Category: Commentary

Be Somebody!

Movies, TV shows, and popular music all inspire us to want to “be somebody,” but in order to “be somebody” on that scale—in order to be a fast-talking Austin Powers government spy, Jack Bauer-type cop agent, or Beck/Bjork-style rock star—we have to accept society as it is and become its agent, an agent of society as it is, of the status quo. We must reflect its values, whitewash its failings, and invigorate its masses with more of the same.

To suggest that fighting comedic villains, countering “terrorism,” or acting cool and artsy is not enough for a public cultural figure to do, and rather she should be protesting some unjust aspect of society, is to expose oneself to criticisms like, “not EVERYTHING needs to be about politics!” The implication of this critique is that the figure in question would not herself be famous if she fixated on political issues or opined openly about injustice. Rather, she must remain focused on the key issues that drive sales: love, conquering bad guys, and “carrying on” in the face of how tough life is.

Life is tough, no questions there. But is it enough for artists to tell people to just put their heads down and power through it—look for love, hope for wealth and prosperity, and “fuck b****es”—rather than to try to spread some awareness of how things became “tough”? Once in a blue moon, in an Oscar acceptance speech for example, a famous person of color will speak openly about the struggles that she faced on her way to success. Yet, she works for the American film industry, the greatest propaganda machine in the world, that gave us Mickey Rooney’s character in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” countless African-American and Native American stereotypes, “sissy” targets of homophobic ridicule, evil Arabs in “Aladdin,” “Rules of Engagement,” and “True Lies,” racist whitewashing in “The Help,” religious fundamentalism in “Passion of the Christ,” consent-manufacturing for war “Casablanca” and “Hunt for Red October,” violence against women in countless action movies, and innumerable other messages and agendas that pertain to the reason an African-American winning an Oscar in America is such a triumph and such an innovation.

Is it, then, the purpose of “being somebody,” once one reaches a place of cultural influence, to *then* point out the inequities of that culture in such a way as to affect them? So let me get this straight: I’m supposed to use any and all connections with agents, friends-of-friends, and behind-the-scenes folks I can conjure in order to break into showbiz, to start in TV commercials or soap operas or jingles or to appear on commercial radio, to create a publicity blitz among press connections big and small, to pay a horde of people—agents, recording engineers, publicists, plastic surgeons, photographers, personal trainers, relaxation experts, clothing retail outlets, et cetera—a lot of money, and attract and maintain lucrative contracts from studios and record companies, ONLY to eventually come out and say that all of those mechanisms of achieving success are corrupt and morally bankrupt? If I’m going to do that and be cast out of the conformist inner circle, then what was all the work for? You can’t essentially model yourself after the oppressors if you hope to overthrow them.

Granted, if all famous people did it, things might change. But the stakes on achieving success on the scale of a Russell Brand (who is not exactly Tom Cruise in terms of household nameyness) are too great to expect people who have ultimately benefited greatly from that system to publicly come out against it. “I worked TOO LONG and TOO HARD to say that what I did either took TOO LONG or was TOO HARD!” If it was easy for the individual to possess a voice with the power of Hollywood, no one would do it. But that would mean something much bigger. In such a society, people would possess the power to be heard and affect culture without the billions of dollars that fund Hollywood and showbiz in general. The means of mass communication would be controlled, not by “the mass media,” but by the people. Everyone could “be somebody,” by virtue of being part of a society that values everybody, not just those who allow the system to suck them dry.

A chat I had on the internet with a friend today prompted me to consider the implications of never being able to take a side.


ME: this is how i often feel re: politics

[Anthony Quinn as Auda in “Lawrence of Arabia” exclaiming that “I must find something honourable!”]

MY FRIEND: lol good luck

ME: it’s a hapless stumble. everywhere lies compromise and breeds conflict

and strangely enough, it keeps me naive

MY FRIEND: better than being a sullen curmudgeon I suppose

ME: and with clean hands, perhaps what I dislike about it most of all

By looking for the perfect route, I take none. By being afraid of mistakes, I take no chances. By accepting no one, I am not an exception; I walk a common path. Fear of being wrong leads to Being Wrong with Fear. Believing that there is some neat, perfect path to take saves me from taking any, hence I never become hardened to adversity or challenge, nor do I amass experiences that make me feel capable and strong. No, indecision is a complete lack of acceptance of material conditions; not of their existence or their rightness or wrongness (I know they exist and are extremely wrong), but of their urgency versus my ability to “handle” them. I let myself believe that I can take a lifetime to decide–about WHAT to do, WHOM to follow–when in reality no decision is being made, no moves, no changes, and the multitudes are suffering. I know the problems are immediate, but I act as though they are not. So I might as well believe they are not. That is the bourgeois practice of indecision, just as it is the practice of all forms of complicity: what is not resisted is assisted.

