Use Your Words, Not Your Label-Maker

Use Your Words, Not Your Label-Maker

We need better ways of saying, “I’m not against whatever group it is you identify with, I just dislike you, personally.” It’s important to be clear on this point: disliking someone in particular does not make a person racist, sexist, ageist or any other -ist, but our failure to communicate insult when it’s intended and our reluctance to specify exactly why and what we dislike about the person in question often makes it seem so.

We are conditioned to avoid any display of genuine emotion or feelings. We are taught never to say “I hate you,” because “hate is too strong a word.” Acted upon, with violence, it’s a crime. But even just expressing disgust or strong dislike is now treated as a loss of emotional control, a weakness to be judged as harshly as crying or having a temper tantrum in public. Normally polite people, we are made to feel ashamed of thinking, let alone saying out loud, “I don’t like you.” We’re not taught to say, “I don’t like you when you [do this thing],” or even just, “I don’t like this thing you do, and when you do it, I don’t want to be around you.” Under a constant barrage of mustn’t-judge-each-other, I think we end up simply disliking and avoiding each other even more.

We habitually say “nothing personal” or “no offense,” deflecting our anger or disgust at some caricature, some abstraction, some stereotype, when what we have to say is, in fact, very personal. We don’t really mean “no offense intended,” we just don’t want our front teeth knocked out and don’t trust the listener to receive criticism or negative opinion like a mature adult.

By the time we’re ready to voice our criticism, it has been bottled up for so long that it surely feels like an assault. It explodes like a soda can dropped from the roof and gets negativity all over everything and everyone in its purview.

How ridiculous it is to dislike anyone based on the color of their skin, the texture of their hair, their choice of body art, or the nation in which they were born! How ridiculous it is to dislike someone for whom they love! What business is that of ours? How does it affect the quality of our lives at all? It is lazy shorthand for any rational reason to dislike anyone – and there are plenty of those when we get specific.

But try these on for size:

  • “I dislike you because you think for yourself and disagree with something I have said.”
  • “I dislike you because you don’t agree with me that I am better than you are.”
  • “I dislike you because you don’t obey me.”
  • “I dislike you because you have your own religious opinions and refuse to be converted by me to my beliefs.”
  • “I dislike you because you were born in another country.”
  • “I dislike you because you have green eyes.”
  • “I dislike you because your skin is a different shade of beige or brown than mine.”
  • “I dislike you because you speak more than one language. But I’m better at English than you are, so nanny nanny boo boo.”
  • “I dislike you because you speak my native language better than I do.”
  • “I dislike you because I am envious of the variety of colors and styles that look good on you.”
  • “I dislike you because your body art disturbs me.”
  • “I dislike you because I think your clothes are ugly.”
  • “I dislike you because your body art makes me question my own ability to make a long-term commitment.”
  • “I dislike you because you’re not having sex with a person I think you ought to be having sex with.”
  • “I dislike you because you are having sex with someone not of my choosing.”
  • “I dislike you because you choose not to procreate.”
  • “I dislike you because you choose to procreate and your children are annoying to me.”
  • “I dislike you because another [man, woman, child] hurt me in the past, but I can’t hurt them so you’ll do.”
  • “I dislike you because you don’t accept that a man has the God-given right to tell a woman what she can or cannot do with her own body.”

These reasons are pretty ridiculous reasons to dislike people, and don’t hold up to scrutiny in the light of day, do they? Still, they are more honest than the ones people often use to justify their hurtful attitudes and behaviors towards others. Looking these real reasons in the eye, how can we not laugh at ourselves and re-examine our relationship with ourselves and others?

It is difficult to express strong opinions honestly and directly, using straightforward language rather than trendy or pretentious psycho-social babble. We speak of “intersectionality” when what we really mean is, “Don’t pigeonhole me with your stupid stereotypes!” Stereotyping and lumping people together in groups is something anyone over the age of 40 had drilled into their heads as wrong, wrong, wrong. Individuality is to be celebrated! Until it’s not. Until it somehow threatens the homogeneity of the herd. So of course when criticism is leveled at us – say, at “white people” or “men” or “Boomers” or “cis-gendered, heteronormative Christians” – it feels hurtful. But if the shoe fits…

Consider how long some of these groups – white people and men, in particular – have been doing just that, to others. So of course it’s #NotAllWhitePeople (and everyone knows that, except that ones feeling overly defensive because they know there’s a grain of truth in the stereotype). Of course it’s #NotAllMen (except for the ones it is). What happened to the old fallbacks of, “I wasn’t talking about you, you know that!” or, “Oh, lighten up, Blondie!” and “Have a sense of humor!” boys? If you can’t just scroll on by, certain that the criticism doesn’t apply to you at all, or look inward and really think about how it does apply to you, personally, when it’s your group coming under fire, maybe think twice about ever doing it to others. It hurts when the tables are turned, doesn’t it? Doesn’t feel fair, does it?

Why aren’t there more jokes about white men? Oh, right – they’re not funny. 

