philosofunk

what if the worlds/were a series of steps/what if the steps/joined back at the margin


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Queerism and Love

Earlier in this blog I introduced a social concept I had come up with during my time studying philosophy and LGBTQ issues: queerism. As it stands, my deceleration on queerism stands as: “I believe that queerism, as opposed to feminism, is needed as a national discourse because the recognition of genders and sexes other than the male/female binary will literally, quantifiably result in less violence in our society and lead to a more authentic, liberated identity expression that is actually more in align with what is natural, contrary to how we have been conditioned to recognize as true.” I wondered back in March, though, if I couldn’t include some kind of extra theory about love into the queerist definition.

Love is perhaps the most speculated, investigated, questioned, feared, and hoped for part of human existence. The feeling of love, real love that is about knowing and accepting another person for who and what they are, is a feeling all of us are either after or in revolt against. True love, truly dedicated love can change the course of lives. Love is also not simply an easy thing despite it feeling so natural, sometimes we must be willing to make great sacrifices for love if indeed that is what we are committed to doing.

After cleaning my room recently I found a New York Times article about a pair of star-crossed lovers in Afghanistan, Zakia and Mohammad who were forced to chose between each other and the tradition of their notoriously conservative society. After choosing each other, “the young couple had faced criminal charges and death threats after eloping and fleeing their village in the high mountains of central Afghanistan last year. Now they have had their legal issues resolved and their marriage legally recognized”. Most Afghanis have arranged marriages out of respect for tradition and keeping tribal bonds strong. In order to succeed with going against the grain of their conservative society, Zakia and Mohammad had to prioritize what was most important in their lives, and they both chose each other. However, triumph did not come without tribulation. After fleeing their families and then returning to their village, Mohammad was confronted with a gun and a knife and chased through the potato fields by Zakia’s brother. They’ve faced social repercussions that have made getting work difficult, and now with a baby, receive relief from “an anonymous benefactor in the United States who had read about their plight and sent them $1,000 via Western Union to help care for their baby.”

nytimes

Zakia and Mohammad qualified under international law for refugee status in order to escape the hardship of their situation in Afghanistan, however, they chose not to go that route. People are eligible for refugee status if they face “a serious threat to their lives based on discrimination because of gender, race, religion, ethnicity, and choice of spouse”. Zakia personally experienced an extension of rape culture by her own male relatives due to choosing Mohammad, she “never goes out at all, for fear that she might encounter someone from her own large family. her fathers and brothers publicly vowed to kill her and Mohammad Ali when they eloped”. Believing the female body to be an extension of the familial bond and/or public property and therefore a necessary thing to control is a form of rape culture. That Zakia’s male relatives could chose to end her life for her pursuit of romance, love, and sexual satisfaction is a form of the control rape culture employs and encourages. Queerism by definition must fight against rape culture because rape culture presents a direct threat to trans bodies. Many people hear about transwomen being murdered because “he found out she was a he” (to say it in a disgusting heteronormative manner) at some point during courtship or sexual encounter and then, in a rage, killed another human being out of issues revolving around convoluted notions of masculinity and dominance. For many years, murderers walked free because of the “gay panic defense” or the heteronormative solipsistic defense strategy to employ as many homophobic notions concerning the idea of proper male sexual attitudes against the murder victim. Sadly, one state in the nation, California, has banned the defense in 2014. It is shocking how badly transpeople are treated by the criminal justice system, but it is only a reflection of how badly they are treated in greater society.

While not a queer relationship, Zakia and Mohammad’s tale fits within the paradigm of the need for queerism because of the issues surrounding the rules of love in their society. Two people who the world tries to keep a part for reasons of socialized rules and regulations that are only as real as people make them need queerism because by definition queerism recognizes the legitimacy of love that is not viewed as an acceptable norm or even questioned on the legitimacy of the norm. For example, how could a straight man love a transwoman while knowing that that person used to be a man? To many in the heteronormative solipsistic world, it would be a demonstration that the straight man is not as masculine as he could be, and that the transwoman will never “really” be a woman. But for people who understand queerism, they recognize that the straight man is as masculine as he ever is, and that the woman he is involved with is a woman, and that there is no problem here anyway because it really isn’t anyone’s business except the two people involved in the relationship. Queerism grants autonomy and legitimacy to all consensual adult relationships without the societal pressures of aligning with norms of that culture.

