trixtah: (Default)
- I like abstract art, or more or less representative art using weird shit (sometimes literally) as media. Or just random stuff thrown together and labelled as "art".
- I like modern classical music with its dissonances and weird time signatures. Stockhausen launched a thousand WTFs? from the critics.
- I like annoyingly-egotistical abstruse jazz.
- I like electronica that just consists of strange beeping sounds or disconnected samples with no rhythm.
- I like confronting mixed media art and performances that might consist of people cutting themselves and filming the results and playing the video and hanging up the bloody bandages as part of an installation.
- I like awkward theatre that might consist of accosting people in the audience or the streets, with varying degrees of method performance, unformed scripts, yelling and odd physicality.
- I like architecture that is challenging and odd and makes you wonder how it can function as a building. Or wonder if the prison plans got lost and got inadvertently turned into actual residences or commercial buildings.

Would I like to personally consume all of these things myself? Frankly, no.

I love Pollock and Rothko and Hotere, but I think the whole 90s Britart scene was utter wank. Not to mention Picasso. I listen to some musique concrète, but just the stuff with rhythm, and a bit of something "going on". Zahar Hadid's architecture is like the equivalent of glossy souless Helmut Newton fashion photography. I wouldn't live in a Corbusier building, but Habitat 67 is fucking awesome.

So why do I like all the things? Because they fertilise the arts. They mix it up, they oxygenate, they inspire others to riff off it to create their own (possibly more palatable to more people) creations.

Imagine what it was like when the Europeans broke away from the monks' plainsong by developing polyphonic songs and music. We've heard of the impact of the Impressionists over and over and over. Stravinsky had run-ins with the police because of his music.

If it weren't for the people way out on the fringes, the arts would not evolve. I certainly don't situate myself on the fringe at all, in terms of what I like to consume, but I'm glad it's there.
trixtah: (Default)
My job is currently going less than well. I'm not absolutely fucking up, per se, but my strengths are tactical thinking, technical problems solving and troubleshooting. My job actually requires strategic, planning and administration skills to a moderate degree, none of which I have.

I'm used to feeling good at my job - any job I've done to date - and feeling barely adequate has been doing my head in. My boss is doing what he can, but his job is not to do my job, and I am feeling increasingly conscious of my inability to pull my weight properly as a member of his team.

So, definitely time to move on. I don't want to do purely technical work any more, although if I can find a role back in NZ after not being "hands on" for a couple of years, that would be fine.

What I've decided to get into, however, is technical documentation. I write fairly well, I'm good at explaining things in a fairly clear way, and frankly, the idea of getting into a line of work where I'm responsible for no-one else's output other than my own will be a relief.

With this in mind, I've applied for a course - the Graduate Diploma in Information Design - which encompasses technical writing of all kinds. It's a online-delivered course at the Christchurch Polytechnic in NZ, so I get to pay the NZ fees of around $800 for each unit (6 units in total). $4K for a post-grad diploma seems like an excellent deal.

The course brief is as follows:
The Graduate Diploma of Information Design is taught entirely online, and is designed to provide you with the skills you need to create effective user-centred information. Subjects studied include professional writing and editing, research and theory in communication, information analysis and management, document design, and usability testing. An internship is an integral part of this programme.

The intake for each unit is 15-20 students - which is fantastic after my experiences last year with Canberra Uni and their ridiculously over-subscribed courses - but I've dipped out on the first semester due to its being full. However, due to my "cool CV" which is totally in their "zone", apparently, (and previous quals) I am now pre-enrolled for July. Can't wait!

Work stuff

Dec. 1st, 2010 11:12 pm
trixtah: (Default)
I've spent the last couple days working on a technical problem, and the satisfaction I've had in finally sorting it far far far outweighs any enjoyment I've ever gotten out doing my actual job. I don't find solving the issues that come up in supervisory work at all interesting, challenging (except in the negatively-challenging I have no idea how to tackle this sense) or even faintly satisfying.

On the other hand, purely technical work was boring me a couple of years back.

Perhaps if this job was more like a traditional team-leader role than junior management ... It's hard to say, but these recent events have been food for thought.

trixtah: (Default)
Well, in the last 6 months or so, things have gone from deepest misery to meh + daily work struggle + midlife crisis (what am I still doing here, what job do I want to do, where do I want to live).

I suppose that's an improvement? Of sorts?
trixtah: (Default)
Someone has been posting a meme somewhere (here? I've lost track) about the best thing that anyone has ever done for you. There has been talk of special holidays, gifts, compliments, and so on.

The best thing that anyone has ever done for me was none of those things. And it was from a friend of mine, Rachel, who I'm no longer in touch with, but I have reasonable confidence that we'll pick things up from where they left off the next time we do get in touch. We've gone for years at a time - five or so - without being in regular touch, so this is nothing unusual.

Anyway, I was in a mutually violent and fucked up relationship with one particular g/f - it must be said that she started the violence, but I most certainly continued it in response. Why didn't I simply walk away? It tweaked a lot of my buttons - no one was going to assault me without my assaulting them back, goddamn it. Mixed up with "I'm not a victim", the fact I loved her very much, stupid butch pride and shame about what was going on with us.

First and only relationship where that has happened, by the way. And it will never happen again. I've always loathed violence, and that experience only helped me learn the ways in which I'd never end up in that position another time.

So, one night my ex and I had a particularly bad fight, and I was convinced there wasn't going to be much more before one of us killed the other. Seriously. She was drunk and incapable of coming after me (not that I told her where I was going), so I rang Rachel and told her I had to come over.

Rachel and her bf at the time were caretaking a hostel, so there was space for me to stay. I caught the bus over, in the rain, and ended up on their doorstep late in the evening - 10 or 11. She didn't ask me anything, but hugged me as soon as she opened the door. I told her things weren't good right now with T and I couldn't go back home that night. She and her bf made me tea and told me I could stay as long as I needed. She then took me into the made-up room, with the covers turned back, and held me while I didn't quite cry but shivered and gulped for a while.

So I stayed the night, talked a bit more with her the next day after a nurturing breakfast, and then went back home to sort out the latest round of shit. Rachel didn't press me for any gory details, and radiated a demeanour of knowing that I would be able to deal with the situation appropriately. That I was still an intelligent and capable adult worthy of her friendship.

My ex and I broke up shortly after that, and thank god, we mutually agreed it was best for both of us. (And man, I've had some interesting discussions during sex, sometimes!)

I will never ever forget the fact that I had somewhere to go in the middle of the night. That Rachel was there for me when I had never done anything comparable for her. It's incredibly precious, knowing that you have people to rely on that way. And that they care about you enough that they are there for you, if you need it.

