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Well that was a really quite unpleasant day. There was not a lot in the way of external things to make it so but clearly this is one of those times when my body decides to do things in response to the hormones that I dose myself with daily which result in me being miserable. There were hints of it last night but this morning I really didn't want to get out of bed or shower or dress or anything else that goes with a usual Monday. I did it anyway and work itself wasn't a problem at all.

I suspect that the skating I did over the weekend was a step or two too far. My knee is achy although nothing beyond that but sufficiently to make me keenly aware that I still have very real limitations in that regard. Those limitations and a strangely out of control appetite mean that my weight is starting to creep upwards which I very much do not want. The control I had over my body has been dented substantially and I really do not like that.

I also came across a post on Facebook today from someone who's intersex and experiencing levels of frustration with the Tasmanian same-sex marriage bill in ways that hadn't even occurred to me. It's bad enough being told that you're not able to marry your partner because you're the same sex as them. Imagine being told that you can't marry anyone ever because your sex doesn't exist as far as marriage legislation is concerned. I don't know what the requirements are to be assigned a gender with which you don't identify to start with but I doubt that the process is easy, cheap or dignified. Moreover the implication is that if you don't submit to that then you're not a real person, you're not part of the community and you can't possibly have a real relationship. This is debasing and dehumanising. Genderqueer and intersex people are marginalised even more than trans people are. The very idea that someone might be neither male nor female seems literally unthinkable to some people. This simply isn't good enough though. We cannot say to real people with real lives and real relationships that they don't exist simply because it's inconvenient and uncomfortable for the tinier minded amongst us.

I'm really really fucking angry about this. I get little tastes of social and cultural erasure here and there that leave me feeling like there are places that I cannot go and do not fit but which are available to everyone else but that pales in comparison to this. I can't really imagine how it must feel to be that disenfranchised but I can have a good try at guessing and it's frankly a bit scary. It you don't fit into the gender binary then our culture has no mechanisms for coping with you and that means you either get ignored or demonised. At least I'm recognisably *a* gender even when my right to identify that way is questioned or ridiculed so people have a way in which to contextualise how they deal with me. I have had a few times when people haven't been able to gender me and they don't like it. It's remarkable how reliant people are on being able to gender someone even simply to talk to them. This is how our entire culture works and the idea that we can collectively pretend that part of our community doesn't exist is sickening.

So I'm angry. I'm also weirdly heartsick in a way that I can't define but which is probably in no small part hormonal. I feel like I want to simply curl up in someone's arms and rage at them about All The Things until I'm utterly exhausted and either cry or fall asleep. I really hope I feel more human tomorrow.
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My brain has been a bit froth and bubble today. It's revolved around accountability for violence, particularly violence against marginalised and disempowered groups. I'm going to thrash it out a bit here and see if I can't find some order in my thoughts. It's all going to be a bit ad hoc though.

Before I even start to address this, I'm going to say that this is a monstrously divisive issue and provokes immediate, vehement and defensive reactions from both men and women. I think that's partly because it's invariably framed as being a topic where men and women are on opposite sides in an intractible war of the sexes and I suspect that this is at least partly the problem.

Many of you are going to have immediate and distinctly visceral reactions to this topic. Please please let the churning bile settle a bit before you comment and please have a go at reading and genuinely trying to understand the parts that make you step firmly into your tribal territory and want to throw things. Also understand that that last bit wasn't just directed at you, is was also directed at him *points* and her *points again* and them clustered together in the corner *gestures vaguely*. Ok? Deep breaths.

Rambling discourse on rape and other unprovoked violence typed all in one sitting and so probably with gaping holes here and there. )
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The subject of same sex marriage has been bouncing around a lot lately and it came up in conversation the other night. I had to try to articulate why I didn't agree with someone's position and realised why a civil union is not a reasonable substitute for marriage. It has to do with the nature of marriage.

Ok, so let's look at a couple of things that marriage is NOT. It's not a religious covenant. It exists across a huge and disparate range of religions, so no one faith has a monopoly on its definition and they do differ markedly, including, in some instances, whether it's reasonable for two people of the same sex or gender to marry. It is also entered into regularly in a completely non-religious context. My marriage wasn't religious in any way, nor were the marriages of many other couples I know.

It's also not a legal covenant. De-facto relationships carry many of the legal implications of actual marriage and I can't recall anyone marrying specifically for things like guaranteed access to their partner if they're hospitalised or the security of knowing that their will will be respected, important though those issues are.

