Mandolin Is Interviewed & Open Thread

By the by, I recently got interviewed about my short story writing.

Update: And since this is a place for self-promotion, feel free to promote yourselves here, too! Anything we should all pop over to your blog to read? Shower us with your fantastic prose.

You can also use this thread to post about anything else that catches your fancy.

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25 Responses to Mandolin Is Interviewed & Open Thread

  1. 1
    Sailorman says:

    I followed the links and read some of your stuff I hadn’t seen before; it’s really good. Congrats on the (deserved) press!

  2. 2
    Mandolin says:

    Thanks, Sailorman. That’s very kind.

  3. 3
    will shetterly says:

    Taking advantage of the open thread:

    “It’s like, if you want to talk about how best to implement the dissolution of class in the US, it’s not helpful to have people around who want to derail the conversation by saying that poor people deserve it and they’d get unpoor if only they worked harder.”

    You would be entirely right to be offended if someone said something like that. But who said anything like “black people deserve it and they’d get unpoor (unblack?) if only they worked harder?” Pointing out that some issues are more complex than a racial model can explain does nothing to suggest that anyone deserves to be poor.

    I wasn’t planning to leave a last post here; I usually try to leave discussions quietly. But I really hate the implication that someone concerned with class issues would think anyone deserved to suffer from racism. Being concerned with class issues does not mean you’re blind to racism. Being concerned with class issues means you think the problems of racism are best addressed by focusing on the problems of class. When half of the people in the United States who live below the poverty line are white, why minimize the problem of poverty by only addressing the half who are black or Hispanic? Better schools, universal health care, better housing, better food, better jobs—these are things that improve the lot of poor blacks, poor Hispanics, and poor whites.

    As for the heart of my comment that was deleted, I’m posting it on my livejournal now.

    best wishes to all here,

    Will

  4. 4
    Mandolin says:

    “I wasn’t planning to leave a last post here; I usually try to leave discussions quietly. But I really hate the implication that someone concerned with class issues would think anyone deserved to suffer from racism. Being concerned with class issues does not mean you’re blind to racism. Being concerned with class issues means you think the problems of racism are best addressed by focusing on the problems of class. When half of the people in the United States who live below the poverty line are white, why minimize the problem of poverty by only addressing the half who are black or Hispanic? Better schools, universal health care, better housing, better food, better jobs—these are things that improve the lot of poor blacks, poor Hispanics, and poor whites.”

    But you try to derail the conversation about race, and turn it to something else. You’ve done it on many threads here and elsewhere. They want to have a conversation about race over there.

  5. 5
    Ampersand says:

    Being concerned with class issues does not mean you’re blind to racism.

    I certainly agree.

    Being concerned with class issues means you think the problems of racism are best addressed by focusing on the problems of class.

    Nonsense. If we took this statement seriously, we’d have to conclude that unless you agree that the way to address “problems of racism” is to focus on class, you must not be concerned with class at all.

    It’s perfectly consistant to be concerned about both class and racism while believing they require separate (although often overlapping) remedies.

    When half of the people in the United States who live below the poverty line are white, why minimize the problem of poverty by only addressing the half who are black or Hispanic?

    Who has ever said that we should “only address the half who are black or Hispanic”? Back up this claim with a link or a post, please.

    Better schools, universal health care, better housing, better food, better jobs—these are things that improve the lot of poor blacks, poor Hispanics, and poor whites.

    Yes, I agree, and I favor all these things. However, unless barriers of racism are addressed alongside (not instead of) class issues, these things will improve the lot of poor whites significantly more than they’ll improve the lot of poor people of color.

    As for the heart of my comment that was deleted, I’m posting it on my livejournal now.

    Link, please?

  6. 6
    will shetterly says:

    Amp, since you asked, it’s here, but it’s fine to let the discussion drop now. We disagree with each other’s focus. You tend to see racism where I see class concerns, but disagreements happen. I won’t go looking for the places where people on this site have discussed situations purely in terms of the effect on people of color when whites or poor whites were also targeted, but Herbert’s article is a fair example of it.

