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Archive for the ‘Capitalism’ Category

The Lessons of Porn, Expanded

Referring back to this post on the effects porn had on my sexuality and particularly how I perceived “sex” and the narrowing of what was pleasurable for me, I wanted to write another post about stimulus and conditioning. Especially since people seem to believe that this is some isolated phenomenon, and it’s just not.

One of the things I noted about pornography was that it actually limited the pleasure I could find in sex or masturbation when it wasn’t “aided” by porn, and that it warped my definition of sex so that it consisted almost entirely of penetration, performed pretty mechanically by two or more partners—it could have been anyone, not just me; all that mattered was that penetration happened. It was really about as sexy as a hammer striking a block repeatedly: if you have a healthy sexuality, not at all.

Carnism warped my perception of what “filling” food was. Some months after going vegan, I remember looking at the cover of The Complete Vegan Cookbook and thinking that even eating all that couldn’t fill me up—and it was a depiction of probably more than two thousand calories and four pounds of roasted vegetables! Corn, potatoes, peppers, garlic—that was just the beginning; I can’t even remember all the varieties of food pictured.

Needless to say, I was being pretty ridiculous; it was purely a problem of distorted perception. After several years of being vegan—almost entirely without omnisubs or “meaty” products like tempeh and tofu—the same picture would seem to me an inordinate amount of food, a veritable feast.

Other carnists do this too; one of my friends, who works at Subway, is vegan too and regularly has to deal with comments from customers and coworkers about how the Veggie Delite (sans cheese, nonvegan condiments and patty, natch) just wouldn’t fill them up. The hilarious thing is the maximum amount of meat you’ll get for a six inch is four ounces; mostly you get two to three ounces—the bread is literally the most filling part of the entire sandwich. On top of that, people who say that it isn’t filling have usually never actually tried it—or they only got one or two vegetables at best.

Carnism makes you feel that the only real sustenance is contained in animal products; it warps your perception.

But one of the most interesting experiences for me, taste-wise, was fruitarianism—i.e. 2,000 calories a day specifically from fresh semitropical or tropical fruit, a large salad usually consisting of two heads of lettuce, and every other day or so some avocado, coconut or nuts. I’ve heard rather pretentious vegans remark that you have to like, go to culinary school to have “good enough” tastebuds. (I had no idea that you could be a classist Marxist; thanks, Vincent!) Now, one of the most interesting thing was just how my tastebuds changed.

Without letting myself go hungry, the flavors of fresh food became exponentially more vibrant when they’d already been delicious to begin with; I could taste the sweetness and saltiness of romaine, chard, spinach and the peculiar sweetness of sour limes. But even then, the taste of food became really impossible to explain in terms of sweetness, sourness, saltiness and bitterness—much the same way that the joy of sex is impossible to explain with a sexual terminology tainted by porn, or to someone currently limited by pornthink.

Anoretics generally suffer from a lack of flavor—food becomes bland: you have to add salt or mustard, chew gum constantly, something to get a constant rush of flavor. It’s the same for people who are suffering from mineral or vitamin or protein deficiency—food loses its luster; you become depressed and listless and lose any interest in eating. This was a diametrically opposed experience.

What was also interesting was that when I began eating cooked foods again—for a multitude of reasons, but mostly because of capitalism, which is unfortunate because tropical fruit makes humans feel good—it was incredibly… bland.

I also couldn’t stand nearly as much salt anymore; it overpowered the food and ruined the flavor. Salt has its own flavor too, you know; a lot of the time I find this is actually the biggest reason why carnists find vegan food “bland.” There’s just not enough salt in it, and they’re used to salt.

This leads to my point: when you regularly condition yourself to a certain substance, you lose your ability to enjoy the same activities without that substance—usually to a greater rather than lesser degree. When I was younger and tried food without salt, it wasn’t that it had no taste; it had taste, I just couldn’t enjoy or appreciate it.

I literally built up a tolerance to a substance that was supposedly non-habit forming. My taste buds—my brain—got conditioned to only recognize flavor in the presence of salt; similarly, when you consume porn, your brain becomes conditioned to recognize sexiness and arousal only in the context of pornified sex (which basically isn’t very much like sex).

But my primary reason for writing this post was this: technology screws up your ability to enjoy life.

