Shadow's Essays

"Words are loaded pistols."Jean Paul Sartre ~ "The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say." Anais Nin

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Location: San Jose, Ca, United States

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Moral Compass

#12. The Moral Compass
  Essays on a life of P.E. July 12, 2013 by shadow

Stumbling around today i ran across another fiscal tragedy, chatter response and of course, it's not the first and not the last.
It's about money.
And before i go any further, i want to say that this is, as always, my own biased and personalized view of things- and it may change tomorrow. i reserve the right to grow and rethink things. Take what you like and leave the rest.
It's about a community of people who barely know each other becoming intimate strangers, showing people secrets that they need to share as part of their fantasy fulfillment lives, and then creating a community to execute those desire as a social group.
It's about how we judge people based on how pretty they are, how "kind" they are, how much self esteem they show to us, and then we give them power.

Often, that power is confined to simple personal one on one scenes- that turn out to be bad decisions about 1 out of every 1,000 times based on a general overview of the kink/alt scene from outer space.
Regularly, we create mini-political groups of power and money, showmanship and laughter that are organizations with or without any legal merit (and sometimes in a shady space between), as a way to try to protect ourselves from vanilla disasters, insurance issues, rental agreements, parking woes, and give us places to play, furnishings to play with, and spaces to BE together.

We do all this on the premise that , well.... to be honest...

"I know I am completely right and honest and why I am here with a scene name, and I know that everyone else here is just the same, because we have to have some sense of trust".

And then the hell begins.
Not everyone has the same moral compass.
Not every gay person feels the same sense of protection about outing others. Not every trans person feels the same sense of respect about the psychology of their decisions.
Not every leather person respects the bigotry of race, the meanness of women's issues, the pain of child abuse.
Not every kinky person feels the same sense of community.
There are only two things in our lives that grab us by the throat and create outrage and hate.
One is the threat/deliberate act of making someone else's lives public, giving away their secrets/ sharing things they did not have a right to share.
The other is money.
And money makes the world go around.

I think everyone who has been in the scene more than 10 years has personally seen a group have embezzlement issues, weather it is "we need to buy new lights for our partes (and by the way, I'll take the old ones gratis to use for my band)", all the way to "We had an audit (by someone on the board who was also the person doing the books" to "Yeah, we didn't count the money, we just had a raw figure but we TRUSTED the person we gave it to". Or collect money for a group and then use it to send someone to the MEETING of that group (yes, it was done).
Happens a lot.

There IS NO CURE. Really- this is human nature, and it is going to happen again and again and again because:
1. We have short memories and get busy.

2. New people come into the scene every year and have no idea of the history of what has gone before.
The worst part- for the very pure of purpose and those with the most finely honed moral compasses, is that the ones that can lie to themselves, or see themselves with all the excuses intact are often the ones that get away with what they did because of, once again, human nature.
i have sort of lumped them into general categories over the years:

1. MOST people in the scene are here for the yucks, the parties, the lols, and the sex/play. They don't care about what happens in the long run, just move along and bring on the next thing. If the problem involves the people they serve, as a group, they will close ranks and deny everything- they have a sex life to maintain! They are not going to bother with the witch hunt or the aftermath or getting involved or being concerned. They are selfish, dismissive, and the majority. They aren't the ones running things, or dealing with things- but they are our peers, and they are the largest group out there. They flock to the cult of personality seeking intimate things, and they never ever put themselves out on a limb for anything as ephemeral as moral beliefs or social causes. They believe what they believe, they don't question it too closely, and they really hate being questioned too deeply outside of their immediate social and sexual wants. They are friends, and i care about a lot of people that fall into this category- but i also don't invite them to the private salons that require we talk about more than kink. They won't be reading this article- it isn't about getting what they personally want.

2: A huge secondary group are the sweet, kind ones. Some call them sheep, some call them innocents, and some see them as naive. They want to see the best in people, they want to not have trauma in their lives, and they want to believe that things can be fixed. Bad vibes HURT them deeply. They are truly kind people, but they are also not willing to pull the trigger. They show up on juries and hang the vote because they see all the possibilities and want to believe in the best of people- and will go out on a limb to support an excuse rather than vote guilty AND be part of the firing squad. Some of them just don't have the stomach to deal with evil. Some would- but only if it involved their own kids or parents or loved ones directly. i LOVE several people in this category and would take a lot of social flack to protect them. i see them as holding on to a great gift that often gets crushed as we grow up and take on the worlds dragons. They MIGHT still be reading this article, but it is making them physically ill and will probably stop about now.

3. The next group up are the social butterflies and day trippers. Here today, gone next year, they are dipping- or diving- in and more than happy to lend a hand but have no time for the long work, the late hours, the meetings and the building and the weeping at funerals of loved ones going, going, gone. Maybe they are here looking for something sincere and just don't find it, maybe they are here on a lark, or with a partner who is motivating them- for a while. They are often younger- and more comfortable with being out, with being open, and using the net as an extension of their private lives. They come with a different compass than those 50 and up, but those that stick around often become the net generation of leaders and supporters. Some become friends, but of course, they don't stick around, so i cannot count any of them in my permanent life. They thought this was interesting for a second, but are now back to their vanilla life.

4. Transplants. They are into kink, into leather, into sex, into power and into control, but are not good when it comes to life. If we knew how they lived in vanilla land, we would HEAR about well run lives, businesses, lovers and success, but they often are covering up failures on a colossal scale and have arrived here in the scene to re-invent themselves. Scene names and an incredible ability to spin gold from floss, they know what they are doing and have done it for years- you should trust them. They move from group to group- sometimes all the way across the country (and for some reason, Florida seems to spawn some of the worst ones, including a guy i know named Dragon who has a police record that includes manslaughter, but i digress). They show up with sparkle and a magnetic personality, a leadership power that shines, and a need to be the center of things. They sometimes have references (but you should ask outside the circle they give you- because their references are lovers and friends from group 1. Ask the leaders of long standing in any area when checking these people out). They ALWAYS get involved, and they eventually- and fairly quickly- take over a group. They don't always START it, but they are sure there to take it over and become the king pins. Time shows up serious cracks in their armor, they play favorites and bend the rules for their friends, while being ruthless with their perceived enemies. They often- quite often- use sex and play to build up cliques that do the dirty work for them (you know, bad mouthing the people they want gone, embarrassing anyone that questions them, down playing anything not--so-kosher so that a constant propaganda mill diffuses tense situations). Sadly, they really DO have leadership skills, and COULD be among those really unique people that make a difference. BUT, they cannot stand dissension or anyone who disagrees with them, for they have several flaws.

SOME of this group move on every few years, as they pile up an impressive list of screw ups and, hopefully, the community as a whole TALKS about it out loud and ADMITS change needs to happen and then handles it.
SOME of them just stay. They have a certain control over their group (maybe they own the only play house in the area. Maybe they have a large harem of lovers and play partners). They build on the premise that "no one likes to admit they were wrong" and use that to hide their fuck ups. They control the conversations, and often blackmail scene members (my favorite ongoing nasty bit is one where the King Bee tells all the people who want to play with the group that they "better not play with the X crowd or help at any of their parties or you are OUT of here!" It's childish and mean, but very effective especially with marginalized groups that are not strong socially).
Raw power excites these folks, and they don't kill a community, but they cut off the light and they grow some very controlled gardens. i often think of republicans with this crowd. Hiding bad news because it is bad for business, cutting off options because they know best.

5. The other leaders and workers and the rest of us. They have needs and desires that need a social network and social places and things to do. They work hard at everything they do, have lives and families and homes and jobs. They make mistakes and admit them freely, they spend more on the scene than is prudent, they volunteer and want to do good and take charge of things because no one else would, or they have done it before, or just for a while. They are busy and trust too much because, while they KNOW not everyone out there is what they appear, they also know they cannot change things or steer the boat off the rocks. No one wants to hear warnings when the sun is shining, and while they see trouble, they move to keep it minimized, they try to include everyone, and they often get pushed out when the power mongers arrive. But they are the base of what truly happens in our world, the ones that are here for years and years, giving time and energy and patience. They stand up to injustice and call out when they see bigotry and evil- and sometimes pay horrible prices for doing so. They are either loved or hated, and there is very little middle ground about them. They take stances, and they stand up for what they believe in. They are the "everyman" of Frank Capra films and the nice guys finishing first, the elderly ladies that have been here for years and the quite shy men who serve others constantly and with pride and grace. They are not perfect, and they fuck up, but the difference between them and the group 4 folks is that the ADMIT it publicly and freely and take their lumps and grow and move on instead of burying their mistakes under a ton of bullshit. They are all the good and the bad and the heart and the fun and the pain and the life we bring to WIITWD.


So, with all that up there, the groups are splitting into their respective camps and tearing up another city for a while. i am reading the threads, and see a lot of what i personally have lived through. Fiscal irresponsibility, books that don't balance, "audits" done internally and blackballing of people trying to ask questions publicly or run for office to find out what was happening. All the games, all the same themes and the same problems and issues.
There are some good points being made as well, to wit:" a screw up can be forgiven, but lies cannot. One is a momentary weakness, a lack of judgement, something that can be rectified. The other is a sin. The other is an intentional, willful defiance and evil. It is done with purpose."(mercestes).
This is real. Owning up to something the moment someone else speaks is paramount in the moral compass game. It requires knowing yourself and spending a great deal of time being honest, and is not easily accomplished.

"When I brought up the subject of funds months before the new board was seated and asked for records I was labeled a trouble maker! When I didn't stop asked for real proof I was called a shit starter!"(Evil-Princess). Listen when people ask questions, especially about money. Yes, some of them are just trying to create drama or discredit someone, but no one is going to be hurt by actually looking into the matter- if nothing is wrong, no harm done. If they still insist (also known as the Hawaiian birth certificate syndrome), try to find out why. What are they afraid of? What can you do? And, when all else fails, what gallon barrel is empty in the yard?

On a personal thread was this notation: (MichelleFromHell) "To me it is just an extension of all the toys that were stolen out of my house during the parties I hosted and graciously set out for others to enjoy. After the first two parties, I stopped putting my stuff out and bought shit from the dollar store that I would not miss. Not to mention people going through purses, medicine cabinets and toy bags to steal whatever they want. Some folks are's how life is..vanilla or not."

This is the real world, not a special magical place. We are a microcosm of everything out there here. Bigots. Thieves. Liars. Morally vague humans. People with good intentions and bad follow through. Sneaks. Cheats. Spreaders of disease instead of losing out on getting laid. Wife beaters and boy stealers.
So what do we do? What does it all mean?

It means that life has to go on, and we grow and learn. We identify yet another morally stunted person and marginalize them for a few years until a new batch of people show up. Guaranteed, 6 years from now if one of the leaders mentions why they don't trust the embezzler there will be a loud angry group that either defends her or puts down the speaker for "stirring shit" and "not moving on".
Which is how this shit happens time after time.
It takes some big balls to be the moral compass, to continually remember the reasons for the rules and never forget how things happened or WHO was on WHAT side. It takes a great thick hide to stand up time and again for 'what is right' and make the case for it. It takes educated verbal skills to explain the problems over and over to mental midgets and social chaos workers. It takes more than most people think it is worth. Moral absolutism is sometimes required, although you end up with "Crime and Punishment" Russian style, with death sentences for a loaf of bread. Black and white is never black and white.
Why write this, and take 3 hours to consider it?

BECAUSE No other reason. It just needed to be said.
That, and i have $32.00 sitting in a box towards new t-shirts for SX from a munch 3 months ago. We counted it in public. Always do.
We tend to be real transparent with money. When we get it we spend it. One night in 2007 we held a fund raiser and counted the door at 2 am. 3 of us counted. We made over $3,000. We posted it that night- and had already given it to the club we raised it for. Money is the root of all evil, the filthy lucre of our lives and makes the world go around.

But the integrity of the people around you is more important, and if they have shaky moral compass's about OTHER people, or money, or the rules, eventually, they might well have some shaky decisions about YOU.
Play safe folks.

 Copyright shadow, July 12,2013 All rights reserved. Please write for permission to repost. All reposts must be complete with copyright and contact info.