Saturday, December 9, 2017

The United States of Huck?

George Saunders  titled his essay “The Braindead Megaphone” and he wrote:

“America is, and always has been, undecided about whether it will be the United States of Tom or the United States of Huck. The United States of Tom looks at misery and says: Hey, I didn’t do it. It looks at inequity and says: All my life I busted my butt to get where I am, so don’t come crying to me. Tom likes kings, codified nobility, unquestioned privilege. Huck likes people, fair play, spreading the truck around. Whereas Tom knows, Huck wonders. Whereas Huck hopes, Tom presumes. Whereas Huck cares, Tom denies. These two parts of the American Psyche have been at war since the beginning of the nation, and come to think of it, these two parts of the World Psyche have been at war since the beginning of the world, and the hope of the nation and of the world is to embrace the Huck part and send the Tom part back up the river, where it belongs.”
It should be noted…these two parts are not just at odds out there in human society (which is what Mr. Saunders means when he says "the world")…they also occur inside each of us and there’s where we sometimes become aware of this battle/choice.

It's one that we repeat again and again and again...we constantly encounter situations wherein the Huck/Tom battle/choice is activated and we have to choose...and...from what I've seen in my lifetime here in the U.S., the Tom choice (the default) is made way more often than is good for anyone, including mother Earth and all of her Earthlings.

The Tom choice seems to be the default here in the U.S. By that I mean that if we think we're making no choice (being 'neutral') we're actually being complicit in the Tom choice whether we think we are doing so or not. Remember Howard Zinn's observation“To be neutral, to be passive in a situation is to collaborate with whatever is going on”

(In other words, if you're not 'fighting' them, you're joining them...that's often a tough one for me to comprehend/grasp even though I know it is true. I have a hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that even when I think I'm making no choice...I actually am, I'm collaborating in the default. In my head I perceive myself as existing independently of systems...but that's misleading and untrue. There is no "out there", I'm always involved in various social systems and groups no matter what I think. My illusion of being 'independent' is fostered by that invisibility stuff...which I write about often.)


It's deceptive and misleading to think about all this in purely individualistic terms (which is what our socialization wants us to do...so we won't ask disturbing questions). That's not to say that the individual isn't important...but there is great significance (that's often unrecognized) in groups that we belong to and the systems that we navigate as members of those groups.

I suspicion that societies strongly structured by oppression (like those that resulted from colonization...e.g. the U.S.) have systems that encourage and reward the Tom choice (or the 'neutral' stance) over the Huck choice...and demean (and resist or even punish) the Huck choice.

I recently stumbled across a brief (15 minutes or so) video that uses the movie Wall-E as a tool to illustrate the difference between thinking solely in terms of individuals versus thinking in terms of individuals in social structures. I'm somewhat familiar with some of the writings of Allan Johnson (who is referenced in the video) and find much of his thinking very similar to my own.

I think Dr. Johnson is saying that the 'neutral' choice or the Tom choice are the "paths of least resistance" (to use his conceptualization).

I would be greatly interested in your reactions to the video so please watch it and let me know what you think about it. This Huck/Tom stuff is difficult to sort out without taking account of context (and even then it confuses me greatly) and the video adds some conceptual tools that assist in doing that...at least I think it does. 

(Note: I wrote a little about Huck/Tom over on Medium back in January but this post expands on my thoughts about this stuff.)

Sunday, November 26, 2017

I was reading

a book titled A Man's Life: An Autobiography. It was written by Roger W. Wilkins.

I remember seeing him in the news when I was younger and always liked his demeanor and how he spoke as well as what he had to say.

In his book, which was published in 1982, he wrote the following on page 366:

"The neoconservatives are spending a lot of time these days trying to convince us that America's racial problems are over...."

He wrote those words 35 years ago.

People who (consciously or not) uphold oppression have a strong interest in either denying that it exists or at least promoting the notion that even though it existed in the past...it's all fixed now.

Post-racial anyone? (by the way, the wikipedia entry says this term was first used in 1971)

Jeez.

It's really easy to determine whether the oppression of racism is "over". It will be over when the majority of those targeted by it say it is over. Folks who belong to the oppressing group don't get to say when it's over...only those targeted get to say that.

Many people (mostly we white-skinned ones) seem to have a real problem with understanding that harmers don't get to say when the harming is over...that power belongs to those being harmed. Maybe the problem is that the harmers are so used to having power over others that they think their power extends to being able to say when racism is over. Maybe that's part of their inability to comprehend reality.

Hmmm...

I was really struck by Roger Wilkin's 35 year old writing about neoconservatives...things don't change much in the minds of the deluded.

