A human being was trampled to death by a crowd of “shoppers” stampeding into Wal-Mart this Friday. He was thirty-four years old.
This makes me feel sick, but it does not surprise me.
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To balance out our lighter, curiosity-centered blogging, we’re going to start posting round-ups of links to more serious things. The posts will be co-written — we’ll simply add links until there are five (a somewhat arbitrary number, chosen so the links will still be current).
2. Increasing right-wing violence? Note that last paragraph especially.
4. Toward A Liberationist Feminism — an article arguing that, just as feminism should (must) be anti-racist, it is also necessarily anti-capitalist.
5. Alabama fat tax — and why it’s both hurtful and illogical.
This is what it comes down to.
For those of us who find ourselves in positions of power, there is exactly one right course. There is only one acceptable use of power. We must protect those who cannot protect themselves. We must help those in need. We must never, never, use our might to harm those weaker than ourselves. This is our unshakable obligation. This is the one just use for strength.
And that is exactly where we have failed as a species. That is why the damage we have done to the biosphere is so wrong. Forget that we have plundered and destroyed the pristine and the beautiful, forget even that we are endangering our own children: the havoc we wreak on the planet is wrong because we chose to use our power in the wrong way. We could have done better, but we didn’t — we chose not to.
We are the stewards of the Earth. This is not because an omniscient creator-god made us so, gave us dominion over the animals, but because it is humandkind, alone among creatures, with the incredible power to change, pollute, pillage, and destroy the world. No one can deny that we posses this power. We are, so far, incredibly powerful. Alone among species, we control our fate, and the fate of all of creation. We can and we do overpower non-human animals. We can and we do destroy ecosystems, contaminate water and air supplies, turn forests into deserts.
This makes us the stewards of the Earth. We must be the stewards of the planet, for the only alternative is to be its oppressors. We can be caretakers or we can be despots.
There is, of course, exactly one right choice. What is the right choice when an adult encounters an infant? What is the right choice when a child plays with a kitten? When one comes upon a person who is badly hurt?
We must be guardians. If we fail in this regard, we have failed as human beings, exactly as parent who kills a child has failed as a father or mother.
Edited to add on: And so power, in and of itself, isn’t a bad thing. Power can be an incredible force for justice, when used that way.
That’s not to say that unjust power imbalances — like say, between genders or races — are ever okay, or can ever be a force of good. But those that are unavoidable, such as the gap between parents and children, or between people and fish, can be very good. I don’t believe we will ever have egalitarianism amongst species, but I don’t believe we have to in order to have liberty and justice for all.
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No More Throw-Away People: The Co-Production Imperative, by Edgar S. Cahn, is the newest addition to our reading list. The book is so important, and so uncannily in line with our values, I’m not sure what to say about it. It’s about time dollars. You should read it. It’s full of the kind of ideas that are so good — so complete, so necessary — that, once you’ve heard them, you are floored by their obviousness. Ideas so revolutionary they shouldn’t be revolutionary, and how is it possible I never knew this? Why isn’t this taught in schools?
Some brief quotes to get you started.
So far, people seem to be able to master the complex mathematics of Time Banking: 1=1. One hour helping someone equals one Time Dollar or Time Credit. That’s it. More and more people understand that there is something basically wrong with a society where an elderly person can be despondent because, in their words, “I have nothing left to give but love.” How can love be “nothing”? (Cahn xii)
If we accept a market definition of work, there are a few minor omissions worth nothing. Work does not include: raising children, taking care of one’s elder parents, keeping one’s family, functioning, being a good neighbor, or being a good citizen. So work includes everything — except family, community and democracy. Some of us think those things are rather important. If they can’t be addressed as work within the market, it is clear we need a larger framework than that supplied by market. (Cahn 41)
Feminism, anti-capitalism, community, and love come together in this book, all dovetailed into a cohesive strategy, one way to save the world. Very relatedly, Emily (hopefully!), our friend Brenden and I, and my girlfriend and maybe other friends, too,* are all planning on going to this conference. If you’re in the Santa Fe/Albuquerque area, you should come too! I am extremely excited.
* Isabel? Eh?