That could sound silly, coming from somebody who’s clearly writing this on a computer. But since I’ve realized just how badly technology impairs my ability to enjoy life, and to be fascinated and fulfilled by nature, I’ve actually been restricting my use of it.

When I lived in a tent with my best friend, I… experienced life, and joy, for the first time ever. Nothing in civilization can ever compare to the enjoyment of life I had then; you can’t experience true joy or fulfillment as long as you are bound to civilization. The reason I chose—and still long for—fruitarianism is that it is the only time that I can get any kind of approximation of that wholeness… 811rv allows you to experience the closest approximation of real life, of nature, that you can get in civilization.

And I had all these beliefs about nature and who I was and what I was capable of just utterly destroyed.

You know how teens and college-aged kids get bored when they’re sitting outside in nature? How older people can sit, and sit, and sit, and be entertained—by looking around or playing solitaire or just thinking? I was one of those kids too. I swore that I’d just die of boredom if I was ever caught without technology—my laptop, my GBA, my iPod… something to take me away from the slowness of nature.

Except that the opposite happened. I had my iPod, and I didn’t use it because I was just endlessly entertained, by talking, by thinking and by watching; I found an almost Buddhist sense of spirituality. There is this certain kind of… sense that is reinforced in you by even a temporary detox from technology, of the inferiority of civilization and human “ingenuity” in the face of nature. I completely lost any appreciation for architecture I once had, because architecture has no real visual texture; the intricacies of a tree—of a living organism—are endless. It redefines beauty. I like to say that of the entirety of what Yeshuah said, “Sell all your things and give them to the poor; and come, follow me,” was the most literal. You can’t have any understanding of love, life, and joy, of the inherent goodness and truth of nature, unless you are a wanderer… unless you reject civilization absolutely. Everything you think you know about the ruthlessness and callous violence of nature, and about the “benefits” of civilization, is a laughable lie. Nature may not necessarily be kind but it certainly isn’t cruel—it won’t hurt you simply because it doesn’t have a reason not to.

When I was forced back into “shelter,” it was awful—you don’t have any idea how it is to feel joy, to feel freedom, to finally understand what it means to say that nature is good, and to just… have that ripped away from you.

The worst part, I think, is that it’s never very long before you forget what it was like Before. Maybe it’s just too much for your mind to really comprehend—nature is not, after all, cruel or malicious; you reach a point where “pain” and “sadness” don’t really exist because there’s not much to compare it to anymore, it’s just normal. Just because it would be so much more painful to remember what it was like to be free, to be safe. The idea that you have to know sadness to know happiness is total bullshit: it only works one way. You can be happy all the time, because happiness is something default, happiness is necessary if you’re going to survive in nature. But you cannot be sad all the time without becoming numb, without forgetting what happiness ever was.

Eventually you’re just left with this uneasy wistfulness for an indistinct memory: you knew. You knew it was better… but you can’t remember anymore.

Technology still does this to me—to everyone; it conditions your brain to a faster but less detailed speed, to a speed where you actually can’t process many details. It conditions your brain to a lower textural quality while ramping up simplistic intensity to compensate.

You can look at movies from different eras to see my point; movies have gotten faster and faster as time has gone on, as advertising has had to continuously compete for effect and audience. I remember a point where I watched Star Wars in my early teens and actually thought it was kind of slow-paced. The same has happened with music, but I’m not glorifying the Beatles; their music also encouraged the loss of musical texture and complexity. Jonsi and Sigur Ros and 65daysofstatic are actually some of my favorite music because their music is so complex and filled with texture.

One of the most damaging things technology does, though, is make you impatient. Car drivers, gamers, television watchers, and even casual internet users become incredibly impatient; I don’t think you really hear or see yourselves. I also become incredibly impatient; I’m more likely to snap at my best friend if I’ve been using the computer at all, I’m more jittery and needy of stimulus. It makes you impatient.

And tired. Incredibly tired. Video games have the same effect on me, even for a small time, but if I keep playing I become overstimulated and can’t get to sleep, the same way as when I try to stay up when I’m tired.

Speaking of which, I’m very tired, so I’m going to end this post now.

