A gentleman at work, from Pakistan, was bewildered by the events reported from “Day Without a Woman.” Taking a broader view of the protests leading up to it, and likely sputtering along afterward, he asked in a jocular sort of way if the United States is heading toward a new reality in which every single day is a “day of” something, with constant protesting by someone or another. Now I have to wonder, what am I supposed to say to that? Joking or not, he isn’t wrong…
Shrug it off, I guess. “Yep, it does seem like we’re headed in that direction.” And, it does. This leads off into a rather titillating train of thought. What makes it so?
My answer: It has to do with the much-talked-about, but oh so little-practiced, conflict resolution skills. In my time on earth I’ve read and heard much advice about this, most of it unsolicited. What I’ve learned in all that time boils down to just three basic things:
1. Pissing people off on purpose doesn’t resolve conflict. Neither does ridiculing them, mocking them, marginalizing them, condescending to them…
2. Putting people on notice that it is exceptionally quick & easy to get you pissed off & bent out of shape, also doesn’t resolve conflict. Neither does that time-honored tactic I have taken to call, “I surely must be the best-informed among the two of us in this exchange, for behold, see how incredibly hard it is to tell me anything.”
3. The above two items, against my reasonable expectations, are somehow privileged knowledge. We have a metric fuck-ton of people walking around among us, who can dress themselves, drive cars, hold jobs, etc….but demonstrate zero knowledge about them.
Ah, but this is dishonest, isn’t it. The true source of the problem is not ignorance, but apathy. The original ballad of the Age of Aquarius sang of:
Harmony and understanding
Sympathy and trust abounding
No more falsehoods or derisions
Golden living dreams of visions…
peace will guide the planets
And love will steer the stars…
What a steaming load! This age that is coming to an end now, I hope, has been marked by — protests. Front to back, stem to stern, lock stock & barrel. Protest after protest after protest, and that’s a euphemism. Show me something your local teevee news is calling a “protest,” a five-spot says I can show you a riot. A ten-spot, if they call it a “peaceful protest.”
What better example to offer than the Day Without A Woman referenced above?
On March 8, 2017, women in the United States will be presented with an opportunity. A worldwide strike has been called…They will not cook breakfast, lunch, or dinner. They will not clean, watch children, buy groceries, drive carpool, fold clothes, wash dishes, or have sex…They will not work the assembly line or the phones, take your order or ring you up. They will skip shifts at hospitals, universities, and labs. They will not send emails or schedule appointments, braid hair, paint fingernails, or wax groins. They will wear red, march in the streets, block bridges and roads…
Strikes are by nature about value. To withdraw your participation in work, even for a day, is to ask others to consider the value of that work. How long can they go without it? When they lose a day of your labor, what do they lose? [emphasis mine]
It’s embarrassing just to read it. I’m guessing it was thought important to have someone on-hand to check spelling and grammar, but no one thought about sanity. Women are to withdraw their services and the rest of us are to think about how miserable we are without them and how badly we want them back again — while we sit in traffic, with a bunch of women on the bridge just ahead of us, blocking it. Should I even burn off the time & space explaining the contradiction? It seems obvious. You don’t get to make your salient point with a grand exit, charging out of the room and slamming the door behind you, leaving your abandoned audience to sit in quiet contemplation of the misery that awaits them without you — and then barge back in to throw plates & glassware against the wall. Everyone gets only one grand exit.
Still unclear? Imagine yourself sitting on the edge of a bed threading a needle, or making a sandwich, or soldering an old-fashioned circuit board, or building a Jenga tower. As you repeatedly fail with this maneuver or that one, do you start to yearn wistfully for the complementary services of the four-year-old sugared-up little shit who’s jumping up and down on the bed? Or are you more likely restraining yourself from defenestrating the little bastard? “Day without a hyperactive idiot jumping on the bed knocking over my Jenga tower” comes off looking like an appealing invitation, not a threat.
But, why should I worry about how women look blocking a bridge in front of me, stupidly expecting me to sit in quiet contemplation of my lonely life without their sexual favors. The protest is in the past. What’s not in the past is: Somewhere, they’ve got them some event-planners who are stupid, insane, or both. Most likely, these ogres are alarmingly tin-eared and self-centered. They couldn’t see the problem coming. And they’re still running things, at least, within their own sorry movements.
That’s the next thing I want to see die. We’ve survived the worst of this sorry, misbegotten Age of Aquarius, but it’s not over yet. There are still some ambient rays at twilight. There is much to fix.
These riots we see at the twilight, aren’t too different from what we saw at the dawning. These are people who want things, should be able to present a rational argument about how the common benefit of all is inextricably linked to the fulfillment of these wishes. But since they’re blocking bridges, the link either isn’t there, or they lack the intellectual capacity to present such an argument. (The cognitive dissonance required to perceive a benefit to interfering with traffic, on a day where you’re supposed to show how utterly and completely society relies on your continuing presence to continue functioning, would tend to suggest the latter of those two but it could be both.) So now…as they did back in the 1960’s when it started…they “protest” as a substitute for the presentation of this rational argument. They express their wishes, and if that doesn’t yield instant satisfaction, they lather rinse & repeat. Express the same wishes more emphatically. They are a repairman failing to achieve the desired effect of the repair, and having only one tool available to proceed with any further repairs.
Summarizing: They blocked traffic because withdrawing wasn’t enough. We can get along without cranky, nagging, unpleasant and unskilled liberal women just fine. And they knew it.
What they were trying to do, was not to do at all, but to be. It’s too late for strikes. We don’t live in an age wherein some demographic or some industry withdraws its services, and at the end of a day or two the rest of us are starving, dehydrated, sick, naked, or up to our armpits in garbage and ready to capitulate. That ship has sailed. There are really only two services people demand on a moment-to-moment basis, and those are electrical power and wireless Internet. All the rest involve some sort of reserve, which won’t be depleted until we’ve managed to find a scapegoat. “No bread or toilet paper at my local grocery store! Must be Republicans!” For all practical purposes, that means the reserves last forever, because the strike isn’t going to work if we find a believable scapegoat…and we, as a society, excel at doing that. Right or wrong, this perception is going to take all the horsepower out of the strike. Strikes are bullshit in the 21st century. You haven’t seen them achieve anything in many decades, and there’s a reason for that. They aren’t effective.
They hold an allure for the people who organize them and participate in them. All of their value is tied up in this; they are a medium of self-gratification.
The organizers, as I said, aren’t doing anything and aren’t trying to do anything. They’re trying to be. What they’re trying to be, is your Crazy Auntie Mabel…an idiom we have used occasionally around these parts…
“Crazy Auntie Mabel” is an alcoholic who’s prone to temper tantrums, cannot take responsibility for her own impulse control, so everybody else has to do it for her…walk on eggshells, don’t say the wrong thing. And above all, make sure and call each other out for saying something to tick off Mabel! “Whaddya think you’re doing??”
Such a silly narrative!! And yet…it seems everyone with some working gray matter and a little bit of experience on this globe, can relate. Everyone who has an extended family, has one of these. Here & there, now & then, someone who’s said something relatively — no pun intended — innocuous, has to explain themselves. A.M. just busted my Gibson guitar and gutted my cat, WHAT DID YOU SAY TO HER?? She has outbursts, and those end up being everybody else’s problem. And responsibility.
I spoke earlier of conflict resolution, and how sometimes those who have the loudest opinions about it know the least of it. Or, are the least motivated to demonstrate that they do know anything. Where there’s an Auntie Mabel, there is a dysfunctional grouping enabling her. If she were not enabled, she wouldn’t last. So Mabel creates the dysfunctional family, or the dysfunctional family creates Mabel. It really doesn’t matter which one it is. But she starts out as a mere irritant…doesn’t remain one for very long. Those who surround her, fear the conflict more than she does. They may think they have the coveted ‘conflict resolution skills,” but these often amount to little or nothing more than figuring what Auntie Mabel wants, and giving it to her. Once that’s done, the message is relayed to the crazy old Auntie that, for whatever other tools she’s lacking to get what she wants, she can always cause conflict. And that will usually work.
So she uses this — there are no other tools available. And she gets what she wants — everyone else fears conflict, she doesn’t. Why should she?
And she gets what she wants.
Other people see her getting what she wants. She evolves into a sort of weird authority figure. And then…a role model. Now you’ve got a real problem.
This is where we are with the protests in Anno Domini Twenty Seventeen. Trump won the election. Nothing else has worked for the malcontents. They are protesting, rioting, call it whatever you want to call it, because nothing else has worked for them. So if they throw a few plates against the wall, maybe some among us will cave in and give them what they want.
If it works, it works. If it doesn’t work, there’s one thing left to do, and that’s to break more plates. And so we find ourselves arguing about more things. Your “real” Auntie Mabel will bring up that time you did, or said, such-and-such a thing…and you’ll be like “Huhwha?? I haven’t thought about that in seventeen years, WTF?” On the national stage, similarly, we find ourselves arguing about…well, you name it. Russians. Grabbing pussies. Wiretapping. Global warming. Big Bird. Hiring hookers to pee on the bed. Small hands. Big hair.
This didn’t happen overnight. It’s something that’s been developing throughout the decades…and, not that many decades. Go back a few generations, and this was not a thing. Reasoned debate was reasoned debate. It might have had a few silly things sprinkled in now & then, but you didn’t have huffiness for its own sake. If people behaved like spoiled brats, they at least had the decency to expect to be treated that way. Today, unfortunately, we have become slowly accustomed to a departure from that.
In the late 1990s I was reading Anatomy of the Spirit, a then recent bestseller by Caroline Myss.
Myss described having lunch with a woman named Mary. A man approached Mary and asked her if she were free to do a favor for him on June 8th. No, Mary replied, I absolutely cannot do anything on June 8th because June 8th is my incest survivors’ meeting and we never let each other down! They have suffered so much already! I would never betray incest survivors!
Myss was flabbergasted. Mary could have simply said “Yes” or “No.”
What might help us to bring about the final extinction of this Age of Aquarius, is to figure out what makes Crazy Old Auntie Mabel tick. She’s really just a geriatric child, who’s reached the edge of her grave site without having acquired the minimal maturity needed to resolve conflicts in any mutually satisfactory way, either by leading in a reconciliation effort or by merely participating in one. She’s like the little kid who never learned to play a board game. Hasn’t got the patience. “Wait your turn” is a complete non-starter, let alone, “Yes he gets to advance to Go and collect $200, even though he was clear back on Reading R.R.” Such things are constantly up for appeal, because paroxysms of outrage are her stock in trade, her communication device.
This leads, over time, to the creation of a world-view the rest of us would do well to inspect. It is a fascinating construct a more stable mind could never create deliberately, at least, not so nimbly. It’s a snow-globe, a fish-tank of sorts, with nothing outside it. So busy is Auntie Mabel with reacting to whatever is inside the perimeter, she knows of nothing on the outside. Hasn’t got the time. And this effect is enhanced by her inventory of tools at her command that she can use to express her disfavor, which is ever-expanding in assortment even though each tool in the set adheres to a common theme. But the most frequently deployed is the Expunge Tool, the Begone-With-You tool, the “stop paying attention at you” tool. She’s responsible for hermetically sealing her own environment. What exists over the horizon, out of sight, might as well not exist at all. It’s not all a politically-left thing. Auntie-Mabels who become politically active out of a concern that we’re losing our “sense of community,” are particularly vulnerable to this.
This is what the protesters are doing with their “day without” stuff. Screw you guys, we’re going home…of course, then they have to disrupt traffic, so that isn’t where they were going…
This is both an effect, and a (sustaining) cause, of the “not responsible for my behavior” thing. Mabel imagines that she, like all the rest of us, maintains a reputation formed by the perception of others of her actions, good & bad. But like the sculptor making a horse by chiseling away all parts of a block that don’t look like one, she hones this reputation by getting rid of anybody who doesn’t form the correct opinion. They go out to the cornfield. Thus, she is, and simultaneously is not, responsible for what she does.
Auntie Mabel’s understanding of money is particularly bizarre. There’s a tendency for her to take on parasitic traits, since it’s hard to be productive when you’ve never really learned how to deal with other people with their different opinions and different priorities. If you do know an Auntie Mabel, and you probably do, better-than-even odds she’s being materially supported in some way by someone else. Money, to her, is like gas in the tank, with someone else responsible for filling: You’re just about out of it, which is a pain in the ass; you might be running out of it soon, in which case maybe it’s time to show a little bit of foresight and start worrying about it early — maybe. Or, you’re not going to run out of it anytime soon. One of those three things, all the time. But there are never more than thirteen gallons or so. The cash card is never going to reach zero, the credit card has no limit, so from where does the money come? Who knows, who cares. The needle approaching “E” is just another crisis that can be used to stoke some emotion and create some conflict, there’s no cause, no effect, no planning necessary. She may find out, now & then, about other people who have more. It’s nothing more than an occasion to create more conflict. There is no means on earth by which those other people might have acquired the money honestly, of course, so they must be crooks.
