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This Christmas, spare a thought for the goblinese

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Christmas brings with it plenty of weird and sad shit that should be different but is not. When is it harder to avoid the failure of our most cherished ideals? If Christmas doesn’t get you, New Years will definitely involve that quiet reflective moment. Perhaps that is why everyone makes such an effort, to try to beat down the niggle. Weird and sad shit can visit us in many ways, most often via our loved ones, but we might spray it onto whoever happens to be standing there. *Some* succeed in having an actual good time, while others go watch The Hobbit. Sweeping crap under the carpet is just not the Dysatisfunctional way, so here’s a bit of Yuletide social media justice to stuff in your empty sacks.

Not dissimilar to Christmas, Peter Jackson delivered all the familiar tropes: too many heavy-handed knowing looks by Gandalf, too many crash-zoom hero shots for Aragorn, sorry Thorin, the giant eagles an ever-reliable Deus Ex Machina to solve any strategic miscalculation by our heroes, er, writers, and BAAAAD physical comedy; all ignoring the law of diminishing returns. But some wins, too, like Gollum just so grotesquely lovable, capable of bringing the best out in Bilbo (and Martin Freeman). Other weird shit of course, like waaaay too many introductions into the story (seriously it starts four times). Dwarves still aren’t taken seriously, but at least they’re not the relentless butt of jokes like poor Gimli from the first trilogy. The fat one in the fat suit sums up the utter fat resilience of the filmmakers to any fat sense of fat filmic immersion. But one thing galled me more than anything, and said much about our options around Christmas:

Those poor goblinese. I really felt sorry for them all. They just get massacred in their homes and they’re so crap it just takes one shot to smash them off a ledge even though most of Thorin’s company are not warriors, including Gandalf (an old man) and Bilbo (a much physically weaker man, with an avowedly timid character). Pathetic little fuckers. Off they go, flung this way and that in scores, by figures much the same size, if not smaller.

dysatisfunctionalhobbit

Seriously, how did thousands of these fuckers, led by big daddybags, fail to stop thirteen guys who mostly can’t fight for shit?

By the end of the dwarven company’s daring and statistically improbable escape, the goblinese losses must number in the thousands, while none of Thorin’s kill-team suffer so much as a broken limb. In short, thirteen little fuckers conduct a mini-genocide, flung into action by Gandalf who demonstrates a profound technological assymmetry he clearly does not respect (enchanted shock and awe). First year anthropology would waken old man river the fuck up. Such a defeat will cripple that community for generations. I wanted to trek into the Goblin realm with some Red Cross nation-building resources. These guys now need trauma counselling, education programs including  some karate lessons, and heck maybe even a few Anthony Robbins motivational CDs to share around.

Sure their king threatened to sell Thorin’s team out to the orcs, but the captives are too high-minded to even venture a counteroffer, and so suffer from their own limited wit. And they are the intruders! Where’s the inter-cultural respect?

Transformers getting it right, way back in '86. "Don't worry, they'll reciprocate!"

Transformers getting it right, way back in ’86. “Don’t worry, they’ll reciprocate!”

The goblinese are in their homes, getting by with their weird domestic economy and social rituals, probably some kind of tiered society I can only guess built out of their massive variaton in physical size, strength and intelligence, combined with the pure cavernous verticality of their civic space. They don’t gel with the outside world and they know it, so naturally they have formed a trading relationship with those outsiders most ethnically similar to them: the surface orcs. Whatever the orc tribes’ failings, it seems they at least implicitly respect the territorial rights of the goblinese! Meanwhile, these Aryan muthafuckers need a lesson in basic natural jurisprudence and intergalactic conflict avoidance.

If the elves, dwarves and humans had bothered over the centuries, they could probably have rendered their goblin foe at least a more neutral party. Hell, their leader totally speaks the King’s English, seems a bookish type and someone who would be amenable to flattery, fine culture, extravagant gifts and hence much capacity to be brought into the surface Aryan fold. With his dulcet baritone, I can’t help thinking if someone invented a telephone they’d all get along great. Except for one thing: big daddybags is really, really, ugly. And fat. Super fucking fat. Just because Jackson himself has slimmed down so that now his old clothes can be strung up as Yurts for the whole crew, he doesn’t have to get all evangelical about it. (“Ex-smokers are the WORST” as they say).

dysatisfunctionalpeterjackson

What’s the problem with Christmas here exactly? Perhaps, as well as convenient movie release timing, Jackson’s film demonstrates how we can be doing some pretty bad shit, right when we think we’re being so bloody good. So who did you treat like goblinese this Christmas? Maybe a store clerk, maybe your waiter, maybe your cab driver. After all, you were busy. Your Christmas, I’m sure, was very important. And yes, it *is* a stressful time. WTF do we do it for again?

