joreth: (boxed in)
So, I had no idea, but the apartment upstairs (the one that leaks water into my place every day) was rented by a man. I have seen a man coming and going every so often, but several months ago, I saw a *woman* move in. She introduced herself, we've chatted a few times, I've given her cupcakes, and she was all apologetic when I ran upstairs the time my entire fucking ceiling started leaking all over the apartment to see what happened.

A few days after she moved in, I discovered she had kids when they peered out from the window at me, when her car was gone and I assumed she wasn't home. Shortly after that I started posting about kids having races upstairs and pounding back and forth across my ceiling.

Anyway, she wasn't a great neighbor but she wasn't terrible either. Fast forward to the whole leaky ceiling thing and I've been trying to get my management company to fix it since before the hurricane. Not that the company isn't doing anything, but the maintenance people keep not showing up to fix it.

Now, we have yet another maintenance guy here. He came out a few days ago to inspect it, and through him, I discovered that the apartment upstairs was supposed to be vacant on the 28th. I had heard that she was getting evicted (although she told me that she was leaving because she hated living here), but I didn't know when. Apparently, the *guy* on the lease told the company that he *was gone*.

But she still lives up there.

So the new maintenance guy has been trying to get upstairs to find the source of the leak. Yesterday, after confirming several times that the apartment is supposed to be vacant and the person on the lease verified that he is gone, he drilled out the lock on the door and put a new one in so his plumber can get in there today while I had the day off, to give him all day to work on the leak.

Today, the plumber tried to get in and found that the new key, that was installed yesterday, does not work. So he went off to do another job and the head maintenance guy came back to solve the problem.

In the meantime, her car came back and is parked in the yard. So now the head guy is standing outside with a cop pounding on the door above my head demanding to open up. Since she hasn't after several minutes of pounding, the cop gave the go-ahead to the maintenance guys to drill out the lock again. So now they're up there drilling, while the cop hangs out, eating a brownie and shaking his head over how complicated this whole thing is.

Y'know, if the first maintenance guy had just come back when I made the first complaint last fall, this whole thing would have been a lot more simple, and I wouldn't feel bad at the idea that someone who is in a bad living situation (like I was a few years ago) might be having her place invaded before she's able to get out.

Had I known any of this about her squatting before I started complaining about the leak, I might have lived with the leak a little longer, to give her some time. But when they sent (a different maintenance team) out who cut a hole in my ceiling to investigate *and then never came back to fix it*, I started getting more insistent. And my management company responded immediately with these guys who are actually trying to do work. But in order for them to do work, they had to get involved in the drama upstairs.

Apparently, when the lock was changed, someone actually climbed up to the balcony and entered through the balcony door, because that door was open. And then they did something to the new lock - don't know if they changed it over night or they just damaged the tumblers to prevent its use.

Cops just said they found some "drug paraphernalia" inside, and they gave the maintenance guy permission to just clear it out, so at least nobody is going to jail for drugs. I asked if he found any kids hiding upstairs, because she often leaves them there alone, but he said no. Her car is still here, but nobody is there.

So here we are.

And no, I don't think that buying a home would solve my problems either, because then I'd have to pay for all this shit myself, which I can't afford to do. This is just what life is like when you're poor.
joreth: (Bad Computer!)

When I first moved into this apartment, it literally did not have a fridge, stove/oven, and cabinets (or dishwasher or disposal).  Like, it really came with none of those things.  I had to obtain them (I never did get a dishwasher or disposal - no room).  I was so poor, I had to accept from my boss an advance on my paycheck to cover the rent deposit so that I could escape my fucked-up situation with the dude who was killing my cats.

When I moved into this place, I had just moved 7 times in 2 years because I'm so poor, I can't afford decent housing so I keep living in these shitholes that are so bad, one of them literally had the water shut off by the city to try and root everyone out so that they could raze it.

So, after the expenses of moving 7 times in 2 years, and having a boss generously offer to give me cash so that I no longer had to keep my poor cat in the car in the parking garage while I worked because I had nowhere else to keep her, and after spending $50 FOR EACH APARTMENT APPLICATION I FILLED OUT because application fees are now standard, I moved into a place with no fridge, no stove, and no cabinets.

Eventually, I obtained these things.  Eventually.  But they are still inadequate. Between my lack of proper storage, the fact that I live alone, and the fact that I'm anorexic and simply *cannot eat* the volume of food of a normal person, it actually costs me more money to cook my own food after factoring in the amount that goes bad before I can eat it and I have to throw it out.

And all of this is even with having a pretty comfortable kitchen trousseau (and I mean that literally - in high school, I started collecting household items, one at a time, and storing them until I could move out, under the assumption that I would be building my own kitchen for my future husband and family (I was raised Catholic)).

Every time one of my kitchen utensils needs replacing, I scour the thrift stores and dollar stores and Walmart trying to find the absolute cheapest way to replace it and have it still be functional.  If I was just moving into my first place and had nothing at all, or I had to move in such a way that I lost most of my stuff (like someone being reintroduced to society after a long stint in jail, for instance), I certainly couldn't afford to outfit a kitchen like mine all at once.  And by "like mine", I mean "still has a hand-cranked mixer", not "has the whole line of Cuisinart tools" level of kitchen.

I do cook.  But for just me, and the storage limitations, if I'm going to be spending extra money on home-cooked food, I'd rather spend it on baking ingredients that I can share with coworkers and friends instead of produce that I can't eat all of before it goes bad and can't store to keep anyway.

The rest of my food budget is most efficiently spent on individual sized, well-preserved meals that provide me with the veggies that I can't afford to buy fresh and what little protein I need in my diet to prevent the weird health issue I have when I don't eat meat.

And some fast food when I don't have time to go shopping because it now takes me 2 fucking hours to drive 12 miles to and from work and I'm one of the lucky ones with a (mostly) working car or when I'm stuck on a job site without my portable hot plate and have to eat out because there are no break room facilities in my job for bringing a lunch.
joreth: (boxed in)
So, about 6-ish years ago, I lost my long-term place to live.  I had been there for years and I was given no notice (there's a legal reason they could do that but it's long & I don't want to go into it).  Because I had no notice, and I was poor, I spent the next 2 years bouncing around.  A friend would take me in with no notice, that situation would become untenable, I'd have to find the first place I could afford, that place would bottom out, another friend would have to take me in, rinse repeat.

In the middle of all this, I applied for low-income housing.  Let me tell you why this is not a solution for people with low incomes.  More than 4 years after I applied, I finally heard something from them today.  And it's not to say that I finally got in.  No, it's to say that one of their properties is changing owners, so I'll have to go on a *separate* waiting list if I want to still be considered for that property.

I had completely forgotten that I had even applied for low-income housing.  Fortunately, for me, I managed to bust my ass enough to make just enough money to afford this shitty little apartment I found with a landlord who was (at the time) a real person I could talk to and explain things to, and not a management company who has to follow "policy".

Otherwise, I might have spent the last 4 years couch-surfing still (and wearing out my welcome with friends all over town), waiting for the city to get back to me with an apartment I can afford.

This is why poor people stay poor. There are just not enough resources to help them get out of a system that is designed to make them stay in it.
joreth: (boxed in)
Hypothetical boss of part-time employee: Yeah, we're gonna need an official diagnosis from a doctor in order to accommodate your "condition".

Me: OK, well, since I don't have health insurance because I'm a part-time employee, I don't have a doctor anymore. This may come as a surprise to you, but doctors don't hand out certificates when they diagnose people with "Congratulations! You have a debilitating illness!" on them.

I don't have any paperwork "proving" that I have a condition, that's not how medical diagnoses work, and I will have to go back to a doctor and pay out of pocket to get one, assuming I can find a doctor who will do that (sharing medical information is a violation of patient privacy, btw, which can be a federal offense, so demanding "proof" is legally questionable, at best).

Which, by the way, will require an invasive exploratory surgery and a hospital stay for a "non-emergency" procedure because that's the only way to diagnose this particular condition. So we're talking tens of thousands of dollars for a doctor to tell me what I already know and which doesn't change the fact of my existence with this condition - whether a doctor recognizes it or not doesn't make the pain and vomiting any less.

And it will also put me out of commission for a few weeks so I won't be able to come into work anyway, or earn any money to pay for the surgery.

OR... you could just believe me that I have a chronic, debilitating condition that affects my ability to work sometimes and make at least as many concessions for me as you do for the pregnant women who are allowed to sit down more often or are given other tasks to make up for the lower amount of manual labor that they do or can call out or rearrange their schedule to accommodate their condition.

All *I'm* asking for is to not get fired if I have to call in sick more than some blanket number of days per year when I show up the rest of the time and when I am a satisfactory employee while I'm there.

I know it's a hardship on the rest of the team when people call in sick. I'm just saying, don't pick some arbitrary number of days that a person can call in sick and then fire people when they hit that number. This needs to be handled with more context and nuance regarding the individual person, and expecting part-time, minimum wage workers to have access to healthcare including the ability to get "doctor's notes" to excuse them is not a solution.
joreth: (Misty in Box)

I recently had to block someone because they posted about that common of white privilege memes - anyone can travel if you just commit to it and don't hold out for 5-star hotels! I didn't block them just because they made that post. I had to block them because I and someone else tried to explain the privilege inherent in the position in the comments, and *their friends* flooded the comments with more of the same "you just don't want to travel badly enough because if you wanted it, it could be done" and "you're just afraid". I had to block that person just to stop getting notifications about their privileged friends continuing to gaslight me and tell me what I "really want" or what I'm "really afraid of".

And yes, I *am* afraid to lose what little safety net I have managed to hold onto while the rest slips rapidly through my fingers, by living in the same country that recognizes me as a citizen and where my parents can send me emergency cash overnight. When your only means of survival requires your government to give you assistance and your retired parents to send their hard-earned (and dwindling) retirement funds on bailing you out every so often, the idea of leaving the country and not being able to access that meager safety net because you don't have any cash saved up is terrifying (assuming that "selling everything you own" even adds up to the amount necessary to get a passport and plane ticket in the first place, which my stuff doesn't). And yes, some of my friends are afraid to travel in countries where they can't easily get their insulin because they are so poor that their only travel option is that couch-surfing, get a dishwashing job when you get there option which doesn't exactly provide them with the ability to stock up on insulin in a foreign country. Travel, no matter how cheaply you spin it, is a luxury when it's a choice.

As I told those arrogant people in the comments, living hand-to-mouth and washing dishes and sleeping on someone's couch is not something that a person aspires TO when it is something they are currently trying to escape FROM. I don't care how magnificent the sunset looks over a pyramid, it doesn't mean shit when the only way to see it is to be worse off than I am at home and then, because of that, be too poor to get back home. It's not like the sun doesn't set here too, y'know.

