Trump, social institutions and the bystander effect

February 26, 2017

This is a strategic framework for surviving or even progressing in the midst of repressive political regimes, focusing on bystander organizing.

Overview

My partner is currently helping someone apply for US citizenship.  I can imagine that process feels pretty harrowing normally, let alone in today’s climate, with a xenophobic predator in chief at the figurative head of the government.  Trump has already threatened to pull federal funding from cities who act as sanctuaries for the people he intends to persecute.

Our society has a lot of active xenophobes and misogynists.  Such people worked hard to elect someone like Trump in the first place.  They have already started acting more boldly.  A lot of xenophobes and misogynists work in public and private institutions, which magnifies their potential destructive influence.  They may start to feel empowered with a mandate from above in what people perceive as the “highest political office of the nation” (more accurately it is a symbolic position that has as much power as we delegate to or allow it).  The xenophobes and misogynists are coming out of the woodwork.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  It’s a form of social and cultural honesty manifesting itself.  We know who — and what — we are working with.  They don’t have to hide.  They don’t police themselves and hide behind political correctness, because the social norms have changed.  We know how bad things truly are, and how much work we have to do to create a democratic culture of love, courage and respect.

However, the shift in the balance of power also means that many otherwise-non-misogynist and non-xenophobic people will start to silence themselves and passively “go along” with whatever tendencies emerge.  As the xenophobes and misogynists emerge and many other, competing value systems go into hiding, a progressive institution can seem to shift rather abruptly to a regressive and repressive institution, seemingly-overnight.  This happens first through a collective change in social affect, where xenophobia and misogyny become dominant norms.  Shifts in norms then create a silence amongst a passive majority, or even draw them into compliance as they seek to maintain social harmony.   Then actual shifts in policies, rules and directives occur, further marginalizing and mitigating the remaining people who refuse to remain silent.

This shift can do lots of damage.  We can prevent that damage.

Bystander Organizing

The remaining people who refuse to remain silent have the simple, albeit very difficult, task to slow, stop and even reverse these institutional shifts through strategic action.  Whether and how such people act in this shifting climate will determine in large part the extent and quality of the damage that the xenophobes and misogynists are able to do with their growing institutional power.  Strategically, we can act to limit the damage, viewing this as a “temporary shift in climate” while ignoring its roots in our culture. We can call this the “Tough out the four years” strategy.  It is a strategy that both assumes and facilitates failure.  More fundamentally, we can work to awaken and activate bystanders from their state of passive silence and compliance.  The more proactive we are with this, the easier our task of limiting damage and holding a line against authoritarian regression will become.  The longer we wait, the harder the task will become, up to the point of becoming impossible.

Bystander activation itself becomes much more effective through a strategic process of triage.  We can call strategically-focused bystander activation “bystander organizing.”  We target and activate those most sensitive and courageous first (before we get bound, gagged and dragged off to the gallows), and then use our growing numbers to increasingly activate others in turn and normalize a culture, first of resistance, and then prevention.  When bystander activation and organizing occurs promptly, an institution can effectively hold a line against social regression, or even continue progress making — even leaps and bounds of progress (albeit in the midst of a lot more conflict) — during an authoritarian regime.

Isolated institutions, when transparent and public about their activation, can in turn inspire and agitate others, transforming pockets of resistance to a unified solidarity network.  So anyone in a position of public or private institutional influence can use their institutional power responsibly, act strategically.  We have work to do to make this land more just, more free, more inclusive.  We have people (such as xenophobes and misogynists) to identify and hold to account, including, but not anywhere-near limited to, the new predator-in-chief.  Including friends, family and coworkers.  Our bosses and employees.  Trump emerged from US mainstream culture.  Until we change the culture, the threat he symbolizes will remain:  his supporters, those who comply, and those who consider him an alien rather than emergent threat.

Indicators of Institutional Shifts

Indicators of shifts in institutional culture include both informal and formal factors, such as memos, new “policies,” personnel behavior, and enforcement of accountability for professional, ethical behavior, and institutional mission or focus.  Examples of shifts in sexism include increased harassment of women, male coworkers or employees behaving in oppositional or defiant ways to female coworkers or bosses (which can include more gender-based “jokes” about female authority), and bosses silencing or exploiting female employees.  Gender minorities may also receive similar treatment.  Similarly racist or classist behaviors may start to occur.

The adoption of discriminatory policies (let alone behaviors and attitudes), even when technically-illegal or unconstitutional, may appear (or actually) have the support of the President of the US.  Such policies can focus inward, on the management of the institution itself (e.g., stripping female employees of paid maternity leave, or claiming to “recognize white genocide” or “reverse racism” or “reverse sexism” as a real issue requiring affirmative action or equal opportunity or “increased accountability”).  Likewise, such policies can project outward, toward the people whom the institution should ostensibly serve (such as in the administration of health care or insurance, or work training and placement programs, or with immigrants applying for US citizenship).

Initial shifts can occur more subtly, with a “testing of the waters,” occurring through increased frequency of racially- or sexually-charged “joking,” a vanguard of indicator and agent of shifting cultural norms.  These initial shifts can easily and disable any extant accountability structures, policies or processes that were probably overwhelmed and under-responsive to begin with.  Those who have already faced such challenges in their work life may notice an increase in both frequency or intensity of behavior or other indicators of a cultural shift into line with the repressive regime.  Regardless of the level of formality, these shifts occur due to a perceived (and often real) sense of support or even mandate from those higher in the social hierarchy, and a perceived lack of consequences for abandoning what was previously the politically-correct behavior.  In fact, such people are simply adopting (sometimes passively, sometimes willingly and actively) the new politically-correct behavior, which happens to include misogyny and xenophobia.

The fact of the matter is, though, that enough caring people exist, generally-speaking, in every institution for that institution to hold a line against slipping toward repressive culture or policy.  What matters is whether we act strategically in a manner to amplify our impact and influence.

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Community Liberation and Defense

November 15, 2016

aka, a strategic context for community rights in anti-militia planning
aka, the militia movement as a public health crisis of male-pattern violence

OUTLINE

  1. Militia overview
  2. Public Health Overview: Trauma and Crisis
  3. The role of the government
  4. Crisis Intervention
  5. Risk Reduction
  6. Primary Prevention

This essay looks at the militia movement as a public health rather than legal crisis, and similarly adopts the public health model of primary, secondary and tertiary prevention (also called prevention, risk reduction and crisis intervention, respectively) to help understand and prioritize intervention strategies for application in the appropriate context.  Community Rights work is an important component of long-term, primary prevention efforts, but must occur alongside secondary and tertiary efforts or else it will tend to falter needlessly.  The purpose of anti-militia planning is to identify both the core problems contributing to militia movements’ targeting of communities, as well as comprehensive short-, medium- and long-range remedies.  Lastly, the planning process will explore and pursue strategies for implementation of such remedies in solidarity with those most negatively impacted by the militia movement and federal interventionism.

