Massacres, Democratic Societies, Colonization

This is a very short opinion piece on the massacre leading, so far, to 12 deaths — as of today, considered “one of the worst mass crimes in recent history” which occurred in Aurora, Colorado.

First, I want to remind readers that my perspectives are on social justice and social change and looking at history and relations of power, accumulations of dominance and resistances that create our lives.  I do not, detract from the deep sorrow and anger I feel, in various ways, about how this has occurred and the deaths and injuries and traumas that have come about.

This piece is very short and meant to be evocative, provocative.  I never speak of final conclusions and opinions that close off things and ideas.  I do not speak from a psychologized, or Christian or Muslim moral perspective, where “Good versus Evil” and “Crazy versus Sane” binaries rule.  I do NOT start there, nor do I begin there.  Those moralities and structures of dividing individuals, societies, dreams, and ideas, are not something I care to participate in.  Nor do I think they lead to social change or social justice.  Moral and Psychologized binaries always —ALWAYS– lead to more incarceration and more killing, more death sentences, more self-superior kinds of ways of dealing with the complexities of our lives.

Revenge and Roman gladiator coliseum mentalities still rule much of public emotion and reasons for setting up our “civilized” laws in a now globalizing colonizing mentality.  Disciplining and punishing (yes, I mean to evoke Michel Foucault’s famous book on the matter of internalizing violent structures through prison architecture).

In popular imagination, especially in the US, we have been culturally self-taught to believe that emotions are emotions and there are the sick and the unsick, the civilized and the uncivilized, the cruel and the nice, the crazy and the sane, the good and the bad.  We deal with it through the idea of either redemption and rehabilitation, and/or punishment or a combination.  Sequestering and putting to death.  Our creativity is gone.  What rules are the moralities we think are deep and real and true, and the moralities and spiritiualities and psychologies that we think we know and maintain and protect so dearly, even at the cost of arguments and fights at the dinner table and the ex-communication from groups, of friends and family-members that we love.

Let’s face it, modern civilization suffers from the “being right and good” syndrome.  Since we supposedly know these things, or can rely on “experts,” we make EASY EASY conclusions.  This means we don’t have to think.  We have lost the necessity for complex thinking.  Simple-mindedness is often valorized in US societies.  Being “Real” is often how this is languaged.

People want answers.

To have answers, means that any answer, any answer, will lead to further questions and further answers. I do not believe that things have “finished.”  Nor do I believe that the massacre that occurred “began” within James Holmes, the violent accused shooter at the movie theater in Aurora, or only within the shooters who killed at the 1999 Columbine High School spree in Colorado, or within the killer in Norway at the campsite approximately one year ago.  Yes these rampage killers are the carriers and shooters.

I have been just as saddened, in addition to the shooting and the deaths, at hearing the news reports and talk shows and reading the various articles across the board, in the US and in English language mostly everywhere, on how so many people around the world have begun to think alike on subjects such as death and life.

The same tired reactions and words and phrases and platitudes and moralities have circulated.  The same things I heard just after Columbine shootings and just after other mass rampage shootings, are being publicized and circulate.  We listen to the moralities of Left and Right politicians.  We listen to the church leaders and Hollywood personalities and song stars and talk show hosts.

It’s saddening.

People who shoot come from each one of us.  As we go shopping and care or not care for our own children and friends, as we say or not say things everyday, as we care and don’t care about certain people, we isolate.  In isolation, we accumulate cruelties that circulate.

Picking oneself up by the bootstraps–as an individual–is a norm nowadays.  Being normal, we do not question how it looks and how we perform these things.  In short, we are responsible for the violences that occur in societies.

We want the already-cruel, legalistic, bureacratic, psychologized, condescending, moral institutions to take care of “those people” so we can continue with our lives, as if our lives were rich and meaningful.  We try, but often we are fooling ourselves.  And further, we forget that we are fooling ourselves, convinced of our sureness, our goodness, our moralities.

The more thoughtful and intelligent people and thinkers and artists, have warned that our societies are in a deepening and darkening place.  It is not “normal” or “natural” or a product of “God.”  It is because each of us are not putting enough of our intelligence and creativity and strength into the complexities and changes required to take care of ourselves.  Almost everything these days, are in the hands of institutions.  When this happens, our own thinking is constricted, assimilated, and quite unresponsive to what is required.

People nowadays talk of being “smart” but who speaks of being “wise?”  Wisdom is something people don’t even understand anymore, from where I stand.  Compassion is seen only as something sentimental and kind and somewhat condescending.  Ooooh….you poor thing.   For those people like James Holmes and other people such as the Aum Shinrikyo Religious leader in Japan, who led the group to kill in the Japanese subways, we are not supposed to have compassion for “them.”

