Nature is an ecoterrorist!

Archive for the ‘Government Stupidity’ Category

News: Starvation or Jail

A few days ago, it was reported by the BBC that a homeless man was jailed in Belfast, Northern Ireland for begging. He couldn’t pay a fine of £80, so they jailed him.

The district judge refused to give him a conditional discharge saying he had two other begging convictions and that it was clear they had not deterred him.

Look. I don’t know what things are like in Belfast for the homeless, but I am pretty hip to the fact that if a country or city’s priorities are geared towards making the homeless unseen by the housed rather than actually, you know, helping them maintain a lifestyle that is healthy, sanitary and safe, there’s probably not that many options for the homeless other than begging. For all that people like to point to homeless shelters, they’re not an option for many because of the waiting lists, lack of food/enough food/necessary food (for example, Aslan couldn’t go to shelters for food because it was all infested with dairy, to which zie is deadly allergic), an almost total absence of dignity and safety.

Very few people who recommend shelters know, or are willing to consider, the fact that you’re more at risk for rape and theft from the shelter staff than from the other shelter-ees. I’m not even touching the Mission belief that the homeless are homeless because they’re not Christians or not good enough Christians, and that making someopne who is starving and/or freezing to death listen to a sermon before they “deserve” to not starve and/or freeze is just. UnChristian and unacceptable by any decent standard (i.e. non-Randian) of ethics. And even now, we’re assuming he was able to get access to a shelter or Mission in the first place…

You know, I think there might be a reason that he wasn’t deterred by his convictions, and it’s something you’re fucking evil for faulting someone for: he valued his literal physical survival over the law.

So do I. When the law pits itself against your basic well-being, safety and survival, the law is wrong. End of.

Most people who haven’t been homeless do not understand that concept—that the law cannot physically be followed in many circumstances: in Colorado, U.S., it is actually illegal to sleep anywhere that is not a “private” residence. If you cannot pay for a motel/hotel or camping space, if you do not have a house, if someone with those things does not give you permission to sleep there, you are actually breaking the law. You can’t even sleep in a car you own. The U.S. is more concerned with keeping the homeless out of sight than with anything else, to the point that they are willing to put into place a rule that would violate the Geneva convention on torture if it were inflicted on POWs.

I’ve been there. Let me tell you something: sleep is more important than anything except water. In the hierarchy of basic needs, “sleep” and “water” are at the bottom; then “warmth” and “sanitation”; then “food” and “safety.” No number of laws can deter you from needing these, but it doesn’t seem to stop humans from trying. Like if you really were a good person, you’d find a way to do everything legally, including suddenly becoming magically successful at capitalism (because it’s your choice, after all!).

Uh, no. This is Human Rights 101: capitalism and the comfort of the privileged do not ever negate or come before any human’s survival, and capitalist infrastructure (stores) has no right to prevent humans from ensuring their survival, even if it comes at the cost of a store’s profits. If you think that a store’s “right” to profits comes before a human’s actual right to food and not starving, then congratulations—you don’t even believe in the most basic of human rights. Go to the corner and fucking check yourself.

What they’ve done to this man is criminal. That unnamed judge should be locked up.

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.

News: Nature is Awesome, Humans Intent on Short-Term Gain (Still)

In animals and nature news today, another species of beetle native to the UK has been discovered. It’s a rove beetle with an average length of 6.5mm (i.e. pretty damn small). A handful of new beetle species are identified each year in the region, which doesn’t include other species of insects and animals. I find a great many people who insist that we know a whole fuckin’ lot about animals, which usually provides the basis for their assertion that we know non-human animals are inferior to us, but this just isn’t true. (And it doesn’t help when you repeat basic inaccuracies like, “bees aren’t animals, they’re insects!”)

Out of a scale of everything there is to know about humans, the knowledge humanity possesses accounts for probably one millionth of one percent. I say “probably,” because we know so little about ourselves—even separate parts of the body, like the circulatory system—that it is basically impossible to estimate unless you’re using my scale (which is extremely practical but widely ignored and/or denied).

