Dear Papa Bear,
Normally, I would not write in to a column about a issue I'm having. However, since this is something I've had a lot of people talk to me about and I don't know the answer, I figured taking it to a higher source makes more sense. So, I am a late 30-something furry, and I've been in the fandom nearly a decade. As I've aged, I've noticed furry has become, for lack of a better term, "tainted" by social politics, gender wars, and identity politics. Unfortunately, much of the issue is coming from a result of the young taking over leadership roles in our community. My question is, what can we "the elder generation" of furries do to maybe help curb the tide of this problem and what do you think of furry becoming so hyperpolitical?
Lotus Wolf (37)
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Dear Lotus Wolf,
Good question, and one I certainly relate to, being a greymuzzle myself. Yes, the fandom is changing, and it is radically different from when it started in the late 1970s/early 1980s. This is the result of a couple of things: 1) the internet, and 2) how it has grown to include hundreds of thousands of people. As the fandom becomes more visible to the general public, it has attracted a lot of people who don't really "get" furry. They are in it more to get attention than to be a part of the fun. Part of getting attention has been to do political things such as becoming a Nazi or Antifa furry. In this bear's humble opinion, furry is not a place for politics (this includes any sexual or gender or identity politics). It's supposed to be a place to avoid mundane things like politics and economics and social pressures. I disagree with you that furry has become "hyperpolitical." Yes, politics have encroached upon it, but not in an all-consuming way--just enough to be annoying.
What to do about it? Number one is to avoid validating people who want to make politics a thing in the fandom (doesn't matter if they are on the right, left, or moderate). They are basically trolls and should be ignored and blocked. Second is to reemphasize the fantasy aspect of the fandom by encouraging and participating in the writing, art, and games of the fandom. Third is to do what we can to educate the younger generations about furry history and who we are. Such things as Ash Coyote's documentary The Fandom can be helpful, or reading books such as Joe Striker's Furry Nation.
Change is inevitable and will continue in any living fandom. There will be good things about the fandom and bad things, but that's okay as long as we don't lose sight of who we are. Communication and education are the best approaches. We should also recognize that some things simply are not acceptable. I, for one, do not appreciate seeing anyone wearing a swastika armband at a furcon (or the Furry Raiders' armband, which is obviously similar, and don't tell me it's not), and I'm not a fan of how Antifa furs have behaved in the past, nor do I care to see furcon room parties for Soviet Furs.
Young people in America, especially, have lost an appreciation for democracy and freedom, sadly. They have been coddled and spoiled and no longer understand how lucky they are. A Cambridge University study showed that 55% of Millennials don't think democracy is important. The failing here is not with the Millenials, however; it is with the older generation and our current politicians who have made a mockery of democracy. What the Millennials are abhorring, really, is the distorted and corrupt "democracy" we now have. The internet, as we have seen so painfully recently, is also to blame for spreading lies and misinformation about our political institutions and a number of politicians.
The furry fandom is a victim of the times. Don't blame furries themselves. I hate when people say things such as "The fandom is just a bunch of furverts and drama queens and haters." No, it's not. Almost everyfur I meet--young and old--is a wonderful person. But it only takes a drop of arsenic to poison the entire cup of tea. More and more, admins in places such as Facebook groups (including me) have been prohibiting politics and hate in their groups. If those who run social websites, furmeets, and furcons remain vigilant, they can do a lot to eliminate or, at least, minimize the problem.
There need to be adults in the room, in other words. And I call on the greymuzzles and other, younger, adults who have taken it upon themselves to assume leadership roles in the fandom to set standards for their groups and organizations. We have seen what happens when supervision is lacking (e.g., the closing of Rainfurest and some other cons). Be an example to the younger furries and you will go a long way toward keeping the furry fandom a fun and enjoyable social phenomenon.
This is an important topic, and I've only brushed the surface of it. I welcome my readers' comments and input below.
I have been writing the "Ask Papabear" column for seven years now. I wanted to pause for a moment and offer these thoughts and points to all of you who read this blog....
Why do I write "Ask Papabear"? Hmm. I started writing it when young furries started seeking advice from me unsolicited. I became active in the fandom rather late, but most furries are in their teens and twenties, and I saw that a lot of them lacked positive mentors in their lives. You know, when I first created the website, people made fun of me. "Who is this guy that calls himself 'Papabear' and why does he think he's so great he can give furries advice? Does he just want to be a popufur?" There was some furry radio podcaster who mocked my voice (even though there is no audio on the site) and acted like I was a doofus. A friend of mine alerted me to the broadcast as it was ongoing, and I felt humiliated. So I called the station up, and they said the guy who was mocking me was just doing it "because it's his job on the show to mock people." Although they apologized, and I told them I accepted that apology, in my head I felt really bad. I almost quit right there because I felt, "Well, if this is how furries are, then f*** 'em."
