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malthaussen's Journal
malthaussen's Journal
March 24, 2012

Congressman says NO is treason

Phoenix, Ariz: State Representative Al E. Katt today proposed legislation that would make it treason for a woman to refuse to have sexual intercourse with a Republican male.

"Since to refuse intercourse is ipso facto to murder a helpless child before it has even been conceived, any woman who refuses intercourse is committing pre-meditated murder. And since we know that Republicans are the only true Americans, and America is at war, to murder an American is clearly an act of treason. Therefore no woman should have the right to refuse intercourse with a Republican Male, or she should suffer the full penalty for treason."

** Sometimes, virtual truth may be more true than reality? How far away do you think this is, really?

-- Mal

March 24, 2012

On tit-for-tat legislation

As more and more legislators propose laws for transvaginal ultrasounds and other laws designed to attack a woman's right to the integrity of her own body, other legislators have proposed laws to force men who wish to use medication to offset the symptoms of EDS to also undergo invasive procedures which deny them the right to the integrity of their own bodies. Similarly, as more and more legislators propose bills to force welfare recipients to undergo drug testing, other legislators have proposed laws to force legislators to undergo drug testing. In no such cases do the people proposing such legislation expect or even desire the legislation to pass. Self-admittedly, they are "just trying to make a point."

While the impulse to this sort of tit-for-tat legislation is fully understandable, one might wonder if it is wise.

Consider these points: the right-wing maniacs who are proposing the invasive, strong-arm laws to violate the integrity of women, welfare recipients, or anyone else, are not likely to be moved, or amused, by such counter-proposals. Nor are the many who are opposed to all such laws likely to be influenced by the retaliatory proposals, as they are merely a manner of preaching to the choir. Who then, is left to be influenced by such back-and-forth? Only persons who are genuinely uncertain about the appropriateness of such kinds of laws.

I wonder if these people, let's call them "undecided," are likely to be persuaded by such tit-for-tat proposals that the level of discourse has been raised? Or are they more likely to think that all legislators are a pack of idiots, who will waste valuable time and tax resources arguing over silly bills that have no chance of passing while ignoring and delaying legislation that might have some value?

Consider that it has been claimed that the Republicans have overtly attempted to lower the public's opinion of our legislative assemblies because to do so will promote an attitude of "a plague on both your houses," which both promotes apathy -- since all are criminals and fools, why vote -- and also promotes an instinct to throw all the rascals out and put in new. One might ask if tit-for-tat legislation, however understandable, doesn't play into such tactics, and suggest that it might be wiser to eschew it than embrace it.

-- Mal

March 24, 2012

Why do we condone violence?

Around 25 years ago or so (god, has it been that long?) a friend of mine -- he happened to be a white kid -- had his back broken by a group of gangbangers -- they happened to be black kids -- who worked him over with two-by-fours because, apparently, he had wandered onto their block. It was a mistake on his part, as it happens -- he didn't know it was their turf -- but regardless, there were many who told him it was his fault for going onto their block. (Yeah, he survived. He even got to walk again after a term of rehab)

A few years later, watching ESPN, I saw a professional athlete punch out an announcer right in front of the cameras. Now, it is certainly true that the announcer was provoking the athlete, and virtually dared him to attack. The poor schmuck paid for it, anyway, and the curious thing is that he was made to apologize, and forthwith lost his job, while the athlete went about his smirking way. Don't mess with the MAN!

Recently, we have seen another in a long series of kids -- who happen to be black -- being killled in cold blood by men -- who happen to be white -- and as should surprise no one, the media and the authorities are doing everything in their power to demonstrate that the poor schmuck "asked for it," and that the homicide was not just justifiable, but in some way commendable.

And we have also seen, numerous times, that when a woman is sexually assaulted by a male, everything from the clothes she wears to the cereal she eats for breakfast is cited as a reason the poor schmuck (schmuckette?) "asked for it," and the poor helpless attacker couldn't control himself.

Many have asked, why do we blame the victim? And that is a worthy and important question. But I'd like to flip it, and ask instead: why do we go to such great lengths to condone violence? I am admittedly weird -- I've never understood why "provocation" was an excuse for an attack, as if words were so much more injurious than GBH or death. Which is why, when incidents like this crop up (as they do on a daily, if not hourly, basis), I tend to shut my ears to all claims of what the victim did to "deserve" his injury, and ask myself rather why we condone and support the person who commits the violent act. There are those who will claim we have a "rape society," and those who will claim we have a "bullying society," and whatever the value of these claims may be, it is certain that we have always used violence to work our will on those from whom we want something. War, after all, is nothing more than killing people until they do what you want. It does not require much imagination to consider that our society promotes and encourages violence because we want to continue to execute violence on everyone not lucky enough to be "us."

