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)


Friday, March 24, 2017

Words so smooth...

I've been reading a book titled: Birth of a Nation'hood: Gaze, Script and Spectacle in the O. J. Simpson Case which was co-edited by Toni Morrison. I remember the amazing brouhaha that went on in the media during that trial and I very well remember how African Americans (especially the jury members) were demonized and demeaned by the media (and the majority of white people) after the event.

Realize that the Simpson trial occurred only about 3 years after the debacle of the Rodney King trial where several white policemen were acquitted of beating Mr. King...even though their unwarranted and illegal assault was captured on video. 

The book was published about 20 years ago and the various articles and essays in it are sad making.

Part of their power to depress me comes from the fact that the words we've used and the ways in which we white people have been avoiding accurately looking at ourselves and our behavior haven't much changed...and...they are (with updates to reflect contemporary vocabulary and linguistic expression) pretty much the same as they've been for over 500 years.

I've been looking at us...hard...for over two years now. Understand, when I say we white people, I'm meaning the majority of white people...there are exceptions (thank goodness) but they are few and they are thoroughly marginalized and/or ignored.

I fully accept we white people here in the U.S. are thoroughly committed to the strange belief that somehow if we can find just the right way to say or express something, then we can make horror and/or harm be a good and acceptable and right thing.

We may deny that we believe this and we may sincerely believe that we do not think this way...but we do....and somewhere we vaguely know this to be true or at least suspect that it might be true. We white people may not "know" what's wrong with this country and ourselves...but we suspect something not good is going on. And we have no right to not know because the evidence is everywhere. I write this knowing full well that I avoided comprehending all this for decades...but I damn well knew something was wrong.

It's almost as if we have the belief that if we just want something to be a certain way hard enough...then the hard wanting/wishing will make it be that way. We couldn't be that detached from reality, could we? (you can insert your own examples here, there are plenty of them)

Do you remember thinking like that way when you were a little kid? I do. It is a potent desire. It took some repeated efforts for me accept the untruth of that enticing notion.

But...something like that...which is a task that is confusing and difficult for a child really shouldn't be an issue for an adult, should it?

People of color have been telling us (we white people) this for centuries. Again and again and again they tell us...and we ignore them, or attack them.

Towards the end of the 18th century or the beginning of the 19th century, a band leader of the Sauk Tribe (his name in English was Black Hawk) was quoted as saying:

"How smooth must be the language of the whites, when they can make right look like wrong, and wrong like right."

How smooth must be the language of we whites.

How powerful we must believe it (and ourselves) to be for us to embrace the notion that words change reality.

If you want, you can watch this brief video of Dr Charles Mills explaining white people's version of the history of North America.

If it sounds silly and childish to you...well...then go take a look at the American history book your elementary or high school aged child is using in her or his school and see if it isn't full of smooth words that mislead and deny. We lie to ourselves and we lie to our children. Smooth words intended to deceive others end up deceiving us too.

And we harm every living being (including ourselves) and mother Earth too.

Words so smooth are doing us all in. (except they aren't really smooth except to those who embrace them)




Saturday, March 11, 2017

Get Out...

is the name of a just released movie. It is excellent. Go see it.

Below are a couple of images from the movie (the captions were created by unknown folks and they are spot on).


If you're raced as white and this movie doesn't sometimes make you uncomfortable then maybe you're not "getting it".

This movie is terrific throughout, the excellence of the performances, the story content, the cinematography...the whole dang thing. Wow.

Melding comedy, horror and social commentary has never been done with more skill and deftness.


The writer/director, Jordan Peele, described the movie in an interview as being strongly influenced by the Stepford Wives and Scream. (note: he didn't specify which version of Stepford Wives (1975 or 2004) so I linked to the 1975 version)

Go see it. 

Monday, March 6, 2017

Complicit

has one definition which (in part) reads: "choosing to be involved in an illegal or questionable act, especially with others...".


This photo comes from a story about a soccer game between teams from Rome and Torino in Italy. The story says a small child didn't want to stand next to the Black player.

If the child's behavior is driven by racist beliefs then what about the teammates of the shunned player? How do you adjudge their actions...or inactions?

Are they being complicit in racist behaviors via their proceeding in taking part in the photograph? What about the photographer, is she or he resisting or upholding racist behaviors by creating and publishing the photograph?

What about the child's parents or coach? What about the behaviors of all the adults that we can reasonably guess are close by, both those depicted in the photograph and those who aren't? Who is being complicit?

Children can't be held to the same standards of behavior or comprehension as adults because of their immaturity and diminished understandings. However, adults around a child can either accept or condone behavior or interrupt and reject it. What are the adults doing (or failing to do) here?.

Yes, the child is apparently behaving badly...but...the photograph contains much more information than just that which immediately grabs our eye.  The child's behavior is actually only a small part of the information/meaning that is available to us in this image but extracting that meaning requires more effort than a glance.

I have come to understand that It is incumbent upon us, if we are to struggle against injustice, to work toward disrupting our own obliviousness and to consider factors that aren't immediately apparent or comprehended or visible. We must, if we are to uphold justice, develop the skills to add context and history and invisibled meanings and understandings to depictions like this. 

This photo exemplifies is what Howard Zinn's meant when he said:
 “You can’t be neutral on a moving train,” I would tell them. Some were baffled by the metaphor, especially if they took it literally and tried to dissect its meaning. Others immediately saw what I meant: that events are already moving in certain deadly directions, and to be neutral means to accept that.”
Whenever injustice occurs in our presence and we fail to work toward interrupting or disrupting it, then we're not being "neutral", we are...whether we wish to or not...assenting to or agreeing with or upholding what is going on. We're being complicit. When the status quo is upholding/enacting oppression and we aren't struggling against that status quo...we're being complicit.

Thinking good thoughts and having good intentions but failing to engage in action means we're assisting in maintaining the status quo. We're encouraged to be oblivious and ignorant, that doesn't mean we have to assent to it or go along with it. We have the power to struggle against that socially encouraged obliviousness...and if we fail to do so...well...we are complicit.

In situations where action is possible, that doesn't mean we can't or don't pick and choose our battles, nor does it mean we'll always know exactly what to do but it does mean there's no refuge of innocence in obliviousness...most assuredly when it is within our power to resist being oblivious or unaware.

It also means that the status of being "uninvolved" is much more fiction than reality. And further...the status quo very much encourages and relies on folks to be oblivious or unaware or ignorant and to perceive themselves as "uninvolved".

Note: this is a very complex image and it is likely that much more meaning can be extracted from it than I've done here. It is important for us to realize that images like this potentially contain much more information than is apparent at first glance. But...our culture encourages us to glance and then move on, but we do not have to go along with that encouragement of superficiality.

(p.s., please be aware that I've been unable to confirm the veracity/validity of the story associated with the photo, hence the suppositions. The image itself is a good example of something that can be worked with in an effort to attach meaningful connections to context and history and to practice skills allowing movement beyond "face value" understandings.)

 (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 influenced and shaped 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, February 24, 2017

It's not history...

Nope, colonization is an ongoing process. This photo (from Twitter) taken at the site of the protests in North Dakota against the pipeline across native lands exemplifies this colonization process quite well.


Settler colonialism as defined (in part) on the Native American History website:
"Settler colonialism has best been defined as more of an imposed structure than an historical event. This structure is characterized by relationships of domination and subjugation that become woven throughout the fabric of society, and even becomes disguised as paternalistic benevolence. The objective of settler colonialism is always the acquisition of indigenous territories and resources, which means the native must be eliminated."
One of the more effective ways the dominant narrative in U.S. culture invisiblizes truth about itself is to promote the notion that the "bad stuff" that happened in the U.S. to members of marginalized groups is in the past and we've "progressed" beyond such ignorant harmings.

Wakey, wakey...all you have to do is watch what happens if members of any subordinated group resist or object to the agenda of the dominant elites. See the photo above? Stuff like that has been ongoing since Europeans showed up in the western hemisphere...it's not "history"...it's now.

That photo shows your tax money being used to equip and pay those armed men who are threatening those Native peoples. 

Just like way back when.

When marginalized folks resist dominance that "paternalistic benevolence" disappears and the threat of violence (or the enactment of violence) pops right back  into visibility.

It's not history...it's now. 

   

Friday, February 17, 2017

White ignorance, timeless and multinational. .

