Packing it in

Just over 3 years ago, I started a blog. I have always loved writing, and I had a lot of stuff on my mind that I thought needed to be puzzled out and written down. As is sometimes the way with these things, people started noticing and reading my blog, and talking about what I wrote. Thanks to the notice of a few prominent members of the freethinking community, I found myself invited to join the Freethought Blogs network, which was a huge honour for me. I have been happy and productive at FtB, and met some truly incredible people who have helped improve the way I think about a lot of issues.

The time has come, however, to close down the blog and move on to new endeavours.

I am immensely proud of The Crommunist Manifesto. For three years it has provided regular, thought-provoking, and consistently high quality posts about topics that are relevant and interesting. I do not begrudge the number of hours and the level of effort required to create The Manifesto in that form, but I can no longer maintain that level of output. You may have noticed that over the past couple of months the frequency of posting has decreased dramatically, with nothing new going up in several weeks. That is not a product that I am proud of, and it does my previous work a disservice, but I honestly don’t see that changing any time soon. Writing has become a job, not a joy, and that’s not a sustainable way of being for me.

My plan is to move the content from this site back to its former home on WordPress (crommunist.wordpress.com) and leave this space on the FtB roster to someone who is willing to put in the necessary effort to make it succeed. On the old (new) site, I may periodically post new essays, but I imagine the site will sit relatively quiet for the most part.

As far my plan of what to do with myself, I am really excited for a new musical project I’ve been working on, and I will be devoting much of my newly-freed time to that. I’m also going to be working on my job and my PhD, and trying to find new ways to enjoy life.

And as far as what is happening to ‘the Crommunist’, I’m not retreating from the world, just closing this particular outlet. I hope you will heed my perennial exhortation and follow me on Twitter. If not there, you can always contact me by e-mail if you have something you urgently need addressed. I may pick up new projects (or potentially revive old ones like Seriously!?), so hopefully you will be interested enough to check those out when they appear.

In this farewell, there are some people I need to acknowledge.

First, I want to thank my co-bloggers at FtB, particularly Ed Brayton and PZ Myers for plucking me out of relative obscurity. I could not ask for a more positive and supportive environment to have conducted this experiment. I have met some truly fantastic people in the freethinking movement, and the hands-down best of them have shared the first part of a URL with me for the past 20 months. With the possible exception of the howling herd of insolent nincompoops who crowd the hallways like belligerent hyenas around a fresh kill, cackling about ‘FTBullies’ and ‘misandry’ and ‘feminazis’, blogging at FtB has been a nearly flawless experience. I will miss the backchannel irreverence and the mutual support and camaraderie.

Second, I want to thank my co-bloggers Brian, Jamie, and Edwin. You helped shoulder part of the load when things were at a fever pitch, and you wrote some incredibly insightful and useful posts. I’m proud to call you friends, and will probably have more time to see you in meatspace now that I don’t have daily looming deadlines. Thank you for your contributions and your grace at being launched into a bigger spotlight than you were probably used to.

Finally, I want to thank you. For reading, for commenting, for sending me links, for sharing my posts on your Facebook or on Reddit, for challenging me when I was wrong, and for opening your minds enough to be challenged by some of the more provocative stuff I’ve thrown at you over the past couple of years. Knowing that I had to answer to a crowd of smart and inquisitive people has kept me honest and forced me to work hard to make each post something I can be proud of. I am eternally grateful to anyone and everyone who has felt that this place was worth coming back to, and that these ideas were worth considering and spreading.

In my mind’s eye I had pictured this post ending with something pithy and profound, but I’m not that guy. I’m this guy.

An otter waving goodbye

So long, and thanks for all the fish

– Ian

We did it!

Thanks to your signups, your retweets, your Facebooking, and your general awesomeness, the “Atheists, Agnostics, Skeptics, Freethinkers, Secular Humanists and the Non-Religious” Kiva group has hit 25,000 members! This means that our group will get $10,000 in loan matching from a big-money donor to Kiva, allowing us to do twice the amount of loaning to a partner of our choice. The team captains will make the decision about where the loans will go, but I’ll keep you updated.

That’s not all, though. Since I put out the call a week ago, more than 200 people signed up through my referral link. Because each sign-up gets a $25 gift loan for themselves and another $25 gift loan for me, we have raised $10,000 of our own in gift loans! Because they expire relatively quickly if unused, I have been loaning them almost as quickly as they’ve come in, meaning that in the past week we’ve been able to help fund projects in housing, education, transport, and a wide variety of personal and professional projects in places where they can do a lot of good.

Thanks to everyone who signed up and helped promote this campaign. We needed about 270 people when this first came to my attention, and for 200 (probably more, since a few people who were already Kiva donors joined the team) of that total to come from here is a major achievement. Those of you who are members already can help by giving your input on how the money should be loaned on the message boards, or (if you are able to) by donating once a partner is chosen.

