Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Friday, March 18, 2011

Thursday, March 17, 2011


There are more ways than one in which the women’s movement can be co-opted and be cut off from the possi­bilities of becoming an autonomous and revolutionary polit­ical movement. One is that we will assist capitalism to introduce and integrate women into new facets of its ex­ploitative relations. The FINANCIAL TIMES of March 9, 1971, has made clear to those backward capitalists who have not realised it yet, how useful we can be•

…The thousands of trained girls who come out of the universities every year are desperately anx­ious to escape from the triple trap of teaching, nursing, or shorthand-typing…

Many of these girls are clearly of high ability, and they constitute a pool from which skilled middle management could be drawn. They would be as hard working and conscientious as only a grateful outsider could be. and it is conceivable that, in spite of the equal pay legislation, they might not cost as much as male equivalents, at least in the first instance. We will use such women, in in­creasing numbers, when we realise that they exist and feel able to recognise their qualities. Until then. a good deal of talent that is costing a lot of money to train in our universities will continue to be wasted, and British industry will have failed to see a source of renewed energy and vitality that is before its very eyes.

This use of rebellion, to co-opt the most articulate mi­nority for the purpose of developing capital, with “renewed energy and vitality”, is not new and not confined to women. It is the overriding principle of capitalist development. The ex-colonial world whom the British “educated” to self­government, for example, is ruled by “grateful outsiders”. We need to examine how we are to be “used” closely and carefully if we are to prevent ourselves from organising only to assist capitalism to be less backward and in the process further enslaving ourselves, rather than organising to destroy it which is the only possible process of liberation.

Another, but connected, way of co-option has in some measure already taken place, and its agent has been left organisations. They have effectively convinced many of us that if we wish to move to working class women it must be either through them or, more pervasively, through their definitions of the class, their orientations and their kind of actions. It is as though they have stood blocking an open door. They challenge the validity of an autonomous women’s movement either directly or (by treating women, a spe­cially exploited section of the class, as marginal) indi­rectly. For them the “real” working class is white, male and over thirty. Here racism, male supremacy and age supremacy have a common lineage. They effectively want to make us auxiliary to the “general”-struggle -as if they represented the generalisation of the struggle; as if there could be a generalised struggle without women, without men joining with women for women’s demands.

A major issue on which we have swallowed their orienta­tion and been co-opted to defeat our own movement has been on the question of unionising women.

We are told that we must bring women to what is called a “trade union consciousness”. This phrase is Lenin’s and it comes from a pamphlet called “What is to be done.­In many ways it is a brilliant pamphlet, but it was written in the early days of the Russian movement, in 1902. Lenin learnt from the workers and peasants of Russia in 1905 and 1917 and repudiated a good deal of what he wrote before these two revolutions. Left people do not speak of Lenin’s labor conclusions, and in my view much of what passes for left theory (and practice) today is pre-1902. In 1972 this is a serious charge, and I think it can be proved. They can read Lenin and quote him. But unlike Lenin, they are not able to learn from the actions that workers take.

If "multiculturalism" is not just a code for "too many f&#s, n!##&s and k*!&s" the whites-only Midsomer Murders policy now seen as the practise of "multiculturalism" or its refusal?

Anyway, ching chong, ling long, to all yall.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

White Memes And White Dreams


1970s - Empire as Country and City:

1. "Political Correctness Gone Mad"

New Left Project, 2011:

This is why “PC” and “PC gone mad” are virtually identical – a combination of misunderstood hypersensitivity and Newspeak jargon, resulting in apparently euphemised and politically protected identities that politicians can appear paradoxically (and even hypocritically) to prioritise in the name of equality. In this way, PC risks stigmatising differences by placing the possibility of offence as the foremost concern in a pluralistic society, and may prevent an individual distinguishing themselves positively from their negative, implicitly problematic collective identity. Consequently, cultural homogeneity is seen as an attractive oppositional remedy.

Given all this, it is easy to see why PC is such a popular right-wing sounding board. The right has the additional advantage of its legions of shrill crusading evangelists of ‘Widdy-Wisdom’; the resulting contrast with the more cautionary, dovish left compounds the sense of traitorous effacement of ‘national identity’ that many perceive in PC.

Clifford Geertz, 1984:

What the relativists, so called, want us to worry about is provincialism – the danger that our perceptions will be dulled, our intellects constricted, and our sympathies narrowed by the overlearned and overvalued acceptances of our own society. What the anti-relativists, self-declared, want us to worry about, and worry about and worry about, as though our very souls depended upon it, is a kind of spiritual entropy, a heat death of the mind, in which everything is as significant, thus as insignificant, as everything else: anything goes, to each his own, you pays your money and you takes your choice, I know what I like, not in the south, tout comprendre, c’est tout pardonner.

As I have already suggested, I myself find provincialism altogether the more real concern so far as what actually goes on in the world. (Though even there, the thing can be overdone: “You might as well fall flat on your face," one of Thurber’s marvellous "morals" goes, “as lean too far over backward.”) The image of vast numbers of anthropology readers running around in so cosmopolitan a frame of mind as to have no views as to what is and isn’t true, or good, or beautiful, seems to me largely a fantasy. There may be some genuine nihilists out there, along Rodeo Drive or around Times Square, but I doubt very many have become such as a result of an excessive sensitivity to the claims of other cultures; and at least most of the people I meet, read, and read about, and indeed I myself, are all too committed to something or other, usually parochial. “‘Tis the eye of childhood that fears a painted devil”: anti-relativism has largely concocted the anxiety is lives from.

But surely I exaggerate? Surely anti-relativists, secure in the knowledge that rattling gourds cannot cause thunder and that eating people is wrong, cannot be so excitable? Listen, then, to William Gass, novelist, philosopher, précieux, and pop-eyed observer of anthropologists’ ways:

Anthropologists or not, we all used to call them “natives” – those little, distant, jungle and island people – and we came to recognize the unscientific snobbery in that. Even our more respectable journals could show them naked without offense, because their pendulous or pointed breasts were as inhuman to us as the udder of a cow. Shortly we came to our senses and had them dress. We grew to distrust our own point of view, our local certainties, and embraced relativism, although it is one of the scabbier whores; and we went on to endorse a nice equality among cultures, each of which was carrying out its task of coalescing, conversing and structuring some society. A large sense of superiority was one of the white man’s burdens, and that weight, released, was replaced by an equally heavy sense of guilt.

Zizek, First as Tragedy, Then as Farce:

…[Once we understand that the intellectual aspect of the Haitian revolution was supplied by white Frenchmen, w]e white Leftist men and women are free to leave behind the politically correct process of endless self-torturing guilt. Although Pascal Bruckner's critique of contemporary Left often approaches the absurd, this does not prevent him from occasionally generating pertinent insights--one cannot but agree with him when he detects in European politically correct self-flagellation an inverted form of clinging to one's superiority. Whenever the West is attacked, its first reaction is not aggressive defence but self-probing: what did we do to deserve it? We are ultimately to be blamed for the evils of the world; Third World catastrophes and terrorist violence are merely reactions to our crimes. The positive form of the White Man's Burden (his responsibility for civilizing the colonized barbarians) is thus merely replaced by its negative form (the burden of the white man's guilt): if we can no longer be the benevolent masters of the Third World, we can at least be the privileged source of evil, patronizingly depriving others of responsibility for their fate (when a Third World country engages in terrible crimes, it is never fully its own responsibility, but always an after-effect of colonization: they are merely imitating what their colonial masters used to do, and so on):

We need our miserabilist clichés about Africa, Asia, Latin America, in order to confirm the cliché of a predatory, deadly West. Our noisy stigmatizations only serve to mask the wounded self-love: we no longer make the law. Other cultures know it, and they continue to culpabilize us only to escape our judgments on them.

