Friday, July 21, 2017

Back in March

of this year I urged you to watch a movie titled Get Out. It's now available on DVD.

You can also watch a video on youtube that addresses some of the ways the movie challenges white fragility. (I would embed the video here but I haven't had good luck with doing this)

If you haven't watched the movie...be aware that the youtube video has a number of spoilers in it.

Watch the movie...then watch the video. It's way past time for us white folks to work toward challenging our ignorance.


Saturday, July 8, 2017

You can run...

Last week I posted about a book I'm reading titled: The Inability to Mourn.

I mentioned how eerie are the similarities between postwar Germany and U.S. society...except U.S. society isn't "postwar" in the sense of being defeated and occupied. There's no "occupier" of the U.S. in the way it happened to Germany.

We don't have an occupier here but we do have a fantasy about ourselves (our societal self-concept). We believe we're the "land of the free" and that "all men are created equal" and that we have "liberty and justice for all".

We (this society that's dominated by white people here in the U.S.) enslaved humans for centuries, we finally figured out that it was not OK to enslave humans...but...we had to have a murderous and destructive debacle (called the civil war) to quit doing that stuff.

Think of it...millions were so deluded that they were willing to fight a war so they could continue to engage in enslaving humans. When you're willing to die for something like that...well...that's pretty creepy.

We finally quit legally enslaving humans (except aspects of our current penal system look suspiciously like human enslavement) ...but we really didn't do the psychological work necessary to give up the delusion of one group of humans being "superior" to other groups of humans. Apparently renouncing the fantasy of white people being "superior" seemed too daunting.

To avoid that painful and difficult loss we hung onto that delusion but we gussied it up to ourselves to make it more palatable ("scientific" racism) and kept on believing the same old distortions...and kept on enacting societal rules to exploit "inferior" groups and kept on acting like there were "superior" and "inferior" groups of people (those rules were known as "jim crow" or segregation or apartheid).

The humans who were being deemed "inferior" and were being harmed by those laws and attitudes resisted and pushed for change strongly enough (and some so-called "superior" white humans agreed with them) to cause a period of civil unrest (called the '60s') which finally culminated in the legal rejection of 'jim crow' type laws in 1950s and 1960s.

But...once again we (the majority of white people) didn't do the work necessary to give up the "superior" "inferior" delusion...we just got good at avoiding talking about it (those who objected to not being able to openly talk racial superiority and hatred and delusion called this avoidance "political correctness") and we worked at being good at believing we didn't have racism anymore...we called that being "colorblind".

Do you see the pattern here?

We as a nation (we who are white people in it anyway) seem to think that if we sort of behave ok (or at least pay lip service to behaving ok) that we can keep on thinking/feeling the same way (and denying that we're continuing to think and feel and often acting in the same ways).

It's as if we believe that if we create an appearance of fair behavior then that means we don't really have to think/feel in a way that supports fairness. We might have to pretend we think/feel fairly and overtly appear to sort of act fairly but we don't really change our structures of delusion.

But...oops...all of a sudden enough Americans vote for a white man to be president who openly thinks/feels just like presidents did before the civil rights era...maybe even like some did before the civil war. That president surrounds himself with white people who dang sure sound like many of the white yahoos in power did before the civil rights era.

Note: It's possible that we are seeing what is sometimes called "regression in the service of the ego". For instance, most break-ups of couples usually involve several instances where they broke up and went back together before the final severing of the relationship. We mostly never just quit something...we tend to go to and fro for awhile first. Let us all hope that what is going on now is an instance of just that. 

Hmmm...is there a clue here?

We're still struggling with a centuries old belief in a delusion we created to excuse our horrid behavior. (white men created race and racism to hide their own awful behavior from themselves)

Sorry folks, you don't get to cling to delusion without your behavior being influenced by that delusion...you can fake it for awhile, but it will show through. And those delusions are murderous and destructive ones that cause suffering and harm beyond measure...to millions and millions of U.S. citizens. And...those delusions hurt white people in that we have to avoid accurately perceiving reality in order to hold onto our delusions. (and that means we make bad and stupid decisions again and again and again)

Unless and until we white people are courageous enough and committed enough to do the hard and painful effort of working through and giving up our delusions of "superiority" the same old awful stuff is going to keep on keeping on...until we completely destroy ourselves...and maybe even Mother Earth.

Psychological reality 101. You can't make cosmetic and superficial changes in overt behavior and ignore the emotional and cognitive internal configuration that supports and upholds awful behavior and expect things to go well.

You can't "pretend" your way through it...you have to dive in and do the hard stuff...you have to feel your losses, feel your pain, do your mourning and grieving over the death of your delusion.

There are no shortcuts or easy ways out of doing the hard work. You have to own up to behaving horribly, you have to let go of fake "innocence", you have to take responsibility and be accountable for your own doings...or the doings of your ancestors that you benefit (materially) from.

Trying to avoid doing the work means the awfulness continues. Denying reality works to magnify and perpetuate the harm.

The deficient and twisted people in positions of power in our government are the logical and inevitable outcomes of we white people failing to do our work of clearly comprehending ourselves and mourning the loss of our false "superiority" and "innocence".

If you were "shocked" at the result of this last presidential election, then you have much psychological work to do because your "shock" indicates a failure to comprehend your society/nation...and probably a lack of comprehension of yourself. 

