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 August, 2010

Things You Might Have Missed

August 31, 2010 By: Mel Category: Misc

Hello all.  Sorry that I disappeared again last week.  I had every intention of posting while on vacation, but once we busted out that bottle of vodka on the train up there, it was pretty much over.  Who was I kidding?

If you haven’t seen it already, the results of the anarchist survey are in.  No real surprises.  Respondents are overwhelmingly male, white, and fairly privileged.  I think it’s time to dust off that draft post I have about women and anarchism.

This report just cracked me up.  Apparently, some people were arrested for dressing like zombies and wandering around Minneapolis to protest consumerism.  They sued re the arrest and it looks like Minneapolis has to pay them $165,000.  Wonder what they’ll buy with it.

Really liked this Cooperative Manifesto.  Huet makes a strong case for prioritizing cooperative development.

Also really liked this post on anarcho-pluralism.  Indeed, we cannot kill them all.

This article really pissed me off.  It’s bad enough that NGOs are filled with only those privileged enough to have been able to work for free when they started out.  Now people are actually paying thousands of dollars to some service to get a spot.  I have an idea.  How about Buffy or Biff just hand that $9,000 to one of the people those nonprofits are ostensibly around to help?  Grrr.

So here is a question for you.  I know many of you abstain from voting.  But even if you abstain, do you support the right of prisoners to vote?  And if you think everyone should have the right, even if actually exercising the right won’t do much good, how far would you go to support a change in policy?

And finally, I wonder if hitwomen get paid less than their male counterparts?

Wondering About Wage Labor

August 19, 2010 By: Mel Category: Anarchism

I generally stay away from economics, as I’m still doing my 101.  But I’ve been pondering some things and hope you might share your wisdom with me.

If you read my post on How I Became an Anarchist, you know that it was facing the corrupting influence of organizational hierarchies that finally pushed me to anarchism.  Naturally, when I read people who talk about an anarchist future that includes employment, I go a little googly eyed.  I know a lot of anarchists.  And while most of us suck it up and take the paycheck, I can’t think of a person who would do that if they had any other option.

That isn’t to say that anarchists are lazy.  Many are working full time, volunteering, writing, protesting, and spending pretty much every waking hour trying to make the world better.  “Work” is not the problem.  Employment is.  Being an employee means being under the control of someone else.  That’s not my definition.  It comes straight from the IRS.

As someone who works in HR, I have to determine whether or not we can legitimately hire someone as a contractor or if we need them to be an employee.  The question that I must ask when making that determination is, whether or not we will have control over their work.  If we have control, they are an employee.  If we give them a project and let them do it however they want, they might be a contractor.

Contractors work the hours they want, not the hours an employer tells them.  They take however much vacation they want.  They often own the means of production (ie. a carpenter who owns her tools or a programmer who owns her computer).  They are free to contract with other organizations.  They don’t get told how to dress or what they can say on twitter.  They are free.  Employees are not free.

So when someone claims that there will be an anarchist future and it will include employer/employee relationships, I wonder what the hell kind of anarchist would agree to submit to the control of an employer.  And I think back to the central conflict that made me an anarchist in the first place and wonder what kind of anarchy can exist with that kind of power imbalance.  The answer, to my mind, is none.

Sometimes, when reading the arguments of anarcho-capitalists or market anarchists, I get the impression that they are just deluding themselves into thinking that there will always be someone willing to change grandma’s diapers for $7 an hour.  I don’t see any need to argue.  Once all those caregivers become anarchists, they’ll figure out that won’t be the case.  But more often I get the impression that they are really describing a relationship that is a lot more like a contractor.

It would be a gross exaggeration to say that disagreements about labor come down to semantics.  There are central issues of property and currency, for example, which can’t really be separated out from employment.  But I do sometimes think that what a “market anarchist” envisions for his future is more of a contractor/artisan life than that of a captain of industry.

For me, the ideal would be to live in a gift economy.  That said, I am skeptical that we will ever again see a world where most communities operate on that basis.  And even if most of the world lived within gift economy communities, the likelihood of that gift economy extending between communities seems slim.  I don’t think it’s impossible, we have open source and couchsurfing, which you could argue is a gift economy between communities.  Then again, you could also argue that the internet creates new communities of people who gift to one another.  Those communities just aren’t based on geography.

So I guess what I’m wondering is:  Do you market anarchist types envision a world full of artisans trading labor with one another or actual employment relationships?  Do the majority of anarchists, who don’t subscribe to capitalist or market ideologies, envision a world based entirely on a gift economy?  (A New Yorker goes to Hong Kong and has immediate access to what she needs to meet her needs?)  Do you object to any sort of trading of labor for stuff?

Feel free to point me in the direction of further reading on the subject.

Things You Might Have Missed

August 17, 2010 By: Mel Category: Misc

Really important post over at Womanist Musings on the rape of an elderly woman and how we treat rape in general – in society, in the media… Read it.

