Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

On Oppression Revisit

January 6, 2008

Quite a while ago, I wrote about racial oppression and the way that two different groups of people handled it. I came across that old post today, and it got me thinking; why was it that by embracing stereotypes we were able to take away their power? It seems like an important question, because removing the power of stereotypes is an important step in creating a society with real equality.

To illustrate my answer, I’ll use myself. I’m very straight, but by no means a real manly man. I hunt, like camping and the outdoors, but I’m a little geeky, shy, and I don’t think much of trying things like cooking and knitting. In Moi’s suite, I spent a lot of time with friends of hers who were gay, and as we got to be friends joking around about me being gay (or turning gay, or having casual gay sex, etc.) became common. I’m not saying that being gay is quite the same as being another stereotype, but I wasn’t any more then a certain free spirit was a “dirty Mexican.” Nor am I going to claim that I am “just that secure in my sexuality.” (What does that mean, anyway? I’ve said it once before and felt… deceitful. But I digress.)

I think the reason this never bothered me was exactly because of the experience I described in the original post: by laughing about the stereotypes, we identify them as distinct from ourselves. I could adopt the persona of my gay self, and it was obvious to everyone I was only kidding around, but when I dropped it, it was gone. I could go to bed at night with Moi knowing I had nothing to prove.

Maybe this all seems like more work then people think is fair, but I don’t think anything could be more difficult then being politically correct all the time. I suppose what we were doing was something like saying, “If I were really ______ (in my case, flamboyantly gay), I would look like this ______ (fabulous!). But I look like me. See the difference?”

The real advantage here was that it was never that painful or obvious. Can you imagine sensitivity training where people have to role play that conversation? (Okay, I can, actually, and let me say this: ouch.) We played that game a lot, but the rules were unspoken, and the result was that it never felt like politically correct race relations, otherwise known as work. It was just funny as hell, and when everyone gets to play, no one feels excluded, no one feels unwelcome.

This Election Season

October 19, 2007

I’ve come to realize something lately. I’ve always associated myself with Democrats, believing that I felt closest to them. However, I’ve always known that the match was imperfect at best. However, this year, I feel like the field is wide open.

I’ve had lots of classes making me consider political issues I’ve never thought of before, and it’s made me realize I’m not at all a Democrat or a Republican. However, since I haven’t got much choice, I will take any candidate who can best deliver the sort of change I want. Scary as it is to admit, that might not just mean a republican, but anyone.

Yes, even Colbert, if he can prove himself to me.

I suppose this is how things always aught to be. Voting along party lines is a waste of time. It doesn’t prove, or improve, anything.

So, come on candidates, impress me!

Colbert

October 17, 2007

So, by now I think a lot of you have heard the good word:

Steven Colbert is running for President of the United States of America.

I know, I am excited too.  And not just because I want a real life Man of the Year (where the comedian doesn’t win on a glitch, stupid ending that that was). I think this, real or not, could actually be pretty good for politics, like a firm smack across the face to politicians. Unfortunately, he’s only running in South Carolina. Maybe I have time to move.

You know what you must do, South Carolinians!

On Activism

October 16, 2007

There was a time in the past when we as Americans were better educated about political issues an candidates. People were more active in local government as well. I think we could be back there again, but that is another post.

Today, most people feel overwhelmed. It seems like everyone has an issue they patronize, and every issue is the issue. Global warming, inflation, immigration, net neutrality, terrorism, the list of crises goes on and on. Every one is touted as the foremost threat to our way of life, our health, our prosperity. I think a lot of people would like to do something, even if it is something small, to help, but they don’t know where to start.

Of course, one option is to do a tiny bit everywhere. Contribute a few dollars to a good cause when you hear about it. Sign a petition. I’m not sure this is a good option, though. Foremost, I don’t think many people will be satisfied with this. Also, its something of an invitation for sensationalism. Supporting whatever cause is fashionable this hour isn’t guaranteed to lead you to any worthwhile cause, and even a few dollars at a time they can easily bleed you dry. A certain amount of focus is necessary. So where should it go?

I would suggest looking for a cause which aids political activism. I’m sure that sounds a little circular – you can’t decide where to put your activism, so you put it towards activism – but here is my reasoning. There are important issues relating to the environment, social issues, etc., but there are also issues relating to politics and our rights, things like free speech and corporate regulation. I would advocate for putting your emphasis on the latter category, because they are so necessary to continue the fight for the issues in the former category.

It could be that everyone could do some small thing and by next year we would be on our way to fixing global warming. What if, at the same time, our ability to protest, unite, and speak out disappear in the face of warrantless searches and  illegal detentions. We would be stuck, one issue down and all the rest forever out of reach.

In short, what I am suggesting to the arm-chair activist is to work towards enabling other activists. This requires a certain amount of faith in the system – adding to free speech ultimately means hearing many things you don’t want to hear in addition to those you do – but it also means keeping ultimate power out of the hands of the self-interested few and with the people. I think that is something everyone can support.

If you’re interested, here is a good place to start. The Electronic Frontier Foundation is working to keep the net neutral. In short, this means keeping access to the internet equal for everyone, both to distribute and view content. They’ve already done a lot of good work. Get My FBI File is a cool place too, which helps you, of course, to get your FBI file under the Freedom of Information Act (as well as your file from the CIA, NSA, DIA, etc). It’s a good way to remind the government that we can still keep tabs on them.

I will try to add to this list as I come across worthwhile causes. In the meantime, pay attention to current events making sure to get both sides of the story. An educated citizen is difficult to control.

On Public Service

October 13, 2007

I am working on that manifesto, but at the moment, it remains unfinished, so instead some thoughts on public service.

I learned recently that my aesthetics professor is running for mayor of his town. In all honesty, I don’t see how he can possibly win. An anarchist mayor in America? Maybe if you head up to Alaska, but not in the lower 48. Still, I wish him all the luck.

Even more-so, I am incredibly  proud of his example. Most people would look at the idea of being mayor, even of a small town, and think it was too much work. Leave it to a politician. Yet everyone hates politicians. Everyone hates the way things are run. Everyone could do it better but no one does.

Public Service is just that, a service to the public. It shouldn’t be about prestige or power, but about a responsibility we all share in as members of a democracy. There were democratic societies in which officials were elected whether they wanted the post or not. Perhaps we need something like that now. After all, politicians suck at leading this country.  The people who could lead are too disgusted by politics to every run for office.

So I admire my professor. I can’t imagine the changes he would spawn as mayor (can you say abolishing the school system?), but the fact that he is running when everything is against him is incredible. He’s a patriot in a way most only claim to be, and it’s made me realize that my level of participation amounts to squat.

We all could take a lesson and dive into politics because it’s a responsibility, not a privilege.

Today I Witnessed A Beautiful Thing

September 17, 2007

As I was leaving my sociology class on Race, Class, and Gender, I overheard two guys chatting behind me. Their conversation, reproduced below, gave me some hope.

Guy 1: Yeah, I read the first thing, but then I got to the second and i was about how evil white people are too! I mean, come on, I didn’t come to this class to be told how much I suck.

Guy 2: Naw, it’s not that you suck, it’s that you’re cool. [Laughs]

Guy 1: [Laughs] Yeah, well, not from this side.

Guy 2: Well, really, it isn’t that you’re bad, just ignorant!

So why did I find this silly conversation so hopeful? Because the first guy was white and the second guy was black, and nothing said in the class, not even openly discussing the “touchy subject” of race relations, could make that racial distinction matter one bit to them.

I don’t want to be misunderstood when I talk about this class, or about the issues it raises. I am not denying that there are problems in our society, or that they should be addressed; rather, I am saying that the state of “political correctness” and race relations in our society is divisive and counter productive.

For now, though, America’s legacy of racial division will have to take a back seat. I have too much Greek philosophy to worry about.

If Democracy Doesn’t Feel Good, You’re Doing It Wrong

August 12, 2007

So, the big news in my life today is that, after a fun day at the beach, I was stranded with Moi, her father, and  her sister for four hours while we waited for a tow truck that was hung up at a major, possibly fatal accident four miles away. The cause of our car’s failure is yet to be determined.

However, something caught my attention that bears mentioning instead. Friends of mine would not be wrong if they told you I have spoken highly of Rudy Guiliani before. Based on his 9/11 performance and my vague (very vague) understanding of his previous contributions to New York City, I may have said that I would accept him failing a good democratic candidate in ’08. Well, all I can say is, I am glad I never put it in writing.

Thanks to Boing Boing, I was made aware of Guiliani’s… let’s call them “unique” views on freedom. A quote from a 1994 speech,

“Freedom is not a concept in which people can do anything they want, be anything they can be. Freedom is about authority. Freedom is about the willingness of every single human being to cede to lawful authority a great deal of discretion about what you do.”

Actually, I’m rather certain that freedom is, exactly, a concept in which people can do anything they want, be anything they can be. Check any dictionary not written by morons and this will be the case. I’ll grant that in America we have decided that one’s freedoms should cease where they begin to impede another’s, and even that this is a hazy, often treacherous ridge to balance on,  “the willingness of every single human being to cede to lawful authority a great deal of discretion about what you do.” is not a ridge that’s even in the same mountain range. I doubt it could be on the same continent.

Guiliani should know that he has lost any chance at my vote. Also, I’d like to put it out there that any candidate who hopes to win, Democrat or Republican, should address as part of their platform undoing the mistakes of the Bush administration, including the reinstatement of basic values like Habeas Corpus for all. With that, I’d like to leave you by reminding you of two basic truths that our forefathers would like us to remember (and if you don’t believe me, just check the first two amendments in the Bill of Rights).

The foremost check on a democratic government
is an educated, vocal, and uncensored populace.

The last, best check on a democratic government
is a well armed populace.