Will we ever learn?

I doubt it.

Guy "Guido" Fawkes, an Englishman who converted to Catholicism as a teenager in the time when Catholicism was no longer the state religion but a proscribed and persecuted one, and then went to fight on the side of the empire that had tried quite hard to invade and conquer England when he was eighteen, came back with explosives training and joined an attempt by a radicalized member of an old ruling dynasty (whose father had been arrested and tried for harboring Catholic clerics due to fears that Catholics were supporting and aiding said foreign invasion) to destroy the British government in protest against the Penal Laws that to their disappointment had not been ended by a new administration as expected.

The plot only failed because someone among of the plotters had qualms and in effect whistleblew upon themselves to warn away a sympathizer in the government before the event, followed by the discovery of the planted explosives and the sapper himself in the course of searching the unsecured building on November 5th, 1605.

Re-authorization of judicial torture by executive fiat, which had been banned in the interrim since the Armada, didn't didn't actually work to yield any of the other conspirators, although prototypical police work - and a possible double-agent - did. That is to say, Fawkes didn't reveal anyone who might have another bomb ticking away in another undetected rented storage unit somewhere near government center, until after it would have been too late.

It did however eventually provide more suspects to torture and execute and validation of all the fears of the majority Protestant population and leadership regarding Catholics being dangerous traitors, leading to more repression justified as a reaction to the Gunpowder Plot.

The people calling today for more torture of suspects and persecution of Muslims in America as a result of the horrible but not unprecedented fragging at Ft. Hood, TX, on November 5th, 2009, ought to see the parallels, have little-to-no excuse not to, but almost certainly won't if they haven't yet.

El Aurens spells it out in 1920

T. E. Lawrence to the Editor of The Times (emphases mine)

All Souls College

July 22 [1920]


In this week's debate in the Commons on the Middle East a veteran of the House expressed surprise that the Arabs of Mesopotamia were in arms against us despite our well-meant mandate. His surprise has been echoed here and there in the Press, and it seems to me based on such a misconception of the new Asia and the history of the last five years, that I would like to trespass at length on your space and give my interpretation of the situation.

The Arabs rebelled against the Turks during the war not because the Turk Government was notably bad, but because they wanted independence. They did not risk their lives in battle to change masters, to become British subjects or French citizens, but to win a show of their own.

Whether they are fit for independence or not remains to be tried. Merit is no qualification for freedom. Bulgars, Afghans, and Tahitans have it. Freedom is enjoyed when you are so well armed, or so turbulent, or inhabit a country so thorny that the expense of your neighbour's occupying you is greater than the profit. Feisal's Government in Syria has been completely independent for two years, and has maintained public security and public services in its area.

Mesopotamia has had less opportunity to prove its armament. It never fought the Turks, and only fought perfunctorily against us. Accordingly, we had to set up a war-time administration there. We had no choice; but that was two years ago, and we have not yet changed to peace conditions. Indeed, there are yet no signs of change. 'Large reinforcements', according to the official statement, are now being sent there, and our garrison will run into six figures next month. The expense curve will go up to 50 million pounds for this financial year, and yet greater efforts will be called for from us as the Mesopotamian desire for independence grows.

It is not astonishing that their patience has broken down after two years. The Government we have set up is English in fashion, and is conducted in the English language. So it has 450 British executive officers running it, and not a single responsible Mesopotamian. In Turkish days 70 per cent of the executive civil service was local. Our 80,000 troops there are occupied in police duties, not in guarding the frontiers. They are holding down the people. In Turkish days the two army corps in Mesopotamia were 60 per cent Arab in officers, 95 per cent in other ranks. This deprivation of the privilege of sharing the defence and administration of their country is galling to the educated Mesopotamians. It is true we have increased prosperity - but who cares for that when liberty is in the other scale? They waited and welcomed the news of our mandate, because they thought it meant Dominion self-government for themselves. They are now losing hope in our good intentions.

A remedy? I can see a cure only in immediate change of policy. The whole logic of the present thing looks wrong. Why should Englishmen (or Indians) have to be killed to make the Arab Government in Mesopotamia, which is the considered intention of his Majesty’s Government? I agree with the intention, but I would make the Arabs do the work. They can. My little experience in helping to set up Feisal showed me that the art of government wants more character than brains.

I would make Arabic the Government language. This would impose a reduction of the British staff, and a return to employment of the qualified Arabs. I would raise two divisions of local volunteer troops, all Arabs, from the senior divisional general to the junior private. (Trained officers and trained N.C.O.'s exist in thousands.) I would entrust these new units with the maintenance of order, and I would cause to leave the country every single British soldier, every single Indian soldier. These changes would take 12 months, and we should then hold of Mesopotamia exactly as much (or as little) as we hold of South Africa or Canada. I believe the Arabs in these conditions would be as loyal as anyone in the Empire, and they would not cost us a cent.

I shall be told that the idea of brown Dominions in the British Empire is grotesque. Yet the Montagu scheme and the Milner scheme are approaches to it, and the only alternative seems to be conquest, which the ordinary Englishman does not want, and cannot afford.

Of course, there is oil in Mesopotamia, but we are no nearer that while the Middle East remains at war, and I think if it is so necessary for us, it could be made the subject of a bargain. The Arabs seem willing to shed their blood for freedom; how much more their oil!

T. E. Lawrence

There is nothing SSM can do to harm marriage that straight marriage hasn't done already

Sweet dreams are made of this,
who am I to disagree?
I travel the world and the seven seas,
everybody's looking for something:
some of them want to use you;
some of them want to get used by you;
some of them want to abuse you;
some of them want to be abused...

--The Eurythmics, 1983/1991

A dispiriting way to bring girls up, Sarah thought; to make marriage the sole end of female existence, and yet deny that love between men and women was possible. Ada did deny it. In her world, men loved women as the fox loves the hare. And women loved men as the tapeworm loves the gut.
--Pat Barker, Regeneration, 1991*

In time the love of the prince became a little less ardent than formerly, so that his evil mood seemed to grow again. It was as though a thick fog had obscured his senses and corrupted his heart. In everything that the princess did he imagined that he saw little real sincerity. Her outstanding goodness offended him; it was a snare, he thought, for his credulity. His unhappy state of mind led him to believe every suspicion. As a result of the melancholy with which his mind had been tainted, he followed her about, watching her. He seemed to enjoy limiting her pleasures and alarming her, mixing the false with the true.

"I must not be lulled asleep," he said. "If these virtues of hers are indeed genuine, then even my most unreasonable actions will only strengthen them."

--Charles Perrault, Griselda, 1697 (after Boccaccio)

--Maybe it's perfectly normal for disputes between married adults to involve things being thrown and smashed and furniture being overturned and people being hit with frying pans and screaming and slamming and broken pieces and children fleeing out the windows and tires screeching into the night - I wouldn't know, I hardly knew anything else for the first decade and a half of my life.

--Maybe it's perfectly normal for fathers to talk regularly about killing, and wanting to kill, specifically to go up "on top of a tower and shoot people" at frequent, random intervals; I certainly thought it was, and didn't even know it was copycat crime envy, for most of my life. I never knew anything different, growing up.( Eventually you just get inured to it, if your mother keeps saying it's just talk and doesn't mean anything: doesn't everybody's dad talk about how he wants to massacre strangers all the time?)

--Maybe it's perfectly normal for women to marry men they don't love to get out of their parents' home, and then disillusion them shortly after the ceremony, and lay it on their children by prior relationships, setting up a dynamic of cryptic blame and resentment and using to poison the whole family from day one.

--Maybe it's perfectly perfectly normal for men to make "jokes" about husbands killing wives Collapse )

* Oh, I can't begin to tell you how ferociously I hated Pat Barker back in 1991, and hated the NYT for reviewing her and excerpting that passage where I could stumble over it by accident - how much easier it would have been to avoid looking at the whole damn cauldron of worms that was "romantic love" and Christian marriage in the twentieth century--! As bad as how they kept playing that song on the radio wherever I went that year...

Tricks & Treats, or, Lighter Notes--

I have to run down and post the rent check before I forget again and it gets too late, and then I have to do housework that I have been putting off for far too long, and then I will try to answer comments before buckling down to slog through the rest of my writing duties.

Meanwhile, a smattering of more whimsical observations, for leaven:

1. Wasps are not kitty treats. Unfortunately there is no way that I know of to convince cats of this. So I have a disgruntled deprived kitty sulking after having been shoved out of the way and pinned under my knee, and somewhere yonder there is a disgruntled wasp looking for somewhere else to hibernate after being scooped up in a glass-and-paper and thrust outside again.

2. Why I have to say I'm Bi, not L nor Asexual. As I said, it's easy to think you're Just Not Into Guys when the usual local selection tends to run the gamut from bland to blech (at least over-Axeing seems to have gone out of style here, thank goodness!) and weeks without a single male-induced raising of the pulse - and then someone has to go and post a link to a picture like this --! Uh, yeah, definitely hot. In all possible ways. (Prolly not SFW, unless you work somewhere very fun; via Angry Asian Man) Flannel shirts are not supposed to be that sexy!

3. Also very nice-looking, but safe for work this time: shiny cobalt-blue Mediterranean-style solar roofing, looks like something out of a fantasy illustration doesn't it? I've always liked that roof style, and I've always liked the color blue, and that just does the "two great tastes that taste great together" thing.(Unfortunately I can't remember where I scarfed this link from, probably a tech blog.)

4. Standard warnings, playing w/fire is dangerous, don't do this indoors, don't hurt yourselves, all fun'n'games till somebody loses an eye, you know the drill - now on to the fun stuff, DIY flaming swords. For reals, not photoshoppery - oh yeah. High-tech fibermaking meets the ancient arts of Messing Around With Fire and Messing Around With Knives. Try not to burn the place down while you're having fun!

5. Maple-Bacon Lollipops - and more outre flavors, too: I can't remember if I posted the link to the maple-bacon and absinthe lollipop makers before, but anyway it's the right date for it, and they have new flavors too now, including Irish Cream and Wasabi Ginger, all handmade with real ingredients. I'm not even a hard-candy fan and I find them tempting! (Some of the site is NSFW due to artistic nudity.) OM NOM NOM~

Confessions of a Would-Be Teenage Clinic Bomber, Part II, or

Averting the Sin Cooties is All That Matters

Sorry, conventionalists, I'm going back to my old Victorian letter-writer/typist's style of using underlining for primary emphasis because it's just too distracting for me to use bold for primary emphasis all the time and italics don't always show up well. Links are burnt-orange and usually bolded in my personal style-sheet; bold & italics indicate shifts in tone.

And I'm not doing this for praise, it's embarrassing to be praised for something that I should have had the guts to do back in 2004, and in 2006, and in 2008, and didn't.

Souvenir from another country - the past, that is--

Fred's posts at Slacktivist have helped clarify the way that prolifers do not, for the most part, really believe the "Abortion is murder!" slogans they trot out, any more than Millennial Dispensationalists really believe that the End of the World is nigh as they go right on making long-term investments and generally living like everybody else. Struggling with the cognitive dissonance of both Apocalypticism and Prolifism in my own sub-society and trying to explain a worldview that makes planning to blow up buildings in your hometown seem not only sane but a moral imperative to a devout teenager, and yet not to the adults who preached it daily, the "don't really believe it on a fundamental level" is invaluable as an explanation - but as a philosopher and student of human nature, the question then becomes "so why do they embrace it?"

I know why I did - I was raised to, with no conflicting teachings; but why do adults choose it, as my parents and their friends did? To this I must answer with the question, "Why did I continue to cling to it, even when I knew it was rubbish?" and the answer to that is found in the term "Sin Cooties," coined by natecull years ago when we were all discussing the problems of faith, loss of faith, different kinds of faith, Fearing Believers (as opposed to Cheerful Believers) and dogmatic behavior generally.

"Sin Cooties" is the ontological moral contamination you get from entertaining doubts however slight, from hanging around sinners, from disobeying your authority figures, from wandering into the ill-defined and nebulous shadows of The World. Sin Cooties are not on your head, but in it - and your fellow conservatives can see them too, if you dare voice any doubts aloud.

How serious is the fear of Sin Cooties? Collapse )

Confessions of a Would-Be Teenage Clinic Bomber, or,

How Prolifism Substitutes For Genuine Ethical Engagement With A Fantasy Life of Moral Heroism

I've been trying to write this post for years. I keep failing at doing it, for various reasons. It keeps on needing to be written. So, this time, I'm just going to write it, and fail, and post it anyway, however far or not I get, and however muddled it is when I can't go any further.

I've talked about having been a "single-issue voter" in the past and people have asked me how I could go from a solid-Republican, Pat-Buchanan-and-Alan-Keyes-voting "prolife" conservative to a flaming liberal voting for "proabort" Democrats, and I've tried to explain in bits and pieces over the years.

I've also tried to explain what it's like being such a person from the inside, as a corrective to outsiders' uninformed speculation (aka ASSumptions) and how it's not wrong to say that "they really just care about the babies and saving innocent lives" - but it's also not wrong in the least to say that "they just want to control women, they just hate female sexuality" either.

Those are not actually mutually exclusive positions, Collapse )

Owning Our Shit, or, If We Can't Be Bothered To Do It, Who Else Can We Expect To Fix Our Mess?

A short while back, I was in a situation where the only book on hand to read was a novel by somebody I'd never read nor heard of, of that genre that is hard to nail down, the quasi-mystery novel which is often called "suspense" or "thriller" but which would be most accurately called "serial-killer fear porn" in most cases - they were very big throughout the Nineties, and I skimmed a whole bunch of them in bookstores and department store book sections, trying to figure out their perverse appeal, since most of the purchasers seemed to be women. "Be afraid, be VERY afraid at ALL times of ALL men!

--Except for The Hero who will if you are a VERY lucky Good Girl show up to rescue you at the last minute from the charming (or deceptively-bland) serial killer whom you stupidly trusted and now in whose cackling clutches you are helplessly caught--" that was the message of each one that I perused, which admittedly was the message of my parents and the whole adult world, only with more explicit gore and sex. The covers, like the authors and titles and synopses, were pretty much interchangeable, with a lipsticked screaming mouth or terror-and-mascara-widened eye on a ghostly-white background, or, sometimes, for variety, an ominiously-silhouetted female on a shadowy cover.

This one fell into the latter style.

So, yeah, not looking to be my cup of tea, but again when you are trapped without stuff to read - well, you know how it goes - and it turned out to be a lot different than the cover indicated, with women doing their own rescuing (the exception being a six year old child) as well as some of the evildoing, and a Bechdel-Wallace pass as one of the protagonists is mentored by an older FBI agent, and a lot of focus Collapse )

EmpathyFail 101

"She lied! She lied to us!"
--Grand Moff Tarkin, Star Wars, (1977)

This is something that I've been kicking around for a very long time, and which I suppose doesn't really need a good "hook" to tie it to, as the problem never seems to go away. We talk a lot about "empathy," defined in Webster's as "the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also : the capacity for this", and the need of it for a functioning, humane society - or the horror of it, according to the conservatives in this country, with the somewhat surreal spectacle of rightwing pundits openly booing the concept of empathy as a significant part of their measured opposition to the nomination of Judge Sotomayor to the US Supreme Court.

This didn't work very well, because "Empathy Bad! Boo! Hiss!" is a trope that isn't as widely accepted outside the conservative bubble as its employers believed, and a meme, like a joke, that has to be unpacked and set up before most people can "get" it, just doesn't work in the id-stimulating way that slogans need to operate.

As for the mystifying-to-many rationale behind why the NRO crew et al thought that "Down With Empathy!" would be a good tack to take, it could be explored at length and in tedious detail, but it really does boil down to the essential misogyny of conservativism, Collapse )

Bitch-slapped by the Invisible Hand

If you follow dKos as your first newsfeed aggregator of choice, you've already been aware of these cases, and the syncretic whole they are parts of. If not, you might have missed the story that Chico Dave RN and Robin NWLC posted about yesterday, in which it is revealed that having been raped and sought medical care afterwards is grounds for denial by our good capitalist overlords in the oh-so-profitable Health Care Rationing Industry - which goes right along with having been abused by your male "protector" and with having had common and and in past eras fatal difficulties giving birth - all of which are conditions disproportionately affecting women - are "preexisting conditions" for which someone may be denied any and all coverage no matter what one has paid for.

Now, you might think it a bit hypocritical that the same conservative status quotidians who are always going on about how American/Western (read "white") women aren't having enough babies, and how Democrats and liberals are "anti-life", should say things like "Having a child is a choice" and thus one that women should be additionally penalized for, beyond all the usual workplace and family and health consequences of pregnancy and motherhood. You might think that an HMO reoganized for profitability by someone who is so notably prolife might be even more careful of appearances in this regard. But you'd be wrong, just as you would be if you wondered if conservatarians were actually serious when they wondered why women in this country tend to vote so much more strongly liberal/Democratic and attribute it to soft-headed sentimentality rather than cold-blooded self-interest.

(The Hegemony has no shame. Never has, never will. Never forget this.)

Remember, it wasn't Republicans/conservatives - or libertarians - who fought and pushed for equal pay, either, or any end to gender-based discrimination throughout the years - including the right to fight against such discrimination once discovered and proven. The "free market" and its worshippers are no friends to women, no matter how much some of them may celebrate a pedestalled "femininity."

Even, however, if like Sen. Kyl you think that such "women's issues" are no matter to your life because you're not one of us, you should not feel complacent: they can, and will get you, too. Unless you're rich enough to pay for all possible treatment out of your own pockets, or have dependable friends-and-relations who will do it for you in an emergency, the odds are good that you'll have to be fighting for your life at just the times when you're going to be least up to it.

Amplification across the nation

Bob Herbert gives the worship of the Invisible Hand a rare and righteous smackdown in the NYT, being one of the rare members of the SCLM with a memory longer than a guppy's; people all over the blogosphere are getting fed up with the SCLM's endless torrent of "Pity the poor rich, they are being made to feel BAAAAD about their new Jags and it's TOUGH when you can no longer afford to have three maids!" and mocking it with great gusto - as well as pointing out that, you know, this attitude may have something to do with why their subscriber bases keep shrinking; the pushback against "we can't afford healthcare for all" with "we can't afford NOT to" by the grassroots seems to be having effect, if seeming Sisyphean-slow; and so - as ever - it goes.

Also, you can find 1939's Mr. Smith Goes To Washington entirely on the internets (I find Kickass Torrents to be the best & safest source), and there was even an original Spanish-language dub of it from Argentina called "Knight Without A Sword" (Caballero sin Espada) which is at least in part up on Youtube.

Yes, it's Capra, and thus cloying. It's also still really relevant - particularly the bits about Claude Raines' chara. (And, with the original trailer on IMDb, you can see another demonstration of how much more sexist Hollywood has become - Jean Arthur got top billing back then, just like Olivia de Havilland did in Captain Blood's PR. Leading ladies were considered selling points, and for more than their T&A.)

Along that line, to explain the question so many of my readers from abroad have asked - why is it so difficult to pass beneficial reforms in this country? - I will answer with a joke that I saw a while back on a blog; unfortunately I'm not sure where or who first posted it. The joke goes that Sen. Al Franken, the former comedian from Saturday Night Live who once told war criminal Kissinger to take a hike when the latter was trying to scrounge up tickets to the studio show, upon being finally seated after all the challenges mounted by his Republican rival Coleman were thrown out by the courts, was very nervous and self-conscious about making protocol mistakes. So of course he makes one, saying "The floor recognizes the senator from Anthem Blue Cross" - at which Freudian slip, thirty senators rise to their feet!

It wouldn't be funny if it weren't all-too-true - which makes it not funny at all, really.