Friday, July 04, 2008

various and laundry


Laundry because I just returned from a backpacking trip with my brothers. Pics below. Wore the same socks for three days straight. Had a great time. Much laughing and manly mocking of each other took place, as well as spitting and passing of gas without judgment or condemnation.

Spent the second night 11.5K feet; it was a little brisk, but there were windbreaks (ie, rock walls) so it wasn't too bad. Had to melt snow for water. Not sure if this was the most strenuous hike I've done, but I definitely had a heavier pack than I've ever carried before (probably around 45lbs + water). I was carrying my new Washburn Rover, so that was part of it, but it was cool to be able to play and sing under the stars...

Back in civilization now, at brother #2's house in CA celebrating the 4th. Home again tomorrow afternoon, then off again on Wednesday for a family reunion in CO.


Yesterday I lost a bet with a client -- I insisted that Hector Jimenez (Jack Black's sidekick in Nacho Libre) played Mr. Tumnus the faun in the first Narnia movie. Turns out I was smoking drugs -- she was right, it was James Mcavoy. I got Jimenez stuck in my head because he played the faun in Epic Movie, which spoofed the Narnia movie, among others...


Life is good. Busy as always. Had some holes in my schedule this summer -- decided to take advantage of the time off, which I usually don't get in the summer -- a lot of my clients (school districts) tend to do IT projects then so I often miss out on the nice days in Seattle. As they say, the Pacific Northwet has two seasons: Winter and August.


I've been dating a bit -- my idea is to be casual and not get into anything too serious for a while. Given my tendency to attach, that can be hard if you meet someone you really resonate with, but for the present I'm continuing with my program.


I highly recommend a couple of books I've read lately -- The End of Blackness by Debra Dickerson, and White Like Me, by Tim Wise. Dickerson's book has been criticized (by some) as anti-black, since it often runs afoul of Movement orthodoxy. At the risk of vastly over-simplifying, the first half of the book is devoted to the sins of white America; the second to what black America can do / should do / is doing to overcome the past and reclaim or redefine what it means to be black in this country. Wise's book seems more directed at white people. Both are thought-provoking, and worth reading whether you agree with every idea in them or not.


The books above -- plus my general thinking lately -- have impressed on me how powerfully what we believe is influenced by what we want or need. I believe I've blogged ad nauseum about this before, but it *is* my blog so I'm pretty sure I get to repeat myself if I want to. (Even worse, if I want to list the names of all the kids in my kindergarten class, I could...) But my point is that we are experts at believing what makes us feel best. In the words of Scott Adams, "Humans are delusion machines."

Think about what psychologists call "ego defense mechanisms" -- the way we protect ourselves from something that "makes us feel bad." In case you're unfamiliar with the concept, I'll give you a so-oversimplified-and-possibly-error-filled-as-to-be-almost-worthless explanation here:

Our mind has numerous techniques for avoiding negative feelings or desires we consider inappropriate (ie, worry, anxiety, shame, sadness, embarrassment, fear, lust, etc), including:

denial ("You must have imagined that your stepdad touched you inappropriately; he would never do that.")

fantasy ("Someday my *real* parents will show up and take me out of this house.")

repression ("No, I'm not upset, everything's cool.")

projection ("You're so critical. Why do you always do that?")

humor (make a macabre joke about a friend's recent death)

displacement (yell at your kids because you're angry at your spouse)

regression (retreat into less mature behaviors: cry, go to parents house, have a tantrum)

sublimation (expressing inappropriate feelings/desires indirectly: a violent person becoming a soldier; photographer focusing (get it?) solely on nudes)

reaction formation (converting unwanted impulses into their opposites: being cold to your friend's spouse because you find him/her attractive)

dissociation (just don't think about it)

intellectualization (analytical blogging about exactly how/why your marriage failed; drawing up elaborate budget spreadsheets to avoid the anxiety caused by being deeply in debt...)

rationalization ("She deserved it; she provoked me.")

Again, we are delusion machines. The above examples are about defending against negative feelings, but we are equally skilled at believing something that gives us great positive rewards.

Example: Being in a gang, or in the Hitler Youth for that matter, would handily supply quite a number of emotional needs (belonging, purpose, camaraderie, protection, security, etc); is it any wonder kids were/are drawn to that, and don't wish to question it or look critically at it?

Example: if we're really really crazy about someone (and they about us), we can convince ourselves it's okay to be with them even if they're currently married to our best friend and have four kids at home...

We all wish to believe we deserve what we have. No one wants to be told that we didn't earn everything we own. So rich people have lots of rationalizations for why they live well while others starve "I worked hard." "My money is at risk." "I provide jobs." And on and on. So they can buy $100 argyle socks while babies and old people go without medicine.

