The Queers Aren’t Alright: Consequences of Political Lesbianism

I – Radfems

Radical feminist theory is a school of thought or analysis of the structures of power which oppress the “female sex”.  This second wave of feminism which began in the early 60s generally maintains that women (used interchangeably with “females”) as a strictly biological class are globally oppressed by men (used interchangeably with “males”) as another strictly biological class. It also posits that said oppression is “sex-based”. Whether or not this oppression roots from capitalism—which would be a more materialist view—or from innate “male” evil has been a point of contention. Now we have the terms TERF and SWERF, meaning Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist and Sex Worker Exclusionary Radical Feminist; respectively, though these views tend to go hand in hand.

In the 1970’s, during the Women’s Liberation Movement, there was this new idea among the radical feminists that lesbianism—whatever that means in context—is the solution, and heterosexuality as an institution, is the problem. What this resulted in was political lesbianism, meaning women separating themselves from those they deemed men in every way possible, often engaging in same-sex relationships (or attempting to) or choosing to remaining celibate, in an attempt to combat the heterosexual institution. However, lesbians did not begin existing in the 70’s, and this movement affected general lesbian identity heavily in ways we are still recovering from. Prior to the political lesbianism, “lesbian” was solely a slur applied to non-men who were interested in or involved with non-men. But with cis, ostensibly heterosexual women moving in and claiming lesbianism as their political tool for this movement, the idea of what a lesbian was forcibly narrowed. 

With the language we have now, radical feminists often say they want to abolish gender. They believe we—trans activists—want to erase biological sex in favor of social gender, and create a world of choice-based identity. They self-identify as “gender-critical”, meaning they—perhaps in roundabout ways—understand the violence inherent in forced gender roles but prop up trans people as patriarchal rather than seeing transness for what it is:a natural reaction to a violently gendered society. There might be radical feminists who would agree there as well, but would any go farther and say that that is evidence of a community that knows gender trauma better than most? Trans people are not a monolith, and we have made countless observations about gender that contradict, sometimes peacefully, and sometimes with violence. Radical feminists criticize the poetry we make of the language we are taught, while claiming to be criticizing an ideology, a nebulous trans agenda. For a more nuanced analysis of gender versus sex, read the Gender Accelerationist Manifesto.

II – Discourse

It’s been quite a few years since [mainstream gay celebrity] invented queerness, and I, for one, am thankful. We’ve come a long way since the beginning of our movement, back when [politician] advocated for us in the court of law and passed [this or that reform which improved quality of life], which, as you know, was repealed only a short time after, because of course we can’t trust reformists to make the changes we need and maintain them. Various umbrellas for aspects of queerness have been created, such as the a-spectrum; encompassing aromantic, asexual, demisexual, and other similarly grouped identities, or the transgender spectrum; encompassing all sorts of men, women, and the vast array of identities beyond that.

It’s true that being a radical is isolating. It‘s also true that being a queer or a trans person is isolating. It can often feel like one is a victim to their own geography—to their small town, to their alienating schoolhouses and workplaces; and, well, they often are. So it goes without saying that with the internet came more opportunities for queers to talk. And so they did, and never before has something like this been seen: the amount of solidarity, support, love, power between people who otherwise wouldn’t be connected is pretty incredible. 

Predictably, I want to talk about the other end of the double-edged sword, the Discourse(tm). Discourse in the context of social justice, feminism, and LGBTQ+ identities tends to refer to polarizing issues that are given much attention online and often involve those who wish to exclude, and those who don’t. For a bit, I kind of assumed it would make sense to operate on a case by case basis, looking at each discourse topic individually and coming to my own conclusions. I can now see the ways they intersect, and I no longer think it’s ideal to pick and choose. There’s so many kinds of queer or social justice discourse and only so many are bound to apply to you, so picking and choosing based on hearsay from people who might not even be part of the communities isn’t a good approach. A lot of intracommunity discourse is just that—intracommunity discourse.

An example of queer discourse is truscum, referring to trans people who believe dysphoria is a requirement for True Transness. Cis people who agree with truscum, are not truscum, they are just transphobic. Truscum rhetoric revolves around respectability politics, medicalizing transness, and appeasing the feelings of cis people. Truscum (or transmedicalists, as many call themselves) tend to espouse gender binarism ranging from casual binarism and binarist assumptions to outright denial of nonbinary identity.

I personally do not want my existence as a trans person medicalized, under the knife, trapped in the lens of the cis gaze and expected to be grateful. I don’t need or want neurosexist pseudoscience to tell me I have a “ladybrain”. Cis people elevating studies about transness that attempt to explain our existence with science don’t recognize that many of these are debunked, such as the idea that there are male and female brains, and that institutions of science don’t need to justify our existence. The real science supports us, yes, but institutions of science built on stolen land have neo-colonialism coursing through their veins and it may not be possible to separate these institutions as we know them today from their roots in white-supremacist imperialism. Man and woman, or this European idea of man and woman, have evolved throughout time to suit the imperialist status quo. Please read the Gender Accelerationist Manifesto.

With regards to people on the a-spectrum, people are similarly exclusionary and will state that people on the aromantic and asexual spectrum cannot claim to be LGBTQ+, or even queer. Besides the fact that people on the a-spectrum are very much oppressed and marginalized by the allocishet status quo, the A in the commonly used LGBTQIA and similar acronyms has always stood for a-spectrum in some way or another. The status quo punishes a-spec individuals for deviating from the norms it has set, just as it does the rest of us queers.

Most discourse is similarly a matter of inclusion and exclusion, and lesbian discourse is no different. There is the argument of nonbinary lesbians and our validity as lesbians, who can reclaim “dyke”, and so on. There is the argument of bisexual and pansexual lesbians, if they can exist, if they can be butch or femme. Political lesbianism dug its roots into the word before it could even develop as a distinct identity in a healthy way, and nearly every type of lesbian discourse can be traced to the political lesbian movement.

