Sunday, November 14, 2010

On Humanising the Inhuman

This morning, I was swooped a few times by an aggressive magpie. I was frightened. Flying creatures aren’t scary to me by default. Most of the time I’m perfectly happy with the existence of birds, moths, etc. It’s when they fly near my face that I really start to freak out. I might even be able to trace the fear back to some one trial conditioning event where some facial cavity got dusty. But anyway, after swatting at this thing with the book I was carrying for a few seconds, I began to run. Once there was a reasonable distance between us, I began swearing at the magpie, saying how much I hated it, and how much of a dickhead it was in general. Not only was this a waste of time, but I was completely wrong. Not in the way you might think though. The magpie wasn’t a kind, but ugly and often misunderstood magpie who was perhaps asking me for directions, discussing football results or asking me to pick up some ‘naughty’ salted cashews from the shops I was heading to. No, as you can imagine, the magpie was deliberately trying to scare me away to defend its children. The mistake I made was to give in to the illusion of human agency after the chase. The magpie was an animal, and acting on an instinct. As another animal with more or less functional perception faculties, I responded with the supposedly appropriate instinct.
Antagonising the magpie just adds to the frustration.
As arbitrarily assigning motives to creatures is rather unreasonable, I really hate doing it, and I’m certainly not the only one to do it. The best way to get a really good example is to get somebody to watch a documentary on wildlife of some description. The reactions to some of the predator/prey scenes in these films seem amusingly reminiscent of soap opera commentary. For example, take a scene of a shark attacking a small seal. How many times have you heard (or indeed said) “Aaargh! Go man, go! Run away!! Get away from him, you fishy sonofabitch!”? Many will accuse the shark of a complete lack of civility and humanity. Even think that the shark is evil somehow. The obvious issue is that the shark is just a big fish acting on instinct. It’s chasing the seal purely to eat and subsist. Not harvesting the seal hearts to power its giant super-charged shitstorm gun atop Mt. Nasty. People even take the pet thing too far. I was speaking to someone who claimed that while they were apathetic towards politics, Mr. Puppynubs the Budgie was rather unhappy with the election results. Why is that urge there? We have 6.8 billion people to perceive as character-rich free agents, and yet we won’t be truly satisfied until we add a few trillion to swear at or get to vote for us. One theory suggests that this tendency is a by-product of our evolved ability to sense intention in threatening animals. Like magpies. But when we start yelling at animals on the television or decorating our Christmas cards with photos of the family cat in small hats it all becomes way too much. Please don’t mistake this for an emotional separation from the animals. Many other animals experience emotions like humans do, and what really makes us different is a more sophisticated system of awareness and thought. Compassion for living creatures is fine and natural, but trying to slot the seal and shark into the constraints of human morals (which might not even be applicable to the entire human race and only to one culture) is very inappropriate, and denies the dignity that animals deserve. And you’d best respect a shark when he’s up in his castle plotting your doom and creating his malevolent legion of atomic cheese sticks. What makes this whole situation worse is that we don’t reserve this crap for animals. Inanimate objects cop more than their share too. We hate computers that ‘refuse’ to boot up or keys that ‘decide’ to remain lost. We swear at the sun and praise the cloud that obscures it. Maybe all of this is a sign that we need a little more human contact in our lives. Feeling in touch with animals and nature can bring plenty of happiness and peace. Pretending that all of those aspects are human in some way will only serve to offer us delusions of sociability and species superiotiny… superioritt… fuck! Fuckin’ dumbarse keyboard!

