The people in the U.S. Border Patrol are scum

Much Like ICE, the people in the U.S. Border Patrol are scum. From the child jailers, to logistics-preoccupied administrators, fuck you:

Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez, a 16-year-old Guatemalan migrant, was seriously ill when immigration agents put him in a small South Texas holding cell with another sick boy on the afternoon of May 19.

A few hours earlier, a nurse practitioner at the Border Patrol’s dangerously overcrowded processing center in McAllen had diagnosed him with the flu and measured his fever at 103 degrees. She said that he should be checked again in two hours and taken to the emergency room if his condition worsened.

None of that happened. Worried that Carlos might infect other migrants in the teeming McAllen facility, officials moved him to a cell for quarantine at a Border Patrol station in nearby Weslaco.

By the next morning, he was dead.

[…]

Carlos was the sixth migrant child to die after being detained while entering the U.S. in less than a year. Some died of preexisting illnesses, but at least two others died of the flu diagnosed while in Border Patrol custody. Carlos was the only one to die at a Border Patrol station; the others were taken to medical facilities after falling ill. In the previous decade, not a single migrant child had died in custody.

Unlike ICE, a recent creation, the Border Patrol has a much longer, bloodier, and irredeemably racist history. The most important book I read this year was Greg Grandin’s The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America (a summary by Jedediah Britton-Purdy can be found here). It is crucial for an understanding of the current crisis along the US’s southern borders, as well as serving to demolish the ignorant, self-aggrandizing narratives Americans tell themselves. It really should be required reading.

Among many other topics, Grandin elucidates how various strains of racist cowboys, the KKK, and violent goons coalesced into what became the U.S. Border Patrol. From its creation, it attracted the worst fucking people. In Grandin’s words, “fearing they were losing the larger struggle in defense of Anglo-Saxonism, white supremacists took control of the newly established U.S. Border Patrol and turned it into a vanguard of race vigilantism.”

I like to think I’m pretty well-informed about the historical violence perpetuated by the US, so much that I sometimes feel desensitized. But the wanton bloodshed and cruelty Grandon describes was astonishing and painful to read (though not surprising). Grandin references the Refusing to Forget project which documents racial violence along the US-Mexico border from 1910-1920:

The dead included women and men, the aged and the young, long-time residents and recent arrivals. They were killed by strangers, by neighbors, by vigilantes and at the hands of local law enforcement officers and the Texas Rangers. Some were summarily executed after being taken captive, or shot under the flimsy pretext of trying to escape. Some were left in the open to rot, others desecrated by being burnt, decapitated, or tortured by means such as having beer bottles rammed into their mouths. Extralegal executions became so common that a San Antonio reporter observed that “finding of dead bodies of Mexicans, suspected for various reasons of being connected with the troubles, has reached a point where it creates little or no interest. It is only when a raid is reported or an American is killed that the ire of the people is aroused.”

[…]

Far from being surreptitious, the violence was welcomed, celebrated, and even instigated at the highest levels of society and government. As thousands fled to Mexico and decapitated bodies floated down the Rio Grande, one Texas paper spoke of “a serious surplus population that needs eliminating.” Prominent politicians proposed putting all those of Mexican descent into “concentration camps” – and killing any who refused. For a decade, people would come across skeletons in the south Texas brush, marked with execution-style bullet holes in the backs of their skulls.

There’s a fucking baseball team named after the Texas Rangers! I had no idea that that was what the name referred to. Suitably, they were created to fight Native Americans, and later officially incorporated into law enforcement in 1902. They literally carried out mass executions, the numbers of which will never be known. And still, they’re mindlessly romanticized and celebrated, though it’s hard to expect anything less from such an historically illiterate populace.

Their legacy continues in the modern-day Border Patrol, in that the latter still attracts the worst people. I titled this blog post to remind myself that there are actual humans that choose to do this. Maybe they’re nice people outside of work. They’re fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, cousins. And they are all complicit to varying degrees in the death of Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez. From the ProPublica report, Carlos was

captain of the soccer team and excelled in playing instruments the school had bought by selling raffle tickets. “He played percussion and the bombo and the lyre and the trumpet,” said Jose Morales Pereira, who was Carlos’ teacher. “He always said, ‘Professor, let’s teach everyone else.’ He was my leader.”

I, too, am guilty. Not because I’m a functioning part of the entities that presided over Carlos’s death, but because I’m a beneficiary of neoliberal capitalism and its military caretakers. I’m one of millions who disproportionately consume the world’s resources. I play a role in human misery and ecological destruction, though this is mostly abstracted, obscured and exported to places like Guatemala. It was from there that Carlos left and ultimately returned. At his funeral,

[t]housands of mourners poured in from around the country to follow behind his casket, which was borne by soccer teammates down a long dirt road to the cemetery.

Pallbearers taped his royal blue No. 9 soccer jersey to the top of his casket as they laid it to rest. “Maybe in all of his life, the 16 years that he was in this life, maybe he didn’t do many things, but he did move us,” said a speaker at his funeral. “He touched hearts.”

I hope his death wasn’t in vain. But I’m too skeptical not to think otherwise.

Deadspin is dead. Long live Deadspin

I’ve been faithful to Deadspin for well over a decade with a religious devotion unbecoming of a blogger for an atheist network. Perhaps it’s best known around these parts for roasting the Williams-Sonoma catalog. Though nominally a sports blog, they covered many, many other things, something which their vulture capitalist overlords apparently didn’t like – not because of profits (by all accounts it was profitable), but because they disliked their politics.

Last week, the staff were told to “stick to sports,” which eventually led to most, if not all of the staff quitting. The saga largely began when Gawker, of whose blog network Deadspin was a part of, was destroyed by Hulk Hogan and Peter Thiel. The remaining websites were purchased by Univison, who had no idea what to do with them, and promptly sold to private equity ghouls, Great Hill Media (which rebranded as G/O Media), who are in the process of actively ruining them. This fits into a larger pattern in which terrible people purchase media entities, terrorize and fire staff, make changes everyone hates, and, I guess, make a shit ton of money selling it off – basically catabolic capitalism applied to media

The bloodletting began a few weeks ago when G/O abruptly shuttered Splinter, which was the political descendant of Gawker proper. Splinter, while perhaps less entertaining, took the remnants of Gawker much further to the left – much to the consternation, hilariously, of a large portion of its centrist readers. It was one of the few mainstream-ish websites I trusted for national news. The final post on the website, ironically a non-sports blog from Deadspin, is titled Meatball President Criticizes NBA Coaches For Weak Statements On China, Instead Of Answering Direct Question About China (this amuses me).

For Deadspin, stormclouds have been gathering for some time, but the forcing out of editor Megan Greenwell truly signaled the beginning of the end. On her way out she righteously crucified those that made her tenure suck:

The richest men in digital media sometimes show they are not the adults in the room in the pettiest ways. The beginning of the end of my time here came when [Jim] Spanfeller, my boss’s boss, threw a tantrum in an email to the entire company over a story our staff was reporting on his hiring practices, management style, and threats to editorial independence. He accused us of biased journalism based on the fact that we had sent an early draft to our media lawyer, which is standard journalistic practice. He accused me and a 26-year-old reporter who works for me—a wildly talented reporter who has as much integrity as anyone I’ve ever worked with—of trying to “shame and discredit others in our community” by reporting a story. When another colleague suggested in an all-staff meeting that his email was itself an attempt to publicly shame and discredit his employees, he doubled down, saying he is a transparent guy who says what he thinks. The story—which was damning only in that it was a true recitation of facts—was published anyway, not because our bosses “allowed” it to be, but because Gawker Media journalists are not and will never be intimidated by bullying.

Lauren Wagner, an utterly fearless badass, provided the insight into the inner workings of G/O, which precipitated Greenwell’s departure:

In conversations with Deadspin, more than 20 employees from across the business, tech, and editorial departments of G/O Media expressed frustration with [Jim] Spanfeller’s approach to hiring and his new executives’ lack of knowledge about the company combined with their seeming unwillingness or inability to get up to speed. The employees, nearly all of whom requested anonymity because of fears of retaliation from company management, are angered by a lack of communication regarding company goals, seeming disregard for promoting diversity within the top ranks of the company, and by repeated and egregious interference with editorial procedures.

