This video leaves me heartbroken and sad. Also very very angry.
It hurts my insides to listen to this lady's story. No one, and I do mean no one, should ever have to feel the way she felt. Not ever, not under any circumstances. But it does. All the fucking time! I don't have the words for how sad that makes me.
But mostly I am angry. I am angry that we live in a world where this happens all the time. I'm angry that society is apparently pretty OK with this being the case. I'm angry at myself for the time spent as part of that culture.
This is why Modesty culture and Purity culture pisses me the fuck off. I cannot just live and let live, those things are not harmless. How do I hate it? Let me count the ways! I hate the way it divides people into good and bad based purely on whether they've had sex or not. I hate the way it makes you ashamed of your body and your hormones and everything that is completely natural about sex. I hate the way it always finds ways to side against the abused and with the abuser. I hate the shame spirals and the psychological trauma of calling good, harmless and natural things sinful. I hate that it teaches men to hate and fear the female body. I hate that it turns women into things, not people. I hate how it degrades men and teaches them that deep down they are uncontrollable sex monsters. But more than anything I hate how it teaches us that we are supposed to be like his.
This is the one thing that (as a guy) makes me insanely angry about purity and modesty teachings in the church. It tells guys that they are animals. That they are slaves to their every urge, that they simply cannot help themselves. Men are not in control of their behavior, it all gets outsources externally. Girls have to cover up because guys just cannot help themselves when they are aroused.
That's fucking bullshit. There's no nice way to say it.
If you're the type of person that doesn't find Drunk History funny then you're probably not going to enjoy this post. Also, I don't think we can be friends. Drunk History is awesome! So when I recently learned some dark and awesome family history I knew I had to try doing a bit of drunk history myself. Obviously since this is going to be typed, not told and since there will be no actors acting it out it's not going to be nearly as good. On the other hand, this concerns the Irish half of my family so in a way NOT doing it after a whole lot of Guinness would be disrespectful! I should probably put a warning here somewhere that there is a good chance this post will feature more profanity than usual. If that bugs you then you probably shouldn't be reading this blog.
At my grandfathers funeral, someone suggested we try to find the grave of his grandfather, the original Gillingham patriarch Solomon Gillingham. My first thought was Solomon Gillingham? Am I Jew-Irish? And is that even a thing? (Its not and I'm not which is too bad because again, the Jewish section of the cemetery is clearly primo real-estate!) Long story short, I heard a couple of rumours about the man, googled to see if I could corroborate any of that and ended up finding a story* better than I could have dared hope for.
So at first the only thing I knew about my great-great-grandfather was that he was a pretty successful guy with a big house and his own carriage and he owned a bakery here in Pretoria. Except the successful part was kinda weird because according to family legend his baking was incredibly shitty**. How shitty? Well it was so shitty that even the president allegedly commented on how terrible his bread was.
Well it turns out bread wasn't what his bakery was really about. Turns out the "bakery" was actually the headquarters of the local Fenian cell. (Go on, click on the link. I had to look up "Fenian" too!) So basically this was where all the local Irish would hang out and talk about how the British sucked and how awesome it would be if Ireland could be an independent republic and how you should buy some cake to help Ireland punch stupid England in their stupid faces. Stuff like that. That's right, my great-great-grandfather was an Irish radical. The professor I talked to called him "shadowy" and "dangerous". What do historians call your great great grandpa? Yeah... that's what I thought.
So life was pretty sweet, selling crappy baked goods and rallying support and funds for the Irish Republican Brotherhood but then they discovered gold in the Transvaal. Actually they discovered ALL THE GOLD. Seriously, there was like a million cubic fucktons of the stuff and then Brittain was all, "ooooh that's shiny, we'll take it" and the Transvaal was all like, "Oh like hell you will" and Britain was all like, "Fine, we invade countries all the damn time, we'll just come and take your gold" and the Transvaal was like, "Oh it's on! It's on like Donkey Kong!"*** So the Anglo-Boer war broke out.