In this way, we ourselves are divided within ourselves.  We can learn a bit from some of the writings of Buddhism, where compassion is not compassion without the sword that cuts through bullshit and delusion.  It is strength.  And Wisdom is a cold and calculating “Rationality” that views itself “higher” in the presumed hierarchy of human experience than compassion and kindness and that it is an “opposite” quality – and therefore sometimes “in the way” of “true” wisdom.  Being “irrational” is the same as being insane, for many people, or a lower and “feminine”way that is unwanted.  This is left over from the Victorian era and mass colonization, the destruction of the feminine and the enshrining of SEXISM into our moral structures.  It keeps things rational and therefore these things are artificially separated into separate compartments.  In Buddhism, this must be seen through.  Wisdom is not wisdom without compassion.  Compassion is not compassion without wisdom.

The hierarchies that we perform in our lives are lived out in how we foreground something or background something, how we ignore some things while prioritizing others, how we know some things and how we perform with this unknowing. If contradictory things arise simultaneously, or are complex in any way, we may label it “confused” or “ambiguous” and therefore unwanted.  We “kill” an other.

First we must assume/presume, create that “other” that must be squashed and put away or looked-down upon.  Whether it be communities, people, beliefs or ideas, or ways of living and thinking, the civilized first-world nations and now almost every nation, has their own ways of doing this game of dominance and oppression.  To ourselves within us, to each other, and to that other.

Massacres and rampages are certain forms of the outcome of this, in a sociological angle.  No matter how we “understand” James Holmes, we still do not understand or accept what we have become and how, not James Holmes and the other monsters that WE CREATE through ignorance and uncaring, sentimentality and cold rationality, self-created moralities.

Massacres and rampages will continue because we as a society, ignore their causes.  The causes are not located in the individual that perpetrates, so that institutions can make money and gain credibility through scientific study, therapies and incarceration and death machines.  The society that created that person or persons who perpetrated, is us.  There are a myriad of causes and conditions we must deal with.

The violences we do, come also as ripples from the violence of our nation-state.  War and genocide built this nation, as much as resistance to dominance.  How we face up to uneasy complexities of nation and individual, various shades of history within us, is a big question. We must face how we have internalized the nation.  Americans feel that nationalism is what others do, but never acknowledge it within their own selves and lives and the structures of cultural realities.

And still, there are those who are deeply Christian, even if they are not religious at all, or even believe in religion.

I speak of how so many think that humanity is “inherently” evil, or bad.  Originally all humans are like this, according to that one snippet of Christianity.  Psychologically, a person usually internalized this from the structures (moralities and behaviors) of our cultures.  Colonization, first of this land in the US, and globally, has spread this kind of internalized oppression and made it normal.  Even the “good” things we do are meant to destroy good because in a deep deep place, there is that thought that we are “no-good” and we “always mess things up” and that the world is dark.  This is reinforced by modern socio-economic systems that delay and thwart our dreams, keep us slaves to the machine of money-making and money-spending.  We have to pay for WATER!!!  But hardly anyone is protesting on a mass scale.  Paying for water is not a “natural outgrowth of history or God.” Or we know this, but tell ourselves that it is futile to resist,  like it’s some act outside of human power and human privilege and the power of those that make the rules of violence. This his how we are responsible for giving the worst kinds of power and isolation and killing, their dominance in society.

There are many who are sensitive, very sensitive to what I’m saying.  Some act out. It cannot be suppressed for too long.

Yes there is danger.  But it doesn’t happen by itself.  Rampage killers are created by our society.  We must take care. If they are monsters, so are we.  We are intimately linked to what is happening.

Things can change.  But there needs to be further energy to make those changes.  But I’m afraid that there are so many people who are purposefully or by proxy–sadists, that social change will be slow in coming.  By this, I mean that there are so many people who divide the world into victim and perpetrator, and that there is joy in seeing someone put to sleep or put away into prison so they feel safe….not understanding that these are lives. The subconscious internalized colonization operates: I love it that they are in prison!  I love it that they have been put to death! Or… I don’t like it but they deserved to be tortured.  Some people won’t learn without violence.  What goes around comes around.  All the platitudes of our democracy.

All the sadism passing as superior morality.  All the violence.

Prisons and mental institutions and hospitals and psychiatrists’ offices.  These four things seem to be the ONLY THINGS many people think of, that will take care of society.

I say, each one of us do.  It is a painful request and a painful process to undertake.  Listen to ourselves, we are not easy and we don’t agree.  This is precise place where we must start.  Others cannot be convinced.  So what do we do?

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.

‘The Lazy Sunbathers’ – Morrissey: Realities of governance & our own accountabilities

One of my favorite Morrissey songs.

He writes about the bourgeois; the middle-class that are wanna-be elites; the elites, who become detached and are confined to their own pleasure.  I think even if we are not necessarily on the beaches, we are often willing accomplices to violence and extinction and the socialization of these things as ‘normal’ while we pay attention only to small worlds and our so-called ‘personal’ situations and lives.  It’s often a clever way that lives are situated along the freedoms and confines of a life structured for us by historical power-relations and struggles, with their dominances and resistances.  I think, always, of Michel Foucault and others who have written along his thinking, such as Judith Butler for instance, in that POWER is not just a dominance ‘over’ things and people and events and everything, but also produces, creates, makes.

Jaded? Stagnation?  I don’t think so.  I call them sociopaths. And there are too too many in this world.  Most of them are running our governments and transnational corporations.  The large group in the world want to be like that and they work hard at having enough and acting just right in order to access it.  There are activists who are wanting the whole world to become that way and they call themselves social justice workers.  I’m sorry but Freedom is NOT middle-class elitist.  Freedom and empowerment in relation to resources, in relation to attitudes, differences, cultures, etc.  are not about accessing the privileges of the violent.  Let’s *not* do this.  Let’s *not* wish this upon us.  If so, why not change directions, concerns, priorities, worldviews?  Small steps, big steps, steps.

But who am I to say?

Lyrics are below the video.


A world war was announced days ago
But they didn’t know, the lazy sunbathers
The lazy sunbathers
The sun burns through, to the planet’s core
And it isn’t enough, they want more

Nothing appears to be between the ears of the lazy sunbathers
Too jaded to question stagnation
The sun burns through, to the planet’s core
And it isn’t enough, they want more

Religions fall, children shelled, children shelled, that’s all very well
But would you please keep the noise down low?
Because you’re waking the lazy sunbathers
Oh, the lazy sunbathers, the lazy sunbathers

Commentary on Barry Lopez Post: On HOPE


I think that having a pre-determined imagination and then performing it in the world most-often leads to a colonizing of the imagination with another.

There are layers of justifying and claiming innocence in our will to control.

However, power is always being exercised. Whether one sits still or speaks or takes up arms or sleeps, this takes power.

Social power is the reality of social worlds. Since our social worlds are complex, we must learn to engage complexity.

So Barry Lopez asks us to welcome the ineffable, the unknown, wonder, diversity; to question loss and how it comes to be.

A different imagination begins with questions we must ask ourselves.  What, in our worldview, is assumed to be real, coherent and universal?

If we begin examining, we see that everything is fragile.

This fragility is feared in our present world.  Being fragile can be socially seen as weak.  This also comes into play when we work with identity, gender, and masculinity.  The assumptions of what is considered ‘strong’ and what is necessary to ‘hold things together’ and to ‘protect.’

Protection is something we must do sometimes.  But I feel that in the present realities, we protect way too much.  Often, we do not know that we are protecting anything.  On the other hand, an ‘everything is okay’ attitude is also a way of not committing, not making a mistake, and not being seen as one thing or another.  Often, we may even say we are ‘free’ when we say this to ourselves.  But it masks a value of non-commitment and intensifies alienation and brings nothing deep or lasting because that is what is desired.  It is a slavery to a certain moment when one decides that this is an effective strategy to resist something that has happened.  It is no more free than any other method.

To work with difference, to struggle with how we are complicit in the loss and violence in the world, would make us examine closely, our process of self-making as individuals and communities, and begin challenging our own assumptions and at the same time discovering new things.  These new possibilities may also not be new.  They are often ‘old’ or ‘ancient’ things that have been discarded and killed and excluded in the past.  Indeed, they may be things that have been twisted into something else through the passage of life.  As we begin working, I think that we begin to recognize these things, and to welcome the deepening of our lives.  The way we are now, as Barry Lopez points to, will lead to more loss.

Perhaps this will be a way of making a self-hatred and a misanthropy–a hatred of people, into a global reality for some.  They will be fulfilling their role in the world.  As we begin a journey to change our imagination and imagine anew, perhaps we may change directions.  In any case, it will be a struggle.  And I say that in my own experience, it will be a beautiful challenge for ourselves and we will make new friends on new paths.  We will no longer be colonized by the idea that it should be easy.  We will move with the ecologies of mourning, reflection, recognition, and natural movements of time and the trees and the planets.  It will not look one way.  It could be urban, it could be in a grain of sand.  We cannot know.  All that must be done is to take the steps.

Barry Lopez: On HOPE

Barry Lopez (Jan. 6, 1945 – ), US National Book Award winning essayist and author, who writes on ecology and social concerns, is one of my favorite authors.  He is perhaps most well-known for his beautiful work Arctic Dreams, as well as Of Wolves and Men and River Notes: the Dance of Herons.  Along with Peter Mathiessen, Gary Snyder and  Terry Tempest Williams, he is considered one of the premier ‘nature-writers’ of our historical present.

This video below, is an excerpt from his lecture at Middlebury College in the Environmental Affairs department.  It is a beautiful, short talk in which he spells out hope and its link to having the capacity for a different imagination, in a way that is parallel with my own thoughts on why I live in the world and why I work on this blog.

