Sunday, October 5, 2014

Emma is fine

Alright friends. Here's the deal. I get that Emma Watson is a cishet thin young traditionally beautiful extremely wealthy Ivy educated white woman. I 100000% understand that. But here's the thing. You know how someone who is VERY PRIVILEGED, such as Emma Watson, was threatened with nudes and other ridiculous typical stupidity by the very people she was telling to own the fuck up to their wrongness? Could you even IMAGINE what would have happened if someone like, say, Laverne Cox were to speak on behalf of the UN? If a trans woman of color were to represent feminism and women's rights? NO ONE WOULD LISTEN. Because the people who respect and love and admire Laverne Cox are not the people that He For She is targeting. Or that anyone interested in actually progressing feminism should be targeting. We're already the "in" group. The people who think that homosexuality is a sin and white people are superior and abortion is also a sin and BLAH BLAH SHUT THE FUCK UP BLAH BLAH BLAH, these are the people we need to be targeting. So that's what He For She is, ideally, doing. It would be AMAZING if Laverne Cox were the spokesperson for an organization called Xe For All or something beautiful like that but WE DON'T LIVE IN THAT WORLD YET. We live in a world where Mike Brown disasters happen and we still are fighting the Roe v. Wade fight and the the wage gap is very much a thing and rape is happening all the goddamn time. That is the world we live in. So for right now, having a cishet thin young traditionally beautiful extremely wealthy Ivy educated white woman be the spokesperson for a gender-exclusive organization is an okay step. It's not the best step, but it is a step. So please, everyone, calm the heck down, we will get there, but we can't ignore the harsh realities. The world is not ready for Laverne, because they're barely ready for Emma.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

On top of it

Just a quick update telling the world that it is not even October and I have already written 14 out of 18 of my college application supplements. Plus my Common App essay. And one of my teachers already submitted her recommendation. I am on top of it.
I AM SO ON TOP OF IT

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Put self on line

Sometimes it's okay to sit on the chair by the window and read, but sometimes you have to be bold. Put yourself on the line. It used to be terrifying to the point of sadness-anxiety but now it gives me kind of a rush and a boost of I'm-the-baddest-bitch confidence.

In the past 24 hours I have:
1) made polite conversation with several inebriated college students
2) danced in the same room as aforementioned inebriated college students and was not super self-conscious and actually enjoyed the physical act of dancing
3) given my number to a random kid's brother because we're the same age and live in the same state and I wanted to be his friend
4) talked to a past girlfriend for the first time in a while

(A note on #4: I HATE the word "ex," it's so repulsive to me. Like, what is that word. Don't say it. It's so dismissive and possessive at the same time. Your ex? The fuck does that mean? They belong to you? But you're also stressing that they DON'T belong to you? So what the heck are you trying to say here???)

Put self on line: CHECK
Wrote several college supplement essays: CHECK
Stressed out a little bit about a lot of things: CHECK

Being bold/etc is a complex psychological exercise because it builds your confidence by making you feel proud of yourself but it also puts you on edge because REACTIONS OF OTHER PEOPLE TO YOUR ACTIONS. NEWTONIAN SHIT.

Ah, life. How you baffle me.
I should listen to more radio podcasts. They are so interesting. (I'm talking to you, Radiolab.)

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Anniversaries

Repetition. It's not how memories are made, but how they're kept. The anniversaries remembered recently:
August 27th
September 26th

...and then there are some that have to be remembered every month, not because you want to remember them, but because you can't help it.
April 17th
May 17th
June 17th
July 17th
August 17th
September 17th

A year ago from yesterday (September 26th), I was admitted into the ER as a psych patient. I had welts from failed cuts on my wrists, and the paper bracelet they put on my wrist stung as it chafed my raw skin.

Someday I'll publish the journal entries I wrote during my subsequent 4 day ER stay, 10 day inpatient stay, and 8 day outpatient stay. I feel as though I should re-read the entries to acknowledge how far I've come in that year, but part of me knows that's not the right decision. Because when thoughts are repeated, the mind goes back to where it was the first time those thoughts existed--not completely, but it's transported momentarily. Yet however brief the visit is, that flashback can be dangerous. If revisited too soon, the cuts may not have healed and the picked-off scab will just bleed again. Obviously not as much as the first time around, when the knees fell to the ground and got scraped up on the asphalt. But blood is blood.

