More on that “Je suis Charlie” crap

CH cartoon Sept 15 2015

What puts defenses of Charlie Hebdo to shame is that when they were brutally assassinated last January we were supposed to do that “Je suis Charlie” schtick and go all alligator tears. Even though for years they had been producing inflammatory cartoons against Muslims in a political climate repressive & violent toward Muslims. Some could interpret that as sucking up to power.

If cartoonists had come up with this kind of crap while their families grieved they would have been vilified from here to Kingdom Come. Twenty-five thousand refugees & immigrants have drowned in the Mediterranean in the past several years. Hundreds only yesterday. Baby Aylan Kurdi’s father is bereft with grief at the loss of his wife & two boys–two of whom he can’t even bury because their bodies are not recovered. And Charlie Hebdo chose just this political moment to do a “satire” on the European response to the refugee crisis?

Cut the crap!

Photo is second cartoon CH did on the refugee crisis. They would be advised to put “satire” behind them & move openly to war propaganda.

Charlie Hebdo mocks satire & exposes its racism–again!

Charlie Hebdo on baby Aylan Kurdi

We’re not going to rehash that Charlie Hebdo debate that goes nowhere about the character of satire. Either you get it or you don’t & those who do aren’t much inclined to quibble with the obtuse over whether CH’s racist pickaninny portrayal of African refugees is actually insightful social criticism. You can’t–to be frank–reason with white supremacy.

The thing about satire–the art of mockery–is that it’s so versatile. It can be lowbrow or highbrow. It can have vulgar farting & sexual bawdiness like Chaucer or picaresque fantasy & goofiness like Cervantes; it can be lacerating in social criticism like Jonathan Swift & Brian O’Nolan or completely apolitical like Month Python. It is often iconoclastic, nihilist, & cynical but it is also always funny & at its heart it is profoundly moral because it ridicules & vilifies social folly even if bereft of hope that things can ever be better.

Political cartooning is the most democratic art form, emerging in the 17th & 18th centuries with the democratic revolutions that overthrew feudalism & brought in capitalist nation-states. It’s a democratic genre because it indicates a change in power relations by the ability to lampoon power without being guillotined. The obsequious posture of serfs is replaced with the defiance & ridicule of free-born workers.

Regrettably, racist caricature has always been part of cartooning (except perhaps Daumier) because colonialism is a political feature of capitalism from its earliest days. Blacks, Jews, Arabs came in for the worst of it in European & US caricature. The simian portrayal of Irish shifted to the simian portrayal of Blacks that was used to incite violence & social hatred & stigmatizes caricature to this day–including of Obama & elite athletes. Unfortunately the racism led political cartooning to cooptation by the ruling elite so that, as an example, Dr. Seuss was drawing racist caricatures of Blacks, Arabs, & Japanese for commercial ads & WWII war propaganda.

So what does all that have to do with Charlie Hebdo & this recent blasphemy mocking the death of baby Aylan Kurdi–which offers a McDonald’s Happy Meal over the body of a child & says nothing about the barbarisms of EU refugee policy? In brief, because it is gratuitous & not just bereft of humor but of respect for anything. It is simply pornographic with amorality. And to what purpose? Only to show they hold nothing sacred.

When you hold nothing sacred there really is no need for satire, is there? When you skewer drowned infants rather than the abuse of power or human folly you are not longer producing satire but its parody in the service of social hatred. Charlie Hebdo wants us to gasp at their audacity when we are appalled more by their cruelty & complete lack of humor.

Je suis Charlie Hebdo, no way. Je suis Aylan Kurdi.

Photo is poster of Charlie Hebdo cover.

(Thanks to Lisa Forman for sending me this photo)

PS: This is the last post I hope I will ever do on this despicable piece of political rubbish.

Aggressiveness training against verbal abuse & bullying

In learning to confront verbal abuse & bullying for the purpose of ending it, we have to confront our attitudes about ourselves which come from how we’re socialized. Women are most often the targets of insult because we’re taught to be gracious, even affable in the face of indignity. Many men also get caught if they don’t fit the stock character assigned to men. Men are taught to ward off abuse by using the stone-face mask, the Clint Eastwood “make my day” persona. And it works. But the problem is that it requires cocooning socially, holding yourself back from interactions with others, not being able to participate fully in social exchanges. If you like other people, that doesn’t work for you, but the affable person is the most likely to be targeted by bullies because of their openness.

