Day of Many Things

December 20, 2012

What I refer to as a “Day of Many Things” is a certain day of the year that, on seemingly every year or most years, that date somehow ends up significant in some way. I don’t mean days that have built-in annual significance, such as birthdays or Christmas or something. I mean days that otherwise are ordinary but through a lot of coincidences, it keeps being important, even in the most minor ways.

Today, December 20, is one of those days for me. Ten years ago today I took the GRE (verbal 370, quantitative 770, woo!). Five years ago today my grandma became ill from what killed her a month later. Four years ago today I found that ageist fye store. Eight years ago today I came down with a cold. Plus a bunch of other things.

Plenty more days throughout the year are like this. March 20. May 12. May 21. August 30. September 6. October 16. November 18. Those are the main ones, I think.

Yeah. Just days that it seems something or other that’s somehow important or at least memorable happens most years. Be it an appointment, discovery, first time meeting someone, fun activity, tragedy, disappointment, a very strange occurrence, or something else.

I’d add that I got the name from a card in the game Munchkin, but I’m worried that would push the dorkiness of this over some sort of threshold and endanger the universe.

Pure Obsession

December 19, 2012

A couple years ago, I read the book “The Purity Myth” by Jessica Valenti. It was about the obsession with virginity, namely teenage female virginity, which brought about a number of troublesome phenomena, including the retch-inducing “purity balls”. As in the father-daughter dances complete with ceremonies where the daughter pledges to her father that she will remain a virgin until marriage. Yeecchhh!!!!

I mean, shit, you’d think the classy thing to do would be to at least TRY to hide the fact that they believe a girl’s genitals belong to her father!

But it’s obvious why this happens. It’s this fetishization of “purity”. This obsession with the untouched and (therefore) untouchable. It’s why you get people who consider it some sort of bonus to have sex with a virgin, to “take one’s virginity”. Because they feel like, on some level, they were the first to “soil” what was before unsoiled, that they were the ones who opened the seal, so what they got was theirs.

This goes well beyond sex, though, even if that is the most obvious application. It could be as simple as an unwillingness to walk across a snowy field that is still pristine and undisturbed, so as to keep it pristine and undisturbed, that to walk through it and spoil that would be some kind of crime. And yet, this snowy field is ever so tempting to those who want to, well, write their name in it.

What is pure is tempting and yet confusing, what with the dual contradictory desires to be the first to use or touch it, and to protect it from others who would use or touch it.

In either case, once it is used and no longer “pure”, it has lost its worth. Rather than a temptation, it’s now a source of disgust. It is ruined. It is shameful.

That’s where we get the famous virgin-whore dichotomy.

And that has a lot of youth rights effects too!

I mean, we get told all the time how “pure” and “innocent” children are, right? Their lack of knowledge and experience is held up as an expectation, a virtue even. John Holt talked about them being kept in a “walled garden of childhood”, where they are separated from the harsh adult world by living a life of innocence and play. And if they try to leave the garden, they get smacked right back into it. If they succeed in leaving, they are forever damaged, soiled, and lost.

It’s talk of abstract good and evil concepts, a form of invented morality that even the secular seem to observe. That there’s something inherently good about being pure and innocent, and evil about being knowledgeable and corrupted. Even though there’s no real reason for this other than people’s sensitivities. Shit, isn’t the idea of Original Sin based on this, that it was evil for Adam and Eve to acquire knowledge and awareness that they were naked? God got all pissed when they said they were naked, all like “Who told you that you were naked?!” See, he lost his little peep show when they realized this, that they had thoughts of their own, so God didn’t want them anymore and kicked them out of Eden. And this is the same thing adults often do to children, that it is children’s purity and innocence that they like, that when these children acquire knowledge, form independent thoughts and opinions, aren’t always obedient, and a host of other things that scare their elders, they lose all their worth. Basically, around the time they become teenagers, a time adults fear and teach each other to fear, that their innocent children aren’t so innocent anymore, that they are bad and troubled. Because they are actually totally fine but just aren’t living up to their elders’ lofty expectations of them, to be their perfect little angels like they feel entitled for them to be.

Especially when these knowledgeable teenagers are female. Then the elders need to fight tooth and nail to keep them pure and innocent. To keep them alluring with their purity, to those who want to be the first to corrupt them. Yet protected. So they don’t do anything with their lady parts that will bring shame upon their rightful owners, their fathers. 🙄

Shut Up, Charlie Brown

December 18, 2012

I’ve never understood the complaint about Christmas being “too commercial”. Charlie Brown bitches about it when Snoopy puts up Christmas lights on his dog house to win a cash prize in a contest and when Sally wants tens and twenties from Santa Claus.

What the fuck does that even mean? Too commercial? Is that basically the dumbass complaint about materialism?

Well, it did finally occur to me what this common complaint is about. The whole “you should buy this because Christmas” stuff. The implicit negligence of what the holiday is really about (a loaded question itself, but I digress) and exploiting its importance for profit.

So I’m understanding some more why I wasn’t seeing what this “commercialism” of Christmas means. Everything from decorations to cookies to bad reindeer sweaters involves buying something. Even the things that are homemade still require the purchase of materials and ingredients, so someone is still profiting. Not to mention the air fares and toll roads for those traveling. One way or another, Christmas is hellbent on parting you from your cash. Because commercialism. Because consumerism. Because avarice and greed.

Oh noes, Christmas is so corrupted!

Just one thing about that…

If it weren’t for Christmas being so economically beneficial, we probably wouldn’t be celebrating it.

We’ve only been celebrating Christmas as it is for a century and a half. I mean, obviously, Jesus and Mithra and countless winter solstice observances are significantly older, yes, but Christmas was never the big deal it is now until mid to late 19th century. As in around the time Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” was written. As in around the time “Visit from Saint Nicholas” was written. As in… around the time Thanksgiving was invented.

Yeah. That’s what Thanksgiving is about, too. It’s only been a holiday since around the late 19th century and the specific reason for it was to officially “open” the Christmas season. The pilgrim story was tacked on (which makes the complaints about Thanksgiving “celebrating genocide” just that much stupider). With the day before it being the busiest travel day and the day after it the biggest shopping day, yeah, it’s pretty cha-ching! Because the getting together with family and giving thanks is so important!

These things didn’t spring up overnight, of course. A number of shifts within our cultures led to the establishment of this more modern holiday season. Industrial revolution, mainly. That was also around the time the institution of childhood was seen as worthy of protection (something with a lot of youth rights effects, for sure!), and as such, there were more toys. And then toys for children at Christmas. Leading, of course, to toy and other industries benefiting from the Christmas gift giving, leading to stimulated economy.

Well, something like that. 😛

In any case, for something like Christmas to survive and be the big deal it is in our society, in our world in fact, there needs to be some tangible benefit in it. And that benefit is, of course, all the money that gets spent for Christmas reasons.

And the thing is, it’s not without benefits coming right back. Don’t just mean gifts. We get Christmas movies and Christmas songs that we love (for the most part). We get Christmas plays and parties. We get the exchange of Christmas stories. We get awesome decorations and twinkling lights. And, of course, cards and cookies! 😀

Irony shouldn’t be lost, though, that this commercialism of Christmas is even the reason we get Christmas TV specials like, say, Charlie Brown’s special where he bitches about commercialism!

Coventry Carol

December 17, 2012

Ever heard of Coventry Carol? Yeah, didn’t think so. It’s an obscure Christmas carol, existing pretty much only in choirs and whatnot.

Anyway, check it out:

Lullay, thou little tiny child
By by lully lullay
Lullay thou little tiny child
By by lully lullay

Yeah, yeah… lots to, um, think about there. That’s, um, some deep stuff.

Anyway, second verse:

O sisters too how may we do
For to preserve this day
This poor youngling for whom we sing
By by lully lullay

Wait… what was that?!

This poor youngling for whom we sing

You know what this means?!


Of course! It’s so obvious!


#16tovote on the 16th – Just a Step Among Many

December 16, 2012

So today is sort of #16tovote on the 16th. I don’t run it anymore, though. Not from NYRA anyway since I no longer run that Twitter account due to some internal NYRA politics I don’t care to get into right now. But in sticking with tradition, I’ll say something else about it today.

There’s more to being a youth rights supporter than merely supporting a few goals. It’s a deeper conviction, a deeper consciousness. In the nearly three years since #16tovote on the 16th began, there have been a fair number of participants, though that’s considering participation can mean as little as retweeting one thing with a #16tovote hashtag on it.

A question might be… are all of these people youth rights supporters?


I think I can safely say that. Don’t get me wrong. Plenty of them are. Plenty more might be if they learned more about the issues and philosophy. But supporting lowering the voting age to 16, if there is in fact even that much support and they don’t merely find the idea non-seriously interesting, does not alone indicate support for youth rights.

The way to decipher that is why they support lowering the age. And I don’t just mean the age-old (LOL) battle of lower vs abolish. I mean, for example, if they want a lower age because they believe it might help more Democrats get elected. Or they see it as a feel-good measure. Or they see it as part of a youth involvement campaign. Not that the last one there isn’t pro-youth rights in its own way, of course, but some youth involvement or engagement types have a way of operating under the idea youth are supposed to serve the wider community moreso than others.

Or even if their reasons for a lower voting age are genuinely for the sake of youth having the same voting rights in their own city and country as anyone else, you might wonder how they feel about other youth rights issues. A couple participants in #16tovote on the 16th I’ve seen also supporting corporal punishment or some other token of “parental property”. Or perhaps they make derogatory remarks about teen moms. Or express disgust at a young person swearing. This says they only support youth a little bit, that they like the idea of them voting but probably see them as rightfully inferior in other ways, for whatever reason.

Then again, supporting youth rights goes well beyond a laundry list of goals and issues. The other thing to consider is the individual’s politics and worldview. Sometimes, when an otherwise youth rights supporter seems surprisingly unsupportive of a certain youth rights issue, it might be less a blindspot or lack of understanding, and more that they have certain other values that have led them to that particular conclusion. How this usually manifests, however, is not so much an outright disagreement with the pro-youth rights goal but often a separate option or goal entirely that keeps youth rights very much in mind. And there’s value to the movement in this, as it provides more insight into our own issues and opens up more possibilities for the change we want to see.

It’s also wise to remember not every issue is a clear and cut choice between “pro-youth rights” and “anti-youth rights”. Sometimes both or all sides are a little bit of both.

Why even make this distinction? Well, it’s merely a matter of knowing who does and doesn’t really understand what we’re about, or how close or likely they are. When it comes to support for lowering the voting age, though, surely all the support it gets is welcome, since it’s the same first step regardless of reason or further goal. But it’s only wise to keep the further direction and overall philosophy in mind and let it be known. Otherwise things can go in strange other directions.

Say Your Prayers

December 15, 2012

Or not.

Because… why? What good would it do?

I’ve mentioned before that praying accomplishes nothing. God is going to do whatever. God ignores prayers all the time.

When a tragedy occurs, whether what happened yesterday or someone’s relative just got diagnosed with something nasty, you often get “please keep me/us/them in your thoughts and prayers!”

Or maybe someone should do something useful. I mean, is there perhaps some real tangible action someone could take? Bring you food? Send a card?

Wait, why did I say “send a card”? What good does that do someone who just found out they’ve got pancreatic cancer? Well, not much. But the difference between that and saying a prayer is a card involves actually informing the person in question of your well-wishes, which can sometimes improve their mood while going through this. It’s miniscule but more than a damn prayer.

A few years back, I visited my aunt who has been having lots of health problems. I mentioned that Grandma had had her name put into the Prayers for the People list at our church. And, holy crap, was she grateful and excited about that! But, again, what improved her mood was hearing about this. Had I not told her, it would have made no difference whatsoever. The prayers alone had no power.

And then, around this time of year in particular, you often hear “Pray for Peace!”

Now this one is interesting, because, in a way, it can work. If you’re getting people to pray for peace, then they aren’t fighting at that moment! Well, either that, or stopping to pray allows for the enemy to finish them off. Or maybe they can pray and fight at the same time. Multitasking!


December 14, 2012

Oh, no. Seems there was a school shooting in Connecticut this morning. An elementary school shooting. 🙁

Just so fucking senseless. Something like 18 children are dead as of this writing. Little kids. What the hell could they have ever done to anybody?!

*bunch of people start talking*

Wait. What’s going on here?

“A shooting!” one squeals. “I’ll tell you what this means. It’s time we banned guns!”

Um, alright. I suppose.

“No!” squeals another. “This means we need MORE guns. If the teachers had guns on them, this wouldn’t have happened.”

Uh… huh? What is all this?

“How old was the assailant?” screams another. “Was he a student? A teenager perhaps? I tell you, this is a sign of just how rotten today’s kids are!”

Actually I hear the shooter was 24.

“I’ll tell you why this happened,” comes another voice. “It’s the schools. Public schools are awful places for children. This is why kids need to be pulled out of there.”

Wait, what? What the fuck does that have to do with anything?

“If these kids were unschooled, this would not have happened!”

Home with parents is significantly more dangerous statistically than being at school. Also, fuck you. You’re victim blaming.

“It’s all because our society treats the mentally ill so terribly!” says another. “If this man had had the care he needed, this would not have happened.”

Um, yes, mentally handicapped should be treated well and have access to care. No argument there. It’s just rather offensive toward those with mental disabilities to imply they’re always on the verge of severe violence as this.

“We’re in such a violent society!” screams still another. “With all the violent TV and video games! I’m sure that’s what messed this guy up.”

Or is it that YOU hate violent TV and video games and just feel like acting like something you just happen to hate was responsible here?

“This all happened because people need a healthy dose of JESUS!” declares another. “If everyone would just remember the LORD, this would never happen.”

I’m not even going to dignify that with a response.

God forbid we blame the shooter. 🙄

No, instead let’s just use this as proof positive for whatever personal cause of ours and hope that people will finally “get it”. Just like they finally “got it” after Columbine. And 9/11. And the Amish school shooting. And the Dark Knight movie shooting. But maybe THIS time! You can always hope!

Take Action

December 13, 2012

We have to take action!

When there is some horrible injustice, there’s no shortage of people tweeting about it saying things like “maybe this will finally spur people into action!”

Alright, alright, I’m good and angry! So… what action exactly am I supposed to take now?

Hmmm. Seems they usually haven’t thought that far.

Or they have, and the “correct” action is to give a certain entity money or to vote for a particular candidate or party. Because that will solve everything. Somehow.

Which makes all the talk of activism, rebellion, or bettering the world out to just be an advertising scheme.

Of course, a lot of social problems really don’t have anything close to clear solutions. Or at least no solutions that the average person would really be able to take part in, because they don’t have the authority, the means, or the technical knowledge. In which case it sometimes is the right thing to do to just support those who do know what they are doing, or at least make sure they are pointed in the right direction.

But in truth, taking action against some injustice or other social ill ends up not being as exciting or glamorous as is often believed. People envision big protests or other stunts, when really these should only be done under certain circumstances, and contrary to common assumption, these alone do not change anything, even if some exceptionally large ones are memorable. Taking action involves a lot of leg work, repetition, and dead ends. And strategy, lots of strategy. Taking action, even after a crapton of work over the course of years, tends to yield very slow results, depending on specifics.

But you’ve got people angry and wanting change RIGHT NOW. And these people have very different ideas as to how to create that change, and they only end up releasing that anger on each other, despite being on the same side, over tactics, leaving said social ill unaltered.

Believe me, I know. I’ve been guilty of every bit of this on several counts! 😛

Teaching Generosity

December 12, 2012

This morning on the radio, they were talking about a little boy who recently donated all his birthday presents to charity. Then his town was so impressed with his generosity that they threw him a big birthday party with a zillion more presents… all of which also went to charity.

It’s a lovely story of generosity, based on that little bit about it I heard.

But then the radio guy, awestruck by this kid, remarked, “That’s just amazing. How do you even teach this sort of thing?”

That’s when my brain got stuck for a moment (not the best time, as I was navigating rush hour traffic!), from all the things I found very wrong with that statement.

For one, the question itself implies that “teaching this sort of thing”, to this extent, is even desirable. Don’t get me wrong. They were this boy’s toys and thus his to do as he wished, and what he wished was for them to be donated. And it was certainly an extremely kind thing to do. But it’s such an extreme level of selflessness, and to teach it would be to imply that this is a general expectation, just good manners, as opposed to the above and beyond gesture it is.

Also, because you know I’m going to bring this up, again, he’s a child. His selflessness like this is seen as amazing and adorable, while, had he been twenty or thirty years older, people would have just thought he was crazy, perhaps even threatening. Why? Because when an adult your own age makes some sacrifice, you feel like you’re expected to do the same, and you just plain don’t want to. But it’s just fine for kids to do it, and they should be encouraged in a way adults wouldn’t be. Why? Because you don’t identify with them. Almost everything about their lives is trivial and expendable. It’s easy for an adult to believe a kid’s Nintendo DS is just some useless gadget they don’t really need, when they’d probably slice off their own legs before they’d give up their iPhone. So it’s not only seen as the easier sacrifice for children to give so much for charity, but it’s even seen as the “right” way to be.

And the question itself, of teaching generosity. Again, that implies it even needs to be specifically taught. That an adult who wants a child to be this extremely generous needs to preach it in some way. In fact, that’s bullshit. Generous kids generally have generous parents. There needs to be some strong example of this behavior going on already. Want kids to be generous or any other desirable trait? Be generous yourself. Be the good person you expect your kids to be, rather than preaching it to them while sitting back and clutching your own hedonism and avarice.

All this talk over how amazing this kid is, that he got it right, that all kids should be taught to be like this, but how willing are you to give up your stuff? Perhaps everything you get for Christmas this year? Yeah… that’s what I thought.

But by all means expect kids to do it. Good enough, right? 🙄

You’re a Douchebag

December 11, 2012

So let’s say you’re a parent of a – gasp! – teenager.

And this adolescent offspring of yours – gasp!- has opinions.

This fact somehow makes life just so awful for you. That who was once a helpless baby totally dependent on you is now behaving more independently of you. Probably even gets angry sometimes.

And you just get so frustrated. And you must vent to other parents of teens. And then come the gems. Whether it’s how lazy they are or how disobedient they are or the ever popular “they think they know everything!”


You’re a douchebag.

Okay, okay, parenting is hard. You want to share your frustrations with others who are likely going through the same or who have been at least sufficiently conditioned to sympathize with you.

Doesn’t matter. You’re a piece of shit.

You’re insulting not only your own children but other people who happen to be their same age. And why? So you can look “cool” in front of other adults. Oh, aren’t you so witty and clever? You’re taking shots at people over whom you have total legal and economic control. My, you’re so brave, you should get a medal!

And for that, you are a douchebag. Not enough people tell you this, but you need to hear it. That makes you a terrible person. Your “ugh! teenagers!” whining is significantly less mature than you insist these teenagers are. You completely disregard their personhood and basic right and need to be respected. You trivialize everything about them and make it all about you. Therefore, you are a piece of shit douchebag.

Have a nice day.