Familiarizing ourselves with “antifa”

Styxhexnhammer666’s viewpoint:

So-called anti-fascists who act more fascist than anybody else. Sounds about right.

Sargon of Akkad’s video on the matter:

Cowards, yes. Mostly middle-class (in terms of their upbringing), yes.

I heartily agree with both of these men that anarchist ideologues are deluded in thinking the formation of a government-less society is a viable option. Without military to ward off external attacks, we’re sitting ducks. Without domestic police forces to uphold law and order we’re at the mercy of the most violent and intimidating citizen thugs and criminals. That’s become a fact of life, hence the ascendance of civilizations over time. Most of us would prefer to coordinate our efforts so as to remain relatively safe and peaceful and economically productive, as opposed to being subjugated by mercenaries and vigilantes who cannot be checked aside from through violent and retributive means — hence the importance of police and state authority. And private property rights require laws and law enforcement agencies in order to be upheld, otherwise the whole idea falls apart through lack of backing.

I’ve challenged the State’s authority plenty myself over time by arguing against militarization of domestic police forces. But nowadays I’m being forced to reconsider my position on that in light of domestic terrorist assholes like antifa black bloc protesters and their ilk. They make such measures appear necessary. Sad but true. So these asshats actually help perpetuate and strengthen the very System they claim to be trying to dismantle and undermine. Way to go. Sheer brilliance there.

It appears to be true that plenty who claim to be anarchists are actually just rebels looking for a reason to create violence and mayhem. It’s an excuse, a justification, and a means of obscuring their real ulterior motives. Which is that they lack respect for the very setup that has allowed them to be what they are: spoiled, coddled, idealistic, irrational, tolerated by society even while they behave intolerantly toward others, etc. In a truly anarchistic situation many of these protesters would have their asses handed to them. Because if it ever came down to survival of the fittest, so to speak, these cowards would find out how unfit they actually are. And I think deep down they already know this. But life hasn’t yet been rough enough on them to demonstrate clearly how their ideals can’t withstand the brutality of reality since they’ve been sheltered from such an outcome in our largely peaceful society populated primarily with a law-abiding citizenry and protected by cops. If ever it came down to the Law of the Land being replaced by the Law of the Jungle, such groups would be forced to contend with the real meaning behind the notion that all is fair in love and war. Which is to say fairness ceases to matter, therefore ideals that they espouse would necessarily crumble as well. How could they not? What support could they find if opportunistic chaos comes to rule the day?

Wishful thinking cannot override the need for protection from ruthless factions. Think law enforcement officials are restricting your rights and freedom? Try living with dangerous, unsympathetic mobs and psychopathic tyrants in their absence.

But humans apparently are inclined to learn everything the hard way…

“4 Myths About Intimate Partner Violence in Lesbian Relationships” (plus my thoughts)

Was forwarded an article a few months back and took issue with it at the time. It’s titled “4 Myths About Intimate Partner Violence in Lesbian Relationships” by Robin J. Landwehr (posted November 15, 2014) in Everyday Feminism Magazine. Checked out more of that magazine’s site and can’t say I’m a fan of hardly any of the writing I perused on there. But this article in particular keeps returning to my thoughts.

Starting off, what I found most interesting about this article is how the author makes a case about how so many contributing factors can enter into the power imbalances and abusive relations between lesbians, nearly all of which can also factor into hetero relationships, yet she seems blind to that reality. Rather, the author frames this as specific in regards to lesbians and offers up quite different claims when analyzing hetero ordeals and power struggles. I found this noteworthy, as one hetero female out in the bunch but also as one with a history of exposure to lesbians and their relational dynamics, not to mention enough hetero relational experiences to fill a book, both my own and those observed in others. As is likely very common for a lot of us these days.

She stated in the article:

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(Why, oh why, can’t I ever get the cursor out of the shot when I use screen capture? damn)

Anyway, it should seem obvious to anybody that race relations, unequal wealth, age, “ableism,” and internalized problems with one’s own sexuality and identity can factor into hetero relations as well. Lesbians hold no monopoly there.

Robin goes on to link to an outside source to bolster her claim that “17-45% of lesbians have reported being a victim of at least one act of physical violence at the hands of a lesbian partner,” so I then click on that link and am taken to the “Lesbian Partner Violence Fact Sheet” by Suzana Rose, Ph.D., in which that author states the following:

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And this is where “intimate partner violence” research winds up breaking down for me. Notice that examples include disrupting our partner’s eating or sleeping habits (???). Well, if that’s the case we’re all in a bunch of trouble. Got news for folks: that’s not uncommon and personally I refuse to see that as abusive unless it’s occurring relentlessly and is taken to great extremes. Like severe and ongoing sleep deprivation from someone intending to inflict psychological harm on you. If not otherwise specified in regards to extreme behavior, this could include damn-near everything, from garden-variety selfishness that results in your partner waiting late to serve dinner to agitating a light sleeper unintentionally, to a couple’s quarrel that wakes one up in the night with more questions to ask, to arguing enough one weekend that one or both of you lose your appetite — all of which is pretty darn common among everybody, heterosexuals and homosexuals alike.

As for the next bullet point, slapping, shoving, pushing, biting, reckless driving, kicking…let me stop here to state that not all of those are created equal, plus there are different degrees each can take. Have I ever driven recklessly while pissed off at a partner? Yes. Have I ever slapped a partner? Yes. Have I ever shoved a partner? Yes. Haven’t kicked or bitten a partner though. Have thrown a picture frame at a partner once long ago. Even hit one partner with a belt during a particularly long fight years ago. Is that all worthy of being labeled “abusive”? Perhaps, to some degree. Have partners ever shoved me? Yes. Has a partner ever kicked me? Once, yes. Has a partner ever driven recklessly without concern for scaring the crap out of me? Yes. Has a man I was intimately involved with ever slapped me? Yes (was the hardest slap I’ve ever been dealt to this day). Don’t recall ever being bitten, at least not by someone with malicious intentions. This sort of shit, so far as I can tell, occurs within intimate relationships sometimes. Perhaps due to immaturity ultimately. But it can and does tend to run both ways. Yet when Robin looks at hetero dynamics, she seems to miss the point that women can initiate these acts of “violence” as well. Doesn’t require dating women for one to feel froggy and to try pushing the envelope during a dispute.

