The new year is upon us, and many of my friends are preparing for an annual celebration of one kind of another, generally a drunken bacchanal at a club or bar, or a similar gathering at someone’s house. I’ve never particularly liked the festivities associated with New Years Eve, even when I was younger and more prone to the art of partying with my likeminded friends. It always struck me as dangerous to plan on going out somewhere to get loaded, and the whole idea of communally saying goodbye to one year and welcoming another never spoke to my sensibilities. At least not in the way that people tend to celebrate that yearly transition.
So instead, I will spend that evening somewhere less social, probably in a retrospective mood like the one I’m in now. We’re all like individual flames in a great dark void, and while humans are social creatures, almost to the point of being herd animals, that type of social structure can dilute our individual power, or at least keep many of us blind to it. We should be bright points of isolate consciousness, not just another voice lost in a screaming crowd. There is a time and place for that kind of thing. I used to spend too much time seeking it, now I prefer to Work on my goals, many of which have turned inward in recent years.
The herd is comforting, and being one among many provides a great feeling of safety, but that is an illusion that keeps us asleep. To me, it is far less appealing to cling to a belief that we are all somehow connected than it is to admit to myself that everything I experience is through a very personal subjective filter. We may indeed be “connected” in some way, but I prefer to seek out others like myself, rather than flocking to the same bright and shiny lure that others do, like a lemming.
Instead of taking shots or drowning myself in champagne at midnight in a crowd of strangers, I’ll be contemplating my place in this universe, and planning for the year ahead. I hope that you shine brighter this year, and that we can spend time together, celebrating the unique and potent power of each of ourSelves as individuals, not as nameless and unimportant components of a enormous and faceless herd.
Tis the holiday season all of a sudden. Seems to creep up on us around this same time every year, and with social media networks like Facebook, the holidays bring with them a lot of baggage that they didn’t always seem to have. As if they needed more of those.
Specifically, there seem to be more and more people who feel obligated to dictate what the rest of us should or shouldn’t think about them.
First on that list are the Facebook folks who spread around “clever” memes about Thanksgiving – generally taking a slam against white people being “illegal aliens” who took America from the Natives living here. There are variations on that theme, but that’s the basic model.
First of all, Thanksgiving seems to be celebrated by just about everyone in the U.S., it’s not some honky holiday where exclusively wealthy white people get together to congratulate themselves on past conquests from 200 plus years ago. A lot of people just use it as a reason to get together with family and friends, and maybe to pause and give thanks for the blessings in their lives. It’s also not a religious holiday for the most part, which makes it a nice secular way to enjoy the people we care about, and to eat like pigs without too much guilt. I guess I don’t get the desire some people feel to throw in a little angry jab at a basic holiday that has evolved to mean “eating with family and friends” for most of us.
It rubs me the wrong way, reminding me of the folks who feel it’s necessary to dictate what Christmas is all about.
So what IS Christmas all about anyway? Well, like many holidays, the way it’s celebrated has changed a lot over the years. Yes, if a person is a devout Christian, it’s the biggest religious holiday of the year for many of them. But it’s only been celebrated in the modern sense for a brief period of time, and was even suppressed by the church in the 1800s, because Christmas was celebrated in much the way Mardi Gras is today – with a lot of drunken street mobs and back alley buggery. Merry Christmas, y’all!
The modern American traditions are a mishmash of older ones borrowed from many cultures, and quite a few were essentially invented in the 20th century. My point is that Christmas is not exclusively a Christian religious holiday, nor is it the only religious tradition celebrated during the latter part of each year. This country has grown very diverse, as it was always intended to be, and Christmas as an exclusively religious Christian event is no longer the way things are. Heck, its roots are in pagan festivals, just as many Christian traditions are.
So when some creep with an agenda tells me to “Remember the reason for the season,” or tells me “Merry Christmas” like he’s looking for a fight, I want to tell him “My name is Chris, and I reject your religion. Hail Lucifer!”
But I (usually) don’t.
I guess the point I’m trying to make here is simple: trying to politicize the holidays is bullshit. Enjoying a holiday meal with loved ones at Thanksgiving doesn’t mean that a person is ignorant of this country’s horrible record in regards to its treatment of native Americans, or that they support that legacy.
