Saturday, May 31, 2014

One messed up dude

Recently a dude decided to go on a rampage murdering six other people and then himself.  I won't be publishing his name or any links to pictures because quite frankly he wanted to be notorious, to be known, and I want to give him as little of that as possible.  I will refer to him as FUD.  The key to FUD's fame is that he published a video of himself on youtube where he blamed women for not having sex with him for his angst and eventual murderous behaviour and outlined his plan.  Many groups have claimed this incident as a compelling reason to support their cause and while I support these causes by and large I think they end up missing the best thing we can do to prevent such tragedies in future.

Anti gun lobbyists want to make this about getting better gun control since FUD had multiple weapons and hundreds of rounds of ammunition in his vehicle.  Someone in their twenties with no criminal record is going to be able to buy weapons in any country that allows them for use in sport or hunting, which is pretty near all countries.  In addition most of the murders were committed with a knife or a vehicle so even if he had no guns it is not at all clear that would have helped.  I support strict gun laws but this incident isn't an example of where they would help - this other one where a licenced, experienced carrier blew someone away in a moment of idiocy is.

Other people have called for greater mental health support to prevent people like FUD from going over the edge.  Again this doesn't hold up to scrutiny since FUD had a huge amount of medical and social assistance trying to deal with his issues and still nobody saw this coming despite the fact that he had been planning it for a year.  I also support trying to help people who have mental health issues and I think we really need to work on removing the stigma associated with them but nonetheless none of that would have stopped FUD.  Some even go so far as to suggest that we just need more empathy to detect these things - good luck with that, since you can't lock somebody up indefinitely just because you are kinda sure they are thinking about killing some people.

There has been quite the furor between feminists and men's rights advocates surrounding this incident.  Some of the more loathsome MRAs have suggested that we have to get women to have sex with men to prevent this sort of behaviour.  Corralling women to have sex with violent psychopaths to placate them is revolting even if it would work and surely it would not.  Many feminists have suggested that the problem is the culture of entitlement to women's bodies that is to blame and that is what we should be focusing on.  I agree that such entitlement is awful and wrong and should be combatted but the idea that FUD would have become a normally functioning sort of person if he weren't exposed to misogynistic ideas simply doesn't work.  FUD hated everybody and felt entitled about everything - go find his videos if you want to see that.

To quote the late Tychus Findlay:  That guy ain't right in the head brother.  I can appreciate some good, honest craziness.  But that guy?  He's got something broke inside.

FUD was a murderous psychopath.  One of the reasons he didn't have close ties and had no luck with romance was presumably because other people could tell that he had something broke inside.  He desperately wanted recognition, adoration, to be someone important.  He could not achieve that through normal human interaction so he decided to go the sure route to infamy - a villainous laugh uploaded to youtube and a deadly killing spree.  The best way to prevent this sort of incident from happening again is to refuse to offer such evil people the fame they crave.  Give them ugly nicknames like FUD, refuse to show their pictures, and leave them buried in obscurity.  Deny them that which they strive to achieve.

We should promote gun control, we should develop better treatment and understanding of mental illness, and we should end male entitlement of women's bodies.  All of these things are important, all of them can save many lives, but they aren't the key to stopping indiscriminate violence by people like FUD.  The key to that lies in making sure that such violence leads only to being dead and forgotten, unknown and unmourned by society.  Future FUDs must know that killing is no ticket to immortality.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Alternate revenue streams

Law enforcement has plenty of issues with haphazard enforcement of laws particularly when it comes to things that really should be legal like prostitution and drugs.  Things get a lot worse though when they are financially incentivized to crack down on minor crimes like speeding and disobeying posted signs and such.  There are lots of instances of police issuing more tickets to generate revenue when other sources of cash dry up and this sort of activity absolutely destroys public trust in the police, for good reason.  There are some very interesting questions coming up surrounding self driving cars and how this will play out with traffic tickets levied by police.

Obviously self driving cars are going to be set up to obey traffic laws and stick to speed limits.  However, everybody knows that everybody drives 10 kph over the limit and that doing so won't get you a ticket but it seems like people are going to have a problem with robot cars intentionally breaking the law but people aren't going to want to drive in them if they have to go slower than all the regular cars.  I suspect that over the next couple decades we are going to see speed limits raised slightly and enforcement of those speed limits be very strict.  Robot cars won't violate the limits and it will be very easy to pick out the people driven cars that do.

