I’m not publishing bad comments (except for the one I’m writing about in this post)

When I first started blogging, I considered establishing a commenting policy. I decided against it because I thought it was a bit presumptuous to assume anyone would want to comment on anything I wrote. Not that many do, but it’s enough for me to write about.

Awhile back I wrote about effective ways to conceptualize and deal with sexual violence. Almost a month later I received a bad comment, which I ignored and chose not to publish, until today – billoreillysloofah, here is your bad comment, with my response in bold.

[Quoted from my blog post] “It is well established in feminist legal critique that female complainants are discredited if they fail to conform to an archaic stereotype”

In this section you list one of these stereotypes as being “consistent”. Surely in any crime if the alleged victims’ story is inconsistent this is a red flag, no? [Not necessarily. Memory can be unreliable, fickle and impacted by trauma. It’s usually exculpatory enough for almost any alleged perpetrator to walk even if there is evidence pointing to guilt, which is a problem.] It’s hardly a “stereotype” in any case. [It is. You didn’t present evidence that it’s not a stereotype. The quote is from a peer-reviewed paper in an academic journal written by a law professor.] Imagine one is accused of a crime and the accuser changes their story to suit new facts every time they are presented with them. Is this to be ignored by the defence council? [Of course not. That’s not the argument]

I would wager it is also ‘established’ in these particular feminist legal critiques from whence you draw your quotation, that all men are guilty of something and that false rape allegations do not exist – so juries can safely disregard the possibility. [This is exactly what I think. Men are trash. Go die in a fire.]

The first paragraph isn’t terrible. The extent to which a victim is consistent is worthy of consideration. But the second paragraph is utter garbage. So, billoreillysloofah, don’t bother responding to this. I couldn’t care less what you have to say. Life is way too short to deal with the likes of you.

Part of my annoyance is due to the lag time. Within a few days of a post, I’d probably approve it and respond. During that time span other readers of the site may see it and add their two cents. But when too much time passes and an argumentative comment is left I’ll probably deny it, unless I think it’s interesting or worthy of a back-and-forth discussion that only myself and the commenter will see. The above comment is neither of those things.

Anyways, here are some other “rules:”

  • It should probably go without saying that I will not allow any bigoted comments.
  • If I reject your comment and it’s not bigoted, that means I think what you’ve written is wrong, illogical, not pertinent to what I’ve written, or any combination of the aforementioned. Perhaps there is also a taint of bigotry, such as using “feminist legal critiques” as a pejorative. Overall, it’s not something I want to see on my blog and I don’t wish to waste my time responding. You are totally free to think that I’m a , libtard, cuck, soy boy (my body is probably 3/4’s soy at this point) or any number of epithets used for fragile snowflakes such as myself. You can rest assured that I don’t have the mental faculties to go toe-to-toe with your impeccable logic. You’ll have triggered me, and my rejection of your comment will preserve the sanctity of my safe space. Or, deep down, maybe you’ll consider the possibility that you’re a piece of shit.

That’s really about it. I don’t mind people disagreeing with me – almost everyone except for this commenter has done so in a way I have no problem with.


Leave Kellyanne alone

I’m going to give Kellyanne Conway the benefit of the doubt on misspeaking “one word.” Because who could be intellectually dishonest enough to allege a nonexistent massacre and subsequently claim her mistake was no big deal? Who among us hasn’t said “massacre” while intending to say “terrorists?” It’s an easy mistake.

But maybe, due to lamestream media bullying and SJW ridicule, she’s too ashamed to admit she misplaced her massacre by roughly 200 miles and 235 years. Indeed, there was a massacre near present day Bowling Green. The perpetrators, however were not Muslim immigrants or refugees, but American militiamen (almost certainly Christians, all). The victims were pacifist Christianized Native Americans living outside of the boundaries of the nascent United States of America:

In early March 1782, the Lenape were surprised by a raiding party of 160 Pennsylvania militia led by Lieutenant Colonel David Williamson. The militia rounded up the Christian Lenape and accused them of taking part in raids into Pennsylvania. Although the Lenape denied the charges, the militia held a council and voted to kill them.

After the Lenape were told of the militia’s vote, they requested time to prepare for death and spent the night praying and singing hymns. They were held in two buildings, one for men and one for women and children.

The next morning on 8 March, the militia brought the Lenape to one of two “killing houses”, one for men and the other for women and children. The militia tied the Indians, stunned them with mallet blows to the head, and killed them with fatal scalping cuts. In all, the militia murdered and scalped 28 men, 29 women, and 39 children. Two Indian boys, one of whom had been scalped, survived to tell of the massacre. The bodies were piled in the mission buildings and burned the village down. They also burned the other abandoned Moravian villages.

The militia looted the villages prior to their burning. The plunder, which needed 80 horses to carry included everything which the people had held: furs for trade, pewter, tea sets, and clothing.

In 1810, Tecumseh reminded future President William Henry Harrison, “You recall the time when the Jesus Indians of the Delawares lived near the Americans, and had confidence in their promises of friendship, and thought they were secure, yet the Americans murdered all the men, women, and children, even as they prayed to Jesus?”

Maybe Conway will find the courage to clarify her initial comments and educate the masses about their heritage. I suppose I shouldn’t hold my breath.





Donald Trump is bad

I’m not good at coming up with good blog titles.

I never really thought Trump would win. Surely there weren’t enough angry, bigoted white voters to outnumber the various other voting blocs. I was eager to marinate in the schadenfreude of his imminent defeat, and then for him and his ilk to fade away into the shadows where they belong. Such innocent times.

One of the reasons I was never able to believe in the God of Christianity is the existence of terrible humans who have good things happen to them. Roughly speaking, the problem of evil has never been satisfactorily addressed by the Abrahamic religions. The Eastern traditions posit the karmic cycle of samsara, which I think is a rather elegant philosophical solution: shitty people will get what’s coming to them in the next life. It’s nice to think of Trump reaping the reward he’s so justly earned in his next life. How about as an insect preyed upon by parasitoid wasps? But alas, only the emptiness of nonexistence awaits us all. Bummer. Maybe he’ll die soon? Like next week? A boy can dream.

Here are some kind of positive things:

  • Trump appears to not be a fan of continuing America’s role as world police. That’s probably good, right? US hegemony has been an abject failure. But really, he’s changed his mind so often and is so thin-skinned, it’s easy to see ISIS goading him into their desired apocalyptic war with the west.
  • Ummm… Hmm. I guess having someone so odious in the White House that has the backing of the House, Senate, and SCOTUS could galvanize opposition of all kinds, from those working within the system, to more radical anti-state/anti-capitalist types (full disclosure, I was a teenage anarchist).
  • That’s all I got. This is a bad list.

In adulthood, I haven’t been able to transition philosophically into the, in my eyes, benign ideologies of liberalism/progressivism. I voted for Hillary, but I did so feeling that performing my “civic duty” made me complicit in a sociopolitical system I think is shit. Historically, America has been irredeemably racist and sexist (in addition to other bigotries), and works best for the wealthy. Profound, heady stuff, I know. If you voted, you played the game and the end result, instead of being merely not great, is catastrophically bad. But that’s our hallowed democracy, right? Incremental progress has been made, but that progress, hated by the now fully de-closeted bigots, is being confronted with vengeance.

This is not to boil this year’s election to the very familiar “lesser of two evils” refrain. Nor is it to focus on my insipidly heart-wrenching complicity in that which I do not condone: Trump is far worse than Hillary. I am a straight, white, cisgender male. And I wish the worst for those among that wide swath of privilege that enabled that waste in human form’s rise to power.

I’ll end with two things from two friends. First:

I am scared for our country, for minorities, and for my family, my kids. My young kids watched the election all night because they were afraid of trump winning. Over the last year, they have been told because they are “brown”, when trump is president they have to leave. (They are 2nd generation American born citizens) My kids do not deserve to live in fear. They deserve better than trump.”

Infuriating and heartbreaking. I’ll never know what that feels like, due to my privilege. Second, from my good friend and proprietor of the fantastic metal label/distro Gilead Media:

I will protect women, people of color, immigrants, those of non binary gender identity, and non Christians, and by force if required. Be ready to do the same. If you see someone being harassed, you must act in some way.

“Those with unjust hate in their hearts think it’s open season on us and the ones we love. But this is when we see the faces of those that would oppress us. They will crawl out of the shadows and reveal their true face. Remember every face.”

“They will crawl out of the shadows and reveal their true face,” indeed. This is a good thing. Add that to list above.

