Department Of Things That Make Me Feel Like A Curmudgeon
Aka, A Pessimist Reads  “The Optimists”

A special edition of Time magazine (The Optimists, January 15) features a guest editor for the first time in the magazine’s 94-year-old history: Bill Gates, the Microsoft founder, bagajajillionaire and global philanthropist. Gates has picked a slew of fellow guest editors and writers, running the gamut from scientists to celebrities, to curate “data and insights from leaders in many fields to show the upside of what’s ahead.”

Although I was initially attracted to picture of the grinning Ethiopian five-year-old boy on the cover as a symbol of optimism, I cringed to read the picture’s caption: Why The World Should Celebrate Mohamad Nasir’s Fifth Birthday.

 

 

#5

 

 

 

Yeah, happy birthday kid. And I’m sorry about your name.

The article featuring the boy (and six other Ethiopian children) is used as a focal point for the other issue’s articles; i.e., hope for the future vis-à-vis the fact that, “Thirty years ago, 1 in 5 children in Ethiopia didn’t live to their fifth birthdays.”

IMHO, whatever optimism I may hold for the future is tempered by the fact that in 2018 people continue to name their children after their religious leaders/idols/prophets.

And I have to wonder, given that more Ethiopian children are now growing into adulthood, what will that mean for a country whose birthrate is so high?  Unless you have cultural and infrastructural changes which allow for and encourage family planning, you are increasing the base rate for multiplication of even more poor people competing for even more finite resources. Ethiopia’s birthrate has been gradually declining, but it is still in the top 20 of the world. Its fellow countries on that sad list are almost all African, and are all – surprise! – also on the list of the world’s most impoverished countries.

It seems every third article in The Optimists deals, either directly or obliquely, with the global status of women, and how, “…there is nowhere on earth where women have the same opportunity as men.  Nowhere.”  Any (non-religiously proselytizing) global aid worker will tell you that education and empowerment of girls and women is the key to lifting people out of poverty, and that as birth rates decline, the health of and educational opportunities for women and girls increase. 

Here’s something else many global aid workers will tell you, if they think it is safe to do so: “Culture” (read: religion) is the biggest obstacle to empowering and educating girls and women, especially and including the idea – heretical to all religions, up until relatively recently – that females have the right to be educated about, and be in control of, their own bodies and fertility.

The Bible and the Church have been the greatest stumbling blocks in the way of woman’s emancipation.
(Elizabeth Cady Stanton)

 

Augustinejpg

 

 

 

*     [For women] the very consciousness of their own nature
must evoke feelings of shame.
(Saint Clement of Alexandria, Christian theologian, ca.150-215, Pedagogues II, 33, 2)

*  Woman is a temple built over a sewer.
(Tertullian, “the father of Latin Christianity” (c160-225)

*   No gown worse becomes a woman than the desire to be wise.
(Martin Luther, Protestant Reformer, 1483-1546)

   *   The root of masculine is stronger, and of feminine weaker.
The sun is a governing planet to certain planets, while the moon borrows her light from the sun, and is less or weaker.
(Joseph Smith, founder of the LDS movement)

(For more fun quotes which, after reading them, will make you want to douse your eyeballs in isopropyl, see 20 Vile Quotes Against Women By [Christian] Religious Leaders From St. Augustine to Pat Robertson, Alternet    [1])

 

“Naturally there will be fundamentalists in any religion, who insist on literal interpretations of outdated dogma. But the problem is not just with fundamentalism, but with Islam itself, says author and activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali. In her book, The Caged Virgin: An Emancipation for Women and Islam, she pinpoints three reasons why the Muslim world lags behind the West and, increasingly, Asia. First, “Islam is strongly dominated by a sexual morality derived from tribal Arab values dating from the time the Prophet received his instructions from Allah, a culture in which women were the property of their fathers, brothers, uncles, grandfathers, or guardians…..The essence of a woman is reduced to her hymen. Her veil functions as a constant reminder to the outside world of this stifling morality that makes Muslim men the owners of women and obliges them to prevent their mothers, sisters, aunts, sisters-in-law, cousins, nieces, and wives from having sexual contact….”
(Big Think, Does Islam really Subjugate Women)

“A woman’s heaven is beneath her husband’s feet.”
(Traditional Islamic saying)
“Women are like cows, horses, and camels, for all are ridden.”
Tafsir al-Qurtubi, Quaranic commentary).(Citations from the Council of Ex-Muslims online forum, topic: I left Islam because I am a woman)

 

 

 

 

no comment

 

 

 

I take good news wherever/whenever I can, but I’m too much of a realist to think The Optimists is brimming with good news.  I find little optimism in a “fact” which touts that more people are surviving in countries which have high adherence to fundamentalist religions. All these people, “surviving” (and then reproducing) for what – to be potential foot soldiers for the next our-gods-told-us-to-grab-your-land-and oppress your people war?   [2]

 

 

 

witches

 

 

 

 

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Department of Existential Crisis

Moiself went through a bit of one after seeing the movie “I, Tonya” , which I highly recommend (the movie – not the existential crisis). Leaving the theatre with friend and fellow cinema buff CC, I started flashing back to my extended family’s distressing history, some details of which are long known to me and my siblings, some only suspected and recently confirmed.

I’ve written previously if very briefly about the life of poverty and deprivation my father’s family endured before, during and after The Great Depression. There were other aspects of his family life (child neglect and abuse; undiagnosed/misdiagnosed/mistreated adult mental illness and illiteracy) that go beyond – read: are not excused by – economic circumstances.

The movie brought the issue to a forefront for me, as yet again I wondered (this time, aloud to CC) about the formula no behavioral and developmental scientists have yet figured out: how is it that some people are able to escape a “white trash” [3]  background, while so many others stay and repeat (and then pass on) the dysfunctional behavior and thinking?

 

 

itonya

 One bad choice after another: chain-smoking asthmatic Tonya Harding
(here depicted in the movie, I Tonya, by actor Margot Robbie).  

 

 

 

 

How fortunate was my immediate family, the one my father created with my mother, that my father was able to get away?!  Given what he, or any child in such circumstances, was surrounded by – when that is all you have and all you see and you are told by those who may (or may not) love you but who certainly have control over you that this is your life – how was he even able to imagine a different future for himself?  How did he recognize that he wanted to do so – that, as he once phrased it to me, he knew he needed to get out?  It blows my mind  [4]  when I think about how he was able to marry and raise a family, be a loving and kind husband and father (despite the abominable example his own father provided in those roles), and keep his wife and children “safe” from (and mostly oblivious to) the deprivations and degradations of his own upbringing.

It is a complicated equation – the factors leading to paths a child may eventually choose, coming from an environment over which a child has no choice.  As to how this relates to the events depicted in the movie, Tonya Harding certainly made some dubious choices, to put it mildly.  I am no Harding apologist – I believe she was much more complicit, in the figure skating scandal and in her pubic skirmishes in the years that followed, than she admits to.  And yet it seemed obvious to me, even before the attack on Kerrigan, that Oregon’s “most infamous Olympian” had the deck stacked against her from the start.

Harding hadn’t the right “look” or background for her sport, which preferred its female participants to be ethereal and elegant, not athletic and assertive, and her outsider status and appearance seemed to matter more than her athletic talent and achievements.  She wanted to rise above her background, but (likely due to that very background) lacked the self-awareness and other emotional and cognitive skills to do so.  And those who were in position to judge her, literally as per her skating and figuratively as per her public persona, made it clear that she didn’t belong and would never be good enough.

Now then. Extended psychoanalysis and existential crisis aside, I, Tonya is a highly entertaining, well-written and acted movie.  I give it two thumbs up…and yeah, so both of the thumbs are mine….

 

two thumbs

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Department Of Because It Was Tuesday Movie Night,  [5] That’s Why

Why not go all out in making a fun dinner (especially since being inspired by daughter Belle, who made gnocchi on Monday and sent me photos)? Le menu:

☼  potato gnocchi with garlicky tomato sauce
☼  
red wine vinegar roasted beets
☼  roast Delicata squash
☼  Arugula and baby romaine salad with dried cranberries, lemon-soaked red onion, toasted walnuts, red d’anjou pear, and Dijon vinaigrette
☼  2013 Pomum Red Wine

 

 

 

gdinner

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May you have optimism for the future despite the present;
May your past not determine your future;
May you go all out for a Tuesday night dinner;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

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[1] Or just read the holy books of the three major monotheistic faiths.

[2] And it’s not even our god vs your god. Historically and currently, those who believe in the same deity maim, torture and murder one another over the details while their deity stands by and…what, watches the show?  (e.g. The Christian’s Inquisition’s  – drawing and quartering of infidels who do not confess to the “one true faith;  Blessed be the prophet Mohammed – yes, my brother,  we’re both Muslims, but I am the correct Sunni and you are the heretic  Shia so I’ll have to smite you,  maybe after we both persecute the Sufis….”)

[3] Yes, I realize it is a pejorative to some. But it’s my heritage’s N-word, which I claim for a variety of personal and political reasons.

[4] My affinity for 1960s imagery betrays me with that phrase, but, yeah.

[5] This week, it was The Post.  Go see that one, as well.