It won't be feasible to just ticket more often when robot cars are the norm so police budgets will suddenly lack a serious amount of income that they are currently used to.  This is a very good thing because the police will no longer be pressured to bump revenue by enforcing the law more than they otherwise would.  On the other hand police budgets will need to make up the difference somehow; if the current direction of politics is any indication they will be able to slash their costs by ceasing to worry about prostitution and most drugs and likely cutting back on traffic enforcement.

There is some speculation as to who is responsible when a robot car is involved in an accident; should it be the driver or the producer of the car who must take responsibility?  I suspect it will end up being the driver being entirely responsible legally but that car manufacturers will offer all kinds of warranties and programs to cover accidents and tickets.  That would be a great selling point for someone who is somewhat unsure of buying a robot car and offers even more opportunity for car salespeople to fleece the rubes with additional costs.

Costly defence

I found an interesting article yesterday about the huge number of security flaws in the computer code that our society is so dependent on.  The basic idea is that the code base that supports all of our downloading of cat pictures and pornography is incredibly vulnerable and even though we have a lot of clever folks patching it up as fast as they can we simply can't avoid exposing ourselves to the destructive urges of hackers.

It is true that much of the code out there sucks.  Once a piece of code becomes standard everyone builds around it even if it isn't very good.  We end up pushing code out the door as fast as possible and doing so based on release dates rather than quality control.  We focus on sizzle instead of steak and make sure that it is big, bright, and pretty instead of secure because the end user can't tell if it is secure anyway.

The author is aghast at this state of affairs.  I on the other hand think it really isn't such a big deal.  Look at the buildings we build.  Do we cover every window in bars?  Build our walls of solid concrete?  Install barbed wire, electric fences, and fingerprint locks on the doors?  Of course not.  We don't want people to break into our houses and steal our stuff but the cost of protecting our stuff in ways like that greatly exceeds the expected cost of burglaries.

Consider one area in which we absolutely do go bonkers for maximum security - airport security checkpoints.  They have porno scanners, patdowns, and chemical sniffers.  They take away your water because it is in a bottle larger than 100ml.  They take away your nail clippers because they could be used as a weapon.  They make you take off your shoes because you might somehow slip a bomb into your soles or something?  Virtually everyone agrees that airline security is an absolute nightmare and doesn't prevent anywhere near enough disasters to warrant its existence; this is what maximum security looks like.

It is a good thing to write better code.  It is also excellent to have planes arrive at their destination intact, and to have our houses not be broken into.  In all cases though it isn't true that we need perfect defence, but rather that we should make a sensible calculation as to the probability of loss and the cost of protection against that loss.  Striving for perfection is a fine thing to do in art but it makes terrible public policy.

The fact is that a determined attacker can take down nearly any system and the cost of making it slightly harder for them rapidly becomes prohibitive.  What regular people actually want out of their code is that it be mostly secure most of the time and show up quickly and cheaply.  That may not appeal to the aesthetic desires of those who write that code but it does reflect the way we build everything else, and the desires of the populace who will end up using it and suffering through its failures.

Friday, May 23, 2014

For the right reasons

There is a feel good story going about the internets about a restaurant owner who got a request from a customer for the staff at the restaurant to 'show more skin'.  The owner responded by having a special deal where the profits from selling potato skins would be donated to charitable organizations trying to help rape victims.  Lots of people are tripping over themselves to give the restaurant owner kudos and while I approve of the sentiment I find some parts of this very frustrating.  My issue in particular is "I am the father of a 12-year-old girl and I've got five sisters.  The way that women are treated is pretty personal as far as I'm concerned."

See the problem there?  The way he puts it suggests that the reason this is an issue is because he is close to women so he cares about other women.  Here is the thing:  Treating your staff respectfully has *nothing* to do with the gender of your children or siblings.  Would it suddenly be less crappy to objectify women and demand that they show off in a sexual fashion if you had only male children or brothers?  No!  It is a crappy thing regardless.  I see this kind of thing all the time when the topic of sexual assault comes up and men talk about it as a problem, but only because they happen to be emotionally close to some particular women.

