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Posts Tagged ‘political’

What is the one thing a society needs to maintain a sense of honor?  Innocence. If you can distinguish naivete and innocence then you can be “as innocent as a dove but as sharp as a serpent.” Also I wish to account for, “where there are many rules, virtue will be lacking.” This is the core of what I’m advocating, what I’m trying to discover. As you can see, my thoughts are far along, but have a few holes in them. I’d love to hear anyone’s thoughts on what I’m overlooking.

Lately I have applied for several jobs and I have been in the enviable position of having many potential employers wanting to hire me.  One of them, the one I eventually signed a contract with, wanted to screw over my headhunter and not pay her fees by claiming to hire another candidate while I claimed to work at another location.

I didn’t do this, for a few reasons.  Chiefly, the headhunter has been helping me for YEARS and if someone treats me very well, I like to treat them well in return.  Partly this is pragmatism, I might want to deal with her again later (she DID get me loads of solid leads).  Additionally, this affects the nature of my relationship with my employer — are we starting off entering into a conspiracy to cheat someone?  I’m not claiming that’s a bad thing a priori, but lets call a spade a spade.  But really, the whole decision came down to my wanting to pay this headhunter for her services rendered.

Now I’ve gotten another offer that might be a better one.   I might actually ditch the employer with whom I’ve already signed a contract, but who hasn’t filled out enough paperwork to make it a big headache (for me) to switch jobs.  Furthermore, I’ve entered into this contract, knowing the exit clauses, assuming I’ll probably leave early, but not disclosing this information.  At least one of my friends thinks my cavalier attitude towards agreements with employers is unethical.  However, I can’t see anything wrong with this.

This got me thinking, when we define something as an evil or bad thing, what do we mean?  I have a working model of kinds of transgressions.  I divide them into two categories:  Bodily transgressions such as assault, murder, rape, physical harm through negligence (a tricky one), poisoning, etc…   Social transgressions such as breech of agreement, deception, omission, meanness, playing legal hardball, refusing to do business with specific people, etc.  The former are things that cause, either directly or through strongly causal indirect means, bodily harm to another.  The latter are breeches of society’s rules, written or unwritten, and are almost always violations of people’s expectations.

Now, in the case of bodily transgressions, I think most humans have agreed on extreme ones being wrong outside of specific circumstances.  It’s generally considered wrong to shoot someone unless they’re shooting at me or my friend.  Social transgressions vary from culture to culture and subculture to subculture.  In some marketplaces, caveat emptor rules and everyone expects you to try and benefit from information advantage (aka “dupe someone”).  Going into the game knowing this, there is really no problem in this environment (as long as the discount on price in this market equals or exceeds my costs from wrong estimates of value or quality, then it’s fine for me to shop there).  At the other extreme, some social groups consider it a serious social breech if you enter into a simple argument that hurts someone’s feelings.  Most societies frown on nakedness outside of specific circumstances, or adjusting one’s breasts or penis in public in an obvious way.  Some social groups would stop reading this because I said “breasts” and “penis.”

There is a big middle ground in all of this.  Bodily harm through negligence is often difficult to determine, and we’ll usually distinguish between innocent and accidental negligence (a genuine accident on the operating table, or during an emergency rescue) and vicious negligence (leaving a child in a locked car in 101 degree heat as a punishment).  What’s more interesting to me is the problem of social transgressions.

Beyond the two categories I already stated, we can divide actions into honorable/innocent and dishonorable/naive actions.  Innocent and honorable bodily harm actions are generally considered completely okay.  Improvised emergency response in backcountry situations gives us occasional examples of this, where the best action known, given available equipment, skills, and conditions, still results in someone’s injury or death.  Also, most people will understand if I hit someone with a baseball bat who is in the process of trying to stab me and steal my Nikes.  Indeed, in these cases, the actions stem from honorable and/or innocent intentions AND no SOCIAL breech has occurred. However, we may judge them in complex ways.  Why did I possess a baseball bat? What could I have done differently to save my wounded comrade? Legal consequences may ensue regardless of ones actual intentions and behaviors. I’ll talk about that later.

I am starting to think social breeches often trump bodily breeches. Also, I think they are usually judged in a very clear-cut way. The person who honestly didn’t know he was in a social group where everyone is expected to be super nice to each other doesn’t get a pass if he starts an argument with someone, even if his intention was genuinely compassionate calling someone out on some of their bull$#!! such as an addiction or other harmful behavior. He is likely to be judged as a jerk and never invited to the party again. We find extreme examples of the most honorable and innocent actions being punished by society in our great spiritual leaders from Jesus to Socrates.

