Monday, May 30, 2016

The Strategy Of Politics

From my Facebook page:
Let's add some Classical Strategy to our politics, if I may (besides, to quote the Inimitable Tam, "I hate to waste my good stuff on an away game")?
Let me see if I've got this right; half of Democrats are against the other half's choice of candidate, more than half of Republicans are against Donald Trump, but we can expect both party's registered voters to vote in monolithic block lockstep, right?
Also, what part of the New Media/We Are The Media aspect of blogging/vlogging/twitting/facebooking/whatever-you-call-it denies us (you know, the non-traditional media people) the opportunity over the next five months to organize and promote a campaign around an alternative to the oh-so-distasteful R/D candidates on offer, and their same-as-usual policies?
We (and our candidate/policy choices) don't have to be "best", or even all that much "better" really, the distinct difference of choice - the almost mythical "valid alternative opposition vote" - is what is being promoted most prominently.
"Never Trump", "Hate The Bern", "Crooked Hillary"; that's a lot of opposition to offer a chance to vote against what they don't want.
Or, we can all whine at each other about how inevitable the end is.
A strategy combines several often seemingly unrelated circumstances into a coherent (and when possible unrecognized) succession of actions toward a desired goal or objective. Like, say, taking the Democrats opposed to whichever candidate gets that party's official nod along with the Republicans opposed to the Trump campaign and encourage them all to "vote against" the despicable candidate being forced upon them. Since we can't actually vote "No" for public office candidates in American elections, that means we have to promote a different "Yes" for them to hate less, and give them a reason to want to "wait for next time".
This strategy needs a recognizable opposition candidate (and thanks to the Libertarian Party, Gov's Gary Johnson and William Weld are right there for us to organize around), and a very few specific national policies to focus on that will permit a campaign of "stabilize the country/economy while not actively making things worse", with the D/R campaign's policies being the obvious "worse" alternative. A focus on a "keep what we got while we take the necessary time to choose what else we want" campaign theme will permit traditionally non-libertarians the conviction they are defending the country from the rash choices of the other candidates without committing the country to a "wrong" course of action (since stability can be argued as a kind of pause in the action, as it were).
I am more than a bit doubtful that a Johnson/Weld Executive branch would have all that much of a free hand in too-radically changing current domestic or foreign policy, given that the Congress will still be firmly in the control of one or the other two parties. A Commander-in-Chief with little-to-no interest in a militarily aggressive foreign policy would have to be convincingly swayed by the military service chiefs of an extant threat before a military option would be authorized in all likelihood, and such a President would also seem likely to seek Congress's overt approval before taking more than short-term defensive action. I fail to see a serious downside politically for the dissenters in any of the three parties involved (given that the LP basically IS the Dissent Party).
I can just see it now; Vox Day and the Alt-Right partnering up with the Mainline Republican and Democratic Party stalwarts, while the opposition Democrats and Republicans self-righteously hold there noses, all in an effort to make sure none of them gets what they want politically. If we The Interneteratti (and I claim that even if it isn't particularly original) can't make political hay from all that while setting up having a good laugh come November, then we deserve the cut cheese being plated for us by the Powers That Be.
I have to admit, this isn't particularly insightful nor is it especially daring, but it serves to illustrate the profound lack of individual vision and critical thinking skills that seems rampant these days. If you don't like what the world presents you with, apparently we should all just sniff and snivel our way into supine acceptance rather than make things more the way we think is right. The above may not be all that good a way, but it is at least a different way.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

My Hobby; My Rights

Anyone in the least familiar with the discussion surrounding the general topic of "Human Rights" (see also: Civil Rights) will likely be aware of the distinct viewpoints regarding whether, or possibly to what degree, rights are an individual or collective phenomenon. My own belief is that this dispute arises mostly as a result of a general lack of mutual understanding about the nature of rights.

