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Monthly Archives: July 2016

It’s always funny to see what gets under your skin and what doesn’t. Probably I should know better than to read the comments under an article on Native Americans. The comment thread was under an article about the relationship between economic development and property rights on Native American reservations which is currently on the Atlantic website. The article brought up some interesting points, but was marred by an anti-government agenda which put the interesting points at the end of the article, after a bit of whining about social justice warriors. I actually agree with the author’s point that the matter of racist names for sports teams is trivial compared to the question of economic development. In fact, I was just ranting to my sister last week about people whose only interest in native issues is to tweet about sports teams’ names. It’s a classic case of virtue signalling. However, dwelling on the right/left pissing match distracted from some of the more potentially interesting parts of the article, for instance proposed legislation in Canada called “First Nations Property Ownership Act.”

Unlike what many people in the cultural mainstream expect, native issues don’t align neatly along a right-left or conservative-liberal axis. Also, many people in the mainstream who have not paid intense attention to native issues don’t understand either the history or the legal issues involved. When reading about native issues, I often find my own opinions torn due to competing goods.

Anyway, here’s a screen shot of the exchange that got me so mad:

Atlantic - Native American Property RightsAnyway, like I said, it made me really mad. It’s funny, because normally I’m highly uncomfortable with identity politics. Of course, I’m usually blissfully oblivious to the fact that this level of ignorance and hostility towards native people exists.

A bit of free association:

They dyed his hair and hid his feathers
And told him he was Latin
‘Til he came chanting down the street
Like a cannibal in Manhattan

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In order to escape from the heat, I went to my sister’s in Baltimore. Going from New York to Baltimore might not make sense on the surface, but my sister lives in a suburban neighborhood and she has trees and central air-conditioning. While I was down there, I took some pictures. I also saw a Short Tailed Shrew, but I was unable to get a picture.

I’m not entirely sure why. I was very sick a couple of weeks ago and I’m not entirely over it. I still have a tight feeling in my chest.

I wrote about giving a man my phone number, and he never called, so there’s that. When I asked if he wanted it, he seemed happy in a way that’s hard to fake, so, although I usually try to take such things in my stride, I did expect that he would call. I’ve actually stopped dating because dating has mainly moved on-line. I have much better luck with men in person than online. I suspect I appear better in person than I do on paper. There’s also something I call the R. Mutt theory of life, but that probably deserves its own post.

I have a strange lack of concentration at the moment. There are a couple of books sitting on my coffee table, but five minutes at a stretch seems to be all I can give them before getting antsy.

Another possibility is a sudden cessation of activity and company. Normally, I spend lots of time alone and am fairly used to it. However, the past two months have been odd since I took the trip to China and the trip to California, which was to attend a convention-type thing for a week. Therefore, until a few days ago, I was a very busy person, doing lots of things, mostly with other people around. Usually, I pride myself on never being bored. I wonder if this odd feeling is boredom?

Finally, there’s the weather. We’re having a heat wave, which is predicted to continue until nearly the end of the month. I hate heat. A heat wave like this is the equivalent of a month of rainy days or freezing cold. In a way, it’s worse because I’ve been keeping the blinds drawn to block out the sun and I feel like I’m in a cave. I’m getting a little stir crazy and there’s no relief in sight. Making things worse, the temperature doesn’t drop much at night.

It’s all pretty petty stuff, but I’ve been feeling this for a few days now, so I thought I try writing it down to see if it helps.

In a little bit, once the sun is fully up, I’ll go take a jog or a walk. If I want to get out, this will be the coolest it will be all day, although the humidity is 68%.

I know this is all a lot of whining. Except for the tightness in my chest, all of these are problems in my own mind. I feel like I’ve been trying to solve the loneliness problem for about four or five years now. It doesn’t get worse, but it doesn’t get better either. I was able to temporarily alleviate it for a week, but now it feels like it’s come back even worse.

 

Last year, I planted two window boxes. I meant to replant them this year, but then the trip to China came up and I knew that it was going to be followed by another trip to California, so I didn’t bother since I wouldn’t be there to water them. The plants appeared dead. I saw some green leaves, but presumed they were weeds. Then, yesterday, I saw this:

Window-Box

I was poking around looking for something online last night and I came across a year-old essay which appeared on the Huffington Post website, “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Being a Radical: Assata Taught Me,” by Justin Adkins. In it he writes that he had recently read the convicted cop killer and fugitive Assata Shakur’s autobiography and that made him feel more energized as an activist. It was not an especially interesting piece, however there was one sentence that jumped out at me.

I fight for the day that all people are free. I don’t fight for democracy but for freedom.

There’s a growing drumbeat against democracy. On a left-right axis, I tend to fall to the left on almost every issue. On the authoritarian-libertarian axis I tend to fall slightly towards the the libertarian side. That static picture misses many things. In this case it misses which should have priority. Generally, I prefer to view it in terms of the history of ideas and the underlying concepts rather than a collection of positions. Conservatism has always had an elitist strain which distrusts the masses and therefore is suspicious of democracy.

In a recent article in Commentary, “Illiberalism: The Worldwide Crisis,” Sohrab Ahrami writes:

Today’s illiberals are less likely to be organized around systematic philosophies like Fascism and Communism than was the case in the years between the two world wars—the last time liberalism appeared this vulnerable. In our time, illiberal forces are disparate, instinctual, inchoate, more likely to be local in focus, and internally divided.

This seems to me to ignore a resurgent interest in Marxism among the young. Further down in the article, however, he writes:

Reducing political and ideological phenomena to social, economic, and legal ones is one of liberalism’s chief strengths and major blind spots, as the Nazi jurist Carl Schmitt long ago recognized.

