Monthly Archives: March 2013

Company Loves Misery

My Friends,
Some issues, while no-brainers, are divisive nonetheless.  Same-sex marriage is one of those issues.  Notwithstanding the the fact that term itself is steeped in legal bias and loaded language (“sex” as it pertains to the courts is a legal construct, as is the institution of marriage) what are we really putting our energies toward?  The notion that same-sex marriage is a sign of progress is predicated on the assumption that marriage is an ideal circumstance which is being denied to a segment of the population.  My chief qualm with such well-intentioned actions as people putting…

…this image up as their FB profile pic in a show of solidarity with same sex couples hoping to get married…
 
…is not that it is so-called “slacktivism,” but that they seemingly have not questioned the institution of marriage itself.  This is understandable but inexcusable.  We must constantly check our premises because no knowledge or custom we have is empirical; that is to say just because we have been doing something for a while does not make it universal truth.
   I posted this picture a while ago:
So I have to ask again: What are we really putting our energies toward?  Its funny to me how people will cognitively see the logic behind Stanhope’s criticism of marriage but still go on and argue for more access to marriage.  i.e. “Well, marriage may be an antiquated custom and an outgrowth of scarcity*, but everyone should have access to it.”  This is so typical of our usual methods of problem resolution where we are more concerned with surface appearance than deep, possibly messy, structural change.

“You’d rather live in shit than let the world see you work a shovel”
-Lt. Cedric Daniels, The Wire
Rather than removing a sickness we would rather ensure that everyone has fair and equal access to it.
The Political Action Feint
   I think same-sex marriage is just the latest in a string of accommodated, politically-safe movements which have been allowed because they don’t actually threaten the status quo but serve as great polarizing rallying points for different camps (i.e. Divide & Conquer).  LGBT rights are the successors to Women’s suffrage (& Lib later on) and the Civil Rights movement.  I don’t want to denigrate those movements but what did they actually accomplish and how deeply did they change things?  Women’s suffrage for example got women the right to vote.  Now certainly everyone should be equal in their so-called “rights,” but essentially women had a long hard battle for something which is ultimately meaningless.  In fact, more than meaningless, it is harmful because it perpetuates the delusion that we actually have a say, through politics, in how our countries are run.  (I’m not even going to get into how obsolete the concept of a nation-state actually is…)
   Similarly, movements to put women in the workplace came at a time when our levels of technological understanding were getting to the point that cutting the workday in half for every man was looking like a reality.
“We are being afflicted with a new disease of which some readers may not yet have heard the name, but of which they will hear a great deal in the years to come -namely, technological unemployment.  This means unemployment due to our discovery of means of economizing the use of labor outrunning the pace at which we can find new uses for labor.”

But instead of minimizing the workday through automation processes, everyone (women included) now has a McJob which on top of being typically underpaid is also technologically pointless and socially irrelevant.  Do women really feel like they won something in this regard?  (Note: I am not blaming women joining the workforce for the proliferation of McJobs I just want to point out that the workforce doubled when the workday was ready to be halved.  The reasons it weren’t halved are many but come down to people needing access to work for income.)

   Fast forward to the civil rights movement and we see more accommodation.  Now rather than paraphrase George Carlin here I will just put down a direct quotation because he said it so aptly:
“I don’t really, honestly, deep down believe in political action.  I think the system contracts and expands as it wants to.  It accommodates these changes.  I think the civil rights movement was an accommodation on the part of those who own the country.  I think they see where their self-interest lies; they see a certain amount of freedom seems good -an illusion of liberty- give these people a voting day every year so they will have the illusion of meaningless choice.”
…”The limits of debate in this country are established before the debate even begins.”
-George Carlin, incisive as always
 
Bearing this point of view in mind, what did civil rights really achieve?  Well black people in the south can ride the front of the bus, so there’s that at least.  Also, segregation is not legally sanctioned anymore, and we all know that if something is not legal people won’t do it.
Bitch Please!
 
In my own personal estimation very little was accomplished in the civil rights movement beyond black folk gaining nominal “equality” with the white lower and middle classes who are just as disenfranchised as segregated blacks were.
“Congratulations on your equality, black people.  Here are your new peers.”
 
