About Me

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Grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. Richmond, El Cerrito, Berkeley, Oakland. My time now is mostly spent getting better at being a person, refining my time management skills, trying to read normal people books and articles, and learning how to be a force for good.

T1D Life in full effect. 

I will never stop learning, nor will I stop working to make a difference for someone.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Nationalism: the poison of belonging

It's been a while since I posted. I know this Will Austin. I've come up with a bunch of really interesting topics to blog out. But alas, 'tis the end of a semester. I'm in the midst of a big ol' paper for Social Stratification, and it's really fun. It has taken over my life as of now, and so I must be honest about getting back to bloggin' come mid-December. So, I'm posting my final short paper for Social Stratification. The book was written by the professor of the course, who at first seemed a little over-the-top critical, but as the semester has progressed I have gained a whole lot of respect for her style. She not only tackles subjects with tenacity, and doesn't let us get away with anything, but also acknowledges her own limitations regarding subjectivity. She's a damned good editor as well-I can't remember a professor since 7/8th grade English that really took my writing to task. If you attend UH Manoa and need some Sociology coursework, I'd highly recommend taking courses Nandita Sharma is teaching.

So, even though I've already gotten feedback from her about this shorty, I'm posting it as-submitted. Hope someone enjoys it.

SOC 754, Social Stratification
Due: 11/18/10
Evaluation of: Home Economics: Nationalism and the Making of ‘Migrant Workers’ in Canada

            Why is citizenship in a capitalist nation-state so coveted? What are the benefits of citizenship in a capitalist nation-state? First, we must truthfully admit that in first world capitalist nation-states, the benefits of citizenship can include certain protections as an employee, and fewer personal restrictions on movement within and without the nation-state. Further, citizens are far less likely to face discrimination in as many forms, and can find that there are solutions to some complicated issues available to citizens that are not available to non-citizens. Citizenship certainly does not alleviate racial, gender, and sexuality biases; however, being a citizen means there is one less category in which to find the self punished for naturally occurring realities. When acclimating to a new place to live, work and engage in socialization and social mobility of some kind, being classified as a non-citizen can be extremely damaging. Employment opportunities cease to be viable for legal or social reasons; education can be almost impossible if not incredibly difficult to obtain and maintain. However, in terms of access to basic lifestyle resources, non-citizenship in a society favoring nationalism creates a severely limiting situation.
            Canada seems no different from any capitalist nation-state in terms of political action against marginalized peoples who move there from other nation-states in order to better their lives. Groups of citizens who hold seats of power use fear tactics such as blaming economic challenges on ‘immigrants’. To say that immigrants are ‘stealing’ opportunities from citizens is ludicrous at best, at worst a way to ingrain a constant feeling of fear of an ‘other’. The creation of the Canadian person as a non-immigrant is also a false representation of ownership of place, if we take into account that peoples of European descent are not the first folks to inhabit the physical land designated as Canada. Further, race is always a factor in the operationalization of placing nationality upon a person, regardless of their compliance with state-mandated requirements regarding citizenship. Not to mention the never-ending and forever progressive requirements of attaining legal citizenship, let alone being forced into a perpetual state of legal non-citizenship worker status. People who look different than what is assumed to represent a ‘proper’ idea of a citizen are marginalized within the social order of Canada, such as we might see from looking at the social order of the United States. The structure of the nation-state of Canada has allowed for peoples of European descent who migrated to Canada to attain a position of political and social dominance over others that are labeled and therefore publicly assumed to be ‘others’. With this in mind, a very interesting discussion emerges: the framing of internal ‘us’ and external ‘them’ within the context of globalization.
            In Canada as well as in the United States, people moving to the capitalist giants with the intention of staying, do so at great personal risk. Not only can things go wrong during a transition to a different country, but upon arrival in the new place creating a life may prove to be more challenging than anticipated. Especially when we consider that nationalist tendencies involve some very strong xenophobia. This seemingly natural xenophobia, when coupled with the fear of globalization, makes for a much more difficult daily life, and far fewer options as a newly relocated resident. If the local culture is such that nationalism has overridden a sense of hospitality towards newcomers, the reality of not only marginalization but exclusion will settle in. Laws regarding the restriction of citizenship can start to emerge and be seen by mainstream society as commonplace to a society such as this one. Restrictions may limit citizenship to those who are ‘natural born’ or born when the parent is in the country. Some countries may even restrict citizenship to people born to parents who are already citizens, making the attainment of citizenship practically impossible. All these restrictions or threats of restriction stem from a nationalist perspective of wanting to minimize the ‘pollution’ of the presumed existing strong natural nation-state. The perceived damage done by an influx of folks moving to a country that holds the promise of wealth becomes folklore with assumed truth associated with it. This in turn creates a seemingly natural fear of outsiders, or those not associated with appropriate levels of nationalist spirit are cast out of the potential area for belonging, and the comfort of home is forever unattainable. But now I ask: when nationalism assists in a fight for release from oppression, should we argue against the retention of the language of nationalist movements, in exchange for a global inclusion?
            My only critique of this text is this: how can we de-nationalize nation-states to create a global community? It is certainly a much more civilized and compassionate way to think about the population of the earth. But with nationalism in such a place of significance, what could we do to eliminate this fundamental part of understanding who we are? If we were to eliminate the need for identity politics of all kinds, how would we bring about the kind of global change that would make nation-states obsolete? I am not saying I do not support the thesis; I am saying that the challenges associated with the pure emancipation of the singular person from an identifiable and definable collective would, I imagine, prove to be spectacularly complicated. Though I believe the difficulties within this process would stem from a lack of understanding of how to relate to others without the defining factors of nationality, and not from a lack of desire to expel exclusionary and compassionless politics. In a post-nationalist global society lies a world of true democratic purpose and freedom; the way to reach this kind of almost-utopian world is still out of reach within a capitalistic structure of the ultra-comfortable vs. the perpetually exploited.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Aime Cesaire's Discourse on Colonialism

Sorry it's been a little while, if anyone was thinking, "ya know, that Street Philosopher dude hasn't posted anything in a while. Wonder if he's alive?" The answer would be alive-ish. Loving the life here in Hawaii, although I'm still workin' out some of my time management. I did get to do dinner last night with my dad, cousin, her hubbs and their friends which was a great relief from the everyday.

