Thought//Policing:

The worst crime of being left wing is being “over-sensitive”. This is usually followed up with the second worst crime of being left-wing; being part of the thought police and wanting to brainwash everyone to fit your ideals.

Here’s the awkward truth: we kind of do.

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Now, that’s not to say the left-wing are unique in this, we can’t really talk about control without at acknowleging the ongoing love affair between the right wing and the police state, but the left wing do have their own controlling agenda, and we don’t talk about it enough.

You might be left-wing thinking that brainwashing and the thought police sound pretty authoritarian and not very left-wing. And you would be right. “Mind control”, or rather, social accountability and education, is simply how left-wing methods get interpreted when we don’t acknowlege what our mechanisms are doing, or how they work.

Social Justice

Social justice warriors get a lot of flack for being judgy; anyone remember the “creep shaming” crisis of a few years ago? Or the current pushback against “virture signalling”? Or of course, the perennial favourite, the special snowflakes and their precious safe spaces where no one can say anything bad.

These are all actually part of the same issue; the left wing works through social accountability, and the right wing REALLY doesn’t like it. Acting creepy will get you called a creep, not put in prison or tried in a court, but later on by the girl telling her story to her friends. Being a nice person where people can see you will get you praise and recognition in a way that only doing nice things can, and saying the wrong thing in a safe space will upset the “special snowflakes” and get you chucked out, even if you don’t think there’s anything wrong with it and there is nothing illegal that you said.

This completely social system completely confuses people. Most of us are used to a system of control and punishment and laws. Laws are objective, money is objective, and power structures are hierarchal. There are no “blurred lines” so to speak, and that’s where the outrage comes from.

The right wing are outraged when the left cast judgement on them; because they feel infringed upon because it is out of their control. This creates the ridiculous situation where outraged right-wingers try to use shaming in retaliation, by using insults like “special snowflake” or “cuck”, only to find that it misses its mark, over and over again, because they don’t understand how it works.

Babies Crying

For a social method of justice to work, you have to be able to stand by your principles. If someone who doesn’t understand your principles calls you out for holding them, it won’t have much effect, but if you’re called out for holding a view and then feel uncomfortable with it, you might just choose to change your mind (or blame them for judging you instead). This also ties into whether you see education as brain-washing or a useful tool; it depends on whether you believe people can make up their own minds and use critical thinking.

Real Justice

When people talk about social justice issues, it often devolves into a discussion about who to lock up, for example, if drunk sex is actually rape, but you’re both drunk, who goes to prison??

Of course, the answer is, that’s not the point. Saying something is wrong does not mean that we are trying to rewrite the law. If we fail to realise that, it will twist any argument into pointlessness, as people try to argue a system that is designed to be above their control.

Most people in the left wing are against jail as a concept, if you do find someone left wing who does not favour abolishing prisons, they will likely be in favour of shorter sentences, better resources, and more rehabilitative care.

To a right wing person, this is nonsense. If prison is punishment, why bother with making it nicer, or shorter, or better? Of course, the research shows that “punishment” alone doesn’t work; prisons that work harder at rehabilition culture get better results, such as Norway.

Ironically, the prison system is actually expressing a left wing method, in a completely different way. A left-winger might “shame” you by calling you a creep when you act subtly weird and disrespectfully to women, but a right-wing court of law is completely fine with you until you cross the thin legal line into harassment; it is only then that you are charged, judged, fined or sentenced, depending on how far you cross.

Both methods use judgement to try and discourage unwanted behaviour, but one is democratic and ideological, the other hierarchal and literal. Reliance on hierarchy is why justice systems are a tool of the government, and susceptible to corruption. In comparison to democractic social judgement, it also requires a tonne of infrastructure, which of course, no one in capitalism is going to say no to; more building work! More police jobs! More free labour! Not only that, but it is far more controlling on people’s lives, because unlike social judgement, you literally don’t have the “keys” to your own release.

People in prison don’t get a choice; society sanctions the use of force to deny them their freedom, and for many people, this is a plus, it sounds far safer. And yes, it is, until their time runs out, or parole comes up. Calls for longer sentences or less chance of getting out usually follow, but this only delays or hides the problem, it still doesn’t fix that person’s behaviour or society’s crime rates.

The kicker is that humans are social animals, designed to live in groups, and shame/conflict is a built-in mechanism designed to keep us all in check and co-existing peacefully. Because of this, in natural human tight-knit groups, our own behaviour will naturally match up to the value of our peers. Put someone in with a group of people all deemed socially innacceptable? They are going to come out with that outsider worldview reinforced, not reformed.

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So, do I really believe that instead we can just judge our way out of anti-social behaviour and violent crimes?

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Yes and no.
Yes we can, because that’s how humans are wired, to look for acceptance, and to co-operate and work together, but also, no we can’t, not yet.

Currently, UK and US culture is about individual responsibility, and capitalism, it doesn’t mesh well with wooly ideas about social judgement. Judgement is seen as a flaw, to be avoided and kept quiet. Speaking out about someone being a bully is seen as equal to insulting someone for their sexuality or gender or race, and we all get taught to bite our tongues and leave it to the experts (law courts), and their values, not our own.

If we created a culture of feedback and social accountability where we were more sensitive to the ideas of others and aware of our own choices and saw “calling out” culture less as an opportunity for a tirade and more as a way of collaborating, then we would be heading in the right direction, away from authoritarianism and towards a more collectivist and democractic culture, essentially, away from the 1984 dystopia, not towards it.

