Thursday, June 19, 2014

Things I Can't Get In Trouble For Saying Now That I Don't Go To Seattle University

If you know me and that title made you wonder if you should call Homeland Security, relax, it's not going to be that bad. There's just a whole class of people who the total alienation of will now have a dramatically smaller impact on my life. These people are the ultra-liberal Capital Hill hipsters, and the following comments are directed at them.
Contrary to what you may believe, especially after reading the remainder of this post, I am not your true opponent. I am the jester in the court, not the enemy at the gate. I will mock your sincerity, criticize your fanaticism, and argue with every one of your illogical formulations, but I am still ultimately on your side. I actually really wanted to be one of you, and if you had been marginally less dogmatic and a great deal less snobbish I would have been. You are the type of people I have been admiring since I was in high school, people I always knew were cooler than me, whose clothes and diets and opinions were hipper than mine and whose approval and acceptance I really wanted and never got. So this is a combination finger in your face and laughing goodbye and if you get to the end (as you probably won't) and think (as you certainly won't), "My god! Why is so brilliant a guy making such crazy arguments?" you have no one to blame but yourselves.

This first one is a bit sober, they'll get more fun, I promise.

What I Learned in My 11th Grade Psychology Class

When I was a junior in high school I signed up for a psychology class. I had no particularity affinity for the field, but I needed to take an IB exam in a 6th subject and I had heard bad things about the physics and biology teachers, (doesn’t-give-a-shit no-one-passes-the-exam kind of things). So I took psychology, and it changed my life. The specifics aren’t that important. The teacher probably needed therapy herself. The guy sitting to my right spent the entire class playing games on his laptop and passed every test. The girl sitting to my left talked about masturbating with a baseball bat. It was all very educational. With things like that psychology class, there’s what you are there to learn and then there’s what you are actually learning, but what really screws you over is what you realize, years later, that you learned without having a clue you were learning it.
If you’ve studied psychology you know that it’s a very young science, historically speaking, and its theories are still very much under development. There are competing groups in every field, but only in psychology do they have to teach high-schoolers half a dozen mutually-exclusive “perspectives.” Late in the year, sometime in spring, we were looking at cognitive psychology. To grossly oversimplify, it’s all about modeling cognition on computer programing – input, output, data processing, whatever. Our final project for the unit was this puzzle we had to solve and then write about the process. Imagine a checkerboard, 8x8, cut into 12 irregularly shaped pieces, each containing from 3 to 7 squares; you have to reassemble the pieces so that they all fit together into the checkerboard pattern. Our assignment sheet had these little paper strips we were supposed to cut out and then mess around with until we found a solution. It was maddening. The pieces of paper wouldn’t lie flat and they slid under and over each other as you tried to arrange them and they were so small the lightest breath scattered them. The day before the assignment was due a friend of mine told me he had figured it out. The problem was impossible; the pieces did not actually fit together and the only reason we were trying to fit them together was that we had been told that it was a puzzle, and puzzles have solutions. This was the point of the assignment, or so he claimed, to understand at what point you have to reassess your input and adjust your expectations.
Later that night I was procrastinating on my paper and I decided to try something a little different. I loved fighting with puzzles like the ones we had been given, but I was finding it  heinously frustrating for no better reason than that the pieces were so difficult to manipulate. So I recreated the whole thing with Legos and figured out something pretty quickly – finding ways they fit together was difficult, but not impossible, so the real problem was finding a solution that made the checkerboard pattern. The whole thing just seemed so improbable, like there was no real reason to believe that there was one perfect way that it fit together. I had been assuming that the puzzle had been created by cutting up a checkerboard, but there was no way to know if the pieces had just been created randomly instead. There was the right number of squares to fit an 8x8 grid, but I knew of no way to verify that it was possible to combine them perfectly. Yet I also knew of no way to prove that it was impossible, and I was still feeling pretty uninspired about typing up my friend’s conclusions, so I kept at it. Later that night I found myself looking at a gap that fit the pieces I had yet to use and in a few moments it was finished. I can’t tell you how I solved it. I don’t remember what I wrote in my paper. I don’t think I had any grand theory of how it all worked.
This was all well and good, I’m sure I got an A on the project, but I kept the Lego pieces at my desk and continued to play with them for months. I would dump them out of the little tray I’d made and then forget how they went together and mess with them for awhile before I dug out my write-up and reassembled the checkerboard. All of this until the day I found another solution. Not just another way the pieces fit together, I’d found 2 or 3 of those by this point, but another way the checkerboard pattern could be made. If there were 2 perfect solutions, I wondered, could there be more? I tried and have continued to try ever since and have not found a third but that does not mean that one does not exist. When there was one, that one existed because it had been designed that way, but now I wonder if my friend was right, if the pieces had been assembled at random and I had forced my own expectations upon them.
This is what I learned but did not know it at the time: the problem precedes the solution so that there is no solution before we find it. I imagine the world as a problem needing a solution and I imagine that a solution can be found because the world is like that checkerboard, cut apart and awaiting reassembly. Because it has been disassembled it must be possible to put it back together. It’s like when you get a spring-loaded caming device stuck in a crack while rock climbing, you have to believe that if the lobes worked their way in, the process can be reversed and you will be able to get it out. You tell yourself this over and over to maintain faith that what you are trying to do is possible. But the world isn’t like that; it’s all one thing, no intervention but a single movement. So imagine instead a loose chockstone stuck in that crack. It may be possible to get it out or it may not, it may come out the way it went in but it may never have gone in at all (it could have broken off from inside the crack). For that puzzle I found multiple solutions but I didn’t have to find any. It could have been impossible but my faith that it wasn’t, based on a false certainty that there was one and only one true solution, gave me the perseverance to find a way.
We are thus faced with an inexpedient truth, a reality that is not helpful. It is better, for the purposes of solving the puzzle, to believe that there is an intension behind it. Another rock-climbing analogy will help clarify what I mean. When attempting a route at a climbing gym one has the assurance that no matter how difficult, it was designed to be climbed ­– there is an intended sequence. Outdoors, on real rock, there is so such security. Any given new route has the potential to be simply impossible. We are using the rock for purposes foreign to its origins and its conformity to our needs is coincidental. There may be no solution or there may be many because the puzzle has no objective existence. When something in the world is causing us difficulty, a rock climb or anything else, there is not a solution hidden within it – making things work for us is not a reassembly or an ordering. The implications of this, on both macro and micro levels, are frightening. What I feel is wrong with my life is not a single element I have missed, a misstep from the path; there is no answer, no code that will unlock my joy and contentment. The wider world is the same way. There is no lost perfection: no world without sin, without economic classes or gender roles or racial inequality. No utopia from which we have declined. We can certainly deal with the problems facing the communities that we inhabit, but we have to remember two things, that what we are doing is creating something new, and that what we are doing will not result in a perfect world. 