It's seriously NOT about making babies. We don't forbid people who are sterile for whatever reason from marrying. Many people who are capable of having children marry with no intention whatsoever of doing so. My parents both remarried and definitely had no intention of ever having more children. We don't dissolve marriages at the onset of menopause or in the event of tubal ligation, hysterectomy or anything else that rules out reproduction. Furthermore, marriage is hardly a prerequisite for having children. The social stigma on having been born out of wedlock in this culture at this time is so slight as to be non-existent. In short, that one's an utter furphy.

So if we don't marry for religious reasons and we don't marry for legal reasons and we don't get married to have babies, why the fuss? Why DO we do it? Marriage, as near as I can tell, is a social covenant. It's how we tell our friends and our family and the wider community that this person is incredibly special to us and that we are prepared to make a significant effort and make a socially binding statement to that effect because it's important. And this means that the criteria for being eligible to marry should be simply the desire to say, in terms that are universally understood, that this person is so SO special that it hurts in that good happy tears way and that we want everyone to know and we want it recognised without having to fumble with vague undefined terms like "partner". We don't want a legally mandated union that assures recognition by the ATO and other government bodies. We want to GET MARRIED with all of the social tinsel and ceremony and deep ingrained meaning which that carries.

It's a statement of love and admiration and commitment and those are not heterosexual emotions or qualities. Those are are human emotions and qualities and to deny that to someone is to declare them as being less than human. We should not and we can not countenance that.
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I was looking through some older entries in LJ and, upon reading this one I realised that the idea that had sparked off this whole train of thought in the first place had been completely missed in tangential waffling.

The thing that started it was was the question "Why do we punish those who've done something wrong?" I'm not saying that there aren't good reason to have punitive measures and indeed when it's touched on at all, we hear mutterings about deterrence and rehabilitation and suchlike, but I don't find it convincing. If those really were the reason for punishing those who commit crimes, why are punishments varied according to crime? Why doesn't intent carry more weight than the crime committed? Most tellingly, why do we talk about what the criminal deserves when sentences are discussed? As near as I can tell, the main purpose of sentencing is to make the criminal suffer. This is something that is so deeply ingrained that even once I'd realised that this is essentially a sanitised variant of the "eye for an eye" idea of justice, I was still coming up with phrases such as "getting away with" crimes while trying to nut out exactly what process was being put into action.

The fact that this was really all about visiting suffering on someone was brought home to me when reading through the vast collective schadenfreude that accompanied the extradition of Tony Mokbel. I'd like to be clear on the fact that I'm not sympathising with this man in any way. On a purely pragmatic basis, he needs to be removed from the community; he's a hideously destructive person. Having said that, watching the general reaction to him being brought back to Australia for prosecution was something I found disturbing. I got the impression that there was disappointment that he wasn't to be paraded through the streets in an open cart to be pelted with filth. This wasn't about being pleased that process of law was working, it was about watching him squirm. The law apparently works because Tony Mokbel was sad. The wrangling through the courts of Greece to get him extradited had the flavour in the media of some bizarre retributive foreplay. We watched him squirm, laughed at the dreadful wig, and with every spasming wriggle we nudged each other and grinned. "Bet he's shitting himself now." None of this fixed any problems, whether systemic such as the destructive narcotics trade or specific, such as any one of the countless lives demolished. It was purely and simply a circus.

So what are we trying to do with our penal system? Note that I'm really seriously NOT suggesting that the idea of trying and penalising criminals be abolished. That would be disastrous as the sociopathic amongst us realised that there was to be no check on their behaviour. What I'm questioning is the motivation. That motivation in turn informs the nature of sentencing and what we do with criminals while they're in custody. It takes the petty criminal, often a criminal because they have no other strategy by which to live and simply slaps them around and throws them back into the community, more disillusioned and less able to deal with life than before. It also releases clearly dangerous psychopaths back into the community because they've "done their time". In other words, we've made them sad for long enough and the danger that they pose to the general public is regrettable but not the point.

This is what I meant when I spoke of "a serious failing of our social and legal structure as a whole". It's an ethical framework which we don't see because it's so pervasive but which belongs in the past with the executions and mutilations which it once engendered, and which it still does in many parts of the world. We really need to think about how we deal with those who are ill enough that they visit violence on others, and they are ill because otherwise we're considering assault, murder and rape acts which can be committed by sane people. We need to be prepared to take the petty thieves and other sundry criminals and say "Your life strategies are crap and they're hurting both you and others and you're going to have to sort yourself out and we're going to help you with that. No, you don't have a choice in this." It's either that or we just keep taking an eye for an eye and feuding with ourselves which doesn't work any better now than it ever has.
sacredchao: (Default)
I just spotted a link to this and I'm a bit disturbed at the strength of my own reaction to it in some ways.

I'm not sure whether to be relieved that it's not my imagination, or despair that the default assumption is that I'm an arrogant, self-centred prick whose primary concern in life is to get his own way and screw the rest of you. I resent the assumption that I think I'm entitled to take what I want. I resent the assumption that if I think someone's attractive, that automatically means that I'm not interested in any other facet of their being and that my main or only reason far talking with them is in the hope of using them as a living breathing masturbatory aid. I resent being told that by virtue of my gender I'm expected to be a target for rage and suspicion and that moreover I'm expected to accept this as my just desserts and that this involves being not simply dismissed or infantilised but also actively demonised. Does this count as making the conversation all about me?

Having said all that I can of course (and could before this) see why that is. I see the men that do this kind of crap and foster those assumptions and they're fucking everywhere. The thing that I hate, that I truly truly loathe, is that this is the behaviour that seems to be rewarded in so many ways. Be pushy, take what you think the world owes you, and bull through objections by virtue of obliviousness and a thick skin and you ultimately get what you want. Try to do the right thing, examine the other person's point of view and consider how your actions affect others and you're still considered an arsehole until you've somehow comprehensively proven otherwise but you'll miss out on the relationships, careers and other tangible aspirations that the bastards of this world learn to take for granted because they appear to be so readily available. You'll have your personal integrity of course, but don't expect anyone to believe that that's the case.

It's a horrible set of assumptions, made all the more horrible by the fact that I can see how they come about. That's not saying in any way that they're not totally real and valid and based completely on real life experiences. But what this essentially says is "No, no, you haven't been paranoid for the last couple of decades, we really do distrust you on sight." The thing is, I really did think I was just being paranoid and that I was making social mistakes beyond simply being in possession of a penis. So this isn't dismissal or defense or me waving my hands and bleating that no, really, I'm not like that. This is me realising just how broken we really are and that there are far too many people completely disinterested in picking up the pieces.

This is not to say that I'm going to throw my hands up in the air in disgust and be an arsehole because, hey, that's where the money is right? No, I have friends and family and a gorgeous wife who know me better than that and the very notion of just barging through people makes me queasy. I'll probably keep explaining things but, you know, it's not because you're a girl. Guys do that to other guys as well. I don't know if other guys do it differently to girls than to guys just because they're girls but I don't. Fabulous prizes to those who can unravel that syntax on the first try. I nearly just closed this whole post and didn't put it up on several occasions. As that post states:

"Does this make you angry? Does it make you feel upset? Do you feel like your right to speak, like your right to be heard, has been silenced?

That's the space many women live in all the time. And we can't put it down and go back to a place where that silencing doesn't exist the way you can. Because for us, the conversation you just took over was that space, and we are sick and tired of repeating this fact over and over and over again."

There's that thought in the back of my mind that what I'm doing here is just that. I'm talking about me, about how this impacts me as a man and how I feel that that's unreasonable even if I can't offer any kind of idea on how or why it could or even should be different. In the face of what that whole post was about this seems entirely the wrong response and even now I'm wondering if I'll actually hit the button to post this. Ultimately though, I suppose what I'm saying here is that a lot of men do get it, they do understand or at least try to as far as someone not directly in the path of something like this can and they are incredibly frustrated by the fact that it's something that we have essentially as little influence over as you do. We don't have the ability to change the behaviour of an arsehole any more than you do. We could try saying "Hey, you're making me look dreadful here." but at best we get laughed at and at worst we get kicked into hospitalisation. Leading by example is even less effective because, after all, everyone knows that all men are only after one thing, right? I'm open to suggestions, I really am, but this all seems to be lose/lose and it should never have been a competition to start with.
sacredchao: (Default)
Put together a computer from leftover bits and tried to boot. Nope, XP system disc does not want to play. I'd format without a second though except for the several GB of music resident on it. Faff, poke, fiddle, find Knoppix 3.3 bootable CD and decide to give it a shot. All good, it even finds the external USB HDD caddy and reads the drive happily. So, copy file from one to the other.


Konqueror will not write to either drive. The "Super user" file manager wants to be used out of the root account, not the "Knoppix" account but damned if I can work out how to get into root, given that the root password isn't anywhere to be found on the disc. Still, I wouldn't have thought that creating a new folder would be a root only exercise; all I want to do is copy files.

Anyone want to give the noob a clue?
sacredchao: (Default)
This is a bit of a compacted mass, poked together between calls at work today which is no place to be assembling these kinds of thoughts, really. Make of it what you will.

As most of you probably know, I work in a call centre. I speak to people who have been given fines and who, for whatever reason, need to talk to someone about them. There is a set of filters operating here which is sort of integral to the whole process of getting fines and failing to understand them. In short, I speak to the dumb people and it’s given me a new appreciation of how difficult it must be to be there. If they don’t read well (or at all), have been brought up not to trust police much (or at all) and don’t deal with formal language well (or at all) a basic infringement notice is an impenetrable mass of text that causes their brain to implode. They will switch off to the point where they can’t even get to the stage of scanning the notice to find the phone number to call. The more information we give them, the less they can cope. So by the time they finally get so scared of the huge pile of paper telling them that they can be arrested and have their possessions confiscated that they call us, they’ve got next to no options left and we’ve charged them a pile of extra fees. They, of course, are the people who can least well afford these extra fees or deal with the more onerous requirements of contesting a warrant.

So what should we do?

Any measure that I can think of that would allow us to take into account the fact that some people are illiterate and/or thick as the proverbial pair of planks would also be hopelessly open to rorting by those who know perfectly well what’s going on and who simply have a dramatically reduced sense of personal responsibility. Compounding that is the fact that these two groups are far from mutually exclusive. This has parallels in other areas of law as well. You can have a sentence reduced for essentially any crime on the grounds of mental impairment or insanity. Are we then suggesting that most rapes, murders, vicious assaults and so on are committed by people who are essentially sane? At what point do we stop saying that someone isn’t responsible for their actions or negligence because they’re dumb and start demanding accountability? Is absence of malice any defense? Is it reasonable to penalise people, sometimes really quite harshly, simply for being incapable of dealing with reams of dense, poorly written bureaucratese? I’m loathe to say that someone who commits crimes should be portrayed as a victim of social circumstance as there are plenty of people who manage to cope with quite incredible levels of privation without resorting to profiting at the expense of others. Having said that, if all of someone’s legitimate coping strategies fail and they don’t have the resources, one way or another, to find the help that they need to cope with life as a whole, what then? Some become homeless, some die and some resort to increasingly desperate and anti-social measures to survive. They will, of course become angry, disillusioned, distrustful and generally unapproachable as a result. How much of this is their fault? How much is ours as a community? To what extent is it acceptable for us to shrug our shoulders and declare that life is simply unfair sometimes?

Angry aggressive sociopathic people don’t usually get a lot of sympathy and we’re often in favour of locking them away where they can’t bother us anymore. There are some good reasons to pursue this as a strategy. Innocent individuals certainly shouldn’t have to bear the brunt of some prat with a deeply held grudge against the world as a whole regardless of how justified that grudge might be. Where does disability end and crime start? Where does detention stop representing psychiatric care and start being punitive? Should we start grading competence? Should we be prepared to tell people “I’m sorry but you’re too thick to deal with raw undiluted life so we’re restricting your actions while acknowledging that you need extra help.”?

I honestly can’t form a consistent opinion on this because I can’t think of a resolution that both manages to not beat people over the head for their lack of smarts or education and which simultaneously demands accountability for anti-social acts. I’m confounded when I think about this because it overturns my notions of both personal and collective accountability. Are there factors beyond intent, competence and outcome that need to be considered here? Do we need to take another step as far as our ethical framework around this sort of thing is concerned? Possibly the notion of punishment for crime is one that really needs to be examined. Punishment doesn’t benefit victims of crime after all (other than via a sort of vengeful satisfaction). Should we move away from raw punishment and towards counselling and treatment? This could well often be custodial if it was determined that they present a danger to others. Hey, the idea that their time in custody is going to be spent in therapeutic session, the effectiveness of which determines whether or not they’re to be released might actually be a lot less palatable to crims than raw basic jail time.

I can’t help but think that this whole issue is a serious failing of our social and legal structure as a whole which really needs to be addressed. I suspect that there are far too many barriers in the way of grasping this particular nettle at the moment though; the very idea would offend far too many people and often for diametrically opposed reasons.

My brain hurts.


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