That's actually how I ended up stuck in FL. I spent all my money, traveled as cheaply as possible, even worked odd jobs on the way, made it out here with nothing saved up (because of unexpected emergency travel expenses, I spent all the savings I was supposed to live on once here just to finish getting here) and no job waiting for me and no place to live. And the effort it takes just to survive out here means I have been unable to get back to even my starting point, so I can't afford to leave what was supposed to be a temporary trip. Sure, it takes less money to live in other places so you could conceivably survive somewhat comfortably by traveling cheaply somewhere else. But because it takes less money to live there, you also earn less money while you're there. If you spend all your money getting somewhere, there's no guarantee that you'll make enough money once there to get back. I've been stuck here for 16 goddamn years because I can't afford to get back home, thanks to it being cheaper to live here than back home.

I know EXACTLY what it takes to give up "everything" and "just do it", and I know how hard it is to recover from that and I know what happens when you "give up everything" and never recoup it so you can't ever go back at the end of the adventure. I know what happens after you ride off into that sunset. Life happens and life is a bitch.

"It’s likely, from where I sit, that this back-to-nature and boxed-up simplicity is not being marketed to people like me, who come from simplicity and heightened knowledge of poverty, but to people who have not wanted for creature comforts. For them to try on, glamorize, identify with."

"The drop-offs were happening at a white anarchist collective filled with people who were choosing not to participate in the system of capitalism.

And I couldn’t help but think: that must be nice. To have that choice. "

"the same people of color who may go on welfare out of necessity, out of the systemic oppression that makes it difficult for them to have the same access to upward mobility, are considered socially uncouth and lazy, while white anarchists (in this context) are praised for their radically subversive actions."

"But I do think it’s time to start having conversations about how alternative means aren’t a choice for those who come from poverty. We must acknowledge what it means to make space for people who actually need free food or things out of dumpsters, "

The only people flocking towards all these "live simply" hipster solutions are people who didn't come from a life where "live simply" wasn't a choice. It's easy to give up your extra "things" or space when your background tells you that you can always replace it again in the future. It's easy to look on a life of crawling through dumpsters and living on couches when you had your full vaccination schedule and medical benefits and a history of more or less healthy diet to make you hardy enough to withstand any medical complications that comes from accidental exposure or a poorer diet than normal or a 6-week *choice* of poor sleep on a couch that you can give up and come back to your nice bed when you're done.

It's easy to think all that stuff sounds like "fun" or even "responsible" when you haven't lost someone you know to exposure and malnutrition that could have been prevented had they ever had the "choice" to give it up when they were tired of playacting at being poor.
joreth: (Bad Computer!)
So, there's a certain type of person for whom my words resonate. I became a pseudo-public figure so those people could hear me, not to gather a large following. It's more like I was just making myself into an available resource. I know that I'm not to everyone's taste, and I'm fine with that. The people who like what I have to say can read what I say, and the people who don't, don't have to.

So I find it interesting that only a portion of my posts get multiple shares. If I'm extremely lucky, the number of shares gets to the 2 digits. Like I said, I'm fine with that because I'm not in this for the numbers, I'm in this to be available to those who want my words and that's it.

But the really interesting part isn't that I only get a handful of shares every now and then. No, the interesting part is that the more angry I get, and the more cuss words I use, the higher my shares go. And the post that I made that starts right out of the gate with cussing and rage? Yeah, over 1,300 shares so far.

So, to those people who think that a message will go further if it's nicer, fuck you. To those people who like the sentiment of an activist, but not the anger, fuck you too. The anger is PART of the sentiment. Even people who were embarrassed by the cussing and preemptively apologized for it in their shares, they still shared it because it was *important*, because it said something that people felt needed to be said.

I know that I'm not going to accomplish very much sitting here at my computer and making Facebook posts. That's why I vote and why I sign reputable petitions and why I contact elected officials. But what I *can* do from my computer is provide people with a voice. I will express that rage and that sadness and that horror that people are feeling even when some people wish I would just shut up and stop causing a ruckus, because I can afford to. I will express anger so that people know they're not alone in their passion, and I will share words for those who need to borrow some.

I don't have very much to give, but I do have my emotions and my words. Those include swear words, ugly words, harsh words, because sometimes, those are the only words appropriate for the depth and the intensity of the emotions they represent. There's a reason why my most angry, most cuss-filled posts get the most shares - they reflect what people are feeling. You can't separate the "bad words" from the emotions. They are the expression of those emotions.

So I will continue to swear when I'm angry. And when I'm happy. And when I fucking feel like it. And you will know that I am offering an honest, raw expression of my emotions. Because I have built a life where I can do that, and since so many people still don't have that luxury, I refuse to modulate my words and my tone on their behalf for the dainty sensitivities of the very people who won't let them do it for themselves. Anyone who is more upset at my use of language than the message itself is part of the problem.
joreth: (Dobert Demons of Stupidity)
I know this is a complex concept to grasp, requiring a Ph.D level of education and all, but I'm gonna try to explain it in simple terms anyway: It is possible to give a shit about more than one political or social or civil rights issue at a time, even if one is speaking about only one issue at the moment.

It is possible to care about the militarization of our local law enforcement AND people dying of famine in other countries.

It is possible to care about refugees from war-torn nations AND our own veterans not getting adequate post-war care.

It is possible to care about black people being murdered for petty or no crimes AND about the safety of our police officers on the job.

It is possible to care about the harassment, assault, and rape of non-men in our culture and how our politicians enforce and legitimize it with their completely fallacious laws AND about aggressive nations grandstanding and waving their dicks at us or other countries.

It's possible to care about the words and pictures written on government objects like money and buildings AND about our children's education.

It is possible to care about celebrities - who they're marrying, what they're wearing, which ones are dying - AND about the economy.

It is possible to care about street harassment in the US AND genital mutilation / acid attacks / women being stoned to death in other countries.

It is possible to care about and invest in the latest movies / sporting events / books / TV shows to come out AND about cancer.

If you are tempted to tell people that they should stop caring about something they do care about because you think that it's both frivolous and interfering with their ability to care about something you think is important, I'm gonna throw your advice right back at you and tell you to stop wasting your time complaining about what other people care about and get off your ass and actually DO something about those issues YOU think are so important because being concerned with other people's interests is, apparently, interfering with your own ability to care about the important things.

While you're busy whining on social media about how people aren't paying attention to whatever pet issue has your ire up, what you're NOT doing is raising money for that issue, or writing to your elected officials about that issue, or getting a science degree to solve that issue, or putting your life on the line to fix that issue.

By all means, post about the issues you think are important to get people to pay attention to them. Be upset about your issues not getting enough attention. Just don't mistake other people's interest in something that you *don't* care about as an inability to care about other things. It could be that YOU are the one lacking in the information or education or perspective to understand why THEIR topic is also important.
joreth: (Nude Drawing)
[Image: tweet screencap that says "If you think sex work is 'selling your body', but athletes, manual laborers aren't, etc. it's a moral hang-up you've got, and that's on you."]

I had this exact argument with an ex, who didn't want his wife to have naked pictures of herself available on the internet (whether she wanted to or not was irrelevant). After pressing him, he pulled the "selling her body" line, to which I responded that I (was at the time) a professional dancer and I worked manual labor which required me to do physical things like climbing and heavy lifting, so how was I *not* selling "my body"?

He had no good answer for it, but he certainly tried very hard to rationalize it, and we ended up arguing in circles for quite a long time that day. He tried to distinguish using one's body *for sex*, to which I pointed out a gradation from "respectable" dancers to "sex" dancers, and at what point is the dancer responsible for the sexual thoughts of the audience for her body, and followed up with "what's wrong with making money from sex anyway?" It was fun to hear someone try to explain what was wrong with making money from sex when STDs weren't on the table (i.e. pictures, lap dances, etc. = no possible STD vector) and when the person arguing against them is non-monogamous so he clearly couldn't use the "sex is special and reserved only for your spouse" line either.

He also tried the "it's degrading" bit, so I reminded him that he once worked in fast food, and various other well-worn responses, including my own "respectable" form of dancing still involved drunk men slobbering over me and needing to wear a fake wedding ring or have a male "manager" attend gigs with us, which still didn't prevent assholes from propositioning me after a performance.  One such memorable and yet entirely common proposition was at 4 in the morning after a performance when the venue was closed for the night and empty except for employees, contractors (like myself), and people associated with the event.  Some drunk dude cornered me to "compliment" me on my dancing, so I plastered my "I am working and can't afford to alienate paying clients or their friends who might hire us again later" smile on my face while he invited me back to his hotel room for what was left of that night.  I held up my "wedding ring", and he came up with the oh-so-brilliant line that my "spouse" need never know about it.  Because, OMG, that never occurred to me!!!  The only thing holding me back from hooking up with drunk strangers after a performance was the thought that I would be obligated to tell my "spouse" about it!  This totes changes things!

I almost never feel degraded when I have casual sex. I haven't tried any kind of sex work, but most of the sex workers I know seem to enjoy their jobs well enough. But I very much feel degraded working minimum wage jobs like retail or waitress jobs, because I take home so little pay for so much physical and emotional labor and the clientele automatically assumes that I'm beneath them, that I'm not worthy of being treated with any dignity or respect because I'm there to "serve" them. I can only imagine how poorly service workers like cleaning services, trash collectors, and landscaping workers are treated. You can't tell me that sex work is "degrading" and "selling your body" in one breath and excuse all those other jobs the next. I don't buy it. I've been there.
joreth: (::headdesk::)
Just be honest already. You don't actually want "small government", you want no legal repercussions for your business dealings but you're totally fine with a government big enough to invade every bedroom and every vagina and every poor person's pantry, as well as every country that doesn't provide us with cheap labor and expensive imports that you can profit from.
joreth: (Misty in Box)

This video actually made me feel sad, not good. Even after being briefly homeless myself several times in the last couple of years, I still have people who know me personally who keep posting shit on their FB feeds about homeless people and people on welfare being "lazy" or worthless or not pulling their weight in society.  And gods forbid one of them turn down a dubious job offer!  Then it's *proof* that they're lazy and worthless, even though no one asked *why* they might turn it down.  I can come up with a dozen legitimate reasons not to accept some street rando's "offer" of construction work right off the top of my head.  But no, they must be lazy and worthless and not contributing to society.

Homeless and poor people are artists, accountants, students, technicians, people in the medical field, parents, mechanics, people with degrees and experiences. Everyone thinks it's "so amazing!" that someone who looks like this man could possibly know how to play an instrument, especially one that isn't a guitar. Why shouldn't he? I do. I played for 10 years. I also played flute and percussion and I can sing. And yet, I spent nights in my car because I had nowhere else to sleep, and even more nights in friends' spare rooms and couches because I still had nowhere else to sleep.

