Intersectionality in Community Organizing as a Response to Issues of Oppression and Privilege
I would like to briefly address how the use of community organizing and horizontal collective decision making procedures are appropriate tools to help work through issues of oppression and privilege. In Western society, we are continually faced with the ongoing ripples of colonialism while the expansionist tendencies of imperialist states maintain their power through various facets; these various avenues, are connected to one another like capillaries. When dealing with such webs, we need a holistic, democratic and community approach such that everyone’s voices are accommodated so that as many strands within these capillaries of oppression can be accounted for. Of course, depending on the various levels of analysis being focused on, the search for oppressive relationships remains ongoing, or at least it must be assumed as such. Special attention is given to intersecting points at which issues, whether strictly political, economic, social etc; this is what may be termed, ‘intersectionality.’ Racism, for example, has been historically linked to white supremacy; as such, it becomes the case that only those who benefit from white supremacy, those who have access to this “privilege,” may be identified as carrying out racism. When non-whites are negatively biased against one another, who benefits in the end? In a similar vein, when a supplier and a consumer engage in a trade, sure they each benefit, but who are those that ultimately benefit? In the first case, it is those who have access to white privilege. In the second, it is those who have access to economic power, where currency is printed and its trajectory is determined. Of course, this is why intersectionality is important: those who ultimately benefit in both cases are the same people.
Take for instance one community based approach, the idea of ‘ethnic solidarity’; where migrants and minorities provide economic and social support that is biased against or excludes white communities. Those who claim that this exclusion is racist against whites; or that, by prejudicing and categorizing their own and/or other non-white communities as being vulnerable, they are perpetuating ‘the problem’ are missing the point all together: that the problem of racism is nothing without power. In other words, oppressive institutions, in this case involving race and economic/social power (class), are necessarily interconnected and cannot be understood separately. The more focused and precise our level of analysis would like to be, the more context dependent it becomes.
Without this eye towards these interconnecting institutions of oppression, ‘identity politic’ is lost in a sea of conflicting notions of freedom: where the same people who fight for a particular right in one sphere, find themselves advocating for a seemingly contradicting right in another; for example, we could imagine those who advocate that children should have basic education on the one hand, also advocate that there are peoples who should be free from having their children learn this ‘basic education’ as it is a part of their tradition. Whereas, with a view towards intersectionality, a critical observer may point out that although it is important to provide ‘basic education’ to children, the educational capabilities that we find in the modern public school is severely limited. Having a view towards capital accumulation, increasingly looks more like a workforce sustenance program which ultimately feeds the colonizing, expansionist and consumer/oil addicted military industrial complex.
When analyses and perspectives are sectioned off from one another, each proposition poses conclusions and resolutions which disregard multiple aspects of whatever that is being characterized. However, when combined more ground is covered, a greater portion of the community may be included and a farther reaching critique becomes possible. This is the power of community, intersectionality, and commensurable knowledge/experience exchange when possible; while the idea of ‘leadership’ here becomes something like, but not limited to, knowing when to step aside and let others speak.
(See intersectionality is Paramount v1.)
1:14 pm • 27 August 2014
Series on Death; The Evolution of Atheistic Religiosity
"Elahi elahi lama sabachthani?"
- Matthew 27:45-46
For much of history, the accusation of nihilism was near to a condemnation unto death. When a charge was to be made, on lets say Spinoza or Kant, it was delivered using the authority of Christianity. However, even within the word itself, there is a deeply entrenched nihilism at the root of the religion called Christianity.
Take, for instance, the Bibles unfortunate ambiguity regarding what happened during those three days between Jesus’ death in the flesh, and his spirit’s ascension into heaven. The usual move is to cite Peter 3:18-20:
"…after made alive in the spirit he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits, to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water… ."
Being the only answer of its kind, the question still remains unfulfilled: whether Jesus was in conversation with those damned to something like but not necessarily purgatory is still up for debate among theologians.