Militia overview

Despite the well-meaning intentions of many of the rank and file among them, militia movements consist of armed groups of primarily-white men with roots in white supremacy and ties to corporate interests who use fear, intimidation and force (including the threat of force) to infiltrate and co-opt communities as part of an aggressive doomsday settler-homesteader mentality.  The aggressive approach leverages the “bystander effect” to create a sense of isolation among people who do not necessarily agree with their ideology to maintain silence and passive compliance.  Over time, the community begins to accept and identify with the militia, in a process mirroring Stockholm Syndrome.  Militias combine these negative tactics alongside aid tactics, such as emergency preparedness training, that address real material needs of the community.  In this sense, militias exploit longstanding community vulnerabilities stemming from intersecting class, race and gender oppression in order to impose themselves on said communities.  The combination of aid framed by brutality has a longstanding history of use by right-wing groups throughout world history in order to gain a foothold within a population (including, more recently, by Islamic extremists, but also Christians and other world religions, political movements and, perhaps most notably, nation-states including the US).

Public Health Overview:  Trauma and Crisis

Many communities remain mired in crisis.  In these frequent and common cases, people trying to offer long-term solutions targeting the corporate basis of exploitation meet considerable resistance.  Militia invasion of communities can resemble a large-scale domestic violence situation in its complexity, intractability and trauma.  Effective, longstanding and resilient results and evaluation and triage of liberation strategies requires a coordinated responses among all tertiary (crisis response), secondary (risk management) and primary (proactive) prevention strategies in order to acheive .

To ground the discussion further, prematurely proactive discussions of corporatocracy often create an unappealing abstract sort of disconnect for many communities mired in crisis of a current militia invasion (especially one involving a federal response) or do not yet feel (or acknowledge) the public health threats and trace the ultimate agents pulling strings to extract profit from them at their expense.  Such communities tend to exist and self-locate on a day-to-day, sometimes even hour-to-hour basis of survival, and cannot begin to fathom let alone pursue a fifteen or twenty year campaign to seize democratic control of their health, safety and welfare and that of the natural communities within their jurisdiction.  Nevertheless, it remains a goal for more fundamental work to move communities toward a level of readiness where they can consider, plan and sustain such a campaign, if they so choose.

The work begins with tertiary prevention, consisting of crisis intervention and abatement.  This is tricky work, as it requires supporting a community and its ability to survive through and respond to a crisis without enabling, escalating or prolonging the crisis itself.  Once a crisis can be abated to give a community some space, or in communities not currently experiencing crisis, it makes sense to move toward secondary prevention to build the community’s “immune system,” decreasing its vulnerability to corporatocratic or militia targeting and attack in the first place.  This work involves empowering communities to effectively identify and respond to such threats, and is equally tricky in that much internalized oppression creates a bait-and-switch where community members misidentify and blame symptoms of the problem for the problem itself.  In such cases, classism, racism (including anti-immigration) and sexism (including homophobia) rear their ugly heads.  Militias and corporations jump on these as opportunities to “divide and conquer,” even deliberately confusing the promotion of internal conflict with “community self-defense,” whereas actual effective community self-defense involves developing the capacity for and then building solidarity with and between the marginal populations that such invaders so often exploit for political and economic gain.  When solidarity proliferates, such populations “disappear into” the community and no longer become marginal, which eliminates some of the most significant community vulnerabilities and also helps identify the actual threats among the people and institutions who seek to break solidarity (or who do so as a matter of course as they seek to extract value).  Solidarity also helps identify and address outstanding economic and ecological vulnerabilities by eliminating the complication of socially-constructed internal weaknesses, allowing focus on external and imposed threatening forces, institutions and processes.

Only when crisis abates and solidarity proliferates within a community can a community begin to consider primary prevention, which includes proactive campaigns to claim democratic control over the health, safety and welfare of both human and non-human communities within a given jurisdiction, and place decision-making power in the hands of those ultimately affected the most (esp. in material as well as economic terms) by such decisions.  It involves giving everyone — including non-human entities — a political and legal voice, especially with equal say to “not in my back yard,” (NIMBY).  Once everyone has equal access to NIMBY, then only fair decisions can occur, focusing the remaining concern on effective implementation.  Such proactivity often occurs only when communities bump up against external, imposed political and legal institutions and processes that either directly threaten their health, safety and welfare or limit their ability to defend themselves or pursue their best interests.  Many communities mired in crisis have yet to get to this point where they “meet” and acknowledge and confront the powerful interests at the root of many of the crises they face.  Crisis abatement and risk reduction can help communities shift focus to longer-term risk management and prevention work, but so can crisis escalation.  As a result, some heavily-exploited communities may make some of the longer-term work a higher priority.  It is important to support that work with decolonization and other capacity building work in order to maximize its sustainability and chance for success.

The role of the government

Thus far, communities have depended heavily on the federal government for support in fighting militia infiltration.  This can be problematic on many levels.  First, it makes communities a continuous battleground between militia and federal law enforcement, which plays into the militia strategy to provoke and escalate conflict, intensify anti-federal sentiment and create martyrs of federal violence to recruit more people into the militia movements.  In addition to strategic folly, the siting of this conflict within communities has a disempowering and traumatic effect on the community that long outlasts the end of the conflict itself, as any inhabitant of a warzone can attest.  Third, dependence on federal intervention does nothing to resolve the underlying problems that militias target for exploitation, such as poverty, food insecurity, housing costs, infrastructure, and other material needs; class oppression (esp. few living wage jobs) and longstanding racism and sexism.

Resolving these long-term issues is far outside the scope of the intervening federal agencies, barring some sort of coordinated interagency homeland security plan that includes long-term community economic development and empowerment work, but more likely would manifest as temporary or permanent philanthropic dependency or corporate trojan horse.  At best, government intervention is like playing a game of whack-a-mole.  More often, it’s like spraying poisons over a land to control a pest problem:  as long as the niche the pest exploits remains open, and the pest has no predators or competitors, it will continue to proliferate, requiring more spraying and resulting in toxification of the landscape.  We can say the same for frequent and prolonged federal intervention.  The authoritarian remedy can negatively impact communities far beyond ground zero.

Fourth, authoritarian interventionism supports the continuing militarization of domestic police forces — the increasing technical capacity for excessive use of force against peaceful populations, nonviolent civil disobedience activists, and activists targeting property and infrastructure of the elite and their exploitative institutions.  Likewise, it lays the foundation for justifying the actual use of such excessive force by leveraging the “climate of instability” that militias create or intensify as a need for excessive authoritarian measures, and by equating nonviolent movements who challenge the federal regime with militias, even though the former do not use the latter’s tactics of intimidation and fear to terrorize populations into isolated passivity.  Militias and government repression feed off each-other.