Monday, October 18, 2010

On Courtly love and Chivalry

The progress of sexual equality is very slow, no doubt upsetting many in favour of the feminist movement. Though the idea can be traced back to abstract Platonic protofeminist concepts, our contemporary human behaviour capacity is about 50,000 years old. But hey, after a measly two and a half millennia, it seems we’re finally beginning to get on track. In many societies today woman can vote, speak their minds, and we’re beginning to chip away at the glass ceiling. And yet, there’s still one very obvious and very old sexist practice which continuously slips through the net. The other day, I held a door open for my girlfriend. A harmless gesture to both assist in the passage of my girlfriend through said doorway and to subtly express an appreciation for her. She even mentioned how she approved of such gestures. And why shouldn’t she? There certainly was a door in the way. But as a woman, did she have more right to have doors held open for her than I did? Was I actually practicing chivalrous courtesy?
If I was, it seems a little unnecessary and even counterproductive in these times. I wasn’t about to go burn some pagans, and she wasn’t about to go embroider a tapestry or polish her underpants. Courtly love was based around the idea that woman require special treatment. Delicate, feeble women surely can’t be expected to hold open big heavy doors or get their shoes dirty. They need all their strength and cleanliness to be pregnant and cook relatively protozoa-free boar heads. Sound demeaning? It didn’t a millennium ago. At least not to male nobility. These honourable protocols that involved fetching a woman flowers from the meadow or poaching a fresh dodo would surely make up for her subsequent lifetime of servitude.
Sexism is still everywhere. Even in the schoolyards. How many men remember being hit by girls in primary school but when they hit them back, they were called ‘girl-bashers’? It’s all well and good to say violence against women is wrong, but violence against men is a very real problem that remains mostly ignored. Violence against anybody is socially reprehensible. Just don’t hurt someone else. You’d think that was a basic enough idea. I’m not going to pretend that as a species the two sexes have evolved in the same way, but I’m not going to justify generally being an arsehole either. And then there’s phallic symbolism. When all-girls high school girls weren’t busy masturbating to Purple Stain, they were busy pointing out the vast amounts of phallic symbolism which must’ve been deliberately placed by the patriarchy. This may have upset some of the all-boys high school boys who were busy masturbating to… well… anything really. Actually, now that I think of it, they were probably pointing out phalluses too.
So why do we insist on retaining these blatantly sexist motions? As stated before, there are women who like it, and some women still demand to be treated in this fashion. Many feminists would agree that there are numerous women who work against feminist ideals, indirectly or otherwise. And hey, maybe there are some men who really would like things to change too. That’s why I’ve never really warmed to veins of radical feminism which believe all men work against women. The good news is that we don’t necessarily have to stamp out courtesy to achieve true sexual equality. I consider myself a socialist feminist, and still indulge in the odd door-holding and drink-fetching. Although I may have hunted the odd dodo if they were still around. I don’t hold open doors for people because they’re women (or I think they’re women). I simply wish to express courtesy from one human being to another. It falls into the same category as holding elevators, lending umbrellas and avoiding crowded urinals. Bill and Ted had the right idea. Be excellent to each other.
So what are some changes you as a human can make? Well, try opening a door for someone, regardless of their gender. Maybe they’ll appreciate it. If you’re playing ‘spot the phallus’ with your pretentious friends, maybe you could try spotting a little yonic symbolism too. And of course, don’t hurt people!
Maybe if you can all master these basics, we can move on to the complex stuff.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

On profanity

WARNING: This week’s issue of ‘The Glass Dagger’ contains vulgar and offensive language. Filthy wankers with no balls should refrain from reading.

