BroadSnark

Thoughts on politics, religion, violence, inequality, social control, change, and random other things from an autonomous, analytical, adopted, anarchist, atheist who likes the letter A
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Drug War History – And So It Begins

September 17, 2012 By: Mel Category: Drugs

Reefer MadnessWhile I was pulling up articles for my last post, I re-read the infamous New York Times piece Negro Cocaine “Fiends” Are a New Southern Menace. The article is a very convoluted argument against prohibition. And it is made by trying to scare the crap out of  ignorant people.

The doctor who wrote the article claimed that cocaine “may produce the wildest form of insane exaltation, accompanied by the fantastic hallucinations and delusions that characterize acute mania.” (They didn’t have very strict standards for doctors back then did they?)

Also, when on cocaine, a person “imagines that he hears people taunting or abusing him, and this often incites homicidal attacks upon innocent and unsuspecting victims.” (Given that this is 1914 in the South, I’m guessing those black men were not imagining the taunts and abuses.)

Did I mention that cocaine makes you impervious to bullets? No really. That’s what the good doctor said. Do a few bumps and your skin turns to kevlar or something.  So those poor cops in the South had to get bigger guns.

Oh and then there is this.

When we consider that even a single ounce – a quantity that does not fill an ordinary watch pocket – will keep fifty “fiends” well “doped” for a week or more, we can readily understand why every effort to suppress the traffic utterly fails.

OK now. You might have convinced me that there is some really good shit out there that gives you awesome hallucinations. I might have even gone for the bulletproof thing. But a single ounce wouldn’t have lasted me one night at Warsaw.* I’m gonna have to call bullshit.

Naturally, there is no solution to this insanity. “Once the negro has formed the habit he is irreclaimable. The only method to keep him from taking the drug is imprisoning him.”

It’s easy to make fun of this article and movies like Reefer Madness. They are so incredibly ridiculous. But what’s even more ridiculous is how much of it is still part of the public narrative. The crack cocaine reports I grew up with in the 80s weren’t a whole lot different from that 1914 article. One taste and a person is ruined for life. They are going to lose their mind. They will be violent.

There will be no social control!

And by social control we actually mean control of black men and women and “locoed” Mexicans - people like that. We can’t have bulletproof black guys just walking around. And what about those women who smoke weed and become all lusty and whatnot. The only legitimate response is to lock em all up, or at least tuck them away in a suburban kitchen making hamburger helper.

And that is the beginnings of the drug war. The only thing that changed is that it just kept getting worse.

_______________

*I cannot believe Warsaw is now a deli, that MSNBC’s Morning Joe broadcasted out of no less. South Beach has gone to shit.

Whose Fault Is It?

June 23, 2011 By: Mel Category: Inequality, Sex

The Dilbert guy is being hateful and thick again. He wrote a post on the recent spate of men caught “tweeting, raping, cheating” and had this to say.

The part that interests me is that society is organized in such a way that the natural instincts of men are shameful and criminal while the natural instincts of women are mostly legal and acceptable. In other words, men are born as round pegs in a society full of square holes. Whose fault is that? Do you blame the baby who didn’t ask to be born male?

According to him, if not for society’s (read women’s) controls on them, men would all be “unrestrained horny animals.” In his world it is women against men. If men get to be their true selves, then women lose.

It is hard to even know how to begin responding to all the wrong that permeates his post. Let’s start with conflating tweeting pics of your dick with rape. Far as I know, the women who received pics of Weiner’s weiner were not complaining about it. I have no idea if he and his wife are monogamous. I don’t know what they consider cheating if they are. It’s really none of my business. What I do know is that Weiner’s behavior and DSK raping a maid are not even slightly comparable.

I seriously doubt that Adams believes that tweeting pics and rape are the same thing. But he does seem to think that both those things fall into a range of “natural” male behavior. Clearly, if it were up to men, you would all be sitting around fires, eating raw meat, and taking the pussy like Pepe.  Right?

I am so tired of the people who make all men out to be rapists. Even if you believe that men want sex more than women, that doesn’t mean that all men would rape if it were not for the minuscule chance that they might go to jail for a couple years. It doesn’t mean that men can’t understand that women are people and that coercing people into doing things they don’t want to do is wrong. It doesn’t mean that men can’t understand that, just because you want to do something, it doesn’t mean you are entitled to do it. Men are human too, you know.

