Of all the allegations that have come out recently, I feel like Louis CK's sits in the murkiest position for a lot of people, for a number of reasons. First of all, at least some of the women agreed; second of all, they're all old allegations, third of all, he apologized, and apparently had tried to apologize in the past, if my understanding of that article was correct. A lot of us are big fans of his work. We found his style of vulnerability relatable. The truth is I'm still going to find his jokes funny, albeit some of them much less so now.
That doesn't mean that what he did wasn't a dick move (haha, see what I did there?) and that his apology means fuck all.
It's hard not to view CK's apology as another tightrope trick. We've forgiven him for joking about pedophilia on national TV. Now he's trying to be forgiven for his behavior in real life, and we simply can't. He doesn't get to dust himself off from this with some profound insight, leaving us all ready to exhale and thinking, "Well done. I almost hated you for a minute there."
It took me a lot of cycling through rage and depression and apathy before I finally caught on to something. To set this up, I'm going to tell you my own story. This was a joke I told for a long time, and it got progressively less and less response. I realize now it's because what I was telling as a joke, the audience was realizing was actually a shitty thing that happened to me.
I was 19, and I had quit my job in a coffee shop, and I was determined not to get a job in the food industry again, but I'm a realist. I didn't have any real skills, didn't have a college degree, so I felt like I should just peruse the "Other" section of Craigslist to find some place that would hire me.
Fun fact, every part of Craigslist is casual encounters to somebody.
But anyways, I went through, I saw some weird ones, (Magician's assistant was one of my favorites) and after a couple of weeks, there was an ad that caught my eye, for an artist's assistant. I was so stoked, yes, I'm in! I send him my resume, and I get a response ...
He tells me more about the job, it's a photography project, he needs help with rigging lights, helping models, things like that, and I'm getting really excited, and we set up an interview.
And in the last line of the email setting up the interview, he writes, "By the way, this is a nude photo shoot with some subversive themes, are you alright with that?"
And I was like, "Yeah, I don't even know what a red flag looks like, what's going on?
So, day of the interview. I'm dressed up for a job interview, tried to look really professional, psyched myself up, and I get to his studio, which is also his studio apartment, because that's how artists roll. It looks legit enough, there's a few different lights, prints are up on the walls, but my potential boss opens the door in a bathrobe.
But again, I'm like, "Artists, right?"
And the interview is otherwise completely normal besides the dress code. He's telling me about time frames, about the gallery he works with, this, that and the other, and then about halfway through the interview, he takes off the bathrobe.
Now why is that halfway through the interview, not the end of the interview? Because I really, really fucking hated working in the food industry. I just kept my eyes up and tried not to look at his penis, which was perfectly round. I couldn't even tell how it was attached to his body. It was a little ping pong ball made out of deli ham.
And I never felt like anything "wrong" happened, by the way. I didn't feel violated, scarred or like I was in any danger. I was a little disappointed I didn't get the job,actually, and it took maybe two or three years before I finally snapped into, "Goddammit, there was no job."
Even knowing what I know now, I don't personally feel violated by that interaction. It was confusing for sure, and since he didn't start masturbating like CK did I didn't even really register it as that bad. He didn't touch me, he just sat naked and had a conversation with me about W-9s in the privacy of his own home. The bottom line of it is though, he shouldn't have done that. Why shouldn't he have done that? Because what context could 19 year old me, when looking for a job, possibly have to be like, "Excuse me, can I not see your weird floating bird egg penis while we talk about where I see myself in five years?"
I literally walked right into it, but in the world most people would live in, I was supposed to walk into a job interview. Even if it was supposed to be a "nude photo shoot with subversive themes," walking into that photo shoot was something I knew about and agreed to with defined context, not during the job interview.
The reason why it's socially unacceptable to just wield your genitals, I have to admit, is sort of ineffable. The best way I can think of it would be like, imagine you are a frilled lizard, which by the way has the hilarious scientific name of Chlamydosaurus and I did not make that up ...
When you expand your frilly jowls at a lady, your reasons are, as your species dictates: To ward of predators, to assess territory, and to establish courtship.
Now if you're a girl who has just stumbled into a frilly neck display or random image of a penis, you are now faced with essentially two options you weren't expecting: A fight be it because of some weird fear of women or defense of territory, or undesired sexual activity. You weren't there for that. You were there to hang out with a coworker, and hopefully get into some goofy hijinks that you can tell stories about later, at best.
