[identity profile] ddstory.livejournal.com
Slightly on-topic. I'll occupy you with the subject of this "post-truth" phenomenon that everyone keeps talking about. See, the Brexit and Trump's victory delivered a blow on the liberal media like an extinction-sized asteroid of stupidity. How could the voters have failed to heed the warnings of so many smart analysts, diligent experts and rational fact-checkers!? How's that even possible?

Almost like a chorus, the media were instantly ready with the answer: see, we live in an era that's characterized by Post-Fact Politics. Pushed forward by media organizations like Forbes and NYT, the term "post-truth" became the word of the year in the Oxford Dictionary. A recent piece at HuffPo coined the term "post-truth nation", stating that the biggest problem of our time is not political or economic, not even rational - but the battle between fact and fiction.

A pleiad of liberal authors are throwing all sorts of theories about the types and nature of post-truth, and the reason for it: the echo-chambers of the social media, the spreading of false non-news, public indifference to outright political lies, or problems with the millenials. All sorts of explanations for what happened in the UK and US last year. But most of them tend to agree that both the voters and politicians are rejecting facts, manipulating the truth, and giving precedence to emotion over experience.

Read more... )
[identity profile] tcpip.livejournal.com
Fake News
Winston Churchill famously quipped: "democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time" [1]. Which of course does raise the question are there other forms of government which could be better than democracy? Perhaps there be a particular implementation of democracy which works better? Contextually, what are the trends and technological influences and challenges? Careful consideration of these questions leads to a three-part evaluation; (a) the sense of res publica, (b) the relationship between democracy and informed decision-making, and (c) deliberative isocracy in the age of the Internet, which introduces the possibility of an informed and participatory public sphere.

Read more... )

Reposted at the usual place.
[identity profile] luvdovz.livejournal.com
During one of my more recent visits to Finland, I joined a friend of mine who teaches at a boarding school in central Finland, in the small town of Aitoo. It's one of the few boarding schools for 7-9-graders. It's private, but the funding for the students comes from the state. My friend had spent long years of training, studying and exams before she could become a teacher - but now she says it's all been totally worth it. Because teachers in Finland are among the highest paid professions, they're raised on a pedestal, almost worshiped. And for a good reason.

Finland has turned education into a cult. And here I'm not talking of standard, conventional theoretical education, but just on the contrary - they're focused on preparing the kids for real life in the real world. So it's no surprise that Finland now ranks 1st in the world in literacy (according to PISA data), 2nd in the EU in the natural sciences, and 3rd in maths. There's a good reason for their tremendous progress in the last few years, and I was fortunate to witness their teaching process with my own eyes and see how they've methodically worked for this achievement.

Finland is the prime example that sane, open education policy, produces top performers )
[identity profile] htpcl.livejournal.com
Greetings, my fellow shocked political observers political clairvoyants! Now that the dust of the election has settled somewhat, I shall say a few words on the issue as well. See, the whole world was watching with dismay, morbid curiosity and growing horror how the tragicomical and rather vulgar reality show that the US presidential campaign unraveled for the last few months. And though the monopolar world model has fast been sinking back into history for quite a while, the choice of the h'American people was still bound to have long-lasting implications on a global scale. So the world was watching nervously, waiting to see the outcome of this "choice between two evils". We wanted to know which would be "the lesser evil" for us all. And we were bracing ourselves for what was to come, and making bets on who the next one to be bombed would be - presumably depending on h'America's choice (I did promise to call her so from now on, didn't I?)

Although there were more than two candidates on the ballot (at least on paper), the realities of the plutocratic bipolar parisan model were such that it all boiled down to a choice between Hillary and Donald, which is a choice that looked as if borrowed from a crappy comedy - or rather, a dystopian novel. This made the outside observer wonder if it was more comforting or horrifying that the political circus in the world's hegemon was even more absurd than the one back home (and I can promise you, our own political circus is quite ridiculous).

I don't think it would be an overstatement if I said that this was a clash between the embodiment of absolute cynicism and the one of complete grotesquery. Because in fact, most of the nasty things that the two opponents and their supporters flung at each other, were actually true.

Warning: rather longish ramble inside )
[identity profile] htpcl.livejournal.com
Communal apartments, or Kommunalky. You can see most major Russian cities being encircled by those mastodons of Socialist-realist architecture. They look grand, imposing, intimidating even. But what's life like in those? And I do mean *is*, not *was*. Because a huge chunk of the Russian people still live there. I've been to Moscow over a dozen times through the years, but I must admit this is the first time that I've come to know Russians so intimately.

So, about the kommunalka. Visitor's first impression: the staircase stinks! It literally reeks. I've thought Russians bake and boil and fry stuff at home only when they're on holidays at the apartment complexes that they've bought along the sea coast of my country, but no. That's just the tip of the iceberg. When you enter an actual Russian kommunalka, you get instantly hit by a thick wall of odors. All sorts of meals can be felt from a hundred yards. They mix with each other into some sort of omnipresent, omnipotent, all-enveloping, invisible (and often visible) mist of smells, among which, after taking the second breath, you can no longer distinguish the separate meals.

If you somehow manage to survive this initial shock and make it to the, let's say 3rd floor of this shabby juggernaut of a building, you'd go through another shock. You'll end up in Heaven! Or rather, a haven for voices and moods, and all sorts of opinions, and meals, and rumors, and stuff.

The kommunalka is a whole separate universe on its own )
[identity profile] luvdovz.livejournal.com
I recently talked with a friend of mine who's a Lebanon-born Christian. We were watching an Egyptian movie from the 60s, the golden age of Arab cinema. You may ask, what does this have to do with the terror attacks in Paris, Sinai, Beirut, Ankara, Iraq and Yemen? Well, do bear with me.

The movie was about a group of holiday-makers, several family couples who had a dispute of some sorts, so they decided to play a football match, men vs women, and whichever side lost would be temporary servants to the other. Somehow the women won the game, and for some time their men had to do the cleaning, laundry, etc. The story may sound naive, and it certainly doesn't sound like an Arab movie. If we look at the films, books, photos, magazines and newspapers from the 50s and 60s (and partly the 70s) that came from countries like Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, we'd be shocked how they looked like. You'd wonder how come the Arab world has transformed so radically for the last few decades. You'd never see a woman with a hijab in those old movies. Chances are, you'd even see some nudity on screen. Cairo was the Arab Hollywood back then, and Beirut the Paris of the East. So how did that all change, and why?

Read more... )
[identity profile] htpcl.livejournal.com
Hey ma'fellow indifferent armchair-dwellers reasonable folks who care about freedom and peace almost as much as I do! Now that a week has passed since the act of barbarism in Paris which was instantly branded by some smartheads (and politicians) "a clash of civilizations", perhaps it's time to sit back a little and assess things a bit more soberly. In my opinion there's no such thing as a war of the civilizations, not really. Of course there can't be a yes or no answer to such complex issues spanning generations and even centuries, but still. On one side, this isn't a Muslims vs Christians clash per se. It's rather a conflict of values, one side refusing to adopt the other's values even when the former is being hosted by the latter, with all the hospitality that comes with that.

But even then, these are not "Christian" values by definition, but rather values of humanism. Free expression included. Unfortunately, many among the Muslim community do not necessarily identify with these valeus, or at least do not place them anywhere near the top of their list of priorities - but instead they fear they could lose their identity and damage their own culture and faith if they do. This couldn't be any further from reality, though. Adopting the principles of secularism, humanism and the Age of Enlightenment that have become so fundamental for the West would not only not undermine the Muslim world - it would most likely enrich it and allow it to develop - a process that Europe has been taking for granted for quite a while now. It's no surprise that the main factor for that was the separation of church and state, of religion and politics.

Read more of this incoherent diatribe )
[identity profile] htpcl.livejournal.com
Greetings, comrades folks! Yesterday marked a quarter of a century since the fall of the Berlin Wall. As for today, no doubt November 10 is a very symbolic day for my society. On this very day, exactly 25 years ago, democracy "exploded"  here in Bulgaria. Well, maybe not exactly. But it felt like it at the time, at least for a while. One thing is for sure, though. Things haven't been the same ever since. Even if only prompted by events abroad, we did do our best attempt to erase and forget the past, sometimes with more success, sometimes with less. But the idea was there. However, one'd think that some things just can't go away like that. You'd think it would take several generations for a society to completely shake off the legacy of the past, especially if that system had been instilled into the brains of people for decades, ultimately distorting the very culture of said society, and the mentality of its people. No, good things don't just happen overnight.

It definitely has been a rough time for my people since then )

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You know the drill. In order to proceed reading, first you'll have to play that song in the background. ;-)

How is that epoch viewed now, from the distance of a quarter of a century? )

So here are 25 socialist things that some people miss, and I don't )
[identity profile] tcpip.livejournal.com

Independence and Early Days

Ever since Ukraine's first post-Soviet elections in 1991, there were hints of the impending crisis that now engulfs the country, as a the proxy maneuverings between the Great Powers of Russia and the European Union. In the December 1991 presidential election, the first free elections in the country since 1918, there was on overwhelming victory for Leonid Kravchuk, running as an independent but previously holding the position of secretary of the central committee of the Communist Party of the Ukraine, and going on to organise the Social Democratic Party of Ukraine (united). The runner-up was Viacheslav Chornovil, a well-known dissident of the 1960s and 1970s, who headed the centre-right People's Movement of Ukraine which at the time included everything from liberal communists, through to liberal democrats, to proto-fascist nationalists. Whilst Chornovil received only received 23% of the overall vote, three western regions gave him a majority, and one (Lviv) with 75% [1]. It was the hint of what was to come.

By the 1994 the east-west divide in Ukraine became very evident. Leonid Kuchma defeated Kravchuk 52% to 45%, with Kuchma receiving handy support from the Socialist Party of Ukraine, whose candidate Oleksandr Moroz received 14% in the firt round. In the far-east Luhansk Oblast 88% voted for Kuchma, and in the far-west Lviv Oblast Kravchuk received 94% - one may note that this was the same region that had only given him 11.5% of the vote a mere three years previously. Kuchma won all the provinces in the east, and Kravchuk all the provinces in the west; only in the cental provinces of Mykolaiv, Cherkasy, and Kirovohrad was there a contest which bore some resemblance to the final vote. In the following election, in 1999, a resurgent Communist Party won almost 40% of the second-round votes, with Petro Symonenko challenging Kuchma. The Communists won several provinces in the central and southern regions, with the far-west provinces this time supporting Kuchma, three of them with over 90% of the vote.

Read more... )

(Crossposted at the Isocracy Network)
[identity profile] luvdovz.livejournal.com
Everyone seems to be exercising their quills over the Ukraine/Crimea topic, so I thought, what the hell. Why not jump on the bandwagon? So here goes.

"That's utter bollocks", tovarisch Putin said on a press conference last December when he was asked if Russia would send troops to beautiful Crimea. The occasion: in the context of the emerging opposition protests in Ukraine at the time, some voices began advocating for a Russian military intervention. Now Putin seems to have changed the tune somewhat. "Unidentified" armed groups have seized buildings and airports around the southern peninsula, and the Russian flag floats above some of the local government premises. The new Ukrainian minister of the interior Arsen Avakov is now calling it a Russian military intervention. Various countries are flexing muscles and jumping on the outrage bandwagon, threatening Russia with war. And many observers are finding themselves scratching their heads, pondering how it has all come to this.

Context inside - because context matters )
[identity profile] htpcl.livejournal.com
O, hail, my fellow bored American Idol fans curious peeps who are so utterly concerned about peace and justice in the world! Realpolitik can be a real biach, I say. The biachiest biach of them all, actually. So here are a couple of fancy maps with many colors that look kinda realpolitik-ey.

Today Syria is the arena of fierce clashes between various players. A rain of blood pours on the ancient Syrian land and scourges it with sorrow and pain, while the various players are accusing each other for the tragedy. Politics is being played with ghostly chess pieces, and loud scandals explode like chemical bombs for everyone to hear, and to distract the public from the real issue.

The real issue starts to come out as soon as we take a map of the region and start looking at it. Look at the above two maps, and I think you'll begin to guess where I'm going with all this. It doesn't take more than a few seconds to figure out the connection between the places where modern-day clashes and conflicts tend to take place, and the map of the major energy resources.

Syria has found itself in the middle of a storm, between the hits and blows of a greedy clique which has set its hungry eyes on two huge gas fields: the Levantine one and the one they call South Pars.

Let's not pretend this is about freedom and democracy, okay? )
[identity profile] tcpip.livejournal.com
A coup d'état (or putsch, or pronunciamiento), the sudden seizure of governmental power by a small group, is almost invariably a detestable event. Typically a military event, as they have the resources to carry this out effectively, they are often associated with the overthrow of a popular democratic government by a military associated with an existing ruling class with foreign backing. The Pinochet coup against the elected socialist government of Allende in Chile in 1973 being perhaps the most well known example of this type. However this is obviously not the only type. Sometimes a coup can occur from the competing different factions within military-dominated governments. The latter case is often tied to a succession of civil wars, and is particularly the case in resource-rich developing countries where different groups aspire to control monopoly profits.

Recent events in Egypt bring certain questions to the fore. In January 2011, protests rose against the government of Hosni Mubarak, whose authoritarian social-democratic National Democratic Party was a member of Socialist International until these protests. Involving hundreds of thousands of people and with clashes with security forces resulting in over eight hundred deaths. Increasingly however, it became clear that the armed forces would not act against the protesters and in February Mubarak resigned with the military assuming control for a while, resulting in a constitution referendum in March and parliamentary elections in November and January 2012.

