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How do you solve a problem?  Look at the root causes and address them.  Laurie Halse Anderson writes in Time:

 

“How do we reduce the horrifying amount of sexual violence in this country?

We talk to our boys. Parents, family members, educators, clergy and other leaders have the opportunity and responsibility to model and teach consent from the time kids are old enough to walk: “You don’t touch anyone without their permission.” Families and schools should regularly share facts about bodies and sex appropriate to the developmental age of the child. Cultural leaders — writers, musicians, film producers, artists, advertisers, professional athletes, actors and social media influencers — have the power to accurately portray how sexual assault happens, providing information that will save lives.

I know it’s hard, but if we don’t figure out how to have tough conversations, we will sacrifice another generation of victims. It is time to not just inspire those who have been hurt to tell their stories — but to find our own courage to have open conversations about these complex subjects.

We need to teach our boys about healthy sexuality. We need to be crystal-clear about the laws and moral code surrounding consent. Our children must be aware that not only is there a federal definition of consent, but that states have their own, additional definitions. This is particularly significant for people younger than 18. “Close-in-age exemptions,” which permit some types of sexual contact between consenting minors, vary widely. RAINN has a State Law Database, to help you sort out the details.

We need to ask our boys questions so that we understand what they think they know about sex and intimacy. Sharing books, movies and TV shows are a great way to open these conversations. Discussing the choices made by fictional characters paves the way for more personal conversations.

We need to tell our own stories to make sure our boys understand that these things happen to people they know and love. We need to give them the tools required to navigate relationships in a positive way.

Our boys deserve information and guidance. The only way they’ll get it is if we speak up.”

Most likely, yes.  And it will require class based action to do so.  The people need to rise and simply refuse to support industries and features of society that are hastening our collective doom.  John Feffer writing for Tom’s Dispatch outlines a way to save ourselves, from ourselves.

 

On the horizon, however, is one potentially quite different kind of Climate Leviathan: the Green New Deal, or GND. As of now, it remains more a slogan than a worked-out plan, but it’s gaining currency within a Democratic Party competing for power in 2020 and interest in it is growing internationally as well. It might only be a couple of elections — in a few key countries — away from political viability.

To achieve the GND’s global goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, the United States would have to lead the way with its own eco-version of a Belt and Road initiative, a massive infrastructure development project that would involve high-speed rail, the energy retrofitting of buildings, and huge investments in renewable energy (as well as the creation of staggering numbers of jobs). And it would have to do all this without compensating polluting industries with export contracts, as China has done.

Think of it as a potential future Apollo 11-style green moonshot: a focused mobilization of investment, construction, and administrative resolve to achieve what has hitherto been considered impossible.

That last element — administrative resolve — could prove the most challenging. The present crew of global right-wing populists are not just climate-change skeptics. Most are also committed to what Steve Bannon, Trump’s erstwhile guru, has called the “deconstruction of the administrative state.” In other words, they want to reduce the power of government in favor of the power of corporations (and the rich). They want to remove the government’s capacity to administer large-scale projects domestically and negotiate international accords that impinge on the sovereignty of the nation-state.

Ultimately, they want to eliminate what Garrett Hardin identified as the only way to avoid the tragedy of the commons: “mutual coercion mutually agreed upon.” To push through a Green New Deal in the United States, for instance, a distinctly non-Republican Congress would have to coerce a range of powerful interests (coal companies, oil and gas corporations, auto manufacturers, the Pentagon, and so on) to fall into line. And for any global pact that implements something similar, an international authority like the U.N. would have to coerce recalcitrant or non-compliant countries to do the same.

Something as transformative as the Green New Deal — a democratically achieved Climate Leviathan — will not come about because the Democratic Party or Xi Jinping or the U.N. secretary general suddenly realizes that radical change is necessary, nor simply through ordinary parliamentary and congressional procedure. Major change of this sort could only come from a far more basic form of democracy: people in the streets engaged in actions like school strikes and coal mine blockades. This is the kind of pressure that progressive legislators could then use to push through a mutually agreed-upon Green New Deal capable of building a powerful administrative force that might convince or coerce everyone into preserving the global commons.

