death

I almost died last week.

CN: Descriptions of withdrawal, hospital admission, medical symptoms and needles.

It wasn’t an accident, or even a sudden onset of something like appendicitis. No, my brush with death came about as a result of fear. Specifically, other people’s fear. Fear of addiction, fear of being wrong, and fear of being fooled.

You see, the week before I was admitted with Crohn’s. I went to an appointment with my Gastroenterologist and he sent me straight to the ER. I was admitted, and put on high doses of Dilaudid, after the usual adjusting games where they started me on 1mg every 6 hours, before finally conceding that 2 mg every 4 was what was needed. In addition to that, I had Gravol and Benadryl to control the various side effects of the opiate.

I spent the week essentially zonked out after several weeks of increasing pain and nausea, and a trip to the ER every 2 weeks since Christmas. My admission came on the heels of two weeks of being sick with a sore throat, which kept me not just from being able to take my Remicade, but my medical marijuana as well. My throat hurt too much to handle the irritation from the smoke.

My crohn’s had gone into overdrive. I wasn’t digesting, I was in pain, and I needed help.

The reason the doctors agreed to finally treat my pain properly is that I told them, that once I got home I wouldn’t be taking dilaudid anymore.

Not one doctor stopped thinking about their fear of addiction long enough to hear what I was saying and remember their training. (more…)

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Where is Your Condemnation Now?

TW: For Racism

During the Ferguson protests, during the Baltimore uprisings, during countless demonstrations that took place because black children, black men, and black women, are being murdered, there were countless and endless condemnations by white people of the protestors as being too violent, too angry.

Last night, white people came to a Black Lives Matter demonstration for no other purpose then to commit violence. Their purpose wasn’t to raise awareness, to express anger and hurt over government sanctioned murders. No. They were there to kill people who had the nerve to protest being murdered. They were there because they don’t see PoC as being human beings, as being people. They shot five people.

When the police responded, their response included macing protestors after they had just been shot at.

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Unpacking the Red Pill

I’m actually sort of upset that internet hate groups have managed to co-opt the matrix red pill analogy. It is actually a really good metaphor for social justice and the way that becoming aware of privilege and systemic injustice works.

It really is like suddenly opening your eyes and realizing that everything you thought you were seeing you were actually seeing incorrectly your whole life. It’s incredible. Where the analogy fails is by painting it as a single pill.

The truth is that becoming aware of social justice issues is really like swallowing a whole bunch of different red pills, each one exposing you to yet another level of interconnected systems of oppression. This is why we get some atheist activists, and other social justice activists, falling into this same trap over and over again of thinking that they couldn’t possibly be sexist, racist, transphobic, classist, etc. because they “already swallowed the red pill” so now they could see the whole truth.

There is also this idea that swallowing one red pill makes every additional one easier to see, but that’s not true. Sometimes you can swallow multiple red pills at ones at once. But the truth is that each one is painful to take. Each one produces its own side-effects, its own difficulties. Swallowing the red pill is never easy.

It’s not just one easily exposed system that once you see a part of, you essentially get an idea of the whole. It is more like a self-replicating computer virus that infects different system files. You can cut one out, but unless you get them all, it will just rebuild again.To really solve the problem, you have to root out every single individual corrupted system file. Otherwise, the program rebuilds itself, just using a different pathway, but ultimately yielding the same result.

Take the evolution of feminism throughout the years. Each wave of feminism exposed layers of patriarchal oppression, however, by failing to consider the interconnections of various issues and the level to which the system was self-replicating, rather than fixing the problem is shifted the scope of it. Such as when the response of women trying to prove that they were every bit as capable in “masculine” fields and tasks ended up reinforcing the gender binary. The focus was on showing that women can also do “masculine things” rather than on showing that the division of actions into an either or option was not based on an accurate social model of gender. The resulting surge in femmephobia reinforced a lot of harmful patriarchal concepts that are now that much more difficult to dismantle. It’s not that second-wave feminists went too far, it is that they didn’t go far enough. It failed to take into account how the system is also supported by race, by cis-centrism, by ableism. It failed to look at the matrix as a whole.