This is where Solomon stepped up. He started going around to all the Irish immigrants saying, "Hey, you know how England totally sucks right? Well now they're coming here to suck right in our faces and that's not cool. They think they can just come over here and fuck shit up and take the gold and that is messed up man. Seriously, fuck those guys! Lets go punch them right in the fucking dick" And all the Irishmen were like "Dude, you had me at hello. Lets do this. Lets go punch those Brits in the dick." So they did. They formed their own commando unit to help the Boere and pretty soon they were joined by some other Irish guys from America who had exactly the same dick punching ideas****. So Solomon was the organizer and his friend John MacBride was the guy who actually led the commando.
So the fight actually goes pretty well for the home team for a while at least. Solomon sends this letter to his friend and Fenian chief in Ireland saying how awesome they are and how they are just fucking up the English wherever they go and how the Boere are just cheering them everytime they see them and how they just wanted to make him a colonel right on the spot because he was so awesome. So his friend reads this and goes "Holy shit, this is awesome! The people of Ireland need to hear this!" so he publishes it in the Irish press and the Irish just lose their shit. They think its awesome, Irish people dickpunching the English is just the best thing since whiskey as far as they're concerned so this gets circulated far and wide.
So eventually Solomon finds out this got published and he freaks the fuck out because he made up a whole lot of shit in that letter. There were hundreds of Irish fighting, not thousands and while they did a good job they weren't actually the toast of the Transvaal army. So he writes to his buddy MacBride saying "Heeeeey Broseph, don't know if you heard those horrible rumours about a letter I allegedly wrote that talked all this smack but I just wanted to let you know right now that was a hoax. Don't know by who, I'm as baffled as you are! Wasn't me though. I totally wouldn't bullshit people like that. C'mon, you know me!" I'm not sure if MacBride responded but I assume there was some dramatic eye rolling involved...
Anyway, pissing off his bro on the front lines was only half the problem! The bigger problem was that now the British knew about him and what he was doing since that letter was published with his full name. And he was right to be worried because once the British finally won the war they hunted him down. Now lucky for him the Boere were all like "Hey, you know we don't like people who speak the English but you Irish guys are OK" so they made the Irish commandos citizens. So now they couldn't hang him as a traitor so they had to treat him as a POW. So they did.
They caught him and sent him to Ceylon - which is now Sri Lanka but used to be Ceylon, where our tea comes from - to serve time in a POW camp. You know how they say someone was a model prisoner? What is the opposite of that? Because it turned out Solomon Gillingham was the opposite of a model prisoner. He just gave his captors hell 24-7. Eventually the British were like "Hey Solomon Gillingham, you've been a huge fizzy douche and we don't like you so we're going to keep you here as long as possible" and he was like "Ha ha, the joke's on you! I met this lady here and we've been going at it like rabbits so I don't mind staying here!" So he was one of the very last people to be released back to South Africa.
So he came back and was like "Sup mofos! War hero in the house!" and his wife was like "So what's this I hear about you starting a second family in Ceylon? I want a divorce!" So she makes legal history by not only getting a divorce in like 190-something but the judge was like "Yeah I see what you mean, this guy is a massive asshole" so he sided with her 100% Meanwhile Solomon was like "Whatever losers, I smuggled these rubies from Ceylon and this hot chick I met there followed me here so we're going to keep going at it like catholic bunnies" Which they did. And that's how I ended up being from a peaceful pentecostal Irish family instead of a radical militant catholic Irish family.
So yeah, as major douchebags tend to do, he totally landed on his feet. He eventually had 9 kids with his new wife so YEAH THAT'S RIGHT I have part Sri Lankan family somewhere out there! As dark family secrets go, this is pretty brilliant! I think the last time he got recorded doing something was when he chaired an Irish Sinn Fein meeting in Pretoria and posing under a bullet riddled Transvaal flag for the Irish press. Like a boss.
