What I’ve Been Sayin’…only said better: Race Dialogue

As a Southerner I’ve kind of ignored the whole Paula Deen thing. Not because I don’t care, but because I feel that the stone throwers out there are “progressives” who have lost touch with the history of race in America, specifically in the South. I feel like people are masking symptoms and ignoring the complexities of the human mind and heart. I feel like the only places that I’ve ever had a meaningful discussion about race with anyone not my own was the bookstore where I worked with a brilliant manager who was my demographic opposite. African American and male. We are, however, both Southern and that matters. It does. The fact that Paula is Southern MATTERS.

Progressives have not been kind to the South. We are, a century after they really got underway, seeing the detriment in giving someone a fish instead of teaching them to fish. Race and class lines are worse, not better. Violence and exclusion have simply shifted forms. But there are good things too. A decent sized percentage of the population (at least in the upper South) has been brought together by that common enemy. And while we are small, we are willing to talk about the tough subjects, admit that we are human, help each other stumble through it, and strive to be better for all the awkward dialogue.

Maria Dixon has written a beautiful editorial that sums up how I feel without any ranting. I am sharing it with you. I hope that you will find it as thought provoking and meaningful as I have.

Saying Grace: Paula Deen, Progressives, and Race

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Moving People: 10-80-10 Survival Theory Applied to ALL THE THINGS! :D

This morning, a friend of mine posted this onto our thinking group’s facebook page. I wanted to respond to the article, but it sort of evolved into a rather lengthy bit of musings, so I’ve moved them here and will send those folks the link to here.

In the 10-80-10 Theory of Survival (it’s an actual thing. There are books, but here’s a summary article: Is Your Brain Wired To Survive Disaster), when a crisis situation arises ten percent of the population falls apart and freaks out, eighty percent stands about basically catatonic, and ten percent steps up and does something useful.  Without an ounce of hard data, but years of studying people, I tend to apply this to a whole lot of situations. Today, I’m applying it to how most human creatures view drastic social change: as a crisis.

Humans have always been terrified of and resistant to change. Plato warned up-and-coming philosophers of this with the Allegory of the Cave. Change, new ways of thinking, etc are bad. And they’re bad enough for most folks to rally against and even kill the agent of change.

To return to the 10-80-10, the ten percent who step up are not all leaders, though most of them can be. Likewise the ten percent freaking out can make it difficult to get the 80 percent moving. Another obnoxious variable is that leadership does NOT equal goodness, so of those ten percent leading, it’s a smaller number wanting to affect positive change.

I think it helps to start by thinking in small numbers. Imagine that one poor soul has been given nine others to watch over. They don’t have to move them forward necessarily, just keep them from killing themselves and each other. That right there can be impossible enough! I believe the expression is “herding cats.” Now imagine that these nine are basically children to the one, they don’t understand why they need to do things that Leader suggests, or that their actions affect others (in some cases they don’t care), all they KNOW is that someone is telling them what to do and most of the time it’s easier to just do what they’re told. HOWEVER. One of the nine is sitting in a corner screaming like a loon every time the least little thing happens that they don’t like, eventually that panic starts to filter into the group of eight and it makes them increasingly catatonic, confused, and nervous. This makes them much harder to herd.

Have a headache yet? Anyone in education should understand this even better than I do. 🙂

So you have Leader. Leader may not have wanted the job in the first place (which is its own set of complications), but because of how Leader’s brain is wired for action in the face of crises, this is how it fell. Sometimes people will follow you whether you intend to lead or not.  Then you have eight Catatonic Sheep who have to be herded (or at least maintained) , but the herding is being greatly disrupted by Panicker.  Given how powerful that one disruption is at times, it can be impossible to do anything more than make sure the nine stand relatively still for a moment.

Now for every mini-herd of ten being driven by a Leader who wants to create positive social change, you have at least one, if not two, that is being driven by a Leader(s) who do(es)n’t want to create that change. There are many reasons for this, some more sinister than others. Some are as simple as these Leaders have found that it’s REALLY HARD to move their Nine forward at all, especially with Panicker screaming and falling down and requiring extra reassurance just to continue breathing and eating and being mildly contributive to their herd’s survival. Some Leaders find that for their own continued existence it’s best to just gently nudge the herd of Nine every now and then, to slowly correct courses and hope things get better rather than incite the herd to fear and violence and end up killed by the Nine (which would only leave Panicker in charge by the way. *shudder*). And some seriously wicked Leaders are not above letting their Panickers whip their Catatonic Sheep into a mass of fear and anxiety to maintain the carefully created status quo.

Imagine that on a scale that reflects the population numbers and it’s overwhelming at best. In the United States alone that’s over THREE MILLION Panickers (same for Leaders) and over TWO HUNDRED FIFTY ONE MILLION Catatonic Sheep.

This is why reform of any kind that doesn’t just shore up the old ways of thinking is so very, very hard.

Short version. The Church isn’t moving quickly enough for those who want positive social changes because there are fewer of us than there are Catatonic Sheep, and we’re evenly matched (at best) on the Leader front, and most don’t feel right using their Panickers to manipulate the CSs into doing what we know is best, because we believe in freedom of thought, etc, etc. Personally, I’m just mean enough to think it’s time we stop letting the Catatonic Sheep and the Panickers be controlled by Bad Leaders, but I also think that the only way anything is going to really change is by having a big enough disaster show up to wipe out a large enough portion of the 90% to which I don’t belong. I know that sounds gloomy, and maybe I mean for it to, though I certainly don’t think we need to give up. I know that I myself have converted at least one Catatonic Sheep into being a Thinking Not-So-Sheep and maybe one day they’ll be Good Leaders. Maybe one day, the numbers will change in our favor. It’s that “maybe” that is worth striving toward.

