On boundaries and consent

(Note: this post has been slightly edited since first posting.)

I am a survivor of early childhood sexual abuse. I’ve also survived multiple aggressive and/or intentional violations of my sexual consent in intimate situations.

I also grew up in a household where my attempts at healthy boundary and touch-consent practices were not fully respected, and I have been an unhealthy sexual partner for most of my life.

I’ve coped primarily by chastity, particularly because of the painful and tragic natures of my past intimate relationships and personal connections.

Mostly, it seems like I’ve lived in a secret yet public circle of hell, where everyone I could connect with and was attracted to was also deeply mired in pain, immaturity, violence and fear in sexual or romantic contexts.

I’m not sure if there’s a parallel world where people collectively practice completely healthy and consensual intimate and sexual boundaries that I can’t see.

But pornography and media, and that my most popular post here has been one about women sacrificing their wholeness and completeness for the sake of compatibility with men, suggest otherwise.


 

Putting it plainly:

Intimacy and sexuality are complicated and messy.

And sexual violence creates or perpetuates a cycle of violent experiences, for both the person who commits it and the person who suffers it.

And a lot of the violence within our collective culture’s sexual norms and expectations remains something that all of us are insensitive or numb to.

This post is part of my journey of healing, atonement, and better sexual and emotional health.

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On education

11th Grade

(via XKCD)

I mentioned something in the previous blog post about how academics is becoming less and less relevant in the United States of America.

And now I’m depressed and exasperated at seeing two proposals, from different places, suggesting that the way to

is through fixing our nation’s public schools.

Instead of


 

The USA’s kindergarten-through-12th-grade public school systems are one of the most decentralized aspects of our public services. And the intersection of race, class, and decentralized funding is, more or less definitively, the central reason why public schools have become more and more racially segregated in the last several decades.

Decentralized tax funding of public school has created two main paths for parents seeking the best schooling for their children they can get:

  • move to as affluent a neighborhood as possible that keeps your access to well-paying work, pay the property taxes, and send the kid/s to the best-quality public school affordable, or
  • pay for 4 to 12 years of private school, as well as local property taxes – assuming your kid is accepted to a private school you can afford.

These options both consist of pay-for-education.

And then there’s still the systemic racism, and more, throughout the processes of employment, housing, and public and private schools. The kind that lead to school voucher programs and other programs that are ultimately founded on racism and/or cash for a better education.


 

(My public school education was a part of this. I went to a well-funded public school system, on the basis of large property taxes – taxes that were paid with hope and gratitude by my parents and other local parents of school-age children. I had access to resources to the point that I was taking well-taught college-level courses as a sophomore.

I wouldn’t be writing this without that schooling. I also probably wouldn’t have an Ivy League college degree, and the financial security and education that have come from that experience.

Postscript: my parents have moved away from that high-quality school system since the kids graduated.)


 

People tend to treat this system as normal.

It’s really not.

And that aspect is suggestive of how entrenched this system of local control is – which isn’t surprising in a country that has historically celebrated the idea of local governance as much as ours does.

Especially with how almost all political rhetoric supporting local governance is, both historically and in the present, a call for white people to be anti-Black and otherwise racist.


 

I’m writing this post from a place of anger and despair at there being relatively prominent calls for school reform.

Reforming the country’s K-thru-12 schools was a hot topic in politics at various points in my childhood and young adulthood – more or less until Obama was elected president, come to think of it.

From what I gather, basically every famous new trend (like charter schools), or famous new leader of reform (like Michelle Rhee), recreated the same problems with the system that the trend or leader was claiming to solve.

Because first off, they couldn’t undo the national system of local funding of public schools; and second of all, they were the product of, or were themselves, bullshit artists who acted like they could bail out the Titanic with a reinforced bucket.


 

Luckily, schooling mostly doesn’t matter anymore, at least in terms of educational content.

There’s not much to teach in the vast majority of public schools that can’t be learned through online and online-descended resources. There’s a limited amount of stuff you can only learn by being in school.

Like waking up before sunrise 5 days a week at the expense of your health, socializing with your peers in a highly regimented and poorly supervised group setting – and, if you’re lucky, classes like wood shop and music.

Also, it’s not like young folks are actually getting hired very much nowadays anyway, making the effort and expense of school education for the sake of a child’s economic future less and less relevant to much of anything.

Which leaves things in a bit of a mess.


 

But, more than that, it leaves calls for education reform that will never happen, as a solution to problems that are demonstrably able to be solved through socialist reforms that the nation can afford, while the job market for young people has cratered as a whole, as something worse than useless.

They’re distracting.

While everything is getting worse for nearly everyone.

Those sorts of red herrings set me on edge.

 

 

On “The End Of History”

There’s something on my mind pretty often when I see how other folks from the United States of America, particularly more privileged folks, engage with the country’s history and politics. I’ve discussed it in other blog posts, but I’m getting a sense that it’s time to address it more directly.

So here goes.


 

There’s always been an evangelical, navel-gazing element to the USA; a way of seeing that the entire world can, or really, must, flow through us.

There was this one Puritan settler in 1630 who said that the USA needed to be a “city upon a hill“, in reference to Jesus exhorting his followers that they were the saviors of the world.  The settler’s preaching became very well-known, and was most famously brought up again by Ronald Reagan, over 300 years later.

(John F. Kennedy brought it back to the mainstream, though.)

And that’s when I start feeling like there’s some very reasonable conversations that need to be had about American exceptionalism – the idea that the USA is different and special and divinely inspired in ways that no other country is.

Like:

-So we are all clear that white settlers genocided the folk who’d lived in the lands that the USA before they got here, right? And that this multi-century process was justified by American exceptionalism? (see: Manifest Destiny)

-And that this country did that whole ‘slavery’ thing worse than nearly any other country-like thing in history ever has, before or since?

-And that the establishment of freedom of religion has roots in Christian settlers agreeing to disagree about the dehumanization and enslavement of people of African ethnicity (warning for academic sourcing)? And very little to do with acceptance of and respect for anything other than Christianity, at least in practice?

-And that now we have a president acting like this nation’s land is a divine deliverance to white Christians in comparison to anyone from ‘shithole countries’, and that around 40 percent of the white adults of this country agree with him?

These are not controversial statements in terms of factualness. If they were, Donald Trump’s poll numbers, and those of the Republican Party in general, would not have the ‘high floor’ that they have had for the last 50 years.

They are why we are heading towards a kind of civil conflict unlike anything there’s ever been before.


 

Which brings us to the title of this post.

There was this political identity called neoconservatism in the USA. It was pretty popular, especially in the 1990s and 2000s, among the magazine-writing type.

The central policy of neoconservatism is basically that the USA has the right to kill whoever the USA decides it’s good for it to kill, in the name of democracy and free markets.

There was a lot of high-school-level nonsense about who was and wasn’t a neo-conservative – especially after they provided the political cover for the USA-led invasion of Iraq.

But one guy who was an innovative leader of neoconservative-ness was Francis Fukuyama.

He is most famous for writing a book named The End Of History And The Last Man.

My sense of it, drawing from partial reading, is that it is a very long-winded ‘fuck you’ to communism, and a declaration that the USA had just won not only the Cold War, but the game of life. And that there would be no trouble from the country’s continuing with establishing free markets anywhere The People needed them – including with bombs and other forms of military intervention.

It was hideously vile. It was also very popular among the sort of people who help define the USA’s domestic and international policies.

And it is my little reminder of how fucking insane this country generally is about its own importance and centrality, and how much we are never to talk about the people that were slaughtered, enslaved, and otherwise deprived of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in the name of wealth and the middle class.


 

I tend to relate to my attendance of an Ivy League college as a re-emphasizing of everything American.

From this perspective, the Ivy Leagues are to the USA are largely what the USA is to much of the rest of the world: impossibly wealthy, aggressively self-obsessed, somewhat idealistic, and frighteningly influential.

And what I most reflect on is how both the Ivy Leagues (slash academics in general) and the USA are mattering less and less now.

The problem is that, after the level of power, influence, and weapons that the USA has gained in living memory, there is no motivation for anyone with money and power to ask most USA folk to stop being suckers.

There’s no motivation for them to suggest that there’s a tab to pay for all the shit that the country has done, from the 1600s to the last 70 years of military and economic dominance over all the other countries.

(The kind that’s part of why I can write this in the English language and expect it to be readable to a worldwide audience.)

Instead, we have #MakeAmericaGreatAgain. With the Leave It To Beaver-ness that that implies.

And we’re going to have the ideology of #MAGA and its descendants around for a damned long while.

And maybe after that, we’ll be able to talk honestly about the USA being a settler state without looking out for a flagpole in the back.

So, Walmart

I’m not up to, or qualified, to take apart today’s Trump controversy. Don Lemon did a solid-or-better job of that on live TV last night.

To keep another controversy from going more under the radar, I’ll take apart the Walmart one instead.


 

Walmart’s predatory business practices are a matter of open record.

Their business model is famously old-school monopoly – move into town, undercut the prices of every non-multinational competitor, wait until competitors go out of business, become the only game in town. Then use an unspeakable amount of leverage against political opponents, competitors, suppliers,  and employees.

Relatedly, they view the notion of unions as so toxic that they have closed a store in response to employees unionizing. That story is from the early 2000s, but presumably, they are still willing to do this.

I did literally 30 seconds of research for those links; you’re free to do more if you’re seeking to learn more.

I don’t know the history of such things, but this blog is very possibly going to be on a list of agitators on a Walmart ‘public relations’ spreadsheet as a result of this post. Because it would be easy enough to set up a program to do something like that, and why wouldn’t they go that far?

I mean. This happened:

In March 2005, Walmart executive Tom Coughlin was forced to resign from its Board of Directors, facing charges of embezzlement.[124] Coughlin said that the money was used for an anti-union project involving cash bribes paid to employees of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union in exchange for a list of names of Walmart employees that had signed union cards.[124] He also said that the money was unofficially paid to him, by Walmart, as compensation for his anti-union efforts.[124]In August 2006, Coughlin pleaded guilty to stealing money, merchandise, and gift cards from Walmart, but avoided prison time due to his poor health. He was sentenced to five years probation and required to pay a $50,000 fine and $411,000 in restitution to Walmart and the Internal Revenue Service. A United States attorney has stated that no evidence was found to back up Coughlin’s initial claims, and Walmart continues to deny the existence of the anti-union program, though Coughlin himself apparently restated those claims to reporters after his conviction.[125]

I can’t say if the guy’s allegation is true. But, IMO, it smells true.

More importantly: it should not be something that is remotely plausible, and that it is plausible implies that Walmart does pretty much everything it can to fight against ‘opposition forces’.

 

Today we are hearing that the Walmart corporation decided to balance the bad PR of closing stores with the good PR of announcing tax-cut bonuses and a higher minimum wage. And it is doing so by closing a branch of its stores, and leaving thousands of people unemployed, without notice.

I’m writing this because it’s important to highlight the game that is fairly obvious to most news-focused people, and less obvious to most other people.

In short, Walmart is marketing itself to Republicans and their sympathizers as “the good brand”.

Walmart is associating themselves with the tax cuts that are basically only popular with Trump supporters. Because the ‘tax cuts increase revenue’ hustle that dates back to a 40-year-old fantasy from a cocktail napkin has finally grown stale to the rest of us.

Republicans, as a collective, will visit their news sources, hear little to nothing negative about Walmart, and pay less attention to future criticisms of the tax cuts, because ‘what about Walmart’.

