What of Democracy? Chick-Fil-A commentary

Democracy must have democratic values and actions put into it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life cannot be undemocratic.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are major problems here.

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

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

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

This is where democracy is going.

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

Yes.

What of democracy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

SULTANA: Sings Turkish woman-rap, banned in 2000. Now back with a vengeance!

Turkish pop/rap star Sultana, was deemed “dangerous” by the Turkish government and the media in 2000 when her song Kusu Kalkmaz came out.  The Title means:  “Birds Can’t Fly”  — which is a euphemism for “Can’t Get It Up.”   The song suggests a failure in the men who leave their wife and family behind while they go out to clubs to search for women and prostitutes for elicit sex, hiding their impotence as men, not just sexual bodies.

When radio and television stations were told not to play her music or music videos or her performances in Turkey because of the song, Sultana was disgusted.  She is quoted to say that Turkey has a problem with freedom, that creativity means freedom and that Turkey’s “Thought Police” is ridiculous because it actually tries to control thought and that creativity will always resist control.  She moved to the United States at that point and continued to record some beautiful “woman-rap” songs in Turkish/English hybrid, mixing Turkish traditional instruments, modern rap and hip/hop sensibility and Europeanesque melodies.

LINK to a short article

 

Some words from her song:

‘Kuşu Kalkmaz’

I am a-kick it for my girl while you ask how
’cause people in the world are living so foul
I manifest a tune about this, aye:
‘Kuşu kalkmaz’ means: ‘your bird can’t fly’!
While wife and kids are locked up at home
And you are at the strip club
headed for the zone,
Brizzle and ice sucked up all your stones
And by the time you get back home
your baby done grown
‘Cause you were stuck at the spot
like a fool to rasclast
Trying to get at what the new girl got
Not conscious of the family
Not acting like a father
When you’ve seen her in the light
Man, that’s your daughter

First International Critical Mixed Race Studies Conference! A Success!!

The First International Critical Mixed Race Studies Conference was held at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois in the USA on November 5-6, 2010.  According to reports (sadly I could not make it because I’m too poor!) — all programs were packed and/or standing room only and provided a vibrant atmosphere for community-building, alliance-building, critical discussion and thought, and efforts to think and re-think racialization in the context of issues of identities, gender(s), sexualities, class, nationalities, allegiences, fissures, parallels, disjunctures, and their relation to geopolitics, dominant narratives and the trope of the self.

From a privileged standpoint, and especially in the United States and the global north, issues of race, racism and racialization are couched only in the realm of identity and access to higher privilege, a sort of normalization of the current world system.  The question of social justice was raised by certain keynote speakers and others within various presentations and discussions, asking people to think about how the creation and process of racialization may repeat and maintain the current systems of domination, in the world.  How can a ‘mixed race pedagogy’ begin to address and actually begin and thoroughly intervene into the maintance of current traumas, violations, genocide, and invisiblization that passes for security, comfort, safety, and nation along with a privileging of being ‘mixed race’ and or monoracial?  How does ‘race’ and the process of creating racial categories and re-ifying ‘race,’ carry the impetus through which racisms could be practiced in our lives and between communities and nations?  How does NOT speaking about race also create further demarcations that make racism ‘normal’ and ‘tragic’ and ‘sad’ and ‘natural,’ thus portraying it as an aspect of life that has nothing to do with our own realities and/or ignorance and refusal?  How can these dynamics be shifted?

Congratulations to the conference organizers: Camilla Fojas, Wei-Ming Dariotis and Laura Kina, for pulling off what I gather, was a highly successful and promising event that we hope will become an annual event!!!!

More information can be seen here:

http://www.mixedracestudies.org/wordpress/?cat=13

Excellent reflection on the conference by Laura Kina, one of the organizers of this conference:

http://laurakina.blogspot.com/2010/11/watershed-moment-for-critical-mixed.html

Comments on Joss Whedon’s blogpost regarding Women in society

This post is dedicated especially to those who struggle to live in a world dominated by heterosexism, patriarchy and its various violences (i.e. everybody).

Link to Joss Whedon’s excellent post follows my commentary.

