Thursday, July 29, 2010

Racism and other forms of stupid human behavior

What is the essence of racism?

Some will say ignorance, and being ignorant and racist do indeed go together quite nicely. Ignorance, however, should never be confused with stupidity. I ignore others at my peril. That would be ignorant. Stupid, well: there is no cure for stupid, and from sad, painful experience I can say that stupid does leave a mark. In my case, often in the form of scars. Literal scars: stitches required; cause: stupidity.

Others will lean towards prejudice. That, too, goes nicely. To look at a person and judged them in advance (to pre-judge, the meaning of prejudice) does underscore the nature of this ugly issue.

What I have found, however, in long careful consideration, is that racism is founded on a more simple, more direct and far more destructive thing than either ignorance and prejudice combined. The more I thought about it, the more I became convinced of this. I began to apply this notion to other forms of human stupidity like sexism, ageism, sizeism (yes, there is such a thing!) and a goodly portion of other ills, like hatred based on religion, politics and sexual preference...


It starts at the very bottom, the most simple of things. First, we notice the differences: you and I are not alike.

That should be obvious, of course, unless you are a middle aged overweight bald-by-choice white man of *debateable* intellect... We are different.

The problem, as I see it, starts with two notions, either separately or together.

A) Because we are Not The Same, I Am Superior To You, and:

B) Because we are Not The Same, You Are Inferior To Me.

Again, this may seem like a hair-splitting contest, but the more I thought about it, the more true it became.

I began to see how these two mindsets would cause what would normally appear to be a rational being to treat a fellow human in an abominable fashion. Consider, then, the following racist, sexist, etc., things that I have heard spoken aloud, to me, to my face. Changing only a certain few words, it becomes clear how deeply this is ingrained into the psyche of my country and its citizens....

White men cannot dance.

White men can't jump.

White people have no soul.

White people cannot get to heaven, because they are white and God won't forgive that.

And, of course...

White men have inferior sexual organs.

That last is literally hitting below the belt, but it was the comment prior that really flipped the switch from "We can have a rational conversation" to "Fuck you and yo momma both!!!"

See, I confessed the truth, was laid beneath the water as a dead thing and brought back up as a forgiven, living person. What I was being told, straightforward, was that due to the color of my skin, the forgiving power of the Christ, His shed blood and His message of hope and redemption was not available.

Even God cannot save the white man...

Before I go any further, this is where I have to say, in all honesty, that I have also heard similar verbal bilge from white people about those who are not white: being non-white, the "others" were not fully human, and salvation is only for humans.

Seriously? What manner of madness inspires this horseshit?

The same then began to apply to gender (All men are pigs, because they are men), sexual preferences (Damned breeders are destroying everything), religion and politics (fill in the blank with the Stupid Thing Of The Day from just about everyone)... it just goes on, and on, and on.

What is the real difference between myself as a "white" man and a "black" man? (The majority of the screen about these words is truly white and the words themselves are truly black and, frankly, I don't know any human being that is either color.) The answer is simple genetics: a DNA pattern that says I am one shade and someone else is another.

Just like eye color.

Would we discriminate against someone because of the color of their eyes? Would we make some kind of value judgement, demand retribution... due to ocular pigmentation?

Gender? XX or XY.

It goes on, and on...

I am (A) and you are (B) and therefore we are not the same. Bullshit. We ARE the same, just with some minor appearance and behavioral patterns. That does not make either of us better than the other.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Horror as satire

On the Fangoria web site, while writing a review of what is imho the best film of the career George A. Romero, there was the casual mention of how satire need not be confined to humor.

Romero has made a series of films, starting in 1968 with The Night Of The Living Dead that are perfect examples of this notion. The Living Dead series, should your life been spent beneath some rock somewhere, has a basic premise: for reasons unclear, the recent dead are rising and consuming the flesh of the living. The bite of the recent dead bears a fatal infection (interesting: HIV was unknown in 1968, and yet casual contact via bite... Romero The Prophet), and the two best and reliable means of returning the dead to inanimate condition are fire and head trauma.

For lack of better words, but then Walt Kelly was a brilliant satirist in his own right, We have met the enemy and he is us.

We are the dead. We just don't know it yet.

When Romero released Dawn Of The Dead a decade later, the satire was so forcibly presented as to almost overtake the film entirely. Consumer culture was shown as an empty deathtrap. Again, interesting that a decade before mall culture corrupted the American landscape Romero saw it clearly. The only thing missing would have been some young thing doing the Oh Mi Gaw, gag me with a spoon...

Day Of The Dead shows the military having totally corrupted science, a film that was brought to us in the era of Star Wars technology. The military men have attempted to completely take over, but the dead are simply too great in number. Science, as shown in the character openly sneered as Dr. Frankenstein (Romero is many things but sublte falls short of that list), is at first shown as a doddering old fool, but later is shown as far more than that.

Land Of The Dead is a dead end corporate world, falling apart, and the dead slowing starting to show some level of intellect. Hopeful, that: I think Romero had the idea that We The People were starting to come to an awareness, but that hope was brief. Again, the corporate super rich sit in comfort and make everyone else beg. Point made, if with the subtlety of a flying sledgehammer.

