Hard Days

There are days where even the mighty Morgan just wants to curl up in a ball and call it quits.  Not gonna happen though.  Kicked one defiant, gnawing task off my to do list in retaliation for getting me down.

Tomorrow, more vengeance via unrelenting positivity and competence.  Because God damnit if this world is not shaped how its supposed to be shaped then I will mold myself and dare it to imitate me.

Evolved Perspectives on Organizations and Abuse

This is a followup to a previous post: Yes, I said the “Rape” word …

[Updated as more events have unfolded]

I think I may have broken everything.  In the morning I might have a drastically reduced friend group.

Backing up:

In that previous post I discussed my discomfort in dealing with an accusation of rape occurring between two members of a LARP organization I’m on the board for, outside of a standard event.  I wanted to demonstrate my support for the victim, but as the incident did not occur at game, no charges had been pressed and no restraining order or other court action taken, I wasn’t sure if it was the place of a hobby organization to act as judge and jury.

Well, we banned the player.  The victim has been gradually becoming more involved in the organization, and the return of the support network to her has had a lot of positive impact.  It was undoubtedly the right action.  Everything on that course is proceeding smoothly.

What was so difficult was that I was unwilling to make a one off decision.  I insisted to the other board members that we define an enforceable policy before we took action.  I didn’t like that we had waited so long to act and I felt that a clear policy would make it easier for us to act more promptly in the future.  But neither I nor any other staff member could phrase a policy that felt like a clear case for action.  In the 5th argument I had with another board member where they advocated for skipping the policy and just banning the guy and me feeling like a terrible human being for arguing against that … I had a weird revelation.

See we were spending all of our time talking about Steve.  Was Steve guilty?  Did Steve deserve it?  What was fair to Steve?  Had Steve learned his lesson?  Was Steve a better person now?  Something was broken in us that we felt he was the only person we had to consider.  In the criminal justice system, where you are considering depriving a person of liberty or life, of course you only consider the guilt or innocence of the accused.  But in acting as a custodian for a community … we ought to be discussing the victim.  Alleged victim.  Almost certainly victim.

And she was afraid.  Terrorized.  Clearly no longer able to function within the community.  She was implicitly banned from the game.  Because she couldn’t reasonably be expected to attend while he was there.  Did she deserve to be banned?  Considering her actions, are those grounds under which I would ever ban someone?  Fuck no.  Of course not.

In the criminal justice system the victim doesn’t go to jail if the accused is found not-guilty.  But when you chose not to act against an abuser in a shared community, that is the choice you are making.  You are choosing, actively, whether you like it or not, to ban the victim.  If you are not comfortable with that, you are making the wrong decision.

So here’s the new policy for cases of abuse.  “Does a player have sufficient and reasonable cause to feel unsafe or unwelcome?”  Yes.  Because a victim of abuse, in the company of friends who have embraced their attacker, is unsafe and is unwelcome.

So we placed the ban.  There was some fall out but it smoothed over.  And Samantha is coming back to life.

And now another game in town is reversing a ban in their game that came from an accusation of physical abuse.  One that I happen to know was true.  On the grounds that the abuser was a “nice guy” who had changed.

The victim is, quite reasonably distraught.  She’s been effectively banned from her community as further punishment for the crime of existing too close to another person that didn’t know how not to inflict harm.  Does it fucking matter that he has learned his lesson?  If he has truly learned his lesson, he shut put his damn tail between his legs and leave by himself, give her the space she needs.  THIS IS NOT ABOUT HIM.  This is about continuing to inflict punishment upon someone who has had enough already.

So I replied to the thread.  The first disagreement to voice itself.  And now the torrent of rage has been unleashed.

But here’s the thing: just 3 1/2 months ago I was wrong about this too.  Its a hard issue to get your head around.  It takes an epiphany to realize what is actually going on, to rationalize what is right with a culturally driven sense of what justice is, unreasonably patterned after the criminal justice system.  I’m not convinced that the staff of this game deserves the anger that is getting flung at them.  They made a mistake .. but they made a mistake at something that our society is so unbelievably terrible at.  Its something there is no guidance on.  We just didn’t learn about this shit growing up because its taboo.  And the relevant cultural wisdom that does exist is flat wrong.  We’re only just starting to understand the responsibilities of a community to deal with abusers in their midst.  We’re all making this up as we go.

I think there may be a schism unfolding in these communities.  I hope not, but it seems inevitable now.

I know I did the right thing helping to ban Steve and forming a policy for our game that will prevent us from making wrong decisions in the future.  I know I did the right thing speaking up in this other situation.  Why do I feel so shitty anyway?