Here's a shorty I wrote on the above titled work for Social Stratification. Hope it actually makes some sense...I wasn't sleeping and was hopped up on caffeine. Enjoy if you will.

SOC 754, Social Stratification
Due: 11/4/10
Critical Evaluation for: Discourse on Colonialism

            Cesaire pulls no symbolic punches in Discourse, and weaves a compelling narrative of what it means to colonize. Not necessarily a narrative in the simple sense of a story from beginning to end, but in a context-heavy and consequence focused description. The main concepts derive from an anti-colonial viewpoint, and seem simple enough:
  • The act of colonizing[1] dehumanizes the colonizers just as much if not more so than the colonized, and;
  • Colonialism holds within itself the destruction of the colonized world at both the point of colonization and the origination.
            Here we have a wonderful opportunity to examine the effects of colonialism on the institution of governance and social control. To visit the first concept, as colonial powers institute rule over peoples that were previously free of colonial rule, there is always a backlash against the colonialism in some way. More often than not, this backlash is necessarily violent and easily understood by the colonizing power as the actions of uncivilized lunacy. This easy categorization of non-European peoples[2] as uncivilized, which includes undeveloped both technologically and politically from the colonizing point of view, allows for a forceful ‘civilizing’ to be undertaken. Languages are un-taught and the colonizing language is substituted in the example of the Native Americans’ ‘re-education’ otherwise known as the ‘save the native’ campaign in early United States history. Familial organization is reorganized to resemble the colonizing ideology of family and community as we can see within the Christianized Samoa and familial values undergoing a massive shift to unquestionable male domination. Land and the means of personal and cultural subsistence are appropriated to assume the appearance, or more subtly the feel, of the original socio-physical place of the colonizing force as we might observe in the constructed forts and surrounding townships in Africa and the Europeanization of the social and political landscape there.[3] Because such serious steps to ‘civilize’ the peoples of colonized places were deemed necessary, it is not a far logical jump to then assume that the resistance whether violent or otherwise is obviously lacking in foresight and proper temperament. Ethnocentricity and blatant racism aside, to forcibly adapt someone to another culture would seem unconscionable if perpetrated against the colonizing force; however, the colonizers excuse their lack of compassion and self-respect, and overabundance of violent oppression as necessary steps in what they might describe as the objectively right direction. An inference to our current militaristic occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan is easily bridged.[4] The colonized will fight, and simple answers to the deep philosophical questions of what liberation and progress mean are inadequate when accounting for the social realities of other peoples.
            So, we can see that relatively contemporary documentation to support the theory of the brutality and dehumanization of colonialism is well within reach, as are historical parallels. Cesaire draws upon the history of the Roman Empire and its downfall from both external forces of attack and rebellion from within. The symbiotic relationships of neighboring peoples is described deftly, as are the repercussions of enveloping others in order to assume control of a people different from the crusading colonizing force. As the colonial empire grows; as the people who are colonized are forcibly removed from their own culture and communal spirit; as biting hunger for further expansion escalates within the colonial force; so too does the danger of revolt from within the colony and without. Protecting interests not yet appropriated for the use of the colonizers would hold as much validity as reclaiming a colonized home. If there are only those within and without, instead of a cacophony of cultures, civilizations and peoples, we are left with the idea of ‘us’ and ‘them’ instantly creating the divisive and fear-inspiring totality within the binary language of colonial rights and responsibilities.[5] Cesaire is also adept at pointing out the inherent dangers of nationalism substituting for collective organization and identity as a colonized population. While the colonized peoples may break free of the direct control of colonial rule, he argues that care must be taken to avoid settling in within the institutional structures left behind by a defeated colonial occupation. This is not only an interesting philosophical point, it is also practical if we think of the effects of living within a rigid system of right and wrong, or proper and improper for an indefinite amount of time and awakening to find that some form of social cohesion and direction must be found.
            Cesaire’s only weakness that I perceived was his dual recognition of the bourgeoisie as both negligent controlling class and potential saving grace of the proletariat. I would agree that if a shift in bourgeois consciousness regarding the malformation of colonial intent were to occur, the bourgeois could in fact play a vital role in the art of reorganizing a more equitable societal foundation and structure. Conversely, I would argue that it might seem impractical for a class of people, who benefit both directly and indirectly from the social and cultural enslavement of a perceived lower class of people, to do anything to change the fundamental nature of the system supporting their comfort. To say that it might or should be the underlying foundation of a truly civilized society to never accept such audacious colonial abuses I think would be appropriate. Thinking that it might one day be more than likely I would posit is a stretch. This would require an awakening from comfort such that has not really been seen in contemporary history, and I think it is safe to say neither is there evidence of such an awakening occurring in a significant historical context. That said, there is no reason not to fight for such a monumental call for equity, sustainability, and from what I can see, global survival.

[1] And the subsequent acts of barbarism as described by Cesaire.
[2] In this case, European colonialism is the current colonizing power under literary scrutiny, and in contemporary effect.
[3] Including masterfully organized and socially reinforced apartheid and racially motivated brutality.
[4] Invade country, enable corporate development projects and force a specific style of governmental rule on the people of the country, continue to eradicate dissenting voices; this sounds like colonization to me. Couldn’t we have done with a black-book operation to remove an oppressive regime instead of resorting to poorly excused slaughter?
[5] I recognize that I wrote this in a style similar to Cesaire, however I must say that it seems quite effective. I promise my work is still my own.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


My decision to move here to follow my soul's passion is testing me in ways I didn't anticipate. I have everything I need to succeed long term: patience, stamina and determination. However, I find myself missing the people I have grown to love over the last seven years in southern California, and my people back in nor Cal. It will be worth it I know; I'm just feeling the distance right now. Time to kick it into gear, yeah?

