We, as royal we

Last year was mostly good, with some less good to provide balance and context. This year will be different, or perhaps more of the same, it is the last full year of my thirties, today is exactly 17 months, 29 days from my 40th birthday, 5 months 29 days from my 39th birthday, relative to today. What about yours?

But what are birthdays really, but days in the orbit of the earth which is to be an anniversary of the same relative time and position of the earth in the orbit around the sun, our sun, which is orbiting our galaxy at a ridiculous speed relative to the galaxy, which is moving at a ridiculous speed relative to an arbitrary place in the universe towards the galaxy which we call Andromeda which is moving towards our galaxy at another ridiculous speed, destined to meet with our galaxy in a relatively short period of 5 billion years. All of that is only a moment for the star, we are gifted and cursed with the opportunity to watch this dance in slow motion.

One day the dust of our dust will return to a star dust as we were at least once before and we will be pure energy in every form again, before returning to matter again, but that day is not today, we are matter now, and we matter now, if only to us, and our planetary family. We’re in this together… you and I.

We are never in the same place that we once were, and we never will be, so lets move on and embrace the place we are, lets embrace what we are, on this arbitrary planet in a position around a random star at a position in a very aribtrary place, on a small planet at the outside of an average galaxy floating in the open space of the universe.

We are fixed in space for a moment, it is time to embrace that moment.

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The Fear (Stories About Male Privilege)

I want to paint a picture. It’s very simple but a specific picture.

First, I am 188 cm (6’2″) tall, I weigh 102kg (230 lbs), plus or minus. I am not a small guy. I have not been in a fight since the first year of high school, which was over 25 years ago and I do not naturally have an aggressive personality. In summary, I know that I do not present an easy target. I don’t draw extra attention to this fact, and it may be why it has been so long since I’ve had a physical confrontation.

The following scenarios take place at on an empty side street in a residential neighbourhood. It is 9:30pm on a Friday night in the fall and is dark out, street lights provide some limited visibility. I am walking home.

I’m walking alongside a road, alone, and in the distance I can see a person walking towards me. Because it’s me, I mentally check myself and say it’s nothing to worry about. I keep on walking.

As the person gets closer to me, I recognize that this is a man of a medium build, and they’re not looking at me.

My initial thoughts: first, does this person think I am a threat? If so, should I present myself as a non threat by slowing my pace, moving farther to one side?

The next thought: is this person a threat to me? Is he walking with a stride that would indicate awareness of his surroundings, is he paying attention to changing conditions, is he confident where he is at that moment, and does he appear nervous?

I generally like confident people. Nervous people tend to be unpredictable, and they make me nervous in turn. Whenever I hear a story about someone charging into a public place to attack or cause damage, I imagine them to be nervous or angry.

But when we pass each other, I listen to make sure they haven’t stopped, and quickly go back to what I was thinking about.

Now let’s flip the script…

I’m walking alongside a road, alone. In the distance I can see a person walking towards me. I mentally check myself and say it’s nothing to worry about. I keep on walking.

As the person approaches, I recognize this person as a woman, of shorter build. She walks quickly and does not look up at me as far as I can tell. But I am not watching that closely.

My first thought: look straight ahead, so as not to appear threatening, and maintain my pace and direction. If she drifts into my path, I will move to avoid, and if we accidentally make contact, I’ll apologize and continue walking.

There are a number of thoughts going through my mind. Was I a threat to her? Did I intrude into her space? Did I act appropriately? Subsequent thoughts could be: she looks attractive, or I missed an opportunity for a polite exchange. A simple “Good evening”. At no point do I ever believe her to be a threat to me. My only concern is she feels threatened, and unfortunately has every right to feel so.

I’d like to change it up again now…

Again I’m walking alongside a road, alone. In the distance I can see a small group walking towards me. I mentally check myself and say it’s nothing to worry about. I keep on walking.

As the group approaches, I recognize them as a group of women, likely dressed for a party, all talking loudly, walking erratically. Preoccupied with each other, I notice that they don’t look up at me at all.

I feel entirely at ease as they walk by. I can’t imagine they would feel threatened by me, just a lone man walking by the road. I can hear a few words of conversation as they walk past. I stay on my path to my destination, and the interaction is over.

I’d like to change to one last scenario,

Again I’m walking alongside a road, alone. In the distance I can see a small group walking towards me. I mentally check myself and say it’s nothing to worry about. I keep on walking.

As the group approaches, I recognize them as a group of younger men, likely dressed for a party, all talking loudly, walking erratically. Preoccupied with each other, I notice that they don’t look up at me, and they keep walking.

But I am nervous. The chances that they want to mess with one person walking down the road are minimal, but the chances are not zero and I am acutely aware of that… the men sound like they have already been drinking and they’re rough housing on the sidewalk. I make an effort and go out of my way to avoid them. They leave me alone and I continue to walk alone to my destination, and the interaction does not feel over until I can’t hear them in the distance any more.

Of the four secnarios, I imagine personal fear for myself in two of them. The fear may be unfounded, unnecessary, but I feel it. The third fear is from the women’s perspective, and I am acutely aware that women face a very real threat every day. No argument there.

Now, I have a few final thoughts for you.

I feel like an increasing number of men in our society are becoming a nuisance.  For men who abuse and force their power on others, the law, when successfully enforced, dictates prosecution and jailtime. Has this approach been effective or sufficient? I would say it has not and the underlying reasons have not been addressed.

Is it a measure for condemnation of our society when a man walking alone is a threat and must be treated with the same caution as a wild animal, like a bear or a moose?

Or is it a testament to our growth as a society where we now recognize that boys and men exist in a world where the very threat they feel during their daily existence creates a situation where they in turn become threatening to society at large?

How does our expectation of male behaviour shape how we raise boys to become productive members of society?

What do we want our society to look like?