Archive for the ‘Society & culture’ Category

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The Alpha Hominid Phenomenon

September 13, 2017

…..and eunuchs….


One of the first things the metaphorical first hominid did was to look around and decide that anybody not huddled under the same tree as him was a threat to his survival. This was how and when homicide was invented. Like the wheel, it is still with us, indelibly incorporated into our being, but with technical improvements and expanded utility.

One of the technical improvements has been that we no longer have a one book library and actual killing is not always deemed necessary or even to be the best option. Social, economic, physical, and several other varieties of isolation have developed into finely tuned art forms in their own right, as has simply tormenting those we don’t like until they go away or die, or until they obediently relocate to the only acceptable shade, which just happens to be under our tree.

This unique adaptation of the fundamental survival instinct is probably no more sophisticated than your basic “Alpha Dog” phenomenon or the serendipity of some plants pigging the resources thus ensuring that any potential competition becomes compost. Nevertheless, since we have long been self anointed as either indisputable manifestations of the Big Kahuna Itself or exclusive spokespersons for that presumed authority, plant life and dogs are irrelevant to the grand scheme of things and merely serve as food or amusements for Our Nibs. We wrote the rules, therefore we get to win the game by default.

That said, it might be interesting to examine the current state of affairs to see who is trying to make compost out of whom and who considers himself to be the alpha hominid right how. Hominids, of course, are as incapable of coming up with a simple answer to a simple question as they are incapable of forgoing some form of good old-fashioned homicide. In other words, anybody one asks is highly likely, as luck would have it, to be the indisputable Alpha Hominid in all matters tangible and intangible.

In the Survival of the fittest” game, with the outcome at any given moment decided by homicide or any of its rationalized and acceptable substitutes, the shared common goal is to disenfranchise, disinherit, discount, diminish, or literally dispose of all competitors in this perpetual game of King of the Mountain. It is the Way.

We aren’t completely intolerant, however. We tolerate, and sometimes even dole out carefully thought out words of pseudo-praise to acknowledge a perceived impotence of the nonaligned. Besides, they may serve as eunuchs for our allegorical harems of religion, politics, and tiddlywinks. Such acts of orchestrated decency are the full length mirrors in which we can admire ourselves, thus reinforcing our certainty of being right, and clarifying the prescribed pecking order.

 

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Uncle Sam’s tacit approval…

December 12, 2016

of “political correctness” tyranny….

The first time I recall having experimented with a “racist” epithet was, I believe, in the second grade. It was at recess, in the school yard by the big steel swing set where classmate Robert and I were doing a little scuff and spit over the last available seat. Robert was a “negro”, the accepted “polite” form of the time. I called him a nigger. He punched me in the nose. That was the end of that. We were friends after that.

There is no telling how many millions of dollars that little interaction saved the American taxpayer. I’m not advocating for violence, mind you, but I’m not advocating for some hydra-headed bureaucracy employing thousands of people dispatching an agent or three to shake their fingers at rude brats and lay out the permitted lexicon. Robert seemed to have handled the task rather nicely, for free.

Similarly, I spent my last couple of years in college at a small university in Florida where My Spanish professor was a Cuban refugee and many of my friends had made their way from that island nation to south Florida on makeshift rafts and other flotsam and jetsam. Let’s face it, when a teenager learns a foreign language, learning the popular pejoratives is a social requirement. Context and timing are fine details learned later, often by trial and error, like when I committed the error of addressing my friend Rufino as “maracon.” He was an athlete, and if he had caught me I have no doubt that his lesson in manners would have been considerably less benign than Robert’s had been many years before. Nevertheless, Rufino and I remained friends, and as with the Robert incident, there is no telling how many millions of dollars that frantic night pursuit through the palmettos saved the American taxpayer.

Jump forward about fifty years to the day Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Yunel Escobar etched the same epithet into his eye-black, the dark smears athletes use to ward off glare, as a taunt to the opposing players. He was suspended without pay, had to donate the nearly $100k in lost salary to same-sex advocacy groups, and participate in “sensitivity” exercises. It would have been far simpler, and would have brought his intra-cultural communications awareness up to date more directly, if someone with a personal complaint about the little display of locker room banter had just taken a swing at him.

Needless to say, things are quite different from when I was younger. For one thing, the job of teaching “family values” and community standards has migrated from the family and the community to vague bureaucratic clusters of authority in orbit around the federal government. It all kind of grew out of the Civil Rights movement and related politic of the past four or five decades, like a boil may develop on the ass of a student who spends long hours sitting on hard seats to absorb knowledge. Sometimes bad things happen to good people, and sometimes positive actions spawn unintended negative sidebars.

The so-called “PC”, or “Political Correctness” phenomenon, a case in point, achieved a level of power and influence that many find to be incompatible with traditional understandings of the Constitution and philosophies of the United States as a society. Those wielding the power, or those profiting and benefiting from its application, strongly disagree, of course.

Political correctness is difficult to explain, since it’s largely subjective in nature. Perhaps it can be illustrated by recalling certain aspects of childhood, both the real and the somewhat mythical. I am thinking of how, in the final months before Christmas, kids would be acutely aware of how their conduct might influence the outcome on that anxiously anticipated morning. We didn’t become angels, but the atmosphere of consequences being especially welded to behaviors during that time period was palpable. Certainly, parents and other interested parties in the adult population must have reaped some benefits from the “Santa Method” The “PC” of the twenty first century is like that.

Those with the power, and it can be anybody, make the rules, set the standards, sort the lexicon into Permitted and Taboo piles, endorse selected belief systems while condemning others, and generally work to engineer the culture to their liking. This is nothing new. Human cultures have always established their accepted ways in this manner. However, when the Colonists rebelled against England and put together a homegrown system of governance of their own, it was structured to prevent such centralization of power and authority into elite cliques and to make it truly a government “of the people, by the people, for the people, ” as Lincoln later phrased it.

Note that I have been discussing what I see as the downside of a “Politically Correct” movement in general. I believe the separation of a population into classes of the Ruled and the Rulers, while absolutely a “normal” human behavior, is a handicap to the modern society as a whole. The thing that takes a normal “grouping” action and gives it the potential to do harm is the endorsement of government, which is supposed to be an expression of all of the people. The founders were acutely aware of such dangers and worked very hard to avoid the pitfalls of pure Democracy, which can become a matter of “mob rule”.

To be more specific, and to revisit the incidents in which I had a role many years ago, the community response to offensive language was previously a matter decided within families, who were in turn influenced by extended family, neighbors, and the community in general. Cultures have always sought cohesion, but I have watched the current wave grow over a lifetime. This “PC” twist is not just a temporary ripple in response to a specific episode or issue. It is an overall shift towards a more prescriptive, centralized, national government that seems increasingly distanced from the individual on Main Street, USA. This is a two sided coin, of course, and a complacent populace has allowed it to build, in part because most have felt untouched by it or somehow immune.

The “please and thank you” aspects of daily life were, in fact, considered largely to be either “off limits” to those in Washington, DC, or of little interest to them. Mother, father, the church, and others taught us what it was “nice” to say or do, and what was not tolerated in those areas. That would differ from family to family, and from community to community, and those with much in common would associate, while those with significant differences would not. The role of any centralized form government was focused on the central, common denominators under the accepted rule of law, in such matters as felonious crimes of violence and property.

Through various mechanisms, and in response to a number of certain events and circumstances, The United States has become sharply divided between those striving for a more “statist” society while attempting to override or diminish the value of individuality, and those who are poised to defend a more traditional Constitutionalist approach. “Gated Communities,” where everyone is expected to adhere to codes of behavior and appearance devised by a ruling committee, are preferred by some people, but living in one is voluntary. Converting the entire nation into one big “Gated Community” would not be voluntary nor would it serve the preferences of those who want to be free to express themselves as individuals rather than as just part of a group that paints their houses and landscapes their yards in unison and subject to approval. The iconic example today would be the Affordable Care Act. The title smiles gently and sounds caring, but in practice essentially nationalized the health insurance and medical industries and has benefited just enough people to maintain an air of legitimacy, while being little more than a Mafia-style protection racket. Buy the prescribed insurance or the Knee Breakers will take your tax refund money away from you. By associating the health insurance mandate with the Internal Revenue Service, it isn’t much of a stretch to re-label noncompliance as “tax evasion” and other life changing white collar felonies.

When my friend Robert punched me in the nose, and my friend Rufino threatened me with serious bodily harm, along with a long list of other “learning experiences” I have logged during my life, the values and expected rules of social interaction favored by our society and culture have survived, adapted as needed to changes in the world and the neighborhood, and been successfully passed on to a couple more generations. We as a people have faced challenges before, and I’m not afraid of our way of life being taken away from us. I sense that this time is different, however, and the danger instead is that we will simply throw it away. We’ve already started. The ACA isn’t the only stop sign we’ve run.

Bureaucracy, which one cannot avoid in a nation of 325 million people, has gained excessive levels of power and authority on a broad scale. One of the ways this is accomplished is through the way regulations are structured and funded. Simply put, if a federal agency wants to move people in a certain direction, it may do so through regulation. The agency wants everyone nationwide to follow a certain line or program, so it threatens to withhold funding from states that don’t impose supportive regulations of their own. Another way is to issue the “unfunded mandate” type of regulation, and offer funding to those who march in step and to withhold funding from those who do not, as well as to issue penalties. The ACA has elements of the latter. I thought about how someone might simply arrange their tax withholdings to zero out so there would be no funds to confiscate for failing to purchase the mandated insurance. I anticipate that, if it has not already done so, the IRS will soon close that “loophole”. Odd, isn’t it? A tax action that was considered good personal financial management just a few years ago either is now, or soon will be, a federal white-collar crime worthy of imprisonment.

I look forward to the day when we, the people, wrest our responsibilities and liberties back from our own government and once again adhere to a code where one doesn’t fear for one’s well being or freedom for saying, writing, or endorsing words and ideas that someone else just doesn’t like. The right to be rude and ignorant should once again be a freedom, along with the potential consequences of speaking or acting in such a manner. The government’s responsibility is to protect us while we wind our way through such issues, not to play the irate Nanny telling people how to chew their food and not to say things like nigger, spic, slope, chink, wop, kike, frog, etcetera, etcetera. Where is George Carlin when you need him?

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Septuagenerianism…

November 4, 2016

and socio-political smoothies….

Septuagenerianism, I have heard it said, is the state of looking around oneself and muttering some half century old version of “WTF!?” Personal experience would tend to bear that out.

Or, perhaps it’s a function of being retired, with a capital “R,” and basically not giving much of a fig about much of anything, unless it is an unwelcome mystery-noise emanating from the most inaccessible regions of the car, the furnace, or myself.

Or, perhaps I am absolutely right, thus vindicating my parents, and my grandparents. Ergo, the car, the furnace, and those regions of my person capable of making noises aren’t, and the world really is terribly screwed up, and I have license to hobble around in a sort-of-circle croaking “Told ya so, told ya so …”

Truth be told, it most likely is a combination of the above, in no particularly geometric proportions. I like to think the furnace is just fine. It is. I had it put in when we bought the place ten years ago. We engaged in a couple of mandatory projects when we came here, which is what you do when you buy hundred year old houses, and we have a habit of doing that. The last one was even a bit older, I think. It was right on the river, which liked to visit our cellar each spring at ice-out. Used to be a blacksmith’s shop, and we spent fifteen years hauling interesting old bottles, pottery shards, parts of an old toilet, the front end of a Model-T, and a number of bass, out of that river.

Anyway, about the “WTF!?” stuff. I was scanning the alleged “news” on the computer this morning in search of something to chew on besides Donald or Hillary’s naughty lists and toilet training logs and I came across an article that looked like it might have some interesting if not particularly scholarly predictions about things the younger crowd might see in the future. It was amusing and predictably bland, but what caught my attention was the suggestion on a couple or more items that the predicted circumstance would only occur if “the world” was all on the same page, which was presented as a “desirable” turn of events.

Whoa! Or, more appropriately, “WTF!?

I thought all of this “One World” stuff was just a Right-wing conspiracy theory or something! You mean there actually are people who like the idea of a global North Korea? Is there anybody over twenty five and not looking for free college and tickets to ride the rich ‘til they squeal lak peegs writing these “pajama journalism” pieces? I know I’m an oldie, but like that insurance company commercial, we of the white or absent hair “know a thing or two because we’ve seen a thing or two…”

Remember high school when nobody would sit with you at lunch because of some totally inane but excruciatingly significant social faux pas a million years earlier? Or, maybe you witnessed that happening to someone else. Or maybe you were one of the ones executing the cultural disembowelment. In any event, that’s what it would be like if one person or only members of an elite and privileged group got to make the rules and disembowel those who wouldn’t march in step. Of course, on the geopolitical level, disembowelments are not metaphorical.

I even read the article twice just in case it had been satire and I’d missed it somehow. Nope, I think the writer was “Sanders-Serious”. I’ve seen other articles along the same vein. Somehow, we’ve bred a population of future “leaders” whose idea of how to combine Success with Warm and Cuddly is to stuff the human species into a huge blender and make a smoothie. Naturally, that would exclude the one’s doing the blending. Somebody’s got to stay behind to take care of business, and of course those so sacrificing their “member of the Everybody” standing to be a loner and do all of the hard work would be entitled to lucrative compensation and benefits. The only way to stay out of the blender would be to join the Goose-Steppers and Blender-Operators.

I hope they change their minds before they make too big a mess for somebody else to clean up later. Odd. Seems to me, my parents and grandparents made similar comments.

 

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On farming …

January 12, 2016

and covering your donkey ….

There was a farmer who grew excellent quality corn. Every year he won the award for the best grown corn. One year a newspaper reporter interviewed him and learned something interesting about how he grew it. The reporter discovered that the farmer shared his seed corn with his neighbors. “How can you afford to share your best seed corn with your neighbors when they are entering corn in competition with yours each year?” the reporter asked.

“Why sir,” said the farmer, “Didn’t you know? The wind picks up pollen from the ripening corn and swirls it from field to field. If my neighbors grow inferior corn, cross-pollination will steadily degrade the quality of my corn. If I am to grow good corn, I must help my neighbors grow good corn.”

So it is with our lives… Those who want to live meaningfully and well must help enrich the lives of others, for the value of a life is measured by the lives it touches. And those who choose to be happy must help others find happiness, for the welfare of each is bound up with the welfare of all…

 

[That little story was swiped from Facebook without permission, ……………..what?…..]  

 

Everyone (I suppose) loves a “feel-good” story. Like any story, of course, when told around the campfire often enough, and for an extended time, the details cannot help but change.

This is not by any design or intent. Perhaps the greatest reason would be context. Another would be the nature of human communication or language itself.

“Watching a buddy’s back”, for example, is kind of a nice metaphor for friendship, teamwork, and so forth. The precise meaning depends upon context. One might safely assume that the concept was first given voice during some primitive confrontation somewhere, sometime, and when used in that same context even today could be taken quite literally, indicating concerns regarding survival. The intent and meaning today, however, is normally a mixed bag of the literal and the metaphorical. While the circumstance surrounding the phrase’s use may be metaphorical, and would be considered an exaggeration of the mood accompanying a literal context, the intent would be to lend precisely that kind of intensity to a more benign situation.

The study of philology, or the history and origins of words and phrases, may provide some insight.

An immeasurable and indistinct length of time ago, one of humanity’s primary concerns was survival. If a person should survive into the following day, he would then focus on water, and food. Thirst and hunger abated, or at least temporarily distracted, things like shelter and clothing, such as it were, could see daylight. Extensively changed, often beyond recognition, and certainly beyond any imaginable context for most of us, much of our modern communication could likely be linked to those times long before car payments and credit limits and matters of “style” became the first things one thought of upon awakening in a comfortable bed to the aroma of automatically perked coffee.

Thus, I would suggest that the warm-fuzzy tale of a farmer and his fields of corn must bear such a history, its origins lost among the multitude of lessons of survival no doubt learned through observing the experiences of those who didn’t survive to tell the tales.

As mentioned earlier, contexts change, as do intents, though function may remain related. The path of human development and evolution evidently favored those who gathered into groups and coined such strokes of genius as “safety in numbers,” just as they favored those who ate organic material instead of pretty rocks.

Several hundred contexts later, with countless factors added to, or subtracted from, the pile, such allegories as the corn farmer tale came to be part and parcel of various religious tenets. As is often the case, “points” are made, in more ways than one, by the use of exaggeration, overstatement, and the clouding of boundaries between contexts, so that survival of the group transitioned to survival within the group, and so on. Securing enough points to earn whatever the promised rewards might be meant following the tenets of one’s inherited or chosen creed better than one’s neighbor, who, ironically, one was also often charged with ensuring the welfare of. Sometimes that meant giving your best seed to the farmer down the road.

Presently, early in the twenty first century, the evolving metaphor has come to link salvation, in its various formats, with providing for the survival of imperfect strangers through the provision of metaphorical as well as actual Free Lunch, Potlatch style.

And similar to the tale of the fortunate farmer (and his even more fortunate neighbors, who apparently enjoyed the products of his labor), seeing to the welfare and good fortune of one’s neighbors, even if it means conscripting the assets and unwitting participation of The Unwashed, may very well be about taking care of one’s own backside far more than that of one’s neighbor.

 

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HATE….

July 11, 2015

ya gotta love it….

I was trying to think of all of the things I have hated during my life.

I used to hate stewed tomatoes, but I got over that decades ago.

I never hated spinach like most kids. Popeye was my cartoon hero. I liked spinach best the way my mother prepared it though, fresh, and steamed just enough to take the backbone out of it and leave it with some texture. I couldn’t stand “school spinach”, however. I hated that. School Spinach was the texture of snot.

While I’m in the food department, let’s talk about asparagus. As a kid, I gagged if I was in the same room with it. I hated asparagus. When it came to mealtimes, my mother was of the old “clean your plate or die” school, but I even got special dispensation from her to take a pass on that disgusting dead plant. Now, I love it. If my mother had lived to see me shoveling down a forkful of asparagus, she’d have keeled over.

I hated my ninth grade algebra teacher, but everybody hated that sonuvabitch, so I don’t really count that. My class was the first to attend the brand new school, and we sat in “modern” individual chairs with individual table desks that weren’t bolted to the floor and connected in a chain from the front of the room to the back, each desk including a bench for the next kid in front of you. Anyway, Mr. SOB was apparently a Marine Corps veteran and had an annoying little ritual of making us stand next to our desks until he would bark “Ready……SEATS!” So, one day during lunch, a friend of mine and I sneaked into the room and stuck “Greenie Stick-on Caps” under the foot of each chair leg. The only downside was that my class wasn’t scheduled for Algebra after lunch.

Other than him, I can’t think of too many people that I have disliked that much. I’ve always had a quick temper and an eclectic vocabulary to give it wings, and I’ve been thankful for fast sneakers and big friends on more than one occasion. Some people and I just plain were never meant to be in the same place at the same time, but life happens. Nevertheless, I don’t recall “hating” any of them, even though I rattled off some rather unpalatable pedigrees for a few.

Academically speaking, I hated just about everything in high school except Art, Shop, and believe it or not, Chemistry. I wasn’t very good at Chemistry, but one could do some really cool stuff with some of the things in the lab. Besides, there was this girl at the next station….curled my 18 year old earlobes and turned them beet red, she did. Anyway, I thought it was clever to dribble sulfuric acid on my lab partner’s towel, among other things. And he and I discovered that if one removed the stoppers from these two vials on the shelf and left them off long enough and close enough together this neat little cloud started to form in the air. Unfortunately, highly toxic precipitates were not appreciated and that behavior was never repeated. All other classes, I hated.

The only course I encountered in college that earned my ultimate rancor was a Sociology class I had to take in my Junior year. The professor had written one of the books, and the poor man was a complete yawn. He could have put cement to sleep. After two classes, I found myself going to the beach instead. Around the middle of the semester I received a curt message in my student mailbox informing me that if I didn’t show up for the mid-term I’d be dropped and failed. I actually had forgotten about the class; one of the burdens of doing a summer semester at a college in Florida. I hated that class, but I survived it. Oddly enough, I got a “B”.

I’ve hated spiders for 71 years. I’ve established a questionable truce with them in recent years, however, sort of along the lines of North and South Korea. If the critter doesn’t get into “my space”, I’ll usually leave him alone, especially if its just a little one or a daddy long-legs. Those big goobers are a different story. We lived in a old house a stone’s throw from the river for fifteen years. It had a detached barn that had been a blacksmith’s shop a hundred years ago and it made a fantastic workshop for me. It also produced spiders that should have had license plates. If you haven’t met a Maine barn spider, good for you. I even hate talking about them.

Back during my Grizzly Adams incarnation almost 40 years ago, I decided it would be a great idea to live back in the woods. There was a lot of that stuff going around back in the seventies, and I had to give it a shot. I bought eleven acres of land a half mile in from the paved road on an old logging trail and contracted with a guy who needed to have a small barn taken down. I was to do the job in exchange for whatever I could salvage. I ended up with more than enough to build a small cabin and an outhouse, but it cost me $60 to have some guy haul off the stuff I couldn’t use. Anyway, crawling around in the upper reaches of that old barn was an adventure, to say the least, and that was when I met my first Maine barn spider. I was straddling a beam extending out from the loft, holding a wrecking bar in one hand and the beam with the other, and all of a sudden there it was, not two feet in front of my face. Attila the Arachnid! I went catatonic.

Instinct took over, I guess, because I executed a “lunge” with that wrecking bar that would have made my fencing instructor proud back in college, launching that juicy three inch horror from his web. I’ll never forget the audible “splat” it made when it hit the floor down below. I hate spiders, especially barn spiders.

Regardless of what the movers and shakers of the twenty first century may hold to be true, both the self-anointed and those who actually warrant the designation, it is normal human behavior to experience a full range of emotions, including hatred. It’s OK to hate. Trust me! Besides, all charges of violating federal Hate laws are based on presumption and hearsay. And even if some doofus on trial signs a document stating “Yup, I hated the bahstid,” there can be no proof beyond a reasonable doubt. What is not OK, however, is to engage in “hateful behavior”. You know, like assault and homicide. If someone beats the tar out of me (which happened one time in college outside of a bar), my assailant’s opinion of me would have no bearing on my injuries. The guy who cleaned my clock back in school by the way, “hated” me, because I was wearing a fraternity jacket and walking in “his” alley. His emotional pathologies were irrelevant, however, and would be equally irrelevant today, in my book. His actions, however were both injurious and illegal.

Not hating might actually be more harmful than being honest about that unpleasant neurochemical circumstance.

Let’s face it. This whole obsession with “hate” is based on asinine science. If one has strong, negative mindset about some person, place, food, insect, or academic endeavor, it is real and pretending it does not exist does not change the fact that it does. Most body functions freely exist and occur whether or not the host acknowledges them. Far better one should recognize the unwanted (fill in the blank) and deal with it appropriately, i.e. in accordance within the generally accepted parameters of the society.

When I feel “hatred“, which is extremely rarely, I find I am far less likely to act on it badly if I man up to it and seek more acceptable outlets. Profanity is a phenomenal way to spend a gutful when there is nothing around to break that I don’t need or treasure.

In conclusion, I would encourage people to be willing to own negative emotions, feelings, opinions, and ugly socks. None of it matters. Whether one Hates another human being or is hormonally obsessed with one matters not. What matters is how one responds to those circumstances. As far as the socks are concerned, they’re fine, too. Its just not advisable to wear them on a first date or to work on the day of your annual performance evaluation. …Strike that last one.

Oh, and I hate tofu, also. I almost forgot. That crap has no right being sold in the food department. It should be stocked with household chemicals or auto parts.

If you hated reading this, I don’t care.

 

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Beauty, among other things….

November 8, 2014

is in the eyes/ears/mind/imagination of the beholder….

Adjectives used to be applied with a little more thought than seems to be case these days, especially in the use of indirect pejoratives. It’s difficult to engage in conversation without teetering on the brink of committing some nearly unforgivable verbal act and being labeled sexist, racist, homophobic, bigoted, etcetera. The potential violations of “PC” are unlimited, the definitive factor being whether or not a potential accuser is in a foul mood.

Interestingly, however, the alleged “targets” aka “victims” of sexism, racism, homophobia, bigotry, etcetera apparently are immune from being named perpetrators of same. When was the last time a woman was called sexist, a minority was accused of being racist, a non-heterosexual was called heterophobic, etcetera?

The irony may very well be that in the effort to eliminate various forms of “prejudice” we will have succeeded only in redefining and redirecting it.

 

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Left coast borborygmus

October 9, 2014

Yes-yes law_002 [MOUNT]