Canada’s real terrorism problem

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This mosque in Cold Lake, Alberta, was spray-painted by xenophobic vandals. The town is home to an airbase from which CF-18 jet fighters recently departed en route to the war zone of Iraq. The people of Cold Lake have since banded together to clean up the graffiti while the police search for the perpetrators.

Oh, Canada. What’s happening to you?

You used to be such a nice place. Liberal. Socialist, even. And it worked out great for you while it lasted.

You used to be such a livable, lovable place. The country to the immediate south of us may have billed itself the Land of Opportunity, but when it came to real opportunities, we had them beat. Our social safety net ensured that no one got left too far behind by the ups and downs of the mixed economy.

Everyone who came here used to feel so welcome. We got immigrants from all over the world, and they helped make this the most diverse country on the planet. And the most multicultural. And the place where the most disparate people had a chance to coexist peacefully. From Vietnam War draft dodgers to Iraq War refugees, we’ve been enriched by the presence of people who were outcasts in their own lands. And the religious and ethnic clashes of the old country were left far behind, much to the relief and joy of all. Here, it didn’t matter who you were, what you were or where you came from; you were accepted. You were always at home.

And now I feel like a stranger in my own land, even though I was born here.

We seem to have caught terrorism-itis from south of the border. Everyone’s so paranoid now. Instead of waiting to learn what’s going on, we start jumping to false conclusions. The embarrassing truth leaks out too late every time.

Like this week. These past few days saw us “attacked” by two “terrorists” who, it turns out, were something else altogether. One was a paranoid schizophrenic; the other, a drug addict. But since both were Muslims, and chose to attack and kill soldiers of the Canadian army, with a confused mess of ISIL propaganda and madness roaring through their heads, they just automatically got labelled as terrorists. As if they had flown fully loaded passenger jets into the Peace Tower and the banking district of downtown Toronto on a suicide mission co-ordinated from a cave somewhere near the Pak-Afghan border.

The truth is stranger, and sadder, and nowhere near as dramatic as that.

In fact, the “terrorists” were not foreigners, as was initially reported/speculated. They were both native-born French-Canadians. And they both had mental problems that could easily have been treated. This tragedy was totally avoidable, and neither a war nor even changes to our nation’s security systems was necessary to avert it.

Don’t believe me? Let’s look at who these guys were, and how they acted.

Martin Couture-Rouleau was a convert to Islam; he converted only last year. He was not an immigrant. He was not even remotely an Arab, or Muslim by birth. His religious conversion appears to have arisen out of a growing heap of personal problems. Apparently he made enough radical-sounding noises that the RCMP was investigating him, and his passport was revoked, preventing him from travelling to Turkey (and presumably, from there, to Syria to join ISIL forces). He was alienated from his family, and everyone who knew him was bewildered by the recent changes to his personality. He was divorced, and his ex-wife was apparently frightened enough of him to seek sole custody of their child. It was not Islam that had made him that way, though; it was his own schizophrenia. His “radicalization” was concurrent with the worsening of his illness. And his own imam struggled in vain to dissuade him from supporting ISIL or taking up battle — or terrorism — on their behalf.

Michael Zehaf-Bibeau was also not an immigrant, although his father was one (from Libya), and his mother a deputy chair at the federal immigration department. At school he was simply known as Mike Bibeau, the big, gregarious good-time guy voted most likely to succeed, especially with the ladies. But drug addiction shortly after his graduation from high school put an end to all that. He was known to police, but only as a petty criminal and drug abuser. His parents are long divorced, and bewildered as to what has become of him. Like Martin Couture-Rouleau, he was alienated from his family; his mother said she hadn’t seen him in five years. In that time, he had fled to BC, looking in vain to escape his addiction (which had shifted from marijuana and PCP usage to crack cocaine). He tried everything from religion to prison to cure himself. He wasn’t jailed long enough to keep him away from the dealers, and the imam of the mosque where he broke in at night to sleep on the floor locked him out. His religious fervor was a direct outgrowth of his efforts to replace one drug with another. At the time of his final desperate acts, he was homeless and so isolated from humanity that even at the Ottawa homeless shelter where he’d taken refuge, he was an outsider.

Neither man was connected to the other, nor to any known terrorist groups. Both were entirely isolated, and more so thanks to their respective mental conditions.

Meanwhile, our social safety net has eroded. Mental health services have faced severe cutbacks in all provinces. People who should have been hospitalized, as much for their own safety as anyone else’s, are instead left to roam the street, helpless and untreated. A few years ago, we were horrified by a beheading on a Greyhound bus; the killer, in that case, was a schizophrenic too, and should have been hospitalized. Not until he’d killed and partially eaten a complete stranger in the thick of a psychotic episode did he finally get the help he needed. If by “help” one means psychiatric incarceration, that is.

Six years after Vince Weiguang Li began his treatment, our mental health system has not improved a whit. It is still chronically starved of funding and professionals. The mental hospitals we so desperately need are still closed, with no new ones opened to replace them. The few still remaining have waiting lists a mile long. Those who can’t afford private counselling and rehab are shit out of luck.

And worse, we no longer have a federal long-gun registry. That’s right; a crime-fighting tool born out of a terrorist attack in Montréal was scrapped by the same wonderful Conservative party that’s also behind all the other rips in our social safety net! The police are thus officially hamstrung. Who knows if we’ll ever find out how Mike Bibeau, who was legally prohibited from owning firearms due to his criminal and drug record, managed to get his hands on the rifle that enabled him to kill Nathan Cirillo, who was standing guard at the federal War Memorial?

Yeah, tell me the Conservatives are not the real terrorists in all this. They’re using the hysteria surrounding these events, even now, to push their own very anti-Canadian agenda. And the sad part is, too many people are all too happy to LET them.

Of course, salient facts like that have escaped the major media, or the myriads of know-nothings who pontificate in the comments sections of their websites. Most of them seem quite convinced that if we only shut our doors tightly enough, ramped up the security high enough, and went to war in enough foreign countries to “bomb them back to the Stone Age” and “teach them a good lesson”, the “terrorist” problem would be best addressed. Never mind that neither of these guys was a foreigner, and that both in fact were born right here.

Or they’re all full of self-righteous Islamophobia, oblivious to the fact that in both cases, imams actually tried to deter these guys from taking the criminal turns they did. And oblivious, too, to the fact that Canadian Muslims are right on the same page with all the rest of us in condemning such attacks, and terrorism in general.

And above all, they’re oblivious to the role that a too-easy access to guns, and a too-hard access to mental health care, played in this whole goddamn mess. They simply cannot and will not see those connections, even though it doesn’t take a brilliant sociologist to draw them.

Oh yeah, and that’s another thing: We’re not supposed to commit sociology in times of terrorism, according to none other than Stephen Fucking Harper himself. Yes, that’s right…the tough-talking macho PM, who bravely, bravely hid in a broom closet while his underlings barricaded the door with spears made from flag poles!

But hey. At least the parliamentary Sergeant-at-Arms, Kevin Vickers, proved that his role is not merely ceremonial, even though his costume may be. Like René Jalbert many years before him, he was the one who engaged a confused, deranged gunman hellbent on wreaking terror. Unlike Jalbert, though, he couldn’t talk the shooter out of it; he ended up having to kill him. “Terrorist” crisis ended, either way.

And all this without recourse to war.

Now the PM’s security detail has modified its protocol so that they can enter the Commons chamber and protect him at all times. That’s fine; at least it doesn’t unduly curtail anyone’s civil liberties. Not so fine, however, is the legislation the government apparently passed on the same day as Martin Couture-Rouleau ran down Patrice Vincent in a fit of psychosis. We’re now facing intrusive, unconstitutional online surveillance under the pretext of “crime prevention”! Yay!

So, now you know. And if this is the last post you see from me, you’ll know why. I’ll have been arrested for committing the supreme terrorist act of daring to think un-conservatively and sociologically, and tying together all the things they don’t want us to understand are related. If you think Martin Couture-Rouleau and Michael Zehaf-Bibeau were crazy (and they were, alas), you ain’t seen nothin’ . My own country just totally outclassed them in the losing-one’s-shit department.

And since it’s already at war in Iraq, too, it’s also outdone them in terms of real terrorism.

Dear men: Nobody owes you “pretty”.

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Nope, nobody. Not even these totally imaginary ladies.

Yes, kiddies, it’s that time again. Time for another anti-boner note to the menz from your ol’ Auntie Bina.

