El Gringoqueño

All a man needs out of life is a place to sit ‘n’ spit in the fire.

Category: Pensamientos (page 1 of 2)

Random thoughts, comments, should be short, a paragraph or less

White Privilege – A Clarification

Hey, I get it. You don’t feel privileged. You’ve worked hard to accomplish something in your life. You’ve faced some hard knocks, but you’ve persevered and you have achieved. You might hear “white privilege” and dismiss it as offensive and racist; somebody’s trying to take away something from you that you earned.

I hear you, but I want to clarify something.

White privilege is a group phenomenon, a larger social issue rather than an individual one. In fact, I’ll equate it to climate change. Human driven climate change isn’t weather change, as certain U.S. Senators would like to imagine. Climate change works on a global level and is manifested as an increasing global average temperature. Yes, there are local fluctuations, but OVERALL the planet temperature is rising. White Privilege is a social phenomenon whose effects are felt in aggregate as asymmetric incarceration rates, greater income inequality etc. Yes, there are fluctuations. There are some suffering white folks just as there are some affluent black folks, but overall, there is a general social and economic advantage in America to being white.

I will concede that perhaps “white privilege” is a term that is probably unnecessarily antagonistic and when launched as a rebuke certainly isn’t building bridges. Still, I would exhort people who would classify themselves as white to attempt to understand where it comes from and own the concepts behind it. Try to see the collective position of power not as privilege for oneself, but as a duty to correct the sins of the past.

Didchaevernotice?

..that we obsess over our technology, hunch over it, faces uplit by the glow of flickering screens  – the iPhone, the tablet, our computers, our screens, we use them to search for things, to learn things, to yearn for things.

It was better when we ran barefoot, it tells us. You see, the modern running shoe is not optimal for the way our bodies evolved. We cackle. These are the things that Big Shoe doesn’t want us to know. We know better now.

We run free now but not complete. Our device wil tell us the next step. We enter our search in google with a small “g.”

It was better when we ate raw food. You see, our bodies evolved to eat what was in nature, unprepared, unprocessed. Bleached flour, high fructose corn syrup, white bread, canned food – these are the foods that Big Agra wants us to eat, but our bodies know better. Don’t be a slave, man.

We swipe the screen, our fingers dancing a sort of mini-tango of pinches and whorls. Here it is, another piece of truth that has been lost to us, brought to us by this gadget pressed together by beautiful Chinese hands.

We poop wrong. Modern humans, in our eternal fascination with everything civilized and clean and controlled, have forgotten how we were supposed to poop. We were meant to squat on the ground, knees high, pressed against our chests. It is only in this position that we relieve our bowels without undue stresses upon our rectums. Big Toilet doesn’t want you to know that, though, as they lie and cheat and steal to support Big Sewer Authority.

We nod our heads. It all makes sense. We know the truth now. We are free, free at last to poop in a hole, eat raw food, and run barefoot through the field – not too far though, we must keep to the confines of the fire, not straying from its light or nearest charging station.

White Flight, Black Blight

This is this dynamic in the United States. No one likes to admit it, but it happens – little by little, bit by bit. No one person is responsible. No one person thinks they are causing a problem, just reacting to forces outside of their control. My property values are going to go down, they say. Another code word that white people use is, “Schools.” I moved for better schools.

The bottom line is this: white people believe that when black people move in, neighborhoods turn bad. So white people leave. The problem is that they are creating a self-fulfilling prophesy, and they don’t even realize they are causative rather than reactive. Those forces are in their control. White people are the hegemony. White people are not helpless homeowners just looking for good schools, simply reacting to forces outside of their control. It is disingenuous to conclude that white people are powerless to stop the inevitable decline when communities turn black.

White people say: When black people move in, neighborhoods turn to shit.

I say: When white people move out of neighborhoods, they take their shit with them.

That’s it, isn’t it? Neighborhoods don’t degrade because black people are moving it, they are degrading because capital is fleeing. The power, both political and economic,  the hegemony – it’s mostly in the hands of white people. It has been this way for hundreds of years, and I don’t see it changing any time soon. The only way for it to stop is for white Americans to stop fleeing from black Americans. Stay and invest. Maybe you would earn more living in a more affluent area, but is acquisition really the point?