Crisis Intervention

Many of the tactics of brutality fit well within familiar parameters of male-pattern violence:  domination, bullying, stalking, harassment, threats, sexual violence, coercion, appeals to authority.  Militias recruit from the ranks of white working men frustrated with the economic climate and the erosion of gender and racial privilege, who feel their place in the world is threatened, tend to overcompensate and as such are ready, willing and able to lash out in order to reassert white male privilege in the social hierarchy to make up for intensifying class oppression.  They often target and “make examples of” women and gender and other minorities as a “defense” tactic, especially those seen as leaders of an opposition.  This has a circular logic to it, as the opposition includes anyone who resists or stands up to their bullying and coercion, including countering sacred myths of white male supremacy, e.g., that “white men built the modern world.”

Effective counters to militia infiltration must disrupt their use of the bystander effect by connecting and activating bystanders in the short term to create a strong voice of accountability and moral contrast.  A small part of this short-term approach may include defensive countermeasures, which in turn include armed self-defense as a backup to nonviolent self-defense tactics, such as de-escalation or redirection, among others.  Physical self-defense remains an important last resort tactic when attempts to de-escalate aggression fail to stop an attack.

Outside support can be critical to jumpstart this process in a given community subject to militia pressure and control, so long as the “outsiders” don’t mimic militial co-optation of communities as an ideological battleground for their own agendas.  Many left-wing responses to right-wing presence often provide a “kinder, gentler” form of coercion rather than a fundamental contrast.  Survivors of domestic or intimate partner violence have encountered a similar situation when they meet an advocate who thinks they “know better” than (and thus try to make decisions for and impose upon) the survivor.  While the decisions may appear different and “more progressive” in substance, the power dynamic of domination and control remain eerily familiar.  Instead, it is important to embrace an empowerment model for community liberation from militia control, which may also mean supporting communities in making their own decisions that the outsiders don’t necessarily agree with in order to build a more fundamental relationship of trust and solidarity.  In this way, radicalized left-wing outsiders often provide solidarity and support for conservative members of communities under siege by militias, even through they may vote very differently.

Risk Reduction

In the medium term, communities need additional options for enhancing their material welfare and meeting basic needs that have no transactional conditions attached to them (e.g., “we’ll help feed you, but in return you need to attend religious service or read our pamphlet, or otherwise join or aid our cause”), as such conditions replicate the militia behavior in question.  Alternatives for material welfare may range from substantive similarity to radically-different in form from militial aid, especially where militia aid depends upon or is mediated by corporate profit or consumer activity (e.g., expensive and often ineffective consumerist “turnkey” solutions).  Appropriate technologies factor largely into counter-aid strategies, as do mutual-aid networks within and between communities.  Included in this medium-term approach is a strategic need to disrupt the corporate funding and support that militias receive, to disrupt their capacity to leverage aid as a compliance and coercion tactic, e.g., providing effective aid options without the attached burden of coercion.

In the long term, anti-militia efforts must address the intersecting race, class and gender oppressions that create the conditions that make communities vulnerable to militia/corporate infiltration and exploitation in the first place.  Ideally, the short-term strategies of bystander activation, empowerment toward trust and solidarity, and alternative aid provision will build a foundational capacity that better allows communities and their members to address difficult questions about their place and role in the existing economic order of society that leaves them both dependent on and vulnerable to division and exploitation.  Only through an intact social fabric — network of strong, mutually-supportive and empowering relationships — can a community begin to address such fundamental issues and increase its resilience.  This means decolonization work, identifying and eliminating internalized oppressions that leave a community divided, and also enhance social capacity to rebuild the social fabric of horizontal relationships.

Such relationships themselves remain possible only with immense human development work to increase the social capacity of community members.  In the context of patriarchy, men remain particularly vulnerable to stunted development of social “soft skills” whereas patriarchies tend to target women for stunted development of technical “hard skills,” creating an artificial bifurcation of capacities and gendered co-dependence on a centralized authority figure to connect and mediate.  In the history of urbanization, the rural survival need for horizontal interdependence has provided a buffer effect for rural communities (simply put, men learn how to “get along” with others out of necessity, and women learn to use hammers out of necessity, etc), whereas urban populations historically consist of ex-rural populations ironically moving out of survival necessity to the city after elements of urban economic and political institutions (e.g., bankers, corporations, etc) have laid waste to the rural land and community, rendering them increasingly susceptible to social atrophy, gendered bifurcation and dependence on centralized institutions.  As elements of urbanization and centralized institutions infiltrate rural communities and interject themselves amongst horizontal social ties, or as rural communities grow in scale and complexity, they begin exhibiting this gender bifurcation again.  Men remain particularly susceptible to antisocial behavior as a byproduct of how patriarchies define the narrow range of masculinity and “masculine behavior.”

Making balanced human development a goal will ultimately lay the foundation for solidarity between diverse autonomous liberatory struggles against centralized authorities and other arbitrary, persistent and imposed social hierarchies.  Men in particular who refuse to do “soft skills” social capacity work (however it manifests) quickly become liabilities rather than assets to liberatory struggle and form the core population that militias target to join their ranks.  Men may dismiss the importance of such work without seeing how it impacts race and (especially, for white men) class struggles.  Even if they do acknowledge it, most won’t engage in the difficult (and often painful and embarassing) personal work until strong peer networks and social norms are already in place. This requires organizers to identify and activate “organic leaders” within the community to break the status quo and build critical mass toward that end.  As the oldest and perhaps most deeply-internalized and ubiquitous oppression, people often dismiss, minimize, marginalize or abandon gender justice.  Rather than fight this tendency, it may be easier to “connect the dots” inevitably back to gender justice, for example, by using more accessible and acceptable economic and racial justice struggles as an entrypoint.  “So we agree we need to do the class work, but we can’t do that without the race work, and here’s why.  And we can’t do either of those without the gender work, and here’s why…”

Primary Prevention

This last strategy focuses on the external threats to community security, such as economic exploitation, political manipulation, legal impositions, environmental destruction, outsider intervention whose interests do not align in solidarity with the welfare of the community or land (e.g., absentee landlords and speculators).

Corporate profiteers use militias and the individual men therein as pawns in furthering the agenda of the merger of state and corporate interests to further accumulate and secure wealth and power into the hands of a ruling elite.  Militias are in one respect unofficial corporate armies who exploit oppressions and their attached identities to ensure people remain divided, in fear of and in conflict with one-another rather than united in their mutual interests.  Neutralizing militias also strengthens the community against corporate control and exploitation.  The final strategy of a counter-militia campaign will target the corporate roots of the US political and legal system — such as the US Commerce Clause, corporate personhood, Dylan’s rule, and pre-emption — that enable corporate rule through a top-down legal hierarchy and effectively neutralize or eliminate the legal capacities of people to protect themselves and their inherent rights from harms incurred in the unaccountable pursuit of corporate profit.  Such harms leave communities further susceptible to militia infiltration and subsequent corporate exploitation and control, producing a positive feedback loop.  This long-range work must occur alongside the short and moderate-term work, otherwise it will struggle unnecessarily not only against internalized oppressions but also the people’s own priorities and interests.