Joss Whedon is perhaps most famous for his show-runner/creator role in the US for television shows such as ‘Angel’ and ‘Buffy the Vampire-Slayer.’ He enjoys a large cult following globally. I feel he is an excellent producer/writer. In a blog post he wrote May 20, 2007, entitled: “Let’s Watch a Girl Get Beaten To Death,” he speaks strongly about heterosexism and the control of women in the world. His words are sparked by the broadcasting of the stoning-death of a 17-year old Yezidi Kurdish girl from Iraq.

Dua Khalil Aswad, a 17-year old Yezidi Kurdish girl from Bashka Ninawa in Iraq, was stoned to death on April 7, 2007. Her death was broadcast on the internet via recordings from a mobile phone. Her stoning has been said to have sparked several ‘reprisal’ attacks and massacres by Sunni Muslim fundamentalist extremists against certain Yezidi villages. Dua Khalil was a girl from the Yezidi culture/worldview, which pre-dates Islam. Much like Alevism, Yezidism has also been a persecuted religion by certain more fundamentalist Sunni and Shi’a groups. The division between Sunni and Shi’a has also sparked some violent antagonisms through history. Let us not forget that fundamentalism and extremism create these licenses to torture and kill. For women and children, this is even more pronounced.

Fundamentalism and extremism exist everywhere and in many forms. In the US and Europe, most of it is hidden behind closed doors and plays out violently in domestic spheres hidden from the public or inter-personally, and in the more poverty-stricken neighborhoods where most news programs and citizens of wealthy countries do not spend much energy or time. Much of it plays out unseen to the public in policy-making wars in government. Exclusions and dominations are everyday aspects of our lives.

When I was doing research on Kurdish groups in Europe, the United States, and in their traditional homelands in the Middle East, I often questioned my Kurdish friends on ‘honor killings.’ I was always mindful to not blame or speak from a feeling of being ‘better’ as an American or Japanese, which is always the risk in bringing these things up when one is ‘a westerner.’ In most cases, most Kurds think of honor-killings as horrendous and needing to stop. In many cases, Muslims who did not agree with honor killings, were correct in understanding that certain tribes, pre-dating Islam, practiced these killings, much like certain tribes in Christian areas. Those traditions have been carried on in certain families and Islam cannot be the blame. In a few cases, there were those who were quite open with their anti-female attitudes and told me that if they are dishonorable, they should be punished. They sounded the same as some of my American friends who felt that all gays should die or that the ruin of the world was when women were allowed to vote and work alongside men. One can imagine the non-heterosexual boys and the girls who are being raised by these men. We, the other people, know what goes on.

Intensifying the questions and investigative energy that I acquired when asking my Kurdish friends about honor killings, various kinds of anger and blame had to be side-stepped in the name of academic research and my own willingness and desire to get through to depths beyond the superficial and the spectacular of such horrific actions as honor killings in society. In the west, sudden gun-shooting rampages, Columbine, and daily rapes and tortures unseen and unreported, are also questions I have spent the last decades on deciphering. I do not believe in original sin, so the sickness of humanity, as far as I know, is not because we are born sick and twisted and violent. Things develop. But things also have pre-texts, histories, traditions, legacies. We are born into these. My thinking/feeling is that as long as they have been developed in history, they can also be undeveloped, shifted, constructed differently, albeit most of the time, in slow trajectories through our small, urgent, and sophisticated actions.

When asking leaders of certain Kurdish, Islamic, or Persian organizations regarding the traditions of honor killings, they were quick to blame ‘poor’ and ‘uneducated’ people on this. It was interesting, then, to discuss how, in certain cases, their own family members practiced this on a sister, or a niece, or another female member. In some of my friends’ cases, they may have grown into certain middle-class wealth but originally came from poor villages. Others, had come from wealthy families where perhaps one or two of the boys participated in honor killings. In some cases, I have also heard of honor killings against men, most for being homosexual. This points to another aspect of the violence of our societies. Our heterosexism also plays into the ignoring of male-targeted violence and publicizing anti-woman, anti-girl violence. The invisible killings of gays in culture, whether spiritually or physically) and male-to-male violence are normalized and therefore unattended to, while in the western nations there is a certain glorification of our horror at violence against girls and women. This system keeps everything in tact.

