The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter


Thursday, May 28, 2009

Answers to recent posts

Christian--

You need people to "stop making such an unholy, perverted mess of everything." All right, I can accept that. What are you, personally, doing? You point the finger at everyone, talk about how much smarter you are than everyone...may I assume that every day you are taking time to lift others up, to inspire, to add your light to the world? And you speak much of your career success, and athleticism. Great. How are your relationships, Christian? Have you learned how to have a lasting relationship with a good woman you can respect and love? You've spoken much of your transitory dalliances. What of relationships that actually engage your heart, that you are willing to sacrifice to maintain?

I never said that sagging was positive. While not saying it is a "path to underachievement" (that may be a little strong--it is a fashion that celebrates underachievement, to a degree) what I was saying was that people are not dressing this way in a deliberate attempt to increase the pain in their lives. They don't believe that there is anything out "there" better than their current status and associations. This is, in my thinking, a terrible mistake that is due to crappy programming.

You may be intelligent, but you have the tendency to overstate, generalize and stereotype ("our tribe is FUCKED. No one respects us and most of us shouldn't be respected.") that limits your ability to actually apply that intelligence. Your wounds are showing, man...you're bleeding all over your word processor. I honestly don't believe you love yourself very much--and that pain darkens your entire world.

##

Mike:

You don't grasp that logic is irrelevant here. You aren't engaged in a logical argument with ME about assimilation and so forth. I believe that we're all going to work it out. Quoting statistics about what is best in the long run is just fine. But again, tell a woman who has been serially raped that "the majority of men are good. It is damaging for the human race if men and women don't get along. Women need to look at the statistics of how their daughters will live if you don't get past this pain..."

There is logic in this, but human beings aren't primarily motivated by logic, and never are, never have been. Rather than trying to lay out the logic of why people should forgive each other, stop negatively generalizing, and move on, try to understand how it feels to be them. Try to understand how someone might decide that it is a waste of time to separate "good Indians" from "bad Indians"...and that it is time to circle the wagons.

If you can't see how an intelligent, sensitive, good person could feel that they have run out of willingness to assume good will...then you might be missing a lot of what has driven history: fear. Communities DO get wiped out. People ARE exterminated. Entire sub-groups ARE marginalized or enslaved. That is history. And a percentage of any group of people will keep extending the hand of friendship. And another percentage will close the gates and say: "I'm goign to protect my children. My women. Because you have not."

I'm sure it hurts to realize that. I'm sorry, I really am. But that's life--after you burn your fingers a certain number of times, it is foolishness not to assume the pot is hot. It will take another generation, with unburnt fingers, to go further.

##

What can white people do? Just be decent, balanced people. The rest will happen naturally. Extend your own humanity to others that we meet. In my mind, assimilation is underway, and it's working well. Not perfectly--and there are people who can not, or will not assimilate on either side. Neighborhoods will collapse and individuals will fall in the cracks. And unless you believe that there are innate differences between black and white--it will all work out. There will be pain. Far more than I would wish on anyone. But it will work out, and is working out. This I completely believe, and have never seen anything to make me think otherwise. I really, really, love this country.

28 comments:

Mike Ralls said...

> You don't grasp that logic is irrelevant here. <

Actually, I do. I'm not trying to convince your mentor here. Very few people in their 70's change any of their significant beliefs after all, and he probably isn't even reading what I'm writing anyways. I'm typing this because history and demographics interest me. I enjoy talking about them in and of themselves. Talking about history is an enjoyable activity for me.

I'm also posting it because it's how I see the world and I feel a duty, not a huge one but a duty none the less, to point out what I think are wrong paths for my country. I used logic, reason, statistics, and history because those are my strongest skills and while not everyone will be influenced by those things, some can be. And if no one here is influenced in the slightest, then hopefully at least I'll get some feedback and _my_ worldview will improve.

