Friday, May 18, 2018

The First White President...

Ta-Nehisi Coates writes with clarity and precision like few other American authors. His incisive essay titled: The First White President is required reading for anyone interested in comprehending the U.S.A. (note: Mr. Coates is aware of, and sometimes sensitive to, but often also oblivious to his masculine socialization.)

I strongly urge you to read the essay I've linked above, it is a condensed version of the whole of U.S. history not told from the perspective of white men. That U.S. history (the white man version) is the one most who are educated in North America are familiar with. And...it is dreadfully misleading and shallow.

I was moved to write this post because I spent some time this morning in a used book store and was struck by the amazingly few books that were written by anyone except white men or white women.

If you want to learn about society or culture or history...it is wise to access information from those who are outsiders or victims of that society/culture/history. Because...those who benefit from societies/cultures/histories are going to tell their story and they're not likely to allow themselves to perceive the costs of their benefits.

If you're vegan and only learn from and about humans without looking at and learning from and about those who are harmed by non-vegan humans...you will be woefully ill-informed and deficient in your knowledge.

In general...it's not possible to gain a rich, accurate knowledge of any situation where there are harmers and harmed without learning from the harmed. If you only listen to and learn from those doing the harming...well...you get what I'm expressing.

Read the essay.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Think about it...


 If Black women were free, it would mean that everyone else would have to be free since our freedom would necessitate the destruction of all the systems of oppression.”—CombaheeRiver Collective Statement, 1977

It's true that the destruction of the systems of oppression that harm Black women would likely (it appears that such is true, anyway) free all the human Earthlings...but...it's not so that such freedom would necessarily end oppression for all Earthlings. 
Some thoughts about fully ending oppression for all Earthlings are contained in this article: "Do you include an analysis of animal oppression or speciesism in your anti-racist work? Should we make justice for animals a central principle of Black Lives Matter movement? Aph Ko and Syl of Aphro-ism and Black Vegans Rock think so. In fact, from their perspective, it’s imperative that we do. As far these two black vegan powerhouses are concerned, anti-speciesism does not function apart from anti-racist activism. And your intellectual toolkit is incomplete without a radical re-imagination of “the animal.”"

It's interesting to think about the fact that resisting oppression directed at one targeted group (PoC, women, and so on) does not mean you necessarily are resisting oppression directed at all targeted groups (or that you're even interested in resisting oppression directed toward other groups)

Nope, each manifestation of oppression must be grappled with one by one...no free passes in this sort of work although many of us (me included) fall into the trap of thinking that we're good to go if we recycle or something. It isn't that easy...if it were oppression would have disappeared long ago.

There is no "purity", no end point...while we're alive...we have to work at understanding and resisting oppression else we'll end up upholding it. 








Monday, April 23, 2018

Three black men

who advocated for greater freedom and justice were all murdered within a 5 year span (1963 to 1968) and before they had reached the age of 40.

Medgar Evers, aged 37.

Malcom X, aged 39.

Martin Luther King, Jr., aged 39.

I was transitioning from childhood to adulthood during those 5 years.

It should also be remembered that JFK (age 46) was murdered in 1963 and his brother, RFK (age 42) was murdered in 1968.

So, in that 5 year span, 5 prominent political figures were murdered...3 black men and 2 white men...and...each one of those political figures were (to a greater or lesser degree) advocating against oppression and for greater freedom and justice in the U.S.

And...they were all murdered...here...in the "land of the free".

Wakey wakey.

P.S. One way to think about these men is that they were all engaged in efforts to interrupt/disrupt white supremacy (JFK and RFK less so than ME, MX and MLK). Often (always?) when oppression is resisted, if that resistance is perceived as threatening...then violence is inflicted on those who resist. 

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Time for a quote

"An astute colleague of mine once observed that liberal democracies in the West were generally run for the benefit of the top, say, 20 percent of the wealth and income distribution. The trick, he added, to keeping this scheme running smoothly has been to convince, especially at election time, the next 30 to 35 percent of the income distribution to fear the poorest half more than they envy the richest 20 percent."

pg 18-19, Two Cheers for Anarchism, James C. Scott.

Several years ago I very much thought this was good stuff...now...while it looks good (but is erroneous) it is very obvious to me that it was written by a white man presenting the thinking of another white man.

I seem to be getting into a place where I can usually tell what race/sex positions someone occupies by reading some of their thinking.

It's rather disorienting.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

I've been

trying to figure out how to think about "identity" for a long long time. (and still am)

I ran across this quote from Patricia Hill Collins that makes it make better sense to me. She wrote:
Intersectionality has attracted  substantial  scholarly  attention  in the 1990s. Rather than examining  gender, race, class, and nation as distinctive social hierarchies, intersectionality examines  how they mutually construct  one another. 
A couple of years ago I was sort of stunned by reading the statement that there has never existed a woman in the U.S. who wasn't also assigned a race...or a man either nor has anyone, of any "race", who wasn't also assigned to the category of either woman or man. It's impossible to separate them. I'd never thought about race/sex that way...but the truth of it struck me immediately.

Dr. Collins' writing expands on and fills that idea out. The key operation here, I think, is the notion of mutual construction. Our "identity" is a project of mutual construction and thinking about it (them) without this in mind is misleading. No one floats around who is "just" their class or "just" their race or or or. There is no "just"...all these factors occur simultaneously and constantly.

But...thinking that way is really hard (for me anyway)...it's so appealing to thing about one thing at a time...it's also misleading as hell.

The English language is rather poor at assisting us in considering stuff like this. I'm beginning to think that's not totally accidental. The language itself works to make this invisible...or at least really really hard to comprehend and think about.

English is a language created by and maintained by western European white men and those are the folks who brought us the abomination of colonization. It would make sense for their language to make it hard to think about systems that support awfulness that 'benefits' white men. White men couldn't see themselves as "good people" if they thought what they were doing was bad...so...a language they created would, of course, make talking/thinking about this stuff really difficult and misleading.

In case you're wondering what in hell this has to do with veganism, it was those same white men (back in the "enlightenment") who came up with the idea of "race" and they also came up with the notions of "human" and "animal" and that somehow "humans" are superior to "animals".

All the systems of oppression are connected and mutually constructed.

Our "identity" serves to locate our position(s) in power hierarchies (systems of oppression) and our place in those hierarchies determines (or at least profoundly influences) how human society values us and interacts with us. (note: identity would include not only such categories like race, sex, gender, class and such but also species.)

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

I found this photo


on facebook...and I couldn't resist. It was captioned: "Cat Vader".

Sunday, February 25, 2018

I read this quote and

marveled that it's true that we know all we need to know and have known it for a long long time.

The problem isn't the knowing, it's the remembering and the acknowledging and the doing.

Christopher Lebron wrote in an essay back in January of this year:

"In her alarmingly relevant book, The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), political philosopher Hannah Arendt writes, “The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (i.e., the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (i.e., the standards of thought) no longer exists.” "

We white "Americans" (well, many/most, anyway) have been just waiting for what's in the white house for since the beginning of this country.

I write that because the "liberty and justice for all" meme always was fiction (in greater or lesser degrees depending on your group location and history) but was/is paraded around as if it were...in fact..."for all".

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Thursday, January 18, 2018

I re-read an article..

which is something I do...often (re-read things, especially articles, books and essays that present information created by people who are not members of dominant racial, sexual and sexual orientation dominant groups) because material from diverse sources often offers a perspective and/or information about lived life experiences that are different than what's offered by folks (like me, white and male and heterosexual) who belong to those groups which are dominant in this society.

I have to re-read these sorts of information often because I'm constantly exposed to information and thinking influenced by the dominant narrative and counter-information (that which differs from dominant narrative thinkings and themes) tends to slip out of my awareness and consciousness and re-visiting divergent sources helps me keep those perspectives and such in my thinking.

Another reason I have to re-read them is that, over time, I think and learn new things and perceive old things in new ways and going back and re-reading information with those altered (hopefully better and more rich and diverse) ways of thinking/perceiving results in me comprehending something that eluded me before or maybe noticing something that escaped my awareness previously. 

What tends to be true is that if someone occupies an identity(s) of one or more of these dominant groups in U.S. society, their viewpoint will almost always echo aspects of the dominant narrative that we're exposed to all the time.

It's critical to remember (if you want to be well-informed and aware) that all of the major opinion and knowledge and entertainment creating institutions in this society (e.g., news outlets, education, movies, social media, etc) are controlled by white men who are heterosexual.

That means, whether intentional or not, the perspectives and opinions and outlooks presented by these sources will reflect the interests and viewpoints and understandings of those dominant group members.

So, working to counter this homogeneity of outlook that I'm exposed to, I consciously and deliberately seek out sources of information that are created by folks who are not members of the major dominant identity groups.

That doesn't guarantee that I'll find information that differs from the dominant narratives that permeate information that circulates in this society...because we're all (regardless of our identity groups) exposed to and influenced by dominant narratives...but it does increase the likelihood that I'll run across information and/or perspectives that do differ from those presented by the dominant narrative.

I wanted to explain all that to provide some context for why I was re-reading this particular article. We are discouraged from being aware of or offering context (via stuff like the admonition: "Get to the point!" and other mini social pressures) and history in this society and I've come to believe that when we lose that awareness of context and history, we become easier to manipulate and to be deceived and, well, we're more ignorant when we're unaware of or oblivious to context and history. (someone who also thought this was Neal Postman...see #3 on the website about him)

The article is titled: "Anti-Essentialism and Intersectionality: Tools To Dismantle The Master's House" by Tina Grillo. This article was written in 1995 and at that time Tina Grillo was a Professor of Law at the University of San Francisco School of Law. I've provided you a link to the article and I would encourage you to read it for yourself...and I would also encourage you to re-read it...maybe multiple times. It's brimming over with insights and excellent thinking.

Here are the sentences in the paper that knocked me out:
We need to notice the areas in which we are privileged, and in those areas we need to be careful to listen to the concrete, lived experiences of those who are less privileged. Although I am always willing to talk to the very privileged, I generally assume, I think rightly, that I have heard their story. 
Yes, yes and yes again.

I've spent many decades listening to the very privileged, I've spent many decades living in a nation controlled and directed by the very privileged...and...I'm not impressed. In fact, I'm appalled. I've heard their story, I've seen what they do when they have power and...it pretty much stinks...some of it is ok but way more sucks than is tolerable. There's simply no credible justification for so much awfulness.

I just don't lend much credence anymore to the very privileged, I have heard their story (and...as uncomfortable and as squirmy as it makes me feel...I don't lend much credence and/or trust to my own thinking/perceiving anymore...that's a pain in the kabooka...but it's the truth).

So, I re-read an article.


Monday, January 15, 2018

A caveat if you have

read this book or intend to read this book. The title is "White Trash" and it's subtitle is "The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America". It's written by a professor of history at LSU named Nancy Isenberg.

I've become much more aware of how often various sources will work to deny or minimize racial oppression in the U.S. and glanced through this book one day in the library just to see what it was about. It received quite a bit of play in the press when it was released and I wanted to take a look at it. I presumed, based on the title, that it was a book designed to make some money playing off of the theme that was popular at that time which was to blame the presidential election results on poor white people.

It wasn't poor white people who supported Trump...it was white people across all the lines of education and wealth who voted for him. The only demographic segment of white people that a majority of voted for Clinton was college educated white women and they only supported Clinton by a 51 to 49 percent factor. That's pretty pitiful when you consider that Trump had clearly established himself as misogynistic (and racist) by his various campaign statements.

But...to make itself look better to itself, the dominant narrative was pushing the idea that poor and ignorant white people ("white trash") were the reason Trump was elected. It's a "have your cake and eat it too" sort of maneuver. White folks could enact their racist and patriarchal leanings by electing Trump and can disavow the implications of it by blaming "white trash". Except...it's not true. Trump was elected because white people chose him and education and class had little to do with their choice.

This book plays into that "have your cake and eat it too" manipulation by various devices, one that is easily detected is to read what she says about Reagan. On page 285 of the book she writes: "In 1980, Carter lost to Ronald Reagan, a man who understood precious little about southern culture."

I was stunned by the ignorance (or outright deception) exhibited by this sentence since Ronald Reagan made a point of traveling to Neshoba County Mississippi, at the beginning of his campaign for the presidency, and spoke there at the county fair and in that speech he voiced his support for "states rights".

The Neshoba County fairgrounds are located seven miles from Philadelphia, Mississippi which is where, in 1964, three civil rights workers were murdered by racist white men. It's absurd and misleading to characterize someone running for president who goes there to speak and voices support for "states rights" as a person who "understood precious little about southern culture".

"States rights" has been a code phrase for racism for a long long time in this nation (source one and source two) and since the author of this book is a professor of history she knows full well that this is true...but...I'm presuming that if she had been honest then she would have had a harder time of blaming ignorant white people for Trump's election (and thereby maybe not sold as many books).

I have no idea what her motivation(s) were for writing what she did (I suspect part of it was she was trying to make some money, but I don't know for sure) ...I just know that what she wrote was promoting the fiction that mostly poor and ignorant white people supported a racist and misogynist for president. That's untrue...white people, wealthy and poor, educated and uneducated, voted for him and thereby outed themselves as either being indifferent to misogyny and racism or outrightly supporting these ugly practices.

And...folks like this author help white folks feel better about their deficiencies by blaming "white trash"...even when they have to distort or deny truth in doing so.

Note: when I write "white folks" I'm referring to those who ascribe to and support the ideology of patriarchal whiteness. People don't have to have white skin or be male to buy in to this ideology. Heck, there were Jewish people who fought for the Nazi regime so some "leakage" is associated with any sort of dominant social outlook or regime...what's important to pay attention to are the patterns of the majority...not the strange exceptions. I recently was told by a friend of mine (a Jewish woman) that there are Jewish folks in the Temple she attends who deny that the Holocaust occurred. Exceptions will always occur...they're a distraction.

The way I conceptualize stuff like this is that all behaving and thinking by living beings occurs on a spectrum. What you want to pay attention to is the patterns associated with the majority...it's those patterns that provide a basis for generalizations and will show you what's going on. If you're looking for absolute adherence to any ways of thinking/behaving by living beings (maybe outside of autonomic reflex stuff like breathing and such that are necessary for the maintenance of life) then forget it...there will always be exceptions.

I'm still disturbed with myself that I was mesmerized by the dominant narrative for so long. That narrative encourages us to believe that someone's social group positioning (social identities) have little or no connection to how we think and what we know. It's not an accident that all the major social institutions were created by white men and continue to be controlled by white men and that the national narrative persistently puts forth the fiction that white men "know best". That's neither an accident, nor is it true.

Whenever an unmistakably horrid white man is too prominent to hide then many white folks scramble to explain that presence away (because white people are "good", ya know?). In this book, this explaining away is done by blaming "bad" white people ("white trash").

Anymore, whenever I read anything, I first want to know the social identity(s) of the author (so I have some knowledge about their perspective(s) or standpoint(s)) and, in the case of non-fiction writing, I want to know whether they are aware of the structural oppression that has shaped this nation (and whole hemisphere) since western Europeans first showed up here.

If the author is unaware or apologetic or dismissive or ignoring...of this structural oppression then I'll know I'm reading the work of someone under the influence of the dominant narrative. Here in the U.S. (and in western "civilization" in general) the dominant narrative supports the viewpoint and interests (again in general) of white men. If you didn't know this...well...it's time you did. You have much to learn and lots of work to do if you want to gain some clarity and more accurate comprehension of why (and how) human society operates the way it does.

Mostly...what we call "common sense" isn't common nor is it sense...it's a bending and distorting (sometimes subtle, sometimes blatant) of thinking and perceiving and understanding that works to uphold and promote the interests of (mainly) wealthy white men. Until you get a handle on that (or get your mind wrapped around that truism) then society here in the U.S. (and many other places) won't make much sense to you. 

For fiction I'm a little less demanding of awareness, sometimes a good story is just a good story.

If the author is writing a non-fiction book dealing with social/cultural issues or themes and is oblivious to the history and oppressive make-up of this nation...then their story isn't well grounded and they're writing fiction without knowing it.

Someone probably can write a book like "Windshield Washer Repair for Dummies" (non-fiction) and do a credible job and also be deluded as hell about social issues (I say probably they can, maybe not, I'm not certain about this). However...if their non-fiction efforts have anything to do with social/cultural issues and they're deficient in knowledge about the genocidal and human enslaving foundational structuring of this nation...then their writing is mostly blather and a waste of time and effort.

My rule of thumb for non-fiction cultural/social/historical writing is (and I borrowed and modified this rule from an observation by Robin DiAngelo about movies) that if a white person can read it and still feel good about being a white person after having read it...then it's probably untrue and it works to uphold oppression and white supremacy.

