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December 27, 2007

More Push-polling
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 10:47 PM * 166 comments

Tonight’s hilarity was another robo-call, an anti-McCain/anti-Thompson push-poll, purportedly from a group called “Citizens for Fair Taxes” (or something similar to that). Their robot claimed that they aren’t affiliated with any campaign….

My question is, why anti-Thompson? He isn’t polling well enough for anyone to worry about him. Or was including him just a smokescreen?


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Comments on More Push-polling:
#1 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 11:09 PM:

fwiw, Thompson is doing really well amongst the nativists online - he handily walks away with la Malkin's reader poll here

#2 ::: John Chu ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 11:24 PM:

It might be Huckabee, or some organization which supports Huckabee. He advocates replacing the income tax with a blatantly regressive 23% national sales tax. Contrary to what he calls it, it is an extremely unfair tax. (e.g., people who are too poor to pay income tax today would experience a net increase in the taxes they pay.) Advocates of this sort of system suggests that the government could mail subsidies to the poor to make the tax less regressive. But one of the reasons they advocate this tax is so that they can abolish the IRS. In that case, who's going to keep track of who gets these subsidies and how much they get?

That Huckabee can support such an unworkable proposal and not get called on it is one of the reasons why I dislike him. (Another reason is that he's one of those people who can hateful things about others and get away with it because he's "just joking." )

#3 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 11:33 PM:

I guess Mitt had a coupon to Smear one candidate at full price and smear a second free.*


* Second candidate must be of equal or lesser popularity.

#4 ::: Katherine Mankiller ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 11:58 PM:

John @ 2:

Oh, don't get me started. I live in Linder's district. The part that really makes me howl with laughter is where they explain that since businesses won't have to pay any taxes any more, they'll obviously pass the savings on to the consumers and prices will plummet!

#5 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 12:30 AM:

John @ 2: No kidding. Huckabee is Bush Mark 2, down to the asinine press people who think that his crudity is a mark of authenticity.

Did you read about the deep-fried squirrels?

#6 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 01:44 AM:

A friend of mine in Iowa is getting them too.

#7 ::: Pete ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 04:54 AM:

Scripted drama

I'm calling on behalf of [fake name here]
I'd like to ask you "questions" meant to slur
I hope you'll vote for [our guy] out of fear

Their candidate supports [insert claim here]
And holds [claimed views] to which you would demur
I'm calling on behalf of [fake name here]

The other candidates [put false claim here]
And [other claims which border on slander]
I hope you'll vote for [our guy] out of fear

Their candidate has said [insert lie here]
And [other lies to which I will refer]
I'm calling on behalf of [fake name here]

The other candidates support [lie here]
And [still worse things I want you to infer]
I hope you'll vote for [our guy] out of fear

In closing please support [our guy's name here]
Whose positions I want you to prefer
I'm calling on behalf of [fake name here]
I hope you'll vote for [our guy] out of fear

#8 ::: Wesley ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 07:17 AM:

#5: Have you heard about Huckabee's Christmas pheasant hunt with the media?

"Don't get in my way," he said while pointing to the three dead birds.

"This is what happens…You vote for me, you live. You don't…there you go."

There was a lot more on NPR, including "That way you prove that you can shoot, and if somebody really messes with you with negative campaign ads, they just need to be prepared."

This is what NPR calls a "sense of humor."

It was a joke, of course. But I hear these jokes from the right a lot, and every time I get a little closer to thinking they might be serious.

#10 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 10:04 AM:

Huckabee sounds like a horrific combo of Bush and Cheney, all masked behind those "cute" dimples.

#11 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 10:28 AM:

Faren @ 10 -- Yes, and that is why I am currently very, very frightened by his popularity.

#12 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 10:50 AM:

Pete, #7: Cute! One caveat -- the inverted stress on "slander" clangs oddly to the ear; is there a reasonable way to rewrite that line?

#13 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 11:46 AM:

Katherine Mankiller #4: Whatever it is Lindner and Boortz are smoking definitely ought to be illegal. The idea of a tax that would intentionally keep the poor poor, and fix the class system into place even more firmly than in nineteenth century Britain, is appalling.

#14 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 11:47 AM:

Pete #7: Nicely done!

#15 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 12:28 PM:

Pete @ 7: Sweet! I'm jealous.

#16 ::: yuubi ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 12:32 PM:

>>2


Advocates of this sort of system suggests that the government could mail subsidies to the poor to make the tax less regressive. But one of the reasons they advocate this tax is so that they can abolish the IRS. In that case, who's going to keep track of who gets these subsidies and how much they get?

Advocates of the one detailed proposal I've heard propose that the government mail "prebate"[1] checks to everyone with a Social Security number. This reduces the problem to maintaining a list of everyone, which the Social Security department already does. It probably is cheaper to generate 12 checks even for rich people who can wait until the end of the year than to set up a system to send monthly checks only to the poor.

It nets out to be progressive: people get a check to cover the tax on the first ~$10k/year of spending (so they don't pay the sales tax out of pocket), then they pay the tax on everything else. Details here.


[1] What an ugly neologism.

[2] The 23% number advocates throw around actually means that 23% of the retail price of everything is tax. This is parallel with how income taxes are figured now (income tax percentages are based on gross pay, not net), so it's fair, but if you started with the net sale price the merchant gets to keep, then you'd get a 30% tax.

#17 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 12:46 PM:

Pete 7: Me likey!

#18 ::: Constance Ash ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 02:11 PM:

#8 -- Not only did Huckabee make that not laughing over here joke about shooting dead those who don't do as he says, he also shot in the direction of the journalists. A pheasant got flushed either in front or right behind them, and he pulled the trigger! Number one rule of hunting is that you never, ever, ever, shoot in the direction of other people. Right. He shot over their heads. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

This tells you all you need to know.

Like the first mention of dub in the NY Times -- defending his frat's right to burn freshman with red-hot coat hangers.

Love, C.

#19 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 02:40 PM:

Constance Ash @ 18:

Like the first mention of dub in the NY Times -- defending his frat's right to burn freshman with red-hot coat hangers.

I would suggest if you came to my campus and suggested to the black fraternities that they have no right to brand their members, they'd consider that an unreasonable intrusion on their organization, and I'd agree with them.

#20 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 02:51 PM:

John 19*: I would not agree with them. Hazing is a bad thing and needs to be stopped. Fraternities can practice it if they want, but they should be banned for doing so from any university that holds with any kind of humane ethic.

In other words, a fraternity is not quite a private club, and college freshmen are not quite adults; a university that allows fraternities to live or function on campus, or recruit its students, has an obligation to prevent hazing and protect students from fraternities that practice it. IMO, VWPOT.

*Isn't that where sentence is pronounced? Coincidence, I promise.

#21 ::: Richard Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 03:23 PM:

Wesley @ 8: Creepiest far-right joke I've heard was in the documentary Diary of a Political Journalist, where one of the GOP hacks enjoying BBQ on the White House lawn says, "It's all over but the countin'...and we'll take care of the countin'."

It's a lot harder for me to believe Huckabee is serious about shooting voters than it was to believe this guy.

(Apologies in advance to anyone offended by my punctuation.)

#22 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 03:27 PM:

On the other hand ... trying to shoot a pheasant that's flying toward reporters (or anyone else) qualifies Huckabee as 'unthinking' in my book. Even if he tried to make a joke out of it - it isn't funny.

#23 ::: lightning ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 03:30 PM:

Re the "sales" tax --

A distressing amount of our politics is based on the assumption that nobody can do simple arithmetic. From what I've heard, the real tax rate to replace the current income tax varies between 40% and 100%, depending on assumptions.

Gimmick with the "prebates" (ecch!) is that, the poorer you are, the more of a hassle it is to cash checks. ID? Permanent address? Mail theft? Problematical to the poor. So fewer of the checks will get cashed.

Now, the way to go is to tax only savings & investment ...

#24 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 04:06 PM:

Fragano #13:

I don't claim any special expertise here, but I think you could make a list of problems with our current tax system at least as long as the ones you could make for a national sales tax, VAT, or other idea. If you tax consumption, you have a problem with regressive taxes, since richer people save more back than poor people. If you tax income, you have a different problem, because you make working less rewarding, and you also have a regressive tax at the far end of the income distribution, where people can take their "income" as appreciation of an asset or the ability to get more income later.

One thing I'm pretty sure of is that the tax system we have is rotten, subject to all kinds of gaming by wealthy people, full of goodies handed out to whoever got the right bribe to the right congressman, and complicated enough that a lot of middle-class educated people pay someone else to do their taxes. Another thing I'm pretty sure of is that any attempt to change that system will be really hard, because so many different people get some kind of benefit from the way it works now, and it will be very difficult to avoid having a new tax code end up with the same bad properties.

#25 ::: Constance Ash ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 04:11 PM:

#19 -- Would it be out of bounds to ask what university this would be and which fraternities, where branding of members as initiation is considered a terrific thing to do?

#26 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 04:25 PM:

Constance Ash @ 25: Would it be relevant? I've seen this practice at many universities and among many fraternities. (And not limited to black fraternities, but I had a point in mind in making it specific to them.)

Let me ask you this: Many (I'm told--sadly, I've never had the chance to investigate) Chi Omegas have sorority tattoos on their inner thighs. I suspect that's more painful than a brand on the upper arm. Do you object to that practice.

#27 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 04:29 PM:

John 26: You didn't address your comments to me, or refer to mine at 20, but I'd object to it being done as part of initiation, yes. If the Chi Omegas have it done themselves, later, it's subject to the same principles as any other tattoo. But if it's done at initiation then it's hazing and should be stopped.

#28 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 05:14 PM:

Xopher @ 27: You've caught me palming a card. The Chi Os (if rumor is correct) do get their tattoos after initiation. I believe the same of most (if not all) of the fraternities I'm aware of who practice branding.

I guess my personal experience makes me unable to see reason on this point, because being hazed during freshman initiation (college initiation--we didn't have frats) was one of the most enjoyable experiences of that part of my life.

The problem isn't (from my point of view) so much hazing as it is abusive hazing. There are lines one doesn't cross. Both in the old wide-open days and (I believe) currently in the underground days, hazing did sometimes did cross those lines. I understand, though, the value of a shared ordeal in social group formation, and I think it's a good thing to create artificial ordeals which, under controlled conditions and within appropriate limits, provide that value.

#29 ::: Pete ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 05:19 PM:

Lee @ 12: Yeah, it's not ideal.
Trouble is I can't think of that many words which have the right stress on the trailing "er".
I wonder; this sounds like a question for the Oracle at Mountain View...
[Pete queries]
Ye gods - I had no idea there were dictionaries for rhymes.
[Pete bookmarks RhymeZone]

Okay, how about:
And [slanderous claims with which you won't concur]

#30 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 05:30 PM:

Welcome to the club*, Pete. I use rhymezone too.

-----
* The Worshipful Company of Making Light Versifiers and Doggerel-Smiths, if you're wondering what club.

#31 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 05:52 PM:

John 28: Well, there's a slight difference of language here. My 'hazing' is your 'abusive hazing'; my 'non-hazing initiation' is your 'non-abusive hazing'. I think. I would regard branding as abusive hazing. I infer from your statements that you do not, or is that another card I see in your palm? :-)

Some of my friends have told me what their initiation into a fraternity consisted of (gasp!), and I found them appalling and disturbing. But without exception they described their initiations as overall a positive experience. I think perhaps that the kind of person who belongs in a fraternity (or whatever) may benefit from such an experience, whereas the kind of person I am would not. I strongly suspect it's a "mileage varies" kind of thing, in other words.

A couple of other thoughts: when I was in seventh grade, a group of larger guys grabbed me and tried to stick my head in the toilet. I fought tooth and nail (and I do mean tooth: I bit several of them) and successfully avoided being dunked. I later found out that this was a game these guys played, that several of them had had it done to them too, and that in fact they stopped just short of the surface of the water in every case. I succeeded in making them give it up way before that point.

I expect most victims of this would not have fought as hard, nor been as terrified as I was. I expect most victims thought they were fighting to keep their hair from getting wet, and YUCK IT'S A TOILET.

I was fighting for my life, or so I thought, because I thought they would hold my head under the water until I died. This is one of those things that people from happy backgrounds just don't get. You all trust people not to kill (or seriously harm) you unless you have reason to think they're homicidal. I assume anyone I meet might want to kill (or seriously harm) me unless I have reason to trust them.

Or did, back then. I've had decades of therapy since, and a breakthrough a few years ago ("Most people don't want to hurt me, especially total strangers").

The only other thing is this: I heard of one initiation that seemed to consist primarily of leaving the initiates pledges tied to chairs in a dark room with annoying music and a strobe light for some extended period (not an excessive one in terms of bodily needs). That seems tame to the point of being pathetic. In fact the only problem I have with it is that they left the pledges alone. My younger brother, in that scenario, would have had a grand mal seizure triggered by the strobe light, and might have died.

So while I agree in principle with your last paragraph, in practice I think properly controlled conditions are unlikely to occur in a fraternity house. They just don't have the knowledge or experience to know what's dangerous.

#32 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 05:54 PM:

Wait, you said most of the fraternities do the branding later too. Ignore that part.

#33 ::: Pete ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 05:59 PM:

abi @ 30: I gratefully accept this honour, and vow to use my abilities (such as they are) for the greater good...

#34 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 06:10 PM:

Xopher @ 32:

So while I agree in principle with your last paragraph, in practice I think properly controlled conditions are unlikely to occur in a fraternity house. They just don't have the knowledge or experience to know what's dangerous.

True enough, which is where university supervision comes in, or should, or would, if universities hadn't abdicated this responsibility. The college I first went to didn't have frats, but they did have social clubs similar to frats but without frat houses, and they were fairly closely supervised by their faculty advisors. (Freshman initiation, which was optional--if you weren't wearing a beanie, you were off limits--was similarly supervised.) Possibly the lack of a frat house helped in that.

#35 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 06:16 PM:

Albatross, #24: If you tax income, you have a different problem, because you make working less rewarding

Not if you tax ALL income, from whatever source. Right now, one of the largest problems in the system is that wage income is fully taxed, while many other forms of income available only to the rich are taxed not at all or very lightly -- and it's exactly those forms of income that Republicans keep wanting to reduce taxes on even more, pretending that those changes will benefit people who make less than $100K/year. Take out those loopholes for tax-free income, and you could probably cut the tax rate on wages!

(Not tackling the rest of your sentence because I'm not sure I understood it.)

John, #26 & 28: It doesn't matter whether the tattooing/branding is done before or after the initiation. If self-mutilation of any type is mandatory for belonging to the organization, it's wrong. If it's voluntary, then it's up to the individuals involved whether or not they want to do it.

I am deeply suspicious of the concept of "a shared ordeal in social group formation" precisely because it is so easily and frequently subject to abuse... and also because it leads so very easily to an equally-abusable "us vs. them" mentality, wherein anyone who is not a Member of the Club is viewed as somewhat less than fully human.

I will also admit to having a gut-deep reaction of "appalled" to your statement that you found hazing to be enjoyable. Military training (a similar "bonding ordeal") has at least the ultimate practical goal of giving one the skills necessary to be a soldier. What practical purpose does frat hazing serve, beyond "I had to do it, so now they have to do it too"?

