Nature is an ecoterrorist!

Posts tagged ‘impossible bargains’

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.

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Of Men Covering Their Dicks

It’s been my experience that when white men are called out on their privilege, regardless of what kind of privilege it is, they have a few select response patterns. First is the “quote me,” phenomenon, which assumes that he’s the one who gets to decide whether or not he’s privileged or if the caller-out was just “mistaken”; next is Appeal to Authority, especially when employed in the “show me studies!” shtick; last, though, is that a man will bring in someone of an underprivileged group and assert that because this person agrees with him, he couldn’t possibly be wrong.

I like to call this tactic “covering your dick.” By choosing someone who belongs to an oppressed group that agrees with them, he can pretend his beliefs are vindicated by the very fact that someone underprivileged agrees with him. Metaphorically, by using an underprivileged person to back up his privilege, he’s placing their face in front of his dick so everyone will be tricked into believing that it’s an Automatically Enlightened Oppressed Person speaking instead of, well, him. From his dick (privilege).

It can be used by privileged people of all stripes, but overwhelmingly it’s used by men, and even more overwhelmingly by white men. This stupid tactic has a long-ass history and many, many permutations.

Some of the most easily recognizable ones, I’m sure you’ll know them, are variations of, “Well, my black friend says he doesn’t mind racist jokes…” and “Some of my best friends are gay.” They get much more complex than that, though.

Christianity has been using the “cover your dick” tactic for centuries via flamboyant, dramatic conversions and confessions. Proclamations of, “I lived a life of sin,” do more to reassure the current followers than they do to convince the unbelievers. The evangelical Christian set in the U.S. still uses this tactic; I have little knowledge of its use in other countries.

Some underprivileged people, enjoying the admiration and honorary dick points that being used as an Automatically Enlightened Oppressed Person, deliberately set themselves up as unlike those meanie-head rebels, strictly pro-status quo. Phyllis Shafly played this role during the ’70s feminist movement, advocating against women’s rights and liberations—and being picked up by male mainstream media. Dr. Laura has made an extremely lucrative career out of shaming women, as have many pro-forced birth “feminists.” Sarah Palin et al. continue this thread of anti-women women.

The same has been borne out with people of color—whether pro-U.S. Rez residents, anti-hate crime/affirmative action Black people, or anti-immigrant Hispanics. (I can’t give sources for these; I’ve met them personally, and wouldn’t endanger their privacy no matter how much I may disagree.)

Part and parcel of the “cover your dick” tactic is actually intense contempt for the AEOP they’re holding up as better—because they are holding up that person as better. The one covering his dick is implicitly stating that an oppressed person’s worth is directly proportional to how much they agree with him, and if the AEOP he’s using is of the same status of the person he’s defending against, it gets even more bitter and hateful.

It doesn’t necessarily need to happen. There’s also a certain system of equivalence involved: a non-white man is worth more dick coverage than a white woman, but a non-white woman is worth more dick coverage than a non-white man (unless she’s Hispanic). An unpretty white woman’s dick coverage worth (DCW) is approximately equal to that of a visibly disabled man, unless said man is also openly poor. And an Asian kid dying of cancer speaking out against socialized health care is worth approximately 400,000 glods.

I had a conversation a while ago with a man who refused point-blank the idea that he could be privileged for consuming animal products, and he held up Lierre Keith as proof and said, straight-out, “Lierre Keith has done more for the world than any vegan has.” While I doubt that all vegans (an example) in social justice movements have been useless, he was expressly privileging her over every vegan woman and radical feminist—because she agreed with him. It was as simple as that: she backed him up when he didn’t want to let go of the idea that he was too “radical” to have missed the fact that he had privilege. He used Lierre Keith not because he valued Lierre Keith, but because he could cover his dick with her; he, a white rich man, used her, a white rich woman, as a weapon against every woman who was vegan and every person of color who +vwas vegan and every vegan who has ever fought for human and animal rights.

He used a woman as a weapon because she agreed with what he wanted to believe.

That’s the essence of “covering your dick.” By taking someone who’s grown up underprivileged in a fucked-up society and positioning them as an Automatically Enlightened Oppressed Person, by using them as a weapon against everyone who might disagree with him and prove him wrong, by using their oppressed status to cement his privilege of defining reality, he covers his dick so that no one notices it’s still his dick that benefits.

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.

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