Additionally, if specific threats can be identified, work may target that threat (e.g., a corporate bottling facility or a pipeline).  The community rights framework provides an organizing context with room for both direct action against specific threats as well as a larger vision of freedom from harm and exploitation, and democratic control over community health, safety and welfare, and even combines these two sometimes-conflicting activities.  It can be a useful tool for organizing communities toward a constructive vision of collective liberation and solidarity that does not include scapegoating and other forms of horizontal violence that so often occur in oppressive “remedies” (e.g., “deport the Mexicans”), in part because the fundamental remedy includes recognizing the inherent worth and autonomy of everyone — including the non-human landscape.  But this can be very difficult for people to grasp unless they are in dire need of a remedy and have tried everything else to no avail (CELDF works with many of these communities), or they have gone through many of the crisis intervention and risk reduction activities mentioned above.

The militia movements are highly coordinated and organized and often well-funded, with some wealthy, powerful and influential sponsors. While effective resistance needn’t mimic or match the organizing tactics and strategies or structures of militia groups and movements, it does need to coordinate across various time and spatial scales.  In other words, resistance to militias needs to provide a means for ongoing coordination between communities and allow for both proactive and reactive measures across short, medium and long time frames.

To learn more about the militia movement in Oregon, visit http://www.rop.org/up-in-arms
To learn more about community rights, visit http://celdf.org

In our society, statistically-speaking, guns don’t kill people.  Men kill people.  #malepatternviolence

I am not in any way affiliated with CELDF or ROP.  I appreciate the work they do.


October is Masculinity Awareness Month

October 6, 2015

Not really, but it might as well be.  Domestic Violence Awareness Month in Oregon roars in with yet another public shooting, in Roseburg this time:

“The elephant in the room with … mass shootings is that almost all of them are being done by men,” Professor Kilmartin says. Male shooters often “project their difficulties onto other people…”

A friend of mine just covered the shooting in Roseburg for the AP. She said there was once this one public shooting like 10 yrs ago done by a woman:

In the majority of cases, the catalyst for the shooting was something that threatened the man’s identity as a man. The main statistic is inarguable—69 [ed: now 71] males to one lone female. Being a man is the single most common characteristic of every mass shooting in the last 32 years. – See more at: http://goodmenproject.com/ethics-values/patterns-mass-shootings-conversation-men/#sthash.TiX1QKYN.dpuf

I would go further to surmise that the vast supermajority of these men are cisgendered, meaning they fit the gender assigned to them at birth, e.g., as opposed to gay, transgendered or other queer identities, because queerness as a political identity often requires owning up to and exploring ourselves, which means shedding vs embracing patriarchal impositions of identity.  Men who do not identify as “queer” must find a similarly-effective way to accomplish this same task of owning and exploring themselves, and ultimately shedding and embracing any patriarchal impositions of identity inasmuch as they do not accurately reflect or represent their (constantly changing and evolving) person.

Banning guns to prevent male-pattern violence is like trying to prevent food poisoning by removing the food — it’s just the vector.  Guns don’t kill people. Patriarchal masculinity kills people. It terrorizes us all in both public and private ways. And it happens through a lot more means than guns.

Patriarchal masculinity represents a social embodiment of coercive control (e.g., alongside white racial and upper socioeconomic class identities) to maintain a rigid social hierarchy.  Domestic violence is a kind of private terrorism that results from patriarchal masculinity.  Please note that I’m not saying that coercive and controlling women don’t exist — they do inasmuch as they internalize and enact patriarchal behaviors (which is relatively rare though certainly not unheard of).  But the first victim in every case is the person who becomes the violent vector for social reproduction of coercive control.  It creates an internal, ongoing crisis within the person.  Like a communicable parasite, it changes the person’s attitude, behavior, their perception of themselves vis-a-vis the world.  Then, ironically, in an effort to escape the crisis, they start doing the social bidding of the controlling identity, and become agents of coercive control, first in their intimate lives…

…and later, in more public forms:

Men who commit violence rehearse and perfect it against their families first. Women and children are target practice, and the home is the training ground for these men’s later actions.

A recent study found that more than half of the 110 mass shootings in the United States between January 2009 and July 2014 included the murder of a current or former spouse, an intimate partner or a family member. Everytown for Gun Safety, the group that released the study, found a “noteworthy connection between mass-shooting incidents and domestic or family violence.”

This connection is not limited to mass shootings. An analysis of the criminal justice history of hundreds of thousands of offenders in Washington State suggests that a felony domestic violence conviction is the single greatest predictor of future violent crime among men.  (from http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/03/opinion/to-stop-violence-start-at-home.html?_r=0)

Male-pattern violence forms a type of “aggrieved entitlement,” where masculine-type people have become “pissed off about an inability to cash in on privileges previous generations of men received without question.”   In other words, as the gender hierarchy collapses, the racial and class hierarchies intensify the pressure they exert on masculine-type people to reclaim some modicum of social privilege and repair and stabilize the hierarchy.  Men who don’t deal with their toxic masculinity will find themselves immersed in a sort of private hell (a la Eliot Rodgers) that infects their person, their relationships and ultimately their public expression of self.  The low-hanging fruit for men who walk this path involves directly imposing themselves on others.  For men who don’t have access to racial or especially class privileges (wealthy men can impose themselves using money and the economy), this often becomes a very physical imposition.  The most empowered forms of this imposition are often the least visible.   Wealthy masculine-type people like Donald Trump can stand in front of a camera while their economic clout works its magic behind the scenes, put to tasks of buying and even killing people.  My partner reminds me that the CEO of Hershey’s chocolate can live completely isolated from the slavery that supports his wealth.

I think some masculine-type people fear that the destruction of masculinity will result in a bunch of “spineless pussies unable to stand up for themselves.”  Based on my personal experience, nothing seems further from the truth.  The more I reject and abolish masculinity within and around myself, the more I feel I can act with clarity and courage to help protect and liberate myself alongside those whom I love.  For example, when I intervene in a situation, I no longer feel constrained to act within a narrow range of what masculinity accepts as legitimate, and I have access to an entire range of tactics and strategies to bring effective resolution.  When a dude is maneuvering someone who is way too drunk into a sexual encounter, I don’t need to fight as a “good guy” against “bad guys” and I don’t worry about being seen as a “pussy” or “cockblock.”   I can focus on survivor safety and empowerment and de-escalation and anything else that seems effective at maximizing the success of the intervention without worrying about whether my “manhood” is at stake.  Others in my life who have rejected masculinity in their own ways (queer people, feminists, even and especially other cisgendered men, etc) also represent some of the most courageous and effective people I have ever met.  Without masculinity, our struggles become more effective.  What does it mean (for me) to “reject” and “abolish” masculinity?  That’s something for another essay.

So to stop the terrorism, we need to target it at its root:  the toxic, patriarchal masculinity that exists in a larger, rigid social hierarchy among interlocking race and class hierarchies.  Masculinity is so fundamental to our social structure that it forms a sort of lynch-in that either enables or undermines progress toward liberation.  All people can choose to become either agents of social control or agents of liberation, and for men in a patriarchal culture, this means confronting and ultimately rejecting the masculine ego.  More and more I come to believe that people who happen to have external genitalia don’t need masculinity — rather, masculinity needs us, the people, and all forms of intersecting oppressions need patriarchy.  It represents a fundamental social unit of oppression and a primary enforcement mechanism for rigid social structures.  I do not argue that oppressions still exist, but by rejecting and sabotaging masculinity, we both greatly weaken the kyriarchy of intersecting oppressions and we vastly increase our capacity and potential for liberatory practice.