It is a tough thing, affecting some of us on the left and leading us to betrayal and “selling out”: whether to focus on the misery and discontent of the world—perhaps even extending to the question of whether life is truly worth living in such a world—or to ignore that “larger reality” picture and focus on our own, smaller, more manageable, more affectable world. In that smaller world, whatever is simpler, easier, whatever makes the means of living more accessible to us is what is right, or at least allows it to become that much more acceptable.

With a wide world view, one that focuses on all of the injustice and might even seek to correct it, and rejects all of its tools like patriarchy, gender binary, white privilege, rape culture, Islamophobia, and others, no amount of imperialism is acceptable: no sweatshop labor, no globalization, no corporatism, no finance capital, no collusion between elite classes for the enrichment of those classes to the financial detriment of everyone else. Also no imperialist war, no police state at home, no glamorization of international conflict or terrorism, no commoditization of rights of any kind (to be bought and sold), but the common ownership of such rights by the people.

But in what way is this struggle, save in the minds of its fighters who are few and far between? “A New World In Our Hearts,” is the name of one anarchist collective I have seen in New York. The idea of the struggle itself is invariably linked with ideology: communist, socialist, marxist, anarchist, whateverist. It is as though having a practical, pragmatic cause or quest in this world, that isn’t hugely dependent on complex and often old edifices, is dependent on accepting and indeed defending the status quo, and having no ideals that demand something fundamentally better. And to hold such ideas is to be “difficult.” To act on them can provoke all types of invective, not the last of which is “terrorist.”

Now let’s take a look at the smaller, more manageable, more “self-made” reality. All that matters is ahead of you, in theory, because society has been custom-made to produce those matters as life-goals: job, home, marriage, children, retirement.

All that you give up ideologically by focusing exclusively on the wide, pessimistic view is obversely included in this mode of living, the material and familial experiences that employment and marriage afford you: being a parent, having turkey-fueled holidays in the home, buying your first car, earning your first dollar, going to your first job interview, seeing your child go to her first job interview, an echo of seeing her off on her first day of school.

Does it make you a bad person to focus on this reality? This one is smaller, softer, more fulfilling (because the limits are tighter and more defined), “fitter, happier, more productive,” to quote Radiohead.

This reality is more conventional, and yet it feels self-manifested (“self-made”) because it seems so natural: raising biological children with a life-partner, raising them to be good and responsible citizens who contribute to society, to pass through the gates of society: preschool, kindergarten, elementary school, high school, college, employment, marriage, parenthood, promotion, retirement, death at a “ripe old age.” The always-present hope in any good parent: that the child will live better than I did, escaping, somehow, the raft of sacrifices I made, the ream of failures, of heartaches, of mistakes, and sail through life with 100% more boldness and success and ease.

“What’s wrong with wanting that?” anyone invested in this process, such as a parent or friend might say. There is a strange charm in it, to those of us who possess the privilege to witness it, let alone experience it. One such encounter:

I was sitting in Montclair, NJ, (where I lived from age 15 to age 26) eating falafel and drinking San Pellegrino in a churchyard where small children were playing, while church bells rang followed by a train whistle, and all of the myriad restaurants and cafe-type establishments were picking up that lunch buzz: the coffee was brewing, the french fries were sizzling, the air was hot, the sun was out. The little children waved to me and said hello before going back to their little children’s book on the green grass. lady stopped and asked me where she could get a good wrap. I replied, the little Greek place down the street. I sat fifteen minutes among the suburban bliss, and the church bells rang at the quarter of the hour.

Altogether, it was charming. And a little nauseating. These well-to-do people, drinking and eating and working and shopping at the Gap and voting Democrat, all while the CIA funds cannibal rebels in Syria and drones kill civilians in Yemen and Walmart sweatshops collapse in Bangladesh. And all of these people, including me, are benefiting from all of that, all of the benefits of imperialism and cultural hegemony and exploitation and murder.

It reminded me of how John Lennon was criticized for “quitting” activism and releasing “Double Fantasy” about obtaining domestic bliss. Other critics defended him, saying he’d done enough for the world and deserved his bit of happiness. I don’t know where I fall, but I understand both perspectives, I guess.

In the “small-reality” mode of living, where “family is everything,” the possibilities for material and familial experiences are almost endless: being a parent, having turkey-fueled holidays in the home, buying your first car, earning your first dollar, going to your first job interview. They may not seem like it, but all of these are largely bodily pleasures, since they are based on emotions. Nothing else is accomplished with them besides the event itself and the emotions that accompany it.