Zizek, 2009:

To provoke people when I’m asked about racism, I like to do my line I love racism, I can’t imagine my life without racism, there there’s no progressive movement now without racism. I’m not crazy…Now comes the preacher part, the real….what do I mean by this is that there is something false about this respectful multiculturalist tolerance…my God, for me political correctness is still inverted racism…let’s cut the crap, let’s say we want to become friends, there has to be a politically incorrect exchange of obscenity. You know, some dirty joke or whatever, whose meaning is “cut the crap we are now real friends”. And I can tell you this from my wonderful experience here, you want a shocking story you will hear it. How did I become here a friend, a true friend, am not advising anybody to do it because it was a risky gesture, but it worked wonderfully with a -with a -with a black, African-American guy. No? How did I become? We were very friendly, already, but not really, but then I risk and told him, it’s a horrible thing I warn you, is it true that you blacks you know have a big penis, no? but that you can even move it so that if you have on your leg above your knee a fly you can Boff! smash it with your penis. The guy embraced me and told me dying of laughter “now you can call me a nigger.” Like when blacks tell you “you can call me a nigger” means they really accept you no?

Kai Chang, 2006:

As it's commonly used, "PC" is a deliberately imprecise expression (just try finding or writing a terse, precise definition) because its objective isn't to communicate a substantive idea, but simply to sneer and snivel about the linguistic and cultural burdens of treating all people with the respect and sensitivity with which they wish to be treated. Thus, the Herculean effort required to call me "Asian American" rather than "chink" is seen as a concession to "the PC police", an unsettling infringement on the free-wheeling conversation of, I suppose, "non-chinks". Having to refer to black folks as "African Americans" rather than various historically-prevalent epithets surely strikes some red-blooded blue-balled white-men as a form of cultural oppression. Having to refer to "women" rather than "bitches" lays a violent buzzkill on the bar-room banter of men preoccupied with beating on their chests and off other body parts.

Obviously these examples fall on the simplistic side of things, but I think they illustrate the shaky philosophical foundation of today's usage. Underlying every complaint of "PC" is the absurd notion that members of dominant mainstream society have been victimized by an arbitrarily hypersensitive prohibition against linguistic and cultural constructions that are considered historical manifestations of bigotry. It's no coincidence that "PC"-snivelers are for the most part white men who are essentially saying, "Who the hell do these marginalized groups think they are to tell me how I should or shouldn't portray them? I'm not going to say 'mentally challenged' when it's my right to say 'retard', goshdarnit there's only so much abuse I'll take!"

Gary Younge, 2011:

On 18 February 1943, Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's minister of propaganda, took to the stage at Berlin's sports palace calling for "total war". "Two thousand years of western civilisation are in danger," he said, before going on to blame his favourite scapegoat. "Things have gone so far in Europe that one cannot call a danger a danger when it is caused by the Jews."

Hari: Can We Talk About Muslim Homophobia Now?

When gay people were cruelly oppressed, we didn't form gangs to beat up other minorities. We organized democratically and appealed to our fellow citizens' sense of decency.

What Hari does with the identities in this piece is very important to observe. He constructs white gays as a category signifying innocence, belonging to which erases individual crimes (for example his own enabling of aggressive war, mass murder, maiming, rape and torture); in contrast he constructs Muslims as a guilty category, belonging to which implicates an individual in all the crimes other members of the category perpetrate (despite the impatient "concessions" that of course not all Muslims...) because the individual Muslims' crimes are explicitly attributed to the environment that is the community. Persisting in being a Muslim, part of a "Muslim community," crucially enables the production of criminal deviant individuals who inevitably emerge from the specific deviant characteristics of this community permeated with Islam. In the three card monty trickery of his prose, Hari establishes that "Muslims" are to (implicitly white male) "Gays" as an individual Muslim guilty of gaybashing is to Harvey Milk, rather than "Muslims" are to "Gays" as say Hanife Karakus is to Roy Cohen, Ernst Rohm, or Pim Fortuyn, or "Muslims" are to "Gays" as one of the Iraqis Hari arranged to have raped and tortured in Abu Ghraib is to Hari who assisted in delivering him or her to the torturers there (torturers Hari naturally gave the benefit of the doubt for kindness and trustworthiness, being of the innocent, civilised types they are, and thus judged perfectly fit to enjoy despotic control over conquered Arabs.)

Establishing "gays" as a group imbued not only with innocence but with civilisation, bearer and corollary of "democracy", "solidarity with fellow citizens" and "decency", immune to the criminality of individual members of the category "gay", Hari employs and revitalises the ideology of white supremacy and individualism to distinguish the members of his group designation from the horde-being of the socially toxic orientals on the subject of whose evil he claims he is being silenced in an outrageous manner that compounds the portrait of their "community" as the opposite of all the lovely things characteristic of "gays", here, evoked as Hari's own tribe, representing a familiar figure often referred to as "the West", European civilisation, white culture. In addition to democracy and decency, Hari and "gays" are associated with liberty and self-expression in contrast to the repressive, silencing, threatening Muslims who menace him and declare their loathing openly, a thing harmless "We Gays" simply would never do.

Hari easily conjures the white supremacist paradigm - which can be activated by very few words - which divides humanity into the raceless and the raced, the self-fashioning and the wool-dyed cultured (who also, however, are responsible for the choice of belonging), to support his insinuations about the degeneration of Western Civilisation brought about by a minority Muslim presence, and strengthen his assertions regarding the connection between homophobic and misogynist violence in the UK and contamination by a foreign culture. He practises what is by now a set of common evasions alongside the deployment of motifs which serve as shorthand for this Heimat/heathen worldview, for example the image of a foreign, murky, infectious invasion establishing regions plagued by an evil miasma, an insalubrious environment around the Muslim nests where homophobia will "incubate". An enlightened journalist like Hari, who must respect facts and data (and avoid making statements too easily debunked), is bound to concede that all Muslims may not individually be homophobes, and all Muslims homophobes may not be violent criminals, but he can nonethless suggest compellingly that if they were not protected and nourished by their flourishing hives, and insulated from the wholesome, democratic, tolerant, nonviolent, decent host society, Muslim individuals would not dare to be violent criminal homophobes. Hari is careful to explain, in few words of inarguable confidence, that the whole community's existence is vital for the criminality to be sustained and defended against criticism. Violent homophobic individuals, whose ghastly acts are vividly presented, sprout from the unhealthy overgrowth of their fellow Muslims, all of whom seep Islam. Therefore in 'tolerating' the community as a whole, in failing to master it, tend and weed it, to civilise and supervise it, Hari and his fellows have allowed the seeds of evil it breeds to effloresce. Each Muslim in these infestations may not be him- or herself a violent reactionary criminal, but all contribute to the population density of their hive which is the condition for the growth of the poison mushrooms:

These [acts of horrific anti-gay violence] are not isolated incidents. East London has seen the highest increase in homophobic attacks anywhere in Britain, and some of the worst in Europe. Everybody knows why, and nobody wants to say it. It is because East London has the highest Muslim population in Britain, and we have allowed a fanatically intolerant attitude towards gay people to incubate there, in the name of 'tolerance'.

