Monday Miscellany: Permission, Pat Answers….Peeing.

1. I…..yeah, my hometown.

There’s an old adage in Texas criminal justice reform that’s become downright apocryphal: It goes that jailtime should be reserved for the criminals we’re “scared of, not the ones we’re mad at.” In the case of 23-year-old Daniel Athens, who will be spending a full year and a half in a State Jail facility for peeing on the Alamo, we can probably downgrade that to “seriously annoyed with.”

2. The quote about nobody being able to make you feel bad without your permission (or inferior without your consent, depending on which internet source) is something I usually see attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, though I’ve also seen Susan B. Anthony and Helen Keller. It’s also ridiculous and probably harmful.

Now, first off, “shrugging off other people’s insults and accusations” is a learned skill. If you’ve ever raised a kid, you know most of them don’t come pre-baked with the “Eh, whatever” switch – if you yell at them, they cry. If other kids make fun of them, they get upset. Actually placing the “Okay, they’re mocking you, but do you respect their opinion?” switch in place is a process that takes years, requires a healthy ego on the kid’s part, and isn’t 100% successful.

So expecting everyone to have that skill is kinda jerky. Admittedly, it’s a vital skill that everyone should actively cultivate – without it, abusers can emotionally manipulate you into the most awful of situations by pressing your “guilt” button whenever you complain about valid stuff.

But not everyone had nice parents. Not everyone’s discovered how to interrupt their emotions with logic. And as such, sneering, “Well, you chose to feel bad”isn’t actually true. They have yet to develop a barrier between the onrush of primal feelings and the rationality to say, “Wait, no, that’s actually something I shouldn’t feel.”

3. Elizabeth Bear on writing characters with disabilities. A much more nuanced take than I generally see about writing characters outside the norm.

 We all need narratives. As a species, stories are how we parse the world.

People with disabilities are people with agency and their own lives. They are the heroes of their own stories; not anybody else’s. Some disabilities are visible; some are invisible. Some are permanent and some are transient. Some are acute and some are chronic. And some are accrued over the course of the story.

I’m not going to say that a character with a disability is just a person like any other, because lived experience affects our worldview. My disability informs mine, for sure. It affects how I interact with people and how I think.

But a disability is not a characterization. A disability is not a character. “Being blind” is not a character description any more than “being female” is. Unless you think all women actually are Smufette. In which case I cannot help you.

4. Nodnodnod

But if you’re worried you’re psychotic, that’s probably the most important question to you. The reason this came up at a big conference is that it’s a really common question. Psychotic people ask it a lot. If you’re psychotic, then the fact that you believe these strange things no one else believes has become one of the central things in your life. And to you it’s less important that the person be Validating And Accepting than that you settle this problem that is tearing your life apart.

5. I know much of this is the result of careful cultivation, but tumblr is really where I get some of the best social justice writing. This piece on Pacific Rim and Captain America and this one on boundaries vs. orders showed up on my dash this week.


  1. Nick Gotts says

    I once nearly got arrested for peeing in a dense wood, where no-one could possibly have seen me. This was at an anti-nuke demo outside the Faslane base near Glasgow. Feeling the call of nature, I had slipped away from the blockade and into the nearby trees and thick undergrowth. When I emerged I was confronted by a senior plod who had guessed my purpose in doing so. How I managed to avoid giving a smartarse response* and actually getting nicked, I don’t know.

    *Two occurred to me immediately:
    “Well I do realise that if people start peeing in woods, the end of western civilization can only be a matter of time”, or
    “I’d like four thousand, three hundred and twenty-seven similar offenses taken into consideration”. (This “taken into consideration” is maybe UK-specific – it means you want all the offenses dealt with now, so you can’t be charged with them at a later date.)

  2. brucegee1962 says

    1. “downright apocryphal” — that word, I do not think it means what the author thinks it means.

    2. I always took that quote to be somewhat aspirational. As you say, not everyone had good parents who would teach them that skill, and feeling bad when criticized is pretty universal. So we all need an alternate narrative that we can substitute for the “feeling bad” narrative when we’re dissed. Repetition of this quote to ourselves is one such narrative.

  3. ariana says

    On the 4th article, I really hate the author’s fantasy answer of “If you’re asking that question, don’t worry.” I’ve actually gotten versions of that answer many times, always when I have asked if I’m crazy because I’m noticing that the world as I see it is not matched up with how everyone else is acting, and it feels very dismissive to say I don’t need to worry about that just because I asked a question.


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