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.

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Race-Nation-Gender-Class-Nation: Forget it. Never Forget it

Pat Parker (1944-1989), poet, teacher and activist, wrote this poem: For the White Person Who Wants to Know How to Be My Friend  and had this wonderful line:

The first thing you do is to forget that i’m Black.
Second, you must never forget that i’m Black.

For any social difference that exists in any society, we can place it there, in the space of “Black.”   In any case, color-blindness, gender-blindness, mixed-space blindness, sexual orientation blindness, socio-economic class blindness, neighborhood blindness, body-size blindness, nationality blindness etc. etc. —  we have to pay attention to how quickly we may subsume, make invisible, refuse (ignore), make trivial, something that makes a difference.  Sameness is too valorized in the globalizing society.  It’s not about any particular choices we have in holding on and letting go—-because even this is an action and a series of action (holding or letting go, that is), that come from political positionings that rely on privilege, luck, ability, amount of trauma, fear, violence, and a host of other things that come from oppression and social constructions of society.

Let us not forget how completely and utterly different we are from each other.  This way, we truly understand diversity.  If we “understand,” then perhaps we do not understand difference at all.  We just consume, co-opt, and bring into our own history and culture and language and values, that OTHER.  This is a violence to that Other.

But in saying they are different, do we automatically become AFRAID?   Or do we automatically become ANGRY?  Do we automatically IGNORE?  Do we assume we can translate, communicate?   Yes we can communicate, but understanding its partiality is important.

Honor you.  Honor me.

In our difference.  Utterly different.  Utterly ourselves.  Yet somehow, we are related as humans, as that who has experienced pain.

Perhaps other things.  But do not assume equality.

Be human.

There . . . . . .  Can we allow difficulty, struggle, powerful connection and dissonance?

March 10: US Military, Race & Sex in Japan

CRG Thursday Forum Series presents…

DEPLOYMENT, BASES, AND

THE U.S. MILITARY IN MOVEMENT:

Imaginging Japan and the Self through Race & Sex

Thursday, March 10, 2011

4:00 pm – 5:30 pm

691 Barrows Hall

UC Berkeley

******

We Call It ‘The Rock’:

Circulating the Imaginary of Okinawa in the Military Diaspora

Mitzi Uehara Carter, Anthropology

My paper will explore how U.S. military personnel and their families, currently or formerly based in Okinawa (re)create and circulate narratives of Okinawa within military communities both in and outside Okinawa.  I will focus on how those narratives are shaped against their own identities as US soldiers, veterans, racialized/gendered citizens, spouses, and tourists within Okinawa.  Michael Taussig described the cultural productions of fear and the processes of sustaining Otherness in his work on colonial Colombia as a mix of  “Indian understandings of white understandings of Indians to white understandings of Indian understandings of whites.”  Likewise, I argue that Okinawan militarized and transnational space is a mix of military understandings of Okinawan understandings of US/mainland Japanese understandings to Okinawan understandings of military understandings of Okinawans.

