Uncivil Unions: April 2006: Archives

April 22, 2006

"I'm As Mad As Hell" genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation & Uncivil Unions

I tend to think most of life can be understood by looking at relationships. The exchanges that occur between people tell us a lot about the mechanics of power and persuasion. It is within those mechanics where one is most likely to find the forces that influence the bulk of what takes place in society. For me to understand and explain this best, I start by looking at the fundamental relationship…a marriage or other love relationship between two people. What an individual does in these relationships is often a good predictor of their actions in the larger society.

As I’ve watched these relationships over the years, one equation has piqued my attention. It’s what I would call the accommodator phenomenon. In this model, one can usually determine which partner does the majority of the accommodating in order to make the relationship functional. Granted, this is an oversimplification, but I think its one that holds up to the analysis. This accommodation can be subtle or it can be pronounced…but it is often the defining characteristic of the relationship.

It may take simple forms like spending the majority of the holidays with one partner’s family or sports events become the primary form of entertainment or maybe its merely whether to live in the city or the suburbs. In some instances it is even more pronounced. In these extreme cases, one partner may actually abandon the majority of their prior relationships or one partner may give up a lifelong hobby. Basically, in these extreme cases, those that know the individual making the accommodation will often find the change wholly surprising.

With this background, I am most fascinated with how this construct translates to the larger dynamic of society. Again, I will oversimplify in order to make my point…but I think it will withstand the scrutiny. In a basic sense, how societies interact in the fundamental relationship will often explain the larger social structures. I am particularly interested in looking at politics. To give an extreme example will help demonstrate my point. In Saudi Arabia, women are primarily accommodators. They don’t vote (although that is changing) and their function is primarily subservient or secondary to the male partner. Societal decisions are therefore made by men, meaning they control the politics.

American politics can also be explained with this model. Our two party system has a large role in how this unfolds. To fully understand my argument, some assumptions must be made. I tend to look at the far left and the far right as the partners in the relationship who want to be accommodated. In the larger middle are those who act as the accommodators in this relationship. The role of the politician, for better or worse, becomes determining how to court enough of these people to win a majority and get elected.

Given that the middle is the largest single segment, it would seem logical that politicians’ should first court this segment of the voting public. Save for a two party system, they might. The obstacles to this approach are the caucus and the primary systems where participation is typically skewed to the extremes. In essence, those individuals at opposite ends of the spectrum that are seeking to be accommodated make the most demands. By their nature, they actively pursue and participate in the struggle to obtain the promises or concessions they desire. This pushes the candidates of both party’s away from the center as they each battle to win their respective nominations.

I think this goes a long way towards explaining the typically low American voter turnout. The middle is seemingly neglected (or at best taken for granted) until the general election and by that time they likely feel neither candidate represents their moderate positions. In many ways, this is the predictable outcome. Independent and moderate voters are under represented in the process which means the candidates they might prefer probably won’t even make it to the ballot. Additionally, I find that accommodators become quickly disenchanted with the rampant rhetoric. Not unlike the personal relationships mentioned above, the accommodator is constantly barraged by signals and manipulations from those that are intent on obtaining the desired acquiescence.

I for one am fed up with the process and the outcome. The question is what to do? I think the answer is found back at the beginning in the fundamentals. Everything starts with basic relationships. Much like the marriage or love relationship where one partner routinely accommodates the other, the solution is relatively simple. Stop doing it and start saying no! There is one miscalculation that hinders taking these steps. The fear is that in doing as much, the accommodator will become the demander. Nothing could be further from the truth. Innate to the accommodator is a sense of reasonability. Demanding the same remains reasonable…but more importantly…forces the demander to move towards reasonability. You can demand reasonability and remain true to its construct.

I already hear the naysayer’s…they are saying nope, you have it wrong…my demander will just leave and find another accommodator. In saying as much, you have proven my point. Here’s why. If today, accommodators collectively said no more, demanders would be defeated. All that would be left for them would be those at the opposite end of the spectrum…equally demanding and intransigent individuals looking to be accommodated. Frankly, I’m happy to see both extremes forced to meet the other side face to face. You see, the middle has for far too long served as a convenient buffer…brokering a peace that serves both ends of the spectrum at the expense of the middle. I say bullshit! I’m reminded of the movie Network, which was released in 1976. I cannot think of any better words to say to all of us in the middle, all of us accommodators, than this poignant soliloquy from the movie:

We know things are bad - worse than bad. They're crazy. It's like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don't go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, 'Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won't say anything. Just leave us alone.' Well, I'm not gonna leave you alone. I want you to get mad! I don't want you to protest. I don't want you to riot - I don't want you to write to your congressman because I wouldn't know what to tell you to write. I don't know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street. All I know is that first you've got to get mad.

You've got to say, 'I'm a human being, Goddamnit! My life has value!' So I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell, 'I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!' I want you to get up right now, sit up, go to your windows, open them and stick your head out and yell…'I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!' Things have got to change. But first, you've gotta get mad…You've got to say, 'I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!' Then we'll figure out what to do about the depression and the inflation and the oil crisis. But first get up out of your chairs, open the window, stick your head out, and yell, and say it: I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!"

It is time for the middle to take its rightful position in politics. So long as we allow the extremes to dictate the dialogue, rhetoric will prevail. As with a pendulum, in order to find the center, conflict tends to first reach the extremes. History is the virtual seesaw of this process. Groups who see the resolution of conflict as simply a matter of power are destined to see their own power wane because they fail to persuade those over which they exert power. Over time, it is only persuasion that prevails. Until society rethinks its methods to resolve differences, tomorrow will merely look like today...the only difference will be whose in charge. I’m suggesting that its time for the middle to lead.

Daniel DiRito | April 22, 2006 | 9:59 AM | link | Comments (0)
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April 21, 2006

Less Than One genre: Rhyme-N-Reason & Uncivil Unions

The category “Rhyme-N-Reason" is intended to be a place to share poetry that stimulates thoughtful reflection. For me, writing poetry is cathartic. It’s a way to encapsulate a group of feelings or thoughts that might be on my mind such that when I’m done writing, I experience a level of resolve that is both comforting and motivational. It has the same effect for me as listening to a song with which one has a significant connection. It takes you somewhere you’ve been or to something you’ve felt or experienced and allows you to further interpret the intended meaning or the lesson learned. Hopefully this can be a place for readers to pause and reflect on their own thoughts and feelings. Your comments are welcomed as well as any poetry you might want to share.

This poem is called Less Than One. It's fairly obvious that it is about relationships and how easy it is for two people to spend time together though never actually be together. Relationships can often be filled with hidden dichotomies and a number of them are contained in the poem. The photo is actually the same photo that appears in Snapshot Thoughts titled Push & Pull. For this posting, the photo was manipulated to form two figures that are engaged in the push and pull of a relationship, thereby further explaining the poem.

Push & Pull

Less Than One

The you in me is still my lover
The me in you has found another
Funny, you and I don’t know each other

Two together, too apart
The endings read before the start
Empty beds, empty hearts
Too together, two apart

The hidden self brings self deceit
The sum of us is incomplete
The shadow grows, the heart retreats

Two entwined, too alone
Neither one was ever known
Broken souls, broken homes
Too entwined, two alone

The taste of love, the hemlock simmered
The glow of love was just a glimmer
We met in spring, we died in winter

Two ignited, too requited
Nothing said, but yet decided
Each consumed, each divided
Too ignited, two requited

I lived for you and you for me
The you and I was never seen
Sadly, you and I were just a dream

Daniel DiRito | April 21, 2006 | 6:57 AM | link | Comments (2)
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April 20, 2006

Battle Of The Sexes: Daddy Knows Best genre: Six Degrees of Speculation & Uncivil Unions

I thought this was an interesting article in light of the new South Dakota law virtually eliminating a woman's right to reproductive decisions along with the growing promotion of "Father-Daughter Purity Balls" whereby young girls pledge to their fathers to remain virgins until marriage. Strangely, boys aren't treated similarly...there are no ceremonies whereby boys pledge purity to their mothers. Digby has details here...(More Purity Ball) and PZ Meyers comments further here.

I've yet to understand these fathers preoccupation with their daughter's sexuality such that the father feels the need to elicit a virginity pledge. The whole thing gives me the creeps. I tend to think fathers ought to teach daughters to be thoughtful, independent, and self-confident...but then it may be possible that these fathers see marriage as a ceremony whereby they hand off ownership of their daughter's sexuality to another man. Sick and twisted!

The study seems to indicate that inequality may be detrimental to relationships. Read the article on the study below:

CHICAGO (AP): Japan can't get no satisfaction. But Austria's mojo is working. Sex is more satisfying in countries where women and men are considered equal, according to an international study of people aged between 40 and 80 by the University of Chicago.

Austria, where 71 per cent of those surveyed reported being satisfied with their sex lives, topped the list of 29 nations studied.

Spain, Canada, Belgium and the US also reported high rates of sexual satisfaction, ahead of Australia, in sixth.

The lowest satisfaction rate, 25.7 per cent, was in Japan.

Sociologist Edward Laumann, who led the study, believes the findings show relationships based on equality lead to more satisfaction for women, which leads to more satisfaction for men.

"Male-centred cultures where sexual behaviour is more oriented toward procreation tend to discount the importance of sexual pleasure for women," he said.

The study, which appears in this month's issue of the Archives of Sexual Behaviour, was funded by Pfizer, which makes the impotence drug Viagra.

Researchers surveyed 27,500 people by phone, in person or by mail, depending on local practices. The different ways of questioning people was one of the study's limitations, the researchers noted.

Daniel DiRito | April 20, 2006 | 12:33 PM | link | Comments (0)
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April 4, 2006

Cedric genre: Gaylingual & Uncivil Unions

It was Friday the thirteenth and I had been in London for approximately a week. I’ve always liked Friday the thirteenth despite it’s billing as an unlucky day. I ventured out to Compton’s (a gay bar) to see what London was like on the weekend and I had just purchased a beer at the bar when Cedric walked in and made his way to the counter next to me. He was quite noticeable and he didn’t seem to fit the mold for the crowd that had gathered that evening. It appeared to me to be an older crowd with a local flavor. Cedric was neither older nor local. I don’t recall what we first spoke about but it was likely something inconsequential. Nonetheless, as sometimes happens, we formed an instant bond that would last the remainder of the evening.

Cedric was twenty-two and from France…his hair was cut in a fairly severe mullet and he had very thin sideburns that ran down his cheeks to connect up with what I might describe as an under the chin scruff. He was carrying two shopping bags from which he would later pull out a scarf that he would wear for the remainder of the evening. He was wearing a velvet blue sport coat, a basic white shirt with an element of stitch work, and last but not least, a pair of what appeared to be white Prada shoes that had a very elongated and pointy toe. Let’s just say they were the kind of shoes that precede one’s entry into a room and continue to be discussed long after one’s exit from the room. Before you get the impression that I didn’t approve of his style, let me just say that Cedric couldn’t wear anything else and still be Cedric. His attire simply added to his charm.

Cedric had only moved from France to London the previous month so Compton’s was a new experience for the both of us. He indicated it was one of his first ventures into the gay area of London. Unfortunately, living in London is even more expensive than New York City so he was living, as he described it, somewhere in the distant outskirts. The conversation was flowing and comfortable despite a bit of a language barrier. We each shared numerous observations about London from an outsider’s perspective. As we were discussing London’s night life, he indicated he had already had a few beers…having just come from the Admiral Duncan to check out Compton’s.

In contrast to France, Cedric told me that he drank when he went out in London. He explained that in France people rarely go out alone. He shared that it was unusual for people to approach those who were alone unless they had an intentioned interest. I took this explanation to mean that if you did approach someone who was alone, it would not likely be for casual chat as that would be inappropriate, if not rude. I told him that in America it was routine for people to mingle amongst the crowd and that casual conversation generally had little specific or intended meaning. To my surprise, he then inquired if I had any particular intention to which I quickly answered that I had no agenda. Had I thought further about his remarks, I would have known they foreshadowed the remainder of the evening.