And then there are the perpetrators.  Or are they victims?

Smoke em if you got em, ladies.  Looks like weed might treat breast cancer.

Speaking of smokes.  I am on the NY State Dept. of Taxation and Finance email list for work.  (Exciting stuff, I know.) I have been noticing quite a few arrests related to trafficking in untaxed cigarettes.  Here’s the last notice I got.  Apparently, these guys might get up to four years in prison.  Prison for cigarettes.  I believe a few people predicted this one.  Also, one of the guys is being deported.  Anyone out there know if these arrests have been picking up?

Oh, and when New York State isn’t deporting immigrants for selling cigarettes, they are talking about going all cowboy on the Seneca so that they can no longer sell tax free cigarettes.  (Treaties?  What treaties?)  The Seneca are not pleased.

In other news of govt peeps gone mad – An out of control city administrator in Kansas has arrested someone for placing a critical sign in their own yard.  And the city administrator actually said, “People and individuals have an absolute right to free speech. But however, when they do it and continue to do it within the realms of what we believe is actual malice for the purpose of holding me accountable to the public, we believe that crosses a line.”  I mean really people.  You can’t expect to hold government accountable.  HT @JamesTulsaALL

I think maybe that sign maker didn’t quite absorb all the lessons of his schooling.  Specifically, he has clearly not learned to be completely indifferent.  That would be lesson number three from this excellent  article on schooling from John Taylor Gatto.  HT Aretae.

Foreign Policy has a good article about the Iranian hikers.

The New York Times did a piece on the free store in Brooklyn.  Very nice.

Reason has a great response to Ross Douthat’s ridiculous op-ed on the Islamic Culture Center brouhaha.  But even better is this daily show clip on the madness.  Friggin hilarious.  Should we allow Catholic churches to be built next to playgrounds?  Too soon?

Who Will Notice?

August 12, 2010 By: Mel Category: Stratification

I met a Palestinian woman who came to the United States for her graduate degree.  She picked the U.S. because she wanted to see imperialism from the inside.  She wanted to understand the richest, most powerful country on earth.  Imagine her surprise when she learned that the kind of economic development programs she worked on in Palestine were needed as much in Appalachia as back home.

I was thinking about that conversation as I read Glenn Greenwald’s piece on What Collapsing Empire Looks Like.

The truth is that a whole lot of people aren’t going to notice the cuts in basic services that Greenwald wrote about.  Cutting public school hours doesn’t make much difference to people who send their kid to private school.  And it doesn’t make much difference to the 18% of U.S. Latinos who won’t graduate high school (26% in California.).

Cutting off street lights won’t be noticed by the people who live in gate-enclosed McMansion communities.  And it won’t be noticed by the 14%  on Indian reservations who don’t have electricity in their homes.  Total lack of public transportation won’t be noticed by people with three luxury cars in the driveway.  And it will barely be noticed by people who live in places like Liberty City or Little Haiti, where residents have been relying on private jitneys for years.

People keep talking about the United State’s decline, but I wonder how much of it is more of an unveiling.

Things You Might Have Missed

August 10, 2010 By: Mel Category: Misc

You have probably heard about the seven year old whose lemonade stand was protected by anarchists and who subsequently raised enough cash to go to Disney.  Somehow I think that little girl will never have a bad view of anarchists.

And on the opposite end of the spectrum, this article explains perfectly the kind of dumbshit and self defeating things that anarchists do.

Speaking of dumb shit.  What on earth were they thinking in Merida, erecting a statue to a murderous conquistador in the middle of the land of the Maya.

This article about the Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement is interesting.  I wonder how far the powers- that-be will be able to go before there’s actually a backlash.  Don’t worry, I’m not holding my breath.

Also interesting is this (old) article on the history of the University of Bologna.  I can only imagine what my school would have been like if the professors actually had to answer to the students.  I went to a “research university” so most of them didn’t even want to teach.  It showed.

This post on Mondoweiss made my skin crawl.  I have had almost this exact conversation with an Israeli before.

I know that news about the Islamic Community Center is everywhere, but I just have to point out two articles – this one about opposition by the Museum of Tolerance (WTF!) and this one about Fareed Zakaria returning his award from ADL.  Zakaria shouldn’t have accepted an award from those people to begin with, but that is a major slap.  Not many mainstream media people would have done it.  So one for Zakaria.

A Latina in Florida was arrested, presumably because people at a water park were able to see her bra through an accidentally wet t-shirt.  Racism?  Sexism?  Religious BS?  I’m going with a trifecta.

Twenty-one sex workers might not have been murdered if anyone actually saw them as human beings.  Protect and serve?  Not so much.

Greta Christina breaks down the recent Girls Gone Wild Controversy and talks about how to deal with problems in the porn industry.

And I really, really wish this Alternet article about the strippers protesting outside a church had come with pictures.  I don’t even need to see the protestors, just some close up shots of the looks on those churchgoers faces would be fine.

Where are the Men Do-Gooders?

August 05, 2010 By: Mel Category: Seeking

I signed up to be a literacy tutor with an organization here in DC.  The program requires a half day training class.  Looking around at the other trainees, I noticed a huge gender imbalance.  Sure enough, the trainer soon confirmed that, while 55% of the learners are male, only 22% of the tutors are.

There are similar discrepancies in my day job.  Ever since I switched from for-profit to non-profit work, I have been surrounded by mostly women.  (Of course, there has almost always been an old white guy running the place, but that’s a subject for another post.)  This isn’t just a fluke of my experience.  Seventy percent of nonprofit workers are women.

Then last week I read this article about volunteer vacations.  Apparently, about 70% of volunteer vacationers are women too.  So I did a little snooping on volunteer rates overall.  Nationwide, about 10 million more women than men volunteer.  And they put in 4.6 billion hours to men’s 3.5.

An even bigger discrepancy is in what kinds of volunteer work men and women do.  While 20% of our volunteer time goes to tutoring and teaching, teaching doesn’t even show up in the top volunteer categories for men.  Instead, almost 19% of men volunteers are volunteering in the “professional/management” category, a category that doesn’t break the top spots for women.

Workforce participation can’t completely explain it.  While it is true that men have a higher workforce participation rate,  most of that difference is with women who are married or separated and most likely have children and all the work that goes with them.  And studies show that women who both work and have kids do more housework and get less sleep while their men get more free time.  Besides, none of that would explain the massive discrepancies in the nonprofit field or certain types of volunteer work.

This is particularly interesting to me because I have found my life has become oddly gendered.  In my day job and my volunteer work, I am surrounded by women.  But in my interactions with other anarchists and atheists, I am surrounded by men.  That is particularly true whenever something involves theoretical masturbation or high profile, confrontational actions.

So what gives men?  If you’re a man, do you volunteer?  Doing what?  Any theories on why men are so much less likely to do unglorified, unpaid/low-paid, but imminently necessary tasks in life?  (Note:  I am highly prejudiced toward nurture over nature, so if you try to make a nature claim, back it up with some studies please.)

Things You Might Have Missed

August 03, 2010 By: Mel Category: Misc

Hello people.  Did you miss me?  I missed you.  I think I have finally gotten things under control now.  I’m going to have to cut my posts to two a week, instead of three, in order to make time for my literacy tutoring.  But I should be able to get back on a regular schedule.  So here’s what I’ve been reading the last few weeks.

First and foremost, this article on anarchist tactics should be required reading prior to being issued your face bandana and molotov cocktail kit.

Also required should be viewing this new documentary on the freedom riders.  There is so much to process about tactics and how movements get co-opted.  It will be playing on t.v. for the 50th anniversary in 2011.

One of the issues front and center in that movie is police misconduct – brutality, prejudice, negligence, and collusion.  It always kills me when people want to use my safety as an excuse for more policing.  Even if the police aren’t out raping women themselves, they certainly aren’t doing anything to protect women.

While women in the U.S. may not have realized that yet, these women in India most definitely have.  I’m not so keen on the extrajudicial murder, but otherwise they are heroic.

And speaking of judicial.  Foreign Affairs has an excellent article on human rights law enforcement.  I have a lot of problems with the justice system as it is, but I agree that having access to justice is a requirement for any kind of peaceful society.  Thoughts?

Here is an interesting take on the conundrum us anti-statists face when it comes to certain types of government spending.

Several good articles having to do with sex work; specifically on false arrests, the belief that a sex worker deserves whatever shit treatment she gets, and the idea that sex work is always more degrading than a straight job.

If you want to talk about degrading jobs, how about the eight lowest paid jobs in the country.  What does it say about our priorities that the person who will take care of you when you are dying won’t even make $10/hour?

Oh and here’s a good one.  Those “union” protesters you see picketing?  They don’t actually work for that company.  In fact, they are probably the non-union labor that the union workers hired to picket for them.  I kid you not.

Kids, not usually the subject of my posts, unless I’m bitching about their rights being violated by the prison/school system.  But I’m feeling a little inspired this week.  Kids in Toronto are protesting a cop being assigned to their school.  This eleven year old is making me feel truly inadequate.  And Renee is clearly bringing up some kick ass sons, “vagina power!”

A less happy kid story is this one about international adoption, particularly in Guatemala.  Pretty fucked up.

Also fucked up is the media coverage on Haiti, as MediaHacker so perfectly points out.

Amnesty International has picked up the case of the hikers who have been in jail, without charges, in Iran for the last year.  Good news, I think.  Hopefully, the attention will get something going.

City Paper had a pretty nice write up of Positive Force.

I think that’s about enough for now.  Next post on Thursday.  I hope to do Tuesday and Thursday posts from now on.