This goes out to my favorite people in no specific order starting with the friends: Marvin, Kristin, the new Mrs. Aguilar, Will, G, Bob, Mark, Willy, Ana, Holly, Bling (Chris, fine I said it), Rach, Derek (and Jo), Kizzle, PZ, Fabunismus, Alexa, Koma, AdavBigRed, Smitty, Mad Dog, the rest of the crew.

The fam: Dad (who I'm very glad to have nearby), Momma, Russ, John, Wolfram (I couldn't be happier about your arrival and plans to stay), Malcolm, Heidi, Julie and Scott, Pam, Gary, Emery, Rosie, Jesus and Rainette, etc.

I'm hoping this can do some justice. I know it will make me feel a little better.

The late nights, the early mornings,
Deep conversations and timely bullshit warnings.
That time I tried to let go of my sanity,
You reminded me to silence the panic inside me.

A decision made, a thousand more to make,
I try to remember to give more than I take.
It's not as easy without you here,
I grew so accustomed to having you near.

It's not always painful, and sometimes seems fleeting,
But it's hard not knowing the next time we'll be meeting.
Investing in the future sometimes seems fatal,
Even so I'm certain that with patience I'll be grateful.

For everything we've done together or apart,
I know that living well is a true form of art.
In everything I've done, know I've tried my best,
To thank you for literally being the best.

Not usually with a card or a dollar invested,
Time spent is the currency of this market life-tested.
To think I may not have done enough,
Is the fear that haunts me and makes daydreams rough.

You're best human being I could ever have asked
To think me worthy of your time that's passed.
I hope you understand, know and feel,
That I would do anything to be your shield.

From pain, suffering, anguish and attack,
That I could feel for you, the knives aimed at your back.
To be someone you trust with yourself and your soul,
I will do anything, to help you keep yourself whole.

I know I haven't always been the most stellar,
Friend, colleague, companion or bullshit detector.
I just want you to know, from my truth to yours,
I will strive to be everything you need, want, and deserve.

It almost never seems that I have kept,
My end of this mutual bargain we've decided to accept.
I hope that eventually, I'll know for sure,
That I've done my part; you sure as hell have done yours.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Demonization of Women for the sake of Capitalism

I posted the first draft of a paper for my social stratification course a few days ago, and here's the final product pre-submission. Over the last couple of weeks we read Silvia Federici's Caliban and the Witch: Women the Body and Primitive Accumulation. I'm posting it in the hopes that maybe I'll get some feedback or start a conversation or few. Here goes:

SOC 754, Social Stratification
Due: 9/30/10
Critical Evaluation for: Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation

            Silvia Federici paints a very clear picture of the intimate connections between capitalism, imperialist expansion and the witch hunts. What seems to stand out is her focus on what we have discussed as an accumulation of differences. This accumulation stems from a systematic devaluation and demonization of women, and a simultaneous twisting of female sexuality, access to community through healing and social organization, as well as a merging of religious ideology and centralized state control. This process, which could seem overly complicated to protectors of capitalism, is thoroughly explained and organized in Caliban. Class warfare was eventually won using gender genocide and political control of sexuality and social understanding of what it means to be human.[1] The historical timeline investigated in both Caliban and The Origin of Capitalism is the same, yet I felt more compelled to sink into Federici’s exploration of the devaluation and subsequent demonization of women as a gender.[2]
            At a time when feudal communities were transitioning into state-sanctioned privatized business opportunities for landowners, the working and farming classes were organizing grassroots struggles against the expropriation of workers, and fighting the loss of their previously natural rights of land ownership. This wasn’t just a political move; this was taking the right to survive under one’s own power away from an entire population of people in one broad, long-term swipe. Women organized these rebellious movements extremely effectively, and did so many times over. However, as privatization of access to the ownership of the means of production occurred, so did the understanding of what people were worth. Community was slowly becoming less of a lifestyle and more of a place. The physical body, as it could be understood, was transitioning from just a part of existence to an existential thing to be understood and examined. Popular philosophers of the time began to draw conclusions based on the needs of the bourgeois and the ruling classes to control what was becoming the proletariat.
This proletarianization was accompanied by Federici’s accumulation of differences between the sexes, as women were being devalued for the work they did as healers, mothers, community organizers, and protectors of knowledge, and were turned into naturally evil beings. Primarily, the idea of work was becoming more and more associated with a wage-earning place within the market system, and what became known as “women’s work” was not involved in the creation of a market-demanded labor product.[3] This goes against all humanity and logic along with it, but control was necessary if the upper classes and landowners were to cement their place at the top of the social food chain. While this did coincide with the ruling classes’ need to control the production of a work force, it also coincided with a dehumanization of all women, no matter their class. The loss of the midwife as a social norm and their replacement by male doctors resulted in male control of reproduction, thus the vilification of midwives and healers. Healing was one of the first roles that women played in their community that was propagandized as witchcraft. Two main themes here are state institutionalization of religious rhetoric regarding morality (i.e. the devil), and philosophical dissemination of the idea that the body is just a physical tool with impulses; the mind should ‘refine’ the body’s ‘ill nature’. During this social and institutional process, any and all women could be suspect of communing with the devil in order to batter, de-masculinize and undermine the male society.[4]
Sexuality was identified by the great philosophers of the time as a bodily urge that was unclean in both spirit and practice. Women had already been assigned a worth as lesser yet more evil beings at the mercy of the devil, and were now thought to lack the intrinsic ability to reach the bourgeois mind/body equilibrium. The bourgeois ‘lady’[5] came to symbolize womanhood. In other words, strong femininity was sinful, and against the ‘natural order’ of things.[6] By criminalizing witchcraft,[7] the physical and social bodies of women were illegalized.
Federici’s theory highlights the impact of the accumulation of differences between men and women at a societal level. This interpretation of primitive accumulation begs a discussion of the process of elite classes exerting influence over social relations and social structure.  Widely disseminated propagandized ideologies and ground-level genocidal efforts can be ultimately effective in the implementation of capitalist social stratification. Differences included: inherent trustworthiness or the opposite, sanity, righteousness, clean or manipulative sexuality, knowledge collection and production, ability to reason; these all contributed to the transition of women from community leaders to slave class. In today’s world, I see the effects of witch-hunting everywhere that capitalism has reached. Namely, the implicit assumptions still surrounding the concept of ‘women’s work’, the still lurking idea of natural feminine insanity[8], the mainstream assumption that women deserve to be raped, the list goes on. The capitalistic notion of ownership of the means of (re)production[9] has relegated women to a position of defense, and it is the perpetual defense of the self on an institutional level that masculinity has never had to endure in the same way.