When judgement becomes a part of life that we can all take part in, then perhaps all us lefty-liberal special-snowflake thought-police cucks would finally be sated…

How doubleplusgood that would be, comrades!

 

 

Parliamental Ping Pong: How Coalitions Kill The Spirit of Democracy

This morning, all talk is about hung parliaments and coalitions, and I wanted to think a bit about the last coalition, the torys, and about media.

A thing I feel like a lot of people forget from the hung parliament result of 2010 was that the Lib Dems could have kept Labour in power if they had wanted to, they even negotiated with them before siding with biggest single party; the tories. The party line was about respecting the country’s decision (a line that comes back into politics like a zombie when we get to Brexit, hooray.), but it cost the Lib Dems their integrity. They got a lot of hate then for moves like going back on university fees, and they still do. Their party now is back to a tiny fraction of the game, yet again. But it didn’t have to be that way, so people who say that they held back the tories (which they did, to some extent), are forgetting it was them who also handed them the reins.

What’s funny is, that most people are not Tory billionaires. For most people, the benefit of voting tory is about image and ideals more than their actual real lives, in fact at the expense of their lifestyles, with cuts to public services that enable people to live in communities like parks, libraries, public swimming pools, etcetera. It’s about reducing the deficit, being taken seriously on a global stage, having military policy and also again about reducing the deficit; the deficit that no one in the general public has personal experience of, the deficit that’s a series of numbers in the treasury.
That’s not to say it’s not important to undestand the basic laws of efficiency and balance, but more to say that people don’t entirely vote for what directly affects them the most , and that’s counter-intuitive.

It’s most likely to do with the hugely rich media barons who run headlines about deficits and national image and shameful politicians; people who do not have the general publics best interests at heart but rather our wallets. Attention-grabbing  disaster headlines are better than stuff like “wow, schools are much nicer places to be when there’s more funding in them”, and Tory-voting plebs keep those tax loopholes nice and loose for them. But try telling the general public that; the temporarily embarrased millionaire would rather cut the society they  live in to ribbons than admit that perhaps it is not them who will benefit from the UK being in a strong trading position; we would rather pretend to be linked up to the bigwigs than admit that they are nothing to do with us.

At work, all of the mentally ill and in-recovery people I spoke to were not planning on voting. It doesn’t affect their lives, they mainly said, and all the politicians were bloody the same. It’s these people who are most affected by cuts to public services, and who also have the least belief in their power to make a difference, so have essentially accepted their learned helplessness. (That’s not to mention a guy I spoke to who seemed keen on voting, but said he hadn’t voted now for years, and also hadn’t recieved a ballot. Another young man also hadn’t got his ballot paper, and although our seat turned in favour of Labour, I’m also concerned this is something that shouldn’t be overlooked by care homes and mental health services in general.) It’s probably not a surprise that the mainly working class mentally ill who live in a recovery bed where I work mainly read the cheap newspapers like Daily Star, which are the most sensationalist, and make politics seem like mere theatrics and not a human effort for democracy.

The LibDems in 2010 were the king-makers, and in doing so, undermined what they stood for by trying to stand up for what the British public wanted. Labour 2017 have said they will not make a deal to create a coalition, because they don’t want to make these same mistakes, they want to continue standing for their values and let these carry them through. That’s “not how democracy works”, but if democracy isn’t letting elected officials vote on policy, as opposed to party, then what is it? We should trust our elected politicians to do better than the general public, kept uninformed and biased by a press with motivations that are suspect at best. We should be able to trust elected politicians to be able to see the difference in reality, and image, and not only image as the newspapers want us to believe is the most important part of politics.

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There is no point in having power if you have to sell out to do it; and there is no point in democracy if it is allowed to simply end at the polls. We should have the guts as a nation to move beyond that idea, we have another 5 years now to figure this out.

 

 


Day off Blog Post 8

Post- and pre- Voting blues: It’s not pointless

It’s the day before the UK elections and you seriously cannot get away from it anymore.  Everyone and everywhere is now a hotbed of political discussion, households everywhere have solved the refugee crisis and produced cutting edge political arguments over and over, but it all culminates in tomorrow’s vote.

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“The Does and Don’ts of Voting”

Continue reading “Post- and pre- Voting blues: It’s not pointless”

My Activism Journey and how the Digital Economy Bill got caught up in it

Since the world as I knew it turned totally fascist two Tuesdays ago, I’ve been looking at activism with fresh eyes. No longer for me is it a conscieable option to simply sign the occassional petition and hope for enough money to go to a protest, or choose a career in meaningful inter-personal work and generally be a good example of loving diversity in society, I feel a need to do more.

In that vein, I have been looking at crises (awful word) with a vewito see what I can actually do to them. My tumblr dashboard has been flooded with information about the considerable impact that just ringing an office can have compared to an email, but for most American situations, I’m not going to get away with pretending to be a concerned citizen, and I’d rather leave that energy to the people who do live there.

At last, after a few days of idly scrolling various sites with few urgent UK actions leaping out to me, one landed. You can probably tell by the title which campaign that was.

Specifically, it was this article in the Guardian that popped up and made me take notice; titled “Restricting niche porn sites is a disaster for people with marginalised sexualities”. Hardly the most high-brow cause to catch my attention, but the connotations of this bill are worrying, even when they make for tacky-sounding, eye-catching headlines. I had known about part of this since 2014, when there were campaigns about banning face-sitting in paid-for porn content. I don’t actually watch porn, but even at the time that sounded unfair, and difficult to enforce. I don’t recall actually doing anything though.

Not this time however, I was going to follow through with my feeling of unease at dubous moral-sounding censorship and find out exactly what was going on. Cue this monstrosity when I look for the actual bill:

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Horrifying, but I continued:

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Argh, it somehow got worse!
As you can see, the actual bill, in all its (dry, dull, jargon-filled) entirety is available for any old blogger to see. That’s pretty cool, for someone who is curious above and beyond their level of comprehension, and worth bearing in mind for future parliamentary processes.

Armed with this excessive tool for research,  I tried to dive deeper into the questions of censorship this article raised,  and what possible reasoning there could be for it getting so far in parliament.

It turns out, it’s framed as for children, that’s what the costly age-verification requirement is about, and this bit could drive independent sites out of business according to the owner of Dreams of Spanking and author of the guardian article, Pandora Blake. It wasn’t clear to me if that cost would fall to producers, and it wasn’t made clearer by the helpful-sounding “Age-Verification Provider: Designation and Funding” section, because with all the referrals back, there’s barely anything in each actual section. The line (terminology leaves me behind, apologies) labelled 6 states that: “The Secretary of State may pay grants or make loans to the age-verification
regulator to cover expenditure incurred in the carrying out of its functions.
“, which to me reads as it being state-funded, at least in some part, and at least state-provided.

But I’m no expert, and I began to question if it would not be a better solution to check age as part of a ISP function, like with parental controls…struck by the fundamentally bizarre logic that the government is assigning itself as everyone’s parents, and forcing everyone to have parental controls on their provider, without a choice or other option, and that does seem very wrong.

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Other individuals seem to have had this thought too, if you’re going to meddle in censorship, do you even have a workable plan, UK government? Business Insider thinks not “The UK is banning ‘non-conventional’ porn and it could censor huge swathes of the web“,and raises a lot of good points about mixed social media sites, with a wide range of age ranges and content available. Someone, somewhere in the policy rooms, has either already thought up a detailed answer to this or is thinking it up right now, but it doesn’t mean much if we in the general public have to wait until this bill is realised in order to see how it will work. This was the first part that I decided I needed to ring someone about…and then wrote my blog post before doing that, but stay tuned for when I do, coming sometime next week!

In my travels, I found further interesting points about this bill for example WebDevLaw in “Idiocy By The Back Door” considers its huge scope, and how its structure allows a lot of significant issues to be ignored; which is worth mentioning before I continue to contribute to ignoring significant issues and focusing on the porn.

 

My solitary excuse for this is that personally I agree with the view presented by many, including Sex and Censorship that porn is the canary in the mineshaft of personal freedoms. There’s a distinct feeling of pearl clutching in the specific acts affected by this law, coming directly from the 2014 law in which paid-for online pornographic content became rated by the BBFC same as DVD’s . Sex and Censorship did a good job in pointing out what a lot of mainstream reporters failed to pay attention to at the time, that it wasn’t to do with even subconscious sexism, even if it sounds like it, and has that effect. For example, face-sitting. Hysteria ensued when it was described as unnrateable by the BBFC, and therefore could not be available in paid-for online content in the UK, but looking into the logic more thoroughly than you would normally ever want to in Myles Jackman’s incredibly thorough guide, you can see that dick-sucking to the point of risking breathing is also unrateable, and that facesitting is allowed as long as airways are clear.  Again, at this point it is acceptable to sit back again and wonder why on earth the government cares this deeply about what’s going on in our respective knickers, and doesn’t this all feel a bit invasive?

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The excuses, which I am finally getting to, lie in obscure old laws that do provide a decent service on the face of it; The Obscene Publications Act of 1959 and the amendment of 1964, protecting the general public from bestiality and necrophilia, for example. The confusing part is the subjective judgement required in judging whether material is likely to “deprave and corrupt” those likely to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodied in it. The BBFC heavily leans on this act in order to create its ratings, which means items viewed as violating the OPA are refused ratings, and somehow, this has got twisted to the point that anything that could be significantly dangerous in pornographic material will be refused a rating, when a simple “do not try this at home or without professional training” disclaimer would surely be sufficient? This is phone call number two, that I *still* haven’t made yet, and you should still stay tuned for, not to say that the answer doesn’t exist, it’s just impossible to find for the average blogger (i.e me).

The Adult Provider Network is a trade association which provided a rebuttal to this section of the bill, a part that promised to essentially ban any unrateable content. They raise the incredibly valid point  material designated as pornographic is held to a completely different standard than regular entertainment material, despite being a subjective and delicate difference between mediums;
“Depictions of a person gagged with all four limbs bound are prohibited content, and yet depictions of this act in a sexual context are permitted in 18 classified mainstream media entertainment such as Hollywood films.”, and several other pertinent suggestions for improvement and potential pitfalls that are interesting to read. They pretty much mirror the original Guardian article sentiment, but in formal bill-memo terms.

Conclusion

The Digital Economy Bill is a monster of a bill in every respect, and so it is complicated in many facets. It doesn’t only concern porn, but copyright law, and internet provision too, and this is how politics takes over, by being so huge and intimidating that we cannot understand it, let alone provide reasonable rationales against it. But slowly, I will be trying to uncover more information for my own purposes in the next few days, and maybe it will make sense, or it will be even more outrageous. Either way, fighting starts with knownledge, and damn, I have a lot more respect for lawyers and bill-writers and policy-makers etc. than I have ever had before now!

Until the next time, good luck and happy interneting!


