Milestones

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Ha ha. This comic speaks to me. When I was 20 I broke my foot in grappling competition. Compound fracture with one of my metatarsals sticking out through the top of my foot. (in a display of, now unrepeatable, hardcore-ness I drove myself to the ER) I spent three days in hospital and got a shiny stainless steel pin as a souvenir. But made a remarkable recovery.

Now at the venerable age of 40, the flu takes me out for two weeks. Ridiculous.

 

Things girls can’t do

Perhaps, he thought, I should qualify this whole diatribe with some sort of statement of personal bias, lest I inadvertently offended people. Offence is inevitable, I understand that. Especially since I’m the male of the species and therefore the dominant and authoritative voice on the subject matter of gender. God blessed me with some mighty fine (and lets be honest about this, totally above average) junk. And since God is a dude (fist bump) and created me first (in his image) I feel this gives me some sort of divine expertise on the subject matter at hand.

I’m weary of opening with satire. Satire means you might not get dinner. Or risk having a spanner* tossed in your general (girls can’t throw) direction.

*if you’re dating a girl from the other side of the tracks I mean. Initially I was going to write ‘broken bottle’, but I’m trying to give them the benefit of the doubt. Ha ha.

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Despite what I might claim, I am actually still quite prejudiced. I find it disturbingly instinctual and somehow, deeply embedded in the gray squishy stuff inside my cranium. I find myself constantly having to auto-correct my more basic and primordial instincts (that are underlined in red). Outwardly of course I’d like to believe I can function as a seemingly egalitarian paragon, which is how I’d like to behave and be perceived. But it worries me that I constantly need to be battling the sociopath within my own mind.

Let me illustrate my bias with an example.

I was sitting on a plane recently waiting for the boarding procedure to wrap up when the pilot’s voice came over the intercom. You know the usual blurb welcoming you on board, expected flight time etc. Only the pilot was a female. While this shouldn’t have mattered, my reptilian brain immediately took note of this development. The hamster in my mind likes his pilots to be male. Middle aged. And preferably white. Any deviation from this perceived skill set causes him to fall off his wheel and briefly run around his enclosure, wringing his hands and upending his water bowl.

A nano-second later the auto-correct feature kicked in with its soothing logic. After all there is nothing that would suggest one gender (or race) is somehow superior to another at operating an aircraft. I truly believe this.

Still, somewhere in the dark, cavernous interior of my brain, some stray neuron fired that shouldn’t’ have. I suppose one could argue that its some sort of perceived loyalty to my ‘tribe’. And that its that loyalty ascribing some spurious sense of superiority to my own kind.

I suppose that is possible…. I still don’t like it.

I’ve been thinking a lot about equality lately since I have now procreated and produced a girl-children. Before this, in all honesty, I only ever really thought of equality in very broad and dismissive terms.

This is likely because ignorance is bliss. When you are a white heterosexual male (generally speaking) you don’t care. You really don’t. I mean how can you… and why would you? You have no concept of being discriminated against, it’s something that’s NEVER EVER happened to you. It has certainly has never happened to me. Well not that I’ve noticed. And if someone has tried, my brain and ego would immediately override it as ‘Clearly this person is some kind of idiot’ and I would never think about it again. How can I can empathize with something that I have no experience with? I mean I can make some assumptions and maybe hypothesize what it must be like… at best all I’m really doing is upsetting people with my cutesy academic approach and at worst I am just being dishonest. Humans are selfish creatures and when you perceive yourself to be the apex predator what reason do you have to change your behavior?

I generally consider myself a moderate (although really isn’t that just another tribe or label) and I imagine Feminism occupies some point left of me. For a long time I thought Feminism was just a form of extremism. And therefore worthy of derision that comes with fringe politics. It seemed to me they had drifted so far off towards the horizon you could hardly even see them anymore. There they seemed to have pilot fished themselves onto whatever (vegan) creature existed there and now seemed content to fight battles other than the bout they were created for. But then I started wondering what I would do, under the circumstances…. and how angry I would get if this was me who perceived a slight.

The answer is probably very angry.

But how does one rage against something that the other side doesn’t think is really ‘a thing’? And if I do acknowledge that it is a thing, it doesn’t really affect me anyway, so support from me is clearly going to be limited, the status quo totally benefits me. It requires some serious altruism to get my ass off the sofa and try help find a solution to… well… if you guys want to call it a problem then okay…

I don’t have any really good ideas about this. For the most part I’m just talking out loud. I do feel that didactic conversation is better that aggressive debate where one side intractably screams down the other and everyone eventually just resorts to playground bullying and name calling.

To be fair, it’s not really something I have thought about much (until recently). I mean I’ve always agreed with the concept that men and woman should be treated equally. As an aside, I don’t think men and women are equal. (We have different qualities and I think those qualities are impossible to weight and rank in order of superiority). But treated equally, sure I could get behind that.

