What is “personal high agency”?

One of the concerns I have after watching (and in the past sometimes video-filing and posting) the public protests of activists and ingesting their demands, is, what I am expected to do, personally.  Activists generally talk about what groupings of people must do (even grouped by “whiteness”, for example) and stumble on what individual people (who may have, in their eyes, belonged to the class of “oppressors”) must do on their own.

This gets into the matter of “personal agency” (or “high agency”).  At an adult individual level, that means “being your own boss”.  That’s how my father used to put it, and yes it’s in my latest screenplay.

It used to be the case that young adults were not seen as having full adulthood agency until being (heterosexually) married and normally having kids (if possible).  This idea gradually got diluted, starting maybe even in the 1950s (many more couples had no children or only one child, and many more adults in many extended families never married than is generally realized today), and the reduced inevitability of the “natural family” kicked into higher gear after, particularly Stonewall (on the heels of the Civil Rights movement).  Gradually the idea of “double lives” developed (especially in the 70s), to fold back after the Internet and then social media came along and made many individuals’ lives much more “public”  — to employers, even to the military, and leading to various increases in activism for individual rights that, say in the 1990s, tended to have a more libertarian flavor than today, where tribalism seems to be returning (it got ugly once Trump got into office).

The end result, though, is that single adults often in practice have a lot more personal agency than they did in the past even before marriage and family, and, well, there is MGTOW.

Personal high agency means, or starts with, taking care of the self, paying the bills (hopefully being wise about debt) but usually requires intelligence and practical education, having skills that employers will pay good money for, or business ideas (which may well be online content today) that others want to consumer and will pay for (at least by exposure to ads).  It also generally means being able to start personally creative initiatives without depending too much on family or hierarchal social and economic structures.  It means some degree of individualized drive to produce and create new things, and a certain curiosity that is independent of other people.  That tendency toward hyperindividualism becomes ethically double edged as society gets more polarized as more individuals (especially, in proportions, within previously and perhaps currently oppressed groups) fall behind.

It is unavoidable to notice that some racial minorities — mainly blacks, non-white Latinos and native indigenous Americans – statistically (in proportion to numbers) achieve less personal agency (that is despite many individual exceptions quite spectacular in public, such as our 44th president) than do “Caucasian” people and generally who we call Asians (in the US).  The reasons for these disparities are, of course, the long tail or systemic racism, which in the US focused on slavery and segregation, but which have comparable histories in many other countries with different specific circumstances.  There are also positive reasons, such as placing a higher value on education (as connected to family life) in many Asian communities, as well as in various religious groups among “whites”, which include Judaism, Catholicism, and some of the more progressive expressions of Protestantism, and moderate Islam (that is Abrahamaic faiths). 

When I see protests – this used to be mostly from the far Left (like Portland), but now the Right (Ottawa truck drivers  — Jan. 6 and Charlottesville were essentially insurrections, beyond normal protests or even riots) – I definitely get the feel that the protesters want people to stop merely taking videos and vlogging the content; they need people to “join” them and accept the personal humility that comes with belonging to a “mass movement” (thin about “The True Believer”, Eric Hoffer’s 1951 book)   Protesters on both sides (but more notably the Left) are “demanding” that more “privileged” people surrender their personal agency to join their ranks.  Indeed, “silence is violence”.

For example, the ideology of “anti-racism” would, taken literally, seem to demand that individual white people sacrifice some time on effort to work specifically for group racial equity (as opposed to individual rights) and be willing to embrace the idea that shared victimization become a source of identity, in bonding with others.  It’s an idea I find problematic, even offensive.  Teaching history accurately (and how systemic discrimination tended to reinforce itself through history, like with redlining) is certainly called for, but mandatory personalized exercises (in schools or workplaces) to confess personal penance are not.

There are many ways in which societies conscript personal agency.  Maybe the most conspicuous method is the military draft itself, which (with its male-only call, corruption by deferments and only later the luck of lotteries) threatened men’s lives until 1973.  You see a lot of this in other parts of the world all the time (like right now in Ukraine).  A society that tolerates violent behavior motivated by group grievance and doesn’t allow citizens to defend themselves properly would certainly be sacrificing personal agency. There would be limits to my own capacity to surrender agency and accept joining in group combative efforts if some calamity necessitated it.

(Posted on Wednesday, February 23, 2022 at 8 PM EST by John W. Boushka)

Note on the setup of my sites after restructuring (esp. for “business”)

Me (he, him, his)

I have gotten some questions about advertising, making announcements for others, and possible other business ideas in conjunction with the reorganization and downsizing of my web presence (at least the “1.0” static portion) so I thought I would state what I think I can do,

To recoup:  The 16 blogs on Blogger were removed on Jan. 3, 2022.  However select postings are gradually being restored to the “legacy” portion of this side (that is, flat html without content management) reachable at this link.  Users can contact me at the email address below if they want to request anything be reposted.

