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A journal of sorts to record Jonathan Sturm's (and others') thoughts and observations on things worth thinking about. Feedback welcome, but be aware that unless you prominently say you want your communication kept private, I may publish it.
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Monday 2 December 2002
By pretty much any measure that you care to name, women have more power than men. They have more power over who among our politicians are elected by dint of sheer numbers. Women, despite repeated references to themselves as a persecuted minority, comprise the greater number of electors. Women frequently complain that they are under-represented politically, men outnumbering women. Is that because there is a barrier to them running, or is it because they don't need to because their needs are being met without the bother of doing the work? A number of female politicians have risen to the top of the profession: Margaret Thatcher, Indira Ghandi, Golda Meier, Budicea, Queen Elizabeth I, Queen Victoria... Interestingly, they all seem to have been at least as bloodthirsty as the men who have done so.
Women have more economic power than men. True, they earn less than men, but they certainly spend more. Not just the order of magnitude more on erotica referred to in Sunday's blog, but on all luxury goods. The simplest way to assess this is to just eyeball the amount of capital devoted to selling space. There are at least five times as many shops devoted to selling women's clothing in Hobart as there are men's. Check out your own shopping precinct to ascertain your local conditions. Check out the shelf space allocated to magazines in the local newsagent and proportion devoted to women's magazines, general interest and men-only.
As Warren Farrell wrote in The Myth of male Power:
Women are the only "oppressed" group to share the same parents as the "oppressor"; to be born into the middle class and upper class as frequently as the "oppressor"; to own more of the culture's luxury items than the "oppressor"; the only "oppressed" , group whose "unpaid labor" enables them to buy most of the fifty billion dollars' worth of cosmetics sold each year; the only "oppressed" group that spends more on high fashion, brand-name clothing than their "oppressors"; the only "oppressed" group that watches more TV during every time category than their "oppressors.
Feminists often compare marriage to slavery with the female as slave. It seems like an insult to women's intelligence to suggest that marriage is female slavery when we know it is 25 million American females who read an average of twenty romance novels per month often with the fantasy of marriage. Are feminists suggesting that 25 million American women have "enslavement" fantasies because they fantasize marriage? Is this the reason Danielle Steele is the best-selling author in the world?
Never has there been a slave class that has spent a lot of time dreaming about being a slave and purchasing books and magazines that told them "How to Get a Slavemaster to Commit." Either marriage is something different from slavery for women or feminists are suggesting that women are not very intelligent.
The difference between slaves and males is that African-American blacks rarely thought of their slavery as "power ," but men were taught to think of their slavery as "power." If men were, in fact, slavemasters, and women slaves, then why did men spend a lifetime supporting the "slaves" and the "slaves' " children? Why weren't the women supporting the men instead, the way kings were supported by their subjects? Our understanding of blacks' powerlessness has allowed us to call what we did to blacks "immoral," yet we still call what we do to males "patriotism" and "heroism" when they kill on our behalf, but "violence," "murder," and "greed" when they kill the wrong people the wrong way at the wrong time.
By understanding that what we did to blacks as immoral, we were willing to assuage our guilt via affirmative action programs and welfare. By thinking of men as the dominant oppressors who do what they do for power and greed, we feel little guilt when they die early in the process. By believing that women were an oppressed slavelike class, we extended privileges and advantages to women that had originally been designed to compensate for our immorality to blacks. For women -- and only women -- to take advantage of this slavery compensation was its own brand of immorality. For men to cooperate was its own brand of ignorance.
Did men do all this because they were more altruistic, loving, and less power hungry than women? No. Both sexes made themselves "slaves" to the other sex in different ways. Let's look at why both sexes did that; at why neither sex can accurately be called oppressed; at why we should be celebrating rather than blaming and at why institutions that don't understand their new opportunities are adapting divisively because they don't understand how to adapt lovingly.
In the not quite sure what to make of this category:
UN EXPERT RAN SEX RING
A UN weapons inspector kept his job yesterday after being exposed as the founder of a sado-masochistic sex ring.
Former US Marine Harvey "Jack" McGeorge, a munitions expert, had been selected to travel to Iraq to hunt for weapons of mass destruction.
