Tuesday, November 10, 2015

And Now For Some Good News....

I tend to rant about the left and identity politics here, so I wanted to not rant about the left and identity politics. A couple pretty good things happened in the past week on that front.

Berkeley High students walked out after a racist message was found on a school computer. Maybe you are thinking, "hey, it was just a troll, what's the big deal, and who are they protesting against?" The message went beyond mere trolling, bordering on terrorism, and the students were a), finding a productive outlet for their hurt and outrage, b), letting the community know that the hatred and racism in the message did not have a place in their community and c, getting an excuse to leave school early. Nice work, Berkeley High students!


The President of the University of Missouri stepped down after criticism by students and the football team about how he had dealt with racist incidents on campus.

Slate has a timeline here: http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2015/11/09/timeline_of_u_of_missouri_protests_and_president_resignation.html?wpisrc=obinsite

and some thoughts about how this could reverberate here:

It's heartening to see people, and especially young people taking a stand and standing up against racism. So there.

Friday, November 06, 2015

Steven Universe, or when progressives attack!

There was a case recently where someone who did fan art for Stephen Universe (which I guess is a cartoon, and I guess fan art is a thing? Who knew?) was harassed/bullied so much by people that she threatened suicide. What’s interesting about this is that the bullying was all done by around issues of identity politics. The artist was getting crap for being fat-shaming, or transphobic, or culturally appropriating asians, or white-washing. You can see examples in this article:

Here’s the thing - this was most likely a group of young people harassing another young person, and shouldn’t be taken as representative of how identity groups or social justice movements feel or behave writ large. But it does point to a road that progressives can go down if they aren’t careful. In fact, a lot of it is deriguer Tumblr-level social justice badgering. Tumblr being to progressive commenters what YouTube is to conservative ones.

I was skeptical of political correctness when I was in college in the 90s for some of the same reasons I am skeptical of it now. That doesn’t mean I am skeptical of minorities and marginalized groups deserving equal rights, respect, and a bigger voice in society. But the way it is often expressed, especially among college students and young people is often troubling to me, in a couple ways.

1. It becomes dogmatic, lazy thinking. It’s always worrying when you realize people are just parroting talking points they’ve heard someone else say. It can become dangerous when people adopt dogma that has come from someone else without fully understanding it, or perverting it in the process. This happens with religious dogma all the time (hence the people in the U.S. who are pro-gun and anti-poor are Conservative Christians, who follow a religious figure that explicitly ordered his followers to help the poor and forbid them from killing). 

2. It becomes about shaming other people and proving your righteousness by attacking others. This was how I experienced the PC movement in the 90s, for the large part. It was middle class white kids shaming other middle class white kids for using the wrong term to describe people, or for being impure in some other way. 

3. It very often is more cannibalistic and inward focused than focusing on actual racism and oppression. Related to number 2, when you spend most of your time attacking people for using the wrong term to describe a group, or for not sticking to the script, it’s hard to see how that moves the movement forward. There has been an obsession with language among progressive circles and in identity politics for the past thirty years, and it is hard to see what progress this has brought. It seems like we’d be better off doing less policing of language.

Anyways, those are my thoughts. In short, don’t be a dick to other people, and don’t wield your enlightenment and righteousness like a weapon. 

I Went to A Show: The Sword at Slims w/Kadaver and Them Witches

I've been to two shows in 2015, both metal shows. For comparison, in the 39 years of my life that preceded 2015, I went to 0 metal shows.

I'm not familiar with either The Sword, Germany's Kadaver, or the UK's Them Witches. I am familiar with Black Sabbath, however, and friends were going to it seemed like something to do. All three bands play some variation of psychedelic stoner metal: downtuned guitar, midtempo beats, and lots and lots of hair.

I'll make a confession - I was sick and tired and maybe a little drunk, so I don't totally remember the show 100%. It was mostly  a swirl of hair and guitars and hair and pounding drums. All three bands were enjoyable, but essentially playing different takes on the same song.

I got home at two am after a two-hour BART trek. Woke up at 6am feeling rough, slept til 8, and then was running around Northern California with my wife and kids all day. Parenting is not conducive to staying out until 2am carousing.

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