Dangerous normality

#MeToo is less effective than I might hope. I had a conversation with a man who wanted to protect innocent men from manipulative, emotional females who make false allegations. I had to explain about similar fact evidence, the Moorov Doctrine, and precisely why I believed Leigh Corfman’s allegations. Roy Moore, a candidate for the Senate, took her to his house out in the country when she was 14, stripped off and got her to put her hand on his penis through his underpants. How could she get away, if he wanted to stop her? How could she get home, without his help? He was 32. I suppose I should use the word “allegedly”- he denies it, no-one else was there- but other women have made similar allegations. He liked young teenage girls, and did not marry until he was 38. This is the man who compares gay sex to bestiality.

Scenario. A woman comes to your church occasionally, who is looking after her uncle. He suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. She has been observed shouting in his face, and once to push him so that he banged his head on a seat. What do you do? We discuss this, and are full of sympathy for her. Looking after someone with Alzheimers is a terrible job. We can so understand someone being under pressure greater than they can bear. And yet- she has committed a criminal assault on him. At best, she is allowing her anger to control her, and reacting to him in a way which could seriously hurt him. She should notice that her better nature is not in control, and seek help. At worst, she is engaged in a campaign of sadistic bullying, and perhaps is caring for him in the hope of inheriting his money.

It is possible that she is a monster, and clear that she is not taking steps to deal with a dangerous situation. Yet we try to make excuses for her. The poor woman, it is too much for her, it would be too much for anyone. We don’t want to believe that she could be that bad.

We need normality and a sense of safety to function in the world. At any moment our lives could end, or be changed irrevocably- from Betelgeuse going supernova to the car accident rendering you paraplegic, there are myriad theats you cannot counter. And yet normally you are OK. So monsters move among us, rendered invisible by Douglas Adams’ “Somebody Else’s Problem field”- The brain just edits it out, like a blind spot. You won’t see it unless you know precisely what it is. People have a natural predisposition not to see anything they don’t want to, weren’t expecting, or can’t explain. Adams imagined invisible spaceships, too weird to notice, but this applies to sex offenders and abusers too. Roy Moore is a Christian, and if Christians did things like that churches would not be safe. We so need churches to be a safe space that we can’t see the signs of abuse.

Saira Ahmed shows how a person who complains is a threat to the group and their (illusory) sense of safety in the group. The answer is to exclude her. It is easier to exclude the complainant than to face the problem about which she complains, and face the truth that we have not been safe, that abusers walk among us, may even have charmed us into thinking them our friends. First they charm us, reassuring us, because charm must indicate they are good, then they behave badly and are seen as good because badness is inconceivable, incredible, it cannot be admitted.

The need to feel safe can prevent us from being safe, because it blinds us to threats.

Safety II

The vast and horrible thing which we try hard to forget: fire, pestilence, storms, earthquakes, or the unleashing of dark moral forces—these callously sweep away in one moment what we had laboriously built up and beautified with all our intelligence and all our love. –Teilhard de Chardin.

The heart of privilege is a sense of safety. All is right with the world, which was made with me in mind. My interests and desires are appropriate, and catered for. One would not imagine the worst coming to the worst, but even then family, or contacts, would make sure you were alright.

I feel that human society has reached a level of wealth and luxury such that there should be a safety net for everyone. Unfortunately the government disagrees, putting in place the minimal “Nightwatchman state” envisaged by Robert Nosick: In Anarchy, State and Utopia, Nozick sets out his ideal notion of governance, involving only the most minimal levels of state involvement, protection of citizens’ most basic rights. However, in practice, such minimalist government poses serious problems. The state has retreated. If you fall, you must get yourself up. And if you can’t, tough.