And the problem is that guy who decides to frill up is completely indiscernable from a guy who's not going to do that. He may be someone you admire. He may be a friend of yours. He may even be dating you, and that's a super complicated territory.
What makes this action wrong is that it's an action that demands a response and in almost every case that response is to submit. When some guy pulls out his dick, what is your best case response to that?
Dude, gross, put that away.
No thanks, I have a boyfriend, heehee, but thanks!
*Bat at it like a cat* STAY DOWN MOTHER FUCKER, STAY DOWN!
There is no way someone can bring their genitals into a conversation without them become a centerpiece of that conversation. Even if you're not talking about it. Even if you're discussing hourly wage and gas per mile compensation, there's still a little bouncy, flaccid wiener that is the forefront of the conversation, and if you are in any setting or situation where that isn't meant to be the outspoken center of the conversation, it needs to be put away.
Louis CK apologized exactly because he is an exhibitionist. He is exposed raw for his weird, awful little self and he wants us to look and accept it. That's some sad, twisted psychology that I can admittedly empathize with a little, but what's empathetic on stage is not empathetic in real life because what happens on stage is meant to be divorced, just a little, from reality. Giving him a pass means that he doesn't have to feel bad about what happened, even if he does. That's the big fuckery of it. If he gets away with it, then making women powerless becomes a joke in the real world, and therefore okay, and I really wish I wasn't saying that because it sounds over dramatic as all, but it's the sad truth so far as I can see..
I wish I had a better way of explaining this to you, but I hope you understand.
No matter how you much you like his stuff, you have to let it go if you believe women have a place in the world. If this becomes okay, then this becomes a permissible power play. If he wanted to own it, he shouldn't have denied it in the first place, instead choosing to be defended by "rumors" that let a lot people have room to dismiss other allegations that came out. He did the same thing that people who accuse people of *making* false allegations do; he created essentially an atmosphere of hostility around women who accused him by making false accusations that they were lying, see how fucked that is?
It would also be super nice for women (like me!) to not have to write shit like this addressing bad men. I've said before I don't want to be a feminist. I have been working on a kickass article about whales and nonhuman personhood for like a month but people keep sucking so it gets pushed to the side. As a huge fan of Louis CK's work, this really sucked, but I (and you) will get over it.
We'll also find other people to make us laugh, and maybe finish some writing about whales.
How many of your heroes died in poverty?
I guess this has a little to do with what you'd consider to be your hero. Is it a personal figure, family member, or a celebrity, or a political or historical figure? In order for someone to be considered a hero, we must believe they have achieved some kind of measurable success, but what success even means varies from person to person. Is it fame, fortune, power, health, beauty, family, strong moral character, happiness, enlightenment, as many of these things as possible for one person to have? That's tough to define, but I think whatever we identify as success has a lot to do with what we strive for in our life.
I think about what I want to do with myself; comedy, travel, blog, art. I want to make a living doing those things, but those are all paths that are notoriously impoverished. Part of me is fine with that; I'm a minimalist. I own as little as I can, and I don't want to accumulate much. My definition of success is just to live the way I want off of these passions of mine. They give me a sense of purpose. They drive me, make me ambitious. I would like to be able to do these things regardless of my monetary situation.
Coming to that realization made me understand something else; in order to do those things regardless of money, I would need influence. Okay, so what is influence?
In a nutshell, influence is the ability to have an effect on another person's behavior. There's two ways to have influence, then. One, as a method to elicit cooperation when no incentive is apparent, or two, dominate and force cooperation when there is no apparent incentive.
I think a lot of people, at least if I'm any indication, are inclined to like the idea of influence to incite cooperation. We're social animals, and generally speaking, social animals have adapted a survival strategy in which the individuals benefit the group in order to maintain numbers. It's pretty common among complex predators. Cooperative hunting has been adapted by everything from whales to wolves in order for their numbers to be sustained. The more the groups work together, the easier it is to protect and nurture their young as they develop, as the more complicated an animal is, the longer it tends to take to mature. Living in communities allows more complex organisms to develop and develop their young with less risk. In this sense, cooperation is implicit, and there's no real need for influence among animals.
Using animals as an illustration for human influence has its caveats. For one, the understanding of how the different social structures of social animals work is still being developed. It's no longer believed that there's an alpha male and female in wolf packs, for example. New evidence suggest that some alpha male primates are simply better at being social with all members of their troupe, because being likeable allows them to maintain their position when they get older and more likely to be usurped. Partially, our understanding of animals is too limited to really carry on the comparison, but likewise, we've done something with our sphere of influence to make it far more complex than a natural social group would allow for; we developed barter, and later, money.
In its origins, money was a great equalizer. It was a way to insure cooperation between different territories. Unlike animals, who would have to invade territories and take food from other packs, humans developed a system of barter so items could be exchanged peacefully. You have more meat, we have more pottery. Having an item to exchange was a method of influencing another social group or person. If you give me yours, I'll give you mine.
Barter leveled the playing field even further with the development of money that made different items equivalent in proportion to a standardized item of value, be it coins or cowry shells. By giving a material form to influence, and then standardizing that material so that it could be redistributed, we created a way to offer influence to people who had none. Shoemakers wouldn't have to starve just because the baker already had shoes. The shoemaker had money now from the merchant who needed shoes, which he could then offer to the baker and buy bread.
Money, in its infancy, was a great opportunity to encourage cooperation, but having this standard, material symbol for influence didn't come without repercussions. Stealing money from someone offered a far more effective form of influence than simply stealing their bread. Because it was standardized, money became capable of doing pretty much whatever someone wanted to do with it. Like a proverbial Klondike Bar, everyone potentially has a price for everything. If you have enough to cover it, you can control someone.
You could convince a mercenary to murder somebody for you, or, as we're more apt to witness, you could run the country. If you were born into money, it means you have a continued influence over people even if you have no real right, skill, or need to do so. With that capability, it's not hard to see how so many people seized an opportunity they simply would not have had if they weren't born into it. You could sway the way that nations were run despite the opinion of the masses, the opinions that are meant to influence the people in power.
A very blunt (and hopefully not particularly controversial) example of this is current Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.
DeVos was born into the family of a billionaire, and is married to the heir of the Amway corporation. Devos has been politically active (in terms of education) since the early '00s and a consistent donor to the Republican party. To quote:
My family is the largest single contributor of soft money to the national Republican Party. I have decided to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence. Now I simply concede the point. They are right.
DeVos' policies aside, and the fact that she has influence over public schooling despite never having gone to one or sent her children to one, she is openly admitting the divide that money as influence has created. She wanted power, and she obtained it through being wealthy. It's not something she worked for or has even really demonstrated any prowess at. The policies she proposes show little if any understanding of how education funding can help impoverished children or the consequences of charter school vouchers. To see what she does over the next four years will be interesting, and if nothing else, completely illustrative of one person's influence obtained solely through money.
If someone openly admits buying a political presence, does that then concede that in our capitalist culture, money is the only way to achieve influence? Did our creation of dollars and cents knock down basic human elements that make a person influential into the footnotes of someone's qualifications? What would the policies proposed by a teacher who simply ran on the backs of the support of people who believed they had simply figured it out, and is such a thing possible?
For that matter, can any position of power be considered sustainable without money as a concrete symbol of one's influence? We tend to reward positions of perceived prestige with more money (school teachers being one of the most bizarre exceptions). That's the difference to a comedian of selling out thousands of seats with name only compared to a small fry struggling to fill a local show not only with their name, but bribes to friends and family members.
We invented money as a way to level the playing field, but its development over time has left some pretty rocky terrain, but that's unanimous, right? Currency was developed in pretty much ever civilization, and we all have a way of using that system to our benefit. Turns out, yes and no. The rejection of money isn't reserved to millennial cynics and communists, empires and prominent influencers of history have found ways around it...
Amazon has developed a whole new way to shoplift with zero consequences.
You're still paying for whatever you're "stealing." If you didn't watch it, essentially Amazon Go is a store that replaces all checkout systems with technology that charges you as you shop through your smart phone. When you're done, you walk out, no line, no punching in the wrong key code so that your asparagus rings up as peanuts. It's less interaction with people. It's more convenient, cuts down on both labor cost and loss prevention (both from deviants at self checkouts and employee theft), which could potentially lower food costs.
I find this "face of the future" stuff very disconcerting. Not because it relies on technology but because it removes another human element. Sure, there are still going to need to be people to stock these stores (for now) but what jobs are created by a technology like this? Am I missing it somewhere? Is this a new opportunity for tech support, programming and white collar outfits, does anyone fill the spot that cashiers were in? Certainly, Amazon wasn't the first business to do this, and blue collar work is the tip of the iceberg.
Assuming that these new jobs are available, who are they available to? What kind of training do you need and how available is it to those who would potentially be unemployed by something like this? Maybe no one, the jobs would just shift from cashier to stocking. I don't know, I've never worked in a grocery store, and I probably won't apply to work at a Futuremart.
My job history has been pretty spotty most of my life. Right now I'm trying to set up a business that I wouldn't really be able to explain to anyone what it is, and before that I was trying to figure out how to do that, so most of my work history has been somewhere between vague and day job. That's an opportunity I have, and part of that opportunity comes from the fact that I live in Denver. This city isn't struggling.
We have invented a new economy. Not only did legalizing marijuana give us a whole new industry of jobs, it also gave us tourism appeal, not to mention an attraction for other business ventures to set up shop here. Work-from-home, tech companies, a lot of white collar came in with all of this green, and with them came the cash to start up a plethora of cottage industries.
Denver is brimming with breweries, small batch green chili stands and farm-to-table restaurants. We have clothing boutiques, apothecaries and farmers markets. We are a city who's economy has surged. We have enough tax revenue to improve social issues (whether or not they get done is up for debate) Denver is aggressively liberal and knows it. We can afford to shut down our main streets to protest our government. This is a city of children.
I bring this up, but it wasn't always like this. and that history is reflected in the names of our neighborhoods, in the infrastructure of our buildings. In 1925, Colorado was all but ran by the KKK. Famously, Mayor Ben Stapleton was an outspoken and endorsed klansmen. The Klan also nominated the Secretary of State, representatives in the House and Senate, a Supreme Court judgeship. They had influence in city councils. Effectively, they ran Colorado, the state now voted most likely to make a craft beer its state bird.
There are a lot of frightening parallels between the rise of the KKK in 1925 and the current political rhetoric. Klansmen weren't focused on being anti-black so much as they were touting a "return to Protestant values." That meant their main target wasn't necessarily racially based, but demonstrated a religious intolerance focusing primarily on Catholics and Jews. The Klan's new message heralded a return to Americanism, to law and order and fair election. They chastised celebrities and new media as purveyors of loose morals.
In a way, the Klan was touting that they would make America great again.
What does this have to do with Futuremart? Well, nothing, they're apples and oranges. What they can both illustrate, however, is the effect of progress. The movement of the KKK had died out about 2 years later; their attempt to "return to American values" wasn't any more effective than my disdain for a company replacing people with technology. These views are becoming relics, and they are becoming so because they do not progress.
We can't go back to the values of Protestantism any more than we can go back to living in the trees or dismantle the robots that took jobs. No matter what the most ideal path, it's an impossibility simply because we can only build on history, and it's unidirectional. History doesn't repeat itself, it reiterates like waves, it has momentum. For every great rise there is another fall, and assuming we can avoid one or the other by setting the clocks back is pretty naive.
I'm not suggesting that it's wrong to fight the powers you don't agree with. It's not the fight I'm concerned about, it's the outcome. You can't put up a fight that will win, in the long run, without there being an outcome that moves civilization forward. When we focus on our nightmare of leadership, or our social or economic issues, we can't simply be on course to take them down; we have to have a course of action or we'll just continue down the same current any way.
It's Tuesday morning, and I am very tired. The week has barely nudged into its beginning and I'm already looking down the remainder like it's the barrel of a gun. This is the haziest time in my life when it comes to knowing what the future may hold or feeling like I have any control over it. Am I going to be one of the relics, unable to qualify for work as work becomes more selective? Am I one of the millions of unnecessary humans? Hard to say.
Despite my disdain for our new economy, it exists and I have to coexist with it. Despite feeling powerless against a political system I have barely woken up to, I exist within it. Inevitably, they will both run their course and I will run with them. It's hard not to view this movement of history as one that leaves a lot of us washed up.
What is progress? It is advancement, it is growth. I think we could argue in the context of time it is simply moving forward. It's our choice to participate and how, regardless of where we're taken. I just wish I had some idea of where that meant I was going.
Looking at how groups work as a whole rather than as individuals. Or something like that.