He speaks poignantly about the loss of diversity in our world, the reality of genocide, the unknown people and cultures which we do not seem to be concerned about, and the loss of imagination in our world today which we must fight.  He, along with myself, have seen some people and groups in our world who work long and hard hours for a different imagination and way of being in the world than most of us are living now.  This is the hope, what Barry Lopez knows exists and wants to celebrate and work toward.

PEACE – thoughts #1

Photo courtesy of


I was born in Japan.  As a way for me to begin seeing through my boiling sadness and calm rage, and coming to terms with understanding how I needed to be in the world, I began a spiritual search.  It ended at a Zen Center in Colorado, then in Upstate New York.  I do not know if I wanted ‘Peace’ as they say.  But I wanted some of the turmoil to not hinder me, to nail me down, to mangle me towards failure and discontent.  There were some things that I had told myself over and over and over.  They had come to pass.  Where did I get them?

Growing up in my era, as a hapa, a mixed race Black /Japanese, a kurombo (nigger) and ‘slant-eye’ who spoke Japanese as a first language and being scorned as the other and being beaten unconscious for it, teased mercilessly, to bleed from rocks being thrown by the neighbor kids–all played their part in my puzzlement at life.  It did not matter how nice I was, how thoughtful I was, how kind I was, how unobtrusive I was, or how vocal I was. I bled.  I cried.   Smiles by others didn’t mean much, as you may know from a previous posting in my blog.  Did the neighborhood kids understand why they were having fun in tormenting?  They were legitimized in doing so by the culture.  How?  And even if we say this was the past, we must stop ourselves.  Look around.  Constantly we are reminded that the boundaries of violence just change places, shift, move.  It is extremely mobile and it is legitimized.

So after Zen training, I did a turn-around.  Zen literally made my life into life itself.  I could no longer hide from myself.  Such is Zen training.

As I began teaching English to Japanese students in exchange student organizations in New York and in Seattle, and in speaking with so many people interested in Japan, I became puzzled at how many people thought of Japanese spirituality and people as ‘peaceful.’ Teachers, businesspeople, maintenance workers, etc. — ‘aren’t the Japanese nice and peaceful?’

And as I went through a Bachelors Degree program at Antioch University in Seattle in the 90s, then a masters’ program at California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco from 1999 to 2001, I was also struck at how Asian cultures were deemed ‘spiritual’ and ‘peaceful.’

People in the US, and also with some Europeans I met in the Netherlands, Germany, and Turkey, think of the Asians in a very non-historical and un-thoughtful way.

How can there be nations without genocide, torture, civil war, violence, imprisonment, exclusion, isolation, marginalization, fire, explosions, death, killing machines?

I bled from the actions of Japanese hands and mouths.  I bled.  Then even now, as times have changed, people think it is different.  We can speak of other kinds of violence.  Do people know that Japan has the highest number of murders of teachers by students?  Do people know that there is a ‘syndrome’ in Japan where people just silently drop dead at their workplace?  It is called “Kuroshi.’

Yes, as in most nations, there are wonderful and peaceful qualities.  All cultures and nations have these aspects.  But it is not the only aspect.  Also, what is beautiful and peaceful?  I choose to think that everything is both beautiful and ugly.  Things we enjoy may not be so joyous later.  Everything has a history.  In this sense, our views of Asia, and especially Japan with their kimono-clad women and their Zen gardens and their smiling public, has a veil of western exoticization in it through which we might be projecting.  In academics, a serious study of the practice of Orientalism, would be helpful to understand.

The building up of, gathering proof of, and the various methods of creating division and difference, to make OUR OWN culture or self different by DEFINING the other, is something we must pay attention to as a strategy.  Edward Said, who first coined the term Orientalism, and has written one of the most famous and oft-read social science and cultural studies works in the world, has given us a wonderful set of tools through which we may examine how our ideas of other peoples and cultures are linked to how we  OURSELVES think we LACK and what THE OTHER POSSESSES.  Our social worlds did not just happen.  We are all constantly creating where we are.  It is beautiful.  Sometimes not so beautiful.  Something is peaceful.  But sometimes not.  Sometimes something or someone is peaceful but the peacefulness comes from violence, and therefore peace represents violence in many ways.

Watching the videos of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, is mesmerizing.  The pilots themselves, speak of the amazing beauty of the explosion.  But it does not take away from what it did to my ancestors, my mother, and of course, to me.  It is both.

I do NOT advocate being depressed and sad and angry about everything.  What I advocate is thinking, awareness.  In this way, we may honor a fuller experience of people and life, and a wider repertoire of choices toward justice-making, change-making, ethics, and alliance-building.  A person who divides the world continually into two moral poles of beauty/ugly; good/bad; peaceful/violent, etc.  will only make their worlds very tiny and limited and will miss important avenues for change.   I don’t care and am not invested in all of the readers of my blog, to believe me or be concerned about what I write.  I am speaking to those who want to think with me, engage in reflection, give some time for experimentation, and who care about the state-of-the-world beyond wanting to ‘win’ people over to ‘our’ side or be gone.  Those things to me, are old and tired and boring, but nevertheless, people will continue with those parameters and definitions of the world.  I want more thought, creativity, possibilities.

In the picture above, we see a wonderful, beautiful picture of Hakone, a famous resort location in Japan.  Many warrior leaders prayed for victory at the shrine of these grounds.  Many people, who planned and executed massacres and battles, came here to rejuvenate themselves.  The shinto shrine here, animated their needs to fight.  I am not saying it is ‘tainted.’  If you recall what I have said earlier, it does not take away from the beauty and the peace.  Peace and violence are one.  That is why we must continually resist.  There is no rest.  There is no pure place we arrive.  If we do, it’s a fantasy.  Or if only for a moment.  It’s gone.

The question, then becomes an aspect of the deconstruction I’ve mentioned before.  Our emotions and views become more complex, more real.  Until then, I think we live in a fantasy world and we live out the fantasies of our leaders for them.

Fear, Maintenance and Deconstruction #2

In my previous post, I questioned faith and its supposed opposite, both socially constructed as ideas opposing each other.  I linked this with Judith Butler’s questioning of Gender and the idea of maintaining truth, in general, which may construct legitimate self-motivations to get rid of ‘the other.’

Another aspect of this dynamic, to support this terrain of thought, is the idea of the repetition of these ideas through history, internalized and used in institutions, and then its appearance in the world as a ‘truth.’  So, if we are to apply this to a construction of an identity that would become unquestioning of itself, then the faith and its maintenance of being ‘a man’ or ‘a woman’ begins to lose its ambivalence and become a ‘fact’ and supported by a defining of it as a ‘truth’ and that this ‘truth’ must be maintained.  Making it into something superior and or violent, would then welcome the deconstruction of the oppressions we call heterosexism and sexism.  There is internalized oppression and violent-ization–the creation of violence, within the identity on the self and outward.  Through social discourse and repetition with others within a culture that agrees with this, it is reinforced as majority, and majority–apparently to some, means that it is more ‘true.’

In this formulation, we can unpack many of these LINKS that reinforce an idea of a ‘truth’ of gender and its supposed link to one single form of sexual relations (heterosexual).  And if this ONE gender practices this ONE sexual relation, and then is supported by the laws and policies of a culture and/or nation created by the people who feel the same, and institute this in the schools etc.  then it supposedly legitimizes its compulsory nature, its legitimacy to look down upon and/or destroy the other through assimilation and most likely, normalization–a filtering of everything through a self-created ‘normal.’   If we look at history, we see that ‘normal’ changes throughout time and circumstances.  If we question how to bring freedom from oppression, then we MUST look at the fleeting nature of the violence of normalizing and making it ‘Truth’ against other truths.

This is where we must link this dynamic of maintenance and the fear of disintegration, as intense dynamics in relation to the killing of liberation.  Indeed, for some people I’ve met, they do not recognize liberation as liberation.  They think it is THREATENING.  So my intended question in the previous post is:  What is threatened at that point?  What would be something that needs to be protected by aggression, hostility, or the softer forms: superiority and prioritizing  (which would mean an internalized hierarchy of some sort)?

On the other end of the spectrum, it would be “I don’t have anything I’m protecting.  I am FREE’ idea.  This, as I had mentioned previously, is a dangerous concept that appears harmless at first facing.  But if we look, usually these beliefs prop up many actions that are detached from others, from human concerns, from suffering.  I have heard people who say they are ‘FREE’ who actually blame others for their suffering.  Yes, they may twist the idea of ‘karma’ for instance, and say that the earthquakes and tornados and tsunamis were brought on by themselves, that they deserved this.  This is akin to the videos in the earlier posting on ‘Smile or Die’ and the effects/intentions of ‘positive thinking.’  Or, a person may be ‘free’ and act very intensely in social justice movements yet never attest to their own oppressive stances.  Most ‘free’ people I know, who are ‘free’ from an identity or a faith, etc. will not admit to any racist or sexist or homophobic thoughts because those things are ‘beneath’ them.  So this is why I mention the word ‘dangerous.’  It looks one way in the beginning.  Even after years we find out that there is denial of the political and historical aspects of their thinking and it is justified by their ESCAPE from the responsibilities of being a politically, culturally, and historically-created person in the world and in social relations.  In fact, some people, especially in the United States, go as far as to say that they are not historical, political, or cultural and that they are ‘free’ of those things’ and they are just an individual.  This is very convenient indeed.  For me, if they were to deconstruct this posture, they would arrive and what James Baldwin had mentioned in the previous posting on my blog– they would arrive at PAIN.  Trauma is much of what people are running from.  Trauma and so-called REALITY are too much to bear.  So in a sense, it is a fragile place from which someone has built their strength.

