Social Justice is not………..

Some people are confused……confused about “social justice” and what it is.

I am not seeking to define it.  I am seeking to carve some intelligence into the word, term, concept, action.

So much of the US notion of social justice is from within the reality of living in the Empire.

It is a crumbling empire, no less.  But it is empire.

When Americans think of people who are “activists,” they think of a whole array of people who seem to be shouting out for things that they feel are morally right, necessary, necessary for their particular concerns and people and political persuasion.

Disconnectedness—it is one of the main effects of extreme individualism.  Individualism, is different from empowered individuality.  Individualism is somewhat of an ideology, something made superior.

With US concerns for individual freedom, communities suffer.  Since most white people and wealthy people in the US, as well as a good portion of the middle class and the homeless, do not think of themselves as being part of any community, it even gets more precarious when working with struggling for a different world. The legal structure and the institutions in the US, provide legal freedoms to some degree, for individuals.  For groups, communities, there is very very very little, if any, recourse.  Case after case is thrown out in favor of 5000 individuals having to file individual claims to right a wrong done to a whole community.  In most cases, these individual cases are drawn out over years.  For the economic and social underclass, funds run out and energy is sapped and the three jobs they may have to go to becomes priority.  The cases become weaker.  Or the powers hire the attorneys that are high-powered and block any power that the underclassed individual may have.

Disconnected individuals (a fair amount of “normal” and not-so-normal people in the US especially–and increasingly in all first-world countries) tend to sabotage works and solidarities and political commitments that could be good for everyone, or at least a larger population of different kinds of people of differing socio-economic, ethnic, cultural, genders and sexual orientations, etc., feeding into division and conflict, violence and rupture.  They become “identities” which are separate from other “identities.”  So goes the ongoing disconnectedness. But I do think there are those forces that create these isolations need rupturing.

And when we speak of activism, those people wanting their “rights” to privileges, and the right to maintain them, are put on equal footing with those fighting for difference, for survival.  Fighting to MAINTAIN PRIVILEGES is NOT social justice.  Privilege and how it operates, makes invisible and priority, over those who have and are considered less, must be looked at and actions taken in regards to what is seen and realized, for a “social justice” to actually happen.  In other words, as many US Americans seek to access privileges of something that is defined as the “freedom to get, the freedom to be….” social justice is diminished because privileges cannot afford an “other.”

Here, we see the link between what many Americans call “Freedom” and the middle class ideals.  As I’ve mentioned before, people often confuse the access to middle-class, European elite (white), masculine and militarized material, emotional and spiritual values, as “freedom.”   Then this gets confused with “Liberation.”  Going on vacations, to “get away from reality” and “rest”—which are bourgeois leisure ideals made socially dominant as a desire in life by elites during the colonial days between the 17th to 19th centuries, becomes somewhat like the popular confusion about “liberation” these days.  Social liberation means, in this scenario, some kinds of escape.  And then guess what? Things deemed “in the way” of this escape, is deemed as some word exaggerated and confused with non-liberation.  We learn to block anything that stands in the way (or seen as standing in the way) of our disconnected and individualized freedom to escape, as needing to be disappeared, violated, jailed, tortured, maimed, stopped, killed.  Psychologically, culturally, intellectually, with the variety of arms and weapons of mind, heart and body that we have learned in the system of continual disconnection and valorized individuality (above solidarity, community, living with difference).

So in these ways of thinking and thrusts of behavior that I have mentioned above, social justice is suffering.  It is definitely not dead or gone.  It is in pain.  It is in pain because fewer and fewer people have the inclination, desire, time, and/or energy, to struggle with self and community enough.  Fewer and fewer people have the creative thinking enough to get out of the box that the Empire holds us in.  As the social-political forces that we have all internalized, confuse us and run our bodies as “spectacles” —as Guy Debord (December 1931-November 1994, French postmodern philosopher) has pointed to for us, we have a harder time interpreting the difference.

It is made worse by the crash of cultures, values, times and places that are incoherent.  Incoherence is NOT THE PROBLEM!!  It is our inability to not do violence to incoherence that is the problem!!!!  We incorporate, assimilate, violate, manipulate, imprison, sequester, make sick, make knowable–and therefore no longer that thing itself but our own other interpretation of that thing–person–place–time) that we create.  Now the world seems smaller and more alike.  Less diversity.

Put them away, make them criminals, make it hard on them, annihilate them, torture them, jail them, make them sick, control those people and those communities, feel sentimental about it after they are dead, it makes us good and holy.  On and on.  Refugees from ourselves—as we see refugees and the stateless, as if all of us were states.  It’s a joke. But we have definitely internalized the state.  There’s no escape.  How about starting with a realistic assessment and then assessing how we may do things differently?

The reactionary definition of “community,” in the eyes of many individualists, is that communities are like herds of cattle and animals, without minds, aimless and not able to think for themselves.  This dualistic notion of community has been developed through years and centuries of learning that the communities our ancestors killed or destroyed in order to create the wealthy “global” in favor of an individualism that was able to “capitalize” on making money for itself (not others).  And furthermore, when we try to make communities and join them (because we sense our loneliness, disconnectedness and isolation), we (US Americans) tend to get very very uncomfortable with the differences, the conflicts, the games, the political jostling, and general psychological violence that is practiced in groups, no matter how lofty.  If we don’t feel those things, it is usually because we have learned to ignore–or perhaps learned to become oblivious because no one is bothering “ME–THE INDIVIDUAL” and this asserts a “satisfaction” in the name of escaping the difficulty of being together with others of differences, and also the higher position of being alone and therefore “trouble-free.”  This is an illusion.

