Friday, July 30, 2021

What's in a Name?

I tend to listen to the left-wing economist Richard D. Wolff's podcast Economic Update on one of my community radio stations, because I often learn from his analysis and discussions.  Today's episode addressed Chipotle's claims that they're raising their prices because of greedy employees who want to be paid a living wage, and it was good except for Wolff's dogged and indefensible mispronunciation of "Chipotle." 

That annoyed me, but I was bothered more by Wolff's repeated references to certain U.S. Senators (Joe Manchin and Kristen Sinema) as "slaves" to corporations.   Manchin, Sinema, and the other corporatists in Congress are very well-paid and willing collaborators with their donors.  If they run away, no one will sic bloodhounds on them; no one will try to extradite them from Canada.

But I'm sure Wolff knows that.  More likely he was using "slave" as an insult, to suggest that Congressional corporatists are low, degraded losers.  And that's not any better.  Mohandas Gandhi was absolutely correct when he assured W. E. B. DuBois in a 1929 letter: "There is no dishonour in being slaves. There is dishonour in being slave-owners."

There must be an accurate word for willing collaborators with moneyed power.  "Toady," maybe.  At least Wolff didn't call them "whores," because that's too obviously going to get pushback.  Nor did he use "faggot" or other homophobic epithets, as popular as they are in certain left circles.  The trouble with many insulting terms is that they derive their power from invoking hierarchies that are being criticized and demolished, so a little more thought is necessary than it used to be.  Wolff is a thoughtful person, so I expect more from him.

Friday, July 9, 2021

... So Please Come In and Use Our Internet!


The Champaign Public Library passed along this graphic today on Facebook, and it's what the kids call a self-own.  Any public library worth its salt will have Internet access and probably a computer lab, because the Internet is a vital source of information and communication.  So the best I can say about this meme is that it's ungracious.

On top of that, the image reminds me of some memes I saw more often a few years ago, of church marquees with snarky or funny pronouncements on them, that turned out to have been made from image-editing software templates. This meme might have been made with just such a tool.  The word LIBRARY in this one is a giveaway: wouldn't a real library include its name on a sign like this?

But of course, not everything in a library is true either, even if you leave the Internet out of it.  Numerous commenters pointed to fiction, and others argued that fiction is labeled as such.  Usually, yes.  But in the non-fiction section you'll find various religious scriptures and commentaries thereon, books on the paranormal (UFOs, telepathy, the occult, etc.), political polemics (my local library has plenty of Trumpian and other right-wing propaganda, which greatly outnumbers its left-wing counterparts), dubious popular science, and so on and on.  That you find something in your public library's stacks is no guarantee that it's true.  Despite some people's claims that librarians are gatekeepers, they don't and can't vet everything they acquire for truth or accuracy.

And as I keep insisting, the Internet makes it easier than it ever has been before for users to check facts.  Most people don't, but the Internet didn't create the problem.

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

It's Witchcraft


A Facebook friend, who's something of a butterball himself, shared this meme on Facebook, with the caption "No es brujería, el problema es que ustedes viven del físico."  (It's not witchcraft / sorcery, the problem is that you all live on the physical plane.) 

I think the photo is sweet, though it would have made its point better if the young woman were also overweight.  (The younger working-class Mexican men I know seem to be happy to date women who not only are heavier than they are, but taller as well.  Autre pays, autre moeurs.)  I've pointed out before that when people complain that everybody nowadays is obsessed with looks and won't look at the inner person, they generally exempt themselves: it's only other people who must look for inner beauty, they are entitled to the attention of supermodels, beauty queens, and porn stars. Anyone who looks at this photo and congratulates (or envies) the gordito for having scored such a hot girlfriend still vive del físico.

But that misses the point, because it still assumes that sexual attractiveness consists solely of a certain look, and if you miss the mark but manage to get laid anyway, it's because someone saw your inner beauty and decided to overlook your outer ugliness for some reason.  Or you bewitched them somehow.  I don't believe that, if only because so many people express attraction to a wider range of people than the official commercial model accommodates.  And there's considerable social pressure against it, which I don't put down to media brainwashing but to ordinary human narrow-mindedness and stupidity.  I've always pushed back against it, even when I was young: if I wasn't going to give in to pressure to be heterosexual, I damn sure wasn't going to give in to pressure from other gay people trying to police my attractions.

I don't know what goes on in people's minds when they select sexual or romantic partners.  Maybe some do ignore looks for the inner person, though from what I observe they often don't do any better on that basis than if they went by the physical exterior. If we could see the inner person, would we judge any better than we do the outer?  I suspect that if they claim to be looking at the inner beauty, they're deceiving themselves.  I sometimes have thought that my tastes in men were wider than most other people's, but getting onto Grindr disabused me of that notion: I was surprised to find that I was only interested in a small minority, though most of the rest were sure they were hot.  Well, fine, to each his own.

Myself, I'd be happy to smooch the gordito in the picture my friend posted.  Not because I'm free of the physical, but because his physicality appeals to me.  I don't know what his girlfriend thinks about his looks; the looks of heterosexual men notoriously are said not to matter to women, but there's ample reason to doubt that.  I'm attracted to the men I'm attracted to, not because I live on the spiritual plane, but because I like their looks.  Sometimes an attractive man turns out to be a jerk, in which case he becomes less attractive.  (Similarly, if a cute guy I'm admiring takes out a cigarette and lights up, he becomes less attractive.  But some people fetishize smokers and smoking.  Go know.)

It's good to encourage people to recognize the beauty of people who aren't movie stars, but I don't think it's good to put it in terms of inner/outer beauty.  It's a false dichotomy anyway, but I think we need to encourage them to recognize the desires they already have.  From what I see around me, it's not really that much of a stretch in practice; I just want to improve the quality of the discourse.