dal niente

Month: March, 2012

Sweet Science

I went to the UNSW Martial Arts club the other day.  Usually, that’s one of my stress relief days.  Even if I’m not a participant, I usually quite enjoy coaching. But the energy just wasn’t there.  Not only was nobody willing to do any sorts of sparring, but when I did start teaching, the people who wanted to be taught were unmotivated.  Unskilled, I can handle– unmotivated?  Why waste my time?

The thing about life is that in reality, nobody ever ought to be able to tell you what to do.  Okay, so literally, they can.  But at every order, the person who decides is still you.  These choices should be conscious.  You can make choices you don’t like, that’s one thing– but you must, at the end of the day, hold yourself responsible for that which has happened, lest you become an NPC: a non-player character.  While there are cases where you are truly a victim, in most cases the things that we continually suffer through are result of a simple dialectic of first world problems: laziness to change our own lot, enforced by the convenience of familiarity.  This makes us backseat drivers in our own lives.

I think I’m discovering that I resent the fact that people do things for purely social reasons.  Okay, sure, that sounds revealingly (and ironically) anti-social of me– but I guess when you get to where I am in life, I don’t really care about meeting people just for the sake of talking about the weather, how class is going, or what’s the last movie you saw.  Don’t get me wrong– I can be pretty social, and the fact that I have certain important positions demands that I play that kind of game.  I’m told I can be quite charismatic.  

But deep down, when I’m not trying to organise something, when I just want to be a normal person on the same level as everyone else instead of responsible for others, there are a few things I want out of the relationships that I ultimately define as friendships.  I’d really like to do something with you that defines you, that defines me– not just something that we have in common, but something that we’re passionate about and the exercise of which makes our relationship more relevant than typical acquaintance.  It can’t just be superficially that we both breathe air– unless we’re both passionate about environmentalism, for example.  It can’t just be that we tried out a new restaurant– unless we’re both on the quest to find the perfect chow mein.  It can’t be superficial– unless it’s a gateway to soemthing that really matters.

Because if it doesn’t really matter to you, and it doesn’t really matter to me, then why are we doing this?

I use the metaphor of a game a lot because life is something you’re supposed to do for enjoyment.  That requires some qualifications though– just because something is enjoyable doesn’t mean you can be lazy about it.  We ought not be passively entertained– we should actively entertain (ourselves and others).  It just so happens that the way to do that is through passion.

And I’m not saying this to just the guys because I’m all about machismo and testosterone– and I’m not saying this exclusively in a context of martial arts.  This goes equally for ladies, and for any activity anyone does.  Have some pride in what you care about.

 

There is a player at the Baduk club, [Ginglag].  We met at the beginning of the year, and I taught him to play baduk from scratch.  I’ve since been helping him to review games every now and then, and give him advice on what he needs to change about his plays.  I’m far from an expert, but I’m not shy to share what I know because I love the game.  He has since progressed from the 30 kyu level to about 13kyu in about… what?  3 months?  That’s a crazy amount of progress.  About a week ago, he issued a formal challenge to me: he told me that his goal is to defeat me in a no-handicap match by the end of the year.  He has even started taking lessons from my rivals at the club, including players that even I can’t beat.  Well, shit yeah, bring it on, son! This is more like it.

 

People are so afraid to be bold and proud of their interests nowadays though that these sorts of instances are unfortunately few and far between.

 

I digress.

 

My basic point is this– for your own sakes, put some weight behind those punches.  Making fists isn’t just about engaging muscles.  An art, martial or not, is not just about posing.

 

Your legs should be law and order.

Your fists should be dynamite.

Your eyes should burn with fighting spirit.

Upkeep Round

Not much to report. Spent most of Sunday and Monday doing self-maintenance:

  • groceries
  • cleaning up the apartment
  • catching up on a bit of reading for class
  • finally set up WiFi in Mint Debian (I’ve been running Windows 7 in school because  I didn’t have time until now, and man…… the lag, the laggggggggg)
  • finally set up the school email account on my mobile for the first time since IT borked the Microsoft Exchange server at the end of last semester (no more missing library due notices!)
  • put together the newsletter for the Baduk club, and work on content for next week’s

Things I still need to do:

  • Return a crapload of library books (which are… apparently, due today. At the very least, I don’t feel too bad about paying library fines to a public library– it’s for a good cause)
  • Get passport photos
  • Get a passport
  • Book some flights
  • See John Carter
  • Prep my notes for midterms

 

 

I reassert that I need a secretary.

Customer Service

I was just talking to [FlashLivesForever] about it this afternoon actually, which is why I started mentioning it in class to my peers.  

I was talking to some of my classmates about the fact that the CBD Campus at UNSW has all sorts of policies now about food.  Students have been told to back off from the food that’s laid out in the tables of our dining hall, because it’s reserved for corporate conference-goers.  Even the little cookies.  Okay– fair enough.  Maybe the conference goers (who hire rooms of UNSW out for functions) are paying extra for catering?

 

Apparently, students who bring their own lunches, and even their own commercially bottled drinks, have been told to leave the dining area!  Apparently, the claim is that because there are little signs here and there that say “no outside food in the dining hall,” the staff have been using this sign as license to tell offending students to basically vacate premises.

And then there’s the issue of the staff being overbearingly rude to students.

So wait a minute.  We pay tuition for this school.  And the dining area is off limits to dining by students?  Only food from the campus is allowed to be eaten– but if we can’t eat the food because it’s reserved for conference-goers, sure, but then why aren’t we allowed to eat our own food? On several occasions,  different students have been given the equivalent of “move on” directions. Seems like a rather peculiar way to treat students.  I hate to bottom line it, but students are paying-customers.  And just because you put up a sign, do you have a right to do so?

 

I guess at the end of the day, it’s really an issue of particular staff members power tripping as a result of poorly designed policies.  The staff have probably never even thought about why these rules exist, or how absurd they seem… to them, they see only infractions, which, from the intensity of their reactions, are despicable.

[CaptainD] is one of the Law Society careers coordinators, and asked if he could leave leaflets regarding an upcoming careers fair.  The staff he asked curtly told him not to leave anything anywhere, without waiting for an explanation, and turned their back on him.  I mean… god forbid a careers coordinator attempt to inform students about a career fair by leaving leaflets in a public, student-funded dining hall, right?

This kind of stuff infuriates me– not even as a student, just… in general.  I can’t stand that people, in the every day functioning of their lives, can’t take the time to explain rules and regulations, can’t take the time to smile… show some pride in your job.  As I asked around and heard complaint after complaint about interactions with CBD staff, it was just getting to be a bit sad.  The staff must really hate their jobs or something to take it out on students on a daily basis like this.  I don’t think the students are acting disrespectfully, and sure, some of us made off with some free meals not knowing that they were reserved– however, we’re supposed to be civilized human beings.  UNSW is supposed to be a great school.  So how is it that their frontline of facilities support staff come off as being a bunch of nazis?

 

Oh wait: I’m a student representative on the faculty board council.  I guess it’s time to stir up some shit.

