27 October 2011

That Funny Picture

I think we've all seen it. Hahaha Occupy Wall Street. You twats:

Now, I'm not 100% sure, but it seems to be listing things that are made either by corporations or out of capitalism, with the implication that opposing any action by corporations or under capitalism while using these things makes you some kind of ghastly hypocrite. Especially coffee. God help you if you drink coffee. So I'm just going to do a quick rundown of who some of these things are actually made by:
  • Social Networking - programmers.
  • Smartphones - engineers, programmers and factory workers.
  • Wireless carriers - engineers, technicians and programmers.
  • Clothes - designers, weavers and sewing-machine operators.
  • Cameras - engineers, programmers and factory workers.
  • Cars - engineers and factory workers.
  • Buses - engineers and factory workers, driven by bus drivers.
  • Bicycles - engineers and factory workers.
  • Shoes - factory workers.
  • Starbucks coffee - Baristas (famously).

Not to mention all the farmers, miners, riggers, factory workers and so on that provided the raw materials, and the builders, cleaners, caretakers and handymen that maintain the places where they're built. Oh, and put your hands up if you shuddered a little bit when you got to the bit about clothes.

Now, I don't want to go down the "corporations are people" route, but corporations are people, ok? Or rather, all of the work that corporations do is actually done by people. All those brilliant ideas were thought up by people. Your iPhone wasn't made by a fruit, or a trademarked name, or a picture of a healthy half-eaten snack, or even by Steve Jobs himself. It was made by people. All "Apple" did was give them money for it. Sometimes even a reasonable amount. This is how branding works. When we look at our iPhone, we see the Apple name and the Apple logo which we associate with a pretty sound, endearingly hippyish guy called Steve, and we think "Apple made this". They didn't. Labour made it. Labourers made it.

Before capitalism, cleaners still cleaned, farmers still farmed, people still mixed hot water with ground-up beans and gave it to other people to drink. People would still be able to write code or operate machinery or design trainers if they weren't employed by corporations. And a lot of these people, especially the farmers and factory workers, might be a little better off if corporations didn't get the credit for their work and the wealth it generated, and if capitalism didn't enable that situation. Maybe they wouldn't. That's the debate we should be having.

10 October 2011

Love and Mates, Ducks and Foxes, Tender and Gentle Bumming

Confession: Whenever I hear a woman complaining about being called "love" or "darling" by strangers, one of my first thoughts is "what about the mens?". But yeah, what about the mens?

If you've lived in Britain for any length of time, you'll have noticed the weird thing we do with pretending to be your bestest buddy evar when we've actually never met you. Sometimes, like if we're selling something, it's transparently mercenary, but at others it's, perhaps even more disturbingly, just our way of being polite. Where I come from, the address is "me duck", for both men and women, and you'll hear "pal", "darling", "chuck" and all kinds of others, but the most common seems to be "mate" or "love", and it tends to be a more working-class turn of phrase. I'd like to say it's because the usual formal politeness sounds too icy and snobbish, but then there's the clipped middle-class "mate", with the overpronounced 't' and dripping with sarcasm and veiled aggression. It's not so much the use of "darling" that's sexist, it's the social act of using this address.

The thing is you see, the word isn't gendered. I've been called "love". I've heard women casually use "love" to address both men and women. Which is why I wonder what about the mens. The only usage of "love" or "darling" that is properly taboo is a man using it for a man. Even two gay men can get away with it as we can, in these matters, legally assign them woman status. Women can hug men, men can hug women, women can hug women without any kind of over-enthusiastic backslapping necessary. Anyone in modern Western society can wear trousers, t-shirts, jackets and ties, but a man has to be very, very Scottish to get away with a skirt. All manner of progressives might have put a lot of effort into lifting social restrictions on women and gay men, but in the meantime, we straight men were restricting ourselves more and more.

We, as a society, are fine with women loving each other. You go round with a bottle of wine, cookie dough ice cream and a Sex and the City box-set when her boyfriend dumps her. We've managed to get our heads round men and women loving each other as friends without wanting to fuck, and it's especially easy if only the woman is straight. Obviously if two gay men want to do fully-clothed emotional closeness together in the privacy of their own homes, we're even fine with that. But straight men don't love. There are only three ways for straight men to directly express affection for each other: as a joke, if we're drunk and therefore joking, and in a gay way possibly as a joke.

It's easy to treat this odd little tendency as homophobic, but that doesn't quite cover it. We've all got fairly used to the idea of two gay men having sex with each other, but two straight men at it either freaks us the fuck out or makes a charming punchline. Speaking of which, flick through this fifty-minute compendium of gay jokes in Friends. The first thing you see is, contrary to what I've said before, how much the three men, especially Joey and Chandler, love each other. The second thing you notice is that a lot of the jokes aren't about homosexuals, but about straight men being afraid of their own potential gayness, especially when they're expressing this love.

What this actually is is bi-phobia. When a straight man gingerly slides his hand down the front of another straight man's trousers, they're not deviating from societal norms but from their own. We can make an exception to the golden rule of Man Goes With Woman, but only for recognised permutations such as quirky sitcom lesbians, Katy Perry and those adorable pet gays you can take shoe-shopping. Heterosexuality isn't about fucking women, it's about not fucking men - though naturally you might have to fuck some women to prove you're not secretly gay.

And oh look, Liam Fox has got a really good friend who he really seems to care about. As with when William Hague shared a room with that man, this obviously means they're buggering together. Not to say that there's anything wrong with that, just that it's scientifically impossible for them to be that close any other way. As I've said before, we're so threatened by the idea of two men just being really good friends that we'd rather imagine Andrew Werrity sweating, grunting and grasping Liam Fox's throbbing manhood as he spurts his hot seed into his quivering arse than ever picture them hugging, saying "I do love you sometimes you know" and then sitting down without tongue-kissing. Not only that, we're so utterly bamboozled by the idea of heterosexual man-love that two happily married men fucking seems more likely, compared to two prominent Tories attempting to make money, consolidate power and expand their personal sphere of interest. What is it about the thought of two straight men together that makes our brains go so downright silly?