|May 20, 2013||Posted by Issa under Counter/Culture|
By Joshua Bardwell, originally posted in March 2010 at Jack-Booted Liberal.
This ad, seen in an airport, illustrates the complexity of attempting to support women in a culture that is steeped in female objectification.
On the one hand, the ad is explicitly pro-woman. On the other hand, it represents women as a “natural resource” to be “tapped.” If we are to support women, it should be for the same reasons that we support any person, and those reasons start with basic respect for human dignity. Saying that we should help them so as to “tap” them reduces them to the value that we can extract from them, which is, granted, totally consistent with our culture’s treatment of many people the world over, but is probably not reflective of the progressive values that this charity attempts to represent.
|May 15, 2013||Posted by Issa under Parenting|
Excerpts from Children Talk But No One Listens from s.e. smith:
The sentiment ‘better seen than heard’ reflects a larger social attitude of the value of children’s voices, namely that they have none. Children should remain silent, and they are ‘good’ when they’re quiet, but ‘bad’ when they are not, because they are disturbing the adults and causing trouble. This attitude runs through the way people interact with children on every level, and yet, they seem surprised when it turns out that children have been struggling with serious medical problems, or they’ve been assaulted or abused.
The most common response is ‘well why didn’t the child say something?’ or ‘why didn’t the child talk to an adult?’ Adults constantly assure themselves that children know to go to a grownup when they are in trouble, and they even repeat that sentiment to children; you can always come to us, adults tell children, when you need help. Find a trusted adult, a teacher or a doctor or a police officer or a firefighter, and tell that adult what’s going on, and you’ll be helped, and everything will be all right.
The thing is that children do that, and the adults don’t listen. Every time a child tells an adult about something and nothing happens, that child learns that adults are liars, and that they don’t provide the promised help. Children hold up their end of the deal by reporting, sometimes at great personal risk, and they get no concrete action in return. Sometimes, the very adult people tell a child to ‘trust’ is the least reliable person; the teacher is friends with the priest who is molesting a student, the firefighter plays pool with the father who is beating a child, they don’t want to cause a scene.
Children are also told that they aren’t experiencing what they’re actually experiencing, or they’re being fussy about nothing. A child reports a pain in her leg after gym class, and she’s told to quit whining. Four months later, everyone is shocked when her metastatic bone cancer becomes unavoidably apparent. Had someone listened to her in the first place when she reported the original bone pain and said it felt different that usual, she would have been evaluated sooner. A child tells a teacher he has trouble seeing the blackboard, and the teacher dismisses it, so the child is never referred for glasses; the child struggles with math until high school, when someone finally acknowledges there’s a problem.
This attitude, that children shouldn’t be believed, puts the burden of proof on children, rather than assuming that there might be something to their statements. Some people seem to think that actually listening to children would result in a generation of hopelessly spoiled brats who know they can say anything for attention, but would that actually be the case? That assumption is rooted in the idea that children are not trustworthy, and cannot be respected. I’m having trouble understanding why adults should be viewed as inherently trustworthy and respectable, especially in light of the way we treat children.
Treating children well, treating them as people, and being part of the solution in creating a world where they have a place involves allowing children to speak, listening when they do, and believing what they say.
|May 13, 2013||Posted by Issa under Radical Self-Acceptance|
Care of the Soul
A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life
by Thomas Moore
“Care of the soul begins with observance of the soul.”
This line stood out to me, since it’s something I have taught about in different situations. In Step One: Notice, I talked about noticing the cultural messages all around us. On another topic altogether, my acceptance of my fat body involved a lot of simply looking at it. Just looking and nothing else. I have frequently found that there is great value in simply paying attention to something, even if I don’t consciously change my actions. So it seems entirely right to me that Thomas Moore begins with suggesting that we simply observe the stirrings of our souls.
Another idea in chapter one that really spoke to me is the idea that we tend to strive for an idealized version of “normal”, when in fact our selves, our soul, resides specifically in the ways that we are different.
“…People often neglect their own natures and are tantalized by images of some ideal normality and health that may always be out of reach.”
“Individuality is born in the eccentricities and unexpected shadow tendencies of the soul, moreso than in normality and conformity.”
I am definitely “tantalized by images of some ideal normality and health”. I write a lot about being different and rejecting mainstream thought (The Fuck-It List comes to mind), but I have to constantly think about and write about these things because I feel the constant pull of conformity. I’m sometimes alarmed by how often I find myself doing things I don’t want to do because I think I’m supposed to do them. Trying to achieve normal is something that will always pull at me and something at which I will always fail.
Moore speaks in chapter one about not seeking to excise movements of the soul – symptoms, complaints, fears, and perversities that present themselves. He talks about speaking for these shadow aspects, moving towards them, going through them, embracing them, rather than curing them or seeking their opposite.
My greatest complaint is about my depression. I think about accepting it rather than trying to cure it through medication or through making some great life change after which I will magically no longer be depressed. I am tempted to think that if I “accept” it then I will no longer be depressed, but that’s not right. When Moore talks about “honoring” symptoms, I wonder if it is possible for me to both be depressed (miserable!) and also have a relatively peaceful acceptance about my feelings at the same time. I just don’t know.
- I’ve started off the comments with some questions. Jump in and reply or comment yourself on any thoughts you had from reading this chapter.
- Even if you aren’t reading the book, you are welcome to answer the discussion questions and topics as they arise.
- Comments are threaded. Reply to a specific comment by hitting the reply button underneath it. To allow for different conversations to develop at different rates, try not to reply to multiple comments in the same reply. Even if you want to reply to all the questions or comments, reply to them individually.
- You can still join in on the discussion of the introduction.
- We’ll discuss chapter two in the post on next Monday.
|May 9, 2013||Posted by Issa under Counter/Culture|
Today Dylan, Joshua, and I are headed to Serendipity, a burn here in our home state of Tennessee. The last time I wrote about Serendipity I was extremely hurt and angry about the organizers’ decision to ban children from the event. That decision was reversed for 2013, and so I’m going.
I’m a little wary. I’ve already been wounded by this event, so I don’t feel eager to get too emotionally involved. It’s also a very small burn, which is usually more socially difficult for me. I love the hustle and bustle of a big event, and I also like the ability to hide in the chaos. There are burners going to Serendipity who I used to be my friends and aren’t any longer. I worry about my ability to smoothly avoid them. Well, I worry about a lot of things. It’s just my way.
But, also! There will be good friends there I don’t get to see very often, and it will be awesome to hang out. Plus, it’s my first burn of the season, and I’ve missed camping.
I’m sure I’ll have a great time, as long as I can get out of my own way. And Dylan always has a good time at burns, so I’m excited for him, too.
Besides, my hair is newly pink again. Life’s looking good:
|May 6, 2013||Posted by Issa under Radical Self-Acceptance|
Thomas Moore is not the only author to catalog our psychological ailments, blame them on shifts in our culture, and then point a way out of the darkness, but he’s certainly the most poetic writer on the subject.
Over the next 13 weeks, I’ll be hosting a group discussion about this book, with a new post for a new chapter each Monday. If you can, there’s still time to find a copy and join us.
Even if you don’t read the book, you are welcome to answer the discussion questions and topics as they arise. As my friend Clove said, the interesting stuff is in the discussions. You don’t have to have read the book to jump in to the comments.
In the introduction, Moore calls loss of soul the great malady of the 20th century, encompassing an array of symptoms like feelings of emptiness, meaninglessness, disillusionment about relationships, a loss of values, and a yearning for personal fulfillment.
These sound immediately familiar to me, perhaps especially as a person diagnosed with depression. Indeed “vague depression” is on his list of “emotional complaints of our time”. My depression is at times frustratingly vague, making the all to common advice to “just snap out of it” dangerously alluring.
I assume that many of the people around me suffer from a similar list of symptoms, and I’m also willing to blame it on “our times”. I do also wonder if these feelings are more universal throughout time, “normal” if you will, and if associating them with a particular century is the same kind of attitude that leads all adults to think there’s something wrong with “kids these days”.
Moore says it is impossible to define the soul precisely. He rather uses examples of its presence: music and people with depth, good food, satisfying conversation, genuine friends, memorable and touching experiences, attachment, love, community, intimacy, fulfilling work, rewarding relationships, personal power, relief from symptoms. What a comforting list of desires that is, and how elusive some of them seem.
Care of the Soul is Moore’s take on a self-help book, although it aims to go a more philosophical and mythically inspired direction than most modern self-help books. The part that tempts me most is his idea that we distinguish between curing ourselves and caring for ourselves and that we stop thinking of common life issues as problems to be “solved”. He says:
As you read this book, it might be a good idea to abandon any ideas you have about living successfully and properly, and about understanding yourself. The human soul is not meant to be understood… What we want to do here is to re-imagine those things we think we already understand.
I’ve started off the comments here with some questions. Please jump in and reply or comment yourself on any thoughts you had from reading the introduction.
We’ll discuss chapter one in the post on next Monday.
|May 3, 2013||Posted by Issa under Homesteading|
By Joshua Bardwell, originally posted in February 2010 at Jackbooted Liberal.
The truck has started to pay off. Issa and I have brought home two truck-loads of wood, to become firewood for later. The final amount remains to be seen, because it hasn’t been split yet, but I estimate it to be about 2 “ricks”, or about 2/3 of a cord. For perspective, we were paying about $65 a rick for seasoned, ready-to-burn wood, delivered but not stacked. Since we paid about $6,000 for the truck, I figure that means the truck is two-100ths of the way towards paying for itself.
I’d like to take a minute here and express my frustration with non-specific units of measurement. See, a cord of wood is exactly 128 cubic feet of wood. You can give it to me in a 4x4x8 stack, or a 4x2x16 stack, or whatever combination you please, but a cord is a cord. But people never seem to sell wood by the cord. Instead, they sell by the “rick,” at least that’s what they call it here in Tennessee.
A rick is a 4×8 stack. Notice any missing dimensions? That’s right. A rick is 4 by 8 by whatever length the wood is cut to. So a person who cuts the wood to 18″ is giving you a heck of a lot more wood than someone who cuts to more like 14″. And you never know until they deliver the wood, which makes it damn near impossible to comparison shop, which is, in my opinion, why people like to sell by the rick.
I guess in the long run, it probably works out, because most people cut to about the same length, but the engineer in me just hates the lack of precision.
Anyway, the bed of the truck is about 45 cubic feet. A cord of wood is exactly 128 cubic feet, and a rick usually works out to about 1/3 of a cord, or about 42 cubic feet. So the bed of the truck is, conveniently, almost exactly one rick. Ain’t that handy.
I found a place near my house where some trees had been felled for a construction project. They were cut into 2′-4′ long pieces, and laying on the ground. Some of them had already been run through the chipper, so I felt pretty confident nobody would mind me taking them. Issa and I finished filling up the bed of the truck, and she said, “Do you think we’re over the truck’s weight rating?” Well, I hadn’t much thought of it until that very moment.
It turns out, we have a truck stop near our house, so for about $10, we could have figured out exactly what we weighed. Keep this tip in mind if you own a truck and/or a trailer, because you can overload those things really easy and not know it. You don’t have to be a semi to go through the scales. But since I didn’t think of that, we just drove home real slow and tossed the wood off on the ground.
But we’re not the first to have this kind of question, and I found [a] nifty little booklet that contains a table of nominal weights for a cord of various types of wood. The heaviest type of wood is oak, at up to 5500 lbs per cord of green wood. Which means that if we were to pack our truck bed full of oak, it would weigh about 1900 lbs. I think our truck’s payload capacity is about 1700 lbs, so I guess we might have been over-weight, but not by much.
|May 1, 2013||Posted by Issa under Radical Self-Acceptance|
I think this is supposed to sound inspirational. I’m supposed to think, “Yay!” or “Yes!” perhaps.
Here’s what I wonder:
If I need to “find myself”, that means I am not currently myself. Whatever my self is has yet to be discovered. It’s over there or under there or back there. Maybe it’s around here somewhere, but I don’t currently have it. I don’t currently have me. I am not me.
If I need to “create myself”, that means I am not currently myself. Whatever my self is has yet to be created. It’s currently smaller or less colorful or less complete. Maybe it’s a creation almost finished, but it’s not there yet. I’m not myself yet. I am not me.
They sound pretty much the same: I am not myself.
Maybe you would say that it’s about the journey rather than the destination. That the finding or the creating are continual, and that even as I am myself I am always finding or making more of myself.
That sounds really exhausting.
Can I just take a rest here for a moment and be?
|April 29, 2013||Posted by Issa under Counter/Culture|
By Joshua Bardwell, originally posted in January 2010 at Jackbooted Liberal.
Oh, checkout-line magazines. What wonderful reflections of popular culture you are. I was in Wal-Mart last night when I noticed the cover of the latest People magazine, which asks:
“Breasts enlarged, chin reduced, nose redone—and she wants more. ‘I’m obsessed,’ says Heidi, 23. But has she gone too far?”