Dysastifunctional.com: making your world a bit less c*nty.

Postscript:

To be fair, the film shows a wider obsession with what videogame nerds refer to as the “One hit kill“. The film’s wargs–massive, fast, powerful beasts, go down one after another from the tiniest flick of an axe, or one measly arrow. I’m pretty sure one just gets tripped! Someone like Peter Singer might say it extends the racism of The Hobbit’s goblinese to speciesism, where the wargs’ feral intelligence is completely devalued. If they can’t catch little bipeds, WTF are they good for?

The one hit kill breaks games by upsetting the balance of risk/reward, and in pure narrative media it does the same, in many ways similar to the aforementioned Deus Ex Machina, which is essentially an author’s easy solution to a narrative problem, that often leaves the viewer/reader/gamer feeling cheated out of the ‘rules’ established by the story. Here is a great example by Bro Team Pill that combines the problem of giant eagles with the problem of one hit kills, and is also fucking hilarious:

Rethinking the Couple Fail: stats, freedom and effective door stops

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Here at Dysatisfunctional.com, we’re nothing if not innovators/outright copycats. The time-honoured tradition of correspondence between great minds is mildly disturbed here. Bastardising this fine practice on blogs has been done before, but how many interlocutors used to kind-of sort-of date-slash-see each other, THEN get mildly angry at each other for a bit but stay friends AND THEN blog about dating itself? Not many, if any.  Annie is a freelance writer, lawyer, legendary putt-putt golfer and generally nimble thinker in all matters social, and my perfect counterpoint on this topic.

Luke: Annie welcome to Dysatisfunctional.com first of all. Currently and comically single, I haven’t wanted to abuse readers with one-sided rants tumbling through all six stages of singledom: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance, and back to denial. Two-sided rants are so much more interesting, and you being a) a lady and b) also in a relationship, all but guarantee a more balanced perspective.

I guess the name of the game at Dysatisfunctional.com has been investigating common problems to modern living, via the untapped potential of human frailty and failure. So without tipping over into pointless self-indulgence, I thought our personal history makes you the perfect person with whom to discuss dating matters. Let me ask you first of all: what is a failed couple?

Annie: The epitome, I think, is the couple you see coming into a restaurant, sitting down, ordering a meal, eating the meal, paying the bill and then exiting without speaking a word to each another. They’re out there. (Couples with hearing impairments excepted).

More generally, I’d say a failed couple is a couple where one or more people in the relationship is unhappy most of the time. As for what amounts to being ‘unhappy’, I tend to measure mine in terms of fractions: if the amount of happy times spent together as a couple is divided by the amount of time spent complaining to my friends about that same relationship on the phone is less than 1 = not happy.

Should that quotient be a little higher I wonder?

Luke: Beware mutual stalking, where you each agree to just run each other into the ground. There are too many of these kinds of couples. I’m sure I’ve been there briefly though, right in those days/weeks leading up to a crash&burn. Make sure it’s not months/years though…

I like how your formula works off of time spent. My approach is more qualitative and less interesting: I’m OK to have the cons outweigh the pros for a time, but if that proves entrenched, I hit the eject button. Does a couple have to last to be successful?

Annie: Sadly, I have no nerd-burger formula there but I did find an interview with Vanessa Paradis very enlightening on this point. When interviewed about the rumours she and Johnny Depp had split and whether they were really ‘soul mates’ after all, she said she found the whole concept of having one soul mate a little scary and that with love you’ve got to take things one day at a time.

Maybe love’s not so much a ‘be all and end all,’ but a state of being where, if it comes to an end, then you’ve got the possibility of future connections with others to look forward to. Saying that, I would scrag-fight Vanessa tooth and nail if she said something like that to me soon after a break up.

Luke: ‘Time and place, Vanessa…’ Sheesh. At the other extreme from soul mates then, if two people hook up, once, or for a while, but eventually things cool off, is that failure?

Annie: Not if the quotient in my happiness formula was greater than one, most of the time those two people were together.

Mathematics aside, that question also makes me think of the film Russian Dolls. At the end, the lead guy says each relationship is one doll inside another, in that they change you in ways that lead you into the next relationship, each more fulfilling than the last. Eventually, you get to the teeniest, tiniest Russian doll, which could, I guess, be your soul mate if you disagree with Ms Paradis about these things and believe they do exist.

