17 December, 2014

RANT, part 2: Inadvertently Reinforcing My Political Beliefs

Now to what I was going to write about today before this morning's wtf moment intruded.

This one, I'll warn you right off, is boring. There's no way to make it crackle.  It's *intensely* political. These are the blogs my wife doesn't bother to read and I don't blame her. You're excused too. If you want to read a defence of my political beliefs, read on: if you don't, I won't hold it against you!

I am a staunch liberal at this point. Which is not to say I don't have some beliefs that I share with conservatives, and it certainly doesn't mean I believe that people who see the world differently are evil. Misguided--perhaps. Sometimes I might elevate that to "willfully blind", in those who refuse to consider other points of view. But I freely accept that conservatives will say the same thing about me: misguided, willfully blind. Hell, just this morning I was called an idiot.

I draw the line at EVIL, though. When people get to calling me, or something I believe, EVIL--well, I have to stand up and protest.

This came yesterday in the context of a Facebook debate on what exactly Islam is: is it a religion, a race, an ideology? I was trying to say that Islam is a religion, a political system, and a legal system all wrapped up in one monolithic thing that tends not to allow room for any other descriptor. That makes Muslims dangerously susceptible to radicalization; although the vast majority of Muslims are not radicalized, enough are to pose a serious problem that needs (link to previous post here) careful deliberation and not knee-jerk bomb-bay "solutions".) In the meantime, we were having a mostly friendly, mostly civil exchange of ideas, although one person was insisting that any criticism of Islam made you a bigot. Which is just silly: if I'm a bigot for criticizing Islam's treatment of women, well, I'm a proud bigot, then.

Apropos of nothing at all, someone appeared in the conversation and said this:

I'm just curious if anyone in this conversation is aware that the verbal sniping,finger wagging and shaming language/tactics at play here are all a direct result of unfettered Cultural Marxism. Congratulations. You have all successfully been indoctrinated into the Communist fairytale.Keep drinking the poisoned kool-aid and pass the borscht please...

I had never run across the term "Cultural Marxism" before. He supplied this definition, which I gotta warn you gets right out there into tin-foil-hat land:

Cultural Marxism: An offshoot of Marxism that gave birth to political correctness, multiculturalism and "anti-racism." Unlike traditional Marxism that focuses on economics, Cultural Marxism focuses on culture and maintains that all human behavior is a result of culture (not heredity / race) and thus malleable. Cultural Marxists absurdly deny the biological reality of gender and race and argue that gender and race are “social constructs”. Nonetheless, Cultural Marxists support the race-based identity politics of non-whites. Cultural Marxists typically support race-based affirmative action, the proposition state (as opposed to a nation rooted in common ancestry), elevating non-Western religions above Western religions, speech codes and censorship, multiculturalism, diversity training, anti-Western education curricula, maladaptive sexual norms and anti-male feminism, the dispossession of white people, and mass Third World immigration into Western countries.

Ain't that a mouthful. I'm basically being accused of undermining Western society. And somehow being a communist to boot.

After a little back and forth, this person sent me, in good faith, an article called Liberalism And Its Origins and asked me to read it. Perhaps he felt that doing so would make me see the light, as it were. Instead, it reinforced many of my reasons for being a liberal.

I was put on edge immediately with the realization this had a Christian source. I'll admit that out front: it's a bias of mine. Most Christians, in my experience, can tell you the most insanely self-contradictory things without blinking. Like that God loves you unconditionally, but he's going to judge you and send you to hell for all eternity if you don't love him back in the right way. Like that we're created in the image and likeness of God but our bodies are shameful and must be kept hidden. Like that praying to God works (what, was one of the football teams praying to lose?)

Sure enough, Liberalism is right away established as anti-Christian and therefore evil.

Sigh. It is endlessly amusing to me that the Christian Right, most specifically that loud and prevalent strain of it which holds Ayn Rand as a hero, remains blissfully unaware that her philosophy inspired modern Satanism. SOMEBODY's views are evil here.

We are told that the original strain of liberalism ("Classical Liberalism") "was not entirely evil", and correctly informed that it was originally concerned with individual right that predated the State; said State had a moral obligation to protect those rights. The article then lays out, in Stately Progression, as it were, how this morally acceptable belief came to be distorted into something evil.

And what makes modern liberalism evil, according to this article?

Freud's avowedly anti-religious analytical theory of the mind and his view of sexual freedom, Nietzsche's atheism and concern for individual freedom (including, paradoxically, the 'freedom' to choose to enslave weaker people and nations), and Marx's social and economic theory have made very major contributions to modern Liberalism. Indeed, liberals have been at the forefront of the movement which has sought to reclaim Marxist social theory from the hideous stain of the track record of world-wide communism.

Freud has largely been discredited for decades. Nietzsche's influence on liberalism is highly debatable; the man had an aristocrat's hatred of populism and egalitarianism, both of which are core tenets of liberalism (classical and modern both). As for Marx, let me just say this: "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs" is a truly remarkable leap in spiritual insight that, very unfortunately, tends to be corrupted by power. A truly Marxist society, distinct from communism,  has never been attempted and is probably impossible absent several MAJOR paradigm shifts that I don't believe humanity is capable of at present.

"Liberalism cuts bad human contact loose from any sense of Christian responsibility or morality".

Well, this is preaching to a Christian audience, so it's assumed everyone knows what Christian responsibility and morality is, for one thing. Strangely enough, though, Christianity has splintered into dozens and dozens of competing sects, many of which have differing views on morality and all of which assert themselves to be "true Christianity". So there's that.

Maybe it's that evil liberalism lurking in me, but I have always said that each individual charts his or her own moral course. Anyone whose course is judged deviant by the vast majority of society--the child molesters, the rapists, the murderers--is certainly held to account. The argument put forth by the Right--that these animals should be locked up indefinitely in criminal warehouses and factories called "prisons" has been shown over and over again not to work. Even the death sentence does not decrease the commission of crimes for which it is meted out. For all but the most mentally damaged, treating criminals like human beings seems to work. It;s really little different from what I espoused in my last post: hurt people and they tend to want to hurt you back; heal people and they don't.

Just before launching into its inevitable religious pitch, "Liberalism And Its Origins" quotes Nicholas Capaldi's "Faking It: The Sentimentalisation of Modern Society", thus:

"The liberal paradigm makes the following assumptions: first, human beings are born with impulses that are basically good (the denial of the traditional Christian doctrine of Original Sin); secondly, all anti-social behaviour is the result of external environmental influence (eg, lack of information or resources, presence of hostile attitudes and the absence of approving attitudes); and thirdly, in order to make people whole again, it is necessary to engage in social engineering or the reconstruction of institutions so as to provide information and resources, eliminate hostile attitudes, and promote approving attitudes."

Oh, the horror.

Let's start with original sin. It was one of several things that drove me away from the church when I was young and it should be ignored the way everything everything else in the OT that doesn't involve evil evil butt-sex is ignored.

There are so many things wrong with this doctrine that it's hard to know how any self-respecting human being can claim belief in it. You have an omniscient and omnipotent God who, knowing full well his creatures are going to eat the fruit of a certain tree, forbids them to do so...and then punishes them for doing it. Very harshly punishes them, in fact, far, far out of proportion to what they did. And not just them. EVERYBODY ELSE, too. Especially the women, because Eve did it first. Hey, now. Mama said life ain't fair, but that's ridiculous.

And what's that tree called? Well, it's CALLED "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil", but it properly translates as the "tree of the knowledge of everything". I would suggest that this very ancient prohibition has echoed down the centuries, manifesting today in a willful ignorance of knowledge in the name of religious purity. This has disastrous effects both personally and on a societal level.

Is that the action of a loving God? Never mind that he supposedly eventually got around to providing a means for his creations to escape part of his punishment (even the most devout Christian woman experiences pain in childbirth, after all)...what about all the people who came between the exile from Eden and Jesus? What about the literally billions of people who have never been exposed to Jesus since? I submit to you that this is the work of a devil, not a god.

"Secondly, all anti-social behaviour is the result of external environmental influence (e.g. lack of information or resources, presence of hostile attitudes and the absence of approving atti--"

--stop right there. Just stop.

First off, if "antisocial" behaviour isn't external in origin, it must be internal. Well, in some cases, the mental illness that spawns criminal activity is hereditary. But somehow I don't think that's how they mean it here. It seems to me like this is, if not outright racism, very easily adapted to a racist mindset. It isn't that long ago, after all, that good Christians believed black people were savages. Many people who consider themselves to be good Christians still do believe that, in fact.
Of course anti-social behaviour is the result of maladaptive socialization, where it doesn't stem from preexisting mental illness. That's actually the definition of anti-social.

And second, "the absence of approving attitudes"? Really?


Is whoever wrote this trying to suggest we liberals believe that anything goes? That no behaviour should be met with anything but approval? Even the most lenient of parents paints a line somewhere. Strangely enough, I'll draw on my own Christian days and invoke "love the sinner, hate the sin" here. Bearing in mind of course that a "sin" is in fact an error and errors are corrected, not punished...

"Thirdly, in order to make people whole again, it is necessary to engage in social engineering..."

Isn't it funny how if you agree with something, it's good parenting or good values...and if you don't, it's social engineering? It's kind of like judicial activism. When a court renders a conservative judgment, it's solid jurisprudence and to be congratulated. When it comes out with a liberal judgment, well, that's judicial activism and a sign of the impending apocalypse.

I'm guilty of this myself from my side of the aisle. I maintain that we have been socially engineered not just by governments, but also -- and more pervasively -- by amoral corporations. You are not a human being any more: you are a consumer. Is there any better proof of that than the widespread inclination to line up for an electronic bauble to replace the works-perfectly electronic bauble you already have? Both baubles have been specifically designed to remove you from human society: hell, we've socially engineered the telephone to the brink of extinction in a matter of, what? ten years? fifteen at most? How's that for anti-social behaviour?

But at any rate, yes, we liberals do believe in giving civilization a little nudge here and there towards, you know, being civil. That's called "progress', hence "progressive". Conservatives, by and large, resist change, preferring to preserve the status quo at worst and recreate some mythical romanticized version of a past that never existed, at best.

Liberal extremists -- I've yet to meet one, but they do exist -- yearn for a totalitarian state based on liberal principles. That's not liberalism: that's authoritarianism, a completely different beast. There are at least as many conservative authoritarians, probably more, and there are liberal and conservative libertarians, too. Where do you fit?

 Regardless. do we really judge philosophies by their most extremist adherents? Fine, then Christians are all evil because Westboro Baptist Church. Wow, I can do it too.

One last thing. Towards the end of this article we are treated to a hodgepodge of evils that liberal society has supposedly loosed upon the world.

  • "unparalleled abortions"
  • "frightening rates of drug abuse"  
affecting less than two percent of the population, with that rate stable over time despite $1.5 TRILLION dollars spent fighting it; just as prevalent in red states as in blue states  *
  • "and a suicide rate which stuns those who come from the very poorest countries"
A quick look at this chart should show you that the links between suicide rate, prosperity, and "liberal-ness" of country are very, very flimsy. Moreover,  the suicide rate among homosexual youth -- a group widely shunned by conservatives -- is comparatively higher than the national average*; and those rates are highest in the conservative South*

*U.S. statistics used throughout for the sake of ease and continuity

I don't believe that conservatives are fully (or at all) aware of these fact-and-figure rebuttals of their claims. Certainly I don't believe they intentionally enact policies that create more teen pregnancies, for example. I have found that conservatives, by and large, know what they believe and won't let facts get in their way. Whether that anti-intellectualism is a revenant of pioneer individualism, a willful religion-based disavowal of the "knowledge of everything", or something else altogether, is well beyond my pay grade. I will say this, though. It is not for something that is the source, even the unwitting source, of so much that is evil in this world to criticize those of us trying to make the planet a better place.

RANT, Part 1

I'm sorry, this one's political and probably long and I'd rather not inflict it on everyone in this merry merry season--Christmas themed blogs coming soon, promise--but I'm angry right now and I need to vent.

Let's start with this. A member of my family, someone I haven't seen in almost thirty years, turns out to have political views that are, shall we say, Fox-y. I mean hard right wing, the kind of man who has no problem calling me a "libtard". (Echoing that famous libtard Pierre Elliott Trudeau, I've been called worse things by better people.)

Anyway, he posted this this morning:

This isn't the first time I've been confronted with the yawning chasm between the way hard-core conservatives see the world and the way I do, but it's been one of the most telling. It's obvious to conservatives that a barbaric act calls for barbarism in return. It's obvious to me that it doesn't.

Because barbarism breeds barbarism. War begets war, torture begets torture. It's an endless loop, and it tends to intensify. To my mind, anyone who willingly engages in torture is an aider and abettor of terrorism and should be denounced as such. Seriously. You want more 9/11s? Piss more people off by torturing and killing their families and friends. Do you really imagine, even for a second, that the normal reaction to cold blooded murder is a bunch of warm fuzzies? Think back to how America felt after 9/11. Remember the shock, the horror, the anger? Now remember that American proxies killed and maimed literally millions of people in the Middle East in the decades leading up to September 11. 2001. They've also directly killed many more since: all sources agree it's at least 32 times the death toll  of 9/11. That's in Iraq alone. Their bumbling has also led to (and ARMED!) ISIS. Practically every step America has taken in the Middle East over a long, long period of time seems as if it was precisely calculated to create war, not peace.

You'd almost get to thinking it was intentional..

Am I saying America deserved  9/11? Of course not, that's preposterous and offensive. They most certainly didn't, and neither did the innocent civilians killed before and since deserve their deaths. Nobody deserves to die because of somebody else's political beliefs. That goes at least tenfold for religious ideals. Gods preaching hate, death and darkness should be shunned by all those seeking love, life and light.

I've always said there is a time when people need to stand up and fight. I still believe that. But it is IMPERATIVE that we fight for the right things, and with the right motives. Inflicting our political and religious beliefs on others is not a justifiable reason to fight. It isn't, it never was, and it never will be. Do you think the jihadis are right to try and subjugate the world under their variant of ultra-conservative Islam? No? Then why is it perfectly okay for us to spread  our own political and religious belief systems?  

"Because they're inherently better."

No argument...here. But oddly enough, the people who would be the beneficiaries of freedom and democracy tend to disagree strongly enough either to reject it outright or to accept it and then twist it into something unrecognizable to us. Do they have the right to do that? I say yes. The proponents of American hegemony tend to say no, just as strongly.
We were in Afghanistan for thirteen years. We lost 158 brave men and women there, and even more by their own hand once they came home (what a disgrace that is!)  What did we accomplish there by helping to kill over 21,000 civilians?

Not a whole hell of a lot.

Taliban support in Afghanistan has steadily been dropping: it stands at 29% now which is down nearly thirty percentage points since 2009. That's how death cults work: eventually people get sick and tired of dying. You find the same thing in Palestine, where a whopping 70% support a one-state solution to the ongoing conflict there.

War is never a long-term answer to any question worth the asking. People may believe strongly in a war;  they can very easily be whipped into a frenzy against real or imagined enemies. But drive the costs of war home to those people, again and again and again, and sooner or later peace starts looking sensible.

It's the same with death cults (ISIS and the Taliban both qualify here). Does anybody even remember who the Galleanists were? They were an Italian anarchist group responsible for a large number of bombings in New York and elsewhere during the second decade of the last century, culminating in an attack just a few blocks from what would eventually be called Ground Zero.  That attack killed 30 and injured hundreds--it was calculated to inflict maximum damage, using the technology available at the time; given stronger weapons they would not have hesitated to use them. They were ready to kill and die for their cause, and Galleani was, by all accounts, very persuasive. The bother of a follower of his said "You heard Galleani speak, you were ready to kill the first policeman you saw."
A mere six years later, Galleani and his cadre of death were all but forgotten. Today, they're a relic. As Jonathan Kay notes in the article linked above,

The good news, history teaches us, is that terrorist cults are morally self-extinguishing: Ordinary people become alienated by any movement that makes a systematic practice of killing innocent people.

But let's put all that aside. Let's pretend, for a moment, that bombing people and torturing people makes their friends and families all happy and peaceful and never for a moment thinking of retaliation. Let's pretend that death is what people want most out of life.


Napoleon Bonaparte knew that over two centuries ago. His full quote:

The barbarous custom of having men beaten who are suspected of having important to reveal must be abolished. It has always been recognized that this way of interrogating men, by putting them to torture, produces nothing worthwhile. The poor wretches say anything that comes into their mind and what they think the interrogator wishes to know.

Oh, I can perfectly understand why we'd like to believe torture works. We want to hurt people who have some link (even if that link turns out to be tenuous) to those who have hurt us.  But again, I have to ask, why is it that our actions are always justifiable and theirs never are? Why is it that we can torture with impunity, but any retaliation on their part is barbaric and completely uncalled for? (And remember, there are peace-loving civilians, supposedly allied with our enemies, who are asking themselves the same question!) That we are engaging in torture to obtain information that is at best of dubious benefit marks us as monsters. And the existence of other monsters on the other side of the world should not excuse our monstrous acts.

At some point, somebody is going to have to stand up and say enough is enough. And if it's not going to be them, maybe it should be us. The alternative is a blood feud that has the potential to engulf much of the world. Why don't people see that?

14 December, 2014

The Book of Mormon

Simply put, one of the best musicals I've ever seen.

Definitely the funniest. Even knowing many of the laughs going in, my face hurt.

I've been waiting to see THE BOOK OF MORMON since it premiered in 2011. This musical, penned by Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park fame,  won nine Tony Awards; its cast album is the top selling Broadway recording in over four decades.  Needless to say, I have listened to it several times.

Quite honestly, I wasn't sure I would ever get to pair some visuals with the soundtrack. It's the most expensive ticket in New York right now. A touring company came through Toronto in May of last year and sold out instantly. When I heard about the production arriving at Kitchener's Center in the Square, I admit I pestered Eva. Well, perhaps nagged would be a better word. Let's just say I made her quite aware that this one meant something to me.

The cheapest ticket was almost a hundred bucks. That meant something else to both of us. Turn It Off, Ken.

A good friend of ours inherited two tickets, and then got a boyfriend for one of them. Eva bought a ticket for me for Christmas. I was amazed she was able to get one only two rows behind Ande's pair. In any event, that's how I ended up accompanying Ande and Tim downtown this afternoon.

They were demanding a warlord's ransom for parking, so we stored our car several blocks away for free and walked instead. Before long we were settling down and the curtain went up.

(Aside to Craig: the book did not mention a trumpet player, only keyboards, bass, percussion, and programmers. Yet I assure you somebody  was playing a trumpet. It was not programmed because I heard it warming up and it was easily discernible in several (top f and g!) places. Consider me puzzled.) 

Parker calls his play "an atheist's love letter to religion". As you would expect from the creators of South Park and Team America: World Police,  it is profane. Shockingly so. The central number in the first act is an extended middle finger to the Almighty (Chicago cast here, and I warn you: people of faith WILL find this offensive).

What you don't expect, and what exists in spades beneath the profanity...is profundity. Even that cheerfully blasphemous number right out of  The Lion King gets the audience thinking:

"If you don't like what we say
Try living here a couple days
Watch all your friends and family die
Hasa Diga Eebowai!
Here's the butcher, he has AIDS
Here's the teacher, she has AIDS
Here's the doctor, he has AIDS
Here's my daughter, she has aaaaaaaa......
Wonderful disposition
She's all I have left in the world
And if either of you lays a hand on her...
I will give you mu AIDS!"

The Ugandans have no use for Mormonism or any religion...until Elder Cunningham twists his Scriptures into something more relevant to their lives full of poverty, war, disease (the village doctor has a habit of popping up at inopportune times -- is there really an opportune time? -- and singing "I have maggots in my scrotum!") and rampant female circumcision.  An inveterate fabulist, Cunningham sprinkles his doctrine with so many pop culture references that it's soon completely unintelligible--the point being, of course, that it was that way all along. The musical pokes incessantly at some of the more asinine beliefs of the LDS church...but it also is a remarkably touching treatise on the nature of belief itself, its purpose, and its power.

The cast is uniformly excellent, in a couple of cases arguably better than that of the original Broadway show. I was most impressed by Christopher John O'Neill (Elder Cunningham)  and Alexandra Ncube (Nabulungi).  Dazzling choreography, sizzling music, marred in a couple of places by sound that was a titch out of balance.

I found it most interesting that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has ads on the playbill covers ("You've Seen The Play, Now Read The Book"); upon exiting, we the audience were confronted streetside with actual Mormons distributing actual tracts. The LDS church initially protested the musical on Broadway; this approach is much more intelligent.  They claim to have gotten at least one convert from it. 

I believe ("I Believe") them. As I say, the faith on top is an object of relentless ridicule, but the idea of faith is presented as a good and powerful thing--so long as you don't insist on taking things literally.

All in all, a great afternoon at the theatre.  Thank you, Eva, for the best Christmas present I have received  in many years. And thank you, Ande and Tim, for allowing me to join you.

Things Are Looking Real

Eva's mom told me today that I'm not allowed to post anything in French on my Facebook timeline, since she won't understand it if I do: I'll get a "wtf?" which I'll translate as "what the French".

So of course, upon reviewing the best music of the year on iTunes this evening, a song literally jumped out and slapped me. A French song, naturellement.

I'm going to have to write an attempt at an English translation to this, for my mother-in-law. Warning, there's a solitary dirty word in here.


 Serge Fiori-LE MONDE EST VIRTUEL ("The World is Virtual")

Ken's hopefully semi-accurate English translation:

When I watch a show in the Bell Center (arena in Montréal)
I see people everywhere tripping on the show on their cells
It's me that's lost but it's not natural
The world is virtual

I have my Facebook profile linked to my Twitter
The Twitter's linked to my toaster
So my English muffins can receive emails
The world is unreal

All alone, everyone's all alone
Gone, everyone's gone
So far, everyone is so far
I'm bored, I'm bored

Give me some Viagra, give me some Cialis
Give me high performance, the rest can go fuck itself
Give me porno flicks in my dishwasher
The world is sexual

Forget politics, give me the computer
Forget culture, give me something that makes me hard
Everyone in their gizmos, everyone all alone on their cells
The world is virtual 


The more things change, the more they're the same
Is there someone in the machine?
Is there someone to talk to me?
Send me a private message
Is there life in my friends?
Is there truth in my keyboard?
Is there blood behind the screen?
Or is it just the wind, just the wind?
I'm bored
The world is virtual
The world is sexual
The world is virtual

Without a doubt, my song of 2014. Have I not written most of that lately?