The small-reality view at least gives you a chance at these pleasures.Focusing on the wide, pessimistic view—where all you see is the negative and the misery and the injustice and try to fight it somehow—takes these chances away, and replaces them with the chance to see something positive done in your lifetime to affect the millions of oppressed people in the world. One legislative victory, for example, among the larger-reality type of person can mean the difference between eating and not eating for hundred, thousands, millions of people. Yet, there’s a good chance that you won’t see all that much, at least not what you REALLY want to see: revolution. The potentials of a smaller-reality viewpoint are a lot to give up when one considers that the means by which to accomplish them already seem to exist in reality, whereas fulfilling the larger-reality potentials require society to be nearly the exact opposite of what it is.

Plenty of left-leaning people celebrate Christmas, drink Coca-Cola, and have children. Even Che Guevara, and the singer from Agnostic Front, and Leon Trosky, and Joseph Stalin (for that matter). They all had kids. An anti-capitalist understanding tells us that having children is a means of perpetuating capitalism, because ultimately children are where labor comes from, and capitalism is based on a steady stream of cheap labor and needy consumers, and the more the merrier (which is why right-leaning types are against gay marriage, gayness in general, contraception/BC, et cetera, any sex that doesn’t produce children. They don’t know that’s why, but that’s why.)

I guess I don’t know. I have no plans to marry or have children. I may adopt. I just don’t want to bring another poor, frightened, doubtful, soul- and dream-crushed little white person into this world, one to whom I’ll pass all of my failings and fears and bodily defects. I’m no one special. My child won’t be anyone special. She or he won’t be “the greatest little guy/girl in the world,” or “an angel,” or any crap like that. She or he will just be a little starving zombie, raised again into an ideology of need and patriarchy. Blech. I say no.

But someday, what if I say yes? Will that make me a bad person? The average liberal on the street of Montclair might not be a bad person, because she or he doesn’t fully know better, hasn’t studied these things, never formed a “larger-reality” understanding (I assume; maybe they’re all sellouts too). But I have, and to turn on it and ignore it and forget it and lose it and “sell out”….that really would be inexcusable, and unforgivable.

Existence precedes essence. I have no escape. Self-affirmation must come in another form than the conventional. That’s all there is to it. I guess I’m a little scared. Of what? Failure, to fulfill an abstract, while the people around me have concrete goals, concrete purposes.

I guess I just need direction, and for a long time.

This is a short position paper I wrote for my Pursuits of English class at Montclair State University. It critiques Roland Barthes’ extreme fixation on the audience in his classic essay, “Death of the Author.” I hope it is clear enough.

Barthes: Enabling Market Architecture

Roland Barthes’ anti-author stance enables a view of the reader as the ultimate arbiter of  the use-value of any text. While perhaps successfully attempting to counter capitalism’s emphasis on the author and the commodification (i.e. private ownership) of ideas, Barthes’ monomaniacal focus on the demand (as in supply and demand) of the reader creates a mirror image of the original capitalism problem. Instead of the author-as-individual articulating the needs of society through artistic critique–in order that those needs be addressed through discourse–the owners of the means of production (media magnates who control scores of publishing houses, film production companies, television stations, et cetera) are empowered to entice “society” to articulate the “needs” of the “author-as-machine,” in order for that author to not starve to death, impoverished. Of course, the author’s starvation is the last concern of the magnate, for it is the fulfillment of society’s demand–and the customer is always right–that maintains a steady stream of capital.

“The customer is always right,” is exactly the attitude that Barthes espouses in passages such as, “a text’s unity lies not in its origin but in its destination. Yet this destination cannot any longer be personal: the reader is without history, biography, psychology; he is simply that someone who holds together in a single field all the traces by which the written text is constituted.” The “reader” has no specific identity; the “reader” is both anyone and no one. It falls to the im-”personal” imperatives of the marketer, then, to determine who the readers are and what they want. And what they are determined to want decides not only the task of the author but the tenability of the author’s employment as an author.

The “unity” of a text, a quality which I take as synonymous with and inclusive of “cogency,” “relatability,” “coherence,” and ultimately, “value,” is dependent on the tastes of the reader, and without these qualifiers–all of which are dependent on cultural conventions–the text lacks “unity,” and therefore lacks “value” from either an artistic or capitalist standpoint.

This is the basis of consumerism: a culture of broad-based marketing to as many people as possible, starting with financially privileged white males, ages 18-39, but ultimately fulfilling the cultural expectations of whatever strata of society have proven themselves commercially exploitable. For example, by reflecting the conventionalized expectations of African-American audiences, Black Entertainment Television (BET) maintains a steady market for products aimed at African-American audiences. Such marketing to a specific segment of society only becomes a viable and worthwhile investment when members of that segment prove themselves a financially capable target market (often made so with myriad predatory banking practices, among other exploitation, prior to any demonstrable entrance into the middle classes).

