Cultural Rescue Attempt
The old story is breaking down. Our capitalist-industrial way of life is a choice, but there are other choices. It’s imperative to recognize this before we can change. We need a renaissance of citizenship, an ecologically literate society that challenges our learned behaviors at every opportunity. We’ve been living contrary to the pattern — denying death, denying limits, endlessly growing. Our economic system can’t tolerate any reduction in consumption, and for most people, the idea of setting limits on themselves is unthinkable. Economic progress is killing the planet, and nobody talks about it. There’s no language to explain the loss and make possible a politics of opposition.
Only when the cultural narrative is in overwhelming crisis is there a possibility of changing it. This is that time. We’re trapped between a failed story and a future powerless to be born. We need to speak in metaphors, in mythic terms. We need to change the language where “I’m connected” means I’m plugged into a tiny piece of irradiated, buzzing, lit up collection of murdered precious resources, participating in the totality of alienation. We need to change our language from techno to poetry. We are embodied organisms, embedded in Nature.
All of western thought is dominated by the model of hierarchy, but rhizomes are different.
Consider the rhizome. Rhizomes are thickened stems that grow horizontally under the surface of the soil. Bamboo. Banana. Taro. Iris. Aspen. Crabgrass. When you plant a rhizome, it takes off in all directions, and to get some, you just need a digging stick to break off a piece. The more you cut up rhizomes, the more they split. You never know where or when a rhizome’s going to emerge.
The rhizome is a model for grassroots organizing, and a metaphor. If we’re all together, centralized in one place, and we rise up in revolt, they’ll just kill us all. But, if each person develops our own connection to our local bioregion, they’ll never stop us all, no matter how organized they are.
We are cultural shamans, and while there may not be a lot any one of us can do to save life on earth, there are many little things that each of us at the end of every
We’re engaged in a cultural rescue attempt,. We need to force a shift in perspective as great as Copernicus about our place in the universe. We are not the center, but we are connected to the diverse and evolving web of being. We’ve got to see through the assumptions and fears, deep through to the pattern. We need to awaken to the warning signs of a world slipping away- in fire, in water, in our denial, in all directions.
We can’t think about anything critically because of electronically forced discontinuity, chaos, fragmentation of attention spans. Corporate culture keeps us all distracted by flooding us with free floating information about which we can do nothing. Information is data, is abstraction. It is not the same as wisdom. Often it is the opposite of wisdom. Perpetually disabled citizens make great shoppers.
This society is at war, and we need to cool the vibe down with our creativity and play with peace for a change. This consumer society takes revolution, rock and roll and the labor movement and turns them into mediums for selling beer, jeans and hair products. In the absence of critical thinking, we’ve been so deeply manipulated and lied to. Life isn’t about things or about ideas, but about relationships. The root word for “religion” is “re-linking”. We move in circles of mutuality and influence. Because we’re all connected, we need to start to grasp that there’s an ecology of everything.
In ecological post-modernism, we grasp the holy-is-ness, of the EcoZoic Era. We have to transform from our hearts, allow them to become heavy with grief and longing for nature. We speak, in the language of longing, of our dysfunction and denial, and we re-enter the mystery. The system’s rigidity will bring it down; lets dance that trance into the ground.
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“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”
Being different from the (mythical) norm in society makes you an Other—a woman, a person of color, a queer, poor, elderly, differently abled. All these are labelled Others by the dominant voice, which is straight, male, white, Christian, able bodied, and upper-middle class.
Social processes and social constructs create, shape and force these differences into the larger world of individuals. The way we’re taught to see and feel difference is the problem, and not the differences themselves. What’s important to grasp is that this not just about being or feeling different, but about the creation of difference.
Think about the relationship between economics and hatred. We live in a society where more atrocities are committed in the name of economics than in the name of hatred. It is possible to kill a million people without personally shedding a drop of blood. It’s possible to destroy a culture without being aware of its existence. It’s possible to commit genocide and ecocide from the comfort of one’s own living room.
The best way to guarantee you won’t be in relationship with something is to not see it. the best way to make certain you won’t see it is to destroy it. and, completing the awful circle, it’s easiest to destroy something you refuse to see.
This is the key to our civilization’s ability to work its will on us, on other cultures, and on the world—our power derives from the steadfast refusal to enter into meaningful and mutual relationships— Columbus, the Pilgrims, the Founding Fathers, Hitler, all wars, multi-national corporations.
It’s o.k. , we’re told constantly, to utilize resources— tress, land, vaginas, labor, animals, oil, but one must never enter into relationship with this other who owns or is this resource. This is just one of many things those we enslave would tell us, if only we asked them.
Real diversity is the capacity for a community of humans to confront trees, or animals, or other humans with no thought of how to best turn them into profit. Increasingly we minimize our perception of that which cannot be controlled or used, and then we use what we can and destroy what we cannot.
We’re taught to see sexism, racism, heterosexism, and poverty only in individual acts of meanness, never in the invisible systems that confer unsought dominance from birth individual acts, therefore, cannot end these problems. Disapproval won’t change these systems. We must use our unearned advantages to weaken hidden systems by illuminating them, and by talking about them. We need to reconstruct power systems on a broader base.
The first rule of the dysfunctional family is: Don’t talk about it. But, it is my duty as someone inside this system, with white skin and an education that enable me to be a college professor, to help shape young minds, to use my privilege to undermine or eradicate it. We can pass through the guilt and denial and paralysis if we acknowledge feeling the sorrow and the pain…just feel it and pass through.
Identity is fully relational. What it means to have a particular identity depends on what it means not to have some other identity, and by the kinds of relationships one has to other possible identities. To have a sense of self, regulated by a binary sex/gender system, means that one identity must be different from the other identity. Binary identities demand criteria for differentiation.
Social Construction means that gender, race, sexuality don’t exist independent of your perception of them, and it’s our perception that’s manipulated and controlled. We learn to link physical characteristics to internal worth and value. Our identity is constructed from the outside, not the inside.
Definitions and experiences vary, but we like our perceptions fixed so we don’t have to think about it. So, bi-racial people are asked What are you?” Parents of bald babies get asked: What is it? Non-binary folks are constantly questioned, challenged about their identities, and feared because they don’t fit within the traditional boxes of patriarchal society. Power and Injustice stem from these kinds of questions, and also ways in which we don’t question.
Being unnamed is a way to mask your power. Others are named —Nigger, Queer, Illegal Immigrant, Dyke, Faggot, cripple, homeless. Straight, white men are not named. The Master Status belongs to those who are not named. Therefore we say, Whites and Males are the undefined definers of other people.
We say my Black friend, my queer friend/Muslim friend/Asian friend, Deaf friend. We do not say My White friend. My straight friend. Try it— My Male President, My Straight dad, My Middle-Class Doctor. It sounds funny if we flip it.
Male is the norm— we can see it in pharmaceutical dosages, stair heights, sink heights, arm chair heights.
So, also it’s about Relationships. How dislike and fear separates all social interactions. Once we understand that gender, race, class are simultaneous and intersecting systems of relationships and meaning, we can see other categories of experience: ability, age, religion, nation.
Standpoint is the view of the world from where we are each located — physically, mentally, emotionally, socially—these views are constructed and perceived through lenses that make values and accomplishments visible, or invisible.
Social structures are built on difference — Conquest. Enslavement. Rape. Police brutality. Poverty. All these are justified by the difference in identity that’s constructed from the outside.
Classifications of race, gender, sexuality, class bind people together and ignore what we have in common across the divides of identity boxes. These categories all promote the punishing and artificial idea of The Other. This is the source of so much of our suffering in a culture.
There are very few real differences between us, but these separations into hierarchies and categories allow people to be manipulated by these systems, to defend, to attack, to hide, to feel shame, to hate themselves, to become violent. Divide and Conquer is a mechanism of social control that keeps us paralyzed by fear, blind to our own oppression and destroys solidarity by separating potential allies.
By playing off national and racial groups, the system has created—not one, but a series of racisms that buttressed each other, and a series of working classes that allowed People Of Color to be played off against one another in the realm of economic inequality. And so, the curse of conquest continues into this very day. The very few still own the very many.
The categories differ in their access to power, because people are de-valued according to the categories we assign them through mostly physical appearance— poor, queer, Latino, female, Muslim, homeless. That objectification depersonalizes and creates inequalities, and these are the outcome of historical and large scale social forces.
Partial and Situated Perspectives
But all this is relational. Who we are has a lot to do with where we are, in relation to social systems and the positions the Others occupy. Everyone’s voice is both limited and situated, but necessary and equally important. Each perspective adds to the comprehensive knowledge of our circle of community.
“Becoming a self-conscious participant in the process of knowledge construction requires that we become aware of the limitations of our own experience and perspectives, and therefore value the experience and perspectives of others.” (Stephen Schact)
“I strive to live an existence that is based on no one’s denial.” (Toni Morrison)
Shifting the center from straight white men, and reconstructing knowledge asks, who’s been excluded? Who’s been silenced? We get to so many false conclusions , and we lose so much wisdom and wholeness by not having valued the thoughts and experiences of marginalized Others.
If what you know is wrong based on exclusionary thought, you will act in exclusionary ways, reproducing the sexism, racism, class oppression, and homophobia of our society.