Things are looking up.
This has been the best week of my year, socially, and it's not over yet. I want to thank each and every one of my friends--you know who you are--who has taken time out of a busy life to see me. I've been craving human contact, not just words on a screen, and what I got over the past six days (and more to come) will keep me going for a while. Thank you. You have no idea how much I appreciate you all. 

French final on Tuesday: I'm going into it with something like a 97% grade. I feel like a bit of a fraud. I'm one course away from supposed fluency--and let's just say that their idea of fluency and mine are VASTLY different. I had thought being "fluent' in French meant, for example, that I could take any one of these blogs I have written over the past ten years, sit down and translate it into coherent French. Or take a French blogger's posts and make them understandable in my native tongue. I am so, so far away from even thinking of considering the possibility of imagining attempting this. I wrote an essay, about 400 words, most of which I had written in English already here in this blog, and it took me three hours to do it. And I still made a few mistakes. I wasn't marked down for some of them because the teacher said I was using concepts I hadn't been taught yet (he actually had to get his dictionary out once)--the things he marked down were errors I should have known to avoid. I'm awful at that. Always have been, in everything. Get the hard stuff perfect, mess up on the easy stuff. Driving: parallel park easily, botch a simple right hand turn. Hockey: make an impossible toe save only to have the puck shoot between my legs ten seconds later.

But I'll take the mark I get, thankfully. And I will certainly cherish the contact. Gratefully. I hope to have other positive news soon as well.

08 December, 2014

Isn't One Person Good Enough?

"If a monogamous relationship breaks up, people never consider monogamy to be ‘the problem’, or take it as proof that monogamy doesn’t work. But they do with polyamory. I suspect this has something to do with the number of myths about polyamory that exist in wider society." -Anne Hunter

Using the paradigm that society accepts, relationships that work do not break up, by definition.

This is not the only paradigm in existence, and it may in fact damage people: all too many marriages stay together, even now, out of some misguided sense that they should...."for the children", "because what will the neighbours say", "because divorce is a sin"...and never mind marriages: other relationships can't and shouldn't be rated on longevity. Someone can have a deep, lasting positive impression on you over the space of a few minutes.

But again using the paradigm that is generally encouraged, if a relationship is agreed to have failed, i.e. not lived up to its aspirations, that is the fault of the individual relationship, be it open or closed.

I understand why people look upon "poly" with suspicion. It's different, for one thing: it goes against cultural scripts that are incredibly pervasive. Children are raised with a plethora of fairy tales full of unspoken assumptions that monogamy is not just the only acceptable option, but the only conceivable option.

Another problem, and I have alluded to this before, is the very common assumption that polyamory is a thinly veiled license to cheat. I am a respected giver of advice on Reddit's polyamory forum, and I see this and help to set it straight at least once a week.
We'll say it's a woman. It usually, but by no means always, is. She'll announce to the forum at large that her partner disclosed he's polyamorous. He also chose that moment to announce that he's had sex and/or fallen in love with somebody else, but "you can't blame me, because I'm poly."

No. That's not poly, that's despicable. It's not that "No true poly person" would do such a thing--this isn't part of the accepted definition of polyamory. For the record, polyamory involves multiple romantic relationships with the full knowledge and consent of all involved. If that's not what you're doing, it's not poly, it's cheating and you're a cheater.

The thing I really want to talk about, though, is the even more common misperception that polyamorous people believe that no one person is good enough for them.

Doesn't that seem arrogant? Can you imagine someone saying that to someone else? "Honey, yes, I love you, but you're just...not enough. You don't fulfill me, all on your lonesome. I need more attention, more love, than you can possibly give me..."

Ugh. Boy oh boy am I glad that's not what polyamory is about.

There are simple (and simple-minded) analogies often used to explain the poly mindset to the uninitiated in terms they might grasp. I've used the children one myself: if you have two children, you don't love the second one any more or less than the first and you can't even argue the love is all that different.
I once had this explanation backfire badly on me when the parent I was talking to  admitted rather sheepishly that she didn't really love her younger son that much at all...but generally, the objection that gets raised is that adults are not children and romantic/sexual love is a whole different animal. Of course romantic and sexual love is different in type than the love you have for your children--but who says that one of the differences is that it must be limited to one person? Seriously, who says?
There's another one that gets tossed around sometimes that asks you to imagine you could only ever have one sort of food for the rest of your life. You might love love love some alligator stew, but if that were all you could ever eat..
I don't like that analogy any more than you probably do, because just like adults aren't children, people aren't food. If you really want to go with a food metaphor, most people with any depth to them are a whole world full of buffets, and it's not too much to ask to limit yourself to that world, now, is it?
No, it isn't.

But let's take the focus off that one relationship and put it on other relationships, since the defining difference between polyamory and monogamy is just that, the number of relationships.

You have a friend. You care deeply about this friend: in fact you love him or her. That's not something that is often said between people who are "just" friends. I happen to think it should be.
Now, society says there are hard limits to how you express that love. The exact limit varies quite widely between committed monogamous couples: some spouses don't have a problem if you go out with your friend for dinner, some do; some might base their objections on the fanciness of the restaurant. You might be okay giving your friend a peck on the cheek, but most spouses would take issue with a peck somewhere else, and it's a given that a peck better be all there is.

Poly people, by and large, reject these externally imposed limits on love. They may substitute certain limits of their own--certain people may be out of bounds, or certain behaviours. But while it is vitally important that all parties in a polyamorous relationship are on the same page, we tend to let relationships grow if it seems right that they do so.
And here we are back around this side of the mulberry bush. Why would it seem right? It's not right, you've already got one relationship you claim is wonderful What do you need another for?

If you think that way--many, in fact most, do--it's because you're working with a scarcity model of love. At its most extreme, this model claims that there is only one "soul mate" for you out there, and you will never be truly happy until you find him or her.

There are more than seven billion people on this planet. Even cutting them roughly in half to represent the people of the appropriate sex, you're going to be looking for a while. Probably quite a few lifetimes. Meanwhile, within this lifetime you're always looking for the next "better" thing (which is actually a person), and discarding the thing you just had (that was a person, too) when it/he/she comes along. As Dan Savage tweeted last week:

"Next serial monogamist with six or more exes who tells me he could never be non-monogamous gets a slap"

The scarcity model of love is at work whenever we think, even for a second, that we've "settled".  It is  what makes us question someone's love for us when we see him looking at someone else. Many people derive a sense of security from it, actually: I must be special, because she only does ____ with me. (Many polyamorous people actually think this way too: it's a hard habit to break.)

There is, needless to say, another model of love: an abundance model. According to this perspective, love is not rare at all, and thus does not need to be hoarded. Shared love increases. That's the model I, and other poly people, subscribe to: the existence of love somewhere in a person's life does not imply that love was taken from somewhere (or someone) else. We don't "settle": we gather experiences. We know that we are special, and so are our partners, and so are our partner's partners...The experience of loving many is extremely rewarding for us.  And yes, it can give us new experiences and a new view of the world.

It can also be harrowing. It's a real balancing act after awhile, because while love may not be limited, time certainly is. I have my own quirks that make me rare even among poly-types and can cause me grief: I love people within a fairly wide range almost by default, unless and until I am given a reason not to. I find it almost impossible to "turn love off", which in turn means heartbreak can linger longer than it should.  And it demands a level of communication and self-reflection that can be taxing, even for someone like me who has been self-reflecting and communicating since forever.

As always, "mine is not a better way; mine is only another way." I don't write these blogs to convert, but merely to inform. This is one particularly vexatious misconception that begged correction. Polyamorous people aren't that way because "one person is never enough", but rather because we believe relationships are their own things, separate from other relationships, and able to grow -- and fade -- as desired.

05 December, 2014

In which great quantities of laughing gas are dispensed...

Been a rough week here in the Breadbin, battling old demons and an annoying virus.
Eva had the virus first, and I got it as it was clearing up for her. Sore throat, general aches and pains..and a cough.

Thanks to chronic bronchitis when I was a kid, any virus that comes equipped with cough is going to remain in memory long after its every other symptom has faded away. I'm the picture of health now, if you can ignore this hacking cough that will probably persist, if history is any guide, for a week or even two before it finally peters out.  I can get to sleep just fine, but after three or four hours I wake up coughing away....out of deference to my wife, who needs her sleep much more than I do right now, it's led to me keeping some odd hours.

The demons--you don't need or want to hear about them. The battle continues, let's leave it at that for now.


So this blog entry is either going to make you laugh out loud or disgust you. Possibly both. Can I go for both?

I've written before about Eva's fascination with flatulence. Her mom reports that when she was a toddler she could while away the time in her crib pffffting to herself and giggling. To this day, you fart, she laughs--it's Pavlovian in its simplicity. She just can't help herself. 
For a husband like me who silently added to the vows that he would endeavour to make his wife laugh loud and often, this predilection for pootery is a gift from heaven. If I ever need to lighten the mood around here, I can just perform a one-cheek-sneak and brrrrap! mission accomplished.

But there are times I outdo myself. I outdid myself this week.

Bubbles the cat has a case of kitty pinkeye, and we give him eyedrops daily. He doesn't appreciate the ministrations overmuch, and so lining up his head and actually getting the drop in is a minor exercise in feline physics. To make things worse, I have a real issue with being the bad guy in any interaction with pets (or humans, for that matter), and so Eva's forever trying to get me to actually hold the damn cat, c'mon Ken, you've got vice grips for hands, use them...which means in turn that once a day we're standing cheek to cheek, as it were, for an extended period of time.

You think you know what's coming. I assure you, you have no idea.

So a couple of nights ago Eva's got something meaty in the microwave and Bubbles presents himself  for inspection...we decide to put the eyedrops in. First I have to actually get the cat. He's not super suspicious like some felines I've known: you can walk up to him, slowly, and bend down, slowly, and--

--see, now, bending down was where I went wrong. My joints weren't the only things that flexed. A series of pancake-shaped gobs of gas leaked out of my behind, silently and merrily filling my pants. I'm not kidding here: there was a distinct sensation of weight surrounding my bean-blower all of a sudden, and can I be forgiven for thinking oh, this is going to be fun?

I grabbed the cat and straightened up, causing more silent protests in southern regions, and calmly walked out to the kitchen, proffering Bubbles the cat and a secret cargo of bum-bubbles to my darling wife.

Now you must understand that I have been called "you rank son of a bitch" by no less an authority than Eva's brother (who is himself quite an accomplished fartiste). I have cleared rooms, provoked coughing fits not unlike the one that woke me up this morning, and elicited cries of profanity. I'm not rude enough to fart in public where other people might taste me,  but...sometimes you can't help the hang time. On one occasion, at 7-Eleven, a gentleman customer walked down an aisle I had strafed more than a minute before, turned around, and exclaimed "It smells like a God-damned SEWER in here!" before high-tailing it out of the store. I've left a McDonald's bathroom, sat down at my table, and observed a little boy going in and immediately coming back out to tell his father, "Daddy, I can't go in there." Load me up with French onion soup and I just might be poisonous. I'm the man behind the screaming Zeller. Are you getting the picture?

Eva's nostrils suddenly flared. Her eyes widened. The cat's whiskers twitched. 

It was horrible. It was awful. It was glorious.