Baeddellism is an ideology named after the Olde English slur for an effeminate man, baeddel. It expresses—in a trans context—prioritizing those who were assigned male at birth (AMAB), especially those who are intersex (coercively assigned male at birth, or CAFAB), over those who were assigned female at birth (AFAB). It’s essentially a vague separatist movement that mirrored lesbian separatism. Regardless of what baeddels claimed baeddelism stood for, it is continuing to have effects on the trans community as a whole just as lesbian separatism did to lesbianism. Namely, there is continual dehumanization of those who were AFAB among some trans circles. When trans people who were AFAB speak of their experiences with misdirected misogyny, they are often called transmisogynist by the lingering baeddel tendencies or transphobic by people who seem to think bigots ask how you identify before deciding how to violently address you. 

Like lesbian separatism before it, baeddelism has again demonstrated that it is in the interests of the status quo to keep us separate. Separating and segregating people by their assigned gender at birth (AGAB) is harmful to everyone, with or without the trans inclusive language we have now. Neither AMAB nor AFAB could exist as lone terms without the other; the full picture is needed to contextualize either. It is integral to queer liberation that we are not divided. All of these forms of queer discourse are similarly helpful to the status quo as they seek to minimize solidarity among the oppressed.

III – From Exclusion to Where?

Queer discourse is a place we can identify prescriptivism in action—the attitude or belief that theres a single correct way to use language, in our context, labels and slurs. So many people unconsciously promote the idea that labels choose you, rather than the other way around, even when this isn’t always consistent with their beliefs. We see this possibly in the way questioning individuals might share their feelings, thoughts, or experiences, and ask if they make them a certain identity. This shows how the default assumption is often that there is an innate sexuality and gender which is more important than an individual’s autonomy or right to self-identify.

This cannot be the case. Man and woman as we know them today are formed by the European colonialist history that has shaped them, and there can be no gene or chromosome corresponding to a social construct. So instead, we must opt out of, reclaim, and transform what is forced on us all. 

To group all instances of gender with the oppressive traditions descended from that which spread through genocide and conquest is erasure of already marginalized cultures and only serves the dominant culture. Instead we target the European gender binary, in conjunction with white supremacy, the state, capitalism, patriarchy and any other forms of systemic oppression. We respect the word of someone who declares themselves an identity because their word is what makes it so. We accept infinite definitions for the same label, because as soon as you try to introduce a universal definition for a sexuality or gender, you are, by default, going to be excluding some part of that label’s history. We can have different relationships to the same words, that’s part of what makes us human.

Edited by Charles Maria Tor

Recommended reading:

Alyson Escalante – Gender Nihilism: An Anti-Manifesto

https://libcom.org/library/gender-nihilism-anti-manifesto

Alyson Escalante – Beyond Negativity: What Comes After Gender Nihilism?

https://medium.com/@alysonescalante/beyond-negativity-what-comes-after-gender-nihilism-bbd80a5fc05d

Kaspar the Friendly Geist – Gender Egoism – On Ownness and Identity

https://www.google.com/amp/s/spacegeist.wordpress.com/2018/03/14/gender-egoism-on-ownness-and-identity/amp/

Eme Flores and Vikky Storm – The Gender Accelerationist Manifesto

https://libcom.org/library/gender-accelerationist-manifesto

The Cotton Ceiling, Reframed

Image result for lesbian and trans solidarity

CONTENT WARNING: SEXUAL VIOLENCE, TRANSPHOBIA, HOMOPHOBIA

Many seasoned feminists will have interacted with a wide variety of feminists – liberal feminists, radical feminists, anarcha-feminists, queer feminists, and TERFs. I want to specifically focus on the last category, for now.

Many on my side have said that TERFs are not feminists. Their beliefs align with the patriarchal right, why would they be feminists? TERFs are, actually, feminists, I would argue. It does us, the feminist left, no good to say TERFs are not feminists, because to the public eye – and especially to the right, they are feminists. It would behoove us to take out the trash, as opposed to arguing that it isn’t our trash in the first place. Feminism is an imperfect ideology and can be a host to reactionary ideology. Dangerous and reactionary feminists, yes, but still feminists.

That being said, many of their talking points permeate common discourse, and we find them either parroting the words of mainstream reactionaries, or even the other way around. One of their most effective strategies has been to convert cisgender lesbians to their cause, by co-opting victimizing language, painting other women as the enemy, instead of the patriarchy or any other real systems of oppression. By telling cis lesbians that their enemy is the trans activists, they intend to harm trans communities, and end up unintentionally harming trans and cis people alike.

If you haven’t heard of the “cotton ceiling”, I envy you. In 2012, Planned Parenthood facilitated a conference called “Pleasure and Possibilities” which included a workshop called “Overcoming the Cotton Ceiling: Breaking Down Sexual Barriers for Queer Trans Women”. It was essentially a workshop about the true phenomenon of some cis lesbians using their sexuality to attack the gender identity of trans women, and how statements like “I am a lesbian, therefore I don’t like men, therefore I don’t date trans women” make implications about trans people that cannot be challenged, or else you will be accused of attacking their sexuality. Yet, somehow, plenty of cis lesbians exist without defining their sexuality around a strict interpretation of gender. They have existed for as long as the concept of lesbianism has, but now TERFs want to forcefully label them bisexuals, for just believing that trans women are women.

This is all part of a wildly successful attempt to reframe the cotton ceiling. A relevant example of this deliberate misunderstanding is Sarah Diddums, someone who has written for the Guardian and NewStatesmen. In her article about the cotton ceiling, she says,

“The title referenced the feminist concept of the glass ceiling – that is, the invisible barriers to promotions at work. Cotton meant underwear. Getting inside women’s knickers was treated as a discrimination issue equivalent to failing to become a CEO”.