For example: did you even know there were 1,500 varieties of potatoes in existence? (I did. Plants are awesome.) There are also over 600 varieties of mangos… although they are quickly being destroyed by global agriculture, capitalism, and… hey! Carnism.

When you include everything else in the world… well, dudes, our knowledge is basically the equivalent of a single single atom among all the atoms in all the molecules of every material thing in the world.

However, we do have some knowledge by trial-and-error—not passive knowledge (that something is), but active knowledge: what happens when you do something. Actually, humans have such a long history of fucking up that we have a massive repository of straight-up facts for what will happen if you try to fuck with the world around you… This is being stolidly ignored in the UK; to reduce tuberculosis rates in farmed cows, farmers want to shoot badgers.

Aside from the outstanding evidence that “pest management” is a bad fucking idea, shooting badgers actually increases the spread of TB outside of the immediate area because of the upset to their social networks, so any badgers that foraged nearby will range farther instead of remaining in the area. No, of course that doesn’t imply badgers feel so strongly about others in their social networks dying that they will actively avoid the area—that would be sentimental and obvious reasonable evolutionarily sound anthropomorphism.

Apparently, it’s a better idea to fuck up another animals’ social system than it is to simply eliminate the problem by not farming cows. Because if you did that, nature wins! And nature is an ecoterrorist.

That’s officially my new tagline.

News: UK Forests Safe, also: Paradigms

David Cameron has abandoned his plan to privatize most of England’s forests. This is unequivocally a good thing. As a primitivist, public ownership of nature is not something I find ideal; I don’t think any species has a right to lands they have not biologically adapted to survive in (i.e. without tools or weapons), which certainly excludes humans. It’s still infinitely better than the case in the U.S., where almost all land is privatized and even outside of that, only a tiny modicum of public land is in any way available for public enjoyment, even while it is still being shilled out for private exploitation.

I am given to understand that in many non-Western countries, this is not the case—for example, Japan has hot springs that don’t really belong to anyone, they’re just there for public use and you have no right to fuck it up. Not because it would ruin others’ enjoyment of it, just that you have no right to fuck it up.

The idea that nature can ever be owned is bad enough in and of itself, but the fact is, privatization of land only serves to further marginalize people who had no choice to live there in the first place. It’s interesting, though, just how those in the Western Three (UK, US and AU) have almost no ability to imagine something that is not owned. Nature must be owned publicly if it’s not owned privately, just because there’s no concept of something being outside ownership or possession unless they are at the very top of the power scale… you have to be white, rich and male to be in any way yours.

The past day I’ve been reading Undercover Punk, specifically Innate sexuality, a THEORY, and why it hurts women and the comments thread underHeterosexualism and honestly, I’m connecting these two things on a very shiftly subconscious level.

Beyond the obvious nature/sexuality wild-dangerous/safe-tame comparisons, the direction of sexuality is something never questioned. Proponents of compulsory heterosexuality are always “questioning” homosexuality, but they’re not questioning sexuality at its basis ’cause they’re afraid to do so. Maybe this concept of sexuality is fundamentally connected to an idea of ownership, where something deemed “property” can never belong to itself—an ecosystem, a deer. It’s already patently obvious that sexuality exists in more forms than we are given words for, but I haven’t met a lot of people who realize that possession is written into every facet of the sexuality we take for granted—that sexual desire necessitates objectifying someone, or that sexual activity is automatically using someone (because you can’t feel their pleasure, or something. Which strikes me as being profoundly ignorant of the naturalness of empathy and also smacks of those “you can never be altruistic because you’ll always feel good for doing it!” philosophical-reject arguments).

The possession philosophy of sexuality is written so deep that most people take it for granted that wanting to have sex with someone is reducing them to a set of genitalia regardless of their desire, or that true sexual desire can even adequately exist without your partner’s returning desire: sexuality as sharing, as encompassing rather than dominating, is almost nowhere to be seen. You like girls… or you like boys… or both, or maybe you like gurls and bois too. But sexual desire never exists for a person because of that person: it is directed at a group of people segregated by appearance and genital arrangement, or at an action (as with BDSM) instead of a person at all. Sexuality is directed at—the object of your desire.