But I didn't quit because I realized that people like that were a minority, and if I quit then a lot of furries that needed some encouragement would go lacking.
Why do I feel I am qualified to give advice? First, it should be noted that most newspaper advice columnists in the past were women with absolutely no background in psychology or social work; newspaper editors gave them the job on the old social pages to fill up some space and appeal to women readers. So, I didn't need any qualifications LOL. However, I actually DO have qualifications, even though I'm not a trained counselor. I have life experiences that cover many bases relevant to furries, and, being a furry myself and a fursuiter, I know what it's like to be a furry. I've actually had compliments from psychologists and social workers about my column. Oh, I also studied psychology for two years in college before switching majors to English. Finally, since I don't charge for my advice, I'm not pretending to be a professional, so nothing illegal is happening here.
But WHY do I do it?
I have found in my life that things such as money, material goods (houses, cars, etc.), and power have no appeal to me. They do not give me any satisfaction. The only thing that has made this bear's life feel worthwhile is hearing from people like you who have said that I have helped them. When I hear, for example, that I have helped a married couple with their problems in bed and have brought them back from the brink of separation, or that I have gotten two furries to hook up and become lifetime mates, or that I helped a parent understand her furry child, well, that just brings a big grin to this greymuzzle's face! So, I guess you could say I'm being selfish. Helping people makes me happy. I have struggled since my teen years with depression (still have it, of course), and people like you are my antidote for when I feel sad about the losses in my life or about the state of the world.
To you, and to all my readers, thank YOU for helping ME.
Papabear Grubbs Grizzly
While not perfect (emphasis on fursuiters and also makes it look like all furries have social anxiety issues), this is a well-done show that de-emphasizes the fursex stigma and really shows how fun and beneficial the furry community is. I would give it an A- overall. Worth a watch.
[Note: I want to thank all those who have offered comments at the end of this article. The information I wrote about some of these cons was brought to me by various furries and online articles. I was not at RMFC or the early ConFurence I mention here, or, indeed, any of these cons. In the end, however, it it not important who, exactly, did what to whom. There are two undeniable facts: 1) several furcons have been cancelled over the last couple years; 2) the fact that they were cancelled is NOT because the mundane community banned furries; it IS because, in one way or another, furries behaved badly. It might be that three conventions being cancelled in three years is just a coincidence, but it seems to me that this is an escalating symptom of a phenomenon I am seeing, and that is that the fandom has grown so large that it is getting out of control. What the solution is, I'm not sure, but I think we need to start addressing this in a serious manner.]
I need to pause here and take a breath. There have been some sad developments in the furry world over the last two years or so, and I am going to state my opinion about it so my readers know where I stand.
As any furry who pays attention knows, three furcons have now shut down due to bad behavior: Rainfurrest, Oklacon, and, very recently, Rocky Mountain Fur Con. In the first case, the con got out of hand when a bunch of furries trashed hotel rooms, costing the hotel a lot of money, and also indulged in bad (sometimes gross) behavior in the lobby and public areas. In the case of the Colorado con, it seems to be a combination of the actions of a group calling itself the "Furry Raiders" (I've also heard the name #AltFurry), an apparently new group that supports right-wing principles and is opposed to what is, really, a rather liberal social group, as well as furcon admins who didn't pay federal taxes. One admin has also been involved in sex with a minor and (not sure if it's the same person) is connected to the Furry Raiders, allowing them to reserve a block of rooms that ended up excluding other furries and that, in turn, resulted in threats of violence.
Here's a good article about what happened at RMFC.
Also, in 2014, Oklacon was menaced by drunk furries who engaged in public sex acts that forced the con to shut its doors the next year.
And then there is the incident at Midwest Furfest during which someone released chlorine gas in a stairwell. You will notice, though, that MFF is still running. Why? Because it is a great example of a well-run furry convention (kudos to the staff). Something happened that was beyond their control, but they quickly managed the situation and the result was that this convention is still around for good furries to enjoy.
While all this saddens Papabear, I'm not really surprised this has happened. The fandom has grown so large and is sans any kind of controls or rules or regulation that unsavory elements have inevitably infiltrated our ranks. Such a lackadaisical approach is the result of a permissive culture that abhors societal restriction (much like the hippie generation). I get that, but there comes a point when being too laid back is a problem.
Like a parent who allows her children to do whatever they want, the result is a bunch of spoiled, self-entitled brats who think they can do whatever they like, even if it is harmful to others.