Nosick perhaps had an eye to more extreme views of anarcho-capitalism. He does not want the life of humanity solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. He has some idea of a just return for talent properly used, but no idea of how to nourish talent in difficult circumstances. That requires civil society. We live in an abundant world, where there is enough for everyone’s need, though it might be better if the wealth of billionaires, which increased by $1tn in 2016, were distributed equally. The painter Lucien Freud used to gamble prodigiously, tens of thousands of pounds in a night, knowing that with his art he could make more money, feeling able to start painting again, unblocked, when he was cleaned out. If billionaires were really talented, they could start again. No-one need accumulate more than $1bn.

I tried to persuade a radical feminist of my harmlessness by stating some of my distress; this had no effect, because perhaps of her own and that of people she cared about. I explain it in this way because human stories, individual experiences, have a particular effect on me, and so of course everyone must be at least a little like that, really. She would make a class analysis: the class of women, all women, the Queen and Theresa May, are oppressed by the class of men, even the homeless or sick. The least successful man benefits from being a man. Her sympathy has more worthy targets than mere anomalous individuals. As has Nosick’s, when he theorises about the best and most just society for all humanity, which he thinks would be best for the most individuals if not for all.

How to live with the realisation that there is no safety, that the vast and horrible thing may sweep everything away? With braggadocio, perhaps, or denial, or quiet determination; or radical acceptance, seeing God in it. The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away; blessed be the name of the Lord.

I am alright for the moment. I am just safe enough.

I went to Johnny’s Happy Place today, named after a suicide, a community organisation with some local authority funding with a pay-as-you-feel cafe and youth groups. I read a handout from some group- everyone has the right to be safe from violence. Imagine a place where you feel safe. If you do not have such a place, imagine what such a place would be like. So many people’s safety is less than mine. There I found two huge home-made soft toys with large cloth eyes and the words HUG ME stitched to each chest. So, before we left, I did.

Ach, it is unbearable. Appreciation is the answer, appreciating the beauty of the World even as it kills you. If you have the strength to do that in a clear-eyed, loving way, do please let me know.

Need and desire

Why “Need,” and not “Desire”?

My wise friend H did not like my formulation, I am Love, Will, Playfulness, Curiosity, Need, Courage. She pointed out “Need” sounds, well, needy. Needy is not good. Adults get their needs through exchange, economically or socially, and needy is needing without having something to exchange- though lots of people like to think of themselves as Charitable therefore Good, so the giving is the reward in itself; and some may be altruistic.

I picked “Need” because some needs are very basic, and I have them. I need food and shelter. Without these I die. They are not mere desires- there are moral rules around how one may satisfy desires, which do not so clearly apply to needs. Particularly, I have moral scruples around desires, which may be over-scrupulous, and working out what are my Needs as a way of surviving.

I am still unlearning my toddler’s lessons, and learning more worthwhile toddler lessons. I  learned I am worthless. I wanted to hide away. I wanted not to impinge. So I did not know what my desires were. They could not and should not be granted.

I need society. I need human interaction. Too much alone, I shrivel up. It is not just a desire.

I need safety. This one is really strange. A troll posted on a Quaker facebook group a 22 minute video arguing that “Evolution is not just highly unlikely, but impossible”. The point of the video was that as we do not yet understand how abiogenesis, the start of life from non-living matter, could happen, God must have done it. It enraged me, then I was weeping at the horror of it, and I am not sure why. I expect Quakers to seek the truth as they best can. I know Biblical literalists have this deep need to believe in Biblical creation, and that makes them impugn the integrity of evolutionists; at any rate they believe something I find false, and no argument across the aisle will produce agreement. As we do not know the truth about abiogenesis, a person of integrity may posit their best guess. People can be wrong in an interesting way.

Perhaps I can tolerate a certain level of precariousness, but at that level small threats become too much. I expect to trust people here. I find I cannot- and the bottom falls out of my world-

This Need not Desire is a toddler’s eye view. Toddlers have little agency. Adults should have the ability to choose what they want, and gain it. I don’t have strong belief in my agency. Too many experiences have contradicted such belief. This might have some link to the inexplicable Sooner strangle an infant in its cradle than nurse unacted desires.