Zakia and Mohammad represent a time old conundrum of love and injustice, which is that the most perfect person for you can bring you such pleasure while only to have societal norms and cultural customs screech with indignation at the boldness of your actions. It is an unfair and harsh world. One of the only points of peace for a person is intimacy and love. Part of realizing the ugliness of the world is understanding that there are people, cultural customs, and societal norms that will stand in the way of the one universal thing that will give people comfort. Queerism stands to fight against that in whatever form it takes.

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Light Summer Reading: The Politics of Heroin

I read often and read a variety of fiction and non-fiction, it is one of my passions. Thick, juicy books are a particular favorite because of the offering that this book can take a person for a wild ride for awhile. These books also offer the feeling of a monumental achievement when they’re finally finished, and a sadness occupies the reader knowing that their book is over, the story is now known, the journey is through. This summer’s thick book selection is Alfred W. McCoy’s The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade, a thoroughly juicy book that documents the global heroin trade from the 1920s to the early 2000s. McCoy was a graduate student who compiled first hand accounts of the international heroin trade from military officers, government officials, drug dealers, drug traffickers, and other academics. It is a comprehensive and detailed work, something to be admired considering the depth and scope of the work on a particularly dangerous trade. McCoy admittedly started out somewhat naive and had to learn rapidly how to navigate the underground world of the heroin business while gathering accurate information from people who had great reason to keep their secrets private. What McCoy found was that the CIA was not only complicit, but took leadership in the opium and heroin industry on an international scale. From page xvi of the preface, McCoy writes:

By now I was certain the the CIA’s Air America was transporting opium for its Hmong hill tribe allies. I knew too that somebody in the CIA station had good reason to stop my research. After all, if it were just a matter of a few soldiers smuggling tribal opium on a few flights, why the ambush? Why the death threats? Clearly, I had to look beyond the villages to explore involvement in the upper echelons of the Lao military. One source, an American police adviser, hinted that the chief-of-staff of the Royal Lao army, General Ouane Rattikone, owned the laboratory that was producing the “Double U-O Globe” heroin brand then flooding U.S. Army camps in South Vietnam. But I needed confirmation. And it could only come from one source, General Ouane himself. 

As a result of his investigation into the CIA’s role within the global heroin trade, McCoy was harassed and the publication of his book was nearly censored by the American government:

Claiming that my book was a threat to national security, the CIA official had asked Harper & Row to suppress it. To his credit, Mr. Canfield had refused. but he had agreed to allow the agency to review the manuscript prior to publication

Defeated in the public arena, the CIA turned to covert means, tugging at every thread in the threadbare life of a graduate student. Over the coming months, CIA agents in Laos intimidated my sourced. HEW investigated my graduate school fellowship. The FBI tapped my phone. The IRS audited my poverty-level income. during these difficult days, New York Congressman Ogden Reid, a ranking member of the House Foreign Relations Committee, telephoned to say that he was sending his investigators to Laos to look into the opium situation. (xxi)

Most of the reason of CIA involvement with the international heroin trade has to do with pandering to rebels within politically volatile situations where the CIA needs to make positive relations with rebels in order to achieve American interests. For instance, in order to defeat the political reach of communism in Europe, the CIA teamed with Corsican crime syndicates who were sophisticated international heroin smugglers:

The CIA, through its contacts with the Socialist party, had sent agents and a psychological warfare team to Marseille, where they dealt directly with Corsican syndicate leaders through the Guerini brothers. The CIA’s operatives supplied arms and money to Corsican gangs for assaults on Communist picket lines and harassment of important union officials. During the month-long strike the CIA’s gangsters and the purged CRS police units murdered a number of striking workers and mauled the picket lines. (60)