Every month is a new triumph. I've made it this far, when a year ago I barely made it out alive. My most recent birthday was celebrated as a day of congratulations to me for making it through the year. I've decided lately that every morning I want to thank the universe that I'm being given another chance to have a new/better/different/etc experience than the one i had the day before. And of course I want to thank it for being able-bodied and relatively able-minded, and not in poverty, and not ill or in poor health, and not in prison or a large public high school. To all those things I'd raise a glass, a glass of water to that, because alcoholic beverages are an anniversary unto themselves, a remembrance of 17s and 17ths. Alack, a story for another night.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Happy Malala Day!!

Today is the first international Malala Day, celebrating the courage, bravery, persistence, and life of Malala Yousafzai. By now, we should all know the story of this amazing girl. If for some reason you don't, here's a very brief summary: the Taliban tried to deny her and the other girls in her village an education, but Malala fought back. On her way to school on October 9, 2012, Malala was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman. Miraculously, she survived. Malala has become an international figure of peace, an inexorable advocate and fighter for education for women, and an all around awesome inspiration to DO LIFE.

As someone who thinks GURLS ARE THE BEST THING THAT HAVE EVER HAPPENED TO THE WORLD and also thinks that LEARNING IS SOOOOOOOO AWESOME AND IMPORTANT AND IT NEEDS TO HAPPEN WAYYY MORE OFTEN , and as a gurl that wants her gaddamn education without no one tellin' her how to do it, I'm really in love with Malala. I am so proud of her. Thank you for being alive, Malala. Also happy belated birthday!!! Yeeee!!! ~~~Seventeen~~

HAPPY MALALA DAY!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Your Logic is Flawed

There have been times in my life when I've been walking down the street and I've thought, Gee, that person sure is attractive. I look at them for a moment, perhaps we make eye contact, and then we pass each other and continue on with our respective days. Sometimes during fashion week I would go up to people and ask them timidly if I could photograph them for my blog--this was the norm during that biannual event. It never crossed my mind, should I find someone physically appealing or good-looking, to say "You are hot" or "Omg I would kiss you" or "Damn" or "Look at that ass" or "Gimme a smile" or...

Because why would it? It doesn't make any sense. In most cases, people don't really choose to be physically attractive; that's kind of where genetics comes in. Of course, the way one presents oneself is a contributing factor, but that's beside the point. Telling someone that they are attractive, or pointing out that you find part of their body attractive, is not in any way productive. Perhaps, one might kindly approach another person and say, "Excuse me, Waffle [in my world this word replaces all gendered titles, everyone is just Waffle], I was walking by and I realized that I find that you are very beautiful so I wanted to tell you that I think you are very beautiful. That's all, please continue on your day, I didn't mean to disturb you." That might be acceptable. Although, really, still unnecessary, because it doesn't really matter that you think that Waffle is beautiful. Their life and yours could go on without you telling them.

But for some absolutely baffling reason, there are certain people in the world that insist that it is their civic duty to tell every person they see that makes their neurons jump a little faster (note: I don't think that's scientifically accurate) exactly what they are thinking. This is terribly confusing to me. I've tried for a few minutes to think of a comparable example, but I can't think of one, because IT MAKES NO SENSE. The bottom line is that there is simply no need to express your thoughts on every human being you pass. It calls unsolicited attention to the subject, and calls negative attention to yourself as well. Any decent human being strongly dislikes a catcaller. Any time someone gives me that up-and-down look on the street or the subway I make a vomiting noise and put on my most disgusted face possible (involuntarily, mind you) and proceed to mumble to myself about "human garbage" and "fucking idiots." One time I was walking down the street with two friends and some random guy said something to us about the way we looked, and I turned around, flipped him two birds, and yelled "FUCK OFF." I do not tolerate this type of bullshit, nor is it my--or anyone else's--responsibility to. It should not even be a thing that we should even have to think about. And yet, it is a pervasive issue in society, especially for women, and those identifying as women, and those who identify as androgynous, and genderqueer, for transpeople, for those who don't identify at all... It's making our streets unsafe and our citizens uncomfortable and sad and angry. All because some jerk decided to open their mouth, when it could have EASILY stayed shut. The amount of energy it takes to not say something is in most cases drastically less than the amount of energy it takes to say something. So really, there is absolutely no reason at all that anyone should be shouting things at other people unless it's a friendly "Hello!" or "Howdy!" or "Greetings!" or "Watch out for that car!" because anything that does not engage the recipient of your comment in a meaningful way is not worth saying. "Hey baby," "Damn gurl," and "Oh shit" DO NOT COUNT AS FRIENDLY GREETINGS. Use your own fucking common decency to differentiate between what positively engages another human being and what is a thought that should stay inside your head. If everyone said everything we were thinking always, IT WOULD ROYALLY SUCK. And you know what royally sucks, not in the conditional? Catcalling. Street harassment. So you know what else? You should stop doing it. Be honest with yourself. If you've done it before, acknowledge your indecency and forgive yourself for your misguidedness and/or ignorance. But now, there's no excuse. No one can pull the "I didn't know it was insulting" or "I don't understand why it's a big deal." Because I just told you. If you continue to harass people on the street, you are a grade-A jerkbag and a top notch fartface. There's really nothing else to it. So just stop.

