Be careful what you wish for

I realised a strange thing this week. Through the power of the internet I saw a Natzi go from blustering about his power to weeping in fear that police might shoot him. The comment section was full of people holding him up as an example of the fundamental weakness of Natzis as a group. Something about it seemed familiar. A also saw a young man who marched with Natzi’s and thinks that multiculturalism is cancer but swears he isn’t a Natzi complaining about getting death threats over the internet. Something about that seemed familiar too.

I realised that they were experiencing what it’s like to belong to a minority. They’ve been saying for years that white men are the ones who are really oppressed and now they get to find out what that’s actually like. You see when a woman fails she fails on behalf of all women. When a person of colour breaks the law the reaction is disproportionately harsh. When any member of a minority sticks their head above the metaphorical parapet someone will try to shoot it off. One needs privilege to survive mediocrity and incompetence.

I have no illusions that it will last. Either things are going to get very dark or the Natzis will climb back into their holes for a while and people will forget that there are still Natzis in the world. Very soon it will again be possible for white people to espouse the beliefs that sent millions to the gas chambers and plunged the world into war and other white people will pretend that they don’t really mean it.

But for a while perhaps thost of us who really do face discrimination and oppression are allowed a little schadenfreude at the idea of Natzis finding out what it’s like. They really don’t seem to have the constitution for it.

Well suck it up, buttercup. This is what life is like for everyone who isn’t an able-bodied, cis-gendered, heterosexual white man. This is what the rest of us put up with while you’re whining on the internet about how women oppress you by refusing your advances or sleeping with men you don’t approve of. While you’re blaming immigrants for depressed wages and affirmative action for keeping you out of your ‘rightful’ job the rest of us have been working twice as hard for half as much and being told that we should be grateful for it.

Growing up.

This weekend I spent some time around people I haven’t seen in years. I’ve known many of them since they were teenagers and it made me think about growing up and how it’s done.

When you’re a kid you look up at adults and you assume that they actually know what they’re doing. You assume that they have everything easy and they can do what they want and that they’re free. Growing up is slowly realising that you were mostly wrong. Adults are mostly making it up as they go along. Adults are weighed down with responsibilities and commitments. Adults do have the freedom to choose to do what they want but they mostly have enough sense not to use it to do all the stuff they wanted to when they were kids.

Spending time with people that I’ve known for so long, seeing the ways in which they’ve changed, and the ways in which they haven’t, set me to thinking about how some people grow up and how some people don’t. I’m probably going to come back to this subject again but I think I’ve come up with a way to define the process of becoming an adult.

Growing up is an ongoing process of learning the correct amount of fucks to give and then putting that knowledge into action.*

The correct amount of fucks is almost never zero. People who give zero fucks can be intoxicating to be around. For a while. They start out entertaining and exhilarating, like a fairground ride, but there’s a reason that fairground rides are short. Exhilaration soon turns to exhaustion. People who give too few fucks are prone to dickish behaviour. They leave things undone. They’re careless with the feelings of others.

People who give too many fucks make themselves miserable. That misery inevitably spreads to everyone around them. They often fall victim to procrastination and indecision because they care too and everything seems too risky. They’re too raw, too easily hurt, too fragile.

It’s hard to put your finger on the correct amount of fucks. That’s why growing up is a lifelong process. It’s learning to care what your loved ones think of you but not to tie your sense of self worth to it. It’s understanding the difference between a valid criticism and a personal attack. It’s knowing how to cut toxic people out of your life but still being able to reach out to help a friend who is in a bad place or going through a bad time. It’s giving of yourself when people you care about need you but still being able to hold onto what you need for yourself. Most of all it’s about forgiving yourself when you inevitably fuck all of the above up.

I can’t tell you how to do any of this. I’m still working on it myself. But maybe I’ve helped define the problem a tiny bit.

 

*I’m defining ‘fucks’ here as both caring about stuff and being patient with people about that stuff.

Not a real person.

One of the things I struggle with a lot is the feeling of not being a real person. I think some of it is imposter syndrome and some of it is a throwback to the bullying I grew up with. When everyone tells you that you’re ugly and stupid and worthless you tend to start believing them. If you’re smart enough to know that it’s not true you still can’t help suspecting that you’re not a real person because who would treat a real person like that? Real people have rights. Miss-treating real people has consequences.

But lets not forget that for a lot of people I am not a real person. I am a poor, disabled, depressed, fat, middle-aged woman. You’d be surprised how many people will lose interest in my humanity the moment one of those trigger words is mentioned.

There are a few men for whom no woman is a real person. They might not express it this way but it’s clear that to them personhood is a uniquely male quality. That’s why they think that rape is not a thing. Because they think that only male desires count. If you think of women as objects then of course you don’t care about consent.