I also use them because it's what I think I have the most to offer the conversation. I may have some things to offer the conversation on the emotional front; I was a minority in rural Japan for two years and experienced some mild prejudism there over my race. I've seriously dated Asians, Hispanics, and Blacks and their race was never an impediment to me loving them with all my heart. But I don't think that gives me a whole lot to add to the conversation that people haven't already heard before in comparison to my knowledge of history and demographics, which most people probably _haven't_ heard before.

>Women need to look at the statistics of how their daughters will live if you don't get past this pain..."<

If a woman who was serially raped was passing harmful beliefs to her daughter, I _would_ point out that she was hurting her daughter. It would be immoral not to point that out (in as tactful way as possible), and hopefully the desire for her daughter's well being could give her more will to overcome her past or at the very least to not pass on unhelpful beliefs to her daughter.

> If you can't see how an intelligent, sensitive, good person could feel that they have run out of willingness to assume good will.<

I can completely understand all of that. I have no problem putting myself in that mindset and see it as perfectly human reaction given their life experience. I have never said your mentor is a bad person for having that attitude. I have never said it is unfathomable why he has that attitude. I have said, "From what you say, it sounds like he has handled his hurt better than most humans." But NONE of that changes that he has what I think is an unproductive attitude for my country as a whole and for a sub-group of my country as a whole. Would you prefer me to be a person who just doesn't care to speak out for what I regard as right?

>It will take another generation, with unburnt fingers, to go further. <

This is my take as well, actually. One of the great benefits of reading history, IMO, is that it gives you a sense of scale. Some things can be built in a day, but many other things can only come about after generations.

Christian M. Howell said...

Loving a woman does NOTHING to advance civilization, it just gives you - hopefully - someone to discuss things with.

Obviously even having groupies hasn't given you the amount of women I've had. I'm not married because women are too jealous. I have had friends, siblings and relatives turn on each other.

I can go to the club and get pretty much any woman I want for sex.

Weeeee! That's what all animals have. We're the DOMINANT species and should be above the practices of beasts.

We are fucked. Do you think I want to hurt someone's feelings or be abusive when I say that? No, I'm trying to get people fired up to CHANGE IT.

If people aren't going to do it themselves, DO IT FOR THEM. That's one of the PURPOSES of government, maintaining PROGRESS not developing cultures.

When you and your sensei shake your heads, do you imagine ways to fix it? I have started ridiculing people now. We can all fight about it if that's necessary. My problem isn't them, it's the women who have to CARRY them because of a foolish concept like love or devotion.

That's a failure of society not "just how they are." But America as a government has done its job. They provided troops for Meredith and Martin, they desegregated schools and enacted legislation that says "we will provide you redress in the case that your rights are violated."

But in 2009, "men" are acting like irresponsible children, dressing like clowns. Of course the bummy white guy with the torn jeans and BRAND NEW JACKET over a wrinkled t-shirt is not actually the direction you would expect either.

We do need "martial law" now. My research has led me to places I wish I had never been and most of it is foolish perversion. The dalliance of "sparkle." The vicariousness of the lazy.

A dress code for high school is NECESSARY. Maybe you won't change your mentality but everyone doesn't have to deal with it. When you're 20 and working in McDonald's with only a hope a being promoted from fries in five years because the management training program is over your head, you are not pulling your weight.

I'm a professional and I paid a minimum wage person's salary in taxes last year. You probably paid more. That should change your mind because in BedStuy, plastic is an EBT welfare card. It's not about hate, it's about success for everyone.

azrael said...

The problem with thinking that we are "fucked", is that it that it leads plenty of people to inaction. Or to contributing to a "fucked" way of being.

Loving a woman or a man (as well as onself) and cultivating a healthy romantic relationship absolutely advances civilization.

Relationship statistics (marriage rates, out of wedlock births) in the communities where people have EBT cards and the men dress like clowns are abysmal.

Sure some of manage to earn degrees and six figure salaries without learning how to effective navigate a romantic relationship. However, there is a skill set involved in navigating a healthy romantic relationship that I'd guess would translate to success in a wide variety of areas.

Steve, you talk about balance in relationships, health, and career. Do you know of many people who have healthy relationships who are doing not so well in both health and career?

