Saturday, November 28, 2009

That's it- I'm moving to Denmark

FTR- I can't stand Oprah's OMG you don't believe in religion schtick, or her belief that positive thinking is all it takes to get what you want. So it's kinda nice to see her brain boggled by a bunch of civilized socialists.

Here's a radical thought

Remember when I told you all that Wonder and I had been talking and I couldn't think of a single grown woman I know who doesn't have some depression/anxiety problem?

Perhaps that is just the natural consequence of our brains having too many synaptic fires while trying to hold onto the idea of the spectacle while also being confronted daily with it's falseness.

If depression is not pessimism but realism, then depression is what happens when we see the world for what it is and realize how utterly powerless we are to change it for ourselves (meaning in each individual case, not that the world is unchangeable).

I know that is a huge part of it for me. I know I have enough education and thoughtfulness and understanding to see how the world works, but that also means that I see how utterly powerless I am to make it better for me and the Kid. (I have joked that I have enough education to see the system and how it all works, but not enough education to make any of that knowledge profitable). I can write here, and hopefully sometimes it makes it better or easier for someone out there to see it too, or at least to feel less alone as a hunk of meat in the ever churning sausage factory that is the modern world. That is good, great even, but doesn't do anything to stop the daily fear of how are we just going to survive, put food on the table and keep a roof over our heads.

I think that explains why women, and particularly poor women, suffer from mental illness at higher rates than men. Having that oppression check on the kyriarchy means that we start seeing the truth from the lie very early and have to come up with ever more elaborate ruses to trick ourselves into disbelief. From the first time we're catcalled (I was 10 I think) or groped (6 or 7) we realize that being a good girl has nothing to do with whether or not you'll be bothered by men.

Or maybe it's just me who is depressed not because of anything particularly personal but because THE ENTIRE WORLD SUCKS ASS!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Happy Thanksgiving Thought

Many of us are uncomfortable with the whole Indians and Pilgrims made nicey nice and had a big festive party to celebrate coming together meme of Thanksgiving. Hell, I haven't called Thanksgiving "Thanksgiving" for years. It's Carb-Fest to me.

It's hard to maintain the illusion when you think about genocide and small pox blankets.

But I am a slightly vengeful person. Little acts of payback make me cheerful. I know, I should be a better person blah blah blah. Wevs.

So in the spirit of cheerful bits of revenge, think about this: while Europeans brought us Natives small pox, it is highly possible that in exchange for murdering us and raping us and stealing from us, we gave them syphilis.

It's a really poignant form of revenge, only inflicted on rapists and after many many years it turns their brains to swiss cheese. It's not enough revenge to make it fair, but it does make my cold dark heart a little warmer.

I could really use $1000 bucks

3 Quarks Daily is having a best political writing contest. I want to submit, but I need some feedback on what post you all think is good enough, smart enough, and gosh darn it, people love it enough.

My first choice is Middle Class Values Don't Solve Poverty but I am open to suggestions.

(I am also totes down if someone wants to go nominate me- I am not above shameless blegging).

Also- How About You Economists Do Some Fucking Math Instead is good, but perhaps a bit too, uhm flowery with the language.

Feminism and housework

Not actually all that different in other parts of the world (right down to the trolls)

Wonder and I were just talking about this the other day. My mom- seriously scary clean freak, would not let us leave the house if it was messy in some way. It was as if a perfectly clean house could mask all the horrible crap like poverty and life Could.Not.Continue if the carpet wasn't vacuumed properly.

Me- total slobby slob. Though every now and then I get weird twinges where I worry people will judge me on my slobby slobness, I try to think of it as the ultimate feminist punk rock act. Fuck you patriarchy and your insistence that I scrub floors. If I was a single dude who was as messy as I am, people would just tell me that I need to get a wife or a girlfriend.

(Also please note that when sharing a home with other adults, I do my part to keep the common areas clean. But my room is basically a floordrobe)

Here's the thing- no one ever says to the perpetually tidy "oh your house looks so clean" or "nice job on the dusting", but they may say something if you are messy. Don't apologize. Tell them it's the first step in the revolution and the dust bunnies are being drafted.

And then try to remember this: you are worth more than a closet full of clean laundry, worth more than sparkling bathroom tiles, worth more than a well organized fridge. Your value as a human being isn't in how many tedious household tasks you can/will do for free.

Another edition of things I wish existed

A commercial where a woman eats a giant, fatty fat, meaty burger with no mention of how "bad" she's being.

A romantic comedy where a woman has to choose between 2 guys, the boring but handsome dream dude and the obnoxious dude-bro frenemy who really gets her. She decides her life is better without either and adopts a bunch of cats instead.

A law and order/csi type show where the women investigators aren't all required to poke at dead bodies at crime scenes or chase down bad guys in full make-up, fake nails, and 4 inch stilettos.

Any version of Law and Order Criminal Intent that doesn't include brilliant/damaged brooding dude detective and the woman detective who nods agreeably when needed. (Almost had it when Annabella Sciorra was on, but alas.....)

A female Doctor Who who won't have her brain explode by seeing the time/space vortex.

PWD played by actors with disabilities. Also, black women played by black women (I'm looking at you Tyler Perry and Eddie Murphy).

And because I am pervy and like looking at pretty men- more gay men kissing on regular tv.

RQ Cooks- well not exactly

This is the first time in many many years that I am not hosting carb-fest. Ruth is off at grad school, friends are all in Seattle, and I am here with family and decidedly not in charge of any carb-fest planning. It's weird. Who will eat an entire plate of deviled eggs? Or fix yummy alcoholic beverages? Or worry that something might not be vegan (despite the fact almost everything I make at Thanksgiving-except the turkey, deviled eggs and last years sausage stuffing- has been vegan for years)!

But I've got recipes for you peeps anyways.

(vegan) Smokey green beans

Get a large mess of fresh green beans.
Snap off ends.
Blanche (quickly dip green beans in a pot of boiling water- count to 30, then plunge green beans into ice water. Yes, this is a pain in the ass but you can and should do this part ahead of time)
Dry green beans on a paper towel- this is important.If they don't dry all the way you get those nasty soggy green beans that no one likes.

Right before serving in a large skillet-
toast almond slices over mediumish heat. You just want to heat them until you can smell them, and they burn fast. Remove from pan and set aside.

Put a wee bit of olive oil in the pan, heat to high. Throw in green beans and drizzle liberally with liquid smoke and salt. The liquid smoke will get very smokey.

Cook for just a few minutes until the liquid smoke is evaporated and the beans have a few smokey brown patches on them. They should still be firmish- not limp. Mix with almonds and serve.

Whipped Sweet Potatoes (can be vegan if you use soy milk and fake butter)

Wash sweet potatoes, rub with olive oil, wrap in tin foil and bake at 450 until fork tender. I usually do one large sweet potato for two people, but these are really good so you may want to do more.

When fork tender- unwrap the foil and then skin the hot potatoes. Put mushy potato stuff in a large bowl. Just like with mashy potatoes, add a bit of milk and a lot of butter. Also add in a good large glunk (RQ technical term for a fistful) of brown sugar. You can now either mash with a potato masher or whip with a beater. Once smooth, do a taste check. It may need more brown sugar. And a little cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice or nutmeg wouldn't hurt either. If you want to be real fancy, you can mix in some pralines, but I like this better than the marshmallow fluff sweet potato casserole version.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Okay- I admit it

I am obsessed with Stump Lane and the spectacle idea. I think it's the perfect explanation of one of my other favorite philosophers- Gramsci. It explains something that Marx missed, why capitalism is so very very seductive..

Yep- this is another of those rambly posts that no one will comment on cause it's thinky instead of ranty. But right now you either get thinky or you get despondent and hopeless from me. Thinky is my attempt to subvert depression.

I've written before about Gramsci's cultural hegemony and common sense. I only know about it because of an obscure reference in poly sci text book that was brushed off by my conservative poly sci proff. So of course- rabbit hole and books are bought and there ya go.(Dear old poly sci proff- this is why you had to use my papers to lecture from when it came to progressive philosophies).

So common sense, (not to be confused with Cartesian common sense- I think therefore I am) says things like women should be careful to avoid rape. That is an example of "common sense" reinforcing the values of the dominant class. Rapists aren't responsible for rape, women are. Common sense says that hard work will get you the American dream, but hard work really just gets cheap labor from the non-elites to provide the elites with more wealth. It's "common sense" that women want to be thin and attractive to men that keeps women too focused on food and starvation to realize that they are paid less and do more actual work (including unpaid labor) than men do (and totes ignores the women who don't want to sleep with men).

These examples are mostly from a feminist perpsective, but you can find similar examples of "common sense" for any marginalized group.

So where does the idea of spectacle come in? Think about those three examples, single woman walking alone at night, the American dream, the thin, attractive woman. I bet that just those examples brought pretty specific images into your head. Those images don't come from the ether, they are culturally reinforced ideas that we are shown images of over and over and over. Some of them are positive (you can have this, be this, if you just believe in it hard enough) and some are negative (if you don't follow the approved narrative- you will be this).