Time Is Not Money, Money Is Time

Or … Why I Am Offering to Buy Your Lunch Again

This is my theory.  Or philosophy.  Money is not a finite resource.  We spend it and we earn it.  We try to back it with a finite resource, to give it tangible value, but that is hard to do.  The value of gold and silver lies only in its scarcity and in our somewhat ephemeral aesthetic sensibilities.  Anyway, this isn’t an economic theory, its a life philosophy.

The only currency we have that matters is time.  We can stretch it, sure, to some minuscule percentage, but beyond that our allotment is pretty damn finite.  We spend it pretty casually, and one of the things we spend it on is money.  Once the first few needs on Maslowe’s hierarchy are satisfied, we continue to spend time to acquire money because we can then spend the money to improve the quality of other time spent.  Money, then, becomes sort of like potential energy storage for time.  We can accumulate value, and later expend it to make that time more valuable.

We each have our own time -> money exhange rate.  My exchange rate is pretty decent.  Some of that is effort, some of that is talent, and most of it is sheer luck and happenstance.  If one person’s exchange rate is better than another’s they will have an easier time acquiring time value without spending as much time up front.

I hate things.  I don’t like having a lot of physical objects in my life that I’m dependent on.  I want experiences, and I prefer those experiences to be with people that I care about and who’s company I enjoy.  For me, covering my friends expenses is a good way to budget.  My experience is enriched for them being there!  My experience is enriched by them not fearing for their financial stability when we could be spending valuable time together.  It cost fewer hours of my life to acquire that enriched time than it would cost them.  This is a good value proposition.

Often when I try to pay for people they feel uncomfortable.  I get it.  I’ve been there before, and there are still some people that I want to defiantly show that I can cover myself in front of.  I guess thats why I’m writing this post.  If I’m offering to buy your lunch, get you a movie ticket, pay your entrance fee, please don’t feel guilty.  Please don’t feel patronized or looked down upon.  Please don’t feel like you owe me anything!  I am being selfish!  I like your company and I am making a calculated economic choice in a commerce system backed by time.  My money is cheaper, therefore we’re getting a better time price this way.  We’re saving time so that we can spend more of it on experiences later.

Confrontation 2

Lies.  Liars.  Cowards.

Look!  I am showing you my heart!  Tired of containing it, restraining it, I’ve pried open my ribs and plucked it out, tied it round my neck with silver chain.  Its not a candy heart with two great round bumps and one inoffensive point, bulbous and pastel and sterile.  Its a real live heart, its an ugly, bloody pumping thing.  Imperfect but powerful.  You can’t come close to me without seeing it.  Thats how I live, now.  Because I learned that the cage of my chest is too potent, that keeping it inside makes it timid, weak and dull.

Most love me for it at first glance.  Its a novelty.  You see me and you know how I beat.  Its that easy.  I see you and I’m already ready to spill blood for you.  But thats intense.  Too goddamned intense for most people.  It gets scary, staring at that pulsing, gore-slicked muscle.  Its ok, I understand if you need to turn away to rest your eyes!

But instead you lie.

You don’t understand.  I’ve made this choice, it was not thrust on me.  I wear my heart on the outside because I want it to be vulnerable.  I wear it outside because I want to see yours too.  I wear it outside because I would rather face your dirty, imperfect bleeding truth as well.  Even if it hurts to look at.  Even if the truth is that I am what hurts you!  Truth I can engage.  Truth I can act upon.

You turn away, but, you say, its the glare from the sun you shield your eyes from.  You just won’t stop lying.

And yet.  And yet.  You dare to call me a coward?  I who laid everything bare.  When you hid, when you sucked and whimpered, I am the coward for not prying your truth out as well?  As though having done it once its my fucking burden to do it for you as well.

Come to me unafraid.  Come to me daring.  Leave me with your head high, proud and bold and honest and I will have no grudge to bear.

But I have expended my last ounce of patience for deceit in the name of equanimity.  The quivering rage is burning out of me and I am left tired.  I don’t know how to keep this up.  I don’t want to crack my ribs apart to put my heart back in.  But the one assault to which it is vulnerable is deception, and that is the only dagger anyone seems to throw.

Why Fall In Love?

Why put your heart at risk when it would be so much simpler to stay safe?  I already have one love, a love that is returned to me 10 fold.  Why make myself vulnerable, why experience rejection and the strange sucking sensation of attention given and not returned?


How the Heart Stays Young

When you exercise your body is damaged.  You feel some pain.  Your body heals and — properly nourished — grows stronger.  To avoid this pain one must forgo growth.  A body that is not exercised grows old before its time.

A heart that is exercised, left vulnerable, yearning is often damaged.  You feel some pain.  The heart heals and — properly nourished — grows stronger. To avoid this pain one must forgo growth.  A heart that is not stretched grows old before its time.