And I don’t consider most of my relationships all that aggressive or particularly violent compared to many out there. Guess it depends what all is being compared. Just power differentials in action, testing boundaries and exerting control when anger and frustration mounts. Females are prone to do this just as much as males are, if not possibly a bit more so within our intimate partnerships since we tend to operate under the assumption that our male lovers won’t come completely unhinged on us due to respecting their own physical strength and the problems that may come with unleashing that, especially on someone they love. But that can set up an unfair dynamic in a hurry if we females aren’t cognizant of this fact and don’t acknowledge the inequality so often sown into the mix there. To push on someone who feels like his hands are tied can lead to a whole lot of resentment and a feeling of being disrespected. Respect appearing to be the key feature deserving to be kept in mind in any relational dynamics.

(Take note of that last paragraph though in the excerpt above. These findings pertain to “mostly white, middle-class lesbians,” and there is not mention of the size of the data pool being investigated for these purposes. But at least it did include a disclaimer of sorts.)

What qualifies nowadays as sexual and psychological abuse often varies widely. I’d need a detailed breakdown of what’s counted within these categories to say much more there. But I do find it interesting that the statistics used claim “24% to 90%” seeing as how that’s a hell of a wide margin right there. That’s the difference between 2-3 and 9 in 10, so this tells me the assessment is quite subjective and can’t help but differ depending on how each action in question is categorized by each researcher involved. And such is the tangled web that is the social science sphere — much as I can appreciate the field’s insights, it’s not conducting science in the strictest sense of the word and never will be able to since it relies on highly subjective data and a heck of a lot of self-reports. So speculation can’t help but factor in there on a various levels, making these sorts of topics very sticky and easily colored by one’s own perceptions and assumptions (impacted also by prior teachings), ranging from the one claiming to have been victimized on up to the researchers and then journalists who publicize these matters. Then we who read them.

Just sayin’ is all. Nothing in human life or interactions tends to be clear-cut and definitive.

Returning to the original article, I don’t doubt sexual abuse can occur in lesbian relationships. Have heard of the role coercion can play and also experienced it firsthand myself as a youth living with an older lesbian relative. Why people assume that women are incapable of doing sexual harm to others remains a mystery to me. All humans possess the potential to sexually harm others, and these acts may be perpetrated against other females, males, and children. Sadism isn’t the domain of males alone.

Robin goes on to say:

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Pardon me for seeming calloused here, but times have significantly changed throughout this country. Unless you reside in a rural town out in the Styx or in the Deep South, there are thriving homosexual communities in nearly every metropolitan area in the U.S. Now, I can understand how it may be hard to come out to one’s family and face that judgement, but I don’t know how we get around that. Doesn’t necessarily take a bad relationship to wind up outing a person either. The beauty of the times we live in currently is that there are tons of resources available online and people can now digitally access help from others who are sympathetic to their plight. We’d have to be focusing only on the extreme end of the abusive relationship spectrum if we took it for granted that the abused partner could have no time to herself, no internet access that wasn’t surveilled, no opportunity to leave the house and retreat to elsewhere (like to a library which does provide internet access), etc. This assumes the average lesbian who finds herself in this predicament not only lacks the support of family members but also is isolated from all friends. What does one think the likelihood is of this being the norm other than perhaps in the most egregious cases?

She may lack money, but from what I know of lesbians, in the majority of cases both do work for pay. Are we to assume the perpetrator in a great many of these abusive dynamics also maintains control over her partner’s finances? So much so that she can’t even afford a greyhound ticket out of the area so as to seek resources to help herself? For about $100 a person can purchase a greyhound bus ticket and head to anywhere in this country. Yes, when we abandon bad relationships (whether familial or intimate) sometimes we wind up leaving a bunch of our material acquisitions behind, sometimes even our pets. That can be the cost of freedom in some cases. I don’t know what to tell people when it comes down to that extreme of a situation, other than go ahead and run. If the controlling behavior and abuse is at such a fever-pitch that you cannot imagine surviving it much longer, then take off by any means necessary. Go out grocery shopping and never come back. You’d likely be better off trying your luck in dealing with perfect strangers than staying with someone who menaces and controls you to such a severe extent. And that goes for anybody facing such major challenges. Sometimes we have to leave the old life behind and simply remove ourselves from the vicinity, and a bus ticket is a fairly cheap and easy way to do so. There are women’s shelters available elsewhere, far away, that can help women in such dire situations, that’s assuming local police intervention had already proven unhelpful.

Life’s not fair. It’s just life. Nobody ever promised us a rose garden, harsh as that may sound. We have to recognize how we wind up in the relationship dynamics that we do, how that involved our consent, at least initially, and that a severe abuser oftentimes doesn’t start off that way so there is a window of opportunity to recognize how we might’ve taken notice and shifted gears, getting ourselves out of the troubling situation before it went off the rails. And sometimes people are young, naive, and have to learn things the hard way the first time (or so) around. I can sympathize with that. But the choice still remains ours ultimately. This is a big country with a lot of room for one to run, lots of places to hide out for a spell, and typically even the most disgruntled lover will eventually leave you be, given enough space and time.

This fear of going to the police or going public in our times of need is something we’re going to have to reckon with. Because if we don’t figure out a way to be our own advocates, and if we aren’t willing to take an assertive stand when needed, people are prone to ignore us. And by “us” I’m referring here to anybody who is meek, quiet, unwilling to seek out aid, unwilling to put up a fight so as to escape what’s become a dangerous situation (which excludes me, by and large, since I’m prone to fight back — so maybe “we” in the sense of having ever faced a really shitty relationship and/or situation where we just needed bail…screw it, be done with it, once and for all, even if that means heading to a friend’s place to stay a few weeks or buying a bus ticket and heading elsewhere).