Luke: So we’re really beating back ‘failure’ from all kinds of different relationships now hey. Dare I say, that’s where you and I sit, isn’t it, in that murky-somehow-pseudo-educational-twenties place? It wasn’t always super-comfortable. Sometimes I think I learned heaps about relationships in that time, Russian Doll style (whoah, that sounds a lot more sexist when I say it…), but the dysatisfunctional part of me wonders if that’s truly the case. Do we perhaps assume progress as part of a kind of post-Enlightenment Western hangover, and in fact follow instead a cycle of the same old stuff? I guess it might look that way to some of my settled friends.

If I had to defend myself (and I DO at times…), I’d say the same old issues that come up are at least a true expression of my personality. So, you know, I might not be happy but at least it’s the real me who can’t get no satisfaction. Our mutual friend Gary, if you remember, grew and cut off a massive millennial afro, citing that he couldn’t compete with his own hair. He said that without the ’fro, girls stopped calling him, but at least it was the real him they weren’t calling!

Annie: I do recall Gary shaving off his fro and I also recall his identical twin Claude deciding to grow a fro at about the same time which confused the hell out of me. Perhaps it was Claude who ended up getting ‘those’ calls?

Luke: Haha, maybe. Twin genius. We will have to get them to clarify on a future post. Dysatisfunctional.com is all about embracing failure, as a kind of inoculation against it. People talk about their ‘failed relationships’ all the time. Is 50 years of marriage, but divorcing in old age, still a failure?

Annie: I think anyone who can hold down a relationship for more than fifty years deserves some sort of personalised message from the Queen. Could be Queen Latifah – I’m not fussed.

For all the older couples I’ve observed, I’ve wondered why some relationships lasted and others didn’t. It’s strange but often the couples that seemed more ‘in love’ and romantic didn’t go the distance as much as couples who seemed more low key.

One set of parents who are still together were an arranged marriage: the wife flew over to Australia, having not much control over the situation and no idea what to expect. They actually have quite a loving, supportive, fun relationship and contrary to what you’d think this woman is really confident, forthright and independent. Not that I’m an advocate for arranged marriages and Luke, you must be breaking into hives over this…

Luke: I’m not as opposed to this idea as you might think. I call those quietly successful couples ‘third gear couples’, and they make me question the pursuit of romance, of finding the answer for everything I need in one person. Romantic monogamy does seem a tall order. I don’t want to tear down couples who appear to have it all, but I see all sorts of compromises being made to stay there. So why not compromise on the serendipity of how you meet your spouse? Arrange away, I say, because many of our perceived freedoms are illusory, including the very desire to be free. Most of us are looking for comfortable cages. I know I am.

Annie: The only cage I’d be happy with is like a go-go dancing cage where I get to wear high white PVC boots and shift dresses, dance the Watusi and can climb in and out whenever I like. I guess I could apply much the same principle to relationships.

Luke: That’s a powerful metaphor for your ideal relationship, Annie. Please let us know how you go. Do you see any problems with how we typically distinguish between picking up, hooking up, ‘seeing’ someone, dating, going out, ‘getting serious’, getting married?

Annie: I look back with longing to when you could explain your relationship with an a series of vague terms like ‘just seeing’ and ‘getting serious.’ Now, it’s all on Facebook and you have nine options that are very specific and your status update is published for all to see. And the option of ‘it’s complicated’? Sometimes it’s not ‘complicated’ at all. You just don’t want the world to know exactly what’s going on or you’d like to reserve the right to choose how you define your relationship or what you want the world to know about it.

Luke: But explaining why you don’t want everyone else to know what’s going on might be quite complicated. I tried to remove my ‘it’s complicated’ status in 2007, which fielded the status update: ‘Luke’s relationship status is no longer complicated,’ and I received several congratulatory messages which was the opposite of what I was going for.

Annie: Also, I take issue with the word ‘dating’. When you’ve been in a relationship for a while you don’t really go on dates anymore unless you could order take-away, sit in bed next to each other as you either admire or admonish your partner’s farts. And if you try and institute date night, you spend most of that time noticing how much more effort and cost is involved in going somewhere for dinner or paying for overpriced cinema tickets when you’d rather be cuddling in bed at home. Wait a minute…is that the preliminary stage before you become one of ‘those couples’ in Question 1?

Luke: Uh-oh. Nothing preliminary about it, my friend. I’m a big fan of dates in couples, but not date night exactly, and certainly not ‘instituting date night.’ *forest unicorn dies* I just mean special stuff, surprises.

What’s the difference between two couples living this suburban dream you so vividly scribe, in which one couple is happy and the other perpetually dissatisfied? Well, I always say love is like the ending of The Matrix: if Neo and Trinity both think Neo is The One, he is. If not, then he’s not. Your partner might sick their Rottweilers onto you for burning the fish fingers, but if you think it’s working, it is. Until you think it isn’t. They might sell their Rottweilers, give up the crackpipe and start a charity, and this might ruin your snug codependency. My point is that love is gloriously self-sustaining, completely self-fulfilling, and utter, raving madness.

Annie: Neo wasn’t The One?

Luke: Yes Neo is The One! But he could easily not have been – that’s our predicament. So finally, it’s not an elephant in the room but more like an armadillo bunking with the neighbours: according to everything discussed above, are we a failed couple?

Annie: Like Neo being The One, it’s all how you look at things. I tried to make a flowerpot in a pottery class that kind of collapsed in on itself but made for a serviceable door stop. Sure, it can’t hold pretty flowers but holding doors open is nothing to sniff at. Our failed dalliance opened the door to a beautiful friendship, Luke. Flowery enough of a metaphor for you? Or is it a simile?

Luke: Wow that is grand. I’m pretty happy to be the door guy. Well I guess we’re always part of each other’s equations. Not always comfortable, but I wouldn’t have it any different. Thanks Annie!

**Applause lights flash**

Seeking Compromise, Part One: optimism vs. cynicism

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“Doing whatever it takes to be perpetually motivated and optimistic is psychopathic”

The last two posts here at Dysatisfunctional.com have addressed social dysatisfunction owing to a couple of national holiday themes, but today we refocus on personal and interpersonal dysatisfunction, as we assess optimism and cynicism. I wanted to talk about compromise today, but it’s important to first look at some of the pros and cons of how we orient ourselves to an imperfect world, imperfect neighbours, and imperfect selves. The post is a day late, too, so compromise is all between the lines anyhow.

I used to have a recurring dialogue with an excellent friend of mine: he would say with a grin and maybe something stuck to his lip/face, “I’m aaall good,” “Last night was aaaall good,” “This burger is aaaaaall good,” and I would say, often without consciously deciding to, “Well… nothing is ALL good. Mostly? OK. Nearly everything? Rarely. But never ALL as in 100% good,” and make a wiping motion to help him address the facial interloper.

After all, unknown pathogens were waging biological warfare in my friend’s body as he misspoke. The night before was not good for everyone, since that girl was dancing with him at the expense of at least one disgruntled ex. It couldn’t even be all good for himself—it’s more accurate to say that the systematic demolition of neurons via alcohol and whatever else was “worth it” or otherwise worthwhile, which are totally different concepts of goodness. The burger, most definitely, cannot be all good: industrial food production in relation to human health and global ecology make that impossible—even a cow’s fart is a calculation of means and ends (usually by humans, bovine thought processes notwithstanding).

The “all good” exchange was sometimes funny, depending on how I justified my interregnum, and on how well my friend countered, but it wasn’t exactly a running joke, since neither of us was kidding. This ritualistic exchange was a fair metonym of our personalities at the time, and perhaps still is. Over time I would just have to say, “Well…” and my pal would bunch his lips and nod what was probably a mix of nominal assent for the technicality, combined with respectful disagreement with my world view and overall strategy for living.

I must admit, being optimistic really brings me down. “Hopefulness and confidence about the future or the successful outcome of something,” they call it. And I’ve tried it—forced nights out to break the spell, cheerful dinners I had no reason to think could go well, or all my team sports/the occasional street fight. When I try unbridled optimism, something gnaws away in my sub-conscious processes, like I’ve gone on holiday with the gas element on, or forgotten to make arrangements for the plant, pet, child or parent in my care. Something that will come back to bite me. And it always does. Some of you will share this nagging wariness for unbridled optimism, while others will shake your heads and point out the folly of self-fulfilling prophecies. You latter folks will be happy to read that I share your, erm, doubts, on this point. Feeling cynical, wary, suspicious, or just plain bad has many negative health effects, beyond question, and lowers quality of life, almost by definition.

Far from arguing against these ill effects, I can only confirm that I find them… accurate. It would be easy to label cynicism then, as the poor-to-do, less successful sibling by contrast, and maybe that’s so, but first we should ask if there are any ill effects resulting from optimism. Philosopher Gottfried Leibniz’s optimism argued that God necessarily created the best of all possible worlds. Our Easter post identified how faith in a benevolent universe might be irrational and plain wrong, but probably paid off in terms of physical and emotional health. So optimism’s first casualty might be the truth, if Jack Nicholson’s Colonel Jessup thinks we can handle it.

