Identity, shame, stigma, and intolerance

I have seen a great number of people in the past few years disavow being a part of a culture or community that they once enjoyed or identified with due to an influx of sexism, nationalism, or other intolerance. I feel like this is a mistake and will only serve to strengthen intolerance amongst the masses, and this is what I’d like to write about and discuss today.

Virtually every person alive on Earth has at least some groups with which they identify. This could be a certain interest or hobby, ranging from music to photography to hiking and beyond. This could be their gender, male, female, or other. This could be a favourite pastime, whether that is sports, video games, or visiting museums. This list could go on for paragraphs and paragraphs. There are the fanatical and obsessive – just search your favourite social media platform for “Game of Thrones” for some decent examples. There are the truly interested and passionate – one of my favourite examples of this is Lazy Game Reviews, a channel on YouTube with enjoyably thorough reviews of old games and computer systems. There are all kinds of people and all kinds of ways to enjoy being part of a group or having an identity that is shared with others. This is typically a very healthy and normal thing for us social creatures.

In the past few years, political discourse has moved towards the more extreme. This has pervaded everyday communication in a way that had not yet been seen in the Millennial generation. The Millennials, in my experience, are generally some of the most open-minded people; however, this leads to a darker side. Just as most Millennials are open-minded towards acceptance of so-called “non-traditional” lifestyles and viewpoints ranging from economics to sex to religion and beyond, some Millennials are open-minded towards violent rhetoric, nationalism, anarchy, and intolerance.

This has sent a great number of the first sort of Millennials running scared from groups and identities that they would otherwise enjoy, because they do not want to be seen as supportive of these views that they feel are regressive. Unfortunately, this may indeed backfire on the ones that want to see the regression stop; when the tolerant leave, the intolerant remain. Let us look at the Southern Poverty Law Center’s report on the horrific 2015 church massacre in Charleston, S.C. for an example. The summary: a young man who was raised to respect all people found a series of blogs and Web sites condemning a race, and was so moved by it that he committed a mass murder of that race. How did these blogs and Web sites, written specifically to influence young minds to become hateful and enraged to the point of violence, end up so highly ranked by a search engine?

One answer is that there are so many communities today overrun with people who legitimately believe in the hate and intolerance spread in such writings. This is in part due to the mass exodus of more tolerant people from those communities. As more people put shame and stigma on something as simple as playing video games – the media claims that video games somehow led sick and twisted Internet trolls to threaten rape and murder to women – less people want to admit to being gamers. This causes a vicious cycle, as the ones left stating they are gamers are the ones who are intolerant. This leads to a form of normalisation of the idea of intolerance amongst gamers; it’s no longer out of the ordinary to think that anyone who enjoys video games might also enjoy threatening or committing violence towards other groups in real life. Couple this with the fact that teenagers have loved, do love, and will continue to love playing video games. Teenagers also want desperately to fit in with groups, to feel a part of something bigger. If they feel that people who enjoy video games should also hate women, that is what they will begin to do.

This could apply to any number of groups. Many secular people in the United States look down at religious people as being “backwards” or “traditionalist”, when the truth of the matter is well over 60% of Catholics and Protestants support gay marriage and homosexuality. Many people view country music as regressive while attitudes, they are a-shifting. The stigma of being a gamer, or religious, or listening to country music comes not from any endemic intolerance, but from the tolerant people from these groups being too ashamed to admit their membership.

The most powerful statement that tolerant people can make in the groups they identify with is the very statement that they are tolerant and identify with said group. Don’t erase your group identities to avoid being identified as intolerant. Show your group identity and tolerance; say out loud that you respect all your fellow humans and enjoy what you enjoy. This is the true path towards acceptance and togetherness.

Ah, wonderful health hazards

I can’t tell what has been overall worse for my health in the past few weeks. The bathroom connected to my home office directly sits over the complex’s “laundromat station”. This did not used to bother me. In fact, I was quite okay with this, because it means I have the closest walking distance of any of my neighbours to it. However, for the past two or three weeks, I can smell — from the office, mind — a very strong odour of laundry detergent every time someone does a load. Turns out a lot of people do loads in the 18:00 to 21:00 time slot on weekdays, which happens to be when I am at my most productive in my office. I cannot imagine this is at all healthy for me.

But then I remember I’ve spent every day since Saturday spending multiple hours trying to set up OpenLDAP for new project. I’ve always just used Active Directory on the server-side, so my only experience thus far with OpenLDAP has been client-side. It’s a great client library with easy configuration and a great debug mode that will tell you exactly what is happening and what is going wrong. Unfortunately, the server part, at least on Debian, uses “dynamic configuration” which means everything is in LDAP.