I was with my daughter on the playground the other day. I was sitting there watching her crawl around and explore one of these big installation pieces. This other slightly older girl had climbed up onto the second tier of the jungle gym. Sitting there, I surmised she wasn’t in any real danger and she seemed quite capable. Only her father swooped in from the other side of the playground and scooped her off the jungle gym. As he took her down he chided her, ‘You need to be careful honey, that’s dangerous’.

Would he have done the same to his boy child? I don’t know. We allow boys to engage in slightly riskier activities while girls are restricted because they might get hurt. Boys falling and scraping all the skin off their knees is a right of passage. For girls it’s an undesirable trait that needs to be discouraged.

For all tense and purposes that dad had good intentions. He didn’t want his daughter getting hurt. But this episode opened up a whole can of murk inside my mind.

We treat boys and girls different right from the get go. How do we expect to create this Utopian society when our social norms are so deeply ingrained in us? Is an egalitarian society just a pipe dream?

I heard this great analogy recently about hypocrisy and speeding. Broadly speaking we appreciate that a speed limit in a suburban environment is a good idea and that setting a speed limit is a societal preference that makes things safer for all of us. Yet at some point, we all break the speed limit and we believe that this hard rule should (sometimes) be bent just for us. It should definitely NOT be bent for that other person though… they are clearly a selfish maniac. ‘Fuck you, buddy, fuck you!!’.

When it comes to equality aren’t we all hypocrites? We talk a good talk. But when it comes down to living these concepts as hard unyielding rules, we struggle. Maybe I should just speak for myself. It seems a bit unfair to paint everyone with this brush. After all I might just be the exception and everyone else is more like the twelve peers of Charlemagne.

I don’t really know where I’m going with this. I just wanted to ramble. I do think that maybe small incremental steps in the right direction is perhaps a better form of attack. You know, slowly boiling the frog as opposed to forcing him into the hot water. With our immediate gratification mindset maybe we’ve forgotten that these things take time. Potentially longer than our meager lifespans will allow. Is the best we can do to build a solid foundation for the next generation to improve on?  Is that potentially our lot in life?

Maybe we should start with all just being a tad more honest with ourselves. I think that could help.

 

The ides of March

My eldest daughter turns three tomorrow, the ides of March. Fortunately boys called Brutus are few and far between these days, a name relegated to the junk heap of epithets along with Adolf and Kermit. Albeit for different reasons. I have casually mentioned to my daughter that given her auspicious birth date she should avoid politics, crossing Rubicon‭s, suspicious Italians called Cassius* and (for good measure) two Gauls, one of whom may or may not be carrying a menhir.

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*amusingly I played (a gay) Cassius in our school play version of Julius Caesar. Quite progressive for a Catholic school. (Maybe he/I was just effeminate… I think outright gay would have been a bridge too far)

Anyways as life advice goes I think I’ve done a pretty good job so far. (Joey pats himself on the back). Great parenting Joey. Well done!

Why short girlfriends are the best…

Entry from my old journal for throwback Thursday

Short girlfriends are the best! They don’t take up much space, so they make excellent travel companions. They also use a lot less oxygen than a regular sized person… so if you’re ever trapped in an airtight container that’s slowly filling up with water, much better to have a little person trapped with you. (You know… for company)

They just ‘fit’ better when you spoon, and if you want to hide your home made pornography you made with a previous girlfriend all you have to do is put it on the top shelf where they can’t reach. This also works with chocolate and sharp objects you don’t want them playing with.

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Finally, if you ever loose her in the long grass you can stand up on a mossy stump, bang on your breastplate and shout, ‘FIND THE HALFLING’ and only feel semi-weird about it.

 

Revenge of the black Llama

This poetry stuff isn’t so hard. Think I’m getting the hang of it…

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Once upon a Wednesday dreary
back when women were scarce… and sheep still quite leery
There rode into town, riding a black old Llama, a wandering Berber
whose name was Mustafa

The Llama looked tired, his eyes were all glazey
The Berber was a tad hefty and (apparently) pretty damn lazy.
He dug in his spurs, as he hit the poor Llama, he was somewhat foul tempered
and was craving a shawarma

‘You damn miserable cur I should have gotten a camel’ raged the Berber as he dismounted and then booted the mammal
He tied the sullen beast outside to a post
and then stalked off in search of that delicious spinning roast

It was the straw that broke the Llamas back.
He was angry now. And that was that.
There is nothing quite as scary I can tell you right now
As what that Llama did to Mustafa in the middle of downtown

Mustafa came back feeling content… and quite fat
He didn’t even notice the Llama was angry, until it spat…
but it didn’t end there for that was not his fate
for years of abuse had filled that Llama with hate
it bit him, and knee’d him and trampled his ribs
and alas to this day Mustafa will never have kids

So if its not quite clear to our dear readers as yet…
Please treat your Llama with the utmost respect

 

