Politricks

This election cycle has been more exhausting and traumatising than any that I can remember. Not even our most violent elections in Jamaica come close to how traumatised I am right now and we still have another 4 months to go before it’s over.

I feel beaten down and sore. There is so much violent rhetoric everywhere and nothing anyone says can be taken on face value. No one is trustworthy and everyone is corrupt and a liar. Some more so than others until you talk to someone who actually supports that one and then … not so corrupt. It’s exhausting. The number of media houses who are willing to examine this race from an objective perspective is slim and people stick to their preferred outlets even when they know how biased they are. I really wish that the public was more discerning than they are.

I don’t even know how I got so gung-ho about voting either. I haven’t been this interested in voting since I was first able to vote as a young adult in Jamaica. And that was a pretty disappointing experience. I voted for a woman I thought would have more interest in contributing to bettering the community than anything else. Boy was I disappointed. Whatever progress was made was invisible to me and it tainted my view of politics and government for years afterwards.

As I grew older, though, it became clearer to me that politics was less about me and more about community, the most needy, and optics. And it is that last bit that poses a conundrum for me because I am of the opinion that it really should not matter what people think of you, but at the same time I am very much in favour of not behaving like a complete numbskull in public either. Which isn’t necessarily contradicting stances, mind you. One can be one’s true self without being an ass so long as one is not actually an ass.

And this brings me to this whole 2016 election. We’ve got an ass and a hardass as choices. I dunno … it’s kind of shitty that the one year I decide to be good citizen, my choices are between Tweedledum and Tweedledee. And while I am of the firm opinion that one of these is worse than the other (and I am not here to say which that is), I really am tired of the way in which people have taken these elections and turned it into an excuse to belittle one another, alienate one another, and shut one another down.

As someone on a friend’s Facebook thread said, this election season is way too long. Most marriages can’t last with this level and duration of vitriol. Why are we doing this to ourselves?

/sigh

When money is more important than everything

It’s ironic. Just a few minutes after I mentioned that profiteering in the academic sector is causing ripple effects throughout society which generally ends up causing people to be oppressive to those who can’t afford education. I get a chance to prove it right from my own perspective.

To cut a long story short, and to protect privacy, let’s just say that I have been benefitting from 100% tuition coverage for this course for its duration. The benefits ran out – which is unfortunate since I have been begging for help from day one to figure out whether they would or not. Part of the problem was asking the wrong questions, the other part is that sort of cookie-cutter approach people tend to have when they are dealing with people they don’t know. Bottom line, it’s last minute and I am about to get bumped from class. Which is perfectly understandable, but what isn’t is the fact that my financial advisor is giving me less than the time of day. First he gives me an incorrect phone number, then doesn’t respond to my email saying the number doesn’t work. That was on Monday. It’s Friday, and I finally get a minute to make some calls. He finally responds with the right number – 4 days after I’d asked for it. Turns out, the finance department at the university and his manager did more for me than he did. In other words, everybody else did his job for him.

Several times I thought – to hell with it. When I heard how much I owe and how much I’ll need to pay to make my next class, I thought to hell with it. But dammit – it’s just 3 more classes! I canNOT give up now. So I called customer service and spoke to his manager who sorted me out in 40 minutes – after never speaking to me before, not knowing who I was, not knowing all my situation, looking at my file and recognizing I am not a typical student, and doing her utmost to ensure I was satisfied. His manager did everything he should have been able to do.

But it’s a pattern. When people stop being able to pay, they suddenly become persona non grata. It is literally the same situation I encountered with that half-assed dentist a little under a year ago. It’s especially heinous that it can happen with education – especially education that is over half done. This is what happens when the money is more important than anything else. And it is sad as hell.

Pondering the nuances of the terms cultural appropriation and cultural assimilation

On the heels of viewing and participating in a discussion about dreadlocks, I am pondering the differences between cultural appropriation and cultural assimilation … there is a difference.  According to Wikipedia, the terms refer to the same kind of activity but appropriation tends to have a negative connotation while assimilation tends to be a more neutral term.  Which is a little ironic … because The Borg.

So anyway, this post started out as a Facebook status update … and then it kind of ballooned out of control. In fact, after I finished typing the *bleuraak* of words that were in my head, I cut and paste the wall of text into my blog post editor and noted that the word count was up to 450 words. Whoa … right? I know. I didn’t even think I could still write blog posts like this, it’s been so long … but I digress.

So my pondering is because of my reaction to the aforementioned discussion about deadlocks. I would do it a disservice by trying to summarise the discussion, and I can’t really link to it here since it was in a private group, and I certainly can’t copy and paste the words either because that would just be unethical. Suffice to say that the discussion started on the basis of opinions and stereotyping associated with dreadlocks; but then it descended into a judgement rant about people because of how their locks looked. I thought it was ironic the the initial discussion topic was posed based on the judgement the original poster thought people with dreadlocks endure but that there was judgement about different people and their locks too. Basically, it sounded to me like “the world should never judge us dreadlocked persons, but some dreadlocked persons are just in it for the looks and that’s just bad”.

Now, the history of deadlocks has its roots in Africa. As a cultural expression, it “belongs” to Africans and those of African descent. Popularised by the late Bob Marley, it is now more closely associated with the Rastafarian faith. I should note here that the original poster found it useful to say something to the tune of “most Africans are doing it wrong”. If anyone is doing it “right”, I’d say it’s them. His whole rant was … startling. Now, I am not disparaging this young man at all. He was speaking most vehemently based on the information he had. There is a lot of misinformation out there on the internet and I can’t fault him for falling prey to some of it. In fact, I remain strangely unemotional about the whole exchange. But it did set me to thinking…

Should I be angry that someone from a culture other than my own is telling me about my culture in authoritative ways? I am not. I am … simply pondering a world in which this happens so regularly that we can’t even recognise it.

At what point is it ok to take on the practices, ideas, traditions of another culture and discuss it in terms that imply you claim it as your own?

We study Tai Chi in several different styles (Yang style, Chen stye, Dong style, etc.). I found the Dong style groups here on the West Coast recently and learned their style is fashioned off of Yang style Tai Chi. It’s not cultural appropriation for Master Dong to form his own school, but is it appropriation for us in the West to form our own schools under his tutelage and claim the schools as our own?

I don’t know where the line is. It never bothered me before – mostly because I see the world differently and I don’t much care that white people are locking their hair. I can lay claim to the dreadlocks culture because I was born and raised in the culture that fostered Rastafarianism. But it doesn’t make me angry that people who don’t look like me are taking it on as their own expression. I don’t know that I can explain why either … other than to say I have never felt oppressed by anyone and so I don’t feel the need to be seen and respected as part of a culture or people or society. Thus I cannot relate to the anger that appropriation causes. I don’t discount it… and in fact, it is that very anger that I am pondering today. At what point _do_ we get angry?

I mean … maybe it should be ok to borrow something from someone else when it works for you. But is it ok to tell someone they’ve been doing it wrong for centuries and now that you are doing it, you can explain the right way to do it? Maybe that’s ok too – because the heavens know how much humanity has gotten stuff wrong over the centuries.

Maybe this “owning” of a culture is restrictive, selfish, short-sighted … archaic. Maybe in this new global world that we live, it is time to let go of that idea that “our culture” is ideally better when that includes everyone. A conglomeration. And speak of sub-cultures or pocket cultures instead. I can get behind that – sure!

But what of those cultures that have been marginalised as sub-standard and inferior for centuries? Do we tell them “Look – we effed up when we said you’re a sub-species. We know it now and we want to make amends. But let’s all share your bounty in the meantime. I mean … I said sorry, didn’t I?”

Sorry

Here’s the tricky thing about granting equality and recognition after centuries of side-lining and marginalisation: when the oppressor recognises their wrong-doing, acknowledges it, and apologises for it, they don’t get to dictate the point at which time can move again. It’s like when you apologise to your husband or wife for betraying them over and over and over and over again …  and they demand some time to think … and heal. Healing takes time and the one who was wounded has every right to say, “Ok. Thanks. Now step back and let me heal … and leave me alone while I do it – thanks.”

To get back to my original point, here’s how I think about appropriation: Sure go ahead and express yourself with whatever you choose, even if it is a form of expression that belongs to some other culture. Be my guest. Chances are, the reason why that thing is so well liked is because it’s pretty magnificent to begin with and its why it is still a part of whatever culture to this day.

Dreadlocks, for instance. We think it’s pretty fabulous and if you think so too, fantastic – we have something in common. But please be careful how you then take it upon yourself to tell us that we’re doing it wrong. We’ve (us and our ancestors) been doing it for centuries and I think that by now we’d have ironed out the kinks. Unless, of course, you’re trying to say that we aren’t capable of working out the kinks ourselves?

Heh … I guess I wasn’t as unemotional as I thought I was, eh?

The point is – borrow, borrow all you want. Just be sure to be respectful while you do it – m’k? And remember that just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Think about it.

A not-so-good week.

I’m not sure what’s in the air this week, but it hasn’t been all that productive for me this week at all. Distractions abound. Every task I attempt is interrupted by some frivolous pursuit. Nothing is happening the way I want it to. And when I think of how well last week went, I want to cry. And so I try to think what I did differently last week, and I can’t quite put my finger on it.

Among those distractions? A new series that I discovered via Netflix called Twisted. I’ve already finished all 11 episodes. : Earlier in the week, it was just trying to stay focused through my not-quite-ill state. As flu season descends again, and hubby receives his bi-annual nose-squirt, he comes home and breathes on me and shares it with me. So I’ve been fatigued, and stuffy, and achy all week. My tinker hobby (Vaping) took some more of my attention later in the week.  So frustrating.

In the mornings, I can barely crawl out of bed. As a result, in the evenings I’m not tired enough to go to bed early enough. I sleep like a rock throughout the night, but not restfully because I wake up just as tired, if not more so than the day before.

Yesterday, I left the house. I needed to get out. The walls were closing in. I refilled a couple prescriptions (which reminds me, I need to message my doctor about refills), and then spent a good 2 – 3 hours at close-by Starbucks. I got *some* work done, but not half as much as I’d have liked.

This morning, I woke myself at about 5am by unconsciously trying to yank my nose ring out by the fingernail. At almost 7am, I gave up and just got up and started the coffee maker. Because after laying in bed for 2 hours without any sign of sleep returning, it just seemed more prudent to get up.

The best part of all of this? I got so much done already this morning for work. I really do need to get up at 7am or earlier if possible. Even if it means a nap about noon. Hubby heads off-road (and possibly into the snow) tomorrow, but I think I’ll be sitting here writing and reading. Bummer! So much for trying to get much done during the week so I’d have the weekend to myself. Even more of a bummer since I’ve not seen hubby for longer than about an hour or two each day in the last week or two (#HellishArmySchedulesFTW).

Argh! If it didn’t hurt so bad, I’d have torn all my locs out already. Grrr….

No matter; next week *will* be better. /nod

People, drama, and irrationality

My first clue was in not getting a call from my dentist to remind me of a semi-annual visit that I had in my calendar. At the time, I just dismissed it thinking I had a date wrong in my phone or something. It’s not unusual for me to put wonky dates into my phone. Plus, they have been pretty damned good keeping on top of things for the past 2 years. I’d get calls just to see how I was doing after an extraction. That is how good this dentist treated me in the past. So when I got no call to remind me of my apparent appointment, I just assumed it was my error.

Two days later, I clear the mailbox and see a letter from a collections agency advising me that there was a 6 month outstanding debt to said dentist.

… cue the jaw drop …

I have never in my life been delinquent on a bill. Never. If there is any indication at all of a possible outstanding debt, I bend over backwards to work it out. In fact, I spend a great deal of time up front trying to make sure that stuff like this does not happen.

The irony is that after my first visit with this dentist, there was a similar mixup with the insurance company and we were burning up the phone lines to figure out what had happened and why they hadn’t been paid. We sorted it out within a matter of minutes. Something about filling out a claim form to a new insurance company and in such a way that the insurance company dispatched a cheque to me instead of to them. We all had a good laugh, I asked them to reassure me it wouldn’t happen again; they did so. And as soon as I received the cheque from the insurance company, I drove it in to them (not mailed, drove).

In light of that, this was like a broad-side blow to the face.

First thing on Tuesday morning, I call my dentist to find out what the hell is going on. I hadn’t heard a peep from them in 6 months and the first I do hear from them is via a collections agency? What the hell kind of madness is this? Well, first thing I notice is that “Amy” wasn’t too happy to even speak to me. She advised me I had been notified of the unpaid bill and as far as she was concerned, I got my due. I tell her that I think this is weird because I would expect to at least get a phone call. She tells me it is not their policy to make phone calls about outstanding bills. (I find that odd, and I want you to take particular note of that statement, Dear Reader. Nevertheless…)

Her attitude was particularly shocking because I don’t think I sounded antagonistic at all. In fact, I think I sounded more confused and worried, than angry. Anyway, I launch into a somewhat incoherent explanation of my confusion in light of our previous relationship. And instead of listening, “Amy” gets even more belligerent. At this point, I am even more confused. Finally, when “Amy” doesn’t want to even listen and speak to me with respect anymore, I tell her to shove it and hang up.

Next I call the collections agency. Laura gives me their take on the matter. The insurance company hasn’t communicated with the dentist’s office at all and thus I am responsible. Fine; I can accept that – much as I hate to do so. So my next call is to the insurance company. They advise me they received a claim and disbursed a cheque in March … to me! (Gotta love USPS – I never got that cheque at all either.) So I ask the relevant questions. Turns out that’s how the dentist’s office filled out the form! Again!

/sigh

Anywho, The insurance company’s records show the cheque was never cashed (duh!). So she cancels it and disburses a new cheque. Next I advise the collections agency that my cheque to them will be on it’s way as soon as the insurance company’s arrives here. We are all good. (Especially since they tell me this hasn’t yet hit our credit rating).