Regardless, this clear gap of explanation between death and revival may lead to something that exists beyond heaven and hell; before coming back to life in a different form, Jesus dies. God dies. If the above interpretation is deemed adequate, it is possible that he may have even been dead for three days. This is another historical node, which I think, has helped promulgate Atheism through to the modern world; one of the various vessels that intertwine to make up the capillaries of what we may recognize as modern Atheism in the western world. In Christianity, god dies in the way that an atheist may describe death. This description. the idea of the ‘true’ death, lingered and became part of the development of a whole other theory.
This Atheistic turn away from its Abrahamic foundations became very clear to the people that read the Qur’an. The Qur’anic, “There is no god, but God” and the later addition, “and Muhammad is his messenger,” tells us that it is easier, and in fact one must start with, ‘there is no god…’ and only later come to the conclusion of, “…but God.” One must start with no god, before God can be birthed into our existence. After this, we may hone down our belief, with the martial art-like practice of Islam, whereby we understand that communication with this God is possible as “Muhammad is his messenger.”
A large portion of modern Atheism, including the ‘New Atheists’ and their ‘four horsemen of atheism’ which, through their invasive Colonial rhetoric against anything resembling their ‘flying spaghetti monster’ from the no longer worshipped Thunder god of the Inca, Ilada, to the much more popularly worshipped Hindu god, Vishnu. Unfortunately, this Atheism is unable to detect the religiosities that it so despises within other forms of ideologies, even when it is squarely printed within the currency itself; a very clear representation of Marshall Mcluhan’s popularized phrase, the medium is the message. Like how ingredient descriptions are listed on cereal boxes boxes, or rather, like a warning sign on a box of cigarettes, ”In god we trust” tells us that the our new profit is profit. Instead of questioning the existence of the idol itself, the conversation is shifted on frivolous debates of whether this ‘warning symbol’ should be there or not. Does it really matter what tattoo our god is wearing?
“Just to be clear, I’m not a professional ‘quote maker’. I’m just an atheist teenager who greatly values his intelligence and scientific fact over any silly fiction book written 3,500 years ago. This being said, I am open to any and all criticism.
‘In this moment, I am euphoric. Not because of any phony god’s blessing. But because, I am enlightened by my intelligence.’”
As humorously illustrated by this popular quote found on the internets, Atheism prides itself in achieving and maintaining intellectual freedom, but simultaneously creates this false bravado. The failure of modern Atheism to recognize the religiosities that exist within the traditionally non-religious spheres of our lives and to tease out their cultish tendencies, examples including but not limited to currency, class, culture and nationalism, that is, it is the failure of Atheism to recognize ideology that has actually helped to produce an idea that is the most efficient perpetrator of all slaveries, the notion of human freedom. It is the genius idea that to enslave the population, it is best to propagandise them into thinking that they are free, so that they participate and release their outrage through the proper and mediated legal channels, rather than through something historically difficult to deal with, popular revolt.
2:19 am • 15 August 2014
'Crime' should be treated as an issue of 'Public health'
Discipline and punish; this is the shallow depth of our culture’s originality when dealing with issues of public health. The evolution of the past two hundred years of eroding policing institutions subsumed by empire can be traced alongside it’s own policing literature; as if coming into literary self-consciousness. Policing went from small more context sensitive community based irregular militia-like entities to a highly bureaucratic, paper-driven enterprise; thereby creating for itself an academic wing to study and improve upon it’s own methods. All this, however, is underpinned under the laws of empire and capital, such that it becomes entangled within the corporate capillaries of the prison and military industrial complexities.
Without speaking about the sterility of its politics, I would like to extend an open yet not fully determinate understanding of ‘public health.’ Preventions as more valuable than cures. Understanding health as a process of attempting commensurablity whereby ‘public health’ is treated as, along with whatever else may be added, a concept that takes into consideration the interconnectedness of our minds, bodies and environments. For instance, we may include the foods that we consume, or communal histories and psychologies, within a context dependant understanding of care.
If, rather than disciplining the criminal act, like stealing from the grocery store, we ask, ‘how did it come to be that such a thing took place?’ Or give a more thought out and longer lasting critical assessment of the situation, rather than attributing anything to human nature, or opt for using the only two words we know how to use to speak about such issues, we may be able to actually solve long term issues of personal and social conflict. That is, if we expand our vocabulary regarding what these issues mean to us beyond merely just ‘discipline and punish,’ and look at ‘crime’ through the lens of history and generations of human existence, culture and story telling, we may have a better grasp of how the story should proceed.
As the concept of sovereignty continues to erode and reshape itself based on imperial upbringings, these questions must be asked in order that we may help shape the concept in our own image instead. And what is that image? Maybe it’s an image of humanity, care, and a feeling that we are all in this together; it’s hard to tell, and this should be done democratically anyway, but that’s better than the more trivial categories that have been set for us today. If crime is treated as a public health issue, where murderers are sent to hospitals rather than dungeons and guillotines. maybe we could set a course for the type of human societies we would prefer in the future.
1:12 am • 1 July 2014
Empire and Corrosive Food Culture
I was thinking about the probably idealized excitement felt by housewives across america during that magical time when microwaves, canned foods, frozen television dinners and other miraculous inventions, designed to ease the food consumption process, were first being introduced into the market. The strive for ease and efficiency, the hallmarks of a civilized capitalist society. Today we are also going through a similar type of re-branding which hopes to appease the ‘socially conscious’ consumer. Even the iconic yellow ‘M’ is strategically changing its colour. Yet, the market culture thrives in this new environment as well; there exists a want to be socially conscious, but without giving up the ‘ease and efficiency’ that comes with the life we have been historically predisposed to.
The underlying market culture that is embedded within our food consumption creates a world where the long and arduous process of growing something from the ground is turned into a two step process, buy and microwave, whereby any and all appreciation for what we have on our plate becomes as tasteless as the food we pretend to enjoy in front of our screens while we watch the latest episode of “archetypes playing out the same stories except with an increasing number of addicting hooks as the season progresses.” We no longer have any relationship to the food we eat. We don’t grow with our food, struggle through its struggles to stay alive, and see it develop at every stage of its growth. Instead we have traded that type of arduous task with another; we become rusty clogs doing decreasingly monetarily accumulative tasks for the maintenance of empire; only after that can we go, sit by ourselves and enjoy our break in front of those screens with our frozen foods made and preserved by the same chemicals they use as pesticides; while once a year we give thanks to clean drinking water on a day that obscures the relationship between the empire’s humble beginnings and all those it had to trample over in order to become the paragon of virtue and justice it is today.
I leave you with Michael Pollan discussing modern food culture.
1:08 am • 18 February 2014
The Moral of the Antichrist
History is gods grace, god is dead but history is not lost.
The problem with anarchism is organization; sometimes it is efficient, like what we see in times of crisis, even working with limited resources. Yet, in no way can such organization ever take on the war machine(s). So it subsists in the shadows, but even there, it is unable to see itself and the possibility that exists to become whole. Not in a way that is a multitude of the many and the particulars, this net or something resembling this may have already been weaved; or by having set directors and norms like the bureaucracies. Instead, an ever changing political moral, to quiet and listen to selves and opponents; setting time to quell, but not obliterate, constructions, and speak, when needed at the utmost, of urgency. This was the string of success that history gifts us. A movement must find itself in the dark; and darkness can be found even in the cracks of a decaying but evolving leviathan. Widen the cracks, knock it off balance, and a tiny push will see its fall; and when giants fall, they fall down hard and in on itself.
But the cracks come first. And there is no need to be the ones who knock it off balance, we just need to be there for that push, and thereafter, to catch the fall.
11:39 pm • 22 December 2013 • 1 note
Questions of Revolution, A Response to Jeremy Paxman: “What’s the scheme?”
This recent Russel Brand ‘Viralosity' has posed a couple of generalizable reactions to Brand's call for revolution or genuine social change; one of which has been asking “Where is the plan?” - a similar question was also posed towards the occupy movement. I think that we need to be aware that some who pose this type of question use it as a means to disrupt the continuation of the conversation; or rather, it is may be used as a succinct way of ending the conversation. Albeit, it is much better than not talking about systematic change at all or dismissing it as a lunacy; and it is a sign that the conversation has become fluid - or if we were to see it in terms of a problematic manichean dichotomy, the conversation has shifted slightly to the left.
