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Taming What Infests Us (Video)

Original poem read by Peri Dwyer Worrell

For more poetry by Peri Dwyer Worrell, click here and here.

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Hermana Iguana

No! Is not an option. The options are yes, or yes. That’s why the sun is so bright and my eyes are so dim. Oh, I know they say it’s because I have a lizard brain. “Lizard brain” is even a word they use as a synonym for primitive and irrational.

But we females know better because the twining and untwining of DNA within us is a spiral ladder for electrons moving in spin sequences down phosphate spines.

Come with me to the manxinil  tree and learn what generations before me learned: I will fan you with the leaves and your eyes will burn and swell shut and render you blind while I nibble the tiny apples in the sun. Once you are weeping from the injury I will let you taste the apple and you will die.

Something is spinning within me and also within you, phosphatidal tidal phosphates that can bring the sea inside the sandy sun and remain entangled while leaping like dolphins, baby iguanas, scaled striped squirrels scampering from rock to rock.

Censorship: What’s a Non-Geek to Do?

By now, unless  you belong to the minority who are completely disconnected from social media, you’re aware that that there’s been a gradually accelerating program of centralization, control, and censorship operating on the biggest platforms over the past few years. If your views are other than mainstream, it’s been apparent since well before the last election. If you are a straight-edge exemplar of normality who roots politically for Team Red or Team Blue, the 2016 election might have been your wake-up call. If you’re intelligent and curious but apolitical, this week’s purge of Twitter and Facebook accounts might have been the first you heard of it.

What younger people may not know, and older people may forget, is that the dominant players in today’s information game are babies themselves. They can easily go the way of MySpace and AOL (both of which still exist, by the way).

The virtue of the internet is its decentralized, networked nature. As John Gilmore said, networks interpret censorship as damage and work around it. You have the ability to accelerate this process. Here’s what I’ve been doing:

  1. Opening accounts on alternate social media sites like Minds, MeWe, and WhatsApp.
  2. Subscribing to alternative-media sites and blogs by e-mail.
  3. Writing and reading content on curated platforms like Quora, Medium, and LinkedIn.
  4. Actively editing my commercial-site/phone newsfeeds to include lesser-known journalists (being sure to keep a tendril extended outside my filter bubble!).
  5. Putting a limited amount of my modest financial resources into cryptocurrencies and actively seeking ways to spend and earn them.
  6. Using Incognito mode or Tor browsing and VPNs when needed. While most people are not in a position to take this step, it helps that I’ve expatriated to another country so my traffic doesn’t automatically go through a US-based server.

Have some faith in the truth. It will prevail.

 

Taming What Infests Us

Invaded, a pouch, a crease, a sulcus

Tiny entities that do not matter do

Matter now that they have bred

Though you never took them in…

 

Nothing to do now but love them

A boy in a tenement’s pets

Six legs, racing roaches in jars

Pigeons, rats, mitochondria.

 

Here, parrots flock and strip

Fruit from the trees and sing

In cages on the porch. Know

What’s yours is never and always theirs.

Courage and Cowardice

I’ve come across two recent think pieces online urging the assaulted and harassed to reclaim the word “victim.” The idea is supposedly this: that by refusing to accept the label of victim, one implies that there is something wrong with being a victim. I furrowed my brow, then realized with a blinding flash what’s missing in the discussions of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and toxic masculinity. What’s missing is the topic of courage, and its opposite, cowardice. That’s a topic we need to bring out in the open. It’s also a topic that may help us communicate with all the well-intentioned men who seem bewildered about what the rules are for approaching women today.

My favorite definition of courage comes from a fairy tale I read as a little girl, about a child who is terrified to fight a dragon, but fights it anyway. The moral of the story imprinted itself on my heart and mind at the tender age of seven: Courage is feeling the fear and doing it anyway. 

Let’s get this out of the way right now: being a victim is morally neutral. It does not confer any moral superiority or moral high ground; it likewise does not brand with moral inferiority. Victimization happens. The world is a brutal and vicious place pocked with shallow mass graves.

Victimization happens to courageous people and to cowards.

Fear, the automatic response of the sympathetic nervous system to threats, is a state of fight, flight, or freeze. We are told that women are unusually apt to freeze.

Boys are taught at a young age that freezing when challenged is an act of cowardice, and cowardice is to be avoided. I happen to believe that is correct.

Whether you’re about to give birth, or being attacked with a lethal weapon, the courageous response is the active response. Dealing with the energy of your fear, transforming it to calm strength or righteous anger, is a learned skill.