My former mother-in-law was pretty meek and mild and had remained involved in a 26-year-long marriage to a man who came to beat their 5 kids and then turned on her by the end too. She was a homemaker since meeting him at age 16 and had no work experience and no access to money. And yet she got away, without the need to retreat to a woman’s shelter. Despite living in a small town down South and being married to a preacher with a lot of crazy relatives around, and despite her husband harassing the hell out of her throughout the divorce process (which took ~2 years). That’s anecdotal, sure, and doesn’t pertain to lesbians, but I put that out there because it does demonstrate how someone even as subservient and controlled (financially, psychologically, socially, physically, etc.) as that woman found a way out, amid lots of harassment and being denounced by her faith and members of her community, and has since moved on to a better life where she found work, then returned to school to study nursing, and has since remarried to a decent man. Her ex-husband was a true tyrant and it looked like he’d never give up, but he finally did. And they both remain living in the same small community even (crazily enough). She had one minor kid (my ex-husband) still living at home throughout that whole ordeal. The police were notified, yet threatening letters kept coming. I’ve read some of them — her ex-husband was really trying to break her down psychologically. So I look at a case like that, one which I was first exposed to age 17 shortly after the dust had began settling on the matter, and see a sign of opportunity for a person willing to escape a dangerous and controlling dynamic. No women’s shelters in the area, family living a ways off, but still — you make up your mind and throw down the gauntlet and that can be it, finito. Unless your partner is willing to murder you, what power can they still truly wield over you at that point? Get people to turn against you? That happens sometimes, hard as it can be to take. Again, even if the cops are prejudiced in your present jurisdiction, very little can stop a person from retreating elsewhere, like to a larger city where more resources will very likely be accessible.

But I already know most folks will come up with more excuses. Will tell me it’s somehow different in their particular cases. Each case is unique, sure, but that still doesn’t render an individual powerless. The reality, unfortunately, is that it appears some folks stay in bad relationships because they, for whatever reason(s), relish victim status. Horrible as that is to acknowledge, haven’t we all seen evidence of that in some of the old couples we’ve grown up around? Playing “good guy” off that one’s “bad guy.” Far as I can tell, this isn’t sex-specific behavior either, though the most dependent partner (whether that be financially and/or emotionally/psychologically) isn’t necessarily the one deemed by society to be the one assumed to face the greatest societal oppression. Lesbian dynamics add another layer, or rather, perhaps they help strip it away so as to demonstrate how masculinity isn’t a ruling factor automatically.

What I find interesting in these cases is how the most aggressive party often enough is actually the most dependent psychologically on the other overall. His or her identity is somehow tied up with them in a major way, hence the controlling behavior intended to keep their partner. Not that that justifies extreme violence or mistreatment, just noting how tangled of a web these dynamics prove to be.

Returning to the article again….I don’t grasp the notion of “homophobia.” That’s not an accurate term to clarify what’s actually occurring in most cases. It’s not typically a fear of homosexuality so much as distaste for something far outside of one’s norm. And this notion of “internalized homophobia” further perplexes me. I can understand how a person may fear others’ reactions to their sexual identity, and I can understand how one’s been told all their life that their own way of being is abominable. I get how that can lead to some self-loathing, questioning why we are as we are, reckoning with the religious doctrines we grew up on that are used as the basis to discriminate against us, etc. But many of us face that regardless of whether we’re homosexuals or condemned for other aspects of our sexuality or for losing our religions over time or for rejecting long-standing portions of the status quo, etc. If we really stop and think about it, any of us could form any number of complexes over the ways in which we clash with convention, and plenty of us do. Perhaps this is where the importance of self-esteem, or self-love, or at least self-acceptance on some planes, must enter into the equation, sappy and watered down as those concepts have become under the new-age self-help movement’s influence. To at least come to terms with the fact that we each offer up our own unique perspectives, our own vantage points, in this life and that they possess some measure of value regardless of what some others might think — this sounds like where we need to be heading toward, coming to recognize our own inherent value and expanding it, building upon it, developing our own potential. People may try to take that away from us, even those closest to us sometimes due to their own fears and problems, but ultimately this quest is our own, individually. For a woman to love a woman, or a man to love a man, or a man to love a woman, or a woman to love a man, I think what matters most here is that there be love. So our next concern winds up being with what love is and how it manifests, as well as coming to grips with it not being the fantasy we’re commonly peddled but rather is deeper, richer, and more complicated than that.

Life involves struggling, and this is why I’m quick to caution folks on labeling everything under the sun “abuse.” Makes it to where serious instances of abuse cannot be differentiated from lesser forms of mistreatment or unkindness. Not all are created equal, nor should they be lumped into the same category together automatically. Does us all more harm than good in the long run when we do that, this I’ve come to believe. Because humans are an aggressive species, we are prone to be controlling (whether passively or actively), and we do make mistakes that call on us to do soul-searching and to make amends where possible. No one alive is a saint through-and-through, and I’d argue very few are truly demonic and incapable of becoming better than they are today. BUT, we’re not all compatible with one another and can at times bring out the worst in each other. We can love somebody for the rest of our life and yet still not be the one best suited to them in a romantic relationship. Such is life. The more we resist this truth, the more likely we will engage in battles over power with one another, and that can lead to things being taken too far. If we don’t want this to occur, we have to become more real with ourselves and our loved ones. I see no other way around that. Most aren’t out here seeking to punish others for the simple pleasure of doing so, particularly not when they believe themselves to love the other, so why does this pain so often crop up anyway? That’s the question, and it cuts down deep into our very beings, our drives and perceived needs, our sense of feeling broken by our pasts, our confusion over how to best navigate with others, our fears of abandonment, etc. Is this not the human condition, and are we all not subject to its lunacy?

When I take this sort of perspective, it makes it more difficult in most cases to view one partner simply as the victim and the other, by contrast, as the perpetrator. Exceptions certainly do occur, but I believe here we’re trying to focus on the broad spectrum. Can’t always control what another person may try to do or protect ourselves from their craziness, but do we not have a great deal of control over ourselves, at least in terms of what we decide we will or won’t put up with? And over how we communicate that to others, particularly through the example we set? Seems the general notion of “victim vs. perpetrator” is one that focuses largely outside of the personal dynamic and concerns itself primarily with onlookers and their perspectives, their claims to what is wrong or right or acceptable, their social pressures. When really the choices lie with ourselves and those we choose to let close to us. Is it really the business of society to police our intimate arrangements, considering we are grown adults with voices and options of our own? It would seem wise to focus more attention on determining our own fates than worrying over the claims of others who aren’t privy to the direct details of our personal lives. Because as we have it now, more and more people are being targeted by law enforcement and whatever else due to the problems they may be facing behind closed doors, even if help wasn’t requested by either party. That’s an unnerving trend. Wouldn’t it be so much better if we worked our best to police our own matters? Check ourselves and figure out more effective means of communication and seek out compatible partners whom we can be reasonable and upfront with? Instead of relying on the power of the State to determine the outcomes for us once our romances have gone awry?