Maybe I'm only imagining that people who do well with relationships do well with career and health because career and health are the easier of the two for me.

Dan Moran said...

>We do need "martial law" now.

I agree, and I volunteer to serve as His Most High Grand President-for-Life In Chief, Plenipotentiary, with Cheesecake and justice for All, "all" being defined as those people who have helped me get to be In Charge and who have not subsequently annoyed me.

Or you could do it. When the aliens come to earth and pick the human who's going to run things for them, if they pass me up, I will definitely point them in your direction. I'm sure we will all welcome our new alien overlords...

Mike Ralls said...

It's important to keep a sense of perspective. Blacks are doing worse by most quantifiable measures than Whites in America, but if Black Americans were a separate country, they would be as rich as France. Now France is poorer than America, but it's still rich by world standards. Anyone arguing that France is fucked beyond redemption?

I would however like to point out that I, for one, do welcome our new insect overlords and that as a trusted internet-personality I can be useful to them in organizing their giant sugar mines.

suzanne said...

Christian,
you may have fucked many women
but I seriously doubt you
have a clear understanding
of what love is
and whthe positives it can accomplish

much more importan than
baggy pants

Christian M. Howell said...

Christian,
you may have fucked many women
but I seriously doubt you
have a clear understanding
of what love is
and whthe positives it can accomplish

much more importan than
baggy pants


Love is not an emotion. I haven't had as much sex as I've had women after me. My definition of love is genuine concern for the well-being of another. In that sense I love everyone.

Sagging pants are causing a LARGE HOLE in the economy. If we had a stronger government that actually cared, America wouldn't need to outsource technical work.

If you have 100,000 "men" who are paying no taxes, but still taking out from services, that will lead to a deficit eventually. Especially when you add their 2.5 kids. Now we're talking about 250,000 people with no goals.

What will America look like in ten years when the latest batches of "thugs" and "bums" begin taking more out of society than they put in?


@Mike:
True we do have a combined wealth larger than basically every third world country but the problem is that most of it doesn't actually go back into the system in such a way as to generate jobs.

That's why we're fucked. Well, I'm not but as a whole we either need to ridicule or murder all of the ones who insist on making me look bad. We're talking about people who are destroying the lives of women because they are weak and stupid.

My parents were from the South and had the most "accepting" mentality for the thought of "you're just not good enough, now matter what" and I came out like this.

It's all about individual responsibility. If you don't have it it's the governments job to either make sure you eventually "get it" or we give you a job cleaning subway tunnels straight out of high school- or at 18 whichever comes first.

suzanne said...

Christian
nowhere did I say
love was an emotion

and what might I ask
lies behind
"genuine concern
for the well being of an Other"?

Anonymous said...

I think France is fucked beyond all redemption

Anonymous said...

just kidding.

Steven Barnes said...

Christian--

If you think that loving a woman has nothing to do with advancing civilization, I have to say that you have never really experienced love, although apparently you think you have.
"They are all so jealous? Not healthy ones. If you haven't met any of those, you need seriously to look in the mirror. When my teacher and I were shaking our heads, we were two men who have each saved people from the streets--Steve far more than I have. Not a day passes that we don't both hear from people who say we've saved their lives.

Steven Barnes said...

Yes, I've met people who had healthy relationships, but were financially broken, and had tragic bodies. Yep. Not many, but some. Now, I'd say that their relationship was slightly co-dependent, but it seemed to be genuine love, caring, and passion.

Steven Barnes said...

Mike--
I see your point, and agree with it. My misunderstanding.
##
Christian: I'm going to say this because I care, and I believe you show up here because you're looking for something. You strike me as a very intelligent young man with major wounds in your heart space. To the degree that you seem tone deaf to the deep connections other human beings manage to make with each other. Until you acknowledge your wound there, you are going to continue to see life as a negative. No one cares how much sex you've had, and your obsession with believing you've had more than everyone else is just laughable. What I care about is that you don't seem to believe that real love is even possible. Do you think we're faking? I genuinely feel sorry for you. One day, I hope you'll wake up and open your heart. There are women out there MUCH stronger than you--they would blow you out the door in a heartbeat, see you for the man-child you are. You're going to have to grow up to find one, however: you've been screwing girls playing women's games, and damaged dolls. Heal the guy in the mirror, and the world will start looking much different.