The moral imperative works the other way. I have need- and I have value, so it is a moral imperative to preserve me, and fulfil my needs. And, I may graduate to desire, when I reach teenage. Baby steps…

Truthfulness II

I am a truthful person. I value my truthfulness. But it is not a bulwark against the vicissitudes of life.

When I was considering transition, I interrogated myself- is this fantasy? Is this sexual perversion? If it was true that I was transsexual, then it was right for me to transition. On balance, it was, but I wanted more than that, I wanted to be clear that life would be bearable afterwards. Then I had lots of insults in the street in the days after, and broke down in tears.

It is a pain being trans. Not transitioning can be ghastly. Transitioning can be ghastly too, though not always: some of us are extremely strong and resilient. I saw one on the telly last night, being asked about her academic expertise with no need to allude to the fact that she is trans. Her face and voice are good too, but there is something about her figure and her hairline that meant I read her, so I went to look her up: she had been outed by the gutter press.

What is the truth of a situation? After a certain amount of effort to understand, further effort does not produce proportionate gains. I had the feeling of trying to remain upright in a storm at sea, with the deck bucking and twisting beneath me- holding myself tense is exhausting, relaxing and going with the movement, riding it, might be easier.

And, I keep the truth of my current situation below consciousness, much of the time. I do not like it, but do not see how I can improve it. Though I take action to improve it when I can. This might be common: Quiet desperation is the English way sang Pink Floyd. Ah, it’s from Walden: The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation.

I love my truthfulness, and fear that it was important to me in part because it was part of my self-image as a Good Person. I need to be a Good Person so I will be Safe- but that does not matter either, bad things happen to good people. And- integrity matters. Insofar as I lie to others, I lie to myself, which makes me less able to respond to the world as it is. My reputation matters to me.

And- I go back on my word, and I lie. I let people down. Well, I am not perfect. No-one is. I do my best.

Attention III

Is your desire for attention Histrionic personality disorder?!

It is a bad thing to look for attention if that gets in the way of more substantive goals or causes distress to self or others, causing problems with two or more of affect, cognition, interpersonal functioning or impulse control. Do you feel uncomfortable when you are not the centre of attention? This could be a great motivator. You make yourself attractive, and practise good conversation. You build a good career because people pay attention to successful people. Or, you act out a role in all relationships, and behave seductively or provocatively for a more immediate attention hit. This may alienate friends. Then the downer afterwards just gets worse, and you get depressed. You cannot delay gratification.

Your feelings may be rapidly shifting and expressed shallowly- they are real feelings, but their effect is to get attention. That is, you do not consciously choose behaviour to get attention, your preconscious emotional responses pursue it, in maladaptive ways. You may use physical appearance or theatricality to gain attention, and may be easily influenced.

These characteristics are exaggerated from traits which are entirely healthy, or part of the human condition as a social species- we need others.

I googled “need attention” and found psychcentral.

I read this and recognise myself. So I analyse. Am I like this, in a harmful way? Is it harming me? People have conflicting desires and needs, and learn better or worse ways of fulfilling those needs. I analyse too much, because I am good at analysis, or can produce understandings which please me. I feel unsafe, so analyse in an attempt to protect myself. If I can find what desires give me lasting happiness and the optimum way to pursue them, I can be OK. My moral understanding- what I ought to desire- and my ideology, my false understandings of how to get it, get in the way. “This ought to work! They said so!” I say, and double down on my failed course.

Or I go into a sulk.

I don’t feel safe. All my attention then goes on seeking to make myself safe. Perhaps I am really bad at life- I could write how much people achieve that I haven’t- and perhaps as Hardy wrote, the failure has a unique perspective on how to succeed.

thomas-lawrence-caroline-sotheron

Safe spaces

No, I do not erase feminism. I subvert the patriarchy by rejecting male privilege and the male role in which I was brought up. We are subject to violence for this. I have been assaulted, and shouted at, and after a lot of verbal abuse pointed stares began to get scary for me.

If I was cis, I might still be working.

