Wednesday, July 12, 2017

A Brief and Spasmodic Shout on Why You Should Fight for Net Neutrality

So! The current presidential administration is pushing hard against net neutrality.
Net neutrality is essentially what makes the internet a common corridor where everyone's content, websites, and services are all treated the same. Opponents of net neutrality are claiming it's a restriction on a free market and thus stifling innovation. These opponents are also, conspicuously, all major telecom providers. The only way they're stifled is they don't feel particularly incentivized to make internet speed any greater, because internet access has surpassed luxury and become "utility" in function and shopping around is often impossible.

Essentially, telecoms are punching us in the face saying, "stop hitting yourself, stop hitting yourself" and saying that if we let them do what they want then they'd be allowed to stop punching us, but since we won't, they can't.
Net neutrality, as it stands today, is the reason an enormous sector of the economy has come into existence and become a critical element of success. It is a paragon of open market capitalism and freedom of expression. Truly.
Over the past twenty years on the principle of even footing and open competition has been utterly dependent on net neutrality allowing the best services and content to rise to the top and succeed, driving quality up across the board right with it. A removal of net neutrality allows cable providers to determine the speed at which you can access content, ideas, services, and that speed depends on how much the provider-side is willing to pay.
This is a slap in the face of small businesses, growing start-ups, artists, writers, activists, thinkers, literally everyone.
Net neutrality is a small, unassuming, and critical corner of the dream of those that value equality and unbridled capitalism. It's crucial to get behind it.

Click here (or on the image below) to send an email, call your congressperson, and start making noise because as silly as it sounds, and with as much else as we've got going on, this does genuinely matter to you, whether you realize it or not.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Man Plans, Daphne Waits.

The Colossus, all one hundred feet of iron, bronze, and stone, on its fifty-foot white marble pedestal, glared at the horizon. It was both a welcome and a warning to any coming ships. Daphne, tucked under its loincloth like a testicular tumor, was face down, suspended from the harness her brother had installed last week.
She was bored. This was the worst part of her job. She couldn't sing. She had no one to talk to. She resisted the urge to sway her hips and rock the harness like a hammock, imagining herself vomiting and giving away the game as the great statue dripped out what would look like a relatively small squeak of the “Spartan slipperies.” She stared at the ocean from the grand, afternoon-sun-baked bronze crotch until her vision blipped purple and she realized she'd have to close her eyes to let them readjust. To keep from falling asleep she went over the plan again.
At some point between the mealtime reign of Aktas and the darkening of Dysis, her target Megalesus would sail into the harbor with his easy to spot blue sails. At that point, she'd nock an arrow. When midship passed into her view, she'd draw and loose, leading Megalus’s sun-pinked bald head by the space of two of her fingers. As fast as she could, she’d then yank the leather thong dangling next to her head, dropping the ampules of sulfur and Stygian water, hopefully poisoning any gods that he may have struck a bargain with.
Daphne hoped he had a god on board. She'd never killed an Olympian. She didn't really know what sort of contacts Megalesus would have. She didn't think it'd be one of the Three Brothers, but a girl could hope. Maybe she'd watch Poseidon's great god-beard turn green and strangle him like angry kelp. She didn't know how the Stygian-sulphur mix actually worked, just that her grandmother told her its innovation was what made Zeus give their home to the Hellens. That'd been a long time ago, though. Nobody really talked about it anymore. As far as she knew, except for Damonax the hermit, there weren't even any others like them, the Telchines, the first people to come to Rhodes, around anymore. Well, except for her family and Megalesus, and her family had changed their name a long time ago.
Through the sweat, she still felt a blanch of fear. What if Apollo was with Megalesus? That'd be the worst. Apollo was her favorite, and not just because of her name, no matter what the boys said when she went to town, chasing her with waggling sheep guts strapped to their crotches screaming, "Get her before she can bark shut the joy cave, boys!" Or, that's what they used to say until she slowed down enough to let Mykonos, the tall boy that didn't waggle with nearly as much intensity, catch her. She said he could kiss her, but he froze like a startled goat. She cracked his cheekbone with a right cross that her brother claimed was so loud he heard it in the fields. The oracles declared her protected by Artemis, which is totally dumb because she didn't want to run from boys her whole life. Sometimes she wanted to chase them. That's why Apollo was her favorite. That's why she liked the Colossus so much.
He was like her, like her family. Everyone said the massive harbor statue was Helios, the Titan. Grandmother said they used to make weapons for the Titans, they were the best in the young world at it. They never made anything for Helios, but she still liked the Titans. People tried to tell her that Apollo took his job, but grandmother said that Helios was just adaptable and hid as an Olympian; that Helios just became Apollo. He was the only god she'd talk to. This brought Daphne back to her original concern, that Apollo might be on the ship with Megalesus (still no sign of his stupid boat), and she realized that the sun would still be up, there was no way he'd be on that boat. He had to ride the chariot home. And if that weren't enough, she was nestled beneath the greatest monument to the god-but-not-really-secretly-a-titan-and-totally-her-favorite. Even more than that, she was basically playing the part of his prick at the moment, with an actual bow to actually shoot at an enemy and bring retribution to something or other.
Daphne admitted that she mostly paid attention to the planning phases and less attention to the reasons behind the contract her father had taken. But still! She was toxic doom as the living manifestation of Apollo's great solar cock. Her vengeful solar god-crush would not be on the boat, and her arrow would not miss and she was totally definitely going to watch Poseidon get strangled by his green beard when she dropped the god poison.
By the looks of the sun, that entire chaotic thought-stampede had eaten up about half of Aktas's horai. She suppressed a melodramatic groan. Teenager or not, she still took pride in her work. She was one hungry hired killer, though. She should have packed lamb, at least some bread. She'd decided not to, figuring if she had to relieve herself, it wouldn't be an option (see Spartan slipperies) but she was regretting it now. She needed strength.
Nothing was available. All she had to snack on was a little thing her uncle had called “mental discipline.” She'd be in the zone, good to go. The stories would be impressive. All day, no food, just listening to waves break against the bronze echoed screams of her own unrelenting boredom. She waited. She struck. And Poseidon was totally killed too. They say Apollo himself rode in at dark on an indigo bull and took her to a place known only as 'The Acropolis of hot makeouts.'