School segregation and the liberal elite

Last night I got around to watching the most recent John Oliver piece on school segregation. As par for the course, it was equal parts funny, informative, and depressing. While it covered ground i was aware of, I didn’t know that the South was far more integrated educationally than NYC. I was also unaware of Malcolm X’s sadly still extremely prescient commentary about the hypocrisy of the Northeast’s liberal elite.

A few weeks back I was on a website that posted about Samantha Bee. In the comments there was a snarky post about how Bee and her husband Jason Jones were full of shit because they opposed a desegregation measure in their local school district. I didn’t give much credence to some random internet commenter and put it out of mind. At any rate, it had nothing to do with the article.

After I watched the segment on John Oliver I decided to head over to the Google to locate the origin of the Bee and Jones story. I found it on Chalkbeat, a website I was unfamiliar with (“Education news. In Context.”):

This week marked the second time in less than a year that parents on the sharply segregated Upper West Side gathered in droves to protest a rezoning plan with the potential to make their schools more diverse.

This round, it was parents from P.S. 452 opposing a plan to move their school into a building 16 blocks south, where it would have more space and a new zone that could potentially include more low-income families. The school’s population is 74 percent white and Asian and 9 percent low-income, in a district that is 43 percent white and Asian and 48 percent poor.”

Bee and Jones were present and oppose the plan:

‘Painting any opposition as classist or racist is as bad as it can get,’ said Jason Jones, the former “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” comedian, near the end of Monday’s nearly three-hour meeting.”

Really Jason? Getting morons to display their various bigotries consists of the vast majority of the Daily Show’s field pieces. And you were great at it! Easily in my top 5 (in no particular order: Bee, Jones, Colbert, Corddry, Williams).

From another parent:

‘Why do we have to fix that issue for the whole district?’ one woman asked…While many said that segregation was a serious problem in the district, they found it unfair that their school should have to shoulder the burden of integration”

Fuck. You. Although, I have to say I like it when people, both on the right and left, fail to couch their opinions within the safe confines of politically correct PR-speech. Let your bigotry and hypocrisy flags fly high, I say! It’s little wonder that, per WNYC, Jones urged his community to “stop talking to the press.” Sage advice.

Aside from Slate, the left-leaning media didn’t really cover the story. For the Slate article, the non-liberal commentariat were predictably delighted. An example:

Samantha Bee is a liberal, right up until she thinks about her children having to go to school with black kids. Then, she turns into Strom Thurmond.”

I wouldn’t go that far. And to be fair, I have no idea if Bee or Jones have done any pieces on school segregation. But it certainly seems like a topic that wouldn’t fall outside their oeuvre.

I wonder where Oliver will send his child in a few years. And I wonder about those whom rapturously share and consume the media of the Daily Show and its spin-offs. Do their progressive beliefs end where their children’s perceived well-being begins? And where do I send my kids to school? Nowhere, because my wife and I are deliberately childless. I’d like to think that we’d be compassionate enough to be on board with integration measures, but who knows? People understandably want what’s best for their kids. But I guess the societal benefits of school desegregation are too abstract for most to endanger their precious offspring possibly *gasp* not getting each and every privilege they’ve “earned.”

Fortunately my wife and I will never have to make any decisions in regard to this topic. I can sit on my high horse and look down on well-to-do liberals who fight tooth and nail to ensure their kids can attend the best schools without the poor fucking everything up. And those kids will grow up, have kids and probably work toward the same end, ad infinitum. Fuck.

Ancient atheism

“When life is yours, live joyously;
None can escape Death’s searching eye;
When once this frame of ours they burn,
How shall it e’er again return”

“There is no heaven, no final liberation, nor any soul in another world”

Sarva Darsana Samgraha by Vidyaranya [1]

When I’m fortunate enough to get out of the city, I like to take time to stare at the stars. Thanks to our scientific apparatus and educational system that explains certain scientific findings, I know that our sun is a star, same as all the stars seen in the night sky. I’ve long considered the sheer scale of the universe to be a powerful argument against a Creator. [2] Why should there be so much matter in the vast emptiness of space if humanity is the all-important center of the everything?

If I were a Scythian nomad, or an aristocratic medieval prince, or a pre-Colombian Amazonian hunter-gatherer I have little doubt I would accept whatever wisdom and knowledge I received from the culture I was born into in regards to the universe and humanity’s place in it. I would gaze at the stars and likely never conceive that they were made of the same stuff as our sun if it weren’t conventionally known. I would fully believe in the deities of the culture and that there was some form of life after death.

It’s with that in mind that I enjoy reading about the metaphysical beliefs of pre-modern peoples, especially those that are iconoclastic with regards to their time period and lay adjacent to the current scientific conception of reality. Roughly contemporary with the Pre-Socratics, a sect of philosophers in Vedic India espoused a view that is recognizably atheist from our modern perspective. [3] I’m referring to the ancient Indian school of Charvaka. I did a search on FtB and it appears no one has written about it. What follows is a brief and very broad synopsis, though every subject briefly described is deserving of far more explication. I should point out that I have a layperson’s understanding and am certainly open to those with more knowledge of Indian philosophy pointing out errors and misconceptions.

Charvaka is seen as heterodox in terms of arising from the philosophical/theological framework of the Rg Veda, Upanishads, and Mahabharata but neglects to provide justifications for the teachings from those traditions. Arising during the Vedic and Epic periods in Indian history (roughly 1500-500 BCE), Charvaka is grouped spatiotemporally with Buddhism and Jainism as standing opposed to the six orthodox Hindu philosophies: Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Yoga, Samkhya, Mimamsa, and Vedanta. Unfortunately, the primary Charvaka document, the Brhaspati Sutra, dated to roughly 600 BCE, is lost. The primary evidence for its tenets come from rival sects and are preserved in writings dated a thousand years after its founding. The seventh century CE Tattvopaplavasimha by Jayarashi Bhatta is the earliest complete account, though there are arguments for and against its association with Charvaka. [4]

Samkhya and Mimamsa are both atheistic in terms of not positing a creator, but they adhere to the atman/prakrti (roughly equivalent to soul/matter) dualistic conception of the cosmos as the rest of the orthodox philosophies do, with the exception of the Advaita sub-discipline of Vedanta. Buddhism, while atheistic, has both dualistic and monist characteristics that vary by sect, but all reject the soul/atman. However, there is belief in supernatural elements like reincarnation, different dimensions inhabited by gods and demons, ghosts, etc. As far as I can tell, Charvaka is the only school of thought from that fertile philosophical time period to be both atheistic and nominally monist vis-à-vis the atman/prakrti dichotomy [5] while repudiating the fantastical elements contained in the other systems. There is no concern with breaking the karmic cycle of samsara that their contemporaries strive for, since death is final.

There is a sense of hedonic nihilism embedded within the doctrine:

“The enjoyment of heaven lies in eating delicious food, keeping company of young women, using fine clothes, perfumes, garlands, sandal paste, etc.” – Sarva Siddhanta Sangraha, by Shankara

Given the obsession of Buddhism and the orthodox Hindu traditions with suffering and the best way to cope with it, it wouldn’t be too surprising if the impoverished masses didn’t gravitate towards a hedonistic lifestyle they didn’t have access to. Moreover, the ruling classes probably weren’t likely to exploit a “religion” that didn’t advocate piety and obedience, with the promise of a better subsequent life to make up for one’s present shitty life. These could be two of the reasons why Charvaka didn’t last.

It’s wild (to me anyways) to think that during the life of Thales of Miletus in ancient Greece there were dissident proto-atheists half a continent away. I’m humbled by the the thought of early humans being able to cast aside what current atheists regard as illogical beliefs, something that’s fairly easy to do nowadays given widespread access to scientific information. I’m pretty sure if I existed in an earlier era I wouldn’t be able to do the same.

1. Most of the following information comes from A Sourcebook in Indian Philosophy, edited by Sarvepalli Radhakrishan and Charles Moore.

2. It turns out that our observation bubble is even larger than previously thought: http://www.space.com/34382-universe-has-10-times-more-galaxies-hubble-reveals.html

3. I’ll reductively classify atheism as the denial of a Creator coupled with a monist conception of reality (i.e. only physical reality is real).

4. The book referenced above definitively places it within the Charvaka paradigm, but the Wikipedia entry for Bhatta cites proponents of arguments against this.