His secret life as founder of the Leather Leadership Conference Inc. was revealed by the Washington Post.
A spokesman for chief inspector Hans Blix said: "We are not aware of any grounds for his resignation and Dr Blix has not taken up his offer to resign."
Thought for the day:
I understand, of course, that many people find smoking objectionable. That is their right. I would, I assure you, be the very last to criticize the annoyed. I myself find many -- even most -- things objectionable. Being offended is the natural consequence of leaving one's home. I do not like aftershave lotion, adults who roller-skate, children who speak French, or anyone who is unduly tan. I do not, however, go around enacting legislation and putting up signs. In private I avoid such people; in public they have the run of the place. I stay at home as much as possible, and so should they. When it is necessary, however, to go out of the house, they must be prepared, as I am, to deal with the unpleasant personal habits of others. That is what "public" means. If you can't stand the heat, get back in the kitchen.
Randy Newman -- Little Criminals
Tuesday 3 December 2002
People frequently misunderstand the relationship between The Git and Mrs Git (aka SWMBO). For a start, when we married, Mrs Git flatly refused to countenance adopting The Git's surname. The Git cannot recall her reason for this, nor is it particularly relevant. Suffice to say that The Git's considers his surname to be no great treasure and offered to adopt Mrs Git's. This too met with disapproval on the grounds that my name had already become associated with my work. She was obeyed and we each retained our respective surnames.
Neither of us spends much time in the shadow of the other and have built quite separate public personas. It is quite usual for people evincing considerable surprise upon meeting the respective spouse to declare: "Oh! Are you two partners?" This arrangement, that we largely avoid being involved in the same organisations and activities is quite deliberate.
For a start, it means that when one asks the other an Important Question relating to our activity, it usually triggers a series of supplementary questions that cast new light on the issue. Were we both familiar with the territory, then we would both be making the same, or too similar assumptions and new insights be so much harder to achieve.
As well, our interests differ. We are both avid readers, though our preferred reading matter tends to be dissimilar. The Git's tastes are towards non-fiction and Mrs Git's fiction. However, we both enjoy PD James and John Grisham for instance, so there is some overlap. Were our tastes identical, discussion would likely be confined to some sort of complaisant agreement. Despite not reading them, She is rather good at discovering new books for The Git to read, Stewart and Cohen's excellent Figments of Reality comes immediately to mind. The Git has his moments, too and accepts The Gong for discovering PD James and John Grisham.
Some years ago, a feminist/socialist couple we frequently socialised with took us both to task because She does all the driving. When we first met, driving duties were shared arbitrarily, but it rapidly became apparent that She loathed being driven and The Git was almost entirely indifferent. The Git enjoys his tipple far more than She, who finds the day following drinking more than a glass or two of wine intolerable. The logical arrangement for our needs then was for She to drive, removing the necessity for providing continuous, unnecessary remarks about The Git's driving. Quite why it's anyone's business to declare our arrangement to be yet another example of male tyranny escapes us and we never visited again. This saddened us as they were otherwise a lot of fun to be with.
We manage to reverse the accepted roles in other areas, too. The Git is rather fonder of cooking and so does most of it these days to our mutual satisfaction and benefit. Some chores fall to one or the other in arbitrary fashion. Sometimes The Git splits a load of firewood, on other occasions Mrs Git decides to do so. Mrs Git prefers the decorative aspects of gardening, The Git prefers growing vegetables and fruit.
In most decisions, The Git is more than happy to defer to Mrs Git, hence the SWMBO sobriquet. This is the same as that observed in most relationships, though it's usually unmentionable, or even denied in a half-hearted fashion. The Git would have been more than happy to have built a more modest House of Steel at half the cost and devoted the remainder of the money available to some other pursuit. He was also more than happy to Obey She and derived huge amounts of pleasure and satisfaction from building what She wanted. Tails he won, heads he won.
We suspect that the feminist push to provide additional benefits to being female at the expense of males is a likely cause of considerable unhappiness. While it's certainly true that men exploit women, it's also true that women exploit men. That's the nature of a symbiotic relationship. There would appear to be no benefit to it becoming entirely parasitic -- for either participant.
