Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Of June

I wrote another poem. After the last one, I realized how much fun it was. I hadn't written a rhyme in years. Apparently, there's a distinction between "poetry" and "verse," the latter of which must rhyme. The poetry that doesn't rhyme often strikes me as very weird, anyway. Verse is the sort of thing that Rudyard Kipling wrote a lot of.

Here's my work, and I'll put an interpretation below. This dovetails nicely with my earlier entry about work.

Of June

June has brought cascading rains that clean the dusty air
Something tells me farmers will delight
My nose rejoices over that the pollen isn't there
It's getting washed away 'bout every night

Soon the star charts will proclaim that summer's finally come
The heat's already trying to break through
The soil enriched, rain fills the ditch. Our task has now begun
to work the yard again, but we are few.

Upkeep is a full-time task when you're the only ones
who, hands and feet, must daily work, and plan
to work some more until you've made a dent in all the tons
of things to do for each and every man

Seeing the fruit of your labor lets you silently rejoice
-- or loudly, if it happens to be your style
With satisfaction, head turned skyward, prayer lifts your voice
to thank God for another day worthwhile

Working is no curse if what you're doing is infused
with worth according to a divine end
The ability to tell apart bad things from good misused
separates the godly men from men

Rain in this life can at times be undeniably cruel
when instead of falling calmly, it monsoons
Because I don't see work and rain as goods instead of tools
I'm thus disposed to make the most of June.

I don't think it needs much explaining, but here's some background:
* The farmers will delight because it's critical for crops to get rain right now. Last year we had a drought.
* Prior to the rains, I was congested and sneezy. Now I'm nearly completely uncongested. Rain does have a cleaning effect on the atmosphere. It takes the dust particles that the droplets form around, and brings them back to the ground during the storms.
* By 'star charts,' I'm referring to the astronomical definition of summer as beginning June 20, which coincides with the solstice being June 21. We've had a few days of hot summer-like weather already in May, but the rains have cooled the temperatures a bit. It seems that this year, we're going to get the hot weather nearly right "on time."
* Working the yard refers to my immediate family taking time out of our week to maintain the house and property, which takes up nearly all the time left over when you're working full-time. I myself am still unemployed, but for me, looking for employment and otherwise working around the house is my full-time task. Our house is shaded by trees, so we get lots of stick litter to clean up.
* The fifth stanza refers to the article "Leisurely Labor" that I wrote about a week ago. Not all bad things are necessarily inherently bad. The realization helps to get more enjoyment out of work, which isn't being done for no purpose. See the image above. The sixth stanza wraps up this thought and asserts that with the proper perspective, I can enjoy the season. Those who are begrudgingly laboring might benefit from a change of perspective.

As a neat coincidence, the title I chose for the poem (which wrote itself) is the same as the title for Adam Young's (Owl City) first album, one he self-released. ( I figured that giving it this name would be a nice homage to Adam's music, which is itself an example of how a different perspective can give you much more enjoyment out of the simple, even mundane, things in life.

~ Rak Chazak

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Journal Entry: On Feminism, "Male Privilege," and "Rape Culture."

 Background: I had a debate earlier this year with a couple of feminists on-line about something I'd never heard of before. The term was "rape culture," and in short order I found myself being accused of contributing to it for having the temerity to dispute the idea that casual speech has a significant causative relationship to actual violence toward women. I was provoked to remember this conversation when I read about the "privilege" referenced in this article by Daniel Greenfield, "The Israeli Man's Burden." To start off on the right foot, make sure you begin reading the first sentence of the entry below as a rhetorical question, referencing a hypothetical claim, mentioned in the second sentence.

This post tackles sensitive subjects.

*     *     *     *     *

                        I don’t have an opinion on “rape culture,” a made-up word meant to attempt to instill guilt in teenage gamers who say “damn, you got raped,” in reference to getting killed in a first-person shooter by another player? Obviously I have ‘privilege,’ white privilege, even, and my lack of comparable upset to the ‘feminist’ means I don’t care about women, or wink at rape. It’s an offensive insult, as I care very much about honoring and protecting women, but my way of accomplishing this is not reducible to screaming at someone for violating my private banned-words list. Instead, it shows itself through modeling actual chivalrous behavior, and confronting guys who have wrong views of women, sex, relationships, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think actual rape is a funny thing and I am certainly angered when someone actually jokes about sexual assault without any show of seriousness. But the word ‘rape’ on some level simply means a violent domination of someone against their will. The word definitely applies to, say, getting chainsawed through the back, as may happen in the Gears of War video game series. One could make the distinction that it’s a virtual rape. And I don’t think that the use of that term necessarily diminishes it, and if a person does have a blasé view of sexual violence, I maintain that simply using the word in a fantasy-violence context isn’t what made them have that view. Rather, their attitude towards sex was already present and the way they used the word was an outgrowth of that unconcerned attitude. 
                        Simply looking at the words someone uses or is okay with hearing on occasion does not validate the conclusion that they disregard the seriousness of sexual assault or have a low view of women. The nicest, kindest, most soft-spoken men you know could harbor violent urges and secretly hate women. How would you know? You can’t know a person’s thoughts. You may know something about them by the words they say, but you can never know everything. Consequently, this works for people who use harsh words, too. Guys who cuss might be otherwise responsible and respectful; there is then simply a disconnect between the character they know they ought to have and the one which they present to others. Are guys supposed to feel guilty over having the “privilege” to not live in fear of being raped, so that they have the opportunity (whether they act on it or not, whether they choose to be a jerk or whether they choose to have empathy) to not view rape as deadly serious business to the point of being afraid to say the word? Some modern feminists would answer affirmatively. This is one of the reasons why I can’t respect modern feminists. People who are innocent of crimes that are committed by others who have nothing to do with them are not guilty and should not feel guilty over it.  IT IS NOT THEIR FAULT. This is the linchpin for the fight I have with third-wave feminists over the issues of “male privilege” and other made up concepts designed to give man-haters an outlet and an excuse to practice misandry and get away with it. Well, whether you follow my logic or not, now you know my suspicion, and why I don’t trust those making the accusation.
                        I should, in fairness, point out that the 3rd-wave feminist would dispute that they’re attempting to place the guilt, blame and shame of male-on-female rape on law-abiding, responsible young men without the slightest tendency of violence toward women, in word or deed. Instead, they would claim that by their words (to recap, using “rape!” as an interjection when being virtually killed by a computer game) somehow affect other boys/men to the point where their accumulated words create a “culture” of irresponsible unconcern for women that somehow is supposed to imply to those who go on to be rapists that rape is apparently okay, because those other guys seem to talk about it like it’s no big deal. Apparently. Yeah, I don’t buy that argument. 
                        First, I agree that every individual bears some responsibility for the community because they do in fact influence it. But this is not an enforceable responsibility, which they can be punished for failing to uphold according to someone else’s arbitrary opinion about how they should or should not conduct themselves. Second, I defy the claim that the 3WF is just talking about increasing civic responsibility, and hold that she is indeed attempting to pin the blame for actual rape on those who are innocent. (My experience with seeing how they argue bears this out, their self-serving objections to the contrary.) We’ll call these ‘gentlemen,’ for future reference. Guys who behave themselves as they should. 
                        The fundamental underlying thing that angers me about the way the 3WF goes about the problem (does anyone deny that rape is an actual societal ill?) is that their modus operandi in “rectifying” the fact of women being attacked is to retaliate by attacking men. And not even the men who attacked women, but the guys whom the feminista derangedly thinks aren’t doing “enough” to stop rape from happening. As if any individual man has both the power and opportunity to stop the FACT of rape. It’s egregiously illogical, and to be showered with words intended to produce guilt over something that I bear no culpability for is, bottom-line, unjust. Nothing frustrates me quite as much as wrongful punishment.
                        Let’s go back to the point I made about not knowing whether a guy is a ‘bad guy’ or ‘good guy’ based on how they speak. The verse “out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks,” came to my mind fairly easily. It’s a good thing to consider. So that I’m not misunderstood, I don’t mean to say that a guy can have a severe potty-mouth and be perfectly fine. On some level, the heart isn’t right, because otherwise he wouldn’t be saying those things. But it would be a mistake to conclude that because a guy presents himself very well, that this means that he has a good heart. Another verse is “man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.” What the mouth speaks, while being ‘out of the abundance of the heart,’ is still part of the ‘outward appearance,’ and is therefore deceptive. I think the appropriate way to understand the first verse is that a person who talks like a jerk is, fundamentally, a jerk on some level, but this is all you can conclude. You can not conclude anything about what you do not see. If someone does not speak, then you cannot know what is in their heart. So the point of the verses together is to say that you can draw conclusions about a person based on what you see, but you cannot draw conclusions based on what you do not see, and therefore you should be careful to judge by what you see alone. In other words, you should be careful how you judge someone by their actions, and if you cannot be careful, it’s better to avoid judging at all in the first place, because you’re pretty much guaranteed to come to the wrong conclusion. And that’s third wave feminism in a nutshell.