One of the most disempowering traits of sexism is its implication that courage is a masculine trait, cowardice a feminine one. The only acceptable archetype for a woman who rages and fights back is that of a mother bear fighting for her cubs. But not herself, never herself. The feminine does not own itself, does it?

But we do. We own our bodies and the space we occupy. And with that sacred ownership comes a sacred responsibility: to defend and protect ourselves with all the courage we can muster.

And why do we have that sacred responsibility? Because the courageous are less likely to be victims.

We owe ourselves the courage to say, “I was just talking; let me finish.” We owe ourselves the courage to say, “Please don’t touch me again.” We owe ourselves the courage to say, “Get the fuck away from me, weirdo!” We owe ourselves the courage to slap, punch, elbow, kick, bite, stab, and shoot if necessary to defend ourselves.

And sometimes, for a woman or for a man, that courage doesn’t come. The boy slumps and shuffles away from the bully; the woman allows herself to be pawed rather than make a scene. Sometimes it’s because we are picking our battles. Sometimes it’s because we are too exhausted to face yet another confrontation. Regardless, it amounts to the same thing.

That’s cowardice.

I have tasted that cowardice; I’ve bled and wept (literally) because I was a coward. I have also faced attacks with courage and been a victim anyway. And from those experiences, I have learned that we sometimes find our courage later on. Sometimes years later, we find the courage to speak, seeking retribution and redress, and warning those who come behind us. Sometimes that courage redeems our cowardice. Sometimes it brings on new assaults to test our courage further.

Let me ask you this, oh feminist sister, who wants the men she meets to stand up to other men about their bad behavior: why should they have the courage to stand up for us, if we don’t have the courage to stand up for ourselves?

Let me ask you this, oh well-intentioned straight man, who feels terrified to sexually approach a woman for fear of being accused: why would you involve yourself with a woman if you’re not sure if she’s a coward?

But let’s take this out of the arena of the eternal war between the sexes for a moment: let’s paraphrase the Irishman Edmund Burke and point out that all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing. Let’s then hop forward to the 20th century, and soldiers who were only following orders, and the pastor who said nothing when they came for the homosexuals because he was not a homosexual. Now let’s move up to the 21st century and all those millions who watched a Nobel Peace Prize winner drop tens of thousands of bombs on innocent civilians with surreal serenity, and let a man languish alone in a small room in London without a peep.

The courage to speak up is not domain-specific. If you are too much of a coward to speak up, you are already a victim.

Armenian women ready to fight Ottomans

Photo: historical photo of Armenians preparing to fight the Ottomans.

Is the Face of Fascism Your Own Face?

If gun control isn’t the answer, then what is?

Once again, a mass shooter has demonstrated to the world the meaning of the word “evil.” Whether it’s some racist kid with a funny haircut, an introverted former IRS agent with a gambling problem, a BLM activist angry about police brutality,  or a Norwegian right-wing anti-feminist, the carnage is brutal and horrifying. Predictably, people who don’t think very much about guns before such an attack immediately demand that “we” (whoever “we” is) “do something” to prevent it from happening ever again. That call is immediately amplified by those who would enforce greater restrictions on gun ownership. I have to warn you: I don’t have the answer to preventing mass shootings, or massacres, or Islamist terrorist attacks, or for that matter, drone bombings,  forced marches, ethnic cleansing, genocide, or the carnage of starvation and disease under totalitarian governments. The title question of this essay was one I answered on Quora over a year ago that’s continued to get upvotes and comments and shares, so I wanted to share the information in it with a broader readership:

If gun control isn’t the answer, what is?
The answer to what? The question doesn’t say, so let’s see what possible questions one might have in mind and try to answer them:

  • If gun control isn’t the answer to the rising rate of homicide in the US, what is?

A valid question, IF the homicide rate were rising in the US. It is not. It is declining.

Even as the number of guns is increasing

But maybe that wasn’t the question you meant to ask. Let’s try:

  • If gun control isn’t the answer to the horribly high rate of homicide in the US compared to other countries, what is?

That would be an excellent question. Except the US is nowhere near the top in terms of number of homicides per 100,000 people

Hmm. Perhaps that wasn’t the question you meant to ask. How about:

  • If gun control is not the answer to the epidemic of violence against women in the US, what is?

Ok, let’s try this:

  • If gun control is not the answer to the rising rate of violent deaths among blacks in the US, what is

I know. Let’s look at:

  • If gun control is not the answer to the rising rate of GUN homicides, what is?

Even if you believe it is tremendously better to be knifed, stabbed, bludgeoned, or strangled to death rather than shot, it looks like this one doesn’t apply either.

  • If gun control is not the answer to the rising rate of accidental GUN deaths in the US, what is?