When there is a loss, there must be mourning...even when the loss is of something that you're much better off without. Ya gotta mourn the loss of good stuff and you have to mourn the loss of bad stuff. Mourning is part of the work that lets you mature and move on...and if you don't do it...you don't grow up and you don't move on. You just keep on acting/thinking/feeling monstrously. You might become more skilled at being a fake...but you don't mature.

Our (white people) failure to do our work is why we're stuck and why we keep having the same kinds of "problems" arise again and again and again.

We white people haven't done our work and so here we are...with fake "adults" running our government.

Do we have the courage to grow up? I dunno. I grapple with my own growing up all the time, sometimes I fail at it...sometimes I don't. I am working to grow up though...and that's a very different stance than denying that I need to grow up, that's very different than trying to "fake" it.

Look around...U.S. society and the "leadership" of the nation is a perfect example of what happens when a bunch of people (again, mostly white people) deny that they need to feel their pain and experience their losses and do their mourning. The effects of such a failure is sometimes called the repetition compulsion...which is another way of saying you can run but you can't hide.

We white folks can do better than this, can't we? 1492 was a long time ago.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

A quote from a book

which was published in 1975 (but apparently there's an earlier edition from 1967) goes like this:
When psychic defense mechanisms such as denial and repression play an excessive role in the solution of conflicts, whether on the individual or collective level, perception of reality invariably narrows and stereotyped prejudices spread; in reciprocal reinforcement, the prejudices in turn protect the process of repression or denial from disturbance. p14, The Inability To Mourn
The book was written about Germany after WWII and it's very interesting since it frames the German society setting and its dealings with the Hitler era in psychological/psychoanalytic terms...which...resonates with me because of my educational background.

The book is spooky in that I've learned enough about the U.S. and how our society is structured by dominance/subordination to easily see staggering similarities between the Germany described in the book and the U.S.

I'm beginning to think all this stuff is just Europe (maybe) or any nation where the society is pretty much controlled/shaped by white men.

A book discussion group I attend just finished a book by a white guy and by the 3rd week of talking about the book...almost everyone quit coming to the group (which had never happened before) and I realized that in the months I've been attending this weekly group...this book was the first one we had focused on that was written by a white guy. It was some piece of fluff (recommended by a white guy) about "higher" spirituality...all it was doing was advocating ignoring the horror around us and working to feel good anyway. Jeez.

I'm pretty much convinced that any book written by a white guy that's about society or how to live or stuff like that is mostly blather. The exception might be if they are writing in a way that rejects the status quo or is pointed toward drastic revision of society, then they might be worth listening to...otherwise they're pretty much full of crap. That includes talking heads you see on TV or any white guys in movies.

Ever notice how movies that feature white men are almost always some sort of hero fantasy that is consistent with how a 10 year old boy thinks? Help!

Think about it...the civil war (U.S.), WWI and WWII and and and and...all brought to you courtesy of...guess who...white men. Why would anyone think white guys had anything to say worth listening to? And yet, I grew up being taught that they knew best, I believed they did and and I listened and listened and listened for decades. Good grief.

White men might be ok as plumbers and technicians and such, but as far as having a handle on how society can operate in a way that enhances life for everyone...we would be smart to run if they try to talk about that. 

I'm embarrassed at my foolishness to not have picked up on all this before now. And I'm embarrassed that I'm a white man. Oy vey!    

Friday, June 23, 2017

On May 23rd, 2010...

I began writing and posting here as veganelder. That's a bit more than seven years ago.

Here's that first post...in its entirety:
Sunday, May 23, 2010
Initial Post
My primary purpose in establishing this blog is to add my voice to the community of humans that are horrified, justly so, by the carnage and destruction visited on most living things and on the environment by the manner in which most of us conduct our lives. 
The earth was not made for us, other species were not made for us, yet we treat other living beings and the earth itself as if they were all a cheap motel room that we checked into under an alias and no consequences will accrue to us no matter what we do.

Aaargh, it makes my head feel like exploding and I am too old to have to feel this way.
Seven years...and...humans here in the U.S.A. haven't changed much.

My coping skills are greater and I generally don't feel as if my head is exploding as often. The provocations that I perceive for that feeling are more frequent now...hopefully because I comprehend and perceive more...but I manage to avoid getting quite as upset. My sorrow is greater and my confusion is less.

Something I've come to realize more fully over these years is that I occupy three identities which are, as far as I can tell, the most harmful and destructive triumvirate ever...human, male and white. Jeez. If they were clubs...I wouldn't join them.

Seven years writing a blog...good grief. 

Friday, June 9, 2017

Sometimes I write

and as I proceed I realize that I'm writing to myself as much (or maybe more) than I am to the 'reader'. It's sort of embarrassing to admit that I'm writing to myself while seeming to write to a 'reader' or an 'audience'...but...there ya go.

I recently had an email from a friend who is reading: "Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI." I haven't read the book (and probably won't) but she is both liking it and appalled by what she's learning from it.  

(Note: The "and probably won't" bit reflects my efforts to avoid taking in the thinking/writing/speaking of information that comes from white men. I've been having white men to "explain things to me" most of my life and since I ended up deeply deluded I'm making efforts to drastically decrease my intake of "knowing" from that particular group of folks. I attempt to restrict my sources of viewpoint and knowledge to members of any group other than heterosexual and cis gendered white men. I realize that's no guarantee of not encountering flawed thinking but it, hopefully, reduces input from an almost invariably distorted viewpoint. White women (especially heterosexual and cis gendered white women) aren't much better. Since I belong to the white man group...you probably should be suspicious of anything I write, ok?
 

An admittedly poor rubric I use is that any thinking/writing/speaking about non-technical knowings that doesn't acknowledge racism and/or speciesism and/or sexism and work to critique the social status quo is almost guaranteed to be distorted by white supremacist and/or human supremacist and/or male supremacist taintings. There are folks around who acknowledge all those sources of human destructiveness, but they're few in number. Aph Ko, Sistah Vegan , pattrice jones , Christopher McJetters and Lauren Ornelas are examples of writers/thinkers who are aware of and work to grapple simultaneously and insightfully with these human horrors.) 

In her email she included this statement: "We are barbarians at heart...".

What she wrote made all kinds of alarm bells go off in me and so I wrote back with an elaboration of what that phrase caused me to think about. I responded:

"You wrote: "We are barbarians at heart..."

I'm working hard at being cautious about universalizing (I'm not against conscious generalizing mind you, but avoiding universalizing and instead trying to look at the groupings in universalizing seems to bring elements of clarity to my thinking). Therefore, I would mostly agree with your statement if it read: "Heterosexual and cis gendered, capitalistic white man are murderous and greedy jerks at heart...". (Well, maybe not "at heart"...about their "being" I can't know...so not so much that but dang sure in how they behave.)

The pronoun we (all of us may be susceptible to being that way but...in truth...here in the good old USA (and...pretty much world wide) the culprits are almost invariably white men) is too universal for me and...if I remember correctly...barbarian was a term used by the ancient Greeks to refer to anyone who wasn't a Greek. It's only over time that it has taken on the derogatory cast it has in English. (by the way, I believe capitalism profoundly entices anyone engaging in it to behave in awful ways)


In truth...most all the horrors in Europe and Africa and most everywhere including here have been instigated by and carried out by white men (capitalistic, cis gendered, heterosexual white men)...those who would be considered to be "civilized". (and...in the cases where it wasn't white men...Rwanda and Cambodia (Pol Pot) come to mind although there are likely others too...both were (if I'm remembering correctly) societies that had been deeply deformed by colonialism (white men again!)).

So it's all weird to me anymore...for instance, Germany...the epitome of "civilization" and culture carried out the most concentrated and industrialized campaign of terror and murder ever in the history of the planet.

"Southern gentlemen" presided over a regime of human enslavement and terror and torture for centuries here in the USA.

In recognition of those truths, I think I'll place my allegiances with the barbarians. Ya know?:-)

Pardon the didactic tone...I'm writing this more to remind myself about this stuff than anything. I'm not pointing at you...I'm struggling to teach myself.

One of the features that seems to be very much entwined in and upholding of "white thinking" is to step away from inconvenient and unsettling specificity or accurate identification of the actors of awfulness and immediately flee into ameliorating and falsifying universalizing and abstracting. 


"We are all barbarians at heart..." works to let white men off the hook and indict all humans instead.

Hence, it might be true that we're all bad stuff at heart...but...the fact is...probably 80% (at a minimum) of the human created horrors we're aware of would disappear if all capitalistic, cis gendered, heterosexual, white men were rendered powerless. 


That's a truth as far as I know and...it almost never gets said out loud. I think maybe it needs to be said often and loudly. (Be aware that doing so is risky business because that group is notoriously prone to violently subdue anyone who outs them or opposes them.)

Having a penis doesn't make anyone awful, having white skin doesn't make anyone awful, being heterosexual doesn't make anyone awful, being cis gendered doesn't make anyone awful, engaging in capitalism doesn't necessarily make anyone awful...but the combination of those has produced most of the human created horror and misery that has ever occurred...at least as far as I can tell."


That's essentially what I wrote back to her. I've re-read it several times and thought about it quite a bit...and...jeez...it's pretty much my viewpoint right now. 

I began moving toward where I am now when I went vegan about 10 years ago, then when I began working hard at becoming less ignorant about race/racism 2 or 3 years ago this perspective started emerging from the fog of human supremacy and white male supremacy I had staggered around in for most of my life. No way do I believe I've "arrived" or anything...no one escapes a lifetime of conditioning that easily or completely...but humans make much more 'sense' to me than they ever have (and it's a terrible and sad 'sense' that we make)

That's how I comprehend us (and I realize that 'comprehension' is stated in generalized terms for which a number of exceptions exist and which flattens stuff way too much to be anything more than temporary and tentative and riddled with error)...right now anyway.

 

Sunday, June 4, 2017

How things change...

versus how they only appear to change.

Yesterday while driving I ended up behind a car that had on its back windshield two small stickers that were side by side, one said "Pro God" and the other said "Pro Gun".

Only the day before yesterday I had been re-reading an article by Sarah L. Hoagland that has the complicated title: "Denying Relationality: Epistemology and Ethics and Ignorance."

I know, I know...it's quite a mouthful...but...believe it or not the title and the article actually makes sense to me (I'm still working at it though). I'm not familiar enough with the contents of the article yet to coherently present a summary of it, so relax.

