When the Man Censors the Man from Talking about the Man

Several months back, I posted a variant on a joke that trolls White Supremacists who refer to multicultural representation as “White Genocide.” I don’t remember the version I said, but the original is, “All I want for Christmas is White Genocide.” Yes, I happen to think it’s a knee-slapper, but also, both the original and my variant were created and disseminated by fellow people from European heritage (3 of my grandparents have roots going back to Northern Europe). Somebody on my friend’s list was offended enough to report it, so Facebook took it down and gave me a stern lecture about why I should abide by their “community standards.”

Which I always thought was weird, because when I’ve reported pages for being racist against Puerto Ricans, pointing out their explicit stereotypes that paint Boriquenxs (the other grandparent is Puerto Rican) as lazy and dumb thugs from the perspective of gentrifiers, it takes several weeks and multiple reports from many people (residents and allies) before Facebook even admits that the page is violating Community Standards. Recently, I reported a man for threatening sending his family after me to cause me physical harm. Community Standards were apparently silent then as they’ve never gotten back to that issue.

A white man making a joke about a white supremacist talking point, however, violates the Community Standards? And while some of my FB friends did initially find the joke  insensitive, I was able to explain its context to them. Facebook, however, does not have such a dialogue. The people who supposedly uphold standards for community living don’t have open, two-way dialog, the most essential element of creating and sustaining a community.

Community is difficult, dynamic, multifaceted, and living. Paradoxically, while every community needs boundaries and guidelines, to strictly enforce them unilaterally (read: Zero Tolerance) leads to the death of the community. What rises instead gravitates toward racist, sexist, ableist, and classist hegemony. A network should stop pretending to be social when it is unwilling or unable to bend, when orders merely come from the top (from people who tend to navigate towards anti-social tendencies in the first place).

Image result for jail clipart

I reached the butt-end of this zero-tolerance policy when I made another swipe at The Whites. This time, a friend alerted me that he was censored on one of my posts for saying (appropriately) the phrase “White Devils” in response to some messed up story I shared about White people acting very… White people. When I found out he was reported and his statement taken down I reacted and said that anybody outraged by the phrase White Devil is either a White Devil or a White Devil Ally, and as such, should not be my friend.

I was then booted off of Facebook for 24 hours (more like 26, but I’m not bitter or anything). When I asked that they revise their finding (I ‘violated Facebook Community standards’ again, for hate speech), I added that I, myself as a White person*, could not have been invoking hate speech because I do not hate myself.

At this point, it may be necessary to remind readers that White Nativists believe that White people can be race-traitors for aligning with Black and Brown people. It is a capital offense to the KKK and Nazis.

Two weeks after that stint, I was sent back to Facebook Rikers Island for a sentence of three days for saying Settler Colonialists are violent and murderers. Where was the lie? Tha is what settler colonialism is: It is cultural and bodily genocide that takes land. Facebook apparently agreed with me for a minute because it censored the Declaration of Independence for hate speech, until it backtracked and realized who was doing the talking and about whom.

See, Founding Fathers and other powerful bigots like US presidents, other politicians, and even (White) pundits get to make tremendous threats against the lives of millions of people on social media and all of a sudden the Community Standards Police are mum. These are people with tremendous influence and power, with fingers on the pulse of the movers and shakers if not the movers and shakers, THE button-pushers themselves.

After the first-third of my jail sentence, the judge/jury/executioner came back to me and acknowledged that they made a mistake and sent me on my merry way. But there was no transparency as into what the decision-making process was like in the first place nor why there was a reversal. I do not know if I can talk about Christians or Evangelicals (as a present Christian and former Evangelical, I feel inclined to) in a critical light without again getting booted for “hate speech”.

However, my sentencing was light compared to women and others outside of cisgender maleness, and especially of those of color. Many of my friends have had extended periods in Facebook or Twitter Pokie or have lost their social media accounts for declaring “men are trash” despite the accuracy of this statement and the context of their own harassment by men, who are socially conditioned to feel ownership. This silencing tactic, directed by men, only adds to the veracity of the statement. Furthermore, Twitter and Facebook punish black and brown people–heavily victimized by this racist, sexist nation-state–for saying “Death to America.” Even though, unlike Donald Trump, they have no actual power* to enact any semblance of such a threat. Such as when the POTUS literally threatened genocide of the entire Korean population. And yet his account remains unchallenged.

Every successful enterprise within White Supremacist Patriarchal Capitalism is set up to protect White Supremacist Patriarchal Capitalism; that includes the internet.

*yet. Lord hasten the day.

LulZ postUrs!

Been having some fun with images and words recently, which you may have noticed if you subscribe to the Left Cheek: The Blog page on the Facebooks. My favorite meme right now is Hipster Jesus. I think he’s a fan of Rob Bell and Sufjan Stevens. Plus, he’s SOOOO not mainstream Jesus. I really don’t care for that Jesus.
Enjoy. I have a few more down the pike, so look out for updates.

Also, check out the page: Pinko Commies Wrote My Bible. Hoping to get a blog going sometime as well.

Hoarding Scarcity

Sister Simone Campbell, you and yours are lovely. Really. Thank you!

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I want to take a moment to also thank you for reminding us that there is enough to share, but not enough for our greed. I think this needs to be expanded, and I would like Brother Walter Brueggeman to share with us on The Liturgy of Abundance and the Myth of Scarcity.