We must learn to perceive the Contradictions, social, political, economic. For instance, if democracy, freedom, and liberty were truly central to the creation of the United States, how do we explain the enslavement of Africans and the genocide of Native Americans? There’s a huge contradiction at the place where our nation began, and who do we mean by OUR? Possibly, the U.S. began on the wrong path at the start, which both birthed and enforced the lying and manipulating that has become our essence. That could be the center where we began this imbalanced and dangerous wobble.
A considered belief—or the ability to think critically—is about your being willing to sit with something you think you believe, and examine it. One way to do this is to spend time considering how other people, with other ideas, experiences, and perspectives might approach this issue. You can amend, qualify, or radically change these considered beliefs over time.
An unconsidered belief doesn’t do this. An unconsidered belief is something that enters your mind through cultural osmosis and matches real nice with the blaring voices on the t.v., with what your family, your peers, your government, church or the media tells you, so that it seems like fundamental knowledge and indisputable fact. Just the way things are. We learn how to be a human being within this society from media, and the Bible, from school and ads, the internet, corporations, and Facebook.
Indoctrination leads to value judgements. Value judgements are rife in a racist, sexist, homophobic, judgmental culture. They are normal and invisible. When we hear a “fact” we need to consider who’s doing the defining. Ex: look up civilization in the dictionary. “The most advanced stage of human social development” , “A high level of culture, science, industry and government.” So, we can fly a rocket to the moon. We can implant hearts into other bodies. We can kill people from a great distance using our economy, and we never have to leave our living rooms.
But, maybe you consider it most advanced and a great achievement for folks to have homes, food, education, loving communities, clean water, clean air, and health care. Most every Indian tribe in all the Americas once provided these things. Our current value judgements prevent us from appreciating the brilliance of indigenous people, non-white people. Genocide, ethnic cleansing, mass rape, devastation of the earth, extinctions happen because we don’t believe in challenging our indoctrination about freedom and liberty. Civilization means changing the climate.
Who and what do you represent? Whether you represent The Longmont VFW, Exxon Mobil, the Denver Broncos, Somali Pirates, Texas Republicans, The Tea Party, The Republic of Tea, The Banana Republic, or just your family, somewhere along the line you learnt a set of very specific cultural value judgements you may feel incredibly compelled to defend. This often results in violence. You need to stop universalizing your experience. Learn to perceive contradictions. Why cling to your unconsidered beliefs and value judgements when it can be such fun tearing them down?
Standpoint Theories— Sandra Harding. Wrote about The Social Organization of Knowledge Production. She asks, what voices are we hearing in the places we are physically located? Being situated in a university, or a union, or the military, working with a non-profit, or talking informally in a circle of friends, all facilitate the creation of some kinds of knowledge, and obstruct other kinds.
A standpoint is a point of view. By definition, standpoints are grounded and limited. Standpoint is not about individual experiences, but about group-based, historically-shared experiences. I’ve learned that what’s presented to me as an accurate view of the world is often a lie. My eye is actually constricted by what I have been taught to see. Our vision is also structured.
Consider the people and events that have affected the development of your thinking. How did this happen? How do you know what you know? How is this connected to your standpoint? Learn to pay attention to the language of ads and of the news. If something is offered for free, then often YOU are the product for sale. The picture is always framed.
The facts do not speak for themselves. History is written by the winners. But we can build bridges among the standpoints to provide a solid place to stand on contentious issues. Where we overlap is a common context of struggle, where we can combine our different perspectives to create understandings to work together. Even “enemies” can do this— Israelis and Palestinians, radical feminists and fundamentalist Christians, loggers and tree huggers.
Humans live by stories—our story has been controlled for a thousand years by the forces of Empire, and that story—not militarism, economics, or politics—is the oppressors’ greatest power. We’ve been told that we need an infinitely expanding economy, that enemies are everywhere, that god rewards the righteous with wealth and power while the poor suffer and wait for heaven, that we must support the wealthy by cutting their taxes, and that regulations to protect workers and the environment are just barriers to the rich accumulation of wealth, which, it bears repeating, is the most important thing.
We’ve been told that America has always been good, that human nature is violent, that the sharing of socialism/communism/indigenous systems of collective property is cheating at best, intrinsically evil at worst.
Poverty — This term means the degree to which people have less resources than they need. Look at our economic system as a pyramid; the groups at the bottom support the whole structure. These are women and people of color. Free trade is about all goods, but not any people, passing over borders. This is why there is such a fervent effort to keep the oppressive system of racism, sexism, classism, and all the ways they are manifested, to maintain the unpaid and low paid labor force of the world. The methods keep in place a system of control and profit by a few and a constant source of cheap labor to maintain it.
Women do 80% of the work in the world. They get 10% of the pay, and own 1% of the property. This statistic includes the Queen of England and Oprah.
One example of the deep inequalities between individuals and the richest corporations of the nation are Corporate Welfare and Corporate Subsidies — PepsiCo, General Electric, DuPont, Verizon, Boing, Wells Fargo, Honeywell, Exxon, Haliburton, Dell, Target, Private prisons — all PAY NO TAXES, while huge subsidies go to Walmart, nuclear power plants, oil companies, Agriculture (Monsanto), Big Pharma, transportation industries. Mothers and the majority of people of color get no such break.
Gender revolves around the three themes— three I’s—of Identity, Interaction, and Institutions —all which are the 4th I—invisible to most people.
Institutions are like factories, and what they produce is gender difference. Some gendered institutions are the family, the economy, religion, education, medicine, government, the legal system, and the military. Through jobs, wages, hierarchies, power, and subordination, resources available and distribution of these resources, institutions control every aspect of our lives.
Through institutions, differences are generated and inequalities are BOTH legitimated and reproduced. Institutions tend to give power and resources in subtle and complex ways, invisible ways, that systematically support male dominance. Institutionalized gender bias is so deeply embedded that it appears to be the natural order.
Feminism has uncovered the layers of discriminatory patterns. The deeper we look, the more patterns emerge. Women have very different life chances than men, even in the same family, given the realties of divorce and single parenthood. Single moms have to provide child care, housework, AND earn enough money to keep everyone alive. We must ask—why does society value nuclear warriors more than social workers, or accountants more than nurses or engineers more than teachers? Fathers more than Mothers? Sons more than daughters?
The feminist task is neither to glorify nor discount the differences between a man and a woman, but to challenge the adverse consequences of whatever differences there may be.
Reproductive Rights and Abortion
Woman’s subordinate position in society, prevailing attitudes towards women’s bodies, and the political context of public policy shape women’s health and their reproductive lives.
Margaret Sanger said, Enforced motherhood is the most complete denial of a woman’s right to life and liberty.” Our reproductive rights, our right to choose to have another baby or not, have been under fierce attack since Roe, really since patriarchy. A woman doesn’t get to choose this most basic of all biological function. While our society talks about the right to privacy, it’s a rare social conversation to ask who’s business is what happens in HER body? Why would it lie outside of her choice? What do we police and legislate in male bodies? What if something like this happened with a man? What could we imagine?
Republicans now want to forbid access to in-vitro fertilization, and also to force all women to have babies, even in the cases of rape and incest. So, women who want to be pregnant aren’t permitted to be, while women who don’t want to have a child are forced to and must.
“Right To Life” vs. “Pro-Life” —Pro-Life people should be called Anti-Choice. There is nothing pro-life about them. These people believe that women’s sexuality should be confined to the family and that our most important role is Motherhood, for which they have no respect beyond the abstract. Who will care for these kids? Surely not them. The debate about abortion is totally tangled up in the broader debate about women’s position in society.
Clinics have been bombed, doctors murdered, people live with death threats from these Pro-Life hypocrites. When so little has been done to improve the socio- economic realities of poverty that endanger millions of babies, and half live below the poverty line in this country, this concern for fetal life is pure bullshit hypocrisy. It’s all about controlling women’s lives and women’s bodies.
The Personhood Amendment, which is on the ballot every election in a majority of U.S. states, would give fetuses rights that trans people don’t have. Clinics are closing all over the U.S. In 2010, 90% of rural counties have no abortion options. The status of fetuses is ridiculously elevated as LIFE, while the status of the mother is degraded to potting soil.
Racism and White Privilege
An important definition of racism is that it must combine Prejudice + Power. It’s not just prejudice alone, and that’s why Black folks cannot be said to have racism. They may not like white people, might be prejudiced against or even hate white people, but the power of the institutions are not behind their prejudice. Reverse racism is like reverse sexism—not possible, a myth people tell themselves to feel better. But because the whole hierarchy is based on Power, there is no such thing. Individual women can be biased, of course, as any oppressed people can against their oppressors, but that is not the same as institutional biases that create racism and sexism. Only whites systematically benefit from racism. Only men systematically benefit from sexism.
Every social indicator, from salary to life expectancy, reveals the advantages of being white. It’s more comfortable for white people to think of racism as a form of individual prejudice, because then we don’t have to address power or privilege, and it’s not about US.
Anti-racism teacher, Peggy McIntosh says, Individual acts can palliate, but cannot end these problems. To redesign social systems, we must first acknowledge their colossal unseen dimensions.
On White Supremacy—White people need to fully explore how white supremacy and white privilege determine how we see the world. It’s important to keep in mind the theory and strategy of DIVIDE AND CONQUER. This means that we’re easier to control when we’re split off from each other, and the dominator class has always used this tactic when colonizing or trying to control the hierarchies that they create.
On American White History—Start to notice and be curious about the Imperialism, Colonization, and Genocide of Native populations everywhere. The legal and governmental structure of our own Constitution supported slavery.
We know that Black and White people can socialize in a friendly manner, be racially integrated (or pretend to be), while deeply ingrained notions of white supremacy remain intact. Assimilation is a force in our culture that tells others — not white, not male, not Christian—to blend into “the melting pot” of America. But it just reinforces and maintains white supremacy. It means Black, Brown, Native, Asian folks become white. This is an Economically-based survival strategy.
We all internalize white supremacy. It is invisible to us, until it isn’t. We want to be committed to changing society, but we fear living in poverty. Critiques of capitalism and imperialism bang up against class privilege. You need a good job and money to better help the exploited. And so on it goes, even with the most well-intentioned of the oppressor class. Racial genocide has always been economic. Slavery, native genocide, white people who were so scared under Obama and affirmative action—the disrespect for “political correctness”.
It’s easier to confront racism in the forms of overt exploitation and individual hatred and meanness than to confront the encompassing reality of white supremacy. But it’s not an individual issue. As with recycling, it’s something that we MUST do. Being personally kind to People Of Color is important. Like recycling, it’s important that we work to clean up and process our personal shit, and work to change what we can as individuals, BUT it’s not enough.
Why? Our willingness to be kind cannot by itself overpower A SYSTEM of institutions that pumps out a million times more racism than we can personally neutralize, or balance, as individuals. We need to Change the System if we’re serious about confronting our own privilege. The struggle to end white supremacy is a struggle to change STRUCTURES, many interlocking structures.
The problem of racism isn’t simple individual prejudice, but Domination. Being an ally to POC means taking on these structures of domination. They’re called Institutions. They’re invisible. They’re normalized. They’re everywhere. The family, economics, education, the justice system, government, the medical establishment are a few.
Meet the ISM Family- racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism, ageism. These reinforce privilege, invisibly. All are interlinked, and all must be revealed and challenged by allies. For every oppressed group, there’s a group that’s privileged IN RELATION. We must see that our identities are all relational.
For a group to be oppressed, they must be subject to one or more of these conditions:
1. Exploitation— of energies and profits. For example— the freedom, power, and self-actualization of men is only possible because women serve them, take on most of the subsistence work and responsibility of food and dirt and reproduction. Also, most POC are or have been servants of white privileged folks. They take on additional menial labors
2. Marginalization— a whole category of people is expelled from participating in social life. Example, elderly people have no dignity, feel useless, bored, and a lack of respect. Much the same is true for disabled people.
3. Powerlessness— Folks cannot participate in making decisions that affect the conditions of their lives. Example— The divisions between menial laborers and those who do mental work. This split is often referred to as white collar vs. blue collar, or professionals vs. non-professionals, but some of these folks have no collars at all, and everyone’s a professional in what they do. Powerless people have little or no work autonomy, must take what they can get, and they get little or no opportunity to develop and exercise skills.
4. Cultural Imperialism— How the dominant society renders your particular perspective useless, invisible, or criminal. An example the belief among some white people that all Mexicans are criminals, or all Muslims are terrorists. This is about norming and othering, which is how the dominant group is universalized. Only white males can be individuals. They’re the only group without a stereotype. All others’ identities in the culture are defined from the outside, by people they don’t identify with and who don’t identify with them.
5. Violence— it used to be that we saw acts of One steoreotype that’s not true is that violent acts are committed by deviant extremists or “sick people” Example, rape., lynching. But violence is actually a social practice. It’s a coercive tool that’s motivated by fear and hatred. It’s institutionalized and systemic. Examples are killing the homeless, or killing trans people, which are rarely seen with the same seriousness by police as the murder of a white man.
Racism means indoctrination for all races that white is superior. The core of white identity is that we are better. But it’s time to look at the impact white supremacy has on white people. White privilege is the flip side of racial oppression and must be challenged in the struggle against white supremacy. The psychological wages of whiteness have misshaped our identity and deformed our consciousness.
Struggles around racism have been powerful catalysts for real social change because they challenge the very foundations of this society: white supremacy. To challenge white supremacy is to confront global capitalism. The challenge is to bring down the social structures based on domination, and free up the energy of the oppressed to discover their freedom, equality, and our collective liberation. We are all vulnerable to being oppressive and we need to continuously struggle with these issues.
White identity has been developed through the process of slavery, genocide, and cultural annihilation. White identity was fused together as a way of dealing with the massive injustice of stealing other people’s lands and/or enslaving other people. All the southwest of the U.S. was once Mexico. The debate over language is about control. English-only laws are about keeping a 3rd world workforce in place, and providing a pool of janitors and dish washers and ditch-diggers, and about reinforcing inferiority.
People who are Black, Brown, and poor are presented to us as Having problems and Being problems—the implication is that they are responsible for All Our Problems. Certainly, they are blamed by the powers-that-be. Whites dismiss inequality in all the conditions of their and our existence, and they— the Others are found to be Morally Irresponsible. Our society demonizes and punishes whole segments of the population because they are poor, regardless of how the economy creates and needs poverty.
The Jew, the Frenchman, the Italian, the Irish, the Spaniard were all ‘niggers’ to some extent, and still are in some parts of the right-wing of this country. The only truly ‘white’ people are the Anglo Saxons and Scandinavians. These other people were not white when they came here, and they became white by massacring, raping, and stealing from Native Americans and from Blacks.
The framers of the Constitution incorporated slavery into a document committed to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to all. The self-evident truths of Jefferson were restricted to propertied white men, for PROPERTY is the great object of government, the great cause of war, and the great means of carrying it out. The profits from slavery funded the American Revolution. And this is how the economic benefits of slavery played a major role in the nation’s development.
The creation of a Black sub-class enabled poor whites to identify with and support the policies of the ruling class. Poor whites got a larger role in the political process, and slavery provided property-less whites with a property in their Whiteness, which they felt compelled to defend. This rendered them more willing to accept a lesser share and gave them priority and precedence over the Blacks. The masses of Whites are too occupied in keeping Blacks down to note the gap between their own quasi-slavery status and that of the elite whites on top. This national conspiracy functions without a master plan and keeps Whites, who are not super-rich or powerful in our political and economic system, from seeing that we’re all victims of economic injustice.
“The rhetoric of liberty so freely offered is no substitute for the economic justice that’s been so long denied” (Jesse Jackson)
“Our oppressive and bloody history known all over the world …for which we bear an inescapable responsibility. We’d rather not be reminded of it since we lack the energy to change it…we bear a guilt more deeply rooted than the oldest of old fears.. the record is there for all to read. It resounds around the world. It may as well be written on the sky.” W.E.B. Dubois.—social historian, civil rights activist, founder of the NAACP
“White people carry within themselves a carefully-muffled fear that Black people long to do to others what has been done to them. White people are not truly happy for they are not truly safe…if they were to examine this fear they would have to create a personal confession, a cry for help and healing in the great unadmitted crime of what they have done to themselves”. (James Baldwin)
Poverty. Homelessness. Economic exploitation. Unequal access to quality education and quality healthcare. Look at mothers of color and their children living in poverty, and how structures of oppression and privilege have shaped their lives. Meanwhile, all of their suffering shapes and serves a system built on maintaining white power and control. It’s profoundly important for white people to look at our experiences and deconstruct them, confront our internalized racism. Whiteness is about being better, being above.
Anti-racism work isn’t about guilt. It’s about placing oneself in the matrix of domination that shapes our society. You’ve got to see how your position influences you so you can be part of dismantling the structures of domination.
Make America Hate Again- post-Trump
White supremacists are thrilled by his racism, sexism, proud wealth and privilege. He’s the alpha male, and he’s allowing us to talk about things we haven’t’ been able to talk about. “He says what I’m thinking.” Is an oft-heard quote from The MAGA-verse. Nazis, rapists, and hate mongers are now fully socially liberated and it seems that, since 2015, they have crawled out from beneath their rocks and bunkers to take charge of the Republican party in America.
This is what the hatred of “political correctness” is about. The Trump-centric version of white nationalism is a direct response of backlash to this cultures’ slow shift towards inclusivity, consciousness about oppression, kindness, dialogue. Now they will further block access to voting for Blacks, end Roe, erase gains for gays and trans folk, openly hate Mexicans and Muslims, end social services for the poor, advance rape culture, destroy nature. All this will be transferred, proudly and openly, unapologetically, to rich white men.
When whites say, as they have been since Obama’s election and increasingly under Trump, “I want my country back!”, what does that mean? How ridiculous is this statement when we’re collectively unwilling to recognize and acknowledge the history of our country? How have POC in this country ever had “their” share of this democracy?
When privilege is organized according to race, even class is mostly organized according to race (and gender), there is no significance or meaning of being WHITE outside of systems of privilege and oppression.
According to the great Audre Lorde—"Much of Western European history conditions us to see human differences in simplistic opposition to each other: dominant/ subordinate, good/bad, superior/inferior. In a society where the good is defined in terms of profit rather than in terms of human need, there must always be some group of people who, through systematized oppression, can be made to feel bad, to feel surplus, to occupy the place of dehumanized inferior. Within this society, that group is made up of Black and Third World people, working class people, and women.”
