Mni Wiconi- Water is Life: In Memory of Caine

A year ago today our community was devastated by the death of our beloved Caine. The team here at Affinity struggled with how to honor Caine on this day and we finally decided to carry forward her message to love and honor the planet. Caine stood with the tribe at Standing Rock in their struggle against the DAPL and today we’re passing on a few stories about the continuing struggle of Indigenous communities to protect the land and water. We are in no way qualified to speak about Indigenous culture or history, but we do so today with great respect.

First, a few reminders of the meaning of Mni Wiconi – Water is Life.

Mni Wiconi – The Stand at Standing Rock

Mni Wiconi – Water is Life

Hear the message of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Honor tribal sovereignty and the Earth we inhabit by telling President Obama to deny the easement by calling 202-456-1111. We need every person to call Obama this week before Dec. 5th. Please share. For more information visit standwithstandingrock.net#NoDAPL#StandwithStandingRock#standingrock#bankexit

Posted by Standing Rock Sioux Tribe on Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Also:

In an article on Indian Country Today, Woonspe—Education Gives Meaning to Mni Wiconi—Water Is Life they tell of the origin story behind the meaning of Mni Wiconi.

An origin story of the Oceti Sakowin, the Seven Council Fires, which make up the Lakota, Nakoda, and Dakota people, tells us that the blood of First Creation, Inyan, covers Unci Maka, our grandmother earth, and this blood, which is blue is mni, water, and mahpiya, the sky. Mni Wiconi, water is life.

The entire article is worth reading and the above link will take you right there.

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Many Standing Rocks: Three Years and Still Fighting, by Tracy L. Barnett – The Esperanza Project)

LaDonna Allard, center, and Cheryl Angel at a march led by the women of Sacred Stone to the backwater bridge one week after a brutal attack there by law enforcement. (Photo from social media) – The Esperanza Project

 

So water is in danger, globally. Right now Indigenous communities are still at risk, and they are standing up, because they have to stand up.  When you finally realize — WATER IS LIFE — you understand why you can’t sit back down.

People keep saying “after” Standing Rock – but I’m still of the same state of mind, I still have the same passion for the water,  it has to be protected. It was when I was at Sicangu Wicoti Iyuksa that I learned about the aquifers that were in danger and when I was at Standing Rock I learned about the rivers that were in danger.

We encourage you to read the article. Cheryl Angel passes on wisdom from a lifetime spent in activism for the planet. Her reflections on the movement at Standing Rock are insightful, as is her take on the ongoing struggle to protect water and land resources.

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Next, we’re providing links to 2 reports on the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s website.

SRST – No DAPL Remand Report Final, from February 5, 2019.

This first story is a damning and infuriating report on the deficient Corps of Engineers Analysis of the environmental impacts of the DAPL. The courts finally sided with the Standing Rock Tribe, but then decided that since the pipeline is already built they will let the oil flow.

Impacts of an Oil Spill from the Dakota Access Pipeline on the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe from February 21, 2018, so that you can see just how much is at stake.
Both stories connect you to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s website and we encourage you to have a look around. The About Us section contains lots of information about the history of the tribe and the reservation, as does the section about environmental issues.
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Next, we’re going to point you toward the Indigenous Environmental Network.
IEN is an alliance of Indigenous peoples whose mission it is to protect the sacredness of Earth Mother from contamination and exploitation by strengthening, maintaining and respecting Indigenous teachings and natural laws. Adopted in 1994 by the IEN National Council, Denver, Colorado
The IEN website has a broad focus and they carry a variety of interesting stories about the ongoing fight to protect the land and water. It isn’t all just talk, though. The IEN runs several important environmental campaigns including the Keep It In The Ground Campaign run by Dallas Goldtooth. Dallas was born into an activist family and stood as a water protector at Standing Rock. He’s an accomplished activist, teacher, writer, poet and comedian who uses story and humor to tackle difficult subjects.
Here he is with his comedy troupe, The 1491’s, at Vasser College in 2018. His message is full of hope.

And finally, we leave you with a clip found on Twitter 2 days ago by rq. It’s a true message of hope from The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the it’s the perfect way to end this post.

 

YouTube Video: What is white supremacy? – A Response to Steven Crowder

Shaun’s videos are always excellently done, and this one is no exception.

I am a bit torn after seeing this video. I did not know much about Steven Crowder, apart from that he is a climate change denier and a typical American conservative in many other aspects. After this, I am even less interested in him.

However, one young and exceptionally talented knifemaker on YouTube is following Steven Crowder and Ben Shapiro. He is only 19 years old, so there is still a chance that he grows out of that shit because legalities notwithstanding, at that age a person is not yet fully developed and I myself was definitively a twerp at that time. But also that age is definitively high enough to know that racism is a bad thing and the excuse “he’s just a kid” does not hold water anymore.

Two years ago I stopped watching one interesting blacksmithing channel after I learned that the blacksmith is Trump voter. I just could not stand the idea of supporting a person who does something as vile as voting for an open and unapologetic racist and misogynist and wannabe fascist. I am not at that stage with this young knifemaker yet, but…

The Art of Book Design: The Rules for Radicals

Saul Alinsky. Rules for Radicals. New York, Random House, 1971. ©Marcus Ranum, all rights reserved

Our book today comes from Marcus and I love the bright, quirky colours and design so typical of the 70’s.

Despite its age, this book is still relevant and contains Alinsky’s 13 Rules for Radicals which all political activists should be familiar with. Alinsky believed in working within the system and his philosophy was essentially one of non-violence. This book contains one of my favourite quotes:

“People cannot be free unless they are willing to sacrifice some of their interests to guarantee the freedom of others. The price of democracy is the ongoing pursuit of the common good by all of the people.” Saul Alinsky, via: Open Culture

 

YouTube Video: Why is Pride Still Important in 2019?

I know you needn’t reminding, but sometimes it helps to have our SJW arguments refreshed.

In the past, when confronted with a person who complained about how sexuality is a private thing and therefore gay parades should not exist, I have pointed out the publicity and ostentatiousness of (not only) royal weddings.

Sex is a private thing. Sexuality and sexual orientation, not so much. Not in Europe nor anywhere in the so-called “west”.

Is This What The Bullies Want?

I am beyond saddened by this news story in yesterday’s Toronto Star. A 9 year old girl in Calgary, a recent legal arrival to our country from Syria, has committed suicide. The paper reports:

 

A Calgary Syrian refugee family is dealing with the tragic death of their 9-year-old daughter, who died by suicide after being bullied at school. Amal Alshteiwi is shown here in a screen capture of a YouTube video. (SCREEN CAPTURE)

 

A Calgary Syrian refugee family is dealing with the tragic death of their 9-year-old daughter, who they say died by suicide after being bullied at school.

Aref Alshteiwi discovered his daughter Amal’s body March 6, according to Sam Nammoura, co-founder of Calgary Immigrant Support Society. Nammoura has worked with the family, and details of Amal’s death were relayed to him by the parents.

Police conducted more than a dozen interviews following Amal’s death, and found no evidence of foul play, according to Calgary Police Service media relations.

The family escaped war in Syria more than three years ago as government-sponsored refugees.

Amal’s parents told Nammoura that Amal had been coming home from school upset, telling them she was being bullied. She had been fine until around six months ago, they told him, when she moved to a new school and began having issues in math. Nammoura said they told him that’s when the bullying started — Amal was called stupid and ugly on a daily basis by several classmates.

The parents told Nammoura they raised the issue with the school, but that their daughter didn’t get any help. She went to school happy, they told him, and came home sad. However, Nammoura wasn’t aware of the issues Amal was having until after she died.

In an emailed statement, the Calgary Board of Education said it is working with the school’s staff and students “to try to understand if there were concerns or issues.”

“The school is closely working with both students and families to heal from this tragic event and come together as a community,” the statement read.

The family eventually moved schools to try to get Amal away from the bullying. Before she left, Nammoura said Amal was told by her bullies that moving wouldn’t fix anything.

Four days after she switched schools, Amal’s father found the girl dead in her room.

Story by Rose Saba, Star Calgary

She’s a beautiful girl who had a whole life ahead of her. She’ll never get her first kiss or go to the prom. She won’t graduate high school or go to college or fall in love and have children of her own. And she isn’t unique. This is what happens where hate lives and it sickens me. Is this what the bullies want? Are there really people in my country who would celebrate this loss? It is my hope that the the people who bullied Amal feel shame and remorse at what has happened and will carry that forward instead of the hate. Some will, but much work needs to be done to remove this cancer of fear and hate of otherness from our society. Lives are depending on it.