Please stop fleeing with your capital; stop driving communities to poverty.

I Do Notice You

It’s the little things, suddenly spending lots of time with mom, deleted photos, inspirational memes about new hope, new challenges, new directions. I know those posts are for you.

I hit “like” on a picture with the children.

Maybe it’s a job change, a move. There are the inevitable appliance purchases, selfies, lost weight.

I pick through it. I notice it. I read between the lines and I think I can see what has happened. I don’t know why it has happened, but I see you. We’re no more than acquaintances at this point, perhaps dear friends in the past, but I don’t know if you’d feel comfortable with me intruding to offer a kind word. I don’t know how “out” you want to be.  Besides, I could be wrong about everything.

I hit “like” on a new outfit.

I remind myself that nothing on social media is accidental. Much like a scripted crime thriller, everything has a purpose. You are vague for a reason. Everything is deliberately done, even what old photos remain. Besides, your closest friends probably already know, don’t they. I am not one of those.

I hit “like” on a “hang in there” comment.

Functions as Designed

I passed another tangled iguana carcass on the road today. There he lay, twisted and bloated, flattened in places, tire tracks decorating his thick hide. It got me to thinking how in those moments before his death, that that poor iguana had functioned exactly as he was designed.

His design is among the oldest on our earth. His kind have survived because, although primitive, they are effective. Their design is tried and true. I tried to picture the confidence on his face at the last instant of his life. “I got this,” he thought, as he stared down the barrel of fate, sure that his ancestors throughout the millions of years evolution would protect him. “I have not just prepared for this instant all my life,” he thought, “but for all of existence.”

“Bring it,” he breathed.

And then BAM, it was all over, his spine twisted, the vegetation of his gut splattered this way and that.

What went wrong? He stood his ground. He can’t be chased, because he wasn’t running. That big thing will stop, give me a sniff and then I will whip him with my tail, make a menacing sound and he will leave.  Or perhaps I will climb a tree. But no, this time the big thing did not stop.  The big thing came barreling down with nary a thought of satisfying its belly. In fact, it seemed not to notice me at all.

What do we do when our preparation does not yield the desired results, when it becomes irrelevant, when we function as designed for an environment that no longer exists?

Pancakes a la Irene

It’s the lining that’s important, we said, the silver lining, that is.  It is always a struggle to see it, dulled by the swirling mists and clouds and rain.  Oh, and was there rain… 20 inches in one day in some places.  Our electricity went out first, and with it Internet, phone, and then the water.  Power was out for two days and it took a good chunk of the stuff in our refrigerator.  Water came back after three, and Internet and phone after four.

So where is the silver lining, you ask?  Look closely, and you will find it in the pancakes.  That’s right, those pancakes were made with spoiled milk.  Those rich fluffy, cake-y, awesome confections were made with lumpy cheesy milk.  They always turn out super extra special when we use spoiled milk, and with the power outages we suffer weekly, it’s a common occurrence.

So, bring it.  Hit us with your best shot.  We’ll just keep making more pancakes.

2009 in Retrospect

I got to know my compost pile.   I collected the paper, vegetable refuse, grass cuttings, and piled them up in a chicken wire silo in the back yard.  It smelled sweet as it decomposed, and I watched the little bugs and the lizards that scampered across it.  I watched the millipedes churning away in the compost’s belly excreting black gold.

Occasionally, a hearty squash seed would start to sprout and I would hesitate as I turned it under with my pitchfork.  He was trying so hard, I would muse.  As the soil became fertile, the neighboring tree’s roots reached up and suckled at its base.  The yellow flowers were bigger, brighter, more numerous this year.

I planted some tomatoes, too.  I placed the seeds in egg cartons and when they were “estrong enough” (Princess Bride, anyone?), moved them to beds mixed with compost soil.  The tomatoes grew big and round, fragrant and luscious.  Before too long, though, they began to whither.  One by one, in a period of a three or four weeks, half of the tomatoes were dead dry sticks.  I soon discovered my enemy – snails.  I poured salt on one and watched him bubble and froth until he was just a puddle.  I decided to never do that again, and the snails would have my remaining tomatoes – every last one.  I will try again this next year.

