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On the Merits of Refusing Saints and Sacredness: The Vegan Trolling of Chelsea Manning May 20, 2017

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism.
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Chelsea Manning Go vegan

Twitter user (((mikayla))) has made rounds in radical circles for telling Chelsea Manning to “Go vegan” in response a pizza post Manning made after eir release from prison.

Obligatory virtue-signalling: Of course Manning deserves the status of radical saint if anyone does. Ey’s an inspiration to revolutionaries across the United States and the world. Hell, even Richard Spencer gives props.

I initially reacted to the “Go vegan” comment with the expected scorn, interpreting it as disrespectful to Manning and woefully out of place. Upon further reflection, I don’t know that comment was wrong. It violated social norms, definitely. It wasn’t cool/hip/proper/tactful/etc. But I’m all about smashing norms.

I sympathize with the act of making a legitimate ethical claims at an inopportune times, of ignoring the implicit sacredness of Chelsea Manning right after release. It’s kind of like calling out Louise Rosealma for their dreadlocks after seeing them get punched by Nathan Damigo. Assuming you agree with cultural-appropriation arguments about the racism of dreadlocks on white people, it’s a fair critique to make even if bringing it up is arguably a jerk move in context.

Personally, while I eat vegan and more or less hold vegan ethical principles, I don’t talk or write much about it. I tell myself I do this because I care about humans more than other animals and because focusing on veganism doesn’t accomplish anything under most circumstances. In terms of self-interest, nonhuman animal suffering doesn’t directly affect me as a human and veganism isn’t super popular in my local radical scene, so it’s convenient to put it on the back burner.

My point here is about the dynamic of disregarding sacredness. I perceive potential in that model. In all (most?) human social systems I’m familiar with, certain folks have an inviolable aura. You’re not supposed to mess with these people, which typically forbids anything that could be interpreted as critical. Sometimes it’s your grandparents. Sometimes it’s your boss, a distinguished scholar, or a pillar of the movement. As with all social power, this lends itself to abuse, inefficiency, and other bad outcomes.

Anarchism, science, and critical theory alike reject such sacredness and encourage asking questions. If taken too seriously, this principle threatens the foundations of society. What’d be the point doing anything if any random jackass with a decent argument could still criticize you without your fans/family/friends/colleagues slapping them down? Isn’t it fundamentally human to both give and desire to receive deference? Incessant rational critique stands out as downright alien and monstrous.

Maybe so. I feel the pull of social capitalism, of prestige, of increased status, and so on. I virtue signal to my ingroup(s) regularly. Regardless, I ultimately want to abolish or at least radically transform  current webs of social power. Refusing the sacredness of a radical saint like Chelsea Manning leads in that direction.

Against All Authority May 14, 2017

Posted by Summerspeaker in Ageism, Anarchism, Feminism, Queer politics.
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¡Sin excepciones! No exceptions. Regardless of sentimentality, freedom means unmaking parental authority along with all other social hierarchies. The nuclear family serves as a practical and conceptual basis for oppression. I remain drawn to Shulamith Firestone’s thought in part because of how ey identified this dynamic.

Happy Anarchy Day May 1, 2017

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On Decolonizing the March for Science April 22, 2017

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Anti-imperialism, Decolonization, Epistemology, Technology, Transhumanism.
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Today’s March for Science unsurprisingly prompted critiques of science from an antiracist and decolonial perspective. This one, from the Seattle group Women of Color Speak out, came across my social media. The post describes unsuccessful attempts to reach out to the local March for Science and make the event less “less racist/elitist/colonialist/sexist.”  Women of Color Speak Out’s first three points to the “Western White Cis Male Scientific Community” come much recommended:

1. We need a great deal of healing before the scientific community can be credible to the general public in terms of equity and “inclusivity” (inclusivity is a white supremacist term, implies that they are doing minorities a favor instead of simply doing the right thing).

2. In order for the scientific community to begin regaining trust of POC and marginalized people, they need to openly acknowledge how they have failed us for decades with their inaction on climate change. They must openly acknowledge that they have failed the Global South, POC, poor people, Indigenous peoples, and Womxn.

3. The scientific community must acknowledge that by staying silent for decades they have served the White Colonial Empire before the needs of humanity and nature.

Overall, the scientific establishment indeed served, and often continues to serve, colonialism, imperialism, capitalism, ableism, heteropatriarchy, and other forms of oppression. Disentangling science a method, as a principle, from these pernicious systems of thought and action will take some doing. Women of Color Speak Out’s first points trace part of this long-term process.

Point four, by contrast, strikes me as misguided:

4. In their values they say ‘Science is the BEST method for understanding the world’. This will greatly offend Indigenous communities, POC, and faith communities. This divisive messaging should be muted to ‘Science is an EXCELLENT method to understand the world’.

While I can see the logic behind lumping Indigenous communities with faith communities here, the addition of POC as well make it curiouser and curiouser. Though not necessarily always accurate or helpful, the narrative of indigeneity as entailing a worldview or worldviews distinct from and presumably at odds with the “Western” scientific one stands firmly established. But why exactly are people of color as a whole prone to taking offense to privileging scientific epistemology? Unlike Indigenous communities and faith communities, there’s nothing definitional to the category “people of color” that implies some epistemology or epistemologies in tension with science.

The fact that science offends faith communities (and other communities) strikes me as one of its beneficial social effects rather than something to avoid or minimize. As argued by Meera Nanda and William Gillis, anything-goes epistemological pluralism and situated knowledges rarely lead toward freedom.

Nanda’s argument from “The Epistemic Charity of the Social Constructivist Critics of Science and Why the Third World Should Refuse the Offer” merits quoting at length:

It is my contention that the epistemic charity of the postmodern and the postcolonial science critics lies in the constitutive role they assign to social relations and cultural narratives in providing the norms of truth. Because they see nothing—not truth, not beauty, not goodness—that is not fully social, they see the free play and autonomy of local webs of meanings as the supreme priority, not to be constrained by any ‘transcendent’ goal. But such a view of knowledge is problematic on at least three counts: (1) It allows social relations and cultural meanings, as they exist today with all their inequities and oppressions, to set limits on what we can know about the world. (2) Simultaneously, it disables any critique of the existing relations and meanings based on knowledge not derived from these same social relations. (3) Last but not the least, it delegitimizes and denigrates intellectuals and movements that bring modern science and scientific temper to bear on local knowledges. As we see in the following scenarios, under the prevailing contexts in most of the Third World, such a logic ends up strengthening those upholding the status quo, be they traditional cultural elites or the modern state. The losers in all these cases are the internal critics—people’s science movements, human rights, and democracy movements—that attempt to challenge the existing cultural mores by using the ‘alien’ worldview of science.

Now, Nanda’s generalization of the Third World (with the valuable qualifier “most of”) obscures important complexities and may not apply to Indigenous peoples in North America and elsewhere. The core logic remains sound nonetheless. Knowledge about our shared material and social world matters. Insulating situated local knowledges from outside engagement, including challenges, facilities abuse.

I hope the growing movement to decolonize science can avoid falling into this trap. I hope transhumanists, especially without a background in antiracism and similar, take seriously critiques of science from Women of Color Speak Out and others.

Milo Yiannopoulos Manages to Be a Dangerous Faggot After All February 21, 2017

Posted by Summerspeaker in Ageism, Anarchism, Feminism, Queer politics.
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In fact, it turned out that there was nothing ‘dangerous’ at all in picking on women and refugees. People will pay you good money for that. The dangerous ideas are the ones they don’t pay you for, the ones that don’t get you on HBO. You’re actually dangerous when you do what Yiannopoulos did in the ‘pedophile’ tapes: defend society’s most hated outcasts, and tell the truth about the complexities of gay men’s sexuality. You’re dangerous when you stick up for those on the fringes rather than kicking them. There’s nothing courageous or edgy in bullying the despised and excluded. But it might be dangerous if you dared to empathize with them.

To all the anarchists, radicals, leftists, and so on jumping on the Milo’s-an-evil-pedophile bandwagon, I urge you to reconsider. While understandable and presumably effective in the short term, Shaun King’s the-pervert-are-power line has pernicious implications for queer revolution. Many, including anticapitalist radicals, thought the perverts were in power back at the turn of the twentieth century. They understood queerness as a bourgeois degeneracy. We don’t need to revive that discourse. Yiannopoulos’s comments about intergenerational sexual encounters are problematic, as the whole subject is, but not nearly as oppressive as countless other things ey’s said. It’s utterly telling that it’s the pedophile charge that has finally damaged Yiannopoulos’s brand. (Well, for the moment. The long-term effects remain uncertain.)

Caution about the discourse of perversity and perverts matters especially for us transhumanists. Queers whose form of queerness has become at least more or less normalized in social-justice circles might perceive no need to worry about the whole pedophilia narrative and its use here. That’s the situation I occupy; despite the “your a fucking pedo” allegation from /r/Anarchism, I’ve no direct personal stake in the matter. I vividly recall the subordination of childhood and youth, but it’s been well over a decade since I’ve experienced it.

But queerness ain’t static. As Gloria Anzaldúa indicated, the demonized groups have shifted with time and will continue to. If technological innovation continues as expected and hoped, we can bet on future moral panics over bodily modification, intimate relations, and so on. Human sexual experiences with robots immediately jumps to mind, for example. We transhumanists have to rigorously attend to the process of queering and othering if we want to figure out ethical arrangement for coming technological realities. Merely accepting dominant lefty norms about who’s the real pervert won’t cut it.

Youth Liberation and Pedophilia February 20, 2017

Posted by Summerspeaker in Ageism, Anarchism, Queer politics, Science Fiction, Technology, Transhumanism.
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So for some reason, leftists have recently decided to highlight Milo Yiannopoulos’s supposed support of pedophilia as part of the case against em. The key piece of evidence comes from an interview in which Yiannopoulos refused to categorize eir own teenage sexual experiences with older folks as abuse. If we denounce people who define their own experiences against the dominate narrative as evil pedophiles, we’re foreclosing discussion on a complicated topic and engaging in exactly the sort of witch-hunt mentality Yiannopoulos and others right-wing notables (hypocritically) decry.

Under the current ageist regime that treats younger folks as subhuman, young-older sexual encounters involve unequal power dynamics and tend strongly toward abuse that leaves enduring psychic scars. I don’t dispute that. However, at the same time, erasing the agency of folks who’ve experienced young-older sexual encounters supports the dehumanization of younger people. It implies that folks below a certain age don’t know what’s good for them, that we older folks should control them by force.

I hold firm to the notion that younger folks are people, not subhumans. I remember being in that situation. I hated such subordination and will never consider it just. You can fight abusive young-old sexual relationships without supporting ageism. Addressing the matter of pedophilia becomes more challenging when you recognize the humanity of younger folks, but that doesn’t mean we should shy away from this recognition.

Ultimately, it’s possible that smashing ageism and the nuclear family would render young-older sexual relationships unremarkable. That’s the ambitious and disturbing future vision Shulamith Firestone presented in The Dialectic of Sex. I don’t know that that’s correct, but it’s worth contemplating without knee-jerk allegations of pedophilia.

While youth liberation has limited presence at the moment, I suspect technological developments will increasingly prompt challenges to the ageist status quo. For example, what happens when genetic and/or cybernetic enhancement leads to more and more young people (teens, preteens, etc.) demonstrating greater conformity to the norms of maturity and rationality than much older folks? I suspect they’ll demand respect. I hope society gives it to them when the time comes.

(For how this topic relates to queerness and antiqueerness broadly, I recommend Gayle Rubin’s now classic piece. I don’t necessarily agree with all of it, but the essay remains provocative and insightful.)

Update: And once again I’m banned from /r/Anarchism. Ageism is apparently official sub policy. Argue for youth liberation, get banned.

Second Update: Yiannopoulos is now stressing eir anti-pedophile credentials and taking the stance that humor is the way ey copes with what ey describe as victimization (apparently from the priest). Yiannopoulos at same time speaks positively a ten-year relationship ey began at age seventeen with a twenty-nine-year-old. For a thoughtful treatment of the overall issue, I recommend this exchange between Samuel Delany and Will Shetterly.

Third Update: The moral panic over Yiannopoulos’s supposed support for pedophilia got eir book cancelled. Left and sundry are unsurprisingly celebrating this. It figures that Simon & Schuster have no problem publishing somebody who cheerleads  for Donald Trump and for deporting every last undocumented immigrant, but gay pedophilia allegations force a cancellations. Why is it so often only the sex scandals that matter?

Anarchist Super Bowl Ad February 5, 2017

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Anarchist Groupthink: Yours Truly Banned from /r/Anarchism February 5, 2017

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So now I’m banned from the whole /r/Anarchism subreddit, of course without explanation.

They can’t justify it, so they don’t even try.

That’s what happens when you ask questions about violence, challenge bodyshaming, and criticize groupthink. That’s what happens when you add “queer loser | expropriate social capital” to your flair. /r/Anarchism, as many anarchists groups, exists as a club for cool kids, a popularity contest. The moderators zealously guard their social capital.

It’s good example of how anarchist unity ain’t a thing and probably shouldn’t ever become a thing, barring some hivemind.

Edit: And now I’m unbanned. Maybe it was all just a mistake. Curious.

The Time Is Ripe for Rebellion February 3, 2017

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professional-anarchists

Some day—and I greatly fear that day is not very far distant—some professional anarchist (for there are professional anarchists as well as professional thieves) will consider that the time is ripe for rebellion, and, raising the fraudulent cry of “Labor against Capital,” instead of his legitimate cry, which is “Rapine, Murder, Booty!” will lead this army of degenerates, composed of anarchists, socialists, nihilists, sexual perverts, and congenital criminals, against society.

James Weir, Jr., 1894

Complete Anarchy January 23, 2017

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“They’re smashing the Starbucks windows! They are smashing the Starbucks windows right now! This is complete anarchy.”