 

The thing is, this isn’t just about individual employees.  I’m not trying to get anyone fired or reprimanded– I’m trying to make my university one that I’m proud to be a graduate of someday.  If everyone associates UNSW with being an uncaring shithole of a corporate sausage factory of education, without all the modernized, high class service, intellect, adaptability, and all those great and wonderful things they advertise on the website, then what really is the point of being at this university? Is a university just a classroom? 

 

I can see that the university is treating students as second class citizens to the corporate clients (conference goers) but frankly, they need to decide on their target demographic, and stop double dipping.  Because if that’s the policy, they need to stop pretending that it’s such a great place, because it’s a bullshit attitude if that’s the case.

 

I am being one-sided about this, because I spent an afternoon listening to complaints that were just starting to snowball downhill.  Obviously, UNSW deserves a fair chance to explain itself, and to that end,  I’m drafting up some initial communications to the facilities’ managagement.  We’ll see where it goes from there.

Overflowing Cup

There’s an old taoist story that goes something like this…

 

The pupil watches as the master pours tea into his cup, and it starts spilling over.

The pupil is surprised, but just watches at first. Eventually, he mans up, and says… “Uh… master? The cup is overflowing.  You can’t pour any more tea in there.”

And the master, wizen as he is, (by definition really, otherwise we wouldn’t call him “master,”) just smiles, and says, “Duh, that’s my point.”

 

Okay, so I’m paraphrasing.  The basic idea comes from a collection of notes from Bruce Lee’s writings, in one of the old classics, The Tao of Jeet Kune Do. Like many of Lee’s writings, it is applicable to martial arts, but has wider connotations in other things as well.


Last wednesday, I was up to a couple of teaching functions at the university.  The first was the baduk club, and the second was the martial arts club.  Wednesday is my day off school, so it’s my weekly opportunity to kinda slow the pace of school and work life down a bit, and just do some extra curricular stuff that I enjoy. 

I’m not a professional in either of the activities, but I do enough enough basics about either subject to help beginners and total newbies into the activities.  At my level, I’m one of the strongest baduk players in the club, and in the martial arts club, I’m one of the strongest and most experienced fighters.  Despite that my actual fighting ability in both activities isn’t the strongest in the club though, I can say without being shy that I’ve been complimented as being an excellent facilitator in both subjects.  A lot of that probably comes from the fact that I’m also a student, learning with them– it’s just that I open up things up in such a way that people can usually learn from my experiences.


One of the most difficult things when it comes to teaching is trying to teach people who know just enough to think they know how they want to learn.

I mean, the most difficult situation to teach in is one where the receiver just isn’t interested in learning– you’d assume that people who join a club are itnerested in things, you’d think there’d be no problem.  Still… I don’t know.

I think that if I had to describe the learning, there’s a factor aside from interest– there’s humility.  Sure, there’s other things, like flexibility of the brain and all that, but there are some things that we can probably overcome more consciously than others.  Pride is a big one I think.


When I first started playing Baduk, [CM] would play games with me every now and then.  But most of my battle experience came from playing online– a lot of times, I’d play a game and simply get slaughtered, but because of the way the handicap system in baduk works, gradually I started getting better and better, because the handicap game found me matches within an appropriate zone of difficulty.

The handicap system in baduk is pretty cool.  The fact that the rankings are loosely based means that you can figure out how to match two players of comparable strength with a handicap that makes the game challenging for both players.   So, for example, say a higher ranking player plays a lower ranking player– the difference of their ranks translates to a set amount of ‘head start’ stones that the weaker player gets as an initial advantage.  The math behind it is just beautiful, because the resultant match is challenging for both players.

What happens is that the weaker palyer, with a head start, has the chance to play a stronger opponent, who will usually display feats of superior fighting and finesse.  In a way, a weaker player is forced to fight from a castle with strong pillars against a clever barbarian army that knows no fear.  It’s seige deffense.  It gives the weaker player a chance to overlook what’s going on and set the deffensive pace.

The stronger player, in contrast, is forced to be bold and, in some cases, crazy, to catch up against the weaker player’s head start– conservative play seldom works when there is a huge handicap, so it becomes necessary to be creative.  The stronger player tries to goad the weaker player into one-on one fights.  He wants to send commandos over the enemy walls by catapaults.  Crazy shit, yes, but if the handicap is properly set, it makes for some exciting games where you clearly see the clash of priorities– the weaker player just needs to hold on to what he’s got (since he starts off with more) until the end of the game, wheras the stronger opponent needs to be opportunistic in trying to crowbar even the slightest weawkness right open in order to catch up before the time runs out.

A properly adjusted handicap game is a great way to learn, I think.  A weaker player thus learns one of the foundations of the game– chosing the urgent battles, fortification before fighting, etc.

However, a lot of players at the club refuse handicap games.  One of the players, for example, [Croutons], is currently ranked as a 19kyu player.  He’s been playing for over a year now… so that’s a bit strange.  He’s played me twice in the last week, and between the two of us, there’s enough difference in our playing levels that he should get at least a 9-stone handicap.  That kinda means he gets at least a 9 move head start on me before I’m allowed to play my first move.

But he refuses the handicap.

If you have to translate this to a more understandable situation, think of it like … oh, I don’t know.  Like in a boxing match– you don’t mix heavyweights with lightweights, not even in a friendly sparring match, without significant protective equipment. Otherwise? Otherwise, the weight advantage will just crush the lightweight.

 

Yes, I know, and I think it is important, that people challenge themselves– but there’s an efficiency point to this kind of thing.  You can’t run before you crawl.  The idea of a small child finishing a marathon is as ludicrous as someone trying to learn judo by challenging a judo master to a serious encounter– yes, you will learn something, but it has more to do with your weakness than anything else.  The fact is, you haven’t even yet developped the capacity to learn properly.  You can have pride, you can have willpower, but real life isn’t like Naruto and there are situations in the real world where you will not be rewarded for stubbornness, and you will be so totally and utterly crushed that won’t learn anything during your demise.

Croutons isn’t the only player at the club who behaves like this– there are at least 3 other beginners that refuse handicap games, because of some sorta stigma associated with accepting learning handicaps.


On the other hand, there’s a different problem at the martial arts club. There’s this guy, I don’t know his name… lets call him [KarateBiff].  It’s kinda unfortuante, because I know a lot of folks who do karate who are upstanding citizens and who show correct and appropriate spirit– but this guy gives karate a bad name.

He’s a big guy– fairly strong, but a bit overweight.  From the looks of it, he’s probably been doing karate for a year or two, because he has some basic sense of punching form.  However, I know he’s not that great, because his footwork is terrible (and it’s probably closely linked to his lack of fitness). The thing is, people at the martial arts club are, by majority, a bunch of beginners.  A lot of bad things can happen when you let beginners spar with beginners, because they just don’t know how regulate their techniques properly.

 

KarateBiff’s basic sparring tactic was to endure one hit while charging to get in a deep cross.  This might be kinda useful in certain scenarios, but in a friendly point-fighting sparring situation,  charging in to land a one-hit kill type punch and ignoring any damage you take on the way in is a bullshit attitude.  Especially if you’re donig your one-hit kill punch as a serious, hard punch, and not a ‘tagging’ point scoring punch.  That’s what KarateBiff was doing.

