The candle flame gutters

I’ve been blogging for a year now here at missing sparkles. It started as a small group of us, each presenting our own views, opinions and discussing what we each saw as important issues within the queer community, the greater social environment (I was going to use the word milieu, but I don’t want to look like a wanker) and the intermingling thereof.

However, our numbers quickly dwindled, some before we even started, as each individual author found themselves too busy, usually engaged in the sisyphean endeavour known as the PhD.

Before long, there was only me. With my idealistic cynicism, loving disrespect for politicians, affable polemic, and occasional use of naughty words. Words like fuck, for example.

After the others left to pursue academic titles and post nominals I entertained the notion that I would find replacements and other people to cover the wide gamut of queer identities, but for various reasons they never manifested — typically because those I found who were interested were themselves too busy doing other things, and those who were free were already blogging or writing in their own spheres.

So it was just me.

I had never intended to stay with missing sparkles forever, but I thought I would be here for a long time. I’ve been planning to finish up here for a while, but now a series of events has hastened my departure.

I written before of my mental illness — I’ve never been shy about being public about it — and it’s affected my blogging here in the past. But now it’s come racing back and caught me blind in a dark cul de sac, it’s black robes fluttering around me as it drags my optimism into the darkness of shame and despair.

The other issues hastening my departure are as complicated as they are my own.

It’s a shame to see this blog end. I built up a nice little audience, got myself into a few intellectual scuffles, had endless fun with Tau Henare, and ended up pissing off some of my friends.

I will return before too long, but not here. Maybe not even as Mr Wainscotting, though I am quite attached to the identity. I’ve always felt an affinity with the phoenix — in a purely symbolic sense, of course — and I will rise again, with a new blog where I can write about a greater range of issues (perhaps not with the same grandiosity as the legendary bird, but a boy can dream).

Many years ago, when I was at my lowest, I purchased a book that gave me a perspective that brought me back from the brink. That book is Carl Sagan’s The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark. Being dyslexic, books have to be very interesting for me to be able to read them, and Sagan never fails to disappoint. I almost never read fiction books — I get my escapism from daydreams and cinema. It is in non-fiction that I find most pleasure and in the realms of science and particularly astronomy that I find my perspective.

I’m going into my room now. I’m going to curl up with my hot water bottle, maybe snuggle with my Ted E. Bare teddy bear, and read that book.

“The candle flame gutters. Its little pool of light trembles. Darkness gathers. The demons begin to stir.”

Good night.

Dissenting points of view

The other day I wrote a post about bigotry within the queer online dating world. La Dida had managed to beat me to the punch with something I largely agreed with (save for that one line that irked me). In the interest of not repeating him I decided to explore the complexity surrounding the issue (granted, he was only given 400 words to work with), and at the same time took a risk. It’s an issue that I feel is best approached by spurring debate, even if that debate becomes an argument; the risk I took was in being deliberately ambivalent. Whether I was successful I’ll leave up to the reader.

The response to my post were not at all mixed — they were polarised. Though no one seemed to be pro-racism, people either liked my arguments or didn’t. There was little middle ground. The feedback I got was mostly in my favour (though I’m well aware of confirmation bias and the fact that Kiwis tend not to criticise each other as much as they perhaps should), and the negative feedback prompted me to post the comment I did. (I’m going to get things wrong — don’t be afraid to tell me.)

But (putting aside that some people saw it as a personal attack, rather than a disagreement of ideas) most of the negative feedback I received was on the tone of my argument. I’ve run into this time and time again in a lot of different fora: We don’t have to agree on everything, but don’t disagree too strongly. I ran into it a lot when I was the secretary of UniQ Otago, a lot of us ran into it with the Labour Party (which was one of the factors that led to me tearing up my membership card), and I’ve seen it (from the periphery) in some feminist circles. “You’re hurting the cause.” And it gets in the way.

I will not be silenced on tone.

Complaining about tone is a silencing tool: you’re too shrill, too negative, too loud. It doesn’t address the real argument and does nothing to further any cause — in fact, it does the opposite, shutting it down and smoothing it into a trite, sit-around-and-have-tea do nothing committee meeting.

There is room, and necessity, for different approaches to issues, and they can happen at the same time.

In the queer community, sometimes we do need to wear special gloves and approach certain issues with extreme delicacy (teens committing suicide will necessitate that). But if people put forward ideas that I think are bad, I refuse to be denied the ability to say so.

When the stakes are high, and in the queer community they can be very high indeed, I can understand people not being comfortable with disagreement, and I can understand the intent behind only wanting positive reinforcement. But our ideas, all of our ideas, must be open to scrutiny, regardless of how politely that scrutiny comes.

I’m not saying we should throw out civility and compassion. Far from it. People deserve to be treated with warmth and dignity, and we should never allow someone’s abrasiveness to shut us down either. But ideas are not people, and we shouldn’t take it personally when people don’t like them. Good ideas should be praised, but bad ideas should be destroyed, and we can only decide which way to handle ideas by vigorously testing them.

Apple’s success under the insufferable Steve Jobs is testament to the fact that creativity works best in an environment hostile to ideas. In fact, the notion of ‘brainstorming’ put forward by Alex Osborn in the 1940s that promoted a judgement free environment, actually diminishes creative ability, and hinders our capacity for good ideas.

We must be careful to not allow our privilege to blind us to when we are stomping over other people’s perspectives, but we should never be afraid of criticism, especially when it comes from our friends. We’re still fighting to advance our rights — gay marriage and adoption are still before us, bi-erasure is still a thing, and trans* people are still fighting for basic dignities — and our arguments need to be strong.

For our arguments to be strong, first we need to have them.

Catching up

I need to do more of this “blogging” thing. You may have noticed my content dropping off the last few months. This has to do with life stuff that I can avoid a little more readily than I want to say what they are here.

Suffice to say, I intend to play furious catch-up over Easter. There’s a lot more trans* stuff happening atm than the whole Greer thing, and I really want to address racism and bigotry within our own communities.

Also, I just want to post more random, fun, cool things.

In the mean time, here’s a kitty I found on Reddit:

… still here

by Mr Wainscotting

Phew… Sorry for the absence. It was end of term, assignments were due, busy times. I’ve also just resurrected my old computer, so I can actually blog on a computer with a real keyboard!

So, there’s lots to catch up on: New York (Yay!); Alasdair Thompson (Boo!); ACT on Campus in Auckland (BOO!); as well as a few election PSAs that I want to throw out there.

So, sit back, and I’ll see if I can get the swirling things out of my head an into this blog in good time…