Mourning but knowing that there are so so many in this world who understand enough and care enough about this in the world, to begin steps and to empower toward social justice.  It is arduous and difficult and tedious, but must be done.  Individual heroes will be squashed.  Communities of difference, across different backgrounds of histories, etc. must learn to come together without the escape mechanisms we have all learned well.  Empowering toward social justice is tedious, arduous, precarious, uncertain, not attainable in a finality, but is a pathway that is immensely more loving than the loneliness of dieing in an old folks’ home somewhere in a desolate urban landscape. Some are working now and we must work together, learn how to.  The rest will most likely just wait for those few to do the work while they enjoy the fruits of empire, and maintain global injustice.

‘Taint’ – afro-japanese poetic musing & Point

TAINT

I exile myself from myself.  and YOU——-Don’t see yourself as…….Tainted.   If you do….you hide it and make me tainted and I see you Sad.   And that makes you see me angry, insane.  Impossible.

When I do, I’m home.   Home is exile.  Exile because there’s no way what you call ‘home’ can be mine.

And as if home doesn’t change, morph, move into something — always unrecognizable.  It’s too late for recognition.  But I will show you something and you will recognize it for what you think and feel and hear and taste.  My body is colonized by your gaze.

We’re people-of-color.  That’s an identity that’s tainted.  But without it I completely become white and Japanese and black. Colonized by those rules of walk, talk, understanding, dance.

When I choose my ‘own’ way, I know it’s not my own.  It’s been handed down.  If so, who gives a shit?

It doesn’t matter in this so-called ‘post-social’ world of ours….alienations and displacements where people who have had communities continued in another land, another space/time and call it ‘home’ will ————look down——-down——on me and those like me.  And we can pretend to be brothers and sisters because we share.  And some who don’t look down on me,  think we are equals.   No time/space, no legacy, no sekihan, cho-cho, miso shiru, barbecued ribs, konketsuji, nigger, left unconscious dead.   I’m not allowed.  So in that time where you cannot bear my pain and it is exiled into me, we SHARE ———the colonized mind.   But there are those who do share.  There’s no need for the pain, but there’s a need for allowing and alliance.

Can we ‘Be’——with our differences?   The thousand bombs and body-part explosions, mushroom clouds and slavery whips, and imprisonments of my ancestors and the occupation of my body in heterosexual mindscapes and border-guard territories———will NOT make you superior to me. Because you don’t remember.   Forever you may enslave yourself but I remain TAINTED in your result, your gun.  Your attitude-pistol that props you up WITH it.   Instead of takuan, I eat hamburgers in that place.  But I eat takuan uh huh.   Hungry.

Forever blackened in your multicultural superiority that pretends equality.   Forever not right.  Forever imprisoned.  No matter how many songs I sing to you, no matter how many silences and gentle hands, I’m only a big penis, a tawny muscle movement, a …a…..a….a.  some ‘THING’ that is compared to your utopia. Utopia……the unconscious colonial organ.

‘Thing’ yourself with your colonized mind, until you crave, then so so tired   tired     you start to see me.  Perhaps someday….we may actually touch beyond eyes here.  Right here, and between your complete and beautiful to my complete and beautiful.  Always it is part, incomplete, moving and dancing in time.  complete is incomplete always and beautiful, but justice moans. Then we understand that we are scarred.

Scarred and twisted in your so-called will to perfection.  That is perverted….tainted.  Just ‘being’ I am tainted because YOU are tainted.  Funny thing is…. there doesn’t need to be this———TAINT.  But what?

Taint me and I you.   Let’s walk y’all.

Poem: Who is Hiroshima?

Photo: Osaka from the air after bombings

WHO IS HIROSHIMA?

It was no mushroom cloud. It wasn’t

When I speak……… WHO is Hiroshima? WHO owns its name?

What does its memory confront or continue?

The heavy boots of US American navy men, running off of their American boats onto the shores of Naha in Uchina, Yokohama, Tachikawa or Yokosuka—into the bars where the so-called ORIENTAL girls are there, ripe for their pickin’s and choosin’s. Attractions, games, bribes, collusions, rapes. The pliable and obedient oriental slaves. The imperial Japanese……watching, planning, bribing, stealing, Starved for food, comfort, defeated, wanting, Starving flesh.

No rule of law in Japan can touch Americans there. This started BEFORE Hiroshima was on the maps of any American. Before anyone else existed, all others are inferior.

What is Hiroshima? Who carries its name? Hiroshima overcrowds the real story, the real picture, the BIG picture.

Month after month //////// daily fire-bombings///// Tokyo, rubbles, stench……….. One month of the torture-fires at night came to Osaka where my mother was a child, forgotten now even in history books. It’s only a shadow of Hiroshima if that. Screams. Screams. Burnt flesh. Shanghai, Nanking Chinese cries under Japanese bombs. Now Tokyo under Americans.

Sirens, burning flesh, screaming, running, sweating/////// Quivering lips in bomb shelters…… Limb-flying explosions. The limbs without bodies….the end…the beginnings.

My mother the little girl—a nameless black-haired girl under flying, released, BOMBSsssssss /////

Her life supposedly never happened for neither the Japanese nor the Americans. Bone-rattling///Poundings, chemical-fires of the inside-out…….

Little GIRL survived…………the rats she ate in poverty, the hanging skin of her friends’ burnt flesh, the plea for food and water…..scrap metal roofs and trash for walls………never happened except in a warbride diary of someone else’s land. SHE was in OSAKA, Tokyo—NOT Hiroshima. And yet……..IT was Hiroshima we only utter….and remember. But as what?

It was another war////////// different from what Japanese say……….. Americans say……….burning.

I knew my mother as KIYOKO. She signed her name on her checks in the stucco red desert house……..Albuquerque. and there it was on her ID card: KIYOKO ……… written carefully, slowly, with flare by her aging hands. American military jeeps in her eyes and splinters of her friends’ bodies in her skin.

She practiced for three months everyday for one hour, to write her name in English.

Why did my FATHER, her husband, and my mother’s brother TERUO, call her EMIKO?

Over genmai-cha and osembe……I asked her at 27 /////////

She tells: Kiyoko is my sister’s name. She died in Hiroshima.

Our family papers were disappeared on AUGUST 6—you know—the JIGEN BAKUDAN. To marry your father, I needed papers.

She marries an American occupation soldier—a military policeman, just 16 years old, faking it so he can fight for the country that hates him in his own land–African-American, almost proud to be an American but this American…..is a promise and a hope, not real. Even as he was an occupation policeman with gun in hand, the lynching of black prisoners in the US military jails in Japan haunted him. He bears the only truth he knows.

I, as a son of the victor and the defeated ////////// Hiroshima is unending. Hiroshima covers all issues. Hiroshima was a wall of fire and 3000 degrees Celsius.

It was not a mushroom cloud. Blood. Scream. Flying. Death…..wall of fire.

I, the son of a Black and Yellow. I, must now…… Articulate this Place, in my body, everywhere.

Ghosts passed onto lands and dreams.

Soochow….Osaka…Tokyo…Yokohama…Tuskeegee…Nashville….Detroit….San Francisco Peace Treaty signed…then….A-bomb…Pyongyang….DaNang …Albuquerque….Stop. Listen.

When I speak………….. WHO is HIROSHIMA now?

‘The World’ – ‘maps’ – the Issues : Post-‘somethings’ & Mindfulness

Many of the world’s issues come from ignorance.  Indeed, that is what the Buddha was to have said according to the Buddhist religious doctrines.  The self, the world, suffers due to ignorance.  The self, itself, is also the world because of it being ‘one’ (interconnected realities).  In this sense, I would like to link this perspective on social change and social justice, with postcolonial and post-structural frames of mind and action.  The structures through which we find ourselves living, are largely followed and we navigate in some way, shape or form, through the maze.  We resist, we dominate, we proclaim, we reflect, we pause, we run, we build, we destroy.  Every moment is like this.

I feel that we must pay attention more, to what we discard and ignore.  In a more intense way, I would like to put forward that our laziness in our middle-class wanna-be (or are) ways of living and goal-setting, we oftentimes don’t have the capacity to realize we set ourselves in boxes.  Furthermore, the boxes can be realized, seen, and felt, and that we can step to places outside of a certain box, into other boxes eternally.  There lies the significance of thinking and imagining with a certain intent.

In most first-world, wealthier countries, we have been taught through our schooling and through contact with the world, that there is a truth of things and that we can access.  Usually, however, we don’t realize that these ‘truths’ are political.  No matter how lofty in principle, this truth that we attempt to access or ignore, interrupts and disrupts life and we beg to struggle with how it acts upon us and through us, against us and with us.  So for social justice and social change matters, it may be helpful to look at the mechanics of box-making, or to put it in other words, to look at our our processes of making truths and certainties and categories, identities and structures that cohere together and seem real and isolated and true.  If not, we just re-create the issues.

To make it more complex, I feel that as we begin to want to ‘deconstruct’ and to understand how deconstruction may work in the world, we must confront the fact that there is no ‘outside.’  Many spiritual people approach the world through the idea of ‘transcendence.’  Indeed, the enlightenment project of the western world in the colonial period, has continued to emphasize this mode of expansion and conquering and overrunning as the modus operandi of capitalism and globalization.  I, for one, love contact with difference.  However, not all of whatever we contact, is pleasurable, desirable, and/or necessary.  But in normal US American, European and Japanese worlds, touring and co-opting others’ ways and other countries is a given.  It is a privilege.  It has never entered our mind that the locals do not want us there.

Our assumption of eternal identities and histories, and of ethnically and racially categorized nations and cultures, is in fact, a dangerous and very limited way of living and seeing and judging.  Cultures are not static. Cultures move and change and grow and adapt.  There are some that move faster than others.  Movement, is not always positive.  In the first world, movement and change is a hidden tactic of domination.  As this kind of thinking dominates, then actions such as displacement and destruction are normalized.  It is ‘normal’ to move and change.  We say things like ‘get over it, it’s time.’  Or we get tired of a certain place and we move and say ‘it’s time for a change.’  Just for the fun of it.  When we were infants, we did not say these things.  We have learned to say and think these things in particular cultures.  Then we assume it’s ‘human’ and ‘good’ and ‘natural.’  Just because something is familiar and forceful in our lives, does not mean it is good or having to do with human nature.  Just because many or even most people think and do it, doesn’t mean it is ‘human nature’ and therefore ‘good.’