The best thing was that the smell was not identifiable as a product of Arse at all. It had neither the searing brown reek of excrement nor the burnt rubbery bouquet of charred tire that can sometimes accompany a squadron of mud-ducks. No, this was something altogether different. Sickly sweet, the kind of thing you might smell in a morgue. Eva told me later, once all the tears had been shed, that she was positive whatever was in the microwave had gone over.

Normally when I have set a trap like this, the look of guilty pride on my face gives me away instantly. Not to mention that Eva's giggles, let alone the ones induced by air biscuits, are infectious: on more than one occasion I've added to the haze in the room when my laughs come out both ends.

This time, somehow, I kept my cool even as I continued to steam-press my boxers. I think again it was because the smell was so novel, so grotesquely interesting, that even I couldn't determine with absolute certainty that I was, in fact, to blame.  

Meanwhile, Eva's nostrils flared again and again, taking it all in. The droplets safely deposited, I let go of Bubbles and started to walk away.

"Did you-- was that your ASS?"

And I dissolved into a puddle of chortle. I mean, how could I not? Eva was sputtering around the room cursing everything in sight. I had done this. Me. 

This one, in case you're wondering, has been christened the "crop duster". It really did have a kind of pesticide odour to it. And Bubbles? His pinkeye's gone.

He's got stinkeye now.

28 November, 2014

Honey, Who Shrunk The Honey?

One year ago today, my wife Eva underwent bariatric surgery.

What a year it has been.

The positives first. She's gone from being highly insulin dependant to control her diabetes to taking a pill to prevent it. That change, by the way, was essentially immediate.  It may not have lengthened her life, but it lengthened her healthy life considerably.

Her hormones have largely stabilized. This means, in turn, that

  • she no longer suffers from hyperhydrosis (layman term: sweats like a pig for no discernible reason)
  • related: her temperature control, for the time being, at least, is much closer to that of a normal human woman. In other words, she gets cold. For the first time in her adult life. Last week she actually apologized to me, saying "if what I'm feeling right now is anything like what I've been putting you through for the last fifteen winters, I am deeply, deeply sorry"
  • She no longer suffers from PMS--which she did, even after a hysterectomy, because the P didn't stand for 'pre' or 'post' but 'permanent'
  • I want to double down on that last one. Ken no longer needs to walk on eggshells
  • Her sleep patterns are much better than they were
  • She's happier
She has an absolute boatload more energy. Now, Eva at her fattest was the fittest fat person you'd never expect to meet: she could bench press me, for one thing. But her knees have been terrible for most of her life, thanks to an adolescent bout with Osgood-Schlatter disease (and she was one of the ten percent of people whose symptoms persisted despite surgical measures being taken). Her knees are still stiff on occasion but her mobility is greatly improved. 

A consequence of her surgery--well, something she had to complete well ahead of the surgery--was her finally quitting smoking, for good. (Smoking even one cigarette now would almost certainly cause unbearable pain and lead to death within hours, if not minutes).  Since cigarettes were her constant companions almost without interruption for twenty seven years, you have to count leaving them behind as a huge win.

Her portion size, of course, has radically decreased. After a year, it's maybe a couple of titches below what people are "supposed" to eat. That's better than I thought it might be...for some reason I figured she'd be stuck eating meals out of eye droppers for life. Okay. small exaggeration, but not really. 

She's also been incredibly lucky in what she's been able to eat.  We were told at the beginning of the long process that culminated in her surgery that caffeine, carbonated beverages, and alcohol were all definitely out, and a whole host of foods would likely cause problems, among them red meats, rice, starches and sweets. What we've found is that she can, with occasional, unpredictable exceptions, eat a tiny bit of almost anything--and furthermore that the caffeine prohibition doesn't seem to apply to her.

Her clothing styles have changed. Back when she was Eva-squared, there was exactly one store to shop at (Pennington's)...and most of what was in there was crap. As some of my readers are acutely aware, "fat" and "fashion" are, for some reason, antonyms. Most of the selection is either hideous floral prints your great-grandma would come back to life to take off...or it's made out of material guaranteed to overheat the wearer within minutes. Her clothing used to be almost entirely one solid colour, usually black, sometimes white or red, very rarely anything else. Patterns were anathema to her.

Big change.

Today, after two full wardrobe replacements, she can shop pretty much anywhere and buy pretty much anything. And she does. Her clothing has rainbowed and complexified in a way I'm not sure she ever imagined it would, and she looks fantastic.

I mean...doesn't she?



It actually took her own mother a bit to recognize her. 


It hasn't been all fun and games. Eva was one of seven percent of bariatric patients who came down with an ulcer, which actually has recurred. And to this day she's never sure what's going to cause her extreme discomfort, food-wise. Sometimes red meat is fine, sometimes it's not. Sometimes rice is an issue, sometimes not. Even cold water can hurt her, momentarily. And there are certain "no-go" foods we've discovered, among them some things that she used to love. Chocolate's a big one. So is grape juice. The intestinal lining around this particular dark cloud is that she knows almost instantly when she has eaten something wrong, and the pain lasts at most ten or fifteen minutes. 

As I mentioned on our cruise, Eva suffered from seasickness for the first time ever in her life or imagination. That's because her centre of gravity has markedly changed. Having lost nearly half of her body weight has absolutely buggered her sense of equilibrium. That should abate over time, but as it turns out, one year of a new way of moving can't completely eradicate most of a lifetime of moving the old way.

And there are still what I call psychological fat pockets. This, too, is to be expected: external weight can melt off, but it takes considerably longer for it to slough off internally. Eva will still, on occasion, select a pair of pants, say, that fits her just fine or might even be too big for her (she's still losing weight, albeit slowly) and look at me and say "I can't possibly fit into this." The first time she did this, I thought she might be joking, or even "humblebragging"...but she wasn't and isn't. On some level, at certain times, she's still convinced despite all appearances that she is Eva-squared.  Time will eliminate this, too, I'm sure.

