Posted by happycrow on August 30, 2015
Posted by happycrow on August 21, 2015
Posted by happycrow on August 16, 2015
Students with any kind of athletic background will find performing the basic cuts to be easy. The problem for them is not that the cuts are difficult, but that they will be perceived as too boring to practice. These students will believe that they have mastered basic cutting when they have not.
An alternate problem happens when a student has no athleticism upon which to draw. Some students will not have engaged in “watch a movement mimic a movement” behavior since they learned to mimic their parents’ gaits as small children. It is very important that these students not be left behind while other students are being held back until they can actually perform the cuts that they think they are performing.
This challenge should not be under-estimated: many individuals go through life not actually knowing where their bodies are in space. If introduced to the joy of elegant movement, these students will often turn out to enjoy practice immensely, and to practice more diligently than their supposedly more-gifted peers.
Here is an alternate method for teaching the basic cuts and moulinets.
- The fencer holds the sabre forward, with the point high and to the right. The student then makes Cut 1. The instructor takes care to make sure that the cut is perfectly linear and does not wobble.
- Once the blade reaches the end of the cut, the blade should be pointing down and to the left. The student flips the blade over, and makes Cut 4, bringing it back to the original position. The instructor coaches the student to keep the cut purely linear, retracing the line of Cut 1.
The process is inverted for Cuts 2 and 3.
Though the classic targets of Cut 3 and Cut 4 are to the inner thigh, in this case, the student is made to perform the cuts at a higher angle so that he learns how to recognize the location of his limbs in space, and how to regulate his movements. Usually the student will need to look at a target, thinking of bringing Cut 1 down into the joint of the neck and shoulder, and out of the ribs under the armpit, and vice versa for Cut 4.
Once the student has a reasonably-firm grasp of how to regulate his arm’s movement in space, keeping his cuts on the proper angle, you can introduce moulinets. At this point the student is very likely to be frustrated because this cutting method fights the weight of the sabre, rather than using it to advantage. This is especially a problem for students who have never been graceful or physically powerful who are likely to wear out quickly.
We teach remedial moulinets as follows:
- Have the student start with the sabre forward, and make Cut 1. The student then proceeds to make Cut 2, repositioning the blade in order to be certain the angle is right.
- The instructor has the student make Cut 1 again.
- The instructor, standing closely behind the student, then physically assists the student in making a moulinet from Cut 1 to Cut 1, taking care to help the student feel the power generated by the moulinet.
- The instructor helps the student moulinet Cut 1 and Cut 2 while another student parries, making sure that the student can feel the cuts change from somewhat-awkward “line movement” to feeling more like hammer blows.
The moulinet is introduced to this student not as a way of transitioning between angles of attack, but as a way of gaining power in order to make an attack. This will allow even the smallest, weakest, and clumsiest of students to throw powerful cuts within a session or two. The instructor physically assists the student in making these cuts so that the student can get a “body memory” of what the correct motion feels like.
Once the student has reached the stage where the basics of the cut can be performed, he or she can join the other students in practicing cut angles and blade alignment.
Common recurring problems and simple solutions: it is helpful to have raw materials for same handy.
|Student cannot distinguish edge from flat||Provide student with wide cardboard sword/sabre to improve tactile awareness of edge alignment.|
|Student cuts a low horizontal and then up rather than making a rising diagonal cut||Student has allowed cutting-hand hip to drift forward out of a correct On Guard position, affecting motion of lead shoulder.|
|Student shortens the cut, tightening the bicep||Tie fabric gently around the elbow, providing the student tactile feedback.|
Posted by happycrow on July 20, 2015
Once your opponent has come to close quarters and both of you are attempting to gain advantage over the other, it is very common for beginning fencers to lapse into a pattern of “take an action, return to guard, take an action, return to guard.” This “act then reset then act” pattern is unavoidable when one is first learning how to put the various pieces of fencing together, but it’s hugely counterproductive when actually fencing. We want to take an action, and then continue taking action until we win the encounter.
A solution to this is counter-cutting, using attack as offense. We counter-cut specifically because many times our opponent will launch an attack when we are not on guard, and our blade is positioned somewhere else. The point to counter-cutting isn’t simply not to get hit – we do not counter-cut simply to ward off the opponent’s blade! Instead, just like our basic parries, our counter-cuts are intended help us achieve a point of advantage.
Counter-cutting achieves one of two things:
- Stopping the attack by striking the opponent
- Redirecting the opponent’s attack so that the attacker is left vulnerable
Here are various examples of ways which we can counter-cut:
|Cuts 1||Cuts 1 at opponent’s hand|
|Cuts 2||Cuts 2 at opponent’s forearm|
|Cuts 3||Cuts 2 at opponent’s wrist|
|Cuts 4||Cuts 4 at opponent’s wrist|
|Cuts 1||Cuts 2 and thrusts|
|Cuts 2||Cuts 1 and thrusts|
|Cuts 3||Cuts 4 and thrusts|
|Cuts 4||Cuts 3 and thrusts|
And so on. This is by no means exhaustive – for a fully-developed list of examples, see the synoptic tables at the end of the manual.
In the first examples, we are not simply standing still while attempting to cut the opponent. We are moving our body so that we redefine the geometry of the engagement (just like we do with basic parries), while cutting in such a way that even if we do not stop the blow outright, we deflect it onto an angle where it will not hurt us.
In the second four examples, we use the curve of the sabre to our advantage by cutting into the side of the opponent’s blade and pushing it past us. To finish the action by thrusting into the opponent, all we need to do is return to On Guard, and the fighting geometry places the thrust for us.