And it’s so normalized. You have to be sexual; you can’t just not have any interest in sexuality because sexuality itself as seen as a separate, not-optional part of human nature as much as lungs or stomachs. And sexuality having a target also justifies the harassment of asexuals, because they just can’t help it.

Sexuality is a kind of human connection—a very popular one: unlike chimps, we don’t have an estrus period, which puts us into the same socio-sexual ring as bonobos. But as someone who lives with my best friend, who I am not sexually/romantically attracted to and never have been—as someone who’s been there and experienced love and sex, all of it is the same damn thing. Love is love is love, and that’s what we need: humans are fundamentally more social beings than we are intellectual ones, but like all animals, information—whether told or observed—informs our emotions instead of controlling them.

I think that, like nature, we strip sexuality of most of its meaning when we see it in this context, and when we use day-prison to indoctrinate children to see it the same way. I do not hate humans; I don’t think they have any “special” intelligence that should necessarily condemn them to suffering as most capitalists and pro-civs do. Maybe, by trying to define sexuality with these words (an inept and unwieldy tool), we are injuring it—as we would any other living thing handled carelessly and roughly with unyielding tools.

It’s a thought.

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.

News: Italian PM Berlusconi Shameless, What Else is New?

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi refuses to step down from his position because hey, he only actively sought out women to use as property, because what are women there for if not to titillate men? Something so decorative couldn’t be intended for anything other than decoration, amirite guize?

He’s also accused of buying underage girls, which is probably very much true, but the woman in question says it’s not true. She’s Moroccan to boot—which probably means more if you’re aware of the massive racism alive and well in Italy. But what makes it worse is her own story, as told here. [TW for rape, abuse.] You know, just in case you were inclined to believe that there is such a thing as a happy beginning for pros.

It is not a mistake that in Italy, where the Catholic Church is headquartered, which is still all-male and still notoriously conservative and anti-woman, it isn’t illegal for a man to pay for “sex.” It’s not a coincidence that Italy is still one of the most conservative Western European countries, and that it’s still a hotbed for fascism. It’s not a mistake that even though more women have college degrees than men, less than half of all women are employed, and they aren’t abstaining because of choice. It’s not a mistake that in Italy, the largely male parliament voted against an investigation of his home for evidence for a prosecution. It’s not a mistake that in Italy, fetuses are more precious than women. It’s not a mistake that women in Italy are divided into two groups: housewives and veline (“showgirls”), and it’s not a mistake that both of those groups are property—for the benefit of, enjoyment of, and entertainment of men. It’s not a mistake that being treated as if he did something wrong by using women as property is taken as an attack on Italy itself by the megalomaniacal Berlusconi, but it’s not attacking women to make them into fucking playthings.

It’s not a coincidence that the extremely-Catholic Italy gave the world Mussolini and is still fascist and corrupt, but the similarly extremely-Catholic Spain was anarchist against those Italian fascists, and that they were one of the first nations in the world to legalize same-sex marriage. These things are connected. Sexism, heteronormativity, anarchism fighting against fascism, capitalism, individualism, prostitution, male entitlement. These things are written spray-painted on the wall of history. You ignore these things at your own peril.

From an article I linked earlier:

Decades after a feminist movement helped bring significant changes, including legal abortion and divorce, some argue that Italian women are worse off today than in the past. “It’s as if we’ve gone backwards since the ’70s,” said Antonella Giacobbe, 55, as she attended a recent meeting in Rome of Filomena, a women’s advocacy group.

And:

Women’s rights have gone backwards under the Taliban militia’s rule in Afghanistan in the past 12 months, with tougher restrictions on their employment and no perceptible change to the defacto ban on education.

And every feminist woman I have ever met, saying the same thing. “I feel like we’re moving backwards.”