Sources/Further Reading:
http://mylesjackman.com/index.php/my-blog/106-the-following-content-is-not-acceptable

http://sexandcensorship.org/2014/12/censorship-not-sexism/
https://webdevlaw.uk/2016/09/14/digital-economy-bill-2016-idiocy-back-door/

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/2016-2017/0087/cbill_2016-20170087_en_1.htm

How to love doing bad

*publishing this less-than-perfect both as a support to my argument and as a way to something, anything, published and hopefully get back into the groove.*

So I haven’t blogged in a while now, so I’d thought I’d write about why I even bother.
I knew I wanted to write something general about how stuff getting done is good, about how the value of practise is in the doing, expressing yourself. How activism is good because it is good, not because it makes the world perfect. Hopefully this will inspire you, if you feel like you need it, to get out and get doing your terrible terrible talentless hobbies, because it’s worth it. Here’s why:

1. Getting stuff done is good. The act of having “done” something has an outcome, which sounds obvious but it really can’t be overstated. It’s really important to value what we can do, and what we have done. Not in qualititive or quantative terms, but in inherent meaning. That you are alive today is a good thing. That you did something that you wanted to do is a good thing, regardless of whether you did it well. What matters is that you did it.
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2. Getting stuff done encourages you to get more stuff done. We are free, mostly. But we can easily act like we’re not, convince ourselves that it’s not worth starting anything, be it a change in career path or a creative project, because we’re not good enough yet.

But when you’re paralysed with fear of failure, you’re going to do nothing, and that’s far worse than making something terrible. That’s worse than making a monstrosity of a project or a terrible awful truly just bad all round choice; because you’re stagnant. You’re not learning from that. You’re frozen, what kind of a life is that?

By contrast, when you do stuff, you start to fail. And you generally, live to paint something awful/write a terrible post/sing badly another day. Generally, you keep living through your failures, and after a certain point, you realise that there’s no shame in failing. I failed constantly to be cool, and popular, but here I am still. You get tougher. You can do more and more and more things, because it’s good to do things, and it gets more fun.
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3. Doing stuff makes you better. Everyone knows that practice makes perfect, but does anyone believe it? And does it even matter if we do if we then interpret it wrongly? The people who are the most successful in life are not people who forced themselves into practicing an activity because they wanted to become good, they are people who did an activity enough that they became amazing because they enjoy the simple act of that activity; for what it is, not for the potential status symbol their talent would eventually become.

We think that doing stuff badly isn’t worth it, but that 99% perspiration that’s talked about? Bad stuff is what that’s made of, “bad” stuff is the seeds of good stuff, and not only that, it is valuable and good in its own right, in an expression of freedom and in the choice that you made to take that action. Don’t aim to be great, aim to have fun, and then if greatness comes, it’s only a perk that came of the main aim; to have fun and be a human who does things because it is good to do things.

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4. Doing things sends a message and makes a difference.
Activism is often held to a similar backwards standard; we can’t achieve perfection, so why would we even start? But again, the value is in the meaning of the actions we choose to take. “Someone”‘s (actually Bree Newsome‘s) action to take down a violent Civil War flag isn’t just that action, it’s a statement, with meaning beyond any larger picture. It tells people, she was brave enough to do this. She believes in this. This was done, by another person, who I could be like. Newsome’s action has value in how she inspired others, and in the story that her choice tells.

It’s not her only contribution to politics, she was arrested in 2013 about voter rights, but she’s simultaneously not an activism legend. She’s another person trying make this world a better place. Her personal inspirations for taking that leap into activism come from simply existing as a black female horror film creator; nothing magical, just something human and natural and most importantly, ordinary. Not perfect or unnattainable.

Each part of what you choose to do is valuable both on its own, and as part of a bigger picture, of personal development, of a part in the continuing civil rights movement, or whatever it is that is among the things you care about (and are about. Typos are fun!)
It will inspire you, and maybe others, to become more than what you currently are. It matters *because* you did it.

5. Doing things promotes personal growth in general.
Something that is “bad” is actually something that is simply new. Something that scares you, something that challenges you. This isn’t bad. This is an opportunity to learn. Every hurt is a lesson, every lesson makes you stronger. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

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We should REVEL in our bad talents. Our talents that aren’t actually talents yet, just good, just projects, just growth. Even when they don’t get any better, there’s still value. There’s value in learning about yourself, about how you handle frustration, how you deal with it, in seeing a hurdle, and reaching it. How hard this is to do and how long it takes for you to master it, gives extra beauty to how incredible the works of other people are. It teaches you how you handle jealousy and envy, it gives you humility in knowing what you cannot do (yet, or ever, it doesn’t matter).

A girl I know hates her art. Doesn’t everyone know this girl? Either that, or you are that girl. She looks at her art, that others admire, and hates it for not being what she wants it to be. She can’t see anything else, and even if she does, she can’t admit it, because it’s not perfection, or even good by her own standards, to like it would be a failure.

Ultimately, can we reach a better way?

But what if instead we revel in the boring “progress” part of the journey? The part that is beautiful because you made it, not because it’s perfect. The part that reflects that you love this, and you’re succeeding in doing this, purely driven by love and expression. Alternately, we could all decide tomorrow to have low standards; so we’ll always exceed them and we’ll never be disappointed again. Nihilism, “shoot for the stars and if you miss you’ll die in space which is pretty cool” style. Learning to revel in the mediocre, the fabric of everyday life. Choose your shitty hobbies and run with them, learn from them and enjoy them. Fill your home and your life and your time with rubbish, your very own carefully selected and lovingly nourished rubbish.

