Feminism, Philosophy, Sexuality, Uncategorized

An Immodest Proposal

The main issue I have with the so called “modesty” movement, is that even when it is ostensibly about “women choosing to be modest” for their own reasons, there is an unspoken undercurrent of judgement and shaming. For what is one if one is not “modest”? One is immodest. And if someone is labeled or considered, even by default, immodest, shaming, violence, punishment, and ostracization are tacitly approved of against the person. It is a subtle way of upholding patriarchal cultural norms, and an insidious on at that, because it turns the “decision” to impose an arbitrary morality into one ostensibly made by the women herself. Even the word, modesty, and the accompanying concept and activities that expected in regards to it, are assumed to be set in stone, a certain set of inherent values. The assumption is made that modesty is inherently the act of covering oneself up, specifically the parts of the body that MEN have traditionally deemed there purview to either view, sexualize, control, or shame.

There is no such thing as “natural” modesty, or an inherent human modesty in regards to sartorial choices, it is all begging the question, with the answer being “there is something inherently shameful about the female form, something that one can “choose” to decide to cover up and hide in order to possess some sort of aura of inherent goodness or purity. It is reverse objectification, and sexual violence by stealth, making women into willing accomplices to the continuation of the idea that the female form is special in its potential for physical and moral corruption. Women are told that their “beauty” is better and more morally “celebrated” by “respecting” it with arbitrary, and male gaze focused, garment coverings/veils, as though beauty was something objectively enhanced or degraded by the use or non-use of a certain prescribed accoutrements.

Modesty, in and of itself, is assumed a priori to mean a form of veiling, modifying, distracting from the physical and the female, which underlines the assumption that there is something inherent to the female form that makes it “more beautiful”, more “worth protecting”, more “pure” than the male form. Hence there is no equal movement to compel men to “make the choice to be modest”, at least not with the same subtle shaming and prodding that women face. Modesty itself is a concept that must be discarded if we are to ever live in a truly equal society, at least the idea of modesty that assumes certain arbitrary parts of the human female form are to be hidden or de-emphasized.

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2016 Election, opinion, Politics, Uncategorized

Fascism, American Style

 

If you think pogroms and concentration camps and purity laws and the destruction of political dissent and the full rollback of liberal human rights protections cannot happen here, that is what they, the liberal, secular, intelligent, open minded folks, thought in Germany in 1933. There were no grand messages of warning from God or sages, no fiery crosses in the sky to warn of the coming civil apocalypse. There were warnings, there were worries, there were possibilities, but in the end it happened because it was allowed to happen.

Fearful armed white men walk around feeling they are protecting people from “outsiders” and “thugs” and “criminal elements” while a demagogue they support is winning in the election polls denouncing a tiny minority of the population as a source of the nations ills, while ineffectual liberal leaders tear themselves apart fighting over pie in the sky solutions to problems.This sound familiar? It should. It is what happened in Germany in 1933 and it is what is happening in the U.S. in 2016. It can happen here because it IS happening here. The fascist element in U.S. society sees this election as the last chance to hold on to power and to implement its nationalist and xenophobic policies in the face of a nation that is no longer a purely white supremacist system. This is a dangerous time.

I truly believe that the open/concealed carry movement is the moral equivalent i.e. the unique American manifestation, of the xenophobic/nationalistic/fear based chauvinism that led to the creation of the Black Shirts in Italy and the Brown Shirts in Germany. Look at it: they take the law and the “protection of the public” into their own hands, they target, physically and rhetorically, minorities who they see as “destroying the fabric of our society”, and they act as though they have a legal and moral mandate that comes from the foundational documents/values of the nation state. The German and Italian versions started out as very loosely organized but eventually came together as an actual force under the auspices of regimes (Mussolini in Italy, Hitler in Germany) that harnessed their fear and anger, legitimized it through their power that was gained through ostensibly democratic/civil means, and unleashed it first on the “enemies of the people” as understood by the militia/armed vigilantes/paramilitary groups themselves. After this was accomplished, the power of these groups was then used to attack and suppress (and eventually liquidate) enemies of the regime, the regime that was now seen as the personification of the nation and the values that the militias/armed vigilantes/paramilitary groups held most dear to begin with.

An authoritarian regime becomes a totalitarian one when it taps into the fears and anxieties of the former ruling class/caste/race and uses its historical militant agency for its own purposes, and institutionalizes these civil pathologies into technocratic systems and actions. The militias/armed vigilantes/paramilitary groups still operate under the belief that they are “free men” fighting for a “free society” when in fact they have be co-opted to serve a regime and a system that will eventually turn on them as soon as all the less powerful enemies have been eliminated. The gun culture of the United States, while benign enough in its origins, is ripe for this sort of manipulation. The open/concealed carry fanatic sees “his” nation being “taken away” from him and fears for the safety of “his” property and “his” women and children, usually at the hands of a hated or feared minority or minorities, in the case of the U.S., black men, non-white immigrants, and Muslims. He must, then, take it onto himself to “remedy” the situation, to constantly be on the look out for those who would “stab the nation and its people in the back” and to “take back what is ours” from people they at best do not trust and at worst actively fear and despise. It took hundreds of years of conscious and unconscious cultural programming to get the German and Italian populations primed for the sort of grass roots fascism cum systemic totalitarianism that the Fascist regimes were eventually able to create and control.

I think, I fear, that it would not take nearly as much programming for this sort of thing to happen in the U.S. We already have a history of race based terror, violence, and systemic abuse of minority rights and dignity. Combined with a conservative impulse to obey and trust authority, an easily manipulated rugged, machismo individualism, and a propensity towards armed violence, and you have the foundations of a very potent fascist system that could come about almost entirely through grassroots and institutional democratic means. Trump is tapping into that, and he is succeeding, while the media and culture that is obsessed with celebrity, wealth, and prestige is too busy gawking and laughing at the funny man-boy with the silly hair (the funny former artist soldier with the silly mustache) to see that he understands fully what he is doing and who he is appealing to and by what means. Trump is a fascist in the grain of Hitler and Mussolini, it is that simple. They only reason he is not acting outright exactly like they did is that he does not yet have the legitimized political power. He is on the verge of getting that power, and the scared, armed, xenophobic white men who will give it to him are just waiting for their time to finally take revenge on the blacks, the immigrants, the liberals, and the Muslims who they feel have taken “their” nation away from them. The only question remains, can Trump win through legitimate means, and if he can, how soon after that will the Reichstag mysteriously catch fire amidst streets strewn with broken glass?

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2016 Election, Uncategorized

This Is Not The Revolutionary You Are Looking For

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There have been some truly astounding and naive (and borderline racist) attacks on Rep. John Lewis, Civil Rights icon, by supporters of the liberal Vermont Democratic currently running for President. Sanders involvement in the Civil Rights Movement was very much an aspect of his radical student days, another notch in the belt of a budding white liberal intellectual. This is not in and of itself a bad thing at all, far from it, but to act as those this makes him some sort of equal to John Lewis, let alone MLK, is whitewashing history to the point if ridiculousness. According to Mother Jones (hardly a Clinton organ, that publication) Sanders was arrested while working for CORE and SNCC, but he quit both operations entirely when participation start to hurt his grades. Mother Jones reporter Tim Murphy summarizes it this way:

“Sanders’ involvement was, by comparison [to SNCC Leader and future Congressman John Lewis] brief and localized, his sacrifices limited to one arrest for protesting and a bad GPA from neglecting his studies.”

Bernie Sanders had enough privilege to be able to walk away from the civil rights movement when it started to impact him in a negative way and to come back again when he had bored of his studies and it was more convenient for him to do so.  Black activists and revolutionaries were not so lucky. They didn’t get to walk away when the going got a little tough. Just like I wouldn’t claim to be a civil rights leader because I am decent white person who tries to listen and better himself, Sanders and his supporters should not claim he was anything more than an enlightened bystander in the movement. And for Sanders supporters to use a discredited photograph and misrepresentation of facts and history to attack and discredit a true hero of the people like John Lewis, just because he didn’t remember Sanders or choose to support him, is reprehensible and the worst sort of politics, the sort of politics that is rightfully condemned when Trump or Cruz does it.

Again, I am so tough on Sanders not because he spit in my cheerios or anything (he’d probably have made a fun intro to Poli Sci professor back in my Junior College days) but because he has claimed a reputation as a “revolutionary” that he has not earned. At least Clinton, as cynical and establishment as she is, has never claimed to be anything other than a left of center Democrat at most. Sanders entire shtick is that he is going to rally the American people together to “destroy inequality and the 1%” and it’s grip on the levers of power in politics and economics. How do you do that as the head of the most power manifestation of that power and inequality? The U.S. Presidency is not, and has never been, a revolutionary office. It is an office of entrenched imperial authority, a powerful force for institutional change at best and of gross repression and exploitation at its worse. It makes me angry that Sanders is all but promising free college to a new generation of young people without any sort of honest discussion on how this is to be done in a congressional system that is jerry-rigged and gerrymandered in favor of incumbent, especially conservative Republican, elements.

My little brother is now excited about having his dream of a free college education come true…but it is a betrayal of his enthusiasm and hope, a crass exercise in cynical emotional manipulation, for Sanders to promise these things as quick legislative fixes instead of the monumental political and institutional slogs they are inevitably going to be. This is the hipster-ification of radical and revolutionary politics that emerged after the collapse of President Obama’s laudable Hope and Change platform. Sanders is a symptom of the cynical navel gazing savior seeking tendencies that have always bedeviled the left and far left; the admission that top down revolutionary change is not only possible, but desirable. This is the utopian tendency of the left in a nutshell. Reform must not be mistaken for revolution. In Sanders we that mistake is taken and turned into a political gospel, his base feeding off the reflected ego that comes from seeing what you want to see out of political ennui bordering on desperation. Electing Sanders would not tear off the chains that link us to an oppressive and inherently violent system: it would merely make those chains more colorful and comfortable so that a whole new generation can slip into them and be sanguine about the prospect of living forever in an exploitative monolith that occasionally gives those who whine the most and loudest a bit of relief from its deprivations. This is not revolution, this is acquiescence. People like my brother deserve a the truth, real hope, real ways to fight for a system that is truly just and democratic and revolutionary, with real opportunities that do not require a toeing of the institutional line. He deserves real hope, and real change, not a false hope and the mimicry of change. Revolution is not performance art, and it is not something that can be brought from the top down, no matter how many people vote for the man at the top.

The Sanders of the world would have us believe that racism is a class issue exclusively or primarily. This is wrong and perhaps even a deliberate obfuscation of reality. Racism is the exact OPPOSITE of a class issue! It violates the bounds and meaning of class at every level. Racism in the U.S. is an institutional caste system based on fear, exploitation, white enrichment, and power. The class element is secondary, or even tertiary to this. Sanders looks at poverty and sees a lot of black faces and white faces…what he fails to realize is that the black faces are there because they are SUPPOSED to be! The system is DESIGNED that way! How else does a convicted violent white felon have twice as much chance as getting a job as a more qualified black college graduate applicant? This is the trap FDR, LBJ, and the Bill Clinton fell into, seeing race as a class issue and thus trying a blanket approach to reform that neglected to even ACKNOWLEDGE that the inherent racist corruption of the system itself would keep the benefits of the social welfare programs and market reforms from benefiting all aspects of society equally. Clinton hit on that in he closing argument last night, and it quite impressed me. Not saying she “gets it”, because of course she does not, she is as much of a shill as Sanders, but at least she does not play up this class issue that has always been yet ANOTHER way for white liberals to avoid the giant rampaging elephant in the room that is institutional racism. Clinton, at least, has never claimed to be a revolutionary figure. As Emperor, at least she would be clothed. Do not buy into the Bernie as Revolutionary Savior meme. As the great Rebel Commander in Charge of Forces Orbiting the Forest Moon of Endor warned us all: “It’s  Trap!”

If you want to read more about Sanders political activities in the 60’s please read this excellent profile by Tim Murphy of Mother Jones magazine:

http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2016/02/bernie-sanders-core-university-chicago

 

 

 

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2016 Election, 2nd Amendment, Uncategorized

The Real Third Rail of U.S. Politics

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I wish that the moderators asked the Democratic candidates more questions about our toxic gun culture, and the racial undertones of the proliferation of white male gun ownership and “stand your ground” and “castle doctrine” laws. They seem to me to be the last remnants of the Jim Crow laws meant to protect white property, which often included wives and sisters and daughters etc. I mean, the myth of the “thug” who stalks rich and middle class white neighborhoods and can only be stopped by an armed (white) man are essentially left overs from the post-Reconstruction nadir of race relations, where the white power structure attempted to use economic/sexual/racial anxieties of lower and middle class whites in the face of black rights and emergence from slavery. This deserves to be confronted in a national forum.

In fact, the more I watch these debates the more I have come to the realization that gun “rights” are the REAL third rail of U.S. politics, to the point where journalists and moderators assume that there will be a permanent gun culture and that this is the natural state of the U.S. I have experienced the fact that even mentioning the ACTUAL WORDS of the 2nd Amendment will cause many gun “rights” activists to attack you, as though even implying that regulated means regulated. It is an all or nothing argument: any regulation means an inevitable slide towards a totalitarian confiscation of guns. We are even at the point where it is ASSUMED that gun owners should be a protected class, as though there were some sort of endangered minority group. I have experienced situation where gun “rights” activists have actually claimed the mantel of MLK and Gandhi to support their claims to be the true heralds and representatives of the oppressed. It is ridiculous, and I do believe that the Founding Fathers would find many men who walked openly armed in a place of business or a government building to be a sign of the collapse of civil society.

On a personal note, what kind of crazy person would feel the need to own a weapon like an AR-15, Ak-47, or rapid fire Desert Eagle .50? I am sorry, but I have to doubt your sanity if you want to own a weapon that can put dozens of bullets into another person in a matter of seconds. What’s next, RPGs? And watch, the gun rights people will say “it is not an assault rifle it is a heavily enhanced blah blah blah”. It’s not a rocket propelled grenade, it’s a speedily propelled home defense device. And a tank is a “heavily protected family protection vehicle.” And a howitzer is a “protect your family from distant threats gun”. Where does it stop? Really? I mean back in the “good ol’ days” that the conservatives who love guns seem to lionize, no one walked around with a gun on their hip, and amazingly, everyone was not shot down by “thugs” in the street because of it. Even DEADWOOD in the “wild west” made gunslingers disarm before they walked into town. The idea that you need a gun to be safe in America is a very successful marketing plan put forward by the NRA since the 1970’s, when the minority population in the US started gaining more rights and excercising them the right wing, including the NRA, tried to connect the civil rights gains to the rising violent crime rate in the 70s and 80s. They were largely successful in this propaganda endeavor to the point where white men, the most powerful demographic in the US, now feel like lives and their property (which includes their wives and children in their minds) are in so much danger that they must wear deadly weapons on their persons when they go to get a gallon of milk. In the U.S. white men view property as more valuable and important than human life, especially in the context of feeling that they are constantly under siege…in a nation where they are increasingly making everyone else feel under siege with their flaunting and abuse of their 2nd Amendment Rights. 

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