So, it may not be the most out-there wonderful thing, and kind of what intimate friendship should be about, but for someone who is generally incredibly self-reliant, knowing the depth of care for me that it represents, is huge. Huge.
trixtah: (Default)
Meh, I've done very little of the work I intended to this weekend. I did some reading, set up a couple of wikis, and helped one of my fellow students with a piece of software. I have to write an essay outline, which is assessable, and I'm having very little inspiration at the moment. The topic I've chosen relates to power in organisations, and can also encompass "empowerment". While I'm very tempted to go on a rant about how empowerment is very often used as a cheap "stroking" technique used to make workers feel engaged in their work, or, equally bad, ends up throwing a bunch of additional requirements onto people without their having the skills and resources to adequately discharge them, unfortunately, the essay question doesn't have quite that latitude (although I'll allude to some of that).

When it comes to power in the workplace, I'm all in favour of workers owning as much of it as they can (and by "workers", I include such non-typical categories as non-executive management). There are two issues with it, though, in terms of the areas where more self-management is devolved to workers. One is that many people are not enculturated to want it (or, they're psychologically averse to it, for whatever reasons), unless they specifically want to get into management. "Too much responsibility." "Why should I do my manager's job?" "It makes me feel insecure." "Who gets the blame when something goes wrong?" "Why should I do more work that I'm not paid for?" The second, and much more pertinent issue, is that not much real power (including resourcing, strategy, etc) is devolved to workers, even in incremental ways. Heh, this is even true for middle management in our organisation (and I really wonder what their function is sometimes). This is hardly a surprising issue, given the setup of most enterprises, and, in a more general sense, our being accustomed to hierarchy and top-down management.

While it might be easy to assume that nothing much will fundamentally change in that area, think of the changes our societies have gone through in the last few hundred years. We no longer believe that the monarch is directly anointed by God, nor do we believe our rulers have absolute rights over our lives. We believe in the notion of individual rights (which is a pretty recent innovation). Companies have also dramatically changed in the last couple of hundred years. You are not supposed to run businesses on slave labour. People must be paid in money and not kind, have reasonable time off, and so on. These kinds of things are enshrined in law, but the law was made because people's attitudes to exploitative and even paternalistic company cultures changed.

Then there are cool trends like the "recovered factories" in Argentina (after the early 2000s peso crash) and elsewhere. These businesses are run by the workers themselves as co-operatives. I find those kinds of enterprises fascinating.

My god, this is the most thinking I've done all day. I discovered's online stream today (the "iTunes/Winamp" aka .pls stream plays in VLC -192kbps works for me), and I've been listening to that while staring at VLC's "goom" visualisation. No drugs involved either, except Neurofen.

...OMG, I just found out that one of my favourite groups evah, Red Snapper, has a new album out, A Pale Blue Dot. I've been listening online, and while it's not as compelling as some of their earlier music, it's still decent. They've always been in the trip-hop/acid jazz area, but this album is definitely more into the downtempo acid jazz area (but not as anodyne as some of that stuff can be). ETA: I'll revise that last comment, because I said that before I listened to the third-to-last and final tracks. ICK. God, it looks like I won't be buying this one. I'll have to do a post on their greatest hits shortly.
trixtah: (Default)
It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.
        --Charles Darwin

Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature's inexorable imperative.
        --H. G. Wells

Now, the interesting thing about Darwin's theory is that some more recent thought (and I can't remember who) has asserted that it isn't adaptabiliy per se that means that an organism is more likely to survive a particular environment. Some believe that due to natural change/mutation, some organisms just happen to end up better adapted for a particular environment, while the others that have changed in the wrong direction end up dying out.

I have no idea of the current status of the debate on how evolution works, but it's interesting food for thought - in the non-evolutionary sense, do we "pre-adapt" and fortuitously end up suiting a particular environment, and/or seek out environments that are better suited to us (if they are available), or are we chucked in it and have to adapt or die?

In the microcosmic sense, I think it's a bit of both... but adapting-on-the-fly is the weaker aspect. There is only so much change we can cope with at once. We have also built up various degrees of capability due to our innate qualities, and also the learned ones. So, of course, our lives consist of constantly adapting on the fly - most of the situations we encounter are novel in some way, even the routine ones. We aren't robots who can only deal with pre-programmed responses. Matters of degree, I suppose.
trixtah: (blackout)
So one of my units, which I start on MONDAY (argh, how did that happen?) is on Organisational Behaviour. I read the first chapter of the prescribed text, which looked at a whole bunch of organisational configurations and theories, and in passing announced that hierarchies are "here to stay" and in fact remain the 'best available mechanism for doing complex work'. That last quote comes from an article by Henry Leavitt in the Harvard Business Review, which of course I had to read. It seems fairly even-handed, except for the aforementioned conclusion, but this section on some of the benefits of heirarchies cracked me up.

Hierarchies add structure and regularity to our lives. They give us routines, duties, and responsibilities. We may not realize that we need such things until we lose them. One friend of mine, after he retired, took to keeping goats. "Why?" I asked him. "Because goats have to be milked regularly," he replied. "That gives me a reason to wake up every morning: Without required routines, we might find ourselves afloat in a sea of anomie."

So, who's the boss and the subordinate in this scenario, eh? Since the goats are directing the work, obviously they're the bosses! ;-)

So, yeah, structure does not necessarily = hierarchy (and I get tired of people who should know better confusing the two). *snortle*

Moving along to the wider question, I think hierarchies are a convenient and accustomed way of assigning roles and accountabilities, but I don't actually think that those assignments need to be done in a top-down manner (I can't help my anarchist tendencies). Foucault talks about "governmentality", which can apply to the application of power in many ways (including self-regulation), but he makes a distinction between that and domination. And I'll wank on about an alternative organisational model some other time, I think. I've already decided on my essay topic for this course!

The first chapter in my text talks about how organisations are pretty much always arranged in a hierarchical fashion, even though there have been recent efforts to flatten structures and work across them in recent times. There is also a discussion about the difficulties of contract management when "alliances" are made between organisations to work together in the delivery of a larger project (such as public-private partnerships for public works - feh - or entirely private projects, such as building a new football stadium) . Now, in that kind of area, who is the boss and who is the subordinate? The simple answer is that there are none. There are contacts and there should be deliverables/KPIs to describe what outputs are required of each party in order to complete the projects. While there might be a co-ordinating body or final customer, they aren't the "boss" of the project in terms of directing the actual work. However, roles and accountabilities must be clearly stated in the contracts, with redress if there are failures to perform.