Let's look at the American dream, because the image of that is so generic that jokes are made about white picket fences. It starts with the house. Now as a homeless person, lemme tell you that the idea of a safe, secure place that is all you own is better than any sex fantasy. Shit, since I was a little kid I've been drawing house plans when I am stressed. I can, with no trouble at all, call up the exact images of my dream home in my head, right down to the baseboards and the window styles. Now everyone has different tastes when it comes to home, but the idea of owning a place that can never be taken from you is a huge one.

So what else goes with that American dream? Oh yeah, a car or two. Again, people have different tastes (if I won the lottery tomorrow I'd own a Volvo c70 hardtop convertible) but cars mean freedom, the ability to go where you want, when you want. That's why access to transportation is a reoccurring problem in domestic violence. I owned 4 cars before I was ever "allowed" to drive one regularly.

Oh yeah, and the American dream comes complete with spouse (of the opposite sex) and children. Love, sex, procreation. Women are taught from childhood to dream of marshmallow dresses and Ken doll husbands and trained to see childcare and housework as fun with dolls and toy kitchens. Any grown woman with a hubby and/or kids will tell you that reality is hard work. Dolls don't projectile vomit red Gatorade on you and you never worry about hunger in a toy kitchen. Men always have jobs that pay at least living wage for a family of 4. Etc, etc, etc.

So the American dream tells us that if we work hard enough at following the dominant narrative we will get security, freedom, love, sex. We will banish hunger and fear and loneliness. The American dream is about the ending of worry and fear.

But it doesn't just tell us, it shows us. This is where the images are so important. You can see the dream house, dream car, dream kitchen, dream spouse, wedding dress, wedding cake etc. If I posted a picture of a man carrying a woman in a white dress over the threshold of a house with a picket fence, you'd know I was referencing the American dream.

This is where that whole snow globe thing comes into play. We see this ideal life in perfect clarity. It's probably easier for you to right now imagine and describe your dream kitchen than it is to describe your actual kitchen. (Perhaps the poverty gourmand in me is projecting the idea that everyone has a dream kitchen. If so, pick your dream house vs. actual home, or dream car vs. actual car).

This ideal is fake, and impossible, for all but the already elite. You can't get it. You can buy parts of it (and that's what they are counting on- buy buy buy), but the dream house doesn't have toilets that need scrubbing or gutters that need cleaning or a mortgage that needs paying. Dream kitchens never have dirty dishes in the sink or coffee rings on the counter or stinky garbage that needs to be taken out.

That is the magic of the spectacle. We are shown that we can eliminate the very real feelings of fear and hunger and loneliness if we follow the spectacle's rules of produce and consume. Work work work, buy buy buy. We become horrible mindless blobs eating our way through our own shit (produce! consume!) spurred on by shiny flashing pictures in front of our eyes.

And we don't even know we are eating our own shit because production is so distant and specialized. A lot of us spend our lives "making copies", pushing pieces of paper around that sell or buy (produce! consume!) pieces of things that make other things.

So what happens when you can't or won't follow that dominant narrative? What happens if you can't produce because you are sick or injured? What happens if you don't have or want a husband but you already have kids? What happens if your dream spouse is the same gender as you? Or if you're not the same color as the happy (white)couple on top of the wedding cake? You might be able to make up for it (if you work twice as hard and are willing to sell out others), but mostly not following the dominant narrative leads to poverty, fear, lack of security, hunger, incarceration, violence. You know, all the things those images are supposed to replace.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

We float together or we sink apart

Corrente is trying to figure out how we get around the do nothing Democratic party, so is Violet.

The only way this can ever work is if all the marginalized factions who will makeup this party agree- we float together or we sink apart. The sinking apart thing is how they keep us down. Think about abolition and suffrage. They went together, hand in hand, in women like Elizabeth Cady Stanton. But when push came to shove, black men got the vote first (technically) and shoved women of all colors under the bus for the right. But Jim Crow laws made it near impossible for them to exercise that right. I wonder if Jim Crow laws would have been as easy to enact if suffrage was universal at the time?

The kyriarchy does that to marginalized groups whenever it's structure is threatened. It gives one group the appearance of gain in order to squash the demands of another group. Think about the EDNA (employment non-discrimination act) that sold out trans folks. Think about health care reform that leaves women out and punishes sick people for having a pre-existing condition with mandates and tax penalties but gives insurance companies an extra year before pre-existing conditions are made moot. And I can't even start to point out the millions of ways poor people are routinely shoved to the side for any reason. A stiff breeze is enough for people to sell the poor out.

We float together or we sink apart.

This new party, whether it's outside inside or third party or a mass sign up for the Greens, has to require us, all of us, to make a promise to each other. We will not sell out one group for the gain of another. If we don't make that promise and keep it, then this new thing is really just another flavor of the old thing and it won't work.