But...what prompts me to write a post about this is that the article has several numbered notes at the end and Dr. Hoagland included this one:
2. For example, unable to hold their own when debating Mexica (Aztec, pronounced "meecheeka") tlamantini (Mexica philosophers or wise ones) over the rationality of their Christian god, Spanish Jesuits simply shot them (Dussel 1995, 112)...
The note (only part of which I reproduced here) is referring to the behavior of the Spanish invaders when they first came to the western hemisphere some 500 years ago.

Those Jesuits (pro god folks) were also apparently pro gun folks even centuries ago.

It made me feel really eerie...and rather sad...to be behind that car and see those stickers and remember that note from the article.

Yes, change happens...but...often change is much more apparent than real.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Talynn Kel

writes and posts on her website: Breaking Normal: Living My Life As Authentically As I Can. 

She's an excellent writer and recently wrote an essay that she posted on Medium titled: "If I Were White".

I like the essay, a lot. I especially liked these questions: "Would I be someone capable of the reflection necessary to divest myself from whiteness? Or would I meld with that identity and embrace the monster U.S. society encourages white people to be?"

That first question is one way of asking whether someone is capable/willing to examine what their ancestors told them (their history) about life and the world and "how things were" and then choose to reject lies that resulted in harm to others.

It's a good question. 


I was thinking about this and it occurred to me that not many ever even ask a question like this....much less act upon it.

Sometimes it's an ordeal all on its own to even become aware enough ask the question, much less to then put forth the effort necessary to work toward change. 

I wonder if part of how awfulness keeps reproducing itself from generation to generation to generation isn't because it's so difficult even to figure out to ask the necessary questions?

Maybe that's a manifestation of invisibility.

It's a good essay, read it. 

If you're white and it results in your feeling attacked, that's your ancestors white supremacist conditioning that's been bequeathed to you and it's still working.

Friday, May 19, 2017

White people teaching white people

teaching white people teaching white people out of books written by white people for white people...for generations.

Robin DiAngelo makes this fairly simple but profound observation in one of her talks.

Next time you encounter a white person who thinks they know about race/racism and they haven't spent some seriously lengthy time studying about it...just think about that white people teaching white people thingee and ask yourself...how did they gain all that knowledge that they think they have?

We white folks cherish our ignorance and go to great lengths to hang onto it and also simultaneously we pretend we aren't ignorant. It's silly and embarrassing, really.




Friday, May 12, 2017

In the book Feminist Theory, From Margin to Center...

bell hooks writes something quite remarkable to consider:
As a group, black women are in an unusual position in this society, for not only are we collectively at the bottom of the occupational ladder, but our overall social status is lower than that of any other group. Occupying such a position, we bear the brunt of sexist, racist, and classist oppression. At the same time, we are the group that has not been socialized to assume the role of exploiter/oppressor in that we are allowed no institutionalized "other" than we can exploit or oppress (Children do not represent an institutionalized other even though they may be oppressed by parents. White women and black men have it both ways. They can act as oppressor or be oppressed.... p. 14-15
 Hmmm...not socialized to exploit/oppress any group of humans.

Hmmm...

(update)

Certainly it is the case that since I've embarked on my stumbling attempt to become more aware and knowledgeable about humans oppressing humans, most especially about race/racism, as well as other manifestations of this ugly phenomenon...the insights and comprehendings that are the products of African American women are astonishing in their depth and breadth. It just might be the quote from bell hooks identifies the unique lived life experience(s) of this group that might account for their prescience.

I can confidently say that without a lot of knowing about the thinkings and writings of many of the members of this group, anyone's knowledge about humans enacting oppression will be deficient.

I've referenced a number of these remarkable people in my previous posts on this blog, if you want a taste of some writing from one of them you can visit the writings over on the Black Girl Dangerous website for a treat. Sistah Vegan and Aph Ko are a couple of others who, in addition to insights about human on human oppression, also offer knowledge about humans oppressing all Earthlings.

If you're serious about dismantling your ignorance...you can start by grappling with the works of bell hooks, she's astonishing, and brave, and wise, and remarkable. And, she is only one of many.  

Friday, May 5, 2017

May 4th, 1970

...that was 47 years ago.

"The Kent State shootings (also known as the May 4 massacre or the Kent State massacre) were the shootings of unarmed college students protesting the Vietnam War at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, by members of the Ohio National Guard on May 4, 1970. Twenty-nine guardsmen fired approximately 67 rounds over a period of 13 seconds, killing four students and wounding nine others, one of whom suffered permanent paralysis."


Thinking back on those times confirms to me that any genuine and/or fundamental change in how this country operates is going to involve a lot of violence and death. Anyone who lived through those times and still thinks Trump is/was an anomaly wasn't paying attention. White men here have been the worst of the worst for centuries.

The My Lai Massacre would start becoming "news" the same year the students were murdered at Kent State. Both those events were ones where mostly young white guys did the murdering.

Back then a saying went "don't trust anyone over 30". It would have been more accurate to have been something like "don't trust white guys (age doesn't matter)...they'll kill you...and they'll probably get away with it".

The way things operate in the U.S. really haven't changed all that much. White men will do awful things and if you oppose them...you just might be murdered.


