Sunday, 5 July 2015

Sympathy for the Devil

You may have seen the viral video of a woman going completely insane over marriage equality. It had been taken down. However, a friend found the following, so you can see it:

http://www.thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/davidbadash/watch_indiana_woman_s_facebook_video_meltdown_rant_over_marriage_goes_viral

And if you can't see how this is funny, then watch this, it may help:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IOxSv-gpAgI


It's also very sad, because there are far worse rants going on out there, and this bitter hatred for 10% of human beings can lead to very dark places. If people are that passionate, they can be dangerous.

Well, we all know that.

Something else struck me about it though. Within her worldview it makes sense. By her highly emotional personality, the reaction makes sense. If you believe something very deeply, no matter how illogical that belief is, then by the chain of events that follow, you can arrive at that place.

I actually feel sorry for Betty. Her life must be bloody awful. Her hormones seem off kilter, she may need professional help. But...she's trapped. If she were to accept marriage equality she'd have to dismantle her entire belief system. Systems work as a whole. You can't just set aside one part. It's a house of cards, pull out one at the bottom, and FLOP.

When the US Supreme Court Judges made their decision it was not done easily. It took time, and much, much debate. It certainly would not have involved emotional rants. Courts are the opposite of emotional rants, they are about fairness, balance, logic etc. (It is especially notable that Justice Kennedy is a conservative, by the way.)

Most regular people are not educated like Supreme Court Judges and follow a very different method when making decisions. There is a lot of "gut" feeling. Betty is going with her gut and not her reason. She may be too old to change. She may not be intelligent enough to understand. She may not be stable enough to cope. Don't hate her, pity her.

You don't have to approve of homosexual unions. There is no law or requirement for you to do that. If you want to, you can not only disapprove but hate. Aren't you lucky? Nobody can prevent you from hating. That's true freedom. Your personal opinions are safe.

That same freedom that gives you the right to hate gives others the right to love. Remember that, because you can't have it both ways.

And then it gets even better - the same restrictions that prevent you from manifesting that hate, the laws that stop you from discriminating against the people you hate, also prevent them from harming you. Again, it's totally fair.

You are not allowed to harm gay people, and they are not allowed to harm you. What more could anyone ask for?

This is the difference between hate and harm. You may hate all you wish, but you can't harm.

You can't discriminate.
You can't oppress.
You can't bully.
You can't persecute.

I gave up trying to help the likes of Betty a long time ago. I am not equipped to communicate with people who are that emotional. I leave that to others. Others who fight emotion with emotion. Who cry and shout and use dramatic language. Not my forté.

I offer logic, and I get emotion in return, so we talk past each other, and it's a waste of time.

I acknowledge that some people are compromised in their logic. They use emotion instead. (This is where the hate often arises, BTW). Simply educating them doesn't work.

That's why we have laws. Laws exist because people can't figure out how to behave all by themselves. I don't need laws to tell me not to bully people who are different to me, I learned that by myself. But some never do that. So we have to protect their potential victims.

If people are too emotional to be logical, they have to be told to behave.

In other words Betty, you did this to yourself.



Friday, 19 June 2015

Why I Don't Wear Socks

Do you know what a difference of opinion is? Maybe.

You know what an opinion is, surely? Well, when two people have opinions, but they are different, that is a difference of opinion.

It doesn't mean that one is right and the other is wrong, because that only works with facts. With opinions, there is no absolute right or wrong, there's just thoughts that work logically (we hope) for the person holding them.

I don't wear socks. Well, very rarely anyway. Maybe twice a year. The point is I don't wear them habitually, as many people do. You may say I should choose an example of something I NEVER EVER do, but I don't believe in never. There are things I haven't done before, certainly, but who knows what the future brings? Anyway, it's important for this discussion that sock-wearing is not totally ruled out.

So, when I get up in the morning, I put on clothes, but not socks, because I have no use for socks. Even if it's cold. If I have to go out in the snow I put on warm boots. Don't need socks. If I'm wearing shoes that many think of as needing socks, i.e. trainers/sneakers whatever you happen to call them in your part of the world...usually faux Converse in my case...I wear them without socks. Don't they chafe a bit? Sometimes, but I usually don't walk far in them. If I'm going to be walking for miles and miles and miles, I wear sandals. And wearing sandals with socks punishable by hanging.

I have some socks. I have a few "sports" socks for occasions when I need to walk a long way in shoes, for whatever reason. And I have some ridiculous socks (e.g. black and white stripes, thigh high) just for the hell of it. But it's still correct to say that I don't wear socks.

WHY don't I wear socks? My feet like being uncovered. I'm am a barefoot person. My mother was a chiropodist and a bit of a fanatic about healthy feet. As a child the only shoes I ever had were Clarks, with my feet carefully measured, and my shoes carefully fitted, by an expert. I'm not even sure such a system even exists anymore other than sports shoes for serious athletes, but back then the idea of choosing a size off a rack all by yourself would have given her seizures. AND, when shoes weren't strictly necessary I went barefoot, as did she. She was the only mother among all my friends who went barefoot. My friends thought she was a hippy.

She wasn't, she was pre-hippy. By the time the hippies arrived on the scene she was already in her late thirties, and far more "respectable", but she did feed me homemade yoghurt and muesli. I tend to think of her as ahead of her time really.

Anyway, I grew up thinking shoes were optional and situational, and socks were for school. There were two occasions in childhood that stand out (no pun intended, but I shall leave it in), when I walked on 1) broken glass in the pool in the park, and 2) holly leaves, when the skin on my feet, toughened by natural walking, did not break. I'm sure I was saved countless other injuries too.

There are pros and cons to a barefoot lifestyle. Because my feet have not "moulded" to the shape of ladies' shoes, particularly heels/pointy toes, and they have widened a bit with age, as they do naturally, I don't fit regular shoes. Not that I want any heels and pointy toes thank you, not comfortable. I just have to choose extra wide sizes, or naturally wide styles to get my toes in.


In other words, I have foot shaped feet. You try buying a size 7 shoe which is 4 inches across the toes!

So, let's go back to differences of opinion.

