Bullying and Children…

Been a bit of news about bullying lately…

Thought I’d weigh in.

So, recently a video went viral of a kid here in Tennessee, making an emotional plea for people to stop bullying. If you’ve spent any time on Twitter or watched the news, you might have heard of it. The first wave of responses –from celebrities and the general public – predominantly seemed to be supportive and positive. (The next wave – the reaction to the reaction – going on right now, not so much, but that’s a different an altogether more depressing post that I’ll save for some time when we’re all less likely to collectively slit our wrists and sink into the warm bath of oblivion.)

I may have mentioned my thoughts on bullying here before – somewhere – but it’s early and I couldn’t tell where from a cursory glance at my post titles and tags.

So, let’s get into this a little.

Bullying sucks. Period.

And bullies are shitbags. Period.

I don’t care why they do it. I’m not interested in the psychology of mediocre predators. It is enough that we recognize it as shitbag behavior and condemn it. Well, almost enough…

Here’s the thing, we’re primates. There’s no getting around that fact.

We’re primates. Bullying and intimidation are primate dominance behavior.

It sucks and we should encourage the eradication of that kind of useless and petty violence against each other. That being said, we can not ignore it as a fact of our current existence, and a thing that must be dealt with.

But it has to be dealt with on two levels:

1) Culturally, on the whole, we must demonstrate that bullying us unacceptable. More than that, that it is socially punishable to engage in bullying behavior.

I think we’ve done at least half of this – as a culture. We’re still working on the socially punishable part, but that may require more use of judgment than we’re comfortable or skilled with at the current moment.

2) Personally. In the moment. At the point of contact.

Viral videos are great for affecting the culture, but useless in the moment because they take place after the act; when there is nothing left to do but try to put together what ever pieces have been left over.

That is fucking stupid.

Especially for children.

Children should be taught to stand up to bullies, and to use violence if necessary.

A lot of people will say, without much evidence to back up the statement, that violence never solves anything. Pretty sure I’ve debunked that bullshit here before.

One of the many important lessons here is this: it doesn’t matter if you lose. It doesn’t matter if you get hurt. It only matters that you take a stand. Some times you get beat up, sometimes it’s the other way around. That is life. Learning to stand up and to sacrifice for what you believe is right, or against what you believe is wrong is more important than bruises or broken bones. Scars heal, character endures. Character creates positive change.  

(Yes, I was bullied. All through my childhood and teen years. Every time I moved to a new city or school. The incidences diminished rapidly when I learned to fight back – and to do so publically.)

There will always be bullying – at least until we evolve beyond our primate dominance behavior patterns.

The odds are good your child will be bullied.

As adults we can lessen the sting of the fall, but we must also help them learn how to stand back up, and keep standing up. 

Help your children to become strong, and to use that strength justly.

Give children the resources to solve these kinds of problems for themselves.

There has been a lot of, “how can I help make this better,” sentiment floating around for this latest and most public example of a victim of bullying in our culture. That speaks to our kindness and compassion as a people. I will not flog others for trying to be kind. But I will suggest an addition.

Teach children to fight.

To fight with their wills, with their wits, and with their bodies – if the need arises.

Teach children why to fight, and when it’s appropriate.

(And if you don’t know, go learn for yourself.)

Standout people are made by weathering hardship. Bullying is one of those hardships. Teach children how to deal with it – in the moment, at the point of contact – and we’ll make more adults who have the ability to make a change for the better.

Make enough of those adults, and one day – maybe – there won’t be any bullying or bullies.

Maybe.

It’s a hope, anyway.

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NANOWRIMO 2017: The Wrap Up

Ok, admittedly this title would make more sense if I had done more than one Nanowrimo post. Mea culpa.

To answer the big question first: No.

I did not manage to write 50k words of a novel in the month of November.

All told – including the stuff I shelved – I got in somewhere between 15k and 16k words.

To me, that doesn’t sound like much, but I’ve done a few 5k and 8k word writing sessions with all of my previous novels. I didn’t get the chance to do that this time around. But then again, I’m not anywhere near done with this book yet. It may still happen, just not in November.

