Monday, November 21, 2011

Oh, Now You Understand?

So, the Occupy Wall Street movement is heating up, right?

I'll admit that initially I was nonplussed about the movement. After all, when have people in power relinquished something because folks held a camp meeting outside their door? The movement wasn't actually making life harder for people, just basically showing up and saying "We're not happy and life ain't fair." Well thanks for that insight peon.

But now things have changed. They've become confrontational. They are occupying space that people want and need. Police are intervening to remove them, courts are intervening to sanction them, and basically it's becoming a situation where people in power are becoming irritated and stupid. Those are the ingredients needed for social change.

But, what's also emerged, as police officers have clashed with protesters is outrage at the behavior of our police. Folks can't believe that the police are so arrogant, so callous and so violent. There is a sense that the police have abdicated their role as protectors in favor of becoming overseers. Folks are dismayed.

I'm amused.

See, I'm black. I know what the police do. I've been cursed, I've been threatened. I've had a weapon drawn on me. My friends and associates have been "detained." My family too. I've been asked to allow my home to be searched. Basically, I learned a long, long time ago that the primary function of law enforcement isn't protection. And it damn sure ain't service. The primary function of law enforcement is enforcing the law as it relates to those who need to be controlled. Basically, it's keeping folks in line.

And now that more people are starting to get on the same page as me and tons of other blacks folks, they need to start wondering who decides where "the line" is, and how they got on that committee. And then folks need to consider exactly how wide and all-encompassing that line can be. And finally, they need to apologize to all the black folks they doubted when we told stories of police abuse and misconduct and injustice.

Then we can talk for real.


Friday, November 18, 2011

Who Are We?

As someone who has read a ton of post-apocalyptic novels, I often find myself evaluating the people I meet based on how I think they would behave if this whole civilization thing went into the crapper.

It's a depressing practice. The more I see of people, the less faith I have in them.

People are selfish, and that's understandable. All of us care about our self interest most of the time. It's the very rare human that is truly concerned with the well being of others on a consistent basis. But, what's truly disturbing is how few people temper their natural self interest with a set of serious morals or values. All of us may have impure inclinations, but we should also have a certain honor about how we live life.

But, the gap between what 'should be" and what "is" cannot be overstated. All the high minded ideals people claim to value are easily cast aside when those ideals affect their self interest. People only believe what they believe when it remains in to their benefit to believe it.

It's sad.

In fact, the only reason we're not a huge mass of raping, murdering, thieving bastards is because as society has grown we've established complicated controls to restrict our worst impulses. When those controls are weakened or destroyed, chaos reigns. In times of great stress, morals are abandoned and unhealthy compromises made. And what does that say about human beings?

I honestly don't know.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Talking About Penn State

I had another post all ready to go, but then I just had to talk about Penn State.

It's not a racial issue, at least not that I know of, although that could change if it turns out this coach was preying on poor little black boys because that will only make things worse. For those of you who have been avoiding the news, Penn State Coach Joe Paterno has been fired, along with the university president, after the Board of Trustees determined they behaved inappropriately in allowing a former football coach to systematically molest young boys using Penn State as a lure.

The decision, which was the only correct one if you read this grand jury report, has sparked outrage among Penn State students who have actually had mini riots in the streets.

And that's what I want to talk about in this post.

See, I've gone over this in my mind, and I can't figure out how intelligent, thinking people could take the actions those students in Penn State took last night. Nobody, NOBODY, who read that grand jury report with a working conscience could believe that Paterno deserved to keep his job. In fact, there should have been mass firings as a result of the allegations made, mainly because there is easily verifiable proof of their veracity.

Yet, these students marched, and chanted and spouted idiotic rhetoric that has made me severely question their intelligence and the well-being of a world where they will be given responsibility. It made me question their parents and their schools, and the values they hold dear.

When adults decide to allow another adult to engage in behavior like showering naked with children, they are wrong. There is no middle ground. You cannot allow someone to behave in that manner, and continue to allow them to be around you and your organization. You cannot decide to avoid reporting them to child welfare agencies. You cannot decide to give them more chances to hurt children. If you make any of those decisions, you have condoned the abuse of children, and you deserve no sympathy and no succor.

That report alleges that Paterno and others ignored signs of molestation, and swept a report of anal rape of child under the rug rather than take an action that would have resulted in outrage, pain and, most importantly, bad publicity. They chose to protect their livelihoods and reputations rather than save children from easily avoided pain. And for that, they are evil.

Anyone who not only refuses to acknowledge this, but defends their actions as "following the rules" is a person whose morality is lacking. If you honestly believe that Paterno "didn't know" or "did what he could" on a campus where he was only a step below God, then I don't just question your intelligence, I doubt its existence and the existence of a true moral compass in your bosom.

Watching students who are supposedly engaged in the activity of educating themselves take the actions those students took last night brings into the doubt the educational mission of Penn State, and the parenting of parents who send their children there. It is a system failure on a massive scale, and that's what people need to be talking about today.


Monday, November 7, 2011

People, Balls and Occupation

Jay-Z has a lyric where he says "What you eat don't make me shit."

It comes right after he says that he doesn't spend much time worrying about how other people live, how they advance themselves or how much money they make. As long as their actions have no impact on him, he's willing to live and let live. It's also an admonition to avoid jealousy and envy, at least that's how I took it.

The lyric has been running through my head recently, as I contemplate the prevalence of jealousy and envy in this strange world, particularly as it relates to the much maligned NBA Lockout. Now, I know many of my faithful readers are not huge sports fans, and probably believe the lockout is nothing more than "billionaires fighting millionaires" because that's the storyline that's been promoted by the mainstream media. But, it's something far different in my opinion.

On one level it's true that this is a dispute between the rich and the wealthy. It would be asinine to draw a direct comparison between this labor fight and those that typically spring up in the national consciousness. Yet, there are definite parallels. Workers are being asked to sacrifice their pay and rights to generate more profits for industries that have been mismanaged. As an added bonus, those at the top of the industry have skimmed healthy benefits off the top for years, but now are complaining of poverty.

And yet, in a battle where it seems fairly easy to pick a side, people, in my opinion, seem to be inclined to pick the wrong side. Lots of folks support the owners who created the lockout and actually defend their "right" to earn more money than their workers.

It's interesting.

What I've come to realize is that people only want some people to be successful. Wait, I should say "certain" people. I've seem folks call the players uneducated thugs, speculate that they'd be working at McDonalds if not for the owners' largess and basically tell the players to shut up and be thankful. It's almost as if the public only allows the players to be rich because they have no choice, but if they had their druthers, the only people making money in this enterprise would be the owners.

Puzzling indeed. At first I tried to deny the truth that leaps out from among these facts, but I cannot any longer. We are a nation of people kept fractured and compliant through jealously, envy and strife, and honestly, we LIKE IT that way. Certain people should have money and certain people shouldn't, and that's just the way the world works. Right?

Wrong. Wealth is not bestowed based on morality, and often not based on talent, intelligence or skill. There are wealthy idiots. Wealthy businessmen who happened to be in the right place at the right time, and then parlayed that initial wealth into other opportunities. They are not better people, nor are they entitled to more money simply because they've made money in the past.

Another prominent issue is the idea that the players should just concede, take their reduced millions and get on with the business of providing the fans with basketball. It's as if people believe that despite the fact that the owners are denying them basketball, it's the job of the players to make a deal happen, regardless of what that means for them.  I'm actually shocked by the selfishness in this position. People want others to take less, so they can have what they want. I know that shouldn't be surprising, but I guess I was more than a little naive.

I recently got into a discussion with my father about the entire "Occupy" movement, and I expressed doubt that much would come from it. I didn't see the participants pushing for anything other than for the world to be more fair, and I didn't understand how they were going to convince the 1 percent to treat the 99 percent better. Deals hinge on leverage, and they appeared to have none. Yet, what I didn't expect was to realize that the main reason why the movement was doomed was far more insidious.

Protesting about the existence of the one percent and the tactics they use to maintain their position is doomed not because of tactics, but because most people in the 99 percent actually like their position. They think that's how the world should work.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Arrogance and Racism

A man told me the other day that my arrogance is really quite similar to racism, and therefore I shouldn't be so quick to castigate and call out racists given my own failings.

That made me think a little bit.

After all, many people have called me arrogant over the years. Hell, my own daddy calls me arrogant, and says it's a hereditary trait. Teachers, friends, and enemies have all noted that I have quite the superiority complex.

I would be lying if I denied it completely.

But, is my arrogance, my personal belief in my superiority, akin to folks who believe that they too are superior because of their skin color. And that other people, because of their skin color are inferior?

This question is interesting. The simple answer, of course is "No." This is a clear example of people using the dictionary definition of racism and not one more grounded in the real world. The dictionary definition, which is really just a collection of popular thought, which means a collection of white thought, focuses on preferences and feelings as opposed to actions and consequences.

That's because for white people racism resides in the realm of feelings and preferences and they are often ignorant, willingly and unwillingly, of the power structures that augment and magnify the personal preferences endemic to all racial groups. In my definition of racism, stolen from a more erudite source, I see it as a system of advantage based on race. It's not about feelings, it's about results.

Basically, bigotry starts with a feeling, racism involves developing a system to validate and propagate that feeling. Everybody is a bigot to some degree. People with power, directly or indirectly, or racists.

My arrogance, when it manifests, is not part of a larger system to validate my feelings. People aren't denied housing or quality education because of my arrogance. My arrogance does not affect policing, healthcare or employment. My arrogance does not get people killed. Yes, it can make people uncomfortable and it can make them unhappy, but racism does so much more than that it's patently ludicrous to compare the two. Racism is not simply about individual slights, it's about the combination of those slights and a system designed to keep people at the lowest rung of society.

The willingness of this gentleman to compare my arrogance to his and the world's racism is telling though. It reveals the sort of mind that can rationalize and justify all manner of activities using the most flimsy of excuses. It is hard to have a serious discussion with that sort of mind because at every turn that mind is searching for a way to cling to its current beliefs. There can be no illumination because that sort of mind is quite content in darkness.

It's not a surprise those sort of people are the most bothered by my arrogance. After all, I'm terribly bothered by them too..


Raving Black Lunatic