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.

Punchable features

One immutable truth I’ve realized during my tenure on this planet is that when you punch people in the face… they often want to punch you back. This rarely results in a meeting of the minds post event. In a physical bout between Reza Aslan… and the sixteen year old kid in the stupid MAGA cap… my money’s on the kid.

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Of course… some people avoided the (pesky) escalation of violence that fisticuffs could lead to and called immediately for a more permanent solution in the form of the ol’ wood-chipper… I see there was a nod towards an expedient death however, insofar as they should go in head first, saving them the indignity (and potentially the awkwardness that might result in a blockage of the mechanism) of being fed feet first. In any event what a nightmare to clean up, I’m pretty sure Jack Morrissey didn’t think this one through. When in a genocidal frame of mind, I think gas chambers and ovens have been proven to be the most effective and efficient manner to expedite mass murder of this kind… but weirdly no one jokes about these as a means to an end anymore. That would be… eh… distasteful.

In any event. My personal opinion is that likely everyone involved is an asshole  (both left and right), although I’m inclined to give the kids in the video a pass. Being an asshole when you’re sixteen is par-for-the-course. I’m pretty sure I was an asshole until the tender age of 32. Now I’m more of a curmudgeon… at least this what I tell myself, I’m sure there are MANY who would disagree. Ha ha.

Other things I’ve learnt or wondered about from this…

  1. Fact checking by supposedly reputable journalists, news organizations and blue ticked influencers… does it ever happen? Or was this the exception to an otherwise pretty well adhered to rule?
  2. I felt well disposed to people that apologized when they decided that they got it wrong. But found myself feeling less well disposed to those that doubled-down… especially when their initial reactions had been quite virulent.
  3. Where are the peace loving hippies on the left? And why are they not being more vocal about clearly unacceptable behavior in among their own ranks? I’m convinced most people think calling on people (especially children) to be doxed is a really BAD, BAD thing.
  4. The ability to edit something so succinctly and generate such strong emotional reactions in people in such a short amount of time on such a global scale is truly staggering.

 

The first cut is the deepest

I am never taking a Gillette Mach 3 to my dome shaped melon head ever again! Or to any other body part for that matter. Okay, that’s a lie. I wanted to try some outrage on for size, see how it fits. Turns out outrage isn’t really my color or indeed my cut. (see what I did there)

In the spirit of full disclosure (and other body parts) I did try shave my legs once… which… if anyone had walked in on me would have had them hauling my plus sized carcass out of the bathtub and frantically bandaging me up… all while giving me a serious oration about how ‘life is worth living’.  APPARENTLY there is little to no skill transfer in being able to shave your face and being able to the navigate round the curvature of your knees and ankles with a razor blade. Who knew.

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While I roll my eyes at corporations who wants to moralize and preach ideology in their commercials and press conferences I don’t really mind if they do. I mean really, who cares? Apparently though we do care… enough to get a little bent of shape, suggest boycotts on social media, debate the state of the world (which is completely fucked btw) with our co-workers around the water-cooler and listen to angry soliloquies from our favorite podcast or youtube personality on our morning commute. That doesn’t really feel like time well spent… but maybe thats just me.

Razor blades is a tough space. It looks competitive and while you can make a commercial that glorifies a macho lifestyle the net effect is likely a zero increase in razor blade sales for that particular brand. If you want to blame someone… blame the hipsters and their penchant for facial hair and beard oils. Might as well try a change of tack and appeal to a different market segment… the one who is likely still doing the shopping. But hey, if it doesn’t work out for us… consumers are fickle… and unlikely to remain outraged for long. Strategically, I think its probably not a bad idea.

In any event, while I don’t agree with Gillettes eh… attempt to school me in acceptable behaviour, I am inclined to take the stoic approach to their machinations. If you choose not to be offended… you won’t be.

Easy peasy. Japaneasy.

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!

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.

Going postal

I am not a philatelist. Not by any stretch of the imagination. I like stamps, but I only really ‘collect’ stamps from countries (and entities) that don’t exist anymore. I use the term collect quite loosely… since I only have a single binder. I like the impermanence associated herewith and so my collection starts with Zululand and works it way through defunct fiefdoms like Rhodesia, the Bechuanaland Protectorate, British South Africa Company, Somaliland and the fantastically short lived, Republic of Biafra.

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I am fascinated (for example) that the Republic of Biafra, while fighting a bloody civil war (in which over two million non combatants died) the secessionists still had time to create and manufacture their own stamps. (Stamps being such an important and intertwined concept in presenting statehood… or rather it used to be)

Continue reading “Going postal”

Collective insanity

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Of all the insanity humankind as come up with… paying someone (In this case Will Smith) millions of Dollars to pretend choke a puppet (wielded by a man in a green suit) has got to be near the top of the list… surely? I mean I appreciate that he is a popular influencer who has, with great adroitness, worked himself into this position and that he should likely be compensated for his… eh… brand (I guess). I can get behind that in a supply and demand kinda way. After all you can pay people whatever you think they are worth… as is your right.

Where my grouch really hits the fan is that these are our go-to paragons to admire and emulate? We heed their opinions on politics, economics, sociology and even worse foist some expectation of leadership ability on them. How do we go from a skill-set that involves choking a puppet (albeit with expression) and equating that with expertise in any other field. I don’t really want to pick on Will Smith specifically (and as far as I know he has no political ambitions)… but this picture (for me at least) encapsulated a certain sense of ridiculousness

While I like to rage against actors and their particular brand of celebrity because their art revolves around deception and spuriousness…. but this is likely true for other ‘professions’ too. People that hit little white balls into holes in the ground and talk show hosts. How is an a expectation formed that these people who have very niche proficiency can and indeed would do well in other areas without having to prove ability first? Not only that, but these individuals have the hubris to believe they will do a good job and that they are the best candidate for the job.

Of course I have to admit that this isn’t always the rule. Ronald Reagan for example was an actor and a really good president. (in fact his he my favorite US president during my life time… everyone since then has been average or below average imo anyway). But he was a pretty good governor first with something of a track record.

Having said that I’m not a fan of career politicians either and sometimes find myself imagining Plato’s philosopher kings as my go-to leadership system.

Style of over substance. Charisma over ability. This is likely not a new phenomenon. In ye-olden times military commissions where given to family members and other ‘networked’ individuals… resulting in some spectacular blunders. But memories are short and we haven’t really evolved past this particular tribal trait and are unlikely to do so in the near future.

Really I’m just whining and lamenting that marketing has become the driving force in everything that we do.