When speaking of these intense issues of violence, what we hear cannot always be assumed to be ‘truth’ or ‘lies.’ It is difficult, at this juncture, to get a feel for when things were down-played or made to ‘sound’ democratic and caring, when in fact, they did not believe their own words in wanting to dispel honor killings; or whether they truly wanted it to end. After all, I was an American and they wanted to be seen in the best light. I have questioned US Americans on their gay-bashing weekends where they tortured a gay boy behind a bar, and they were sometimes apologetic but I did not believe them. I am sure in some cases, they did change their thinking on this, but one can never be sure in the reality of face-to-face politics. However, in knowing most of my Kurdish friends and being with their families, I am certain that they held nothing back in their belief in the respect of women, simply by watching the consistency between their actions and beliefs while I spent time with them and to watch how Kurdish girls and women responded to them.

One Kurdish political figure I interviewed, became angry with me for questioning her (yes she was a woman) on honor-killings among the Kurds. She accused me of being an American who always wanted to present Middle Easterners in a bad light. She said she was tired of it, and began to name events and attitudes of the Americans that would qualify as the same–the denigration of women and its structural elements in the present world society. She was a strong woman who worked among the Kurdish and Middle Eastern elite and worked for human rights, gay rights, women’s rights, and Kurdish rights in the diaspora and in the Middle East. She was right in the sense of the ‘honor killing’ concept to be barbaric, yet propped up differently in the West and often ignored. Women in the US are often killed ‘spiritually.’ Internalized oppression also plays into how women play these dynamics out themselves.

This brilliant political woman, also told me that honor killings was a general Islamic problem in certain areas and was not a ‘Kurdish problem.’ I found this comment to be half-true. Yes, it is not a Kurdish problem. I responded back: “But Kurdish girls, women (and some boys and men) are dying from this. So don’t you think Kurdish leadership should work on it within the Kurdish community?” She agreed but she said that it is at the risk of being accepted by the West. In her logic, she said that if they began to work on it as a Kurdish issue, the four countries that rule the Kurds at the moment, as well as Europe and the US, would use this as a way to demonize the Kurds in world politics, just as they were trying to form more Kurdish empowerment in the community. The West, she believed, would quickly allow the Arab countries to continue what they do, while they could get more oil from them, while blaming the Kurds for honor killings and strengthening Turkey and the other Middle Eastern countries in their efforts to annihilate the Kurdish culture. I would also add here that for Yezidis, Alevis, Dersimians, Christians etc. who are also Kurdish, there are even worse pressures to consider. Mainstream Sunni and Shi’a Kurds would also join with Turkish, Syrian, Iraqi and Iranian mainstream Muslims in the denigration of them as ‘other.’ There is, in many cases, violences visiting them from other Kurds because of mainstream Islamic domination. In my experience, this was intense, as well as meeting many Muslim Kurds and Turks who felt that religion should be about peace and that those forcing violence on non-Muslims were wrong. In working on sexism and violence against women, as well as against gays and lesbians and non-heterosexually identified peoples in conflict zones, how do we respond?

She is right about the political strategy, I feel. But also, she was side-stepping the honor-killing issue. In the middle-class oriented culture of state-making, and elitisms, the honor-killings continue to work in many societies. It is not just a moral sexism issue. It becomes geopolitical, which holds racism and nationalism to be at play in this.

It is indeed easier for a westerner to criticize quickly and to not think of history and relations when intervening. Certainly we must criticize honor-killings and violence against women. But as a westerner, we must be respectful of painful family histories and politics. We can easily get someone killed even for speaking with us about these issues. We are easily racist and nationalist in having condescending attitudes toward those who practice honor killings. It has been a long road of violence. When a culture or community faces annihilation by western nations, dominant local nations (n this Yezidi case we can speak of the Middle East and Central Asia, as well as diasporic communities around the world) how can we intervene without the communities feeling encroached upon (western racism and moral high-grounds)? Do traditions easily change by our wishes in other communities? If not, do we just let things be? How do we work together? How can we empower stateless communities such as the various Kurdish cultures including the Yezidi, who are also oppressed by local communities? These are not easy answers. We must work urgently yet compassionately. Understanding histories and power-relations and thinking creatively would be a good start.