What our system will never do is to assume that a counter-cut will stop the opponent. For instance, our method explicitly defends the legs, whereas most systems either ignore the legs, or treat it as an invitation, “refusing the leg” by stepping backwards while striking at the opponent’s head. This is fine for a sporting bout where the action is stopped on a hit. But what if the blow does not stop the opponent? What if it misses, or the blow simply lands flat out of sheer bad luck? What if fighting has dulled our blade, or his hat stops the blow? Numerous historical cases exist where an opponent was struck several times in the head without being stopped. In this case, nothing stops the opponent from simply continuing his attack with a thrust into our torso. By actively protecting the leg, we ensure that this doesn’t happen.
Posted by happycrow on July 20, 2015
Nota Bene: experienced fencers will see many holes in what is presented here. This is unavoidable – the following blog post is for the benefit of neophyte students at Great Plains Sword and BBQ who are still learning what a cut is (that is not a joke) and how to perform a basic block correctly.
Cuts are always numbered from the point of view of the person making the cut, not the point of view of the defender.
For the most basic exercise, we consider attacks like this:
- Descending forehand cut (to upper-body target)
- Descending backhand cut (to upper-body target)
- Rising forehand cut (to lower-body target)
- Rising backhand cut (to lower-body target)
The system considers “horizontal” cuts ( those which are neither rising nor falling) to be crude attacks which are easily defended against, and will be treated as a forehand or backhand blow more or less depending on the height at which the blow is thrown. Thus, a high horizontal forehand cut will be considered semantically equal to a Cut 1. (Note that this assumes similar “handedness.” A right-hander fencing a left-hander must treat forehand as backhand, and vice versa)
The system not having its origins in English, it does not distinguish between “blocks” and “parries,” though for convenience I will usually refer to a “block” collectively as defenses which stops the blade, whereas the word “parry” will not carry connotations of either “hardness” or “softness.” The word in this context is simply synonymous with “defense.”
|Cut 1||Parry 1|
|Cut 2||Parry 2|
|Cut 3||Parry 3|
|Cut 4||Parry 4|
There are numerous subtleties to making the blocks which need to be explained:
- The body turns, typically no more than a maximum of thirty degrees from the centerline, in order to get the blade lined up with the angle of the attack.
- The hand turns the blade to create a 90 degree angle between the incoming blade and the parrying blade, while the arm rises or falls as needed to create contact. (Against a horizontal cut, the defender will not bother to ensure a 90-degree cut, because the attack angle does not require it – in this case the defender will simply ensure that the defense locks the incoming cut to the outside where it cannot be readily converted into either a thrust or a continued cut on a different angle).
- The blade is held in the center of the body, and the arm never drifts left or right of the defender’s center line in order to block or parry. For parries 1 and 2 the point is up, for parries 3 and 4 the point is down. In parries 1 and 2 the forward point of the blade forms a ramp which deflects incoming blades.
- The shock of the incoming blow is received on the blade and absorbed by the weight of the body, rather than using grip or shoulder strength to keep the parrying blade stable on impact.
Parries such as this are used in order to help the defender dictate a fighting geometry where the location of the opponent’s weapon is known. By doing this, the defender does two very important things:
- Removes the “guessing-game”
- Establishes superior positioning so that a riposte is always successful
The basic riposte will usually be whatever cut, thrust, or other action is required in order to return to guard, with the fighting geometry altered so that doing so puts the weapon through the opponent. There are edge cases. What if the blow is thrown at the midsection? In this case, we parry depending on the origin and angle of the cut. For the “Basic Model” here, most rising cuts will still be met with parries 3 and 4, and most descending cuts will still be met with parries 1 and 2.
This is the first, base level that a student of the sabre should master. This is not sophisticated fencing. That said, if the student is able ONLY to reliably parry incoming blows while setting up favorable fight geometry, mastering this basic skill will make the fencer a credible opponent who can hold his or her own against a more experienced opponent — and have a decided advantage over a peer-level opponent who has wasted time building castles of elaborate parries and athleticism on a foundation of sand.
Posted by happycrow on July 17, 2015
I hear a lot of rhetoric from the political right looking at the Middle East saying “Iran is the problem.”
That’s horrifyingly shallow thinking.
You can’t simply say “Iran is the problem” and posit that as an argument. It’s facile and unproductive. If “Iran is the problem,” what’s the solution? Erasing Iran from the map? That’s a non-starter and should especially be a non-starter for people who are supposedly looking at the region through a lens of human rights.
(Nota Bene, political left: you guys still support the mustachio-twirling, truly evil thugs known as Hamas, so don’t start strutting too hard. Your shit stinks, too.)
Iraq and Syria survive on paper, but in everyday practical life they are both dead and gone. The Sykes-Picot treaty needs to be allowed to die formally so that the Sunni tribes currently under ISIS’ thumb have some alternative which can support their needs and interests. Currently they have none.
Let’s look at some of the facts on the ground:
- S1. An Alawite rump state is probably guaranteed no matter what happens, due to Russian and Iranian support and the desire to avoid the unpleasant spectacle which will occur if said rump state is forced into minority status in a larger Syria without having lots of guns (i.e., lots of Sunni extremists murdering lots of moderate Alawites).
- S2. Given the opportunity, Al Nusra will behave very badly. If ISIS’ Evil Quotient is roughly one Mega-Nazi, then Al Nusra is definitely in the 600-700 kilonazi range. They probably won’t shoot little children in the head for needing to eat during Ramadan, like ISIS does… probably.
