Non-Violent Direct Action Anyone Can Do (That Everyone Should)

Jamie

It’s been a while since I last posted (and in fact, even since I last wrote an entry on my personal blog), and this entry is about part of the reason why—and that if you’re reading this, you should take up similar pass times. For anyone who is unfamiliar with the distinction between so-called “peaceful” actions and non-violence, I’d suggest you keep a stopper on that query until a later date, when I will answer that question for you in another piece of writing. In this piece of writing, I am deliberately choosing not to talk about “peaceful” anything; however, I am also not talking about aggressive behaviour or confrontation of any kind, while focusing on a specific form of non-violent direct action. As for the term “direct action”, this generally means, as an activist of any kind, taking matters into your own hands. Direct action is often associated with aggressive behaviour, confrontation, hostility, and violence, whether or not the actions taken even are violent (i.e., police and sometimes even military tend to be responsible for the escalation of direct action to the point of violence, as is being seen in New Brunswick right now, where non-violent protesters in a road blockade are being arrested for laying tobacco on the highway). For instance, I’ve written before about effective grassroots protest methods including the formation of a Black Bloc, and generally speaking, any community of activists can reasonably anticipate infiltration by undercover police if they are effective at anything they are doing (i.e., one more reason for the Black Bloc). Violence is often rather paradoxically mis-characterized as well, in that many see vandalism of inanimate property such as vehicles and buildings as violence, but fail to acknowledge or even recognize systemic oppression such as poverty (a direct and necessary product of capitalism) or racism (a direct and necessary product of cultural chauvinism, cultural imperialism, and white supremacy) as violence. For that matter, most people fail to recognize the inherent violence of the very existence of those buildings and vehicles themselves — environmental violence. I’ll be addressing that further when I write about the distinction between “peaceful” and non-violent some other time.

Now that all of that is aside, I bet you’re wondering what the actual fuck I’m talking about — what is the non-violent direct action anyone can do and that everyone should? Well, it started with a strong curiosity about a certain bird (I’m kind of nuts about birds, as anyone who knows me personally can tell you). Then it became very long walks in the forest. And then the marsh. And recently, the beach too. Most often, these walks have been a solitary activity, but on a few occasions, I’ve had human company. Over the past few months, it’s become the (technically illegal) gradual discovery, extraction, and disposal of several hundred pounds of trash by yours truly from former Coast Salish village sites, forests, marshes, and beaches. And you could (and should) be doing it too.

[Read more...]

Big announcement from Point of Inquiry podcast

Mixed news for fans of the podcast Point of Inquiry with Chris Mooney and Indre Viskontas. This just arrived in my inbox:

On Friday, Point of Inquiry’s two co-hosts—Indre Viskontas and Chris Mooney—resigned from their positions at the Center for Inquiry. On Monday, Point of Inquiry producer Adam Isaak followed suit. This note is to explain our reasons for departing CFI and our future plans.

In May of 2013, when the Women in Secularism II conference took place in Washington, D.C., Point of Inquiry—the flagship podcast of the Center for Inquiry—was more successful that it has ever been. Following a format change in 2010, our audience has increased by 60 percent and our growth rate has doubled in the last year and a half. We’d recently done a highly successful live show featuring Steven Pinker before a packed room at the 2013 American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting, and interviewed guests like Oliver Sacks, Jared Diamond, Paul Krugman, and Mary Roach. We had started to incorporate new, successful video content. 2013 featured our most listened-to show ever and we were averaging well over 2 million total downloads per year.

Then came the events at that conference—including a widely criticized speech by Center for Inquiry President & CEO Ronald Lindsay. Lindsay then went further, writing a blog post which referred to a post by one of his critics—Rebecca Watson—as follows: “It may be the most intellectually dishonest piece of writing since the last communique issued by North Korea.”

In response to public criticism of Lindsay’s speech and blog post, CFI’s Board of Directors issued an ambiguous statement regretting the controversy, but going no further than that. [Read more...]

Memories, Emotions, and Brains

Brian

One of the things I noticed when taking my Philosophy undergrad was how 17th century Philosophers (and Philosophers of other periods too) often made grandiose claims about how people thought about the world. Often their 100% certain proclamations were refuted by other Philosophers who were also 100% certain about how the world worked. A particular example of this would be the general commitment to the Platonic notion of how we are born with a complete set of concepts (believed and accepted by most philosophers prior to Locke), and then the commitment to the complete opposite, the ‘blank slate’ (Locke’s tabula rasa), the idea that we are born with zero ideas. Turns out that biology is more complex than that. Philosophy of Mind makes slow progress.

[Read more...]

Abused meme roundup: “Witch Hunts”

In light of the recent furore* over CFI’s bafflingly vacuous response to Ron Lindsay’s behaviour, some prominent members of the freethinking community have decided to pull back their participation in an organization that they see as not adequately representing their values. Some have even gone so far as to encourage others to do the same. This is pretty much boilerplate activist behaviour: someone says or does something unacceptable, you don’t patronize or support them anymore. We applauded it when Chick Fil A’s Dan Cathy made homophobic statements and people stopped buying his chicken. We applauded it when Rush Limbaugh said… well, basically the stuff he always says, but this time we paid attention.

And yeah, maybe boycotts don’t always work, and maybe they’re often impractical what with megacorporate ownership of pretty much everything, but they’re a pretty non-controversial method of expressing displeasure with someone or some entity whose actions you strongly disagree with.

Unless, of course, you’re criticizing CFI and Ron Lindsay, in which case it’s a “witch hunt”.

The image of a witch burning

Now, to be sure, this is not the only circumstance under which I’ve seen this comparison dredged, unwillingly, into a place it doesn’t belong. It is, however, a distressingly common circumstance to see people decry any and all criticisms of or actions taken against someone who is on ‘their team’ as a “witch hunt”. Oftentimes they will invoke the ghost of old Joe McCarthy, and generally bloviate about how innocent people are being dragged through the muck by (fill in the blank). [Read more...]

What is there to do in Sydney?

Hey Australian people. How’s it going? I’m good, thanks. I know we don’t talk that often, what with the time difference being what it is. So, as a gesture of solidarity, I am posting this at a time where many of you are likely to be awake.

I am flying to Sydney on the 29th of June. I’ll be there for about 10 days with nothing to do but explore the city and its environs. Because I don’t really know anything about Sydney (other than the fact it exists, is nice, and has an opera house), I am reaching out to you to ask the following questions.

What is there to do?

Sydney is a gigantic city. I am not suggesting that there isn’t anything to do. I just don’t know what is good to do there (aside from seeing the aforementioned Opera House). Does anyone have any recommendations? When I go to a new place I like to see live music, go to history museums, see parks, and generally do things that I couldn’t do anywhere except the place I am in.

If you live in Sydney, or have travelled there, what kinds of things should I do while I am there? If it is relevant, I am staying in The Rocks.

Who is there?

If any of you have been dying to meet me, I’m certainly up for hanging out while I’m there. There’s a Skeptics in the Pub meetup on the 4th that I am planning on attending. Above and beyond that, however, I’m sure there are lots of opportunities to do social things.

Also, if you have a group that is having a meeting you’d like me to speak at, I’ve got a couple of prepared talks, or I can just hang out and chat with people if that’s easier.

Anyway, if you’re so inclined, leave me some info in the comments, or e-mail me.

Like this article? Follow me on Twitter!

Colour blind, deaf, and dumb

Right now, as you read this, some well-intentioned white kid on the internet is posting a link to this video. In it, the actor Morgan Freeman states that the way to solve racism is to stop talking about it. Specifically, Freeman says that if the host stops seeing him (Freeman) as “a black man”, then he will stop seeing the host as “a white man” and they can presumably just be man-friends and hold hands under a double rainbow or something. Needless to say, I am far from impressed by both the content and the ubiquity of this clip, as it serves more to confirm the “I don’t need to do anything” impulses of white people who haven’t given much thought to the matter beforehand.

For my part, I much prefer John Legend’s response to a very similar question. And I think there’s something to be gleaned from the age difference between Messrs Freeman and Legend. The former is a man who came up in a world where the consequences of anti-black racism were dramatically self-evident: vicious racist slurs coming out of the mouths of police officers and judges, blatantly and unashamedly racist laws and policies, frequent acts of race-motivated physical violence with a blind eye turned toward it by an indifferent society*. The latter is a man who came up in the world of ‘polite’ racism and “post-racial” politicking, where the fashion is to find an endless string of euphemisms to disguise racist attitudes and behaviours that, minus the drama, haven’t changed much.

Which isn’t to say, incidentally, that the kind of racism that Morgan Freeman experienced isn’t still very much alive and well today; it’s just less common. [Read more...]

Imagine you had a friend…

Imagine, for a moment, that you had a friend.

If you’re like me, you will find this a wildly improbable scenario to entertain, but I implore you to at least give it a try. This doesn’t have to be a close friend, or someone you’ve known for an incredibly long time. Perhaps imagine someone who, if you were having a bunch of people over, you would feel compelled to invite but wouldn’t feel super put-out if they couldn’t make it. Someone whose last name you wouldn’t know if it wasn’t listed on their Facebook profile. Someone who you’ve never hung out with except in the context of a group. Someone who, if you ran into them at a party, you wouldn’t go out of your way to introduce your new boyfriend to.

That level of ‘friend’. Someone you have generally good feelings about, but whose friendship is not exactly indispensable to your life.

Imagine you had a friend… [Read more...]

The first step is admitting you have a problem

The director of CFI Okanagan has reached out to me with a very important request:

We have our Secular Sobriety group here in Kelowna and this is a huge deal for us as there is nothing else similar here and it is making an impact.  Unfortunately they don’t really have a steady place to meet and they don’t have the luxury of moving around like our main CFI group does.

The Unitarians are giving us a good discount at $20 per week but want to have the years rent up front so we need to raise $1040 so that we can secure the space.  I was hoping that you could post it on your blog and hopefully get a few bucks from the larger community.

This kind of stuff is precisely what the freethinking community needs to start doing: replacing religious institutions that provide help at the cost of your rational faculties. I’ve contributed last month’s blog revenues (~$60) to the cause. If you’ve got a few extra bucks floating around your pockets, won’t you consider helping them out?

Check out their fundraising page here

Like this article? Follow me on Twitter!