This step in capitalism is the only point at which a racial minority or other marginalized group is recognized in the Hegelian sense as a true segment of Human Society. The mentality is, “Yay, I’m a genuine human being now because I’m being marketed to and can make a bunch of white rich people richer.” Yet such demand is only maintained by meeting the conventionalized expectations of the assumed readers of that segment, or put differently, by identifying a stereotype that favors the existing power structures–racial, gender, sexual orientation, religious, and above all, consumerist, upon which the power of the owners of the means of production is based–refining and rearticulating the characteristics of that stereotype over time, and succeeding in marketing it to the newly recognized, financially viable target market.

In other words, overemphasis on the reader reduces human freedom to the right to be on a focus group, reduces ideas to commodities owned and manipulated by corporations, and reduces the artist herself to another monopolized component of the means of production (artist-as-machine).

note: Throughout this entry, I use the terms “woman,” “man,” and the like with the implication of self-identification.

Empowering people, women and men, to prevent sexual assault is important. Most of the of time, the assaulter is known by the victim prior to the assault. I learned this in my Writing Women Safe class at Montclair State University. It is important that both women and men learn how to identify possibly compromising situations and to avoid entering them. For despite all hope for the contrary, it is an irrefutable fact that such situations are a genuine and widespread problem, of epidemic proportions on college campuses, and to a greater extent among transgender women and women of Color. While we’re correcting the revolting misogynistic culture in which we live (filled with Todd Akins, Maxim magazine, Axe body spray, and many brands of shitty beer whose ads require women in bikinis next to chicken wings in order to get men to say “I want that”), women must be empowered to exercise prevention of unwanted advances, while men must be given the vocabulary and social permission to prevent becoming oblivious to either the word “NO” or its sentiment, and to understand that when a woman is incapable of making a decision, the answer is “no” automatically. In short, men must be taught that sex is a decision made by two people, not decided by circumstance or entitlement.

Many of these advances, the aftermaths, and the common victim-blaming that go with them, involve partying, outfits that catch the attention of the preferred sexual partner’s gender, and alcohol. I wish it were taught right along with the pressure-point self-defense training, that if a person feels he or she loses his or her sense of self-control or perspective when drinking at parties, then drinking shouldn’t be considered essential to “having fun” or to “fitting in,” and to hell with what people think. If dressing in certain outfits seems to contribute to misleading situations with horny impressionable men, then women shouldn’t wear them, nor should they feel compelled to wear them. They shouldn’t feel compelled to validate their own sense of self-worth based on whether men have sexual feelings towards them. AND, perhaps more importantly, men need to understand that ANY mode of dress is not in itself a form or even a sign of consent.

Hear me out, and then tell me if you think I’m misguided. It would be fantastic if we could all wear whatever we want all the time. In a way, that would be the ideal situation. However, the reason such problems as gender inequality, body image issues, fatphobia, blaming-the-victim, and others exist is that we base our judgments about ourselves on what society expects of us. What is considered “sexy,” “attractive,” “desirable,” “feminine,” or “masculine,” are concepts suggested by biological implications but shaped, marketed, and disseminated (an accurately masculine term) completely by patriarchal society. Until we overcome these expectations, we will see a distinct contradiction between our desire to be seen as “sexual beings” and our desire to own our sexuality.

We are taught that women dress one way and men dress another. Due to this sartorial gender convention, women were long prohibited from wearing pants. A woman who defied convention and wore trousers, like George Sand for example, chose not to be judged by her physical appearance. Or, if she was going to be judged, at least it would be on her own terms, and not by how attractive men found her. Of course, she WAS judged by her appearance anyway, but in the way that phenomena are so often judged when they completely defy our expectations, i.e. shock and revulsion. Rather than being “beautiful” and “fetching” and “ravishing,” as a socially acceptable woman should strive to be, Sand was judged to be against the natural order of society. Why? Because when a woman decides that being sexually attractive to men is unimportant to her, the “natural” order of female subjugation is threatened, since it is partly based on the power dynamic of sexual predator (male) versus sexual prey (female).

This is partly why men welcome women’s liberation insofar as it produces “women who love sex,” i.e. women who work to fulfill male expectations of sexiness. Many people fail to concretely identify or understand sexual liberation as a form of general self-determination because women are so little encouraged to self-determine their identities in other ways in our society. That is to say, being “sexually liberated” doesn’t appear to actually liberate women all that much. “Even though I’ll never make as much money as men, even though I won’t feel adequate or secure without a husband, even though I’ll leave college to marry, even though I’ll forever be dependent on men for fixing things and snaking drains, not to mention for giving me the purpose of selfless nurturer, even though my children will solidify the end of my ambition, even though I can’t feel safe from rape, at least I have sex because I enjoy it.” Enjoying sex becomes one way in which anyone with such sentiments of powerlessness might feel empowered (like Jane Fonda in “Klute”), regardless of gender, while other areas of self-determination remain unexplored and unrealized. In this way, “sexual liberation” in this extant form is still very much connected to dependence.