There’s a much larger stream of topics here, but I’ve written enough for one afternoon.

Winston Wu on social dysfunction in America

Currently watching this interview of Winston Wu on social dysfunction in America:

According to the video’s description, that interview was conducted by Robert Stark on March 19th, 2012.

Actually was filing my taxes while listening to this talk, because why not heap more salt on the wound?  american_smilie  ack_smilie

Wu makes a good point about so-called “liberals” that I’ve found to be true as well. Though I disagree on hundreds of matters with self-described conservatives I’ve met or befriended, they seem generally way better able to tolerate a standing disagreement than the liberal folks I’ve known. Which is probably why I take up more time with self-described conservatives despite me being someone openly critical of both duopoly-supporting political camps. And it’s kinda goofy considering where I stand on various issues; for instance, I’m pro-choice when it comes to accessing abortions, I’m extremely resistant to ideas and legislation pushed by neoconservatives, I support gay rights to marry and adopt kids, and also I take issue with criminalizing drug use, prostitution, and other matters of personal choice engaged in willfully by adults.  And yet, I’ve run up against liberal angst more times than I can count simply because I don’t toe the line the way they do or I approach a concern from a perspective they’re not as familiar with. Another example here is I also defend the right to self defense and believe that maintaining gun rights is as essential as protecting free speech and the right to avoid illegal search and seizure (or, more accurately, the 2nd amendment allows other rights to stand), and upon hearing that they tend to treat me as if I’m insane.

The message I’m taking away from these battles with self-described liberals is that they have a set “code” they abide by and expect all others to embrace as well, and if you don’t fall in line with all of it, you’re somehow branded the enemy. That’s ridiculous, but it seems to be the attitude, and it’s quite true that after differing opinions on matters such as these come to light, my liberal pals tended to walk away and even sometimes cut off contact. Not helpful or open-minded, to say the least.

That actually bugs me a good bit. Because then there’s the other side of the fence where if you say you support Ralph Nader or think Venezuelans have the right to manage their own country as they see fit, then you’re dismissed as a “radical,” nevermind that holding these views is consistent with a liberally tolerant ethos. There’s definite hypocrisy sown there, yet most liberals I’ve met won’t acknowledge it. We’re only supposed to be open to what the majority or them are open to, and that’s dependent on whatever Democrat president or congressperson has to say on any given day? Bullshit.

I never forget how crazed people acted the night Obama won the election in 2008. They literally acted star-struck. I was sitting in a small bar where everyone there were huddling around the televisions, and apparently myself and one other man in the place were the only two people who hadn’t voted for Obama. I recall piping up about how people were behaving as if they were witnessing the second coming of Christ, and some guy replied back, seemingly in all seriousness: “It might be.” That was just fucking spooky, so I headed out for a smoke with the McCain-supporter who considered me an ally purely because I wasn’t caught up with the rest of the herd that evening who were stuck fawning over the tv screens in awe. He said something about flowers sprouting out of the pavement, alluding to those folks believing now that the impossible will somehow magically become possible all because Obama had won the election. And it was true…those folks were just that wrapped up emotionally that they were pretty much worshiping the man. And these were the same people who had been ridiculing Bush-supporters for the last 8 years. They could see no irony in their own shift toward completely idolizing a political figurehead of their own.

That was one eerie evening. And it only got worse after that. The peace-building organization I was volunteering with at the time lost its mind and began backtracking on their stated commitments in an effort to accommodate whatever seemed in line with what Obama’s crowd was up to. Once it became apparent the man had lied and blown smoke up people’s asses to win their support, they utterly refused to accept it. I had gotten involved in that volunteer venture thinking I was supporting a nonpartisan organization that stood on Quaker principles, when unfortunately it turned out that plenty within its ranks were zealous sellouts in lockstep with the Democrat Party. Very disappointing. And when I’d occasionally voice disagreement or try to get us thinking outside the two-party box during meetings, a few seemed to resent my involvement. After 3+ years of that I said “fuck it” and moved on. Life’s too short for such nonsense. Why hand over blind adoration to any political leader? And why aim to silence any and all dissenting views, especially when you claim to be dissidents yourselves? That’s plain wacky, if you ask me.

While I have met my fair share of freaky Republicans and right-wing bible-thumpers, I’m tempted to claim I’ve met even more intolerant left-wingers over the course of my life. That claim should raise eyebrows considering this is coming from a Deep Southerner who willfully re-transplanted herself north of the Mason-Dixon line many years ago. [Not that I’m necessarily proud of that fact, but it is indicative of what it is.] I’ve managed to have hours-long arguments and discussions with libertarians, anarchists and neocons, and not always by my (initial) choosing — yet those interactions more often felt productive and openly-engaged in than what’s transpired between myself and many claiming to be liberals. They don’t like my answers and questions and tend to just shut down and walk off, frequently enough attacking my character and insulting me as ignorant and backwards before departing. That’s a pain in the rear to keep dealing with. If you’ve got a beef, let’s discuss it. Just lay out your positions and I’ll counter and we’ll talk about it. But no. That’s so rarely how it goes.

Back to the video…”fake optimism” — yes, that’s totally an expectation in the parts of the U.S. I’ve lived in. Deep conversations are discouraged. As people keep repeating to me: folks around here would rather not be serious and they find the topics I bring up “depressing” and “negative.” It’s frustrating to keep running into that. Heard it from my latest romantic partner (who hates hearing about anything he considers remotely political in nature — he totally opted out of all of it, including voting), heard it again recently from a female friend I’ve known since 5th grade (the same one who in the past has referred to my political writings as “offensive” and twice called me a “Debbie-Downer” doh ), heard it a while back from my Adderall-prescribed male relative, heard it at least alluded to from the last three pothead galpals I used to hang out with (the last of whom was an active and vocal feminist), and don’t get me started in on what all’s been said at bars (though it’s worth mentioning I’ve had some memorably lovely and interesting conversations struck up with strangers at bars…just never at sports bars, which are taking over).