Congratulations everyone!

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Kiva update: only a few days remain!

Hey all,

You’ve definitely noticed me flogging the latest push to get people signed up to the “Atheists, Agnostics, Skeptics, Freethinkers, Secular Humanists and the Non-Religious” Kiva lending group. This group is the all-time #1 lender on Kiva, and is just shy of 25,000 members. I received an e-mail from Kiva.org saying that if we get to that 25,000 milestone by Sunday, March 31st, we will be given $10,000 in loan matching. $10,000 is a lot of money, especially given that many of these microloans are only for a few hundred dollars.

The response from you has been overwhelming. Since Friday, more than 90 of you have signed up through the link I provided, meaning that the Crommunist Manifesto Kiva account has been given $2350 in gift loans, matched by large-money donors. We’ve been able to fund 23 projects at the $100 level. Additionally, everyone who joins Kiva for the first time gets a $25 gift loan of their own, meaning that our actual contribution has been something like $5000.

We’re not done yet, though. As of writing, we are still 170 members short of that 25,000 milestone. I’m going to need your help to push us over the edge here. Here’s how you can pitch in:

  1. If you haven’t already, follow this link and sign up. It is free to join, and your first $25 loan is free, so even if you’re tapped out at the moment you will be able to participate.
  2. If you have Facebook, share this post on your wall, and ask your friends to share it.
  3. If you’re on Twitter, throw out a link to this post and ask people to re-tweet.
  4. If you have a blog, put up a post about the campaign (hell, you can even copy this one verbatim).
  5. If you’re not on social media, consider sending an e-mail to a couple of friends and ask them to join up.

It only takes a couple of seconds, it’s free, and you can make a big difference to the lives of the borrowers. Also, it will be a profound statement in support of the fact that you don’t need to believe in a god to do good things.

Please join in the campaign. It would be a real shame if we fell short of something this helpful and easily achievable.

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Never a better time to join up with Kiva

Hey all,

Many of you will remember that, thanks to the traffic you’ve brought to this site, we’ve been able to fund a number of microloans through Kiva.org. Today I got an e-mail from Kiva, with an exciting announcement:

A lending team you’re a member of, “Atheists, Agnostics, Skeptics, Freethinkers, Secular Humanists and the Non-Religious” is super close to hitting a big milestone: 25,000 members. You’re less than 500 people away from hitting that goal, and we’d love to help you get there.

Kiva has $10,000 for matching loans of your team’s choice–but only if you can reach the goal of 25,000 team members by midnight on March 31st, 2013

The atheist group is the #1 largest loaner on the site, and is about to push over 25,000 members. $10,000 in loans is a LOT of opportunity to help people in the same way we’ve been able to through this site. If you’ve ever thought of participating in this program, there really is no better time than now to join up.

As a bonus, if you sign up through this link, I will receive a $25 gift loan, meaning that even more loans can be given. It’s a great opportunity, and costs you nothing more than you’re willing to loan. Please consider signing up and helping to move this project along.

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New required reading: What a Victim-Blaming World Looks Like to a Victim

There is a spirited conversation going on in the comment threads of a recent post, wherein someone has decided to contribute the oh-so-underrepresented point that victims of assault should have taken better care to avoid the assault. It’s far from a novel point, it’s far from an accurate point, it’s far from a useful point; sadly, it’s not a far from popular point. It is therefore quite serendipitous that my lunch-time reading (which should have been lunchtime blogging) included this excellent piece by Erika Nicole Kendall (Trigger warning for descriptions of abuse and sexual assault):

People far more eloquent than myself have commented on the foolishness of telling victims (and potential victims) that they have some culpability in their ability to be victimized. I’d be a fool to re-mow that neatly manicured lawn.

However, I think we need to fully understand what the world looks like in a space where it is acceptable to tell people that they can protect themselves from being raped. It’s easy to talk about the immediate consequences of a society that thinks that women invite attack by “dressing like sluts” or by “drinking too much” (and yes, I am saying “women” on purpose, despite the story above) and how wrong-headed that thinking is, but what does the world look like when you are told to live in constant fear of being victimized?

You know what it looks like? It looks like young girls, suffering from the advances of grown men who should know and be encouraged to do better, who carry their books across their chest because their breasts attract too much attention. It looks like Mothers of young girls, buying their pre-teen and teenaged daughters giant sweaters to wear to try to hide their breasts, because they “know the boys will stare.” And, right now, as someone says, “Of course they will stare!” I have to wonder – do we even bother to tell our boys (and, hell, grown men, too) how wrong that is? That no, it is not simply “hormones” and “natural urges” to gawk at and objectify a young girl because she’s got a large rack?

[Read more…]

Crommunist on the Reality Check podcast

I am a big stupid-head for not posting this promptly. While I was in Ottawa for Eschaton2012, I was interviewed for the Reality Check podcast. The episode with my interview is up, so you can hear my melodious voice (without my malodourous breath – a lot of drankin’ happened in Ottawa).

Check out the podcast here!

Then again, they didn’t put a link to this site on their page, so I don’t feel as bad for not putting this up until now :P

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#FuturamaArcher: Or, ‘Futurama: Noooooooope!’

Robert Reece of Furious and Brave and I have challenged each other to an essay-writing contest. Each of us has 2,000 words to write a persuasive essay defending the honour of the superiority of our favourite animated series. Robert has chosen Futurama, and I have chosen Archer. We have not seen each other’s essays in advance, nor co-ordinated in any way (aside from agreeing on publication date and length). His essay can be found here.

The Archer intro logo

When considering the comparative merits of any work of art, taste being subjective, it is necessary to develop a set of criteria by which the different works can be judged. In the absence of such criteria, any comparison swiftly becomes an exercise in who can express the most fervent support – a contest of fanaticism rather than a proper comparison. I must confess that, were this to be such a challenge, I would surely come up short – Robert is far more practiced at defending positions based on the strength of his emotion and passion alone. I am unfortunately forced to rely solely on facts and logic.

And it is based on fact and logic, limited and uninteresting though they may be, that I enthusiastically state unequivocally that Archer is a superior animated series to Futurama. Now, it behooves me to mention at this point that I have a deep personal affection for Futurama – I would not dream of arguing that it is a bad show. Nor would I argue that it has not made its contribution, such as it is, to our popular culture. Such an argument would not only be easily demonstrated as false, but it would be shockingly disingenuous. I am, in fact, a fan. That being said, I recognize superiority when I see it, and I simply cannot deny that Archer is a better show, for reasons I will detail below.

My first task is to establish a set of criteria by which the relative greatness of a work should be judged. Again, due to the subjective nature of taste, I will eschew things that are so obviously subjective as, for example, ‘which show is funnier’. Such a crude comparison is clearly not worthy of the refined and discerning audience of this piece (and besides, for that specific category, Archer would win in a walk). Instead, I offer these much more concrete categories for evaluation: [Read more…]

Real World Atheism: Crommunist in Chicago

Heads up to those of you living in the greater Chicago area – I will be appearing on a panel at DePaul University, called

Real World Atheism: A Panel on Godless Activism and Cultural Relevancy

Join the DePaul Alliance for Free Thought, in association with the Secular Student Alliance, Center for Inquiry, African Americans for Humanism, and the Women’s Center at DePaul as we host a panel of some of the best minds in the secular movement to talk about the state of atheism, its current predicaments regarding discrimination, and attempt to chart a path towards greater involvement in the world at large.

This event will be held in room 103 of DePaul’s Arts and Letters Hall, located at 2315 N Kenmore, Chicago, Illinois. The building is fully handicapable accessible, and accommodation can be provided upon request.

This event is free and open to the public.

When the above blurb says “best minds in the secular movement”, they’re talking entirely about my co-panelists: [Read more…]

The “First In the Family” Humanist Scholarship

Here’s a cool thing:

Black Skeptics Los Angeles is pleased to announce its first annual “First in the Family Humanist Scholarship.” Two $500 scholarships will be awarded to college-bound Los Angeles Unified School District students in South Los Angeles. Preference will be given to students who are in foster care, homeless, undocumented and/or LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning). Students must have a record of service and participation in school and/or community-based organizations. Scholarships will be awarded in June 2013.

As a big proponent of education as a means of not only breaking the cycle of poverty, but as a way of better understanding the world around us, I am excited that this idea is moving forward. I am a little familiar with what Sikivu Hutchinson has been doing in LA, and I think this is a great project. I am happy to lend it my support.

If you would also like to contribute, there is a donation widget here. Sikivu has told me that even though they have reached their initial goal, they will be able to expand to four scholarships, so if you are able, please donate to this worthy cause. For those of you who are not in a position to donate, fear not – the money I am donating is coming from the money generated by your hits to this blog, so you’re still contributing in your own way.

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Crommunist marks black history month 2013

Well folks, it’s February once again, which means that it’s time for my annual observance of Black History Month. For those of you who are new to the blog, every year I produce a series of posts about black history as I work my way through a particular theme. In the blog’s first year, I released a number of the posts that underpin its central dogma when it comes to race:

In the second year, I took a broad-brush approach to Canada’s black history, highlighting stories from Canada’s different geographic regions:

Last year, I took a more focussed approach and walked through a text on black Canadians, with both historical and contemporary flavours, giving a sort of ‘guided tour’ of a book by sociologist Joseph Mensah: