Feminism as a Humanism, 12 October 2015

I will be asked, be sure of that, if I am a feminist. I would say yes, as that is a part of a larger belief which is, I think, more accurate: a humanist. People are an insoluble mystery as a collective. Even groups can be as mysterious; mystery gives us a safe danger, and a righteous fear to an imagined horror. Groups are created to better understand motivation. An individual’s motivating factor can be different from that of the group, and to find out the motivation for everyone would take too much time, and would be much more difficult to malign using the worst examples of overreach and crazy possible. As PETA is discredited by the very few who throw blood onto mink coats and wrap themselves in plastic as protest, civil rights protestors’ actions are easily marginalized when one subset or individual does something wrong, burns down a building, or attacks a police officer.

Then there’s news; one in a thousand becomes the face of the majority, and a convenient face is used to lionize the entire cause. Then the motivations are assumed instead of interpreted, and the focus becomes the reaction, the protest, rather than what provoked it. And because you have a bogeyman, and bogeyman have that safe danger, you use it to terrify people into feeling threatened by all the protestors’ motivations because of the heavily amplified focus on the behavior, comments, and misdeeds of the few who can provide the safe danger those against civil rights need to scare others into thinking all protesters wish to do this and thereby rally their constituents against the push for human rights being not delegated and decided by genitalia, skin, cultures, or religion.

That is the feminism I know; and it’s not separate, a girl’s club; it’s a group of people dedicated to the idea that human beings are human beings, regardless of their sex organs or lack thereof, and should be granted the same opportunity appropriate to their ability to make the best of it with an ability not given to them by the same genetic code that changes colors of skin or sex organs; by the development and ability of character should all be afforded the opportunity to excel, not at anyone’s expense, but to everyone’s advantage; a world divided by isms and ists is not the goal; the goal of feminism and humanism is to bring about a world where there’s no need for this division, a world where no one stands to lose for who they are, where everyone stands to gain for what goodness they can bring into the world. Protestors aren’t protesting to win at the expense of anyone, they’re not fighting to win if winning is defined by the defeat of someone else. The fight is to end the fight, to show that paths to peace are forged not by the forceful paving of unnatural roads, but by frequent walks enemies can take toward a common ground, a ground where the only items on a checklist are willing, check; able, check; and human, check. We’re in this together people.

The struggle will only be a struggle as long as one side is fighting to defeat the other, while the other side is fighting to be equal – not through defeat, but through concession of the universal elements of humanity that tie us to each other, to our friends, our family, to our pets, and to this world, a world big enough for every person, every ism, every ist; a world not made for feminists or environmentalists out of the ruins of another’s world, but out of the acceptance into that world by everyone. When division ceases, there are no sides, and without sides there is no war. There’d be no need for it. I am feminist because that is worth fighting for. Victory is not measured by those conquered, but by those liberated, and the feminist movement at its best and as it is best represented, looks for the victory of opportunity, personal freedom, and the personal freedom of others to choose among freedoms, not restrictions or asterisks or exceptions for or against anyone.

Struggles might be unique to individuals, but to struggle is the condition by which peace is possible. I want to be strong so I can stand in the rain and not worry about being blown over. I want to be strong so my strength might inspire further courage to stand in the rain until no one else is forced to. None of us have a monopoly on struggle, on true faith, wisdom or belief, and there are more things that make us like one another than make us different. We all want to be loved. We all worry about our friends and families. We all struggle to put together a puzzle we can’t see. The struggle might not go away, but it is easy to push away boundaries to possibility when everyone is pushing in the same direction, as long as that direction is forward, and for the future, to pay our debts for those who stood in the rain before us, those who showed us we weren’t the only ones on eggshells, struggling to find our place in the world. We all have one, and humanism is about pushing forward to allow all to take the road they feel may best get them out of the rain. For the truth is, to stand in the rain is not so bad when you don’t have to stand alone. Feminism and humanism is thus motivated, by common and unique bonds, not to change the rain, but to make sure no one drowns and let those who stand know that someone will be there if they go under, because of how many people went under so they could stand.

The protest for opportunity and equal treatment is not the sigh of an oppressed people. The demand for equality is not a demand for the opposition’s failure. The solution is not proposed to be to another’s detriment. Civil protest is the war of the civilized; and the loudest warriors aren’t the loudest, but those who stop the most screaming. So put your war faces on and join someone in the rain. Heroes are those who help others stand. Heroes aren’t always on the news, nor do they get a citation for helping someone with their math homework. There’s no medal of honor for a mother of two raising beautiful happy and healthy children – a person this strong doesn’t need a necklace. They have guts, and guts is enough. You might get no award or medal or be praised for the simple act of helping another person, male or female, black or white, atheist or theist, but in a better world, in a perfect world, you wouldn’t have to pay a fine.

Censorship, 1 August 2015

Censorship has always been a controversial subject. So controversial, in fact, that sometimes the censorship can lead directly to the popularity of the work in question. William S. Burroughs — one of my favorite writers — had to defend his novel, the epic and rightfully historic Naked Lunch, in court against charges of obscenity. That’s right: in the 20th century, in America, a novel was being blocked from publication in the US (after being published in France, naturally) based on charges of obscenity. This led to a whole big clusterfuck (now that the F-bomb has been dropped, half of the potential readers of this article have been pre-empted out of ever reading it) becoming famous and in the process got the novel into the hands of an eager and curious public. I don’t think that’s what those guys wanted, those fuckers trying to keep this sick filth away from the children. People, presumably, who had no problem with films like Birth of a Nation — a truly dangerous propaganda piece of shit that perpetuated the stereotype of African-Americans in post-Civil War America, playing on the fears of the unknown of gullible white people and by doing this it actually was dangerous. But should it have been banned? Or censored? That’s hard for me to say.

To me the biggest problem with censorship is its looming threat over the shoulder of perspective authors, with a magnifying glass, combing through each line, each word they use, and giving the author self-doubt in the artistic realization of their story. Creating a fully realized work of art is hard enough in and of itself is without having to constantly contend with the projected pre-judgment by people who will never give it the benefit of the doubt, or at least the benefit of the doubt long enough to read it. When a writer sets out to pander from the start, the story (most often) lacks any individual color or vision, and it becomes just another blah, without real style or distinction. Of course, you don’t have to swear or use F-bombs in order to create a fully realized work of art, but censorship doesn’t start and end with swearing; the spectre of the possibility of being judged by a tendency towarfds over-sexualizing  female characters, grossly exaggerating or glorifying violence, etc., you begin to inadvertently rewrite yourself as you write, writing more rigidly and less loosely than you should. Writing should be written as it should be written. As Mozart said in Amadeus, ‘There were as many notes as were required, no more, no less.’ The idea is that art is a chiseled statue, each note in each movement being absolutely necessary as a part of the whole, each note and sound part of a larger structure, a larger picture, and when writing with someone else’s idea of your work in your mind, which is alright to do when you’re editing, is a bad habit, like smoking, and, like smoking, hard to give up.

Accepting criticism is hard, I understand that, that’s why I’ve never made any mistakes in any of my work. But you have to write with the confidence of having something unique to say, or if you want to adapt a classic story to a new setting or medium, like West Side Story uniquely did with classic Shakespeare. Worrying with the consequence of saying the odd fuck or shit here or there is damaging to your development and it affects the personality of your work. It’s not about what really will be edited by possible censors, it’s more about what’s more subversive about it all: it’s more insidious. It compromises the artistic vision of a work of art before it’s even finished and a work of art is like a submarine; once its integrity is compromised, it’s going down, and it’s taking everybody in it to the ocean floor. And if it’s going to be talked about, it will be historically, it will be discussed in the context of the heroic possibilities of it all. Self-censorship is not the same thing as restraint; indulgence and blind faith in yourself is just as bad, and temperance is a wisdom that comes with hard work and experience, and the delicate balance between bad-taste and necessity is not something that comes naturally. I guess I could say, to keep it bite-sized: be confident, but self-aware. Self-aware, don’t extend it beyond yourself; don’t let anyone – without a fair dose of skepticism – influence how you shape your vision. Besides, fuck it. It’s just art! It’s just art. 

Bite Sized Philosophy, 24 July 2015: Writing

Big questions, small answers: Bite Sized Philosophy for 24 July 2015: Writing

(A little late on this one, was lulled to sleep by the dulcet tones of a Jack the Ripper documentary before posting.)

To be a writer is not a conscious choice I remember making. I liked rhyming words together as far back as I could hold a pen. Just stringing same-sounding words together as a 5 year old, that’s how I started. Original stories wouldn’t be finished until I was 11 or 12. Nothing that I would be consider properly written stories. I made the choice to write for a living after selling a science-fiction stories when I was 17. It was craft, from that point, and to be good at any given craft, you have to see the craft done well. I’ve read a lot, and extensively. Seeing a thing done well helps an aspiring writer, to help them understand what makes great books great books and how to tell one’s own stories well.

To be genuine is as important as it is to be talented, as it is to be hardworking. The quality of hard work is as important as talent because without hard work, none of that talent comes out; it is of no use. I don’t know why I continue writing. It takes forever to do something substantive, and the research and revisions and drafting — this is all laborsome stuff, none of it tremendously fun. When I don’t get something down, however, I feel like a day is wasted. So I feel that I must get something done every day, and I always do; there are on-going projects, one-off essays and – what I still enjoy – writing down words that rhyme, things we in the biz refer to as ‘poems.’

It has a higher calling, that of art, of course, and the literature of a culture greatly shapes and help define that culture. And it is a great source of catharsis for the stereotypical tortured artists of the world. It is one of the most persistent, long running traditions in sedentary human culture, that of chronicling, since the early epic of Gilgamesh and Holisheads chronicles of the English, a source of history from which Shakespeare took ideas for plays and poetry.

If it gives you a purpose, to write, to partake in the creation of art, of whatever form it takes, then it is a profession of nobility and purpose. It is to me personally, and in aggregate, historically. For me, the restlessness of needing to write is like the persistence of having to take a shit. It is a great motivational feeling, leaves you feeling nauseous and uncomfortable, and it’s uncomfortable when you can’t find somewhere to get it done. It is sometimes a long and painful process. You can feel great relief, even if you’re not always proud of the result. After all, sometimes it’s just shit.

Bite Sized Philosophy, 20 July 2015: Skepticism

In academia, a student is often brought to answer a uniquely pressing question: what lends credibility to one person’s ideas over the opinion of another person, if both are of equal standing and repute? Experts are commonly those who have achieved repute and influence due to a demonstration of understanding and practical application of their ideas in their field; someone who has demonstrated their understanding through application  is still subject to peer-review, like all academics. So once they pass through the review-process and have the esteem of a university or educational group, do they become the experts from which we, without skepticism, accept the ideas and foundation of a reasoned structure and work within the structure put forth by said expert?

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