Racialization of Muslims

In the light of the Christchurch terrorist attack, I think it is appropriate to try to put to rest, on this blog at least, the “Islam is not a race” argument so often thrown around in atheist circles. I admit to making this clueless blunder in the past as well, and really meaning it. But when arguing with actual unapologetic racists I had to point out some realities to them – like that Roma people are not in fact different race from Europeans, because we both stem from common and fairly recent Indo-European stock. And like that Arabs and Jews are also not different races from each other – and are not a different race from Europeans for the same reasons as Roma people are. That has made me to realize that racism is not, at least not only, what I thought it is, and that islamophobia is a real thing, alhtough the word itself can be used disingenuously (like any other word).

When I see a hijab (or a cross or any other overt religious symbol), I see a person being shackled by the throes of superstition, but still a person no fundamentaly different from you or I. But when a racist sees a hijab, they also do see an “other” in a very fundamental sense. Because to them race is not actually about biology (because biology does not support any form of racism) but about politics of power that merely uses biology and science in general to construct post hoc and ad hoc arguments for holding onto or acquiring said political power.

For the rest of the argument I give word to Philosophy Tube, who has made two excellent videos explaining the process of racialization of human groups and the whats, why’s and how’s behind it.

Teacher’s Corner: Introverts, extroverts, shmextroverts

This Teacher’s Corner is going to be a bit different from the usual ones as it will breach out to a broader topic, but it all starts with teaching.

Actually it starts with Twitter and an annoyed paediatrician  tweeting that since it was half term he would get lots of primary school kids’ parents who’d been told to get their kid tested for ADHD and such*. I replied something along the lines that if teachers could diagnose ADHD they’d be psychiatrists and not teachers, which is why we’d like parents to get a professional opinion on the matter. After all, the only thing we see is that a child has obvious problems paying attention and following the classroom rules.

While this is an interesting topic in and on itself, it was only the starter for a conversation with another user about introverted kids. Her complaint was that the German school system punishes introverted kids via the “participation” grade. In Germany almost all term reports have two separate grades that are “participation” and “behaviour”. All teachers teaching in a class submit their grade, the mean gets calculated and then there may be adjustments. To be honest, till the end of the conversation I couldn’t quite get what she actually wanted, because she kept contradicting herself, but I got that she was fundamentally unhappy, either from her own experiences or because of somebody else, and wanted CHANGE, even though she was not quite clear as to what should actually change. I’ll try to talk about why “just leave the quiet kids alone” isn’t a good idea from a teaching point of view and then move to what bugged me about the whole discussion. [Read more…]

And the prize for a complete lack of self-awareness goes to…

…this TERF. It was a usual argument about how horrible it is for trans activists and allies to be fed up with Graham Linehan because of frozen peaches, when the following exchange occurred:

Terf: Grand, so, but sure we’ll be pushing them into the sea this year so we won’t have to worry about them much longer but read a load of liberalism because that’s what’s coming next hopefully… (emphasis mine)

Other person in the conversation: i have literally no idea what you’re talking about.

Me: I’m not sure, but it sounds like a threat to me.

I mean, how could I take somebody talking about pushing trans people into the sea so they don’t have to worry about them as a threat, given the rampant violence, be it structural, administrative and literal, against trans people?
Apparently this upset her a lot.
Terf: Always with the drama. Into the sea, it’s a metaphor.

Me: Get lost, it’s an imperative.

Apparently, the fact that “get lost” is an imperative was, no pun intended, lost on her. Anyway, I was done, but she obviously wasn’t.

Terf: No, that would be we MUST push them into the sea.
Terf: ps and anyone who would take a statement like ‘we are going to push them into the sea’ literally must have a very flat sense of language or need their head examined imho. Unless they were German and in the vicinity of Dunkirk in the early 1940s…
Note the not so subtle ableism… She tweeted this at me a full day after I told her to get lost, which shows that apparently she really couldn’t let go. To be honest, I had already forgotte who exactly she was when she tweeted this.
Me: You seem upset.
Terf: What an odd thing to say…

Lady, you keep tweeting at me after a full day…
Me: You come back a day later after I told you to get lost. Maybe upset is the wrong word, obsessed fits better. I repeat, get lost.

Terf: That seems a little extreme – obsessed by what?