So starting this year, I will begin to think of October as Masculinity Awareness Month, or Coercive Control Awareness Month.  Domestic violence awareness suffices as a means to the same end.  However, I think it focuses on a symptom of the underlying problem, and we ultimately need to start looking seriously at the inherent pathology of masculinity alongside our efforts to render domestic violence increasingly visible and support and celebrate those who continue to survive in its midst.


Solidarity Amidst Microaggression

July 27, 2015

For any movement, group or organization, learning to fight well across the privilege gap means everything about its capacity to develop, as one activist put it, “non-oppressive solidarity.”  That is, solidarity that doesn’t necessarily mean everyone falling in line with or giving into the white dude, and, here’s the kicker, even when the ideas he presents have substantive merit.  Say what?  Sometimes it’s less about what a white dude says, and more about where, how, why, when, in what context and to whom he says it.  You know, the structural stuff.

To be clear:  I write this as a white dude, pulling from my experience as a white dude who interacts frequently with well-educated white dudes.  It also includes experiences of friends and others of the non-dude or non-white variety.

When two white dudes fight, it might seem like this to them:

[for the sake of it, let’s give them British accents, top hats and monocles]
“Objectively speaking, your opinion of Truth lacks basis in rational fact.”
“Indubitably, your divergence from scientific inquiry is highly problematic.”

and to others it might look like this:

[two giant monsters yelling and fighting]
“GROGG SMASH STUPID IDEA!”
“MAWG BIG STICK LEGITIMIZE SMALL EGO!”

Discursive power dynamics manifest in subtle ways.  They have a way of insidiously infiltrating and co-opting interactions, and often leaving people at the shit-end of the stick wondering why they feel so exhausted, belittled, unheard, illigitimate.  The dyanmics can appear so subtle that perpretrators often dismiss them as “semantics” (a defensive focus on content to ignore the structural fact that they are semantically defending their frame of reference over and against yours…their definitions are “true” and “correct,” yours are “semantic quibbling”).

Compare the following phrases:

  •  “The problem with microsensitivity is nothing ever gets done” vs “I think microsensitivity is a problem”
    Notice the difference?  Let’s look at another…
  • “You’re right” vs “I agree with you”

Not, “I think you’re right.”  But simply, “You are right.”  Of course, sometimes it means, “I agree.”  But sometimes it really means, “I have access to Absolute Truth, and I hereby declare you correct.”  A complete act of hubris, yet so deeply entrenched into our psyches that we take it for granted.  Some douchebags (and their mimics) try to come across as authority figures (cue the irony violin!) and ‘educate’ everyone else around them.  And sometimes it happens without us trying, and has everything to do with who is talking (down?) to whom, rather than what’s being said.  When white men behave like white men while they interact with others, it often feels like this:

[normal sized person]
“I think there’s a racial and patriarchal power dynamic in this space”

[large monster with erect penis pointing menacingly at first speaker]
“INDUBITABLY, YOUR DIVERGENCE FROM SCIENTIFIC INQUIRY IS HIGHLY PROBLEMATIC AND LACKS BASIS IN RATIONAL FACT”

Even when they try to act as allies, and focus subtantively on the ideas and not on the power dynamic, their response can feel like this:

    “AS AN ALLY WITH NO LESS THAN THREE WEEKS’ EXPERTISE IN ANTI-OPPRESSION WORK, I HEREBY DECLARE YOU CORRECT IN YOUR OBSERVATION OF OPPRESSIVE POWER DYNAMICS.”

Which is enough to send anyone running confusedly for cover with a big, WTF? smeared across their face.  Because it’s a mind-twisting experience:  a substantive agreement (he thinks I’m correct!) and a shallow display of “agreement” structurally wrapped up inside the white dude declaring himself the humble arbitrator of Truth and Legitimacy, which then leads everyone else to either accept or reject his “gift” of legitimacy.  Sometimes white dudes go further and use this power dynamic to frame and co-opt follow-up work:

    “HERE IS FURTHER READING FOR YOU TO EDUCATE YOURSELF ON STRUCTURAL POWER DYNAMICS AND PROVE THAT I AM AWESOME AND PERHAPS EVEN PERFECT.”

    “I HAVE A FLAWLESS PLAN TO OBLITERATE SEXISM AND RACISM IN THIS SPACE WITH ERUDITE PRECISION AND ACCURACY.  NOW, LET’S LAUNCH INTO BRIEFING…”  sure thing, Admiral Ackbar.

So, for this reason, people of color and women and queer folk often seek or carve out “women-only” or “queer-only” or “queer womyn of color-only” spaces as a refuge.  Not to say that they don’t fight…they still fight.  And substantively it can sometimes look a lot like white manfighting:

[two normal-sized people]
“You’re wrong in that, sis!”
“Oh, yeah, prove it!”

But structurally, it’s often not nearly as traumatic or triggering.  Micro-aggressions can wear us down, so that when that well-meaning white dude says to us at the end of a shitty day,

[big dude talking to normal-sized person]
“IT’S JUST SMALL STUFF.”  (not to me…and there’s a lot of it)
“YOU JUST HAVE TO BE LESS SENSITIVE.” (so my feelings aren’t legitimate?)
“DON’T LET IT BOTHER YOU.”  (why are you telling me what to do?)

it’s no wonder that people who ordinarily exercise extraordinary grace and patience and resilience finally snap and say stuff like,

“OH SHUT UP YOU PRETENTIOUS NARCISSISTIC DOUCHEBAG!”

Especially if this is the first time in a while they feel safe expressing themselves, or things have just gotten so bad, they’ve stoicly endured so many degrading provocations, that their suppressed need to defend and express themselves finally outweighs their need to survive in a hostile world.

[big man above turns pouty]
“…how am i narcissistic for offering her solutions?”
Because, good sir, you assume your “solutions” are based in a Legitimate Reality that maps directly onto her life experience as helpful and useful, because You Say So.  And it often doesn’t map, and they often aren’t helpful.  And even when it does map and they are helpful, stop fucking assuming so.  Because it means you aren’t shutting up and you aren’t listening, and if you aren’t listening, you aren’t learning and relating.  You’re just projecting and imposing shit on others.

Sometimes solidarity looks more like:

“Hey, how was your day?” (genuine curiosity)
“Shitty.”
“That sucks, what happened?” (genuine empathy with genuine curiosity)
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Ok, well, I’m hear to listen if you want to vent.”
[and sometimes]
“let me know how I can help.  what do you want to do now?”  (sometimes, no one knows)

You know, listening and accepting and offering support on *their* terms, not *yours.*

White men and people of privilege generally have extra work to do to put themselves on an equal level with others.  We have trust and respect to earn.  And that’s the way it should  be — because that’s the way it works with everyone else who doesn’t have access to our privilege.  And it can take a long time to acheive that trust and respect.  Sometimes it never happens.  Sorry, dudes — blame the racial patriarchy, not the people struggling through it.

On the flip side of that extra effort, white men are also often not used to being held to account for our microaggressive trespasses.  To us, someone holding us to account for something feels like an “attack,” which means we get defensive, we shut down, go on autopilot, puff out our chests, bully our way through the conversation and don’t hear important feedback about the feelings and concerns or constructive suggestions of others:

[normal-sized person]
“i need you to be more collaborative and less condescending if you want to be my ally”

[crying giant]
“WHY DO YOU HATE ME?”  (translation:  “why do i feel so horrible?”  Because this stupid patriarchal society coddled and emotionally babied you up to this point, and you’re not used to a real interaction)

or one of my personal favorites:

“i need you to take responsibility for hurting others”
“FINE, I GET IT, IT’S ALL MY FAULT! GEEZ.”

and just like that, it’s all about him.  All about how *he* feels hurt as a result of someone expressing how something he did hurt them, a result of asking him to behave differently in the future.  All because we’ve been trained and socialized from birth to confuse difficult conversations with personal and even physical attacks.  It’s an accountability shield, and when we follow him down that path, it makes his feelings more important to deal with than everyone else’s, which means others have no “legitimate” feelings about their experience with interpersonal power dynamics, let alone the space to air them.  Hence the creation of spaces free of white men.  We all bring enough internalized crap into the room with us — sometimes it’s just too much to have to deal with the external onslaught at the same time.  So it’s nice to have spaces where people don’t have to put up with at least some of that external privileged hostility for some of the time.

[large spectacled white man]
“WHOA, WHY SO ANGRY, M’DEAR?  JUST DISCUSS THE IDEAS AND AVOID PERSONAL ATTACKS, PLZ”
[translation:  just accept what i have to say, how i say it and never try to hold me accountable when i talk down to you]

“NOW, AS I WAS ‘SPLAINING, YOUR ANALYSIS OF RADICAL QUEER FEMINIST THOUGHT SEEMS TO LACK CONSIDERATION OF THREE CRITICAL COMPONENTS…”

It’s hard to get into this stuff, because it means questioning whether so many of the people we want to consider “allies” really have the capacity to build solidarity.  This disruptive behavior does not result from innocent ignorance.  When women or people of color offer their precious time and energy and vulnerability to give us an insider perspective into their experience, do we listen, accept, learn, probe, identify, develop, relate, transform?  Or do we dispute, dismiss, correct, command, reject, belittle, delegitimize, reframe?  Ultimately, it’s not about the the topic or even individual incidents of trespass, but about someone’s ability to demonstrate courageous vulnerability and abandon their implicit allegiance to white male supremacy.  Someone’s ability to trust another, especially when it’s uncomfortable to do so and a slap in the face of their fragile ego.  And until someone can demonstrate that acceptance, then it’s hard to imagine them doing anything other than undermining a liberation movement from without or within.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aTxwIpX239I
“There’s this post-modern obsession with this notion of ‘allies’ — ‘how do i be a good ally?’  The great Ruby Sales says, “We don’t need allies…allies, y’all can check in and out.  ‘It’s not my struggle, i need to wait for my leadership…’  We need freedom fighters.  The difference between ‘ally’ and ‘freedom fighter’ is you’re willing to put your body on the line.  You’ve got blood in the game.  Are you willing to put your body on the line, because you understand that you have something spiritually at stake — that your soul is in jeopardy because of racism, that it does something to your humanity, that you are less human…the white folks I trust are the ones I’ve been to jail with…”  — Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou

When someone who wants to be an “ally” puts their body on the line, then they move past shallow “allyship” into the realm of developing solidarity.  When we’re willing to put ourselves on the line, little (but important) constructive critiques of oppressive interactional dynamics don’t alienate or drive us away.  Instead, they challenge us, exercise us, build us up, make us stronger in the same way we exercise our bodies to become better, stronger people.  Ever been a bit sore after a good workout?  No pain, no gain — and after the soreness subsides, you’re stronger, faster.  The same workout gets easier.

White men who want “solidarity” without pain and mutual struggle do not want solidarity — they want appeasement.  And they’re not only fragile, they’re lazy.  Let’s face it:  Closeted white male supremacy hasn’t infiltrated liberalism and progressivism.  It IS liberalism and progressivism.  A left-leaning articulate, well-educated white male can rationalize his way into a paper sack and call it Kingdom Come, with almost limitless capacity for self-delusion.  Perhaps this explains why I most often see microaggressions coming from the well-to-do…

the folks that can actually speak to the white working class (namely radical white working class people) are few and far between, and that many are actively silenced and ridiculed for their backgrounds by affluent white organizers. While much has been done to point out the inherently racist issues that plague many progressive and radical organizations, almost nothing has been done to point out the inherent classism that runs rampant on the left.  — Dave Strano, http://libcom.org/library/rednecks-guns-other-anti-racist-stories-strategies

I did not write this post to tiptoe around while looking for “potential allies.”  I did not write this post to appease fragile, well-educated white male egoes.  I realize it will offend some — perhaps many — white people (men, especially).  I look for people who can read my use of “douchebag” as both self-critical and light-hearted.  I look for people who can do more than agree with me — people who can also see how this essay might apply to them.  I have yet to see any amount of education instill this ethic in someone.  I’ve only seen the opposite:  in the absence of this ethic, “education” only serves to further undermine our capacity to connect and build solidarity while enhancing our capacity for socially (self)destructive behavior.  On the other hand, I have also seen education amplify and empower the ethic in many people who take it with them into the education process.

This essay serves for me as a reminder of the need to set firm boundaries wherever possible and shit-can (compost) people from my life who continuously manifest and do the work of the very systems and institutions I seek to destroy.  It’s not anyone’s responsibility to educate anyone on this stuff, either.  Even when it’s one white dude talking (down?) to another white dude…sometimes the dude-in-question just doesn’t want to listen, no matter how knowledgable, experienced and articulate and sensitive and careful the other person might be.  No matter the presence of penis and absence of melanin.  And if someone doesn’t want to listen and learn, then they need to go away and do some more fundamental work.  We can (and probably should) tell him that, and he (probably) won’t listen.  We can, however, set the boundary, and expect him to call us all sorts of “feminazi reverse-racist discriminator killjoys” for not allowing his subtle (sometimes whiny) rampage to go unchecked.  Often times, a white dude would rather be a white dude than a traitor to his white male supremacist identities.   In such cases, the boundary we set, as our last desperate act of tough love, is the only thing that will get them to seriously consider the previous feedback we’ve given them.  And if not…then it’s even more evidence in support of setting the boundary in the first place.

Setting such boundaries has offensive as well as defensive potential:

“The task is not to win over more whites to oppose ‘racism;’ there are ‘anti-racists’ enough already to do the job. The task is to gather together a minority determined to make it impossible for anyone to be white. It is a strategy of creative provocation” (Noel Ignatiev, http://racetraitor.org/abolishthepoint.html)

White men who openly refuse to identify with and support whiteness and masculinity as others publicly manifest it start to chip away at the social constructs of white male supremacies.  It confuses and complicates the process of social control, makes collusion with oppression more difficult, because members of the establishment can no longer assume “ally” or “enemy” of us based on physical appearance.  This does not, however, mean adopting a form of neo-blackface privileged mockery of black identity.  When we abandon white masculinity, the allegiances and identities we embrace will constitute and carve out new, alien spaces replacing traditional and false “male v female” and “black v white” dichotomies.  And the establishment will do everything it can to suck us back into those dichotomies.

How do we tell people who have capacity to build solidarity apart from the others?  Growth is often tedious and painful for everyone involved, but we should see initiative, sensitivity, and clear progress over time in developing solidarity.  So when we point out that someone is talking an awful lot, interrupting or talking over or down to others, do we see them becoming increasingly sensitive to this, and do we see behavioral change over time?  Or does the person deny, justify and argue, ad nauseum, over and over again, treating each moment in the pattern of abuse like an isolated incident?  Do we feel increasingly energized and hopeful around him, or do we feel (more, or less) drained, exhausted, depressed, fearful, fight-or-flighty?

A collaborative behavioral framework has begun to emerge from my positive and negative experiences — a list of interlocking behaviors that I think help make solidarity easier (though not necessarily easy) for everyone:

  • Check your assumptions before acting on them
  • Listen actively and seek to understand
  • WAIT: Why Am I Talking? (how frequently/much do you talk?  this is a big one for me, in case you couldn’t tell…i’m a talker!) Better yet, leave empty space for others to walk into and fill.  And if someone doesn’t every time, that’s OK.  Just keep leaving it empty.
  • HAIT: How Am I Talking?  Do i frame my opinions and perspectives and experiences as Truth and Reality?  Or do I take a humble stance and admit these are my experiences, observations, agreements/disagreements, etc?
  • Ask how others feel about something, and give ample space to see where they stand.  In other words, ask with genuine curiosity, not intent to dispute or argue.  And just let it sit.
  • It’s not all about you: when someone says something you don’t want to hear, swallow your pride and question your feelings of defensiveness first, THEN seek clarity, THEN give yourself time to mull it over, THEN re-engage as necessary.
  • Take initiative to educate yourself on the things that others find important.  Don’t make them do your research for you, don’t make them recite articles to you or “prove” anything to you.  That’s exhausting and fucked up.  And if they do such a thing, acknowledge it and express genuine appreciation.
  • Get right with yourself, so you don’t use activist spaces as stages to prove how cool and together and badass you are and how much you know and how “good an ally” you are.  Otherwise you are co-opting space for something that’s bigger than you simply to massage your fragile ego.  Learn to love yourself and interact with the world from the basis of that love.  People who genuinely love themselves can hear difficult feedback and consider it and integrate it without arguing.  They can learn and grow.  They can tell the difference between uncomfortable accountability and assault.  And I’m tired of explaining the difference to douchebags who conflate the two (which, apart from being an accountability shield, also belittles the actual, much more egregious assaults that women and people of color and others face on a daily basis…do you really want to equate your feeling hurt with the rape and murder of others?):

“Someone assaulted me today…I feel unclean…”
“YEAH, I KNOW HOW YOU FEEL.  SOMEOME TRIED TO TELL ME I WAS INTERRUPTING AND TALKING OVER THEM AND ACTING DEFENSIVE AND GETTING AGGRESSIVE, BUT I CONVINCED THEM THEY WERE WRONG.  IT REALLY HURT, THOUGH.”

These collaborative behaviors do not represent a solution to the question of solidarity amidst microaggression.  “Haters gonna hate.”  But they do help us identify behavioral patterns conducive to solidarity as well as more problematic behaviors.  So where do I draw the line?  This part seems the trickiest for me.  I don’t know.  My default behavior tends toward assuming good intentions and then holding on through discussion as long as possible until I feel completely worn and beaten down, or that continued interaction with someone seems both harmful and a waste of my energy.  Sometimes I see results.  Sometimes I don’t.  Sometimes I stay patient.  Sometimes I “other” the dude, even as I recognize behaviors that remind me of ways I used to behave (and sometimes still do).  Often times I feel my assumption of good intentions as a form of vulnerability that leads toward disappointment and pain.  And sometimes it leads to uplifting experiences and new relationships.

Some people tell me not to draw a line.  They say, “always practice compassion and patience and love toward everyone.”  Strong people do not need lines, they tell me.  But I think boundaries serve as an example of “tough love,” a reminder to me that love comes in many forms, and whether or not a behavior actually represents “love” depends entirely on context.  For example, does a tender hug demonstrate love?  What if I tenderly hug someone who wants space from me?  Is criticism love?  What if all I ever do is support that person, and the one time I finally speak out critically it’s from a place of genuine concern because I see them acting in ways that threaten themselves and sabotage their relationships?  Where, when and how do you draw the line?

A patriarchal society often considers a lot of collaborative attitudes and behaviors as “feminine,” and for a lot of men, the road to anti-oppressive solidarity lies in personal work to stop performing an internalized patriarchal masculinity identity that prevents us from behaving in courageously vulnerable and collaborative ways.  We gain access to more when we publicly and privately abandon and oppose whiteness.  But the hard work opens up infinite possibilities for relationships and learning and life experiences.  In other words, there’s a huge personal (let alone social) payoff for the white men who want to do it.  And for the rest…meh, maybe movements are better off without them until they decide to change their tune?


Steps for Anti-Racist White People

July 10, 2015

Below are some notes and thoughts on next steps for white anti-racist organizing.  These notes are based on Ahjamu Umi‘s community education and organizing work.

  • cops take “path of least resistance” in enforcement and arrest, so we need to attack the social hierarchies that underly and lead to the targeting of black populations in addition to holding individual cops and the policing institutions accountable
    • “good cops” are not cops who simply do not personally participate in racist activity; they do not stand by passively or remain silent while the “bad cops” run amuck, but work to hold perpetrators accountable and change the racist system.  where are the truly good cops?
    • focus on the more fundamental issue of “public safety” instead of merely trying to reform the police system.  how does the police system help or hurt public safety?  what are the other ways in which we can achieve true public safety?
  • work close to home:  we need to leverage current relationships and develop new relationships to confront white supremacy through respectful dialog vs “othering” overt racists and disowning them to justify our own passivity (e.g,. “i don’t know any racists”)
    • e.g., talk w/friends and family first in calmer settings instead of just confronting strange white supremacists on the picket line when emotions are heated
    • e.g., northern white liberals need to talk with and activate other northern white liberals and understand their relationship to racism vs demonizing and othering “southern racist conservatives”
    • recognize that white supremacist leaders and ideologies tend to target and recruit working-class whites, especially struggling white men who seek someone or something convenient to blame.  Distinguish between the horizontal violence of working class people fighting each-other and the vertical violence of the white supremacist ideology of the ruling class (divide and conquer).  How do anti-racists deal with this effectively?
  • it’s important to “get right with yourself” to do this work effectively from a place of love instead of from simple fear, anger or “having something to prove”
  • keep educating yourself on social revolution: join or set up a study group, curriculum or other plan
    • revolution means mass political education
    • social revolution means challenging one-another to become better people
    • no pain, no gain:  just like any exercise program, stretch yourself beyond your comfort zone in order to learn and grow
    • Get active: turn off the TV and the passive mass media consumption and start reading and seeking and interacting
  • join and support existing organizations doing revolutionary work