The utterly irreconcilable contradiction that is at the core of her being, the defining trait that makes her what she is, is that she lives to “win” arguments — nothing else really motivates her — but she cannot stoop so low as to do any actual arguing. Just wants to skip forward to the fun part, where she says what other people have to do, and those other people go do it. You often see her peddling such non-argument arguments as “Who are you to say,” and “I refuse to discuss.” And yet she thrives on conflict for conflict’s sake. If you really want to set her off toot-sweet, just start inspecting any one of a number of things people inspect when they argue honestly, when they don’t think the details of what makes life go, are somehow beneath them. A little bit of “Yes but if it worked that way, we might expect to see X…” Or maybe some of “Yes but by that logic, whenever A we would have to conclude B.” Or: What’s the epistemology? How come it is you think you know, what you think you know?
We have that word now, because we’re all Auntie Mabel. The current generation has discovered, en masse, that in some settings there are a lot of advantages involved in being Auntie Mabel, and not too many readily noticeable downsides. Our institutions of higher learning might not like to admit it, in fact expend boundless reserves of energy to assert the opposite, but they do much to encourage life in a hermetically sealed snow-globe. And, “winning” arguments without doing any actual arguing? What’s not to like? Well…familiarity breeds contempt, and even in chic, happening places like Urban Dictionary one quickly discovers the love of sarcasm exceeds the fondness for generic lefty hipster nonsense. You see this with the top voted definition calling it “The mating call of a landwhale as it submerges from the patriarchy.” The sarcasm continues to ooze for a bit…until you get to Page 2; the first post of which puts together the siren song of Crazy Auntie Mabel far better than I ever could.
Okay, kiddos. Enough of this ‘landwhale’ bullshit. I’m about to tell you what REAL triggering is.
To be ‘triggered’ is NOT to be offended by something. It’s actually quite different from that. To be triggered is to have a certain stimulus, be it a word, a place, a person etc, set off (or trigger) a memory linking back to a traumatic point in your life (i.e. rape, a local terrorist attack, or any sort of horrible event), resulting in negative effects like anxiety attacks (and that’s just one of the many things that can come from being triggered. Trust me, it can get so much worse). It is NOT something to be treated lightly.
I’ll conclude this with a rundown of tips for if you ever come across someone who can be triggered.
1: Do not make fun of them. Triggering is a serious issue which should be treated with care and respect.
2: Do not start calling them things like ‘SJW’ or ‘Landwhale’ or whatever other bullshit you might associate with triggering. It has nothing to do with that.
3: Do not, I repeat, do NOT (I repeat again, FUCKING DO NOT) attempt to trigger them. You should already know this, but I’m saying it anyway. DON’T TRY TO TRIGGER PEOPLE, YOU FUCKING ASSHOLE. Don’t even consider it. You can do some serious damage to a person’s mental state if you do. You keep that in fucking mind.
Now, I’d appreciate some upvotes so we can get this ACTUAL definition of triggering to be the top definition, so no one has to see that disgustingly mean ‘landwhale’ definition again.
Do not, I repeat, do not FUCKING DO NOT attempt to trigger them you fucking asshole. The mask is ripped away. I rest my case; it’s a device for people who want to win the argument without doing any actual arguing. “I want it done like this, so don’t do it that other way or else consider me triggered. And don’t do that you fucking asshole.” Might as well be the anthem of our times.
Well…that’s not the end of the story though, is it. Since Auntie Mabel is typically unproductive, it very often emerges we have to do things she doesn’t like in order to produce things; we have to do something “that other way” in order to get anything done. It really isn’t hard at all to come up with an example or two. Burning fossil fuels to send a freight or passenger vehicle along a road, will suffice. Sometimes, to attend to our practical purpose for existing on this plane, we have to wait for Auntie Mabel to make her grand exit, slamming the door behind her, and then attend to business with her out of the way. We have to take advantage of her limited world-view, of the glass in her snow-globe. We have to wait for the toddler to cry himself to sleep so we can go back to threading the needle. Hey, it works so well! If Auntie Mabel doesn’t have something directly in her line-of-sight, it won’t exist to her. The whole thing becomes a non-issue. Enforced day-to-day by a rigid code of silence. “What did you do to piss off Mabel” quickly morphs into “What are you going to do to make sure Mabel never finds out about it.”
The net effect of this is: Auntie Mabel ends up being the one ostracizing herself, when she thinks she’s ostracizing everyone else. It’s a really sad thing. People talk about the “Uncle in the attic” that no one ever acknowledges in any way, whose presence you dread at Christmas parties and so forth. Well, she’s him. Crazy Auntie Mabel, up in the attic, all alone…where she belongs.
Day Without a Woman? Every day is a day without these kinds of women…if you want to get anything done.