These conversations reveal that Spanfeller’s biggest effect on the company since taking over has been a deflation of morale. Several high-ranking employees have left the company over the past three months, departments have been stretched thin, and those who remain say that Spanfeller’s micromanaging and inappropriate interference has hamstrung their ability to effectively do their jobs.

This is an example of the sort of journalism they did so well. Unlike other sport media entities, they constantly delved deep into the intersections of economics, sports, and politics. And, as you can see from the quotes above, they never hesitated to place superiors in their cross-hairs. They remained inveterate shit-talkers to the very end.

Deadspin existed as a leftist counterweight to trash like Barstool, a sports-related haven for MAGA dipshits. They never “stuck to sports,” rightly realizing that sports are inextricably intertwined within the socioeconomic conditions in which they exist. They did their jobs with humor, courage, joy, irreverence, tenacity and humility (though, as they readily admit, they were certainly not without their faults over 14 years). They almost always pissed off the right people, and you will find the very worst of them gloating over their still-warm corpse.

Anyways, it’s dead now. Well, not technically dead; Deadspin will still exist in a weird, zombie-like form. The owners of the website are already crowing about how awesome their rebooted product will be. Given what they’ve done with a beloved, profitable, unique internet space, there is no reason to think it will be anything but putrid. What is possibly in store is summed up by Ben Mathis-Lilley at Slate:

Trustworthy brand-name publications are being hollowed out and refilled with unpaid “community” contributors or low-paid, less experienced professionals who don’t have the stature to challenge editorial imperatives or productivity quotas that generate useless, often-inaccurate content. This kind of zombification is happening right now to Sports Illustrated and has already happened to Newsweek; it’s even happened to parts of BuzzFeed, which didn’t even exist until this century.

I’m sad.

Long live Deadspin.

Escorting and other things

How are you? I hope you’re good. I’ve been kinda okay. I say kinda because almost a year ago I had a panic attack. I didn’t know what was happening to me. It took a few days to settle down, but then the stomach aches started. To this day they haven’t really stopped. It is generally believed I have IBS. I’ve seen specialists; therapists; had various tests, including an ultrasound; changed diets; taken various over the counter meds, two different prescriptions, countless supplements and teas; meditated consistently and so far, nothing has led to, well, getting back to normal.

The last-ditch effort, which is still ongoing, is Zoloft, which I was terrified to start taking. I can’t tell if it’s helping or not. At first it seemed like it wasn’t. Then it got a little better. The last 2 weeks have been worse. Per my doctor, I’m continuing with it for 6 months to a year. Though if, by the 6-month mark, it hasn’t demonstrably helped, I’ll likely stop. And then it’s just sucking it up and dealing with it, which isn’t too different then what I’ve dealt with the past year.

It almost seems as if the panic attack led to something breaking inside of me that hasn’t been and may never be fixed. It’s just such a weird thing to have a stomach ache all day every day for a week straight. It sucks but it’s not the worst. It has made my life less good, but it’s not the worst that could happen to me. So many deal with so much worse.

***

As I am wont to do, I started this post weeks ago and left it unfinished – one of dozens of blogs in various states of disrepair. Over the past few months, I’ve primarily been scratching the itch to write on social media: pithy, caustic, poignant and hilarious posts that likely induce eye-rolling by friends and family. Behold:

Antifa: Fascism is bad and needs to be confronted, lest its genocidal philosophies again take root.

Pudding-brained conservative politicians: ANTIFA ARE LITERAL TERRORISTS!

Right wing extremists: [responsible for an overwhelming amount of domestic extremist-related murder, including the Gilroy Garlic Festival mass shooting]

Pudding-brained conservative politicians: Something something thoughts and prayers and mental health and senseless tragedy and [trails off; resumes racist dog whistling, demonizes immigrants/refugees/Muslims, likely renews calls for labeling Antifa a terrorist organization]

(This was posted after the Garlic Fest shooting and before the El Paso shooting)

Anyways, the desire to write again in this blog occurred while listening to an episode of Science Friday, which made me want to put my fist through a wall. The relevant section was about deforestation in the Amazon. Very often I’ve noticed the host, Ira Flatow, seamlessly segueing from horrifying environmental news into something tech-related. And this is probably just me, but I always get annoyed with his tone, which alters between vaguely sad & subdued, and cloyingly optimistic. During the Amazon segment I noticed something that I hadn’t ever heard before: genuine dread in his voice as if he had actually confronted – conceivably for the first time – the ongoing horror of the destruction of the Amazon. Of course, perhaps I’m just projecting.

But that wasn’t what made me so irate. During an interview with Brazilian scientist Carlos Nobre, Flatow asked if he had hope. And this brilliant, intelligent, shrewd man of science said yes. Why? Because “the people” don’t want the Amazon cut down. The “people” need to and will get out and vote because Brazil remains a democracy (never mind the fact that “the people” voted for a borderline fascist).

Readers of my blog, given my past output, may justifiably regard me as something of a nihilist, but I can’t help but perceive this as absurdly hopeful in a way that is not at all warranted.  My rage has lessened, but hasn’t entirely subsided weeks later

This was the point I stopped writing. I just didn’t and still don’t have the will to deconstruct why I feel his optimism is both unjustified and dangerous. I’m tired. Sad. I feel hopeless – for the indigenous peoples, nonhuman animals, trees, rivers.

***

Switching gears – I’m going to talk a little further about what’s going on with me. For a few years I volunteered at a restorative justice program for youth that was recently discontinued. My city apparently decided that actually things are fine for our delinquent youth and the status quo is sufficient.

I felt I should be doing something else and decided on abortion clinic escorting. If you aren’t already aware, escorts guide patients into clinics and act as a shield against pro-life protesters. The clinic I’m at provides half of the state’s abortion services and has only one doctor on staff. Of course I was cognizant of the existence of the protesters, though it was mostly in the abstract sense, because I don’t see them in my day-to-day life. But when one escorts they’re just there, with their signs, loudspeakers, and punchable faces. And it’s their constitutional right to do so, apparently!

One of the horrifying things I learned was that kitty corner from the clinic is another clinic, which is basically a front for a Christian group that tries to dissuade women from abortions. So when women come to their appointments, the pro-lifers converge and, amongst other horseshit they yell, try to convince them to go to the other “free clinic” across the street. Devious fucks.

Another somewhat interesting thing I learned, that should have been intuitive had I considered it, was the segregation of the various Christian groups: evangelicals out in front, in-your-face and holding gory placards; quieter Catholics somewhat respectfully across the street; Children of the Corn-like Quiverfull adolescents; and unaffiliated damaged people with nothing better to do with their lives. And scattered throughout are the children, forced by their parents to waste their youth on religious zealotry.

The protesters especially scorn male escorts such as myself, who are emasculated degenerates who gleefully aid in fetus genocide. I experienced this firsthand upon leaving one day. I had taken off my rainbow-colored vest (a thus far fool-proof way to dissuade infiltration) and began walking to my car. I was wearing an Iron Maiden shirt and, aside from comments about the shirt, I was called a “Mary.” To my back, of course. I’m still smarting from it.

Overall, I theorized I would be good for this because I couldn’t care less what people for whom I have no respect said to me. And that’s proven to be the case so far. I’ve literally never said a word to any of them. Sure, I’ve laughed and smirked and talked about them as they stood feet away. But I have no desire to engage in discussion. We are instructed not to do so, but most of the escorts at one time or another will, whether out of anger, amusement or exasperation, talk to them.

A lot of the regulars are damaged, and have experienced trauma: a man who was supposedly able to pray the gay away thanks to conversion therapy; someone who was abused as a child, did every “drug there is” and was a “whoremonger;” the Quiverfull kids indoctrinated into their grossly misogynist cult since birth. So I am able to maintain a tiny amount of empathy (or sympathy? I can’t decide which), though it evaporates the second they start screaming at women about how they’re murdering their child and don’t have to do it.

In the past, escorts at this location have experienced doxing, being followed to their cars, having car tire lug nuts loosened, and protesters showing up at their houses. They’ve had to get restraining orders. They’ve witnessed cars wedged into the clinic entryway. I haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing any of this, although I’m apparently on a protester’s livestream somewhere on the internet. Originally conceived as a 6 month program, escorting still exists at this location 25 years later because it needs to – these people are tenacious and need to be confronted.

***

Finally, I want to mention LINGUA IGNOTA putting out the album of the year. The first time I heard it I was reading and decided to put on some background music. But this is not background music. For the next 10 minutes I sat with my mouth agape. So so fucking good, raw and brutal. If just one of you listens to this I will be satisfied.

Not sure if this will lead to more blogs. Maybe, maybe not.

The death throes of Leviathan

***This is probably my last post here. Thanks to those who have read any of my bullshit.***

He might think of it as a worm, a giant worm, not a living worm but a carcass of a worm, a monstrous cadaver, its body consisting of numerous segments, its skin pimpled with spears and wheels and other technological implements. He knows from his own experience that the entire carcass is brought to artificial life by the motions of the human beings trapped inside, the zeks who operate the springs and wheels, just as he knows that the cadaverous head is operated by a mere zek, the head zek.

[…]

Everything is artifice, and whatever is not will soon be artifice. There is nothing outside but raw materials ready and waiting to be processed and transformed into Leviathanic excrement, the substance of the universe. Some raw materials resist the transformation more than others, but none can withstand the inexorable March of Progress.

I’ve long considered Fredy Perlman’s Leviathan to be a useful metanarrative for the totality of modern-day society (or culture, civilization, “the way things are,” etc.). In Against His-story Against Leviathan! he reimagines and recontextualizes the forms and functions of Hobbes’s Leviathan as it rampages across the globe. There have been numerous Leviathans throughout human history, continually configuring and reconfiguring, dissolving and recombining, but we have long since reached the point where it is One, containing most of humanity within its entrails.

With imagination, from the outside, one can perceive it in different lights, shimmering, obscuring – here it looks like a hellbeast despoiling the wild, there it looks like comfort and longer life spans granted to the fortunate. With imagination we can behold it as a collective whole – what it has done and what it is currently doing. Even then, we can only tenuously grasp the size and scale of its monstrosity.

There are many divisions within Leviathan, constantly warring against each other. Scraps are fought for by large conglomerations of entities – nation-states, corporations, revolutionary groups (both reactionary and otherwise). On a smaller scale, individuals and families fight for access to plush areas of Leviathan’s decaying interior in the hopes of remaining relatively free from the unsightliness of its worst excesses. Members of the fortunate classes do everything in their power to ensure that they and their progeny gain access to what they rightfully deserve. The unprivileged hordes, existing in the less desirable margins of Leviathan while being exploited for the benefit of their social betters, must know and accept their place for Leviathan to function properly.

Regardless of the manners in which classes of people are divided, within Leviathan we stagger ever ahead. The diffusion of control is such that there is no one person (no “head zek”), or collection of persons that can be said to have control over it. Sure, some may have more of a say in lurching this way or that, or conjuring different ways to execute its modus operandi, but it is accurate to say that it is largely autonomous. Its agenda consists of two primary components: depositing the raw materials of the earth into its gaping maw and, in its gut, cohering these raw materials into products which diffuse into every nook and cranny within the great creature. The primary concerns are related to how to go about doing this in the most profitable and efficient manner possible. These products – with their congealed and abstracted environmental destruction and human misery – find their way via labyrinthine pathways into every facet of human life. Surrounded by the fruits of mass production almost every second of every day, it is as impossible to conceive of the human/environmental costs of each and every product as it is to conceive of life without them.

In Leviathan’s wake, vibrant mountains are converted into poisonous slag heaps, bountiful estuaries into anoxic dead zones, biologically diverse forests into denuded greenhouse gas producing pasturelands. In short, converting the living into the dead. Capitalism and industrialization are the steroids that catalyzed pre-existing processes and kicked it into overdrive [1]. But it would miss the point to apportion blame solely to these hyperobjects – the origins of what we have wrought transcends both of these human creations, as elaborated by Perlman and many, many others.

Outside, there is no life, no existence – only materials waiting be consumed. Though that is not entirely accurate: there does happen to be some form of existence, however it is – as Hobbes contends – nasty, brutish and short. It is barely worthy of legibility to Leviathan, unless, at some point, it is determined that it stands in the way of Progress. Otherwise, there is little to no utility in its quasi-existence.

***

A few weeks back, the IPCC released yet another damning report about industrialized capitalism and its conduciveness to the continued existence of human and non-human life. Like this essay, its contents are broadly similar to what has been written, researched, and reported on 2, 5, and 10 years ago. More will be written – albeit with updated scientific data – 2, 5, or 10 years in the future. When confronted with this, many will shake their heads sadly and get on with their day. Because what else can you do? We are so habituated to “the way things are,” that we cannot conceive of how to live outside of the suffocating confines of Leviathan. This is unfortunate because there is the possibility that we will, out of necessity, be forced to do so.

To live with the prospect of impending, though vaguely defined doom is new to those of us that have never labored under the delusion of a religion-inspired apocalypse. It is also new to those too young to have lived with the threat of nuclear annihilation. What we are collectively facing is frustratingly vague – if it weren’t, if it were easy to comprehend its enormity, perhaps we wouldn’t be in the situation we find ourselves. Perhaps more of us would actually perform meaningful actions to stop it.

I do not know what it’s like to believe that Jesus, with a flaming sword protruding from his mouth, will descend from heaven heralding the apocalypse. I do not know what it was like to live in fear of nuclear annihilation. The Bible’s vision of the endtimes is fantastical, but comprehensible. Nuclear annihilation is all too easy to understand. Both are less complicated and easier to grasp than what the depredations of the Anthropocene (the crystallization of Leviathan’s aforementioned modus operandi) and catabolic capitalism have in store [2].

***

Some see Leviathan for what it is and wish to extinguish its death-drive by any means short of violence against others. Thus far, despite scattered and localized success via direct action, their efforts have done little to so much as slow its gait. Their small numbers have left them largely unable to conjure tumors, or abscesses. When they do, they are easily ignored or scarred over. Moreover, Leviathan’s antibodies have proven to be very adept at infiltrating, entrapping, and mitigating infections.

Excepting illegal resistance – denied by most as desirable – leaves only the usual, unsuccessful means that have also utterly failed thus far: encouragement of responsible personal lifestyle choices and, especially in the heart of Leviathan, voting for the party that is partially less beholden to the same world-destroying interests as the grotesque party of rank bigotry, ignorance and gleeful earth annihilation. To think or believe this is sufficient is sheer wishful thinking – you may as well decide which god you find most likely to exist and get praying.

The balance of power in Washington has subtly shifted with the Democrats winning the house. Leaving aside what the political ramifications of this will be for the next two years, what if the Republicans maintain power in the next presidential election? Then what? Marches? Protests? Devastatingly witty and hilarious infotainment from celebrities and comedians? More liberal vote-shaming? More exhortations for mindful, “ecologically sound” consumerism? Not using plastic bags or straws? Will it be the same old shit that has proven unable to halt or slow our culture’s death march? Probably. And yet, much of the same things would happen under a more liberal administration but, insidiously, also containing the false sense of security that many will have with “the right people” regaining power. After all, 8 years of Obama did little to halt climate change, environmental destruction, and mass production/mass consumption (the same goes for income inequality, US imperialism, institutionalized racism, the Flint water crisis, the Dakota Access Pipeline, etc.).

On the heels of the latest damning report from the IPCC, millions are, as they have been for years, exposed to insipid bullshit like this:

See how easy it is? You can even feel a smug sense of superiority for your enlightened consumerism. After all, you’re doing YOUR part, and the only discomfort you need feel is in your pocketbook, as environmentally conscious products tend to be more expensive. (I kind of feel ripped off because I actually do many things considered to be “green” – and have for many years – but weirdly enough it hasn’t appeared to have made a difference (this should go without saying, but none of this should be taken as an argument against doing “green” things))

It should be obvious, but the vast majority of carbon emissions are the result of multinational corporations. So you reading this – assuming you are not a captain of industry – are not responsible for the existence of Leviathan and what it is doing to both its inhabitants and its host. What you do and don’t do within the context of living your day-to-day life probably doesn’t matter. You were born into a socio-politico-economic system you played no part in creating. However, you (and me) are responsible for attempting to stop those who maintain and perpetuate this destructive, fundamentally unequal/unjust socio-politico-economic system (that is, if you grant my premise, which I’m sure many of you don’t). Especially if you are a beneficiary of it. I won’t speak for anyone else but I know I’m failing.

***

If I’m correct that we are neither close to nor will ever be close to voluntarily reigning in Leviathan’s worst excesses, what is most likely to occur is a series of Hail Marys on a global scale. Geoengineering is inevitable – leave it to the First World to put our hopes in fixes that will allow us to maintain our lifestyle. In doing so we will, as we approach nearly every systemic problem, address only the symptoms while leaving the root causes undisturbed. It’s the easy way out (not that the specific geoengineering projects will be easy). We won’t abandon our hyper-consumptive lifestyles without being forced to do so. Perhaps these projects will enable “the way things are” to continue for the foreseeable future, and thus prolonging the inevitable need to confront the contradiction implicit in capitalism’s “infinite economic growth on a finite planet” ethos. Maybe this new Scientific Revolution could enable the oppressed classes to lead better lives – though if neoliberal capitalism continues as the global economic system this is almost impossible to believe.

In addition to the widespread implementation of geoengineering and its promises for a better tomorrow, there are two other broad paradigms that could be in store: the proliferation of dictatorships as resources dwindle and the consequences of climate change become impossible to ignore [3]; or collapse, as efforts to prop up Leviathan fail, leaving large amounts of people, land and resources outside of centralized state control.

If a series of collapses were to occur, the resulting communities would be kaleidoscopic in how they develop over time and depend on an uncountable number of variables: population density, environmental conditions, access to land and water, culture, religion, food acquisition techniques, self-defense abilities, base of knowledge of the natural world, and, perhaps most importantly, the extent to which any specific community is able to deal with breakdowns in the product distribution networks that are the hallmark of modern-day civilized life. Some will be violent and tyrannical. Some less so. Some friendly, others insular. Some will flourish, others will suffer and die. Some will defy conventional means of description. Most will be mixtures of every trait imaginable. And none will be static, as human communities are fluid and continuously changing.

Looking to the past, human societies have existed in countless forms throughout our history as a species [4]. To continue with the thematic narrative of the previous paragraph, some have been more egalitarian, some less so. Some relatively peaceful, some warlike. Some completely vegetarian and others almost entirely carnivorous. There have been socially stratified hunter-gatherers, and egalitarian agricultural villages. There have even been many societies that walked away from collapsed central power and thrived. Most of them haven’t rendered wide swathes of the planet uninhabitable for their human and non-human neighbors (the WWF recently determined that we have “wiped out 60% of animal populations since 1970.”). And, perhaps, a number of post-collapse communities will tap into that legacy.

***

Cycling back to our present-day quagmire, to channel comrade Lenin, what is to be done? Shall we seize power and transition to some kind of eco-socialist economy that equitably distributes goods and services in a way that doesn’t destroy the biosphere [5]? Vote actual leftists into power in the hopes of mitigating at least some of the detrimental effects of mass production (and institutionalized racism, economic inequality, etc.)? Is it sufficient to merely find concrete ways to dissuade those who profit the most off of earth’s destruction? Should we myopically enact doomsday prepper fantasies? Participate in decentralized mutual aid networks in preparation for inevitable discrete and ongoing disasters that states are unable/unwilling to adequately address? Should we destroy oil extraction infrastructure? Torch gas guzzling vehicles and aircraft? Dismantle power-plant apparatuses? Or do we sit back, cling to our lifestyles based on extraction and consumption, and hope that Science and Technology, in conjunction with the friendlier capitalist political party, will save us?

Such is the immensity of Leviathan that there is an infinite number of things one can do. Such is the immensity of Leviathan that it is unknown to what extent anything one can do will actually matter – both globally and, to a lesser extent, locally. What is to be done?

There is one possible endgame – some of Leviathan’s inhabitants may claw their way out of its corpse, behold the world in a new light, and build societies on top of its decomposing remains. They may use the putrefying entrails, but these communities can work to ensure that they are never able to recombine into another monstrous iteration of Leviathan, and thus begin the world-destroying process anew. Maybe they’ll dance on the rotting husk of what used to be a world-encompassing death machine.

One may write this off as utopian and naïve. And you are very justified in thinking this, at least for those of us firmly entrenched in Leviathan. But for the indigenous the world over – from the Sentinelese in the Andaman Islands, to the San in southern Africa, to the Sami in northern Scandinavia, to the Mohawk Nation in Akwesasne straddling the border of the U.S and Canada (to say nothing of exploited, terrorized and endangered nonhuman animals) – it’s not at all inconceivable. Their hope lies in the death throes of Leviathan not taking them down as it feeds upon itself.

Perhaps I’m just plain wrong – a wild-eyed, Nietzschean madman stumbling about, howling “industrial civilization is killing the planet!” instead of “God is dead!” Steven Pinker might just be right about the likes of me. As I write this in my office cubicle, I can’t fathom how anyone in my vicinity would seriously consider more than a few things I’ve written to have merit (the same goes, I think, for many readers who’ve made it this far). Like me, they want to finish their work, go home, and live their lives. They have other things to worry about. Broadly, tomorrow will be like today. Next week will look like last week. Next month will be similar to last month. But it seems as if we are inching closer to… something. After all, our culture’s doomsday prophesiers are not the charlatans of yore; instead, they are those to whom we in the West have entrusted the empirical study of the totality of existence to.

In closing, I’m reminded of Ishmael, by the late Daniel Quinn, which is sadly even more relevant today than it was in 1992. The novel features a series of conversations between Ishmael, a gorilla-sage, and the unidentified narrator, a surrogate for the privileged, civilized man who senses things maybe aren’t so great:

Ishmael frowned […] “As long as the people of your culture are convinced that the world belongs to them and that their divinely-appointed destiny is to conquer and rule it, then they are of course going to go on acting the way they’ve been acting for the past ten thousand years. They’re going to go on treating the world as if it were a piece of human property and they’re going to go on conquering it as if it were an adversary. You can’t change these things with laws. You must change people’s minds. And you can’t just root out a harmful complex of ideas and leave a void behind; you have to give people something that is as meaningful as what they’ve lost — something that makes better sense than the old horror of Man Supreme, wiping out everything on this planet that doesn’t serve his needs directly or indirectly.”

I shook my head. “What you’re saying is that someone has to stand up and become to the world of today what Saint Paul was to the Roman Empire.”

“Yes, basically. Is that so daunting?”

I laughed. “Daunting isn’t nearly strong enough. To call it daunting is like calling the Atlantic damp.”

“Is it really so impossible in an age when a stand-up comic on television reaches more people in ten minutes than Paul did in his entire lifetime?”

“I’m not a stand-up comic.”

“But you’re a writer, aren’t you?”

“Not that kind of writer.”

Ishmael shrugged. “Lucky you. You are absolved of any obligation. Self-absolved.”

“I didn’t say that.”

“What were you expecting to learn from me? An incantation? A magic word that would sweep all the nastiness away?”

“No.”

“Ultimately, it would seem you’re no different from those you profess to despise: You just wanted something for yourself. Something to make you feel better as you watch the end approach.”

[…]

“One thing I know people will say to me is ‘Are you suggesting we go back to being hunter-gatherers?’ ”

“That of course is an inane idea,” Ishmael said. “The Leaver life-style isn’t about hunting and gathering, it’s about letting the rest of the community live — and agriculturalists can do that as well as hunter-gatherers.” He paused and shook his head. “What I’ve been at pains to give you is a new paradigm of human history. The Leaver life is not an antiquated thing that is ‘back there’ somewhere. Your task is not to reach back but to reach forward.”

“But to what? We can’t just walk away from our civilization the way the Hohokam did.”

“That’s certainly true. The Hohokam had another way of life waiting for them, but you must be inventive — if it’s worthwhile to you. If you care to survive.” He gave me a dull stare. “You’re an inventive people, aren’t you? You pride yourselves on that, don’t you?”

“Yes.”

“Then invent.”

__________

[1] It is both tragic and somewhat fitting that the home city of the Venetian Octopus (Perlman’s term for pre-modern sea-based Leviathans), which played an integral role in the rise of globalized capitalism, will likely be rendered uninhabitable by it.

[2] Craig Collins describes catabolic capitalism as “a self-cannibalizing system whose insatiable hunger for profit can only be fed by devouring the society that sustains it. As it rampages down the road to ruin, this system gorges itself on one self-inflicted disaster after another.” This already exists in parts of the world – the question is to what extent the affluent West will experience it. The article is well worth reading in full and I can’t help but quote a bit more of it:

Catabolic capitalism flourishes because it can still generate substantial profits by dodging legalities and regulations; stockpiling scarce resources and peddling arms to those fighting over them; scavenging, breaking down and selling off the assets of the decaying productive and public sectors; and preying upon the sheer desperation of people who can no longer find gainful employment elsewhere.

Without enough energy to generate growth, catabolic capitalists stoke the profit engine by taking over troubled businesses, selling them off for parts, firing the workforce and pilfering their pensions. Scavengers, speculators and slumlords buy up distressed and abandoned properties – houses, schools, factories, office buildings and malls – strip them of valuable resources, sell them for scrap or rent them to people desperate for shelter. Illicit lending operations charge outrageous interest rates and hire thugs or private security firms to shake down desperate borrowers or force people into indentured servitude to repay loans. Instead of investing in struggling productive enterprises, catabolic financiers make windfall profits by betting against growth through hoarding and speculative short selling of securities, currencies and commodities.

[…]

Catabolic capitalism is not inevitable. However, in a growth-less economy, catabolic capitalism is the most profitable, short-term alternative for those in power. This makes it the path of least resistance from Wall Street to Washington. But Green capitalism is another story.

As both radical Greens and the corporate establishment realize, Green capitalism is essentially an oxymoron. Truly Green policies, programs and projects contradict capitalism’s primary directive – profit before all else! This doesn’t mean there aren’t profitable niche markets for some products and services that are both ecologically benign and economically beneficial. It means that capitalism’s overriding profit motive is fundamentally at odds with ecological balance and the general welfare of humanity.

While people and the planet can thrive in an ecologically balanced society, the self-centered drive for profit and power cannot. A healthy economy that encourages people to take care of each other and the planet is incompatible with exploiting labor and ransacking nature for profit. Thus, capitalists will resist, to the bitter end, any effort to replace their malignant economy with a healthy one. [emphasis added]

[3] Again I quote Collins:

As globalization runs down, this grim catabolic future is eager to replace it. Already, an ugly gang of demagogic politicians around the world hopes to ride this catabolic crisis into power. Their goal is to replace globalization with bombastic nationalist authoritarianism [the most recent example being the absolutely vile Bolsonaro in Brazil]. These xenophobic demagogues are becoming the political face of catabolic capitalism. They promise to restore their country to prosperity and greatness by expelling immigrants while carelessly ignoring the disastrous costs of fossil fuel addiction and military spending. Anger, insecurity and need to believe that a strong leader can restore “the good old days” will guarantee them a fervent following even though their false promises and fake solutions can only make matters worse.

[4] One can find sources just about anywhere. While writing this, I had in mind Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States by James C. Scott and Worshiping Power: An Anarchist View of Early State Formation by Peter Gelderloos. I don’t expect anyone to actually purchase them so, if interested, check out this rather long article by David Graeber and David Wengrow.

[5] Unlike the Soviet and Maoist Leviathans – both as adept at world destruction as the capitalist West – hopefully this new “dictatorship of the proletariat” would actually progress towards a state in which the very scaffolds propping up Leviathan wither away. Seems unlikely.

Good Guy With a Gun fails to stop Bad Guy With a Gun because “whites don’t shoot whites”

You’ve probably already heard the story:

Gregory Alan Bush, a 51-year-old white man, was arrested and charged with two counts of murder and 10 counts of felony wanton endangerment, according to Wave 3 News. He reportedly walked into the supermarket in Jeffersontown—a suburb of Louisville—and fired multiple shots at one man before walking outside and firing more shots at a woman in the parking lot. Jeffersontown Police Chief Sam Rogers confirmed that both victims died at the scene.

[…]

The victims of the shooting have been identified as 69-year-old Maurice Stallard and 67-year-old Vicki Lee Jones, both of whom are black.

[…]

Ed Harrell, who was waiting in the parking lot for his wife, Elaine, to come out of the store, told the Louisville Courier-Journal that when he saw Bush exit the store with a gun in his hand, he pulled his own revolver, crouched beside his car and asked Bush what was going on.

“Don’t shoot me. I won’t shoot you. Whites don’t shoot whites,” Bush told him.

Harrell “wasn’t sure what to do but said as the gunman moved a little, he dived behind a car and watched as the shooter got in a vehicle and drove off.

I just wonder what was in the mind of the gun fucker on the receiving end of the white brotherhood speech. These assholes fantasize about being in positions like this – after all, he felt the need to bring a gun to a grocery store. When presented with a chance to stop the bad guy with a gun, he chose not to even try. Hopefully it was cowardice. Better that than the alternative: perhaps he felt the gunman made a salient point.

Or maybe I’m being too judgmental. God knows I’d probably piss my pants and run for cover were I in that situation. And, well, I’m not too comfortable with guns. But I’d like to think if, gun in hand, I had the chance to kill a white supremacist on a shooting spree I’d pull the fucking trigger.

A heartwarming tale of redemption for the singer of a shitty Christian metal band

To be a fan of metal can be annoying if you care at all about supporting people who aren’t terrible. The vast majority of bands in the genres (and genre crossovers, and subgenres, and subgenres of subgenres, etc.) are composed of cishet white dudes. Because of this, one has to be – again, if they even care – on guard against supporting racists, sexists, homophobes, transphobes, rapists, and garden variety garbage people. I suppose in this regard it’s not all that different from supporting the work or art of any person you don’t know – artists, politicians, comedians, scholars, bloggers, etc.

As I Lay Dying – God, what a terrible name – is a Christian metalcore band. Metalcore is basically a hybrid of hardcore (itself an offshoot of punk) and metal that began in the early 90’s and whose best days were over by the end of that decade. One might think that Christians wouldn’t be very good at playing such evil sounding music, but Christian bands are among the genre’s best: Zao, Disciple, Living Sacrifice, Strongarm, Overcome. Not among those bands, in my opinion, is AILD, who began in 2000 and signed to Metal Blade Records in 2003 (this is indicative of their popularity within the context of the underground metal scene).

But the good times didn’t last as the singer, Tim Lambesis, was convicted of trying to have his wife killed in 2013 – I’m not certain, but I don’t think is something Jesus approves of. I don’t want to get too into the convoluted timeline, but it seems he stopped being Christian without telling anyone in the years leading up to the attempted murder-for-hire. He further claimed the band wasn’t really Christian, which they vehemently denied (I love the idea that he pretended to be Christian just to sell his band’s music and merchandise to Christians). Anyways, it seems it was during his “atheist phase” that he tried to have his wife killed.

Lambesis served his time – 2 whole years – and was released in 2016. Somewhat hilariously, he sued the State of California for $35 million because they wouldn’t provide a prescription to combat his withdrawal from steroids (the toxic mixture of atheism and steroid usage are the true culprits in all of this). But, whatever, he’s out now and AILD has triumphantly reunited (check the comments for how to be a terrible online atheist)! In the months leading to the reunion, Lambesis had this to say

I cannot say for certain what life looks like going forward as so much is different now and I’m still learning. Music always has and always will be a part of me, and has helped me get through the darkest parts of my journey. However, this apology is not a part of promoting anything [Sure, right]. Rumors circulate, and that’s something I’ve learned to accept, but this apology is just that, an apology to everyone around me.

I’ve remained silent to the public since expressing remorse at my sentencing because time seemed like the best way to promote healing. Today marks the first opportunity to freely apologize without any motivation to gain favor from the courts, as I have now completed the entirety of my legal sentence (including the completion of all parole/probation requirements). Let it be clear that no amount of time served can right my wrongs. I do not feel deserving of a second chance and am not asking for anyone’s trust [Several months later, he apparently made the decision that he very much deserves a second chance; though, no doubt, he will make no such claim publicly]. The way many people feel about me makes sense, and only time will tell if my future actions line up with my remorse, something I pray for every day. In the last five years, the ripple effect of all my actions has extended further than a written statement can address. Thus, I will continue to apologize in both words and actions moving forward.

People who like bad music are really psyched – shows are selling out, or being put in larger venues.

The band claims that the singer might be a Christian again:

[Lambesis] has spent much of the last year re-evaluating what originally convinced him to abandon belief in God. After much brokenness and repentance he sees things differently, considers himself a follower of Jesus, someone submitted to the will of God, or whatever you want to call it,” adding, “That’s for him to talk about when he’s comfortable and only time will tell if he is sincere.

That was from 2014 and occurred a couple months after his conviction. It does not appear he’s addressed his faith, or lack thereof (aside from the reference to praying in his statement above), but I can’t wait for the interview where he explicitly blames his atheist lapse for leading him astray. Because who among the godless readers of this blog hasn’t used their non-belief to justify orchestrating the murder of someone close to them?

I checked out a few Christian sites to see how this is being handled among those types. A sampling:

I, for one, am hoping Tim is a changed man and becomes a productive member of society once more. Often the greatest stories of redemption carry the heavy burden of failure. Tim will have to earn people’s trust and prove he’s different. He has a long road ahead of him and his crime will always haunt him. Yet, I’m hopeful. My story is marked by failure and shortcoming, but people were kind enough to believe in me when I was at my worst.

You don’t have to listen to or support As I Lay Dying’s return, but I think we can all agree that the best hope for a broken world, is reformed healers who mend the parts they’ve shattered [I, for one, don’t agree with this simplistic nonsense].

If that happens, we might just see more people’s evil actions become a story of redemption and reconciliation. [Right]

[L]ambesis points to his embrace of atheism as precipitating the whole thing. There’s a long and storied argument about whether objective morality can exist in a universe without a creator, and a lot of atheists take personal offense at it because they think it implies that atheists are inherently immoral. I don’t think that’s necessarily the case [THANKS BRO!], but I have encountered plenty of people in my own life who, upon losing their religious faith, used it as an excuse to do horrible and ugly things to the people around them. What I am fairly certain of is that a rupture in worldview seems to make people behave abominably [ESPECIALLY when Christians morph into atheists]. When our ideological presuppositions come out from under us, our true, ugly selves are revealed [I love the idea that he apparently thinks Christians like himself are “ugly” and need their religion to keep their “true” selves locked below the surface. I almost wished I gave a shit about being Catholic so I could have went fucking wild when I rejected it. Sad]

That’s a scary thing. Scarier than after-school-special-style ‘roid rage, almost.

Scary stuff indeed. I’m scared.

Lambesis, of course, will be fine – there are many who fucking love redemption stories of men coming back from the bad things they’ve done. That’s what makes it so galling when people like Michael Ian Black (“we’re in a cultural moment in which some men who do terrible things have no pathway for redemption”) mewl about how it’s apparently a difficult thing for men to regain their lost status. Motherfucker, the roadmap for doing so is very well established. One only needs to have the requisite social capital in relation to whatever it is they did/said. Add in a dose of real or feigned contrition and you can be well on your way to regain lost status.

There are many, many bands that are far better than AILD in the underground metal scene. Due to this, I actually am a bit shocked at the response because they are so derivative, so generic. I should add I think it would be unfair to single out the Christian portion of their fan-base as they have wide crossover appeal to the non-religious. How nice that shitty, banal music can unite them in supporting someone who was thankfully too inept to coordinate the murder of his wife during a protracted phase of atheism and ‘roid rage.

After many harrowing months the redemption of Louis CK has commenced

Louis CK is back! Fittingly, he performed unannounced, forcing himself on an audience that didn’t know they were paying to see him. But that was no matter because, in a situation similar to Milwaukee cheering their heroic formerly racist pitcher who was forced to feel bad about bad tweets, Louis was greeted with rapturous applause.

That this would happen sooner than later was a virtual certainty because he was, and still is beloved. Many, many people (myself included) thought he was great and funny. Of these, many flat out do not care about the allegations or think they weren’t a big deal; many are convinced that any female accuser is a lying, vindictive, fame-seeking whore; and then there are many that actually think what he did was bad – but they will prioritize his inevitable redemption over anything else related to the situation so they can go back to being entertained by someone they like. The first two groups are too far beyond the pale to warrant comment. But the last is especially depressing – they are essentially shrieking “what about the man? He feels bad and everyone deserves second chances!” Such sentiments can be found everywhere on social media, but this one from Michael Ian Black is emblematic of that perspective:

He’s currently being excoriated and I don’t have anything to say that hasn’t already been said to him, but I do want to highlight a great response by Michelle Biloon:

I don’t know how to embed a tweet thread so here is the rest of it:

And it is a fear grounded in reality. It is TOO SOON for him to return. And honestly I don’t think he should return. He can do something else. He fucked up. Bye. Make room for others. I care more about the silencing and shaming of the victims than him. (3/x)

Also, why does his pathway to redemption have to be through standup? There are many actually redeeming things he can do or any of these offenders can do. And if you just have to have standup, maybe wait five years and then we’ll see. (4/x)

Also, he’d been jerking off in front of women for YEARS and managed with help to keep it under wraps and continue to have a wildly successful comedy career. He already had his comeback but it was just that the general public didn’t know or believe his offenses. (5/x)

Fuck yes. Do something else. It is an incredible privilege to be granted a life of wealth and luxury for telling jokes. If it were up to me, he’d lose that privilege. Or – let me put it another way – I wish we lived in a world in which there wasn’t an ocean of paying consumers that are all too eager to enable a comeback from persistent reprehensible behavior that ruined lives. And behavior which, with a nod and wink, he impishly referred to in his stand-up and TV show for years.

https://www.businessinsider.com/louis-ck-clip-on-masturbation-circulates-after-allegations-of-sexual-misconduct-2017-11

So this is going to continue to be a thing. He’ll sporadically do smaller unannounced shows, and then bigger shows, and then Netflix will gladly have him back. Of course I’m not alone in predicting this. It was practically ordained the moment everything came out. If one has enough social capital, they can get away with just about anything. The penance is typically a varying amount of time spent out of the public eye. The lives they’ve shattered do not matter – talented men getting second chances does (a good way to discern an asshole is one whom emphasizes the latter over the former). That’s what’s so absurd about Michael Ian Black’s assertion that we need to figure “out a way for the men who are caught up in it to find redemption:” if they’re good enough, they ALWAYS get multiple chances so there’s really nothing to figure out.

Aziz Ansari performed in two cities in my state. The demand for tickets was so great that he ended up doing 5 shows (3 in Madison, 2 in Milwaukee).

TJ Miller, a garbage person, is still doing shit after the many allegations against him.

Chris Hardwick, whom I’ve never been able to determine why anyone likes, got his terrible hack shows back after being “exonerated.”

These men will be fine. They still have wealth. They still have adulation. The most discomfort they’ll face is some people writing/saying mean things about them, or reading thinkpieces about themselves in which the author wrings their hands over the ethics of consuming their entertainment. But the true fans will dig their heels and stand up for the men who say the funny things. Because that’s our fun and good world.

Siri, show me hell on earth

Weird there isn’t anyone from the Intellectual Dark Web

ETA – Mostly everyone on the list I either don’t know, find repulsive, or am very confused by their presence (Henry Winkler?). Thankfully, the only person I actually like – Cameron Esposito – is no longer appearing:

 

The trauma of child separation

A recent dream was the impetus for this post. While I pretty much never want to hear about someone’s dream, against my better judgment, I’m going to begin with it:

I was doing some kind of an internship and was tasked with detaining children alone. I showed up to an apartment. I had some kind of miniature truck that had a flat tire and I was frantically trying to use my phone to call for help. A woman helped, and I slowly realized this was the mother. I took out a crinkled sheet of paper with scribbles on it and asked if this was her. She said yes and I told her I had to take her kids. She sadly acquiesced and started getting them ready. At this point, the large, angry dad started berating me. I remained calm, and tried to reason with him. I exhorted him to be friendly to social workers, case managers, and judges. Be nice to the system – for they can make your life even worse should you choose to direct your venom at it. While this was happening, the kids escaped and I began freaking out over this. Usually, once I start to panic in a dream I wake up.

I’ve never worked at a job that detained children, but I’ve worked directly with those who are actively in the process of doing so. I’ve worked directly with families navigating the messy aftermath. Even today, though my job is more administrative-focused, there are still a few functions I perform which entail seeing frustrated clients stuck in the labyrinthine child welfare system.

One of things I periodically do is administer family court-mandated drug tests. This is not something they generally like having to do several times a week. Sometimes they vent, and I let them – often this is about their shitty case managers, an asshole judge, or how difficult it is to make time for the tests –  and I sometimes find myself giving the same advice I gave in my dream: no matter how much you think the system is bad, be nice to the people in it because they can make things much worse. I don’t know if this is good advice. Warring inside my head are thoughts of “yes, I would hate it if I were treated like this” (which is what I verbalize), and “well, you brought this on yourself,” or “maybe you should have thought of this before you did whatever it was that endangered your kids and brought state involvement into your life.” Also in the back of my mind is the ever-present aversion to bootlicking.

Some may choose to ignore the litany of nuances related to American children being removed from their homes and say “fuck these child abusers,” a condemnation that parallels a common conservative response to the immigrant crisis: those parents are endangering their children by breaking the law – they have no one to blame but themselves. If you are one of those people I have sad news for you: uncompromising measures like locking up parents, or less restrictive measures, which are still formidable obstacles, all prolong the time kids spent in out of home care. This is usually very bad, and we aren’t remotely close to having an effective system in place to manage such massive amounts of human misery. The end result is that many children lost within the child welfare system – whether it’s for a few weeks or a few years – grow up facing even more hurdles than before they were detained.

***

In many, probably most, experiences I’ve had in child welfare, children love their parents, no matter what they’ve done. I’ve worked on many cases that ended in sobbing which continued until the children were dropped off at their foster homes. I can’t stress this enough. As bad as child abuse and neglect is, the trauma of separation is not to be dismissed or trivialized. This has historically been largely invisible to the general public (as I’ve stressed in other blog posts, most people give next to no passing thought to child welfare).

On the other hand, child welfare as it related to family separation at the border has rightfully gained visibility. ICE scumbags are fucking up an entire generation of children:

“It’s not like an auto body shop where you fix the dent and everything looks like new. We’re talking about children’s minds,” said Luis H. Zayas, professor of social work and psychiatry at the University of Texas at Austin.

[…]

Children who have undergone traumatic separation often cling desperately to their parents after they are reunited and refuse to let them out of their sight, say therapists and child psychologists. Many suffer from separation anxiety, cry uncontrollably and have trouble sleeping because of recurring nightmares.

Others develop eating disorders, problems with trust and unresolved anger, in some cases against their parents.

“You see some children even strike out at the parents. They don’t always understand why their parents abandoned them and sometimes blame them. So they have difficulty reattaching,” Zayas said.

[…]

Left untreated, such trauma can lead to deeper problems like post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, alcoholism and even suicidal behavior, said Jodi Berger Cardoso, an assistant professor at the University of Houston who studies the effects of trauma on immigrants.

Children intercepted at the border are often especially vulnerable to developing PTSD and other disorders because their families are fleeing violence and catastrophe.

[…]

Studies have shown that boys held in detention, even for short periods of time, such as two or three weeks, can develop anti-social behavior, violence and substance abuse problems. Teenage girls more often show depressive disorders and substance abuse.

Reactive Attachment Disorder is very prevalent among and greatly inhibits a person’s ability to form positive relationships

Much of this is also applicable to American children that have been separated from their families.

***

Of late, I’ve often found myself thinking, in one regard, like the xenophobic nativists that I revile. In the halcyon days of the George W Bush era, I recall having arguments about how I felt far more affinity to Iraqi civilians than American soldiers shooting at them. At the root of this sentiment is the simple idea that there is nothing inherently better or worse about people born in the same geographic area as I.

With that in mind, it is jarring how I reflexively respond internally to the recent outcry against U.S. immigration policy. People are (justly) moved to tears and anger over non-American children experiencing trauma at the hands of their government, but I can’t help but find myself thinking “what about actual American children who are going through this?”

As I noted above, American children separated from their parents deal with much of the same traumas as immigrant children, though they broadly occur within in different historical contexts. American children are subject to varying degrees of the structural issues underpinning their specific situations: suffocating economic inequality, institutionalized racism and all that these paradigms entail. The families arriving at our border contain in their very being the ongoing legacies of European colonialism, American imperialism, and more recently, neoliberal capitalism and its continuing devastation of the developing world.

Though every family separation is a veritable snowflake where no two are the same, similarities abound in the results. Some children will never find a stable home and, if they are not deported, age out of the system:

  • More than 23,000 children will age out of the US foster care system every year.
  • After reaching the age of 18, 20% of the children who were in foster care will become instantly homeless.
  • Only 1 out of every 2 foster kids who age out of the system will have some form of gainful employment by the age of 24.
  • There is less than a 3% chance for children who have aged out of foster care to earn a college degree at any point in their life.
  • 7 out of 10 girls who age out of the foster care system will become pregnant before the age of 21.
  • The percentage of children who age out of the foster care system and still suffer from the direct effects of PTSD: 25%.

More generally, childhood trauma related to separation increases

the risk of alcohol use by age 14 and illicit drug use by age 15. Childhood trauma also contributed to the likelihood of adolescent pregnancies and adolescent suicide attempts.

But the story doesn’t end there. ACEs [adverse childhood experiences] were also found to be associated with multiple adverse outcomes in adulthood, such as cardiovascular disease, liver disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, suicide attempts, alcohol dependence, marital problems, intravenous drug use and many more.

If there is one common thread to many of the preventable diseases we face in the U.S., why are we not paying closer attention?

An excellent question really, but with an obvious answer [1]. Victims of child abuse and neglect are mostly poor and disproportionately children of color. We as a society don’t really give a fuck about them, unless they rise from their racially and economically segregated neighborhoods to become worthy of notice and acclaim – perhaps as an athlete, entertainer, or business mogul. Then we can collectively valorize the Horatio Alger-like elements of their life – in the land of the free and the home of the brave anyone can make it if they just work hard enough.

Just as good, if not better, is when a white family shepherds them to the promised land. Consider the popularity of The Blind Side. Briefly, the movie is based on the true story of Michael Oher, adopted by a saintly white family after bouncing around foster homes, and eventually making it to the NFL. This is widely thought of as a feel-good story, at least for white people who relish any opportunity to view themselves as benevolent forces for good.

Or perhaps they’ll commit crimes and become noteworthy that way. Perhaps, their childhood will provide context for whatever it is that they’ve done. But whatever the crime is will almost always override their upbringing. Whether that’s fair or not depends on the situation and the eye of the beholder.

***

In the end, it’s hard not to feel that the advice from my dream rings hollow, even if there’s a degree of utility to it. Because the social/economic/political systems that these families exist within have set them up to fail and are ill equipped at mitigating the fallout. The well-to-do within those systems are likely to feel the consequences of those failures – perhaps by tax dollar, perhaps by crime. Perhaps they’ll feel rage, and perhaps that misguided rage will lead to health problems.

The following is particularly apt:

To pretend that separated children do not grow up with the shrapnel of this traumatic experience embedded in their minds is to disregard everything we know about child development, the brain, and trauma.

One should keep in mind the sheer breadth this sentiment encompasses: refugees from the Middle East, Africa, and Central America fleeing violence; First Nations children of Canada; children in the enlightened social democracy of Norway; and, of course, children in the belly of the world-eating Leviathan that is modern-day techno-industrial society.


[1] I understand one of the reasons why: there is an unending churn of terrible things – contemporary and historical – in the world. With only a finite amount of time and energy to dedicate to learning about such things, it’s silly to think everyone will expose themselves to the same horrors as I. So, while I lament the (what I regard) as fact that people don’t give much thought to American child welfare, I get why this is.

The pope should shut the fuck up about indigenous resistance

[Note: I wrote almost all of this blog before learning of Caine’s passing. I only interacted with her a few times, but I was repeatedly struck by how fierce she was in her writings. She will be missed.

Some months back, she had written that she’d like to see her fellow bloggers write about indigenous issues and we had a little back and forth about it. A coincidence, then, that it is the topic of this post. Condolences to those who knew and loved her best, and anyone else who’s enjoyed her work on FtB.]

Via The Onion:

In a historic admission of the Catholic church’s complicated and often shameful history, Pope Francis admitted in an informal public statement Thursday that “like, 97 percent” of Catholic leadership are “probably burning in hell right now.” “Believe me, contemporary Catholics are quite familiar with our legacy of murder, rape, cultural exploitation, and thievery on every scale from splitting up South America for silver rights down to just stealing stuff—make no mistake, most of those holy men were simply terrible people who deserve to fry in their own considerable fat for eternity,” said His Holiness, who took time during an informal lunch meeting with interfaith leaders to deliver a capsule history of manifold crimes committed by Vatican higher-ups, complete with a running commentary on the church’s long tradition of manipulating and mistreating its devotees. “Keep in mind this was just the stuff they did to other Catholics—at least, they were Catholic when those vicious scoundrels were done with them. Well, they’re paying for it in searing pain and screams now. Oh, and if someone wouldn’t convert, or couldn’t be converted by force? That’s when we get into Crusades, the Inquisitions, Spanish and others, the name of Christ invoked in the slaughter of native peoples, which is why their eyes will forever boil from out of their roasting skulls.

This is one of the many times I lament the fact that The Onion is #fakenews. What a welcome sentiment this would be in light of the Cool Pope’s somewhat recent shitty comments on the Mapuche conflict in Chile (this is something I meant to write about way back in January). First, though, who are the Mapuche and what made Francis think he had the right to tell them what to do? Stop me if you’ve heard this one before:

[T]he arrival of the Spanish in the 16th Century seems to have triggered the amalgamation of several indigenous groups and the forging of closer social and cultural ties, all of which is part of what we know today as the history of the Mapuche identity. The Mapuche people rebelled against Spanish subjugation and burned the cities built by the European colonizers south of the Bío Bío River. This rebellion marked the beginning of the Arauco War, in which Spain was forced to maintain a professional army to guard its territorial borders and to recognize Mapuche autonomy within indigenous lands. The Mapuche people did not submit to outside rule until 1882, when the Army of the Republic of Chile began its campaign for the “Pacification of the Araucanía Region.” The campaign came in response to the urgent need to conquer usable land and was driven by an ideology that sought to eliminate indigenous groups by “civilizing” them. After the Chilean military victory, the process of colonization by European and local mestizo settlers was facilitated by restricting local indigenous inhabitants to small plots of communally held land. The direct consequences of this process for Mapuche society included a drastic decrease in their territory through reiterated, large scale usurpation, dependence on the Government as an external agent, and the breakdown of Mapuche society due to the loss of authority of the lonkos or chiefs.

The struggle has continued in fits and starts to the present day, with different groups pursuing different ends with different means – some are peaceful and some engage in property destruction (what the state and media refer to as terrorism) [1].

Their current adversaries are the usual suspects: a panoply of different entities including the state and military, non-indigenous landowners, the Catholic Church, and, of course, foreign & domestic capitalists:

Today, the Mapuche people are fighting to recover their territorial rights in the Araucanía Region. In these efforts, they confront forestry companies as well as the military. The consequences of the conflict are dramatic. Levels of poverty, unemployment, domestic violence, and illiteracy in this region are the highest in the country.

Moreover, the mass media labels Mapuche protests as “terrorist,” misleading the general public and encouraging the spread of violence. The economic consortiums that control the forestry industry in the region also own the national mass media. This relationship fuels the conflict, protects specific economic interests, and validates military intervention against the Mapuche.

As for Cool Pope, he became upset because churches were burned in Mapuche territory. But, why would such things be done?

Between 1818 and 1950 during the first stage of Chilean colonization, the Chilean State used methods of evangelization [that] were used to submit and dominate the Mapuche People.

This meant the internal plunder of the self or person (what the Chilean government and the bishopric class calls the desecration of faith). Our Machi [Medicine Healers]  were demonized, and their rewe [medicines] plundered and destroyed. Our sacred spaces (tren tren, trayenco, mawizantu) destroyed and eliminated, and among the ruins they planted pine and eucalyptus, houses and churches were built, and we were confined to spiritual and emotional imbalance.

In the definitive occupation of our territory, the Catholic Church played an outstanding, even military, role, acting as the vanguard in the displacement and occupation of Wallmapu [Mapuche Territory]. They were not only the transmitters of dominant norms and values, but also controlled and punished indigenous transgressors, prohibiting the continued belief in their traditional ways, imposing determined values of resignation, obedience and respect to so-called superiors.

Currently, it is not surprising that the Catholic Church owns all educational facilities in the Araucanía Region, and that every school serves as its economic bastion.

So into the fray he descends, bestowing these words of wisdom:

You cannot assert yourself by destroying others, because this only leads to more violence and division [actually, one can definitely do that – Christians were able to assert themselves all over the fucking world by destroying others and their culture. Also, burning churches isn’t the same as destroying others]. Violence begets violence; destruction increases fragmentation and separation. Violence eventually makes a most just cause into a lie.”[By that logic, wouldn’t violence perpetrated by Christians in the name of Christianity turn Christianity into a lie? Nah – how silly of me to apply his own words to his religion] [2]

Anyways, the pope is an asshole. That he’s apologized for Catholic complicity in the horrors of colonialism (which, next to absolutely nothing, is the bare minimum the Catholic church should have done a long time ago) certainly doesn’t grant him moral high ground – especially when the legacies of those horrors are ongoing and still perpetuated by members of his flock.

You don’t get to tell people who have been oppressed for generations by adherents of your religion how to resist their oppressors. Although, far be it from me to tell the infallible messenger of God what to do – but the Mapuche are eminently justified in telling him to fuck off.


[1] There was an incident in 2013 where white landowners, Werner Luchsinger and Vivian Mackay, were burned alive in their home by Mapuche protesters. I was only going to briefly mention this, but I ended up going down a rabbit-hole. The details are sketchy, but this occurred on the five year anniversary of a Mapuche activist shot by police on Luchsinger’s property. Both situations, the shooting and arson, were preceded by conflicts/arguments that lead to death.

There was one conviction for the arson. Most recently, 11 other defendants were acquitted, with the ruling stating there was “not enough proof to support the prosecution’s allegation that it was a terrorist attack or a premeditated plan to stir fear and pressure farmers into leaving their land.”

To give more context, the Luchsinger family

arrived in Mapuche territory from Switzerland in the late 1800s and benefited from the government’s colonisation policies for decades thereafter, becoming one of the largest landowners in Chile’s Patagonia region. Their forestry and ranching companies now occupy vast stretches of southern Chile, and impoverished Mapuches live on the margins of their properties.

The nephew of the deceased couple stated that “with this attack it seems that my prophecy was being fulfilled that the region is suffering attacks to empty farmers and entrepreneurs.” So long as the farmers and entrepreneurs remain, his prophecy may continue to be fulfilled on a somewhat regular basis.

[2] I don’t really consider burning churches as violence. One can’t commit violence against a non-sentient object. I used to think this without qualification, until I considered domestic abusers and their victims – an abuser using property destruction as an intimidation tactic certainly qualifies as violence, not to mention it being unjustified and reprehensible.

To me, when the power disparity is such that those with far less power commit property destruction against individuals or entities with far greater power, I’m not inclined to view it as violence (whether or not I agree with the cause will ultimately influence if I see it as warranted or not). The burning of Catholic churches in indigenous territory may cause psychological harm to Catholics who work there, but I don’t really give a shit – the enormity of the historical and contemporary crimes & injustices perpetrated against the Mapuche by the entity they freely chose to join utterly dwarfs destroyed property. But that’s just me.