This “misunderstanding” is not a misunderstanding at all – it is a deliberate reframing of what happened and what was talked about.

The truth is, this isn’t how trans activists actually think. There is no deep want to get into the pants of nonconsenting women. There surely isn’t an ideological imperative, either. Most, if not all trans rights activists wouldn’t want to sleep with a TERF. I find them as repulsive as any other reactionaries. Myself and many others find the insinuation offensive and vile.

Every individual has the right to refuse sex, and sex can never be talked about as a human right. It is intellectually dishonest to say that transgender women want to rape cisgender women while also silencing the cis women who willingly have sex with them. If anyone is erasing lesbians, its those who don’t respect a lesbians identity as a lesbian, cis or trans, for agreeing that gender is a social construct and that trans women are women. If anyone is practicing misogyny, its those who belittle the cis women who sleep with trans women, condescend to them, and tell them how to identify. Cis lesbians who speak out against TERFs are routinely infantilized and talked down to, by those who think they know better than them. Let it be known that, just as transgender individuals are not a monolith and have a variety of experiences and ideas, lesbians are no different. Not all lesbians are TERFs, and, undoubtedly, not all TERFs are lesbians.

Cis lesbians expressing solidarity with trans folks is integral to combatting TERF ideology. Being vocal about an opposition to transphobia, disrupting recruitment efforts, sabotaging the platforms of TERFs, and any other form of direct action has proven to be effective against reactionary hate groups, and we cannot stand idly by hoping for justice to be presented to us.

Anarchism: Organization Without Coercion

This essay was taken from my pamphlet of the same title. Attached here is the PDF, which I strongly urge any to print out and share.

What is anarchism? Anarchism is fundamentally a critique of State power. Anarchists posit that the State represents a monopoly on power and control – this is why it is frowned upon when civilians are violent, but there is no legal issue with acts of political violence or coercion such as taxation, war, criminal justice, and the restriction of unalienable rights.

An anarchist critique of the State can be summed up with four points:

1. People have rights independent of the State.
2. The State frequently violates some of these rights, or holds the potential to violate more.
3. Violating these rights is never permissible.
4. Thus, all States are illegitimate.

Having established this basic, but essential anarchist critique of government, it is equally important to understand what alternative anarchism offers. Anarchist schools of thought vary widely. The core principles shared by most, if not all Anarchists are:

1. That all shall be free and equal, with an emphasis on well-being for all.
2. All shall extend mutual aid and solidarity wherever possible.
3. Any form of coercion is unjust.
4. All forms of unjustified hierarchy must be abolished.

Anarchists do not propose one single idea, but a collection of ideals and lifestyles.

We do not necessarily believe that all people are naturally good, or perfect. We simply believe that a society, small scale or large scale, without coercion is feasible and completely within our grasp, even as imperfect beings. Many opponents of anarchism mistake organization for government, and believe that anarchism is society without organization; this is perhaps the most common misconception.

Anarchism is not without rules, because there are rules that individuals can reach consensus on. Of course when rules are applied to an entire nation, it can become unjust, so anarchism attempts to combat that by putting an emphasis on local self-determination. Just as only the individual knows what is best for themself, only the most localized community knows its needs and goals.

Anarchist organization is based on the idea that the individual is free to organize and do anything they believe is worthwhile. Whereas, under capitalism and the State, tasks are motivated by profit far more than by need. These systems are inefficient. Global agricultural production can feed more than 1.18 times the global population, yet 868 million people go hungry. There are more than 5 vacant homes for every homeless person in the U.S. We have the means of well-being for all, do not be mistaken. The problem is not lack of resources, but the hoarding thereof.

There are a few objections to anarchism, which rarely hold up to the slightest bit of scrutiny. The swift response that arises to combat those who declare themselves Anarchists! These fervent, yet misguided oppositions are all too common. Let’s look at them.

A question often flippantly asked of Anarchists is,”Who will build the roads?”. What motivates one to do their work? The Self-Determination Theory posits that one needs competency, relatedness, and autonomy to do their best work as well as enjoy it. One must feel that their work makes a difference, that is, competency. They must have a sense of community, therefore, relatedness. Thirdly, they must be given reasonable authority over their work. When capitalism substitutes these factors for currency, our only motivation is survival. When one feels connected to their community, a part of something bigger than them, they are far less likely to despise their work. Also, in the instance of roads – they may be built by a community that is in want of roads! Does a lack of government stop them? Does government hold a magical monopoly on the creation of paved surfaces? Is it unheard of for a community to take initiative to fulfill its own needs? 

It is said that Anarchism of any kind would never be successful because of human nature. It would descend into a chaotic bloodbath! This is far from the truth.

In 1918, a series of anarchistic communes in Ukraine, with a collective population of around seven million, was formed. This “Free Territory of Ukraine” organized itself in accordance to anarchist-communist principles. In 1936, many sectors of the economy in Catalonia, Spain, were delegated amongst anarchist and socialist trade unions, and industrial productivity doubled almost everywhere across the country.

One is compelled to ask, “Why aren’t these communes thriving today?”. In both situations, these attempts at anarchist communism were thwarted by vastly superior military forces, such as the Bolsheviks or the fascists. The downfall of these societies is not proof anarchism is unachievable; the successes of these societies is proof it is achievable! What could a society accomplish, were it not under attack on all fronts by governments which declare its existence a threat?

Upon the writing of this, a region in northern Syria known commonly as Rojava, is fighting an ongoing conflict for its survival since its de facto autonomy was gained in 2012. While it is not perfect, it remains an ongoing attempt at libertarian socialism, held back only by its need to ward off external reactionary forces.

Society has suffered far too long under capital and the State. As capitalism and the State become increasingly absurd, we must waste no time. Local organization and direct action is the only way to truly change society. We’ve done it before, and we will do it again.

Further Reading:

The Conquest of Bread – Petr Kropotkin

Recipes for Disaster – An Anarchist Cookbook

Emma Goldman – Anarchism and Other Essays

Alexander Berkman – What is Communist Anarchism?

Sources:

http://www.fao.org/save-food/resources/keyfindings/en/

https://ycharts.com/indicators/us_home_vacancy_rate

https://endhomelessness.org/homelessness-in-america/homelessness-statistics/state-of-homelessness-report/

Capitalism is Inefficient

   Capitalism, often falsely credited with innovation and progress, is extremely inefficient and counterproductive, and is to blame for its own shortcomings. Both on a large-scale and on a small-scale, capitalism wastes resources and cannot be reformed or salvaged. The people of the world have more than enough in the way of food, so much so that the distributors of food will discard and waste it, while people starve in “civilized” countries. The people of the world have more than enough in the way of dwellings, it is the scam of private property (as opposed to personal property) that creates homelessness, even while the wealthy live in luxury and rent out their homes, exploiting those who are in need of them. Capitalism places arbitrary values of wealth above actual, measurable efficiency, and both the people and the land they are a part of are suffering as a result. Capitalism cannot be made more equitable – any attempt to tackle wealth inequality will be thwarted by the nature of capitalism, because wealth inequality is integral to its success. Capitalism relies on wealth disparity, and will do anything to stimulate it, seeing as the rich cannot exist without the poor and their labor.

   Functionally, capitalism is inefficient. Something is nonfunctional if it undermines its own capacity to function on the basis of the grounds it lays for itself. The great claim made by capitalists is that capitalism is a system which promotes economic growth and innovation – the boon of which is said to trickle down to the vast majority of citizens. This claim is the impenetrable wall – the one obstacle standing between capital and any would-be challenger to its legitimacy. But can it be true when nearly four trillion dollars are spent each year on the U.S. military, for instance? Where is the innovation when even the most alienating, practically useless jobs are still so hard to get? There is no true innovation under capitalism; capitalism stimulates lateral movement, not forward movement. Products that represent innovative research and labour and efforts are sabotaged by the need to make a profit – a product is only as good as its manufacturer deems is necessary for it to sell. Capital values the product which is profitable and doesn’t hurt vested interests. Tactics like planned obsolescence show that the motivation is not to innovate, but to expand. A product which may very well be helpful, practical, or even life-saving will not gain traction in the market unless it is profitable. Inversely, any innovation that would threaten current monopolies and profits is prevented entirely. Revolutionary new innovations are either opposed or co-opted, perfectly mirroring what happens to socialist or radical movements. Research shows that when a worker is given more autonomy, among other things, they engage more with their work, and it’s counterproductive to give a worker more autonomy when you intend the profit to trickle up a hierarchy to a private owner. In addition, many instances of innovation, such as the internet, actually originate from the state sector, as opposed to the free market.

   Capitalism is not a rational, efficient way of organizing economic life. Nearly a third of the food produced for human consumption each year finds itself being lost or wasted. The annual income of just the 100 richest individuals is enough to end global poverty four times over. Companies are known to deliberately manufacture products so that they break down faster, creating more consumption, thus, more profit. This tactic of planned obsolescence is an example of the absurdity of capital. In 1930, Keynes predicted that by the end of the 1900’s, a 15-hour workweek would be commonplace due to technological innovation. This is technologically possible – why aren’t we working 3-hour shifts? Because that is not optimal for the creation of the capitalist’s wealth. Because Keynes did not factor in the massive increase of consumerism that would be realized. Instead, the masses find themselves working jobs which are not even necessary a good portion of the time. The personified need of wealth scrambles to create jobs to pacify the masses, because idle hands are the Communist’s playthings.

   A counter argument that needs to be addressed – “But surely we can prevent unethical business practices through ethical consumerism! Vote with the dollar!”. The proponents of this argument either naively overestimate the power of the consumer, or are aware it is a bad analysis and wish to protect their capital by making up rhetoric for the lower classes to regurgitate. Firstly, unethical business practices are likely to be hidden. Mass media are structured to the benefit of capitalists – they are economically designed to cater to the needs of big businesses, therefore they are unlikely to willingly give out information that exposes their biggest clients. In addition, even the manufacturing of a single product cannot be traced to one tangible entity – production is tangled in a web of corporations, and it is made impossible to be an ethical consumer. Even if ethical consumption under capitalism were a possibility, which it is not, it would only be an option for those who can afford it. Subsequently, one might ask, “doesn’t the state and its regulations solve the problems of unethical business practices?” to which the most relevant response is that politicians cannot be expected to regulate corporations when it is those corporations that fund their political activities and positions.

   Beyond the dysfunctionality of capitalism, there are many other angles to critique it from. However, Marxian critiques seem to fall upon deaf ears today, in an era of “facts over feelings”, where critiques of capitalism can’t be based on emotion, but also can’t be too intellectual, lest they be invalidated by the jury of reactionary groupthink. For those who cannot be persuaded by our propaganda, but cannot be bothered to read Das Kapital, I present the facts, and nothing but the facts. Capitalism is inefficient and cannot be salvaged.

 

“What Is the Total US Defense Spending?” Government Spending in United States: Federal State Local for 1961 – Charts Tables History, www.usgovernmentspending.com/defense_spending.

“Self-Determination Theory” An Approach to Human Motivation & Personality, selfdeterminationtheory.org/

“Key Facts on Food Loss and Waste You Should Know!” International Rice Commission Newsletter Vol. 48, FAO of the UN, www.fao.org/save-food/resources/keyfindings/en/.