Institutionalized rejection of difference is an absolute necessity in a profit economy which needs outsiders as surplus people. As members of such an economy, we have all been programmed to respond to the human differences between us with fear and loathing, and to handle that difference in one of 3 ways — ignore it, copy it (if we think it’s dominant) , or destroy it (if we think it’s subordinate). But we have no patterns for relating across our human differences as equals.
Somewhere on the edge of consciousness, there is a mythical norm, which each one of us within our hearts knows “that is not me”. Here, the norm is white, male, young, heterosexual, Christian, strong, and financially secure. It is with this mythical norm that power resides in our society.
Allan Johnson — pdf
The diversity wheel is like a pizza pie that divides us and asks us to locate ourselves in terms of age, gender, sexual orientation, race, income, religion. These are intersectionality loci. The wheel doesn’t say much about the unique individual you now you are, the content of your character, what you dream or feel. It does, however, say a lot about the social reality that shapes everyone’s life in powerful ways.
Assignment for students—Imagine waking up to find your gender had changed, or your race had changed? How would that affect how people perceive and treat you? How would it affect how you see yourself? How would it change the material circumstances of your life, such as where you live, and how much money you have?
For most people, shifting only a few parts of the diversity wheel would be enough to change their lives dramatically. Even though the characteristics in the wheel might not tell us who we are as individuals in the privacy of our hearts and souls and dreams, they matter a great deal in our society because they locate us in relation to other people and the world in ways that have huge consequences.
Derrick Jensen— Education in the U.S. is about reproducing the social order. We cannot comprehend, our unconscious will prevent it to protect us, the true nature of the roles we are playing and the consequences of our culture. If it threatens our worldview, we will simply not perceive it.
All my schooling gave me no training in seeing myself as an oppressor, as an unfairly advantaged person, or as a participant in a damaged culture. I was taught to see my life as normal, average, ideal, and morally neutral….power from unearned privilege looks like strength, but it is in fact permission to escape or to dominate. License to be, at best, ignorant, at worst, murderous.
It is only through outrageous violence that we come to see this absurdity as normal. Each new child has his eyes, ears, tongue, mind torn out so he cannot see, hear, speak, think, feel these things. These things are normalized. Then he is released into a world broken in 2— those others like himself, and those to be used. Here is the world we live inside of, composed of subjects and objects.
The most powerful system is that which leads people to take hold of their own leashes. No external controls, and no perception that they’re being controlled. Invisible mechanisms of control are best. The spectacle controls us into thinking it’s real and we’re free.
Suzanne Pharr — Heterosexuality is the assumption that the world is and must be heterosexual. When an abusive man calls a woman a lesbian, he is not so much labeling her as a woman who loves women, but he is warning her that by resisting him, she is choosing to be outside society’s protection from male institutions, and therefore, from ever-present, wide-ranging, unspecified violence.
Judith Butler— Gender is accomplished through day-to-day interactions. Gender is accomplished through a set of repeated acts within a highly rigid regulatory frame that congeals over time to produce the appearance of substance, of a natural sort of being. Identities that are recognizable are much less threatening, therefore, non-binary people are in danger in this society.
C.J. Pascoe— “Fag” was the worst thing one guy could call another guy…this insult literally reduced the boy to nothing. Lesbians may be “cool” because because of their place in heterosexual male fantasy, not necessarily because of some enlightened approach to same-sex relationships. However, penetrated men symbolize a masculinity devoid of power, which threatens both psychic and social chaos. This specter of penetrated masculinity functions as a regulatory mechanism of gender. Becoming a fag has as much to do with failing at the masculine tasks of competence, heterosexual prowess, and strength, or in any way revealing femininity as it does with sexual identity. This fluidity of the fag identity is what makes the specter of the fag such a powerful disciplinary mechanism. Boys police most of their behaviors out of fear of having the fag identity, which most males on this culture strive to avoid.
Boys call each other “fag” to help manage anxiety and discomfort. Acknowledging the fag’s existence affirms constantly that the fag is out there, and at any moment a boy can become a fag. At the same time, these performances demonstrate that the boy who is invoking the fag is not a fag, thereby reaffirming their masculinity.
One assignment I give to my Intro to Feminism class is to explain racism, then sexism, and finally, hetero-sexism to
1. a kindergarten class,
2. a visitor from another planet,
3. the marines,
4. a conservative Senator in charge of making public policy,
5. a visitor from the future.
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Why do we want what we think we want? Why do we like what we think we like? To study memes is to study the production of truth. And then to become Meme Warriors.
Memes are ideas that travel. Just like a gene is a unit of biological information that replicates, a meme is a unit of non-biological information that replicates. Memes are viral, they spread and infect us—trends, logos, slogans, tunes, ideas about race, sex, domination and entitlement.
Mass communications don’t just control how we think, but what we think about.
We need to challenge the conditions that make thinking possible, to rebel against the regime of the production of truth. We must understand what it is that we’re protesting—it’s not just the destruction of lives, but the destruction of meaning. We’ve got to mute the meaning- manufacturing-machine, and then we’ve got to start to question everything. We’ve got to jam the spectacle, stop the show. We need to go on a spree of idea regeneration. The way to reclaim reality is to disconnect from the disconnection and re-connect to the source. We need to slip free of the cultural trance we’re dancing in and to turn people’s imaginations on. Discover that source that’s been waiting all this time for us to return and ask these questions. Re-defining “progress” is our greatest challenge.
When we talk about this, people tell us, we’re dreaming. Yeah. Somebody has to dream. Ask them, don’t you think the Pentagon, The Stock Market and Disney are somebody’s dreams? This is my dream—I dream of a day when we’ll no longer be driven by cars, worked by jobs, watched by t.v.’s , mined by corporations. I’m dreaming the 11th commandment—thou shalt love nature, of which you are a part. That we won’t give our earth’s resources and life away to be destroyed and sold back to us as beer-cans and plastic. That what has been stolen will be taken back, by us. Forget sustainability, we need restoration. I dream that unjust laws will be broken and the enemy’s name spoken and the police and soldiers will turn from the lies of the masters and join us in this work.
How do we catalyze this mass, psychic jail break? Humans structure information about our experiences through the narratives we tell each other. There’s power in collectively understood symbols. We are the animals who live by stories, they shape our perception of reality. To change the future, we’ve got to change our stories. Empire has controlled the stories, repeats them constantly—Prosperity. Security. Freedom. These are all bullshit. We need to tell the stories of earth community. We need to redefine progress and wealth in the stories we tell. The biblical story led us to this dysfunction and the modern story keeps us here.
Religion and technology conspire to keep us believing that we’re separate from the earth, that we’re better than all other life forms. We need to tell the story about how we can apply our power by revoking our obedience. We need to believe in our collective strength again. The fact that we are all connected is a planetary reality. The fact that we don’t know this is a huge condition of our disability.
We’ve got to consciously analyze and attack the assumptions of our colonized minds. If we—and the rest of life—are to survive and step free of corporate culture, we must provide new myths. We need new cultural narratives to frame the big story of our time—the story of competing futures. Corporations or democracy? Liberation or oppression? Awakening or denial? Evolution or extinction? We need to change the majority of humans from disabled spectators into empowered citizens, and let the battle touch their self-contained lives. We need to help people see that they’re connected to everything. We need language to speak to the crisis of denial, symbols like hammers to shatter all the justifications.
The lies are powerful; think of them as equasions. State power = law and order. Devastation = development. Doomsday economics = prosperity. The right to drive is more important than the right to breathe. This is a free country, the greatest country in the world, in history, ever. We need new models of work, education, health, environmental and social protections, and dignity in life rich with meaning. Memes popping like non genetically modified corn in hot oil.
First, we need an analysis of the place we’re currently coming from, where we currently are. We need to use the dominant culture’s own momentum against itself. Guerilla fighters know this. Every guerilla must know the terrain of the culture he’s trying to destroy. In the U.S., our ruling meta-meme is that the corporate-driven marketplace delivers happiness, prosperity, and freedom for all. There’s been no competing mass vision since World War 2. Ideology is more important than armies to maintaining empire most people don’t even recognize that this is an empire.
We need a new ideological vision that can stand against the ecocidal, post-microsoft, internationally monopolized, crap saturated, globally melting, revenge soaked, nuclear, plastic, chemical, high-tech Modernity. Something more compelling and comprehensive than just recycling or changing lightbulbs. We need to challenge the lies of “green consumerism”. We can start there. We can start anywhere, because everything is connected. That is the great cosmic truth, the foundation of biology and not knowing that fact is a huge condition of our disability.
In this culture 3,000 marketing messages are rammed into our neocortex every day. That’s how memes have been harnessed to work for the powers that be. It’s a one-way process— nonconsensual, and unarguably violent. Potent memes change minds, alter behaviors, and transform cultures. In an authentic culture, the ideas percolate from the bottom up and the best ideas win. Nobody controls this wild process— it emanates from people with no agenda but to describe their world and themselves in it, first hand. Everybody has the right to participate. Everybody experiences the world as an authority. But, in this culture, memes ooze down from the top, from only those who can afford to buy the time on our airwaves, corporations who’s only morality is to make more wealth for already wealthy people. And they don’t believe in the authority of the people. And, in this culture, the most repeated ideas win. The most repeated ideas win.