Pete, #29: Oh yes, that's much better! Aren't rhyming dictionaries wonderful?

#36 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 06:17 PM:

John 34: Well, if it were done that way I could see it. I think it's in frat houses where the really bad shit happens.

If I'd gone to such a college, I definitely would not have worn a beanie, and I would have had a very difficult time understanding why anyone would. I understand better now, but it's still quite an alien mindset. A shared ordeal is one thing, but to voluntarily seek one out? I just can't wrap my mind around that at all.

#37 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 06:21 PM:

oddly enough I'm' watching a program on hazing.

One of the reasons I ignored any of the offers of sororities is that I knew they did this shit. And it's shit. Humiliating oneself to 'get into a group' is so alien to the sense of self-respect I was brought up with that it's offensive.

"We're following a set thing that's gone on for semesters, I've done the same thing as the guys before me. How can any one person be held at fault?" (said by members of a fraternity that insisted their pledges drink lots of water, after one pledge died of water poisoning. It resulted in the first felony manslaughter charges re: hazing in the United States (Chico State).).

#38 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 07:03 PM:

abi @ 30

I've been alternating between RhymeZone* and Poetry.com, hoping to figure out if one is better than the other. No conclusion as yet.

Would it be helpful to put together a list of poetry resources for those who want to versify but may not have extensive google-fu?

* That sounds too much like rizome, making me wonder if the poetry doesn't end up a bit vegetative. "My vegetable lover" and all that.

#39 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 07:19 PM:

The most progressive tax I can think of is a percentage tax on corruption. Any bribe or kickback to any government or corporate official would be taxable at some base rate, possibly with risers above some truly obscene amount like $10e6.

The concept is simple: take the money to run the government from the people who gain the most from access to the government.

Accurate reporting is obviously the problem here, so I propose the Government and Corporate Surveillance Act of 2008, whereby we surveil all government and corporate officials authorized to receive bribes. Each one of them wears a camera 24 hours a day, so the IRS can monitor compliance with tax law. This might be a problem for Republicans with variant sexual habits; it might be necessary to tax them too.

#40 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 10:16 PM:

Taxation -- I pay almost no federal income tax now and no state tax because I don't get much money and some of it goes for my mortgage and a lot of it goes for medical stuff. If I was taxed on what I bought, instead, I wouldn't have the money to buy stuff, including the medical stuff. Death by taxation.

Hazing -- I went for one year to a small religious liberal arts college in Seattle. When I got there, I found out they had a number of "celebration rituals" and I made it clear that I wouldn't be involved in them. Then my birthday came and women from my dorm were let in by my roommates and told me it was time to get up and get tied to a tree in my nightgown until a passerby let me loose and then we'd have breakfast at Sambo's. (This was the female birthday ritual.) I had refused to tie other women to trees, etc., and I had made it clear that I wasn't going to participate in any way so when they came in that morning, I said "No." They said "Everybody does this! Come on!" I said "No, I'm not doing it, I told you that." When they started pulling me out of the bed, I punched one of them in the stomach and they went away.

I found out later that they had complained to the resident director that I had punched the girl. She told them that I had always said I wouldn't do it and hadn't and that if they were physically moving me out of my bed, she wouldn't punish me for the punch. They were still annoying for a while.

The male birthday ritual: Wake him up on his birthday, drive him to SeaTac and leave him in the terminal in his skivvies, to get home on his own.

The engagement ritual: Both parties were carried to a canal on the property and thrown in.

(This punch is the second of three on my "eights" -- 8 years old, 18 years old, and 28 years old. When I was 38 and 48 years old, I was disabled and retired. I'm not sure that's it's that I got sick so much as that abuse and hazing has become less common.)

#41 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 10:59 PM:

Apologies to Jim for hijacking his thread. It crawled into my hand, honest.

Lee @ 35:

If self-mutilation of any type is mandatory for belonging to the organization, it's wrong. If it's voluntary, then it's up to the individuals involved whether or not they want to do it.

Belonging itself is voluntary, isn't it? So I'm not sure I see the distinction.

I am deeply suspicious of the concept of "a shared ordeal in social group formation" precisely because it is so easily and frequently subject to abuse... and also because it leads so very easily to an equally-abusable "us vs. them" mentality, wherein anyone who is not a Member of the Club is viewed as somewhat less than fully human.

My thought is those abusive potentials are part of group dynamics, period.

I will also admit to having a gut-deep reaction of "appalled" to your statement that you found hazing to be enjoyable.

Freshman initiation barely qualified as hazing: Wear the beanie, sing the school song on demand, walk on sidewalks and not the grass, and, at worst, being tossed in the school lake. I enjoyed it enough that I volunteered to be a freshman again the next year.

Why did I enjoy it? I'd always been very much an outsider in school. Not hated or shunned, just not part of the crowd. Here, for a very small amount of effort and silliness, I was taken into the group. That felt good, very good, and was cheap at the price.

What practical purpose does frat hazing serve, beyond "I had to do it, so now they have to do it too"?

Up in Fayetteville, where all the kids of the state's rich scum rise, the white fraternities are the primary place where the next generation of powermongers socialize and learn class solidarity, against we common people, of course.

From my point of view, that's like practicing up for genocide. From their point of view, that's valuable. I see (but do not share) their point: If I'd wanted to be a bond daddy, I'd've done my damnedest to pledge a fraternity.

Xopher @ 36:

A shared ordeal is one thing, but to voluntarily seek one out?

People do it all the time, don't they? Wildnerness camping and hiking. Lodge initiations. Road trips. The Dead. Startups. (Okay, maybe I'm raving now.) Picket lines. Civil disobedience, including not bailing out and staying in jail. Political campaigns.

Paula Helm Murray @ 37:

"We're following a set thing that's gone on for semesters, I've done the same thing as the guys before me. How can any one person be held at fault?" (said by members of a fraternity that insisted their pledges drink lots of water, after one pledge died of water poisoning. It resulted in the first felony manslaughter charges re: hazing in the United States (Chico State).).

I'm curious--was there a conviction? I think that'd be a pretty tough prosecution.

(No one goes after the organizers of marathons when a runner dies of electrolyte depletion because of too much water and not enough Gatorade. Not quite the same thing, I know, but close enough to make a comparison.)

#42 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 11:13 PM:

Arkansawyer, there was a conviction. It was (according to the show) the first successful hazing conviction in the U.S. (look up Chico State and hazing conviction in Google). The program I was watching had several other criminal cases involved in hazing

We may think kids are being brought up with enough self-esteem not to be wooed by this kind of pressure, but I'm positive that they're not. Peer pressure is hard to fight against, but the kids today may be more susceptible because as long as things are going their way, they won't protest they expect life to be easy. Unless they have an adverse outcome.

Just saying.

#43 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 11:20 PM:

John 41: People do it all the time, don't they? Wildnerness camping and hiking. Lodge initiations. Road trips. The Dead. Startups. (Okay, maybe I'm raving now.) Picket lines. Civil disobedience, including not bailing out and staying in jail. Political campaigns.

Except for lodge initiations, which AFAIK are the same as fraternity initiations, these are not chosen to be ordeals. People do the things on this list despite the fact that they are ordeals, not because they are.

Voluntarily seeking out an ordeal qua ordeal is the part I don't comprehend.

#44 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 11:21 PM:

Marilee 40: What an appalling group of numbskulls. I'm glad you punched one of them. Too bad you couldn't have punched them all.

#45 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 11:32 PM:

Xopher @ 44 re: Marilee @ 40: Yes, they were jerks and deserved to be written up by the resident director.

But Marilee, do you think that your attitude could be felt as a rejection, possibly an offensive one, of them?

#46 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 11:35 PM:

John, I'm not Marilee, but of course it could! It was one. I can't speak for Marilee, but I will offensively reject anyone who tries to kidnap me and leave me tied to a tree or abandoned in my underwear at an airport. I will offensively reject them with any degree of force necessary to ensure that their efforts to do so fail.

#47 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 11:36 PM:

And no, I don't care if I hurt their feelings. If someone's doing violence to me (and Marilee had made it very clear she was not a willing participant) then break their knees and run, I say.

#48 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 11:40 PM:

Xopher @ 46/47: No, I don't mean the punch. They clearly had that coming and were lucky to just get one. I meant the rejection of the ritual, long before their dumbass ill-advised attempt to pull Marilee out of bed.

#49 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 11:54 PM:

John A Arkansawyer: I should think Marilee's rejection of that was seen as such. They assaulted her, were attempting to physically force her to do something she wasn't willing to do.

That deserves to be rejected. She, to borrow an example, wans't wearing the beanie.

As for the branding/tattoos; if remaining a member of the group is predicate on getting them, it's abusive.

Re militaries:

Having undergone a Basic Training, it's not a bonding ritual, per se. It's an attempt to instill certain ways of thinking; one of which has to be a generic loyalty to the group.

Because it's quite possible for you to end up someplace where your life depends on people whom you don't, or barely, know.

I can't see that a frat has that justification for things, and I can't see that what frats do would instill it. Worst thing for, (apart from some of my juvenile fellows) was the dragging my ass out of bed at 0330, too damned often.

The bonding was of shared hardships, not of enduring things on our own, but accomplishing them together.

The Drills weren't against us (though some thought so), there were encouraging. It wasn't the best sort of encouragement, but there is something to be said for "train as you fight" and combat zones are places where loud things happen, and people yell at you.

#50 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 12:02 AM:

John: Oh. Well, I feel almost the same about that. That kind of thing has to be voluntary; if she didn't want to be part of it, they should just respect that.

And yeah, it's a rejection, but it's a rejection of something really stupid.

I guess I don't see these group-bonding things as important unless they're doing something worthwhile. The bonds my friend Alex has formed with the people he works with in Habitat for Humanity are excellent, and may have helped him get into West Point (*crosses fingers*). That's an ordeal (especially in Texas), but with a worthwhile object.

An ordeal withOUT a worthwhile object seems pointless and stupid. To me. IMO. YMMV and all that.

#51 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 12:19 AM:

Terry Karney @ 49:

As for the branding/tattoos; if remaining a member of the group is predicate on getting them, it's abusive.

Serious question: Why? (It's wrong in a different way, as it discriminates against orthodox Jews and others who cannot be tattooed for religious reasons, but that's another story.) How different is that from having (for instance) a dress code?

I take your thoughts on military training to be accurate, as you're not only more knowledgeable and experienced than me on the subject but also long been shown to be a thoughtful poster, but I will answer one thing you've said therein:

The bonding was of shared hardships, not of enduring things on our own, but accomplishing them together.

I was not supposed to see the ending of one of the social club initiation exercises, but I was up in the dorm lobby reading at some godawful hour of the morning when the pledges walked in. I was asked (and agreed) not to repeat the specific details of what I saw (nothing scandalous, just their trade secret), but I will say that the exercise was clearly a group exercise, one which forced the pledges to cooperate and work together to overcome a hardship.

#52 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 12:31 AM:

Why do I see mandatory branding/tattooing to be abuse?

Becuase it's mandatory. If one has to do it to remain a member of the group, then when the mark has to be acquired isn't relevant (we know what's going on, all we're dickering about is price).

In some ways I would see the later marking to be more abusive than an earlier one.

Those who want to belong to a frat/sorority go to a lot of effort to do so. They are intiated. They may be hazed. They pay dues.

Having done all that, to then tell them they have to get a permanent (and uncomfortable) mark, or give it all up, after they have made the personal, social, and economic investments?

They have to look thier friends in the face and say, "No, you guys aren't wrorth a tattoo."

That's asking a lot, and it's asking a hell of a lot from an 18, or 19, year old kid.

#53 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 03:08 AM:

John, #41:
Belonging itself is voluntary, isn't it? So I'm not sure I see the distinction.
The distinction is, who has control over my body? The idea of a mandatory brand or tattoo for membership in a social club resonates on the same level as the idea that I shouldn't be allowed to buy Plan B in the event of a contraceptive failure. Both of them are examples of other people exerting control over my physical person against my will. Dress codes, etc. only exert control over my actions, not my body itself.

My thought is those abusive potentials are part of group dynamics, period.
Okay, but I don't see how that makes it right to do something which greatly increases the risk of the potential for abuse becoming actualized. That's like refusing to wear your seatbelt because there's still a risk of becoming involved in a collsion that wasn't your own fault.

Up in Fayetteville, where all the kids of the state's rich scum rise, the white fraternities are the primary place where the next generation of powermongers socialize and learn class solidarity, against we common people, of course.
My immediate reaction to this was along the lines of, "See, you've just answered your own question." I can't articulate it more fully than that, although I think it ties in with my previous point.

Freshman initiation barely qualified as hazing: Wear the beanie, sing the school song on demand, walk on sidewalks and not the grass, and, at worst, being tossed in the school lake.
Whoa, we're using VERY different definitions here. IMO, only the "being tossed in the lake" part of that would truly qualify as hazing. See this list of definitions for an overview of how most of us are interpreting the word. Okay, I'm no longer appalled; you weren't saying that you enjoyed physical mistreatment and/or public humiliation, and that's a very large difference.

I do want to ask, though -- were there any significant social consequences to those who chose not to participate? Because if there were, then it starts to look like some of those "voluntary" high-school Christian groups, where not "choosing" to belong makes you a target for bullying or worse.

Xopher, #43: In the interest of nitpicking accuracy, I'll point out that some people do indeed undertake wilderness camping and other athletic pursuits (triathlons, anyone?) because the ordeal is a personal challenge. But the dynamic in those cases is still very different from that involved in hazing.

#54 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 09:11 AM:

Terry @ 52: You're making a reasonable argument, but you've got a factual premise I'm not sure I share:

If one has to do it to remain a member of the group...

Having done all that, to then tell them they have to get a permanent (and uncomfortable) mark...
Why did I place emphasis on two of your words? Because, at least in the case of upper arm brands, it's a practice which is well known and hard to miss. It's not a question of remaining a member, but of becoming a member.

Given that, I think your argument loses much of its force.

(Where I was, the arm branding was optional, at least for the clubs I knew enough about to ask about. I saw members both with and without brands. Let's leave it as mandatory for entry, though, for the sake of discussion.)

#55 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 09:59 AM:

John @ 51

If it's mandatory, yes, it is abuse. Because you shouldn't have to get a brand or a tattoo to belong, and requiring it of someone who is still a teenager (and not thinking long-term) is skating close to criminality, IMO. (This is exactly the sort of thing that makes schools ban fraternities, as opposed to Greek-letter honor societies.)

#56 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 10:35 AM:

John A. Arkansawyer: If it's part of becoming a member, then you palmed the card, The Chi Os (if rumor is correct) do get their tattoos after initiation. I believe the same of most (if not all) of the fraternities I'm aware of who practice branding.

If the practice is a requirement of membership (about which you being quite confusing, since you say 1: it is, and 2: there are those who don't have them]), it's abusive.

The "voluntary" nature of the frats is, at best, a red herring. These are kids. They are still only half-formed. It's very easy to get them to do things, and a lot of those things are those which better judgement would probably cause them to refuse.