Note I am not trying to slam this guy in particular.  He did something I approve of and that is great and all but the fact that people feel compelled to justify compassion on the basis that the person suffering is superficially similar to someone they know drives me *crazy*.  We should be perfectly happy be good to others even if the only thing we have in common is our simple humanity.  It is much like the way in which people get completely bent out of shape if someone from their own country has a problem but people from other countries don't matter.  Just see how often news stories feel compelled to report on how many Canadians are involved in a particular air crash or other disaster for examples.

When you get mad that women are mistreated that is useful.  Jump around, make some noise, cause a ruckus.  Get that message out there!  But please don't torpedo your efforts by then suggesting that you only really care because they kinda resemble these people you actually care about.  That just tells them that you are actually pretty fine with them getting dumped on as long as it doesn't affect *you* in particular.  If you don't feel that way then don't phrase it that way.  If you do feel that way then you are part of the damn problem.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Tool users

Ferrett wrote today about how frustrated he was at Facebook for not showing him the stuff he wanted to see.  He wants to keep up on friends' divorces, marriages, babies, tragedies, and other big events in their lives but he really wants to avoid all of the clickbait and buzzfeed links and game spam that comes along with the decent stuff people put on Facebook.  His solution is to refuse to friend anybody new on Facebook.  This makes about as much sense as trying to polish windows by hitting them with a wrench, complaining that the wrench is a terrible tool that broke all your windows, and then solving the problem by refusing to buy new windows.

The problem here is that Ferrett's friends suck and he isn't willing to take the simple steps to deal with that.  They spam him with game requests and spend all day Liking random garbage on the internet and instead of just turning off messages from the people who fill his screen with junk he complains about how bad Facebook is.  If you stop following the people who spam you then the important messages will get through because there won't be enough unimportant junk to block them.  If people you want to receive important messages from are the same people who are spamming you then it is entirely their own fault.  Getting people to hear the important things you have to say often involves not constantly vomiting forth bland filler and that rule applies both in meatspace and online.

Just like in real life you can't see all the people all the time.  Hard decisions must be made because you have limited time and energy that can be parcelled out to spend time with people.  Facebook and other similar platforms are the same way.  Pick the people you want to hear from and stop listening to the deafening roar of the crowd that you don't care about.  Consider the boy who cried wolf.  If you constantly try to send messages to your friends about unimportant junk then you have no one but yourself to blame when your critical message gets lost in the shuffle.  If your friends are standing around screaming about nonexistent wolves all day then get stop bloody listening.

Facebook is not some panacea and I would happily characterize the company itself as fairly evil.  However, Facebook is a useful tool.  Like any other tool it can be used foolishly and blaming the tool for improper use is silly and self indulgent at best.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Debaucherizing properly

For years I told everyone I was not a drinker.  There were two reasons:  First off, alcohol is disgusting.  No matter how dilute the drink is, no matter what people put in it to mask the taste, there is always the underlying taint.  I have always felt this way and it certainly didn't make me extra popular as a teenager - not that there was much risk of that.  It is certainly possible for me to enjoy the buzz that alcohol grants but unlike most of the rest of the world I don't seem capable of enjoying the taste or the experience of drinking, just the results.  Secondly I had a problem with tolerance.  When I was younger I tested alcohol and found that it took an absurd amount to get me drunk.  Sixteen drinks in three hours shouldn't leave you saying "Well, I guess I was kinda drunk", especially when you are the sort of person who is paranoid about money.  The amount it took to get me buzzed was just too much both in terms of cash and saying "Blech, why do you people drink this stuff anyway?"

And then I got old.

Last week I, for no particular reason, had a couple glasses of kosher wine at a games night and found myself nicely buzzed.  What the juh, thought I?  This stuff is 5% alcohol, I shouldn't be able to tell until I have at least five of them in me.  The only possible response to this is to obey the rallying call of science! and discover for myself what is going on inside me.  After some experimentation during Wendy's trip (which was well timed for this particular discovery, it would seem) I have determined that my alcohol tolerance is now much more like a normal person and much less like a rock.  While some might lament the loss I am extremely pleased at my new lightweight status and ready to fit better into society.  Now when somebody asks "Do you want something to drink?" I can say Yes.

Of course I know nothing about alcohol so I needed a formula to determine what to buy.  I don't want any soft stuff since the taste is still yucky so I decided to go to the hard liquor portion of the store and look for the bottle that had the highest alcohol content per dollar spent.  I had no idea what I would end up with but it turns out at my local liquor store this is the big winner:  Prince Igor Extreme Vodka.

