morgan_dhu: (Default)

I've been watching a very interesting 4-part series on the American PBS channel for the last couple of weeks, called African-American Lives.

The set-up is that a group of about a dozen high-profile African-Americans, including Tina Turner, Don Cheadle, Chris Rock, Morgan Freeman, Maya Angelou and Jackie Joyner-Kersee (these being the people I was familiar with through the media) agreed to have their family histories searched, making use of every available methodology including genetic testing and comparisons with several different genetic databases.

As a Canadian, I didn't (and still don't) know much about the specific history of black people in the U.S., but watching this has taught me a lot more than I used to know. It'a also brought home to me once again how powerful is the emotional impact on a whole people who must, in order to examine where they came from, face the fact that their mothers and fathers were the property of others, and that for many there is no way to go through the loss of family connection to the past and to a place that has been an almost universal experience of the African diaspora.

Watching it has made me think again about a book I read a couple of years ago, Dionne Brand's A Map to the Door of No Return: Notes to Belonging (my original review is here).

Even though my ancestors were driven from their homes, forcibly loaded into boats for a voyage across the Atlantic during which many died from the poor conditions and brutal treatment, only to disembark in a country they had never heard of before, at least I can trace my family names back to specific places in the outer islands of Scotland, and my family, when they arrived in Canada, were poor, but they were not property. I can imagine, but I can't understand in my heart and in my gut, and probably no one else who can say what I can say, can understand either, what it means to have those two facts overshadowing anything and everything one knows about one's past, one's family, one's history, one's roots.

Which is part of what makes certain moments of this TV show so powerful: watching the faces of these people as they are shown the records of family members identified in the slave schedules, or listed in wills ot bills of sale, as they visit a piece of land owned by a free ancestor, or find a marked grave, as DNA evidence links them to a particular African people and gives them a past that stretches beyond the darkness of the middle Passage.

morgan_dhu: (Default)

I am originally from Nova Scotia, and even though I've lived by far the most part of my life away from there, there are things about being Nova Scotian that stay with me, in my heart and in my bones. For many, many years, the people of Nova Scotia have gone down into the mines, to dig up the coal that warmed the homes and fired the factories of people far away from them.

This is in memory of the people who will not come up out of the mines this day in Utah and in Shandong, and of all the others who spend their lives going down into the earth, knowing that they too might not come up again to the open air at the end of the day.

In the town of Springhill, Nova Scotia,
Down in the dark of the Cumberland Mine,
There's blood on the coal,
And the miners lie,
In roads that never saw sun or sky,
Roads that never saw sun or sky

In the town of Springhill you don't sleep easy,
Often the earth will tremble and roll,
When the earth is restless miners die,
Bone and blood is the price of coal,
Bone and blood is the price of coal.

In the town of Springhill, Nova Scotia,
Late in the year of '58,
The day still comes and the sun still shines,
But it's dark as the grave in the Cumberland Mine,
Dark as the grave in the Cumberland Mine.

Three days past when the lamps gave out,
And Caleb Rushton got up and said,
"We've no more water or light or bread,
So we'll live on songs and hope instead,
Live on songs and hope instead."

Listen for the shouts of the black face miners,
Listen through the rubble for the rescue teams,
Three hundred tonnes of coal and slag,
Hope imprisoned in a three foot seam,
Hope imprisoned in a three foot seam.

Twelve days passed and some were rescued,
Leaving the dead to lie alone,
Through all their live they dug a grave,
Two miles of earth is a marking stone,
Two miles of earth is a marking stone.

-Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger


morgan_dhu: (Default)

Every once in a while, someone I know on the Netz finds a website that does work with Implicit Association testing, and I go and test myself again. I've been doing this for a long time, longer than most, because I used to know via a particular fandom one of the students of the original researchers on this particular methodology and I took a test she had developed for her own research project.

So I have a fairly long history of taking them. I may be testwise by now, but I try to measure that by, whenever I find a new site that tests some new set of implicit associations, finding one of the first tests I ever took and retaking it to see if there's been a change in my results. There hasn't been yet. And I try to approach each new test I take with a clear mind, focused on the task and not on what the results will be.

So today I wandered through my flist and followed some links to the Harvard IAT test site. There were some new tests that I hadn't taken before, and a few that I had, so I took some new ones and retook a couple of them.

As usual, I am bothered by some of my responses.

My responses to one of the new ones I took was perfectly understandable. It turns out that I have a strong automatic preference for fat people over thin people. Seeing as I am fat, and that society is obsessed with thinness to the point of unhealthiness, especially for women, that's likely a good thing. It probably means that while I'm concerned about health issues, at least I think fat people can be good.

I also have always demonstrated a moderate to strong automatic preference for gay people over straight people. Again, being bisexual, I tend to identify with gay people more than I do with straight people, in general terms, so that one makes sense, too.

It also turns out that I do not have an automatic association between men and science, as opposed to women and science, which makes sense because I'm a woman who has always been interested in the sciences and has spend a lot of time thinking about anti-woman stereotypes and assumptions and I think in my time I've managed to get over a lot of them at a pretty deep level.

Here's the stuff that I don't get.

Over the years I've been trying these tests out, I have consistently been told that my responses demonstrate a strong automatic preference for black or dark-skinned people over white or light-skinned people. My responses also apparently indicate that I automatically associate North American Aboriginal people with being American to a much greater extent than I associate whites with being American and that I don't appear to think Asian people are "foreign" compared to white people. I'm apparently neutral in terms of religions - I have pretty much the same pattern of associations with Judaism as I do with other religions. I apparently also have a moderate automatic preference for Arab Muslims over other people. All of these responses are apparently anywhere from somewhat to very uncommon - for instance, my response to the preference test for black people vs. white people is found in about three percent of the American test population.