Hari would not of course dream of explaining the staggering violence, chemical poisoning, immiseration, terrorism and sadism to which he eagerly submitted the majority Muslim population of a whole country, straight, gay, lesbian and trans, with reference to our lack of vigilance as the white nests expanded. He really, I think, cannot imagine any meaningful connection to be made between the homophobic tortures (unto death in cases) which he considered an acceptable risk to force others to take for his benevolent dream of "a better Iraq" and the density of atheist whites among whom pernicious qualities ferment into imperial intentions, in the community in which he lives and works, and which infected him as part of this white infestation, a toxin and deadly parasite on the global host society, and whose hives incubate - as everyone knows, and few dare to say because of the ridicule, ostracism, career sacrifice, abuse it provokes - sadistic patriarchal white supremacy and myths of white collective innocence to seduce those from lesser rungs of wealth to assist in the adventures spurred by the cupidity of the higher eschelons of the elites. While it is certainly true that not all white gay men are as depraved as Karl Rove or as willing to abet profitable crimes against humanity as Johann Hari, would Hari suggest it is the overgrowth of white hives that produces and emboldens the individual imperial aggressors, their soldiers and propagandists, their courtiers and accessories?

Slavoj Zizek, 2010:

Socially, what is most toxic is the foreign Neighbor—the strange abyss of his pleasures, beliefs and customs. Consequently, the ultimate aim of all rules of interpersonal relations is to quarantine (or at least neutralize and contain) this toxic dimension, and thereby reduce the foreign Neighbor—by removing his otherness—to an unthreatening fellow man. The end result: today’s tolerant liberal multiculturalism is an experience of the Other deprived of its Otherness—the decaffeinated Other who dances fascinating dances and has an ecologically sound holistic approach to reality while features like wife beating remain out of sight.


2. Whitewash

It's instructive to compare the anxiety of racial contamination and the decline of the American Empire (patriarchal white supremacy) of these successful and influential American 80s films, (Back to the Future, Blue Velvet) and how they conceal, provoke and allay it (this is one of those bizarre Zizney style speaking-for/as-to-speak-against Caveman-Reckless Tortuga-toned things but it states the case) to the infantile, fan-focussed, feverishly hardworking fantasies of whiteness that have developed in the new century, from Le Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain to Red Riding Hood.


Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell:

In this novel, a fanastic "alternative history" of England (and an English Britain) is constructed, equipped with a parallel magic universe, solely to expell the problems of slavery and white supremacy - these features of real history which taint the mythology and prevent the decent contemporary reader's pure pleasure in entertainments steeped in it - to this magic otherworld. The removal of Stephen the black slave to another world, a marvellous underworld constructed solely to accomodate him, cleanses the mythic history - the immensely popular Regency Austen fanastyland - marred by the requirement ("politically correct") to acknowlegde not only his presence but some of the terrible reality to which his figure refers, for renewed guiltless enjoyment (indeed for enjoyment with enhanced self-congratulation). Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell performs an operation on the chauvinist, and childish, fantasy of Regency England much like that which the spectacle has performed on the white race - whiteness is all the sturdier for being digitised, coded for mobility, detached from any crude materialism or biologism, just as the Europe of Derrida's Eurosupremacism is rendered invulnerable to anti-colonialism and anti-imperialism by abstraction, spectralisation, flexibility. In Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, mythical English history and glory is affirmed, as entertainment saved from the soiling of anti-racist, anti-imperialism and anti-colonialist critique, and the wish for goodness and self-approval of white nostalgic English readers (discursively constituted in spectacle like Europe and whiteness) is gratified by the narrative arranging to accord the victims of real English history (represented by a black slave) a seperate kingdom, a dark realm of magic, over which to rule. This other realm, where magic reigns and is produced for use in the "ordinary" world, is presented as the magical forge of glorious English history, at once conceding and concealing the fact of the exploited African labour engine of Englishness and Empire. But it is not a realm of suffering; rather this Faerie - like all such realms an enchanted idea of fecund and unfathomable nature, to which the black slave is appropriately consigned in the white supremacist scheme - is flaunted as the compensation to Stephen (and those he represents) who must be evicted from the vision of history to sustain the chauvistic and childish delight taken in more naïve versions; it is recompense to those who spoil the pristine fantasy of Regency England for their expulsion - again - from the pleasant stories of romance and adventure, and on another plane for the exploitation and expropriation in concrete history as well. It is a compensation designed to set the English reader's mind at ease, free it to take pleasure in the fables of national past and simultaneously to gratify that sentimentality associated with Dickens and seeming to do and delight in providential justice. This delivery of Stephen the black slave out of slavery to a kingdom of his own is offered as a relief from an alternative with which the author has menaced her readers throughout the text - an alternative imaginitive justice which sees a black slave rising to the throne of the alternative Britain and which enthrones servant/slave as hero of novels, dethroning white gentlemen and their gentleladies. That idea - that vision of an African king on a British throne brought about by the whirligig of history - is suggested, or really paraded as a danger with tremendous anxiety, and finally rejected and evaded with the help of "English magic" (associated with a genre of children's literature) which preserves English patriotic myth and an alternative history which alters nothing of the nationalistic fantasy. "English magic" is finally nothing other than the white supremacist imagination.

Stardust, a comic big budget fairytale film, can be compared to its predecessor (as the promotional material had it) The Princess Bride to bring out this same style of pandering to the same kinds of impulses, supplying itself with the alibi of tradition (it's about childhood and wonder, the stories we loved as children seen through the simple Jungian schemes we loved as adolescents) for the sin of reaction and nostalgia, as are catered to by Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell and Le Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain:

From here, the inevitable trajectory for Hollywood would be through Disney rides and children's classics, to infantilised, attenuated, kiddieporny, violent videogame versions of folktales.

Monday, March 14, 2011


Jaime Semprun writing in 1986 about the nuclear lobby:

The problem addressed by these fanatics has thus absolutely nothing to do with the placing of restraints, however limited, on the appalling capriciousness of their deadly machinery. On this point, at least, they are unshakeable. No, the only thing that disturbs whatever they have for minds is the fact that their hapless victims have the temerity to rebel against their state of ignorance and demand access to precise knowledge of what is being inflicted upon them. Such persistence is liable to compromise the chief advantage enjoyed by nuclear energy as compared with other power sources such as coal. Despite oil's efforts to hold its own, at Maracaibo or elsewhere, radioactivity remains unarguably superior to the side-effects of all other technologies in that its main results become tangible only long after the egregious sets of circumstances that make the front pages of the newspapers. In this sense, too, radiation is marvelously adapted to the needs of the spectacle: we talk about it, forget it, then we suffer its effects, and die from it, in silence. Thus what needs to be concealed -- the essential reality of the phenomenon -- is conveniently relegated to a hypothetical future time, there to dissolve into statistical abstraction in company with the dangers of smoking and the death toll on the roads. This is what makes it possible to compare the Chernobyl catastrophe to a football riot.

Clifford Geertz "Anti Anti-Relativism"

PDF here. Via.

victim of moral equivalence

Bungled benevolence:


He wants to write about how he is victimised by these stickers but he's terrorised by the political correctness Gestapo into always having to almost write about how his generosity to others doesn't always succeed perfectly, as if there were a moral equivalence between deliberate offensive stickering and regrettably necessary aggressive war.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Mehdi Belhaj Kacem

As a Tunisian, I was already tired of the haughty contempt of those, always from important bourgeois universities, who have never stepped foot in a dictatorship but nonetheless think, from a distance, that Chinese concentration camps–they’re just great, the same thing as Lacan’s couch. I had had enough of the position typical of seventies’ leftism, the contempt for the Law, this way of saying that when all is said and done capitalist dictatorship is the same everywhere. At best it’s ridiculous, at worst obscene. This “hatred of democracy,” as Rancière puts it, which for the last few years has been eating away at the French intellectual extreme-left and beyond. This haughty contempt, as you put it, for formal “freedoms.” It’s always from within a democracy that one plays the trendy provocateur thumbing his nose at democracy. It’s always when one is protected by the Law that one can say, from the perspective of “the” political truth dreamed up in one’s office or some prestigious academic chair, that Law has no importance. It’s always when one already enjoys formal freedoms that one can scorn them elsewhere. There are no fewer rich on the side of “radical chic” than on the right, and in both cases, as if by chance, all those who make these kinds of remarks come from the grand bourgeoisie, and so give themselves away, even if they brandish the little red book to shock the gallery. Those who make these kinds of remarks are no better than those who, during the Tunisian revolution and now elsewhere, claim to see Islamism everywhere.

That’s what Adorno said to the Frankfurt students when they would quote Mao to him, “just like your grandparent’s quoting the Prince of poets.” He would tell them that he knew “what it was like to have someone ring at your door at six o’clock in the morning, not knowing if it’s the baker or the Gestapo.” The Tunisians have ended twenty years during which every day they knew what Adorno meant....

...If Badiou and Zizek make fools of themselves with their reflections on the event, it’s because they haven’t understood that a crucial event has made it such that Tunisia in 2011 is in a state of philosophical-political awareness and in a more advanced state in general, if I may say so, than post-Maoist China and post-Stalinist Russia are today.

The Tunisian Revolution is an event because the whole Tunisian people, as a people, are experiencing freedom, here and now. All the social barriers are falling away, just like in ’68. Every voice is free. The Russian or Chinese people, in 2011, as a people, have still not experienced freedom. They went directly from a medieval system to an armed dictatorship of equality–what Adorno called “left fascism.” That’s the reason why the Tunisian event is already a historic event: the Tunisians are collectively experiencing freedom and, in the truth of the event, we see that a people that experiences freedom also experiences equality. That’s the hard lesson that the Tunisian event gives to our academic Stalinist dinosaurs.

Kojève said, rather humorously: “They take me for a leftist Hegelian. But I’m a right-wing Marxist.” He said that Fordism was part of Marxist politics and that he’s the one who thought up the Marshall plan. I’d rather be that kind of right-wing Marxist than a postmodern leftist fascist.


Il suffit, même inculte en philosophie, même très peu lettré, d’égrener mon lexique pour savoir quel inconscient forclos travaillait cette philosophie. « Torture ». « Surveillance ». « Persécution ». « Mal ». « Droit ». « Mort ». Et quel « même » inconscient m’a poussé, fatalement, à la brouille subjective avec Alain B. La révolte philosophique, elle, couvait depuis longtemps ; seuls ceux qui ne lisent que du quatrième de couverture ne s’en doutaient pas.

Une grave dépression, de février en juin 2010, fut salutaire, de me pousser à m’avouer ce que je ne supportais plus. L’anti-démocratisme de comptoir gauchiste. Le mépris, très poseur gauchiste aussi, pour la question du Droit. L’anti-féminisme. L’égalitarisme abstrait, c’est-à-dire concrètement tyrannique. L’absence absolue de la question de la liberté, au cœur de ma dialectique propre qui a renversé la manière dont la métaphysique abordait communément le lien unissant transgression et législation. Du scandale obscène que constitue l’héroïsme grand bourgeois abstrait de qui n’a jamais fait la guerre, mais se livre à une agonistique permanente, et administre, à soixante-quinze ans, que la mort n’est rien, qu’il faut y être indifférent, et qu’on doit être prêt à verser autant de sang qu’il faudra pour la bonne cause. Les événements récents, l’héroïsme effectif du peuple tunisien, les sueurs froides que moi et ma compagne tunisienne avons endurées vingt-quatre heures sur vingt-quatre pendant des semaines en songeant à nos familles et à nos amis, ont achevé de ce que cet « héroïsme » universitaire m’apparaisse dans toute son obscénité.

esmiss esmoore

Billionaire wit and philanthropist Jeffrey Epstein's reputation in danger from his ties to sleazy British crime family.

Friday, March 11, 2011

"Logic", "structure", "patriotism" & "right-brained persons": Bradley Manning's father speaks


JUDY WOODRUFF: Next, we turn to the
interview with the father of accused WikiLeaks source, Pvt. Bradley Manning. Kwame Holman puts it in context.

KWAME HOLMAN: Pvt. Bradley Manning is the 23-year-old Army intelligence analyst accused of stealing thousands of classified government documents and providing them to WikiLeaks. He is in custody at the U.S. Marine brig in Quantico, Va., where he is confined to his cell 23 hours a day under what's called a prevention-of-injury watch.

Last week, there was a change in his imprisonment. Manning was stripped of his clothing at night. Manning's attorney, David Coombs, has reported the brig's action followed his client's complaint that the so-called prevention-of-injury restrictions on him were absurd. Manning said if he wanted to harm himself, he could do so with the elastic waistband of his underwear. In an exclusive "Frontline" interview this week with correspondent Martin Smith, Bradley Manning's father, Brian Manning, talked for the first time about his son's incarceration.

MARTIN SMITH: You decided that you wanted to sit down and talk today because you want to complain publicly about the conditions of his imprisonment.

BRIAN MANNING, father of Pvt. Bradley Manning: Yes.

MARTIN SMITH: And those conditions are?

BRIAN MANNING: Well, he's being -- his clothing is being taken away from him, and he's being humiliated by having to stand at attention in front of people, male or female that I -- as far as I know, you know, that are fully clothed.

MARTIN SMITH: Who tells you that?

BRIAN MANNING: I read it in the statement that was put out by his civilian attorney. I mean, this is someone that has not been -- you know, gone to trial or been convicted of anything. And that's prompted me to -- you know, to come out and go forward. I mean, they worry about people down in -- you know, in a base in Cuba, but here they are, have someone in, you know, on our own soil and under their own control, and they're treating him this way. I mean, it's -- you know, I just can't believe -- you just can't believe it. I mean, it's shocking enough that I would come out of, you know, our silence, as a family, and say, you know, now then this -- you know, you have crossed the line. This is wrong.

