Thoughts On The Art of Community Southwest

June 2, 2008 at 12:25 pm (amazing things, stupidity)

Got back from the conference yesterday afternoon. I’m not quite sure where to start in writing about it.

We had a great time. The workshops were awesome — even better than we’d expected. We learned a lot there. Most valuably, I think we got a much clearer picture of the work that lies ahead of us in starting an intentional community. It’s a truly enormous amount of work — we learned the adage that it’s like getting married, starting a small business, and taking the most challenging personal growth course of your life, all at the same time. (Actually, it’s not so much “like” that as it, you know, actually is that.) But we left feeling energized and inspired and overall in love. We bought Creating A Life Together by Diana Leafe Christian,** which is, as far as we can tell, the essential handbook for community founders. I’m a few chapters in; all four of us are going to read it. It’s a great book already. Do read it if you’re thinking about this kind of thing.

We also learned about the many options for community structure, from ecovillages to cohousing. We’re not yet sure what structure is right for us — that depends a lot on the state of the world (will cities be safe places in ten or twenty years? will we have to grow our own food?), how many members we end up with, and where we all are in our lives.

Among other insights: the phrase “accidental family” is more accurate for us than “intentional community.” We’re among the youngest seriously forming groups around, but lots of people get land and get started shortly after college (like we’d like to). We’re more insular than a lot of other groups, just because of our personal dispositions. It’s very important to have shared values and goals; fortunately, we’re very, very cohesive. It’s very important to love, trust, and understand each other; fortunately, we do. It’s very important to be able to acknowledge differences and deal with conflict; fortunately, so far, we can and do. It’s very important to clearly articulate one’s group’s mission — we’re working on it. Etc., etc. I think a lot of the challenges that some groups face will be relatively simple for us, since we’re all such close friends. We’re different in a lot of ways, but remarkably similar in others (values, priorities, aesthetic preferences). I’m sure we’ll have difficult struggles of our own; many of the interpersonal ones, however, were worked out already, or are far along in the process of being worked out.

Onto the pitfalls and challenges.

Because we were around a large group of overall New Agey people much older than ourselves, we knew from past experience that there was the risk of inappropriate sexual/emotional interactions. We were aware of this ahead of time and decided to travel as a pack or in pairs for self-protection. There were disturbing a few incidents, but we managed to make sure no one got seriously freaked out. This is my rant about all that:

You may be a very open person — that’s great. Do not assume all other people are similarly “open,” or have interest in intimately connecting with you. Not everyone is looking for profound, intimate emotional encounters with strangers. Don’t touch people without asking. If the other person(s) are obviously uncomfortable and you continue pushing them to share themselves with you, you are being a creep. You are not being kind or enlightened — you are being inappropriate. You are being inconsiderate. You are being rude.*

Whew. Also, young straight single males: please get over your pervasive assumption that all pretty girls are heterosexual and available. Seriously.

Also, there was a good deal of talk about “spirituality,” which is to be expected, but nonetheless of absolutely no interest to any of us. We came up with an excellent trick, though: mentally replace “spirituality” with “sexuality” whenever it comes up, and you end up with funny statements that actually match our values.

“Sexual fulfillment is an important issue for communities.”

“Make sure everyone’s sexual needs are met.”

Etc.

There’s more to say, but I’ll leave it at that for now.

* I want to note that there were a lot of fascinating people there, with whom we very much enjoyed talking. This applies only to a small handful of truly disrespectful people.

** I originally linked to Amazon out of habit; changed the link when Tony commented below, reminding me that one can buy books from the FIC’s community bookshelf online.

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On Alimony And Feminists Being Sexist

May 23, 2008 at 12:23 pm (feminism, sexism, stupidity) ()

I nearly always enjoy Broadsheet, but this? What the hell?

It’s a post about the fact that the percentage of alimony recipients who are male is slowly, slowly creeping up. Because the press just can’t resist, they’ve given this phenomenon a stupid, cutesy name: “manimony.”

For reasons I may never understand, the post’s author, one James Hannaham, decides to go ahead and use “manimony” like it’s a legitimate word. It’s not a legitimate word. It’s an annoying little moniker designed to simultaneously mock men who receive alimony payments and delegitimize women who out-earn their male partners, as if either phenomenon is objectionable or ridiculous. Using the word sanctions these sexist ideas. Why would someone do that on a feminist blog?

Finally, Hannaham closes with this:

. . . Men still have advantages over women in business, but certainly not all women, and perhaps not the women they married. So the question becomes: Does maleness always create enough of an advantage that manimony will turn into the new reverse racism? Or should we pretend that equality already exists so that, one day, it will?

What the hell kind of question is that?

Yes, undoubtedly, men in general are privileged over women in general in business — that’s why, as the article notes, women are the higher earners in about one-third of straight marriages, men in two-thirds. But what bearing does that have on a given couple in which a wife makes more money than her husband? What if a male partner deprioritizes his career to support his wife or girlfriend? What if a male partner is the primary caretaker of children, thereby sacrificing some of his earning power? Why should that man be treated any differently from a woman who makes the same choices? (Answer: he shouldn’t be. Women who out-earn their husbands are just as capable as any man of paying reasonable alimony — that is, women can be financial providers. It’s really anti-feminist to suggest that women shouldn’t or can’t.)

And as to the second question — “Should we pretend that equality already exists so that, one day, it will?” — how, exactly, would not allowing men to receive alimony further the quest for equality? You know what we do by having higher-earning (ex-)wives pay alimony when appropriate? We smash right through the idea that men are breadwinners, women caretakers. We smash through the idea that marriage is a financial transaction in which women become their husbands’ property. And we affirm the idea that women can and should succeed in their careers, and that men can and should be free to pursue other goals. We affirm that making money and being supported are gender-neutral activities.

Duh.

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APA Selects Anti-Trans Extremists To Address “Gender Identity Disorder”

May 12, 2008 at 11:22 am (frightening things, injustice, LGBT, stupidity) (, )

You may or may not have already heard about this particular abhorrence. Briefly, the APA is revising the DSM for a new edition; people have been named to work on committees evaluating the entries for various conditions. One committee will be focusing on sexuality and gender identity issues, addressing the entry for “Gender Identity Disorder,” among other things. Horrifyingly, the committee is populated by the likes of Dr. Kenneth Zucker — the group’s chair, who supports “curing” queer people, from gays and lesbians to transgender people to gender variant kids, and J. Michael Bailey, who has advocated eugenics and thinks it’s entirely moral for parents to “eliminate” an LGBT child. The others on the panel aren’t much better. The afore linked post has the scoop; see also this update with more info.

Once you’ve finished reading, I recommend attempting to quell your nausea by signing the petition asking the APA to remove these bigoted junk scientists from the work group immediately. At the time of this posting, 1393 people have signed.

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Must…extract…every…last…BIT…

April 24, 2008 at 7:46 pm (design/gadget lust, stupidity)

It’s true: I am one of those people who folds the toothpaste tube carefully, almost strenuously, from the bottom as I use it and REFUSE to share a tube with twisters. So I appreciate this sort of virtual ode to a plethora of devices which ensure the most use from each tube of toothpaste, though really…it’s a bit much. Even for me.

Still, it did make me smile a little.

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The Last Straw

April 24, 2008 at 6:31 pm (feminism, racism, stupidity)

Via Off Our Pedestals, this is absolutely unbelievable.

Let me just say, to the people (coughMARCOTTEcoughSEALcough) responsible for that particular bit of total bullshit: don’t you fucking dare claim ignorance of this one. This isn’t an oversight, this isn’t a failure to acknowledge someone. This is an obvious act of racism. Someone proposed this. Other considered and approved it. This is deliberate, or, if not deliberate, such a massive blunder that those responsible are as culpable as if it has been intentional. This is so blatantly racist, I cannot respect anyone involved. Ever. Again.

Thank you, though, for finally being upfront about the fact that when you say “women” you really do only mean “white women,” if not an even narrower group than that.

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Overheard in New York

April 19, 2008 at 10:18 am (stupidity)

(Yes, this post is a rip-off)

Scene: Two young women with notebooks and things, presumably college students, sitting on the steps at Union Square.

Young woman #1: Oh look, a puppy! *Squeeeaaaal*

Young woman #2: Whatever, babies are cuter.

YW#1: No.

YW#2: Yes. And they don’t shit all over the floor.

YW#1: Uh, yes they do.

YW#2: They can do things like make faces.

YW#1: But, babies can’t jump!

….

Well then.

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Car Conspiracies, Part 1

April 12, 2008 at 9:08 pm (frightening things, injustice, stupidity) (, , , , )

I am not usually one for conspiracy theories. I do believe that we landed on the moon, that dinosaurs no longer walk the earth, and that it was a single crazed gunman who murdered John F. Kennedy. Feel free to disagree with me on any point. However, the main conspiracy theory that I do put validity in is that cars are part of the root of modern day evil. I understand that this is not a commonly held belief, and my disclaimer on these posts is that it is MY belief, and I am not asking anyone to share it, simply to consider it as another point of view.

There will be more evidence to back me up later, but for now let me present point in case number one, straight from Boing Boing, namely that cities make red-light cameras more profitable by making them less safe.

Red light cameras cause more accidents, and not just because drivers slam their brakes to avoid getting a robo-ticket — also because the optimal money-making strategy for red-light cams is to make them less safe.

If city planners want to reduce traffic accidents at intersections, the best practice is to make the yellow last longer and insert a pause between the red signal on one side and the green on the other. However, if the objective is to make as much money as possible from red-light cameras, the best thing to do is shorten the yellow signal, eliminate the pause, and enrich the city coffers (even as you kill its citizens).

Leftlane reports that six cities have been caught turning down the yellows to make more money.

originally Via /.