Imagine if the matrix actually existed as a series of levels. With every successive pill you see a little more of the matrix. But if you don’t realize there are more pills to take, you might be tempted to think you see the whole matrix. Agent Smith is counting on that, because as long as you believe you are outside the matrix, they can use the parts of the matrix you are still connected to to shift your perception of the world around you.  As long as you are still within levels of the matrix however, you continue to power the system.

If we take the premise of the matrix movie that human beings are being turned into a potato battery, becoming aware of different spheres of oppression is like discovering that your potato battery is charging other batteries and working to shut off those batteries so that your battery doesn’t die. Those are the first red pills you usually take.

The hard pills to take are those that reveal that even while you are struggling to unplug the connections that are causing other batteries to drain your charge, you are recharging your own battery from other people as well. These are the pills that make us choke, that stick in our throats. These are the ones that make us want to fight and reject what we are seeing, because more than anything the matrix relies on our denial that we could be harming people even if we have no intention to.

You didn’t know. The plugs were in your back and you couldn’t see them because you were in the matrix level whatever. But intentionally or not, you have been draining other people’s batteries. Whether you knew or not, you may have been the connection that added just that extra little drain needed to completely empty someone’s battery.

So now you have to make a decision, which do you pull out first?  The ones draining others or the ones draining you? Or do you try to pull them out at the same time? Do you leave others to try and pull out the ones draining them out themselves? Do you go back to pretending you never saw the ones in your back or deny that they’re there? Do you address some but not others? What makes you decide?

The choice you make is ultimately yours, but the one you make says something about you as a person.

My choice is striking a balance between pulling out both sides. I need to pull out my own because I can’t take out the system if my battery is completely dead. But I also need to work on pulling the ones that are charging me. Sometimes, when my battery is draining too fast, I need to take a break. I might need to focus on pulling out my own for a few moments, though I never forget about the ones in my back. Sometimes, I am being drained slow enough that I can forget about pulling out my own for some time in order to focus more on pulling out the ones that I benefit from. In fact, often when I am puling out my own, it is so that I have the surplus energy to spend more time pulling out the ones that charge me.

Everyone is interconnected into the system, but not everyone carries the same number of output and input energy. Some people only have maybe one or two output cabled, while being charged by several sources. Even when this happens, you might not be retaining a high charge, but that doesn’t change the fact that you are still draining others. The opposite extreme also exists with some people being almost completely output cables and none or almost no input cables.

The system is like a web and everyone is plugged into it.

It is essential that we all disconnect and break the system. When you have any system that depends on batteries basically sharing charge in a single continuous system, that leads to combustion. Just ask anyone who has had keys and batteries in their pocket, and ended up with burning pants because the two connecting created a single circuit.

The system is a path to destruction as long as it exists because either your battery gets completely drained or you combust. That’s ultimately why systems of oppression like patriarchy end up hurting even those they privilege.

Dysfunction Defined

[TW: chronic illness, depression, suicide]

We are our bodies.

That sounds obvious, but it isn’t.  Cartesian dualism thoroughly infiltrates the English language and many others.  Many of the ways in which we talk about our bodies describe them as things we own, or carry, or inhabit, as though we were somehow distinct from the skeletons and meat.

My sense of my own consciousness is firmly anchored in my eyes.  Everything else is ancillary, a wall of sensation at a distance or a weird intrusion from the outside.  When I dream, I rarely have legs.  My dream avatar pushes itself through crowds with its arms, or it is nothing but disembodied eyes, watching more than participating in the dream’s events.  When I am more than that in dream, I am watching myself do things from the outside, a lucid vantage point on third-person adventure.  In those dreams, my oneiric body is usually someone else entirely: a minotaur, a Mexican woman, a robot.  I don’t have a sense of touch in my dreams, even when I have hands.  Those differences are how I tell when I’m dreaming, or when I’m recalling events that happened in dream: I can’t touch anything, I don’t have feet, and people don’t have faces.  And the world is usually in hazy grayscale with flashes of red or green to indicate the assorted Chekhov’s guns my dream-narrator likes to set up on my behalf.