[1] The physical body was now becoming just a tool of production, for a wage and usually for someone else’s profit.
[2] Unlike Wood, which was a fairly good snapshot of the rise of Capitalism on a global scale from the hills of England and France, I felt like Federici made this text engaging in a very different way.
[3] I have to say that this is really outrageous, given that women were literally giving birth to the workforce.
[4] That the church placed man at the head of all social institutions is telling, in that religious idols were historically feminine and rarely masculine in vision. Witchcraft’s mother goddess was very challenging to the church and the state as complicit conspirators in the social upheaval of the ‘transition’ to capitalism.
[5] Meaning quiet, housebound, mannered and subservient to male authority.
[6] So, following Descartes’ logic, the natural order of things is dirty and to be controlled, yet we should ‘naturally’ assume that women are supposed to be subservient to men…the more I read about how this happened the more I want to call it collective insanity.
[7] The practices of witchcraft equalized men and women intrinsically, and didn’t need a separation of social power to begin with.
[8] I would argue that we’re all nuts.
[9] An infuriating political battle in play now.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Why Won't the President Help Me?

I think the title says it all. Building off of a good post from The Urban Politico, the idea that President Obama should be doing everything for everyone is absurd. We can talk about how he promised to do this and that, but his promises always came with a caveat: we all have to work together.

It has become commonplace for those in certain portions of our population to say that President Obama didn't keep his word. I find that hard to swallow. Back when Obama's Presidency was about 6 months old, Robert P. Watson, American Studies Coordinator at Lynn University put together this list of accomplishments. It's not a small list, and it certainly can be challenged at points as Betty Dubose Hamilton discusses on The Rag Blog here. That a president hasn't done everything for everyone, I have to admit doesn't bother me. That he might not be fighting to get his way or the highway all the time, should come as a comfort to many, although from what we can hear now, apparently our presidents are supposed to be not only infallible, but able to work magic.

Here's what I've always said: this man not only has a huge mess to clean up, but he's gotta fight against racism in a constant battle that almost all people of color have to fight every day. Now, we're expecting him to get everything done, fight or dismiss racism, bigotry and hatred, and coordinate the running of one of the most significant countries on the planet? That's insane. I'll repeat: that idea, if you agree with it, makes you literally insane. If you think Obama is just the same ol' same ol', you're dead wrong. He's made concessions in order to get things done. The right has fought his efforts even when he's tried to enact change based on THEIR IDEAS! If you think this isn't racism at work, (as well as a number of other things) I think you're missing the point. Not to mention, we've been arguing for the government to leave us alone a little bit, yet we're asking this guy to solve every issue we can come up with.

That he might take a more proactive approach to racial relations, cheers. I think that would be a positive thing. However, if he were to tell the truth about race in America all the time, he'd never get anything passed through the government. He doesn't even have to be doing anything that directly addresses racial disparities, and he's attacked for being a "white hater." (See Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, two people you cannot dismiss because of their far-reaching attempts to demonize him, as mainstream culture has always demonized not only leaders of color, but also people of color in general.) I've gotta say this though: he's working his ass off! It's not like he's lounging on golf courses for a majority of his presidency. He's actually in office, getting things done. This is in contrast to our previous president, who took more vacation days than a teacher. A look at first year presidential vacation records is available from fact-check.org.

I think my main point here is this: Obama fought racism in order to get elected. The miracle of an elected president of color in our country is staggering. It's only a step, and in terms of the steps we must take to dismantle our racist social and political institutions in the United States, I would argue it's a relatively mid-sized step. That said, he "miracled" himself into the White House: true. Should that allow us to assume that he can work every other miracle we want him to? I would argue no. It shouldn't mean that because of that miracle, we can expect many others. So, we've got this elected president of color, who is definitely brilliant, but we cannot expect him to do everything for every one of us. What is it that we like to say to people who are struggling? Oh, right: if you work hard enough, you can accomplish anything. While I think this is bullshit, I agree that we should be telling these "outraged voters" this same thing, instead of shooting idealistic hatred at a guy who's trying to hold a country together. Where was this outrage over the last two presidential terms? Ah, right, it was buried in our social subconscious. Just waiting for someone we hoped would Superman our way out of trouble.

Get a grip people. We should expect a lot from our elected officials. But not at the expense of our collective sanity.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The first 'medicine from a patient's perspective'

Medicine in the United States is a complicated beast, mainly because of the differences in experience between professionals and patients. Not only that, but different professionals have different experiences within the context of working in medicine. (i.e. Nurses compared to practicing M.D.'s) That being said, I've decided to write this blog about medicine from the patient's perspective.

When you enter a hospital, say for a "routine appointment," you can never be sure you know what's going to happen. Also, having "routine appointments" assumes a great many things: you have health insurance or are substantially well off financially, you have a regular doctor to see that you like enough or trust enough to keep seeing, that you understand the potential consequences of not engaging in preventative medical care, ad infinitum. So with these things in mind, let's continue.