                        So, what is my view, then? It’s easy to disagree with someone. One can look very impressive by being perpetually critical of others, but unless you have an alternative position which you are willing to defend, you’re either an ignorant fool (if you don’t have one) or a coward (if you’re unwilling to defend it). Either way, you’re criticizing someone else’s ideas without putting forth any of your own, and that is the behavior of an intellectual terrorist. You only tear things down, you don’t build anything yourself, only destroy. But I am not such a person. I’m not criticizing for the sake of criticizing, but because I have a well-developed view which third-wave feminism contrasts with. On those points of difference, I find reason to object, and therefore offer criticism. I’ve hinted at a few things I believe already. One, individuals of any genographic group (in contrast to demographic. Demographics concerns religious beliefs, political affiliations, cultures, social status, etc; Genographics concerns national origin, sex, ethnicity(skin color/shade), birth language, age, etc) bear no culpable (guilt, fault, etc) responsibility for the actions of any other member of that genographic group, or any member of any other group, for that matter. Two, all individuals have some responsibility to act in a certain way for the betterment of their society – but here’s where I differ from 3WF – this does NOT mean that if society deteriorates, you can trace this back to some error on their part. In other words, I have a responsibility to honor women. If someone in New York City rapes a woman, that did not occur because of some failure on my part to honor women. That’s my thesis. This is where I knock heads with third-wave feminism. Furthermore, I assure you that I have not misrepresented my opposition at all. I have had repeated interactions with others to this effect, and the people I have spoken with have not been one-off aberrations, but highly educated women holding positions as representatives of the present feminist movement on multiple levels. They all say the same thing, so I’m justified in characterizing the movement as promoting this view.
                        The solution to rape, according to 3WF, is to find something to scream at, because that’s just so productive, isn’t it? Since screaming at random guys is insane and makes you look like a crazy sociopath, the feministas decided that they needed to invent something to be a convenient target, or excuse, for the venting of their anger and frustration. So “rape culture” was born, which is simply one of the newer buzz-words that essentially mean the same as the catch-all, “male privilege.” Basically it’s a philosophy that says that as a man, if you’re not a woman-hating criminal, you’re part of the problem. Read that again, I didn’t mistype. It’s a complicated roundabout excuse for man-hating women to scream at random guys after all. It’s what they wanted to do, and with a little bit of crackpot philosophy, it’s possible for them to behave outrageously and get away with it, all while making themselves look smart to each other by talking about the newest “gender theory” that explains why women are so awesome and guys are lame and stupid. And mean jerks. 
                        Can you tell that I’m a bit emotionally invested in this? I notice that my tone became more severe through the course of writing, but despite  the bitter sarcasm in the last few hundred words, I maintain that my accusations are valid. Far from saying that all women who consider themselves “feminists” are necessarily the way I describe, I nevertheless insist that the movement as a whole is misandrist – man-hating – and nothing more than an elaborate pseudo-scholarly façade which sole purpose is to give angry women an outwardly legitimate reason to spew vile invective, disrespect, patronizing insults and unwarranted accusations toward people who don’t deserve any of it. And why are they angry? Well, why do some men hate women? You answer that question, and you’ll have the answer to why some women hate men. I suspect the pathology is quite similar and presumably much more of a personal issue than anything involving a conspiracy to diminish the seriousness of sexual crimes.
                        If 3WF’s “solution” to rape isn’t really a solution, then what would be the solution? Contrary to feminism’s solution of putting men down, I propose the simple alternative of raising men up. Not over women, mind you. Just out of the gutter where they’ve been left to fester for the last several decades while the “Women’s Movement” has produced a real “culture” of systematically ignoring the needs of boys and in fact privileging young girls, resulting in disproportionate levels of men entering any area of life. I suppose some statistics here would be helpful, but I’m not connected to the internet right now. I do know that roughly 60% of Baccalaureate degrees go to women, and considering that the ratio of men to women is much closer to 50:50 than 40:60, and furthermore considering the notion that the goal of the Women’s Movement was to achieve equality, hasn’t the time long ago come for spending more effort helping boys so they can be equal to girls? The fact that even as women make up a sizeable majority of college students and college graduates, the Movement keeps pushing ahead while ignoring the men and boys being left behind reveals that it was never about “equality.” It was about superiority, plain and simple. And the worst part about it is that this isn’t even helping women. But talking about how the “Women’s Movement” has failed women is a 3,000-word subject in its own right. I can’t divert to talk about that now. Forgive me. But based in part on some arguments that won’t fit here for lack of time, I believe that modern feminism has both created and fostered the “culture” of misogyny that it ironically rants about. You can’t promote the “right” of young girls to engage in pornography and then complain about women being degraded in the culture. There’s no consistency there. If your hope is to encourage people to respect women, why would your every action be directed at disrespecting women? The third-wave feminists have themselves created the “culture” of chauvinism that permeates the places they frequent, and the maddening irony of this is that the very thing that they accuse innocent men of – creating a culture that degrades women and subjects them to violence – is what they themselves are guilty of! This is what most frustrates and angers me about the whole thing. 