If we were communities that worked to heal and have strength in social change, such people perhaps, may not resort to escape and de-politicizing, and de-historicizing, as a strategy for a personal freedom.  Perhaps liberation of humanity from the tyrannies of our institutional ways of governing and our nationalisms, and our maintenances and fears as a nation or a culture or a person, would be done collectively and a person could face their traumas courageously.  Perhaps they would not, in the future, go through those traumas in the first place, which are always SOCIAL to begin with.

Deconstruction is a tool to begin liberation-practices.  There aren’t any solutions and answers.  Our solutions today are of changing people’s worldviews to a good one that we supposedly are (which is condescending) or to criminalize them or kill them.  Nation, culture, community, individual….take our pick.  How will we proceed?

Fear, Maintenance and Deconstruction #1

For those of you who’ve been following much of my blog and actually reading (as opposed to just watching the videos), the following are tidbits of thoughts to chew on.

Faith has become the opposite of Reason in western cultural forms.  This has not been too much the case in most non-Christianized cultures and indigenous cultures, as well as some minoritized cultures everywhere (I only speak of dominant Christian ideas, not all Christian ideas).  Aspects of it are apparent in many places/cultures and how we show up in the world.  This has spread to due the expansion of market capitalism, neo-colonial aspects of expansion which are residual systems from colonization that exist in globalization and creation of nation-states.  Colonization included the spread of liberal Christian concepts in the policies and procedures within nation-state-making, but always in complex relations with the local cultures.  Faith and reason are related to each other, a sort of couple, and made oppositional to each other in many cultures and systems due to that battle being set-up while science and some dominant Christian churches sought to dominate their local populations through superiority.  But we fail to realize that many scientists were Christian/many Christians were scientists.  Chasing God was an aspect for many Christians.

If we are to understand that this ‘division’ was created in historical circumstances, through many repetitions, through many crisis and wars and power struggles between religious institutions vying for power over the people, and the sciences that prioritize rationality over other things, then we see that this division exists, but is not universal, not the entire story, nor oppositional nor are they compulsory. But in today’s reality, they can be.  This is a battle and division many people have inherited and have internalized as their own truth.   There are different ways of approaching how we live in the world, how we perceive events, and the most important point I want to make here in this post, for now:  the ways in which we conceptualize and respond to change and maintaining certain things about our emotions and thoughts.  If we read how power struggles form our institutions, then we can understand that we take on a few things without question, which may contain those power struggles–either as a dominance without question, or on the receiving end of oppression, for instance as one example.  This, then, leads to how we act in the world, how we are, and not the least–what we commmit to or not, what we put out into the world with others.  Often, it is the invisible as well, things that we are NOT paying attention to.  The effects of our thoughts on the world, something many of us have no clue about in the modern world.

We cling to things as a matter of faith and rationality.  But if we examine, perhaps there is not much difference between the two.  For me, there are other ways to approach the world, hence this entire blog.  This is not just a matter of ‘choice’ but a matter of looking at oppressive forms that we carry around in social relations and institutions.

What matters to me is that if you label yourself a person of ‘faith’ – what does this mean?

If you consider yourself  a ‘rational being’ – what does this mean?

And whatever way you may define it, why do you do this in the world as ‘yourself’ and what effects does it have in the world?

Much of either may have to do with the twins of fear and maintenance.  In fact, in much of dominant Christian thought, to have faith means you are unswerving.  If we are unswerving, then how does this link to liberation?

I, personally prioritize liberation–not as an escape but an entrance into ethics, communication, justice, loyalty, and the formation of questions and creativity to reach it through the increase of time and space toward negotiation.  Sometimes negotiations do not turn out well, but this is not the point.  There is no endpoint through which liberation can pre-determine an outcome.  In short, liberation-actions are always experiments.  Ethics also plays a large role.

So liberation is at odds with maintenance.

Maintence, however, cannot be confused with honoring heritages and pasts, legacies and traditions.

Questioning the heritages, pasts, legacies, and traditions, must be done for liberation.

Questioning does NOT mean disavowing, disapproving, criticizing.

Critique is to DECONSTRUCT.  Deconstruction points to how something may have been constructed.

In honoring a tradition or legacy or heritage or culture, which includes a belief, a mindset, and sets of actions by us or someone or institution…….we can say okay to them, but to perhaps question some of its actions and to change them.   In deconstructing, we see where some things can be held and CHANGED in some of its actions.

EFFECTS of how things are in the world, what happens when things are put out into the diverse world, is also an aspect of liberation processes.

In deconstruction, we see how and why fear and maintenance show up, perhaps alleviating fears.  Most fear the disappearance and disintegration of themselves and their cherished beliefs and actions.  Perhaps there is a sense of being ‘wrong’ or being called a ‘nobody’ or a ‘liar’ or ‘fool’ or even worse–to be condemned to torture or death, humiliation and exclusion.  So there is a tighter clinging.