KWAME HOLMAN: Today, the NewsHour asked the military for a response to Brian Manning's assertions. A statement from the Department of Defense said in part:

"The circumstances of PFC Manning's pretrial confinement are regularly reviewed, and complies in all respects with U.S. law and Department of Defense regulations.

"In recent days, as the result of concerns for PFC Manning's personal safety, his undergarments were taken from him during sleeping hours. He was not made to stand naked for morning count, but on one day, he chose to do so. There were no female personnel present at the time. PFC Manning has since been issued a garment to sleep in at night. He is clothed in a standard jumpsuit during the day. None of the conditions under which PFC Manning is held are punitive in nature."

In his interview with "Frontline," Brian Manning says he saw no signs
of suicidal intentions in his son.

MARTIN SMITH: How many times have you visited him?

BRIAN MANNING: Approximately eight or nine times.

MARTIN SMITH: During those visits, has he ever mentioned any complaint of any kind to you?

BRIAN MANNING: No. I always, you know, am conscientious enough to look him straight in the eyes and ask him a direct question. How are they treating you? Are you sleeping? Is the food OK? And he's always responded that: Things are just fine.

MARTIN SMITH: How does he look?

BRIAN MANNING: He looks good.

MARTIN SMITH: And he doesn't complain about being shackled?

BRIAN MANNING: No. He doesn't complain at all about anything.

MARTIN SMITH: It wouldn't be surprising for somebody in solitary confinement to be suffering a bit.

BRIAN MANNING: Oh, I'm sure.

MARTIN SMITH: It's surprising to me that you described him as somebody who's doing well.

BRIAN MANNING: He comes across to me as doing well.

MARTIN SMITH: He's in solitary confinement. That's tremendously difficult, psychologically and physically.

BRIAN MANNING: I understand that.

MARTIN SMITH: So, are you surprised that he's doing as well as he is?

BRIAN MANNING: I'm happy that he's doing as well as he is.

MARTIN SMITH: So, is there any reason that Bradley wouldn't confide in you if things were tough for him there?


KWAME HOLMAN: Brian Manning was himself in the service, the Navy, where he held a security clearance. Stealing and sharing classified information is wrong, he says, and the whole WikiLeaks situation angers him. But he told Martin Smith he does not believe his son did what the Army has accused him of doing.

MARTIN SMITH: Does it surprise you that Bradley had access to this much information?


MARTIN SMITH: And what will you say if it turns out that he leaked these documents?

BRIAN MANNING: I don't know. I mean, I'm not even -- I'm not even letting those thoughts come into my head. I'm thinking positively.

MARTIN SMITH: Is that always easy to do?


MARTIN SMITH: You don't think he had it in him to do this?

BRIAN MANNING: I don't think that the amount and the volume of things and the environment he worked in, no, I don't think so.

MARTIN SMITH: You don't think it's possible he -- he could have had this kind of intent?

BRIAN MANNING: I don't know why he would do that. I -- I really don't.

MARTIN SMITH: Was he patriotic?

BRIAN MANNING: I don't think he followed any regime of any kind.

MARTIN SMITH: You don't think he was a patriot of the United States?

BRIAN MANNING: I imagine he was just as much as you and I.

MARTIN SMITH: Well, you knew -- he's your son. You knew him. Was he patriotic?

BRIAN MANNING: It never came up. I mean, he never said anything anti-American.

MARTIN SMITH: He joined the Army.

BRIAN MANNING: At my twisting his arm, yes.

MARTIN SMITH: So, he joined the Army because you made him do it?

BRIAN MANNING: I didn't make him. I twisted his arm and urged him as much as a father can possibly urge somebody.

MARTIN SMITH: He didn't want to join the Army?

BRIAN MANNING: No, he did not. And he had expressed that.

MARTIN SMITH: Why did you make him -- or why did you twist his arm to join the Army?

BRIAN MANNING: Because he needed structure in his life. He was aimless. And I was going on my own experience. When I was growing up, that's the only thing that, you know, put the structure in my life was by joining the Navy. And everything's been fine since then.

MARTIN SMITH: From talking to you, it doesn't seem -- I mean, you don't wear your emotions on your sleeve. If you're feeling something about his situation, I'm not hearing it.

BRIAN MANNING: There's a certain point, you know, when -- you reach where you can either accept things, you know, and -- and try and do as much as you possibly can, and then there's no point in dwelling upon it. I mean, there relatively is nothing I can do at this point, except support him, you know, as a father would support a son that -- that's in this situation.

MARTIN SMITH: But that's a very rational [sic] answer. Emotions don't respond to that kind of logic.

BRIAN MANNING: Well, I guess I'm just a right-brained person. You know, I think logically.

MARTIN SMITH: But you raised this kid. You played with him. Now he's sitting in a prison...


MARTIN SMITH: ... facing severe penalties, very, very serious charges pending.

BRIAN MANNING: That's correct.

MARTIN SMITH: I would guess that that is very hard to -- to square.

BRIAN MANNING: Well, as I said, once -- once you make the -- the -- can rationalize it to the point is that they're -- as I said, they're -- all the things I could possibly do, you have done, OK, and just wait for the next move on the chessboard. I mean, all's I can do is support him.

KWAME HOLMAN: More of Brian Manning's interview will appear in a
profile of his son Bradley in a special "Frontline"
broadcast March 29, ahead of a documentary on WikiLeaks coming in May.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

"Totalitarian" aesthetics

The thing is, the appeals of styles, forms and narratives are not universal. People are in different situations. White citizens of Empire (identifying themselves as "the West", "Western Civilisation" and "Modernity"), especially men produced by a violent patriarchal process of socialisation, can be comforted by the ubiquitous erections, the displays of power and authority of a ruling class and state they identify as more or less parental, the animating spirit of their patria. Visions of vast resources marshalled to fulfill design can seem beautiful to those who "belong" to the power manifested. Others - the victim populations, subjected to exploitation, expropriation, terror, torture and murder by the same dominant forces which the white citizens look to for security, provision and protection in exchange for collaboration - may find these same styles and forms and the concrete objects which embody them hideous, repellant and threatening. Expropriation underlies all these identifications and claims of cultural ownership/origins, and re-expropriation always remains an option, but not everyone will accept the same criteria for beauty, and those which are so evidently ideologically charged and propagandistic may be most widely rejected, loathed, and dismissed. There is no point (beyond the assertion of one's own superiority, and the reiteration of threat) in scolding those who are appalled by these forms and styles for their poor taste, their prejudices against the "universal" ideal of beauty, their insufficient appreciation for the erections of the barbaric white supremacist capitalist imperial powers; there is no point insisting they look upon themselves as white or potentially whitened after sufficient striving - potentially "westernised".

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Sons don’t want their father’s “balls”

If we give credence to the research detailing the centrality of affection in father-son relations and the relative irrelevance of the father’s “masculinity,” it becomes clear that boys don’t hunger for fathers who will model traditional mores of masculinity. They hunger for fathers who will rescue them from it. They need fathers who have themselves emerged from the gauntlet of their own socialization with some degree of emotional intactness. Sons don’t want their father’s “balls”; they want their hearts. And, for many, the heart of a father is a difficult item to come by. Oftentimes, the lost boy the depressed son must recover is the one not he but his father has disavowed.

- Terrence Real, quoted by Allegro at the Rigorous Intuition discussion board.

Orion, Zipangu, Siddartha

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Reality TV

One of the effects of pervasive self-conscious self-consiousness and reflexivity in postmodern-period narrative is that passages like this:

[Rosa Luxemburg] had a sharp eye for incongruity. Announcing to Zetkin on 2 April 1911 that Lenin had visited for the fourth time, she declared: "I enjoy talking with him, he's clever and well educated, and has such an ugly mug, the kind I like to look at." Lenin, the consummate politician, paid court to Luxemburg's beloved cat, Mimi, declaring that "only in Siberia had he seen such a magnificent creature, that she was a barskii kot – a majestic cat". Mimi had "rolled on her back and behaved enticingly towards him, but when he tried to approach her she whacked him with a paw and snarled like a tiger".

striving openly to "humanize" towering historical figures, and charm with the reassuring revelation of their frail mortality, have the opposite effect - suggesting that the scene of Lenin playing with Luxemburg's cat, superimposed on the scene of Luxemburg writing of this scene to her friend, is worth recounting because marvellous, miraculous, the enchantment of everyday life by contact with divinity, that is, with lasting fame. The result is a pungency of contrivance and what feels like deliberate triviality. Rowbotham is merely following old rules for such pieces of light arts journalism, laying out fragments of fact chosen to give an impression of a vibrant and fascinating character sketched on the fly. But the environment has changed since these customs were developed, and she inescapably finds herself narrating Luxemburg and Lenin within an episode of celebrity Big Brother.

How we got here...


Friday, March 04, 2011

Neverending painful shitzek

I wish Johann Hari could be cured of his bigotry and imperialist ideology; some of his critics I know insist that bigotry and racism is just lack of education, just ignorance, and that all you have to do is explain to people like Hari that we're all the same deep down, and it goes away. Would it were so, because he's done some valuable reporting, and he wrote one of my favourite antizizek lines ever:

Zizek is fond of riffing on objects from everyday life, and talks in the film about a "chocolate laxative" he recently bought in a chemist. It's an apt image, because Zizek himself is like a chocolate laxative - sweet at first taste, but ultimately leaves only a torrent of painful shit.

And it keeps flowing, as today in the New Statesman on Israeli expansionism and apartheid:

A. There is no seige of Gaza, there have been no bombardments.... The "main form terror takes" in the region is anonymous "pressure" on the West Bank, described so vaguely as even to confuse an uninformed reader about who is poisoned and who poisoning: "Now that the attacks have fallen greatly in number, the main form that terror takes is continuous, low-level pressure on the West Bank (water poisonings, crop burnings and arson attacks on mosques). Shall we conclude that, though violence doesn't work, renouncing it works even less well?"

B. "Although neither side wants it (Israel would probably prefer the areas of the West Bank that it is ready to cede to become a part of Jordan, while the Palestinians consider the land that has fallen to Israel since 1967 to be theirs), the establishment of two states is somehow accepted as the only feasible solution" What can one say? There were folks who were sceptical when I pointed out how weasly and propagandistic that "Israel Can't Win" letter was, with its abbreviated demands, not even adequate to satisfy international law, posing as radical extremism on "the Palestinian side" and hostile to Israel, its insinuation that humanitarian aid was a kind of despicably soft issue, no urgent concern, and its seeking to frame the issue in such a way as to suggest a view that should Israel "win" - succeed in imposing its will - then this would have to be accepted as legitimate, the outcome of a political struggle between rivals and enemies, and not a crime. This paragraph should put doubts about the justice of my reading of those ambiguities, omissions and implications to rest.

C. And of course we have the usual smattering of creepy, icky old imagery: right from the start, "Arab men" and "Jewish girls" (the difference expressed as racial not confessional). It's women who are the objects of raids to retrieve them from "hostile" villages (what is he quoting "hostile" - that "Wild West" word - from?), but in the next sentence it's girls again, confirmed "seduced" by adults:

The guardians of Jewish purity are bothered that Jewish girls are being seduced by Palestinian men. The head of Kiryat Gat's welfare unit said: "The girls, in their innocence, go with the exploitative Arab."

d. Finally the scourge of "identity politics", the chammpion of an (aryanism in disguise as) universalism requiring, so he says, the "elimination" of "the Jews" who are the particularist, multiculturalist, tribalists par excellence laments: "What is saddening is that many Israelis seem to be doing all they can to transform the unique Jewish nation into just another nation..... As for the Israeli defenders of Jewish purity: they want to protect it so much that they are ready to forsake the very core of Jewish identity."

Never take the hand.

Two seconds later he yanked her with that seemingly oh so well-intentioned hand she so trustingly clasped and ripped that shmata from her head.

That's why you always have to remember, my sisters, don't clasp the hand.


Sort of related to the conversation below about the tormented David Foster Wallace, and the fêted Jonathan Franzen, the "tribal writers" the one wrote to the other of, enviously and disdainfully, the purported appeal of purportedly "universal" themes in literature (such as Madeleines and Memory), the ease with which bourgeois white brevetted intellectuals claim universalism and accuse others of particularism even as they discuss among themselves what the whites should do about and with those tribes, whether they don't exist at all or just at a very low intensity, and how they should be read, what they mean, what part of whiteness and white experience they represent, and Oprah's book's an excerpt from The Heart of a Woman:

The Cultural Association for Women of African Heritage had its second meeting at Abbey's luxury penthouse apartment on Columbus Avenue, Several weeks before, we had agreed on a charter, a policy statement and a name: CAWAH, It sounded exotic We agreed, The newly founded organization included dancers, teachers, singers, writers and musicians, Our intention was to support all black civil rights groups, The charter, as drawn up by Sarah Wright and signed unanimously by the membership, stated that since the entire power of the United States was arrayed in fury against the very existence of the Afro- mericans, we, members of CAWAH, would offer ourselves to raise money for, promote and publicize any gathering sincerely engaged in developing a just society, It further stated that our members, multitalented, would agree, after an assenting vote, to perform dance concerts, song fests, fashion shows and general protest marches.

Abbey's living room filled with strident voices, Should we or should we not insist that every member show her commitment to being black by wearing unstraightened hair. Abbey, Rosa and I already wore the short-cut natural, but it was the other women, with tresses hanging down like horse's manes, who argued that the naturals should be compulsory.

"I've made an appointment for next Friday. I'm having all this shit cut off because I believe that I should let the world know that I'm proud to be black." The woman placed her hands on the back of her neck and lifted years of hair growth.

I said, "I don't agree." I would miss seeing her long black pageboy.

Abbey said, "I don't agree either. Hair is a part of woman's glory. She ought to wear it any way she wants to. You don't get out of one trick bag by jumping into another. I wear my hair like this because I like it and Max likes it. But I'd dye it green if! thought it would look better."

We all laughed and put that discussion aside, addressing ourselves to plans for an immense fashion show based on an African theme and showing African designs. Abbey said, "In Harlem, I'm sick of black folks meeting in white hotels to talk about how rotten white folks are." So Rosa and I were assigned to find a suitable auditorium for the affair.

