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Anybody can find fault

28 Aug

Anybody can find fault.  Fault doesn’t seem to get lost very often, and it usually doesn’t really hide that well either.  Sooner or later, fault always comes marching out, demanding to be recognized by someone, anyone, guilty or innocent.

But there sure are a lot of people who devote their lives to seeking out something that never was lost to begin with.  Why are so many people absolutely thrilled to find those faults and be the first (or even among the hundreds) to point out those faults so that everyone knows that they spotted them and recognized them.

Like get a life, dude.  (Or dudette!)

You don’t need a degree or any special training or even to be above average in intelligence (or anything else) to find those faults that weren’t really hiding.  These internet trolls that seem to delight in exposing each and every flaw and then dissecting it with minute attention to detail seriously have some issues.  Above all, they remind me of chickens.

I’m not being a smart alec about that.  Seriously, they do act like chickens.  I realize that most of America has never been intimately acquainted with chickens.  For many people, their closest exposure has been at a petting zoo or even just a news clip on television.  In reality, there’s nothing cute about a flock of chickens, especially if they have decided that they don’t like one of their flock mates.

It’s horrifying to see what they will do then.  They will literally, over a period of time, peck that chicken to death, while also driving it away from food and water and otherwise making their lives as miserable as possible.  It isn’t all of the chickens in the flock that do this, just a handful out of the group participating in this “troll” behavior is enough to result in the pecked chicken’s death.

Hence the expression of “henpecked” that we have often heard used to refer to a husband who is being micromanaged by his wife to an oppressive degree.

Sure, there are lots of theories about why these chickens will do this.  Usually, overcrowding and other stress factors will get the behavior started.  It can happen in free range chickens, but it’s far less common.  As a country person would say, “once in a blue moon.”  In confined and crowded conditions, even when the chickens have the recommended space and ability to go outdoors into the sunshine, it can really get started though.  The more stress and crowding, the more the behavior shows up.

Maybe mankind is just like a flock of chickens.  We’re getting more crowded and stressed, and we’re seeing more outbreaks of “troll” behavior.  On occasion, this behavior accelerates and becomes violent rather than just verbal (or written) attacks.  When this happens, the usual cry is to restrict access to potential weapons.

Gun control isn’t going to change the behavior, folks.  Chickens commit homicide regularly, and have never figured out how to use firearms.  I have a gun and have had guns most of my life, yet I have not committed murder, nor even shot at anyone.

I have worked armed positions in my lifetime.  I’ve also been threatened with a gun on more than one occasion, although not while working.  Usually, the threat was by a police officer of some kind.  Was the threat warranted? No, I wasn’t armed, wasn’t threatening the officer, was not committing a crime, and usually had no idea what was going on or why I had a gun in my face.  Each time, it turned out to be some kind of mistake, quickly resolved, and I was not handcuffed or arrested.

I must have some caveman DNA floating around and connected to my violent genes.  My weapon of choice has always been throwing rocks.  I’m pretty good at chucking them too or was before I got hurt.  Southern Mississippi, however, is starved for rocks.  Our rocks have to be imported from elsewhere.  I guess that’s why I haven’t done any rock chucking in a long time.

But I digress…

This troll behavior is an indicator of a deeper problem or fault in our society, one that we need to address.  It’s just as real as any tectonic plate’s fault on our planet’s crust, and indicative of an equally deep flaw in our society.  Fault in this sense is a very real concept regarding what is happening today.  This fault is an early sign of henpecking that can and eventually will turn homicidal in some individuals.  Granted, not all of these individuals will ever become physically violent in person.  Many of them may be too intimidated in person to even say “boo!” to a stranger, let alone become verbally confrontational.  Even so, they feel that they have the right to do so, often in very unpleasant ways, on the internet.

I’m not sure that the spirit of the right to free speech includes the right to say things just to hurt other people, whether it is merely an emotional hurt or any other kind of hurt, even if it is commentary based on truth.  I certainly do not think that condoning troll behavior and allowing them to surf the cyber world in search of fault which they can then use as their war cry as they begin yet another flaming attack on some unwitting soul.

Do I think I would turn homicidal? Not with the current level of stress and crowding, but I know that even I have certain points where I may well rationalize violent behavior if I am honest about myself.  Remember, the word stress is just another word for stimuli.  Breaking into my house when I am home is going to qualify as a stress.  So is attacking a family member.  Heck, even attacking my dogs is a stressor!  I also tend to get rather confrontational if I feel my home turf (aka house and yard) is being intruded upon, something I came to grips with last year when a neighbor’s dog tried to claim our backyard as his personal turf.

We have to find new ways of adapting to living in smaller spaces, to working closely with others, to living closely with them.  We have to identify individuals that have reached that magic red line that defines when they are going to become violent, and then come up with appropriate intervention.  All of that without causing new stress by stripping away personal freedoms and rights.

It’s a tall order, but the end result is worthwhile.  It means creating a society that encourages supportive and nurturing behavior rather than glorifying confrontational and violent behavior.  It means doing away, worldwide, with the concept of war too.  It means creating a worldwide society that encourages growth, on each and every level, as well as celebrating diversity and individualism.

Yeah, I know—it sounds like Utopia.

It really is Utopia, I suppose.  It’s not impossible  though.  Gene Roddenberry  dreamed of it with his Star Trek world.  I’m not the only dreamer.  The world just needs a lot more dreamers, a lot more people who are willing to ostracize and discourage those who want to be trolls, and willing to encourage people to be something they all possess the ability to be.

With a heart.

Maybe we need to remind everyone of our mothers’ old adage while we’re at it.