Top three reasons why men and women arguing about feminism is stupid:

1. In 80% of generalizations about men and women, the term “humans” can be substituted. Humans like having power over others. Humans feel entitled to what they want. Human reduce other humans to objects for their use.
2. There is a power dynamic between men and women that is inherent in our basic biological makeup. It can be manipulated one way or the other but, for the simple reason that human societies are not static, there is not and will never be an equality equilibrium.
3. Men want power over women (duh). Women want power over men (see reason #2). Neither has a right to this power. 
(with a little substitution, points 1 and 3 work equally well for arguments about race)

Bullet Points from a Treatise on Homophobia

- After writing a lengthy examination of what homophobia is and how it can be combated through rational argumentation I decided that most of what I had written was presumptuous, uneducated nonsense, in large part because I am not a target for homophobia and am therefore likely blind to its true nature. What I am presenting here are a few of the most salient points.
- Homophobia is not a very useful term. It does not mean what it means. It is used to mean being opposed to homosexuality, but the word means an irrational fear of homosexuality.
- Here are some useful terms: conservative & liberal. The liberal calls the conservative conservative and the conservative calls themself conservative and when they say the word they mean the same thing; for the conservative this is a good thing and for the liberal it is a bad thing. This allows the value judgments being made to be completely clear. No one wastes time arguing about terminology and the actual goodness or badness of conservation and liberation can be discussed. This is what we need for homophobia.
- “Homophobia” hides a diversity of human behavior behind a single generalizing term, making it seem more alike than it actually is.
- “Know your enemy” - Sun Tzu said it, sort of. If you want to combat something you must first understand it on its own terms. Homophobia must be understood not by how homosexuals experience it but by how homophobics come to express it.
- There are four types of “homophobia.”
- True homophobia exists. It is the people who find homosexuality disgusting and want it to be purged from the earth. This belief has something to do with gender identity equating to self-worth. There’s not a lot you can do about these people except vote them out of office and pass laws making their actions illegal.
- A lot of homophobic people spout biblical justifications, most of this is bullshit but for a few it is their essential reason for what they believe. These people tend to be biblical literalists. I have yet to find an effective way to argue against them. Hell hath no circularity like the conservative Christian.
- Most “homophobic people” are basically societal hetero-normatists, they think that civilization needs the traditional family to function. There’s all sorts of evidence to the contrary and it is worth presenting it in a calm, non-militant, non-alienating way. No one, not even the most open-minded person is the world, is going to believe you if you start the conversation calling them spawn of Hitler; it’s called dignity, and people like to keep it as long as they can.
- There is a fourth kind of homophobia that is difficult to get a handle on because it stridently denies that it is opposed in any way to homosexuality. But these people still mock homosexuals. They find them weird and ridiculous even if they are all for gay rights. If you’ve seen Louis C.K.’s stand-up you know what I am talking about. I think it’s a residue of the other three forms, but I’m not sure.
- What we seem to be talking about most of the time when we say “homophobia” is not really a fear of homosexuality but a fear of its effects on society, which is rooted in a belief that people are basically heterosexual and that homosexuality is aberrant. As human sexuality is culturally constructed, not biologically determined, societies can be structured around any configuration of human relations. This is the case that has to be made, and its not really all that difficult to make, and I am consistently amazed at how many homosexual activists would rather parade their moral superiority and demean their enemies than actually try to win the national discussion.
- How trans-sexuality fits into this I haven’t a clue, and that’s one of the biggest reasons I abandoned the treatise.