The good news is, that an organism under attack creates antibodies that will grow and spread and work to destroy the enemy. More good news is that it’s only at moments crisis that true change can come, because we have nothing to lose. Because we open our fierce grip to a larger perspective. Thoreau said, “The highest we can attain is not knowledge, but sympathy with intelligence.” That intelligence is the Life Force—the source of breath, green life, and evolution.
The questions to ask are huge—How can we learn, again, to love this world? How can we start to give back as much as we take? How can we learn to live with less? How can we create justice for all? What will wake us from this American dream of entitlement and domination, this nightmare for all others? What will stop us from wanting to devour and enslave the rest of the planet? How do we make it unprofitable to destroy life? How do we show people that living with less is way more creative than demanding more, that giving is far more fun than plundering, and that convenience is the enemy? What’s the difference between wealth that’s siphoned and wealth that’s funneled? What if our foreign policy centered on spreading joy and not pain?
Organize. Act. Replicate. We need to step up into the role of cultural shamans. It’s up to us to lead the way into cultural change—to recognize our power and our authority to do this hands-on re-direction of our mis-directed society. The folkways, the mores, the system of values is ours to pronounce. Who else has the right? Certainly not multinational corporations.
Forget accumulating possessions—the key to happiness and survival is not to possess, but to Be Possessed. We need to be remember that we are possessed by existence itself—it’s the very nature of the universe is to be possessed. The most basic cohesion of matter comes from possession. The orbit of the earth, gravity, is a fact of its possession. We are possessed by the life force, by the fact of breath and blood and death. In this we are connected to every living thing.
The good thing about everything being so fucked up is that everywhere you look, there’s good work to be done.
It’s not just about sustainable communities—we had those in this country once—they were called Pequoit, Arapahoe, Cheyenne. And it’s not about prayer and visualization, because if those people, who were so deeply culturally rooted in prayer couldn’t change the trajectory, neither can we. Not with only supernatural help. Not with righteous goodness. But, anything is possible from here. Howard Zinn reminded us that the Renaissance came on the heels of the Hundred Years War and the Black Plague.
Everything— oil, money, nuclear war, global warming, racism, technology—all poised on the edge of a cliff in total precariousness. What will be the tipping point? Because today we are facing the cluster-fuck of Synchronous Cascading Failure. Synchronous cascading failure means that the powers of this empire are so overextended, the supply lines so long and deteriorating, and everything so connected to everything everywhere that any single mistake could trigger a series of fuck ups that could end us.
This might be one overloaded circuit, one degree of temperature, one biotech crop, one big storm, one sick chicken, one economic crash: one single failure in this bizarre balancing act will start the core meltdown. And, BAM! Synchronous Cascading Failure. We’ve got condoms, surveillance cameras, metal detectors, vitamins, airbags, plastic surgery, none of it will save us. The stock market goes into a freefall and there’s a run on the banks, but there’s no money in the banks! The economy’s all a damn lie just like democracy is all a damn lie, so, think about this when the empire’s spokespeople speak of security.
All that can save us now is the imagination. It must start there, with our minds. We need to resuscitate meaning, to cultivate new ideas, to harvest meme seeds and sow them wide. The work for social change agents is to be gardeners of the mindscape—explorers who create maps for getting to there from here, engineers building bridges between the many various liberation movements. Let’s tell the stories of the possible, in our most passionate voices, because this is the literal battle for the hearts, minds, and attention spans of an ever more anesthetized society.
We need to spread our ideas and critiques throughout the culture and break the media consumer trance. This is meme warfare. We can consciously, deliberately, and fundamentally redirect the trajectory of history. It’s time to shatter the illusions of social consent to criminal projects. This is a tipping point, a choice point, that humans have never before encountered. We have the power to consciously determine our evolution, to re-define “progress”. Will these be death throes or birth pains? Root canal or birth canal?
What will save us? Not technology. Not force. Only the imagination. The ability to tell ourselves a different story. Many different stories. How do we replace memes of violence, consumerism, and fear with memes demonstrating how to fit into the pattern? Because Darwin’s been twisted for us too, y’all—it’s not about survival of the fittest, but survival of the fit. How do we fit inside the environment of life to which we were born? How to belong. Be-longing shakes us free of the trance.
What are the memes that will clearly communicate the crisis, and what are memes that will champion the way through to a radically different cultural identity? Think about it. Pass it on.
There’s more to life than being young, rich, fast, thin, beautiful, and technologically advanced.
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These are just a few of my sheroes and heroes in the struggle of what it means to be a good animal in this world—These folks offer articulate challenges to the various technologies and acts of dominance in the human realm of reality.
The multiplication of technologies in the name of efficiency destroys free time by maximizing the times and places for production, and minimizing the unstructured travel time in between. We are more productive and less free as the world accelerates around us. Electronic transmissions make real travel & real connection, unnecessary. All the false urgencies and speed of the machine culture is moving faster than the speed of thought, or thoughtfulness.
Walking is not an analytical, but rather, an improvisational act. Walking, solitude, and wilderness help overthrow impediments of machinery life. Walking is the experience where we understand our body in relationship to the world. We live a largely passive existence within highly insulated circumstances in the sensory deprivation chambers of apartments, offices, and cars. Hurtling forward in airplanes or cars, or over wireless cables and satellites makes the body a parcel in transit—not muscular, active, or ecologic. It doesn’t move but IS moved, rootless and in flux, and totally ungrounded. Dematerialized by abstraction— no action, no eroticism— all our sensations, processes, and desires flung wider than our bodies can inhabit.
How to return the body to its original limits again? To being something supple, sensitive, vulnerable and extended into the world. Engaged and knowing is crucial to experiencing reality.
Suburbia—built to car scale—is an infrastructure for driving. People shuttle from private interior to private interior— the diffusion and privatization of spaces like islands in a sea of asphalt. And what of gated communities? Both criminals and the rich agree to living in hiding. Suburbia abandoned the space of the city without returning us to the country. Just high-priced bunkers and beefed-up segregation and disembodiment.
Progress is about transcending time and space and nature. The primary experiences of the life of the senses severed from the organic world of perception, expectations, and action. Alienation from nature is alienation from both the body and space and time. Planes at 35,000 feet are the ultimate disconnection. Are our bodies becoming obsolete? Just inadequate parcels?
Where does our power reside?
The car, the cell phone, the computer are now our prosthetics for our conceptually impaired bodies, in the mechanical world where space and time are juiced, and life is no longer scaled to real human life. It’s becoming something else. Moving along on the scale of our machines is not liberating! Not free! The disappearance of random, musing, unstructured space, daydreaming time, seeing, being, now gone with the speed and prevalence of our machines.
The gym is our new wildlife preserve for bodily exertion, abandoned into a vanishing habitat.
The gym rationalizes and isolates, just like the suburbs. Just like the factories. Rationalizes and isolates each separate muscle group to efficiently burn calories. The monotonous steadiness of the treadmill. Repetitive labor has been punitive since the gods punished Sisyphus. Throughout most of history, food has been scarce and physical exertion abundant. Only when the status is reversed does exercise make any sense. Muscles, like tans, are an aesthetic of the obsolete. Jobs no longer require us to be outside or call on bodily strength.
The gym is the factory for the production of fitness, and it looks like a factor—the stark industrial space, the gleaming machines, the isolated figures toiling, the repetitive tasks.
People now go in for recreation in their Free Time. Where is the splendor? The straining of arms no longer pumps water or moves wood— its an industry of consumption—of fear, equipment, trainers. And the resulting muscles may not be useful for any practical purpose. Efficiency in exercise means calories are consumed at the maximum rate, which is exactly the opposite effect that workers (and animals) aim for. What’s the point of this semi-public performance, these empty gestures? We have machines now to move our wood and pump our water, and we go to other machines to engage in those acts, not for the sake of wood or water, but for the sake of our bodies, theoretically liberated by technology. When the relationship between our bodies and the world vanishes, who and what do we become?
The body now has the status of a pet that must be exercised. It doesn’t work, but it works out.
The treadmill and it steeper cousin, the Stairmaster, stimulate walking as though space itself had disappeared. The multifaceted experience gone, replaced by climate controlled, t.v. invaded artificial spaces. These are devices in which to go nowhere in places where there is nowhere to go. Or no desire to go. The suburban mind is more comfortable in climate controlled indoor space, with quantifiable activity rather than seamless engagement of body, mind, world. The gym is just another of many devices that accommodates a retreat from the world—disinclines us to participate in making the world more habitable, or to participate in it at all.
Treadmills require whole infrastructures of power generation and distribution, transforming the landscape with networks of cables, workers, coal mines, oil wells, nuclear power, hydroelectric dams on rivers, as well as factories somewhere else. And so treadmills require way more economic and ecological interconnections than walking, but way fewer experiential ones. Unlike early treadmills, they don’t produce energy, they consume it. A revolving rubber belt, 6 feet long, is the terrain. Space has vanished; subversive encounters and chance, vanished too.