“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

Don’t forget to visit our new location for this blog at www.exogenynetwork.com!

Dear Troll, a letter to internet trolls

27 Aug

Dear Troll,

I know that you enjoy cruising the cyber universe to deposit your droppings of wisdom on everything from news to reviews.  You probably don’t care if you hurt others, but for the sake of my sanity, I’m going to pretend that you do.

My sanity has had a precarious hold lately.

Oh I know it’s not your fault.  You haven’t attacked me directly.  That is much too direct and confrontational for your tastes.  You would not dream of looking at your victim in the eye and behaving that way.   It is only on the internet that you feel so brave and faultless.  The truth is, you are the kind of coward that makes me fear the future of humanity.

To put it in language that even a troll can understand, here it goes…

Troll, you are a lily livered chickenshit yellow backed prick without the manners of a herd of hogs at a hog trough.  You don’t care who you hurt, as long as you are the very first hog that wallows in that trough of delicious destruction.

You are the very lowest of mankind, and I am ashamed to be from the same species as you.  In fact, your continued existence is the only reason I am sincerely hoping that I am really an alien hybrid resulting from my mother being kidnapped and inseminated with alien sperm.

Okay, that would horrify my mother too.  But seriously, I’d not mind finding out that I was not really from the same species.

These trolls are appearing everywhere, and now, with the continued spiraling out of control of governments and religions warring on the innocent, I am half-convinced that trolls are taken over military and governments across the globe.

Once upon a time, the country of Israel was created to create a homeland for Jews.  Now, we need to create a country, I guess we’d call it dungeon since Trolls are supposed to like dark and dank places anyhow, just for the world’s trolls.  There, they could snipe and find fault with each other, and do whatever else keeps trolls happy.  I have no idea if they reproduce or not.

Some things, I just don’t want to actually think about.

Like troll sex.

Gender Non Conforming…and Me

31 Jul

First of all, let me set some things straight.  I’m not gay, lesbian, transgendered or bisexual, and I never have been.  With that said, I do have immense empathy for most of the issues plaguing the LGBT community.  I’m not homophobic, and I know without a single doubt that I will never “catch the gay”.  I’m also old enough that I’m not shocked by seeing public displays of affection between same sex couples, as long as it is within the same boundaries of good taste that I expect from heterosexual couples.  In regards to PDA, I’m probably a bit on the conservative side.

I also live in a small town in the South.  The Bible Belt isn’t particularly sympathetic to the LGBT community, and it’s highly unlikely that I’ll see a gay couple strolling down the street holding hands anyhow.  I suspect that most gays in our small town prefer to remain under the radar or even in the closet rather than face the consequences of coming out.  I guess I don’t blame them.

I’m a bit non-conforming in a lot of ways in regards to the Bible Belt, such as my interests in the paranormal and non-Christian religions.  For this reason, if you knock on my door and I open it, you will not see my bookshelf.  Instead, you’ll see my sewing machine.  The bookshelves are out of sight, preventing me from rocking the boat of any neighbor, witnessing Christian, or casual visitor.  I’m not an evangelist for opening minds, and tend to be a recluse who prefers to be unnoticed in my own neighborhood.

My husband and I, (Gregory is a male and was born one, btw!) knew that we were buying a home in a conservative blue collar neighborhood in a small town in Mississippi.  We have chosen to live here for personal reasons, and they do not include religion or politics.  We also do not debate the topic with our neighbors, although we have talked some local issues with our representative to the city council.  We’re a pretty normal couple, I suppose, other than we spend much more time together (almost all day every day) and rarely have actual angry disagreements.  We get along better than most couples, it seems, but we’ve also only been married a few years.

While this is my second marriage, I still regard my relationship with Gregory as the first healthy relationship I have ever had.  Maybe, as I hovered at the half century mark, I was finally mature enough to do so.  We share a deep respect for each other, as well as love.  We also accept each other’s idiosyncrasies and individual needs.  He’s my best friend, and the first person I sound things off of as well.  I do not feel a need to keep secrets or avoid letting him know certain things about me.  I don’t even mind letting him read things I’m writing when they are still in that vague first draft state, although he isn’t inclined to do so without a lot of encouragement (okay, without me being really PUSHY about him doing so.)  He accepts me, and I am comfortable letting him see me as I actually am, good and bad, along with the mostly in between stuff.  He knows my fears and dreams too.

He also knows that I am a gender non-conformist in many ways.  I was labeled a tom-boy as a child, and since my given name is actually “Georgia” rather than Gia, I grew up being called George, just like my father, even though him and I were nothing alike.  Calling me Georgie was a certain way to end up with a confrontation that usually resulted in someone getting hit, and I was perfectly willing to deliver punishment to anyone that dared do that.

I was also a bit slow to become interested in the opposite sex in any way other than as fishing partners.  My daughter, hearing me talk about my own childhood and adolescence, is firmly convinced that my maturing was retarded.  I don’t know–I do know that my body matured earlier and faster than the other girls and I was immensely uncomfortable with it.  It felt like my own body was betraying me, and being forced into even more “girly” clothes was increasing my own discomfort.  I hated dresses, ruffles, silky fabrics, lace, etc.  I felt stupid in high heels, and despised wearing makeup.  I had little interest in doing my hair and fussing over it like other girls.

It didn’t change much with adulthood either.

