When they ask me, “What are you looking at?”

26 05 2016

So, two months with the smart phone, and. . . all right, it’s all right.

Mostly, because I’m paying less with this phone plan than I did with the last one, but also, those weather and MTA apps are pretty darned convenient. And it’s nice that my friends are no longer harassing me to, y’know, get a smart phone.

Oh, it’s also useful for another thing: Twitter.

I’d read tweets online, Twitter-er by Twitter-er, but with the Twitter app, I’m just reading them as they all come up. And while I thought I would find tweeting addictive, it’s actually the reading of tweets that I can’t quit.

It’s mostly a nifty diversion, a few minutes here and there (and, yeah, here and there and here and there) to check Jamelle Bouie and Jeet Heer and Dick Nixon (who’s far more entertaining dead than he ever was alive), and, occasionally, to plink out a few thoughts of my own. Harmless, mostly.

But, it must be said, people can also be really fucking stupid and mean, too. I know: shocking. I’m not talking about the racists and anti-Semites and misogynists (who litter others’ feeds), however, but the puerile shit tossed around by and at folks on the left side of the line—not least over who “deserves” to stand left of center.

I am adamantly not a boundary enforcer. Yes, I can perhaps see some small point to having someone patrol the line, but ye gads, only if that patrolman or -woman is unarmed and otherwise unable to do much but yell “Trespasser!”

Left Twitter is full of boundary cops, they’re all armed, and they want nothing better than to hold you up and demand the secret password, and to shoot if you can’t be bothered to mouth the right words.

It is contemptible, and exhausting.

My fatigued disgust (or disgusted fatigue, take  yer pick), is almost certainly because I am old and crabby and do not have time for this shit. Yes, when I was younger I would have FUCKIN’ LOVED to have jumped into every single feed and fight and throw punches and stomp and whoo-hoo!

I think. Maybe.

Or not. You see, when I was high-school young, I WAS the leftist, and if I fought (using my words, not my fists), I fought with the guy who was conservative. There weren’t that many people in my high school who cared about politics at all, so it’s not like there were a lot of people on my side I could go after (or who could go after me) for insufficient purity.

College? Well, plenty of leftists and liberals, but even there I don’t recall much interest in calling out others for their insufficient commitment to The Cause—and not a little irritation when I was called out. I don’t know, maybe it’s just not in me.

The boundary patrolling, I mean. Fighting the right? I’m all over that.

And that, in the end, is what I’ll do. As I said, I’m old and tired and have only a limited amount of energy to hoist up my rifle and take aim, so I’m not going to waste that energy taking potshots at folks more-or-less on my side of the line.

Especially now—not with an orange-colored Stay Puft Marshmallow Man about to stomp his way across the country.

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Talking ’bout what everybody’s talkin ’bout

27 01 2015

There’s an awful lot of shit about which I have opinions (informed and otherwise) that I think about writing about but end up not writing about because I am lazy and I’d rather not write uninformed thoughts which others who are informed have said better but mostly, mostly, because blogging is not my job.

It’s too bad, in some ways, because I’d really like (but not enough to do much about: lazy) to write for a rent check or two, but in other ways, saves me—mainly, from having to have an opinion about what everyone else is opining about. I get to say ehhhhh. . . in response to GamerGate or the NYPD or what that one guy said that time about a thing.

Again, I have opinions oozin’ out me pores, but most I get to save for an enjoyable session of barstool bullshitting rather than having to labor to turn them into something coherent enough for a blog.

No, that may not be a high standard, but it’s one I try (most days) to reach.

Anyway, all of this is a prelude to/apology for commenting on the the Jonathan Chait anti-p.c. piece. It’s not very good, but it is long, so. . . there’s that. Jia Tolentino, Amanda Marcotte, Angus Johnston, and Lee Papa all have good responses, so in the spirit of laziness non-repetition, I, uh, won’t repeat their arguments.

But, in the spirit of value-added, I will, uh, add this: JESUSHCHRISTTHISISSOOLD STOP STOP STOP!

Not enough value? How about: this whole p.c. thing has been around for so long—not the twenty years Chait complains about, but at least thirty—and that’s just using the term “politically correct”: as Erik Loomis pointed out on another LG&M thread, “such circular firing squads have existed for the entire history of the left.”

And yeah, the p.c. of my experience was indeed a lefty phenom—a term used by some leftists (who needed to work  or sleep or go to class and thus couldn’t turn out for every fucking rally) to mock those who’d condescend to those who needed to work or sleep or go to class and thus couldn’t turn out for every fucking rally as insufficiently committed to The Cause (it doesn’t matter which one), and who (the condescenders, not the rent-payers) didn’t shower, to boot, and. . . where was I?

(Can you tell this is a post written under the influence of Wonkette?)