So I turn to the internet and write here and in others’ comment sections. And what do we encounter? Too much blocking. Everybody thinks they’re supposed to be a censor these days.

Social networking sites and apps have a serious downside, as we’re discovering. Through them, we’ve invented new ways to chastise, ridicule, and ostracize one another. But on the upside, these venues offer the opportunity for outliers and “oddballs” to share views and interact with willing others, and that’s nice. It all boils down to how we as users choose to handle these technologies as to what potential winds up being unlocked.

Pausing at 46:49…I gotta say, I only partially agree with him on the dating scene. IME, men (especially young men) are prone to being every bit as narcissistic as women. What I’ve noticed, particularly during my time working as an escort, is that plenty of men expect their partners to look better than themselves. From what I gather, some seem to think they’ve earned the right to keep an attractive female partner, likes it’s some reward they deserve. When it comes to casual sex and most especially the bar scene, I think men generally keep a more open mind when it comes to appearances, but I do think those same men tend to hold higher standards for their romantic interests.

What I didn’t like there was Wu making it seem like all women are vying for the (supposed) top 10% of males in this country. What I do think is going on is we women have gotten caught up in thinking the grass is always greener on the other side, so we have a hard time being content with our lives and relationships. Another casualty of the era of information overload is that women seem to feel bombarded by demands and contradictory ideas and televised fantasies to where we’ve become paranoid about not receiving what we perceive are our dues. This ties back in with feminism so far as it flavors discussions with the notion that we womenfolk are being screwed and that we shouldn’t accept our “plight.” In other words, feminism has helped to supply an unending list of complaints and grievances that get us thinking we’re getting the short of the stick and are “settling” when we should be aspiring toward something greater (whether that be a prestigious job or a more romantic partner or the acquisition of status symbols). In short, feminist influence has sown seeds of discontent where they otherwise might not have emerged. That’s a problem for all involved.

Well, we are being screwed, but not by men in general. It’s like our attention is channeled toward viewing our anxieties and frustrations as resulting from our relationships, which then leads to thinking that if her partner would change this, this and this, she’d be satisfied. But it’s not true. Satisfaction won’t come that easily, and it’ll just turn into more demands and more concern over disappointments. In reality we’re all facing bullshit in this country that’s driving us all a bit batty in whatever which ways, and that’s putting a strain on each of us. A partner’s concessions alone—or replacing a partner, or finding a partner, or scoring a better-paying job, or accumulating more material goods—cannot remedy what ails us collectively. These are cultural and societal problems bearing down on us. But we tend to like to blame those closest to us, and this is tearing us apart and breaking down needed social bonds.

Crazy times we live in. Not sure if I buy into countries in Europe being on so much of a better track than the U.S., but then I’ve never traveled to those countries to get a feel for myself. Haven’t so far had the opportunity to make it past Tijuana.

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Update the next day: Ok. I admit it. I’m biased when it comes to “liberals” since I associate them primarily with people outside of the South, especially really “progressive” types. Whereas “conservatives” live everywhere (though obviously not all are of the same stripe) and I came up familiar with interacting with them.

For me there’s turned out to be a lot more guesswork that goes into communicating with liberals, because even when we superficially agree, we frequently come at a given situation with very different reasoning, which seems to irritate many of them. As someone who’s used to not being in agreement with anybody 100% of the way, it confuses me that they’re blown away by the fact that I don’t also support this, this, and this just because I’m sympathetic to that, that, and that. (There the contention often boils down to my disinterest in focusing primarily on seeking legal remedies and forming coalitions to address all possible “inequities.”)

But I’ve verbally tangled with folks across the spectrum and can drum up gripes about them all.  ha

(Last updated: 4/24/2014 for enhanced accuracy.)

Series on the book “Illusions of Egalitarianism” (plus my thoughts)

“Illusions of Egalitarianism I – Intro and Overview”:

“Illusions of Egalitarianism II – The Inconsistency of Aims”:

“Illusions of Egalitarianism III – The Denial of Responsibility”:

“Illusions of Egalitarianism IV – Remainder of Review”:

Today I’m listening the the 4th and last part in the series on the book Illusions of Egalitarianism by John Kekes reviewed by YTer and AVFMer Victor Zen.

I especially appreciate Keke’s list read at about the 26 minute mark. Pausing right there, I must say Keke’s views as relayed by VZ strike me as along the same vein as my own when it comes to egalitarianism. He’s obviously demonstrated his position in much more detail, and I haven’t read his book for myself, but I’ve nodded along with everything presented about his views in this video series and am wondering how I haven’t heard of that author before now.

But views take time to form, and once upon a time I would have described myself as an egalitarian so far as understanding people deserve to be treated equally in the eyes of the Law and that extreme social and economic imbalances are creating tons of problems for our society. Views evolve alongside coming to terms with reality, and through gaining experience in living we do see that not all people are truly equal, nor can they be transformed into being so. We obviously do possess different moral compasses and modi operandi in our approaches to living and being. That’s just a fact of life, and it’s made blatantly evident when we examine cases of psychopaths and extreme sadists. Criminality of the most heinous varieties signal to us what some people are capable of, and we’re horrified precisely because we’re not geared in those same sort of ways. There are lines most of draw that some do not, and that proves true in respect to both good and evil inclinations and orientations. In simplest terms, we’re not equally constituted when it comes to moral character, as Kekes pointed out as well.

Acknowledging that alone issues a major blow to egalitarian logic.

Furthermore, the road to hell may be paved with good intentions, to paraphrase Mark Twain. We see how much power conformist pressures have over us, and this speaks to a big reason why I yammer on about individualism as I do. It’s easy for humans to get caught up in group-think when it comes to shared ideals and collectivist political strategies, and that has the effect of framing dissidents and supporters of different principles as either unenlightened or criminal. When special interest movements and ideologues become entrenched in our political institutions, freedom gets jeopardized and undermined, as we’ve been witnessing in action up through the 20th century.