I worked non-traditional jobs.  I felt awkward when forced into a traditional feminine role anywhere, except as a mother.  Of course, this didn’t include my sexual side.  I was attracted to men, not women.  I was not attracted to men who demanded a woman behave traditionally, however.  Rumors that I was actually a lesbian were always fluttering around me.  Of course, in a small town, that isn’t uncommon–men who are turned down for sexual favors or even dates are often going to say that you have to be a lesbian.  It’s unfortunate, but true–it’s how small minded men (they are not all like that, obviously) can preserve their own dignity, since I obviously could not turn down such a prize as they are, right?

Yeah, small town life can be interesting sometimes.

As a teen, I shopped in the men’s department.  I preferred Levi 501s, flannel shirts, and football jerseys to anything that was regarded as feminine.  I refused to wear anything with ruffles and bows without a great deal of protest.  Since it was the 1970s, I lost the protest often.  School activities often forced me into outfits that I despised and made me feel like a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  I sometimes wondered if something was wrong with me.

As an adult, I didn’t change much in terms of my clothing.  Part of it was my physical build.  From the back, I could easily pass as a boy or young man.  Only my bust size, which I regarded as immense and garnered a lot of staring from guys, told the world that I was a woman.  I used my boyish appearance a lot when walking around at night, dressing to appear as a boy, with my hair in a hat, I was unlikely to be harassed.  It wasn’t hard–a tight t-shirt under a loose shirt or jacket, combined with a ball cap, and bingo, I was neutral.  I felt safer in neutral anyhow, I wasn’t “fooling” anyone then.

When I did have to show up somewhere dressed more feminine and fulfill somebody else’s idea of formal attire, I chose clothing that was more tailored and understated.  I still refused the ruffles and bows.  I still hated high heels, and finally repeated knee injuries made them something that I had an actual medical reason to avoid–they could cause me to seriously injure myself again.

I also had predominately male dominated hobbies and interests, and most of the company I kept was that of males.  I felt more comfortable with the guys, usually.  I understood them.  With women, I always felt like I was missing something, that I had missed a critical chapter in the book of womanhood.  I was lost in that world, whereas the men’s world was comprehensible.  I’d rather buck hay than sit around discussing soap operas, childbirth and the latest cookie recipe.

I often felt inadequate with my daughter too.  She wanted me to be friends with her friends’ mothers, but I couldn’t find common ground.  I finally explained that to her, and as she was navigating her own way through puberty, she began to understand where I was coming from.  She also discovered that the world considered it very peculiar that her mother taught her how to use power tools such as circular saws and drills, as well as how to cook, build a fence, saddle a horse, clean a horse’s hoof, fix the roof, etc.

I do remember a guy friend telling me that I was not feminine though too.  He wasn’t a romantic interest, we were genuinely just friends, and he happened to have a huge crush on my best friend at the time.  He spent a lot of nights at my house, sleeping off a drinking binge on my couch, then playing games with my son the next morning.  At the time, I was confused and hurt.  I was really trying to get with the program, and I obviously was failing if I was obviously not feminine.  So, I asked him what feminine was.

I pointed out that I did all of the expected things: I cooked and baked, I sewed, I did crafts, I wore makeup and did my hair, I wore clothing from the women’s department (and some home sewed items as well).  I wasn’t ugly.  What was wrong with me?

He had no idea what feminine was, even if he did recognize that I was not actually feminine in a traditional sense.  He thought it might be  partly related to my independent nature and the fact that I was very capable of solving almost any problem on my own.  I was not needy in any way, and he thought that maybe, most men found that threatening to their own sense of masculinity.  He might have been right, but I also was not interested in the kind of man that wasn’t totally confident with his own sexual identity.

Still, his comment has haunted me for decades.

I was further confused when a lesbian friend of mine confessed she had a crush on me, and that I appeared to be a lesbian in everything about me, except for my long hair.  (I’m not sure what that really had to do with anything, but okay?)  In my case, I loved her as a friend (and still do) but I had zero interest in a romantic or sexual relationship with her.  She was able to understand that, even if her girlfriend at the time could not.  The girlfriend remained intensely jealous and suspicious of me, as well as openly antagonistic.

It seemed that I was a miserable misfit.  I appeared to be a lesbian, but I wasn’t and didn’t want to be.  I was not feminine.  What in the hell was I?

Then, I saw a video about clothing for people who are gender non-conformists.

Hot damn, I’m not alone????

I had actually come to terms that I was as some oddball misfit.  I was okay with who I was, even if I did dress funny.  I was now past fifty, the mark when women in the South are totally allowed to be eccentric and odd.  I’d found out what kinds of skirts were comfortable in the hot summers, even for me, and learned what I was comfortable wearing and not.  I’m also much heavier than I ever was before, and that has meant that many of my tastes in clothing have changed, as well as my desire for “fashionable” clothing that I was comfortable wearing.  I’d long since gone to wearing women’s suits, choosing simple designs without the embellishments I despised.  I loved blazers with either pants or a skirt, over a plain blouse.  I preferred flat shoes.  I often still shopped in the men’s department (and still do for some items).  I was perfectly happy pairing a men’s shirt with a skirt.  I had different rules than most women did.

A decade or two ago, I would have been thrilled to buy clothing like they are selling to the gender non-conformists, although the price tag would have likely stopped me.  I’m not willing or able to pay the price for a tailored suit, and face it, there weren’t shops that offered tailored-to-fit clothing in Flagstaff, Arizona, in the 1990-2003 era either.  (That’s the closest city for shopping when I lived in Northern Arizona, prior to moving to New Orleans.)  Northern Arizona was okay for someone like me anyhow–I got by with my jeans-and-flannel-shirt look as well as my peculiar assembled outfits without much attention there.