    I think what it boils down to is this: when the rich target the poor, POC are disproportionately affected because the distribution of wealth in the US follows some racial lines. If your concern is race, you therefore focus on racial injustice. But if your concern is with the poor, you focus on class injustice. I was once in the first camp. I’m in the second one now.

  7. 7
    Ampersand says:

    We disagree with each other’s focus. You tend to see racism where I see class concerns, but disagreements happen.

    We’re not a mirror image of each other, Will. Although in my writing and cartoons I’m relatively focused on race, I don’t constantly argue that when people see classism, they’re really just mistaking racism for classism. Nor do I argue that “Being concerned with race issues means you think the problems of classism are best addressed by focusing on the problems of race.”

    In other words, I’m not a right-winger on class issues, the way you are on race issues. Class issues are not my focus, and I discuss them infrequently. Because I’m only one person, and I can’t focus on every important issue in the world. But I don’t argue against the importance of class issues, or argue that people focused on class are “obsessed” (your word) and should instead be focused on race.

    I don’t disagree with people focusing on class issues. (I’m leaning towards Edwards for the Dem nomination, largely because of his focus on class issues). I think it’s essential work, and I’m glad there are people doing it. I have never in my life tried to dissuade people from a focus on class, and I never will. I’m not your mirror image.

  8. 8
    will shetterly says:

    Amp, I think this is how the process works: I look at things like Katrina, the death penalty, the drug war, and the Jena 6, and I ask, “Are poor whites treated the same way?” In Katrina and the death peanlty, the answer is yes; in the drug war and Jena 6, the answer is no.

    Another difference is that I don’t see the world in terms of left wing and right wing. The possible positions are much greater and more complex than the traditional language of US politics allows.

    Also, I don’t mind if people say I’m obsessed with class. I am.

    But I really don’t mean to imply that you’re my mirror image on anything but the way we prioritize race and class, and in our attitude toward whether you can separate issues of race from issues of class. From all that I can tell, you’re a very nice guy and a mighty fine cartoonist. If you want to have threads where you talk about race without talking about class, that’s cool.

  9. 9
    Sailorman says:

    Who has ever said that we should “only address the half who are black or Hispanic”? Back up this claim with a link or a post, please.

    Isn’t that sort of the point? That by addressing the racism (which from a functional standpoint means addressing the minorities who are affected negatively by racism) we may have a secondary benefit to poor whites? But it’s pretty clear that the primary focus isn’t that.

    The race theory viewpoint as far as I can understand it won’t decry a solution merely because it benefits whites–but it won’t base its evaluation of a solution as good/bad on the effect for whites. In anything other than political-speak, that’s pretty equivalent to “ignore whites.”

    In illustration, it’s a lot like focusing on the needs of rich people, without caring much whether those solutions meet the needs of poor people. Even if the poor people benefit in the end, they’re being ignored.

    So now I am really confused by your response. If you’re talking about things from a racial perspective, you’re focusing on the needs of racial minorities.

    Aren’t you? Because if that WASN’T true, and if, as you imply, it was OK (if not necessary) to focus on all poor people rather than just minority poor… then it would be OK in a racism-poverty thread to talk about, say, the whites who suffer from a common affliction and how they (as well as the minorities being discussed) might also benefit. But in my experience that gets treated as a “yawn, what about the poor white people?” response, and is widely mocked.

    It seems pretty clear that feminist theory primarily concerns itself with women, classist theory with the poor, racism theory with minorities… Now I see you here asking for some sort of link. Have we been reading the same threads? Or are you referring to something else?

    Or am I entirely missing what you are saying (in which case, sorry and would you mind explaining it a bit more?)

  10. 10
    Eliza says:

    When half of the people in the United States who live below the poverty line are white, why minimize the problem of poverty by only addressing the half who are black or Hispanic?

    But to only look at this from that pov is bad science, and bad statistics. It’s not just about what percentage of poor people are people of color, but ALSO, what percentage of people of color are poor. If the 50% of poor people that are white make up a minority of white people but the 50% of poor people that are people of color make up the majority of people of color, that’s a racial class issue. To boil it down to just a class issue is not going to resolve (or solve) anything.

  11. 11
    Kate L. says:

    [blockquote]“Are poor whites treated the same way?” In Katrina and the death peanlty, the answer is yes; [/blockquote]

    But, your assumption that poor people of color and poor whites are treated the same in those two instances is incorrect.

