Dear Whiteman

Dear Whiteman,

I really have had just about enough of you. I will say it once again: I do not like to be projected into. In particular, I do not like to be projected into by condescending, poorly trained and weakly professionalized individuals.

If I am a perfectionist, how is it that I send out articles which then return to me with suggestions for revision? How is it that I then respond to these and send said pieces out again?

Especially since my work is not perfect or even necessarily first tier, what is wrong with sending things out which are at least not disaster zones? Why should I not check all references and formatting before overloading a hard working editorial board with schlock? Please note that if you had ever been on the receiving end of such an operation and not had an R.A. to deal with it for you, you might know what I mean.

Please note as well that if you had ever been raised as a girl, you might realize nobody is going to finish my work for me. Consider your own case, for example. I do not see you lifting a finger except to heckle.

Who do you think you are to call me a perfectionist? On what planet are you considered professional?

Dear God,

I have felt a strange sense of shame ever since I started negotiating with you. This shame only bound me to you. I had come to understand that if I could appease you, if I could say the magic words and crack the charm, I would be free. I see now that there is no negotiation, and there were no magic words. A magic action was necessary, and I have already taken it. I am worlds away from you already, and I am not even leaving you this note.

Dear Editor,

Many times I have written asking for an extension because I was bogged down dealing with the aftermath of having allowed some random person to encumber me and push me around. I am no longer willing to impose upon you in this manner. For that reason I shall no longer allow myself to be imposed upon.



Filed under Banes, Da Whiteman, What Is A Scholar?

21 responses to “Dear Whiteman

  1. I am both very perfectionistic and also have had a desperate need to throw my academic burnt offerings into the ether when I want to be rid of them. I think this was due to writing when I was still working out my ideas, which is really like burning the candle at several ends at once. To have to formulate things for others to understand whilst you are still thinking them through is exceedingly difficult — and my thesis has been very difficult due to thinking myself out of one paradigm (Judeao-Christian) and into another.

    I have also had a real difficulty in writing my thesis in terms of having had different cultural touch points to begin with. I kept trying to express this in various instances — it has to do with not knowing what kinds of information others would take as normal and commonplace (hence not needing to be proven, by footnoting, long arguments, etc.) and what information was novel and required more detailed examination. This is a problem of writing for a culture that one doesn’t share the same values with. Not only that but you fear that you might be stepping on mines by writing something in your natural voice, since it could attract the wrong emotional emphasis when read outside of its original cultural context.

    All reasons why I often fling my offerings away from me, away. At least I get some feedback, then, which can be useful.

  2. PS–how the shamanistic paradigm is different from the J-C paradigm is that the mind is already part of the body to some degree, and the body is already part of the mind, in the way that both are conceptualised. There is still a dualism — but of a different sort. This takes a lot of getting one’s head around, because if you are conditioned to think in terms of Western culture, then mind and body are distinct and separate (scientific rationalism tells you as much, but so does religion). The “unconscious” in this case is definitively something that is alien and evil, rather than something that is already a part of us.

  3. Re writing – yes.

    Sometimes you have to write to work out ideas, though. I have typically been pushed to write before I was ready, which is why I keep talking about slowness, but the other aspect of slowness is that I really do start soon enough, i.e. before my ideas are perfected. That makes it slow.


    On people who are dishonest with themselves, I was Googled for something and discovered the Radical Honesty movement.

    It is very male, I thought, i.e. oriented towards men who are totally alienated from themselves.

    On the other hand: one way for me to avoid abusive situations would in fact be for me to be more “honest” … i.e. really refuse what’s distasteful, not compromise.

    • Wow. I don’t think that putting yourself through the wringer by trying to make yourself more honest will really make you any less self-alienated. The question is what is the person trying to hide from, that they need to lie all the time? I see that you consider the article to be “male” — so what the subject might be trying to get away from could be a sense of not being in control. Perhaps this reality assaults his sense of values, and makes him lie? If so, he should get to the source of the problem, which could be wage slavery. But puritanically getting on one’s own case is unlikely to help. It might work as a further distraction from facing the core issue.