Maybe it’s silly, I’m in my fifties, and after a lifetime of fighting against wearing labels, I’m suddenly ecstatic to have found one that fit me, at least beyond the ones like mother, grandmother, wife, daughter, sister, etc. that I was already comfortable with.  But it defines what it is like to be me to a world that honestly doesn’t “get it” any more than I got the whole feminine thing my entire life.

Greg and I talked about it tonight too.  Not like the fact that I was me was a big surprise to him–he knows me pretty well.  It was the label that we talked about.  We even had the lewd jokes and sexual innuendos that a couple will share privately, because the label doesn’t bother him.  He doesn’t need to see me suddenly become someone else in order to stroke his own ego or make him feel safer with his own sexual identity.  He doesn’t need me to feign being helpless to do so either, although disabilities have made me far more needy in terms of help with various things than I ever was before.  I don’t have to pretend to be stupid or vapid, inept or foolish.  He isn’t attracted to a woman like that.  He loves me, because I am me.

So if I’m happy that “gender non-conformist” is a label that suits who I am, then it makes him happy.

I think the truth of it all is really that I am happier knowing that I’m not a single freak in the entire world.  Nobody likes being a freak, even if their freak status isn’t putting them in the side show at a circus.  I’m happier knowing that being who I am is not that uncommon really, even if I hadn’t been dwelling on it every minute of every day.  I really was uncomfortable with the unpleasant remarks about some of my views, opinions, behavior, and attire being inappropriate and somehow wrong though.  Being honest about who I am is part of who I am, and that should not make me wrong or a freak.  So I’m not feminine in behavior and tastes, that’s no big deal.  So what if I act and appear somewhat masculine despite long hair?  It doesn’t matter if I have an aggressive walk or stance–it’s not that I’m challenging anyone, but rather how a woman who doesn’t behave in the way society has determined she should behave is perceived because she is walking, talking, and standing more like a male.

I laugh because so often, my voice and name has people conjuring up an image of an Italian model to match me and the radio show.  That is so not me!  Sure, I have (or actually, had–it’s going platinum now) dark hair and dark eyes.  That’s not an Italian exclusive thing.  I’m told by many male listeners that my voice is “sexy” and that makes me laugh too.  I actually look more like the stereotypical grandma than I do that Italian model image.  I’m short, overweight, and dress badly.  Tonight, I’m wearing a pair of olive drab shorts with a far too big navy blue scrub top.  My hair is confined in its usual folded pony tail that is neither a tail nor a bun.  I wear oval granny glasses to see with, either my “computer” glasses or bifocals.  My shoes of choice lately are tennis shoe-like clogs that just slip on.  I’m sitting bolt upright in an antique “occasional” chair that is in serious need of re-upholstery.  It’s late at night, and I’m sipping now cold coffee.  When I finish this blog post, I’ll likely either put the finishing touches on a skirt I’m sending to my great niece or work on my writing…or both.  I have big plans for tomorrow–Greg and I will make some ginger-pear preserves from pears from our neighbor’s tree.  We also need to take the box for my niece to the post office and send that to her–she’s expecting twins.  Their big sister is getting some skirts similar to the ones I have made for my granddaughter.

So I’m a gender non-conformist.  I still bleed red blood.  I still love my family and friends.  I still have a husband I adore.  Is it any wonder that I think the LGBT community should have the same rights to have a spouse and family as I enjoy?  In my case, my gender non-conformity is confined to my interests, hobbies, and clothing.  Sexually, I identify completely as female.  I just was never comfortable wearing those badges that society has determined I should wear because of that sexual identity.  I also was and still am uncomfortable with the unreasonable restrictions that sexual identity has put on me.  A woman’s body IS different.  It means that I had less upper body strength than a man of equal proportion, but I had more lower body strength than a man of equal proportion.  I had to deal with a menstrual cycle, cramps, pregnancy, boobs, and mood swings.  It didn’t mean that I couldn’t do a job because I did those things, nor should it mean that I should get paid less because I was a bit short tempered a few day a month.

But that’s a rant for another day, isn’t it?

Just for a head’s up…

This blog is being MOVED to www.exogenynetwork.com in the next month.  At this time, posts are being made on both sites during the transitional phase.

Pro-choice, pro-life, or pro-abortion?

30 Jul

The whole abortion debate is a hot one in Mississippi, as the state fails to close its last abortion clinic in Jackson.  Tempers flare quickly when the pro-choice topic comes up, but much fuss is over a lack of understanding rather than an actual difference of opinion, at least in my case.

Living in Mississippi and being pro-choice is sort of like being an atheist and living in Spain during the Inquisition.  Definitely hazardous to one’s health and well-being. All across the nation, the debate is fiery and often turns violent.

I have to shake my head.

I don’t get some of the more rabid fanatics of the pro-life faction.  They claim to value life, but they then resort to actually killing abortion clinic workers.  They claim to be Christian, but then they harass patients who approach the abortion clinics, when the usual reason for going there is not even abortion.

I’m unable to see how they justify their behavior.  It’s utterly alien to me.

You see, I’m pro-choice, but also anti-abortion.

Huh? How can that be, you wonder?

They are not the same thing.  I’m pro-choice, because I don’t feel that I have the right to choose for all women in all circumstances if and when they would opt for the abortion.  I don’t think that abortions should be used as birth control either.  To me, abortions are a last ditch solution to a problem that actually has no solution.

It might be rape.  It might be genetic flaws that would leave the fetus to grow into a baby that would die young, after many months of struggling and even pain, never getting to enjoy even its mother’s arms.  It might be a baby that has some birth defect that means that it will die during or shortly after birth.  It may be a case of incest, a girl too young to safely give birth, a woman too old to safely go through childbirth, or a woman who’s own health is so fragile that pregnancy and childbirth are apt to destroy her physically if not kill her.  It might be some sort of circumstances that I have never thought of.