Christian M. Howell said...

Christian: I'm going to say this because I care, and I believe you show up here because you're looking for something. You strike me as a very intelligent young man with major wounds in your heart space. To the degree that you seem tone deaf to the deep connections other human beings manage to make with each other. Until you acknowledge your wound there, you are going to continue to see life as a negative. No one cares how much sex you've had, and your obsession with believing you've had more than everyone else is just laughable. What I care about is that you don't seem to believe that real love is even possible. Do you think we're faking? I genuinely feel sorry for you. One day, I hope you'll wake up and open your heart. There are women out there MUCH stronger than you--they would blow you out the door in a heartbeat, see you for the man-child you are. You're going to have to grow up to find one, however: you've been screwing girls playing women's games, and damaged dolls. Heal the guy in the mirror, and the world will start looking much different.


Once again you attack me. I come here because I came across you in my quest for cinematic excellence. Hollywood by Phone anyone?

I never said I had a lot of sex, I said a lot of WOMEN who wanted to marry me.

I heal my "wounds" - not sure how you psycho-analyzed me so quickly - by addressing the cause. Like assholes who have negative body langauge, bums who trickle down their bullshit to women because of a foolish patriarchal urge, institutions that encourage "exclusion," etc.

You say that loving one woman is great, I say loving 10 is better. The defacto "wisest man" Solomon had 700 wives.

I just think that you should determine your own mental reality. Screw other people's opinions about chakras. There just comes a time when you have to examine everything because if all of these "happiness gurus" are correct the world isn't greedy, stupid and hateful of other groups.

Tolerance is more important than the group, since sometimes you have to tolerate differences within the group.

Larson E. Whipsnade said...

Christian,

"Obviously even having groupies hasn't given you the amount of women I've had".

And then this appears...

"I never said I had a lot of sex...".

I'd certainly say that you said you've had a lot of sex by comparing yourself to a person that's admittedly had a lot of sex and has you by a good decade+ or so in age. Even at just ten-years that's a unknown nookie friend to be speculating that you've eclipsed.

However, mega nookie or no, watch those mental black holes where neither light gets out nor wisdom would appear to get in.

Dan Moran said...

>Anonymous said...
I think France is fucked beyond all redemption

Anonymous said...
just kidding.<

I don't know why, but I've read this three times now and laughed out loud every time.

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

A dress code for high school is NECESSARY.Dress codes in high school, and at work, I don't have a problem with. What I have a problem with is making sweeping judgments on the character of the people who are wearing the baggy pants.

First full time job I had, there was a guy, fresh out of MIT (and white, FWIW), who used to ride a motorcycle to work, take off his boots, and walk around shoeless. Because it was a think tank with something of a college-like tolerance in terms of dress codes, he was able to do this - until the time the people funding our project, from DARPA in Washington, were going to visit, and then the boss told him, wear shoes.

Was his lack of shoes a sign of unwillingness to excel? I'm inclined to think not; MIT doesn't tend to take mediocrities, and his system programming was fine. Was any company within its rights to ask him to wear shoes? Of course.

I'd even be willing to buy that telling your employees to wear shoes also encourages them to have better work discipline; it's not the cause and effect in that direction that I'm arguing, but the one in the other. People might sometimes excel more if they dress the part, but I'm not convinced they don't dress the part because they don't want to excel.

Also, as far as encouraging black kids to be responsible? Only six of them that I feel any such obligation to (and a similarly small number of white and Asian kids). If you're neither in my family nor part of my Quaker meeting, I figure, it's still my job not to put any obstacles in your way, but not my job to encourage you to be a responsible adult. After all, my ability to encourage anyone else to be a responsible adult is limited, and more limited still the less I know you. And, I don't see bad clothing choices as the big issue of the kids to whom I'm personally obliged, so I'm not sure why I'm supposed to be exercised about the baggy pants.

