Congrats so far to Blackanese Singer Judith Hill on ‘The Voice’

Black-Japanese singer Judith Hill has wowed the judges on the US television show: The Voice on her first night.  I am not a particular fan of these kinds of shows, but I always appreciate a Blackanese artist of success in the public limelight!  She is truly a great singer!

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What of Democracy? Chick-Fil-A commentary

Democracy must have democratic values and actions put into it.

Democracy as a form of governance is an experiment.  It is a dream, a hope.

Because it is a dream and a hope, it is also something that can be called “unreal.”

In this kind of underlying psycho-social vision of “unreality” and “dream,” it is often thought of as impossible and therefore absent from our actions, words, behaviors, ways of governing, living.  It is given up.  Then as a form of “goodness,” many people will pretend to be democratic.

Built-into this kind of critique of democracy-as-dream and the effects of such an unconscious assumption, is the lack of awareness of power relations and accountability.

Taking Chick-Fil-A as an example.  This Food Chain business in the USA has recently come out openly and is in the news quite a bit around the country, opposing Gay Marriage.  In so doing, many people have gone out to either oppose them as a business, or help their business by supporting them in words and/or deeds–such as showing up and buying their food.

In a what I feel is a ridiculous display of American “rights” and individualism, there have been commercials and news segments interviewing people who were praising Chick-Fil-A food and saying that Chick-Fil-A has a right to set up business.  Others just say that they have friends who are Gay and who are gay parents and whatever, but that their eating at Chick-Fil-A has nothing to do with their friendships with their gay friends and it’s about how good the food is at Chick.

Hmmmm…..and in addition, there have been a couple of people who brought up “God.”  That each individual person has to answer to God and nothing else, and that it is the Gay people’s final judgement before God that matters, and that their support of their own rights opposing Gay Marriage has not deterred their friendship.

And those who view Chick-Fil-A as a business representing hatred against Gays, may be somewhat reactionary from a certain point of view.  Many who continue to eat at Chick, and who have gay friends, do not “hate” anyone.

That is the old kind of racism, sexism, homophobia, where hate is outwardly expressed against individuals.

But there is a political injustice and oppression happening, where heterosexually-identified persons, who have social mainstream dominance, who have have at least over a thousand more legal rights in so many ways, and that go unnoticed and unthought by most, are now feeling less dominant, and threatened, or who manage their everyday lives with the knowledge of their own sexual-orientation as superior.  It’s unconscious.  The “others” are “alternative.”

Don’t get me wrong, I think marriage is a heterosexual institution and is problematic because most people in the world do not want to be constricted to one way of living their sexualities or anything else. However, in this world, heterosexual power is undeniable as political dominance, and maintained through crafted spiritual and religious dominance by heterosexually-identified persons (even though many of them have secret sex with same-sex partners).

Life cannot be undemocratic.

But the world certain has been made that way.  It is because of links with history and certain forms of power that gain credence and legitimacy through repetition and discipline (read Michel Foucault).

So the “vandals” write that Chick “tastes like hate.”
This is a natural resistance to the forces of dominance.

However, in the current globalizing system, resistance against further oppression is make criminal.  In most cases, the vandalizing persons would be arrested and made to have criminal records, while the industry of socially-empowered anti-democracies, with wealth and power in communities, goes unchecked. In many cases, even if lawmakers agree with the resistors, the resistors will be told to be “better” and do it “legally.”  But under our current misguided system in the US, sometimes this is already a losing game.  This is how democracy is eroded.

It is a form of ignorance to think that the US is a democratic society.  We have some advanced democratic ELEMENTS  in the US system, but it, or anything else called “democratic” would have to be much more attentive and honoring of difference (without assimilation and before identity-making and so-called “self-evident” values) and much more attentive to class and identity power relations.

There are many people in the world do not have any strong opinions or values and just like to be where trouble is, to make conflict, enjoying the excitement, and perhaps the violence.  People who like to be anti-gay and people who like to be anti-anti.

Then there are the very real issues of how we create suffering for others or ourselves, on and on.

So on many levels, in so many way, there is complex genesis of the histories of we have ignored.

There are major problems here.

On a social justice level, if we are to just understand how politics in market capitalism and majoritarian voting, and other American systemic formations work in our lives, we must understand that helping the financial maintenance of organizations, including fast food restaurants that serve “good food,” also helps that chain’s financial power and their relations and links with forms of power and community.  If we are to assume that there are many anti-Gay people and Fundamentalist Christians who are opposed to homosexuality while supposedly, yes supposedly, “loving” their Gay friends, and who are wealthy and/or who have some social power in political, and capitalist circles (banks, stock market, real estate, etc.), then we are supporting those aspects as well, giving those discourses, those thoughts, those values, currency in culture (not only finances).  Wealthier people can also control resources in far-reaching ways, more so that those who do not.

So where is this “love?”  What is this “love of my gay friends”?  What are its contours?  What is the underlying meaning of this kind of “love?”

And if it is about some sort of God who demotes certain groups of people, then we must assume that democracy has nothing to do with it.

This is where democracy is going.

Can we, then, apply these questions and critiques and concerns, to almost every issue we have in the world?

Yes.

What of democracy?

We cannot all hold hands and sing a song of peace and love when we know that just two or three hands away, or the hands that we hold, may be of those who deny someone else love, equality, justice.

And these are age-old questions that are seemingly impossible to resolve.

I think the main issue here is not that we don’t know what to do.  I think it is that it’s too difficult—that it may cost us our jobs, our friends, our loved ones, our comfortable middle-class lives, or give someone we “hate” some kind of power.   We must examine notions of the “human” that we have psychologized and internalized through centuries of Puritan-Catholic-Baptist-Protestant Christian “Church-ianity.”

Institutional conservative Christian cultural forms are with us, whether we are religious or not.  It is an aspect of American culture that even Europeans are baffled by.  Secular Americans do not often understand that their own thinking may be very much linked with conservative Christian norms in thoughts of love, compassion, sacrifice, hate, right, wrong, good, bad.  Getting to heaven may be psychologized into “personal growth” toward unity with a God or Peace or Nirvana.

Becoming a Good person is also quite Christian.  In Asian cultures and African cultures and Global South cultures in general, there were other systems that were vastly different.  Now there are only remnants, as the engines and juggernaut of alienating, industrializing, individualizing, identity-making, technologizing, homogenizing, assimilating, criminalizing, and militarizing, and sexualizing of all-reality becomes much more along the lines of a coherent “postmodern” sameness —where we can now recognize right and wrong and beauty and ugly along the same lines in every corner of the world, where people-of-color, once colonized and now postcolonial, may now act much like their former oppressors during colonization.  This is still ongoing and not finished.

Chick-Fil-A media segments give us a good lesson in how ignorant, isolating, self-righteous, spirituality-based, goodness-based irresponsibility and disconnectedness now operate everywhere, making democracy’s vision cloudier.  Others who do not feel this way just leave the situation and go about their merry way, going shopping, eating somewhere else, doing whatever, as anti-democratic systems, often unconscious and un-named, grows and grows.

Later, we wonder why the world has become a certain way, with certain pains, uncertainties, ugliness.

We can now turn to the Christian doctrine of “original sin” which operates quite conveniently for some, to say that “yes, we humans are fundamentally evil, fundamentally stupid, fundamentally sinful.”  So even as we try to live “good” as “good people,” on a social level–nothing changes.  Individual goodness only serves undemocratic social systems.

Here I have presented a purposefully provocative critique of postmodern malaise and its links with internalized Christianity, using anti-gay business as an example.

There are paths we can take to change things.  But it will not be the comfortable path you may have gotten used to and expect in the American Empire, now much like the Roman one that fell.

Although there is no world to “save,” I feel that our lives can account for something more than having breathed, eaten, slept, gone on vacations, had sex, laughed, been jilted by lovers, farted, and watched video games a little, and/or wore nice clothes and saw some interesting things and traveled when we lived, while were name this “being alive.”  Do you see that these things are all very colonial, very 16th to 18th century goals?  Even as we work to lose weight or to have good jobs or to reach our dreams, keeps us occupied toward making the wealthy wealthier, all the while, democratic values wane and cries to us that it is only a dream.

It’s only a cleverly internalized self-fulfilling prophecy.  Perhaps as Christians would, we need to get this out of us.  There is not pure goodness anywhere—that is not my goal.

But we can certainly see clearer and act in more responsible ways after we have seen through the cloudiness of internalized colonization and its subsequent forms of oppression that we may practice, that may thwart democratic values.