Recently I've been reading work done by Dr. Melissa Steyn, who is a professor at a university in South Africa. She's been studying and observing cultural conditions about race there for several decades. In one of her articles I ran across this passage:
It has become a standing joke that since democracy in South Africa one cannot find anyone who supported apartheid. Increasingly some white South Africans claim that they did not know what was happening during apartheid; that it was not their generation that was responsible for apartheid, but that of their parents;and even that it was not as bad for black people during apartheid as it is for white South Africans in post-apartheid South Africa. Yet the system of racial apartheid could not have been functional or sustained for over four decades without the active and passive cooperation of the white population – using separate entrances,enjoying whites only transport, beaches, restaurants and cinemas, paying sub-minimum wages to black employees employed only for menial labour, educating only white children in the schools their children also attended,...
South Africa had a brutal version of Jim Crow racial segregation and legal racial subordination in place (called apartheid) and they didn't have an election where everyone could vote until 1994. That's not ancient history and yet...it's common for white people there to maintain that they 'didn't support' this awful stuff and many claim they "did not know" what was happening in their own country.

It made me think of something that occurred in Germany immediately after the end of WWII.

The photo shows a number of the residents of a town (Ohrdruf) in Germany, where a concentration camp was located, being forced by Allied soldiers to view the victims who were confined in the camp.

Various towns where these camps were located were sites where the residents were forced to view the victims of the holocaust.  ""We didn't know." This was what the German civilian population would say over and over again about the concentration camps...".

"We didn't know", "We didn't know"...sound familiar? Notice that one claim of ignorance is coming from dominant racial group members in Germany in 1945 and the exact same claim of ignorance is coming from dominant racial group members in South Africa some 50 years later.

What's that got to do with the United States? Well, take a look at this passage from an article written in 2014 about the awfulness in Ferguson, Missouri. 
"...whites in Ferguson were often surprised by the racial fault lines exposed by the shooting and the sometimes angry protests that followed. They said they had no idea of the simmering tensions between African Americans and police. They did not know that many black residents felt unfairly targeted by the police and unrepresented by city government. And they bristled when protesters portrayed their town as racist."
Whites in Ferguson were "surprised" and "had no idea" about the brutal and unfair treatment of black residents in their town.

From 1945 to 2014 is 69 years, from Germany to South Africa to Missouri, U.S.A., is many miles...but...it's almost magical? that dominant racial group members from 3 different countries, spanning almost 70 years, manage to either "not know" or have "no idea" about the horrid treatment of members of subordinated racial groups and 2 of those sites of obliviousness were in their home towns. Not somewhere else in their countries, mind you, not some far away or distant place, but they expressed ignorance about what was going on in their own towns where they shopped and went to the movies and lived their daily lives.

Not know? That's bad enough, right? Well, I'm not sure what you would call it when ignorance isn't the problem but an actual reversal of reality is trotted out and presented as "truth".

Look at this quote from that same article from 2014 that's referenced above: "polls found that white perceptions of anti-black bias have diminished to the point where they are more now likely to think anti-white discrimination is a bigger problem than bias against blacks."

Heck, white people in the U.S. not only "don't know" or have "no idea" about the reality of what life is like for African Americans, they are "more likely" to believe they are "discriminated" against more severely than are members of subordinated groups.

Think about that for a moment, members of the dominant racial group...that same dominant group which controls (and has always controlled) every major power and influence wielding  institution (the media, the government, education, health-care, criminal justice, etc.) in their society...thinks they are more likely to be targeted for discrimination than are members of subordinated racial groups. (is this an example of "alternative facts"?)

Here's a tip for you, presuming that you're interested in accurately perceiving reality and working to stay as close to truth as you can, if that characterizes you then I would suggest you be very very cautious when it comes to listening to white people in the U.S. or in South Africa or in Germany about anything to do with what's going on with race or racial issues.

The examples I've provided for you here should help you realize that white folks in these three nations (likely others too, but I'm focusing on these 3 in this post) have some deep and severe problems when it comes to race. The motto about race (apparently in all three countries) seems to be "deny, deny, deny...and if you get tired of that, then lie".

I sometimes try to figure out positive things about white people that I've learned since I started digging into whiteness and such over the past couple of years. It's pretty slim pickings (pretty much nothing).

But...one spot of amusement I've found is that sometimes (not often, but sometimes) I can pick up on when white people are being ignorant (and...well...stupid) but think they're sounding thoughtful and intelligent. It's eerie when that happens (and rare, I usually succumb to white thinking in the moment and only later figure out that it's crap) as it's occurring because I can almost predict exactly what's going to come out of a white person's mouth before they say it.