It’s interesting that the author brought up liberal optimism. The way I see that is it’s a movement that’s optimistic about being able to use the coercive power of the State to usher in an ideal regardless of whether there’s a true consensus among the people. Once again, dissidents are deemed irrelevant or enemies of the new objectives and are treated accordingly. They are optimistic because their advocates have become entrenched in the power structures-that-be and because they utilize immense social pressure to either convert or silence others who may disagree with popular programs. Here I’m focusing on the Political Left, but the Political Right has a game of its own that’s proving just as detrimental (i.e., economics-worshiping neoconservatism) — that’s just outside of the scope of the topic.

So why wouldn’t they be optimistic when the plan of harnessing political power is to appeal to the power-hungry and to force consensus among the rest? Sounds like a winning strategy, though it undoubtedly won’t turn out as most had hoped and intended.

That leads to what VZ shared about Keke’s views on how egalitarians tend to prefer not to commit to set courses of action and in designing an overarching framework when it comes to the political process and sphere. And that I find very interesting and am glad he brought up, because that’s precisely what is missing there. The libertarian ethos can at least be boiled down to relatively simple principles capable of being used to fashion laws that do treat people as equals in the eyes of the State, and yet the liberal approach appears to be more of a hodge-podge of thrown together preferences and knee-jerk demands in response to this or that perceived travesty. The latter presents no coherent gameplan for structuring society in a functional manner, thereby leaving the internal workings of the system up to chance by not being well thought out. It’s a political movement based more on wishful thinking than determining how such a scheme would work.

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A comparative look into the history of the mental health field — excerpts from Dr. Thomas Szasz’s book “The Manufacture of Madness”

Following are transcribed tidbits from a book by Dr. Thomas Szasz titled The Manufacture of Madness: A Comparative Study of the Inquisition and the Mental Health Movement (1970), beginning with pages 13-15:

With the decline of the power of the Church and of the religious world view, in the seventeenth century, the inquisitor-witch complex disappeared and in its place there arose the alienist-madman complex.

In the new—secular and “scientific”—cultural climate, as in any other, there were still the disadvantaged, the disaffected, and the men who thought and criticized too much. Conformity was still demanded. The nonconformist, the objector, in short, all who denied or refused to affirm society’s dominant values, were still the enemies of society. To be sure, the proper ordering of this new society was no longer conceptualized in terms of Divine Grace; instead, it was viewed in terms of Public Health. Its internal enemies were thus seen as mad, and Institutional Psychiatry came into being, as had the Inquisition earlier, to protect the group from this threat.

The origins of the mental health hospital system bear out these generalizations. “The great confinement of the insane,” as Michel Foucault aptly calls it, began in the seventeenth century: “A date can serve as a landmark: 1656, the decree that founded, in Paris, the Hôpital Général.” The decree founding this establishment, and others throughout France, was issued by the king, Louis XIII: “We choose to be guardian and protector of said Hôpital Général as being of royal founding . . . which is to be totally exempt from the direction, visitation, and jurisdiction of the officers of the General Reform . . . and from all others to whom we forbid all knowledge and jurisdiction in any fashion or manner whatsoever.”

The original, seventeenth-century definition of madness—as the condition justifying confinement in the asylum—conformed to the requirements for which it was fashioned. To be considered mad, it was enough to be abandoned, destitute, poor, unwanted by parents or society. The regulations governing admission to the Bicêtre and the Salpêtrière—the two Parisian mental hospitals destined to become world famous—put into effect on April 20, 1680, provided that “children of artisans and other poor inhabitants of Paris up to the age of twenty-five, who used their parents badly or who refused to work through laziness, or, in the case of girls, who were debauched or in evident danger of being debauched, should be shut up, the boys in the Bicêtre, the girls in the Salpêtrière. This action was to be taken on the complaint of the parents, or, if these were dead, of near relatives, or the parish priest. The wayward children were to be kept as long as the directors deemed wise and were to be released only on written order by four directors.” In addition to these persons “prostitutes and women who ran bawdy houses” were to be incarcerated in a special section of the Salpêtrière.

The consequences of these “medical” practices are described by a French observer after the Salpêtrière had been in operation for a century:

In 1778, the Salpêtrière is the largest hospital in Paris and possibly in Europe: this hospital is both a house for women and a prison. It receives pregnant women and girls, wet nurses and their nurselings; male children from the age of seven or eight months to four or five years of age; young girls of all ages; aged married men and women; raving lunatics, imbeciles, epileptics, paralytics, blind persons, cripples, people suffering from ringworm, incurables of all sorts, children afflicted with scrofula, and so on and so forth. At the center of this hospital is a house of detention for women, comprising four different prisons: le commun, for the most dissolute girls; la correction, for those who are not considered hopelessly depraved; la prison, reserved for persons held by order of the king; and la grande force, for women branded by order of the courts.

Surveying this scene, George Rosen bluntly states that “the individual was committed not primarily to receive medical care but rather to protect society and to prevent the disintegration of its institutions.”

As recently as 1860, it was not necessary to be mentally ill to be incarcerated in an American mental institution; it was enough to be a married woman. When the celebrated Mrs. Packard was hospitalized in the Jacksonville State Insane Asylum for disagreeing with her minister-husband, the commitment laws of the state of Illinois explicitly proclaimed that “Married women . . . may be entered or detained in the hospital at the request of the husband of the woman or the guardian . . . without the evidence of insanity required in other cases.”

In short, it is only a relatively recent rationalization in the history of psychiatry that a person must “suffer” from a “mental disease”—like schizophrenia or senile psychosis—to justify his commitment. Being an unemployed young man, a prostitute, or a destitute old person used to suffice. “We must not forget,” remarks Foucault, “that a few years after its foundation [in 1656], the hôpital général of Paris alone contained six thousand persons, or around one percent of the population.” As a means of social control and of the ritualized affirmation of the dominant social ethic, Institutional Psychiatry immediately showed itself to be a worthy successor to the Inquisition. Its subsequent record, as we shall see, has been equally distinguished.