You've entered the hospital, and you're heading up to wherever your doctor's office is. There are sick people all over the place (which is appropriate given where you are) and medical pro's running around. Your heart rate starts creeping up, just with the almost palpable adrenaline levels creeping through the halls. You get to where you're going, and a receptionist more often than not says something like, "hi, welcome! Please sign in and we'll get to you as soon as we can." Most of the time, these folks are either professional receptionists, or nurses which kinda ticks me off because nurses have a ton of stuff to do already, but that's another post. You take a seat alongside the other waiting folks, and sometimes there are some sickies, sometimes you're practically alone. Depending on what kind of facility you're in, this could be consistent one way or the other.

Sometimes almost immediately you are called back, sometimes it takes an hour or less. The first nurse who leads you back into the shiny and band-aid scented exam area has you step on a scale emotionlessly, reads off your blood pressure, asks some general questions including, "why are you visiting us today?" Like 'visiting' really does it justice, but it can be comforting. You answer as best you can, and after a few minutes the nurse asks you to wait for the doc. This waiting period is terrible. You never know if the nurse is quickly meeting with said doc about how much you suck given your weight, blood pressure and habits you've briefly discussed with him/her, and whether they're planning to bust into the room shouting, "what the hell is wrong with you! You're gonna die!" Or perhaps the doctor is just finishing up with the two patients who went in before you did. Who knows, it's a mystery for the ages. There are only so many times you can re-read the "how to recognize suicide in yourself and your friends" pamphlet. Just saying, maybe some reading material in the treatment rooms?

The doc comes into the room. Usually they have an agenda based on their previous visit notes, and your current "situation," you know, the weight/bp/lifestyle stuff the nurse got outta you. The going assumption seems to be that docs don't care, but they have to have a game plan if they're going to get you to keep yourself alive, let alone get through the appointments and walk-ins they've had and will have during the day. The conversation is sometimes give-and-take, sometimes lecture (better take notes), and sometimes a mix of those two plus a visit from someone else on the team, say a dietician, or social worker. Then you're out, with a few pamphlets and some homework.

There are different places that do this in ways that feel better or worse than others. Some places are purely overloaded, and some places have a lot of money with which to actually hire enough medical and pro-staff. The differences can be striking. I've always been privileged to be able to find endocrinologist offices that actually serve as my primary source of medical care. I say this because when you're working full time and sometimes also part time, go to school and have a semblance of a life, there aren't enough hours in a business day to see more than one medical team. That's reality. It's also a very privileged and lucky reality and I know it. Here's where we find some disconnect: patient responsibility vs. medical responsibility.

Patients, we gotta do our part. There is no "wellness pill." There is no magical potion, no quick fix, no seemingly easy answer. You want that, go see an expensive and ultimately fucked up practioner of elective cosmetic surgical procedures. Not only will you be able to pay someone to look a certain way (assuming you have a ton of cash to burn), but you also will still die unhealthy. Good luck. We as patients have to do everything we can to keep ourselves together. It's a long process, and it's worth it as nurseXY is finding out and with good reason. (Keep up the good work bro.) And, the more you do for yourself, the better this doctor/nurse/patient relationship will be. Ask questions, no matter if you feel stupid. Get the information. Medical pro's can't know what you need unless you tell them, and it's impossible to always find the most important stuff online. Again, quick fixes can backfire big-time.

However, to all the medical pro's: we aren't all idiots. Some of us are, and I can't speak for them. They're jackasses, and they're suffering even as they suck. But some of us do care, not just about ourselves but about other people. Know that the intimidation we feel when our medical pro asks us, "any questions?" is real. We don't want to look stupid, even though you probably will be more than willing to either answer, tell us where to get the answer or have someone on the team help us. But it's not easy for many of us to feel comfortable. You're behind an opaque wall of mystery, and this means we're not always going to be willing to not only ask, but demand we be treated with respect and understanding.

This two-way street is remarkable in that there are so many twists, turns, and misunderstanding abound. And with medical care reform being not only futuristic, but incompatible with medicine as a business, we're in a perpetual state of denial about what our huge system really needs in order to function at a level that means we're successful on a broad scale.

The next installment will be 'the patients' perspective in a capitalistic medical market.' Hope y'all enjoy, or start talking.

-Street Philosopher

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Larger Implications of Terry Jones

The Terry Jones Quran-burning fiasco is troubling to say the least. Not in just the immediate sense of, "how could this jackass use this time of remembering a tragedy to further racial and religious bigotry and hatred," but also in giving the news media and our politic a way to pass over the discussion of everyday racism in the United States.

Terry Jones is the pastor of a very small congregation. He does not have hundreds or thousands of followers (read: minions) with which to move a lot of hatred capital. He now has international attention, which is of course absurd and sickening in the same moment. He also has fostered the hateful shift toward insanity in the name of righteousness and "Godly" belief that many people, and I couldn't say exactly how many, believe to be their god-given right. That national and subsequently international media has jumped all over this scumbag says a lot, however the fickle ways of our current media institution is for another post. It's sad, and mostly for the reason I will now discuss.

That Terry Jones could be categorized as a backwoods nut makes the case for racial and religious bigotry in our nation to be attributed to crazies and whackjobs. He's obviously too wrapped up in his attention-getting enterprise to realize what he has done. Although, if he did realize it, he'd probably be okay with it. My point here is this: we're just starting to see major players in the media and politics begin talking about racial and religious bigotry, hatred and mistaken fear in a way that really addresses the issue. The truth that most Americans don't want to face is that our entire society is built upon racism, and the many facets of our political realities, educational institutions and social organization are guided by this reality on a very basic level. We have been climbing up this very big hill upon which our future as a loving and self-realized nation rests. And now, we have a nutcase to blame for fear, anger and societal unrest.