This is a positive that I insist on viewing negatively: people treat her differently now. Not everyone, to be sure: friends and co-workers always loved her and still do. But strangers treat her better--which is great, of course--but, well, you know how I am. I don't understand why they didn't treat her as well before. Because Eva hasn't changed...she's only grown, even as she's shrunk. All the things that made her Eva are still there, she hasn't lost a single one of them. I'm forever being reminded that people's perceptions of the world are often far too shallow. 


Despite some drawbacks--both fewer and smaller than she was prepared to accept--Eva and I agree the overall result of this surgery has been overwhelmingly beneficial. I could not possibly be more proud of my wife. I was in awe of her before, I'm even more so now. 

I love you, love. Lots and lots and lots again.

27 November, 2014

Hey Jian...Was It Worth It?

I'm probably legally required to state that Jian Ghomeshi is innocent of all charges against him until proven guilty in a court of blah blah blah.

In certain particularly heinous cases, the accused documents his crimes.  I'm thinking here of Paul Bernardo, who videotaped his.  Ghomeshi's not playing in that league, of course, but he did show a video of one of his 'conquests' to his bosses, of all people, in some kind of insane effort to prove that his actions were consensual. Just in case it's not clear: Ghomeshi kept a video on his phone depicting serious bruises he had inflicted and texts that mentioned a cracked rib. Who's stupid enough to record activities like that? It'd be like--well, can you imagine if the mayor of, say, Toronto allowed himself to be videotaped smoking crack cocaine?

Even more insanely, Ghomeshi's attempts to reframe his activities for public consumption seemed  to work for a while. Linden MacIntyre, in his  attack against the CBC's 'toxic atmosphere', had this to say about that:

And unfortunately, when the abuse continuum results in the kind of behaviour that normal people normally abhor, the normal people in charge of institutions, and who feel responsible for the appearance of institutional success and integrity, will far too often feel inclined to minimize and tolerate, condone -- and in the worst-case scenario -- cover up behaviour that is abusive.

Ghomeshi later put up a rather blatantly PR'd defence of his sexual proclivities on Facebook for all the world to see and pick apart. I shudder to think what Paul Bernardo's Facebook timeline would have looked like. You *know* he would have had one...a narcissist who maintained such an outwardly charming persona? Tailor-made for social media.

I wonder at what point Ghomeshi really realized it was all falling apart.

I don't think it was when he engaged two different public relations firms to armour-plate his image. I don't think it was when he launched what he had to have known was a frivolous $55-million lawsuit against his former employer. (The suit's been withdrawn, as anyone with half a legal brain cell knew it would be). That was all part of the dance of public relations, nothing of substance. Maybe  it was when those PR firms dropped him like a hot potato. That might be when it became real to him...when he was no longer allowed to be the star of his own show.
 Now that he's charged with four counts of sexual assault and a charge of 'overcome resistance - choking' (an obscure, rarely seen charge that carries a maximum sentence of life in prison), Ghomeshi stands on the precipice of losing everything. Regardless of the trial's outcome, he's already lost his career, and much more important to him, his image. He could lose his freedom, too, for a long, long time, if he is found guilty.

Was it worth it, Jian?

This is the thing that puzzles me. I know that my sense of consequence is finely honed, but it seems inconceivable to me that someone could engage in all the rough sex Jian admits to, not to mention the random pre- and post-coital assaults he's accused of, without at least thinking it might come back to bite him in the ass one day. Anyone committing a crime, or even an ethical fault like lying or cheating on his wife, must first either convince himself his actions have no consequences, or that those consequences aren't as important as the lie or the orgasm. Since all actions have consequences--we learn this in preschool, or at least I did--it's got to be the latter. So again, Jian...was it worth it?

24 November, 2014

FERGUSON, MO: Let the games begin

There's a first time for everything. I actually agree with Chris Rock.

The most racist comic I know--are any of his routines about something other than race? --tweeted this a few minutes ago:

Doesn't take 100 days to decide if murder is a crime. It takes 100 days to figure out how to tell people it isn't.

It's almost like a game, isn't it? "How To Get Away With Murder."

Yes, several witnesses changed their testimony, saw things and then didn't see them, didn't see things and then saw them. That's the nature of eyewitness testimony: so unreliable in stressful situations as to be almost useless.


There are several facts that did not change throughout the trial: that Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown for the grievous offence of walking down the middle of a street. That Michael Brown was unarmed. That he was shot at least six times, and at least one of those shots, perhaps many more than just one, came well after Brown could have even remotely been construed as some kind of threat. That his shooting was part of a larger pattern of blatant racial discrimination which sees black youths targeted far out of proportion to any crimes they commit.

As an e-friend of mine tweeted: "It's insane. No trial, no public inquiry, not even a disciplinary hearing for officer Darren Wilson. Scot free, no consequences."

And I'm sorry, but I can't help flipping the races around. If Michael Brown hadn't been so brown, (a) I'm willing to bet he'd be alive today; (b) if he had been killed, the black officer who killed him would have been indicted long before tonight.

We're in for some black days in November.

t has been noted that many of the protestors are being bussed in from out of state, as if outrage was a peculiar quality limited only to Missourians. On the one hand, everyone with any concern for justice or human rights should be ringing Ferguson, MO a hundred miles deep tonight. On the other--that's not such a good idea, becuase--

Riots solve nothing. All riots do is confirm people's worst prejudices. As *another* friend of mine noted, "it's highly doubtful there was a crowd of white people ready to set cars on fire and run off with big screen TVs had Wilson been indicted." Give me one good reason why a hard-working store owner should have his livelihood destroyed out of this. What did he do?

Peaceful protest is one thing, and it's more than warranted here. Riots will only result in more bloodshed. Is that what's really wanted?