Besides, rape is not about sex, at least not just about sex. People rape because they can get away with it. They rape the weak. They rape to exert their power. They rape to punish. They rape to defile. To colonize. To scar.

Of course, I don’t actually believe that men want sex more than women. At least, I don’t think it is that simple. First of all, gender is not so neat. According to that crazy lefty magazine The Economist, “at least 1.7% of people are born with one of several dozen possible intersexual conditions.” So how are we supposed to make blanket statements about gender? Where do gay people fit into his little male vs. female world? And how are we supposed to separate out what is attributable to innate tendencies and what is attributable to all the head trips put on us and our sexuality?

As Holly so eloquently put it in her post a while back, men should be encouraging sluttiness. Instead we get a lot of bullshit about the kind of girl you marry and the kind of girl you don’t. Instead we get ridiculous calculations about how many dates you have to go on before you can jump the guy you want and not have him disappear because you were too easy. (Really ladies, why the hell would you want a guy who thinks like that anyway?) That doesn’t even begin to look at all the women who are suffering through really bad sex.

And let me just add one more glaring omission. A major source of all our sexual dysfunction and head trips is religion. When was the last time you saw women running a major religion? As I have written about before, the Catholic Church (arguably the most influential religious institution ever) specifically formed in opposition to women. If you are pissed about the sorry lack of good sex in the world, why not take aim at the pope? He is more responsible than any woman.

Let me not go on and on about that. You have heard it all before. I’m bringing this up with you because I got into a twittersation with my friend @jeremy6d about the post. He thought that Adams was getting at the same thing that Marty Klein was getting at in that post I shared with you on Tuesday. I had a hard time seeing that. Where Klein was talking about sexual dysfunction for everyone, Adams was blaming women.

But if i try to set aside Adams obvious dislike of women. If I can manage to set aside his feeling that men have no respect for other human beings. If I can manage to set aside his strict construction of gender. If I can manage to set aside his total lack of power analysis. If I can manage to set aside his “domestication of males” theory (as Jeremy so perfectly worded it).  Is there anything else there?

Perhaps.

I believe that Adams feels stifled by social controls. I believe it because I feel that way. I have felt that way since I was a tween. But where Adams can only see his own feelings and has decided to blame women for his unhappiness, I recognize that social control is coming at us from all directions. It comes from parents, schools, churches, government, media…everything.

While those that have more power have to take more responsibility for how fucked up our society is, we all are part of this society. We all create this society together. That means that we all have to take responsibility for our role in perpetuating the systems, institutions, and beliefs that keep us in our little boxes. It means we need to do our part to reformulate society in a way that isn’t so damned oppressive for all of us. It means recognizing that it isn’t a zero sum game, that our liberations are connected.

So Adams, and people like him, need to pull their head out of their ass. I imagine it’s damned hard to see or hear clearly from in there. And it is probably stinky as hell. No wonder he is so cranky.

Solidarity?

October 21, 2010 By: Mel Category: Change

I am really beginning to despise the word solidarity.  I’m constantly hearing calls for solidarity – with women just because they’re women, with anarchists just because they’re anarchists, with workers just because they’re workers.

Do you know what I think of when someone asks for solidarity?  I think of cops.  Nobody shows more solidarity than cops.  You could have a cop on video beating the crap out of someone, with a dozen of his fellow cops standing there watching, and not a one will cross that blue line to do what is right.   That’s some fucking solidarity right there.

And I think about Hebrew school.  I think about how we were always being asked to donate to Jewish causes, to plant trees in Israel, to rescue Jewish Ethiopians.  I was supposed to care more about one human being than another on the basis of some happenstance group identity.  The idea of “looking out for your own” repulsed me at nine and repulses me now.

Solidarity is about group cohesion, which means you have to see value in group belonging.  And I don’t.  I’ve never wanted to belong to a group.  All too often, group belonging means conformity.  It’s why the Amish all dress the same.  It’s why every kid in middle school has to run out and buy the same pair of jeans as their friends.  It’s why every pundit in Washington thinks exactly the same and why  we have all those little boxes on the hillside.  Conformity breeds intolerance, ignorance, group think, and stagnation.

You can only belong if others don’t belong.  There have to be boundaries and soon enough there will be people policing those boundaries.  The next thing you know “mean girls” are telling us we can’t wear sweatpants to school.  Your greener than thou friends disown you because you throw cans into the trash.  You’re kicked out of the anarchist group because you think smashing windows is pointless.  Debate is not an option.

That doesn’t preclude people joining forces for their common interest.  But it has to be about more than just group identity.  Support between workers halfway across the world, who have never met one another, is bound to be weak.  But if those workers are in the same industry or work for the same company and know that their fate is inextricably tied to one another in a very tangible way, then you have something.  And it isn’t just some vague notion of solidarity.

If you want me to do something or support something, do not appeal to me on the basis of group identity.  Appeal to me on principle.  Appeal to a real human relationship that we have.  If I think your cause is just, I’ll be there.  And if I also know and care about you as a human being, I’ll go to the mat.

If you just want solidarity, join the mob or the white nationalists or the police force.

Poor Man Can’t Eat, Rich Man Can’t Sleep

December 28, 2009 By: Mel Category: Inequality

I used to shoplift as a kid.  When I was about fourteen, I was busted with a purse full of makeup and banned from Rite Aid for life.

My father was unusually rational about the whole incident.  Clearly, all the crap I had in my room could not have been purchased with my babysitting money.  And my parents weren’t giving me money to buy clothes or makeup or anything else.  I don’t think my father had lost his business or had his stroke yet, but it was only a short time away.  I suspect he was feeling guilty or inadequate about not being a good “provider”.

So instead of my parent’s usual tirade and grounding my father simply explained to me that I was hurting people.  He said it probably didn’t seem like a bit of makeup from a huge company would even be noticed, but thousands of people doing what I did added up.  And that company, he said, wasn’t going to let their profits suffer.  They were going to raise prices or lower wages to make up for it.

I never wanted to hurt anyone.  And I never stole anything again.  But if I were starving and couldn’t see another option, I would steal.

I confess my past (and possible future) thievery because of a post last week on The Freethinker.  Apparently, a Yorkshire vicar told people that they should shoplift if they need to. A couple of us godless actually had to side with the vicar on this one.  Not surprisingly, others objected.  One commenter, Ash Walsh, pointed out that

Criminality only entrenches poverty. If a Thief gets a Criminal Record, the Thief will find it a lot more difficult to get a job thus starting a poverty cycle that is difficult to break out of.

That is absolutely true.  But why do we place the blame squarely, and solely, at the feet of the thief?  Doesn’t the community also bear some responsibility?  If the thief was stealing out of necessity, the community failed in providing its members with the things they need to survive. If the thief (like my fourteen-year-old self) just didn’t see the harm they were doing, then the community failed to educate them.   If the thief didn’t care that they were doing harm, then the community failed to teach them morals.

And if our system of retribution ensures that a thief has virtually no opportunity to turn their life around, then the community has failed yet again.

I was lucky.  My father felt some responsibility for what had happened and so reacted with compassion instead of just harsh judgment.  And it wasn’t just him.  Had the manager of that Rite Aid called the cops, I might have ended up in juvi instead of home with my parents.  Things could have gone very badly.

But all too often thieves receive no compassion at all.  They are dehumanized and vilified to the point that we accept whatever is done to them.  We don’t blink when someone gets a life sentence for theft or shot by people “protecting” their property from “looters” after Katrina.

We live in secure buildings in gated communities with alarms and trained dogs.  We authorize armed guards, police, and mercenaries to shoot anyone who breaches security.  We are terrified of being robbed by our fellow citizens.  And all the while, the biggest thefts are happening behind the scenes and are perfectly legal.  Where’s the guard to protect your pension from Goldman Sachs?

Not long ago, a would be robber in Long Island was thwarted by the owner of the store he was trying to rob.  The store owner showed him some compassion, gave him some money and bread, and didn’t call the police.  Months later, the robber repaid the store owner and sent the man a letter saying that he got his life back together.

I’ll bet they both ate that day and slept really well that night.

In Defense of Graffiti and Teen Angst

October 30, 2009 By: Mel Category: Misc

This Week in Race published a post titled Does It Still “Take a Village?”: Multiple Perspectives on a Chicago Encounter.  In it, Stephen tells how he witnessed “three young Black boys — maybe 13 years old — tagging the station walls with spray paint” in a Chicago subway.

Stephen decided to confront the boys and got an earful of cursing in return.  He was torn about what to do.  Should he have reported them to the authorities?  Should he have ignored them?  He didn’t want to be the great white savior, but he felt a responsibility to do something about the boys behavior.

