Women of Virtue

When A Boy Wonder And A Girl Wonder Love Each Other Very Much…

In Wonder Woman, 2017, Diana of Themyscira and Steve Trevor talk sex.

More realistically, they talk relationships. The conversation in the movie is super awkward, and I hesitate to repeat it. A TL;DR version is thus:

Diana of Themyscira: Why are you sleeping over there. It’s more comfortable over here.

Steve Trevor: Where I come from, men and women only sleep together if they’re married. It’s a matter of propriety.

Diana: You only sleep with your wife?

Steve: No. I’m single. I’m also a cynic and a rake. I’ll sleep with anyone.

Diana: This boat is too small for social delicacies. Sleep over here.

This small bit (if it were put so briefly) would have been sufficient enough make the point: Diana is no western-culture pre-modernist delicate flower. She’s inclined to suffer propriety on the field about as much as would Lieutenant Jordan O’Neil of the Navy Combined Reconnaissance Team (G.I. Jane, 1997, played by Demi Moore). But Steve Trevor couldn’t leave well enough alone, and had to bring up sex. The conversation (here, verbatim) didn’t go so well.

Diana: You refer to reproductive biology.

Steve: Yes.

Diana: Yeah, I know. I know all about that.

Steve: I refer to that and other things.

Diana: The pleasures of the flesh.

Steve: Do you know about them?

Diana: I’ve read all twelve volumes of Clio’s treatises on bodily pleasure.

Steve: All twelve, huh? Did you bring any of those with you?

Diana: You would not enjoy them.

Steve:: I don’t know. Maybe.

Diana: No, you wouldn’t.

Steve: Why not?

Diana: They came to the conclusion that men are essential for procreation but when it comes to pleasure, unnecessary.


Flirt At Your Own Risk

There may be a conspiracy in Chris Pine‘s cinematic career to assure he gets regularly drubbed for being too forward. This isn’t the first time it’s happened under circumstances inconsistent with the fiction.

In Star Trek 2009, not yet in Star Fleet, James Kirk (Pine) flirts with Cadet Uhura (Zoe Saldana) in an Iowan bar only to get pummeled by a mob of cadets on shore leave. Gene Roddenberry imagined the Star Trek future (human society, at least) as a sexually permissive one, at least much less uptight than twenty-first century United States. It was Roddenberry’s script writers and overseers who couldn’t hack it disagreed. Across several series, the Star Trek franchise would drift to become even more conservative than US society during their respective eras. Captain Kirk circa 1967 made out with (had sex with) a woman at every waypoint during the original series. Roddenberry intended Kirk to be exemplary of human conduct. But Pine’s Kirk in the 2009 reboot was made into a butt monkey who suffers harshly whenever he has a pervy moment.

In Wonder Woman 2017, Pine’s Steve Trevor approaches Diana. It not only provokes her to get defensive and deflect with academics, but then she feels the need to insult him. She not only insults Steve, but all of male-kind.*

But why would she? Why would she feel the need? Why would an Amazon of Themyscira need to deflect or retaliate because sex was mentioned?

This kind of offense and reprisal is particular to Christian-dominated western culture. Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, for a woman to respond any less than aghast would be to imply her own promiscuity. Slut-shaming has a long standing tradition. As has telling men to go fuck themselves when they show even a hint of sexual interest.

Regardless these are traditions we westerners are beginning to regret now we’re in the twenty-first century.

Doing It Amazon Style

Slut-shaming and punishing men for flirting are also traditions to which Diana of Themyscira would be completely unexposed, having not been connected to the rest of Europe since way before St. Augustine of Hippo campaigned to spread Christianity. When discussing Artemis, I noted that sexual openness (what is often regarded as sluttiness) was the expected norm of women in classic Greece. The 20th century stereotype we have for men in the United States, that they’d fuck any passable woman given any opportunity, was the stereotype of women through the classical age and even through the Roman Empire.

Diana has never been taught to be ashamed of her sexuality, or to be wary of men.

With that in mind, I’d imagine a better response (one truer to a self-secure Amazon warrior and classical-era demigod) would look something like this:

Diana: Are you propositioning me?

Steve: Um…what if I were?

Diana: I’d reject you.

Steve: You would? Why?

Diana: Because I don’t want to.

On Themyscira (or, say, in Attica, Locris or Oetaea) that would be enough. But say our turn-of-the-century Steve Trevor expects women to pretend to be pure and virginal. As such they must always reject a proposition (as per the one-sided rules of courtly romance), and so he presses on just to be sure.

Steve: Was it something I said?

Diana: No it wasn’t. I don’t want sex. I want to sleep. Also, I barely know you, Steve Trevor. At the end of this mission, we can rest. And if, by then, I have no cause to resent you, my answer may be different.

Wonder Woman is not just a superheroine with powers beyond mortals. She’s also a paragon, like Superman or Jesus (or Supergirl should be). Being a paragon, she serves to set an example of how we humans should behave in given situations. In this case, a woman should be able to say no, for any reason. And any reasonable man should be able to accept it.

Wonder Woman was created by Charles Moulton to serve as an example of how a self-secure, empowered woman could behave (often in contrast to expectations and stereotypes).** Moulton’s premise is that if women were able to exist as equals to men; if they were to participate in society alongside men (rather than under them); if they were able to openly state their will and interests rather than having to subvert them, then our society would be a better, happier place, not just for women but for men as well.

And Wonder Woman serves as an embodiment of this ideal.

* Granted, she’s noting someone else’s opinion, but it is that of a scholar, and Diana is implying she agrees with it, or at least accepts it until proven otherwise. In the defense of men, even if we developed the ultimate vibrator (or better-than-human sexbots), and a completely-touchless breeding / cloning program, we’d still want to relate to each other because we like to relate. At worst, our standards would go up regarding the company and paramours we’d keep. Pleasure and reproduction are not the only functions of sex. Furthermore, there’s the matter of orientation: Someone who (say) is attracted to bears is often going to be inclined towards a mediocre bear over a highly-skilled non-bear much the way a typical heterosexual guy is going to want an attractive, if unskilled woman over even the most sexually adept and completely charming of gay men.

Yes, I’m insecure about being replaced. Why do you ask?

** By empowered, I include the presumption that a woman doesn’t fear for her life in refusing a man. Plenty of statistics (especially regarding young adults in college-related circumstances) suggest there are numerous predators amid gentlemen. Mortal women are often at considerable risk of physical harm when they do engage / are engaged by unknown men. Furthermore, men have been assumed (in courts of law, no less) to be justified when they physically aggress. And yes, this implies men are expected to be brutes with no self-control. In these cases, it doesn’t seem to matter which tact is taken: If she firmly rejects him, she was too firm, and bruised his ego. If she was gentler, she was too obtuse, and he pressed on thinking she was just being coy.

Wonder Woman, in the meantime, is capable of tossing a man like an Olympic shot-put champion and is willing to do so when diplomacy fails. So for Diana specifically, the risk of assault is insignificant, and she can behave as if she actually lives in a society where men typically respect women’s personal space. (I do wonder if she’s still susceptible to date-rape drugs. I’d expect Wonder Woman to be immune to toxins as well, But I’m not sure.)

For the rest of womankind, matters of sexual assault are not only common, but currently politicized in the US. It may require decades of social change before women and men can freely negotiate a fling without facing a considerable risk of harm, even if it’s due to only a small number who act in bad faith.

One old study from the 90s that hasn’t yet been peer-reviewed suggests one in twelve, or 8% of college-age men are willing to rape or sexually assault a women if they think they can get away with it. Bureau of Justice Statistics suggest in century, the rate-per-capita of sexual assault has plummeted (along with all violent crime) and it’s being reported more often (about 78% of sexual assaults in the 1970s were not reported according to estimations). It’s still a problem: we don’t treat our rape victims well. We don’t take them seriously. We also don’t teach our kids about consent or how romance and courtship works in the real world. Yet, our media continues to suggest the way to a girl’s heart is to stalk her like a slasher-flick madman until she submits. When it comes to sexual matters, the US is a messed up society. (But we’re getting better.)

Cat: Eight Days!

My writing routine appears to go as follows: I jot down partial essays, each based on a single rant or question or supposition; Over time, I add to them as new ideas come to me; Eventually, there’s enough to support a complete thought (A complete point or thesis statement). Then I rewrite it and polish it into something cohesive. I give it a few edit passes. (Run-on sentences and sentence fragments seem to be my worst offenses.) And then you, my avid readership, see the final result here.

Worrying about publishing every day seemed to cause more fret than good for a while, so I intentionally avoided the worry, allowing my partials to sit unfinished until they’re good and ready. As a result it seems I’m posting about once a week, but long (two-thousand-plus word) essays.

Though not this week, as eight days went my since my last post. What happened?

Part of it has been my usual Wednesday trip to San Francisco. That involves prepping on Tuesday (which is non-conducive to writing), then being gone all day Wednesday, then being exhausted on Thursday.

Still, I’ve written a bunch of partials. So I’ve been writing, just nothing that has reached critical mass. This seems to happen to me a lot.

Three such partials regard the new Wonder Woman film. I only saw the first hour of it, but that was enough to make me feel it wasn’t right. There are so many positive opinions about how great Wonder Woman 2017 is. And this tells me either a) my standards for good media are rising or a) everyone else’s standards are falling. I’d say my standards for media and for storytelling are comprehensive but forgiving. Also there’s been a few discussions on how Hollywood’s risk aversion tendencies are making movies worse.

My WW articles-in-development are about:

Hollywood just can’t seem to get women right. Wonder Woman, like Superman* is a paragon figure, there to be an exemplary model for us mortals as how to take the high road (or at least behave in a sober, adult manner) in social situations.

[Minor WW spoiler] There’s more to making an ultimate chemical warfare agent then creating a mustard gas that can corrode gas masks. Rather, an indefensible gas is worse for military operations. We’ve long developed agents that absorb through the skin for which common gas protections are useless. And we don’t use them. Taking a page from the parable of King Canute there is a modern adage applicable to such weapons: Not even the President commands the wind.

Hollywood just can’t seem to leave Helenic myths alone. As they’ve done in other movies, Greek mythology and Wonder Woman mythology have both been shoehorned into a crushed sole resembling the Divine Comedy, featuring Zeus as Yahweh and Ares as Satan. Originally, Aphrodite gave life to Diana of Themyscira much the way she gave life to Pygmalion’s sculpture. In WW 2017, Zeus created Wonder Woman but also humans in general (Prometheus is forgotten.) Oh and Ares killed off all the rest of the Olympians before his fall from Heaven Olympus. WTF, Hollywood?

Also, unrelated to Wonder Woman, but rather to news:

The Masterpiece Cakeshop trial is going to be heard in the United States Supreme Court, which has raised questions about interaction between the first amendment (specifically freedom of religion) and public accommodation laws (which mandate that business which serve the public may not discriminate against customers on account of race, religion, color, creed, etc. etc.). I put some thought into what this interaction means if the ruling on this case serves as a consistently-applied precedent to future cases (e.g. Can Mormons discriminate against Blacks? Can religious bakers choose to only serve customers of their own specific faith? Must a Jewish baker provide a cake for a neo-Nazi rally?) The Hobby Lobby ruling set the precedent that corporations may hold sincerely-held religious beliefs and these can supersede mandated employee protections and benefits. This ruling is already is causing our protections against unequal treatment to unravel, and I don’t agree with it. Based on that, I believe SCOTUS cannot be trusted to adjudicate fairly or rationally. I don’t expect its ruling will necessarily reflect the values of equal treatment that were established by our framers, and affirmed over the twentieth century.

* Or for that matter, Supergirl. Supergirl should also serve as a living example so we could ask what would Supergirl do?, but that’s not the case, at least, based on the ongoing TV series version of her.

PS: The computer I was building last week is now in 😻’s happy hands. Gaming has resumed, which is certainly a factor why I haven’t written anything for so long.


Check In: The recent in-house crises continue through this week. I’ve been building a computer for 😻 which required installing Windows fresh and a handful of favorite games (some of which then required post-facto tweaking to play right). The computer is ready and being delivered today.

Also our sofa-surfing refugee has found a place to live, so it’s now a matter moving her to the new place so she can sleep in a bed, and not on a sofa.

Meanwhile, American Independence Day came and went, and I’d like to think that I would have been able to write something appropriate to be posted on the day proper, hadn’t I been building a computer. Probably not, though. My own history has shown I’m just not that organized. Still, the computer delayed my doing pretty much anything else and serves as a solid excuse. And I did actually write a decent Independence Day article:

Running the Madhouse

Bedlam is a word for chaos or confusion, suggesting a large crowd, such as a mass panic or a riot. We get the term from Bethlem Royal Hospital, possibly the first ever madhouse.

And a madhouse it was. Founded in 1247 it was a prison for the demon-stricken or brain-damaged or spirit-possessed or just plain too-queer. They weren’t good at diagnosis then, but at the time London needed a place to put the folk who were clearly a few planks short of a barrel to function in proper society. There were too many village idiots in London, and they needed a place to go, so Bethlem Royal was founded.

As was typical of prisons and repositories of people we don’t like or understand much, Bethlem wasn’t a very nice place at all. It was really rather wretched.

For it time the hospital got enterprising and would invite tourists in for a small donation (free Tuesdays!). These guests could view the inmates as a spectacle. Bethlem even furnished their paying guests with a stick by which to agitate underresponsive patients. Look, he’s ranting again!

Bethlem eventually went under audit. It was decided that the raving madhouse was more likely to drive the orderlies to lunacy of their own than successfully treat a patient back to functionality. It took several reforms before the hospital became something other than a quality setting for Gothic horror. Certainly few stories coming out of Bethlem were anything else.

It didn’t help that the science of psychology itself wasn’t respectable until the late twentieth century. Oh, we had ideas which made sense, but society liked to assume that crazies (in this case, crazies are those who dysfunctionally suffer from mental disorders) were all psycho-killers. As a result, most mental hospitals through to the 1970s tried all sorts of treatments which mostly fried the brains of their subjects, or otherwise added history of abuse to their list of troubles.

But times did change, and we did get better at treating for mental-health, and
Bethlem Royal Hospital exists today as a state-of-the-art psychiatric foundation. Bethlem now has several facilities, and provides a full spectrum of mental-health services to the British public and does a decent job of it.

Interestingly (to me) rather than suppressing its grotesque, embarrassing history, Bethlem embraces it, recognizing that it started with a less-than-ideal mission, but through time, scientific advancement, human compassion and lots and lots of terrible mistakes, it managed to change from a horrific menagerie of lunatics into a respectable institution of medicine.

Bethlem Royal is now a high-end establishment of psychiatric care and study, not due to British competence or the power of will, but a matter of trial and error over centuries of time.

Fairy Stories

Across the pond, here in the United States, we teach a our children a hagiographic history of our nation.

Manifest Destiny is spun as a benefit to the peoples displaced, reeducated or drafted into servitude. Westernization, the process of pushing Western European culture onto aboriginal peoples is taught as a good thing.

Freedom for all is emphasized without acknowledgement of the countless sharecroppers who came to the new world who would never know liberty, themselves. Rather, such unfortunates took on an insurmountable debt to escape persecution. At the time, typically, it was religious persecution: Anglicans, Lutherans and Catholics still took their religion very seriously, and the faith of whatever royal was in power would determine which citizens were legal, and which were committing the capital crime of heresy. (Then there were those who were of other faiths, such as Puritans and Quakers. Heretics the lot of them!) When the only alternative was to perish in the fire, taking on huge debt and fleeing to become servants in the new world was the better deal.

American colonials, thus, had little choice but to submit themselves and their families to a lifetime of feudal servitude. Lower then them, Africans were captured and brought to the new world as outright slaves. They weren’t even regarded as human (Until it was time to count for the census, at which point they were given the value of three fifths of a person). Women (of any color) were still property and had no stature, and often were married (in arranged unions) as young as nine years old. (And yes, they were expected to perform their marital duties.)

The United States, child Americans are taught, promises life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, according to our public-school itineraries. Omitted is the caveat that you had to be white, male and a property owner before you were eligible for any of them (and then, only for limited shades of white). To this day, in 2017, we teach as if women, Irish, blacks, American Indians and Latin-Americans (that is, the children of Spanish colonials who interbred with aboriginal Americans) were included in this emancipation.

Our education departments have lots of ‘splaining to do.

The American Scheme

Books have been written about the unspoken nit and grit of US history. Our real history is a tumultuous saga of peril and scandal, rife with heroes and assassins and traitors and betrayal, tyrants and cruelty and grafters and deception. You know, history.

And yet, when we teach our children, we distill out all the drama, reducing our nation’s story to steamed mush. Why is this?

Part of it is a grand conspiracy.

Not a smokey-conservatory-hatched scheme like the business plot, where a handful of well-to-dos got together and decided what the United States needs right now is a good shot of that fascism stuff that’s working so well for Italy and Germany. And their big plan would have worked too if their cover wasn’t blown by a high-ranking US Marine named Smedley. (Seriously!)

Rather, a cabal of parents and teachers and administrators got together (by cabal I mean casual tea party like with actual tea and shortbread). They started pondering what the message was of US history. What are we trying to convey to our kids?

They decided it was certainly not that the US is (and has always been) a bag of dicks: Whether the United States was massacring Indians for their land or sending American draftees to war with shoddy gear; whether it was letting US officials embezzle huge sums from the public fund unchecked or crushing the governments of democratic nations and replacing them with corrupt authoritarian regimes on the US payroll; or whether the United States going to war because some American aristocrats wanted it real bad, and then kidnapping and torturing people for their pleasure (without trial or due process, or any good purpose), the US has often not served as a good example for our small young Americans to follow.

So they started with the message they did want the kids to glean, specifically the message of American Exceptionalism. They then worked backwards to polish the American story to fit that ideology. In short time, this Exceptionalism policy became the US educational norm. Curiously, we never created a standard history curricula, leaving textbook publishers to choose how to revise the narrative. Still, when history teachers want to spice their lessons up with authentic scandal and treachery, parents still get weird about it.

The Exceptionalism message teaches:

The United States and its people are special and unique. Not just snowflake special or unique. Rather Americans are more special and unique than any other people in the whole world.

The United States and its people deserve more and better than anyone else, on account that we’re that special kind of special and unique.

The United States and its people have a duty to convey American-ness to the rest of the world, which is to say, Americans are obligated to spread Americanism and American ideology to other peoples and other nations. We pressure other peoples to behave as we do, to speak our language, to engage in customs and tasks as we would, and to believe the things that we believe.

Does this sound as creepy as fuck to anyone else?

It sounds a lot like the Great Commission, especially as it’s been used to justify wars and massacres. It sounds like the Islamic State which that Islamic state is trying to be. It sounds like Pax Impera or Manifest Destiny, like someone is trying to indoctrinate our kids. If we were looking at any other culture or country (such as the Islamic State or Communist Vietnam) we’d call it brainwashing.

Kids aren’t special because they got hatched under a given flag. They’re special for who they are in life. The Wright Brothers weren’t exceptional because they lived in North Carolina under the US banner, but because they created a powered plane that didn’t fall apart mid flight. They would still be exceptional if they were French or Chinese or Guatemalan. (We don’t even get to say ours is a nation that inspires inventors. Our actual innovators commonly wind up penniless like Charles Goodyear with their patents owned by monied interests.) Americans are only as virtuous, as innovative, as friendly or as resilient as we individually set out to be, and living in US territory doesn’t change that.

Fanfare For the Common Man


David Mitchell observed a tendency of the people of the United Kingdom (specifically those people with whom he associates) to sustain a certain pervasive humility. The English, he imagines, are keenly aware that they — individually and as a people — aren’t anything special to speak of at all. British folk aren’t particularly super-wise, talented or sweet-smelling, Mitchell believes, and they know this. And, he surmises, this is good, even useful.

Self-awareness beats competence anytime. Mitchell observes. By knowing they are not all-that and they don’t know what’s what Englishfolk might realize that it’s not though any intrinsic talent or brilliance or awesomeness that they’re going to excel, but only through sustained perseverance: Only by effort and practice over a long time, suffering countless mistakes and embarrassments that will they ever get good at anything.

Brits, David Mitchell asserts, know their flag gives them no advantage.

Of course, as he points this out, he also expresses his annoyance at politicians of the UK referring to the Great British Public and people responding to this phrase, enjoying pretending that it means they’re the ones who are great (as in brilliant or superior), rather than just someone from Great Britain. This phenomenon, which seems relatively new, defies his notion that Brits are humble like they should be. Some Brits get that they’re ordinary, but some, it seems, don’t.

Regardless of how consistent the English are in their personal humility, it is a useful feature to those who sustain such a tact: Neither Brits nor Americans are exceptional, and even when we are desperate for our individual identities to shine, it’s by a false premise to assume that our nationality makes a difference (or, for that matter, our race or culture). This also means that we can’t be discredited because Americans and English don’t have to try as hard because we’re naturally better. We aren’t, and when we do accomplish greatness, we don’t have to subtract a factor based on nationality when assessing our credit for it.