- S3. The Druze don’t want to be run by sunni tribes, but they’ll back the strong horse, because that’s how they survive. They may or may not be a somewhat-competent buffer state for Israel (a Saudi ally) to feel secure.
- S4. The Syrian moderates who were legitimate pro-democracy protestors are dead and gone as viable actors. We had our chance to give these people meaningful support. We blew it, nobody credible considers them resurrectable, let alone a player.
- I1. The Kurds don’t want to be run by anybody but themselves, but they’re going slowly so as not to get Turkey and Iran both upset. With their long border, they potentially make an admirable buffer-state for Iran. Diplomatic exchanges are happening, albeit slowly and painfully.
- I2. The Sunni tribes are under ISIS’ thumb, aided and abetted by Erdogan’s hilariously brazen support for ISIS. Turkey can’t create a Sunni secession movement because of their fear of the Kurds…currently. They could in theory go along with supporting something which allowed S-P to go away so long as it guaranteed Turkish territorial integrity. Currently, said Sunni tribes have nobody to go to and nobody to support them.
- I3. The Saudis aren’t our friends any more than the IRGC is (c.f. S2 above), and engage in just as much anti-Shia murder as the Iranians do in reverse. (Arguably the Saudis are actually America’s biggest geopolitical foe, more dangerous than Russia, Iran, and China combined, but that’s an argument for another post). They will, however, back the formation of a Novo Syria so long as they had some ability to shape affairs, and would likely agree to arm them as well.
- I4. The Iraqi Shia have well-established and entirely legitimate reasons both to fear Saudi influence and oppose any return of the Sunnis to political power, and it is entirely legitimate for them to perceive themselves in the victim role to consider Iran by far the lesser of the various evils with which they have to deal. Some of the militias are extremist sectarian groups, but they came into existence for very good reason.
- I5. South-Central Iraq is still fundamentally a tribal society in which power will go to clan and sectarian interests rather than be distributed based on anything recognizable as a classical liberal state in Western terms. This is also true in Kurdistan, but to a lesser extent.
- I6. It is very expensive for the IRGC to continue fighting ISIS, and lots of Iranians are fed up with money being spent to support foreign-policy ventures when the economy at home is in pretty dire straits (some but by no means all of which can be attributed to international sanctions). Iranians are, however, deeply upset about Sunni terrorists constantly blowing up Shia mosques and bombing Shia civilians — and they are right to be. American conservatives who lash out at Iran for supporting terrorism while turning a blind eye to Saudi Arabia’s support for sectarian mass-murder are on the wrong side of history and behaving like world-class hypocrites.
Given this, the only humane solution which makes any sense is to let Sykes-Picot go away, and to create a state which gives the various Sunni tribes in present-day Syria and Iraq some option other than getting run over and slowly tortured to death by ISIS. Convincing Iran that it is in their best interests to allow this, and convincing the Saudis to stop aiding and abetting the mass-murder of Shia, is thorny and difficult. There are questions that would have to be considered carefully by all the local political actors in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey, and Iran.
But peace without some state to create security and local representation is impossible. It’s the Thirty Years’ War all over again, ending only when all sides are so exhausted that even the Russians no longer have any Dagestani salafists to sling into the fight.
With a new state, security and peace, no matter how difficult, is possible.
Now if only we had some actual diplomats skilled in “the art of the possible.”
Posted by happycrow on July 8, 2015
So we’ve seen in class that in this lineage, we cut on an X pattern, targeting the base of the neck, the flank, and the inner thigh.
Cuts 1 and 2 are falling cuts. Cuts 3 and 4 are rising cuts. Odd numbered cuts are always fore-hand cuts, and even cuts are always backhand cuts. We practice lateral cuts forehand and backhand during warm-ups, but we don’t make extensive use of them in solo drills. The basic practice, then, is to begin to combine them in ways which are efficient and elegant.
Elegant: a movement is “elegant” when it produces the greatest possible motion for the least possible strain. Whether an elegant motion is restrained and delicate, or bone-crushingly powerful, it feels effortless. Strain or “muscling” is always a sign of bad technique or improper practice.
How does one elegantly cut 1,2: 1,2: 1,2 over and over? We make this happen by making Cut 1, and then inserting a “connector” movement. This connector-piece, in combination with the originating and following cut, is traditionally called a moulinet or molinello. We will break this down into discrete parts, rather than relying on “hope” for you to magically possess enough body awareness that you do it correctly by accident, and then recognize that accidental victory as correct.
Most students get told to do many, many repetitions of their cuts and moulinets, but without being told explicitly what it is they are supposed to be repeating. And then we, as instructors, have the gall to actually be surprised when students stop practicing because it’s harder than it needs to be and the perceived cost/benefit ratio of training goes pear-shaped for the now hopelessly-frustrated student who has just picked up a repetitive strain injury “efforting” like mad in order to try to learn.
And then we blame the student, rather than ourselves for having provided shit-quality instruction.
It’s also tragic, because one of the truly glorious things about the system which we’ve inherited is that unlike other systems of fencing, every single advanced technique we use can be expressed as a variation on our basic cutting practice and moulinets. The only difference between those who develop great skill in this lineage, and those who don’t is a willingness to perform these drills while exploring what the movements are and how they can be turned into applied geometry while fencing. I have not been back to Hungary in ten years, but on my last visit I routinely out-fenced students with far greater athleticism, and I did so precisely because I paid very close attention to the basic drills of the lineage rather than cranking them out mechanically and then “looking for the sexy stuff.” Csaba was already teaching us the sexy stuff — most of us just hadn’t realized it for lack of mindfulness when practicing.
Most students instinctively know how to cut 3,4: 3,4: 3,4. The turn of the blade required from forehand rising cut to backhand rising cut is immediately intuitive because the elbow drops at the end of the cut, and we like living in gravity where dropping our elbows isn’t actually work.
Students regularly have trouble with the “connector-piece” transitional movement of 1 and 2, however.
- To moulinet from cut 1 to cut 2, you do the following:
Make Cut 1.
- Flip the blade over so that instead of having the cutting edge leading the motion, the blade is now reversed, and the point is furthest from the body. When this is done, you should feel the movement in your shoulder, and you should feel the muscles and skin in your arm move as the forearm bones flip over. You should not, however, feel strain in your shoulder, or feel your elbow “jump” upwards. If this happen, your shoulders and arms are too tight, and you need to pay extra attention to your limbering-up exercises.
- Your elbow is now in a low position, and depending on your body shape and the precise angle of the cut, it should be somewhere vaguely as high as your navel or lower stomach. Raise the elbow until it is higher than your head. As your elbow came up, your hand went along for the ride, too, and your weapon is now raised from its previously lowered position.
- Allow the point to fall behind the plane of your shoulder as your elbow lifts.
- Make Cut 2.
The process for transitioning from Cut 2 to Cut 1 is precisely the same. Some notes:
All blade movements come from the torso and shoulders, and the many large muscles surrounding the shoulders.
Remember, beginning practice requires BIG movements. Later on, you will likely not need to raise the elbow anywhere near so high while making the cut transitions — but nothing can replace having gradually molded your body so that you can do so.
- You are holding your weapon in either your left or your right hand. Therefore, the experience of moving your weapon through the moulinet/molinello is asymmetric — you should expect this, and pay attention to this.
- The connector-piece of the moulinet is movement. It takes time. In fact, it takes about as much time as is required to make the cut itself. Pay attention to the timing of that — it will become very important once we actually practice cutting and moving our feet at the same time. You cannot speed up your cuts by taking short-cuts with the quality of this transitional movement.
- Minor creaking and cracking in the shoulder is normal, as the joint is taken through ranges of motion that ordinarily don’t get used driving a desk. PAIN in the shoulder is not, and needs to be addressed.
- “Work through” bruising and muscle fatigue. Never work through joint pain. We are not professional soldiers or warriors who require these skills in combat and for whom a debilitating injury in the long term is an acceptable trade-off for immediate or short-term survival.
- Practice will convert this from a very clunky, angular set of motions, into something that is fluid, elegant, and even fun to perform. It will also improve the health of your joints while providing very mild aerobic exercise.
- The transitional movements unlock a thousand dirty tricks, many of which your opponents will never have seen before, and against which they have no real defense so long as the rest of your techniques are performed correctly.
- If it hurts, walk away. Do something else. Come back to it a half-hour later.
- Ten really attentive, playful, mindful repetitions done carefully over the course of a week creates greater skill than a thousand repetitions done mechanically while resenting the need to practice, with the brain off in lala-land of “I hate this can we stop soon.”
Once you have the movement fluid, you can start to really play with this and turn it into something you own. Once you actually own it, you’ll get the ability to start doing amazing and wonderful things with a blade. ANY blade, long, short, straight, or curved.
Posted by happycrow on June 3, 2015
Posted by happycrow on May 30, 2015
This is very lightly altered from what I was taught by Hidan Csaba. Though the exercises seem rather fuddy-duddy and unfashionable, if one pays careful attention to them mechanically, one sees that they’re actually very intelligently designed for helping to liberate and protect the joints. If a person who is a total physical wreck were to do these twice a week, and then gradually shift to doing them daily, they will do wonders to liberate the body.
- Standing in (roughly a) horse stance, twist body to swing the arms behind you. As taught to me, palms are down in mid-air, and go back and forth as though zipping along the top of a table – no twisting the arms or flapping them upwards or downwards.
- Raise knee into air as high as comfortably manageable. With sole of foot pointing to ground (“foot flat”), rotate foot in circle clockwise 20x, counter-clockwise 20x. Repeat with other knee.
- Holding the arms out to the sides and held straight, circle the shoulders in clockwise, then counter-clockwise circles. This is sometimes done ten times, sometimes twenty.
- This is my addition, because unlike students, most older adults are cubicle-farmers and are predictably over-tight in the chest (many times, what people cite as back pain, is back pain — happening because the problem is in the chest). Variations of it are all over the martial arts world. Raise the hands up your center-line, and then fan them out like wings as far behind the plane of your body as you can go. Feel free to round the back during the arm raise, and round open and lift up the chest during the “wing spread.” Ladies, the chest raise corresponds exactly to “sticking your tits out,” and do not be afraid to do so. This exercise will loosen the chest in general and eventually help to loosen the ribs around the sternum, which is frequently tight on strong men and on women with large chests, due to the simple amount of weight hanging on the front of the torso.
- Keeping your elbow to your side by having your opposite hand hold your bicep, make a circle in front of you with your body. If you pay close attention to your shoulder, you will feel it moving in the socket, which we want. Most of us who work on keyboards have our palms turned down during much of the day, tightening the tendons connecting the front of our shoulders and our chests (this is not quite anatomically accurate, but is easily felt by having a partner hold soft hands on the front of your shoulder while doing the exercise).
