Playing with Gender in D&D

Playing with Gender

This all started with goblins, but ended up being this little brainstorm I had during Save Against Fear. There are little kernels of this idea in D&D already, but I wanted to play out a view of sex and gender for the major intelligent species of D&D that fit with the lore as it is but was more interesting than just assuming two sexes and two genders in every case (which is ridiculous even with humans alone, not to mention every other intelligent species in D&D).

Note: this is not me wishing we could have lots of discussions and arguments about pronouns, multiplied times all of these intelligent species. That does not sound fun for me. He, she and they should cover it for these options in my opinion.

Goblin Gender

Otherwise this will be alphabetical, but I’m starting here because this was the first thought I had that led me along this path. I’ve always wondered about goblinoids: goblins, hobgoblins, and bugbears. Where do the drastically different body types come from? Do they intermarry? Can they interbreed? In previous editions they were just an outlier – where most intelligent species are ‘humanoid’ they are over there, the ‘goblinoids’, the other.

I realized, wouldn’t it be fun if all goblinoids are the same species, except they have three sexes, and the three types of goblinoids are their three sexes? So one sex is goblin, and one sex is hobgoblin, and one sex is bugbear, and it takes all three to reproduce. They all are born goblin-ish, and then have a big growth spurt if they are going to grow up to be hobgoblins, and then another growth spurt to become bugbears.

If you ask them how they make babies with three sexes, they of course attack you, because that’s an incredibly rude question.

Dragonborn Gender

Dragonborn (and maybe lizardfolk as well) are hermaphroditic with three genders. A dragonborn self-fertilizes when they are ready and lays a clutch of eggs. This is taxing and difficult, and when the dragonborn hatch they are much more helpless than normal for reptiles and require years of care like human infants and children. So the three genders are the One Who Lays, the One Who Guards, and the One Who Gathers. The first one is obvious. The second gender is taken on by a dragonborn who takes responsibility of guardianship for the layer and for the young. The third gender is for the dragonborn who takes responsibility to go out into the world and accomplish what needs to be done to support all three – hunting, gathering, earning gold, whatever.

Dwarf Gender

Dwarves have two sexes and one gender. Every wonder why all the jokes about dwarf women having beards and looking a lot like dwarf men? That’s because dwarves only have one gender. Though males tend to have thicker body and facial hair than females, they all are performing the same gender for all intents and purposes. Perhaps there are nuances there visible only to fellow dwarves.

Elf Gender

Elves have two sexes but are genderfluid over time. When you meet an elf, you are meeting someone on a 700 year long journey of exploration.

Gnome Gender

Ancient gnomes had a very strict system of two sexes and two genders. Modern gnomes are all transgressive about how they perform gender, and often take on aspects of the genders they see around them among other intelligent species. Intersex gnomes are held in high regard, meaning that they now functionally have three sexes.

Half-Elf Gender

Half-elves are normally born to human and elven parents at some point in the elf’s centuries-long life. What they call their parents could be unique to a particular half-elf, and they might very well be born to a mother who later, when the half-elf meets them as an adult, is now a man, and possibly even a father to new children. So half-elves tend to cling to their human side for stability, or embrace the fluidity of their elven side.

Half-Orc Gender

Half-orcs raised with orcs are given their purpose from the gods. Half-orcs raised with humans tend to choose and perform a human gender, though sometimes they encounter orcs later in life and are given a purpose then.

Halfling Gender

Halflings have two sexes and three genders. The three genders for halflings are male, female, and bachelor, in honor of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins. And, as far as we can tell, Merry and Pippin and Gaffer Gamgee and loads of others. Of course, women can be bachelors too. No self-respecting halfling would call her a bachelorette.

Human Gender

Humans have two sexes and three genders. But you don’t need terminology for this. You just describe men and women and intergender/nonbinary people, and then some of the men happen to be trans men and some of the women happen to be trans women. You have a lot less baked in bigotry, which is fun anyway.

Some Other Thoughts

Kenku Gender

Kenku keep their sexes secret from outsiders, though most assume they have two. In a kenku community, there is the gender of the sitter and the gender of the builder. A sitter is the one who primarily sits on the eggs while they develop, though a group might trade off on this activity, one tends to be primarily. The builder is the one who is responsible for building a nest, initially to garner the interest of potential sitters.

Orc Gender

Until adolescence orcs do not acknowledge gender. At adolescence, an orc goes into the wilderness to commune with the gods (this could be a metaphorical urban wilderness). The gods tell them their purpose and place in society, and that is functionally their gender. Some will have the purpose of parenting, but others won’t, and the part in society they perform is more important than what other species tend to think of as gender.

Shame Is Good.

Often when we say “shaming”, we mean “humiliating.” That is, when one person tries to force a feeling of shame on another person as a way to harm them or coerce them. This is an unfortunate change in the meaning of the word, because shame is good, and crucial to social and emotional life. A healthy relationship with shame is just like a healthy relationship with anger or fear or happiness, in that it does its job. But what is shame’s job?

I go with the work of Paul Ekman and others here in the area of discussing a handful of core emotions that serve social and evolutionary purposes, each of which one can find in every society all over the world. One of those core emotions is shame. (For a rough course in this theory, watch the film Inside Out. Seriously. It’s amazing, and they did their homework) Shame’s job is to acknowledge wrongdoing and remorse as a way to reconnect a person with their community. This is the face of shame (sometimes feigned, but consistent and recognizable):

The Universal Expressions | Oh, Not Him Again

Ironically, in some cases we see this expression on the face of a person who is denying wrongdoing, but that’s what indicates that shame is a deeply-rooted and universal expression – it comes up unconsciously in one’s face when the emotion is present, and it looks similar cross-culturally.

In brief, shame says “Yeah, I screwed up.” And in our evolutionary past, when being ostracized could easily mean starving to death or being eaten, it was crucial to allow people to acknowledge wrongdoing and seek reconciliation in order for them to survive.

Shame is not a popular feeling – this whole post came from an ongoing conversation with a friend of mine (more than one friend, but one in particular), wherein he says that shame is the root of evil and should be rooted out. The thing is, when I talk to him about what he means by “shame”, he doesn’t talk about the universal emotion described above and unconsciously expressed in our faces. Rather, he is talking about humiliation, or shaming, which is completely different in my opinion.

Shame is an acknowledgement; shaming is an assault. But we confuse the two, and I think it’s a significant problem. This problem is exemplified by Donald Trump.

I think that the core element of Trump’s personality, which as driven his rise to power, his persistence despite massive moral, financial, and professional failures that would have sunk anyone else long ago, is his utter inability to experience shame. He is pathologically shameless, and I think this lies behind everything else about him – the grandstanding, the weird obsession with gold and his hand size, picking fights randomly, punching down, cheating everyone in his life, betraying allies at the slightest sign of disloyalty, and constant lying.

If Donald Trump were capable of shame, he would be an entirely different person. A far more tolerable person. He’s exactly the kind of person who would be ostracized in order to be devoured by wild animals 20,000 years ago, but in a media-driven age of radical capitalism, he instead becomes a brand. He becomes unavoidable, irresistible for some. He becomes President, because why not? His image is that he is untouchable, the “Teflon Don”, because nothing can bring him down, and the key to that untouchability is his apparent inability to experience shame.

What Do We Do With Shame?

This is a key question as we continue to reorient society to be a place where more people are heard and their concerns taken seriously. Women, people of color, LGBTQ folks, and others are, in fits and starts, over decades of conflict and struggle, making a place for themselves in our white supremacist, patriarchal, hetero-normative, etc. culture. Nobody knows how to do this. We have to dismantle some things, and build up some new things, and unlearn a lot of deeply ingrained habits, and learn new life-giving habits, all at once, in public, while the world burns around us. A non-trivial challenge, one might say.

The purpose of shame is to visibly acknowledge wrongdoing, that a transgression has occurred, and to prompt one to make amends and be re-integrated into the community. But how do we do that in a way that is fair?

In the past, there was a “boys will be boys” mentality applied to the wrongdoing of white males in the United States, as well as in the case of institutions that enforced white supremacy like the police. There were never real repercussions for wrongdoing – certainly nothing resembling justice or equity, even less so reconciliation. This mentality still exists everywhere it is not actively being brought to light and rooted out. There is a lot of work to do.

One response has been to burn people down when their wrongdoing is brought to light and acknowledged. People who are critical of this impulse, like most recently Dave Chappelle in Sticks and Stones, call this “cancel culture.” The sense is that if someone is caught in wrongdoing and called out, they are cancelled and that’s it. No more from them in the public sphere, ever. The problem, I think, is that there is no way back. A healthy person who feels appropriate shame and wants to make amends cannot do so, and is treated very similarly to someone who is shameless and spiteful and never admits any wrongdoing. Given this situation, where shame cannot function healthfully, successful people will find that shame is a liability and we will encourage more Trumps and Trump-ism.

Shame is crucial, but for shame to work, there has to be a way back. Otherwise we are punishing healthy shame, and it’s hard to blame people for working hard not to feel that shame if they can avoid it, and keep that shame from moving them to reconcile.

Curse of Strahd: Non-Racist Vistani

I haven’t run Curse of Strahd (one of my players hates vampires so I’m not likely to do so any time soon) but I have read through it, and have read about it, and parts of it are racist AF. Here’s a great article that lays out how the depiction of the Vistani and mongrelfolk in particular are deeply racist. I’m going to talk more about the Vistani – the mongrelfolk have been in D&D monster manuals for decades and need their own consideration, in the context of all of the racism that is baked into D&D.

I’m not going to go through all of the problems and questions of Curse of Strahd either – I think there are things that a DM can adjust about the module, and other things that require some more consideration, and which definitely might or might not be good for a particular group; there’s a lot of violence against children baked in that I would have to remove, for example. (Pun intended)

I was thinking about the Vistani and how I would run them, because there are some aspects of them as a story idea that I like. I like that they can travel between worlds, and that they are the only ones who can traverse the Mists of Ravenloft. What struck me is how similar they could be to a carnival or circus – I imagined adolescents of the multiverse running away to join the Vistani, and I had my answer.

The Vistani is a carnival.

Now, there are plenty of stereotypes about “carnies” as well, though they tend to have more to do with social status than race, as with the Roma on whom the Vistani are obviously based. The advantage of a Vistani carnival, however, is that it can divorce the idea of the Vistani from race or species entirely. They are bound together not by ethnicity or even culture, but by sub-culture and profession. They are entertainers who wander from place to place.

I think that this retains a lot of what’s potentially interesting about the Vistani while getting rid of most of what’s problematic. You can still have a fortune teller – she can even be “Madam Eva”, a changeling playing up to tropes and stereotypes about fortune tellers at carnivals. Some of them can still be shifty thieves, since people who wander from place to place are more likely to take a loose view to the laws and customs of any place in particular. They can be insular, secretive, and highly loyal to one another; they can be exotic and play to tropes if they want because they are entertainers. They can even keep the reputation for stealing children, coming from young people running away to join them periodically. They can retain their dramatic, colorful dress, as I can see them taking on articles of clothing and jewelry (and magic items) from the various places they travel as a way to mark how long they have been part of the carnival and how far they’ve traveled.

The key is that none of this is linked to a real-world ethnic group, or even an imaginary one. None of these traits are intrinsic to them, and you can just as easily find honest, forthcoming, or even boring Vistani, because Vistani just means something like Circque du Soleil or Ringling Brothers. Oh, the Vistani are in town! That’s so fun! Also, the Vistani are in town, so watch your coins.

Given this idea, I think it would be cool if the Vistani kept showing up in all kinds of campaigns. You need some random group of people to give the PCs some cryptic hints or sell them some magic items? Hey, look, the Vistani. And so what if these particular Vistani happen to all be kenku and loxodon with a fire genasi ringleader? Now something racist has become something cooler, more interesting, more versatile, and more fun.

Maybe Comedy Was the Problem All Along

It’s only with great pain, and after long consideration, that I would write something like this. But I’m coming to the conclusion that comedy, which I once saw as a force for good in the world, and which has been literally life-saving for me in the past, might in fact be a huge contributor to the political horror-show we see in the United States right now. The misuse of comedy is without a doubt a problem, but it is such a pervasive smokescreen for genuine bad behavior that I really have to wonder.

The Heady Days of Jon Stewart

When Jon Stewart took over The Daily Show, it was a revolution. Before that, fake news comedy shows were almost unheard-of. He created a whole new major genre in entertainment and news. Millions of people tuned in two watch The Daily Show for years, and for many of us, it was our primary source of news. I can’t count how many times I learned about something going on in the country, or in the wider world, that I would have never known about without The Daily Show. Probably hundreds of times. And I laughed every time I watched, and it made me not want to die the way normal news made me want to die.

The Daily Show felt like something was happening. Something Important. Maybe the Fool could truly rein in the False King! Huzzah!

The Rise of Colbert

The Colbert Report was not like anything else. Nothing I’d ever seen, anyway. The guy got parts of the international space station named after him. He became a cultural phenomenon – for educated liberal types, anyway. He was like Jon Stewart 2.0, simply eviscerating conservative hypocrisy night after night. The problem was, the conservative hypocrisy only got stronger. They only grew in power. At the height of Colbert’s popularity, the GOP took over 3/4 of state legislatures and a majority of the governor-ships as well. 2010 happened, they got to gerrymander district lines, and we’ve been suffering ever since.

See, the problem is we thought that conservatives were capable of shame. We have since learned better.

Now Nazis are Comedians

This is one of the most common defenses I see deployed on behalf of white nationalist and professional trolls in places like YouTube and specifically the Joe Rogan Experience – they’re just being funny. It’s comedy. It’s irony. Why is everyone so upset? What about free speech? Blah blah blah Nazis. “I was just being funny” is a classic attempt at justifying awful behavior – that’s nothing new. What seems to be relatively new is that it is being used to excuse public behavior that is bigoted bullshit.

Milo Yiannapoulos is not a fucking comedian. Alex Jones is not a fucking comedian. Trump is not a fucking comedian. The alt-right is not a comedic movement, it is white supremacy and Fascism. They aren’t joking, and we should never treat them as if they were joking.

Dammit John Oliver

One of the most heartbreaking things I’ve seen in a while happened on Last Week Tonight a few months ago. First off, in case it wasn’t clear, I don’t find Trump the slightest bit entertaining. He was a boring piece of trash as a reality TV “star”, and a boring piece of trash making his cameo appearance in Home Alone 2, and a boring piece of trash on Howard Stern. He is boring and stupid and crass and a towering, self-satisfied ignoramus – the very worst kind of ignoramus.

As a result, I genuinely don’t understand people who otherwise seem quite intelligent, like John Oliver, who find him entertaining. But John Oliver recently had a bit where he talked about how Trump consistent gets us by being funny, mostly unintentionally, in the midst of all of his ignorant and bigoted rambling. At the end, a banner comes down, and balloons, and the banner reads “You Got Us.” Because, according to John Oliver, Trump does get us, again and again, by getting us to laugh at him while he says and does horrific things.

But by just presenting this as a fact, John Oliver is doing more harm. No matter how funny someone’s abusive spouse is, you don’t point that out while the abuse is ongoing. Even if a hijacker cracks jokes, it doesn’t matter until you escape. Trump is a monster, not a comedian. He’s taking hostages, not taking a bow.

It Happened Again Just Now

As this draft has been languishing, Trump had yet another racist tirade, and this sycophantic commentary came from Dear Leader State TV:

Of Course, Fox News Delighted in Trump’s Racist Tweet

Trump is the “comedian in chief.” Ha ha ha white supremacy and death threats. Comedy gold.

Another Coda: Chappelle’s Sticks and Stones

We get distracted by treating monsters like comedians, and we also get distracted by treating comedians like monsters. Where do we focus our energy? Because the time and attention we have isn’t infinite. So do we focus on Dave Chappelle once again making jokes about trans folks? Or focus on the increasingly genocidal concentration camps in which we are now indefinitely detaining people? Do we work to cancel Chappelle, or do we work to cancel Trump? And the dozens of white supremacists he’s put in power? And the dozens of others he’s put in charge of needed programs solely to destroy them? Sure, take a moment to vent on Twitter about what you think is Chappelle’s bullshit – but remember that he’s not a Nazi. The real Nazis are rising to power, and many of the people comedians make fun of, Nazis just want to exterminate.

Genius Advice for Mega-Rich Douchebags

Hi Mega-Rich Douchebags

You don’t wanna be kind and generous and reasonable, changing the world for the better quietly and doing what’s right for it’s own sake. You’re a moron, and  you want to be Batman. Well, you can’t be Batman. No one gets to be Batman, not even Batman.