A Single Rose

Today I passed a flower shop and the smell froze my jaunty pace.  I felt my heart swell as I drank it in.  I knew I had to stop.  I bought a single rose for someone who I was almost certain not to see.  In truth, I did not see her, so the gift was never given.

But now I have a single rose.  It’s mine.  Without the impulse to give it, I would not now have it in my hand.  The scent of it reminds me of the earlier moment when the open door of the flower shop became an irresistible call.

I’m standing at the corner of the street, waiting for the signal to turn.  A young girl — maybe nine or ten — is in the passenger seat of the nearest car.  She sees this lone woman on the street clutching a single white rose.  She imagines something romantic and she begins to smile.  I begin to smile and soon this little child and I are beaming.  Innocent.  Stupid.  Silly.  I take it with me to dinner where it sits across from me at the empty chair.  A talisman that the other patrons see and smile and think, “Someone loves her.”

I would have preferred to give the rose, its true.  I’d have felt more joy with that smile on a face besides my own.  But without the hope of that, I would never have bought it.  And I’m happy that I did.

Yes, I said the “Rape” word … 3

*Warning: Entire post is a trigger*

I’m not talking here about survivors who struggle to leave bad people. I’m talking about the friends, the relatives who decide not to “take a side,” and in doing so, firmly side with rape culture.

Don’t Be Friends with Rapists” – Alexandra Brodsky

I have this friend.  And I’m pretty sure he raped my other friend.  And I’m really conflicted on what to do about it.

No wait!  Don’t leave yet!  Hear me out!  The situation is complicated!

No no, seriously don’t leave.  I know everyone says that.  Let me explain.

I almost don’t want to grant him anonymity, but tonight we are going to call these two people Steve and Samantha.  While the circumstances were strange, thats not a part of my dilemma.  Both parties were part of a kind of temporary swing scene.  When the incident occurred it was in Steve’s bed and Steve’s fiancee was involved.  But Steve was not invited and Samantha had told Steve no many times.  No matter how complicated and tawdry the circumstances were, it does not change the fact that sex happened, Samantha did not give consent and Samantha felt violated.  No matter what Steve thought was happening, that is unequivocally rape.

I’m a hard liner on this issue.  I have to be.  My wife and I went through something not dissimilar only a few years ago.  Continuing to socially tolerate and excuse a rapist is to choose sides against the victim.  Every time.

Its quite possible that Steve did not know what he was doing.  It’s quite possible that the heat of the moment drove inadvisable actions.  It’s entirely possible that Steve is not a bad human being, just a human being that made a very loathsome mistake.  If Samantha had been killed and not raped, it is possible that Steve would be guilty of manslaughter and not murder, but that would not make Samantha not dead.  She is violated, rocked to her core, off balance and fearful in a world she used to feel forceful and strong in.  And every place that has Steve in it does not feel safe to her.  And he is EVERYWHERE.

Because we are in the LARP community.  And the LARP community is closeknit, deeply interwoven.  And this is where my dilemma sits.

I’m not here debating whether or not I should associate with this person, or whether or not I should firmly put myself on the side of the victim.  That is a given.  I’m on the LLC board for a LARP, a very popular LARP.  I used to be a lead storyteller and Samantha helped to rescue the game from insolvency years ago.  She’s poured time and sweat and blood and tears into this dumb little game and its community.  And now Steve is there and she does not feel safe.  And I am on the board.  And I have the power to do something about it.

But the crime did not occur at game. Samantha, trapped in shackles of propriety and politeness — favorite tools of rape culture — will not press charges, nor speak up broadly against Steve.  Much of the community does not even know what has happened, only that they never see Samantha anymore.  Steve is everybody’s pal.  I mean he is a charismatic dude.

No crime at game.  No legal recrimination, no restraining order, not even an official player complaint.  I’m just not sure if it is the job of a hobby LLC to act as judge and jury in these cases.  As an individual, making choices about who I will support and who I will associate with I would never say, “I wasn’t there, I don’t know.”  As a leadership figure in an organization … I don’t know.

I want to take off my leadership hat and, as a player, as a friend, scream to everyone what he did.  I want the community to support Samantha.  If Steve really is a good person, I want him to realize that it doesn’t matter what he thought was happening, that the damage and the violation done to Samantha was still his doing, whether he intended that or not.  I want him to see what he’s done, prostrate himself before her and promise to do whatever she needs him to do so that she can heal, which honestly is probably to go the hell away for a while and give her a safe community she can heal inside of.

Or I want something that I can latch onto as a board member to make me feel morally justified to ban or suspend him or to at least ask him to stay away until she’s recovered.

I want to stop feeling like my role as a leader and business decision maker is at odds with my role as a decent fucking human being.

I want Samantha to get better.  Her silent pain is the worst part.