I don't see why these concepts are so difficult to extend to a more micro level. My team at work needs to deliver certain things, like email services and application maintenance. Our point of contact is our team leader. While she is our supervisor, in reality there is no reason that performance metrics could not be maintained within the team, and she just carry out the role of co-ordination and communication. If we, on a team or individual basis, fail to perform what we have agreed to do, given the appropriate resources, then fine, time to do some serious renegotiation or do something else. Well, that may be pie in the sky, but it's an area that interests me. I don't think devolution, with appropriate means of co-ordination, should necessarily mean a shambles, although of course that's the common fate of many co-operative ventures. So much so that the word "co-operative" almost epitomises shoddily-run and chaotic organisations, which I think is a shame.
trixtah: (Default)
Some of it is good for those of us negotiating open/multiple relationships. But some of the therapy-speak drives me up the wall.

For example, sharing sex. To me, "sharing" something has the connotation of something being doled out. So, I'll have a sex, and you can have a sex, and we'll just share all these seXX0rs. Saying that you're having sex with someone is much more immediate and descriptive of what you're doing. Like a good meal when you're hungry, you're diving in and consuming it together. Nom!

So, why the "sharing" of sex rather than the having of it? Possibly due to the association of "having someone" when referring to less-than-egalitarian sex? Do we avoid certain verbs because they can be used in a negative construction as well as the very positive ones? I'd really love to know how the "sharing sex" locution came about.

Moving onto a more serious topic, there is a discussion about the fact that no-one can make anyone feel anything. This is true. No-one can make me be angry or indifferent or happy. However, the behaviour that someone carries out can have the effect of eliciting a reaction. Depending on what buttons they're pushing (or not) with that behaviour, that reaction may be positive or negative, strong or mild.

Following on from the premise that no-one makes anyone feel anything, no-one is responsible for someone else's feelings. And again, this is true, when it comes down to the essentials. We all own our own feelings, not anyone else.

What they're aiming at here - I think - is the idea that if your partner is jealous, or experiencing some other negative emotion, the best thing you can do is "be there" and listen to them express their feelings, but you're not responsible for what those feelings are. I had one partner who, when she was drunk and when I merely talked to another woman, would fly into a jealous rage. I've had sex with another person in front of another partner, who thought it was great. So, yes, the stimulus most certainly does not necessarily predict the response.

I agree that we should not feel responsible for fixing someone's feelings, or, actually, for how they manifest themselves. But in the need to be groovy and not get into guilt-tripping, I don't think ignoring someone's agency in what feelings they elicit is that constructive either. Other people are going to piss you off, whether by ignorance, indifference or outright malice. With the latter two motivations, there really isn't much point in blame, other than yourself for putting yourself in their path.

But for problems that relate to ignorance or thoughtlessness, I think expressing your displeasure and clearly identifying where you think the problem lies - that behaviour of theirs - is something you should do. Wimpily sitting around and saying "I was upset and felt abandoned when you spent all night shagging girlfriend X" is going to achieve sweet F-A with those who are determined to be obtuse (although with the chronic and wilful obtuse types, DTMFA is the best solution). Saying "I was pissed off that you stayed out all night with X when you said you'd be back by 9. A phone call to let me know what was happening was the least you could do." seems to me to be a constructive approach. Problem, desired solution. And in response, I would not like this kind of thing: "Yes, I hear your anger. I bet you felt abandoned." I'd want to hear acknowledgement (of "responsibility" for the behaviour that upset me?) and a solution. Possibly a request for clarification if they didn't understand why I felt so strongly about something (because maybe my response was disproportionate to the stimulus... or there was a simple misunderstanding). I also think a response of "Get a grip, that curfew was last week due to the fact we were getting up early the next morning - this was my usual stay-over date night with X, and I didn't feel I had to renegotiate" is also perfectly valid!

I agree that blaming individuals tends to be pretty much a zero-sum game. Telling someone they're an irresponsible fucktard is only going to get their backs up without creating a solution (and why waste your energy on an actual irresponsible fucktard). But identifying problematic behaviour - at least what you find problematic, in the context of whatever kind of relationship you have - and expecting those who carry it out to acknowlege their agency seems to be not unreasonable either.

So maybe I simply haven't got to the point in the book where people have to own their fuckwittedness as well (and preferably do something about it), or maybe I'm missing the actual point. Maybe we need to evolve different language around things like "responsiblity" for emotional reactions - I do think we are responsible for the triggering (I loathe that term, but oh well) behaviour, even if we aren't directly reponsible for the resulting feelings.

I think that part of being responsible within a relationship is learning as well as one can what behaviours are likely to tweak one's partner... and being responsible for dealing with the consequences. Whether it's to vow to completely change a long-embedded behaviour (ok, I'll put my socks in the laundry basket from now on!), or to tell them to get over it, or all points in between. However, we can't be aware, responsive and responsible all the time, and we all get surprised by what others around us react to. Responsibility for our actions does not have to equal guilt or being accountable for fixing the problem... but I don't think we should dodge the times when we should be accountable for the effects our behaviour may cause. Or maybe we need to think of responsibility as a thing of degrees, not absolutes. Contributing factors? Hm.
trixtah: (Default)
While it may be a surprise to some, I think manners are one of the most important glues that hold society together... or at least enable us to have contact with each other without wanting to kill each other. I think one of the hardest things that society is negotiating at present is moving towards allowing more individual freedom (despite the efforts of various governments to try and undo that), while still retaining (or evolving new) structures and mores that allow us to retain some degree of social glue and capability for collective action. I certainly think we haven't achieved that balance yet, and that we've (in a societal sense) have been guilty of throwing the social cohesion baby out with the individualist bathwater. And as someone who subscribes to anarchist principles, it's interesting to reflect on just what structures we should retain, whether or not we generally buy into one-size-fits-all rules.

[ profile] saluqi started some of this train of thought off by lending me It's Not Etiquette : A Guide to Modern Manners by David Meagher, an Australian journalist who writes a "Mr Manners" column. The title, and the rest of the book, make the great point that manners does not necessarily denote an arbitrary set of rules, and are rather a set of courtesies that enable you to not drive the majority of people insane. He has quite a number of prescriptions for getting by in modern Western societies, although I could have probably done with a bit less of his sartorial advice (not being a bloke or a normal woman). Still, his guidelines on handling introductions, going to parties, cellphone courtesy and so on are practical and great for the kinds of things encountered today. I particularly like the underlying principle that in a day-to-day setting, courtesy is not about arbitrary rules of etiquette.

