“Useless”

When, as a boy living in my redneck part of rural Australia, I’d stuff up some task allocated by my late father, there’d be a reasonable chance of my being labelled “useless”. While I’m quite thoroughly uninterested in one of those “must have made you feel” discussions, what with all the confected reciprocity and bogus empathy that such exchanges entail, there are still things that can be said of the insult in question.

It – “useless” – is intended as an insult, but I’m afraid I can’t receive it as such. I’m quite happy to be useless. Consider the corollary of taking “useless” as an insult; receiving “useful” as a compliment.

To be “useful” is to count yourself a tool among tools. It’s to position yourself alongside instrumental luminaries such as pencils, auto-rewind and Preparation H. It’s not for no reason that “useful”, as applied to people, has negative connotations in politics.

I’d encourage anyone else who’s been called “useless” to give this some consideration. Unwittingly, you’re being paid a compliment akin to “not a Muppet”.

It’d be far better to be considered, in lieu of being “useful”, as “cooperative with qualifications”. At least this way you’d have some of your agency acknowledged in the mix. And I certainly don’t enjoy the prospect that my “usefulness”, should it ever present itself, may one day entail someone else being fucked over – avoiding this would be one of the qualifications for my cooperation.

Admittedly my concerns don’t condense down well to a single adjective, and I’m not in a mood for coining neologisms, so I think I’ll just happily settle for “useless” and let the connotations land where they will.

~ Bruce

Mutation of concept

Concept: “You shouldn’t vilify people for being overweight, and should be wary of making assumptions as to why they are overweight or why it’s even any of your business. You don’t know how they got that way. You don’t know what it’s like for them – maybe they really are happy and healthy. What’s probably certain is that if their welfare is dependent on losing weight, your being a jerk about it isn’t going to help one dot. You shouldn’t fat shame people.”

Mutation: “Implicit in your gym membership is a judgement upon overweight people! You may be reducing your experience of pain, and making yourself happier, but you are doing so at my expense! Stop fat shaming me with your exercising, or at least have the good sense to be silent and out-of-sight about it!”

Concept: “You can’t expect people arguing from a position of disadvantage, in a discussion of said disadvantage, to adhere to lists of arbitrarily acceptable decorum, especially not when the list explicitly and prejudicially excludes mention of some of the very concepts they need to express.”

Mutation: “YOU MUST LET PEOPLE FROM A POSITION OF DISADVANTAGE ABUSE AND THREATEN YOU OTHERWISE YOU ARE BEING AN EXCLUSIONARY SHITLORD!!1! DO NOT ERASE THEIR ANGER!”

Concept: “For too long, people in positions of relative power have defined the language of political discussion, such that their biases have become entrenched and covertly assumed in a way that prejudices the interests of various groups of disadvantaged people. These prejudicial assumptions need to be teased out and criticised, and often this will entail deliberately making space for members of disadvantaged groups.”

Mutation: “I identify as more disadvantaged than you, so I am interjecting to inform you that I am now editor of your blog. YOU DON’T GET TO PUBLISH DISAGREEMENT YOU ENTITLED ASSHOLE! HOW DARE YOU!111”

Concept: “Disadvantaged folk, like everyone else, have finite time in which to enjoy their lives and/or earn a living. When you intrude upon their lives to demand explanations about their lived experiences, they get to expect to either be paid, or left alone. You may be entitled to a free education, but they’re not obliged to provide it and certainly not on-demand in their own personal space!”

Mutation: “I self-identify as disadvantaged! I get to interject into your conversations and personal space, dictating facts, values and arguments at whim. And no, I do not have to give explanations! YOU AREN’T PAYING ME FOR EXPLANATIONS OF MY INTRUSIVE IDEATING!”

Concept: “People from various disadvantaged backgrounds are often vulnerable to forms of harm particular to, or prevalent among those backgrounds. This harm is often done to them by members of other groups. Often the only immediately available evidence of such harm presents itself in the form of personal anecdote, which may, due to a difference in backgrounds, be difficult for outsiders to understand. Because the consequences of disbelief or hyper-skepticism are so potentially dangerous in many of these situations (when compared to the risks of false positives), in matters of decision making it is usually right to provisionally assume that such personal accounts of harm are truthful until shown to be false. This isn’t even controversial. This is how competent medical practitioners deal with reported suicidal thoughts.”

Mutation: “I am from a disadvantaged group. You don’t even doubt that I am. Therefore you must, regardless of your own disadvantage, or your own personal interest, and irrespective of how hotly debated it may be in academic circles, assume as true a priori – not just provisionally – the morsel of theory that I am dictating. You will not ask questions. If you do not comply then you are harming me, and are comparable in some sense to people who want to kill me. [Insert dehumanizing expression of violent, necrophilic fantasy against the “offender”.]”