Here's what bothers me. I am white, raised in a predominantly white environment. While it is true that over the years I have had colleagues, friends and lovers of other races and religious groups, I was, like every other white person in North America (at least) raised in relative privilege and raised to be racist.

So when I look at these results, I wonder, and I worry. Am I unconsciously faking out the tests to reassure myself that I'm "not really" a racist? Have I fetishised people of colour? Or am I just so disgusted by the history of white people’s behaviour in general and American/North Americans in particular that I automatically favour any other group of people in a context where I am thinking about prejudice and race? I'm not sure I understand or trust what may or may not be going on in my head, especially with respect to the responses to race-based tests.

And the literature I’ve found online isn’t much help. Most of it seems to be focused on either reassuring me that I’m not a bad person because my results show bias against minority groups, or arguing that the tests are invalid because they make almost everyone appear biased against minority groups. There’s nothing that I can find about people who appear to be consistently biased against majority groups, even the ones that they are members of.

But there have to be other people like me that have a consistent anti-privilege bias, because that’s what seems to be the connecting thread in all of my responses over the years. This would even explain my response to the religions test – if I was unconsciously faking it, you’d think I would have come out strongly pro-Judaism, but if I’m being anti-privilege, then I’d be expected to get confused with this test, because it’s not comparing responses between two religious groups with unequal privilege in North American, but rather comparing Judaism on one hand and a collection of several other religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism and North American Aboriginal spiritual traditions as well as Christianity, on the other hand. And while I’m well-known to be severely critical of Christianity as the privileged religion in North America, I would expect that I’d tend to favour the other religions included as much as I’d favour Judaism.

But I wish I could find more information on how to interpret consistent responses like mine on race-based tests coming from white people. Does it make sense to think what’s going on in my head is an anti-privilege bias? Or am I just trying to justify some unusual manifestation of inherent racist thinking? Or am I overthinking the whole damn thing?

morgan_dhu: (Default)

I support reproductive choice.

I support those who choose to bear a child, without reservation, no matter what their social or economic situation may be, no matter what medical issues may exist for the one who carries or the one who is being born.

I support those who choose not to bear a child, without reservation.

In order to make these choices freely possible for all, I support a full system of social and financial supports for those who choose to bear a child, and for children that have been born, so that no pregnant person need go without food, shelter or medical case, and that no child need live without food, shelter, medical care and education. I support universal daycare so that no caregivers of children need choose between work and knowing that their children are safe and cared for at all times. I support complete and intelligent sex education for all young people so they can make decisions for themselves in full knowledge of the meanings and potential consequences of their actions and in full knowledge of how to protect themselves from risk. I support universal access to contraception, abortion and sterilization products, services and technologies, and increased research into new methods that will continue to make these safer and more accessible. I support full access and increased research into medical services that provide persons who wish to bear a child but cannot do so easily or without intervention with the assistance they need to have their chance to bear a child. And I support strict legal guidelines that make it certain that no person will ever be forced, coerced or pressured into any of these reproductive choices.

I support these things because it is the right of every human being to control their own body, and because it is also the right of every human being to be respected and given access to the necessities of life, and the responsibility of society - which is all of us - to ensure that those rights are in fact respected for all.

I have never had any personal ethical struggles with abortion, as many have, at least in part because my belief system is not a Judeo-Christian one. I don't believe, and never have believed, that conception had anything to do with a providential deity or with granting or denying a spirit's one and only chance to be born into flesh. I believe in the immortality of spirit, both before and after birth and death. I believe that the decision of whether to bear a child is a conversation between the one who bears and the one who would be born, and that it is always possible for the one who bears to say "Not now - come again later if you so deeply want to live a life as my child, or go with my goodwill to choose another parent in another place and time," or "No, I choose not to bear a child in this life. May you find the environment you seek elsewhere."

I have had an abortion. I have never born living children, though I have had several pregnancies that ended in miscarriage. I have no regrets, and I would not change my decision were I to be in that time and place again, knowing all that I know now. I have assisted another woman to conceive outside of heterosexual intercourse and joyfully call both her and the child she bore part of my chosen family. I have fostered a young girl without anyone to parent her, and helped her to find her own path in the world. I have had the great gift of being able to make my own reproductive choices in this life, and I am at peace with them.

I long for the day when every person can say the same.

morgan_dhu: (Default)

There may be an om in moment
But there's very few folk in focus
Not the first, not the last, not the least.
You needn't be well to be wealthy
But you've got to be whole to be holy
Fetch the rope, fetch the clock, fetch the priest.
Oh this planet of ours is a mess
I bet Heaven's the same
Look the madman said, "Son,
As a friend, tell me what's in a name,"
Hallowed be thy name.

I give you the state of statesmen
And the key to what motivates them
On the left, on the right, on the nail
Still I don't see a man in a mansion
That an accurate pen won't puncture
Go to town, go to hell, go to jail.
And there's bars and saloons
Where the jukebox plays blues in the night
Till the madman says "Son,
Time to go we could both use some light"
And thy will be done.

We live in an age of cages
The tale of an ape escaping
In the search for some truth he can use
But many a drunk got drunker
And mostly a thinker, thunker
Set the place, set the time, set the fuse,
The optimist laughed and the pessimist cried in his wine
And the madman said "Son,
Take a word they'll all wake given time"
Let thy kingdom come

The madman and I got drunker
Till both thought the other thank you
And we laughed all the way to the stars
The optimist asked for a taste of the pessimist's wine
And the madman said "Son,
How do you feel?" I said "Me? I feel fine
Lead me into temptation
Into temptation
I said into temptation
I need my allocation of recreation
I want a revelation in degradation
No hesitation, give me variation, give me inspiration..."
(Greg Lake and Peter Sinfield)


Drinking the pessimist's wine, but still hoping. May the new year bring us all inspiration and truths we can use.

morgan_dhu: (knight)

I've been alternating between sickened horror and an outrage I can barely express without tears or violence for days now.

