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.

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‘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.

THE LAZY SUNBATHERS – by Morrissey

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

Kabuki 歌舞伎 – the Great Bandō Tamasaburō 坂東 玉三郎

Kabuki 歌舞伎 is a traditional Japanese dance/theater performance art, enjoyed as an avante-garde (even as it was developed) form which developed gradually over various political scenarios into its present form.

Originally performed by both women and men, it soon began to be primarily performed by young men with physical beauty as well as women. In the middle 1600s, the shogun of Japan banned Kabuki because of riots due to the audience members fighting over beautiful men and women (there was no strong heterosexist exclusionary division of imagination at this time in history, much like the ancient Greek and much of the old Ottoman, Roman and Hasburg civilizations, as an example).

Soon women were banned from performing and cross-dressing male actors, raised from a very young age, became the primary performers of Kabuki. The style is highly stylized, bizarre, and nuanced. Many of the story-lines came from Noh theatre, Puppet-performance called Noh, as well as traditional kabuki-intended storylines. Famous poems of their times, song styles from popular and elite forms, and the various instruments from the different art-dance genres, sometimes began to crossover, depending on what the Kabuki performers and productionists wanted to project to the audience.

Kabuki art forms are meant to evoke from the audience, an emotional participation. Some call-outs by audience members during performances are common at certain quieter performances. Kabuki actors want concentration on the forms, gestures and every nuance of movement, and also be transported to another world, as opposed to remaining ‘audience’ members. In this way, much of Japanese kabuki performance, similar to Noh theater, is not a mere ‘watching’ but a participation through sensitivity to movement as much as the story-lines.

Kabuki performance was briefly banned by the US and Allied Occupying forces after WWII, but it was reinstated in 1947. This, coupled with the devastation of Japan after the war and its concentration on re-building, as well as many Japanese institutions and people rejecting many of their old ways, intensified the downslide of kabuki popularity. However, helped by booming interest in kabuki by European, Australian/NewZealand, and American fans, kabuki did not completely die out and has remained an important cultural genre. The best performers are revered and maintained as cultural icons, even if only a handful.

Wikipedia has an excellent overview of this art: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kabuki

I have inserted two videos out of the complete 3 in the series to one of the handful of great living modern performers of Kabuki- Tamasaburō Bandō 坂東 玉三郎. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bandō_Tamasaburō_V – followed by a short clip from an interview with him.

The videos are narrated quite wonderfully by Peter Griffith and are from an excellent series of DVDs of Tamasaburo’s performances. On the DVDs, the narration can be turned off if you want to just become engrossed in the performance. For understanding what is happening in the pieces, the narration is quite helpful. These other traditional Japanese arts DVDs and other materials can be found at:

Marty Grosse productions: http://www.martygrossfilms.com/index.html

Farside Music: http://www.farsidemusic.com/

After watching, we could, then, discuss what Judith Butler has talked about in relation to coercive gender, sexual orientation, performance, and their relationship with ‘reality’ as far as freedom, art, expression, cultural difference, pleasure and life.

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?

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:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judith_Butler

Michel Foucault Link:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michel_foucault

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: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q50nQUGiI3s

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: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judith_Butler

Angela Davis Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angela_Davis