    Just as one VERY quick eample. After Katrina there was that photo of a couple of non white looking guys wading through the flood carrying stuff. I don’t even remember what it was. The caption was “looters” or somthing to that effect. A similar picture of white looking people wading through the flood waters carrying food read something like, “people forage for food to survive the flood.” I’m paraphrasing, but the message was clear – black people = looters. white people = resourceful survival skills.

    While the natural disaster of the hurricane and resulting flood certainly doesn’t discriminate in terms of damage done, the length of time it took for the gov’t to get their act together, the media coverage about the “attrocities” happening in the dome and the way people who are “misusing” their FEMA relief $$ are all very much influenced by the large population of people of color in NO. So, while the end result may have been similar for poor whites and poor people of color (and I can’t speak intelligently about whether it is or not), race played a significant role. pretending that the race piece doesn’t exist or doesn’t really matter is disingenuous at best.

    I don’t think your death penalty example works either. It’s well documented that people of color are far more likely to get harsher sentences for similar crimes (beyond the drug war), that the criminal justice system is heavily biased in favor of whites and is one of the best examples of institionalized racism there is. Thus, since the proportion of people of color sitting on death row is wildly disproportionate I don’t think you can argue that race doesn’t matter. Certainly, the CJS has significant class bias as well, but acknowledging the class bias doesn’t preclude acknowledging a seperate albeit overlapping race bias.

    But, I think by far, the best argument to your statements is that if you eliminate class bias, or at least drastically reduced it, you would NOT proportionately eliminate race bias. All you need to see that is to read books where middle class people of color explain the racism they encounter. THey have acheived the “right” class, but it has not eliminated the significant racism they face in their daily lives.

    I’m certain Rachel could refer you to some good books on the subject. I can’t think of any off the top of my head.

  12. 12
    will shetterly says:

    Eliza, it’s simply a fact based on the figures from the US Census. Yes, it’s true that people of color are disproportionately poor in the US for historical reasons, but then, the children of whites who came to this country without resources tend to be poor also. In any case, today, the main reason people are poor is because their parents were poor, and their grandparents were poor. That’s true of all “races.” If the solutions to poverty were different for different races, I might think focusing on race was valid. But the things that end poverty for some will end it for everyone.

    If administering those solutions impartially is difficult, then the process needs to be monitored. The death penalty showed great racial bias at one time. It no longer does. (Not a defense of the death penalty, mind you; it may be racially fair now, but it’s still wrong.)

    Just noticed something else you’ve misunderstood: The 50% of poor people who are people of color do not make up the majority of people of color. 24% of blacks and 22.5% of Hispanics live below the poverty line. People who focus on race note that 8% of whites are poor. People who focus on class say no one should be poor.

  13. 13
    will shetterly says:

    Kate L, I wish I had a link handy for you, but here’s the quick version: those photos were labeled by two different companies. The American-based AP said the person was a looter; the French-based AFP said the two people were finders. Now, if you look at the AFP picture, the female finder doesn’t look white; she looks like a light-skinned black.

    What’s more important is this: did any poor whites get escorted out of New Orleans? Were they allowed to cross the bridge? Did they get better food? Did the government treat poor whites any better than poor blacks? Remember that only 85% of the poor in New Orleans were black. Was the remaining 15% treated any better? To conclude that racism was at work, you have to believe the government was so racist that it was willing to hurt a lot of whites, but if you don’t have favoritism, you don’t have racism.

    I can give you a link for the death penalty. I ran the numbers here and looked at the statistics again here. You’ll find links to the sources there. If you see anything wrong with my numbers or my approach, I would be glad to hear it.

  14. 14
    Kate L. says:

    I think you are not understanding difference between a poverty rate and # of people in poverty. Either you don’t get it or you are deliberately ignoring it.

    Since white people are MORE THAN 50% of the overall population of the US, it makes SENSE that they’d make up more than 50% of the population of people living in poverty, assuming a random distribution (which would only occur if race doesn’t matter).

    I only know numbers by the 2000 census, which is probably outdated by now, but close enough. of the number of people in poverty in 2000, whites make up approx 2/3 of the people in poverty. The majority of poor people are white. Again, since the majority of the population is white, that is logical.