And possessive Christians should also realize that not everyone who celebrates Christmas believes the things they do, nor are us secular celebrants of the holiday trying to wage a ridiculous “War on Christmas.” The only thing that would completely destroy the religious celebration of Christmas is Christians deciding to give up the holiday. The rest of us can’t take that from them, nor are most of us trying to do so.
So people should lighten up. The Winter Solstice is coming, and this time of year is cold and dreary enough without bickering on social media about what various holidays should mean to the collective “us.”
Women get called crazy a lot in our culture. You have the “crazy ex” and the “psycho girlfriend,” sometimes shortened to “psycho chick” because of a supposed long history of nightmarishly psychotic dating behavior, and then you have the “crazy cat lady” designation, which seems to be reserved for a slightly different category of “crazy” woman.
But let’s examine that tendency to call females “crazy” first. Yes, there are lots of women out there who suffer from various mental or personality disorders, and they can often act erratically. Dating anyone who suffers from real mental problems can be incredibly difficult, and only a handful of people are probably up to the task.
And there are also women (although men are just as guilty of all of these behaviors) who have anger problems, or are extremely jealous or controlling. The types of people who instantly think of vengeance when they perceive they’ve been slighted. I can’t make any excuses for those people. Anyone whose just wired to be selfish and mean is going to have to work through their problems or face a life of diminishing returns. But in most cases, they’re probably not actually suffering from mental illnesses. If they are suffering from a mental condition, it may be the real reason they seem to be set off so easily.
It’s a difficult thing to say with certainty that a woman is “crazy,” and the real reason people do that is because it’s a way to marginalize that female, and to call into question all of her actions. It’s a strategy employed by people who will benefit from either silencing her, or by devaluing her opinion to the point that no one will take her seriously. Nine times out of ten, it’s not a valid warning that a female is actually suffering from a mental disorder, but a way of turning others against her because she has made a person’s life difficult in some way.
Then there’s the “Crazy Cat Lady”, a uniquely female designation, and a disparaging one, despite the fact that there are probably as many male animal hoarders as female. And yes, there are people who suffer from mental conditions that drive them to collect animals the same way someone else might accumulate aluminum cans. It’s usually a psychological disease, unless they’re some sort of twisted pet breeder who is just abusing animals through neglect.
But why is there a disparaging stereotype regarding “crazy cat ladies” and not men?
I think it’s a form of sexism for sure, but also a form of scapegoating and marginalization that goes back hundreds of years, maybe since the beginning of human society. People who, for whatever reason, don’t conform to society’s normal rules have always had a difficult time of things. As a male who doesn’t like sports, I get viewed with suspicion by many people. For what? Not enjoying watching ball games played by adults. Snoresville.
We’re all expected to grow up, and to walk a straight path, avoiding things that might cause disruptions in the status quo. Listen to boring music, stay in school, get a job, get married, have some kids, eventually die. Anyone who steps out of that expected course too much is looked at as potentially dangerous and irresponsible, despite some weird societal double standard that places rock stars and other “rebels” on a pedestal.
But as hard as it is being a weird guy who doesn’t always play by the rules or meet other people’s expectations, it’s got to be doubly hard for women.
A few hundred years ago, a woman who acted unconventionally might be accused of witchcraft. Maybe she just didn’t want to get married, and chose to live away from others, maybe she suffered from some minor form of antisocial disorder, or maybe she just hated Pilgrims. Who can blame her? But not all that long ago, being a female outsider was a good way to end up hanging from a tree.
Not to be dramatic, but I think we’re still devaluing and marginalizing women who step out of line, or who are “difficult” or antisocial today. They aren’t usually murdered by suspicious and superstitious neighbors anymore, but instead ostracized and ridiculed.
What’s a crazy cat lady anyway?
It seems to me that we lob that unflattering moniker at almost any woman beyond the age of 35 or so who doesn’t have or want kids, and who doesn’t have a man in her life for whatever reason. The joke is that the cats are just waiting for her 40th birthday before they’ll invade the house in droves. Har De Har Har.
But I know just as many males who are in the same boat. Middle aged, no mate, no kids, and a few pet cats that they care for. But you rarely if ever hear about “Crazy Cat Men.” No, it’s a way of poking mean spirited fun at women who haven’t conformed to society’s expectations of them.