The legend unfolded in her head, she figured Athenians would pick it up and soon everyone would be singing it. Nobody would care about the other Daphne that Apollo used to want. There was a new kid in town. Maybe she'd be an Argonaut. She'd sail, she'd get the next golden fleece.
Unfortunately, it took a picosecond for Daphne to connect golden fleece with gilded lamb shanks. She snapped out of her not-very-disciplined daydream and checked the sun's shadow again. Another half an hour. It was probably the horai of Dysis. The blue sails should be here any minute. She decided to fix her eyes on their likely point of arrival in her field of view and count silently.
The quiet lasted an unprofessional but admittedly understandable thirty seconds before she shouted: "Zeus's crackling butthole! I’m so bored!"
She'd had enough of waiting. She said a brief prayer to Apollo ("Dear divine sun, I will let you shine wherever you want if this fat bald asshole just sails his gross belly into my field of view and lets me shoot him through the skull so I can go home before dinner's cold and crawling with parasites.")
She about screamed again heard sailors shouting. With hands like a sparrowhawk, she unfastened her short bow and nocked an arrow. A ship's prow nosed through the outside perimeter of the Colossus's skirts. She splayed both her legs and braced herself against iron spars with her sandaled feet, bending the cork and leather with her toes and grasping the corners. She stabilized. Her heart started to beat faster but was willfully slowed with three steady, long breaths. Midship edged into her view and she twisted her head laterally, left then right, the joints in her spine cracking. She drew back on the bow, listening to the satisfying rasp of the gut string stretching against her effort. The timing was perfect. Megalesus was standing slightly to the left of center straddling two crates and laughing, apparently doing an impression of the Colossus. She flicked her eyes the span of two fingers ahead of him and loosed, then quickly yanking the cord on the Stygian bottles dangling on her left. The arrow's whistled passage was silenced by wind and distance almost instantly.

