Love is Love is Love is Love is Bullshit

Today is as good a day as any to say this.

Please, kindly, take your “love is love is love” horseshit and ram it deep into whatever orifice would be most unpleasant for you. Please, kindly.

No one is threatening love. Bigots don’t kill queers because we love each other. Our existence, as queers, threatens their oppressive gender system, threatens their privilege, threatens their sense of themselves. And they are more than willing kill us for that.

We don’t need allies to defend our love. No one is killing love. We need allies to defend our right to exist. We need allies who will stand up for queer people who don’t make them comfortable. We need allies who will fight for the nonconforming, the unloved, the unloving, the people who are not glamorous or respectable.

It doesn’t matter if you think love is great. Fucking everyone thinks love is great. It matters if you think queers are great and if you’re willing to stand up for all of us. Otherwise, what the fuck use are you?

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Fairness in Play: A Series?

“That wasn’t fair!”

It’s the ur critique. It’s when your childhood broke, if only a little bit. It’s the moment your budding theory of mind burst through into a terrible reality, and you realized that the game you’re playing might not be the game that the other kid is playing. ‘Cause your nerf dart definitely hit that jackass Trevor from across the street, but he’s not laying down and being dead like he’s supposed to and now he’s just shooting you in the face with all his darts even though that’s totally against the rules and maybe it’s high time you punch Trevor in the face. And never invite Trevor over again. He’s the worst.

But anyway, that’s not fair. It was kind of a betrayal, right? You were playing with friends. You all knew the rules. When a dart hits you, you lay down and you’re out for the round. Everybody gets hit sometimes, but you’ll do a bunch of rounds so, whatever, everyone plays plenty. But fucking Trevor, man. He’s like “Nuh-uh, it didn’t hit me! It didn’t hit me!” And you saw it hit him. You saw the dart bound off his chest. You saw that Trevor saw the dart bounce off his chest. But then he shot you in the face, and what could you do? What can anyone do under such duress?

Also, there was that time you were playing chess with your mom. You were pretty far into the game, at that point where there’s a lot of shuffling around, careful positioning, attention to detail, etc. Then your mom said “I think I made an illegal move earlier.” She pointed at one of her bishops, “It can’t legally be in that space, so I must’ve moved it wrong at some point.” And, yeah, that bishop started out on a white space, but there it was on a black space. And that kinda borked the game. It wasn’t fair.

It’s not that you literally couldn’t have kept playing, but seeing the mistake really sucked the air out of the game. Neither of you remembered when when the mistake happened, so you couldn’t just rewind to fix the game. You could’ve moved the bishop over to a black space to make it sorta legal again, but that would’ve been a huge change to the board, really good for you or really good for your mom depending on the black space. If you just left the bishop in its space, it might’ve been okay, but that’s not how chess really works. No one wants to play fake, lying, pretend chess.

And there was that other time (last one, I swear) when all you little jerks were arm wrestling. It was fine. Like, it was silly in the ways that arm wrestling is always silly, but it wasn’t bad. For the first few matches everyone argued about the rules and, ya know, totally would’ve won if Alex hadn’t picked up their leg or whatever. But, in due time, you all sorted it out. Right hands grasped. Left hands grip the table. Feet on the ground and butt in your chair. Lift your feet or your butt and you lose automatically. Obviously, you all still made excuses when you lost. At least there were rules, though.

But then fucking Trevor’s fucking brother showed up. Trevor’s Brother was built in a factory or something. He was five big dudes glued together into one huge dude. He bench pressed grizzly bears and drank protein drinks made of dinosaur eggs and moose testicles. One day, years later, he flexed his lats so hard that he tore himself in two.

On this day, though, Trevor’s Brother just walked up, “Fuck yeah, arm wrestling! I’m next!” So, surprise, he won. Every time. Against everyone. Individually and collectively. You might as well have arm wrestled a bulldozer. He basically just threw you all around until he got bored and then wandered off into the woods. Those grizzly bears weren’t going to bench press themselves.

And that sure as hell wasn’t fair! Nobody signed up for that shit. You wanted to arm wrestle with your friends: people whose arms were all about the same size, who weighed about the same, who’d never played tug of war against a tractor and won. But that wasn’t the game that happened. Instead, you were all sore, deflated, and defeated without ever having a real chance to win. Very not fair.

So the point here, probably all too obvious, is that when we talk about fairness in play, we could be talking about several things. We might be talking about whether someone is playing in good faith. We might be talking about whether we’ve played according to the rules. We might be talking about the legitimacy of a contest between players with different skill levels. We might be talking about stuff I didn’t provide examples of. Of course, we might also be talking about several things at the same time.

