Please consider carefully

I feel compelled to write this because I am genuinely confused by something and it scares me. I have enjoyed debating friends on the other side of the political spectrum for well over a decade now.

I have always appreciated that we have different core values, or assumptions about people, groups and social drivers, but that we are united in a cause of contemplation, and finding the best solutions to make the world a better place for everyone.

After spending as much time as I have trying to find the other side of an argument, I can honestly say that I’m usually able to see and respect my opponent and the arguments they pose.

This is why I am confused:

I know that every friend I have, despite the ways in which we disagree, demonstrates integrity, commitment, and compassion. I know that you are kind and good people who practice respect to every individual you encounter regardless of gender, color, socio-economics, disability, sexual orientation, religion or even the dreaded apple/ android divide.

You believe in two sides to an argument and honest and direct engagement. You believe in the value of discussing issues with respect and tolerance. I would be shocked to hear you insult someone based on how they look, or how they pray, or how they struggle.

I know that you are leaders and hold yourself to high standards. So I honestly don’t understand why you aren’t fighting harder for the soul of your party and your side. You had a fringe group get really loud in a crowded field and yell to victory someone who demonstrates none of your best qualities, and undermines so many of your important arguments. Your candidate is openly bigoted, dishonest and corrupt. This is the foundation of his candidacy.

I like the idea of smaller government at times, I see how values around security can outweigh those of justice at times. But it terrifies me that we would further reduce a shoestring government, and empower our military and police, while simultaneously installing in our highest office a man who takes advantage of every loop-hole and exploits every person he can, who has already expressed a disregard for the checks and balances of our system. You could understand that the exploited would be in favor of more regulation given the way that his tactics are being celebrated as ‘good business’, and worse, ‘good leadership.’  That isn’t good business, it’s straight up exploitation.

I see the value of regulatory bodies when faced with someone who has no concept of enduring truth (or truth of any kind), has such little compunction being deliberately inflammatory for his own gain, and clearly doesn’t respect any laws or regulations if they curb his quest for more power. How will he enforce laws when he regularly disobeys them?

My side is terrified of gangsters like that, and see government as the best way to curb that kind of excess. You’ve repeatedly told me that there are other corrections for behavior like that, and that people are good-hearted and fair. But your party has chosen the biggest and most offensive gangster of our time and is anointing him king because they don’t like his opponent. He is currently under investigation for a number of crimes ranging from sketchy business and financial dealings to sexual assault of a child, his opponent has been cleared from every investigation against her.  Have we really stopped trusting all of our civil organizations? Do we have so little faith in our institutions and our fellow citizens? Have we left all reason and historical context behind?

This country is great because of our democracy AND our diversity. The experiment of the US was an inspiration around the world, and with the constant course corrections intended by the Framers, we have evolved so far beyond where we started. We all agree we still have a lot of work to do.

I have to ask, although I expect no response: All things being equal, are you really going to choose to install as the head of the most powerful military the world has ever seen someone who respects tyrants and not diversity? Who has no integrity and thinks facts and data are not important to the ability to govern? Are our families and future safe when the person who commits their lives to conflict can’t even rise above tiny hand jokes?  Do you believe that over the next four years he would be able to accomplish some of your goals, move the country closer to your ideals? Do you believe the economy, the environment, our education system, our infrastructure, our global security and social relations within the polity will be improved?

You are a member of a party because it represents your views, when it doesn’t, you have a responsibility to try to change that party, or seek an alternative. If a third party candidate is closer to your value-set, vote for them. But don’t vote for the guy who wears your jersey just because you want the win. The win in this case is such a loss for all of us, please, think carefully before you choose.

As a woman I am scared. I am beyond privileged that my gender is the only thing I have to really worry about. I am scared for my friends of color, of different sexual orientation, who carry any marker that isn’t white, cis-male, economically well-off and heteronormative. I am scared for their safety, scared for their mental health, scared for the environment in which their children will come of age.

You are all leaders, and good people, and some of the most intelligent people I know. You have a difficult choice in front of you; support your traditional side and the people who look like you, or choose your conscience, doing the right thing, but knowing your party will lose. Perhaps take as consolation the fact that the likely winner has skirted the political center for decades and demonstrated an ability to work across the aisle to move the country forward. The ability to compromise and evolve your thinking should not be demonized.

This is not Brexit, there is no argument on the other side. A denial or denigration of democracy is for keeps. If we don’t have a strong grasp of indisputable facts how can we even begin to understand where we disagree? How can we believe Trump will serve the public when so much of his life has been spent taking advantage of others? How will he bring together a deeply segregated polity when he himself is so deliberately divisive?

We are a divided country, with systemic and structural problems that need to be addressed right now. They are complicated problems that require difficult solutions and we have procrastinated for too long. I’m not asking you to vote for anyone, just to consider carefully before you give your very precious ballot to a bully who simplifies issues by denying their existence and like a ADHD puppy just moves on to the next thing. ‘Blizzard of lies’ is the best description I’ve heard about this election so far and it isn’t hard to identify the cloud causing the storm. I’ve never wished so much for a transferable vote system so we can see why people are choosing and how our priorities play out.

In the 1930s my grandfather, newly emigrated from Germany, was happy to be safe in this country even while he despaired for his family and friends suffering under the increasing strain of Fascism in Germany. My father grew up, secure in the belief that we would never forget and it would never happen again, I believed that too.

This is why I am now so confused and so scared. Edmund Burke once wrote: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” I don’t believe Trump is evil, but I think the rapid descent into white supremacy, fear, blame and lies is the greatest threat our democracy has seen in my lifetime. I’m terrified we will see and do nothing. I see so many leaders in the Republican party jumping on a bandwagon with someone I know they can’t respect, it scares me for the future of our entire political system.

I know we often have different core values that inform our choices, but fear, blame and post-truth politics are not values, or usually drivers of good decisions. This is why I want to ask, as a friend and fellow citizen, to please consider your choice carefully. Please discuss candidly and honestly with the people you know and vote for the person you believe is best equipped to govern the whole country. Please listen carefully to what Trump actually says during this debate about how he will help us improve our future. Weigh it against what you already know and what you find valuable. Decide how accurate or likely his plans are and the specifics of the policies he has in mind. If, after all that, you still believe he is the best person for the job, then vote for him. If not, vote for someone else. It doesn’t have to be Hillary, but don’t just go along this time. The consequences are too important.

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On the insanity of many things

I was sent a link today by a colleague. He was a little worried because it was Jezebel, both by the idea of him being on Jezebel (way to be welcoming to allies) and by what it might say that he was sending me a link. The video was funny-ish, if you like laughing at people and their insanity, but the part that was weirdest to me were the YouTube video adverts preceding the actual content. The first was startling by both the level to which I was offended and the distance from the mark; thinking I would be a good prospect.

Its possible I was more surprised after a week at Dreamforce learning about the tools that currently exist for truly world-class targeting of content and prospecting. But the first link was for a breast enhancement cream, and the second for some ridiculous new form of face-paint. Not that I don’t care about my own presentation (albeit admittedly much less than many of my peers), but SO many things about me say that the ad is both unlikely to be successful in getting my money and likely to make me very very angry.

I also noticed the number of things they did with marketing to try to fix what seems to me to be a product based on so many flawed ideas and damaging assumptions. Using an RSA style to ‘teach’ as an introduction into a way to further the message of superficiality seems oxymoronic (emphasis on the moron). The juxtaposition of insight to shallowness is startling. Furthermore, how they got to a place through my activities or history thinking I would be a good prospect is currently boggling my mind.

enhancement add

I went to try to complain to YouTube but of course that is almost impossible. Lots of ways to complain about the video, none to complain about the advert.

I don’t totally know how to react other than to dismiss it as a product of modern life. But I find it strange that shaking it off is the only solution to something this totally screwed up on so many levels. I guess ranting to a twitterverse of total strangers is a close second to actually trying to fix any of the myriad inherent problems in the situation. Talk about a radical view of power and total disenfranchisement…

Where have all the flowers gone?

Library - 0953I have been reading several of the gender-related themes going on in the news, usually from a feminist bent (qu’ell surprise I hear you say). Cases about how rape isn’t’ really rape, how women still face disparity in many workplaces, and, lesser emphasized, the ways in which women are subtly hampered in their pursuit of positions in the public sphere (in all sectors) and power (direct and indirect).

The most interesting to me however is the debate about women in the workplace, and the choices they make. I think there is another debate here, that is actually being obscured by discussions of child-care, partners taking on ‘home’ burdens, and issues of compensation.

Sheryl Sandburg referenced it indirectly in Lean In, but I think there is an interesting debate to be had around the way we interact in the workplace and how it is in direct contradiction to gender narratives in society and the way that children are socialized, largely from birth.

Judith Butler points out that it is impossible to leave a hospital in this country as ungendered. This initial expectation creates a pattern that is repeated throughout our lives. Even when parents attempt to raise their children against normative gender expectations, supporting those children to choose their own path, the social pressure to conform is so strong, that individuality is suppressed in many school aged children and becomes a hard-won prize for teenagers, many of whom do not make it out of high school unscathed.

For most boys in this country this involves initiation into the dominance/ submission game. Competition, clothed in a variety of constructs, serves to constantly delineate within ‘masculine’ groups who is the dominant, and who must submit and admit mastery by others. I say masculine specifically, because this is not only the case in groups of boys. I think anyone subjected to groups of mean girls can identify with this dynamic as well. I term it masculine instead because that kind of competition and required dichotomous split has traditionally been associated with the masculine ideal and relates pretty clearly to Constructivist dialogues too.

I was watching The League a few weeks ago (for the record a highly entertaining time that I recommend). I was struck while watching by the sheer volume of what my mum used to call ‘guy stuff’. The prevalence of activities that centered around one individual or group attempting to dominate, or being dominated by others was kind of striking. Funny how it probably echoes in small amount what goes on within actual football teams themselves.