The four WordPress blogs hosted  by Bluehost are set to expire in early May, 2022.  It is a little bit complicated to explain here, and there is a chance that the two older blogs (set up in Dec. 2013;  the other two were set up in May 2016, almost six years ago) might remain until mid June.

The site “doaskdotell” remains as a “business site”, and is reserved through December 2023.  The business activities to be supported include direct book sales, links to main sites (POD at Author Solutions and also Amazon (Kindle) and Barnes and Noble (Nook).  They also include commentary on screenwriting activities as I am pursuing the possibility of films (documentary and/or conventionally casted and acted) based on the material in the books (including a pitch-fest at the end of April), support for work on music (in the sense that it might get performed), as well as new business ideas (startup support) such as data tracking or paywall consolidation.  

This site will not have its own blog.  I am finding that running multiple WordPress blogs on concurrent accounts can lead to complications. 

Instead I expect to set up a label like “doaskdotell-business” for the blog (which comes up directly from johnwboushka.com).  I may create “music” and “books” subcategories on this blog.

It would be possible to make courtesy announcements under another subcategory for this label, call it “announcements”. 

But in the meantime, right now, these “business” functions are being documented on my doaskdotellnotes.com blog, which will not be available after mid June 2022, after which it all migrates to the “doaskdotell-business” categories on the johnwboushka.com blog. 

The end result of the simplification will be at most two sites, “johnwoushka.com” (with a WordPress blog component and a legacy flat-file component) and “doaskdotell.com”.  With the exception of the “doaskdotell” label and possibly page, the johnwboushka site is the “personal” site based on a legal identity, for offering personal views on things, without too much gratuitousness.

“Business” in my context means, activity resulting in financial or “pseudo-financial” contact with consumers (which can be businesses, and which can involve crytocurrency or “likeconomics” or analytics), or activity intended to result in such. A business entity can be a non-profit and still be a “business” in this sense because it still needs to raise money or be paid somehow (for example, normally a non-profit can have a trademark).  But a business entity is separate from an individual who speaks publicly strictly under his/her (or “eir”) own personal agency. I need a grammatically singular pronoun and possessive case to define this concept!

(Posted: Saturday, February 19, 2022 at 10:30 PM EST)

Article mentioning me in William and Mary News in 2014

Swem Library at William and Mary, 2011-10

In October 2011 I did go down to Williamsburg for a weekend to participate in a weekend for William and Mary GALA. which was founded in the 1980s.

Wren Building Interior 2011-10

This article by Paul Brockwell JR (2007) appeared in the Alumni magazine and is on the WM site in 2014, here, titled “Pride and prejudice: LGBTQ history at W&M”. The article mentions my 1961 Thanksgiving weekend expulsion except the person I told directly (and who called my parents, themselves on a road trip visiting friends in Charlotte, out of the blue, with my permission) was Dean of Men Carson Barnes, not Dean of Students Lambert (whom I remember). I was told that the president of the college David Paschall (do I remember the name right?) was contacted. On a certain level, given the norms of the time, they felt confronted with the idea that a “non-male” person was living in the men’s dorm (which is completely wrong by today’s understanding and is totally different from trans-gender or non-binary). It’s also notable that William and Mary did not have as many female students as male, which made male students feel more uncomfortable about finding dates and proving themselves socially.

Indeed, college dorms in those days of “in loco parentis” had sign-in curfews for women but not men, to “protect” the women from the men, an odd irony in that I was not a conceivable “threat” in that sense.

The article also mentions the story of author Tom Baker, a couple years later than mine. I’ve read his novel “The Sound of One Horse Dancing” from iUniverse (as are the first two of my three DADT books). Kirkus Reviews gives a good summary of the plot of his book.

(Posted: Thursday, February 10, 2022 at 11 PM EST by John W. Boushka)

Whoopi Goldberg’s “misstep”

As someone who likes to interpret language and definitions rather literally, I was taken back by the outrage and discipline against Whoopi Goldberg, from those in media unwilling to accept what is normally a reference to a modern interpretation of the meaning of race in conversation. For reference, one can look at the article in Vox by Aja Romano, Feb. 3, 2022.

I grew up with a set of 1950 World Book Encyclopedias in my parents’ home. There is a major article called “Races of Man“. These are named as follows: Caucasoid (generally, “white”), Negroid (usually “black”), and Mongoloid (which includes Native Americans, sometimes called “yellow”). According to Wikipedia today, these classifications, at least for white people, are somewhat discredited or outdated by modern anthropology. The World Book is very insistent repeatedly that, even as of 1950, there is no scientific reason to view members of one race as more advanced than another, or as more likely to create advanced civilization. Geography and climate may be incentives, as in world history colder climates have at times stimulated more technology, which then can be abused for political or capitalistic purposes.