5. I should note Charvaka describes the principle elements of matter as listed as air, fire, earth and water, so perhaps monist is not the best description. However, the existence of a soul/atman is explicitly denied. Consciousness is said to arise from a mixture of the aforementioned elements and ceases to exist upon the body’s dissolution. As yet another aside, Vaisheshika, while still dualistic in nature, has an atomist conception of matter/prakrti.


Colin Kaepernick, the NFL and patriotism

Colin Kaepernick is starting again for the 49ers. Let’s check in with how some fans are reacting:

Hmm, seems just a little racist, no?

Shockingly, some fans did not take it well when it was noticed that Kaepernick was blaspheming the flag by not standing for the National Anthem. Combining his protest with how shitty he was last year as well as his injury history, I was certain he was going to be cut after preseason and unofficially blacklisted, even though he is better than a majority of backup quarterbacks. [1] The obvious reason is because Kaepernick was perceived by many, from team owners, to the NFL’s corporate sponsors, to idiotic fans, to be spitting in the face of the nationalism that is interwoven in the fabric of the NFL’s marketing and propaganda. The specific flavor of nationalism on display is sickening. Or, to quote Einstein: “Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind.”

There are different degrees of nationalism as one can easily see on Wikipedia, some more benign than others. My wife and I traveled to Estonia last summer. There, I got the general sense that people were proud to be Estonian. For much of the last millennium Estonians have been under the heel of foreign rule. Their national awakening began as a fuck you to Imperial Russia and ended more than a century later with the incarnation of the Republic of Estonia. To be sure, their brand of nationalism is not without its unseemly parts. I was taken aback when one of the most chill dudes I met expressed a blanket distaste for his Latvians neighbors to the south (for reference, the state of Wisconsin is bigger than Latvia and Estonia combined by about 20,000 square miles). It’s that “othering” aspect of nationalism I find so toxic, arrogant and odious.

Turning back to America, as a nation state settled and formed by a melting pot of European peoples, an ethnocentric sense of nationalism (as in the Estonian example above) was completely unfeasible. We in America, a country whose existence necessitated genocide and was built by slavery, needed different #brands to get behind: freedom, democracy and liberty. Never mind the fact that these vague ideals have been historically unavailable to whole classes of people and remain elusive to many. Nevertheless, meaningless platitudes aside, America is in no way able to proclaim a monopoly on “freedom.” In the internet age, with widespread access to information, it should surprise no one that there are many other countries (not to mention contemporary hunter-gatherer societies) that could lay claim to being freer than us, as abstract as such a concept is.

I’m less concerned with nationalism as far as “liking where you live” or being proud of your ethnicity or citizenship than in how it’s manifested on a larger scale in terms of international relations – this is the type so prevalent in the NFL and its marketing. With regards to American foreign policy, there is little to be proud of. America has a rich, shameful history of interfering in countries that have governments they don’t like, resources they want, or markets they want access to. Much of it is completely unknown by the general football-loving public (i.e. imperialist adventures in the Pacific, the meddling in Latin America, etc.). [2] More recently, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have undeniably produced an ocean of human misery and destabilized wide swathes of the world with no end in sight. Any idea that the US is or ever has been a “global force for good” is laughable, and it’s an idea shoved down the throats of NFL fans ad nauseam.

The various ways the NFL intersects with nationalism are too numerous to detail here except to note that one of the more disgusting underlying themes is how the former utilizes the latter for vast profit. After 9/11, the NFL’s efforts to ramp up their preexisting patriotic fervor is best encapsulated by the following research-based quote: “[there] is strong evidence that level of involvement in masculinist sports on television is robustly associated with strong feelings of patriotism and with support for the American invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the Bush doctrine of preventive attacks.” [3]

I’m not sure there’s much of an overlap in a Venn diagram of football fans and Freethought Blog readers, so I wouldn’t think anything I’ve written is too controversial. It should be apparent by now that I am a fan of football. Blind loyalty to sports teams is about the only form of tribalism I allow myself and I loathe the omnipresent intrusions of jingoist propaganda into football. It’s no wonder the NBA is far more popular internationally while the NFL lags hopelessly behind. I’m fortunate enough to go to games once a year. As grateful as I am, I will always hate being subjected to aircraft flyovers, gargantuan flags covering the field, fabricated military family reunions, and placards on every seat that, when held up by everyone, has some bullshit tribute to American militarism. I often wonder if I’m the only one who ponders the absurdity of dipshit Americans wildly cheering Black Hawk helicopters overhead in contrast to, say, a Yemeni farmer cowering in abject terror at the sight or sound of aircraft, knowing it may be American and capable of killing them and their loved ones.