I couldn't tell you whether or not it is properly pronounced eee gore or eye gore but either way the stuff has the kick I am looking for and the price was right.  To be frank I don't know that the quality or taste really makes any difference to me at all - at the cottage I drank some random cheap whiskey that had been opened ten years ago and was sitting in the closet that entire time and also drank some decent scotch and the difference wasn't significant.

One tumbler 1/3 full of vodka, one tumbler 1/3 full of tomato juice.  Chugged in two gulps, in that order.  Ready to rock for the evening.  Apparently that is how I roll.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Sleeping with people

Wendy is away at a conference for 11 days right now.  It is not a happy thing for me in the short term but it is useful - spending time apart for a week or two each year is a very useful way to get perspective on what we mean to each other and what we want out of life.  It lets Wendy indulge her wanderlust and need for freedom which usually manifests in "Hey, let's move to Europe, like right now!" and that is a good release valve.

I do get a bit jealous.  It is hard to avoid that when emails consist of lists of fun places visited, old friendships rekindled, and parties.  I sit and think "wow, I would love to do that... except I can't leave the condo because, you know, responsibilities."  It is hard to chart a path that grants both of us the freedom that we want simultaneously, especially since part of the freedom we both want involves doing things that don't make any money.  The list of things you can do to solve problems shrinks when there isn't much in the way of money to throw around.

The thing that has been difficult for me this time is sleeping alone.  I have had a fair bit of adult company and generally been busy with lots of things but I struggle with going to bed and waking up alone.  I really want to snuggle someone before going to sleep and to have them nearby.  I cannot deal with people being up against me when I am asleep but apparently having them a meter away is important.  There is also something about that first half asleep snuggle in the morning, the fuzzy warmth and pressure, that is extremely powerful.  I even miss having pajamas tossed at my face in an attempt to get me to haul my carcass out of bed.

Funny thing is I can't tell if randomly popping someone else into my bed would actually change things.  It is very difficult to separate my desire to have somebody there with me, just to feel the warmth and hear the breathing, and my desire to have Wendy here in particular.  Unfortunately testing that theory out is logistically tricky, as you might imagine.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Robot cars are for porn

People have lots of ridiculous ideas about self driving cars.  The biggest issue I think is that everyone thinks they are a great and safe driver and worries that the car will be worse.  It is quite clear that self driving cars are not only much safer than people on average but also much safer than nearly everyone.  Sometimes ridiculous articles like this crop up with worries about what will happen when the car has to decide in a moment of catastrophic failure if it kills the driver or five other people.  It is as if a random human panicking and doing something arbitrary is preferable somehow to methodical calculation of loss.

No matter what you think of them though it is absolutely crystal clear that self driving cars are not only going to be a thing that is on the road - they will be ubiquitous.  I submit for evidence The Internet.  The internet *can* be used for intellectual debate, sharing information, and commerce but we all know that the internet is for porn.  When all those commuters who spend an hour each way in their cars every morning realize that they can instead just sit back, turn on the autopilot, and cruise over to pornhub there is no doubt in my mind that the self driving car will become a necessity in the public mind.

Even now we hear on news reports now and again that some terrible car accident occurred and the people involved in it were half naked.  We *know* that people are masturbating or having sex in their cars on the highways while attempting to drive at 100 kph so it takes little imagination to think of what they will do when they aren't putting their lives at serious risk.  Come 2025 I suspect that emergency crews will have many fewer car crashes to rush to but in the few times that they do end up out there they will be consistently pulling people out of their cars who have their pants around their ankles.

Bet on this one people.  The new commuting standard will be whacking off in the car in the way to work while watching porn on a mobile device; it is only a matter of time.  If you flag flaps towards exhibitionism and you carpool you can even get multiple people involved too.  All perfectly safely since the autopilot will be blissfully unconcerned by any of these antics.  The future is now!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Teachable moments

Summer is beginning.  Not truly arrived yet, but its tendrils are slowly grabbing hold of Toronto, tightening their grip, preparing for the beast itself to arrive and smash us with it glorious warmth.  The balcony door is open letting the wind flow through the condo and it is time to wear a lot less clothing.  Especially foot based clothing.

It is time once again to revel in feet freed from the tyranny of socks and shoes and marvel at how angry and upset people get at me for doing so.  Elli has decided that she wants very much to emulate me in this so we have been going about barefoot a lot these past few days.  We were in the grocery store and a random person walked up to us and began to lecture Elli on the dangers of being barefoot, going on and on about how didn't we know there were sharp rocks on the ground and glass and this is just so Dangerous.

Because obviously I can't have thought of that!  Clearly between the person who has never gone barefoot and the person who has gone barefoot the one who has never tried it is the one who knows things.  Moreover being in that position of complete ignorance it is critical to go and yell at a child because clearly that is both polite and justified.  /sarcasm.

However, the random angry person who thought that our clothing was very much their business was useful in providing a great opportunity to try to teach Elli some things.  I talked to Elli about the whole scene and asked if we should listen to the angry person.  She decided that we should not listen because we knew better and that the person was rude for bothering us like that.  I don't know how much deliberate teaching really works in this regard but I hope she can take away that just because some loud buffoon wants you to do things their way there is no compelling reason to do so.

Also having wandered about the city some I noticed that there was a really substantial difference in the way people viewed us.  In midtown where I live people generally look at us like we are freaks and steer away but downtown people saw me and Elli wandering about together barefoot and smiled.  The feeling I got was that folks generally thought the whole scene was heartwarming and cute instead of deviant.  I think I really don't fit in here as much as I did when we first moved in.  That vibrancy and wildness that you see in the city core (intermingled with all the suits, of course) has real appeal - maybe someday I can live closer to there again.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Boyfriends that don't exist

Recently I was linked to duelling articles on the topic of women saying "I have a boyfriend" to convince a man that is hitting on them to go away.  The first one talks about how women shouldn't do this because it supports the idea that the only reason a man should leave a woman alone is because she is already 'taken'.  (I would also add that it supports the idea that monogamy is universal.)  The second attacks that idea and suggests that women should say whatever they want to get men to go away and that their need to escape men is more important than their need to help forward feminist goals in general.

I like the first article more instinctively but I recognize that it has serious problems.  I think we really want to live in a world where a simple "I am not interested" is enough to convince others to go away without anything else being required.  There should be no need for the subtle threat of male intervention nor the reliance on ubiquitous monogamous contracts to get people to leave others alone.  If people in general try to rely on lack of interest as their leverage it will forward those goals.


When we tell people they aren't allowed to say certain things to get themselves out of situations they do not wish to be in we aren't forwarding feminist goals, we are pushing them back.  Telling women how they must respond when being the subject of unwanted attention isn't making things better, it is just a new and different kind of oppression.  What we need to acknowledge is that it is really helpful to find something to say other than "I have a boyfriend" when you can.  This is similar to the way in which it is helpful for all gay folks when other gay folks come out.  The more people that do it the easier it is for the next person to do it and that incremental change is how things get better.  Nobody should be forced to be out if it is dangerous to them but everyone should be encouraged to be out if they can.

What really confuses me though is this world that so many of the women writing about this live in.  They live in a world where they regularly go to businesses where they are constantly harassed, physically assaulted, stalked, and verbally abused.  This is so far outside of my experience I don't even know what to make of it.  There are reasons, obviously:  I am a big dude, I go to bars rarely and when I do go I go with groups, and I go to more pubby bars than dance clubs.  Add to that bars are expensive, noisy, and claustrophobically crowded.  When you add all the heinous crap these women regularly experience I can't fathom what could possibly be at a bar that would make it worth all of that.

I am not saying that they shouldn't go to bars because they should do what they like and should feel safe doing so.  What I am saying is that I can't for the life of me figure out what about bars has such appeal that it makes dealing with all that shit worthwhile.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Everybody is weird

Dan Savage's latest column included a letter that made me laugh.

Q:  Where can straight women find men that won't made odd sexual requests? -Dumped One Again

A:  Graveyards.

There are two things that are at work here.  First off is the implicit assumption that lots of men out there are 'normal' and only want 'normal' things and there is some place to find such people.  There is no normal.  Your realistic options include people who ask for things and people who don't ask for things.  They all want things and you can't get around that.  That's it:  Repression or expression.  If you did end up finding someone who claimed to want exactly what you expect then by far the odds on bet is that they are refusing to tell you about the things their needs.  Eventually those unfulfilled desires are going to boil over and cause both of your some serious grief.

