A new experiment

Hey Cromrades,

Those of you who follow me on Twitter might have noticed a friendship I have struck up with a guy going by the handle “Rev_Xavier”. Xavier is relentlessly funny and uncompromisingly skeptical when it comes to religion, alt-med, gender, pseudoscience, you name it. After a number of really fun conversations online, Xavier and I hit upon the idea of starting a podcast.

Neither of us have hosted anything like this before, so we’re really winging it. I’m hoping that you good people will have some suggestions or feedback on whether you think this is a good idea, what kinds of things you’d like to see us take on, if there is a format you think is particularly effective, and any other random thoughts that might pop into your heads while watching this. The video, along with some relevant links, are below the fold.

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Extending the benefit of the doubt

As a young(er) person who was broadly quite accepting of the notion of a non-racist Canada (or a post-racial society in general), it was deeply disappointing to gradually become more aware that the way I saw myself didn’t mesh with how others saw me. To be sure, nobody is perceived by others the way they perceive themselves, but the fact of being judged as deficient because of something that I took some pride in was decidedly unfair. To be denigrated according to a deeply inaccurate and unjust bundle of ideas that have formed about blackness was, at least at first, a profoundly painful betrayal of a society and people in whom I had placed a great deal of confidence.

As I began to become more aware of the ‘background radiation’ of racism in our society, I realized that just maybe everyone else was as ignorant of what was going on as I was. I thought that by talking about it, by educating people about my experience, that our shared desire to see racism eradicated from our society would motivate us to make improvements and to listen to the experiences of those who have so often been on the receiving end. I thought that it would be a simple fix – those who didn’t see racism because it wasn’t relevant to their lived experiences would say “this is new information that I wasn’t aware of before. Now that I know this, I can incorporate that into my new understanding.”

Yeah… that didn’t exactly work. [Read more…]

A Question of Authenticity

So the other day, I had written a post that was supposed to be about the strange dance away from logic that seems to be common on the fringes of the raw, organic food lifestyle (ROFL). What I ended up with however, was an extended detour into the social fascination with the concept of ‘authenticity’. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about here, the sort of ‘authenticity’ that leads people to buy clothing made by hand in the Peruvian mountains by semi-nomadic alpaca herders, because by doing so they were being more ‘authentic’ and less ‘fake’ or ‘consumerist’.

I have no problem with Peru, or mountains, or nomads or alpacas, and I have nothing but good things to say about herders of all kinds. My fascination was with the people who buy their products – or perhaps more specifically, those particular beliefs that spur people on to seek out ever-more ‘alternative’ lifestyles. There’s a scene in the Ben Stiller movie “Zoolander” where Hansel, a model played by Owen Wilson, is describing a particularly vivid memory he has of his wild and adventurous life. He describes  mountain climbing in some far away nation, and recounts the extreme danger that he was in, before revealing that he was in fact remembering a particularly vivid hallucination brought on by the heavy use of peyote. He was confused because, we are told, Hansel’s life is so wild and adventurous – so real, that the fictional mountain climbing adventure could have been something he had actually done. Hansel has put his money and status to good use, by embarking on a campaign of living life authentically. Oh, and while he was remembering this experience, he was baking artisan bread in a wood-fire stone oven located in his industrial-loft apartment. Owen’s character was the embodiment of nearly every trope and cliché associated with the idea of living ‘authentically’. [Read more…]

Paging Dr. Freud?

I am not really a big supporter of the whole “anti-gay bigots are secretly closeted gay men” meme. I find it far too ‘pat’ an answer – human behaviour and beliefs are multifaceted and complex. While there have been a number of examples where anti-gay crusaders (Eddie Long, George Rekers, Ted Haggard) have turned out to be something other than the sterling avatars of pure heterosexuality that they claim to be, there are enough men in public life who hate gays with equal sincerity and virulence who show no evidence of being gay, secretly or otherwise. Whatever the relationship between gay hatred and self-hatred by gay men, I find that particular explanation sometimes borders on succumbing to ‘shaming’ straight men for being gay, and that makes me uncomfortable.

All that being said, sometimes there doesn’t seem to be any other explanation*:

“Untrammeled homosexuality can take over and destroy a social system,” says [anti-gay activist Paul] Cameron. “If you isolate sexuality as something solely for one’s own personal amusement[1], and all you want is the most satisfying orgasm you can get- and that is what homosexuality seems to be-then homosexuality seems too powerful to resist[2]. The evidence is that men do a better job on men and women on women, if all you are looking for is orgasm.” So powerful is the allure of gays, Cameron believes, that if society approves that gay people, more and more heterosexuals will be inexorably drawn into homosexuality[3]. “I’m convinced that lesbians are particularly good seducers,” says Cameron.

“People in homosexuality are incredibly evangelical,” he adds, sounding evangelical himself. “It’s pure sexuality. It’s almost like pure heroin. It’s such a rush[4]. They are committed in almost a religious way. And they’ll take enormous risks, do anything.” He says that for married men and women, gay sex would be irresistible. “Martial (sic) sex tends toward the boring end[5],” he points out. “Generally, it doesn’t deliver the kind of sheer sexual pleasure that homosexual sex does[6]” So, Cameron believes, within a few generations homosexuality would be come the dominant form of sexual behavior.

There’s a lot to unpack here: [Read more…]

Newton’s first law of racism

Having studied a tiny bit of mechanics, I find the subject extremely useful in explaining things like privilege, racism, sexism, and many of the other concepts that are the keys to reading this blog. You simply cannot successfully solve problems in mechanics without being able to recognize all the forces at play on an object, whether it be still or in motion. Failure to account for an extant force, or adding a force that does not exist, will result in you reaching an erroneous conclusion about the behaviour of whatever body is under observation.

Similarly, one cannot look at human behaviour or the impact of institutions and systems without taking all the relevant factors into account. When we allow ourselves to succumb to our privilege (or, put another way, when we fail to account for all of the forces acting on us), we draw conclusions that are not based in reality. We make decisions based on those conclusions, and on our predictions of what consequences those decisions will have. Failure to recognize either or own privilege or the prevailing forces of racism, misogyny, cissexism, heterosexism, you name it, will result in the creation of rules and systems that have unintended results.

Sometimes those results are disastrous and tragic: [Read more…]

“Black rage” and “self restraint”

Last week I received a compliment (of sorts) from a Twitter follower who found my level of self-restraint remarkable when dealing with a particularly odious and clueless post from a Men’s Rights forum. This person marveled at my ability to maintain a sense of calm purposefulness while examining and disemboweling an argument that was built on a factual foundation so shaky as to inspire epistemic vertigo in anyone who read it. This person confided to me that ze would not have been able to keep hir cool in the face of such an outrageously fallacious and inflammatory argument.

While my usual policy with compliments is to thank the giver for taking the time to say so, I felt a twinge inside me that was clearly the initial birth pangs of this post.

I am, if I can be a trustworthy adjudicator of my own behaviour, a fairly calm person by nature. Years of putting my foot in my mouth (and dealing with the social consequences thereof)  have engendered an instinct to think before speaking. My time spent on the internet has inculcated in me an instinct to keep my guard up and maintain a sense of ironic detachment from most things, particularly where race is concerned. Being the biggest kid on the playground meant that I had to learn quite early to control my temper lest I hurt someone smaller than me. I’m also profoundly secure with who I am and what I’m doing in my life, to the point where most of what happens on the internet is just occasionally-irritating noise. [Read more…]

One year of Crommunist at FTB

Today marks the one-year anniversary of my blog’s appearance on the Freethought Blogs network. It was 366 short days ago that I was plucked from my position of relative obscurity and offered the opportunity to blog alongside some ‘big names’ within the movement, many of whom were personal heroes of mine. While the ‘technical’ birthday mark passed some months ago, the calendar reckoning was somewhat overturned by this blog’s migration to the new site with its bigger audience and new traffic patterns.

As I did with the first birthday celebration of the Manifesto, I thought I’d share some stats and thoughts with you. [Read more…]

Kiva project update: August/September 2012

Hey cromrades,

I was unforgivably (but somewhat characteristically) lazy this past period with handling the Kiva project. As a result, the donation to the Sioux expired before I got my act together to donate. Mea culpa. What I have done instead is donated $50 of your money to the Canadian Red Cross’ Aboriginal Outreach program, and matched that donation with $50 of my own. Additionally, we had a windfall of Kiva repayments in the past couple of months, so I was able to direct a number of new loans. There were two pay periods since our last update, so there’s quite a bit of activity summarized below.

Here are the loans we made this month: [Read more…]