Walking is subversive—against entirely privatized space and controlled crowds. Walking provides entertainment in which nothing is spent or consumed. Yet, no one’s promoting the free activity of walking in preference to the lucrative industry of cars. There’s no money in it. Nothing happens in the wild— except seasons, light, weather, creatures, migrations—and the marvelous working of your mind and body. Musing takes place in a part of the imagination that hasn’t been plowed, developed, or put to any practical use. Without that time, which is not work time, the mind becomes sterile, dull, domesticated. Otherwise, the individual imagination will be bulldozed-over for the chain store outlets of consumer appetite.
THEODORE ROSZAK—On Technological Imperialism
Urban industrialization dictates how life must be lived, everywhere, and yet it’s only been 2/10 of 1 % of our experience on earth. The world of wind & wave, beast & flower, sun& stars is our most prolonged intimacy. Nature mothered us into existence before this sick delusion of separation and superiority, before we grew so fat and so uselessly stupid, mistaking a lifestyle for a way of life. This is the hermetically sealed and sanitized lesson in vanity where nothing nonhuman survives our adjustment, domination, and improvement. The more artifice, the more progress, and the more progress, the more security.
Our technological imperialism tells us our survival has nothing to do with soil, with air, water, plant, or animal. We forget that beyond the technical membrane is a world that mediates our life needs. All resources arrive to us at the end of a long line of processing. Agriculture is mass industrial production worked up off a soil that’s a chemical blotter…the violent anxieties of the animal we eat. We’re convinced that there are human substitutes for everything we exhaust or contaminate. We can live on pure chemicals and machines, programmed genetics and surgical immortality—redesign the great rivers, control personalities, order the weather, fly to Mars.
What are the costs of this increased artificiality? Spiritual, rhapsodic, magic and dreams, alchemy, visionary poetry, transcendent energies are all in crisis with the ecology and our blighted psyches. The environment is the outward mirror of our inner condition and the advanced disease within. The final radicalism could be spiritual renewal—a ground-tone so constant that it is perceived as silence.
This is the greatest and fastest cultural transformation in human history. Millions agreeing to divide themselves off from the natural continuum and relationship to the earth. Civilization sucks every hinterland into its technological metabolism. Its investments and technicians force themselves into every back of beyond—bulldozers, oil derricks, methyl mercury, lead, radioactivity, industrial exhaust—the world becomes our garbage can. No wilderness left that’s not piped and wired through with civilizations necessities or crisscrossed with visible airplane sky-lanes or invisible microwaves, satellite beams, or electricity. It’s an exercise in arrogance that breaks with our human past as violently and dramatically as astronauts break from the gravitational grip of earth.
Let your mind conjure the image of the astronaut. Encapsulated in a wholly man made environment, sealed up and surviving securely in a plastic womb of his own making—his life space, his metallic epidermis, his electronic equipment, even his wastes in there with him. Living intimately with just that shit. Always a military man. Our future dominated by soldiers—the most machine-tooled, psychically-regimented breed of human— the warrior-technician. Cushioned and isolated in a perfectly artificial environment that’s not a part of anyplace. Totally autonomous. All places becoming the same gleaming, antiseptic, electronic reproduction of him and his technological omnipotence.
What are the reactive forces being released into our psyches and the repressed natural world?
Worldwide, technological experience—all people everywhere sucked into this common fate. It burns away our deeper awareness of responsibility. We who “discovered’ the rest of the world don’t want to share, learn, or integrate. We share only this hi-tech culture, the ONE culture, and we impose it everywhere. The death of dialogue & of debate emanates from our technology, which really only communicates itself—the medium blocks every message except itself. The unities of power are trade, warfare, and technics, investment, military alliance, and commerce. That’s the core of urban industrial civilization.
While we grow fat on a smorgasbord of cultural tidbits, the whole world is steadily flattened under our appetite. The urban-industrial-global-monopoly—nothing for real or for keeps and nothing, nothing at all. The CocaCola-ization will lead to a worldwide artificial environment before it discovers anything like an authentic world culture or an ethical community of humankind. HOW CAN ANY PEOPLE BE SO SURE OF SO MUCH? The technocratic elites lead us. When the Dow closes, what is the state of our souls? This pre-eminence of science and technocratic politics is the curse and the gift we bring to history.
Who recognizes a cage for what it is? Only the most creative— the alienated artists are modern martyrs, persecuted prophets, suffering saints. The steady advance of technology is a terrifying aggression against the visionary imagination. Wasting away of transcendent energies as urgent as sheer physical survival. The next revolution is to liberate the visionary powers from the lesser reality of urban industrial “necessity”. There are dragons buried beneath our cities— primordial energies greater than the power of electricity or our bombs. Religion and science built a social order on top of their graves. We need a renunciation of power and production that will be experienced as a liberation, not a sacrifice. This is our future, subversion against the status quo of industrial-techno-alienation. Instead we seem to be surrendering to the urban tyrannical imperative with fanatical conviction. We are between a death and a difficult birth. We don’t all want social justice that means access to the same air conditioned cell-phoned nightmare.
JERRY MANDER— ‘Megatechnology’. Herein lies our condition, a condition that’s only possible because of the global interlock among new technological forms. Streaming platforms, social media, cell phones, computers, lasers, satellites, microwaves—encompassing everything everywhere. All democracy, self-determination, and all diversity—of perception, of cultures, landscapes and biological forms are under fierce assault by the unified purpose and form of global technologies. All this accelerates corporate power and invasion. The mega-technological homogenization drive requires and produces conformity, bulldozes resistance, increases police and state power, slams into us a the New World Order that encircles the globe with monoculture. T.V. is its delivery system. Computers are its nervous system.
This society was never trained to think about technology in systemic terms. Instead we’ve always been told that technology is good. Progress is good. The idea that technology is neutral is in itself not neutral. It produces passivity like technology does. We never ask the most radical questions—who does it really serve? Are we better off with or without it? We are never given a chance to say NO to technology. We can, personally, but its still reshaping our society without permission, without national debates or referendums. And then, once we’re surrounded by it all, how the hell do we get rid of it?
The great tragedy of technology is that it’s one of the few subjects that the left and right agree on—activists and corporations all view it in the same way. It’s believed by most everyone to be neutral. Now virtually all of us live virtually, inside a homocentric reality—in artificial environments—interacting at all times with objects, rhythms, and landscapes that are completely the products of our own minds. This alienation leads us farther from our senses and our judgement. The effects are to accelerate the separation of humans from nature, and from the consequences of what we’re doing, what we’re allowed the powerful to do, in our names.
The screen’s hyperactivation of images in a perceptual universe speeds up our nervous systems, until we can’t even SEE nature, if we do manage to go outside. It’s too calm, too slow, and we can no longer relate to slower systems. Just speed. Just violence. Techno-humans are becoming components of the machine—machine compatible—more simple in form and tending towards violence. Much better at following suggestions and abstractions to their “logical” conclusions than resting, than visioning, than relating to another person, off-screens.
We’ve got to learn to view technology—not from where it benefits us—but in terms of the totality of its impact on the planet. (What a concept!) We’ve been trained to view everything ONLY as it benefits us—that’s how we tend see all phenomena and all people, all the time. So, yes, the insta and facebook and cell phone helps us to connect and communicate. But they have way more benefit for the military and the corporations, for development, space travel, surveillance, nanotechnology, and all the other horrors that wouldn’t exist without computers or microwaves. The question is—what’s the least amount of technology I can use and still get things done? It’s up to you.
Kirkpatrick Sale—On Luddism WE NEED A MORATORIUM ON PROGRESS. Luddism is a historical movement that arose in response and resistance to the early Industrial Revolution. The Luddite Movement was a moral challenge mounted against huge and powerful enemies. Modern day Neo-Luddism can serve to slow the pace to give us what we need—a period of detox from science and technology. They’ve become toxic to our collective spirit.
The onrush of arcane technologies and esoteric systems bewilder me with procedures unknown last year, threaten me as machines expose us, make us useless or make us servants, create anxiety and instability as they befoul the world. Awaken and arise from the technophilic dream of industrial monoculture! Reject and resist the technocratic Cartesian approach and the laissez-faire economy.
The machines change, but the machine-ness does not. Technologies are NEVER neutral, and many are harmful. All machinery is harmful, in that it’s produced with only economic consequences in mind, and those are of benefit to only a few. Technology comes with an inevitable logic, stamped with the purposes and values of the economic system that spawns it, and obeying an imperative that heedlessly works that logic to its end. All machines serve the huge, burocratic , complex and undemocratic, secretive organizations of the industrial world. We need to ask of each one—Will this invention concentrate more power? Will it encourage or discourage Nature and the self-worth of individuals? Will it wreak havoc to the biosphere and the human species and communion?
And, he says,…. because somewhere in the blood, in the place inside where pain and fear and anger intersects, one is finally moved to refusal and defiance. No more! And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the levers of the whole machine—as the Luddite movement instructed of its followers—or any part you can reach, and you’ve got to make it stop. But not just through violence, which calls down the iron fist of the law and turns away allegiance of neighbors. There are myriad ways to resist industrial monoculture and its dehumanized social order. Create a life that does not do violence to your ethical principles. Ask, what purpose does this machine serve? What problem has become so great that it needs this level of solution? Thoreau asks, “Is this invention nothing but an improved means to an unimproved end?”
Some of the fish are beginning to see, not just the water, but that it’s polluted, world-wide. Industrialism— built upon machines designed to exploit and produce for human betterment alone, is on a collision course with earthly life. Industrialism is not superior, on any level other than physical comfort, convenience, and a problematic longevity of life. We must strive to work out some analysis of the problematic present and the desirable future and the common strategies that stem from them. Preserve the integrity, stability, and harmony of the biotic community and the human community within it—the spiritual identification of the human with all living species and systems.
Some would argue that mammals are hard-wired to compete to survive, and to fight or flight, first thing. If so perhaps we can imagine that Technology is that fight. Technology, which we’ve been taught to see as moral, insofar as it is “progress” as it keeps us at the top of the bio-heap. It is the triumph of the darkness of the scientific mind to the overcoming of chance. The job for us is to bring into the light that darkness as darkness. Bring into the light the dawn, which is the alternative. Whatever is left after the inevitable crash will need instructions in how to live in harmony with nature, and how and why to fashion their technologies with the restraints and obligations of nature intertwined—seeking to understand and obey and love and incorporate nature into their souls, as well as into their tools.
Ariel Salleh—ECOFEMINISM Eco-feminism explores the reciprocal implications of ecological and gender crisis. EcoFeminism holds both a theory of domination and a strategy for change. Feminist objectives fit with movements for ecology, against capitalist accumulation, surveillance, military power, and industrialization, but the truth is that most women can only enter politics on a capitalist/patriarchal agenda, and everywhere, feminists and eco-activists are obliged to think, talk, dress like technocratic men. (Hillary- “fiercely clashing but ultimately absorbed into the brotherhood of suits.”)And, the scientific fraternity is careful to suppress dangerous findings in order to protect free enterprise.
Gender is the lowest common denominator of all dominations— one has only to observe the unique status of womyn as a source of countercultural values. Women’s unpaid work is resourced by transnational capitalism just like the natural commons. Both women and nature are victims of men’s abuse. Both are ideological products of the culture of control that began in the witch-hunts and “The Enlightenment”. These days, while fashionable post-modernism enjoys splitting factions in a safe world of ideas, life is hurting.
One particular social group is better placed than any other to save the earth from human excess. It’s plain that the concerns of men in an industrial production system are quite different from those of womyn in a daily round of domestic and reproductive labors, our work which remains unpaid to this day.
Care, modesty, connectedness—53% of the world is already educated into these behaviors.
Since the interest of womyn as a global majority lies in challenging existing structures, we are astonishingly well-place to constitute a political force. Our inscribed gender difference has left us historically outside, and our skills provide a means of resistance to this irrational excess of a capitalist patriarchy that we have little egoic need to preserve.
Like the political status quo, postmodernisms’ practice of deconstruction is limited and cannot GO anywhere; it is ahistorical. The making of an earth democracy must take into account subsistence farmers and indigenous hunter-gatherers and WOMEN as participating citizens.
But, the terrain of ecofeminism is reduced to the feminist controversy over whether women’s politics should be guided by the principle of “equality” (modelled by men’s institutions) or the principle of gender difference, which puts us down there with nature.
Both ecology and feminism are split internally between old and new thinking— liberal environmentalists lobby for licenses to pollute and trade carbon taxes, and liberal feminists lobby for anti-discrimination legislation. Radical enviros and feminists envision appropriate technology, collaboration with indigenous movements, and communal governance.
Equality Feminists are wary of discussing woe in connection with nature because this is loaded by centuries of using this argument to keep women in their place as closer to nature. They fear that drawing any attention to biological differences will play into men’s hands: it’s a double bind, that women either side with nature and tighten their own subordination, or seek liberation by disconnecting from nature and abandoning it to its fate as a resource.
All double binds are merely problems that need re-framing: as distinct from men’s lot, women’s activities are designed to protect life. We’re not closer to nature than men in any ontological sense, but attaining the prize of masculine identity depends on men distancing themselves from that fact. They leave women behind as a hostage.
Women do life maintenance work, like nature does. While men maintain distance and separation, negotiating for their interests as they dominate, conquer, compete, extract, and accumulate, our voices are largely silenced. The maintaining of comfortable habitats and cohesive communities is the most highly productive work of society—in patriarchy, these tasks are ignored and unpaid. In our holding labors to protect and nurture life, M/Other becomes unconsciously associated with food and excrement—endlessly dealing with food and dirt—marking out the boundaries of the body–– me/not me, human/nature.
M/Other is the other side of ego, and jokes armor men from the fear and fascination with oral, anal, genital excretions—all the transitional swarming that threatens to include Him. Death becomes as problematic as birth, the other end of lived time where humanity recedes back into nature. But, against the spills and smells of birthing and dying which frame women’s lives, the church, the state, and science fail to orient men in enduring time. At childbirth, it is the man who lacks. Why else should the act be so shrouded by secrecy, hushed voices, and medical mystification. Nevertheless, paternity, basically a property relation, soon reinstates the correct order of things. The sense of dislocation in masculine reproductive consciousness is very pervasive in the western tradition, and it goes hand in hand with the suppression of women’s actual contribution.
If men cannot produce life, they can certainly appropriate it, and thus fatherhood becomes a right, and fatherless children are damned as bastards and illegitimate. Patriarchy is the power to transcend natural realities with historical, man-made realities. For men, the compulsion to produce has brought the rest of life on earth to the brink of annihilation. In an attempt to bridge this experiential fracture from the life process and ‘natural time’, the alienative consciousness of men has invented compensatory entities, such as god, the state, history, science, and technology. Men’s commercial ideas of progress and fascination with mechanical models ignores the agonies of industrialization.
Men have aggressive sports, property ownership, control of all others, and the preoccupation with personal potency to assuage the emptiness of the ungrounded self.
Patriarchal relations rest on the shocking reversal of material (maternal) reality. The unresolved violence that hovers around the memory of the original break with nature must constantly affirm itself by consuming the energy of the Other- women and nature.
Here’s Marx on historical agency and radical chains”—
A class must be formed which has radical chains; a class in civil society which is not a class of civil society. A class which is the dissolution of all classes; a sphere of society which does not claim a specific redress because the wrong done to it is not a particular wrong, but wrong in general…a sphere which cannot finally emancipate itself without therefore emancipating all other spheres.”
So much of theory and status quo suppositions beg gendered scrutiny. We look outside the personal horizon of shared masculine significances. But, the profound split between masculinity and femininity is rarely a political concern beyond the rubric of feminism. Women’s holding labors are imperative as a solution to unfettered masculinity. For example, the social position of women, the sexual division of labor that subjugates women, the exclusion of women from waged work, the mechanization of the world (which legitimized the exploitation of women and nature), and women as the machine for the production of new workers.
The witch-hunts were as important as colonialism and the theft of the land from European peasants for the development of capitalism. Marx couldn’t never have assumed that capitalism paves the way to human liberation if he had looked at history from the viewpoint of women.
The feminist concept of the body is key to understanding the roots of male dominance and the construction of female social identity, as well as the consolidation of patriarchal polwer and the male exploitation of female labor.
We are the power by which the body is produced. And so they must insist that god is male, and that minds rise above bodies. For women, the body is what the factory was for male workers: the primary ground of their exploitation and resistance. Masculine agency produces knowledge by splitting subject and oject, and then dividing the object into separate, discrete units in order to re-make it. This is “the frightened dualism of transcendent subjectivity”.
Men must strive to share “holding labors”. This will be emancipatory all around. Holding means to minimize risk and reconcile differences rather than to fight about them. Holding is a way of seeing with an eye towards maintaining the harmony, resources, and skills necessary for sustaining life in safety. It’s the attitude of world protection, world repair.
It’s also the ultimate expression of adaptability and reflexivity. Holding is exemplified by The Precautionary Principle. Holding opposes the scientific method of separation, which is the work of resisting entropy. Unlike the scientist , the mother cannot invent categories to deny what’s natural and messy. The obsessional drive for artificial principles vs a sense of place.
It negates separation and duality with enfoldment and resonance. The most urgent and fundamental political task is to dismantle ideological attitudes that have severed our human belonging to nature. If womyn’s lived experiences of conservation were given legitimacy, it could provide an immediate living social basis for the alternative consciousness that radical men are trying to formulate as an abstract ethical construct.
The most radical activist politics develop when one comes to understand the dynamics of how one is oppressed and how one oppresses others. We need connections and coalitions.
Enlightened rationalism makes interconnections invisible or unlikely.
There is no language to oppose “rationalism” or “Cartesian dualism” that doesn’t sound kooky.
This is the last domino that must fall for equality and our survival to be realized.
Our over-socialized version of dualism/ “reality” deletes objective nature or turns her into a human construct. Where is that voice to protect hollowed-out life on earth?
Economic transnational corporations need nation states the way men need wives. To service industry, pacify the underlings, and repair the territorial body. Business now milks the state to provide free infrastructure and cultural legitimization. The cost of economic justice for a masculine proletariat means increased sexual abuse, racism, and environmental assault.
Today’s conquistadors are the officers of the WTO and The World Bank. The feminization of poverty was the first effect of the development of capitalism. capitalism is necessarily committed to racism and sexism. Waged labor today = enslavement, for which women have paid the highest cost: with their bodies and their lives. A corporation is just a legal entity designed to absolve men from liability for their decisions based on greed. It’s dissociated from consequence and totally unnatural. It will never see the web of ecological relations as real. We need an international Eco-Feminism Security Council to fight the monoculture of savage corporate capitalism.