I am not usually one for conspiracy theories. I do believe that we landed on the moon, that dinosaurs no longer walk the earth, and that it was a single crazed gunman who murdered John F. Kennedy. Feel free to disagree with me on any point. However, the main conspiracy theory that I do put validity in is that cars are part of the root of modern day evil. I understand that this is not a commonly held belief, and my disclaimer on these posts is that it is MY belief, and I am not asking anyone to share it, simply to consider it as another point of view.
There will be more evidence to back me up later, but for now let me present point in case number one, straight from Boing Boing, namely that cities make red-light cameras more profitable by making them less safe.
Red light cameras cause more accidents, and not just because drivers slam their brakes to avoid getting a robo-ticket — also because the optimal money-making strategy for red-light cams is to make them less safe.
If city planners want to reduce traffic accidents at intersections, the best practice is to make the yellow last longer and insert a pause between the red signal on one side and the green on the other. However, if the objective is to make as much money as possible from red-light cameras, the best thing to do is shorten the yellow signal, eliminate the pause, and enrich the city coffers (even as you kill its citizens).
Leftlane reports that six cities have been caught turning down the yellows to make more money.
originally Via /.
Everything about cars, from the manufacturing to the safety measures to why we even need them, was guaranteed made for maximum profit and NEVER for maximum safety. I am not saying that cars are made specifically to be UNsafe, per say, but it is certainly never the first consideration. It is always about money. Human life is assigned a certain amount of cash value, and if the car companies will lose more than that total cash value amounts to by implementing certain expensive safety measures then they will not do it, and a preset percentage of people will die. And they know this beforehand, and it doesn’t matter, because their life is worth less than the amount of money it would have taken to build better set-belts, or a stronger car frame. And the above link supports evidence that even a cities’ government would rather increase the risk of automobile death or injury in order to be able to fine unsafe drivers rather than using sane, rational methods to cut down on dangerous driving entirely.
This lovely rant will probably be continued.
My plans for next semester are a little unusual. They include moving to a remote part of Arizona, to live in a place with no electricity or running water, among people I’ve never met, to work for them for free for about three months. And what will this work entail? Herding sheep.
If it all works out, I will be volunteering at the Black Mesa Navajo Reservation in Arizona. At this particular Rez, a coal mining company (Peabody) is trying to buy/get the people off the land so that they can mine the coal underneath. The Navajo, or Dineh, have been fighting them for decades, mostly by refusing to leave their lands and continuing to live in a traditional manner. They are, as noted above, mostly sheep farmers, and some of them still reside in traditional hogans. Its mostly elders now, because younger folk tend to abandon the Rez. For a long time now the Dineh have had a program where volunteers can come down and live with a family, to help with whatever needs to be done- tending sheep, hauling water, cutting firewood, cleaning, cooking, etc.
Why am I going on this crazy adventure? My school, before it was closing, had this program called Co-Op. You would do something like this almost every other semester and get credit for it. Even though that’s no longer the case, I did hear about this gig through my school, and I choose this place with the express intention of going on Co-Op. So I’m still going.
Also, coal mining is pretty unsustainable, as we all probably know by now. So I get to say fuck you to coal mining and large corporations, as well as experiencing another culture and another way of life. Which is all pretty awesome. I’m also hoping to acquire a slightly new skill set… like being able to survive outside of my materialistic, capitalist society and doing work which benefits a group of people of no relation to myself or those I love.
A girl from my school went to Black Mesa last winter. When I asked about her experiences, one thing she told me was “Skinwalkers are real”. I checked with my mom- and she said that yes, skinwalkers are real. And armed with that knowledge, I will soon go off to my sheep herding with not some trepidation.
*Update: One of the things I’m actually the most freaked out about (even more than the existence of skinwalkers) is that I won’t be able to take my Tibetan Skull Beads, also called Boddhi beads or a mala, to the reservation because anything made from feathers or bone or parts of an animal are strictly taboo to the Navajo.
My particular mala was also once owned by a dead person, which is another taboo. This thing is like super-extra-freaky-taboo. I’ve been wearing them almost every day since I was in 8th grade, and they are a vital aspect of my culture and how I identify with my family. I haven’t gone three months without them at least in my room since I was a little kid. But now they’re taboo! I feel really sad.