And I've been struggling to figure out why.

It's not as if I - and all of us - didn't know that countries around the world have been torturing prisoners, both criminal and political.

And it's not as if I - and all of us - didn't know that the countries of the so-called civilised Western world have been torturing people in colonised nations.

And it's not as if I - and all of us - didn't know that these same so-called civilised countries have been backing, supporting, encouraging and protecting dictatorships all around the world that have been torturing people.

And it's not as I - and surely, at least since Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, all of us - didn't know that people were being tortured by or in the name of the so-called civilised countries we live in.

And it's not as if I - and many others - didn't suspect that torture in prisons and jail cells and interrogation rooms and detention centres and other places in these so-called civilised countries was nowhere near as uncommon as those who run these places would have had us think.

No, we knew all that, and I'm sure we all thought it was horrible. and I'm sure that many of us marched or wrote letters or did something over the years to speak out for the human rights of people all around the world not to be tortured.

I think what makes it so much worse now is that at least in the past the leaders and law-makers of the so-called civilised West have at least tried to pretend that they didn't approve of torture. That it was wrong. They tried to conceal the fact that they tortured, or allowed torture to happen in their name or at the hands of dictators they gave political, financial and military support to (at least until it suited them to abandon those same dictators).

Until now, our leaders have at the very least been a little ashamed of what they were doing. They were worried that if they came out and said it, we might get angry enough to do something about it.

But not any more. Now, it's possible to debate how much you should be able to torture someone, to discuss how much pain and humiliation and damage one can inflict before you go too far.

And that sickens and outrages me to the core. How did it come to this, that every citizen of every so-called civilised country has not risen up in their disgust and outrage and demanded that those who want to torture people, or who are willing to stand aside while their allies do so, are not fit to be our leaders?

And no, I am not pointing fingers at any one country. We all, in this so-called civilised West, are responsible for letting it come to this, and for whatever will follow from it. I'm sickened and outraged by my own government's actions, and the lack of response among my fellow citizens.

What kind of people are we, that we can accept this?

morgan_dhu: (Default)

On September 11, 2001, and on the long days following it, thousands of fire-fighters, police officers, and volunteers worked in the ruins of the World Trade Center, breathing in a toxic mixture of chemicals, concrete dust, asbestos, fibreglass, petroleum combustion byproducts, and some things that had never existed before because no one had ever burned all those substances together in one place before. Many had inadequate breathing gear, or none at all.

In the days following September 11, 2001, many New Yorkers remained in the city, or returned within just days or weeks, breathing in the dust, cleaning up the hazardous waste that filled their homes and offices, often with nothing more than a wet rag and a dust mop. Christine Todd Whitman, the head of the EPA assured them that the air was safe to breathe.

Hundreds, maybe thousands of New Yorkers, many of them firefighters, police officers and others who worked at Ground Zero, are now disabled due to conditions that can be medically linked to their exposures to toxins on September 11 and the days following. Some have died. Many more are still working, but struggling with asthma, gastric complaints, headaches, diminished lung capacity, dozens of other medical problems. Some are beginning to develop environmentally-induced cancers. Medical experts in human response to toxic exposures predict that as time passes, more and more of those exposed will get sick, those who are already sick will, for the most part, get sicker, and more will die.

Most of them have faced disbelief, resistance and denial every step of the way from their insurers and their governments in their search for workers' compensation, medical pensions, appropriate health care.

Many of these people were honoured by their government as heroes five years ago. What a difference five years can make.

morgan_dhu: (Default)

Five years ago today, several thousand people were killed, in New York City, and Washington, and a lonely field in Pennsylvania.

Since that day, tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of people have been killed in Afghanistan and Iraq.

If you choose to remember deaths today, remember all of their deaths.

morgan_dhu: (Default)


Whan and how did you arrive at your essential political, ethical and religious/spiritual philosophies? Have you always tended in certain directions and simply found the influences that brought you to where you are today, or did someone or something teach you/influence you/make you think about these positions and values?

Last night, I was talking with my partner [personal profile] glaurung_quena about some of the books and authors from my youth that I've been re-reading of late (details available on my book journal, [personal profile] bibliogramma. I noticed that a lot of them, quite unbeknownst to me at the time, were fairly radical in some ways - Naomi Mitchison's Memoirs of a Spacewoman, Suzette Haden Elgin's At The Seventh Level, Samuel Delany's work... in fact, the other night, I was re-reading Rosemary Sutcliff's Sword at Sunset, published in 1963, and ran across a small passage in which her attempt at a historical King Arthur is looking around at his band of companions, sitting around socializing after a hard day's work of hunting down Saxons, and sees two of his warriors having a cuddle in the corner. His thoughts are basically - lots of warriors form such relationships while on campaign and away from women, but these two really seem to be in love, which is only going to make them better warriors because they won't want to fight poorly in front of their lover.

So I was sort of wondering if perhaps, it was all of this stuff I'd read as a child that had started me on the path to becoming a left-wing radical with some very strong feelings about social justice, a pagan animist with some very strong feelings about the unity of all things, and all of those other values that underpin who I am.

But then my partner pointed out that I'd also read everything Heinlein had ever written when I was a child, and a lot of books by other people, some fairly right-wing, militaristic, crypto-fascist, etc., and hadn't been particularly influenced by them, other than to think about what was wrong in their worldviews, from my perspective, anyway.

