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brigdh: (collect the shine of anything beautiful)
While I was living in Syria this summer, we tended to take off one day a week and go to the nearby big city, Aleppo. One day a group of us had gone to a liquor store, one which we would visit several times over the summer. The guy running it would explain to me the difference between good arak and bad arak.

But this was the first time we'd been there. It was a little store, barely bigger than a closet, located just off a plaza surrounded mostly by cheap jewelry stores, cafes, clothing stores- all things aimed at tourists. And we too were recognizable as- if not exactly tourists, than certainly not local. So the man in charge asked us where we were from. Adam, one of the people I was working with, told him America.

Ah, the man said. What about George Bush?

No, we said. All of this conversation was going on in our broken Arabic, so it was hard to convey subtleties. We don't like him.

The man nodded. Obama? he asked.

Inshallah, we said, the best word to pick up from Arabic; literally it means "if God wills", but people use it as something halfway between 'I hope' and 'please let it be'.

Inshallah, the man said, and he was echoed by the other Syrian men standing around the store, Inshallah.

This election has been making me nervous, keeping me checking political blogs and polls nonstop. I want a president who appeals to the better, bigger things in people, and not to their fear. If Obama talks about Hope and Change, is that such a bad thing? Why shouldn't presidents aim to be inspirational, to make the kind of speeches that live on as a sort of poetry? Aren't those the ones we remember: FDR's "we have nothing to fear but fear itself" speech, Lincoln's "a house divided cannot stand", Kennedy's "ask what you have to give for your country". I want a President who doesn't make the rest of the world look on America as a place of aggression and hate. If McCain is elected, I'm afraid that the rest of the world will see that as a confirmation of the policies of invasions, torture, prisoners held without trial. But we have a choice. People around the world like Obama. The news shows the pictures of crowds in Berlin and Japan, I hear the stories from my friends who work in Turkey and Oman and Ireland and Cyprus: they have heard of Obama. They see this as a change in America. And it can be. Please vote. Please convince your friends and family to vote. Volunteer.
brigdh: (IBARW)
It is the Third Annual International Blog Against Racism week! The basic idea is simply to, well, blog about racism, on the basic idea that talking about things, listening to other people's perspectives, bringing potentially shameful topics out into the light, is a good idea. Of course, it's a lot more complicated than that. IBARW this year runs from August 4 to August 10. There is a suggested theme of intersectionality, although anything that relates to racism is welcome.
For more details, and links to many interesting posts, see [livejournal.com profile] ibarw.

While I was in Syria this year, my mom read a book about the 1100 and 1200s, possibly because it mentioned Syria on the back cover. She told me about it a few days ago, starting with "Did you know there was more than one Crusade?"

Uh, yeah, I said.

"And they weren't really about religion. People were just fighting for land, and power, and prestige."

I mention this not just to point out that my mom is astoundingly ignorant, if at least well-intentioned. But this seems to be a common level of people's knowledge about the Middle East, and I'm seeing a lot of it as I catch up with people, and they ask me how my trip was. The most common question which people seem to ask is some variant on "So, what do they think about us, over there?" or "Weren't you scared?" The unstated assumptions in these reactions- the oooo, exotic and oooo, dangerous- make me uncomfortable. And it has been the fact that it's Syria, because I've been on trips that lasted as long or were as far away, and I didn't get these types of reactions.

When I get asked these questions, I find myself asserting that everyone was nice, everyone was friendly. And that's a lie. Only in the sense that there's nowhere on the planet where everyone is friendly- I couldn't walk down a street in my hometown and find that everyone was friendly- but it's still a lie. A simplification. Of course Syria has problems, issues with gender equality for example, but I'm reluctant to admit that to people who have a knee-jerk reaction to everything associated with Islam or Arabic. I feel like refuting or denying any hint of negativeness they suggest, to defending this place where I was, or at least attempt to provide a different portrayal of it than what some have picked out of the media. Maybe that's not really a good idea, maybe it's never helpful to make things less than they are. But it’s very tempting. I don't like the implications of evil and menace that have come to be associated with this region, race, and religion.

So I've been lying. Not to everyone; I've only been so simplistic in cases when people cringe at the mention of a mosque, or a photograph of a guy in khaffia. And in some ways, it's not utterly a lie: I really was never in any danger, and I’m sure it was a much friendly, more open, and more normal experience than the people I have these conversations with would imagine.

I probably should not lie. It's better to be realistic, to see people as human in their successes and failures. But when I keep running into people who are so willingly prejudiced, I just really fucking want to shake them up.
brigdh: (Ow.)
My grandmother died last night. It's not really a surprise, because she's been sick for weeks now, but then, how is death ever not a surprise?

I keep thinking that she could have lived if she had wanted to, if she had tried, because she obviously wasn't, everytime I saw her for the past month she's been talking about funerals and endings, even before she got sick. And then I think of what it must take to drive someone to that point, of how tired you must have to be before life can seem not quite worth it. I can't imagine that. Death terrifies me; I can't understand how this happens, how it is possible for anyone to be sick enough or old enough or depressed enough that they wouldn't want to live, if just for one more day, or more night. I can't understand how there can be so much in the world- all the cheesy things, the sunrises and stars and tall buildings and grass and little girls on skateboards and old men playing saxophones- how you can have all that, and no longer want it, be willing to give it all up for... who knows. Whatever else you believe there to be.

I'm flying home over the weekend to go to the funeral. I'll some most of my orientation on Friday, but it's not important; it all seems stupidly ironic to me: the old excuse of skipping work to go to your 'grandmother's funeral'.

Rain

Aug. 14th, 2006 09:44 pm
brigdh: (Ow.)
For the last few days it's felt like rain here; the sky thinks of raining or almost rains or is on the verge of beginning to rain, but actual rain has been rare and brief, and cools nothing. Mostly it's just been grey, sun gone behind clouds and the wind lost in the humidity, and the sort of haze that makes everything look far away and unreal, and occasionally there's a roll of thunder that does nothing more than the sound of an airplane. It's not as hot as it has been, but it feels like it regardless; everything looks so grey and misty than any heat is unexpected and unavoidable.

When it does rain, it does it heavily, the sound of water spilling and rushing off roofs and along the ground drowning out any individual drops, and the electricity flickers on and off. Lightning flashes pick out the white patio table in the blackness of night and grass, so for a moment it leaps out in the corner of my vision, vivid white.

My grandmother is dying. Or maybe not. She thinks she is; the opinions of family and doctors differ. But then, she thinks she is, and how much of a placebo effect do you need, if you're already ninety and sick?

I don't know how I feel. The last time someone close to me died, he was only 17, and that was easy to be angry at, because I was already half-furious at the universe for mortality, and this was a blatantly unfair example of it. Now I vacillate between that same anger and sadness and resignation that if she wants to die, it's her own choice, but none of it is as strong as before, as if they could cancel each other out to leave nothing. I don't want to call anyone to talk about it, because I don't have anything to say. I want to do something, or more accurately, I want to want to do something, but what- I don't know. It's like I have only half-starts, and everything else is confusion, or waiting.

Change

Jul. 28th, 2006 01:48 pm
brigdh: (kill the Buddha)
I'm moving to New York in a month- a month from yesterday, actually.

And it's just struck me that once I leave, I'll never live here again. Not that I'll never be here, but it'll be for a few days, or weeks; I'll visit. I won't live here, in this house or with my parents.

Not that I don't want to go, but I hate to think of good things ending permanently.
brigdh: (International Blog Against Racism Week)
[livejournal.com profile] rilina's round-up of links, again.

I feel like I've told all of these stories before; most of them I have, I'm sure, but I don't know how many I've told on livejournal, or which ones were told recently enough for people to remember. It won't hurt to repeat anything, I suppose.

I am white. I grew up in an inner city neighborhood, my schools had high percentages of black students. Racism within the students was almost unheard of, though a few signs emerged as we grew older. I don't know what the black students at my schools experienced when they were at home, or what their families went through, but when we were at school, there were no race lines. There wasn't a "black kids' table" at the cafeteria. Some of the 'popular girls' were black, one of our valedictorians was black, some of the dorkiest people in the school were black; I never heard anyone mention any of these as unusual, it never even occurred to me that they might be until recently. My white mom hoped for years that I would date the son of her black best friend (Alas, if only Jimmy had had a sister...). Race issues came up frequently in classes, and they were discussed thoroughly; we had black and Asian and Indian and Hispanic authors in our texts; black history month was a big deal- at my high school, we had a day-long 'Multicultural Show' during the last week of February that was organized and put on entirely by students.

This is what I knew, so I assumed it was like this everywhere.

When I started college, I had classes that did not have a single black person in them. I'd never had a class composed entirely of white people before, and it made me uncomfortable. I tried to ignore it, because I didn't feel like I had a reason to be uncomfortable; after all, I'm white, so it wasn't as though any of the other students would single me out. But it didn't feel right, as much as I tried to not notice, or to not feel relieved when I did have someone, anyone, of color in my class. The next year, a white friend of mine from high school started at my college and complained of the same thing, which relieved me. I'd become half-convinced that I was just being too sensitive. One of these all-white classes once had a discussion of race; the entire thing felt so wrong to me that I couldn't bring myself to say anything the whole time. Not because white people don't have anything to say on race- obviously not, or why would I be writing this post?- but because it seemed so pointless to have a discussion without different perspectives represented.

I spent two months in Nevada last summer; there were ten of us, and all of us were white. We spent a lot of time driving around, from our camp to wherever we'd be hiking or surveying or digging that day, and so we spent a lot of time listening to the radio, when we could get a station at all. Most of the time, what we caught was country or classic rock, to genres which I know nothing about. Everyone else would sing along with the radio, but I never knew the words. Everyone else would encourage me to join in, but I would have to shrug and say that I'd never heard the song before. They generally did not believe this was possible. Finally, one day we happened to catch a song by Eminem. By this point I was annoyed that everyone thought I wasn't singing along because I was too shy, and so I belted out the entire song. I think they knew of the song (though maybe not, because a month later no one would believe that "Move, Bitch" was a real song), but they certainly didn't know the words. At the time, I was just pleased to prove that I knew music just as well as anyone else did. Whenever we would catch a rap song on the radio they would play it for me, or I would demonstrate ebonics- BEV, AAVE, whatever you want to call it- for them, which they found hilarious. But there's only so many times you can be told "Hey, I need to laugh: talk like a ganster for me!" without starting to feel like a trained dog. And it only took being asked to explain why "inner city people are so much less cultured than anyone else" once to piss me off. By the time I came home, all I wanted was to be around people who would not be surprised or amused by things I found natural, who wouldn't give me dirty looks for knowing how to dance to "Candy Shop".

I am white, so I get included when in conversations when white people feel free to insult something that they assume I will agree with. I hate having the same conversations over and over again, trying to be civil as I get brushed aside with "all rap music sounds the same and is meaningless" or "listen to this ebonics phrase I know!" If the only place you've heard people speaking it is MTV, don't use it. You don't speak the dialect, and you're embarrassing when you try. But that's still better than when I have people tell me "well, I could never imagine dating someone who wasn't white" or "I was alone and they were black! Of course I should have been nervous". Sometimes I wish my background was more obvious, so that I wouldn't have to deal with these idiots, or at least they wouldn't think I was on their side.

One last story, because it's one of the earliest things that shaped my perception of race issues, even though it sort of sounds like an after-school special. When I was in grade school, there was a guy six or seven years ahead of me, named Paul. He was black. He was also very smart, funny, and charismatic; one of those guys who seems destined to be a politician, because everyone likes them. He came back from the high school to our grade school fairly often, to visit his old teachers, so I'd seen him around. The year he was a senior, a statistic came out; I don't remember exactly how it went, but it gave the percentage of black males who died before 25- or maybe it was 21- as compared to the percentage of white males who did. Paul was fascinated by this study. He spent a lot of time talking about it, debating why it was what it was, and what it meant, what could be done to change things; he said that he felt like he would end up being yet another example. Later that year, before he graduated, he was shot at a bus stop when he was caught in the middle of a gang fight, and died.

I want to talk about racism, but it's such a big topic that I don't what to write. These are the personal experiences that I think about the most; if anyone has any other suggestions for topics, feel free to offer them. Of course, I could always track down some sources and do a post on the many, many way the cannibals in PotC 2 were incredibly factually inaccurate.
brigdh: (food is the best)
After a day in which most of my activity involved eating pasta, oreos, and a Chiptole burrito, I went out to see a movie. We got there far too early, and so we stopped in at a nearby store having a sale. They had jeans for five dollars- which is practically as cheap as at Good Will- and so I bought a pair, discovering in the process that I've apparently gone down yet another size.

And then we went to the movie, where one plot point revolved entirely around the main character not being able to wear the size I now wear. Though eventually she gets there, after giving up carbs, among other things.