This could end up a serious blow to our national discussion of where we are and why we think what we think. The damage that the media frenzy around this asshole may have caused, could be the case that people were hoping for. It's not the everyday person that thinks these wacky thoughts, it's just the weirdos. This is not true, and could undermine the very important work of those looking to lift up the rug covering our cultural inadequacies regarding equality and collective understanding. But we now have a way to compare the everyday epistemic leaps that an average person may make about people who observe the Islamic faith, to this nutjob and those who sound and think the way he does. Many people can quickly and easily equate Islam to violence, thanks in part to media as well as public institutions. (Both Christianity and Islam share a belief that non-believers are lesser folk, and violence is kind of implied in both in a number of ways. I do think that decisions about whether or not someone ascribes to the faith is handled with much more decency in Islam, but that is beside this larger point.) That we could write that off in the wake of this emotional and psychological terrorist is disconcerting, and unfortunate. We must continue our efforts to evolve and understand ourselves, no matter how much we don't want to.

This whole thing seems mighty convenient. The conspiracy theorist in me wonders: did someone pay him to put on this show? I don't actually believe that, however it is a possibility. I will say, that given the state of affairs here in this nation, his public display of intolerance and systematic degradation of an entire nation of people took a sharp turn in recent hours. If he is so convinced that the Muslim faith itself is evil and of the devil, why the change? The minuscule possibility that the Islamic community center a few blocks away from the site of the Twin Tower attacks might be moved farther away from the site of the attacks presented itself, sort of. However, his entire basis of burning the Quran, a book that many believe is the word of God, was that it supported evil. He actually said that moderate Muslims should support his plans, which is ethnocentric as well as nuts. Not to mention that thinking 9/11 is a Christianity against Islam fight is missing the greater point altogether anyway. So, was he really that scared off by the outrage he might have felt in the spotlight? I doubt it. What's the real deal, Ter?

I'll never make light of what happened on 9/11. I've never been convinced of any storyline, whether sanctioned or marginalized. That being said, what happened was tragic, and this fucker not only took advantage of it, he did his best to spit on the collective soul of the United States. He not only should be ashamed, but he should feel enormous guilt at having provided our leadership (both media-based as well as political) cause to back away from the very real and consistent ways that inequality, bigotry and racial and religious prejudice is an undercurrent in our society. If you believe that God punishes the wicked, you're in for a real treat big guy.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Settling In

Hey folks,

I must say, searching for a place to live in Honolulu was a seriously ridiculous objective. What I know, is that I'm glad for the experience, but I don't really want to do it again if I can help it. I found a spot with very cool roommates, I have a room and bathroom to myself, and it's maybe 5-7 minutes from my academic office on campus. Truly, crazily lucky. And really, I'm paying at least $200 less per month for rent than anywhere else I saw. I do have my own entrance on ground level, and this does mean I deal with a few more bugs generally speaking, but it's Hawaii. What do we expect? I actually haven't had any weirdness bug-related, so I'm feeling stupid lucky. We'll leave it at that.

Here's the other thing: I love my work. I'm reading great stuff all the time, both for classes and for keeping up with my job at Student Life. I'm actually feeling a little guilty, having found all the major stuff I need to be cool, without struggling for too long. I've been thinking about how race plays into this, but I'm leaving that for a post when it's not really late. Not gonna deal with the really important stuff while I'm exhausted.

Much love people, keep it real. And know, I love Honolulu. I also love Univ. of Hawaii. Just puttin' that out there.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Reflections early in the morning

12:12 a.m. Hawaii Time. Really late, really early. Both.

At this point, I can safely say that reading old blog posts from Myspace can sometimes be a little eerie. I read one where I talked about an old-ish breakup with someone I met at camp as a kid. The other blog I’ll address another day.

Bearskin Meadow Camp was my safe place. When there, in fact as soon as I drove through the main gate, I felt the familiar tingle up and down my spine, the feeling in the air changed, and I knew I was home. Whoever says magic and love don't infect a place, you're wrong. However, going through a fairly dirty breakup there definitely hurt. It really didn't hurt in an immediate way, though. I've always prepared myself to expect the gnarly little damages that ending a relationship inflicts. What really hurt was the loss of my place there. Here's what I think:

She needed the immediate support of our co-workers, and these co-workers of course end up becoming somewhat like friends. What happens though is one person needs more support during the breakup, and one person needs less. This is what happened during our breakup, and this is what made me decide to leave camp be. Having said that, I don't blame anyone directly other than myself for how it all turned out. The responsibility to ensure that I am a welcome presence is mine and mine alone, and I think I really screwed that up. I missed out on countless opportunities to try to salvage some sense of respect from people who I worked with, and I didn't do it because I counted on my character and unspoken actions to speak for me. While I am in some ways glad I behaved this way, I am in other ways disappointed in how I believe the situation between her and I was perceived. I asked one person to hear me, and that person wasn't in the right frame of mind or, and I should have known this all along, really interested in supporting me. I didn't fight for my heart's home. I didn't scrape and claw for every last shred of dignity and respect that I could have. I knew I could be strong and stand mostly on my own. And of course, I made decisions here and there that complicated things along the way. What ultimately hurt the most was feeling like the emotional cold shoulder was being thrown my way, and I didn’t fight it.

That being said, Will and Miriam, you two were right in telling me that I should have fought for my heart's desire. I didn't need to do it, but I now know that I freakishly miss feeling welcome there. Even if you are playing the role of the strong, sturdy oak, never forget where your heart lies. It doesn't have to lie with sacrifice of the magnitude that I feel I let myself give. You can balance the equation.

Over the last three years, each time I decided to do what I needed to do for myself, the girlfriends I had at the time were disappointed. Not in me exactly, but in my desire to follow my dreams instead of theirs. This speaks volumes to my past decision-making abilities about the compatibility of myself and the women I chose to commit to, so we need not even go there. However, I will say that each time I said goodbye, I did so with a clean conscience and full heart while of course a little hurt and disappointed in the ending having come. (Although, I also believe that we always know the end should come, we just sometimes fight it like wildcats.)