And that’s fine. Like any idea born from social activity, fairness is multivalent. We invoke it in different ways at different times. But, as with other messy ideas, it’s worth thinking about how and why we invoke fairness. So that’s what I’m gonna do, I guess. Muse on fairness, provide examples, look at corner cases, suggest times when the idea is useful and times when it fails us.

Stay tuned. I might have a useful thought or two. No guarantees.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

We Sell our Sickness

Imagine The Hospital.

It has everything. Not sorcery, miracles, or not-yet-discovered technological wonders, but all the stuff we really have right now, the sum of human medical achievement.

It is fully staffed. Again, not by a race of super beings who work without rest, who never make mistakes, and who understand patient needs with perfect intuition. It’s staffed by a diverse assortment of contemporary medical professionals: doctors, nurses, specialists, technicians, therapists, and basically anyone else you might need to consult with about your health.

Every door in The Hospital is unlocked and open. You have 24/7 access to the people and services you need. It might not be perfectly convenient, and you might not find exactly who or what you’re looking for at all times. For most intents and purposes, though, you have the run of the place.

But. Buuuuuuuuuuuut. The Hospital’s floor is extremely dangerous. Every square inch of walking surface is covered in hazardous detritus: broken glass, caltrops, lit firecrackers, Christmas tree ornaments, rusty nails, tiny lightsabers, and those steel origami cranes I saw in some bad ninja movie.

Of course, if you’re wealthy enough, you can buy some big-ass, adamantium boots and walk wherever you want, easily accessing the people and services you need. Everyone else has try their luck without protective footwear or, if they have a bit more financial wherewithal, haggle with the cobblers over the nuances of foot protection and which toes they care the least about losing.

The Republican approach to healthcare, as far as I can tell, is to assume that, as long as The Hospital’s doors are open, The Holy Market will somehow provide everyone with appropriate footwear. Not equally good footwear, obviously, but footwear appropriate to one’s class and in alignment with acceptable profit margins.

The Democratic approach to healthcare, as expressed in the Affordable Care Act, is to establish legal frameworks which control the cost of foot protection while also maintaining and encouraging a profitable market for cobblers. Ideally, then, cobblers will make worthwhile footwear at a price most of us can reasonably afford.

And, sure, I guess it’d be nice if we could figure out a system whereby everyone can have the boots they need to get where they want to go, to see all the doctors they need to see. BUT WHY DON’T WE JUST CLEAN THE FUCKING FLOOR?! Why don’t we put effort into eliminating the thing that actually stops people from getting healthcare?

But, back in 2009 and 2010, when the Democrats were putting all their eggs into the ACA basket, they barely glanced at the idea of a public healthcare plan. They took it for granted that any system worth talking about had to be grounded in the private insurance market.

The ACA does some undeniably good things, but it’s built on festering, gangrenous foundations. Private health insurance is the problem, and there’s no magical arrangement under which private health insurance will actually lead to effective, efficient healthcare. Under a system of for-profit health insurance, our health, our inevitable need for healthcare, becomes a financial asset for private interests, an asset which those interests will fight tooth and nail to maintain control of.

This system is most of the way to being a protection racket. “Nice health you’ve got there. It’d be a shame if you didn’t have access to medical care to maintain it. Nice finances you’ve got there. It’d be a shame if sudden medical expenses were to ruin them.”

To my mind, a public healthcare system is the only coherent way forward. It’s a public need, so we ought to guarantee it to the entirety of the public through use of public funds. If someone wants to have their own private insurance for their own private medical care outside that system, that’s fine. They can have fun doing whatever. But we meet the public need first. Everything beyond that is gravy.

We don’t need better boots. We don’t need better insurance. We need reliable access to medical professionals and medical facilities. Anything less than that is just playing pretend. No amount of or quality of insurance will improve anyone’s health or save anyone’s life. But actually getting to see your fucking doctor just might.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Saved Yer Jerbs?

So, Brother Bernie had an article in the Washington Post about the deal Trump is making with Carrier, the HVAC company. It’s fine. Read it, if for no other reason, to get some worthwhile info about United Technologies, the corporation that owns Carrier, and to get some links to more detailed coverage.

In the broad sweep, we have the typical case of a company looking to offshore its manufacturing. Carrier knows it can pay lower wages to manufacturing workers in Mexico, so it wants to close manufacturing locations in the U.S. and open new, cheaper locations in Mexico. End result, about 2100 U.S. manufacturing workers no longer have jobs because Carrier has terminated their positions and transferred those positions to manufacturing workers in Mexico.