One could take that "voluntary" rubric and stretch it way out of shape. All manner of, "harmless" things could be made requirements. If you can think of one, perfectly legal thing, which you would think beyond the pale to demand of someone before they can be allowed to join a club, then all of them are suspect, because the difference isn't one of kind, merely degree.

I see a difference between hazing, and initiations. Where Lee see being tossed in the lake as a hazing ritual, I can see it as an initiation; so long as it is known in advance that one is going to be tossed in the lake.

That doesn't mean I think merely knowing about it takes it out of the realm of hazing (and the brand/tattoo issue isn't hazing either, that's a bit of social control in/out grouping which is well past hazing and in completely different category, IMO), but being able to decide, in advance, what one is going to have to deal with is a big part of the difference to me.

For hazing I'd go with the degrades, exposes to harm. Being challenged to recite things, not hazing. Being chucked in a pool/lake, probably not hazing (if the lake is 40F, that's a different story). Being forced to clean urinals with a toothbrush: hazing. Being made to lap things out of bowl: hazing. Having to walk on the sidewalks, instead of the grass: not hazing. Having to weed the grass with chopsticks: hazing.

#57 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 11:11 AM:

Xopher @ 50:

That kind of thing has to be voluntary; if she didn't want to be part of it, they should just respect that.

I agree. But what I'm getting at it, do you think they might've been offended by her refusal? Possibly even hurt? As the Excitable Boy tells us, "Rich folks suffer like the rest of us." (Except surrounded by luxury and privilege. But I digress.)

And yeah, it's a rejection, but it's a rejection of something really stupid.

I happily attend a Unitarian Universalist church, at which I get to see the smorgasbord of stupidity at which so many lovely and likeable people dine. Next to any given belief in the supernatural, group bonding activities look smart and rational.

Or let me put it another way:

The college I first attended was a religious school. It was a requirement to take a couple of courses in religion to graduate. I'm an atheist and religion offends me, but I never quarrelled with that requirement*, as I was there (sort of**) voluntarily.

*I think. Memory is tricky.

**Going to college got me out of high school two years early, with the interesting result that I'm the only person I know who attended college for two years and flunked out, all before the age of eighteen.

#58 ::: Older ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 12:38 PM:

Oh, fer chrisake, John A, if idiots are offended by someone's sensible ideas, that does not give them any right to impose their idiotic ideas on a person. So what if they were "offended"? Some people are offended because others wear jeans, or want to go to college although they do manual labor. I'm not responsible for the peace of mind of idiots.

#59 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 12:45 PM:

Terry @ 56: I don't doubt that I'm doing a poor job of going through the issues. It's not a major concern of mine or an area I know from experience, but I have always been vaguely offended at anti-hazing. This became my opportunity to think it through.

If the practice is a requirement of membership (about which you being quite confusing, since you say 1: it is, and 2: there are those who don't have them]), it's abusive.

I honestly don't know the facts of the matter for certain, which is why I said let's take it as mandatory for the sake of discussion.

The "voluntary" nature of the frats is, at best, a red herring. These are kids.

I appeciate that you're recognizing the coerced consent implicit in these activities. I wish people would recognize that phenomenon when it occurs in other places. It might take that old killer Milton Friedman off his pedastal.

But are these really kids?

They're right at old enough to vote, to join the armed forces, to drive, to get married, to smoke tobacco, and to play football (both sorts), all of which, with the possible exception of voting, carry a signficant risk of killing you or screwing you up forever.

Next to that, a little tattoo on the inner thigh or a burn scar on the upper arm looks trivial.

For hazing I'd go with the degrades, exposes to harm. Being challenged to recite things, not hazing.

I know people who might break down and cry if you tried to make them perform in front of people.

Being chucked in a pool/lake, probably not hazing (if the lake is 40F, that's a different story).

The very cold winter night I got thrown in the lake, the water (golf course pond*, really, not much more than knee-deep where people were thrown in) was probably that cold. It was much less unpleasant than standing outside a grocery store a few weeks earlier in the spitting sleet to hand out pamphlets** the night before the election. At the lake, I got to strip to my underwear first***, and when I got out, there were towels (or something--again, memory is tricky) to help warm and dry me.

*Paula, if you're reading this, and, and if my memory is correct that you're in Oklahoma, you might know the spot--it was in Enid at the now-defunct Phillips University, which is now a satellite campus for Oklahoma State

**for a Republican, as a favor to my old junior high math teacher****, who was the faculy sponsor for our chapter of the Womens and Childrens Temperance Union, members of which weren't allowed to drink or smoke, I might note

***don't try this at your local grocery store

****I guess she was a Republican, but my hair was awfully long and my "beard" was scraggly, so who knows?

#60 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 01:02 PM:

John: Childhood is a cultural construct. Like all such constructs it has artificialities, and concrete manifestations.

We, as a culture, don't teach our children independence. Some parents do better than others, but the culture leaves that blossoming until kids are in college, and to some degree beyond.

I don't know many kids (and I've known a lot) who just left home, joined the army and never looked back. Joining up takes a few days (at the very least, for me it took a week, but there were hiccups, absent the hiccups it would have been three days at MEPS, and a prior day taking a test at the recruiters, after we talked about what I was interested in).

In those few days (and usually before) people talk to other people about what they are doing. At the very least they talk to recruiters. Good recruiters (of which there aren't as many as I would like) look at people and help them decide if the service is right for them. I've known them to discourage people.

So I don't see an equivalence to people, who are still young, and away from home, being told to mark themselves; for life, to join a club.

I've explained what I think are the limits to acceptable rites, and how that differs from "hazing".

You seem to think a club has the right to force people to do such things, as I would call hazing, because the association is voluntary.

So, again I ask you, what are the limits you find to be unacceptable demands, and how do they differ from the things you do accept?

#61 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 01:24 PM:

John 57: I did understand what you were getting at. If people are offended by my refusal to participate in their stupidity, so what? They deserve to be offended. And perhaps my refusal will encourage some of them to be more sensible.

Them: Hey, we're going to go [do something stupid].
Me: No thanks.
Them: Oh, come on, everybody's doing it!
Me: Not everybody. I'm not, because [sensible reason explained politely].
Them: [offended comments]
Me: I'm sorry you feel that way. Good night.

In short, I don't give a flying fuck if people are offended when they try to get me to do something stupid and/or wrong and I refuse.

#62 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 01:33 PM:

Terry @ 60:

So, again I ask you, what are the limits you find to be unacceptable demands, and how do they differ from the things you do accept?

I'm not sure I can draw the line, but I can mention some things that are over it. Some fraternities are alleged to have initiation practices that involve sex. That's over the line in almost any case I can think of. Forced binging on alcohol, certainly. Have you read Chris Miller's "Night of the Seven Fires"? I'm pretty sure (it's been a while since I have gotten it out, but that box of NatLamps is in plain sight and crying like Pandora* to be let out) everything in that would be over the line.

How do they differ?

I don't know that there's a qualitative difference so much as one of degree, but I'd have to think that over. The Penn and Teller** "No permanent damage" rule comes to mind as one possibility, but then we'd argue over whether a tattoo is damage.

*yes, I know the actual story, but I've admired the expression "a whole box full of Pandoras" ever since I first read it

**two more guys, this time ones I admire greatly, who would benefit from having the concept of coerced consent

#63 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 01:46 PM:

Xopher @ 61: Back during the nuclear freeze days, I remember people who would say emphatically, "We shouldn't demonize the Russians." Fair enough. Then they would turn around and demonize Reagan. That seemed to me to be a double standard.

So when you say you don't give a flying fuck about some peoples' feelings, that's fair enough. Going on to say those people should take other people's feelings into account, however, comes back to that double standard.

A little later in the eighties, I spent some time around people who had beliefs about menstruating women that I found, um, silly at best, but they had a long cultural and spiritual tradition involved in it, and it was their scene, so I swallowed my objections. In much the same way, I credit the opinions of some Muslim feminists that the veil can be liberating, even though I would also (I think) support the French ban on wearing them in public school.

This has not affected my ability to understand clitoridectomy as a crime against humanity.

#64 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 02:11 PM:

John 63: So when you say you don't give a flying fuck about some peoples' feelings, that's fair enough. Going on to say those people should take other people's feelings into account, however, comes back to that double standard.

Oh, bullshit, John! I didn't say I didn't give a flying fuck about "some people's" feelings at all, and you know it. I said I didn't care if they're offended when I'm being reasonable.

If I'm kissing my boyfriend in a gay bar and someone comes up and says to him "Yuck, how can you kiss that disgusting old man," I will tell them quite firmly to fuck off and die, and not care* if they're offended. Would I walk up to the same person out of the blue and say "you're ugly and your mother dresses you funny"? Of course not. Would I do it the next time I see them, even after they were offensive to me and my boyfriend? No, I would not.

And you will note in the script I gave that I specified that I gave my objections to their suggestion in polite terms (that is, I do care about their feelings), and only after they persisted in pressuring me after I said no. This is in fact my policy.

I can see arguing from where you are, though I don't agree. But your persistent misunderstandings are beginning to look deliberate and disingenuous, since I don't believe you're actually foolish enough to miss the distinction outlined above. It's most unappealing, and I wish you'd stop doing it.

*In this context, "not care" means "choose not to alter my behavior." Just to be clear.

#65 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 02:15 PM:

Addendum to # 62: The Night of the Seven Fires is available online. It even has a bonus Cory Doctorow reference in it, right near the beginning, at the first fire.

A quote, with a vocabulary note: "boot" means throw up.

Stu stopped short. "I won't give them the satisfaction," he declared. "Fuck 'em!"

"Huh?"

"I won't boot for those guys. Why should I?"

I think there are a lot of people on this thread who might identify with Stu. Or maybe not.

In any event, this story was the one really wonderful thing about an otherwise lame issue in the middle of the NatLamp's great run. Tony Hendra blames this issue for P. J. O'Rourke's ascension to the editorship of the magazine.

#66 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 02:43 PM:

Xopher @ 64: I'm not intending to tick you off, and I'm sorry if I'm doing so. Earlier while reading and discussing this thread, Mrs. Arkansawyer said to me, "I really like Xopher," and I replied, "So do I."

Let me pull back to an earlier example--no, possibly it'd be better to pick a new one.

My nieces and nephew are over today for a sleepover. The oldest is reading an E. L. Konigsberg YA novel with a protagonist who (early in the book, so I don't believe this is a spoiler) is at summer camp, where she repeatedly refuses to participate in any of the camp activities, repeating over and over again, "I prefer not to." My first reaction was, "Good for her." Then I thought about how she was inconveniencing the staff and looking down her nose at the other campers.

At a certain point, she was effectively saying, "A small injury to my dignity is much more important than all your feelings, all your traditions, all your group activities--really, it's more important than all of you."

The more I thought about it, the more the difference between principled non-conformism and being a snot-nosed brat shrank.

I've committed my share of "I prefer not to"s, and looking back, quite a few of them were childish. Take that for what it's worth.

#67 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 03:08 PM:

John, while we're on the topic of "coerced consent", I'll ask you again: were there any significant social consequences to the people at your school who chose not to wear the beanie? And if there were, was that something you understood at the time you went through your initiation, or did you find out about it later?

#68 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 03:17 PM:

Lee @ 67: I've meant to respond to your previous post but just haven't had the time yet. However, I'll answer this question now: I don't recall any negative social consequences occurring. It's possible I just didn't see any but that they did exist.

Let me pose a question to you in return: If the only consequence to people who didn't participate was that people who did participate made more friends faster--no negative consequences, only positive ones--would that be objectionable?

#69 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 03:21 PM:

John A. Arkansawyer @ 66

My nieces and nephew are over today for a sleepover. The oldest is reading an E. L. Konigsberg YA novel with a protagonist who (early in the book, so I don't believe this is a spoiler) is at summer camp, where she repeatedly refuses to participate in any of the camp activities, repeating over and over again, "I prefer not to."

Bartleby the Camper?

#70 ::: Constance Ash ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 03:38 PM:

I'd object to anything that is forced on anyone that is harmful, painful and / or permanent.

I'm against torture too, and inhumane treatment of animals and children, if that's relevant.

People who like doing these things to others, and / or like to watch these things done to others are classified as sociopaths, and have no place in administering anything, much less a nation.

#71 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 03:42 PM:

Lee #53: This is somehow reminding me of the creepy extreme sports in Banks' _Look to Windward_. I especially liked the description of canoeing in a lava stream.

#72 ::: Constance Ash ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 03:45 PM:

It's a big problem, getting larger all the time, this 'bonding' thing through abuse, in both sports and the military (and people still want to believe there's no connection between the two!). The abuse that that brands the boots and the players as 'girls, pussies, etc.' in that it makes the female gender the lodestone of all that is 'wrong,' i.e. not military,not athletic, not male.

But now that women are in the military -- and sports -- in large numbers the consequences of that, for both women within and without the military are seen up close in a detail that has generally been blurred. Rape and sexual harrassment and abuse are rife.

#73 ::: Constance Ash ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 03:53 PM:

And almost always there's alcohol involved, and way too often it's way too much alcohol, and by golly college age guys don't handle it well. Shoot, every night in my neighborhood you see the crawling, vomiting, urinating, staggering, howling, abusive, harrassing proof of that.

I will hold to this standard: those who like and want this sort of thing done, who like being the perpetrators of it, and like watching it, who like having it forced on others have no place administering anything from a family to a government or a war or a business.

#74 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 03:56 PM:

Constance Ash @ 73: That's how I feel about self-righteous prigs. Do you think we could find some middle ground?

#75 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 03:58 PM:

albatross #24: I take your point. I find the idea of a national sales tax even more appalling than the present system.* It's particularly likely to freeze class lines solidly into place, as well as having a nastily reflationary effect. It also will involve disincentives for home ownership -- currently encouraged by the tax system -- and will weigh massively on the poor. The Linder-Boortz proposal would cause prices to rise 30% at one fell swoop.

*Ob. revelation: My wife is employed by the Infernal Revenge Service.

#76 ::: Constance Ash ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 04:07 PM:

#74 -- Unlikely there is middle ground since you have resorted to personal insult, rather than yanno, resort to information, studies etc. that show that people who like inflicting pain on others are good people and leave the world a better place than they found it.


Love, C.

#77 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 04:09 PM:

Abi #30: "The Worshipful Company of Making Light Versifiers and Doggerel-Smiths"

Now, about that annual luncheon at the Guildhall...

#78 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 04:17 PM:

Constance Ash @ 76:

Love, C.

I was wondering if you'd slip that back in at the end. One of my observations about the Nazis of Nice is that they keep their love bayonets sharpened up and ready for use. After all, they're the Nice People. Their disdain is justified.

Or something like that.

#79 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 04:20 PM:

John 59: I know people who might break down and cry if you tried to make them perform in front of people.

In which case it would be abusive to force them to do so. Making me handle a boa constrictor would not be abusive; making someone with a snake phobia do so would be.

Your case of being thrown into the icy lake sounds like they took appropriate precautions. If you'd had the flu when the time came, I bet they'd've called it off. But even so, and even with you in perfect health, if you'd said "no" they should have to stop IMO.

