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 October, 2011

I Believe You

October 27, 2011 By: Mel Category: Stratification

Image of black women hearing harassmentA recent post over on Womanist Musings reminded me of something I have been meaning to write about. The post is essentially about how white, radical feminists are blind to other womens’ realities. They declare the world to be one way, based on their experiences, and expect all people to act accordingly.

It is infuriating when people erase or deny your life experience and feelings.

The most frustrating thing about my mother is that she will never concede to having done anything wrong – ever. She has her version of events and that is all there is. My sister and I could stand in front of her with video and forty two eyewitnesses – including Honest Abe, Gandhi, and Moses – and she still would not veer from her version of events.

My mother and I have a tenuous relationship based on occasional emails and a visit every four or five years. My sister hasn’t spoken to her since 1999. It is impossible to have a good relationship with someone who denies your reality. It is impossible to work with someone who remains willfully ignorant in order to protect themselves from the fact that they are not perfect.

We all see the world through the lens of our own experience. But that doesn’t mean that we dismiss all other experiences. When somebody tells you that they experience the world differently, your response should not be, “That is not how I experience the world and therefore you are wrong.”  Your response should be, “I believe you. Now how is it that we can experience life so differently?”

There is a growing campaign out there against street harassment. And I must confess to you that I have been snarky and dismissive of it at times. The only people I feel harassed by on the street are those adolescent activists hired by Greenpeace and HRC. (No I am not going to stop and listen to your spiel or give you money, especially not you HRC.)

When I saw this video of Emily May, Executive Director of Hollaback!, I was just annoyed. To me it sounded like she wants the whole world to be like the little town she grew up in. When she talked about wanting everyone to be able to say hi to each other without feeling threatened, I thought she was describing some provincial, waspy universe of horror.

Still, I kept reading things and talking to my friends about it. It soon became clear to me that other people are experiencing street harassment much differently than I am. It isn’t just our interpretations. It isn’t their imaginations. They are getting harassed more and more threateningly.

A while back, there was an article in the Washingtonian. It was one of those feel good stories about a downtrodden boy trying to make good.  When he was on the streets, the boy

learned the rules of street life:  Never put your hands on a white woman.  Never hit a young girl.  Never shoot a kid.  Never steal from your own family.

If he did all that, he was told, he’d stay alive.

I don’t think those instructions were about moral judgment.  They were more a judgment on what crimes people would pay attention to and which ones wouldn’t be pursued. Some women are targets in ways that some of us are not.

Native American women are twice as likely to get raped. Hundreds of First Nations women have gone missing with hardly any effort to find out what happened. Even after a decade of tireless activists bringing the Juarez femicides into the international spotlight, the murders of those women are still not being properly investigated.  But you can bet your ass that if some young, middle class, blond girl goes missing her face will be a fixture on the 24 hour news cycle.

There’s a hierarchy out there, and the further down it you are, the more danger you are in. To quote criminologist Steven Egger,

The greatest similarity I found among all serial killers, not just the killers of prostitutes, is the vulnerability of the victim. In almost all cases, we’re talking about a victim who is available, who is from a powerless group of society and who tends not to have a lot of prestige.

So is it really a big surprise that I don’t experience the streets the same as other people? Of course, I don’t. Race, class, and age all factor in with how free people feel to interact with me or to try and intimidate me. There is a power relationship there. Few are going to harass someone who they perceive to have power over them in some way – whether that is the physical power to kick their ass or the power of being the kind of victim that cops are likely to pay attention to.

So, women, I believe you. I believe that street harassment is reducing your quality of life, that the constant reminder of those power relations grinds down on you, that it is important to you to make it stop. And I support you.

I don’t understand your experiences exactly. I’m unlikely to make this an issue that I devote a lot of my time and energies to. And I definitely cannot support criminalizing the behavior and adding to the hideous issues we have with the prison industrial complex. But you will get no more snarkiness and eye rolling from me. And I’ll be keeping my eye out for you on the streets.

You would be amazed how different the world can look if you are just willing to believe people. And if you can’t even be bothered to do that, then you have a lot of nerve expecting people to have anything to do with you.

P.S. The image above comes from this post about Street Harassment of Black Women

Mummies are Cool

October 26, 2011 By: Mel Category: Photos

Picture of a Mummified Woman

I've decided to post more often, though not always the booklet-sized essays I usually post. Tell me if you start to get annoyed. This lovely lady can be found at the mummy museum in Guanajuato, Mexico. The museum is grotesque. It is also lit up like a club and so gave me the sense of being in a macabre rave. I liked watching all the kids run around trying to scare each other. Seemed an appropriate pre-Halloween pic. You all dressing up? As your favorite 19th century anarchist?

Things You Might Have Missed

October 25, 2011 By: Mel Category: Misc

Cat looks at a leaf and thinks "interesting"As of the 19th, the bfriend and I have been together 15 years. We celebrated by both catching the plague, staying home for four days, and hacking up our lungs.


It did give me lots of time to catch up on blog reading though. So here we go.

How is it that I am supposed to support a public school system that lies to students, telling them an intruder is in their building, in order to violate their rights with a drug search? The same school system that suspends black kids for the smallest infractions (ie. not kissing the ass of your prejudiced teacher). Course, if you have a child who objects to spending their days in authoritarian hell, the cops will put you in jail.

You know what schools I do not object to? Community Colleges. I went to Miami Dade Community College and the classes there were as good, sometimes better, than the ones at UC Santa Cruz. Plus it was affordable and it wasn’t filled with spoiled brats. Why don’t community colleges get any love?

Have I mentioned lately how much I love Holly at the Pervocracy. Her response to being accused of being sex positive is here.

Interesting discussion on The Agitator about whether or not we should end limited liability.

Really interesting post about how the suffrage and abolition movements broke apart.

Some woman actually went to jail for throwing cupcakes at her husband. Cupcakes.

As you all know, I went to Slutwalk. And you know why. I’ve been really disappointed by some of the organizers and a lot of the participants. Rene calls out some of the bullshit that has been going on here.

I don’t know why I was so amused by this video of an IMF official getting eggs thrown at him. I just was. Good reflexes.

And as long as we are talking about the IMF. Looks like a French police chief organized orgies for DSK. I sincerely hope those women got a lot of money for going near that nasty old fuck. Not sure how to feel about the police chief. Clearly, inappropriate behavior. But still better than bringing drug sniffing dogs into schools or jailing women for throwing cupcakes.

Here is a cool video about Mexican anarchists.

And finally, I will leave you with some of the more interesting #occupy posts:

That should keep you busy for a while. If you don’t have time, I could go over and cough on you. Guaranteed 3 or 4 days at home.

Things You Might Have Missed

October 18, 2011 By: Mel Category: Misc

I haven’t been able to do much more than walk by OccupyDC. Anyone been to one of the teach-ins?

Have you seen the Crooks and Liars piece about NYPD being hired out by Wall Street firms to the tune of $11.8 million?

The prison hunger strike has been called off because of retaliation. I have to say that I am really disappointed that the occupy people didn’t turn their attention to that issue more. We had zero events about it in DC.

In other police and prison news – One of the cops who got caught on video planting drugs in a New Jersey club is now testifying about about how setting up people for drug arrests to meet quotas was a common occurrence.  Tell us something we didn’t know.

Inmates could now be working in Georgia fire stations. Now they are turning firefighters into prison guards too.  Great.

And finally, I would just like to remind you all that I called the basketball co-op before Stoudemire. Also, WTF is up with the comments on this post.

Thinking Horizontally

October 13, 2011 By: Mel Category: Core, Seeking

We are so programmed to think hierarchically that, when faced with some kind of conflict, most people automatically look to create a higher authority.

The legal system is the perfect example. You have a problem, you go to the higher authority of the court. If that doesn’t work out, you appeal to a higher court. And then, when those few asshats on the supreme court make a final decision, it’s all over. Done. Problem resolved. Except, of course, that it isn’t.

When the top of the food chain makes an awful decision, the response from people is that we need to create an even higher authority to keep them in check. But that higher authority will only abuse its power as well. A United Nations with real teeth, or a functioning worldwide criminal court whose authority outstrips the supreme courts, will not resolve the problems. They will only create new ones. Then people will start clamoring for a yet higher authority to keep them in check.

And around and around we go.

That doesn’t mean that we shrug our shoulders and give up on resoving conflict. It means that we have to think horizontally instead of vertically. If I have a conflict within my community that cannot be resolved, why can’t I take it to another third party to mediate? And when they have a conflict they cannot resolve, they can do the same. Conflict resolution does not have to come from someone who cannot be challenged.

The fact is that many conflicts cannot be resolved. They can only be managed. There is no possibility that we could ever devise a system of rules, regulations, and boundaries that would ensure nobody will ever fight over land, water, or other resources. In fact, making those structures rigid usually makes matters worse.  People move.  Things change. What might have seemed like a perfectly rational way to manage something 100 years ago, makes no sense now.

Part of dealing with the problems we face is getting out of the hierarchical mindset. Instead of asking how you can create a higher authority to overrule those whose actions you do not like, ask yourself how you can create systems for problem solving and accountability between people and groups of equal power.

Thinking vertically has gotten us into this mess. It is thinking horizontally that will help get us out of it.

Things You Might Have Missed

October 11, 2011 By: Mel Category: Misc

Lots of interesting pieces floating around on the occupy movement.  There is a post by Darien on the Occupations Alienating People and this piece on Rebel Diaz. I’m interested to see how #occupythehood develops. Any of you able to get out this weekend?

I was not able to get out. One of the things that kept me away was my Positive Force meeting. PF is an anti-authoritarian punk rock collective that’s been active in DC for 25 years. Robin Bell is making a film about PF and is raising money on kickstarter to get the thing done.  If you all are so inclined, feel free to drop a few bucks in the pot.

I thought this Six Questions for Leftists post brought up some interesting issues.

Check out Keith’s post on Alliance about where we are at and how co-ops are the way forward.

If you have never seen the doll test, check it out. Watch the whole film if you can. It is heartbreaking.

Then you can read this post on What Tami Said about liberal racism.

And for your amusement, I laughed my ass off at this Daily Show clip.




Occupation to Conversation

October 06, 2011 By: Mel Category: Change

When I first heard about Occupy Wall Street, I thought it had real potential. Wall Street is a target that a lot of people could get behind. I could see people rallying around a campaign against that Giant Vampire Squid, Goldman Sachs.

Of course “one demand” didn’t really materialize. Instead the occupation of Wall Street has spawned dozens of demands. And many of those demands have a distinctly, conventionally liberal bent to them. I was disappointed. Without a short-term, winnable goal that crossed the usual political divides, I couldn’t see the occupation going anywhere. Once you bring in a standard list of lefty demands, you alienate a whole lot of that 99%.

Regardless of my disappointment that one clear goal did not materialize, I’ve been happy to see the Occupy movement grow. But I have still been unable to get myself really exited by the whole thing. I just couldn’t see where it was going.

But after reading Holly’s post on Pervocracy and Manissa McCleave Maharawal’s post on Racialicious, I am beginning to see the potential again. If I see it as a conversation, rather than a campaign, then it begins to look a lot more promising.

So today I went down to McPherson to check out Occupy DC. I was expecting a sparse crowd of mostly scruffy, white kids and I wasn’t suprised. I don’t want to make any harsh judgement about that.  I’m sure some people were down at Liberty Plaza supporting the October 2011 folks. But I kept wondering what the homeless dudes who occupy McPherson park every day of their lives think about the kids who started camping out there.

After McPherson I went down to Liberty Plaza and, as I feared, found the usual suspects. I don’t want that to sound disdainful. I know and like a lot of those usual suspects. But the crowd did not represent my community, not even a little. And I am not the only one feeling like that.

I have written many times before that the first step is to start having conversations across all our divides. If the occupy movement is turning into a public conversation, that is great. That is exactly what we need. But we don’t just need to be “inclusive,” we need to center the most marginalized people or we will get nowhere. We need to have those conversations with the people who won’t be likely to show up at an Occupy event.

So how are we going to do that?



Things You Might Have Missed

October 04, 2011 By: Mel Category: Misc


Sorry I abandoned you all for the last couple months. Work was out of control and I just had to let everything else go or I would have had a breakdown. But it is all good now and things should be getting back to normal.

How are you all feeling about Occupy Wallstreet et al.?  I’m happy that it seems to be catching on, but the skeptic in me wonders how to keep the momentum going without any short term, winnable goals. I wouldn’t be quite as harsh as Furry Girl or as dismissive as Charles Blow, but they make some valid points. What say you?

I hope the other big protest going on right now isn’t getting lost in the OW news. Prisoners are back on their hunger strike and a lot of them are being retaliated against. I’d really like to see some local actions on that. Anyone in the DC area down? I was thinking maybe a screening of SLAM. Then we could get out some of the spoken word people too.

I know none of you missed the Troy Davis execution. Fuck. But perhaps you did not catch that military courts are even worse than civilian ones when it comes to racial disparities in death penalty sentences.

And speaking of military, did you hear about all the fabulous new drone bases that we are building all over the world? Just what we need.

I like to support my local sex workers just as much as the next person, but using HIV-AIDS funds for a strip club? Seriously? WTF is wrong with people?

As if I needed another reason to take ecstasy, it looks like it may be the cure for cancer.

Just don’t get caught with any in Vietnam.

You surely saw the piece about the Amish men jailed for not putting orange triangles on their buggies. But I have to share it anyway, because it is 1. ridiculous and 2. accompanied by fabulous mugshots.

Oh and Happy Co-op Month!