Saturday, February 3, 2007

Loose associations:

When words won’t suffice:

Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck fuck fuck.


Arousal/attribution ad nauseam: Few things demonstrate attachment as much as someone showing up on your blog and spouting epithets: just because they care enough to do so.

The opposite of love is indifference. The opposite of hate is indifference. How can anyone not understand the relationship between love and hate when there are so many divorced couples running around? Are they not paying attention?

Israel: I disagree – Israel does have the right to exist; it just doesn’t have the right to exist in, uhm, Israel. What we should have done: purchased Baja California for our Jewish friends and let them set up shop there. It would’ve benefited both Mexico and “New Israel” economically (and probably socially), and certainly stabilized things in the Middle East.

Besides – wouldn’t you rather live in Baja? It’s not too late – they could start building settlements next week*!

Online relationships: There is no reason to believe they are not just as potent as flesh/blood relationships. Projection vs. perception: These days, I’m in the perception camp. While on the one hand you might think the unidimensional quality of online interaction means the degree of projection going on dramatically increases, it’s possible that much of what’s absent is noise and distraction.

Perception, though, is a tricky thing. I see people rubbing each other the wrong way in a dramatic way, and it’s pretty clearly related to feelings of kinship they wish they didn’t have. See above point on arousal/attribution.

Writing posts: I think writing posts is like catching a wave: timing and momentum are critical. You know how you can feel a post coalescing in the back of your head? You observe something and then it percolates on the backburner for awhile, until suddenly you can smell a fine stew being cooked up.

For me, lately, this has been happening while I’m driving – like, on extended road trips. I’m either going to have to start dictating, however, or cultivate a way of remembering the momentum, along with the ideas. By the time I get around to writing, I’m stuck with a bunch of half-baked concepts and a hollow bewilderment surrounding what, exactly, I had been thinking.

Which is why I haven’t posted anything on Wikifray in a month. And why I’ll be posting this. What’s one more off-topic, I figure?

Switters: I don’t get it. Not the humor, but the critics (and the critics of his defenders). That some find him unfunny: not surprising. The world has never lacked for concrete thinkers of the humor impaired variety. Think Switters unfunny? There’s plenty of room for differences in taste. Think Switters bigoted? That’s just insulting – also insulting to those of us who find him funny (guilt by appreciation?). One might find “The Protocols” funny, if one were of a particularly dark bent, and were able to find that level of paranoia and hate (and the people who promulgate it) funny. If one were to find it funny because of the arguments contained therein were funny, then that might mean something else.

Ghassan apparently doesn’t know how to distinguish the two.

What do you think Mel Brooks was laughing at? Or Vonnegut? They clearly thought something was funny. Are they anti-Semitic?

Online relationships part deux: We seem to be less forgiving of the foibles of people online than IRL. I think it’s easier to treat people badly when you never have to look them in the face. Also, we take a leap of faith when we interpret someone’s behavior. Silly to think some of those leaps aren’t misguided, but where’s the corrective mechanism? In person, I can see whether someone’s apology is accompanied by a frown, or a smirk.

Personal: Got my daughter for today and tomorrow. I took her out for brunch, and was subjected to her characteristic rapid-fire barrage of observations, stories and jokes. [Sample here.] It's always like that - I never tire of it. I marvel we’re genetically related at all. She just came in to share a funny line from her latest teen read; “What is it with you and Jesus: does he, like, turn you on?”

A couple of teens were caught making out in a church basement. “No kissing ‘till you’re eighteen” I say. “No way!” she shouts, so I respond “Fine! Twenty then!” and tickle her. It’s an old joke.

Spanking and abuse: Children, even infants, are incredibly perceptive. The difficulty with enforcing child abuse statutes is that it’s impossible to define abuse in an objective way. When my daughter was five months old, she was subjected to both an upper and lower GI. When my son was a toddler, I tripped while carrying him and he ended up with a mild concussion. The implications for these injuries are far different than if I’d smacked my son on the head with a frying pan, or had forced something up my infant daughter’s anus for purposes of some obscene gratification.

Anti-spanking legislation is just another example of priorities being set out of convenience. Child abuse statutes typically include physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect and emotional maltreatment. You know how hard it is to substantiate a case of emotional maltreatment? In Utah, the only times I saw it happen were when a parent threatened suicide in front of their kid, and one particularly egregious case in which a preschool-aged girl actually began to identify herself using terms like “spoiled little cunt.” The damaging aspect of abuse – all abuse – is in the ephemeral “emotional maltreatment” dimension.

Short answer: parents modulate environmental input in such a way that children are not overwhelmed, and it is this role in which children internalize what they’re receiving as part of identity formation. Think about that for awhile, and then think about the implications of sexual abuse, or neglect (which is far more problematic, identity development-wise, than physical abuse). We learned to take care of ourselves like our parents were taking care of us. Psychopathology is a gift of love given to children by their parents. [Lorna Benjamin, again. That was a great class.]

Spanking, in itself, is not (in my opinion) problematic. From an ethical standpoint, I understand the argument; why should it be acceptable to treat a defenseless child in a manner that would result in criminal charges, if the victim were an adult?

The answer is: Why is it legally acceptable for that surgeon to slice open my abdomen, when the same behavior would land someone else in jail?

Context makes all the difference. I once had to soak a very antisocial guinea-pig’s paw in a mixture of Epsom-water and hydrogen peroxide every day for about a month [long story]. By the time the month was over, we’d bonded. Even that guinea pig got the difference. My kids didn’t like it when I took their Bandaids off, either. That they knew I was doing it as part of caretaking made all the difference.

But some people have an awfully peculiar and problematic take on what constitutes appropriate caretaking. And there’s the rub, isn’t it**?

*If a free-and-clear title to Baja were not an acceptable solution, I would wonder to what degree the concept of Israel’s right to exist had been pure varnish, to gloss over their desire to regain holy ground. This is a different position – one I believe is far less defensible.

**Could be a metaphor for editorial discretion on the Fray.


TenaciousK said...

Alexa-Blue disagrees on the spanking thing on wikifray, provoking another unnecessarily verbose response from me, which I'm cross-posting my response here:

By "changes things," I meant to suggest that the analogy between hitting:spanking and stabbing:surgery is not a good one, for reasons mentioned (corrections noted, but my central thesis remains unchanged).

The analogy wasn’t hitting: spanking. The analogy was physical abuse: spanking and stabbing: surgery. And why wouldn’t it hold? Are you assuming that spanking is invariably undertaken purely as a vehicle for a parent to direct aggression towards their child? If you can accept that some parents believe they are spanking purely for the learning benefit of their child, then why would the analogy not stand?

…anti-spanking laws (must) rely on a similar premise -- that spanking is never in a child's interest (and again differentiating spanking from surgery, since slicing open an abdomen can be beneficial if done well and for the right reason).

In the case of uncertainty, do we err on the side of restricting the behavior of parents, or that of protecting the vulnerable? That seems to be the question, but it already presupposes an adversarial relationship between parents, who presumably are also motivated to protect their kids, and the state (who presumably wants to protect them, though I’d argue those motives aren’t always all that pure, either).

Nobody has effectively proved that spanking isn’t sometimes beneficial if done well, and for the right reason. What they have demonstrated is the equivalent of saying, “We looked at all the people whose abdomens were cut open, and we find that as a group, they fared worse than those whose abdomens were not cut open.” And they’re looking at the child abuse statistics of a socialist country as justification of the efficacy for criminalization – as though all of the social supports in Sweden that are directly mitigating risk of abuse have nothing to do with the difference in prevalence. In this case, there’s an alternative treatment for abdominal problems that doesn’t involve cutting. We don’t have that in the US – should we still outlaw abdominal surgery, do you think?

Now, when it comes to spanking as discipline, I’m ambivalent. I’m ambivalent because I think there are better ways of parenting, but I also know parents who have IQ’s in the low 80’s who aren’t as creative or resourceful as I am, and who usually have children who don’t learn nearly as quickly or as thoroughly as mine. I also am not raising severely disturbed children.

I will say this: you cannot use punishment to teach any complex behavior, ever, anywhere – it just doesn’t work (though people certainly seem determined to keep trying). You can, however, teach avoidant behaviors. If you slap a child’s hands when they play the wrong note on a piano, they will quickly learn to avoid playing the piano. If you spank your child after they just ran into the street yet again, despite your best efforts to keep them from doing so, they may learn to avoid running into the street (though they may also just learn to avoid running into the street when a parent is present). The strongest defense of spanking is that a parent is using it to substitute a milder negative consequence for a far more severe one – from this perspective, entirely consistent with the parent’s role as the person who is serving as the buffer between a child and the environment.

