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November 14, 2011

Occupy Us: Character – What a B!$%@

When I was a young angst ridden youth (early 20′s to be specific) I sat down for a heart to heart intervention with one of my most beloved relatives (the names have been omitted to protect the innocent… in this case… the remarkably innocent). This was the first step in my grand plan for impacting/changing/saving the world (after all when you are ~23, nothing is more clear than that “fact” that the world is just one “you” away from being saved).

We were talking because I had heard the term “mighty white of you” for the one-too-many’ith time and something needed to be done about it. I was strong in my convictions, on point with my arguments, and relentless in my assault on his (presumably) hardened positions; pointing out that being white does not by default make you better, therefore “mighty white of you” does not mean what you think it means – in fact, it pretty much means the opposite of that… at least where the speaker is concerned.

I hammered my point home and went in for the kill… “does this make sense, what I’m saying… do you see why it is wrong… do you see why you need to stop!!!”

Only then did I notice the crestfallen look upon his face. Only then did I realize I had him at “have you thought about what you are implying, or would be implying to a person that was not white, if you said that around them” (which was my first sentence).

The simple fact is that he had never thought about it, it is how he had grown up. Further he was mortified about the message he was projecting, and I’m happy to report I have never heard those words from his mouth again. To him, it was a common phrase, genuinely no different than “nice work,” “good job,” or “that was thoughtful.” It had no basis in bigotry or race, it was “just a phrase.”

Which, of course, is the real and true evil of such phrases. They become part of the fabric of our society and bigotry is propagated by the unknowing. As such, generation after generation continues the subconscious (and in some cases conscious, deliberate, and malicious) process of stereotyping.

I don’t have enough fingers on both of my hands to count the number of people I personally know who grew up listening to Brazil Nuts being referred to as “Nigger Toes.” As part of Operation All-The-World-Needs-is-Soren (TM) I have spoken to every one of them about this at one point or another.

I have one nose more than is required to count the number of people who thought it was a racist remark, or harbor any dislike toward people of (any) color. All of them, when confronted, said that, again, it was “just a phrase” to those saying it… that they had no idea how it might be perceived (that may or may not be true in all cases… but that argument was made universally, and for the purposes of today’s conversation that is more than good enough for me… on another day probably not… but today, yep).

Which brings me to this gem making its way around the internet (etc.).

hurt

As I scan that “checklist”, I realize that I know many people (including myself) that use (or have used) many of those phrases to refer to “weak” or “inferior” people.

Dear World (including myself):

Have you ever stopped to think how that phrase might make a woman (or homosexual) feel?

Best regards – your self-appointed savior (and guilty partner),
Soren

Options two through five on that list are easily and patently offensive, one and six are bad in their own right but perhaps passable, eight implies things that I’d rather not get into (cough Sandusky cough)… but… lets just say anyone who uses that phrase with understanding and intent has some serious issues. I’m also not so sure why turning to ones mother (or anyone else for that matter) for support is such a bad idea???

But I digress…

Items two through five are my focus right now. These phrases are part of our lexicon (along with “that is so gay” and “you are such a fag” and “awww… did you get some sand in you v@%$#&.” This is how we talk to each other and convey messages of disapproval. In other words it is part of our cultural norm – with or without intent – to vilify and disrespect over half of our population, and most of us probably aren’t even aware (at a consistently conscious level anyway) that we are doing it.

“Nigger Toes” doesn’t fly as a term anymore (at least not in any of the circles I hang around in). If you were to say it, you would, at the very least, have to endure a mini-sermon from the newest/nearest defender of the universe. In other circles, you’d probably just get your butt kicked. “Mighty White,” I feel safe in saying has met a similar fate, along with the majority of its (covertly?) bigoted brethren.

It is 2012, I’d like to think it was about time for the terms on the above checklist (and any others like them) to meet the same fate.

With all due respect to mammals, insects and fish (et. al.) … I think that’d be might human of us…

PS… for the record, I didn’t mention it above because I was on another tilt…but… the implication that somehow some way “real-men” are superior to women – especially as differentiated by having successfully hurt someone else – is wrong in so many ways I don’t have enough blog space (which is, of course, pretty close to infinite) to begin to cover it. Suffice it to say… its just stupid.