But wait. In steps the Jolly Orange Fascist, and, with a wave of his minuscule hand, Carrier recants. No, Carrier won’t offshore those positions. Manufacturing workers in Indiana can rest a bit easier knowing they’ve been spared from the guillotine of corporate profit margins. Christmas came early, and Santa Claus wasn’t an asshole.

How could this happen, though? What kind of Making-A-Deal sorcery did Trump use to stop a publicly traded company from moving to cheaper labor, the sweet, pure crystal meth of the manufacturing sector? Before offering an answer, it’s probably worth noting that Trumblbumble was only marginally successful at keeping those Carrier jobs in Indiana. It looks like about 1000 of those positions will remain, less than half of them, and, without massive changes in domestic and/or international labor dynamics, it’s only a matter of time before those positions also leave or are just eliminated.

But what why are those 1000 or so jobs sticking around at all? The answer is devastatingly simple: public funds. Details are scant, but it appears that Carrier is slated to receive about $7 million in “tax incentives” from Indiana in exchange for keeping those position in the state. Or, put another way, Indiana is shifting $7 million of the tax burden away from Carrier and onto the rest of the public. Or, put another way, Indiana is bolstering Carrier with $7 million of public funds which could otherwise have gone to any number of public goods, social services, etc. Approach it from whatever angle you like. Trump’s masterful deal consists of dipping his hand into public coffers and holding up $7 million to placate Carrier and United Technologies.

There’s nothing novel or inventive in this approach, though. You’ll find similar behavior coming from governors’ mansions and state legislatures across the country, and municipal governments are generally playing the same game too. It’s bog standard neoliberalism. When a public official talks about “making a friendlier environment for business,” they’re almost always nodding toward deregulating a dangerous industry or providing similar “tax incentives” for cooperative businesses. Public funds, in this system, don’t exist for public goods, as such. They’re just the basis for negotiation with private, for-profit entities which will, I guess, provide for some public needs by providing jobs that give people income which will be taxed to create public funds to… damn it.

And that’s all very important stuff, of course. When public funds are the bedrock of what amounts to a sort of pyramid scheme, we might want to pay some attention to that. But there’s another dynamic, I think, worth some consideration. In the reporting I’ve seen so far, Donnie Cheeto and Carrier are presented as the only relevant actors, the only ones with power in this situation. But what about the workers? In a certain way, they’re the main objects of concern. Those positions at Carrier are their livelihoods, and that’s the primary reason we care about any of this shit. So, why can’t the workers tell Carrier to fuck off? Why can’t they say, “No, these are our jobs. You can’t take them anywhere.”

In the most direct sense, the workers can’t do that because it’s not in their contracts. Carrier, like most workplaces, is its own private tyranny. It’s structured to disempower its workforce and grant overwhelming powers to the upper echelons of management and those otherwise most suited to pursue the company’s profit mission. It rejects worker ownership for the same reason that political tyrannies disregard the consent of the public; they’re antithetical visions of power and responsibility.

But in our society, which professes democratic governance as one of its highest values, we take it for granted that Carrier owns those jobs. Both legally and as a matter of social convention, we imagine those positions belong to Carrier, that Carrier purchases the labor of individual workers to fulfill those positions, and that they will continue to do so only as long as the workers create acceptable profits. If Carrier stops being satisfied with the profits they’re getting, they can pick up their ball and go play elsewhere. That’s just “smart business,” right? And, by complete coincidence I’m sure, it’s power enshrined in law and defended in the courtroom.

So, the Trumple Monster didn’t save anyone’s fucking job. He offered public funds to temporarily sate the depravity of a private tyranny. The tyranny hasn’t been defeated or even undermined. It’s been fed and assured that we’ll soon have a federal executive willing to continue feeding it.

And, to skip ahead to the vaguely hopeful part, we already know that the only effective response to tyranny is democracy, the radical empowerment of the public, of those who exist within systems of power. In the workplace, democracy is synonymous with worker ownership.

The Lowell Mill Girls*, textile workers operating in Lowell, Massachusetts in the mid 1800s, were strikingly devoted to the cause of worker ownership. As pre-Marxist labor, they already understood that the interests of private business were at odds with their thriving, their development as people, and their dignity as human beings. In their own labor press, the Mill Girls argued,

“When you sell your product, you retain your person. But when you sell your labour, you sell yourself, losing the rights of free men and becoming vassals of mammoth establishments of a monied aristocracy that threatens annihilation to anyone who questions their right to enslave and oppress. Those who work in the mills ought to own them, not have the status of machines ruled by private despots who are entrenching monarchic principles on democratic soil as they drive downwards freedom and rights, civilization, health, morals and intellectuality in the new commercial feudalism.” (emphasis mine)

That’s about all the persuasion I need.