Rosa and I met on 125th Street and the first thing she said was "Lumumba is dead." She continued in a horror-constricted voice, saying that she had learned of the assassination from Congolese diplomats, but that there would be no announcement until the coming Friday when Adlai Stevenson, the United States delegate to the United Nations, would break the news.

I said nothing. I knew no words which would match the emptiness of the moment. Patrice Lumumba, Kwame Nkrumah and Sekou Toure were the Holy African Triumvirate which radical black Americans held dear, and we needed our leaders desperately. We had been abused, and so long abused, that the loss of one hero was a setback of such proportion it could dishearten us and weaken the struggle.

We were walking aimlessly, in a fog, when the sound of people talking, moving, shouting, broke into our stupor. We allowed ourselves to be drawn to the corner where the Nation of Islam was holding a mass meeting.

The street corner wriggled with movement as white policemen nervously guarded the intersection. A rapt crowd had pushed as close as possible to the platform where Malcolm X stood flanked by a cadre of well-dressed solemn men. Television crews on flatbed trucks angled their cameras at the crowded dais.

Malcolm stood at the microphone.

"Every person under the sound of my voice is a soldier. You are either fighting for your freedom or betraying the fight for freedom or enlisted in the army to deny somebody else's freedom."

His voice, deep and textured, reached through the crowd, across the street to the tenement windows where listeners leaned half their bodies out into the spring air.

"The black man has been programmed to die. To die either by his own hand, the hand of his brother or at the hand of a blue- eyed devil trained to do one thing: take the black man's life."

The crowd agreed noisily. Malcolm waited for quiet. "The Honorable Elijah Muhammad offers the only possible out for the black man. Accept Allah as the creator, Muhammad as His Messenger and the White American as the devil. If you don't believe he's a devil, look how he's made your life a hell."

Black people yelled and swayed. Policemen patted their unbuttoned holsters.

Rosa and I nodded at each other. The Muslim tirade was just what we needed to hear. Malcolm thrilled us with his love and understanding of black folks and his loathing of whites and their cruelty.

Unable to get close to the platform, we pushed ourselves into Mr. Micheaux's bookshop and watched and listened in the doorway.

"Talk, Malcolm."

Malcolm roared back, his face a golden-yellow in the sun, his hair rusty-red.

"If you want to live at any cost, say nothing but 'yes, sir' and do nothing except bow and scrape and bend your knees to the devil. But if you want your freedom, you'd better study the teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, and start respecting your women. Straighten out your home affairs and stop cheating on your wives. You know who you're really cheating?"

Female voices shot up like arrows over the crowd. "Tell these fools, brother Malcolm." "Tell them to stop acting like little boys." "Explain it. Explain it on down." "Break it down."

Malcolm took a breath and leaned toward the microphone. "You are cheating your fathers and mothers and grandfathers and grandmothers and-you-are-cheating-Allah."

A man on the platform lifted his hands, showing copper palms, and chanted in Arabic.

After a burst of applause, Malcolm paused and looked solemnly at the crowd. People stopped moving; the air became still. When he spoke again his tone was soft and sweet.

"Some of you think there are good whites, don't you? Some good white folks you've worked for, or worked with or went to school with or even married. Don't you?"

The listeners exchanged a grumble of denial.

Malcolm continued speaking low, nearly whispering. "There are whites who give money to the SCLC, the NAACP and the Urban League. Some even go so far as to march with you in the streets. But let me tell you who they are. Any white American who says he's your friend is either weak"-he waited for the word to have its effect and when he spoke again his voice growled-"or he's an infiltrator. Either he'll be too scared to help you when you need help or he's getting close to you so he can find out your plans and deliver you back in chains to his brothers."

The street corner exploded with sound as anger and recognition collided. When Malcolm finished speaking the crowd yelled their approval of the fire-hot leader. Rosa and I waited in the bookstore until most of the people left the corner.

We walked without speaking to Frank's Restaurant. Again there was no need to talk. Malcolm's words were harsh, but too close to the bitter truth to argue. Our people were alone. As always, alone. We could not expect protection from whites even if they happened to be our relatives. Slave-owning fathers had sold black sons and daughters. White sisters had put their black sisters in slave coffins for a price.

Rosa and I drank at the bar, not looking at each other.

"What can we do?"

"What do you think?" Rosa turned to me sadly as if I had failed her. She had been counting on me to be intelligent. She continued, frowning, "What the shit do you think? We've got to move. We've got to let the Congolese and all the other Africans know that we are with them. Whether we come from New York City or the South or from the West Indies, that black people are a people and we are equally oppressed."

I ordered another drink.

The only possible action that occurred to me was to call the members of CAWAH and throw the idea out for open discussion. Among us we would find something to do. Something large enough to awaken the black American community in New York.

Rosa didn't think much of my idea but she agreed to go along.

About ten women met at my house. Immediately the tone was fractious and suspicious. How did Rosa know Lumumba was dead? There had been no announcement in the newspapers.

Rosa said she had gotten her news from reliable sources.

Some members said that they thought our organization had been formed to support the black American civil rights struggle. Weren't we trying to swallow too much, biting into Africa? Except for Sekou Toure and Tom Mboya, when had the Africans backed us?

One woman, a fashion model, hinted that my husband and Rosa's diplomat boyfriend made us partial to the African cause. Abbey said that was a stupid attitude, and what happens in Africa affects every black American.

One woman said the only thing Africans had really done for us was to sell our ancestors into slavery.

I reminded the conservatives in our group that Martin Luther King had said that he found great inspiration and brotherly support on his recent trip to Africa.

Rosa spoke abruptly. "Some of us are going to do something. We don't know just what. But all the rest of you who aren't interested, why'n the hell don't you get your asses out and stop taking up our time?"

As usual when she got excited, her West Indian accent appeared and the music in her voice contradicted the words she chose.

Abbey got up and stood by the door. A rustle of clothes, the scraping of shoes, and the door slammed and six women were left in the living room.

Abbey brought brandy and we got down to business. After a short, fierce talk our decisions were made. On Friday, we would attend the General Session of the United Nations. We would carry black pieces of cloth, and when Adlai Stevenson started to make his announcement on Lumumba's death, we six women would use bobby pins and clip mourning veils to the front of our hair and then stand together in the great hall. It wasn't much to do but it was dramatic. Abbey thought some men might join us. She knew Max would like to come along. Amece, Rosa's sister, knew two West Indian revolutionaries who would like to be included. If men joined us, we would make elasticized arm bands, and at the proper moment, the men could slip the black bands up their sleeves and stand with the women. That was the idea. No mass movement but still a dramatic statement.

As the meeting was coming to an end, I remembered a piece of advice Vus had given a few young African freedom fighters:

"Never allow yourself to be cut off from the people. Predators use the separation tactic with great success. If you're going to do something radical go to the masses. Let them know who you are. That is your only hope of protection."

I quoted Vus to the women and suggested that we let some folks in Harlem know what we intended to do. Everyone agreed. We would go to Mr. Micheaux; he could pass the word around Harlem faster than an orchestra of conga drums.

The next afternoon we went back to the bookstore, where posters of blacks covered every inch of wall space not taken up by shelves: Marcus Garvey, dressed in military finery, drove forever in an open car on one wall. W. E. B. DuBois gazed haughtily above the heads of book browsers. Malcom X, Martin Luther King and an array of African chiefs stared down in varying degrees of ferocity.