Megalesus, pointing upwards, making the same joke every jackass sailor makes about the giant Helios's missing manhood, was staring right at her when Daphne's arrow drove through his left eye socket. The arrowhead drove to just out the back of his skull, like a tack's point through a shoe. The sulfur jars landed between two sailors and predictably shattered and splattered.  Nobody clutched their throats and died, presumably because there were no gods on board or, as her brother would later explain, grandma was a total shit talker and she probably could have skipped the Olympian insurance.
Megalesus's last thought, "These guys work for me, but they really think I'm funny" would go undisputed, letting him die the way he lived, with undeserved self-confidence.  Nikostratos, his financier's assistant, was crestfallen. He'd wanted to tell Megalesus his jokes were terrible and now he'd have to wait until he died to do it. Nikostratos looked up at Helios, the crotch already behind them, and shook his fist.

Daphne, on the other hand, had already climbed out of her harness and worked her way into the great statue. At around what would be his prostate, instead of taking a left and shimmying down the path in the rockfill, she climbed up the interior to the top and squeezed out a seam behind the great bronze ear. She dropped down to a shoulder and looked away from the harbor. The ocean, slashed red by the setting sun, read to her as Apollo's favor. She put her fingers to her lips and blew a kiss to the vanishing wheel of her god, her titan's chariot, and blushed her goodbyes to the day.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

A Boring Reminder about Social Media for the Tired and Cranky.

Ooookay, time for a bit of a refresher course on using social media, because some of you seem kinda upset about what you feel is being inflicted upon you.

First and foremost, if you look at your social media feed and think, "Our society/culture/nation is falling apart" you either need to have more faith in your friends or you need to get some better friends. Put another way, if you look at a dumb joke or ridiculous article or cliche photo someone shared and think the worst about your friend, your friend is either actually the worst, or you automatically assume the worst about them. Both of these point to the same question: "Why are you connected to them? Why is this person polluting your feed or, in a larger capacity, your life?" This can be a good opportunity to examine what you want in a friend or at the very least, your newsfeed and privacy settings. (I suggest the former, but YMMV).

This goes for what news stories and products get promoted to you as well: if you look at (you don't even have to click, just look at) headlines that titillate or outrage you, FB, Twitter, Instagram, they're all smart enough to automatically serve you up more of the same. Your reaction doesn't necessarily dictate what you see so much as your action. Click/view means more opportunities to click/view, even if it steams your guts with bilious rage.

To that end, this is a great chance to do some soul searching and maybe improve your whole life. At this point, what you see on social media can be a relatively objective metric of who you really are. It's an indicator of your behavior vs. how you perceive your behavior.

Put more bluntly, it means that you either don't actually hate the politician or mouthy celebrity you see "everywhere!" or you can't stop the compulsion to hate-view content related to them, which is a serious personal problem that, fortunately, can be easily fixed.

Now, I can hear some of you saying, "but that will just create a bubble!" Yes, a little bit, it will.

There are some things to consider, though.

First, understand what, for you personally, a "bubble" really is. Is it an echo chamber? Is it an emotional state? Does breaking it mean exposure to things that make you rage? Or does it mean exposure to things that make you think deeply about who you are and what you believe? What do you want your free time (and make no mistake, that's almost automatically where social media sits in your day) to be for you and proceed from there.

Second, decide if you really want to not be in a bubble. People have always existed in bubbles through self-selecting peer groups, through social class, through race, hobbies, all that. This certainly creates a lot of problems, but it also gives people a moment of respite in their day to let their brain rest, if that's what it needs (and it does, more than we think, sometimes. On the one hand, use it or lose it, on the other, every solid athlete will tell you that you only actually get stronger when you rest and recover.) Social media put a microphone in front of everyone's face, stuck them in a room with everyone they know, and literally told them to share what was on their mind.

In doing so, it revealed a lot of errant thoughts and snap judgments on previously unspoken topics to large circles of friends that would have previously never have come up. This is the change social media brought. It didn't make anything objectively worse, it just took conversation as a concept and made it constant and performative. So, decide if you even want to keep the popped bubble megaphone life. You really don't have to. It's okay to circle those wagons and go back to just you doing you.

Now, if you do want to pop that bubble, here are a couple ways. And they take work, actual work, to get going right and maintain.

1. Regulate yourself on the quality of the sources you seek out that provide counter-arguments to your positions all over the web. Unless you're running specific, active script blockers and browsing in private mode all the time (and even then. . .), you're going to start to see a higher quality of differing opinions as a result.