Now imagine for a moment you did find Mr. Kiss, Undress, Mutual Oral, Missionary for Five Minutes, Twice a Week.  Great, you have him.  Twenty years from now when you desperately need someone to dress up as a conquistador and gently smear guacamole all over your with a crowbar while singing Skinamarinky Dink Dink by Sharon, Lois, and Bram you are *screwed*.  That guy is not going to do that for you and he isn't going to sign off on you doing that with somebody else.  You know who is going to be fine with that?  The dude who desperately wanted to worship your feet, have you spank him, or wear your underwear.  And while you might say now that you don't want that conquistador / crowbar scene everybody gets there eventually.

Part of relationships is your partner wanting weird stuff.  Maybe they desperately need the coffee table to be spotless, collect back issues of Comsopolitan, write spreadsheets to play games more efficiently, or they want you to smear peanut butter on the small of their back.  Who knows?  The key thing is that *everyone* has their bizarre desires that you didn't expect.  The only choice you get to make is whether or not you accept each other's little insanities and live happily or repress your little insanities to appear normal and be miserable together.  Scoring a partner without those quirks isn't on the list of choices and pathologizing quirks that happen to involve sexual desire just makes people sad and bitter.

There is nothing wrong with wanting five minute missionary sex twice a week and nothing else.  Go for it! The trouble is that assigning a random sexual behaviour set normal status and then assuming everyone outside that is an unacceptable deviant is likely to lead to two possible outcomes:  Loneliness or unhappiness.  You can do better than that and it starts with accepting people as they are.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Lockpick Pornography

I just read Lockpick Pornography, a short book by Joey Comeau, one of the authors of the webcomic A Softer World.  It was a powerful book and packed more emotional impact for me than anything I have read recently, particularly since I finished it in under an hour.  It starts out with a bunch of strange and hilarious rants as the main character goes about breaking things, stealing things, and generally causing a ruckus as he strikes back at the straight world that so constantly dumps on him due to him being queer.  It is filled with wonderful quotes, like the following:

But I promised myself that if the talking head said "Of course we should be more tolerant of the gays," one more time I would kick in the TV, and if you can't trust your own word what can you trust?

The main plotline involves the main character and three other queer folks deciding to create a book designed to teach children that violating gender and sexual norms is okay and then breaking into various schools to deposit copies of the book in classrooms.  Along the way all kinds of sex is had and crazy discussions occur and Comeau writes wonderfully and it is great fun.

But there is also a lot of not fun.  The main characters don't limit themselves to a bit of deviant book placement and hassling of fast food workers (This Coke turned me gay!) but also decide to go out and rape a teenager for a combination of political statement and entertainment, kidnap an eight year old to get back at his parents, and randomly punch and kick people they happen upon.  By the time the book ended I was feeling just terrible about the world.

I read plenty of books with murder and carnage and much worse things than these characters do and they don't disturb me like this.  It clearly isn't the savagery itself but rather the way I feel about the characters perpetrating the violence.  That sense that the world hates me and that I am filled with the desire to punish it in return brings me back to my early teens.  It was not a good time and there was plenty of desire twisting within me to crush, smash, and inflict suffering upon those who so revelled in tormenting me.  Comeau manages to bring me back there through these characters, to make me remember that state, to be in a place where all I want is the strength to hurt them back.  Being there is not a happy thing.

I still have that fury within me but the tone is very different now.  These days my rage is controlled, directed.  Even when people are being awful I think in my mind "I will not make the whole world blind.  Revenge accomplishes nothing.  Extend the hand." and I bend that energy to my will rather than letting it spill out of control.  It is easier to do that of course when you pass as normal, which I do most of the time now.  If I didn't have that privilege, if I had to defend myself constantly, all day, every day, I don't know that I could maintain that control.  I like to think that I could but you don't know that until you live it.

If you read Lockpick Pornography I can promise you lots of interesting writing and ideas that, for most people, will push your boundaries.  I can't promise it will make you happy though, as it sure had the opposite effect on me.  Reading it made me remember being thirteen years old and even though that made me both sad and angry it is worth remembering that state as it grants me both compassion and perspective.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Get off my digital lawn

It consistently makes me giggle when I see a new round of 'young people spend too much time on social media' posts on Facebook.  The fact that this is a constant thing, that older folks get on social networks to share articles and gripes about the use of social networks by younger folks, just leaves me boggled.  I want to hold up a picture of Mark Zuckerberg and shout "This guy right here, he is laughing at you, just so you know."