A friend recently told me that we were all living in a ‘Godless world’. I couldn’t disagree more to this statement. Society has plenty of Gods to go around. Money, sex, violence, Edward Cullen… it’s truly hard to pick these days. So with all this sanctity about, it’s almost too easy to defile something. Something which is ‘profane’ is something outside holiness, and perhaps even blasphemous. And certainly one of the most popular ways to ‘make unholy’ is to verbally curse. It’s probably so popular because it’s so easy. For example take a few of the words I just mentioned before; like Money, and Edward Cullen. Now add ‘fuck’ in front each one (treating Edward Cullen as one word, of course. Although adding a second ‘fuck’ before Cullen works too, the fuckwit…) and you’ve rather successfully cursed each of the subjects. Yes, it’s that easy. No cutting yourself. No burning things. It is a purely mental and verbal process. Feel free to try this experiment with other words, or the names of your friends and family. I honestly have no problem with swearing. Seriously. It’s a device which has a very important role to play in many people’s lives, and makes us feel a tiny bit more in control in situations where we seemingly have none. It’s a very human way of taking the power back, even if it’s only for a second. Why would I want to take that away from anybody? What I DO have a problem with is that almost everybody does it wrong.
There seems to be two extremes in the cussing world. The first one is the most annoying to me. They’re those delightful people who will never utter an offensive word in everyday speech, and then when they do something to arouse anger, like spill a drink or stub a toe, they’ll yell words like “Shivers!” or “Fruitcake!”. These people make me want to yell words like “Liar!” and “Coward!”. If you truly think that you’re intelligent enough to express yourself in sentences rather than to use swear words, you can’t simply substitute already existing swear words. If you’re yelling ‘fruitcake’ to the world, you’re still cursing what’s happened, still cursing your Gods, and you’re just as ineloquent as the rest of us peasants. Besides, if you keep using surrogate swear words, they’re bound to officially become what they’re substituting. Then we’ll all be shitting when we’re cold and eating Christmas fucks.
Then there are those that sit on the other end of the spectrum who use swear words to punctuate their sentences. “I was down at the fuckin’ post office the other fuckin’ day. And who do I bump into but the fuckin’ Smiths!” The biggest damage this does is that it seriously cheapens these important words. Why swear if all the punch has been taken away from the cussing? Swearing constantly does no good for anybody. Especially for yourself. It’s like going to work every day wearing a strap-on. Sure, it’ll get you attention for a while (assuming it’s a casual dress job), but eventually the shock value will wear off, and everyone will see you for the attention-sapping arsehole you truly are.
Before I leave you all, I would like to touch on one last thing. With all these people dissing religion, people don’t realise just how sexist the secular world is. With all our efforts to keep profanity alive, we only really have one real taboo left. Which is, of course, human genitals. And not even male genitals! Think about it. If you say ‘dick’, ‘pecker’, ‘wang’, ‘dong’, ‘Johnson’ or ‘pink oboe’ to people, most will find you socially acceptable, and might even laugh. However, mentioning ‘slit’, ‘snatch’, ‘poon’, ‘hatchet wound’, ‘gash’ or ‘cunt’ will invite eviction from society. So what should you take away from all of this?
Well, come up with some more light hearted words for female genitals, or more offensive male ones. If you stub your toe or you’re filling out a tax return form, swear. If you’re ordering a pizza, or talking about people you like, don’t.
Now seriously fuck off, before I get really angry.

Friday, September 24, 2010

On Romantic Propriety

I’m a romantic fool. Think about that short statement. Now flush out any mental image you have of me, because that’s exactly what I’m not. I’m a more literal romantic fool, in which I am completely ignorant and foolish in romantic situations, despite my very best intentions. While normal romantic fools surrender to their emotions and passions, my logic, emotions and physical desires all stumble blindly towards each other in my mind like some demented 3-way mating ritual of frenzied mountain goats with ear infections. As you can imagine, this is extremely inconvenient for all parties involved. While my feelings are throwing proverbial house-bricks at each other, minor social pleasantries and civilities (like talking, for example) are brought to a halt until the dispute has been resolved. Too much of this and the partner in question feels that they’re wasting their time and leaves to find someone more suitably ‘cool’ and ‘manly’, by which time I’ve already freaked out completely and started thinking about Tomato juice.
But being the massive coward I am, rather than acknowledge that I’m entirely responsible for my failure in romance, it’s far more appropriate to blame all of you and the rest of society for your illogical romance customs. And yes, it’s entirely YOUR fault, and not the hundreds of thousands of years in human evolution and social interaction.
If any of you have read my old blog, you’d probably know how I feel about cinemas. I’m a bit of a social anomaly as I’ve always been so incorrectly under the impression that cinemas were designed for watching movies. I never kiss while at a cinema, and the one time I tried, somebody got bruised. Going to the cinema as a date makes absolutely no sense anyway. If you’re dating someone, presumably you want to get to know them. If you’re in a cinema, presumably you want to get to know a movie. It’s very difficult to fully enjoy a film with another patron stuck to your face. It’s also quite difficult to get to know someone when you’re not allowed to talk in a very low visibility environment after chipping a tooth on a poorly thrown Jaffa. Clubbing makes courting difficult for similar reasons. Why bother trying to talk nice, look nice, and play getting-to-know-you games if you can’t see them for the smoke or hear them over the terrible music (though it’s been a while since I’ve been to a club. Is Hanson still in?)? Sometimes you can’t even move at a club. Last time I was there, I was just about ready to leave when my shoe was fused to the floor by what appeared to be a combination of blu-tack, jelly slice and jungle chews. I really hope those were the actual components. This makes absolutely no sense! In a world where things aren’t doing what they’re supposed to be doing, we’ll never get anywhere. Do people really think that the LHC was designed in the hopes that young couples would make out against the control panels? Did Ferdinand Verbiest really design the first Shaggin’ Wagon? Perhaps.
So it would appear that for a person to be successful in society today, meaningless events like picnics and beach walks have to be swapped out by loud, smelly, sweaty, uncomfortable places that have nothing to do with the interaction in question. Why has the world insisted that romance needs to go hand-in-hand with chaotic situations for true validation? It’s a paradox of sorts. You’re only supposed to kiss in kitchens, churches, cinemas, banks, supermarkets and the like, and only because you’re not supposed to kiss there. Kissing anywhere else is a faux-pas. You’re not meant to kiss at those places, and you’re supposed to kiss at the places you’re not supposed to kiss at, even though you’re expected to kiss, and those places you can kiss at, you can’t. And even I, with my unshakable knowledge of these rules, get consistently confused. So why not make a big change for the better? Think of how wonderful and simple the world would be if we all just reserved these functional places for the events they were designed to hold. We can all watch movies at cinemas, go shopping in shops and listen to music in clubs without anybody expecting you to do something you shouldn’t be doing.
Which you should.
Precisely because you shouldn’t.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

On shoes...

Deuteronomy 33:25 – Thy shoes shall be iron and brass; and as thy days, so shall thy strength be.

I don’t like feet.

I really don’t. And while I respect them are far as their functionality, they are bony, weird looking things that aren’t the least bit attractive to me. And I’m not so arrogant as to feel this way just about the feet of others. My feet are disturbingly hobbit-like, and I figure the less people see of them, the better. I’m aware that my opinion of feet isn’t particularly common, and it could be a strange result of being brought up in a morally conservative family. But I’d suffer people walking about shoeless on their hands if it meant the current trend of footwear was abolished.

Shoes today are overwhelmingly stupid. So stupid, in fact, that it’s difficult to understand why people continue to spend hard-earned money on them. As the transition to the fucked shoes (or ‘shucks’, as I call them) has taken less than a decade, the movement seems less like the natural evolution of clothing and more like an invasion of modern culture. The reasons why shucks shuck so hard are obvious. Firstly, the look. I walk down the street trying to work out where I was when Ugg boots with leggings (which aren’t pants by the by, no matter how many times you print yellow stitches or pockets on them) became popular. The one truly great thing about leggings is they match so many other shucks so well. Be it those stupid, overly wrinkly elf boots, ballet shoes, or ridiculous high-heels that are connected to the front of the shoe (but honestly, I dislike most high-heels. And basically all pointy shoes. Most men feel uncomfortable around sharp-looking shoes. But hey, maybe that’s the point). And let’s not forget the most practical of shucks; the gumboot. Once a functional shoe for wading through mud and cow manure, they’ve been adapted with such coatings as pink Che Guevara faces to wade through bleach, bogan saliva and the vomit of people like me.

While this is all good and disgusting, the footwear’s appearance might have been at least half bearable if the designs were somewhat more pragmatic. I was walking with some friends to my work the other day. The total walking distance was 1.1 km. About halfway through this incredible odyssey, one of my friends mentioned how her shoes were ‘killing her’, and wished we weren’t walking. Both she and I were shocked to find that, after searching deep into my very soul, I had absolutely no sympathy. Normally, I respond compassionately when a person is experiencing pain; physical or emotional. However, this particular friend had chosen to wear shoes entirely for their aesthetics over comfort and practicality. That’s when I realised I have very little patience for those who will put up with the aches, blisters and pieces of glass just to look ‘good’. I may as well wear shoe boxes filled with Lego pieces and Meccano spanners. This completely eliminates the point of shoes, and ridicules people like me who wear nice, comfy, cheap shoes.

You may have noticed that this is all mostly directed at women’s shucks and, as such, may come across as somewhat sexist. Which I completely agree with. Why should women in contemporary society be expected to wear shoes that do their body absolutely no good, and that everybody secretly hates (yes, that’s right. Culturally enforced sexualisation is a religion of sorts, and is fully capable of brainwashing its followers. Anybody you know who likes shucks or finds them attractive most likely has friends or family that do even more.)?

So next time you feel like going out clubbing or to a pub, slip on a pair of hiking boots or runners. You simply won’t believe how good your feet will feel, and you may even attract a higher quality of man/woman.

Or wear chucks. Who doesn’t love chucks?