Tribal Marking, Personal Expression, and Fashion.

A criticism I run into from time to time from people outside the goth subculture is that we all “look alike.” It’s often couched as a sneer about being “nonconformist exactly the same.”

Outrage at people “not understanding” aside, from a certain perspective there’s a certain degree of truth to it.

The first thing you have to understand is one of the characteristics of how human perceptions work.  Perception runs from the general to the specific.  The largest, most obvious features tend to be the first things the brain notes as identifiers and to distinguish from other things.  It is only with increasing familiarity that finer details become part of the identification and distinguishing process.  This, incidentally, is why “they all look alike” is a common response to minority groups that one is relatively unfamiliar with.  It’s not “racism” but simply that one hasn’t had the specific familiarity yet to automatically note finer details of individual characteristics so the brain gets swamped by the larger, more obvious characteristics.

When it comes to Goth, you have subgroups within the subgroup, each quite distinctive in and of itself, something like this:


People outside the goth subculture see mostly black clothing, mostly black or “colorful” hair, pallid complexions and think “they all look alike” because that’s as far as their perception goes.  The substantial differences, sufficient to actually create subcultures within the subculture, are ignored because that’s as far as perception goes.

What makes that happen, to another extent is another feature of human beings.  Humans are tribal.  They have always been tribal.  Tribes could consist of those living in a particular area but need not be so.  So strong is the drive toward tribalism that the wonder of Western society is not the remnants that remain (various ways people identify and divide as “our people” and “those others”) but to the extent that we’ve managed to overcome it–we, at least, are able to recognize people not of our tribe as still being people.  That, in itself, is a pretty major advance over much of history and nearly all of prehistory.

Part of being tribal is that members of a tribe tend to “mark” themselves in various ways–clothing, hairstyles, jewelry, even body modification of various forms.  Goths are no different.  The start of goth subculture wasn’t in fashion itself but in the music.  Groups attracted to various bands in the post-punk era–Bauhaus, Joy Division, Souxie and the Banshees, etc.–were the folk who became the founders of the goth movement.  It was these fans of the music, adapting certain styles of dress, makeup, and hair that formed the origin of “goth fashion”.  That fashion was specifically used to set them off from others.  They were, in effect, forming a “tribe” and the fashion was, in effect, a tribal marker.

To be a tribal marker, however, it must be both distinctive and sufficiently consistent to be recognizable as indicating “tribe.” Those very features, that make it adequate to the purposes of marking tribe are also going to render it so that to those outside the tribe who have little familiarity with the tribe, will think “they all look alike.” Because to those people they do “all look alike.” The “tribal markers” overwhelm perception in the individual perceptions.

A further complication is among newcomers to the tribe.  Historically it has generally been rare, although not unheard of, for members of one tribe to join another.  You were, back then, born into a tribe and absent unusual circumstances, in that tribe you died.  In modern Western society, tribal mobility is more common..  In the modern day in particular, it is fairly common for young people to explore different tribes to see which suits them and which they are better suited for.  Their elders tend to refer to these explorations as “phases” with the expectation that they will settle down into the parent tribe in time.  And sometimes that happens.  And sometimes it doesn’t.  In either case, when the young person (and sometimes older person–I was rather late coming to the goth/metal “tribe”) they generally adopt the “tribal markers”, often in the most archetypical form.  They do this because they, too, don’t have much experience with the new tribe.  They start with no more than an outsider’s experience and, so, they grab onto the most obvious, most distinctive elements.  They become the very stereotype that the outsiders have of the tribe.

There is nothing wrong with this.  It is an important stepping stone, the transition from outside to inside, from curiosity to understanding.  It may be that a particular individual will never progress beyond that basic tribal marking.  They may decide that the particular tribe isn’t for them and move on to something else.  That, too, is okay.  Or they may find the home, “their people”, that they had been looking for.  In the latter case, they will gain the experience and understanding to allow them to move past the most basic tribal markings.  They can go beyond that to more self-expression.