The majority of the world’s resources pour into the United States. And as we Americans grow more and more wealthy, money is becoming a kind of narcotic for us. We hardly notice our own prosperity or the poverty of so many others. The great contradiction is that we have more and more money and less and less generosity — less and less public money for the needy, less charity for the neighbor…

Though many of us are well intentioned, we have invested our lives in consumerism. We have a love affair with “more” — and we will never have enough. Consumerism is not simply a marketing strategy. It has become a demonic spiritual force among us, and the theological question facing us is whether the gospel has the power to help us withstand it.

The Bible starts out with a liturgy of abundance. Genesis I is a song of praise for God’s generosity. It tells how well the world is ordered. It keeps saying, “It is good, it is good, it is good, it is very good.” It declares that God blesses — that is, endows with vitality — the plants and the animals and the fish and the birds and humankind. And it pictures the creator as saying, “Be fruitful and multiply.” In an orgy of fruitfulness, everything in its kind is to multiply the overflowing goodness that pours from God’s creator spirit. And as you know, the creation ends in Sabbath. God is so overrun with fruitfulness that God says, “I’ve got to take a break from all this. I’ve got to get out of the office.”…

Blessing is the force of well-being active in the world, and faith is the awareness that creation is the gift that keeps on giving. That awareness dominates Genesis until its 47th chapter. In that chapter Pharaoh dreams that there will be a famine in the land. famine in the land. So Pharaoh gets organized to administer, control and monopolize the food supply. Pharaoh introduces the principle of scarcity into the world economy. For the first time in the Bible, someone says, “There’s not enough. Let’s get everything.”…

Because Pharaoh… is afraid that there aren’t enough good things to go around, he must try to have them all. Because he is fearful, he is ruthless. Pharaoh hires Joseph to manage the monopoly. When the crops fail and the peasants run out of food, they come to Joseph. And on behalf of Pharaoh, Joseph says, “What’s your collateral?” They give up their land for food, and then, the next year, they give up their cattle. By the third year of the famine they have no collateral but themselves. And that’s how the children of Israel become slaves — through an economic transaction.

By the end of Genesis 47 Pharaoh has all the land except that belonging to the priests, which he never touches because he needs somebody to bless him. The notion of scarcity has been introduced into biblical faith. The Book of Exodus records the contest between the liturgy of generosity and the myth of scarcity — a contest that still tears us apart today…

By the end of Exodus, Pharaoh has been as mean, brutal and ugly as he knows how to be — and as the myth of scarcity tends to be. Finally’ he becomes so exasperated by his inability to control the people of Israel that he calls Moses and Aaron to come to him. Pharaoh tells them, “Take your people and leave. Take your flocks and herds and just get out of here!” And then the great king of Egypt, who presides over a monopoly of the region’s resources, asks Moses and Aaron to bless him…

When the children of Israel of Israel are in the wilderness, beyond the reach of Egypt, they still look back and think, “Should we really go? All the world’s glory is in Egypt and with Pharaoh.” But when they finally turn around and look into the wilderness, where there are no monopolies, they see the glory of Yahweh.

In answer to the people’s fears and complaints, something extraordinary happens. God’s love comes trickling down in the form of bread. They say, “Manhue?” — Hebrew for “What is it?” — and the word “manna” is born. They had never before received bread as a free gift that they couldn’t control, predict, plan for or own. The meaning of this strange narrative is that the gifts of life are indeed given by a generous God. It’s a wonder, it’s a miracle, it’s an embarrassment, it’s irrational, but God’s abundance transcends the market economy.

Three things happened to this bread in Exodus 16. First, everybody had enough. But because Israel had learned to believe in scarcity in Egypt, people started to hoard the bread. When they tried to bank it, to invest it, it turned sour and rotted, because you cannot store up God’s generosity. Finally, Moses said, “You know what we ought to do? We ought to do what God did in Genesis I. We ought to have a Sabbath.” Sabbath means that there’s enough bread, that we don’t have to hustle every day of our lives…

What we know about our beginnings and our endings, then, creates a different kind of present tense for us. We can live according to an ethic whereby we are not driven, controlled, anxious, frantic or greedy, precisely because we are sufficiently at home and at peace to care about others as we have been cared for.

But if you are like me, while you read the Bible you keep looking over at the screen to see how the market is doing. If you are like me, you read the Bible on a good day, but you watch Nike ads every day. And the Nike story says that our beginnings are in our achievements, and that we must create ourselves… 

Abundance Statue In The Rose Garden, Hampton Court Palace - London.
Abundance Statue in the Rose Garden, by Jim Linwood

According to the Nike story, whoever has the most shoes when he dies wins. The Nike story says there are no gifts to be given because there’s no giver. We end up only with whatever we manage to get for ourselves. This story ends in despair. It gives us a present tense of anxiety, fear, greed and brutality. It produces child and wife abuse, indifference to the poor, the buildup of armaments, divisions between people, and environmental racism. It tells us not to care about anyone but ourselves — and it is the prevailing creed of American society

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if liberal and conservative church people, who love to quarrel with each other, came to a common realization that the real issue confronting us is whether the news of God’s abundance can be trusted in the face of the story of scarcity? What we know in the secret recesses of our hearts is that the story of scarcity is a tale of death. And the people of God counter this tale by witnessing to the manna. There is a more excellent bread than crass materialism. It is the bread of life and you don’t have to bake it. As we walk into the new millennium, we must decide where our trust is placed…

Jesus said it more succinctly. You cannot serve God and mammon. You cannot serve God and do what you please with your money or your sex or your land. And then he says, “Don’t be anxious, because everything you need will be given to you.” But you must decide. Christians have a long history of trying to squeeze Jesus out of public life and reduce him to a private little Savior. But to do this is to ignore what the Bible really says. Jesus talks a great deal about the kingdom of God — and what he means by that is a public life reorganized toward neighborliness.

The question for the contemporary Christian is, “Which narrative do we follow? Who’s story will we make our own? God’s, or Pharoah’s?” How, though, do we go about and practice and live out that story and testimony in the face of overwhelming pressure against blessings? When we are made to feel guilty for having a Sabbath, or for appreciating some occasional manna? When Jesus blesses the poor, and our culture and tv and movies and politicians and radio and restaurants curse the poor while delivering poverty?

How do we counter that?

Life at the Big House

A fierce but height-challenged young lady stands atop a soap box to be position herself above eye level with a masked, shielded, heavily-artilleried, full-body-armored police officer surrounded by dozens of other masked, shielded, heavily-artilleried, full-body-armored police officers.

She’s obviously a threat, right? I mean, that’s what we’re being told by the police state and its apologists. All protesters anywhere that protest against corporate powers and on behalf of the rights of women and minorities are a threat to civility and democracy, amirite?

They have to be a threat to democracy. What, with their loud voices and their demonstrating and opinions and perspectives down our earlobes.

You would think that’s what democracy is all about. A “marketplace of free ideas” and some such communist bullshevik propaganda, right?

But, nope. The common folk can’t be trusted with such powers. We are not smart enough to know what’s best for us.

And it turns out what’s best for us is aually what’s also best for BP, GE, Citicorp, McDonald’s, Bank of America, Boeing, WalMart. They’re the smart ones! That’s why they’re making so much money and we’re not.

Ha ha. We’re just sooooooo stupid it hurts.

So, when political leaders like Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell throw machine guns and SWAT teams in the face of women protesters, they just need to realize that he is a benign, good-hearted man who only wants what’s best for them.

Chicago Mayor Ram Emanuel is also a kind, benevolent soul. Out of his inner-gentleness, he is making sure that the world is safe for the backdoor dealings of the world’s largest financial states and their wonderfully kind beneficiaries.

Beneficiaries. Now, doesn’t that word have the ring of goodness to it?

I mean, why else would he draft a law that effectively outlaws protest? And if he weren’t such a kind-hearted, wise man, why would the city’s elected aldermen overwhelmingly and with little protest sign the bill into law? And then why would the people’s watchdog, our television and print media practically cheer the law?

It must be because our leaders are so good to us…

Charity and Greed (2)

I feel that “charity” is one of those great virtues that had been stripped of its power once the Christian Church came into power.Consider that King James reading of I Corinthians 13:13:

And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

Could the apostles have truly meant that the greatest, most lasting principle in the entire universe would be to give spare change out of our excess to ease the suffering of the very poorest?

Or was it something more, something much deeper?

Perhaps we should view charity as the outpouring of those who’ve witnessed and become something different, who’ve moved aside from the debilitating numbness of empire-building of the dominant culture long enough to recognize the needs and assets not only of themselves and their shared community but extend it outside of themselves. These relationships organically work to inject selfless justice to the oppressed and then back to the self.

charity: water display

When such a transformation happens, those who have been touched are no longer concerned with frivolous arguments about “forcing” people to be charitable. Because true charity understands that all of our actions and inactions are interconnected, it understands the violence of poverty first-hand, and it understands that wealth accumulation is theft.

Charity understands the deep, intricate indebtedness we have to each other. Charity rejects the libertarian argument that taxation that lessens income inequality is theft, but understands that income inequality itself is greed and therefore theft. And therefore murder.

Charity looks around and sees millions of homeless families, men, women, children. She sees all of the discarded veterans, the abused workers, hungry children, shamed school teachers, overburdened social workers, the rejected differently-abled, the untouchables, not as what society sees them as – the names and titles listed above – but as human beings worthy of human dignity, love, respect, and full access to quality food, healthcare, housing, protection, and clothing.

This form of charity runs in stark contrast to greed. Where greed feels entitled to possess property at others’ expense, charity seeks to share, to make sure none is discarded. With true charity, there is no room for greed.

Current practices of “charity” however, are actually falsified extensions of greed. Charitable foundations are really nice-looking tax shelters, allowing estates to save millions upon millions of dollars each year while only spending a portion of that in order to game the non-profit world while earning respectability in their corporate endeavors (read: The Revolution Will Not Be Funded). However, if a service provider for the poor needs money to help the very ones discarded by the corporate-produced economic system, it will most likely need to go through these corporate-pr0duced foundations.

The virtue of charity needs to be reevaluated, not for what it supposedly means, but for what it is opposed to and dreams of.

Full series here. Part 1 on Greed here.

Hark! The Herald Angels Evangelize!

I’ve got a shameful confession: As a young adult, I once declared that Black Gospel music wasn’t really about the Gospel because its aim wasn’t to convert people to Christianity. It wasn’t, in my estimation, saving souls from the clutches of hell.

Free Gospel Sundays

I was wrong. Black Gospel Music, far better than nearly any other type of music in the Contemporary Christian market or much anything else I’ve ever witnessed – and I would count evangelists in that – witnessed and proclaimed the gospel.

Allow me to clarify.

The term gospel means “good news”, which any good Evangelical knows. We know that and we think that the good news being declared is the good news that Jesus paid for our individual sins with his death and, therefore, if we trust in him we are removed from the ultimate price of our sins and get to be with God when we die. This is alternately called salvation. The ultimate problem with this, from my perspective, is that we don’t seem to understand what Jesus was attempting to save his followers from, let alone to.

Fortunately, understanding what the gospel entails can help to clarify and round that out a bit for us.

In the era of the Roman Empire, when Jesus was of age, the empire (which consisted of Palestine, where Jesus was born and spent the overwhelming majority of his life) centered around the one person of note: the emperor. Whenever an heir apparent was born or a new one rose to the throne, evangelists (messengers, from which we get the word “angels”) were sent through the kingdom to spread the good news of the coming king.

In fact, they would say, “I bring you glad tidings of good news.”

The birth anunciations of Jesus of Nazareth to the lowly shepherds were then a mocking of the Roman Empire with a different objective. Not only was this announcement about a new king, but about a new kingdom, a new way moving, new rules, new perspectives.

We can see what that new kingdom would look like throughout the gospel accounts of Jesus’ life. “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.” (Luke 7:22)

The most precise account of this new kingdom presided by this new king may be in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus assessed all of the current political/societal/religious views of the time and found them all severely lacking. He condemned the power-and-violence seeking of the Roman Empire, the violent reactionism of the zealots, the accommodations of the Herodites, the alleged purity of the Pharisees, the hiding and disconnection of the Essenes.

He offered something fresh, creative new, and utterly not-of-this-world. He offered healing and hope for the sick, the downtrodden, the forgotten, the poor, outcasts, the depressed, homeless, victimized, brutalized, oppressed. Slaves, women, children, gentiles – he welcomed them all with open arms and instructed his kingdom-mates to do the same.

So it makes sense that much of Black Gospel Music is about rejoicing in and pushing towards liberation rather than solemnly waiting for heaven (although many songs brilliantly did both). Because that’s what “Gospel” means after all.

Blow your horn, Gabriel. Blow.

Yes, I Is Angry, Bro – But I’m Not Envious

Variously, in my slacktivism endeavors, I’ll be asked if I’m envious. Or bitter. Or hateful. Or angry.

The correct answer, of course, is: no, no, no, yes.

If you’re not familiar with biblical language that I’m using here, allow me to elaborate.

There are various accounts of prophets in the Hebrew scriptures. Some were major, some minor, some poets.

And then there was Jonah. If you’re like me, you remember Jonah as the guy who got swallowed by a whale (yes, he was pwnd).

All the prophets had words from God – messages of salvation, condemnation, warnings. The prophets had no choice but to speak the Hebrew God’s words to the intended audience, whether doing so meant praise, death, or torture for the prophet, because God’s words were “Shut up in my bones like fire.

They all had their messages and their particular model. Most of them were angry about injustice done to or by their people, the most famous case being Amos. As a result, most of the prophets were unpopular, viewed as grumpy, angry, crazed folk. No prophet was accepted in her or his casa, according to Jesus. Yet they felt no option but to deliver their messages, with their “tongues on fire.”

Jonah was the exception. Jonah, an Israelite, was to send a message of deliverance and redemption to the Ninevites. Nineveh was the empire that ruled and subjugated Israel, and Jonah, being a proud Israelite, detested the captors.

When God told this prophet to love his enemies, he didn’t turn the other cheek. He turned and fled.

So, a boat, a large storm, a straw match, an intentional man overboard, and three days in the belly of a fish later, Jonah finds himself back on the journey he despised in the first place.

Clarke's Block Fire, Keene New Hampshire

In the Message translation of the third chapter of the book:

Next, God spoke to Jonah a second time: “Up on your feet and on your way to the big city of Nineveh! Preach to them. They’re in a bad way and I can’t ignore it any longer.” This time Jonah started off straight for Nineveh, obeying God’s orders to the letter. 

Nineveh was a big city, very big—it took three days to walk across it. 

Jonah entered the city, went one day’s walk and preached, “In forty days Nineveh will be smashed.” 

The people of Nineveh listened, and trusted God. They proclaimed a citywide fast and dressed in burlap to show their repentance. Everyone did it—rich and poor, famous and obscure, leaders and followers… 

God saw what they had done, that they had turned away from their evil lives. He did change his mind about them. What he said he would do to them he didn’t do.

One day on a three day journey. And then Jonah stops.

Jonah’s heart just wasn’t in this message. He didn’t want reconciliation or mercy or love. He wanted what he considered to be justice. But God didn’t destroy the Ninevites…

I’ll post the entirety of the final passage. There are too many lessons here to ignore, and I’d like to leave it open for meditation on a few of them. But notice here Jonah’s combo pack of hatred, bitterness, and envy.

Jonah was furious. He lost his temper. He yelled at God, “God! I knew it—when I was back home, I knew this was going to happen! That’s why I ran off to Tarshish! I knew you were sheer grace and mercy, not easily angered, rich in love, and ready at the drop of a hat to turn your plans of punishment into a program of forgiveness! “

God said, “What do you have to be angry about?” 

But Jonah just left. He went out of the city to the east and sat down in a sulk. He put together a makeshift shelter of leafy branches and sat there in the shade to see what would happen to the city

God arranged for a broad-leafed tree to spring up. It grew over Jonah to cool him off and get him out of his angry sulk. Jonah was pleased and enjoyed the shade. Life was looking up. 

But then God sent a worm. By dawn of the next day, the worm had bored into the shade tree and it withered away. The sun came up and God sent a hot, blistering wind from the east. The sun beat down on Jonah’s head and he started to faint. He prayed to die: “I’m better off dead!” 