This same issue came up recently when a girl I know tried to convince me that I had some great advantage over her as a male. Ummm…no.
   Look at the circumstances of those you seek equality with before you set equality with them as your endgame.  You might be sorely disappointed to find out they have it as bad or worse than you.  To clarify, I don’t deny that certain groups have endured terrible injustices throughout history; slavery. internment, persecutions have all happened at various times and in various places and it would be insensitive to deny the significance of these events.  However, I contend that such instances are outgrowths of a general inequality which still exists at all times even if a certain visible demographic is not being targeted.
On Using One Story to Distract you From Another
   Now there are a lot of (more or less) well-intentioned libertarian groups who point out that the same-sex marriage issue in the news is meant to detract from important news like the Monsanto Protection bill.  In a reductive sense, these news outlets (Death Before Disinformation et al.) are absolutely right.  But on the other hand any government could just as easily have the media focus on the Monsanto bill to distract the population from something else.  Neither the Monsanto bill nor the same sex marriage issue are fundamental, foundational issues.  Rather they can both be used as needed to distract people from more fundamental issues.  This is the problem with libertarianism (and any -ism really): when you define your position as counter to big government, you make a boogie monster out of it and end up endowing all of its actions as evil (which is not realistic) instead of looking at the causal chain of events which sets the government in opposition to its people.
Back to Well Intentioned (Sl)Activism)
   I realize I got off on a bit of a tangent there, but tangential discussions are useful in that they provide evidence for how all things are connected.  Every issue in society shares a common thread with every other issue, hence the tangents.  Hence too my admonishments toward reductive and limited agitation for one narrow goal.  I mean how can I really be expected to get riled up for women’s rights…
…when they don’t do fuck all for this kid?
 
How am supposed to give a shit about starving kids in Africa when feeding them still doesn’t protect…
…these women from rapists.
 
Even then, how am I supposed to agitate for women’s rights when doing so would not serve…
…the homosexuals who live in fear of violent reprisals for their orientations.  
 
Finally, how can I profess to be a supporter of the gays, the women or the visible racial minorities when  supporting those groups does nothing for…
…the straight white males.  That fabled privileged class who rules the world.
 
   I don’t mean to beat a dead horse here, but I want to get the point across that any well-intentioned action which is not specifically calculated to improve the life of EVERYONE on the planet in a tangible way is just so much masturbation; nothing more than a way to make you feel good without actually doing anything.
That may seem like a tall order but there are channels to go through which would have a net positive effect on the planet and everyone in it if more people were aware of them.  First, an understanding of causality is required so that you can look at all the ills of the world and trace the causal chain of all of them back to a common mechanism.  Then you simply suspend and impede all actions which support that mechanism.
Ok, so its not that simple.  And if you look at the track record of people who have challenged the status quo at a structural level you see that it can be a hazardous endeavour.   Martin Luther King and Gandhi got assassinated because they attacked the roots of the inequality which pervades society and offered an effective weapon against it in the form of non-violent non-participation.  Whatever issues they started out as champions of, at some point they realized that they were fighting something bigger and that meaningful change could only come from addressing that bigger thing.
By comparison, Gloria Steinem and Jesse Jackson are still alive.  I am not saying they are not well-intentioned people who didn’t do important work, but their messages were hardly rallying cries which every person on the planet could get behind.
And this is just it.  If you want to help the gays, you can’t do that by loving the gays.  You gotta love everyone.  That means we gotta break down these barriers of seeing other groups as separate and apart from us, and other people as separate and apart from us as well.  You’ll find that when you do this there are very few popular movements to run with.  The established, accepted agitation groups represent only fragments of the population and so are necessarily exclusive in some respect.  Furthermore, by hoping to have legislation passed, they know better than to piss on the carpet.  In other words they don’t cross certain lines and instead they play ball with lawmakers.  They have to.  Chances are, if any politician is talking about any movement, that movement has already been corrupted and is therefore safe for political approval and backing.
The right issues are not the popular ones.  The important questions are the ones few, if any, are asking.  To get back to the initial point of this post.  Always check what you are actually fighting for, whether its marriage rights, minority rights or whatever.  Critical thought may reveal that you are not aiming high enough in your aspirations.
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo*When I refer to marriage as an outgrowth of scarcity, I mean it literally.  What better way to ensure a potential suitor doesn’t leave your daughter when she turns out to be infertile or otherwise burdensome than to have the union legally ratified and unbreakable?  Although we dress it up now, its the same prevailing logic behind things like common-law status for two people living together.  If the more financially stable one decides to up and leave the other it can be economically disadvantageous so we brought the government into the equation (much to the chagrin of Mr. Stanhope) to arbitrate between the haves and have-nots.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Demystifying Rape

Note: I have had this mostly written for a few weeks now but life happened and I never finished it.  There are a few women I have discussed this topic with who have expressed interest in reading my “male” perspective (lol) when I’d like to think of it more as a human perspective.  For the record I don’t bear any malice toward anyone trying to help a disenfranchised group, I just want to spread awareness that we are all a disenfranchised group.  And even if some of the things I write here piss my feminist friends off, please note that it was written with love and serious deliberation.  Special thanks to my relatively new friend, Lauren with whom I had my first serious conversation today.  Our exchange served as the impetus to finish this off.  Hopefully there will be many more mutually beneficial discussions in the future.  Who knows, maybe some longboarding too 🙂


“I despise rapists.  For me you’re somewhere between a cockroach and that white stuff that accumulates at the corner of your mouth when you’re really thirsty.”

-Cyrus Grissom, Con Air
 
“What’s worse than rape!?”
-WO Paul Brenner, The General’s Daughter

“There are no negro problems or Polish problems or Jewish problems or Greek problems or women’s problems.  There are HUMAN PROBLEMS.”
-Jacque Fresco, Larry King Interview, 1974
 

My Friends,
I would like to talk about rape.  I think it is an interesting topic because it incites a lot of violent invective and really lays bare our antiquated values regarding the commodity-status of female sexuality.  Mostly, I think it is misunderstood because like so many things in our society, it is reduced to a self-contained problem with people arguing various causes without an understanding of causality itself.
I guess the best place to start would be right in the thick of it, with the hotly contested issue of whether certain women invite rape by their demanour, clothing, etc…  My simple answer to this would be “no,” but I think it is more complex than that simple response.  To say that a woman stands a greater chance of getting raped because she is wearing a short skirt makes her the prime cause (which she isn’t) and also negates a few important factors such as where she is, time of day, how many people are around and very significantly, the disposition of nearby males.*  I’m sure there are more factors but these few are the ones that occur off the top of my head.  When we look at a single occurrence of rape, indeed any single occurrence of anything anywhere, we are faced with the reality that it is a product of many factors working together in unison, and each of those factors have a traceable causal origin as well.  This illuminates two things for us: first of all it is very difficult to rightly say that one factor is the cause of anything; and second, we too may be subject to factors beyond our control which may lead us to do things which we might not normally do.  This can be an uncomfortable thought for some people because noone wants to think they are capable of “evil.”**
Dr. Richard C. Lewontin makes a very clear distinction between causes and agents in his series of lectures called Biology as Ideology: The Doctrine of DNA.  I will borrow his example of asbestos, which he points out has been wrongly called the cause of certain cancers.  We find that when we leave the existing industrial mechanisms in place and simply ban a substance, industry is only too eager to greenlight a new, untested, potentially carcinogenic substance which has not yet been regulated.  If the workplace cancers persist from other carcinogens, can asbestos really be said to be the cause of workplace cancer? No, rather it is an agent or factor in the causal chain which can at most contribute to an outcome.  To call an inanimate object a cause is to fetishize it and endow it with a malice that simply isn’t there.
Similarly, to call sexy clothes on a woman the cause of rape does not take into account the larger causal mechanisms which lead to interpersonal violence, and again fetishizes the inanimate skirt,  If you want any more proof that neither asbestos or sexy clothes are causes in and of themselves, consider all the cases of cancer and all the cases of rape:

Have all the cases of cancer involved asbestos exposure?  Certainly not.