The French hôpital général, the German Irrenhaus, and the English insane asylum thus become the abodes of persons called mad. Are they considered mad, and therefore confined in these institutions? Or are they confined because they are poor, physically ill, or dangerous, and therefore considered mad? For three hundred years, psychiatrists have labored to obscure rather than clarify this simple problem. Perhaps it could not have been otherwise. As happens also in other professions—especially in those pertaining to the regulation of social affairs—psychiatrists have been largely responsible for creating the problems they have ostensibly tried to solve. But then, like other men, psychiatrists cannot be expected to act systematically against their own economic and professional self-interests.

Picking back up on pages 51-53:

We would like our hospitals . . . to be looked upon as treatment centers for sick people, and we want to be, of course, considered as doctors and not jailers. . . . It is well known that there are legal safeguards against what is commonly called railroading people into mental hospitals, and we contend that people are well protected in all of the States. I have never in 30 years of constant living with this problem seen anyone whom I thought was being railroaded. . . . The opposite is true, however. People are railroaded out of mental hospitals before they should be, because these institutions are so crowded . . .

. . . I wish to point out that the basic purpose [of commitment] is to make sure that sick human beings get the care that is appropriate to their needs . . .

We, as doctors, want our psychiatric hospitals . . . to be looked upon as treatment centers for sick people in the same sense that general hospitals are so viewed.

If psychiatrists really wanted these things, all they would have to do is to unlock the doors of mental hospitals, abolish commitment, and treat only those persons who, like in nonpsychiatric hospitals, want to be treated. This is exactly what I have been advocating for the past fifteen years.

Lea describes the social function of the Inquisition thus: “The object of the Inquisition is the destruction of heresy. Heresy cannot be destroyed unless heretics are destroyed. . . . [T]his is effected in two ways, viz., when they are converted to the true Catholic faith, or when, on being abandoned to the secular arm, they are corporally burned.” This statement is readily converted into a description of the social function of the Mental Health Movement: “The object of Psychiatry is the eradication of mental illness. Mental illness cannot be eradicated unless the mentally ill are eradicated. . . . [T]his is effected in two ways, viz., when they are restored to mental health, or when, on being confined in state mental hospitals, they prove incurably sick and are therefore removed from contact with healthy society.”

Perhaps more than anything else, the claim of a helping role by the prosecutors and the judge made the witch trial a vicious affair. “The accused was,” Lea tells us, “prejudged. He was assumed to be guilty, or he would not have been put on trial, and virtually his only mode of escape was by confessing the charges made against him, abjuring heresy, and accepting whatever punishment might be imposed on him in the shape of penance. Persistent denial of guilt and assertion of orthodoxy . . . rendered him an impenitent, obstinate heretic, to be abandoned to the secular arm and consigned to the stake.”

The assumption of a therapeutic posture by the institutional psychiatrist leads to the same heartless consequences. Like the accused heretic, the accused mental patient commits the most deadly sin when he denies his illness and insists that his deviant state is healthy. Accordingly, the most denigrating diagnostic labels of psychiatry are reserved for those individuals who, although declared insane by the experts, and confined in madhouses, stubbornly persist in claiming to be sane. They are said to be “completely lacking in insight,” or described as “having broken with reality,” and are usually diagnosed as “paranoid” or “schizophrenic.” The Spanish inquisitors also had a demeaning name for such persons: they called them “negativos.” “The negativo,” Lea explains, “who persistently denied his guilt, in the face of competent testimony, was universally held to be a pertinacious impenitent heretic, for whom there was no alternative save burning alive, although . . . he might protest a thousand times that he was a Catholic and wished to live and die in the faith. This was the inevitable logic of the situation. . . .”

One of the important differences between a person accused of crime and one accused of mental illness is that the former is often allowed bail, whereas the latter never is.

Moving along to page 58:

The conduct of a society’s business, as that of an individual’s, may be likened to playing a game. The religions, laws, and mores of society constitute the rules by which people must play—or else they will be penalized, one way or another. Obviously, the simpler the games and the fewer in number, the easier it is to play them. This is why open societies and the freedoms they offer represent an onerous burden to many people. As individuals find it difficult and taxing to play more than a single game, or at most a few, at any one time, so societies find it difficult and taxing to tolerate the existence of a plurality of games, each competing for the attention and loyalty of the citizens. Every group—and this includes societies—is organized and held together by a few ideas, values, and practices which cannot be questioned or challenged without causing its disruption, or at least a fear of its disruption. This is why independent thought often undermines group solidarity, and group solidarity often inhibits independent thought. “We belong to a group,” says Karl Mannheim, “not only because we are born into it, not merely because we profess to belong to it, nor finally because we give it our loyalty and allegiance, but primarily because we see the world and certain things in the world the way it does . . .” To see the world differently than our group does thus threatens us with ostracism. Hypocrisy, then, is the homage intellect pays to custom.

[Italicized emphasis his — bold emphasis mine]

Dr. Thomas Szasz really helped me flesh out my understanding on the subject of mental health, along with the writings of psychoanalyst Erich Fromm. Both I highly recommend others to check out. Because these are extremely important dots needing to be connected in the minds of people today who naively assume the field of psychiatry, along with the biopharmacology industry, to be looking out for people’s best interests. No, they are agents of something outside of us, namely 1.) the State and 2.) the economy. Even when well-intending people join its professional ranks, this does little to undermine its overarching agenda to press for a new kind of conformity among the masses.

Independent thought is indeed being pushed to the fringes, particularly if it demonstrates no economic value or seeks to undermine the status quo on any level.

Chris Hedges’ book “Empire of Illusions: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle”

Having read a number of Chris Hedges’ books, including American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America, War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, Losing Moses on the Freeway, I Don’t Believe in Atheists, his 2010 book titled Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle is another I’d like to offer up to others, though I wouldn’t recommend beginning with reading this one, this book being more of a summary and broad treatment of a collection of problems facing society. Hedges hits several major points, from our tantalization with Jerry Springer-esque forms of entertainment to the personal and societal destructiveness of hardcore pornography; from the dangers of corporatism and the realities and consequences we face today, as a nation and a people, politically, socially, and economically, to the power of love. This man does a great job of telling it like it is!