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Frivolity of Human Rights

Henry David Thoreau once said: “I ask for, not at once no government, but at once a better government” (Thoreau, 1). The concept of anarchism has, over the years, garnered a reputation for endorsing the abolition of all government. In one sense of the word, that is true; it calls for getting rid of the form of governing that is and has been exercised for centuries, one driven by repression, oppression, force, and conformity. In another sense, it is false. Anarchism calls for a society unshackled from the chains of repression, oppression, force, and conformity, and instead one governed by natural laws that do not hinder in the name of order but support in the name of morality. Striking the balance is, of course, extremely difficult, especially when it comes to structuring the economic system. Money is inextricably linked to power, and governance (especially as it stands today) is about power dynamics. The application and execution of anarchism in modern society is contingent on our ability, as a species, to acknowledge and understand our collective responsibility to one another and to work together to rebuild our world to reflect more sustainable and compassionate values.

Traditional economics is classified by goods and services, means of production, and property ownership. Goods are defined as “[products] that can be seen or touched” (Antell and Harris, pp. 3-4), such as food, clothing, and electronics; services are said to be “useful work that cannot be seen or touched” (ibid.), like cooking, sewing, and building. The means of production are the tools and places used to produce goods and services, such as “factories, farms, shops, mines, and machinery” (ibid., 18). As a capitalist country, most of the United States’ means of production are private property, meaning they belong to the capitalist class—those that “can live without working” (Huberman and Sweezy, 24). The crux of the capitalist system is that it exploits the weak for the benefit of the strong: “It is therefore to the interest of the employer [business owners or capitalists] to pay as low wages as possible. It is likewise to his interest to get as much work out of his laborers as possible” (ibid., 24-25).

The majority of the population, the working class, earns wages in exchange for labor. The capitalist class earns profit from the difference between the value of the raw materials that the laborer converts into a sellable product and the value that said product is sold for. Therefore, the capitalist class’s financial benefit is exponentially greater than that of the working class. This desire to keep business costs down and business income up is called profit motive (Antell and Harris, 24). Capitalist societies are often not entirely run by private owners; government ownership is exemplified through public schools and colleges, the postal service, many public transportation systems, housing projects, and public libraries and parks. But in the grand scheme of an enormous society such as that of the United States, the few publicly owned aspects have nowhere near as much power as the many privately owned aspects. 

Noam Chomsky’s (a contemporary anarchist) essay “Neoliberalism and Global Order” delves deeply into the structure of capitalism to dismantle the golden throne upon which modern society places it. He cites the Washington Consensus, which is a collection of market-oriented principles that have been designed by the United States government. The principles are as follows: to liberalize trade and finance, let markets set prices, end inflation, and privatize. Through these methods, the United States was able to obtain half of the world's wealth by the end of World War II. In fact, influential planner George Kennan urged us to “'cease talk about vague and unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratization' and [we] must 'deal in straight power concepts,' not 'hampered by idealistic slogans' about 'altruism and world-benefaction'” (Neoliberalism and Global Order, 21). This is the mindset of the ruling class: human rights are frivolous, and money is worth more than peoples' lives. Most politicians aren't quite as blunt, however: when the government talks about “stability,” they are talking about maintaining the wealth of the upper classes, which is of course comprised of the politicians themselves. Capitalist countries' agendas have one goal, which is to fulfill their self-interest. As of 1995, 95% of the United States' transactions were speculative, because the rich wanted their money now, despite the fact that many economic experts warned against using this approach. This resulted in immense wealth for the few and extreme poverty for the many. But the poor did not matter, only the wealthy did. Business Week published a headline in 1994 reading: “The Problem Now: What To Do With All That Cash,” while the government continued to cut workforces and make more employees part-time workers so the companies did not have to provide them with security or benefits. Chomsky reports that “'at least twenty companies in the 1993 Fortune 100 would not have survived at all as independent companies, if they had not been saved by their respective governments'” (ibid., 38). The government has no problem giving corporations a leg up, but when it comes to the citizens, it’'s out of the question. It is very clear that the so-called democracy that is set up in the U.S. is a deception, and that the priorities of the government are ridiculously skewed. 