I watched this video recently and at around 35 minutes into the video the panel gets a question from an old white guy (an old white guy like me, jeez) and about two sentences into his rambling I realized that he was re-inscribing white dominance and also that he had no idea that he was doing that. I had to laugh out loud even though I felt very sad for the African American professor who was exposed to such hurtful obliviousness. She immediately perceived what he was up to and responded briefly and accurately and moved on. She should never have been exposed to such crap though.

I can't feel good about spotting this crap because it's taken me 2 years of pretty intense work and study to get to that point...but...I did get some pleasure from my recognition that my ignorance has subsided (sometimes) to the point that I can fairly quickly detect (sometimes) when serious reality avoidance is going on.

It isn't much of an improvement on my part...but...I'm desperate to see some glimmer of positive stuff on this journey. I keep telling myself that I have to learn to walk before I can run and I still fall down often when I'm trying to walk. Sometimes I don't, though, and that can be encouraging.

Note: if you choose to watch the video and can't figure out what the old white guy was doing with his 'question', let me know and I'll assist you in comprehending what he was enacting (although I suspect he "didn't know" what he was doing because he was thoroughly in the grips of an epistemology of ignorance)



Friday, February 10, 2017

Divide and rule...

is the title of this entry in wikipedia.

One approach to considering race/racism (indeed, maybe an approach to considering all socially constructed identities) is to think about them as divide and conquer strategies. By that I mean that it's a heck of a lot easier to manage/resist/control a big group if you can get small groups within that big group to squabbling among themselves (and they only resist you piecemeal or sporadically) than if they all get together and unite in opposition to you. 
 
Early on in the invasion of the "new world" of North America by Europeans, the tactic of affording minor (but minimally helpful or trivially beneficial) concessions and perks and status to those identified as "white" by the wealthy elites who controlled power resulted in the poor "whites" disaffiliating themselves from those who weren't identified as being "white". This served to break up alliances among the poor and powerless so that their resistance to being controlled by the wealthy elite was effectively diminished. The poor and powerless started opposing each other instead of the common oppressor.


In an excellent book titled: Learning to be White: Money, Race and God in America, the author (Rev. Dr. Thandeka) writes extensively about the various functions served by promoting the notion that "race" was/is an important and meaningful way of conceptualizing humans. Those functions served to keep the many from uniting against the ruling "few".

In this excerpt from the book, the author elaborates about the various ways which the ruling elite offered relatively trivial and non-significant "benefits" to "whites" as an enticement to keep them from alliance with kidnapped Africans and displaced Native Americans. "Race" served as a handy dandy tool to keep those oppressed and harmed by the wealthy from uniting against the wealthy folks. Instead of uniting against the common oppressor, those who were relatively poor and powerless turned on one another.

Maybe it is the case that one of the most effective ways to keep exploitation/oppression rolling along (since the ruling elite are always smaller in number than those oppressed) is to encourage factors that keep the oppressed squabbling with one another instead of uniting against the real source (the ruling elite) of oppression.


Think about this, how much of your freedom and/or liberation and/or deprivations are caused by the poor and/or the vulnerable and/or the powerless versus your freedom/liberation deprivations being a result of actions and/or with-holdings and/or constraints that come from powerful/wealthy individuals and/or corporations and/or institutions? 

Who holds you down or restricts your life...those with power or those without power? 

Think about that and then look at society...who is in conflict? It usually isn't the united powerless against the powerful...it's way too often the relatively powerless squabbling against other groups that are also relatively powerless. Or one small segment of the powerless resisting the powerful with little or no support from other groups who are also relatively powerless.

And...those with the real power and wealth (who implement and cause and benefit from the harms) just keep rolling along without any real resistance to their agenda.

Do you get it? We're all being played for fools...and we're joining in, enthusiastically even, the process of ensuring that structures of harm are not really challenged. Instead, we quibble over trivialities. It's sort of spooky to consider how easily we are distracted and deterred from engaging in effective ways of making society better for all.

I've written about this sort of stuff, multiple times, but...I didn't use the phrase "divide and conquer", I used the phrase "recreating oppression". Saying recreating oppression is just another way of saying divide and conquer. Way too often we cause harm to those who aren't the primary source of the oppression or fight with those who aren't the instigators of the oppression, and we do it in the name of resisting oppression. Jeez.

That sort of stuff is, I suspect, a big part of how we just keep on failing to bring about transformation in our social structures. 

Other factors in addition to identities that work to encourage these sorts of divisions are the ideologies of "individualism" and of "meritocracy". These notions work to obscure (make invisible) the fact that group membership has much more impact on us than we wish to admit when it comes to being harmed (or helped) by structures of oppression.
 
(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.) 

  

  

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Deep doo doo...

That's where we are and it's going to get worse.

I'm more than 70 years old and I can tell you with no hesitation or doubt that the man who now is the president of the United States is the most frightening and dangerous individual who has ever held that position in my lifetime. I suspect he's the absolute worst in the history of the U.S. but I haven't been around that long.



My wife is shocked and upset, I'm upset but not shocked. I had a pretty good suspicion that Clinton would lose. The flow of the society in the U.S. has been trending toward some sort of open eruption of white supremacist, patriarchal, capitalistic and imperialistic horror for quite some time and now it's here.

If you've followed this blog, I was writing about such stuff 2 years ago, here's a link from a year ago, and another link from the same time period. But...being aware of what's brewing doesn't do much except preclude my being shocked.

The enactment of the ban on immigration from some countries by the president is, I fear, just the beginning of what is likely to be a long and awful line of acts that unravel the myth that many held about this being the land of "liberty and justice for all".

It's never been that and it never will be that unless the majority of people here, mainly the white people, decide for that to be true and do the work that it will take to make it true. That will be painful and difficult and I really don't know whether we white people have what it takes to do the job.

Every day that the bigoted fools are in power means that more effort will be required to stop the damage.

The new phrase for lying from this administration is "alternative facts". We're in for a long siege of "alternative facts" and horrid deeds.


 
Get ready for lots of "political language"...and suffering and death.

Resist. Support and protect those in all marginalized groups. And, stay safe, if you can. 

(Note: if you voted for the man who is president, and we survive all this, don't vote anymore...ever...please. Your judgement is so deeply flawed that remediation is unlikely and even if you do achieve some remediation...well...you've screwed up so badly that proper atonement would, at a minimum, mean you never ever vote again. Jeez.) 

 (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, January 27, 2017

Strange things continued.

In June of last year I wrote about some of the various aspects of how to behave and/or be in order to achieve "real" manhood...or...as Judith Butler would phrase it "perform" being male. She views gender and even sex and sexual desire as acts that we learn to perform rather than some core element(s) of our developing being that unfold as we mature.

In other words, we feel and perceive in various ways and instead of us being free to figure out how to deal with those feelings and perceptions, our culture tells us how to think about and understand those things. Heck, our culture even tells us how to exhibit (or hide) such behaviors and feelings and thoughts. And...if we don't follow the cultural "rules", lots of pressure is invoked to get us follow the "party line".

Something that I struggled with on an ongoing basis for years was my realization that I didn't particularly care to be around most men...looking back now I can see that it was mostly white men I didn't much care for but while it was going on I simply perceived it as my being rather put off by most males. I simply didn't like them very much and found their company unpleasant. I did have some male friends but there were only a very very few men that I enjoyed being around. Probably in my lifetime I've known no more than 2 or 3 white males that I actually felt comfortable with and fairly consistently enjoyed being around.

On the other hand I noticed that I more often enjoyed the company of women and found, again in general, that their company was much more pleasant and interesting to me. That enjoyment would sometimes get complicated or distorted by my being sexually attracted to a particular woman...but...there were a number of women that I wasn't particularly attracted to sexually that I found that I greatly enjoyed interacting with. Women are, on average, just niftier...to me anyway. 

Numerically, lets say, out of 100 women I would find 10 or 20 that were pleasant or interesting company...and that I felt comfortable around, out of 100 men that number would shrink to 1 or 2 who were experienced by me that way...if that many. We all differ to some degree from one another but for me...on average...women are spiffier. 

I noticed this about myself over the years and wondered about it, but not too deeply or persistently.

It really came to the front of my awareness as a result of my time in the military and then my time in graduate school. The Air Force put me in a position where I met and lived around hundreds of guys, mostly my age.

I found a few guys that I sort of enjoyed interacting with but on the whole, having to be around men all the time was stressful and unpleasant for me. Mostly it pretty much sucked. Looking back at that time from years later makes me shake my head. Then, I vaguely wondered whether maybe was something "wrong" with me. What it was...I didn't know...I just knew I felt uneasy and uncomfortable and at the same time thought my feeling that way wasn't how I was supposed to feel. Aren't guys supposed to like to hang out with guys? That's what I was taught, but that wasn't how I felt.

My discomfort and unease persisted as I aged. In elementary school and even high school I had guy friends and hung out with guys but the older I became the more uneasy I found that I was whenever I was with most guys. Not that I was fully aware of this at the time, I'm thinking and writing about it now, many decades later, and it is apparent to me now but I couldn't have clearly articulated it then...I just felt it and lived it.

A few months ago some of my confusion resolved itself. In part because some reading I have been doing of the works of various feminist authors...Kimberle Crenshaw, Patricia Williams, Audre Lorde, Andrea Dworkin and Dorothy Allison come to mind.

One of the things that popped into clarification was that women...all women no matter their race...have to live in and learn to survive in male dominated culture. That's totally true here in the U.S. where there's a core component of our society that's driven by something some call 'toxic masculinity', which refers, in part to: "...a specific model of manhood, geared towards dominance and control. It’s a manhood that views women and LGBT people as inferior, sees sex as an act not of affection but domination, and which valorizes violence as the way to prove one’s self to the world."


It's creepy and scary to think about this, but the fact is that most violence among humans is male violence. For instance, this article quotes the statistic that men account for about 80% of those arrested for violent crimes in the U.S. Think of it, if we look at the total population and don't consider the children and women, then 80% of all violent crime arrests come from about 40% of the population (males are about 50% of the population and about 20% of that 50% are 14 or younger...so...about 40% of the population is male and older than 14). And, about 90% of all murders here in the U.S. are committed by males, so that 40% of the population accounts for 90% of all murders.

Toxic masculinity is harmful to men...but men are violently harmful to others.  


Men in my family rarely if ever act out violently...but...many of the stifling components of "being a man" are inflicted on the male children.

For instance, years ago, I was probably in my 30s, I was out one afternoon tossing a football around with my cousin, who's a couple of years younger than me and his young son...who was maybe 7 or 8 at the time. The youngster tried to catch the ball and it hit the end of his fingers on one of his hands and jammed them. If you've ever had that happen you know how much it hurts and the kiddo started crying because of the pain.

My cousin...who was someone I was quite close to most of my life...started getting all over his son because he was crying. Telling him to shut up...that boys don't cry and all that crap that gets drizzled all over most little boys. I vividly remember being furious with my cousin...I can feel the anger even now as I write about it decades later.

That memory sort of epitomizes some aspects of my repulsion and rejection of that crap about being a "real man". Men don't cry...which is stupid when you think about it...why would we have tear ducts if we don't cry? I almost hated my cousin at that instant...I had always been pretty close to him but that changed it all for me. I never looked at him the same way again...ever. It's one of those moments that stay with me. It sort of summed up so many of things I'd been taught and exposed to in my life about being a "man".

I love my cousin, I had known him my whole life but that moment brought a distance into our relationship that hadn't been there. I saw him differently from there on. We still visit sometimes but I know...and he knows too...that we comprehend and view the world around us rather differently.

If you're stuck into being raised as a guy, there's little freedom to genuinely express how you feel (without fear of retaliation or ridicule or ostracism)...you have to follow the rules...men don't cry...men are "tough"...crap like that.

I was lucky in that I didn't grow up in a family where men were encouraged to be violent, but many boys aren't so lucky. Even if families don't encourage such harmful behavior, we're all exposed to movies and television and books where male violence is lauded and praised and admired and promoted....male violence is "normalized" and encouraged.

And then we're shocked and horrified when boys or men act out violence. Duh.

FYI, I work at not thinking of gender without also considering race...in the U.S. all "men" are a "race" and all who are "raced" are also assigned a gender. It's a false notion that we can clearly and accurately think about "female" (or "male') without also considering which racial group that female or male has been assigned to. Because, you'll get socialized differently based on both those factors, there will be similarities...but there will be important differences too. 

Both of those aspects of identity are (almost invariably) assigned to us from birth and we experience U.S. society from those positions simultaneously. It's misleading to think about them separately, even though that's the "norm". It's incorrect to do so. I am working on figuring out how to think and write and speak about this without sounding as if I think there's something like a "woman" without a race or a racialized human without a gender. 


So...excuse where I've failed to make this clear...I plead guilty to being unskilled at it. I've been taught to think about "women" and "men" as existing outside of racial groupings instead of viewing race/gender as being inseparable and overcoming that erroneous conditioning is an ongoing project. 

(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.)