The larger point is, if it stings – go talk to your fellow “white people,” your network of “men” or “Boomers” or “cis-gendered, heteronormative Evangelical Christians.” Work to fix the nasty little underlying truths of the stereotypes from within, because maybe it’s not a group you chose membership in and it’s not a group you can easily leave, but it is a group that you are best suited to talk to in terms it will understand.

That said, we also have too many performative, wannabe allies whose only contribution to anti-racist discourse is to try to outdo one another in their sanctimony as they stoke the fires to burn their own groups in a sort of auto-da-fé. They demand forced apologies and public struggle sessions, without allowing for real change in thinking or hope of redemption. They are almost as tiresome and exhausting as the disingenuous bigots who just need it explained to them one more time that racism still exists in the world.

Well, almost as tiresome and exhausting.

You know what’s hard? Loving the “unlovable.” Forgiving the “unforgivable.” It’s an aspirational goal; few of us will ever get all the way there. But let’s not turn every error in thinking, every slip of the tongue an “unforgivable” crime of the “unlovable.” No one’s going to pass that purity test when the spotlight is turned on them. There is a reason psychologists urge parents to focus on the unwanted behavior, and not on the person or their immutable characteristics.

A friend once introduced me to the term “misanthropic humanist.”

Misanthropic humanism is a useful term because it explains how a body of work can seem committed to a radical project for progressive sociopolitical change, while simultaneously holding forth a constant reminder that cruelty, injustice, stupidity, and death are inevitabilities that strike at all in the end.

I think I’ve found my people.

Now, do I hug ’em or shove ’em off a cliff? 

 

 

Follow It (for Readers)

Follow It (for Readers)

If you have already subscribed to this blog, and are happy with what you’re getting in your email or news reader, you can skip this post. A few readers had questions, here and on Marian Allen‘s blog, so I said I’d try to answer them. If you want a better idea of what it means to subscribe, what a “feed” and “feed reader” are, and how to control what you read in one, please read on!

What is a “Feed”?

Since this post is for readers, primarily, let’s start with “what is a ‘feed’?” A “feed,” or “web feed,” is created by any site that has regularly updated content – like a blog or ezine or newspaper – and is delivered to readers in a variety of ways, by subscription. For example, you can get updates from this blog in your favorite “feed reader” or “news reader” or “news aggregator” such as WordPress Reader, Flipboard, Feedly, Feedspot – which I use, myself – and others. Calling it a “news aggregator” makes it sound like something exclusive to traditional news media, but it is not. It is simply a way for you to subscribe to updates from sites you like.

Click here to see what a “feed” looks like in its raw and unformatted form: https://jahangiri.us/2020/feed

What on Earth Am I Supposed to Do with THAT?

I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that’s the best reading experience I can offer. Still, you can plug that URL into any feed reader or news aggregator you like, and it will “pretty it up” for you. It will transform whatever that is into something readable.

You can learn the feed URL for any web site using an extension like Get RSS Feed URL. This is what you’d see if you used that on my blog:

From there, you click Copy URL and go configure your favorite feed reader to pick it up.

Or you can just click the big green Follow this blog button. Follow.it is a feed reader/news aggregator. Free, lightweight, easy to use. It does have a few features I have not seen on some of the others, like the ability for readers to filter their feed by keywords or tags.

To filter by keywords, click the Keyword(s) box. Enter keyword (this does not appear to support phrases in quotation marks or wildcard searches, so use single, whole words only). To exclude a keyword, use the minus sign (hyphen) right in front of the word, with no spaces: -keyword. Choose title only or title and body of the post.

To filter the feed by tags, click the tags box. This will display tags that were used by the creator of the feed, as shown below.

Hover your cursor over any of the keywords displayed (they are shown in order of frequency of use). Move your cursor up and down the pop-up menu and click to select Must, Must not, or Neutral (clear any previous selection).

At the bottom left of the keywords, you can click Set all to neutral if you want to remove the keyword filtering altogether. At the bottom right, you can display more keywords by clicking Next > or < Prev.

Also, you have the ability on multi-author sites to follow just one author, or several. I do not recommend using this option on my site, because on the rare occasion I invite others to write for this blog, I know and trust them, and I really hope you’ll read what they have to say. If you only want to read what they have to say, you may never receive updates from this blog. It may be useful, though, on a large news site with hundreds of contributors, if you only want to follow a few of them. Using the New York Times as an example:

To filter by author, click the names of any authors you want to follow. Click again to unfollow them.

As new tags or authors are added by the feed’s creators, they will be “neutral” or possibly ignored, so use these filtering features judiciously, or you may miss updates you want to see.

Follow.it also makes it easy for you to choose from a variety of ways to read (and each feed can be customized differently). Maybe you just want to check on the dashboard – or “News page” – on Follow.it. Maybe you want a single daily newspaper (also known as a “digest”) of selected feeds. Maybe you want “breaking news” – updates delivered to your inbox within hours or minutes of when they’re posted! Or maybe you use Telegram, and want to be notified of new posts there. You can customize each feed using the Output channels to send you just what you want, when you want it.

Phone (SMS), WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, and other delivery methods are teased as “coming soon.” I don’t know how soon, so let’s just say that this is it – for now.

To get back to the Filters and Output channels page, just click the Follow.it logo at the upper left corner of the screen:

That will toggle between your personal news/settings and the Follow.it Directory. Click to expand the Reading section in the left sidebar, then click All to display All news:

Hover over the lower right corner of an article to display the icons shown above: Bookmark, Mark as read, Hide story, Share (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, Email, Buffer, Telegram, or Link), and Settings. Select Settings to modify your filtering and delivery options.

Discover More Stuff to Read!

Another nice feature of Follow.it is a Member Directory. Only paid members are included – it’s a nice perk. I’ve already picked up half a dozen new subscribers this way, and I’ve only been using it a week!

You can filter the directory by Category, Location, Language, and Keywords.

Tip: Don’t use the Give me a tip what to follow link unless you’re just interested in local news. It will attempt to use your location (or network location) if you allow it. It does not appear to be customizable by interests and the location filtering is only as good as sites that provide their locations. It may be better to enter your location (city, state, country) as a keyword.

The list of suggested sites appears to be sorted by most recently updated.

Still Have Questions?

If you are a blogger, sign up here. Then look for the Help Center (for Publishers).

If you are a reader, see their Help Center (for Readers).

 

 

 

An Engraved Invitation to Follow.it and Follow Me

An Engraved Invitation to Follow.it and Follow Me

Follow Me!

Google Feedburner is finally going into “maintenance mode,” after nearly 8 years of rumored obsolescence, abandonment, or other funky defunctiveness when Goggle terminated their popular Google Reader in 2013.

Marina, at Follow.it*, was kind enough to alert me to the fact that this was, finally, really and truly, happening on July 1, 2021. I think maybe she assumed I had more than 64 subscribers over the past 8 years, but she kindly offered to help me migrate them. She didn’t need to – it was pretty easy to do it myself. If you have fewer than 100, you can – if you have more, you’ll have to get Support to help you. They’re very helpful!

Some of you may be very, very surprised to get fresh emails from me in your inbox! If your first thought is, “Who is this? I never signed up for this!” you did, in fact – but you probably didn’t notice you weren’t getting emails from me for a while when I started a new blog. Or, two new blogs. I hope the emails will be welcome, but if they’re not, it’s just as easy to unsubscribe as it was to subscribe in the first place, all those many long years ago… and I will be over here crying, but I wish you well. Read on to find out how, if you haven’t figured it out already.

For those of you who are new to this blog or just curious about the free features Follow.it has for readers (they’re all free for you readers, and mostly free for bloggers*), I invite you to click the big green Follow this blog button, below:

You will be taken to the Filters and Output channels page:

Choose your Output channels: Newspaper (a daily digest of posts from the feed); Single emails (oh, you eager thing – you want to see each post the minute I hit Publish?); News page (Follow.it feed reader dashboard); RSS (you have your own feed reader); Telegram (how cutting edge of you!).

You can play with Filters: keywords, tags, authors, and popularity, though it is unlikely they’ll match content on the blog and you may get no results at all. You can see the options I’ve chosen for my own subscription, above. Of course I subscribe to my own blog – that way, I know if something goes wrong!

You may, instead, be taken directly to the subscribe page where the only option is Follow or Unfollow. If you see the Manage button shown below, you are already subscribed; click the Manage button to go to the Filters and Output channels page.

Enjoy this little playlist, especially from me to you:

Follow.it for Bloggers

Follow.it is a great alternative to Google’s Feedburner.* Most of the features are free – forever. It’s not a trial. You can see all three pricing levels – the paid levels are based on the number of subscribers you have, and there is a simulator to help you calculate the costs. You can change plans or revert to free easily, at any time. One good reason to upgrade is to get discovered like a Hollywood celebrity – consider one of the paid plans to have your feed(s) included in the Follow.it Directory.

Click here to sign up as a Publisher on Follow.it.*


* Affiliate link: If you do end up upgrading to a paid plan, I’ll receive a small commission.

 

 

Movement: Mind and Soul

Movement: Mind and Soul

For the next six to twelve months, at least, I’ll be focusing on writing poetry. Not to the exclusion of anything else, of course – but with an eye towards publication. That means no more posting it online, until it has had its fair shot at the footlights of publication – poetry journal, contest, anthology, or book. No “previously published” material is loved in the hallowed halls, and I have been an undisciplined writer all my life, shoving scraps of paper in drawers, posting bits online, here and there. When you have a full-time career and no plans to leave it, it’s difficult to write poetry or fiction seriously. It simply cannot compete for time and energy. So you shove it into drawers. Or share it willy-nilly, like these:

And a few posts on writing poetry, if you’d care to join me:

View at Medium.com

View at Medium.com