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Hard Work and Capitalism

I find it immensely amusing and tiring to talk with capitalists because they never actually hear what I say; it’s more like they’re continuing an imaginary debate with me than responding to my points. I have a pretty good idea that this is just a symptom of being too ignorant of capitalism to know anything about any other social system, but it’s still funny/irritating when they come out with one of my “favorite” points: you just don’t want to work hard.

I’ll save the capitalist vs. anarchist (and civilized vs. primitive) analysis for later. Capitalists claim that “hard work” is a virtue within capitalism; so success within capitalism means an abundance of “hard work” and failure within capitalism means a sorry lack of it. (You can smell the victim-blaming already, I know.)

Bullshit. Capitalists do not believe hard work is a virtue, because the reward system for “hard work” inside capitalism is the absolute opposite of what a capitalist ideal of “hard work” would look like.

Before I go on, think about what “work” means. It includes: producing a physical object, producing a physical state (cleanliness), and organizing people or things so that these two “production” states can be carried out most efficiently (therapy, management, etc.). What work does not include is socializing, because socializing is enjoyable.

The lower down on the pay scale you are—the less successful you are at capitalism—the less you are allowed to socialize, regardless of how it affects your ability to work. I’ve seen cases where managers have actually separated crews because they thought “socializing” was a uniquely anti-hard work evil, making it harder for them to get done in a certain amount of time, and still they refused to allow the crew to work as they did best.

But the higher up on the pay scale you are, more and more of your “job” is actually just socializing. You don’t “work” under the same definition; you eat lunch with someone.

Capitalism cannot value “hard work”—that is, a dedication to productivity that eschews social and personal needs in favor of more work—when the most highly-valued positions are the absolute antithesis of that same “hard work.”

It’s even more ridiculous to believe that capitalism values “hard work” when socioeconomic inheritance happens. Very, very few CEOs got to be where they are by “working hard.” Most got their job by being born to rich, famous, or powerful parents. They did not have to work hard—ever. Hell, there are very few lawyers who weren’t born into a place of privilege.

I’m actually gonna assert that within capitalism, “hard work” disqualifies you for a more highly valued position; it’s a disadvantage to be hard-working. The biggest reason is that, because hard work is so closely associated with poverty and capitalist failure, hard work is coded inferior by capitalism. It’s devalued because the people who are the poorest are expected to work the hardest, and because very often they do.

But another thing is that power within capitalism is also based on socialization—you get power by getting people to give theirs to you. And one of the simplest and most ridiculous part of any status quo institution is the circle-the-wagons reflex: protect yourself against any untoward implications by refusing to break ranks.

That’s more than capitalist, by the way—carnists do it (well sure that animal abuse is wrong, but I eat tasty animals and I can’t care if they’re abused because I want some cheese har har har!), pro-porners (well I can’t say anything about their clearly-unhealthy “kink” because I know mine is unhealthy too and I don’t want to draw attention to it), anti-feminists (first it was our right to rape, next time it’ll be our balls!). It’s pretty par-the-course for injustice.

I don’t think capitalists do it intentionally, but people who work hard and the people who take the most shit are shut out of higher-paying positions; once I had a friend working at a U.S. pharmacy/corner store who was fucking amazing at it and impressed the hell out of the district manager. This wasn’t weird; it was just how zie did zeir job. After three months of doing everything literally perfectly, though—and if you’re familiar with those shitty pharmacy/corner stores and their turnover rate, you’ll understand how hard it is—the assistant managers started whispering about how zie was trying to suck up into the position of manager. They found excuses to write zem up when nothing had been a problem before and, within another month and a half, they’d made the job so fucking unbearable zie left.

And this is pretty common; if you work hard, you’re seen as a threat and cut down to size.

So in reality, hard work isn’t a virtue of capitalism; it’s a mark of failure. The best thing you can do to succeed within it is cultivate charm and appearance and schmooze the hell out of powerful people in hopes that they’ll give you some of theirs. This has been how it’s been working for quite a long time—and they’ll have the gall to say women didn’t earn their way to the top.

Of course, the whole socializing thing is boring, because trying to pander to others’ prejudices is really annoying; and a low-paying job sucks because you have to take a lot of shit. I prefer actual work, upcoming.

Honestly

This is not an issue that directly relates to any form of rights I’ve spoken about. It’s about boundaries, finding an ethical code that won’t tear you up inside with hypocrisy, and protecting yourself.