I was watching this, eating a large popcorn and with a large drink, and I could only conclude that the movie industry of America wants to drive me insane. They have me half convinced that I'm secretly anorexic and just haven't realized it yet, because surely no one could just... be at this size, it must be the result of a great deal of angst and strife and effort. I never know how to feel about body image issues, because I'm certainly not trying to lose weight. I feel vaguely guilty whenever people mention dieting or count calories around me; surely someone who would appreciate it more should have my metabolism instead. On the other hand, it's not like I mind- of course I like being able to eat whatever I want- but I feel like I should mind, or that I should mind less, or that it should matter in some way that it doesn't. It's a hugely important issue for so many people, but I have the opposite problem from most, and I don't know how to relate. Whenever I try to bring it up, I usually get blown off with the equivalent of 'poor little rich girl' and I understand where that's coming from. Still, I hate listening to people bash an actress or model for being too skinny by describing features which I have, and then be expected to agree. I'm not going to call myself ugly or say that there's no way someone could naturally be this weight, obviously it's a result of neurotic self-loathing. No.

So much of weight loss is just an annoyance to me, except that society insists that it's really a wonderful thing. When people often comment on or compliment me on something I'm unhappy with, it's hard to stay entirely unhappy with it, and yet: still annoying to not fit into my clothes, no matter in which direction the change is going. I end up with such bizarre mixed emotions that I have no idea what I think about the issue at all.

So, movies: stop talking about what sizes your actresses wear. It's upsetting for everyone!
brigdh: (I do porn)
Last night I remembered that I'm signed up for yet another ficathon, one that comes up soon. I started plotting out what I wanted to write, though luckily I have a half-formed plot floating around already that can be twisted to fit. (I'm not being vague just to be annoying, by the way; it's another anonymous ficathon.)

I like this part of the process, sketching out various ways for the events to proceed and doing research on a million different topics to see what fits and what doesn't. I probably like it because I don't need to do it often, so I enjoy it when I have an excuse; there tends to be no need to look up Japanese afterlife myths if I'm writing a PWP. And besides, spending several hours on Wikipedia to track down some tiny detail that won't even make it into the finished story at least feels like a far more productive form of procrastination than playing Minesweeper.

Although the whole thing is making clear to me that I really regard plot just as an excuse to make the characters do things. I've got it all laid out- actions and reactions and the final victory, but I still haven't come up with a reason for why everyone is so angry and motivated. I'll think of something eventually, and- hopefully- it'll all feel natural and exciting, and the events will seem to have flowed out of that start. But really? Whatever that main motivation turns to be, it'll just be a MacGuffin. The only things I care about are the characters, and what they do once they're already in the fun situations.

Not that I don't also like the process of actually writing, though to me that does feel a bit more like work, but there's something so fascinating about this point in a story. I just have unconnected images now: single lines of dialouge, the way one character holds himself against a doorframe and laughs, another slumped half-conscious on the ground, hair falling over cheeks and arms, a hazy summer night that muffles all the sounds and one person running between the buildings, a quick, false smile. It'll be better once I manage to connect them into a story and convey them to other people, but in my head, they're most powerful now, when they're only half-formed.
brigdh: (<3)
[livejournal.com profile] runefallstar responds to me here.
brigdh: (books)
There's a whole thing going on about cultural appropriation; I had no idea until a little while ago, but I've been following links fascinatedly, and I have some thinky thoughts. (I think the best roundup of links at the moment is here, if you'd like to read too.)

I guess I should say that I like cultural appropriation (I'm using this term in the neutral sense; at first I was going to change this line to say 'cultural borrowing' instead, but I don't know if it's fair to play language games like that: what I like is good, what they do is bad). I get annoyed at books populated entirely with white, American, Christian characters; I love bad pulp fantasy, but I am so very sick of every single one being set in generic Europe.

However. Is appropriation problematic? Hell, yes.

The dominant culture- which here and now happens to be mainstream America- has power. And not just political or economic power, but the power of being known. You can go anywhere in the world and find American music, movies, and celebrities. The ability to be recognized is itself power: you don't need any explanations, you can just be. How frustrating would it be to have to explain why you celebrate on July 4th, and what do fireworks have to do the signing of a document anyway? And yet last month, I heard several people ask what the point of Cinco de Mayo was, and isn't it funny that we celebrate by getting drunk. Those silly Mexicans, they make no sense.

If a Japanese manga portrays an American as a loud, gun-carrying maniac, it's cultural appropriation of an entirely different sort than an American movie that portrays a Japanese person as, I don't know, an extremely polite, nerdy accountant. The difference is that no matter how many manga repeat the stereotype, it will always be countered by American portrayals of themselves; American pop culture is so ubiquitous that there's no way for any appropriation to become dominant over the original. However, it is possible for there to be enough American movies with mystical zen fighting monks for some of the audience to accept that appropriation as reality. For people with no experience of Japan, the appropriation becomes not a borrowing, but the truth, an accurate portrayal.

