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Archive for the ‘Ageism’ Category

“I Paid for You.” Capitalism’s Inherent Property Ethic

Even amongst the less capitalist circles, there’s not a whole lot of talk about the totalizing objectification created by a system run by exchange. Pretty much everyone understands the basics of classism: that you’re perceived as being inherently worth more and a better person if you’re richer, and given more opportunities based on that, whereas the reverse is true if you’re poorer. In other words, socioeconomic class is perceived as a reflection on one’s personality in capitalism in a similar way to beauty in medieval Italy. The richer or more beautiful you are/were, the better a person you are/were.

Yeah, that’s basic. And pretty obvious. But classism is inextricable from capitalism in another way—and ageism, racism, and sexism insofar as these groups are capitalistically disadvantaged, too—because, to put it gently, our entire system is based on the value of currency given to anything in general… and it invades everything.

There’s a particular transactional model of oppression that states thus: the more money that others have to give you in order to support your survival, the less you are worth and the more you are owned by them.

You see this everywhere. Look at the anti-welfare crap going around; look at the anti-socialized medicine crap going on in the U.S., the fire being rained down on unions in Wisconsin and Indiana, the sabotaging of jobless benefits. Resentment is bred because the people who feel they are “paying” for these things without benefiting feel as though they’re getting ripped off—because they’re having to buy something without getting to benefit from it.

When you look at it from an item perspective, it makes sense: if a store charged you for items you didn’t buy (and therefore didn’t get to use), you’d be pretty pissed too. It makes sense, except for the fact where we are talking about peoples’ lives instead of an actual object.

… But thanks to capitalism, the monetary value assigned to someone’s life and/or quality of life is the signal that they are property—an item or a product that you are having to pay for without being able to use.

You know those old “jokes” about how wives are merely bad prostitutes—they take men’s money and then don’t even put out in return? This is why. They are being “paid for” as products, but the men, their “purchasers,” don’t get to use them at all. This follows other forms of oppression, too—ageism, for example. Literally, by paying for their children, parents feel an entitlement to force/abuse them into doing something just so because they are effectively buying them.

A person becomes a product when a monetary value is assigned to them for whatever reason—their survival, their quality of life, maybe just a momentary indulgence. It even applies to employers: Aslan, at a previous job, would be stocking about $20,000 of product every night—usually mostly on zeir own, too—but zeir manager wouldn’t even let zem get fucking overtime. That’s another problem with the product-purchaser capitalist worldview: it brings into play the “natural” desire of a purchaser to get the most for their money.

This is endemic, too, unless and until we cut the line tying someone’s survival and basic quality of life to a monetary value. Food, shelter and water must be upheld as basic human rights, inalienable, such that they cannot be sold unless they are luxury products—as with exotic fruits like passionfruits (in some places), animal products, several kinds of sweeteners, sodas, prepackaged “junk” foods, etc. Outside of luxuries, whole foods are your right. So is shelter. Until capitalism falls or compromises, you will be objectified just by surviving.

Car Culture as an Additional Oppressive Strategy

I’m reading about and watching videos of the protests women are doing in Italy against Berlusconi’s ideology that women are there to be used as toys and entertainment. And while I’m doing this, I’m struck by two separate sensations: first, pride and excitement for the women who are taking to the streets to do this, and the community they share; then despair, because I know how unlikely this is in the U.S., how impossible it is even though it shouldn’t be.

How many protests would I go to if only I had the community for it? How many conferences would I attend if I had the money? How different would my life look if I had this many people who cared about their lives and the lives of others, enough to take to the streets as comrades?

And then a smaller, simpler problem: how would I even get there?

I realized this just now. My life is ruled by transportation: the presence of it, the lack of it, the accessibility of it and the extent of it. I’ve been discontent for a while now with being relegated to a second-class citizen because I don’t have a car (up here, “walking while Black” is just “walking, anywhere, at any time”), but I’ve never really grasped just how much of everything in my life that determines for me.

As a small child, my parents moved us to the suburbs because my mother didn’t want to live in the “bad” neighborhoods, the ones that happened to be walkable. The first neighborhood was fine, because it had sidewalks; but then my mother decided that she deserved a bigger house and we moved several blocks away, where there were no sidewalks and you needed to climb up and down several steep hills to get where you needed to go. I developed agoraphobia in that house—a painful anxiety that came up whenever I thought about going outside, because I couldn’t just roam: I had to go somewhere. Being outside needed a justification, a goal, because the neighborhood was constructed in a way that it became deeply uncomfortable to go anywhere without a car. This sounds like hyperbole—the few friends I had, all of whom were used to walking, came to agree with me: it was just too fucking much, especially coming from an abusive environment.

