March from Milwaukee to DC shockingly encounters racism

Activists are marching from Milwaukee to Washington D.C. to bring awareness to racial inequity and police brutality. They’re currently in Indiana and from what I can tell, it hasn’t really gained traction nationally. Searching on Twitter, Reddit, and Google news turns up next to nothing since the march began. I guess a group of black people marching through white towns and confronting racist bullshit isn’t newsworthy, even (or especially) in the state and towns they’re encountering it in.

The last two days – in Hanna and Plymouth (IN) respectively – were suspenseful and scary. If they weren’t literal sundown towns back in the day, they surely are its 21st century equivalent. Getting word of a group of black people marching through town at night, residents lined the roads, hurling slurs, yelling all lives matter, and watching ominously from a distance under streetlights. White people in gas stations complained over how their towns are unfairly perceived as racist. Cops are harassing them. Security guards in a Walmart rifled through their bags assuming they must be stealing. Last night, a small fleet of cars followed a short distance behind the marchers, freaking them and sympathetic viewers out. There are a lot of unsubstantiated rumors of the KKK (in or out of costume) following the march closely.

Live video of the march can be found on one of the organizer’s Facebook page and is the best way to keep up with what’s going on.

The only good cop is an ex cop

The telegenic police giving impassioned speeches and kneeling with and hugging protesters while their coworkers indiscriminately tear gas, beat, cage, and shoot rubber bullets (or in Louisville, actual bullets) are nothing more than superficial propaganda to make (mostly, but not all) white people feel good.

Institutionally, the police (including the “good” ones within) views itself as an aggrieved victim. They are entitled pissbabies unable to withstand a modicum of criticism who, horrifyingly, have access to an arsenal of war material while conservative leadership urges them to lay waste to the actual humans resisting them.

They (including “good” cops) want this all to go away as soon as possible. When/if it does, they’ll talk about reform, diversity hiring, cultural & mental health awareness, sensitivity training, etc. – all of which is already being done and doesn’t work at all. The well-oiled PR machinery is already in place for the authority-approved “healing process” to commence.

At the very least, these “good” cops should take off their thin blue line apparel, remove their shitty punisher tattoos and, most importantly, stop allowing themselves to be used as feel-good propaganda shields for the paramilitary terrorist organization they freely chose to join.

The police as institutional entity is fundamentally unreformable. The rot is ubiquitous and runs too deep. There is an unbroken line connecting Derek Chauvin to its former iterations; from the slave patrols of the south; to the union-busting tools of the bourgeoisie; to the professionalized purveyors of state violence during the civil rights era; and, finally, to their eager enforcement the failed racist War on Drugs.

Nothing less than defunding and demilitarizing should be seen as an acceptable outcome to the unrest spawned by the murder of George Floyd. If we dare to dream we might go further:

The alternative is not more money for police training programs, hardware or oversight. It is to dramatically shrink their function. We must demand that local politicians develop non-police solutions to the problems poor people face. We must invest in housing, employment and healthcare in ways that directly target the problems of public safety. Instead of criminalizing homelessness, we need publicly financed supportive housing; instead of gang units, we need community-based anti-violence programs, trauma services and jobs for young people; instead of school police we need more counselors, after-school programs, and restorative justice programs.

Losing a friend

It’s easy to date the first time I met Carrie. It was the day after my birthday in 2007 and doubled as the first time I hung out with my now wife. At her apartment, Carrie walked up to me and I bent down to pet her. She immediately flopped onto her back so I could pet her tummy. I had no idea I would have the privilege of experiencing this hundreds of times over the next 13 years.

Last Friday ended up being the day we knew was coming since she was diagnosed with heart disease a little over a year ago. She started the day enjoying the sunshine before what we hoped would be a routine visit to the vet. When she got home, her back legs stopped working. While the rest of the day remains hazy overall, parts of it will be forever burned into my memory.

Saturday was beautiful. We spent much of the day at a small family gathering, and then went for a short hike before going back home. It poured all day Sunday and the new normal set in. It felt (and still feels) unreal, but all too real at the same time. I could still see the indentation on the blanket she slept on, one of her whiskers on the stair, dried blood from her poor hind legs on our bedsheet, and her medicines strewn across the kitchen counter. Anytime I walked to the kitchen I half expected to hear her yelling at me to give her treats.

She was tough and resilient till the end. She spent a lot of the last year at vets and emergency rooms. She had an enormous appetite, but she was wasting way. Through it all she persisted – though she was slower, less confident in jumping on the counter, and down to 6 lbs., her personality and lust for life still shone through.

She was adventurous. She loved car rides and walks. We moved often and, unlike our other two cats, reveled in exploring new environments.

It’s hard to come to terms with the fact that I’ll never again feel her body smashed against my face in bed while purring loudly; or see her meow at me from the window before greeting me as I walk in, rolling all over on her back as I pet her; or walk with her in the woods while she happily smells everything.

I’m pretty confident she led a happy, joyful life and I’ll always be grateful for the time I got to spend with her. I’m really sad and it’s hard to deal with. But it’ll get better.

Feels weird to write something so personal here, but I kinda just felt like it.

 

Ecofascism, neo-Malthusianism and COVID-19

As COVID-19 continues to spread across the globe, there have been numerous examples of wild animals thriving, as well as widespread improvement in air quality. You may have seen some expressing the sentiment that #natureishealing. Some do this because they revel in the sight of animals flourishing in spaces that have for so long been life-threatening due to human activities. Others have a darker point of view, shitting out takes along the lines of “we are the virus, COVID is the cure.” These points of view tend to fall somewhere between general nihilism and, more insidiously, neo-Malthusianism (perhaps eco-extremism as well, but this is far less prevalent).

Many on the fragmented left respond by pointing to our wonderful economic system as the true virus: it’s not people, it’s capitalism! While there is obvious merit to this, it occludes an important, obvious fact: capitalism cannot exist without actual humans, for example, excavating the guts of a mountain; without actual humans processing the guts within sweltering factories; without actual humans transporting the finished products across the globe; and finally, without actual humans consuming the products and disposing the resultant waste. All of which necessitates gargantuan amounts of energy, most of which is sucked out of the earth and refined – more activities which require human labor power.

Further, situating capitalism as the prime evil neglects the fact that earth destruction was and can be practiced under communism just as well (a fact that communists and socialists tend to ignore). Moreover, it matters little if any particular factory is run by bourgeois capitalists, authoritarian state communists, or egalitarian anarcho-syndicalists: none of them dare to conceive of a world in which the factory ceases to be. But maybe there is a globalized way of life that includes factories mass producing eventual garbage which isn’t catastrophically destructive – if so, I’m eagerly waiting its widespread instantiation.

This is not to say that we humans as a whole are the disease. For most of human existence we didn’t commit mass extirpations (that we were the primary reason for the Pleistocene megafaunal extinctions is far from settled), clear cut forests, destroy & despoil mountaintops, pollute the seas, damn rivers, etc. Even today, there are many peoples that do not live in ways that entail mass destruction, that resist with every fiber of their being the Leviathanic beast constantly threatening their existence. For this reason, I certainly empathize and express solidarity with venerable persons/groups like the Indigenous Anarchist Federation patiently explaining to settlers that, no, not all humans do this.

Nevertheless, we need to recognize that most of us are complicit to varying degrees, even if we are passive consumers. If we are to assign blame, we can start by placing it on the heads of those who profit the most from the destruction of our only home, but let us not forget most of our comparatively smaller roles.

***

Some, in excoriating gleeful environmentalists, nihilists and neo-Malthusians (inasmuch as they make any kind of distinction), go further: they find them to be ecofascist. While I admit there is a navigable gulf between them, such people misunderstand what ecofascism is. Put simply, ecofascism advocates for totalitarianism combined with “eco-conscious” ethno-nationalism and xenophobia. It co-opts deep ecology in order to incorporate the worst aspects of it into its repellent ideology – perhaps a distant cousin to corporate greenwashing.

By incorrectly and liberally applying the ecofascist label to anyone who’s scared, hopeless, or just happy to see nature thriving, we confuse them with those that actually are. We may risk pushing them in that direction – for there is merit to their knee-jerk denials. Only fascists (though not necessarily all of them) readily accept the label; falsely accused potential allies are likely to view with mistrust those that insist on appending it to them.

I think it more effective to point out the demonstrable fact that there is a class of people that is disproportionately consuming the world’s resource – and it is infinitely more likely to be those in the vicinity of the western Neo-Malthusian or the nihilist than in in the global south. Further, the left needs to fully grasp and not run away from the fact that the planet cannot sustain a population of 8 billion people living Western lifestyles. To believe this is possible is magical thinking: we would need 4 earths for everyone to live like an American. Acknowledging this is not ceding ground to fascists.

I want to make clear that it is categorically bad to advocate for vague population controls and mewl about how there’s too many fucking people. I think that this outlook, while dangerous, is more likely to lead to – and further entrench – myopia and despair rather than ecofascism. It’s shitty and, while it’s not exactly fascism, it might entail people too dead inside to fight the genuine fascists in our midst.

***

I suggest we let what is occurring environmentally be instructive. Let it be a lesson: yes – certain humans and capitalism as hyperobject need to be identified as culprits and meaningfully addressed; yes – the circumstances in which any ephemeral environmental benefits are manifesting are unconditionally bad. But let us gaze upon these benefits and grapple with how we can allow them to continue outside of the context of a global pandemic:

We could tear up roads or even build ways for animals to get around them. There are even more novel approaches, like green cemeteries that double as wildlife corridors. And with the need for a green stimulus in the wake of the pandemic, it could be a way to put people to work while also restoring the planet.

Beyond reducing fear, we can also make places more appealing for animals to hang. That could mean replacing your ecological disaster of a lawn with wildflowers to help pollinators, or fighting to keep park space open so birds have places to chill, particularly along flyways. [ironically, the author does what this blog warns against]

Are these collective panaceas? Of course, not: they are examples of what can be done to maintain COVID-19-related environmental positives. We are in desperate need of a massive suite of solutions applied worldwide as well as to specific locales. Some will work. Some won’t. Some will have mixed results and need adjusting. But we need it all. Time isn’t on our side.

Finally, if you’re too steeped in anthropocentrism to be unable to spare a positive thought for thriving traumatized animals (or feel the need to scold those who do); if the idea of baby leatherback sea turtles scurrying unbothered across a beach doesn’t make you feel something, I don’t know how to respond to that.

For those that do rejoice in clear skies and nature recovering, do not do so without the insertion of a pretty large caveat that recognizes the human suffering that has led to such phenomena. And if you notice a person omitting that important caveat, please don’t call them an ecofascist.

Pandemics and stuff and glimmers of hope

Hi. How are you? I hope you and your loved ones are well and staying safe. My wife and I both are fortunate enough that we are still employed and able to work from home. She’s a teacher with a contract that runs till the end of summer. I might get laid off anytime. So we’re pretty okay for now.

I’ve been thinking, reading, learning and writing about collapse for over a decade. And yet I was completely caught off guard with what’s transpired. I’ve long known that public health officials and epidemiologists have warned about the inevitability of a pandemic, but even on 3/10 (the day before sports stopped), I was still like “meh, it probably won’t be that bad.” So though I’ve shouted for years about how we in the West live in more precarity than most are aware of, I was no better than anyone else in terms of early, misinformed denialism.

Rather than write here, I’ve been primarily venting my rage on Facebook, to the extent that I’m sure many have hid me. There I rant like a madmen, exhorting friends and family to gaze upon the hideous monstrosity that is capitalism, with its horrors, inadequacies, and contradictions laid bare, unable to be hidden within the context of a global pandemic. Fun and uplifting stuff!

As for this here blog, I’ve junked some writings that no longer seem relevant, or worth continuing. Eventually I should finish a thing about eco-fascism – what it is, what it isn’t, and how it’s been used (incorrectly, in my opinion) as a smear. Maybe something about the Tiger King or whatever that everyone seems to think is hilarious, but that would require watching, which I categorically do not want to do.

Finally, to the underpaid, overworked and – before now – overlooked & ignored; to those whose essential labor enriches a tiny elite, I hope you are staying safe. And I wish you success in your battles to reverse the heretofore intractable flow of wealth toward where the bulk of it rightly belongs. As Mike Davis writes in Old Gods, New Enigmas: Marx’s Lost Theory:

In depression and war [the former has likely arrived], however, contradictions fissure [the] crystal palace of reified economic and political realities, and the deep meaning of the historical moment ‘becomes comprehensible in practice.’ It is finally ‘possible to read off from history the correct course of action to be followed.’

We are undeniably in a historical moment, and it would be terrible if we are unable to take advantage of it – after all, our enemies have long known to never let a good crisis go to waste and are surely doing everything they can to maintain or increase their wealth and power.

The benevolent liberal leadership of Canada is losing their patience with rail blockades

The blockade of Canada’s rail network continues in response to the black-hearted desire of politico-corporate ghouls to build a pipeline through unceded Wet’suwet’en land. By the end of last week, they were positively seething at the gall of these courageous, awesome heroes. Dripping with paternalism, Justin Trudeau, the public face of this repulsive conglomeration, informed his unruly subjects that

“The fact remains: the barricades must now come down. The injunctions must be obeyed and the law must be upheld.”

[…]

“We are waiting for Indigenous leadership to show that it understands…The onus is on them.”

He also declared himself the expert arbiter of what does and does not constitute legitimate historical and contemporary grievances:

[Trudeau] made a point to draw a line between the Wet’suwet’en protesters and their allies — those upset at the long history of abuse perpetrated against Indigenous peoples in Canada — and others who “use or engage with Indigenous protests to call out a particular project with which they disagree.”

While these “other” protesters may be advancing a view that is deeply felt, their concerns are “not anchored in the deep wrongs that have been done in ignoring and marginalizing Indigenous leadership and Indigenous voices in this country,” Trudeau said.

He wants them, consciously or subconsciously, to accept that they are a dominated people. He wants them to shut the fuck and know their place: be grateful for meaningless platitudes of vague promises for sovereignty, reconciliation and justice. Pieces of trash like Trudeau likely believe himself to be enlightened because he might feel a little bad about settler colonialism, as opposed to assholes like Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer who disgustingly told land/water protectors to “check their privilege”. Nick Martin, one of the best journalists covering indigenous issues, sums it up far better than I:

Whereas Trudeau offered stylized nothingness in his speech, Andrew Scheer, the Conservative Party leader tasked with responding to the prime minister, was at least honest in his apathy about climate change and Indigenous rights.

This is the quintessence of what I’ve frequently described as liberalism being the friendlier of the two broad ideological wings of the West. From their point of view, peaceful, nonviolent protest is acceptable so long as it doesn’t stand in the way of Capital; so long as it doesn’t actually threaten state dominance.

And what of the Wet’suwet’en leadership? Pipeline proponents would have you believe that they actually want the pipeline, and so it must be done. Of course, this is something that demands far more nuance than biased earth destroyers would have you believe:

[H]ereditary chiefs oversee the management of traditional lands and their authority predates the imposed colonial law, which formed the elected band council.

While the [elected] band council is in support of the Coastal GasLink pipeline, the hereditary chiefs are not.

[…]

[E]lected band councils — as the title suggests — are elected members of the community.

These councils were the result of the Indian Act, which was first established in 1876 and defined how the Canadian government interacts with Indigenous people. They were formed to impose a leadership structure that more resembled Canada’s system of governance [thinking face emoji].

“They don’t have the authority under the Indian Act to make decisions on traditional territory,” Pam Palmater, an Indigenous lawyer and the chair in Indigenous Governance at Ryerson University, told CTV’s Power Play on Thursday.

The councils are elected by people holding the title of “Indian status” under the Indian Act, which comes with a whole host of issues,  Kim Stanton, [a lawyer who specializes in Aboriginal law] said, as the federal government can essentially determine who votes for council.

[…]

Stanton said it’s important to note that despite all 20 elected band councils agreeing to build the Coastal GasLink pipeline, a lot of the time these councils are forced into an agreement due to critical underfunding from the federal government.

It’s a familiar tale dating back to the first ruler who decided he wanted to rule foreign peoples. The conquering/colonizing power secures allegiance with collaborators which provide a tenuous legitimacy while the former use the latter as a cudgel for cowing the subjugated masses.

Further:

The Wet’suwet’en are not a nation divided, they are a nation with differing opinions on the best route to a better future after history of oppression. The band councils have sought opportunity, and funding, where they can find it. But based on Wet’suwet’en and Canadian law, it’s ultimately the hereditary chiefs who have jurisdiction to the territory, and they have been clear about their aim—to assert self-governance over their land and demand a nation-to-nation relationship with Canada. It’s a move that would benefit all Wet’suwet’en.

By lumping Indigenous people together and by funding pro-pipeline factions within the Wet’suwet’en nation, B.C.’s government and gas industry have caused confusion about who has say.

For shits and giggles, I decided to check and see if the only two U.S. candidates worth examining had anything to say about the crisis. Elizabeth Warren hasn’t said anything that I could locate – I’d imagine she doesn’t want to so much as mutter anything indigenous-related for fear of reminding the public of her comedy of errors. A search for Bernie also didn’t turn up anything, which is disappointing. I want to see Bernie stand up for indigenous sovereignty in the face of state violence north of the border (and, of course, within the borders of the so-called U.S.). The mass movement propelling Sanders inexorably toward the Democratic Party nomination (*knocks on wood*) need to hold his feet to the fire on issues like this.

Anyways, if you have a bit of disposable income, please consider donating to the Unist’ot’en Camp (the resistance camp built on unceded Wetʼsuwetʼen land adjacent to planned pipelines).

*****ETA: After I finished writing all this shit, news came out that stormtroopers have started to move in:

Several members of the Tyendinaga Mohawk nation were arrested on Monday when officers moved in to lift the blockade which had been erected in support of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation in British Columbia who are fighting a 416-mile pipeline through their traditional territory.

Ontario provincial police had warned the activists that they had until midnight Sunday to leave the area, or face arrest and charges.

Footage from Occupy Canada:

 

James Baldwin and religion

James Baldwin is the fucking best. The following excerpts, taken from his Collected Essays, are either explicitly concerned with religion or merely religion adjacent.

By extracting bits & pieces of his writing and presenting them devoid of context, I’m not convinced I did justice to the searing totality of the individual essays themselves. Please consider reading them in full.

The Fire Next Time

[T]he blood of the Lamb had not cleansed me in any way whatever. I was just as black as I had been the day that I was born. Therefore, when I faced a congregation, it began to take all the strength I had not to stammer, not to curse, not to tell them to throw away their Bibles and get off their knees and go home and organize, for example, a rent strike. When I watched all the children, their copper, brown, and beige faces staring up at me as I taught Sunday school, I felt that I was committing a crime in talking about the gentle Jesus, in telling them to reconcile themselves to their misery on earth in order to gain the crown of eternal life. Were only Negroes to gain this crown? Was Heaven, then, to be merely another ghetto?

[…]

I have long had a very definite tendency to tune out the moment I come any where near either a pulpit or soapbox.

[…]

It is not too much to say that whoever wishes to become a truly moral human being (and let us not ask whether or not this is possible; I think we must believe that it is possible) must first divorce himself from all the prohibitions, crimes, and hypocrisies of the Christian church. If the concept of God has any validity or any use, it can only be to make us larger, freer, and more loving. If God cannot do this, then it is time we got rid of Him.

[…]

From my own point of view, the fact of the Third Reich alone makes obsolete forever any question of Christian superiority, except in technological terms. White people were, and are, astounded by the holocaust in Germany. They did not know that they could act that way. But I very much doubt whether black people were astounded—at least, in the same way.

[…]

Life is tragic simply because the earth turns and the sun inexorably rises and sets, and one day, for each of us, the sun will go down for the last, last time. Perhaps the whole root of our trouble, the human trouble, is that we will sacrifice all the beauty of our lives, will imprison ourselves in totems, taboos, crosses, blood sacrifices, steeples, mosques, races, armies, flags, nations, in order to deny the fact of death, which is the only fact we have. It seems to me that one ought to rejoice in the fact of death—ought to decide, indeed, to earn one’s death by confronting with passion the conundrum of life. One is responsible to life: It is the small beacon in that terrifying darkness from which we come and to which we shall return. One must negotiate this as nobly as possible, for the sake of those who are coming after us.

Preservation of Innocence

Instantly the Deity springs to mind, in much the same manner, I suspect, that He sprang into being on the cold, black day when we discovered that nature cared nothing for us. His advent, which alone had the power to save us from nature and ourselves, also created a self-awareness and, therefore, tensions and terrors and responsibilities with which we had not coped before. It marked the death of innocence; it set up the duality of good-and-evil; and now Sin and Redemption, those mighty bells, began that crying which will not cease until, by another act of creation, we transcend our old morality. Before we were banished from Eden and the curse was uttered, “I will put enmity between thee and the woman,” the homosexual did not exist; nor, properly speaking, did the heterosexual. We were all in a state of nature.

We are forced to consider this tension between God and nature and are thus confronted with the nature of God because He is man’s most intense creation and it is not in the sight of nature that the homosexual is condemned, but in the sight of God.

White Racism or World Community?

It’s got to be admitted that if you are born under the circumstances in which most black people in the West are born, that means really black people over the entire world, when you look around you, having attained soemething resembling adulthood, one can see that the destruction of the Christian Church as it is presently constituted may not only be desirable but may be necessary.

[…]

One of the things that happened, it seems to me, with the rise of the Christian Church, was precisely the denial of a certain kind of spontaneity, a certain kind of joy, a certain kind of freedom, which a man can only have with himself, his surroundings, his women and his children. It seems to me that this shows very crucially in the nature, the structure of our politics and in the personalities of our children, who would like to learn, if I may put it this way, how to sing the blues, because the blues are not a racial creation, the blues are an historical creation produced by the confrontation precisely between the pagan, the black pagan from Africa, and the alabaster cross. I am suggesting that the nature of the lies of the Christian Church has always helplessly told about me are only a reflection of the lies the Christian Church has always helplessly told itself, to itself, about itself.

Open Letter to the Born Again

It has always astounded me that no one appears to be able to make the connection between Franco’s Spain, for example, and the Spanish Inquisition; the role of the Christian church or—to be brutally precise, the Catholic Church—in the history of Europe, and the fate of the Jews; and the role of the Jews in Christendom and the discovery of America. For the discovery of America coincided with the Inquisition, and the expulsion of the Jews from Spain. Does no one see the connection between The Merchant of Venice and The Pawnbroker? In both of these works, as though no time had passed, the Jew is portrayed as doing the Christian’s usurious dirty work. The first white man ever was the Jewish manager arrived to collect the rent, and he collected the rent because he did not own the building. I never, in fact, saw any of the people who owned any of the buildings in which we scrubbed and suffered for so long, until I was a grown man and famous. None of them were Jews.

And I was not stupid: the grocer and the druggist were Jews, for example, and they were very very nice to me, and to us. The cops were white. The city was white. The threat was white, and God was white, Not for even a single split second in my life did the despicable, utterly cowardly accusation that “the Jews killed Christ’’ reverberate. I knew a murderer when I saw one, and the people who were trying to kilI me were not Jews.

The Price of the Ticket

If I were still in the pulpit, which some people (and they may be right) claim I never left, I would counsel my countrymen to the self-confrontation of prayer, the cleansing breaking of the heart which precedes atonement. This is, of course, impossible. Multitudes are capable of many things, but atonement is not one of them.

[…]

In the church I come from—which is not at all the same church to which white Americans belong—we were counseled, from time to time, to do our first works over. Though the church I come from and the church to which most white Americans belong are both Christian churches, their relationship—due to those pragmatic decisions concerning Property made by a Christian state some time ago—cannot be said to involve, or suggest, the fellowship of Christians. We do not, therefore, share the same hope or speak the same language.

To do your first works over means to reexamine everything. Go back to where you started, or as far back as you can, examine all of it, travel your road again and tell the truth about it. Sing or shout or testify or keep it to yourself: but know whence you came.

This is precisely what the generality of Americans cannot afford to do. They do not know how to do it—: as I must suppose. They come through Ellis Island, where Giorgio becomes Joe, Pappavasiliu becomes Palmer, Evangelos becomes Evans, Goldsmith becomes Smith or Gold, and Avakian becomes King. So with a painless change of name, and in the twinkling of an eye, one becomes a white American.

Later, in the midnight hour, the missing identity aches. One can neither assess nor overcome the storm of the middle passage. One is mysteriously shipwrecked forever, in the Great New World.

[…]

The price the white American paid for his ticket was to become white—: and, in the main, nothing more than that, or, as he was to insist, nothing less. This incredibly limited, not to say dim-witted, ambition has choked many a human being to death here: and this, I contend, is because the white American has never accepted the real reasons for his journey. I know very well that my ancestors had no desire to come to this place: but neither did the ancestors of the people who became white and who require of my captivity a song. They require of me a song less to celebrate my captivity than to justify their own.

 

I guess it’s gotta be Bernie

As an anarchist awaiting a revolution that isn’t visible on the horizon (yet), I’m enough of a pragmatist to not completely ignore electoral politics.

If I told young IHFJ that in 2020 an electable candidate would be openly skeptical of capitalism, irreligious, against US global hegemony, and not afraid of being labeled a socialist, I would’ve been stunned. Bernie Sanders is by far the only presidential candidate I’ve felt an affinity for. I never believed for a second he’d beat Hillary in 2016, but here we are in 2020 and there’s no firmly entrenched candidate standing in his way. Were he to win the nomination it would be my first time voting in a presidential election without feeling completely disgusted.

What follows is a meandering, hopefully not too disjointed assessment of the 2020 presidential election as I attempt to work through my thoughts.

***

Let’s dive right into one of the main critiques of Sanders: he’s a dreaded “class reductionist” in a party that largely ignores class. When used to describe Sanders it’s always an epithet. This is absurd, because class is massively important and ignores the fact that class disproportionately affects marginalized groups. How systemic bigotries can ever hope to be confronted without wrestling with capitalism’s positioning of historically oppressed peoples in the base of the societal pyramid is beyond my comprehension. Any leftist politics that fails to recognize this is toothless and needs to be chucked into the dustbin of history.

(I’m being honest when I say I’d love to hear whether or not Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib or Alexandria Ocacio Cortez think of him as nothing but a class reductionist. I briefly considered posting a collection of shocked centrist reactions to 3/4th’s of “The Squad” endorsing Sanders – they very obviously delight in their diverse identities, but hilariously ignored their politics; anyways, I thought it too troll-ish and Bernie bro adjacent)

On the other hand, politicians who champion identity politics while ignoring economic inequality will never meaningfully enact systemic changes that can help the masses. The best they have done – and I don’t think is always necessarily insignificant – is allow themselves, after years of resistance, to get swept up in waves of social change (i.e. gay marriage), and inevitably settle on advocating for visibility and representation as panaceas to society’s problems. In essence, give some a seat at the table and hope the rest shut the fuck up and vote for them (is this not good enough for you? What are you going to do, vote for the Bad Cheeto Man?)

Centrist politics within neoliberal capitalism cannot meaningfully address economic inequality – it never has, and if you believe it can or will, you have more in common with religious adherents than you’d care to admit. While it can and has incorporated individuals of marginalized groups into the upper levels of its superstructure, the bulk of these groups continue to find themselves within its bottommost strata.

All of this aside, I have little respect for those who reduce all the world’s evils to capitalism (for instance, the patriarchy antedates capitalism by millennia). It is undeniable that capitalism objectively developed within the context of chattel slavery (no link necessary); European colonialism (no link necessary); and the expropriation of female reproductive labor, witch-hunts, and the institutionalization of midwifery and prostitution. Whether or not capitalism necessarily needed racism and sexism to flourish and become the dominant economic paradigm is irrelevant, because that is precisely what occurred – even if, paradoxically, capitalism allowed for spaces in which equality amongst the sexes and races was able to develop in certain ways for certain populations in certain places at certain times.

Can capitalism exist and function without bigotry? Certainly capitalists will enthusiastically answer in the affirmative. The only answer I can come up with is who fucking cares. While it can be interesting to engage in historical counterfactuals, it’s essentially an exercise that, in the case of the rise of capitalism, has few if any useful applications to the real world. Capitalism always has and likely always will require an underclass and, from its perspective, the various identities of this underclass are irrelevant.

Capitalism, racism and sexism are inextricably intertwined and it is impossible to disentangle the chaotic assemblage of strands to determine which is the Most Important Evil. The bottom line: the ills of capitalism cannot be confronted without simultaneously confronting institutionalized racism and the patriarchy (the same goes for homophobia, transphobia, ableism, and speciesism – smash them all). I believe the reverse of that argument to also be true.

If one believes that Sanders isn’t knowledgeable about, or just plain ignorant of intersectionality (unfortunately for his acolytes, there’s evidence of this), it is undeniable that – if were he to succeed (a big if) – his economic programs/policies will help such people he does little more than allegedly pay lip service to. Sanders probably should do better, though I doubt any of his attempts will convince those who already hate him. But I don’t believe there is any other candidate that, contra Sanders, has a deep, nuanced understanding of the ubiquity, persistence and interrelations of the aforementioned bigotries – especially considered within the context of class (it’s interesting that Barbara Smith, who coined the term “identity politics,” has again endorsed him). Overall, anyone who thinks Bernie is uniquely terrible at intersectionality is naïve to think the other candidates are significantly better. Like Elizabeth Warren.

***

I generally dislike making statements about how things “feel” to me, due to its subjective nature. That said, I feel like the same types of people who think Sanders an irredeemable sexist/racist have given Warren a pass for pretending to be Cherokee most of her life. To quickly summarize the facts regarding Warren’s claims:

In 1836, Warren’s great-great-great-grandfather, a white man named William Marsh, enlisted himself in a Tennessee militia to fight in the “Cherokee War,” an occupation of Cherokee land in the lead-up to the Trail of Tears. Decades later, his grandson John Houston Crawford moved his family onto Indian Territory and squatted on Cherokee land in a move that, with no record of a permit, was almost certainly illegal.

The Crawfords were just some of the tens of thousands of white squatters who outnumber Cherokees on our own land. While Cherokee Nation beseeched Congress to enforce our treaty rights and kick them out, the squatters pushed Congress to divide up our treaty territory and create a path to white land ownership; the squatters won.

The Crawfords settled in the new state of Oklahoma. They lived among Indians, but it wasn’t always peaceful. In 1906, John Crawford shot a Creek man for hitting his son. According to The Boston Globe, his son, Rosco, would later tell stories about how “mean” the Indians were. But one of Crawford’s grandchildren, Pauline Reed, told a very different story. Not a story of living among Indians, a story of being Indian.

Pauline’s youngest child, Elizabeth, grew up with her mother’s version of the story. And though the family had no evidence or relationship to the tribe, Elizabeth Warren never questioned it, she wrote in her memoir. It was her family story, she would say.

That’s… it. That was enough for her to claim to be Cherokee for most of her life. Let’s assume that her comical attempt to use race science to “prove” her ancestry is true (in sports parlance, this was quite the unforced error). And let’s pretend that heritage, tradition and culture can be reduced to blood quanta. That would mean that, at best, 1 of her 32 great great great grandparents was Cherokee. It would also mean that 31 of those great great great grandparents were European. And yet, to her, that 1 great great great grandparent carried more weight than all the rest combined. If Warren family tradition hypothesized one great great grandparent that was Estonian, would she have frequently brought up her pride in being Estonian? If not, why is that?

She perpetuates the proud, white American tradition of wishing to procure a sheen of nobility from the savages they fetishize. Or: she (and her family) merely want to – consciously or subconsciously out of guilt – obscure, omit or deny their historical complicity in indigenous genocide. Either way – fuck that settler colonial bullshit.

If you’re white and belong to a family who, in their lore, claim descent from Native Americans, the very least you can do is keep that shit to yourself. At best, do some research; educate your family as to why this is racist and should not continue to be perpetuated – even if you locate one great great great grandparent that might “substantiate” your claim. Definitely don’t put it on work/college applications; talk in public about your family’s “high cheekbones”; submit recipes to a cookbook called, I shit you not, Pow Wow Chow (one recipe, by the way, contained mayonnaise and may have been plagiarized); or use fucking race science to clumsily “dunk” on your detractors (only for your detractors to laugh in your face at the simple fact that 1/32 – 1/512 is, by any account, not a whole hell of a lot).

I don’t care if she allegedly derived no material benefit from her claims. I don’t care if anyone truly thinks science “proved” the veracity of her claims. I don’t care if you think that “science” is necessary to confront political enemies who could not care less about what science does or doesn’t prove. Your arguments are racist trash.

If you think any of this isn’t at least as bad as anything problematic Sanders is alleged to have said, that says a lot about you. It says your concern with racism is situational and there are circumstances and groups of people you’re willing to ignore in the interest of acting as pathetic knights defending your chosen one. You are truly the liberal version of dipshit sports fans who believe the Cleveland Baseball team and Washington/Kansas City football teams are honoring Native Americans.

***

The preceding section, among other things, calls into questions Warren’s judgment and honesty (I should note here that you will not find within this blog a detailed analysis of policy – it’s already too long). Within the context of Warren’s lies about her heritage, I’m not sure why anyone would believe Warren’s claims of Sanders telling her a woman couldn’t beat Trump – especially when he was willing to defer to her candidacy in 2016, highlighted the absurdity of why he would think women can’t win when Hillary won the popular vote, and has long encouraged women to run for office. It would certainly be weird for someone whose beliefs are widely thought by both his partisans and opponents to have been fossilized for decades to make such a sudden and severe change.

Warren and her campaign were extremely prepared to capitalize on Sanders’s alleged remarks by creating a Sanders-shaped straw-man who can be told again and again that yes, a woman CAN win. It’s not even a point Sanders can argue against since he – at least publicly – believes the same thing. Bernie bros seem to think of this as the death spasms of her failing campaign, but I’m not so sure. Whether or not there’s any truth to her claims, it was obviously a calculated move to paint Sanders as a sexist, and it might pay off – especially when some of the most annoying Bernie bros wasted no time in embodying the worst stereotypes many believe all of them to have.

Speaking of Bernie bros, I’d like to point out that the scourge of the white, male “Bernie bro” is incorrect in its identifiers (this was hilariously underscored by Rashida Tlaib, not a white male, being accused of white male rage when she had the audacity to boo Hillary Clinton, someone who finds literal child sex traffickers and serial rapists more likeable than Sanders). Every candidate has a toxic section of their base that’s equally as insufferable – Warren with her wine-moms, Kamala and the K-Hive, Biden and his, uhhhh – I don’t even know if there’s a name for his obnoxious supporters and I’m not entirely convinced they exist (I mean, they really shouldn’t exist). But, anecdotally, it truly feels (there’s that word unfortunate word again) that the corporate media is more focused on one group than the others. I wonder why that is.

If you think your candidate doesn’t have annoying sycophants I’d suggest you’re being willfully ignorant. Moreover, a handful of online assholes distorts the volume of the whole – social media is not synonymous with actual life. 50 Chapo Trap House-loving Bernie bros being mean to a New York Times writer is a fucking drop in the bucket.

Outside of mainstream politics there are anti-indigenous anarchists, authoritarian (“tankie”) Marxist-Leninists, actual class reductionist Marxists who think LGBT people are bourgeois perversions, and green anarchists who veer dangerously close to antihuman eco-extremism – but these pieces of shit don’t necessarily delegitimize the decent people who have those beliefs. Moreover, they should be considered on their own merits and not their worst adherents – one doesn’t need to judge American conservatism by the actions of American conservatives to conclude that it’s a morally bankrupt, repulsive, ruinous ideology. Conceptually, this should be very clear to non-shitty atheists for obvious reasons.

All that said – in the interest of being pragmatic, annoying Bernie bros should absolutely find other ways to engage their critics than contempt and mockery. Contempt and mockery obviously aren’t going to convince one’s political adversaries, but, more importantly, it may turn off the undecideds. Just a thought.

***

Capitalism needs, if not smashing, then, at the very least, neutering. Any politician who is a self-described “capitalist to [their] bones” is not someone I support, but I concede that Warren is more palatable than the rest. The fact that I’m scrutinizing her more than the other candidates speaks to the contempt I have for them. Biden – a living manifestation of the Stephen Colbert black friend bit – and Buttigieg – appropriately dubbed Mayo Pete – would get crushed by Trump and there’s nothing to like about either.

I think Warren’s position as the candidate of compromise, with Bernie on her left and Biden/Buttigieg on her right, leaves her ill equipped to pull enough support from either side to win the nomination. Perhaps more importantly, I don’t think she will beat Trump; though outside of Sanders I think she has the best chance. If you disagree with any of this, you might very well be right. However, it is inarguable that there is a diverse mass that is dedicated to the broad ethos of a Sanders presidency; were this not true, then how else – especially in the face of extreme media bias – is he still a wildly popular, viable candidate 4 years after his failure to win the nomination of a party whose elite are dedicated to sidelining him?

The best chance the Democratic Party has, to their horror, is probably Sanders, with his diverse base and ability to reach disaffected white voters that are inclined either toward Trump or complete political disengagement. These voters are categorically not sympathetic to Bernie because he’s racist, sexist, homophobic or transphobic (because there’s little evidence he is); some of these voters might fall into such categories, but if the Democrats have any hope of winning they can’t afford to write them off as human trash unworthy of anything except scorn and mockery (which, admittedly, is my personal knee-jerk attitude towards them). How well did calling them “deplorables” work for Hillary? For real, what’s the fucking game-plan if it’s not Sanders – again, who’s not a bigot, and who doesn’t automatically become one if some of them vote for him – offering a platform they can embrace? If you think the proponents of your chosen candidate are so ethically pure, I echo again the sentiment that you’re being a tad gullible.

Maybe his victory will further the inexorable growth of his movement, which will force politicians to begrudgingly cater to them. Forced wealth transfers from the target of Sanders’s ire – the hated 1% – begin the protracted process of “making things better.” Perhaps a nascent dictatorship of the proletariat (an unfortunate phrase that is better understood as the government of the many against the numerically inferior bourgeoisie/corporate elite) will emerge, unite against their class enemies, and find they are strong. US citizens will become increasingly aware of and repulsed by the fact that their standard of living necessitates ecological destruction and mass human misery both domestically and globally. The Green New Deal reverses some of the depredations of climate change thanks to technological advances and dwindling consumerism, which is finally, definitively identified as a plague that is ruining the planet. Maybe a century from now the state begins to wither away as it becomes increasingly unnecessary; not, as Lenin foresaw, as the result of a violent revolution and seizure of state power, but of democratic electoralism and the peaceful eradication of the bourgeoisie and the capitalist world-destroyers.

Is this likely? Probably not. But again I’d like to stress a better world is far less likely with centrist neoliberal democracy. If you think that is more feasible, I fully believe you are more concerned with finding a safe, comfortable alcove within Leviathan from which to watch the world burn. The best that can be said of you is that you really dislike the Tweeter-in-Chief (despite foolishly thinking he is the alpha and omega of all that’s wrong in the world) and may, at times, shake your head sadly at the state of things while rejoicing in diverse representation in politics and entertainment.

***

There is an important caveat to a Sanders victory. If he wins, and if he fails to alleviate systemic problems, it very well might be the death blow for democratic socialism (not to mention further sullying the reputations of Communism, Socialism, and Marxism). He will be hated and it’s hard to see how the actual left can recover. This is bad, because the success of combinations of leftist ideas is needed for a future that is not a blasted hellscape (due to how disregarded these ideas are, I’d very much like to be wrong about this).

A failed Sanders presidency will see centrist liberalism – the friendlier face of the death cult that is capitalism – reemerging unscathed, no worse for wear, content to blame Sanders and his irrational disciples. The far right will continue howling for blood, becoming stronger as it incubates the next Trump-like figure within its fetid, rotting womb. All in all, Sanders’s failure may lead to re-enactments of Hillary vs. Trump with different stand-ins every 4 years, as the center moves ever rightward while environmental devastation and human immiseration continues apace. Gods help us all.

Or – scorning the failed/failing ideas positioned to their right – perhaps the revolutionary left will resolve their interminable, internecine squabbles, and build societies that don’t destroy the planet; that don’t exploit, kill and enslave each other. Their ranks will swell with those disillusioned with mainstream politics. This disillusionment will differ from that felt by prior generations because it will occur within the context of a planetary existential crisis that’s becoming increasingly hard to ignore. Though, as climate scientists constantly inform us, the hour is late, the seeds for the creation of a better world exist in ours (I do admit it’s hard not to feel like a pathetic fool typing shit like this).

This hope for a better world highlights the contradictions anarchists (this also goes for communists, socialists, and their uncountable ideological subdivisions) such as myself face – we are severely pessimistic about both democratic nation-states and capitalism; and yet we fervently believe that we as a species can do better, despite the glaring, and as of now intractable fact that most people aren’t anarchists (or communists or socialists). Depressingly, the general population, through little fault of their own, understand anarchism as violent chaos, and communism as grim dictatorship. No one has yet figured out how to effectively spread the good word to the masses (which is especially disheartening considering how long these ideologies have existed). The utilization of social media appeared, at first, as if it would be viable and effective, but it has only served to flatten the discourse and situate most within their own echo chamber, which occasionally fight other echo chambers. Were Leviathan a conscious being, he (and it would certainly be a he) wouldn’t be able to keep from laughing uncontrollably.

It’s ahistorical and illogical to think the current socio-politico-economic paradigm will persist forever. Every civilization, every society that’s ever existed has perished, merged with other societies, or transformed beyond all recognition. Within that context, this election feels existentially important, although this is a sentiment expressed every 4 years for many different reasons. My primary vote is for guillotine and revolution. As they’re not on the ballot, I’ll go with Sanders as my second choice.

Perhaps his victory or defeat will be one of the spatiotemporal fulcrums that alters the trajectory of our species. We’re edging toward a point where we may find ourselves at the edge of such an abyss where we need to choose a new way. With our backs to the wreckage, and as the void stares up at us, hopefully we’ll have the strength, foresight, and empathy to do what must be done to have a livable and just planet for all.

Aaron Rodgers kinda sorta maybe comes out as atheist

Football at the professional level is not an environment that encourages the questioning of any kind of authority – scumbag owners, tyrannical head coaches, the police, military, God. Aside from golf, NASCAR, and maybe baseball, it is America’s most conservative sport. Players are, openly or not, dissuaded from uttering anything not related to football, unless it’s in the most milquetoast, uncontroversial manner possible.

I always find it refreshing when players wade outside of their intellectually stifling confines (i.e. the Colin Kaepernick saga). Not many do, which is understandable. The vast majority of players exist in a fraught space where their contracts aren’t guaranteed, and the average career is about 3 years. Only the best players are offered any semblance of stability – and it just so happens that most of them are happy to toe the company line. Within the context of religion, I can only recall one player, Arian Foster, who’s spoken about it in a skeptical manner. But now I can add Aaron Rodgers to the list. I

On a recent YouTube video with Danica Patrick (his significant other) he spoke about his developing thoughts on religion:

Here are some quotes, courtesy of Jason Duaine Hahn at Yahoo:

“I just didn’t find any connection points with those things,” said Rodgers, who played football at the University of California, Berkeley. “I started questioning things, and had friends who had other beliefs — I enjoyed learning, that’s kind of a part of my life.”

[…]

I don’t know how you can believe in a God who wants to condemn most of the planet, you know, to a fiery hell. Like, what type of loving, sensitive, omnipresent, omnipotent being wants to condemn most of his beautiful creation to a fiery hell at the end of all this?

[…]

“Religion can be a crutch, it can be something that people have to have to make themselves feel better,” […]“Because it’s set up binary,  it’s us and themsaved and unsavedheaven and hell, it’s enlightened and heathen, it’s holy and righteous … that makes a lot of people feel better about themselves.”

Rodgers was raised Christian and openly identified as such early in his career. But if one was paying close attention (which wasn’t always easy as his spiritual thoughts have only been expressed irregularly), it’s clear he wasn’t like most of his God-loving colleagues. There was the time he hilariously trolled Russell Wilson:

For someone who has said that he doesn’t believe God cares much about football, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers made a comment after Sunday night’s game at Lambeau Field that could only be taken as a shot at Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.

Answering a question about the Packers’ 27-17 victory over the Seahawks, Rodgers said: “And then getting help from God. I think God was a Packers fan tonight, so he was taking care of us.”

And there was his appearance on Pete Holmes’s podcast in 2016. I can’t find a summary or transcript anywhere, but it was pretty clear he was moving in a deist direction, while still holding a belief in a benevolent, loving God and showing an interest in other religions. So his development shouldn’t be too surprising to anyone paying attention.

Unfortunately, his evolving thoughts on religion contributed to and maybe was the genesis of the rift with his still-religious family:

But Rodgers’ family was not impressed with his candid comments, a source tells PEOPLE.

“They were dismayed,” says the insider. “The family is very dedicated to their Christian faith.”

“To them, his comments are basically a slap in the face to the fundamentals of who they are. It’s basically him turning his back on everything they have taught him.”

[…]

“His comments are very hurtful to the family,” says the insider, who says that the family “still loves Aaron very much,” but disagrees with him about fundamental things. “They have these times where things start to thaw out, but then something like this happens, and then it’s back to square one. It’s sad.”

While Rodgers never actually said he was an atheist, that hasn’t stopped many from conflating his statements with actual atheism, including terrible jokes about his poor performance in this past Sunday’s NFC Championship game leading to his apparent nonbelief (never mind the fact the video came out weeks ago).

That concludes what I believe to be my 3rd or 4th religion-related post on this atheist blog network

 

 

Fuck everyone who whitewashes MLK

The good readers of FtB probably are aware of this, but MLK was skeptical of capitalism, against US imperialism, and would’ve disliked the pieces of shit who whitewash him every January 20th. Concurrently (and very obviously), those same pieces of shit would’ve hated him when he was alive.
————
“[T]here is a definite move away from capitalism, whether we conceive of it as conscious or unconscious. Capitalism finds herself like a losing football team in the last quarter trying all types of tactics to survive.”
————
“I imagine you already know that I am much more socialistic in my economic theory than capitalistic”
————
“[C]apitalism is always in danger of inspiring men to be more concerned about making a living than making a life. We are prone to judge success by the index of our salaries or the size of our automobiles, rather than by the quality of our service and relationship to humanity.”
————
“So we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens […] as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools.”
————
“During the past ten years we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression which has now justified the presence of U.S. military advisors in Venezuela. This need to maintain social stability for our investments accounts for the counterrevolutionary action of American forces in Guatemala. It tells why American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Cambodia and why American napalm and Green Beret forces have already been active against rebels in Peru.”
[…]
These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression, and out of the wounds of a frail world, new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before. The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light. We in the West must support these revolutions.”
[…]
“Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores, and thereby speed the day when “every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low [Audience:] (Yes); the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain.””
[…]
Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words, ‘Too late.’
[…]
“We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent coannihilation. We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.”

https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/…/notes-american-capital…
https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/…/documen…/beyond-vietnam
https://theintercept.com/…/martin-luther-king-jr-celebrati…/
https://www.jacobinmag.com/…/martin-luther-king-vietnam-war…
https://wagingnonviolence.org/…/martin-luther-king-capital…/