I think this is because Social breeches are actually sins against the fabric of society.  Society itself (through its social contracts and leaders who execute them) claims the right to transgress people’s bodies. The examples above, Jesus and Socrates, invoke society’s claim to this right to harm. Society also claims this right by imprisoning people or drafting them, and in some places by physical punishments such as caning, torture, and harsh prison conditions. American society, among others, also claims the specific right to harm people through direct and intentional negligence, as food and medicine are not considered “rights” but rather privileges.

My own moral life seems to be evolving more to pay attention to my own compass of honorable and innocent, and less to social norms. Now this may seem trite, but to say I am ignoring societal norms actually implies that I’m ignoring and often violating what most people would consider “right” and “wrong” or at the very least “offensive.” But culture and subculture is often broken. I personally find it repulsive to let someone starve or suffer from lack of medical care simply because they cannot find enough payed work or inherited money to buy it. I also find it repulsive to try to create an insular group to hypnotize each other into thinking highly of ourselves regardless of merit. I find I have little investment or care for things like other people’s feelings or expectations. So, while I remain a compassionate individual, I don’t bother to pull any punches, cup anyone’s bollocks, or pat anyone on the bum (unless I believe it will actually help them in the long run).

Nor do I bother about the social contracts such as whether a specific arena is caveat emptor, or supposed to play by gentleman’s rules, or we’re all putting (or pretending to put) all our cards on the table. I can trade based on personal reputation, so that matters to me, but all these social and societal concerns are purely utilitarian.

I assume little and choose actions based on expediency relative to my own intentions. I strive to keep these intentions honorable. I treat my three employees well, but we’re pirating and cannibalizing some old designs, no longer patented, in a market where people are playing by some Euro-specific “gentleman’s rules” and creating artificial market inefficiencies. Some might say I’m harming the particular culture, I say I’m evolving it.

Laws are a strange part of all this. It seems in many cases they are kind of farce, where the intention behind them takes second place and the unintended consequences are high. The war on drugs hasn’t kept a lot of my personal friends from getting addicted to soul-stealing chemicals like meth, yet I have seen it ruin a few people’s lives over less harmful drugs like marijuana. Further, dealing with immigration rules has taught me that social intentions underlying laws can be damned, I’m going to write what I need to in this paperwork to get what I want, so long as its either legal enough or legally illegible enough to spare me any consequences. I’ve never stayed a day illegally in Taiwan, yet I’ve circumvented the intentions of a lot of regulations, as have almost all the foreign teachers here.

My ultimate intentions of goodness reside only in my own sense of honor. I find my conscience is cleaner lately, yet I have an almost cavalier practicality and flagrant disregard about social rules, norms, and expectations along with other people’s feelings. I think I offend more people, yet I rest easier at night. I calculate more decisions based on advantages and disadvantages, and I feel less need to run over them again and again in my head to decide if what I did was morally right or wrong somehow.

I can point to timeless virtues, which withstand the eternal reality of change and evolution.  Such virtues include patience, equanimity, innocence, compassion.  I can also point to very real vices. The virtues and vices I can come up with are highly personal in nature, and don’t point to any specific rules or social norms per se.  For example, addiction, impatience, lust, greed and envy don’t point to any specific social norms that could stand for all time. Murder does, along with the other extreme examples of bodily violation, but that’s about it.  Almost everything else seems entirely situational.

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So I was considering what to do with my job situation. I asked my supervisor for an opinion in order to strike up a conversation to keep the lines of communication open in case I wanted to sign another contract with them. Also, I needed to know something about the number of vacation days on the contract which, as it is written, is quite ambiguous. Depending on the interpretation of that, I was ready to sign up again immediately.

She was initially almost in tears asking me if I was going to marry my girlfriend. This threw me a little off, because I thought my supervisor had gotten over her attraction to me and just considered me a friend. I made a pretty dismissive comment about the idea in order to calm her down and then proceeded to talk to her about the amount of vacation time I would have.