                        Feminism has had its chance. Now, instead of letting a bunch of sexist women dictate how men should behave, while refusing to put any limits on how women should behave, I suggest that the time is nigh for men to take the initiative themselves. Don’t be tempted to take advantage of the culture that the feminists created. Allow me to explain. This is what many guys do. I’ve seen this everywhere I go. The vast majority of males LOVE what feminism has produced: hordes of uninhibited young girls who will drink and lay and on top of it, if they mess up and get pregnant, they’ll get an abortion, absolving the guys of any and all consequences of their own irresponsible actions. What’s the best way to stop date rape? Might I suggest not promoting that girls view drinking and ‘hooking up’ as “fun,” but rather something to avoid? Shocking. I can feel the feminist anger rising against me. But the truth tends to insult people—that’s how it lets them know they don’t have it. However, as I noted, since the change is not going to come from the female side, since the girls are squarely in the grips of the perverting influence of 3WF, the change needs to come from the male side. These same guys who are living it up, taking advantage of the easy access to sexually unrestrained girls and women, are the same guys who need to be the ones to say “stop,” and to resist and reject the very thing that they find so enjoyable.
                        Sounds impossible. How would this be accomplished? There’s a couple of answers to that question. The first: slowly. There is no quick fix to any problem in society. You can’t just throw money at something, as politicians are wont to do, and you can’t just hold a conference to “raise awareness,” as academia is wont to do. The only way to change a large group of people is through grass-roots mobilization, a bottom-up approach, rather than a top-down one. You can’t simply command people to behave a certain way. For the record, rape is already illegal, not to mention deeply morally wrong. For somebody to commit rape, they’re not going to hesitate because somebody told them not to do it. The mentality that can rationalize a violent sexual act against someone else’s will is not one that submits to moral authorities, be they legal, familial or theological. The person in question needs more than merely deterrence – he needs to have his entire way of thinking changed. And THAT is something that culture can effect (that’s not a typo, either). The best way to prevent crime is not to be able to intervene at all times wherever the criminal may strike. This doesn’t solve the problem. The criminal is still a criminal at heart, even if the crime wasn’t committed that time. 
                        The best way to stop crime is to destroy criminals – by turning them into law-abiding citizens. How do you do that? You change their perspective. You convince them that the sexually gratuitous lifestyle is not satisfying, and ultimately destructive. You convince them that exercising self control and serving the good of others prior to the pleasure of the self is a superior way to live. When the guys who go out looking for someone to have sex with no longer feel compelled to do so, the chances of someone being taken advantage of in the service of someone else’s lusts greatly diminishes. And I could devote more words to elaborating on my point, but I think it makes enough sense to not need many examples. Simply put, you need to perform “inception” on all the males in America. Quite like the movie, that’s why I’m referencing it. The idea is to plant an idea, or multiple ideas, in their mind that then take root and lead to changed behavior in their lives. Instead of making demands, get them to understand why they would want to change their ways. When you show them that your alternative is not only right but also more appealing, you’ll have a better result. Granted, some will resist your attempts to model real manhood and insist on taking advantage of loose girls just because they can. These boys are too far gone for you to have any success with the ‘carrot’ approach. They’re going to have to experience punishment before they “get” it. That’s not your responsibility, it’s not our responsibility – it’s law enforcement’s. Or his parents’, or some other authority. Our goal is to work with the receptive minds that are out there and confront them with the fact that there’s an alternative way to be, and they’re making the wrong choice by not choosing it. This is what’s going to change the culture, and produce true harmony between the sexes. And I feel compelled to add, if this approach is rejected, in favor of the tried-and-false method of the feministas, then I assure you that things will get worse and worse. You can take my solution or leave it. But there are consequences to doing the wrong thing.
                        I would be remiss if I didn’t addend that the only way to really change a person’s heart is by the transformation of the Holy Spirit that is called the “new birth.” Christianity is more than just a belief system. When a person is saved, God begins to transform them on the inside, changing their very desires. Remember how I said that law could only punish but wouldn’t make the criminal a non-criminal at heart? Well, that’s what the Gospel has the power to do. It not only justifies a person in the sight of God, but it changes his heart so that the things he used to love, he begins to hate, and the things he used to hate, he comes to love. Only a total spiritual transformation of the soul can accomplish the feat of turning a rapist-at-heart into a man who loves and honors women. And the only way that can happen is if the Gospel is preached to them. 
                        So the solution to the problems faced by feminists, not just rape but EVERY problem stemming from the sinful human heart, is the love of God available through Jesus Christ. The solution is for the Gospel to be preached. Consequently, then, ignoring God and avoiding dealing with the profound spiritual issues at the heart of societal ills such as rape and misogyny will not accomplish anything but exacerbating the symptoms and perpetuating the decline in man’s interaction with himself. But don’t mistake me for peddling the Gospel as a pragmatic solution to temporal dilemmas. The Gospel is so much more. First and foremost, it is a reconciliation of man with God, forgiveness of sins and the offer of salvation and eternal life. Even if this was “all” there was, it would be enough for me. But God isn’t content merely to promise future things. He’s intimately involved with us and everyone who comes to Him not only receives the promise of eternal life, but they receive a life full of Him even until then. And a life filled with God can never defy God’s commandments to such an egregious extent so as to result in rape. A more harmonious society is just a side effect, one of the many wonderful blessings that by no means must happen, but which God lavishes on the nation who honors, loves, and seeks after Him. 
                        I want the Gospel to be spread so that my countrymen can avoid the wrath to come, and be saved. But second to that, I know that millions of Spirit-filled men and women have the power, God’s power through them, to bring peace and blessing to this country of a magnitude yet not seen. Why wouldn’t I want to see my nation prosper? So, in more ways than one, the answer to every thing is God. It is His Gospel. And the choice is ours. If we want to have peace in the next life,  we must accept the Gospel for ourselves. And if we want to live in peace in this life (no guarantees, though!), we must spread the Gospel to others. Not to mention that your efforts might be the only chance they get to take hold of eternal life. Love your fellow men and women. Don’t wait. 