Since a large part of finding a good tribal fit is in identifying who you are and who “your people” are, it becomes natural to blend tribal markers with self expression.  The tribal markers become a part of ones self.  Or rather, you discover how the tribal markers fit the self you’ve always been.  And the result is that you become a distinct “you” even within the tribal markers.

And folk on the outside will still say “you people all look alike.”

Injuries Suck

So I’m in ice skating class.  I’m doing forward swizzles.  Instructor says that I need to bend my knees more.  I bend my knees more.  “No, more then that, bend them as much as you can.”

So I start doing more knee bending and it’s going pretty well for one, two, three swizzles.  Then something happens.  I’m not sure what but I fall.  Wouldn’t have been bad except somehow the blade catches on the ice–probably in a groove left by previous skating–at just such an angle that my foot is essentially locked in place and as my weight comes down it twists my leg.  I feel pain in both my knee and my ankle.

Instructor comes over to see if I’m okay.  Mostly, but I am definitely done for the day.  So, I get up.  Knee feels okay, but ankle is sore.  There’s only a few minutes left in class but I skate, gingerly to the exit, grab my skate bag, and sit on the bench waiting for the class to finish.  I remove the skate from my left ankle (the uninjured one), but leave it on the right to keep some compression and support on the ankle.

Once class is over, my daughter still has the learn to play hockey class.  I ask my instructor if I can have some ice.  Yes, they’ve got a whole rink full but it’s not in a form I can use.  And while I’m snarking here, my instructor did not.  While waiting to see what she comes up with I switch from my skate to my shoe on the right foot.

The vending/snack bar is closed but they have ice and I get ice on my ankle while my daughter continues her second class.

After the class, we have several stops to make before we’re done for the day.  Food first (it’s been a while; we’re both hungry.) Then shopping, mostly for groceries.  Injury or no, we’ve got to eat.

Once I get home and get my shoes and socks off, I find that there is some swelling of the right ankle.  Not much but some.  I take an epsom salts bath because I’m also starting to feel some muscle aches up through the leg.  Nothing in the knee, so I lucked out there.  I know from past experience that knee injuries really suck.

I wrap an Ace bandage, one of the ones which sticks to itself so it doesn’t need to be tied, taped or otherwise fastened.  I have, however, found that this style works a bit better if you tuck the free end under to finish.  It lasts longer that way before it starts to unwind.  Eventually, I go to bed.

Unfortunately, I wound it a bit too tight and wake up with pain in the ankle from the squeezing.  I adjust the bandage and we’re good to go on that but then I find I can’t get back to sleep.

So here I am, writing this up and getting it into the queue to post in its turn.

All told, the ankle’s not too bad.  Range of motion is reduced and it doesn’t like to be tugged on (like when pulling my socks off).  All told, it could have been worse.

And so, yeah, injuries suck.  But, on the other hand, if I’m going to continue learning, I’m going to have to push past previous limits.  And that means I’m going to take falls and spills.  And that means I’m going to have the occasional injury.  They are part of the process of learning.

So, time to embrace the suck, as it were.

Dark Armor

Very short one today on a personal observation.


In one of the “Goth” groups over on the Book of Faces someone posted a “meme” about feeling more confident when dressed “Goth”, that the clothes were their armor.

I find that a very good description actually.

While I have mostly dressed very basically–black t-shirt, black pants or jeans, black or purple nail polish–of late I have started to “dress up” more.  At first I had dressier outfits to wear for “special occasions” and kind of lamented the fact that I didn’t have a good excuse to wear them.  Then I came to a realization:  I didn’t need a special occasion.  I could wear them just because I wanted to wear them.  I didn’t have to dress for anybody else–especially not for strangers at a club or other public gathering.  I could “dress up” simply to please myself.