One thing, it’s “obsessed with”. Second thing, look at this. Somebody has told you twice to leave them alone and you keep replying, but think that “obsessed” is extreme.
Me: You’re still talking to me after I told you to get lost, twice. Go learn to respect some boundaries.
Yes, I was getting annoyed. Why is she still in my mentions? What is so difficult about leaving somebody alone? We’re strangers on the internet, we do not have to come to any kind of solution, so why not just respect the other person’s boundaries, no matter what you think about their position?
Terf: I’ve been pursuing a fairly common line of reasoning about a form of leftist smear-journalism, providing examples when requested and other reading material – that’s all fairly normal, isn’t it?
No, lady. In the offline world you’re the dude who keeps following me down the street, nagging and nattering and insisting that they’re totally rational while I’m trying to walk away.
Terf: But you accused me of making a threat, I explained that it wasn’t a threat but a metaphor – I’m allowed to defend myself, and obliged to reassure you that it wasn’t a threat, aren’t I? And then you say I’m upset and obsessed – I assure you I am not.
This is my favourite one as it is so fucking entitled that the whiniest white dude could learn something. Note the words. A stranger has told her repeatedly to stop bothering her, but she thinks she’s allowed to keep talking to me, even obliged by I don’t know what to keep talking to me regardless of whether I want to hear her. My wishes, my personal space, my agency to decide to whom I talk and to whom I listen has just been completely negated.m Because she thinks she’s got the right to talk to me. Terfs love to accuse trans women to be “entitled men” who “disregard women’s spaces and boundaries”, but look at this textbook example of not taking no for an answer. I have a feeling that this has something to do with the fact that many Terfs (especially on Twitter) believe that no cis woman could ever agree with trans women and that they speak for all cis women, so therefore I must be trans. I mean, after all I put my pronouns in my bio and I have a tortoise as a picture. This one is an annoying case, but one of the more harmless ones. Anyway:
Me: Get. Lost.
Terf: You accused me of making a threat, which is untrue and unfair and not supported by any evidence. I’d like to give you a chance to apologise…
This is getting rich. Now she’s the wronged party (perpetual victimmobile).
Me: Get lost, this is the textbook definition of harassment.
 
By now I was getting into teacher/mum “I told you no five times already and I’m getting angry” mood.

Terf: Accusing someone of making a threat for no reason could be said to be harassment, and then not allowing them to defend themselves but adding further charges. But lets leave it at that, I think the point about smear tactics is well made and I wish all you all the very best.

Terf: (ps just for completeness – accusing someone of harassment who is trying to defend themselves from a false accusation you yourself have made is itself harassment) atb.
Well, a girl can dream, right? But we leave on the note that I am the real harasser here. In conclusion, there is absolutely no difference between Terfs and their new best friends, the christian right. They will both whine about free speech, by what they mean “being owed a platform and nobody is allowed to talk back”. They will both bother and annoy and harass you. they will not take a no for an answer. They will ignore women’s boundaries and wishes. And then they’ll complain about how they’re the real victims here.
TLDR, Terfs are right wing bigots and assholes, don’t be one.

 

Slavic Saturday

Slavic people are today mostly seen as “white” to the point that a Polish game developer was in USA criticised for making the computer game Witcher 3 without any people of color that could be recognized as such in modern world. Similarly a few years later a Czech developer was criticised for the same thing in a game Kingdom Come: Deliverance, deliberately set in medieval Bohemia and made as historically accurate as possible.

Whilst I understand all the arguments for the importance of diversity in representation, I think all these critiques were misguided, because they were targeted at the wrong target – they criticised products of one culture from the perspective of another culture with entirely different roots.

Slavs are indeed white when you look at the color of their skin, and by Gob do we have an awful lot of white supremacists and neo-nazis today. However a white nationalist or even a neo-nazi Slav makes about as much sense as white nationalist or neo-nazi (or Trump loving) Jew.  After all, Jews have white skin too. And after all, how many Jew-hating Arabs and Arab-hating Jews know that both Jews and Arabs are in fact semitic tribes? I would venture a guess that many do not, or they do but don’t care. People are perfectly capable of being misguided, misinformed, bigoted and downright willfully ignorant and hold contradictory ideas in one head, so there is that.

Historically Slavs migrated in the Europe from east and north, displacing come celtic and germanic populations. As a result they lived mostly in the woodlands and mountains of north, central and East Europe and they were comparatively poor. They had no written language that we know of, so very little is in fact known about their culture or religion. Some knowledge can be derived from linguistics, some from written reports by neighbouring nations, some from archeology, but Slavs established themselves in Europe during the dark ages and knowledge is therefore scarce.

However it is sometimes alleged that their own name for themselves – Slovan (originating from the word sloviť=to speak) might have been the origin of the word sclavus (Lat), and later on Sklave (Ger) and  slave (En) . Because these poor people were popular sources of cheap slave labor for neighbouring Germanic and Italic tribes through the early history of Europe way over to the Ottoman Empire in Middle East later on.

And even apart from slavery, a lot of the time right from Ancient Rome and the Middle Ages until very recently most Slavic nations were second-class citizens in countries led by people of other nationalities. Only Russians have managed to be oppressors and not oppressed in this period, and ironically they mostly oppressed and sometimes even tried to exterminate other Slavs. Both Czechs and Poles did not have any independency right until the end of WW1, after which they had few short decades to get the taste of self-determination before being swept into the bloody cauldron of WW2.

Under the Third Reich the Slavs were seen as barely people. They were not targeted for outright extermination like Jews and Roma, but the intent was to put them back into their proper place – slavery (that is why I think that a neo-nazi Slav is an ignoramus and a completely daft person – if nazis got their way, he would think scrubbing floors with his own toothbrush is a posh job).

After the WW2 all slavic nations ended up being wrapped behind the Iron Curtain under the not-so subtle hegemony of USSR. This time at least it was not overtly attempted to obliterate local cultures and languages (not here anyway). But whilst the Russian rule did try and manage to instill some sense of Pan-Slavic belonging, they also managed to instill some anti russian sentiments along the way (in Poland on top of the hundreds of years long grudge Poles held against Russians from the time of the Russian Empire). And the sense of always being second class, not being allowed anything truly ours, pervaded.

In this sense, sprouting of some nationalism after the fall of the Iron Curtain was perhaps inevitable, what with the nations trying to finally re-assert themselves for good. I do think white nationalists are going about the business the wrong way, proclaiming your superiority over others is not the right thing to do and it is also demonstrably false. But I also think that Polish game developers who make a PC game packed with people who bear the typical facial features of contemporary Poles, with architecture and ornaments of medieval Slavic kingdoms and based on Slavic mythology, or Czech game developers making a game set in a very distinct and specific area of medieval Kingdom of Bohemia with focus on historical accuracy are doing nothing wrong and are indeed going about it the right way. And even though these works of art have managed to succeed on an international stage, their creators were in no way obliged to fall in step with USA culture and reflect USA racial make-up.

Those who criticised these two games for a lack of representation of POC have failed to realize that they were essentially trying to bully others into giving their own culture away and let the USA to appropriate said culture the way USA likes it. In fact, they should take these games as an opportunity to learn that “white people” are not a monolith and that outside of USA there is a lot more that defines your ancestry and your culture than the color of your skin. This way said critics were – probably unwittingly – perpetuating the USA collonialism ad absurdum, by requiring everyone everywhere to reflect contemporary social ills of USA.

We do not need nor want to do that, thank you very much. We have our own social ills to deal with.

How Typically American

So White House has published a pamphlet about the evils of socialism. I have not read it in full and I probably won’t since I have better things to do with my life than to read drivel from Trump administration, but on casual glance it seems to insinuate that the disastrous attempt at socialism in former Soviet bloc invalidates everything with the word root “social” in it. Therefore since badly implemented socialism in Ukraine has led to famine in 1921, “socialism” in EU in 2018 is just as bad.

That is of course complete non-sequitur.

The whole document also seems to be rather American-centric and comparing apples with pineapples, or perhaps even bananas. Like this infographic:

Whitehouse infographic about Costs of Owning a truck

Now I admit I have zero personal experience with any of the countries on that infographic except with USA.

But my experience with USA is that people there own pickup trucks in about 80% of the cases just to own them, not because they actually, really need them. I mean, I have seen them used for grocery shopping in big cities, with the deck empty and the groceries being put in a bag on the passenger seat. People commuted daily to work in them. Most owners of pickup trucks in USA could do just as well with only ordinary cars and for those rare occasions where they really, really might need something bigger (like buying building materials for house repairs etc.) the options available in for example Germany (i.e. renting a truck or goods trailer at the shop for a few days) would suffice ample. Further populations in EU are much more tightly knit than they are in USA, there are not many far-off farms and isolated homesteads that really need pickup trucks. I am not sure how this is in Nordic countries, but I still suspect that a real need for big pickup truck there is smaller than in US just due to the USA’s sheer size and wast empty places.

Thus this infographic is used either ignorantly or dishonestly to scaremonger. Or both.

As far as the economic side of the pamphlet goes, I will leave the critique to an expert who says everything better than I ever can:
Are the Danes Melancholy? Are the Swedes Sad?

On the whole I get the feeling that this pamphlet starts with the assumption that everything USA=good and everything socialism=bad and tries to spin evidence to appear to validate those assumptions.

How typically American of them, to ignore all context an only seek ways to put USA at the center of the universe. Again.