So, this US senator decided to share with us the stupid shit that others (all male, older, and white) have said to her over the years. Most of them with no idea how sexist, condescending and just plain stupid it all is. A representative sampling:

“Good thing you’re working out, because you wouldn’t want to get porky!” – an older male colleague

“You know, Kirsten, you’re even pretty when you’re fat.” – a Southern member of Congress, while holding her arm

“When I first met you in 2006 you were beautiful, a breath of fresh air. To win [the special election], you need to be beautiful again.” – a labor leader

“Don’t lose too much weight now. I like my girls chubby.” – one of her favorite members, while squeezing her waist

What do these different dudes’ remarks all have in common? I’ll give you a broad hint: It’s the ENTITLEMENT, honey.

These men are all in effect telling Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand that she needs to be pretty for them. Or for the special election. Some are telling her not to gain weight, others not to lose it. But all of them apparently think they have a right to tell her how she should look. Or NOT look. All of them are telling her, in effect, that she owes them “pretty”. And that she would be nobody and nothing without boner-appeal. (Sign this petition if you agree that this is fucked up and bullshit.)

Would they do that to other men? I’m guessing that no, they would not. They’d hold their tongues and keep any judgments on a male colleague’s looks to themselves, right? And they’d keep their hands off each other’s bodies, too, because no homo, bro!

But since Sen. Gillibrand is a woman, they feel they have a perfect right to do all that to her. A perfect right to paw her body and tell her what to do with it, as if she had no right to dignity, autonomy and respect that was not somehow tied intimately and constantly to her good looks. And by implication, that she could have no career if she did not look the way older white men wanted her to look. Because heaven knows that young people, women, and non-whites don’t vote, right? And that nobody votes for you if you don’t look like a strong contender for Miss America.

This sort of thing is disgusting and all too typical. And it doesn’t happen in a vacuum, either. It happens in a culture of rape and entitlement.

Right now, in a heartening development, there’s a lot of pushback going on against street harassment. (There’s even an app for that.) And there is, in a disheartening turn, pushback going on against the pushback. Recently, the New York Post (which has never passed up an opportunity to throw anyone’s dignity under the bus for dollars) published some contrarian clickbait in praise of street harassment, by some female sexist idiot claiming that it “empowers” women and makes them feel sexy.

It does nothing of the sort.

Anyone who’s ever been catcalled (I have, enough times to lose count), horn-honked at (ditto), followed around by a strange man (double-ditto) and touched by some dude very much against her will (diddly-ditto) can attest to how much it does NOT make a woman’s day to have to deal with this; it actually ruins it. Because the idea that one’s body is being regarded, and treated, as property by any man with the nerve to claim it, is profoundly unsettling. Don’t I belong to myself? Don’t I have a right to be left alone when every part of my body language is screaming as much?

Well, yeah. One would think so, wouldn’t one?

Funnily, I never hear men complaining of getting similar harassment from women. And really, when’s the last time you saw a construction worker, even a really super hunky one, getting hollered at by passersby in miniskirts and high heels? (Anyone? Bueller?) I’ve never seen it, never done it, and I don’t know anyone else who has, either. It never happens. Know why that is?

I’ll give you another broad hint: Women are not entitled to do that shit.

I’ve never assumed that any man, not even one near and dear to me, has ever showered, shaved, combed his hair or put on clean clothes expressly for my benefit. And if he told me he did, I would think it odd that he saw fit to emphasize the point. I did not grow up believing that they do any of that just for us. I didn’t grow up believing they HAD to. They don’t owe us anything, except (that obvious pipe dream) equality. And basic respect and consideration. And those are independent of how well-dressed and groomed a guy is. I’ve gotten them from big burly biker types, homeless guys, and dudes just as middle-class as I am. Any man can do it. It’s not rocket science, fellas.

Conversely, I’ve been harassed by all kinds of dudes. Black dudes. White dudes. Boys much younger than me. Classmates at school. Guys a few years older than me at university. Men much older than me. Blue-collar, working-class types. And yes, even men in suits. Older, well-groomed, educated white guys. Guys that, by their appearance, one would think they’d know better. Shockingly, they don’t. And the reason they don’t is that they grew up feeling perfectly entitled to do all that, and more. All straight males, regardless of age, race, religion, or class, have been taught to think they are entitled to OWN a woman, if not a very young girl. It’s never formally stated; it’s just “understood” that this is “the way things are”. It underpins every catcall that ever got yelled. It pervades society at all strata.

Once, I tried to impress upon a classmate at j-school that this was a serious issue. He was from Cyprus. He was Greek. Maybe this is some kind of cultural difference, I thought; maybe that’s why he doesn’t get it. So I explained it long, loud and clear. And he still didn’t get it. He spoke perfect, unaccented English, every bit as good as mine, even though it was a second language for both of us. It couldn’t be a language barrier, that much I knew. Maybe he just needed a more graphic example. So then I whacked him on the ass, hard enough to hurt, to show how demeaning that sort of thing is. He merely grinned over his shoulder at me. God damn him, he liked it. He probably figured I was hitting on him, who had a fiancée waiting back home. What I was trying to teach him totally backfired. He never did catch the lesson, and for all I know, he still hasn’t. Well, DUH. In the back of my mind, I knew that the playing field wasn’t really level. The entitlement wasn’t there for me. But it was for him.

And he was so entitled that he could even feel perfectly free to ignore the fact that he WAS entitled. That’s the really insane part.

Every dude, from the lowly hardhat to the bigwig in the Savile Row suit, is tacitly expected to show dominance on the sexual front. And multiple sexual fronts, at that. Long after his own hormones have begun to decline, he’s still explicitly allowed to do all sorts of things no respectable woman could even dream of getting away with. Why do I get all skeptical whenever anyone talks about “sex-positive” bullshit? Yet another broad hint: It’s the ENTITLEMENT, baby. A middle-aged or elderly woman paying for sex with handsome young men would be laughed at and pitied and held in contempt, no matter how high her social rank. A much older man doing that to pretty young women, no matter how low his social rank? Perfectly fucking normal, because he’s perfectly fucking entitled.

Same goes for older men in politics, church and state alike, policing who gets to have birth control and abortions, and who doesn’t. One would think that since it’s not their bodies, it’s not their issue. But they do think it’s their issue, because our bodies, so they think, are theirs to own and control.

Women’s bodies are treated as public property, to be displayed like objects, and pawed at random, and accorded no respect. To be born female is to put up with a lot of shit from entitled menfolks.

And it starts early.

I first became aware of it around the time I hit puberty, just before my tenth birthday. As soon as my breasts started budding — BAM! — instant sexual harassment. Just add hormones. And it had me hunching, slouching, crossing my arms, and wearing baggy, weather-inappropriate clothing for years in an effort to fend it all off. It didn’t work. It’s absolutely amazing how boobs, even ones barely bigger than a little kid’s mosquito bites, will attract unwanted attention. If a girl’s nipples poke up against her top, they will get gawked at, grabbed at, and twiddled like radio knobs. Failing that, there’s always that other, more juvenile statement of entitlement and ownership: the snapping of the bra strap. (Which, boys take note, does nothing to make a girl want you. Oh, she’ll notice you, all right, but not in a good way. Just think how you’d feel if she gave you an atomic wedgie or pantsed you in front of the entire class, and you’ll know how she feels about you doing that to her.)

And then we have the pedophiles, who also feel perfectly entitled to molest girls too young for even their first “training” bra. And who bitterly resent the fact that it’s illegal, and that there is any age of consent at all. But at the same time, they are grotesquely turned on by the fillip of doing something so illicit. Some of them are even willing to travel for the privilege of paying for what no one could even pretend was an encounter between consenting equals. I’ve never been approached by one them that I could remember, but then, maybe I was just plain lucky never to have encountered any. And when you’re too young to know what sex is, how can you even tell?

Now, of course, with the ubiquity of the Internet, one can’t get away from them. Or from guys who disingenuously argue that with the onset of puberty, a girl becomes fair game for any grotty thing a man might have in mind. (It’s worth noting that the Taliban thought Malala Yousufzai was fair game for shooting in the head because she was already pubescent.) There are all kinds of guys who, very “rationally” and “logically”, argue that if she’s old enough to bleed, she’s old enough to breed, and that the age of consent should be dropped in favor of “whenever she’s physically mature”. It doesn’t matter if she’s mentally mature or not; her job, it seems, is to be available to all comers, and to submit “willingly” to their advances. What she wants doesn’t matter. Physically developed girl = Total Slut Totally Asking For It. (It’s also worth noting that the average age for first-time prostitutes in North America is not 18 to 21, or even 16-18, it’s 11-14. Not only are girls that age considered “fair game”, they are highly profitable game. And yes, the johns know how old they are, and don’t give a damn that they can’t legally consent. They demand them that age, after all.)