Here's where I am now: I just moved my entire life and self to the island of Oahu to start a PhD program in Sociology. This was right for me in so many ways. My desire to earn a doctoral degree comes from wanting to be able to give enough to our world to change the way we treat each other in some meaningful and hopefully uplifting way. Not just academically, but spiritually, emotionally and sociologically. I know with every bone in my body and piece of my soul that I am doing what is right for me. I won't compromise that for anyone, and hopefully the cost isn't too great.

To finish for the morning, to Bearskin: please know that I will always love you as a home to many, a sanctuary to almost all, and a place of emotional healing for those affected by life in ways they cannot control. I gave all of myself to you, and I received benefits tenfold. Thank you.

To those I have left behind in leaving the mainland: you are all sorely missed. We may not have had countless hours together towards the end, but the hours we had were filled with laughter, love, appreciation, support, and acceptance. Unending thanks to all of you. Especially Will, G, Ana, Bling, Holly, Kristin, Justin, Mark, and Bob.

So much time has passed since those blogs two years ago. I have learned, grown, sucked it up and made my life happen. I’m glad I’m here, and I’m glad this is now. I hope and know that a great future awaits all of us who do what we need to do.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Craigslist Translator

Been awhile since I published, however it's been a busy bit of time. During the last few months, I've been searching for a place to live. Craigslist is well respected and heavily used here in Hawaii, and I've really gotten a feel for what people mean when they create and post Craigslist ads. There are a number of key terms to consider, and I've put together this list for your convenience, should you ever need to find a place to live via the Craigslist option. (Most of this is blown out of proportion, just to be clear.)

"clean": recently vacuumed some of the place, and most of it isn't in imminent danger of falling apart.
"quiet and cool": no air conditioner, hopefully rains a lot.
"cozy": founding member of the itty, bitty apartment committee
"historic": hella old.
"spacious studio with panoramic views": hopefully the view outside will distract you from the mess this place is on the inside.
"breezy": again, no air conditioner, but it might cool down a bit in the evenings. You'll just love the cooler seasons...
"Small pets ok": Must be a rat dog, or preferably a rat.
"in a desirable neighborhood": there's a Safeway a few blocks away. Never mind the meth dealers and gunshots you could set your clock to.
"tropical home": bugs, animals you didn't invite and way too much humidity for the average person.
"must love dogs, wonderful/well-behaved (some breed, some age) lives with us": when you visit, the dog will either attack you, hump your leg, or try to attack a neighboring dog through the fence. Possibly barf on something important.
"park view": you can see some grass across the main thoroughfare through the buses.
"location, location, location": don't expect much on the inside.
"utilities included except electric, gas": why even bother saying that at this point?
"no credit check": you could be in trouble.

There are a bunch of listings that have mispellings, and I feel like I could talk them way down from their asking price. Maybe it'd work, maybe not.

Onward and upward, here we go. And wish me luck in my housing search.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Response to Terry Belmont, CEO of UCIMC

Dear UCIMC CEO Belmont,

I agree with your assessment of the dangers of a nursing strike regarding patient care. It is unfortunate that nurses have had to take this drastic a stance on bargaining in a time when fair practices are supposed to be the norm. This is not the case however, and your subsequent implication that nurses would leave patients to die over a few dollars is a strikingly inadequate representation of the current climate nurses struggle to deal with.

I am not a nurse, CEO, or health care administrator. I am a part of a clinical research support office here at UCIMC, but more importantly, I am a patient. For 20 years I have lived successfully (for the most part) with type 1 diabetes and it is with the most sincere heart I write this today: nurses saved my life. They know I appreciate their work because I told them they were phenomenal. However, a great many nurses do not seem to feel that administrations and their staff understand the consequences of staffing shortages, salary freezes and litigation protection requirements making their job of saving lives all the more difficult, and unnecessarily so. Health care may be a service industry at its core; however the reality of our current situation is such that we cannot take lightly the differences in the motivation of certain sub-populations of health care employees. I must point out that yours is one of profit; nurses have no profit-sharing opportunities, in fact their only motivation to do their jobs is to save people, a lot of times from themselves, and to provide for themselves and their families.

I find it disingenuous as well as insulting that instead of highlighting the nursing excellence we most certainly have at work here on a fairly regular basis, this is what you have chosen to communicate to our community. Did nurses receive over $8,000 in transportation benefits? My guess: probably not. I would of course mention that the average nurse's schedule of 12-16 hour shifts might generate some overtime pay, however I doubt that many nurses are able to procure a salary of $630,000 which you currently enjoy. Furlough or not, your pocketbook greatly outweighs any of theirs by far. The fact that you do work that allows the health care professionals to continue their work is laudable of course. However, your direct interactions with patients probably do not include wiping feces off of sick children, adult trauma victims or the elderly. I would also guess that you probably do not engage in matches of wit with drunks and drug addicts who cannot see reason through the haze of intoxication. And I would highly doubt that you have started an IV, been vomited on and cursed at all in the same 45-second span recently. Let's just say, I appreciate your work, but you are no nurse.

I would gladly go without a raise if it meant a nurse received one. I would honestly prefer you voluntarily freeze payments on your Clinical Enterprise Recognition Plan compensation package which could conceivably provide health care costs for maybe a few nurses with children or subsidize health care premiums for maybe thirteen working nurses. That you would demonize nurses' call for fair compensation strikes me as not only distasteful, but also unkind and unwise. Please rethink your strategy Mr. Belmont.

Dean Clayman, I have benefited greatly from your vision and dedication to excellence. This cannot be a simple time for you, given your commitment to outstanding care and expectation of high quality medical education. This is an opportunity to show what it means to stand behind one another, and I hope you will continue your support of those who give themselves to the constant care of others.
-Nicholas Gibson

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

What if the Tea Partiers Were Black...

Tim Wise is among the most prominent anti-racist writers and activists in the U.S. Wise has spoken in 48 states, on over 400 college campuses, and to community groups around the nation. Wise has provided anti-racism training to teachers nationwide, and has trained physicians and medical industry professionals on how to combat racial inequities in health care. His latest book is called Between Barack and a Hard Place.