Also, when we indulge notions of national exceptionalism or racial exceptionalism or cultural exceptionalism, we set ourselves up to be chumps for the next big cult or ideological movement looking for an army of mooks to do its dirty work. Worldwide, we humans are all imbiciles of the same cloth. When we assume we’re special intrinsically, we forget that we’re only the good guys so long as we don’t behave like bad guys.

And behaving like bad-guys is how we make school administrators embarrassed about what we contributed to US history. Behaving badly drives them feel we set a bad example for our future Americans. And it encourages them to edit us and our deeds out of classroom curricula.

Cat: Techy and Thinky

Technical Difficulties

It turns out the hard drive on 😻’s computer is shot. Other computers read it as an unformatted or incorrectly formatted data structure. It does a partial boot which ultimately BSODs even in safe mode. At this point we’ve decided that data recovery on this drive is a project for a later date, but for now we’ll get a new drive and do a fresh install of Windows and essential drivers, apps and games. It’s about a week’s worth of work, though typically the system has limited operability during this time. Sadly 😻 won’t be here to enjoy that limited operability.

The good news is that the graphics card survived, or at least appears to. If it can show startup screens, then it probably can do everything else. Right?

More Strange New Words

In a recent conversation lamenting our mutual frustration trying to suffer fools, Problem Machine gave me a useful phrase. I was complaining about the hypocrisy intrinsic to the recent Julius Caesar affair and how the umbrage over Trump-Caesar conflicted with general dismissal of political correctness, to which Mr. Machine noted It’s not really a consistent ideology.

Ideological consistency

Or Internal consistency within an ideology, if we want to be pedantic.

Consider for example a biblical literalist who thinks building a replica Tower of Babel tourist attraction is a good idea. That’s not ideologically consistent. NOT IDEOLOGICALLY VIABLE!

At this point I don’t know if developing language useful to statecraft is useful. It’s useful to me, but I’m no statesman, and this era has trashed my expectations of humanity. Still, I will continue to endeavor to collect a list, and see if it turns into a cohesive set of rules for structuring government. Or a cohesive set of rules for creating structured government. Something like that.

Is it possible to create an internally consistent ideology by which to run a state? Our constitutional framers believed so, though they expected the people of the US to be more self aware and more consistent about pushing their own self interests. At this point we can see that we humans have too many biases that can be exploited. Industrial psychology is being used like a mind-control superpower (with a little help from exploitable foibles of our electoral system).

Are these challenges we can overcome? I don’t know.

Can we reform US government, or will we have to demolish it through violent revolt and start again? I don’t know that either.

Violent revolt generally doesn’t end well.

Cat: Crises, as in plural.

In which Uriel details his stress inventory again.

Troubles, Foreign and Domestic

A refugee from a troubled household is sofa-surfing on our couch. And a critical computer hardware failure over at 😻’s place has caused an inability to game, or cope.

When the latter happens to me, I have a clear-cut response, specifically I focus all my efforts to getting my computer working again until it does. (This blog has followed this process before), in cases of grand mal failures, I resort to upgrade therapy, which is retail therapy focused specifically on making a bigger, better, happier system. And that’s what I’m doing for 😻

Regarding the former situation for me it’s a matter of exercising self-awareness. Truth to tell, I enjoy living in an active household, and was a participant in one in my late twenties. And yet, then I always could go home, pet my cat, say hi to my roommate and otherwise have quiet time in solitude. Now that I’m fifty (or will be in months), I require more quiet time, and yet my space for it is not a three-mile bike ride away. Easier to crawl to, yet easier to interrupt.

But what makes it a crisis situation is not that there’s a person on my sofa, or even adjusting while the new social dynamics become routine, but that she left her old place on contentious grounds, and there’s children involved. And other involved parties don’t entirely understand the gravity of the situation. And… and…

As such, I’m willing to endure a surfing guest until I go mad from overcrowding or whatever complications occur from extra people. If past experiences serve, that interim can run months or even a couple of years. For now, my concern is about our surfer’s life stabilizing enough to where she can make sane decisions about permanent habitation. I’m worrying about a situation over which I have no control.

The Decline and Fall

Also, Trump continues to be President. Sadder still is the realization that the Democrats are still up to their old tricks of slightly being less bad than the Republicans. Granted (as I mentioned previously in passing) Trump actually serves the resistance better in office disrupting the Republican agenda of dismantling public services with his self-sabotaging shenanigans, so we have until the elections of 2018 at least for the DNC to get its act together. But their representatives still seem to believe their problems is messaging, rather than their mostly-corporate-decided platform.

Currently, the two party’s campaigning statements go something like this:

Vote Republican: Because the Democrats are pussies and they suck.

Vote Democrat: Because if you don’t you get Republicans.

This messaging is essentially the hope and change campaign that Obama ran in 2008, minus actual hope or change. It’s what some have described as the race to the bottom. It means our DNC candidate is going to throw a bone or two towards social equality, but otherwise follow their corporate masters as per the status quo.

This presumes hate-based campaigning in order to sustain a monied-interest agenda. The thing is, the Republicans are better at it. They have better memes, and some hate non-white-males so much they’re not willing to accept a government system implemented by a black guy. And curiously, they’d rather die without healthcare than use a black guy’s system. It’s kinda culty and scary and really not the kind of people I want to share a nation with. (I will, but I won’t like it, and I want policies that neutralize such prejudices.)