Can you handle the truth of advertising creatives?

It seems that if we’re to assess the respective truth claims of optimism and cynicism, we should ask: is the world essentially benevolent, malignant, or a mix of good and bad? The dysatisfunctional answer has to be that things are both good and bad at once, except for when things are neither good nor bad. The empirical way to fit the world to our perceptions suggests that we might feel hopeful in positive situations, and doubtful in negative situations, but actually the reverse is more helpful: hope is needed when things are bad, while in good times we should guard against complacency. So as with faith, what is useful might not correlate to what is true, even when it brings its own self-fulfilling prophecies.

This seems cool and stupidly obvious at once

In addition, this question of utility assumes quite a lot of control over our emotions, personality and general disposition. Such ideas are the foundations of modern psychological therapy, self-help, goal-setting motivational industries, New Age faith industries, and there’s a lot of milk in these cow$. I’ll throw down on these money-changers another time. For now, while we can change much about ourselves with the right dedication, motivation, patience and practical tools, I’d like to suggest that talking ourselves into 100% optimism might not be as healthy as you’d prefer to believe.

Optimism usually entails discomfort at any threat to a sunny disposition. One way to deal with  hardship is to minimise it, or better still, pretend it does not exist. Negative effects can be contained, blamed on something unrelated, or reinterpreted in a positive light. This can keep us motivated about improvement, achievement, and pursuing some concept of good. The upsides to a train wreck: practical experience and a sense of teamwork for emergency services, personal development for everyone involved including their families and friends, a turning point for the hitherto discontented and half-arsed, inadvertent euthanasia for the already infirmed, reduction in human overpopulation problem, to name a few.

The last time you successfully transformed a potential problem into a motivational plus was probably a decent mental victory for you, but can you recall the last time you had to deal with someone else who did this? Instant nightmare. Everything shoveled under the rug; all the important stuff; all the keys to problem-solving, including the primary acknowledgement of the problem itself. Doing whatever it takes to be perpetually motivated and optimistic is psychopathic, and your loved ones will eventually notice. Optimism can create a deep interpersonal discord, a social alienation the optimist might never be aware of. And even if they were aware, by virtue of optimistic procedures, they wouldn’t be, and this is what makes it completely insane.

None of us know what we don’t know—Donald Rumsfeld’s infamous “unknown unknowns,” but some of us are trying harder than others. It’s all about degree, to be fair, but we all know people for whom this kind of minimisation or elision is their signature go-to move. These people are high-performance authors of widespread dysatisfunction, mobile human catastrophe volcanoes. Don’t believe the sheen of functionality, the good night’s sleep, the ability to compartmentalise any problem—it only appears handy in the beginning, or in war…

Optimism meets amorality: bad combination

I don’t care if optimists are wrong; doesn’t faze me. The systematic denial and minimisation of all the world’s problems, on the other hand, is a terror to be fought tooth and claw. Even for more moderate optimists, we know that folks can identify all sorts of problems in the world, their relationships, even themselves, and yet the hardest faults to see are the biggest and gnarliest and most impactful of them all. This is where cynicism, suspicion and a critical eye become virtuous. Earlier, I said cynicism lowers quality of life almost by definition. Almost, because who said quality of life should be solely defined by positive experiences? Tragedy is meaningful, educational and redemptive, and for these reasons should not be minimised or elided. The critical perspective that accompanies the cynic is valuable when tempered, and that caveat should not be… minimised.

Next week we’ll  start with cynicism and move toward compromise, as we look at the upsides to downsides, fun break-up inversions, some shit about Buddhism, and introduce Dysatisfunctional.com’s mutant hybrid: critical optimism.

Until then, if you can’t be good, be well.

On Scary Ladies: “Do not forget the wit!”

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women are still terrifying. They have what I want, and I will fight them for it.’

“Are you going to women? Do not forget the wit!” In the wake of International Women’s Day, let us recall what Fred Nietzsche almost once said. He actually said “whip”, and my version would have been much less dysatisfunctional, had he but asked. Whatsoever: bring your wit! I say it now as a kind of advice to men and women both, because while Fred got the solution wrong, the problem was bang on: chicks* are scary.

And they always have been. Unbeknownst to Pandora, the contents of her box* (it was actually a jar) were all manner of ill: labour, disease, old age, and death. This was supposed to punish men for stealing fire—maybe Pandora was the first martyr. Certainly a victim of her timelessness. Nowadays I’m sure Pfizer would have her covered, with all their fancy intellectual property. What a bitch-session* Pandora could have had with Eve—copping all that blame for the men. If Adam HAD a mother, you can imagine her chastising* him: “I suppose if Evie told you to jump off a cliff you’d do that too?” If for no other reason, this confirms that God must be a man*, with his poor communication skills and old-school paternalism. I could go on with misogynistic historical examples, but we’ve all got to be places. Suffice it to say, from Aristotle to Freud, the fountain of knowledge has endorsed slight after slight upon women, even the real ones.