Everything about cars, from the manufacturing to the safety measures to why we even need them, was guaranteed made for maximum profit and NEVER for maximum safety. I am not saying that cars are made specifically to be UNsafe, per say, but it is certainly never the first consideration. It is always about money. Human life is assigned a certain amount of cash value, and if the car companies will lose more than that total cash value amounts to by implementing certain expensive safety measures then they will not do it, and a preset percentage of people will die. And they know this beforehand, and it doesn’t matter, because their life is worth less than the amount of money it would have taken to build better set-belts, or a stronger car frame. And the above link supports evidence that even a cities’ government would rather increase the risk of automobile death or injury in order to be able to fine unsafe drivers rather than using sane, rational methods to cut down on dangerous driving entirely.

This lovely rant will probably be continued.

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Tibet in Crisis

April 12, 2008 at 6:52 pm (frightening things, injustice, politics, stupidity) (, , , )

First off, for information about the struggle of the Tibetan people and the worldwide effort against the Chinese occupation and of Tibet in exile, check out Students for a Free Tibet, an international, widespread organization started by students in 1994 and dedicated to the cause of the Tibetan people ever since.

This short clip from YouTube was put up by Aljazeera‘s news network, based out of Qatar. It’s dated March 15th and shows a bit of the riots that have been going down in Tibet.

For more on China’s response and the riots in general, check out coverage from Aljazeera.

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“Baby Bible Bashers”: Because Being Old Enough To Read Is Not Necessary For Christian Preaching

March 1, 2008 at 8:28 pm (movies/video/clips, stupidity)

Via Pharyngula, here’s a series on tiny kids who preach the supposed word of God. Some of them began their careers when they were as young as three.

In a lot of ways, these words make more sense coming out of the mouths of eight-year-olds. After all, that is the level of understanding and sophistication adults who share their views bring to the issues. You don’t have to understand where babies come from to oppose abortion! You don’t have to be able to read the Bible to evaluate its message!

It’s actually all incredibly sad.

Here’s part one of five:

See the rest.

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On Being Constitutionally Incapable Of Dialogue

February 27, 2008 at 4:19 pm (injustice, stupidity) ()

Okay, everyone. This isn’t totally charitable and almost certainly isn’t What Jesus Would Do, but I feel a pressing emotional need to do it, and why else does the blogger blog?

Feel like reading this thread?

First of all, Elaine thinks that, while children intuitively don’t want to kill animals (true enough), it takes “more convincing” to get them disagree with the exploitation, abuse, rape, and borderline-enslavement of human workers.

Wow! Kids these days, right? With their inexplicable, almost sociopathic apathy about everything that affects people. You know kids! Not an empathetic one in the bunch. Except when it comes to fowl, of course.

But that’s not what I want to talk about here. After spending several posts and threads telling me that the fact that veganism takes effort is something we should completely disregard, she says:

And please don’t ignore the involved efforts to act morally. I completely agree with you that we have a moral imperative not to exploit other people. But a) I don’t think it’s OK to kill animals in order to not exploit people, and b) it’s so very difficult to not consume anything that hasn’t exploited someone but it’s very easy to not consume anything that hasn’t come from an animal. For instance, packaged foods must label ingredients, not human exploitation. It’s easy to read a label and tell if it’s part cow. It’s not so easy to read a label and tell if some people’s rights were violated, their land was taken, they were exposed to pesticides or they were otherwise exploited.

And then:

But your earlier point, that it takes extraordinary effort to eat ethically, is far more relevant to claims about humans than to claims about animals. That is, going vegan is a simpler ethical action and is much easier to promote widely than going local/ organic/ sustainable…

To which I said:

That’s true, but (any you will disagree with me here), I think going local/organic/sustainable is actually more important, from my admittedly anthropocentric perspective. That is, if all food production were local, organic, and sustainable, we would actually eliminate worker exploitation as well as all environmental consequences associated with food production, and toxins from pesticides and preservatives, and nutrient loss during shipping and freezing. If everyone were vegan, but it was still an industrialized, capitalist, unsustainable system, we would still have worker exploitation, still be messing up the environment in myriad ways (thereby harming wild animals), still be contributing to global warming, still be taking in toxins from pesticides and preservatives, still be losing nutrients in transport. Furthermore, while animals would still be slaughtered in the first scenario, they would all be healthy, kept in good conditions, etc., and, because our current levels of animal use are seriously wasteful and unsustainable, there would also be far fewer animals suffering. So the first situation seems clearly preferable to me.

It’s not a zero-sum game, though, fortunately. We can and should advocate both. But that is why I choose sustainability over veganism when I need to.

Which I maintain is reasonable, logical, and accurate. Her response, however, was:

“I think going local/organic/sustainable is actually more important”

Which is exactly why you think it’s too much of a burden to go vegan, because you don’t see it as all that important.
I think our conversation is over.

WOW. Wow. Just, wow.

Anyway, don’t worry, friends. That is the last conversation I will ever get into with her.

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