*They were awesome! Look ‘em up.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Every day is the last

tl;dr – Defeat it likely. Death is certain. Fight anyway and always.

Are you familiar with “Ragnarok?” It pops up fairly regularly in the contemporary fiction zeitgeist. There’s an upcoming Thor film subtitled “Ragnarok.” It also features heavily in Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods,” and there’s at least one manga series titled “Ragnarok.” Etc. It’s a cool word, so it gets around.

Originally “Ragnarok” was a story from the old Norse mythic tradition. For my money, it’s the single best piece of European mythology. Translating to “Fate of the God,” “Doom of the Gods,” or “Twilight of the Gods,” Ragnarok is a sort of end-times tale. But it isn’t end-times in the Christian sense, with the defeat of evil and the arrival of paradise. Rather, it aims to show the end of the current order, to show how this world ends and the next world begins.

And it’s pretty fucking badass. Ragnarok is a right, proper apocalypse. Almost all the gods die in battle. Almost all of humanity gets wiped out in a world-spanning conflagration. Fenris, the great wolf, consumes the sun and the moon. Yggdrasil, the world-tree, whose branches contain the very cosmos, is lit aflame. Two people and two gods make it through that shit alive, and so a new world begins.

Nontrivially epic

Nontrivially epic

All of that, obviously, is awesome on its own. Here’s that part that really tickles me, though; everyone knows how Ragnarok is going to play out before it even begins. The gods know they’re going to die. They know who is going to kill them and how. They know that, by the end, there will be nothing left of them, of their home, of all their joys and sorrows and triumphs and losses. But they fight anyway. They know the story of their own demise, and they don’t shrink from it. When someone comes to your home, aiming to hurt you and yours, you pick up a weapon and fight. That is simply what one does.

It couldn’t have been intended as such, but I take Ragnarok as a kind of pre-existentialist fable. It holds up the terrible end of all things and says “This will happen. You cannot prevent it.” The subjects of the fable, the gods and their allies, nod their heads and respond, “Okay. Then we will go out to fight and die. There is nothing else.” They don’t despair of the dying because the fight must happen, because, in the face the enemy, there is nothing to do but fight.

For the next two years, at minimum, the enemies of human progress and well being have all the weapons in our fight. The federal Executive and Legislative branches will be under Republican control in two months. Not long thereafter, they will almost certainly control the Supreme Court. An overwhelming number of state legislative houses and governor’s mansions are already under Republican control. Ditto for far too many municipal governments.

This is the stage, as I understand it, for our fight. And people are going to die. Too many people were going to die under a Clinton presidency. Under a Trump presidency, the number only gets worse, and it comes with the added bonus of increased institutionalized terror against black and brown folks, non-white immigrants, Muslims, queer folks, women, and basically anyone who dissents to our white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy. People are going to die, and they’re going to die regardless of whether or how we fight. That’s a victory for human evil. Every time a Muslim is afraid to leave their house, every time a trans kid commits suicide because they can stand the torture of their daily life, every time a black person is murdered because someone fears their skin, every time a woman suffers violation to her person because further resistance might have even worse consequences, that’s a victory for human evil.

Evil wins often, predictably, and with terrible effect. And, in so many ways, in the most immediate, important ways, our task must be to prevent that evil. But we can’t. Or we won’t. As a matter of volume and logistics, evil will win over and over again. Our fight can’t be predicated on continuous, complete victory over human evil. But me must fight knowing that every second of resistance is its own victory. Every moment we fight, every moment we make space, or give comfort, or confirm our love for each other, especially for the most vulnerable, we have done the most worthwhile thing. Obviously, the ideal is to overcome the evil amassed against us. Even when that’s impossible, though, we’ve nothing else to do but put our bodies in the way of evil. We’ve nothing else to do but to pick up a weapon and put ourselves between the evil coming toward us and the most vulnerable among us. That’s it. That isn’t the means to an end. That is the unending entirety of our lives and every life that comes after us.

Or, take it from this angle. In about 5 billion years, the Sun will being to expand into a red giant star. At its maximum size, it will envelop Mercury, Venus, and likely Earth, burning those planets to cinder. And long before that happens, Earth will become completely inhospitable to life as we know it. In that time, if there are still creatures like us on Earth, they will see the end coming. They will live on a planet increasingly hostile to their very existence, and they will know that there is no solution. They will live in a time when the end of all things is not merely hypothetical, but immediate, palpable, and real. In that time, the kindness, comfort, and love shared between those creatures will be just as vital and valuable as the kindness, comfort, and love we share with each other now. The inevitability of defeat and demise does not diminish the value of our love toward each other. The inevitability of defeat and demise is irrelevant to our love toward each other. Love and kindness and comfort and the fleeting connection between similar minds are the basis for caring about any of this, for there being anything worth doing in this ridiculous shitshow.