Read more... )

Time will determine whether their action was the right thing to do. One of the metrics of the judgement will be the military coup of Costa Rica of 1948 led by José Figueres and the National Liberation Army. A disputed election resulted in a short and bloody civil war where some two thousand people were killed. Taking control of the government, Figueres and his team began instituting a program of individual liberty and social democracy. They granted women and the children of black immigrants the right to vote, and abolished literacy requirements for the same. They nationalised the banking sector, and used that wealth to provide for basic welfare and universal education. They established a professional civil service, ending patronage and nepotism. True, the new military government did ban the Communist Party for its support of the previous regime, but it operated under a new name in any case. Having provided these liberties, rights, and codified in new constitution, the military junta of Costa Rica did something quite remarkable, unique and beautiful; it abolished the military. In the decades that followed, uniquely among Latin American nations, Costa Rica enjoyed a stable, liberal, democratic government - and never experienced a military coup ever again

(Also posted a few minutes ago at http://isocracy.org/node/165)
[identity profile] peristaltor.livejournal.com
Over a decade ago, I had a pretty fun job with a few minor drawbacks. For one, it was seasonal, with lots of work in the Spring, a Shitload in the Summer, lots in Fall, and almost nothing in Winter. Secondly, the Shitload of work got to be a strain, with sometimes 16 hour days and longer. Management always claimed that nothing could be done, that everyone pulled the same hours.

I should confess a minor problem. When I work too much or have too much stress in life in general, I make mistakes. Perhaps this is understandable, but not to management at this particular job. I made a few mistakes and was called on the carpet to answer for them. In my defense, I noted that I had requested fewer long days specifically because I recognize this tendency of mine. I don't want to make mistakes, but under these circumstances they have always occurred. And the other employees doing this job with no errors (that I knew about) were sometimes 15 years younger than myself. I asked my supervisor, as I do, something snarky but with poetic poignacny. )
[identity profile] abomvubuso.livejournal.com
I'm sure most of us have had a moment or two when all they wanted was to smack somebody with something heavy on the head, or reach across the screen and grab their opponent and strangle them with their bare hands. Thing is, it's not just the sheer obtuse stubbornness and/or deliberate tickling of the most sensitive nerves in the most unpleasant way imaginable, that would tend to bring us to the brink of having a head ass-plosion... It's often catch-phrases and worn-out rhetorical tricks being extensively used by the "other side", that would eventually trigger something homicidal within us during a debate.

I'd like you to dig for some of the most rage-inducing and overused rhetorical tricks and arguments you've encountered during your long sojourn on the Internets, and share them with us, so we could note their stupidity, and possibly refer to that list at a later time, whenever some annoying sonobitch uses them again. >:-]

So come along, and join the list!

Just a few examples to get started with. )
[identity profile] telemann.livejournal.com

NBC News projects the Republican Party will retain control of the House.
NBC News projects President Obama will be re-elected as of 11:30 PM.

Be sure to vote! If you aren't sure what the legal requirements are to vote, or when the polls close,you can use this chart below. California polls will not close until 12 midnight on the East coast.

Here is your ultimate guide to watching the elections online below:

Ezra Klein , Washington Post.
Jeff Greenfield, PBS.
Tom Brokaw, NBC News.
John Heilemann, New York Magazine.
Rachel Maddow , MSNBC.
Doris Kearns Goodwin, presidential historian and author.
Sean Hannity, Fox News
Bill Maher, HBO
David Brooks New York Times
Politifact, Tampa Bay Times.
Jay Carney, White House Press Secretary.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz, DNC Chairwoman.
Reince Priebus, RNC Chairman.
David Axelrod, Former Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama.
Eric Fehrnstrom, Senior Romney campaign adviser.

1. California and the death penalty. Proposition 34 would end the state's costly and inefficient experiment with capital punishment and transform all existing death penalties (725 in all) into life sentences without the possibility of parole.

2. Marijuana. Voters in six states will be voting on marijuana initiatives. In Arkansas and Masschusetts, voters will decide whether to legalize, regulate, and tax medical marijuana. In  Montana, voters will decide whether to repeal their 2004 medical-marijuana initiative. And in Colorado, Washington, and Oregon, voters will decide whether to legalize, regulate and tax recreational marijuana. Of the latter contests, the Colorado measure, Amendment 64, appears to have the best chance of passage. None of these measures is technically legal under federal law but the Obama Administration went on the record recently, in a 60 Minutes segment, pledging not to harass individual users.

3. Same-Sex Marriage. Voters in four states** -- Maryland, Minnesota, Maine and Washington -- will vote on same-sex marriage initiatives. In Maine, the vote is to overturn or ratify a 2009 measure that outlawed same-sex marriage. In Maryland, the vote is to affirm or reject a new law permitting same-sex marriage. And in Washington, the vote is to endorse or preclude a similar new law.

4. Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The most infamous lawman in America -- and longstanding sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona -- is heading toward yet another reelection victory. This despite a series of recent political scandals, costly litigation and allegations of fiscal mismanagement.

5. Judiciary. In four states closely aligned with Tea Party sentiment -- Arizona, Missouri, New Hampshire, and Florida-- conservative activists seek through ballot measures to limit judicial authority and independence through a series of partisan initiatives. The most blatant of these efforts is in Florida, where Americans for Prosperity, the Koch brothers-sponsored group, is seeking to remove three justices of the Florida Supreme Court. Millions have been spent on that race alone. Follow William Raftery's Gavel To Gavel blog on election night if you want the play-by-play. Here is his list of all judiciary-related amendments.

6. Alabama segregation. For the second time in eight years, voters in Alabama will have an opportunity to delete from their state constitution an explicit reference to racial segregation in public schools. The language currently on the books, a vestige of the state's dubious history of interposition, states:

To avoid confusion and disorder and to promote effective and economical planning for education, the legislature may authorize the parents or guardians of minors, who desire that such minors shall attend schools provided for their own race, to make election to that end, such election to be effective for such period and to such extent as the legislature may provide.
It seems simple. But it's not. Many Democrats and school administrators believe the initiative would make matters worse. And speaking of which, Alabama voters will get a chance again on Tuesday to choose or reject for the judiciary Roy Moore, the infamous former state supreme court justice who once defied a federal court order forcing him to remove the Ten Commandments monument he had ordered built at the state's supreme court.

7. Abortion. In Florida, voters will confront Amendment 6, a measure that seeks to limit interpretation of the privacy rights contained in the state's constitution. In Montana, voters face LR-120, which involves parental-notification rules. In Oklahoma, a "personhood" measure that would have criminalized abortion was rejected as unconstitutional by the state's supreme court before it could make it onto the ballot. In case you were wondering, following a campaign where abortion and reproductive rights were issues, this isn't much different than 2010, when there were also three similiar measures (in Alaska, Colorado, and Missouri).

8. Health Care. Silly you, you thought the Supreme Court's decision in June to uphold the Affordable Care Act meant the end of legal challenges to the federal health care law. Wrong. New litigation has been filed. And voters in five states -- Alabama, Florida, Missouri, Montana and Wyoming -- will have the opportunity on Tuesday to weigh in with their views of the obligations contained in the Care Act. The gist of each of these measures is made clear in the simple language of Wyoming's proposed Amendment A:

The adoption of this amendment will provide that the right to make health care decisions is reserved to the citizens of the state of Wyoming. It permits any person to pay and any health care provider to receive direct payment for services

9. Three-strikes. Back to California for Proposition 36, which would reduce the scope of the state's notorious three-strikes law in an effort to clear overcrowded prisons there of more non-violent offenders. Like Proposition 34, the popularity of this initiative is owed perhaps as much to the budget savings the state would see from it as it is from the fact that the existing "three-strikes" law has resulted in terrible injustice to some Californians. If it passes -- and it was up in the polls the last time I checked -- it will be the clearest signal yet that states are serious about adjusting their views of the harsh costs of our prison society.

10. Death with dignity. Voters in Massachusetts face Question 2, which upon approval would mean a new state law "allowing a physician licensed in Massachusetts to prescribe medication, at the request of a terminally-ill patient meeting certain conditions, to end that person's life." The measure has been consistently in front in polling although its margin has slipped in the past few weeks. It's an important moment for supporters of a "right to die." It's been long enough for them to have comforting research on how Oregon's landmark law has worked. But they've struggled to translate that information into legislative success.

Source. The Atlantic.

Many thanks to Mr. [livejournal.com profile] weswilson who mentioned this. Great, great stuff.

When Republicans Were Blue and Democrats Were Red

We take the visual maps used all over the Internet and TV for granted. But that wasn't always the case. Prior to 1976, it was a pretty boring visual experience. For the Bicentennial election, NBC News anchor John Chancellor developed the idea for a super sized map that would change colors as a state was declared for one candidate. But at that time, Blue was used for Republicans, and red was used for Democratic candidates. Why? Mr. Chancellor and the director of election coverage at NBC Roy Wetzel, decided to use the British color system: “Without giving it a second thought, we said blue for conservatives, because that’s what the parliamentary system in London is, red for the more liberal party. And that settled it. We just did it,” said Wetzel, now retired.

Source: Smithsonian Magazine.
[identity profile] nairiporter.livejournal.com
I recently learned about the deeply moving story of the mother of a 2-grade pupil at the school where I am deputy principal, who had recently become a surrogate mother. Maybe because I have an adopted child myself, a 5 year old boy from Haiti, it struck a chord. This woman is a poor white Afrikaner from the suburbs of the big city, someone who has lived alone for years and who is barely able to make ends meet in this new South Africa where people like her no longer have the privileges they used to have under apartheid. She is looking after her little daughter but is having very hard times.

So, when a German family decided to use the opportunity that the local legislation provides for surrogacy, she was there in the list. And she agreed to give birth to their child, actually two children - twins. They provided the genetic material, it was implanted in her, and earlier this year she gave birth to the babies. The South African legislation allows surrogacy, but there were some serious complications from the German side, because in Germany, surrogacy is considered "immoral and unethical", and the German family almost saw the whole process failing, but for the intervention of a skillful lawyer who was eventually able to find a stipulation in the EU legislation, allowing the father to claim parentage. The story has a happy ending for the twins and the family. The surrogate mother? It's more complicated.

Anyway... long story short, they managed to get the twins, and this poor woman remained here, probably a few thousand dollars more secure than before the whole affair. But what must have remained as well is an emptiness in her, after the children she had given birth to, were voluntarily taken away from her. And I can imagine their new/genetic parents must be having some difficulties back in Germany, coping with the social stigma that comes along with having surrogate children there. Because it is "immoral and unethical"...

I have been to that clinic that provides the surrogacy service a couple of times before. The people I have seen sitting in the waiting room are from all around the world. And they don't come to South Africa for the safari. They want to have children. People from Europe, Australia, Canada... the one thing that could be seen in their eyes, is hope. Hope for an ending of their desperation, as many of them are unable to have children for one reason or another. And, hope and desperation must have been what has moved all those women who have agreed to "lend" their bodies to carry the children for these people.

Read more... )
[identity profile] malasadas.livejournal.com
There was a recent post in this community on the topic of the "men's movement". Among the many responses to the post were many on a similar theme: that the so-called goals of almost any so-called "men's movement" that have been raised, are not issues that require an additional movement other than feminism, a movement aimed, as it were, at forces OUTSIDE of the population of men in our society.

I have to agree. In my experience, many claims, even those made in earnest, about sytemic problems faced by men, are claims about problems that would mostly cease to be major factors harming men if feminism were successful. It is one thing to observe that many men suffer due to negative social trends and would lead better, more fulfilled lives with broad social change. It is quite another thing to conclude that a separate social movement aimed at factors EXTERNAL to men and, often, in opposition to feminism is what will solve them.

I'd like to look at some of the various issues I've heard related to problems faced by men and boys -- some raised by "men's rights" activists and others by research into socialization -- and look at them personally and whether or not a "men's rights" movement would do anything effectively about them. This will be heavy on anecdote and personal experience, and behind spoiler tags to avoid boring anyone to death.

Issue #1:

There's growing research that shows that being brought up as a boy is not as well understood as we thought and that while research from the 1970s through the 1990s helped us undserstand girls' socialization better, boys have been overlooked. What we have been learning in recent years is that there are, indeed, damaging socialization trends that impact boys as a whole and we need a systemic approach to more healthy growth and development.

None of that, however, is something that is exactly OUTSIDE of feminism. In fact, feminism's anlysis and criticism of society are entirely germain to improving the lives of boys. I would go so far as to say that any men's rights advocates who look at the problems faced by boys as they grow up and see a large number of issues that stem from anything other than patriarchy are being myopic. Those who look and see issues stemming from an alleged "female power structure" are being dishonest.

A personal example: I grew up short, nerdy and listening to classical music. I was bullied which probably surprises nobody. One particular bully was especially persistent throughout 7th Grade, even bragging to his buddies that he had given me a bruise a day every day for a month. I was certainly not alone being on the receiving end of bullying, and fellow victims were typically boys who also fell outside of normal role types or behavior that was deemed acceptable for boys. Another classmate who, in retrospect, was very likely autistic was bullied until he committed suicide. The bullies, themselves products of homes often with brutal messaging about how boys SHOULD behave, were enforcers of our social roles: since I did not like to play sports and did not participate in other social likes of my classmates, I was an easy target. And I was luckier than most, having a very supportive family structure and at least my own social niche within the school, small as it was. Regardless, it took a damaging and lasting toll.

And the right solution for that problem lies within feminism's analysis. The gender roles enforced by bullying were not ones where females were dominent in any way -- they were ones where any indication of being LIKE a girl were violently attacked in a boy while simultaneously expecting girls to be meek.

Issue #2:

I'm not proud of this at all, but there was a long period of my life when I flirted with what has been called "nice guy" syndrome. Combine some very low self esteem from the bullying with some deeply flawed thinking and my "fantasy" of how relationships could go is summed up in this XKCD:

Alt Text: Friends with detriments

Of coures, "nice guy" syndrome also comes with some terribly anti-woman traps as well -- over time, becoming convinced that women "always go for jerks" means you end up thinking you are a the "good person" while simultaneously risking bigoted conclusions about 50% of the population. It took some serious and unpleasant looks at myself to climb out of that.