The “old enough to breed” fallacy is never more glaring than in cases of precocious puberty, where girls as young as five (and some even younger!) have exhibited signs, such as breast development and menstruation, that one normally wouldn’t expect to see before age 11 or 12. Five years old is old enough for kindergarten; it is NOT old enough for sex. Never mind if she can already fill a bra. Not even if she’s getting her periods regularly. But it has been known to happen. I’ve lost count of how many such sickening instances I’ve come across. And there is nothing more jarring than seeing a five-year-old girl with adult-size breasts and a huge pregnant belly, who has no way of explaining how it happened. She hasn’t yet learned the words for all her body parts, and has no clear concept of sex, regardless of how “mature” she may outwardly appear to be. To take advantage of her, just because she looks like a miniature adult, is to ignore her right to a full, safe, unmolested childhood. (And again: How many women do you know of who have taken advantage of a precocious little boy’s accelerated puberty? Even Mary Kay Letourneau picked a kid who was of normal pubertal age and development — and if you’ve ever read her story, and know the arch-conservative circumstances of her upbringing, you’ll know just how messed up she is!)

And then again, sometimes you get wingnuts who just infantilize ALL women. Because they have to feel superior to them somehow.

No, there’s no way of getting around the sexist notion that all women, just by virtue of being female, owe something to all men. And that thing is access to their bodies. And accessibility, it seems, is signalled by conforming to the notion that we owe them “pretty”. And that we owe them “ladylike”. And that we owe them a degree of deference and respect which is merely optional when it goes the other way. And that if we don’t smile, and comply, and above all, remain silent, we’re the baddies in the whole fairytale.

We get insulted implicitly whenever we’re told “But you’d be so pretty if you only smiled!” (So, we’re ugly if we don’t? Wow, what a compliment!) We get insulted explicitly if we refuse to smile. We get flamed, insulted and harassed if we refuse to put up with shit on the Internet. Some of us get chased out of our homes by trolls for it. Some of us even get assaulted for it. We go from pretty princess to ugly hag and wicked stepmother combined. And all for just not complying.

Well, fuck that noise. I don’t owe “pretty” to complete strangers, or “ladylike” to anyone who pesters me. No woman does.

I always make a point of learning the “bad” words early in any foreign language I undertake, so that I can pull them out as needed when travelling or talking on the Internets. I can now cuss like a well-travelled sailor in at least half a dozen languages. It even stands me in good stead in my semi-professional capacity as a literary translator; it’s actually gotten me jobs, because it demonstrates full competence in the language in question. And I don’t take kindly to anyone who considers me “fair game” for sexual harassment or assault because I cuss, either.

I do not smile on command; I only smile if I feel like it. Anyone who tries to make me smile against my will, gets an exaggerated version of my resting bitchface.

If you honk your horn or throw a “nice tits” at me, expect to see a one-fingered salute, held high so everyone else can see it too.

If you harass me on the Internet and I can expose your data to hackers and police alike, I damn well will. And even if I can’t do that, I can still mock and ridicule you, and use my right to free speech against you. I hate trolls because they make the world so goddamn fucking ugly.

I don’t owe compliance to any man. I don’t owe you the time of day. And I certainly don’t owe you “pretty”.

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A few random thoughts on mental illness and suicide

Robin Williams and Jeff Bridges in The Fisher King. Parry (Williams), who is homeless and mentally ill, retells the story of the Fisher King and the Holy Grail.

In light of all the ignorant and shitty things being said in the wake of Robin Williams’s incredibly sad passing, I want to say a few things of my own to offset all the ignorance and bullshit. This may be rough and disjointed, but here goes:

Suicide is not an act of cowardice. One of the weird paradoxes of clinical depression is that it tends to cause thoughts of suicide, but also tends to inhibit the depressed person from acting out those thoughts by leaving that person exhausted and devoid of will. Just being alive under those circumstances is an incredible act of courage, so wanting out isn’t “cowardly”, but rather quite understandable. At the same time, it can also be grisly and horrifying just to contemplate…yes, even under those circumstances.

When I was depressed, I was constantly exhausted, yet constantly filled with anxiety, with a sensation of burning in my veins. I had panic attacks, which made me want to flee whatever place I was in, but sapped my physical strength so that I could hardly move. This painful paradox led to a lot of suicidal ideation for me. When my boyfriend took me to Niagara Falls, I couldn’t cross a high bridge without thinking of how much easier it would all be if I only found the courage to step over the railing and let myself fall through the cool air into the waters of the drainage canal, 70 metres below. Yes, I measured the drop…by tossing a stone and timing the splash, then calculating the distance based on acceleration due to gravity. And whenever I passed a railroad track and saw a freight train coming, I felt an almost magnetic pull toward it, and a horrific urge to lay my burning neck down on the nice, cool rail. It was like the world’s most perverse physics class.

These thoughts of suicide brought me no relief; on the contrary, they contributed to the horror and exhaustion of an already gruesome battle. I did not want to die. I only wanted the pain to end. The fact that my illness was suggesting its own “cure” in such a dire manner was a terrifying experience that I wouldn’t wish on anyone, not even my worst enemy.

I wasn’t being weak when I had suicidal thoughts. It took great strength to resist them, but it would have taken even greater strength to act them out!

The reason why some people on antidepressants commit suicide? Disinhibition. Prozac is legendary for giving depressed people back the energy the disease has sapped from them. It is also notorious for giving them the energy to take their own lives, where the depression had taken that away. This is why some people who are apparently recovering well on antidepressants “unexpectedly” take their own lives. Before prescribing any drug, a psychiatrist must ask them: Have you ever thought of suicide, or tried to commit it? If the answer is yes, any disinhibiting antidepressant is contraindicated.

I had suicidal ideations. I was so paralyzed by my illness that I couldn’t ask for help even though I needed it desperately. I should have seen a psychiatrist, should have gone on medication. Interestingly, one of the books I kept reading and rereading obsessively at the time was Colette Dowling’s You Mean I Don’t Have to Feel This Way?, which was about how antidepressants help treat the chemical imbalances of the brain that cause depression. But I never found the inner wherewithal to call my doctor or ask for a psychiatric referral. I never went on medication. I ended up toughing the illness out, and eventually the grey fog lifted. But when I later learned how many meds are tied to suicide in patients who appeared to be getting better, I wondered if I hadn’t somehow dodged a bullet. After all, Prozac was very much in fashion back then…

No, going on medication isn’t a sign of weakness either. Nor does it have anything to do with a conspiracy to “dope” us all into submission. The right medication(s) can save sanity and lives. The problem lies not with antidepressants, but rather with careless prescribing. And since a lot of doctors here in Ontario are overstressed and overextended themselves, with patient demand outstripping the physician supply, it’s all too easy for prescribing mistakes to happen. Especially if Big Pharma companies aggressively promote the latest drugs to doctors in an effort to boost sales.

And, give me a fucking break, Lionel Fucking Tiger, psychiatric meds are also NOT about “feminizing” boys. Antidepressants are not made of estrogen! A kid who can’t sit still in class, listening and learning, is not a boy being a boy, but a troubled youngster in need of help. If a girl acted that way, everybody would see that there was something wrong with her; sex changes NOTHING. Nobody can succeed in life by simply being left to run amuck. Anyone who thinks medication can’t make a positive difference to troubled kids has never been one, seen one, or had to deal with one. So please, spare me the pop-psych bullshit about the “need” to “bring back masculinity” by avoiding “emasculating” drugs like antidepressants or Ritalin. Masculinity never even left the building, and to equate it with madness is an insult to men, just as equating femininity with tameness is an insult to women.

No, genius and madness do not go hand in hand, either. Being exceptionally bright doesn’t make you crazy. Neither does being crazy mean that you are automatically gifted with rare and incredible insights. Yes, sometimes the two coincide in the same person. But to claim that this correlation somehow equals causation is like saying that having brown hair causes you to also have blue eyes, or vice versa. Plenty of people have the one, but not the other. And the fact that some people have both simply means that mental illness can happen to anyone, even the best of us.

When I was depressed, my normally high intelligence felt remote, like it had abandoned me. My usual creativity was dead and gone. I had trouble carrying out a lot of mental tasks that would ordinarily have been easy for me. I felt guilty and stupid all the time. Later, when the fog lifted, I got those faculties back. But when I was in the fog, even just walking to work or school took all the strength I had. By day’s end, I barely had the energy to lift a fork. It was like my brain had died and gone to hell. I was definitely no genius when I was sick.

Normality is not boring; it is a blessing. My only fear is that it will desert me without warning again, as it has repeatedly done in the past. I have been healthy for twenty years now. It is work, but it isn’t half as effortful as simply trying to survive while in the grip of a major depression.