Friday, April 28, 2017

Not unusual...

There are a large number of variants of this sequence of happenings. I first ran across it several decades ago. Apparently it was first put together by some irreverent wit who was adding a dose of reality to the high-flown phrases that are usually presented as the sequence of steps in project management

1. Wild enthusiasm
2. Disillusionment

3. Confusion

4. Panic

5. Search for the guilty

6. Punishment of the innocent

7. Distinction for the uninvolved

8. Burying the bodies, scattering the ashes 

I was struck by how many things that go on in large work related undertakings seem to eerily resemble, in some form or fashion,  the steps as they're presented above...as contrasted to how they're presented in writings and memos and thinkings and talkings about projects.

That sequence, or different versions of it, also seems to occur in many different settings and circumstances whenever anything new is attempted...at least that's what I've noticed. I've been involved in such debacles in my life, I saw such stuff in my family when I was growing up and I've witnessed this stuff in other lives too.

And rarely is any writing or talking about what has happened ever stated in quite this way. Life often mocks our attempts to control it and sometimes there's someone around who's willing to point this out in a humorous way.


  

Saturday, April 22, 2017

If the world only knew

is a phrase that is uttered by a woman who escaped being murdered by the racist regime of Hitler era Germany. She believed (erroneously) that if peoples in other nations knew what was being done in Germany, they would act to interrupt and/or prevent it. My presumption is that when she says "the world" she means humans outside of the control of the German state.

(Note: for those of you who are vegan and have tried to tell others in the "world" about the horror inflicted on our sister/brother Earthlings, unnecessarily, by we humans...you know all about about the futility of telling about what is happening. If you realize that, then you must consider that other kinds of horrors are ongoing and that humans (maybe including you) do not want to know about them either. The rule seems to be...for every 'terrible awful' that persists there is are powerful and persistent dynamics that promote indifference and invisibility. Think about it and let me know if you discover a persistent 'terrible awful' that humans do that doesn't also have accompanying processes that promote indifference and invisibility...especially in those not targeted by the 'terrible awful'.) 

She says this in a relatively brief video (~17 minutes) which focuses on the coverage of the genocide that took place between 1939 and 1945. The video looks at the New York Times and notes the fact that of over 23,000 front page articles published in that newspaper from 1939 to 1945, only 26 were about the holocaust. (that's about 0.00113 percent)

The horror that was happening in Europe was known...it just wasn't talked about or publicized. There's that process of invisibling again, notice how it has an affinity for horror and atrocity? 

A central part of the video elaborates about the strong anti-Jewish racism that characterized American society during that time and the fears/concerns that the decision makers at the NY Times had about arousing push-back from those who ascribed to this variant of racism and their concern about losing their readers if they focused coverage on the racial atrocities in Europe.

A question asked in the video is "how could such horror not be questioned?".

Two years ago I would have asked myself the same thing...now I grasp that for white men, maybe the most upsetting thing about the Hitlerite genocide was that Hitler did it in Europe. The dismay was driven more by being aghast at where what was done than by being aghast at what was done. (there's a reason prisons and death camps and slaughter houses are tucked away where they're not easily seen by the public, such hiding helps with invisibling)

White people (men) had been doing very much the same sorts of things in other parts of the world for centuries. Hitler had the audacity to do that stuff in the very part of the world where it all started and it couldn't be hidden.

That "stuff" was called "colonization". An example...the town where I live in Oklahoma has a parade every year that "celebrates" some of the activities of "settlers" (which is a term used here in the U.S. to refer to colonists). Most of us white people have yet to clearly and accurately look at what "colonization" meant or what it continues to mean.

One way to think about Hitler was that he treated the Romany people and the Jewish people (and other marginalized groups) as if they were being colonized by Germans...but he did it where avoiding knowledge and awareness of it was impossible (especially after he screwed around and lost the war). Do you really think we would have the same awareness of the holocaust that we do if Germany had won the war?

Here in Norman, a local parade celebrates a "land run" which is a nice sounding way of referring to giving land to white people (men) which was stolen (taken by force or threat of force) from Native Americans. Colonization. Think about the parades or other "celebrations" that might be going on in Germany now if the Hitler regime had won the war. Do you really think we're "different"?

Oklahomans are quasi-educated about the "Trail of Tears", which was a death march where native people were 'removed' (again by force or threat of force) from their homelands (where they had lived for centuries) and were made to go to lands that white people didn't want (right then anyway, later white men would decided they wanted much of that "unwanted" land). That land white men initially didn't want is now what is called Oklahoma.

Most Oklahomans are oblivious to the fact that the supreme court had ruled that the Native Americans could not be forced from their lands in Georgia and the president (Andrew Jackson) decided to do it anyway. Here in the U.S. we're big on the law, unless it gets in the way of what white men want. (notice what's going on with the new president)

Be aware...you who are reading this will henceforth be unable to truthfully say that you've never encountered the idea before that a big part of the horror of the holocaust was because colonial practices were carried out too openly and too close to "home".

And, to make it even more dismaying, it was directed at peoples that were/are often considered to be "white" or at least "honorary whites". (Cori Wong points out that most Americans don't "get it" that being perturbed and upset over the Hitlerite holocaust and ignoring of or minimizing toward other genocides is, in part, driven by racism stemming from the fact that the majority of the victims in Europe were "honorary whites" and victims of genocides elsewhere were people of color. There are other factors involved too, but she most certainly makes a very significant point.)

It was a manifestation of the real and sobering reality that what is done to "others" who "aren't like you" might also be done to those who are "like" you, that what is done "there" might be done "here".

Understand; such horrors happened before 1939 -1945, they just happened in lands away from Europe and they happened to people who were considered to be People of Color. You can read about Belgium's genocide in Africa in the 1880s here and you can read about the centuries long (beginning in 1492) genocidal campaign against Native Americans here. There have been multiple other instances of such "civilizing" horrors. Do some studying and you'll find that numerous efforts to terrorize and murder people by the colonizing European nations had occurred prior to the Hitlerite atrocities. 

Many of the problems we white men have are involved with our efforts to deny the realization that it's not "who" you do awful things to that's the crux of the problem.

Our efforts to dismantle these practices must struggle with the thinking that makes the doing of these kinds of awful things even possible. The "who" is variable and will change according to circumstances. The problem isn't "who" is designated inferior or superior...the problem is the error of the inferior/superior trap itself.

One way to help counter the conditioning to be unknowing about this stuff is to focus on impact and be very leery of intent. We've been taught excellent skills to assist us in fooling ourselves, but gearing our attention to impact and not intent can assist in subverting such self-deceptive practices. 

Farting around and believing you can do awful things if you only do them to the "right" beings or that if your intent is good or benign then you're "innocent" is a part of what's allowed this centuries long debacle of racism to continue.

Applying hierarchies of value, including the "superior/inferior" binary to living beings almost always leads to debacle, whether such practices are applied to "race" or "gender" or "species". 

That illusion or fantasy of "superior"/"inferior" seems to be an profound attraction for we humans (white men especially) and it may well prove to be fatal to all of us unless we're wise enough and brave enough to recognize it for what it is and reject it. 

An acceptable singular moment to think of as the beginning of the era of modern colonization would be the when Christopher Columbus "discovered" the "new world" (the western hemisphere).

In the centuries after 1492, Europeans (white men) developed and elaborated the methods of exploitation used to enrich themselves and their nations at the expense of the indigenous peoples of the western hemisphere and of Africa and of Asia. Land theft and displacement and/or murder of the original inhabitants of the land and human enslavement characterized these "explorations" which affected most of the peoples of the world outside of Europe.

Native peoples in North America were eventually (after attempts to enslave them proved to be too difficult and it was found to be easier to kidnap peoples from Africa and bring them to the "new world" to work as slave labor) deemed to be not useful.

Thereafter the main white people's societal response to them was to eradicate them as living beings and to also attempt to eradicate their culture (boarding schools) from the consciousness of those who were not exterminated. All in the name of the "good" of "civilizing" them.

Here in the U.S., I was taught that "settlers" and "pioneers" were good and brave people who were only striving to make a "new life" for themselves. That's the story all colonizing societies tell themselves to make them feel all warm and fuzzy about themselves and their ancestors. Here in the U.S., "settlers" and "pioneers" were the folks who benefited from land theft and "removal" and murder and and kidnapping and human enslavement. I wasn't told much of anything about that part or what I was told was framed in such a way that it seemed to be tragic or sad, but "necessary" and that it's all better now. No need to worry myself about all that stuff that's in the past and is "ancient history".

Spoiler alert...reading this paragraph might be upsetting. If you're white and you live in North America and you're not an overt and blatant racist, then, like me, you're sort of the moral equivalent of those "settlers" and "pioneers". We're just trying to live our lives, we don't want to hurt anyone or take what's not ours...but...we participate in a system created by taking from others and we participate in a system (from which we benefit) that engages in ongoing taking from and depriving others. Remember my example about pay differentials? That's just one example of numerous practices of harm that are made invisible to us (that's so we can motor along feeling good about ourselves as we uphold and support a system of harm to those with less social power)

White men developed the ideologies and worldviews used to justify these practices. The ideology of "race" served to render their murder and theft acceptable, natural and "normal" and it also served to allow white men to think of themselves as 'innocent' and/or 'good' and/or 'well-intentioned' (although such innocence and goodness is false and untrue, nevertheless it was strongly held and continues to be strongly held by we who are influenced by (implicit or explicit) racial biases).

Being able to behave like a monster while simultaneously believing ones self to be 'good' and 'innocent' is a variant of the notion of having ones cake and eating it too. It's an impossibility...but if reality is ignored and/or denied it can seem as if it is "real".

Back to the video and the New York Times. Think about the dominant culture in the U.S. between 1939 and 1945. Antisemitism was openly acceptable and on display, anti-black racism was openly acceptable and on display, anti-Native American racism (and racism targeting other people of color) was blatant and "normal" here in the "land of the free". It was socially acceptable, legally enforced and...well..."natural" and just "common sense". (just writing that scares the pee out of me and makes me cringe...and it should you too...what horrors now are considered "common sense"?)

When laws that enforced these racist ideologies were not thought severe enough, mob lynchings of African Americans occurred. This website lists lynchings by year and indicates more than 20 African Americans were murdered by non-state sanctioned groups of white men during that time span.