It's not like someone who lost his home because his company downsized or because his medical bills got larger than his income could cart around a piano on the street to play for spare change. What else do people who look like him know how to do that you have no idea because you don't see them as people with pasts, but as worthless, lazy bags of bones that you try to avoid eye contact with so that you don't have to feel guilty about not dropping them a buck or two?

How much you wanna bet that most of the people giving him money for playing wouldn't have done so if he had just been sitting there on the curb? Because he might just go and buy liquor with it? Because he's not "earning" it? I used to only give money to street performers too, because I thought people had to earn the money I was giving them and that, for some inexplicable reason, a performer who "earned" his money would buy food with it whereas someone who didn't "earn" my money would just go buy drugs. This is the same man who, earlier this day, was sleeping on a park bench somewhere that no one would have given a quarter to, but now that he's performing a skill, suddenly it's "amazing" and we should "support" him.

Look, this guy is pretty good at the piano, but this video is just making me angrier and angrier because of the implications behind why this video went viral. If he had been a guy with a hipster beard and carefully gelled Bed Head hairstyle wearing skinny jeans and a hundred dollar flannel shirt playing in some cafe in Portland, no one would have watched this video except his buddies. He's good, but he's not, like, "OMG why hasn't he been signed?!?" good.  I work in entertainment, I've seen some legends, I know what "OMG why hasn't he been signed?!?" sounds like.

This video went viral because people are so fucking surprised that this decent talent could possibly come from a man who looks like this, who doesn't have a home, and is starving to death. Like a fucking freak show. And that pisses me off. "If he has that kind of talent, why is he living on the streets?" Because even people with marketable skills can't make a living off them, let alone just playing the piano. Because even talented people have drug or medical problems.  Because our economy sucks and our culture sucks and people suck.

So here's this guy, with no home and not enough to eat, who just happens to gain access to an instrument that he happens to play, and suddenly we're all "wow, this is amazing!" like it's a fucking miracle that he can do anything but drool on the sidewalk. He's a human goddamn being and it's a fucking shame that no one pays attention to him until he does something "normal" like it's revolutionary when the truth of the matter is that this IS normal. Homeless people are people, with talents, skills, knowledge, and experiences just like everyone else. It's more luck of the draw than anything you did to separate you from people like him.

I'm not intending to disparage his skill. As I said, he's pretty good. I'm pointing out what's wrong with our culture that is only really impressed with his skill because he's homeless. It's dehumanizing. He's not being praised for playing the piano, he's being praised for being a Homeless Man Who Plays The Piano Well. It's like saying "you're pretty good ... for a girl" or "you look great ... for your age", only it's actually worse because women and old people often rank higher in importance than the homeless (unless you're an old homeless woman, or worse, an old, disabled, homeless trans person of color which is, as far as I can tell, is the worst thing you could possibly be - even our feral animals are treated better than they are).

My rant is also not about the people who took the video.  Actually, the kid who took the video has started an Indegogo campaign to create a series of videos he calls Humanizing The Homeless, because he wants to do more to help as many people as he can.  He seems to realize the seriousness of the situation, and the overwhelmingness of the problem.  I think that's admirable and I hope he succeeds. No, I'm upset about our *society* that requires a video project like this in the first place before they can see homeless people as human beings.  And still, people only help those individuals who manage to get humanized for them.  Most of the people in my FB feed who are complaining about "lazy welfare cheats" are perfectly capable of humanizing certain individuals while denigrating the entire class of person at the same time.  Take me for example - because they know me as a person, they're willing to help me out, but they see me as some sort of exception.  "All homeless people are lazy drug addicts who just don't want to be helped, except for you, Joreth, you're a decent, hardworking person who just fell on some hard times, but everyone else, they're The Homeless."  They all have to prove their humanity first, before people will treat them with dignity and compassion.  I've proven my dignity and my humanity to my FB friends, and this guy proved his with his viral video, but everyone else - nah, they're not human, they're Homeless.

There have been some followup videos of this guy.  All because his video went viral, a local news team has been basically sponsoring him.  They paid for some new clothes, a new haircut, and have facilitated reconnecting him with his son and getting him into rehab.  People have been paying him to come play at their events and he even played the national anthem at an NFL game.  He's even being called a "prodigy".  As I said, he's pretty good, I'm not suggesting otherwise.  But he's actually not any better than me.  I've played music at least as complex as the songs he's wowing everyone over, and I also hear a lot of mistakes.  He's not *bad*, not even mediocre.  He's pretty good, and he knows way more instruments than I do (he studied music in college, I learned).  But the hype is all because everyone is astonished that a *homeless man* can play well at all.

So, that's wonderful that he's getting help and having experiences that he never dreamed possible.  Every video and news story on him barely mentions his drug problem, and when they do, it's only in the context of getting better.  "I want to help him clean up his act."  "See how his progress goes with rehab."  That's fucking phenomenal.  I don't think people really understand how important it is that his drug problem is being dismissed over his viral video.  I *want* people to accept him and encourage him in getting help, don't get me wrong.  The problem I'm having is that this is *not how we treat homeless people*, unless they perform for us.  What about all the other drug addicts on the street?  How often do they get spat on?  How often do they get kicked while they sit on the sidewalk with their legs splayed out?  How often do people refuse to give them money because "they're just gonna spend it on drugs or alcohol"?  This guy hadn't been through rehab yet, hadn't gotten the help he needs for his problem, but everyone's paying him to play anyway.  What if he spends all that money on drugs?  What if, once his son had found him again, he spent his next gig's paycheck on some bender and dies?

I don't think that's justification for not paying him for performing, but I think it's hypocritical to give this guy special treatment because of a fluke YouTube video while not helping any of the other millions of drug addicts, people with mental illnesses, people with medical issues, and people with just shitty economic luck.  Yes, congrats to this dude, and I genuinely, sincerely, hope this is a turning point for him and he gets a decent quality of life that everyone deserves just for being human.  But what about everyone else?  When you see the next bearded, dirty old white man on the street, are you going to stop and ask yourself, "I wonder what special skill or knowledge this guy has that makes him unique, and can I help him use that skill or knowledge to improve his quality of life?"  When you see the fat, old black woman talking to herself and pushing her shopping cart full of trash, are you going to stop and say to yourself, "she is a special, individual human being.  I wonder what makes her unique?  I wonder who she is and what her story is?  I wonder if she has any loved ones wondering where she is or what happened to her?  Can I do anything to help her get the medication she needs to stop talking to herself and to hold down a job?"  And when you sanctimonously offer someone a job that they're not qualified for or that they don't believe is real or that they have some legitimate hurdle that makes it impossible for them to accept that job, are you going to sit and talk to them about their situation, and *ask them* what would make their life better, rather than swooping in on your White Knight complex and getting pissed off that they don't fall at your feet and praise you for it?  Are you going to spend your time and look them in the eye and listen to their story and really *see* them?

Or are you going to step over them, avert your eyes when they slowly walk past your car window at a traffic light, clutch your purse or wallet, and only think they deserve money if they're "working for it", earing it in a way that impresses you, in a socially approved way, so that you can feel good about yourself by thinking that this situation could never happen to you because you're a productive member of society, unlike these lazy, crazy, sick people?  And then feel shocked and amazed at how wonderful humanity is when some other viral video comes across your Reddit feed that forces you to see the humanity in that individual while you ignore the humanity in all the other individuals not lucky enough to be recorded like a sideshow performer when they do show you their humanity?
joreth: (Bad Computer!)
So first, some backstory.  There's this guy who used to run a hedge-fund who then purchased a pharmaceutical company which had just acquired the rights to a drug that wasn't used by very many people but those people were pretty damn sick. The previous company had changed its distribution setup so that distribution was very strictly controlled and you could only get this drug through this one path. OK, that happens sometimes, but if anything happens to that path or your specific case is outside of that path, you're pretty screwed. So this douchenozzle bought this company that had this drug and he promptly raised the price from $13.50 a pill to a whopping $750 per pill. You read that right; I did not drop a decimal point.

The internet exploded in outrage about price gouging and the lack of ethics in Big Pharma. And by "internet", I don't mean just those wacko Naturalistic Fallacy conspiracists who think "Big Pharma" is a single evil entity out to kill us all. I mean even rational, science-based people who support science and science-based medicine but who are willing and able to call out the actual flaws in the system when found. So I posted about that on Facebook, but I didn't bother to make an archived LiveJournal post about it. It was just sarcasm about the greed endemic to corporate America. That's also not a conspiracy story - capitalism and corporations are specifically designed to support greed, not the public good. Individual people aren't evil cardboard cutouts of power-hungry villains, but the system is not conscious and doesn't have human values like compassion. It takes actual people working against the system to keep the humanity in corporations. But I digress.

Shortly after I and many other people ranted about this jerkoff, I read an article that basically said "yeah, what he did was despicable but it's only going to affect people with enough money for fancy insurance policies anyway, so whatevs".

What we are all outraged about is not the number of people this will effect. It's the sociopathy and greed that a plan like this reveals. And when you give sociopaths power, they use it. Sociopaths and abusers, on a personal level, test boundaries. They check to see where they can get away with pushing in *just a little bit*. If you're somewhat flexible on some of your boundaries, probably because you're mostly a reasonable person who can make exceptions and can see an exchange of discomfort with another person who is operating with you on good faith as a net positive thing, then you might be willing to bend just a bit on this one thing that is less important than these other things. Because we often have to get burned before we can tell that someone is *not* operating on good faith - that's *how* we know that they're not, by the way they fuck us over.

And then the abuser pushes just a tiny bit more, which seems reasonable. And then he pushes just a skosh more, which might not quite seem reasonable but you've already bent this far, so not bending more kinda seems more unreasonable because it might feel hypocritical. And eventually, those series of tiny pushes and tiny compromises have you both so far inside of your boundaries that he entrenches himself and you can't get him out.

Now take that on a global scale. CEOs, by the very nature of their jobs (or maybe their jobs don't consider human impact because it's people who lack empathy who are attracted to the position?), tend to be more sociopathic and less empathetic than the average person. They push the boundaries to see what they can get away with. And then we let them because they rationalize it as "it's only going to affect this small number of people, and you don't really care about *those* people, do you?" or "but it's necessary for this particular outcome, and you want to help this outcome, don't you?"

The fact that this particular action will only harm a small number of people that we can justify hurting as "they can afford it" is exactly what makes this action so despicable. It's boundary pushing. He's seeing what he can get away with. And our fucked up medical / legal system provides enough loopholes for him to slide through.

Yes, I do sometimes take the stance that the rich can afford to pay more taxes so they should for the betterment of the rest of the country. I have done a risk-to-benefit ratio and decided that having one fewer yacht so that starving children can have one extra meal that they didn't "earn" is worth it. I do not think that the 1000 middle class people who won't qualify for the price-gouging safety regulations but still need that drug are an acceptable trade-off for making this guy even richer.