The map of the world that we live in today, is politically structured through centuries of violence and subjugation.  All of the strongest nations were built through some form of slavery and exploitation, marginalization and destruction of pre-existing cultures and peoples.  There is no ‘prettiness’ about it.  Our beautiful buildings and cultures and things are, in fact, based on blood and fire and mutilation, tears and grief and the labor of others.  The people who enjoy the fruits of the most beautiful things on our planet have done the most exploiting.

Europe, the United States, China, Japan, the Middle Eastern and Eurasian regions, the African continent, and Latin American regions, are fraught with tensions of memory and displacement.  Many people around the world think that this is because brown people are ‘by nature’ more violent or troubled or poor.  However, more and more people have begun to wake up to the historical roots of our maps.  They are fictitious and based on violence.  Anyone who has visited Latin America, the Middle East, Transcaucasia and Eastern Europe, China and the African continent, and who have studied and have spoken with elders and the young, will understand the tension and troubles that are the present.   These tensions and troubles are from the domination of foreign and local links that have visited them through history.

We have asked for peace and yet peace seems far.  There cannot be peace unless our maps begin to dislodge themselves from the intention of maps and map-making.  Linked with control and boundaries, isolation and manage-ability, coercion and exploitation, these maps are just continual reminders of the fictions that the most dominant elites of the world, want us to proceed from.  It is no wonder that others want to violently destroy the figures drawn on these maps and the separations and hierarchies forced upon them.  Our imagination of ourselves and the world are castles of ignorance.

For us to move into new realms of cooperation, compassion, wisdom, ethical actions of difference, new forms of education based on the ignorance-eradicating processes in continual modes (because life continues and so must its processes), where will we begin the path toward it?  In what ways?  Of course there are many who are already doing the work toward this.  There is no one way or one action.  Indeed, ideology is a huge problem.  Not everything is an ideology.  Some have claimed that ‘freedom’ is an ideology.  If this is the case, then we know our road ahead will be clashes of ideologies.  If we do not think in terms of warfare and universalizing ideology as some natural force, where can each of us begin the work.  First we must understand that we must do individual transformation.  But this cannot be something that we rest on.  We must do our work in communities and movements.

The map of our minds, the map of our communities, and the map of the world, must shift.  We’ve gotten ourselves here–from our ancestors to the present.  We can move out of it.  How long will we live in exile from ourselves, each other?  That is what colonialism and nation-states have done for us.  Some of it has been good and necessary.  The processes, however, of mutilating our pasts and our communities, have been unnecessary.  What forms of self-governance must we construct?  Painstaking it may be, but what are the choices?  What are you living for?

“Playground Martyrs” by Jensen; Sylvian; Feiner: Adultism & Continuities

Photo of Thomas Feiner

I include two (2) wonderful, brooding, pointed music videos here in relation to my theme.

The first thing I want to put forward about my thoughts on oppression and continuities and activisms in order to change the course of oppressions, transforming life into more liberation-oriented possibilities, is that I do not think there are origins. Certainly, things seem to originate somewhere, but there has to have been a set of techniques, thoughts, circumstances, situations, histories, cultures, persons, skills, labor, and countless other things there–just there–at that moment when someone, some author or speaker says: “this originated at….” or “this was invented by….” etc.

Oppressions come from people and systems.  Oppressions rely on sets of structures that come together and can be used oppressively.  Often, a word, act, policy, gesture, law, technique, philosophy, ideology, system, etc.   is not seen as oppressive or considered as such.  This may be for several reasons.  First, one can imagine that if one thinks of something and people like it and are excited by it, and it offers a seemingly different, new and effective way to do something or get somewhere, but we are far from those affected by it, then we can ignore or not even acknowledge or consider such a place that we cannot see, hear, touch, sound or smell.  Indeed, much of our present realities and issues as far as ecological and social crises, can be considered through this lens.

One legacy of oppression can be said to be a strong origination-point for the multitude of oppressions  is ADULT-ism.  This is the first oppression that all of us learn.  It is there, without question, and is across cultures, places, things, histories, races, ethnicities, etc.   It is where we learn who gives orders, whose world this belongs to, who is large, who is small, who is considered, what is right, what is wrong.  In some cases, these laws do not coincide or match across neighborhoods or even within a nuclear family, or a community or nation.  In one minute we are told to do something by a parent or a principal or a schoolmaster or a trainer or a teacher or grandmother or manager, in the next minute, this may change, or be different for someone else.  We begin to shape our own identities around these thousands upon hundreds of thousands of messages throughout a single day.  We learn to become ‘ourselves’ through the prism of what we learn, how we are punished or not punished, how we are to think of what has happened and how we must proceed.  This, with the whippings, the yellings, the ignoring, the absence, the stern looks, the hugs, the kisses, the spankings, the warnings by masters, the being teased and the being bullied.  It starts as we are infants and children, in the web of the game of being so-called ‘adults.’