The reason why it’s a bullshit move is that when you’re friendly sparring, you’re not trying to hurt people.  But if you do nothing but repeatedly charge with intention to deal damage? Well, simple sparring will escalate. If you’re fighting with full contact rules in mind, and the opponent is thinking sparring, it just doesn’t work.  Disabling a serious charge means intercepting with superior force, say… with a stiff jab to the face or something.  But if the situation is friendly sparring, by definition, your opponent can’t do that, can he?

I guess what I’m getting at is that KarateBiff was sparring with another karate practitioner, also a beginner, but KarateBiff was clearly only concerend with nailing the other guy in the stomach as hard as possible.  The other guy was physically athletic, so he was holdign up okay, but it was clear that KarateBiff was the more agressive of the two and was really pushing the rules of friendly sparring.

I asked them if they wanted to borrow gloves (I had two pairs with me) but KarateBiff, who at that point was bleeding from a lip, refused them, saying rather arrogantly “Who needs gloves?”

Well, apparently, you do, asshole. I guess he thought he had something to proove by being really hardcore or something. I didn’t see it happen, but I think that logically, the other guy was having trouble getting KarateBiff to stop charging because Biff wasn’t acknowledging light contact interceptions– so the result was that the interceptions must’ve gotten strong and stronger until they drew blood.  I always find it annoying when people think it’s ‘overreacting’ to wear a mouthguard, but it’s all fun and games until someone chips some teeth, I say.  I made it clear to both fighters that their conduct wasn’t safe.  KarateBiff scoffed at the idea, but the opponent seemed to beleive me enough to slow down the fight and eventually just end, probably because he was feeling the hostile pressure.

The thing is, KarateBiff is a big guy.  He’s got your stereotypical overweight bully / bouncer build, and I think he gets away with sloppy fighting because he’s got natural strength.  In the grand scheme of things, both as a karateka narrowly and as a martial artist in general, he’s a beginner who is too singleminded about prooving his damage dealing abilities.  He was getting away with it because his opponent is also a beginner, but if it were me, I would have dismantled him pretty easily.  Of course, there’s a question of would I want to be in that position in the first place, but that’s another story.

So, what I’m getting at is that KarateBiff is on the opposite side of the spectrum from Croutons.  Croutons isn’t going to learn efficiently because he is overchallenging himself– he’s not admitting that there is a skill difference , and as a result, he’s basically bashing his heads on brick walls, as if to proove that determination and persistence wins everything.  On the other hand, KarateBiff isn’t challenging himself enough– he’s relying on natural physique for his fighting, instead of technique, which begs the question: what’s the point of learning martial arts then?  Listening to him argue with his opponent about who scored the better hits was just exhasperating to listen to. 

The two have a similar problem– they both have a method of proceeding, and they won’t open their minds up to anything else.  But they’re both beginners.  I can say that without being arrogant.  They are beginners, and they’ll stay that way unless their attitudes change.

I’m not saying any of this because I enjoy forcefeeding people, or that I need to teach.  I’m not paid to coach. This is strictly volunteer work.

But their heads are already full of what they want to know… what more do they need?

“When you can’t win with the facts you’ve got….

… win with the law.”

 

So says my administrative law teacher, who is teaching us all the ways of the weasels.

 


I’m experimenting with twitter; you can find me as “tcjinryu”.

MacKinnon and Cornell on Equality and Rule of Law

This is a copy paste of my final essay for a class on Law and Social Theory.  This paper scored a “Distinction” grade, so I guess that means I know what I’m talking about– it’s not a perfect paper and there are errors, but I think it’s written in such a way that if you read it, you’ll understand a bit more about what contemporary radical feminism is all about.

Hint: it’s not just about burning bras and telling dudes to fuck off, it’s a bit more complicated than that!

 

In all seriousness, feminism is a lot more important than just the idea of equal opportunities for women.  I wouldn’t say I’m a feminist, because that characterisation comes with a ton of baggage and responsibility, but I would say that in everyday life, a high percentage of my thought process would likely align with that of contemporary feminist theory.

 

 

I should point out that this paper was electronically submitted through a plagarism registry, so don’t even think about ripping me off, because you’ll get caught.

 


 

Date: February 10th, 2012

 

It is difficult to speak of feminism as if it were a united voice capable of saying anything more than that feminism seeks equality, because there are a large range of doctrines with different approaches and focuses. What does equality mean, and for whom? Can we integrate equality into society? Are feminism and rule of law even compatible? This essay aims to shed some light on how the ideas of two feminists, Catherine MacKinnon and Drucilla Cornell, help answer these questions about the contemporary feminist movement. Their respective visions of “equality” will be examined theoretically and practically, in order to demonstrate some of the key tensions within feminism that inform its progress.

Difference Doctrine

 

The first significance of MacKinnon’s work is that before we can consider the state of equality, we are lead to first re-conceptualise our understanding of it. She identifies what she sees as the most common approach to sex equality, which she calls the difference doctrine.1 This doctrine is divided into two approaches, both of which make use of the purported differences between men and women. The first approach is one that philosophically, socially, and legally suggests that women should be the same as men.2 Equality by this route is measured by the existence of equal rights of women to men. The second approach is to “be different from men,”3 and celebrates the differences between women from men. This approach in part aims to secure special benefits to women beyond equality.

 

MacKinnon’s major statement though is that it is impossible to seek equality in current institutions because they are, at their root, patriarchal.4Because of this, she argues, difference based doctrines are missing the point entirely. For example, attempting to build equality into the the law is an impoverished goal–her Marxist analogy places the law as merely the trailer, not the driver, of patriarchal dominion.5 Just as Marx felt that seeking rights for Jews was the wrong way of seeking emancipation, seeking equal legal rights of women is counter productive. Doing so within current institutions would be to acknowledge their authority by admitting the need for their approval, where approval is earned through a prescribed manner and form of the dominion’s language. Thus, seeking feminist goals within patriarchal law is, to some degree, helping to perpetuate the continued subordination of women.

 

MacKinnon’s Substantive Equality

 

Yes, MacKinnon is in favour of equality. However, she sees her version of equality as being more substantive than just rights, which accomplish little for women.6 From her work, we find equality is defined by what it is not: that is to say, it is not a state of socially constructed hierarchy, specifically, patriarchy. Her equality attempts to sidestep the sameness/difference approach, altogether. Instead of theoretical rights, she instead advocates seeking the power to redress.7

 

The Patriarchal “Feminine”

 

The shortcoming of her theory is that, while it reasons that equality cannot be found in patriarchy, it does little to identify what is equality, or how we can find it. Attempting to apply a MacKinnon reading of contemporary feminist activity highlights this paradoxical problem: if the current legal system is patriarchal as she says, how can the results of feminism ever produce anything aside from more patriarchal derivatives? How does feminism achieve reconciliation or legitimacy within the rule of law, if the law itself is patriarchal? MacKinnon’s problem is that she expects a certain level of purity to the feminist. She goes as far as to frame the conventional femininity as a patriarchal construct. How then can a woman legitimise herself, if patriarchy taints every step of feminist thought?