A university campus should be a safe space for trans people. It is not that we should not be exposed to hostile ideas, but that they should not be given authority. If we discuss around the seminar table the idea that a trans woman is a man, really, or what that should mean for women’s spaces, that is different from Germaine Greer being clapped and cheered for saying “I don’t believe a woman is a man without a cock”. That feels unsafe to me. It feels hostile.

Ideas can erase me. I believed the theory of autogynephilia, that I was a pervert, and transition was an erotic fantasy: trying to live it would be impossible. I disgust some people, and that theory is an excuse for them.

Why Evolution is True wrote about Maryam Namazie being heckled at Goldsmiths college, and the student feminist society supporting the Islamic Society in opposing her speaking. Previously, the Islamic Society invited a speaker who calls for the murder of apostates. Maryam Namazie, an apostate, stands up for women’s rights against FGM, the veil, Islamic oppression.

Goldsmiths should be a safe space for apostates. However, two wrongs don’t make a right. To whom is Namazie speaking? Not just former Muslims, but mostly white atheists. Someone learning in class that evolution is true, yet who, because of background and culture has a large part of his identity as Muslim, may feel erased (the non-inclusive language is intentional). It is not just the idea that I am in error about certain things, but that my identity and heritage are poisonous; that I am the enemy and the oppressor; and that they may use force against me. God save me from people who need to defend themselves or those they identify as my victims against me.

The ideas are not a threat, but ideas backed with power to enforce, or by a cheering audience, are.

I believed my employer would find a pretext to sack me. I believed autogynephilia theory. I envied a woman I knew who was dying, slowly and painfully, because she was unequivocally female. I would prefer to be an obvious tranny than to present male. The drive is that strong. I don’t feel safe. Disagreement with me about the nature of my idiosyncrasy is OK. Hostility to me is not, even if justified as “free speech”, because it silences me and therefore reduces free expression. We have to get along.

Here is MTV, advertising a quiz on Disney channel cartoons beside a serious article. Don’t be a jerk. Form your arguments in a way that’s respectful. It’s a bar so low you could trip over it. As I write, all nine comments are hostile.

Here is The Atlantic on physical intimidation used to “protect safe space”. But no-one is just talking: they are seeking to get their way, including the use of force. Words hurt: those pastors saying that queers should be put behind a great big fence, while their congregations shout A-MEN, frighten me. Before you can attack me, you have to dehumanise me. Scapegoating gives any group a warm glow of righteousness.

I know it is not simple. One might call the Apostates the victims, in need of protection, until like Maryam Namazie they speak up and I call her a helper of oppressors. Some feminists claim that my presence in women’s space makes it unsafe, because I am a man. Perhaps those of us who can, should speak up for our own victims.

I quite like the idea of being a Social Justice Warrior, even when the term is used in a hostile, unsafe manner. My irony detector is set to zero.

Blake, Canterbury pilgrims detail

 

Safety

I met a film-maker. We got on well, and had a meeting about a film on the transsexual experience: I would be creative director. I missed our second meeting, and never heard from him again. He did not reply to my emails, texts or calls.

Stated that way, it seems I was the author of my own misfortune. It did not seem quite that way at the time; I had texted and called to say that going into London was rather expensive for me, and could we talk by Skype instead? I had no response to that, and it seemed reasonable to me; and then months later I thought, what if he wanted to try me on camera? You can’t do that by skype.

It might not have come off anyway. He had other stuff to worry about. Yet still, my decision seemed reasonable at the time and possibly caused me a serious loss. Never mind the Big Thing in my life: I tried to fight transition, I could not resist it, and my sister and father stopped seeing me. Loss after Loss, caused by my failure, stupidity, inadequacy…

A man I met had been walking through the station when someone he did not know leapt on his back and slashed him across the brow with a razor. It was pure luck he was not blinded. For years after he could not go outside unaccompanied. Bad things happen to good people. Lightning does strike in the same place twice, for the obvious reason that the thing struck is higher than things around it.