The games of adults are continued because we must survive and we must feel some sort of power (or not).  We hide, we negotiate, we prioritize, we make invisible, we show concern, we ignore, we become mean, we become confused, we want certain things, we don’t want certain things.  The legacy of the bombings, colonizations, slavery, the invasion of western economic global systems into non-western local system; the globalizing of food and health economies, the stipulations for control and mandates for depending on the wealthier countries; the thousands of people starved from economic embargos, the refugee camps, the firebombings and chemical bombings of poor villages by multi-million-dollar jet planes and millionaire salaries of corporate heads, the control of people that larger bodies deem expendable; etc. etc.  are all done while our clans and villages and ways of life have been twisted into nuclear family lives, tearing us away from community life and into smaller units that are then made dependent on escalating money and costs and bureacracy.

And we learn to wear oppressions like crowns, or our arrogance as entitled and self-evident.  In the name of the oppression of children, teaching all of us what we are worth, then feeds the business of ‘finding meaning’ and ‘following our deepest yearnings’ and ‘finding our purpose’ and ‘stopping to get our of our own way’ and other such psycho-social ways that keep us occupied.  This pre-occupation is called ‘our daily life’ or ‘life as it is’ or ‘just the way it is.’  Well………..it has been MADE to become this way.  And as this happens, more and more people globally, begin to follow the same steps.  We are like sheep.  But not totally.  There has been resistance.  There continues to be resistance.  In the making of ourselves is how the powerful and uncaring and greedy, want us to make ourselves into.  We think it is our own idea.

In many cultures, ‘finding our life purpose’ is a  ridiculous idea.  Why not enjoy our families, our friends, enjoy nature, enjoy life and deal with our relations and take care?  What is there to find?  Well……..in a system of nations where everything is taken away, where banks own homes and hardly ever actual people, and our schedules and lives are told to us by the jobs we get–which are owned by people who make much more money than us………..and we want those same kinds of things our bosses have and we aspire to have those things and then we think we will be happy…..or we are satisfied NOT doing those things and we ignore those that do……….we are participating so well in this system of oppression.  Remember what our childhoods were like?  For some, it may have been closer to idyllic.  There were no troubles.  But we had been trained well.  People who are good at obeying and/or acting, having to pretend or having to ignore, having to be dishonest yet pretend to be honest, to know how to navigate the unfair and violent system, are rewarded.

The playgrounds of our childhoods are where we begin to learn how to socially play-out the oppressions we learn to take and give out.  It is not just that our own sets of parents, most likely in a nuclear family set-up or one of an extended nuclear family set-up, or a wider community teach us everything.  We learn from our classmates and what their parents and relations and schools and cultural differences and religions etc, have been lived through them.  The disciplines and punishments, rewards and resistances are then combined with ours and with other adults in a web of shame and glory, silence and privilege, smallness and largeness, tears and laughter.

We don’t think of them as such, as they are now important in order to survive.  Then there are the parents who are too permissive, perhaps.  They will deny.  But those children grow into adults, invariably, who think they deserve everything they get and do not handle being blocked from those things desired, very well.  Through silence, through passive-aggression, through finding another way, through transferring aggressions to something or someone else, etc., are all the ways in which we may, perhaps, not see this as a continuation of the things we learned from adults.  As we become big people, the oppressions are bigger and perhaps ignored or seen as normal, or not seen at all as oppression.

The Playground Martyrs, is a wonderful song by David Sylvian, Steve Jensen, and Thomas Feiner.  This is a short song of beauty, saying something to us.  The legacies of our violences and our militaries and our ‘natural’ and ‘normal’ realities are learned and made solid.  The song gives us a glimpse into trying to account for this.  Perhaps we can glimpse, not a dream of a future unknown, but the acts we take in the present to change our present and future through seeing the past in the present and changing effects.  This song also points to patriarchal structures.  ‘The sins of our fathers’ is appropriate because this has and still is, a ‘man’s world’ in many ways.  So what shall we do?  Where shall we go?  There are answers.

I have also included Thomas Feiner’s fine piece ‘Yonderhead’ which is another angle on the same theme of the legacy of our oppressions and liberations.

Lyrics included beneath both videos.  Both of these songs come from albums which are fantastic.

To listen to more of these artists and to buy MP3 downloads and CDs, visit:

http://www.samadhisound.com/

http://davidsylvian.com/

Playground Martyrs 

You run to the gate
But you’ll be marked late
It’s for your own good
It’s for your own good

You’re likely to make
The grandest mistakes
You suffer alone
In the skin and the bones

Let’s sharpen those
New sets of arrows
For the next generation
Of playground martyrs

And joining the game
Of intolerable shame
‘Cause everyone shares
In the sins of their fathers

School bell rings
Single file in
Trade you my
Unhappily ever afters

So bring out those things
To hammer the wings
Of the next generation
Of playground martyrs
Read more at http://www.songlyrics.com/david-sylvian/playground-martyrs-lyrics/#hG1Ie1ZrSDK752yU.99

Impunity and the Fabric of Society: commentary

This is a commentary for the previous post – on the 108 Judo class deaths in Japan.