One of the worst things that "nice guy" ends up doing as a mode of thought is it plays right into the foolish trope that women hold all the power in relationships and dating. It is part of that thinking that women can be vapid and dependent even as objects of desire, but they also get to pick who they sleep with...so that's the real power in relationships. Meanwhile, men have to all things, secure, confident, financially powerful and professional -- and they still lose.

In a very few words: fuck. that. shit.

Let's suppose that the "nice guy" conclusion is even vaguely correct and that "jerks" get a lot more "success" in dating. But that's not indicative of something wrong with women as the brokers of power in relationships -- that's something wrong with society-wide socialization that valorizes demeaning behavior.

But much more important than that, another deeply sexist flaw with "nice guy" thinking is that anyone is OWED a chance at a relationship. Seeing loyal friednship with deeply ulterior motives as a path towards relationships assumes that one has a gained a privelege to someone else's very personal decision making, so the "nice guy", ends up thinking he is owed something nobody is actually owed.

So again, there's no need for a men's movement to address men's lack of power in relationships. What is needed is for men to seriously reconsider some the widely held ideas about how relationships work.

Issue #3:

Former director of policy planning at the State Department, Dr. Anne-Marie Slaughter, caused a stir recently with an article in the Atlantic Magazine called Why Women Still Can't Have It All describing her efforts to combined being an involved parent with her appointment to one of the highest level positions within the State Department and her beliefs about why women in her cohort of highly educated and successful professionals have been taught to expect to do what she now sees as impossible -- reach the highest echelons in government service or business and educational leadership while simultaneously maintaining a healthy and involved family life.

Dr. Slaughter's article has spawned a fair amount of criticism and much of it is well-earned. She is, by her own admission, talking to only about an elite group among the elite where she regained her involvement in parenting by stepping down to...a tenured full professor at Princeton University, not exactly a part time job itself. Her essay does not consider the situation of women who choose to be and to remain childless, and there is serious question about whether or not feminism ever did promise that women could "have it all".

Regardless, quite a lot of what Dr. Slaughter wrote seems familiar to me, although from a different role perspective. Namely, most of our "professional" fields were constructed when the expectation was that a highly professional job, such as a doctor, a lawyer, a business executive or an academic, would be held by a man, and that man would have a full time wife at home to see to "household duties". These careers were never intended to be populated by people who did less than dedicate the majority of the weekdays to career, placing family into a secondary position. In order to rise among the highest eschelons on those careers, family had to be essentially neglected.

I've had this experience in my own career as an academic. Early in my pre-tenure years, my colleagues recognized that I have a talent for organizing things so I was blessed with service assignments. Also early in those years, I married and had our first child. One reason that I enjoy an academic careeris that it has flexible hours, but given that I was responsible for program administration, would never short change my students and was determined to be an involved father in my daughter's life, I did neglect one aspect of my job: scholarship. I published, but the kind of time commitment needed to churn out a large number of articles each and every year was not something I felt I had. I took my time working on projects that got me a few, high quality publications prior to tenure.

And prioritizing my family when I got high accolades at two aspects of my job and did reasonably well at the third nearly cost me my career. My closest colleagues appreciated my work and how I worked, but further up the university hierarchy, being satisfied with slow but high quality scholarship was greeted with hostility even at a university with an undergraduate, liberal arts focus.

At the end of the process, I came out tenured but not without extraordinary efforts on my behalf.

So what does this teach me? That we have entire career trajectories that are modeled after people not being able to engage home and work with both being satisfactory if one values both. It is very likely that corporate CEOs, high level government employees and their equivalents in academia, law and medicine will never have a work/home balance, but does one have to expect career consequences at all levels of these professions? I know junior faculty who believe they can never prioritize family life for fear of losing tenure as I almost did, and junior law associates and medical residents are well known for their inhumane work schedules.

These are not work patterns that were designed to privilege women. A men's movement that discusses work and family would need to ask MEN to think about how necessary these career requirements should be and why anyone finds them acceptable.

Issue #4:

"Men's Rights" advocates are not wrong to point out that men are more likely to be victims of violence overall. What they obsfuscate is that sexual and domestic violence are overwhelmingly perpetrated by men against women. It isn't that men are not victims of violence; it is that the seriousness of what women face at the hands of rapists and abusers is not diminished by that nor does it make it less important to investigate what elements of our culture are teaching a cohort of men that violence is an acceptable response in a home dispute or that sexual violence is ever something they can justify.

Simply put: violence that is visited by men against other men is not a phenomenon, however how tragic, that takes away from the fact that someone who is beaten or killed in the home environment is overwhelmingly likely a woamn at the hands of her partner.