And once I started doing that, I found something remarkable.  Oh, sure, I’ve talked about my issues with social interaction in the past, that I don’t get social cues, that I get tongue tied (possibly related–I don’t know what to say because I don’t understand the cues to know what “type” of conversation we’re having), and as a result I have major, major social anxiety.  Well, not entirely as a result.  I think those things feed into each other.

That said, when I dress up, I find that the anxiety level goes way down.  Sure, I still don’t get social cues.  I still get tongue tied.  I’m still extremely introverted.  But those things create less stress.  Being around other people uses fewer “spoons”.  The fancier dark “gothy” clothes really are a form of “armor”, shielding me from those intangible stresses

When I dress up, I am simply happier and more comfortable in my own skin, in my own clothes, in my own dark armor.

An “Ah-Hah!” on the Ice Follies

They say it’s a poor carpenter who blames his tools, but sometimes the tools matter.

I was having a particular difficulty with some of my techniques in my last class, particularly the “backward swizzle”.  Instead of the edge catching in the ice and pushing me backward like it was supposed to:

What I was getting was the blade skittering a bit across the ice.  So, after class I asked the instructor if maybe the blades were in need of sharpening.  He checked and they were fine in that respect, but there was another problem.

Figure skating blades have a curvature front to back.  This is part of what allows turning on the ice.  The blades have two edges with a hollow between them:

Skate blades

When the blades are straight up and down, you go straight forward or backward.  When you tilt the blade to one side of the other, the front to back curve guides the skate around in a curved path.

In hockey blades, the curvature is symmetrical front to back, but in figure blades it changes along the length of the blade.  You have a sharper curve near the front (called the “rocker”) a less sharp curve near the middle, and flattening out somewhat at the rear.  Here’s an example from a well established competition blade the “Phantom”:


The folk who sharpened my skates did them more like a hockey blade so that I’m not getting the tightening up of the curve at the front of the blade.  Now, this wasn’t causing my particular problem, the one that was causing the blade to skitter in the swizzles (probably not catching the ice at the right angle, or the right part of the blade), but might well be responsible for some of the other difficulties I have been having.

My instructor suggested I talk to one of the other instructors–the one that was his coach–who can see about getting the blade sharpened to the proper profile.

As I’m learning, there’s a lot more involved in this than one might think.

When “Your” Representative Does Something You Dislike

Recently, in the wake of several high-profile shooting murders, Texas Representative Dan Crenshaw came out suggesting the passage of TAPS legislation.  Well, I’m not in a position to discuss TAPS knowledgeably at this time.  However, Mr. Crenshaw went beyond that.  He also advocated “Red Flag laws”, the common term for “Extreme Risk Protective Orders.”

I have, of course, made my displeasure on the subject of Red Flag laws known previously on this blog.  It was utterly dismaying to see such endorsement.  Furthermore, when called on it he offered an explanation where he claimed there were “good” and “bad” red flag laws and he would only support the “good” ones.  Just trust him.

I’ll be blunt, there is no such thing as a good “red flag” law.  Nothing that goes by the name cannot be a blatant violation of the 2nd Amendment (RKBA), the 4th (Unreasonable search and seizure), and the 5th (due process).  If you limit it sufficiently not to be a violation of those things, one wonders what you have that isn’t already covered by various psych-hold laws.  Almost all states already have such laws.  Whether they use them or not is a separate question, but in cases where they were not (like, for instance, in the lead up to the Parkland school shooting), why give them more power when they’re not using the power they already have?

But what really dismayed me is the number of people, supposedly of conservative to libertarian mindset, who were willing to give him a pass on it apparently because he’s “their guy.”

The thing with apologists for folk with an “R” after their name. I am reminded of Milton Friedman’s statement on how you change things. It’s not by electing the right people (although that’s nice when you can). It’s by making it politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right things.

But for it to be politically profitable for them to do the right things, it must be politically _un_profitable to do the wrong things. If you cannot even raise loud objections when a politician of “your side” is doing the wrong thing what possible incentive for that politician, or any other, to do the _right_ thing?