I don't like that it's that way...it pisses me off and saddens me...but we white folks made it that way and unless we lie...then thinking and/or writing and/or talking about it is going to feel bad until we start making a society and culture that clears out the awful stuff and starts following a positive path for everyone.

Maybe then...many years from now...white people can begin to write non-fiction stuff that also doesn't mean bad feelings for white folks...and is founded on truth. For now...it's not that way and blaming "white trash" just evades the truth.




Thursday, January 4, 2018

Death

I initially wrote what I'm putting in this post as a comment on a friend's facebook post about the impending death of a dog who has lived with her for years. She (my facebook friend) was expressing her grief and pain.

I wrote what I wrote and then decided that it wasn't ok for me to respond to her in that way...but...I did want to share the thoughts I had somewhere...so...here they are.

"Experiencing the loss of beings I have loved because of the differences between our lifespans has resulted in me being aware that having intense/close different sorts of beings (different than "human" I mean) entails almost guaranteed suffering. When their "natural" lifespan is 15 years (for example) and mine is 70+ years (again for example) then I'm guaranteed to suffer the grief and pain of their death.

I'm not asserting a position, just sharing my thoughts. I have come to have a lot more appreciation for a "live and let live" approach to relationships with beings who don't have the same expected lifespan as myself than I did at one time.

All those beings we call "pets" were forced by we humans into relating to us. "Domestication" is a euphemism for captivity and forced breeding and maybe the suffering I experience when someone dies of old age because their "natural" lifespan is much briefer than mine...well...maybe that's some sort of weird karma because at some point in time we humans arrogated to ourselves the power over the lives of those beings we call "pets" and they suffered terribly....they lost their freedom to live their lives how they wanted...and I'm certain that caused misery.

It's a characteristic of human societies that are organized around oppressive practices that history be erased...and when I remember the history of how "pets" came to be "pets" and all the imprisonment and loss of freedom and liberty for the ancestors of those who are "pets" and the suffering they endured...well...maybe it's a balancing of the scales of hurt that I, as a human, have to suffer and grieve the death of their offspring.

I wonder whether if in some future/other (imaginary) human society whether wisdom wouldn't mean no "pets"...only Earthlings who look different than me who maybe I know...maybe only casually or maybe even closely...but for sure they aren't dependent on me and, if they chose, they could live quite well on mother Earth without me. I dunno.

I think I wish for a future where it is the case that my sister/brother Earthlings can live their lives without risk of harm by humans and also that they can live without humans if they so desire.

That's not true now and it is my duty and obligation (and pleasure) to provide what care and protection I can for those Earthlings who we call "pets"...but I do suspect there would be less suffering (and more freedom) had we humans never ever done the "domestication" thing.

It hurts to love someone and to endure their loss. That's a truth.

It's horribly wrenching for fur people (or any other sort of Earthling) we love to die...and...I am suspicious (distrustful even) about human beings who don't acknowledge and/or understand that. I feel for you, and I regret your pain. Love is love and loss and grief are loss and grief...and how someone looks and/or acts and/or thinks doesn't matter one bit if they were someone we loved and they die." 

That's what I wrote and decided to not post on facebook.

I think "domestication" is one of the greater crimes that we humans have ever inflicted on our sister/brother Earthlings and I sometimes think that the suffering we humans who are living now experience when a loved "pet" dies is some sort of balancing of misery (albeit a pretty clunky and imprecise balancing).

That suffering really should have been experienced by the arrogant human harmers who did "domesticating" in the first place. And that suffering should have signaled to them to stop doing what they were doing.

But...they didn't listen to (or even have?) their feelings then...so now those of us who care about Earthlings are stuck in a situation they made and we have to do the suffering of the misery they ignored.

Maybe the lesson here is when other humans do bad stuff, not only do their victims suffer...but any human who has feelings and is in touch with those feelings suffers also. And...that suffering continues from generation to generation...until the harming is rectified.

Maybe we really are in this all together and what we do (or don't do) impacts everyone. The longer I live, the more that seems to be true.

If aging offers the opportunity to gain awareness or wisdom...whatever pluses there are in those achievements(?) are offset fully by the simultaneous recognition that the human society I live in has very little wisdom about suffering and harm in terms of how it operates.

Ouch.