And men are raped as well. I say that as someone who was sexually assaulted by another man. But again, what I see as needed to help with that is more and better feminism on the subject of rape prevention. My assailant needed to believe that he had no right to assume an aggressive physical advance would have been acceptable towards ANYONE, even someone who might have been a willing sexual partner. I needed support in the wake of that attack that helped me understand HIS violation was HIS fault.

Sounds like feminism to me.

And even in the general outlier case of female on male sexual violence -- it is almost always something I observe that is made more difficult by a fairly perverted view of male sexuality. Think of the case that makes the media with some frequency: a female teacher or other adult authority figure having sex with a barely pubescent boy. Since boys are frequently raised to believe that saying "no" to sex is something boys don't do, it makes the violation of trust even more damaging for many, and that is directly the fault of a view of male sexuality that is perpetuated mostly by men. What can the "men's movement" do in this case? It certainly has no external, female power structure to deconstruct -- it is much more a case of "Physician, Heal Thyself".

So there I have it, after mostly personal reflection and experience, a conclusion: I don't need a "men's movement" that is organized around reforming a power structure that disempowers men. If anything, I need a men's movement that is dedicated to changing how men view ourselves and disinvesting ourselves of distorting elements of privilege that lead to bullying, maladjusted senses of relationships, alienating ideas about career expectations and flat out disordered views of power and sexuality. I'd be interested in men talking to other men about those things.

I wouldn't mind more and more successful feminism too.
[identity profile] ddstory.livejournal.com

According to its self-description, The Long Now Foundation is an organization that seeks to become the seed of a very long-term cultural institution. It aims to provide a counterpoint to what it views as today's "faster/cheaper" mindset and to promote "slower/better" thinking. It hopes to "creatively foster responsibility" in the framework of the next 10,000 years, and so uses 5-digit dates to address the Year 10,000 problem (e.g. by writing 02012 rather than 2012). It has built the Clock of the Long Now (which is supposed to operate for many millenia with minimum human intervention) and has initiated The Rosetta Project, an effort to preserve all languages that are likely to go extinct within the next 100 years.

However, the focus of my inquiry here is more about one particular aspect of their research that is a recurring topic in their regular think-tank talks. The mid-term future of the world, i.e. concerning the period of the next 100 years (provided we don't exterminate ourselves like the morons that we are).

My question, should you take the challenge, is simple, and consists of several parts:

It kind of looks like a quiz... )
[identity profile] htpcl.livejournal.com
Kalispera, filoi mou! Good evening, fellers!

First of all, as you know, for atmosphere play this in a separate tab: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HDN0UlKYwt0


Well, seems like Greece is heading toward a new election on June 17. The leaders of the parties who reject the rescue plan of the Holy Trinity (IMF, EU, ECB) successfully torpedoed every possible chance for a compromise solution and scratched off the work of their predecessors, the mainstream PASOK and New Democracy party, plus the tiny Democratic Left, which seemed somewhat willing to help for the creation of a stable government, but that proved too little, too late. Curiously, the two big absentees from the whole game were the neo-Stalinist Communist Party (KKE) and the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party (XA). So what we've got is a curious situation where the political landscape is now dominated by two opposite radical formations (the populist left-wing SYRIZA party, and the national-conservative Independent Greeks party (ANEL)), but still not the most radical of them all (i.e. two lesser evils). So typically Greek, lol!

It seems things will be getting from bad to worse south of the Rhodopes )
[identity profile] peristaltor.livejournal.com
Just a bit ago, [livejournal.com profile] badlydrawnjeff brought up priming, the concept that preparing people can affect perceptions, especially of ambiguous or even non-sense material. Fair enough, that.

I think we should, however, pursue this concept just a bit farther. Consider the following graphic:

Just about everyone who took intro courses in psychology knows this is the chief image used in the famous Asch conformity experiments. In a nutshell, if you want a significant number of people to say that the line in the left-most box is the same length as lines A or B in the right-most box, all you have to do is have four people agree that this is the case. It doesn't matter that C is clearly of equal length; a significant amount of social persuasion will make a significant number of people conform.

The Asch study simply had a single study participant in a study group of 5 to 7 other people, all confederates in on the study, confederates told to give either right or wrong answers. When the single non-confederate was asked to answer which line was the same after the confederates all agreed on the wrong answer, 41% of them would agree with the wrong answer.

41% would say something just about everyone could see wasn't true.

With a little help from our friend technology, the Asch results become clearer, but a tad scarier. )

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Divisive Rhetoric


"Favoring multiculturalism is something Westerners give a lot of lovely lip service to until they have to actually do it."

September 2017

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