We need — we want — an issues based administration. Bernie Sanders sometimes seemed to be that, or at least closer to that than anyone else. Not that I trust him. Neither Obama nor Bush were who they campaigned as once they became President. Trump was not who he promised he’d be, but he is exactly what I expected.

Until we choose to campaign and govern based on issues rather than hatred, we’re just going to see more Trumps as President, and worse Trumps. They’ll be meaner, more self interested, more corrupt, more misguided. And we’ll resist them and resent them and crack jokes at their expense, but they’ll sometimes get stuff done that continues to wreck the United States.

Our future presidents will make Donald Trump look not-so-bad the way Trump makes George W. Bush look not-so-bad. All the while, America’s aristocracy is siphoning off the people’s assets and dumping their profits into offshore bank accounts.

When the US collapses under its own bankruptcy, our wealthiest one-thousandth will shuffle off to Monaco while our various races, religions and ideologies blame each other and we go to civil war based on spite.

…Unless we can do something to fix it. Can being an operative word. It may be too late already, I’m afraid. And I don’t know what would make the difference. This is a problem I do not know how to solve.

Yahtzee’s Dream

In 2008, Yahtzee Croshaw reviewed Saints Row 2. In his critique, he imagined a yet-to-be-developed sandbox game in which the player customizes a supervillain fit for the Batman rogues gallery. Said villain would go on his rampage of mischief and mayhem until the police and eventually some Batman expies come to stop him. Mr. Croshaw’s point was that SR2 was pretty close to that game as it stood. There wasn’t much in supernatural stuff (a little voodoo and a flyable flying saucer) but the Boss (the player) had access to gunships and sewage tankers and countless other engines by which to cause explosions and otherwise make his mark on the city.

Saints Row, The Third very much defined the world as one of superheros and super-powered hijinks. Saints Row IV put the player in The Matrix which justified not only the Matrix style abilities via exploits of simulation glitches but also keeping the Boss and the Saints hostile to the environment and the systems of authority that preserved its status quo. So SR4 essentially is the supervillain game that Croshaw imagined.

Cat: Waning Hopes

I’ve been writing about the Julius Caesar controversy in which Shakespeare in the Park put the play on featuring a very Trump-like Julius Caesar (played by Gregg Henry), and the resulting outrage, and pull-out from sponsoring companies.

I find the aftermath and umbrage by the pro-Trump and alt-right to be itself outrageous and frustrating. These are the self-same voices that ridiculed the outrage and sensitivity of others during and after the election campaign, and criticized the culture of compassion as political correctness. And they demeaned uproar not just for a play in which a president expy gets assassinated, but for hate speech against immigrants and Muslims and for incitement against minorities, women and the opposition. Incitement from the Trump’s campaign was acted on not by a single gunman, but by countless vandals and assailants that created an observable increase in the rate of reported hate crimes.

So apparently, the alt-right / Trump-supporter position is not that hate speech and incitement count as free speech, but that their speech is acceptable and any other speech they don’t like is wrong.

In short, they’re not interested in a fair society. Much like the Tea Party and the Anti-abortion movement, they’re not against all benefits or all abortions, just any that aren’t specifically their own.

So I’ve been writing about it, trying to find a rational angle. Democracy Civilization depends on a certain degree of reciprocity, of the notion that rules are the same for everyone. The more we are able to respect and honor (and if necessary, enforce) this equality, the larger, more populous a nation we can have, which is needed to develop bigger infrastructure. So when people expect special dispensation for themselves, and not others, that is poison to our civilization. Our foundations molder from within, and we start separating into small distrustful subsects. Given we’re willing eager to gun down fellow Americans not from our own tribe, this is the corrosion of society as we watch it, dissolving like coral reefs.

My fellow humans are ignorant or unsympathetic or easily manipulated or displacing anger or whatever drives them to continue to be terrible. And seeing this, it crushes crush my hopes for a spacefaring future, or even a future of humankind at all.

And all this makes me angry and sad and depressed, and then I can’t write much, or very well. And I post cats.

Tips For Revolutionaries and Rampage Killers

In which Uriel engages in incitement.

Yesterday morning James T. Hodgkinson went to Eugene Simpson Stadium Park in Alexandria, Virginia where twenty-plus Republican congressmen and staffers were practicing for the Congressional Baseball Game charity event. Once there, he pulled out his M4 Carbine rifle and shot up the game. Five people were hit and injured. A sixth was injured as well, but not from a bullet wound.

Although the police haven’t determined motive, the guy was a Bernie Sanders campaign volunteer and frequently expressed his outrage of Trump and the Republican party on social media. He had been monitoring the Eugene Simpson Stadium Park schedule, and is believed to confirm with the players that they were Republican representatives and interns before mustering his firearms and attacking the players. A garage mechanic who talked to him Tuesday was a bit concerned, considering how enraged he was.

Hodgkinson, you tool.

To be fair, anyone who engages in political violence is a tool with very few exceptions. Rampage gunmen, rampage truckers, suicide bombers, all tools. US employees within CIA drone-strike programs probably recognized they’re tools (…of the United States — It doesn’t help that Predator pilot team members are not treated well). But they too, like the rampaging singletons, only weaken the causes of interest to the United States and strengthen the ones they attack.

After considering a number of approaches for this topic I considered making a list of tips for would-be revolutionaries and rampage killers looking to further an ideology or political cause. But really they all come down to one working tip:

Ideally, Don’t.

Before you plan your attack, or if you’re already planning, before you further devote any more time and energy to your effort, consider the following:

Violence does nothing for your cause. Bertrand Russell, perhaps at his cheekiest, said War does not determine who is right, only who is left. When we go to war, it is, in fact, at the expense of our own causes in favor of the destruction of someone else’s, typically a rival cause, or one that is in direct opposition. War doesn’t destroy an enemy cause, rather it attacks those people currently actively pursuing to further it. Like the heads of a mythical hydra, others come to replace them, oft in greater numbers, more determined, more clever, more devoted to their ultimate triumph.

Targeting innocent civilians (even if incidentally or accidentally) is terrorism. (United States CIA drone strike programs, I’m looking at you right now.) No matter how righteous your intent is, innocent casualties are going to be seen as delegitimizing you and your cause and anyone else that identifies or associates with it. Yes, this is logically a tu quoque (you also) fallacy, but that doesn’t matter. A cause’s base will love it unconditionally, but the public will only regard a cause as having righteousness or the moral high ground so long as it doesn’t have a history of psychos killing innocent civilians in its name. Hint: Disparaging the fallen (say, calling them militants) doesn’t make it all better (especially when your militants include grandmothers and children. This insults not just the victims but also the public you’re trying to fool.)

Attacking the enemy vindicates their cause. There’s a saying that dates (at least) back to the 1960s and the assassinations of JFK, of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. If they’re shooting at you, you must be doing something right. Shooting at people is one of the fastest ways to draw to them (or their colleagues) a rush of new recruits, monetary donations and new resources. Seriously, even punching white supremacists (as entertaining as that can be) ultimately gives them more public sympathy.

Going on a murderous rampage only shows the world you’re a kook. This is to say, when Hodgkinson decided to shoot up a Republican baseball practice, he was driven more by personal problems and internal conflicts than he was by political identity or affiliations. Some of this is hinted in his unemployed, homeless conditions. Much like Travis Bickle (Taxi Driver, 1976) it was only a matter of luck and opportunity that he targeted Eugene Simpson Stadium Park rather than a Starbucks or a university or a Christmas party.

Yes, right now the public is still trying to process why he did it, to find order in a maelstrom of circumstances. Those who want to use him to disparage Democrats or liberals are eager to declare him sane and with clear intention. But this is the same line of logic that tied Scott Roeder’s assassination of Dr. Tiller to Bill O’Reilly’s ongoing campaign to discredit Tiller’s practice. Lone wolves are driven to lone-wolfdom long before they choose a particular target. And as Syed Raheel Farook and Omar Fateen have shown us, circumstances, opportunity and psychosis are typically what decide a killer’s target than the influence of media or ideology or political cause.

Murdering innocent civilians shows you’re one of the worst kinds of asshole. Specifically, it shows that you don’t give a fuck about the interests or basic rights of the human beings around you, to the point you don’t even respect their right to live. According to Nietzsche, Wer mit Ungeheuern kämpft, mag zusehn, dass er nicht dabei zum Ungeheuer wird. (Take care when fighting monsters, lest you also become a monster.) Whether you hate most wealth-and-power-pandering politicians, or Islamic-extremist terrorists, or abortion-clinic bombers or white-supremacist bigots, in resorting to a violent attack you are debasing yourself to their lowest level. And yes, this includes everyone along the Predator drone-strike change of command from the guy that insists some village has to be firebombed down to the pilots who pull the trigger. You are monsters, the lot of you, for what you do.

Alternatives To Shooting Up a Venue

Seriously, there are way better alternatives than driving a truck through a parade, or blowing up a plaza, or firebombing an abortion clinic, or barraging a village with hellfire missiles, no matter what your objectives are. We are driven easily to anger, considering how many people are out there being dicks, and we are fed the message continuously that violence gets results (usually because violence makes fictional stories far more entertaining than non-violence. But fiction really goes by a lot of crazy rules that are different than reality.) But it really doesn’t. It only makes matters worse for everyone and everything you hold dear. (Or more accurately, everyone and everything that you once held dear.)

As a point of disclaimer, part of the problem, of course, is understanding what your motivation is. In the Muslim tradition of Jihad (meaning struggle or effort), military or violent jihad (jihad bis saif) is regarded by most scholars as a fast-track jihad in contrast to the alternatives. It takes more work to pursue jihad over a (long) lifetime than to martyr one’s self (or to risk early death on the battlefield)*. That said, rampage killings typically have the subtext of suicide behind them. Survivors from the IRA have reported that arriving at a suicidal mental state was a natural part preparing to follow through with an attack. And provoking law enforcement responders is an effective means to accelerate circumstances that eliminate alternatives to suicide… or to get someone else to finish the job.

Notably, the greater jihad is regarded (though not by all Muslims) to be the struggle against one’s self. The struggle inward, of the heart and soul, rather than outward, by the sword, so these two tend to express themselves as diametrically opposed to each other.

That said:

Consider seeking consultation. This should be obvious, but it isn’t, and the suffering that brings about suicidal states can be disorienting. Suicide is typically considered by those who suffer from a lot of pain or anxiety or concern for their own well being. (Often justifiably so!) If you can spare the effort to do a websearch, you may find you have access to benefits advocates, psychiatric personnel, support groups, religious advisors and so on that might be able to help you out of dire external circumstances or process any internal ones. There’s a common phrase (now a tired one) in the suicide support community Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. In my own experiences with major depression, the gloom seems not only permanent, but retroactive, so even the effort of looking can seem insurmountable. Yet, if you can muster the energy, or find a friend to help, or call a suicide hotline and get them to do it for you (many suicide-prevention services will!) see if you can find and rule out support services before checking out of life permanently. By recovering enough to work for your cause, you can do far more for it alive than a single spectacular rampage ever could.