    However, the poverty RATE for whites was the lowest than any other racial group in 2000. So, even though there are more poor whites than any other racial group, they are the racial group that is statistically LEAST likely to be poor.

    Black people on the other hand make up approx. 12% of the population. I don’t know what the % poor blacks are… let’s say it’s 24% as you say. If they make up 12% of the population, then if poverty was randomly distributed, they should make up 12% of the people in poverty. The poverty RATE is a much more meaningful number and the fact that people of color, black people especially are more likely to be poor than any other racial group means something.

    If you think that focusing ONLY on class is the answer, you are IGNORING that it will not create a random distribution of wealth among races.

  15. 15
    Kate L. says:

    I just re-read your response to Eliza and I think we will not come to an agreement on this. The bottom line is that I think you are simply ignoring that racism is alive and well and CONTINUES to create uneven distributions of wealth, education and power. It’s not simply a bastion of left over inequities and eliminating classism WILL NOT eliminate problems that people of color face due to racism.

    It’s like saying that by fixing classism you’ll fix patriarchy. Or by fixing patriarchy you’ll fix racism. It might make a dent – I’d admit that, but it’s not the end all solution.

    The problems we face are multi-faceted. One “solution” simply isn’t going get the job done.

  16. 16
    will shetterly says:

    Kate L, you focus on race, so you’re offended that the poverty rate isn’t racially proportionate to the population. I focus on class, so I’m offended by poverty. I want to end it for everyone. So long as you put more emphasis on race than class, you’re right; we will never come to an agreement on this

  17. 17
    Eliza says:

    That fact that people of color are disproportionately poor indicates that there are far more factors to being poor than just class. That doesn’t meant that class doesn’t matter, but that race matters too. If you continue to ignore the racial aspects of class, you will NEVER end poverty.

  18. 18
    will shetterly says:

    Eliza, at the risk of sounding like I’m stating the obvious, the main reason for poverty is a lack of money. Most European and Asian immigrants came to the US with some resources, or they had family members already here who had some resources. But black Americans were freed from slavery and given nothing, the white Americans who came as convicts or indentured servants were also given little or nothing, and the native North Americans had little or nothing. The people of all races who had some wealth and fell into generational poverty have little or nothing. The solution to poverty is to share the wealth, beginning with education and health care.

    Well, I don’t mean to debate this. Since I hadn’t offered links for my earlier claims, I returned, but I think this is as good a last post for the immediate future as any.

    best wishes to all,

    Will

  19. 19
    Bonnie says:

    *new direction for the open thread*

    I’m looking for personal insights re: Asperger’s. I seem to remember a few comments here from people who have it or are close to people who do.

    I think my partner’s father has it and I’m looking for strategies for dealing w/ it & him. He is a complete narcissistic ass and a mechanical genius. Among other things. I seriously do not believe he is NT – from what I’ve read online, many of his behaviors dovetail with most of the Asperger’s markers.

    I’ll appreciate any help y’all have.

    -B

    Thanks, all.

  20. 20
    Mandolin says:

    There are a few good books on it, which you can probably find at a local B&N (or non-chain seller) if you wander through their section on abnormal psych. The personal accounts (Donna Williams / Temple Grandin) are fascinating, but there are plenty of more academic accounts as well. I read nine or ten of them a few years ago; I don’t know which books would still be current.

  21. 21
    Mandolin says:

    Also, while Simon Baron Cohen has some icky ideas about boys & girls, his research is truly fascinating. If you can get onto a university site or something that would get you access to his papers, they’re interesting reads.

    If you want, you can have the research proposal I did on hypothetical early diagnosis of Asperger’s. The text probably isn’t worth a lot, but the bibliography might be interesting for you.

  22. 22
    Bonnie says:

    Hey Mandolin, thanks for the recommendations. And I’d like to see your research proposal.

    Gotta figure out how we can deal with my partner’s father. He hasn’t spoken to her in a year and a half over a silly minor not-yet argument with me. He has some real problems.