Diary Of The Dead ... well, that could be the end of the series. Shot entirely on digital hand held camera, the story line advances with the characters, and the single camera is joined by another, then webcasts and surveillance cameras, until we are watching the characters, and thus by extension ourselves, from every possible angle. It is the ending, though, the last scene, the punch line of sorts, that allows Romero to put forth his current view of humanity, and it ain't pretty. The image at the end takes that digital camera Youtube type of image and becomes totally high def, and that last line makes the point that he has been making from the very start.

Are we worth saving?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Urinating Into A Hurricaine

The image from Americana is an enduring one, and it bears a form of witness around the world: the madman howling in public about whatever demons cause his torment.

In the U.S., this image is usually attached to the notion of a public park, with said raving lunatic standing atop a soap box. It is usually attached to a form of political diatribe, religious belief or something that falls under the generic category of Batshit Insane.

The ones that are really out of control (as in: call the police and asylum!) combine all three. Occasionally, they actually approach moments of lucidity, but as a social order, those fleeting moments of reason are dismissed; much like a broken clock that is correct twice a day, even the mad among us are capable of reason.

The madman on the soapbox is a charming relic of a time Long Ago, prior to the average person having access to the internet.

Now, apparently, the most dangerous of the Batshit Insane variety not only are howling from their electronic soapboxes, but are gathering followers.

When reading one of the most contemptible pieces of fecal rhetoric (for example: The Turner Diaries), in the privacy of one's own home, the foul verbiage can be considered for what it is. One must read page after page of racist diatribe, but, one cannot respond in that immediate sense that is now available via a few keystrokes.

Recently, I had written a review of a horror film, on a horror fan website. The attempt was to simply write about the film I'd seen and why I was impressed with it. Several comments were made, and I read each one, but the one that left the biggest impact was the writer who totally missed the point of what I'd written.

Thinking that at least 50% of that communication breakdown was my own fault, I responded to the response, and the capper was that the party simply did not want to think about it. To paraphrase, the disagreement was not about the film or my opinion so much as it was... "Dude, I don't want to read a novel."

Because I refuse to give a grade, numerical value or a thumb, preferring instead to simply write my opinion, this party could not understand the point I was making.

Leaving me to sound like a madman on a soapbox...

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Freedom Cannot Be Taken

As a child, the following was drilled into my head: do not use a word within its own definition. For example, George Orwell in 1984 wrote: Freedom is the freedom to say two and two make four. That phrase, although very true, would not have been acceptable. Instead, it should have read: Freedom is being able to say two and two make four.

That is a quibble. It is the notion, though, of what lies beneath it that is of importance here.

Freedom does not come from a government. Freedom, as Orwell was saying, is based on the Truth. What many have failed to understand, apparently, is that the freedom of the truth does not imply any safeguard. Seeking the truth, and stating it as such, does not imply any protection from a response.

Peto primoris verum. Panton alius mos insisto.

Seek first the truth. Everything else will follow.

To seek the truth, one must confront the notion that there will probably be an answer, as Pilate is recorded to have said to the Christ: What is truth? Is your truth the same as mine?

Is truth subjective? In some cases, yes. Truth can be an elusive thing, and each truth will lead to another. It would appear that there is a Greater Truth, a thing that exists for all, but it is the perception of that Greater Truth that causes confusion and discord.

Take, for example, the political and economic viewpoints that guide various regions of human existence. Should the government hold sway over all things, a strong central core of individuals that decide the path of the nation in question, or should it be more open, limited control from the central core and leave more control with the populace?

Regardless of the control process in question, one thing, one guiding lesson has come to us through the history of this world: Human beings are spectacularly incapable of controlling themselves. The best forms of government are perverted in practice.

The guiding force in the West has been Democracy, and Capitalism. I am now, and have always been, a strong believer in capitalism. Sadly, what I perceive as capitalism has, like Communism, rarely (if ever) practiced in its most perfect form.

As understood by me: a product is created and offered for sale. The product is the point, the guiding factor. The highest quality product sold for the lowest possible price... the profit from the sales of the product is to be returned to the force of creation of the product, improving production, improving the product and increasing the labor force that assists in the creation of the product.

The intention, then, is to improve the product and the means by which the product is created, up to and including the increase of pay of the labor force.

Sadly, this notion has been perverted and sublimated to that one evil that has corrupted the world: the love of money.

I like money. I wish I had some. I wish you had some.

However, the pointlessness of what capitalism has been perverted into is carried in one ugly catchphrase: Greed is good. No. It is not. Greed is a cancer on capitalism.

The profit motive, to have a return on the initial investment, is what has destroyed the economy of the planet. Not the healthy, slow growth, but the despicable desire to have the largest return in the least amount of time. Using the symbolism from Jerzy Kosinski's brilliant Being There: tend the garden, tend it and allow it to grow. Seasons change, and so does the garden.

Consider as an analogy the field of animal husbandry. The animals can be force fed, locked and abused in such a manner that the very flesh for which they are being raised becomes unhealthy. This is the means by which the producer forces a growth that is morally bankrupt. This is exactly the means that is being held as "capitalism," and it could not be further from the truth.

Peto primoris verum. Panton alius mos insisto.

Slow and steady growth is the hope of the future. Force is the thing that prevents it.