Overall, is it too much to ask for the NFL to let me watch humans bashing each other into early dementia in peace?

I purposefully neglected discussing Kaepernick’s rationale for his protest because I wanted to focus on the broader themes of nationalism and the military-football complex. [4] Suffice it to say I don’t think such themes bode well for his continued employment if he performs anything less than mediocre. I’m not very interested in whether or not millionaires are justified in symbolic activism [5] and refuse to take seriously the childishly simplistic idea of disrespect to the flag/military/country. Teams will happily employ scumbags, rapists, domestic abusers, and animal murderers so long as they’re good enough to justify the negative PR their signings entail, with their idiot fans in tow willing to excuse, deny or justify their transgressions. But will teams continue to employ an ungrateful, pissing-on-the-graves-of-veterans THUG with an afro and numerous tattoos whose best days are possibly behind him? We’ll find out in the off-season if his play continues to lag. Until then, I’ll be rooting for him, even though he has a history of destroying my beloved Packers.


  1. My pessimism has proven to be premature. There are several factors, not the least is the fact that many rallied behind him, which has unfortunately culminated in a multitude of limp, brand-conscious displays by other players: http://jezebel.com/the-seattle-seahawks-said-nothing-1786503469
  2. http://academic.evergreen.edu/g/grossmaz/interventions.html
  3. http://matchism.org/refs/Stempel_2006_SportsInvasionIraq.pdf; A more extensive study can be found here: http://dukespace.lib.duke.edu/dspace/bitstream/handle/10161/9785/FootballFlagsFlyovers.EllenRiversGambrell.5.8.15.pdf?sequence=1 
  4. I also neglected to reflect on the disgusting racism seen in the video above. My analysis: it’s bad and depressing
  5. This is a good perspective: http://deadspin.com/why-does-anyone-care-what-athletes-have-to-say-about-po-1787368964 

This (un)charming man

Prior to last Friday, I was blissfully unaware of the existence of Billy Bush. It turns out his nauseatingly sycophantic interactions with Trump in the now infamous video were only the tip of the iceberg. Look at this fucking guy:

The casual sexism would be mind-numbing if it weren’t so grotesque. I’m guessing the people that watch these shows failed to notice since it’s just “how things are” and “how men act,” instead of recoiling in disgust.

One wonders if hosting vapid talk shows is where he wanted to end up in life, as someone from an immensely powerful political dynasty. I bet he gets so much shit from his family. With every opportunity in the world at his sleazy, extraordinarily privileged fingertips, interviewing celebrities is what he chose as a career? Maybe his attachment to Trump provides a window into why. There are more videos where he can be seen gleefully interacting with Trump, his probable alpha male role model. It’s not hard to infer that Trump represents everything Bush wishes he could be. Bush merely harasses women publicly in a socially acceptable manner (until just now apparently) and can only dream of being able to enact the type of predatory sexual aggressiveness that Trump displays on a regular basis. It’s reasonable to suggest that the celebrities he interviews wouldn’t give him the time of day without his largely unearned social capital, and he knows it.

I wonder how many women were creeped out or saw him as the pitiful man-child he is. If I’m on the right track, I bet he hates being perceived as the latter. Overall, even if my brief armchair psychological analysis is wrong (not likely as I got a C- in an Intro to Psych course over a decade ago), it’s not too surprising he’s glommed onto Trump’s campaign and his brand of toxic masculinity. And I resent that now I am aware of his pathetic existence.

A belated post for Indigenous Peoples Day

My first actual post claimed that my next, non-introductory writing would discuss the murder of Sylville Smith. That was a lie. Since yesterday was Indigenous Peoples Day, what follows is more apt.


After miles and miles of flatlands, the majesty of the Rocky Mountains coming into view while driving west on Highway 2 in Montana is something I’ll never forget. Continuing west, 20 miles before reaching Glacier National Park, you pass through the town of Browning in the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. That is also something I won’t forget. I didn’t know it at the time, but it is a town where the unemployment rate is 69%, per the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs. [1] It wasn’t unexpected due to my remembrance of the state of disrepair most of the buildings were in and litter. The town is not very prominent in the various tourism-oriented websites for Glacier despite its proximity to the park.

The National Park Service turned 100 this past August. They are widely considered to be both good and fun. My only experience so far is with Glacier, which was both good and fun. I knew little about the history of the NPS until immediately prior to driving on the Going-to-the-Sun Road. At the park’s visitor center, we learned about how the Blackfeet Indians were forcibly removed from both sides of the mountains in the name of conservation. Moreover, when the Road was completed the Blackfeet were mortified by what they saw as the scarring of their sacred lands. Needless to say, that really bummed me out. But like a good American, I was able to push such thoughts out of my mind temporarily. It was not hard – Going-to-the-Sun Road is breathtakingly spectacular. After, I got out of the car, put my hand on my heart, and sang The Star Spangled Banner with tears rolling down my face.

Native American bigotry, still infuriatingly widespread, was shared by such paragons of American conservation as Henry David Thoreau (“What a coarse and imperfect use Indians and hunters make of nature! No wonder that their race is so soon exterminated.”) [2] and John Muir (describing the Sierra Miwok of the Yosemite as “dirty, deadly, and lazy” and “had no right place in the landscape.”). [3] The “pristine” lands wanted by wealthy whites in places like Glacier, Yosemite and Yellowstone were anything but, being inhabited by peoples for millennia. These “savage” peoples presence marred the otherwise pure wildness in the eyes of racist whites.

There are different narratives about the minutiae of the processes of land requisition and the associated justifications for what happened. One can read accounts of different ways in which bigotry was manifested besides the more conventional actions of forced removal, from proposing the idea of leaving the natives in situ (like an Americanized proto-safari replete with actual humans), to coercing the natives to perform shows for tourists for meager wages. [4] Colonial regimes, while congratulating and hailing themselves as benevolent civilizers, have always been exceedingly willing to further humiliate the defeated. This is something the dominant imperialist cultures tend to neglect or gloss over in their self-serving hagiographies for obvious reasons.

Once the removal was complete, as par for the course with American/Native American relations, promises to let the native people use the ceded portions of the Parks for hunting and timber were eventually revoked. They were increasingly forced onto marginal surrounding lands and divorced from their traditional ways of life. With no mechanisms in place for large or small scale integration into American society, they were left on reservations to watch their social superiors visit their ancestral lands for recreation and leisure. If one attempts even the slightest amount of empathy, it sounds pretty horrible, right? From an article in Scientific American:

“In July 1929 a frail, elderly woman quietly processed acorns on the floor of the Yosemite Valley. Her weather worn face appeared thin, yet firm like crumpled paper. She was a living record of the trials her people had suffered ever since they were herded into open air prisons at the point of a bayonet. As she sat, pulling back broken shell from acorns like damaged fingernails, a curiosity-seeking tourist offered her a nickel if she would serve him. ‘No!’ she cried. ‘Not five dollars one acorn, no! White man drive my people out — my Yosemite.’ Her name was Maria Lebrado, but she had once been known as Totuya. She was the granddaughter of Chief Tanaya of the Ahwahneechee, a revered leader who had attempted to shield his tribe from harm only to witness the murder of his son and the loss of everything he held dear. Now one of the last remaining members of her tribe, Totuya had returned home in order to die.” [5]

Seriously, imagine that’s your grandmother.

Colonialism under the guise of conservation is something that has not gone away in the 21st century. As documented by Survival International, typically well thought of organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund advocate for and monetarily support state entities that expel indigenous peoples from regions of high biodiversity. For example, in Cameroon the WWF is alleged to have provided funds to so-called anti-poaching squads that forcibly evicted the native Baka. Once clear, the land is open to wealthy foreign tourists for safaris and big game hunting or, even worse, logging and mining. [6]

To stick with the above example, what follows is a short examination of two of the entities in this complex scenario.

Poaching is awful and big game hunters are despicable but for different reasons. I can understand poachers who kill as part of their livelihood. It’s horrible and devastates already endangered animal species, but if there aren’t other vocational opportunities it’s easy to see why people do this. One has to feed, clothe, and shelter their family somehow. Wealthy big game hunters who want to kill things justify it, if they do at all, by pointing to the money they’re pouring into local economies. But as Dereck Joubert of the National Geographic Society’s Big Cats Initiative says: “Hunting in the big hunting countries contributes less than 0.27% to the respective national GDP’s” as opposed to eco-tourism, which brings in far greater revenue with much less impact. [7] From a conservation perspective (because big game hunters care so much about things like that), The Humane Society in a February 2016 report found that “over the decade studied, American trophy hunters imported nearly 32,500 trophies of the Africa Big Five species…demonstrating a significant impact on these species, most of which are threatened with extinction.” [8] That number doesn’t take into account the total numbers of slain endangered animals for sport, which is easily in the millions over that time span.