This week, I bought a book by another Australian journalist, Lucinda Holdforth (heh), called Why Manners Matter: The Case for Civilised Behaviour in a Barbarous World. Now, this is fab, because she's not so much about prescription (although she does list a "10 commandments" of courtesy), but she explains why manners should be crucial to us. To give you a flavour, I'll list the chapter and subchapter headings:

1   Because man [ack! - that nearly put me off] is an animal
    .... a social one
    .... with a habitat to protect
2    Because manners are more important than laws [yes, yes, YES! - what are laws but a way to define and enforce courtesy?]
    .... less invasive than morals [oh, yes]
    .... and better than social confusion
3   Because manners nurture our equality
    .... modify self-esteem
    .... and connect the self to society
4   Because sovereignty demands self-sovereignty [I agree with this, in the main, but she goes off a bit of a tangent about rules which annoyed me slightly]
    .... order is necessary to freedom [um, yes, kind of]
    .... and manners reconcile liberty to stability [again, with caveats, and she does discuss how social change sometimes comes about through lack of stability and people "acting out"]
5   Because who else can we call on?
    .... rudeness won't make us authentic [too bloody true]
    .... manners aren't just the tool of right-wing bigots [and that myth that they are infuriates me]
    .... and they advance social progress
6   Because McDonald's doesn't own manners [and bought desperate over-politeness from salespeople isn't exactly manners - and we notice and don't respond as we do to the genuine thing]
    .... corporations don't own our souls
    .... and manners are no barrier to greatness
7 Because manners give us dignity [and some of us need all the dignity we can possibly get]
    .... improve communication [too right]
    .... prevent premature intimacy [thank god]
    .... unlock our humanity
    .... and make life beautiful

She pretty much touches on all areas of our lives where social interactions make a difference. While there are a few paths she goes down that I won't follow, the most of it is fantastic, beautifully argued, and nicely salted with contemporary anecdotes. There's some excellent political philosophy (if that's not too exalted a term) brought into play as well.

There's quite a lengthy discussion on Alexis de Tocqueville's observation about the newly-independent Americans: In democracies where the differences between citizens are never very great..., numerous artificial and arbitrary distinctions are invented to help individuals in their attempt to remain aloof for fear of being swept along with the crowd...

In other words, in a democratic society, social competition is increased, with a resulting breakdown in the kind of social mores that were previously enforced by the aristocracy's foot firmly on the necks of the serfs. We have more power, and that includes the power to fuck each other over. Of course, we can choose not to do so.

Later on, and unrelated, there is a discussion about the role of manners in social interactions:

Manners offer the protection of social constraints. Often they take time, too much time. But they also confer time. Time to get to know someone, time to think about how we feel, time to consider our reactions and respond wisely and well. (I could do with plenty of this last).
People think manners aren't sexy. Transgression is sexy; busting taboos is sexy. How can manners be sexy? ...Manners play their delightful part in creating tension, anticipation, curiosity. They respect the essence of each partner's separateness. (Also, for the record, it's about selective taboo-busting - if you busted every taboo, the situation would be pretty fucked. So I don't think the two concepts - appropriate taboo-busting and manners - are orthogonal to each other.)
Those magazines and self-help books that tell you to unload your every little passing thought, feeling and criticism on your partner are cruelly misleading. When love means never having to say you're sorry, it's nearly always because you weren't unkind to your partner in the first place. (In-bloody-deed!)

I won't rant (more) about how much I loved the statement that manners are more important than laws (and "morals", as she mentions), but if more people exercised their manners, we would have need for a whole lot less laws. As well as the obvious social costs, ripping off people for their life's savings or polluting the river that other people use is simply not polite.

Anyways, excellent book, thoroughly recommend, 9/10.
trixtah: (Default)
[ profile] stormkpr indirectly reminded me that part of the reason I don't like fairy tales in general is their often moralising tone. I don't like parables either.

The moral of Stardust, as presented in the movie, is that love is unconditional. You know, you don't make the young suitor go off and bring you back a fallen star so as to "prove" his love.

<rant on> I hate that. Of course love is fucking conditional. There are personality quirks and behaviours that make you fall in love with that person. There is the underlying sense of passion, shared goals and compatibility that makes you stay in love with that person. There is the avoidance of unrecoverable fuck-up behaviour or too-divergent paths on both sides that don't kill the love. If those aren't conditions, I don't know what are.

And yes, love does have to be proven. Not necessarily by way of showering gifts or doing X thing (like standing in a church while a strange ritual is enacted over you). But love needs to be demonstrated in such ways that the demonstrator truly feels and that the demonstratee can truly perceive. If that doesn't happen - in whatever way works for both participants - love is not sustainable.

If those feelings and willingness to enact them only go one way, then it's sure as hell not love, it's infatuation. And even that is conditional on the object of infatuation maintaining whatever it is that is so attractive - good looks, "coolness", whatever - or the infatuated person remaining in their state of mental aberration.

So, yeah, each time that particular line came up in the movie, my eyeballs went into a spasm of rolling around in my head for five minutes, so it was distracting. If they were saying, "love isn't selfish", well, ok. It wasn't framed that way, unfortunately.
trixtah: (Fem-uh-nist)
Before you all think I've been abducted by aliens, I'm not questioning the need for or aims of feminism in general (and if you do, why are you reading this?). What I'm wondering about is the label.

Why do we call ourselves "feminists"? I was having a wee wander through one well-known feminist journal due to some discussion on my flist, and found her rant against those people who call themselves "equalists", basically accusing them of copping out. Actually, I somewhat sympathise with that POV - I mean, "feminist" is the common label for those who believe in equality among the sexes, and I do wonder why people avoid it.

But one (young) commenter said that her interpretation of "feminist" was that we were trying to recreate some kind of matriarchy, which is why she went along with the "equalist" label. And, to be frank, when I first heard the "feminism" word, I thought pretty much exactly the same thing. I had to be educated as to its meaning.

I dislike terms that appear to say something, but actually mean something else. I called myself a lesbian-feminist for a couple of years, before realising that it was actually an outgrowth of the cultural feminist philosophy... and that concept has nothing at all to do with art. Perhaps it's the fact I'm a butch dyke, but to be honest, saying that all women as a group have intrinsic (and superior) qualities (as the difference feminists say as well) that no man could ever have really gets my hair standing on end. I hate that POV. I'm a bit allergic to fundamentalism, of any brand.

I called myself an anarcha-feminist before I realised that it didn't just mean a feminist with anarchist philosophical underpinnings - apparently one also needs to subscribe to the radical feminist assertion that oppression on a gender basis was the first (and most crucial) form of hierarchical oppression. I'm not sure about that. At all. I mean, who knows? The Wikipedia article makes this statement: "Anarcha-feminists believe that the struggle against patriarchy is an essential part of class struggle". I don't, in the classical sense. I think the Marxist notion of class struggle needs major reworking - think globalisation, for a start.

I suppose the little sub-label that best fits me is "sex-positive feminist", but I really really really dislike the dichotomy that it pulls up by implicitly labelling other feminists as "sex-negative" (although, actually, I do think some very few prominent feminists are sex-negative... but there are much fewer of them than there are sex-negative wankers who currently have political power). I dislike reactionary labels.

