Thoughts on politics, religion, violence, inequality, social control, change, and random other things from an autonomous, analytical, adopted, abolitionist, anarchist who likes the letter A

Archive for June, 2010

Things You Might Have Missed

June 30, 2010 By: Mel Category: Misc

This article kinda freaked me out.  I’m going to have to step up my training a la Sarah Connor. (HT @PunkJohnnyCash)

Very cool video on Spontaneous Order.  (HT @JamesTulsaALL)

So here is a question for you.  Can you have multiculturalism – respect for other cultures – without succumbing to moral relativism at every level?  This op-ed in the New York Times is a good example of why multiculturalism and moral relativity seem to go hand in hand.  But must they?  The commenters on this post over at The Freethinker seem to think so.   I think not.

Here’s another example of the kind of shit that our communities better start learning how to handle.  I mean if we can’t manage a bunch of ass hats on a football field, what can we manage?

We might take notes from this woman, who clearly knows a thing or two about resolving problems.

Many of you are anarchists and aren’t inclined to celebrate the election of anyone to public office.  But you gotta love the new mayor of Reykjavik.

I am also loving Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon who wrote this kick ass article on the absurdity of women who think they should be chaste to catch a husband.

You may have read my post defending graffiti.  This article touches on some issues that I missed.  And I must admit that I haven’t quite broken free from the idea that only paid work is “real” work.  The bfriend refers to my writing as my “work” now.  But I still don’t even call myself a writer.  I just say I write.  I have no idea what magical thing needs to happen for me to cross that barrier.

And finally, are we the nasty, brutish descendants of chimps?  Or the cooperative, peaceful descendants of bonobos?

Things You Might Have Missed

June 23, 2010 By: Mel Category: Misc

I don’t know how I never heard about  I love that.

Also loving that India plans to seek extradition of the former chairman of Union Carbide for the Bhopal disaster.  What amazing things could happen if states no longer gave protection to businesses.

This article Against School that has been making the rounds is just excellent.

Also excellent is this imminently readable piece over at Chop-tensils on the tyranny of the majority.

Are people finally getting fed up.  Only 21% of us think that the government has the consent of the governed.  People are beginning to take things into their own hands.  I wouldn’t be surprised if people really did head down to the gulf to storm BP.

And finally, I had been seriously considering moving to Brazil.  But WTF.

Growing up Jewish – Kosher Edition

June 21, 2010 By: Mel Category: Religion

I’ve shared with you all the tortures of Sabbath and Passover.  But I have not yet shared with you the biggest torture of all.

My mother keeps kosher.

Being kosher means no shellfish and no pork.  Shellfish and pork are, as you may have heard, an abomination! The food that you can eat is classified into three different categories – meat, dairy, and parve.   Parve is neither meat nor dairy and can be eaten with anything (think fruits, veggies, grains…).  If you pull out a random food from your cabinet, you might notice a U with a circle around it.  Sometimes it will also say “parve.”  Now you know.  (OMG, they control the food system too!)

It is very important to know what is meat and what is dairy.  Because mixing of meat and dairy is absolutely verboten.  You can eat the meat from the cow.  And you can drink the milk from the cow.  But you cannot do both at the same time.  I believe it was the consumption of a bacon cheeseburger that actually set off the chain of events leading to the holocaust.  So this is some serious shit.

You might think figuring out meat, dairy, and parve would be easy.  But they like to throw in a few tricks.    For example, chicken is meat, but eggs are parve.  I don’t know why the chicken is meat, but the egg that comes out of its ass is not.  Maybe it’s a riddle or a Jewish version of the zen koan.

If you want to have some ice cream for dessert after chicken dinner at my mother’s house, you have to wait some number of hours which I am convinced my mother makes up each time.  Last time I was at her house, it was two hours.  Perhaps she makes some sort of calculation based on presumed metabolic rate?  Maybe if I was on speed she would have only made me wait 30 minutes?  I’ll check next time I visit.

It requires about 9,000 sets of dishes to keep a proper kosher home – dairy dishes, meat dishes, parve dishes, passover dishes, passover meat dishes, fine china…  And you have to have separate sets of cutlery and pots.  There are also separate sponges, cause you can’t wash a dairy dish with a meat sponge.  And clearly you can’t clean the counter with either the meat or the dairy sponge.  The dishwasher was reserved for the meat dishes.

My mother stopped short of separate refrigerators for meat and dairy.  But a lot of Jews who keep kosher have two refrigerators.  If you used the wrong sponge or utensil, my mother would throw out the contaminated object and buy a new one.  (We must be very popular in the kitchen sections at department stores.)  She would also throw a major fit.

My father really loved a good bacon cheeseburger and was not prepared to give it up (despite said food’s rumored role in the holocaust).  So the deal was that we kept kosher in the house, but were allowed to eat whatever we wanted out of the house.  Sometimes, we even ordered in pepperoni pizza.  But we ate it on paper plates and then banished the evidence to the outside garbage bin immediately.  It’s a miracle god didn’t strike us down on pizza nights.  He must have thought those were the neighbor’s pizza boxes.



Things You Might Have Missed

June 16, 2010 By: Mel Category: Misc

I don’t often get to say nice things about my home state of Florida.  Usually it is only in the news when somebody is stealing an election or trying to ban transpeople from bathrooms.  So I would just like to give props to my fellow Floridians who have decided to take matters into their own hands regarding the oil spill.

Remember the 1980s?  High bangs!  Leggings! Covert operations in Latin America!  Well, the eighties are back, baby.  O.k., they never really went away.

And as long as we are on the topic of violence in Latin America.  Let’s remember that Colombia is still the most violent country in the region.  By a strange coincidence, they are also one of the largest recipients of U.S. military aid.  Huh.  Fancy that.

Does anyone else get the feeling that the government of Mexico just gave the prisoners guns and told them to go to town?

Did you think it was only liberals and neocons in the U.S. that used humanitarian relief and social programs as justification for taking over land for corporations?  Oh no, my friend.  It is in India too.  This article in the Hindustan Times is just rich.

I don’t follow European politics too closely.  But this article about the recent elections in Belgium has such a catchy title.  And I love the irony that the seat of the EU might not even be able to keep the country together.

I haven’t looked into the details of this yet.  But I am intrigued that the Choctaw Nation and the Chickasaw Nation are offering to pay a debt on behalf of the state of Oklahoma.  The state owes the federal government a wad of cash over construction of a lake.

Learning to Listen

June 14, 2010 By: Mel Category: Seeking

To all my anarchist, libertarian, or other other friends who sincerely want to convince other people to change their way of viewing things.

Sometimes, we really need to just shut up and listen.

We spend way too much time making elaborate philosophical arguments, talking about theory, interpreting hundred year old texts, or writing treatises on whether or not Somalia is anarchy. Most people do not have the luxury or inclination to spend their time on that.  And the more time we spend on that, the more out of touch and absurd we will seem.

Now, if you are someone who wants merely to feel intellectually superior, maybe you don’t care.  But those of us who would actually like to see real change need to care.  We need to understand other people’s  experiences, how they interpret those experiences, what values they hold, what symbolism is meaningful for them, why they believe what they do.

In order to do that, we need to shut up and listen to them.  And I don’t mean that half listening thing where we just wait for an opening to argue.  And I definitely don’t mean waiting until you can pull some dead philosopher’s words out your ass to intimidate them.  I mean just listen until you understand. Value people’s experiences.  Respect them.

Now I will shut up.

Things You Might Have Missed

June 09, 2010 By: Mel Category: Misc

I really wish I wrote this article on marriage.

Here is an inside look at boot camp.  Seem to be quite a few people out there who became anarchists because of their military experience.  Perhaps we should station ourselves outside forts and hand out copies of anarchist texts?

Just kidding.  Pretty sure we’d end up in jail.  And then probably working a call center for a few cents an hour.

And if that jail is in Minnesota, we might have a cell mate in for not paying their credit card bill.

Great article in Gizmodo about how scared police are of cameras, and how much shit people are getting in for recording cops.

If you are a Kiva fan, you should read this post by db0.

One of the most disturbing articles this week, and there were a lot of disturbing articles, was this one about WWII bombs still going off in Germany.

Mediahacker has a post up with video on the Haitian anti-Monsanto protests.

And finally, the story that really made me want to punch a wall this week, a girl was made to confess her sin of being raped and then whisked away by her church so that no prosecution of her rapist could take place.

Anarchy, Disability, Purity, and Doubt

June 07, 2010 By: Mel Category: Anarchism, Core, Stratification

I’ve been thinking about the Americans with Disabilities Act and about a conversation I recently had about social security.  You would think that, as an anarchist who wants a stateless society, I would be against both.  That would be the ideologically pure position, no?  To be honest, I’ve had a bit of cognitive dissonance on this issue.

The need for the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and for social security is real.  My aunt grew up with cerebral palsy (CP) in a time when people hid their relatives with disabilities.  She lives in a private home.  The home was started by a woman whose child had CP.  She started the home knowing that, when she died, there would be nobody to take care of her kid.  This valiant effort by one individual has provided a home for many people.  But it would not survive if the people living there, many whose parents are no longer alive and who have no children, did not receive social security.

The kids I helped at Camp Challenge were sometimes trapped in their houses most of the year.  The profit driven market has no interest in starting an accessible transportation company for one kid in rural Tennessee.  There is no profit in that.  The market does see profit in at-home care, but only for those people who have an extra $2,000 a week to pay for it.  And eventually those kids’ parents will be gone and they will need a place to go and a means of support that they can count on.

Saying the market will take care of them, in our present circumstances, is absurd.  It is true that there is coercion involved when people have money taken against their will and redistributed to others.  But it is also true that we live in, and help to create, a society where differently abled people have virtually no freedom at all – that the freedom to not help them can be directly in contradiction to their freedom to leave their house, get around, have a job, communicate with people…Doesn’t their freedom count?

I pointed out in my previous post how Rachel Maddow gave the government credit for integrating Woolworths, rather than giving credit to the everyday people that actually did it.  And that is true.  But it is also true that my aunt could not march over to Woolworths and insist that they lower the counter to accommodate her.  She needs someone to dress her and feed her.   She needs a wheelchair.  She needs ramps to get out of her building and into Woolworths.  She needs people who have the patience to listen to her as she struggles to get out the words.  She needs people who can see past her chair and drool and speech impediment and who will listen to the brilliance of her thoughts.

We all need to take responsibility for ourselves and the people around us.  But we also need to acknowledge that some of us face obstacles to taking responsibility that others don’t.

So I see a need, in our present circumstances, for the the ADA and for social security.  But I also see how these things are part of the problem. It isn’t just about some idea of freedom or the free market.  It isn’t just about some principle against coercion.  The home that my aunt lives in is run by grossly underpaid, African American women.  Having an anonymous government bureaucracy deal with the details makes it so much easier to keep those women (and the people they take care of) out of site and out of mind.  I can just file that tax return and never have to think about the whole lousy system – until I end up in it, of course.

The worst part about supporting government programs is knowing that I am helping to feed the machine that causes so much destruction.  The machine that is supporting my aunt is murdering people in Afghanistan and incarcerating millions of people who have done nothing wrong.  That machine uses a few token programs to bolster its legitimacy so that it can continue to exploit and oppress at will.  Every small bit of good it does comes at someone else’s expense.

So where does that leave me?  It leaves me with a moral dilemma.

My instinct is to try and resolve that dilemma with some neat philosophical jujitsu.  But every practical bone in my body fights against it.  And, if I’m being honest here, every selfish bone in my body fights against it too.  If I were going to be ideologically consistent, I wouldn’t rely on the state at all, right? I would tell my mother and aunt to stop collecting social security.  I would give up my job and my life.  And I would try to find some way of supporting them and taking care of them myself.  (No idea how I would have a job and provide 24 hour care for my Aunt.)  But should I really be expected to give up any freedom I have?

The truth is that sometimes there are no good choices.  And I am going to have to live with some moral ambiguity.  That bothers me.  But not so much as it bothers me when people pretend that everything can be wrapped up in a nice package and that these issues don’t pose any moral dilemmas.

Our world was designed by and for a very limited number of people during a very limited portion of their lives.  An anarchist world would be a very different place.  A world designed by all people – all ages, all abilities, all backgrounds, where everyone has a seat at the table, where all can express their own needs and desires – would not have these contradictions.  But we don’t live in that world.

I know that the system can never be the solution to a problem it helped to create.  But I also know that I cannot snap my fingers and have magically appear an all voluntary non-coercive method of dealing with the problems of real people.  In the time between now and then, real people have real needs that need to be met.  Too often, we anarchists get so caught up in philosophical discussions that we forget that.

It is, I believe, a real weakness to pretend these moral dilemmas don’t exist.  It delegitimizes our arguments in the eyes of people who experience the obstacles we too often ignore.  And it constrains our strategies in trying to imagine a new world and how we might get there.

In short, what I am trying to say is that I think we should embrace the doubts, ambiguities, and moral dilemmas that are inevitable with the world as it is being so far off from the world as it should be.  Rather than having litmus tests for authenticity or trying to pretend that we are all ideologically consistent, we should admit that it is impossible and give each other room to breathe.  By allowing for the ambiguity, I suspect we will find ourselves better able to reach out to people who find our beliefs somewhat alien.  And I suspect that we might find ourselves better able to come up with creative strategies for getting from here to there.

Vilifying Palestinians, Erasing Movements

June 04, 2010 By: Mel Category: Conflict, Criminalization

There is no justification for the actions that the Israeli government took this week.  There is no justification for the blockade on Gaza.  There is no defense for allowing settlers to invade Palestinian land, eating it up piece by piece.  The apartheid in Israel/Palestine is immoral, unjust, inhumane, and repugnant.  Everybody knows it.  Even Israel’s defenders know it.

The typical response from defenders of Israel, when faced with Israel’s actions, is something like this one that I read on Facebook this week

And we all know what martyrdom means to Muslims – it is an honor they often seek.

Muslims, you see, are particularly irrational.  (The fact that not all Palestinians are Muslim doesn’t seem to matter in the slightest.)  That’s why, when butted up against a moral wall, an Israeli I spoke to defended his country by saying “Palestinian women strap their kids with bombs.”  What that Israeli meant was – Yes, our actions are crazy, but it’s because we are dealing with crazy people.

Even people who recognize the immorality of Israel’s actions still vilify Palestinians by erasing their actions and ignoring their movements.  Take this video from the Young Turks. (Thanks to Mariana E. for posting it.)

Once again, someone is lecturing Palestinians about nonviolence.  Once again, someone is telling Palestinians that they should learn from Gandhi and Martin Luther King.  Which is infuriating.  Because there has always been nonviolent, Palestinian resistance.

the reality is that Palestinians have consistently chosen nonviolent resistance before arms – from the general strikes of 1936, to the consistent appeals to international legal bodies, to the weekly demonstrations against the wall. It has been the continued dispossession at the hands of Israel, and the silence of the international community despite these nonviolent efforts, that has led some Palestinians to view violence as the only option.

As Yousef Munayyer describes in the article quoted above, if there is a Palestinian Gandhi, he or she is most likely languishing in an Israeli jail.  Just because the New York Times doesn’t report on the nonviolent movements or pretends as though they are new does not make it so.  Like most U.S. media, they prefer not to contradict the image of Palestinians as irrational, inhuman, crazies.

So below I am linking to videos, articles, and websites that show a different picture of the Palestinian people than you get on the U.S. mainstream news.   Next time someone gives you the “they’re all crazy and violent” response, feel free to provide them a link.

You can read about past and present Palestinian nonviolent movements in Tikkun, Peace Magazine and especially this article in The Holy Land Trust.

Here is the trailer to a new film about the protests in Budrus. (Note: I haven’t seen it yet.”

Democracy Now often does interviews with Israeli and Palestinian activists, including this one of three women who toured the U.S. together and this one with two members of Combatants for Peace.

You can find links to Palestinian peace and human rights organizations here and here.

And if you want to get news on Israel/Palestine, forget the New York Times.  Read Electronic Intifada or Mondoweiss.

Even the Daily Show interviewed Anna Baltzer and Mustafa Barghouti about nonviolent movements.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Exclusive – Anna Baltzer & Mustafa Barghouti Extended Interview Pt. 1
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Tea Party

Things You Might Have Missed

June 02, 2010 By: Mel Category: Misc

Issue number 5 of the ALLiance journal is out.  This issue focuses on radical labor, especially the IWW.  Some good stuff in there (and I’m not just saying that because they included one of my articles).

I wanted to stand up and cheer when I read this article about misogyny in radical movements.  If you ever wonder why orgs can’t keep people around, especially women, read it.

I’ve been interested in indigenous political systems since long before I figured out I was an anarchist.  This study of the Rotinonshón:ni (Iroquois) is fascinating.  Thanks Flint.

In case you missed it with all the Israel news, Central America is getting pummeled.  At least 86 people died in floods and landslides from all the rains.

If you want to understand how privilege is reproduced and passed on without the the privileged having the slightest clue of the significance of what they do, read this post on native appropriations.

Those of you who live in the DC area and are involved in the anti-authoritarian and/or punk community will know Mark Anderson.  People’s District did a nice profile.

And finally, there are three U.S. hikers who inadvertently crossed over into Iran and are stuck in an Iranian prison.  Some people have gotten the wrong impression about them.  This article in outside magazine does a good job of covering it.  This could happen to any of us travelers who like to go off the tourist routes.  Be great if you all could help keep this in the spotlight.