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Saturday, July 28, 2012

An Island of Chauvinists?

By some accounts, 2009 saw Great Britain's standard of living rise above those of Americans. I'm assuming that meant that Britons are living better, but mayhap it just means that percentage by which their quality of life has improved was significantly higher than the American growth. I don't know. In any event, this was three years ago, but for quite some time now a small percentage of Britons now seem to think that they've entered some kind of superior standing and freely insult and characterize Americans as stupid, fat, chauvinist, just generally inferior. There's some legitimacy behind these criticisms as America, located in the heart of capitalism and wide class disparity, seems hellbent on destroying social services, cutting rather than expanding the social safety net, and doing all this while fighting wars of conquest in order to maintain a fossil fuel habit that is unsustainable. A certain reactionary strain in our nation's spiritual life is an impediment to our thinking as well. But then America is still at this time, the world's largest economy and military superpower. In some ways, our problems now become the world's problems soon.

Indeed, the United Kingdom's relatively high standard of living isn't quite as solid a foundation as it might seem. The youth riots of last summer  attest to that and they seem to be the exemplification of the increasing amount of youth violence and discontentment that nation is experiencing.  A restless and somewhat extremist Muslim population, again largely youthful, has been linked to terrorism and has been inflammatory to the general public to say the least. In response, bigoted, far right fascist groups like the English Defence League and the British National Party are aggressively mobilizing in the streets, protesting Mosques and spewing their hellbroth of extreme nationalism/ Neo-Nazi ideology. These fascist or crypto-fascist groups are far more overt and prominent than their American counterparts.

A return to a great and imperial Britain is, of course, a nostalgic dream for many British reactionaries. Great Britain was one of the few other nations to commit troops to America's invasion of Iraq. This is a collective blind spot in the British political street. A famous headline in the U.K. asked "A Nation of Idiots?" about the U.S. as a result of the electorate's reelection of George W.Bush. This was stupid for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that in both the 2000 and 2004 elections, voter fraud was a heavy factor. This was also hypocritical as not too long afterwards Tony Blair, who played a big role in involving the U.K. in the Iraq debacle, was reelected. Moreover, though the United States initiated and led the Iraq occupation, the American public was always heavily divided and largely skeptical of the Iraq war. Not since the Vietnam War, where there had been conscription, had the cities, capitals, and campuses of America been so full of protesters and radicals.

It's likely that, as a species, our sense of national pride provides an ego boost and national difficulties are hard to reconcile, so it's much easier for some Britons to project onto the United States all of the problems that are insidiously and slowly undermining the United Kingdom as well. America the uneducated and obese is not alone as obesity and failing school systems are increasingly a problem in Great Britain.

The bottom line is that Americans are preyed upon by the forces of commodification and crony capitalism-forces western Europe has more ably resisted, but is not immune to.  Hopefully, the U.K. will continue to resist capital's pernicious influence, or they may exchange the inaccurate stereotype of unattractive red hair, terrible teeth, and shabby dress for their new stereotype- overweight junk food eating illiterates. In the mean time, it's best for workers of the world to unite and to avoid cheap stereotypes.


Monday, July 2, 2012

Fag

If "slut" is a word many women use to describe other women who don't model feminine virtue then men use the word "fag" in the same way to describe non-compliant men. I don't think I have any good friends at this point who use the term "faggot" in a serious way, so you'll have to forgive me if I access past high-school memories to make my point.

Obviously, "fag" is often used by men to describe other men who they suspect are attracted to or have sex with other men. It's also used to describe men who don't seem to conform to masculine expectations. Men who aren't physically strong, who dance a little too fluidly, who express  certain emotions a little too easily, who prefer to hang out with women, or who prefer fruity drinks with umbrellas and maraschino cherries earn this term. I've heard this hate speech used more than once in situations where I suspect the accuser had not bothered to actually consider whether or not the accused actually slept with men or not. In any case, it's someone calling someone else a name because they don't like the other person's behavior. One man assumes another man is bound to follow a certain code, just as he is. As I said earlier, there are not Laura Ingalls Wilders anymore, nor are there chastity belts; there aren't any Daniel Boons ar Davy Crocketts either. Name calling makes you a hypocrite.
Of course, faggot is an inherently ugly word. Faggots originally meant burning sticks. Homosexuals were burned to death in the past, so thus the conflation.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The "Slut" word.

In a fit of brilliance as an amateur social scientist, I posted the other day on Facebook "You're a slut, but you're a nice slut." The responses were interesting, but that's another post. To me, the notion of female sexual morality based on how many or how few men you have sex with is relative and makes more than a few women hypocrites. We've all been there when a woman sees another woman, who is usually attractive, wearing a midriff or booty shorts or whatever, and the woman observing her then let's loose with the hatin', "What a slut." Alternatively, she may be in some kind of competition to get the attention of a man with another woman. If her rival seems to offer"it" too freely, then she is also a "slut" or "ho," "scank," "hoochie mama," "whore," "tramp" or any other derogatory term. When catfighting ensues, I wisely and paternally settle it by saying "Ladies, ladies, compared to your grandmothers you're both sluts." This, of course," assumes none of the grandmothers in questions were prostitutes. "You see girls, assuming your age is around 25-30 years old, many of you have already had 5,10, perhaps even dozens of lovers, ranging from fiances to flings. Why shouldn't you? With proper use of protection and birth control, there aren't necessarily any negative social effects." 


One of the sluts then replies,  "Yeah, but professor Montoya, shouldn't it be special? I mean is it moral to give it to just anyone? Doesn't it say something about a woman's morality or even her self esteem?"


As I am the expert, I get to answer a question with a question, "Forgive me for this alarming question, but how many men do you think your grandmother had sex with before she was married? Maybe one or two at the most? 
After looking at me with profound disgust, she responds "Probably not too many, if anyone." 


I reply then, "Of course, we know that there was more activity back then than anyone cares to admit, but certainly a bit less of it. Birth control wasn't as available. And if the women of the Grandma generation knew that a woman had 10 lovers in the past, and she wasn't married, then what do you think they would've called her?" At this point, the woman in question breaks down, sobbing,  "Oh God, I'm a rancid, disposable slut. Let us return to the values of our forefathers and......."


I quickly intercede, "No, no, no, there's no call for that. I have no problem with people maintaining their chastity or virtue, but I think it's a far greater transgression for those who live in glass houses to throw stones. Everyone is a slut compared to someone. The truth is if you aren't undermining committed relationships intentionally, spreading herpes, getting pregnant by absentee fathers constantly, then it ain't no one's business! By all means, fuck who you like as long as you're safe!"


Seriously, I  think people should maintain their self respect and standards, but that might not be affected by how much skin you do or do not show or whether or not you enjoy casual sex. Oddly enough, the original meaning for slut was a lazy housewife. I remember reading a centuries old greeting card at a museum "You've slept all day. Get up and get a broom you lazy slut!..."


Men are the biggest hypocrites on the "slut" issue. Aside from the fact that many men would tell you that they seek out as many trysts as possible, they also, in many cases, call women "sluts" for doing exactly what it is they'd like them to do.


If you're still insisting that we need to cling to some kind of traditional morality where these matters are involved, ultimately, I don't disagree, but I'd caution you that you getting too moralistic might mean your more  flamboyant friends being called "fags" unwed mothers getting scarlet letters, and general stigma for those with regular human appetites.