Concept: “Social movements attract predators. Communities and cliques attract predators. These predators don’t have to be murderers, rapists or even criminal in their behaviour – just opportunistic and self-centred. They don’t have to be motivated by money – ego or sadism can be enough. No community is immune, and no set of rules or concepts are magically protected from being misappropriated or exploited to any number of ends.”

Mutation: “NU’UH! Not us!”

***

Call me naive elitist, call me shitlord, call me Ray, I just can’t help but think that certain concepts could be rolled out better in practice if people were allowed to mull them over without being brow-beaten into compliance. Any half-decent teacher knows this is a better arrangement for learning in, and anyone who’s seriously and successfully tackled cults, knows how such approaches are preventative of a whole world of hurt.

Relatedly, I’m left wondering who ultimately, if anyone, has their interests served by such conceptual mutations.

~ Bruce

Vanity and difference…

If I’ve learned anything over the past week, it’s that no matter how genuinely respectful your tone, no matter how much practice you’ve put into avoiding becoming a didactic ass, no matter how much you yourself may be a stakeholder, no matter how much the extent of your empathy, no matter how much you’ve read on the topic, no matter how much charity of interpretation you’ve already extended to parties who’ve otherwise been denied it, no matter how many times you’ve kept quiet so someone else could have their say, and no matter how much good faith has been invested in your inquiry, some people are always going to regard explanations for why your opinion differs, or why you’re coming at a question from a certain angle, as condescending. For some people, anything less than silence or uncritical agreement is going to be treated as condescension, not because it’s actually condescending, or politically suspect, but because you’re dealing with narcissists and their enablers, and your differing assumptions, no matter how tentatively stated, and no matter how small the difference, are in disharmony with their particular articulation of a set of protected beliefs – the hill upon which they’ve built their throne.

If you’ve given one of these authority figures a narcissistic injury, good grief you’re going to pay for it. Or at least, that’s the commitment some people will adopt, albeit behind a tissue-thin veneer of denial, accompanied by vague allusions to principle.

~ Bruce

Still depressed…

… but still chugging along.

Yes, haven’t I been neglectful with the blogging?

Have I taken leave of my senses, stripped naked and run off into the forest, moss growing in my crevices? No, not exactly.

I’m still depressed. That’s not changing. It’s a life-long vocation.

But I’m not about to start chittering with the squirrels either. Not unless someone posts a picture of them to my Facebook wall, in which case I’ll probably gawp and mew, rather than chitter.

People do worry when you remain submerged beneath everyone’s social strata for long periods. But honestly, it’s all cool. Yes, you; I have noticed. Thanks for caring. Now please stop fretting.

No. I haven’t had a social life off somewhere else. Yes. I have been busy. Productive even.

Only, I’m hammering the fuck out of myself of late. My daily caloric intake is hovering around the 1600 mark, and I’ve been a little bit of a fiend at the gym. Relatively speaking that is… I’ve trained harder before, when somewhat younger… specifically at age 29.

Okay… so I’ve hit 40 recently. I guess 11 years is more than “somewhat”.

Still. The weights I’m lifting are going up despite the caloric restriction, and I’ve lost 10k of flubber over the past 4 weeks.

The connective tissue pain of the past 8 years has been reduced to a bare minimum. I haven’t had this kind of mobility since… my 20s…

My 20s… gawd. My first blog post, a few platforms back and nearly ten years ago, was published just a few weeks after the last day of my 20s. And even then before poor health set in, I was somewhat fresh for my age.

I had youth when I started blogging. And more hair on top of my head.

I also had depression, as always, and it was far more poorly managed than now. I’m not inclined towards nostalgia about that.

Right now I weigh as much as I did when I was 25, although that’s no great feat given that I was fitter at 29. My aim is to get down to something approximating my body composition of twenty years ago – perhaps with a little more muscle (for physical comfort and strength, not vanity).

If… If I can maintain the amount of progress I’ve made so far, this goal is conceivably doable by winter’s end. I’d certainly be placed in close striking distance at least.

But this means putting my head down, and continuing to hammer away in the small hours at gym… on a low energy diet… which doesn’t leave me with much time or inclination left for socialising, or for writing.

It’s a fight. And I can justify neglecting my writing for the time being, the possibilities for improving my heath being what they are. Indeed, it’s been my health holding my writing back for some time now, albeit up until more recent years, mostly in terms of the quality of what I churn out.

Exercise is good for depression as well, of course. There’s that.