~ Rak Chazak 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Leisurely Labor

I haven't had internet for a week.

I love it. Instead, I've spent time working around the house. There's something satisfying about manual labor that makes me feel relieved. Sitting on the computer, I don't necessarily accomplish anything tangible, and it's easy to waste a lot of time. The feeling of ..shame, I guess?.. over not having done anything for many hours stresses me. When I shut the computer, get up and work with my hands, rather than feel tired, I feel relaxed. I get energized. I love the end result after a day's labor. Or even an hour's labor.

That's an interesting thing to note: work is exciting at first, but can have a tendency to get tedious as time drags on. The trick to keeping up productivity is to avoid letting work become toil. What fascinated me a while back was the discovery that we are created to work. Genesis 2:15 says, "Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it." I take two things away from this. One is that upkeep, on some level, is a "good thing," and not the result of sin, because Adam was given this duty before he fell. Secondly, whatever it is about work that causes aches, pain, exhaustion, suffering et cetera is a side effect of living in a cursed world.

Genesis 3:17 gives more insight: Then to Adam He [God] said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’:
“Cursed is the ground for your sake;
In toil you shall eat of it
All the days of your life.
Tending/keeping and toil are distinct from each other. Work is good for you. Toil is bad, though sadly necessary in many cases. Work is rejuvenating. Toil is draining. Work, like everything good, is a gift from God (James 1:17). Toil is a curse. So you can see that labor isn't all bad, but there is a definite negative aspect to it that we do well to avoid. How? I haven't thought that far yet, but walking with God and keeping His commandments seems like a start. Praying and reading the Word. It seems silly until you do it. I remember being perplexed over how early universities in the middle ages mainly taught religion. I've had a change of perspective since then. When you have the right foundation, everything else snaps into focus much more easily.

Work will be a part of eternity. So work existed before toil, and will continue to be a part of the Creation afterwards. Toil, like death and suffering and all other sorts of things are the result of sin (Romans 5:12), and will be destroyed (1 Corinthians 15:26). Burdensome labor is an enemy. Leisurely labor is a divine gift. What a difference that perspective makes! It is better to work than to not work. This understanding will keep me from working too hard, or from giving up on working, in the hopes that I'll find rest in inactivity. The truth is that I won't. So while I'm here on earth, there's work to do, and I'm happy to set about doing it. 

Are you feeling tired at work? Or anxious from not doing anything? Take heart! Mix work and rest for best results. 
~ Rak Chazak