 

Cornell’s Assumed Woman

 

Cornell, in contrast, has a more affirmative approach which attempts to avoid this difficulty. In some ways, Cornell is building on MacKinnon’s theories.8 While MacKinnon identifies what is not equality for women, Cornell attempts to posit what is. While MacKinnon sees the concept of the feminine as nothing but a patriarchal construct, Cornell sees it as one possible source that informs a new feminine voice– further, in contrast to MacKinnon, she posits that it is possible to give birth to a new feminine voice independent from patriarchy altogether. While MacKinnon pits the feminist against the feminine,9 Cornell tries to reconcile the two, by pushing for the redefinition of both.

 

Yes, Cornell agrees, patriarchy will not provide the equality that women seek. However, she disagrees that patriarchy’s definition of femininity is irrelevant; that it continues to be insurmountably limited by patriarchy; and that it is impossible to come up with a completely new and independent definition of the feminine. Rather, she takes MacKinnon’s observations of patriarchal dominance as merely the starting point to work from.10

MacKinnon Applied

 

In order to examine the differences between the two visions of equality, it helps to contrast their applications in law. The reason why Cornell’s usage of MacKinnon is limited to being a starting point is because the theory makes a logical case for identifying the source of women’s subordination, but she doesn’t offer much in practical terms as to how a feminist can speak or act outside of patriarchy in order to exercise true femininity or feminism. As a result, usage of her ideas is extremely limited in terms of compatibility with existing rule of law.

 

MacKinnon is consistently at odds with patriarchy throughout her writing,11 and in interview even exalts, “everybody, everything, now, immediately.”12 This sounds like a battle cry at the front of a popular uprising. The peculiar irony, though, is that she actually tends to work extensively within the law.

Working within Patriarchy?

 

For several years in the early 80s, MacKinnon was in the employ of the government of Minnesota (United States) to help with the drafting of anti-pornography legislation.13 MacKinnon, during that time, developed a strict sense (including a proposed legal definition) of what constitutes pornography, and a line of reasoning as to why it is wrong.14 We can definitely see how the new direction of this definition swings the situation in favour of women– her redefinition of pornography has women, as victims, as the focus of the ordinance, suggesting that this victimisation is more important than any claims to free speech.15Prima facie, this discussion is of benefit to the feminist movement on the whole.

 

This does, however, highlight the contradictions involved in subscribing to MacKinnon’s purist feminism though. While she no doubt makes a well reasoned case against pornography, one might interpret MacKinnon’s methodology as using patriarchal tools and techniques to seek patriarchal approval and legitimacy of a feminine concern. This raises several questions about the applicability of her feminism to other issues of rule of law in society.

 

If MacKinnon is of the opinion that anything out of patriarchy could only perpetuate further subordination for women, then by her own standards, aren’t her efforts in anti-pornography legislation liable to fail her own criticisms? Isn’t her appeal to legal protection of women from the harms of pornography in large part further reinforcing the legitimacy of patriarchal dominance over the law?

 

MacKinnon has also done a fair amount of work as an amicus curiae for American court proceedings.16 For someone who sees the legal system as simply an extension of patriarchy, and who feels that change should be driven socially before legally,17 it seems somewhat troublesome for MacKinnon’s ideals of equality if she herself spends so much time working within the patriarchy that she denounces.

 

If we interpret her actions according to her theory, they would seem to suggest that the conclusion that patriarchy is inescapable– the best we can do is fight for impoverished, conventional equality. Despite her philosophy, her actions seem to align with the difference doctrine strategy to “be as men.” In her case, we would interpret her attempts to rally and use power as the traditional masculine methods, although for the benefit of women. Thus, even within a single feminist, there is already a marked lack of cohesion.

Patriarchal Nihilism

 

Broadly, MacKinnon’s objective is to expose and, in some sense, destroy the root of female subordination. Her focus is on the biggest available target– patriarchy itself.18

 

But in so doing, MacKinnon “effectively closes us off from the utopian possibilities of justice and of ethical relations between the sexes,” and suggests that “any effort to imagine such a female desire and subjectivity is complicitous with masculine definitions of female reality.”19 In a sense, MacKinnon’s feminist equality is fundamentally incompatible with everything about contemporary rule of law, because by her accord, the current rule of law is a mechanism for perpetuating patriarchy. Overall, MacKinnon offers little in the way of solutions to joining feminism with the rule of law.

 

Cornell’s Reconstructive Equality

Cornell is less of an absolutist. In her own words, equality for Cornell is about eventually seeing beyond the binary of opposition between feminine and masculine.20From the start, this places her vision of equality in a different realm from MacKinnon’s, which is driven by a stronger sense of antagonism. She is not attempting to create a feminism that would satisfy MacKinnon’s strict standards (indeed, it seems nothing is sufficient within MacKinnon’s standards). Instead, she seems to be trying to establish feminism that comes either after or simultaneously with MacKinnon’s patriarchal nihilism. Yes, Cornell agrees that there is an undeniable patriarchal influence on social institutions– but she does not feel that women are incapable of redefining themselves beyond the limitations of this patriarchy.21

Cornell Applied to Pornography

 

For example, Cornell has a pragmatic approach to pornography.22 Rather than address the negative effects of pornography by attempting to have it banned, Cornell goes on to create a distinction between what she calls “patriarchal pornography” and “progressive pornography.” While it is a given that patriarchal pornography is damaging to women,(quote) not all pornography need be patriarchal.23 She advocates the reinvention of pornography, so that it is useful and relevant to women, rather than harmful.

 

The concepts of reinvention, recreation, redefinition, and restructuring are central to Cornell’s ideas of feminism and equality. Through reimagination of the feminine myth, it has been possible to “involve [women] in aesthetic re-creation of [women’s] sexuality.”24 On the subject of pornography, application of such methodologies results in erotica. Such progressive pornography, instead of being damaging to women, instead helps redefine their femininity in new ways.25

 

To Cornell, the path to equality is not to win an adversarial debate in which men and women stand at opposition– but to create a new solution, that deconstructs the adversity rather than eliminating the adversary.

 

The Importance of Reading as MacKinnon

 

Despite that Cornell’s theory seems easier to apply practically, MacKinnon’s reading of social institutions is not without its uses. It’s critical nature helps inform feminism at the foundational level, for example, on the subject of sexuality. In general, MacKinnon sees sexuality as a cheap commodity of sorts, in the Marxist language. Of sexuality, she says: “women never own it, and men never treat it, in law or in life, with the solicitude with which they treat property.”26 MacKinnon also suggests that women’s sexuality “is a thing to be stolen, sold, bought, bartered or exchanged by others.”27 Marx predicted not only work, but the worker himself would be comodified. In this vein, parallels drawn to women further emphasise that women have no agency in setting the definitions of society.28 Women’s sexuality becomes a product that they are obliged to produce, not even for their own enjoyment. Pornography has already been mentioned, but the model informs the starting points of many other areas of discourse, including those that Cornell engages in.