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Me, surrounded by all my awful but amazing things, which are great because they are mine. (Image shows a happy yellow labrador who’s head is poking out of an enormous background of autumn leaves.)

To finish off; here, have a song that I love because it likes to relentlessly jolt me into activity the moment I start playing it:

You’re a Hypocrite! What about MY free speech!

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Again, I’m borrowing from the amazing NaoiseDolan, this can be found at naoisedolan.com/freeze-peach/

What’s going on in the Hypocrisy/FreezePeach Argument?

If you’ve ever tried to have a meaningful conversation with a casual bigot on the internet ever you’ve had this conversation:

Them: *bigoted casually harmful thing* Just my opinion though!
You: That opinion is trash and perpetuates stereotypes and harmful thinking towards a group of people.
Them: Excuse me?! FREE SPEECH though!! You’re oppressing my opinion!
You: I’m not “oppressing it” I’m just telling you it makes you look like an arsehole. I’m not stopping you.
Them: But you SJW’s don’t want me to judge anyone ever though, you think you’re free from criticism, so this is #oppression, this is unfair, this is the real tragedy here.
You: You’re aware that you are literally judging me right now right?!?

So what’s going on here? Are they trying to bait you? Are they living on another planet? Is this actually reality and have you been deceived the whole time and good is actually bad and you yourself are in fact worse than Stalin?!? (Probably, probably not, and probably not.)

Essentially, most people start out as whiny babies with no concept of other people outside of themselves. They can see themselves being criticised, and feel hurt, alienated, maybe even isolated and confused, and think, damn this is awful, how is this even allowed? If you’re never challenged on anything or taught to think for yourself, this doesn’t change as you grow up. People who are most insulated by privilege are the most likely to fit this description, because the world around them is quite literally, catered to reflect them. There’s no need to think for yourself if everything around you agrees with your own narrative.

The Moment You Inadvertedly Create a Police State in Your Comment Section

When you come across them online with a contradictory viewpoint, they are threatened on a level they probably don’t quite understand. They know that you’re presenting something different and therefore #wrong, but also that you are quite happy and confident in what you believe, despite your blatant Wrongness! How, when they are Right and you are Wrong can you be so composed??  Clearly, you must be under some illusion that you are perfect and actually Right, and that no one can disagree with you! So bam, look what you’ve got coming your way now, you got some DISAGREEMENT. Some DISSENT. Ooooohh how you going to handle THAT now, come on!

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Actual image of what Mra’s and other casual to semi-pro bigots think they are dealing with

They turn against your opinion in the hope that it will shock you just as much as having their opinion challenged has shocked them. Unfortunately for them the playing field isn’t quite even here; if you’re touting an alternative viewpoint, not only are you used to having your opinion shouted down and disagreed with, but also, you are used to thinking for yourself, and not needing the approval of others to have conviction in your beliefs.

So it’s completely boring. Once you’ve had a couple dozen of these conversations, you know exactly how it goes, and no, you’re not surprised that they think you are an “evil totalitarian dictator from hell”, like you always thought you were the opposite of, because of course you are, it’s obvious and immediate, it’s the easiest possible insult there is for someone who’s trying to fight for fairness and freedom, to try and hit us with the “not fair!” card. It’s simple and its aim is to be paralysing, but you can think for yourself, and know that’s not how fairness works.

Like a child who incessantly shouts this though, the people who call you out on this have no idea how fairness works, they barely have an honest concept of what “fair” is, outside of their own hurt feelings. They genuinely believe that justice is all about feelings, because to be fair to them, they’ve never been taught anything else. They’ve always been taught that you shouldn’t be racist or sexist or homophobic because it hurts people’s feelings; a simplistic model that doesn’t address the greater systematic context of harmful actions but it’s easy to explain to kids and gets them to stop propagating said actions. It’s great for a start, but the problem is that once you’ve learned to shut up about the right things at the right moments with the right people, that’s when most people stop learning about what fairness in society means.

So you are actually Fair…now what?

No, you can’t convince them that you are being fair. You can’t convince them that your challenging viewpoint wasn’t built around criticising them and making them feel bad and that therefore it’s not allowed in the constitution or whatever they believe in.

That’s not fun. If they are a troll, they exploit that to try and guilt people into taking it back, or just waste their time trying to convince said troll of their good intent and pure meaning. If they aren’t a troll, they probably will sound the same, but either way, it’s a waste of your time. It’s not truly you who hurt them, it’s the shock of other viewpoints, one of which you happen to hold and you happened to voice.

Now maybe it’s a bit patronising to call it a “shock”: these other views are hardly unheard of, radical ideas like “equal pay” and “stop police killings” are everywhere in media. But the shock comes in realising that other people believe in this, and there’s not much you can do about that except trust in the process of awareness that worked on yourself. No one suddenly became aware of social inequality after one comment by a friend or anonymous message, but equally, no one became aware without those initial interactions. Allow yourself to be that first hurdle, or even the fith or the tenth or the hundredth. You’re not taking something away, you are adding a hurdle, and certain people don’t like being challenged. You could stop challenging them, but does that really help anyone in the long run? You could try and tell them this isn’t a personal challenge and it really shouldn’t be a challenge, but nonetheless, it will still be a challenge to them if they haven’t had to find away around it yet.

Ultimately, the only way people will realise that Dissent is okay, and that it’s not a threat to their Free Speech, is once they learn to think for themselves in the way that so many others have been forced to since birth. It is not your responsibility to do that for them, partly because you literally cannot, it’s in the phrasing “for themselves”. The most that you can do is lead by example, and hope that one day, they’ll find a better way through this hurdle than yelling at it for existing.