- In the same position, make circles with the wrists. I tend to do this one sparingly, since it can tire the fore-arm and can be a real problem for those with tennis elbow, but the lion’s share of your focus should not be on strengthening your wrist, but rather on loosening it, so that it will be supple enough to perform false-edge techniques later.
- Supplemental to this, would be taking your hands palm up, and extending them as far to the side as your shoulder rotates without shrugging, while the elbows remain pinned to your side, and then extending the hands outward, the elbows moving as if on a track. Hold the hands as it stretching out from the fingers, which should otherwise be straight but not stiff. This is a variation on a well-known ballet exercise and has parallels in the internal martial arts. The first part of it is a stretch strongly recommended by my colleague Jim Fesler, who is a highly-skilled body-worker; the latter is my own variation. it is not part of the traditional exercises as I learned them.
- From a rough horse-stance, rock the pelvis forward and back several times, as if hula-hooping, and then in circles in either direction, as if hula-hooping badly. Teenage males may insert their own commentary.
- Either rotate the head in circles, or else shift it side to side. The shoulders and spine should not move in an exaggerated way, but should be allowed to rearrange itself so that the motion happens inside the entire body rather than being focused on any one vertebra. I tend to do this as a side-to-side exercise. Hidan Csaba did it both ways, sometimes in the same practice, sometimes apparently as a variation.
- Holding the hands together, palms and forearms together and fingertips forward, flap the wrists so that the hands go from side to side.
Posted by happycrow on May 27, 2015
Trigger Warning: May horrify philosophy freshmen who still think Plato’s Divided Line is the coolest thing ever.
I have noticed, in my many short years on this mudball, that there is a certain kind of argument which indicates THIS:
Warning! This person has issues and entering into a discussion/argument with this person will only make you frustrated and them unhappy. Warning: do not engage.
Wow, Happycrow! Is it because they’re a conservative?
Now you’re just trolling.
You wrote this!
Yes, sometimes I even troll myself. It’s what happens when you dedicate yourself to the study of dangerous assumptions.
You’re stuck up.
Yes. I’m opining via a blog, at the world. You’re just now figuring this out?
They’re getting bored.
So here’s the Yardstick.
If a person takes Event or Factoid A and says “This is illustrative of Societally-Overarching Issue 1-1A,” this is an unhappy person who is seeking validation that He or She is One of The Good People.
You cannot engage with this person. The fundamental reason the argument has been made is not an Intellectual Inquiry into the Legitimacy or the Causes of Phenomenon 1-1A. The argument has been made because the person in question is seeking an answer to the fundamental question “why am I unhappy?” People who do this have chosen not to look at the world around them and learn from what happy people do — instead, they have chosen to pin their unhappiness on abstract phenomena tied to the vices and failures of Other People. As soon as you pile in against the “specific occurence proves Abstract Phenomenon,” all you’re doing is refusing to validate them. At best, you will wind up with an endless series of No True Scotsmen arguments, as said person desperately tries to justify their worldview in order to support themselves emotionally.
At worst, you just lost your friend or acquaintance by labelling yourself as “that asshole who doesn’t get it and is so mean.”
And it’s your fault. YOU chose to raise an issue without paying attention to the context in which it was happening. You made a dangerous assumption, and now you’re upset because, well…it burns. And nothing you say will help you with this person now, because this person just decided “you’ve upset me by pulling off the One Band-Aid allowing me to salvage my sense of self-worth, so you are Bad People.”
You know the sort — the holier-than-thou do this regularly. Doesn’t matter whether it’s Holier-Than-Thou, religious flavor(tm), or Holier-Than-Thou, Atheist Flavor(tm). Holier Than Though, Total Bae Social Justice Warrior Flavor(tm), or Holier Than Thou, The Un-biblical Suck And I Must Therefore Sue The Gays, Yes All of Them Flavor(tm).
The behavior is, at its core, a defense mechanism, no matter what Socio-Political Sauce you pour on it.
You can tell this because the person you’re looking at is pissed off at abstract people. Like the Klan Bigot who can’t stand black people — unless it’s Bob. Bob’s okay. For a black guy. In fact, he helped with my AC last week. Why can’t All Those Black People be just like Bob?
As soon as you hear “all those” or any flavor of similar abstraction – men, women, christians, muslims, atheists, all those category-words, you know what you’re dealing with.
In fact, you should pretty much beware of plurals in general.
Abstract People don’t do anything. They can’t, because Abstract People don’t exist. Abstract People don’t sin. They don’t grab your butt. They don’t hurt other Abstract People. Abstract Phenomena don’t exist. If you were hurt by an Abstract Person or an Abstract Phenomenon, you were hurt by a ghost. (In the example above, Bob wasn’t hurt by “racism.” Bob was hurt by Fred, who’s being a bigot).
A person who is angry with Abstract People is a person who is haunted by ghosts. And a person only devotes the energy to allow a haunting because they’re tormented with their own failures and frustrations.
There are only two things you can do for people like this.
- Be sympathetic. Some people suffer because they choose to. Others have honest-to-goodness Shitty Things happening to them.
- Do something to help them have a nicer day.
If, for any reason, distance, time, or social context won’t allow you to do one of those things, leave them alone!
When you see a suffering person, your goal shouldn’t be to argue with them. You can’t help them. They’re not in a head-space where they are in a position to care about, let alone learn from, an intellectual argument. Your goal should be to either help them out, or stand aside.
