An Egregious Instance of Liberal Privilege Scratching

Want a really egregious example of pseudo-Liberal privilege scratching? Here is an app calculating how many slaves work for you worldwide. It must be so delicious to wallow in sweet quasi-progressive feelings of guilt as you contemplate your good fortune in comparison to all those miserable, pathetic Third World folks. As you pass through the cute survey listing your belongings (and what’s more fun that counting everything you own?), juicy little tidbits about the suffering of those less fortunate than you keep popping up on the screen.

Seriously, it’s a Liberal feel-good product of the year.

And the best thing is that it’s a game that can be enjoyed for quite a while. After you download the app, you will be able to

Earn Free World points when you get the app and use it to counteract your slavery footprint.

See? You can earn points while playing on your Android and, in the process, help all those pathetic creatures out there. Because they totally care how many points you have won on your app. It like totally will like change their lives to know how much you care. Isn’t that neat?

You can also put up posts about how many slaves work for you and complain that all your Fair Trade purchases weren’t taken into account when counting your slaves. Has one been so good and benevolent, buying all that expensive Fair Trade coffee, for nothing?

And where does the app get off counting all items of clothing one owns indiscriminately? What if one only buys shirts with progressive slogans that decry privilege? Doesn’t that count for anything?

Well, maybe the next version of the app will give out special rewards to the most righteous among the privilege-scratchers.

The Ukrainian Postmodernists

A Ukrainian artist from Lugansk (the city where I was born) created the following work of art for an exhibition:

In case you are wondering what this is, it’s a religious icon with the portrait of Ukraine’s president Viktor Yanukovich. The nimbus around his head is done in the form of a traditional Russian headdress. What’s going on with his left eye is anybody’s guess. The artist’s name is V. Bondarenko.

So if you thought Russians were freaky, we, Ukrainians, can outdo them any time.

Thank you, Dad, for the link.

Online Dating Story #3

I have a lot of these stories, people. So when you start getting fed up with them, just let me know.

Once, my friend met a guy online who invited her on a date and, as often happens, asked her to bring a friend for his friend. She asked me to come and told me, “This guy says he is very tall, and so is his friend, so we will have no trouble recognizing them. Apparently, he is 6’10 and his friend is 6’8.”

When we arrived at the restaurant, we recognized our dates (let’s call them A and B) immediately. They were, indeed, very tall. This would not have posed any kind of a problem for us except for the fact that this was the only thing they wanted to talk about.

During the most boring dinner in the history of humanity, my friend and I were regaled with stories about how tall famous athletes are, what the median height of people on different continents is, how the height of the Earth’s population keeps growing, and so on.

My friend and I were bored stiff. I can’t even talk about my own height for more than 2 minutes without getting bored, let alone about somebody else’s. We tried changing the subject as hard as we could but A and B had no interest in anything that didn’t involve feet and inches. Music, books, movies, work, television, traveling – nothing managed to distract them from their fixation on height.

Finally, my friend (who is normally extremely reserved around strangers) got so desperate for a change of topic that she blurted out,

“So how do you guys feel about oral sex?”

I choked on my food, but A and B just looked bored. Then, B brightened up and announced happily,

“You know what just occurred to me? Having oral sex with a short guy must really SUCK! Pun intended!”

A and B looked at each other and burst into laughter.

This was when I realized I was wasting my life on this date.

“I left an iron on at home,” I said. “I need to go unplug it.”

“Yes,” my friend said. “I also left my iron on. And I also need to go home and unplug it. Let’s go and unplug our irons, Clarissa.”

As we were getting up, A exclaimed,

“And I thought we would go dancing after this! Don’t you ladies want to experience what dancing with two REALLY tall guys feels like?”

At that point, I felt like I didn’t want to hear the word “tall” ever again in my life, so we left. It might be a total coincidence but within two months both my friend and I were seriously dating two short men.

My Position on Occupy Wall Street Protests

Is complex.

One the one hand, I’m glad that people are waking up, protesting, making themselves heard. This is definitely a positive development. I’ve been wondering when this was going to happen in the US, and finally it has.

However, there are a few things that bother me about the protests. One is the “1% vs 99%” slogan. As Spanish Prof brilliantly puts it,

I’ve seen a comment this weekend from somebody who is supposedly a progressive where class is divided between “those who rule the country and those who are fucked”. So if you are not among the 1% of the wealthiest, you are supposed to be oppressed like the remaining 99% of the population. Sorry, but that is absurd, and a good way of overlooking poverty rates in the United States.

I understand that every movement needs a catchy populist slogan, but does it have to be so reductive? The provocative “We are the 1%” statement folks at the Chicago Board of Trade placed in their windows resonates with me. Not because I will ever have any access to the kind of wealth the richest people have (nor do I want to), but because the idea of being lumped in with a very vaguely defined majority is not something I am likely to respond well to.

Another problem I have with the movement is that it’s taking the protest to Wall Street, Chicago Board of Trade, financial districts, etc. Can anybody tell me what the point of that is? Isn’t it clear that Wall Street is not the problem? Yes, the traders and the hedge fund people want to enrich themselves. That’s their job, that’s what they do. It isn’t their job to have a social conscience. And said conscience will not be awakened, no matter how much you scream and shout under their windows.