And finally: No, mentally ill people are NOT in need of a good pep talk. You can’t jolly them out of it. Believe me, my former boyfriend tried. All it did was make me feel worse. And the trip to Niagara Falls, which was meant to cheer me up? It only fueled my depression and anxiety. That city is the worst place in the world to take a depressed person who also gets panic attacks. Especially if, like me, you are already afraid of heights even when you’re perfectly well. And the fact that I found no cheer in the tawdry, tacky tourist attractions made me feel like a total wet blanket on my boyfriend and his buddies, who were determined to have a good time even if I couldn’t.

Don’t try to talk a mentally ill person out of being ill. You can’t do that. All you can do, at the end of the day, is listen. Offering to do just that is often enough. And yet, too many people can’t even do that. It’s because they can’t fathom how badly a depressed friend needs someone else who is willing to hear it. If you’ve never been depressed, how on Earth would you know? So don’t presume to know anything. Don’t try to tell your sick friend anything. Ask.

You have no idea how much your friend is dying to tell.

A modest request

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I really, REALLY need this shirt. So does the entire Internet.

Dear guys of the Internets,

I realize that this is a terrible imposition, but I have a teeny-tiny favor to ask of you:

Can you PLEASE lay off with all the fucking updates from your boners?

No, really. That’s all I ask.

No more long-winded personal ads built around the incredibly detailed specifications of your lonely, bored old penis.

No more hideous blog entries about the same, laughably couched under the rubric of “men’s rights”.

No more unsolicited dickpix.

No more passive-aggressive spreadsheets detailing the number of times some woman has failed to comply with your sexual demands.

And oh yes, you, Ben Fucking Stein: No more rambling articles detailing what turned your worm. No more whiny, entitled harassments of pregnant ladies via text messaging, either.

No more. All of it. Must. STOP.

I realize this is a tall order (she said, resisting the urge to snurk, wink, and make other references to salacious punning). But if we want the world to be a less dickish place, we have to start somewhere. And where better than the Internets, where all these dicks (and the dickheads who do not own them so much as they are owned by them) are just flapping around in the breeze.

Or, worse: standing bolt upright, all bloated and purple in the face, spewing goop in all directions.

Ahem. Sorry. Where was I, again?

Oh yeah.

Guys, I’m worried about you warping the minds of impressionable children. Kids these days are cyber-savvy, and it is your job, as adults, to make sure you’re not leaving sploodge lying around where they could slip and fall in it (ewwwwwwwww). It’s not that I consider sex dirty per se. In its proper place, sex is a mighty damn fine good thing. But you’re dragging it out of place, elevating your own erection to the status of an object of cultic worship, and that’s where we have a problem…

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Your penis: NOT God.

Look: Girls are learning from you that they must be constantly mindful of what your little heads are thinking of them, instead of learning to think and act for themselves. And boys are getting more and more empty in the big head with all this undue emphasis on the irrational demands of the little head. It’s making it hard for them all to learn anything of real importance, and this in an era where wars, global warming, famine and pestilence are threatening to do away with us as a species.

And no, I don’t believe that more sex-on-the-brain is the logical response and panacea to all this. Reproducing like rabbits doesn’t do even rabbits any good when their hutch is already hopelessly fouled and there are not enough carrots to go ’round.

And on top of that, Menz Rightzers’ maunderings about the biotruthy correlation between youth, looks and fertility are just plain fucking gross.

So, here’s my modest proposal to all of you schlong-waving guys:

Put away your dicks. Tuck ‘em and zip up. Never wave them around again. Not in polite company; not in impolite company; and never, ever in mixed company. That means no more boner-notes, no more moaning about your poor hurt widdle boner-feels and boner-sads. And in exchange, I and other women (and our merry feminist men) will never laugh and point at you again.

Do we have a deal?

“Not All Men” is still too many

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Not all men are like Elliot Rodger, the 22-year-old who stabbed three roommates to death before going out on a shooting spree motivated by an unholy cocktail of misogyny, mental illness, and frustration at his “incel” status and his failure at picking up women.

Not all men are like this bunch of hooligans, who took potshots at some young women just for not having sex with them.

Not all men are like Marc Lépine, who went on an antifeminist crusade with a Ruger, killing 14 women and wounding several other people.

Not all men are like the boys who harassed me on an almost daily basis when I was between the ages of 12 and 17 — the same ages which, according to Julie Lalonde, demarcate the age bracket in which the greatest number of males will commit sexual assault.

Not all men are like the stoned-looking weirdo who sat masturbating in his car in broad daylight while asking me for directions to a street just a few blocks from where I lived during my student days in Kingston.

Not all men are like the older man who rudely propositioned me behind the wheel of his car when I was 20, grabbing my hand and sticking my finger in his mouth and telling me he wished it were my nipple.

Not all men are like the young guy who pulled up to the curb next to me in Toronto and tried to get me into his car, thinking I was for sale just because I was female and walking alone.

Not all men are harassers, rapists, murderers or creeps. But tell that to any woman who’s ever had a too-close encounter with one of them. “Not all men” is cold comfort to an awful lot of women.

“Not all men” is no comfort to me. I still have trust problems thanks to all those guys who made my life a shitpile over the course of my formative years.

“Not all men” is no comfort to one who was a student, and volunteering at the Queen’s Women’s Centre, when the Montréal Massacre went down. I remember how so many of the victims were in exactly my own age bracket then, too. It’s no comfort to me, because I went to school — and the Women’s Centre — terrified that I could have been next. And if not me, then maybe some other young woman I knew.

“Not all men” are why I keep saying “No thanks, I’d rather walk” when offered a ride by a “kindly” male stranger — or even a “nice” guy I know. “Not all men” are why I walk away when I see a car with a male driver slowing down as it approaches me. “Not all men” are why I walk faster if there’s a man directly behind me on the sidewalk. “Not all men” are why I flip the bird at any guy who can’t take a polite hint when I want to be left alone.

No, of course not all men are like that. Not even a majority are. At least I hope so. But I honestly don’t know. I’m not the one to tell, because I have run into way too many who were like that.

“Not all men” still covers an awful lot of men.

“Not all men” is still just too damn many, because NO man should be like that.

Things that I wish had died in the apocalypse

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Y’okay. So I decided not to do a wankapedia this week; too much holidaying made it feel kind of wrong. And since it’s the end of the year, and it’s a good time to get general disgust off one’s chest before starting afresh, I decided to rechannel my bile a bit and unpack a few things, instead of individual people. The wankapedia will return next year (ha ha, geddit?). In the meantime, please enjoy this end-of-year conceptual shit-list, with my compliments.

1. Using “curate” in reference to anything outside of an actual art gallery or museum. It’s pretentious as fuck, and it’s been over-used…and not only this year, but for the past couple of years. Every two-bit dilettante now thinks they’re a fucking artiste. Now hear this: You don’t get to “curate” makeup samples, creepshots, food, or anything else that isn’t actual art, created by actual artists. Curation involves a whole lot more than just gathering a bunch of stuff together in an album, a box, or a Pinterest page. It involves research, education, and active engagement with those who come to see an exhibit. You can collect, collate, compile, whatever, but unless you actually work for a gallery and hold the job title of curator, you don’t curate a goddamn thing. You’re just throwing shit together. Capisce?

2. Twee. Another over-used word. What the fuck does it even mean, anyway? It sounds like someone trying to say tree with a speech impediment. Or is it a tweed that’s not made of good, new wool? It seems to be some kind of putdown for anything that’s cute. Or too cute for somebody’s liking. The ironic thing is, it sounds exactly like that whenever someone uses it; they get the cutesy-wootsiest widdle sneery-weerie when they utter it, and that’s undoubtedly counterproductive. I think it means cupcakes with pink icing and candied violets on top, and you know what? I would so fucking eat that, regardless. Since when is cuteness a crime? (And, that said: I’m also kind of partial to definition #3, which is cute, here.)

3. The lazy use of ironic and irony. Those words, they do not mean what you think they mean. And that IS ironic. So don’t use them when what you really mean is sarcastic or snarky, or sarcasm or snark. You want REAL irony? Read O. Henry, you dullard.

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4. Drop-crotch pants. Apparently they’ve been around for a few years; the wonder is that they exist at all. They are hideous. Dropped waists were bad enough; now everything’s migrating so far south that pretty soon we’ll all be forced to trip over what essentially amounts to shorts around our ankles. Whatever happened to waistbands that sit on the natural waist, and crotches that sit on the natural crotch? I guess clothes that fit are no longer a thing. And how about that Justin Fucking Bieber wearing a pair of pants with both a dropped waist AND a dropped crotch? The waist was just barely hanging on his scrawny little hips, and the seat hit just above his knees. He looked like an oversized toddler in a loaded diaper. I felt like tossing him a box of baby wipes. (On second thought, I might need those for my eyes.)