But it isn’t my responsibility to predict when and if a woman should be able to get a legal abortion.  That’s her moral and medical decision, one that she should not take lightly either.

I’m in my fifties, going through menopause.  That does not mean that I am sterile, however.  I never conceived easily, and when I did, it usually ended with a miscarriage.  It’s not impossible (though highly unlikely) that I could end up pregnant now.  When I was a kid, “afterthought” children were not uncommon, and they typically were the result of a woman thinking it was all behind her, and then surprise, here’s a baby of your own that is younger than your grandchildren!

Now it’s true, Greg and I would welcome that baby, despite the adjustments that it would require in our lives.  But how would I feel if I found out that there was something seriously wrong with that baby, that it had little to no chance of anything resembling a normal life, and that carrying it to term would also endanger my own health?  Would I want to take the risk to have a child that was severely handicapped or would die anyhow?

I don’t know.

Making that decision in a hypothetical situation is not the same as making that decision and then having to drive to an abortion clinic either.  I don’t know what we would decide, and I’m not going to pretend that I do.

But nobody else has the right to make it for me either.

That’s why I am pro-choice.  My aversion to the idea of killing a fetus makes me anti-abortion.  Who knows, that fetus might have been the next Mozart or Einstein.  At the same time, it could be the next criminal or mass murderer too.  No woman knows for sure, but no woman in her right mind with anything resembling a moral compass would make the decision lightly to opt for the abortion.

I’d cry.

I would cry as I agonized over the decision, and I’d cry on the way there.  I’d cry on the way home too.

But I would also remember the woman I heard about.  She was pregnant, and the baby was kicking inside of her the way they do that last trimester.  She could feel it, alive and moving.  The whole time she felt it moving, she knew that when it was born, it would die.  There was no chance of survival beyond a few minutes.  She carried that baby to term, knowing from the first trimester that it was going to end that way, and then, she gave birth and the baby died, just like the doctors had known all along it was going to do.

I could not bear that agony. That knowing that there was absolutely no hope for that baby and that his fate was sealed at the moment of birth.  There was nothing that the doctors could do about it, his defect was not repairable.

She was a far stronger woman in her convictions than I would be, I’m afraid.  I would likely have opted for termination once the reality of the situation was known without a doubt.  I don’t think I could have deluded myself into a fantasy where there would be divine intervention at the last minute to change the course of fate.

I would have also thought about the immense amount of money being invested into a non-viable situation.  How could I justify that when so many go without medical care at all, even when the medical care would spare their lives?

I’m anti-abortion, but pro-choice.  I believe there are times when modern medicine and the mother agree that the pregnancy is a really bad idea.  I believe there may be other situations in which the pregnancy is a horrible thing, beyond inconvenience or embarrassing for the mother.  I agree that there are times when a girl’s body is well developed enough to become pregnant, but not developed enough to manage a pregnancy without causing her harm.  I don’t see where there is an up side to telling a 10 or 12 year old girl that she has to carry a baby to term after being molested, even though it is likely to leave her unable to bear a child when she’s old enough to actually be a mother.

At the same time, I don’t think that even the parents should be able to actually force a teen to have an abortion.  I remember a girl I knew when I was a teenager.  She became pregnant and hid the pregnancy from her parents until it was nearly time for the baby to be born, using baggy clothing and even a girdle, as well as half starving herself to keep her weight down.  She told no one, not even her closest friends, about her pregnancy, fearful that word would get back to her parents in the small town.  She was certain that her parents would physically drag her to an abortion clinic and force her to terminate the pregnancy.

It also meant that she had no  prenatal care, and it all resulted in disaster.  Whether it was a preventable disaster is probably debatable, as the boy was born with some genetic issues and a severe type of dwarfism.  At five years old, he was the size of an infant, yet able to walk, run and play the same as any other five year old, and without any apparent intellectual handicaps either.

I still remember the fear in the young mother’s face as she talked about what her parents would have liked to do, but that she had managed to hide it too long for it to be an option.  At seventeen, she did not have the legal right to refuse the abortion (in that state, at that time–laws are different in most states).  She did, however, have the legal right to refuse to put her son up for adoption, and she did raise him, at least through the age of five, at which point I lost contact with her.

As her teen peer, I agreed with her that it was wrong for her parents to be able to do that to her and the unborn child.  I still agree with her on that front.  She should not have had to hide the pregnancy to prevent the abortion.

But she should have had the choice.

That choice is why I am pro-choice, even if I am anti-abortion.

I hope that it has helped you understand that there is a difference, and it is a really big one, between being pro-choice and being pro-abortion, and that being pro-life does not mean that you have to be anti-choice either.  When I say I am pro-choice, I’m also saying that I don’t have the moral right or responsibility to decide when and if a pregnancy should or could be terminated.  If women are opting to use abortion to kill unwanted children over and over, then we have an issue with their morality and that is what needs to be addressed.  Surely it is far cheaper and easier to use birth control to prevent conception than it is to endure repeated abortions anyhow, and the few women that I know that have ever had an abortion weren’t exactly thrilled to have the opportunity either.  It’s a tough decision, and none of them chose it lightly.

 

 

The Life Debt Concept

27 Jul

Many years ago, I first had the life debt concept explained to me, and it has altered the way I perceive the world ever since.  It’s not a difficult concept and while it is undoubtedly a philosophical concept, it lacks the usual high brow association that most people give the entire realm of philosophy.  It’s actually pretty down to earth.