___ 66: OK, you're forgiven.

I'm not one to pick apart analogies, as if any difference between the two things analogized invalidated them. No analogy is perfect; that's what makes it an analogy, rather than two instances of the same thing.

However, in this case there are distinctions between the cases that are relevant to the point under discussion. Marilee refusing to be abused or participate in the abuse of others did not inconvenience anyone, unlike your Miss Bartleby. I assume the camp activities did not include being tied, effectively naked, to a tree outdoors in winter (not in a YA novel at any rate).

(Side issue: pretending unequal things are equal is a favorite strategy of bullies. Most of the Cancers and Leos at Marilee's school knew THEY'D never be tied to a tree on their birthdays, and someone whose birthday is on June 1 has no right to say "they did it to me" to someone whose birthday is December 23. I feel certain that all such traditions are created by people whose own birthdays are in warm months, or even when school is not in session.)

I don't know the book in question, but if your Miss Bartleby's camp's activities were considered at all voluntary, she had every right to behave just as she did. That's what 'voluntary' means, and yes, I think not being coerced under the guise of "agreeing" to "voluntary" activities IS more important than all their feelings and traditions.

I think I've just put my finger on a point that's very important to me: Forcing me to do something is bad enough; coercing me to "agree" to do it is far, far worse. By doing the latter, you...no, not YOU...THEY force me to lie, a profound violation of my personal integrity. Because of this, if the camp activities were simply required and no one was given a choice (the case at the rather fascistic camp I attended twice as a kid), she would have, in my view, less right to object.

However, I'd still defend her behavior if she didn't want to be at the camp in the first place, or if she was depressed, or...for many other reasons the camp staff has no way of knowing.

I'm virtually certain this is not the story of the book you mention, because I'm making it up, but picture a little girl who knows there's trouble between her parents, and who also knows they don't fight in front of her or when they know she's listening, packed off to camp for the first time because her parents want to work out the details of their divorce. Naturally they don't tell the camp staff this, and she herself can't articulate why she's so upset, but she does know she doesn't want to be at the camp, and she'll be damned if she'll go along with their happy horseshit!

Like I said, probably not the plot of the book you mention. My point is that the camp staff can't tell which book they're in. So they need to treat every such refusal as if it were justified.

___ 68: A subtle question. But I think there's still an inappropriate coercion going on. OTOH I am hypersensitive to such things, and I NEVER have participated in such artificial ordeals.

Before you ask, yes, I hate "team building" exercises of the kind so popular in the more asinine sectors of corporate America. If I make friends at work, it's because they know I'm a friendly person and a reliable coworker IN THE WORKPLACE, and the fact that I know how to paddle a raft down a river and avoid capsizing in the rapids should not be relevant. And the fact that my Indian coworkers had no such ability pissed me off during the exercise, but I did not hold it against them at work.

#80 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 04:27 PM:

John, Constance:
Quit it, the two of you.

Constance, you were painting with a very broad brush there. If you didn't know John was going to take it personally, you aren't half the woman I think you are. I'll leave the veil drawn across the question of motivation.

John, even a pink and fluffy Godwin reference is a Godwin reference. Constance signs most of her messages that way, as well you know. Don't like her comment? Let it pass, challenge it directly, or explain how it doesn't apply to you.

Signed,
Your Seasonally Affected Moderator

#81 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 04:38 PM:

Lee, Terry, PJ, John:

It seems to me that the definition of coercion ("coerced consent") here is hard to square with letting people make their own decisions. In fact, it's hard for me to see how I'd decide whether almost any group-oriented decision or action involved coerced consent, other than by whether or not I liked the decision made. An attempt to protect people from such coerced consent seems to require taking away peoples' choices.

For example, when someone decides to join the military, they may be reacting to social pressure, lack of good alternatives, money incentives, etc. I'm having a hard time seeing why joining the Army (and thus accepting basic training, years of living under military discipline and law, and a real chance of being at risk of life and limb in some war) is not "coerced consent" in many cases, but joining a frat where you know they're going to beat you in the initiation and brand you upon acceptance is coerced consent. I'm pretty sure I'd rather have the beating and branding than get sent to a war and not be able to leave.

Membership in a football team, karate class, SCA chapter, band, etc., all involve some group activities that can range from tedious to quite unpleasant, all involve shared actions that most outsiders would regard as foolish or humiliating, and all are likely to have a big impact on your social life, in the sense that once you're involved in them, that may be a big thing you do with your friends. Why isn't football practice on a cold muddy day, or the two hour workout followed by the belt test, coercive?

I guess what I'm trying to work out is how you can define coercion in this sense in a meaningful way that doesn't end up applying to almost everything. And how does this relate to personal autonomy, since we'd like to allow college kids to decide, say, which church to go to, whether to have sex, what activities to involve themselves in, etc.? I really can't work out an argument that would forbid a 19-year-old woman from taking part in a sorrority initiation that involved hazing, but that wouldn't forbid her from letting her boyfriend tie her to the bed or whip her. I can't see what rule would forbid getting the tattoo as part of joining a frat, but not getting tattoos or piercings as a way of belonging to an informal social group; something people do now pretty frequently.

#82 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 04:46 PM:

Full disclosure: I have participated in a tradition designed to bond one into a group.

It was in St Andrews, Scotland. Students there have "academic families" - each bejant* picks a tertian† or magistrand‡ man and woman to be their academic mother and father.

On a particular weekend in November the bejant attends a complex set of events involving a pound of raisins**, an evening at the pub, and a tea party while hung over. The student is then dressed in a costume†† and given some odd item to carry‡‡. Gaudeamus Igitur may be sung, and Woolworth's may be toured. It all culminates in a massive shaving foam fight in the Quad.

Some people do it as a bit of fun. Some people skip it altogether (though very few). In St Andrews, when I was there, the SF&F Soc did it with great seriousness, and tracked the subsequent academic genealogies with care and attention***. The academic family was a family, complete with awkward siblings and the uncle who made warring factions sit down and talk things out.

I know Raisin Weekend was used as an occasion of abuse by some people, and I never had much time for those people. Some families excluded people, either refusing to let them join or ignoring them afterward. But to condemn the whole thing because some people misused it is to throw away the means by which most first years find a home in that university community.

-----
* St Andrews term for freshman/first year (fem bejantine)
† junior/third year
‡ senior/fourth year
** or a bottle of booze, it being college students
†† I was the Statue of Liberty, though my academic mother also considered the Lady of Shalott, since I have the hair for it
‡‡ the flag from the 18th hole of the Old Course is a favourite. I just had Liberty's tablet
*** We also spuriously tangled the lineages with secondary adoptions and other follies. I am my own cousin. I am married to my academic uncle.

#83 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 04:48 PM:

Answer for completists: semi

If you don't know the question, don't worry about it.

#84 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 04:49 PM:

Fragano @70:

Luncheon venues for the Worshipful Company suffer from the Groucho Marx problem. If they'll have us, we won't be seen in them.

#85 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 04:52 PM:

abi, if they'd branded you with their family crest, I'd still call it abusive.

#86 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 04:54 PM:

Another $0.02:

Freshmen shouldn't have to wear beanies or do anything else that 'marks' them (I didn't, but I was lucky enough to be at a school that wasn't into that; my sister was at a school of that kind). It can be harmless, or it can be about the same as painting a target on you and sending you out in the woods in hunting season: someone will take advantage of it, to your detriment, and then claim that you knowingly volunteered for it.

FWIW: I don't think any of the colleges I went to condoned branding as part of hazing then, and I'd think that in the last fifteen or so years they've gotten stricter about it. What you describe sounds more like they're going for 'we have the power to make you wish you'd never come here' than anything genuinely good and useful.

Also FWIW: the group I hung out with in junior high/early high school did an 'initiation' at a party one time. It didn't involve anything worse than suggestion ... showing you eggs laid on the floor, then blindfolding you and having you step on things that went crunch (spaghetti, actually). That it's still memorable, decades later, tells you the kind of mental effect this can have.

#87 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 04:56 PM:

John: I didn't mention sex, because; well I didn't.

But, in the vein of voluntary, making a sexual act a requirement of joining seems to me (at a philosophical level) less injurious than a permenent mark.

Part of my abhorrence of the tattoos and brands is just that permanence. If they were required to use Prussian Blue and paint a mark on their foreheads, for the duration of the initiation, I might not quibble.

To elaborate, because I think he hit it on the head, Xopher has noodled out the nub of the problem: I think I've just put my finger on a point that's very important to me: Forcing me to do something is bad enough; coercing me to "agree" to do it is far, far worse.

Coerced consent isn't voluntary. There's a phrase in the army, for social events one is required to attend, "Mandatory Fun". Sometimes one enjoys them, sometimes not. The mandatory nature of them, no matter how much one may enjoy them, changes the nature of the party.

So too with things which one "must" do. Yes, one can refuse, but there is a penalty. With that penalty comes a social pressure. With the social pressure comes a question as to the voluntary nature of the act.

Once I come to question the legitmate choice to do something, in my opinion, it borders on abuse. When the act in question has a permanent affect, then I call it abuse.

I think "no permanent damage" sets to low a bar.

Part of the reason for the absolute ban on hazing in many places, is that what constitutes damage (or appears to be damaging, op. cit. Chico State, and dead on water) isn't always clear.

That person who can't abide performing in public is being abused when forced to. It may not seem like much, but it is; just as it would be abusive to make a person terrified of heights step of a 20 ft. platform into a swimming pool.

#88 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 04:59 PM:

John, #68: Thanks for the response; I didn't want my question to get lost in the scuffle, as it were, while you were interacting with Xopher.

WRT your counter-question: no, I wouldn't -- because there are a lot of different ways of making friends. As long as there was no sense that non-beanie-wearing people "didn't count", I have no problem with it.

Tangential ramble: When I was in college, I went thru sorority rush, mostly because my mother really wanted me to do so. I ended up not pledging -- and was extremely glad later that I hadn't, when I became aware of some of the shit the sorority pledges were forced into; I would surely have de-pledged rather than do those things myself, and I suspect that would have been rather more traumatic. Nor were there any social consequences involved, because at my school the Greek groups only made up about half of the student population; there were plenty of social activities that didn't revolve around the frats and sororities.

What I do remember, though, is my mother telling me that I should pledge because if I did, "no matter where you go for the rest of your life, you'll always have friends." Mature observation has demonstrated this not to be the case; I don't know anyone who talks about their college Greek affiliation as having any sort of major impact on their adult activities or social circles. OTOH, college was where I got involved with SF fandom and the SCA, and those two groups have had a tremendous and ongoing impact on my adult life. By which I conclude that genuine interest-sharing groups are more beneficial, over the long run, than groups which try to create an artificial common interest.

Constance, #70: You bring up a point I'd been trying to work around to -- that hazing, in its currently-accepted common usage, is part of the torture continuum. Saying that it's voluntary is sort of a red herring; if it's known to be a requirement for something with greatly-desirable consequences in terms of social status, that's blackmail as well as torture, and self-selects for people who are well-advanced in either moral bankruptcy or desperation.

John: Are you really trying to say that people who don't approve of torture, and who don't think that people who do approve of torture should be running a country, are self-righteous prigs? If that's what you meant, then I'm back to "appalled" again.

#89 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 05:01 PM:

Xopher @85:
abi, if they'd branded you with their family crest, I'd still call it abusive.

They gave me a Fimo dragon on a string to wear on my academic gown. I don't think that quite counts.

#90 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 05:13 PM:

Lee @88:
Are you really trying to say that people who don't approve of torture, and who don't think that people who do approve of torture should be running a country, are self-righteous prigs? If that's what you meant, then I'm back to "appalled" again.

Personally, I saw John reacting to Constance's comments as though they applied to the excessive consumption of alcohol. That was certainly the content of comment 73.

#91 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 05:56 PM:

I'm very much on the side of starting with a general prohibition on anything that inflict significant pain or leaves a permanent mark, and taking it from there.

#92 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 06:16 PM:

I'm sorry for getting a bit too hot under the collar. In my defense, I'm trying to advocate for a cultural phenomenon of which I don't particularly approve performed by people I don't generally like, and that's trying. At the risk of Godwinizing myself again, I imagine the ACLU lawyers who carried forward the Skokie case were hell to live with while they were litigating that one. Now that I've had a nice, soothing bath, I'm going to take a shot at engaging some of Constance's arguments.

#70: What you've missed from the definition of sociopath is "continuous and chronic antisocial behavior".

#73: abi is right that your comments on alcohol were part of the trigger for my reply.

There's a far distance between staggering and harrassment, but you've conflated annoyance and menace. As for urination, I lived for many years less than a block from the bar district in Fayetteville, home of the University of Arkansas, and the only person I ever saw pee right in public on Dickson Street was a drunken woman who pissed her pants while sitting in a stairwell. Our practice studio a block away had an intermittently working toilet, and I often went outside and peed in the bushes myself.

There was more to it, though, than the anti-college guy prejudice. When you went on with:

I will hold to this standard: those who like and want this sort of thing done, who like being the perpetrators of it, and like watching it, who like having it forced on others have no place administering anything from a family to a government or a war or a business.

you were painting with that big old brush again.

Mrs. Arkansawyer told me she though you were referring to President Kill. That thought hadn't occurred to me, but it makes perfect sense, and dovetails with a thought that I did have independently. So, was she right? If she was and you were, I'm wondering whether you'd hold America's second most prominent member of Skull and Bones, Senator John Kerry, to the same standard.

#76:

information, studies etc. that show that people who like inflicting pain on others are good people and leave the world a better place than they found it.

I don't have any such studies, but I do have fiction, god help me, to reference: On this question, Jacqueline Carey and John Ringo combined can barely touch Susan R. Matthews' hem (assuming she wears skirts), let alone grasp it to pull themselves up.

Well, okay, and one example: Isaac Newton, who tortured people, and invented new tortures, as part of his job with the British government. I don't know if he was a good person, but he most certainly left the world a better place than he found it.

I do think those are exceptional cases, but I prefer to work in detail and nuance, not broad strokes. (Incidentally, very little in the reply I've made [and, by implication, in your comments] is pertinent to the rest of this discussion.)

#93 ::: Constance Ash ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 06:17 PM:

People have died from the consumption of alcohol at frat hazings and initiations. Sometimes it happens due to overt coercion, and sometimes as an initiation challenge. The boys? men? in charge are also way over the line of sobriety. That is the context in which the over-indulgence observation was made, which I thought was so obviously implied (and well-known) that I didn't need to be explicit. If a mod feels the need to step in, then I was wrong.

If I think this a tragic and terrible thing makes me a prig, then so be it. I'll wear the badge with pride.

I may likely even raise a drink to the badge, preferably of something really good, such as a Campo Viejo Reserva Rioja or maybe, hmm, this convenient Christmas prezzie -- Connemara Irish Single Malt.

Love, C.

#94 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 06:28 PM:

Steve C @ 69:

Bartleby the Camper?

You know, for a while I thought you were giving me the real title, and I was wondering whether I had finally slipped into senescence, because if that were the title and I had forgotten it, I'd've been headed straight to the quiet ward.

The book is actually The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place.

#95 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 06:32 PM:

Constance @ 93:

People have died from the consumption of alcohol at frat hazings and initiations. Sometimes it happens due to overt coercion, and sometimes as an initiation challenge...That is the context in which the over-indulgence observation was made, which I thought was so obviously implied (and well-known) that I didn't need to be explicit.

Me @ 62:

I'm not sure I can draw the line, but I can mention some things that are over it...Forced binging on alcohol, certainly.

I would draw a fairly broad definition of "forced" in this context, given the possible consequences.

#96 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 06:36 PM:

John, it may be worth stepping back and reexamining the question if in fact it's a practice worth defending. Not everything that people do basically voluntarily is, after all. In election related threads where the subject of a particular outlying Republican candidate comes up (whom I do not name for fear that his hordes will come :), you'll find folks being vocal about how they just sincerely wish they could refuse to serve blacks/women/gays/atheists/whoever at their businesses - not to be mean about it, they say, but they just don't like those folks and resent being forced to associate with them just because they're doing business. I don't have any problem saying that their sincerely held desire is wrong and doesn't deserve legal tolerance.

I feel the same way about practices that encourage participants to regard others' pain and humiliation as currency. I don't think it's stretching things at all to say that even if the desire itself isn't pathological, it's way too close to genuine pathologies that blight our society, from wife-beating to rewards for corporations that most efficiently screw their employees to unjustified warmaking. None of them is in any senses a necessary outcome of a mindset that enjoys hazing, fortunately. But they all share with hazing that willingness to use others' desire to belong as a weapon, even if a blunt one, and to disregard others' suffering, even if temporary. I don't think it's especially radical to say that in a society where this kind of detached objectification is such a problem, it might be a downright good thing to discourage its less drastic manifestations. College is as good a time as any to provide the message that even though it's very understandable to want this and to enjoy it, you still shouldn't.

This is quite apart from the issue of alcohol abuse and its attendant ills, where I'm in complete agreement with earlier objections.

#97 ::: Constance Ash ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 06:42 PM:

Re Newton -- Would you have wanted Newton running the country if this is true?

He assembled facts and proved his theories with the same brilliance in law that he had shown in science. He gathered much of that evidence himself, disguised, while he hung out at bars and taverns. For all the barriers placed to prosecution, and separating the branches of government, English law still had ancient and formidable customs of authority. Newton was made a justice of the peace and between June 1698 and Christmas 1699 conducted some 200 cross-examinations of witnesses, informers and suspects. During this time he obtained the confessions he needed and while he could not resort to open torture, whatever means he did use must have been fearsome because Newton himself later ordered all records of these interrogations to be destroyed. However he did it, Newton won his convictions and in February 1699, he had ten prisoners waiting to be executed.

As I'm no expert in the biography of Newton that he tortured is news. I'm quite good at web searching, and the most reliable citation that he did comes out of wiki, which isn't anything I'd ever allow as a source in a reference list or in citations.

However, the dates are notable -- torture was unquestioned by-and-large at era -- we're still in the Wars of Religion in the last half of the 17th century, as well as in the era of the divine right of kings. Anything that smelled of treason brough out the torture implements; counterfeiting was a treasonable offense.

These do NOT condone his behaviors here, if true, and I am appalled that a man who did contribute so much evidently had no need to even consult his conscience on the matter.

I found Matthews work impossible to read. I very much admire Carey's, however. But again, recall -- this is entirely consensual between people who know what they are doing and why, a power exchange that is as crazy-mirrored as bdsm is -- including who pays and who gets paid and how much. If the client is not to taste, the client is refused. Period. Carey makes very clear the difference between Comtesse Phèdre nó Delaunay de Montrève and her clients and that of the monsters that have nearly destroyed her. Additionally, Carey is writing fiction, which allows her heroine to be too good to be true, a place to carry out fantasies safely. Big difference here between what happens at all too many colleges, military bases and locker rooms.

As far as college guys drinking their brains out and behaving like this, I live in downtown NYC, where I've lived all my adult life. The weekends here, St. Patrick's Day, etc., are overrun with all the behaviors I described. This is the experience of all of us who live here in this very populous 'destination' for the clueless from out-of-state and Europe.

Love, C.

#98 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 07:54 PM:

Constance Ash @ 97:

As I'm no expert in the biography of Newton that he tortured is news. I'm quite good at web searching, and the most reliable citation that he did comes out of wiki, which isn't anything I'd ever allow as a source in a reference list or in citations.

I'm not an expert, either, and it's possible I'm misinformed. There's a good recent biography, I think, and I'll make a point of trying to get ahold of it and see what it says. The passage you quoted is quite suggestive but not definitive.

However, the dates are notable...

What I wanted to do was draw out the generalizations you were making and suggest they were a bit broad. I think that's done. I also wanted to suggest that context mattered, and I think that's done, too.

These do NOT condone his behaviors here, if true, and I am appalled that a man who did contribute so much evidently had no need to even consult his conscience on the matter.

Perhaps his conscience was consulted and said, "Go for it!"

I found Matthews work impossible to read. I very much admire Carey's, however.

I enjoyed reading Carey's first book, but I wouldn't say I admired it. Like John Ringo is doing in his Ghost series, she's writing wish-fulfillment fantasies: What if there were a cultural context in which bdsm were acceptable? They've taken radically different approaches to doing so, but the result (and, I believe, the aim) is similar. Matthews is writing about a world which, for all its sfnal trappings, is recognizably like the real world, in which people have ethical conflicts they find difficult or impossible to resolve.

As far as college guys drinking their brains out and behaving like this, I live in downtown NYC, where I've lived all my adult life. The weekends here, St. Patrick's Day, etc., are overrun with all the behaviors I described.

Just college guys? Even on St. Patrick's Day?

I think there's an element of moral panic here. In Fayetteville, such panic was used to gentrify my neighborhood, and make it into a money-making proposition for the right people. When it was over, there were more bars, but for the right kind of drunks.

I don't like the right kind of people.

#99 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 08:09 PM:

Constance @ 97
Matthews has been downplaying the torture part of her character's work as she writes more in that series - Andrei has, in fact, sworn off it in the most recent book, and is admitting to himself and others that it's difficult giving up that kind of power. (He says he sees all of his victims in his dreams.)

#100 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 08:53 PM:

Lee #88:

Saying that it's voluntary is sort of a red herring; if it's known to be a requirement for something with greatly-desirable consequences in terms of social status, that's blackmail as well as torture, and self-selects for people who are well-advanced in either moral bankruptcy or desperation.

I see what you're saying here, but this seems subject to a great many gray areas. To choose some odd examples, in order to become a practicing doctor (a very desireable consequence in terms of social status!), you are going to end up doing a few years of really unreasonable workloads. Now, there are reasons not to like that (the doctor who sees you in the ER after 20 hours on shift probably isn't making great decisions), but I have a hard time seeing that the whole package is inherently abusive to the folks who become doctors, or is on the torture continuum, or is so horrible that it ought to be banned on grounds of inhumanity (as opposed to banned on grounds of needless medical errors).

Similar things apply to the process of getting a PhD and a tenure track job.

*All kinds* of big decisions involving some hardship and permanent changes in your life are driven by social pressure in many cases. Getting married and having kids are two pretty obvious examples; it seems to me that a lot of people get married and start a family based partly on social pressure and approval. Is this decision coerced?

We're social creatures. You seem to me to be arguing that some decisions driven by major social consequences aren't really free decisions, even in the face of lots of people who don't make those decisions according to social pressure. (Lots of people remain child-free, lots of people don't get involved in frats or sorrorities.) It seems to me that this bends the notion of free or coerced decisions all out of shape.

#101 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 09:07 PM:

Xopher @79: I think I've just put my finger on a point that's very important to me: Forcing me to do something is bad enough; coercing me to "agree" to do it is far, far worse.

A bit of a tangent to the discussion so far, but I think it may be related: this reminds me of a brush I had with a MLM (Multi Level Marketing) scheme.

A friend had paid $20 for a ticket to a several hour seminar on online retailing. For his $20, he could bring three other people. Lunch was going to be provided. The event was being hosted in a conference hall at a downtown hotel.

Going in, everyone in this group was insisting that "... we're not going to buy anything. We're there to learn information. If there is anything worth buying, they'll sell it to us whenever we want".

It was clear soon that the people hosting the event had an online retailing package that they were interested in selling. In fact, if you bought it the day of the seminar, there would be substantial price savings.

Right from the start, there was a lot of work by the operators on the room in creating the 'buy-in' — the 'coercing me to agree'. There was a brief lecture on what it takes to build a successful business, with points such as "not being dissuaded by other people's negative statements", followed by a handout emphasizing the points, which you signed and handed back (not only do you agree with what we've said, but you've put yourself on record agreeing with us). The person doing the pitch started dropping the ends of some of his statements, waiting for someone in the audience to provide the completing statement (as primed by the earlier material). At this point, I believe we were about an hour and a half into the 'seminar', with another 'exercise' about to begin... I told my friends I couldn't take any more of this and left.

At the end of the day, I found that despite their earlier resolve not to buy anything, all three of them bought the package that was being sold; one was mad at me for leaving, because he figured if I stuck around I could have helped him hold out against the other two.

I spent several hours and part of the next day trying to undo the damage. Online complaints by people who had experience with this particular MLM were dismissed (do not be dissuaded by other people's negative statements; those people had not put in enough effort). A negative statement by the Better Business Bureau regarding this particular company turned out to be convincing. I also got some information from a local consumer protection group that emphasized that there was a three-day cooling off period allowed for these kind of purchases (specifically, sales made at conventions and seminars: someplace other than the normal place of business). Even then, the salesmen tried to deny this when one of the group canceled his order.

For the $1000+ each that they had spent, all they had received so far had been more marketing material, in the form of documents on CDs. Half of it was defective; couldn't even be read. Tellingly, when they canceled their orders, they didn't have to return this stuff.

This particular MLM outfit was based in Utah. Apparently, Utah is a hotbed of multi level marketing schemes. I wonder why that is?

#102 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 09:15 PM:

Albatross, for what it's worth, a friend of mine who's studied nurses' working conditions in one of the Canadian provinces says she can document a pretty stark correlation between excessive working hours and iatrogenic complications of all kinds. Nor should this be any surprise. The interning and residency experience shouldn't be anything like as demanding as it is, and there's a real cost that often gets ignored or taken as inevitable. But it isn't - it's a legacy of bad attitudes about staff management. (Another friend of mine documented the same phenomenon in the computer game industry with regard to crunch time, showing that not working employees more than 50 hours a week paid for itself in reduced error rate and severity. His inability to get employers to pay attention had more than a little to do with his leaving the field.)

Which is, dare I say it, my point. :) Broadly speaking, it isn't necessary to work civilians, or anyone outside of the immediate theatre of battle, more than 40-50 hours a week, nor to subject them to humiliation, degredation, and the like. And training people to recognize this and respond to such things as damage rather than delight would make economic as well as social sense.

#103 ::: Wesley ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 09:25 PM:

The hazing discussion reminded me of something I'd read about the cartoons I watched on Saturday mornings when I was a kid. A Google search turned it up surprisingly quickly--it was from an essay by Mark Evanier:

Consultants were brought in and we, the folks who were writing cartoons, were ordered to include certain "pro-social" morals in our shows. At the time, the dominant "pro-social" moral was as follows: The group is always right...the complainer is always wrong.

When I first read this I wondered whether this might have had an effect on my generation... but, honestly, this kind of thinking is probably just an ineradicable part of the human condition. Otherwise where would the consultants have come up with it?

#104 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 09:32 PM:

By the way, I do have an agenda which some may find shrill or whining or something, and I don't want to act like I think it's something to be concealed.

I didn't ever expect, when growing up, to live in a country where torture was standard accepted practice for anything. But as I look back at how I ended up doing that anyway, it seems to me that the most horrendous evils at the heart of this administration flow from widely accepted trends in society at large. So as I can, I'm trying to identify what look like root causes, places where later pathologies and crimes can be forestalled by timely action when their seeds are still small.

It's in that context that I wrote earlier about why I think it's evil to make the use of others' suffering, humiliation, and the like the currency for anything like a social network. It would be better to base acceptance on good qualities, and if anyone wants to tell me that willingness to degrade yourself for others' approve is a good quality, I've got your disrespectful reply ready. :) Wanting acceptance, and being willing to put up with almost anything to get it - that's just part of how human being work. Part of being moral creatures is knowing when to expect (and require) better, and to decline to exploit the desire just because it's there.

#105 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 09:53 PM:

albatross, #81: I really can't work out an argument that would forbid a 19-year-old woman from taking part in a sorority initiation that involved hazing, but that wouldn't forbid her from letting her boyfriend tie her to the bed or whip her.
That's a bit apples-and-oranges. A more accurate comparison would be, did her boyfriend insist that she let him do that, whether she wanted to or not, in order for him not to dump her?

I'm seeing an interesting false dichotomy developing here (in your comments and several others). There appears to be a strong feeling that we have only two options: (1) Give people the right to make their own choices, and just live with it when others abuse those choices; or (2) take everyone's rights away.

I submit that this is related to the pervasiveness of the Culture of Bullying -- we're so used to living with bullies that we forget there's a third option. Give people the right to make their own choices, and punish those who abuse that right. "But sie volunteered for it, sie knew what was going to happen!" shouldn't be an excuse when abuse is involved, any more than "She was wearing a provocative outfit, she should have expected it" is an excuse for rapists.

What would happen if every person who participated in hazing incidents of that sort were to be kicked out of the organization? Not that it's likely to happen; there's an awful lot of "I had to go thru it, so why should anyone else get a break?" that fuels this shit. But if it did? Hazing would STOP.

But it will never stop as long as there are people willing to defend bullies' abuses of other people's freedom of choice.

abi, #90: It's possible that I'm misreading this, but I saw #73 as a continuation of #70, and referring to the coerced consumption of excessive alcohol.

Also, note that Constance wasn't referring to the people who do that, but to those who get their jollies from making it happen. I quote: "those who like and want this sort of thing done, who like being the perpetrators of it, and like watching it, who like having it forced on others..." And on that, I'm 100% in agreement with her. The people who perpetuate the abuse are the problem, not the victims of it.

Bruce, #96: Very well said.

#106 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 12:44 AM:

John A Arkansawyer, #45 & 48, sure, they thought it was a rejection of the ritual. Why should I care? I had rejected it verbally for many months before I rejected it physically. And I was already odd. I'd comped out of all the classes they gave except religion and only because they didn't allow you to comp out of religion. So I went to religion and took music classes and worked on the drama section. There were four dorms for women and they asked you to select three in order. They actually put me in the fourth dorm, my mother's dorm, and in the room she had had. People called me Lois. And yes, my parents went for all the rituals (they were engaged on campus). I'd kept all my other promises, why not that one?

Ibid, #66, the camp staff could send the girl home. Not all kids are meant for all camps.

Ibid, #92, but do you think Newton made the world better because he tortured? That would be the equivalent statement.

Lee, #88, you said Mature observation has demonstrated this not to be the case; I don't know anyone who talks about their college Greek affiliation as having any sort of major impact on their adult activities or social circles.

The local paper lets me know that there are Greeks who still congregate.

Rob Rusick, #101, I guess I'm not very tolerant. I walked out of an MLM presentation once, too. But in my case, I'd been invited to the home of a family that had been friends with my family for many years to see slides of their recent vacation and have dinner. When I got there, there was an easel and tablet for Amway set up in the living room. I asked "You asked us here to talk about Amway?" and the father said "You're going to love it" and I said "No, I won't" and left. I'd even dressed up. (Years later, I found out that this family had attended an Amway convention in the town where my father lived and asked if they could stay with him because the hotel was full. He agreed, and when they brought !22! people with them, he didn't have the nerve to keep them out. He just complained later.)

#107 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 12:57 AM:

Massachusetts has an anti-hazing law that's been in place for quite a while. (I remember it being in effect when I was in college back in the late 1980s.)

Full text is available online in many places (that was the handiest one).

Potentially useful definition text:

The term “hazing'' as used in this section and in sections eighteen and nineteen, shall mean any conduct or method of initiation into any student organization, whether on public or private property, which willfully or recklessly endangers the physical or mental health of any student or other person. Such conduct shall include whipping, beating, branding, forced calisthenics, exposure to the weather, forced consumption of any food, liquor, beverage, drug or other substance, or any other brutal treatment or forced physical activity which is likely to adversely affect the physical health of any such student or other person, or which subjects such student or other person to extreme mental stress, including extended deprivation of sleep or rest or extended isolation.
It goes on to state "Notwithstanding any other provisions of this section to the contrary, consent shall not be available as a defense to any prosecution under this action."

It also imposes a duty to report incidents.

I think the key provision, though, is the one that requires the law to be given out to groups, by groups, and to students. This makes it clear to all that there is a line, and helps prevent "coercive consent".

#108 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 01:04 AM:

I was recently in a frat house (helping a film student with his movie) and they had an anti-hazing poster framed under glass in their entryway.

#109 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 12:22 PM:

I'm beginning to regret instigating this sub-thread, as it's taking a lot of time and I'm not sure I'm getting through--and I mean getting through in the sense of being understood, not being agreed with--some of the points I'm making.

Nonetheless, unless there's a great outcry against the idea, I'm going to try to at least answer questions previously raised. In particular, I've let Lee's post way, way back there sit and sit, and that's not courteous, so:

Lee @ 41: (Note: The italicized comments are Lee quoting me. A bit meta, I know.)

Belonging itself is voluntary, isn't it? So I'm not sure I see the distinction. The distinction is, who has control over my body? The idea of a mandatory brand or tattoo for membership in a social club resonates on the same level as the idea that I shouldn't be allowed to buy Plan B in the event of a contraceptive failure. Both of them are examples of other people exerting control over my physical person against my will.

How can it be against your will to follow the pre-established rules of a group you voluntarily join? You don't have any choice about being a woman in America at this point in time*, but you have much latitude about whether to join a sorority.

Up in Fayetteville, where all the kids of the state's rich scum rise, the white fraternities are the primary place where the next generation of powermongers socialize and learn class solidarity, against we common people, of course. My immediate reaction to this was along the lines of, "See, you've just answered your own question." I can't articulate it more fully than that, although I think it ties in with my previous point.

This is why I began the discussion with black fraternities.

By my understanding**, they have many of the same inititation and bonding practices that white fraternities have, but they don't have the position of power that white fraternities have in our racist society. They've historically provided some counterbalance to the power of white fraternities (many of which are still openly racist to this day) at large public universities, while both there and at historically black universities, they provide the networking and bonding functions so important in later life.

Now: Is it okay for a black fraternity to brand its members, but not for a white fraternity to do so?

Okay, I'm no longer appalled; you weren't saying that you enjoyed physical mistreatment and/or public humiliation, and that's a very large difference.

No, I don't enjoy being humilitated, but some people do. I didn't intend to turn this into a discussion of sexual practices, but since the later part of the discussion did so, I'll chime in. Do you find people who enjoy that appalling? Would you forbid it?

*unless you regard suicide, emigration, gender reassignment, or sterilization as choices, which in this context I don't. There is always radical change, and I strongly urge everyone to keep that option in mind. However, getting that sort of change is likely to involve rethinking the radical hyperindividualism that underlies so much of this discussion. It's very American, that attitude, and it's very destructive. A more Epicurean approach to individualism would be most welcome. Oh, and a pony

**anyone who has more knowledge than I do of this, please chime in and, if necessary, tell me I'm full of it

#110 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 01:07 PM:

John, #109: How can it be against your will to follow the pre-established rules of a group you voluntarily join? You don't have any choice about being a woman in America at this point in time*, but you have much latitude about whether to join a sorority.
It's against my will to be branded or tattooed for any reason, period. It is unethical to make that a requirement for membership in a social group, period. If there is strong social pressure to join such a group, then it's not only unethical, but blackmail as well. We're back into the field of "coerced consent" here.

Perhaps an iconic movie moment would make my point more clearly. Have you seen the second X-Men movie? There is a scene in it where Magneto is being pressured to accept a tattoo as a mark of membership in a mutant group. His response is to pull up his sleeve, displaying the tattoo he was given in the concentration camp. And he says, "That was done to me once. No one will ever do it to me again."

Yes, I know, frats and sororities aren't the same as prison camps. But the symbolism is the same; it says, "We OWN you." And that's wrong.

Now: Is it okay for a black fraternity to brand its members, but not for a white fraternity to do so?
If anything, it's worse for a black fraternity to brand its members. Slaves were branded. Gang members are often branded. Prisoners are branded, as noted above. Are these the images you want being evoked when a person joins a group?

The brand (or tattoo) is a mark of ownership, pure and simple. And no group has that right of ownership over its members.

No, I don't enjoy being humilitated, but some people do. I didn't intend to turn this into a discussion of sexual practices, but since the later part of the discussion did so, I'll chime in. Do you find people who enjoy that appalling? Would you forbid it?
The difference is consent. And again, if the consent is coerced, it's in the same continuum with rape.

Also, if you're going to bring up the issue of sexual domination, I will note that the real power in those situations lies with the client, who has paid good money* to be dominated and humiliated, and can stop the scenario at any time. That is emphatically NOT the case in hazing initiations, so the comparison you're trying to draw isn't valid.

* Or its equivalent in trust. I know a number of submissives, and they are all very firm on the point that respect is necessary before that sort of sexual play is safe. Also, I say to you: safewords. There are no safewords in hazing.

#111 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 01:12 PM:

Bruce @ 102

Having worked nine and ten hour days (one or two hours of overtime), and also one place with a four-day forty-hour week, I can say that after about nine hours of work my brain becomes unreliable for decision-making.

#112 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 01:30 PM:

Lee @ 110:

There is a scene in it where Magneto is being pressured to accept a tattoo as a mark of membership in a mutant group. His response is to pull up his sleeve, displaying the tattoo he was given in the concentration camp. And he says, "That was done to me once. No one will ever do it to me again."

Yes, I know, frats and sororities aren't the same as prison camps.

If I could get people to see just one thing out of this discussion, it would be that the relevant difference is not that frats are not prison camps, but that college freshmen are not the same as concentration camp survivors.

I'll put that in all caps if it'll help:

COLLEGE FRESHMEN ARE NOT THE SAME AS CONCENTRATION CAMP SURVIVORS.

#113 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 01:33 PM:

re: me @ 112: Crap. The blockquotes are not well-formed. The sentence "Yes, I know, frats and sororities aren't the same as prison camps" was part of what Lee wrote, not part of my response. Sorry for not previewing effectively.

#114 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 05:07 PM:

John A Arkansawyer #109 declareth: "By my understanding, they have many of the same inititation and bonding practices that white fraternities have, but they don't have the position of power that white fraternities have in our racist society. They've historically provided some counterbalance to the power of white fraternities (many of which are still openly racist to this day) at large public universities, while both there and at historically black universities, they provide the networking and bonding functions so important in later life."

I would say that black fraternities and sororities in the past had a lot less opportunity to move their graduate members into positions of power than white fraternities. Now, while they still have less opportunity, they have a lot more than they had in the past and they function, as do white fraternities and sororities, as means of helping their members to rise to positions of power and authority.

Other black fraternal organisations, like the Boulé help maintain the positions of the black upper middle class. As does, in a different way, Jack and Jill.

#115 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 05:56 PM:

Lee #110:

Maybe we're circling around a fundamental difference in worldviews here, or maybe I'm just missing what you intend, because what you're saying seems to me to justify calling a stunningly broad set of things coercive.

It's against my will to be branded or tattooed for any reason, period. It is unethical to make that a requirement for membership in a social group, period. If there is strong social pressure to join such a group, then it's not only unethical, but blackmail as well. We're back into the field of "coerced consent" here.

It seems to me that we need to separate the question of consent from the question of how unpleasant or undesireable something is. As I read your comment, you're saying that anything you don't want to do, but are required to do in order to join some desireable social group, is "coerced consent." So if sorrority #1 requires a tattoo to join, and sorrority #2 requires a short haircut, both tattoo and haircut are coerced. As the old saying goes, we know what we are, and now are only dickering about the price. Is this right?

#116 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 06:02 PM:

Power and authority? Don't forget fame.... When I was in college, the overprivileged jocks had their own private cafeteria where they could have steak every day of the week.

#117 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 06:15 PM:

John #112:

A few thing that makes me doubt the ultimate badness of fraternity and sorrority initiations[1]:

a. It seems pretty common that parents want their kids to join the same frat/sorrority they did.

b. It seems pretty common for older siblings to want their younger siblings to join the same frat/sorrority they did.

c. I have heard people who did join frats say that it was a little silly or pointless or something, but I've not heard them say they think it was a terrible idea, exploitative, coercive, etc.

Now, this contrasts with all kinds of other stuff where you see a very different pattern. Many people drink heavily, take drugs, sleep around, or take stupid risks due to peer pressure. It's common to see/hear parents and older siblings trying to warn kids/younger siblings about these dumb peer-pressure-induced decisions. Adults who did them often ruefully reflect on how dumb they were and how lucky they were not to end up paying a heavy price.

This doesn't look much like a pattern of some kind of exploitation or coercion or cruelty that cries out for something to be done.

[1] I have no experience with any of this directly, as I am pretty deeply not a joiner, and had zero interest in joining a frat of any kind.

#118 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 06:42 PM:

albatross @ 81:

I guess what I'm trying to work out is how you can define coercion in this sense in a meaningful way that doesn't end up applying to almost everything.

I don't think you can, because it does. (Talk about your overly broad statements--I just laid down a doozy there.)

I introduced the idea of coerced consent into the discussion because so often these things come down to a naive Friedmanesque choice fetish. If I had to point at one idea that helps keep Americans from emancipating themselves from mental slavery, it'd be the idea that having choices makes it all okay. (There's a rap song I keep trying to write in my head with the chorus: "Arsenic! Cyanide! You're free to choose!/Them communists want to make you drink apple juice!")

I agree the idea can be (and has been) used too broadly, that it deals in shades of grey, that it often boils down to a judgement call (or a prejudice, if you prefer), all that and more. These are ways in which it usefully resembles the real world.

#119 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 06:43 PM:

Bruce #96:

I see your point here, but I guess my knee-jerk reaction goes the other direction. When we start defining voluntary choices that have rewards and costs as "coerced consent[0]," we seem to me to be opening the door to intervening in a huge range of personal choices. We're saying that "it's my body, my life, and my time, and I'm an adult" isn't generally enough to make Mrs Grundy leave the decision to us. This seems like a move in the wrong direction.

I have seen the basic argument (you made a choice, but somehow you didn't *really* consent) many times. Oddly, I never see it applied to something the speaker things was an okay choice to make. Sometimes, Christian fundamentalists or feminists will argue that participation in pornography or prostitution[1] or promiscuous sex is inherently coercive, but never that the decision not to do those things is coercive. Other times, antiwar folks will argue that joining the volunteer military for money[2] is inherently coercive, at least for poor kids.

I take from this that most of the time when I see this argument, the real goal is "I don't like this choice, and think you ought not to be allowed to make it," rather than a deep concern with coercion. Mainly, this is because coercion is being so broadly defined that everyone must be coerced in many decisions each day.

[0] A lot of the problem I have here is that "coercion" has a meaning which is distinct from what's meant here. "Coerced consent" is one of those phrases like "economic violence," which tries to combine two important but quite different ideas under the same label. A sorrority initiation in which women voluntarily, say, have sex with someone as a condition of joining would indeed be nasty, but it is a different thing than forcible rape.

[1] Allowing legal prostitution would be coercive. So instead, we have pimps who beat the hell out of their prostitutes, and human trafficing/slavery to provide prostitutes for brothels run illegally. It's a good thing we're so careful to avoid coercion!

[2] It seems to me that fewer people make this argument about drafted soldiers, which is like complaining that some young woman is just sleeping around because of peer pressure and isn't really consenting to sex, but then approving of rape.

#120 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 06:48 PM:

albatross @ 115
Hair grows back. Tattoos and brands are considerably longer-lasting (and frequently regretted later in life).

#121 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 06:53 PM:

albatross @119:

I am not convinced that introducing a set of sexual analogies to this conversation is going to lead to a clearer discussion. I'm only mildly more persuaded that dragging conscription in won't lead to unpleasantness.

Hang on. We've already had Nazis and concentration camp on the thread. Is this some form of bingo, and if so, where's MY card?

#122 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 06:54 PM:

John #118:

Giving people a choice doesn't make everything okay, and I can see what you're arguing for here. But:

a. Constrained choices can be ugly, even as bad as coercion in some ways, but they're not the same as coercion. In the same sense, dire poverty may be worse than some kinds of slavery, yet poverty and slavery are different conditions. It does no good to mix the two together in one term or concept and pretend that they're the same thing.

b. I usually see arguments along these lines with the goal of removing some choices (which the arguer thinks are bad choices). For example, someone who thinks taking part in pornography is inherently exploitative typically wants that option taken away.

#123 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 07:33 PM:

Terry @ 87:

I didn't mention sex, because; well I didn't.

But, in the vein of voluntary, making a sexual act a requirement of joining seems to me (at a philosophical level) less injurious than a permenent mark.

At a philosophical level, I agree with you, but at a cultural and emotional level, it gives me the creeps.

Part of my abhorrence of the tattoos and brands is just that permanence.

Understood--but today, tattoos are less permanent than memories.

Bruce @ 96:

I feel the same way about practices that encourage participants to regard others' pain and humiliation as currency.

Also understood--but in the case of fraternity inititations, is it really the pain and humiliation of others? Or is it a pain and humiliation shared among members of the group? That doesn't necessarily make it right, but it does change things, I think.

Bruce @ 104:

I didn't ever expect, when growing up, to live in a country where torture was standard accepted practice for anything. But as I look back at how I ended up doing that anyway, it seems to me that the most horrendous evils at the heart of this administration flow from widely accepted trends in society at large. So as I can, I'm trying to identify what look like root causes, places where later pathologies and crimes can be forestalled by timely action when their seeds are still small.

I think that's a good thing to do, but I'm not sure it's well-directed in this case. Consider a practice that long predates the War on Terra: Prison rape. Ever watched the cops on procedurals threaten suspects with it? And how did we go from Johnny Cash at San Quentin to 24 in my lifetime, anyway? I don't think it's fraternity initiations, even the most vile ones, since they both long predate the current crisis and since they've been being toned down and repressed for some time.