Photo of Du’a Khalil Aswad

In the West, women are, on the most part and often, still acting as objects of patriarchy and violence. This also allows male-to-male violence to be seen as ‘normal’ and ‘boys-will-be-boys’ continues unspoken and rarely paid attention to. At the point when the gun shoots, or the knife is wielded or the fist is thrown, it is too late. Hundreds and thousands of hours have constructed that moment. What I mean to say is that what people consider ‘violent’ is just the final act. Violence is in words, thoughts, motions, worldviews. Women also play into their own subservience through internalized oppression. Just today, I heard the ‘I’m sorry’ by women twenty times!!! For just stepping past me in the elevator or some other act I consider everyday. I consider this to also be a form of internalized oppression, internalized violence.

I remember a woman-friend in college who was always speaking of men being violent and macho and that just once, she would like sensitive caring men in her life. However, one day when she saw a man crying because his dog died, she called him a ‘fag’ for crying. I pointed out to her that a sensitive man was perhaps the last thing she could take. What would happen to ‘womanhood?’ When women take the place of the man in an already-patriarchal and violent system, do they become like men? What would be the requirements for de-violentizing our society? What would be required to live differently in a world not propped up by our own internalized oppressions and legacies? Our fears? And as we, perhaps, back-down from dreams and actions toward change and hope, we re-create the violences and oppressions. What are our choices? Can we respect women while disrespecting men and boys? How does this need to be shifted?

Joss Whedon’s excellent post from 2007, is an excellent example of admonishing ourselves to step-up, step-forward; not succumbing to brutalizations that happen through us in the largely heterosexist-dominant world systems into which we have been born. We have the power to change things. We must.

Read JOSS WHEDON’s excellent blog here:

http://whedonesque.com/comments/1327

For more information on Du’a Khalil Aswad: wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stoning_of_Du%27a_Khalil_Aswad

Yezidi / Yazidi people/culture: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yazidi

Joss Whedon blog: http://whedonesque.com/

Nation & Person – Bullying & Difference: The Bully Project

I am a person who has been bullied.  As a child in both Japan and the United States, I was the target of bullying.  Both of my parents were also targeted.  The imagined ideal, given to us by our cultures and societies, in the context of certain times, when certain things are happening, allow bullying as a fabric of  legitimizing ‘survival of the fittest’ memes that circulate as universal natural sciences, masquerading as social science as well.

We handle being targeted differently, according to severity, our personalities, the communities we live in or transition into, the time period and circumstances, as well as an effect that anyone hardly mentions:  accumulation.  Bullying is not just about a person or group targeting someone for their looks and/or behavior or race and other factors perceived as ‘go’ lights to offend and abuse, maim and kill spirits.  It is mixed with national and cultural histories as well.  It is usually repetitive because it is the relationship between dominant and subordinate.

As an example; in my mother’s case, she was born in China, then her family fled to Japan when she was little.  Her mother was assassinated by national Japanese soldiers.  My mother’s mother was Chinese and Austrian.  All non-Japanese in Japan in the late 1930s and early 1940s, were suspect and were mostly accused of being spies.  In Japanese schools and neighborhoods, under the fascist dictatorship of Tojo, the police were basically terrorists.  In addition, some people in every neighborhood would be branded ‘good citizens’ by being the neighborhood watch, reporting to authorities and being free to hold people and situations they deemed ‘un-national’ and unpatriotic.  Of course.  As one can guess from this scenario, the racism intensifies, legitimizing very harsh penalties for Japanese who even socialize with or are seen with a non-Japanese, much less being free to marry or whose parents and relations were from different nations and cultures.  This scenario also legitimates all sorts of lies and stories that could be made as a tool of power if one simply doesn’t like someone.  Someone may invent a sordid story which suddenly becomes more true and believable at this point, legitimizing violence.  This scenario, is not too different from other areas and times around the world, when the building of a nation rests on certain intensifications of racism and other forms of marginalizations including local stigmas, legitimating superiorities and punishments.

In addition, my mother experienced being bombed by the Americans and having an older sister killed in Hiroshima.  Another older sister of my mother’s committed suicide after social stigmatization.  She had been kidnapped and made a comfort woman for the Japanese imperial army.  My mother was bullied in elementary and junior high school in Japan, for being non-pure Japanese.  In high school, my mother became a bully, belonging to a band of girls feared at her school.  It is not that one decides, necessarily.  The circumstances warrant some response.  In any case, violence does not just go away.  It always has effects.

One can imagine this tender beautiful, funny woman who is my mother, at certain times, would become an ugly and scary, violent woman.  I would sometimes fear her as much as love her as a mother and confidant.  The fabric of all of our lives are made of this.  Those people who experience non-violence in the home, have most likely been shielded from the exploitative violences that have shaped privilege.  Privilege is sometimes un-thought, unspoken.  For instance, a Japanese woman who has experienced fascist governments, suicides, daily humiliations by classmates, abuse and being ordered around by a stepmother and older brother and is bombed by the Americans everyday and a host of other things, cannot be told to be peaceful and quiet and good.  While that is true, many Americans think that they should, while their families were the ones building the bombs and making the American war effort succeed without bombs to run from or fascist government dictates.  They have been told that the Japanese were bugs that should be smashed off of the face of the earth and that Japanese knew nothing of democracy.  It was a sham, a propaganda, a way to be superior.  The Japanese would also make stories of the Americans and this would keep the violence at a high level in both countries.  Whether one was a soldier or not, it doesn’t matter.  The racist hate-mails I receive in the present day, are not from former US soldiers in the World War fighting the Japanese.  People calling me ‘Jap’ and slant-eye that should die, often come from young people.  Their grandparents have passed it down.  There is a certain worldview.  It is politically incorrect so it is not around on postcards and bugs bunny cartoon shows, or in magazines as they were regularlyduring  the war.  The hatred is kept private, and comes out towards people like myself, unseen to others.  It is often a surprise to classmates and friends and sometimes those racist-carrying people would be defended and I would be labeled a paranoid lunatic who is making it up.  This scenario is one such generalized example of the legacy of racism and legitimate bullying and how it is carried forward.  It looks differently according to climate and circumstance, etc. but it is still there.  Other people have gone through changes about this.  In my mother’s case, being told to be ‘good’  by people who are in a privileged position in relation to the history between the Japanese and the Americans, the being told is a furthering of the bullying.  It already establishes a positioning in relation to violence.  The privileged who carry out the violence, then continues to tell people how they should act in relation to the violence?  This is violence as well.  My mother did not invent fascism.  She was a little girl in a country that was ruled by fascist leaders.  It was not pretty.  But neither was what Woodrow Wilson and the other bankers and corporatists and the military leaders of the US and England did, continuing to fabricate reasons to amass finances and resource-power through militarization and superiority over the Asian nations, attempting to colonize before the World War.

Bullying has many faces.  The inter-personal bullying is a part of how nation-states can become strong.  Bullying is a way in which we may choose ‘the strong’ over the weak.  The CIA recruits people who do not have feelings and who can carry out orders with a smile.  They know how to smile and be charming.  Being detached from compassion is a part of smiling and being charming.  They don’t have to be mutually exclusive.  Some of the coldest and calculating people are the most charming.  Yet they are the quiet bullies.  Some are more overtly aggressive while others do it covertly.  Torturing is a learned thing.

In the movieThe Bully Project ( http://www.thebullyproject.com/_/Bully_Project_home.html) one notes in one of the stories that even after a youth kills himself, the bullies come to school wearing fake nooses around their necks as a furthering torment.  It is continuing fun.  It is not thought of as something bad or wrong.  There are smiles and laughter and joinings in. The school board continued to ignore it, because it was embarrassing to them.  They wanted it quiet.  The parents had fought long and hard and yet the school officials kept it hushed.  These parents, however, did not give up.  It is sad that so many of the parents of the other children (the majority), did nothing but listen to the speeches like it was entertainment, telling their children to stay away from the families of the bullied.  In this way, the institution, the school, condones the bullies.  It knew it was.

In doing anthropological/sociological research on prison systems, and the spread of US systems into Turkey and Japan, for instance, which I have done, it became clear how prison systems are related to bullying and the spread of military superiority.  Time and again, when interviewing prisoners and former prisoners as well as prison guards and interrogators, whether reading their accounts or interviewing them myself, that it was important that the military had those who are expert bullies who felt nothing in relation to perpetrating interrogations and torture.

Nowadays, in the television programs and the most popular movies, violent and malevolent speech and physical brutality as a way of communicating distaste and devaluing the other is commonplace.  Smartass comments are funny, even though it is often violent.  Often, nothing different can enter.  As much as we think that every individual makes their own decisions, every individual is in a different position in relation to violence, and depends on class, race, and behavior in relation to masculinity and femininity continuums, body motion techniques (do I walk right? eat right? talk right? etc.).  So the connection between violence, heterosexism and homophobia, patriarchy and militarism are very close in American society and most of the wealthier nations.  Most likely this is becoming more true as we speak, in a globalizing world, in the wannabe countries.  There is less diversity than ever before.  More violence in the world than ever before.  Why?

I want to applaud and support The Bully Project for being one of the strongest voices to speak to bullying and its connection to nation-state, masculinity and manhood, and the non-acceptance of difference.  If we cannot co-opt and/or recruit into our own fold, then we antagonize and destroy.  These are the only options increasingly in the globalizing system.  And we know there are most of us living, who fake it.  Then we wonder why we are depressed, seeing therapists, destroying our families, getting drunk and doing drugs all the time, having addictions, etc. etc.  I do not believe we need more drugs and therapists to cure.  These are social problems related to the violence that is our modern and postmodern cultures, constantly being created by either our actions or our inactions.

My mother turned to bullying for awhile, to combat being swallowed by bullies.  that aspect of her has not changed, even though she is no longer throwing her weight around in school hallways.  Others like myself, chose more silence.  However, later it caught up with me and I tried to take leave of this world.  It didn’t work. Suicide is an ultimate harm to oneself.  I chose other routes afterwards.  My father took the route of trying to assimilate.  As a Black man in the US, he wanted to be the fairest, well-spoken and educated, open-minded man and was truly a humanist.  But he gave up so much in order to be this.  And humanism has so many problems insofar as diversity is concerned.  And there are some things he does not understand because of it.  Short of accusing my father of being ‘white,’ how can we communicate through difference?  My father feels (at least the last few times we spoke) that all humans are alike with trivial differences.  His actions also speak to this philosophy.  My mother is the opposite.  She feels that people are very different and this cannot be reconciled and we have to live with it.

The Bully Project, which is a movie that shows the crisis in which US society shows itself in young people, yet is mostly ignored.  This Project addresses questions about what is legitimated socially and about community and nation.  How can a nation have nice and compassionate kids while everyday we know that bombs fall representing us, onto families who are not running governments, being killed as pawns of difference-equals-expendable?  All the moral preaching won’t work.  It is a lesson in hypocrisy and illegitimacy.  It is a lesson in the violent underpinning of Empire and nation-building.

The Bully Project is about all of us, whether we believe so or not.  Where do you stand? What do we do?

The Bully Project website:  http://www.thebullyproject.com/_/Bully_Project_home.html

No Bully website:  http://www.nobully.com/

“Beyond” as a problem in Race & Difference work

What are the effects of our truths? – Michel Foucault

There is a statement I hear often, when the topic is social issues having to do with racism, especially, but other social oppression and justice-related identity and relations issues as well.  I have a problem with this:  “let’s get beyond the race issue” idea.  I also have a problem with a statement that I see in the trailer for the new movie: Harimaya Bridge. I am very excited by the movie, don’t get me wrong about that.  But it won’t stop us from thinking about certain things, assumptions, worldviews.  So I want to make a few inter-related points about this.

So there is the line in the movie:  ‘there are there are more important ways to identify with people than color of skin”  or something to this affect.

Now these statements about ‘getting beyond’ skin color and ‘getting beyond’ the ‘race issue’ etc.  are very very dangerous weapons that continue the problem of accepting difference.  The statement above sound as if they are going toward peaceful relations, but are actually couching the very problem itself–that which brings the reality of assimilation and colonialism to the fore, and acted out through the processes of globalization, of course.  The gentrifications of identity.

This gentrifying of identity, of supposedly moving beyond race, is a way to say that race/ethnicity are trivial or superficial trappings that hide the real human being underneath.  Usually, this real human being, that is presumed to be what is being pointed to, that is beyond the difficulties of conflict, looks very middle class, and very materialistic, and very homogenized.  There is an assumption that globally, people are the same:  the same values, the same concerns, the same experiences, the same worldviews and the same way of doing things.  Of course the ‘differences’ are just slight–you know–the way ‘they’ cook and the way ‘they’ wear different kinds of clothes, and the way ‘they’ laugh, and the way ‘they’ do their different religion.  It’s all the same God in different clothes, it’s all the same food with different colors and tastes, it’s all the same underneath.