But it’s even worse. People think you’re a piece of shit just because you’re a mega-rich douchebag. They look at your nesting-doll yacht-within-a-yacht and think “What in God’s name is wrong with you!?” What a bunch of complainers. Can’t they find their bootstraps? So now you’re super sad and money is causing you all of these problems, and you’re too stupid to just give the money away which is guaranteed to bring you joy and satisfaction. You want some ROI, some bang for your beaucoup bucks.

Well, I’ve got your back. I’m going to make you famous. Famouser.

Famousest.

Genius Advice

Instead of being famous for being a mega-rich douchebag, you could be famous or being a hero. Instead of the guillotine, you could have standing ovations in your near future my friend. And you can do this without having the slightest impact on your quality of life. Watch as competing mega-rich douchebags writhe with jealousy on their nesting-doll yachts while you earn the acclaim of millions of plebs and mensch. Let the salt of the earth enhance the flavor of your lifestyle!

You Can End Malaria

It costs about $20 to send a mosquito net to a third world location, and a whole family can sleep under that net. This does a huge amount to prevent them from contracting malaria, which kills almost 2 million people a year, and also protects them from things like dengue fever and any number of other tropical, insect-borne diseases.

According to the CDC, about 216 million malaria cases occurred in 2016, so let’s do some math. 216 million times 20 bucks equals about $4.32 billion dollars, give or take millions of dollars.

According to Forbes, there are 2,153 billionaires in the world with a combined wealth of 8.7 trillion dollars. (I just threw up in my mouth a little) So, for about 1/2000th of that wealth, you could end malaria on Earth, saving millions of lives a year. Some of you could end malaria by yourselves, right now, and still have billions of dollars left over.

Can you imagine how many guillotines you would not be dragged to if you did that?

People Need Water

According to UNICEF and others, the highest estimate of the cost to provide clean water to every human being on Earth is $175 billion, and it could be as low as $10 billion. But let’s go with the higher number. About a third of people on earth do not have access to clean water, and it causes…literally innumerable health problems, immeasurable suffering, millions of needless deaths, etc.

Where you mega-rich douchebags could collectively end malaria 2,000 times over, you would only be able to provide clean water to every human being on Earth about 50 times over.

So for 1/50th of your collective wealth, 1/3 of all humans living on Earth would owe you their lives. After that, you still have 98% of your wealth, as well as the undying gratitude of pretty much every person ever to live. Not a bad ROI if you ask me, mega-rich douchebags.

End Medical Debt

This one is local, to the mere 585 billionaires who are citizens of the United States. As you may know, crushing medical debt is a huge driver of bankruptcy in the United States, and all over the country people are making daily health decisions driven by the fear of debt rather than on their own merits. It’s a big enough issue that it comes up in pretty much every Presidential debate. Remember Obamacare? That sure took a lot of attention, didn’t it? That’s in many ways because of medical debt, which drives maybe 800,000 people into bankruptcy each year (again, the numbers are hard to nail down).

The total wealth of all US billionaires is somewhere around 2.2 trillion dollars. The total of medical debt in the US is difficult to figure out, though 49.2 million Americans were in medical debt themselves as of 2017. The good news is that, because of the system that you mega-rich douchebags have created, it is possible to buy other people’s medical debts and cancel them. And because the system is entirely created to benefit investors and punish debtors (Isn’t it always? Am I right? High five!) you can buy that medical debt for about 5 to 10 cents on the dollar.

So, if you really wanted to go out with a bang, you could cancel 22 trillion dollars of medical debt, or almost $70,000 for every American man, woman and child. Of course that’s way more than they’re likely to have, so we can tone it down. Let’s say you put a tithe (10% you heathens) toward cancelling medical debt – that would still cancel far more medical debt than currently exists in the US. Even 1% of your wealth put to debt cancellation would enable you to cancel a minimum of $220 billion of medical debt and possibly up to $440 billion. And, come on. You can’t tell me you’d feel a 1% loss. (For a sense of scale, that’s half of the entire Pentagon budget and, again, only 1% of your wealth)

The Point

Look, mega-rich douchebags – we only admire you when you’re looking. The overwhelming majority of us think you are all pieces of garbage who are hoarding resources that any idiot could find better ways to use. We see the fleet of Lambos and then the starving children and think, deep down in our guts, fuck you.

So this is some genius advice for you – you could spend just a fraction of your wealth and change the world for the better.

And if you don’t, then our worst opinions about you are completely true, and every fall of a guillotine blade will be justified. Shunk! You could have ended malaria, but didn’t. Shunk! You could have rescued millions from misery, but didn’t. Shunk! You hoarded resources and made the world worse and there’s no justification. Shunk!

Your move, douchebags.

If you would like to find out my secret methods for avoiding the guillotine and clearing the miasma of greed that chokes you even now, I offer a full suite of consulting services for only 0.1% of 1 billion dollars. A steal!

An Early Decline? Or A Fetish For Novelty

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/07/work-peak-professional-decline/590650/

The above article from The Atlantic made the rounds on my social media recently, and I found it to be worth the read. It is about how professional decline comes earlier than one might expect, and the author reflects on what he sees as his own professional decline.

Here, “decline” is how he describes the transition, observed in many cultures, from being someone who solves problems in novel ways (having what the author calls ‘fluid intelligence’) to someone who is primarily a teacher or mentor for others, who has more ‘crystallized intelligence’, or intelligence that is based on what one has already learned. In other cultures, they would call intelligence that comes from accumulated knowledge and experience, which is used to teach and to mentor – wisdom.

After some reflection, it occurred to me how absurd it is to view this process as decline. Absurd, and a little bit horrific (as my culture often is when I think about it carefully). It highlights how maladaptive our culture is, and one of the many ways we value the wrong things.

Fetishizing Novelty

In many areas of life, even in the United States, we acknowledge that something has greater value because it is old. We feel this way about furniture, and architecture, and documents. This is why we have museums and special collections and archives. There is some survivor bias here – the things that have lasted seem like they must be of greater value. They have, in a way, proven themselves over the test of time.

As a materialistic, consumer culture, however, we crave novelty. For human beings, especially women, we view one’s youth as what gives them value, and see that value as diminishing over time. We are driven, by the fruits of billions of dollars of psychological marketing research each year, to crave more things and new things. Our whole society conspires to make us unwell, dissatisfied, and unhappy, because we would otherwise stop consuming. We are taught to fetishize novelty – the new product is valuable because it is new. The new idea is valuable because it is new. New art is valuable because it is new. This is strange because we are one of the only cultures in the history of humankind that thinks this way.

Oh Yeah We Hate Teachers Too

Many Americans treat teachers with contempt. Maybe not face to face, but the way we treat them, pay them, the way we fund schools, the thankless demands we place on them, all reek of contempt. Even lower than teachers are caregivers – people who care for children and the elderly are almost universally treated poorly and poorly paid. Don’t believe me? Go get a job at a nursing home right now, I dare you. It’ll be the hardest, most thankless job you’ve ever had, and you will not be able to live on what you are paid. We assume that people who would lower themselves to care for other human beings must be doing it out of a sense of martyrdom.

You can see it in the above article, and the mindset that it reflects (which is common and widespread) that one has to lower one’s self, to enter into decline, in order to teach and to mentor others. That is a demotion – we experience it as such, trained and acculturated as we are. A humane, rational society would see teaching and caring for other human beings as one of the most noble and important things one could possibly do. American society is neither humane nor rational.

Ubiquity of Elders

Every single culture on planet Earth developed such that elders were honored. Until very recently (the last few seconds on an evolutionary time-scale) that is a generalization that could be made about any culture, sight unseen. Even in the modern world, many cultures continue to value and honor elders. They are seen as wise, worthwhile, and as key contributors to a community. There is no surviving traditional society we know of that does not honor elders, and there are plenty of societies that have survived into the modern world that continue to do the same.

Now, why would every human culture in known history come to the conclusion that elders were to be valued? Let’s say fetishizing novelty was a good idea – if it was, then cultures that fetishized novelty would have flourished, displacing the ones that did not. Those cultures that honored stodgy elders who have faded away and lost out.

What we see is the exact opposite – cultures that fetishize novelty are committing collective suicide at a rate unseen in Earth’s geological history. We are dying in a conflagration of our own making. The cultures that honor the people that the above article sees as experiencing “decline” persisted for hundreds of thousands of years, and the cultures that ceased to do this are killing themselves and spreading poison and misery to a degree never before seen.

What If Age Is Not Decline?

It is very difficult to change a culture, and much of what changes a culture is surprising and out of anyone’s conscious control. The couple dozen people who read this blog post are not going to be able to get together and change our society so that age is not seen as necessary decline, but rather as a time where there is the potential for wisdom and for being able to share that wisdom.

We don’t value wisdom, as a society. We don’t know how to recognize it or seek it out. We don’t reward it or encourage it or honor it. We value novel solutions to ‘problems’ like “How do we produce more crap more cheaply?” and “How can we get more people to want to buy our crap?” We don’t realize that our solutions merely create more problems until it is basically too late, if ever. The billionaires are shipping consumer goods to our doors and building asinine hyper-loops while the people who are trying to teach and mentor have to take second and third jobs to pay their student loans.

Fetishizing novelty, among other things, is killing us. Predictably so, since every society to come before decided not to do that. But here we are. If we valued wisdom, we probably would be wise enough to see this happening and change.

A Place For Church

Yes, church. That place where we brainwash our kids (OK some of us do) and conspire to strip away basic rights (yes some of us do that too and it’s shitty). Church is also one of the only places in American society, in our novelty-fetishizing society, where old people are valued. Not in every church, but in most churches, and the idea of honoring elders is built into Christianity, and is something we might do well to highlight and feature.

Churches are full of old folks – why? Maybe because churches are a place, in contrast to families and professions and hobbies, where elders are honored. In my own tradition, to be an “elder” is to be an elected leader of the church who runs things and makes decisions. An “elder” does not have to be literally old, but almost all of them are over 55, and it is a position of leadership and worth and work that someone could easily maintain into their 80s.

In every other area of life I can think of, we partition off our elderly and place them in social ghettoes. Elders literally die from feeling useless, and commit suicide because they feel like they are a burden on their loved ones. When we talk about them, it is as a burden on society – how will we pay for all of these Baby Boomers collecting Social Security and living longer? Where will we warehouse them? How can we get them to stop watching Fox News?

Churches obviously have huge problems, but I do think that one way churches can and should be counter-cultural and adaptive is to be places where elders are not only valued, but also integrated with people of other ages and generations. It’s rare to have a group of people who meet every week in the same room, doing the same things, ranging in age from 6 months to 96 years – for my own context, we call that Sunday morning at church.

We Must Ignore Donald Trump

unamerican gothic

Donald Trump Is Pure Garbage

If his words and actions, during his 40 years of public life, have not been enough to convince you of this, you are hopeless. One thing we’ve learned these past three years is that tens of millions of Americans will collectively climb into a burning dumpster and tell each other how great it is, and almost none of them will climb out. Those of us outside the burning dumpster are dumbfounded, awed, and demoralized by the sight, but this post is not about why people are climbing in there or why they won’t climb out. This post is about how we can finally look away from the burning dumpster, because the people in there clearly chose to be there, and it’s not going to stop burning or being a dumpster.

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Donald Trump Will Never Change

Donald is what happens when a rich white man in America spends an entire lifetime never experiencing a single consequence for his actions. Whether he’s a schoolkid punching his teacher in the face, or attending a child-rape party, or stealing tens of millions of dollars from people, he has never experienced even a gentle slap on the hand in 72 years and counting.

He has never changed, and he will never change. I mean, why would he? He’s rich and the President. He keeps winning, so why would he behave any differently? It will never matter what’s in the news about him, or what embarrassing fact comes out, or how bad he gets burned on Twitter, or what hot take is published about him. None of that has ever mattered to him, and it never will. Giving him more attention will never stop him – it only feeds him. It’s giving him what he wants.

MAGA

Nothing Donald Trump Does Or Says Will Ever Surprise Us

Every single day since November 9th 2016, burning feces has been raining from the sky. For a while, this was worth talking about. I mean, holy shit, burning feces? From the sky? Every day!? Yes, every single day.

But there comes a time when we just accept that the weather forecast is now burning feces every day and get on with our lives. It won’t stop. It will continuously rain burning feces for two, maybe six more years. Mueller won’t stop the rain of burning feces, and everyone with the power to slow the rain or give us umbrellas is a coward or a traitor or both. So this is where we are now. This is life.

We have to move forward, and there’s just no reason to discuss the rain of burning feces any longer. It is what it is. It burns, and it is feces.

We must ignore Trump. Nothing meaningful will ever come from giving him a single moment’s attention.

Trumppet