There are a larger group of men for whom women are people but with an asterix. They say woman* or female* but that asterix leads to some mental footnote that defines a woman according to some personalised criteria. If you listen to them long enough you find out that woman means a cisgendered, hetrosexual (or bisexual but only for male entertainment), able-bodied woman, between the ages of 17 and 35, with a BMI in the underweight or normal weight range with an attractive face (and if she’s a woman of colour she’d better have a really attractive face) and “good” breasts. The rest of woman-kind doesn’t count as female because we have failed in some aspect of our femininity. Remember that to them the primary purpose of a woman is to be decorative. It doesn’t matter who we are or what we do only how we look.

There’s a lot of people for whom poor people aren’t really people. That’s why they don’t care about minimum wages or benefits or social housing. The assumption is that poverty is some kind of moral or intellectual failing rather than a necessary side effect of capitalism.

Some people make similar assumptions about both physical and mental health. There’s an almost superstitious belief that ill-health and injury must be a punishment for something. There’s also a surprising number of people who are happy to declare that depression, anxiety, ADD, ADHD, OCD and autism are “all in the mind”. Which of course they literally are. They are illnesses of the brain. They cause changes in brain activity, neurochemistry, and sometimes in the physical structures of the brain. No amount of willpower is going to remake the chemistry, activity or gross anatomy of your brain. You can’t just get over it.

I don’t understand why it’s so hard to agree that people are people.

Regardless of skin colour, nationality, religion or lack thereof, political affiliation, age, sexuality, gender identity, nationality, wealth, health, ability or IQ there is only one Homo Sapiens species. We all belong to it and we are all people. Even me. Even when I don’t feel worthy of it. Even when people in power are trampling all over those rights that I have but for some reason can’t use.

The Zeppelins are due on main street

Once again I return to the subject of how messed up everything is right now. For those who’ve missed my previous posts on the subject the title of this one is a joke about how in fiction Zeppelins are often a signifier of alternative reality.

If you’ve studied much history you’ll know that sometimes stuff happened that makes us look back and wonder exactly what Clio (muse of history) was smoking. There was a time when tulips were so sought after that a single bulb could sell for more than a house. There was a time when Britain used opium to pick two fights with China because China wouldn’t sell Britian enough tea and somehow Britain won. There was a time when armed gangs roamed the wild west of the U.S. battling over the remains of ancient monsters . There’s a period of European history (1870 -1914) known as the Great Binge because everyone who could afford it was constantly off their faces with a combination of drugs and alcohol. In 1932 Australia went to war against Emus (actual birds) and lost.

I think that we’re living through one of those periods right now. In the future people are going to look back and wonder if the train of reality somehow jumped its tracks. That’s assuming that there is a future and that the people alive then will have anything to look back on other than a giant crater.

Lets take a look at some of the fun things that have happened in little over a year:

  • Widespread clown panics that suddenly stopped when a man many deride as a clown was elected to lead the United States of America.
  • The British Electorate voted to leave the EU and then the British Government tried to aggressively implement that vote without apparently having any sort of map or plan about how to do it.
  • The Northern Irish Assembly fell apart over a financial scandal, there still isn’t a new Assembly in place, but Northern Ireland voted against leaving the EU so Ireland could be about to reunify? Maybe?
  • Scotland votes to remain in the EU. The UK Government refuses to let Scotland remain without the rest of the UK. The SNP led Scottish Government votes to hold a referendum on Independence (again). The UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, calls this decision divisive and says that it’s the wrong time and continues to say that right up until she calls a snap General Election that she had repeatedly said the could not and would not call.
  • In the wake of the election of a reality TV star with zero relevant experience or expertise the US begins a slide into a dystopian failed state. This slide is repeatedly halted by lawyers working for free and judges who’ve somehow become the enemy of the establishment. Scientists steal back their own climate science data before the White House deletes it. The US parks service goes rogue and leads the resistance.
  • The French presidential election is going to be a runoff between a fascist and the representative of a new political movement who is most famous for having married his former school teacher.
  • The apparent terrorist attack on a German Soccer team bus turned out to be an attempted financial scam by stock price manipulation.
  • The government of Chechnya has decided that now is the perfect time for a gay genocide. Presumably they think that Trump will distract everyone.
  • Marco Rubio, previously not a friend of LGBTQA rights, stands up and denounces the gay genocide. Has he discovered that he actually has both a spine and a conscience or this this just because Ramzan Kadyrov, leader of Chechnya, is Vladimir Putin’s other boyfriend?
  • Russia has built a replica of the German parliament, the Reichstag, so the army could re-enact storming it. There is nothing at all threatening about the fact that the replica is based on the contemporary Reichstag rather than the way it looked in 1945 when the Red Army actually stormed it.
  • Kim Jong Un, the world’s favourite cosplay dictator, is so upset by now being the third or fourth craziest world leader that he has tried to pick a fight with the US. Presumably he’s banking on Donald Trump not knowing where North Korea is and launching missiles at North Virginia instead.
  • In the US the Republican Party narrowly avoids another Government shutdown in the face of opposition from the Republican president and the Republican held Senate and House of Representatives. The Democrats are confused by the Republicans taking the positions as both the party of government and the party of opposition. Democrats may have to start disguising themselves as Republicans in order to more effectively oppose the policies of the President. Or maybe judges. Or Scientists. Or park rangers.