In this case, it's not the numbers of people who will be affected that makes this story so appalling. It's the inhumanity of the individual making the decisions that does. Patterns are important. This case is symptomatic of a pattern. And those of us who were horrified by the case saw that pattern. That's why it was such a big deal.
joreth: (Bad Computer!)
One of the things that bugs me about the "why should burger flippers get $15 an hour when soldiers don't?" argument is that it implies that there are people who deserve a living wage and people who don't. It ranks human beings into Worthy Of Survival and Not Worthy Of Survival and it categorizes these people, not on their character or how they behave in society, but on what kind of job they managed to obtain at this one particular point in their lives - a job, I'll remind you, that is one you would definitely notice if everyone who held that job suddenly stopped.

Because, you see, the only people who are making the assumption that demanding a living wage is reserved for one category of people (burger flippers) and not another (soldiers) are the people who think it's appropriate to rank those categories in the first place.

The people demanding the living wage are not saying other people should make less, or even equally low amounts. It's like the ‪#‎BlackLivesMatter‬ crowd - we're highlighting one group who gets shit on because they need that attention right now but it doesn't mean that other lives don't matter. Those of us in support of living wages are not also prohibiting increases for those who already make living wages. "This guy deserves to feed himself and pay rent for working 40 hours a week" is not an argument that leads to or includes "but those guys don't." That is, as a matter of fact, the argument against living wages.

So why should a "burger flipper get $15 an hour when soldiers don't?" (Ignoring whether "soldiers don't" is even true for now). Why should they? I dunno, you tell me, since I'm not the one claiming they should. The question isn't why should one class of people get paid better than another class of people who are doing work that I value more. If that were the question, I'd be ranting about sports salaries vs. teachers, not talking about living wages. The real question here is why *anyone* should be allowed to starve to death or lose one's home when they're willing to put in as many hours as we collectively think is necessary for being "productive" in order to justify keeping those doing the work we *do* value at proportionally low wages.

If so-called "burger flippers" are making better benefits and pay than soldiers, then the people you ought to be mad at are the ones who decided to pay soldiers so little, not those who want to pay "burger flippers" enough to survive, since those paying the soldiers so little are the ones ranking human lives and compensation, not the people who give a shit about everyone being able to survive.
joreth: (Misty in Box)
Easy Recipes From Stuff In Your Kitchen For People Who Don't Have Time To Cook And Are On A Budget!

Um, I'm not sure what kind of people you hang around with, but I don't generally have fresh kale, skim ricotta cheese, or tofu just chillin' in my fridge. That's not exactly living "on a budget", nor are those the kinds of foods usually associated with just taking up space on my shelves. Those kinds of things go bad pretty quickly.

Low income people, contrary to popular perception, don't often have a bunch of free time from sitting on their couches all day. We're often running from job to job to daycare to grocery shopping to appointments. So it would be nice if more of those "quick meals" were targeted at people who either can't afford all those fresh and trendy veggies or who don't have the time to take the bus across town to the nearest Whole Foods or farmer's market (or didn't assume we could afford to even if we did have the time) since the store in walking distance is probably a Walmart.

If a recipe could tell me how to make something healthy out of stale bread, cheese wrapped in wax, canned peaches, and Fritos, in under 10 minutes including prep time, that'd be awesome.
joreth: (Bad Computer!)
I think I get one of the reasons why I lose my temper online, and I'll try to expand later (but right now I'm running late, as usual). The things I post are about people's subjective experience, their personal autonomy, their personhood, and their dignity. These things are not up for debate.

Yet people treat the posts in my feed as though it's a stage where two equal ideas with equal merit are to be weighed and considered. The counterpoint to the stuff that I post about does not deserve to share a stage with the stuff I post about. They do not deserve equal time, equal consideration.

My rage is part frustration that I'm not being heard and I'm not making myself understood, and it's also the sheer horror that anyone could even think that these topics are up for debate in the first place.

I post things for people's education and information. Which means that people need to *learn*. Learning involves listening, not talking back. People's autonomy, personhood, dignity, subjective experiences, the right to exist - these things are not up for debate, and if you think they are, you're a horrible person and I will not host a platform that helps spread your position. The Flat Earth "theory" does not deserve to share the stage with real science and rejection of other people as people does not deserve the same stage as respect for those people.
joreth: (Super Tech)
"Cheikh Mohammed, do your friends give you gifts?" I started in Arabic, breaking off a piece of village bread.

"Of course, it's a friendly thing to do." He adjusted his posture on the scratchy woven carpet.

"Now if I'm coming from America to give you gifts, am I your friend?" ...

"You asked me if my friends give me gifts," he said. "Make sure that YOU are my friend. Make certain you understand me, first. Learn my strengths, my heart, my efforts. Once we are established in brotherhood, then yes, send me a present, one that won't hurt me to open."
The above conversation was an excerpt from an article I just posted about voluntourism - the pattern of relatively wealthy white Americans swooping into areas we considered "underdeveloped" and doing things that assuage our white, wealthy guilt, but that don't help those areas in the long term. But I found this conversation was a much bigger symbol.

This is the essence behind the Platinum Rule. This is the meaning behind feminism and feminist critiques of so-called "compliments". This is complaint behind racism. This is struggle behind poverty here in the US with the nation's refusal to provide healthcare and screening welfare recipients for drugs and concern trolling the grocery carts of food stamp recipients. This is what everyone who is oppressed and who speaks out against it is trying to say.

It is not a "gift" when it is not given out of understanding for the other person. It is not a "gift" when the reason for giving it is to make the giver feel good but doesn't account for the effect on the recipient. It is not a "gift" when it doesn't reflect the recipient themselves - their humanity, their feelings, their personhood.

When feminists complain about compliments or opening doors, the comments inevitably get bogged down with "but it's NICE to open doors and tell someone that she's pretty!" This is the very epitome of what's wrong and what this excerpt is trying to say. It's not about the opening of a door, it's about what the gift of opening the door says about the person opening it and the relationship to the person it is being held open for. Opening a door for someone is nice, unless it isn't. And it takes a deeper, nuanced understanding of the person, the culture, the circumstances to know if that gift of "courtesy" is one that won't hurt me to open.
"We are proud of this; we are empowered by this. Now, give a village man a handout? You've just weakened him. You've increased his dependency; diminished his sense of self-esteem. One of the most widely-accepted notions is that Westerners are the solution to African problems. This requires portraying us as helpless and endlessly recirculating images only of abandonment and violence, or innocence and primitivism." ...

[Give a woman a pedestal? You've just weakened her. You've increased her dependency; diminished her sense of self-esteem. One of the most widely accepted notions is that men are the saviours and guardians of women. This requires portraying us as helpless and endlessly recirculating images only of weakness and femininity, or innocence and infantilism.]

"You see, Heather," he set his meat down to look closely at me, "We are not weak. We are not underdeveloped. If you believe we must be helped, look more closely. We are content in our hearts, affectionate to each other, and attentive to our souls. Perhaps the greater need is for us to be helping you."
joreth: (Misty in Box)

Psychologists often talk about a quirk of human psychology called the fundamental attribution error. It's a bug in our firmware; we, as human beings, are prone to explaining our own actions in terms of our circumstance, but the actions of other people in terms of their character. The standard go-to example of the fundamental attribution error I use is the traffic example: "That guy just cut me off because he's a reckless, inconsiderate asshole who doesn't know how to drive. I just cut that car off because the sun was in my eyes and there was so much glare on the windshield I didn't see it."

We do this All. The. Time. We do it without being aware we're doing it. We do it countless times per day, in ways large and small.

For the last several years, since I first heard of this error, I've started catching myself when I, for instance, call people assholes on the road. I still do it, but in my head I remind myself that I'm just letting off steam and that they feel just as justified as I do when I do it to other people. I think it's helping me (and is entirely appropriate) to feel my feelings as they are and to be validated in my reaction to situations while still considering my opponents as "people". I think it's important to be able to be angry at someone for doing an assholeish thing, and even to judge people for their actions, while still keeping the situation in context that they are a complete person who believes they are the hero of their own narrative just as I do.

"I would like, therefore, to propose a radical idea:

The world is made of lots of people. Some of those people are different from you, and have different ideas about what they want, what turns them on, what is and is not acceptable for them, and what they would like to do.

Some of those ideas are alien, maybe even incomprehensible, to you.

Accept that it is true. Start from the assumption that even if something sounds weird, distasteful, or even disgusting to you, it may not be so to others--and that fact alone does not prove those other folks have something wrong with them. If someone tells you they like something, and you have no compelling evidence that they're lying, believe them--even if you don't understand why.

I've been trying forever to get people to understand this, and I started by getting myself to understand it. I know lots of people (myself included) who think they have The Answer to other people's problems. I know, for instance, people who get really upset when other people make career choices that are not choices that they would choose for themselves. These are usually people who pride themselves on their "work ethic" because they have bought into the erroneous tale that people who work hard enough will be rewarded with an increase in the quality of life based on capitalistic standards.

So anyone who is poor must not be "working hard enough". Anyone who is poor who turns down a job, or who gets sick and goes home instead of working through their illness, or basically does anything that they, themselves, think they wouldn't do in the other person's situation, those people (by this logic) deserve the poverty they get.

I know, I've had that same perspective myself for most of my life. It gets *really* tiring to keep explaining that other people are DIFFERENT PEOPLE. They have different limitations, different perspectives, different preferences, different goals, different priorities, different feelings, different abilities ... and all these differences add up to making different choices that people should not necessarily be punished for.

People who have lots of sex do not "deserve" to get STDs, or to be beaten up, or to be thought of as some kind of "lesser quality" of person. People who do not want to work 80 hours a week doing manual labor in two or three different jobs and still not get any medical benefits do not "deserve" to remain poor or thought of as "lazy".

We do not all need to have the same house, the same jobs, the same clothing, the same kind or amount of sex, or the same goals out of life. And yes, as long as we live in a scarcity-model capitalistic society, sometimes that means that some of us pay more in dollars than others for that right. But if that means that people get to live the lives that makes them happy (which, btw, ultimately *does* contribute back into society), then I'm all for that.

"Equality" does not necessarily mean or have to mean equal dollar amounts. It means equal opportunity for "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness".


Jul. 3rd, 2015 03:01 pm
joreth: (Super Tech)

"Also, remember that adulthood isn’t about having a relationship and a mortgage. It can mean lots of different things to different people but I think it’s mostly about taking control and responsibility for your life — no matter what that life looks like."

This is a very important message. I see a lot of jokes about "adulting" that have to do with being responsible about things our parents were, like eating sensible dinners and doing the laundry. I'm not complaining about those jokes - I like them and I like making them. But something that I've found can be harmful is in *believing* those jokes. My parents believe that adulthood looks a particular way. Their entire generation does (generally speaking). We were sold a bill of Adulthood sometime in the '50s and everyone's disappointment in the "next generation" is that they're not living up to that bill.