It is my opinion that my feet are normal, and that most western women's feet are not. However, according to the shoe industry, I'm the abnormal one. That is to say, I'm in the minority. Only a small percentage of women have foot-shaped feet at my age.

This is what you usually see:


Far more shoe-moulded over the years. And this lady has been careful.

Sometimes they look like this:


But here's the funny thing. While some foot experts rage against badly fitting and/or fashion shoes, especually ultra high heels etc, for the damage they do, other experts rage against going barefoot.

They both have good reason. They've seen damage done either way, which also means they all know damage is possible either way. And being barefoot certainly can lead to injuries. So, do we look at the data, as to which is safer? The question is, where do we collect the data from? Because if you do a small sample, let's say in New York City, you're immediately leaving out country people - although you may get a few weekend hikers. Any small sample excludes somebody. Then if you go worldwide, with a huge sample, you're going to get far more barefoot people overall. In some places people are at risk of damage to unshod feet from conditions that don't exist elsewhere, such as footworms (yes, there are!). In other words, it's all relative. There's no such thing as a right answer, just expert opinion. For ME, barefoot is best. For some people it would be absolutely wrong.

Are socks dangerous? They are on polished stairs! They can lead to fungal infections. I should show you that photo....no, I'll spare you. OK, socks - or indeed lack of socks - are less hazardous, and therefore less of a serious matter than shoes. Generally speaking, socks are more habit/comfort/style than necessary. Optional. A matter of choice.

So I don't have to wear socks. Nobody else's business. My doctor doesn't tell me to wear socks. The fashion industry is ambivalent about it (not that I've ever followed THEM), my husband isn't repulsed by the sight of my feet, and so on. There is complete sock freedom. Oh, wait......

When I was 14 I was an exchange student in Germany. Germans are like Canadians, shoes come off as you enter the house. Suited me fine. So I was barefoot. On the 2nd day I was there my host offered me a pair of slippers. I declined politely. She tried a little more forcefully. I declined a little more forcefully. She became insistent. It was getting a bit awkward, so I just took them. But I didn't wear them. YEUK. Can't abide slippers.

The next day her daughter appealed to me. Apparently her mother found my bare feet unhygienic, could I at least wear socks? As my room was on the 3rd floor and the stairs were polished, I thought this was a bit dodgy, so I went out and bought some flip flops. Then I got told I was making too much noise on the stairs. I wore the bloody slippers, I was a guest in their home after all, but sheesh.

There isn't always complete sock freedom. But there isn't ALWAYS anything. Always is a bit like never. Sometimes you go along with things to keep the peace, or whatever.

So, if I got a job in a fast food "restaurant" (not going to happen, just the first example I thought of) and I was expected to wear safety shoes and socks inside them, then I'd do it. Because it would be a condition of employment. A prior agreement. The safety shoes (I don't know, do they? Non-slip? Hard toe? I really don't know) would be very sensible, and maybe they'd have a reason for socks.....for the sake of argument. You want the job? You follow the rules.

In my previous post I droned on about rules, and how silly some of them are. I'm not one of those bloody awkward people who flouts rules just for fun. If there's a line (queue) I line up. If there is a door marked "Please Use Other Door" I go to the other one. If I'm on an internet forum that says "No Swearing", then despite the fact that I consider swearwords to be a perfectly legitimate form of language, I don't do it. I have good table manners, within reason. I don't have any fish knives, for a start.

But I'm not going to wear socks just because, occasionally somebody says "you should wear socks".

There is some logic behind the opinions of socks, but not enough. It is all definitely an opinion. There are no facts about wearing socks. It is a fact that socks exist, etc, what I mean is, there is no absolute fact regarding the benefits of wearing socks. Until the day arrives that I NEED to wear socks, I won't.  I don't rule it out.




When a difference of opinion is based on two opposing logics we often call it politics. No, really. Think about it. No matter how much one side or the other thinks he's right, it's all opinion. It's deeply held, carefully thought out opinion. Took years to perfect. And despite myself I must concede that conservative opinion is logical within their own frame of reference. I'm not talking about US Republicans, obviously, they're all mad, I'm talking about classical conservative theory.

This explains it all quite well - the two worldviews.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-human-beast/201210/why-liberal-hearts-bleed-and-conservatives-dont

I found the definitions quite fair and balanced. I don't think the writer showed any bias. If you read each definition it isn't so much about politics as what's behind the politics. The different mindsets. Because there has to be something behind, something that causes people to lean left or right.

Who is right? This is not an answerable question. Both have been tried, over time, in different places, and both have worked, and both have gone horribly wrong. It's a never-ending argument, because when it comes right down to it, everyone involved - no - the sincere people involved, all want the same thing. A better life, a better world, and so on. They simply disagree on how to do it. Simply, eh? Oh I do amuse myself.

If we knew for sure that one way of looking at things always worked out, we'd all be doing it. But we can't even find a middle way. Instead, failing to consider that we are coming at problems from different angles, because we have different mindsets we argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and

Maybe we just enjoy doing it. Maybe we honestly think we'll change the other person's mind. Maybe we just get so bogged down in our reasons behind our arguments that we lose track. Maybe we are just stubborn. Maybe we are so passionate and sincere about our position that we feel a duty to continue. Maybe a traumatic experience brought us to this position. Maybe we're stupid. Maybe we listened to the wrong people. Whatever the reason, we repeat ourselves, explain ourselves, and sometimes get terribly frustrated. Sometimes we forget about the rules of debate, and sometimes we forget our manners. Sometimes we forget compassion altogether.

Sometimes studying why people argue is more interesting than the argument itself.

Somewhere out there is a reader quite adamant that I should wear socks.





(Cue a slew of random thoughts on socks...........)

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Should



A brief bio behind the writer here: in school I was a popular weirdo, I didn't fit in to any mould, but instead of being the introvert at the back I was usually running the show. Whatever was going on - I was usually responsible for it, but almost always managed to stay out of trouble. The Teflon teen. I was bright, probably the brightest in my year (and modest with it, not), and a total slacker. My greatest claim to fame was getting uniform done away with for the 6th form.  I then left school before I'd finished, as it were, because I had a disagreement with the headmistress. My skillsets in life are all creative. I've raised 6 kids from scratch and then because that wasn't enough, adopted a 16-year-old. They are all successful adults, and 3 of them are now excellent parents. 