This is not a mistake. It’s not a coincidence.

It’s so fucking overwhelming.

News: U.S. Economy Bleeding Dry is “Recovery”

The economic world for rich white men is lovely and sunny right now; rose-colored lenses are blooming everywhere. If you don’t want to step out of your carriage to smell them, they’re giving them out down at the country club. All in a day’s needs to make everything seem better than it really is.

There are some quite reasonable explanations for what’s actually happening.

First, we’ve laid off so many people that we’ve flatlined: the U.S. economy is at a plateau and cannot easily cut workers past this point.

Second, it’s the spring holiday season—temporary workers are being hired for Valentine’s, Easter and the slew of other holidays until the end of May, but will likely not be retained.

Third, jobless benefits have been cut for many, many long-term unemployed USians. Unless there are literally around 400,000 new unemployment claims every month—which would suggest that the economy’s hemorrhaging instead of recovering—the decline is easily accounted for by the defeated and the hopeless.

Why are capitalists so fucking desperate about this? It’s getting ridiculous now—every four days, they’ve been screaming, “The economy’s recovering! The economy’s recovering!” as if that’ll make it true. (Then again, that might actually be what they’re attempting to do—while forgetting altogether that the economy is at a crisis point because they’ve sucked the working/paying classes dry.) Humming a cheerful tune about how it’ll all be alright does not make it so, especially if you personally are invested in the social/financial climate that fucked everything up in the first place.

I am so fucking tired of these articles and speeches from rich white men about how the economy is getting better, or worse, or whatever. Where are the articles from people who had to move back in with their parents, and how their hair is falling out and they’re getting ulcers from the emotional abuse, but they don’t have any health insurance to take care of it? I want to see articles from people talking about how the hip-hip-hoorayism of economists makes them more depressed and anxious and less able to search for a job, because now it’s their fault—the economy’s recovering, after all, so it must be just them! Articles about how people are getting fucked over by their employers but they can’t complain or do anything about it because then they’d lose their job, and how that’s a bigger threat than simply having to deal with it.

I want to read articles in the mainstream press in which capitalism is not assumed as the default state of the world, like it just is so you can’t question it or make it better. I want to read articles questioning how the fuck USians can live with themselves when every action of theirs supports a system that chooses some people to succeed beyond necessity and reason at the expense of many, many more who will be condemned to starve, freeze and die of thirst, beaten by teenagers and cops.

It may be nice and validating to the economists to crow about how everything’s going to be just fine, but it’s not. For so many people, it won’t be alright.

It’s unacceptable to support a system in which so many people are set up to be losers just because you do not lose—because you don’t have to fear starving to death, freezing, dying of thirst, being beaten by the cops and being treated like you’re filth. Because that’s what you think you’re supporting the system against; this is what you’ve been told is the alternative to capitalism, and you fucking cowards just sit there when people get hurt because you’re too stupid and too lazy to think that, gee, maybe the people who benefit from this system have a reason to scare me about the alternatives—maybe they enforce this reality on the “losers” of capitalism so that they can scare me into thinking that this is what it’d be like all the time if my benevolent overlords weren’t here to protect me with their Invisible Hand.

Optimism, when it ignores the plight of those suffering, does nothing more than prolong that suffering. Sitting with your thumb up your ass, passively waiting for the economy to recover—like the rich somehow aren’t in control of who lives and dies by capitalism—is privileged as hell. It’s unethical. It’s wrong to pretend you have no control when, in fact, you do. These people weren’t hired by the Invisible Hand; they were hired by people, and they were fired the same way.

It stands to reason that you should hold those people accountable instead of blaming it on some mystical force.

(Original U.S. Department of Labor weekly stats page here.)

ETA: Actually, a little bit of extra sleuthing turned up the fact that yes, actually, the “new jobless benefit claims” refer to actual first-time unemployment benefit applicants. So 396,000 new claims every week is… recovery… ?

Well, fuck that backwards noise. Welcome to the new world. I’m gonna water the plants now. Oranges, anyone?

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