So, I don't have a satisfactory feminist sub-set label to put to myself. It brought me back to the idea, then, of why do we call ourselves "feminists"? I'm against sexism - I do not believe that anyone should be pigeonholed in any way due to their gender. I'm also against racism, but I don't call myself a "blackist" (well, I don't qualify, even if such a term existed). I'm against homophobia, but I don't call myself a "queerist". Sure, it's good to have identity pride, but I don't think it's necessary to have it to be against any of the -isms or -phobias that mitigate against fair treatment of any subculture.

I realise the feminist label has a historical context, going back to the suffrage movement. But other than that, why use it? It doesn't clearly represent the concept that it's supposedly for - well, unless you are a cultural/difference feminist. It tends to exclude men (or those who are in-between). And no, I'm not saying wah wah wah, those poor oppressed men - but while feminism can be seen to be a woman's phenomenon only, it can be hard for those who aren't women to see its relevance to them. Sure, unfair treatment of women is waaaay more pernicious than for men, but sexism fucks us all up.

By using the label, are we just recognising the fact that the balance needs to be weighted more to the female side to get to a point where the inequities stop? I dunno, I think I'd rather have a term that implies that the weight be removed from the privileged (male) side. While I agree that women need more privilege, that's just the means of achieving the desired (equality) outcome, not the aim itself.

So, thoughts, anyone? I'm not going to suddenly renounce the label - it is the accepted shorthand for my beliefs in that area, and well, I do have identity pride there too, heh - and I'm not quite so silly as to assume a label can encompass an entire belief set. But I'd like to hear people's ruminations on the benefits and drawbacks of this particular label.
trixtah: (Default)
...some observations that have come to mind lately. They are not the wisdom of the ages, but they work for me.

  1. "Treat others as you would like to be treated" is perhaps the best philosophy ever. Yay to Judaism for first enunciating it. In other words, respect is the most important concept in dealing with other people.

    ETA: Since there is a bit of confusion about what I'm saying here, I don't mean treating people the same as I'd like to be treated. Ick! :-)

  2. Just about everything is relative. There are some near absolutes (violence is not a solution; (non-consenting) abuse is bad), but the degree you're affected by anything is generally very much relative to your circumstances.

  3. "I'll never..." is a statement you should be wary of making.

  4. "I'll always..." is a statement you should be equally wary about making.

  5. Love doesn't fix anything. It makes you more tolerant, patient, forgiving, encouraging. It makes you more willing to try and willing to redeem yourself. But sometimes that isn't enough - fixing things is something you need to do for yourself, if possible - love doesn't magically make it happen.

  6. While you may feel that you've found your true home when you discover you're a member of a certain subculture, you probably haven't. At best, you might have knocked an edge or two off your square peg.

  7. Just because someone else is a member of the queer community, it does not mean they are also automatically trustworthy, sane, non-violent, honest, likeable, and immune to racism, sexism, classism, or homophobia (link via [ profile] grey_evil_twin). This applies to members of any subcommunity, whether feminist, poly, kink, pagan, geek, peacenik, socialist, or whatever.

Regarding that last, I'm glad I came out when I was 18, and was able to get over the vestiges of my stupid misconceptions about the nobility of the queer subculture before I was old enough for it to matter particularly. I don't recall whether it was when I first heard the word "tuna" in a certain context, or was told I was "male-identified". That naivety had already been eroded by my working class upbringing (yes, there is some solidarity... some) and my encounters with feminists and the peace movement. However, I do still get surprised at adults entering some subculture at an advanced age who get surprised about the fact that members of it can be fuck-ups.

I notice that syndrome particularly in the poly comms, mainly, I suppose, because most of us are over 18 when we "come out" about that identity to ourselves (you can fool yourself for quite a while by saying you want to "play the field"). But I still find it hard to believe when otherwise presumably-sane adults appear lose all sense of judgement when they enter the new candystore. Subcommunity NRE, perhaps?
trixtah: (Fem-uh-nist)
After my wee bitch session the other day about Radio Man at work, I started thinking about the ways in which we balance our working selves and our outside-of-work selves. Obviously, there are plenty of people who can gaily head off to work and not feel like there is a tension between the two - you fit into the work culture just as much as everyone else does in the organisation. Others don't give a toss about it - they work in a job where it doesn't matter at all how you present yourself (ie. it's shit work); or, they have unassailable self-confidence; or, it's a very tolerant working environment. Others can be in stealth mode - they can "pass" and choose what parts of their non-work selves they want to reveal. Others, like me, can't pass if they tried.

There have been a few occasions where I felt no tension at all about fitting in - my first serious job, which was at a women's printing company, and two universities. The nice thing about universities in general is that they hire people around the world (well, at least in the three countries I've lived in) who would ordinarily find it difficult to get work that suited their skills.

Obviously, everyone needs to compromise to some degree to fit into a working environment. I'm a left-wing mouthy feminist child-free dyke foreigner, but to fit in with my relatively conservative, Australian, small-town orientated (Canberra is a small town), male techie colleagues in a quasi-government enterprise run by not-quite-dead white men, there is a limit to how much of the iconoclastic routine I can pull off without isolating myself. I had a job for seven years where I had backed myself into that corner, at least from a management point of view, and I can tell you it's a very awkward place to be in. Also, one of the effects of having gone to way too many schools as a kid is my sensitivity to that feeling of being out on a limb by myself, with no allies. I can't work like that.

Essentially my career has comprised of a pretty finely-judged balancing routine. I often go at things like a bull in a china shop... where there is no risk to me. Being out of work, or being put into a miserable situation workwise is not a risk I am willing to accept. Yes, everyone at work knows that I'm a left-wing mouthy feminist of questionable sexuality. However, I am not isolated by my peers because I choose which battles to fight. I have men trying to piss in my professional corner on what seems to be a monthly  basis, one way or another, and I very very very strongly defend my professional realm.

Do I run around saying "I'm here, I'm queer, get used to it?" No. Do I say to certain individuals' faces, "Look, I realise you're a middle-aged honky engineering-orientated married-with-kids male, but could you get rid of some of your more stupid assumptions"? No. Do I tell them off when they start with the racist jokes in front of me? Yes. Do I tell them not to forward me any of those stupid "battle of the sexes" emails, even if, according to at least one colleague, I should like them because they're "putting down men"? Of course I tell them not to. Do I tell them to keep their filthy mitts out of my servers because I am the Technical Authority for the mail system, in just the same way that one guy is the TA for the comms network, and I require the same amount of control over what happens on my systems? Of course I do, because that is language they understand.

I wouldn't be where I am without being assertive, and assertive about being perceived as good at my job. But I very carefully choose the areas I'm assertive in. All I want from my colleagues is professional respect, and their personal backing in the work we carry out together. Getting that personal backing can be a tricky thing to achieve, given the fact the only things I have in common with them are shared language (thank god) and profession. I have no interest in talking with them about cars, kids, crappy music, "the wife", or sports. I do not trust my colleagues to validate all aspects of myself, and by throwing too much of my non-conformity into their faces, I risk professional isolation and disrespect. And once that happens, you might as well quit, because you ain't going nowhere careerwise.

If I want to feel personally validated and have a bitch session about the cluelessness of certain individuals from the perspective of having my own personal reference points understood (you know, the queer, butch, feminist thing), I rely on my loved ones and friends to there for me. And thank god for L/J for providing some of those functions of cultural community which I'd find difficult to track down here otherwise (although I'm starting to).

It's also interesting how many differences one can cope with at once. I found London pretty difficult to take, because I had horrendous culture shock, and no support network. The fact that London has an extremely diverse population was a help. Things also improved once I had a girlfriend or two and started working in one of the aforementioned tolerant environments - I suspect they would have been even more bearable if I'd had this as an outlet as well. Canberra has the advantage of being more similar to my own culture, to a degree, and it certainly isn't really really conservative either, just small-town-like... but I don't feel anywhere near as secure here as I do at home. Again, though, there is the balancing act between expressing more parts of myself and avoiding risk.

I'd be interested to hear what other people find of risk to themselves professionally or in living with whatever dominant community they find themselves in, and how they mitigate or deal with those risks. Also, what do you reveal so that your core values aren't totally run over in the working environment. I don't put up with racist, sexist or homophobic remarks, but it's easy enough coming from someone as "identifiable" as I am... although I'm still amazed at how much I'm expected to nod along at quasi-racist remarks in what is ostensibly a middle-class environment. People who are more stealth in their presentation must choose how much mental whiplash to give to someone who assumes they share a certain conventional value set - much can be done without being self-revealing, but does it plant "seeds of suspicion"? Avoiding such situations is generally best, but some people just need to be hit over the head with the inappropriateness of their statements - people might bitch about "PC", but at least these days you can use that as a clobbering stick without having to necessarily compromise yourself with some wanker who would attempt to use any personal information.
trixtah: (Tattoo)
Despite people's first impressions on meeting me (so I've heard), I'm actually fairly shy by nature. Once I get to know people, I'm fine, but being put into a new situation and/or with new people is not one of my fortes. However, I'm still functional in the social sense, so it doesn't bother me as much as it did when I was younger (and trying to go out and pick up gurlz in dark smoky clubs - thank god for those women who didn't assume that butch = extrovert).

Related to that is a more pathological tendency to stage fright. I started playing a number of wind instruments in my teens... up until the point that I'd either have to perform in public, or do exams with external assessors. No thank you. Again, it's dealable-with, but the greatest number of people I've had to present to at once is less than a dozen (and that was about work, an area in which I'm not terribly lacking in confidence). I do still tend to avoid situations where I feel put under the spotlight. I have a fairly strong distaste for being observed and possibly judged wanting. The worst thing you can do to me is embarrass me; I actually cope much better with outright abuse.

So, tonight was the first night of tai chi lessons after a brief hiatus. We have a new instructor, which is hunky-dory. Being in the front-left corner is the equivalent of wearing the gimp suit in some of the sequences, and guess where I ended up this evening? I actually aimed for the middle of the room, but everyone hid behind me, the buggers! That was fine, until we got to the part where we had to go through the form and basically get checked out for our progress. No worries, until someone to the front of me (we were turned to the right) got in a knot and put me off. Normally that's ok (actually, normally I don't get put off), but I couldn't pick up the sequence again. Three more times I tried to continue with it, and each time I got flustered and lost it again, until I gave up altogether. Buggery. I slunk to the back of the room and hid for the rest of the lesson.

Now, the sequence was the last few moves that we had learned most recently. It wasn't super-familiar, but I'm fine with it, and I'm actually better than half the class... as long as I'm not screwing it up for myself. It wasn't a question of my feeling especially inadequate in the circumstances, but I've not felt that degree of flusterment in years, actually, especially not over something so trivial. So I've been kicking myself for the hour about why the fuck I got myself in such a knot on that occasion.

It seems to be - and this is why I'm bothering to write about it -  an accumulation of tricky situations that makes me more prone to getting excessively self-conscious about stuff. Today at work was reasonably rotten, to be frank. It wasn't a disaster, but there was an extremely complicated situation which could not be anticipated, and which involved a group of users being without email for a few hours. The fact that they deal with external customers directly added extra fun to the mix. The fun was enhanced when it turned out that the issue made obvious an area in which some of our network settings weren't correctly configured. Then I managed to individually screw up the settings of the group's director... and I didn't catch that error for another couple of hours (a typo - funnily enough, mail can't be delivered if the address is wrong, even by only one letter). Only that last was something I mucked up myself, but all the other stuff had to be implemented or co-ordinated by me anyway. Other than my one screw-up, everything was fixed in reasonably short order (at least I knew how to go about it), the punters are all happy, and I got to go home at the usual time.

Following on from that, I think it was feeling very put on the spot work-wise today (I'm not even going to start about the tricky report I've been avoiding writing all week) that made me much more prone to feeling self-conscious in an area in which I'm not so confident. It doesn't really seem like all that much of a stimulus, but I suppose in the areas in which we are weak, that's where we get pinged. And, well, better to get all in a tangle in tai chi than do it at work.

I'm glad I figured it out, rather than continuing to beat myself up. OMG, perhaps this is maturity coming on me at last!
trixtah: (Default)
This meme that's going around?

If you're maybe noticing that you're older than you used to be, and are feeling sad/angry/confused/worried/frustrated that you haven't accomplished ... that you think you should have ... maybe you're also wondering how are you going to dig out from under the accumulation of habit and procrastination and self-doubt to some sense of satisfaction in your life again, then post this same sentence in your journal.

You know what? No. No no no no. I won't sign my name to such a thing.

Part of my getting older has been learning to appreciate the good things in my life, to be grateful for what I have, to be proud of my gifts and achievements. To forgive myself. To continue to resolve to do better, sure, but not from the perspective of considering myself a failure otherwise. I have loved ones who love me too.I'm solvent. I have a roof over my head. I have good health. I have a job I mostly enjoy. I'm not a criminal. I don't go out of my way to hurt people. I try to live my life consistently in accordance with my own set of ethics. I'm fit enough to do the things I want to do - if I should add something else to the list of things I want to do, I generally have the means of achieving it. If not, I know how to let impossibilities go.

I have regrets, but the sum of my achievements is much more than the sum of the negatives. To me, my life (so far) has thus been a success.

Positive reflections work better for me ("wow, this is good, but won't this be better?") than self-abnegating guilt. I've done enough of that in my time, and I can't say it helped me achieve anything at all (other than wallowing in more self-recriminations). Maybe it's a stylistic thing.