Have all the cases of rape involved sexy clothes?  I don’t know the stats, but again I feel confident saying “no.”

Simply removing a causal agent will not eradicate an outcome.
But here’s the rub: while we can’t say that asbestos is the cause of cancer, we can say that certain types of cancer will not occur without exposure to asbestos.  Similarly, we can say that certain rapes would not have happened absent provocative clothing.  Please note that this is not the same as naming sexy clothes the cause of rape, nor is it excusing the rapist.***  I hope this distinction is clear because very often we get confused about causes and causal agents/factors.  I know I have written about this distinction before but it bears repeating.  Funnily enough, you often see the rudiments of causal thinking expressed in the arguments of firearms advocates who say, “guns being banned would not reduce violence, only (maybe) school shootings.  This is correct in the same way that saying, “banning asbestos reduces asbestos-related cancer, but does not eradicate cancer,” is correct.  In all these cases, whether we are talking about banning guns, regulating asbestos, or dressing more modestly so as to avoid rape, we are not actually dealing with the causes, but the agents.

So, Regarding Rape, What Are the Causes?

   I don’t know.  But I have an idea.  This line of reasoning might sound familiar to anyone who has dabbled in my blog before so bear with me.  We must look at rape in the broader context of interpersonal violence.  It’s really tempting to look at it as somehow separate and removed from other forms of violence, but in reality, its not special.#  There are no “special” forms of violence: If I murder a black man it is violence.  However, if I murder him while wearing a white hood and screaming “Nigger!” it is still the same violence.  Certainly it is more salacious and might sell a few more papers but ultimately the violence has been done either way regardless if our different skin tones factored into the equation.  Now, notwithstanding the fact that men can also be raped, women are the primary victims of rape just like it is generally visible minorities who are the primary victims of hate crimes.  And while these added layers of selection and profiling again make the story more salacious, we should not lose sight of the fact that when you reduce these things down to their essential parts they are still violence, no more or less offensive than one white male being violent toward another white male.

Violence is violence.

I only hammer this point home because I think that when you correctly place rape in the broader context of violence in general you can actually understand how to deal with it a little better.  For rape to happen, indeed for any violence to happen, it has to be reinforced by our society.  Someone (the aggressor) has to be getting something out of it, because our society reinforces competition, segregation, differential advantage, and jockeying for power.  Sure, society teaches us love and fellowship and good citizenship, etc., but it reinforces the aforementioned competitive qualities.
Now my twelfth-grade religion teacher once told us that rape is a crime of power, not sex, and I think there is some truth to that.  Certainly it sheds some light on rape if you, like me, are inclined to view our society as a constant struggle for power and advantage,  I think most, if not all interactions in our society can be reduced to some kind of power struggle, and while that may sound overly cynical and Machiavellian## consider some of the common day-to-day relationships we have:

DOM                           VS.             SUB
Parent                                            Child
Teacher                                        Student
Boss                                               Employee
Client/Customer                     Firm/Business/Agency
Alpha Male                                 Betas
Coach                                            Player
The State                                    The Person

These relationships are just a few of the commonplace, accepted forms of power dynamics (struggles really).  I don’t even want to go into the aberrant romantic relationships where one partner is whipped or, in more extreme situations, scared of their partner.
Moving forward with this assumption of constant power struggles we can see that there are many ways in which to gain the “so-called” upper hand; be physically stronger, be more persuasive, be better looking, have more money, prove someone else wrong, embarrass another, make people laugh.  All of these actions will elevate your status relative to others, and in some cases directly put someone down relative to you.  But the acceptance and social acclaim we feel for these actions make them worthwhile even if someone else has to get punked for us to look good.
Conversely, if we are those individuals that have just gotten punked, or lost face/honour/etc…, there is a desire to want to restore that face or honour.  The feeling of shame is terrible and it is interesting to watch people in a social situation who have been put in this position try and qualify themselves to others and regain the favour of the group.  So powerful can this feeling of shame be that it can actually make people act violently in search of retribution.  (*If you think about it, this whole shaming/retribution cycle was really the driving force behind the Charlie Murphy True Hollywood Story about Rick James).

