Philip O’Connor, Our Man in Stockholm

A few words from our friend, Philip O’Connor, Our Man in Stockholm

Losing Las Vegas

In the media tent for MayMac – just a few weeks later and a few metres behind where I stand in this pic, 58 people were killed by a gunman armed to the teeth and shooing from the Mandalay Bay Hotel.

A few weeks ago we sat in that white tent in the boiling desert, there to witness one of the biggest fights of all time between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor.

On Sunday night, music fans visiting the lot-turned-concert-venue witnessed the worst mass shooting in American history.

When things happen in Las Vegas, they can be hard to ignore.

The lot across the street from the Luxor can be anything – a concert venue, a media tent, a trade show, a parking lot.

For MayMac it was the home of the media tent, a white vinyl oasis in the crushing August desert heat.

Outside, day and night, the security guards stood watch, searching our bags and ourselves with good humour, putting us through the metal detectors and making sure we checked in and out with our wristbands.

Every day for five days we made small talk – one man told us how he had come to Nevada from Chicago and had grown to love the dry desert that his grandchildren were now growing up in.

Another younger man wanted our opinions on the fight, a few dollars earned in the blazing sunshine burning a hole in his pocket on the way to the sports book across the street at the Luxor or the Mandalay Bay.

Then there was the supervisor from the midwest, her accent unchanged despite decades spent in Sin City.

The lot on South Las Vegas Boulevard, a short distance form the fabled “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign is adaptable, central and out in the open.

In other words, there is nowhere to hide – especially if someone opens fire on it from an elevated position.

From the gold-diggers to the dam-builders, Vegas has always been a rough-and-tumble town where folks go to let their hair down.

It’s big and it’s loud and it wears you out fast, but it’s hard not to love it.

It is one of those places that encapsulates everything about America, good and bad – the ambition, the drive, the will to win, overcoming adversity, the suspicion of regulation and the dream that anyone coming here can be anything they want to be if they just work hard enough.

It’s a place where people have no problem drinking a skinful and getting in their cars, careering home along the I-15.

“The most dangerous thing you can do as a motorcyclist is drive home after dark in a drinking state,” a motorcycle equipment salesman called Aaron told me in July. He has the scars to prove it.

Las Vegas is no longer the Wild West, but there are still plenty of guns about in Clark County.

I know, I’ve fired them.

I’ve fired .357 Magnums, MP4s, AR15s, pump-action shotguns, you name it.

It’s nothing unusual – all along the strip you’ll find flyers from gun ranges that will collect you and drop you off at your hotel in stretch Humvees.

In the meantime, you can fire as many rounds as you can afford from everything from a .38 special revolver all the way up to heavy, powerful weapons.

Don’t believe me? For about three grand you can fire an M60.

From a helicopter.

For the Europeans who make up a small but lucrative part of their clientele, guns can be hard to understand, especially if they have never fired one before.

For those who have, it’s makes slightly more sense – they have experienced having the power of life and death in their hands.

For that is what it is – to have a gun is to have the power to kill someone, or let them live.

It is a feeling so powerful that my friend Angus (an extremely knowledgeable gun owner and instructor) has told me of grown men crying the first time they fire one.

Apparently, it’s not uncommon.

Somehow, the Second Amendment to the Constitution has been interpreted as imparting the right to own and keep a military arsenal in a private home, with little demand for either security or training.

I spoke to Angus at great length about it, and it is no easy subject; nor is there a simple solution.

It’s hard to underestimate how much people distrust politicians in America.

Many want them to provide the bare minimum in terms of upholding law and order, and then just get out of the way.

Much has changed since the Gold Rush, but the self-sufficient mentality that fuelled that frontier spirit is still everywhere you look.

That is what makes rolling the gun laws back so difficult.

For a start, there are so many guns in circulation that it would be almost impossible to collect them all – and that’s before we get to the sense of paranoia and mistrust of the federal government that mean that many won’t give them up without a fight.

There are plenty of gun owners who are well-trained, who keep their weapons secure and who would never dream of marching down the street in combat fatigues in a show of strength to protect their privilege.

There are also and awful lot of them that have access to powerful, lethal firearms who have no idea how to handle them properly, and who lack the maturity to know when to handle them at all.

The Nevada desert is a harsh place at times, and this tragedy is unlikely to change attitudes to guns at all there.

At the root of that desire for lethal power is fear – fear of the other, fear of the unknown, fear of not being able to protect one’s loved ones or oneself.

Fear, as politicians and corporations have long been aware, is a powerful selling tool.

Whereas we see mass shootings as an obvious reason to remove as many weapons as possible from society, those who believe in the right to bear arms see it as the opposite – hence the rise in gun stocks yesterday in the wake of this tragedy.

If America can witness the deaths of children at Sandy Hook and remain unmoved, do not think for one second that the actions of the Mandalay Bay shooter will change anything.

To do that would require a long discussion about whose rights are most important, and a deconstructing of the apparatus of fear, driven by the media, politicians and vested interests, that keeps the buyers coming to gun shops in their droves.

It is a complex problem to solve, but it can be done. Airports are now bastions of security, and smoking is banned pretty much everywhere.

Once the country’s national sport, drink-driving is now frowned-upon in Ireland.

But I won’t hold my breath.

Instead, I’m waiting to pore over the list of the dead to see if any of the security guards on a few bucks an hour who were so friendly to us a few weeks ago are on it.

Because no matter what the outcome of the political or intellectual discussions around the subject are, the undeniable fact is that 58 more people are dead.

Nothing can change that now.

 

 

~ posted by scm

JPIN Now

The book is published and so the blog returns. Let’s see what’s rattling around the old head today…

This just in- A sleazy movie producer has been using his position to further his career as a scumbag sexual predator. The shock. The horror. The yawn. Is anyone surprised that some movie making maggot has used his position to molest women who’d otherwise have nothing to do with him? No amount of political correctness, feminist preaching, pundit puffery or legal goofiness is likely to stop this behavior. So is it hopeless? Hardly.

You know what works? Nuclear deterrence. No matter how powerful, righteous or desperate a national leader might be he’s unlikely to launch a nuclear attack if he knows there will be one coming right back. I know it isn’t enlightened or ideal but so far it has worked. Fear can be a powerful motivator. It’s time to apply that principle to sexual predation.

Whether we like it or not sexual predators are protected by the fact that their actions are usually not going to result in personal pain. Let’s end that. Under the law you’re allowed to commit assault or even murder if you feel at risk of your life. It’s called justifiable homicide. How about if we create a legal loophole called the JPIN; the Justifiable Punch in the Nose or Justifiable Punch in the Nuts. An idea who’s time has come.

JPIN would work in two ways. The first is obvious. If some dirt dweller grabs you its completely legal for you or anyone with you to punch him in the nuts. Hard. Maybe a couple of times. That’ll slow him down. Of course the limit to this idea is that little turtle dick will likely wait until he’s alone with his victim and he’s probably bigger and stronger. That’s where the second part, the nuclear deterrent, comes in. It will be completely legal for someone to apply apply JPIN at a later date and on your behalf. Got a boyfriend or a brother? Know any big guys who’d like to help out? Tell them the details and they can go punch this human garbage in the face. Fear of reprisal, keeping the world safe for a thousand years.

I know it’s a Neanderthal idea. That’s why I like it. Fight sexism with violent sexism. Elegant and cool plus its already in practice and working. Nobody hits on my wife at a biker function. That’s not usually the case at more ‘civilized’ events.

I’ve reposted an earlier blog below and you can see that the JPIN plan would completely shut down sexual assaults on men (and yes those are a problem too). Call your congressman. We want JPIN and we want it now. Saor Alba, Vaya con Dios and Viva la Revolucion.

Male Sexual Assault – Repost

Before I launch into my rant I think it’s prudent to point out context. Sexual assault is heinous. I can hardly be called a feminist but a man who takes intimacy that hasn’t been offered is loathsome to me, deserves violence and I don’t really give a shit about the context. I’ve done rape counseling and taught rape prevention for 15+ years, usually for free. I’ve physically intervened when men were being overly aggressive and have escorted women home or back to their hotel rooms if they’ve over imbibed, been drugged, or fear going alone. This is one of the few issues I take very fucking seriously and I’m sure most, if not all, women would agree with me. So I’m not kidding when I ask the following question: Why is sexually assaulting me okay?