Oh, yes: it was a term of mockery of the left-pure by the impure-left.

Guess which side I was on?

At some point, apparently, “p.c.” became a sincere rather than a snarky tag on the left, which was unfortunate, as it allowed those on the right to pick up those snarky remains, rearrange them, and turn what had been a dart into an axe. Good for them, I guess.

In any case, I don’t want to criticize the sincerity of those who worry about microagressions or trigger warnings or whatnot, but, like Papa, I don’t have much use for those worries, either. I also don’t see the problem with having some folks worry about microagressions and trigger warnings and whatnot, because sometimes the folks who worry about things which are often dismissed are right to say, “hey, wait a minute!”

And, yes, sometimes they’re wrong, and when they’re wrong, one has the option of ignoring them or refuting them or mocking them—just as the worriers have the option of ignoring or refuting or mocking the dismissers.

This is what the bloggers, above, note—so, yes, I guess I did repeat what they have to say. But I also want to extend this, to note two more things:

1. A lot of this is coming out of campuses and college-age students, which is unsurprising.

College is the time of boundary-setting and boundary-trespass in terms of ideas and identities, and often in quite extreme ways. This is the age and the setting in which someone can be utterly and completely given over to a cause (of whatever sort) and, importantly, find that cause in common with others.

You can be passionate and not alone, and for a fair number of students, this is the first time in their lives that they don’t have to choose between the two.

That’s an astonishing moment, a kind of coming-into-oneself during which one is finally free to see where and how far she can go. After a time, some of us go through this moment, some go too far into or beyond it, and some, having found themselves in that moment, decide to remain right there.

Most, I think, pass through in some way or another—grow up, sell out, burn out, whatever—so freaking out about twenty-year-olds freaking out about boundaries—their own and others’—is pretty much akin to Grandpa Simpson yelling at clouds.

2. To extend something which Tolentino, et. al.  point toward: a lot of those bitching about the p.c. boundary patrol are often powerful in the ways that the patrollers themselves are not.

Chait worked for The New Republic and now works for New York Magazine. Hanna Rosin writes for The Atlantic and Slate, and Sullivan, well, is Sullivan. They get to be irked by others taking issue with their words—who isn’t?—but to say there’s a right way and a wrong way to criticize is its own form of boundary patrol, and one most often deployed by those with more power against those with less power.

This is something which staunch free speech advocates (and it’s always “staunch”, isn’t it? never “rigid” or “unbending”)—and, sure, I’ll count myself among them—too often overlook in their defense of words: that words matter.

Of course, they get that “words matter”—hence the defense of words—but words can have more or less juice to them, depending upon who’s speaking or writing them. Pointing out microagressions or tone policing might be annoying as all get out, but they’re also ways to poke holes in those juiced-up words, to drain them of a bit of their power.

Or, more to the point, to poke holes in those who supply the juice, to drain them of a bit of their power—over others.

Again, annoying (especially if you don’t recognize yourself as having power over others) but not illegitimate on its face. It is, in fact, a fight about the rules of the fight, which those who are used to setting the rules would rather not have—and certainly not with such ardent critics.

And, again, as a tits-forward kinda gal and a rigid free-speecher, I think there are all kinds of criticisms to be made of p.c. policing, and all kinds of arguments to be made in favor of loose words.

But you can’t just bitch about having to make those arguments—you gotta actually make ’em.

~~~

*h/t Scott Lemieux and TBogg





Everybody knows it’s coming apart, 15

8 12 2014

Ironically, in seeking to curb the individual will to power in favor of equality, leftists invest their own subterranean desires for freedom-as-power in the activist state. In my view, the revival of the left depends on relinquishing this investment. We need to recognize that despite appearances the state is not our friend, that in the long run its erosion is an opportunity and a challenge, not a disaster. I don’t want to be misunderstood: I’m not suggesting that we stop supporting social security or national health insurance or public schools or antidiscrimination laws. If my immediate choices are the barbarism of unleashed capital or a state-funded public sector, the tyranny of uninhibited private bigotry or state-enforced civil rights, I choose the state. Or rather, I choose the social goods and civil liberties that are available under state auspices.The distinction is important, because the idea that the state gives us these benefits is a mystification. Basically [Charles] Murray is right: government does not cause social improvement. In actual historical fact, every economic and social right that we’ve achieved since the nineteenth century has been hard-won by organized, militant, and often radical social movements: the labor movement; the socialist, communist, and anarchist movements; the new left student movement; the black and feminist and gay liberation movements; the ecology movement. . . . The role of the state from the New Deal and the postwar compact till the start of its present no-more-Mr.-Nice-Guy phase was to manage potentially destabilizing social conflict by offering carefully limited concessions to the troublemakers.

. . . The government’s current rush to abandon any pretense of social responsibility ought to make this painfully clear: what the state supposedly giveth it promptly taketh away as soon as the balance of power shifts. In this case, of course, social power is shifting away from the national state itself; liberals and social democrats are still trying to board a train that’s already left the station.

In parallel fashion, the statism of the cultural left does not further equality so much as it reinforces law and order. . . . Insofar as the demand is to outlaw overt, provable discriminatory acts by employers, landlords, store, owners, and so on, it simply aims for public recognition that (pace [David] Boaz and Murray) discrimination is a coercive act as unacceptable as violence or theft. But the problem, from the social movements’ point of view, is that overt, deliberate discrimination is only the crudest expression of a deeply rooted culture of inequality. For many opponents of that culture, it has seemed a logical next step to invoke state power against patterns of behavior that reinforce white male dominance and exclude, marginalize, or intimidate vulnerable groups.

Actually, it’s a plunge into a dangerous illusion. The ingrained behavior and attitudes that support the dominant culture are by definition widespread, reflexive, and experienced as normal and reasonable by the people who uphold them. They are also often unconscious or ambiguous. A serious effort to crush racism and sexism with the blunt instrument of the law would be a project of totalitarian dimensions—and still it would fail. Transforming a culture and its consciousness requires a different kind of politics, a movement of people who consistently and publicly confront oppressive social patterns, explain what’s wrong with them, and refuse to live by them. . . .

It’s time for the left to become a movement again. That means, first of all, depending on no one’s power but our own. . . .

Ellen Willis, Their Libertarianism—and Ours, 1997

There is much which is provocative—in the best sense of the word—in Willis’s work, and much of her left-libertarianism with which I agree.

But she doesn’t confront the contradiction in her own essay: the gains of past movements, gains which she wouldn’t give up, were accomplished through the actions of that compromised, unfriendly, authoritarian state. She criticizes the right-libertarians for not recognizing the coercive power of the marketplace and warns leftists of the coercive power of the state, but merely criticizing parallel coercions does not in an of itself offer an escape from them.

Yes, by all means, we need a new, new-left movement (NL x.0?), a new vision of freedom and equality in which we live in “voluntary cooperation” with one another. But we can’t get their simply by dismissing either the state or the market as coercive—and not only because coercion (or, if you prefer, power) itself may be inescapable.

It’s nice to say we ought to rely on no one’s power but our own, but is that enough? And what if it isn’t? That is the dilemma, and the work.





The Revolution is just a t-shirt away

15 07 2014

Now this is a real shocker:

pewquizgraphic

I know, I know, it was only twenty-three questions and hardly captures all of my views about policy and politics, but would the result be much different were there fifty questions? a hundred?

Yeaaahh, no.





We might as well try: Come to me, come to me, set me free, set me free

18 10 2012

Oh, for the love of all that is greasy and salty!

A federal court strikes down DOMA and Jay Michaelson at The Daily Beast complains that the decision is. . . wait for it. . . too good.

TOO GOOD.

I’m a good American leftist, which means that I’m gloomy and pissy and rarely accused of optimism, but c’mon! This is is win!

Okay, maybe only a temporary win, maybe five members of the Supreme Court will decide that the equal protection clause in the 14th Amendment doesn’t mean equal equal, y’know, equal for anyone who isn’t all regular and equal and everything (remember: gotta see the downside), but as Michaelson himself finally notes, “when it comes to the high court, you really never know.”

Oh really? After arguing that the standards of scrutiny two recent court rulings invoked in their reasons for overturning DOMA won’t be accepted by the Supremes, he finally gets around to noting:

It’s also worth stepping back from the legal details in cases like these. Intermediate scrutiny, narrowly tailored, suspect class … these legalisms are often critical to how the case turns out, but they don’t get to the human heart of the stories. What these cases are really about are widows like Edith Windsor who deserve equal rights. For her, of course, this case is an unqualified victory.

(Am I being churlish if I note that the victory is not “unqualified” if, in fact, the Supreme Court overrules it? I am not, because that is a matter of fact, not speculation. Unlike the rest of Michaelson’s higgledy-piggledy piece.)

I take inordinate pride in my scowl, and the side-eye I give the world is not an act, but even I think we leftists, liberals, and fellow-travellers might do ourselves a favor if we remembered the old cries of We want bread and roses, too! and If I can’t dance I don’t want to be a part of your revolution.

If we can’t find joy even in our wins, why the hell would anyone else want to join us?

Let’s leave the bitterness and fear to those who want to make our world smaller.

Let us be large. Let us embrace the whole, wide, messy world. Let us laugh and gambol around in the sand and leaves and snow. Let us throw our arms out to our fellow human beings and say there is so much more to to all of us, so much more for all of us.

Let us all be something more.