It is more important than ever for those who run conventions to be vigilant. It is not impossible to run a large con efficiently and well. Anthrocon had 7,310 attendees in 2016 and you saw nothing like what happened at Rainfurrest or Oklacon. This result is directly attributable to those who run the con.
The danger of having badly run furcons is not just that they will close but that they will give all conventions and the fandom a bad name.
[Note: Dogpatch Press published a good article about how false rumors can also spread about cons, however.]
The preventative is vigilance. The Rainfurrest organizers were overly indulgent with attendees (public drunkenness was rampant); the RMFC staff permitted bad behavior on the part of the Furry Raiders and also either didn't do a background check or didn't care that someone in their ranks had a criminal record.
Frankly, these conventions deserved to close. If you can't do it right, then you shouldn't do it.
Convention founders and administrators need to have enough gumption to ban furries or groups of furries from joining in on the fun if they have proven themselves to be a problem. (For example, if a group espouses hate, violence, or prejudice towards others, that should be a clue they are not good furries and should not be permitted into a convention). RMFC had the opportunity to do this with the Furry Raiders group, but they backed off and suffered the consequences. (To be fair here, after talking to more people who were there, bad behavior was also demonstrated by anti-Furry Raiders people, one of whom tried to throw a punch).
No apologies should be necessary when it comes to who you allow into your organized, private function. Furry conventions have a right to ban anyone they wish for the good of the attendees who simply want to have a good time.
We need to seek an answer to this problem now before it escalates any further. My (admittedly, unasked for) advice? I would propose that an organization be created that includes all those who run or wish to run a furry convention (it would be great if this could include furries from all over the world). The purpose of this organization would be to:
The days are past when furcons could operate just fine in isolation from one another.
[NOTE: In light of the comment added by Smash in the comments below, the above is obviously a good idea that is already in existence (never said I was original LOL). Funny that I have not heard about the Furry Convention Leadership Roundtable before, even though it was founded back in 2010! I'm sure the members of that group have been talking about recent events. Would be interesting if they could maybe be a little more public about it. Good for them for organizing the FCLR! Kudos all around, and I wish them success in the future.]
When I talk to furries and ask them what they like about the fandom, one of the frequent answers is that they enjoy the camaraderie and the fact that furries accept everyone. Indeed, that should be the spirit of furry. You might think that I am against the Furry Raiders' conservative values and that's why I'm ripping on them here. Not at all. If you want to be a conservative furry and vote for Donald Trump, go for it. But don't espouse hatred. Don't threaten violence against other furries. Don't reserve a block of rooms for the purpose of keeping furries you don't like from attending. Such behavior is obviously unacceptable and should be rejected by all good furries everywhere.
The furry fandom is supposed to be a world where people can escape from the nonsense of hatred and prejudice that plagues the rest of society. Yes, of course, furries are humans and subject to human flaws, but that doesn't mean we can't strive to be better than that. It takes work, and the more furries there are in the world the more work it will take.
I think it's worth the effort.
[Thanks for all the comments below. I've gotten a few things incorrect, apparently, but was simply reporting what I had heard from people who said they were there. I'm getting some different stories from other people who also said they were there. Details. Well, let's forego all the details. The point is, that furcons have been and are being taken down by furries who can't behave themselves. This is an important issue that needs to be addressed by the community. A good start would be the Furry Convention Leadership Roundtable.]
Dear Furry Community,
While not all of you visiting this site are American (and therefore do not celebrate Thanksgiving), I would like to take a moment to thank all of you who have visited, posed questions, and perhaps took the time to offer a compliment or two.
Take a little time today to think of things you can be grateful for: friends, family, food on the table, clothes on your back, a bed to sleep in.
And do not envy those who may seem more prosperous and successful than you. There will always be others who have more money, better careers, better physical features than you. Envy just brings you down.
Instead, work on accepting yourself for who you are, and exercise kindness towards those around you at all times.
Take time to appreciate the beauty of nature, the love of a good dog or cat, the flavor of the ice cream melting on your tongue, a kiss on the cheek.
None of us knows why we are really here. Perhaps there is no reason at all. So, do your best to enjoy what you have in the here and now.
You have no doubt by now heard about the shooting in Orlando, Florida, at a gay club there and that the perpetrator (who is now dead) killed dozens and injured dozens more in the name of ISIS. It is, to date, the worst mass shooting in American history.
When something like this happens, we weep and we ask "Why?" Many reasons come out. In this case, several reasons have already been proposed, including that the shooter was an Islamist, that he was mentally ill, and that he was homophobic. It's also worth noting his parents are from Afghanistan and he could have been upset by what is happening in that country.