As we drank our beers, we each took turns running to the bathroom. I would watch his bags and drink and he would watch my drink. Cedric was easy to talk to and while his English had a definite French twist, I seemed to follow what he was saying much better that many of the locals. At one point in the conversation, he started leaning over the bar and facing the bartenders as he was holding his head. I recalled that he had previously told me he thought he was a bit tipsy so I wasn’t exactly sure what was happening. I leaned over to say something to him and when he straightened up and turned to talk, I realized he had the hiccups. He had turned towards the bar when they began in hopes they would cease before he would need to speak again. Unfortunately, by asking him a question, I blew his cover which forced him to acknowledge their presence. He immediately began a profuse apology that lasted for the next few minutes. While he didn’t actually say the words, it was obvious that he was embarrassed and it was apparent that having the hiccups in France must have had far more negative connotations than in the States. He seemed truly horrified.

With an abundance of charm, he told me he would be unable to share an honest account of the evening with his French friends as he would have to skip over the hiccups in order to avoid abject ridicule. Perhaps Cedric was simply a skilled charmer, but I’m inclined to think he was simply being his authentic and original self. Seriously, it was abundantly apparent that he was sincere. At the same time, he seemed to doubt my nonchalant reaction as I repeatedly told him to stop apologizing. Regardless, until they stopped, he continued to turn towards the bar each time he had to hiccup again. Fortunately, for Cedric’s sake, they stopped in less than fifteen minutes.

I think at this point I bought another round of beers…a semi-celebration of Cedric’s return from social disgrace. It was shortly thereafter that Cedric told me he hadn’t eaten since breakfast and suggested we find a place for dinner. It sounded like a good idea. He quickly told me he wouldn’t know where to go and asked if I might know of a good place. I suggested a place called Balans. I had eaten lunch there earlier in the week. The food was good and it was nearby.

We made the short walk and we were quickly seated despite the fact that it looked like we may have been in for a long wait. As we looked at the menu, Cedric soon exclaimed, “They have Toulouse sausages!" I asked him what they were and he proceeded to explain that it was a type of sausage named for their place of origin, Toulouse, France. They were served with mashed potatoes and a reduction sauce. It sounded intriguing and comforting, so, needless to say, it was what we both ordered. I don’t recall our specific conversation after we placed our order but it wasn’t long before the two gentlemen seated at the next table asked if I was an American. They were American as well and we shared a few details about where we were from, what we were doing in London, as well as our next destinations …typical small talk amongst tourists.

Cedric was uncharacteristically silent during the exchange except for the obligatory greetings. As I finished speaking with the two Americans and turned my attention back to Cedric, I immediately noticed a change in his demeanor. It wasn’t a look of anger but a look of deflation…it was the look one might expect to see on the face of a child upon hearing that Santa Claus wasn’t actually a real person. He did his best to conceal the change but it was as noticeable as the clothing he wore. In my head, my first thought was that possibly the lack of food and numerous drinks had simply gotten the best of him. As I think back, I’m convinced that was my hope but certainly not my perception.

Before much time for further analysis or conversation, our food arrived. I thought the sausages were quite good. As I watched Cedric eat, I saw that his prior excitement for Toulouse sausages had turned into what I would characterize as an attempt to choke down an overcooked hot dog at a carnival stand. I asked him if they were what he expected and he said yes and that they were quite good…but it was obvious that the moment was no longer about food for Cedric.

We left Balans and walked a short distance to a club down the street. We went inside and sat in the seating area in front of the pay counter. Within moments, tears were streaming down Cedric’s cheeks. I didn’t speak but I placed my hand over his on the table. He mumbled the words, “all I do is cry" and then said he just wanted to be in love. I touched his cheek while trying to offer him some encouragement. I knew there was little I could say or do because I recalled my own similar feelings when I was his age. He was at a time and a place that cannot be denied or avoided despite all the words of encouragement that can be offered by those who have already made the same journey. I told him that he would find love knowing full well that while love endures, love would likely never again be quite so pure, quite so real, and quite as innocent as it had been before it was found.

Absent the appropriate spoken words, I took out a pen and paper and I wrote down these words and then handed him the paper to read:

Cedric wants to be in love
Twenty-two…too young for blue
His world is heavy
His smile is lovely
It’s all up there…just above thee
Look up my friend…

We sat for a while longer before we left. I wished him well and then we each headed off in different directions. I was happy for the chance to share some time with Cedric and in knowing he’s out there somewhere discovering himself reassures me that love is still alive.

Daniel DiRito | April 4, 2006 | 12:33 PM | link | Comments (0)
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