The truth is nobody has a plan and nobody knows how to proceed. In our current situation, not only do we not know how to deal with the problems presented to us, but we hardly even know what to point our finger at. Coming from experience, any activist, that is those who are in the thick of it, acting on various fronts through a method which is akin to trial and error, would explain that it is unclear how exactly we should face these structures in the realm of action; legalistic, direct action, etc.
Take for instance, the case of Tim DeChristopher who decided, in opposition to the recommendations given from his friends who were ‘seasoned activists’, that he would disrupt an auction which was selling oil-lands that were not following environmental regulations by bidding on the lands himself. Though he spent time in jail, his actions had real and practical consequences; not only did he postpone development for two years (and counting), he also helped to reveal the inherent biases of the judicial system; where even though, through crowd-sourcing and green funds, he was ultimately able to pay for the lands, he was unable to do so because of some legal barriers and the lands were strictly for development - one realm of the law is ignored (environmental) while the other realm is used to enforce. After 21 months in prison, he had an interview on Democracy Now (April 22 2013); answering a question by Amy Goodman (who is an activist in her own right), regarding ‘what is to be done?’ he responds:
“Well, I don’t think anybody knows what needs to be done now. And I think that’s something that we shouldn’t necessarily shy away from telling people, from telling other activists, and especially from telling young people, that, you know, there’s a lot of things that we’ve tried, and most of which hasn’t worked, especially on climate change, and especially on trying to get our government to do something about climate change. So, you know, mostly we need people taking action, and nobody can really tell you what that action should be…”
Taking into consideration these thoughts, I think that if we want to create large-scale political change, we need to realize that the present amalgamations of concepts we use to understand these issues are not only incoherent, but rather, the sophisticated ideological paradigm created actually utilizes this incoherence (and in more philosophic terms, we have a liberal ideology of anti-ideology; a Kantian alliance with Liberalism; political parties that align with classical and modern conceptions of liberalism and governmental systems that also oscillate from creating policies that adhere to this wider understanding of liberal-capitalism, but never anything outside the paradigm). It is true that incoherence itself may be an ideological distraction; but needless to say, there is no second coming, no Jesus or Marx to explain it all and tell us everything will be okay. In response to the question posed “what is the plan?” - and I do not want to undermine a question which may be totally legitimate - I would point out that we live in a world with advanced robotics, cyber and drone warfare, increasingly omniscient intelligence systems, neurobiotics, genetic engineering etc. Where is the plan for all this? And more important, who is writing it?
It is evident that any step into the future, revolutionary or not, is one of instability and uncertainty. The plans are already being written; the problem is that some of us have more say regarding its trajectory. The plans are already being written, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they included a section regarding how to maintain the status quo of power relations, even in a revolutionary scenario. These are unpaved paths, and what happens in the west will have consequences throughout the world; any development in the Arab spring will forever be corrupted by overseas weapons and currencies; any revolution in the Latin Americas will continuously be tainted by covert actions by foreign bodies; and any measures to cease the present structure of indentured servitude created by patents, banana republics, and consciously lawless zones of incarceration, labor and capital will always be moderated by the global panopticon. In this context, I ask that we should reframe the question: sure, we should ask "What’s the scheme for our revolution?" but only in response to "What are the schemes already at play?" - or rather "What should our scheme avoid?" - and also, "How are they written, by who and for whom?"
At the end of the interview, Jeremy Paxman asks his first genuine question, in comparison to his other pre-established and ‘hard liner’ questions, "Is there any hope?" I think that this shows how Paxman did at least somewhat sympathize with Brand. Another way to formulate the question, I think, and this may be the most important question of all, "What are our possibilities?" However, to have the question be as open as possible, rather than being one that confines, I think it should only be asked after recognizing and being able to distinguish the various problems at hand. Unfortunately, at the moment, this is something we still have trouble doing.
1:06 pm • 25 October 2013
Tourism is Neo-Colonialism
I was busy being the only person without a computer at a cafe when I unintentionally started eavesdropping on two girls talking about how well traveled they were. This type of boast is easy to find at my place of education as many people are international students and/or have already found their spiritual awaking in India.
There was a time when I had an incredible passion to travel. I would sleep anywhere, eat anything, do whatever and risk my life. Total openness was needed to experience all that life had to offer. I thought that this was the ultimate vagabond experience; this is how life should be. In a certain sense, I still believe these things; but now, just like so many other beliefs, they have evolved to include many qualifications; in this case, the qualification being that, you are not welcome everywhere and you should not expect to be welcome everywhere.
Though I always took care to try and understand the various ways that Globalization was destroying the earth, I always considered that, at least, arbitrary borders are being destroyed. But this is not the case. Neoliberal globalization destroys borders in some ways, in terms of the free movement of finance and material (capital); but it holds no promise for the free movement of people and labor; while also threatening long standing borders based on tradition.
Consider, for example, the idea of “free, prior and informed consent” advocated by some “North American Indian” communities. Basically, it means that if you are going to come into our lands, tell us beforehand so we know that you are not one of those people that want to build a dangerous pipeline coming from the tar sands or tear down a shitload of trees. I think it is an incredible way of countering modern tourism and neo-colonial culture.
Alternatively, lets consider some case studies. Venice, for example, used to be one of the most ‘romantic’ places in the world but now it has to deal with the thousands of tourists who are unloaded from gigantic cruise ships that actually raise the water levels; so much so that the city is under threat of sinking; while everybody lines up for their ‘authentic gondola experience’. It is interesting to what extent places try to live up to a type of easily marketable ideal of themselves, trying to uphold a reputation that may or may not actually be the case; like the San Francisco trolley that is only used by tourists and some lucky people whose home/work travel is aligned with the trolley’s tour route; or New York’s experience of gentrification in the last 20 years (see David Harvey). Angkor Wat, which is arguably one of the most important religious buildings in the world, is also being over run by tourists who destroy any type of religious experience hoped to be gained by traveling pilgrims. I don’t need to go on, but another epitomic example of neo-colonial tourism is when recent college graduates and UN postulants put up pictures of themselves on fedbook with orphaned children in Africa after paying 3000 dollars to volunteer and travel on one of these experience experience excursions.
When I was in Italy, on our way to Florence, a decision was made to go and see Pisa. There, I witnessed the banality of thousands of humans reenacting some sort of pose with the tower as they smile for the camera (leaning on the leaning tower). A kind of lazy tourism that is similar to taking a picture of one of Van Gogh’s self-portraits; staying at a resort which other than the occasional bus tour, and the laborers, is completely removed from the societies they exploit; or going to some place not for any other reason than to say that you have been there - and, of course, take a picture as proof. When I was travelling in Panama, I observed a group of tourists throwing coins into the water while children dived deep to grab them before they were lost forever. I wonder if this is the same motive that drives ‘us’ to send rovers to Mars.
If you ever find yourself in Angkor Wat, do not expect to see ‘Angkor Wat’ precisely in its quotation. See it in its full context, what it has become, and what it truly is, in full bloom and within the world that it now exists. This is not a plea to have more ‘authentic’ experiences, but maybe its an appeal for a ‘holistic’ view. I remember going on this all expenses paid cruise ship, which included food. After stuffing myself, I realized there is no point in following my usual ideology of not wasting food because, when I looked around, thousands of people were eating not for replenishment, but seemingly, the only reason they were eating was because they could. Half-eaten chicken wings to your hearts content.
So here is what I mean by taking it all in: I woke up at 4 am, to go to the rear of the ship (the stern?), just to watch “the event”: tons of food being thrown into the water while thousands of seagulls, fish, and basically anything that was hungry enjoyed a greasy, greasy feast. It was only then that I realized that it was probably the case that the smarter sea-animals were following us, and enjoying themselves just as much as all of us who were stuffing our faces. At least in the short run.
I thought that going out of my way to experience the full implications of what was happening, to step back and see myself as a part of something much bigger, was a valuable way to waste time. Through time, I have learned that the true explorer isn’t like Indiana Jones; a true explorer is one that starts simply by delving into the crevices within their own backyard.
I once heard a ‘north american Indian’ proverb that goes something like:
the shortest road to travel may be from your head to your heart and back, but its definitely the hardest.
2:50 am • 22 September 2013 • 3 notes
Syria versus American Cultural Hegemony & Relentless Patriotism
”Do you love america?”
This is what I was asked about a year ago while hanging out in Barcelona with some american tourists who put up flags and started singing their national anthem because it was July 4th; while all the migrant workers and non-american tourists watched.
I didn’t know what to say; I wanted to say, “No fucking way” but instead, I said something like, “Love? It is such a strong word,” and proceeded to ask the more philosophic question, “What is america?” to which I got the most mind blowing response; something that was so completely out of my world;
”America is freedom.”
Not, America has freedom, or America strives for freedom, but America IS, unquestionably, freedom.
At the time this was a mind bending occurrence; I have been exposed to this type of relentless patriotism before, but never to the extent where one would propose/ascribe ontological categories to the united snakes. Now this is just a funny story about the time I met some hardcore americans; and the phrase “America is freedom” was filed next to other mind-bending statements I had heard from americans like “homosexuality is an abomination, but I’m okay with it” and, this one actually makes a lot of sense, “if jesus was here, I would hold his hand” (I would too, of course, its fucking jesus).
So I have been laptop and internet-less at home for two weeks now, and am really short on information so I only have time to research one big issue and my topic of choice would be Syria, because that seems to be the most important thing at present.
Recently I met some American exchange students at a party, and the conversation turned to ‘patriotism;’ we never really got deep into the subject, but when I drunkenly decided to talk about my “america is freedom” experience, and how insane I thought it was, I never expected that cultured college students would have responded with a long and awkward silence; but thats exactly what happened. They actually believed that america is freedom.
Now if I was more sober, which now I wish I was, I could have tried to continue the conversation, and milk it for all that it was worth. But in my drunken state, I was overcome with emotion. On the one hand, it is quite remarkable how American cultural superiority is so powerful that, they can come to my city, and make me feel like the one with the minority opinion; being brown, the first thing I thought of was how they probably thought that I was thinking about flying a plane into something.
On the other hand, the fate of Syria, the middle east, and most of the world for that matter, rests on decisions made by the leaders of such deluded people (albeit, they probably do not have that much political power anyway). How incredibly hopeless.
7:17 pm • 2 September 2013
Intersectionality is Paramount
In western society, racism is intrinsically linked to white supremacy; as such, only those who benefit from white supremacy, those who have access to this "privilege," may be identified as racist. When non-whites are negatively biased against one another, who benefits in the end? In a similar vein, when a supplier and a consumer engage in a trade, sure they each benefit, but who are those that ultimately benefit? In the first case, it is those who have access to white privilege. In the second, it is those who have access to printing currency and determining its trajectory. Of course, this is why intersectionality is important: those who ultimately benefit in both cases are the same people.
Take for instance, the idea of ‘ethnic solidarity’; where migrants and minorities provide economic and social support that is biased against or excludes white communities. Those who claim that this exclusion is racist against whites; or that, by prejudicing and categorizing their own and/or other non-white communities as being vulnerable, they are perpetuating ‘the problem’ are missing the point all together: that the problem of racism is nothing without power. In other words, oppressive institutions, in this case involving race and economic/social power (class), are necessarily interconnected and cannot be understood separately. The more precise our level of analysis would like to be, the more context dependent it becomes.
Without this eye towards these interconnecting institutions of oppression, ‘identity politic’ is lost in a sea of conflicting liberal notions of freedom: where the same people who fight for a particular right in one sphere, find themselves advocating for a seemingly contradicting right in another; for example, we could imagine those who advocate that children should have basic education on the one hand, also advocate that there are peoples who should be free from having their children learn this ‘basic education’ as it is apart of their tradition. Whereas, with a view towards intersectionality, a critical observer may point out that although it is important to provide ‘basic education’ to children, the ‘education’ provided in the modern public school is not really ‘education’ at all; but rather, something like a workforce creation product line for a state system which ultimately feeds the colonizing, expansionist and consumer/oil addicted military industrial complex.
When analyses are sectioned off from one another, each proposition poses conclusions and resolutions which disregard multiple aspects of whatever that is being characterized. However, when combined more ground is covered, and a farther reaching critique becomes possible.
7:49 pm • 23 August 2013 • 6 notes