Infamous anarchist Emma Goldman renounces the notion that anarchism is impractical. She says that the picture of practicality is to leave the behind old (what does not work or is useless) and build and sustain the new. By that logic, she argues, anarchism is completely practical. It is only so vehemently rejected and unpopular because it is deeply misunderstood. She writes: “How is the ordinary man to know that the most violent element in society is ignorance; that its power of destruction is the very thing Anarchism is combatting?” (Goldman, 3). According to Goldman, anarchism is liberty unrestricted by man-made law, not all law. It follows the laws of nature: cooperation, equality, compassion. Man-made law, on the other hand, uses violence to enforce rules that are often antithetical to the intentions of nature. The state supposedly diminishes crime. The average citizen is not the one who declares war, nor is the citizen responsible for capital punishment; the government has the authority and distance from the heart of the issues to cause much more physical damage than any one person could ever do. 

Whereas organization and control are prioritized in modern society, Goldman believes that “the individual is the heart of society” (ibid., 4). We are forced to become cogs in the wheel, and those that do not are shunned into homelessness and poverty. What is society but a collection of individuals? What is the sea but drops of water? Without each individual, each drop of water, the world would literally not be the same. Therein lies the power of the individual, the secret potential lying dormant in each breast. The power we should be encouraged to gain is the command of the self and therefore a truer sense of self within the whole. This results in a greater willingness to contribute to the whole. Instead, we are taught to strive for material wealth, because wealth provides power, and that is often the end of the sentence. But this coveted power is merely the ability to subdue, exploit, and degrade. It is a useless and toxic goal. As Goldman writes, “The state is the altar of political freedom and like the religious altar, it is maintained for the purpose of human sacrifice” (ibid., 7). She says that there is another way. We must adhere only to the laws of necessity—dictated by nature itself—and find solidarity of interests. This will lead to social harmony. When we can learn to cooperate with one another and do not create unnecessary hierarchies amongst ourselves, work will become enjoyable and worthwhile. This aspect of anarchism is in line with Hinduism, in that the latter teaches to not work for the fruits of labor, but rather for the sake of work itself and the pleasure derived from it. All people have differing interests and capabilities, and there is more than enough natural variety among the human race to perform the necessary tasks. 

The ideas of Noam Chomsky are similarly in line with Emma Goldman’s in many respects. While anarchism is often dismissed as “utopian, formless, primitive, or otherwise incompatible with the realities of a complex society” (On Anarchism, 2), Chomsky was able to outline its two main goals. They are to free society from political power, and to have an alliance of cooperative laborers and administration of things that are of interest to the community. He does, however, concede that there are several conditions on which the plausibility of anarchism rests. It is only possible if the identity of workers shifts from the ‘lower classes’ to everyone that is able to work and contribute to society. This segues into the concept that there is no need for superior power or special privilege when private property or ownership does not exist. Marx-Engels theory believes that authority cannot be abolished or else the proletariat will not have any leverage over its oppressors. However, this just creates a new power structure, which conflicts with anarchist ideals. Mikhail Bakunin said: “Formal liberty…[is] an eternal lie which in reality represents nothing more than the privilege of some founded on the slavery of the rest” (ibid., 7). By this he means that so-called freedom administered by a body of power is not freedom at all, because it had to be granted and can be taken away by the same body of power. The only restrictions that should exist are those that are determined by our individual nature. The argument that chaos would ensue should society become anarchist is baseless. Most human beings commit acts of violence to gain something, whether it be material wealth or social power; when these two things no longer concern us, why should guns be raised at one another? Why should fists lash out?

Chomsky also itemizes a list of qualities or ideas that an anarchist must have or subscribe to. Anarchists must oppose private ownership, especially that of the means of production and wage slavery. They must believe in freely undertaken labor, for labor is the means of life. In modern society, we have lost the satisfaction (really any connection at all) to the sources of our food, shelter, clothing, material possessions, and almost everything else. We no longer know the pleasure, pride, and fulfillment derived from creating something from nothing with the aid of nature and our fellow human beings. We are so far disconnected from this notion that we doubt its truth, but most that reject it have never tested it for themselves. Chomsky argues: “Control of production by a state bureaucracy, no matter how benevolent its intentions, also does not create the conditions under which labor, manual and intellectual, can become the highest want in life. Both, then, must be overcome” (11). Anarchists must also oppose alienated and specialized labor. Ideally, everyone will contribute to everything, which diminishes hierarchy. Lastly, the anarchist must believe in the abolition of capital and wage labor because, as Karl Marx said, wage labor turns humans into “a mere appurtenance of the machine” (ibid., 10). Spontaneous revolution is questionable; long-term education and discussion is a better route to achieving the goals set forth by anarchist theory. 