    -B

  23. 23
    Mandolin says:

    In my experience, people with asperger’s are as likely to have a range of personality problems as anyone else. Which is to say that I’ve met some who were the sweetest people ever, and some who used Asperger’s as an excuse to be selfish jerks.

    I could be wrong here, but I doubt there’s going to be much help for how to deal with this man — because the primary problem is probably that he’s an asshole, not that he has Asperger’s.

    However, here are a couple common pieces of advice:

    People with Asperger’s do tend to have certain communication problems, so I would advise you to remember when you talk to him that he probably isn’t reading your face or body language. He probably can’t tell your emotions by looking at your eyes, your face, your posture, or hearing the tone of your voice. For instance, if he’s saying something that’s making you mad, don’t shift angrily in your seat, or make a face, or threaten to walk out of the room. You have to explicitly say, “You’re pissing me off right now” — and don’t rely on your inflection to do the work for you. Then you’re going to have to explain why he’s pissing you off, without assuming he can make the intuitive leaps between points.

    Some people with Asperger’s are going to have theory of mind problems, which is to say that they can’t intuitively guess things about what you’re thinking or feeling by knowing your situation. In some people with Asperger’s, this manifests in them not considering your subjectivity, or wondeirng how you feel in a situation unless you tell them. For instance, I once had a female friend with Asperger’s who really did want to make sure everyone was happy, but who just wouldn’t think about whether you were bored or irritated unless you said something. She meant well, but it didn’t occur to her. I had a male friend with Asperger’s who solved the problem by just periodically asking “How are you?” to make sure he wasn’t missing anything.

    Remember that levels of impairment differ dramatically, so your relative may have no problems with theory of mind (or have constructed an intellectual theory of mind to replace the missing intuitive one), and may be able to (or have taught himself to) read body language, or emotion in the voice, eye, and face.

    (There’s a famous study that tested whether people with asperger’s could look at pictures of an eye and match the expression in the eye to one of four emotions that were listed in multiple choice format. A friend of mine who has Asperger’s was in a replication of that experiment when he was young. He’d never been told what the experiment was about, so I told him, and he was shocked that other people could really tell from looking at a photo of an eye what the person’s emotion was.)

    I will say that the nastiest piece of work I’ve ever met gives off an impression of having Asperger’s because he’s so inept at social interactions, but that a mental health professional we both know believes that he actually has Narcissistic Personality Disorder instead. If you’re dealing with a narcissist, he might actually just be a Narcissist.

  24. 24
    Bonnie says:

    Well, my partner’s convinced he’s afflicted only with Massholery.

    She could be entirely correct.

    He absolutely does have communication problems. I believe he does not pick up non-verbal cues as this seems to have made the conflict between us bizarre to me. It’s as if he needs a flow-chart or decision tree with him at all times for how to react to X statements / body language.

    His apparent lack of ability in communication is coupled with a high lack of empathy as well. He just doesn’t sympathize with or understand people who are not him, and he has in the recent past been surprised in the extreme that his brother had a negative reaction to something FIL told brother. Bad news there. Big lack of social graces is a good way to put it I suppose.

    He thinks out loud a lot.

    He does seem to have some level of thought about other people’s thoughts and interests but his conclusions are, in my experience, so off the mark as to be laughable.

    His mother told my partner and me that he was a remarkable child. His slightly older brother decided to start learning the trumpet in junior high or high school, and naturally had troubles at first. FIL picked it up like he’d been playing all his life.

    He had a facility with machines and electronics. He just knew how those things worked without any study or effort. He would dis- and reassemble things like lawn mowers and washing machines flawlessly – and without a care or understanding that yes he inconvenienced his family when he did so.

    He talks at people, rarely with them. When he does this, he can talk for an hour, not seeing other people’s eyes glaze over with boredom. He’s completely unaware of their now lack of interest.

    He has a few extremely targeted interests, the rest of the interesting world be damned!

    Not that I’m a trained medical person or anything, but with (I think it was) your comments some time ago, to I think Nick (?), and then with my online investigations, I’m pretty convinced.

    I think he would react the same way as your friend did if he did the eye test and then was told what it was for.

    Unfortunately (for all of us) he’s almost 60 so I doubt anything can be done for him. I, however, will lose my mind if I have to spend much more time with him.

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