Kobayashi Yasuhiko skipped his judo class at a junior high school in Yokohama Japan.  Later that day, he was pronounced dead.  According to the way this plays out in the courts, as well as in Japanese popular society, it is ‘an accident.’   What happens to people when they are not persons with lives and histories, but are a part of a large society, culture, nation and are nothing but statistics?  It favors refusing to take care.  It favors ignoring.  It favors ‘life as usual’ for most of us.  In this way, as our so-called ‘free’ societies such as the US, Japan, most Western European countries, Turkey, South Korea, and all those so-called ‘democratic’ and almosts, create an illusion of freedom as bestowed upon us by a kind and benevolent, well-intentioned society.

What happened to Kobayashi Yasukhiko was that the judo teacher had to punish him for being undisciplined, for missing a practice.  So when the student arrived at the school, the judo teacher demanded a match with his ranking judo superior and champion in a punishing and grueling match.  He was choked by that champion to the floor, then choked again by the teacher while they grappled him and threw him violently onto the floor.  The boy experienced severe internal bleeding (subdural hematoma) and died.  This is an ‘accident’ in Japanese society.

Now there is an association in Japan called ‘Japan Judo Accident Victims Association.’ http://judojiko.net/eng/

Do we not find this perverse? I am not questioning the group itself, it is needed.  What I question is the violence of a dominant society that makes the forming of this group necessary.  In all countries, this is a problem: the state’s refusal to take care of its subjects.  In this sense, the violence is a monopoly of the state and it can ignore citizens if it needs to protect itself.  The state, being an imaginative outline on a map with its police, prisons, military, and industries and institutions, imagines itself as having to protect itself.  The people who work for the state, imagine themselves to BE the state! Imagine this!  So victims of legitimized violence must suffer enough to found an association so that their voice can be taken seriously by the state.  What harm does the state see it taking in when a group of parents say that there is a strange legitimizing of violent and abusive behaviors that pass for normal and okay in society?

The problem starts with the silencing of ‘being killed’ and the replacement with the term ‘dying’ (assumes non-intention by a person or group and blame is placed on a disease or accident)  or ‘death ( just a statistic somewhere).  People are being killed by active agents that are most often a complex nexus of legitimate events, things, spaces and cultural systems (such as ‘boys will be boys’ and ‘survival of the fittest’).

Silence is a weapon of the rulers.  Silence must be counted upon as a major factor in maintaining a society.  Making something as an individual anomaly, an individual issue, is counted upon and is effective in most of the first world nations today, and others as well.  On the other spectrum in these societies, there is also the parallel motivation to blame everything on the state and the government.  So on the one hand, it is individualized, made an individual case.  On the other hand, it is something that the government and the state must take care of, it’s not our individual fault.  Both of these trajectories, dualistic poles of behavior, are from the issue of individuals in increasingly individualizing societies, that disempower by disengaging.  The self has tremendous pressure and the only thing it knows is that it is under a system, but at other times it is never that system (ignoring).

In another instance, Japan was at the center of an international controversy surrounding increasing numbers of people dieing while at work.  This phenomena, called:  karōshi 過労死  ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karōshi ) became almost an embarassment for the Japanese, once internationalized.  At the beginning, when the first few had died, the Japanese government used the excuse that if this were a workplace problem, then all people who are over-worked while working, should be dying.  But since they are not, it is not the workplace or the government who is responsible, but this is specific to those individuals.  On these grounds, there was no compensation.  What the hell??  But doesn’t this sound familiar?  As the state and corporations run most of our lives anyway, when convenient, they have the lawyers and thinkers to have logical defenses such as those, to make individual lives suddenly not their responsibility.  Individual differences in increasingly individualizing societies, are individually more free to roam around and make personal choices and have personal opinions, but the body, the health, the worldviews and the movement of the body in certain ways here and there, and in this way (think of brushing teeth every morning, then jogging, then eating breakfast, then going to work, then stopping for a drink after work, then going home and seeing family, then watching television, then waiting for the weekend–over and over again and over again)  seals our bodies in certain ways and repetitions.  Mechanized lives that we don’t recognize as mechanized, routine-ized.   For the wealthy, they rarely follow these routines so they are totally unconcerned about the bulk of the people in their own societies.  There is NO RECIPROCAL relationship in individual societies.  Each of us do what we do.  So in BEING KILLED, we just call it one person’s death in this way, or he or she or that dies in this way.  Oh how unfortunate.

Well, unfortunately for Japan, at least, more and more people are questioning this disconnect between the people working for and caring for certain things but this care NOT BEING RETURNED, not being reciprocated.  I can almost hear some people now reading this—–‘who says it has to be reciprocal?  We are FREE TO LEAVE.’   Such is how individual freedom goes.  Leaving something we need, or leaving something we love, or feel connected to is Painful, and perhaps life-killing.  But we rarely acknowledge this.  Increasingly, especially in the world’s wealthiest nations, all that we are is in our heads and our bodies are just there to carry our heads around.  We stomp on the earth, we pollute, we say whatever, think whatever, other people have their realities, I have my own, what else is there…… etc. etc.   To me, this is what the Buddhists call the ‘Age of degeneration.’   The Bible calls ‘The End times”.   Self-hatred is there.  It is not natural but certainly foretold and followed.