Caught in the mix of are indigenous peoples trying merely to exist – peoples who for millennia existed with now endangered species without decimating their numbers. It’s extremely difficult to tease out the desires of the different groups of which I’ve only mentioned a couple (and could include state and local governments; international corporations; farmers; pastoralists; various crime syndicates; local warlords (depending on the country); the mosaic of human rights organizations and conservation oriented NGO’s, etc.). Such desires vary spatially and temporally, enhancing the probability for coercion, exploitation, violence, and environmental destruction. All of which is to say my short summary of the different players in this byzantine situation is entirely inadequate. Globalization has ensured that such scenarios are fraught with a multitude of diverging and antagonistic interests. Historically, in such situations, even ones that aren’t nearly as complicated such as the creation of the National Park System, native peoples lose big.

I will probably go to more National Parks. They are awesome and I recommend going. Far be it from me to tell anyone what to do, but if you go, I think one should do a little research beforehand (which I didn’t do). It’s a bummer. While I know the knowledge likely only changes the perspective in between one’s ears, I think it’s worth knowing that something so beautiful and awe-inspiring is inextricably connected to human misery. And that misery is continuing to be perpetrated on extant indigenous peoples in different contemporary contexts. In some instances, the justifications used are similar to those used in the creation of the NPS a century ago.

1. https://lmi.mt.gov/Portals/135/Publications/LMI-Pubs/LocalAreaProfiles/Reservation%20Profiles/RF13-Blackfeet.pdf

2. “Thoreau and the American Indians,” By Mark Sayre

3. “Dispossessing the Wilderness: Indian Removal and the Making of the National Parks,” by Mark David Spence
4. Ibid.

5. https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/primate-diaries/how-john-muir-s-brand-of-conservation-led-to-the-decline-of-yosemite/

6. http://www.survivalinternational.org/campaigns/wwf

7. http://www.travelandleisure.com/articles/conservation-hunting-cecil-lion

8. http://www.hsi.org/assets/pdfs/report_trophy_hunting_by_the.pdf

Hi There

I’m a new blogger in these parts. In addition to working in the child welfare field,  I also am an avid bounty hunter, as can (hopefully) be seen in the picture on the left. I’ve frequented Freethought Blogs for some time now, and recently saw the call for new bloggers. And here I am.

I’ve only recently started writing out my thoughts. The catalyst was the murder of Sylville Smith. If you don’t recall, he was a few cop murders ago. My next postwill be about this, which will be a repackaging of something I wrote when it all went down.

My participation in social media/blogging is scant and I’ve only shared a few things on the internet. I avoid commenting on articles/blogs like the plague and only rarely enter into arguments  – even then it’s typically with people I know, or friends of friends. Until this point, the bulk of what I do online is share cute animal pics/videos with my wife, and like Onion articles. Going back a bit further, I had a Livejournal in the early 2000’s. God only knows the horrors lurking in the self-absorbed, sometimes depressing, sometimes shit-talking posts contained therein.

Why should you read what I have to say? I have no good answer for that. Thematically, I’m not sure what I’m going to write about. After a few posts, I’ll probably take a look back and see if I can discern some kind of theme. Until then, I will blog about stuff and things. A little of this, a little of that.

Here are some things I like:

Artists beside Morrissey/The Smiths: Nick Cave, Integrity, Jason Molina, Black Flag, Amon Amarth, Anohni/Antony and the Johnsons

Podcasts: Comedy Bang! Bang!, Hardcore History, 2 Dope Queens, Myths and Legends

Shows: It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, Atlanta, The Eric Andre Show, Orphan Black, Lady Dynamite, Master of None

Last 2 books read: “Harvesting the Biosphere: What We Have Taken from Nature,” by Vaclav Smil; “Seeing like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed,” by James Scott

Anyways, thanks for reading and fuck Columbus Day.