Being an "adult" doesn't mean you have to have a mortgage or spend 35 years working at the same office for the healthcare benefits. I am not a failure for deliberately choosing to continue to rent, nor am I a perpetual adolescent for doing so. I have my reasons for preferring to rent instead of buy, and I have chosen a life for which renting is the more sensible option. *Sensible*, reasonable, rational - I've made choices that have led to a life that doesn't look like a grownup's life. What makes it a grownup's life is that I made those choices.

My choices come with consequences, but my parents' choices had consequences too. My parents bought a house and held down responsible jobs, but they had shitty bosses by whom they spent their entire lives being emotionally torn down. My dad started his own business, because it's the American Dream to be a small business owner, but that didn't succeed and they ended up in financial difficulty. When the economy boomed during the dot com bubble, the value of their home and property skyrocketed. Some people think that's a good thing, but those people don't realize that the taxes also skyrocketed while their income didn't. Was it really a responsible decision to own property that they couldn't afford? I'm not saying that it wasn't, I'm saying that even responsible decisions come with consequences, so these other options that have different consequences are not necessarily irresponsible just because of those consequences. There are other variables that make something responsible or not.

What makes it a grownup's life is that I made those choices. What makes a life that looks exactly the same but is not a grownup's life is that people just out of their teen years aren't generally making these choices - they're thrust upon them. If they're in school and dependent upon their parents for money, their living situation is structured by their parents. I don't know of any parents who would have bought their 18-year old college student a home to live in while they attended school, but they're totally fine with paying the equivalent of a mortgage payment in dorm fees. Someone who is not "adulting" is just going along with what they know or with what comes their way.

Someone who is adulting has looked at the options and decided that they understand the consequences and this is the life they want. That can happen at any age.

joreth: (Super Tech)

I'm finding this whole Uber controvery fascinating. It reminds me of the problem my own industry has with unions. Here's the thing - I support unionizing and the right to unionize. I've seen far too many employees and workers get shafted because of rich people at the top not caring about the people at the bottom. But, at the same time, I've seen that exact same thing happen because of entrenchment of unions.

There seems to be this trend, this path that workers' rights fights have - workers get stomped on by people who don't care and have no legal incentive to care. Workers organize and build up enough power to make them care. Things improve. Then unions get a *lot* of power and start behaving like the previous employers. So the people at the bottom start getting stepped on again and they start going around the unions. Which solves the immediate problem, but undermines the more abstract concept of unions and the protections they serve.

I'll give an example of my own business. Stagehands were treated like crap - low pay, long hours, hard working conditions. Unions came in and regulated the industry - gave us standard workdays, decent pay, compensation for things that the industry needs to keep going like longer-than-standard days or the inability to schedule lunch breaks at decent times. When the "show must go on", we can't just stop for a sandwhich because it's noon. Fine, that's a reasonable objection to regulating the industry like the rest of the country's businesses, but they have to compensate us for that with extra money. Stuff like that.

So, that's all well and good, but then the unions got entrenched. The rules started getting lengthy, and counterproductive. Like, in some locations, a Project Manager (i.e. the site's head boss) can't plug in his laptop because that's "electrical" and requires a union-assigned electrician to come down to the site to plug it in for him, costing him the time in waiting for an electrician to be found and sent in and also costing him the salary for said electrician. And, it's not just the electrician's pay, but also the union's fee on top of that. Like, the electrician might make $30 an hour, but the union is going to charge that Project Manager $70 an hour and take the extra $40 for union fees. Oh, and they're gonna charge the union worker his own fees for belonging to the union and finding him a job.

As one of those lower workers who might benefit from getting work as the electrician if I had laws that required clients to use me, I find this to be unreasonable business practices. But I'm not exaggerating, this exact story actually happens. There are places where you have to hire a dedicated truck-unloading crew, a dedicated dock crew that pushes the cases from the truck to the building's entrance, and another dedicated pushing crew who takes it from the entrance to the room where the gear will be stationed. Dedicated truck loaders, I get. A separate dock crew, I don't. That's a lot of money to pay pushers when there are already people who can push cases.

On top of that, unions are supposed to protect the worker, but I've found it to be very difficult to actually get union protection in many places. The unions that I've had contact with seem to want to keep people out, not bring them in. So where does someone find work if the unions won't hire them? They have no choice but to find an employer willing to hire non-unionized workers, which means that they're subject to abuse without regulation, which is exactly what's happening in my industry right now.

So, this Uber thing. Taxi unions protect cab drivers by negotiating fair wages, compensation, and working conditions. But here in Orlando, the Mears company has a monopoly on public transportation that isn't specifically city-provided like the buses. They're strong enough to pressure Disney, which is usually the heavy hitter in this town. Mears might be protecting their employees, but they're also strangling free trade in this city. So Uber comes in offering much more affordable pricing to people whose economy just tanked and can't afford taxis and offering jobs to people who desperately need work.

But at what cost? We've seen from the alt-med industry that lack of regulation is not in the consumer's best interest. There's no training program for the drivers. There's no accountability. There's no adherence to other protective laws like ADA compliance. It's up to the random people who get hired to make sure that they're good drivers and that their cars are in working conditions because there's no centralized method for keeping things up to a minimum standard.

The unions in my industry have behaved so poorly that they've convinced even freelancers who would benefit from union protection that unions aren't worth it. So what happens? Companies sweep in and fill the void, and once they've built a firm base for themselves, they start whittling away at those benefits that the unions once fought for us, because there's no union now to stop them. I've gone 10 years in this business without a raise. I've seen the lowest, entry-level stagehand wages get raised, but I'm making the same money as a camera operator now that I did a decade ago. As a freelancer, if I raise my rates, some companies just won't use me.

I'm seeing the eradication of Day Rates - a guaranteed salary for reserving my entire day for a company. Since we usually don't know how long our work is going to go, when we take a gig, we reserve the entire day for the gig. That means that we have to turn down other work. If the day ends up being short, it used to not matter because we were paid for an entire day. But lately, companies want to pay us by the hour. If we don't know what time we'll be done, or we can't guarantee that we'll be done by the estimated time given, then we can't schedule other work for later in the day to make up for the lost hours.

I'm seeing the loss of food being provided. That was a perk, but given the heavy manual labor, hard working conditions (usually in rooms without air conditioning in Florida and a violation of many OSHA rules), having food provided is good for morale. There is a surprising amount of shit that workers will put up with if they just get fed.

And there are other small erosions. Weird stuff that you might not think of as an eroson of "workers' rights", like dress code. It used to be assumed that backstage workers were "lowlifes", and we could wear whatever we wanted (as long as it didn't compromise safety, so, like, no sandals at work). But more and more companies are expecting us to do hard labor in humid temperatures wearing nice slacks and collared shirts. Or to sit still in freezing air conditioning but not wear appropriate clothing to keep warm. Because appearances are more important than comfort these days. It's ironic that tattoos, piercings, unnatural hair color, and other body modifications are becoming more and more socially acceptable but less and less acceptable in an industry known for its uncouthness.

Not every company is doing this. It's not consistent across the industry or across regions. And not every company is doing every one of the things. Sometimes one thing is taken away but another is given in compensation (they might not feed you, but they'll double the lunch break time to give us time to go off-site to find food). My point is that unionization was important to protect the worker, but when those protections prove to hamper job efforts for those very workers, then the workers themselves will sabotage their industry by allowing in unregulated employers in order to just get work, any work.

I don't have the answer to this problem. I don't have the training or the experience of working where these kinds of decisions are made and the data is collected. I only know what I see. What I see is that regulation is important to protect the people, but the people need to feel protected by those regulations, otherwise they'll cut off their noses to spite their faces and go around those very regulations to fill immediate needs without benefit of seeing the big picture of the regulations. And when they do that, they open the door for exactly those sorts of employers that the unions were protecting us from in the first place.

A union is great, but if I can't get hired by the union, I have to get a job somewhere. And if the union's version of "protecting the worker" costs the employer so much money that he can't make a profit, right or wrong, this is a capitalist society and profit is what the employer wants. If he can't profit, he'll find some disillusioned worker like me who is willing to take some cuts because half the benefits is better than no benefits which is what the employee was getting from the union.

With Uber, I'm strongly in favor of regulation. That's my life on the line in that unregulated driver's car. I want some assurances of safety and I want some accountability. But as a poor person, I'll be back to begging for rides from friends because I can't afford cabs in those situations where I've needed to use a service like Uber. And a lot of people will lose a lot of money if Uber has to change their policies. I'm not arguing in favor of Uber. I'm saying that I'm interested to see if a solution can be found to this problem, because I'm in the category of people that is most susceptible to being preyed on by exactly this sort of union / employer power struggle. I really hope there can be an answer that requires regulation and accountability while still providing the public with affordable services and jobs.
joreth: (Super Tech)
So, I'm new to the Social Justice War. I know it doesn't seem like it, but I spent most of my formative years fighting for environmental issues, and I moved immediately into poly issues, which doesn't really feel like "social justice", at least not in the early days because the level of persecution doesn't even compare to any other social justice issue. Feminism, racism, homo- and transphobia issues, these all came to me recently, even though my *feelings* on the subject have always been for equal rights. So bear with me here, because this needs to be fleshed out.

It has come up in several different contexts over the last week that there is a lot of confusion over what an ally is, what an ally should do, intersectionality, privilege, and oppression, and related topics. Because I'm so late to the game, I'm sure someone better researched and more knowledgeable than I has already come to this conclusion and written about it somewhere. But this is a new concept *for me*, and I wanted to share it as a way to work through it and refine it in my own head.

People with privilege have come to hate the word "privilege" and they have stopped listening when that word comes up. But we *all* have privilege in some ways, and we are all disadvantaged in other ways. I'm female, so I'm disadvantaged. But I pass as white and I grew up middle class, so I'm privileged there. But I'm currently lower / working class and I'm technically an ethnic minority as well as a religious and sexual minority so I'm disadvantaged there too.

And just because I'm part of a class of people who is *structurally* disadvantaged by *the system*, it doesn't necessarily mean that I, personally, experienced the kind of systemic discrimination or oppression that others in my class have, or of other disadvantaged classes. And just because I'm part of a class of people who, as a *group*, are given *group* privileges by that same system, it doesn't mean that I, personally, haven't had some hard times, or even that I haven't had some hard times specifically because of that same class that is supposed to be privileged.

So I want to stop all this bullshit fear of the word "privilege" and instead I want to just recognize *where* we have it and where we don't - because we all do and we all don't. I refuse to play the Oppression Olympics. My oppression is not worse or easier than someone else's - I've had some benefits and I've had some shit in life, that's just how it goes.  My oppression is not *equal* to others, either, I just don't think the relative level of oppression is relevant here.