Yasuhiko’s story, being killed by his judo teacher; and the Japanese salary-men’s deaths at work, seem to be ‘the way things are.’  They supposedly are not killed by the silent and abusive modern society we live in, by our ignorance.  Even if we understand it, we don’t seem to have any creativity enough to fight it so we may succumb to silently going about our business.  Others find ways to begin subverting, and then changing things for the better.

Corporate and government leaders, and all leaders of anything in society, must be held accountable for how things are.  At the same time, we ourselves, whether leaders or not, must be held accountable for whatever we do to disempower ourselves, or become arrogant in thinking that we do not need guides and teachers in our lives.  We must continue to think and perhaps think better than we do now, in our complex world, to navigate the various mental and emotional games we have all learned to play in the modern world to get by.  That, I feel, is the most challenging aspect of social change.

I pray and work hard for people to begin thinking about what kind of societies we live in and therefore participate in the killing of ourselves and others and the ecology willingly.   And I pray that we become empowered instead of paralyzed by our sadness and rage, to empower ourselves to work differently.  First, we must recognize the difference between ‘being killed’ and ‘dieing.’  Silence by a nexus of gendered notions of toughness and legitimate forms of disciplining, which can allow abuse and hatred and condones it, and how this spreads to all aspects of society in the family , the workplace and leisure and to human relations and nations–must mean that these are not natural but made-up and that these can be changed through equal amounts of work in new directions.

In what various ways and methods does your society, culture, nation, neighborhood, family, participate in the collusion of violence that passes for silence and manhood, ‘bad’ personalities and nature?  In what ways can we begin to seriously look at this issue, bring discussions and come to formulate ways to stop maintaining the fiction of these things as ‘nature’ and inevitable?  In what ways do masculinities become linked with violence as natural?  In what ways does this masculinity, then, become beneficial to strong societies that want to maintain themselves (military strength and the militarization of society)?  In what ways are women and non-males inscribed in an empowerment that is falsely viewed as such but in reality is a patriarchal form of power, a violent-ization of power; and is an intensification of sexism?  How do women internalize patriarchal violence in order to be ‘equal,’ and perpetrating violences? In what ways can all of these things be changed?  How could Yasuhiko still be in judo classes, perhaps performing the sport that he loves, without being killed, then labelled an accident?

Care in the ‘Land of the Free’

It is not a secret that the wealthier receive the best medical care.  The poor receive the least in amount, type, speedy-ness, and quality.

I am a person who is in a low-cost health care program called ‘Healthy San Francisco.’  No doubt, this service is better than nothing and I am grateful.  I am very privileged to be in the US.  At the same time, I am afraid for my life and others’ lives (that are not rich).

Individual nurses and doctors at both South of Market Medical Clinic, where I was first received for my emergency care; and then at St. Francisco Medical Center where I would stay for six days for this particular ailment, was pleasant.  The individual nurses, on the whole, were mostly pleasant, engaging, and listened well and took care of me as best they could.  Particularly at St. Francis in the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) where I was first rushed to for my treatment, the care was top-notch and comforting, aiding in my recovering, I feel.

The problems I saw, were in the system.  I think there are several reasons for these ‘problems’ that I saw.  On two occasions, I could’ve died from ‘mistakes’ if things would’ve been just slightly different.  I feel that my stay at the hospital was made more stressful, and therefore NOT conducive to healing and empowerment and comfort, because of politics and the organization of treatment.   What the nurses, especially, must navigate in order to do effective work, is largely shut down.  The system is supposed to work in favor of all: the patient/client, the various nurses (RN; the aid; floor manager nurse; etc.) and the doctors and specialists.  What really makes the organization worse, are the intentions of the administrators and bureaucrats of  hospitals.  These administrators want the best hospital around so that money would come in and continue its flow through the halls and into the medical journals and cocktail parties.  Reputation comes from receiving high merits and having less trouble.  Most of the administrators never see patients on a regular basis, and rarely do they speak to the staff, unless there is crisis.  Crisis management is what ‘management’ has become.  It is no longer about everyone being on the same page, so to speak.  The client/patient and what is best, is the furthest thing from that arena.  Its link with capitalism is the tightest and closest, and therefore, cannot afford to pay too close of attention unless there is some financial benefit.  The care is left up to the nurses and doctors and specialists, but they are deeply affected by the organization of things.

In my six days of stay in the hospital, I went through 42 different nurses.  Three different nurses on staff= one day shift group of  three nurses (an RN, an aid, and the floor manager nurse), and a different set of three for the night shift.  Everyday they would diligently come in and write their names on the white board so I will remember their names.

At various points along the way, one nurse would refuse/ignore reading the chart that has my treatment, and would actively contradict what the last nurse told me.  Even as I insisted, they ignored and talked down to me as if I were a child.  In all fairness, I know that for most people, when they take care of others, they speak in a tone as if they are taking care of a child.  This would be the only reference many people have as far as ‘taking care’ and how to speak to people.    But to assume that patients don’t know what they are talking about is the biggest crime of most all of mainstream dominant western medicine anyway.