The most important attitude to disabuse yourself of is that in some way you invite abuse, that you’re doing something wrong, or have some quality that makes others want to crap on you. You feel you have a sign on your forehead that says “victim” or “kick me.” You may feel that way because you’re so often targeted & in fact, many (including parents) will say outright you have a magnetic attraction for abuse. That’s nothing but baloney & horse manure. You don’t have to do a damn thing to provoke an abuser & it’s more likely your charms & virtues that provoke them. Is it possible that sometimes you did or said something awkward, even stupid? So what? Welcome to the human race. To err is human & all that jazz. It doesn’t mean you deserve insults.

There are particular psychological qualities that provoke bullies—like being easy-going & open. Or simply for being female. But there are also physical features that can make you a target: being short, especially for a man; being heavyset; having a prominent nose or ears; balding at an early age; a high-pitched voice in a man; a girlish voice in a women; being gay, effeminate or tom-boyish; the use of heavy makeup or no makeup at all; being “classically” pretty or not; having darker skin; having facial blemishes; having wide hips, prominent or small breasts. It doesn’t take much at all for the bully to locate what you may feel vulnerable about & zero in on it for ridicule.

The repertoire of abuse includes snide put-downs; insinuating remarks; gestures like eye-rolling or elbowing; snickering contemptuously. Sometimes the insults are masked & all you can discern is the contempt behind the comment. That’s the sniping style of bullying. The rule of thumb in discerning if it’s abuse or not? If it feels like it. Never underestimate the power of gut reactions. Could be your body talking to you.

So in thwarting abuse the first thing to dump is the notion that you (as many will tell you) are “your own worst enemy.” Rubbish! Nothing you do—unless of course you’re an abuser—justifies anyone taking liberties with you. You have a right to demand respect & not be treated like someone of no consequence. Of course when you do that you will be challenging the rules of social power in a society based on misogyny & inequality. Well screw those laws. They’ve no right to preempt your dignity & self-respect or to deprive you of peace of mind for being a gracious loving person.

For a long while assertive training has been in vogue but as many have found out in employing it, it rolls like water off a duck’s ass to many abusers because it depends on their good-will or belief they are reasonable—which they most often are not. And it requires pedagogical homilies explaining to them what’s wrong with insulting you. Leave their moral education to others. Your sole commitment is the pedagogy that comes with kicking ass, with aggression training—to teach them in no uncertain terms that you will not stand for insults. Period.

Once again, attitude is everything in aggression training. With a commitment to yourself to live with dignity, you stand tall (even if you’re only 5 feet tall), hold your head high, & learn the techniques for parrying the abuse.

Let me tell you a personal story about how I learned these techniques. When I first worked in a predominately male factory, the 6’4” union steward would come to my enclosed work station every night at lunch break for the sole purpose of sexually harassing me. He was extremely aggressive & offensive & I responded assertively: “Jim, I don’t talk to you that way & I don’t want you to talk to me like that. Blah blah blah” He waited till my speech ended & then continued his sexual suggestions. Not knowing how to stop him, I approached a fellow worker in frustration. He said to me, “What he’s doing to you is a sexual assault & you need to respond to it aggressively. The next time he starts, you say to him “Screw pal!” I’d never spoken to anyone like that & I said so. My coworker said “If you want to stop the harassment, that is what you need to learn. I would be willing to fight that battle for you but if you’re going to win your place in this environment you will have to learn to fight these battles yourself.”

So I went home & spent a weekend in front of a mirror practicing saying “Screw pal” so it didn’t come out in a whimper or with an iota of self-doubt.
When I went back to work I waited for the union guy to show up & when he did I screwed up all the energy I could muster to blurt out that “Screw pal.” I thought he’d snicker at me & I would be the fool. Instead he looked shocked & turned around & walked out. A monster was born that day & I’ve never looked back. And I never allowed him again to even look my way.