Okay, okay. Let’s try a question that might actually not contain a false assumption:

  • If gun control is not the answer to the US’s high rate of GUN death compared to other countries, what is?

The US is 26th in the world in gun deaths. But, aha! It is the highest by far in number of gun deaths amongst the 12 top nations in the Human Development Index. This is true. So, if you have a strong preference for a different means of dying, gun control is your answer! It seems rather obvious that in a country with more guns, gun deaths are more common. I’d also hazard a wild guess that swimming pool drownings are  more common in Australia than in Canada, and murder by pushing someone off a mountain is probably more common in Switzerland than in the Netherlands.

Perhaps, though, you’re the type of person who is easily affected by emotional media coverage of mass shootings, especially at schools, which are a tiny fraction of a percentage of homicides, even of children. Thus:

  • If gun control is not the answer to mass shootings, what is?
  • First, let’s disabuse you of the notion that mass shootings are a phenomenon predominantly confined to the USA:

    All but one of the 20 worst non-governmental mass public shootings, 45 of the worst 50, occurred outside the United States, the majority of them in Africa.

Global mass shootings CPRC

…And Europe’s rate is 25% higher than that of the US despite much stricter gun laws:

US vs Europe Mass shootings

And it appears that  the majority of locations where mass shootings take place in the US are places where guns are prohibited.

  • However, it does appear that a sizable number of the US mass shooters were diagnosed as mentally ill in advance of the incident

Of course, there were literally millions of people diagnosed with mental illness who did NOT commit mass public shootings, or any shootings, for that matter.

Psychiatrists admit that they can barely do better than random chance at predicting which of their patients will become violent, according to The British Journal of Psychiatry. On the other hand, mentally ill people living in the community are 11 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than the average person. The actual degree of effectiveness of guns as self-defensive deterrents to violent crime for a given individual is still not well-established, but one must wonder if disarming all or most mentally ill people might not cause more violent crimes than it prevents.

And, finally, here is a really good question, which I think a person with a penchant for supporting gun control really ought to ask but rarely do. It is the only question about gun use and gun control which actually proceeds from concern about a problem which is getting worse:

  • If gun control is not the answer to American’s rising rate of suicide, what is?

Unlike every other means of violent death, suicide in the US is actually increasing

Looking at the chart above, it appears possible that suicides can be reduced by around 30% by requiring a background check for private handgun sales. This is easily explained by the fact that a gun is the most effective way of committing suicide, so more attempts are likely to be successful when guns are readily available. The preference for guns among male suicide attempters explains part of men’s greater rate of successful suicides. Furthermore, most people who are dissuaded from committing suicide once do not go on to commit suicide later.

On the other hand, the evidence from Canada, where registration of all guns was required beginning in 1993, shows that the rate of gun suicide decreased by almost the exact same number that the rate of hangings (the second-most-effective means of suicide) increased

The author of that paper concludes, “There were 3,605 suicides in 2000 before the registry started and 3,741 in 2005. Clearly, this analysis suggests that the money wasted on registering guns would have been better spent on suicide prevention efforts.”

So, my question is this: it’s been pretty clearly established that gun control does not decrease violent crime; it does not even decrease mass shootings. It probably doesn’t even decrease suicides. The one thing it does is do is decrease the rate of gun crime, which we’ve seen just represents the substitution of other weapons for guns. So when are the people shrieking about “doing something” going to recognize the reality of the situation and start focusing on what might actually represent some sort of solution to these horrific and dramatic events which affect a tiny percentage of the population but have such a disproportionate affect on the national psyche and mythos? I would really like to know.

The More People Trade, the Better Off Everyone Is

What’s the worst government statistic, based on whether it distracts from sound thinking and encourages bad policy? Well, I definitely think gross domestic income is a better measure than gross domestic product if we want insights on growth, so I’m not a big fan of GDP data. I’m even less enthused about the Gini Coefficient […]

via Time to Celebrate America’s Enormous Capital Surplus with the Rest of the World — International Liberty

9,000 years of anarchy in Ireland?

On the Mark

I posted once before on Ireland and their anarchy that lasted for more than a thousand years:

This most remarkable historical example of a society of libertarian law and courts first came to my attention while reading Murray Rothbard’s For a New Liberty. This was a society where not only the courts and the law were largely libertarian, but they were basically anarcho-capitalist in the modern sense of the phrase. This Celtic society was not some primitive society or tribe but rather it was a highly complex society. Ireland for centuries was the most advanced, most scholarly, and most civilized society in all of Western Europe. And all without a government!

Murray Rothbard documented the Irish Anarchy in his book “For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto were he wrote in part:

The most remarkable historical example of a society of libertarian law and courts, however, has been…

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