There is also a ‘moderate’ and/or ‘independent’ faction of people – more broadly, those who want to not hate the Republican Party – who will lose track of how to feel about Walmart because of the widespread headlines about a minimum wage increase. This also serves to cloud their feelings about the tax cuts, and reinforce the supply-side economics myth that is, to keep it brief, demonic worship.

And, though this might have been an overreach by Walmart, there will be a lot less aggressive coverage of their store closings in the most popular national news sources for at least a little while. Better coverage than there would have been if they had closed the stores humanely, i.e., with notice.

(Oh – and this explains why there have been happily multicultural (as in, choose English-language or Chinese-language) Walmart delivery ads on Hulu for weeks or months now, as they angle to compete against Amazon.)


 

In conclusion: Walmart is actively the Evil Empire.

Stay safe.

The first ‘fight of the century’

Reference song:

 

Once upon a time, not long ago,
When White people wore pajamas and lynched Black lives slow,

There was a Black man who was the heavyweight champ,
Who punched in boxing gloves without an aide-de-camp.

Strange fruit was hanging from the trees in the South,
While he kept punching White people in the mouth.

He took the champ’s belt in 1908,
But it was the 1910 fight that was truly great.

An ex-champ, offended by this Black man’s cool,
Took back to fighting – to end his rule.

 

 

“I am going into this fight for the sole purpose of proving that a white man is better than a negro.”

 

 

And so they threatened and bribed the reigning king,
To pick up his gloves and get back into the ring.

 

 

…And he did.
…And they fought.
…And he won.

…And White people rioted and killed.
…And Black people celebrated.

…On the Fourth of July.

 

 

 

Jack Johnson was not perfect, that is certainly true,
but he won against White men, and fought Jim Crow too.

The struggle for freedom has never been easy,
And Black excellence has a way of making White people queasy.

So, some words of advice from this White/Puerto Rican,
to those who ‘just so happen’ to not hear when POC are speakin’:

Listen to those that take the lead.
As they do what they do – pay attention, take heed.

There are brilliant lights burning bright today,
You should know who they are; their names I won’t cé.

We need to get it together, get ourselves in formation.
We need to exorcise the racial demons of our nation.

Genocide of native people built this house we live in,
And Black blood and tears made the chairs we sit in.

Almost all of our money was never ours,
Except through murder and abuse of power.

 

But please understand: no one needs your anxiety.
Racism is a drug – we need White sobriety.

So let’s have some talks, but mostly let’s listen.
And give some of our pots to those without one to piss in.

 

And the next time you hear a Jack Johnson song:
Maybe take a little moment before you sing along.

A brief comment on the NFL protest conflicts before returning to blogging hibernation

This article about the NFL and ESPN getting (for lack of a better word) pwned by Trump’s trolling makes me wanna make something clear.

The NFL and ESPN are in this situation completely by their own hand.

By being a ‘national’ brand with a heavily white consumer basebased largely on watching black violence/athletic excellence – those two are pretty inseparable with football – and living up to a legacy of old-tyme control by old white men in sports (as one example, the right to free agency was not given freely), the NFL has been a particularly nasty powder keg of corporate-based racial exploitation for quite a long time.

 

OTOH, ESPN’s foundational business model was basically running NFL (and other sports, but this is America) clips. And now they’re so dependent on anger-inciting and often race-baiting ‘hot takes’ that this ended up seeming like a good idea.

(For context, Stephen A. Smith is something like mainstream sports journalism’s professional angry black man.

I grew up reading his newspaper columns, and what little I’ve seen of his national work seems pretty much of the same cut as I can remember his columns being. Which isn’t a compliment.)

 

In conclusion:

The NFL has been an evil, racist business for longer than I’ve been alive.

ESPN’s daytime programming has become mostly built around building up and sating the resentments of older and/or ‘racist-y’ white men.

And now Trump is feeding the racist beast better than them, and they’re in some pretty serious double-binds as a result.

If you were ever looking for an example of corporate karma, this is a pretty solid one.