I am taking care of myself, actually. Thanks for checking. Although I’ll lurk at the surface here for a little while before submerging again. I have a likely spoken word engagement in the near future, I’ve a large, deeply personal post in draft form I’m umming and ahhing about publishing, and my tenth anniversary of blogging is on Monday.

Now if it’s all the same, I think I’ll grab a little shut eye.

Oh, and hello again! And goodnight!

~ Bruce

Just a thought…

800px-Penciltip

It strikes me that in going to great lengths to sharpen your wit, you risk something akin to symptoms of obsessive pencil sharpening.

Sure, for a while you’ll be able to deliver sharp jabs, frequently and with consistency. But before too long, you’ll find yourself fumbling with words, struggling to create anything worth serious reading, the heft of your word-smithing atrophied through neglect.

~ Bruce

His Vital Fluids

fluids James fumbled at the lid of his bottle of herbal remedy; a circle of plastic that clung to the glass like a noose. He didn’t approve of plastic, nor anything the magazines claimed leeched environmental estrogens, but all the same he reasoned, the tribulus should more than compensate for any contamination.

Gums ached and guilt welled, the notion appearing in his mind that he’d be a little less manly as he bit at the lid, estrogens squeezing from the plastic into his saliva and whatnot. He’d not be doing this if his partner hadn’t poisoned the tribulus on the front lawn with glyphosate – a twin sin that disposed of herbal medicine and boosted Monsanto in one fell swoop.

‘The kids get the seeds stuck in their feet, and I’ve had to fix the tyres on my bike three times in the last month!’, echoed the rationalisations of the other half.

Tablets finally freed, he almost poured generic tap water in a fit of haste. Chiding himself first, his glass was filled from the filtered spout, its contents washing down the boost to his masculinity. There would be no fluoride, nor no other nasties for one James Sandalwood!

His partner, Mrs Sandalwood (he’d never sign up to any of that un-reflexive, modernist claptrap of hyphenated names), had taken her kids off to the Steiner school they’d finally been enrolled in. James, emerging from late morning snooze, assumed his role of provider, looking out from the kitchen window over the organic garden that replaced both what had been Mrs Sandalwood’s outdoor dining area, and a well-maintained patch of lawn.

Scalp flaking, ball sack itching, beard managing to be both dry and oily at once, James made for the shower, the scent of lavender just another barrage against his manhood in a world where true men were perpetually undermined – so he reasoned. As the scum of the night before – scum he’d slept in – began to wash down his body, barbs from his pre-bed Facebook battles emerged in his mind as if revealed from beneath the stink and dead skin.

A hand shot out from the curtain to grasp the container of Ajax, with which he powdered his body, before wetting himself further and grinding at skin, oil, zits and flakes. Detritus obliterated, the smell of grease, dirty denim and steampunk workshops exploded in James’ mind – a manly evocation.

Upon patting down with a towel freshly laundered the prior afternoon, James decided that the garden could wait another hour. He owed it to society to one-by-one, correct the popular misconceptions that plagued hapless minds. Incense lit, coffee plunged and poured, Tangerine Dream turned up on a loop over the stereo, James made for the MacBook on the lounge room coffee table, his body adorned only by freshly laundered boxers.

Only buy local food! Eschew anything that comes out of a corporation! Buy second hand wherever possible! Crypto-currency is the future! Self-medicate! False flags! Manufacturing consent! Sugar! Do not vaccinate! Everywhere estrogens!

James was perpetually aghast at the endless supply of ignorance that poured forth on the Internet, and at the apathy and skewed priorities of otherwise educated people. Some feminist keyboard warrior, or what James assumed to be one, had bothered to sidetrack his discussion on fertility with talk of implicit ‘gender essentialism’.

The impression James got, was that this individual as trying to protect transgendered folk, but surely if society got rid of the excess estrogens in the environment, that’d all sort itself out with generational change. Besides, there were all the cancers to consider as well. Priorities!

This exchange had got James so distracted, that he hadn’t noticed until too late that his Tangerine Dream selection was on its third loop, and hours had past. The partner would be home too early now, and he’d have nothing to show for his labours, such was the unfair nature of his life and his life’s mission. Fire arced up his spine at the thought of another fruitless domestic argument.

James wondered what the ghosts of the houses’ past residents would make of his dilemmas. He was a man who worked with his hands to provide for the family table. The house was an old stone-walled job, built when the suburb was working class. James saw the spectres of long-gone men in overalls looking down at him in his boxers, and he resolved to water the veggie patch.

Precious rainwater sluiced over carrot tops and cabbages as James pondered how unappreciated he was, even in his own home. Books that he’d sampled and memorised to his own satisfaction sat behind a patina of dust that gave testimony to the philistines his partner’s children seemed intent on becoming.