On the other end of the spectrum are people who use non-commitment and non-identity as a way of moving in the world.  This may also be a tactic of evading what I said above.  Life is EASIER when there’s less commitment.  It is also very individualistic and self-centered.  In the end it is very very lonely, alienated, and non-life-giving.  But we all have our paths.

For someone to kill someone, as Judith Butler mentions in her videos in the previous post, for the view that a difference poses a THREAT or a LEGITIMACY to kill, is a question for our times.  This threat, this legitimacy, is an aspect of uneven power-relations.  In some places, those killings are not seen as tragic, and even be seen as NECESSARY.  If we are to apply this not only to gender and sexuality, but to other things such as beliefs, ways of living, etc. that always include gender anyway, as well as nation, class, race and ethnicity, etc., then we can see that they are aspects of power relations and a struggle between fear, maintenance, and liberation.  ESCAPE is a tool for maintaining the status quo, as nothing changes from escaping, although we may reduce the result of violence from escaping.

What must we maintain?  What are the effects of maintaining something?  Can it be maintained DIFFERENTLY instead of wholly packaged in a certain way?  Which things should be maintained?  Which aspects should be transformed?  What are the criteria for this?

If we are to take our everyday maintenances of whatever we may choose to reflect upon and deconstruct, what possibilities are there for a more liberatory, relation-oriented formation of ourselves as individuals, communities, nations, races, religions, etc.?

What are the effects of our decisions and non-decisions?

So, as I have been putting forth in this, deconstruction is not the disintegration of a self or thing or system, necessarily.  If we see, in this process of deconstruction, that something is superfluous and fiction, it is okay.  For me, what matters is that if it is DESTRUCTIVE to yourself or community, or to OTHERS, then perhaps there are other ways this can be done, and not totally given up, necessarily–just because it is deemed a fiction.  And how do we make decisions?  If our decisions are insular/interior –meaning if we make decisions that effect others solely by ourselves within, and not concerning or negotiating with the parties whom we affect, then our decisions will perhaps not work anyway.  At this juncture, our decisions effecting others must be negotiated.  This would be a step, although I would argue that this is not always possible with everything and everyone right now.  It would depend on a lot of work on our relational skills.

If we look at our world, nations and cultures and individuals and communities are in a struggle to defend or dominate, or survive or expand or all of the above and more.  I put forth that these are learned modes of behavior, and yes some of it is necessary.  But most of it can be different simply by reflection time being built in, and to change much of the way we live and to ask different questions other than ‘is this THE TRUTH?’ or “Am I RIGHT or WRONG?” and other such very limited questions that create the same results over and over again.

What are the effects of our truths in the lived world?  Not to ourselves alone but in the world?  They will have multiple effects.  How, in knowing this, could we not think about being perfect or good, but to work together for new possibilities?

I do not think for a moment, that this can be a widespread way of working now.  But certainly in some walks of life, we can increase this possibility and not to expect it.  Just asking questions and being strong enough for the responses, and to commit to asking questions for liberation’s possibility…… it worth it?  Or shall we just continue the way we are……maintaining….and seeing the world in our truths that have largely been taken from the cultures in which we have traversed, without questioning……?  Our violent world has been inherited.  We have been born into this violence.  We have been told that largely it is ‘natural.’  I would say that ‘natural’ can be created differently, as diversity and nature are constantly changing.

Fear?  Maintenance?  Toward what?

Judith Butler: Giving Identity its troubles=liberations

Judith Butler, Maxine Elliott professor in the Rhetoric and Comparative Literature departments at the University of California, Berkeley, is one of the most well-known post-structural feminist thinkers in our present.  Her focus concerns the construction of normalized notions of body, sex, and gender as identity constructions.  She also speaks to Jewish intellectuals in the historical present, the legacies of violence and the necessities for mourning, and other topics which would ask us to think of a different society through historical/political and social contexts.

Her most well-known works at present, are:  Undoing Gender ; Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of ‘Sex’ ; Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity ;  Precarious Life: the Powers of Mourning and Violence ; and Frames of War: When is Life Grievable, among others.

In the first three works mentioned above, Butler takes the reader into the questions of identity construction.  She questions the notion of two-gender norms, which are based on the natural science’s notion of a biological duality of male and female.  She further lays out the meaning of the compulsory and mandatory aspects of our social selves as we adhere to the idea of two genders and analyzes the ambivalence of gender that precedes our own internalized norms toward becoming these two genders.  She states that we perform gender, and also we police each other and ourselves on gender.  Furthermore, gender is looked at as something different from sexual orientation, for instance, making it more complex and shifting the historically dominant notions of two gender realities.  She does not do this in order to be complex.  The complexities form the centerpieces for her points on how these gender normalizations create the anxieties and therefore violences that are acted out socially, politically, structurally.  Her work is ultimately liberating.