The Guerinis gained enough power and status from their role in smashing the 1947 strike to emerge as the new leaders of the Corsican underworld. While the CIA was instrumental in restoring the Corsican underworld’s political influence, it was not until the 1950 dock strike that the Guerinis gained enough power to take control of the Marseille waterfront. This combination of political influence and control of the docks created the ideal environment for the growth of Marseille’s heroin laboratories-fortuitously at the same time that Mafia boss Lucky Luciano was seeking an alternative supply of heroin. (61)

The book goes on to document American involvement in the Vietnamese, Afghani, Central American, and Colombian drug trade. This clearly stands in stark contrast to American domestic and foreign policy that endorses the total and complete prohibition of narcotic substances. In order to protect capitalist interests of the first world, the CIA supported a trade that was illegal by American law. With this the theme of the book, the Kantian view of the law is extremely applicable when investigating American complicity within the international heroin trade. It is extremely disturbing that the government can operate as a completely hypocritical about as something as serious as opium and heroin. While endorsing a backwards policy of prohibition, something that serves neither the addict nor the public, the CIA has furthered a dangerous substance that needs proper regulation and restrictions in order to have a more honest view of how to police drugs in order to have an effectively functional relationship to something as dysfunctional as addiction.


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Rape in A Man’s World

We live in a patriarchal, male dominated society. This is a fact. Children typically receive the last names of their fathers, not mothers, and it is clear to anyone with eyes and a sense of reality that men are at a more advantageous position in this society (as far as I know, relatively few people lobby for the erasure of men’s reproductive rights). However, this is America, and we live better off as a whole than many, many places in the world. Indeed, from what we can gather about the state of discourse about rape and the lived reality of threats and perpetration of rape in India, there are far, far worse places for women to live.

Today I opened up Gawker.com, scrolled around, and arrived at this article, “Thousands-Large Mob Seized Prisoner Accused of Rape, Beat Him to Death”. Slightly sleepy, I thought, “Holy jesus, what the fuck is going on in India?”. There was also a piece on the New York Times about government action preventing broadcast of a documentary about gang rape, and an article on Vice.com about the denial of a visa from the Indian government for a white American woman named Sabrina Buckwalter looking to write about the reality of rape in India. “Good lord,” I thought, “I must write about this immediately”. As a Buddhist, it saddens me that the land from which the founder of my religion hails, a man named Siddhartha Gautama, is having such a disturbing problem dealing with the dark and horrific reality of rape. Two of the world’s greatest religions, Hinduism and Buddhism, come from India. I speculate this is because of the incredibly harsh nature of Indian society that has existed as long as the civilization; the incredible discrepancy between poor and rich, the decrepit nature of the slums, the generational poverty, the danger of wildlife, all of which has essentially great insight that has come from the harsh conditions humans have endured in this part of the world.

As a Buddhist, I view rape as a deplorable crime by which a person’s safety, physical integrity, relaxation of mind, and personal control is obliterated. A perpetrator of rape is a traitor of all humanity. As a woman, I live in fear of rape because I can be a victim at any age, under any circumstances, and at any time.

As an American, I am ashamed of how our country has dealt with the reality of rape. In the military, rape appears to be viewed as a perk for the men of the military and a thing to be endured by the women. In college, “date rape” is normalized, and forced unwanted sexual contact is a somewhat regular occurrence. However, there is no difference between “college rape”, “date rape”, and rape that happens in the military. For some reason, here in America, we want to differentiate degrees of rape and explain the circumstances. It is taking away a woman’s humanity and giving power to the perpetrators. The way we talk about rape here in America contributes to global rape culture.

However, it isn’t just women who are at risk for experiencing sexual assault. I was watching “Sons of Anarchy” this weekend, or the most ultimate male soap opera in the history of ass-kicking television, and the opening scene of the start of season six is a male-on male rape scene. I was not expecting this and was jolted. I found it more brutal than the scenes of rape that we are somewhat accustomed seeing on television and in movies where the victim is female. I believe that that reaction is two-fold. First, the idea of being rectally raped is absolutely horrifying for any person, male or female. I would not say that I would prefer to be raped vaginally, however, I absolutely certainly do not ever want to experience a rectal rape. Secondly, when watching a male being raped, the viewer is also watching a man’s masculinity being taken away within the context of what our society has deemed masculinity to be. In our society’s sexual narrative, men are not penetrated, they do the penetrating. This folds into the homophobic narrative of men who enjoy receiving anal sex to be feminine, not really men, or “bitches”. This view is an out and out product of rape culture, as is the idea that a raped man has lost part of his masculinity. A raped man is no less masculine than a man who has never experienced that sort of assault, however, we look at him differently afterword.

If a man looses part of his masculinity after rape, what does a woman loose? In India, a more traditionalist society than America, it can be losing a reputation of femininity and propriety, becoming reduced instead to the assault perpetrated against you. She may no longer be a woman, but instead a different being, a raped woman. In parts of the Middle East, it can mean the woman’s life. In America, it means the safety of soundness of mind because now there is a “before”, and an “after” in life.

If rape in India is so prevalent, why was this man captured from a police station, dragged into the street, and murdered? If there is so much rape in India, doesn’t that mean that rape is accepted there? No. This is another thing that I gathered from watching so much “Sons of Anarchy”. Within the world of “Sons”, there are a lot of women who choose sex work and thus are at risk for experiencing rape. The members of the Sons of Anarchy take to protecting these women and beating up the men who rape or assault them. This is because the women raped are their mothers, lovers, cousins, friends, sisters of friends, etc. They are people the men in Sons of Anarchy care about. People who systematically rape or endorse rape as a legitimate thing to do are bad people, quite simply put. Unfortunately, there can be a high concentration of very bad people in one place if the conditions are conducive to creating unstable environments leading to unstable human behavior.

Just because there are a lot of bad people in one area does not mean all the people in that area are bad.

Many people are effected when a bad thing happens to a person that is loved. When the prevalence of rape occurs, many men are effected even if they are not the ones to experience the rape. Entire families experience the pain of rape. In India, this rage caused a man to loose his life. Rape culture breeds violence because it is one of the most violent things to do to a human being.

I feel it is time for the United States to intervene in some sort of humanitarian orientated manner with regards to the problem of widespread and systematic rape in India. In terms of policy, I am unsure of what this would look like. However, in order for this to be properly achieved, the United States must get rid of it’s own rape culture thinking. The women in the military must be treated with equal respect for their service to America as the men receive, and must stop having to endure sexual assault in their workplace. College women must be viewed as sexually independent individual’s whose assaults must be taken as crimes instead of campus incidents between two or more students. People must realize that when a man is raped, he is not less masculine because of his experience.

I can only hope, as a human being, that this can happen within my lifetime.


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Is the United States Drug Policy High on Cocaine?

TV Junkie (2006) is one of the most disturbing documentaries I have ever seen in my entire life. As I have watched A Film Unfinished which features among other otherworldly documentations of human suffering, starved dead bodies being thrown into a pit, so when TV Junkie left me clutching my throat and gasping, I was surprised to saw the least. The cliche “watching a train wreck” was completely applicable. But the back story of why this documentary is more significant than Rick is what is so tragically and ironically incredible.

http://www.hulu.com/watch/569438

According to Rick, he interviewed George HW Bush about the dangers of crack cocaine and drug addiction while high on crack cocaine. This means that the white people who were importing the raw cocaine that was then distributed throughout the country, the white people who held corporate jobs and got off on being “adrenaline junkies” while outsourcing the real dangerous illegal black-market narcotics jobs to African-American inner city men (Rick attests several times to going to “the hood” to buy crack cocaine) were creating propaganda about the evils of cocaine while both personally benefiting and destroying themselves. George HW Bush is an evil man. He is a man who saw a way to manipulate a black market for his political benefit at the calculated expense of untold millions of lives and then denied justice, liberty, and freedom, and safety to humanity. Rick is not an evil man, he is human, fell victim to becoming a monstrous Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde where the overwhelming chemical dependency of cocaine distorted his character and integrity. While interviewing the very man who controlled The United States of America, who secretly was importing cocaine, this man interviewing him, who was secretly using crack cocaine, were creating a distorted reality that has had unending consequences for billions of people. The hypocrisy of Rick’s actions is ironic, disgusting, and all too human when a person has a drug addiction. The interview makes us watch these two be Master and puppet, president and press, importer and user, truth and escape.

Some people can use drugs such as cocaine in a recreational manner. Some cannot. Rick drank and used cocaine, which caused volatility in his personal life. He hit his wife in front of his child and scarred his pre-verbal baby so that at his first birthday party he cried when everyone yelled “yay” because he had seen his parents fight and yell right before his father was taken away by police for domestically abusing his mother. But Rick engaged in a cycle of hypocrisy, dominating others at the expense of both them and yourself, like using crack cocaine while interviewing the president about the evils of this drug. I cannot help but see his identity as a straight white man being the pinnacle of why this disaster was allowed to go on for so long. He was portrayed in his media career as an “adrenaline junkie” and that made him a fun, edgy guy! This was also during the ’80s and ’90s, when it seemed like white male news anchors were somehow viewed as somewhat infallible people. But there was such darkness, and because of his position of power people were willing to overlook his abuse of crack cocaine because he was so talented within his industry. For the black kids in the New York City projects who he bought the crack from, no one ever argued for their futures because of any talent they may have had. No one in the media gave merit any alternative narrative George HW Bush and American politicians of both parties were asserting that prohibiting narcotic substances and causing them to become black market products is a better policy than regulation, and certainly not good ol’ Rick. Why would he rock the boat?

“its almost euphoric, hard to speak because of the rush type high. it becomes a very sexual in a way, not in a good way in any means, very raw, very animalistic, very lustful, a very primeval sort of way. at least in my experience with this rotten drug how can something so euphoric and good be so terrible?” Rick is not a sympathetic character. And his insistence of documenting his ever spiraling out of control reality, including abusing his wife and smoking crack cocaine a whole bunch of times, his complete divorce from reality is even more exacerbated than the average crack head. He is completely obsessed with documenting his life. And with all these documents of reality, he cannot see that the source of his addiction lies somewhere in his constant desire for adrenaline. He cannot sit with his sons in day to day life, he gets clearly depressed while sitting around in what looks like suburban bliss. He takes his anger and frustration out on his family in extremely scary ways. Apparently, he has press credentials for the Dallas police despite the police being regularly summoned to his dwelling for domestic disputes. The Dallas police most likely knew of his drug abuse, yet he continued to have press credentials.

The documentary is bizarre to say the least. Between his obsession with crack cocaine, complete inability to cope with real life, obsession with documenting his every waking moment, the moments of dark honesty of what drug abuse does to a family, and how privilege works in a way that does no benefit to those who hold the privilege and those who suffer as the result of not having the privilege (in this case, I believe Rick’s privilege as an educated talented charismatic white male helped in the cause of his ultimate downfall because so many people were willing to overlook his horrific behavior due to the standard of how white men are treated in this society) the film is a mindfuck.

People with serious addiction issues such as Rick’s must be dealt with in a medically appropriate manner where both physical and mental health are rebuilt. Rick constantly talks about the shame of drug use. The abuse against his family is horrifying and unfortunately, completely normal for them. Rick is able to get around law enforcement consequences because of his status within the community. Treatment for drug abuse is piss poor in America. Crack cocaine has been described to me as a “full body orgasm” which explains why people who do it sit for hours constantly smoking. Watching Rick struggle with this addiction is as brutal a reality as a documentary can portray accurately.

This documentary would later be used as a “Don’t Do Drugs, Kids” message. The documentary ends extremely awkwardly, with Rick speaking to a group of random graduating high school seniors that he used to do drugs but he doesn’t now and isn’t that great don’t do it kids look at my children here they are. His two sons, around ages 9 and 13 it looks, awkwardly come out on to the stage, let their father embrace them, and then run back off stage. Tammy, Rick’s wife, is also present. It is as painful and bizarre as the rest of the documentary.I felt like they missed an opportunity here. Just like everything else in his life, Rick uncritically excepts the status quo narrative that has been presented to him, and misses his opportunity to create any positive change and effect.

Tammy eventually divorced Rick, and with the use of Google I haven’t been able to figure out what Rick is up to if anything at all. There is an incredible number of documentaries about drugs, because fascination with altering states of consciousness is a normal part of being human. Unfortunately, this is recognized now globally in a very limited way. As a direct result of the United Nation and United States of America, narcotic substances are a billion dollar underground economy, the likes of which are never taxed, the reality of which never goes away, and the destruction of lives like Rick and his family and all the dealer’s who dealt to Rick is monumental.

The argument that global prohibition of narcotic substances is a working policy is a destructive delusion. TV Junkie shows this completely accidentally, in one stroke of the irony that sometimes the universe swirls upon the unsuspecting people of the world.

I wonder what happened to Rick’s little boys, one of whom screams “why did you hit my momma?!” during one of Rick’s tirades. But most people know what happens to young black boys who end up in the narcotics trade: dead, jail, or reformed, and people in power are more inclined to engineer the first two instead of the third.

Cocaine makes you feel euphoric, aggressive, egomanical, and a little delusional. A lot of cocaine makes you all those things and the worse version of yourself you’ve ever known. I think the United States’ global policy on narcotics is clearly high on blow.


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The Creative Limits to Sadism

The analogous relationship that is apparent between the “enhanced interrogation techniques” or “EITs”, a phrase any normal person would reject for the simple word of “torture”, used by Americans in Guantanamo Bay and the techniques used by Nazi officers against political dissents, politically persecuted persons, prisoners of war, and the general human population at large if one was unlucky enough to find one’s self in a Nazi interrogation room during that time, is totally and completely immune to Godwin’s Law.

Godwin’s Law, for those unfamiliar with the term, is a social observation put forth by Mike Godwin that on the internet at some point in an argument, a person will compare their opponents to the Nazi’s. The reason the analogous relationship between what the Americans did in Guantanamo and what the Nazis did in their prisons and concentration camps is exempt to Godwin’s Law is because there are only so many ways to torture a human being.

With this analogous relationship being apparent to anyone with reasonable logical deduction skills and ability to read and understand the historical record, one must not compare the Americans to the Nazis. This is unwarranted because it is disrespectful, primarily, to the victims of the Nazi regime. But the fact that American officials, under oath of the Constitution, one of the most powerful legal documents in the history of mankind, engaged in the same sadism as Nazi personnel who were acting out heinous hatred and absolute depravity against the human soul, should be devastating to any patriotic American.

What must be looked at, given the CIA torture report, is how America brought itself to it’s own delusion that it’s violence was an excusable reason for the preservation of a society in a sadistic way without realizing that was unnecessary. Qualified intelligence persons, interrogation elites, and psychologists have criticized the actions of the CIA as counterproductive to protecting the United States of America and it’s citizens. This intelligence, many qualified individuals, assert could have been gathered by alternative means. What must be stared at, is that the world’s largest capitalist oligarchy that masquerades as a democracy has turned to embracing a type of behavior that not only is psychopathic, but will cause psychopathic behavior in the very areas that are already murderous toward the United States. The actions of these depraved officials will have consequences for their grandchildren, my grandchildren, and potentially my grandchildren’s grandchildren. This is a circle of degradation, violence, and horror that cannot yield anything but absolute destruction.

Perhaps Germany as a nation somewhat escaped it’s fate from it’s brutal regime, as it was eventually rebuild and has not had any Jewish led terror attacks occur. But what the Germans did to the Jewish people is now carried out in Palestine, which is carried out in Syria, which is carried out in Guantanamo, which circles back to right here where I sit on American soil. But what the Germans did to all those millions of victims still hasn’t stopped happening. If any official in the American government thought that what was allowed to occur in the dungeons of hell of Guantanamo would change anything for America’s future for the positive, they were severely wrong.

The world is ugly and certain ugly persons must be dealt with in ugly ways. Physical and verbal abuse is reasonable to a degree in interrogations where mass murderers with top secret information pertaining to the mass destruction of a society because these are hardened individuals. I do not know personally a lot about intelligence and interrogation techniques, but from what I have read from qualified individuals, what happened in Guantanamo no more yielded any more valuable information than would could have otherwise been obtained. Given power to the depraved will yield the same result every time.

There are only so many ways to torture a human being.


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Disappeared

Unless you’ve been sleeping under a rock or in the mountains without an internet connection, you know all about the hot fuss (rightly) made about the young girls stolen from their schools in Nigeria by the terrorist group Boko Haram.

The #bringourgirlsback hashtag (I know writing out hashtag is redundant, but bear with me for a moment) is a really noble effort to raise awareness about an absolutely grave human rights atrocity by people with limited ability to right a horrible wrong. We should all be horrified that there are men out there who feel  that stealing girls who are in the midst of puberty, or younger, and making them child-brides and find that act disgusting. Absolutely, Boko Harem should be placed on international terrorist watch lists (thanks for coming late to that game, Hilary) and lets all hope the Nigerian government properly allocates the foreign aid it is receiving to fighting Boko Harem.

But those girls aren’t coming back.

Apparently I’m really excited about examining cyber realities, with the last post about how shameful Facebook should find itself over allowing a marine’s suicide photos to stay up, and how birthdays are impacted by social media. This cyber reality, using hashtags on Twitter, Facebook statuses, and other forms of social media to raise awareness about a very serious political issue is an ongoing one with real implications for the real world. On one end of the spectrum, the world witnessed massive social organization with the Arab Spring revolutionary movements aided by the use of cyber networking. On the opposite end of the spectrum is something called “Slactivism” , of which #bringourgirlsback qualifies when used by people like Michelle Obama and Hilary Clinton. Usually, Slactivism is something which ordinary people are accused of engaging in. However, I feel Hilary and Michelle’s actions qualify as slactivism in this case.

Did it make you feel warm and fuzzy when Michelle Obama tweeted this photo? MichelleObamaBringBackOurGirls I mean look at her face! She is so super sad about this, that pout and those tragic eyes. Did it move you when Hilary Clinton tweeted untitled
Gee whiz, Hil, really makin’ a statement there.

I’m rolling my eyes while I hold in a silent scream.

How about stop trying to make it look like you care about these girls? How about stop trying to co-opt on the pain of mothers and grandmothers and aunts whose loved young girls are being raped right now by crazy religious nuts? How about you admit that the United States doesn’t really care about certain nations, certain people, and that the only reason you are appearing to care is because you would look like really insensitive jerks if you didn’t (which may be a more accurate reality)? How about you don’t do what Facebookers do by posting a link and feeling like you’ve had a political impact on the world? You both actually have power but it isn’t being used to help these girls. Your power is being used to make it appear as though you care.

Sure, America is giving the Nigerian foreign aid due to this issue. Maybe Boko Harem’s power will lessen and some of them will be imprisoned, and maybe I will be proven wrong and some of these girls will be “brought back”. I’d really like to be wrong on this issue.

It isn’t necessarily “bad” that Slactivism exists, or that Michelle tweeted that photo, or that Hilary commented on a human right’s atrocity via a social media network. But we should recognize the construction of a cyber reality versus the actual attention paid to an issue before it becomes a phenomenon. These politicians with political power issuing by a statement on a social media network are jumping on a popular bandwagon to avoid looking like insensitive jerks. My favorite political scientist, E.E. Schattschneider, essentially proved this point with is publication The Semi-Soverign People. Politicians are suspect and their motivations are rarely pure. In all honesty, I think the average people who commented #bringourbirlsback collectively in the cyber world had more significant political actions than Hilary and Michelle’s questionably sincere tweets. #Bringourgirlsback was started in a desperate effort to get people like Hilary and Michelle to act before it was too late. Those people were sincere, and had very little power. But it probably was too late by the time the United States acted. Instead of trying to save face on social media, maybe be a little more sincere about why Nigeria isn’t a nation that concerns the United States too often.