    • many different organizations with different focuses is a good thing
    • coordinate within and between organizations to avoid duplicating work or spreading yourselves too thin
  • Break your dependency on and allegiance to slave-based institutions that continue to thrive today, such as
    • the chocolate industry, “When People Eat Chocolate, They Are Eating My Flesh”
    • the sugar industry
    • the coltan mining industry underlying all computing, electronics and telecommunications infrastructure today
    • the banking industry, which grew to prominence based on profits from the slave-based cotton industry
    • the insurance industry, one of the first industries to profit from and provide legal and economic facilitation of chattel slavery by reducing economic and legal risks associated with being a slave owner
    • Note the common thread above:  industry, aka consumer commodity culture.  This isn’t to say that, “(eating) chocolate is bad” or ” (having) insurance is bad,” but that their economic existence as for-profit global commodities depended (and still depends) on racism and slavery and other forms of oppression.  So we don’t seek the destruction of chocolate.  But we seek the destruction of the chocolate commodity industry, in part, to protect and respect the existence of chocolate itself.  What, you say?  Consider that Danish colonists directly and explicitly caused the extinction of several speices of clove trees to control production, limit competition for clove as a commodity and inflate clove prices (source: Amy Stewart, The Drunken Botanist).  Commodity culture filters everything through its profit value, supporting all atrocities that increase profits.  So we must find new ways of accessing goods and services important to our lives without participation in commodity culture, aka decommoditization.

This is not meant to be a comprehensive list, but a starting point for people who want to participate in the liberation of society from racism and chattel slavery.  There are plenty of things, simple and intensive, that anyone can do to contribute to freedom and liberation for all.

Thanks also to Samantha and Caiti for their contributions.


On ‘Splaining: A lexicon of privilege posturing

July 9, 2015

Privilege posturing is when someone with a relatively socially-privileged identity takes control of a conversation.  It is purely structural and relational — content doesn’t matter as much.  Reasons can vary, from naive enthusiasm (e.g., really wanting to show or prove to the other that you “get it”) or combative defensiveness (often when conversation turns toward identifying the power dynamic or privilege inherent in the conversation).  As such, it exists as a type of micro-aggression helping to silence and marginalize voices that do not represent the status quo.  Representation can be based on identity (e.g., a white male voice) or on structure (e.g,. using master’s tools) or content.

I encountered feminists’ rhetorical invention of “mansplaining” first:

mansplain:  the magazine for women, written by men

still confused about mansplaining? this should break it down for you. ironically enough, it describes most things targeted “for women” in patriarchal societies, which is a reason why feminists and other liberation movements have worked hard at creating their own (e.g., black, women, queer, blue collar) spaces.

More recently, I encountered the term “whitesplain,” describing the more subtle ways the aggressions of the current race war work.   I think Xsplain is just too useful of a tool for us to stop at that.

Use of the tool

I think these words have utility as a shorthand to help us more easily identify, call out and hold to account privileged posturing wherever it exists.

So let’s break it apart and start creating and using and popularizing more Xsplains!

‘Splain:  short for “explaining.”  Explaining always entails a power dynamic between the speaker and the listener.  ‘Splaining is a specific sort of explaining that is often non-consensual, patronizing and entitled.  In other words, the person on the receiving end does not want to be “explained to” or have “things explained to them.”  They might want to have a conversation, but maybe they want to do some explaining of their own, to feel heard or listened to or acknowledged or legitimized, or they want to engage in a mutual exploration, rather than have the ‘Splainer hijack and take control.  Content-wise, the splaining is often just wrong, too.  But insidiously enough, it can technically be accurate and still be ‘splaining.  Entitlement and privilege are fun like that…

(preceded by) X:  a (preferably) one-syllable description of the privileged social category of the person doing the ‘splaining relative to the person on the receiving end.  Keeping X to one syllable (e.g,. man, white, wealth, faith, straight, gay) I think helps with speaking and using and popularizing these words as anti-oppression tools.

Some suggestions moving forward

#mansplain:  when the splainer’ is a man, and the victim is almost any other gender identity (woman, queer, etc).

#whitesplain:  white people telling black people how racism works, or how they’re not racist, etc.

#straightsplain:  when straight people tell gay or queer people how homophobia works or how they’re not homophobic.  I would also add #gaysplain for when gay people tell bi or other queer people things like, “you have to pick a side eventually.”

#wealthsplain:  when economically privileged tell people myths they actually believe about how they think the economy and economic success (as a chauvinistic interpretation of life success) works.  It often results in trite diatribes such as, “Get a job, you lazy bum” or “You hate us because we’re successful!”

#faithsplain:  when people of popular, well-accepted faiths tell agnostics, atheists or minority believers how faith, spirituality and religion work.

What sort of ‘splaining have you encountered or participated in?


“We Eat Mean People” — a modest proposal

July 8, 2015

“We have a firm rule here, we eat mean people.”

http://sugarmtnfarm.com/animals/sheep/comment-page-1/#comment-35232

Do the myriad sociopathic elite who structure and run civil society live low-stress lives?  In the scheme of things, their meat might prove quite good.  In the least, we know they are very well-fed…such a rule, applied more widely, might make for a fantastic form of nutritional forage and self-defense.  First, let’s distinguish between the vampiric sociopathic elite and the zombified non-sociopathic hordes who mimic them because they’ve been brainwashed into believing that

“If a man has an apartment stacked to the ceiling with newspapers we call him crazy. If a woman has a trailer house full of cats we call her nuts. But when people pathologically hoard so much cash that they impoverish the entire nation, we put them on the cover of Fortune magazine and pretend that they are role models.”

— B. Lester

The sociopathic elite sit at the top of the shit mountain we call civilization, and shit roles downhill.  Sociopaths tend not to stress out about either the harms they do to others or the harms done to others, which in this society, are myriad.  They do, however, stress out about the harms they perceive others doing to them.  Barring prevalent paranoia amongst the sociopathic elite, they might prove quite succulent and tender.    Even including the possibility of prevalent paranoia, they still suffer from only one of three potential forms of social stress.

Perhaps we should just start culling such people to the freezer.   But they mustn’t know they are being hunted.  Apart from ethical questions and sporting conduct, it might spoil the meat.

Happy hunting!