Then there is the corollary that we are not vigilant enough and we allow these things to happen. The killer was investigated not once, but twice, by the FBI, which never charged him. Yet, should this not have raised a red flag when he legally obtained two guns days before the shooting? And there is always the argument against the availability of high-powered weaponry that is obviously not meant for hunting deer. There is also the argument that the writers of the Constitution meant the 2nd Amendment to apply to a "well-regulated militia," not the proliferation of automatic guns and other weapons among unregulated, private citizens. One can easily point to countries in Europe and elsewhere that see far less gun violence because they regulate guns better than we do (they still see violence, but not on the same scale). Furthermore, the NRA argument that more guns, not fewer, is the answer is patently absurd. We have more guns than ever in private hands, yet the problem grows worse every week.
All of the above are valid points to be made and could all be factors that led to the shooting deaths of 50 people, but I like to keep things simple. The problem is much deeper than gun laws and prejudice and religious zealotry. The problem is a fundamental flaw in human nature to hate what we don't understand or what we fear.
Even now after this heinous act we see people spreading their venom about gay people, making matters worse. The infamous nutbag Pat Robertson has said that it is God punishing us because the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage is constitutional. And Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick posted a tweet that you "reap what you sew" (he has deleted the comment, but not before thousands saw what kind of person he truly is).
Why do people feel this way? Why do people spread hatred and commit acts of violence? In the case of gay hatred, my theory is that the worst perpetrators are the ones who have doubts about their own sexual feelings and use hatred as a way to deny them (how many times have you read stories of anti-gay senators or ministers being caught with their hands in the masculine cookie jar?)
But to be less specific, more generalized, the reasons are fear and ignorance. Why do countries go to war? Because they fear they do not have enough power and resources and they are vulnerable unless they conquer their neighbors. Why are people prejudiced against other cultures? Because they are ignorant about how others live, and they fear that which they do not understand. Why do Islamists kill people? Because they have been misled into believing that other people hate their God and don't respect Him. Why does the U.S. government have the biggest military in the world with bases all over the planet? Because we mistakenly believe that if others do not govern as we do or have capitalistic economies then they are a threat, and we also believe that we are wiser and more free than anyone, which just isn't so. Why do some people hate furries? Because they believe all the crap they see on TV and on the Internet and they are afraid of people who behave in imaginative ways they don't understand.
So, is there a solution? You cannot solve all the problems of the world by yourself, true, but you can be part of the solution. Educate yourself and learn about other people not just people like yourself. Show love and kindness toward your fellow humans and to Nature. Shine light on the world by being an example of acceptance and charity. Meanwhile, also strive to achieve inner peace and a connection with the universe. (By the way, this is also directed at those furries who seek to create division within our own ranks).
The Orlando shooting and other similar crimes serve as an example to all of us of what not to do, and how not to react when you are troubled or angry. The person who killed all those innocents is now dead. We cannot exact revenge, and to be angry and bitter offers no salvation.
The only way to fight ignorance is with education, and the only way to fight hatred is with love.
That is the lesson here.
Grubbs "Papabear" Grizzly
Jim's death has solidified in my heart and mind what the meaning of life is. One can only find meaning in Eternal Truths. Anything that is transitory or impermanent is not an Eternal Truth. These include things such as money, material goods, fame, and power. Love, however, is eternal and exists beyond the material. How am I sure? Jim, whose body was material, is gone, but my love for him persists and always will.
Now, that love once did not exist because there was a time before which I did not know Jim. But, after I met him and got to know him, I fell in love with him. Therefore, Love can be Created, and, if it is Real Love (not lust or romantic idealized love, but real love), it will always exist.
Therefore, we are beings who have the power of Generative Love, and that is the remarkable gift that God has given us.
Our purpose, then, is not to seek to be loved (passive love, because you are merely receiving it), but to learn to love and to create everlasting love in the universe.
(Real love does not dictate, does not seek to change others, but is accepting of others for who they are.)
If you seek to do something truly meaningful in your life, then go out and create a loving world.
For the longest time, culminating in these bizarre 2016 elections, I have operated under the assumption that what has mattered in the world on an international scale is the conflict between the rich and powerful vs. the poor and disenfranchised. I’ve even explored the whole New World Order/Illuminati/secret societies thing, the conspiracies about how “they” want to return to a world of rich royalty and serfs a la the Medieval Age. Such has been the history of mankind, a cycle of empire building, rebellions, empires falling again, new empires rising, over and over again. All orchestrated by the NWO?