On ‘Pearl Harbor Day’ : December 7th

On a certain You Tube video I found randomly on that site in my search for videos about Pearl Harbor to see how there were patterns on how information and memory are represented, I found some comments by viewers on a couple of sites, that mirror those of comments on Hiroshima 1945.  Some of the people on these sites, commented that the Japanese deserved the Atomic Bomb.  This echoes thoughts and sentiments expressed by many people I’ve known from the Philippines, Korea, Vietnam, and other places where Japanese imperial forces committed atrocities.  So as we all must know and understand by now, is that the past is never gone.  The past lives in different ways and forms, in the present.
When I was eleven and twelve years old, our family lived in Hawaii, in an area called ‘Halawa’ in Aiea.  Until this time, we had moved from Japan to Albuquerque, New Mexico, then to Hawaii.  During these times, I remember that my mother grew steadily despondent and quiet.  But in Hawaii, my mother began to feel enlivened by company and a social life.  All around were families that were of Portuguese, Saamoan, Caucasian, Japanese-Hawaiian, Hawaiian, Black, Puerto Rican, and other ethnic groups that defied the notion of separate and divided.  Our neighbors immediately closest to us, with our front doors not even a meter apart, were the Aiu family.  I was close with the four kids of theif family.  They were Caucasian.  Mrs. Aiu, the mother of the nuclear family, was very friendly and kind and I remember her helping my mother with many adjustments to living in our new home.
She was in her teens on the morning of December 7, 1971.  When I asked her a couple of times, about that day, she would say how horrific it was and terrifying, and she would describe their run into the bomb shelters near the house.  We lived in a housing complex that had been through that attack and remnants of that day are seen in the bullet holes and craters created by Japanese pilots with their planes that day.
One day, I heard my mother crying in her room.  I went to see what was happening and she said to go back to my room and nothing was wrong.  I was afraid and sad.  When I was in my room I heard the front door open and Mrs. Aiu called out to us that she was in.  In those days, in Hawaii, people rarely knocked on doors of friends.  Just as it had been when I was a child in Japan, we enter homes without knocking or doorbells, announcing our presence.  That day I told Mrs. Aiu that Mama was in her room crying and I didn’t know what was wrong.  Mrs. Aiu went in to find my mother in her bed, crying, yet nothing was physically wrong.  Mrs. Aiu pulled my mother’s head gently into her chest and rocked my mother while stroking her hair.  I felt sad, relieved, and inept, not knowing what I–a twelve year-old could do in this situation.  My mother’s loneliness as a military bride in the US had not sunk in for me.
Later that same night, Mrs. Aiu returned with a pot she held with pot-holder gloves.  She carried this into my mother’s room and she opened the lid.  It was oka-yu, or as my mother called it: okai-san (rice gruel).  Mrs. Aiu had also placed an umeboshi (preserved Japanese sweet plum) in the middle of the okayu, with its distinct purple pink color.  My mother again began to sob and Mrs. Aiu held her for awhile, tellilng her that everything will be okay.  I remember this as a photo in my memory.  And soon, Mrs. Aiu began to feed the okayu to my mother as she cried and ate.  My mother said in her broken English: Sank- U, Sank-U.
I remember asking Mrs. Aiu a couple of weeks later why she was so nice to us, since she was a white-American who had been bombed by the Japanese.  She told me that governments and military people play games with people but that is no reason to hate a whole people.  She said that my mother did not create the war and did not make any hatreds and obedience on her own.  So she felt that we should all be taking care of each other as people.
December 1941, Hiroshima 1945, the fire-bombings of 66 major Japanese cities, the devastation of war on all sides of the Pacific and inside of it–all did not begin in 1941 or 1939 or 1925.  The dates are markers of certain events that are used by the people writing the stories.  They may all contain elements of a ‘truth.’  However, it’s never the way are told or shown.  We must think.  Japan’s rise to imperialism had a whole array of reasons that explain (but do not justify) its complexities in the international racisms that existed.  Elite militarisms in desperate contexts as well as moral superiorities.  No American or European group of men in world government, took any Asian nation seriously.  They were inferior.  This creates a certain kind of ‘blowback.’
But I remember Mrs. Aiu’s kindness and sober way of carrying herself in thoughtfulness.  The memories of December 7th, for her, were to be lived with increasing self-education, thought, care across difference.  This contrasts strongly with those who view vengeance as the priority.  However, pain is pain, memory is memory.  How will we, in the world, move forward.  It is easy for those who do not understand the horrifying life of living in war and domination, and who would admonish others to forget and ‘be peaceful.’  This is also violent.  We must work together to forge memories ‘with’ these pains of history in life and to transform them.  Others are still more attracted to violence and the only way they can attain their self-mastery is through the mastery of others.  Violence is a tool.
My mother.  Mrs. Aiu.  Hiroshima. Pearl Harbor.  But there’s always more behind the representations.  Shanghai, Nanking, Brussels, San Francisco Peace Treaty, Manchuria, Taiwan, South Korea, European colonialism, US economic and military wealth, Christian missionaries, racism.
In memory of soldiers who sacrifice themselves in the name of the game of governments, in the name of the military’s game of vying for supremacy or being killed, in memory of those families who suffer.  In the memory of deaths that make our nations and realities.  There is not much else in the world but that we are alive because of people who have died in the name of nation and its constructed honor.  The honorable, the valiant, the inescapable link between valor and violence. In memory, can we construct different memories?
Thoughtfulness.  Kindness. Commitments to forging peace across differences.

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.