It’s even more of a disadvantage now that I live off minimum wage in an apartment complex meant for the poor and nonwhite who serve the rich. They are in every rich community—or just outside, anyway. It’s so fucking invisible that most people don’t even believe you can be poor and live in the suburbs. My $900/mo total living expenses say otherwise. (To repeat: I do not live with my parents. I have as little contact with them as I possibly can.)

I’ve already recognized that choosing a neighborhood where I would need to be completely dependent on her for transportation was part of my mother’s abuse, because it was deliberate and it kept me from getting away from her. But I’ve only just now realized that a lack of public transportation—they don’t even shovel the fucking sidewalks, for pumice’s sake—is in itself a form of abusive control, especially when combined with construction sprawl that places shelter, rest stops, food/water supplies and everything else very, very far away from each other.

The fundamental problem in having a community that shares my values is that, because of distance and transportation, I can’t. Because my mother decided that the suburbs were the only place safe and white* enough for her, I have even less ability to participate in the world around me than someone who lives in the city. I mean.

Holy fucking eruptions.

That’s all true as can be, but hold on a second. Let’s deconstruct this, U.S.-politics style.

The suburbs were rolled out as a way to make entirely white congressional districts, in addition to segregating money, whiteness and power away from the poor, nonwhite (and occasionally re-gentrified) city. By moving that power out into the suburbs, white parents were better able to terrorize their own children privately and maintain strict ideological control over their family and their surroundings—neighborhood covenants in the middle-class are swiped directly from the US/UK aristocracy. At the same time, the lack of transportation wasn’t an issue—1) because they were already privileged as hell and had little to lose from making it more difficult to participate in society-changing endeavors (which is to say, protests, or community); 2) because they had the power and privilege to buy cars, they weren’t as disadvantaged by such a move as anyone else would be; and 3) because proper adherence to family ideology would ensure access to wealth and cars.

Having power and privilege makes it possible to live a lifestyle that is otherwise completely unsustainable. Carnism is more expensive, resource-intensive and difficult to obtain without these things—unless, of course, you’re only eating imaginary animal products. Capitalism, because suburbanites practice it as oppressors instead of the oppressed, doesn’t really need anything more said about it. What the hell would I call this—suburbanism, carism?

Not that I believe that it’s an enormous, global oppression, because I don’t: it’s car culture. A facet of oppression, and oppressive in itself, but it is not a Big Ism. Nevertheless, isolation of underprivileged people and communities is one of the more covert and insidious forms of silencing in the world, and it’s more effective because they’re less likely to be able to overcome it. Even in Denver, this is at work too—the board of directors for the Regional Transportation District (RTD) is largely white, rich and male, and they have been systematically crushing public transportation services for the poor and underprivileged while simultaneously trying to extend more to the rich. They raise prices. They cut out stops so that it’s no longer feasible to walk. They make ridiculous route omissions (seriously, RTD? You can’t make a bus go by the fucking library?). They cut route hours and frequency. They cut routes—primarily the ones that serve the poor and the brown—under the guise of “low ridership.”

They’re trying to build a lightrail line going up to the fucking ski resorts.

This is silencing—by limiting the opportunities for underprivileged people to interact with the world around them without having to endure unnecessary discomfort and strain. By making it so that it is harder to live, on a day-to-day basis, and by sucking up what little money and time they do have to spare into a black hole. In the fifties, public transportation was systematically bought out and summarily dismantled by the automobile companies to make people dependent upon them. This isn’t to make the underprivileged dependent upon any company, though: it’s solely to maintain the status quo.

The only way someone can think of living without a car as privileged is if they themselves are privileged, because their own reliance upon cars is so normalized and invisible. Someone who cannot afford private transportation, like me, or who deliberately opts out of car culture, like me, has no privilege here. I can’t not walk. Walking is basic, and free—it’s not a luxury chosen only by those with the privilege to do so.

Even if I did have the ability to obtain and maintain an automobile, it wouldn’t be a privilege for me to choose not to. Deliberately choosing to live as minimally as possible is not a privilege—it’s a renunciation of it. And there’s a lot here to renunciate, clearly. I’m still only starting to grasp that.

*Which is even more appalling when you consider that my father was definitely not white in any way, shape or form. But of course, he was “civilized” and “educated” so he passed well enough, I guess.

I Ain’t Dumb: Language Fluency and Perceptions of Intelligence

It seems really obvious to me, having been a child, that children are not property. They’re not particularly intellectually or emotionally inferior, either—I have vivid memories of my childhood, actually. Ones where I can actually remember my own thought processes at the time. Most people don’t. They have vague memories of events: sights, sounds and feelings, but not of their thought processes.

At five years old, I went on a field trip to Six Flags in TX along with a Little Peoples’ Landing day-trip group and went on a roller-coaster, which basically made me hate the damn things for the rest of my life. As we were going up, I was sitting next to one of the women who worked at the LPL and I was nervous as hell; the shocks of our cars being levered up were rippling through my chest and I was so… focused. I decided, quite deliberately, to speak because I thought it would relieve some of the tension, so I mumbled over and over again: “I want my mommy.” I never called my mother “mommy;” it was completely unlike me to do this (to an observer)… it felt awkward calling her what I did at home (momma) and I wanted to convey it outwards: that I was freaked out. I did it fully aware of the social connotations of what I was saying—in part because those things were what I wanted anyone hearing me to think. All of this shit, going on inside my head.

And no, it wasn’t as laid out as this—that would have taken too long. All this recall-recognition thinky shit was going on inside my head all at once. Fucking simultaneously. That’s what I’m trying to convey—that my thoughts were incredibly intricate and self-aware, even from an age that adults think is basically drooling and pulling shit off shelves becuse it’s fucking shiny. I was calculating as hell, deliberately so.

I wasn’t a sociopath, however. When I was four, in Kindergarten, previously in the same school year (deductively; never had a head for timelines, but we moved out of TX after that), I got a “black card” one day at school. In a way that to this day, because of still wanting to rip my lungs out and throw them in the trash they feel so dirty from thinking about it, I have no qualms at all labeling “sexual abuse,” my mother came into my room, laid down behind me in my bed… and told me that she was either going to spank me or that I wouldn’t get to go to some amusement park in the area the next day with them.

And you know, that’s a pretty prime opportunity for a kid to be completely fucking self-centered—the war over not wanting to feel pain right now and wanting to go to Distracting Stimulation Fun Fun Land tomorrow. But I wasn’t having an issue with that, really—at least, that wasn’t all (or even most) of it. I was torn between several much stronger feelings: having her behind me, knowing I couldn’t escape, and feeling completely exposed and trapped and… pinned down. Wanting her out of my room as soon as possible because of how threatened I felt. And what finally made the decision for me—I didn’t want to inconvenience someone else, because although I knew the adults didn’t feel the same about the amusement park as I did, I didn’t want to force someone to miss out and have to stay home to take care of me.

That’s not what I’d call self-absorption, there. I fucking fought off feeling profoundly unsafe around my mother because I didn’t want to inconvenience somebody else. And remember: I was four. This was Texas. Supposedly, I wasn’t yet capable of such advanced powers of empathy. Or, at least, that I could convey via language—it’s a common mistake that people assume that if you do not speak their language fluently, you’re actually unintelligent.

But this is my point: my mental and emotional processes have not gotten more complex as I’ve gotten older. Because they were always complex as hell; years have added new intersections of conflict—sex, are there men around, will men judge me and threaten me, who’s seeing me, will somebody start a fight, tension, confrontation: avoidance/conscience, what about the cops, what if I can’t get away, will I lie awake all night brooding on this, will I be able to live with myself after this. But those intersections haven’t increased the intricacy of my thoughts; they’ve only made them more confused and less likely to move into action. More hesitant, not more intricate.

My thought processes—a lot of them, anyway, in the realm of critical thinking and not-believing-you-until-you-fucking-show-me—actually got more simplistic inside, and because of, school. I wasn’t supposed to question capitalism, or colonialism, or even the two-party system. I certainly wasn’t supposed to question the authority of my mother or my teachers.

So excuse me if, based on my vivid memories and experiences, I doubt the intellectual and emotional inferiority of animals. As a child, I was told that I was inferior, too, even when I could argue logic better than the goddamn adults—but my experience as an adult hasn’t borne that out: it’s proven it irrevocably wrong. I have no reason to believe that this prejudice against animals is right, and every wasn’t-handed-down-to-you-by-a-privileged-douche reason to believe otherwise. They said the same things about me, and I know they were wrong; and the way animals act, they’re wrong about that, too.

And, here’s a thought—maybe if your thought process wasn’t all that complex as a child, you’ve just deluded yourself into believing it’s gotten moreso because you think you’re smarter now, and you were never really all that complex or intelligent a person in the first place. That might be a bit offensive, but it’s a helluva lot better than deciding children deserve to be treated like property because they are Inferior Things.

Also, I refuse to believe that I am in any way a genius. It’s not that I rock—you just haven’t stopped sucking long enough to catch up to me. (Furthermore, it’s an interesting and useful way to defuse any latent I Am So Much Better Than You smuggity smug smugness. Angry I may be, but the anger kind of defuses my potential smugness when you are fucking torturing people to death because you think you’re so much better.)

News: U.S. Military Part of Rape Culture, Too

Rape culture is perpetuated by a vicious cycle. Institutional power (the police, the courts, the prisons, the politicians, etc.) does not take rape seriously and actively discourages any attempt to change that fact; everyday people, taking their cue from these institutions (and assuming, as they have been taught via compulsory “education”, that the institutions would care if it were such a big deal), enforce the same dynamics on the ground level; those everyday people then enter those institutions and proceed to do exactly the same thing. This is one reason, among many, that I am an abolitionist, not a reformist—because those institutions of power pose too great of a threat to freedom of thought and life.

But I’m going off topic. This post isn’t about that. It’s about the fact that the U.S. military also follows rape culture: they would rather sweep rape under the rug than actually punish rapists. As the articles say, more than a dozen female and at least one male current or ex-military are suing prominent Pentagon officials to try to force the hand of the military into actually doing something. Which, in case you haven’t caught on to that by now, they haven’t been: survivors have mostly been told to shut up and serve regardless—even then their attacker is in the same unit. Systematic oppression is the only kind of oppression.

Part of it is just that it is even more bizarrely taboo to socially reject or shun someone for being a rapist than it is for any other reason. Another part is that rape culture as a whole continuously trivializes the experiences of rape victims—they’re whiners, drama queens, etc. because rape is not supposed to be that bad. Rape culture does its damnedest to persuade everyone to look at rape from the POV of the rapist—the rapist is sympathetic, the rapist is calm, the rapist is objective. The victim is irrational, overemotional, out-of-control, attention-seeking, manipulative (count which other oppressed peoples those apply to as well—I can name a few). That’s the cultural narrative.

It happens everywhere, whether you’re male or female, young or old, on the brown side or on the white side, rich or poor. Rape victims are overwhelmingly more likely to be female—the notoriously conservative RAINN estimates that 1 in 6 women will be raped in their lifetimes, whereas the corresponding statistic for men is 1 in 33. This doesn’t make rape and sexual assault less important when it happens to men—it is unacceptable, anywhere, at any time—but it does provide perspective on why rape and sexual victimization are coded as feminine.

Here are some other articles: Scott Howard, an openly gay man, went to prison for moneymaking schemes and was repeatedly raped and extorted by 211 Crew—a well-known white supremecist group, then punished by prison officials when he reported it.

In 2010, a report was issued that stated about 12% of youth in juvenile detention in the U.S. reported having been sexually abused in the last year. Unlike in adult prisons, however, the ratio of abuse by inmate:staff was reversed—the majority of sexual abuse was perpetrated by staff. Indiana got called out by Federal authorities soon after because the conditions shocked even the investigators—and do you know how hard it is to get people who think prison is a good idea to admit something’s crossed the line?

At the G20 summit in Toronto last year, police repeatedly threatened to rape protesters in their custody, and they actually did sexually assault several.

Rape isn’t invisible: it’s just bled out and pale, less threatening. One of the reasons that transparency is fought so vehemently by these institutions of power—corporations, government and even colleges and universities—is that transparency shows that these problems are big, that they are endemic and of mind-boggling proportions. The idea that real rape rarely happens is part of rape culture’s trivialization of rape—because, abstracted into isolated instances, the implicit suggestion becomes unavoidable: go work on real issues.

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