Tag Archives: Rant

Listen

First, this has nothing to do with Doctor Who. Sorry!

Second, a disclaimer. This post is not directed at anyone in particular. Given it’s nature, practically everyone I know might be able to think it is directed at them, but I promise, it is not. It is something that applies to me as much as to the rest of my species.

 

There are good kinds of silence: quieting the internal voices, seeking peace, beautiful natural stillness, not speaking poison.

This post is not about that kind of silence.

Let me get my bias out of the way. I was raised to see the benefit of open honesty. Not cruel honesty, for there is such a thing, but openness.

Not to speak about evil gives it power.

Not to denounce injustice is silent acquiescence.

Not to speak about experience deprives others of information and deprives the speaker of the chance to hear differing perspectives.

That is what I believe.

 

Sometimes I encounter people who resent the freedom of speech afforded to others. Either someone expresses opinions they do not like, and they take offense, or they simply despise the people who speak. And most (if not all) people do one or both of these sometimes.

It is helpful to remember this: If you want to speak your mind, protect the right of others to speak theirs. When that right is taken from someone, it can, and probably will, be taken from you. Tables turn, and the way you treat others may dictate how they treat you.*

 

Even if someone supports freedom of speech, though, there will still be times when they resent someone’s use of it. It may seem, to some, that I am just stating the obvious, but keep going. Obvious or not, we all seem to miss the point sometimes.

For all the commonalities in humanity, each experience is unique. We (people) like to categorize and simplify others, it is a survival technique, a way to make swift judgements, when necessary. And it is a technique that gets us into all kinds of trouble. It tricks us into thinking we know more about a person than we really do. We make assumptions.

Ignorance, prejudice, and xenophobia are bad. Assumptions both stem from and feed into these evils.

Some people, knowing from personal experience (or learning from others) the damage done by certain assumptions, are able to overcome those assumptions. But often these people, the ones who “know better,” propagate a different set of stereotypes.

For the sake of clarity, let’s say person A is seen by person B, and person B makes an ignorant or prejudiced assumption about person A. Then person C comes along and, seeing B’s judgement of A, C makes judgements about B.  This is the simple form. It could become a prejudice dodecahedron, with 12 people, each making assumptions about 11 others until we have something like 132 assumptions in play (I am bad at math, so don’t trust me on the numbers).

But let’s keep it simple. A <-prejudice- B <-prejudice- C

Of all the questions or soap-box speeches I could raise, I will stick to this one, for now:

What benefit will there be if A, B, or C remain silent and/or dismiss what the other says because of the assumptions they make?

Am I insane to think that the ONLY way people grow and learn and become less prejudiced is by making mistakes, making assumptions that are then challenged, and putting their feet firmly in their mouths and then being confronted? Should they be invalidated/dismissed/stereotyped because they make mistakes, or happen to disagree with you about something?

The thing that frustrates me most is that so many people agree with this in principle, but forget that it cuts both ways. They know that the groups they identify with, or sympathize with, are unfairly stereotyped by others, but forget the hard truth that the group or “attribute” that they love to hate is included.

Let me be clear: We are all guilty. If you think you aren’t, then you need to take a long, honest look at yourself and your biases.

It feels good to be “right.” It feels good to despise someone else, to pity them, or to hate them. It is painful, sometimes excruciating, to admit we are wrong, and to consider the value of someone we love to hate.

The hard truth is that we all harbor prejudice. Every last one of us. The trick is to be honest enough with ourselves to find it, and determined enough to fight it.

I’m making myself crazy writing this. The problem is ubiquitous, within me as well as without, an infernal game of whack-a-mole. It seems too massive to even be faced, especially as the current social climate is increasingly divisive. I have to focus smaller, to remember that every little bit helps. So, if you or I take anything away from this ramble, let it be this:

Humanity contains more variety than we can grasp. We never really know as much about a person as we like to think. And, finally, that people should speak. Ignorance and prejudice cannot be discovered, confronted, or defeated by silence.  Understanding cannot grow in the absence of information.

And speaking does no good if we are not willing to overcome our prejudices and listen.

 


* If you live in a country where freedom of speech is suppressed, or nonexistent, I hope policy, or practice, or both will soon change.


Brooding on Monsters

Forgiveness of others when they wrong me is a fundamental, though often challenging, requirement of my faith. I understand why it is so important, and why we often need help to accomplish it. I desire to be forgiven when I wrong others.

As far as extending human understanding, and even the idea of forgiveness, to some people, I seem to have limits.

Listening to the news has recently brought before me a recurring theme in my life: There is a homicidal torturer that lives under my skin. She longs to take predatory humans, especially sexual predators, into a brightly lit room and vivisect them over the course of several days.

There. I have said it. Yes, I know that many predators are also victims of predation or other horrible circumstances. I also believe that there is a predatory strain, an impulse, a siren call to dominate others, imbedded in humanity.

Obviously, I am no exception. I want to torture certain people, I want to murder them, and when all is said and done, both stem from that desire for domination.

I want to dominate and destroy an aspect of humanity (by proxy of humans that openly manifest it) that exists within me. Even more ironic is the fact that the predatory aspect I contain, that I hate so much in others, would be my motivation and means for attempting to dominate and destroy the aspect in others.

A friend said to me “but they are using it for evil. You want to use it for good.” She means that I want to use it to avenge the weak who are harmed and even killed by those who have the power to harm them. She has strong feelings about cruelty, and she has seen much first-hand as she tries to rescue animals from horrific abuses. She, like me, wishes she could pay the inflicters back, perhaps starving and beating them, then putting them in rings together and forcing them to fight and kill each other while people watching place bets.

There is a grim satisfaction in the thought. An eye for an eye is just. But then I remember that I do not believe that I am the judge. I am a fellow defendant, or at best, a plaintiff.

And yet, without that sense of outrage, that anger, that horror, I would have no motivation to act, to try and stop genocide, or human-trafficking, or rape. Great struggles against these evils are born from the anger, the sense of there being such a thing as justice and injustice.

Righteous anger is, I believe, just that. It is right, and it is anger. Some acts, and the people who perpetrate them, need to be stopped. Given the dangerous monster under my skin, I see the need for an impartial system to stop them, but sometimes the systems do not have the reach, the power, or even the desire to do so. What then? Is a mob, or a movement of the outraged better or worse than the lone avenger driven by righteous anger? A movement is certainly harder to stop, and they have achieved great things, like the Civil Rights Movement combating social injustice. But groups can easily become predators, too, or take their vengeance too far.

After all, not everyone agrees on just causes for anger and action, or the extent of just punishment.

But that is really another issue. What I am trying to process, here, are my own murderous desires. God help me, I know that though my anger may be right, those desires are not. They are understandable, but corrupt. If they are any less horrible than the acts they clamor to avenge, it is not a very great difference.

“Love the Sinner, hate the sin,” is one of those sayings that is too short to be helpful. For one thing, it has become trite, and for another, it is wide-open to all sorts of interpretations and actions. Even if I take it in what I believe to be the right way, I find it rife with complications. How do you love someone when they have done truly horrific things to others? How?!

Perhaps distance makes a difference. It is far easier to simplify matters from a distance, to empathize and demonize ideas of humans rather than real ones. But that is not the whole story. Chances are that I have met perpetrators, predators, and been unaware. I have not yet had to look someone in the eye, knowing horrible things they have done to another person, and try to separate something human from something monstrous in my mind.

I have no solution to this yet, other than the mysterious power that rests in prayer, questioning, and seeking. I am not sure I want answers from others, either. This seems to be one of those instances where I need to find the answer for myself. People vary so much in what makes them angry, how they react, and what they feel or believe is right. Everyone might have a different “answer,” and unless I find this one myself, I will not  trust that it is mine.

I am not even entirely sure why I am writing this post, but I desperately needed to vent, and one thing I do believe is that this world could always use a bit more honesty.

So here I am, raw and snarling. Today, I do not like what I see in the mirror any more than I like what I see in the news. I leave the can of worms of “News Media Bias” unopened, and I ask you to leave it closed, too. I cannot deal with that argument right now. However, I do believe that the sensationalism, the constant barrage of horrors and the voyeuristic hovering, has an effect on me, and on others.

There is good advice to be had in Philippians 4:8

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

I need a bit more of that right now. Predators must be fought, but if we forget what it is we fight for, then what is the point? Perhaps that is the beginning of an answer for me.

Perhaps the monster in me wants to fight against something it hates, but God’s will is that I fight, instead, for something I love?

.


Enough with the Dichotomy

I  usually try to stay out of political discussions, but I need to get this one off my chest.

I get really sick of the “either/or” mentality proliferated in the current politics of my homeland. The reality is, most  people fall somewhere between the “Republican” and “Democratic” ideologies.  The rest of the world rarely sees this, though, as the loudest voices are the ones on the fringes.

It seems that the more similar our political parties become (that is another discussion, and one I would rather not start here) the more they feel it necessary to differentiate themselves with hot-button issues and combative politics. Though I am not much of a conspiracy theorist, I feel like our political system, media included, is intent on polarizing the nation.

I want them to stop it. I doubt that they will. After all, frightened and angry people are easier to lead, up to a point.

A good example of this artificial dichotomy is our “election map.” Sure, it is simple for the sake of being easy to read, but when most people are presented with a map of the States colored in stark red and blue they come away with the idea that there are two monolithic sides at war. A red state is a red state, and a blue state is blue.

Forgive my language, but that’s bullshit. Heaps and mounds of steaming bovine excrement.

Every state in the union is purple, as are most of its citizens. It may be impossible to quantify the shades of red and blue in individuals in order to give an accurate representation of national political leanings, but surely we can do better than the red-state/blue-state false dichotomy.

Thankfully, someone has done this. M. E. J. Newman,  I thank you for your fascinating election maps.

Take a quick look at this:

This is a map representing percentages of votes by county in the 2008 presidential election. I don’t know about you, but I don’t see any completely red or blue states. I hope this shatters a few illusions, like the assumption that certain regions of the country can be effectively represented by stereotypes. For any who don’t know, I hate stereotypes and blanket statements.

And here is a cartogram, a map where the counties have been re-sized to represent their populations.

Interesting, no?
Now, I understand the usefulness of the stark red and blue maps when representing electoral votes on election night. But I post this from a need to point out to any who don’t know, that the U. S. of A. cannot be accurately represented by a dichotomy. Even the purple map fails us, for it does not show the growing frustration with the two-party system, the fact that many people who vote Republican or Democrat are not strongly one or the other, or the votes for Green, Libertarian, Independent or Write-In candidates.

It is time for our nation to wake up and stop thinking in terms of “either/or.” The cynic in me says that there is worse to come. Fear and anger are blinding more and more people, and when in that state people prefer to see those who disagree with them as caricatures rather than people. Stereotypes are easier to hate and everyone, whether they admit it or not, harbors some hatred for a stereotype or two.

I don’t know what else to do, save to break down assumptions one person at a time and keep praying that the People of the United States of America will stand up and say “stop putting us in your boxes and listen to what we really think!”

P.S. I know that posting something about politics at this time may seem like an invitation, but I will delete any comment that contains partisan vitriol. This isn’t the right place for that kind of venting.


Contrariwise

Let me get my least-justifiable reason for loving the Dwarves of J. R. R. Tolkien out of the way first.

Like many people, I have a contrary streak. Often, when a storyteller (author, film-maker, etc.) tells me what to think, my mule ears lay back and my heels dig in.

That said, I know that being contrary for the sake of being contrary is as thoughtless as being blindly led. I do not consistently root for the villains in a tale, I do not accept atrocities whilst jeering at characters who make the hard, noble choices. It’s not easy to express what, exactly, I do, so I will give examples. Don’t worry, I will get back to Tolkien in a moment.

The Harry Potter series, by J. K. Rowling:   I root for Slytherin. I don’t root for them because I like them, but because they are systematically demonized by most of the other characters in the books and largely unredeemed by their author. I don’t desire them to get their way, either.  I want, instead, to see the redemptive qualities I stubbornly believe exist. I cannot accept that they are simply a “bad House.”

James Cameron’s Avatar:  “Nuke the entire site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure” (Aliens, 1986).  …well, not really, but I flatly refuse to like or sympathize with the Na’vi because of the two-dimensional characterization of their antagonists and the patronizing way the film tells me exactly what to think. I would like to corner Cameron and scream at him for several hours for trying to bludgeon me into submission with plot.

Most of Western Mythology: Dragons. Why are dragons always manifestations or symbols of evil? I was so upset by this as a child that my imaginary friend was a dragon.

Obviously this is all highly subjective and has little, if any, basis in logic or reason.

Back to Tolkien. From the above, I ought to be talking about Goblins, Orcs, Dragons and their ilk from Tolkien’s mythologies. I do have some similar feelings about them, but that is a rabbit-trail. As far as Tolkien is concerned, I find myself rooting for the protagonists. With few exceptions, Tolkien does a good job of making his characters and his peoples complicated and convincing. He soothes my contrary spirit by giving me what I want: room to make up my own mind.

What first stirred my instincts in defensive favor of the Dwarves was Tolkien’s attitude toward them in The Hobbit.

The Hobbit forms a transition between some of his posthumously-published scribblings in which Dwarves appear rather unsympathetic, and Lord of the Rings which solidifies their place on the Good Side. He obviously likes the Dwarves in The Hobbit, but he also judges their avaricious and insular tenancies harshly without trying to delve deeper.  Until the end, they are also largely ineffectual. I surmise that Tolkien, being pastoral in his tastes, had to stretch himself to understand and sympathize with mythological  Dwarves, whereas he felt very like-minded towards Hobbits and Elves.

I first read The Hobbit as a child and I wanted to defend the Dwarves from the indignant treatment  they suffered at the hands of their author.  For one thing, he seemed to place the Wood Elves more on the side of right than I liked.  I take the book less seriously now, but that first impression set the foundation for my love of Tolkien’s short, bearded delvers.

To recap, I am aware that none of this is logical. I speak merely of first impressions and biases that laid a foundation. Now that my slant is in the open, I will move forward and show why I now love the Dwarves apart from any comparison with other races from their mythos, or from their author’s opinions on them.

For the rest of the series, look here:
Of the Free Peoples of Arda
Khazâd Part I: Aulë
Khazâd Part II: The Deep Places of the World
Khazâd Part III: Creation
Khazâd Part IV: The Road Goes On


Where is my toolbox…

This photo belongs to the user Khaki on stockvault.net

Not Funny bot: “This is a comment to the webmaster. I came to your “Requiescat in Pace jubilare” page via Google but it was difficult to find as you were not on the first page of search results. I see you could have more traffic because there are not many comments on your website yet. I have found a website which offers to dramatically increase your rankings and traffic to your site.”

::A heavy CLUNK resounds, followed by sounds of rummaging::

Dear bot.  I usually find the antics of your kind amusing. But not today.

I realize that your tiny electronic brain cannot comprehend such things as “tasteless” ::rumage:: or “insensitive”, but I am in no state to be patient.

It occurs to me ::rumage:: that I could use some more wires and circuit-boards for my artwork.

In the spirit of sportsmanship, I give you fair warning.

::picks up a dremel tool and loads a bit::

If you come here again, I will be waiting with my fence-cutter, pliers, and diamond-dremels. Your wires would make a very pretty mask, I am sure.


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