You can love Crenshaw (or whoever) on ninety-nine out of a hundred points, but if you don’t make your displeasure heard loudly about that hundredth one then you are making yourself heard–and what you’re saying is that the politician need not care about that issue.

I don’t care who the politician is or how much you love them overall. When they do something with which you disagree don’t sugar coat it. Make your displeasure known in no uncertain terms. And make sure they know that the issue _will_ be one you are considering come the next election.

Make them aware what really is “politically profitable” for them, and what is not.

ISIS growing again in Syria and Iraq

The New York Times is reporting Isis increasing in strength again.

Yes, I know.  They were “defeated.” Unfortunately, with an organization like that “defeated” is not enough.  You need “eradicated.”

Many years ago I read the “prequel” to Elizabeth Moon’s Deed of Paksennarion, the book Surrender None.  One of the “lessons” the protagonist by the name of Gird got from his mother was when cleaning a milk bucket you had to get every last bit of the old spoiled milk out or the new milk would quickly spoil.

In the story Gird had no idea why that was.  We, of course, are well aware of the germ theory of disease and how the microorganisms in the residue will quickly multiply in the fresh milk leading to quick spoilage.  In the book Gird uses that as a metaphor for other things.  You have to completely fix a problem or it will come back to haunt you.

That metaphor applies equally well today.

With something like ISIS, you have to completely eradicate them, or at the very least deny them any place where they can retain any kind of force or they will grow back the moment you turn your back. There is no “safe levels” of ISIS that you can dismiss and ignore. Ignoring even a remnant, leaving it alone, will be interpreted as a “victory” on their part in their minds and they will have no shortage of others willing to be convinced that it was and thus will be willing to swell their ranks.

And then you have it to do all over again.

A Question Came up on Quora…

Asking how a “gun enthusiast” can still justify RKBA being more important than Public Safety.

I gave the following answer (most of which I’ve said before elsewhere on this blog):

Contrasting freedom and safety is a false dichotomy. When you “give up freedom” for “safety” what you are saying is that you are giving someone else the authority to look after your safety. The problem becomes how do you ensure that someone else will make your safety a priority? Will they take the steps necessary to actually keep you safe or will they make something else a priority and your safety gets brushed aside for some other goal? When the courts reiterate, time and again, that the police have no responsibility to protect you, the individual, how safe does giving them and the politicians in charge of them the decision making power over your safety make you?

And what do you do when those you have given decision making power over your safety become themselves the threats to that safety? More people have been slaughtered by their own governments in the 20th century than would be killed by criminals in the US at current rates in 7500 years. Who is gifted with the foresight to be able to say, with certainty, that government will never go rogue such that it needs to be forcibly resisted over the next 7500 years? History provides no basis for such a claim. The longest civilizations with any kind of political continuity would be either Rome or ancient Egypt (depending on how one defines “continuity”), and giving them the benefit of every doubt we’re talking at most about 2000 years.

Even leaving all that aside, we can just look at whether the specific case of restrictions of firearms to “keep people safer”. In addition to people using firearms to cause harm, we have people using firearms to keep themselves safe, to defend themselves from criminals. While some point to the low number of “justified homicides” (homicide in self-defense) as evidence that this is rare, the truth is that most times when a gun is used in self defense it’s never even fired and the incident is never reported to the police. Various studies have attempted to quantify just how often those unreported incidents happen, complicated by the fact that people are often unwilling to talk about them in an “anonymous” survey. There’s the fear of hassles with the police and the courts even if they fully expect to be eventually exonerated of any wrongdoing. The process alone can be a pretty significant punishment.

As a result of all that, there’s a wide range of results from the various studies from a low of about 500,000 to a high of 3 million per year. However, here’s the point. At the low end of that range, guns are used about as often to defend against crime as in the commission of crimes. And since that’s the low end of the range, it’s dubious in the extreme to think that any kind of prohibition of firearms is likely to lead to any net increase in safety. And if something in the middle or upper limits of that range is the “true” value, then restrictions on the ownership of firearms will end up making people less safe.

What you need to remember is that while horrific incidents like the recent shootings make headlines nationwide, indeed worldwide, the hundreds to thousands of incidents that happen each day of folk who aren’t the victims of crime because they were armed do not. There are few headlines for “man wasn’t robbed because robber saw he was armed.” There are few headlines of “woman wasn’t raped because she pulled a gun.” For the most part incidents are unseen, unreported, unremarked. But that does not make them less real. And that does not make them not a part of “safety”.

My Annual Tribute to Sophie Lancaster

As someone who is goth(ish) I run into people who have all sorts of strange ideas about goths.  I’m a big ugly guy so most of that doesn’t get directed at me.  Others, however, are accused of being “dangerous” and “juvenile delinquents” or otherwise criminal because of a lifestyle we have adopted as fitting our “inner selves.” The truth is we’re more often abused than abusers (in my case “big ugly guy” shields me from much of that) and even when it doesn’t rise to the level of physical abuse we see the fear, the hatred, and the locked doors.  There’s this delightful “Hornbach” advertisement that illustrates it to a somewhat exaggerated effect but which makes the point (while showing the young lady has an absolutely great dad):

The case of Sophie Lancaster is not just a cute advertisement.  It is a real-life tragedy.  Today is the 12th “anniversary” of the death of her death at the hands of a group of violent thugs.


Sophie was a “Goth” girl in Lancashire England.  While walking home on August 11, Sophie and her boyfriend Robert Maltby were attacked by a group of youths.  The only apparent motive for the attack was that Robert and Sophie were attired in Goth fashion.

They started by attacking Robert.  When he was knocked unconscious Sophie tried to protect him by cradling him in her arms.  The mob continued their assault, now focused on Sophie.  According to witnesses, members of the mob would run over and kick Sophie in the head and jump up and down on her head.  So severe were the couple’s injuries that emergency services arriving on the scene were unable to immediately determine which was male and which was female.

At least one of the attackers actually bragged about the attack as if he’d done something noble, saying to friends, “There’s two moshers nearly dead up Bacup park – you wanna see them – they’re a right mess”

Sophie and Robert were taken to the hospital, both in comas.  Robert gradually improved with some memory loss of the attack and events leading up to it.  This is not uncommon for traumatic injuries that involve unconsciousness.

Sophie, however, was not so fortunate.  It was eventually determined that so severe was her brain injury that she would never recover.  Her family agreed to cease life support on August 24, 2007 and the life of Sophie Lancaster passed from this world to whatever, if anything, may wait beyond.

Five youths involved in the attack were eventually arrested.  It is not known how many others might have been involved.  The five were first charged with “grievous bodily harm” but following Sophie’s death the charges were upgraded.  Of the five, two were convicted of murder and the other three had the murder charge withdrawn on a guilty plea of “grievous bodily harm”.  The five received sentences (after appeals) ranging from four years and four months to life imprisonment with a minimum (I presume, not being familiar with the British legal system, this means before eligible for parole) of fifteen years and six months.

Sophie, of course, is dead forever.  There is no appeal on her result.

Point of Information

Extremely short one today.

People talk about being “against fascists.”   There are some problems with that, however.  As the founder of Fascism, Benito Mussolini said about the movement:

“All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.”

Some other quotes from the founder of Fascism:

“For this I have been and am a socialist. The accusation of inconsistency has no foundation. My conduct has always been straight in the sense of looking at the substance of things and not to the form. I adapted socialisticamente to reality.”

“It was inevitable that I should become a Socialist ultra, a Blanquist, indeed a communist. I carried about a medallion with Marx’s head on it in my pocket. I think I regarded it as a sort of talisman… [Marx] had a profound critical intelligence and was in some sense even a prophet.”