If reliably true, isn't that another argument for intervention?

YES! How does passing this law constitute an intervention?

So the good legislators of the state of California would like to pass a law to outlaw spanking. If they’re successful, they get to go home feeling righteous – like they’ve done something helpful to the at-risk children in their state. What they’ve actually done is provided themselves with a convenient excuse to refrain from doing anything substantive (or expensive), further alienated the people they should be reaching out to (the parents of at-risk kids), and distracting away from the most easily remediable causes of abuse (socioeconomic and social). And they’re justifying this approach by comparing us to a socialist country, where the most at-risk do not face the same intensity of pressure, and they’re pretending it’s due to anti-spanking legislation.

The kids that are the most at-risk are the behaviorally-disordered children of working single mothers, or single mothers who are addicts (or both). The most potent risk factors for abuse are socioeconomic hardship and lack of social supports. These are the kids it’s nearly impossible to find childcare for, because they’re aggressive. And these are the parents who end up with jobs in jeopardy, because they’re stuck continually dealing with crises involving the behavior of their children.

So for those reasons, I think anti-spanking legislation is a terrible idea, promulgated by people who, for whatever reason, are motivated to not look at the root causes of the problem of child abuse.

I don’t think I’ve ever met a parent who could not relate to the emotional extremis that’s a seemingly inextricable aspect of parenting, at times. Now, complicate that by introducing an extremely difficult child, removing a spouse, drastically limiting access to supportive services, introducing economic hardship, and putting the family in a crime-ridden neighborhood. Those are the people who will be most impacted by this legislation – people we’re already doing a piss poor job of helping out.

And who do we leave to enforce this problem? Child protective services – an agency where underpaid and inadequately trained or supported workers are forced to make nearly impossible decisions every day, who are already seeing the far more egregious situations where they are powerless to intervene, who are routinely hung out to dry when things go wrong (which is too often), and who have an average tenure, among new hires, of 6 months. Those who stay are left to collude with a horribly dysfunctional system, in which children are seemingly arbitrarily placed in a foster care that, while usually less overtly abusive, is often more damaging to the child in all the ways that matter the most. And of course anti-spanking legislation will result in more children in foster care; child removal is the teeth behind any child protection legislation.

But we don’t really want to wrestle that tar baby – too messy, difficult, and expensive to fix. It’s much easier and more satisfying to blame parents and pretend we’ve addressed, rather than exacerbated, the problem.

Though you didn’t like my prior analogy, though, consider this one: spanking is to child rearing as criminalization is to parenting. If you really don’t like the top-down, seemingly unempathic, noxious consequence approach for children, why support its use for adults? Surely we can find a better solution than that.

obfuscati said...

the problem with legislators is that ordinary people --- truly representative people --- cannot afford to run for office, except perhaps on a very local level. those who can afford to run for office have so much money that they're completely insulated from the travails of the parents you talk about here. these legislators realy do think they've fulfilled one of their responsibilities to children.

obfuscati said...

unreal relationships.

what percentage of our identities comes out of what goes on in our heads? a lot. what percentage of our communication takes place in words? a lot.

how people can think that a relationship that is conducted at a physical distance and almost entirely through words isn't real is beyond me.

i'd quibble a bit with your use of the adjective unidimensional to describe online relationships, but i like your point about lack of distraction.

obfuscati said...

writing in the car.

dude, miniature voice-activated tape recorder. been around for years. and don't some of the cell phones and pda's have a similar feature? some kind of voice recording ability?

obfuscati said...


wow. you weren't kidding. what a delight!

obfuscati said...

israel. don't ask.

baja israel. nice. how about salt lake israel?

obfuscati said...

guilt by appreciation.


Keifus said...

Salt Lake Israel? Then where would we put the Mormons? (Yes, I'm awful.) If somebody offers a homeland for cynical agnostics, I'm so in.

Real relationships: I've gotta go with real, but there's a certain tendency of the interface (not seeing the frowns and winks and nerves) to make people a little more uninhibited in their reactions to one another, at least in the early stage of meeting anyone.