I don't much listen to folks who uphold the status quo anymore (I used to think they sometimes made sense) mainly because they never have anything new to say. You have to be connected to the flow of life and it's ongoing transitions to experience new things...harmers are static and frozen in their embrace of unchanging delusion, hence they learn nothing new and their messages are endlessly repeated (the wording varies sometimes, but the meanings don't). To believe them requires a well developed facility for forgetting that you've heard it all before.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Norman

is a city with many many trees and those trees are all different sizes and shapes.

They often put on quite a show of color in the Autumn and I think maybe this year is one of, if not the most, spectacular I've ever seen.

We haven't had a hard freeze and the various trees are changing colors and losing their leaves at different times and rates (because of different timings in their seasonal cycles) so there is sort of a slow motion extravaganza of bright and shimmering golds and reds and greens and browns all mixed together going on here.

It is beautiful to behold. I'm really grateful to be able to witness it all.

Below is a photo of one of my absolute favorite trees, it's a Ginkgo...they have unusual sort of fan-shaped leaves. If you read this article you will find that they are a very old species of tree...they've been around for some 270 million years.

In the fall they turn a vibrant and amazingly bright shade of gold. Along a street near us there are several houses with such trees in their yards and this year they are putting in a show that almost calls for trumpets and fireworks.

I generally drive a few blocks out of my way whenever I go anywhere just so I can get a look at this tree (and several others). Notice the youngster (I think it's a young Maple tree) in front of the large Ginkgo, it's offering its own show of red.


Yesterday I walked over to campus for a meeting and stood in front of this tree for a bit, just soaking in the color. Amazing.

I hope the changes of Autumn are giving you a show wherever you are.

My thanks to all the plants and trees around here for their casual grace and beauty...and if you want a gold show in the fall...plant some Ginkgo trees. They are just stunning.

Mother Earth's plants are not only provide food for the stomach...(live Vegan please)...they are also nourishing for the eyes and the spirit. 


Monday, October 30, 2017

Babies again...

I first published this post back in January of 2013 and it continues to be visited frequently...looking at the wonderful beings here makes me know why.

They're beautiful.

I admit to finding the babies of my fellow Earthlings mind-bogglingly attractive.
(thanks to all the photographers...all photos were obtained from the internet or sanctuaries)


Here are some examples of why.
The wonderful being to the left is a baby wombat. The cutie above is a baby African grey parrot. All are just exquisite.

And no, the last photo isn't of a baby...just a picture of a wonderful face. Our planet has so many different beautiful babies and beings. Unless you are living as an ethical vegan...you are not doing all you can to not harm them. They deserve their lives as much as you deserve yours...live vegan and help to do your part in allowing them that which you ask for yourself.

Friday, October 27, 2017

There is no neutral...


In societies that are deeply entangled with and formed by oppressive structures we either are complicit or we resist...there's no place to hide.

Sorry...

Friday, October 13, 2017

It makes my head hurt...

I recently ran across this image (which was taken from this video). You can find further information on this web-page.


The information graphically represented is from 1999 and shows the percentage of these violent crimes that are committed by men. (these rates stay fairly steady, so the percentages from year to year don't change much)

Violence against living beings by men isn't confined to humans:
 "A study published in Violence Against Women found that of 111 battered women with companion animals in shelters in South Carolina, almost half reported that their current or former male partners had threatened or abused their animals. A study of women living in Wisconsin shelters because of domestic abuse found that 80 percent of their batterers had been violent to their animals."

We have a violence problem here in the U.S. and...it's a problem almost wholly committed by men.

Next time you hear anyone bemoaning violence in society...notice whether they specify who is engaging in all this violence (men) or not.

It is highly likely they will leave out specification of the gender group that perpetrates almost all violent crimes. Ever wonder why? (hint: it has to do with dominance)

Sunday, October 8, 2017

From "business purposes" to U.S. history

I was poking around on the Food Empowerment Project's blog and read this post.

I'll summarize (which means I'll probably leave out important nuance so either read the post yourself or keep in mind the difficulty with a summarization...ok?) the post by saying that it is critical to realize business interests/purposes really only accidentally have anything to do with being a moral good...they have to do with somebody getting somebody else's money...if they also produce something that benefits living beings or life on Earth then that's a function of chance or something else, not "business".

One of the things that is constantly messaged to we who live here in the U.S. is that capitalism is "good" and anything that impedes and/or interferes with capitalism (or "business') is "bad" or even "Anti-U.S. American." or "anti-democratic".