5. Rape culture. No, not the phrase itself, but what it stands for. It is a thing, it is terrifyingly pervasive, and it is to be killed with fire. Especially after it cost two women their lives, this past week, in India alone.

6. The word “mangina”. It means absolutely nothing, because it was made up by right-wing trolls with rats up their dickholes. (See also “misandry”. Also not a real word.) I can only infer from the contexts in which I’ve seen it used that it’s supposed to be some kind of putdown for real, decent guys who treat women as friends, colleagues, comrades and equals, instead of slaves, sex toys, and chattel. In which case, putdown FAIL, because those are the guys that end up getting all the chicks the whiny misogynists are too busy sitting around hating on to actually bother trying to win. (Trying to win a woman over = “supplicating”, in their jargon. No, I’m not kidding. They have a whole ‘nother vocabulary, those guys.)

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7. Constantly substituting “rock” for wear. It’s meant to make the most mundane outfit sound impressive. It doesn’t. What’s wrong with simply WEARING a potato sack? Why do you have to “rock” it? Unless you’re swaying hard from side to side or noodling away on a guitar while wearing it, you’re not rocking a goddamn thing.

8. Totes are large bags for carrying all your earthly goods, up to and including your kitchen sink. I have no idea what the fuck “amazeballs” are, and I don’t want to know.

9. In fact, sticking -balls on the end of anything is a sure way to make yourself sound fuckingballs idioticballs.

10. Pickup “artists”. Note the quotes. Especially the ones who wear douchey getups to catch women’s attention. And the ones who think rape is a kind of game. No, I’m not kidding. What they do is neither an art nor a science, although they borrow liberally from the vocabularies of both to try to advance their lucrative scam industry. They will NOT help you find a lasting relationship; in fact, their manipulative tactics are an active hindrance to finding real love, because they rely on you constantly playing head games and trying to “program” a human being like a robot. (Women HATE that. Trust me. I’ve been yoinked around by my own share of manipulative males, and not one of them will ever get me back.) They are a real scourge, and they have spawned on the Internets. Worse, they’re cross-pollinating with #11. They have already precipitated a massacre. Stop the motherfuckers before they spawn again!

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11. “Men’s rights” activists. Note the quotes. As you may have guessed, rights have fuck-all to do with their mercifully puny (bowel) movement. Their entire agenda consists of misogyny and the fight for “lost” (again, note the quotes) privileges that no man should ever have had in the first place. Such as the “right” to get off with a slap on the wrist (if that!) for abusing women and children, the “right” to be a deadbeat dad, the “right” to force women to play incubator/unpaid domestic servant/sex toy/slave/what-have-you, and, oh yeah, even the “right” to kill women with impunity for any perceived infraction against proper, submissive femininity. If they were Muslims or anything else not white and Christian, they’d be called “honor criminals”, and the right-wing nutters would be baying for their blood. As it stands, they ARE right-wing nutters, full of racist and xenophobic ideas as to why they’d rather marry anything but a fellow North American. And, when their little fantasy of the submissive foreign mail-order bride goes kaplooey, as it so often does, they want the “right” to imprison her in their homes and/or dispose of her remains without the pesky authorities catching wind. May they all swim nude in piranha-infested waters as part of one of their dipshit “manhood” rituals, and may the fish eat them genitalia first.

12. Dorky chicks who play up to the dudes from either of the above categories, usually because they’re insecure and need approval in the worst way. You can usually tell them by their mating call: “I’m not a feminist, BUT…” If you recognize yourself in that, then fucking stop it, because you’re not helping anyone. Least of all yourself. Grow a spine and don’t worry so much about what the shallow end of the man-pool thinks. It’s amazing how fast your relationships improve when you realize that you’re a person, not a doormat. And when you start to act accordingly.

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13. The Rules. Germane to #12: Has any relationship ever gone bust simply because a woman broke a few (or all) of these regurgitated bits of 1950s tripe on how to manipulate your man? Not a single proven instance of that exists — largely, I suspect, because all the guys worth having aren’t consulting manuals full of outdated advice on What To Look For In A Lady. Just as all the women worth having aren’t doing the same with How To Catch A Man. In fact, if there is one thing all truly happy relationships seem to have in common, it’s that they got that way WITHOUT The Rules. But guess whose didn’t do so well, in spite of several books of Rules and all? Oh yes. Oh dear!

14. That fucking “local mom” who’s discovered every $5 secret, from how to get whiter teeth to how to flatten your stomach to how to lose your wrinkles without Botox. Whoever the hell she is, why doesn’t she find a $5 cure for CANCER, instead? And, more to the point: How about you lazy ad-agency fuckers coming up with a new nonexistent “local” person to hawk snake oil? I’m not a mom, and I don’t think motherhood should be either a prerequisite to success OR an impediment to it. Also, I don’t believe in snake oil. PS: Ha, ha.

15. The NRA. For reasons all too obvious, obviously.

16. And Bushmaster, too. For playing so blatantly to male insecurity, you DESERVE to fail.

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17. Saying “reach out” when you simply mean talking to someone. It implies that you’re coming across a vast canyon just to say a few lousy words. Whenever someone uses that phrase inappropriately, I imagine them hanging off a cliff, scrabbling for a grip on the nearest clump of weeds, and screaming desperately for help with one hand outstretched. Which is usually nowhere near the case. Stop trying to inject more heartfeltness into an ordinary conversation/query/interview attempt/whatever than there actually needs to be, goddamn it.

18. Nice Guys™. No, not actual nice guys, but the kind who merely style themselves as such so as never to have to get over their entitled douchebag selves. These guys can’t actually BE nice, just for niceness’s own sweet sake. Their “nice” is full of ulterior motives, and as soon as you make clear that you’re not properly impressed (by their definitions, not yours), it drops off and you’re left looking at their real, scabrous nature, which is all “Bitch slut whore, why you no sex me???” Some of these prize specimens now even have their own dedicated Tumblr, so women looking for love online know enough to stay away from them (and get a few free laffs in the process). I’m sure there will soon be others.

19. Germane to #18, any dude who bitches about getting “friendzoned”. Yo, dude? If you don’t like having women for friends, then don’t! Assuming that they owe you something just because you were kind to them (with ulterior motives) is not how a real friend behaves. And getting pissed at them for only being nice right back at you (as opposed to romantic and/or sexual) is pretty damn unfriendly, too. Be glad you have a friend, or…

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…you could end up like this guy. Forever Alone and not even wondering what it is about him that frightened the ladies off, because he’s too busy ranting at them like some fucking whackjob off Craigslist or wherever.

20. And the flipside of #19: dudes who “just want to be friends”…i.e., they dump you because they don’t want to be in a serious committed relationship, but then turn around and want you to be on call for whenever they’re alone, and they’re horny, and no one else is picking up the phone. That ain’t friendship, either. It’s just more of that old demon, Entitlement. For all we know, they too are Men of the Dreaded Satanic Friendzone. You know, the ones always kvetching about how no female friend ever wants to sleep with them. (Gee, I wonder why.)

21. YOLO. Aside from the fact that it’s bullshit (ask me about those three past lives in which I got burned at the stake!), it’s also an excuse to engage in deepest, darkest stupidity…which, in turn, leads to a drastically shortened lifespan. If one life is indeed all you get to live (and, happily or not, it isn’t), why go for the Darwin Award?

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22. Germane to #21: AGEISM. No, that’s not a perennially trending bullshit acronym. It’s a perennially trending bullshit concept. It sells a lot of snake oil. (And it wrecks a lot of faces, too.) I know it’s never fashionable to be glad you’re a crotchety old lady, but I am, because I’ve outgrown a lot of bullshittery, and the air up here at the top of the hill is so much better.

23. Fifty Shades of Grey. Unsexy “erotic” fanfic of terrible teen vampire series written to make abstinence look like the hottest foreplay EVER. Someone, please, drive a stake through the heart of all that.

24. Sex discrimination. It’s just been ruled legitimate grounds for firing in Iowa, at least if you’re female, attractive, younger than your male boss, and your tight pants are constantly giving him hard-ons. This means that the law, at least in Iowa, now officially recognizes that the onus is on working women to discourage unwanted sexual attentions or else lose their jobs, even if they see their boss as a father figure and have zero interest in wrecking his oh-so-Christian marriage. Fear the bulge, ladies. Fear. The. BULGE.

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25. Anti-gay “conversion therapy”. Note the quotes. This is NOT therapy. It is fuckery, it does not work, and it only serves to screw up gay kids, leaving them maladjusted and often suicidal. Any other form of therapy would be stopped if patients died, so why is this one getting a free pass?