Instead of arguing over who has privilege and who doesn't, I want to recognize where my privileges come from, and then I want to *use* that privilege to "punch up" (to steal a phrase from a different issue). Here's where being an ally gets complicated.

People who pride themselves on being allies often find themselves feeling confused and betrayed when, after all their hard work they've done for underprivileged people, those people turn on them and tell them that they're doing it wrong. Some of us might just cross our arms and say "well, fine, then, if you don't like my assistance, then I'll just stop helping!" Others really want to help, but if they've spent any time at all listening to disadvantaged people, they've probably heard "you can't know what it's like to live my experience" somewhere along the line. And if they've heard that phrase, then they might have no idea what they can even do to help, since the privileged person can't possibly know what it's like to be someone who is in a class that they're not in so they don't feel that they can talk *for* that class.

Here's what, in my opinion, it takes to be a good ally: First, listen to the group that we want to be an ally for. That way, we can learn what their position is. Next, take what we hear, and speak about it. But, here's the tricky part. We have to speak to people *in our privileged class*, but we cannot speak *to that group* that we are defending about their own experience.

So that's what I mean by "punch up". We have to use our status as white, cis, straight, male, whatever to be an amplifier for the voices of the non-white, non-male, non-straight, non-whatever that we are trying to support. We have to say the words that are being spoken by the underprivileged group, and we have to say those words *to the privileged group* that we are a part of, because that group only wants to listen to other members of the same group.

But then here comes the next part ... after listening and after speaking, we then have to go back to listening. We have to be conscious that we aren't taking on the mantle of the White Savior. The words we are speaking are not our own. We are only repeating them to people who refuse to hear them otherwise. But if the people we are speaking for don't like that we're speaking for them, or they don't like *how* we're speaking for them, being a good ally means not arguing or defending ourselves against the people we are trying to support. That would be "punching down". In the end, this is not our fight, so it is not our place to decide that we are the warriors the fight needs or that our fighting style is the proper strategy. THEY are the generals, and if we step out of line, it is our duty to be corrected.

We have to "punch up" by punching a hole in the defenses of our own class or higher so that those from beneath can rise up. It is not appropriate to "punch down" by telling those beneath us how they should run their war. We are the support team. We are not the drivers of the movement. And, as part of the support team who happens to have better armor and weapons, we might end up being put on the front lines to absorb some of the attack as we take the more effective shots from the front while others direct us from behind our human body shields.

As someone in a privileged group, I can afford to be put out in front. They can't. That's why they're underprivileged in the first place. As someone in a privileged group, I have less to lose therefore I have less need for additional defenses or reinforcements to watch my own back. Not zero - remember, I am part of privileged groups but I am also part of underprivileged groups. As a woman, I need men to stand up to other men on my behalf because the men they are standing up to *won't hear me* when I speak. As a white-passing woman, I can afford to face down other white people because they will hear me better than a black person when it comes to issues of race.

I have other, related thoughts on this - stuff about how it's our responsibility to sacrifice for those less privileged but to not expect the same level of sacrifice in return, but I'm going to save those for another post. This one was specifically about punching up. That phrase came from criticisms on comedy. Comedy is a necessary tool for discussing difficult issues in the public sphere. But what differentiates a particular joke on a difficult issue from being funny vs. being offensive is whether it "punches up" or it "punches down". Does it make fun of of the privileged class or the underprivileged class? Making the rapist the butt of a rape joke is funny. Make the victim the butt of a rape joke is offensive. Who is being targeted? Someone above, or someone below?  Are we punching out the big guy with muscles and a bullet proof vest or the little guy who is already beaten and bloody on the ground?

In a similar vein, we all need allies in our social justice battles. We need people in higher classes to help us fight our wars. But since people belong to multiple classes, it can sometimes feel like we're trying to rank people when we talk about privilege and who has it worse than whom. And then it can feel like, when we *do* try to help, our help wasn't appreciated. Or maybe we're so conscious about the Savior Complex that we're afraid to help because we don't want to step on anyone's toes.

So I'm proposing some simple rules of thumb to help potential allies navigate this complex privilege discussion. 1) We all belong to some classes that might be considered privileged and we all belong to some classes that might be considered underprivileged. Accept that and leave off debating who has it "better" than whom in any area. It doesn't matter if someone is part of 3 privileged classes but only 2 underprivileged classes and someone else is part of 4 underprivileged classes and only 1 privileged class. Pick one category, and if you're in the privileged class, then shut the fuck up and listen to the person in the underprivileged class *on that class experience*.  If we're talking about race, leave out your underprivilege-ness in some class that isn't race.  That's a distraction.  We're talking about race here, and in race (for example), you are not the underprivileged one so shut up and listen.  If you belong to some other underprivileged class, then use your experience to develop *empathy* internally for this group that you are not a part of, but we don't need to compare and contrast our various classes.

2) Use whatever privileged status you have to repeat the words of the group you want to be an ally to to others in your same class. Point those people in your class directly to the source of your words as soon as they are finally able to hear the source instead of needing it filtered through your shared class.  Your responsibility is to get them to listen.  Once they are able and willing to listen, pass them off to the source so that you don't become The Savior.  Our job is to *borrow* the words of the underprivileged class, not to steal them.  They still get all the credit.

3) Never presume to tell someone in the class you are trying to be an ally for what they ought to do or what their experience is, especially if someone is directly contradicting you. Let them debate amongst themselves the best strategies, if there is any debate to be had. If one of them asks you for advice, and you happen to have information or experience on the subject, you can share what has worked for your other underprivileged classes in those fights, but they may not be directly comparable so don't get too attached to the group you're talking to actually adopting your advice.

4) Retain your humility and always be ready to apologize and change strategies when someone of the group you are trying to be an ally for tells you that your efforts aren't appreciated or are contraindicated. Remember, this isn't your fight and if you're doing it for the social cookies, then you're not really an ally. We've all had to adjust our methods as the groups we're defending have matured and tried different tactics over time. We just have to learn to try and keep up and accept that we are not the experts in their fight.

These are the lessons I'm hearing right now from the various groups that I wish to be an ally to.  These are not the lessons I grew up with and I'm trying to change my tactics to accommodate.  I hope that I will be a good enough ally, that when the strategies change again as the culture changes in response to all these social justice battles, that I will be able to rewrite these rules of thumb to better reflect the needs of the communities that I wish to ally myself with.
joreth: (Nude Drawing)
Even though I ballroom dance, I'm not a Dancer and I don't have what is typically thought of as a dancer's body. I'm relatively thin and small, but I have just enough of my Latina heritage to give me hips and an ass, while just enough of my Northern European heritage to make it not obvious and to make people who don't know that I'm Latina say stupid things like "oh, but you're so skinny!" whenever I complain about weight.

When I buy dance tights, I have to buy the larger sizes because of the stereotypes of what a dancer's body is supposed to look like, so I already feel annoyed buying tights right out of the gate. About a year ago, I bought my usual size, only to find that I couldn't pull the waistband up over my hips. I bought another pair, one size up (which, of course, was too big everywhere else, but I dealt with it), and felt bad about my weight gain ever since. So I've been trying to dance regularly and to control my portion sizes, and y'all know about my recent 2nd attempt at a 30 Day Challenge regimen.

Well, my larger size tights got ruined the last time I wore them thanks to a rough edge on my fingernail, so I only have the too-small pair left. I tried them on today, just to see, and I was able (just barely) to pull them all the way on! They fit everywhere except getting the waistband over the hips (as they probably did when I couldn't pull them all the way up at all last summer), so even though they're still uncomfortable to get past that point, it means that I've lost enough weight to wear them again.

This is in addition to having to add another hole to my belt and now being unable to wear my jeans (that I bought specifically because my old pair didn't fit anymore, so I think of them as my "fat jeans") without a belt. I'm feeling so much better about my shape and my progress lately. I know that I'm still thin and that I don't have the social stigma that others do, but it's still problematic for me.

The biggest concern I have is that I'm too poor to replace my wardrobe, so I need to maintain my weight just so that I don't have to buy any new clothes. I'm not quite down to my target weight yet, but it does mean that I'm starting to fit into some of my smaller clothes again, which really relieves a lot of my anxiety about spending money. I was pretty OK with how I looked with the extra weight, but every time I got dressed and something was tight, I fretted about needing to spend money on clothes.

This anxiety triggered my old anorexia that I thought I had gotten over decades ago, and I've been working to keep the anorexia in check by channeling the obsessive thoughts into a more healthy version, such as portion control as opposed to starvation, and the 30 Day Challenges as opposed to binge-exercising. The weight loss has been gradual with no adverse health effects, so I'm doing much better this time around.

I'm feeling encouraged by the tights, but I'm going to work on not letting it fuel a frantic workout routine and to remind myself to eat regularly.

Please don't comment with "but you're so thin / pretty / don't need to worry about weight" or offer compliments or tips. I know I'm thin, I know some people think I'm fine just the way I am, and I'm already doing what I feel is healthy and necessary for my body, given my peculiar dietary and psychological issues. This is way more complicated, involving psychology & social class issues, than anyone can help with in the comments section. If you're not my therapist, nutritionist, or medical doctor, I don't need advice and I'm not fishing for compliments. I don't care what other people think of me so validation that someone else finds me attractive doesn't help, and, in fact, will probably trigger one of my other issues about objectification.

I, and other people, need space to discuss our body issues without that space turning into someone else's expectations or desires for our bodies. It's not about how you see me, it's about how I see me and how I feel about me and how I can deal with all the sociopolitical-economic issues around being me.
joreth: (Self-Portrait)
Someone asked me the following question, and this was my off-the-cuff answer (with a couple of minor additions & polishes after the fact):
What is your "price of admission" in a romantic relationship? Something that could be considered a flaw or a drawback, but that someone has to deal with to be in a relationship with you.
  • I'm independent, solo poly (even if I choose to someday cohabit and/or marry, I will still be an independent person who happens to be partnered, never "half of a single unit"). I make my own decisions. I ask for input and I consider how my actions will affect my partners, and I will try to make them part of the decision-making process if I can, based on how these decisions affect them, but ultimately, I make my own decisions about my life, I need to be seen as an independent, unique, and individual human being by my partner and the world around me, and that's that.

  • I make a differentiation between "couple" and "partnership". A "couple", in my mind, is a single unit consisting of two "halves". This is an arrangement where the relationship's identity is more important than the individual identities that make it up. A "partnership" is a cooperative connection between two equal individuals where the individuals always retain their individuality (and their autonomy) within the connection. I will not be part of a "couple", but I will build "partnerships" with other individuals who have equal power to sculpt and shape that partnership to our mutual benefit.