James had tried to inject a little culture into the mix, prints of Degas’ portraits of young women adorning the walls. Mrs Sandalwood didn’t object to her kids viewing nudes, however she had concerns about the objectification inherent in Degas’ work, as well as concerns about anti-Semitism expressed in his other works – an oversensitivity that James had on occasion had to explain, left her open to Zionist manipulation.

Mrs Sandalwood worked in advertising, a fact which James could overlook on account of her better qualities and knowledge on specific policy points. He did, however, feel he had his work cut out for him on account of her buying into the prevailing materialist paradigm. That, and she could be annoyingly assertive even when he felt she was wrong.

Fuck! Too much water. Again intrusions into man-space disrupted James’ train of thought, tampering with his fluids in a way James felt harshly apt; his élan vital derailed.

Speaking of which, the craft beer, along with the peach wine he’d had brewing in the shed would have finished fermenting. Hopefully he’d be well into bottling before Mrs Sandalwood got home with her kids.

(Photo Source: Henningklevjer).

Adventures in Ipso Facto Land…

Kremlin There’s a golem of rubbish that rears its ugly maw every now and then, spewing invective and irrational sanctimony whenever The Enemy’s Enemy gets something right, in spite of how often they get things wrong. Or at least, when The Enemy’s Enemy doesn’t mess up as badly on some singular point as does The Enemy. The upshots are romanticised while the down-sides are de-emphasised, ignored, or actively written off as non-existent – accounts to the contrary being propaganda of The Enemy.

Supposedly you’d know this if you were tuned-in to The New Paradigm, or had taken The Red Pill, or availed yourself of whatever other means of squinting with head askew required to parse complete garbage into high truth.

The particular denizen of Ipso Facto Land I currently have in mind is the Putinophile – the breed of supposed lefty that simply on account of the transgressions of the United States of America, views a murdering theocratic tyrant as a flawed hero. “USA bad, ipso facto Russia good”. With the recent release of Citizenfour, which reminds certain folks of Russia’s protection of Ed Snowden – all out of the good of Putin’s heart, no doubt – you’ll possibly have to listen to these tuned-in types prattle on about Russia just being misunderstood.

***

Putin’s regime, devoid of strong opposition as it is, is leading its people to tolerate gays, only while respecting tradition in the process. Leaders have to take The People with them.

Pussy Riot? They were needlessly provocative. They could have couched their concerns in a less obscene tone. And let’s remember, religion was horribly persecuted under Stalin – you have to expect that today’s Russian Orthodox is a religion still licking its wounds while shivering in fear. Pussy Riot should have taken that into account before sinking the boot in.

Why don’t more lefties understand Putin? The guy is sending troops into Ukraine to fight neo-Nazi militia. Ipso facto that makes him progressive. The right-wing never fight amongst themselves. What’s wrong with you? Are you a Right Sector supporter?

Tony Abbott said he was going to shirt-front Vladimir Putin, and Tony Abbott is right-wing, ipso facto

Russia Today, or RT as the kids say nowadays, isn’t a bad thing. Why, “state television” is just right-wing propaganda designed to make “public television” look evil. RT is just like the BBC, or PBS or the Australian Broadcasting Corporation – wholesome, and not at all like the Murdochracy.

It’s not a “prostitution of journalism”!

The deaths of journalists like Anna Politkovskaya, whistleblowers like Alexander Litvinenko, and opposition leaders like Boris Nemtsov could all just be coincidental. Just like the “at least 29 journalists” that Joan Smith claims were killed in connection with their criticisms of Putin’s regime – they could have all just written bad restaurant reviews. People get shirty over all sorts of things.

And why hasn’t Joan Smith been bumped off by Putin yet, if he’s so terrible?

***

Increasingly it seems, you’ll be told, along with the afore mentioned kinds of evasions, that RT and Russia really care about Palestine, and that the Kremlin (which RT tows the line of) would never cynically use a Middle Eastern nation as a proxy for its own interests. The US would, ipso facto

Never mind that you may be able to recall all of the criticisms of the US Government made in Citizenfour, and may very well agree with every single one of them – if you don’t obsess over what a hero Putin is, you’ve missed the point. You’ll be told to watch the documentary again, or with unintentional irony, be told to “think about it”.

If you don’t experience the paradigm shift, then supposedly you’re not getting to the truth.

It’s almost as if not being able to articulate a serious criticism of Western hypocrisy of their own, their entire pretence rests on an ipso facto argument arising from the delusion of a heroic Russia.

~ Bruce

(Photo Source: Dion Hinchcliffe).