26. Stochastic terrorism. Also known as “doxing with a death threat”. It’s what cost Dr. George Tiller his life, and it’s also what some gun nuts are now trying to do to a certain newspaper editor for putting together a harmless map showing where some people with gun permits live. It’s also massively unfuckingcool, people. And here in Canada, it can get you a hate-speech trial and jail time. Not surprisingly, this shit flies mainly south of our border, where some people interpret freedom of speech to include publishing pictures of other people’s kids to intimidate the parents, and uttering hideously hyperbolic death threats with a phony “ha ha, just kidding” attached.

27. Internalized misogyny. The only thing worse than a man who hates women is a woman who agrees with him. And who furthers the misogyny by way of disinformation.

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28. Amateur climatologists. It just snowed, therefore global warming isn’t happening! Hurr hurr. And what about the Little Ice Age, huh? HUH? Yeah, what the fuck about all that. Unfortunately for all these cutesy theoriettes, real climatologists have more to say than right-wing global warming deniers, and all of it just flies right over the latter’s simple little heads.

29. Antivaxxers. No, vaccines won’t weaken your immune system/cause autism in your child/turn your teenage daughter into a raging slut/etc. But believing the antivaxxer hype WILL make you stupid. Truly, madly, deeply stupid.

30. Fascism, both with swastikas and without (“libertarianism”). I trust I need not explain this one, eh?

31. Okay, one more: CAPITALISM.

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And last but not least: Bucket lists. Also known as “Things to do before you die”. Or a longer-term variant on New Year’s resolutions. Or just a moronic list of irrelevant shit you might want to do right now before you die, but then totally forget about when something more interesting comes up, or real life intervenes. Some people even presume to write them for others, telling them everything from the general “how to lead an awesome life” stuff to how many kinds of sex you should have at least once. I don’t have one. I have a fucket list, and this is it.

Good night, and get fucked…until next year. Ha, ha.

Posted in Just Pissed Off. 2 Comments »

Why this is an ad-free blog

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I’ve been getting a huge uptick in traffic lately. Good thing, right? I thought so, until my brother asked if I had ads on my blog. “You could make money off it”, was his rationalization.

But here’s my problem: I don’t want to do that.

Not that I couldn’t use the cash, of course. Who couldn’t use cash, in this world that eats so goddamned much of it? But here’s the thing: I don’t want to make money off this blog. I do not want this blog to get eaten.

Radical notion? Well, I am a radical, and I don’t see why I should apologize for that. In fact, I’m downright anti-capitalist, and the notion of taking capitalist ad-cash for my dissident musings makes me laugh at the crazy irony of it. It also makes me throw up in my mouth a little.

The idea that the Internet should be a tool of crapitalism in the first place is inimical to me. I’m here to represent the underrepresented side that takes issue with all that. If this is a “marketplace of ideas”, then my idea is that the “market” mentality should be the first thing to go. Ideas should stand or fall on their own merits, not their purported cash value. You want to talk about freedom? Fine–here’s another idea: Your mind is not truly free if your blog is for sale. Discuss!

And speaking of ideas, let’s talk about the psychological reasons for my choice, which underpin the political/ideological ones to a large extent.

We are already inundated with advertising; it’s everywhere we go. You can’t turn on a TV or a radio without being hit with it; you can’t open a newspaper or magazine, either. It pulls your eyes and ears away from what you really wanted to see and hear, in whatever medium it exists. Do we need it all over the Internets, too? Every last little crummy website, it seems, has advertising slapped all over it. It’s a terrible spoiler; it leads to a dumbing down of the blog, and its readers, both. You can’t take away many meaningful messages from the black-and-white text when colorful animated ads are dancing on the sidelines, demanding that you forget what you really came for, and just click through and buy something you really don’t need or want. Is this what’s called “freeing your mind”? Advertisers would love us to think so. To them, the news, like our musings, is just filler for in between the ads, and not vice versa.

I never click through, BTW. I do my damnedest to ignore the ads. On Facebook, I routinely X them out, especially the dating ads (blecch!). I even have ad-blocking software installed on my browser, and whenever some banner or sidebar ad crosses my annoyance threshold, I click the little “block” tab, and presto! One more ad-server thwarted in its purpose. But still, the distractions are there, and they irritate me. They make me feel that I’m being propositioned by a pimp, instead of receiving information or insights from another person.

Also, the whole idea that ideas, insights, information, etc., can be monetized–and often for just a pittance, really, barely enough to keep the stuff hosted on a half-decent server–makes the whole thing pathetic somehow. Do people sweat over the right words to draw lots of eyes to their blogs, just for that? And would anyone who does that cop to it openly?

I’m not here to sell anything on behalf of third parties. I’m here to get you to read me, to take my ideas seriously, to exchange ideas with me too. That’s all. The idea that I’d tailor or slant my writing so some faceless third party can sell you something you don’t want, or worse, promote something or somebody I don’t want to promote, just so that I could make a few crummy cents off your clickage, goes against my grain in every way. I take my readers seriously; how can I ask them to take me seriously when the word-detecting adware on the side is pimping the very things and corporations and people that I rail against here? In the end their eyes will be drawn to the ad-words, not MY words. What self-respecting blogger wants that?

And finally there are the esthetic reasons. Which may appear to be less important than the political and psychological ones, but are not to be dismissed either.

Ads clutter the landscape; they crowd it; they cloud it. They break up a continuous space, and they do so deliberately to call your attention to themselves. This runs counter to the purpose of what you’re doing, and it spoils the experience, too. Do you enjoy driving in the countryside very much if there are billboards all over the roadside, blocking your view of the trees? Because that’s what ads on blogs do. They detract from my enjoyment of what I’m reading. They make me feel like I, and the rest of the world, has come down with a massive case of adult ADD. In fact, we have–our attention spans have been artificially shortened by advertisers who only need 10, 15 or at most 30 seconds to hook you on their junk.

And they do so by cultivating in you a subtle dissatisfaction with your own existence. Life would be so cool (you are meant to think) if only I had this gadget, that gizmo, those shoes, that outfit (that I need to lose X number of pounds to fit into, on the Y diet and Z exercise plan, of course)! And the fact that you don’t have those things and don’t fit into those clothes comes home to you forcefully when you look at yourself again after looking away from the dancing, jingle-jangling, colorful ads. You come away feeling dirtied, diminished, faded, scattered to the winds, and most of all, desperately unhappy.

I don’t want my readers to come away joyless and scatterbrained, diminished or faded. I want them to come away from here feeling nourished, understood, supported, satisfied. (Or, in the case of right-wing nutjob trolls, schooled, stung and butt-hurt. That’s edification, too, albeit probably not the kind they’re looking for.)

Satisfaction is the one commodity our society is desperately short on, and ads are a big part of the reason why. They’re not the whole of the reason–uh, that would be capitalism–but they’re a key part nonetheless. Without artificial distractibility and manufactured discontent (as well as manufactured consent), consumerism can’t function–and by logical extension, neither can capitalism. If people are happy with their old cars that still work fine for all intents and purposes, those trying to sell them spiffy, pricey new ones are out of luck. And so are the bankers and loan sharks who make big bucks financing those sweet car deals. If you are happy with your current life, those trying to sell you the various bits and pieces of a trendy “lifestyle” won’t make their money off you. As long as that pound of flesh stays on you, the vultures starve. If the economy doesn’t grow and the rich don’t get richer off of you, runs the flawed reasoning, catastrophe looms and the whole trickle-down machine will grind to a halt!

Of course, if the machine is forcibly brought to a halt, or if we simply refuse to be cogs in it wherever we can, there is the still, small hope of dismantling it–or at least, shrinking it down to a manageable size. Or building something better, somewhere beyond its reach. That’s not catastrophe; that’s the very opposite of it. We desperately need new ideas for a new society; the existing one is threatening to lay waste our entire Earth. And we are running out of time against it.

I don’t know what the New Society will look like, but I know we will never see it if we don’t work on it diligently. Each of us must contribute, in good Marxian fashion, to the best of our abilities, and according to our needs. And for me, this blog seems like the logical place to start. If I see a cause (like the Seize BP campaign) that I consider worth cluttering up my sidebar for, or if I have something of my own (or my friends’!) to advertise here, I might well change my no-ad stance…a little. But no way in hell will you see me diminishing the quality of this place with anything I don’t believe in. Unless, of course, I’m starving and can’t keep my blog in server space anymore. In which case, I would prefer to set out a tip jar for everyone to chip in to, just to pay for my own funeral.

Let’s hope it never comes to that!

Confessions of a Racist Bitch

I got unfriended on Facebook today by someone I’ve known for less than a week.

Big fucking deal, right? Happens all the time. Means she wasn’t really my friend to begin with, blah blah blah. True, true, and sad-but-true. And yet, it still bothers me. Because it’s not so much WHAT happened, as HOW it happened that makes it so damn painful.

So, here’s what happened.

I reposted a petition from HarrassMap’s page. It seemed the right thing to do; after all, Lara Logan was viciously assaulted in the midst of just doing her job, right? What could possibly be the harm in recirculating a petition from an Egyptian women’s page dedicated to stopping sexual harassment, assault and abuse in a country that, like all of them, has seen too much bullshit heaped on the heads of its female half of the population? What’s wrong with acknowledging a problem, in solidarity, on the social networking sites?

What, indeed.

This person jumped on me for it:

Sexual harassment has become FAR less prelevant since the revolution. This article is misleading. What happened to Logan was an isolated incident and must be seen within its context.

I responded:

Well, this is an opportunity to make sure it stays isolated, and that things don’t backslide. Also, let’s bear in mind that so far, the only authoritarian thug ousted has been Mubarak himself. His successor was also his torturer-in-chief. There’s a lot of housecleaning still to do.

The reaction:

True but using new ways not the old ways. I was just looking at the page 4 ‘HarassMap’, it’s a UN initiative! If you disregard the actual context then you will not be dealing with the Real problem. Things won’t backslide. I find the term ‘housecleaning’ offensive.

That’s when my first little inner warning flag went up; I saw that she was looking to pick a fight here. She was working with a number of naïve assumptions and just plain false facts.

For starters: HarassMap is NOT “a UN initiative”. Here’s its “about” page; as you can see, it’s strictly an Egyptian women’s volunteer initiative. Maybe they’re looking to work with the UN, and maybe not, but this is hardly something imposed top-down from without. I doubt I’d support it if it were.

And sadly, the revolution has not wiped sexual harassment or abuse from the streets of Cairo or anywhere else. Eons of entrenched machismo just do not melt away overnight, or even in three weeks of sustained protest. The world is steeped in sexism, and harassment, assaults and abuse happen EVERYWHERE. Even the most enlightened, progressive western democracies aren’t immune. That’s the actual context here. And yet this person tried to lecture me about “actual context”, as though I didn’t know what I was talking about. (She went on to say as much later.)

As for whether “housecleaning” is an offensive word, I’d agree if it were only one group (or gender) being forced to do it all. That’s hardly the case in Egypt. The sheer size and diversity of the demos made that obvious. It’s a big house over there, and a lot of crap to be cleaned, but it seems that an overwhelming majority of the people is taking on the task. So there’s nothing to get offended about here, as far as I can see.

But this person was determined to get offended, be offended and stay offended. You can’t argue with someone like that; all you can do is walk away. Which I did. I figured she just needed to cool off a bit, and that later, we could talk better. Mistake.

I thought that she could see that we were both on the same side. BIG mistake. She couldn’t. Duh! On the Internet, no one knows where you stand unless you tell them.

And some people seem hell-bent on arguing where you stand even when you do tell them, and refuse to take your word for it. They always think they know everything better, and think they know where you stand, better than you yourself do. If you try to tell them that they don’t, they get all huffy.

I sensed that this was going to be one of THOSE discussions. I’ve had more than my share of them, and I hate them. I hate myself every time I get pulled into one, and I have a hard time going on liking the person who pulled me into it, too. Such arguments always tire me out. They ruin the rest of the day for me, and they ruin me for the rest of the day. All I can do to prevent having my day ruined by one of those is to walk away from it, gain some perspective, and try to deal with it later. So that’s what I did.

BIG mistake.

I got this when I finally came back:

Thanks for ignoring my comments! Stop making assumptions about what’s going on here! You have no idea what you are talking about.

And then this:

Why don’t you respond 2 me you stupid idiot Sabina?! you’re so sure you are right! Or you just can’t handle someone disagreeing with your arrogant opinions!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You are not even able to respect one single person from Egypt!

And finally this:

Racist Bitch

And by then, her name was unclickable. She’d blocked me.

My friends, of course, defended me–or tried to. One of them, a Korean-American, could have told her just by a glance at his profile picture that I am no racist bitch. But this person, just as I’d suspected and feared, was utterly impervious to their attempts to reason with her. Any arguments I’d have had would have been an utter waste of time and energy. She was determined from the get-go to call me that, it seems, and she got to.

I did not, however, get a chance to defend myself as I would have if I’d only had the time. And the stamina. And a little more understanding and patience from this complete stranger. That hurts.

A week or less is not long enough to get to know anyone really well, on the Internet or off. There are people I’ve known all my life whom I still can’t rightly say I understand, even when I see them almost daily in real life. I think it’s pretty fair to say that if I feel that way about my so-called intimates, others must feel the same about me. So how would a not-a-week-old Facebook friend regard me?

Not with a whole lot of understanding, I imagine.

There are so many things about me that just don’t translate well to cyberspace. For that matter, there are a lot of things about me that are easy to miss even when we’re talking face to face! There have been times in my life that I’ve walked around in a major depression, borderline suicidal, and no one but me could tell that I was deathly ill. A part of me had died and gone to hell, and no one even saw. That’s scary. I could have killed myself and they’d all have been walking around with a shell-shocked look on their faces, saying things like “I had no idea…she never said…I couldn’t tell by looking at her…she seemed all right”, etc.

So just imagine, now, that you’re me, an introvert and occasional major depressive, trying to have this conversation. Could you have done it better?

Some of you probably could. Either you’re more extroverted than I (and I’m a terrible introvert, my online persona notwithstanding), or you’re better at arguing, or you’re better at simply never being misunderstood. (Those of you in that last category, I really fucking ENVY you. Could you bottle whatever it is you’ve got, and share it around? I could use a swig right now.)

(Or maybe you’re just better at not fretting and beating yourselves up over stupid people raising stupid arguments on stupid Facebook. In which case, I also envy you. Bottle that shit and gimme some!)

But even if you’re not better than me at this sort of thing, I hope you understand what I’m trying to say here. If I really were a racist bitch at heart, I’d have to go and do what they all do: say “Aha! I knew there was something wrong with THOSE PEOPLE!” and feel vindicated and retrench myself. As I guess this person did. I hope she feels better now.

But I don’t. I feel terrible. I blame myself for having brought it on.

And you know what that makes me want to do? THIS:

Which is exactly what I know I shouldn’t do, if I want anything in this world to change for the better. And I do.

So, no right-wing nutjob retreat into cozy racist delusions for me, and no satisfaction for my projecting accuser. There’s work to be done. Maybe this will help and maybe it won’t, but at least I’ve gotten it out of me now. Sometimes, that’s all you can really do, eh?

This is what cowardice looks like

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Hey, Mike: I see what you did there. Perhaps you’d like the Indiana Attorney General’s office to see it, too? That could certainly be arranged. What you did qualifies as cyberstalking under US law, just so you know:


The United States Communications Decency Act was a piece of legislation that imposed heavy punishments upon anyone who:

(i) in interstate or foreign communications -

(A) by means of telecommunications device knowingly -

(ii) initiates the transmission of, any comment request, suggestion, proposal, or other telecommunications which is obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, or indecent, with the intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass another person.

(E) make repeated telephone calls or repeatedly initiates communication with a telecommunication device, during which conversation or communication ensues, solely to harass any person at the called number or who receives the communication.

Emphasis added.

I see at least four points in there that apply to your pissy little tweet: Annoy, abuse, threaten or harass. That IS what you were trying to do, and don’t you deny it.

Well, annoyed and harassed I may well be. I’m always disgusted when some titty-baby coward who doesn’t even have the guts to debate me like a man goes around calling me a bitch behind my back. But threatened? By someone who can’t even properly post the URL to my blog? Ha, ha, FAIL. My personal info is not publicly available, and even if it were, I doubt you’d have the skills to ferret it out.

And who are you planning to distribute it to? Your eight measly followers? Double-ha-ha-FAIL. I can pick up as many on any given day, and real ones, too. DECENT ones. In other words: Not like you. Maybe that’s what’s got your undescended testicles in a knot? Here’s a sure-fire popularity-increasing tip: Try not being such a fucking asshole. You want women to like you? Don’t go around calling them bitches. Man up and talk to them, to their faces, CIVILLY, even if you don’t agree with what they’re saying. If you can do that, there might be hope for you. But threatening to distribute their personal info, which you can’t get, to stalkers? Just because you have a small penis? Dude, that’s just childish. And pathetic. And oh yeah, ILLEGAL.

Go ahead, Mike, make my day. I dare ya. Got the cojones to comment now, or are you still gonna go the whiny passive-agressive, Angry Inch route?