“But wait,” people claiming fascism isn’t socialism will say, “businesses were still privately owned.” To them, there’s this:

“The Fascist State directs and controls the entrepreneurs, whether it be in our fisheries or in our heavy industry in the Val d’Aosta. There the State actually owns the mines and carries on transport, for the railways are state property. So are many of the factories… We term it state intervention… If anything fails to work properly, the State intervenes. The capitalists will go on doing what they are told, down to the very end. They have no option and cannot put up any fight. Capital is not God; it is only a means to an end.”

Whoever owns the businesses on paper, it is the state that controls them.  If only there were a term for an economic system where the state controls the means of production (capital) for the “public good” (as determined by the state).  Oh, wait.  There is.  It’s called socialism.

So, here’s the thing.  If you think folk who want to reduce the size and scope of government, increase individual liberty including economic freedom, and reduce taxes (particularly since a reduced government will need less money anyway) are “fascists” then you just might be an idiot.

And if you are opposed to those things, then you just might be the fascist whatever you happen to call yourself.

Red Flag Laws Again


Fundamental problem of “Red Flag” laws: If a person is a “threat to self or others” because of mental health issues, then taking away their guns doesn’t make them not a threat to self or others. It simply removes (maybe—illegal avenues for obtaining firearms still abound) one method that could be used to do that harm.

Look, I could go to the local Walmart and walk out with the means to kill dozens to hundreds of people easily. The information on how to do it is trivially easy to find on the Internet or a public library or, hell, a good encyclopedia.

Three methods that are so obvious that I’m not worried about “inspiring” someone (don’t try this at home, kiddies) by mentioning them: fire, explosives, and poison.

If a person is “a threat to self or others” then taking their guns away does not stop the threat. You have to deal with the person and the person’s issues. If you do that, stop the person as a threat, then the guns become a non-issue. If you don’t, then the guns are also a non-issue because there are just too many alternatives available to a person who is a threat to self and others.

Look at the list of the deadliest massacres in the US. Even if we exclude those committed by government, you find plenty where guns weren’t used. The deadliest slaughter in the US involved a handful of terrorists using box cutters, which they used to gain control of airplanes, which they then used do destroy the twin towers. Number two used fertilizer, fuel oil, and a rental truck. Gasoline spread at the base of a stairwell and the only access to a social club was used to kill more people than any non-government mass shooting in US history—multiple exits won’t prevent such a deliberate slaughter; it would just be more work.

You have to deal with the person. Everything else is a distraction. Deal with the person and the rest won’t matter. Fail to deal with the person…and the rest won’t matter.

1) Make help more readily available to those who need it.
2) Remove, or at least dramatically reduce the concern that getting help will lead to permanent loss of fundamental rights like RKBA. This fear only serves to cause people to avoid getting help when they need it.
3) When people won’t get help on their own, that’s what due process is for. Use it.
2-3a) I’ll note that a person who comes in to get help of his own free will, or with only mild “nudging” can generally be expected to cooperate with treatment and identify relapses calling for a return to treatment. Benefit of the doubt should be extended to those people to be able to use their own judgement about whether they are safe around arms or not. Let them keep their rights (or recover it once they’re well into recovery from their problems). If people have to be forced by court order to go into treatment for severe mental problems that make them a threat to self and others, well, that’s a pretty good indicator of how they will behave in the future as well, n’est pas?
4) When a person is in treatment, they need to be very closely monitored. Look, mental health can be a complicated issue and the treatment that’s perfect for one person can make three others worse. One needs to keep close watch while finding the right combination of treatments—which can include medications, counseling, and other things—to make sure you’re not making the issue worse, or simply temporarily masking it. Just writing a prescription and then leaving it can end up increasing, rather than decreasing, the “threat to self and others.”

Anyway, that’s my suggestion. Note that abandoning due process to deprive people of liberty and property (to say nothing of life) is no part of it.