Similarly, white people don't want to believe that they have more privilege than black and brown people do. We are in deep, serious, and consistent denial about the benefits of whiteness. We'll bring up any number of anecdotal stories and half-assed arguments to deny that white privilege exists. "All that" was years ago, we say. Things are good now. But consider this, paraphrased from Tim Wise: white people have been saying that for years. We have *always* said it.

In 1963, when Jim Crow ruled the south, we said it ("Negroes have as good a chance as white people to get a good education.")

In 1863, we said it ("Our darkies are contented and well-cared for, and have a good life.")

And we've always been wrong.

So what are the chances that now, suddenly, white people -- who have been willfully blind or clueless for hundreds of years -- are the ones who see clearly on this issue, and black and brown people -- who live it every day -- are now the ones who are confused? I think the chances are low. We think we're rational beings, but over and over again we choose to believe what makes us feel good, without even knowing we're doing it; we filter out data that would make us feel bad, and go with what keeps us feeling the most comfortable.


I would welcome comments (assuming anyone actually still reads this blog) on this issue. Please be polite. I don't know everything, and am willing to be corrected if I'm wrong about something. But do yourself a favor, also: before you write your idea, check to see if it sounds like any of the ego defense mechanisms above -- you might be surprised how many of them do...


At Sat Jul 05, 07:39:00 AM PDT, Blogger unca said...

Ignoring all of the verbiage that follows the photos, I have one question: In the first photo (upper left) why does your youngest brother seem to have grown breasts? Please tell me it was the altitude.

At Sat Jul 05, 09:07:00 AM PDT, Blogger jay are said...

haha, unca, what a nut. What an unfortunate combination of masculine greatness combined with heavy backpack-age...sigh. He'll have to defend his manhood now.

good post, Bryan...lots to think about and consider. Agree with what you're saying and you done said it well.

At Sat Jul 05, 08:40:00 PM PDT, Blogger anya said...

Yeah, very interesting stuff. I think you are right about all those mechanisms or whatever they are. Would like to read those books. So true about the protective, beneficial cloak of whiteness...although I thought I knew a lot about it, I find out how my husband refused to work on the car with his friend in the back alley behind the apartment because he didn't want people to think they were stealing it or stealing something from it...he wanted to be more out in the open. If that isn't sad I don't know what is. Bet no white dude ever thought about that in his life...

At Sat Jul 05, 08:47:00 PM PDT, Blogger anya said...

It just occurred to me that people might read my comment and say, "Well maybe if X people didn't do Y, people wouldn't think Z..." Leaving alone all the replies one could make to that substantively, it is interesting that people don't seem to think the same thing about the perceived, and sometimes very real, sins of their "own kind"...for instance, when white people are annoyed that a person of color assumes that something the white person did was out of racist intent. Gasp. Where would they ever get such a notion? The very idea.

At Mon Jul 07, 10:22:00 PM PDT, Blogger Erik said...

unca, thank you for noticing! some people told me the breast implants were a bad idea, but nay i say! i feel far more powerful and confident than ever before. plus, they can make them look so much more natural now...don't you think? thanks again. :-)

At Wed Jul 09, 06:04:00 PM PDT, Blogger si said...

re erik's breasts: i'd say his pecs are *nicely* defined! how's that? :-)

re bet w/client: seemed funnier when it was happening. especially when you were *so* insistent that you were right! maybe one had to be there...

re book reports/beliefs: agree with what you're saying. also as a (at times) delusional person, the techniques you listed made me squirm. i'd like to believe things are better but i know these barriers are still lurking (maybe subconsciously) with a lot people; even those who consider themselves "above all that."

have a good time in co.

At Sun Jul 13, 05:18:00 PM PDT, Blogger Izabella said...

Hey, look at the brains on Rob!Gosh, I'm worried. Next thing you willl join KKK, and that would be very offensive. So do you really think having affair with your best friends wife who has 4 children at home is wrong? Sometimes I just don't understand you :-).

At Tue Jul 15, 06:17:00 PM PDT, Blogger Erik said...

we like si and think she should comment here more. her perspective on everything, mostly pictures, is the best. ;)

At Tue Jul 15, 08:09:00 PM PDT, Blogger si said...

thx erik -- well, at least one person likes me and my comments and perspective!

you know, you're the only sibling i haven't met yet. i'm sure that's very sad for you. :)

At Fri Jul 25, 12:26:00 PM PDT, Blogger Erik said...

sometimes i cry at night, but i still hold on to the dream that one day we will meet. it's the only thing that keeps me going. :-)

At Tue Jul 29, 05:53:00 PM PDT, Blogger si said...

erik -- yes, that's my dream too! :-D


Post a Comment

<< Home