Nothing and no-one is perfect. Accepting that, to me, is more of a mark of maturity. Two quotes from Lois McMaster Bujold (which I'm sure I've mentioned before, more than once) that might be helpful to reflect on:

Since no one is perfect, it follows that all great deeds have been accomplished out of imperfection. Yet they were accomplished, somehow, all the same.

I'd also say the fact that we achieve our moments of greatness out of our imperfections is more worthy. Where would the challenge be otherwise? And:

...tests are a gift. And great tests are a great gift. To fail the test is a misfortune. But to refuse the test is to refuse the gift, and something worse, more irrevocable, than misfortune.

I would say too that facing up to the tests life throws us is sometimes another test that we can fail. But if we face them more often than we don't, then we have gained.

(And, christ, I'm not even 40 yet - if I live an average lifespan, I've barely cracked the halfway mark - plenty more time to achieve, or cock up, in the remaining years!)
trixtah: (Default)
When I'm stressed, as I have been for most of this year (mainly due to work-related stuff), I become more egocentric than usual, and it's a quality that annoys me a lot. When I have my head together a bit more, I notice it retrospectively, engage in more self-arse-kicking, and so the cycle continues.

(See? Heh.)

Hanging out with the CDL and the Bear and their cutest of pooches has helped with a lot of that, but I need to evolve some better stress management techniques. I also need to make some other friends in Canberra. Each time I move, it takes me longer to get out there and do it (like when I went to too many schools as a kidlet), but two years is long enough. It's not like I'm planning to move again for the foreseeable (making friends when you're going to leave again is horrible, at least for me). My gym membership kicks in this weekend (not that I'm there), and I do find that physical activity helps. The thing is to try not to finish work, go home and turn into a lump. Also, I could work harder at my tai chi.

While I'm not about "making resolutions", I need to do something, since my stress levels aren't just going to magically reduce of their own accord (certainly not on the job front). And, since I've only been talking about it for months now, time to track down a homeopath. I think I'll try and book something in with this person when I'm next in Sydney. Or this one, since she's associated with the best homeopathy school in Australasia.

The nice thing about taking a proper homeopathic remedy is that the right one suddenly makes things dealable-with. When you're in a state of pathology, it's hard to see a way out of a situation, or take the appropriate action. The right remedy is like someone shining a light through the end of the tunnel, while giving you a swift boot up the arse to propel you towards the opening. You have to get there yourself, but you suddenly remember you have the means to do it.

Right then, it's a start.
trixtah: (Default)
I've been having a fairly interesting run of dreams about men lately, both erotic and not-so. They seem to be due to something fermenting in my brain, rather than straight (har-har) wish fulfilment, because my dreams about men in the pure nookie sense don't normally happen unless I'm actually currently shagging one. I'm very boring about my dream and fantasy objects - they're people I know, am attracted to, and 90% of the time (if not more) I know they're attracted to me.

The first one featured a guy who was much older than me, and while not "fatherly", was definitely acting as a mentor-like figure, while being very charming and obviously keen to have sex with me. I, in my dream, was in my early teens (although post-pubertal), and girlie in such a way that I never have been. I think I might have been wearning a short skirt, even, and I have never worn one of those voluntarily past age 8. As well as being much older than me (as in late 40s/50s), he was also much bigger than me and quite physically commanding. Both of these things are frankly offputting to me in men in RL. However, in my dream, I was desperate to shag him, and in fact we spent most of the time finding a suitable place to do so (that's fairly typical; I think I've only "consummated" sex once during a dream, alas).

On waking up, I immediately thought that the male figure in my dream was an aspect of me. I certainly recognised the cocky charmingness that I can turn on at times. However, he also presented quite an air of authority, which I don't associate with myself, except perhaps when I'm at work. I'm not sure what his size and strength represented. When I was a kid and got into fights occasionally, I definitely felt like a boy when I was going to it, but a small, wiry sort of boy. Ironic, since I was above-average in height all through childhood - I'm average now, since my growth abruptly stopped at age 12. About when I got breasts, come to think of it. Feh.

Getting back to the dream, the imagery is positive, I think. It seems to be integrative. I've had a couple more dreams featuring men significantly since, one of which featuring my skanky second step-father. I spent most of that dream sending out "don't come near me" vibes - pretty similar to what went on for the 12 months I had to live in the same house with him in my teens. They worked, too. Since I haven't thought of him for years, I'm not too sure what he was doing in there. I certainly don't have any skanky men in my life, and I'm not in the position of having to fend anyone off at present.

Jung talked about the anima and the animus in his theories - the anima being the "female principle" within each man (and with various associated archetypes), and the animus being the "male principle" within each woman. From M-L von Franz: "The male personification of the unconscious in woman -- the animus -- exhibits  both good and bad aspects, as does the anima in man. But the animus does not so often appear in the form of an erotic fantasy or mood [like the anima]; it is more apt to take the form of a hidden "sacred" conviction.

"When such a conviction is preached with a loud, insistent, masculine voice or imposed on others by means of brutal emotional scenes, the underlying masculinity in a woman is easily recognized.

"...[I]f [a woman] realizes who and what her animus is and what he does to her, and if she faces these realities instead of allowing herself to be possessed, her animus can turn into an invaluable inner companion." 

In Jungian theory, part of the process of becoming individuated is integrating the anima/animus (and acknowledging the Shadow), thus allowing it to become a conduit between the conscious and unconscious.

Now, I know that gender theory has come a loooong way since Jung first formulated his thoughts, but much of this stuff spoke to me in my late teens/early 20s, and it still does.  While I'm butch, I've never had any problems with gender confusion. I found it very easy to get in touch with the "boy pockets" - that's how I thought of them - within me. I still do - if I walk along the street thinking "Man, I am hotttt! Watch out, chickies!" (as I do very occasionally), that is a boy thing, most definitely. In fact, most of that stuff can be summed up by the adjective "cocky". If I'm feeling cocky (which encompasses "aggressivelyassertively opinionated"), then I'm in boy-mode.

While this is most excellent for retaining my youthful demeanour - heh - it's not such a frequent state of being now, as a 38-year-old woman, than it was when I was in my early 20s. But it's a part of me that I get a lot of power from - if one doesn't think that's too foo-foo a concept - partly because it's the part that takes risks. But these days, I'm also a lot more aware of consequences. I also actually don't want to be acting like a 17-year-old boy most of the time. So, there is a gap.

And perhaps that gap is going to be filled by the symbol - if you like - of a grown man. I know that the part of me that is good at giving instruction or explaining concepts seems very male. Sometimes having sex in a certain mode feels that way too (it's not the boy doing the fucking). As does the charmingness, always. And, also, interestingly enough, responsibility (as differentiated from the "keeping it all togther" thing that I think of as a very female trait). So, I think I might let those positive features of adult maleness percolate a bit more and we'll see what happens. Just so long as I don't flip over to the authoritarian insensitive oblivious-to-boundaries lover-of-heirarchy-who-refuses-compromise shadow side (I don't think that's terribly likely in general).