From my long-time friend Tim:
I might as well tell you that I am also, I suppose, an 'ex-feminist'. Not that I ever thought of myself as a feminist, but in my teens, in the 70's, I felt I agreed with what I perceived to be the goals of the women's movement. Actually, I probably still do to a large extent. I like to think that it is the goals which have changed rather than myself, though I imagine both things are true.
I gradually became disillusioned with modern feminism during the late 80's and early 90's. This hit a peak when I started attending university in 1993. I became increasingly aware that males were being relentlessly vilified in the media (particularly the ABC, who, at least at that time, seemed unable to get through an hour of programming without tugging the forelock to feminism.) I recall around the same time Austin Gough (a gnarled old bastard - gnarled old bastards seemed to to be the only ones objecting to any of this) claiming that academia had fallen over itself in its eagerness to 'run up the white flag' to feminism, to an extent which would have made Marxists of the 50's and 60's green with envy. This was brought home to me fairly forcibly when I was forced to sit through a 3rd year English seminar in which I learned how Chaucer's Treatise on the Astrolabe was a misogynist text, and that he was a rapist (which seemed to be a matter of at least as much academic interest as, say The Canterbury Tales).
I became even more amazed when at the findings of a government task force which had been set up in about 1994 to investigate and make recommendations about the fact that males were under performing at university by comparison with females. They concluded that basically males were taking up space at university which could better go to females (particularly odd, since most of my classes were overwhelmingly comprised of females), and that therefore it would be a good idea to raise the bar for males, so that they were required to achieve a 10% higher matriculation grade to qualify for admission to university. Even more amazingly, the student union (ironically the only union I've ever been forced to belong to, and the only one I would have chosen not to) agreed to it 'in principle'. I couldn't help thinking at the time that if the situation were reversed, huge amounts of money would have been ploughed into finding out why females were under performing, and some sort of affirmative action programme set up to try to rectify it.
In fairness, I have seen glimmerings of people coming to their senses about this sort of thing over recent years, but it has been a long time coming, and the academic culture is now so emphatically feminist that I wonder if it is too little too late.
Oh, BTW, I was also chastised for referring to women as 'females' in a paper (no problem with my referring to men as 'males' in the same paper, though).
Thanks. None of which I find at all surprising. <sarcasm> I am particularly shocked that you ever dared to refer to women as females, no doubt having also failed to obtain their prior permission to write about them </sarcasm>
Thoughts for the day:
Marriage, n: ... a community consisting of a master, a mistress, and two slaves, making in all, two.
When you see what some girls marry, you realize how much they must hate to work for a living.
A woman who takes her husband about with her everywhere is like a cat that goes on playing with a mouse long after she's killed it.
Saki (H H Munroe)
A man in love is incomplete until he is married. Then he is finished.
Zsa Zsa Gabor
Maria Muldaur -- Sweet Harmony
Wednesday 4 December 2002
A friend who once lived at Franklin and The Git have been corresponding with each other rather more than usual. Here is something The Git wrote:
When we moved to Franklin 20 years ago, it was a dirty, dusty town and on the rare occasions we felt like socialising, it was nearly always necessary to travel to the city. These days, we know a sufficient number of similar people to ourselves that we nearly always socialise locally. Most, but by no means all, of these people are immigrants. There's not a huge number of us and sometimes we go weeks, or months without seeing each other.
Margie is very much the glue in the network -- truly she deserves the sobriquet SWMBO, though only in the nicest possible way. She has played a major role in many of our local community projects.
The whatever-it-was that attracted you to Franklin is also part of that glue.
I'm not sure I am making any sense, but that's because I am trying to describe something I have yet to fully understand. It's quite peculiar, but Franklin is definitely the centre of it. Many of what we think of as The Franklin Community live in Glen Huon and other parts of the Huon Valley. None of the other parts of the valley have the same feeling of what I am calling "community". My friends Gail and Michael have moved to Tenterfield, but in a very real sense they are still members of this thing. They tell me they are finding it very difficult to cope with not being here.
Whatever "it" is, it's compelling and emotionally very satisfying. It was here in nascent form twenty years ago, but is now in partial, if not full bloom. Part of it has been expressed in the renovation of The Palais Theatre, nondescript from the outside, but for acoustic music at least, perfect inside. "It" is attracting city-based patrons of The Palais to use it as their preferred venue.