      • Well — what *I* do say is “I can take it” when really, I can’t, at least not without it being to my detriment.

    • human

      Ew. Yuck. I can see a few limited circumstances in which that would be useful, but most of the examples given in that article are just some guy giving himself license to be an asshole.

      I mean, I take your point that it’s very useful to free yourself from the need to be polite to someone who is abusive. Yes. That’s true.

      But I don’t think rejecting manners or diplomacy as a whole is the way to go.

      • “…just some guy giving himself license to be an asshole.”

        YES — and to demand to be catered to. If you don’t like your grandmother’s cookies, she should know so you can know each others’ “true opinions.”

        Very male.

  4. You probably wouldn’t be surprised where saying “I can’t take it” gets you. There is such a thing as mental toughness, and it is what we train for in martial arts, but there is little correlation between a kind of martial arts mental toughness and the kind of state of being is requires to put up with abusiveness. The lie I have uncovered is in people conflating the two, saying, “no, no, no!” you can and must use your martial arts mental toughness to tackle the contemporary workplace, so that you will come out on top!”

    But what they don’t see (and don’t want to see) is that the training I partake of in martial arts unsuits me to coming out on top in the contemporary workplace. What would I need to come out as a “winner” in the latter place?

    1. the ability to blend in and seem like one of the crowd, only to stand out when I particularly choose my moment, so that I shine a little bit, but not enough to get me backstabbed.

    2. The capacity to soften, (in order to blend in) — not to allow my stoicism to get the upper hand so that I stand out.

    3. feminine deference — conformity to gender conventions and expectations

    4. To not have a strong locus of drive/control within myself but to allow others (above and below) to harness me and use me for their purpose.

    Now, what does that really have to do with martial arts toughness, except for being just about the opposite, and requiring the annihilation of all the toughness skills I have already learned?

    But to say, “I can’t take that!” means, in the muddled mines of the many too many that I cannot take “things”.

    Really, there is no reason out there. The world is mad.

  5. Good description of the contemporary workplace. This is why if you work in a university it must be an R1 that gives you R1 working conditions, by the way, and you should be involved in several PhD programs. Those are the places and spaces in which you one can best avoid what you describe in a college or university.

    I’m talking about admitting to oneself that one can’t take things. Like this person: I really can’t handle his antics. They’re too draining.

    I’ve also always found that saying “I can’t take it” to self and others is really effective at work. Perhaps it’s just an American code for “I refuse” or “that is not my priority” but it’s less cold.

    I say it about typing, filing, cake making, present buying, giving classes on exotic topics about which I know nothing, giving extra classes because they are “needed” — all things which in fact will drain time and energy and which, in the medium to long term, one indeed cannot “take” (without suffering the effects of).

    I used to say things like “that can’t be priority now” but this is not one of the things women can safely say, I learned. More effective: I can’t take doing that on top of my regular job, can you? No? Well then I guess you see why I can’t.

  6. Good if you can admit you can’t take some things. It give you space to breathe, and room to clear the soul.

  7. YES — and to demand to be catered to. If you don’t like your grandmother’s cookies, she should know so you can know each others’ “true opinions.”

    Very male.

    It’s only male in the sense that he expects to dish something out, but not to have to take it.

    In sparring, if someone comes into your range with a certain aggressive hostility, you are free to reciprocate in kind. But males often do not anticipate this, and that is why “male” does not equal “masculinity”.

    If someone is really “honest” with me, I would feel free to be just as easy, open and honest with them. I would mention the personal things about them that I didn’t like, like maybe nasal hairs, or their voice is not soft on my ears, or something.

    You have nothing to lose with a person who isn’t really all that aware of anything to begin with.

  8. It’s kind of tit for tat though, and I’m loath to do it because that’s what I was brought up with and it leads to no good end. It really is just the flip side of dishonesty, this “radical” honesty; it helps avoid dealing with the person or yourself; etc., as you said in other words up thread.

  9. Not really tit for tat. I don’t know. It doesn’t have any subtext to it, so that is why I say so. It doesn’t mean anything, except reciprocation. I actually think, when I do this, I am just pushing somebody back, keeping them at a greater distance. Sometimes I reciprocate without being consciously aware of it. It doesn’t happen as a result of thought.

  10. I guess that’s a different context. In my family, people scream violent, pained and painful accusations at each other, or make quiet little digs. There’s no point in escalating it — the only way to stop them is to say calmly that their behavior is out of line, or not to use a certain vocabulary in one’s presence, or whatever it is, and refuse to argue. And then repeat if necessary, but always calmly.

    They’re always exhausted and tense because they don’t know when abuse will start or when someone who has been taking too much for too long, getting mistreated more than they can handle, will fall apart — often in response to some other stimulus since they’re in such denial about the real source of trouble.

    • yes, it’s very different. escalating the situation is often a way to try to get closer to the person, to try to be heard. But my tendency is to push someone like that away, to emotionally distance them.

      reciprocation can be very useful though, as a device to get to know somebody. if they treat you in a certain way, but will not accept treatment in kind, then there is really something wrong with them — control issues. We all make mistakes, and reciprocation is a way of warning someone, often quite subtly, that they are in error. The way to reverse the problem they have created is to realise that reciprocation is involved, because relationships involve life, organic, subjectivities, that respond spontaneously to different kinds of treatment. This seems so obvious on the face of it, but most people have been conditioned out of seeing others as equal subjects to them, with the capacity to respond spontaneously. Many people must surely imagine that they are dealing with objects rather than subjects. Nonetheless, one can very NATURALLY differentiate between friend and foe (as well as what distance to keep the various variants) purely on the basis of reciprocation!

      • I think a lot of the people I deal with wouldn’t “get” reciprocation. Theoretically I see the point about using it to get to know them but really, if they’ve done something I don’t like I don’t care whether they find it acceptable to be treated that way themselves.

        Also, I don’t always have the capacity to respond spontaneously: bad behavior freezes me in my tracks. I focus on trying not to do that and trying to notice in the moment that it’s bad behavior and not doubt myself on that. When I do this it’s not hard to figure out what to say and I can usually be brief and non hot headed.

  11. People actually don’t “get” reciprocation — that is for sure! It’s not actually a form of communication, in that it doesn’t have a sub-text to it. It is more like a form of self defence. I reciprocate all the time whether or not people “get” it. It isn’t personal. But it’s a way of sifting people, so that I get the good ones in my inner circle and get the bad ones to circulate much further away from me.

    But, to reiterate — it’s nothing personal. I just like to have people around me who I can trust.

  12. Self defense, yes, this is interesting.

  13. Also on the “honesty” thing: I have a friend who is constantly amazed that I dare to say the things that I say, not that they are offensive (usually they just perceptions on myself, and not necessarily of negative things) — she thinks it’s unusual I can perceive what I can and am willing to say it; I never understood why, but perhaps she is right.

    • Yes, I have encountered the same thing. People take my honesty (with myself and others) as if it were something entirely different from what it is, which is “articulated perception”. It seems to be that Zimbabweans find it quite natural to articulate their perceptions readily and often. It is one of their stronger cultural features, that they tend to do this, and often in a humorous way.

      White Westerners tend to misunderstand this way of talking, however, and see in it something malign. That is why I am now starting to repeat: “It is not about ‘subtext’ .” There is no subtext to articulated perception, necessarily. It just is what it is and take it or leave it, but don’t get all het up and go on the warpath, just because the perceptions strike you as odd, or you don’t like their content somehow. Let’s just move on.

      The worst Westerners are those who take ironic self-perceptions out of context and try to make out that I am self-hating or something. Really, Westerners, let’s just move on. You’ve proven you can miss the point often enough. But why should I be prohibited against being ironic about myself when life is hard enough as it is?

      I have access to my ‘unconscious’, which is not exactly ‘unconscious’ since that part of my mind is not dualised, but a part of my self-awareness that I access through play. It is not malign, then, because it is not TRULY ‘unconscious’.

      But some people really do have good reason to fear the commentary on life that might stem from their ‘unconscious’.

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