Mr. Micheaux was fast moving, quick talking and small. His skin was the color of a faded manila envelope. We stopped him on one of his spins through the aisles. He listened to our plans impatiently, nodding his head.

"Yeah. The people ought to know. Tell them yourselves. Yeah, you tell them." His short staccato sentences popped out of his mouth like exploding cherry bombs. "Come back this evening. I'll have them here. Not nigger time. On time. Seven-thirty. You tell them."

He turned, neatly avoiding customers In the crowded aisle.

A little after seven o'clock at the corner of Seventh Avenue, we had to push our way through a crowd of people who thronged the sidewalks. We thought the Muslims, or the Universal Improvement Association, were holding a meeting, or Daddy Grace and his flock were drumming up souls for Christ. Of course, it was a warm spring evening and already the small apartments were suffocating. Anything could have brought the people into the streets.

Mr. Micheaux's amplified voice reached us as we neared the bookstore.

"A lot of you say Africa ain't your business, ain't your business. But you are fools. Niggers and fools. And that's what the white man wants you to be. You made a cracker laugh. Ha, ha." His voice barked. "Ha, ha, crackers laugh."

Because of my height, I could see him on a platform in front of the store. He held on to a standing microphone and turned his body from left to right, his jacket flapping and a short-brim brown hat shading his face from view.

"Abbey, these people"-the human crush was denser nearer to the bookstore-"these people are here to hear us."

She grabbed my hand and I took Rosa's arm. We pressed on.

"Some of your sisters are going to be talking to you. Talking to you about Africa. In a few minutes, they're gonna tell you about Lumumba. Patrice Lumumba. About the goddam Belgians. About the United Nations. If you are ignorant niggers, go home. Don't stay. Don't listen. And all you goddam finks in the crowd-run back and tell your white masters what I said. Tell 'em what these black women are going to say. Tell 'em about J. A. Rogers' books, which prove that Africans had kingdoms before white folks knew how to bathe. Don't forget Brother Malcolm. Don't forget Frederick Douglass. Tell 'em. Everybody except ignorant niggers say 'Get off my back, Charlie. Get off my goddam back.' Here they come now." He had seen us. "Come on, Abbey, come on, Myra, you and Rosa. Come on. Get up here and talk. They waiting for you."

Unknown hands helped us up onto the unstable platform. Abbey walked to the microphone, poised and beautiful. Rosa and I stood behind her and I looked out at the crowd. Thousands of black, brown and yellow faces looked back at me. This was more than we bargained for. My knees weakened and my legs wobbled.

"We are members of CAWAH. Cultural Association for Women of African Heritage. We have learned that our brother, Lumumba, has been killed in the Congo."

The crowd moaned.

"Oh my God."

"Oh no."

"Who killed him?"


"Tell us who."

Abbey looked around at Rosa and me. Her face showed her nervousness.

Mr. Micheaux shouted. "Tell 'em. They want to know."

Abbey turned back to the microphone. ''I'm not going to say the Belgians."

The crowd screamed. "Who?"

"I won't say the French or the Americans."


It was a large hungry sound.

"I'll say the whites killed a black man. Another black man."

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Privilege And Safety

Jessica Hoffmann's Letter to White Feminists, about white privilege and "safety" as attained in proximity to power, remains food for thought (brought to mind by the Johann Hari controversy):

My comments here are hugely influenced by critiques of white feminism put forth over generations by women of color, critiques I'm guessing you're familiar with. Maybe you're even nodding because you feel like you've reckoned with them. Maybe it bums you out that past generations of white feminists had such a white-supremacy/class-privilege problem. Maybe This Bridge Called My Back was required reading in your first women's studies class and you know all about "intersectionality," making a point in your feminist projects to "include" the voices and issues of women of color, working-class and poor white women, and maybe even trans folks and members of other groups historically marginalized by dominant feminisms. I'm pretty sure about all this because many of you have told me so -- in personal conversations and workshops, in your books and blogs and …

Yet it doesn't look to me like you've really reckoned with those critiques. It looks more like you appropriate or tokenize them, using their language while continuing to center white, class-privileged women's experiences in your "feminism" and engaging in political work that upholds and strengthens white supremacy and economic exploitation -- sometimes directly undermining the social-change work of feminists of color.

And, yes, you deserve some concrete examples of that, which is why I'm writing. My intention isn't to repeat the critiques of feminists of color, but to offer some specific instances in which I, a white, class-privileged feminist who is often privy to your conversations and who can identify with the experiences and perspectives of privilege, have recently seen this playing out. At this particular historical moment, it seems to happen frequently around the disconnect between white feminists' notions of "safety" as an ideal we should organize around, and, on the other side of the not-so-fun funhouse mirror, organizing by feminists of color around policing/prisons and immigration/borders -- issues that expose the fantasy of "safety" as a product of privilege; issues that feminists of color have increasingly centered in their activism while white feminists seem to be struggling to understand whether they are feminist issues at all.

Prisons (or, Safety for Whom?)

In recent years, members of INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence have incisively and repeatedly critiqued the white-feminist-led antiviolence movement for its reliance on (and, thus, complicity with) the U.S. criminal-legal system, which uses the rhetoric of "safety" to destroy communities of color, squash dissent, and create profit for private corporations. Yet the primary macro-level strategies of the white-feminist-led movement against domestic violence and sexual assault continue to rely on this system, with a major focus on legislation such as the Violence Against Women Act and the push for hate-crimes laws to include gender and sexual orientation. On the micro/personal level, I have repeatedly seen white, class-privileged feminists unhesitatingly call upon police to protect and serve them; have listened to white feminists advise each other on which "authorities" to go to for protection from stalkers and other abusers; and so on.

At both the macro level of feminist movement strategy and the micro/personal level of individual actions, I'm struck by the apparent lack of awareness of the prominent critiques made by feminists of color of law-and-order approaches to ending (or, even, finding "safety" from) violence. To be a self-identified feminist activist apparently unaware of (or, worse, deliberately skirting) the current work of not only INCITE! but also feminist icons like Angela Davis and numerous other voices calling for abolition of the prison industrial complex as a key element of social change seems to me to be part of a movement that is not only disconnected from but also damaging to some of the most vibrant and potentially liberating social-justice organizing happening today.
Jared Ball talks to Dr. James Turner about the development of Africana Studies in the academy, and Black Consciousness, Black Arts Movement, the black student movement, and other matters in the struggle for social justice and against white supremacy in culture.

He reads from the Institute for the Black World pamphlet by Lenore Bennet:

It is necessary for us to develop new frames of reference which transcend the limits of white concepts. It is necessary for us to develop and maintain a total intellectual offensive against the false universality of white concepts, whether they are expressed by William Styron or Daniel Patrick Moynihan. By and large reality has been conceptualized in terms of narrow points of view of the small minority of white men who live in Europe and North America. We must abandon the partial frames of references of our oppressor and create new concepts which will release our reality, the reality of the overwhelming majority of men and women on the globe. We must say to the white world that there are things in this world that are not dreamt of in your history, in your sociology, in your philosophy.