We (and by “we” I mean other men and women, it’s not just guys who do this) treat women like they’re crazy when they’re young as a way to control them and to devalue them as people, and then when they hit a certain age, we’re just as happy to marginalize them as crazy ladies who have a bunch of cats because men won’t have them.
It’s fucking bleak and not right.
And on another note, there are plenty of single men and women who have a lot of pets because they work with animal rescue groups, and because they care about the welfare of animals. That doesn’t mean that they’re “crazy” or should be treated like mentally deficient outcasts.
I’m a very introverted person most of the time. Shy even. I have five dogs, should I be cast out of society because of those things, or because I’m “weird”?
Why should women be treated worse? It doesn’t make sense and it’s not fair.
My new Houston Press article is up.
There has been a lot of recent talk about raising the federal minimum wage, which is currently set at $7.25 an hour. People are split on this issue Some assume that minimum wage is just for high school kids or people that only have themselves to blame for only being able to earn such meager pay. Others think it needs a significant boost.
I’m not going to touch on whether I think we should raise minimum wage or not, but on something I’ve noticed a lot:
Devoutly religious business owners that don’t seem inclined to pay their employees jack shit.
And I’m not talking about REALLY small business owners. If you own a tiny dog grooming business and have two employees, then maybe you can’t afford large pay raises, I don’t know.
But I’ve worked for a number of folks that own successful businesses, and who I would call wealthy. Not Bill Gates rich, but they’re still multimillionaires. The types of people that will pay $45,000 a head to take ten friends on a religious “mission” somewhere on the planet, and who seem to think that being affluent doesn’t contradict their religious faith.
And maybe it doesn’t. I don’t know for sure. There seems to be a lot of cautionary stuff in the Bible about being rich, but I’ll assume The Lord allows a few of his faithful to win at life in a big way financially.
I would probably believe that the religious, successful business owners I’ve encountered were leading a pious life if it wasn’t for the demonstrated frugality I’ve seen when they set the wages for their employees.
Lest anyone think that this is just a case of sour grapes, and I’m bitching about low pay because I don’t make that much – no, I am comfortable enough. Lucky to have the skills I do, and to be able to demand a certain level of pay.
But I’ve seen some of these people. People that have never missed a meal, never gone without in any significant way. I’ve seen them pray before meals, thank God for the blessings in their life, and still bitch like Mr. Burns when it’s suggested that they pay their workers more than $8.00 an hour.
Some of these people live in mansions and never have to choose which bills they pay this week, and which they can (hopefully) push back until another paycheck rolls through. They’ve never suffered the indignities of poverty. They drive nice cars to their nice homes, and take lavish vacations with their well-dressed families. They donate to their churches, and never miss a Sunday sermon.
But they sure as fuck cringe when there’s a rumor of a minimum wage hike, or employer contributions to health care for their employees.
So what’s the deal? This seems very contradictory to me, but in a world where bullshit religious movements like the “Prosperity Gospel” teach that financial success is intimately entwined with spiritual piety, perhaps it’s not that surprising.
I probably wouldn’t care as much if they were just greedy heathens that obviously lusted for material success. Those people are gross, but at least they don’t suffer from a soul-withering hypocrisy at their very core.
But every time I see some hokey creep with four million in his bank pause at a meeting to say a silent prayer, only to find new ways to get more from his employees for less? I want to pop that motherfucker in the mouth and tell him that if there IS a Hell, that he’s heading straight for the fiery abyss for being such an uncharitable cockhead.
I once thought these types of religious fucktards were probably a rarity, but I keep working at companies run by them. I suppose that since they almost all attend churches mostly attended by other rich people no one has ever told them that paying the people that make your business successful as little as possible is contradictory to the spirit of their religion. If they’d just drop the hokey God’s good guy act and be openly greedy then I’d still dislike them, but at least I’d dislike them a little less for their honesty.
I just find a logical and moral disconnect with people that are willing to spend large amounts of money on religious “missions” abroad, but who choose to pay their own employees poorly. Then there are the businesses that are closed on Sunday due to the owners religious convictions. I can almost guarantee that more employees would choose to make a buck or two more an hour than to be closed on Sunday.
I don’t think that there’s a way to buy one’s way into heaven, but treating the individuals who help make you successful a little better could make this world a better place, or at least make their lives appreciably better.