Yes. Has she gone too far? And if she has, I ask, “How would anybody know?” Because we are constantly bombarded by media with the message that we are fundamentally inadequate. For every aspect of the human physical condition, there is a marketer who is willing to define it as an ailment, and a product to be sold as a cure. When we continuously participate in the idea that our bodies are flawed and in need of repair, who are we to point fingers at Heidi and say, “Oh, that’s over the line.” Perhaps Heidi has just internalized the message a little more thoroughly than those who stop at shaving their legs and underarms, bleaching their teeth and skin, tweezing their eyebrows, putting on wrinkle-reducing cream, and dying their hair.
But really, who can blame her? Magazine covers regularly Photoshop already stunningly-beautiful people (link link link link) to further “enhance” them into completely fantastical realms of physical “perfection.” In fact, in some cases, the person is manipulated so dramatically that they are hardly even recognizable as themselves afterwards! Would you have guessed that the two people pictured below are the same person?
Ugly Betty may be “hot,” but I wouldn’t know, because she’s not actually on that magazine cover. So perhaps we can interpret Heidi’s surgery as nothing more than an attempt to “Photoshop” herself in real life like has been done on magazine covers.
As Shakesville points out, discussing Nia Vardalos,
There’s nothing wrong with being a 46-year-old woman, and there’s nothing wrong with looking like a 46-year-old woman. There’s also nothing inherently and objectively unattractive about a 46-year-old woman. Only according to some bullshit beauty standard that expects women never to age is there shame in showing the hard-earned lines of a life fully lived, and only in a vain and immature culture which axiomatically favors youth over experience can there be found justification for dehumanizing Vardalos into a plasticized doll-version of herself and calling that an improvement.
Oh, but the icing on the cake was this other magazine that I found, just across the aisle.
Because, apparently, it’s scanadlous if Heidi gets radical plastic surgery, but if Cher does it, it’s “Wow!”
And the point of all this, dear readers, is that you can’t win. No matter what you do, you will never be beautiful enough to satisfy Media. You will never have bought enough Product and never have done enough Crunches. And if you do somehow manage to pull that off, you’ll just be vilified for over-doing it.
Stop trying to satisfy the tabloid, Hollywood, magazine-stand beauty standard. Be beautiful. Give up. Love yourself. Oh, and by the way, if you are saying, “I do love myself, I just have to lose five more pounds,” or, “I do love myself, except for this hair on my upper lip,” you’re missing the point.
I strongly recommend reading the “Impossible Beauty” series on Shakesville. It’s got over thirty entries, most of which can be accessed from the list at the bottom of this post.
|April 27, 2013||Posted by Issa under Radical Self-Acceptance|
|April 25, 2013||Posted by Issa under Homesteading|
By Joshua Bardwell, originally posted in November 2009 at Jackbooted Liberal.
In late August, I planted a second crop of carrots, spinach, lettuce, and collards, all of which I think are crops that do well in the cold. Carrots, you can even leave in the ground over the winter. Nature’s own refrigerator!
This morning, I pulled a few. The little stubby one on the top/right is from one planter, and the longer, more “normal” looking ones are from a different planter. I’m not sure why the difference between them. I’ve actually only pulled one from the “stubby” planter, and a total of three from the “normal” planter, so maybe the “stubby” planter carrot is just a fluke.
Issa bites one and says, a little bemusedly, “Tastes… like a carrot.”
“What else would it taste like,” I ask. But I understand her reaction. Growing our own food is still new enough that it feels something like a victory when what comes out of the ground not only lives up to, but exceeds our expectations from store-bought food. It’s as if there’s this underlying assumption that only the Machine, or at the very least, some kind of esoteric guru, can produce food that’s any good. Us mere mortals can try it as a cute little hobby, but we’ll definitely fail.
Which is, of course, the exact opposite of reality. To plant these carrots, I literally dumped some seeds on the dirt of a planter and then made sure they had moist soil and sunshine. They did all the rest. No esoteric knowledge required. Which is not to say that some knowledge isn’t required to garden successfully, or that any batch of carrot seeds dumped on any patch of dirt will produce food. Just that plants want to grow and home-grown plants have the potential to far-exceed their store-bought counterparts. Even if the lack of expertise of the home gardener decreases the quality of their produce, the fact that it’s pulled fresh from the plant right before use often more than makes up the difference.