Coercion: it’s not exactly a sexy campaign slogan. But if democracies don’t embrace moonshots like the Green New Deal — along with the administrative apparatus to force powerful interests to comply — then the increasing political and economic chaos of climate change will usher in yet more authoritarian regimes that offer an entirely different coercive agenda.

The Green New Deal isn’t just an important policy initiative. It may be the last democratic method of guiding Lifeboat Earth to a safe harbor.

Free speech, or the ability to speak one’s mind in public without physical/material consequences, is one of the hallmarks of democratic society.  Now if everyone was nice, and peace ruled the world, I think the concept of free speech would be less problematic.

I’d like to talk about three ideas regarding free speech, the first being our responsibility in maintaining it, the second being the seeming incongruity when it comes to individuals who use protected speech to promote hate, and thirdly the tie in with Radical Feminism versus the gender identity set.

Free speech, like voting, or freedom of movement for most is a quality we often overlook in our daily lives.  We’ve always had it, it has always been there and there has been no reason to critically examine our responsibilities in context of the maintenance of our freedom to speak our mind in public.

Our collective casual acceptance (perhaps even apathy) in terms of the general public is problematic because it would seem that, until one starts feeling the push back when one speaks, the general collective sentiment is that there are no problems with the status quo and people can pretty much say what they want.  People in general though, are dumb and we should not be content with this lax stewardship.  Please see any social media platform that is open to the general public as evidence of such.

We hive off and create our own tribal communities and proceed to chuck rhetorical rocks over the wall at the other camps that oppose our viewpoints.  From what I’ve been able to observe, the process starts and does not end with regards to rocks being thrown.  Authentic engagement comes a distant second to outrage, manufactured or otherwise, and debate shares a similar fate versus trading insults and fellifluous comments.

Thank you, Social Media…

Social media has given us the means to exercise our right to free speech, but not the concurrent responsibilities that go along with placing one’s opinion in the public sphere, not to mention the intellectual responsibilities of offering fact based arguments and being charitable to the inevitable counter-arguments that occur.  So in a way, we are maintaining free-speech, just that the calibre of the discourse is absolute tosh.  Another unsavoury aspect of the current public chatter is that amplification of thoughts and ideas to such an extent that the nuance is lost, and the remaining message garbled as it is, is blasted out to the vox populi to take sides over and being the rock throwing process.

It is therefore unsurprising that many intellectuals and educated individuals want no part of the social media driven discourse.  It is a wrestling with pigs sort of situation.  However, the problem is that despite the raucous nature of discourse, it bleeds over into the real world and can and often does affect society, necessarily so.  It is distressing though, because although the speech is free and generally unencumbered, the signal to noise ratio makes dross the most likely outcome on many of the issues that make it into and out of the public social media sphere.

I’m not sure what we can do about that when we have a media and journalistic corps that are profoundly unable to tell the truth about what is happening in the world.  The state of the news media is a post for another though, lets leave it with the very basic idea that GIGO (Garbage In, Garbage Out) is a maxim that applies to our news media, and we as a society are suffering the consequences of a ill-informed public.

So free speech being exercised and maintained, but in a bluntly oblivious form that may not be beneficial for the advancement of society.  We can classify ‘hate speech’ squarely into this category.  This is a distinctly Canadian phenomena, so let’s define what hate speech is, via Wikipedia’s entry on Hate Speech Laws in Canada.

“The various laws which refer to “hatred” do not define it. The Supreme Court has explained the meaning of the term in various cases which have come before the Court. For example, in R v Keegstra, decided in 1990, Chief Justice Dickson for the majority explained the meaning of “hatred” in the context of the Criminal Code:

Hatred is predicated on destruction, and hatred against identifiable groups therefore thrives on insensitivity, bigotry and destruction of both the target group and of the values of our society. Hatred in this sense is a most extreme emotion that belies reason; an emotion that, if exercised against members of an identifiable group, implies that those individuals are to be despised, scorned, denied respect and made subject to ill-treatment on the basis of group affiliation.[4]

More recently, in 2013, Justice Rothstein, speaking for the unanimous court, explained the meaning of “hatred” in similar terms, in relation to the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code:

In my view, “detestation” and “vilification” aptly describe the harmful effect that the Code seeks to eliminate. Representations that expose a target group to detestation tend to inspire enmity and extreme ill-will against them, which goes beyond mere disdain or dislike. Representations vilifying a person or group will seek to abuse, denigrate or delegitimize them, to render them lawless, dangerous, unworthy or unacceptable in the eyes of the audience. Expression exposing vulnerable groups to detestation and vilification goes far beyond merely discrediting, humiliating or offending the victims.[5]

Sounds good, right?  The recent rise of the false populist-nationalist right in North America (and the world) has put considerable stress on free speech and what we consider to be hate speech because so much of what these ideologies espouse can be considered hateful, corrosive, and essentially banal in nature.

Should the speech of the false-populist right be banned?  Absolutely not, it must be challenged though, at every turn and shown to people for what it is.  And that folks, is a tall order because of the problems I mentioned earlier about our new preferred methods of debate and discourse.  Social media.  The false-populist messaging is simple and stirring and benefits greatly from the amplification in social media, but suffers little distortion because of the simplicity of the message.  The message being roughly this:

    “Right-wing populism in the Western world is generally—though not exclusively—associated with ideologies such as anti-environmentalism,neo-nationalism,anti-globalization,nativism,protectionism,and opposition to immigration.”

The messaging plays directly on the general populations fears, and allows the problems of the nation to be unfairly pinned on a subcategory of people who are vulnerable and easy to scapegoat.  False populist messaging can be countered, but the medium of debate works against those who seek to argue and debate false populist points because nuance and detailed refutations are not the currency social media deals in.  So instead we get catchy slogans like “punch a nazi” and the “alt-right” which are both statements that originated on the left side of the political spectrum, but are profoundly unhelpful in combating the false-populist ideology and messaging that presently, has a strong foothold in our social media platforms.

The medium really is the message – social media is polarizing – let’s look at this latest tweet making the rounds in the left-twittersphere:

Wenn ein Nazi am Tisch sitzt, und daneben 10 andere, die dasitzen und mit ihm diskutieren, dann hast du einen Tisch mit 11 Nazis.”  – (English Translation)-  “As we say in Germany, if there’s a Nazi at the table and 10 other people sitting there talking to him, you got a table with 11 Nazis.”

   What do we do with this?  The sentiment is good, one shouldn’t tolerate Nazi ideology and by sitting idle, one tacitly condones it.  But, what about free speech?  So many contextual aspects in this situation are rubbing up against each other.  Corrosive ideology has no place in a free society, but should there be a space for it to flourish in the public sphere?  Is the German quote appropriate for North America where there has been proto-fascist movements, but never in power?  Where does the argument for tolerance come into play, because this is at face-value, is most definitely an intolerant statement.

    Taken in the German social-political context, I have no problems with it.  However, throw it into the social media public sphere where it adds fuel to the fire that generally reverberates as “anyone who I disagree with politically, is a Nazi” and the statement becomes much more problematic.  Make no mistake, there is a large nuance vacuum on both the left and right side of the political divide (to both sides detriment).

   It’s too easy to simply brand someone a Nazi and demand their speech be taken down.  Yet, how does one actively guard against the rise of actual fascism and not curtail free speech in the process is a key issue in these debates.  False-populist ideology can easily careen into straight up fascism and the genocidal bent that goes along with it, so how do we deal with it?  I do not think there is a good answer, at least not until we get more public engagement and understanding in the social sphere.

   I’m a teacher so my biases lean toward more education and knowledge being a strong tonic against the mistakes humanity has made in the past.  Yet, all the cruelty and barbarism that has occurred (20th and 21st century) and is still occurring has happened under the not so watchful guise of an ‘educated’ public.  The answer might not lay in more education, but a social system that holds each individual to a higher standard of accountability and understanding of their role and responsibility within the world.  Something better than the “fuck you, I’ve got mine” mentality that has such a sure grip on the current social zeitgeist.

   Let’s make part three a separate post, as this piece is overlong already.

 

 

I do love readinng Aeon Magazine. This essay by Bence Nanay questions how much control we have over our desires in society.  It is a fascinating question as I think the commonly held belief we all have is that we, as individuals, are ever-present and mostly unchanging over time as we interact with society.  It isn’t really the case as we are far from the immutable social islands that we think we are and more like a slowly flowing stream that is in a gradual state of constant change.

Unfortunately advertisers have latched onto this very human tendency and try to exploit our quasi-fluid state of desiring things by shaping advertising messages to foment desires with us, to get us to buy their particular product.  Quite insidious, really.  But then again, most of capitalism is.

 

“But what would be the screening mechanism for direct desire infection? Beliefs form a coherent network, but desires don’t. We can, and very often do, have conflicting desires. Just because a desire I acquired by means of desire infection contradicts some other desire of mine, I will not normally reject it. Contradictions between beliefs are easier to spot than contradictions between desires.

Cigarette or beverage commercials are very efficient ways of infecting you with desires. They are not trying to communicate a message. If they did, they would probably choose a more efficient message than Real men smoke a certain brand of cigarette. Such commercials are trying to trigger desires in you, bypassing your screening mechanism, which is probably against smoking and consuming sugary beverages. And they do so very efficiently: even though you think that a certain brand of sugary beverage is very unhealthy and bad for you, if the commercial is well-done, it will nonetheless trigger a desire in you.

Is there no screening mechanism against direct desire infection then? Here is one option: we want lots of things, but we want to only want very few things. Wanting to want something is what makes it stand out from the crowd. So this second-order desire (of not just wanting but wanting to want) could be thought of as the screening mechanism for direct desire infection. We screen out desires we do not want to have. And there are desires we do want to have – these are the ones that pass the screening and get to be endorsed.

This would give us a nice parallel with the screening mechanism for beliefs based on testimony. The problem is that it is unlikely to work. Second-order desires are also desires. So given that we can acquire first-order desires by direct desire infection, there is no obvious reason why second-order desires could not be acquired by direct desire infection. But then what would protect us from the infection of our second-order desires? Maybe third-order desires? If we need second-order desires to decide which of our first-order desires are infected, we would then also need third-order desires to decide which of our second-order desires are infected. And so on. As a screening mechanism against infected desires, this won’t work.

The contrast I made between the screening mechanism of beliefs and that of desires is not supposed to be absolute. Our screening of false beliefs often fails. And, as some techniques in psychiatry show, some ‘unwanted’ desires often do get screened out, for example, by making the conflict between them blatantly obvious. But while there is a default mechanism for the screening of beliefs, there is no comparable default screening mechanism for desires. And this has serious potential implications for how we think of the self.

Our desires change. The question is, what changes them? We acquire many of our desires by means of desire infection, and there is no real screening of these desires. But this means that many of our desires are, in some sense, inherited from the people around us.

A radical consequence of this argument concerns the way we should think about the self in light of these considerations. A widespread way of thinking about the self, going at least as far back as the 18th century and David Hume, is that it consists of the set of all our desires (besides some other mental states). But if this is so, then who we are (or the self) is a result, to a large extent, of random desire infection.

We know that we systematically ignore the possibility that our future self could be different from our present self. This is called the ‘end of history illusion’: we have a tendency to consider our self a finished product, but it is blatantly not. And this ‘end of history illusion’ makes it even more likely that we will try to give post-hoc rationalisations for any desires we might acquire by means of direct desire infection.

So the self changes. The question is, how much of this change is under our control? Some of it is: we have pretty good control over what new beliefs we acquire. And we might even have control over really wild, crazy desires. But we have no full control. Direct desire infection can have a real effect on who we are and whom we become – it is a phenomenon we should take very seriously.

The hunger for effective gay liberation movement is real.  It would seem at least Mr.Thorstad is tired of rearranging the gender-identity deckchairs on the good-ship “Oppression Titanic”.

“By the twenty-fifth anniversary of Stonewall in 1994, I regarded the gay movement as already mostly dead, although the commemorations did include some radical venues, such as the large “Spirit of Stonewall” alternate march. By then the gay movement had been taken over by marketing and corporate interests. Repeal of sodomy laws—the movement’s most important demand—had long been put on a back burner because it focused—uncomfortably for some—on sex acts instead of identity and liberal “rights” and because it challenged religious superstition and the oppressive Judeo-Christian tradition that underpinned the laws. Instead, the “LGBT movement” was pushing for marriage, hate-crimes laws, and the right of gays to serve openly in the imperialist military. The Supreme Court’s 2003 ruling throwing out sodomy laws was the most important victory for the gay and lesbian movement. Since then, the other demands have also been won, none of which advance the cause of sexual liberation. The former liberation movement is now mired in genderism and assimilationism.

By 1994, the hateful, antigay word “queer” was increasingly being used to describe same-sex love. Things have only gotten worse since then, with “queer” widely used, even by the straight media, despite its being a vile, self-hating term that threatens violence. The struggle for sexual liberation has been diluted by a focus on dozens of fanciful and questionable genders and has resulted in a virtual erasure of gay males and lesbians. Sex is not even part of the alphabet-soup vocabulary. Highlighting victimhood is in. Instead of fighting social injustice, the LGBT goal is to assimilate into a heterodominant capitalist system, aping its failed institution of marriage, promoting monogamy (a bit player in the mammalian heritage), and espousing patriotism, militarism, and conventionality. Gay Inc. has swallowed up the original “liberation day” marches and turned them into billboards for the profit motive. Even the main U.S. spy agency, the NSA, commemorates “pride” by lighting up its headquarters in the rainbow flag colors. The LGBT movement has jettisoned the goal of liberating the repressed sexuality of everyone, including heterosexuals, in favor of seeking mere “equality.” Equality is a low common denominator that does not challenge heterosupremacy. It is the goal of a movement that has been tamed and lost its spirit of radical struggle.

In the 1970s, one could hear a gay youth contingent in a gay pride march chant this playful provocation: “2, 4, 6, 8, How do you know your husband’s straight? 3, 5, 7, 9, Hey, lady, your husband’s mine!” Today, such a chant would be unimaginable.

This degeneration is widely recognized by older activists, less so by the younger set. As a result, this year another alternative march is planned for New York City to the official Heritage of Pride corporate sponsor. The Reclaim Pride Coalition (RPC), organizer of the alternate event, condemns the inclusion of floats and is marching “against the exploitation of our communities for profit and against corporate and state pinkwashing,” and in “resistance against police, state, and societal oppression.” OK so far.

But RPC has a serious flaw: astonishingly, it is calling its “alternative” event a “queer liberation march.” That’s an insult to gay men especially and belies its claim to inclusivity. Nothing could drag me to a march that bills itself as “queer.” That is antithetical to the “spirit of Stonewall” and to gay pride. It is viscerally offensive.

RPC criticizes HOP for not addressing the “urgent continuing needs” not of gay men and lesbians, but, in a reordering of myriad oppressed categories, presumably by order of importance, of the “Trans, Bisexual, Lesbian, Gay, Queer, Intersex, Two-Spirit, Asexual, Non-Binary, Gender Non-Conforming and related communities.” What a mouthful!

And it promotes a mind-numbing collection of politically correct causes: “We March in opposition to transphobia, homophobia, biphobia, racism, sexism, xenophobia, bigotry based on religious affiliation, classism, ableism, audism, ageism, all other forms of oppression, and the violence that accompanies them in the U.S. and globally.”

 

 

It is a wonderful time to be alive.  Our social sphere is a dividedly partisan uncharitable hot mess.  Nothing gets done because the status quo recognizes that people working together have the capacity to radically alter society.  Internecine conflict and partisan yelling matches are not an accident.  They conveniently combust all the oxygen in the public sphere, keeping threatening systemic change far at bay.

Consider, we fecklessly embrace capitalism and the ruthless exploitation and environmental destruction that goes along with it.  Yet, at the same time we have our scientific classes raising the alarm that we are rapidly making our planet uninhabitable.  A few eyebrows are raised, but in general, the system continues to chug along.  Here is one foundational parts of our capitalism system, the ever present race for the bottom and thus maximum profitability (at all costs).

It’s gonna suck when the earth strikes back and decides our defining passion for hoarding slips of paper is not a desirable evolutionary trait.  Pete Dolack writes for CounterPunch:

 

“And as the race to the bottom continues —  as relentless competition induces a never-ending search to find locations with ever lower wages and ever lower health, safety, labor and environmental standards — what regulations remain are targets to be eliminated. Thus we have the specter of “free trade” agreements that have little to do with trade and much to do with eliminating the ability of governments to regulate. And as the whip of financial markets demand ever bigger profits at any cost, no corporation, not even Wal-Mart, can go far enough.

Despite being a leader in cutting wages, ruthless behavior toward its employees and massive profitability, when Wal-Mart bowed to public pressure in 2015 and announced it would raise its minimum pay to $9 an hour, Wall Street financiers angrily drove down the stock price by a third. Wal-Mart reported net income of $61 billion over the past five years, so it does appear the retailer will remain a going concern. Apple reported net income of $246 billion over the past five years, so outsourcing production to China seems to have worked out for it as well.

The Trump administration’s trade wars are so much huffing and puffing. Empty public rhetoric aside, Trump administration policy on trade, consistent with its all-out war on working people, is to elevate corporate power. Nationalism is a convenient cover to obscure the most extreme anti-worker U.S. administration yet seen. Class war rages on, in the usual one-sided manner.”

This is what living in a patriarchy is folks. Doesn’t matter you gender, sexual orientation, or your personal feelings. If you belong to the class of women (adult human females), you will be on the short end of the stick. In ‘rainbow spaces’ and in general society did you need to find the lowest on the totem pole? Look for women, you know the ones that produce the large gametes, to be on the bottom rung.

It is terrifying that this level of social malfeasance exists in our society, yet it persists. Why? Because we abide by the status quo, better to look away than to get involved.

More details from the Guardian:

The two women left needing hospital treatment after they were attacked on a bus in a homophobic assault have blamed a rise in rightwing populism for growing hate crime and called on people to stand up for each other.

Melania Geymonat, 28, and her girlfriend, Chris, 29, defiantly announced they would not be intimidated into hiding their sexuality, days after they said they were attacked by several young men when they refused to kiss upon demand.

“I was and still am angry. It was scary, but this is not a novel situation,” said Chris. “I’m not scared about being visibly queer. If anything, you should do it more.

“A lot of people’s rights and basic safety are at risk. I want people to feel emboldened to stand up to the same people who feel emboldened by the rightwing populism that is, I feel, responsible for the escalation in hate crimes,” she told the BBC in a televised interview. “I want people to take away from this that they should stand up for themselves and each other.”

Geymonat added: “The violence is not only because we are women which are dating each other. It’s also because we are women.”

A Metropolitan police statement said: “Four males aged between 15 to 18 have been arrested on Friday 7 June on suspicion of robbery and aggravated GBH. They have been taken to separate London police stations for questioning.”

The attack – in which a phone and a bag were stolen – happened in the early hours of 30 May. A photograph of the couple’s bloodied faces went viral on Friday.

In a Facebook post, Geymonat, a flight attendant originally from Uruguay, said in both English and Spanish that they were subjected to homophobic abuse while being beaten up: “They started behaving like hooligans, demanding that we kissed so they could enjoy watching, calling us ‘lesbians’ and describing sexual positions … The next thing I know is that Chris is in the middle of the bus fighting with them.

“The next thing I know is I’m being punched. I got dizzy at the sight of my blood and fell back. I don’t remember whether or not I lost consciousness.”

Politicians roundly condemned the attack.

Theresa May said: “This was a sickening attack and my thoughts are with the couple affected. Nobody should ever have to hide who they are or who they love and we must work together to eradicate unacceptable violence towards the LGBT community.”

The Labour party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, said: “We must not, and will not, accept this homophobic and misogynist violence in our society. Solidarity to Melania and Chris, and to all in the LGBT+ community for everything they endure for simply being who they are.”

The London mayor, Sadiq Khan, urged witnesses to the “disgusting, misogynistic attack” to come forward. “Hate crimes against the LGBT+ community will not be tolerated in London,” he said.

The women and equalities minister, Penny Mordaunt, said she was “appalled to see this kind of homophobic violence in the UK, there’s no place for this kind of vile behaviour in our society”.

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