morgan_dhu: (Default)

Both my reading page here and my Facebook feed are overflowing with accounts of marches from all over the world. I haven't seen this strong a spirit for resistance and change since the 60s, and I hope that the sheer size of the response means there is that critical mass of committed activists and participants to keep the spirit strong and growing.

I couldn't march here in Toronto, but friends in Boston and Victoria offered to carry my name in their pockets, so in a way i did march with them, and with all of you who stood up today for human rights, for human dignity, for cherishing the earth and all its peoples, for democracy and freedom of speech and all the other things we must fight for in the midst of this savage move toward fascism that's oozing out of the deep recesses of our past in places around the world.

We've made our opening statement, fired the first rally in this war. Let us continue as we have begun.

morgan_dhu: (Default)

I want to talk about something that troubles me greatly.

Why do so many white Western people keep insisting that all Muslims actively disavow the actions of a small number of religious fanatics who want to see the world in flames, when we don't ask the same thing of all Christians? Is it because we believe that Muslims are somehow different from us, that they are inherently more likely to choose and approve of violence? That they need to prove they are not bloodthirsty savages who delight in killing and creating chaos? Because that's what this demand looks like to me.

I have heard people say that Islam is a religion of misogyny and violence, but you know something? I've read both the Bible and the Qu'ran (admittedly, both in translation) and they really aren't much different on those counts. Both have passages that speak to love and peace and compassion, both have passages that seem to counsel violence and intolerance and revenge. Yes, in recent years we have seen much violence done in the name of Islam, but we are also living in a world in which much violence was, and continues to be, done in the name of Christianity.

I've heard people say that Muslims are barbaric and uncivilised, but I've studied history and I know that based on every measure of culture and enlightenment that I know of, by art and law and government and the creation of civil, caring societies, Muslim peoples have not been any less civilised, less cultured, less humane, than other groups of people.

Are we saying, then, that Muslims as a whole are not quite like the rest of us, that they do not feel empathy, compassion, horror and love they way we do? That they lack the breadth of emotions that we have? That they are not quite as human as we are, and hence we expect them not to feel as we do when a tragedy occurs?

What does it say about us, that it is so easy for us to think of others as not just different, but inferior? Perhaps it is we white Western people who lack empathy, compassion, breadth of feeling. We certainly have a long history of being unable to feel empathy toward those who are not white and Western. Maybe it's time for us to become more civilised, more humane, more human.

morgan_dhu: (Default)

The Internets are talking a lot about racism and science fiction and a host of related concerns these days. There’s even a name for it – RaceFail 09 (aka The Cultural Appropriation Debate of Doom 09, because there has to be a pseudonym) – because so much of it has been about, in one way or another, how white fans and writers and editors and publishers are failing to even try to do the right thing when it comes to race.

I haven’t written much about it here or in comments in other posts, because I am wary of perpetuating the trope of the white defender riding to the rescue of the helpless oppressed person of colour. And there are so many powerful voices of colour speaking strongly and clearly and bravely and wisely and passionately and truthfully, they don’t need my help. They are not victims in need of saving, they are the heroes I hope to emulate.

But it’s also true that in many eyes, silence equals consent - with the oppressor, of course, never with the oppressed. If I do not speak, no one is going to assume that my silence means I agree with those strong, wise, brave, true voices of colour.

And so I say this: I do not consent to the silencing of different voices, even when they say what I am afraid to hear. I do not consent to the derailing of discussion on race and power and privilege, even when the discussion demands that I examine myself and find the unacknowledged racism and classism, the internalised sexism and ablism and heteronormativism, all the other influences that come from living in a society built on oppression and exploitation and protection of privilege and othering and dividing those who would resist in order to conquer all.

And I say this, too: I want to live in a world where we all can celebrate the differences of equals, where there are no Others, only different ways of being Us. But I know that’s not the world we live in, so it is incumbent on me to do what I can, in the best way that I can, in spite of all the internalised garbage I carry with me, and the racism of the world around me to try to make that world I want to live in a reality.