(Here's a truly wild-ass theory that I don't believe but feel the emotional force from: One of the most subversive movies in recent American cinema was Animal House. It wasn't long after that fraternities began to be tamed down.)

Marilee @ 106:

Sure, they thought it was a rejection of the ritual. Why should I care? I had rejected it verbally for many months before I rejected it physically.

Marilee, almost everything that happened to you ranged from unreasonable to downright rotten. I'm not saying you were ever wrong or not within your rights to not participate in these customs and rituals.

What I'm asking, though, is whether your first, original refusal--not punching someone, that was a moderate and restrained response in my book--might have been hurtful or painful or threatening to the people you rejected.

but do you think Newton made the world better because he tortured? That would be the equivalent statement.

The British government surely thought so, but I don't.

What I was trying to get at was that Newton seen in whole, including his evils (and his idiocies--he was a bit of a religious wacko in his lesser-known writings), was one of the greatest contributors to humanity ever, and that it's not possible to tease him apart and make him who we want. I would prefer to have had a Churchill who wasn't a drunk, a Shaw or a Pound who didn't fall for Hitler or Mussolini, an FDR or an MLK who wasn't an adulterer, a Lincoln who wasn't a depressive, but I don't.

#124 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 07:41 PM:

Sigh. Again, poorly-formed blockquotes mean that the second paragraph of my quote of Terry looks like I said it.

Does anyone know if this is a Movable Type bug?

#125 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 07:51 PM:

Lee @ #110:
If anything, it's worse for a black fraternity to brand its members. Slaves were branded. Gang members are often branded. Prisoners are branded, as noted above. Are these the images you want being evoked when a person joins a group?

I am speculating here, being neither black nor a member of any sort of fraternity, but knowing quite a number of people who've branded themselves.

I think that it is quite possible that in the case of a black fraternity, the branding is similar to the capture of words like "queer" and "bitch" by activists: taking something that used to be used as a term of degradation and flipping it so it becomes a power-term.

The brand (or tattoo) is a mark of ownership, pure and simple. And no group has that right of ownership over its members.

What makes you think it's the group that is the symbolic owner? I would not be at all surprised if they are using it to symbolize ownership of their own bodies and rejection of such ownership by anyone else (along with the obvious ordeal aspects.)

Also, if you're going to bring up the issue of sexual domination, I will note that the real power in those situations lies with the client, who has paid good money* to be dominated and humiliated, and can stop the scenario at any time. That is emphatically NOT the case in hazing initiations, so the comparison you're trying to draw isn't valid.

* Or its equivalent in trust. I know a number of submissives, and they are all very firm on the point that respect is necessary before that sort of sexual play is safe. Also, I say to you: safewords. There are no safewords in hazing.

And in return I will point out that not everyone plays with safewords or believes in doing so.

#126 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 07:54 PM:

John, Moveable Type doesn't run that stuff across paragraphs. You have to do each one separately.

It isn't a bug, it's a feature.

#127 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 08:07 PM:

PJ @ 126...

It is neither. It is a UOPPG, or a Unique Opportunity for Personal and Professional Growth.

#128 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 08:32 PM:

Albatross, #115: Not "anything I find undesirable," but anything that involves a permanent mark or alteration to my body. The haircut would be objectionable, but hair grows back out. Tattoos and brands are forever; that puts them in a different class altogether. Note that if they were to tell me that I would always have to wear my hair short, for the rest of my life, that would move it into the class of a permanent alteration and make it equally unacceptable.

John, #123: Understood--but today, tattoos are less permanent than memories.
Not really. A better analogy is vasectomy; yes, there are places that advertise reversals, and yes, they do have some success, but you're still best advised to treat it as a permanent decision. With tattoos, much depends on the exact type of inks used and the depth to which they're inserted. And I'm sure there are some people here who know much more about this than I do!

And in return I will point out that not everyone plays with safewords or believes in doing so.

In a fully-private setting, there's no good way to guard against that, although it is lunatic behavior and IMO qualifies as Evolution In Action. But do we really want that sort of thing happening under the aegis of our institutions of higher education? I think that people who attend college have some reason to expect that they will survive to graduate. And before you bring up "normal" student accidents and idiocies, those are not an institutionalized part of the experience.

Hmmm, that seems to be another major facet of what's bugging me about all this. If it were happening outside of the college environment -- even to people in the same age group -- it would bother me rather less. Except for the mandatory branding/tattooing, which still pings the "completely unacceptable" button for me.

#129 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 08:47 PM:

Lee @ 128... A better analogy is vasectomy; yes, there are places that advertise reversals, and yes, they do have some success, but you're still best advised to treat it as a permanent decision.

Yesterday, while driving from the Bay Area back to New Mexico, I saw on I-40 a billboard advertising vasectomy-reversal surgery, right next to a sign telling us that the Petrified Forest national park was up ahead.

#130 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 09:00 PM:

Lee @#128:

[me]: And in return I will point out that not everyone plays with safewords or believes in doing so.

In a fully-private setting, there's no good way to guard against that, although it is lunatic behavior and IMO qualifies as Evolution In Action.

I'd thank you for that rather insulting characterization, but I think it stems largely from rampaging ignorance fueled by the P.C. marketing of the public BDSM scene and the Mary Sue fantasies of Jacqueline Carey.

But do we really want that sort of thing happening under the aegis of our institutions of higher education?

And, um, your logical connection between BDSM and said aegis is what exactly?

#131 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 09:21 PM:

John A. Arkansawyer: At a philosophical level, I agree with you, but at a cultural and emotional level, it gives me the creeps.

That is an interesting difference. All the hazing issues we are talking about, don't really bother me at the gut level. I've survived such things. Lots of people have survived such things. Rites of passage have often been gruesome (various bodily mutilations performed at the onset of puberty come to mind).

There have been some issues (coerced/constrained consent, which I believe to be different; age, symbolism, etc.) which, I think, are being conflated in the general sense, which hampers free discussion... to take an example, You and marilee are going round and round about rejection. You keep asking if they might have felt rejected ab initio because she refused to take part in the initiation rituals. She keeps saying she did reject them; in that instance.

I think a lot of that sort of talking past each other has been going on (and, not that it matters, I think they did feel rejected, and as a result tried to force her to take part... and I think that sense of entitlement to make her take part is part of the bigger question).

Constrained constent: I don't have to sign a traffic ticket. If I refuse I will be taken to the station (at least here in California). In exchange for not being taken in (and forced to undergo all the indiginities which attach to being arrested) I promise to appear.

It's not really a free choice. My options are constrained.

But then again, there was no real incentive for me to want a speeding ticket; on the other hand, I had the choice to not speed, roll-through the stop sign, make a left where prohibited, etc.

Coerced consent is a little different.

We all agree that kickbacks to the boss to keep one's job are wrong. Such payments aren't really freely given; but the threat of unemployment, and the possibility of a bad reference coerces the consent.

I think much the same applies when such things are conditional to belonging to a group. The consent isn't really free. I want to keep my job. It has benefits to me. People want to belong to groups (as you said, such belonging was a positive thing for you, and you felt included while being "hazed" enough so that you did it again). To join they will accept a lot of grief.

That they will accept it, doesn't make it right.

To go a little confessional... on a personal/cultural/emotional level... torture's OK.

Given the right set of conditions, I could have been trained to torture people (and what bothers me is that some of the start conditions are being built into the system, in ways they weren't when I was growing up).

I've taken part in training where I was just this side of committing, "minor" tortures on people (it had a legitimate training point; showing that anyone could be "convinced" to say/do anything). It has an allure.

But it's wrong. Philosophically, logically, morally it's wrong.

I have the same level of distaste for all the things you are saying are all right. Because they don't "creep me out".

I could go on to say that the tatto being removed is one more memory the person who wants to shed that aspect of themselves has to carry around, but I don't think that matters, because I don't think ANY group has more right than another to brand/tattoo/maim [after all, one doesn't need the tip of one's pinky] it's members to show the world that the person is a member of that group.

If I choose to get a tattoo that tells the world I am in the Army... fine. It's on me. If the Army told me I had to do it... I'd leave.

I don't see a fundamental difference between the groups, or the issue.

#132 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 11:05 PM:

Albatross @ 112:

A few thing that makes me doubt the ultimate badness of fraternity and sorrority initiations:

a. It seems pretty common that parents want their kids to join the same frat/sorrority they did.

I don't think this argument holds up, since a similar thing can be said of abuse inside the family.

albatross @ 122 (and Terry later on): You're right that not every constraint is coercion (although I think I'd argue that every coercion is a constraint, that constraint is the broader, more inclusive concept, and that contingency comes into play, too.)

However:

I usually see arguments along these lines with the goal of removing some choices (which the arguer thinks are bad choices).

Bad choices in what sense? In the sense that the choice is bad for the individual making it? Or in the sense that the choice is advantageous to the individual making it but toxic when aggregated with a billlion others making the same choice?

When I argue that television is a Bad Thing and should be abolished because I am unable to sit near one that's turned on without watching it--which makes many of our meals out unpleasant for Mrs. Arkansawyer, I might add, though I do my pathetic and unsuccessful best to fight the compulsion--I'm arguing that a pleasure (of sorts) of mine is a bad thing that should be abolished because I make bad choices, I'm saying the first thing (and thus do I refute Heinlein).

When I hear ex-junkies, recovering alcoholics, or former smokers argue that their former pleasures should be illegal (an argument not all of them make), they typically make the second argument but the first is implied by their situation.

When I argue that certain forms of personal information should not be allowed to be acquired from individuals (who may benefit from the transaction) since the aggregate effects of millions of those tranactions ends privacy, I make the second argument.

That's a long-winded way of getting around to, "Yes, I believe there are many personal choices which should be restricted and options which should be eliminated," Alex's unwillingness to pay into Social Security in Friday being another example.

#133 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 11:45 PM:

John@48: yes, it could be seen as a rejection. It should be seen as an adult rejecting childish behavior. (Yes, "should" is a biased term. Like you, I was an outsider; unlike you, I never chose phony admission rituals. Some of this was pure fortune, but a lot of it was things like finding groups that valued thought and work. For comparison, see the discussion on another thread of ways to (and not to) get back into the (generalized) social scene.) The fact that her dorm mates continued to act like children doesn't make them less worthy of rejection. And re 59, yes, these are kids in a very important sense: most of them have been dropped abruptly into a completely new social matrix, as children often are; the whole process of trying to form arbitrary groups is IMO childish. The fact that they are legally adults doesn't make them adults emotionally (or intellectually, thought IMO that is less important here).
63: You're palming another card; there's a difference between demonizing a people you personally know none of, and demonizing someone you know well enough to nauseate you. And 66 is another; "all camp activities" is a lot different from stupid abuse.
And ending with your 123: So their feelings were hurt? So bloody what? I've had a Mormon "elder" get pissy at me when I brusquely told him I wasn't interested; I have a limited empathy for the feelings of idiots who try to justify their idiocy by making it something everyone does. Adults deal with rejection; children whine, pout, and hold their breaths if you're lucky, or act out if you're not. And threatening? The people who want creationism taught in school are feeling threatened by the notion that the beliefs they've heavily invested in are bull; how much slack should we cut them?

I'm being reminded of "You Were Right, Joe", a ~50-year-old story in which someone finds that the far future has only two rules: "Don't offend anyone" and "Don't be offended too easily". If Marilee called her dormmates children to their faces, that would IMO be offensive; their reaction was IMO being offended too easily. There is a balance, which I don't see you finding.

abi -- those rituals sound more appropriate to a small, ingrown, and isolated ]community[, which is the last thing late-teens in the U.S. need to get accustomed to; the U.K. may be different.

Yes, I'm getting a little pissy about this; I'm remembering pack behavior -- mostly from the outside, but not enough from the outside to make the recollections happy.

albatross@100: I'm ]glad[ you brought up the medical example, as it reminds me of the frattitude of the one MD I worked for. Someday soon I can stop worrying about getting treated by him when I'm not in a position to refuse; he was a brilliant technician but his it-made-me-a-man attitude towards training was the topping on a desire that he not exercise his training on me. wrt Baugh's response, the training appears to be perpetuated by custom rather than reason, and by the sort of positive-feedback mechanisms that give us (e.g.) the government in Starship Troopers.

John, I think your attitude and our difficulties with it are summed up by your How can it be against your will to follow the pre-established rules of a group you voluntarily join? Like others in this thread I see this as a gross simplification, while you seem to see many of ours as such.

#134 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 11:46 PM:

John A Arkansawyer, #123, my first refusal to go tie someone to a tree? I don't remember that they thought it painful, more that I wasn't part of "the group." And I wasn't.

Ibid, #132, there are plenty of restaurants without TVs.

#135 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 11:54 PM:

Susan @ 125:

I think that it is quite possible that in the case of a black fraternity, the branding is similar to the capture of words like "queer" and "bitch" by activists: taking something that used to be used as a term of degradation and flipping it so it becomes a power-term.

It's a plausible-sounding argument, but that the practice is also found in white fraternities argues against it.

P J Evans @ 126: My first reaction was to say "Feature my ass! There's no possible reason for this at all", until Mrs. Arkansawyer pointed out this allows the use of <blockquote> in the same manner as <p>.

Lee @ 128:

John, #123: Understood--but today, tattoos are less permanent than memories.
Not really. A better analogy is vasectomy; yes, there are places that advertise reversals, and yes, they do have some success, but you're still best advised to treat it as a permanent decision. With tattoos, much depends on the exact type of inks used and the depth to which they're inserted.

A very good analogy, but not really on point. Less permanent is not impermanent. Your chances of having a tattoo removed are much better than your chances of forgetting your first broken heart.

#136 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 12:26 AM:

John 132: television is a Bad Thing and should be abolished because I am unable to sit near one that's turned on without watching it--which makes many of our meals out unpleasant for Mrs. Arkansawyer, I might add, though I do my pathetic and unsuccessful best to fight the compulsion

Here's a gift idea for Mrs. Arkansawyer.

___ 135: My first reaction was to say "Feature my ass!"

When I first read that, my first reaction was "This isn't that kind of website!" :-)

#137 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 01:40 AM:

I'd just like to congratulate everyone on this thread for your civil behavior. Even though the discussion has veered in toxic directions a couple of times, you've all managed to resist the suck of the swamp. Kudos to all!

I think abi @ 121 is right; analogies to sex aren't going to clarify much. Maybe another analogy might work better: a commercial transaction. Commerical transactions are essentially private choices where public interference is sometimes permitted or even encouraged. It might be enlightening. Let me give it a test run:

Pledges want to get access to the perks of belonging to a sorfratornity: an elite social group, a country-wide support network, status, etc. They are willing to pay a certain price (in dignity and comfort) for it. So, what is a fair price for that? Should the fratority be allowed to exact any price they want? Do pledges understand what will be asked of them, or are they being conned? Are there pressure sales techniques being used here? Does society as a whole have any obligation or right to regulate this sort of transaction? Do pledges expect certain standards of safety from a semi-public and socially endorsed institution like a frotrornity?

#138 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 07:31 AM:

In re the matter of putting line-spaces within blockquotes (John A Arkansawyer et al).

I've been able to make paragraph spacing within a blockquote by using a <br/> or two. Using two separate abutted blockquotes: <blockquote>par the first</blockquote><blockquote>par the second</blockquote> will work, but you get a very large gap between them, and risk some odd effects if there's a mistyping. Also I prefer the style of coding. Experiment with preview to see how you like it.

About 30 minutes to midnight (Daylight Saving Time) in Sydney, and the partying noises and helicopters readying to film the fireworks are building in volume. Time to put my shoes back on and take the sparkling elderflower cordial out of the fridge to toast 2008 up on the roof. Yee- (as they say) -hah!

#139 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 11:26 AM:

#120 PJ:

That's why I made the analogy.

If Bob tells Alice "get this haircut or I'll beat you up," I think we can all agree that Alice is being coerced into getting the haircut. It's just the same if Bob tells Alice to get a tattoo, or to hand over her lunch money. Coercion is defined in terms of the motives Bob offers Alice to do what he wants. It's coercion whether he bullies her into getting a haircut, a tattoo, or handing over cash.

Now, suppose Bob tells Alice "get this haircut or I won't hang around you anymore." That's pretty smarmy, and I can see extreme cases where it would become about as nasty as physical coercion, but it's a different phenomenon. It's also a pretty universal phenomenon; it's been quite a while since I was coerced physically to do anything other than by laws and police, but every interaction with every person has an element of peer pressure. If I decide not to bathe for a couple weeks, most of the folks I know will indeed decide not to hang around me. They won't forcibly bathe me or beat me up, but neither will they want to spend their time in my presence. All kinds of things, like manners, grooming, expressing socially acceptable opinions, etc., are enforced this way.

Now, where I think Lee and John and others are coming from here is that the peer-pressure kind of convincing can, in extreme cases, be overwhelming, and some people (especially young people or people put into new environments in which they have few friends) may be convinced to do stupid and irreversible things, or to subject themselves to inhumane treatment simply because anything is better than being an outcast. I don't disagree with that; I can see arguments for setting some kind of limits on how far organized groups can take the peer pressure.

But I think we ought to be pretty careful accepting this kind of reasoning in general, because it's explicitly saying to adults (or near-adults) "some decisions you want to make seem so yucky or dumb to me that I won't let you make them." When we're talking about suicide pacts or mutilation or hazing that ends up killing or crippling someone, I can see that. But honestly, I don't see it with tattoos, or even with some moderately painful or embarrassing initiation rites. Those seem to me to be no more inherently inhumane or distasteful than all kinds of voluntary activity we do and should accept as legitimate individual choice.

#140 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 11:33 AM:

#121 abi:

Fair enough. But I guess this means I can't work in references to Mac vs PC, emacs vs vi, or whether true chili has beans in it or not[1]. Dang!

[1] Help, I'm being coerced into calling a thick meat, bean and tomato soup "chili!"

#141 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 11:36 AM:

Yesterday I got three calls from pollsters, which was pretty good. Usually I only get one or two.

Today's mail was pretty scanty. Two Clintons and an Obama.

Tomorrow's a holiday; no mail.

I expect things will pick up later in the week.

#142 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 01:04 PM:

Susan, #130: Actually, it was a fusion of multiple statements made over the years by my various kinky friends, who believe that playing without a net is irresponsible and bad practice. (I suppose this could be a regional difference, but given that they live in half a dozen widely-separated states I doubt it.) I'll withdraw "lunatic" as personal opinion.

I have no idea who Jacqueline Carey is, since I'm pretty sure you're not talking about the kumihimo artist. From the context, I'm guessing a writer of torture-porn, which is not a genre that interests me.

And, um, your logical connection between BDSM and said aegis is what exactly?

I guess you missed the part of the conversation where a couple of people were presenting BDSM as analogous to hazing. I think it's an invalid comparison for multiple reasons, of which the fact that the latter has been an accepted part of college culture and the former not is only one.

Heresiarch, #137: Thank you! I agree that the swerve into sexual comparisons has not been useful. The "joining a Greek group" experience is better expressed as a form of business transaction, especially since one of the major reasons often presented for joining is to make networking connections which will give the joiner business advantages in later life.

#143 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 01:29 PM:

Spellchecking reaches the NYT--seen on Google News:

McCain Sweeps NH Endorsements
New York Times - Dec 30, 2007
By Kate Phillips The string of newspaper endorsements just continued to role in for Senator John McCain, getting the nod on Sunday of the Nashua Telegraph, the 26th newspaper in the region to endorse his candidacy.

#144 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 01:58 PM:

I've heard both sides of the "To Safeword or Not To Safeword" debate, and I'd like to offer my (relatively inexperienced) opinion. The pro-SW side thinks the anti-SWs are "lunatics" and the anti-SW side thinks the pro-SWs are "wimps." I don't think either characterization is fair.

Playing without a safeword requires a deeper of trust between the players, and a high level of vigilance on the part of the Dom. A sub who plays with someone s/he doesn't trust is looking for Mr. Goodbar, safewords or no, but assuming trust exists, the sub is trusting the Dom not only not to go too far, but to know exactly where that border is.

That's a lot harder than just knowing you have to stop when the sub says hir safeword. It's a very advanced level. I think of it as I imagine bunny-slope skiers must feel about the double black diamonds; they know there are people who can ski them, but they're not about to try it themselves.

I don't ski at all, and have trouble imagining why people do it (I understand intellectually, but it holds no attraction for me). OTOH I like to look down from the edges of high cliffs, and some of my friends become nauseous watching me.

The point is, people do things all the time that make me fear for their lives or safety. I think people who ski double black diamonds are lunatics, but I'm wrong if they really have the skill to handle them. I do spiritual things that scare hell out of some of my friends, but I know what I'm doing, and exactly where the border of safety is.

#145 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 02:05 PM:

Xopher @ 144... I like to look down from the edges of high cliffs, and some of my friends become nauseous watching me.

You're that scary to look at, Xopher?

#146 ::: Sylvia Li ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 02:14 PM:

Joining late, but I think the original Bartleby story is entirely on point, here. It illustrates how deeply disturbed a member of a group can become when confronted with a person who politely but persistently declines to conform to group expectations. This is a very predictable reaction, quite independent of any merits of those expectations.

The children's camp story is clearly making an explicit allusion: "I prefer not to," is Bartleby's exact phrase, peculiar even in the context of the original story, and not a construction a real child would use -- except in conscious imitation. The question is, why is Konigsberg writing a YA version of Bartleby the Scrivener? Is the protagonist, perhaps, knowingly doing a Bartleby? Will her right to choose not to participate in camp activities be vindicated in the end -- or is she being set up to "learn her lesson"?

#147 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 03:23 PM:

Serge 145: Stand at the bottom of a cliff looking up at me, and we'll see. Especially if I have an easily-dislodgeable boulder up there with me.

#148 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 03:37 PM:

Sylvia 146: I have similar misgivings. I'll bet she's being set up.

I saw a horrifying episode of a kid cartoon the other day. The one kid has said repeatedly that he doesn't want a surprise party, and year after year another character throws him one. The birthday kid is sufficiently passionate about it that he actually finds the party setup and destroys everything, cake, gifts and decoration.

But it was only a decoy. There's actually another layer of decoys (this is a gonzo cartoon show, not a realistic kid program), and he winds up getting a surprise party after all, in fact he's tricked into helping set it up.

His "friend" says "No matter what you do, I will always be one step ahead of you." Nice lesson, huh?

I hate surprise parties, at least when they're for me. If someone is planning one for someone else, they need to convince me that the victim is someone who will most likely enjoy it, or I pass. Kids are not strategic about these things, but if someone did to me what the alleged "friend" did to the kid in the cartoon, we would certainly not be friends after that. I doubt that even the most dedicated party-thrower would give a party for someone who hadn't spoken to them in a year!

#149 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 04:06 PM:

Xopher @ 145... Is that the part where I unfold my drink's tiny umbrella?

#150 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 04:17 PM:

Serge 149: *MeeMeep!*

#151 ::: Constance Ash ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 04:22 PM:

When I was a child, growing up in an emotionally and physically violent family and community, I began associating those who commit violence upon those who have no recourse of either refusal or retaliation to the condition of slave owners and slavery.

That was long before I took up the study of slavery and the slave trade, New World triangular trade and the relationship of same to the rise of capitalism and eventually the Industrial Revolution, which was financed by the accumulated capital out of the trade and the institution.

In these years of study it's impossible to escape the fundamental continum of bullying and torture -- and rape, perhaps as a particular, never absent subset of bullying and torture technique -- and desire -- the ultimate reward of being an owner of slaves. Certainly it's about asserting power over someone who is helpless to protest and resist. Rape / sexual exploitation is fundamental to slavery, as is every form of violence, because slavery cannot be preserved without violence. The whip is always there, even if kept out of sight, or in the hands of someone not the owner, as well as the potential for every kind of physical violation, up to and including death. That doesn't even take into account the emotional shattering of identity that goes along with slavery, as part of control by the owners.

As far as I can tell, the Anglo-American abolition movement, the movement to abolish the African slave TRADE (not the institution) is the first of a bottom-up attempt at a social reform (i.e. not decreed by a ruler or a religous leader -- religions tend to exhort humane treatment of inferiors but not advocate for the eradication of the condition), the beginning of a vast and long struggle to improve the human condition.

Through the 19th and most of the 20th century there was a force for such progressive, broad-based social improvement, from the founding and staffing of hospitals, reformation the way the mentally deranged and criminals were treated, to public education etc. Many steps backward and much perversion of what was intended to be good, but nevertheless the beginning.

This was at the end of the 18th century, after decades of the influence of the Enlightenment, post the Reformation -- and particularly in England with the destruction of the religious institutions that had traditionally been responsible for education, health care, charity, etc.

Torture was something almost anyone could expect if they fell into bad luck -- like in the way of a battle or a war -- or committed a crime. There are still in the world entire peoples and classes of peoples who are considered 'the torturable,' who know how high their chances are of being tortured in one way or another, and not just once, but perhaps many times, like the women in the Congo today. One of the driving forces in the Cuban Revolution was the commonality of imprisonment and torture -- often just because somebody felt like doing it. An excuse wasn't needed, any more than the Havana chief of police needed an excuse to grab any girl who caught his eye on the calle and take her to a brothel and rape her -- and torture her too. (We don't hear about these things much here in the U.S. re the Revolution and the Batista regime(s)).

In any case the Abolitionists for the Anglo-American slave trade launched from a platform that delineated that every aspect of the Trade involved torture and murder. And with the Brooks ship broadside and the subsequent Parliamentary inquiries, the popular opinion agreed, and eventually the trade was abolished in 1807 - 08.

Hazing, bullying, prison and military and sports groups, lynch mobs, torture, these behaviors are what makes slavery slavery. Bullying has become rife, even in cyberspace -- recall the girl who committed suicide due to was it a Facebook bullying that included even the PARENTS of a group of kids?

At least that's how I see it. And I know this screed doesn't make as much sense as I'd like it to. Its just the other day I began making a connection between the Anglo-American movement to abolish the slave trade and the Reformation, the Enlightenment and social progress. This is going to be a major research project in 2008.

In the meantime, in the last 8 years, this nation has taken to not only committing torture, but not even understanding why so many of us are outraged. This is a turning of the back of those in the highest station upon everything accomplished in social progress since the Enlightenment. Torture takes place in a space in which there is no belief in 'social good' or that government exists to serve a citizenry or even that a life of the spirit has validity.

Thank you for your patience.

Love, C.

#152 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 04:41 PM:

Xopher @ 150... I wonder what the best onomatopeia would be for a cartoon anvil falling on my head.

#153 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 06:09 PM:

*KLLwunkkkg*

#154 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 06:22 PM:

Rob, pretty good, but you left out *nnnnGGGGGnnNNNGgggnnnnNGGGG* and then *tweetweetweet*

#155 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 09:11 PM:

Lee @ 142: You're welcome. =)

#156 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 09:17 PM:

Thanks, Rob and Xopher. Bam.

#157 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 10:08 PM:

Xopher @ 148,

I haven't finished reading the book, though I've owned it for a while. But I strongly doubt the girl is being "set up" to learn a lesson. (For one, the book starts with her leaving camp halfway through rather than put up with more of it, and the "I would prefer not to" is in flashbacks.) Have you read other works by Konisberg? She's an author I admire greatly, and part of that is because of how well she deals with complex matters of non-conformity.

...and now I think I'm going to go pull out the book, to find out how it ends. Because I do want to know how she and her equally non-conformist uncles deal with the problems they're being faced with as people want them to quietly act just like everyone else.

#158 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 11:21 PM:

I never heard of the book or author before. I'm glad to hear that about them. Maybe I'll read it myself.

#159 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 02:25 AM:

Xopher @ 158: Konigsburg is worth reading, at least in my opinion. I think the book being mentioned in this thread is The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place , which I haven't read yet either. But I started reading Konigsburg way back when with A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver (the Eleanor of Aquitaine YA novel, which is just pure fun), and I'd trust her not to be simplistic or heavy-handed in pretty much anything she writes. Disturbing, sometimes, yes, but intentionally so, I'd say.

#160 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 03:44 AM:

Xopher, if you haven't read any Konigsburg before, I'd recommend starting with either: From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankinweiler, which is probably her most famous book, and delightfully clever in places, about two children who decide to run away to a museum; or The View from Saturday, a more serious work about a set of schoolchildren who don't quite fit with the others, and form a team for an academic bowl.

I would be reading my copy of The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place right now to see how it ends if I hadn't managed to misplace it somehow. But I have sufficient confidence in that author to strongly recommend that book on the strength of its first third alone.

#161 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 06:59 AM:

Fragano Ledgister @ #77: Now, about that annual luncheon at the Guildhall...

The answer is "A diet-conscious Lady Mayoress at the Guildhall".

The question, asked of comedy writer Frank Muir on a music-themed quiz show, is "What has five courses and frets?"

#162 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 10:16 AM:

I quite enjoyed The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place, but it's not Konigsburg's best work. Her earlier ones are usually better (imo). I second both of the recommendations above.

#163 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 01:35 PM:

Responding belatedly to a question much earlier in the thread: Jacqueline Carey doesn't write sleazy pain-porn. Though some of her characters have been sadists or masochists, she's interested in what G.R.R. Martin calls the "moral gray zones". (I'm looking back at my review of Kushiel's Scion in the June 2006 Locus for this.) Good characterization, cogent moral points, and a fantasy world that's a weird mix of cultures and eras, are all enough to interest me -- and as noted elsewhere, I can be squeamish.

Incidentally, a German magazine (more fanzine than prozine) just got my, and Locus', OK to reprint one of my Carey reviews.

#164 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 01:54 PM:

Oops. Susan, for some reason I seem to have thought I was talking to John in my response to your post #125. That probably explains some of the disconnects you noticed in the conversation. My apologies for the confusion.

#165 ::: SamChevreSpotsSpam ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2010, 01:33 PM:

Is spam a sort of push-poll?

#166 ::: Stefan Jones suspects spam ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2014, 04:47 PM:

Some kind of promotional strategy spammishness going on here.

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