Generally, people today are likely to notice race by how people look. With intermarriages, of course, many people are “mixed”. The visual distinctions are subjective and interpreted differently by others. The World Book chart on p. 6733 of the 1950 version notes that body hair for Caucasoid (roughly “white”) tends to be “profuse” but for the other two groups is usually “sparse”. This may comport with a history of ancestors in colder climates (possibly including more mixing with Neanderthals) or farther from the Equator, just like (less) pigment itself.

The problems in American history, as outlined by Critical Race Theory, maintain that systemic disadvantages result still in poorer economic and health circumstances for, in the United States, “people of color” (especially “black” and indigenous, essentially anyone not “white”). Some instantiations of this theory present a concept of “whiteness” as an advantageous social property possessed by “white” people, sometimes with demands that individual white people (myself) must take special initiatives to reverse these advantages (“anti-racism”). I believe Whoopi Goldberg (herself black) was focusing on this interpretation when she made these remarks. In some situations, well-assimilated people of Jewish faith in the United States are assumed to benefit from “white privilege” (as has been said of other groups, like Catholic, or various immigrant nationalities in the more distant past).

But in the United States, these distinctions (sometimes amplified by ideas like the “one drop rule”) more or less follow the three racial groups as described by encyclopedias shortly after WWII, as in 1950.

The offense taken to Whoopi’s remarks stem specifically from the fact that Nazi Germany defined Jews (or those who practice Judaism) as a “race”. Theoretically, one could suppose that a group relatively isolated from others by lineage could be called a “race” by others (look at Ashkenazi in Wikipedia). This is apparently how Nazi Germany rationalized using the term “race”. But the Holocaust also persecuted other groups (like homosexuals, if they are a “group”) who obviously are not “races”. Those who took offense at Whoopi’s comments claim she is showing disrespect for the tremendous suffering of victims of the Holocaust by blurting out her statement. That sort of disregard, it is maintained, should not be tolerated lest (intellectually naive) others will feel incentivized to repeat it. Nevertheless, this view is referring to one definition perpetrated on others by one authoritarian leader or group, which was more inclined to hunt down (and round up into concentration camps) private citizens leading their own personal, family or religious lives than practically any other regime in modern history. China and the Ugyhurs today might form somewhat of a comparison. As an undergraduate in college, I took European history from Crane Brinton’s “History of Civilization” texts which in the early 1960s, for all their shortcomings according to modern historians, maintained that Nazi theories had no conceivable scientific or rational purpose by the standards of society even then. Yet recognizing that these ideas exist (however irrational) and might continue to do so, forms the basis for the extreme reaction to Whoopi’s remarks.

(Posted: Saturday, February 5, 2022 at 6 PM EST, by John W, Boushka)

“Be brave and shave” (for charity?)

pseudo drug test, invasive

Here is a whimsical post from Dec. 15, 2021, during the last month that I used Google Blogger.

“Be Brave and Go Get Your Legs Waxed” would be a variant on “Be Brave and Shave” (like at the Westover Market in Arlington Va.). The latter is often a fundraiser for cancer and usually applies to scalps only (mostly men). It’s a rather obvious reference to hair loss from chemotherapy (or maybe even a bone marrow transplant). Some hair loss has been reported from Long Covid (and in women). (It also happens to Matt Damon’s character when he does a “go get small” in “Downsizing”.)

Sacrifice of body hair in men is much edgier, but there are some videos on YouTube that show this as fundraisers.

Here is a typical one from England, Scott Parker, “Waxing My Legs for Cancer”, a little over two minutes, partly in black and white, in the style of a horror movie. He resists.

Hair would take longer to grow back after waxing or chemical epilation than from shaving. Image someone doing this with a laser to make it a permanent sacrifice.

Remember the “Man O Lantern” from “The 40 Year Old Virgin”?

A cyclist waxes his legs for a charity bike race in another video.

Remember that in the first season of Donald Trump’s Apprentice, Troy McClain got his legs waxed and “took one for the team” and that got mentioned in Donald’s “How to Get Rich” (before going bald in the legs anyway). In the 1980s there was an issue of “Christopher Street” titled “When Ronnie took his pants off”, discussing Reagan’s movie “John Loves Mary”: “However ladylike his gams, they prove the existence of heterosexuality”.

Remember the Tribunals after two weeks of class at William and Mary in September 1061 that I skipped out on. Rituals can be exciting.

There is a dark side to this post. Often as older (Caucasian) men develop cardiovascular disease and especially arterial plaque in the lower limbs, they go bald in the legs, UK Express, story by Harriet Whitehead, Jan. 31, 2022, carried on Smart News (source).

For fun, there is the 60s song “Walk on the Wild Side” (Lou Reed).

(End; Original post by John W. Boushka on Blogger on Dec. 15, 2021; the video was treated as a “movie” then.)