Let’s assume there is a secret group of ultra-powerful plotters out there orchestrating wars, elections, and so on. Perhaps the goal isn’t actually to create a wealthy elite who hoard money and material goods. Powerful dynasties and rich families have, as noted above, risen and fallen in the past, and even if they did so again, the ultimate end would be a new rebellion and return to another equilibrium. Pointless.
What if the goal is actually to keep this cycle going? Keep a struggle between rich and poor, powerful and powerless going, up and down, back and forth, forever? The point? As long as humanity is preoccupied with material resources, armies, borders, wealth, power, etc., we are never going to evolve spiritually into new, enlightened beings.
A good example of how this works is religion. The best religions might actually start with good intentions, but they become corrupted once the true power elite discover what is going on, so that the new religion can become part of the cycle. Thus, Jesus becomes a prophet of truth, but when a sect known as the Gnostics teaches that one can have a direct connection to God and Jesus without a priestly elite, that sect is quickly destroyed to be replaced by an approved religion, Catholicism, with a hierarchy, power, and wealth. The Protestants break away from the Catholics, setting up more fighting, which is even better in the minds of those truly in control. Or, a prophet called Muhammad comes up with some nice ideas about God, only to have his followers fight over who his successor will be, creating Sunnis and Shiites who will be forever fighting each other and forgetting what the prophet originally meant. Or the Jews, the Chosen People, become obsessed with the idea that they need a political state and that real estate is all that really matters, thus setting up an endless war in the Middle East.
And while everyone is grabbing at real estate, or oil, or water, or money, or control over political systems, shadows lurk in the darkness and laugh at us, knowing we will not become a threat because we will remain animals instead of a new, spiritual species.
Without an NWO or some other power, then the pattern still remains, only we just have ourselves to blame for our lack of progress.
I, for one, refuse to play this game. I am going to focus on what really matters: my spirit and my love for others.
This is not something I normally do, but I found out about a website today that I think is just wonderful. It's called Rainbow Ark and is a site to help promote understanding between furry, religious, and LGBT people and to help those who are furries or LGBT to see that they can follow a faith and not be excluded. Rainbow Ark has a website, a Live Journal page, a Facebook page, and they are on FurAffinity. Also, they have a buddy organization called Open Arms that has this FA page.
Guess this is just one of those times when ol' Papabear is a little slow to discover something so cool. Check 'em out!
As you know, Papabear gets a lot of letters about love and relationships, so this seemed like a good time to write a note to all of you about love.
I think the most frequent problem I see from letter writers is that they think love is something that they get from someone else. They are troubled when they feel they are not getting the attention they deserve. While it is important that the other person in your life respects you and cares about you, you should never think of love in terms of what the other person does for you. If you are truly in love with someone, you'll know it because the only thing on your mind will be "How can I help my love be happy?"
Love isn't about sex. Love isn't about money. Yes, these are important issues, but love is about a heart connection that cannot be broken if it is real love. I've often written about the issues of sex and money in relationships, but I want to make it clear that when I do so it is really more in terms about whether lovers have respect for one another, not so much about the money and sex itself. For example, perhaps the one you love is poor and is having trouble finding work, but he or she is trying very hard to do right by you: they don't take advantage of the fact that you have money and they don't use you; they sincerely try their best to get by. That is a person you can support and love back.
I've sometimes written about long distance relationships, and I'm going to change my POV there a little, if you don't mind. I'm currently in the longest of long distance relationships that is possible because the one I love is now in the spirit world. Yet my love is still strong. Given this, who the hell am I to say that a relationship via Skype or an iPhone is less possible?
There is a thing in physics called "entanglement." This is a phenomenon described by quantum physics in which two or more particles influence their physical states ... and they do so no matter the distance between them. They can be in different galaxies and still interact with one another.
I must amend my opinion on LDRs, then. Love knows no distance. Love knows no barriers or boundaries. Love is not limited by time. Love just is.
As we travel through this existence, we learn and grow. Papabear is no exception to this. Every letter I write, I do so with sincerity and in the spirit of helping. You, dear letter writers, actually help me to learn and grow, too. We can help each other along the way, and that is what life here is all about.
Whether you are with someone or all alone today, you are never truly alone. The universe cares about you. And I care about you. Thank you for contributing to this column and thank you for being you.
Happy Valentine's Day,
A note on comments: Comments on letters to Papabear are welcome, especially those that offer extra helpful advice and add something to the conversation that is of use to the letter writer and those reading this column. Also welcome are constructive criticisms and opposing views. What is NOT welcome are hateful, hurtful comments, flaming, and trolling. Such comments will be deleted from this site. Thank you.