“Annual Income of Richest 100 People Enough to End Global Poverty Four Times Over.” Just 8 Men Own Same Wealth as Half the World | Oxfam International, www.oxfam.org/en/pressroom/pressreleases/2013-01-19/annual-income-richest-100-people-enough-end-global-poverty-four.

Keynes, John M. Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren. 1930.

“STRIKE! Magazine – On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs: A Work Rant.” STRIKE! Magazine, www.strikemag.org/bullshit-jobs/.

Crime & its Origin

Image result for crime

“Every society has the criminals it deserves”

-Emma Goldman

American society breeds the perfect conditions for antisocial behavior or crime, that is my assertion.

What is crime? Crime is on a spectrum ranging from truly antisocial behavior, which harms a community, to behavior that threatens the status quo. Crime is arbitrary, with no source other than the minds of whichever self-appointed leader we may find ourselves at the mercy of. Definitions of crime are shaped by culture, and the culture of the USA is that of competition, coercion, and capital.

Crime is often born out of necessity, in such a culture. Citizens are encouraged implicitly to commit crime out of survival – we must make ends meet somehow, and that might mean breaking the law to feed our families when the workplace fails to deliver. This is only natural when we live in a society in which our needs are not adequately met.

Western society punishes crime with one hand and provokes it with the other, and this is no mistake. The systems in place will always attempt to deter conditions in which their authority is challenged – and in the case of crime, it behooves those in power to blame it all on things other than themselves. Should society actually tackle the conditions that create poverty and therefore, crime, it will be forced to realize that the issue is capitalism and the state itself.

Capitalism and its competitive nature creates resentment and tension between people within and across barriers of class. Ask any lower-class American in the suburbs what their neighborhood community is like – chances are in many instances they do not have an active relationship with their neighbors. We are isolated. There’s a lack of communication, and capitalism thrives because of this. The people have been conditioned to an extent to see helping each other as hurting themselves, when this is far from the truth. Combine this with our eagerness to climb any ladder we can grasp in order to obtain the material wealth required to live comfortably, and it is no surprise that crime is in abundance. A society which is run on the basis of self-interest will be plagued by crime.

When one is led to believe their worth is determined by products that they cannot afford, they may be led to steal. When the concept of success is taught to us with the language of money, but we hold little chance of accumulating wealth “fairly”, class tensions arise, and therefore so does crime. When the wealth of some absolutely relies on the cheap labour of others, there must always be poor folk, because wealth is derived only from the exploitation of the lower classes. When self-interest is to be pursued before anything else, the human race is doomed.

The individuals responsible with dealing with crime have the interests of capitalism to serve, and will not now, nor ever, bite the hand that feeds. Government and agents of capital have no reason to combat crime in any meaningful way, so they attempt to pacify us with cries for reform – “If the police are more responsible, crime will go down!”. This is a distraction. Antisocial behavior stems from a society that alienates the individual from their labour and their peers, and that cultivates tension and resentment. True justice doesn’t flow from police guns – the criminal justice system does not serve to do away with crime, but to maintain peace. Not the positive peace we find ourselves in want of, but negative peace. Quiet, tense peace, maintained by fear only. In such a conditions, the ruling classes can prosper.

The average middle-class citizen is trained to be opposed to crime, and thus becomes a silent accomplice of the upper classes. The bourgeoisie delights in the tension between criminals and the middle-class society, as the middle-class citizen repeats what they are told, that it is the criminals’ fault they suffer, all the while ignoring that this draws attention away from those truly poisoning society. The middle-class has been intentionally conditioned to condemn, for instance, the shoplifter. “It hurts the business owners!” they cry out. This is not true, however! Affluent companies like Walmart, Sephora, Ulta, and otherwise, waste their own products regardless of shoplifting. Materials will quite literally be thrown away, and the company itself can clearly survive the effects of shoplifting if it can be so wasteful with its products regardless. Even those who know this, may still argue that shoplifting is harmful because the workers are punished for it. Not only is this not at all very common, it is also the fault of the employer and the hierarchical nature of capitalism far before it is the fault of the shoplifter.

Criminals are not the enemy, the conditions that create them, however, are. Do not fall for the call to arms against crime, which utilizes racist, classist, and otherwise oppressive tactics. Those in power will do whatever is necessary to draw the blame away from themselves, and we must not forget that crime is the result of a toxic society which deprives the individual of freedom, dignity, and the means of which to survive. A society of competition and selfish individualism is a society of crime.

On Nature & Romanticism

I’ve never understood the fascination allistics (people without autism) often have for nature sometimes. Maybe this is something I’m falsely attributing to my autism, this is possible. But I just know I’ve never felt that sense of wonder people describe when thinking about or observing nature. The Romanticist glorification of nature is still very foreign to me.

But I think I’ve been learning to appreciate nature in my own way, lately. In a poetic sense, even. This is most definitely progress for me.

When I think about it logically, I guess the fact that I can’t see all of the stars because of air pollution fits very well into a love song I write. Which I did:

Best friend, I am scared,

The world ain’t ready for me, or I ain’t ready for the world,

I am no revolutionary,

‘But I am the revolution!’

I sing, as I wander the city,

Looking for true love, or just something to eat,

 

And you know I’d be happy to spend some time with you,

It don’t have to be grand, just sitting here will do,

 

Sitting here in this ditch, and just looking at the stars,

It’s okay to feel alone, just know we’re alone together,

 

You and me, we’re like those stars above,

The ones that ain’t yet been killed by pollution,

Because we’re still alive, there’s a chance in hell we can make it,

So don’t lose yourself quite yet to stagnation,

 

Though we may cry out that we’ve been dealt a bad hand,

I have reason to believe we can once again stand,

In the face of the prisons that they threaten us with,

And the ones that we make for ourselves,

 

Even though we may feel that our fight is uphill,

There’s still plenty of reasons to never remain still,

I know that your hands are weathered as are mine,

But for the sake of the struggle, for the sake of human kind;

Would you be so kind as to hold them one last time?

 

I mean, while it ain’t the same as romanticizing trees and shit, I do find I have been growing an attachment to what I see around me, nature overgrowing civilization. In the wash in my old neighborhood, I’d walk around singing and playing guitar, and painting the wall, and enjoying the solitude. I’d see weeds at the end of the wash, springing forth from the asphalt, which always stuck out to me. In my eyes, that looks like a folk punk song about overcoming less than ideal situations. Civilization crumbles, and nature catch on to this fast. Like those weeds, I am beginning to see the downtrodden become radicalized, and the radicals returning to this hellscape again, as capitalism and the State become increasingly absurd.

You’re dreaming of a world covered again in fields and forests,

but when I imagine a world without bricks, it just seems so boring

– Pat the Bunny, Not My Revolution

When I take my walks, which I do often, I appreciate the concrete jungle. The chaos of the terrible job Tucson city planners did, and the boring fucking green plants that sprout up everywhere. Watching these two extremes interact holds a substantial weight for me.

As nature finds a way, so does human freedom and liberty. As a tree collapses and falls across the road, people in yellow vests threaten French President Emmanuel Macron with a guillotine, echoing the history of France. As regimes fall, the people rise. Every empires’ days are numbered, and I can’t wait until we get ours. 

Brooklyn Man Charged with Hate Crime; it’s Nothing New

On the first of November, another hate crime occurred. A man in Brooklyn defaced a synagogue and set fires in seven locations. This was not an isolated incident. This man was not an outlier. However, his attack was just as important and substantial as any other and should be treated as such.

According to CNN, messages that were scrawled by James Polite include, “Hitler”, “Die Jew rats we are here”, and “Jews better be ready”. After the apprehension of 26 year-old Mr. Polite, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio attended Shabbat services at the temple Friday night as a show of solidarity¨. Local government did not hesitate to emphasize the ugliness of such a crime – this event only contributes to the vulnerability of the Jewish community, and must be spoken out against.

Important to note, Mr. Polite was a black man. Black men will inevitably be “caught” more by police than white men, because law enforcement is a heavily racialized racket which incentivizes incarcerations and disproportionally affects people of color and other minorities. This is true regardless of if laws are broken, and law enforcement will find increasingly petty offenses to incarcerate individuals, because the system is run by profit and power.

As has been stated, none of these things are new American phenomena. The cisgender, heterosexual, able bodied, neurotypical, and white everyman has only recently begun to realize that Nazis are alive and well, and in fact thriving. Unbeknownst to the right-wing Democrats and the farther-right Republicans, the extreme-right has enjoyed the rights they’ve been given – so much so that they use them to gain an upper hand.

Generally, mainstream Democrat thought doesn’t recognize that free speech is an illusion – the speech of some will always dampen the speech of others, and we must value the speech which goes against the status quo moreso than the speech that enforces it. Of course, most citizens don’t seem to have an idea as to what the status quo is. The right has been very successful in framing their pro-establishment, traditionalist, and reactionary views as an edgy, punk rock counterculture, and the nasty left (whatever that means) as the status quo. ¨The system is working against the white man! Affirmative action has gone too far, and we’re living in Orwell’s 1984!¨ cry the reactionaries. This worldview is becoming less and less unpopular.

Therefore even when some Democrats recognize that free speech cannot be applied unilaterally, there will still be the barrier of who to apply it to, and they have been tricked into believing it is the far-right who is the oppressed. Make no mistake – this blindspot was manipulated, groomed, used, and abused by the self-identified Nazis, who have used this phenomenon to their advantage. We see this when liberals and champions of rational debate jump to the defense of Nazis. We see this when self-identified Nazis run for, and hold office. We see this when any opposition to Nazis is decried as terroristic, even when it is the only remaining opposition to fascism.

We should not be surprised upon hearing what James Polite did, or what anyone like him does. We should be disgusted, but ready to act. He is not an outlier, and this was not an isolated incident. Fascism works like a cancer, it grows fast when unchecked, and we should never pretend it is gone, or it is hiding, or it is weak. It is in front of us, right now, and it needs to be cut off like the vile tumor it is. It cannot be argued away, and there is no due process now, if there was ever, to save us from it. Only direct action can yield satisfaction.

What is Ableism? A Brief Introduction

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Content Warning: Info about ableism, ableist slurs

Pictured: Image from my FB page

You may have heard of the concept of ableism. Ableism is a concept talked [not enough] about in social justice circles, and is one of the many systems of oppression in contemporary society. What is ableism?

The Oxford English Dictionary simply defines ableism as ¨discrimination in favor of able-bodied people¨. This is an incomplete definition, as ableism is not merely discrimination, it’s an element omnipresent in our culture, and it is not only about disabilities or deviations of the body, but the mind as well. Ableism is a system of oppression which favours neurotypicals and able-bodied individuals. It is a system of oppression which is not talked about nearly enough, but is pervasive and prevalent in the lives of all autistic, neuroatypical, neurodivergent, disabled, and mentally ill people. Ableism is not only about discrimination, but large-scale attitudes and our very understanding of the concept of a disability.

What does ableism look like? Like any system of oppression, ableism can emerge as a microaggression, or as a larger societal injustice, all which are equally worthy of being addressed. Ableism can be lack of accommodations. Ableism can be slurs such as retard or stupid or idiot or crazy or insane. Ableism can be a result of being indoctrinated into such a system – we can unintentionally perpetuate systemic ableism. Ableism can also be completely intentional, for instance murder and harassment (Recorded hate-crime related deaths of disabled folks in September and October of 2010).

This is not a recent phenomenon. People with disabilities have historically been assumed to be abnormal and inferior.  Eugenics and forced conversion has been attempted many times. In post-war America of the 40’s and 50’s, WWII veterans who returned with disabilities began to pressure the government to provide rehabilitation. Because the government has no incentive to do anything egalitarian or equitable, they were ignored, and they continued pressure. When the Civil Rights Act of 1964 came into law, it didn’t include people with disabilities. Communities continued to put pressure against the powers that be. By 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed. This act, in theory, prohibit discrimination and ensures equal opportunity for persons with disabilities in employment, State and local government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities, and transportation. To this day, there is insufficient accommodation for disabled people, there is a lack of understanding around mental health and mental illness, and a stigma towards disabled people or neuroatypical people of any sort. One who is disabled or neuroatypical will be relentlessly silenced, attacked, ignored, and slandered as they attempt to navigate this society.

People with disabilities are not a mental or physical defect but a minority and cultural identity. Ableism is one of the least talked about -isms in society, and there is not nearly enough widespread attention to the struggles which people with disabilities face. Anyone who grew up in a society which enforces institutional ableism has implicit bias in them, whether or not they are aware, and whether or not it is intentional. This includes even those of us who are disabled, or neuroatypical, in which case, one might find internalized ableism. Having these biases does not make one a bigot – we are all to an extent products of our surroundings – but it is our duty to question these biases and combat them in whatever way we can.

 

Sources:

Juliezeilinger. “6 Forms of Discrimination Against Disabled People We Need to Retire Immediately.” Mic, Mic Network Inc., 17 Aug. 2018, mic.com/articles/121653/6-forms-of-ableism-we-need-to-retire-immediately#.GkEN43gj0

“What Is Ableism? Five Things About Ableism You Should Know.” FWD/Forward, 19 Nov. 2010, disabledfeminists.com/2010/11/19/what-is-ableism-five-things-about-ableism-you-should-know/

Marini, Ariana. “You Are An Ableist, And So Am I.” A Plus, 2 Nov. 2017, aplus.com/a/you-are-an-ableist-and-so-am-i?no_monetization=true

“Record of the Dead for October 2010.” FWD/Forward, disabledfeminists.com/2010/11/10/record-of-the-dead-for-october-2010/

“Record of the Dead for September 2010.” FWD/Forward, disabledfeminists.com/2010/10/06/record-of-the-dead/

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and Revised ADA Regulations Implementing Title II and Title III. (n.d.). Retrieved December 8, 2018, from http://www.ada.gov/2010_regs.htm

 

Oct. 22, 2018

Pat’s Adventures in Bunnyland

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Patrick Schneeweis – the man pictured above – is a young man who I most definitely cite as one of my biggest musical and political influences. I’ve loved music since I could walk or talk, and while the Nirvana and The Cure CDs my parents gifted me as my first CDs hold a special place in my heart, nothing as of yet has helped me find the drive to make music like Pat “The Bunny” Schneeweis, during my late middle school and early high school years.

Patrick Schneeweis was born in 1987 in Brattleboro, Vermont. He grew up a teenage anarchist, making and playing music with his brother, going to punk shows, thrashing on an acoustic guitar, and reading texts that to this day I still struggle to read, by the likes of Proudhon and Kropotkin. Whether or not he actually comprehended these texts, I have no clue. Regardless, he first began making music under the name of Johnny Hobo & the Freight Trains, which marked the first period in his music; a period defined by anthems of self-hate and destruction; a chaotic narrative of drunk-driving, chain-smoking, shooting up, and a slurred expression of pissed-off politics. He released his second album (but the earliest still available) when he was sixteen, titled Anarchy Means I Hate You, and this is one of my favorite albums, in general. A dumpster-fire cacophony that I still enjoy listening to while sitting in a ditch, staring at the stars, screaming my lungs out, and pretending I’m a cool kid for doing these things.

Pat wrote a song at some point called Johnny Hobo is Dead/Sellout Song. A great song, that, to my understanding, marks the end of the Johnny Hobo era and the beginning of the Wingnut Dishwashers era. Wingnut Dishwashers Union was a natural evolution from the previous band – smarter politics, a cleaner, and more refined sound, and his outlook on anarchism seemed to go from self-imposed isolation and antisocial behavior to a search for friends and community. Lyrics conveyed a desperation to find happiness, to find meaning, to find hope, to build a better world.

By 2009, Wingnut Dishwashers Union broke up, and Patrick went into rehab. Two years later, upon arriving and settling down in Tucson, Arizona, he emerged again, announcing he’d be starting a band, called Ramshackle Glory. Ramshackle Glory was one of my first folk punk bands, and the first I heard of Pat the Bunny. By the time the album Live the Dream was released in 2011, Pat had put politics, alcoholism, substance use, religion, philosophy, activism, love, respect, and trust on a table and dissected them all meticulously. Songs like From Here to Utopia (one of my all-time favorite songs) and Bitter Old Man speak of the cycle anarchists find themselves going through, from hope, to despair, to hope, to despair, and so on and so forth. Songs like Never Coming Homeinquire about the nature of guilt, and what it means to hurt someone you love. But it all comes back around by the end of the album with two songs, including the anthem of perseverance, Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of Your Fist, the first song I heard by Ramshackle Glory. That phrase alone has permeated not only folk punk culture, but punk rock as a whole and the culture of anarchists. The song gives me chills every goddamn time. The album ends with First Song, Part 2, which closes the album off with a beautiful line:

¨Maybe God isn’t the right word, but I believe in you¨

These aren’t the only albums published by each of Pat’s bands, but in a way the best representations of each period of his musical career. He also released a full-length solo album, and a split with the rapper, Ceschi Ramos. He even was in a rap/hip-hop group, Playtime Posse, but we don’t talk about that.

In February of 2016, Pat essentially released this statement:

I have grown into a basically ordinary person, albeit a somewhat strange one. Nothing I write feels very skilled at communicating whatever it is I am trying to say, but it just seems important to tell you that I am not really an anarchist or a punk anymore. My viewpoint has changed dramatically in the last six to nine months, and this kind of politics and music is just not where my heart is anymore. I have no interest in convincing anyone of anything, so that’s all that’s important to say about it. I just don’t want people to feel tricked when they buy or listen to my music.

This shook the folk punk scene. Pat pretty much pioneered the genre, and I know he absolutely hates being put on a pedestal, but it’s true. I’ve heard so many people describe how his music helped them cope with rough times, and in many cases, people would tell stories of how their experience with alcoholism very much aligned with his, and his music made them feel less alone. For me, the things that resonated with me were the emotion, the politics, the hope, and the despair. As an anarchist I’m constantly self-doubting. And to hear this guy with the same doubts – it was cathartic as all hell. I am still an anarchist. I understand to an extent his moving away from punk rock, and to a lesser extent, his moving away from anarchism.

To be an anarchist today is to fight an uphill battle – we have all the theory, the science, the evidence, but they have the firepower, and more importantly, they have the public opinion wrapped around their finger. It’s exhausting to feel like you’re pushing an immovable object like this, and have the working-class citizens right next to you gloat and jeer, and parrot the rhetoric we were all taught in school, the rhetoric that keeps the systems in place. A better world is possible, but it’s so much harder to achieve when you are still trying to shake the idea that it isn’t, the idea that has been ingrained into our heads through years of social conditioning. It’s frightening, but impressive, how successful the powers that be have been in convincing the masses that their subservience is inevitable and a law of nature.

So yeah. I can somewhat understand slowly shifting away from the label of anarchism, after being alienated by both a reactionary society, and by the anarchists themselves – the scene is rife with infighting and disagreements, and we often come across as very bitter people. For valid reasons!

Despite all this, I continue to live a life of truth, adventure, love and rage; as an anarchist, as a friend, as a member of my communities, as an instrument of justice, and as Zoe. Though the moral arc of the universe is long, I ain’t giving up on the work I’ve done thus far.

Thanks, Pat for inspiring a shit ton of youth both away from and towards inaction and despair, you helped us feel something at least. You gave a name to my biggest fears, and you put into words the existential dread that still keeps me up at night. Thanks for sharing your experiences and your art. I hope you’re doing well, and I hope you find some sort of peace.

 

 

Oct. 15, 2018

Intro to Restorative Justice

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In my Sophomore year, and first year at my current high school, I joined a Restorative Justice elective class, and I hadn’t realized at the time how important it would become to me. The class’s goal at the time was to establish a functional Restorative Justice program for the school. I got to help with the process of setting up the groundwork for the program, reading nifty introductory texts, and writing scripts and plans for our first cases. It helped me create a passion of mine – because I don’t think we necessarily find passions, we frequently have to take part in something and learn to love it. There’s a little model called the Self-Determination Theory which I have cited incessantly since I learned about. It posits that in order to do our best work, we need three things: autonomy, competency, and relatedness. We must feel we are trusted to do our work, and given autonomy over that which we are proficient or wish to be proficient in. We must feel we are appreciated for our labor, and are making an impact with our work, therefore we need a sense of competency. Thirdly, we must experience a sense of relatedness, that is, positive and healthy interpersonal relationships and connectedness, a sense of community through our work. It could be worth noting that these are all needs that a company motivated only by profit will inevitably be inadequate in fulfilling. But I digress.

I experienced these three things for once in my life, in an American school, after being used to being denied these things, doing work that felt irrelevant to my interests and goals, not feeling competent, and feeling disconnected from the people around me. When I realized this, I knew restorative practices were important to me. In addition, as an anarchist, a question that is often flippantly hurled at me, is the question of “what do anarchists do about the murderers, the sociopaths, the antisocials?”. This is a fair and valid question, even if it usually doesn’t come from sincerity or honesty, and really just a smug sense of superiority. The answer lies in restorative practices!

I’ve been saying the phrase a lot, but what does it mean?

Restorative justice refers to a social science that studies how to improve and repair relationships between people and communities. The purpose is to build healthy communities, increase social capital, decrease crime and antisocial behavior, repair harm and restore relationships and bonds that may be damaged. It is a very interdisciplinary field which ties together fields like education, psychology, social work, criminology, sociology, organizational development and leadership.

While restorative justice is the theory, restorative practice is the praxis; the theory in action. This includes various forms of conflict resolution, mediation, communication, etc.

Restorative justice is something that exists throughout many different cultures by many different names. They all look different, and may put emphasis on different things, but ultimately, restorative programs involve:

  1. Offended parties and offenders meeting face-to-face wherever possible.
  2. Offended parties and offenders determining a healthy, equitable outcome.

Restorative justice is a theory which can be implemented in so many different contexts, at different scales. I have seen it on the academic scale, and I wish to take part in it on a larger scale one day. Revolutionary praxis like this is instrumental in changing society – there are anarchists who know everything about the theory and history behind anarchism, but nothing of civil conflict resolution and the social sciences. When I was younger, there came a point where I knew I wanted to help people. I didn’t know how, and I didn’t know I’d someday find that opportunity with anarchism. I will write more on the theory and praxis behind restorative practices in the future, but for now, this has been a somewhat brief introduction.

Ciao.

Oct. 3, 2018

 

selfdeterminationtheory.org