And if we're being really honest, it's a lot easier to ignore people's annoying foibles too. Without mentioning names, there's a number of people I'm happy to limit my interaction to certain settings, and the internet makes that easy.

Again, at the outset. As I get to know people a little better, that distance closes as fast as it does in real life. It's is a positive thing, I think. I've no idea how I'd have reacted to either of you, say, if I'd first met you on the outside. (Somebody cue the violins...)

real representatives: I've little enough respect for the intelligence of our elected patrician buffoons (great, a random twist of phrase now forever etched in vaudeville), but I'll concede that they're savvy enough in their respective spheres, whereas most representative people are too ideologically or intellectually simple.

(From a book I just read, the Davies one I think, saying for a politician you can at best pick two: honest, effective, smart.)


obfuscati said...

what? no three-ways allowed? how puritanical.

tough choice there. i suppose the most likely scenario is that we get some mixture of smart-honest + honest-effective + effective-smart pols and hope that it all = enough checks-and-balances on each other.

i can't help but wonder at the utility of effectiveness. when do we stop passing laws? don't we have enough of those things already?

would a smart, honest, and completely ineffective bunch of goobers have gotten around to passing the patriot act and military commissions act? i think it unlikely.

and i'm pretty sure they'd never have gotten it together enough to actually invade afghanistan or iraq, which might have left a bunch of our military and intelligence folks free to accidentally stumble over osama bin laden.

as for your patrician buffoons [hey, you started it!], i'm not sure i agree that real representatives would be quite as stupid as you think. the stupid have been very much louder and more visible in recent years, and they tend to flock together [safety in numbers, perhaps] which just magnifies it. they've had control of the wheel for too long now, but i don't think their absolute numbers are as great as you fear. honest.

if you'd met me on the outside, you'd never even have noticed. i'm easily overlooked in a crowd. in cyberspace i can be a crowd of one.

Keifus said...

Man, more than enough laws. There oughta be a law against all these laws. But our legislators need to look like they're doing something, right?

The problem with smart, honest, and ineffective government, is that it's at the mercy of the corrupt and capable. One of the handful of times IOZ deigned to reply to me on the fray, he said something along the lines of "don't get all Weimar on me" when I was blathering along about that very thing. He had something of a point.


Archaeopteryx said...

Another Iso update from Demosthanes on BOTF. Summary: her son's prognosis is very bad.

obfuscati said...

if legislators need to look like they're doing something, they can start dismantling the patriot act, the military commissions act, and a coupla others.

we're all at the mercy of the corrupt and capable, and it doesn't take very many of them.

TenaciousK said...

Arch: thanks for the heads up. I just got back into town. Significant brainstem involvement is very bad indeed.

Funny how Demosthenes waxes eloquent even when he says he can't. I'm glad he's around to say the words I can't come up with.

I was trying (again) to explain (again) to someone who doesn't have kids what it's like. I love my children fiercely, and I'll love them just as much tomorrow. At the same time, I miss every single them, at every age, that ever was, with all my heart.

What Iso is going through right now horrifies me, and I know that when all I have is words at my disposal, I can't provide anything like the comfort I wish I could provide.

One of Ghost's conversation tryout questions was about the greater traqedy in death - the young, or the old. I don't think I can adequately characterize the wonder of watching your children unfold over time. The tragedy of losing this is unspeakable.

When I came home, my son had done the dishes, cleaned the bathroom, and vacuumed. I just took him out to a very nice dinner.

The juxtaposition is horrid. All I can do is pray for Iso, and love my children.

TenaciousK said...

The corrupt and the capable can only succeed when the incorrupt and the capable hold their tongues.

Patriot Act? Maybe we can get around to that when we get all this shiny stuff cleaned up.

"Oooh, look! There's homersexhul couples adoptin' foster kids! Help!! Somebody protect all them foster kids! They'll grow up queer and seduce our young'uns!"

Sorry, gotta' run - the country's moral fiber urgently needs legislative protection. We'll have to put that Patriot thing on the backburner for now.

But who am I talking to? You know all about obfuscation.

topazz said...

Sad update to Demosthenes post:
Iso's son died yesterday afternoon, about 4:30 PM.

TenaciousK said...

Thank you Topazz. After such a devastating neurologic event, it sounded inevitable.

So, prayers for Iso.