So here's to you great great grandfather! You were clearly a huge tool but at least you were interesting! For all my snark I doubt anyone will be writing about my life in a hundred years! I mean you pissed off everyone everywhere you went but you were also kind of a badass who fought for your beliefs and I can respect that. I'm not done with my life but it's a pretty good bet that no historian anywhere will be using any sexy adverbs to describe me one day so don't mind my snark. Sláinte!
*Found a book in Google books called "Forgotten Protest: Ireland and the Anglo-Boer War" by Donal P. McCracken. It had a bunch of stuff on my great-great-grandfather so I tracked down the author, a professor who specializes in the history of the Irish in South Africa and through our correspondence I learned some more. Before long the rest of the family were adding to the conversation and that's how I learned what I wrote here. If you'd like a more factual account, I suggest reading the book!
**I would like to go on record saying that this is not genetic. My baking is fantastic. Anyone who has had my chocolate cake with mocha frosting can confirm that my baking will make you cry tears of joy.
***No one actually said any of this, I'm paraphrasing.
**** It was pretty much a worldwide open forum for every young man with a yearning to punch the British right the nuts. Americans, Russians, Germans, they all came over here to fight.
For someone who doesn't like funerals, I've sure been to a lot.
It's not that I have a particularly big family, it's just that I keep having less as time goes by. I have now carried the coffins of my grandmother, my mother, my father and this week, my grandfather. Always a pallbearer, never a corpse...
I would rather remember him as young and strong than as old and frail.
My grandpa died at the ripe old age of 94 and 10 months and I'm still in a bit of shock over it. It didn't matter how old he got, on some level I always thought he would live forever. This one cut deeper than I thought it would. He was the last parental figure I had left. I don't think there is anyone else now who cares how I turn out or what I do with my life and that leaves me feeling so empty. All I have now is the sadness of his passing. And the regrets. So many regrets... I regret all the times I didn't call, I regret all the times I didn't make the time to talk to him, I regret all the worry I caused him, I regret not being someone he could be proud of. In his death I see mirrored all my failings, every standard I failed to live up to, all the goals I never reached. I think it's all the shame that blindsided me. All the times I didn't call him because I knew he would ask about my life and I was too ashamed to tell him the truth so I never did and I never called and now I will never get to again.
My grandpa deserved a much better eldest grandson than the one he got.
At least he had a lot to be grateful for. He lived for almost a century and gathered so much love along the way. He had a long, happy marriage, children who loved him (of which he outlived only one) and a whole lot of grandchildren who are almost all prosperous, well adjusted and happily married adults now. He even got to meet some of his great grandchildren which is more than most people can say I guess. His mind stayed sharp his entire life and apart from his sight and hearing going by the end, he was in pretty good health. He even kept all his hair!
Yeah that's me back when I was still cute...
At least the day wasn't just memorable for its sadness. There was also some weirdness and some laughs, though now that I'm about to write it down I don't think you'll laugh...
At the grave there was this old guy in a suit and he was hugging and kissing everyone hello and leaning on my cousin all the way to the gravesite. I never saw him before so I just assumed he was a far off family member I've never met. Apparently so did everyone else. He wasn't though, turns out no one knew him! He was just a random stranger who showed up to a funeral to touch people. And by touch I mean physically, not emotionally. Just to be clear, he didn't do anything inappropriate. Maybe he was just a lonely old man looking for some human contact. That, or he was just a really weird pervert who gets off on consoling young ladies at funerals. I guess we'll never know...
I also learned that the graveyard itself is segregated not only by race but also by faith and denomination. I can only guess that this was masterminded by the department of applied theology so that come the Ressurection we can finally know which church had it right all along! Telling people "I told you so!" before they go to eternal damnation is half the fun!
Also, just out of curiosity, how hard is it to be buried as a Jew? The Jewish section was by far the part of the graveyard in the best condition. I'm thinking that's the place to be after death!
