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May 07, 2005

The Uses of Canaries

(NOTE: Okay, this is sort of long, but if you are a gay person living in America at the beginning of the twenty-first century, please try to read your way all the way through it.)

From Boing Boing this week, for our wildlife in captivity file, we collect another image of our old friend, the canary in the mineshaft.

Note the party-of-the-second-part's erect penis. This is an example of what I call The Depravity Fillip -- just that extra graphical touch to make sure the target audience is sufficiently grossed out by the notion of homosexuality. In an earlier post, I linked to something from the Family Research Institute. The author of that piece takes pains to point out, at least three times, that gay men like to put their penises in other men's rectums, or have their rectums filled by the penises of other men. The author notes that "we" ignore this reality "at our intellectual peril" -- the peril being, I presume, that without the graphic anatomical references, the reader's intellect might actually be engaged. This sort of Depravity Fillip is also what Santorum is up to with his infamous "man-on-dog" shtick.

Just in case you didn't get it, the little boner in the picture above lets you know that, "Gaw, you know these homos actually like this stuff!" This is their reply to the increasing openness about -- and tolerance of -- homosexuality in the culture. The message is: "You want openness? You want out of the closet? Well, we'll give you some openness!" The justification, of course, is: "Hey, we're just telling the truth."

Yeah, okay, some homos like the act portrayed by the poster. As it happens, so do some straight people. So what?

In fact, I was going to take some text from the Family Research Institute's site regarding sex in a Christian Marriage and insert some hetero Depravity Fillips -- just to show that the Depravity Fillip works without reference to sexual orientation. Sadly, I couldn't find any text there on the subject of sex in a Christian Marriage. I hadn't noticed it before, but talk about obsessed... Almost every article on the site fearlessly confronts the dangers of homosexuality to society. Jeez. You'd think an outfit that calls itself the Family Research Institute would have some info on, you know, their notion of The Family. Something beyond "at least we're not homos", I mean. So then I was going to take some text from some other Christian Marriage site, but that didn't seem fair because they weren't engaging in the Depravity Fillip anywhere that I could see. So, I'll leave all of that as an exercise for the reader.

At first I thought Depravity Fillips were added just to make sure people remained grossed out by the notion of homosexuality, but I think now it's more than that. Note how the Depravity Fillip when used in text and pics regarding homosexuality draws the reader's/viewer's attention from what homos are (that would be: human beings) and directs it toward what they do (that would be: well, you know). Okay, good. That's us half-dehumanizing people. But why be satisfied with a job half-done?

See, I think the real intention of the Depravity Fillip is to reduce the hypothetical homo from a whole being down to the sexual acts he enjoys, down to the body parts employed in those sexual acts. Naturally, the body parts have to be the nastiest bits. The usefulness of this resides in the fact that body parts can be surgically removed.

I'm not talking about removing the nasty bits from homosexuals, of course, though I'm sure there are some who would be in favor of that. But that would be a waste of precious medical resources. Why go to all that trouble when we have reduced the homosexual, himself, to nothing more than a body part? Remove the homo -- he's just a diseased body part, after all -- and the problem is solved.

Of course there will always be those so pathologically sex-panicked that they have to rely on their Think Pieces to get their pornography fix. Not worth worrying about, generally. But when United States Senators start in with the Depravity Fillip, and the DF starts showing up in the campaign literature of various groups... well, you want to keep your eye on that sort of thing. You maybe want to start thinking about that famous canary in the mine-shaft.

"Huh. Huh. He said 'shaft'."

Weimar Germany's many moralists discerned a libertine miasma in the major cities, including visible homosexuality, prostitution and a libidinous 'new woman'. The latter meant clerks, sales assistants and typists who bobbed their hair and daydreamed about filmstars, but whose ambitions and desires were prosaic by the standards of the late twentieth century. Again, concern about 'her' was common to many European countries. Left and right may have differed in their analyses of alleged moral crises and how to solve them, but there was unanimity on the importance of the family. The Nazis latched on to the mood of panic among moralists. Typically, what may or may not have been grounds for legitimate concern, depending on one's point of view, was not seen as a temporary aberration generated by exceptionally disturbed circumstances, or as signs of greater tolerance. The alleged visibility of homosexuality and prostitution in Weimar cities was assimilated into a vision of imminent racial annihilation, or hopelessly dramatised as an 'historically unprecedented overturning of all values'. (From The Third Reich: A New History by Michael Burleigh.)