Problems with the Redefinition of Rape

There is a strand is current feminist thought that seeks to reduce violence against women by making it very clear that violence against women is unacceptable. While I do not disagree with this in theory, I doubt how effective it will be. Men who commit violence against women are unlikely to be guilt-tripped out of it. We all know rape is wrong, it’s just that some of us don’t care. Part of this strand often seems to be statements along the lines of, “no means no, anything short of full consent is rape.” Again, I do not disagree, but also again, I have a quibble or two. First, definitions of rape do not exist for the sole benefit of victims and potential victims of rape. As callous as this may sound, you don’t get to insist that the definitions of words serve your cause, that’s just not how language works. It’s like when disabled people try to redefine the word “disabled” to mean something other than less able. If you don’t like the implications of a word then you are free to use a different word, but you don’t get to redefine that word or insist that everyone else avoid it. Our society should have a definition of rape that makes sense for both victims and perpetrators of rape, so that if someone is raped they should know it and if someone commits a rape they should know it. Rape is like murder, you can’t do it accidently. This is why I object to attempts to redefine rape so that it covers a wide range of iffy sexual behavior, i.e. sex with drunk or initially sleeping persons.
Now any feminist who is reading this and does not know me is likely to think I am defending myself, that I am insisting on a definition of rape that is to my own benefit. Anyone who knows me is likely wondering why I am concerned about this at all. I don’t date, I don’t go to parties, I have never been drunk around a woman. I think that the objectification of women is implicit in male desire and also completely unacceptable. If that means that male desire is inherently unethical then so be it, I’ve made it this far keeping my desires to myself so I might as well go all the way. This entire argument is premised upon the fact that most people do not feel the way I do and believe that their desires are valid.
Returning to the problem at hand, my real issue with these redefinitions of rape is that they tend to minimize any responsibility women have for themselves. In actual rape the full responsibility of course falls on the perpetrator (“she was asking for it” argument are pure bullshit), but if a man approaches a woman and convinces her, against her better judgment, to sleep with him, he is not raping her. No matter how many times she refuses him, if she agrees to it, and going along with it constitutes agreement, it is not rape. That last comment is pointed at the line of argument that seeks to redefine consent. Here’s what consent looks like: two people having sex with neither person having threatened violence or beaten the other into submission. To define rape and consent in the ways that I have been seeing it defined is to say that women are not responsible for their own choices. If a woman does not want to sleep with a man it is her responsibility to not do so unless physically forced. Of course, if a woman makes it clear that she does not want to sleep with a man it is his responsibility to leave her alone, but in the circles that this little rant is directed toward that point is not exactly under discussion.

Oh, and while I’m at it, 

There is a difference between being racist and being racially insensitive and only the former is a hate crime.

Being opposed to gay marriage (which I am not) is not a justification for total societal ostracization. 

Ostracization should be a word.

Whiskey is disgusting.

The film of Ender’s Game sucked. 

Iron Man is an un-compelling superhero.

To say one could care less about something does not emphasize how little you care about that thing and I’ve been saying that for years and not just since it was featured in Orange Is The New Black.

Being condescending and high minded toward people that have been dead for hundreds of years does not make you a good historian, no matter how racist and sexist they were.

Pointing out that men who commit violent acts against women are misogynists is about as effective as pointing out that child molesters are pedophiles, unless you are actually willing to dive into their psychology, calling them names doesn’t do any good.

It is downright hilarious how fast everyone flipped on Macklemore (who I don’t and never did listen to) as soon as he won a Grammy.

John Darnielle is still the greatest living songwriter.

George Martin is a serialized comic strip compared to Tolkien.

No one born in the 20th century gets to put two middle initials on their published works.

I think I’m done now, It’s been fun.

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