Thursday, December 22, 2011

On tolerance...

"I hope you've all learned a very important lesson today. Just because Mordechai's people are different from us, and just because they may appear strange to us with their furry hats, beady eyes, and long sideburns, not to mention their bizarre customs and unnecessarily gutteral funny-sounding names. Just because they control ALL of the world's money, yet they are too cheap to buy their children anything better than spinning tops for presents, does not mean that we can't learn to love and respect them as our equals. Happy chanuyakah day 7, Mordy!"

The Hebrew Hammer begins with this speech by a teacher who represents "Hanukkah Past". For us Jews it kind of encapsulates the whole idea of being "tolerated" at Christmas time. Of course things have changed (sort of) since then, but I don't think I'm alone in the frustration over being merely tolerated in American society. And that's why I like this movie so much. Sure, it plays on on a lot of Jewish stereotypes, but that's a means to an end.

That end is so that we can have this little conversation about being tolerated.

    noun /ˈtäl(ə)rəns/ 
    tolerances, plural

    1. The ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with
      • - the tolerance of corruption
      • - an advocate of religious tolerance

    2. The capacity to endure continued subjection to something, esp. a drug, transplant, antigen, or environmental conditions, without adverse reaction
      • - the desert camel shows the greatest tolerance to dehydration
      • - species were grouped according to pollution tolerance
      • - various species of diatoms display different tolerances to acid

Google seems to be under the impression that tolerance is the ability to put up with something that sucks: corruption, dehydration, pollution, and acid. So, because my religion doesn't suck. Because my holidays don't suck, because I don't suck as a person and am in no way similar to corruption, dehydration, pollution, or acid: STOP tolerating me.

You know what would be a whole lot better? Being accepted. Not being told, "Merry Christmas" by someone who knows I'm Jewish, because it's more important for the dominant Roman paradigm to subvert my people's attempts to stand up for ourselves and refuse to celebrate the holiday of another people. Hanukkah is out holiday this time of year. It may not be as important as Yom Kippur or Passover, but it is important because this holiday represents a people's refusal to be subjugated and forced to celebrate someone else's holiday.

So, stop tolerating me. If you don't like that I have a holiday that celebrates my people's differentness in a homogenized society, get over it. Don't tolerate it like some tension headache. Get over it. Move on. I don't tolerate Christmas, I even participate in some celebrations of it. If you don't like the "politically correct" greeting "happy holidays", get to know me well enough to wish me a "Happy Hanukkah and a Happy Secular New Year".

Or save yourself some effort and just get over it.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Debt: The Real American Way

Natalia got me going on this topic, so read her piece first.

I graduated from college in 2007, and got a job later that year that didn't pay enough that I was able to pay my student loans, which at the time totaled somewhere around $45,000. The majority of my student loans are federal loans, subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford loans, which are guaranteed by the federal government. My Stafford loans and one private loan are serviced by Sallie Mae, and since 2007 over $9,000 has been added to my total amount owed in "capitalized interest". That's a nearly 25% increase in total amount owed in just 4 years.

The other loan, a Perkins loan, which is also a federal loan, and is serviced by the school that I attended, has accrued less than 10% "capitalized interest" in the same amount of time. Granted, it's a much smaller loan, but my point still stands.

It could be argued that this is my own doing. After all, I went to college. I got a degree in something other than finance (which is the only thing that our society values), and was unable to find a job that paid me sufficiently to make payments on my student loans when I was working full time. It could be argued that I am to blame because I chose to start a business rather than scratching my eyes out to try to get another J-O-B after being laid off in 2009.

However, what cannot be argued is that my debt wouldn't have increased by a CAR (which I don't have) if I had been making payments all this time. Even if I had been paying some $600 a month for my student loans for the last 4 years, nearly a third of that $600 monthly payment would have gone toward INTEREST.

It doesn't matter who you are, that's usury.

I'm far from innocent in all of this. I know that I am responsible for my student loans and I intend to pay them back, not because any of that money has any value in my life, but because I spent 4 years living in a Bohemian paradise (as much as I might like to complain about it...), and that experience will end up being worth far more than whatever I will end up paying to Sallie Mae. However, many people are in much worse places than I am, and the fact that debt is what's discouraging Americans from becoming more educated is disgraceful. It's disgusting, and corporations like Sallie Mae who are "servicing" tax payer dollars should be ashamed of themselves, and quite possibly dismantled. (SOCIALISM! There, I yelled it for you so you don't have to waste your precious time in the comments.)

The people who should profit from educating Americans are teachers, not corporations. Sallie Mae did nothing to enhance my educational experience, and so they should be charging less interest on my student loans than the school I went to has charged.

Fortunately, no one I know is without some amount of debt either from a mortgage (that is worth more than the house its for) or student loan debt (more than one of my friends owes more than double what I do!), or even credit cards. So, debt is the American Way. That's it. Debt.


Friday, December 2, 2011

A Mary Kay consultant walks into a bar...

A while back I watched a TED presentation (and I don't remember who the presenter was) on marketing. He talked about marketing businesses from the inside out, that is, start with the WHY you're working toward a particular goal, then how you'll do it, and then focus on the what.

In my business, the what is fashion, the how beauty, and the why is wisdom.

"Uhm... what?"

Fashion is the strategic application of potions, acids, razors, tweezers, waxes, pigments, and fabrics.

Beauty is a desire to present one's best and most authentic self.

Wisdom is the knowledge that each person's best, most authentic self is different.

I have chosen a job in the fashion industry because I know that everyone's best self is a little different, and that we each have an innate beauty that should be expressed and I make it my business to help everyone I know to have greater access to their own authentic beauty. See, it's not about the potions and the pigments that I happen to sell and give great advice about, it's about knowing who each one of my clients is and telling her that she's amazing and deserves to be expressed.

I realize that most of the rest of the fashion industry is not like this, and that more people focus on decoration rather than beauty, but that's never been my why. The decorations don't matter. A woman who never shaves and just wants to take care of her skin and let it age gracefully is just as beautiful to me as someone who uses the entire age-fighting line, has as many eye shadows and lipsticks as I do, and always updates her colors with the season.

If I was driven by profit, (which, capitalism, yay; but I'm not), one of these women would hold more value, and it would be the one who spends more money. If I was driven by fashion (which, decoration, yay; but I'm not), one of these women would hold more value: the one that uses more makeup. My drive is beauty, though. No one that I've consulted in my career holds more value than anyone else, because each has thought, "well, she seems kinda crazy, but not in a bad way... and I do have skin," then agreed to be consulted by me, tried product, liked or hated it, and gotten one step closer to the expression of her most authentic self. (At least I hope she did.)

The other thing is, (as you can tell by reading anything else I've ever written), I'm not your typical fashionista, your typical Mary Kay consultant, or even your typical direct-sales-force member. I'm a little different. I recognize that everyone has their own individual flare, and some will reach people that I can't, but that I will be able to reach people that others can't. And I'm okay with that because there are people who are turned off by my industry because of the cookie-cutter ideals: every woman must wear makeup, women who don't are [whatever] and need help, every woman needs to be decorated.

I don't agree with the prevailing (that's the word I was looking for!) ideas of the fashion industry that "beauty" is interchangeable with "fashion" or "decoration". It's not. Beauty is innate. Fashion takes work and effort. All you have to do to be beautiful is treat yourself with kindness, be healthy, and have a good attitude. No one needs makeup or high heels; no one needs to be trendy to be beautiful.

I hear "I don't use makeup" all the time as an excuse of why someone doesn't want to try something new. It doesn't bother me that these women don't use makeup, and most of the time I'll say, "but you've got skin, don't you?" Liven things up a little. The fact of the matter is, it doesn't affect me at all how any other person chooses to decorate her- or him- or hirself. I only ever ask people to try my product if I think they're cool and might be receptive to me helping to access their own already existing beauty. I couldn't make anyone beautiful if I tried, like the pyschologist's lightbulb, a person must want to be beautiful.

So, if you ever find yourself in a conversation with a Mary Kay consultant, remember this: she thinks you're great and wants you to think it too. That's why.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Monogamy doesn't work

Ha! Made ya look!

One thing I've learned about blogging it's that (1) the more inflammatory your post-title the more people are going to read it. In a similar vein, (2) if you make broad, sweeping generalizations based on a biased sample size, you'll garner even greater readership. And if readers were nickels, I'd have about 75 cents.

Anyway, I've been out of the bloggosphere for a while, but every now and then, an article comes across my Facebook feed, and I read it just to make sure I still can get mad at stupid things. Most of the time it doesn't work, and I juts roll my eyes (good exercise), but today is Labor Day, so I have a bit of time for a bit of snark. This post over at Poly In the Media, concerns a stupid post by a person who has also learned rules 1 and 2 stated above, and decided that it was a good idea to blog about something where she had no real expertise or experience. (Suffice to say she has heard about "open marriages" and thinks that they are scary.)

The main point of her article "Why 'Open' Marriages Don't Work" is a valid one: people sometimes go into swinging (which is what I think she means when she speaks of ""open marriages"" - double quotes because I'm quoting her scare quotes too) without thinking about the emotional repercussions. Now, to say that initial foolishness in a venture means that that venture is always doomed is kind of silly. Just about every type of innovation ever seen by the human race has been met by someone calling it foolish.

She goes on to be rather silly, saying that once an emotional bond is formed between one primary partner and a (what we're now calling) satellite partner, a triad is formed (not true) and that is dangerous (not true) because, and I'm paraphrasing, you will never be able to love your mom as much as you love your dad. Paging Dr. Freud? Someone never made it past the early 1900s in their "History of Psychology" online course at Devry.

Now, I know that this silly person isn't talking about my relationship style. She's talking about a very specific kind of relationship style. One wherein the partners may sleep with whomever they wish, and where emotional connections with the "satellite" partners (and I really am offended by this term, I have to say) are verboten. This does not describe my relationship style, nor the styles of relationships of any number of people that I spend time with in the poly community (most of that time is spent not having sex, if you must know). So, I'm not sure why the poly community is upset about this article.

I'm also puzzled by there being enough "angry phone calls" to merit Psychology Today taking down the original post. Being any kind of sexual minority (female, gay, non-monogamous) does tend to make one a bit of an activist, but there was an insistence on being civil and articulate in response to this article... so, I guess PT doesn't really get that dissent != hatred and anger. Whatever.

Anyway, the lesson to be learned here is this: bloggers are silly people who say silly things because one day they think that they'll be on Oprah or Countdown. This is, in fact, a very significant problem in our society: people make sweeping generalizations so they can get a rise out of others and eventually use their intellectual prowess to win an argument on the internet with someone they don't know. I know it's a problem, I've done it myself and it turns you into a really annoying person.

Also, we need to learn to be a little more specific in our language. ""Open marriage"" can mean a lot of things, but when you put it in scare quotes like that, it means swinging. Not polyamory. So, really, unwad your panties before you say something stupid.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The thing about taxes

Think about your checkbook for a minute. There are things you have to spend money on:
  • Mortgage/rent
  • Phone
  • Electricity/gas/water/sewer/garbage
  • Credit Cards
  • Car payment/maintenance/fuel
  • Food
  • Health care
And there are things you like to spend money on:
  • Clothing
  • Entertainment
  • Being clean and having nice skin
You find all the money to pay for these things by having a job. You provide a service to an employer or clients/customers, and they pay you. That's how it works. If the cost of your bills go up, you might try to cut back your spending in he optional areas -- like, maybe you won't buy new clothes -- and there are some things that are super-necessary that you might be able to reduce by moving things around -- like you might decide to find cheaper health insurance, or drive less, or conserve electricity.

But if you try to reduce spending by refusing to pay your bills, you're just being irresponsible. And in most cases, when you need more money you find some way to earn more money. You might ask for a raise. You might find a second job. You might cash out some of your investments or dip into savings (if you have any). As a last resort, you might try to coast on your credit cards until things get better.

Usually, if you ask for a raise or get a different or second job, your problems end up leveling out financially. Cashing out investments or savings creates problems down the road, and you end up having to earn double to replace what you took out. Meanwhile, trying to live on credit cards for too long is going to land you in bankruptcy court.

So, think for a minute about the government. There are things that the fed has to spend money on (as defined in the Preamble to the Constitution):
  • Forming a more perfect union
  • Establishing justice
  • Ensuring domestic tranquility
  • Providing for the common defense
  • Promoting the general welfare
  • Securing the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our prosperity
And there are things we like to spend money on:
  • Helping our neighbors when they're in trouble or struggling
  • Encouraging innovation in the private sector

And federal, state, and local governments pay for these things by having a job. Unlike us as individuals, though, "paying the bills" as it were, is the job in question; also unlike us as individuals (or corporations), the government isn't supposed to make more money than it needs to do its job. But, when the output becomes higher than the income, more people are in trouble.

As citizens and constituents, we are the boss of the government. We pay the government to do its job. That's what taxes are. That's why the people who wrote our founding documents made sure to put a little note in Article I, Section VIII that "Congress shall have Power to lay and collect Taxes". So, when the bills start piling up, the best option for this particular checkbook, is to ask for a raise (raise taxes) or find another job (lay new taxes).

The other thing the government could do is cash out its investments, by cutting spending on education. But, as we've already established with our own checkbooks, is a bad idea. However, this is an even worse idea on a federal level, because reducing spending on things like education reduces the earning potential of the next generation; which obviously compounds problems down the road.

Finally, governments can try to live off credit cards and loans from other countries (which is what the go-to policy has been for the last 30 years). And look where it's gotten us.

Instead of being responsible with spending on essentials (like NOT spending trillions of dollars on wars that we had no business waging), or asking to be paid what it's worth (raising taxes), or finding alternate sources of revenue; governments have been living off credit cards and are now trying to cash out their investments (education, social security, medicare, etc) in order to make ends meet.

But there's a very simple solution. Some of the government's employers (like the top 1% of income earners) and clients (giant corporations) haven't been paying the fed for the work it does, and if those employers would just pay their taxes, we'd have enough money to pay all of our bills, and maybe get some health insurance.