Reform: His- and Her- Story

I may have hit on this once before. I honestly can’t remember if it was here or my old blog, but either way, this is a new link to a great article, so here’s my Ryan Reynold’s movie anecdote:

There’s a cute little made-for-TV movie called School of Life about a high school history teacher, Mr. D, who speaks casually and often about the misconception of  history as “HIS-Story.” He calls it His and Her Story instead and as a historian who can tell you without question that women were integral to (and ignored by) the main historical narrative, I rather approved. (This isn’t all that the film is about, and I highly recommend it, though you’ll need tissues). I could say a lot more about gender bias and history, but the post that I’m linking to is long and says a great deal of what I would say anyway, and since I want you to read it (yes, all of it), I’m going to keep my own bit brief. And stop. Right here. 🙂

Challenging the “Women, Cattle, and Slaves” Narrative

Rethinking Victimhood: There’s plenty to go around

Humans are creatures of extremes and over-correction.  Accountability seems to be a part of an unbalanced equation. Only one person can be held accountable for any negative result. This seems so counter intuitive. I remember hearing Mum say “they’re both to blame” or “we’re both to blame” so many times in my childhood that I guess I’ve always looked at incidents as being multi-causal. It isn’t a popular view, and I understand (see introductory statement) that in most cases it’s a defense against some initial imbalance.

Abuse has been on my mind of late. Rape too, given the media. In a large number of cases the dividing lines and blame are clear, but at what point are we absolved of the responsibility of maintaining our own safety?

Some long years back, when my god-sister was an early teen one of her friends was raped and stabbed and left in the bath tub of a mobile home. This was the initial, horrific story that she tearfully recounted to us when she showed up on our doorstep for a weekend visit. We, of course, had to have all the horrible conversations about bad people, about not blaming the victim, how she could be there for her friend, how to bring up the subject of counseling should the girl need it and not have it, etc etc.

A week, maybe two, later, we had to have an entirely different conversation. It turned out that the teenager had gone to the trailer alone with two adult males who were drug dealers to “party” with them and while NONE OF THIS TAKES THE BLAME FROM THOSE TWO MEN  for the violence they committed against someone, we are each responsible for the places we go and the things we do. The short, grisly statement that no one wants to hear is that SHE SHOULD NOT HAVE GONE.

Ah, blame. Plenty to go around, though not in the sense that it should be prosecuted. The crime of rape and assault rests firmly on the shoulders of the two dealers. FIRMLY. But there is plenty to go around and we’ve become a right nation of victims because everyone wants EVERYTHING to be some one else’s fault.

Imagine trying to have that conversation in today’s climate. Imagine the logical parallels that only lead to my being a monster for even saying them out loud.  I won’t make the mistake of comparing men to nonhuman animals. The humanists out there just look for that as an excuse to discredit. Let’s try the simplest, most sadly human example.

If there is a warzone, an area of horrific KNOWN violence, and a person walks willingly and knowingly into that area and is then shot in the head, then they had some part in their demise. Doesn’t mean that the person who pulled the trigger is any less responsible. (<—Read that again, because I mean it). We, especially here in the good ol’ USA, are hung up on rights. We think we have the right to do <insert anything here> and we do, but we also have to deal with the consequences. It doesn’t always mean that we “deserve” whatever happens (especially in the examples above), but it does mean that we had a hand in what happened to us. I could get into how a nation of victims is easier to control, but that sounds like a conspiracy theory that I don’t want to get into on this fine Saturday afternoon. Instead, I’m going to go play with my puppies.

I will visit this again, but for now a bit of light reading (ha). Dr. Zur expresses things far better, and honestly his take is refreshing (and rare) in a cultural climate that veers sharply between blaming the victim and blaming the perpetrator. At the risk of using a term over used by historians: We really need to find some middle ground. Blaming the perp is important. It’s right. It’s true. ETC. But once done, once the one who committed the violence is put away, the potential for victimhood remains. There is always another situation, another predator. Human beings are not curbing or evolving past this violence. They are ignoring it, locking it up, and denying any responsibility for the acts beyond that of offender.

Okay, I’ll stop. Read this. I’m not saying it’s all exactly right, but it’s a good start in a dialogue that no one seems to want to have.  Psychology of Victimhood: Rethinking “Don’t Blame the Victim”

The Good Outnumber the Bad

The Darkling is always telling me this. I rage against humanity so often, and even more often than that I decide that their persistent mediocrity is reason enough not to save them. I get frustrated by the cowards and by the “good” people who sit by in the face of horror and injustice. These aren’t “good” people. I’m sorry, but that’s just the way I see it. They may not be “as evil” as the evil people, but at best they are neutral. I don’t have a whole lot of use for neutral in a life that I will always believe is a constant battle between the best of us and the worst of us. It frustrates me when the best of us have to fight, not only the worst, but the vast masses of mediocre.

Because as Patton Oswalt says to the darkness “The Good Outnumber You And We Always Will”*  but it’s not the darkness that weighs so heavily upon us. It’s not the evil.

It’s the people who don’t care. The people who choose a life of certain grey instead of standing up for what’s right. They are EXHAUSTING. Now don’t get me wrong, the crusaders can be tiresome too, especially when humanity does its usual and contorts the important points or misses them altogether. But right now, that’s not what I’m going to rant about. I’m not even going to go all Constantine’s Gabriel on you, though I’m hella tempted.

Instead, I’m going to agree with the Darkling and Mr. Oswalt, I’m going to remind myself, and you, that there is more light than darkness on this planet. Even if you lump the neutrals in with the evils like I do and draw a Capraesque map in shades of darkness, the light shines brighter in intensity if not occurrence.

*small warning, there is a single f-bomb dropped at the beginning of Mr. Oswalt’s post.