Damn, I wish I could describe "it" in a way that makes sense.
Thought for the day:
If you ever find happiness by hunting for it, you will find it, as the old woman did her lost spectacles, safe on her nose all the time.
Handel -- Water Music
Thursday 5 December 2002
The Git participates in discussions on a few Lists where it's possible to discuss issues of mutual interest with participants spread far and wide across the planet. One correspondent wrote:
Jonathan - I do appreciate your posts - you are about the only one on the list whose position on an issue is unpredictable (which is not to say I agree).
To which I replied:
Why, thank you Mark. I quite often find myself disagreeing with me, too :-) It's a consequence of thinking through the issues, rather than accepting some arbitrary authority. While it takes a lot more effort, it's frequently very rewarding.
The Git suspects thinking things through is a family trait. His grandfather was a confirmed socialist and quite active politically. When asked why he was reading Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf for the third time, he remarked that it was important to understand how the opposition thinks.
The Git took this to heart and when first reading about Winston Churchill, became firmly convinced he was an insane war criminal. Further reading produced the impression that here was man with considerable intellect and vision, not to mention the courage to pursue his own ideas regardless of their popularity. These positions are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Churchill was a complex person. (I was going to write "man", but decided to irritate any feminists reading this).
It is true that Churchill made a bad decision to send troops into Gallipoli. It is true also that it's difficult to imagine Britain's success in World War II without him at the helm. With the benefit of hindsight, we can also see how it would have been possible to have prevented Hitler's ascendancy, removing the necessity for Churchill's control of Britain during the war years. Shooting George W Bush's grandfather comes to mind, especially as that would have prevented our current politically-manufactured crisis.
These are the thoughts that drifted through The Git's head as he listened to Prime Minister John Howard declare that he is surprised by the reaction of Australia's neighbours to his recent statements. He has declared that Australia will send in the troops to remove any threat to Australia from terrorists. Using that reasoning, do homeowners have the right to enter a neighbour's garden to spray herbicide on their noxious weeds? Does our neighbour have a right to come and inspect our garden shed for herbicide on the grounds we might use it on their garden?
If laughter is good medicine, it follows that it probably should only be available on prescription. If that is going to be the case, then I think it follows that the only people qualified to prescribe it are professional comedians. It should be illegal for people who are merely funny, but who have no formal qualifications, to go around making other people laugh.
Furthermore, if we treat jokes or amusing concepts as medicines, there should of course be government subsidies, however these should only apply to the most popular and/or most essential types of jokes. Therefore you should be able to get a really obvious joke on the NHS or Medicare, but something esoteric or surreal would probably have to be a private prescription which you could only claim through your health fund.
So where would this leave particular comedians? You should have no problem getting a prescription for Benny Hill or Bill Cosby or a generic equivalent, since they've been around for ages and their efficacy is well established (even if there are arguably better, modern equivalents available). The situation for other comics is less clear cut however. Lenny Bruce has been around for a long time, but comic authorities disagree as to whether he is actually funny. Some patients have reported remarkable improvement whereas others have reported adverse side effects such as mental confusion and disorientation.
At the other end of the scale are comedians such as Jim Carey. Despite the popularity of Carey (he is one of the most frequently dispensed comedians in the world) nobody has been able to work out any scientific reason why anyone laughs at him. Carey should probably be regarded as the equivalent of a herbal treatment, and would therefore not be regulated by the FDA.
A difficult issue is that of 'sick humour'. The obvious problem for governments here is that by definition, a sick joke ought not be able to make someone healthier.
Another thorny one is the issue of humour abuse. Certain very potent forms of humour should be tightly regulated, and should probably only be made available to people in extreme need, such as people who take Rush Limbaugh or Fred Nile seriously.
Overall it's probably a worthy idea, but I would make the observation that if you're going to have socialised humour, you have to be prepared to fling a good deal of money at it if it's going to work. Otherwise you're going to end up with the situation where people will be on waiting lists for 3 years just to get into a public hospital to hear a "knock knock" riddle or see a worn out tape of Police Academy 4.
Thoughts for the day:
The great nations have always acted like gangsters, and the small nations like prostitutes.
There is no history of mankind, there is only an indefinite number of histories of all kinds of aspects of human life. And one of these is the history of political power. This is elevated into the history of the world. But this, I hold, is an offence against every decent conception of mankind. It is hardly better than to treat the history of embezzlement or of robbery or of poisoning as the history of mankind. For the history of power politics is nothing but the history of international crime and mass murder (including, it is true, some of the attempts to suppress them). This history is taught in schools, and some of the greatest criminals are extolled as its heroes.
Monty Python -- Matching Tie and Handkerchief
Friday 6 December 2002
The Git is busy planning a cocktail party we are having tomorrow evening. You will be relieved to know that Mrs Git forbade The Git to wear a cocktail dress. In the meantime...
by Seymour M. Hersh
Admiral Robinson was the liaison officer between the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the National Security Council, and his office was a sensitive one: the White House's most highly classified documents, including intelligence materials, routinely flowed through it. By mid-1970, Henry A. Kissinger, President Richard Nixon's national security adviser, had developed complete confidence in Robinson's discretion and loyalty.
It was not surprising, therefore, that Robinson was deeply involved in the secret Kissinger and Nixon operations against Salvador Allende Gossens, of Chile, who had astounded the Central Intelligence Agency and the White House by winning the September 4 popular election for the Chilean presidency, although Allende received only 36.6 percent of the vote in a three-way race. Radford, who arrived at his new post a few weeks after the Chilean election, vividly recalls the sense of crisis: "This wasn't supposed to happen. It was a real blow. All of a sudden, the pudding blew up on the stove." Admiral Robinson and his superiors were "wringing their hands" over Chile, Radford says, "almost as if they [the Chileans] were errant children. " Over the next few weeks, Radford says, he saw many sensitive memoranda and options papers, as the bureaucracy sought to prevent Allende from assuming office. Among the options was a proposal to assassinate Allende.
Geniuses and frauds get equal billing in publish-or-perish mentality
In recent weeks, we have been treated to two unusually juicy scandals in areas of science few lay people understand.
First, the journal Science curtly announced it was retracting a large number of papers by Hendrik Schon, a physicist, who fabricated data in 17 papers and duplicated graphs in papers that supposedly described different experiments.
Days later, came reports of a controversy surrounding the publications and Ph.D. theses of Igor and Grichka Bogdanov, who are twins, French media stars and self-proclaimed geniuses. Are they frauds? Pranksters? Or, as they claim, serious contributors to the theory of the Big Bang?
Both cases raise serious questions about the nature of modern science and its star system.
Thought for the day:
Everybody should believe in something. I believe I'll have another drink.
W. C. Fields
Tom Waits -- Closing Time
Sunday 8 December 2002
The Git is still recovering from The Great Cocktail Party yesterday. No, not hung-over at all. The Git used to be a wine and food waiter and knows the perils of performing while pissed. The day started early with much cutting of grass with the brushcutter. The back-brace is marvel! Far less back-pain both during and afterwards.
The evening finished late -- well after midnight. Much interesting conversation, though mostly only of local interest. One bit that is definitely worth repeating is Jane's recollection of having the pleasure of Michael Palin's company at her shop for an hour one afternoon not long ago. Jane says they both sat cross-legged on the kitchen floor of the shop and entertained each other with witty stories. while she remained blissfully unaware of who she was having such a jolly time with. Jane, the consummate saleslady, succeeded in selling him two antique soup tureens instead of just the one. He was definitely the same person going by the name of Michael Palin that stayed overnight at the old Police Point Jam Factory, the evidence of the soup tureens being a dead giveaway.
Janes says: "But he's so much more handsome than he looks on the television!"
Michael, if you ever decide to visit our fair island again, make sure that you are either divorced, or bring your spouse! Jane seems more than willing to make an exception to her firm resolve to never marry gain in your case :-)
Thought for the day:
Democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner. Liberty is two wolves trying to have a sheep for dinner and finding a well informed, well armed sheep.
Miles Davis -- The Complete In a Silent Way Sessions
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