Sunday Reading

by zunguzungu

It’s Saturday, but since @millicentsomer thinks Christmas happens on the day before Christmas — a maddeningly manifest falseness which I have no choice to concede, due to my endless good grace — I say, to hell with it. Sunday reading on Saturday!

Why I Resigned from the Good Men Project:

Seemingly innocuous words often have a profound charge depending on how and by whom they’re used. Tom knows, surely, how problematic it is to use the word “boy” to refer to an African-American. It’s not a curse word in most contexts, but when used by a white person to refer to an adult black male, it’s steeped in the long and painful history of racism in America. What many men fail to understand is that accusing a woman of being insane or of engaging in reprisals merely because she’s expressing forceful disagreement has an equivalent ugliness. If that seems hyperbolic, google the word “hysteria.”

All of this behavior reflects two things: men’s genuine fear of being challenged and confronted, and the persistence of the stereotype of feminists as being aggressive, wrathful, “man-bashers.” The painful thing about all this, of course, is that no man is in any real physical danger on the internet— or even in real life — from feminists. Women are regularly beaten and raped — even on college campuses — but I know of no instance where a man found himself a victim of violence for making a sexist remark in a feminist setting! “Male-bashing” doesn’t literally happen, in other words, at least not as a result of arguments over feminism. But that doesn’t stop men from using (in jest or no) their own exaggerated fear of physical violence to make a subtle point about feminists.

[A]s exasperating as it is, this kind of silencing language almost always works. Time and again, I’ve seen it work to silence women in the classroom, or at least cause them to worry about how to phrase things “just right” so as to protect the guys and their feelings. It’s a key anti-feminist strategy, even if that isn’t the actual intent of the men doing it — it forces women to become conscious caretakers of their male peers by subduing their own frustration and anger. It reminds young women that they should strive to avoid being one of those “angry feminists” who (literally) scares men off and drives them away.

In the Wake of Protest: One Woman’s Quest to Unionize Amazon:

I decided to get a job working in the Amazon warehouse solely for the purpose of unionizing it. No one asked me to do it. No one paid me. I took the task on out of a newfound zeal and a belief in what unionizing could do. Up until then my ideas about unions were vague. I was pro-union in orientation, not experience. I had seen John Sayles’ Matewan and knew that “Solidarity Forever” was a song, but that was about it. What ideas I did have were steeped in nostalgia and rooted in a desire for working class authenticity. I found ethical simplicity of a world in which the boss is the guy in the office, and the worker is the guy in the coal pit very appealing, but it wasn’t all that relevant.

A Very Very Brief History of Occupation Tactics

By now, most people know that ‘Occupation’ as a tactic was not invented by 2000 of us at Zuccotti park on September 17. There is, at last, more widespread knowledge of the Indignado movement which began this summer in Spain, and its concurrent, and much more powerful anti-government movement in Greece. In fact, as histories of OWS proliferate, people recognize that much of our structure, including much of General Assembly procedure, was based on the Indignado model, for better and for worse. The February take-over of the Madison state capitol, and the surrounding occupation, dubbed Walkerville by residents, was another example from earlier this year. And the centrality of the occupation tactic to the Arab Spring has not gone unnoticed. Those of you who have been paying attention know that this movement in the US traces back to the student occupations of NYU, the New School and UC Santa Cruz that took place in 2009.

There have been many resistance movements throughout history which have made use of the occupation tactic. In the United States, the unemployed Coxey’s Army, which marched across the country decrying injustice and unemployment in 1894, camped out throughout the summer as they converged upon Washington. In the summer of 1932, tens of thousands of WWI veterans and their families occupied parks, military bases and a number of public buildings in Washington D.C., demanding the immediate cash payment of their service certificates, referred to as a ‘bonus’. These ‘Bonus Marchers’ shut down much of the city, and faced the police in camp evictions similar to those we saw this year. In the Depression, many Hoovervilles—the shanty towns of tents and temporary structures built by the homeless–had serious political content, as portrayed in Updike’s Grapes of Wrath, that is often washed out of the history books. Though a less-favored tactic in the 60s, many university buildings–most famously at Berkeley, Columbia and University of Wisconsin, but occurring all over the country–were occupied at the height of the anti-war movement. At the time of his assassination, Martin Luther King, Jr. was planning a tent-city occupation of Washington D.C as the first step of his Poor People’s Campaign. Fellow organizers went ahead with the plan, and ‘Resurrection City’ took over the Mall for more then a month in May-June of 1968.