 

Certainly, MacKinnon’s patriarchal reading of the law seems quite convincing when used to interpret the history of American and European rape trials.29 Trials tend to focus on men. For example, the severity of sentencing takes into account factors about the circumstances of the rapist: if found guilty, a minor is likely to get a shorter sentence, usually because of immaturity, and a public official is likely to get a longer sentence, because of having betrayed a public trust; the court takes into account whether the man misunderstood consent, instead of what the woman knew she was refusing; the woman’s sexual history is taken into account, as if history would somehow curtail a woman’s right to refuse sexual relations.30 Where is the agency of the woman regarding her sexuality here? MacKinnon’s theory effectively unmasks a strong correlation between laws and male bias. It provides a convincing case against relying on patriarchal law to help women’s interests.31

 

Theoretical and Applied Relationship with Rule of Law

 

But that is where the direct usefulness of MacKinnon’s theory of patriarchal energies ends. It has, indeed, identified the reason why the result of applying law frequently disfavours women. Says MacKinnon, “I don’t know if it’s going to be possible to use law to make any difference in the situation of all women without a fairly broad and deep political attack on the meaning of it’s central concepts, including objectivity and rules, neutrality and the entire apparatus of liberalism.”32 But then, where does this leave us?

 

MacKinnon’s theory has provided mostly an observation and critique of the rule of law– not a means by which to reconcile equality, whatever a virgin form of it may be, with it. By her own example, MacKinnon fights these laws by playing their game, and provides no alternatives. In this way, MacKinnon’s interaction with the rule of law is to denounce it on the surface, but, either due to resignation or some unexplained tactic, to accept the rule of law’s definition of women, femininity and feminism, and to resort a power struggle within the established hierarchy.33 The majority of it’s usefulness is as a starting point.

 

The Origins of A New Feminine Myth

 

The strength of Cornell’s interaction with rule of law lies in how it builds upon that which can be identified through a MacKinnon reading of it. It provides the basis of definitions that will be focused upon during the reconstruction. The difference is that unlike MacKinnon, Cornell gives more credit and agency to women as a starting point from which they can create a new myth. This is regardless of how any such myth may be historically informed by patriarchal genesis.

 

The importance of the “myth” analogy is that there is a certain amount of flexibility to it, which allows for it to adapt gradually and go beyond its roots.34 Thus, Cornell’s method towards approaching the rule of law is double edged. Though it does seek to bring down patriarchal laws to some extent, it is simultaneously concerned with founding new alternative definitions which are legitimate to women.35 This creation of new definitions that have popular legitimacy is Cornell’s way of eventually changing the very nature of rule of law.

 

Summarily, Cornell avoids the recursive problems of MacKinnon by stating, simply, that woman must begin somewhere: “Feminism allows us to ‘see’ the doubly prized world which might be ours.”36 True, patriarchy is likely to produce more patriarchy– but it is not true that patriarchy is the only place to attempt to find this new feminine voice. For example, Cornell isn’t concerning herself with the traditional masculine debates on the legality of pornography– she is trying to define a pornography beyond current pornography. Similarly, Cornell isn’t as concerned with the “war on terror” so much as she is the removal of reasons to create terror. In a sense, the broadness of Cornell’s sources of feminine voices is what allows for negotiable compatibility with rule of law. The mythos, which women must recreate of women, is one that must be flexible and concerned with the details. Cornell feels “we are responsible for an ideal that can never be realised and yet that is always being configured and contested.”37

 

Approaches to Prostitution

 

An additional comparison would help highlight the differences between MacKinnon and Cornell. A domain in which the two have different approaches is on the subject of prostitution. Throughout most of USA, prostitution is illegal, resulting in the arrest of women who arguably have been forced into their situations due to socio-economic realities out of their control.

 

MacKinnon’s take on the subject is very similar to her take on sexuality, rape, and feminism in general– it is defined by a constant awareness of unshakable patriarchal influence. To MacKinnon, prostitution is female sexual slavery.38 Women are placed in a position where they and their sexuality have become commodities. But this goes beyond being a Marxian analogy to alienation of the goods from the worker; to MacKinnon, it is a compounded evil, characterised by repeated torture, through repeated rape.39 She takes a black and white approach to it: “in rape, the security of women’s person is stolen; in prostitution, it is stolen and sold.”40

 

How does MacKinnon see the feminist working in relation to rule of law on this subject? Her approach is to expose the legal contradictions of that arise from patriarchy purporting to defend women. She frames the prostitution problem in terms of opposing rights: the woman’s supposed right to life, the right to be free from slavery, and right to be a person recognised before the law;41 versus the rights of men to privacy, to own property, and to contract.42

 

Cornell on the other hand leaves this technical debate to go on in the background, and seeks more direct means of affecting policy. Though she no doubt feels that it is exploitative, she takes her discourse with the law beyond what the law is doing to contradict itself. As a union organiser in the 70s, Cornell worked to try and organise prostitutes in New York City. The goal was pragmatic, to say the least: it aimed to decriminalise prostitution, so that a union could be formed. This union would in theory be best placed to advocate for its own interests and bring informed, new voices, previously ignored, to the equality discourse.43

 

Cornell retells the story of prostitutes in New York City who had set up a co-operative of prostitutes without pimps. They organised their own protection, education, and health. As far as empowering women, Cornell’s campaign couldn’t have been more literal– part of the campaign was to have the prostitutes armed for their own physical defence. Though they remained prostitutes, the collective was collectively owned and collectively run.44 While the traditional view of prostitution is more akin to MacKinnon’s viewpoint, which in a sense attempts to theoretically vilify men and prostitution without having much to say about what to do with the prostitutes, Cornell looks to the prostitutes as sources of the female myth.

Cornell’s Feminist Utopia

 

The general differentiating pattern between MacKinnon and Cornell is that the former tends to expose the problems of the law, all the while wrestling with the weight and immobility of these institutions; the latter attempts to make the most of these realisations, but does not admit to any permanent limitations. In a sense, Cornell’s philosophy takes feminism to the next step after MacKinnon’s patriarchal nihilism. While MacKinnon says she has no idea what autonomy means,45 in the sense that women to her have no substantive agency or independence from patriarchy, Cornell assumes the importance of any female voice and uses this to immediately begin the reconstruction. Again, the retelling and revamping of the feminine myth is a consistent theme. Says Cornell, “the idea of the imaginary domain is that each one of us needs to have space to contest and to re-imagine ourselves.”46 This imaginary domain is the key ingredient that makes Cornell’s vision of equality more compatible with rule of law than MacKinnon’s.

 

The main limitation on MacKinnon’s theory, according to Cornell, is that it ignores the possibility of a feminist utopia: “[…] MacKinnon thus privileges masculinist power because it has no vision of a female experience outside of his gaze.”47 Cornell, in contrast, suggests being utopic, synergistic and inclusive, while still avoiding the pitfalls of traditional difference doctrine. “The idea that men, too, have to struggle to imagine themselves differently is part of the very idea of my feminism.”48 Thus, seeking equality for Cornell entails reconstruction, not just on the part of women, but on the part of men, to benefit humanity collectively.49

 

Summarily, MacKinnon seems to be about destroying patriarchy– whereas Cornell seems more focused on building the alternative. “Feminists can proceed by metonomy, Cornell suggests– reconstructing social and legal relationships with new configurations that rename women’s experience for particular contexts.”50

 

MacKinnon Objectively

 

Although the current analysis makes it convenient to characterise MacKinnon as a purist who isn’t as practically beneficial to equality as Cornell is, we must bear in mind that to say this assumes the measurement of progress according to their different definitions of equality.