But, sure, schools are entitled to set dress codes, and it's fine by me if they do.

Dan Moran said...

> so I'm not sure why I'm supposed to be exercised about the baggy pants. <

It's not the baggy pants and tattoos and so on in and of themselves -- it's the cold hard fact that most of the people hiring into any but the lowest-level positions, won't hire people who can't present a certain minimal level of professionalism. The main problem with black America is poverty -- poor blacks have a damn sight more in common with poor whites and Latinos than they do with rich people of any color.

I've hired any number of people of color over the years. But I haven't and wouldn't hire someone who couldn't present adequately; it would reflect badly on me. That's selfish, but it's how the business world works: my priority is to provide for my family, and I can't do that by sabotaging myself with social outreach in the workplace. Candidates have got to GET TO THE INTERVIEW before they have any shot at succeeding.

Arguing about cultural standards or self-expression when people can't get an interview is missing the point in a pretty dramatic way.

Dan Moran said...

> Steve doesn't need to be told that things have changed: he's seen more change than you and I combined. <

No doubt. When you talk about Steve Mohammed I get a pretty clear picture (I think, and if I don't I'm sure it's your fault, mr. writer) ... and I've seen the same thing enough in my personal life that I can't say it surprises me any. The guy I play basketball with doesn't really like white people very much, though he concedes I'm OK.

My maternal grandfather didn't like blacks very much -- but he taught me to ride and shoot and was a good guy in most ways. But toward the end of his life he was clear that his prejudice toward blacks was in large part unjustified, and that the things he disliked in black culture were at least in part a response to blacks having to deal with men like him their entire lives. (He was a prison guard, among other things.)

That was as far as he ever could move, though.

If I could ask one question of Steve Mohammed, though, it would be this: is his inability to be a brother to a white man his failing, or that of all white men?

I'm sure my grandfather would have rejected the idea of brotherhood with black men, and I loved him, so I get your relationship with Mohammed at that level. But I also think that, at least toward the end, my grandfather recognized that it was his failing, after all.

suzanne said...

But I also think that, at least toward the end, my grandfather recognized that it was his failing, after all.my poor white father
born in 1913 West Virginia
to an alcoholic father
and a 15 year old mother
who went through 7 marriages in her lifetime
and had great legs
grew up with a prejudice oward
black people

given my life choices
he had major adjustments to make

which he eventually did

before his mind started
disappearing

Nancy Lebovitz said...

Mike Ralls, here's a little story from my life about advice on touchy subjects.

Some 15 or 20 years ago, I was apt to obsess about Holocaust, and talk about it if it was on my mind. (Footnote: my family was out of eastern Europe in the early 1900s so the Holocaust is a general fear for me, not something that struck especially close.)

One person suggested tactfully that this wasn't good for me. His ancestry was German, and I wrote it off to anti-Semitism. I didn't discuss this with him because I wasn't up for it. (Second footnote: he may have been sick of the subject for tolerably obvious reasons, but I really wasn't trying to ding him. That side of it didn't occur to me at the time at all.)

Years later, I certainly haven't forgotten the Holocaust, but I don't obsess about it in the same way. As far as I can tell, the obsession was a symptom of depression much more than a cause of it.

I would have been more likely to hear it if someone Jewish had told me I was overdoing it about the Holocaust, but it would have taken a lot of background knowledge and delicacy for *anyone* to say something useful.

As for the man who did try giving advice, he died recently, so there's no way to say anything to him about what was going on at my end.

*****

Still, I have a question for Christian. What got you started on your path of working to be sucessful?

*****

In re Steve Muhammed: The one thing I'm reasonably sure of is that if he becomes more accepting of white people, it will be because it makes sense to him in terms of his own goals and desires. It isn't going to be because white people want him to like them better.

Am I the only one who was shocked at the white man asking Steve M to be his brother? It seems like a very pushy and presumptuous question.