So, I decide to call “Amy” back and tell her she’s a damned fool. She in turn tells me how sorry she is because her further research shows her she “might have been mistaken”. I tell her she sure did “make a mistake” but since they want to deal with me through a collections agency and with disrespect, that is what they will get. She apologises profusely again, citing some nonsense about “the information in front of her”. So I advise her that maybe next time she ought to speak to the person on the phone because the “information in front of her” isn’t what is going to give her a bad name. I tell her they’ve lost me as a patient and furthermore I will be making an effort to discredit them rather than recommend them to anyone else. I tell her to have a wonderful week and hang up the phone.

At this point, I am amazed at myself. Not once did I resort to name-calling or expletives. I remained coherent, respectful, and eloquent throughout the whole encounter. My husband agrees by telling me that I am “awesome”. I was angry enough to burst, but I kept my cool. Yay me! As far as I am concerned the matter is settled. So settled in fact that I have already found a new dentist.

About an hour later, the dentist himself calls. Insists his computer system says I was called multiple times and sent multiple notices. I said I got no calls, no notices. He “doesn’t know what to tell me”. I make the point that I answered his call on the first or second ring without even recognising the number being from him. “Multiple calls”, then, just doesn’t wash because my number hasn’t changed. “We can still fix this”, he says. “As far as I am concerned, it’s already fixed. When the insurance company’s cheque comes through, the collections agency will get it”, I tell him.

I don’t understand … how can someone say they called me when they didn’t? I understand things get lost in the mail so I am not even going to fault them on that. But to say they called me when I’ve had NO calls at ALL? And believe me, I know that people “say” they get no calls all the time. Considering our history, though, it just doesn’t wash. I think I have proven myself to not be “that person”.

I think by the time I was done with Dr. Adams, “Amy” was out of a job.

The most ridiculous part of this drama? A day later, there is a bill from Dr. Adams’ office in my mailbox and for even more money. Ha! Not a chance, bud!

The best part of this drama? The second person I dealt with at the collections agency goes, “Hi Camille. This is also Laura; because we know you can’t have just one Laura in your life. We have two of everybody here.” That made me laugh.

(By the way: I make no attempt to protect the name of anyone in the dentist’s office in this missive. They have earned neither my protection nor my respect. This is not how you deal with established patients/customers.)

Perspective is a helluva thing (or ‘Why I think Apple is still awesome.’)

“It’s the WAY you look at a thing, not whether you look and not how it looks.”

Cyber bullying

This image prompted me to do some thinking this morning. Which isn’t odd since I wake up thinking and go to bed thinking anyway. But this one struck a chord that resounded and rebounded and stretched itself so that it could fit into any number of other topical issues.

The concept won’t be immediately obvious to anyone who isn’t in the IT industry, nor will it be obvious to anyone who wasn’t building and working with PCs in the years up to 2006  when the first Intel iMac appeared.

I was building my own PCs in the 90s and early 2000s. I was buying the parts, assembling them, and installing operating systems and software programs back then so I know first hand why Apple is “awesome”. And it’s not because any one Apple machine is awesome in itself, but because what Apple did to the PC in 2006 made using PCs easy.

For those of us who were building PCs back then, it was never about the best components you can assemble in a machine. Nor was it about the best operating system to be had on a machine. It was all about how well the components and the operating system worked together in a machine so that you spent less time fixing shit and more time using it instead. I spent a lot of time fixing shit – drivers that didn’t work properly, power supplies that were inadequate, operating systems that were buggy… it was a nightmare for me because I got to the point where all I wanted to do was be able to just use the damn thing without the constant headache of fixing shit.

Apple was the first company to produce a machine that “just worked” out of the box. Apple is still the only company that produces a complete package that “just works” out of the box.

Context is everything.

There is no doubt that better hardware exists out there. It always has. There is no doubt that components work far better together in a self-assembled PC than they ever had. And there is no doubt that the software developers are now producing better capable software than they ever had. Those are all a given. But none of them produce, in and of themselves, a system that “just works” right out of the box. They all still need one another to make a system that works. All PCs still need an operating system from some other company to work. And all operating system developers need hardware produced by someone else to work.

The point is that Apple doesn’t produce the best hardware, nor does it produce the best operating system or application software. But it still is the only company to produce them all from within itself, while adhering to standards that are more than adequate for the average user.

Context is everything. So when you tell me that “too bad Apple knows that a few PCs are just behind them”, I scoff at that because it’s nonsense. Apple was never trying to be the best hardware or software. What they were trying to do, and are still achieving in my book, is the perfect symmetrical marriage of hardware and software.

If I want an ultimate gaming rig, I know I can build a better one than the iMac that I have. But I don’t have to and that’s what matters.

 

Gun control = extreme constitutional violation? Yeah – right.

DISCLAIMER: rampant political incorrectness and blatant tongue-pulling ahead. I am ranting. I am being ridiculous. I am sarcastically advocating for extremes that might be offensive. Proceed with caution!

Continue reading Gun control = extreme constitutional violation? Yeah – right.