Competency Kinks, Violence, and Imperialism

22 08 2010

A couple of months ago, I had a thought.  I was brainstorming an idea for an urban fantasy novel, one that would feature a strong androgynous superhero whose jurisdiction was over things like stopping rapists, confronting misogynists, and making vulnerable populations feel safe.  But as I was brainstorming this hero, who not only saves your life but has a penchant for cuddling and physical affection, I realized that one of the traits I was using was still “could kill you with hir little finger.”

That got me thinking about competency kinks and how they align with violence.

“Competency kink” basically just means that someone being really good at whatever zie does is a turn-on.  Movies certainly capitalize on this.  Sometimes it’s intellectual competence, or psychic ability, or something else unrelated to violence, but very often the protagonist is competent at killing, injuring, and/or self defense.  Whether it’s competence with weaponry, martial arts, magic, or some other violence-related skill, filmmakers are very good at combining destructive prowess with sexiness.  Think Christian Bale in Equilibrium.  Think Keanu Reeves in the Matrix.  Think of all the bad-ass chicks in films that are unexpectedly very skilled at physical combat.  Kill Bill, anyone?

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Why “exporting democracy” bothers me

3 07 2008

1)  Democracy’s a decent system, I’ll agree.  But democracy occurs in context.  It works well in America for a number of reasons, including an old and successful Constitution, historical precedent, our collective value system as it has evolved historically, our socio-economic condition as a nation, etc, etc.  Oh, and let’s not forget that we’re technically a republic.  Democracy works well in other areas, too, but it isn’t the only system.  I don’t think it should be the only system.  When you become obsessed with one or two options, in any area, things start to get bad.  Diversity has something to show for itself.  And I think that in some areas, given geopolitical reality, value systems, etc, democracy isn’t the best choice.  What are we doing when we “export” democracy?  We’re colonizing.  A lot of people have talked about the Imperial United States, and they all have a good fucking point.  I read an article in 2001 or 2002 in Der Spiegel  called “Das zweite Rom” (or was it “der?”  irrelevant, anyway).  The Second Rome, yeah, very good point.  Really, what business do we, as an overextended, declining state, have to try to shove democracy at every little country (and some big ones) that we can find?  What right do we have to use our military to conduct “diplomacy?”  Here, have a democracy, folks, we’ll just physically ravage your country and starve your people first.  No biggie.  America’s going to get what’s coming to it, sooner or later.

2) Beyond my problems with insisting on democracy for the world, uh, newsflash.  This thing we’re exporting?  It ain’t democracy.  If we truly wanted to bring democracy to the world (through non-violent means) I might be okay with it.  If we were to genuinely ask “hey, who would you Iraqis like to run our country?” I wouldn’t be so up in arms.  If we were to get behind self-determination, and lend diplomatic aid in some way, or if the UN were to send in unbiased teams of people to monitor elections and make sure they were conducted fairly, I’d be cool.  But these people wouldn’t be electing someone George W. Bush is happy with.  So what does he export?  “Democracy.”  Dudes with guns saying hey, sure, you can have an election… wink, wink, nudge, nudge.  This is why we need to step back from the situation.  Because we’re too greedy, and too tempted by a chance to extend our sphere of influence.  What if we actually had left the political situation in, say, Africa, up to Africans?  (And with that example I mean a broad “we,” which includes Europeans).  I have some hope that they would have come up with a creative solution that worked for their continent.  Borders that made sense, for example.  Politics based on value systems as they actually exist in the country.  Hey, there’s a novel idea!

Oh, America.  When do I get to abandon you?