Tuesday, October 17, 2006

a radical idea?

I came across an interesting article today that highlighted a radical idea. In the current climate, this might be said of any idea dealing with race that goes against either of the two opposing philosophical stances on this sensitive issue, usually represented as liberal versus conservative.

Let me just state here clearly that I don't take all the ideas in the quotes below as fact, but at the same time I cannot dismiss them, nor can I devalue their impact in bringing a fresh perspective for me to the often unmoving beliefs on either side of polarizing issues like affirmative action and economic justice. If you follow the link below, the reporter goes on to point out several and glaring shortcomings of this point of view. But I don't think that detracts from the value of some parts of these arguments. I can say with certainty that the quotes below and the article in general from Walter Benn Michaels, struck some kind of chord in me. Parts of what he says not only shook the foundations of some views about race, justice and society that I unthinkingly accepted (and that I think are widely accepted as fact by most in this country), but more importantly they made me think about this issue in a new light.

The basic premise, from what I can understand of it, is that the issues and arguments surrounding racial diversity are in some ways nothing more than an excuse for those with inherited economic (class) advantages to maintain those advantages and claim a moral high ground because they support some form of "diversity." In fact, issues of racial inequality help divert attention away from the much more powerful and wider issue , and that is economic inequality. I'll let the quotes explain more:
“'The vision that the primary problems of America are intolerance—sexism, racism—is completely compatible with the view that if we could just get rid of that intolerance...we’d be living in a fundamentally just society.' That has not happened...wages and salaries (which include soaring executive paychecks) took the smallest share of national income since records started in 1929, and corporate profits took the largest share since 1950."

"The obligation of diversity is to be nice to each other, Michaels writes, but the obligation of equality is to give up some money. Given the choice, diversity has the advantage of appearing to be morally righteous while at the same time preserving economic self-interest."

"everyone is told that a college education is the key to success. Admitting a diverse student body, especially for the most elite schools, helps to create the impression that upper middle-class and rich students have won this educational ticket to higher incomes fairly, not because they come from families that are well off. "

"'Race-based affirmative action … is a kind of collective bribe rich people pay themselves for ignoring economic inequality.' If class-based affirmative action replaced racial affirmative action at Harvard, and its student body reflected the country’s income distribution, he calculates that more than half the students would be gone, most of them rich and white."

So, read the rest of the article - make up your own mind - post your feedback here (but please don't blame me if just talking about this issue offends you).

from: In These Times, Oct. 2006, pp.29-31 (online version here: http://www.inthesetimes.com/site/main/article/2848/)

Peace always,

Friday, October 13, 2006

this is how twisted my (il-)logic can be

Big news!!! My surgery date is set - January 22nd. I'll pass over for now all the whirlwind of emotions that came with the realization that this is truly going to happen and soon. Instead, I took a look at the patron saints of that particular day of the year and what they are patron saints of - curious if they could tell me something about the outcome of that eventful date:
  • Anastasius the Persian: protects against headaches (i.e., complications? sehr gut!)
  • Blaesilla: patron saint of brides and widows (hmmm...minus?)
  • Dominic of Sora: protects against snakes and fever (that may come in handy)
  • Laura Vicuna: patron saint of martyrs (not sure I like the sound of that one...)
  • Vincent of Saragossa: patron saint of wine and vinegar makers (sheesh, they'll hand these awards out for anything...)

So I take this in sum as a break even omen. Perhaps a look at how these holy figures died might shed some light on things:

  • Anastasius the Persian: strangled and beheaded (ummm, not a good start.....)
  • Blaesilla: fever (at least it wasn't violent)
  • Dominic of Sora: natural causes (yes!!!)
  • Laura Vicuna: beaten and abused by her step-father - died at the age of 13 (dammit!)
  • Vincent of Saragossa: imprisoned, tortured and burned on a gridiron (ouch)

Luckily I don't believe in such things. This little exercise in pseudo-logic-astrology has effectively strengthened even further my utter disregard for superstition and for astrology. If anyone wishes to take advantage of my fall from psuedo-scientific grace, I have a basket full of rabbit's feet, astrological charts, loadstones, salt shakers and an unwashed t-shirt once spit upon by the esteemed dr. james dobson up for grabs...

metaphorical bungee jump

I'm feeling guilty alot these days. My moods, exacerbated (or as I like to term it: set free ) by the hormonal wars going on inside my body, swing to and fro and up and down wildly. And this is not only for all the good fortune and positive turns my gender and relationship journeys have taken recently and the fact that the same can't be said for many of my fellow trans-sisters and brothers and fellow humans. I also feel guilty because the world around us seems so thoroughly fucked and full of hate and conflict and greed and violence and yet I still feel exceedingly happy and content.

It also seems that the more perceived good that comes into my life, the more stress I feel about losing that good; the more I worry about it all crumbling away and revealing the naked and shivering little girl I feel like in my most vulnerable and fearful moments.

Certainly the fact that I'm doing my tiny little part to further the cause of some of my fellow down-trodden TLGBQ brethren through our wonderful and burgeoning local community center helps. But I keep asking myself how my own self-contentment can so easily co-exist with my exceedingly pessimistic outlook on the future of our way of life, our nation and the ideals it once stood for, and the world as a whole:
  • Our weapons keep getting bigger and more destructive and more widespread.
  • Our apathy and feelings of powerlessness as citizens of a democracy keeps growing.
  • The mainstreaming of increasingly radical, militant and elitist christian bigotry and messianistic world views continues unabated.
  • Acceptance of shameless greed and open corruption into all aspects of society grows.
  • And all the while our life-sustaining natural resources and delicately balanced and interated ecosystems continue to be exploited, polluted and destroyed by this short-sighted greed and spreading conflict.

In the end I guess what I'll continue to do is what I consider myself reasonbly good at (although I have no illusions about the reach of my communications): getting the word out, getting people talking, and pointing out the inconsistencies and falsehoods of the status quo. And hopefully some of you will continue to point out my own considerable shortcomings. Maybe I, WE! can even contribute to some real solutions to these seemingly intractable issues.

But I refuse to carry the whole weight of the world on my shoulders as I once did when I thought about these intertwined and "larger than our own individual lives" issues. I figure I can only deal honestly with and contribute positive solutions and outcomes toward these wider problems if I can first do the same for my own smaller but no less important personal issues. Afterall, our sense of self as well as our sense of community/nation/species will always be a work in progress and perhaps having that recurring and almost ungraspable guilt, as long as I don't let it take control of my life, serves the purpose of reminding me that I'm not alone in this struggle to live life sustainably, peacefully, and to the fullest.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The importance of saying nothing

I just finished listening to our Supreme Leader give an hour-long + news conference on NPR. I liked listening to it on the radio as opposed to television because this medium allows you to concentrate on the actual words spoken. I think that media spectacle and all those similar put on by current and recent government officials serves to highlight a major problem with the current state of our so-called democracy:

Politicians and other civic leaders have perfected the art of saying absolutely nothing of consequence while still managing to talk profusely for lengthy periods of time and still sound to the lazy listener like they are knowledgeable. No one is better at this than Bush. In fact, this is accepted by the public and so is the only form of communication used. No one in the media seems to have the guts to publicly pose tough questions to this president nor point out his most glaring contradictory statements. Bush and his fellow politicians (elephant and donkey alike) do this through a small set of established and brutally effective tools - all those below are taken from the transcript of Bush's conference today:

Generic and insincere talking points and mislabels so general or circular in logic and so vague as to appear little more than rohrschach blotches to the public and repeated ad nauseum:

  1. Iraq's "unity government"
  2. "These are tough times in Iraq"
  3. "Our strategic goal is a country which can defend itself, sustain itself and govern itself"
  4. "making sure the young democracy of Lebanon is able to fend off the extremists and radicals that want to crater that democracy"
  5. "the most solemn duty of the American president, in government, is to protect this country from harm"
  6. "interrogate high-valued detainees"
  7. "Iraq is a part of the war on terror"
  8. "cut and run"
  9. "My attitude is, don't do what you're doing if it's not working; change"

Constant fear mongering:

  1. "brutal killers"
  2. "the stakes are high"
  3. "they want to plot and plan and attack us again"
  4. "a nuclear weapon in the hands of a sworn enemy of the United States"
  5. "the Democrats will raise taxes"
  6. "The American people know that our biggest job is to protect this country from further attack"
  7. "we must take a threat seriously and defeat an enemy overseas so we don't have to face them here"
  8. " if we were to leave early, before the job is done, then the enemy will follow us here"
  9. "If we were to leave before the job is done, the enemy's coming after us"
  10. "it's a war"

Outright distortions and lies and denials:

  1. "restraining spending in Washington"
  2. "we will work with the United Nations"
  3. "this report is one -- they put it out before [estmating Iraqi deaths at 600,000). It was pretty well -- the methodology is pretty well discredited"
  4. "I obviously look at all options, all the time"
  5. "we care about how people live, we care about people starving, we care about the fact that there are large concentration camps"
  6. On Abu Ghraib: "Now the world is seeing that we've held those to account who did this"

Attributing behavior to the enemy that is more applicable to themselves:

  1. "There are extreme elements that use religion to achieve objectives"
  2. "it's a struggle between extremists and radicals and people of moderation who want to simply live a peaceful life"
  3. "they really don't care what other countries think, which leads to further isolation"

Hopefully we'll have these clowns out of office and replaced by slightly less evil and corrupt buffoons soon...

Monday, October 02, 2006

Green eggs and (vegetarian) ham

I left out the traditional "and ham" part because I gave up beef and pork about 2 months ago and it's going great - I really don't miss them, except bacon. Poultry and fish, however, remain on my ok list and may be that way forever - I love chicken and tuna way too much to survive without them.

Anyways, this post isn't about my burgeoning semi-vegetative, er, I mean vegetarian state, or even St. Patty's day, but rather about my recent abandonment of the Democratic party. Yes - I just sent in my new registration and changed my official party affiliation to the Green Party (http://www.gp.org/ and http://www.gpny.org/). Of course, because our rigged, two-party system of government has enormous barriers to third parties, I had to pencil in Green Party in the "OTHER" party box listing.

I have totally given up on the Democrats. They are, with few exceptions, spineless, corrupt, corporate-beholden, liars; barely distinguishable from those evil, evil Republicans. So I threw in the towel! Time to get involved in the grassroots and cast my votes based on my beliefs in peace and protecting the environment and universal health care and equal rights for all, rather than on who might have the best shot at beating the Republicans.

Of course, there will follow the usual litany of complaints from the peanut gallery that such Green attitudes are what lost Gore the election in 2000 and that I'm just "throwing away my vote." But to those people - I say fuck you and the defeatist horse you rode in on! Your view is as short-sighted as Mr. Magoo in a snowstorm - this corrupt 2-party system has been a major contributor to where we are as a country now. Do you like where we are now? This system feeds the attitude that our representatives can take our support for granted and thus increases their separation from reality and the values of their constituents, and increases the power of money in politics.

To take this point one step further - our government is dominated by white, male, christian millionaires - do ya think they have any desire whatsoever to change the stats quo that has so conveniently placed them at the top of the shallow, materialistic wealth heap?. If you answered yes, or even maybe, Some stats:

  • women in congress: 15% (women making up 52% of the population + the global average parliamentary representation by women is 16.3%, including 3rd world countries! Iraq, Afghanistan, Ecuador, Rwanda, and 64 other nations all have higher percentages of female representatives!)
  • white men in congress: 80% (whites make up a whopping 97% of the Senate!)
  • Openly gay members: 0.6% (zero in the Senate, 3 in the House)
  • Non-religious or religiously unspecified members: less than 1% (compared to 15% nationally, and there isn't a professed atheist or agnostic among this tiny group)
More stats: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_the_United_States_Congress

So I say revolution. It may be a slow-moving turtle of a movement, but we need to change how things are done as well as remove the dominance of money, and I think challenging the 2-party monopoly on power is the only way to do that. Just like global warming, we need to act now, despite the fact that on the surface things may seem to be ok to some.
[Dana steps down from her soapbox, drops her megaphone, screams for one minute exactly at the top of her lungs, and walks off stage left...]