I half remember, perhaps half-understand, that Krishnamurti said we should forget all that stuff. Just live now. Past pains and pleasures are an indication but not too strong a guide.

Words can liberate. The word “transsexual” liberated me to transition. Without the concept, I would not have done it- perhaps with different concepts I would be living entirely differently. Words can constrain: if my narrative is that I respond in a particular way, I cannot respond otherwise. I wrote: gender: Abigail; sexuality: Abigail; perhaps it is, full description: Abigail.

Salvador Dali, Berthe

Safety harness

In which I demonstrate the efficacy and necessity of a safety harness.

dome pin

With friends to erect the Geodesic dome. I thought we could build the top section first, and do lower circles later, but not with these steel units. Each pins to the next hexagon or pentagon with two pins to each side. Mark, whose dome it is, does construction professionally but made the dome as a hobby. He is generous with encouragement, enthusing about our contribution. “Are you happy to climb?” Yes. Yes, I am.

It has been raining, and the segments are slippery. In walking boots, my foot will be still at the join, but not in the middle. The lowest strip has been assembled already, and I climb up with Mark to put the next row on top, aligning the loops to let the pins drop in. I have a belt to hold pins, and a long strip of metal to hammer them in.

The next row is easy enough. Andrew and Tim hand us up the segments, and we pin them in. The following row we have to lift the segments into position. I notice how I compare myself with Mark. It is his dome, and he has erected it several times, and yet I want to be putting as many pins as he. I am pushing myself. At that point, the rain has stopped. The lower segments are dry, and my foot will not slip placed on the middle of the pole. You can get into a rhythm, stepping up the middle, hand holds easily reached.

We have a short break. It is raining again. The poles get slippery, but we hope to continue. Now, we have to hold the segment above the half way point, as that is its centre of gravity. Mark is doing most of the work. I struggle, now in a safety harness, clipping and unclipping it. It gets in the way, holding me below where I need to be. Working together, we can get the loops in line to put the pins in, but it is so frustrating when they are not quite aligned or slip out of the way. Segments just off the ground are wet from the wet grass, and my boot slips.

Down I go. I am hanging a short way above the ground, with a graze, scratch and spectacular bruising on my bicep, shouting.

Mark holds two pins to the scratch, to cool it down. I could hold them myself, but I am just happy to be valued, to have this sign of care for me.

After lunch, I went up again with Mark and Andrew.

-How do you feel about climbing again?
-I would like to do it, but have no particular thing to prove, and am not attached to it.

However, I really want to go up again. Now, the segments are leaning inwards at a sharp angle. We have to bear their weight as we pin them in. Andrew, climbing for the first time, is a lot faster than me. The belt carrying the pins is very heavy. Before we finish the final row, I have to come down, nearly weeping with frustration.

I have learned a lot from this, of how I am. I was comparing myself to a man, who should be far better than me at this task, and pushing myself near to exhaustion: I could barely clamber round the segments before I came down, and was still ashamed to descend before the last row was complete. That shame means that I won’t stop until I am dangling on the end of a rope(!) and also punishes me with misery, where I could reasonably be proud.

The thing I learned about you is you are a really hard worker, said Jude. Some might see that as patronising; I was glad of it. I have been thinking, since, of being so driven, which has caused me to stop. I could, perhaps, notice the achievement.

Covering the dome

Confusion and clarity

Klee- Oriental pleasure garden, in partG was excited by the first meeting of the Green Party in Swanston, and wanted to do something for it. Oh, remember Advices and Queries- don’t work too much? What is it? Eventually I find the quote:

 
Attend to what love requires of you, 

which may not be great busyness.

I have not actually read Advices and Queries for a long time, and sat with it at the start of Meeting, in love again with its sonorous phrases:

 This.

This.

This.

Are you?

One thing which makes it beautiful is its clarity. Are you honest and truthful in all you say and do? Do you maintain strict integrity in business transactions and in your dealings with individuals and organisations? I have always sought clarity. I sought it in the law, though in practice I found pseudo-clarity, like this:

Work done in expectation of payment means more than a mere hope that payment will be made at a future date. There should be a probability rather than just a possibility that a payment will be made. If a person reasonably expects payments for work done then the condition is satisfied. However, if the person knew before starting the work that payment was unlikely to be made, the remunerative condition is not satisfied.

