sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (Default)
There’s this glurgy poem about the Earth being a few feet in diameter. It’s an incredibly cheesy poem (and will you check out the cheesy website I found when I went searching for it to write this post), but I’m kind of partial to it for what it reveals about human psychology. It ends as follows:

“People would love it, and defend it with their lives because they would somehow know that their lives could be nothing without it.

If the Earth were only a few feet in diameter.”

This gap, between real things and representations of things, is at the heart of something I’ve been struggling to get my head around in recent months. The passion I see for stories, be they movies, games, or—gasp—sometimes novels, is something that I share, and yet it boggles me that as much as they affect culture in a broad sense, they seem to often have little impact on the individuals most devoted to them.
long and with pictures )
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (socialism with a human face)
I don't actually think it's World War III or the end of the world at the moment, so more ranting about the problem of balance in politics. Two positions I've taken, both in response to stupid comments by supposed centrists:

1. Trevor Noah would never invite an ISIS member onto his show to “get the other side’s perspective.” That’s why the liberal narrative of free speech is so ethically vacuous.

I don't remember the last time I encountered an ardent defender of the concept known as "free speech" who wasn't a raging racist. I'm not sure how the right managed to snatch that one out from under our noses, but like "libertarian," I don't think we're gonna get this one back. Sorry guys.

The reason why ISIS is not included in debates about free speech is because we're all sensible people and we know where that kind of discourse leads. Yeah, a certain percentage of people reading/watching/listening to an ISIS ideologue's opinion—let's be generous and say most people—are going to say, "wow, that guy's a real shithead, listen to him say shitty things, ugh." But a not-insignificant number are going to react in the opposite way—this fellow's saying something I've felt deep in my heart for a long time, and look, he's saying it publicly, it must be socially acceptable."

This is how the Alt Reich gained ascendancy. The media gave them a sympathetic narrative, stopped portraying them as fringe freaks not even worthy of an interview, reported on their hairstyles and suits, demanded that the liberal elite sympathize with their plights. (Can you imagine a similar discourse around ISIS? Even though for the average fighter—not the ideologues—there may be a much more compelling reason, such as starvation, forcing their hand?)

An ethically consistent liberal or centrist would fight as valiantly for the rights of terrorists to be heard as it does for the rights of racist white dudes to spout off hate speech, but there is no ethical consistency in liberalism or centrism.

2. The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing people who don't know very much about politics that the horseshoe theory has any sort of intellectual merit.

I was halfheartedly debating with a self-described centrist who was insisting that fascism could be either a right- or left-wing ideology, and that neo-liberalism was a left-wing ideology. I guess 227 years of political history, fought for and bled for by countless Very Smart People, was just not good enough for this fellow, who like so many on the internet, believes that a 15-second Google search qualifies him as a political scientist. (To be fair, I'm not even sure he did that.) The horseshoe theory is referenced commonly amongst the walking Dunning-Kruger effects that inhabit certain corners of the internet, and I'm sick to death of it.

There are, of course, common features in the extreme left and the extreme right. However, all of these commonalities can just as easily describe those in the centre (not to mention that the centre is a rightward-drifting moving target). Probably more so—anecdotally, the most authoritarian types I've encountered in meatspace described themselves as centrists. A conservative may have some moral convictions, even if I disagree with them; a centrist is merely politically and ethically avoidant. It is the perverted sense of balance that led to the above problem wherein the Alt Reich were given a platform rather than being sent scuttling back to the sewers where they belong.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (wall)
I'm going to talk about the photo of the dead Syrian toddler. You've been warned. I won't show the picture itself, or the other ones like it, because you've all probably seen it by now and I want people who have chosen to not see it to read this entry.

But I'm going to start with a story that I've probably told before, and probably even told on this blog, about images. The year is 1990. My country, among other countries, goes to war with Iraq. Like a good peacenik child of peacenik parents, I am opposed, and am as outspoken about the issue as a precocious 11-year-old can be, which is to say that everyone in school thinks I'm weird. I have lived my entire life in the shadow of the atom bomb, with Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes ringing in my ears. I know what war does.

And yet I didn't. The images in the newspaper, on the television, were of sanitized battle, red dots and green night-vision like a video game, with nothing like the photos of the My Lai massacre to drive it home. One could be forgiven, watching the news, for thinking that smart bombs were so smart that they managed not to kill anyone at all.

As a teenager, I saw the images the news hadn't shown. Banned in Canada, the photo was of the charred corpse of an Iraqi soldier. You can Google that too. He was the enemy, a bad guy, the guys our brave soldiers had fought, and he spent last moments trying to escape a burning car, screaming in agony. This was why I'd opposed the war. I wondered, had those around me seen it, would they have opposed the war too? It's so easy to erase the identity of the enemy, of the Other, when you don't see his suffering.

As a country, we went to war meekly, unquestioningly, like we typically do. Today, I see kids watch those sanitized video game images, dream of going to war themselves. They play Call of Duty and watch drone footage of bombing and relish in the carnage. The victims, real and virtual, are not human to them.

Which brings me to Aylan Kurdi, age three.

Social media does what social media does. The leftists post about the crisis in Syria, washing up on Europe's shores. They cry out for someone to do something. Along comes a shocking photo that jolts everyone. Those previously uninvolved and unaware share it. Facebook bans the images. The discussion shifts from the tragedy to the image of the tragedy. The tone shifts. Everyone becomes a monster.

Sorry, I'll need to talk more about the image of the tragedy than about the tragedy itself. In this post, anyway. If you want to talk about ways to help, that's what the comment section is for, and I'll post any useful information I glean.

The first disclaimer: I speak only for myself, not anyone on either side of the debate.

The second disclaimer: Despite how ugly the tone has gotten online, we're all actually on the same side. Unless you voted Tory or UKIP or are secretly Donald Trump, you probably are pro-migrant justice. If you're not, please do the world a favour and DIAF.

The first strawman: No one on the pro-sharing-the-photo side is saying that anyone is a bad activist or too much of a sensitive special snowflake to look away.

The second strawman: No one actually wants to look at pictures of dead kids on their FB newsfeed, okay? No one wants to see this image. No one wants kids to die.

I managed to find the post with all of the dead kid pictures, remove the thumbnail, and share. It took me about ten minutes to decide whether I should and then figure out how to remove a thumbnail on FB's newest redesign. I personally believe these photos should be seen. I am also aware that they're horrible to look at, and I don't want to see them, and they make me cry. I don't want to trigger anyone.

I posted a second article from the photographer that included a thumbnail with a less graphic photo. That was all last night.

This morning several of my friends posted that they would unfriend anyone who posted the dead kid pictures. Okay. Several other of my friends posted the dead kid pictures. Statistically, if you're interested, 100% of the people I saw write against posting were white Canadians. All of them were parents. Many of the people who posted the photos were people I knew from migrant justice activism and a few of them are Syrian. One of the latter commented on the irony of white Westerners ignoring all the Syrian toddlers butchered by Assad, which is a fair point. Some were parents, some were not. All of the people in this discussion, on both sides, are people that I respect and whose opinions I respect.

(By this afternoon, everyone had moved on to talking about Canada's culpability; the children and their mother would be alive if the Tory government hadn't refused their application for refugee status. The social media cycle is short like that.)

For years, involved in Palestine solidarity and anti-war activism, I posted dead kid pictures, thinking that they would shock the apathetic into action. Then I stopped, because I felt it was disrespectful to the dead and their families, and because I think we get desensitized to pictures of dead bodies. I think the global reaction to the pictures of little Aylan Kurdi illustrates the importance of these images, no matter how horrible it is to look.

A few points of discussion:

Consent of the family: This is the single most important question. Until this afternoon, we didn't know whether Aylan's family wanted the photo of his corpse to be shown. Now we know. The father, who has suffered the worst a person can suffer, wants his child to be a symbol of the refugees' plight. He wants this to be seen.

The feelings of the community: How do these images represent the lives of people in the broader community? I'm not Syrian; when I posted the pictures, I was taking the lead from people more directly involved than I am.

On that note: A friend pointed out, rightly so, that we never see the bodies of dead white children. (I'm not sure if that's entirely true; we certainly did in the Sandy Hook massacre and the Oklahoma City bombing.) It's only black and brown bodies that are reduced to the moments of their deaths rather than to their lives.

The feelings of victims of trauma: The parent who's lost a child, for example, or the survivor of a war zone. That's why I don't think these photos should be forced on anyone (other than Tories, who deserved to have it shoved in their faces). LJ and Tumblr have mechanisms built in to prevent people from being triggered; FB is of course terrible at it. But this deserves consideration, of course.

Bottom line is that these images getting out has already had an impact. The atrocity stares you right in the face. It makes the Conservative politicians responsible duck for cover, at least for a few minutes. It shakes up the apathetic. Which is why I think they need to be seen. Otherwise, little Aylan is just another statistic; after all, don't brown kids always die in large numbers?

Images have power. I can't say why one has more than another—my Syrian friends have been posting horrific images of dead children for years, with little noise generated outside their community—why this one has the potential to topple governments and maybe even save lives.

This is why, personally, I can't look away.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (eat flaming death)
I keep having thoughts about the Michael Moore/Seth Rogen/Clint Eastwood/loads of even stupider people thing, and what its implications are in terms of free expression. Which I resent, as I try very hard not to think about most of these people at all.

The short version of this story is that Clint Eastwood made what looks like a very slick movie based on a book written by a murderous pathological liar. I haven't seen the movie. I'm semi-planning a viewing party if I can get a good torrent of it and reviewing it on this blog, but there's no way I'm going to pay for something that's going to give me a headache. But my issue has very little to do with whether American Sniper is a good movie or not. It might be—I'm too much of a Sergio Leone fangirl to discount Eastwood's contribution to cinema—but that isn't the point. The point is when Seth Rogen and Michael Moore, both film professionals, went on Twitter to criticize it, they got an avalanche of shit in response that forced them to retract—er, clarify—their positions.

I find this fascinating.

Let's cycle back a few weeks ago, when we were all Charlie, and freedom of expression was supreme. Did you lose friends in a Charlie-based debate? I sure did. Some of my points have been vindicated, in that the result of Je Suis Charlie is that the rights of white men to say whatever racist shit they like has been confirmed by the international community as sacrosanct, whereas anyone else's tasteless and shitty attempts at satire are grounds for arrest. So the freedom to be an offensive asswipe (or to not engage in collective gestures of national mourning) is, far from being a universal value, largely contingent on skin colour, much like every other freedom under a white supremacist system. Quelle surprise.

Digression: I'm not a free-speech absolutist—few people are, when you take free speech absolutism to its logical, fire-in-a-crowded-theatre conclusion. One must have certain societal safeguards in place. Hate speech contributing to a culture of persecution is one such logical limit—but, naturally, works poorly as a law, since those in charge of enforcing it are generally on the winning side of said culture, so this limit is best enforced by pieing, egging, and public humiliation (not, however, by murder. At most, several months hard labour in gulag.). Presenting false information as fact is another limit; otherwise you end up with FOX News blatantly making stuff up, and large numbers of people believing it, which is a tangibly bad thing to happen to a civilization.

Why am I talking about Charlie again, when I promised not to? Because this new construction of free speech, which is in no way new, has an interesting twist. Previously, you had the right to say whatever (as long as you were a white man). Now, you are free to say whatever (as long as you are a white man, and you are offending the correct people)...and no one else has the right to say you suck for doing so.

Let's break it down. We know what free speech legally means in most of the Western world: It means that the government cannot break down your door and arrest you for publishing something. That's a pretty good rule. On a more informal basis, we can extend it to the right to not be killed by extra-legal actors, such as idiot terrorists, for publishing something. Most people can get behind that.

But we also know what free speech means on the internet. It means that I can't be banned from your journal for responding to your post entirely with pages and pages of pornographic ASCII* because I disagree with your opinion on MRA, because if you ban me, you are censoring me. It means that you can't say that Charlie Hebdo is racist and unfunny, because if you do, you're against free speech and pro-terrorism and insufficiently European. It means that you don't get to block your aunt on Facebook after she forwarded you that anti-vax propaganda. It means that all speech, no matter how offensive, wrong, or sub-literate, is absolutely equal in value and deserving to be heard.

The result of this confusion over what freedom of expression actually is and is not is twofold. First, Jenny McCarthy's opinion on vaccinations is allowed to occupy the same space in the public discourse as that of actual doctors with medical degrees. Second, it becomes taboo to criticize, because criticism is equated with censorship. Saying that something is balls is equivalent, in today's parlance, of saying that you think it shouldn't have been made and want to silence the person who made it forever.

Which brings me, via a roundabout route, back to American Sniper.

What Michael Moore said is that snipers are cowards. What Seth Rogen said was that the movie reminded him of that bit with the Nazi propaganda movie about the sniper in Inglourious Basterds. (I find the latter comparison insulting, as I suspect Tarantino shits out better movies than Rogen, Moore, or Eastwood-as-a-director could ever hope to make, but I'll admit that my bias is towards movies that I actually find entertaining.) Both are fair statements well within the tradition of film criticism.

In fact, the very point of film criticism is for someone who knows a lot about film to take a giant shit over someone who has just made a film. This is a fine tradition, and there are many shining, hilarious examples of critics utterly destroying an awful movie that reinforced cultural hegemony and thus was wildly popular, such as Zizek's takedown of Avatar or Kermode savaging Sex In the City II. One would think that film criticism—in this case, the critique of a film made by a white man by other white men—would fall squarely into the realm of Culturally Approved Free Speech.

But. It ignited a Twitterstorm. It became a Thing that I had to read about in the Real News. Apparently it was such a controversy that both filmmakers had to step back from their initial statements and say positive things about the film, like they liked Cooper's acting or they enjoyed the movie.

This is not film criticism. This is kindergarten, "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything," no fee-fees allowed to be hurt bullshit. And I find it deeply disturbing, chilling, because the freedom to critique is all about the freedom to question, and in order to maintain some sort of justice or equilibrium in a culture where anything can get said, you must also have a culture where anything that gets said can be questioned. Obviously, we've never really had that, but we've also historically had gatekeepers. Now it's all about the loudest, richest voices, and if people out there are loud and rich enough to force loud, rich Seth Rogen to back down on a tweet, what hope is there for anyone marginalized ever getting a say?

* Why did you click that? You know better. You know what I'm like.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (eat your ballot)
This link, brought to my attention via [ profile] ed_rex, is worth a read. It's a comparison between the spending patterns of ostensibly "conservative" versus "liberal"* governments that gives lie to the popular conception of thrifty conservatives and tax-and-spend liberals.

Check out those bar graphs being essentially the same. Now, granted, there is not much difference between the Liberal Party and the CCRAP Party. We're not talking about a vast, insurmountable canyon between left and right. Stephen Harper consumes more kittens and Justin Trudeau had better hair until he cut it off, but those are social differences, not economic ones. Their economic policy was more or less the same last time I checked. If your average Canadian understood the slightest thing about economics** we could stay warm during polar vortex season with the sheer heat of all the collective anger that it would generate. But. Math is hard, let's go shopping, only we can't go shopping because the minimum wage hasn't kept up with the cost of living and the only jobs available now are minimum wage retail and food service that you were told you need to go to university if you didn't want to do all your life, and if you want them, prepare to stand in line to apply along with everyone else with a Masters degree.


So-called moderate Canadians love to think of themselves as socially liberal and fiscally conservative, with absolutely no clue as to why they want to be fiscally conservative. (Hint: It comes down to a fundamental misunderstanding about economics wherein the model of a private family that must budget and avoid falling into debt is expanded to somehow apply to a city, or a province, or a country, or even an entire planet. But it does not actually work that way. While no one likes the idea of wasting money, thriftiness is not necessarily a virtue when one is trying to, say, maintain highway infrastructure.)

The great lie at the heart of the austerity agenda is that it works. Tighten your belt, don't buy that big screen TV, and later on you can afford to buy a nice car. It might be tolerable to cause suffering, to siphon wealth from the poorest people to the richest, if in the end everyone benefited. (Just kidding. It wouldn't. Bear with me for a second, though.) If slashing environmental regulations and corporate tax actually created jobs, though, would we not have full employment by now? Because governments have been pursuing these policies for practically my entire lifetime, and yet the unemployment rate keeps increasing. We've "recovered" from the Great Recession but the vast majority of people I know—who are among the most privileged people—are still economically precarious. And, surprise surprise, after all that, all of the wealth has still ended up at the top. It's like someone planned it this way.

Which is basically why I want to scream every time someone promotes the myth of fiscal conservatism, because it's just not true. It's just that conservative governments waste money on different things, things that don't actually benefit anyone other than their cronies. Fiscal conservatives like to think of themselves as high-minded, tough but fair, without any sort of understanding or comprehension of the violence brought about by a cut-cut-cut mentality (or the fact that, in the end, absolutely no money is saved, and wealth is just transferred along to the elites).

One of my FB friends loves mayoral candidate John Tory. Like, loves him. Makes borderline homoerotic posts about him every day. It's weird. I see nothing in John Tory to inspire any sort of passion—he's run-of-the-mill fiscal conservative who comes off as more sensible than Ford, but that doesn't say much. You can at least get passionate about Ford, even if, as in my case, it's passionate hatred. Tory's milquetoast, but the harm that such a man can do when given power, when it comes to vital social services relied upon by the most vulnerable populations, is immeasurable. And yet he appeals to moderates because moderates have never thought about why they're moderates.

When you take the food out of the mouths of poor people, you create a cycle of poverty that, as class stratification increases, becomes impossible to escape. When you cut transit, you kill cities. When you drain the lifeblood from schools and libraries, you condemn generations to ignorance. When you gut environmental, labour, and safety regulation, you trash the earth and destroy lives. This is not a moderate position, nor is it "tough but fair." It's extremist. Brutal. Today, I woke up to a story about a fire in a seniors' home in Quebec that killed 32 people. There were no sprinklers in the home, but it still passed provincial safety inspections. They were comparing this tragedy to the train derailment in Lac-Mégantic, which killed 47 people and is still under investigation. Again, cutbacks and lax regulation may have been a factor. There is actually a reason we pay taxes and have governments.

And that is the triumph of conservatism, as it's convinced most of the world (at least the bit that votes) that this constant squeeze, for no payoff for you or anyone you know, is normal. You shouldn't think about it. Be grateful if you save a few pennies in taxes, even as you earn less and spend more for everything else. There Is No Alternative.

* Scare quotes because the economic policies of every mainstream party in North America (I can't speak for other regions) is what we might have, in previous generations, considered conservative. Even the NDP's leadership, if not its rank-and-file, has swallowed the Washington Consensus Kool-Aid with the enthusiasm of a porn star in a bukkake video, despite its myriad observable failures.

** Disclaimer: Beyond having a dilettante's interest in these matters and having slogged through Volume 1 of Das Kapital, I have no background in economics.
sabotabby: (books!)
Got a good kick out of this opinion piece, which argues that the problem with YA lit these days is that the boys are just too perfect. There is much handwringing about where this leaves poor actual adolescent boys with their bad teeth and acne and how they will have poor self-esteem because they can never measure up to dreamy Edward.


Best quote:
I can't help but wonder how I would take it if things were reversed - if male protagonists were always shown to fall for beautiful, fun, witty, confident, wealthy, kind girl-gamers, and men began expecting the same in real life. Surely, we'd crush their unrealistic expectations immediately.

You mean like every single piece of media out there?

This counterpoint is closer to reality (actually, there are a lot of less-than-physically perfect boys in YA literature) but fails to really skewer what is wrong with the first article.

First of all, the original article is talking about a problem that literally does not exist. I know a lot of teenage boys. I imagine that I know many more teenage boys (and girls) than Woodrow-Hill does, though maybe her regular job is as a high school teacher too. Not one of them has ever expressed self-esteem issues around a failure to measure up to fictional characters who serve as fantasy objects for teenage girls. Muscle-bound athletes, maybe. Sparkly vampires? Of all the boys I've taught, a grand total of two have ever copped to reading Twilight (I poll them every year; it's curriculum-related) and barely any will cop to reading anything, let alone YA books that are aimed at a primarily female audience.

Second, I know a lot of teenage girls too. You may be surprised to know this but they are, by and large, not stupid. Especially the ones who read. They can differentiate between fantasy and reality. Also, if they hold dudes to a slightly higher standard as the result of fiction (which is nothing new; a childhood infatuation with the Fourth Doctor left me with impossible standards. Also strange standards) and don't just get with the first mouth breather who snaps their bra strap because they think no one will ever love them—um, that's a good thing, right? We don't want teenage girls to date just anyone because they're afraid of being alone.

Other problems:

1) Let's talk about how fiction aimed at women is disproportionately demonized in the public discourse for its fetishization of male characters. The reverse is not true. Countless books, movies, and telly aimed at a male audience objectify women and place them on a pedestal, and few are mocked for it the way, say, Twilight or Fifty Shades of Grey are mocked for it. Yes, those books are execrable for a variety of reasons. But compare to, say, the Transformers movies, which are also terrible. The latter are rightly criticized but don't attract the sort of tittering that the former two do. Plenty of creepy middle-aged men watched those movies and drooled over scantily-clad Megan Fox, but we don't see concern trolling articles about them the way we did about TwiMoms or housewives who buy e-readers so that they can secretly read shitty BDSM porn.

I honestly don't see the appeal in 90% of fictional perfect-type dudes (I mean, I get fetishizing fictional characters in general, but the ones described as flawless are typically boring to read about and/or watch), but let the ladies have our wank fantasies, okay?

2) I can name far more fictional examples of pudgy, old, and/or balding dudes getting with gorgeous ladies than I can name examples of pudgy, old, or less-than-perfectly symmetrical ladies getting with smoking hot dudes. It may be that I don't read romance fiction or much YA, and largely read fiction that's aimed at a male audience, but I still think I'm right. Extend that to TV and movies and you barely see women who aren't conventionally attractive at all.