The service was at the same place I had my last fun Pentecostal adventure a year ago and it certainly didn't disappoint. The pastor managed to tone down the crazy at least though he did brandish an "authentic" shepherd's crook from the Holy Land at one point. He also managed get through an entire sermon without including any stories of his battles against the forces of Satan! Still, it could just be me but the choice of "The Lord is my Shepherd" did seem a tad odd. The entire service was wall to wall sheep anecdotes which is weird for a funeral because we all know what happens to a sheep once its life ends and it's never pretty...
I also got some fun pamphlets! I got one on homosexuality which laid out the case for homosexuality being an abomination and a sin but at least it did include a small paragraph outlining the four simple steps to curing homosexuality. It's in Afrikaans so if you're gay and were hoping to pray it away but can't read Afrikaans then I apologize to you dear reader. You're just going to have to stay gay.
There was also a pamphlet on tithes and offerings which was basically just four pages of emotional blackmail to squeeze more cash out of congregants as well as little envelopes labeled ""Aircon" fund". Not sure if it's a case of unnecessary quotation marks or if "Aircon" is what the pastor calls his new boat...
If I seem extra hard on the church for the finance stuff, it's because I'm more than a little pissed off about the way the church treated the funeral. My grandfather was a lifelong, committed Christian. He gave his time, energy and money to the the church for as long as he lived and yet when he died, the church acted more like a business than like a family. We were charged for the sermon, there was a fee to open the church, there was a catering fee, etc, etc, etc.
But I'm not going to end this on a bitter note. If you managed to read this far, congratulations, I know I've been all over the place. That's kind of what my insides look like right now though. It's pretty messy. Despite all the sadness I am also left with love. I loved my grandfather and I know he loved me. When I speak of shame and regret, I need to be clear, he did not force those onto me. He was never anything but kind, loving and interested in my life. All the bad stuff I'm left with now spring from how I responded to that over the years. So let that be a lesson to you. If you have loved ones, let them in. Let them know you, let them be a part of your life. I can't tell you that it will make everything better. I can just tell you that the alternative feels so much worse.
Men and women live in different worlds. I'm not referring to that Mars/Venus thing, that's bullshit. We are all on the same planet, we're just not entirely in the same world. I'll let Louis CK explain.
See that was funny but also sad, because it's true. I'm sorry to say it took me way longer to catch on to that than it should have. I remember what finally opened my eyes. I forget who said it but I read that what men fear most from the opposite sex is getting laughed at, while what women fear from the opposite sex is getting raped or killed. I read that and it hit me like a lightning bolt. I don't live in the same world women live in. I can walk down the same street as a woman but our experience of it can be so different we may as well be in two different places. I'm a big, scary looking guy so when I walk down the street people leave me alone. No matter where I go or what time I go there, at most I might worry about getting my wallet stolen. I never have to worry about getting raped* or cornered by someone who won't stop hassling me and I most certainly never have to worry about total strangers throwing lewd comments my way. No woman has that luxury. We can share the same space and time but we do not share the same experience.
I'm a guy, so I live a privileged life. I'm privileged because I never even have to think about any of that stuff. My life is just easier than hers by default when it comes to this. To me, a guy hitting on me on the bus is a funny story I can blog about. For a woman, being stuck in a crowded metal tube with a guy that won't take a hint can be anything but funny.
So now what? What do I do after coming to this realization? Well, truth be told I don't have it all figured out just yet. I do think reminding myself of this reality is necessary so I don't unthinkingly belittle those who experience this world differently from me. I try to be more considerate of their experience. I try to just be more considerate in general.