From the moment we are born, we owe a life debt.  It starts with the debt that we owe our mothers for giving birth to us.  It’s a big debt too, for she endured physical discomfort and pain to give us life.  In some cases, she may have endured emotional pain that we will never know about as well, even if she isn’t the woman we’ll call our mothers through childhood, we owe our birth mothers that initial debt.

We continue accruing debt as we’re nurtured through infancy and early childhood, when we are incapable of paying back any of that life debt.  Then we enter our childhood, the part that we can remember through adulthood, and begin expanding our network of life debts.

Every single relationship, whether positive or negative, involves an exchange of life debt.  Friends and enemies alike exchange a portion of our initial base life debt, along with teachers, mentors, siblings, extended family, even medical personnel who help us be as healthy as possible.  Each relationship we establish with another person means that we take on, often unknowingly, a piece of their life debt, as they take on a piece of ours.  This invisible exchange is the foundation of those relationships, and the larger the exchange, the stronger the relationship is.

In our youth, our elders invest heavily in our bank of life account.  It’s the natural order of things, to invest in the future generation.  They take on more than a fair share of the debt we’ve already accrued in order to give us a good start in life and our life debt account.  In due course, when we mature and become elders ourselves, we’ll repeat the same process with the next generation.

The goal is to live a long life, paying off our life debt as we go through our lives.  At the same time, not everyone pays off their debt at the same rate.  Just like any other debt, some people may be inclined to not do more than pay a minimal payment, while others work harder to pay down that life debt at a faster rate.

Is there a tangible difference?

It’s not like we get a life debt balance sent to us in a statement each year.  It doesn’t work that way.  We can’t call the bank of life and demand customer service give us a running total either.  It doesn’t matter what your religious beliefs are, what you may or may not call a supreme being, or even what day you have designated as a day of rest.  It doesn’t matter if you are saved, a heathen or die a religious martyr. You don’t avoid the life debt concept by being an atheist.

There won’t be any big splash across a magazine cover telling us who the richest people in the world are in terms of their life debt balance either.  Nobody else knows how you are doing with your balance, nobody else can see you make payments, and not even the Joneses know whether you are keeping up with them or have surpassed them.

The only one who can know how you are doing with your life debts is you.

That’s the real clincher.  You don’t make the payments to impress anyone or to improve your credit score.  If you don’t make the payments, there won’t be a collector calling on the phone to remind you.  There is no option of insurance to cover the debt either.

There is no bankruptcy option.

Oh, sure, there are people who tell you that you’ll pay a spiritual debt when you die, but none of us know for sure what happens when we die anyhow.  We have to believe in something after death, without proof.  That’s a tough one–this vague threat.  It’s like hearing “just wait until your father gets home” when he isn’t going to be home for a long, long time.  We can forget and ignore the threat.

At the same time, there are times when the debt is reneged upon.  We call that suicide.  The person has opted out, failed to pay their life debts, and that’s that.  There can be varying amounts of unpaid debt, of course, as suicide can occur at any stage of life.  For some, there is likely to be little, if any, debt remaining, as the suicide occurs near the end of their life due to illness or infirmity.

There are other kinds of reneging though too.  One can isolate themselves from others to the point that there is no possibility of making a payment.  It can be a physical as well as emotional isolation, or it can simply be one or the other.  It can be by simply refusing to pay forward too, and becoming selfish and self-centered.

Everyone has their own concept regarding death and afterlife, if any.  The same goes with being judged after our lives are over.  I’m not going to tell you how your life debt will or won’t affect you after your life ends.  That’s going to be a huge surprise for me, just like it will be for you.  We can believe whatever we choose to be true, but just like in life, that belief does not make it so.  It’s still going to be a surprise.

I’m holding onto the hope that it’s going to be a wonderful surprise though.

Customer service?

27 Jul

Almost all big stores, especially with chains, are going to have a customer service desk.

Well, that’s what they call it anyhow.  They really should call it the customer annoyance counter.

Why is customer service so hard?  Why is it so hard for companies to find employees that will honestly try to do their jobs to the best of their abilities while remaining courteous to customers?

I have a few ideas on the subject.

The first is that good old bottom line.  Most companies are not particularly concerned about the quality of employee they hire and retain, but rather how cheaply they can hire and retain someone that does what they are told.  Even retention of employees isn’t a huge concern for most companies anymore–it’s cheaper to rehire than retain, especially if there is a possibility of having to pay for benefits or retirement somewhere down the road.

Employees who really try to do their job are even apt to be penalized for doing so.  We’ve all seen articles about employees who did a good deed of some kind while at work, ones that didn’t cost their employers a penny, and yet they were terminated for some technicality.  Many of us have been the employee who was taken advantage of repeatedly by unethical co-workers and employers because we did try to do our jobs well, only to end up missing out on promotions, overworked to the point of burn out, failed to get promised raises, or had some other less-than-wonderful result from our hard work.  Immediate supervisors will often even deliver disciplinary action or termination as a result of trying too hard, simply because it makes other employees or the supervisor themselves look bad.

Corporations may have a lot of power in the political world, but they are also incredibly powerful in everyday life.  Everyone either works for one or is forced to do business with these large corporations because of the monopolies they have in many areas of our live in America.  Telephone, natural gas, cable television & internet providers, and electric companies are all privileged to have monopolies in most communities.    Other companies have apparently coordinated their needs with their so-called competitors, resulting in contracts that prevent customers from terminating service with them for a prescribed length of time, typically from 12-36 months.  In these situations, the corporations have very little motivation to try and please their current customers.  After all, if they don’t like the service or the customer service, what can the customer do about it?

Manufacturing companies have moved many of their production facilities overseas for cheaper labor and fewer regulations, and quality control seems to have become random in how stringent it is.  Companies that were once known for high quality products no longer can boast of that same quality.  Unfortunately, they have also often moved their customer service centers overseas too.

Then, the American consumer is inflicted with a customer service representative that may not understand their particular dialect of American English, and it is just as likely that the customer is going to have a great deal of difficulty understanding the representative’s  version of English.  A number of people have claimed (unverified by me) that these representatives are judged by how often they have “successfully resolved” the customer complaints, and that disconnecting the call is one way to successfully resolve the issue.  I don’t know if this is true, but I do know that with certain companies, disconnections are frequent as soon as it is apparent that the issue is not going to be resolved easily or if the customer asks to speak with a supervisor.

Even with American based customer service call centers, there is the “wrong department” issue.  It’s always that you have called the wrong department and then you will have to be transferred.  These transfers usually occur after an extended wait time for a human to begin with.  (I’ve waited as long as an hour.)  Then, without a number to skip the wrong department and go to where you are supposed to call, you end up disconnected.  How many hours do you want to spend on the telephone to get a warranty replacement of a $50 small appliance?

For businesses, the latest buzz has all been how to use social media to engage their customer base.  It’s gotten to the point of more annoyance than engagement, however, as they follow some plan dreamed up by a guy who didn’t shop there to begin with.  Do you really want to “like” that company or follow them on Pinterest to enter that contest or get that coupon?  The end result is that customers feel like they are being coerced, and it does little to endear the company or product with their potential customers, especially if they are using the current customer disservice model that most seem to be using.

So what is the real reason that companies no longer bother with good quality customer service?

It still boils down to that bottom line, folks.  It’s the fault of the consumer.

Accepting crappy customer service from any company, whether they have a monopoly  or not is allowing their bottom line to show that they don’t have to supply customer service.

So what can you do?

Complain.  Loudly.  Repeatedly.

  • Use the normal channels, whether it is a call to their call center or via their website.  Don’t scream or use profanity-that’s always counter productive and provides a good reason for your call to not be taken seriously.  Don’t use threats either.
  • Use promises.  Promise that you will never, ever shut up about how unhappy you are!
  • Record the calls.  If you get an exceptionally bad one, post it to YouTube. Keep the calls on file–you may need them later.
  • Write down names, phone numbers, dates and times.  It’s a great reference as your complaining becomes more prolific too.
  • If you are a blogger, blog about it.  Even years after I tossed my Tassimo machine, I still get hits daily on my experience with their crappy customer service.  It’s a great way to spread the word.
  • Review the product everywhere you can, including the customer service experience.  Many retailers will accept reviews on products even if you did not purchase it from them, such as Amazon and Walmart.  If you are reviewing the retailer or service provider, post those reviews anywhere and everywhere you can find as well.  Sure, it takes time, but what else do you have to do while you are sitting on hold?  I actually put my phone on speaker and then I can type with both hands.
  • Got Face Book? Twitter? Pinterest?  Speak up.  Tell everyone about your experience.  They may not be shopping for that item or service or company now, but they will remember what you said about them later too.  You may be surprised at how quickly someone from the company in question makes contact with you as well.  They may try and resolve the situation, which will make you happier than if you are ignored.  Some corporations often ignore social media complaints (yes, I’m talking about you,  Tassimo, Microsoft & Comcast!)  Smarter companies do monitor social media to engage dissatisfied customers and attempt to improve the customer service experience.
  • Post reviews to review sites such as Viewpoints.com as well.  For local companies and services, there are sites such as Yelp, Angie’s List (they require membership with a substantial fee,) Yahoo, etc.   Even lawyers, dentists, doctors, and medical facilities are reviewed!
  • Write the company an email.  Often, the corporate office is separated enough from customer service that they may not be aware of the type of experience you have endured.  Typically, the corporate website will have a “contact” tab at the bottom of the page.  Some have it in a bar at the top as well.  Be polite and explain the problem(s) clearly, along with your customer service experience, using dates, times, and names when possible.  Don’t forget to add what you expect the company to do to resolve your complaint as part of the letter.  Be reasonable with your expectations!

On the flip side of that coin is the excellent customer service experience.  When you have one of these, be just as vocal about your compliments, and use the same venues that you would use for complaints to voice your positive experience.   I had a terrible experience with Overstock.com once, and complained about it via Twitter.  Their representative on Twitter contacted me, we resolved the situation, and since then, I have enjoyed great customer service as usual with Overstock and would not hesitate to purchase from them again.  I also love shopping with Zappos.com and Penderys.com for the same reason–they provide good, dependable customer service.  I wish my representative and senators to Washington were as responsive to me as they are!

Expect reasonable and efficient customer service to be delivered with courtesy, and when you don’t get it–do something about it.  Do not ever accept it as just the price of doing business because it is not.  Make companies accountable!  That’s your job as a consumer!

Spelling counts

16 Jul

No, it’s not some new hybridization of spelling and mathematics in the latest educational fad.

Despite that, spelling can count and is more likely to count against the independent or self-published authors we see prolifically producing non-fiction digital books in the explosion of titles we see, especially on Amazon.

I’m a self-published author, and I’ve had my moments with typos and misspelled words slipping through the editing process.  That’s not a good thing, when it is missed until readers catch them and get the giggles over soaking biscuits in a bear instead of beer.