While the practical application of anarchism in the modern world is often doubted, there exist many examples that may serve to combat this skepticism. Bluestockings, located in New York City, is a radical bookstore, activist center, and fair-trade cafĂ© that operates on a collectively-owned volunteer-powered basis. It opened in 1999 and is still operating today. Bluestockings’ website describes how its workforce is structured: “[we] have a variety of roles falling along a spectrum of time commitment and responsibility, rather than a hierarchy of authority” (Our Structure). Volunteers generally contribute one weekly three-hour shift (although some may wish to work more time either in the store or on special projects), staffers do one weekly six- to eight-hour shift, and members of the collective (“a group of passionate individuals who bottom-line store operations together” (ibid.)) work 10-30 hours a week. Janelle Kilmer, one of the current collective members, was able to join the collective about a year after she began volunteering.  The original owner, Kathryn Welsh, had to sell the store a few years after opening it and it was bought by Brooke Lehman, whose contribution was treated as a loan and was paid back once the money had been made. Bluestockings has been financially self-sustained ever since. The store stays afloat through volunteer labor, maintaining regular customers, offering events to the public almost every day, and providing a safe and open space for the entire community, all without compromising its integrity. 

While Kilmer admits that being a collective member requires one to be in “a very unique financial position to be able to dedicate enough time here, either on unemployment, have really cheap rent...or have a partner or parent that helps support you,” it is not impossible. There are hundreds of volunteers that dedicate their time at the store, with only the promise of free coffee and tea, a 15% discount off merchandise, and the warmth of a welcoming community to tempt them. Most people would be shocked by the notion that volunteering still happens and that people are willing to spend time and energy on activities that do not directly benefit them or offer them any sort of financial compensation. Despite general disbelief, non-hierarchal, unremunerative, and undiscriminating environments can exist and be sustained. Bluestockings has a safer space policy, which is a set of general guidelines that Kilmer describes as “requiring people to respect one another, to be courteous of different types of people, to not make assumptions, to not be violent or disruptive or insulting people. Then the idea is that if somebody does do that, they would be called out on their behavior and then asked to stop, or asked to leave for a short period of time. ... We’re more into holding people accountable but also keep in mind that people make mistakes, and also keeping in line with the idea of transformative justice, that you want to allow people to change and not shame them or ridicule them or not allow them another chance.” This policy is one that would do extremely well to be emulated on a larger scale, preferably in all areas of life. Common decency, responsibility, respect, and kindness should not be considered far-fetched, utopian concepts. 

The arguments for anarchism, when viewed through a compassionate, sustainability-focused lens, far outweigh the arguments against it. Oppression and autocracy are often justified by citing human nature, efficiency, complexity of modern life, and a slew of other things. Human nature is used as a crutch, an excuse, so people don’t have to take responsibility for their words and actions. Our words and actions have been, over time, so manipulated by society that we cannot know what human nature is in these unnatural conditions. We can, however, know that our capitalistic, selfish, and narrow-minded ways are inherently and quite literally unnatural. As the film director Tom Shadyac said in his documentary I Am: “An ocean, a rainforest, the human body, are all co-operatives. The redwood tree doesn't take all the soil and nutrients, just what it needs to grow. A lion doesn't kill every gazelle, just one. We have a term for something in the body when it takes more than its share, we call it: cancer.” Our current lifestyle, especially in this country, is cancerous. It breeds malignancy and destruction within our infrastructure, the corruption of important communication and homeostasis, and, coincidentally, has a tendency to result in death (both literal and metaphysical). The answer is simple--all that is left to do is pursue it.

**********
Works Cited
Antell, Gerson and Walter Harris. “Chapter 2: Types of Economic Systems,” Economics for Everybody. AMSO: New York, 1994.

Chomsky, Noam. “Notes on Anarchism,” On Anarchism. New Press: New York, 2013.

Chomsky Noam. “Neoliberalism and Global Order,” Profit Over People: Neoliberalism and Global Order. Seven Stories Press: New York, 1999.

Goldman, Emma. “Anarchism: What It Really Stands For,” Anarchism and Other Essays. IndyPublish: Virginia.

Huberman, Leo and Paul Sweezy. Introduction to Socialism. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1952.

I Am. Dir. Tom Shadyac. Shady Acres Entertainment, 2010. DVD.

Thoreau, Henry David. “Civil Disobedience.” 1849.

"Our Structure." Bluestockings. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Apr. 2014. <http://bluestockings.com/about/our-structure/>.