For instance, this week I was walking to the store as I usually do. My route takes me along this big vacant lot. It's a quiet little side street bordered by this overgrown field with nothing in it but long grass and two horses and it stretches for almost an entire block. Anyway on this occasion I noticed there was a teenage girl a couple of meters ahead of me. Didn't pay her any mind, I was listening to my iPod and planning my purchases for dinner, but I did realize after a few minutes that she kept glancing over her shoulder and walking as fast as she possibly could. Now I could have just rolled my eyes and called her silly for acting that way because I'm a nice guy and I wasn't going to do anything to her and how dare she treat me like a potential rapist? But I didn't do any of that. This is South Africa, really terrible things happen to young girls in vacant lots all the time. She had every right to be wary of me. So I slowed my pace, crossed the street and hoped that would make her feel a little bit safer. I don't know if it did. I don't know if it was the best course of action. All I know is that it was certainly better than doing nothing and it really cost me nothing at all.
I know I can't change the world. I know I can't undo an epidemic of violence against women as old as our species. But I have to do something. I have to try. Even if I don't know exactly what to do yet, at least I can try to be more accommodating and compassionate. Anything, no matter how small must be better than living blinded by privilege and doing nothing at all.
This list is like the Oprah of demon possession! You get a demon! You get a demon! Everybody gets a demon! According to this list I have about 8 demonic doorways into my life*. How did you score?
Seriously though, Vampirism? Lycanthropy? LEVITATION? Do I really have to explain to adult humans that those things aren't real? Good grief Charismatic Christians, you know I love you but you guys are gullible as fuck! I'm not saying you are fucking stupid if you believe in this. I'm just saying that if someone concluded you were fucking stupid for believing vegetarianism makes you demon possessed I wouldn't blame them for reaching that conclusion!
Also just FYI - those Bible verses at the bottom doesn't actually relate to most things on that list!
I've written more than once about the strange phenomenon called Persecution Envy:
"Persecution Envy (not to be confused with Jihad Envy) is a mutant strain
of Christian Reality Denial Disease (CRDD). It causes some of the most
fortunate, prosperous and free (aka blessed) people in the world to
imagine that they are being discriminated against, persecuted and
Now it seems the torch is being passed to the next generation. Behold, The Thaw:
There is so much wrong here. I thought about debunking the many false claims that video makes but a blog isn't really the best forum for that. I could try an point out all the misinformation, half truths and blatant lies in that video but I think it may be more productive to talk about the deeper issue at play here. It seems to me that these well off, well fed, un-imprisoned kids with the freedom to discuss their beliefs in a public forum are suffering from a severe lack of empathy.
I may be just a simple seminary dropout but I seem to remember the guy Christianity is named for saying something along the lines of, "Do to others as you would have them do to you." Which is pretty much a statement about empathy is it not? So then I don't think I would be unreasonable to expect Christians to have some empathy. And yet, we all just saw that video.
They make a lot of false claims in that video: that they're not allowed to pray or read the Bible or talk about Jesus in school. Even I - a filthy foreigner from the 3rd world - knows that is just blatantly false. They can do all those things. What's forbidden is for the school to tell you what to pray and who to pray to. This is a pretty reasonable rule, unless of course you are completely devoid of empathy, like these kids (and the adults who made them this way). Instead of being grateful for the protection of such a common sense rule, they seem to be deeply offended that they are not allowed to impose their beliefs on everyone else. But what if the shoe was on the other foot?
What if school prayer was brought back, except it's Catholic prayers to the Virgin Mary, and you're a Baptist and you believe that's idolatry? What if Scripture reading was mandatory but the Scripture in question was the Book of Mormon? What if the God in your history books was Allah? Does that still sound like something you would want, entitled young Christian? No of course it isn't! You'd be feeling very oppressed and persecuted indeed and you would be right!! You would be oppressed, that really would be religious persecution!
So why would you want to do that to others then? Shouldn't you rather offer them the freedom you would like offered to you? No one is taking your freedom, please stop campaigning to take the freedom from everyone else. Come on, it's the Golden Rule! How can you hate it?
So, just one more time:
Are you free to do business? Are you free to take part in your
country’s political system? Are you free to share your opinion in the
press? Are your children welcomed in public schools? Are you able to
work? Are you free to go to the church of your choice? Are you able to
freely purchase and read a Bible? Do you have free access to Christian
radio and television broadcasts? If you answered “yes” to these
questions then you are most certainly not being persecuted. If you
answered no you may want to consider moving.
Does your government
ever raid your church? Are you forced by law to meet in secret? Are
you in any danger of being shipped off to a
concentration/internment/”re-education” camp for your religious beliefs?
Are you forbidden to vote or run for office due to your religious
beliefs? Are you legally forbidden from raising complaints about
government policies? If you answered “no” to these questions then you
are definitely not being persecuted.
You're sitting at home, enjoying dinner with your family when suddenly a SWAT team bursts though the doors and windows. They grab your mother and beat her do a bloody pulp with their nightsticks right there in front of her family. Then they drag her outside and kick her until she loses consciousness after which one of the officers takes out his gun and shoots her in the back of the head. Traumatized and horrified by what just happened, you ask "WHY?! Why did you do this?" The officer closest to you tells you, "Because we found out she had been gossiping".
What is your response? Do you say:
A - "Oh, right that does make sense. We warned her that gossip was really bad. I'm sad of course but she brought this on herself"
B - "ARE YOU INSANE?! HOW DOES THE FACT THAT SHE GOSSIPED MAKE THIS OK?? WHAT KIND OF PSYCHOTIC LUNATIC WOULD THINK THIS IS THE APPROPRIATE PUNISHMENT FOR GOSSIP?!"
So which did you choose? Did you pick B? I hope you picked B, that was the only remotely sane option. In fact I hope everyone would pick B. Problem is, not everyone does. A lot of people have to choose A because they believe that option A is the right, kind and loving option. Despite any and all internal struggles this might provoke, they will have to pretend that is the right option, the good option. They will have to do that because they are Christians and this is what they believe about their God.
That is a panel from a Chick tract aimed at children to teach them about heaven, hell and salvation. See all the things that disqualify one for heaven? Dirty thoughts, hate, gossip, lies, revenge and cruelty. None of those are particularly nice but do you consider any of those unforgivable? Do you consider those to be grounds for eternal torture? I know I'm using a Chick tract here but this isn't some crazy fringe notion. While not every Christian denomination believes this, a great many do. Since earliest childhood this has been the message I've gotten in church - all sins are equally bad therefore doing even the most minor thing wrong makes you a sinner unworthy of God and deserving only of eternal torture in Hell. Stealing a paperclip and killing someone is equally sinful. There are no white lies, only lies. Dirty thoughts make you as guilty before God as dirty deeds would. For a great example of this kind of reasoning, check out The Way of the Master's famous "Are you a good person?" evangelical tool.
So yeah, this is really what millions of Christians believe. Funny thing, this is not what millions of Christians actually practice. I'd like to think that most of them would read my little thought experiment and agree that yes, this is an insane way to react to something as insignificant as gossip. This is because they go through their lives able to forgive small offenses. Hell, they might even consider some offenses too small to actually count as offenses! Isn't it odd how people can be more merciful, more kind, more loving and more forgiving than the perfectly merciful, kind, loving and forgiving God they pray to? Somehow millions of people manage to be more moral than the alleged source of their morality.
If you wouldn't kill someone for saying a bad word, or for that matter thinking it, doesn't that make you better than a God who would? Eternal torture for inconsequential, temporal wrongdoing seems like something only an insane psychopath would do because it is something only an insane psychopath would do. Deep down, you know it's true.
I spent most of my life as a fundamentalist and discovered Reason much later than I would have liked. I'm still dealing with the trauma and this blog is my therapy. So this is me: non-conformist, heretic, fan of delicious flavour and a man without a home. I’m a cynical optimist and a really angry zen master. I am just a man trying to make sense of it all. This is my life in juxtaposition.