Hilarious video for Mixed-Race Asians – bishop cd miller

This is a hilarious video (I think) regarding our ethnic, racial, national, cultural labels. Bishop CD says: “Am I a Hapa? Am I too old to re-frame myself!” Hilarious!! What’s ‘Hapa?’  Why ‘re-frame?’

The term ‘Hapa‘ is a newly-circulating label for mixed-race Asian-Americans and perhaps, nowadays, including all mixed-race and multi-ethnic Asian identities. It is an old Hawaiian term for mixed-race Hawaiian Asians. However, this term is increasingly becoming popular to note this very diverse group. As most of us understand identity in the present, the old categories have become increasingly irrelevant in many ways, as we delve into the politics of identity and the re-positionings of power toward justice.  So as we discover terms that are new that circulate, that touch upon ourselves, we may struggle.

Further commentary follows the video!

Miller say’s “I’m too old to re-frame myself!” Heard that!! But in seriousness, we must and we shall……or we cling to the old words that are no longer useful in some ways. However, I feel that all labels, making us into objects, are tools for some kind of jockeying for power, control. Having ‘no identity’ is also a label and stinks of dominant privilege and disconnectedness. So we must re-frame, if not for ourselves, then for others who necessarily suffer because of the bodies that are marked by territory, social class, nation-state hierarchies, gendered norms, sexual orientation secrets and revelations, words that define but never grasp, yet tear our bodies into pieces. Go on Bishop CD Miller! I’m of your generation too! Continual re-frame!! How many frickin’ times do we have to question how others view us, define us and label us? And then what do we do to ourselves? and to our ancestors? What of them? Who were they? How do they live in us and through us today? However, labels will never define us. Labels, however, if we must use them, must be for social justice in this cruel, cold, fiery world full of secrets and displacements, torture and loneliness, ecstasy and understandings. Well….I’m almost too old…….. Bishop CD Miller says often that she is ‘White, Black and Filippino.” My own father says he is African-American, but we are aware of his Cherokee heritage. My mother’s mother was Austrian-Chinese mixed. Between the three of us, we have been through many continents, cultures. But what has been the label? Is there a need? It depends.  As Michel Foucault, Judith Butler, Jacques Derrida, and others help us to think into our words and the structures of reality, they also ask us to understand the play of power and justice, disempowerment, ignorance, and the making of objects through labels, through which our world is largely organized.

Crude – the movie

“From the mid-1960s until the early 1990s, Texaco (now Chevron) dumped 18 billion gallons of oil and toxic waste into the Amazon rain-forest of Ecuador, creating a 1,700-square-mile “cancer death zone” the size of Rhode Island.”   –  from wikipedia

This movie is of the quest of activists to bring accountability and conscience to our world.  The plight of ecology and the people of the world who have not severed human relationship to earth and creatures, should not be something sensational but should be seen as something we have chosen or willed to forget, or do not understand as having been ‘forgotten out of us’ –meaning that sometimes our forgetting is not personal, so much as having been a strategy by larger forces, so that we may drive our cars and keep our lights on and party in all-hours of the night without a thought to the violence this attests to.

Our world, a neo-colonialist world, has made natural the exploitation. Of each other, of others, of ourselves.  We make the abusive corporatocracy unapproachable in our self-hatred.  Our ignorance is a child of self-hatred and ineptness.  We shrink and sometimes feel paralyzed and small.  That’s what many of the elites who are exploiting our earth and communities want us to do.  Are we that obedient?  Are the indigenous people just people with colorful clothes that we think are behind us in history?  I am certainly not.  I have Cherokee heritage.  All of us are indigenous.  The indigenous communities who still lived as linked with the earth thrived in all of Europe and Asia and the Americas and the Middle East.  Those ties have all been systematically severed in one way or another and at different speeds and intensities that usually mirror the amount of modernization that has accumulated.  The Irish and Welsh Celts and the Ainu and the indigenous of Okinawa and others continue to battle.  Are the indigenous people of the Americas indigenous?  All of us come from earth.  Why is it that the ‘brown people’ with colorful clothes are left to fend for a life on this planet that doesn’t equal plunder and genocide while the rest of us have ambivalence about all of it?  We are humanity, we are earth.  Do we ignore our mothers and foremothers and forefathers as a ‘progress,’ as some kind of maturity?  Who taught us these things?

Instead of guilt, there needs to be a reckoning.  A courageous facing, shifts in behavior, but not a reconstitution of a heavy punishment-as-morality, but a compassionate turn, a vigorous turn to actually care for our ancestors, for our planet.  Not just in our own recycling projects and moral superiority in not driving SUVs.  I’m talking more about working with those, like the gentlemen, women, children, ladies, lawyers, and all others who are struggling and need our creativity, alliance, knowledge, privileges.  Act.  And hopefully movies such as this, can inspire, inform, shift you and those you know, with a ruthless love of life and diversity.