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The World is Round, Like an Orange

One week ago, my most beloved author, Gabriel Garcia Marquez ascended into heaven (Remedios the Beauty, anyone? Hopefully he was not naked and wearing only a sheet) and departed our Earthly world. Marquez cracked my adolescent brain open with One Hundred Years of Solitude, a book that to me is of epically Biblical proportions. His last work Memories of My Melancholy Whores is also a personal favorite of mine because of its frank discussions on mortality, sexuality, and what it is to be human. Gabo, as he is affectionately referred to by his fans, was a man who changed lives with his writing.n

Somehow I acquired a cold this week, I suspect from my Friday night spent in several packed bars (thank you, friends) which means I get to binge watch television as I feel like my head is a block of cement that cannot interpret words on a page, making reading even simple text an exercise in futility. A perfect opportunity to explore Netflix, I usually go straight to the documentary section because documentaries are my jam. Lock me in a room with documentaries and memoirs for the rest of my life and I will emerge a pale but very well informed wrinkly old woman. One can dream.

Documentaries are noted for being hit-or-miss. Amongst the ones I watched yesterday, Imposter was so chillingly good I watched it twice (a tale about a young French man assuming the identity of a missing Texas boy which takes a twist I will not spoil, go watch it!), Addicted to Fame (the bizarre account of the last film Anna Nicole Smith participated in before her death, because I have a small obsession with Anna for some reason), and Big Boys Gone Bananas! This documentary is an extension of the original documentary it is explaining, http://www.bananasthemovie.com/, something documentarians occasionally do such as when Nick Broomfield made a second Aileen Wuronos film to explain the impact of the first one. Big Boys Gone Bananas (BBGB) was a bit of a miss for editing and story-telling, however I stuck with it because of the curious nature of the content.

The documentary is centered around the court cases, civil attempts, and harassment Dole Foods has levied against the filmmaker of Bananas, a man named Frederick Gerreten. The film asserts that banana workers experienced the health effects of sterility due to working with a chemical pesticide DBCP, something Dole Foods took serious issue with, to the extent of harassing the film maker, issuing court-sanctioned information mandates to be read at screenings of the film, and general work to discredit any and all things the film said.

In One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabo writes a particularly beautiful, eloquent, and profound account of what many South American peoples faced during the reign of the banana republics. Gabo writes in the style of magical realism, a uniquely South American genre where fantastical occurrences are a part of everyday reality. To illustrate the point of White capitalism’s effect on South American towns and society as a whole, he attributes divine powers to the (American) gringo who runs the banana operation, John Brown, such as declaring all banana operations cease until the rain storm stops, at which point there goes clear skies to rainstorms for months on end. The analogy Gabo makes is that capitalism had such power of local populaces it seemed the decrees came direct from the heavens themselves. When the workers strike, the banana company slaughters them in a public square with military machine guns, dumps the bodies on to a train, and then disposes of them into the ocean. When the lone witness returns to Macando to report back what he saw, no one will believe him imploring only that there never was a massacre and the banana company complied with the demands of the workers, who had peacefully left Macando, so there could not have been thousands of dead bodies rotting in the sea. Until his death the character is regarded as a crazy man. Gabo clearly demonstrates the depravity and power of the companies that wrecked havoc on South American life exploited.

Gabo was barred entry into America for a long time because of his noted advocacy for communism and outspokenness against American capitalist interests. While watching “Banana Boys Gone Wild!” so close to recent death I could not help but be reminded of the banana worker slaughter. It really was true, these companies really do things like that and get away with it. The scene in which a statement from Dole Foods refuting the filmmakers point was legally mandated to be read was absurd. If it was not true that these people were exposed to dangerous chemicals, why would Dole Foods care about what some silly documentarian composed a film about?

To me personally, this translates into a first world problem. I love bananas. I love banana bread and pancakes with bananas and chocolate chips (!!). As an American who cannot escape living in capitalism, everything I consume comes from a violence against another person. As I have mentioned before, sometimes I send this blog to one of my friends who has wildly different political views than me. He sometimes gets exasperated with me and all my theoretical inquiries about what goes on around us because, in his view, “All you can do is carve out a space for you and your family and hope for the best”. This is sound advice for the practical of confronting the world and dealing with the necessary evil that one has no control over. But, to me, that does not mean we have to forget about the banana workers.

Long live your good soul, Gabo, may you have a good rebirth.