There may or may not be anything to diagnose in those patterns.  But all of them are illusions, the fantasies of a mind that often feels estranged from and confused by the letters its frontier outposts deliver to it.  For the rest of us, our bodies and minds are not as distinct as my oneiromancer wants me to think they are.  Within this lipid-rimed assembly of motors and struts is a complex of sensors and wires, connections that make the events of the hands and intestines and small of the back as real and immediate as any thought or emotion—and every thought and emotion as real as leaving one’s hand too long on the stove.  The brain is only the largest and foremost organ of the self, anchoring and integrating the activities of all the others.

We are our bodies.

And when those bodies go wrong, it attacks the very definition of us.

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Handle Effect

There’s a platitude that believers like to use to comfort each other in the face of adversity: “God only gives us what we can bear.”

I shudder every time I hear that.  Like Søren Kierkegaard’s mouthpiece Johannes de Silentio, I skip whatever solace believers find in that idea, and go straight to the horror.  It’s poetic shorthand for a longer thought: “This is happening to you because God thinks you’ll eventually come out okay.”

Think about that.

This is happening to you because God thinks you’ll eventually come out okay.

Out there somewhere, a cosmic calculator has determined that I have some threshold of suffering I can endure without breaking, and has responded to that information by burning my crops and giving my mother cancer.

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Investigating (Straw) Atheism

There’s nothing quite like a set of loaded questions from a believer to illuminate what being an atheist really means.  For all the increased and increasing visibility that celebrity nonbelievers like Daniel Radcliffe and Jodi Fosterare getting us, and for all that atheist thinkers like Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett have rendered an exemplary case for non-belief as a philosophical position, we continue to suffer from a litany of stereotypes.  (Often, our most visible proponents do little to disprove them…)

And no set of questions is likely to be more loaded than the set that BornAgain_Believer (sigh) posted on MyNews24, reproduced here:
 
1.       Where do you come from?
2.       What is your purpose on earth?
3.       Does life have a meaning?
4.       What is just and fair for you?
5.       God forbids, if your child is murdered and the person is never caught and brought to justice, how would you handle it, seeing that life has no meaning and we are just here on earht [sic] to live and die. Where would you get justice from?
6.       An intelligent, thinking child brought up by atheist parents becomes a Christian how do you respond? Oh and becomes preacher and starts a new church, would you say your child has a problem?
7.       What about all the injustice in the world that goes by unreported, where must everyone else get justice from?
8.       How do you answer your own child that is searching for meaning and purpose in life?
9.       Why does research, discovery, diplomacy, art, music, sacrifice, compassion, feelings of love, or affectionate and caring relationships mean anything if it all ultimately comes to naught anyway?
10.   Is death the end of life?
I’d like to give this questioner the benefit of the doubt and assume that they’re asking purely from a position of ignorance.  But when it comes to the privileged and often oppressive end of an unequal societal dynamic, that’s not a warranted assumption.  This fellow’s username says it all.  The Digital Cuttlefish and Nate Hevenstone (if you’re not reading him yet, start) have already taken this on, so I’ll add my two cents.

Hell is Other People

There’s a lot to think about in Boston right now.

There was a bombing and a shooting.  Two ethnic Chechens were implicated in the bombing, and one of them is in custody right now, to likely face a farce of an “enemy combatant” trial as soon as the feds are done fabricating a tie to international terrorist groups.  [EDIT: He got a regular trial, thank the stars.] Hateful mooks have been subjecting an Indian-American family to a torrent of threats and insults because their son went missing a few months ago and was also suspected, forcing them to shut down the site they used to help them find him.

Amidst all of the maneuvering, it’d have been easy to miss a few tidbits that highlight the ongoing nightmare of being a nonbeliever in the United States.

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