Tuesday, May 10, 2011

There but for the grace of god, go you

A bit ago there was a heated discusion on a forum I visit about the idea of rape and the nature of rapists. I thought the conversation was important enough to re-edit it as a blog post. While this is about one specific crime I think it can easily be applied to much of the human condition
I argue that women are often not believed or are afraid to report sex crimes because people assume that nice people can't be rapists. That's a fact. I also argue that "nice people" is the facade which often keeps rapists and other evil doers shielded from justice. I also argue that victims and the rest of society need to be certain that rape is always caused by some mental deviance on the part of the perpetrator. Another fact. Surely you don't believe rapists are 100% normal people?
Actually yes.  Yes I do believe many rapists are 100% normal people. 

 I wish I had the simplistic happy world view you do. Sadly I don't because I've interacted with too many people.

This attempt to move rapists and rape into the realm of mental illness is, at it's core defensive and selfish. You want to distance yourself from it and accept the lie that it's something outside of the normal range of human behavior.

It's not.

Everyone wants to demonize rapists, murderers, Hitler, dictators, genocidists, etc and yes some of them are just monstrous. They're also human...and a lot of them are fully human.  Their actions and crimes are part of the dark side of humanity. Trying to push that away and deny that it's part of what humans are capable of is not just wrong; it's potentially dangerous. It's the "It can't happen to me/It can't happen here" game. It can.

There's a general background noise in the culture that under values women and has a tendency to push men towards certain actions.  

There are people who by every right are nice good people and do seem to not want to cause unnecessary harm to others; they also have committed date rape. And it's not because they're insane. Maybe it was peer pressure or ignorant ideas about sexuality and rights or self denial...maybe it is madness in some cases but not all. 1/8 of all women in the US are raped  or assaulted, the perpetrators are not a small handful of deranged people. You have serial rapists and violent rapists and then you have a casual rapist who thinks what they do is far removed from rape. You have the people who would never hunt down someone and rape them...but would take advantage of someone passed out or go with a frenzy or peer pressure in a gang rape or some bullshit like that.

It is NOT madness. It is not an alien behavior. Though it is inhumane It is NOT unhuman.

Telling our adolescents "rape is a product of mental illness" is going to make things worse. You're telling them "Rape is something OTHERS who are inhuman do". You provide the refuge of "I let one go" or "I'm nice to children" or "It was only once" or any of the thousand of other things NORMAL people tell themselves to live with something horrible they've done.

Stop lying to yourself and others saying that the rapist is of a different ilk than you. They aren't. They are of the same cloth as you and of me and everyone here. And the more aware you are of what people are capable of, what YOU may be capable of, the better a person you will be; the less likely you'll be to carelessly harm or be rolled up in a mob frenzy.

If you see rape as something someone you know, someone you care about, may not only be a victim of but could possibly be a perpetrator of, you'll see why it's damn important we stop focusing on just punishing rapists when it gets so bad society can't ignore it comfortably and start preventing it from happening.

I know some men who read this will immediately take exception that they're singled out.  "I'm not a bad person!"  "Why should I feel ashamed" blah blah blah
I also don't appreciate the implication that I don't understand empathy because I don't like being lumped in with raping animals.

I'm sorry but you weren't lumped in with raping animals because of us. You are lumped in because you were BORN to a species of raping animals.

Idiots who want to think "There's no way anyone like ME could be that evil" read "There is evil in my group" as "Everyone in the group is evil"

It's a defense mechanism. This way they feel if they can show there is ONE good person it separates them from the evil.

If it's not you; great!  Make sure it stays that way.  But know that your culture influences your demographic and not always nicely

Maybe this is where my feminazi title is justified but I think that just as I'd prefer children to be overly sensitive and on guard that they could be swept up in a movement and become fascists, if anything males should try to be over cautious that they might be potential rapists.

And really, what would be the cost to men of being overcautious not to rape? An average wait of about 90 seconds longer before each sexual encounter? They might have to enunciate the words "I want to fuck you. Do you want to fuck me?" They might have to pay attention to whether their date is breathing heavily and pawing at their clothes or just laying there? They might have to ensure the women they fuck are actually conscious? What?

I really doubt that the cost of being overcautious not to rape would ever involve not going out alone at night, not drinking in public places, not ever leaving their nonalcoholic drinks unattended, not ever going somewhere alone with a woman they don't know well, carrying their keys in stabbing position when they go to their cars after dark in case someone tries to grab them and accuse them of rape, never wearing shorts ...etc

And it might be a USEFUL reaction if it pushes someone towards trying to address cultural problems and the like.

It may be a GOOD thing if white people feel a bit collectively guilty about their past 200 sum years of racist superiority and oppressive history; it will make them conscious, hopefully, of NOT doing that.

I WANT people to be slightly overly concerned that they may be brainwashed in a cult

I WANT people to be slightly overly concerned they might be tempted to commit a crime

I WANT people to be slightly overly concerned they might fall for a charismatic leader and be swayed into goose stepping

I WANT people to be slightly overly concerned they might commit an evil act due to peer pressure or permission from an authority figure

I WANT people to be slightly overly concerned they might mistreat someone less privileged.

Because currently people are UNDER concerned about that and have a "it can't happen to me"/"I'm a good person" mentality. God...the people who are so convinced they are NICE people I've found are the most easily manipulated or careless.

Am I willing to trade people in a demographic having slightly more shame or angst in exchange for heightened awareness of issues? Every day and twice on sunday.

Deer God with halo antlers, I would be ECSTATIC if white people had white shame, Russian people had Russian shame, German people had German shame, men had male shame, Japanese had Japanese shame etc etc. Cause goddamn it might mean that people are actually fucking LEARNING from their history.

The white culture is taught that the racism and injustice and oppression is something that was yesterday a bygone era, that they are above that now. It's not it is here. Today. Right now.

It's that false sense of accomplishment that allows our culture to unironicly treat gays as our personally whipping boy. To use the same rhetoric we used against mixed marriages and to wage the same campaigns of hate and extermination. If you are convinced your work is done you will stop working.

The only difference between you and your great grandfather is that society has marched on and improved and you're raised with better ideals and fairness...and it took brave people to work for that. You have the same potential for ill as your worst ancestor. Know that. Embrace it. LEARN from it. Know thyself. Know what you are and learn how to be good with that.

You should NEVER feel secure that your culture/race whatever is just and secure and fair. You should always be on guard and always be working for better.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Of Vime's Boots and Wellfare: Or Why Poor People Have Iphones

If those on welfare are so damn poor, why do they have a TV?  If those on welfare are so damn poor, why do they have a Cellphone?  If those on welfare are so damn poor, why do they have an Ipod? If those on welfare are so damn poor, why do they have a <whatever>.

This is a common question amongst critics of the welfare state (which believe it or not Yanks is NOT a dirty word across the pond)

"..And don't forget about the welfare state!"
  Let me quote a recent complainer who took downright offense to the poors lack of squalar.

the question of exactly how many luxuries we should allow the poor...we shouldn't even ask the question
Yes we should. And this is coming from someone who is currently on the dole (GA-U here in WA, as a result of my recent hospitalization.)
I dealt with the same thing when I was a bench mechanic. Our union/company's big charity cracked down its giving with some stricter criteria. And I had to agree with this change. It was offensive to go at the holidays to give gifts to a "poor" family and walk in to see they have a big screen TV and video game systems, etc. (realize this was when big screens were a big deal.)

So yeah, why do those who are impoverished have toys?  Why do those who are desperate seemingly wasting their money on frivolous things?

To answer this question requires a bit of background and I'd like to start with Vime's Boots

Sam Vimes is a reoccurring character in Terry  Pratchett's novel series, Discworld.  Vimes started out as a small time city guard and has climbed his way through (to his horror and shame) into the upper class.  In one of the novels Vimes is struck by a revelation as he recalls back in his poor days how he had to buy boots.  This lead to the The Sam Vimes "Boots" Theory of Socio-Economic Unfairness'

The reason the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money.
Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in the city on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles.
But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that'd still be keeping his feet dry in ten years' time, while a poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.

Basically, it is more expensive percentage wise to be poor than rich.  We know this.  Poorer people spend a greater % of their income while the Rich save a greater percentage.  As a side note this is also why the idea that giving tax cuts to the rich will stimulate the economy is profoundly stupid (Simply imagine 10 home owners versus one homeowner who has wealth equal to the other tens combined...now each of them gets a clogged sink.  For the wealth (the combined ten versus the one) how many plumbers does each employ?  The ten unwealthy houses generate ten times as much work as the one house of comparable value.  Jobs need to be stimluated at the bottom not the top).   If you're wealthy you can aford things of good quality that last, good shoes, good cars, good house.
Unlike my goddamn Toyota POS that cost me $500 today

The poor spend more money replacing things.  It is tougher being poor.  You're running as fast as you can to stay in place!

If you want to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that!

So what does this have to do with poor folks and their dang spinning rims and cornrows and what not?

Well imagine you're in the lower income community.  You make money, but not that much.  You can't afford your own house, you rent or are in a projects...but you're earning SOME.  You run as fast as you can and maybe you have some left over every month...but not all that much.  Your earning is so "meh" that saving up for something like a car or a house seems like a pipe dream.  You're too poor to ever "afford" to get out of poverty.  Especially because of, due to how some of the systems are set up, the state PENALIZES you for saving.  They'll remove your benefits if you save too much and it's easy to get stuck on that line of falling back into poverty because you tried to pull yourself out and got docked.   So you could save, but that seems like it'd barely help, why  not invest in something nice for yourself?

That I think is why poor people have "Toys".  They're in a sandwich where they can't afford to climb out of poverty, seemingly cannot afford any of the Vimes Boots like college, car, house, stock investments etc...but they can afford some trinkets.  They'll save up for the trinkets because Lords knows, trying to actually save up for anything meaningful is a waste!  Think to yourself, in your income bracket as a presumably middleish class, was the toys they have that big a dent on you?  Such trinkets are their highest end investment...where your's is what?  A house?  Rented apartment?  A Car?  A boat?  University?

So next time you see someone from the inner city with a phone that you think is too fancy for them or a pack of smokes bought with what you think is "your" tax money stop and think.  Is what you're seeing an abuse of the system, or is it a pair of raggedy old Vimes Boots?

EDIT: This is of course discounting the people who had some items before slipping onto hard times, or people who received items or such through charity.  There would still be people who with the stress and hopelessness of actually saving would make the decision to invest in a more immediate gratification they are fairly sure to have rather than a delayed one they probably never will

Note the lack of straps from which one could pull themselves up