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

Arguing about cultural standards or self-expression when people can't get an interview is missing the point in a pretty dramatic way.In general, when it comes to getting jobs and interviews, I think people should pragmatically adjust to what business standards actually are. There are exceptions. For example, it was fair for that female bartender to object to the work requirement that she wear make up on the job, even though when it wound up in court she lost the case, since she thought that make up made her less effective at the keeping order with rowdy customers part of her job (and it's a rational fear - for women there's a certain trade off between looking feminine and being taken seriously - which means, I suppose, a further trade off in bars between expecting your staff to sell by looking pretty and expecting them to keep drunks in line). For another example, it's been fair for black people to complain when white people's professional standards involved expecting black people to go to extra work and expense to straighten their hair. In that case, it's the attitudes about hair that need adjusting.

But sagging pants and tattoos? Learn to look professional for work and job interviews; I agree.

And, some jobs allow more scope for self-expression than others, but if you want to aim for one of those jobs, you need to be ready to do the work; many are the garage bands that have fizzled.

Steven Barnes said...

Christian--
To attack you would be to suggest that you are LESS than you think you are. Actually, I think you are BETTER than you think you are, and that pain is holding you back from seeing it, and really going for the gold in life. And yes, you have told us many times about the vast number of women you've screwed. I'm not even sure how you can deny that with a straight face. And when you talk about how superior you are, you invite commentary. In no way, shape, or form do I think you're less than someone else. I just don't think you're better. That's all.
And I think that one day you will heal yourself, and fall in love, and you will realize that the younger Christian didn't know as much as he wanted the world to believe he did. I'm seriously pulling for you, guy...that's the only reason I take time to say these things.

Steven Barnes said...

In terms of the question about Steve Mohammad: "If I could ask one question of Steve Mohammed, though, it would be this: is his inability to be a brother to a white man his failing, or that of all white men?"

My thought is that his answer would be: he has seen black people treated badly by enough white people, even those who claimed to be "on our side" that he does not extends the automatic familial sense that he does to black people. A white man would have to EARN what a black man gets just by showing up. This is pure tribalism, and understandable--especially if you grew up in the era of lynching. The difference between Steve and your Grandpa is that blacks as a group are a fraction of the threat to whites that whites have been to blacks. There is no statistical depression of income, life span, incarceration rate, infant mortality rate...nothing. In that context, I'd say it's not a failing to be prejudiced, it's almost natural. Rather, I would give kudos to blacks who rise above it. Truthfully, it's kind of like the pass I give bigoted whites in the 18th and 19th Centuries--I don't blame 'em for thinking blacks inferior, as long as they treated them with basic decency.

Dan Moran said...

I'm not really trying to contrast my grandfather and Steve Mohammed -- among other things, my grandfather was about 25 years older than Mohammed, and the impact of racism on either one's lives would not be comparable in any meaningful way. Mostly I'm using it as a touchstone -- even old people can learn better, if only in small steps.

Mohammed sounds like a remarkable man, all around. I'm glad you have someone like that in your life.

Steven Barnes said...

Dan--

Actually, I bet it would be quite valid to examine Steve's beliefs and behaviors and your grandfather's, side by side. We'd probably see some quite revealing commonalities, and expressions of the same basic attitudes channeled through different life experiences.

Christian M. Howell said...

Still, I have a question for Christian. What got you started on your path of working to be sucessful?

@Nancy - I was always ryign to progress. I could read at 6 and at 7 I was reading the newspaper. I always got the highest IOWA and CAT scores and because of some emotional issues, I cut school more than I went.

I do wish I had been stronger when was 10 years old but what can you do? By the time I turned 18, I had been in MENSA, the Nat'l English Honor society, The Knowledge Bowl, had science articles published in the school newspaper, etc.

But when I dealt with people - American assholes let's call them - it was always "you're doing too much."
So either people don't like black men who excel - or black men that don't - or they are just lazy bums who don't want anyone to find out they definitely lie very well.

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