When we are discussing this whole issue of slut shaming/victim blaming, it's very easy to get bogged down in details, like examples of clothing, skirt lengths, the fact that only women are held to these standards, and so on. I think we easily forget the bigger picture. That is, the idea that we tell other people what they should do. 

You may have noticed that despite our many difference, humans come in three basic types.

1. Those who are self-propelled. They don't really need management, they figure it out by themselves - drawing on the expertise of others where necessary - and therefore often become leaders. They often make the rules.

2. The masses. They wait to be told what to do. Making decisions is too much like hard work and they change their minds a lot in any case. They are easily led, and politicians love them. They only rebel en masse when things get really bad. 

3. General rule breakers. Not rebels (true rebels are #1). They would like to be leaders but lack the ability. These people don't have a mission in life, they're too stupid for that. This group includes the sociopaths, and general rabble that cause trouble for everyone else. 

Which is not to say #1 and #2 are always law-abiding, far from it. It's just that they usually have a purpose in mind.

It's widely believed that humans are not known for following rules, especially if the rules are not good rules. Especially if there's no penalty. So we make more rules. Some are just sort of....assumed.




And each of us has our own comfort zones of rules, some of which stem from upbringing/culture, and some from rationalization. Some we create ourselves, some we pick up from others.

And for everyone who breaks one of those rules, there's somebody ready to say "HEY! You broke the rules!"

Only we're often far more subtle than that. 

We call it advice. We claim that we have the best intent, we have their welfare in mind. Maybe we really mean that, but what we are actually saying is "follow the rules".

Sometimes laws lead to silly situations.


But what it all comes down to is those who feel they are on the side of "right" telling other people what they should do.

When it's a law that has been passed at whatever level, even if it's silly, ordinary people feel they have a right to become a sort of amateur policeman. 

Even when it's just a social norm, people can be amazingly uptight about it. 

I'd like to discuss hats for a bit as a prime example. Headgear. Hair coverings. Things that go on top of or over our heads. The rules about hats are complex and often silly.

Let's consider the purpose of a head covering. In winter it keeps you warm. In summer it keeps the sun off. In certain jobs it keeps hair out of the way for safety and hygiene. In some activities the hat is hard and protects your skull in the event of accidents. So it makes sense in those situations. 

However, in many situations hats are mandatory OR banned, for no reason other than long ago somebody decided it was to be that way. Tradition.

So, soldiers, police officers, bishops, orthodox Jews, Sikhs, baseball players, students on graduation day, Peruvians, country singers, jazz saxophonists, French onion sellers, British royalty, and Slash, all wear hats for no good reason other than it's expected of them. It started at some point, and sort of became unstoppable.

It can change. Nurses and waitresses used to wear hats too, when I was a kid. And some schoolchildren. In fact I wore a straw boater to my first school, and a brown beret when I joined the Brownies. Old men never went out without a hat on, no matter what the weather. Go back a bit further and everyone wore a hat outdoors. Sometimes people even wore hats indoors, but often that's frowned on. Keep up, it's complicated. 

But to this day, some people get upset, I mean really upset, if a man wears a hat to the table. You might as well show up for dinner naked, for the fuss they make. 

Not only that, you must remove your hat in church. Unless you're a woman. Then the opposite applies. HUH? And take your hat off to sing the national anthem. 

Why? Because it's TRADITION, you see. So, follow the rules, or somebody will elbow you. Violence and shame is also tradition. 

For most of these situations you won't be thrown in jail, or even thrown out the building, for getting it wrong, but I guarantee somebody will at the very least glare at you, and usually approach and "correct" you verbally. Because you should follow the tradition. Because.....because, it's tradition, that's why. It shows respect. What do you mean "WHY?"..... Don't ask stupid questions. It just does, that's all. 

But wait, this is not the silliest bit. Some of those people in group 3, those who behave badly pretty much as a matter of course, are just as likely to wear their hats "correctly", and just as likely to reprimand others for not doing so. I know this because I've experienced it so many damn times. It's a weird form of hypocrisy, but that's what it is, nevertheless. The habitual rule breaker getting all bent out of shape over a rule that doesn't even make sense. 

Because even they love to tell other people what to do. 

All our lives we hear it. You should do this. You shouldn't do that! There's no law against it, and there's no harm. But unsolicited advice on social norms flies around like a swarm of gnats. 

I am, at heart, an anarchist, so it comes as no surprise to anyone that I object to this. But I'm also not an idiot. Society has to have some sort of structure, simply because the vast majority of people fall into group #2 and need it. Without this unwritten list of rules they'd be quite lost. 

I daresay that's where it all began. Cavemen (no, I know there weren't, shh, I love my visuals). Those in the tribe who were the brightest and led the rest, knew they had to come up with some sort of system to keep things under control. Even in a family there are house rules to prevent chaos. But rules that make sense are easier both to follow and to police. 

Sane mothers have a rule for children that they only eat in certain places. In the strictest households this may be at the table, for others it's enough that they're not wandering around with it. Some parents, of the do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do variety, eat all over the place but restrict the kids to the kitchen. We decided that whatever rules we chose they had to be the same for everyone. Teach by example. But not everyone does Each to their own. Not my family, not my house, not my monkeys, not my circus. 

This gets discussed, obviously, among mothers. Oh the SHOULDING that goes on in those discussions!

Let me tell you about Moms groups on the internet. If you've never visited one, you would be shocked. They are hostile places. There is nothing you've ever witnessed on religious or political debates that would equal the hostility found on internet Moms groups. And it's quite rare to find trolls there. These are just women in need of emergency pickle extraction. Totally and utterly convinced that their way is right, and not only is yours wrong, and evil, it is their born mission in life to SET YOU STRAIGHT. 

And if you don't, because they can't actually reach through the screen and slap you, they will accuse you, slander you, hound you, gang up on you, and make your experience bloody miserable. If a moderator (or sane general user) was to say "Now, now ladies, everyone is entitled to their own opinion!" they'd be told that it's not an opinion. 

And this is where we find ourselves with the should system, generally. That it's not an opinion. That it's empirically true. Obvious. Always been that way. What's wrong with you?

So, what's the result of breaking these rules? If you should and you don't, what happens? 

Cause and effect, for a start. But all too often it's not a natural chain of events. It's a human version. Cause and effect is complex when it comes to humans. I always used a "natural consequences" style of parenting, also known as "actions speak louder than words" and "he punished himself". If you refuse to put your coat on when it's raining, you'll get wet. If you are unkind to your brother he won't want to play with you. If you don't eat your dinner, you're going to be hungry later. If you don't do your homework, you'll be taking that class again next year. And so on. 

I found this to be a very successful method of teaching kids. It means they learn the hard way, but they do learn. 

Some parents talk about consequences but they aren't natural. That is to say, the consequence for not doing your homework is having the XBox taken away for a week. That is actually a punishment, i.e. removal of privileges. I'm not saying that I'm against it in principle, I'm just suggesting that it isn't true cause and effect. The effect is due to human intervention/decision. 

When you look at human behaviour, and the results of it, much of our society relies on punishment. We do this when natural cause and effect doesn't work, which is quite reasonable. Unfortunately because we are used to this system, and think it is normal, we never try anything else, and also we extend it beyond any reasonableness. 

So. Back to our cavemen. Ug steal's Og's spear. What would be the natural cause and effect? Well, there isn't one really. Og smashing Ug over the head with a bloody great big rock might be the actual consequence, but it's just retaliation. So, to avoid the entire tribe being wiped out as a result of petty theft, Chief Ig tells them all that you must not steal each other's stuff. He then has to decide what he will do if they ignore this rule. Bearing in mind that something too severe (like death) could potentially be no better than letting them fight it out. Might work as a deterrent though (but won't, never did, still doesn't). Give that a shot then. Threat of death. 

After a bit, having executed several otherwise useful tribesmen for theft, Cheif Ig has another thought. Instead of a specific threat, how about a vague threat? Bad things will happen if you steal. Only the Gods know what it is. 

A bear wanders in and eats two children. The Chief says that's the Bear God's punishment for people doing naughty things. A smart arse asks why the children got eaten, and not the people that did the naughty things. The chief has to think about that one, and comes up with some convoluted explanation, which the people accept. They tell this story a lot. 

Some people think, hmm, well I might get away with it, somebody else will get punished. So Chief Ig tells them that the Gods will do unspeakable things to them after they are dead. Forever.

And so beginneth organized religion. 

But it still didn't work. Even with the threat of eternal torture, people still did naughty things. There was only one thing for it. Ostracism. If you can't play nice, you have to leave the playground. In ancient times it was difficult if not impossible to survive without the tribe, so ostracism was a death sentence anyway. But of all the punishments ever thought up by humans, it's always been the most effective.

In modern times we have jails to serve the same purpose. Sometimes truly enlightened people try to teach prisoners to be better people, so they don't re-offend. Pity they didn't do that beforehand really. But hey let's fund prisons instead of schools....oh, no, different topic.

Where were we. Yes.

To prevent people ending up in jail, they need to be educated/raised to behave in such a way that we can all get along. The usual way to do this is to say "don't do this", "do this". It's the same as shoulding. Threats of consequences and punishments, and no real explanation of why. Sometimes there's a why and sometimes there isn't. Some laws make sense and some really don't. But we lump them all in together. So one woman gets arrested for shoplifting, and one for not mowing her lawn.

"Well, what else do you do when all other efforts to make her comply have failed?"

You could ask why, at two stages. 

Why didn't you mow your lawn? Didn't want to/couldn't. Do you need help with your lawn? Can you not afford a mower, or a lawn service? Why not? Let's fix that.You like long grass? Well, where you live it's not allowed because.....................well, it doesn't look nice. Not good enough. Try again. Risk of fire/ticks/noxious weeds/snakes. Well, that makes a bit more sense. 

Why do we insist on lawns? Um...........maybe some people would do better without one? If they like gardening they could grow something else, if they don't they could have concrete or gravel instead. 

Bit of reasonableness goes a long way. 

Unfortunately a lot of children are raised with "because I said so". Probably prepares them for the crazy rules they'll face in adult life, but nothing will ever change like that. Those in charge probably prefer it not to. Keep the masses in line. Teach them to obey from an early age. Obedience is considered a virtue, well of course it is. It saves so much time. But who likes being told what to do, especially without a good reason?

When there's a good reason to follow rules, be they written, unwritten, legal, courtesy, simple, or complex, then I find that reasonable people will often follow them. When breaking rules makes more sense than following them, sometimes even the most law-abiding  and meek person will break them. Or at least bend them. 

But somewhere in between sensible rules and stupid ones is that whole area of "we've always done it this way". More habit than anything. These are the ones that cause the most problems. Everybody knows you shouldn't shoot your boss. You don't need to be told. But get a table setting wrong AT YOUR PERIL. (And I'm actually fine with table etiquette so long as it doesn't spoil my dinner.)

Just don't tell me what I should do if it's none of your damn business. 

Or you may discover that has consequences too.

Matthew 7:1



(I'll get back to appropriate clothing late tonight, who needs sleep anyway....)


Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Boys and Girls

I think a lot - and therefore write a lot - about gender and sexuality, and ultimately feminism. I've also read a lot on these topics, because I find it very useful to see what other people think. Sometimes I agree with them, sometimes I don't, and sometimes I go "AHA!" and learn something new. All these are good.

Because I'm in the process of writing a book on human behaviour, not only am I reviewing my studies on MOOCS in this area, I'm seeking out lots of related work, as current as possible, by a wide variety of writers, to try and get a solid academic background to my writing. It's not an academic book, and I am not an academic, but if I'm to be taken seriously at all I don't want to be talking out of my arse.

One of the areas I hadn't studied in any depth before is evolutionary psychology, so I've been putting that right. It's all very well observing humans as they are, but I need help from others who have done the research in how we were. The reason for that is that I see a value in "natural" human behaviour, and also in "refined" human behaviour. That is to say, we are who we are, and that is our comfort zone, but we can be more than that. We can in fact be better than that.

Over the centuries, civilization has sought that. Expected that. Without realising it we have been taught it. It's what morality is based on. Our higher nature. Avoiding our base instincts. All that. And it most definitely is what the non-supernatural aspects of religion is based on. Sadly it has led to some strange places, from lack of balance, but that was inevitable.

So, when we are looking at gender and sexuality, we are obliged really to accept that biology, DNA, and "instinct" is powerful, but we can also remember that it is within our control. That is to say, it is perfectly natural to feel lust, it is also perfectly possible to not act on it. And this applies to men and women.

BUT.

It requires will and intelligence.

I believe, strongly, that in the modern world, most of the differences between men and women that we discuss are not natural at all, but taught. That is not to say they have nothing to do with nature. It's just that when we understand natural urges properly, we have choices. If we forget or pretend that we don't, then there is a risk of those urges being amplified or crushed, neither of which turns out well.

Of all the "AHA!" pieces I've read on this topic, this one was possibly the biggie. It simply had never occurred to me before.

http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/comm/haselton/papers/downloads/EMTencyclopedia.pdf

If risk-taking has a huge evolutionary advantage for men, and not so for women, then it follows that this is one difference it's not going to be easy to shake off. In fact it goes right along with the size/strength difference, which is often claimed to be the only "real" difference, other than actual reproductive roles.

It explains a lot of other things too, but this is the part I'm interested in, because it leads to this:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-scientific-fundamentalist/200807/why-are-almost-all-criminals-men-part-i

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-human-beast/201505/violent-crime-linked-male-sexuality

To overcome this, you are fighting some of the most powerful instincts of all, not personal survival, but survival of the species. We don't even think about it, but that's what evolution is all about.

Going back briefly to Haselton, let's look at one detail:

One example of a false-positive bias is in men’s estimations of women’s sexual interest. For an ancestral man, failing to detect sexual interest in a woman resulted in a missed reproductive opportunity, which was highly costly to his reproductive success. The opposite error (believing that a woman was interested when she was not) was perhaps a bit embarrassing, but probably was less costly overall. Thus, error management theory predicts that natural selection designed a bias in men toward slightly overestimating a woman’s sexual interest in order to reduce the likelihood of a missed sexual opportunity; this leads modern men to “overpercieve” women’s sexual interest. 

I believe this is the basis behind the idea of women being provocative. Effectively men are projecting their own interests, and seeing it come the other way.

That's not to say women are never provocative. Some flirt almost subconsciously, and some are actually predatory. The fact that they don't actually need to is neither here nor there. Some of this is taught, some of it is personality.

Still. Perception is everything. In my experience men frequently "mis-read" simple friendliness for interest. One smile is often enough.

How are we ever going to get over this seemingly insurmountable problem?

I think I've done a good job with my sons. I have raised them to be gentlemen. The "gentleman" is a modern concept, it's all about awareness, good manners, ethics, and quite frankly, kindness. Some men fake it, but you know a true one when you see one. His values are solid. He doesn't need to be rich, and he certainly doesn't need a top hat. It's about attitude, not status.

There have been plenty of misunderstandings about gentlemen, and I am not just referring to the top hats. Like most concepts, people took advantage of it and then it became a perversion of what it is when it's at its best. You don't need me to tell you the kind of corruption, cronyism, and far from ethical behaviour considered acceptable in the old boy networks, under the guise of gentlemen.

Somehow, thankfully, the better, deeper meaning is still understood.

At the same time the very worst of the men who (wrongly) considered themselves gentlemen, by dint of their wealth or power, have made great efforts to skew the definition of lady to something that suits them.

The definition of a lady is no different to that of a gentleman. It's all about awareness, good manners, ethics, and quite frankly, kindness. That's why, in the fantasy age of chivalry, a knight was so ready to kneel before his lady, to be honourable on her behalf, and die for her if need be. He had risen far above his base instincts to be a gentleman, and was the counterpart to his lady, not her oppressor.

Fantasy. Idealism. Well, not altogether. It's a choice. When men and women are equal, when they respect one another as human beings, no matter what roles the times or place set out for them in culture, when they try to be the best they can be, it's not so old-fashioned and silly to think of them as "ideals", to use words like ladies and gentlemen. People behaving thoughtfully and with everyone's best interests in mind. Maybe we need new words. Doesn't matter. The idea behind it is doable.

Then there's this:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-scientific-fundamentalist/201003/the-hypothesis

It suggests to me that we can use our intelligence to overcome our base instincts. If we choose to. It seems like a good choice to me, and I wonder...can it reach critical mass?

Monday, 15 June 2015

If You're Not Part Of The Solution, Then You Are Part Of The Problem

If this post offends you, you WILL recover. I promise.

This gentleman is mistaken:


This is a genuine photo of a bunch of prostitutes. All of these women are professional sex workers.



As you can see they all dress differently, and........ just like everyone else.

"TSK, obviously Melanie, they are off-duty."

Obviously. And the weather is clearly inclement in that photo too. But that's who they are. When they are at work they wear different clothes, because they perform an act.

These women are also performing an act at work, I'm fairly sure they don't go shopping dressed like this:






Why don't we say to girls "Good grief! You have such tight clothing on you look like a gymnast!"

I'll tell you why, because our society demonizes sex workers, so the greatest insult we can think of is to compare women to prostitutes. At the same time, the greatest insult we can give a man is to call him a woman. Before we get any further, let's just remember that.

Which parts of a woman's body should be covered?

Let's say, just for the sake of argument, that the pubic mons, labia, and anus should be covered, plus the nipples.

So this bikini should be enough:


Not appropriate you say? Can you say why?

No. You can't. All you can say is that you are not accustomed to seeing such little fabric. That's all it is. It's slightly shocking because it's unfamiliar. Trust me, if you had grown up seeing all women dressed like that all of the time, you wouldn't bat an eyelid.

OK. Let's say you want to cover a bit more.

How about this retro style?


This is considered modest. Some would find it amusingly so, and say their grandmother might wear it, right? But look again, she's actually covering roughly the same, or slightly less skin than the outfits that are sometimes considered as being too skimpy for off-beach wear. So is it a matter of location? Thighs are OK if there's sand underfoot?

At some point somebody decided something like that. Wasn't me. I wasn't asked.

To avoid repeating myself, I refer you briefly to an earlier post:

http://chovblog.blogspot.ca/2015/06/bodies.html

If we are ever going to reach agreement on this issue, we have to understand what's behind it. It is NEVER enough to say "You know what modest means" because the word is relative and a moving target in any case. We have to take it apart. We have to question all our assumptions and defaults. What we cover, why we cover it, where we cover it...........

"No spaghetti straps!"

So. Tell me what is wrong with a shoulder?

Let's have a close up:


It's quite possible this woman is naked (and she's wearing mascara, the hussy!), but we are looking from the back so we can't see breasts. What can we see here that could be a problem? Any idea? what if she was, in fact, wearing this:


Is she underdressed? 

Is THIS woman underdressed?


I see shoulders, a bit of cleavage, AND it's tight. But she went to church in that........

Is this woman wearing less?


Oh, the skirt is shorter? It's longer than the gymnast up there. I found the photo of the woman in the black dress by entering the word "skanky" in Google. So, somebody thought it was. Was it the length of the skirt, do you think? Or the Goth style? Or the pose?

Let's do a bit of quick Photoshopping.


Is that OK now? If not, why not?

Perhaps you think it's a matter of occasion. At the beach, parties, weddings, dances.....you can show a bit more skin. But not at the office. And definitely not walking down the street. And maybe not at parties, come to think of it......

If we are going to draw the line, where should it be? Are we all to be provided with a list, that details where, who, and how much?

Would this help?


(Click on it to read)

This is what we face. Judgement. Can't win.

Years ago I decided that I'd dress for comfort and fun and not the opinion of others. Yes, I do have a sense of occasion. I can also follow rules when necessary. But sometimes the rules just don't help at all because the person who wrote them has the wrong motives.

The idea behind "dressing modestly" is to prevent men being distracted, apparently. Natural urges in men, especially young men, cause them to look at and be attracted to women. (Yes, I know, unless they are gay. Let's stay on topic this is about the problem women have.)

Let's be real here. Men stare at and assault women dressed from head to toe in several layers of loose clothing. The idea that what we wear has any bearing on that is 100% bullshit. It's an excuse. It's a pathetic excuse. It's victim blaming at its most ridiculous.

And as I've said so many times that I'm bored with saying it, women in full burqas get raped. Frequently in fact. They covered, and covered, and covered, until you couldn't even see their eyes, and that wasn't enough, so they either stay in the house or have chaperones. And they STILL get raped.

Wake up. The problem is not the clothing, and it's not the women.

OK? Can we just acknowledge that?

It's not enough for you to say "OK, there's no justification for sexual assault but women should still wear modest clothing!", because there is no such thing. Modesty is an attitude, not a dress code. Clothing is just fashion. It changes. It varies from place to place, culture to culture. It always has, and it always will. And until we get our heads out of our arses about skin and fabric and deal with what the problem actually is, nothing will improve. 

We want the situation to improve, don't we? Well it's not going to improve by saying "this is too short", or "this is too tight." That has never worked. Never. Victorians wore high necklines, skirts to the floor, long sleeves, and enough layers to suffocate you - but men still gamely fought their way in!

No. The problem is not the clothing and it's not the women, and every time somebody says that it is, they are part of the problem. 







Thursday, 11 June 2015

Soldiers of Freedom

I'm actually sitting here chuckling to myself. This is a very serious topic, and I'll get past that, but that word Freedom, that poor word. I think it probably gets abused more than any other word in our language. Used by every extreme of politics, ever. Used by every level of income, every role, every situation. I mean, what does it MEAN?

Here's what the dictionary says:



noun

1.
the state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or underphysical restraint:
He won his freedom after a retrial.
2.
exemption from external control, interference, regulation, etc.
3.
the power to determine action without restraint.
4.
political or national independence.
5.
personal liberty, as opposed to bondage or slavery:
a slave who bought his freedom.
6.
exemption from the presence of anything specified (usually followed byfrom):
freedom from fear.
7.
the absence of or release from ties, obligations, etc.

As soon as you see that a word has 7 different definitions you have a clue that discussing it isn't going to be straightforward. Any discussion could involve two or more parties with different selections from those definitions, or maybe blends of them, and not even being aware of that. Not only that, the concept of freedom is relative, depending on physical ability, money, responsibilities, and geography, among other causes.

For example, when I got up this morning, I was free to do whatever I wanted. But my choices are actually quite limited. I cannot fly, I cannot speak Dutch, and I'm 5' 4". So my freedom does not extend to becoming a raven in Amsterdam. Before you ask, "why would you want to do that?" (Or possibly "are you mad?") That's not the point. If I did want to, I couldn't. Nobody is that free.

We talk about the free world, free trade, free elections, and so on, none of which are free at all, they are just less restricted than other examples.

When somebody tells me that a soldier died for my freedom, I groan. 

Yes, I know what they mean, or at least what they think they mean. I am extremely respectful of soldiers who have given their lives with that intent. But let's be honest here, the last soldiers whose lives actually made a difference to how free I my life is, were in World War II. I think.

I was born in 1962, in England, and they still hadn't finished rebuilding after the war. Yeah, 17 years later. We still had an air raid shelter in the garden, and visibly wounded men were still easy to spot on the street. It was a massive event and was still uppermost in everyone's minds. People still talked about it regularly. Everything in their memories was divided into before, during, and after The War. Everyone had lost friends and/or relatives. My mother lost half her classmates. The road that ran parallel to hers was flattened one night.

The British war effort was all about preventing invasion. Make no bones about it. When they entered the war it was ostensibly because of the invasion of Poland, but they knew it was just a matter of time before Hitler set his sights on the islands, so it was absolutely a matter of self-defence. That is a justified war. Yes.

Obviously the best form of defence is attack, so that's what happened, and you know the rest. When it was all over 70 million people had died.

We can't relate to a figure like that. But many of you have seen this recently:


Was it worth it? Did 70 million people die for a good cause? Has the Long Peace been as a result of all that loss?

We are now faced with something quite different. Extremists - not a government - who seem to be capable of anything.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/isiss-dirty-bomb-jihadists-have-seized-enough-radioactive-material-to-build-their-first-wmd-10309220.html

When we talk of war atrocities, what we really mean is "extra/for no obvious purpose" because war is obviously an atrocity in itself. How did we get here?

Here's one educated view:

http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2014/08/the-rise-of-isis/

But like all of these situations, it's very complicated, and in the arrow of time, any deviation off course would have resulted in a very different scenario.

What if there had been no resistance to Hitler? What if he'd taken over the world? What would it be like today? Impossible to say. I'll come back to that.

Resistance. Well. We don't just sit back and let crazy people do anything they please. On wait...the Germans did. Oh wait...the Russians did. It was their own governments! So that's different right?

Look......dead is dead. If it makes a huge difference to YOU whether you are killed by your own government, somebody else's government, or a terrorist, then I can't help you, but to ME it only matters that I don't get killed.

If you sit back and let crazy people in your own government cause problems that lead to the deaths of innocent people, then you are part of the problem. But of course, the average person feels powerless. All we can do is vote.

Did I just say all? But we're FREE! We have democracy! We have the power to get a new leader.

Yeah, meet the new boss, just like the old boss.



We can't simply hold the Bush administration responsible though, can we? Bush left office 6 years ago, and while there's no argument that he left a mess for Obama to clean up, in every way possible, many people are not happy with the clean-up. I don't want this to be a pointy fingers post, it's too important, so while I hold Bush responsible for getting the world into this mess, and I'm disappointed in what has happened since, the fact is this is a US Government mess, rather than any party or individual. On the whole we cannot hold the American people responsible, as they didn't know their leaders would be doing this, and they believed they only had a choice of two when they voted in any case. Nor can we hold any other government responsible, who supported the Americans, because they didn't really have much of a choice, all things considered. 

They did what they did, and we can't turn the clock back. 

The question now is, are we free?

Are we at least freer than we were?

A bit?

OK, we're less free, but are we at least freer than we would have been if they had never begun the Iraq war? 

If you can't answer the question, maybe you don't understand the question, perhaps I've finally got your full attention.

As the video correctly states, the death toll in these recent wars are minor in comparison to WWII. 
Still, around 4500 troops and half a million civilians have died, which is not a small number. Every one of those dead is dead. And there are of course plenty more injured, and then there's this:


Shame on the US government for throwing away people like that. It's become a popular "meme".


It seems to me that if you die you are are honoured, but if you come back in one piece, well......





So there's that. There's also the fact that we seem to forget the civilians.



There is nothing wrong with honouring a soldier, and let's be quite clear about that. These are the bravest of the brave. Every time I say the SLIGHTEST thing on this topic I am accused of not respecting the fallen, who gave the ultimate sacrifice. Bollocks to that accusation. And that's the polite version.

I say this, when you say Solder X died for my freedom, you are lying. He may have died for his comrades. He may have died for his superiors. He may have died for his government, but he didn't die for me. I was in no danger. My country was not invaded. His life, and the lives he took, have nothing whatsoever to do with me.



So, you say, it's figurative. He represents all those who have died, ever, believing they were doing the right thing as soldiers. That I get, to honour one is to honour them all. I wasn't even born when WWII happened, and if the outcome had been different, I would never have been born. That young RAF conscript would have joined the Luftwaffe instead, and not by choice. Or he may have simply been killed, seen as a threat. One way or another he'd never have met my mother, and I would never have been. So in a weird way 70 million people died so that I should later come into existence. But did they die for my freedom as well? What are we talking about?

Are we saying that in the unlikely event that after Hitler had invaded Britain, my father had still somehow survived, and met my mother and I had been born right on schedule, that I'd have been less free than I actually was? When you play what ifs with history, it's just a game because you have no way of knowing.

Some years back a movie was made that explored a "Hitler winning" what if scenario, it was very good actually, but hard to find, so I'm recommending the book instead.

"The story begins in Nazi Germany in April 1964, in the week leading up to Adolf Hitler's 75th birthday."

There are many other books like this, including one by our beloved Stephen Fry, "Making History", in which Hitler was never born, and we are in fact NOT freer.......I recommend that one too.

If you Google it, there are hundreds of ideas, and when is all said and done, it's fun but meaningless, because what happened happened, and here we are. Again I ask, are we free, could we be freer, what would have made us less free.

Freedom is assumed to be very closely related to peace. But you could have a rock solid peace with very little freedom. And in many ways war gives you freedoms you never usually have, like killing people with no murder charges. Some soldiers sign up for the destruction, sadly. So that link is...iffy.

Freedom is also supposedly linked to security. I really don't need to explain how that can be in inverse proportions. Walls and gates make fortresses and prisons and often there's not much difference.

Moving forward then, what do we do? "We" being the western world. Do we ignore ISIS and let them gain a huge foothold in a volatile part of the world? Do we send in more troops, spend more money, and crush them like insects? If we wipe out every member of the organization, and affiliated organizations, and apologize for the civilian "collateral damage" will we be free? For how long? If we don't do that, will we be free? Or less free? Or freer? 

"We" started this whole fucking mess when we freed the Iraqis from that terrible Saddam Hussein. Ask an Iraqi how free they feel between then and now, I dare you. (Yes, I have.)

But you can't sit back and let crazy people do as they please. Can you.

"We" usually end up doing the wrong thing for all the right reasons, and as a huge part of that soldiers get killed. Every damn time. But not for freedom. There is no freedom. There's just a never ending damage control, currently like damping down smoldering embers that never quite go out. If I had a solution I'd be running for office. I don't. If I had a way of preventing so many lives lost, I'd be doing it. It hurts me to the core of my being that young men the same age as my boys never come home. I don't know what those boys are dying for, but it isn't freedom. 

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Oh, And, Read This Young Lovers!

I'm going to cover this in greater depth in my forthcoming book (HINT, HINT) but in the meantime.

Read this:

http://www.businessinsider.com/lasting-relationships-rely-on-2-traits-2014-11

I found this very interesting, and it confirms one of my own pet theories, which is simply:

People forget that they love one another.

It can happen soon, or it can happen over time, but it can happen.

Listen.

Humans in a relationship don't always agree on everything. If you never argue with your partner over anything, if there is never, ever a disagreement or misunderstanding, you are bloody weird. But it's possible not only to keep it to a minimum, but to cut the disagreements short by remembering you love a person.

Those of you who've been with your partner a long time, and have a successful relationship, tell me, are you familiar with the idea of "It's a good thing I love you...." Yes?

Applies to kids too, of course.

I'm going to tell you a funny story, but at the time I wasn't laughing.

Sit down, and pay attention, this is a rare treat, an insight into the wonderful weirdness that is my personal life.

Sunday morning, as is usual, I came downstairs to my husband cooking breakfast. He's a good cook, and he does this out of love in any case, it's one of those little romantic extras that allow people to stay married for 35 years. He even makes my fried eggs in funny moulds, and has been known to arrange things on the plate into a smiley face. Men like Martin are rare treasures, and if I could clone him I'd be rich.

HOWEVER.

He's a loony. By which I mean he sometimes does things that make absolutely no sense whatsoever, and this is of course where me loving him very much is so important, or I'd have killed him years ago. (This works both ways, obviously). So bear that in mind. Nobody is perfect, and both he and I are far from it. Oh very far. Somewhere way so short of perfect that you can't even see perfect standing on tippy-toes. We also both have what they call "strong personalities" which is.........a euphemism.

Anyway, rather than make extra demands while he's cooking, I usually see what still needs to be put on the table, and do it myself. Fetch the salt, or ketchup, or forks, or whatever. Or - usually - because he has a pot of coffee, I fetch myself a glass of water.

So I went to the glass cabinet and took out a glass, but I snagged it on the edge of the shelf, which knocked it out of my hand, and it smashed on the floor.

When somebody breaks glass (or ceramics) my immediate reaction is to prevent harm, so I say "don't move!" so that anyone in the vicinity doesn't step on it. Then whoever is not close, or has shoes on (rare) gets the broom/vacuum cleaner and we clean it up. I am solutions oriented, even in a split second. There is no WTF? response, because it's obvious what just happened. It was a broken glass, not a gunshot. I simply deal with it.

Martin, being different, had his first loony moment of the event. He shouted "What the fuck are you doing?"

This actually classifies as a rhetorical question. It comes from the suddenness of the sound of glass breaking, and is an emotional reaction. I suppose I could have ignored it, but I don't take kindly to being shouted at. Sometimes I shout back. I don't approve of that (I don't usually recommend it), but on occasions it has the desired effect - sometimes it makes Shouter #1 realise they over-reacted, and/or shouted at the wrong person.........

There's something else I rarely approve of, and that's sarcasm. But every so often that has its uses too. Anyway, rightly or wrongly, I shot back with:

"I did it on purpose, yes, I thought, 'I know! I'll just smash a glass!'"

That was when he had his second loony moment. He said the very thing you never say to a person who is annoyed, when the reason they are annoyed is that YOU annoyed them. Here's what you never, never, never, never say in that situation.

"Calm down!"

Yep, he said that. When I related this to my daughter, after she stopped laughing, she said "Oh Daddy, you've known her over 35 years, you really said that?"

I try really hard to just let shit like that go but I was steaming. For quite a long time, too. Instead of taking it out on him, I ripped the dining room apart. I threw chairs aside, and hauled out cabinets. I cleaned every damn square inch of it. Not only was there guaranteed to be no trace of the teeniest bit of broken glass, possibly even at a molecular level, even the spiders behind the beer fridge got scared. I cleaned the gaps in the wine rack. I cleaned the light bulbs. Then I took all his "stuff" off the top of the microwave (where my family have been categorically forbidden to put anything on pain of death, so naturally that's where everything goes) and dumped it on the table, and told him to find homes for it.

I then took everything else that didn't belong to me, put it in a similar pile, and called the boys to tidy up while I went outside to play in my garden. The sanity of nature. Aaaaah.

The next thing I knew, Martin was weeding a flower bed. The shitty one, where thistles grow. Sackcloth and ashes, I guess. Anyway, that was that.

But I mention this because it covers several aspects of bad communication.

1. Rhetorical questions, even when not in a raised voice, are usually a bad idea. They are almost guaranteed to inflame, even if they aren't intended to. Unfortunately, Martin has picked up a habit of using them instead of giving commands out. Maybe it's a trend in the construction industry, I really don't know. But the problem is he gets answers. Remember, you love this person.

2. Answering rhetorical questions, when you know full well that an answer is not expected, is probably not a good idea either. Rolling your eyes may well serve the same purpose, and even a passive aggressive "YES DEAR" (not usually recommended) might be better. So have a laugh at me, but....best not. Remember, you love this person.

3. Specifically, sarcasm is a sure way to increase tension. Even if it is killer funny, or clever, or right on, or whatever. Don't. Just don't. Save it for shouting at the TV. Remember, you love this person.

4. And the whole calm down thing...yeah. You know what that reminds me of?






Remember, you love this person.

BUT. That was that. It didn't turn into anything else. We both know better.

Maybe that takes experience, or maybe we are good at remembering we love each other.

What should we have done instead?

REMEMBER.......

Firstly (Martin), when there's an insignificant event, shrug it off. No biggie. Meh. Clean up. Carry on.

Secondly (Melanie), when a person gets excited, don't get them more excited. Don't shout at a dog for barking. 

Thirdly (Melanie), when you can't say something nice, say nothing. It's not a weakness to remain silent. In some cultures women are actually expected to do that! Imagine!

Fourthly (Martin), the best way to calm a Melanie down is to shut up. OK, if somebody else riled her up, that's different, but face it bud, this was your oops.

I hope we taught you something from this. We were young once. We're still together, and look, we still fuck up sometimes, but it was soon over. The lesson is, it can always be soon over. That option is always available. Just remember you love them. Got it? Good :)