“He totally just wrote me off like I’m that nigga to steal on”
–Charlie Murphy, recalling the shame Rick James made him feel
 
   Now I’m not pulling all of this outta my ass and backing it up with pop culture references, at least not entirely.  Dr. James Gilligan, a former prison psychiatrist and current lecturer at NYU is renowned for his work during his time as Director of Mental Health for the Massachusetts prison system.  He brought the violence level down to almost zero when he was brought in due to high instances of suicide and interpersonal violence.
“I have spent the last 40 years of my life working the most violent people our society produces; murderers, rapists, and so on, in an attempt to understand what causes this violence.”
-James Gilligan, Zeitgeist: Moving Forward

“The prison inmates I work with have told me repeatedly when I ask them why they have assaulted someone that it was because “he disrespected me.”  The word disrespect is central in the vocabulary, moral values systems and psycho-dynamics of these chronically violent men.  I have yet to see a serious act of violence that was not provoked by the experience of feeling shamed and humiliated, disrespected and ridiculed,  and did not represent an attempt to undo this loss of face no matter how severe the punishment.  For we misunderstand these men at our peril if we do not realize they mean it literally when they say they would rather kill or mutilate others [or] be killed, than live without pride, dignity and self-respect.” -James Gilligan, Social Pathology (Quoted by Peter Joseph)

   If I may be so bold as to suggest that the causes of prison violence may also underlie the violence outside of prison, and if furthermore you may be so bold as to accept that proposition, I think we might have a workable hypothesis for what causes all interpersonal violence in the world, not just rape.  And really why should we discriminate when it comes to different degrees of violence IF we can deal with it all in one fell swoop?  That’s a big “if”, but I maintain that it is possible if we stop looking at things in the current piecemeal fashion.  Corny as it may sound, we gotta start thinking holistically, or at the very least stop looking at things within the common frames of reference and applying the same tried and ineffective solutions.
   The problem of rape is not to be addressed by narrowing our focus to rape and rape alone; certainly it will not be solved by the passing of new laws or well-intentioned marketing campaigns 

Frankly, I don’t give a shit about girls because I am not one.  
I do care about my fellow human beings though.

which only serve to perpetuate duality (us vs. them).  No rather than a dualistic perspective (which if you think about it is the foundation of so many of our obsolete societal perspectives -i.e. venus vs. mars, good vs. evil, demo vs. repub, coke vs. pepsi) we need a unified one.  We need to critically examine our society and find the common thread which condemns us all.  We need to have a knowledge of history and historical precedent but also be careful not to let our past & present conceptions shape our future projections.
   Finally I would like to say that we’ve tried approaching rape and female equality from an isolated perspective for long enough.  Frankly, progress has not moved quick enough for my tastes where it has happened at all.  Female voting and the ability to work seemed like victories but were merely accommodations, much like the “victories” blacks got in the southern US during the 1960s and 70s.  In reality, women’s suffrage and women’s lib only served to afford women the same level of servitude afforded only to men up to that point.  I recognize these movements for their temporal importance and their necessity at the time.  But now we can do better – we must do better.

He doesn’t belong to any gender either.


Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo

*I wasn’t not sure whether to use the word “male” here or “potential rapist.”  Certainly to think that all males are potential rapists is a shade cynical, but to assume that some males could never rape is naive.  Noone is innately good and noone is innately evil.  This is important to understand.

**I don’t think there is such thing as evil, just right and wrong.  But evil is a good word for to make a point with. (sic.)

***”Excusing” the rapist should be a moot concept if any of this causality jibber-jabber is sinking in.

#The intent here is not to marginalize any victim so lets set a benchmark.  Either no form of violence is special or all forms are special and all the victims are special cases.  I am inclined to think the latter.  Try telling a victim of a crime that their experience isn’t a special case.  Of course it is, even if its just a statistic to you.

##I’ve never used the word, Machiavelli or any of its derivatives in my writing before.  Feels good, man…

4 Comments

Filed under tzm