Now I’ve got to listen to you talking

I start playing the piano, and wonder why I stopped. This is really beautiful. And then-

Oh No! The Difficult bit!

Ah. That’s why I stopped playing. But then I go back to it, and decide slowing it down and getting the notes then trying to speed it up can’t do me that much harm. It’s Metamorphosis by Philip Glass. It is hypnotic. It is up to me to make it expressive, and the difficult bit, in part two, is scintillating. My muscles are out of practice, and my wrist hurts a bit. Strengthen that fourth finger! I might- play for a few minutes, frequently in the day; explore the rest of the parts; hear it on Youtube to get another’s ideas of expressiveness.

And then after I have an emotion, and it is so intense I do not know what it is, just feel the intensity. Something I cannot admit to myself. I do not want to go outside because I do not want to respond to beauty, and be noticed. Even if it were Delight, the intensity of the feeling is painful.

There is the experience, of the beauty, wonder and difficulty, and the direct communication from the composer’s soul of music new to me, and then there is the Internet. Twenty years ago we could both read the same story in The Guardian, on paper, and have our own ideas about it, but now there is the Comments thread, where I see your disagreement pungently expressed- lol just listen to yourself!- then anxiously note how many upvotes the comment and reply each get. Trans excluders get lots more votes than trans women.

You can’t completely no-platform anyone, because someone wants to read what they say- this blog has had 321,333 page views in 2011-2018- and wordpress, youtube and other platforms are available, where you can say it at great length- this blog had 2532 posts in the same period. When a man got a pet dog to respond to the command “Seig Heil” and one much viler by raising its right paw, and posted it on Youtube, he was convicted for “gross offence” under the Communications Act. He stated he only wanted seven friends who follow his channel to see it, but it went viral. Now his channel has grown from eight to 389,726 subscribers. At the trial, Ephraim Borowski, director of the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities, said joking about the Holocaust normalised antisemitism.

Offensive content gets views. It is like a chimp throwing excrement, piquing the interest of bored children at the zoo.

I took the title from this post from a line by Louis CK of such stunning cruelty and vileness I do not want to quote it. It’s here, if you really must. The wanker used to do left-wing comedy, but having admitted to getting his dick out in company and wanking into a pot-plant, he may think that he won’t get that audience, so is doing right-wing shockery instead. The bit I’ve quoted, though, is true. I saw Star Wars Ep VII on the telly recently, and had avoided spoilers because I did not care that much, so one of the deaths was quite shocking, but anything I do care about I will see things that offend me- all those comments on Brexit and trans issues on the Guardian. I could just go to places on facebook where my views on trans will be affirmed. Pug Salute Man has built up his audience from people actively seeking out offence, probably of groups they despise, and if he disparages Jews he will attract antisemites.

There are various disparaging terms for objecting to such stuff, and my favourite is “Pearl-clutching”- the elderly lady in pearls is shocked, and if you are too you are no more resilient, aware or worldly-wise than she is. An alternative is turning away in weary disgust, but I remain perturbed at all those angry, self-righteous people, and what they might do together if someone wielded their common resentment for destructive ends- like the Brexit vote, perhaps. There is much more political engagement, and most of it is angry, frustrated and divisive, of people hurling their comments at each other and winding each other up, or reassuring their look-alikes that their anger against trans, affirmative action, Remoaners, whatever, is just and true. It’s as if there used to be just septic tanks processing each individual household’s sewage, but now a sewer takes it all into the common river.

The Right encourages disgust and derision at their opponents, but that is not open to me. Louis CK meant that quote in bitter contempt. No, he’s not going to listen to anyone who does not echo him. I mean it in utter sincerity. I must listen in order to understand, and somehow remain unbesmirched by the sewer flood.

This evening I will enjoy Luther on the telly. It’s a police drama, but the murders are long-drawn out, involving torture and sadism, and the wicked kill on a whim. The policeman breaks all the rules because the killer must be stopped. It’s the fifth series, and as The Guardian said, you get the feeling that the cast are really enjoying themselves. Perhaps it helps us with political life on the internet, which might keep me in a febrile state of constant emotional arousal, hoping for likes and page-views, enraged about something which happened in Airdrie. Oh, that’s just normal. My responses are deadened, so that I can be aware of greater vileness and remain functional. It must not mean that I am drawn into the vileness myself. I must retain my capacity for empathy, or I am diminished.

And then there’s something real, like Metamorphosis, and I am overwhelmed by its beauty.

Stephen Fry

A tower in Eden“It’s now very common to hear people saying ‘I’m rather offended by that’ as if that gives them certain rights – it’s simply a whine, it’s no more than a whine. ‘I find that offensive’. It has no meaning, it has no purpose, it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. ‘I am offended by that’ – well so fucking what?” – Stephen Fry at the Hay Festival 2005, sourced here.

Lots of things offend me: hate speech offends me. It is a fairly new concept for me, hate speech: speech about a person or group which humiliates or derides or vilifies that group, with the intent that the group be treated as disgusting or as an enemy. Certain Rwandans referring to Tutsis as “Cockroaches” is an extreme example.

The “cockroaches” example is vile. Clearly “free speech” should not protect it. It is an incitement to violence. More subtle hate speech may smell wrong, but I might not be able to put my finger on exactly why. I have an emotional response to it. I say it is offensive.

If this quote is representative of his current view, Fry rejects the emotional response. He privileges people who are able to articulate an argument on why something is wrong over others who can only make the emotional response. I think the emotional response has value, because we can read human relationships and situations and react to them without engaging our verbal centres.

When someone calls my words “offensive” I want to look for the value in the communication, rather than dismiss it or privilege it. “Offence” is not a trump card, but sometimes a whine is the best I can do.

Also, while reasoned refutation of religious belief is absolutely acceptable though some find it offensive, some extreme speech deliberately to offend, such as gross insults of Mohammed, is wrong.

Mmm. What of the term “sky-fairy”? It is ridicule, it calls a belief stupid without saying why. It also expresses an emotional response of the atheist, willing to explain up to a point, but eventually driven to shout STFU. By then, we are simply offending each other. There is a place for reasoned dialogue, a place for shouting at each other, and sometimes you just have to go for a lie down.

Seeing that this was extempore speech, I love his articulacy, including the jewel-like exactitude of his use of the word “fucking”. The perfect word for that place.

Below is a Wordle of my last six weeks or so. Thanks to DC.


Offence and oppression

That I find transphobic comments “offensive” is not the objectionable thing about them. The objectionable thing is that they are oppressive.

Offence, after all, is a two way street. A cis-sexual white male can be genuinely offended by a gay person picking him up on his thoughtlessly heteronormative way of expressing himself. If offending someone were the criterion for being objectionable, then the “political correctness” of the gay person is equally objectionable.

However, heteronormative language reinforces the idea of gay people as less than normal, pitiable, different, other. It oppresses us. Oppression is a bad thing. My objection opposes that oppression. This is a good thing. It promotes equality, it promotes freedom for everyone, because “Normal is what everyone else is and you are not“.

Hat tip to Genderbitch, who (to my regret) is taking a rest from blogging at the moment, for this one.

What of the person who says I am in denial, that I am simply a man? That person is ignoring the growing body of evidence that I am not; privileging the hypothesis that I am male, so ignoring other hypotheses; and rejecting my own assertion, after years of denial and self-examination and a deep commitment to Truth, that I am female. I have answered that question for myself. I am female. Another’s assertion that I am male, however passionate or articulate, holds no terrors for me, as it is simply wrong. But remembering how painful I found such assertions in the past, I have a particular hatred for them.