Friday, April 29, 2005

Some Reading

  • This post on Killing Train about the Kahnawake band council selling the Mohawk language to Microsoft appears to be so ridiculous that my first instinct is to think it is bizarre satire of some kind, but Justin Podur posted it as a serious item, and if it is then it is mindblowing...check it out.

  • Been meaning to post this link for a couple of weeks: The first issue of Upping the Anti is out, and well worth reading from cover to cover. Here is the table of contents and here is a PDF version of the whole thing.

  • Apparently a lawmaker in Alabama wants to ban public school libraries in the state from buying books or plays by gay authors or containing gay characters.

  • An interesting look at the political economy of Pakistan, by Aasim Sajjad on Z Net.

  • An article on the first year of the socialist government in Spain, on AlterNet.

  • The site for "thirdspace: the site for emerging feminist scholars". (Via brown rab girl fish)

  • This post says that former chair of the Black Panther Party, Elaine Brown, is planning on running for mayor of Brunswick, Georgia, on the Green Party ticket. Brown's book, A Taste of Power, was an important read for me during my initial process of politicization, and a review of it in the McMaster University newspaper, The Sillhouette, was one of my earliest pieces of published writing (albeit a politically naive and not paritcularly well written one).

  • I like pretty much everything that Paul Street posts. Here's one from a couple of weeks ago called "On The Costs of Being Left".

    This particular sentence...

    Of course, one of the reasons people prefer not to give a decent hearing to radical ideas is their fear that the knowledge possessed by leftists will make them want to challenge structures and authorities they don’t feel powerful enough and/or worthy to fight.

    ...made me think of a brief encounter a couple of years ago with a good friend. I had just come from an event focusing on Canada's Secret Trials and related detention of Muslim men without due process, and I briefly explained what it was about in our "what have you been up to" chitchat. Her initial expression was shock and, I think, a certain cognitive disonance -- this person is very personally empathetic but not very political, and her impulses towards caring in this instance drew very briefly towards politics before the "prefer[ence] not to give a decent hearing" surged forward and she said, "Oh, that happens in lots of places, doesn't it?" And the subject was changed.

    Anyway, I'll cite the post's conclusion at length, because it has some commonsense wisdom that we (meaning activists) don't talk about nearly enough, in terms of self-care and balance and self-sustainability. Here it is:

    Portside people can deal with the costs (both externally and internally imposed) of being left in various ways. They can make sure to balance their knowledge of outrageous evil and injustice with a determination to regularly clear and slow their ever-racing (and often rage-consumed) minds. In my experience, radicals burn out...alot. Refusing to cede the imperatives of self-help and personal and spiritual balance to Oprah, Dr. Phil, the local minister or priest and other corporate New Age lifestyle authorities, they can balance their sometimes overdeveloped mind energy with a commitment to cultivating their physical and emotional well-being and to realizing that their heart is going to be as important as their mind in the creation of a more just and democratic world.

    They can seek to reduce their vulnerability to economic punishment and insulate their dependence on the energy-stealing/life-sucking employer class by working to minimize unnecessary expenditures and debt.

    They can reduce their sense of isolation by keeping themselves regularly in touch with fellow leftists and also by looking for the often impressively progressive sentiments that are held and expressed by people who are not openly on the left.

    We can work to rescue the basic notion of personal moral responsibility from the clutches of the right, remembering that we possess a significant capacity to improve personal and social experience short of the many-sided social revolution that remains highly desirable ....and probably necessary for long-term human survival.

    We can remember that not all human dilemmas are caused by “the man” and his vicious interlocking systems of hierarchy and inequality. Radical social theory is about disentangling historically specific, particular, and socially constructed oppression structures from universal human difficulties and existential conundrums.

    Thinking perhaps about the distinct personal-historical circumstances that led to our own awakening as radicals, we can commit ourselves (on the model of the civil rights movement at its best) to communicating our ideas in ways that show respect and understanding for the related difficulties many people face in accepting and acting on our ideas.

    We can and must combine our criticism of the existing order with a practical and actionable vision of an alternative democratic, egalitarian, and participatory social order that would meet peoples’ basic material needs without replicating the evils of class inequality, racism, sexism, and empire, etc.

    We can lift the burden of world history from our merely individual shoulders, remembering that none of us will set the world rightly upside down alone and once and for all in our own lifetimes. We can graciously accept in advance the certainty of numerous defeats and frustrations.

    We can and will do our best – and often quite a great deal – to advance humanity towards a more just and glorious world: the beloved egalitarian community of the freely associated producers, citizens, artists, poets, scientists, and others.

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