In this way, there is an assumption of sameness.  The reason this sameness seems more ‘real’ is that our world today, is systematically destroying the different.  Usually, the ‘different’ are the ones that make things seem ‘poor’ and ‘uneducated’ and ‘have different values than the good values of individual pursuit of happiness.’   Partha Chatterjee, in his book The Nation and Its Fragments’ speaks eloquently about the system through which our PRESENT ARRIVES.  The present is not eternal.  The present is MADE from the past.  The past is this moment in the next moment.  Do we understand this?  What you are reading right now, is the past.  I wrote this before you wrote it.  In two seconds, two minutes, two hours, two days, two months, two years, two decades–it is already the past once we have read it, once we have uttered it.  IN THIS PRESENT, what is happening?   So Partha Chatterjee mentions that much of modernization and Europeanization of the world, comes with the effect of the ‘extinction of the peasant.’   What do you think of this statement?  Although he is speaking to India and South Asian history in the context of postcolonial realities, that idea which he speaks to, rings true for the entire global movement.  It is our historical present.  We will medicate, urbanize, nuclear-family-ize, middle-class-ize, and make the whole world UNDERSTANDABLE to us.  The other things that we don’t understand, we are just baffled by, and this is not neutral.  If we are baffled by it,  we seek to change it into a ‘higher’ form–we analyze it from our OWN POINT OF REFERENCES  (i.e. — our own cultural/racial/gendered/ and class realities).  The more privileged we are, let’s say–an American or German or Japanese, or Australian, or any region where there are urban and corporate elites participating in the global market, the more we are willing to ‘lend a helping hand’ for those less fortunate.  In order to make them fortunate, they must enter the MACHINE of globalization and the market system in operation today.

The poor nations were made more poor with the structural adjustment policies that require AID–be it for floods, earthquakes, typhoons, hurricanes, war–be ATTACHED to stipulations and loans and ways of changing the local ways.  So in keeping with this analysis, we have to look at the ways in which we think of racism, sexism, classism, anti-semitism, heterosexism, and the various social oppressions through which our present realities are created.

Getting beyond, means that a person’s ethnic/national/cultural heritage, has nothing to do with skin color?  And is race about skin color?  In the middle class and elite global structure it is very much so but not completely.  If one is educated in Oxford UK, and speaks in a certain way and dresses in a certain way, then they are more apt to be invited to the big boy’s table.  The same goes true for ‘fair-weather liberals’ who pretend to love diversity.  Their friends may be Chinese, Korean, West African, Aborigine, Swedish, Argentinian, Cherokee, Algerian Bedouin, and Finnish, yet they are most likely very much in the same social class, and act in certain ways that are palatable, and perhaps with the same politics and socio-economic level that is evident.  How does urban street African-Jamaican develop in the light of the globalizing world?  Is it ‘their’ culture?  Oppression has very much to do with it.  What has been ‘allowed’ and ‘accepted’ by the dominant is allowed and accepted.  How can one get beyond that which is a history?  A history is not just a bunch of events of the past, no longer alive right now.  Everything has to do with everything.   So a person’s diverse friends are made to prop up someone’s self-image as a ‘good person’ who has a lot of ‘diverse friends’ and therefore he/she is not a racist right?  All of these friends may reject an urban street Latino or African-American or Vietnamese from the ‘other side of the town’ even though his views may be similar to the group of diverse friends.  Of course, we are not supposed to be friends with everyone.  This is not my point.  The point is:  What are we AVOIDING, refusing in our goodness?

Many of us read the many things that are going on in this world, to stay informed, and to critically reflect, and to read things we’re not comfortable with, in order to get the fuller picture.  Many of us do the opposite.  We read what we like, then we believe it to be true, and we ignore the rest.  In addition, we add moral judgement to it.  That’s good and that’s bad or that’s neutral.  But most of the time, we don’t know much about it.  We only know ‘our’ version.  We want to be oh so Good.  And in this being ‘good’ we stay away from what we think is bad.  We are told that certain things are bad.  The school textbooks and many of our teachers and our judges and the police and our corporate managers, and our social work institutions, have already pre-determined what ‘good’ is, and we follow it.  Then we create our own moralities.   So everything is self-evident.  Except that there are many things we have ignored and built opinions and truths about, and form conflicts and evasions and silence about, that may need to be looked at more seriously.