Several people were asked to respond to Stephen’s dilemma, but amazingly nobody challenged the basic assumption Stephen was making.  All the responders seemed to agree that graffiti was degenerate behavior that needed to be corrected.  At best, the boys had “gone astray” and at worst they were “ignorant thugs.”

Is graffiti really a sign of thuggery?

Graffiti is beautiful.  (If you don’t believe me, check out some graffiti archeology.)  Graffiti is social commentary, self expression, public conversation, or grassroots support.  It’s free public art in opposition to a culture that commodifies everything.  For many artists, it is also part of an historic tradition.

Granted, Stephen said these kids were tagging and not painting works of art.  But art is in the eye of the beholder.  And if tagging isn’t art, what is it?  It is a way for kids to make a mark, to say “I’m here and I exist.”  Who among us didn’t do that growing up?  Even my friends who didn’t tag still wrote “Tammy is here” on bathroom walls, folders, sneakers, blue jeans…whatever was handy.

And who can blame kids for wanting to shout that they exist in a world that ignores them so completely – unless, of course, they violate some rule or social convention?   I’m not so old that I don’t remember what it is like to be a kid and have nobody listen to you.  The whole world wants to judge you, mold you, try to make you into whatever serves their interest.  If anybody needs a means of self expression it is a teenager.

True, I would not want someone tagging the outside of my house.  But who is more degenerate, the kid who tags or the society that constantly values property over people?  How many people are happy to spend money on police to keep graffiti off their walls but don’t want to spend a dime on education or other social programs to give those kids options?

Adults are often incensed that kids don’t respect authority like they used to.  But why should they respect authority, particularly when it doesn’t usually respect them? I’m 36 years old now and I can say with absolute certainty that, when I look back on my sixteen year old self, 90% of the adults I was supposed to listen to didn’t know shit.  And I was right not to pay a damn bit of attention to them.

Happily, many of the responders did point out that kids were unlikely to listen to any adult unless there was a previous relationship of trust.  Kids have plenty of people jumping in to tell them what they should do or not do.  What they don’t have is people who listen to what they have to say.

Who knows, those kids you want to save may see the world even more clearly than you do.

Clothing Mandatory, From Burqas to Bandanas

July 23, 2009 By: Mel Category: Politics, Religion

We have too many damn laws, rules, regulations and customs dictating what people can and cannot wear.

Schools require kids to wear uniforms. Work – from military personnel to the nearly identical suits most desk sitters wear – requires uniforms. Clubs have dress codes. Restaurants have dress codes. Cities and even countries have laws governing what their citizens can and cannot wear in public. Why?

Admittedly, it’s easier to pick out a cop if she is wearing a uniform. And you could probably make a case for health issues when it comes to wearing some kind of covering in a restaurant kitchen. But mostly, clothing rules are about social control. We want to be able to identify people. We want to know whether or not they subscribe to the dominant culture’s attitudes, prejudices, gender roles, and power structure.

Schools support school uniforms for the same reason the military requires them, because uniforms denote obedience and conformity. Clubs have dress codes to enforce dominance by class and race, from country clubs that require a suit and tie to dive bars like Kokoamos (sued for refusing entry to people with dreadlocks).

Cities also get in on the action. Riviera Beach, Florida is arresting people for baggy pants. Other cities have ordinances against your underwear showing. In New York, you can get arrested for covering your face during a protest. Why? Because minorities wear baggy pants. Because political dissidents cover their faces during protests.

Of course, the most stringent codes and social norms relate to gender. It starts with the first pink or blue onesie someone gives you at the baby shower. For the rest of your life, what you can wear safely in public is determined largely by whether or not you were born with a penis.

School uniforms are uniform only by gender. One school in South Carolina has said a girl will not be able to graduate if she wears pants to her graduation. Prom means wearing a dress for girls or a suit for boys. Transgressors will be denied.

And while most (if not all) laws against cross-dressing have been taken off the books, that doesn’t stop harassment. One man is suing the New Orleans police department for threatening to arrest him for wearing a kilt in public. (Note to self: Naked breasts strewn with plastic beads, no problem; wearing traditional and mildly gender-bending Scottish garb, not so much.)

Transgender people cross the gender line and face discrimination at every turn. Most workplaces in the U.S. can legally discriminate against transgendered people, as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act does not protect them. Far worse, at least one transgender person is murdered on average each month of the year. And the murders of transgender people all too often remain unsolved.

Most cisgender women have a little more leeway in the choice between pants and skirts. (Although, Conservative Christian group Focus on the Family just started allowing women to wear pants this year.) But women have to worry about “modesty.” Women must walk that fine line between whore and oppressed. Wear too little material on your body and people will say you are asking to be attacked. Wear too much clothing on your body, a burqa for instance, and people will say you are oppressed.

Islam isn’t the only religion to dictate dress. Orthodox Jewish women must cover their elbows, knees and head in the name of modesty. Sometimes they wear scarves. Other times they cover up their hair with wigs. Meanwhile, Hasidic Jewish men, in 90 degree Miami heat, dress in wool outfits meant for winter in the Polish ghetto.

Monks and nuns wear robes not very different from a burqa. Certainly, they are equally desexualizing. True, nuns no longer wear the restrictive habits of the middle ages, some even wear no habits at all. The Catholic Church; however, isn’t happy about that and is reportedly conducting an investigation into nuns’ lapses.

How are any of these regulations legitimate?

The idea that women must dress modestly holds women responsible for mens’ behavior, as though men are wild animals who can’t be expected to have self control. Assigning clothing by gender is only an attempt to clearly delineate who gets what privilege in society. Forcing minority groups to dress like the majority is just the majority exerting its dominance. And requiring protesters to be identifiable just makes it easier for authorities to find and intimidate them.

During the holocaust, Jews were forced to wear yellow stars and homosexuals forced to wear pink triangles. Slaves in the United States wore tags. Indigenous people in colonial Guatemala wore intricate patterns that told Spaniards what village they came from (clothing used in the civil war of the 80s to identify “subversives”). In Iran today, women are forced to wear headscarves, but Laila Al-Marayati and Semeen Issa, of the Muslim Women’s League, remind us that in 1979 veils were prohibited in Iran.

Whether the society is marking people for oppression or forcing them to conform, it all amounts to coercion. And coercion is wrong.

Dominant groups often make claims that their rules are for some higher purpose. French President Sarkozy says the burqa is a symbol of oppression and a barrier which makes women “prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all social life, deprived of all identity.” He claims that his burqa ban is about the rights of women, despite the fact that many women who wear the burqa say that it is a personal choice.

But does Sarkozy’s claim hold up to closer inspection?

Are not burqa wearing French women still French women with all the rights of French women. Isn’t it the job of the French government to make sure their citizens know their rights and are able to exercise those rights?

Sarkozy would be more believable if he started a campaign to advise all French women of their rights. According to Amnesty International, France falls far short when it comes to protecting the rights of domestic violence victims. If Sarkozy is so interested in protecting women, wouldn’t making sure French women know their rights (and fully funding programs for victims of domestic the violence) be a more appropriate priority?

The burqa ban is not about the rights of women, any more than forcing women to wear skirts at work is about the rights of women. It is about symbolism. The French government does not like the symbolism of a people setting themselves apart. Many feminists do not like the symbolism of the burqa. But if we are going to start banning symbolism, we can’t stop just there. How about banning $60,000 French couture dresses – symbol of the criminal disparities in wealth in this world.

There may be some cases where requirements about what people put on their bodies are necessary. But life and death cases are few and far between. Anyone trying to impose their will on others better have much better reasons than the ones they’ve come up with so far.

Arrested for Posession….of Condoms

May 09, 2009 By: Mel Category: Sex

Think twice before you come home with that value pack of condoms. Police from San Francisco to Tel Aviv use condoms as evidence of prostitution.

San Francisco police continue to use condoms as evidence in prostitution cases.

In Tel Aviv, massage parlors are raided by police and, if there are condoms on the premises, they are assumed to be “brothels.”

A prostitutes organization in the United Kingdom, where condoms have also been used as evidence, wrote an open letter to the home secretary decrying the practice.

According to a 2004 Human Rights Watch report, arresting women for carrying condoms is prevalent in the Philappines as well.

In a moment of sanity, and in an effort to control the spread of HIV, the Chinese government recently decided to end the practice of using condoms as evidence of prostitution.

Presumably the anti-prostitution police are taking action based on their supposed concern for prostitutes, or at least for public health. So explain to me why they do something that makes prostitutes less likely to use condoms? Stupidity? Hypocrisy? Worse?

* Thanks to Audacia Ray and Stacy Swimme who brought this up at their session on Sex Work in the Time of Obama at Sex 2.0 this weekend.