It made me realize the tension that my brothers have probably felt for a long time that I am kind of unaware of. It is not that hard for me to find a group of friends who are happy to be supportive of each other, and who can relax and enjoy life as a group without the need to compete/ dominate/ be dominated. I asked a friend and he said that he has friends who are more like that, and some who are less.

It also made me think about how many activities in that gendered life are centered around that dominate/ submit paradigm. Lean In, while good advice in some ways, really means stop voluntarily submitting. It tacitly acknowledges that in the workplace that paradigm is getting played out over and over and over. So many of our white collar professions are thinly veneered arenas to get others to submit.

I’ve been wondering about the number of ‘hard charging’ women I have been known that have voluntarily given up professions that were very important to them to raise children full time. I can’t help but think that part of the motivation for this decision is a weariness of fighting. Given that expectation one can either get in the ring of the dominate/ submit expectations or attempt to succeed/ survive/ thrive without- either way you are fighting; fighting someone else or fighting that set of behaviors. It is tedious if you don’t have the ego drive to get off on it, and it is tiresome if you want to inhabit a different way of being.

Honestly, it feels at a higher volume and intensity here in the States (not that it doesn’t exist in other places), and I wonder how much of the national identity was formed on the premise of valuing that ‘fighting’ spirit.

I also wonder about the place of boys and young men in all of this. How much of the narratives they are fed from early in school are about joining and succeeding in this game, despite any instincts or desires to the contrary they might have? How much are they taught to buy into and compete against others when it ends up working against them?

I’ve been thinking about the dearth of a new masculine narrative to rival the feminist strains. Women have been fighting for a long time now to find new identities that allow for freedom and self-definition, but this has so far (mostly) failed to be matched by new masculinity ideals. Men are expected to do new things, but in the same old ways. When they have a hard time adjusting to the expectations we excoriate them for being ‘cave-men’ or ‘unenlightened’. We expect them to smoothly transition between being that way to succeed in the workplace and be supportive partners and parents in the home, not acknowledging the cognitive dissonance it creates when switching. We are (fairly) frustrated by our perception that men are unwilling to make adjustment, or give up privilege but I think Louis C.K. is right– if we had that advantage, wouldn’t we re-up? It feels slightly mean at times that we don’t have empathy for people who have to struggle harder than they are used to for the same privileges they used to enjoy. I mean, don’t get me wrong- guys, you gotta get over that- you had it great for a long time, welcome to what the rest of the world has been dealing with- but I want to try to have patience so they can decide what their new definitions of masculinity are going to be, not premised in oppression, exclusion, and full throttle competition.

Pride, Prejudice, Respect and Shame

Library - 0931I’ve been thinking about shame as a motivator/ social disciplinarian. Why do some people use shame instead of coercion? What has changed so that in the international system it is the question of shame that is becoming more important for some than that of force? I was thinking about Greece and the way the international system is attempting to use shame instead of other realpolitik moves to get them to comply with their financial ‘responsibilities’ and how this might have been different a few years ago. It may come to coercion, but it is the threat of default and the shame associated that seem the be the focus of the news currently. There is a tone of shaming in the characterizations of the economy and the finances that make it shameful to have gotten where they are. There have been a number of Economist articles/ podcasts about the way the Greek people ‘could’ get out of the hole quickly (implying that they are not because they cannot or will not make a hard decision). Of course, this ignores the other Eurozone issues that may have also contributed, but I’m not an economist and I don’t know. I guess my point is that shame seems to be increasingly a sanction tacitly used in IR and underpinned by the explosion of global media.

I was thinking about it in personal lives too. When we don’t want to say specifically ‘you can’t do this’ (or we don’t have the power to forbid) instead we use more subtle means that usually imply shame: ‘you shouldn’t do this’.

The funny thing is that this sort of soft power actually indicates so many things that are so much deeper. To have the ability to imply shame indicates a relationship in which the shamer inspires some sort of respect. If we were not an ‘us’ than my being ashamed or reprimanded holds no weight anyway. Who cares if someone totally unrelated to us says we should be ashamed. Who are they? Why do we care? Even if we have a relationship and I perceive myself as having higher status their shame becomes irrelevant because I am willing to deny that relationship, or see that their opinion is irrelevant because I have more power and their shame will not imply a loss to me.

But then, my personal incentive to want respect becomes even more important.

The other funny thing is that shame and pride are so closely intertwined. I’m (still) reading this book that Meghan gave me called Violence. It is a very good book although often very disturbing. The main thesis is the way that crime and punishment are much more closely linked than appear superficially. And that the culture of the US really is violent in premise. Not surprising that the people on the receiving end of things rolling downhill react. Not that it excuses their actions in any way. I don’t believe in the ‘total lack of individual agency because of the hegemony of structural power’ line. People always have choices. The issue is how limited those choices may appear to be and the tools that are furnished to overcome what seem like impossible situations. (*I’m coming back to this next)

This is way short, not fully reasoned out and I plan to come back to it but thought I would put it up there for people to think about in the interim.