In getting ‘beyond’ something, what assumptions are being carried?  Racial differences are bad, apparently.  If we ‘get beyond’ our racial difference, then we are truly arrived at ‘human.’  This is a big problem with a certain way of looking at ‘human.’  I have had friends who think that everytime I bring up racial/ethnic differences in perspective, and the history of oppression that informs the views and the difference, to call me someone who is ‘bringing up the race issue.’   As if it was not something that SHOULD be brought up.  When it is brought up, what happens?  Conflict.  Perhaps discomfort. Why?  From those friends’ perspective, if I would’ve never brought ‘race’ up, then there would not be any conflict.  They are dead wrong.  There is already a DIFFERENCE.  The conflict happens when there is a REFUSAL on their part, to accept, acknowledge, ADMIT, be concerned with, and be an ALLY to what I bring up.  These ‘friends’ will not accept MY RACE and all it has to say.  Isn’t this right?  The issue is not that I brought up race.  The issue is that these people REFUSE the DIFFERENCE it brings from a supposedly KIND and BENEVOLENT UNIVERSAL human being which is the CORE, apparently.  This CORE HUMAN seems to have No History, No acknowledgements of the power relations that go into decisions and marginalization and empowerments, No differences acknowledged.  The conflict stems from the structure of their assumptions.  It is LOADED with racism, sexism, etc.   It is not that these friends are hateful, or evil, or not nice.  But at the same time it is about that.  IT is because they have chosen to go to the COMFORTABLE location and position of the Universal.

The Universal human being is a tactic of assimilation.  At any moment, after all the poor blacks and homosexuals and mixed race people and the poor white hillbillies and the poor starving Indians and Africans and the reservations and the chemically-bombed and malnutritioned people and all the others, have been successfully annihilated through complete assimilation, that is when they would come after something else for complete control and dominance.  In the mean time, all of us in the DIFFERENCE camp will be thought of as terrorists and nuisances.

So, I refuse to move BEYOND in order to be judged by whom YOU might consider me NORMAL, GOOD, WHOLE and complete as a universal human being which we supposedly are ALL trying to get to (manifest destiny & Christian cultural dominance in our thinking).  Progress, Evolution, change, getting better, being better, evolving, growing, maturing.   These words are great words that I think are helpful and can move us.  However, most of the time, the above words are used to assimilate, destroy, belittle, talk down to, ignore, refuse, forget, and to commit genocide ultimately.  Getting OVER and MOVING beyond are tools for us to oppress ourselves into becoming that which we desire.  We have been made to desire so that will LIVE a CERTAIN way, and to buy certain things.  Nowadays, we’re not thinking it strange that the very people who run the world have gotten us to drink bottled water without a peep.  NO, I refuse their idea of whom I should be.   That would be a SMALL PERSON in my book.  For you….too.  We can become much bigger, more just and more powerful as communities when we do NOT accept difference as CONFLICT. Difference is not the source of conflict.  REFUSAL and ignorance is.

At the same time, I will acknowledge that many people who have been through lifetimes of identities and positions that are ‘underclass’ in this world, no matter where we are, have chosen to want to BECOME the master.  When we do this, we take on many of the masters’ behavior.  We put down, we annihilate difference, we subjugate difference, we assimilate others we think are ‘lower.’

I hope that the success of this model of having us–more and more in this world–internalize the larger and globalizing colonization of the mind, would be deterred and we can change course.  WE may, if we take steps to think, reflect, and watch how we can become more honest with ourselves in a context where history and RESPECT for DIFFERENCE could be struggled with.  In this struggle, we must figure out how to make relations that are ethical and not continually demand everything we want all of the time.  THAT also comes from living in the present system.  Greed and DEMAND and isolation are brothers and sisters of internalized colonization.

Let’s not move BEYOND.  Let us move WITH, struggling to look deeply and to agree to a better world.  We cannot wait for those governing us.  And those governing us are creating new realities for us to be more dependent on them.  Look at our ravaged planet, which is rapidly becoming uninhabitable.  Let us work together WITH difference, to welcome struggle, and to also ask for ethics.

Partha Chatterjee information: http://prelectur.stanford.edu/lecturers/chatterjee/