I'm not terribly sure why all this is popping up right now. My life is pretty stable and damn content. Well, maybe there's room for these kind of ponderings, as there hasn't been the past few years. Also, if I'm like my mother, I only have a couple of years till I start menopause, so maybe it's a deck-clearing exercise. Heh.

Big disclaimer: This may all seem like I'm being terribly essentialist in what I consider to be "male" and "female", and really, I am so not. But, as Jung used it, it's a convenient symbolic shorthand, and the archetypal figures associated with that symbol set do fit in this instance. Other sets of terms - say, if we tried to substitute butch/fem, or dominant/submissive, or active/passive - don't fit the concepts and feelings I'm trying to get at nearly so much.

Also, as another aside, it's interesting how if we have had to struggle with our gender presentation (which I have done, but not my identity, as I mentioned), as we integrate it, we don't need to be so vehemently assertive about displaying the "right" symbol set. So, as a butch dyke, the older I get, the less I need to wear the leather jacket, or the boots, or the whatever (I have never worn a baseball cap backwards). I can wear what I please, and yet I'm sure that my identity presentation is going to be congruent. Although it is fun to fuck with people's heads. And I still need to drive my bitchin beast. Of course. :-)


Dec. 2nd, 2006 12:03 am
trixtah: (Default)
[It's all about meeeeee this week, sorry. I'll manage to do a erudite, witty and intellectually-detached post sometime, I'm sure.]

I was having a chat with [ profile] saluqi today about my least-favourite personality aspect. I don't mind my irritableness, lack of patience, pig-headedness, vagueness, egocentricity (ha-hah!), and so on (I'm sure more negativities would come to mind if I pondered a bit more) nearly as much as I do my lack of motivation. I seem to surround myself with fairly go-getting types (and [ profile] saluqi did point out that that personality quality is hardly typical), and in comparison to them, I'm an indolent lump of lard.

I know I have a short attention span for non-fun-related things. I also have the willpower of a starving person in a chocolate shop. However, I'm fine if something needs to be done. Like going to work, paying the bills, and occasionally, doing the housework. I like doing things for someone. I like doing things if I feel that my efforts will be appreciated (like most of us I imagine). But even if it's something I'd like to do - such as, say, brush up my French, or get properly fitter - getting the impetus to get started and then sustain doing whatever it is seems to be annoyingly difficult.

It gets to the point where I feel like bitchslapping myself and uttering trite homilies to myself like "just do it, already!" But do I? Not often. It's a layer of my personality that's always been with me, and it periodically drives me insane. Ok, it's not as if I haven't achieved anything in my life, or that I'm an utterly useless waste of space. Considering some of the crap I started off with, and some of the rumptions of my adult life, I'm doing ok. But I look at someone like my OGF, who had shit for her early life, due to which she ended up leaving home and school at age 14... going to running a multi-million dollar company while having a fantastic family. And I feel bloody inadequate. (Not that I want to do either of those things, but achieving more would be nice)

Of course, she (and plenty of my other similarly go-getting friends) don't grok what the hold-ups are. I know I don't like taking risks - although I have, plenty of times - but taking French lessons is hardly risky. I loathe loathe loathe looking incompetent, but one can't have a learning curve unless one starts to learn. I'm lazy, but I am fine with necessities, or when someone else says "would you mind?" But needing to be prodded into action seems juvenile. Bah.

Well, I want to track down a homeopath and see if taking a remedy might shift it. Embarrassment and annoyance at myself doesn't work. Being lectured/shamed definitely doesn't work. Pop-psychology books (at least, extrapolating from the couple I've read) will not break though my judging brain. Identifying a problem is all very dandy, but I've not evolved a mechanism to fix it. Anyone else have a consistent problem with motivation/impetus? What do you do about it? How does one develop willpower?
trixtah: (Default)
So, I've been attempting Kushiel's Dart again, because I have had too many people whose judgement I trust say it's way too good to miss.

I tried reading it in hardcover a few years ago, and couldn't get past the first hour's reading (so, less than 100 pages). I'm liking it a bit better this time, since I perhaps can see that the lead character isn't as unbalanced (in terms of not fully fleshed-out) as I initially thought she was.

However. One thing that I really hate in fiction - and fantasy is particularly prone to it, including this one - is the One True X who is "destined" for something or to do something. And because they're "destined", they may resist, but they will eventually accede to their Perfect Fate. Oh, whatthefuckever.

Perfection is a concept I find terribly dangerous. Perhaps that's why various religions make a point of saying only god is perfect - unfortunately, they leave off the corollary "so, as a human, relax and enjoy the fact you are not perfect". No, they seem to expect we try an emulate god in striving for perfection. Since, according to them, we can't succeed anyway, I find that kind of carryon pointless.

So, the cheesier the fantasy, the more blatant the plot that shepherds the Perfect (but often Ignorant of his/her True Destiny) Hero onto his/her Fate. You know, jewels light up, magic swords appear from nowhere, a bunch of companions show up who just happen to have the right skills for getting him/her out of the stickier parts... *yawn*

The best fiction writing doesn't resort to that crap. And I find the idea of Perfect Destiny terribly demeaning to humans as a whole. We manage to create the most beautiful, most compelling, most amazing things out of imperfection. Most of us are generalists. We can do a number of things reasonably well. Some few are geniuses, but perhaps they're useless cooks, or can't sing.

So human endeavour is a vast pool of people combining their creativity and insights into making things which approach perfection. Einstein may have come up with the Theory of Relativity in a (fairly protracted) flash of insight, but it took Ernest Rutherford years of plodding in a fairly uninspired way to be able to split the atom.

The fact that we can get together and do such things, either working together or building on someone else's work is a fairly good example of human society being more functional than not. So what if the vast majority of us are mostly plodders, most of the time? We all have occasional flashes of insight - some more than others, to be sure - but most of achievement is to do with experimentation. Oh, and the willingness to try again when the experiment doesn't work, which they mostly don't. That doesn't necessitate perfection or genius. Just the ability to try and learn.

Otherwise, if we truly believe that only the gifted few create or contribute, just what are we bothering for?

Anyways, one of my favourite SFF authors, Lois McMaster Bujold, doesn't fall into the Perfect Hero trap - her heros are worthy because they work through their imperfections. The best piece of advice one character gives to another is: "[There's no trick to success.] You just go on." Her best quote, and a philosophy (not to mention fiction inspiration) I can get behind:

I don't confuse greatness with perfection. To be great anyhow is…the higher achievement.


trixtah: (Default)

January 2016

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