So, love everyone you can as hard as you can. Expand the circle of who you love, who you’re willing to love. Understand how the people you love are vulnerable. Love them because they’re vulnerable. And if someone tries to fuck with the people you love, take that piece of shit to the ground and bite their fucking face off.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Of Bubbles, Scary Ones

The Real Bubble,” maybe not. But as someone who grew up in the rural Midwest, there is A Real Bubble there, intentionally constructed or not. There is an assumption of righteousness by simplicity, of realness by tradition. And there are also painfully obvious ways in which our elites, media elites, financial elites, political elites have ridiculed and abandoned rural populations in the US. But that abandonment will never be sufficient to excuse the kind of xenophobia and outright hate that is really, truly present in too many communities. The rage and lashing out are understandable but not excusable.

I live in and spend the overwhelming majority of my time in Madison, WI. I love it here. I don’t leave often because that requires time I don’t have and incurs costs I can’t afford. Once or twice a year, though, I muster the reserves needed to go back to my Iowan homeland. I like Iowa. It’s a very pretty state, often because of its flatness rather than in spite of it. I grew up being able to see to forever in every direction, being able to see every last star in the sky. Iowa isn’t big, but most places feel small and confined in comparison.

But when I go back to Iowa, I don’t feel safe. I’m a queer white man who can basically move incognito. I look kinda funny, but in ways that often give me the trappings of masculinity, a nontrivial shield. But I still don’t feel safe. I don’t like stopping for gas on the way to Burlington, and I don’t like going out for groceries once I’m there. I move quickly. I avoid eye contact. I try to look straight. I try to get my business done before anyone has a chance to object to my presence. And I don’t act this way because I have an invented version of the average Iowan in my head. I remember what a lot of Iowans are like. Not all, maybe not even most, but plenty, enough. I remember how they talk about people different from them. I remember what they think about the dignity, the humanity of queer people. And even though I also remember the kindness of Iowans, their willingness to help, and their practical goodwill, I cannot let me guard down when I’m there. I don’t assume malice, but a dangerous ignorance and a defensive sense of identity are just as bad.

I bristle when anyone belittles people in the Midwest, especially those who live in rural areas. That kind of derision is almost always based on some grotesque ignorance. But the Midwest also needs to move outside its vision of itself. This isn’t the land of pastoral virtue or live and let live passivity. Not everyone is welcomed here. Not everyone is safe here. It’s a white-ass, straight-ass, forcefully cis place, and we need to do something about that.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

On Avoidance of Punching and Other Jackassery

Or, like, here’s a more obtuse angle.

Contact sports are like violence. But they aren’t violence. There are parts in common, but the activities are distinct.

Slamming your body into another person is often part of violence, so there are understanadble reasons why contact sports, where you slam your body into another person, are associated with violence. But that association is only as real as we allow it to be.

A skater can step onto the track intent on being as physically dominant as possible. They can intend to completely fucking lay out every opposing skater on the track. They can hit brutally, constantly, and without hesitation. They can do all those things and never once intend violence or enact violence on another person. Because, in the midst of play, everyone has agreed to the thing they’re doing. It’s about consent, yeah, but it’s also about the mutual understanding of the activity. Derby, as a game, has bounds. Within those bounds skaters might wreck the fuck out of each other. But they don’t throw punches. They don’t kick. They don’t wrestle other skaters to the ground. If you think those actions are part of derby, then you’re in disagreement with the sport in both rule and spirit. The game can change, but you’ll have to make your case to change it.

Here’s a shitty analogy. There’s a naked person in front of you. Do you get to fuck them because they’re naked? No? What if they’re masturbating too? There’s a naked, masturbating person in front of you. Do you get to fuck them? No? Why not? Being naked is usually part of fucking. Touching your genitals is usually part of fucking. But being naked isn’t automatically sexual, and masturbating, even in front of someone else, doesn’t automatically invite other sexual contact. Sometimes you’re fuckin’, and sometimes you’re doing something else entirely. And it is always, every time, forever, in perpectuity our responsibility to understand and respect the difference.

So don’t disrespect derby by saying that it’s already violent, that’s it’s pretty much a fight anyway. That’s a disservice to the game and the people who play it. Derby isn’t just an organized brawl. It’s a real sport with meaning and beauty in play. Fighting should be no more an expected outcome of derby than fucking is an expected outcome of being naked. Man, that’s just a terrible analogy. Super sorry.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment