Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Richard Dawkins seems to be a sexist and racist asshole

I've never really liked Richard Dawkins.  At first, my dislike was merely philosophical - I think saying there probably isn't a god is wishy-washy.  The reasons he says there probably isn't a god amount to a repetition of the epistemological uncertainty into which the god of the gaps lives.  Since we can't be certain of anything, we can't be certain god doesn't really exist.

Or anything else!  So he should say, y'know, nothing exists, that it all is probably this and probably that - or we can live with the epistemological uncertainty and speak with conviction.  God does not exist any more that teapots whirling around the sun exist.

Then, when I heard him on some show or another . . . I was overwhelmed by the sense of class.  Here's a dude who is that upper crust British asshole - almost a parody.  He's everything that Monty Python has ever made fun of.  I just assume he has a stupid walk.

He is also a sexist asshole, to get to the thrust of this post.  He tweeted, recently "Date rape is bad. Stranger rape at knifepoint is worse."

Is it?  I'm not sure that getting raped by someone you know is better than being raped by a stranger, myself.  And I also know that date rape often includes threats of violence.  So, it was really just a stupid fucking thing to say, ignorant and nasty.

But here's the thing - why say it at all?  What would prompt a guy to, out of the blue, say something like that?

In short, it's that comic upper class English-ness.  He's an important rich white man.  He speaks with the confidence of being master of the world.  He knows his opinions are the opinions that count.  So he can dismiss anyone he wants who isn't an important rich white man.  Like, say, women.

(He also added, "If you think that's an endorsement of date rape, go away and learn how to think."  Indeed, he is endorsing nothing, but he was definitely speaking out of turn - arrogantly, hurtfully and he was wrong, to boot.  But that's something arrogant rich white men do, too - they can throw out any rationalization to make themselves feel good about the shitty thing they just did.  No one has the status - and everything about Dawkins screams that he's obsessed with status, that he really, really likes being an important rich white man - to seriously gainsay him.  He can dismiss them, as he did, and does.  Learn to think!  It is you who is clearly the problem!)

A couple years back, he told a woman who dared talk about sexism in the atheist conventions that because she wasn't being beaten up by her husband that she should shut up.  He tells other people that they should think, but he often fails to do it, himself - two wrongs don't make a right.  Beating women - beating anyone - is wrong.  But so is sexual harassment that occurs at atheist conferences.  A person who bothered to think would recognize that . . . but this is Richard Dawkins.  He's an important rich white man!  He's got TITLES!  So women who aren't beating beaten by their husbands need to shut up.

He is also a racist.  He said that Cambridge has produced more Nobel laureates than the whole of the Middle East.  Should we be stunned that a prize created by a northerwestern European is mostly given out to other northwestern Europeans?  But he has the bigotry of a Englishman, including the arrogant belief that they are really the best at everything.

So, he's a pig.  There, I said it.  Fuck that racist, sexist asshole.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Childhood neglect, abuse and asthma

I don't really talk about my childhood abuse and neglect very often . . . well, I guess I talk about it more often than many abused children, but because I wasn't regularly beat up by my parents it's often hard to talk about.

(There was a period where I was beat up pretty regularly - when my mother was married to her second husband, Jerry.  It is weird.  Before and after, my mother didn't really hit me, but when she was with Jerry, she did.  I'm not even talking about with her hand, I'm talking about with a stick, a 1 inch by 2 inch stick, just wailed on me.  But only for those two or three years she was with Jerry.)

It's hard to talk about because the shape of the abuse was neglect (the time with Jerry notwithstanding).  While all abuse is tragic, I think neglect is insidious because it's often very difficult to talk about something's lack.  When you've been hit, you can go, "Holy shit, these adults kicked the tar out of an eight year old with a fucking stick!"  But when they don't do something, it's harder to parse.
In particular, there are a lot of things that happened to me that aren't normal but because no one really talks about (because they are pedestrian) so the abnormal, the terrible, seems normal to me.  I don't even realize that they are a sign of neglect.  Which is why it took me thirty years to figure out that I was neglected in the first place: I thought everyone had similar experiences.

The specific case is this: I have asthma.  I have probably had it since I was a little kid, but I only - right this very day - realized that I have it and have probably always had it.

A chief symptom of asthma is coughing at night.  I remember, as a child, coughing a lot at night, coughing until my sides hurt and my throat was raw.  I remember because coughing sucks and because my mother and grandmother's response to me coughing as to tell me to shut up.

It is only now that I'm looking back and going, "That's fucked up."  You have this kid of single digit years and he's coughing up a storm late into the night, just absolutely miserable, and the response isn't to take him to the emergency room or even to schedule a doctor's appointment - it's to tell this sick kid to shut up.  Hell, they didn't even come into my room to check to see if I was okay - they would just yell, "Shut up!"  They treated it like I was faking it, like it was some sort of ploy to get out of school or chores the next day - that a reasonable kid would put that much effort into not going to school or taking out the trash.  I submit this says more about them than me.

(Which puts a zap on a kid's head, too.  For a long time, I did think I was faking it - or, more precisely, that I had a weak character and found it easier to "pretend" to be sick than to do work, because we learn the meaning of things from our family.  It wasn't until I stood up to dozens of bullies, stared down cops, told the truth even if it meant getting fired that I realized that I don't have a particularly defective character.  I might not be particularly strong, but neither am I particularly weak.  It's something else.  But it was a hard road because I was taught that stuff like asthma was a ploy I used to get out of school and chores.)

The coughing was and continues to be a fairly frequent occurrence, by the way.  It is just this constant thing in my life that I've assumed is pretty normal because, y'know, it was treated it that way.  No one talks very much about their doctor's visits as a child but I had, basically, none unless I had a broken bone or was spurting blood.  I didn't know that was strange.  I figured everyone coughed. (And, to be fair, everyone in my family did, because they smoked like chimneys.)

I want to emphasize here, too, that I had insurance and both of my parents had good jobs.  It wasn't that.  Going to the doctor was quite affordable.  But I can't remember ever going to a doctor unless there was severe structural damage and we never had anything so high falutin' as a family doctor.  Ditto dental - I didn't have my teeth cleaned once, not once, as far back into my childhood as I can remember.

Also looking back, I am angry because this is the sort of thing that really effects a kid's - and adult's - life.  For instance, I have struggled with weight my entire life.  I have generally found exercise to be really hard.  Other kids would be running and I would have to stop to cough.  That is the classic asthma symptom, too, right up there with night coughing.  I thought it was just that I was really out of shape but now I'm wondering how much more difficult all exercise has been because I have trouble breathing and rather than checking it out, when I was a kid and coughing my lungs out, I was told to shut up.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Why I don't like Colton Smith's pathetic excuses

I read this article about why Colton Smith isn't a very good representative of the US Army.  It mostly comes down to the justifiable perception that he's a total douche.  He's a smug, self-important asshole who is a bit of a dirty fighter, who brags about cheating to win in the cage ("if you're not cheating, you're not trying hard enough") and is basically a jerk.

What bothers me about him, though, is that he makes excuses for his losses before there's even a fight.  Before his fight with Carlos Diego Ferreira (which he lost in humiliating fashion in 38 seconds . . . his third straight loss, I should add), he said, "On the base, we train soldiers, and I’m a combative instructor right now. But that’s life and death stuff, that’s not sport stuff like mixed martial arts.  Missions come first, soldiers come first, then MMA was a pretty distant second. Now it’s just changed, and the Army has been very supportive of me. I took a personal leave for this fight."

I could be critical of the US military's combatives training as a waste of time.  It is.  US soldiers have guns.  There is almost no unarmed hand-to-hand fighting in combat.  Additionally, it takes years of dedicated training to learn unarmed martial arts thus almost a tiny handful of soldiers ever learn combatives.  One would be hard pressed to find a single situation where military combatives actually saved a soldier's life in combat.  I did some googling and couldn't find a case - and even if you can, it doesn't change the point, it's rare as hell.

Though I did find that the US Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), the dudes in charge of deciding how the US Army is trained, wants to get rid of the current combatives program and replace it with a two week course.  This is an ongoing thing.  Soldiers dig martial arts, so when some soldiers get good at them, they get a few officers behind them, get some funding, create a program and then someone notices once again that unarmed combat has no place on modern battlefields and the program gets scrapped.  Combatives is merely the latest in a long line of martial arts whose usefulness has been overblown to rationalize soldiers acting like tough guys who can kill a person with their commando moves.

OK, ignoring that TRADOC wants to get rid of combatives and there is no indication that it has saved any soldier's life, what Smith is basically doing is making an excuse why it's okay for him to lose.

It's bullshit for a couple of reasons, if you ask me.  The first is that it's just some chickenshit thing to say - he is giving himself an out, an excuse to lose.  Mind you, he is losing.  Three in a row.  But he's saving lives . . . oh, wait, except that there is no proof that Army combatives have done anything of the sort, to the extent that TRADOC wants to cut the program.

Second . . . Colton Smith isn't the first guy in MMA to be in a dangerous job.  I can't think of a single policeman who said, after getting their ass kicked in 38 seconds, the third time in three fights that he's been finished (which might not happen so much if he didn't give himself so many ways out).  Before fighting Ben Askren, Karl Amoussou didn't go, "Well, if Ben whips me, it's because my police work in Paris, fighting gangs, is why will have lost.  That's important work, not like this MMA stuff."  (Note: he did lose, but not as badly as Smith makes a habit of losing.)  Mirko Crocop never used his service with Croatian anti-terrorist special police as a justification as to why he lost.  Tim Kennedy hasn't done it when he was a Green Beret sniper.  Even though those guys could legitimately say they're saving lives, or at least fighting a war.

Most MMA fighters hold a day job, even many in the UFC.  Since the kind of guys who beat up each other in a cage have that mindset all the time, many MMA fighters have jobs that are risky - cops and soldiers have populated MMA's ranks from nearly the beginning.  Smith's excuses are a slight to every person in MMA who has done their job and fought and lost and never made excuses - Smith's excuses are doubly bullshit because he made them before the fight.

After three straight losses, it was normal for a dude to get bounced from the UFC.  Especially at lightweight, which is a shark pit.  Smith was never a very good fighter and he keeps getting his ass kicked so I don't imagine he'll be with the promotion very much longer.  Still, he's a jerk.