 

Indeed, despite the paradox of her own standards, the fact is that MacKinnon’s actions might be positively interpreted within the theory of Cornell. For example, what is MacKinnon’s work on pornography, if not an attempt to find new definitions that would be legitimate to women? Even though MacKinnon’s concern is with “substantive equality,” she too identifies that the need for equality must be “defined on women’s own terms and in terms of women’s concrete experience.”51 Despite what her theory says about the immutability of patriarchy, she can be interpreted as still working largely towards an equality outside of her own theory. This brings us back to the original proposition of this essay– that it is difficult to speak of feminism as if it were a unified voice. Even if it agreed that equality was a focus, the definitions of equality are not agreed upon. Despite their differences though, the importance of MacKinnon and Cornell both continue to the way in which they prompt the continued intensity and urgency of feminist discourse, which may yet yield solutions that neither of them envisioned. As Cornell puts it, “it is up to us to take on the task of bringing into existence a timeliness still in the making, and if we do not take up such a task , there is no alibi excusing our not doing so.”52

 

Concluding Statements

 

As we have seen, the path towards equality is fraught with philosophical and practical obstacles. Furthermore, many of these obstacles arise out of the disagreement among feminists themselves.

 

We can take MacKinnon’s approach towards the rule of law, which is to keep it close as one does the enemy.53 Or if we take Cornell’s approach, which is to produce high level theory in progressive domains that the law hasn’t yet rooted itself. We can also turn to any number of other feminist theories not covered by this paper. The end result by any route is a growing body of feminist work, which attempts to establish equality of various interpretations, all the way attempting legitimise women’s voices. Inevitably, these voices seek increasing recognition within, and changes to, the rule of law.

 

Bibliography:

Cornell, Drucilla, ‘Derrida: The Gift of the Future.’(2005) 16(3) Differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies.

Cornell, Drucilla, and bell hooks, ‘Dialogue: The Imaginary Domain: A Discussion Between Drucilla Cornell and bell brooks.’ (1998) 19 (Spring) Women’s Rights Law Reporter.

Cornell, Drucilla, ‘Facing our Humanity.’ (2003) 18 (Winter) (1) Hypathia Journal.

Cornell, Drucilla, ‘Transformations: Recollective Imagination and Sexual Difference.’New York, Rothledge.

Carol, Douglas, ‘Interview: MacKinnon on Feminist Theory.’(1983) 13.5 Washington, Off Our Backs Journal 13.5.

MacKinnon, Catherine, Feminism Unmodified: Discourses on Life and Law. (Harvard University, 1987).

MacKinnon, Catherine, and Andrea Dworkin, In harm’s way: The pornography civil rights hearings. (Harvard University Press, 1997)

MacKinnon, Catherine, Prostitution and Civil Rights, (1993) 1 Michigan Journal of Gender & Law.

MacKinnon, Catherine, Towards a Feminist Theory of the State. (Harvard University Press, 1989).

McGlynn, Clare, ‘Rape as ‘Torture’? Catherine MacKinnon and Questions of Feminist Strategy.’16 Feminist Legal Studies (2008).

McGowan, Mary Kate, ‘On Pornography: MacKinnon, Speech Acts, and “False” Construction.’ (2005) 20 (Summer) (3) Hypathia Journal.

Sutherland, Kate, ‘Marx and MacKinnon: The Promises and Perils of Marxism for Feminist Legal Theory.’(2005) 69(1) Science and Society.

1Difference and Dominance: On Sex Discrimination, 83.

2Ibid, 84.

3Ibid, 84.

4Ibid, 98.

5See generally, Interview: MacKinnon on Feminist Theory.

6Difference and Dominance: On Sex Discrimination, 83

7Difference and Dominance: On Sex Discrimination, 90.

8For example, Cornell states “I agree with MacKinnon that we should fight for equal protection under the law, but I would not settle for it.” Recollective Imagination and Sexual Difference, 107.

9Difference and Dominance: On Sex Discrimination, 90.

10Recollective Imagination and Sexual Difference, 108.

11The introductory paragraph of Interview with MacKinnon on Feminist Theory, 4. is one of her most explicit affronts on the law.

12Ibid, 12.

13See generally, Mary Kate McGowan, On Pornography: MacKinnon, Speech Acts, and “False Construction,” 25.

14Ibid, 25-26; Towards a Feminist Jurisprudence, 99-100.

15Says MacKinnon, of pornography, “being the medium for men’s speech supersedes any rights women have.” Towards Feminist Jurisprudence, 99.

16For example, MacKinnon has filed amicus briefs for the American cases R.A.V. v City of St. Paul 505 US 377 (1992) and Joseph Oncale v Sundowner Offshore Services 523 US 75 (1998).

17Says MacKinnon, “I think the struggle to change a law has everything to do with the struggle that goes on in society; but that seeing that the law being changed is what is going to make the social change is, I think, wrong.” (MacKinnon, On Injury in Sex)

18See generally, Towards Feminist Jurisprudence.

19Iris Young, Signs: Book Reviews, 20(2) Winter 1995, 491

20Ibid, 112; The Imaginary Domain: A Discussion Between Drucilla Cornell and bell hooks, 265.

21Transformations: Recollective Imagination and Sexual Difference, 112.

22Generally, see The Imaginary Domain: A Discussion Between Drucilla Cornell and bell hooks.

23Ibid, 262; ibid 265.

24Ibid, 264.

25Ibid, 265.

26Towards a Feminist Theory of State, 1989, 172.

27Ibid, 172.

28Marx and MacKinnon: The Promise and Perils of Feminist Legal Theory, 119.

29See generally, Rape as ‘Torture’? Catherine MacKinnon and Questions of Feminist Strategy.

30Rape as ‘Torture’? Catherine MacKinnon and Questions of Feminist Strategy, 78

31Ibid, 80.

32See generally, Injury of the self.

33Transformations: Recollective Imagination and Sexual Difference, 107.

34See passage quoted from Hans Blumenburg in Transformations: Recollective Imagination and Sexual Difference, 111.

35Says Cornell, “The goal of ethical feminism […] is not just power for women, but the redefinition of all of our fundamental concepts, including power.” Transformations: Recollective Imagination and Sexual Difference, 107.

36Transformations: Recollective Imagination and Sexual Difference,112.

37Facing Our Humanity, 172.

38See also the work of Kathleen Berry regarding prostitution as female sexual slavery; Prostituion and Civil Rights, 13.

39Prostitution and Civil Rights, 13.

40Ibid, 13

41Ibid, 14.

42Ibid, 14.

43The Imaginary Domain: A Discussion Between Drucilla Cornell and bell hooks, 261.

44Ibid, 261.

45See generally, Injury in Sex.

46The Imaginary Domain: A Discussion Between Drucilla Cornell and bell hooks, 263.

47Signs: Book Reviews, 491.

48The Imaginary Domain: A Discussion Between Drucilla Cornell and bell hooks, 263.

49Facing Our Humanity, 174.

50Signs: Book Reviews, 491.

51Towards Feminist Jurisprudence, 98.

52Derrida: The Gift of the Future, 71.

53Referring to the proverb, “keep your friends close, and keep your enemies closer.”

Cult of Health

Tuesday morning was week one of a new project– marathon training.  [CaptainK] and [DilligentB] are in on this plan; it stems out of an experience we had last semester going on a run together from Randwick to Coogee.  Despite that I hate running, I’ve always wanted to complete a tirathalon– but considering that I can’t swim for shit, I guess a marathon isn’t too bad either, as far as earning bragging rights go.

I haven’t actually signed up for any half or full marathon yet (mostly because they’re insanely expensive– 96$ for a half??) but I’m pretty dedicated to the idea of training to be able to run at least the distance of a half marathon in a respectable amount of time.  We’ll see whether or not I actually sign up for one, but for now, training is the important part.

ANyways, it turns out that my cardio is better than I thought.  DilligentB does 3 runs of 5km per week like clockwork, which I think is a pretty disciplined regime– but I was able to run without any difficulty at her rate.  Feels good.

 

Today, I’m going to try a boxing lesson at University of Sydney.  I’ve never done strict boxing– it’s always been kickboxing or taekwondo or jeet kune do.  But I’ve always wanted to learn.  I hold boxing in really high regard– not because of the punching, actually, but because of the footwork, and the upper body control (slipping, weaving, etc).  We’ll see how it goes!

So Long, Suckas!

I haven’t really had a case of road rage since Montreal.  To clarify, I’m talking about on a bicycle, since I don’t drive.

 

Back in Montreal, I used to have a fixie.  Not those hipster fixie bikes with handbrakes that everyone uses nowadays– I had the sort that if you wanted to stop the bike, you had to basically pedal backwards.  The problem with fixies is that, with only one gear, they usually lose in protracted races against bikes with gears, because bikes with more gears have better ratios more suited to either mountain climbing or all out speed on flat ground.  A fixie is kinda set in between, which is decent for one basic situation, but not great at either extreme.

 

Back home, I’d get annoyed if someone cut me off on a bike path. My usual response was to tailgate, which usually makes them speed up and go beyond their comfortable pedaling speed.  But eventually, when they tired out,  I’d just slowly pass them. Yes, I’d feel smug about it.

This didn’t always work against people with really high performance race bikes, but for the most part, people in montreal with expensive bikes knew a thing or two about road courtesy.  It’s the occasional asshole who doesn’t really have a good set of legs who needs to make up for it by cutting people off.

 

I should point out also that I don’t play this game when in the city– only on bike paths– because tailgating someone to get a rise out of them in the city is likely to get someone killed.  Do not do that to people, kids! Getting people killed is not nice!

 

 

-=-=-=-

 

In general, I find cyclists in Sydney are much worse when it comes to road manners than Montreal.  If you look around at the people on bikes, they’re usually males, between the ages of 30 and 50, often using high end road bikes, and almost always wearing spandex.  At least, this is the demographic of assholes who don’t understand a thing about the meaning of red lights, or have never heard of the concept of lining up when at stop lights (they tend to cut in front of you and park in front as far as they can go without getting hit by pependicular traffic).

 

Like, seriously… what the fuck is wrong with 30-50 year old male cyclists in Sydney?  Fucking douchbags!

 

Every now and then though, when the roads are quiet and I get cut off by someone, I’ll do what I did in Montreal and kinda get stuck in “challenge mode.”  Things are different here though– Sydney is way more hilly than Montreal was, especially in certain areas like Glebe (where I live).  In the backroads, traffic isn’t as bad, so if someone cuts me off at a light or something (as in, we’re stopped at a red light, but I got there first… then the other guy cuts in front of me at green to get ahead of everyone) I’ll basically follow them, make sure they know I’m there, and then drag race with them.

 

 

Turns out that as fast as their road bikes are compared to my hybrid, biking daily with 20 pounds of law textbooks is pretty good for my legs.  So usually, I try to kinda goad them into racing up a mountain… mostly because when I completely smoke them, the mountain looks like it hurts them sooooo sooooooo bad.  I mean… look at the way they’re huffing and puffing!  They’re even rocking the bike as they get off the saddle! Last time someone cut me off, I chased them up a mountain, and passed them while saying “Learn to use your gears, dude!” (It wasn’t a really good taunt, but I couldn’t think of anything better on the fly.)

 

Yeah, I’m a bad person.

 

And it’s probably a good reason why I shouldn’t get a driver’s license.  Ever.  Because if you gave me a motorized vehicle? Mannnnn, that’d be bad for society.

 

Sometimes I dream of having a James Bond car with missiles.

“Free”

Contrast the concept of “free” in French, which is separated into “libre” and “gratuit.”  Libre means free in a “liberty” sort of way– gratuit means free as in “at no cost.”  Free as in not a slave, versus free as in free beer.

 

The word free I think is one of those big weasel words nowadays… it’s especially insidious because most people would probably argue with you if you said something wasn’t free.

Take for example… Xanga.  Is Xanga free?

What about Gmail, or Hotmail, or whatever?

 

 People make the common mistake of equating “free” with “I don’t have to pay money.”  But money isn’t the only currency in the world.  The fact is, a lot of stuff that we use for “free” on the internet is ad-supported– that is to say, in exchange for the service, we’re forced to look at ads.  That’s the deal.  Not too bad, I suppose?

 On a side note, how expensive something is basically translates to how “free” something is.  Something that’s more expensive is “less free” while something that’s cheaper is “more free.”

We’re always so concerned about getting things free and saving money though that we don’t see that we don’t always see how in reality, we’re paying in other ways.  So, what are the hidden, long term costs of buying a major grocery chain’s branded carton of milk for cheaper (more free) than a more expensive carton of milk from a local dairy farmer?

 

What is the real cost of paying  a few cents less for gasoline?

 I’ve been toying with this idea of ‘externalization’ as a psychological thing.  You hear about corporations externalizing costs– for example, CO2 emissions are often given off by manufacturing processes, but that’s okay for them– even though CO2 emissions have a toll on all humans, this area isn’t all that regulated.    The abstraction of the affected group allows for the externalization of the detriment– we can’t see the partiucular victim of CO2 emissions from one factory to one victim, so somehow, it’s all right beacuse of the invisibility (or the ignorance).  Externalization refers to how the person who pays the costs is actually external to the process itself– manufacturing company makes something, and gets paid for it, but who foots the bill for the emissions?  People in the contract, but also, people who didn’t sign up for the contract.  That means that even when someone pays a manufacturer to do something, the random somebody, that is to say, you, are sucking in a bit of extra CO2.  They’re dipping in your pie.  They’ve externalized one of the costs of manufacturing onto us, because we don’t pay attention to things flying around if it’s not money.

Externalisation as a psychological thing– I mean this on an indvidual scale. Sure, we can point at corporations… hating on corporations is all the rage nowadays.  But what about holding ourselves responsible?  What about making sure that we don’t use the same practices, of trying hide or offload the costs on someone else?

 

It’s the same thing with everyday things.  You drive a car to work– you think you’re paying for gas, so perhaps you have a right to drive.  But is the cost you pay for that gas really entitling you to everything that comes out of that purchase?   Does the cost of your gas go into cleaning the air that everyone breathes?  Does it pay back dead soldiers and civilians in countries you’ve never even seen, who basically die over oil-driven wars?  

Or, are you content that these pennies per litre are a fair price?

 

“Free,” as well as derivative degrees of freeness, really has to do with the proportion of indirect monetary costs, or the externalization of costs.

 

Chances are, there is no such thing as a free lunch.

There’s a Time for Us

I was thinking about how there are a lot of people who I refer to in this blog who I don’t refer to often, and the problem with that is that I forget what aliases I use for them. Beh!

-=-=-=-=-=-=-

I was talking to [Mayida] the other day, one of [CM]’s friend who had come to Australia.

She’s here to take a year of life off in Canada. In many ways, she’s in the same position I was in when I just finished my undergrad at the conclusion of Montreal 1.0 . So here she is, in Sydney, trying to see how she can survive all on her own. In my opinion, she’s doing a so so job… she spends most of her time in her new apartment, or just shopping, or calling people from back home. She went on a job hunt for a bit, but in the end, I bailed her out by getting her a job at my company. Where, really, has she started exerting her newfound freedom, and where, really, has she began to assert her independence?

I think I’m sometimes overly critical of Mayida because I don’t feel she’s making enough of an effort to stand on her own two feet. She stayed with CM and I in our apartment for a couple of weeks while she was looking for a place and job of her own, but during that time, most of her free time was spent watching videos or calling her friends back home in Vancouver. Is that what someone looks like when they’re trying to live a new way? Is that how someone reinvents themselves? By curling up, and trying to hear muffled vibrations at the end of a string and can?

I think that sometimes, I’m overly critical of people because it’s so easy for me to forget where I came from, and only pay attention to where I am and where I’m headed. I’ve realized that, if I want to think of myself as a person connected to world, and if a person who is connected is someone who can teach as much as he/she can learn, then I can’t do that. History, despite all the romanticism of leaving it behind, is important– especially our personal histories. Yet, awesome as I am, and awesome as you are, the fact is that all too often, we’re likely to want to sweep our sorrid pasts and youthful indescretions aside, as if we were always this awesome.

I read [Nimbus]’s blog as well, and she’s in a similar situation as Mayida, although she hasn’t left yet, and hasn’t decided where.

For me, I look at these situations and, frankly, it just annoys me at times. Why don’t people take things into their control? Why don’t people just get up and do what they have to do, and why are they so caught up holding on to that which is familiar? Why do people keep reiterating the same mistakes instead of trying something new?

-=-=-=-=-=-=-

I must be clear. Such a criticism is unforgivably unfair of me, and on top of that, it’s hippocritical. Unsupportive? Maybe– but I don’t owe anyone anything, so that’s a secondary concern. But I do answer to myself– and in that context, simply, I’m in the wrong to be impatient. The truth is, I had just as much trouble as they did, plus or minus a few EXP here and there.

When I started off in South Korea, I had moved there with my ex, [ThePines]. That made things much easier because I always had her to rely on for a connection to my life from Montreal 1.0 . The separation anxiety wasn’t nearly as bad as a result. But when I broke up with her? Well, then the full weight of SK started kicking in, and despite that it turned out being a complete revolution to my life, in the begining, it was hell.

I went through the stages too. First, it was trying to simulate my life from back home. That meant that I went out of my way to get North American food, especially canned food (which is suprisingly hard to do in South Korea). It also meant that I hung out almost exclusively with North Americans. I didn’t integrate much into SK at all– I just built up a bastion of memories, and waited by the laptop, hoping to get emails or chat messages in English.

It was only with extreme hardship and some offside support from [Zanshin] a city away that I managed to started to entrench myself in SK and the local ways. It really wasn’t easy, that’s all I can say. Things of importance may be simple, but they’re seldom easy.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

CM has recently taken up a boxing class on saturdays– she went to her first class of training just yesterday, and today, she’s having a hard time moving. I mean… things like brushing her teeth, holding up a cellphone– her entire body is so thoroughly exhausted that she’s finding it difficult to do anything but basically exist. Sometimes she sounds a bit discouraged about it… but I pointed out that starting points are starting points. That’s pretty much it.

I pointed out that when I started off in martial arts, I didn’t really have any talent for it either. She found that rather hard to beleive… but the fact is, it’s been over 10 years since I started in martial arts. I damn well better not seem like a newbie at this point! But I did start off as a newbie. I did start off with questions– and by questions, I don’t mean about the content of what I was learning. It was easy enough if you treated it like a hunger, then you could just open your mouth and be fed. No, the questions were about myself.

Why am I doing this?
What do I want out of this?
Can I do this?

It’s not so much that I’ve found specific answers to any of these questions at this point, but in all things, it’s more like I’ve found the confidence to continue forward in spite of not immediately being guaranteed any final answers.

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I’ve been spending a fair amount of time working on the Baduk Club at the university. Most of my time at the club is spent teaching beginners– I play something like 75% of my games with beginners in a sorta workshop/tutorial fashion, in contrast to the 25% that I play “for myself.” It’s kinda reminiscient of how the badminton club used to run, to be honest.

But I have noticed that I’m a lot better at teaching than a lot of the other club execs– the simple reason being is that I’m more tolerant of the fact that they’re beginners. The others tend to get too technical, too philosophical, or too self-absorbed in trying to make themselves seem like they know more– but that kinda attitude is offputting for a beginner. I don’t mean to brag, but if everything in life were as easy and straightforward as teaching baduk, I could be a pretty damn good rolemodel, or something. I think the difference between me and others is that, because I struggled with baduk because i learned it through fighting alone, I’m not caught up with all the technical and philosophical bits of the game that beginners find way too complicated.

For me, the game is rather simple– take over the world, and in the process, kill or be killed. Sure, complicated things stem out of this– but the thing about teaching and learning is that you need a simple principle that can be accepted. The person who is learning needs to like the premise of the proposition, otherwise exercises to it’s effect will not stick well.

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Which brings us full circle to a simple idea– people will not change until they decide to change. Logically, the reason why people have problems is because they haven’t accepted the idea of change yet– they’re toying with it, moving it back and forth like vegetables they don’t like.

So I think that part of the solution is that if one can’t decide, one simply needs to put themselves in physical trap that necessitates a mental change. Sink or swim, do or die, that kinda thing.

For me, SK was such a decision. I think I was lucky enough to make the decision to travel rather irresponsibly– I didn’t think too much about it. I had other problems in life, like, other questions about where I was going with my future and stuff like that– but I didn’t know how to make choices about those things yet, and in retrospect, I didn’t make any headway on those questions by dealing with them directly. I guess it’s more accurate to say that some choices are simply impossible to make with certain environments.

So changing the environment, in my case, physical location, changes the possible choices, and it changed the perspective.

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So why are we so ashamed of our pasts? Or embarassed by them? I can’t quite put it into words, but I know that who I was is always an area of contention to me in some way.

Have you ever noticed how the people you look at funny tend to be people who share traits with you, or who you were? And the criticism we direct at these ‘others,’ it’s almost as if we do so because in identifying it and stigmatizing it, we can some how abstract those traits from our own existences, and disown our involvement with these things.

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The truth is, I don’t know anything for sure. Just that today, even though I have another 200 pages to read for class, I’m pretty confident I’ll get to tomorrow. That kind of confidence is the only thing that I can rely on, and it’s something upon which all things are built.

So I guess part of it is simply to just forigve myself for being me. And perhaps connecting with the rest of the world has something to do with forgive others for being like me as well.

Or perhaps it’s all in my egocentric mind.