In exercising my new-found powers, I’ve learned one doesn’t have to swear. It’s perhaps preferable, though not essential, if you don’t. Always keep your dignity & be true to yourself if don’t like to use harsh language. Don’t be afraid to use it either. The point of practicing that “screw pal” scenario is only to cop the attitude behind it—the attitude that doesn’t cower behind self-doubt but comes out swinging. It’s the attitude that renders power, not the cursing.

Don’t give explanations. Don’t bother to tell someone why you’re offended. And don’t look for just the right words. Eloquence & long-winded speeches are not an advantage. Keep your language terse; in fact make it as short as possible. Don’t be afraid to blunder or stumble on your words. Just say “Stop.” “What do you mean by that?” “Are you talking to me?” “Go away.” And always accompany your words with the evil-eye. Don’t smile to soften the blow or they’ll take it as equivocation. Don’t be afraid to go overboard or ballistic either—like saying “Go to hell,” or “Get lost bucko.” Don’t worry about issuing empty threats. More than once, I’ve told someone I had eight brothers & if he didn’t stop harassing me, they would break every bone in his body. Don’t worry about roughing someone up if they’re not afraid to humiliate you.

If some physical or emotional feature of yours is often targeted, develop a stock phrase for rebuttal. For example, I’m 5’2” & often was teased for being short—something that never occurred to me I should be self-conscious about. An over 6-foot coworker once said to me, “I know how you little women compensate for being so short; you get big mouthes.” I retorted “How do you compensate for being so ugly?” He didn’t speak to me for 6 months & when he did the first thing he said was “Do you really think I’m ugly?” “No,” I said, “in fact you’re good-looking. You’ve just got a big mouth.” Find a phrase like that & keep it short & sweet. No explanations. If they make fun of your nose or your ears or you color or your height—whatever—nip it in the bud the first time. Try never to let them repeat ridicule a second time.

If you don’t get it right the first time, keep practicing attitude in the mirror. Don’t hate on yourself, don’t think you’re one of those who just can’t defend yourself. Don’t ever sell yourself short or underestimate your indignation when it comes to bullying. It’s all about attitude & a commitment to yourself that you will live in dignity, with the respect you’re due.

The purpose of all this is not some quid pro quo of abuse. Who the hell wants to spend their lives fighting or parrying off insults? The sole purpose is to let abusers know you will not be hospitable, that you will make it difficult for them to humiliate you or any others. When you’re old & gray what will still eat at you are the moments you let others run you around the block because you didn’t know how to stop it. Humiliation takes a long time to heal & it does because you internalize & begin to believe that somehow you are responsible when someone treats you like crap. To speak coarsely: screw that notion.

White supremacy & photography romanticizing the “noble savage”

Indian chief--George Marshall. Umatilla. 1900. Photo by Lee Moorhouse.

The late 19th century & early 20th century was the era when anthropology–a fundamentally racist “science”–was developed because it was the era when it was thought indigenous peoples had decisively been vanquished throughout the Americas. The ruling elites developed natural history museums to record the extinctions of millions of people & exonerate the barbarism involved in wars of extinction by glorifying “Indians” as the “noble savage.”

White supremacy & colonialism have peculiar social & psychological ways of dealing with the enormity of the violence perpetrated. In his book “Playing Indian,” Phillip Deloria describes the role playing involved from the Boston Tea Party where participants dressed as Indians, to Boy Scout & other group rituals, to cowboy & Indian movies, to sports teams with Indian insignia. ‘Playing Indian’ permeates society till today because the issue of genocide is historically denied & has never been dealt with politically or socially because it continues. And it continues not just in the US but from Alaska to the southern tip of Latin America with multinational enterprises expropriating indigenous lands for agribusiness, mining, oil drilling.

After the wars of extermination in the post-Civil War era–led by former Union generals commissioned by President Abraham Lincoln–Native Americans who survived were driven on to reservations where they lived defeated in squalor & poverty. It was at this time the ruling elite, including J.P. Morgan, commissioned photographers to record the Indian way of life for anthropological purposes. They believed Indians were going extinct & wanted to document them. They certainly weren’t paying photographers to record the realities of reservation life.

