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Posts tagged ‘government’

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.

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: 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: Lysistrata Stunt Suggested in Belgium, Retracted

I hesitated in writing about this. I didn’t know what to say. This article left a bad taste in my mouth, but I couldn’t quite articulate it—I still don’t know if I can, at least adequately. But I’m going to take a whack at it nevertheless.

The partners of Belgian politicians are being urged to go on a sex strike until a government is formed.

The country had general elections last June but parties have so far been unable to form a governing coalition. …

“I call on the spouses of all negotiators to withold sex until a deal is reached,” said Ms Temmerman in an article for a Belgian newspaper. “Have no more sex until the new administration is posing on the steps of the Palace.”

And I cannot tell you how thrilled I am that sex is still being used as a bartering tool and a weapon—on the State level, no less. Clearly, using sex as leverage in a transaction or bargain doesn’t impact women at all, nor does the idea put them in danger whatsoever. After all, it’s not like one of the historical traditions of marriage itself is to toss your wife aside when she stops putting out, or when you no longer find yourself wanting to fuck her.

Via the Inter-Parliamentary Union, which does extensive surveys of parliaments (legislative branches to you Yanks) including collecting data on women in government, I’ve found that roughly 38% of their government is made up of women—36% in their Senate and 39% in their House of Representatives. So, even a country that said OH NO YOU DINT to the Vatican is still strongly skewed towards men at the legislative level. Double that because the person who initially put it forth got the idea from fucking Kenya, where it’s even worse.

It’s fucking disheartening. A lot of my reaction came from—and still does, even though the Senator who made the suggestion says it was a joke—the fact that even now, women’s primary power is expected to be in manipulating powerful men. It always has been—re: Lysistrata—and then men have the gall to mock and deride women for being so manipulative, those fucking bitches, look at how much power they have over us from eliciting boners!

Why is this “progressive” country still, even today, able to “joke” about sex being used as a weapon? It has been, by men, against women—whether literally, via rape, slut-shaming and sexual harassment… or as indictment, because women have historically been forced to use sex as bartering goods for survival, by men. Get on the ball, Belgium.

On slightly lesser note, this is creeping me out, because David Cameron’s speech had a similar line in it:

“What Belgium is experiencing is a foretaste of the challenges that Europe itself is facing, because you have a prosperous north and a less prosperous south. Over the last decade they’ve really been separating themselves so they don’t have a unifying national identity,” said Heather Conley, director of the Europe program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

… I’m getting uncomfortable images of fascism because this is coming up everywhere, in these words. I do not like what that’s foretelling at all.

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