Consider suicide as a political statement. I hesitate to suggest this because we in the United States are not used to the idea of suicide as protest. We don’t even commit ourselves to death-by-starvation when it comes to our hunger strikes. When Charles R. Moore set himself on fire in Grand Saline, Texas on June 23, 2014, the public just shrugged at it. It would require a critical mass of such protests before they’d be effective or even recognized as protest. Still, China freaks out over incidents in Tibet, and self immolation as political protest remains a contemporary practice, worldwide. Enough incidents toward a cause might draw attention to the intolerable suffering caused by the status quo.

Consider sabotage. Sabotage of infrastructure, not terror attacks are the meat and potatoes of a resistance campaign against an occupying enemy. Revolution and resistance are not war against the people, nor war against the soldiers who defend and protect the establishment, but war against the system and the elite few who benefit from it at the expense of everyone else. Hence partisan activity against an occupying enemy tends to center around sabotage of the infrastructure on which that enemy depends. Ideally you would aim to cause damage that inconveniences the enemy more that it inconveniences the people, but the point is to get them to spend more on trying to stop you than you spend evading them (in proportion to your respective budgets). Volumes have been written about the philosophy and methods of sabotage campaigns, of revolution and of counter-insurgency, so it’s worth a trip to the library (or your web-browser) to bone up on what you’re doing and how. Destroy things, not people. Expect a long, high-risk road to victory.

Consider assassination. (Again, United States, I’m looking at you.) Der Krieg ist eine bloße Fortsetzung der Politik mit anderen Mitteln (War is merely the continuation of policy by other means) according to Carl von Clausewitz. While violence should be a last (or at least late) resort, it is sometimes necessary, especially when opposing belligerents are bent on violence, themselves. The lesson of the chess (yes, the game) is that only the king matters. Capture the king and the game is over. Only he’s going to use all his available resources to obstruct that effort. So it is with anyone that holds power: Few are willing to give it up willingly, even if doing so is better for society as a whole. And in response to that Assassination is the art of bypassing all those pesky units and pieces and resources through subversive action to attack the king directly. And by doing so, (in theory) one circumvents the whole war.

The problem is, in most matters of politics, individuals are replaceable. Kings have heirs. Officers have subordinates eager for a chance at leadership. As much as The Allies fantasized (and historians still fantasize) about the assassination of Hitler during WWII, the Führer would be replaced, likely with someone more competent.** (Hitler was egotistical, temperamental, opinionated and by the end of the war beset with Parkinson’s. And still, few would dare contradict him.) Similarly, in current times, while many Democrats (and no small number of Republicans) want to see Trump impeached, he is likely to be replaced with someone more useful to the Republican legislature while they have majorities in Congress. In the meantime, Trump’s ongoing shenanigans serve to slow down the Republican agenda to a crawl and make an ongoing mockery of the GOP. My point being: Be extremely careful who you target for assassination, because it can easily backfire.

In military terms, assassination is a matter of force-decapitation, that is, attacking command so as to leave the troops without organization. In the short term, killing an officer disorients as the ranks reorganize, but in the long term, assassination can weed out reckless officers for cautious ones, and supply the force with dead heroes from which to draw inspiration. Assassination is the flip side of that quote above about If they’re shooting at you..: if you’re considering assassinating someone, it’s because you think they’re doing something right, and you hope their successor going to fail to resume that policy.

This means you will need to study your target, and be very sure that he’s the one that’s irreplaceable.

And don’t miss.

And minimize casualties, ideally to zero. The United States has a policy against assassination thanks to some botched attacks on Fidel Castro which were super embarrassing. Instead we use a policy of Targeted Killing which is to determine where a target is, and bomb that zone.

Don’t do this. Once you have civilian casualties, you’re back to rampage killing again, and being an asshole to the rest of humanity.

* As a westerner, a skeptic and an atheist, I still feel insecure about my (limited) knowledge of Islam. This explanation of Jihad is at best second hand: My understanding of matters Islam are the culmination of internet research and occasionally asking a practicing Muslim at the local grocery store. Similarly my Tai Chi instructor found my attempts to rephrase Tai Chi concepts in more California-dialect-friendly terms to be quaint and amusing but invariably insufficient. So it’s quite possible that I completely jumbled up the concepts regarding Jihad as well.

** The July 20 plot (in 1944, attempted by Claus von Stauffenberg) was the closest anyone ever came to assassinating Hitler, and is the topic of numerous movies, documentaries and books. A secret civilian sect within Berlin realized they needed to overthrow Hitler’s regime from within Germany before the Allies came, lest all Germans get associated with the evil fucks who were gleefully massacring Jews. (They were right and were blamed along with the party-line Nazis.) The plotters organized and implemented several attempts on the Führer. But Hitler evaded many attacks by pure luck. Eventually security was tightened so as to make assassination nearly impossible. Only in the Stauffenberg plot did they arrange a large enough coup to replace Hitler’s regime with their own. Interestingly, Stauffenberg was a Thulian as per Nazi mythology, and believed in German racial supremacy. He just believed that massacring the lesser people was taking things (way) too far.