There Is Hope In Resistance: Concrete Actions in the Face of Fascism

recite-10dunvuMy preliminary thought as a monster is made leader of one of the most influential countries in the world is that there is work to be done. Some of that work, yes, is grieving, and being afraid, and being angry, and letting yourself feel whatever you need to feel. But once you’ve felt (or while you feel), there are many concrete steps to be taken now, tomorrow, and over the next four years. Below you’ll find concrete actions of resistance we can all take. Many are collected from other writers and organizers and thinkers on the internet, some are my own thoughts. Not all of these will be appropriate, safe, or doable for everybody, but I’m offering as wide a diversity of tactics as I can pull together because it is a diversity of tactics that makes for effective resistance.  Continue reading “There Is Hope In Resistance: Concrete Actions in the Face of Fascism”

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A Primer on Neoliberalism

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Source

I’m obsessed with neoliberalism. I’m fascinated by it as an ideology, and I’m fascinated by how successful it’s been in such a short time. Mostly, I’m fascinated by how pervasive it is–infecting every corner of life in the Western world–and yet how successfully it has remained invisible.

Like it’s brother capitalism, it’s become an ideology that just is. Ask most people what neoliberalism is and they’ll shrug. But ask them their views on government’s role in society, on privatization, on healthcare or welfare or trade and they’ll be either espousing or critiquing neoliberalism.

Because it’s become the toxic water we swim in–that is, invisible yet fundamental to shaping how we live–I thought it might be useful to offer a little primer on neoliberalism as well as some of the ways we see its impacts. Especially because a lot of writing on neoliberalism is far from accessible, and that is one of the ways we remain unable to fight it. When we don’t have language for what we’re fighting, nor the full scope of the problem, it’s hard–if not impossible–to mount an effective and broad opposition.

So first, what is neoliberalism? It’s a political ideology (that is, a way of understanding, organizing, and governing the world) that emphasizes and prizes individualism over collectivism and encourages consumption as a source of identity and the primary way that we engage with society. Continue reading “A Primer on Neoliberalism”

In the wake of catastrophe, a few thoughts

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If you have found your way to this blog you are likely, like me, devastated. And afraid. You made it through a never-ending campaign of bigotry and hatred and boasts of sexual predation only to be faced with four more years of it, with an emboldened contingent of racists and misogynists and rapists who will see themselves reflected in the White House come January.

I’ve shared a few thoughts about what this means and, if you’re a fellow white person, you may not like them. But please, please don’t turn away. Please read it and if you find yourself angry or defensive sit with it. Continue reading “In the wake of catastrophe, a few thoughts”

How to Derail, Obfuscate, and Shift the Blame When You’ve Messed Up

hd-3-w-flagAlthough I keep my own Facebook page pretty locked down for the sake of my mental health, I often respond on friends’ posts when someone is being oppressive or just generally shitty. Through doing this I’ve catalogued some of the myriad ways people try to derail conversations where they are clearly in the wrong, obfuscate who has said what to draw silent observers to their side, and shift the blame so that they can’t be taken to task for the shitty thing they’ve said so they bear no responsibility for their harmful actions.

Nearly all of them are based on one of two principles: 1) Make someone feel like they’re overreacting or 2) Make them question their own perception of reality.

I’m sharing these because, until I started to see them as part of a bigger picture, they worked really well on me. They made me feel unable to trust my own perceptions, responses, and feelings. They made me question my grip on reality and whether I was “overreacting.” Continue reading “How to Derail, Obfuscate, and Shift the Blame When You’ve Messed Up”

The Five Love Languages Expanded

Two Watercolor Love Birds with Hearts
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You may have heard of the Five Love Languages before. And you may have initially felt some twinge of recognition and then had that followed up with a gut feeling (or gut screaming) that it wasn’t developed for someone like you. It could be the overt heteronormativity and sexist questions, or the Christian underpinnings. Seems like such a shame, since there is some goodness there.