I’ll include some excerpts below, beginning on pages 14-15:

In The Republic, Plato imagines human beings chained for the duration of their lives in an underground cave, knowing nothing but darkness. Their gaze is confined to the cave wall, upon which shadows of the world above are thrown. They believe these flickering shadows are reality. If, Plato writes, one of these prisoners is freed and brought into the sunlight, he will suffer great pain. Blinded by the glare, he is unable to see anything and longs for the familiar darkness. But eventually his eyes adjust to the light. The illusion of the tiny shadows is obliterated. He confronts the immensity, chaos, and confusion of reality. The world is no longer drawn in simple silhouettes. But he is despised when he returns to the cave. He is unable to see in the dark as he used to. Those who never left the cave ridicule him and swear never to go into the light lest they be blinded as well.

Plato feared the power of entertainment, the power of the sense to overthrow the mind, the power of emotion to obliterate reason. No admirer of popular democracy, Plato said that the enlightened or elite had a duty to educate those bewitched by the shadows on the cave wall, a position that led Socrates to quip: “As for the man who tried to free them and lead them upward, if they could somehow lay their hands on him and kill him, they would do so.”

We are chained to the flickering shadows of celebrity culture, the spectacle of the arena and the airwaves, the lies of advertising, the endless personal dramas, many of them completely fictional, that have become the staples of news, celebrity gossip, New Age mysticism, and pop psychology.

On porn and profits, page 58:

There are some 13,000 porn films made every year in the United States, most in the San Fernando Valley in California. According to the Internet Filter Review, worldwide porn revenues, including in-room movies at hotels, sex clubs, and the ever-expanding e-sex world, topped $97 billion in 2006. That is more than the revenues of Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo!, Apple, Netflix, and Earthlink combined. Annual sales in the United States are estimated at $10 billion or higher. There is no precise monitoring of the porn industry. And porn is very lucrative to some of the nation’s largest corporations. General Motors owns DIRECTV, which distributes more than 40 million streams of porn into American homes every month. AT&T Broadband and Comcast Cable are currently the biggest American companies accommodating porn users with the Hot Network, Adult Pay Per View, and similarly themed services. AT&T and GM rake in approximately 80 percent of all porn dollars spent by consumers.

[Bold emphasis mine.]

Broaching the topic of the fall of the United States of America on page 142:

The country I live in today uses the same civic, patriotic, and historical language to describe itself, the same symbols and iconography, the same national myths, but only the shell remains. The America we celebrate is an illusion. America, the country of my birth, the country that formed and shaped me, the country of my father, my father’s father, and his father’s father, stretching back to the generations of my family that were here for the country’s founding, is so diminished as to be unrecognizable. I do not know if this America will return, even as I pray and work and strive for its return.

The words consent of the governed have become an empty phrase. Our textbooks on political science and economics are obsolete. Our nation has been hijacked by oligarchs, corporations, and a narrow, selfish, political, and economic elite, a small privileged group that governs, and often steals, on behalf of moneyed interests. This elite, in the name of patriotism and democracy, in the name of all the values that were once part of the American system and defined the Protestant work ethic, has systematically destroyed our manufacturing sector, looted the treasury, corrupted our democracy, and trashed the financial system. During this plundering we remained passive, mesmerized by the enticing shadows on the wall, assured our tickets to success, prosperity, and happiness were waiting around the corner.

Chris Hedges includes substantiating literature on the topics discussed, listed in the bibliography, with a few titles and authors specifically mentioned on page 146:

There were some who saw it coming. The political philosophers Sheldon S. Wolin, John Ralston Saul, and Andrew Bacevich, writers such as Noam Chomsky, Chalmers Johnson, David Korten, and Naomi Klein, and activists such as Bill McKibben, Wendell Berry, and Ralph Nader warned us about our march of folly. In the immediate years after the Second World War, a previous generation of social critics recognized the destructive potential of the rising corporate state. Books such as David Riesman’s The Lonely Crowd, C. Wright Mills’s The Power Elite, William H. White’s The Organization Man, Seymour Mellman’s The Permanent War Economy: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America, and Reinhold Niebuhr’s The Irony of American History have proved to be prophetic. This generation of writers remembered what had been lost. They saw the intrinsic values that were being dismantled. The culture they sought to protect has largely been obliterated. During the descent, our media and universities, extensions of corporate and mass culture, proved intellectually and morally useless. They did not thwart the decay. We failed to heed the wisdom of these critics, embracing instead the idea that all change was a form of progress.

In his book Democracy Incorporated, Wolin, who taught political philosophy at Berkeley and at Princeton, uses the phrase inverted totalitarianism to describe our system of power. Inverted totalitarianism, unlike classical totalitarianism, does not revolve around a demagogue or charismatic leader. It finds expression in the anonymity of the corporate state. It purports to cherish democracy, patriotism, and the Constitution while manipulating internal levers to subvert and thwart democratic institutions. Political candidates are elected in popular votes by citizens, but candidates must raise staggering amounts of corporate funds to compete. They are beholden to armies of corporate lobbyists in Washington or state capitals who author the legislation and get the legislators to pass it. Corporate media control nearly everything we read, watch, or hear. It imposes a bland uniformity of opinion. It diverts us with trivia and celebrity gossip. In classical totalitarianism regimes, such as Nazi fascism or Soviet communism, economics was subordinate to politics. “Under inverted totalitarianism the reverse is true,” Wolin writes. “Economics dominates politics—and with that domination comes different forms of ruthlessness.”

[Italicized emphasis his. Bold emphasis mine.]

Excerpts don’t do this book justice. I agree so much with this author. The man makes a great deal of sense, especially when I read this book in conjunction with other books like Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, Chris Hedges’ American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America, Jared Diamond’s Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, Richard L. Rubenstein’s The Cunning of History: Mass Death and the American Future, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, as well as Ron Paul’s End the Fed (not that I personally share Ron Paul’s exuberance for returning to a gold standard).

Here is a review of Empire of Illusion in The Cleveland Leader. I don’t share the reviewer’s disappointment with the ending, lamenting that “Hedges didn’t conclude his work with some small glimmers of hope.” Au contraire. Mr. Hedges ended on the most hopeful message one can offer: that we learn to love one another and make the necessary sacrifices to pull through. Love is no small matter. It may be all we really have…all that will ever set things right.

Below is an interview of Chris Hedges on GRITtv (July 2009):