Having a working mother back in the early 60s when this was not really common for a white middleclass child may have had something to do with my becoming a feminist at a very early age, but my mother was far from being a radical in political terms. I was raised until the age of about 12 or 13 without any continuing religious influences, except for one grandmother who kept trying to put me into Bible classes, but I didn't see her often at all. Then my mother converted to Judaism, but I was old enough that she simply asked my to keep kosher in the house out of respect for her, so while I studied the basic principles with her, I wasn't being pressured to adopt any particular faith, which was a good thing because by then I'd already developed the basic structure of my own beliefs, which were not at all like those of Judaism or Christianity.

So what was it? What made me initially susceptible to a left-wing/socialist and at the same distinctly spiritual and mystical set of perspectives on the world I live in? Sometimes it seems to me as though I have always felt this way, and that I uncovered my core beliefs rather than developed them, as I would read or hear one thing that said to me "yes, of course, that just feels right" and then read or hear something else and feel that there was something basically wrong about it - and that the rest was simply refining my feelings of "rightness" and "wrongness" with evidence and reason.

And how about you?

morgan_dhu: (Default)

[profile] chlaal wrote:

Seven years ago today, Matthew Shepard died. He was brutally, horribly murdered for the "crime" of liking boys. Let's never forget that in America in the 1990s and 2000s, there are (were) so many people who think (thought) that beating a 21-year-old kid to death for being gay was okay. If you don't think that is okay, today would be a good day to speak up and say so.

12 years ago this fall, Gregor Jodrey died. He would have been 48 this past Sunday. He was the best of friends, wise and witty, and so very, very kind and gentle and compassionate. He used to get impossible crushes on straight boys, and we'd sit in our living room and console each other, because I used to get impossible crushes on straight girls from time to time myself. Our friendship was so strong, it actually survived not only sharing an apartment, but sharing a lover. He was a writer, a photographer, a scholar, a dreamer, a mystic. He read omnivorously and thought deeply and loved fiercely and laughed loudly and danced like the sidhe themselves in the moonlight. Sometimes we'd get drunk on Jamieson's and high on weed and dance our heads off to Marley and Janis and the Lizard King until dawn found us collapsed and giggling like maniacs outside on the lawn in the morning dew. He loved life so goddamn much.

The last time I saw him was about two years before he died. I'd been living in Toronto for about eight years then, and he'd come up from Nova Scotia to visit a couple of times before. He came in and we sat in my kitchen, which is what you do when you're visiting in Nova Scotia, and we drank a bit and smoked up a bit and talked for hours and it was as if no time or distance could ever come between us. I loved him so damned much.

He was beaten to death and left like a piece of trash by the railroad tracks, because he was a gay man living in this world. His killer was sentenced to four fucking years less time served for destroying this loving and gentle and beautiful man.

Wherever he is, I know he's dancing.

morgan_dhu: (Default)

So, as just about everyone must know by now, a bill redefining marriage as a union between two people to the exclusion of all others passed in the Canadian House of Commons last night, and barring some totally unforeseen circumstance, will be signed into law within the next week or so. So, we've won the right for everyone to marry who they want to, and that's the end of it... or is it?

As I said in a previous rant, the general belief of many opponents of this legislation is that "marriage is so special, you know, and if queers get their deviant and debauched claws of doom on it, all marriage between heterosexuals will immediately collapse into the same primordial slime the rest of us are condemned to live our lives in."

Throughout this long fight for the recognition of relationships between two men or two women, most people have been doing their best to assure straight, non-secular folks that nothing's really going to change. And in one very real sense, it won't. No matter what kind of relationship *I* have, there's no reason why it should affect *your* relationship. My being queer isn't going to make someone else queer if they aren't already - whether they've become aware of it or not. Having a queer married couple living next door is not going to send anyone else to the divorce court, unless that relationship was already doomed.

To quote myself again, I said "I still have not been able to find one opponent of same-sex marriage who can make an effective argument, without resorting to religion, about how the marriage of two men or two women is going to irretrievably damage existing marriages between a man and a woman, or the concept of marriage, or society, or the fate of the universe." And I do believe that's true - same-sex marriage isn't going to damage marriage, or society, and it certainly has nothing to do with the fate of the universe.

But I do think it is part of a long slow change in the idea of what family is, and how families function in society. And that what has happened is a big step forward in that process of change. And that where we are headed is going to upset some people deeply.

What is happening, and what this legislation is part of, is the secularisation of liminal events in human life and the personalisation of ritual. We are moving away from a kind of social structure that has existed for most of the history of our kind, a social structure in which a common religion marked all the important changes in a person's social status - birth, coming of age, marriage, becoming a parent, death. What that religion was, and what events were seen as liminal, depended on what the particular culture was, but until very recently in terms of human history, that's just how it was. And the political organisation of that culture - be it clan, tribe, state, whatever - reflected the dictates of religion with respect to the definitions of all of these statuses.

But all that is breaking down - has been, very slowly, for three or four hundred years, actually - and at an increasing pace. We are moving toward a social structure where the state records and acknowledges personal, not religious, definitions of these liminal events, and where religious recognition becomes an individual and optional element in these events - often a very important element, but not the sufficient and necessary element.

With the passage of the Civil Marriages Act, we now have in Canada a situation where religious marriage and civil marriage have distinctly different definitions. It's been that way for a while, actually - the Catholic Church does not recognise civil marriages where one person has been previously married but whose marriage has not been properly dissolved under canon law. But it's now clear to everyone - civil marriage is defined in secular terms, and religious marriage is defined according to religious beliefs.

If the definition of civil marriage is whatever the state agrees to record and acknowledge, without consideration of religious beliefs, then that definition can change again as ideas of what forms a family can take change and evolve. The concept of marriage, at its heart, is about commitment and caring - which may extend to making commitments to and caring for children within that marriage. We've already decided that the race, ethnicity, religion or gender of the adults in a marriage is irrelevant to its legitimacy. The next change to the secular definition, I think, will be the number of adults in a marriage.