This presentation will point to some of my general findings thus far, focusing on the framing of Okinawan difference.  For instance, I argue that local Okinawan difference from mainland Japan is emphasized and celebrated within military literature and welcome videos/blogs about Okinawa for military newcomers to Okinawa, a long used political and cultural tactic that was so effectively encouraged and orchestrated by US military administrators directly following WWII to try to quiet Okinawan dissent and slow the popular momentum to revert to mainland Japan.  However, when military and Okinawan relations are enflamed, the framing of difference is erased and the discourse shifts to a more global scale and fits in more with the US-Japan power bloc configuration of power.

~~~

Being a Black MP in Postwar Japan:

Memory and Identity through Resistance and Accommodation

as a Subaltern Occupier

Fredrick Cloyd, California Institute of Integral Studies, Anthropology

The positioning of the US as a victorious occupier over the subordinate and pliant people of Japan as the defeated was a carefully choreographed affair after WWII with its precursors in imperialism, colonialism, and neo-liberal capitalist expansionisms. In Japan and Okinawa, during and following the official occupation, steady anti-US violence by the Japanese was barred from being reported in the strictly controlled military and civilian media while the different racial groups in the Allied and US military were also living in violent relations with one another on and off bases in Japan, Okinawa and Korea. In this atmosphere of the occupation, my father re-imagined himself from poor African-American man to occupying military police. My mother wanted desperately to escape the ruins of Japan, both imaginatively and literally. In researching for a book on my family’s life and legacies, in thinking/writing nation, culture and race–colliding together through war and re(de)-construction, how has my father viewed himself through the lens of race and nation/husband and father? What becomes prioritized? What becomes linked with frames and thoughts previously unrelated? What becomes new forms of dominance and resistance that continue or resist certain forms of justice and survival?

Delicious refreshments served!

More info: http://crg.berkeley.edu/content/deployment-bases

CRG March10_flyer

‘Taint’ – afro-japanese poetic musing & Point

TAINT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Afro-Japanese Historical Project: a call to participate

I am beginning an outreach for persons of African-American, Japanese, or Afro-Japanese mixed descent, for three different purposes.  I am especially interested in those of the above heritages who have experience, or are a child of those who experienced living during  the US/Allied Occupation of Japan in the post-World War II period or were raised by people who were.

I am also interested in meeting people who have had friendships and relationships with those who are from that heritage/background and history.

I am interested in putting out this call for two purposes:  1) To connect with others, like myself, who are of the heritages mentioned and who have experienced life in Japan during the post-WWII Allied Occupation, or who are children of those who have, to share stories and concerns and memories; 2) To find those willing to participate either as interview subjects, or would like to participate in a research project on Afro-Asians and their relations from that time-period.  This research project will become aspects of a book(s) and also possible multimedia projects on the history of Afro-Asians, Blackness, and Asian-ness in the Asia-Pacific experience and impacts on social justice and history.  This project is only in its infancy and will be crafted as I go along in the coming months with other Afro-Asians in the San Francisco Bay Area.

This project is just beginning, in the idea stage.  It will unfold more in the coming months and into years.

At present, there have been no volunteers (as of March 27, 2012).  I have made this part of a larger project I am concentrating on, entitled:  The Black Pacific Project.

Please see my blog and videos at: http://waterchildren.wordpress.com/

Youtube videos: http://www.youtube.com/user/BlackPacificMemory?feature=watch

For information/connection, you can EMAIL:  blackpacificmemory@gmail.com

Kindness & Miracles: A Song – やさしさに包まれたなら~ Sotte Bosse

This song was sung by many female artists in Japan, including Matsutoya Yumi and Arai Yumi. This version is sung by the group Sotte Bosse.

やさしさに包まれたなら – IF WRAPPED IN KINDNESS

It is a sweet, innocent song about kindness and becoming an adult, hope.

It is interesting to note that songs like this are not considered appropriate for males to sing. If so, then we all know what names and labels would ensue toward that male singer or singers. It speaks to the heterosexism and sexism of our dreams and hopes, what we think of kindness and where ‘it’ belongs. In other words, kindness and affection and gentleness are feminized. They are feminine traits. In this way, as patriarchy reigns supreme in our divisions of emotions, we become further militarized, hopeless, forever in war/peace dualities. It also speaks to the ‘loss’ of innocence as we begin to live in the world. Our notions of a God change. Violentized, where can we turn? Forgetting. Forgetting. Forgetting. Or perhaps we FORSAKE. We forsake. We refuse. We go along with the notion that dreams die and war is norm. It starts with worldview. It starts with giving up. It can also become disempowering as we want the world to be kind and good and gentle and it never is. So we succumb to depressions.

We must work to change. It cannot happen by wishing and by drive-by kinds of actions and McDonald-ized notions of immediate gratification. In even more complex ways, our wish to make life kind and good and peaceful, we may create further problems because we do not look enough at our racisms, classisms, nationalisms, etc. and how power-relations make our relations fragile. We can, perhaps, turn these lyrics into a form of remembering, then into tough and thoughtful actions that include history. Little by little, I think kindness can enter. In fact, mindful and thoughtful actions are kindnesses in themselves, even though they may sometimes be tough and harsh as actions against the victory of oppressions. Adultism begins the common factor in all of our lives that foment further learning of oppressions. Forgetting our childhoods in many ways is perhaps a blessing. But there are some aspects we should not forget. Boys. Girls. Men. Women. Children. Adults.

I like the innocent sweetness of this song. Remembering, if for a single moment at some point in our lives. Not forsaking. But not being naive.

小さい頃は神さまがいて
不思議に夢をかなえてくれた
やさしい気持で目覚めた朝は
おとなになっても 奇蹟はおこるよ

カーテンを開いて 静かな木洩れ陽の
やさしさに包まれたなら きっと
目にうつる全てのことは メッセージ

小さい頃は神さまがいて
毎日愛を届けてくれた
心の奥にしまい忘れた
大切な箱 ひらくときは今

雨上がりの庭で くちなしの香りの
やさしさに包まれたなら きっと
目にうつる全てのことは メッセージ

カーテンを開いて 静かな木洩れ陽の
やさしさに包まれたなら きっと
目にうつる全てのことは メッセージ

(1)

When I was young there was such a thing called ‘God’
and God would strangely make dreams come true
In the mornings when I would awaken with kind feelings
Knowing miracles appear for adults as well

Opening the curtains If I were to be wrapped inside
the gentle sun ray, then maybe
Everything that comes in front of my eyes becomes a message

(2)

When I was young there was such a thing called ‘God’
and everyday God would make my way of Love ignite
Shut away and forgotten in the back of our heart/mind
is a precious box that is now time to open

In the garden after the rain
through the fragrance that speaks without sound
Everything that is reflected before my eyes becomes a message

(3) (instrumental verse)

Opening the curtains If I were to be wrapped inside
the gentle sun ray, then maybe
Everything that comes in front of my eyes becomes a message