I was, like a lot of people, brought up to believe that honesty was one of the biggest virtues someone could ever have; at least where I grew up, kids were inundated with feel-good stories about “doing the right thing,” and not getting punished because they had the goodness of soul to stand up and proclaim The Truth. No, the world doesn’t work like that, which makes it an even shittier propaganda tactic to use on children, but the idea of honesty as paramount still looks awful good until you take a look at it in the context of reality—power, prejudice, inequality and defense.

Much like pacifism, the people most likely to benefit from widespread “honesty” are also the people least likely to have to practice it, because the power imbalance is heavily tilted to their side. The rich, the powerful, the white and the dickled have much less to lose from practicing (or not practicing) pacifism and honesty; there’s less of a line between a choice to do so or not to do so for them.

What’s the worth of a white person’s choice to be a pacifist in a society that does not target them with violence, inequality and disenfranchisement? It’s not like that white pacifist won’t be hurting the people of color who do suffer those things; they’re institutionalized. One white dude’s symbolic gesture of non-participation—especially while zie is still participating in other oppressions that highlight and entrench racism like capitalism, carnism, technocentrism, for a start—doesn’t do a whole lot to reduce the impact of racism on actual people. Not even talking about it will stop that shit; it’s not in your hands.

And what does pacifism symbolize to the power structure when taken up by a person of color, except a willing acceptance of victimization?

I’m not asking about the personal value of these beliefs, whatever they may be. I’m asking about what they do. I’m asking where these supposed “subversions” of the power structure become actual subversion, actual sabotage. Especially since I do want to enact violence against the power structure—I want to destroy it utterly. Again: I’m trying to chop down the tree of oppression. You don’t have to join me, but you had better stay the hell outta my way while I’m swinging the axe.

What effect does honesty have on the power structure? How does it help, or harm?

The first time dishonesty as a political act, instead of as simple self-protection, was driven home to me was when Aslan and I were homeless together, living out of a tent bought with the money I’d saved up as our last vestige of hope. We had an average income of $0/mo. I’m the black sheep of the family and have never had any kind of financial support from them; Aslan grew up on the streets under a welfare mother and zeir working-class stepfather was seven hundred miles away, assuming he’d be willing to help the kid he abandoned at four. No trustifarians we. So you can imagine how we got food. Not through a dumpster; they’re mechanizing them all nowadays. Anyway.

We ate better than we had in months, even walking a minimum of 30,000 steps every day. Not particularly because we got “a lot,” but because we managed to get enough. It helped that we’re vegan—carnist foods are much riskier to shoplift than anything else. Some karma thing, I dunno. But it struck me, the first time I went in with Aslan with a goal in mind, just how much capitalism has invested in imbuing this strange, distorted “honesty” into you: the entire structure of a corporate grocery store is designed to hide the underhanded shenanigans occurring on every level of the capitalist establishment while at the same time trying to make it so that you do not have the ability to hide anything from them.

And most of that attempt consists of psychological tactics. Most people don’t know not to twitch, to act as if you have a right to be there, and to do your best to remain as invisible, unforgettable, and impersonal as possible.

There is a direct line from one to the other here. You have to ask: who is profiting from these beliefs? In other words, who is profiting off of making you too nervous and guilt-ridden to ensure that you can eat, regardless of whether or not one of the upper caste will accept your petition to work? Because the answer is fairly clear. Instilling the belief that honesty is a necessity, even and especially when it harms yourself, in order for those who hold power over you to cement that dynamic straight into the ground.

Put another way: if you are honest, who is going to hurt you?

As a matter of policy, I don’t particularly believe that anyone is obligated to tell the truth when they are long the power imbalance. There are a few caveats to that—the consideration, for example, of whether or not you’re going to be directly hurting someone else by lying—but the rest stands. In many cases, I see lying as an obligation, such as with the quintessential “he went thataway!” misdirection of oppressors in search of a revolutionary. The only person you should ever make a policy of total honesty with is yourself. And maybe your best friend/long-term lover, but I’m pretty sure that requires negotiation. A lot of people start “opening up” and then take it way too far because they have no experience with what is an acceptable and desirable limit to that.

Question these social norms you are given at their premise. Why is honesty desirable? Why is pacifism? Why is femininity? Why is carnism? Why is nationalism? Why is the human race? Ask not just why but how—how are these things desirable, and whose interests do they serve?

Your ethical code needs to be informed of this, to be malleable, so that you needn’t sacrifice yourself to the power structure in order to live by your ethics, and so that you needn’t betray your ethics in order to protect yourself. Revolution is not an easy path to walk: you need to set aside a lot of your honesty for yourself, so that you will be neither willing nor able to tolerate or make excuses for yourself when you veer too close to being the kind of person you do not want to be.

Fat, Brown and Animal: Being Other

When people want to insult a fat woman, they say, “she’s such a cow.” Well, and even if she doesn’t fit any cultural definition of fat—though it’s usually accompanied by a verbal illustration of how said Cow Lady is fat-like, e.g. she breathes heavily or is clumsy. Similarly, a man who’s fat is said to be a pig.

Insults aimed at fat people have more to do with the inferiority and deficiencies ascribed to animals than they do with humans or body fat. A cow is supposedly clumsy, stupid, emotionally and mentally placid, lazy and gluttonous. Pigs are also supposedly clumsy, stupid, emotionally and mentally placid, lazy, gluttonous and messy/filthy/unclean. Are they any of these things? Probably not to themselves, or another pig or cow; they are to us because they are patently not human, though, in a similar way that non-Westerners are assumed to be immoral, filthy, scheming and/or barbaric. They refuse to play by our rules, because they don’t look and act like us.

Am I getting this through yet? Patriarchy, as we know, is a proselytizing religion: infidels are to be converted or used as hunting-sport with which our patriarchs can prove their masculinity by destroying. As is heterosexism; the Abrahamic West imported homophobia (as well as misogyny to a large degree) into Japan as it did with leftie hatred into China as did the Romans import a new and even more abusive form of slavery into Kemet. White westerners have very typically assumed that because they were, well, them, their culture, their beliefs, their history, their politics and their actions were better than anyone else’s, ergo anyone who differed in any of these things could be justifiably enslaved, imprisoned, killed, ripped off, or just generally treated like crap without qualm or consequence.

Carnism is a proselytizing religion, too. I have never met a carnist that, hearing I was vegan, didn’t try to convince me that veganism was too extreme, too privileged or too unhealthy. (Naturally, you want to defer to people who personally and economically benefit from carnism on the subject of veganism vs. carnism.) WIC emphasizes a diet heavy in dairy and devoid of fresh fruits and vegetables, and by the same hand gets rid of a good amount of the unsellable dairy in the country. Heifer Int’l imports the European reliance on animal products into poor, non-white, non-Western (UK, US, AU) regions, starving them by taking away food, poisoning them by introducing nonhuman-to-human pathogens and parasites, and rapidly increasing the speed and spread of desertification through killing off grazing foliage and drinking enormous amounts of water. I shouldn’t have to go further. The subversion of non-Western cultures by the Western Three relies a great deal upon the importation of animal product-heavy diets.

At the same time, patriarchy didn’t get as far as it has by merely vilifying and maligning women. It had to convince men (and women) that being a woman was a horrible fucking thing to be, since they were so… inferior and childbearing and yucky. Part of the slanderous misinformation against oppressed groups was making sure that those who weren’t oppressed wouldn’t sympathize too much with them, or they might be them. So too with animals. Animals are routinely used as a placeholder for every vile human on the face of the Earth: they’re animals, they say, like animals construct fucking rape prisons. I’m not arguing animals are innocent or pure or whatever; I’m just arguing that they haven’t constructed a proselytizing culture that actively traps, imprisons, and punishes those who don’t fall into the “right” categories and belief systems, so they haven’t given themselves nearly as many opportunities to fuck themselves up. Trust me, were, say, finches doing what humans were right now, they’d be just as fucked up too—although I guess that presupposes that you can do what we’re doing without being fucked up.

Effective oppression requires that you not just place the oppressed group within a property category, but that you convince anyone not oppressed just how unworthy of help they are, and how much like them—and therefore a target—you will be if you actually try to do anything meaningful for them.

And if they want to treat you like property, all they have to do is compare you to someone who’s already property. Fucking listen to me! If they want to treat you like they do animals, all they have to do is compare you to fucking animals.

Do you think it’s a coincidence that every group of humans on the face of the Earth that they have imprisoned and forced to labor have been compared to farm animals and beasts of burden? Pele’s exploding tits. Black people were shown off at what were essentially latter-day livestock shows. Black people were said to be animalistic: stupid, large, clumsy, lazy, gluttonous—like cows. Do you think it’s a coincidence that every group of humans on the face of the Earth that they have wanted to exterminate have been compared to—drawn as—”pest animals”? Japanese, rats. Ditto for Chinese. Vietnamese, dogs. Mexicans, rats, dogs. Arabs, snakes.

Snakes, rats and dogs—animals who have committed the mortal sin of refusing to stay still and be exterminated because humans wanted them to, making them Incomprehensible!

How can people be this stupid? Do I really need to spell it out for you? Fine. Oppression of humans will never be fully eliminated without taking down carnism—the idea that animals are just fine to use as property and the actions underlying it—because there is still that fundamental exception. Carnism is the basis for humans’ belief that it is okay to treat someone who experiences their life as property.

It is a fucking excuse, and you fucking know it, or you would actually educate yourself about veganism, and not from carnists—people who benefit, personally and economically, off of carnism. You got exactly no right to be angry at me for tellin’ you the truth: were we in a different time period, you would be just fine with doing this shit to a given group of humans, because you believe this is okay, period.

Away from 101, back to fat. When someone is compared to a given animal group (quarry, farmed, pest, pet, and another group that’s “beautiful” and worthy of their habitat), the stereotypes from that animal group pass over to the brand-spanking-new fucked-over human group.

Fat people are compared to farmed animals: pigs (hogs), cows. Implicitly, then, fat people are what these animals are supposed to be—as I mentioned up at the beginning of the post. I am not saying these assumptions about fat people are justified—in fact, just the opposite, because I don’t believe those assumptions about animals are justified in the first place. Oppression justifies oppression. Farmed animals are like this, thus it’s dandy for us to do this to them; fat people are like this, thus it’s dandy for us to consistently fuck them over and shame them, etc. etc.

No oppression exists without another to precipitate that. Funny, that. Also, as an aside, humans are alarmingly unoriginal if you look at the history of oppression in the world.

Before I end this, I want to note one more thing, and that is another similarity in perceptions of farmed animals and fat people: they are seen as unimposing, impotent and non-threatening. Despite the fact that farmed animals are actually quite dangerous to humans in ways that suggest we wouldn’t be hunting them in natural circumstances, they’re essentially seen as ridiculous because we were able to dominate them. Fat people, too. A fat man, furious at being treated like an immoral, lazy eating-machine, only comes across as comic relief—a fat woman comes off as even less impressive than that, the most impotent and powerless of them all.

Oppression is oppression is oppression. Human oppressions are only branches of this oppression: carnism is the trunk from which all human oppressions are justified, and property status and human supremecism are the roots. I’m going for the roots. You don’t have to join me, but you had better stay the hell out of my way while I’m swinging my axe.

Privilege at its Extreme is Individualism, Again

Oddly, while my own experience of reading blogs is that it’s liable to make me more depressed and despairing on my own (probably because of the silencing factor), combining it with writing relieves me and makes me angry and passionate instead of resentfully cynical. Maybe this is just because I am “the vegan,” so my passion for basic rights puts me at odds with most “rights activists.” It’s really rare that I read something I feel resonates within me so much:

It was the eighties. The atmosphere was ripe with immanent denunciations. Politics in the still-breathing lesbian community had begun to hollow out into a ritual called “name the racist (classist, homophobe etc).” Who would be next in line to confess her privilege? Once she confessed, she too could be admitted to the ranks of the righteous, entitled now to “call out” any others on their particular “isms” … She now had an Id-entity. Indeed the self became implicitly re-imaged a container-entity either filled or emptied of privilege-chips.

I’ve noticed this going around a lot, and I am deeply uncomfortable with this process in feminism. It’s not that I don’t realize I’m privileged in many ways; I’m also systematically oppressed in many ways, but those privileges and oppressions and their intersections are not nearly as clear-cut as people make them out to be. The way these things interact and play off each other would take fucking years to describe—and by then they’d have changed anyway—and I don’t feel comfortable, in any way, having the face value of my privileges and oppression determine how much I should be listened to.

Because that’s what the effect comes down to: your credibility is directly determined by your relative oppression and privileges. It’s a bizarre mathematical equation that I’m sure gives both the oppressed and the privileged on any given issue some self-satisfaction, but it doesn’t work.

I was born into an upper-class, not wholly white, partially foreign family. But that wealth was not shared with me: money and its privileges were seen as the exclusive benefit of our mother and any money given to children—even for social necessities like clothing, soap and food—was only done grudgingly. I’ve been shocked, again and again, at what kids from only middle-class families feel entitled to, because the privilege people assume I had I never actually received.

Most of my warped worldview comes from the suburbs, where the houses are large and spaced far enough apart so that the neighbors can’t hear the children being beaten—and even then, it’s not much of a feeling of entitlement: my upbringing solidified a sense of distrust in my own perceptions and experiences, so that I assume I am acting on an incomplete worldview. Whether that’s the product of the suburbs or the abuse I can’t say—though I’d consider the suburbs themselves a type of abuse.

But even aside from that—I’m not rich, and I haven’t been for years. I and another person (my best friend, my platonic life partner) survive off of roughly $1,000/mo for all expenses. I’ve been homeless. I’ve had to lift all my food. Right now, at this point in my life, I am so poor that I sneer at the arguments of how poor people can’t not buy junk food, because if I bought junk food I’d starve.

So which am I? Do I get to know what I’m saying or don’t I? Are my anti-capitalist beliefs less valid than a pro-capitalist homeless man, because I have shelter right now?

I’ve been told that it’s because of my privilege that I’m vegan—big fucking NOPE here alongside an explanation of animal agriculture-as-Western-colonialism and genocide/ecocide—and that I’m racist by saying that people of color shouldn’t be treated like animals because it’s wrong to treat animals like that in the first place. Because I’m white enough to pass on the street—though still not white enough to get a job thanks to Mexiphobia—even though I’ve been caged, dismissed, and compared to animals too.

When someone gets told they have privilege, it’s shorthand for: all of what you just said is invalid.

And instead of engaging ideas critically and actually picking them apart, everyone follows that idea—that if you agree with someone who’s oppressed on a subject tangential to their oppression, you’re more credible, too. It’s gone from: the fact is that, as someone who hasn’t experienced the life of a POC or etc., you have a skewed perspective and your flippant suggestions for how to solve XYZ aren’t accurate or useful. To: the fact is that, as someone who hasn’t experienced the life of a POC or etc., you know less than they do.

That’s where it ends. Just, “you’re privileged,” the end.

The trend that Kathy Miriam points out has been my observation, too.

One of the obstacles to critiquing individualism is that the latter, like all ideology, functions by obscuring itself and self-presents as “just the way things are.” It is the air we breathe, the element in which we swim, thus invisible. Because individualism is so naturalized as a belief system, it can disguise itself as knowledge—or invisibly form the preconditions of what is claimed as self-evident knowledge.

Because there’s never any discussion of, “Well, how do I change my privilege?” (at least, that isn’t short-circuited by I shouldn’t have to educate you!), privilege has become this self-evident, unchangeable reality. And so we shift our attention away from demanding rights and equality from the people in our community towards legislation, which has a limited chance of success and an even more limited effect on the people who still have to deal with it on the ground.

We’ve become so caught up in this idea of changing either the individual or the government that we forget that the media, capitalism, religion etc. all spew this poison into our lives. We take the media and capitalism and marriage and religion and everything else so much for granted that we forget that we can—and should—build communities for ourselves if the ones we live in will not accommodate our very real needs for safety, survival and belonging.

Instead we focus on one person at a time, and not even within our communities—we fight over the fucking internet, devolving into a big fucking fight where everyone’s screaming NO UR PRIVLEJD and, in light of all that, activism—real activism—withers and dies.

Privilege analysis is a damn good lens for social justice movements to use. But it can’t be the be-all end-all of analysis and the only tool in the cabinet, and just because you’re privileged doesn’t mean you’re not onto something.

In short, privilege makes you unworthy of listening to when you speak up in favor of a system that you benefit from or that does not directly oppress you. But having been oppressed does not mean you are smarter or a moral-o-meter that can tell the relative ethical worth of ideas, either. And while it’s nice to believe that you, personally, can tell whether or not someone’s been oppressed or privileged—e.g. that women are privileged by gender conformity norms instead of oppressed by them—no one has that super-power, sorry.