"Imagine if the Tea Party Was Black" - Tim Wise

Let’s play a game, shall we? The name of the game is called “Imagine.” The way it’s played is simple: we’ll envision recent happenings in the news, but then change them up a bit. Instead of envisioning white people as the main actors in the scenes we’ll conjure - the ones who are driving the action - we’ll envision black folks or other people of color instead. The object of the game is to imagine the public reaction to the events or incidents, if the main actors were of color, rather than white. Whoever gains the most insight into the workings of race in America, at the end of the game, wins.

So let’s begin.

Imagine that hundreds of black protesters were to descend upon Washington DC and Northern Virginia, just a few miles from the Capitol and White House, armed with AK-47s, assorted handguns, and ammunition. And imagine that some of these protesters —the black protesters — spoke of the need for political revolution, and possibly even armed conflict in the event that laws they didn’t like were enforced by the government? Would these protester — these black protesters with guns — be seen as brave defenders of the Second Amendment, or would they be viewed by most whites as a danger to the republic? What if they were Arab-Americans? Because, after all, that’s what happened recently when white gun enthusiasts descended upon the nation’s capital, arms in hand, and verbally announced their readiness to make war on the country’s political leaders if the need arose.

Imagine that white members of Congress, while walking to work, were surrounded by thousands of angry black people, one of whom proceeded to spit on one of those congressmen for not voting the way the black demonstrators desired. Would the protesters be seen as merely patriotic Americans voicing their opinions, or as an angry, potentially violent, and even insurrectionary mob? After all, this is what white Tea Party protesters did recently in Washington.

Imagine that a rap artist were to say, in reference to a white president: “He’s a piece of shit and I told him to suck on my machine gun.” Because that’s what rocker Ted Nugent said recently about President Obama.

Imagine that a prominent mainstream black political commentator had long employed an overt bigot as Executive Director of his organization, and that this bigot regularly participated in black separatist conferences, and once assaulted a white person while calling them by a racial slur. When that prominent black commentator and his sister — who also works for the organization — defended the bigot as a good guy who was misunderstood and “going through a tough time in his life” would anyone accept their excuse-making? Would that commentator still have a place on a mainstream network? Because that’s what happened in the real world, when Pat Buchanan employed as Executive Director of his group, America’s Cause, a blatant racist who did all these things, or at least their white equivalents: attending white separatist conferences and attacking a black woman while calling her the n-word.

Imagine that a black radio host were to suggest that the only way to get promoted in the administration of a white president is by “hating black people,” or that a prominent white person had only endorsed a white presidential candidate as an act of racial bonding, or blamed a white president for a fight on a school bus in which a black kid was jumped by two white kids, or said that he wouldn’t want to kill all conservatives, but rather, would like to leave just enough—“living fossils” as he called them—“so we will never forget what these people stood for.” After all, these are things that Rush Limbaugh has said, about Barack Obama’s administration, Colin Powell’s endorsement of Barack Obama, a fight on a school bus in Belleville, Illinois in which two black kids beat up a white kid, and about liberals, generally.

Imagine that a black pastor, formerly a member of the U.S. military, were to declare, as part of his opposition to a white president’s policies, that he was ready to “suit up, get my gun, go to Washington, and do what they trained me to do.” This is, after all, what Pastor Stan Craig said recently at a Tea Party rally in Greenville, South Carolina.

Imagine a black radio talk show host gleefully predicting a revolution by people of color if the government continues to be dominated by the rich white men who have been “destroying” the country, or if said radio personality were to call Christians or Jews non-humans, or say that when it came to conservatives, the best solution would be to “hang ‘em high.” And what would happen to any congressional representative who praised that commentator for “speaking common sense” and likened his hate talk to “American values?” After all, those are among the things said by radio host and best-selling author Michael Savage, predicting white revolution in the face of multiculturalism, or said by Savage about Muslims and liberals, respectively. And it was Congressman Culbertson, from Texas, who praised Savage in that way, despite his hateful rhetoric.

Imagine a black political commentator suggesting that the only thing the guy who flew his plane into the Austin, Texas IRS building did wrong was not blowing up Fox News instead. This is, after all, what Anne Coulter said about Tim McVeigh, when she noted that his only mistake was not blowing up the New York Times.

Imagine that a popular black liberal website posted comments about the daughter of a white president, calling her “typical redneck trash,” or a “whore” whose mother entertains her by “making monkey sounds.” After all that’s comparable to what conservatives posted about Malia Obama on freerepublic.com last year, when they referred to her as “ghetto trash.”

Imagine that black protesters at a large political rally were walking around with signs calling for the lynching of their congressional enemies. Because that’s what white conservatives did last year, in reference to Democratic party leaders in Congress.

In other words, imagine that even one-third of the anger and vitriol currently being hurled at President Obama, by folks who are almost exclusively white, were being aimed, instead, at a white president, by people of color. How many whites viewing the anger, the hatred, the contempt for that white president would then wax eloquent about free speech, and the glories of democracy? And how many would be calling for further crackdowns on thuggish behavior, and investigations into the radical agendas of those same people of color?

To ask any of these questions is to answer them. Protest is only seen as fundamentally American when those who have long had the luxury of seeing themselves as prototypically American engage in it. When the dangerous and dark “other” does so, however, it isn’t viewed as normal or natural, let alone patriotic. Which is why Rush Limbaugh could say, this past week, that the Tea Parties are the first time since the Civil War that ordinary, common Americans stood up for their rights: a statement that erases the normalcy and “American-ness” of blacks in the civil rights struggle, not to mention women in the fight for suffrage and equality, working people in the fight for better working conditions, and LGBT folks as they struggle to be treated as full and equal human beings.

And this, my friends, is what white privilege is all about. The ability to threaten others, to engage in violent and incendiary rhetoric without consequence, to be viewed as patriotic and normal no matter what you do, and never to be feared and despised as people of color would be, if they tried to get away with half the shit we do, on a daily basis.

Game Over.