Then God said to Jonah, “What right do you have to get angry about this shade tree?
Jonah said, “Plenty of right. It’s made me angry enough to die!” 

God said, “What’s this? How is it that you can change your feelings from pleasure to anger overnight about a mere shade tree that you did nothing to get? You neither planted nor watered it. It grew up one night and died the next night. So, why can’t I likewise change what I feel about Nineveh from anger to pleasure, this big city of more than 120,000 childlike people who don’t yet know right from wrong, to say nothing of all the innocent animals?

Notice the line: What do you have to be angry about? The correct answer: Nothing. He should have rejoiced in the humility and salvation of the Ninevites.

Jonah had cultivated his anger over the injustice of the Ninevite empire and what they had done to his people into a growing and festering bitterness. And that bitterness had turned and collaborated with hatred of the personal – not philosophical – sort.

This is where the God and the messenger parted. God made it clear that he sought to give the Ninevites a chance to change their ways. Jonah in no way wanted that chance to occur, ran away, reluctantly and poorly and half-a33edly did his part, and then sat up a one-man theater, eager for the pyrotechnics. Wherein all the inhabitants of a major metropolis would be extinguished.

He was not looking forward to their salvation. But he was looking forward to their gruesome, fire-from-above death. He wanted God to conduct a War on Terror for his viewing pleasure.

And when that didn’t transpire, Jonah sulked like a child who didn’t receive his pony. This might’ve bothered God if God were a contemporary politician. Then maybe God would’ve decided to cave into the blood-lust demographic. But the Hebrew God was much more concerned about the lives of 120,000 uneducated folks then in appeasing the vengeance crowd.

Bloodthirsty Jonah was angry. Not because justice wasn’t served. Jonah’s idea of justice didn’t equate with God’s ideas of justice. Bloodthirsty Jonah was angry because mercy flowed like the mighty rivers.

And then Jonah got some reprieve from his subsiding hatred-and-bitterness anger. A vine gave him some nice shade from the brutal sun. And he enjoyed his material comforts and obviously felt entitled to them. Life was finally looking up for Ol’ Jonah, huh?* He quite literally had it made in the shade.

Vines of the Romans

So when the vine wilted, he was triply angry. This anger, though, was filled by bitterness, hatred, and envy now.

Envy, despite what the mouthpieces of the elites try to convince us, is when one wants what others have – but doesn’t need – solely for himself and is consumed by it. Jonah had it all, and he wanted an extra step of mercy – to the point where he was further angered by it. Envy however, ISN’T wanting for all to have equally. That would be JUSTICE.

The mouthpieces of the Triple Angry Crowd are awfully confused about what is right and what is evil here.

It is evil to be selfish. It is the work of evil that allows envy and greed and bitterness and wrath to consume us. And that is something that every person needs to be vigilant against (ftr, much of the American left is filled with righteous indignation that sometimes becomes bitterness).

So, yes, I’m angry. There are many other emotions that I tap into, but I can’t help but look at the injustice in the world and be a bit troubled, a bit angry at the least. I try to watch, though, so I don’t allow that anger to burn over and smother and incapacitate love. It’s important to see humanity in every person, but there are going to be times when that’s just a simplistic answer for a hurting people.

The trick, I think, is not to let righteous anger turn into a Jonah.


The Language of Abuse

Hippies - Use Backdoor :-)

Take a bath and get a job, you dirty, lazy hippies!

This is the language of dehumanization. It’s always language like this that is used to dehumanize and devalue other men, women and children for practical – often monetary – purposes.

It is this type of language that tries to remove popular sympathy away from those being exploited and away from those rebelling against the exploitation. Palestinians are a “made-up” people group (i.e., they’re not real). Indigenous tribes are “savages.” African descendants are “beasts.” Poor Whites are “white trash.” Murdered children during war are “collateral damage.” Immigrants are “free loaders.” The working poor are “lazy.”

And those are some of the names I can say in print. To even repeat the more derogatory names is to revisit the abuse and violence beset upon the subjects of those names.

It is this type of language that allows powerful and rich men to completely prey on less powerful with the wanton consent and even approval of the majority of Westerners. Get the common people to believe that a sub-group of common people is less human than you or they are, and you can control them both. It’s the act, the effect of the dehumanizing language that does this.

Language that imagines people groups as “monsters” turns the hearers themselves into monsters.

Plushes Cool Monster
Well, SOME monsters are pretty darned cute…

Abusive language is used to justify mass removals and genocides. To eradicate and largely exterminate American Indian tribes and wipe them from their lands. To bloodily subjugate entire races of people. To sell and divide families. To bomb children. To blame women for their own rape. To bully homosexual teens to suicide.

The abortion foes know this well, which is why they refer to the pre-born as “babies” and “people” and call themselves “pro-life”. The rank-and-file believe this is true. And up until the late 1970’s, it’s arguable that they were correct that they were actually pro-life. But then they largely stopped caring for the after-born and advocated wars and the death penalty.

Because the leaders of the anti-abortion movement saw a way to mobilize the masses and make a quick buck: Demonize the opponents and tune into an American blood-lust for optimal performance.

The demonizing, dehumanizing and over-all blood lust has made it easier to ignore and ridicule the opponents of exploitation as well. Since they are removed from us, they become caricatures who only live to defile the public order. We see them as what they aren’t, nor do we hear their stories nor care for their stories. For the same reasons we do not listen to the hurt of African Americans or Latinos in the United States, we do not hear the cries of the bullied gay youth in our schools, or the protests of the protesters. They are wasteful, lazy, stinky, bums who want what everybody else has and don’t want to do anything but hang around and complain until someone gives it to them.

Of course this isn’t the truth or anything resembling the truth. But the vocabulary and the power of words create a barrier, and we agree with that barrier when we refuse to break down that barrier. In doing so, we help to build up that barrier and the dehumanizing is complete. So when the agents of the elite forces come in to do their work, we commend them for keeping us safe from the vermin. Unaware or uncaring they physical and social harm going on all around us but hidden from sight by the opaque walls of dehumanization.

So maybe we need to make it personal. How much blood needs to be shed on the other side of the wall before we begin to tear it down? How much abusive language can we take and give before we all collectively say, “Enough with your power games!”?

Consider this story from a non-violent protester at Occupy LA:

For example, I watched as the LAPD destroyed a pop-up canopy tent that, until that moment, had been serving as Occupy LA’s First Aid and Wellness tent, in which volunteer health professionals gave free medical care to absolutely anyone who requested it. As it happens, my family had personally contributed that exact canopy tent to Occupy LA, at a cost of several hundred of my family’s dollars. As I watched, the LAPD sliced that canopy tent to shreds, broke the telescoping poles into pieces and scattered the detritus across the park. Note that these were the objects described in subsequent mainstream press reports as “30 tons of garbage” that was “abandoned” by Occupy LA: personal property forcibly stolen from us, destroyed in front of our eyes and then left for maintenance workers to dispose of while we were sent to prison.
When the LAPD finally began arresting those of us interlocked around the symbolic tent, we were all ordered by the LAPD to unlink from each other (in order to facilitate the arrests). Each seated, nonviolent protester beside me who refused to cooperate by unlinking his arms had the following done to him: an LAPD officer would forcibly extend the protestor’s legs, grab his left foot, twist it all the way around and then stomp his boot on the insole, pinning the protestor’s left foot to the pavement, twisted backwards. Then the LAPD officer would grab the protestor’s right foot and twist it all the way the other direction until the non-violent protestor, in incredible agony, would shriek in pain and unlink from his neighbor. It was horrible to watch, and apparently designed to terrorize the rest of us. At least I was sufficiently terrorized. I unlinked my arms voluntarily and informed the LAPD officers that I would go peacefully and cooperatively. I stood as instructed, and then I had my arms wrenched behind my back, and an officer hyperextended my wrists into my inner arms. It was super violent, it hurt really really bad, and he was doing it on purpose. When I involuntarily recoiled from the pain, the LAPD officer threw me face-first to the pavement. He had my hands behind my back, so I landed right on my face. The officer dropped with his knee on my back and ground my face into the pavement. It really, really hurt and my face started bleeding and I was very scared. I begged for mercy and I promised that I was honestly not resisting and would not resist.

You could (and may want to) read more here.

History, of course, is filled with millions and millions of stories like that. Where the authorities come in and violently hold down the oppressed or the protester after that man or woman or child has been thoroughly monster-ized and ridiculed. Because then, no one can hear them scream, right?

No one cares if the master is raping the slave because she isn’t really human and therefore, it doesn’t count, right? Or that Irish children are starving in the streets while dining aristocrats ignore them? After all, they’re only Irish cubs… Or that two-thirds of the world live and toil in abject poverty, in shanties, with barely enough food to make it through the day, while a minute percentage of humanity hoards more money and resources than they know what to do with? Alas, the wealthy earned it…

The trick is then rising above it all, right? To call out evil for what it is without demonizing and dehumanizing those who are different from us. To re-humanize the villains and un-villainize the humans. To break down the barriers, brick-by-brick.

That would be recognizing the brother-and-sisterhood of humanity. That’s a good way of using the pen.

Funny Money

Isn’t all money “Funny Money”? Money has no intrinsic value. It’s paper. With a face on it. You can’t feed or clothe yourself with it. You can only enter into an agreement with others about its usage. And though we’re made to feel that we control the agreement, we don’t.

The worth of our money – such as it is – is determined by outside factors. We have an infinitely small control over such factors. We can haggle over our wages, but only a fraction of it. We can comparison shop to save ourselves a few loose dollars. But there is hardly any control over the cost or price of living for the majority of people in the world.

The value of money

Is it any wonder that those who make the most money in the world are those who help control and regulate the value of it?

We need more direct, more decentralized control of our economy. We need an economy that is directly linked to our needs, our values, our worth as human beings. We need an economy that is beneficial for our ecology. That works for more than just a fraction of a percentage point of the people in the world.

We need to regain control of our goods and services, rather than alllowing them to be set and manipulated by bankers and financiers.

We need an economy where people can agree on what their material, items, work, and worth is worth. Think of it as a truly democratic economy. Or, as a participatory economy. Of which parecon is one such model.

Please see other articles in the Local Sustainability topic for more introductory ideas along the same lines.

posted from Bloggeroid

Scooter Getting Served and the Power of Guerilla Protest

Clapping for homelessness is always classless. Especially when it’s the “upper” classes doing it.

When Wisconsin’s Governor Scott Walker came to Chicago to speak at a breakfast, it seemed like the clashing of identical worlds from alternate realities. As I said a couple times here before, Scooter and Chicago’s mayor Rahmie are practically brothers despite the fact that one is a supposed liberal Democrat from the big city and the other is, well, defying odds in one of the formerly most union-friendly states in the Union. That’s, of course, when we had unions..

But I’m not the only one to notice the similarities. As this awesome video shows, the Occupy Chicago movement has caught on to this assault on the common worker and family done by the profiteers. When they had a Human Mic Check demonstration at the breakfast, they not only shamed Scoots, but their own mayor and all the pro-corporatist government teat-seekers in attendance as well.

Now, the danger of such demonstrations is that the common American doesn’t much trust protest or theatre, so combining the two can prove disadvantageous to our collective causes* . It can actually turn our target audience against us. But the genius of such an act, however, is that it catches its target, the rich class who rule over us, by surprise in such a way where they don’t have their armies of darkness – the PR men, the Spin Doctors, the Karl Roves and other manipulators and liars – to protect them from their most base selves. So the evil overlords, when caught off-guard, are free to act like the wicked, vile people they are. In this case, they are clapping for homelessness.

Now, there’s going to be some sections of the American public who would join them. Heck, if history’s any indication , there will be some homeless people on the side of the Gov Walkers. That’s a sad state of humanity, to be sure. But it doesn’t have to be that way. If anything, we should be rising and screaming against the sort of despicable people that tell us what to do and where to go; the sorts of people that run our lives and run us out of our homes and jobs; the sorts of people that put us into debtors prisons.

We should protest and demand a lasting change.

All together now! Economic fairness for all!

*Freedom to live and be employed without living in permanent debt, for instance.

JasDye for State Senator (Rent Is Too Damn High)

In a recent story in the venerable Cracked (which I generally adore, by the way), I ran across this paragraph and got my little danders up:

Hating capitalism is not on the table. This is America. Capitalism defines our history, our economy, and our national psyche And the purpose of this protest cannot be a naive attempt to change the very souls of American businesspeople. To punish businesses for their greed. It’s the wrong message and counterproductive. Call me jaded, but I thought we all just took it for granted that businesses are amoral creatures driven by profit. Being enraged at Corporate America for being greedy is like reading Cracked.com and being enraged by its use of the list format. This is who we are.

I’m constantly bemused but really always annoyed by variants of this claim I just read in Crack’d:
Why punish the greedy bankers?

Maybe it’s the fact that the question is a distraction. It’s a ruse, meant to frame complex issues into bloody solutions.

Maybe it’s the sheer hypocrisy of the statement. After all, rarely do the same people argue that we shouldn’t punish immigrants for jumping a fence and an arbitrary border to allow their families to survive and give their kids a chance in life.  Sort of akin to this:

Or maybe it’s the fact that I’m a moralist and supposedly, so are those who usually argue this point. Many are Christians. The Cracked writer self-identifies as a liberal. And yet the very question is antithetical to two basic tenets of Christianity and liberalism.

  • Sharing is good.
  • Greed is bad.

Any economical, political, and social system based on greed is one that deprives the majority of basic needs.

And while the rich can afford mansions, the shrinking middle class increasingly steal away into gated communities, and the noveau-rich try out sampler McMansions, those of us who question the system are patronized like children.

“But you can’t say what they should and should not make, nor what they should or can buy with those. Besides, they work hard for their money.”

I know many families scrunch together in one measly apartment. We have personally taken in people who would otherwise be homeless for various periods of time, partially because the housing laws and practices are unfair for those with bad credit. But also because people were in between jobs, or were treated unjustly by the system, or recently divorced.

Yet tons of acres of land are currently unused in the barrios and ghettos that could be turned into affordable or sustainable housing, or community gardens and even farms, but landowners don’t want to give up temporary rights.

Families were foreclosed on their homes – even if they were making their mortgages – when the bubble burst. Even though they invested in their properties and lived in them and were finally settling into a place of their own they were told was theirs by the very people who would forcibly take it from them, they were out on the streets and lost their investment.

And their homes.

Let’s view it from another perspective, though. One-fourth of all jobs in the US now pays enough to qualify as poverty-level or below. That is one out of every four jobs that the typical American could have – from the shrinking few that are available – is making less money than necessary to survive on, under an old rubric that needs to change.

The old rubric of poverty is based on food. Because food was a much more expensive portion of the typical American family’s budget, it was estimated to be a third of the monthly cost of living. And that is what the rubric of the poverty level is based on: How much would it cost an American family to sustain themselves on emergency food – and then multiply that by three. Which may be a fine way to still describe who qualifies for federal or state aid, but it’s completely disastrous if, say, it’s no longer relevant.

While the overall prices of food have largely stabilized and not moved much over the last thirty years or so (of course, we are dealing with that cost in other ways), the costs of housing and insurance have bloated far out of proportion. While food used to account for a third of the budget and housing roughly one-fourth, now food counts for a seventh of the typical budget while families are lucky to find a place to live that will only cost them a third of their intake. But at poverty levels, without subsidized housing it’s nearly impossible for a working class family to find safe housing – let alone housing that is easily accessible to their places of work (often, they are across town from their low-paying jobs) that costs anywhere near fifty percent of their wages.

And, again, we are in a recession. And the first cuts during a recession are to social programs of uplift. Programs that would help ease the financial burden of finding affordable housing. Oddly, the very programs that are most necessary during these very times for the most people. But, since those people don’t have access to the halls of power, more of those people are left under the burden of both food and living scarcity.

So, after their regressive payroll taxes are taken out, what little remains for a vast amount of working class Americans is chewed up between child care (if possible), food, clothes, car notes, gas to get them across the city to their low-paying jobs, and rent. Health care may not be an option because they aren’t wealthy enough to afford it and are considered too wealthy to go on Medicaid.

Everything is in a constant state of emergency for a third of US citizens. 

This is unacceptable.

And frankly, I’m not interested in blaming landowners, or bankers, or even banks – as a whole (Some are guilty, for sure. But not all). I’m interested in dismantling a system.

An economic and political system that favors a few for the price of the many is an evil system. Greed is EVIL. It should not be the primary motivator of any system.

There are solutions, but I am under the conviction that it would mean changing our entire society’s values around.
To live more simply.
To truly have a love revolution of sharing.
To give control back to community.
To live off the earth and therefore employ everybody who is able to work.

It is called Localism. We’re continuing to talk about that, but I also want to talk about my possible run for a political seat.

My name is JasDye. And I will speak truth to power with the American people. Because, for most of us, the Rent Is Too Damn High.

Dams, Bio-fuel, and Murder: Progress for Whom?

“Brazil, after a long battle, approves a dam.”

Not too long ago, after reading a title like that (courtesy of the NYT), I’d wonder who the fools are that would oppose a dam. Jobs, opportunity, energy, water flow. Progress. These are things that the poor villagers need, surely…

But lately I’ve started asking who is it who benefits from such “progress”.

Opponents said they would not give up the fight against the Belo Monte dam, which they said would flood a large part of the Xingu River basin, affecting local fishing and forcing tens of thousands of indigenous people from their native lands. 

“We will not cede an inch,” said Antônia Melo, the coordinator of Xingu Vivo Para Sempre, a group based in Altamira, a city that will be partly flooded. “Our indignation and our strength to fight only increases with every mistake and every lie of this government.”

Progress is yet another code word. Another sign of Newspeak.

We are protecting you. We are giving you access to fresh and healthy water and/or food and energy as well giving you jobs and equity and teaching you lazy leechers about responsibility.

But then you start questioning whether or not they truly need what they are being sold. And certainly for such a high cost.

The price of free capitalism, I suppose?

Q’eqchi’ peasants mourning the assassinations of three young activists.

On March 15, 2011, Guatemalan police, soldiers and paramilitaries began a series of violent evictions targeting Q’eqchi’ peasant communities in Panzos, Alta Verapaz. The purpose of the evictions were to stop the production of basic grains and convert the land to sugar cane and African palm for the production of biofuel. Hundreds of homes were destroyed, several people were killed in the attacks, and thousands lost their only source of food and income

Helicopters fly overhead with armed men leaning out the door pointing guns at peasants below. Masked paramilitaries attack communities at night. Murderers remain free and community leaders are arrested on fraudulent charges. Hundreds of families have had their houses and crops burned to the ground, leaving them with hunger and a desperate struggle for survival…

The Guatemala Solidarity Project (GSP) strongly condemns continued repression against 14 q’eqchi’ communities in Panzos which were violently evicted in March by the Guatemalan government and biofuel corporations…

Thousands of q’eqchi’ peasants near Livingston, Guatemala had been anticipating February 14, 2011 as a possible day of joy and celebration. Instead it became a day of unbearable grief after the bodies of three missing leaders affiliated with Encuentro Campesino (Peasant Encounter) were found floating in a lake near Livingston, covered with bullet wounds.

Encuentro Campesino is a peasant and indigenous rights organization which political prisoner Ramiro Choc helped form. February 14 was the first day that Choc became eligible for release from prison, and the three were expected to participate in activities to pressure for his freedom.

But who cares, right? I mean, we’re talking about access to bio-fuel, right? We’re gonna need that sh*t soon because we’re approaching peak oil, right? Ain”t it better than dirty dino-based oil? And won’t the production of it (and the dam) give good jobs to the economically devastated people of Guatemala and Brazil?

These are what we tell ourselves. I know that I’ve been conditioned to believe such quandaries. But the truth is actually not that complicated. We need to ask other questions:

  • Why are a people who live in such a bio-rich environment considered poor?
  • Do they actually need jobs – or do they already have them? 
  • And not only jobs, but meaningful ones – ones that give them a sense of accomplishment and meaning?

Going back to Brazil:

Conservationists have become increasingly critical of Brazil’s efforts to protect the Amazon rain forest. Brazil’s deforestation numbers increased sharply over the past nine months, and the lower house of Congress last week approved a revision of the Forest Code that would open up protected areas to deforestation while granting amnesty to agribusiness developers for previous forest-clearing. The Senate has yet to vote on the measure. 

The government has an important choice — to go back to a future of wasteful publicly funded mega-projects and frontier chaos, or ahead, to the future of a sustainable and equitable green economy leader, with rule of law, good governance and a secure natural and investment environment,” said Stephan Schwartzman of the Environmental Defense Fund. 

The $17 billion dam, which is expected to start producing electricity in 2015, would divert the Xingu River along a 62-mile stretch in Pará State. Environmental groups say it will flood more than 120,000 acres of rain forest and settlements, displacing 20,000 to 40,000 people and releasing large quantities of methane. The Ibama spokeswoman put the number of displaced people at 20,000 but insisted that no indigenous people would be removed from their lands.

There is a way out, a holistic change, a solution for all of this mess. It’s living local, local sustainability. The idea is tied into a phrase attributed to Gandhi, “There is enough for everyone’s need. But not enough for everyone’s greed.”

We don’t need so much energy. We don’t need to starve many while several gorge ourselves on fats. We just need to live within our means and share properly.

In the meantime, please support and spread the word about the Belo Monte dam project’s destruction and the Guatemala Solidarity Project, as well as the people whose lives will be affected by these traps.