Now, I’ve been in friendly enough terms with my supervisor that she already knows I want to take a ten day Vipassana meditation time. Also, she knows I was speaking with a Zen teacher a well. What was interesting was the amount of condemnation she ended up heaping onto my wanting to do these things. She is, herself, a Buddhist and had scheduled a meeting with a famous teacher on the South of the island during Chinese new year. Instead of attending the meeting, she cancelled it and rode horses all week long.

Now, what’s interesting is the elaborate reasoning she comes up with about my spending time meditating. The thing is, she does it in a way that appears quite well-meaning, and remarkably sincere. Her favorite is, “you probably already have the answers” to which I responded, “yes, perhaps, but I am looking for a teacher or some time to spend to help me see them for what they are” and she goes on that I’m impatient (to which I respond, I’m not hurting to wait, but I’m also not trying to waste any time) or that I’m being selfish (to which I respond, I am kind to others, but it seems that if I’m completely lost, I may not even know what kindness IS) or that I think too much (but anyone whose spent time meditating has discovered that yes, you think WAY THE FUCK TOO MUCH, and meditation is the only hope you have to get that chatter to cease)….

How sincere and reasonable she is in all this, enough that I found it unsettling. Mind you, it didn’t seem like “attacks” or anything at the time. I am sure that in her mind, it’s all kindness and “realistic” ways of thinking of things (as if pragmatism demands selling one’s soul to join some world of conformity). I was thrown off by all this until I remembered the beginning of the conversation. Then I remembered that she is in love with me and wants me to stay near her, and every things she says is to serve that purpose. Does SHE even realize this?  My guess is no.

Pretty much everything is a tactic, a ruse, or a strategy. Even being honest just gives one a personal sense of justification, and a socially granted one as well. Ghandi, along with plenty of Jewish scholars and Christian theologians, pointed out that Jesus’s ideas about turning the other cheek, walking the extra mile, and giving someone who sues you for a cloak, your shirt along with it might have been very strategically useful for the oppressed Jews of his time. I’m not saying that it’s ‘wrong’ in any sense, to use whatever method one feels is most congruent and effective in order to finish a task, I’m just saying that it is what it is.

I teach kids. I see this every day. Doing well on a test gets appreciation and acceptance from teachers and parents, and a boost to mood and feelings of personal security and well-being. 99% of my kids don’t give a shit about learning ENGLISH per se. When someone sees a reason to learn it, like my student who loves computers and noticed that the BIOS is always in English, my job is easy and they learn quickly. Until they get inspired, I just manipulate social cookies to coerce and convince them to do what I want them to. It’s a sickening game sometimes.

“Following the rules” may be anything from a way to manipulate others into giving one what one wants to a way to feel justified in self-pity when things don’t go one’s way. “Nice” is a nice way to create a reality that believes oneself to be a “good person” or some such crap. At the worst, ones self righteousness is a game to build ones own ego without reproach because you can threaten anyone that gives you a well-deserved ass kicking else with state violence. The thing is, I’ve played all these games, and I watch kids do it, and I watch people do it, and I’m sick and fucking tired of it, in myself more than anybody else!

So, it’s hard as fuck to know what I’m doing right now. I’ve looked inside myself and seen the same thing. I, yes I, use an immense amount of sincerity as a means to an ends… I use a ‘pragmatic approach’ sometimes, or a ‘ruthless’ one, or ‘the one that fits the situation’ but it all seems to be ego-gratifying as well as basically self-serving WHATEVER I do. What I would give right now to know my own truest intention!

From a standpoint of innocence and pure intention, means is irrelevant. You are always choosing means anyways, to serve whatever intention you have. And until I am coming from a standpoint of innocence and pure intention, even honesty is a lie.

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I read an absolutely genius website recently: http://www.nononsenseselfdefense.com/FEARvsDANGER.html

This guy has the clearest ideas of real-world violence and violent human behavior that I’ve ever read. This reminds me of a lot of what we always say is “good kung fu.” I.E., there’s almost always a nonviolent way out, and why were you somewhere that violence was likely in the first place? In other words for violence to actually be “necessary,” you have to have made a series of complete fuck-ups leading up to that situation. Then, to actually “defend” yourself is usually to find the fastest path to escape.

Further, as I’ve always thought, there’s no such thing as a “fight” outside of duels and sparring. It isn’t a real barfight or street fight unless somebody is likely to draw a knife, gun, or bat or someone’s friend or associate is likely to draw one while you aren’t looking. No one is trying to “fight.” Either they are trying to warn you off with a threat display, they’re giving you an ultimatum (usually with some option to leave or exit without violence) or else they’re trying to murder you (because you declined their ultimatum or you already did something to ‘earn’ getting killed, like screwed their wife or screwed them in a drug deal).