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Cruelty, the uncoolest cut of all

First, a little music to set the mood…

…because I’m really going to try for rationality and detachment here. It’s not gonna be easy, because everything about this just triggers the old blue blaze of rage and pain that I felt as an ostracized, bullied child. Every time I got shut out or picked on, that blaze is what I felt. And I don’t like admitting that I still feel it every time I see someone else get shut out and/or picked on. You’re supposed to get over that old kid stuff, you know?

Only, here’s the sad part: You don’t. You really don’t. And if you’re honest with yourself, you admit it.

And if you’re really REALLY honest, and painfully so, you admit that this shit goes on everywhere.

Okay, I admit it: This shit goes on everywhere. It goes on in supposedly liberal, enlightened, democratic-socialist CANADA, for God’s sake. I know, because it happened to me.

And no, it didn’t happen for the same reason as it happened to Constance McMillen. I’m not gay. I didn’t have a prom date at all (at least not for MY high school’s formal), much less one of my own sex. I was a shy, introverted, bespectacled, skinny, pale, redheaded, frizzy-haired, unathletic, unhip, unhot, too-damn-smart-for-my-own-good geek. And in a small town, where the narrowest definition of “cool” prevails, someone like that stands out. And standing out is unforgivable. The nail that sticks out, gets hammered down. Yadda, yadda, yadda.

And yeah, I got hammered. All through grade school and much of high school, I got fucking hammered.

I won’t go into any specific incidents. I’ve already been triggered enough for one damn day. There are more of them than can be named, anyway, and it made going to school nauseating. And this was for a kid who enjoyed classes. A kid who really wanted to be a doctor someday; a kid whose teachers kept telling her she really ought to be a writer. Being seen enjoying the use of your own brains is apparently utterly unforgivable in a place where conformist mediocrity is prized, other than of course in athletics.

So I got hammered. And I continued to stick out anyway. I bent, but would not be hammered down. I tried to hide my brains: useless. (I still got high 90s in French without even trying. I could have slept through that class and still aced every test.) I tortured my hair with a curling iron, to straighten and feather it into some semblance of fashion: useless. (One small whiff of humidity, and foof it went.) I got contact lenses, so people could finally see that I had a pretty face and not just four eyes: useless. (They were in the habit of seeing me through their own distorted, invisible funhouse lenses. Nothing I did was going to shatter those.)

No, the only thing that saved me from the whole thing was graduating. And going to university in a modest-sized city, where things were bigger all around. And learning to be myself, instead of some cookie-cutter knockoff of every other ditzy chick with Farrah Fawcett wings in her hair. It meant accommodating my curls, accepting my introverted, geekish nature, and learning to flip the bird at convention (and sometimes, at conventional people). And it meant becoming someone radically different not only from what the others were, but from what I had been and thought I should be.

Even a nervous breakdown and the realization that I wasn’t going to make it to med school wasn’t nearly as bad as being forcibly flipped out of the pond like I was all through my grade- and high-school years. Even realizing I’d fallen hopelessly in love with a gay guy, and being damn near suicidal at the ripe old age of 20, was a piece of cake compared to being shut out. I could get over my thwarted dreams, go beyond the misplaced romantic interest (he’s still my best friend to this day–how ’bout THEM apples?), and even get past the desire to just go to sleep and never wake up. But this? No. It follows you silently everywhere.

I thought I had gotten away from it at university, good fucking riddance to small towns and smaller minds–only to find myself suddenly struggling with all the unresolved pain, anger and stark terror of those days. And sometimes, in the dead of night, when I should be asleep but just can’t, I still have those moments where I forget who I am, who I’ve worked so hard to become. I even forget that the town has grown, and is not the same bigoted little place anymore. All I remember is what I have yet to overcome.

And what I have to overcome is that poison cruelty that seems almost inherent in people. The same that prompted Jean-Paul Sartre to say that hell is other people. It’s not inborn; it’s learned. And it gets passed down through generations. Each one gets beaten by the previous one until it bears the identical scars. Then it turns on the next and starts beating on them until they, too, bear those scars…

So when I read the obscene self-justifications that some people go through, presenting themselves, the bullies, as the poor little victims of a nasty, gay revolution–well, why not just wave a red cape in front of me and every other excluded kid? I mean, it’s not as if you’re not just asking to get your sorry asses kicked, is it now?

And yeah, I would so love to kick every ass of every person who ever did this to another. Doesn’t matter for what “reason”. I don’t give a shit for your justifications; spare me the “explanations”, I’m in no mood to hear any of them. Don’t bother to comment here; I’ll either delete it or declare you a Wanker of the Week, depending on whether my mood is fair or foul. You cannot explain or justify this. I know what you did. It has a name: CRUELTY.

Cruel isn’t cool, and I’m not fucking cool with anyone who’s cruel. I want to kick cruel people’s asses, ALL of them. I’d wear out my trusty old cherry Docs doing it, no doubt about that.

But we’re not supposed to kick ass; we’re supposed to be meek, mild and forgiving. We’re supposed to grow beyond all that. We’re supposed to Forget. I mean, it’s only a silly prom, fergawdsakes. For a bright kid with a future, it’s supposed to be just a stumbling-stone on the road to Better Things. It’s only important to those who peaked in high school. That ain’t me, right?

Well, fuck it. I haven’t forgotten. And I’m not sure I’ve forgiven, either. The fact that a fake prom so far from where I grew up has the power to trigger all my buried outrage and bring it crashing back like it only happened yesterday, is a testimony to the power that cruelty has. It has the power to make me forget, or at least minimize, the fact that I did go to a prom, in another town, with a guy not from my high school. He liked me more than I liked him. He was not the guy I’d have gone with, had I been “cool” enough to be offered a choice of dates; still, I showed him mercy, because he was an even bigger geek than I was. He didn’t know what a loser I was to all my peers. To him, I was actually pretty. For his sake I put on a brave face and a beautiful outfit. How elegant I looked in my own hand-made royal-blue strapless moiré dress and my mom’s black elbow gloves (a damn sight better than these tacky little prats, that’s for sure.)

And yeah, I made the dress myself. Pleated overbodice, six-inch-wide sash, floor-length skirt, the works. And the black organdy ruff
led shawl, too. See what happens when you apply yourself in Home Ec, girls? And don’t you guys wish your girlfriends were hot–and SMART–like me?

But this makes it hard to remember that. It has the power to make me forget that I’m not the ostracized kid anymore, that I quit being that kid even in my last year at high school, where I began to morph into an adult whom other adults actually like. It even has the power to make me forget, for a moment, just how strong I really am.

And that strength didn’t come out of nowhere; it came out of being that excluded, bullied kid. Maybe it’s made me a better adult, a better listener, a more worthwhile person to talk to and with?

Maybe.

One thing it definitely HAS made me is glad that I don’t fit in, after all. Because if fitting in among the bullies who made my youth hell is such a prize, I don’t want it. I’d have to turn into a piece of shit just like them. What’s that old saying? “Even if you win the rat race, you’re still a rat”, I believe is how it goes. Nope; no rodent here. Just a human being who doesn’t need to pretend superiority.

And one who admires the hell out of Constance for taking you all on and showing you all up. She’s got more class in her left pinky-nail than all of you have in your collective, pathetic, self-justifying carcass.

So yeah, bigoted kiddies, knock yourselves out claiming that you are the bullied ones, being shat on by northerners, gay revolutionary ACLUers, and people from the two coasts and God only knows where all else. Whine your sorry asses off about how everybody else looks down on you (as if YOU had a monopoly on pusillanimous shitheadedness!) Go play your smarmy phony victim card until it wears the hell out.

And it will, soon. Because it’s flimsy. And because the rest of the world isn’t stupid; it knows what lengths you went to in order to make sure your precious widdle prom was queer- and crip-cootie-free. That much secrecy takes planning and co-ordination. It takes a lot of complicity. It also takes massive amounts of cowardice. Not one of you kids had the stones to defy your parents, your school board, or your picky-picky peers; you are all a bunch of fucking wimps! You think you avoided “drama” by excluding Constance and her same-sex date, and a tiny bunch of disabled kids? HA! You just brought it on yourselves, ten-thousandfold. You deserve the shitstorm that you’ve got coming now.

And I, for one, will be pointing the finger at you and laughing when the verdict comes down against you. Because I love seeing the shoe go on the other foot, and pinching. It’s not nice, I know. But it is satisfying. And it is so very, very richly deserved.

Sucks to be you, kids. Here, have another song. And try learning how to dance without that graceless booty-humping you did at your “drama-free” prom, ‘kay? That shit’s no cooler than your overt, deliberate cruelty was.