3) If we are going to talk about how dudes with acne are underrepresented in YA literature, can we maybe talk about the underrepresentation of everyone who isn't a straight, white, middle-class, cisgendered person in YA literature? Because that is a much bigger problem.

4) Even when female characters are "flawed," it's usually not in a way that is recognizable to actual women. Bella isn't plain and overweight; she's too thin (but not athletic), too pale, and adorably clumsy. There aren't many YA female protagonists with love handles and acne.

5) God, not everything is about boys and their self-esteem. Boys have enough self-esteem. Too much, sometimes.

6) Edward is really not that dreamy. Most teenage girls I know are Team Jacob. (Or were; they're on to something new now.)
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (bat country)
The internets, and my little corner of it, are full of big-hearted liberals professing concern for the health and welfare of our Honourable Wife-Beating, Crack-Smoking, I-Did-It-In-A-Drunken-Stupor Mayor. Yes, there's a fair amount of schadenfreude among my friends and to some degree among the media, but the heartfelt pleas for him to "get the help he needs" and all the bleeding-heart sympathy for his addiction problems actually do seem to predominate. Maybe that's why he's had a bump in the polls (as opposed to his usual bumps of coke); people feel sorry for his teary addict routine. At the heart of this loud-mouthed, sexist, racist, homophobic, austerity-pushing pig-rapist is a broken man. Pity him.

I don't.

And let me be clear: I believe that drug addiction is a health issue, not a criminal issue. I believe in the decriminalization of all drugs, including crack. I do not believe that addiction is a choice per se.

However, I also believe that the addict has agency, and that addiction can spiral well beyond the life of the individual afflicted and destroy the lives of others, and to that extent, an addict must be responsible for him or herself. Addiction isn't an excuse. Plenty of addicts live lives of quiet desperation, damaging only themselves; the ones who use their sickness as a bludgeon against others, against their consent, bear some responsibility.

Amidst all the public concern for the Laughable Bumblefuck on the part of the chattering class, I hear little concern for his wife and kids, and their physical and emotional safety. We know he's assaulted his wife. I can't imagine that his kids will grow up undamaged. Where's the sympathy for them?

Amidst all the wishes that he would get the help he needs, where are those volunteering to help addicts who are less white, less rich, less famous? The ones that Ford blocked harm-reduction initiatives for, the ones he suggested dry out in a jail cell, the ones he wanted to run out of town? When are they going to get the help they need?

What about the city? The kids in Scarborough who, because he's run the city for the past three years in a drunken stupor, are still cut off from educational, work, and recreational possibilities because he blocked the expansion of a functional transit system? The working poor who need affordable housing, the destitute who need shelters? Where's the sympathy for all the ordinary people he's fucked over?

Addiction's a tough ride no matter who you are, but Ford is a man who's had literally every possible privilege handed to him and every chance to get clean. He's insanely rich, politically connected, white, male, and heterosexual. If a guy like that can't get his shit together and check into a rehab, fuck him. Even if he did, fuck him anyway. Sobering up is unlikely to make him less of a jizzbag. I work with people who came to this country with nothing, who've had to scramble up to barely surviving and get shat on by the SUN for doing so, and the most out-of-control violent gangbangers I've ever met have destroyed fewer lives than this piece of shit.

At the risk of getting personal, I've been at the receiving end of someone else's drug addiction. Multiple times, actually. It's not pretty. It's not a victimless crime. I see my own experience writ large and ugly and all the guilty mushy liberals praying for his recovery.

All of Toronto is Ford's battered spouse, begging him to get help when we should be booting him in the ass. Let him dry out in a jail cell. Let him beg for change in a cardboard box. We owe every single junkie and dealer and petty thug in Toronto our sympathy and aid before we throw one iota of it in Ford's direction.

Let him destroy himself. The world will be a better place.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (learn2grammar)
I'm very much on the go today (and all weekend, argh) so here are two rantlets with accompanying links that have little in common beyond being about phrases I hate.

Broken homes

In the midst of an otherwise quite good "don't pick on teachers" editorial, Peter Mansbridge says:
We send teachers children from broken homes, from abusive homes, from negligent homes. We send teachers children from homes where both parents work, or where the only parent works, or where no parent works.

Which reminds me that I don't think I've ever ranted about how much I hate the term "broken home."

I was one of those pitiable children who came from a broken home—and, as a bonus, a home in which the only parent worked. (A trifecta, even; I have some memories of coming home from school when said parent worked late, making me—at least according to the media, a "latchkey kid, raised by the television." Woe is me!) In fairness, up until I was a certain age, one could conceivably call my home "broken." I'd argue that my parents' separation and later divorce fixed that rather handily, however; my home was certainly a better place to be with a single parent than it was with a traditional nuclear family.

The divorce rate in Canada is approximately 41%, and presumably many of them have children. For the sake of argument, let's say four in ten students I teach come from families where the parents are divorced. I'd bet you anything that those four aren't the ones causing trouble. As much wailing and moaning as there is about absent fathers and such*, of the children I've taught who experience some form of abuse that I know about (i.e., Children's Aid was involved in some way), all but two experienced that abuse at the hands of a father or step-father. So—whose homes are "broken" again?

Can we have a moratorium on "broken home" and "single-parent family" being shorthand for "troubled kid"? It's sexist and heterocentric (after all, it assumes the supremacy of the nuclear family) and obscures the very real problems of high unemployment, poverty, ableism, and marginalization that are typically behind the failure of kids to thrive in school.

Creative class

Looks like this one's been dealt the death blow by the man who coined it in the first place, Richard Florida. The article has its problems (the author is way too gleeful, for one thing, though that's not surprising given what a douchenozzle Florida is), and stops well short of proposing workable solutions. But it's nice to finally see an admission of the failure of what's basically polite class warfare.

So beyond the obvious—an influx of artsy young professionals with no kids does not a thriving urban centre make—let's examine the assumptions inherent in the term itself. Are working class people not creative? Are there significant numbers of people who can earn a living through "creativity" without either being supported by their upper class parents or working as a barista at Starbucks? Is the separation of this group of people into a single city or neighbourhood a desirable outcome?

It's dumb enough that Florida said it in the first place, and even dumber that it's spawned a culture of TED Talks and institutional conferences that take the existence of something called a "creative class" as a given. I should hope that this foolishness will stop now that he's admitted it's bunk.

* This usually comes with a big helping of coded racism as well: If black fathers would only stick around, black boys wouldn't join gangs or something.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (Jenny Sparks)
Interesting discussion on FB that started from me posting that link to Alex Jones losing his shit (watch it if you haven't already; it's hilarious) and suddenly became about something else. It's old meme in anarchism to declare oneself off the left/right spectrum (no; anarchists are at the extreme of one end or the other), and of course that gets picked up by other Folks With Opinions, most notably many of the Occupy-related groups.

And it is this idea, that one is somehow above the old divisions, that allows whackjobs like Jones and the Truthers to slip into the discourse, muddying the waters with a toxic mixture of paranoia, anti-Semitism, and general asshaberdashery. They proclaim themselves part of the 99%, the champions of the proverbial little guy, even anti-corporate, while the vision they present is some sort of Mad Max libertarian dystopia with every man for himself (women are out of sight; probably making babies because you need a certain amount of civilization to make birth control happen).

Now, I happen to find said whackjobs highly entertaining, but I take umbrage at the suggestion that because they, perhaps, have some opinions regarding Palestine, war in the Middle East, or corporate hegemony that coincide with my own, I should therefore consider them allies and make common cause. They aren't allies; not where Jews, racialized people, women, disabled people, and queer people are concerned. I have to point this out every so often when someone on one of my mailing lists or FB feed posts InfoWars articles—even if the article itself is good, we do our own causes a great deal of harm when we promote the opinions of nasty-ass douchebags. And I find the suggestion that I should overlook the poisonous beliefs of someone like Jones because he's Speaking Truth to Power Against Our Elite Corporate Overlords.

No, sorry. The beliefs he represent are just as harmful to me personally (if not more harmful) and to people more marginalized than I am than those of the dominant right-wing. It's always straight white men who insist that he's worth hearing out, too; people more likely to survive said Mad Max scenario than I would be.

The answer, I'm afraid, is a certain level of ideological rigour and purity. Not, of course, to the point of sectarianism—I am friends with, and do political work with, a number of people with incorrect political lines—but to the point where we at least exclude the voices of people who are fucking idiots and make us look bad. And it means declaring for yourself a position on the left-right spectrum. You are not above it, you are not beyond it, you can certainly explore its nuances and flaws, but you must engage with it.

At any rate, I hope that Jones' latest outburst will help the less discriminating among us on the left to be, well, a bit more discriminating in our choice of information sources.
sabotabby: (teacher lady)

It takes a certain sort of either courage or stupidity to post one's abysmal report card. I suspect, in DiManno's case, it's more the latter than the former. Like many of my students, DiManno is eager to assign blame to anyone other than herself for her various failures. "The teacher failed me!" she whines, expecting sympathy. "It's not that I'm easily distracted, it's that I'm boooooored."

This intellectual laziness is abundant in most of DiManno's columns. She's the adult version of the child who proudly declares that she never reads books, the special snowflake who raises her hand in class just for the purpose of hearing her own voice, regardless of whether she's done her homework (and she rarely, if ever, does her homework).

If she'd bothered to do some of the background reading rather than simply spewing out a column about how much she hates teachers, she might know that teachers today are told by the administration to choose from pre-packaged report card comments written in educationese that is largely incomprehensible, particularly to parents whose English is less than fluent. A one-line comment written by a teacher is likely to be much more useful and comprehensible. Withdrawal from voluntary extracurricular activities is just that: Some volunteers (not many, by the way) are choosing not to volunteer right now, and they have every right to do that. Voluntary doesn't need scare-quotes; I choose to spend my time at lunch and after school enriching the students' educational experience, but I don't get paid for it and it's not part of my job description. She would know that Ontario's education system, post-Harris years, is considered an international model because government and school boards have viewed teachers and teachers' unions are partners rather than adversaries, and yes, because teachers here get paid more than they do in underfunded, underperforming U.S. schools. And she would know that the reason we've gone "ballistic" is because Bill 115 illegally takes away our basic rights as workers.

But DiManno admits that she has problems in math (which might be why her argument for austerity measures leaves a lot to be desired) and it's clear that she has problems with reading comprehension and concentration, and so she would prefer, like so many in the media, to demonize an entire profession rather than to actually educate herself on the issues.

sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (hellraiser kitty)

Though it was written awhile ago, this article on non-survivor privilege is making the rounds on FB today. It horrifies me to think that there are families and supposed friends who pull this kind of shit, but yes, it happens, and I understand that it happens quite a bit. I've seen it happen in communities that I've been a part of, where cohesion and harmony became more important than the wellbeing of survivors.

Not to disability-jack an article on an entirely different sort of privilege, but it really did remind me of living with a disability/chronic/terminal illness. The first duty of the invalid is not to look after her own health, but to ensure that no one around her is inconvenienced by her condition or made to feel uncomfortable by being reminded that not everyone is in perfect health, that bodies fail, and that eventually we all die.

"You're exaggerating, you bitter crip! No one is actually making these demands; you're just imagining it!"

I can't count the number of times these demands have been made on me. It's everything from the "oh God, I don't want to hear about this" face when I'm too tired to lie about how I'm feeling, to the times people have explicitly told me that they don't want to hear about it, to the constant efforts of everyone around me to minimize what I'm going through. It's the bike activists who cheerfully tell me that I should take up cycling because it's soooo good for me and the environment and then look aghast when I tell them that my spine is brittle and if I fall, I die. It's the people at work who, when I quite bluntly say that there is no guarantee whatsoever that I'll recover or ever lead a normal life, reassure me that this is impossible. But it's not reassurance. It's silencing, an attack on my lived experience as a person inhabiting a failing body.

You can't turn disability off, any more than you can turn trauma off, or gender, or skin colour, or sexual orientation. It colours every aspect of your interaction with internal and external realities. It's an added burden to have to lie about it for the sake of other people's comfort, to not greet every, "How are you this fine morning?" with, "well, I'm still tired and I'm still in pain and I'm still terrified about the future." I get it. It's not the nicest thing to be in close proximity to a negative person. You want to shine a bright light on his negativity to make those bad-feelings cockroaches scuttle the fuck back under the rug. But it doesn't work like that.

Part of why I'm so bitter is knowing that in all certainty, I will never have the feeling of a pain-free body, never ride a bicycle, never skateboard, ever again, that there's a good chance that I won't live out my natural lifespan, that even if the tumor is removed, there will always, until I die, be a strong chance of a recurrence. But I'm also bitter because it's exhausting to be around people who demand that I lie to them and tell them that everything will be okay even when I know it won't be. Our entire culture buys into the myth that anything is possible with a can-do attitude with no acknowledgment that certain groups of people are automatically excluded from this truism, and that they are in fact tangibly hurt by its existence.

So got that, non-survivors? Don't ask survivors to lie to you. Able-bodied people? Don't ask disabled people to lie to you. It's not rocket science, but it can sure as fuck make the world a better place.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (science vs religion)
So Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, died today. In a startling coincidence, this was the day everyone in my class had to do their presentations on various habits (they were actually pretty funny because my classmates are cool, but I think the book is bollocks).

One thing that struck me is how often that book, which is ostensibly about leadership and management, segues into religious claptrap. Same with most self-help books, even some of the better ones I've encountered. Of course, they don't call it "religious claptrap." They call it spirituality.*

Everyone, I am told, is spiritual.

No offense to people who are religious, but this one grates. Big time. Especially because "spirituality" outside of the context of New Age nonsense almost always means "Christianity, but we don't want to alienate Jews who might want to buy our book." In this case, there are direct references to "your church" and "reading scriptures," which is pretty specific to one religion that happens to be the dominant one in this part of the world. It's another way that non-Christians and non-theists are erased: "Oh, 'church' could mean 'synagogue' or 'mosque' too! Oh? You don't go to either of those? Well, walk through Nature-with-a-capital-N to renew your spirit. Everyone is spiritual."

Nope. I'm not. I'm completely grounded in the material world. I don't believe in a God, or gods, or fairies in the garden, and haven't since I was a wee child. That's cool if you do, but your assumption that my experience is just an exotic variation of your own is annoying as all fuck. I've never had any sort of religious experience, and it's pretty hard for me to comprehend how people can have religious experiences; I imagine the reverse is just as alien.

I've often been told–and it's generally meant as a compliment—"[ profile] sabotabby isn't religious, but she's one of the most spiritual people I've ever met." Which, yes, is also pretty offensive, and untrue. It makes me think that people just think that I'm lying when I tell them about my beliefs. I think maybe they mean "ethical," maybe, but again, the conflation of ethics with belief in the supernatural is problematic. I do the stuff that I do because I believe that there's no afterlife, no judgment, no punishment, and no reward. Because the here and now is all that matters. To suggest that I'm an activist because subconsciously I'm doing what someone's God wants me to do is to negate my agency as a human being.

To be told that my spiritual wellbeing is an essential part of my fulfillment as a person is to tell me that I'll never be fulfilled as a human being. Fullstop. That's okay, I guess. I might be happier if I were religious, but then, I'd also be happier if I were a billionaire, but we live with our limitations. The problem is I don't think it's actually true. I suspect that religious people live with the same kind of gnawing doubts and empty spaces as atheists do, get just as terrified when their relatives die or when their bodies fail, are just as awful when they get into positions of power and responsibility, and so on. It would be like me suggesting that everyone should be politically involved; that if you're not out on the streets marching with signs, you're neglecting a vital part of your personhood. It's something that I'm into, a lot, but I don't think you're lying to yourself if you're not into it. You probably find it as boring as I find Nature-with-a-capital-N.

So that's my rant for the day. If you should happen to find the phrase, "everyone is spiritual in their own way" bubbling up in your head, clamp a lid on that baby and I'll be quiet about the opiate-of-the-masses thing.

* It's been awhile since my rant about how I respect religious fundamentalists more than cafeteria New Agers, but I'm sure I don't need to go into it again. Right?
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (pretty princess party)
So there have been not one, but two Nice Guy posts on The Face. This is rare for me, because my Face list is pretty small. I don't have a lot of relatives and old friends from high school—you know, the people who normally post right-wing shit and racist forwards—so I get in comparatively few flamewars. Generally speaking, my feed is 40% far-left politics, 20% nerd shit, 10% cute animal pictures, 10% reposts from George Takei (I guess that's nerd shit, but it requires a whole other category owing to its frequency), and 20% pictures of people's kids. (I'm at that age where friends are sprogging, so right now it's like a nursery on there. Don't worry, I'm still not going to reproduce.)

Accordingly, it's surprising to see something irritating enough that I need to say something that I know is going to offend the person who said it, but I'm compelled to do so anyway because they were being Wrong on the Internet. And should know better. Lately, that something has been the revival of Nice Guy Talk.

a tired rant, but apparently it needs to be hauled out again )
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (commiebot)
There's much to detest in the corporate culture of late-stage capitalism, but its failure on an aesthetic basis is something that really fascinates me. Driving home from Niagara-on-the-Lake—a town with some truly lovely architecture—[ profile] bcholmes and I passed a rather fascinating building. I wish I'd snapped a picture because there's no way I can adequately describe how ugly this building was. It was this sprawling complex with a green roof—not green as in full of plants or carrying an aged patina, but a deliberately bright green roof meant to evoke an aged patina, kind of. Because aged patinas are stately and sophisticated, even when rendered in plastic. It was impossible, at a glance, to look at this building and determine its intended use. It looked halfway between a mega-church and a shopping mall (as I put it, "a perfect symbol for our age") and fully hideous.

I'm currently reading (for class, obviously) Steven R. Covey's The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, and given how vigorously this book is pushed in our education system, it's a goddamned miracle that I haven't had to read it until now. I'm finding it impenetrable. I say this as someone whose favourite author is James Joyce. But I can't read this. My eyes skim over and bounce off of the page like pebbles on the surface of a lake. There's nothing to grasp on to, just made-up businesspeak and mangled prose. My assigned chapter begins with a quote from Bush and, early on, hits the reader with this abortion of a sentence: "Synergy is the essence of Principle-Centered Leadership."

That is not writing. Someone swallowed jargon and vomited it all over a page, and then a publisher published it because that's how so many people speak (and think) these days.

I'm reminded of the contrast between the writing just before and in the early stages of the Russian Revolution, and the clunky, bureaucratic, heavily stylized prose that followed when Stalin came to power.* This shift is, of course, mirrored in the visual; think of the two impossible architectural projects, Monument to the Third International and Palace of the Soviets. You don't need to know anything about Soviet history to guess which one was designed right before purges were about to happen.

I'm no religious sort, but I remember hearing something—probably from an art history prof—that really stuck in my head about how, at one point in Western history, the tallest and grandest buildings were churches, and now they're bank towers. Think of the Gothic cathedral and the mosque versus the big glass box. Today, we can barely imagine what an inspiring building ought to look like; the best we can do is crumple up a piece of paper and call it architecture.

It's the same with prose. We're trained to believe that graceless, clunky writing with a maximum number of "impactfuls" and "bottom-linings" thrown in will somehow make us better, effective people. I don't think it does. The worst thing about aesthetics is that they come out of nurture, not nature, so if you're trained to think via ungainly prose, your very thoughts become ungainly over time. Remember, the people who crashed the economy were all about synergy.

I don't, of course, expect that every book be written in clear, graceful language, any more than I expect every building to be beautiful. But I do wonder why we promote rather than bury this sort of aesthetic. It says something ugly about our culture. How do you inspire anyone to believe in anything with buildings, and books, like these.

(Shorter [ profile] sabotabby: But I don't wanna do my homework.)

* The best analysis of how and why this happened that I've come across can be found in Alexei Yurchak's Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More: The Last Soviet Generation. Highly recommended.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (fuck patriarchy)
Via [ profile] fengi: New Tomb Raider prequel gives us Lara Croft's backstory, and surprise! It's rape!

Because there was clearly a shortage of Strong Female CharactersTM whose backstory involves rape.

I've never played Tomb Raider, but I do appreciate the character a bit. Yes, she's fanservice, but she's also fun. She gets to run around and do stuff, and, sad to say, there are still very few female characters in mass culture who get to run around and do stuff in a traditionally male dominated field simply because it's fun. I don't even see why she needs a backstory, any more than the backstory we get for Indiana Jones (difficult relationship with father, snake trauma, moving on to the adventures now). Lara Croft is basically Indiana Jones with boobs, and that's just fine, really.

But enough with that. On to the justifications!

Rosenberg brings up Die Hard, another movie where we begin a relationship with a human, vulnerable character and through an intense experience he emerges as a hero. It was important to show her as an innocent, vulnerable character at the beginning of the game. “People really identify with that,” Rosenberg said.

Right. I forgot the bit where John McClane gets raped, despite having seen Die Hard more times than I can count. Maybe because John McClane doesn't need a rapey backstory to be seen as a hero or for the audience to identify with him.

“I would say that the outcome is closer to something like Batman Begins or Casino Royale, where the character at the end is certainly Batman or James Bond, but not necessarily the one from before,” he said.

You know what else I missed? The part where Bruce Wayne gets raped. James Bond got some electrodes to the balls if I remember correctly, but I don't think he got raped either. And somehow they both managed to become kickass without a rapey backstory. In fact, I can't think of a single male pop culture character whose backstory involves rape. But pick a Strong Female CharacterTM, any Strong Female CharacterTM, and someone's gotten rapey with her somewhere. Because obviously no woman can be Strong without trauma in her background, and there is no trauma but rape.

I didn't read the comments but I bet they're full of neckbeards defending this, er, creative decision. Am I right?

ETA: A couple of you raised a good point, which is that most women experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetimes, and why should SFC be exceptions? My objection to this line of reasoning:

1) My problem is not with saying that rape happens (otherwise I wouldn't be hugely obsessed with Game of Thrones right now), it's with rape as a motivating factor. I spent a miserably large percentage of my early adolescence being groped by horny boys on the playground. This did not make me into a superhero. It made me self-conscious about my developing body.

2) As a motivation, rape is incredibly cliché. Want to create a heroine? Can't she be motivated by, I don't know, concern for poor people being forced out of their homes because of gentrification? Or maybe she's a fangirl who wants desperately to be a superhero, so she deliberately alters her body until she has incredible abilities (okay, this idea was already used in The Authority, but I still think it's fantastic). Or, like, anything other than rape. Male heroes have all kinds of motivations, from the death of their parents by violent crime, to getting bitten by a radioactive spider, to girlfriends getting fridged, to loyalty to queen and country, to coming from a family in the hero business, to rationally thinking about it and deciding that it would be a good idea. Why can female heroes be only motivated by one thing?

3) If we're going for realism, why is it always violent stranger-rape? Most rape victims know their attacker. It's usually a family member, friend, or lover. If you want a rape story because it's realistic, maybe make the rape a bit more like what most women experience.

4) But I don't want realism because this is a videogame. Videogames are for escapism and wish fulfillment. Just like I don't want to see a movie where John McClane gets shot in the face by Hans Gruber in the first 10 minutes because that's what would happen in real life, I don't want to see the character I'm pretending to be get raped.

5) So if videogames are about wish fulfillment, then why include rape? I can only conclude that those playing aren't identifying with Lara Croft; they're identifying with her attackers and getting off on it. And that's frightening and disgusting.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (red flag over TO)
Here in Hogtown, we've had a 5-cent fee on plastic bags for a number of years. People whined and moaned about it when it was first introduced, but I think it works pretty well. It's not ideal—the money goes back into the hands of grocery stores, not to environmental initiatives—but in terms of reducing the amount of plastic bags ending up in landfills or avian intestines? It does that.

The objections are usually: "Well, I reuse them for garbage bags/cat litter/dog poop," which, yes, I do too. But amazingly, those little bags you put fruits and vegetables in? Are not subject to the fee. Those work just as well for animal poop. As for garbage bags, just how many do you need? A big box of garbage bags lasts awhile. Before the fee, I would accumulate far more plastic bags than I could ever reuse. Most people, presumably, would throw those out. The real objection is that no one likes to have to remember to bring a reusable bag to the grocery store. Except—it's not really hard to remember that. I have a small reusable bag that I carry around with me at all times and that fits nicely in my purse, and a collection of totes for more major shopping. It's not an inconvenience, I end up with less household waste overall, and in all the years we've had the bag fee, I've never once needed to pay it.

The real value in the bag fee, though, is making you aware of how much waste you produce. This is a different kind of awareness than, "Hey, it's Earth Day, let's think about the environment for a sec." This is about the cost of things—how much does plastic cost to make, how much does plastic cost to dispose of—and dinging you where you feel it every time you create unnecessary garbage. I notice, at the checkout, that people who forget their reusable bags get a bit embarrassed sometimes. It becomes frowned-upon to buy a bag. It's a tax on being absent-minded.

In other words, it's social engineering, which is one of those terms that the right likes to throw around and the left ought to reclaim. Individual consumer choices are meaningless. To be honest, I carried a reusable bag long before the ban, because, well, I'm not that lazy, and I'm not an asshole. But that's a drop in the bucket. Changing social behaviours is actually useful, and we should be looking into that.

It caused great enjoyment among many here when the Honourable Wife-Beater tried to rescind the plastic bag fee and ended up getting plastic bags banned altogether in Toronto. Of course, he blames "the people"—you know, the ones he was supposedly elected to represent—and is basically being a big baby about it. But it suggests to me that "the people" don't actually mind social engineering, or carrying reusable bags around. It's a minor inconvenience at first that leads to better behaviour. It works. (I'm not sure that an outright ban works all that well—like I said, these things have their uses. A 5-cent fee was enough to deter those who didn't really need them while allowing those who did a choice. The correct decision would be to keep the fee but make the stores donate the money to local environmental programs.)

On a similar line, I actually agree with New York's proposed municipal ban on super-sized pops. I think the "obesity epidemic" is largely created by the media and body-shaming is fascist, but I also think that ingesting huge amounts of sugary pop is bad for you, regardless of whether it makes you fat. This, too, is being called social engineering.

But! You know what else is social engineering? The fact that these portions exist in the first place. They don't exist in nature. When I was a kid, pop cans were much smaller. I could drink a whole one. Then came a larger size, because the cola companies wanted more profit. I couldn't drink one of the new ones, and there was always a bit left. But I eventually learned to consume greater and greater amounts until I could finish a whole one. I was robbed of the choice of having less sugary pop, far more than New Yorkers will be robbed of the choice to have more (after all, they can always just buy two of the smaller size!).

So why is it that we accept without blinking social engineering on the part of corporations, and balk at social engineering on the part of the state? Shouldn't we be judging these things on their effectiveness in promoting environmental stewardship, or healthy choices, or whatever they're geared towards promoting?

On a related note, this article about Home Ec is kind of neat. We do have the equivalent in high schools here, but of course it isn't mandatory and only girls take it. I'd love to see more hospitality and home economics courses, especially if it replaces the failed cafeteria model for student lunches.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (iww manifesto)
Things [ profile] sabotabby is already sick of hearing:

Which is very seldom the actual violence of the cops cracking in heads or Barrick Gold literally and figuratively raping the Third World. No, it's always, "some Black Bloc moron smashed a Starbucks, boo-hoo, violence is WRONG." I don't have a high opinion of the Black Bloc, but it's slightly higher than my opinion of people who go on about the Black Bloc as if they're the only non-electoral political force worth mentioning.

"Anarchists did/plotted/thought [insert bad thing here]"
One of these days it's actually going to be anarchists doing it. I'm pretty sure this time it was meth heads, though.

"Occupy is unfocused and has no leaders or demands."
Stop trying to make me be an anarchist again.

"Occupy is the most important political movement in the history of ever."
STFU hippie.

"Cops are people too!"
Yes, they are. Some people are assholes.

Drum circles.
Can we stop with the drum circles? I swear to God yesterday I saw a drum circle entirely composed of 18-year-old girls dressed like they were from the 60s, and I couldn't suppress a rant about how they probably were not in any way politically active before six months ago and did they go out and buy all that stuff, or was it in their closets already? And if so, how did it get there? Anyway, if the Left really wants to get anywhere it must abandon drum circles. Damn kids get off my lawn.

"911 was an inside job/Obama is a Nazi Illuminati Muslim Communist NWO dupe/whatever conspiracy theory is in these days"
Thanks to Jon Ronson, I'm now more affectionately amused than irrationally irritated by conspiracy nuts. We still need to purge them though.

"Street protests don't do anything!"
Yeah, you're right. You know what's a lot more effective? Sitting on your ass, eating Cheetos, and posting to Facebook about how street protests don't do anything.

Okay, that's it for the rant. Here's how Toronto's May Day looked.


cut for big )

Shorter [ profile] sabotabby: May Day was awesome but haters gonna hate.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (pinko pie)
Eh, this is a good example of why the left always loses. At least the moderate, liberal left.

I honestly don't think there's much to analyze about the Honourable Wife-Beater. I can't empathize with people who lack empathy. I actually agree with the right in the sense that there's little room for dialogue and compromise. One side is practically the stereotype of the bomb-throwing, nihilist-anarchist*, with no ideology to speak of beyond destruction. The other wants dialogue. Guess which one will stomp all over the other?

Karen Connolly's section particularly galls me. I'm currently reading her book, and it makes me not want to finish it. Who cares if Ford diets or doesn't diet? Dieting isn't even healthy. I care that he's starving children, not what he puts in his own gaping maw

Micallef is wrong about Young and Eligible, but right about the inner suburbs, incidentally.

* No relation to actual anarchism as a political ideology, of course.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (go fuck yourself)
Being sick or incapacitated is an affront to contemporary Western civilization, dependent as it is on the myth of individualism, personal responsibility, and human progress. If you're sick, able-bodied, healthy people resent you. They may not say so out loud, but there's a dividing line, and any complaint or serious discussion of your illness will be perceived as an assault on their moral order.

Here's the thing. I'm facing health problems. That's a euphemistic way of putting it. The reality is that I am in severe pain at almost every moment of my existence. I do not sleep. I can barely eat. My pain scale, as I've said before, has become so radically readjusted that what would normally have me calling in sick to work doesn't even blip on my radar. The definition of a "good day" for me has changed so that it's no longer defined as a day where not I'm crying or screaming in agony (that's every day), but a day when the paramedics are called but I do not, in the end, need to be brought to a hospital.

My prognosis is not very good. A full recovery remains a possibility, but it is one of several possibilities, and not necessarily the most likely one. Many of the possibilities are not what I would consider compatible with my continued existence. At any rate, it's very possible that I will be sick and in pain for the rest of my life. It still remains a possibility that I may die.

I have confronted these possibilities. My kitchen floor is messed up and my front porch is strewn with possessions that I consider extraneous and offensive because I just confronted these possibilities in an incredibly visceral rage-filled sort of way. I have plans. I have plans for three weeks to live. I have plans for six months to live. I have plans for a long period of convalescence. I have plans for a life where I am condemned to continue to suffer (they are the same plans as if I have three weeks to live). As the person with a 2-3 cm tumour tunnelling into her spinal column, surrounded by the barest whisper of bone that could give way with the wrong twist or shove on a subway, I am forced, every since second of both my waking and sleeping life, to make these plans, to consider these possibilities. And yes, I have EVERY RIGHT IN THE WORLD to complain about how this is unfair and I hurt and I'm angry about it. (Angry doesn't begin to cover it. There aren't any words that quite cover the feeling of intensely wanting to punch the entire cosmos into submission until it stops moving.) But anyway. I'm acknowledging that these are Things That Can Happen. Maybe not in a healthy way, but I'm hearing them and incorporating them into my consciousness.

People in my life—present company excluded; I like LiveJournal because it's the last place on the internet where one is permitted to whine and complain—will not fucking accept this. My Facebook is full of positive comments. "So glad to hear it's probably not cancer. <3 <3 <3! :) :) :)" "You'll be back on your feet in no time." "Like!" Work is even worse. You can't say anything negative in a school. Pretty soon they'll be sending people to re-education camps for being downers. You must always smile and walk in lock-step with the goddamned Happiness Patrol. Any sign of negativity is being a "quitter," "giving up," "letting the disease win."

Maybe looking on the bright side is nice for some people. Maybe it's even comforting. If I did that, though, I'd have been even more crushed by today's news (or lack thereof) than I was going in expecting to hear bad things. While what I heard was worse than what I'd estimated, it was better than what I imagined was possible. That ability to imagine bad outcomes, and what one will do should that bad thing come to pass, is unpleasant but necessary, and I believe superior to walking around believing that the universe is somehow benevolent and will reward you for smiling brightly at it.

But positivity is mandated. I'm the one suffering, but I am obligated—commanded even—not to act like it, lest I endanger the worldview of the "everything happens for a reason" contingent. God forbid anyone be made to feel like things aren't happy all the time. Like sometimes cells mutate, and it's not because I've put magic mutating cell-vibes out to the universe or because I have bad karma but because it's a random thing that could happen to anyone. Even you.

When I was in high school, I read The Golden Bough and had a brief interest in reading anthropology books about the religious and spiritual beliefs of so-called primitive people. The idea that you could draw a bison being speared on a cave wall and it would magically happen in real life is an understandable logical leap if you don't understand anything about science. And it's not such an outdated belief, really. It's the kind of thinking that underlies The Secret, New Age cafeteria dogmas, and free market capitalism. The individual's responsibility is not to work in real-world terms for change with other, similarly-minded individuals. The individual's responsibility is to change himself first, by the power of magical positive thinking, and thus will be sending good vibes out into the universe and get good things trickling back down. It's the perfect type of thinking if you're cowering from a bear in a cave and are completely helpless in a world you don't understand, and it's the perfect type of ideology to enforce if you're trying to keep the unwashed masses under control.

Random illness, though, flies in the face of this ideology. You can search for some meaning in it, I guess, but in the end it comes down to some things just happening for no reason, and most things just not getting better, no matter how many stars you wish upon.

I'll end off this little rant with an animation that I've linked to before but continue to love. If you're one of the three people on the intertubes who hasn't watched it, check it out now. You should also totally read the book if you haven't already—among other things, Ehrenreich talks about how there's zero correlation between cancer survival rates and having an optimistic outlook. (In fact, the people who complain more frequently do better than those who don't. If I'd sucked up the pain, smiled, and hadn't complained, I wouldn't have gotten far enough to be considering treatment options at this point.)

sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (fridge)
I meant to post about this awhile ago, but let's face it—it sucks having to do all of my typing standing up. And all of my checking of e-mail standing up. And all of my reading standing up. I'm way behind on responding to a lot of things because it takes me forever to read a long post or answer an e-mail. Also, my feet hurt.

But anyway, I run into a lot of posts like this particular one and I don't feel I've ranted on it lately, so here we go:

Frugal food: 10 DIY tips to save money while eating better and healthier.

It's another rehash of the classic "LENTILLLLLLLS" flamewar: privileged people with lots of free time telling the rest of the world how to eat. There's a few dissenters in the comment section, but overall it's a circle-jerk of smug.

Now, I am pretty privileged myself, current disability status aside. I do eight out of these ten things already, and plan on doing the other two (visiting the farmer's market and starting a garden) come the spring, assuming that I am back to being able-bodied by then. But it's like the post's author and the commenters are blissfully unaware that very few people do have that sort of privilege. Issues like food deserts, water pollution, disability, and poverty seem to barely enter the conversation. If I, for example, were living in the neighbourhood in which I teach, chances are that there is not a grocery store in walking distance, and not everyone can afford a car. There certainly isn't a nearby farmer's market (and farmer's markets in Toronto tend to be far more expensive than the grocery store or the local fruit stand). Some people can't afford to buy crockpots. Many, many people don't have storage space for bulk purchases. Most people don't have any green space in which to start a garden. A good many people lucky enough to be employed are too busy to cook every night (and I am certainly one of them).

And yet, with one aside about fracking and countries without potable water, these pitfalls never even enter into the discussion. It's assumed that everyone has equal access—in my experience, even an average, middle-class person in the First World doesn't necessarily have the access the post assumes. And like practically every article about food economics and health, there's the assumption that problems are individual and can be mitigated by individual choices, rather than collective, informed by corn and meat subsidies that artificially inflate or deflate prices, poor urban planning, and economic disparity.


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