And in shorter, you can’t let discussion of privilege limit the ways you move in the world. Now, I’m going to go create some animal adoption posters. Go read Dialectical Spin now. Bye!

“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.

The Alpha Rapist in Popular Culture

What is this crap I keep hearing from MRAs about “alpha men” and “beta men?” Are these people living in another universe? Assuming that “alpha” and “beta” are taken from the social structures of wolf packs—which undoubtedly they are, since humans have this unexplodey fetish for comparing themselves to the species, complete with ridiculous misconceptions—the assumptions involved are… unrealistic.

First! It’s irrational and tellingly biased that alpha and beta only get applied to those who are or who we’d like to imagine as predator-types. So there are references to “alpha men,” but very few to alpha women—who, in a strict hierarchal power-structure, would by necessity have to exist.

Second, it assumes characteristics that aren’t necessarily present in wolf packs. Humans like to believe that “alpha” means an aggressive, assertive power that commands everyone else to submit or they’ll rip you apart… but that isn’t the case in wolf packs: alpha wolves are actually the most social and are only rarely involved in a dispute. Actually, alpha wolves are alpha wolves not because they’re the biggest and meanest, but because they are the most charismatic—others want to follow them, trust them, and do what they say. I’ve met only a few alpha humans by the actual wolf definition of “alpha,” and that trait doesn’t have anything to do with looks—although it helps, given the persistent disregard and dismissal of those who aren’t freaking Barbies and Kens.

The MRA definition of alpha seems to be: aggressive, powerful, threatening rapist. Let’s talk about how far these types of individuals get in any social species outside of a civilization and imposed societal structure that prevents them from being straight-up disposed of because homigosh murder!!1

Then there’s the slander against “beta males.” Eh? Betas are actually those who work very well with everyone in the group, and are usually arbiter/secondary-Mommy role, and get this: they’re actually not that maligned or disempowered in wolf society because, hey! They are the second highest-ranking!

Actually, as a whole, the rage about alpha males and beta males and how those stupid beta males give in to the evil feminists is based on the idea that if the feminists weren’t around, women wouldn’t be able to stop men from getting their dicks wet whenever they wanted. Which doesn’t do much to convince me that MRA isn’t all about “those bitches won’t spread their legs for me!” Which speaks of entitlement, and guys… entitlement doesn’t come up in a society where you are underpowered and disenfranchised: nonwhites and women actually have to struggle against the idea that they aren’t as worthy, good, or smart as whites and men (and white men).

On the other hand, what’s the problem? Nobody but the alphas get to breed—ever. Betas, regardless of what sex they are, do not get to breed—it is one of those fundamental laws of wolf society: you don’t get to do this. That it’s a social tenet is underscored by the fact that wolves raised outside of wolf culture—by humans, for example—have no qualms with mating even though they’re not alphas.

… So, ironically, the MRAs have nothing to complain about: men and women are already equal, unless you count men’s disproportionate presence and representation inside politics, high-paying and high-prestige jobs, etc. They’re fine to object to that if they want—I agree, capitalism is fucking awful and drains your soul, and I’ll be happy to welcome them over to the anarchist side of things as soon as they get rid of their patriarchal, white and human privilege.

I do have a further problem with the idea of alpha as it is applied to humans: “alpha” standards for men and women differ, massively, in ways that are not borne out by personality differences between men and women. Men are supposed to be hyperaggressive, warlike rapists—chill, I said supposed to be, as in by society, and I appreciate your agreement that men are not inherently rapists and shouldn’t ever be—but women’s “alpha” status is… appearance. You have to be thin, made-up, perfumed, conventionally attractive—and silent, apparently, because no mention of women’s personalities are ever made in “alpha” standards. Because to men, women are fuckholes. Wait, I missed the part where society is supposed to value women more than men again, I think.

In conclusion, shut the fuck up and stop slandering other species you honestly know jack shit about. They do not support your concepts of how the world is supposed to be run, and if you weren’t constantly using only the measures of your paradigm on them, you’d know that. But what is carnism if not exploiting animals’ lives to reinforce your own sense of superiority?

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