Is the movement hoping that touching stories of personal suffering, debt and illness will convince Wall Street employees to share the wealth with them? I sincerely hope not because that would be too pathetic. What’s the point of standing under the windows of a hedge fund with posters saying, “I’m 22, $50,000 in debt, no medical insurance”? Why should a hedge fund manager care about another private citizen’s debt or insurance? That’s the duty of our government, so maybe it makes more sense to take the grievances where they belong.

Seriously, how would everybody feel if I wrote a similar poster about my personal issues and went to wave it under the windows of a local farmer-millionaire?

Or take this slogan, for example:

Greed is a sin in the Christian worldview and a personal failure in many people’s system of morality. Walking down the streets denouncing other folks’ faulty morals seems kind of useless. Is anybody going to stop being greedy the second they see this placard? Obviously not.

People should feel free to be as greedy (lustful, angry, proud, gluttonous, etc.) as their individual value systems allow them to be. What matters is how far our political system allows these personal failings of some to influence the collective governmental policies affecting us all.

The problem is not located in the financial districts. It’s located in the centers of political power. Politicians do not render accounts to people but to their lobbyists. The US government is distributing bailouts to banks and cutting down on social programs. Washington and state Capitols should be marched on. People on Wall Street are just folks who act in their own interest. Just like the protesters are. The trouble begins when politicians become intimately involved in promoting personal interests of a small group of people and want to pay for that from our collective pocket.

I really want the movement to be successful. This is why I fear it will degenerate into a series of protests by private citizens bemoaning the bad moral values of another group of private citizens. If we get into a debate on who’s more greedy than the other guy, we’ll never get out of it and never achieve anything useful.

Let’s stop making politics be all about personalities already. Let’s make it only and exclusively about political issues.

Through the Eyes of a Stranger: On Anwar al-Awlaki

Reader el asked me to write about the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki by the US government. I didn’t want to address this topic because I find that the entire discussion surrounding it is too cynical for me to stomach, but I can’t dismiss a regular reader’s request.

Here are the terms that are used to debate this issue on blogs of different political leanings:

An American citizen was killed by the United States because of his speech. And, no, it wasn’t Glenn Beck (although by the standards used here, it could have been).

1. Anwar al-Awlaki was an American because he was born in the United States. He was raised in the United States until he was 7. He was college-educated in the United States, including two graduate degrees. He was an imam at a mosque in the United States. And MSNBC is one of the few places willing to call him an “American” and not just “U.S. born.” He had dual citizenship in the U.S. and Yemen. He has as much right to be called American as Rick Perry.

Do you see anything disturbing in the quoted passage? “American, citizen, American, American, citizenship, American.” And this is just from one short paragraph. Whenever one starts reading any piece on al-Awlaki, one immediately notices that there is more flag-waving than on the 4th of July.

Who cares where anybody was born? Who gives a rat’s ass what citizenship anybody has? The US hands out its citizenships through the means of a lottery. Mail-order brides and religious fanatics of any persuasion from all over the world are handed out these citizenships like frakking candy.

What are we even talking about here? If anybody wants to start a discussion on whether the US should stop sending drones to kill people all over the world, I want to join that conversation. But the moment we start subdividing people into first-class and second-class based on a flapping piece of paper you can win in a lottery, I have no more interest in such a discussion. If it’s wrong to kill supposed terrorists overseas, then it’s wrong to kill all of them. If it’s right to kill them, ditto.

We’ve seen this obsession with when and how one was born with the entire brouhaha over Obama’s birth certificate. Then, we saw the same kind of insanity develop over the birth of Sarah Palin’s most recent child. There is more discussion of where and how people are born in political media than in a psychoanalyst’s office.

After the accident of getting born here or there, to these parents or to those, on this stretch of land or that one, much more important things begin to take place. It is what happens during an individual’s entire life, instead of what happens during the few hours of their birth, that should matter.

Online Dating Story #2

Once I met this journalist online who sounded like a very interesting, fun person. We talked for a while, and then he invited me to a restaurant.

“What kind of food do you like?” he asked.

“Oh, I love Indian food,” I said.

“Well, that’s fantastic because this is my favorite food, too!”

So we went to an Indian restaurant I really liked. At the restaurant, I ordered vindaloo because I adore it.

“I love this dish!” my date exclaimed. “I’ll order it, too.”

Two minutes after we started eating, though, I noticed something was wrong. My date became very red, and sweat gathered on his forehead.

“Are you OK?” I asked.

“Oh yes,” he said. “The food is delicious.”

After a very short while, he started hyperventilating. Tears were streaming down his face.

“I’m sorry,” he mumbled and ran to the bathroom.

“What happened?” I asked when he came back looking completely sick.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m allergic to pepper.”

“Then why on Earth did you order this?”

“I wanted you to think we had things in common,” was his response.

I didn’t want this good person to do any permanent damage to his health for the sake of impressing me, so I refused to see him again.

“I can’t believe you are dumping me just because I don’t like Indian food!” he kept saying the entire time I was telling him we shouldn’t see each other any longer.

Who knows, he might be posting a story on his blog right now about this weird lady who dumped him for not liking Indian food.