Note – “Occupy Us” is a (potential) series focusing on what I think is the first thing that needs to be changed in our country (the world?) in order to make any lasting substantive improvements… specifically – ourselves.

November 2, 2011

Judging William Adams…

Filed under: Observations — Tags: , , , , — sbj @ 9:58 pm

By now most of you have probably seen the video. Allegedly a Texas Judge beating his then 16 year old daughter with a belt. It is not a friendly “spanking” so you might not want to, but if you haven’t seen it… here it is.

Much like yesterday I’m going to skip the formalities of talking about how obviously offensive and unfortunate this incident is. I’m quite sure there is nothing I can say that will add any value, understanding, or positive influence to any of the parties directly involved; and if I can’t help ‘em… I probably should leave ‘em alone to work it out (along with the help of the fine Texas justice system).

However, what I am feeling inclined to talk about is this. I have heard, over and over again today, how he deserves to get beaten down himself, how he should be taken out behind the woodshed, and how he should receive a blanket party. Further, I have heard he should be put to death (legally or illegally if necessary).

I have a serious problem with this. That type of thinking, responding to bad behavior with violence is exactly what he was doing that has all of us so upset… to coin the old phrase… an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.

The scale is clearly different, and the victim far less vulnerable, but the action is essentially the same. As such, I cannot condone any retribution against him without, in doing so, condone his actions in the first place… which is not something I am ever going to do.

Don’t get it twisted, I’m not saying he is, was, or ever should be justified or vindicated for his actions. However vigilante justice went away for a reason and there is absolutely no reason to stage a come back now, over this.

We have a criminal system to handle this, a system that, as its stewards, we need to either trust or change. What we are not entitled to do is attempt to supplant it with our own individual notions of what should be done. they have a word for that… anarchy.

More importantly though, if we take this approach – advocating violence as a result of this (or any other) transgression, even by just talking about it… we are modeling the same behavior that we are sickened by in this video. There’s a word for that also… hypocrisy.

I prefer “Hillary’s” twitter position on the matter, pleading for help and justice for him and repentance from him… but no revenge toward him (other than the re-election barb… which, I think probably is a logical outcome from all of this). It’s nice to think that someone who grew up in such an apparently troubled environment might have overcome that and that they at least appear to have a constructive, balanced, and healthy view on the big picture.

We create and recreate the culture that we live in by our words and actions… a call for non-violent justice seems like as good a place as any to effect change.

You get what you pay for (especially if you pay for it over and over again)

Filed under: Observations — Tags: , , , , — sbj @ 5:15 pm

Fair warning: If you read this blog with any regularity (well, if you did when I wrote with any regularity, that is), and are here because you like what you read when you visit… this post may not be for you…

Having said that, what I know about my readers, in general, is that they are a thoughtful, reflective, open-minded bunch. As I begin, I am counting on those qualities to stay alive (or at least keep my car and home free from eggs).

Having said THAT… I shall begin.

This morning I saw the following picture/satire/cartoon/whatever making its way around Facebook. It instantly resonated with me on many levels… I’m sure it will with you as well:

disney women

~insert outrage here~

(actually, no, insert the outrage in the comments area below… it sparks conversation and exposes more people to the thought process… in short… its good to do!)

Did you get enough off your chest… do you feel better yet? Probably not…

~insert more outrage – with a side order or anger and/or despair ~

I agree with most of what just went through your collective minds… 110%.

HOWEVER…

I also have other thoughts. Since I think we can all agree on the reprehensible (or at least objectionable) ones… I’m going to skip over those and move on to the more potentially esoteric or fringe thoughts.

First of all, I’m not at all sure that beauty is any more or less relevant or valid of a judgment criteria, assuming you are going to judge someone in the first place. Secondly, I think if you were to assemble all of the Disney princes, you’d find the same criteria applies. The difference would be that instead of saying “if you are beautiful, you will be approved of and courted” it would say something closer to “if you are handsome you can get away with pretty much any aberrant or otherwise poor behavior and you will still be thought of as desirable and pined over.”