Everyone being able to “safely” wear whatever they want all the time would be an incredible step forward, and should probably be the next one. Men need to be INDOCTRINATED with the facts: that clothing is not consent in any form, or under any circumstances. Nor is conduct. Men need to be taught that rape has a broader definition than simply the absence of “no” or the presence of violent force, and that, based on the premise of mutual respect, a vocabulary exists with which the certainty of mutual consent can be established, with no loss of “manliness” and a substantive gain in relative strength of character. (I hope to expound upon this vocabulary in a future entry.) Similar to being too embarrassed to purchase condoms, a person who lacks the willingness to establish this certainty should be able to judge himself or herself not ready for sex. Period.

{And I completely reject all Roiphe-style victimology rhetoric suggesting that the majority of alleged rapes on college campuses are in fact the self-exculpating fabrications of women who merely had “bad sex” or felt bad about themselves having had consensual sex. This patently misogynistic idea asserts the foolishness and low character of those who made the accusations, and “rewards” women only with the agency to commit misdeeds while graciously denying the propensity of men to commit rape, despite a long and factual history of male domination not only over women but over one another.}

Yet I don’t think it contradictory to this goal to also inform all genders, matter-of-factly and from as early an age as possible, about the ideological agenda of our society: to emphasize and exaggerate the centrality of sex to our culture (“sex sells”) in order to maintain this dependence upon men for many aspects of the female cultural identity: i.e. “a woman’s place.” Society is more comfortable with “sexually liberated” women who wear revealing clothing than it would be with women who don’t care about APPEARING sexually liberated. Why? Because by fulfilling male-defined ideas of sexuality, women appearing as “sexual beings” in the expected manner—in form-fitting, colorful, revealing clothing, “living it up” “Sex-in-the-City”-style—may ultimately do more to reinforce “a woman’s place” than to challenge it. And that “place” involves, preferably, willful self-objectification to validate and enhance male objectification. The reacting male mentality is, “If she views herself as an object, I can too!” which is a central component of rape culture.

{It’s the ethical equivalent of, “If a man views himself as a provider, I can demand all the jewelry I want from him.” A common riposte to this state of affairs is, “yeah, so what’s WRONG with that?” which is the same as asking, “What’s wrong with people accepting societally reinforced gender roles, remaining dependent on them for self-identification, reinforcing them in others, and seeing each other purely in transactional terms?” Is there anything wrong with that? I think so. Such lives are unexamined, and as such contribute to complicity in other, less micro and more macro forms of exploitation, such as sweatshop labor, racial discrimination, pollution, the meat industry, the pharmaceutical industry, et cetera. The question then becomes, “so what’s wrong with ALL OF THIS?” Moral relativism to the rescue.}

{(What such men don’t realize is that they are also being objectified—by which I mean defined as an object, except as a dominant object rather than a submissive one—by a culture that exploits their hormonal impulses and implants in their brains a sense of ownership over society, which they don’t actually fully possess. This false consciousness facilitates a state of mutual exploitation [to varying degrees] of men and women, and highlights the underlying premise of my argument: all cultural stratification is maintained for the purpose of complete, full exploitation and the reproduction of cultural hierarchy, which is a characteristic of ruling class ideology. That is to say, it benefits capitalism to reinforce patriarchy, to make men as a whole think they automatically control society, so they can be exploited for their labor power. This will have to be the subject of another entry, though, at some point. I hope!) Much if not most of the remainder of female identification—particularly in terms of career and general place in society—remains dependent on or relative to a woman’s relationship to men: wife, mother, housekeeper, sex-provider, financially dependent or seeking financial dependence.}–remove or move

I get it; women—and people in general—just want to be free to “relax” and “socialize.” What does this mean, though? Does relaxing means drinking alcohol? Does socializing mean eliciting sexual interest from members of the desired sex? Alcohol and alluring attire are both aspects of our society that reflect man’s patriarchal dominion over what women should want, act, and look like in public. They both actively cultivate and reinforce a lack of personal confidence: drink alcohol to FEEL like a million bucks, show some skin to LOOK like a million bucks, (a money metaphor, as though we must make valuable commodities of ourselves in order to enjoy the company of others), to get ahead in life, to be noticed . And men, who are supposed to WANT and ASPIRE TO HAVING all the bucks in society, will necessarily see such women as part of an overall picture of what’s desirable. Why can’t men feel like a million bucks—or just good about ourselves—without them, though?

Alcohol is a “social lubricant,” meaning it makes people more confident talking to each other. It does this by limiting a person’s judgment, including judgments of right and wrong and of the self: of what I’m worth, what I deserve, what’s wrong with me. Ironically, by limiting judgments of what I’m worth, alcohol makes me more likely to place myself in unfavorable situations—with dangerous people, doing dangerous things, in dangerous places, perhaps—situations that are beneath me. Why doesn’t feminism do more to teach people to limit sober self-judgment—to stop finding fault with themselves—and to feel confident talking to members of the opposite sex without alcohol, IN ADDITION to emphasizing that women should feel free to have a good time and dress however they want?

As I’ve already said, sexy clothing is another way to meet societal (i.e. male) expectations. I understand that women should feel comfortable being sexual beings in public. Truly, that is a valid form of empowerment, since the denial of female sexuality is historically part and parcel with the denial of basic humanity. However, when ti comes to clothing, I don’t see an analytic connection between “freedom of sexuality” and “freedom of dressing.” Clothing companies are 99% of the time run by men. While of course there are female designers like Kate Spade, men are the ones whose names you hear the most (Calvin Klein, Hugo Boss, Yves St Laurent, John Galliano, Manolo Blahnik, Levi, Louis Vuitton, Lee, et cetera). Why do we teach women that it is important for them to express themselves as “sexual beings” when to do so means fulfilling male expectations of sexiness? We should be empowering them to feel like sexual, passionful people WITHOUT meeting those expectations. Men walk around in suits, virile and ambitious as the day is long, and looking like a million bucks. Why can’t women feel the same way?

Social pressure is very strong. Shame is very strong. If a woman appears prudish, she’s a bitch. If she “puts out” too much, she’s a slut. If she doesn’t like to socialize with “normal” people in normal ways and dress normally, there’s something wrong with her there, too. She’s puritanical, nun-like, self-righteous, et cetera. God forbid, if she’s Muslim and wears a hijab, she must be oppressed by men as well! Because women would NEVER actually choose NOT to show off their bodies to attract men and appear “confident” (which, again, is defined in male terms)! ONLY MEN HAVE THE POWER TO COVER WOMEN UP! NOT WOMEN! WOMEN WOULD NEVER DO THAT VOLUNTARILY! HOW WOULD THEY GET ANY RESPECT IN LIFE? HOW WOULD THEY GET ANYWHERE? WHY WOULD THEY LIMIT THEIR FREEDOM LIKE THAT?

I’m being sarcastic. Of course a woman could choose not to be judged by her appearance, or whether she drinks at parties, or whether she even GOES to parties. It’s all a matter of her having an understanding that her OWN definition of strength, confidence, empowerment, personhood, is the most important, not what Captain Morgan or Karl Lagerfeld or Beyonce, or literally ANYONE ELSE thinks about her. This demands a strict doctrine of discipline, whereby feminists of all genders reject all forms of patriarchal sexuality by CHOOSING not to satisfy them. DON’T feel the need to self-objectify to any degree, even though it’s what advertising expects of you. DON’T feel the need to wear makeup. DON’T feel the need to drink alcohol. DON’T feel the need to attend parties where people go to forget their principles, their thoughts, their healthful processes. DON’T accept the judgments of people who deride your commitment to self-determination. DON’T let yourself be exploited for any purpose. Find friends who accept this quality in you, and encourage it in them. MILITANTLY DEFY EXPECTATIONS.

A man who doesn’t respect a strong woman has a piece-of-shit mentality, although I pity him, because such a state of mind deprives him of the awe deserving of half the human race for surviving and overcoming an agelessly oppressive reign over the other half. Same goes for a so-called friend who doesn’t respect her friend’s decision to not drink, or to wear turtlenecks, or to not go to parties filled with idiots and simpletons. That “friend” can go fuck him/herself. A real friend, a real man, a real woman, a real person, will not only respect such a disciplined and self-contained person, but will admire her and put hope in her, and emulate her, and soon, join her in the quest to undo patriarchy and all of the forces that benefit from it.

At a certain point, no song or movie, short story or philosopher’s correct opinion about how to live can save you from the seemingly inevitable: that in this life, we are all destined to be unknown and unimportant to the vast majority of humanity. In order to survive, we must gear up for a lifetime of drudgery, our truest internal gifts being recognized only insofar as they facilitate that drudgery, and kowtow to a society whose values directly contradict our own sense of right and wrong. We are raised to believe we can be and do whatever we want, but soon are forced to learn that “life is unfair,” “life is tough,” “life is a compromise.” In a life that begins with an act of force to which I gave no consent (birth), why must the remainder of that existence be dictated by rules to which I have similarly given no consent? The obvious solution is to fight them, resist them, hinder them at all costs. Even the cost of sanity? If sanity is a hallmark of corruption by society, maybe it is a divestable commodity. And recognition? To achieve it would be to benefit from the structures in society that I hate, so perhaps “insanity” would solve that problem, too, since it would divest me of any care for what other people think of me.