-- Mal

March 8, 2012

Feminism and labor

Catchy title, huh?

Just a thought I've been poking around in my head: the feminism of the late 50's occurred in a time of labor shortage and great industrial expansion. (So too did the Civil Rights movement) In other words, a time when industry needed more workers than could be supplied by the male population. As women entered into the labor pool, the Boss class discovered with considerable glee that they could pay them much, much less than they paid men for the same work. As a side benefit, this allowed the bosses to drive down the pay of all workers, especially when the Boomers started entering the labor pool and the shortage turned into a glut. We know that the result of this has been real-wages stagnation (decline, really) for the best part of 40 years. Indeed, wages sunk so low that an average family just about required two paychecks in order to survive. But feminism continued to flourish, because it was to the advantage of the ruling class.

Now, however, the labor pool has grown so large, due to outsourcing, that we cannot even employ all the men in this country. Women are no longer needed as part of the labor pool, no longer have an impact on the money flowing into the pockets of the rich man. And suddenly... the rich men have launched an attack on women and feminism, trying to "take back" all the "advances" that have been made since, say, 1955.

I'm sure it's just coincidence.

-- Mal

March 4, 2012

Institutional Inertia

Okay, quick show of hands, boys and girls: how many of us have been inconvenienced or even injured by a person in a position of greater authority than ourselves, who has elected to put policy over persons in making a decision? I suggest this is a quite common occurrence, and that in our society such a decision is even seen as a virtue, and not a failing. And I further suggest that while this may be one of the greatest and most characteristic strengths of our society, it is also our greatest and most characteristic weakness.

It is a great and characteristic strength because it has enabled Western civilization to dominate and exploit the rest of the world to our advantage and profit. Well, it and the Maxim gun. As I like to remind my OWS friends who chant "We are the 99%:" to the rest of the world, we are the 1%, or as somebody-or-other put it, "history is made on the backs of most people." As I sit here in my sweatshop-made clothing scribbling (keyboarding?) away at my cut-rate sweatshop-built computer, I am well aware of the advantages I derive from being an Old White Male who stands on the shoulders of the giants who have preceded me -- and beaten the rest of the world into submission, so that I may enjoy my goodies at the expense of their suffering. Oh, I don't feel particularly guilty about it, you understand -- I just congratulate myself on being clever enough to pick the right ancestors. We could have a nifty digression about morality and social in/justice right about now, but I'd rather stick to the point. This characteristic trait of our society I will label "Institutional thinking," although I suppose "Institutionalization" might work just as well: the idea of putting the goals of a collective above the convenience of the individuals comprising that collective, to focus the combined energies onto a goal that benefits the whole. I don't suggest that this is a uniquely Western idea, by the way, just that it turns out that up to this point we have done it better than the rest of the world. Oh, of course many other conditions have contributed to the hegemony of Western Europe and its wunderkind, the United States, over the rest of sorry mankind, but our amazing talent for marching in formation is taken to ridiculous extremes in our society, and has taken us to ridiculous extremes in domination. Moreover, one of the abiding myths (in the sense of underlying story explaining ourselves to ourselves, not in the sense of "fiction," although it may sure-enough be fiction) of our society is that our superior discipline and dedication are the main reasons why we have triumphed over all adversaries (so far) and have spread the Culture of the Golden Arches across the terraqueous globe. I could provide a multiplicity of examples drawn from history and philosophy, but I'd prefer to procede without footnotes.

What is perhaps not usually understood, until it is forcibly brought to our attention, are the disadvantages of this mentality. Now, other and wiser men than myself have commented on these disadvantages from time to time, so let no one accuse me of originality. 'Way back before I was born, people were churning out learned dissertations on the Organization Man, Groupthink, and even making entertainment about the subject ("The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit," anyone?) For whatever reason, though, these criticisms don't seem to have stuck, much, possibly because the advantages of Ruling The World are so much more tasty than worrying over the human cost. And while some of us do show some inklings of awareness of cost to humans outside our own collective (cf my reference to "sweatshops," supra), less awareness is shown of the cost to humans within the collective. Unless it is forcibly brought to our attention.

There have been a number of recent examples of the disadvantages of institutional thinking in the US recently. The failure of the governor of Georgia to show sufficient courage to grant a stay of execution to a condemned man when new evidence had cast serious doubt on the individual's guilt is a glaring example of the disadvantages of this sort of mindset. The fear of the administrators of the Pennsylvania State University of the consequences of exposing a child rapist in their own locker room is another such glaring example. Institutional thinking becomes institutional inertia when the people who are in positions of authority and responsibity are so paralyzed by their own cowardice and inability to generate original thought that they allow a process to continue unaltered regardless of the cost in human life, honor, or dignity. (This is not, I discover, the usual definition of "institutional inertia," but it ought to be) Or, in Newtonian terms, a body in motion along a certain vector is sure-enough going to continue in that motion unless it is acted upon by some force. What is curious is that when the disadvantages of institutional thinking are brought to our attention, we tend to condemn the human actors and not the mindset that ruled their action (or inaction). But these individuals are almost invariably acting in the best traditions of the Institutional Mind, which state roughly that any institution lucky enough to have me as a member is ipso-facto superior to every other institution on the planet which does not enjoy that privilege, and that such institution should be protected and supported beyond all reason, even unto the point of "the ultimate sacrifice," (especially if somebody else is making that sacrifice) and that anybody who disagrees is a dirty, low-down traitor. And now let us queue up "Be True to Your School," and be thankful.

Perhaps the most blatant example of institutional inertia in relatively-recent history was the 1914-1918 war, during which the leaders of The Most Advanced Nations in the World (soi-disant) could find no way to stop the test of whether human flesh was invulnerable to machinegun-fire until an entire generation of young men had been wiped off the face of the planet. I reckon that any war may be considered an example of I-I, but the Great War is special in the depths of its pointless stupidity. And here is the thing... one is still expected to be misty-eyed and proud of the sacrifice and courage of Our Brave Boys as they went over the top into the hailstorm of bullets, and any suggestion that their s&c was a stupid and pointless waste is considered, somehow, in bad taste. Because after all, we never know when the next generation of young men might need to be sacrificed to Institutional Inertia.

Now, we could probably go off on a nice riff about altruism and self-sacrifice being pro-survival traits (in terms of the survival of the human genome), and a lot of nice work has been done in that area. And if space permitted, we could launch another great riff on the origins and need for institutional thinking, and how it is rooted in the family, or even farther back, in the desire of the individual for recognition (with a side trip into the intriguing paradox of how, in search of self-enablement, we submerge the self), but DU has a rule against re-writing War and Peace, and I suspect I am already pushing the envelope. And I have yet to even bring up that very strange word, "loyalty," which I confess is a word I've always had a bit of trouble understanding. It seems to mean supporting one's chosen group or person regardless of whether that group or person's actions are right or wrong, yet it seems also to be regarded as a virtue, and no small virtue, at that. It also appears to be wrapped up with the word "faithfulness," which unfortunately I perceive is defined as "loyalty." I've always had a hard time with this. 'Way back in High School, our football team was 1-9 on the year, and I really could not understand how anyone could assert with a straight face, "We're Number One." And in this, I perceive something of the crux of the issue: that regardless of what we are taught as children, the objective truth of a situation is completely irrelevant when it comes to what we say or do about it. Many here at DU seem to recognize this quite well, when it is demonstrated by Republicans or other opponents... but less so, when it is demonstrated by OUR side. And this is the defining characteristic of Institutional Inertia, and Institutional Inertia is as necessary a consequence of Institutional Thinking as, say, monopoly is to capitalism. President Johnson and his advisors decided to bomb North Vietnam despite the fact that everybody involved knew it would not achieve the desired objective. The football coach of your choice will often insist on running the same play again and again, despite the fact that it is unsuccessful. And the snide and clever among us will point to such action, and refer to a (spurious) quote of Albert Einstein about insanity. Yet how many of these same people would pull up stakes and move their home and family across country because their corporate superiors directed them to do so? For that matter, how many of these same people bowl in a league? And needless to say, their league is the best league on the planet. (We could take another great side-journey at this point into the subjects of Pride, Humility, and Hubris, and perhaps reference Ecclesiastes a few times, but again...) In our society, institutional thinking is so ingrained, we are hardly aware of it. Unless it is forcibly brought to our attention.

Is it possible to derive the advantages of Institutional Thinking without being plagued by the concommitant disadvantages? The answer to that question lies beyond my competence. I suggest, however, that it is useful to understand that many of the personal actions (or inactions) we find so distasteful (at least, when other people do them) are the necessary result of institutional thinking, and that our society considers institutional thinking ("loyalty&quot as one of the paramount virtues. Indeed, it might even be suggested that institutional thinking is a pre-requisite to what we call "success" in our society, so that it is counter-productive for an individual not to display it. And thus, I might further suggest, it is contradictory or even irrational to condemn individuals for playing by the rules our society enforces for success, when these rules lead to the disadvantages of Institutional Inertia.

-- Mal

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