If we think about what the U.S. was like during the time the holocaust was underway in Europe then it becomes less remarkable that the New York Times devoted so very little prominent coverage to what was being done to subordinated groups in Europe.

In the video you will see a clip of Father Charles Coughlin saying that what Americans would do to Jews would be worse than what the Germans were doing to Jews.

Here's a photo of Coughlin, a Catholic priest.


He was the 1930s version of the haters like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly and various Fox news puppets who are all over the broadcast airways today. (and now they're in control of our executive branch of government) 

It's an "American tradition" to lend credence to those who advocate for hatred and violence (often in the name of "self-defense" or "safety" or "national security"). The person who is the newly installed U.S. president fits in well with this very common "American tradition" of racist white men. None of this stuff is new, none of these ways of thinking are new...they are the "norm" for European white men, especially white men here in the U.S. 

We white people (mainly men) may seem to change but that's misleading...we've been doing the same things and thinking the same ways for centuries, only the characters have changed and some of their words have changed...but the core ideas and practices haven't.

What often makes this difficult to comprehend is the insidious excellence with which racism and the hierarchical valuing of different groups of humans disguises and invisibles itself. It morphs to fit the times and to render it difficult to recognize.

Here's an excellent quote from an Ava DuVernay documentary titled "13th".
“History is not just stuff that happens by accident. We are the products of history that our ancestors choose, if we’re white. If we are black, we are the products of the history that our ancestors mostly likely did not choose. Yet here we are all together, the products of that set of choices. And we have to understand that in order to escape from it." Kevin Gannon; Professor of History at Grandview University
History is one of most powerful guides we have available to render comprehensible or visible that which is hidden from ourselves. It's often easier to 'see'/grasp/comprehend things/events once they are in the past rather than when we're right in the middle of them happening.

If we study history, we can then use that increased comprehension to apply to "now" and make the features of our lived reality more understandable. But...we have to do the work of learning and studying and thinking...otherwise..."now" is likely to remain wrapped in a veil of confusion and incomprehension and invisibility. 

If we don't do the work, then, we're at risk not only of being the product of a history chosen by our ancestors (if we're white)...we will not have the ability to comprehend the choices that were made that created our understandings and position in the world.

We will lack the necessary tools we need to make our own choices, instead we will be doomed to play out the choices made by those who lived before us. We will believe those choices are ours, but they're not. (Unless we're just a murderous asshole no matter what...but...that's actually not most of us. The majority have to hide truth and reality from themselves in order to behave monstrously...that's part of why invisibling is so necessary to keeping this crap going.)

It's impossible to be "free", if by free we mean making our own, carefully considered and with a minimization of coercion/deception, choices unless and until we become knowing and understanding of that history which produced us and created our perceived framework of choosings. (I'm tempted to write "either you master your history or it will master you", but that's a bit trite...even though there's truth in it)

Watch the video, ask yourself whether the people talking (especially the white men) really comprehend the horrors of colonization. I suspect they don't. They grasp that horror occurred and that the NY Times didn't devote extensive reporting to that horror while it was happening...but they seem oblivious to the lesson that the thinking that led to the horror is where change must be made. 

(As always, I'm floundering around trying to figure this stuff out and...I'm limited by my being socially positioned as a white male...therefore...my comprehension/understanding is necessarily constrained by that positioning. So, any omissions, errors or screw-ups you might detect in this post and that you're willing to let me know about will be respectfully appreciated. Thank you.) 




Friday, April 14, 2017

Rebecca Solnit

is a white woman who writes books and essays and sometimes writes about feminist issues. 

One quote from an essay titled: "Men Explain Things To Me" knocked me out.

"I like incidents of that sort, when forces that are usually so sneaky and hard to point out slither out of the grass and are as obvious as, say, an anaconda that’s eaten a cow or an elephant turd on the carpet."

I've written a number of posts about invisibilty and its profound effects on us and on our ways of perceiving and behaving and that quote above is one of the better ways I've seen yet of describing something invisible becoming visible. (I'm presuming the anaconda didn't eat a actual cow but a cow's turd...if she meant an actual cow then it would have been a much better sentence without evoking violence being done to an Earthling.)

That essay, among others, is in a collection of writings in a book by the same title as the essay: Men Explain Things To Me. It's a very enjoyable read and yet while I was reading and enjoying the superlative writing I was bothered...and I really didn't know why but eventually it came to me that the author seems, well, white...in her writing and in her ways of conceiving society and such.


I enjoy the heck out of her feminist stances...yet...they often feel pretty white. I know that sounds weird coming from a white guy...but there it is. I could be wrong, probably am...but hey...that's my feeling right now.

(What I'm  meaning by "white" here is that her perceptions of sexism and feminism seem to arise from some universalized position of "femaleness" instead of being cognizant of and addressing of the fact that sexism as it is enacted toward women of color is different in many ways than how sexism is enacted toward white women...there are overlaps...but they are seriously different too. Rebecca Solnit seems sort of oblivious to that. It's really not possible to de-couple racism and sexism, each of those practices influence/inform the other one. Pretending that they don't influence each other or being oblivious to that is generally something that white women do. It's a manifestation of white supremacy.)

By the way, the essay called Men Explain Things To Me is often credited with being the inspiration for the invention of the word "mansplaining". Pretty nifty, eh?

You might enjoy the book, give it a read. She's a very talented writer.