2. Remove stuff that creates negative reactions. This goes back to rage vs think. I don't mean do away with whatever you disagree with, I mean clear the clutter. You can select, "this is uninteresting" or "this is offensive" or whatever and that will start to trim down that sort of thing. You can also ignore/block all from specific sources, so do it. It's okay, it really is! Especially if you're going with #1 and seeking out higher quality sources in general. The more you block the garbage, the more quality you'll see.

3. Know what social media is. Facebook, Twitter, most Google services (which are, I'd argue, still social media intrinsically in a lot of ways) are there as advertising platforms. They gain users by doing things to keep you engaged. You are not the customer, you are the product that is being sold. And there's nothing objectively bad about that. I've got friends all over the world and social media is a fantastic way to maintain those relationships, and I don't mind getting products shilled my way (especially because I'm using an ad block extension), but that does mean these services will do what they can to keep me using them. Remembering that can help you feel more empowered about what you see, how you use them, and how those interactions can affect your day.

4. Have more fun. I said earlier that the algorithms don't care whether you rage or giggle as long as you keep clicking, and to some extent that's true, but they will also make sure you get more of whatever makes you stick around. If you take steps to spend more of your time on social media in a positive or playful frame of mind and let that influence your interactions and behavior, the software will react accordingly and reinforce that to some extent.

Listen, you don't have to do any of this. But it's time to start taking this element of our social lives more seriously in the sense that we've been shown that passively taking part in this new aspect of human interaction can result in a lot of unpleasantness, conflict, and chaos if we let it. And if you're okay with that, it's fine, but if you're not, it's time to up your game or come to terms with the fact that in many ways, it's your own fault. But again, that's cause for optimism, because relatively speaking, it's pretty easy to course correct. Cool? Cool.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Onward and Upward.

Generally, I try to be cautious, thoughtful, and thorough (or totally absent) when it comes to politics, controversy, etc. I tend to save the anger for the inspiration and the jokes.

This past election and the incumbent POTUS tested my ability to do this and I failed that test. I snapped it in half like a dry cracker in a breadstick costume. You know the ones, they're the worst. They're the "raisins in a cookie" of the breadstick world and they can go jump in a lake, maybe sogging up with moss goo and fish secretions will help their godforsaken texture and taste.

 Anyway. Sorry. No excuse. It's hard to argue with the sort of issues where "the only rational response is anger" makes a lot of internal sense, but that rationalization is coming from anger and, as a result, shouldn't be trusted.

What's next:

There might be more fiction on here as that's a pretty undeveloped area for me, despite my larger interests and intentions. The combo of my academic background and my professional life (I work in PR and as a copywriter), has lead me to become comfortable, too comfortable, with nonfiction. I need to shake things up a bit. So if you're one of the meager few that come here and don't click away when you see fictional nonsense instead of a short essay, sorry about that. I hope you'll stick around. I'm sure essays will still pop in as I continue to try to channel spasms of frustration into expository writing to avoid putting my fist through a wall and/or taking a huge, anarchic shit in a bathroom sink.

Oh, you might have noticed the domain and name switch. Lockheed Martin sent me a charming C&D because they snagged the copyright on "Skunkworks" some fifty plus years after it fell into (admittedly esoteric) common use and well after I started the blog, but they had more money than me to throw at it, so they won. More style changes are coming, I'm even paying an artist to pitch in.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

I'm Already Exhausted.

Okay, a thing happened. Again.

short version: The cast of Hamilton said the following to the audience after a performance in which they knew VP-elect Mike Pence was in the audience, so at the end, they made a statement.

“You know, we have a guest in the audience this evening. And Vice President-elect Pence, I see you walking out, but I hope you will hear us just a few more moments. There’s nothing to boo here, ladies and gentlemen. There’s nothing to boo here. We’re all here sharing a story of love. We have a message for you, sir. We hope that you will hear us out, because this message needs to be spread far and wide.

Vice President-elect Pence, we welcome you, and we truly thank you for joining us here at ‘Hamilton: An American Musical.’ We really do,” We, sir, we are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights, sir. But we truly hope this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and work on behalf of all of us. All of us. Again, we truly thank you truly for (sharing) this show, this wonderful American story told by a diverse group of men and women of different colors, creeds and orientations.”

The president-elect responded with the following.

"Our wonderful future V.P. Mike Pence was harassed last night at the theater by the cast of Hamilton, cameras blazing.This should not happen! The Theater must always be a safe and special place.The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!"

Ooof. Okay.

So, hearing the incoming administration talk about harassment and referring to a concept of a safe space, let alone so grossly misunderstanding the definitions of both, shouldn't astonish me.

And yet, here we are. I already did a shit load of pull-ups, now I'm going to write about it because these are ways I deal with frustration.

On Theater

First, on the president-elect's comments: to crib from an expert (Dr. Fiona Harris Ramsby), the theater is not generally a safe space, not when it comes to the actual performance. It can be (like nearly anything), but it isn't typically. What it always is, though, is a rhetorical space, one where difficult concepts and ideas are accessed and discussed, not hidden from.

On Harassment

Okay, so, disagreement and respectful address at all, let alone in public for public opinions, is not harassment. Harassment requires aggression and intimidation. And while both are in the eye of the beholder, it's really hard to say that a wealthy, incredibly powerful person surrounded by armed guards felt intimidated by being addressed by the cast of a musical in regards to his legislative reputation. I'm not Mike Pence, I don't know how he felt, and if he felt intimidated or uncomfortable, I do sympathize. At the same time, this feels more like rhetorical gamesmanship cynically employed by the president-elect, someone who has a track record of arguing against the validity of the concepts he's invoking, so I'm struggling a bit in the empathy department. That said, that's on me.

Safe Spaces and their Public Perception vs. Reality

A safe space is not like declaring "base" in tag.

It is not freedom to say whatever you want without facing disagreement or consequences.

It is not an echo chamber. It can be, but it is not, by default, one.

It is not a "hug-box for the over sensitive." If you think it is, spend some time in a politically active student union some time. There's still screaming there, there's still a ton of arguments, it's just full of people that aren't going to ask to touch a black person's hair or ask a rape victim what she was wearing when she was attacked, implying guilt.

Here's what it is. Also, here's why it's in the news.

First, a safe space is an academic term used to describe an already existent idea, it's just sort of. . .codifying it. That codification of a long-existing human behavior and academic terminology has been working their way into the public progressive discourse for the past decade or so. (That said, it's worth noting the earliest reference I could dig up as a formally described "safe space" referred to LGBT community centers in the late 1980s at a point where being gay was, to put it lightly, still a dangerous proposition).

Safe spaces are old and they're everywhere. They're men's only clubs, it's the weekly bridge game with the ladies, it's a quilting bee, it's a mosh pit at a house show, it's the D&D game with old friends, it's a camping/hunting trip, it's a black student union, hell, it's Cheer's for Frasier during his divorce. It's AA. It's a counselling center or support group of any stripe.

At it's basic level, it's anywhere that (with implicit or explicit description), you can have a conversation where you can trust a certain level of common understanding. Note: this does not necessarily mean total agreement or unilateral support for whatever comes out of your mouth.

Which brings me to the next point: In an attempt to formally define an area as a safe space (especially as it pertains to progressive politics), you have to also define unsafe behavior, which means people will ask, which in turn ruffles feathers because when you're dealing with something like a systemic issue (racism, misogyny that enables assault, etc.) that permeate the concept of acceptable behavior for the unaffected, you create rhetorical combat: the people perpetrating the behavior that people need relief from don't acknowledge its existence and, in turn, feel accused. (I get it, and it's a problem the left needs to get way, way better at. I'm working on it in my tiny, raging at the storm-way).

Back to the Beginning

Look. Neither political ideology nor past behavior precludes someone from having access to a safe space. And as much as it can be uncomfortable to admit, people in powerful positions can experience acute harassment. Dismissing either is asking for trouble but, more importantly, it's a dick move.

That is something we need to remind ourselves of constantly. No matter how much this administration and its supporters may rail against the very idea, they are still allowed to have their own safe spaces. It's human nature to seek them, it's human nature to build them. I won't take it away from anyone. (By the way, this, of course, does not mean they can invade someone else's space under that same position of tolerance).

However, what cannot be tolerated is the dismissal, their devaluation, or their cynical invocation of a safe space, of harassment, to avoid disagreement, dialogue, or criticism, especially for public statements and behavior. And that's what the president-elect did.

It's going to be a long four years, folks.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Existential Terror of an Enemy

“Total victory against humanity is impossible.”
“That’s absurd.”
“We can kill them, but we won’t win, not completely.”
“What do you mean?”
“Their psychology makes them unbeatable, as far as we define it. Nothing we can do to them results in true domination.”
“How do you figure?”
“They have this adoration of a narrative structure of self, I don’t know what else to call it, that the drama on which they hinge nearly all of their entertainment, that sort of beginning, middle, end, it’s so bare-bones and over-wrought that it’s how they order the cosmos in their minds. Time and space are bound to it, not the other way around. They’ve unintentionally, but fucking diabolically, rewired their brains to only comprehend through narrative. It’s how they remember, it’s how they retell, they can’t help it.”
“No avant-garde resistance?”
“The resistance is, in and of itself, still subject to it. Any attempt to perform or create an anti-narrative results in a thing that is a reaction to that narrative, and therefore still shaped by and subject  to it.”
“That’s diabolical.”
“That’s what I’m saying. It’s fucking infuriating, too.”
“So if we just eradicate them?”
“They will not comprehend us as anything more than the source of their demise. They won’t think of us as fully present beings like them, which is, in and of itself, called dehumanization, but to be dehumanized isn’t to become something other than human, it’s to become a force of nature to be tolerated, defeated, railed against. We just become setting at that point, object of narrative, something like that.”
“So as the last human dies?”
“The last human, even if we surprise them, will have time for a selfish fucking nerve impulse that says ‘here is the tragic end of us’ and their narrative still finishes and gives them the end that, while they may not have personally wanted, humanity will accept as completion, removing us as the victors in any meaningful way we’d understand.”
“I know, it’s the worst. It totally shits.”
“So even though we’re the most brutal, intelligent force in the galaxy, the galactic neighborhood, of anything we’ve ever encountered, and they’ve dared to fight us, we can’t actually beat them, because beating them won’t beat them.”
“It’s literally impossible to have a satisfying end to this.”
“So do we just kill them all anyway? Take their pathetic territory, erase them from memory?”
“No! That won’t fucking work either, because then some jackass will use his last neurons to think, ‘Here lies humanity, taken before its time and left forgotten to time’ and he will shed a tear for himself and bow for an audience that gives a tremendous shit about them because that audience only exists in their mind and will feel and believe what they think it should as if it were them watching a fiction unfold for their benefit.
“That’s god damned psychotic.”
“I mean, yeah, but put another way, it’s brilliant, whether they did it on purpose or not.”
“You know what the extra kicker is?”
“Our own definition of victory, culturally mandated, is the only thing that makes this war untenable.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, we’re sitting here talking about how easy it would be to wipe them from space.”
“Right. But we can’t do it.”
“Why not?”
“Because we won’t accept a victory without a sort of concession that humanity is utterly incapable of recognizing.”
“What the fuck is wrong with us?”
“I know, right!”
“So what do we do?”
“Fight them for awhile. Ally with them eventually. Subsume into their culture and acquire that same sort of resilience. Pretend we don’t understand it, but let it wash over us and gain immortality.”
“And then what?”
“We essentially conquer the universe together.”
“There’s got to be something nastier out there than us, or us with the humans in tow, as intimidatingly gross as that seems.”
“Oh, I’m sure, but we won’t care.”
“Why not?”
“Because we’ll have the human thing where whatever kills us is just part of our story and it can’t win.”
“What happens if they don’t have our definition of victory and wipe us out?”
“We won’t care, we’ll be dead.”
“This is the worst conversation I’ve ever had. My head hurts. You realize none of this would have happened if we hadn’t talked to humans first, right? Just wiped them out?”

“Yeah, but we did. We had to, we had to learn their culture to feel their acquiescence when we crushed them.”
“They’re going to end up ruling the fucking galaxy and we’re going to do the work for them.”
“Fuck. Fuck!”

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Role of the Ally as Interpreter

There’s a communications gap that needs to be addressed.