  • I still need public acknowledgement of my relationships and to present as part of a partnership at social functions, even though I'm solo poly.  This means that I require certain relationship markers such as public acknowledgement of our romantic relationship.  This can be achieved through Public Displays of Affection, having "dates", arriving and leaving social events together, using recognized relationship labels in introductions and in conversations (i.e. "this is my girlfriend, Joreth"), etc.  Because of the point above where I differentiate between "couples" and "partnerships", these relationship markers within a partnership are not exclusive.  We can coexist in multiple partnerships simultaneously, even in public at social events.  Just like I can have several friends or coworkers at one event and all be acknowledged as friends or coworkers or business partners, my romantic partners and theirs can all be acknowledged at the same time.

  • I'm a mass of contradictions on the surface and it may take some digging to understand the motivations that actually make my contradictions totally not contradictory.

  • I'm poly and that's not changing, although the structure of my network will ebb and flow and change over time and I will occasionally have only one, two, or no partners. The number of my partners and/or metamours is not what makes me poly, it's how I view & structure relationships that make me poly. I will never leave my other partners for someone, and I will never be comfortable dating someone who wants only me, unless he's even more solo & independent than I am and the reason he wants only me is because he spends so much time alone that he can't fit in another partner and still give me the time I need from him, and it's his choice that he's fine with.

  • I'm atheist. I fucking slam the needle on atheism. I'm anti-theist. I'm firebrand atheist. And I will mercilessly mock religion and supernatural beliefs. My friends know this about me and accept it of me because I don't pick fights with them over their beliefs, and they can choose to read my social media or not, knowing how I feel and that I will express my opinions here. Although I will challenge them if they say something to me directly that I know to be false, I am perfectly capable of holding my tongue and not *bringing up* my opinions against supernaturalism right at my friends because I can still like people as people even if I think they have silly ideas. However, I am *not* perfectly capable of holding my tongue with intimate partners and I need for them to be on board with my brand and style of atheism.

  • I'm feminist. That actually explains most of the above. And a good portion of below too.

  • I'm a ballroom and swing dancer. If my partner won't dance with me, I'll dance with others. Even if my partner *will* dance with me, it's proper ballroom etiquette to dance with others, and I happen to like that etiquette because it's primarily responsible for making me as good of a dancer as I am, since I've only had 2 real classes in dancing. And I will always feel like something is missing in my relationships where dancing is not an important shared activity. I view dancing as a metaphor for life and relationships, and vice versa. It's hard to overstate how important dance is to me.

  • I have a very dangerous job and I love it.

  • I have a job that keeps me poor, and I love it (the job, not being poor).

  • I cuss. A lot.

  • I do not want kids. Like, not even a little bit. And I'm pro-abortion.

  • I do, however, enjoy having pets. And those pets will always come first because they are dependent creatures that I have accepted responsibility for. Some days I have a reasonable handle on this, and some days I don't. So I might appear inconsistent in when I prioritize my pets above my people, but it's consistent in my own head and that's where it counts. You do not get a say in how I prioritize them, and you do not get a say in when I'm being unreasonable about handling my responsibilities.

  • I'm a teetotaler. I don't drink *at all*, and I don't do any kind of drugs that aren't prescription and absolutely necessary for medical recovery or treatment. I'm not opposed to those around me drinking alcohol or the occasional recreational experimentation (providing I'm nowhere near any second-hand smoke), but I don't date people who regularly use drugs or smoke cigarettes *at all* and I'm only going to barely tolerate social drinking and vaping. I will never stop hoping that someday my partners (who do them) will give up those things too, although I won't pressure anyone to change what they don't want to change. I will, however, assist in their efforts to quit if they want.

  • I'm a cranky, cynical motherfucker who gets into fights on the internet, even though they cause me massive anxiety and make me disappear for several days. This isn't likely to change.

  • As Franklin has once said, I'm a little bit scary sometimes. And I consider that a compliment.

  • I'm kinky. I don't have to have kink in all my relationships, but I am kinky and that's not likely to change.

  • My gender identity today is "tomboy". It may not be that tomorrow. But whatever it is, I probably still won't want to have sex with your girlfriend.

  • I am inconveniently straight. Yes, I find it an inconvenience. No, that doesn't mean that you can find some magical phrase that will "fix" this. On the rare occasion that I do engage in sexual activity with people of female biology, it's usually twigging some kind of gender play in my head, so I *still* consider myself straight even in that context. If you're wigged out by my fluid gender or by me experiencing mixed or different genders during my sex, we're really going to be a bad match. And I still probably won't want to have sex with your girlfriend. But I might be willing to have sex with certain of my metamours, under the right circumstances & with the right chemistry. If you don't understand the difference between those last two sentences, we're going to be a bad match.

  • I likely have what's called a "responsive libido", meaning that it's mostly low-to-non-existent, but can be revved up on occasion. Sex will likely fade to nearly gone over the course of a relationship and the only thing that will prevent it from disappearing all together is the acceptance of this fact and appreciation for the times when I can get it going. No wheedling, pressure, or moping about its loss will help.

  • I am not a beginner relationship partner.

  • And I do not react well to being "dealt with" or "tolerated" by partners. This "price of admission" needs to be paid gladly, gleefully, considered an honor to pay, or else I will begin to feel dismissed, condescended to, and unappreciated, and that will sour any relationship with me. The price of admission for a relationship with me is someone seeing all these things about me, truly seeing them, and saying "I'm not paying a goddamn thing. I'm so privileged to be in a relationship with you, that these are not deficits that I have to pay, they are things I am getting in return for providing you with the space to feel safe in being who you are around me. It is you who is paying me with the honor of allowing me to see who you are."
joreth: (Super Tech)
"So why do you drink diet soda, you don't need to be on a diet!"
"Why bother drinking a diet soda when you're eating all that other crap?"

With Eating Season upon us here in Florida, I thought I'd address this common misconception.  There are lots of reasons why someone might want to drink a diet soda and still not be on a "diet".  Even naturally thin people like me are still subjected to the laws of chemistry and biology - if you consume more calories than you use, you will gain weight.  Some people have the kind of super-active metabolisms that make it really hard to prove this is true, but that's just because their metabolisms are using the energy from their food at higher rates, for whatever reason, and they are not motivated to actually try to eat enough food to out-pace their metabolisms (and who could blame them?)

But the simple fact is that the body "stores" the calories that people don't use, even skinny people, and eventually there is a point at which every person will "store" more than they can use regularly and people gain weight.  So even thin people will have an upper cap to the amount of calories it is desirable for them to consume in a day / week / month / on average.  So some people save those caloric opportunities for their food and seek to find lower calorie options for the drinks.  Not everyone wants to drink water all the time either, so please don't condescend in the comments about how they should be drinking water for every meal.

With all the amazing opportunities to eat during Eating Season, some people want to be able to sample the delectable edibles, and drinking a diet soda means that they save all those hundreds of calories per day that other people spend on drinks, to spend instead on food.  If you're watching your weight, that means that you can still splurge a little bit, and research suggests that being able to splurge occasionally often takes the pressure off of the dieter just enough to avoid the binging that leads to the weight yo-yo.

Then there's the issue of calories and poverty.  People who are poor actually don't get enough to eat.  I know many people don't believe that, since they see fat poor people and think there's a direct correlation between food and weight.  But the truth is that weight is pretty complex, as is poverty.  In all too many situations, healthy food is more expensive than unhealthy food, so poor people end up trying to stretch their dollars to get as many calories as possible in order to avoid starvation, at the expense of more nutrients but less calorically-dense food.  If you're trying to maximize the amount of calories you get, one might choose to drink diet soda (or water, or whatever) in order to better spend their money on high calorie foods and enable themselves to get their calories *from* their food instead of wasting them on calories from drinks.  Plus, being poor sucks, so fuck you for trying to take away any small pleasures that poor people might be able to grasp, like drinking something with flavor in it.

To re-visit the admonishment to drink water within the concept of poverty:  not everyone has access to suitable drinking water all the time, so sometimes a diet soda *is* actually the more healthy option.  Bottled water can often cost more money than soda, depending on what water options are available, and anyone who has ever worked in some of the arenas and convention centers that I have knows that you're gambling with your life if you have to rely on tap water exclusively.  And that's assuming the person in question is somewhere that offers tap water.

There's more to say about food and poverty and the assumptions privileged people make about food and poverty, but this is already getting long and I don't really have the patience to delve that deep into the subject here.  Suffice to say that if you're making comments about how poor people eat when you're not that level of poor, not in that particular person's circumstances, or not an economist who specializes in poverty, you're probably wrong and you should just shut up now.  When you've had to sell your own blood just for enough money to buy a loaf of bread at the day-old-bread store like I have, maybe then I'll listen to you.

It's a long-standing myth that people need to be drinking 8 glasses of water every day.  1) Not everyone needs that much; and 2) the real advice was "the EQUIVALENT of 8 glasses of water per day".  Humans get water from food and other drinks.  It is not necessary to drink all that water on top of everything else that one consumes (and it can even make some people sick to overdose on water - yes, that's a real thing).  So a person who is not dehydrated or experiencing symptoms of dehydration is not necessarily harming themselves by drinking something else in place of water.

I'm a Super Taster - meaning that I have an overactive sense of taste and texture.  It's a real problem, bordering on eating disorder (for some, it really is an eating disorder, but I'm not as bad as some).  It's a delicate balancing act between finding food that's healthy and food that I can actually bring myself to eat.  I carefully choose my drinks to compliment my food, to make it easier to eat, and I'm very limited as it is because I can't drink caffeine and water tastes bad to me.

So, no, I'm not on a diet (although it borders on body-shaming to make assumptions or comments about how thin one must be in order to justify "dieting") in the weight-loss sense.  But I do have an upper cap to the amount of calories I can consume in a day before I start feeling sick (in addition to when I start putting on weight), as well as how much water I can drink before I throw it back up.  I choose to spend those calories on enjoyable food instead of my drinks, when I can.  I also am very poor and I have often not had enough money to eat more than once a day, so I will also choose to spend my money on high calorie food just to get enough calories in my body to keep moving one more day and I don't want to waste those calories on my drinks.
joreth: (Misty in Box)

"Darius Clark Monroe is transforming the ways media portrays incarcerated young black men, starting with his own story. At the age of 16, Darius committed armed robbery, which dramatically impacted his life as well as those around him. After serving five years in a maximum security prison, Darius has since earned a MFA from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and launched his career in documentary film."

The link above is an interview with filmmaker and criminal Darius Clark Monroe, as he talks about his new autobiographical documentary on crime, poverty, and race.

"Poverty and working class poverty are relevant. A lot of times when we think about poverty we are thinking about people that don’t have a home, family, friends. There are people that do have those things but they are just surviving. People need understand that we live in a society of great disparity."

