Compassion and Abstraction

abstract photo

Abstraction gets a bad rep. It’s often seen as cold, calculating, divorced from emotion. But I’ve found the exact opposite. Abstraction is crucial to my ability to have compassion. Abstraction helps me step back from my own experience, and look at it in a bigger picture — a picture that includes other people.

Here’s an example. We’ve all seen progressives who are very skilled at critiquing oppression that affects them — and utterly clueless about ways they oppress others. We’ve all seen, for instance, white feminists go after men who derail conversations about sexism, focus the conversations on themselves and their hurt feelings, chide women for being uncivil and harsh, demand to be educated on demand about Feminism 101, argue arrogantly instead of listening, accuse feminists of being divisive, and pull out the “not all men” card. Then, in conversations with black women about racism in the feminist movement, those same white feminists will turn around and do the exact same things: derail, make it about them, argue instead of listening, say black feminists are being divisive, etc.

Abstraction helps me not do that. Continue reading “Compassion and Abstraction”

Compassion and Abstraction
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Help The Orbit Fight Dr. Richard Carrier’s SLAPP Suit

quiet hand over mouth

Please support the crowdfunder, Defense Against Carrier SLAPP Suit!

Dr. Richard Carrier is suing us for reporting on his well-known allegations of misconduct. These allegations were widely reported on throughout the community, including by third-parties critical and sympathetic to him who are not themselves defendants.

This lawsuit has all the hallmarks of a SLAPP suit — a lawsuit filed to stifle legitimate criticism and commentary. The named defendants are Skepticon, The Orbit, and Freethought Blogs – as well as individuals Lauren Lane, the lead organizer of Skepticon; Stephanie Zvan, a blogger for The Orbit; PZ Myers, a blogger for Freethought Blogs; and Amy Frank-Skiba, who publicly posted her first-hand allegations against Carrier.

We need your help to keep our voices alive. Continue reading “Help The Orbit Fight Dr. Richard Carrier’s SLAPP Suit”

Help The Orbit Fight Dr. Richard Carrier’s SLAPP Suit

January 20, 2017: Refusing My Consent, and Grieving the World

the word no

I do not consent to this.

It’s January 20, 2017. It’s inauguration day. And I do not accept it.

That’s an odd phrase: “I do not accept this.” It can mean denial, refusal to acknowledge reality. Or it can mean resistance. I’ve been doing a bit of both: I’ve been sinking into work and organizing, and I’ve been sinking into escapist distractions. I’ll probably keep doing both. I can’t work all the time, I’ll exhaust myself. And I can’t let myself think too much, or for too long, about the world we’re in now. Especially not when I’m alone. I need my escapes into other worlds: worlds where people mostly treat each other decently, worlds where wrongs are righted.

I think I’ve read too much science fiction. There’s a part of me that keeps looking for the key to the alternate reality. One of the most painful things about this election is how close it was. Just a few thousand votes in a handful of states, and it would have been different. The other reality seems so close to this one, and it seems radically wrong that we can’t reach it, that it doesn’t actually exist. It seems wrong that the other world could have been so close to our grasp, and yet be so radically different. The flawed country making itself gradually better, moving three steps forward and two steps back, building on the legacy and momentum of the last eight years… and the worst sides of this country, the dehumanizing racism, the leering disgust of women, the repugnance toward the body, the poisonous fear of the new, the contempt for knowledge, the naked greed, the selfishness masquerading as individuality, the hatred of the stranger masquerading as love of the country, all made flesh at once. So close.

And because the other world is so close — was so close — it makes certain kinds of pain hard to heal, and hard to bear. I know I need to move forward, not dwell, learn lessons and move on. But it’s hard to not feel rage, at people I once saw as part of my extended chosen family, people who should have known better but helped make this happen. And it’s hard to not feel guilt; to feel like I should have done more, better, sooner.

I feel somewhat bad, writing this today. I feel like I should be inspiring righteous anger, issuing clarion calls to action. I know I’ll do that, some of it anyway, in the months and years to come. I know that resistance is not futile. And I will resist. I have already begun to resist, and I’ll continue. But today, I’m deep in grief. I’m grieving the world we could have had. I’m grieving for the world we’re in now. And I am refusing my consent.

Do what you need to do today. Console each other; rage; retreat and regroup; distract yourself; spend all day poking the wound and taking its measure; cry; protest. Self-care is not selfish. Self-care is a form of resistance.

Other work in a similar vein:
Depression in a Fascist Regime
The World We’re In Now (my talk at Skepticon 9)

January 20, 2017: Refusing My Consent, and Grieving the World

Scoundrels With Purpose: “Leverage” and Moist von Lipwig from “Discworld”

Cast of Leverage

(Content note: Mild spoilers for Leverage and some of the later Discworld books.)

I was talking with Benny Vimes the other day about the Discworld books. I’d written that my favorite character in the Terry Pratchett Discworld books is Moist von Lipwig: he asked why, and I realized that the reason is also a big part of why I’ve been so infatuated with the TV show Leverage:

I like stories about scoundrels with a purpose.

Scoundrels in fiction can be so much fun. If you’re ever had fantasies about outwitting people, or breaking the rules and getting away with it, stories about thieves and grifters and charlatans can be massively entertaining. They’re especially fun if the characters are really good at it: it’s another version of competence porn.

But when you start really thinking about scoundrels, and the effect they have on people, the stories stop being so fun. When you rob someone, con them, defraud them, it can screw up their lives pretty badly. The Discworld books about Moist von Lipwig explore this explicitly: especially the first one, Going Postal, where Moist begins to fall in love with Adora Belle, a.k.a. Spike, and realizes she’s one of the people whose life he ruined.

Hence, scoundrels with a purpose.

The most obvious examples are the many, many versions of the Robin Hood trope, stories about robbing the rich and giving to the poor. Continue reading “Scoundrels With Purpose: “Leverage” and Moist von Lipwig from “Discworld””

Scoundrels With Purpose: “Leverage” and Moist von Lipwig from “Discworld”

Godless Perverts Social Club Feb. 7: Sexual and Gender Rights in the Trump Regime

Godless perverts Social Club Feb 7 for website

There’s a Godless Perverts Social Club on Tuesday, February 7, at Wicked Grounds, 289 8th St. in San Francisco (near Civic Center BART), 7-9 pm. Our discussion topic for this evening: Sexual and Gender Rights in the Trump Regime.

Under the Trump regime and with a Republican-controlled Congress, sexual and gender rights will be under attack. Legal protections could be removed, not only for LGBT people, but for anyone in any sexual relationship outside opposite-sex marriage. And the recent rise in hate crimes targets sexual minorities as well as people of color, Muslims, Jewish people, and others. What threats do we have to be concerned about? How is the false panic over religious freedom being used in these attacks? And how can we take action to protect ourselves and each other, and to fight back?

The Social Club is free, and all orientations, genders, and kinks (or lack thereof) are welcome. Wicked Grounds has beverages, light snacks, full meals, and amazing milkshakes: please support the cafe if you can. If you can’t afford cafe prices, Wicked Grounds customers have bought you coffee or tea: just ask for your beverage to paid for “from the wall.”

Community is one of the reasons we started Godless Perverts. There are few enough places to land when you decide that you’re an atheist; far fewer if you’re also LGBT, queer, kinky, poly, trans, or are just interested in sexuality. And the sex-positive/ alt-sex/ whatever- you- want- to- call- it community isn’t always the most welcoming place for non-believers. So please join us! Hang out with other nonbelievers and chat about sex, sexuality, gender, atheism, religion, science, social justice, pop culture, and more.

Godless Perverts presents and promotes a positive view of sexuality without religion, by and for sex-positive atheists, agnostics, humanists, and other non-believers, through performance events, panel discussions, social gatherings, media productions, and other appropriate outlets. Our events and media productions present depictions, explorations, and celebrations of godless sexualities — including positive, traumatic, and complex experiences — focusing on the intersections of sexuality with atheism, materialism, skepticism, and science, as well as critical, questioning, mocking, or blasphemous views of sex and religion.

Godless Perverts is committed to feminism, diversity, inclusivity, and social justice. We seek to create safe and welcoming environments for all non-believers and believing allies who are respectful of the mission, and are committed to taking positive action to achieve this. Please let the moderators or other people in charge of any event know if you encounter harassment, racism, misogyny, transphobia, or other problems at our events.

If you want to be notified about all our Godless Perverts events, sign up for our email mailing list, follow us on Twitter at @GodlessPerverts, or follow us on Facebook. You can also sign up for the Bay Area Atheists/ Agnostics/ Humanists/ Freethinkers/ Skeptics Meetup page, and be notified of all sorts of godless Bay Area events — including many Godless Perverts events. And of course, you can always visit our Website to find out what we’re up to, godlessperverts.com. Hope to see you soon!

Godless Perverts Social Club Feb. 7: Sexual and Gender Rights in the Trump Regime

Godless Perverts at Women’s March in SF, January 21

women's march bay area banner

March with Godless Perverts at the January 21 post-inauguration-day Women’s March!

On January 21, the day after the presidential inauguration, there’s going to be a massive national Women’s March, opposing the rise of bigoted hatred in the United States. (Here’s more detail about their mission.) The main march is in Washington, DC, with sister marches all over the country, including the Bay Area. The march isn’t just for women: it’s open to anyone, regardless of gender or gender identity, who believes women’s rights are human rights.

In San Francisco, there will be a rally and candlelight march, starting at 4:00 pm at the Civic Center. The rally will be from 4:00 to 6:00 pm, with the march going down Market Street to Justin Herman Plaza starting at 6:00. There will also be marches in Oakland and San Jose.

Godless Perverts will be marching in the San Francisco march. Please join us! Continue reading “Godless Perverts at Women’s March in SF, January 21”

Godless Perverts at Women’s March in SF, January 21

Some Things from my Childhood

Revolver

I’ve committed to blogging every weekday in January, but today I’m struggling to find a topic. I have a zillion things I want to write about, but they all take more time and thought than I have tonight. So I’m compiling some lists of things from my childhood. (I’m defining “childhood” as “age 12 and under.”)

Note: These aren’t the top five anything. They’re just the first five in each category that popped into my head.

Five books I read:
The Annotated Alice
Winnie the Pooh
Striped Ice Cream
The Little Match Girl
Honey Bunch: Her First Little Mystery

Five foods I ate:
American Cheese slices, broken into small squares, each square placed on a single Chex
Braunschweiger sanwiches on white bread with potato chips
Carnation Breakfast Bars
Angel food cake with strawberries and whipped cream
Tuna and noodles

Five songs I liked:
Rubber Ducky
Yellow Submarine
Octopus’s Garden
The Swingle Singers version of “Sleepers Wake” by J.S. Bach
Tomorrow Never Knows

Five games I played:
TV Tag
Hang On Harvey
Careers
Sorry
Hopscotch

Five record albums I listened to:
Revolver, The Beatles (note: I didn’t understand that the front cover was the front, I thought it was weird so I assumed it must be the back cover)
Julian Bream Plays Bach
Abbey Road, The Beatles
The Monkees, The Monkees
Think Ethnic, Smothers Brothers

Some Things from my Childhood

Godless Perverts Book Club: “My President Was Black,” Ta-Nehisi Coates

Godless-Perverts-Book-Club-Jan-for-website

Godless Perverts is starting a book club! Want to talk books with other nonbelievers interested in sexuality and social justice? Come to the very first Godless Perverts Book Club, Tuesday January 17 at Borderlands! We’ll be discussing a wide variety of books over the coming months, about sex, gender, atheism, religion, science, activism, resistance, and other topics in the Godless Perverts wheelhouse.

For our first selection, we decided to read a hefty article instead of a book, since part of the first meeting will be devoted to getting things off the ground and choosing the next book. We will be reading the Ta-Nehisi Coates article in The Atlantic, “My President Was Black.” The article addresses issues around identity politics (a.k.a. civil rights), respectability politics, and the role and functions of the President. While this is not specific to godlessness and perversion, it should lead to some good discussions regarding the current political climate, what we expect from politicians (whether friend or foe) and how we should hold politicians accountable. The article is about a 2 hour read (17000 words).

The Godless Perverts Book Club is at Borderlands Cafe, 870 Valencia St. in San Francisco. Continue reading “Godless Perverts Book Club: “My President Was Black,” Ta-Nehisi Coates”

Godless Perverts Book Club: “My President Was Black,” Ta-Nehisi Coates

Greta Speaking at Perverts Put Out, Saturday Jan. 21: Winter in America

perverts put out

I’m speaking at Perverts Put Out, San Francisco’s long-running pansexual performance series, on Saturday January 21. (Yes, that’s the day after inauguration day and the day of the Women’s March: I’ll be coming to PPO from the March.) This incarnation of PPO will be the Winter in America Edition, as we mark the beginning of the New Dark Ages. There’ll be post-inaugural anger, defiance and smut as co-hosts Dr. Carol Queen and Simon Sheppard and the usual gang of geniuses, including Greta Christina, Jen Cross, Daphne Gottlieb, Philip Huang, Zoe Kat, horehound stillpoint and Xan West, look forward to years of queer struggle, community, and hot sex. If you’re in San Francisco, I hope to see you there!

DATE/TIME: Saturday, January 21, 8:00 pm (doors open at 7:00)
LOCATION: Center for Sex and Culture, 1349 Mission St., San Francisco (between 9th and 10th, near Civic Center BART)
COST: $10-20 sliding scale, no one turned away for lack of funds
URL: http://www.simonsheppard.com/pervertsputout.html

Greta Speaking at Perverts Put Out, Saturday Jan. 21: Winter in America

Random Favorite Things

I committed to blogging every weekday in January. Today (Thuraday) has been a travel day, I’ve been offline most of the day and am now tired. So I’m going to post a random selection of favorite things. (I am not going to set them to the tune of the song from The Sound of Music)

My favorite game to play on my phone is Threes. (I just got a new high score the other day, in fact! Broke 90,000 for the first time.)

My favorite tabletop/social game is Slash.

My favorite color is royal blue.

My favorite episode of Steven Universe is “Winter Forecast.”

My favorite episode of Parks and Recreation is “End of the World.”

My favorite character in the Terry Pratchett books is Moist Von Lipwig.

My favorite character in “Leverage” is Parker.

My favorite non-home airport is Portland.

My favorite thing to do in a strange city is to sit in a local, non-chain cafe.

Enough for now. I may return to this theme in the future. Good night.

Random Favorite Things