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Don’t shove your opinion down my throat…let people get over the stage where they are just yelling variations of this at you.

 

*Disclaimer: It is better to publish something than let it sit in drafts forever. xx*

Being the sole Social Justice Warrior

No one wants to talk about how easily hated the genuine well-meaning social justice activist is. In our online communities, we like to pretend like we don’t care about those basic white/cis/straight/male people’s opinions anyway. And on many levels, we don’t. There’s more to life than other people’s opinions. But this attitude is only viable when you’re in contact with the online community. In the real world, being a social justice warrior is only cool in moderation, and there’s only so much patience your real life available “friends” have.

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What it feels like too many of your friends start to think after yet another go off about how feminism is needed in the UK still.


This isn’t popular, but it is the truth, and it’s an under-recognised truth. We don’t talk about it, because that will be weakness, and we seriously don’t want to focus on ourselves when there’s so much bigger stuff out there. The truth is we’re only human, and ignoring this will lead to trouble. In general, people like other people, and want to be validated, not just in cyberspace. It’s incredibly lonely to contemplate giving up all your real-life human approval, just in the name of your politics, and the fact that so many people are prepared to do that, I think is a testament to the strength and conviction of people’s belief in the greater good of activism.

It’s hard when you’ve come this far, and learnt so much, and grown into a glorious socially aware butterfly, to then be forced to choose between standing by as good people remain ignorant, or alienating yourself completely. But the real choice isn’t that cut and dry, and you’ll hurt yourself if you think that it is.

When doing your “best” is woefully unpopular (and possibly inadequate)

The key to drawing the line is making sure you (and the underheard people you are ultimately trying to amplify) are being HEARD. If you become so hyper-critical and aware that it’s “ruining” every conversation, people start to simply blame you, and when you’re the only one in your real life friend group who genuinely gets it, that can be incredibly draining. Not to mention, it’s incredibly risky. When they ask “why exactly are kimono’s racist?” do you actually have a solid answer, white girl born and raised in the UK with no Japanese friends?
No, not really. You do your best, you point them at the nearest blog, and you know that though you’re not the victim here, you’re doing “the best you can”.

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What I looked like as a baby social justice warrior “Minorities are strong independant people..” “..which is why they need me to speak for them”

It’s a fine line. At some point, your privilege and legitimacy as a friend and the person you were “before”begins to run out, and you begin to be seen as a problem, a dismissable stereotype, not even standing up for yourself but for strangers who never even asked you. This is an awfully lonely place. You could say that’s just how it is as someone who stands up for social justice, that it’s just a lonely path and who cares if you’re liked? Resistance was never a popular concept with the status quo, by its very definition. However, if you’re alone and unliked and unpopular, then how exactly are you helping?

The Actual Choice

The actual choice isn’t between selling out and being frozen out. For one thing, it’s rare that you’d actually lose all of your friends and family just for politics, even if it feels very possible. But for another, you do start to change how you bring it up, and it’s not selling out, because it’s simply being more efficient and subtle at what you do, and the awareness you’re fostering. Being hugely unsubtle and having a huge vent at all the problems and systematic cruelty in the world does feel cathartic, but the backlash means you quickly gotta learn to reign it in; there’s no point being right if no one is listening anymore.
But you can still be right ~subtley~, and at choice moments. You don’t have to actively endorse cruel ideas and behaviours, but you don’t have to flame up about them either. The key is allowing people to see what you think without feeling personally threatened or attacked. The phrase “it’s just my opinion” is used an awful lot by people with unjustifiable opinions based in prejudice, but there is no reason that it can’t be used as a non-defensive statement to nullify a perceived threat from a statement of disagreement.
A short “look” or a refusal to laugh are also incredible effective, and in their subtly and lack of theatre, often massively more effective and long lasting than a full blown discussion would have been. There’s no dismissing justice as mere “drama” if you are matter-of-fact about your belief in equality and how you exercise and express it. Your small action becomes easier to palate and absorb as a legitimate way of thinking, rather than a choice to be under the spotlight of justice. Think Eddie Izzard and his small but steadfast refusal to call his clothes “women’s clothes”, and how much more powerful and influential that is than a thousand academic thinkpieces that explain in detail why clothing is not gendered inherently but only through social norms and culture.

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That’s not to say rants and thinkpieces aren’t valuable! You know I’d love to read that clothing one, and this entire blog is a place where I can one-sidedly rant and monologue about whatever I want; but this is for people who Get It. If someone doesn’t Get It, then they aren’t going to be forced to by someone else — you cannot Give It (the understanding of systematic inequality) to other people! It has to be an active process, and you can be a small part of triggering that learning curve in other people, as opposed to trying to BE that learning curve for other people.

 

*Note: I wrote this ages ago and have now edited it, cos I wanted to get it out there, but it’s still not perfect and I will write more on this topic soon!*

 

Pick Your Demons in Mass Shootings

(Alternatively: Did It Take A Village To Create The Orlando Killer?)

Homophobia, mental illness, religion…. all different motivators. Does it matter? Is it more important to focus on gun control or the shooter’s incentives? Ultimately, micro-aggressions turn into macro-aggressions which turn into the worst kind of record breaking for american citizens.

All the debate at the moment can be summed up as a conflicting mess of who to think of; do we think of the victims and of the future; homophobia clearly matters right now and gun control matters because it was lgbt+ people being murdered with guns, the whole community is shaken, the line towards open bigotry because clearer and closer, people do not feel safe and perhaps they actually aren’t.