Now, look, LDIF and LDAP are fine and great for phone book-style records. It makes perfect sense. That is what it was designed to do. Storing regexp in ASN.1 BER is pushing it. But the way they do HDB/MDB grouping feels to me like trying to fit in with all those cool kids with their NoSQL and their MapReduce and their terrible terribly-great performance by using “shards” everywhere. And our leader wants replication so that it’s fault tolerant. Now I get to convert decades-old documentation about an “enterprise” feature to this “dynamic configuration” thing. I cannot imagine this is at all healthy for me.

Trump and change

Hello, people of the future!  I wrote this in 2016, way before Orange was even inaugurated.  I feel like a fool for believing anything I wrote here, but I’m not going to change the past by removing this article.


The ball is in your court now, American Republicans.

I normally avoid politics and other controversial topics on my blog, because I have always felt it is important to keep my audience focused on the technical. Our common ground is unifying and allows us to look past our differences and learn from one another. I feared that if I started talking about politics, people would look at me differently, and I’d lose some of that audience. They wouldn’t trust me and I wouldn’t be able to enrich their lives.

I feel like that part of life in America is over now. President-Elect Donald Trump talks outlandishly, without filter or censor. People love him, people hate him, people think he’s a joke, people think he’s the best non-politician the political world has ever seen. As for myself, if I have learned a single thing from Mr Trump, it is that the world will not end if you speak up and say what is really on your mind. And perhaps this is a good kind of change. Without open discussion, we can’t ever heal the divisiveness that permeates the entire country’s political landscape, and indeed, the entire world’s. There is a not-too-distant past where the words ‘conservative’ and ‘liberal’ were words that describe someone’s political views, and were not used as slurs or to denigrate someone. Perhaps now that the precedent has been set, we can have open and honest discussions with one another. I’m not sure if that is where we are headed or not. I can only hope that we can learn to be respectful of each other’s differences.

Mr Trump has said some things I agree with; per I Side With, I agree with almost 30% of his policies. It’s not perfect, but it isn’t exactly a disaster either. (For full disclosure, I only had just over 70% of agreement with Clinton.) He has also said a great deal of very offensive things. He has said things that have made some of my friends sick, depressed, and suicidal now that he has become President Elect of the United States. I urge these people especially to remember that first and foremost, Mr Trump is a showman. He knows how to pull in ratings, and was a reality television star. He may think less of Muslims than he should, but I don’t think he will actually have every last one deported back to their homelands — especially since some of them were born and raised in the United States. He may think far less of women than he should, but that thinking is common in men from his generation. His objectification of women and misogyny is of course never acceptable, but women have had much worse oppressors than he ever could be.

I have friends of many classes. I have friends who are very well off — the typical Silicon Valley millionaire. I have friends who are destitute and live pay stub to pay stub, and would likely go homeless if they had even a small hiccup in work. I have friends who are in minority classes: African-American people, transgendered people, people with disabilities. We are all Americans. We all deserve a place in general society. Our society is built on the fact, not opinion, that everyone is created equal. There is room in the United States for the rich and poor, and the different races and religions that comprise this great country. No matter who won the United States election this year, our society has been broken, is broken, and will remain broken until it is healed.

Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Greens, other party members, independents, and even those disillusioned with the political system as a whole: society will only begin to be fully inclusive when we all learn to love each other. We have to work together. We have to stand up for what we believe in. Conflicting interests only break people into hate when they do not bend to compromise. I plan on writing letters to my state Senator, who is a Republican, and telling him my concerns going forward. I will have my voice heard. My Senator will, of course, have to balance my voice with others in our great state of Oklahoma. But together, I feel that we can find common ground and be able to find peace and happiness no matter what our political views.

Mr Trump. You promised to make America great again. If you can set an example with moderation and fairness, balancing differing viewpoints to create a clear path forward, you just may be able to succeed. I did not vote for you, but I still wish to work with you to create a common good for all of the United States.

Blogging in general, and a new project

It’s been a long time since I wrote here. In the past few months, I have moved across the country, and helped four other people do the same. It is exhausting and tiring but so rewarding to improve not only my own life but the lives of others by sharing in new experiences.

Enough of that, though. I am starting up a new Linux distribution, titled Adélie Linux, aimed at being very fast, very small, and fully POSIX® compliant. It’s almost meeting those three goals! Going forward, I think I will be starting a new blog specifically about my adventures with Adélie, which will probably take up a considerable amount of my writing time. This blog will stay around, though, not only for memories past but for non-Adélie related things in my life. I am still interested in Python, writing emulators, music, and other general geekiness; I just now have a new project that is taking up a large amount of my free time.