He also mentions Manifesto for a New Europe, by Charles Champetier and Alain de Benoist. The article is an interesting survey of current, worldwide political movements. The scope renders it unfortunately superficial. Still, it is worth taking a look at it.

Besides the attacks from the left and the right, we have to contend with the technocratic and meritocratic distrust of the masses.

In an article which upset many people last year, Jonathan Chait wrote:

The right wing in the United States is unusually strong compared with other industrialized democracies, and it has spent two generations turning liberal into a feared buzzword with radical connotations. This long propaganda campaign has implanted the misperception — not only among conservatives but even many liberals — that liberals and “the left” stand for the same things.

It is true that liberals and leftists both want to make society more economically and socially egalitarian. But liberals still hold to the classic Enlightenment political tradition that cherishes individuals rights, freedom of expression, and the protection of a kind of free political marketplace. (So, for that matter, do most conservatives.)

The Marxist left has always dismissed liberalism’s commitment to protecting the rights of its political opponents…. Why respect the rights of the class whose power you’re trying to smash? And so, according to Marxist thinking, your political rights depend entirely on what class you belong to.

The modern far left has borrowed the Marxist critique of liberalism and substituted race and gender identities for economic ones. …

Political correctness appeals to liberals because it claims to represent a more authentic and strident opposition to their shared enemy of race and gender bias. And of course liberals are correct not only to oppose racism and sexism but to grasp (in a way conservatives generally do not) that these biases cast a nefarious and continuing shadow over nearly every facet of American life. Since race and gender biases are embedded in our social and familial habits, our economic patterns, and even our subconscious minds, they need to be fought with some level of consciousness. The mere absence of overt discrimination will not do.

Liberals believe (or ought to believe) that social progress can continue while we maintain our traditional ideal of a free political marketplace where we can reason together as individuals….

Chait’s article focused mainly of restrictions to free speech, but free speech is only one component of liberalism. Others, like democratic self-governance, are being challenged as well.

 

DSC_0388_8671It feels like ages ago that I promised China pictures.

In the northern part of Sichuan Province there’s a large nature reserve and national park. It’s located at a very high altitude and the scenery is very spectacular. Here is a quickie map I did to give you an idea of the location. I apologize for any inaccuracies.

Jiuzhaigou-LocationJiuzhaigou translates to “nine village valley,” and there are still several Tibetan villages within the park two of which are accessible to tourists. The best approximation of the pronunciation I could manage was “Joe – Jai – Go,” but I should warn you that without at least making a stab at the tones no one could understand what I was saying. The park is known for its waterfalls and lakes. The lakes have a high mineral content and are unusually colorful. We went there in the late spring/early summer, but the most popular time is the fall due to the colorful leaves. There are so many scenic spots, it’s really hard to take bad pictures.

The cutie was a commie. Admittedly, I don’t know that for a fact, but I think it’s a reasonable guess based on his reading material and musical tastes. The books were big, fat, serious ones, the kind that people don’t read unless they’re motivated. The musical tastes… well, he first took note of me when I said something that indicated we might have overlapping musical tastes. Which I suppose we do, if you subtract the more obviously political stuff. For now, I’m assuming he is a flat-out Marxist.

Don’t get me wrong, some of my best friends are pinkos, the rest are anarchists, various flavors of socialist and whatnot. A true Marxist is rarity, but, you see, he had this smile. The cliché is to say that his smile made me “weak at the knees,” although the weakness was definitely located a foot and a half higher than that, and it wasn’t weak so much as wet. Every time he smiled, and I mean every time dammit, my rational, logical mind, which was busy trying to feed my mouth something half-way intelligent to say about art, or literature, or music, (After all, we’re not just talking about any old cutie, but a cutie with very large… books.) was interrupted by that primal part of the brain – you know that part that’s not well-connected to the language part of the brain. So, just as I was formulating some brilliant, or at least coherent, observation about the subject at hand, he’d smile and that other side of my brain would start redirecting my attention to how much I would like to touch him, specifically, how much I would like to get inside his pants. But even putting it that way implies a higher level of thinking than was actually going on. It would be more accurate to say that every time he smiled a gorilla jumped up and down in my brain shouting, “Cock!”

That would cause stammering and stumbling which I played off by asking if he had an opinion. He smiles easily and I must have seemed very interested in his… opinions. After all, not only were the books large, but they looked rather hard. One would expect such a man to have opinions worth exploring.

So, about a week ago, I had, if I’m not mistaken, which I could be, two men flirting with me and I felt prettier than I have in about five years. One seemed to drop out of the picture for a reason I can’t account for, leaving me with Mr. Dimples. (To be honest, I don’t recall whether or not he had dimples, but that’s shorter than Mr. Serious-but-smiles-easily.)

For a couple of days, I was a little nervous because I think Mr. Dimples was assuming, with no encouragement from me, that I share his radical leanings. So I need to ask Mr. Dimples, “Do you think you could make it with Frankenstein?” Or, in this case, an anti-authoritarian liberal, which in my social world might as well be Frankenstein.

So this was the first time in several years that I have really had an overwhelming primal reaction to a potential lover and actually felt good about it, and I’m really hoping my damn opinions don’t get in the way. I’ve tried agreeing with the majority, and it just doesn’t add up in my head. I can’t make myself go along with it. The best I can do is avoid talking about it.

The good news is, I’m not much of a talker in bed. In fact, lovers have found that a little bit remarkable about me since I tend to run on at length outside of bed. Shockingly, a couple of people have been disappointed. Most, however, are relieved.

The bad news is, I gave him my phone number a few days ago and he hasn’t called, so maybe all my wondering if I was too far to the center for him was all for naught.

In any case, the likelihood that he would actually read this is close to nil, so I feel like I can be more open about it here than I was in front of a crowd. I’m pretty sure I adequately communicated my desire for him to call. So, everyone, keep your fingers crossed.