Joan C. Williams, White Working Class: Overcoming Class Cluelessness in America: ( Read more... )
Joan C. Williams, White Working Class: Overcoming Class Cluelessness in America: ( Read more... )
But you guys, there is SO MUCH interesting stuff about early American history that, if it were taught properly, would REALLY change peoples' perspectives on the "brave, gallant, noble" men of the Confederacy. And I'm not talking just the racism stuff, like 90% of them were whiny pissbabies and THAT is why the Civil War even existed in the first place. I shit you not. The modern Conservative Christian persecution complex has NOTHING on the antebellum Southern elite. Sure, a lot of those guys were personally brave in battle. But on a political or moral level, they were ... most five-year-olds are more mature. (I'm simplifying things a lot here and painting with a really broad brush, but it's not inaccurate.)
This meta is going to take as read that slavery=EVIL and that there is no such thing as a "good" slaveowner and that racism is horribly, horribly evil and nothing good can ever come of it and white supremacy twists and mutilates everything good it comes in contact with. You all know that, or you should, and you can find lots of places talking about that with a quick google search. Also, Blacks and poor Whites had vibrant cultures during this time period that I'm going to largely ignore because while all that is awesome, I want you to truly understand ALL the reasons why it's stupid and pathetic to glamorize the Southern elite, which means focusing on them. The South was (and is!) REALLY AWFUL AND SCREWED UP and racism is part of that but not the only part. But we will start a bit by talking about racism, because it's the root of so much other evil.
I'm sure you've heard that "race is a social construct!" Let's look at how that construct got constructed, shall we?
( How Black And White People Came To Be )
( Economic Differences And Political Boondoggles, or, How The South Learns That Temper Tantrums Are A Viable Political tool. )
( The South's Persecution Complex vs. the North's Manifest Destiny )
( Taking Their Marbles And Going Home, Then They'll Be Sorry: Civil War Edition )
( More Delusions Of Grandeur: The Whole Lost Cause Romantic Bullshit )
And I look at this and shake my head at the triumph of propaganda over reality, and also at the fact that ANYBODY, even a racist, could POSSIBLY think that those idiotic inbred delusional cretinous whiny pissbabies were cool or worthy of adoration.
Ron Formisano, American Oligarchy: The Permanent Political Class: This cri de coeur about corruption has a lot of outrage, but it’s short on definitions and thus on solutions. At times, Formisano suggests that anyone with a state, local, or federal government job is part of the oligarchy, as well as doctors, people in positions of authority at nonprofits, think tanks, and businesses. There is a lot of corruption in the US; the chapter about the abuses in Kentucky, where poverty, pollution, child mortality, and other indicators of suffering are extremely high, should make anyone angry. I understand getting mad at nonprofit CEOs who are compensated like for-profit CEOs—but the problem is not the parity (I don’t like the argument that “you chose a helping profession, you should accept less pay because of how good it feels to do good”; not only is it a trope usually used to justify paying female-dominated professions less, it positions doing good as something you ought to have to pay for, when really you ought to have to pay for acting solely in your own self-interest) but the fact that anybody can get paid as much as for-profit CEOs do, with so little tax. It is appalling that CEOs of nonprofit hospitals are paid hundreds of millions while the hospitals garnish the wages of poor patients who can’t pay—but that is true of for-profit hospitals too.
Formisano also points out that our federal legislators get perks that let them live like millionaires even when (as is increasingly unlikely) they aren’t; during the 2013 government shutdown, Congresspeople stopped National Airport from closing because it served them and also deemed their own gyms and pools “essential” enough to stay open, though the workers there still didn’t make very much. These privileges, he suggests, corrupt even the people who moved up in class, so that a visionary leader at Brown University speaks eloquently about admitting more students from poor backgrounds but also doesn’t want to interfere with alumni preferences because she has a granddaughter. The elites funnel money to themselves and their families by self-dealing, whether in government (remember Kim Davis?), nonprofits, or business. Disgrace, if exposure occurs, is ameliorated by a soft landing—a pension, positions on other boards, and soft words from one’s co-elites. Even nonprofits are in on the game, and they increasingly replace grassroots activism with palatable-to-elites causes that are organized from the top.
Formisano quotes Robert Borosage’s criticism of liberal focus on “opportunity” instead of equity or punishment for elite cheaters as “passive voice populism,” to good effect. Defunding tax collection is just another mechanism of harm—creating more loopholes for cheaters, who are subsidized by ordinary wage workers whose taxes are collected automatically. Though it’s relatively easy to cherry-pick from history, this John Adams quote seemed apposite: “civil, military, political and hierarchical Despotism, have all grown out of the natural Aristocracy of ‘Virtue and Talents.’ We, to be sure, are far remote from this. Many hundred years must roll away before We shall be corrupted.”
James Q. Whitman, Hitler’s American Model: The United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law: Repeatedly, Nazis looking for inspiration looked to the US system of racial discrimination, primarily in the treatment of immigration, the rights of those in non-state territories, and anti-miscegnation laws. Whitman emphasizes that the Nazis’ crimes were their own and that they also rejected liberal and democratic parts of American law. They also appealled to racist practices among other European colonial powers. Still, Whitman argues that, because the Nazis didn’t envision the Holocaust when they started out, they found compelling analogies in American discriminatory practices, even though these practices were often not aimed at Jews. As with everything about America, it was possible to be selective, and the Nazis had no problem claiming that New York City had “very little to do with ‘America’” because of all its race-mixing and Jews.
Hitler was able to see the US as a model of Nordic supremacy, and he wasn’t alone; a Nazi historian described the Founding, in what Whitman says was the received wistom of the time, as “a historic turning point in ‘the Aryan struggle for world domination.’” One detailed scholarly work, Race Law in the United States, had as heroes Jefferson and Lincoln—Jefferson because of his insistence that blacks and whites couldn’t live under the same government if both were free, and Lincoln because of his early calls for black resettlement outside the US. Similarly, “Nazi expansion eastward was accompanied by invocations of the American conquest of the West, with its accompanying wars on Native Americans…. Indeed as early as 1928 Hitler was speechifying admiringly about the way Americans had ‘gunned down the millions of Redskins to a few hundred thousand, and now keep the modest remnant under observation in a cage’ ….”
Jim Crow segregation, Whitman contends, wasn’t all that important to the Nazis, but citizenship and sex/reproduction were, and it was there that they took lessons from the US. In fact, “Nazis almost never mentioned the American treatment of blacks without also mentioning the American treatment of other groups, in particular Asians and Native Americans.” American immigration and naturalization law was, almost uniquely, racist and race-based, and Hitler praised it for being so in Mein Kampf. And there were various forms of de jure and de facto second-class citizenship for African-Americans, Filipinos, and Chinese, to which the Nazis could look as they created second-class citizenship for Jews—drawing on, for example, the distinction between “political rights” and “civil rights” that American whites offered to excuse segregation. Indeed, some Nazis considered openly race-based laws to be more honest about keeping “alien races” from getting the upper hand; they had no need for grandfather clauses, and they devised the Nuremberg Laws in part to “institute official state persecution in order to displace street-level lynchings,” which offended the facist need for state centralization.
The US was also unique in anti-miscegnation laws, with careful rules about blood quantum—in fact, there were no other models for such laws for the Nazis to consult. And it mattered, Whitman suggests, that America was seen as a dynamic country—confirmation for the Nazis that the future was going in their direction. Among other things, American creativity on the definition of race showed that one didn’t need a purely scientific or theoretical definition of race, despite the leanings of German law; one could proceed with a political, pragmatic definition in enforcing anti-miscegenation and other discriminatory laws. Indeed, that’s ultimately what the Germans did when they defined Jews as including people with one Jewish parent if and only if they practiced Judaism or married Jews (rejecting, along the way, the even more aggressive American one-drop rule). Whitman concludes that we have to acknowledge that the Nazis practiced a particular kind of Legal Realism, whereby the law was supposed to assist in the process of social transformation, throwing formalism aside and recognizing reality—and reality, in both countries, was racist. “[T]o have a common-law system like that of America is to have a system in which the traditions of the law do indeed have little power to ride herd on the demands of the politicians, and when the politics is bad, the law can be very bad indeed.” Whitman finds the most prominent modern manifestation of this in the US in its harsh criminal justice system.