Encouraging signs of polarisation

I think its because we are so bombarded with information every second of every waking hour that we are inclined to believe we live in the worst of times. The reality is probably the complete opposite. Generally speaking I should add. There are likely some Syrians and those peeps domiciled in places like (darkest) Venezuela who would disagree with the assertion that…

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Our perceived conflict is largely an imagined one, an ideological confrontation where we conceive ourselves to be battling for the future soul of our (as yet unrealized) Utopian society… not really in any meaningful way… Today’s insurrectionist is found lounging at home in leafy, green suburbia, sporting a suspiciously stained bathrobe and a bowl of Fruit Loops balanced on their burgeoning midsection, eyeing their split-screened twitter feed mentions and scrolling through Buzzfeed articles. (I feel the need to lampoon and typecast these people purely for my own gratification, in reality they are likely just like me, only prettier… and likely wealthier)

Of course there are those who will take it to the next level by punching people and getting dressed up in ninja-esque garb to accelerate trash cans through store-fronts… but I tend to believe that this is a minority of a minority. (People holding extreme uncompromising views on the left and right is thought to be only about 8%) Which is really quite encouraging… because that means (quickly checks his math) 92% of society is sane. Maybe its 8% on either side of the divide? Still… that’s… eh… (counts on fingers) 84%.

Of course a collection of crazies gathered together in one place to achieve some level of mischief or indeed the modern revolutionary (with their nine social media accounts) start to make us doubt our ability to cooperate with out fellows or indeed what we believe of bipartisanship generally, which is then accelerated by the ‘news’ corporations who see us less like people and more as a commodity to be manipulated and exploited for profit. Not to mention the bots, foreign governments and that familiar nemesis, the Illuminati.

Israel_Shahak.jpg‘There are some encouraging signs of polarisation’ – Dr. Israel Shahak, chairman of the Israeli League for Human and Civil Rights and holocaust survivor

‘Nothing flippant inheres in this remark; a long and risky life has persuaded him that only an open conflict of ideas and principles can produce any clarity. Conflict may be painful, but the painless solution does not exist in any case and the pursuit of it leads to the painful outcome of mindlessness and pointlessness’ – Christopher Hitchens.

Hitchens went on in a later interview to add;

‘Polarization and the dialectic is what clarifies things’

While I agree that polarization and conflict are potentially good things in so far as they force us to confront and enunciate what it is that we actually believe in… I really don’t think we are there (yet) and that we are not as polarized as we have been led to believe. I think for the most part we still like each other, and that our Venn diagrams overlap more than they don’t… especially once we get up close and personal and out of our unyielding online personas. That and getting out from under the demagogues we subscribe to.

I like the idea of using the litmus test of ‘How is this person making their money?’ Ad revenue, patronage, subscription services… these people need to keep you hooked (so they can eat… and buy Teslas). They market a perceived deficiency to you, for example that you lack an awareness of the fast paced current event cycle or just an ideological inadequacy that they know people use to define themselves. I think people want to feel that they are connected to something… And there are more than enough people offering to fill that void with something that sounds appealing. Plus you get to belong to a tribe, be that progressives, conservatives or libertarians. These are your people, they got your back.

Of course they don’t really. Got your back I mean. Belonging to some nebulous tribe of people be they democrats or republicans doesn’t really mean anything. The person more likely to have your back is your neighbor. A relationship we often neglect in favor of virtue signalling our allegiance to some broader collective.

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Strange how we’ve evolved from something that was, at one point, a vital survival imperative.

 

Llama poetry

There are A LOT of people writing and self-publishing poetry out there. Some of it is really good. (some of it… I don’t understand, but wandering round frowning and/or perplexed is not that unusual for me)

I’ve also just finished Legends of the Samurai by Hiroaki Sato. The samurai class appreciated the duality of being both martial and cerebral and spent as much time contemplating verse as they did practicing their sword form. And while I am neither particularly martial, or particularly cerebral… I thought I would give it a go anyway…

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There once was a man from Peru.

Who owned several pairs of shoes…
And a habitually angry Llama.
Yes, that too.

The thing was a beast!
It wasn’t that bad…
IT TOOK THREE OF MY FINGERS YOU MISERABLE LAD.
A finger and thumb are all that remain, of that chance encounter in the pen that day.

Oh Ned won’t you please, relate for me that tale, of you and that Llama, on that fateful May day.
Well… The Russians were marching… of that I am sure…
And I heeded not the warnings of local (and ancient) lore

I reached out to pat it… But little did I know, the thing was of violent temperament…
And I was a little slow.

It lashed out… quick as a flash… and that… as they say, was that.
Oh I howled and I cried for all that it helped…
My fingers it swallowed with a smile and a belch.

So should you ever go down to the pens one day…
Remember old Ned… and turn the other way.

Not exactly Robert Frost with his divergent thoroughfares… but I’m giving myself a gold star on my (ample) forehead for effort anyway. Yay me!