And it's still not going to affect anybody else's marriage if I get myself hitched to a dozen people of all genders and colours and cultures. Nor is it going to change the essence of marriage, or bring about the collapse of society or the end of the world. And not all of the ranting of narrow-minded people who can't understand that nurturing love in all its forms can only add to the peace, justice and joy in the world can make it otherwise.

morgan_dhu: (Default)

It's getting so hard to read the papers. Not that there's ever been all that much to cheer about in the news, but it's getting so damned ire-raising and depressing all at once.

If it's not war, torture, pestilence, famine, disaster and ruin, or the callous disregard of human rights around the globe, it's lying, cheating and general asshattery everywhere you look. What the fuck are we doing to ourselves, our neighbours, our fellow lifeforms, our one and only distressed and wheezing planet? Are there enough people out there who have a clue about at least some of this to make a difference? Or are we doomed to follow the bloody standards and beating drums of the people who want power and the accumulation of things more than peace, more than justice, more than compassion, more than clean air and water and soil? Is there any point in trying any more?

And yet, and yet... how do I live with the fact that I'm one of the relatively few who has some measure of choice in all this? I have the privilege - at least for now - to say "I don't want to think about all this stuff, I'll just sit back and enjoy the comforts of a middle-class western life," unlike those who wake up every day to the bombs and the guns and all the other threats to life and liberty and health and safety.

I think I'll go and howl.

morgan_dhu: (Default)

Another book meme. Oh well, I suppose that things in the "real" world are just so fucking insane that I'm finding more that I enjoy talking about in the world of books than the world of so-called reality. Not that I think what I'm reading in the newspapers is actually reality, but you all surely know more-or-less what I mean.

Taken from [profile] chlaal

1) How many books do you have?

[profile] chlaal said "I'm amazed by the concept of people actually knowing how many books they have," and I'm going to have to agree with her on that. What also makes this question somewhat difficult to answer is the fact that my partner and I are both omnivorous readers, but even though we both buy books, they’re really all pretty much "ours."

Based on average books per foot of shelving multiplied by approximate feet of shelving, I'd say we have between 2,250 and 2,500 books. And no, in most rooms we can't see very much of the walls, why do you ask?


2) What is the last book you bought?

Actually, the last book I have was bought for me by my partner, but it was from my "wish list" of science fiction and fantasy books (a 5-page list, and growing I might add - how dare these people write more books before I've finished reading the ones they've already written?) - Midnight Harvest, by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, one in her very lengthy and entertaining Count Saint-Germain series.

The last books (shopping spree) I bought myself were mostly for my partner's birthday, but since I also intend to read them, I'll list them here.

Islam and Democracy, Fatima Mernissi
Voice Lessons: On Becoming a (Woman) Writer, Nancy Mairs
A Troubled Guest: Life & Death Stories, Nancy Mairs
Lost in Space: Probing Feminist Science Fiction & Beyond, Marleen S. Barr
Future: Tense, Gwynne Dyer
Gifts, Ursula K. LeGuin
The Economy of Cities, Jane Jacobs


3)What is the last book you read?

The last book I finished was Voice Lessons: On Becoming a (Woman) Writer, by Nancy Mairs. I'm currently reading Corporation by Joel Bakan.


4) Five books that mean a lot to me.

Hmm. The last meme I did listed ten of my favourite books, all of which mean a lot to me. So I'm going to see if I can think of five books that mean a lot to me that weren’t on the previous list.

1. Babel-17 by Samuel Delany. I read this when I was quite young (not yet 10) and every few months I still find myself in a conversation and suddenly realise just how much it influenced me, on everything from my approach to language and poetry to my attitudes toward gender reassignment surgery.

2. Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah, by Richard Bach. I've never denied I was a hippie. 'Nuff said.

3. The Glass Bead Game, by Herman Hesse. I gained a lot of insights about spirituality, epistemology, meditation, and the balance of life from thinking about this book.

4. The Dialectic of Sex: Case for Feminist Revolution, by Shulamith Firestone. For some people it was The Feminist Mystique, for some it was The Female Eunuch - and I'm not saying those books didn't affect me profoundly, because they did – but Firestone's book put feminism into a larger context and gave it a burning heart for me. I am the kind of feminist – and very likely the kind of socialist – that I am today because of the place she gave me to start my journey.

5. The Golden Bough, by James Frazier. I tend to see life, language, thought in terms of symbols, parallels, thematic connections. It's a deeply ingrained part of how I think, and I suspect I owe a great deal of that to an early and intensely thorough reading of this book.

So, interestingly enough, this turned out to be, not so much about my favourite books, as about some of the books that shaped who I am.

A Meme

Apr. 8th, 2005 12:27 am
morgan_dhu: (dragonmaid)

I don't often do memes, but this one is fun.

From [profile] chlaal

Book meme:
1. Choose five of your all time favorite books.
2. Take the first sentence of the first chapter and make a list in your journal.
3. Don't reveal the author or the title of the book.
4. Now everyone try and guess.



The first few are basically for free because they’re so obvious, so I’m going to list ten instead of five. There are a couple that I suspect might be rather obscure, so I’m giving the first two sentences, just to be nice. Oh, and I happen to think that in some cases, the prologue really is the first chapter.


1. Once upon a time when the world was young there was a Martian named Smith.

2. This book is largely concerned with Hobbits, and from its pages a reader may discover much of their character and a little of their history.

3. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

4. I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.

5. The window of the bus was a dark square against the featureless night. Lea let her eyes focus slowly from their unthinking blur until her face materialized, faint and fragmentary, highlighted by the dim light of the bus interior.