Human rights are an inherent component of the individual human condition. At their most basic conceptual level, human rights devolve from the principle of "right to property", or the idea that we each of us inherently possess the right to ownership of our individual selves; all rights are extensions of this fundamental principle. Thus, rights are both individual and universal among human beings. The generally misunderstood part of all this is that rights are also limited in the means and degree to which we may each express or exercise them in our collective existence within human society, if only as a necessary precondition to there being such a thing as "human society" at all.

I am a recent life member of Historical European Martial Arts Alliance, and, here in Tyler, of East Texas Historical Fencing. As a HEMA member, I am a practicing martial artist (with a, to this point, somewhat theoretical scholastic bent), and like all such I own weapons (though it must be acknowledged that, as an American living in Texas, it is only to be expected that a goodly number of those weapons are only notionally "historical") (cough/NRA member/cough). To own such is a direct extension of my inherent human rights, but the active exercise of my right to such ownership is constrained and infringed upon by the self-same inherent rights of all other members of human society with whom I inevitably interact. To quite cheekily paraphrase: wherever two or more of ye shall gather together, there too is society.

Having determined that rights themselves are an entirely individual experience, it remains universally true that ownership is distinct from use. A martial artist cannot use the weapons being studied without regard for others, and neither can ordinary human beings use (exercise) their rights without regard for other human's exercise of their rights. Much like the United States is made up of 50+ different ways to collectively exercise individual rights, the Earth is comprised of (what is it now, 168?) many different ways for societies to organize the collective expression of individual, universal human rights. HEMA Alliance being international in structure makes this realization an everyday experience for we individual members in our efforts to interact with and learn from each other.

The 2nd Amendment to the United States Constitution stipulates in part: "... shall not be infringed." This is a specific limitation on the federal (national) level of government within the cooperative construct between now-50 individual States, and demarcates the legislative boundary of the several states internally, but has no direct application to individual citizens therein. One of the foundational assumptions to creation of the USA was that governance of human society ought to be the minimum necessary collective balancing of exercise of each individual human's rights within the boundaries of a stipulated society. Providing express limits on how and why government may limit the exercise of human rights has the intended benefit of maximizing individual opportunities to use the rights we all own.

HEMA designates procedures whereby stipulated persons may regulate and, when necessary, infringe upon individual members exercise of their human rights within the collective HEMA society. Would the "real world" had it so easy. Instead, we tiredly trudge our collective way through often-obstinate individual efforts to achieve short-term, personal goals using methods having long-term, wide-spread consequences, but which are in themselves arguably legal. In HEMA (as in many other physical activities), we wear protective equipment to prevent individual injury from our or another's exercise of weapons. In life, we find ourselves having to resort to the law should there be injury resulting from the exercise of our rights. If I only get to have one or the other, I'll take the second option every time. Fortunately, door #2 includes the possibility for HEMA membership, so it has that to recommend it.

How well or honestly any given example of human society achieves the laudable goal of equable exercise of human rights is beyond the confines of this essay, but if I have managed to add some clarity or understanding to the practice of my hobby or my philosophy then I will not have wasted either of our time.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Kodak Moment

I'm in Oregon for my son's wedding, which is tomorrow, and I volunteer to drive us over to McMinnville (about 25 miles away from Dallas) so he and my 11 y/o grandson Asher can get haircuts.  In an effort to lessen the stress levels for his almost-wife (and decade + partner) Amy, we bring my 9 y/o granddaughter Rayna along with us.  So, we're driving along, the local oldies station on the radio, and this classic from the 60's comes up in the play rotation.  Duncan and I start spontaneously singing along to the lyrics; it was one of the more emotion laden moments of my life.

I could feel the eyes rolling in the back seat the whole time.

It was great.

I've also discovered that I've been living alone for way too long.  I need to do some research and find something to help me restore my patience (which was always in short supply) and develop a better ability to focus my attention in the moment (without the usual elevated intensity of martial arts/shooting practice).  I train to keep my mental focus during crisis events; there ought to be something similar for relaxed conversational settings and the like.  There's the occasional time when it's desirable to be a competent asshole, sitting around with your family ought not be one of those times though.

Monday, May 2, 2016

So, I finally found something to say ...

... that I want to say forever.

We all have our personal kinks and quirks.  One of mine has been a 40+ year belief I expressed as, "Why would I want to help the cops identify the body afterwards by having a tattoo?"  Like I said in the title, now I finally have something I want to say just that permanently.

Like many people, I find practicing martial arts a useful means to achieving emotional self control.  It's the same mental process you go through developing physical self control, I believe.  The emotional stimuli that triggers the electro-chemical neurological process that results in a physical response in martial arts or a violent emotional response pretty much anywhere, is the same mechanism whether it occurs on a training floor, or a barroom or bedroom floor.  The difference is that regular martial arts training teaches an inherent level of control as part of the response mechanism.  In much the same way that we rarely read of a citizen with a concealed firearm permit using a gun in a deliberately criminal fashion, we rarely read of practicing martial artists being involved in physically or emotionally abusive personal relationships.  Maintaining a regular practice regimen imbues the individual with an emotional control mechanism as an intrinsic part of the training process.  I've long believed the training and interactive practice with others is massively helpful in dealing with other emotional issues like fear or anxiety (which are not necessarily extensions of one another).

What does all this have to do with tattoos?  I'm glad you asked.  :)

In a word: HEMA (which is actually an acronym technically).

Historical European Martial Arts isn't only about swords, although I do enjoy that part very much. It is very much about all of the history that includes all of the martial arts and practices that play an often under-recognized part in European (and the many places that derived from European) history more generally. Figuring out how what it says on the paper (or weaving, or parchment, or ...) actually achieves what we think it says it's supposed to achieve is a big part of the challenge. Often categorized as "western martial arts" to distinguish it from the multitude of martial disciplines originating from eastern and central Asia, as a functional matter HEMA includes pretty much any martial discipline or practice that has a surviving historical record of instruction and some interactive contact with a European nation or empire (which includes Great Britain, Spain, Portugal, Russia, Scandinavia in its several political contortions, and probably several more I can't think of off the top of my head).  In my personal context, HEMA is a martial arts study that is in large part an intellectual process, something my 62 y/o arthritic knees appreciate quite emphatically about 30 minutes into the day's lesson.

24 hours after having the work done:

A few quick observations:

Being as it is a life membership, and I am a contributor to the SENS Foundation and supporter of the Healthy Life Extension philosophy more generally, stipulating even a hypothetical completion date will hopefully prove to be pointless.

Also, actually tattooing a registration number on one's forearm would be just that insensitive, don't you agree (that is, once the HEMA Governing Council comes up with an actual membership card that might, or might not, have a member registration number on it)?

On an artistic note, I was deliberately careful to make my design different from the actual HEMA Alliance trademarked design, although I was equally careful to include as many of the motifs of that design as the talents of the tattooist and the state of the tattooing art permitted (apparently the white color ink doesn't hold up nearly as well, or as long, as do the other colors and turns a funny beige color with exposure to sunlight).  Thus, a keen-eyed observer will notice that the Latin motto in the ribbon banner has been left off, and the font spelling out HEMA ALLIANCE is slightly different from that on the official image (I had a shadow line added as the easiest means to achieving this end). Hopefully all will agree that these modifications raise my tattoo from the category of "trademark infringement", to that of "unique art work, inspired by ...".

The lovely and talented Katrin Berndt, and if you don't follow her on YouTube and the rest of social media it's your loss, had a recent incident involving someone else "stealing" her original tattoo design of a seriously painful chest piece (scare quotes because her original is still safely in place, but there is a counterfeit copy being worn on someone else's chest; her video on the matter is here).  She also posted a video "Getting Your First Tattoo" here you might find as helpful as I did.  Unlike herself, I regard my tattoo design as being inspired by another design from the outset, so anyone else (who actually qualifies, you understand :)) certainly has my permission to mutilate themselves share my display of enthusiasm for HEMA on there own person, sanity and other considerations allowing.

Sensitively, of course.