I wear a kilt. A lot. Most of the time, even. I like kilts. They’re comfortable and provide great ease of movement but almost every time I wear one I’m assaulted by a woman. I have had dozens of women I didn’t know reach under my kilt and grab my ass or balls. I’ve come home from a night out with bruises. I know men who own kilts and won’t wear them because they’ve been repeatedly mauled. There are a number of Scottish themed restaurants that have had to stop having waiters wear kilts because their female patrons would not stop grabbing the servers dick. Why is this okay? What would happen if I lifted your dress and inserted a finger in the middle of Fremont St?

The physical assaults, while common, are nothing compared to the verbal ones. Literally thousands of women have come up to me and demanded to know what I’m wearing under my kilt. Really? Do you have panties on? Are they sexy and lacy? What color are they? If I asked them the same questions the police would likely become involved. In fact if I behaved like they do I’d have a sexual predator tag next to my name. But you know, it’s all in good fun. Besides, I didn’t have pants on so I was asking for it, right?

You know what the worst part is? The attitude. After the experiences I’ve had with rape survivors it is fucking disgusting to hear the exact same justifications offered in the exact same words from a middle aged housewife. “It’s just little grab.” “Well, I’ve been drinking.” “Chill out, we’re all just having a good time.” “Oh, I didn’t know you were a prude.” “You wish I was assaulting you.” “You probably liked it.” “What did you expect, wearing that?” Just once I’d like to grab them back, but that would probably mean jail time. My regular response now is to loudly say “Fuck you, cunt” every time it happens.

I admit that I’m not the sensitive type and it hasn’t really caused me any psychic damage. It doesn’t scare me because I certainly have the skills to keep from being dragged off and raped. If I’d never worn a kilt I might even find it funny. But consider that my wife is usually standing next to me. That can’t be too fun. It’s happened repeatedly when I’m with my kids or the young children of a friend. Does that seem reasonable?

The saddest part of this whole thing is that it’s made me a little less sympathetic towards rape victims. I was guilty of the belief that men were more predatory and less empathetic. I viewed sexual assault as a male issue but now I realize that it’s a human issue. The main difference seems to be that, when confronted, a woman can fight back but a man can’t.

As a culture we’ve come a very long way toward not blaming a woman for being the victim of assault. I know we still have a ways to go, but when does the same consideration begin to extend to the other half of the population? I’m not going to hold my breath. I always remember the words of Nietzsche: “Slaves don’t want to be free, slaves want to own slaves.” Or in this case: “Women don’t want to stop assaults, they want to be the assaulter.” So congratulations, women. Equality! You’re every bit as evil as men. Actually more so. Because lots of us men think it’s a problem and I haven’t yet met a woman who apologized.

Go Read the Old Stuff!

Loyal followers, the summer and a couple of interesting opportunities have eaten up much of my available time over the next couple of months. Why don’t you take this little hiatus as a chance to catch up on the last decade or so of excellent crap. I’ve cleaned everything up. The links and categories all work so go look around. In the meantime I’ll be training, riding to Sturgis, and having a bit of craic. Expect an update right after Labor Day…

A Strange Intimacy

There are many different kinds of intimacy. Of course there’s the sexy sexy kind but there are quite a few that don’t involve sex or genitals or exchanging bodily fluids. Soldiers develop an intimacy with each other that they find hard to replace after mustering out. The same is true for police, fireman, and many other professions. Professional atheletes miss the camaraderie more than the glory. What I’d like to acknowledge is the strange, intense intimacy of training and combat in the martial arts.

It’s rarely acknowledged or discussed but martial arts training is likely the second most physically intimate thing you’ll ever do. Most of it is obvious. Grappling and rolling with a training partner is clearly a very close encounter. In every class we repeatedly put our hands all over each other. How many faces have you touched? I bet I’ve touched thousands. But it’s more than that. It’s deeper.

If I train with someone over time I get to know things about them that their closest family members probably don’t know. I know how they react to fear and stress. I know their deepest tendancies. I might know nearly everything about how they relate to the world. Funny thing is I might not know if they’re married or what they do to earn a living. A strange intimacy indeed.

We live in a society that allows very limited physical contact with each other. Anyone who’s trained has an immediate advantage in self defense because we’re used to the intense intimacy of combat. I wouldn’t think twice about putting my hands on a stranger. I do it all the time. It’s no longer a taboo for me.

The fact of this intimacy is why YOU CAN’T FUCKING LEARN MARTIAL ARTS ON THE INTERNET. Don’t get me wrong, watching other teachers and practioners has it’s place. I do it all the time. But it isn’t training. If you want to learn this shit you must deal with and embrace the intimacy. That in itself is revolutionary. Saor Alba, Vaya Con Dios, and Viva la Revolucion!

Two Teaching Styles

I teach a lot. I regulaly talk with other teachers and masters of their craft. I also have way too much time to think about teaching. Here’s what I think at the moment: Teaching is a big reponsibility. In my opinion there are two ways to look at this reponsibility. Does it ultimately rest with the student or the teacher? Let me explain…

Teaching style one believes that when you walk on to the mat (or into a classroom) that the teacher is responsible for making sure that you learn the curriculum. They must do whatever’s necessary for you to learn. I think of this style as the drill seargent style. They tend to be stricter and punish more often.

Teaching style two believes that the responsibility is always the students and the students alone. In this style the teacher presents the information to the best of their ability and leaves it up to the student to apply as they feel best. I think of this as the more advanced student style. It’s mellower and lighter but no less serious.

Let me state very very clearly that neither of these styles is right or wrong. Neither one of them is superior in any intrinsic way. As a student you must decide which style will work best for you. This will take some real soul searching and honesty on your part. It is, however, crucial that you get it right.

Anyone who knows me would agree that I strongly adhere to the second style, both as student and teacher. I don’t think it’s right, just right for me. I’ve sent students away when I’ve thought that the other brand of teacher would better serve their needs. Because all teachers should be strong enough to admit that other teachers have value too. Saor Alba, Vaya Con Dios, and Viva la Revolucion!

Are You Disabled? Of Course You Are

Can you legally use a cane? Of course you can…

From the American With Disabilities Act of 1990.

A DISABILITY: “an actual or perceived physical or mental impairment whether or not the impairment limits or is perceived to limit a major life activity…As long as the impairment has an actual or expected duration of more than six months.” and “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual… major life activities include, but are not limited to… walking, standing…”

Remember, “An impairment that substantially limits one major life activity need not limit other major life activities in order to be considered a disability.”

CANE use: “A public accommodation shall permit individuals with mobility disabilities to use…canes…or other similar devices designed for use… in any areas open to pedestrian use.”

DISCRIMINATION: “a failure to make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures, when such modifications are necessary.” “No individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation by any person who owns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place of public accommodation.” “no qualified individual with a disability shall…be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity.”

Saor Alba, Vaya Con Dios, and Viva la Revolucion!

On Wellness

In the last 50 years people have become increasingly disillusioned with orthodoxy. The large monotheistic religions, the hierarchical state, even traditional martial arts have seen a steady crumbling of faith and blind adherence. While I think that overall this is a very positive development it has left many spiritual people feeling a bit adrift. The first step forward should be developing a daily routine to ground ourselves and get in touch with a sense of the universe. I call this a Personal Unifying Practice and it provides the foundation for much of what I teach.

A PUP should be eclectic, diverse, and ever evolving. It needs to start with some quiet time or meditation and then include anything that increases awareness, center, compassion or Joy. Bits of Tai Chi, dance, yoga, Chi Gong, and martial exercises will all work. Later it can expand to include traditional exercise, self defense, playing music, drawing, or any other creative pursuit. I hope that the wellness community moves toward helping people design their own unique practice that draws from multiple traditions. If everyone spent 30-40 minutes a day in their own ever evolving art we would all be a lot more joyful.

Sometimes I wonder how many teachers in what’s become known as the wellness or human potential movement notice that the people who most need their skills are frequently those who are least able to access them. Temple of the Circus Monkey and Desert Monkey Dojo are my very small attempt to answer that concern. I am pleased that my classes are extremely inexpensive and that the bulk of my teaching is done in random spaces. I teach martial arts to people who would never enter a dojo and meditation to those who might be unwelcome in a temple. If your practice is dependent on a quiet beautiful space your practice is way too limited.

All practices should include a strong theme of ego deprivation and this had better start with the teacher. Alas this is not always the case. Tradition glorification, greed, and teachers drinking their own bath water don’t lead to wellness, they lead to new orthodoxy and more disillusioned practitioners.

Saor Alba, Vaya Con Dios, and Viva la Revolucion!