Can the rampant misogyny, sexual violence, economic poverty and cultural marginalization fracture a woman’s identity? Dissociation, annihilation, decomposition can lead to a collision with the contradictions and break through our consciousness to create new possibilities. This is our hope for the terrible future. The downside of the Golden Age. All inventions are parked on the slope of time with the hand brake off and a crumbling brick under the tire.
It will all turn to yogurt before our eyes.
But, just as our economic system and our lifestyles are unsustainable, so is the reigning social system of unprecedented anxiety. Our country is in the throes of an epidemic of clinical depression, anxiety, and attention deficit, because we are compassionate beings faced with an impossible situation. Yes, your brain is our of balance, but the source is a crisis of culture and ecology. We’re living through the 6th great extinction, a holocaust unheard of since the last big asteroid slammed into our planet. But this time, the asteroid is us.
We’re not dead of mind and heart not yet. We can nudge ourselves from the center of the world, from the screens and malls and traffic jams, and consider other possibilities. Awake from the hypnotic trance of our manufactured culture. Wake up to the moment of change.
The liberation from self-absorption comes in the battle to help change the world, help others and free our own minds. Stop repressing our natural abilities to feel compassion and have empathy for the pain of the world. We inter-exist with others, with the whole of creation, and as our pain for the world arises, so does our power.
When an organism is sick, it creates antibodies to fight the disease. When an organism is under attack, the anti-bodies grow and spread and work to destroy the poison. And activists are the antibodies. Activists inspire a more compelling vision of life, shining a light on what’s simmering just below the surface. They lead the way out of the press/oppression by showing hearts and minds attuned to a new set of values- celebrating a thousand different communities, all sharing insight and difference. What’s cool isn’t the newest app, but fighting the microwaving of the planet.
Chellis Glendinning—What Lewis Mumford calls the "mechanical order" or the "megamachine" is an entire psycho-socioeconomic system that includes all the machines in our midst— and all the organizations and methods that make those machines possible. Also included are those of us who inhabit this technological construct, and the ways in which we are socialized and required to participate in the system, as well as the ways we think, perceive, and feel as we attempt to survive within it.
What I am describing is a human-constructed, technology-centered social system built on principles of standardization, efficiency, linearity, and fragmentation, like an assembly line that fulfills production quotas, but cares nothing for the people who operate it. Within this system, technology influences society. Standardization, efficiency, and production quotas are all that matters to this system.
From our everyday experience within mass technological society, we will note that "normal" acts like standing in line, obeying traffic signals, working or shopping till we drop, all constitute acts of participation in this grand machine. Regarding our minds and bodies as disconnected in health and disease, or thinking that radioactive waste buried in the Earth won't eventually seep into the water table, are symptoms of the fragmented thinking that emerges from such a mechanical order.
We no longer use technology. We live it. Langdon Winner, in Autonomous Technology, moves the idea further, arguing that the artifacts and methods invented since the technological revolution have developed in size and complexity to the point of canceling our very ability to grasp their impact upon us. Total immersion, loss of perspective, and loss of control tip us off to the link between the psychological process of addiction and the technological system. Addiction can be thought of as a progressive disease that begins with inner psychological changes, leads to changes in perception, behavior, and life-style, and then to total breakdown. Many of us are already disintegrating beneath the weight of our alienation, and our denial. The hallmark of this process is the out-of-control, often aimless compulsion to fill a lost sense of meaning and connectedness with substances like alcohol, dangerous sports, or experiences like fame.
If the particular kinds of technologies in our midst exist to promote mastery and power, we might ask, for whom? And over whom? Windmills and tepees express democratic and ecological values because the very people who invent, produce, and maintain them are the same people who use them. By contrast, the technologies disseminated in mass society reflect a mentality of control over the natural world, space, other people, and even ourselves. As Jerry Mander points out, “running a nuclear power plant requires tight, centralized control by both government and industry, first to produce such a capital-intensive project, then to master public opinion, and finally to provide military backup in case of sabotage, accidents, or public protest.” The presence of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons in a nation's arsenal not only controls that nation's enemies—it also frightens and intimidates, and thereby controls that nation's own citizens.
Likewise, survival in the technological system requires that we act cool and behave like machines. What is cooler in substance, and acts cooler in our estimation than a machine? Especially, and most dangerously, to the mind of a child? The hallmark of technological education is to learn mathematics to quantify reality, and to master fragmented thinking to function in a mechanistic world. Every subject we learn in school seems unrelated to the others. Mass technological society is structured "top-down," its fragmented nature keeping most of us from ever grasping an understanding of the whole.
Addictive behavior is not natural to the human species. It occurs because some untenable violation has happened to us. And indeed, we have undergone an untenable violation— a collective trauma that explains the insidious reality of addiction and abuse infusing our lives in mass technological society. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder defines trauma as "an event that is outside the range of human experience and that would be markedly distressing to almost anyone”. The trauma endured by technological people like ourselves is the systemic and systematic removal of our lives from the natural world—from the tendrils of earthy textures, from the rhythms of sun and moon, from the spirits of the bears and trees, from the Life Force itself. This is also the systemic and systematic removal of our lives from the kinds of social and cultural experiences our ancestors assumed when they lived in rhythm with the natural world.
In Nature and Madness, Paul Shepard describes this process as the initiation of a heretofore unheard-of tame/wild dichotomy in which all things considered tame, such as domesticated seedlings, captured animals, and the mechanical and controlling mentality required to keep them alive are prized and protected—(lawns, zoos, pets)—while all things considered wild—"weeds," wild animals, and the fluid, participatory way of being human—are considered threatening and to be kept at bay. Ultimately, such a split imprisons us in our human-constructed reality and causes all the unnecessary and troublesome dichotomies with which we grapple today, from male/female and mind/body, to secular/sacred and technological/ Earth-based.
Society is addicted to specific technologies like cars, super-computers, and satellites, all of which facilitate an unhealthy propensity to control, numb the psyche from pain, and momentarily feed a craving for power. Techno-addiction is also an addiction to a way of perceiving, experiencing, and thinking. As the world has become less organic and more dependent on techno-fixes for problems created by earlier techno-fixes, humans have substituted a new worldview for one once filled with clean rushing waters, coyotes, constellations of stars, tales of nature.
The principle claim is that all technologies are political, and should be questioned before we adopt them— in particular striving for the dismantling of nuclear technologies, television and computers which cause disease and death in their manufacture and use, enhance centralized political power, and remove people from direct experience of life. Let’s assume they gave up the fight on that one. Nicholas Carr's The Glass Cage argues that automation breeds torpidity of knowledge. The more jobs are automated, the more out-of-touch the people involved in the process become, for example, pilots who supervise the automated take-off and landing of planes, factory supervisors, etc. Carr quotes the technology historian George Dyson, who asks—"What if the cost of machines that think is people who don't?"
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In Post-Colonial Studies
This is a broad introduction to discussions of Post Colonial Studies.
The term “Third World” originated in 1955 at an international economics conference, where it was noted that African and Asian states didn’t fit neatly into Cold War power dynamics. The term came to represent the inequities of low income and low-consumption patterns. Today, these are not specifically geographic patterns, but can be present in any country, for example, Detroit, every Native American reservation, and post-Katrina New Orleans.
Feminists in the West thought about “Third World” women as a homogenized Other. As women, yes, but not Western, not modern, not liberated, not empowered. This reflects paternalistic “First World” thinking of the conqueror, as all Others are seen as passive, backwards, and powerless, and tend to seem indistinguishable. Little thought was given for decades to how the impact of COLONIALISM might have affected and continues to affect these women and men.
There are ongoing processes of Neo-Colonialism as sites of Third World women’s oppression. Like rape, these oppressions that result from colonialism and neo-colonialism are all about CONSENT.
Some diasporic and transnational issues rooted in colonialism and post colonialism are—
War and militarization
Environmental degradation as lands and resources are plundered by transnational corporations and locals desperate for money.
Hollywood creating desire and alienation
Loss of cultural values and language
Sweatshops- a machine-speed life of near slavery
Debt trap- Structural Adjustment Programs
War and militarization causes the destruction of economic systems, infrastructures, the environment, and human lives. War also hinders food production and distribution, disrupts social and family networks, adds to women’s work of caring for injured and sick, and creates tens of millions of refugees, and is hardest on women and children.
Instead of the term Third World, or “underdeveloped” or “developing nations”, the equasion, coined by Post Colonial Studies is “ 1/3” and “ 2/3”. This describes more accurately the Global South. The Global South is where 2/3 of the world lives in poverty. This is a political distinction between the haves and the have not’s, that incorporates an analysis of power and agency. This naming helps to situate the 2/3rds as central to the definition of “A social majority”.
The pain of Immigration—“You suffer to come. Then once you’re here, you suffer more.”
“If my country weren’t poor, I wouldn’t be here.”
These issues all require a deepened analysis, particularly by the 1/3rd population of the world, that is spread throughout our education systems, in order for justice and equality to truly become a reality in our globalized world. Will it happen? It’s up to us.
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