There are downsides to young folks spending large amounts of time on Facebook but I think the adults of the world need to sit back and take a serious look at exactly what this is doing to them and why it happens before getting their feathers all ruffled.  First off, there is a persistent idea that somehow these kids won't learn to talk to people because they spend all their time typing to people.  I would need some pretty convincing evidence to support that thesis, particularly since even people who spend an awful lot of time checking Facebook updates still spend hours a day interacting with people face to face.  If a teenager says "I am going to do some studying and then for a jog" we don't say "But you should talk to people, you might not learn that skill otherwise!"

I also wonder why people are surprised that young folks end up doing this so much when we try so hard to force them into it.  If you want children to run around free and spend time with each other then you had best not keep them inside, locked away from the world, all in the name of safety.  By the time most children are teens our schools, government, and their parents have consistently been sending for a decade the message that they should stay inside where it is safe.  Is it any wonder that they end up picking up their phones and spending huge amounts of time texting from home instead of running around like the idealized and mostly fictional children of yesteryear?

It all smacks of rose coloured glasses to me.  People remember the good ole days of hunting for crawdads down by the pond a la Tom Sawyer and forget the terrible isolation that children who were different felt.  These days no matter what way you don't conform to the norm you can at least find people online who feel like you do, who have survived what you are dealing with, and you can know for sure that you are not alone.  The power of increased connectivity is enormous and we aren't even close to seeing the end of the changes it will bring to our society.  It concerns people when they look at their children and see activities they have never taken part in, ideas they don't understand, and norms they cannot fathom but it doesn't mean the kids are doing anything wrong.

The real issue is pathologizing the behaviour.  Talking to people online isn't a sickness, it isn't a disease, it isn't antisocial, and it isn't stunting their emotional / intellectual / social growth.  It is something new, a different way of being, an alternate social bonding style.  If the kid in question has other issues then those issues are what you should be worried about, rather than their choice of communication medium.  Want them to get more exercise, study more, get out of the house, or find a job?  Great, go for it, but do understand that hopping online and hitting Like and Share on the latest Facebook is Bad post isn't going to accomplish that goal.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Off to the ball

One of the most disturbing things I have stumbled across in recent times is the purity ball.  This is an event where fathers and their teenage daughters dress up and make vows guaranteeing the daughter's virginity until marriage amid much pomp and ceremony.  The money quote is "At this point you are married to the Lord and your father is your boyfriend."  I feel like I am watching the Olympics and my goal is to award a gold medal for the most outrageous and creepy thing about purity balls.  Oh the choices!

-The teenage girls are married to the Lord, but will presumably eventually marry men.  I guess this means they need a divorce from the Lord, but isn't that frowned upon?  I mean seriously, divorcing God?  Who is going to be an upgrade from that?

-The fathers are their boyfriends.  So I guess they should go on dates with their fathers, but that is going to get confusing.  "I hate you Daddy!  You and I are going to be together forever and you can't stop you and I from doing that!  I will run away with you to get married no matter whether you want us to or not!"  Maybe they need some extra pronouns for Daddy as boyfriend to differentiate the roles for clarity's sake?

-One of the father says "What I hear from these young ladies is that there's this need for that physical touch, and from a male being.  I believe that's what the father's role is."  This guy needed to *ask* young women to find out that they have sexual desire and after doing so he concluded that he was the best person to supply that for his daughters.  You cannot make this shit up!

The gold medal for 'ignoring important things' is going to be hotly contested.  I mean, these folks are managing to pretend female sexual desire, same sex attraction, female personhood, female autonomy, and teenage foolhardiness don't exist.  I certainly missed some other things, but even just that list is a hell of a thing to pick from.  The best part is that all this misogyny, homophobia, and cluelessness doesn't even generate the sort of outcome the overbearing fathers in question want.  The girls are going to end up having sex anyway, they just won't have a condom on hand when they do.

I don't think that religions are correct, but honestly a lack of correctness isn't worth all the frothy rants I put out.  These people and the awful sexist crap they get away with in the name of religion are the reason, and though this particular case is so absurd as to be laughable it is anything but humorous for the young women caught up in it.