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brigdh: (Koumyou laughs *with* you. Not at you)
I ran into Crazy Racist Guy today! Of all the random people to happen across while I'm here in Columbus, he had to be at the bottom of my list.

I was in a store in near my undergrad's campus, browsing near the cash registers, when I heard someone come in and ask the clerks if they were hiring. I thought the voice sounded familiar, so I glanced up, recognized Crazy Racist Guy, and... promptly fled to the other side of the store before he looked around and saw me. Though after a minute or two of ducking behind shelves, I wondered if it wouldn't actually be terribly funny to go over and say hi to him, but before I could decide to, he left the store in a hurry.

I run into this guy in more random places than anyone else I've ever known. Maybe he's secretly stalking me.
brigdh: (I'll say it to his face. Swear to god.)
Oh, crazy racist guy. The ways in which you drive me insane.

I've taken to discussing everything with him in only the most general, fictional terms I can manage. Because, well, it's not fair to anyone else; it's a group for writers, not the "watch Brigdh and Crazy Racist Guy scream at each other for two hours" group. But besides that, it's the only way I can handle him on humane level. Whether or not I should be even trying to do that, I go back and forth on. On the one hand, regardless of what he happens to believe, I want to treat him like a person who deserves understanding and compassion. On the other hand, I can't help but think that allowing him to say some of the things he does without throwing a fit only encourages him to say them to other people, and I don't want anyone to suffer because of this asshole. God, I don't know.

Anyway. Distant and fictional. Because while I can't even allow myself to think the words "I cannot believe you're defending Hilter" without quickly going down a path of rage and incoherence, I can deal as long as I stick to statements like "Well, I think if you have Hitler as a character in your story, your readers are going to automatically react to him in very emotional, intense ways, which you should be aware of".

Here's part of our conversation from tonight:

Him: [Long, long description of a story he's writing, which I'm skipping.] So then Job gets a chance to talk with God, to ask him if there isn't some way to prevent the war between the Christians and the Muslims, because Job knows if it happens, many, many people will die. But God says no, that genocide is necessary in this case.
Me: That's your portrayal of God in this story?
Him: Yes. Because, look, God has asked for genocide before. Saul had the crown taken from him because he refused to kill every last one of the Amalekites like God asked him to. God wanted him to kill every last man, woman, and child. God said that. That's how David became king! A lot of people ask 'is genocide wrong?' and they say that the answer is always yes, but no, it's not. We have these examples from God.
Me: I think the problem most people would have with this is not that you can't make an argument for it using examples from the Bible, but that such examples might not be the sole determiner of morality, even if they are from the Bible.
Him: But the Bible has to be the source of morality! Otherwise it's arbitrary- no, goodness is arbitrary. It's just what God says. You do good so you'll be rewarded, and you don't do bad because you're afraid of being punished.
Me: I don't think that's how most people see morality.
Him: Yes! That's the only reason why people do good, because they want to be rewarded for it. Reward and punishment, that's why people do things. That's the whole point!
Me: You don't think there's anything inherently good in doing good? You don't think people do things for the things themselves?
Him: No, it's abirtary.
Me: ...Mmm.

And this is the other reason why I try not to consider what he says in real life terms. It's pointless on a level I can't even comprehend. When I argue with someone, I do it in the hopes that, however unlikely it may be, we can find something to agree on or I might even convince them to my way of thinking. When you're so far distant from someone that you would need to first consider how to prove why genocide might be a bad thing, where do you even start? I mean, I just... what the fuck. If the sentence "No, the fact that it drained the German war effort is not the main reason why the Holocaust was a bad idea" would ever, ever enter the discussion, middle ground is so far away that it will never be reached.

The whole thing makes me furious. Or depressed, I'm not really sure. I just hate that he's accepted because he's a Christian (or claims to be. I can't imagine how he thinks he's actually following Jesus), and to so many people, that's what it means to be moral. Even ignoring the racism, the genocide thing, the hatred of other religions and cultures and sexualities, how the hell can you be in your mid-twenties and still believe that the only reason to do good is so you'll be rewarded? I'd be embarrassed to hear a six-year-old say that. And obviously people have justified him in these views; someone had to raise him to believe these things, there must be enough people who agree with him that he's never felt pressured to change his opinion. He must be able to surround himself with people who all agree: this is what being moral means. And how many times have I had to argue with people over whether it's even possible for me to be moral, if I'm an atheist? How many fucking times have I had people condemn me to hell autmoatically, or sincerely believe that it's not even possible for to judge the difference between good and bad? But him, he's okay.

I hate that I can make every effort to treat him decently, and spend hours wondering about the right thing to do in this regards, and he's the one who's supposed to have values, the moral vote that politicians pander to. I can't even... I don't even know what to say.
brigdh: (books)
A brief summary of the book, from a conversation I had today:

Me: I just finished this really amazing book! It's called 'The Years of Rice and Salt', by Kim Stanley Robinson. Have you heard of it?
Racist Guy: Yeah, I think. Is that the one where all the whites get killed off by the Bubonic plague?
Me: That's it.
Racist Guy: I'd rather read the book where everyone else gets killed off and only the whites are left, ha ha.
Me: ...
Me: ...
Me: ...
Me: Right. Anyway. It's a really amazing book!

The premise of the book, indeed, asks what would happen if the plague had been much more devastating, killing off nearly all of Europe's population in the early 1400s. How would the history of the world be different? It's this idea that the blurbs on the back of my copy all announce, and this was everything I'd heard about it before reading it myself.

But, well, that's not really the point. At all. Because the history barely changes from our own. Some of its inevitable- of course someone would have eventually discovered America, even if Columbus hadn't- but as the book goes on, the similarities build: the same discoveries happen, the same scientific resolutions and theories, the wars and their consequences are all close parallels to our history; and if World War One was fought between the Muslims and the Chinese instead of the Allies and the Central Powers, what difference does that make to the people who died in the trenches? Who cares if gravity is first described in English or Arabic- it's still the same idea. (Randomly, in case anyone else has read it, I went looking for reviews online right after I finished it, and the stupidity of some people astounds me. WTF, Nsara is not a metaphor for 60s America, it's pre-WWII Germany. What the hell did you think the rampant inflation and military takeover were about?)

The interesting thing about the book isn't a new history- because it's not very new- but it's insistence that history isn't about the big sweeping movements, but the ordinary lives who do what little they can to make things better, even if it takes a thousand lives to make a difference. The book covers 700 years of history by telling the stories of one small group as they reincarnate over and over, but so much stuff is included. I lost counts of times I thought, "Man, I'm sure glad I just read that book on Persian mythology/traditional Chinese women/Buddhism/Indian history/Isaac Newton/Native American social systems, otherwise I would have no idea what was going on". It was like the book was designed specifically with me in mind, and set out to fit as many things I have an interest in as possible. At one point, a character reincarnates as an archaeologist! And goes to a conference to talk about new archeology theories! Characters quote Rumi to each other! Over multiple lives, even, as obviously the love of a good poem transcends death. We have long discussions on the nature of religion and history and story and god and death! I! Am! In! Love! With! This! Book!

The main characters are part of a jati, a group of souls who continually reincarnate together (I can't believe this word apparently exists and yet has not been adopted by Saiyuki fandom). The first is Bold- the problem with characters who go through 20 lives within a book is that it's hard to pick a name to use; I'm just going with the ones they use the first time- who is also Monkey from Journey to the West. See what I mean about this book being designed for me? Bold is sweet, if often a little stupid and gullible; s/he often focuses on love, and life, and living every day aware of it. A lot of my favorite passages come from his/her POV, particularly the bits in Tibet, which choked me up with their beauty and sadness. Here's a different, shorter one I loved: "Storm sunlight cast a silver sheen on the wet street. Burdur felt happy. The world was beautiful. She was so hungry that the milk in her coffee was like a meal inside her. The storm's light was a meal. She thought: now is beautiful. These old Persians are beautiful; their Persian accents are beautiful. Kirana's rare serenity is beautiful. Throw away the past and the future."

Kyu is the other main character. S/he is Sanzo my favorite. S/he is angry and cynical and violent; over multiple lives Kyu has a reoccurring tendency to kill anyone who hurts Bold. If Bold tries to change things by loving them, Kyu rages and fights against injustice, leads revolutions and battles, even when they're in the afterlife and arguing against the gods and the universe itself:
"My impression is that any improvement in the tenor of existence will have to be anthropogenic."

"What?" Bistami cried.

"It's up to us. No one will help us."

"I'm not saying they will. Although God always helps if you ask. But it is up to us, that's what I've been saying all along, and we are doing what we can, we are making progress."

Katima was not at all convinced. "We'll see," she said. "Time will tell. For now, I myself withhold judgment." She faced the white tomb, drew herself up queenlike, spoke with a tigerish curl of the lip: "And no one judges me."

Also there's a scene where she attacks the goddess Kali with a sword, but it's too long for me to type out.

Some other characters are I-li, who is fascinated by the world, and usually ends up as a scientist or mathematician, and Shastri, who is an idiot and an asshole, but unfortunately tends to get in a position of power and then ruins things for the others.

I adored this book. I feel like I need to reread it right away, to look for the things I didn't catch on to until near the end. I want to say a million other things, but I don't want to spoil any of the details, because an even better solution would be to convince some of you to read it, so we can talk about it.
brigdh: (jjjjjjump it up)
My hard-to-make decision for today: I could get into my club free tonight, yet it's raining and I don't know if I want to walk there. Not that it's a long walk or anything, but I'm feeling lazy right now.

My life is so hard, really.

Anyway. I know you're all fascinated by the saga of the racist guy, so here's the latest news. We're in a student group together, as I've said, and we had our meeting last night. Thankfully, I've finally managed to find my zen again.

See, the thing is- I don't like stupid people. Obviously. Obviously I don't think it's okay for people to be racist assholes, I assume I don't even need to say that. But I'm rarely upset over it. I can't remember getting angry in this way at someone for a long time. I have no problem with disagreeing with someone, with getting into a fight, even with going to extremes, but I like to think that I have to be driven to it. I don't seek out excuses to hurt other people, even if I have problems with them; that's not how I think of myself. That's not who I think of myself as being. But I was, here, though I'm not sure why, and now I'm not, though again I don't know why, just that I'm grateful to have stopped it.

I ended up getting stuck talking with him, because in my normal state* I can be endlessly polite even to people I hate, who rarely manage to pick up on the "I disagree with everything you're saying and am pretty ignoring you!" signals for some reason. I find it fascinating how long some people can carry on a conversation when my sole contributions are "Hmmm," and "That's interesting," and "Do you think so?" Guy has problems in the head (um. Other than the obvious ones). He was telling me about some of the stories he's working on, and every single one features graphic and extended violence. Now, I've got no problems with violence. I like a bloody fight scene as much as the next person. But when every single story is playing out like "And then the demon rips out the guy's throat and eats it and then he rapes the six-year-old and then he burns down the hotel with all the people locked inside and then..." it starts to get worrying.

Also, thoughts like "this life is a neverending tragedy" (Me: "Well. I like it.") and "This is a fallen world" (Me: "Is that what you believe?" Him: "It was perfect once, but then sin entered and it's been fucked-up ever since. But I believe Jesus Christ will return one day and make it perfect again." Me: "Hmmm.") do not seem to indicate a lot of happiness.

I wonder if these are the kinds of stories that the neighbors of serial killers remember after they've given the obligatory "but he was such a nice, quiet man!" soundbite.

*You know, zen is really not the word for this state, because it's actually rather cruel on my part. The fact that the other people involved usually aren't awaree that I'm pretty much toying with them and adding to my list of "reasons why I don't like you" doesn't make it better.
brigdh: (lemme think about that)
[livejournal.com profile] stagesoflove entries for the new round:
Hungry, Sanzo/Goku, G.
Kept Us Warm, Konzen/Tenpou/Kenren (uh, theoretically. Kenren hasn't actually shown up yet), G.

Update on racist guy: I ran into him today again (or, well, I saw him entering the lobby as I was coming in the other side, and promptly turned around and entered through another door so he wouldn't see me). I've never met the people who live next door to me, I never see the friends I have who live here without making plans to meet them, but the one person I don't want to see I meet twice in the first two days he's here? What the fuck, universe?

Anyway. The 'what character do I remind you of' meme is going around again, I see. It first circulated, oh, three years ago, and I loved the idea of it then, and loved more some of the responses I got. The overlap between people I knew then and people I know now is about five, not to mention that I'd expect to get different answers even from people who have known me after this much time.

So. What fictional character do I remind you of?
brigdh: (you are so stupid)
The racist asshole who I got into a fight with last quarter is now living in my building! I rode the elevator up with him coming home just now.

People! I am not well-adjusted enough to live in the same building as him. Every single time I see him I am filled with the overwhelming urge to say deliberately provocative things and I can only manage not to by keeping my mouth completely shut. Which leads to a lot of me humming thoughtfully and staring at the wall, because I also can't even look at him without hate.

Though hey, speaking of this guy, the writers' student group I met him through is now under my control. The previous president had to go to Japan for a quarter, and when the choice to pass power on came down to him or me, despite the fact I'd only been to six or so meetings, the answer was obvious. Maybe it's because when you say things like 'black people are worthless', people have a hard time trusting you! God, what a shock!
brigdh: (dance)
Yesterday you gave me stuff, today I give you stuff:

The Knife - We Share Our Mother's Health. Is this song in English? Probably, even though I can only make out one word in ten! What does the title mean? I have no idea! Is this nevertheless the greatest song ever? Yes! It is a weird mix of indie and techno, and it will make you want to throw up your hands and shout "we share our mother's health!" regardless of how little sense that makes.

Freezepop - Bike Thief (Remix). Techno that kinda makes me want to steal a bike. Or just ride around on one really fast.

Kaiser Chiefs - Every Day I Love You Less and Less (Boys Noise Remix). Techno, again. Takes a while to get started, but once it does, it's great.

Eminem - Soldier. Rap. "I spew it, and look how I got you bitches rocking to it / You motherfuckers could never do it like I could do it". The best song for when you're feeling pissed off and arrogant. Not that most of rap doesn't fall into that genre anyway, but this is my current favorite example.

Stars - He Lied About Death. Indie rock. Because how many songs do you get to scream the line "I hope your drunken daughters are gay"?

Also: The Wisdom of Parasites- an article about the coolest, grossest wasp I have ever heard of.

Finally, today I learned that I should not threaten to punch people in the face. Not because I ended up actually getting into a physical fight, but because I should at least try to be a better person than that.


brigdh: (Default)

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