Go read the F.E.P. post and decide for yourself whether the instance of business interests elaborated there is "anti-democratic". While you're at it go sign the petition that is referenced in the blog post.

What the heck does that post have to do with U.S. history? Well, most of us here in the U.S. are ignorant about the fact that Haiti is a nation came into being because it was the place where a successful revolt of enslaved humans resulted in the founding of a nation that was ruled by those who were formerly enslaved. In fact, that's the only place where that happened. That revolt ended in 1804 with the establishment of the nation of Haiti.

Hmmm...1804...that's not too long after the establishment of the United States as an independent nation...hmmm. We here in the U.S. have a big celebration every year on July the 4th that commemorates our pursuit of "liberty and justice for all" and such and such. Folks here in the U.S. must have been really happy and elated to see other peoples pursuing their own liberty right here in the western hemisphere, right?

Nope, not so. In fact if you'll read this article (I realize wikipedia can be informationally problematic but in this instance we can make use of what's written there) it says: "...the United States attempted to suppress the Haitian Revolution. The US even went as far as to refuse acknowledgement of Haitian independence until 1862...".

That should give you some pause. Some peoples were seeking their their freedom not long after the struggle for freedom here and the United States attempted to stop them. Hmmm...what the heck is that?

Business, that's what that is. Folks in the United States were afraid that the pursuit of liberty by enslaved peoples in Haiti might give the enslaved people here in the U.S. ideas so the U.S. attempted to suppress the Haitian Revolution. 


Human enslavement was profitable...its continuation was a "business interest" and the pursuit of profit is...at least in common practice here in the U.S....a more powerful value than the "pursuit of liberty".

Yup, that's true here in the "land of the free", and was true even way back then...and...based on F.E.P.s blog post...such valuing continues. (vegans might want to think about "business" and the harm done by factory farms)


In case you didn't realize it...capitalism and/or business have no relationship to freedom and/or democracy. Capitalism/business references an economic system and freedom/democracy reference a political system. Those are different systems and while they may co-occur, one doesn't create the other.

But...if you're like me...and have been exposed to the constant cultural messaging that goes on here in the U.S....you would be quite likely to think they're interchangeable...they're not. They have nothing to do with one another, in fact they can be (and often are) in opposition (however that's not what those who pursue profit want you to to realize or know).    

Saturday, September 30, 2017

I've been re-reading

an essay/article by Dr. Alison Bailey titled: "Despising an Identity They Taught Me to Claim". It's one of the pieces in an edited book: "Whiteness: Feminist Philosophical Reflections".

Dr. Bailey took the title of a book of poems by Michelle Cliff (Claiming an Identity They Taught Me to Despise) and reworked the wording around to reflect the content of her essay. When I looked up Michelle Cliff to find a link for her I learned she was the long-time partner of Adrienne Rich (who is a writer and poet that I've read before...it's a much smaller world than I often think).

In the essay/article, there's a sentence that just jumped at me, it goes:
"These defensive moves are, to use Ruth Frankenberg's (1993) phrase, "power-evasive repertoires" designed to alleviate the white guilt, pain, and self-hatred that almost always accompanies privilege awareness."
 That sentence, especially the part about "guilt, pain, and self-hatred" resonates with me because I've been wrestling with feelings like that (they wax and wane in strength, but never really go away) because of some of my social identities (white, male, human) ever since I first experienced what Victoria Foote-Blackman called "The Fluther Transversion".

My "discomfort" (a euphamism) over my obliviousness to how we humans behave toward our sister/brother Earthlings began almost 10 years ago, then several years ago my "discomfort" received a serious rocket booster of intensity when I started grappling with my whiteness (and maleness) and how we white men have been being giant a**holes regarding race/racism and sexism. There's something bizarre and disorienting about being a white, male, human and being so adamantly opposed to the numerous awfulnesses that originates from those who occupy those same social identities. Jeez.

Dr. Bailey's essay made me think about the fact that her dismay with her white identity is (in some small measure) ameliorated by the fact that (at least here in the U.S.) white women had no formal political power (being able to vote) until 1920. I don't mean that white women necessarily comported themselves with compassion and kindness in reference to race/racism up until that time (they really didn't, at least most didn't)...but...it is the case that they had no voting power from the founding of the nation till then.

They (white women) have been chipping away at their decreased formal responsibility because of their voting behavior ever since and they really blew any claim to that small refuge as a result of the outcome of last year's presidential election where the majority of them (who voted) supported the current occupant of the white house. The delusional destructiveness that underlies such voting behavior is...well...stunning.