It’s not just that the outdated model of color blindness in regards to race, of the taboo of acknowledgement of prejudicial behavior (self and other), and the definition of racism or oppression as overt acts of violence, has long been tossed on its ear by academics and activists, alike.

It’s that those in power, both actively (those wielding control through their influence, wealth, etc.) and passively (those most associated with a ruling class by default behaviors, cultural, or racial affiliation), have not yet received definitive word of this abandonment and rethinking of the best approach because they haven’t had to. Or rather, they have, but they haven’t been forced, they haven’t been compelled to change except for those actively engaged with the changing notions on race relations by personal inclination, be it intellectual or emotional.

The loudest voices calling for change are very, very familiar with this new approach and have been fully inculcated into it as the starting premise of the discussion. And, while attempting to address de facto oppression and deep-seeded micro aggressive behaviors is both noble and absolutely critical, it creates a situation where the passively powerful and uninitiated are, as a matter of default, at fault and participants in a systemic problem that villainizes them (the uninitiated beneficiary) immediately.

Now, given the concept of systemic oppression, this is a correct assessment of the situation. Unfortunately, the very human, personal, and emotional issues and reactions at play in both leveling and being on the business end of accusations of oppression, whether gender, sexual, racial, class, etc. are extremely intense. As a result, the priority of creating a communications consensus, that everyone is working with the same basic premise and, therefore, intellectual toolkit to disassemble society’s ills, is usually left by the wayside in the name of righteous indignation.

Now, this is not to say that failing to address this communications gap is going to prevent progress, far from it. The largest growing demographics are those already on this particular page. (Although, as an aside, I do catch myself wondering what will come along that puts them to the right of a social issue. The passion on display tends to be more of a hallmark of intractability than an emphasis on adapting to new ideas, an intractability that, by the nature of time, turns these people into a future generation’s conservatives. e.g. The grown up hippies of the baby boom that insist they fixed racism and environmentalism and colonial violence and that’s why they’re pushing back against today’s elements looking to continue their work. The insecurity of realizing you didn’t kick it all is strong, the realization that you’ve gotten too tired to continue is likely even worse, the absolute unwillingness to hear this from a generation that is, and until you die will be regarded as, children, has to be nearly impossible). So, there is an inevitability that’s at work here, some compromise between “sides,” such as they are, will manifest with the same sort of self-leveling exhaustion as always. This is, ultimately, a good thing because obviously no side is immune from the allure of simplistic extremism, no matter how close to the angels their perspective keeps them.


What this does do is create a polarized climate, vividly so. As the definition of racism changes, and the introduction to this new way of understanding it (well, new to most people, not new to humanities scholars, this has been their bread and butter since before the Cold War), comes as an accusation rather than an explanation, it has the nasty backlash of putting those that are passively in the position of power, or beneficiary of oppression, on the immediate defensive. This runs the very, very real risk of making them active oppressors, using their voice and vote to stand in the way of social movement or legislation that could start to rectify some of the greater issues at play.

While the burden of change itself is on that of the passive beneficiary of oppression, the burden of changing their minds, of reaching them, of coming to them in their own intellectual space and redefining it for them, one person at a time if necessary, falls on those already aware of the new paradigm. (Or at least more aware, to say anyone fully understands it is a bit of a reach, to say anyone knows how things will end up even in a best case scenario is fantasy wool gathering).

Is this fair? Absolutely not. To say that the oppressed, whoever they may be, in whatever form it may manifest, need to also now get through to the very people benefiting from their own difficulties is likely too much to take for a lot of people.

So, if I can presume and overreach and step on toes: if there’s a role of ally, or this ally, especially an ally that is more naturally aligned in any capacity with the oppressor and/or passive beneficiaries of oppression, it’s doing this leg work. It’s listening to the (if you’ll forgive a simplistic descriptor) oppressed party, of engaging with the issues intellectually, thinking of it as an act of work, of academic effort and patience. This is more productive, and definitely more helpful than exercising your chance (as ally) to play fist-balled revolutionary, purging anger on the villainous ideological apparatus and its masters. That is the privilege of the victim.

Addressing that communications gap, doing that work, is a crucial role available for us, (if I can presume), the ally.