To be honest, it’s mainly the real ones who trouble me. As usual, it’s a bit empirical and a bit irrational at once: since my only committed relationships have been with women, I’ve simply had (and lost) many more arguments with women than with men. I submit that whichever demographic I’ve had the majority of arguments with, this group would have to form a kind of bugbear, mainly because my ego is extremely fragile (in my experience, this is not simply because I’m a man, though I’m sure I do ‘fragile ego’ in a very manly way…). What’s behind these arguments, really? Let’s generalise and say I want something from women. Hard to say in a relationship, in which the whole thing can be a slog of mutual conditioning, and even harder to say when single. For instance, if a young girl jumps into your lap late of a rainy evening and holds a phone playing her favourite song to your ear, breathing smoke past your eyeballs and stroking your moustache for twenty minutes but doesn’t want to talk and definitely doesn’t want to make out, then snaps this peculiar anonymous intimacy like a twig by racing off to her sister and pal whom she abandoned to spend that time with you in the first place, you will be afraid and deathly so. She had it and you didn’t even know you wanted it.

Or you are walking home some other evening and fall in by chance with a friend who is quite upset because yet another man she trusts and respects has told her women simply aren’t funny and this has hit a nerve because, as she says through streaky tears, “I’m not pretty, skinny or rich, so I’d better damn-well be funny.” And she is actually but can’t hear it then, and the parting is awkward because she’s flustered and late for dinner. The scary thing here is what men do to women, by wanting something from them, creating categories of accord and dismissal, and also what women do to themselves by either listening to men or creating their own categories. The recent National Press Club’s UN Women’s Forum discussed the entangled issues of how men in the workplace underestimate women but also how women can underestimate themselves, or engage in fierce defensive competition with each other. While workplaces are defined places, I wouldn’t be the only one to have seen all three of these things occurring socially. At the other end of the spectrum, someone should write a book entitled, “Ladies Who Lunge and Fuck It Up”, so, you know, women just can’t get it right either way.

The Freudanese might say the cause is genital. You’ve heard this one before: willies are obvious and out there. They do one thing more or less well. It’s easy to gauge their interest and predict their intention. Meanwhile, the vajine intimidates by virtue of its furtive mystery: like driving in the dark towards a cliff—by the time it comes into view you are already committed*. There might actually be a coherent evolutionary psychology tangent in there somehow, about sexual selection and different reproductive strategies for men and women, assessing assertive action versus sustained observation, though they’re obviously not mutually exclusive, and I’d like to avoid biological essentialists firing crossbows at my front door as much as anybody.

So there’s a sprinkling of the problem, hinting at the dysatisfunction plaguing both men and women when it comes to how we think women. I grew up getting regularly smacked over the head by a mother, sister and chick-cousins with iron wills, and I AM afraid but ‘misogyny’ doesn’t cut it, because I don’t hate women as a result. I’m fairly confident that my fear of women isn’t about to lead to domestic abuse. But the fear still informs my thinking, with all those asterisks above that aren’t quite jokes about how many feminists are needed to change a lightbulb, but are still cheapies leaping from the common stereotypes. And I do like to say ‘chicks’ a lot, especially applicable to women who don’t at first seem to qualify, like your grandma, your elected representative or nuns generally, and used more frequently around those who seem a bit uptight* about it. I put this dilemma to friends recently: “There needs to be a word like misogyny, but more positive. Rather than fear and hatred for women, the new word describes fear that comes from respect for freakish lady powers.” Interestingly, the men left it well alone, except for one: “you mean like bleeding for five days and not dying?”. I’m still not sure if that sums up what I’m talking about or not, even in Freudanese.

While I was quite impressed with suggestions of ‘vajmiration’ and ‘awegyny’, Emah Fox had it down with ‘thambogyny’. Latin for awe + women apparently, and I think it’s sweet as. Another female friend later described herself as a thambogynist, due to feeling utterly overwhelmed by alpha-chicks she would otherwise want to befriend. Predictably, I never thought women could be thambogynists too, but we used not to think of them as voters either. Another friend can’t see how it differs from ‘intimidation’, but with so many instances in which one can be intimidated, and so many possible actions open to resolving it, including some good old-fashioned domestic abuse, I’m just not satisfied with how open the word is. There’s no sense of the good will that is so crucial to the concept. At the same time, women are still terrifying. They have what I want, and I will fight them for it. Bring your wits! I’m quite happy to say I’m a thambogynist. It’s kind of liberating.

Some inspiring women:

http://madzhasrunaway.com/

http://www.genbailey.com/

http://josephinerowe.com/

http://literaryminded.wordpress.com/

http://twitter.com/#!/housingstressed

http://melcampbell.com.au/about/

http://www.culture-communication.unimelb.edu.au/about/people/academic/angela-ndalianis

http://lifeatthebottom.com/2008/11/05/the-interview-series-02/

On swapping Kony 2012 tickets for Radiohead tickets

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Friends, the Dysatisfunctional.com project is designed to bring the hard stuff into the airy light. Expose the dark places, put on some Nancy Sinatra, open a sticky window, even if it means breaking it with your elbow. After several days of the Kony 2012 meme, I am more dysatisfunctional than usual, and any laughs have wild horse eyes behind them. Please allow me to explore my social surrounds before moving onto the most embarrassing meme we ever fell for.

I had pretty much accepted that many of my friends and family, while highly intelligent, simply couldn’t find it in them to care much for what goes on and wrong in the world. Maybe because their lives are already too hard, or perhaps too easy. Whatsoever, I love them how they are, and grudgingly I’ll admit, I love the world how it is too. Each causes the other, and I love that. So perfect. So broken. So ugly, but always on the threshold of redemption. And why should everyone automatically care about what I care about? The correct answer is, they should not. What qualifies me as any sort of arbiter for this intellectual and ethical quality assurance scheme? Nothing. So it goes, a wary truce:

1) Last Easter, I gave visiting friends a hard time for not thinking clearly through some party trick that involves four people lifting up a sitting fifth person using only their two index fingers. So quick they were to believe in some mystical mastery of will, and so quick to deride my skepticism and attempts to break the problem down into its components. I was open to eventually concluding that modern physics could not explain it, and maybe there was some Tetsuo bullshit at play after all. But rather uncomfortably, I turned to the issue of how groups handle dissent and difference, ‘playing the man’ rather than the idea, and resorting to a kind of stacks-on bullying that, as I dug in more, gradually lost its sense of cheerful ribbing. Fairly petty stuff, maybe. Trust an arts graduate to turn a conversation about hard sciences into a critique of social power.

2) I was recently derided as pretentious for having the gall to wonder about how we need a word like misogyny but more positive, in which fear results from recognising awesome lady powers. A sympathetic friend offered that “Thambogyny” could mean awe of women, and I like this word. It used not to exist, and now it does, and I’m going to use it. “I am a thambogynist.” There. I might use it the next time my uncle starts a conversation on Gillard’s carbon tax, but winds up talking about how he wouldn’t fuck her.

3) Another friend explained, on a car trip back from a birthday weekend, how he had decided years ago never to consider politics and social justice, because it was all too hard, too stressful, and his life would not improve by dwelling on such things. I appreciated his honesty! No excuses there, no dull compensations, and that is worth something. When we shot past a speed camera and each wondered aloud whether we’d slowed in time, I quipped that all we had to do was refuse to acknowledge the ticket if it came, and it need trouble us no more. The angry flash in the rearview carried more than words could say.

You see, every now and again, I make things uncomfortable for my friends and family. Deliberately. It’s my most dysatisfunctional quality, and my rationale outweighs my regret: if I have to live with their rushed judgements, having to roll over constantly because everyone agrees there’s no time to investigate, no time to think things through, then every now and again I will let them know how immense can be the bridge I cross to hang with, well, people. If they weren’t stuffed to the brim with other wonderful traits, I obviously wouldn’t bother, and the same could be said in return, for every time I take the air from the room.

In the wake of Kony 2012, my Hindu cow acceptance of these social surrounds has shattered into so many billion pinheads. I am bereft and angry. Just as I had carefully arranged the furniture around many of my loved ones’ collective inability to look past their laptops, or to think methodically really about anything beyond “rent or buy?” (which admittedly is a legitimately complicated problem), up they rose to meet the clarion call of human progress, like animated Safari herds.

What finally roused the middle-class beast from its slumber? Was it Labor’s Stronger Futures program, aiming to extend the Northern Territory intervention and retard Indigenous self-determination for another ten years? No. Was it the Eurozone’s latest Greek bailout plans, designed purely to keep repayments flowing from Greece to its creditor nations at the expense of Greek citizens’ quality of life? No. Was it that we don’t know where our investments are going or what they are propping up, that our iPads are ruining Chinese factory workers’ lives, that chickens are engineered so breasty that their legs can’t support them, that cow udders get so lacerated from hormone-augmentation they bleed pus into our milk, or that UNESCO is currently investigating sea floor dredging around the Great Barrier Reef that threatens its world heritage status?

No. It was fucking Kony 2012. Sounds like a cheap blu-ray player rip-off imported from Seychelles, but is actually the polished product of dubious white people who spend way too much of your donation money on slick online content. This content may be emotionally compelling, yet it is wildly inaccurate and out of date. Kony 2012 is a long advertisement geared towards keeping shady fauxtavist group Invisible Children in business. Read how the group has refused to have their financial records externally audited and verified by NGO watchdogs such as the Better Business Bureau and Charity Navigator.  Invisible Children funds the Ugandan Army, whose own human rights record is somewhere between dubious and appalling, depending on what you think of rape, looting and mass displacement, answering to a leader who hasn’t budged in 25 years. Invisible Children’s half hour hit meme has very little relevance to a cluster of national crises in Uganda including unemployment, homelessness, mental illness, child prostitution and HIV/AIDS epidemics, none of which are improved by hunting Kony. Saving children is less heroic once they’ve grown into teenagers and adults with crippling mental health problems and a mystery disease. How awkward! We knew about the rapes, abductions and child soldiering back before Kanye was rapping about Blood Diamonds, so why get this excited after the fact? It’s like cheering a goal after everyone left the stadium. The cleaner is giving you that wtf? look, not least because we’ve been economically thriving off of regulated exploitation of failed third states for a couple hundred years.

I take it personally that Kony 2012 has scored such a hit with so many of my friends. Folks regularly share a gaggle of petitions, random ideas, online lectures and other media on their twitter accounts and Facebook newsfeed. Some of it gains traction, some floats by, and that’s appropriate when you consider most folks are grabbing glimpses of it between work and errands and general dicking around. Why Kony 2012, out of all newsfeed causes? It’s not current, it’s not accurate, and it’s conspicuously more popular than the next-best online click-cause. Facebook activism is fairly limited at the best of times, but it still accords with grassroots consciousness-raising principles, and I wouldn’t misunderestimate the amount we learn from each other in online social media. Speaking for myself, I’m only a little embarrassed to admit the dreaded FB is a huge information gateway throughout the day.

And what I’ve learned in the last three days is that falling for the glitzy white man’s burden of Kony 2012 makes you a little bit retarded. Not a metaphor for the intellectually disabled, but actually retarded, as in slowed or stunted—that part of you that should be more developed than it is. Maybe it’s your politics, that you don’t see how the slick production values, the “sad” white kid’s overripe screen time, or reductive straw-Kony rationale—all of which hooked you in the first place—are in themselves what is wrong with the movie. So many people are bored with politics: discussions of democracy, liberalism and militarism, how economics and politics necessarily differ and overlap at once. But many don’t connect this boredom to a lack of understanding when an issue gets too complicated to think through clearly. (Btw, if you think all humans should live together peacefully and learn to get along, you’re not being political.) Or maybe your politics are ok, but your brain is unfit and honestly can’t follow a string of ideas through before you get hungry. I feel that; it’s inherently dysatisfunctional. Do you expect to do a hundred push-ups off the bat, or would you have to work up to it you reckon? Denzel Washington’s Creasy says we are only trained or untrained, and I consider myself somewhat mentally penguin-shaped.

Dysatisfunctional: it’s an incredibly witty bastardisation of dissatisfied and dysfunctional. How clever of me. It thrills, it tantalises. People who never heard it before, who don’t immediately understand it, are pretty sure it includes them. After I invented it, I learned that it had already been invented:

While this site aims for content-in-levity, the good councillor is clearly pissed. And he’s not alone. I am deeply dissatisfied with the dysfunction of this hacktivist meme, with all my friends and family telling me thirty minutes of Slick Rick will change how I see the world. And I’m only blogging, after a string of online article shares, so I’m dissatisfied with my own dysfunction, my own lack of effectiveness, my unintended self-parody and how I cannot escape being implicated in this farce.

A key idea of the Dysatisfunctional.com project is that our dissatisfaction is the engine for changing our behaviours, so what are my options? I will mail a prize to the best answer in the comments below. Hell I’ll publish your trolling if it’s funny enough.

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With thanks to Tom S, Greg Y, Louise A, Sam D and Robin C for commentary since Wednesday night, and to Emah F for coining thambogyny! Genius.

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