I'm not black, and most people in Florida can't see my Latina heritage, so I have some privilege in this area. But I am working class poverty, and possibly *because* I'm not black and appear white, most people can't see that I'm working class poor either. I am not the exception. Working class poverty is a huge problem, and it's most certainly not the Welfare Queen or the lazy drug addict sucking off the government's teat that some politicians have managed to convince everyone that this is what poverty is.

Even people who know me and who see how I live, even people who live close to my own level of poverty, seem to think that I'm somehow an exception - that I'm not like all those other people on food stamps or welfare or unemployment checks, that when *I* point out that my latest-generation iPod was a gift that I couldn't afford on my own, it's the truth but someone in the checkout line with foodstamps and an iPhone MUST be cheating the taxpayers. All my fancy costumes and dance outfits? Thrift stores, gifts, purchased over years and years of collecting bits and pieces that eventually make it into an outfit. But if you didn't know that, you might think I was financially comfortable with my dresses and shoes and costumes. They're a chance for me to escape into a fantasy where I can pretend that I'm not poor and not worried about survival every moment of my waking day.

My biggest concern with my weight is that I won't fit into my existing wardrobe and I'll have to buy more clothes that I can't afford.  I pay attention to my size because of poverty, not vanity.  I can't *afford* to gain weight.  I suppose that poverty helps in that regard because I don't always eat enough to gain weight anyway.  But sometimes I do have enough money for food and access to the kinds of rich foods that cause weight gain, and then I freak out because I can't fit into my clothes again and I have to spend money to replace clothes that are still perfectly servicable, they're just too small.  I don't get rid of my clothes until they literally can't be worn anymore.  I can't afford to.

I am not the exception. And let me tell you, life has gotten a lot harder since I stopped stealing my food. There was a time that the only reason I ate was because I was a very good thief. That was a very long time ago. Morals and ethics are expensive, it turns out, but I do my best to maintain them. I still understand the motivations that drives someone to crime. And I understand that the vast majority of these sorts of crimes can be prevented if we take care of those motivations, if we help people move past "just surviving".
joreth: (Kitty Eyes)
Empathy is one of the most difficult senses for people to feel. People think that the goal is to put themselves in the other person's position, but that's not it. If I were to put myself in someone else's position, I would not be in their position. I would have my own experiences, thoughts, opinions, and filters while in that position and I *could not* experience what they experience.

Empathy is attempting to understand what it's like to actually *be* that other person, complete with their experiences, thoughts, opinions, and filters. I can't try to understand someone who is afraid of heights by thinking "well, if I were standing on that ladder where they are, I just wouldn't look down". I do not have a phobia of heights. I can climb a ladder without feeling afraid. I can climb a ladder without looking down. I can climb a ladder without the intrusive thoughts and physiological responses that paralyze me and cause me to break out in a cold sweat.

If I wanted to understand someone who is afraid of heights, I cannot put *myself*, as I am, in their position. I have to understand what a fear of heights actually FEELS like. I have to know what it's like to climb a ladder and have a flood of hormones and chemicals rush through my body making me shake, making my heart race, making my body temperature drop, and literally preventing my limbs from moving.  I cannot put "myself" there, I have to understand what it's like to BE them.

It's really easy to say "when someone bullies you, just stand up to them" if you are in a body capable of defending yourself, in an economic class where people will back up your claims of being bullied, have a brain that can look at an attacker, mental or physical, and react in exactly the right way that will prevent the bully from continuing.

It's really easy to say "if you want to get out of poverty, work hard and move up the corporate ladder" if you are in a body capable of doing the work, have a brain capable of producing the sorts of answers that impress one's superiors, in an economic class that allows you the time to get a job or the education to get a better job, in a situation that doesn't actively hinder efforts, and are in other classes that are not automatically distrusted and discriminated against even if you're brilliant at everything else.

It's really easy to say "just get off the couch and go to work and stop moping around" if you are in a body capable of lifting itself off the couch, have a brain that actually causes the body to respond to "get off the couch" electrical signals, or are in a situation that provides coping mechanisms and strategies for overcoming chemical impulses that are counter-productive to the goal.

But do you know what it feels like to have a body that doesn't work? A brain that sends the wrong chemicals and the wrong electrical signals? A situation that fundamentally changes the very pathways in your brain to produce a personality that CANNOT do the things that you can do?  Do you know what it feels like to be someone else?

Empathy is either being able to actually imagine those things or acknowledging that you can't imagine them but that it is a valid subjective experience for the other person. And empathy is how we will arrive at solutions.
joreth: (Bad Computer!)
I get a lot of shit for losing my temper, getting offended, and blocking people when someone is a serious asshat. I'm often told to "calm down" or "relax" or "I'm just asking questions" or "we're just having a conversation."

No. Fuck you. I'm not the asshole for getting pissed. You're the asshole for pissing me off AND YOU ARE NOT ENTITLED TO MY ATTENTION, TIME, OR POSITIVE OPINION OF YOU.

From Miri Mogilevsky:

In responding to an asshole on my blog yesterday, I realized that there's a misconception out there that anybody who demands respect and asks someone to stop insulting them is doing so because they have "hurt feelings" or a "thin skin."

1) Even if that's true, there's nothing wrong with that and we must not use "thin-skinned" as an insult. Ever.

2) When I demand to be treated the right way, it's not so much because my feelings are hurt otherwise but because I am worth too much to be treated like shit, and being able to interact with me is not a right granted to you simply because you exist and possess a computer. It's something you get to do only if I decide that interacting with you is fun or pleasurable or simply useful to me (the latter applies mostly to people I don't know personally).

If that sounds egotistical, I don't really care. I'm not here for anyone's entertainment or to serve their apparent need to humiliate and mistreat others.
joreth: (Misty in Box)

"Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

America is built upon the backs of those less fortunate. It's past time we offered our gratitude and made good on our promises. Ours is a bloody, violent history filled with an ever-growing list of amends for mistakes made at the expense of humanity. We have not yet caught up to our ideals. We have made progress, but social inertia threatens to lull us into coasting the rest of the way into our future, teasing us with the lure of easy, downhill motion while masking the other part of that physics equation - the drag without constant vigilance and deliberate effort will eventually pull us to a stop.

Now is the time to take advantage of our downhill momentum by easing into even greater forward motion with the gravity of our situation currently on our side. To our future, we give the fruits of the labor of those tired, poor, huddled masses. Will they be succulent fruits to nourish our children, or will they be dry, grey, wrinkled on the vine, leaving our children to a bleak existence because of our arrogance and flawed planning? Our future is written by us, and the outcome depends wholly on how we treat the characters of our past and our present.

Picture published on BAMN - Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration, and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary website (
joreth: (Xmas Kitties)
I have a lot of issues surrounding cultural obligations of gift giving. A lot of it is internalized so it's not necessarily that any specific individual is making me feel obligated. But those feelings are there nonetheless.

Many years ago, I made a personal pact not to exchange holiday gifts with anyone except my parents (who still buy me lots of stuff, making my life considerably easier, which is a huge relief to someone living below the poverty line) and my nephews (because they're kids). It has always been my extended family's practice to stop buying gifts for family members when they turn 18, so I had some precedence to mitigate the social pressure to give gifts.

But as I dated, that pressure to exchange gifts grew, the more people I dated. It was always there in monogamy, because it's part of the social expectations wrapped up in being in a relationship and in being female (I just could not get it through my male partners' heads that I did not want them to buy me flowers or jewelry because they could not let go of the cultural trope that women like flowers and jewelry even when one of them says she doesn't). But as I started dating poly people, people who are already deliberately bucking the social conventions, that pressure didn't lessen.

As I said, it wasn't necessarily direct pressure from individuals. Because of my difficulty with gift-giving, I tried to date people who had similar issues, so that I could escape that pressure within my relationships. But when I started building large, multi-adult poly families, certain traditions were held by some people with a ferocity that brought all those social obligations roaring back, whether they intended it or not.

When there would be a holiday party, inevitably someone would bring someone a gift. I get it, it's a wonderful feeling to see someone's face light up with pleasure at something you did for them. I enjoy giving people gifts. But I'm dirt poor and I just can't afford it. So at these poly family and extended poly social gatherings, someone would be really into gift-giving. They might say "I just like giving gifts, no one has to get me anything" and they might even mean it. But some people would feel obligated to return the gesture. And others would likewise enjoy giving things. And sooner or later, we'd have a poly holiday gathering where everyone but me was exchanging gifts, and yet I would still be receiving them.

So I could continue to just accept gifts. Or I could make a fuss and reject all the gifts on principle. Or I could bow to the (usually unintended) pressure to return the gestures. Between socialization as a woman not to make waves, to go along with the crowd, "when in Rome", be polite, etc., and the genuine desire to do nice things for the people I love, as well as feeling left out that can be such a danger in polyamory in general, eventually that pressure builds, regardless of the well-meaning intentions of everyone else.

And forget giving gifts to just some people and not others. In a family where "honey, what's for dinner" can lead to a week of relationship triage emails and a panicky group IM chat, deliberately leaving someone out of what is supposed to be a beloved tradition expressing love and happiness is a social minefield.

So now, although I still have a poly family and I still have core partners (my replacement word for "primary" because I refuse the hierarchical power structure but still have emotionally intimate connections and long-term commitments), being a solo poly, I am missing that sense of obligation with regards to gift giving. I feel a huge relief as I look at my meager checking account and tally up all the bills and eye my empty work calendar and I realize that I don't have a dozen other people to buy gifts for in the next two weeks and I don't have to deal with the crazy, hectic consumerist shopping trauma that my life always entails because I'm always too busy with work in the months leading up to December so I only have a couple of weeks before the holidays to even start thinking of gifts. And I know I could make gifts that would be cheaper, but then I have that whole time issue thing.

So, I'm thankful that I can build deep, intimate, loving connections with my partners, and even to create our own traditions, but can also have the kind of structure that makes it *look* like I'm a single person, which allows me to discard certain other traditions that don't work for me without hurting people's feelings or raising too many eyebrows.

I deal enough with poly education of my monogamous circles, that sometimes it's a relief to do something that I don't have to explain or justify, even if they accept it for the wrong reasons. They all think it's totally reasonable that I wouldn't have anyone to buy gifts for because I'm "just dating around" or "single", but when I have a partner that passes for an escalator relationship partner, and I talk about how stressful gift-giving is, that's one more battle I have to fight to make people understand alternative relationship options.

There are a lot of obligations and expectations that I feel free of by identifying as a solo poly. There are other things I struggle with, other downsides, other expectations. But this is one I am happy to be free of. And it doesn't mean that I dislike receiving gifts, or giving them for that matter. It just means that I feel some relief of this particular pressure to give, that really comes from several places and is a very complex issue for me.


April 2019



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