What I did come away with is 7 chapters – so far – and a story and characters I like more and more as I write them.

And, as usual for my writing process, the story expands as I go. Side characters get more interesting and become a larger part of the narrative. Weird ideas pop into my head and I follow them like Alice’s rabbit. All of this is intrinsic to the joy I get from the act of writing. Creative discovery. Problem solving. Learning the story is more than I originally thought it was.

Wonderful things, those. And not things one would wish to rush.

All in all I found participating in Nanowrimo to be a positive experience. There’s a lot to take away from it, chiefly you’re not nearly as prepared as you thought you were – in regards to writing the story full out. But then, if you’re a writer like me, you’re never really prepared, and that’s half the fun.

It’s a worthy experiment to try hitting a word count target every day. I’m not that kind of writer, but it’s a valuable experience to have. It will let you know which type of writer you are, in that regard.

(Personally, I only write every day when I’m deep into the story and the damn thing is pulling me along in its wake. Usually near the last 1/4 – 1/16 of the book. )

I can’t really speak to the community or support that many people talk about when referencing Nanowrimo. I had one writing buddy on the site, and we never really talked. Plus, I tend to be busy. Not a lot of time for me to participate in group writing sessions, or get-togethers, or to peruse the numerous forums, message boards, facebook groups, and various what-have-yous.

But then again, never really having had outside encouragement, I don’t tend to look much for it anymore. The writing itself draws me in – the act of it. Whether or not the scene is working encourages me. (Even if it’s not working, it encourages me, just on a different vector.) The sounds of the keys clacking under my fingers. The sweep of a hand across a writing pad. The way creating something makes me feel. All those things keep me writing.

Don’t get me wrong, it’ll be nice to get paid someday – someday soon, I hope. But that’s not the real reason I do this. And it’s a bit off the Nanowrimo subject.

All experiments teach us something about ourselves, if we have the wherewithal to pay attention to the lesson.

If you’re a writer, Nanowrimo is a worthwhile lesson to learn – for whatever you glean from it.

You’ll glean something from it, of that I am certain.

I know I did.

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Not Dodging the Question

It’s NaNoWriMo, and I should be working on my novel project, but the mass shooting in Texas and the resulting responses to it have been occupying too much of my brain power.

So, let’s talk about guns.

No, not mental health. Fucking Guns.

Let’s get started with the Constitutional restrictions:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” 

Mostly, I agree with this nominal restriction on gun ownership.

BUT, I think people are too damn lax with it. Too many, especially in government use it to deflect any serious thought about the issue.

Now, before the foam starts accumulating at the corners of anyone’s mouth, let me state my suggestion briefly:

If you want to own a gun, you should have to be part of a local militia.

There’s a bit to unpack there. So, let’s open some boxes.

Being part of a local militia should entail:

– consistent and reoccurring training

– psychological screening re: fitness for duty

– periodic screening for ability to report for duty when called upon

– background screenings for disqualifying criminal history

– a constantly updating registry (on the local level) of what firearms any given member owns

– a requirement that any and all members report for duty when called upon

Being a part of a well regulated, local militia would confer these rights:

– the right of ownership of firearms up to:

1 shotgun, 2 pistols, 1 rifle  (this should be amended to include 1 extra firearm of rifle or shotgun type allowed for the training of non-militia family members. Gun safety starts at home.)  

– the right to hunt with a firearm, in the appropriate season

(Don’t want to join the militia, but still want to hunt? Learn to use a bow.)

This a basic start. There will need to be refinements, such as:

limiting the types of government officials who can call upon the local militia.

legislation pertaining to gun dealers and collectors. (my suggestion is not allowing people to be both).

the buy back/ return program for the non-militia gun owners.

regulations for citizens who live in out of the way places where gun ownership might be necessary.

(extremely rural areas, or areas unserved by the local militia/ police force. There are still a few wild-ish places left, and they require special consideration.)

My last suggestion: who can be in the local militia:

Anyone, male or female, who has reached voting age, and meets the other requirements for service.

You’ll have noticed that I didn’t mention anything about gun manufacturers, the NRA, bump stocks, extended clips, or the stupid phrase “Assault Weapons”. That was intentional. I’m not interested in those things. I’m interested in what would likely best help the citizens of this nation. I’m not interested in who makes money off the gun trade. I’m interested in how we, as a citizenry, take these weapons – based on our own American ideals – and make them safer for the populace at large.

And please don’t come at me with the “Law breakers will always break the law” arguments. They are fallacious and stupid, and frankly, beneath you.

You’ll also notice that the only restrictions I have placed on who can be a member of any local militia are age and fitness for duty requirements. That will, generally I think, keep the weapons away from the people that we – as a society – believe shouldn’t have them.

And before you get into that “who gets to be the judge?” slippery slope argument, WE, the democratic society, get to be the judge, just as we do with who gets to drive, who gets to adopt children, et cetera.

It’s perfectly acceptable for a society to have standards, so long as the society decides what those standards are, and so long as anyone held to those standards has the opportunity to vote/ decide on those standards. That’s how societies work. Time we made it work in our favor.

Maybe, it might also be time we stopped trying to engineer things to be foolproof and not require judgment. Judgment comes from experience. Most situations in life require a body to exercise judgment. Best that we incorporate that need into out process. (But the subject of Judgment is a rant for another time).

So, there you go: A quick and dirty fix.

It needs refinement. It needs consideration. It needs people to look at it and think and discuss.

Hit me up with your ideas. Simpler is usually better.

Maybe we can actually come up with something that solves the problem.

I don’t know, but it’s better than dodging the fucking question any longer.

Good Luck 

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Nanowrimo 2017 update 

So, doing Nanowrimo this year. I’ll be updating here periodically.

Right now, because progress is almost never linear, I stand at 1,000 words.

I’m short of the word count so far, but I’m prone to writing for 5-8k word sessions, when I have time, so not so much worried right now. 

A thing about the “non-linear” statement :

I wrote 600 words on the first day of Nano, but reading it, I realized I didn’t like the voice, or the POV. So, I changed the POV amd spent a little more time finding the voice. Knew when I found it, because it was off to the races.

I wrote 1,000 words of original narative in an hour this morning. 

Some days writing is a slog.

Sometimes, it’s a lightening bolt.

If you’re writing – whether participating in Nanowrimo or not – take heart. 

Take heart and keep writing.

You’ll slog and you’ll flash. And when you’re done, you’ll barely remember which scenes were written how.

Good luck.

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Is This Thing On?

Hiya.

Been a while.

How have you been?

Can’t recall the last time I posted something here. Thought I’d drop in, for a minute, and remedy that.

I remember, some long time ago, having a goal of posting here at least once a week. Going to cross that off the list of things that definitely didn’t get done. It’s a distinguished list: losing weight, journaling every day, finishing unpacking the new house, cleaning up my office…

If I kept going that list would take up the rest of this piece. Best to stop now, before it develops its own gravity and sucks us in like a black hole of regret.

(Black Hole of Regret is the working title for the memoir of my high school years that I’ll never write, and occasionally shiver at the thought of, by the way.)

Anyways.

So, the world feels a little fucked right now.

America in particular – but that’s just because I live here and not somewhere besieged by famine, drought, war, or the constant barrage of natural disasters obliterating the local infrastructure, et al.

Sometimes you need perspective.

And sometimes it doesn’t help – at all.

To say that the world feeling fucked has contributed to my lack of productivity, at least in creative realms, would be something of an understatement. And while it has contributed to it, it hasn’t stopped it. Not yet, thankfully.

Last month I finished my work in progress. At 110k words, it’s the longest thing I’ve ever written. Earlier this month I finished the latest round of revisions – I tend to revise as I go – and sent the manuscript off to my Beta Readers. (This time around it’s all about content, continuity, and entertainment value. Any typos or grammar errors they catch will be things I don’t have to hunt for on the next round of edits, and that’s a bonus. )

As an aside: just about every professional author I’ve spoken with or read about says that you should not write the sequel to a book until you’ve sold the first one. It’s good advice. I didn’t follow it. This book was the book I had to write at the time. I have a steady day job and no deadlines to meet, so I could write the sequel – on spec as they say – and not worry too much.

I also got back all of my first round of rejections. (Not the first rejections I’ve ever gotten for the first book, but the first round since I’ve had it professionally edited and spent the time to learn how to properly write an interesting query letter. Only the first of those two things is assured. The letter writing? I may still be bad at it – which might explain the rejections, but it’s impossible to know without feedback from the agents, and they’re not in the business of sending feedback on query letters. Can’t say as I blame them.) I finally found the box with my agent list. I’ll be querying the next round before too long. Want to get at least two rounds in before the new year. We’ll see what we’ll see.

To stay busy during the interminable waiting, I’m doing what most writers – at least the ones that want to stay vaguely sane – do: I’m working on a new project. (The notes for which I also have to finish digging out of boxes.)

NANOWRIMO (National Novel Writing Month) is coming up in November. I’ve always been already into something in years past, but this year, no such restriction on my time, so I think I’ll give it a shot. If you’re interested in NANOWRIMO definitely look it up, but here’s a brief overview: the challenge is to write 50k words of a novel during the month of November. Simple huh? But any writer knows that simple don’t mean easy. Ok, maybe most people know that much. Anyways, if you’re interested, there’s a ton of stuff online about it, even a website where you can create an official profile and log your daily word counts. It’s not a competition with anyone except yourself, but there is a large support community and I recommend looking into it, unless you’re a weirdo-hermit like me. Also, if you’re going to try to write that much in one month, I strongly advise getting all your prep work done beforehand. Know your character’s names, personality, location/ settings, general plot if not detailed outline, (I’m not much of an outliner), that kind of thing. You want to remove as many potential obstacles to word production as possible, and that means trying to get all your research – or as much of it as you can foresee – done early, like yesterday would have been best, but today works too.

(Just, as a point here: I was going to make this post a general update. Some writing stuff, some fitness stuff, throw some Halloween love in for fun, but it seems to be mostly a writing update, so look for the other stuff in weeks to come.)

My new project, it barely has a working title, came about as a strange synthesis of two projects that I didn’t think were at all related.

I started writing a short story, ages ago, that turned into something much longer. Sometimes that happens. I like the story and the characters, and I knew the plot – something odd for me. But it got shuttled to the back burner when I got back to writing regularly and dedicated to finishing the last novel. But my brain is a bit of a squirrel at times, burying nuts and digging up others. So, a couple of months ago, I got a line in my head – that’s how all of my poems and a few of my short stories start. It wouldn’t go away until I said it out loud. Then the next line came. By line three or four I knew I had to write the damn thing down because it was giving me goosebumps. So, I wrote it in my notebook. What came out was a kind of horror nursery rhyme. Nifty thing, and no idea what I would do with it. Quite a lot of my poems are like that. (I’ve been writing poetry, steady, for more than 20 years now. That’s just how it happens sometimes.) And then, one day, while letting my current manuscript sit before taking on the revisions, the poem came back to me, but this time connected to that short story cum novel I never finished.

There are rare times when all the windows in my mind line up and I can see clearly, out to the scenery beyond.

This was one of those feverishly exciting times.

To that end, that’s the research I’ve been doing. The comingling of the horror nursery rhyme has changed the story somewhat, but in ways that make me feel better, well, more certain about the narrative. Still things to nail down, if I want to make this my NANOWRIMO project, but I can feel it building momentum in my guts.

As a writer, that’s a great place to be.

A lot of people love having written something. I found out, in my journey, that I actually love the writing. I get wonderfully lost in the process and spend a decent amount of my time writing in what psychologists refer to as flow state.

I’d really love if I could make it my day job, but that might be a ways in the future. Still, good to have goals and be working towards them. Makes a day feel purposeful, and that makes for a better, more enjoyable life. Try it sometime, you’ll see fairly quickly.

And, like the small, weirdly cute rodent my brain actually is, now that I’m working on something, other ideas spring up and try to borrow some of the energy. I write them down and then let myself forget about them. If I remember them later, or if they spark the same sensation when I’m not into a new thing already, then they’ll get given a go. Works for me. If your brain is a skittering thing, maybe give it a try sometime.

Well, that’s about all for now.

Thanks for tuning in after so long.

Until next time…

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Updatery: Been a Minute

Hi,

Yeah, I’ve been absent from these pages for a while.

Been a little busy.

Thought I’d share an update.

The Wife and I bought a house, back in the middle of August. We’re still unpacking. We’re also both first-time homeowners, and that is taking some getting used to.

DragonCon happened over Labor Day weekend. I’ve been attending the con for about the last 17 years. Still trying to figure out if I’m going next year. It’s gotten so big it has become difficult to do the things I like and see the people I want to see. And now I have a house payment, and that takes some financial adjusting to as well. We’ll see about it.

Another reason, and probably the biggest culprit in why I haven’t posted here in a dog’s age is: I’ve been pushing like mad to finish the 1st-ish draft of my new novel. I finally got there on Sunday night. I haven’t done the preliminary count, but I think it’s somewhere between 115 and 120k words. I know my Beta Readers are looking forward to getting their hands on the completed story, but first I need to let it sit for about a month, (okay, maybe less), and then do a final basic revision pass on it. Mainly I want to make sure the content is where I want it to be and there are no plot holes – glaring or otherwise.

On the writing update side of things, I have gone through my first round of this newest age of the agent search. Rejections all around, save for one which I’m waiting to hear back from regarding the query status update email I sent this morning. Not giving that one much hope; if they had liked what they read, I probably wouldn’t have had to wait so long for a response. Que sera, sera I suppose. Once I find the box it’s packed in, I’ll dig out my prospective agent list and pick out a new list to query. Maybe this weekend. Of course, I’ll keep you updated on my journey, rejections and all.

What else?

Well, the political situation and discourse in this country has turned into screaming chimp, poo-flinging shit show, but somehow, I don’t think you need me to update you on that.

Hope you’re week is going well.

Until next time…

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Putting the Civil back in Civilization: Violence

If we’re going to talk about a civil society we’re going to have to have a proper discussion about violence.

What do I mean by “proper”?

Well, for one thing, no fucking glad-handing.

None of this, “Gee, in a civilized society there would be no violence,” bullshit.

(If that is the marker for civilization, then we as a species have never been civilized. Never.)

We might like to think of ourselves as the only animals that have evolved beyond our violent tendencies, but that is some of the most chokingly fragrant manure ever spread in popular discourse.

It also has no basis in fact.

All you have to do is look at America, and you will see it disproven time and again, and again, and fucking again.

(And lest you think this is something you can blame on them, whoever your “them” happens to be, let’s squash that tribalism cockroach under foot right now. Even a cursory glance at the news will be more than adequate to demonstrate that both sides, of any divide you’d like to name, contain violent bastards. Both. Fucking. Sides. The sooner you get that “us and them” shit out of your head, the sooner you can start being productive in the effort to make things better.)

As animals, humans are just as capable of violence as any other animal.

We cannot begin to work towards minimizing the damage violence causes until we first take this fact into account.

We are violent, and there is no way to make us wholly non-violent.

Get it in your heads, and keep it there.

If that is the place we’re starting from, a place of reality, then we can begin to move forward.

The first thing we need to do is figure out when, under what circumstances, violence is ethically justified.

Yes, violence can be moral and ethical, if contained to certain parameters.

What might those be?

Here’s a suggestion:

Violence is ethically justified when it is used to protect one’s self, or persons nearby, from bodily harm.

(I invite you to consider, for yourself, other cases in which violence may be justified. This is the bare bones, hardest limit, no exception standard I could devise.)

I want you to notice the bit about bodily harm. That’s important.

Violence is never ethical in pursuit or defense of an ideology, so far as I have been able to discern. Nor is it ethical to engage in violence because of verbiage.

Thoughts and emotions happen in the nebulous space in our heads. Because what happens in all of our heads can vary wildly from person to person, and because immaterial notions do not adversely affect another person’s rights or safety, these things can not be used to justify violence on ethical grounds.

As for ideology, well, ideology is a competition of ideas and the presentation of those ideas. When violence enters into the picture it becomes a decision based on coercion, not on which idea has the most merit. 

As such, to justify the ethical use of violence, the use thereof must be universalizable. That is to say, it must be formulated in such a way that, if someone else were to use it thus, even the person you hate the most in the world – especially that prick – that you would be okay with it. A universal principle.

That is why I have restricted my own ethical standard to bodily harm of my person, or of any person near me.

(Not that too, any person. I don’t have to like you or love you, or even care about you to intercede on your behalf if you are the victim of violence in the moment. It doesn’t matter. If I see you in trouble, I/ him/her/ they are ethically justified in stepping in.)

And that brings me to another thing about violence:

Can we, as a culture, stop this nonsense about how, “Violence never solves anything,” please?

I understand the motivation behind the saying, I do. But knock it the fuck off. Violence does in fact solve some things, albeit a set of one.

Violence is sometimes the only thing that will stop violence.

(That is to say that violence can be stopped with prevention, before and only before it becomes physical. Once it becomes physical, the only two things that will stop violence is: a) more violence –or – b) the violent party getting tired and stopping of his/ her own volition. I think we can all see the inherent dangers in waiting for option (b) to happen.)

So, by this thinking violence is not only justifiable, but sometimes required.

(If you don’t think so, try this thought experiment: Say someone is beating the living shit out of you. If you were wholly non-violent, which you aren’t, would you like the police that come to your aid to be non-violent? You want the cops to talk the crazy son of a bitch down, or do you want them to wrestle that flailing fuck off of you and put him/ her in handcuffs? Come on now, be honest.)

Now, as a corollary to the hard ethical standard I set forth above, let me further specify on the use of violence:

One must only use as much violence as is necessary to bring the violent situation to a halt.

That means no overkill. There is no justifiable reason to continue to be violent when an aggressor has been subdued or neutralized. No need to kick on unconscious or otherwise incapacitated offender. Curb stomping is right out. Sorry.

Under those restrictions, violence can be ethically justified. More than that it can be useful and preservative of human life and safety.

I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter. Please feel free to comment here.

(Let’s leave aside the notion of War for the moment. It is a stickier wicket, and not much applicable to one’s everyday life. Start small and work up.)

(In the interest of full disclosure, I need to tell you a little about myself: I grew up a shy, too-smart, chubby kid who never slept. I grew up in some rough neighborhoods, at times, and some rough schools. I also spent around 5 years of my working life as a bouncer. I have been mugged at knife point. I have been jumped. I have been in numerous multi-person chaotic brawls. I have studied various martial arts for the majority of my existence to date. I am also on record as encouraging everyone to learn how to fight. Better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it, kind of thing. I have been the victim of violence, and interceded to end violent situations. I also have a degree in philosophy and have studied ethics and ethical systems. I can thank Kant for the idea of universalism. I have taken theory and my first hand experience, and the experience and thoughts of other experts in the field into account in my considerations of the subject.

All of that to say this: if you wish to debate me on the topic, I welcome it. I truly do. But please, come correct. Do your homework. Make your arguments as tight and defensible as possible. If you’ve done that. I’d love to hear your thoughts. If not, I’d still like to hear your feelings and concerns, but we won’t be engaging in debate. Still, the conversation could be interesting.)

If you’ve made it this far, allow me to sum up the way I think violence can be ethically integrated into a civilized society:

1)  Violence is only ethically justified when it is used to protect one’s self, or persons nearby, from bodily harm.

2) One must only use as much violence as is necessary to bring the violent situation to a halt.

Think about it.

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