By way of introduction: Elaine Vigneault wrote a post claiming that since some people of color are vegans/vegetarians, there is no element of privilege whatsoever to veg*nism, and it’s offensive to claim there is. I responded by saying that, since it is a lot easier for some people to afford fresh, healthy produce than others, there is an element of privilege. She responded that there are cheap veg*an options — PB&J, lentils — therefore there is nothing privileged whatsoever about it. I responded to that with a story about our friend Brenden:
My best friend is at school at the big public university in our state. Even though he’s got an excellent deal on his tuition, he’s busting his ass to pay room and board. Since he has absolutely no extra money and lives on campus, eating in the cafeteria is his only option. And, having eaten there myself while visiting him, I can tell you that being a vegetarian there would be incredibly difficult (it was difficult for me to pull off for a weekend), and being a vegan definitely impossible (unless we expect him to only eat the very limited selection of fruit they provide, which would not be healthy). So, no one’s got any business tell him his situation isn’t an excuse to eat meat; he would love to have other options, but for the moments, he doesn’t. He’s white, but his family is poor. My other best friend and I are both students too, but because our families have more money, neither of us has any kind of problem being vegetarians.
. . . I think the only thing I’m trying to say is: it is one thing to ask someone who can easily access a healthy veg*n diet to do so. Asking someone for whom that would be incredibly difficult or impossible is a different kind of question. Not that we shouldn’t ask and encourage those people, but it’s not the same thing.
To which she responded:
I disagree that your friend’s lack of funds trumps his moral duty to avoid meat. Even in a cafeteria like that, there are options.
There are always some vegans at any college. I was vegetarian throughout college without trouble. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are damn cheap. Baked potatoes = cheap. Spaghetti with tomato sauce = cheap. Bean burrito = cheap. Vegetable soup = cheap. Oatmeal = cheap…
Before college, I was in the Conservation Corps. It was a similar situation to your friend’s. I lived on campus and had to eat at the cafeteria and had no extra money for anything. So I told the head chef I was vegetarian. It took a few weeks but finally they made me special meals.(in he meantime I ate PB&J sandwiches). I ate a lot of the same things over and over because the chef wouldn’t get creative, but I survived. And other people often chose the veg option, too, all because I asked for it.
To which I responded that he has literally no extra money (no PB&J for him), and that, while it’s possible the university would listen and change their menu, there is no guarantee, and anyway, asking him to do that is asking a lot more of him than asking be to just not buy meat.
Okay, here’s where I decided I want to post that. She than said, verbatim, emphasis hers:
Really, he’s in college. College. He can’t use excuses like ‘I’m not privileged enough’. He’s in college.
He’s not a good example of the poor people you’re talking about. And those poor people? To go veg, they need education more than money. (They need money for other things, but not veganism). Veganism is NOT a money thing. It’s an education thing.
Mother. Of. God.
I can’t wait till Brenden finds out he’s actually not poor. He will be so excited.
And, an update, in which she said:
He obviously simply places a low priority on ethical eating and a higher priority on convenience.
Like I said before, there are always some veg students at any college. If he just asked the cafeteria, they will likely provide him with a veg option. His excuse is just that, an excuse. He’s just not ready to do what it takes to live a more ethical lifestyle. There are certainly social barriers, but the choice is ultimately his to make.
I’m just reprinting this here so I can figure out whether she’s insane or I am, by the way. I’m pretty sure it’s not me, but it’s good to get a second opinion.
I overheard something yesterday.
A not-very-close friend of mine was explaining to a professor of ours why she’s leaving our little art school after this semester, to go somewhere where she can study commercial design and advertising. Paraphrasing closely:
“Ten years from now I want to be on the 38th floor of a high rise, in an office with the walls all made of glass, with a personal assistant.”
I wish the social landscape had been a little different — we were in a busy, noisy lobby, during a short intermission — so I could have responded somehow. I wanted to say, “That’s the perfect opposite of where I want to be ten years from now.* Is that really what you want? Is that really the zenith of your dreams?”
I couldn’t do this, though, so I swallowed her sentence. I sat with it. I felt it sink into my stomach. I began to brood.
An hour later, after the performance**, I brought this up in the car with my girlfriend. I began to rant, to grumble, to mock this girl, her innocence, malevolence, laziness, stupidity.
I was talking fast and spinning jokes, laughing about it, trying to cover the gaping gash those words had left across my heart. For this girl, this ridiculous classmate, I had liked her, I had laughed with her, I had invited her to our festival. I had talked with her. I had wanted to be her friend. Such brainlessness, it felt like a betrayal.
My girlfriend took me at my word and didn’t realize I was so sad. She snapped back at me, witty and mean, with something to the effect of “No shit.”
With this my heart broke, my face fell, I wrapped myself in my jacket and sunk into silence, into sadness.
So much to mourn here. At least two layers of it, each deep and distinct.
The first layer is the obvious one: that a smart, creative girl, someone strange enough she’d socialize with me, would hold such conventional aspirations. That somehow, here, today, such a person could think herself smart, practical, admirable, for wanting such things, such that she could tell people with a grin on her face, her eyes gone smug and sly. There here, today, in my extremely liberal town, at my decidedly artsy school, a smart kid could think sincerely that she’d like her life to amount to so many American dollars, to a high place on the ladder, so many people working for her, a number of expensive possessions.
To be honest I wanted to punch her in the face. I wanted to knock her right in the nose.
How can you not see that all of that is bullshit? Not just bullshit, but poison, evil goddamned weapons, the stuff of wars, the stuff of famines, the stuff of destitution. Why oh why would you want to join this machine, this horrible machine that is literally destroying our world at this very moment?
So that’s the first layer, the obvious one. It’s stupid and lazy and cowardly to want such ridiculous, conventional things. It’s an injustice to yourself, to sell yourself so short, to think you’re worth nothing more than money. To think the sum total of your life, your existence in the world, should be accumulating fucking cash.
And the second layer. This layer is the deeper, darker one, the frightening one, the one that truly scares me. This is the one that I could see clearly only later in the night, as I was sunk into my self, sick with sadness. This is the one I’m stuck against, the puzzle I can’t figure out.
I understand anger, I understand loathing, I understand judgement. These things come naturally to me. As any readers know, I can tell right from wrong, and when I see wrong, I can summon the fires of hell to condemn that which offends me. Fire and brimstone are inside me, they are at my disposal.
One thing that’s a lot harder for me is love. I’ve gotten better, very slowly better, at loving myself, and from there, loving my neighbors, loving my enemies. I’ve made progress. I understand the all-importantness of love. I understand that only absolute, unadulterated love can solve our problems. I understand that when someone says something stupid, like what my friend said here, the only productive response is love, compassion, understanding, empathy. Only with such things can criticism be meaningful. Only with such tenderness will we get anywhere. Bombs cannot win hearts and minds; love can, and does, and will every time.
Knowing the things that I know, and being the person I am, something terrible happened.
After I’d sulked for awhile, it was time to move on, to stop caring, to let it go, role over, have sex, go to sleep.
I tried to stop sulking. I tried to forgive this strange offense — which of course was not committed against me, in fact had nothing to with me — but I couldn’t. I couldn’t forgive it.
I searched my heart for compassion for my classmate and I couldn’t find it. I looked and looked for love for her and it simply wasn’t there.
I am the Queen Bee of Ruthlessness. Hatred is the name of my town.
* In the desert, in a village of hovels made of tires and mud and colored glass bottles, making art with the people I love.
** The Sex Workers Art Show. More on that later.
Who are you and what have you done with my movement? (From Anne Frank to gastropods, from feminism to feminism.)
Anne Frank and a snail, two from my latest batch of pins.
I’ve experiencing some strange, sweeping changes in my attitudes toward the blogosphere, just in the last week or three. Certain feminist bloggers have started grossing me out. I’ve dropped some of the oldest members of my feed subscription, and a good handful are hanging on by just a thread.
As I’ve wondered to Emily, I’m not sure whether we (for she’s had a similar experience) just made a sudden leap in our evolving understandings of racism, classism, and sexism, rendering many of the more… Shall we say conventional* bloggers obsolete, or whether the blogosphere itself has taken a sudden turn.
Without warning, many old favorites now look to me like willfully ignorant incorrigible asshats (as they would say), and I’m enjoying conversations in places I never thought I’d want to go.
So have some other people gotten exponentially stupider, or did I get smarter somehow? I don’t know. But whatever happened, I’m pissed about it.
Who are you people and what have you done with my movement?