In fact, inspired by this train of thought, I have found just such a picture:

disney men

See what I mean? But lets get back to beauty as a criteria…

I’m not sure I can go along with the mass think that using someones attractiveness (as it effects you) is somehow a lesser criteria than something else. Using it to the exclusion of all others, is probably going to get you into some trouble, sure, but to discount it as shallow and base I think is wrong. The proverbial baby is getting thrown out with the bath water.

Different people certainly have different strengths; some are more conventionally attractive, some more intelligent, some more humorous… others may be all of these things. However, I don’t think that being more intelligent trumps being more attractive or being funnier, in a general sense. At its base, human life is about survival (some would add “of the fittest” to that statement) and beauty has its place in the area of survival, just like any other attribute (if you don’t believe me, interview a flower someday).

Clearly, society today has placed far to great an emphasis on appearance… and within that, to great an emphasis on micro-waistlines. Even more than the the Disney gals, the Disney guys picture demonstrate this to be true. But again, just because someone does too much of- or with – a good thing… that does not make it a bad thing (it’s kind of like a top 40 song ;) ).

I short, Disney’s deficiency, in my opinion, is not in makeing the women (or men) attractive, but rather in rendering them lacking in other attributes, or convictions. And, I’m not even really sure that argument stands, really. We all learned in school that hero’s (good, interesting ones anyway) are burdened by a tragic flaw (aside: it constantly amazes me how I am not a super-hero… as I am resplendent in tragic – and not as tragic – flaws). They must work through this burden in order to be the transformative beings we want them to become by the end of the story.

In the Disney version of The Little Mermaid… written for kids… there are some very clear (and crushing to those who know the original story) plot deviations made for its audience. What kids do not want to see, is the person they have spent the last 90 minutes bonding with turn into the (highly suspect, and kind of icky) bubble bath like stuff that gets on your ankles at the beach in an act of Shakespearean level love and devotion. Lacking an appropriate ending, Disney did what all good capitalists do, and took the path of least resistance. Unfortunate, but who am I (or you) to decide that giving up your identity and becoming human is more tragic or wrong than giving up your life and becoming sea foam? In the end, in both stories, she makes a sacrifice for love… and I’m not sure that is the worst thing for which glorious sacrifices have ever been made.

Just like (most of) you, I have issues with reducing women into eye candy and elevating men into risk-taking-result-creating-world-saving machines, I really do. However, much like I believe subjugating the (traditionally attributed) feminine quality of intuition in favor of the (regularly assigned) masculine mode of applying logic to a situation when seeking solutions is a mistake; I, likewise, question the wisdom of reducing the role or importance of beauty.

What I am more inclined to take to task is the overly simplistic black and white thinking that permeates our modern discourse. We are, by and large, a laze society that no longer even takes the full cover into consideration when judging a book, let alone its internal contents. When we aren’t being lazy we are moving too fast to recognize the attributes in others that distinguish one biped from another. Is she funny? How could i begin to know… who has the time to chit chat, unless there is some other visible ROI for doing so.

Can we seriously blame Disney for “dumbing down” classic stories when we as a society in general are unwilling to palate them as originally written?

Disney is a business, existing to entertain people. They are not here to establish social norms, rather they are tasked to work within what is established by you and I… the actual members of our society. By contrast John and Jane Doe (AKA you and I) and our daily activities do define social norms, cultural values and acceptable behaviors. If there is a scantily clad co-ed selling us beer, an ruggedly handsome man selling us after shave, or a Disney princess extolling the virtues of caking on makeup to catch a man… its because we as a society have instructed the creators of this drivel to do so. Those comercials and movies are not made because someone thinks they are cool and wants to dump that thought process on us, they are created from hours of extensive market research, customer surveys and – more than anything else – retail response to the previous campaigns that paved the way for what we are watching today.

As I have said time and time again about things like sports (or entertainer, or CEO, or teacher, etc. etc. etc.) salaries if you don’t like what you are being served… change your order. If there is one thing I know about business – all business – they are going to produce that which is going to be purchased. Businesses don’t care what they sell, only that they sell. All we have to do, as a society, is send a clear message that we want something different, something other than heaving breasts and massive biceps, something different than cookie cuter barbie’s and chiseled Ken doll/GI Joes types.

Assuming, of course, that we really do want something different. We all do want something different… right???

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