Here and now on this battlefield, for this white person who hopes to be a good ally, that means supporting fans and writers and editors and publishers of colour. It means honouring, savouring, learning from the words and thoughts and experiences that fans and writers and editors and publishers of colour have shared in the course of this engagement. It means taking the good that has begun here – the new ventures, the new understandings and awakenings, the new alliances – and building on them.

- - - - - - - - - -

Reading and learning:
The many links of [personal profile] rydra_wong
[community profile] 50books_poc

[community profile] verb_noire
[profile] fight_derailing

morgan_dhu: (Default)

I am getting so bloody sick of mainstream North American entertainment deciding that I, as a white person, am so empathy-challenged that I can't possibly identify with a person who is not white.

I assure you it's not true. I've watched dozens of movies (I'd watch more, but they're not all that easy to find) where the characters aren't white, and you know what - I've understood the characters' motivations, I've felt that I could identify with their struggles and their triumphs - in fact, I've enjoyed all those movies just as much as - and sometimes even more than - movies with all-white casts that are supposed to - what? reassure me? make me think "my people" run the universe? protect me from seeing difference?

And I bet you have, too. Even those of you who are also white like me.

So why do things like this keep happening? Who decides that if the source material, which is popular enough that you want to make a movie out of it in the first place, happens to have most or all of the characters be people of colour, that has to be changed for a North American audience?

When are we going to start having real-life casting? When will the people doing their thing in the movies and television shows I watch look like the streets of the city I live on, where there's more than just one black person, one Asian person, and maybe one Aboriginal person at a time?

I've got an idea.

Why don't we decide that for just one year, no movies or TV shows will be made that have white actors in them unless you can "justify" why the person playing the character is white. Let's have people of colour as the default, and only cast white people because it's a major plot point and there's no way to avoid it without making the piece meaningless, or because, well, you have to have one token white person. Who is, of course, either the sidekick or the mentor, and who of course sacrifices hirself heroically to save the non-white hero. Oh, maybe we'll allow two or three big-name white actors to make a movie, just to prove we aren't racist.

Let's see what our most popular forms of entertainment look like to those of us who are white, once we're the ones you hardly ever see. It might actually, you know, teach us something about being the person who's defined as the Other.

morgan_dhu: (Default)

Now, it could be that I'm completely wrong about this for reason having to do with the technicalities of how financial things work, but hasn't anyone thought about how this proposed bail-out/buy-out could be turned into an incredible opportunity to not just save from disaster, but actually improve the lives of people living in the hardest hit American neighbourhoods?

My reasoning goes like this:

The government buys up all those "worthless" financial instruments containing defaulted mortgages, and this pours money into failing banks, keeping them alive and somehow maintaining "confidence" in the market - which is of course one side of the equation, whether you think it's a good thing in the long run or not.

But the other side is that those mortgages that the government now owns are attached, somewhere down the line, to actual developed real estate that is currently "worthless" because the owners can't pay the mortgages and the bottom has fallen out of the housing industry so no one else will buy the properties.

So - isn't this an amazing advantage for the government of the U.S. to provide vast amounts of low-income housing and provide space for crucial community services all across the country?

I mean, if the government buys the mortgages, it controls the real estate that was mortgaged, doesn't it? I know that if I default on my mortgage, the bank gets to take my house and sell it to recoupe their loan to me. And until that house is sold - which banks in the U.S. are having trouble doing right now which is why those mortgages are worthless - the bank, which owned the mortgage, controls what used to be my house.

So if you do the big bail-out, you've got Goddess knows how many homes across the country that the government now controls that can be placed under the administration of a low-income properties commission, which rents them out to the working poor whose lives have been destroyed by trying to pay off those sub-prime mortgages. Hell, create lease-to-own programs so that over time, people really can own their own homes.

And at the same time, rent some of those properties to community organisations that want to provide shelters for the homeless, shelters for battered women, free medical and legal clinics, after-school programs, agencies that help prepare upgrade employment skills, all sorts of community services that neighbourhoods in distress desperately need in order to get back on their feet in a time of reecession and massive job loss.

Isn't this one way to bail out Main street and Wall Street, as some people are demanding?

morgan_dhu: (Default)

As Canadians consider whether we want to extend our involvement in the NATO military mission in Afghanistan for another two years, and possibly longer, it may be instructive for us to consider the words of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) on just what's happening with the mission so many of us think is all about restoring peace, security and democracy to Afghanistan. In a communique entitled "The US and Her Fundamentalist Stooges are the Main Human Rights Violators in Afghanistan," issued December 10, 2007 (Universal Human Rights Day), RAWA states, among other things, that:
After about seven years, there is no peace, human rights, democracy and reconstruction in Afghanistan. On the contrary, the destitution and suffering of our people has doubled everyday. Our people, and even our unfortunate children, fall victim to the Jehadis’ infighting (Baghlan incident), the Taliban’s untargeted blasts and the US/NATO’s non-stop bombardments. The Northern Alliance blood-suckers, who are part of Karzai’s team and have key government posts, continue to be the main and the most serious obstacle towards the establishment of peace and democracy in Afghanistan. The existence of tens of illegal private security companies run by these mafia bands are enough to realize their sinister intentions and the danger they pose.

Human rights violations, crime, and corruption have reached their peak, so much so that Mr. Karzai is forced to make friendly pleas to the ministers and members of the parliament, asking them to “keep some limits”! Accusations about women being raped in prisons were so numerous that even a pro-warlord woman in the parliament had no choice but to acknowledge them.
Of course, RAWA spent years trying to get the world to pay attention to what the Taliban was doing to the Afghan people, particularly the women, and no one really thought anything about it until Americans were attacked by some people, primarily Saudi Arabians, who had some tenuous connections with the Taliban. At which time the West responded by bombing the Afghan people, who couldn't even be "bombed into the stone age" because decades of invasions and civil collapse had already done that for them - and claiming that it wasn't just revenge, it was for women's rights. Remember all those pretty speeches about schools for girls and getting rid of burqas?

So I'm thinking that no one's going to pay much attention now when RAWA tries to tell us that we're doing exactly the same thing that the Taliban, and the warlords, and the Russians, were doing before. Because it's never really about the people, especially the women, and what they think, need or want.

morgan_dhu: (Default)

Naomi Klein has a very interesting article up at The Nation about how the political shifts in South America are affecting both the economiy of the region and its ties with major internaitional economic entities like the IMF and The world Bank.

She's building on her analysis of "shock doctrine capitalism" to look at what South America has learned from being the subject of shock tactics, and it's one of the most hopeful things concerning the state of the world that I've read in a long time.

Here's a taste:
In less than two years, the lease on the largest and most important US military base in Latin America will run out. The base is in Manta, Ecuador, and Rafael Correa, the country's leftist president, has pronounced that he will renew the lease "on one condition: that they let us put a base in Miami--an Ecuadorean base. If there is no problem having foreign soldiers on a country's soil, surely they'll let us have an Ecuadorean base in the United States."

Since an Ecuadorean military outpost in South Beach is a long shot, it is very likely that the Manta base, which serves as a staging area for the "war on drugs," will soon shut down. Correa's defiant stand is not, as some have claimed, about anti-Americanism. Rather, it is part of a broad range of measures being taken by Latin American governments to make the continent less vulnerable to externally provoked crises and shocks.

morgan_dhu: (Default)

Last night I saw the first part of the award-winning BBC documentary The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear on CBC Newsworld's The Passionate Eye.

The documentary explores the rise of fundamentalist Islamist thought in the Middle East and the neo-conservative movement in the west, with particular attention paid to the similarities and interconnections between the two. The starting premise of the documentary is that these two movements are, at the core, both reactions to the failure of liberalism. As it traces the growth of both movements, it also highlights some of the ways in which they have influenced each other, used each other and developed in response to each other.

Because I've done a moderate amount of reading in the last few years on the growth of fundamentalist Islamic thought, much of the historical background addressing this aspect of the film was familiar to me - what really hit me was the recounting of things I had either forgotten about or never known about neocon politics in the US in the 70s and 80s. Though I must admit, I remember sitting with friends - some of whom were ex-pat Americans - on the night Reagan was elected and feeling in the pit of my stomach that this was the beginning of a long nightmare... and finding that everyone agreed with me. I don't think we really could have realised just how much of a nightmare it would be, and just how long it would last.

Some of the material in the film that discusses neocon politics of the Ford and Reagan eras with respect to US policy concerning the Soviet Union seemed eerily and unpleasantly familiar. And why shouldn't it? It is, after all, many of the same men who railed about the threat from the Evil Empire in the 80s who brought us yellowcake, chemical factories on wheels and the Axis of Evil in 2003.

One sequence of a profound deja vu nature outlines the way that neocons Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Pearle et al (as part of the Ford and Reagan governments) set out in the late 70s and 80s to prove that the USSR was secretly building up its armaments to threatening levels and preparing to attack the US. Does this sound at all familiar:

DONALD RUMSFELD, US Secretary of Defense, Speaking in 1976: The Soviet Union has been busy. They’ve been busy in terms of their level of effort; they’ve been busy in terms of the actual weapons they’ve been producing; they’ve been busy in terms of expanding production rates; they’ve been busy in terms of expanding their institutional capability to produce additional weapons at additional rates; they’ve been busy in terms of expanding their capability to increasingly improve the sophistication of those weapons. Year after year after year, they’ve been demonstrating that they have steadiness of purpose. They’re purposeful about what they’re doing. Now, your question is, what ought one to be doing about that? [quoted from transcript available online].

According to the documentary, when informed by the CIA that there was simply no credible intelligence to support this allegation, the neocons argued that the fact that there was no evidence merely proved that the Soviets had to be doing it, but keeping it secret.

While profoundly critical of the neocon movement, the documentary isn't pulling any punches about the Islamist movement either - the leaders of both are shown as, on the one hand, idealists who want to save their people and their worlds from what they believe to be a profound moral and spiritual disease, and on the other hand, cynical manipulators who, believing that their end is so important to the survival of what they cherish that any and all means are justified, start out by creating The Big Lie and end up at least half believing it themselves.

For Canadians and anyone else with access to CBC Newsworld, the documentary concludes tonight - check your local listings for the time.

For anyone else - this documentary is not currently available on DVD due to problems with clearing rights for archival footage, but a transcript - which I skimmed and which appears to be accurate - is available on the Net.

morgan_dhu: (Default)

I found this item courtesy of [profile] techn0goddess.

Let me ask just one simple question.



People all over this planet are strangling on the accumulations of bile-soaked hatred and slaughter justified by fundamentalist doctrines (not to ignore the contributions of all those other wonderful things like colonialism, imperialism and incessant meddling from European and american empires and the global neo-liberal nightmare of untrammelled oppression and greed in the name of the holy profit margin).

And the US military machine is humming "Onward Christian Soldiers."

Is anyone in power there even thinking anymore?

(Edit: I originally misspelled [profile] techn0goddess's name. This has been corrected. My apologies.)
morgan_dhu: (Default)

Sad but telling counterpoint to all the political and media frenzy over the termination of the body that once was Terri Schiavo:

U.S. Soldier Convicted of Killing Iraqi Walks Free

Oh yes, mercy killing is a horrible, evil thing when we do it to nice white North American women, but if it's an Iraqi citizen that we just gunned down, well, there's no need to get all worked up about something like that.

morgan_dhu: (Default)

On June 15, 2004, George Bush and his handpuppet, er, President Karzai of Afghanistan talked about how life was getting better and better in Afghanistan.

In fact, it seems life is so good in Afghanistan that Médecins Sans Frontières has decided to withdraw from the country because it considers the threat to the lives of humanitarian aid workers too severe.

Bear in mind that MSF was able to work in Afghanistan under the Russian occupation and the Taliban, but thinks the risk is too great in the wonderful world that Bush and Karzai built.

I can hardly wait to see how wonderful life will soon become in Iraq, now that we've seen what a good job or restoring peace and democracy the U.S. is doing in Afghanistan.

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