But this guy takes it all a step further. He shows how people take the rules from their part of society and expect them to apply everywhere and in all situations, basically becoming bigotted pricks everywhere they go. Essentially people expect to break some of the ‘rules’ (screwing someone’s wife, going to a drug party in the ghetto) whilest assuming that other ‘rules’ will protect them (no one shoots people, no one violates my body without my permission). By this method, a lot of middle class men get shot and a lot of middle class girls get raped, simply by assuming their “rights” are god-given instead of society given.

He lays everything out so lucidly as to point to the simple truth: If you are oriented to reality as it is, rather than what you think it should be, you are always in a more powerful position.

This showed me that the way we’ve built up our society is good in some ways. I definitely like the fact that most of the time the greatest risk I suffer as a consequence of my words or actions is hurt feelings. That’s a safer world to live in than a barbaric one of constant possible violence. But we also effectively use this setup to manipulate situations to our benefit. At the end of the day, the person with the most savvy in whatever system they are in, is usually able to gain the most power, toys, money, or whatever….  and in the end, most people are playing to win.

Even playing “by the rules” is probably playing to win, through reputation, some sense of self-respect (boosting ego/confidence), social and personal justification, or else to marshall the rules in one’s favor as a protective measure (It’s nice to be able to manipulate social power in someone’s face while they cannot do anything about it because the “rules” protect your theivery, hate speech, backstabbing connivances, or stupid and self-serving actions). Most people surely hide their own attempts to “win” from themselves, because if they realized how twisted and ruthless their own games were, they might “lose” some of the psychological cookies that their social rules system gives them.

All this points me a clear direction: Know my intention, and act utterly in accordance with it…  hide nothing from myself — my sense of ‘fairness’ seems to mostly be a strategy from my childhood to manipulate those around me, so set it aside entirely and play ruthlessly, simply, absolutely to succeed. My “morals” will never be a stand-in for innocence.

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Why would I ever make someone pay for knowledge I have that could potentially improve them? I think of a blogger I know who sells “how to live an extraordinary life” ebooks and travels from the profit. Basically life porn for people too scared or naive to make the leap (judgment I guess). He certainly has knowledge and can profit from it.

I think back to Thoreau’s recounting of the indian in Walden. The Indian makes baskets and tries to sell them in town and gets miffed that people are not buying them and Thoreau thinks he should have asked why go into business in the first place? (Thoreau is a smart ass though ;).

What of the coupon-clipping wife bloggers? The ones who sell seminars to teach women how to buy $300 with of groceries for $20 using coupon and promotion tricks. What of them? If they have the secret, shouldn’t they give it out. And what of a life playing off of primate-created technicalities like grocery rules?

What of guest bedrooms and their necessity? What happened to guest tents?!!?

Do I need money to live in this world? It sure seems like I do.

M

My Reply:

M,

I watched Zeitgeist 3 and I was so turned on by it that I almost turned my synth project into all open-source stuff…  I basically think capitalism as we know it now is going to prove itself to be a sinking ship.

Then I put a lot of focus into what Jesus said, “be as innocent as a dove but as wise as a serpent.”  I realized that if I cut my own profits I wouldn’t be getting more instruments to poor college students who just love electronic music, I’d be saving money for egotistical gear whores who want to think they’re cool because they have an unauthorized Buchla copy.
So I’m keeping the trade secrets and selling the sizzle ofunauthorizedclone.com to those people…  because frankly, they want it.  It’s like I’m a prostitute giving them a blow job.  If I stopped selling blow jobs, they’d go pay somebody else or maybe date rape a girl or something….  so I’m just going to peddle my wares as long as there are people who are slaving away under the illusion that you get what you pay for, and if it ain’t expensive it isn’t worth having.
And eventually I can make bigger runs and get plastic housings
made and probably get the synths out to poor college kids.  Plus, with the money I have, me and my sweetheart can spend time fucking in a lot of different countries.  Eventually, maybe I can fulfill my age-old dream of helping child prostitutes, but I have to have some cash on hand before I can do much for them.  I think Steven Covey refers to all this as a “win-win.”
Seriously, I wouldn’t worry about if you “should” “make someone” “pay” for “your knowledge.”  If I was working in a leper colony I wouldn’t dare charge those people a dime.  And they’d probably offer me all the food and free place to stay that I could ever want.  But, we’re currently trying to operate in a specific system, and instead of “lepers” we’re just playing Jesus….
….to the lepers in their heads….
Oh yeah it’s one love, one life….
Okay, so the U2 break doesn’t really cut it but like, seriously, if you’ve got something to offer, people might not even value it if you give it away.  What do you think is the difference between a $150 an hour escort and a $1000 an hour escort?  Have you ever looked into escorts before?  You can get an astoundingly beautiful woman for $150 an hour.  Yet senators and such want the exotic $1000 an hour ones.  Maybe they beat them up, or get beaten up or piss all over each other or something, I don’t know.  And all the same, I’m sure I’ve spent the last coupla years having better sex with my lovers than they’re going to get for all that money.
Still, there’s a demand for the $1000 an hour prostitute.  Do you need some kind of moral judgement to prevent you from fulfilling that demand?  Who is doing the judging?  Why?  What would such judgement do for you?
Love,
J

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Proust’s Madeleine refers to a monument that resonates with many readers, a fan’s favorite in his writings.  A madeleine is a kind of small French cake, usually with ribbed lines across it.  Proust recalls eating one and being reminded of something.  Sitting and pondering, reaching deep into his mind for the remembrance, as he continued sniffing and tasting the little cake.  Finally, all at once in a great flash, the taste and smell involuntarily and instantaneously drew him back to his grandmother’s house when he was ten, recalling eating one of them.

He recounts this experience, not with the flavor of a “triggered memory,” but as actually being there again, being transported completely, in his senses, to that experience.  It is as if for a brief moment, he’d traveled through time.  He was the ten year old boy, in his grandmother’s house.  One can use the phrase, “ma madeleine de Proust” to refer to the trigger of such an experience.  As far as I can tell, to be properly referred to as “Une Madeleine de Proust“, an experience must be a) involuntary and b) drag one into a past experience.

In a similar manner, I notice that little feelings sometimes allow us to gauge where we now are, and to compare the present moment to the past.  Not in as grand a fashion as a person’s Madeleine de Proust in the sense that most people will make that reference, but in the way that we relate to people, places, and objects.  Perhaps a person gives one a familiar feeling, and a sense of ease…  maybe that person carries a similar scent, or way of walking and speaking, or a similar set of tension and ease as a former lover, or an old friend.  In other words, in a small way, that arrangement of movements and scents and words will transport us kinesthetically, to a past experience.  Thus is it “une petite madeline de Proust.”

However, I would argue that it can happen without people being aware of it.  It is simply that they will have a good familiar feeling.  I often think that in this way people go on seeking to repeat the same set of experiences again and again, but not really noticing how it happens.  I have come to suspect that much of our moral imagination is formed of such links to our past.  That a house can be built, and a life can be lived within that house, consisting of things that one has chosen for the kinesthetic reality they create for that person, the lovely little things they constantly drag from one’s long lost years.  But it is merely a house of cakes, “une maison des petites madeleines.”

Isn’t it true that a new person one meets, or a new place one visits, if utterly alien, will be far more challenging than the “instant ease” we judge things by as being “good?”  It is as if “instant ease” or “a sense of initial familiarity” were a sign from God that we’ve found a person or place we belong with right now.  It is only a small leap from one’s feeling of ease and rightness to one’s sense of what is “right” and “wrong.”  This is the reason I have said that the “moral imagination” is linked to the “house of cakes” I have described.  Perhaps it is only a sign that we’ve found une petite madeleine and some feature of that person or place has simply drawn us back to a time when we felt comfortable or happy or else the petite madeleine simply refers to something we like about ourselves.

I write all this from the perspective of a traveler.  I have lived 8800 miles from where I was born for around two years.  Long enough for it to feel like “home.”  I have also felt love for places spread across Europe and the U.S.  Moreover, some types of people are incredibly easy for me to get along with.  The Irish are known for being friendly.  The Taiwanese are very helpful and usually try very hard to impress foreigners.  The provincial French are easygoing, laid back little people, among whom I could easily unwind many years.  I can ultimately interact with all these people with similar rules of politeness to what I would use at my parent’s church, and expect similar responses.

Another example: I know well the scent of autumn, and it is striking because it blurs my reality by being the same scent in Atlanta and in Taipei.  The familiarity the scent creates, here by the Taiwan Straight, on this rogue island off the coast of an ancient empire, takes me to any number of times I’ve walked through my grandparents’ field, or the forests of North GA mountains, or sat on the porch of the house I grew up in.  It creates that reality around me.  Smells are so powerful this way.

However, at a documentary film festival, I recently watched a film that stunned me:  “Let’s Be Together.”  The film depicted a Danish boy who was a serious cross-dresser.  He identified himself as a boy, and seemed to enjoy being a boy, and he later admitted that he liked boys, and man-oh-man he liked to rock some fancy 6″ heels.  Such queer material was not what was stunning, indeed it is a bit old hat for me.  But the culture in which it appeared was utterly alien to my senses.

The Danes he lived with weren’t too bothered by his behavior.  One must bear in mind, Denmark is a country where, if he was transgendered, he could probably start taking hormones around age 13 or 14, probably have surgery after 18.  Also this country is one where a bunch of hippies once took over a military base in the 1970s.  Instead of the government either shooting or arresting all the hippies, they just let them keep the installation and run it as an independent government within the city of Copenhagen.  This prefecture still exists and is called “Christiania.”  In other words, the Danes are coming from a radically different place than what I’m used to.  Any country I have lived in generally views transgendered as some sort of disease and would have arrested those hippies forthwith, not given them their own independent government!

The boy’s father was Brazilian.  I was amazed at the way he spoke to his son.  He was emotionally transparent.  Initially I thought he was being overly angry as he seemed to be reacting intensely.  Also, the father was a masculine guy and most masculine fathers get threatened by the first show of femininity in their sons — or so I have seen in cultures I know.  But this guy was different.  In his honesty and transparency he revealed that his concern was that the boy would alienate himself from society and therefore face physical danger and fail to find love.

The father (apparently a clothier) was fine with making a dress for his son so the boy could be Cleopatra at his 15th birthday party.  As his expert hands sewed on sequins, the dad shared stories with his son about how he was lost and confused at 15; but he found a man he fell in love with and had a sexual relationship with, who helped him find his way.  This is all very interesting because the father also had a wife at the time of the movie.  But he told his child about gay loves and straight loves.  And concluded the long conversation with the words, “this is all I want for you, for you to find this happiness that was so important for me.”

What?!  I cannot imagine such a conversation between a father and a son in my culture.  This was a conversation in which the boy was viewed with respect as a person with some right to privacy and choosing his own way.  The father brought concerns only to help the boy find all the best in life — not blushing at any aspect of sexuality or discovery.  And the father shared his own very personal experiences, with frankness and emotional honesty throughout!  Mon Dieu!

Back to the Danes: The boy’s stepfather took him fishing, and treated him perfectly well.  He didn’t even seem phased by the fact that the kid had taken to such extreme behavior (though he refused to spend 200 USD on a pair of sunglasses).  The stepfather and the mom only seemed to care that her son might be hurt (physically) by some ignorant kids.  Moreover, the way the family interacted just had a tone to it which was completely different than what I have known.  Their formalities and informalities, their tension and ease, were in places that did not resemble any family I have ever seen in my life.

The strange thing is that the Danish family and the Brazilian family initially gave me a very dark feeling.  I felt uncomfortable, and I put up a kind of moral judgement about them.  After a little while, I noticed that this sense of “evil” was because their ways of doing things were putting me in a kinesthetic feeling I only knew as “evil.”  But once I set that aside, and watched them….  I realized that nothing they did could be called “evil” in the sense that if they, or even all the world, acted that way it would bring any harm to people, either in their bodies or their souls.  It was simply an “evil” by my own tribe, the one I have left, and perhaps the one whose soil I stand on now.

But that sense of evil, what is it?  It is just a trip into another place, another time, something dredging the depths of my brain and dragging me back to my childhood where I see my father’s lips recoiling into a grimace when certain things come to pass.  Or hurling me headlong into my grandmother’s house, where I see her self-righteous smile as she pronounces God’s judgement on certain “wickedness.”  Or my mother’s tightening jaw as she sees a thing, and wonders how she’ll speak of it to me, because “God says that’s wrong.”  In other words, whether I have been aware of this or not, many of my moral feelings just come back to my own “Petites Madelienes des Proust.”  And it was only in opening myself up to something difficult, where I wanted to put up barriers and judgments, that I was able to see that kind of morality for the tribal superstition that it is.

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I have this habit, it’s a very bad one.  I’ve decided I need to face this since as long as the potential exists and I’m simply repressing myself, I haven’t actually dealt with the underlying issue.

Yesterday I was having around my family again and I got into an argument with my mom.  I truly felt she was being completely unreasonable about something and putting me into a very unpleasant bind.  However, the proper response would have been to ask for clarification, or to tell her that I felt she was presenting an impossible dilemma for me on something very important.

Instead I more or less reframed things in a way to place her in an impossible position, then she escalated the situation and I went for the jugular, saying things carefully as to leave her in tears, doubting her own self-worth (her particular weak spot).  I kept telling my dad to butt out, but his vocal observation at the time was that everything I said sounded fair.  Of course, I knew what I was doing.  Moreover, I intended it very cruelly at the time.  Later that evening, she left church early because she felt completely sickened and unable to practice piano.

My Qi Kung teacher pointed this out to me as well.  One time I and my Kung Fu schoolmates were out at a bar.  Some guy walked by and was an ass to me.  I said and did a couple of perfectly “harmless and reasonable” things and he nearly assaulted me.  My intention being that the other school mates would probably stop it from going too far and I would press charges against him, screwing up his employment, his relations with his family, taking money away from him etc, etc…  My Qi Kung teacher called me aside and essentially said, “I know what you’re doing, stop it.”

Further, and addressing the point of my writing about all this, my teacher was able to show me why I do this.  The basic feeling I have is that nothing I say matters much to anyone.  I don’t really feel like I have any social power, or social worth, and I don’t feel like anyone would really give a damn what I feel.  Usually in arguments I find people are pretty reluctant to show that they give a damn what the other person feels, so I tend to sense a lot of things that confirm my suspicion.  So when I become convinced that someone steps on me, I often form the intention to destroy them completely, or at least strike their weakest point as hard as I can, and proceed based on that.  My basic feeling is that anything less just won’t be noticed.

Interestingly enough, after the conversation about the guy in the bar, because of the way my teacher presented the situation to me, I harbored a lot of hatred towards my teacher.  I took it upon myself to actually damage the form of martial art that he had spent his life and love developing, to poison it subtly and carefully after he was gone.  I didn’t reveal this directly to him for awhile, but I have had a way of simultaneously holding all my good motivations and bad motivations inside my mind without feeling too bothered by the conflict.  All the time.

I’ve improved this in the last few years, taking what’s arguably an even colder approach and weighing out the advantages of destroying them or hurting them versus keeping them as an ally.  I know that sounds sick, but in a lot of cases, if I boil it down and don’t give myself any quarter for what appears to be self control, that’s what I’ve done.  So progress, I guess, was dropping the intention to hurt my teacher’s art and seeing learning it properly as more worth my time.

Regarding my mom, I stepped away, had some hot chocolate and read some law books for awhile.  As I was reading I was thinking that as long as there’s a potential for this to happen, then whatever the underlying cause is, I haven’t addressed it.  So I went back to my mom and asked her to give me a chance to listen to her and not try to take what she’s saying in the context of all the opinions I’ve formed about her throughout the years…  to try and listen with new ears.

Of course, she appreciated this, but ten times more important to me is that I felt like I shifted at least some of the potential for this to happen between us.  In other words, instead of merely repressing my deep-seated disdain for her and acting polite (which I could make a cost/benefit analysis for and probably maintain for years), I actually think I started getting past some of the crap we’ve built between us.

Beyond the specific issue with my mom, I often struggle to feel enough security in my worth to others regarding things I might need or want, like employment or someone caring for me, or even my friends caring what I have to say, to cease to be such a calculating reptile about it.  In social reality I still tend to use all my intellect, creativity, friendliness, and insight to try and prove worth to my friends, family and people I meet.  And I frequently don’t trust people to listen to me or care about me at all on the merit of my value as a person.  Though recently I’ve been fortunate to have some friends that have shown me they do care on those merits alone.

I’ve been around both my mom and my dad lately and noticed my patterns with them;  now I also see how I’ve developed symbiotic relationships with many of my friends and social groups to give me support based on the fact that they all basically like the persona with which I try and garner value.  I take little and very cold solace in the fact that most people are engaged in some kind of tacit bargaining like mine.

I cherish freedom and one of the only things I think is unethical is controlling others.  But all that I’ve been talking about are forms of control and methods to try and subtly and quietly negotiate it behind someone’s back.  It makes me feel sick to think about my whole issue with this, the extreme ends of my reactions to insecurities as well as the everyday manipulations involved — a big chunk of my entire lifestyle is built around it!

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Flexibility

I’ll tell you what I found inspiring today:  The quite posted on tellmewhyimwrong.wordpress.com by James Baldwin:

““Any real change implies the breakup of the world as one has always known it, the loss of all that gave one an identity, the end of safety.  And at such a moment, unable to see and not daring to imagine what the future will now bring forth, one clings to what one knew; to what one possessed or dreamed that one possessed.  Yet, it is only when a man is able, without bitterness or self-pity, to surrender a dream he has long cherished or a privilege he has long possessed that he is set free—he has set himself free—for higher dreams, for greater privileges.””

The implications of this are really broad and wide.  However, I’m going to focus on one way I think it’s important on a micro-level.  I have noticed that people use categories as a means to relate to people.  To use a weird example, I knew a lady who quit drinking and smoking weed.  She described some of her friends almost being upset with her at first (though others were supportive).  Others just didn’t know what to do when they hung out, because the way they’ve been interacting with her changed.

So we all get into a role.  Maybe you’re the cool person at the party who tells all the jokes and is a political intellectual.  Maybe I’m the hipster queer that dresses like an androgynous German model.  So we get into relationships with people who are interested in interacting with that role.  Usually in some fashion our roles will support or compliment their roles.  I think this is especially true between lovers.

I actually think our identity becomes a trap at that point — the thing that worked for us becomes our enemy.  Because what happens when you wake up one day and feel less like making jokes and just don’t give a toss about your politics to talk about it at the party.  What if you’re feeling more contemplative and flirty, romantic?

Or for me, what if I want to dress like a rock star and pick up all the girls one day?  The thing that everybody thinks is so cool has now changed and there’s going to be some amount of friction.  This might not be too much with peripheral acquaintances, but with close friends, or especially family and lovers, it can get pretty intense.  Ask someone who came out of the closet as gay how much that impacted their family and lover at the time.

This also impacts people in organizations.  The lady who works all the time, puts out everyone else’s fires, and brings in her own office materials will always be taken advantage of and will likely never be promoted.  The old saying, “you want something done, give it to a busy person” is the lady I’m talking about here.  If she were to take a role of leadership, suggesting functional solutions to problems, and drawing clearer boundaries about her requirements, you’d better believe there would be huge friction!  Or if for some other reason her power relation to the organization changed, her interactions with her coworkers will experience stress.

I dream of a world, or at least a group of people where individuals could be free to act in true spontanaity, which I think would produce a level of honesty that we don’t usually see now.  Commitment and consistency are methods pick up artists use to get people to do stuff they might not otherwise be comfortable with.

“So where’s the craziest place you ever had sex?”

“In the top of a lighthouse”

“Wow, what would your Sunday school class think if they knew about it?”

“Actually, it was with a boy from church.”

“Oh my god, you’re such a bad bad girl, aren’t you?”

<giggles> “yes I am.”

“I think that’s really cute.  I’ll give you five bad girl points for that.”

“Hey!  Only five!” <pouts>

Our pick up artists then proceeds to drive her to prove the identity that she has committed too.  I know that’s a weird example, but the same principle works for cult leaders.  There’s also a little bit of a sunk costs fallacy happening here (See wikipedia article on sunk costs fallacy).  Sunk costs is basically where someone invests in something, and gets so far into it, she doesn’t want to back out at this point, so will pour more resources into the losing investment.

All this comes together for me in that at some point, some aspect of identity is going to become rigidified for someone…  at which point they’re trapped (and might not even know it).

Not that you’re doing that or that I’m doing it either.  I’ve found that by casting myself as “gender queer” then I can choose to act however I want.  People don’t expect my identity to contain specific behaviors, and since I’m “queer” anyway, I can violate those behaviors if i want to (flexibility is built into the social role).  Like in the quote, one has to be ready to “to surrender a dream […] long cherished or a privilege” to find something greater.  I think that is true partly because in the moment of NOW, the dreams or privileges of yesterday may no longer be functional, or may no longer be what is best to draw upon for the situation at hand.

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