “We are,” responded Zhou, “both traitors to our class.”

Hitchens, Christopher, Arguably, Atlantic Books 2011.

I find this anecdote likely too cute to have played out exactly like this and I am naturally cynical about such things. Besides no black and white footage of this exchange seems to be available on YouTube, furthering my skepticism. (Unlike the Kitchen Debate some years later). Like the biblical Thomas I am, these days, less inclined to accept things on faith and hearsay alone.

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As an aside. Can you imagine Donald Trump getting all up in Vladimir Putin’s face. And then poking him with the finger. I can’t. I amuse myself by imagining Vladimir grabbing Donald by the lapels and then hip throwing him in a slow motion arc before bouncing his head on the concrete. Ippon! (Based purely on relative CQC skills, not to be read as an endorsement of Vladimir Putin or for that matter, Richard Nixon)

Those espousing ideology (and inflicting this ideology on others) often don’t live the ideology themselves. We all know examples of this sort of hypocrisy. The socialist politician that lives in a mansion. The Neo-marxist professor who goes home to his upper middle class home in a nice leafy green suburb. The Union bosses having lunch at the Ritz-Carlton. The preacher with the Gulfstream(s) in the hanger.

A strange condition of the human condition is that the duality of our ‘leaders’ is not only accepted but also defended (or at least completely ignored) by their adherents (often with insane zealotry). A social throwback perhaps ingrained in our natural proclivity towards tribalism in which all fealty was sworn to the chief.

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The exception to this case is the Capitalist. Which in a world of sanctimonious bullshit seems weirdly refreshing. You will rarely (if ever) find someone espousing Capitalism as the one true path, living in a shack next to an open sewer. I also think you will likely find the capitalist has less disciples willing to rush to his defense.

Although unlikely in my life time, I am hopeful, that one day, humanity will cast off both our appreciation of -isms and the yoke of having to be ‘led’ by someone, either through an autocrat or via ‘democracy’.

One day they will (also) say Joey was a head of his time. I’d like point out that is is untrue and that Joey was, for the most part, just thinking about getting head.

Not your average Garden Noam

I’m not an adherent of Noam Chomsky. I suppose I could be. But I don’t (really) know enough about his ideas and philosophy. I think there is likely quite a lot of Venn overlap… but every time I try dip a toe in Chomskyism I get… *struggles to find the right word* … disconsolate. I think its tone in the way he conveys his ideology… or perhaps it his charisma that doesn’t ‘click’ well with me. That’s not to say he’s the problem in this equation… I am notoriously prickly and difficult to please. (I’m trying not to describe myself as petulant) I think we are both playing with Lego… only mine is the big, two year old Duplo and he’s playing with the gears and motors of the Technic range. Maybe I’ll get there one day.

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I’m not sure if this quote is actually attributable to Mr. Chomsky. But it sounds like something he might say… and on this we agree 100%.

This… ‘thing’ that we are in about de-platforming and banning people (Patreon being the latest). It really grinds me and I don’t see it actually solving anything. Some part of me appreciates that its some sort of reactionary push-back to the perception that the world is become less liberal (and somehow more hateful*) and that this needs to be opposed by… eh… counter-punching? I guess I also appreciate that these (mostly corporate) platforms can ban whoever they want to (its their choice). I just wish they wouldn’t.

* I’m inclined to disagree. I think the world is becoming more reasonable (albeit very slowly) … but when you have a large segment of people who feel disenfranchised or feel their concerns aren’t taken seriously (whether this is white middle class Americans, nationalist Brits, or poor black South Africans) their reaction is undoubtedly going to be ‘fuck you’. But banning the demagogues is not solving the problem, actually dealing with the frustrations of the proletariat is. But that is much harder because you know…. empathy and shit yo.

I don’t really have a solution. I’m just venting.