The topic came up today in a group chat of amazing women I’m lucky enough to be a part of and a couple of us remarked that it really needed to be reworked to reflect more people’s experiences. One additional love language struck me and was met with the online equivalent of knowing nods so I thought maybe there was something to this. My friend C suggested I crowdsource other additional love languages which was an excellent suggestion.

One of the things that I think is sorely missing from Chapman’s understanding/definitions of love languages is an understanding of power, trauma, and emotional labour. Full disclosure: I have read his website, I haven’t read his books and so my analysis is of the Love Languages as I understand them and would like to suggest they be reworked rather than a deep dive of Chapman’s work. Continue reading “The Five Love Languages Expanded”

So You Think You Should Respond to That Facebook Post About Race/Gender/Etc

notallmen2So you’re on Facebook, let’s say, and you see a conversation happening about something you’re quite sure you have a lot of knowledge about, and you’re ready to jump in with guns a’blazing.

And so you do! Generously spreading your knowledge all around. Jumping in to active threads to post about your lived experience, thoughtfully challenging others’, just all around engaging in some really pointed, high-level, political debate.

Weirdly, however, it’s not being received as the act of generosity it was. In fact, they’re being pretty rude about it. And entirely missing the point. And getting pretty emotional. And, fuck, if they keep talking like this they’re just going to drive away all of the people who would be inclined to help them, right?

And, weirdest part of all, this isn’t the first time a bunch of people have been overly sensitive and completely missed how generous your contributions are. Has the whole world gone mad?? Continue reading “So You Think You Should Respond to That Facebook Post About Race/Gender/Etc”

Seven Self-Care Strategies for Those Struggling

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My phone’s lock-screen and my touchstone for the last several months.

Just about everyone I know is struggling right now–between brutal acts of police violence against Black people in the US, the Orlando shooting, climate catestrophe, the spectre of a Donald Trump presidency, Brexit, and everything else we’re inundated with constantly, people are struggling with self-care, mental health, and just being okay.

Because I talk a lot about self-care people seem to assume I’m a champ at it. Rather, I talk a lot about it because it’s something I struggle with, and something I see as a fundamental part of doing justice work. So in that spirit, I’m offering a few of the things I’ve been using in the hopes they may be helpful for others. They may not ring true for you and that’s totally cool, we all have different needs and histories and self-care will look different for all of us, but they’re here if you want to give them a go. Continue reading “Seven Self-Care Strategies for Those Struggling”

Stop Worrying About “10 Foods Healthier Than Kale”

I know, I know, it’s that time of year. The time the diet industry goes into overdrive, salivating over the guilt-ridden masses vowing to finally, finally make that change. Hire that trainer, start that diet. And, by the grace of god, be bikini-ready by May. (Here’s a secret: got a body? Like bikinis? Congrats! You’re bikini ready!)

So it’s no wonder that everywhere you turn you’re hearing about super foods, fallen super foods, new food trends, old food trends, food trends to watch out for. And, my favourite: 10 Leafy Greens Healthier Than Kale.

Kale is pretty darn healthy. It’s got boatloads of fibre, it’s got tons of nutrients, it’s got a surprising amount of protein per calorie, it’s got a high volume:low calorie ratio which helps fill you up if you’re seeking weight loss or maintenance. Yeah, maybe chicory’s got a few more per polyphenols (which do what, exactly?) than kale, but so what? Are you finding chicory in your grocery store? Would you know what to do with it?

Much like with exercise (the best one is the one you do), the best leafy green is the one you eat. Anything more than that is veering into nutritionism. 8% more calcium or twice as many polyphenols doesn’t mean anything if you don’t like it, can’t find it, can’t afford it, or just won’t eat it.

These types of articles that focus on the micro-micro-micro level (the micro level being individual behaviours and choices, the micro-micro being eating behaviours, and the micro-micro-micro being this particular plant for that particular nutrient) do us all a real disservice.

The reality is that most of what impacts our health is essentially beyond our control: poverty, infrastructure, agricultural subsidies, structural racism, pollution. And those things that are within our control (for those of us privileged enough to have such control)? They’re really simple. Dead simple. Embarrassingly simple (which is certainly not to conflate simple with easy): eat lots of plants, eat a diverse diet, don’t eat too much, move as much as your body and lifestyle allow, ditto sleep, don’t drink pop, don’t smoke, floss your teeth.

That’s about it. But how many articles can you write about that? How many diet pills does “eat food, not too much, mostly plants” sell? How many clicks does “move your body every day, lift heavy stuff sometimes” get versus “the 19 fat-burning secrets THEY don’t want you to know!!”?

And, moving beyond that, what advertiser is going to pay for “Poverty Larger Risk for Diabetes Than Diet” with their right hand when their left hand is in Washington lobbying against raises to the minimum wage?

Rather than worrying about the precise micronutrient makeup of our diets and which “superfood” is trending highest (for the record, goji berries taste like literal dirt), or wading into online-fights about CrossFit, why don’t we all try to hit those basics: fresh food, lots of plants, adequate sleep and movement, lowered stress, good oral hygiene, and then spend some of that time and energy working on ensuring that those are available for all (write your representative, get involved in elections, volunteer at the community garden, organize for a living wage, donate your garden’s excess to shelters and food banks, stop supporting magazines and TV shows that peddle harmful crap).

And a friendly reminder that a lot of food banks and shelters are hitting hard times this winter. If you can contribute food or personal goods (socks, hats, mitts, scarves, toiletries and menstrual products are always needed) or even better, money, that is one small, concrete thing you can do to help the health of someone else.

The Truth(s) of Social Change

[CN: non-graphic talk of sexualized violence, talk of racism and the murders of unarmed black men]

Reality has a wellknown liberal bias.–Stephen Colbert

I don’t know how to write this piece. It’s intellectually hard and it’s spiritually hard.

I’ve been thinking, lately, about activist tactics, about narrative, about facts.

You see, for the longest time, I thought it was a case of misinformation and missing information. That if I could just tell so-and-so enough stories, enough statistics, it would work. They’d see the error of their ways. They’d drop the casual racism and misogyny. That they just didn’t have the facts. That the truth will win out. That the truth must win out.

But what I’ve realized lately is that there isn’t just one truth. And that’s the problem.

Don’t get me wrong, there is an objective reality. One in which gendered violence and racism and transphobia are real and deadly.

But there are also huge, oppressive systems that are strongly invested in hiding that objective reality. Systems like patriarchy and white supremacy and late-stage capitalism that benefit from the ongoing oppression of Othered bodies. Systems that can only exist through the ongoing disavowal of empathy.

Because, really, isn’t that the path to justice? Not sympathy, not compassion. Empathy. The ability to recognize what another is feeling and feel it yourself. Indeed, the inability to not feel the pain of others. Which is not to say that I can understand what it is to, say, grow up as a racialized person in a racist society. But I can recognize the pain and yearning and I can feel it myself in some small measure. And, more than that, because I recognize that your liberation, my liberation, all of our liberation is tied up in each other’s. To quote Lilla Watson,

If you have come here to help me, you are wasting our time.But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.

But there are these systems that only work so long as we don’t see that our liberations are intimately bound. Indeed, they hide, to the best of their ability, that liberation is even possible. That liberation is even necessary.

The baseline state of capitalism, if you ask Marx, is one of alienation. We are alienated from ourselves, from our work, from each other. And it is this alienation that allows not just our own subjugation, but our complicity in the subjugation of others. Because it takes a certain amount of dissociation and disembodiment to sit in a cubicle all day, ignoring our needs for movement and meaning and stimulation. And it takes that same dissociation and disembodiment to see the suffering of another and shrug, or, worse, join in the oppression of others.

We lose our own humanity through alienation, and we deny the humanity of others. Worse, we selectively grant humanity. That person who looks like me gets it, that other person doesn’t. And thus we wash our hands of the problem of empathy. Of solidarity.

So let’s go back to that idea of multiple truths. Not just the idea, but the problem of multiple truths. You see, my truth is one that recognizes the epidemic of sexualized violence, racist state violence, transphobic violence. So when I hear about a campus rape I don’t wonder what she was wearing, if it was just “sex she regretted the next day” (UGH), if she is making it up for….reasons that have never really been clear to me but reside in the fever dreams of misogynistic assholes. When I hear about a white police officer killing an unarmed black man I don’t twist myself in contortions to legitimate it, I don’t look to the domestic violence history of a dead 12 year old boys’s father to validate the murder of a child. Because these facts (and they are facts) fit into the world as I understand it.

But for those who are heavily invested in upholding the patriarchy and white supremacy, these events are aberrations if they are accepted as facts at all. You see, if you are invested in the idea that rape doesn’t happen that often and that when it does the woman was asking for it, that 1 in 3 or 6* statistic doesn’t square with your reality. And because our brains are funny things, most people will decide that the statistic must be wrong rather than that their worldview is. And if you’re a white person who has only ever experienced police officers as friendly and safe, then thousands of (mostly) people of colour rising up and protesting the ongoing racist targeting and murder of black bodies flies in the face of what you know to be the truth. And it’s a lot easier to disavow the actions of people who don’t look like you than it is to completely re-evaluate everything you know to be true about the world.

So I don’t think that we can rely on the use of statistics and facts to change the world. Because they are discounted by people whose truths don’t allow for them.

On the small scale** I think we need to focus on empathy. We need to not just insist on our own and each other’s humanity, we need to find that point in others where they can experience empathy. I can remember a conversation with my brother several years ago, where he was talking about a negative and scary experience where a large man was hitting on him, touching him, and making very graphic sexual comments to him in a situation he couldn’t easily leave. I told him that I had experienced that more times than I could count. And that working in any kind of food-service job as a woman meant multiple versions of that every week. He was visibly shaken and said something to the effect that he never realized it was that bad. He’d heard stories but didn’t know it was that bad.

When we live in a culture that so thoroughly dissuades empathy we need to seek it out and set the stage for it.

*A word on that statistic. We don’t actually know how prevalent violence is for reasons that make a lot of sense (low reporting rates, a culture which downplays violence and can cause people to spend years explaining abuse away as “a weird thing that happened”). RAINN says 1 in 6 American women will experience sexualized violence in her lifetime. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives estimates 1 in 4 Canadian women will experience sexualized violence or domestic violence in her lifetime. The Violence Against Women Survey conducted by Statistics Canada in 1993 found that 1 in 3 women respondents reported experiencing sexualized violence at some point in their lives and 1 in 2 women had experienced sexualized or domestic violence. While we know that violence rates have decreased in Canada since then, that survey has never been repeated so we don’t actually have a reliable number. But if we go with 1 in 4 women will experience some form of sexual/intimate violence, that is still outrageously high.

**Large scale I think we need civil disobedience and to remember that no holders of power have ever granted rights out of the goodness of their hearts, or because they were mildly inconvenienced.

One Simple Trick…

I keep writing these long pieces about critical theory and systemic oppression and fear and language but they all seem to be lacking. Too many words failing to convey what I’m trying to say. So I’m going to say this in as few words as possible: a request to you, a reminder to myself.

Choose kindness.

It can be overwhelming to think about systemic racism and misogyny (and ableism, and classism, and heterosexism, and, and, and). It can hurt to feel implicated in these centuries-old power structures you didn’t ask to benefit from. So when someone points out that you are benefitting, or that your actions are hurting them, choose kindness. Maybe you can’t examine the layers behind it, maybe you can’t unpack it and analyze it and critique it right now, maybe you don’t know why that joke was offensive. But what you can do is trust them and say this: “I’m sorry. I will try to do better.”

*And yes, the title is a tongue-in-cheek reference to the millions of articles, websites, videos, etc. promising lightning fast weight-loss with no effort. But, really, this is one simple trick to be a better person.