The photos which are stunning portraits are more often staged & inauthentic to the attire & certainly to the lives of the subjects. They are glorified, romanticized images of the “noble savage” & fundamentally white supremacist in intent.

An adjacent point about anthropology museums is their distinction from museums of fine art. The latter are considered the venue of the highest achievements of human artistic creativity; natural history museums are considered the repository for primitive ‘artifacts.’ You don’t get more repugnant & supremacist than that.

It was the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s that changed the study of US history due to the development of Black & Native American studies. Along with ‘playing Indian’ rituals, historic deceits are the nature of colonialism. To today, school text books do not include the study of genocide against Native Americans nor the study of slavery from a non-supremacist point of view. But the Americas will not heal from this continuing catastrophe until it corrects the historic record. That’s why the present role of Native Americans against environmental plunder from the North to the South Poles is so important. They have re-entered history rather than pass serenely to extinction.

(Photo by Lee Moorhouse)

Gaza could be uninhabitable by 2020 because of Israeli blockade

Gaza boy sleeping (Suhaib Salem:Reuters) Sept 14 2015

Conditions in Gaza make building the economic & cultural boycott of Israel an imperative. Not to panic, but it is actually an emergency situation. According to a recent report from the UN Conference on Trade & Development, Gaza could become uninhabitable in five years (2020) if the 8-year Israeli blockade is not lifted.

This photo which looks like Armageddon is a young boy sleeping in the shell of his family’s home which the Guardian-UK tells us ‘witnesses claim was destroyed by Israeli shelling’ in its carpet bombing spree in 2014. The sepia tone of the photo is from a sandstorm enveloping the entire region–which must, like winter & inclement weather, make sleeping outside & life in general a living hell.

Israel has conducted three bombing military operations against Gaza–December 2008, November 2012, & the summer of 2014. Today, 500,000 out of a population of 1.8 million people in Gaza are displaced. Israeli bombing just in 2014 took out 20,000 homes, 148 schools, 15 hospitals, & 45 health care clinics. Bombing partially or completely destroyed 247 factories, 300 commercial centers, & did serious damage (again) to the only power plant. As a result power outages last 12 to 16 hours a day, 95 percent of the water is undrinkable, & sewage disposal has become a health catastrophe. Nearly three-quarters of households are completely dependent on the UN for food because bombing devastated the agricultural sector & because unemployment is at 44 percent.

There is no reconstruction or recovery because the Israeli blockade is making damn sure there cannot be. People who hammer on about Hamas or leftists who snivel about how BDS will adversely affect Israeli workers have no sense of proportion or reality—or decency. What part of ethnic cleansing don’t they understand?

Israel is on a mission to destroy Gaza without mercy. Our responsibility is to stand with them by building the economic & cultural boycott through rallies, forums, teach-ins, speak-outs. We can judge the historic & political importance of the Palestinian struggle by the military, diplomatic, economic, & propaganda war against them. Billions–by now trillions–of dollars have been invested in their defeat. If their struggle, aided by international solidarity, is triumphant it would unleash the forces of democracy against colonialism & tyrannies of every kind around the world & herald the dawn of a new day. Their struggle is that important.

Build BDS.

(Photo by Suhaib Salem/Reuters)

Saggy pants in Talibama

Saggy pants

Do you think it’s possible the Taliban really has infiltrated the US as the right-wing claims? The Dadeville City Council in the southern state now known as Talibama passed an ordinance last month banning saggy pants in public. Councilman Frank Goodman said “I prayed about this; I know that God would not go around with pants down.” Who knew God wore clothes?

Now in a purported claim to be egalitarian, the City Council has added short shorts & mini-skirts to their dress ban. The city attorney says banning women’s attire will “take a little more creativity on my part” to write into law. Isn’t that always the case when you’re trying to cover for your racism by using misogyny? At least he can still visit his favorite porn sites to look at women’s butts.

Maybe if they build the same kind of nail salon in downtown Dadeville as they built in downtown Kabul we can still save the state of Talibama. But do we want to?

Beam me up Scotty!

European popular vote: immigration is a human right; open the damn borders!

Thousands greeting refugees in Germany with open arms; 50,000 people in London marching in a “welcome to refugees” protest; massive expressions of solidarity & humanitarian assistance wherever the refugees pass through. We’re the ones who’ll live next door to them, work with them, & whose taxes will pay for any social services rendered so why in the hell should regimes be allowed to restrict them or have any say about the matter at all? If working people think immigration is a human right, then so be it! Open the damn borders.

Is Obama really slated for second Nobel peace prize?

Tom Lehrer once said “Political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel peace prize.” Mary Scully later said with far less eloquence & far more vulgarity that ‘the Nobel peace prize has the value of used toilet paper. Why should we let the damn thing destroy satire which is too powerful a weapon against the sarcasms & obscenities of power to let them walk off with?’

Today I read Obama was to be awarded his second Nobel peace prize & I could hardly believe my eyes–but of course I knew such folly was not beneath the contemptible standards of the Nobel selection committee. Turns out the story is indeed a hoax & that the winner of this ignominious honorific won’t be announced till October.

We wait with bated breath for the actual announcement next month. Could it be Netanyahu this year? Or Adolph Hitler posthumously?

On the electoral victory of Jeremy Corbyn

To be honest, the politics of Jeremy Corbyn aren’t entirely clear to me since I never heard of him before his campaign to head the British Labour party. I was disinclined to follow his campaign since the Labour party has been looking like a political carcass for a long time.

But I knew Corbyn was different than Bernie Sanders, the xenophobe who supports Israeli apartheid, votes for war appropriations, & hasn’t an international bone in his body, because Corbyn has actually participated for years in campaigns against Britain’s involvement in the Iraq & Afghanistan wars & in solidarity with Palestinians.

So while I’m not an authority on British electoral politics or the Labour party, I actually think it’s great news Corbyn won the election. The despicable David Cameron doesn’t agree–& this confirms my judgement. Cameron said on his FB page: “The Labour Party is now a threat to our national security, our economic security & your family’s security.” But he’s probably using the royal we & talking to Betty Windsor & her class, not to working people.

Mayan women lead fight against US gold mine in Guatemala

San Jose del Golfo, Guatemala (Saul Martinez: Sept 12 2015

Over 500 years of colonialism in the Americas where no barbarism against indigenous peoples was too extreme & still the process is not complete. There isn’t a country from the North to South Pole where they are not still fighting for survival & against dispossession by mining & oil companies, & agribusiness conglomerates. And there isn’t a place where they aren’t leading the fight for environmental integrity against deforestation, destruction of rainforest, fracking, strip mining, & predations of all sorts. That’s true not just in the Americas but in both hemispheres.

The opposing phalanxes in this photo are Guatemalan riot police & soldiers facing down community activists from San Jose del Golfo, a hamlet 19-miles outside Guatemala City. The activists are blocking the road to prevent dump trucks, excavators, & other heavy machinery from being moved in for a mining operation. For three years the communities in the area, led by a group named La Puya, have prevented the construction of new gold mines by a US mining company. Ninety-five percent of the families in the region rely on farming for a living & know full well the arsenic & mercury efflux from gold mining would contaminate the water table & their fields, destroy their health, & turn the region into a toxic wasteland.

La Puya started with a Rosa Parks-type action in 2012. A woman from the area became concerned by caravans of heavy equipment moving in for the mining operation & parked her car sideways across the road to stop the convoys. When others joined her, a movement began & till today they continue to block & impede operations despite massive military force against them.

Mayan women, who have taken the brunt of violence for centuries & in the 36-year civil war between 1960-1996, are leading this struggle. As remarkable as they are, there is no purpose to romanticize the odds against them. They can only win this battle against neoliberal capitalist plunder with massive international solidarity & pressure on the Guatemalan regime to back off the military & riot police & lock the country down against multinational marauders.

Our deepest respect & fullest solidarity with these activists. The US environmental movement has largely been coopted by corporations; to play our necessary part in supporting indigenous peoples around the world & in defending the environment, we need to do some Rosa Park-type actions of our own & throw the corporations out of the movement they are trying to destroy.

(Photo by Saul Martinez)

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