It's like they said hey...we (white women) will vote for an openly racist man (even though he's misogynistic) over one of our own. And they did this even though this is the first time ever there was a good chance that they could have placed a woman (white though she is) in the presidential office. 

There's something sort of breath-taking in the degree of whatever it is that supports such anti-compassion and absence of commitment to fairness and equality on the part of white women. (I'm not even mentioning white men, I don't have any words to describe what I think about most of us)

I recently ran across a bit of mind-boggling (to me at least) information which noted that never, since the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Legislation (which was sponsored and signed into law by LBJ), has the majority of white people in this country voted for a democrat for president. What a deplorable and sh*tty statement about us white folks here in the U.S....especially considering some of the demeaning and pitiful white men the repubs have offered as presidential candidates.

I realize I write much more about the ugliness of racism in this blog than I used to, it's not because I'm any less passionate and committed to the notion of not harming our sister/brother Earthlings than I used to be...rather it's (in part) because it seems absurd to think that we're going to behave decently toward them while at the same time upholding white supremacist and misogynistic behaviors and ideals. It could be done, I suppose, but such an imagined situation is too morally deplorable and ridiculous to even be considered (to me, anyway).

Naw, we white folks gotta quit engaging in such ugly harmfulness and we gotta start by working towards treating our sister/brother humans with fairness and equality...that's way way way way overdue. There's nothing says we can't live vegan and also work to oppose and resist racism and sexism.

But...it can't be done just by thinking good thoughts...it's much more difficult and unsettling (see the sentence from Dr. Bailey) than that.

We white folks here in the U.S. (and worldwide for that matter) have devoted much more effort to disguising and obfuscating our recognition of and responsibility for our racism and sexism than we have devoted to disguising our lethalness toward those Earthlings we call "animals".

I am a lot more flim-flammed and confused by my own "whiteness" and "maleness" and all that entails than I am by my "humanness". That's mostly because my culture works really really hard to convince me that being a "good guy" doesn't take much effort (it says that I just gotta have "good intentions") but it's a hell of a lot more complicated and hard to grapple with than our dominant cultural narratives would sucker you (me) into believing.

I'm appalled at thinking and living according to choices made by people who lived before me and who I think were really morally deficient, ya know? (of course I've been the goofy one who swallowed their ugly harmfulness without deeply thinking about it)

It's much more demanding (for me, anyway) to figure out how to identify and comprehend and work toward trying to interrupt racism and sexism (and additional "isms") than it is to figure out that we gotta quit hurting our sister/brother Earthlings. If you think living vegan is tough...if you're white...just start getting serious about studying race/racism here in the U.S. and you'll find out what tough really means. 

Does that make sense to you? It seems to hold together to me...but...I wouldn't be surprised if I were missing somethings.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Intent and Impact.

It seems to be that we (and I include myself in this mess) seem to have profound difficulty comprehending that intent amounts to almost nothing when weighed against the impact of our behavior.

The photo is of the feet of a bunny recently brought to Heartland Rabbit Rescue by a "well intentioned" human who said he "couldn't care for" the bunny anymore due to his work demands and wanted a "good home" for the bunny. He seemed to "care"...at least he didn't dump the bunny onto the street. That's not nothing...and yet...his "good" intentions didn't mean an absence of avoidable suffering for the bunny.




The bunny (and the bunny's bother) had been enclosed in a small space with a wire floor for nearly 4 years...with the subsequent neglect and damage to their feet. He said he didn't trim their nails because he was afraid of hurting them.

Well intentioned? Apparently so. The cause of suffering and pain...yup.

Whatever your intentions might be...for the recipient of your intentions what counts is the impact of your action (or lack of action). Intentions are mostly stories (fantasies) you tell yourself to convince yourself of your "goodness" or "innocence".

Don't misunderstand...mean people doing mean things is terrible...but what might even be worse are people who think they're "good" all the while they're doing awful things (or failing to do the right thing).

At least an out and out villain is recognizable as such...folks who believe themselves to be "good" while promoting harm...well...that seems to confuse the hell out of us.

Ever wonder why we apparently have such difficulty comprehending that the two (intent versus impact) have little or no relation to one another?

I suspect, at least in part that's because societies structured by oppression encourage this kind of dysfunctional thinking because that way awfulness can keep on keeping on...but...all of us who participate in awfulness and uphold and support it can keep on keeping on thinking we're "good people" even though destruction and harm and horror surround us...somehow we think it is not associated with us and what we do or fail to do.


Advice from an old man (which means I've lived a long time and thought about many things)....enjoy your "good" intentions if you want but realize they count for nearly nothing when compared to the impact of what you do (or fail to do).

That's your lesson in demystifying living for today.