And so appropriation is always problematic because no portrayal is accurate. It's just not possible. Even if there was a writer who was so amazingly talented that s/he could convey the entire experience of Japanese culture (because Japan is apparently the metaphor I'm going with here), the question becomes "whose Japanese culture?" A businessman's? A housewife's? A teenager's? The culture in Tokyo? In a rural village? Now? Five years ago, when s/he was doing the research? Five years from now? There's just no way to convey all of that, and so appropriation has to fail.

Which is why appropriation by a dominant culture raises far more questions than appropriation from one. When you borrow from a dominant culture, you are one of many. There are a million generic medieval European fantasies out there; if you write one more, it's probably not going to do much to change anyone's mental picture of medieval Europe, no matter how wrong you might get the facts. But if you decide to set it in medieval India (like the godawful fantasy I read last fall; I think the author's sole knowledge of India came from an out-of-date children's textbook lesson on castes), it's going to weigh heavier in your readers' minds simply because most of them (assuming, of course, that you write it in English and publish in America) will have less experience with the topic. The less well-known the culture you borrow from is, the easier it is for any mistakes, stereotypes or problems to be accepted by your readers as accurate. It becomes possible for the dominant image of a culture to be not the culture itself, but the appropriation of it. When the authors have done a bad job with the appropriation- if they've been disrespectful or inaccurate- it's worse, but any time an appropriation becomes more well-known than the original culture, people are going to be angry, and for good reasons. For instance: how many people have a knowledge of Native American religion based solely on how it's portrayed in fantasy novels?

That'd piss me off if I were Native American. But I don't think the solution is to only write about your own culture (not that I've actually seen a lot of people arguing this point. It seems to be something many people are reacting against, but I remember only one example of someone even coming close to saying it). Just because we can't do something perfectly right doesn't mean we shouldn't try; if that were the case, no one would ever do anything.

Maybe it would be better if there were, instead, lots of appropriation going on. If there's only one book in existence using sub-Saharan myths, there are going to be things that book gets wrong. It's inevitable. If there's 500 books on the topic (assuming that the authors are coming from many backgrounds rather than only the dominant culture, and assuming that each author is doing research rather than copying each other, which may be unrealistic assumptions), the picture has got to get broader and more accurate. Also, if using elements of other cultures became more common, it might be harder to fetish the Other as something exotic and weird.

I took a writing class a few months ago. I happened to be one of the last to turn in my manuscript for critque, and so got to read nearly everyone else's before writing mine (because I didn't write mine until the night before it was due, of course). I got so annoyed with every single person writing about a white, middle class, suburban character who was living in Ohio that I deliberately wrote about an exteremly poor Middle Eastern character and set it in an unnamed location, but which was clearly not Ohio. And nearly every single one of the comments I got back wanted to know- how does this character feel about her race? Why didn't you talk more about her race? I want to know how her race affects the way she feels about this other character. I was furious. Because this was not a story about race. I mean, obviously, the details were different than if the character had been white, or black, or Asian, but at its base, it was a romance story. And the feeling I got from everyone else was- well, the only point of having a character of another race is so you can talk about that race. Why bother otherwise?

There are issues raised by the fact that I, as a white person, was writing a character of another race. There are lots of issues there. But there are also issues raised by the assumption that American culture is the only 'real' or 'appropriate' culture from which to write, and anything else is just exoticization. That's prioritizing American culture in a way which isn't fair. But writing other cultures as fun trappings without regards to the reality of the culture, or to the possible consequences of your writing, is also not fair.

So. Um. I'm not sure what I'm trying to say with all this, really, except that I still find the topic fascinating.

Poker poll

May. 13th, 2006 07:54 pm
brigdh: (I win!)
In one of those weird coincidences that happens sometimes, I've happened to get into three or four conversations about poker in the last week. I'd always thought that it was one of those things that was common knowledge, like how to play checkers or Solitaire, but apparently not. Every person I've seen mention it lately either didn't know how to play at all, or was unaware of fairly simple aspects of it such as which hands beat others, or what a suicide king is.

So now I'm curious. Who knows how to play poker? In case you're interested, I know five-card draw and Texas hold-em, and the basics of five and seven-card stud. I've only played for real money a few times, but that's mainly because I'd rather play for fun than gamble. I must have learned when I was very little, because I don't remember it, though I do know I played it with friends when I was ten, if not earlier.


[Poll #728349]
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.

Meme

Apr. 18th, 2006 05:31 pm
brigdh: (Cute. In a kinky sort of way.)
I'm stealing a meme from, well, everyone, even though I've been bad and haven't answered anyone else's. Hypocrisy yay!

Pretend for a minute that the only contact you have ever had with me is through my fic. We've never exchanged LJ comments or emails, never hung out in chat or on YM, never talked on the phone or met each other in person, none of that stuff. The only thing you know about me is the kind of fic I write.

What kind of person would you think I am? How would you describe my attitudes and opinions about real-life issues? Or, to use the rephrased question:

Based on the way I write my characters, and the way they speak, think, and behave, what would that say to you about my attitudes and opinions about real-life issues?
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.

Thoughts

Mar. 14th, 2006 11:46 pm
brigdh: (What Would Koumyou Do?)
You know, it's funny how your perceptions of yourself changes.

I was reading back through the first few entries in this journal looking for something, and they're entirely recognizable as me. Which seems strange, because of course I wrote them, but that was four years ago; I didn't expect to see the exact same emotions and responses expressed. And though I like to think that I can write much better now, and therefore my entries now are more coherent and interesting, I still get annoyed at the same things, in the same way, I'm still amused by the same things. I even stumbled over this entry, which is so obviously the start of all the later entries I would come to write about rain and full moons and early morning light that it's startling.

But what I expected to see was someone else entirely. Lately, I've had this huge sense of change in myself; I feel like I changed dramatically in the last six months or year, though I don't know why or how and can't put my finger on exactly what might have changed. I keep thinking about it though, wondering in other contexts about how much a person can change, and how the way you define yourself affects the way you act, and how various people can perceive the same person differently.

I do, and always have, thought about myself as a nice person, but I don't mean quite the same thing by that as most people do. I just mean that, all other circumstances being equal, I'll do what I can to help other people. Not out of some sense of obligation or guilt or anything, but just because anything else is stupid. On the other hand, I was talking to my family the other day, because my brother was in trouble for having told a parent of one of the other kids on his baseball team to go fuck himself. And my dad was saying that they knew the guy must have really deserved it, because John was too nice to do that lightly. "Not like you," he added. "You're mean." Which was mostly a joke, but also is... kind of true. I'm never polite just for the sake of being polite; I'm too stubborn to do things I don't like. If someone does manage to make me angry, then yeah, I'm going to tell them. It's something I know about myself now, but it's not something I would have thought true a few years ago. But if my family is calling me on it, it must have always been there.

So maybe I haven't changed at all. I was depressed, severely, for a very long time, and I only started coming out of it about two years ago, in the fall of '04. I could just be finally settling in to who I am. Which is a strange thought, that I could have been hurt for so long that just to be normal feels new.

So... I don't know! What do you all think? Does the way you think about yourself change the way you actually are?
brigdh: (you are so stupid)
Okay, I have a question for you all. There are certain scenes- or patterns, or something- that get played out over and over and over again, on TV and in movies and literature, always following the same basic setup and actions. And you don't really think much about them, or at least I didn't; if I was aware of the repetition at all, it was as sort of an unconscious concession: "yeah, that happens, and so this'll happen...".

And then you see it again just one more time, and suddenly you realize- what the hell? Real people would never act like that!

Would they?

Here's the pattern that's bugging me: you've got character A, who desperately wants to do something that is very dangerous, and character B, who is physically restraining A. Perhaps A wants to run into a burning building to save his child, and B is the policeman keeping him away from the flames. Perhaps A is trying to attack the deranged, armed villain of the story, and B is holding him back. The moment that made me go WTF was in King Kong, when Ann is trying to get to the gorilla, and Adrien Brody's character picks her up to carry her away from the danger.

Generally in this situation, A will fight with B for a few seconds, before realizing the futility and calming down. I'm sure you've seen some variation on what I'm describing. You've probably seen this played out a thousand times, in fact. It shows up everywhere, even moreso than the idea of "slap a hysterical person and they'll stop".

If you were character A, how would you react?
[Poll #662667]

Because, in case you couldn't guess, my reaction would be the last one. I can't imagine being in a frenzied state and having someone grab me not making it a thousand times worse. Restraining me would not lead to a better grasp of reality and calm; rather, the phrase "seizure of rage" comes to mind.

So, is this a case when I have weird reactions to things, and being held back actually would help most people, or is this simply a cheesy cliche that gets used again and again because no one thinks about it?
brigdh: (books)
Fifteen Things About Books )
brigdh: (I am zen dammit ZEN!)
10 Things I assume you know about me )

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