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    • The Technology of Violence and its effect on prosperity and freedom
        Prosperity is two things: 1) How much you can produce with your technology and social organization; 2) Who gets how much.   The second is determined by a number of factors, but the simplest is the structure of violence.  Those who aren’t good at fighting, don’t get as much of the surplus created by [...]
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Tuesday: Fits and starts

I followed a link from Susie Madrak’s place yesterday to a post on AlterNet by Sara Robinson called Why Patriarchal Men are Terrified by Birth Control.  Robinson makes several good points that most of us probably figured out several decades ago.  The “scriptures” were written at time when transfer of inherited property depended on having the right credentials.  You could always be sure who your mother was.  Your father?  Ehhhhh, not so much.  And, so, for thousands of years, culture was pretty fixed around keeping an eye on the ladies.  Biology was destiny.  And I guess that the extinction of silphium complicated matters somewhat when it came to having a life outside of marriage.  (Hmmmm, I wonder if you can get an aloe vera plant to express silphium’s active ingredient in its resin?  Yeah, probably.  Now, that would make an interesting horticultural blockbuster.)

But that all changed with the pill and earlier forms of birth control like the diaphragm and the condom.  With reliable birth control, all those scriptures and cultural artifacts seemed anachronistic to those of us who came of age in the 70’s and 80’s.  Because they were.  That old time religion doesn’t apply to us.  I turned my back on the Old Testament probably as soon as I was able to reason out how inapplicable it was to modern times in every way from evolution to gender discrimination, slavery and birth control.  Why the heck we’re still expecting anyone to bow and scrape to these old rules is beyond me.

But Robinson says that we’re going to keep fighting this battle for a few more hundred years because the menfolk need some time to get used to the idea that they’re not alone at the top of the food chain anymore.  I’m not sure I agree with her there.  In Europe, the religious are getting more rare.  Oh, sure, there’s still gender discrimination and violence but that’s a function of how accountable we make the perpetrators.  When there is political will to crack down on it, that will start to fade away.  Of course, women will always be at a disadvantage as far as upper body strength is concerned and rape can be used as a method of control and violence.  I don’t know what we can do about that short of retrofitting our vaginas with taser devices.  But books have been written about how the human species has become less violent over the centuries and I see no reason why rape should be an exception.

Evolution is not necessarily smooth and linear.  Who would have thought just a century ago that the internet would put all of the knowledge of human civilization at our fingertips and change the world?  Look at how much damage we have accomplished just since 1993.  My youngest daughter has never known a world without google.  My oldest learned to read on a computer.  And yet, this year, we are fighting tooth and nail to keep SOPA and PIPA from turning the clock back on what we can do with the internet.  So, there are fits and starts with every new thing.  Birth control has had a profound effect on our culture and this is just a glitch, a short one.

I’m still of the opinion that there is an age factor at work in this latest push back on women’s bodily autonomy.  The most socially conservative voters are elderly and came of age before they had the chance to form their lives according to their own desires.  Many women in their 70’s had responsibility shoved down their throats and their opportunities spirited away by the era they were born into.  If they had been born only a few years later, their lives would have been so much different.  The men of this age, on the other hand, lived in the salad days of post war America where any hard working guy could own a house and a car and earn a pretty decent living with a pension.  Must have been swell.  The guys that came after them have seen their livelihoods diminish over the past 30 years.

I think as the older generation dies off and the newer generation who has thought through the Old Testament problem comes of age, the pendulum will swing away from the patriarchal fear of birth control and this will happen on a much quicker timeframe than several hundred years.  But what has happened to us as a culture, with our diminished expectations, is a result of an economic assault on us by some very determined conservatives.  And those predators have been with us forever.  We need to develop a pill that prevents selfishness and arrogance.  That will be the next modern medical miracle.

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Check out this post about dyeing your macbook.  The third picture nearly gave me a heart attack.  I don’t know why you’d want to do this.  White goes with everything.

This macbook decal is a lot less permanent:

There’s more where that came from.  Check out more decals here.

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