Or do we think of the shooter; of mental illness and religion and race? Because the shooter shot people so they must have been aggressive  and therefore mentally ill (by “definition”), and the shooter claimed allegiance to conflicting religous islamic groups despite not being described as particularly religious and this being during ramadan, race because he wasn’t white so it must be factor and white people never murder people ever.

Or as less mainstream media sources say, shall we think on what we’re not being told; how the shooter was an authoritarian into police work and security and beating up his ex-wife…and why we aren’t being told it by the mainstream media? Is it, as many suspect, because it looks like a far larger number of people than limiting it to the mentally ill and muslims, both targeted groups in their own right.

“An inspector kills calls”, and who killed these people? What incremental steps were taken in each of these areas?

Cops have been consistently glorified for bravery in killing innocent people who were charged with no crime (because they were already dead by then), perhaps there aren’t enough people protesting that..

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(Looping) Gif of Millions March NYC In Protest of Police Brutality in 2014

And even before that, there’s thousands of movies and media glorifying violent stories of battles of strength and blood, and there’s generations of women are blamed for making their men angry, what kind of culture around conflict does this make? One that produces mass murderers on a practically regular basis maybe?

Muslims are alienated and of course it’s nothing to do with with the oil in muslim countries and the battle for power in the mess that remains after colonialism (sarcasm; of course it is.).
Then 9/11 happens and overnight Muslims are completely transformed into simply “pale brown skin with beard maybe” plus “headscarves are bad for women” and a vaguely threatening “Other” because the confusing faith and the confusing attack are now linked forever.
And because the link is so vaguely defined, and the middle eastern tensions that caused both the attack and the initial alienation are so poorly understood, anyone now feels free to claim Islam as a whole as as a scapegoat…even the people who aren’t victims but victimisers. It’s a solid outsider scapegoat with a clearly targetable face, so  hatred against it grows to the point where expressing Nazi-esque deportation dreams are not instant death to a political career. (and don’t challenge that narrative with the truth because it simply won’t get heard).

Mentally ill people are defined as dangerous. Dangerous people are defined as mentally ill. Again, it conflates and conflates and so now of course dangerous people don’t get treated with compassion and treatment, and so mentally ill people don’t either because they aren’t dangerous so they can’t be mentally ill and mental illness treatment is increasingly hard to come by and stigmatised. Now we have a constant scapegoat available just in case the muslim terrorist one doesn’t apply. Illness transcends all boundaries and demographics; what a perfect solution.

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Celebrations after Supreme Court Marriage Ruling

Homosexuality is winning, America has gay marriage! People delight. Now homosexuality is fine but don’t let weirdo trans gender-benders in my bathroom, because they don’t need to pee, they must only exist to scare me (because they do) and therefore that means they are dangerous to me (see mental illness above), I’ll do whatever it takes to find evidence of this.  Homosexuality is accepted but you can fire them for it if you want, you can refuse to serve them if you want. homosexuality is accepted but if you’re a gay character you are tragic and need to die in my show because real people need to know that they will never be gay and happy in this world where it is totally fine to be gay. america is a free country and does not endorse homophobia.

Gun control is too soon to talk about. It’s too soon but  it’s also too late for these now dead people. But look at all the other issues hat it could be! Maybe more guns will fix it and the good guys with guns will never get killed only bad guys. (Police have guns and they kill people and they are the Good Guys TM, why can the rest of the world not be like this corrupt system which has systematic control over who is seen as good and bad, we see no reason why not).

Maybe he was a closet gay man! Fantastic, we can pin it on this aspect of the case, perfect! case closed, it’s circular like an Ouroboros, the fact that there is a closet definitely doesn’t come from the fact that you still have entire churches saying that gay is a sin , entire churches in multiple religions, and entire systems and societies casually endorsing and condoning homophobia and treating lgbt+ people like second class citizens and alien creatures who shouldn’t be seen.

So pick your demons

Who do you think it was? Was it homophobia, gun control, islam, mental illness, being gay, being an authoritarian who loved the force? It won’t bring the 50 people back. It won’t stop the hundreds who have yet to die in the future mass killings, not unless something changes.

Can you get rid of an entire religion because of someone who conflated two different sects whilst they committed their mass murder and who didn’t practise the faith? Can you get rid of people who want to live their lives and don’t want to kill people? Can you stop glorifying violence and force and start respecting love and peace, stop demonising mental illness and start treating it instead (how it needs to be), stop conflating danger with illness in a way that lets dangerous people off the hook?

Respecting the innocent dead is a good sentiment, but respecting the innocent living would be an even better start. Whichever demon is the one stopping this from happening for you, you pick that one, and then go change it.

EU: You Can Run But You Can’t Hide…from Politics

A political cartoon depicting David Cameron as Saint George fighting a dragon, labelled EU, made up of red tape, as in the metaphor for lengthy bureaucracy.

Quick Thoughts on the EU Leave Campaign

  • their advocates (Katy Hopkins, Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson to name a few) are some highly “controversial” i.e bigoted and small minded individuals that only a minority adore
  • everything’s about immigration; as if the basic person understands anything about whether it’s good or bad for the economy when even the academic community of economists are DEEPLY and PASSIONATELY divided on the subject.
  • when it’s not directly and explicitly about people’s projected insecurities about the mean Other People taking all of Our things, it’s about RED TAPE.
  • as if anyone knows what that means
  • someone shouts something about banana’s
  • no but seriously if the average person doesn’t know the net benefits of immigration (because no one actually knows the real total) then the average person also definitely doesn’t know or understand the purpose and relevance of regulations and standards. snigger about banana rules and the EU rooting through our shopping baskets all you like, but actually, someone’s gotta write rules, or you’d be first in line with your round-looking banana claiming that it’s inadequate.

 

  • for a nation that’s so scared of change like having a *splabour government

(just kidding I am going to do a longer post on this later)

Facebook Bogs And Uncomfortable Conversations

People are simple social creatures. We like to communicate with eachother, and we’re not very good at understanding nuance; we often have to simplify stuff just to fit it all into our heads. However, this does mean that we’re pretty inaccurate a lot of the time, as anyone who’s spent any time in Social justice circles will know all too well.

Different factions of the internet believe enormous simplifications about each other, like we’re all disgusting caricatures who exist purely to antagonise each other, in a horrifying ugly yet elegant relationship of mutually assured destruction, many people wasting days of their lives (literally, if you add it up, you’d be surprised how many hours those trash conversations on facebook stole from you) both contesting these caricatures and simultaneously re-inforcing them.

  • “Feminists aren’t angry! but actually I am angry about this issue for a legitimate reason though”
  • “4chan users aren’t obnoxious! but actually I do find this offensive thing funny though but”
  • “Fat people aren’t lazy! but actually people should be allowed to be lazy though”

These examples are far from perfect, but you get the idea.

The problem comes from the combined problems of ego and communication.

Ego

When we talk about anything that stems facebook messes (those conversations that go on for far too long, and you either love the drama TOO MUCH or you despair of it, but either way, it’s still be hours since you left the screen), we’re normally talking about stuff that’s really close to people’s hearts, that’s close to their identity and understanding of who they are as a person.

There’s a lot of defensiveness here, and it really gets in the way of actual communication, and what’s worse, is that it’s normally really unoriginal, like “I’m not racist, I have a black friend” which even typing out felt bad, because it’s been said so many times in the exact same way in so many of the exact same conversations about racism with someone who only has a basic level of understanding of the word.

This unoriginality begins eventually to grate so hard that it becomes its own meme, and illicits hostility from the moment it’s uttered, like “Not all men” has become its own red flag for a man who knows nothing about how structural sexism and rape culture operates. But predictably, being met with sudden hostility doesn’t exactly decrease someone’s defensiveness, and they still don’t understand what you’re talking about, just because you do and you’re bored of having the same conversation.

Now I’m not saying humour them and say, no, it’s okay, you’re one of the good ones and do not worry! But we’ll get to communication in a bit.

Another specific instance I’ve noticed is with autism, perhaps because it is a more hidden or private trait, often when it’s spoken about on the internet in casual circles it will be with relatives of autistic people. Not only is this uncomfortable because leaving someone out of a discussion about them is inherently dehumanising, whether on purpose or not, it also greatly increases the levels of defensiveness involved. Now it’s not only about being potentially seen as a bigot (a big part of most people’s lives revolving around not being that blatantly unpleasant) but also about their worth as a parent/sibling/cousin etc. It’s a particular brand of nightmare fuel.

Communication

We get a bit lost with all the understandable human ego messes flying around these topics, there’s the warrior in each of us that wants what’s right, and a scared little person who wants to look good too, and part of us that doesn’t want to fight at all. No wonder we miss the point sometimes, we get waylaid with insults, or pedantry, survival tactics, damage control, or simply soapboxing our own beliefs.

There’s actually not a lot of talk left inbetween about how best to communicate across these issues, and that’s not surprising. Who wants to spend the little energy they have left at the end of the fray on working on communication with the “other side”? Tribalism is deep in our bones, and when stuff doesn’t work out, it makes sense that our instinct is to blame each other and flee the scene. And there are times when that is simply the best thing you can do; remember those people who love the mess too much? Definitely a running-away situtation.

But the answer is actually pretty clear with the benefit of hindsight; it’s in stepping away from our egos. Now this is hard, and it feels dangerous, because our egos are what fuel most normal interactions just fine, they are what help us to know if we’re going over the line, being offensive, or if we’re improving our relationship. But it’s not normal communication at all when we’re talking about social injustice, which is why it trips up so many of our ego defences.

Communicating without Ego but with Respect/Dignity

Thinking of egos like trip wires, we can see how to avoid them. We can avoid a lot just by focusing on statements and facts, on sources written by other people about people in general of a certain social demographic, or even sources written by people who belong to that demographic; it takes the sting out of any perceived insult and it reduces the degree to which you personally are part of inflicting said insult.

Another handy way to get out alive is to remember your own relationship to your ego. You will want to be right, and you will want to be understood. The other party probably won’t be trying to avoid tripping you up, especially if they think this is a personal conversation, so you have to be the one with the perspective to step away from the ego in order to communicate what you need. And then get out; because you cannot make up people’s minds for them, and people need time and the (illusion of) choice to change their worldview.

This doesn’t mean just be a doormat. You still have an ego, you’re just putting it away temporarily in order to achieve a realistic goal, like providing an alternative view point. It doesn’t mean that when someone insults all feminists for example that it is okay for them to do, and that you always have to shrug it off, and that it isn’t structually harmful to discredit marginalised voices that speak out. But what is structurally harmful and what is personally constructive are not always the same thing; letting a bit of ignorance slide is the only way to change that ignorance into potential knowledge and another agent of change in the world.

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Source:  http://www.naoisedolan.com/racial-discourse-on-facebook/