Let me know if you too sort of sniff the whiteness. I'm absolutely tentative about my ability to detect it, especially where it is ambiguous, but my current stance is always to opt to err in the direction of calling/thinking something white instead of not. Heck, centuries of the denial of whiteness has to be countered in some way or other, ya know?     

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Not all white men are racists...

Not all white people are racist, not all men are misogynists, not all...you fill in the blank.

Some variant of this kind of thinking/talking is one of the maneuvers that members of oppressor groups are taught (socially conditioned to believe to be true) to implement in order to avoid acknowledging or recognizing complicity. Members of targeted groups are taught the same stuff, but they often recognize the erroneousness of such flimflam.

I recently ran across this photo that was discovered in an album belonging to one of the staff who was stationed at Auschwitz. It was taken at a "resort" that was used by Auschwitz personnel.


On the hosting website, in his trial for war crimes the man who had this photo is quoted as saying:

“I had no possibility in any way to influence the events and I neither wanted them to happen nor took part in them. I didn’t harm anyone and no one died at Auschwitz because of me.”

No one is complicit, almost everyone is innocent, except for those few terrible awful baddies, right? (one term used to describe this sort of "thinking" is called mystification, here are some synonyms)

It's rather amazing to think about the incredible horror that has occurred (and continues to occur) over the centuries that is done by so few monsters...and all that goes on while so many of us are "innocent".

Maybe the problem isn't just the monsters, maybe the problem is all of us who aren't the targets of awfulness but are members of the same group as the monsters. You know...all of us who aren't "monsters" but share group membership with them.

What about the families of these "innocent" folks, are they "innocent" too? What about the folks who worked in the factories that made the SS uniforms, are they "innocent" too? Where does complicity begin and innocence end?

What if it is, that should we belong to a group that upholds/supports/allows/condones awfulness, then there is no innocence for anyone belonging to that group?

What if awfulness is like a turd and the smell emanating from that turd is strongest for those closest to it...but it also can be smelled by even those some distance away...even if they had their back turned to the turd.

Maybe the only way to even get within hailing distance of innocence (or to avoid the smell), in such a situation, is to be engaged in actively working to stop the awfulness.

What if? 

Monday, April 3, 2017

For many years

it's been my habit to stick a gum wrapper or a sticky note or some other marker into a book whenever I'm reading and run across a quote or idea that interests me.

If the book is a library book, I'll either copy down the quote somewhere, or if it's lengthy or the idea covers a number of pages I'll make a copy of the pages that interest me. Then...sometimes...I'll study or think more about what piqued my interest. Sometimes though, I write the quote down or copy some pages and then forget about them.

Many of the books I own have odd pieces of paper stuck in them at various places and probably so do some of the books I return to the library...if I forget to remove the marker. So, if you get a library book that has some bit of paper stuck somewhere in it, it may be that it was a book I read and forgot to tidy up before I returned it. Sorry.

Some people mark in library books...I think that's rude and it always dismays me when I run across stuff like that. I sometimes mark books I own...but not those that don't belong to me. Jeez.

I recently read a couple of books by Elizabeth Strout and I found some lines in her writings that resonated with me. I was, in fact, alerted to the quote from Black Hawk that was in my last post by something that Elizabeth Strout had written in a book titled: The Burgess Boys.

There's a quote from that same book, on page 311, that contains some truth I think. She wrote:

"In case you haven't noticed, people get hard-hearted against the people they hurt. Because we can't stand it. Literally. To think we did that to someone. I did that. So we think of all the reasons why it's ok we did whatever we did."

I read another book by her titled: My Name is Lucy Barton and in it, on page 95, there was this quote: 

"It interests me how we find ways to feel superior to another person, another group of people. It happens everywhere, and all the time. Whatever we call it. I think it is the lowest part of who we are, this need to find someone else to put down."

I suspect those two observations are related, maybe they're aspects of the same thing...and...I wonder if they don't have something to do with how and why we go about justifying the violence and harm we inflict on others that's referenced by the "isms" of oppression (e.g., racism, sexism, and so on).

Indeed, I wonder if they don't also have to do with our trying to justify harm to those Earthlings who aren't humans and maybe even harm to mother Earth herself.

Isn't it curious that we have a desire to make terrible awful things we do seem ok? It's intriguing to me that we often seem to work at trying to "feel superior"?

Why do we do that? Why do we flounder around and try to make terrible awfuls seem warranted?  What pushes us to try to "feel superior"?

It's intriguing to realize that built in to any struggle to "feel superior" is a rejection of the notion of being ok with "equality". Hmmm...

In that first quote she writes that we literally can't tolerate thinking we hurt someone...why can't we? What is it about ourselves that makes us uncomfortable if we feel we've hurt someone else? I wonder.

Is a struggle to "feel superior" just a manifestation of some unspoken and unacknowledged feeling of inferiority...one that's so painful and disorienting that we can only conceive of "less than" and "more than" and the awfulness of that feeling of "less than" drives out any consideration of being equal? I wonder.

By the way, the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears maybe has some elements in it that have to do with the "less than" and "more than" and "just right" dynamic. (where "just right" suggests equality)

(Note: folks who are a lot smarter than me have wondered about this inferiority/superiority stuff too...Alfred Adler for instance)