White Privilege

White privilege is the result of the dictatorship of mankind’s irrational fears and prejudices upon society, instead of the ideals of law. How often has mankind used his abilities for purely good, selfless acts? Very seldom. As the arbiters of cultural norms, the same class of people who would’ve owned slaves in the 1800s currently decides the nature of our society’s moral identity. Members of the arbiter-class possessing the greatest level of advantage influence common policy in order to maximize and prolong that advantage, and every substratum of that class shares in the advantages of being associated with the arbiter-class.

Systemic change must come from the solidarity between the socially criminalized (in this case, the non-white) and the white witnesses to the injustice of this so-called advantage. They are witnesses to it by way of being able to share in it and often doing so: sharing in a completely arbitrary benefit to the historicistically verifiable dominance of white over non-white. Thus, any member of the witness-class that would form solidarity with the socially criminalized class does so upon realization of the injustice inherent in sharing in a benefit that is not earned, but conferred as a historicistic fact by those who wish to maintain race-based inequality for their own gain.

Whether we are willing to weaken hidden systems of advantage depends on the existence and provision of a replacement advantage. Complicity in the arrangement of a moral and physical dictatorship resulting in years of oppression will compel some people to use their own power to, in effect, weaken themselves through voting, reforms, and the usual conventional means of social change.

There will, however, be a large contingent of group-minded persons who cannot disassociate themselves from the arbiter-class to which they have perpetually aspired. The division of race, much like the division of labor, sex, religion, and political discipline, is another means by which the arbiter-classes exploit the differences between the witness-classes and the socially criminalized groups in order to demonstrate moral and social superiority and in so doing encourage the conformist witness-classes to associate themselves with the prevailing arbiter-class and dissassociate themselves from the social criminals. As witnesses in their own trial, such conformists would defer to the judgment of the arbiter because he is in power and has always been in power. Such a conformist is unwilling to challenge his beliefs. To do so would be to admit a lifelong misperception: that power-possession is directly related to dividing people by race, sex, religion, et cetera, and that to do so makes one powerful. The dictates and priorities of his lifetime and even his upbringing won’t survive this singular assault on his idea of correctness, and nor would his conscience at having not just accepted the advantages of whiteness, but at having worked to advance them.

Moreover, possessing the monetary resources to choose the class with which to associate confers a sense of ownership on that choice; if one is rich, one’s choice–to exploit racial differences, political differences, et cetera, for greater personal gain and more influence–is worth more. If one is poor, one has no choice, for the poor are another socially criminalized group, to be influenced and never to influence. All while regrettably admiring those who can afford to buy into the arbiter-upheld white advantages and aspire to greater and greater heights of white opportunity, which is one manner in which poor people and the witness-class might find some similarity.

Therefore, to reiterate, there must be some replacement advantage since the monetary- and status-related advantages carry so many interrelated incentives. The only incentive for the secession of power is power or its equivalent, hence the nature of that replacement advantage must be power or its equivalent. Since Whitey will be, by definition, ceding power by way of his own power, to paraphrase the author, he may wish to use his power to create a completely New Society with new dynamics and resources. Whitey’s motivations must therefore be based on achieving equality in that Society, not, in any way, on recreating or relabeling the old society in order to maintain his race-based advantages (such recreations and relabelings are often referred to “reforms”). The assumption that the flawed power mechanisms of the old society are incapable of accommodating racial equality cannot be questioned or revised.

If such a New Society were created, the replacement advantage would be the power to take part in Humanity’s Collective Destiny as witnesses of his own future, while money and gender and race and religion all fall behind, mere remnants of a time when a person’s differences helped him more than his similarities. The trick is getting Whitey to admit the error of nearly his entire existence, and to see empowerment in that admission.

Militant resistance arises when police and governmental repression will it to arise. The illegitimacy of the state becomes apparent commensurate to the heightening of the police state. As it becomes unfeasibly widespread, prevalent, and destructive to the people, the spirit of the people’s struggle rises unto the hearts of the general populace. Thus, assaults to the protestors are equivalent to assaults on the people at large. When the incumbent administrations fail to address these assaults and thusly become complicit in them, militant resistance becomes inevitable and advisable, being the only manner of defending the people against the perpetual insult of an obviously evil, corrupt, and useless government. These conditions are not assumed by the people, but proven by the government and its police forces themselves. In this way, the government-perpetrated violence creates the violence with which it is met when it has proven its own oppressive illegitimacy.

The people will not be crushed, they will not be silenced, they will not be frightened indefinitely. Once you prove yourself an enemy of the people, the first of the people to fight you will inspire ten more who will each inspire ten more. The outcome will be your ultimate destruction that you have created and the rise of the People.

A White Stereotype

As long as the status quo of America originates from the white race, there will never be a true white stereotype to adequately ridicule the “tendencies” of white people in the same way that stereotypes have perpetrated and perpetuated misinformation regarding the characters of non-white ethnicities.