That’s the Tax Credits Technical Manual. If you specify every possible situation, the thing which must be done will always be clear. However, in my experience Real Life brings hopeless confusion to it, and the desperate efforts to answer every question merely increases complexity and confusion- as if confusion were the real goal, with the apparent clarity only an excuse to blame others for it.

It seemed to me in meeting that the answer is Love, not Fear. If I did that job I am considering applying for, or A’s job, in fear, I could never assuage my fear. Am I doing it right, and is my job safe? Am I caring properly for the thing entrusted to me, and is it safe? Yet if I did it in Love- what will build this up, what will make it more beautiful, I could get endless joy from it. Then K ministered, and said how pleased he was to go to the Green Party meeting- I was delighted to see him there- and of his desire for a politics of hope.

I had a lovely meeting. Love, not fear. Then we had our business meeting, and S resigned her membership. On Friday, S and I had had coffee together with Quakers, and discussed what more she could do in the Society, so this was a shock. After, E asked “Are you alright?” and I started crying, angry that I was so upset. I should not be emotionally labile like this after the endocrinologist adjusted my hormone dose.

It seemed to me after that I have created my safe space in my living room, and the Quaker meeting, and I explore other potential safe spaces such as Greenbelt, yet even in the Quaker meeting I am not safe from painful change I cannot control.

The Message from the Subconscious

File:Iceberg 16 2000 08 12.jpgI am a good person, intelligent and reliable.
Therefore
I can keep myself safe.

It is the Therefore that is the problem. I must release it, accept not knowing. It is like trying to ride a bicycle: I am reliable enough, can observe and react quickly enough to be safe enough: balancing on this reality, rather than pretending I can keep myself safe, so wobbling forward rather than propping up the bicycle and standing still.

I am not safe in my living room. My benefit has been cut already, and will be cut further.

To put it another way, how long can I use those threadbare excuses- that hurt me, and that, and that- that job, that betrayal, that woman- for sulking and skulking at home? I am not safe, but no-one ever is.

————————————–
The final exercise of mega-me, in groups of six, is to be that all-you-can-be, larger version of ourselves, and plan a scene to be improvised, with that mega-me as the focus. We take it in turns, the others being supporters. Some delve into deep personal blocks or family issues- for the subconscious, triumphing in play and in reality feel the same, says Claire.

In my exercise, I want to not-plan. I will just speak, as moved in the moment. I want to use the large group as my supporters. B believes that I need subconscious nay-sayers, and the small group should echo the Inner Critic. He is a little too enthusiastic at this for my taste- he asked me “how long I had been a transsexual”, analysing not empathising. He knows a transsexual who is really tough, he told me. I had half-formed thoughts of a routine before this, mocking Thriller modes:File:Iceberg at Elephant Island.jpg

The Thingummy of Doom looms above us!
Can we reach the-
Escape switch-
In-
Time?

While B enthusiastically mocks, I tell my audience that I like to be the centre of attention, and feel I have to perform, yet now I wish to be Fully Authentic and speak in the moment, and end by- sitting in the audience.

People, asked to give encouragement, speak of my dignity and poise in speaking this.

————————————–

This post starts with me kicking myself and saying “Get on with it”, as I do occasionally- well, I am posting daily- and then I write of my Speaking Spontaneously, the Message to the Flourish, in which, I notice later, I stop and sit down, the other side of the audience from my group supporters/critic. That is, I stop trying. Which might contradict that “Get on with it”.

There is no source of Wisdom, only of wisdom, contingent and momentary. There is no source of Understanding, only occasional flashes. I am in a state of conflict, in equilibrium.

David Brin: The thing about such states of equilibrium is that they can seem steady, even permanent, until-
each one ends, as abruptly as it started.