The way I see it, there are at least three target audiences for our little friend, the messenger canary.

Canary Audience #1: The Mine Owners.

You want some way to know when you are going too far in empowering yourself and your aristocratic friends. You want to know how much the American people will put up with. Answer: you use picking on the homos as your canary in the cage. You keep picking at them and picking at them and as long as the American people don't get fed up with it and tell you to cut it out, you know you've got their inattention. You can keep on with your Social Security "reform", and your getting rid of the Paris Hilton Inheritance Tax, and all the rest of it.

Canary Audience #2: The Drudges.

You've got your job to keep, your kids to put through college, your house and your car and your gas to pay for. You don't have time to pay any attention to living in a genuine democracy where there is "liberty and justice for all", fer chrissake. As long as they don't start in on you in any meaningful way, you're happy to just mind your own damned business. But, you do want some sort of "early warning system" to let you know when they might be getting ready to come after you and your quality of life. Say, I know! Let them pick on the homos! You might get a bit worried if they start carting fags off to Re-education Camps in Nevada or something, you might want to take a little time out of your busy day then to start pushing back. But, hell, until then, who has the time or energy? They're only homos, after all.

Canary Audience #3: The Canary Hisself.

Dude, if you are looking in the mirror and seeing feathers, it's already too late. Show some initiative here. Ain't nobody going to be your canary but you. Your problem, of course, is actually seeing those feathers in the mirror. You got a job, you got your friends, you got your life, fer chrissake. You can't be thinking about what sort of danger you might be in. Who thinks about stuff like that? Nothing's going to happen. It's annoying, but come on... nothing's going to happen.

You know, as an American citizen, I never thought I'd ever be thinking about stuff like this, but... lately I've kind of been considering how one might go about stashing money overseas. You know, all legit and everything. I'll fill out all the forms, do everything by the numbers, but the thing is...

The lesson taught by the experience of Jews in 1930s Germany is that you want to be prudent. You don't want to panic. You don't want to get hysterical. But you don't want to be a fool, either. The problem is, when you are the canary, it's kind of hard to know when to start taking all these funny smells seriously. As the experience of the German Jews teaches us, by the time you have become convinced the funny smells have to be taken seriously, it is probably way too late. Everything's over except your final plummet to the newspaper at the bottom of your cage. If they don't have your money already, they've got the right to take it. If they haven't got your travel papers already, they've got the right to confiscate them. And in the end, if they've got your money and they've got your travel documents, they've got you.

Here's the deal. If you don't have friends or family overseas, you might want to start cultivating some long-distance friendships. If you ever have to emigrate in a hurry, you might want to have some money already waiting for you in your new country of residence. You might want to establish a travel pattern of going to various countries such that if the heat gets turned up and they are watching for homos who might be trying to get out, you can say to them, "No, look, I'm just visiting a friend. I go there and come back all the time." Here you want to grin stupidly, like the idiot you are trying to convince them you are. They might look at you funny, but they might let you go anyway. You want to lay the groundwork for getting out without it looking to them like you are getting the hell out for good.

Again: If you look around and find yourself in that cage, my feathered friend, it's already too late. Starting now, keep your eyes peeled. Don't panic, but don't be a fool either. If worse comes to worse, there will be a great many decent and loving straight Americans who will be willing to help you -- if they can.

That's the thing. You can't rely on anybody being able to save you. If you have to save yourself, you will have to be able to do it yourself. That's why they call it "saving yourself".

As a goy, I used to naively think that the famous phrase of the Jewish People "Never Again" was a plea to All Mankind to take care that the atrocities of the Holocaust never happen again. Heh. Not bloody likely.

No, I get it now. What it really means is: "Never again will they find me without some way to save myself."

Dude, be prepared. Be that Boy Scout they won't let you be anymore.


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I'd be interested in hearing any further thoughts or information you obtain about legally stashing money abroad. Jordin and I have discussed that it might be a good idea. We're not gay but we ARE godless liberals and we've made that fairly public knowledge...


As it happens, I've spent part of today looking into this matter, both at the bookstore and online. I don't have much that's useful to say at the moment except perhaps:

* Naturally, most of the literature on the subject is aimed at Big Shots with loads of money. Most of that stuff isn't going to apply to me, nor to you perhaps.

* However, there is stuff out there for the Little Guy, especially if you are not concerned with setting up an off-shore corporation, tax-havens, and all that crap.

* I think you have to focus precisely on why you want to do this... in my case, and probably yours, I simply want to have some money I can "run to" and have it waiting for me when I get there. The primary consideration in that case would be putting the money in a country that is safe and that will not hand your money over to the U.S. Government on demand.

* There are secondary considerations, of course, like what currency to keep your money in, what transaction costs might be, ease of immigration, etc. I'm kind of liking Euros but as I say I just starting looking into this so maybe Euros, despite the ability to use them in a number of European countries, could be a stupid idea, I dunno.

* The biggest problem with the bookstore literature is that we live in the age of The War on Terror, and things are changing quickly especially w/r/t international financial transactions. It would be a Big Disappointment, to say the least, to discover at the crucial moment that you put your Emergency Escape Funds in a place where the U.S. can just slap a hold on your money, even though it is held overseas.

* BUT ... it looks as though there are ways to do it reasonably, even for a poor person like me. I just need to do a lot more research on the subject. The phrase you want to search on (or so it seems to me at the moment) is "offshore asset protection". There's one site called Escape Artist that seems useful, but I don't know enough yet to really vouch for any of the information there.

* Yes, as I uncover reliable information on this subject, I will write about it. As always, I believe the best thing would be to talk to an expert on this, but I'm not sure I will be able to do that without using up all the money I might have available for "offshore asset protection." It's too early to tell.

You have NO idea how much of a relief it is to see that other people think about this sort of thing too. Straight but godless liberals, like MKK, and who knows with puppy? He's only ten. He's just starting to think about human beings and the human body in a sexual-ish manner.

I'll be very interested to see what else you find out.

I probably should mention one obvious way to go about this: the next time you are visiting a country you might regard as a safe haven, go to a bank and talk to them about opening an account there. Now... you'll obviously have to check some stuff out beforehand... will the bank be able to absolutely protect your funds, what sort of access will you have to the funds, etc. You will have to do your homework, but the bank will probably be able to help you greatly in that.

My feeling is that if you try this, you might as well be completely up front with the bank about what you are trying to do. I don't see any reason to be all Secret Agent about it. It's their job to open an account for you that serves your needs, after all, not to determine whether you are a Paranoid Nutjob. I'd say be completely up front about your "offshore banking needs" so that they can come up with the best way to help you, warn you about pitfalls, etc. Make sure they know you aren't trying to be some Money Launderer, or tax-cheat, or anything like that. You just believe in being prudent, is all, and so you want something that will allow you to be as prudent as possible.

You aren't, after all, doing anything wrong or illegal, as long as you follow the rules.

Agree strongly.

The first thing I thought after this election was "Wow. If I were gay, I'd have $5000 in small bills and a shotgun in the trunk of my car at all times now."

I know the whole "come to Canada" thing has been so done to death, but the federal large-C Conservative party here is trying to make the next election about the culture wars, and "protection of the utter godlike right to abuse gays and have a normal marriage." That kind of thing is not going to fly in Canada, and is not likely to change.

And it looks like small-c conservative Canadians are having none of it. In Canada, at least, this is not over. The current Prime Minister (who is usually pretty timid) has made it obvious that discrimination against gays in any form is unconstitutional and will not be tolerated. Strong words about not letting the tyranny of the majority crush a minority. Our constitution was crafted to protect the minorities. These statements were made by him even though he may not understand or accept homosexual behviour or lifestyles (he's a catholic, fer chrissakes.) However, he feels that his own personal feelings cannot trump democratic ideals set out in the highest law of the land.

A fair number of "liberal" AND "conservative" people (those words work a bit different north of the 49th parallel) here feel exactly the same way. They may hate the idea of ass-fucking (unless, perhaps, the ass in question is attached to a pretty, milk-fed Canadian cheerleader) but they know it's wrong for their (wait for it) possibly misinformed opinions drive government policy and law.

We've got a young constitution (i.e., few amendments), and some of us are looking forward to smashing some windows (if necessary) to protect the rights stated therein for *everyone*, regardless if we approve where they occasionally put their cocks (which begs the question, what are the lesbian activities the American culture warriors can objectify?)

At any rate, regardless what a gormless provincial government does, you can still (as a citizen) take your case to the Supreme Court, and the feds can and will publicly spank that province until they reverse their decision. It's happened before, and it will happen again.

Get an address in Canada, and open a bank account. When the shit hits the fan, line up at the border. I'll be the first to march in a Pride Parade with ya. I'll be wearing the "Straight but not Narrow" t-shirt and telling everyone "Girlfriend, I could have danced all night!"

Thank god for fairy godfathers.

i've been through this same chain of thought, mike. i'm concerned about the state of things, the way they indicate the direction we're headed in. i too looked into running. believe it or not it's not *that* difficult to open a numbered swiss account, though your initial deposit typically has to be pretty large. however after thinking like that for a year, i came to the conclusion that running to another country is (a) a copout, and (b) not necessarily any better (witness the washington blade editor getting beaten in amsterdam of all places).

running is not the answer, fighting back - either from within the oppressive organizations or from outside is far more responsible. if we run, we basically let the oppressors win. we say "ok, here, you can have our home and our country and all the people like me in it who aren't in a situation where they can leave." YOU SAVE ONLY YOURSELF AND CHANGE NOTHING.

you're obviously a smart person, you probably have skills and ideas that could help organize people, help change minds, help solve the problem instead of running from it. STAND YOUR GROUND. you can already do it intellectually, if you can't do it physically, i'd recommend learning. the more we teach people that we aren't a threat to their own sexuality, the more we fight back when fought against, the more people will stand with us. we cannot continue to use the same old arguments / reasoning against the new fascists. we also cannot continue to constantly be the victims. by advocating running away, you are still condoning the victim mentality. running away is only slightly better than doing nothing and suffering the abuse.

As a straight godless liberal, I'm relieved to hear other SGL's concerned about the same thing. I had wondered about putting money overseas, emigrating to somewhere else. Then, like eric L, I think, no, I can do things here, I can volunteer, I can write letters. Then I have visions of Handmaid's Tale. So then I think, write letters and stash money. But, exactly what money do I think I'm talking about? From the little I've read, I'm not rich enough for the money-overseas lifestyle.

The thing that scared me, the thing that let me know that I was very scared about what's happening in the US is: I, the die-hard believer in gun control, had the thought that I should buy a gun. I had brief, vague thoughts about defending my home against jack-booted government thugs. How aweful is that? The thought of it disgusts me.

OK, the reason I actually dropped by today is not to ramble about my fears and limitations. It was to point you to this post which reminded me of this canary post, and which crystalized the whole thing in my mind when I read the quoted comment by Merlin Missy toward the end of the article.

I'd also like to mention a tangential issue, that is the national ID card bill (the so-called Real ID) that's coming for a vote in the Senate tomorrow. If you're standing your ground, you might want to write letters about this one.

Good blog, BTW.

Yeah, uh, please note that I'm not advising anybody to stop fighting and run away. I'm saying "Be prepared". I know that cuz I say it a couple of times, and then I say it in the last sentence of the post. I remember that this means It's Important. :)

I believe the worst thing anybody could do would be to run away. I love my country even though it seems as if sometimes it forgets to love me back. Oh, wait. It's my country. It doesn't get paid to love. Well, anyway.

In the book I reference in the post, The Third Reich, the author tells numerous stories of people who were very well established in German society, very successful, very wealthy people. Only they were Jews and, you know, they waited too long. Their businesses and assets were "Aryanized" and suddenly they were paupers. They had nowhere to go, and no money to get there with anyway. No one would take them because they were paupers.

These were not people who ran away. These were people who stayed and tried to help German culture recover. Only they weren't prepared in the sort of way I'm talking about being prepared.

Honest. I was a Boy Scout. I was also a professional stage manager for a number of years. There's a simple rule you learn in both those enterprises: be prepared for the worst. If you are prepared, the worst generally doesn't happen. If you aren't prepared, then it generally does.

Yeah, I know, that's Magical Thinking. So sue me. :)

Thank you, btw, michelle, for saying that nice thing. This is the first time I've been Metafiltered. I log on and it's like: Whoa! It's kind of terrifying, actually. You're going along, a sleepy backwater, thinking you're Walla Walla, and then all of a sudden people are looking at you like you're Seattle or something. Sheesh.

I Metafiltered you, and just DailyKos'd you too. I hope it's ok. (Hope i don't kill your bandwidth.)

It's an important post (and incredibly well-written) and says what many of us are thinking more and more lately. I thought it needed to be spread around.

I noticed you Daily Kos'd me. Another avalanche. :)

No, I don't think bandwidth is going to be a problem. Doesn't look like it will be, anyway. I'm glad you did it. I would like people to at least be thinking about these things.

anytime : >

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