They, and only they, will decide when they’re ready for emotional antibiotics and weight-lifting.
Posted by happycrow on May 12, 2015
Here at Chez Happycrow, we HATE mowing grass. Even with a scythe, which is a valuable source of must-needed exercise for a guy who used to walk everywhere and do martial arts four or five days a week, and now drives a cubicle and a car.
So we’re doing legacy roses, grape arbors, crape myrtles, and bamboo.
- Legacy roses are awesome. And, mostly unkillable.
- Bamboo is awesome. And, mostly unkillable.
- Grapes are awesome. And once established, mostly unkillable.
- Crape Myrtles are awesome. And once established, mostly unkillable.
Sense a theme? This is “jungle rules” gardening. Put in four invasive, aggressive, hard-to-kill plants that you like. Let them duke it out. Here’s just the roses and some of the young bamboo culms. I’ll follow up later in the summer with the crapes once they’re blooming out.
Down the road, the legacy roses here will get their old canes trimmed out, and pegged up high on the bamboo, which will act as living scaffolding in order to create arbors you can walk in and under. Right now, our roses stop traffic on our little street… if it comes off as hoped, in three or four years we’re hoping that they’ll bring traffic to our street.
Posted by happycrow on April 30, 2015
Stross’ term “accelerando,” defined in scifi-land, is not quite the same thing as the “Singularity.” It is movement towards a technological Singularity, but it’s not specifically one.
The future will be better. It will, actually, be MUCH better. Malthusians like Keynes and Ehlich were wrong. But as with any change or dislocation, there are going to be bumps along the way. Change is happening, change is real, and the vast majority of humanity is living in a world it no longer actually comprehends.
Let’s look at some examples:
- (Re-)Globalization: Globalized trade is nothing new — it’s just new to Baby Boomers and their parents, who spent most of their formative years without it due to unusual historical circumstances. BUT, the globalization of intellectual capital is new. Culture now counts more than raw materials for economic success, and culture can be readily adopted and transplanted.
- The Death of Sclerotic Institution: Transparency now allows society to comment on things it wouldn’t even have known about even in the 1990s when the Internet became quite common. Institutions are being subjected to far greater critique than before, and in very many cases, being found to be profoundly lacking. In the 1990s, if you ranted about what a bunch of idiots Central Bankers are in their attempts to dictate entire economies, you were a conspiracy-theorist nut (or a very well-informed insider). Today, it means you have access to the Internet and/or cable t.v.
- The Death of the Gatekeeper: empowered people are now able to bypass institutions for much of their goals. This has been one of the primary themes of this blog and many others. I can raise vast capital without a bank. I can publish thousands of pages of text, without a publisher. Rent-seekers and gate-keepers are in a panic about this.
- Tyranny of the Algorithm: if your job can be reduced to a rules-based procedure, your job will soon no longer exist. The only jobs which will exist moving forwards into the future are those which require problem solving, or those which create intangible value which cannot be produced by going from A to B to C. This was always the case for brute labor and automation (the sewing machine is crude but quite legitimate example of automation!), but it’s not fully expressing itself in the intellectual occupations. If you’re a button-sorter or bottle-washer functionary, your livelihood is going away, whether your field is fast-food pharmacy tech, or patent law.
- The Death of “Cool” and of Social Conformity: Yes. “Cool” is a measure of conformity. Always has been, even, and especially, when it came to “conforming to a standard of non-conformity.” Align with the taste-makers, and you were cool. Fall out of it, you’re not. “Geek Culture,” in this case defined as “I’m really into this thing that I’m into, and I don’t feel the need to be apologetic to you, the taste-maker or social scold, because of that” is now ascendant.
- Rapid Human Evolution(!!): The Pill, Combined with ready access to abortion, is creating an immediately-documentable example of Punctuated Equilibrium in our lifetimes. Simply acting upon a sex drive no longer guarantees childbirth. It’s optional, even for the poorest of the poor. While some decry an Idiocracy-Like future where the well-educated fail to breed and out-of-control nimrods breed like rabbits, that doesn’t seem to be the case. What IS the case, is that literally millions of people are choosing, voluntarily, to go extinct rather than suffer inconvenience to their modern lives, and in the process, they are not passing either their genes or their values to the next generations. Within the next sixty years there will be, statistically speaking, no children born to anybody who did not want kids. Society at large is passing from a contemporary adult-friendly/child-hostile paradigm with rapidly-dropping birthrates, to a pro-child social stance which will, in the long term, see them recover.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
So when your talking bobblehead on the news tries to explain “issues” to you… remember, they don’t have any more of a clue than you do. And by having an investment in an older paradigm, there’s a good chance they have less of a clue.
Posted by happycrow on April 30, 2015
I’d have never known about this — I don’t have a t.v. — except I happened to be over at a friend’s house playing Cards Against Humanity (waaaaaat, I did back Exploding Kittens, but it isn’t out yet, deal with it), and they had the half-hour infomercial about Jenner on.
I give ABC props for trying. There was a lot of weird hangups, like the stunned disbelief that Jenner can be transsexual and Republican. (What, didn’t you know that gender defines everything?) But they missed the big elephants in the room. And there’s two of them.
This is a more serious post, so no snarky pictures. Probably. I’m a jackass; snarking will probably still sneak in around the edges. Also, this is a really complicated topic about which people can and have written not just books, but volumes. So inevitably things are going to be overlooked.
I see it like this: the average person doesn’t think much. And certainly not rigorously. This is not an insult — most of the things we do on a given day, even supposedly “Brain Things,” don’t actually need much thought – accreted skills and habits and pattern recognition are good enough, and that’s more efficient than sitting down from abstract first principles to reason things out. Most of the time when we believe that we’re thinking, we’re actually just reacting anyway, as data (x) is shoved through pattern recognition filter (y), and we somehow come up with an answer to complex questions in less time than it takes to sip coffee, all of which can essentially be boiled down to “Yeah, I like it,” or “No, that’s garbage.”
Did you do that? If I said “Vox Day thinks that homosexuality is a birth defect. Do you agree?” If you already have an answer and you haven’t even finished the next sentence yet, you’re not thinking. You’re reacting. Actual thinking takes more time than that.
Because we’re not computers, and working this way is how we avoid getting eaten by panthers or ingesting rotten food.
And yeah, that’s me, too. So when people are in their clueless teen years as full adults who don’t have the experience to have a really rocking pattern-recognition “Oh, I’ve seen bad people like this before,” or “oh, I’ve seen this before, we can’t go here or I’m going to accidentally hurt this person,” they need rules in order to keep themselves from driving themselves into a ditch.
I hurt people in high school. I know people in college who considered me abusive. I didn’t mean to be. In fact, personality-wise, I was pretty much a hyper-yin doormat from hell. If anything, what I needed to be was more forthright, less circumspect, and more properly aggressive in pursuing my goals, so that people knew where I stood and that I was sincere, rather than seeing circumspection and assuming bad intention. And this stuff happened because me and the people I was with were all clueless and sort of figuring this shit out as we went….. with each other…. recipe for disaster.
(Possibly a good argument for dating out of your age range for a while. Cougars and DOM rejoice.)
And societies at large are not interested in the true fulfillment of its individuals, but rather in whatever situation creates the greatest number of basically well-adjusted children. When societies fail to do this, they go extinct, and are usually taken over by the less “enlightened” who had their evolutionary shit together. Nobody reads Avar poetry any more. Word is, they were kinda rockin people. But… no kids. They’re gone. So we got this evolved set of rules. They don’t always make a lot of sense, they don’t suit all the various flavors of humanity, and sometimes, by creating “forbidden fruit syndrome,” they undermine the basic ideas they were created to ensure.
Now we say “hey, we’ve got the basic rules down, we’re good at this,” and are trying to figure out how to expand it so we can have our cake and eat it, too.
Elephant #1. We do a crappy job at being kid-friendly. Including things like trying to take your kids away for letting them walk home from the playground. Our society gives a lot of lip-service to kids while actually being profoundly hostile to them.
Okay, but that’s not the specific elephant I want to address in Today’s Wall of Text.
Elephant #2: Those of us who think of ourselves as Good People need to find a way to Have Societal Rules That Work For Everybody
So. We have sex. Sex is pretty much binary, with a specific and notable exception:
- (asexual – does not biologically exist, see gender)
- Gender Dysphoric (unknown/grey area: has wiring of A, perceives self as B. Filing under sex rather than gender, see below, because it has zero bearing on object of actual sexual desire)
Right now our society is pretty good with 1) and 2), and horrifyingly bad with #3 and #5.
We also have gender. Gender isn’t sex. Sex is biological, hardwired, predetermined. it is gradually becoming apparent to us, because of science, that gender is also biological, and may or may not be hardwired/predetermined.
This is a truly massive discovery which up-ends centuries of tradition, assuming, for lack of better evidence (because that’s how science works), that behavior is fundamentally a choice thing. And it is. But desire is not. Sexual desire is biological indeed.
Note to man-haters masquerading as feminists: that shoe fits on the other foot, too. Sorry. I’m a straight male, and I’m not attracted to heavy-set gals, let alone morbidly obese ones. I’m just not; it’s a visceral turn-off for me. And no amount of trying to shame and humiliate me by calling me “fat-phobic” is going to change that, any more than chanting at somebody in bad Latin is going to make a gay dude straight. Go find the chubby-chasers. They looooove those extra pounds, and they’ll be happy to let you know it.
So. We have Gender. Gender is all over the map, because if sexual desire has a biological basis, then this gets complicated fast:
- Heterosexual – naturally monogamous/”faithful” (desires ONE member of the opposite sex and could care less about the rest. Requires zero willpower to be monogamous: will never cheat because the concept actually makes no sense to this person)
- Heterosexual – naturally nonmonogamous (desires more than one member of the opposite sex. Maybe one or two people, maybe lots of people. Requires willpower in either mild to “I just can’t get there” quantities to be faithfully monogamous).
- Homosexual – monogamous
- Homosexual – non-monogamous
- Pansexual – (has potential desire for everyone)
- Asexual – (not attracted to anyone, feels no sexual desire at all)
- Pedophilia (a horrifying and tragic dysfunction most of us can’t even mention without instinctual apoplexy. Since kids by definition can’t consent and are therefore not partners, but victims – we have no child-friendly way of handling this and must isolate pedophiles from potential victims)
Then start thinking about actual tastes which drive your desire: preferred build? Big brain vs. Six-Pack Abs? ….and all of a sudden any chance we at Chez Happycrow had of making convenient tree-shaped charts turns into this frenzied bush of lines and confusion and three-dimensional Venn Diagrams and…
Well, shit. That’s why they have whole academic departments devoted to this thing. So, screw that. If we need an academic department to address it, we’ve gone too fine-grained. Let’s back up a step.
As a society, we automatically extend sympathy to Group #1. The members of Groups 2 we mostly extend sympathy to, so long as nobody’s getting their hearts broken or spreading diseases. (Hence the polyamory movement). The people in 3-6 (plus anybody I’ve overlooked) would like a little of that sympathy, too, and don’t think that being in a numerical minority disqualifies them from same.
That strikes me as entirely reasonable.
(Cat7 deserves sympathy, too. Imagine how that has got to suck. But since we’re still talking about a predatory impulse, it gets no mercy. We need to understand how desire works and find a way to reroute it before we can help these folks. But like swapping sex and/or species for a costume party, that belongs to science fiction for now.) Granted, some of the members of Groups 2-6 totally suck. That’s okay. Lots and lots of “normal” straight people suck, too. I’m much, much more concerned about whether somebody rocks, or whether somebody sucks, than about what category they belong to.
So let’s make a compromise:
- This is a new discussion for most of our civilization.
- Lots of us get uncomfortable with this stuff, for various reasons, and we need to grow up and deal with that. — Full disclosure, I’m not immune either. I get the squirms with transsexuals, myself. Not b/c of anything intellectual, and even less for any issue of personal merit, but because I have an unusually strong sense of smell, and they don’t smell right to me. The transsexual woman doesn’t smell like a woman to me, and that disconnect gives me the squeems (smell is visceral and largely subconscious). Yes, people who know Happycrow in real life, I can smell you. Deal with it. Point is, my discomfort should be my problem, not theirs.
- We’re going to screw up while we’re figuring out what rules actually work for everybody.
Let’s extend our natural human sympathies …. to everybody who’s human.
Because if you can’t do that… you suck. And in that case, you’ve got something much more basic to worry about than who sleeps with whom.
Posted by happycrow on April 28, 2015
Wait. What the hell are we smoking here at Happycrow’s Eyeball Factory?
That’s some good shit, right?
Well, actually, we’re not high. And we do mean it.
Free Market Capitalism is Inherently Progressive. The Regulatory State is Inherently Regressive.
Remember a week ago we said that Progressives and Libertarians should be allies? Well, this is why. At our best, both camps fight a long, slow, tooth-and-nail campaign against the Elites who institute policies seemingly designed to exploit and impoverish all who are not the wealthiest, best-connected, and most powerful.
We don’t really have a free-market economy. We have a heavily-regulated one.
Now, the caveat: so long as we have public property, we must have regulations.
So long as we wish to avoid certain kinds of exploitation, we must have regulations. Two easy examples:
1. The Free Market cannot handle public property well, and thus has a very hard time handling pollution issues. So long as we keep up “public property” which nobody owns and can therefore protect legally on their own, environmental regulations are required.
2. Worker’s Comp issues are very, very real.
But these regulations must be few, far between, and light in scope. Otherwise, the hands which are meant to help, strangle instead. Even the two above examples can and have been “weaponized,” because Elites don’t think of laws as rules. Elites think of laws as tools. And not surprisingly, they wield those tools for their own benefit.
Ever notice that the really big environmental advocates in the political class tend to be married to big-time real-estate developers? That’s not an accident. Limiting growth also makes currently-existing developed property more valuable. A LOT more valuable. Every time you hear some politician spouting off about keeping sprawl at bay… follow the money. Chances are, a little chime is singing “cha-ching!” with every new law.
So let’s take this one as it comes.
The Free Market doesn’t do these things. Because by definition, it cannot compel. So a balance needs to be struck. That said, Progressives should understand that they are already champions of the free market. They just… don’t seem to know it yet.
1. Free Markets cannot compel use of services or products. In a free market, you can get a ride on Uber, or a competitor to Uber. You can rent a room with AirBnB, not a statutorily-acceptable, highly-regulated, and therefore more-expensive hotel room.
2. A free market doesn’t allow monopolies. The regulatory state may give a single phone, cable, and internet company a monopoly in an area. Free enterprise gives you choices, and works to undermine monopolies whenever possible. The monopolies fight back by getting politicians to write vast swarms of regulations that are so complex that only big companies and the elites who control them can afford to play the game.
3. The free market does not make innovating illegal. A bewildering amount of regulatory law exists for the sole purpose of using “Safety” as a club with which to make it nearly impossible to come into an industry and try to come up with less expensive ways of doing things. The Construction industry is one of the worst for this. Construction industry meetings all start with safety, and all end with hours of thinking about how to force out competitors from entering into the business.
4. The Free Market doesn’t give a crap who you are. Illegal immigrant? Teen with an awesome idea? It doesn’t care. It cares only about whether the idea is good, and is willing to give that idea a shot at failing or succeeding.
5. The Free Market expands opportunity, and eliminates barriers to entry. Gigantic well-connected, politically powerful too-big-to-fail elite banking behemoth won’t lend you the money you need to start up some really cool idea? Maybe even an idea that’ll never really repay an investor, but which everybody with a soul can look at and say “that’s a really good idea, we should find some way to fund that?”
6. The Free Market is all about cooperation, not just competition. And it mandates that those who want to provide a solution, service, or product keep close to the people they serve. If they don’t…. they’re gone.
Libertarians and Progressives will disagree about how much regulation is needed, and where, and when, and why a given piece of regulation should be repealed. That’s natural. Progressives use the state and are willing to compel behavior; libertarians aren’t. But make no mistake: where the free market is concerned, we’re reading from the exact same page.
Both groups are all about discovering the best ways for us to serve one another.
Posted by happycrow on April 21, 2015