Yep, that was my most infamous “oops” moment. Embarrassing, but humorous, right?

It’s not always humorous.

Sometimes, it’s just plain a road sign indicating awful ahead, especially when it is in the title or the description of the book.  I wish it was rare, but start scanning through the lists of low cost non-fiction digital edition of books, and guess what?

It’s a lot more common than it should be.

Sometimes, what we first perceive as a misspelling turns out to be a case of different dialect–American English spells things differently on occasion, like with color-colour.  We can get over that, even when the book is being marketed to the American audience.  Most Americans are capable of understanding even with the difference in spelling.

I am also aggravated by is profiles for social media.  These are short pieces and I’m referring to the pieces written in connection with the promotion of the book(s) an author is written.  Sometimes, the authors are NOT self-published, and yet have glaring errors in their profile because they didn’t particularly regard it as important.  

Bullshit.

These short profiles, like are used on Twitter, are very important.  Leaving typos and misspelled words in those short profiles is potentially more damaging than showing up drunk and in your underwear to a public book signing!

Surely not, you think?

Surely yes, they are!  Thousands of people see those profiles, whether you are aware of them or not.  With that poor profile, you are telling each one of them that you don’t regard that glance as important.  They may think you are as careless in your writing as you were with the profile you wrote too.

No, that short profile is not going to be the best example of your writing–it’s seriously short, like the posts on Twitter, and everyone is trying to cram in as much information as possible while remaining coherent.  The same thing with the other profiles that one sprinkles around the internet, from LinkedIn, About.me, Facebook, Pinterest, Skype, instant message profiles, etc.

Proofread it.  Not just when you write it, but go back again.  Update it periodically, how often depends on how much change is occurring in your life or with regards to your writing.  Choose a day, whether the first Sunday or the seventeenth day of the month, when you take a look at each and every profile, tweaking them as necessary.

On your book titles, especially on the cover art, just plain pay attention!  If you are an uncertain speller, double check each word.  Ultimately, it is YOUR responsibility, not the artist, editor, or even publisher, to make sure that your name is not associated with a misspelled title.  A misspelled title on the cover is going to cost you credibility and respectability in a way that is difficult to recover from because as a non-fiction author, you are presenting yourself as an expert on the topic.

What expert cannot even spell the name of their area of expertise?

In your book description, spelling also critical.  Far more people are going to read the back cover and catalog description than will ever read your book, and that is a cold hard fact.  This is true of both non-fiction and fiction books as well.  It’s often your one opportunity to convince that person that reading your book is the most important thing they have to do in the near future, and as a result, buy your book.

To illustrate this, I’m going to write a description of my own latest book and leave in common misspellings and typos.  Then, I’ll show the difference by writing it properly.

The Big Book of A-Z Muffisn is a colletcion of recpies to make muffins.  EAch lettre of the alhpabet has been used, with a divers assotrment of receipis that are sure to temtp our appetie and make every body smile weather its brakefast or super.  They are all eazy to make to! Fast, they go from ovne to tabel in half an our or less, and with a choise betwen savory or sweat, tehy can be great snacks or deserts too.  The recipes are ritton with eazy direcktions that you are shure to be abel to foller, even if you are a novise in the kitchin.  Experenced backers are also going to injoy making these simple recpies.

Now while that has an exagerated number of typos and misspelled words, it does show that it’s not only hard to read, but is not even humorous so much as embarrassing.  The reader can’t help but feel sorry for the writer while simultaneously (and probably correctly) assuming that the interior of the book will be as horrific of an experience to try and enjoy.

The Big Book of A-Z Muffins is a collection of recipes to make muffins.  Each letter of the alphabet has been used, with a divers assortment of receipts that are sure to tempt our appetite and make every body smile weather its breakfast or super.  They are all easy to make to! Fast, they go from ovne to table in half an our or less, and with a choice between savory or sweat, tehy can be great snacks or desserts too.  The recipes are written with easy directions that you are sure to be able to follow, even if you are a novice in the kitchen.  Experienced bakers are also going to enjoy making these simple recipes.

This one isn’t so bad, but it isn’t perfect either.  With just two typos, and a couple of cases of the wrong word spelled right, it may slip past the casual reader unnoticed, but the critical reader isn’t going to miss “divers” instead of “diverse” or “sweat” instead of “sweet”, even if they could forgive the typos that still remain.  (Yes, I know there are  more wrong word issues, but we’ll get to that…)

The Big Book of A-Z Muffins is a collection of recipes to make muffins.  Each letter of the alphabet has been used, with a diverse assortment of receipts that are sure to tempt our appetite and make every body smile whether its breakfast or supper.  They are all easy to make too! Fast, they go from oven to table in half an hour or less, and with a choice between savory or sweet, they can be great snacks or desserts too.  The recipes are written with easy directions that you are sure to be able to follow, even if you are a novice in the kitchen.  Experienced bakers are also going to enjoy making these simple recipes.

I hope you can see the difference in the level of credibility that each one has.  Presenting myself as an expert on the topic of muffin baking, it is equally important that I be able to spell the words that pertain to the topic, as well as proofread the material well enough to know that weather is not the same as whether, desert is a far different thing than dessert, etc.

  1. Pay attention.
  2. Use spell check.
  3. Proof read it again.
  4. Have someone else proof read it, even if it’s just a friend who skims over it!
  5. Read it yourself again, and then look at it periodically to make sure it doesn’t need a bit of tweaking to improve it.
  6. Profiles, cover art titles, and descriptions are your billboards.  Take them seriously.

If I’ve missed something you think is important, please comment to add it to the post!

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