From 20 Great Visualizations of 2011, I give you By The Numbers: Today’s Military:

Dar es Salaam: Underwater and Underreported:

If you’re reading this from outside of Tanzania, chances are you haven’t heard that large swaths of the 3-million plus city of Dar es Salaam have been underwater for several days. It’s a situation of superlatives: flash floods due to several month’s worth of rain in 72 hours, including the highest rainfall ever recorded in a single day, have caused the worst flooding the city has seen in 57 years. Thousands are homeless, much of the city has been paralyzed with damaged roads and power outages…

Kafka Surrenders:

[C]onsider what just happened here. The trial court, the appellate court, and the prosecution all concluded that these two cops broke the law, yet still, all three have deemed that the cops’ testimony is more credible than the testimony of Crossland, his cousin, and the other witnesses—none of whom was doing anything wrong before the confrontation. To be fair, the evidence has to be pretty overwhelming for an appeals court to overturn a trial court on witness credibility. But still. Only one party broke the law before the confrontation. But because that party sports a badge and works for the government, they still get the presumption of credibility over the guy who was minding his own business, his cousin, and the other witnesses.

The Occucopter:

protesters are fighting back with their own surveillance drone. Tim Pool, an Occupy Wall Street protester, has acquired a Parrot AR drone he amusingly calls the “occucopter”. It is a lightweight four-rotor helicopter that you can buy cheaply on Amazon and control with your iPhone. It has an onboard camera so that you can view everything on your phone that it points at. Pool has modified the software to stream live video to the internet so that we can watch the action as it unfolds. You can see video clips of his first experiments here. He told us that the reason he is doing this “comes back to giving ordinary people the same tools that these multimillion-dollar news corporations have. It provides a clever loophole around certain restrictions such as when the police block press from taking shots of an incident.”

The demise of football

Thomas Friedman famously offered the ‘Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention‘, on the basis that no two nations with a McDonalds within their borders had ever gone to war. Allow me to offer its successor: the ‘White Goalposts Theory of Crisis Resolution’. This theory states that we will know that our present economic crisis is being resolved (rather than deepened), once a front-bench politician comes out and publicly attacks football, in terms of its business models, culture and economic norms, and not only for its sporadic eruptions of racism or corruption. My prediction, for what it’s worth, is that this event will occur in October 2013, and that the politician in question will be Yvette Cooper, Leader of the Labour Party.

Children dressed as animals dressed as children (or, The Meaning of Christmas):

Cuteness, I have argued, often rests on a double mimesis. It’s not that the child is dressed as an animal so much as that the child is dressed as an already anthropomorphized animal.

Louis CK’s Shameful Dirty Comedy:

Louis has hit on some sort of subterranean undercurrent of emotion that I didn’t realize might be swelling until I listened more closely: shame.

What Democrats will compromise on:

[A]s the dust settles, the question remains: With a Democrat in the White House and a Democratic woman in charge of HHS, why are contraceptives and reproductive rights still a bargaining chip to be traded away for mythical swing voters who never seem to materialize? Why are groups that supported the president (NARAL endorsed Barack Obama while Hillary Clinton was still in the race, a move that was sharply criticized by EMILY’s list and others) still sending in petitions after the fact, caught unawares that they were about to be undermined yet again by a theoretically pro-choice administration?

I prefer the early Beethoven, before he sold out and went commercial:

On December 22, 1808, Beethoven himself rented a hall in Vienna and promoted the concert to end all concerts: the debut, over four hours, of three of the greatest works in the history of music: his Fifth Symphony, the Sixth (“Pastoral”) Symphony, and the astounding Piano Concerto No. 4, plus selections from his amazing Mass in C Major, and in closing, the wonderful Choral Fantasia (forerunner to his Ninth Symphony). A bonus: improvisations by the maestro.

This was mid-period Beethoven. He was 38 at the time and would live another 19 fitful years.

Construction of Brasília, 1950s:

Spectacular Copulative Dance Today:

Hagamos el amor con la ropa / siente la pasión del reggae,” intones Puerto Rican reggaetonero Speedy, unabashedly linking the sensuality of reggae music to a phrase more often used to demean the risqué moves at the heart of reggaeton. Rather than a dance, critics have alleged, the perreo is little more than heavy petting in public—a corruption of courtship and a shameful activity for young innocents. Speedy’s refrain tellingly embraces this definition: making love with clothes on sounds just fine to him and his audience…

Sexual pantomime runs deep through dance, not surprisingly, and moral panic right alongside. In the New World and trans-colonial Europe, Afrodiasporic rhythms like reggaeton’s dembow (for some, a synonym for perreo) have repeatedly engendered the kind of intimate dance that provokes policing along the lines of race, class, and age, usually under the banners of Christian moral authority or the civilizing imperatives of nation-building.

Occupy Atlanta has successfully helped save an Iraq War veteran from foreclosure:

Activists began occupying Brigitte Walker’s home on Dec. 6. By the end of that first week, JPMorgan Chase, which owns her mortgage, began discussing with the activists and Walker the possibility of a loan modification. Chase’s modification offer became official Monday morning. The offer will result, Walker tells The Huffington Post, in hundreds per month in savings.

On Tahrir, the symbol:

Tahrir became an international symbol, thanks to the foreign media, and everyone believed that the regime was brought down because of the people in Tahrir, even though every revolutionary knows that the regime was brought down because the revolution was at every square in the country, not just Tahrir. But, amazingly, we also believed the Hype that the media created. We believed in the Symbol, and it became a fixture in our thinking. If there is a problem, go to Tahrir. Hell, centralize the entire revolution into Tahrir, and instead of going to every other square and concentrating our bases in the country, we demanded – like the chauvinist Cairiens that we are- for them to come to us. That as long as we have many numbers in Tahrir, we will get somewhere, we will bring down the regime.

But here is the truth: Tahrir is not a magical land, one which if we occupy we can hold all the magical keys of our kingdom and bring down the evil regime of whomever is in Power. Tahrir is a square. A piece of land. A symbol, but a piece of land nonetheless. And just because it worked before, it doesn’t mean it will work again. We are like an old married couple trying to recapture the magic of their early days by going to the same place they went to on their honeymoon, or dance to the same song they fell in love to, and discovering that it’s not working because there are real problems that need to be resolved. Symbols are nice, but they don’t solve anything.

Home Loan Company Pays $335 Million For Racial Discrimination:

Countrywide Financial, which is owned by Bank Of America will have to pay $335 million to more than 200,000 people who were discriminate against due to their race. The Department Of Justice found that Countrywide Financial charged African Americans and Hispanics higher interest rates and steered them towards risky and expensive subprime mortgages between 2004 and 2008.

Regarding Christopher Hitchens:

So far, most of the eulogies of Christopher have come from men, and there’s a reason for that. He moved in a masculine world, and for someone who prided himself on his wide-ranging interests, he had virtually no interest in women’s writing or women’s lives or perspectives. I never got the impression from anything he wrote about women that he had bothered to do the most basic kinds of reading and thinking, let alone interviewing or reporting—the sort of workup he would do before writing about, say, G.K. Chesterton, or Scientology or Kurdistan. It all came off the top of his head, or the depths of his id. Women aren’t funny. Women shouldn’t need to/want to/get to have a job. The Dixie Chicks were “fucking fat slags” (not “sluts,” as he misremembered later). And then of course there was his 1989 column in which he attacked legal abortionand his cartoon version of feminism as “possessive individualism.” I don’t suppose I ever really forgave Christopher for that.

It wasn’t just the position itself, it was his lordly condescending assumption that he could sort this whole thing out for the ladies in 1,000 words that probably took him twenty minutes to write. “Anyone who has ever seen a sonogram or has spent even an hour with a textbook on embryology knows” that pro-life women are on to something when they recoil at the idea of the “disposable fetus.” Hmmmm… that must be why most OB-GYNs are pro-choice and why most women who have abortions are mothers. Those doctors just need to spend an hour with a medical textbook; those mothers must never have seen a sonogram. Interestingly, although he promised to address the counterarguments made by the many women who wrote in to the magazine, including those on the staff, he never did. For a man with a reputation for courage, it certainly failed him then. (Years later, when he took up the question of abortion again in Vanity Fair, he said basically the exact same things, using the same straw-women arguments. Time taught him nothing, because he didn’t want to learn.)

From Jacobin, to which you can subscribe here.