Consider what a stereotype is: a compilation of reputed tendencies intended to represent the character of all members of the community to which the stereotype refers. For example, an African-American stereotype would probably involve the eating of watermelon. A Mexican stereotype might refer to the stereotypically dispositional Mexican trait of laziness.

These traits hearken back to earlier times, when these ethnic groups first became well-known to the white race. They are behaviors that are noticed early on among the members of an ethnic group and are repeatedly noticed until they become identified with the ethnic group as a whole.

Therefore, a white stereotype of this sort, invented by non-white ethnic groups upon first encountering white people, would reveal the white man’s early and continuing tendencies: his “tendency” to exterminate Native Americans, his “tendency” to enslave Africans, his “tendency” to spread community-shattering religion, his “tendency” to deprive Black people of their rights and criminalize their very existence, his “tendency” to deprive other races of opportunity, his “tendency” to economically enslave other nations and to support oppression within those nations, and his “tendency” to do all of this and more without courage, remorse, or accountability.

I use quotation marks around the word “tendency” to indicate that a racial stereotype doesn’t truly reflect the tendencies of the entire race, that a stereotype only supposes such characteristics. Yet, as is often said correctly or incorrectly, “all stereotypes contain a grain of truth, and that’s why they exist.” The stereotype of the white man could never truly appear in this country until the white man is in the minority, until the status quo is no longer centered around him and his values. Why?

Because he could never bear to see himself for what he once was, and for what one grain of his being still is, and will always be. As long as he owns the soul of the world, he’ll never, ever have to.

What if I decided to pray for the people in the areas threatened by Irene? Being not an earnestly religious man, my first thought is that it would be insincere, afterthoughtish, almost ornamental. It would not demonstrate any sudden and profound return to faith, but rather an “it can’t hurt” mentality. I doubt God would listen to me anymore than He’d listen to anyone else; perhaps he’d listen even less, considering my Nietzsche-spotted past (and present). But if I feel compassion for humanity, will God feel it with me? People often say, “You can always pray.” But if I don’t really completely believe that I’m speaking to the supreme being (and He presumably knows I don’t believe), does He spurn me? Does He require complete faith in Him, a willingness to speak the same words as His son–“Let your will be done, Father, not mine”–before He can find it in Himself to take heed of me?

What does it mean for me to pray, being only halfheartedly religious (or, positively put, religious in my own way)? My first thought is, it means desperation, or perhaps hope, that some powerful being in the clouds just might be ready and willing to step in and assist a humanity that has comported itself none too cleverly. But must I, we, first lose all arrogance and see ourselves as flawed, evil creatures–“a wretch like me”–lest we never have any hope of receiving His guidance at all? If, due to the transgressions of Adam and Eve, our Original Sin is in being born, then we are God’s Original Sin. Whether compassion towards us assuages His guilt or unjust punishment reroutes it, a prayer must be an innocent act. Like the parent of a child eating vegetables dipped in honey, He would never disdain a prayer as long as it gets done and with good intentions, no matter the agnostic cost. For if the prayers are answered, the only cost might just be a little piece of disillusion.

[On the Other Hand]: If a prayer is only made when someone needs something (the word for prayer in French means “request”), then doesn’t the selfishness inherent in Christianity lead to an eternally flawed, self-absorbed, and destructive humanity?

A truly good God would listen to prayer made by a person who lives a decent life even if he doesn’t adhere to the ephemera–books, papers, websites, TV programming–of a religious life.

[On the Other Hand] The alternative is that you have to sacrifice all of your worldly pursuits like careers, families, et cetera, in order to be completely accepted by Him, in order to truly live a purely religious life. But if Christianity includes prayers, then it includes an element of self-servingness, which contradicts the mandates of the purely God-serving existence. Even if you pray for a million people to survive the hurricane, it’s only because either a) you don’t want to hear about people dying for no reason and it would make you feel bad to hear of such a thing, or b) you’d feel guilty for not having prayed. It’s like you have to give up complete control over your “destiny” to God and never pray again. Of course, if the people die, that could lead to an ultimate decision that “God” has as much control as you do, i.e. he has no power, i.e. a God without power is not a God, i.e. there is no God.

So if Man gives up his power because he has none, and then sees that the world is chaotic, his natural conclusion is that God has no power therefore he doesn’t exist, is that what you’re saying? And if Man can’t pray to Him, then what good is He?

[On the Other Hand]: I’m saying that prayer demonstrates an absence of faith more than it demonstrates a plenitude of it. If God exists, then the world is in his hands, and nothing you can do will affect what He decides to do with it. So, in the words of Tom Scharpling, cool out.

I see. In any case I just don’t want people to die, any people. I guess what I’m saying is, if it’s something you want to do, not you as in “YOU” but anyone, go ahead and do it. I haven’t done it yet, but I’m thinking about it.

[On the Other Hand]: Stop thinking and start not doing.

Great talk.