6. Chick with a harp. Her hair was the color of an angry sunset, and it fell to her waist in ripples of copper and red.

7. The river flowed both ways. The current moved from north to south, but the wind usually came from the south, rippling the bronze-green water in the opposite direction.

8. The Khadilh ban-harihn frowned at the disk he had in his hand, annoyed and apprehensive.

9. The people in this book might be going to have lived a long, long time from now in Northern California.

10. I know I was all right on Friday when I got up; if anything I was feeling more stolid than usual.

morgan_dhu: (Default)

No Pity. No Shame. No Silence.

The other night I watched a film called “Prey for Rock and Roll.” Not a great film, but one scene was very powerful, at least for me. In an all-woman band, one of the band members has been raped. Another band member writes a song about rape. They sing it. The song is:

Every Six Minutes

Every six minutes, someone says "no"
Every six minutes, she gets ignored
It's not what you're wearing, it’s not where you've been
The fact that they think so tells you somethin' bout sin.
Every 6 minutes, a woman cries
Because every 6 minutes, her pleas are denied
No one's asking for it, it's no woman's secret desire
The fact that they think so is a man-made lie.
The passing of time brings you closer to me
Cause I've got love and justice keeps you free
I've got .38 special reasons at my side
Face the ultimate "no" big boy, this time I'll decide
If I had a bullet, for every six minutes
I know just where to put it, every six minutes
If I had a bullet, for every six minutes
I know just where to put it, every six minutes
If I had a bullet, for every six minutes
I know just where to put it, every six minutes

By Cheri Lovedog and Grace Chapman
(lyrics incomplete)


The song hit me to the core. Even though I abhor violence, even though I believe that revenge is never the answer to violence, even though I don’t want anyone running around with a gun for any reason. Deep inside me, something roared “Yes!”

And yesterday, I found that [livejournal.com profile] misia’s powerful statement about sexual violence, and people’s responses to it, had migrated to the small corner of Ljland that I inhabit.

So now many people around me are writing about sexual abuse and sexual violence. It’s a hard topic to start writing about, I find. Do I talk about my personal experiences with it? Or its history? Its sociological meanings? The different kinds of sexual violence? Who does it, who has it done to them, and why? The way sexuality and violence mixes together that makes so many blurred edges? The questions of fantasy versus reality, of consensual sex and power play versus the violation of the will that is rape. So much to talk about.

Back in the sixties and seventies, when some of us first started saying things akin to “no pity, no shame, no silence,” we also used to say that the personal is the political. And politics is about power. And so is sexual violence. So here’s the personal:

In my own life I can think of at least half a dozen occasions where a man, or a group of men, have tried to block my path, encircle me, trap me, prevent me from getting away from them, while they made sexual comments or threats of violence, mostly sexual, to and about me. One of these times, it was a groups of about five adolescent males in a car, who made several moves as if they were going to run me over if I didn’t stop and let them say, and possibly do, whatever they wanted to me.

On several more occasions, a man has followed me on foot or by car, making sexual comments or gestures whenever he got near enough to me.

Once I was stalked by a man for several weeks. I first became aware of him when he started a perfectly normal conversation with me in a public library, and then asked me out. I declined politely. He kept showing up at the library whenever I was there, and kept approaching me. I started being very careful about the path I took going home from, always going a round-about way and making sure he wasn’t following me. Eventually, I stopped going to that branch, even though it was the closest and one of the best in the city for my interests.

Two or three times a man has grabbed one or both of my arms and tried to hold onto me or pull me somewhere while making a sexual threat or suggestion.

Once, when I was 12, I took a short-cut one summer evening through an overgrown area by the river that ran through the city I lived in. A man started following me. He moved faster and faster. So did I. It was dark, I was scared. I tripped and fell. I don’t remember much more about it, other than his hands around my neck – interesting that that’s the one physical detail I recall so clearly. Maybe he was holding my throat so tightly that I blacked out – I’m not really sure. I do have fuzzy memories of pulling my clothes together, getting to my feet – he was nowhere in sight – going home and taking a long, long shower and throwing out the clothes I'd been wearing. My mother was away for a while on business, and so was her husband (of whom I will shortly say more), and I was alone for several days after that. I told no one for years afterward, not so much out of shame as because there was no one I could really think of to tell.

In most of these situations, no physical harm was done to me. Nonetheless, I believe all these things count as sexual violence. Certainly, the way I felt after each incident - the combination of fear, disgust and rage - wasn't all that different from how I felt the time I didn't get away. Some would probably say that's because I was stranger-raped at the age of 12, and these situations from later in my life bring back those original feelings. But I believe that words and gestures can be violent. Threatening sexual violence is an act, and a violent one.

I’m not sure that I consider child sexual abuse and sexual violence to be the same thing – or perhaps, it’s more that child sexual abuse, while never right, is not always sexual violence. Certainly, my feelings about being a survivor of sexual violence are different from my feelings about being a survivor of child sexual abuse. I remember my mother’s husband exposing himself to me, and getting me to touch him and fondle him, many times, beginning when I was seven or eight and continuing until he and my mother divorced when I was almost 13. I told no one about that for a long time, either, because even though I didn’t really like what he asked me to do, he treated me a lot better than my mother did (but that’s another story for another time). I don’t carry quite the same kinds of wounds. I think this is possibly because, twisted and sick though it was, there was an element of relationship. Sexual violence made me angry. Sexual abuse made me distrustful. Not saying one experience is any more or less harmful or wrong, just that they may sometimes have different dynamics – partly, I think, because sexual violence is power and control expressed through sexual acts, and child sexual abuse is, I think, more about sexuality expressed in a context of power, control and sometimes violence.

I wonder what it says about us as a species that sexual violence is so common among us. My guess is that, by my definitions of sexual violence, most women and at least a quarter of men are survivors of sexual violence. Sexual violence, as both an individual and a cultural means of exerting power and control and evoking fear, is directed not just at women but at sexual, ethnic and faith minorities. Wherever we look, we can find it - in homes, on battlefields, and everywhere in between.

Survivors of sexual violence have been talking about it for decades now. I know that speaking out can help the survivor to heal, and sometimes help others in their healing as well. So far, I’m not sure it’s done much to heal the human race of whatever dark knot is coiled inside, waiting for the time and place to strike. Maybe that’s just because there’s still not enough of us talking.

No Pity. No Shame. No Silence.


Addendum: It’s curious – when I began writing this entry, I considered putting some of my comments after an lj-cut, but decided not to, because concealment is so often associated with both shame and silence. I know that the cut is used for many reasons having nothing to do with concealment, and that many people will argue, with justification, that material about sexual violence could be very uncomfortable, even painful, for some. And if what I’ve written here has caused pain to anyone, I am sorry that this has happened. But I’m not ashamed about anything I’ve spoken of, and it’s been a long time since I’ve been silent about any of it. And in the current context, I think it all belonged right out front.

morgan_dhu: (Default)

So this Tarot/birthday meme has been making its way through my flist, and I've been watching people posting their card without much commentary, and thinking about what, if anything, it actually means.

This is actually a rather unusual way of using the Tarot, and I find myself wondering - since I do feel that there are ways to use Tarot symbolism to assist in understanding one's self and making choices about one's life - exactly what it would signify to have a particular Tarot card associated in this way with one's birthday. Tarot cards are usually used in a situational manner, and are interpreted in terms of current, changing circumstances. But a birthday is a permanent characteristic, not an ephemeral circumstance, and so there should, strictly speaking, be some essence of permanence to the interpretation of a Tarot card that's so associated.

My initial theory would be that, if there is any meaning to it at all, it would be an indication either of some essential and defining personality characteristic, or of a recurring theme in one's life, or possible a direction or goal that, if worked toward would help bring about positive personal growth over the course of a lifetime.

At the moment, I know of two Fools, a Hermit, a Moon, and my own World card - does anyone who has looked into the symbolism associated with "their" card - or who has worked with Tarot symbolism in the past - have any sense of what its meaning might be within their own life or personality?

As I noted earlier, there's certainly a tension in my own life surrounding my ability to be in the world. More than that, I have a long history of activism in a variety of areas, such that it could be said that one of my on-going life-themes is in fact a form of involvement in the way the world works, and how to try and change it so that people's needs are better served, either on a local or a national/global level. I can see for myself a number of ways in which The World does represent persistent themes in my life. Of course, there are other cards that I could say that about - but only a few, and there are a lot of cards that really don't represent major on-going life-themes. So it's not completely a case of being able to pick any set of symbols and make them work.

But is there any real correspondence? Any thoughts out there?

morgan_dhu: (Default)

Ok, if you're out there, I know you're starting to think I overanalyse things, and you know, you're damned right.

But I had this notion, while answering a comment by [livejournal.com profile] jenwrites to my first meta-journalling post, and I wanna write about it, so there.

I wonder if I'm placing more importance on the aspect of being able to see a more multi-dimensional image of people in LJ than in other cyberfora because I'm disabled. (Note, while I have a number of medical issues, it's really only in the past two-three years that I have become severely limited in terms of mobility, so I'm still getting used to not being able to hop on a bus and go wherever I want to go.) A lot of the people I know on the internet are members of various fandoms. They meet at conventions. They know each other in a way that I probably never will.

At the same time, my own social interactions IRL have become more limited. Yes, I have lots of IRL friends with whom I carry on viable relationships, but they are kind of one-sided. I never go to their homes, because most of them live in places that I can't go to, because of one or more of my disabilities. I can't go out and do things with them. Hell, one of my best friends is an actor, and I haven't been able to get out to see her in a play for eight years now. All the physical, real-time experience of my relationships with these is centred in my apartment.

Maybe I'm struck by finding more depth in the context of my relationships with my friends in cyberspace because I feel I'm losing depth in the context of my IRL friendships.

Something to contemplate.

morgan_dhu: (Default)

The illustrious [livejournal.com profile] plaidder started a riff on my meta-journalling musing, which, in addition to being an honour, started me thinking about the topic again. [profile] plaidder wrote:

"There is something people just like about seeing their experiences shared by strangers, and I think that's partly what fuels things like Livejournal. Even if it's something relatively minor like dental work, people like knowing that someone else has gone through it, and checking their own history against everyone else's. And the online journaling thing sort of feeds that jones, in a way that probably is less destructive than the craze for reality TV, which is how the rest of America seems to be filling that need."

I think there is definitely a link between reality TV (Pop quiz - who remembers what Andy Warhol said?) and the multitude of ways in which people make more-or-less public various aspects of themselves and their lives on the Net/Web. There's something going on that has, as most things do, at least a dozen sides.

My oldest and dearest friend has for a long time been making jokes about our culture's growing obsession with the media - including cybermedia - and more pointedly, how it seems that everyone wants to be known in the media. He likes to say that nothing is "real" to most people unless it's been on TV, and that no one is "anyone" unless they're a media personality. And it certainly seems that way at times. Not so very long ago in our society, entertainers were people of questionable character - you might go to a play, but you would never want to associate with an actor. Now everyone wants to be one.

Some people have suggested that we do in fact feel that there is something inauthentic about our lives, for so many different reasons - loss of physical closeness to families and communties, the increasing pressures of the workspace, the culture of fear, the shutting out of the natural world... I could go on, but you get the idea. There are probably a hundred reasons that we might be feeling a lack of authenticity (and probably just as many that argue that this sense of inauthenticity is nothing new, and just as many more that argue that we have never before had the opportunity to live such lives of authenticity).