I've decided what I'm going to do is just try to help people in whatever way I can, which always feels like a good course of action to me.
So, I have this Russian friend on twitter. She's fannish, her name is Sasha, her twitter account is locked. We met in Black Sails fandom earlier this year. She's very delightful and funny and lives in St. Petersburg.
This year she'd really like to get married. She and her girlfriend have been together for about 5 years. Needless to say, a marriage is not possible in Russia (or Ukraine, where her girlfriend is from). So, they've thought up a plan to travel to Denmark to get married later this year, and they've been raising money mostly through their Russian fandom friends, to make the trip possible. Russian fandom doesn't really do paypal (other money transfer methods are easier), so when I asked how I could help they basically opened an account with PP just for me.
There's no public post about this fundraiser, no kickstarter page. I honestly don't even want to link their account names on twitter to this public post, although I of course asked them what details I could share before writing about this on DW.
Anyway, if you're looking for the usual safeguards to make sure this isn't a scam - they're not really available in this case. I can only tell you that I know this person and trust them and I've helped their marriage fund and have no regrets.
So, if you'd like to throw some money their way, or signal boost this to your friends, their paypal address is: blindpilot at yandex dot ru
(Also, Sasha has pointed out that if you'd like more details about what the money is for, you're welcome to email her at that address.)
Alan Dugatkin & Lyudmila Trut, How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog): Visionary Scientists and a Siberian Tale of Jump-Started Evolution: Short but fun book about the Soviet/Russian project to breed tame foxes. Wolves and foxes are related enough to make the attempt plausible, but zebras and horses are also closely related enough to breed, and zebras haven’t been successfully domesticated despite numerous attempts, nor have deer except reindeer (even though they live near humans and aren’t usually aggressive towards us, not to mention being important food animals, all of which suggests domestication would be favored if it were feasible). The Soviets picked the least reactive and aggressive foxes and bred them; calmer foxes appeared within three breeding seasons. And slightly greater tameness also shortened their breeding cycle and raised fertility a bit higher, bolstering the theory that in-bred tameness had complex effects on the whole animal. (Unfortunately, these shorter mating cycles didn’t allow multiple fox generations within the same year—although the scientists had sold the project to the Soviet government on the promise of increasing fur production, the shorter cycles meant that the mothers didn’t produce enough milk for their pups, whom they ignored. The scientists hypothesized that a longer transition might have let milk production catch up with increased fertility, as with dogs and cats and pigs and cows.)
Later generations began to exhibit tail-wagging, whining, licking hands, and rolling over for belly rubs—still later, some of the tame foxes’ tails curled, again like dogs. Tamer foxes retained juvenile behaviors longer than wild foxes—wild fox pups are “curious, playful, and relatively carefree when they are very young,” but that changes at around 45 days, when they become more cautious and anxious. After only a decade of breeding, tamer pups stayed curious and playful twice as long.
Tame foxes began gazing into humans’ eyes, which for wild animals is a challenge that can start an attack. Humans themselves, though they weren’t supposed to interact differently with the foxes, couldn’t resist talking to them, petting them, and loving them. When dogs and owners gaze at one another, both see increased oxytocin, leading to increased interactions/petting, “a chemical lovefest.” Adult foxes began to engage in object play—extended play with objects that are known—which wild animals don’t do. (Birds, chimps, and even ants play (with mock fights), but play is usually skill practice.) The tamest fox one year lived with the main researcher for a while, like a dog, and when she returned to her group, she began seeking out caretakers when other foxes were being aggressive toward her. Tame foxes began to demonstrate loyalty to particular caretakers (unlike simply being calm around humans) and jealousy of other foxes who might take their favorites’ attention. They began to bark like guard dogs when strangers appeared. They learned social intelligence: tame fox pups were as smart as dog pups in interpreting human behavior, and smarter than wild fox pups. So selection acting on tameness brought social intelligence along with it, suggesting that there was no need for humans to have bred dogs to be smarter: it could just happen.
The Soviets also tested their work by creating a line of incredibly aggressive foxes using the same selection procedures. Workers were terrified of the new line. When aggressive fox pups were swapped with tame fox pups and raised by mothers from the other line, the pups behaved like their genetic mothers. Genes clearly played vital roles, though tame foxes’ bonds with individual people also showed the role of learned behaviors. The genetic changes worked by changing production of hormones and neurochemicals, like oxytocin. These chemical pathways might help explain why the changes could happen so fast. Tame foxes had higher levels of serotonin than their wild cousins, as dogs have more than wolves.
The evidence supports a theory of destabilizing selection—genes may be similar, but the activity of those genes is very different as between wolves and dogs, chimps and humans. The dramatic changes of domestication seemed to come not primarily from new genetic mutations that were then favored by selection, though that played a role, but from changes in the expression of existing genes that led to very different results. For example, tame foxes started being born with white stars on their foreheads, which happened because the embryonic cells responsible for coloring hair had been delayed in migrating to their places by two days, causing an error in the production of hair color. The expression of the relevant gene was affected by the other changes caused by selecting for tameness. We may even have selected ourselves for tameness using similar mechanisms—we have lower levels of stress hormones in groups than our chimp cousins, we can breed all year round, and our kids stay juvenile longer, like those of other domestic species. And the bonobo may be in the process of doing the same thing, though I’m not sure they’ll have a planet to inherit when their brains get as big as ours.
Speaking of which, the collapse of the Russian economy nearly led to the fox project’s demise. Many foxes starved or nearly starved; others were selected for sale for fur to keep the project alive, a process that also deeply traumatized their caretakers. In 1999, however, a popular science article about the project came out in the US, and they received enough donations to stay afloat, because humans are sentimental. Maybe someday you’ll be able to get your own tame fox pup.
Duncan Green, How Change Happens: Green works in international anti-poverty programs, and argues for a systems approach in which one iteratively works with groups at different levels of the system, leveraging elite points of entry while taking direction from people on the ground. I thought the concept of “positive deviance” was useful—find people in the group you’re trying to help who’ve overcome the problem you’re trying to solve, and see if you can help other people do the same thing, using the positive deviants as the model.
Anyway, I have a number vid ideas that will never get made if I don't pay someone else to do it, and so I'm always on the lookout for vid auctions featuring vidders offering those sources that I think would do a creditable job with the idea. Which is how I bidded on (and ended up winning) grammarwoman's services to make a Star Wars fanvid to that old American Civil War hit, "That's What's the Matter." And she did a really great job, and the vid is SO FUNNY. You have to go see.
Title: That's What's the Matter
Source: Star Wars movies (Rogue One, Episodes IV-VII)
Music: "That's What's the Matter", Stephen Foster
Vid Download Link: 183 MB m4v file at Sendspace (If you'd like it in a different format, let me know.)
Summary: The Empire would have gotten away with it, too, if it hadn't been for those meddling Rebels and incompetent Imperial officers.
The issue itself isn't out yet, but many of the personal essays about disability and science fiction are available for free on the Kickstarter page. They're all good, and you should totally check them out. Here are some of my faves:
K.C. Alexander, We Are Not Your Backstories:
Science fiction shapes generations—how we think, the way we act. It influences the careers we choose and our thirst for knowledge. It cautions against the worst of our impulses, and quietly teaches us empathy. Without knowing it, we are slowly acclimated to people and beliefs that live outside our rigid monocultures.A.T. Greenblatt, The Stories We Find Ourselves In:
So, I'll let you in on a secret, the thing I've learned about having a life-long disability, the thing that lots of stories never quite grasp: The real trick, the true solution to a disability, is to find a balance between your abilities and your goals.Michael Merriam, We Are Not Daredevil. Except When We Are Daredevil:
I live in this world. I can't toss my white cane aside when I need to spring into action: the cane goes with me everywhere. I travel around my city on public transportation. My other senses are not supernaturally sharper because I am blind. I simply pay better attention to those other senses. It's a learned skill. I live within my blindness every day, and I want to read about fictional characters who also live with and within their blindness.
Marissa Lingen, Malfunctioning Space Stations:
I have a major balance disorder. When I am awake and able to use all my senses, I can reason out the vertical. If you make me close my eyes, I can still get it to within about five degrees of the correct answer if I'm sitting still on a firm surface. If I’ve got a squishy surface, motion, or other things confusing my senses, doubtful. Asleep? All bets are off. I literally do not know which way is up.H. Ace Ratcliff, Nihil de Nobis, Sine Nobis:
Since I have read and written science fiction for decades, what my sleeping brain knows to do with this much disorientation is to process it into a malfunctioning space station. And so I dream. Occasionally my dreams veer into carnival rides, roller coasters, giant swooping swings. But that is someone else's genre. This is mine.
I narrowly avoided the temptation to throw my Kindle and watch the book shatter into a million plastic pieces. If it had been a printed paperback, I’m positive I would be able to show you the dent in the wall. “For the record,” I tweeted out to the hashtags The Expanse was using, “you can be a fucking Valkyrie in a goddamn wheelchair.” I can assure you that any human with the wherewithal, sheer willpower, and pain tolerance to put her skeleton back into place on an hourly basis absolutely deserves a place in any mythological pantheon.Day Al-Mohamed, The Stories We Tell and the Amazon Experiment:
As an example, I once asked a room full of authors what their response would be if I asked them to make the protagonist in their current Work-in-Progress a woman – most nodded, yesses were heard around the room. Then I asked if they could make their character a person of color – again, nods around the room. Then I asked if they would make the character disabled – silence. The discomfort was palpable. In theory diversity and disability was great to include in fiction but when it came to implementation, they couldn’t easily connect disability with their protagonist. They had trouble adjusting to the practical reality of disability existing outside of the boxes they knew. This is why 134 stories on Amazon could be broken down into five story categories.Ada Hoffman, Everything Is True: A Non-Neurotypical Experience with Fiction:
When I read #ownvoices autistic characters, I often think the authors have had that same feeling. Many of these characters have devoted family, friends, romantic partners, even when the world at large is awful to them. Most of them first have to overcome a broken relationship with themselves. To learn to believe that they're worthy as they are.Haddayr Copley-Woods, Move Like You're From Thra, My People:
With autistic characters written by NT authors, it often feels like everyone is tired of their shit from the start.
You don't have to be tough. People sometimes say things like, "If you can be discouraged from writing, you should be," and use that as a way to justify being unkind to people who are tender. I don't think it's meant as a cudgel against disabled people specifically, but it can function as one. If you doubt your abilities, if you are sometimes crushed, if you feel like an impostor—that's fine. It's normal. If only tough people wrote stories, then we'd only have their perspectives, and we would lose all the things other people—you—have to offer.
I was glad I didn’t have this unfortunate internalized disableism stilling my movements, but I didn’t know why I’d found it so easy to make the switch until I sat down with my little boys to watch The Dark Crystal, which I hadn’t watched in decades.
I didn’t know. It took my breath away. The reason why I am fine with moving like this, the reason I am fine with people staring and why I love myself this way, is because of The Dark Crystal.
The issue is more than fully funded, right now they're adding content left and right as more people pledge, and if they get to $45k (they're at $39,425 with 9 days left to go) they'll do a hardcopy of it for supporters pledging $50 or more.
( the last few days )
2. Watching the sky change colors. Right now the far horizon has a tinge of pale orange, and then it's a gorgeous ombre of light blue to French blue to darker blue overhead.
3. Glass of rosé.
4. The experiment in Kid Trimming His Own Fingernails was a success. No more fighting over fingernails!
5. This morning on a phone call with samtheeagle we wound up in a Muppets Singing High Holiday Liturgy place and I laughed until there were tears in my eyes. Wow, I needed that. :-)
2. Coffee. Because coffee.
3. I am once again marinating tilapia in lime juice; there will be ceviche for my supper!
4. Finding a local protest to attend this afternoon. Part of me feels like that doesn't really make a difference in the world, but another part of me needs to stand up and be counted -- and I want to be teaching my kid that it's our job to build a better world than this goddamnit.
5. High summer lunch: good bread, good cheese, fresh tomatoes.
Take care of yourselves, y'all -- if you are protesting, be safe -- if you need to take a break from the awfulness of the world and immerse in fandom or a book or a nap or whatever brings you comfort, do that -- you are precious; don't burn yourself to a crisp.
I've re-homed all but two of my aloe plants: one is in a high place I don't think the cat will get to, and the other will be re-homed next week. My one remaining jade plant is likewise in a high place. (And needless to say, if it looks like Mister Kitten wants to get to those places, I'll re-home those two plants too -- though my previous cat was never interested in nibbling on succulents, so we'll see.)
Of course, once I got rid of my aloes and my lily the house seemed oddly devoid of living things, so I went plant-shopping. The first nursery I tried was too geared toward people who actually garden (so they didn't have houseplants per se, and the things they did have -- beautiful plants full of tiny red peppers, and chrysanthemums -- are all toxic to beasties.) But the second nursery I tried had many fine options, and now I have a rubber plant, a kitten-safe varietal of philodendron, a rabbit fern, and a spider plant.
My new plants make me happy. Yay for growing things that will be alive in my condo even once winter falls. And I am also happy at the mental image of this cat tree eventually being home to a very small and very fluffy cat. \o/!
2. The Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger, recommended to me by (I think) bironic at Vividcon? (I have con brain.) They are ridiculous goofball steampunk romance comedy-of-manners, as though someone had put Jane Austen and a bunch of vampire and werewolf fic in a blender. I am enjoying them.
3. Dinner, which involved a giant bowl of arugula and lettuces with tahini-lemon dressing, followed by eggplant and zucchini marinated in sesame-soy-sriracha, and also some scallions and carrots, all from the CSA, as well as some chicken thighs that were marinated in a similar mixture (with the addition of worcestershire and ginger-garlic paste), tossed with noodles. It is so easy to eat well in high summer.
4. Sitting on my mirpesset, breathing the scent of citronella and rosemary plant, watching the sky change.
5. It is wine o'clock. :-)
How are y'all?
This means I am now home safe and sound. A suitcase full of con laundry is now in the washing machine. (That'd be pretty much everything except my Club Vivid outfit. ;-) I am making myself dinner out of what I could scrounge, which is actually looking pretty decent. (Call it pasta primavera: CSA zucchini and a handful of wee tomatoes and half of a purple onion, with good olive oil and a handful of parmesan cheese -- not fancy by any stretch, but it's food, and there's even a vegetable in it.)
I am grateful to have made it to the con, and now it is good to be home. Best of all possible worlds, that.
I'll keep updating my con report with links to vids as I find them. Hope others who were traveling today had it as smooth as I did.
This year for me was all about a few things: 1) seeing friends, 2) realizing and reveling in how much happier I am now than I was a year ago, and 3) watching shiny vids. There was a strong skew toward the first and second items on the list (though I did see a metric ton of shiny vids too, and am coming away as always awed by y'all's collective skill and creativity.)
Below the cut: 3500 words or so about my weekend -- a miscellany of socializing and conversations, some vid links, etc. As always, I'll aim to update this post with links to vids as they are posted, though RL may intervene and I make no promises. :-)
( Con report herein! )
It's hard to fathom the fact that this con will only happen one more time. I am endlessly grateful to everyone who makes it happen and to everyone who comes. I'm grateful to have a place where I can go and be unabashedly enthusiastic about things I love along with others who are equally unabashed and equally enthusiastic. I'm grateful for thinky thoughts and incisive commentary and the fact that those can coexist with squee. I'm grateful for your presence, and your creativity, and your friendship.
To those who are already gone: thank you for being here, I hope your con was as lovely as mine was. And to those who will be traveling tomorrow (as I will), safe travels. And to those who weren't able to be here this year, I hope to be with y'all next year.
Next year in Chicago, one more time!