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.

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.

Cheers,
-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.