As well you may know, I’ve been experimenting with coffee cherries; from fruit to roast.  It has been fun to see how much work goes into a simple cup of joe.  It’s mind boggling how complex the whole process is.  There are infinite opportunities for failure throughout, and you never know how a cup will turn out.  How late did the cherries mature? Did they ferment too long? Did they dry too slow? How was the roast? Too hot? Too short? Too long? Not long enough? Was the brew water temperature too hot, not hot enough? How long did it steep? My goodness, and to top it off, it seems that the the particulars of the bean, our little diva bean, require all those variables to be adequate to her liking.

The cup of coffee is always good, I’ve found, but always different.  It’s frustrating and wonderful.

My Choice – A Logical Fallacy

I’ve written about it before, and I thought that was all I could say on the topic, but leave it to recent events to tweak my logic receptors off the charts.  There are several logical fallacies on either side, granted, but the ones that irritate me the most are pro-choice.  

From an article in the Washington Post (online) on why this soon-to-be doctor would be performing abortions in her practice  (go ahead and read it, I’ll wait):

I was 14 years old when that clinic was bombed, killing a police officer and spraying Emily’s body full of hot nails and shrapnel. Back then, I lived in a small Alabama town, went to church every Sunday and was adamantly opposed to abortion…

"That’s horrible," I reply,  "Such a tragedy for that poor woman who was a victim of an abortion clinic bombing.  There are certainly some wackos out there.  I hope they rot in jail for their crimes.  But I have to ask, why does this make you think performing abortions is a good thing?  So some wacko bombed an abortion clinic, and you said to yourself, "I’m convinced, let’s do some abortions."  I ask for rationality’s sake, because I’m not following your argument."

I read the entire article.  Ms. Love seems to be a thoughtful person, a decent person.  I’m not knocking her intentions, nor her conscience.  I’m kickin’ it to her logic.  Here’s another gem:

One friend begged me to help her concoct a legitimate-sounding excuse — painful or irregular periods, say — for why she needed to be on birth control. No one could know the real reason: She was sexually active and didn’t want to get pregnant.

Her point, using the ever helpful friend scenario, was that people were kept ignorant by the bible thumping masses, that they didn’t know about their own biological reproductive systems, that they couldn’t get the pill or condoms.  First, I don’t think in this day and age, that these anecdotal stories should be the basis of public policy, but again I’d like to know what this has to do with abortion? 

And finally:

It wasn’t until I spent time in ultrasound rooms during a research job in graduate school that I began to see late-trimester abortions in a very different light. In one case, the patient’s baby had just been diagnosed with a lethal congenital anomaly. The high likelihood was that it wouldn’t survive after birth for more than a few minutes. As long as the baby remained in her mother’s womb, however, she would live. I asked the physician what this woman’s options were. The answer was, not many. She could choose to continue the pregnancy, but then she might be waiting for almost 20 more weeks to give birth to a baby that would never take more than a few breaths on its own. She was past the point where she could legally terminate the pregnancy in Alabama.

Instead of evaluating these issues on a case by case basis, she’d be more willing to say that now she favors late term abortions.  I’d wager that late term abortions are rare and heart wrenching in any scenario, but here we have another logical fallacy, or at least a conclusion being made with a very small data set, and it leaves out something very important.

The child.

The little baby was forgotten, malformed or not, wanted or not, imperfect or not.  That little baby was everything it was going to be at the moment of conception.  You hear that?  Conception.  It’s not magic, breath of God, type stuff.  It’s simple biology.

When my children were born (all four of them), they were locked in at the moment of conception.  Jaimito became Jaimito at the point.  Olaia became Olaia.  Javier, loud as he is, was Javier.  And little sweet Asier was nothing more and nothing less than Asier at the moment of conception.  What else could they have been?  Somebody show me how that little embryo could have turned out to be something other than what it was unless someone intervened? 

I have the benefit of hindsight, of course.  I didn’t know what my children would be like until they were born, but that doesn’t change their history.  Just because I was not privy to their uniqueness in utero, doesn’t mean they weren’t unique and special.  I can step their biological development back to that point, start it up again, and they would still be them.  Before conception?  They didn’t exist in a fixed format.  There is no beginning point.  Statistics and probability govern their futures before conception.  No one can say what would have happened if conception had occurred an instant before or an instant after.

No, it is at the moment of conception, that their being, their essence was fixed.  I can’t and won’t debate souls, or magic pixie dust, or legalities, because I find no value in proving the existence of a soul, nor am I a lawyer.  All I can say is what I know – that at the moment the sperm fertilized the egg, each of their little lives was on a irrevocable march through life and onward to natural death.

In our society, a society that cares about whales, stray dogs, and trees, I find it hard to reconcile the absolute rights of a woman with a basic right to live, to breathe.  If a gestating human is not a person, what is it?  At what point does it become something other than what it is?  Is it magic when it passes the birth canal?  If it is a person today, what was it yesterday? 

If a doctor’s first duty is to do no harm, how do we reconcile human rights with what a mother wants?

The Wuxi Finger Hold

I don’t know exactly what the writers intended, but from what I can gather from "Kung Fu Panda" I think I have figured out the secret of the Wuxi finger hold.

There is no secret.

The Wuxi finger hold is a bluff.  The golden explosion at the end represents the last shreds of Tai Lung’s ego going skadoosh.  Tai Lung had bound up all his self-expectations in obtaining the scroll, and when he finally looks upon it  reflecting his own face, he says, "It’s nothing."

Skadoosh!

Po’s realization that there is no secret ingredient opens up numerous truths, among them that the Wuxi finger hold is a bluff designed to crush an opponent’s ego by using his fear against him.  The secret of the finger hold lies in belief of its power. Once Tai Lung realized he had been fooled and had quivered in fear in front of Po, his mojo went bye-bye.  Tai Lung was no more the big scary bad guy.

Tai Lung believed that the scroll held everything.  He believed he was nothing.  By this logic the Wuxi finger held nearly infinite power over him.

I figure Tai Lung didn’t die at the end of the movie though, the golden explosion simply a metaphor for his exploding ego.  Tai Lung realized for the first time that day he was lost.  Crushed and broken, without a sense of self, he is found limp and listless by the noodle duck.  "Why are you lying there, snow leopard?"

"I am not the dragon warrior.  I was defeated by a Panda.  I am nothing."

The duck replies, "Oh, come now, I need help in the noodle shop.  You would make a fine noodle chef.  Come with me."

Tai Lung eventually learns humility, and by serving others he begins to realize his true power.

A noodle cook becomes the dragon warrior, the presumed dragon warrior becomes a noodle cook. 

I’m still alive, but stuck. Throw me a branch or something

Sorry I haven’t kept up.  It’s always a pain to get it going here after a long vacation. 

For some reason all the momentum that I had heading into the holidays was just eaten up by a soft mushy substance.  We refer to it in engineering as a dampening material.  You rush with great speed into this pool of sticky stuff.  You collide with it at high speed and a single stupid low amplitude undulating wave makes its way only a few feet before it subsides, dragged back to the depths.  Some small perturbations emanate outward and dissipate in soft waves through the viscous liquid, but if they have any affect at all, it is only to increase the temperature imperceptibly.

You get extracted out of your normal flow and life just seems to slow down.  It slows down to the point where you’re like a fly caught in amber, stuck solid. 

That’s where I am now, stuck to the trunk in tree sap.  Get a little stick and pick me out, will you?

We’re all back in Puerto Rico now, trying to get back into the routine.   There’s lots of work to do.  I’ve got a couple of posts in my drafts, but I have to clean them up a bit.  They need a lot of proof reading.  I really don’t know what my deal is.  Perhaps I need more alcohol or something.  Coffee makes me edgy and difficult, but alcohol seems to release the inner joy.

Sigh.  Here’s to some inebriated posting in the near future.

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