Her work is very original, and carries the legacy of earlier works such as that of the great Michel Foucault, who has left humanity a serious legacy on which to ponder the meaning of violence and subjugation in our lives through post-structural analyses which shift the normal foundations of thinking.  This has been done by Michel Foucault and other post-structural thinkers, through looking at history and how things are created to become dominant in societies.  His three-volume work: The History of Sexuality, as well as Discipline and Punish: The Birth of a Prison; Birth of a Clinic: An Archaeology of Medical Perception , and Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason, present an oevre that unpacks and destabilizes the dominant notions of our institutions and what we have internalized as human, as ‘me’ and ‘us’ and as reality itself.  The goal is for emancipation in thinking, a  freedom beyond our mainstream understandings of freedom.

Butler has carried much of this legacy to focus on gender and sexuality, and bringing these issues into the realm of questioning militarism and emotions, the body and perception and their connections to holding patriarchal violences in society in place.  Butler also writes and thinks of her Jewish heritage, Judaism and its impact in the social life of our present, its exclusions and future/present possibilities.  As you may or may not know, Judaism approaches this world as the world in which heaven is created, not a future time or place. This also speaks to how justice is important in life, stemming from the realities of the history of oppressions against the Jewish people.  So in this kind of perception, there is the activist element in much of Jewish intellectual writing–as concern for humanity and justice.  Butler is interested in working with this aspect.

The below are four sections of a YouTube video that is from a French documentary.  She mainly speaks English, and there are French parts and German parts where either the narrator or herself are speaking in these languages. Everything she says in all of these videos interact with each other so I hope that you will take the time to watch all of them in succession and to not skip over too much, even though you may not understand one language or the other.

Judith Butler Link:

Michel Foucault Link:

I have copied videos #2 through #5 of the six-part documentary series.

For the ENTIRE VIDEO SERIES parts 1 through 6 on Youtube, go here:

Judith Butler / Angela Davis: some strategies to fight oppression

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Judith Butler, Professor of Rhetoric and Comparative Literature at the University of California Berkeley, and one of the most well-known and excellent post-structural feminist scholars of our times, recently refused a major prize in Berlin for civil work.  In a strategic use of her position as a public figure and intellectual, she makes an impassioned speech in front of the primarily lesbian, gay, queer, bisexual, transgender, and questioning crowd in Berlin at the annual Christopher Street Day festival.

Those of us who have been involved in social change, understand one of the tactics of dominant groups is to count on people not being well-read, well-versed, and thoughtful enough to understand how power and influence work, especially by keeping communities divided.  As Butler states in her speech, issues of race and racism are sometimes backgrounded in working with queer/gay issues and vice-versa.  The assumptions that minorities all understand each other is another common, popular opinion that I have heard: ‘oh we’re gay, of course we understand racism’ kinds of statements.  Certain groups with tremendous social power in cultures around the world, and who spread and give funds, are often found to be oppressive in certain ways and not others.  If groups are concerned only for their ‘own kind’ and not others, this may be used to foment oppressions, to cause further damage in society.

In the videos below, Judith Butler makes her speech, although you can hardly see her.  The subtitles are in English.

The video following is Angela Davis‘s comments on that event.  Angela Davis, as you may know, is an activist well-known for her strong and vocal views during the Civil Rights movement and the anti-Vietnam war period, and is a retired professor of the History of Consciousness Department at the University of California Santa Cruz and head of the Feminist Studies Department there.  She continues to write and speak and organize, and is the founder of the anti-prison industrial complex organization called Critical Resistance.

They each provide examples of how the strong messages can bring public awareness and can bring about a re-thinking perhaps, and new strategies.  Certainly organizations who are made to be accountable for their oppressive tactics (whether purposeful or not), must make new strategies and re-do things, because after all it is about losing funds and losing credibility.  The forcing of organizations, corporations and other forms of power, to have to shift, can be a powerful tactic when done well.  However, we cannot underestimate the creative continuities of oppression after this initial phase. When people are not well-informed, and concerned for getting prizes, they often do not investigate what the organization has been doing and saying, investigate the strategies and operating methods which will create maintenance in perhaps very different forms in various ways.  In this case, a queer/gay/lesbian person is honored by a well-known group but she understands that this group/organization has been organizing and speaking in ways that prove anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, and racist.  The multiple oppressions are used against each other, the communities becoming  pawns of their own divisions that are made to fracture communities.  It is also worth noting, that there is a fictional ‘unity’ as well, which this points to.  In fighting the multiple points of oppression, we must learn to ally on issues and sustainable actions as opposed to fictions of unity based on ambiguous and constructed identity.

This is not an answer to ending oppression.  It is one way.  We must use all tactics available to us.  It is not just about some people and groups here and there having bad attitudes.  Cultural genocides are done through imprisonments, immigration laws, police, militarization, etc, etc.  These actions are propped up by general ignorance and apathy and self-concern prevalent in communities everywhere.  Lives are at stake.  Certainly people with intellectual social clout, such as Judith Butler and Angela Davis, can use their positions to make change.  How about you?

Judith Butler Link:

Angela Davis Link: