please stop tickling me

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Location: Portland, Oregon

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Monday, October 06, 2008

A Crucial Argument of Deadly Seriousness

It is a matter of historical record that, for reasons unknown even today, a British newspaper published a crossword puzzle on the eve of D-Day that contained all the classified names of each of the missions, including the name of the mission itself, 'Overlord'.
So that said, it always creeps me out when I see things like yesterday's Jumble, where the first three answers were 'dismal', 'weapon' and 'curfew'.
But then the next two were 'belief', and 'affirm'. That was puzzling enough, but what pattern is suggested by the final word, which was 'frolic'?

But, only a little ways over from there, you get to read the guest opinions of one Becky Ohlsen. "Portland, Get Over Yourself", is the damn thing's name, and shitty generalizin' is its game.
I've gone on record here before about what I think of people who use the trope of either 'get over it' or 'get over youself', but let's just say it again: it is a non-argument made by morons. It could be viewed as edgy by somebody, but who?

It's more of the same territory mined by The Mercury's Matt Davis (who I see has also linked to Becky's thing). People have been rhapsodizing about how wonderful Portland is since the mid-'70's, and it caused a lot of people to move here, which sort of added some more voices to the discussion. Now, as much as I don't get people who swoon about how fucking wonderful it is here (it's a lot like a number of other medium-sized cities I've seen, actually), the attendant backlash to that is just fucking ignorant. Worse yet; both sides are wrong.

The complaints generally follow some mutation of the 1968 Haight-Ashbury broadside "Nebraska needs you more", or my thing I always said to angry Olympia pseudo-feminists in the '90's ("If you want to make a difference, there's a timber town called Shelton twenty miles west of here. Standing around here flipping shit to a bunch of hippie boys who attend a liberal arts school is just lazy.").
So yes; sitting around talking in circles with people of like mind is sorta masturbatory, but what does it actually harm? And at what point do I get to be a person living their life, as opposed to Bold Crusader For Truth? I lost a lot of my hubris after I...Ceased to be Becky Ohlsen's age, I suppose...

Also on the list is the somewhat incoherent argument that goes something along the lines of, "oh, you think you know the real world? YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE REAL WORLD!" And then they point out how much more realistic it is in some shithole like Baltimore.
Hey, you know what? I don't wanna live in Baltimore, and you know what? Neither do people who live in Baltimore. I think it's just fine that here is this little island of relative sanity in a world that largely sucks.
Is it complacent, even about its own needs? Yes, at times. We're Sorry.

Inevitably, when the general turns specific, it comes down to certain things that just happen to bother the author, and don't do such a hot job of underscoring how...Urgent the need for change is. Witness:
"They don't think it's rude to ask the waiter if the salmon on the menu is farm-raised or wild; if it's farmed, the diner will opt instead for the salad of locally grown beets and wild greens picked in the meadows of nearby Mount Hood." Well, being an asshole is still being an asshole, though.

"Being vegan is cool, not annoying." No, it's annoying when they're an asshole about it.

"Portlanders drink organic beer and wine (except for the dregs of the demimonde, who insist on Pabst Blue Ribbon and are mocked for it)." No, due to a need to not be viewed as elitist by blinkered cultural commentators like yourself, PBR is the drink of choice for most beer drinkers I know.

The parochialism card gets played:
"I know half a dozen women in Portland who work in the media, but we never talk about the news. We talk about kids, dating, hiking. Another friend works for an alternative-energy company; we've never had a conversation about the election, the economy, the price of oil. In Portland there's no need to talk about these things. Everyone already agrees."

Actually, like Seattle, we have a lot more of a conservative streak than you might be told about. We're still only a generation or two removed from a resource extraction based industry, and frankly, many of us still work in it. We're basically a buncha rednecks walkin' around in city clothes, and people talk politics all right, and they certainly don't all agree with each other.
The people I work with, for instance, are union members and non-union members who all have political opinions of their own and regularly express them. Is the problem with the example above that you were speaking to people who are way too comfortable?

"The city is so self-centered it forgets that dissenting views exist. This becomes obvious the moment a Portlander ventures beyond the city limits. In Boston, New York, even tiny Pueblo, Colo., people are talking about politics. They're talking about the war in Iraq. They're talking about religion, Wall Street, global warming, gay marriage. And they're not just talking about these things: They are arguing. Portlanders don't argue. They don't think they need to. But they're wrong."
Now you're just being incoherent. To say that Portlanders aren't politically engaged is to miss a rather large part of our public discourse. To say we don't argue? Well, if not always with each other, I know I'm not the only person here who has gone out of his way to engage people of diametrically opposed viewpoints on this thing here called The Internet. Y'oughta try it; it's great.

"When everyone around you agrees with your views on pretty much everything, you start to imagine that everyone everywhere feels that way. You leave yourself vulnerable to unpleasant surprises. Guess what? People still use Styrofoam cups by the hundreds at church-basement gatherings in Topeka. Lots of women oppose abortion rights. Outside of Portland, you might hear nice, reasonable, educated people expressing dismay at the idea that a Muslim baby killer is running for president. And because you've been living your exemplary life in your exemplary city, surrounded by others just like you, these arguments will blindside you. You'll be baffled, disarmed and defenseless. You'll lose the fight. And it will be your fault. What's the matter with Kansas? Honestly, Portland has no idea."

So...We should be like them? I mean, you're really high if you think that we here in the Marxist Utopia aren't aware of where we're not living.
I, like most people I know, came here from somewhere else. Eastern Oregon, to be exact, and I feel damn lucky I got out. I know what folks there think about most things, and you know what? They're childish and parochial in their hatreds and suspicions. The operate under a blanket of fear-based consensus and automatic disdain for the outside world that makes Portland look positively diverse. And from what I am told, much of Murka is like this.
If you were a little more honest with yourself, you'd be writing about them. But of course, the wisdom of the common folk is to be trusted and venerated at all times, lest one become an elitist. Pabst, y'know. (Although, if you drink Pabst in Pendleton, folks will wonder why you aren't drinking a Bud.)

Tell us Becky; what is it that we are supposed to do?
"This is not a call for Portlanders to start roaring down their bike-laned city streets in SUVs, insulting their neighbors on the basis of dietary or sexual preference and tossing their empties into the Dumpster. Rather, it's an attempt to point out that perfect behavior won't protect you when the rest of the country decides to overturn Roe v. Wade, ban gay marriage and elect another Republican. It may seem comforting to spend election season swapping recipes in your community garden, but there's a different conversation going on out there, and you can't afford to ignore it."

Oh, so no idea, huh? Yeah, Matt Davis doesn't have any, either.

But really, why'd you write this? If you think you're saying something that hasn't been said before too many times, forget it. For that matter, this is the kind of thing a thinking person already is on the watch for in themselves.
That being said, it is the prerogative of fools and children to point out that the emperor wears no clothes: the emperor already knows that. We all get around in a bubble of subjectivity that relies on a certain amount of knowing self-delusion and trickery: magical thinking that insulates us from things that might just cause us to quit our jobs and sit around obsessing endlessly about things we have no power over for the rest of our lives.
Do we engage where we can engage? Yes, and I'm gonna say that for a lot of us, that's at community level. The last two presidential elections were stolen, y'know, and a lot of those people you think you're reminding us about out there think that Santa Claus is gonna come down and kill all the brown people so we can have our jobs back. On one hand, dialogue is good, but on the other, fuck them. They marginalize themselves, but the media keeps holding them up as the paragon of all that is pure and beautiful in the 'Murkan spirit.

And, y' damn Eastern Liberal Media Insider you, shitty freelance writers like to shoot fish in barrels. I'd say 'don't be that way', but I'd rather do this instead. Oh, and Maybe you should move to Alabama, if you like it so much.
Which is exactly what any redneck I've ever met says whenever you talk about, say, The Netherlands.



Blogger Salty Miss Jill said...

This makes me sad. Sounds just like Ogreville.
People getting all self-righteous and uppity about how enlightened they are to the exclusion of everyone who doesn;t agree with 'em. Makes me want to vote Republican. And that's bad.

2:26 PM  
Blogger rich bachelor said...

Well, yeah. And I think too, as I said, that Becky here hung out with a lot of the exact type of shithead she's complaining about. There's plenty of us who recognize the wrong things about Portland.

Ask us what we think of our police bureau, for one.

8:52 AM  

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