Am I in a coma or something? Is this all a hallucination? The rest of you are seeing this stuff too, right?

Millennial Angst.

This isn’t a post about Millennials being all angsty. This is a post about GenXers and Baby Boomers getting all angsty about Millennials.

I just saw (with my own two eyes) someone claim that Millennials calling a phone with no battery charge ‘dead’ is down to their “morbid fascination with death”. This was my response.

What the actual fuck? I’m 45, so right in the middle of Generation X, and I say this. So does my mother, who was born during WWII, and my Mother-in-law, who is a Boomer. People have been describing a battery without charge as ‘dead’ for as long as we’ve had batteries.

To all the old people out there going to such an effort to ‘other’ young people I say, “Grow the fuck up. The reason you don’t ‘get’ them is down to the passage of time and your lack of imagination and intellectual laziness. Either make some effort or shut the hell up, lie the fuck back down and prepare for a dirt nap.”

It makes me so angry. The Boomers had entire genres of film and music based on the idea that the older generation didn’t understand them. And they learned precisely nothing from it.

I lived through the spectacle of the very people who listened to Rock and Roll (aka the Devil’s music) getting all panicky about Punk, Glam Rock and the New Romantics.  I listened to the very men who got beaten up for having long hair getting all sniffy about men with make-up and women with buzzcuts.

Time moves on and a lot of people my age and older seem to want to either pretend that it doesn’t or to blame young people. Neither of those is going to work. New stuff keeps happening and some of it is great. Ask some young people to recommend some for you. Maybe listen when they talk? Maybe don’t assume that the world still works the way it did when you were young? Maybe, just maybe, you’ll learn to accept other people’s lived experience as genuine.

Or you could stop pretending to be relevant and get the hell out of the way.

Please don’t kill me.

The UK is facing an unexpected election in June.  I have a message for everyone eligible to vote in it – I’m a human being, my disability doesn’t make me any less human, people like me don’t deserve to die just so that our elected leaders can pursue a dream of austerity that most reputable economists regard as purest bunkum.

You might be wondering what on earth I’m going on about. It’s not like anyone is talking about loading disabled people on to cattle trucks. Yet. So here’s some further reading for you:

If you vote Conservative you’re voting for people who don’t care about child poverty, the working poor, or disabled people. You’re voting for people who can’t even lie consistently. You’re voting for people who claim that they are subsidising an entire nation (Scotland) while refusing to subsidise a spare room to store the equipment needed by a disabled child.

A vote for the Conservatives says that you’re just fine with selling off the NHS. It says that you think filling in an 8 page form about sexual assault is a reasonable burden to place on a woman just trying to get tax credits for a third child. It’s saying that you think the 50,000 disabled people who have already lost their motability vehicles are better off indoors.

Whatever else you think you’re doing when you put your X in the box marked Conservative And Unionist Party you’re also telling me and people like me to just fuck off and die quietly.

Do the thing now

If there’s one thing I’ve learned recently (and I really should have learned it a long time ago but sometimes I am hard of thinking) it’s that you should always do the thing now. Don’t put things off. If you can afford it, if you’re physically able, if you have the time or you can make the time. Do it now.

Clean up the mess as soon as you notice the mess. Wear the nice outfit while it still fits. Go see the film before someone spoils it for you. Tell the people that you care about that you care about them while they’re still around to hear it. Don’t wait for some far off perfect future to write your novel. Do the thing now.

I wanted to go and see Logan on Monday. I was really tempted to book the tickets on Sunday but I didn’t and when Monday came around my other half wasn’t really feeling it and we didn’t want to cook and see a film and we couldn’t afford take out and tickets and so we didn’t. We put it off.

Then we got some bad news. News so bad that it colours everything. I could still go and see the film but I’ll never enjoy it as much now as if I’d gone on Monday. And with every passing day the temptation to spend the ticket money on something more sensible grows. It becomes more and more likely that I’ll never see the film.

It will become the latest in a long line of lost joys. These are the things that would have given me a tiny spark of joy but didn’t because I didn’t do them. I put them off. Or decided they weren’t sensible choices. I waited and the moment was gone.

This does not change my positions on technology and computer games though. Leave the early adopting to people who get a kick out of being first. Let them deal with all the bugs and the glitches and the exploding batteries. Buy the fancy new kit when the price drops in anticipation of the next model coming out. If you can stand to wait for the computer game at all then wait for the game of the year edition or the Steam sale.

Not that I expect I’ll be able to follow my own advice. I give it 6 months before I make exactly the same mistake again and I’m back here saying this all over again.