My mother was a medical student in Japan, in the postwar period.  Japan has had centuries of its own medicine system, combined with indigenous and Chinese and Korean medicines, Ryukyu and Ainu systems, and Dutch and Portuguese medicine.  The one thing my mother told me was that after World War II, the American doctors actively shamed the Japanese doctors in front of patients and their families.  It had to be done in a western way with ‘western medicine.’  Japanese doctors were used to using a vast array of medicines and treatments that did not rely on surgery, pills, and shots.  But she remembers that everything began to be turned into one of those three material things, giving the companies who owned those things (the fluids, the implements and technologies, etc) money.  My mother also said that one of the best things she remembers about Japanese medicine is that the doctors and nurses listened to the patients about their own ailments and feelings and thoughts and adjusted and discussed.  She said that the Western doctors just wanted to know where things were wrong in the body, then that would be the end.

This is certainly what I experience in US hospitals.  It is very violent, from my point of view.  The patient  (in this case, me) is an object of the doctor’s technology.  The doctors’ careers rest on their using technologies and medicines that they are brainwashed into loading into their career package, and their own package of techniques of being the identity: DOCTOR.

The doctors decided, according to one nurse, to take out my IV (intravenous) needle.  The next morning another nurse started putting another back in, even after I told her the doctor and nurse said I didn’t need one.  She didn’t even look at my face during the whole time.  The other nurse at night, said that she had a talking with that nurse and asked why she didn’t read the order that was written on my chart?  The nurse said ‘she didn’t bother.’   This is scary!!

Many things happened during my visit in the hospital.  What I come away with is that the foundations of our American society are based on being dependent.  People talk about being independent but it’s hogwash.  There is no power or even acknowledgement when it comes to leaving our health in the hands of ‘experts.’   We do need medical people and people who care.  But ‘care’ in the US, at least in the medical field but most likely in many places and sites, has become just something an individual does with their tone of voice and asking the same questions over and over and then we’re supposed to give them an answer, even though they already know the answer and will contradict you anyway.  Even if we tell the nurse or the doctor such and such, the nurse or doctor may do what they want anyway.

At one point, the fluids going into my body (in this case, heparin–which thins the blood) is supposed to be at certain levels and was not happening.  The nurses changed the machine and did things.  I asked one nurse what was going on and she told me not to worry about it.  Not to worry about it????????    Then a few nurses came in discussing with each other in front of me and were tinkering with the buttons and levers on the machine.  Obviously something was up.  Then the one nurse honestly told me that the wrong level of heparin was going in because the wrong bag was replaced with the other fluid.  She said that luckily the levels became too low and would not have harmed me as much as if it were tweaked the other direction by mistake.  Apparently the wrong buttons were switched on and off  (there were two different fluids going into my body and they were reversed).   I, apparently could’ve died if it was the other way.  How comforting.

The nurses were irritated.  With each other.   How can they care for me effectively?  With 42 nurses in a six-day period, they rely on paperwork for information, if not actual dialogue with each other.  They clearly did not trust each other’s words either because there seemed to be some nurses who don’t even read patient daily reports and instructions on the job!!!!   So there is fear and irritation.  Most of the time, when the nurses visit, they were in a hurry to get to all of the patients in their rounds.  Doing their jobs.  Healing is not their job.  Healing is seen as ‘giving medicine’ and doing the appropriate technologies.  The individual nurses understand the patients more and understand that other things are needed.  But they don’t have time.  They must fill a quota on their rounds and do huge amounts of paperwork and administrative work.  The managing floor nurses have the worse jobs.  At St. Francis, the reason there are so many nurses is that all the nurses rotate through all of the different nursing jobs so that there is no burn-out.  It is disconnected from patient care.  But they have to do this to keep their jobs.

Why, would the rotating of nurses be done this way?  Why not continuity?  I know for one fact, from being anthropologist of social change and violence, that a tactic of administration in dominant first-world nations now, is to not allow too much time for workers to fraternize and share information and to ORGANIZE.  So there would be no time to organize against grievances and injustices if the workers were kept working on crazy shifts that went against their own interests.  This IS A TACTIC.   Instead of acquiesing, I always feel that resistance must also become creative.

Western medicine is not about healing, or even preventing illness.  It is about feeding the drug companies and the technologies of western medicine.  When acupuncture was not taken seriously, it was off-limits.  As soon as the western establishment learned how to incorporate it into the system, that is when there was more so-called ‘open-ness’ to acupuncture, albeit slowly.   It is racist and capitalist.  It effects what we need to care for each other.

My feeling is that we are living in a degenerating USA and it will not get better in the short term.  Our economies continue to collapse and the richest of the richest will fly their health care people privately into their rooms or resorts via their private jets and they will be the cream of the crop with the latest in technologies.  They may even have a Peruvian, Ainu or Yaqui or Hopi shaman and a indigenous visionary healer from Kurdistan or Finland to heal them.  The rest of us must be disempowered enough to totally in the hands of the capitalist doctors……or begin combining old medicines with new, or leaving western medicine altogether, and other such ways.  Also, I know quite a few people who have undertaken paths to ‘know our own bodies’ to resist the disempowerment of the current western systems.

Memory can perhaps serve us, and also not just to co-opt and use, but to understand what has been lost.  Some of it can be recovered but we must know what can work in these times even though they may have worked in another cultural and historical context.  We have differences and similarities.  We need discussion.  We need negotiation, we must also pay attention to our own colonial personalities that wish to co-opt without understanding or respect to history, etc.  We must also not think of ourselves as biologically and culturally determined as well.  In taking care of ourselves, what does this mean?