But in any case, there are all of those people in the public eye, maybe for just 15 minutes, but at least for that space of time, everyone is looking at them, listening to them, acknowledging their reality. So maybe that's part of why there are thousands of people trying to be the next Canadian Idol, or live in Big Brother's new house, or have cameras plastered on them as they race around the world. Or compete on Jeopardy, which has always been one of my little fantasies (my first moment of fame was as a contestant on Reach for the Top). And for every person who tries out for one of these things, there are millions, it seems, who watch and perhaps vicariously imagine that they too could be on the screen.

Is there a connection between that, and at least some journalling and blogging and website building behaviours? I have a website. I have no idea why. I've put up a bunch of stuff that probably no one has ever read or ever will, and every once in a while, I add a little more. I'm not really trying to communicate with anyone - unlike people who have real products or skills to promote that are best exhibited on the Web. I don't have an agenda, some message that I'm determined to get out to as much of the world. There's nothing stored on my website that couldn't just as easily be printed out and stored in a desk drawer. So why is it up there? I can admit the possibility that putting it out in cyberspace somehow makes it - and me - more real, at least to myself; I have a website, therefore I am.

Journalling is less egocentric, I think - there is at least an implied audience - I am on some friends lists - and hence the potential not just for establishing one's existence, but also for creating communication. Which is interesting, because journals were often private things when they were written on paper, although I'm sure that more than one person has written a journal in the hope that at some point they would become famous enough that other people would ask for it to be published.

So perhaps it's not that suddenly, in this society, we need to make ourselves famous. Perhaps we've always wanted to, and it's only now that so many of us have the tools to try.

And I'm still thinking about what that might mean.

morgan_dhu: (Default)

I originally joined LJ because a group of friends I am on a mailing list with are active LJers, and I wanted to be able to read their entries here and comment on them. What I have discovered in the process of doing so is that, at least for the frequent LJers among them, I am coming to know them from a slightly different perspective.

The list that I and they are on has no topic restrictions, and we all post everything from interesting news articles to very personal rants, fears and life issues. You might think that the perspective would be much the same as that gained from reading LJ entries. But there are interesting differences. And I am enjoying those differences. It is giving me a wider and deeper glimpse into the lives of people I've come to see as friends, even though most of us will never meet, due to distance and my travel limitations due to multiple disabilities.

Which in turn is causing me to rethink my intended use of LJ. At first, I thought that I would primarily operate in comment mode - in essence, joining into conversations with people I know, much as I would on a mailing list. However, I've begun to wonder: if I am enjoying reading about the day-to-day stuff in the journals of my friends, being even more of a voyeur into their lives, isn't it... appropriate... for me to give them the same kind of glimpse into my everyday existence?

Of course, I may be wallowing in egocentricity here - but that's one of the basic issues of living on the Net anyway. And it's an interesting one. This is, I think, the first time/place in human society (since our very early days when all the society we knew was the other folks in our little tribe) where people begin from the assumption that they have something to say to others, that they deserve the opportunity to make themselves and their views widely known. That the sum of the moments of their lives matters on a larger scale.

Which has an interesting potential for the future of our political institutions - what do governments do when all citizens begin their civic involvement with the assumption that they have a right to be seen, heard and understood as individuals, not just as slips of paper in a ballot box or fractions of a statistic from the latest opinion poll? I know, this is not a new observation, but I think it may be more of a fundamental shift in Western attitudes toward the relationship of the personal and public selves than many people are aware.

All of which, of course, may just be my elaborate justification for inflicting my personal annoyances and mundane accomplishment on the rest of you. ;-)

morgan_dhu: (Default)

Lately, I’ve been experiencing a lot of moments that I’ve come to refer to as “snapping points” – moments when I am suddenly, and completely, overwhelmed by a profound intellectual and emotional grief and horror. Today’s snapping point flooded over me as I listened to one of my newly-purchased replacement CDs for old, old albums I haven’t played, sometimes haven’t even owned, for years, because the vinyl was long past its prime condition.

The song was He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother, From Neil Diamond’s Taproot Manuscript. And as I listened to the words, and tried to sing along, as is my habit, I found myself crying. And I realised that we don’t live anymore in a world where a song that says the responsibility of human beings toward each other is not a burden but in fact a source of gladness, is going to be heard over the constant noise of hatred, hunger, greed and war, over the soulless popstar narcissism of private lusts and adolescent desires lost and found.

Of course, there’s still music being written that talks about social justice and personal freedom, about peace and universal love and the search for a better tomorrow for everyone, music that witnesses to the wrongs committed around us and speaks in the voice of the poor, the injured, the outraged, the forgotten, the wounded, the outcast. But it’s not music that is speaking to a whole culture any more.

Where are the new songs of peace, of protest, of union solidarity, of people marching in the streets for peace and true freedom and social justice and human dignity?


"He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother"

The road is long,
with many a winding turn
That leads us to who knows where,
who knows where
But I'm strong,
strong enough to carry him
He ain't heavy - he's my brother

So on we go, his welfare is my concern
No burden is he to bear, we'll get there
For I know he would not encumber me
He ain't heavy - he's my brother

If I'm laden at all, I'm laden with sadness
That everyone's heart isn't filled with gladness
of love for one another

It's a long, long road
from which there is no return
While we're on our way to there,
why not share
And the load,
it doesn't weigh me down at all
He ain't heavy - he's my brother.

by Sidney Russell and Robert Scott, (C)1977 Harrison Music Corp., Jenny Music (ASCAP)

May 2017

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