Tuesday, March 27, 2007

...he said to no one in particular.

So I decided I'd start up a blog on blogger. I've been getting kind of sick of myspace's bullshit lately, and I guess I just wanted to try this site out. I've posted some of my older myspace blogs that I like, and I'm gonna double post from now on. I think I'll write them here and then copy them there, because myspace is less reliable than a fucking Hyundai in February. In conclusion, it's nice to be here in the blog-o-sphere. I look forward to a bright future of posting self-indulgent crap that no one reads. Cheers!

Arboreal, not rhyzomatic,
Meaning is aristocratic.
The brain could never trust its senses
Without their enforced consensus.

Surplus value, labour, matter,
Shrinking pies and corporate ladders,
Strident calls for revolution
Overlook the real solution.

Perhaps we will find salvation
When we realize information
Makes light work--
It sets us free,
And creates value easily!

The "power" of a microchip
Is different than an M-16.
A hierarchy, when tangled up
by feedback, makes a better team
(And wastes less time and energy)
Than flat pseudo-equality.

Life's not a linear equation
Couched in terms of domination.
Freedom doesn't just mean "choice,"
But finding a creative voice
that sings to being,
gives form to grace,
and makes its world a wilder place.

Autumn is Cruel

Autumn is a weird season. Its beautiful colours suggest a party or a festival, and soon enough the whole town is out in the street, revelling in the red and orange of Indian Summer--no one seems to notice that the band is actually playing a funeral march. Before anyone has even had a chance to sober up, the maple, oak and birch have cast away their garments to reveal their (suddenly?) inhuman anatomy, utterly indifferent to mammalian cold, hunger or loneliness. The sun turns gray, and the village is bathed in that awful autumn light, heavy yet thin, that gives no warmth and turns fond memories into angry ghosts. All bets are off when you're caught in that light. New friendships seem thin and cheap. One remembers the hard lesson, briefly forgotten with the rising of the sap, that love ends inevitably in pain, and great love in still worse pain. Life suddenly seems anticlimactic, linear, and very short. A cold, forced march at the end of which everyone dies. We bury or burn the dead in the hope that they'll leave us alone, or maybe that we'll leave ourselves alone. I never can. Not at this time of year.

Chaos Eugenics

I tend to agree with what George Carlin said about how everyone should just fuck everyone else until we're all the same colour. Is it racist (or worse) for a middle-class anglo whitey to advocate vigorous miscegenation? As a member of the "dominant" culture (as the fashionable idiom of our time so poetically pigeonholes me), is my yearning (impulse? drive?) to see my ancestor's genes mixed with those of the "Other" just a symptom of white male guilt? A born victimizer's attempt to salve the burning shame he feels over the bloody crimes of those same ancestors, through the appropriation of an imagined innocence or authenticity rooted in the racist archetype of the "noble savage" lurking in my white, middle class unconscious?

I hope not. But the original point is food for thought. Chaos Eugenics. What 3, 4, 5.8, and 11.11-dimensional angelic (and demonic) apes would come to life in such a world? This, I believe, is closer to the manifold heart of true diversity than the trendy, black-box-pluralist diversity-lite that pervades North American political and educational discourse presently. A radical distillation of the human essence, alternately BRIGHT and BURNING, or DARK, HOT and WET, or COLD, SHARP and STRANGE. It would certainly render the KKK irrelevant, and would have added an interesting dimension to the Black Panthers. Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton might even (have) approve(d), if I correctly understand their vision as giving precedence to the radical abolition of racism over the militant, armed pan-Africanism that they advocated as a means to that end.

A more serious question raised by this line of thinking is as follows: To what degree are cultural goods superimposable, and to what degree does a new cultural "programme" displace an old one? We have all heard of "linguistic genocide" or some similar gory rhetorical construct, but perhaps, in the shadow of very real atrocities in recent Western history, we are contaminating with paranoia and shame a process that should rather be complex, wild, erotic, and paradoxically dark yet enlightening . Cultural ideas, like people, need to confront each other, and to do all kinds of dirty human things like dancing and knife fighting and howling at the moon, and they also need to fall in love with each other, and through the eros of cultural synthesis bring to term and birth strange and beautiful hybrid offspring. After all, we have been reproducing sexually for millions of years. Can we really expect culture, whose evolution represents the apex of the human condition, to lurch along like some doddering anemone, sprouting tiny copies of itself that have no capacity to adapt other than their own vulnerability to mindless, artless mutation?

This is not a utopian idea. Economics, as well as alternative ways of "belonging," like family or religion or citizenship, will undoubtedly give humans reason to betray, cheat and kill each other for a long time to come. But wouldn't it be nice to finally put the ugly, rotting, and unstable idea of "racism" out of its misery? To rid the world of cracker ignorance, neo-nazi insanity, "reverse" racism, and the whole schizophrenic, bogged down, politically charged minefield of present-day intergroup social discourse? I imagine it would feel something like a long awaited and well-deserved spring cleaning. I hope it happens soon, because I'm getting really tired of the same old lame arguments about race.

Monday, March 26, 2007

South Korea's Underwater Tank

I just read an article on Yahoo news about how South Korea recently unveiled their new tank, the ironically named "Black Panther" (as anyone who has ever worked at a hagwan could tell you, Huey P. would have had a tough time getting his black ass hired in Korea). It can travel quickly in up to 4.1 meters of water, it has an active missle defence system, and according to Kim Eui Hwan, the officer in charge of the project, it has "more superb capabilities than any other existing tank" (nonexistent tanks, like the kinds that can turn into a gigantic robot or travel in outer space, can kick its ass). Ahn Dhong Man, president of the state-run Agency for Defence Development, has this to say: "We have stolen a march over other developed countries in developing ground weaponry. The Black Panther proves it."

For my own part, I want to congratulate South Korea. I hope this world-class achievment is able to somewhat assuage their pathetic insecurity, especially since those cloned stem cells turned out to be a complete fabrication. Maybe they could even start an Asian arms race. Now that would be something to brag about! If I were South Korea (as bizarre as that would be), I might seek other ways to prove my "developed" status to the rest of the world. Like having a few trees left alive in my country. Or laws, supported by a social welfare system, to prevent parents from regularly beating the living hell out of their kids. But to each their own. It sounds like a great tank, and South Korea needs as many internal combustion engines as it can get. Those Cape Breton-sized toxic clouds don't just emit themselves, you know.

The article concludes, puzzlingly, with the following one-sentence paragraph:

South Korea's 680,000-strong military, assisted by a 29,500-strong US contingent, faces off against North Korea's 1.1 million-strong armed forces.

Where and when is this "face off" taking place? In Korean propaganda and in the Western media, of course. All the time.

Who Are You Calling a Feminist?

Virginia Woolf said, "When a subject is highly controversial--and any question about sex is that-- one cannot hope to tell the truth. One can only give one's audience the chance of drawing their own conclusions as they observe the limitations, the prejudices, the idiosyncrasies of the speaker." Like many other apes, I am certainly limited, prejudiced, and idiosyncratic. Please bear with me. I'm not exceptionally well versed in the canon of feminist literature. My impression of working feminism has largely been formed by professors, fellow students, friends, friends' moms, and other people who have managed to get their two cents in over the last ten years or so. And I saw bell hooks speak at St. Mary's in Halifax in 2000.

My friend Glenn, in a blog last week, wrote that after declaring himself a feminist, he sometimes found himself arguing with certain women who claimed to disapprove of feminism and who wanted nothing to do with it. He wrote that he was puzzled by the idea that a woman would want nothing to do with becoming equal to a man. Wikipedia (in an entry whose content and quality seem to change daily according to which factionalist editor has last been at it) states, "From a political vantage, the term 'feminism' has been rejected both because of fears of labeling, and because of its innate ability to attract broad misogyny." It goes on to suggest that this is why Virginia Woolf notoriously rejected the term.

I am unconvinced. Rejecting feminism because of "fear of labeling" is an empty tautology. Rejecting it because of fear of its "innate ability to attract broad misogyny" is no better, and merely replaces a vacuuous explanation with a cowardly one. Surely in any group of women which counts Virginia Woolf among its members, there ought to be enough wit and courage to come up with better reasons than these. Maybe there's a different explanation. I'm not a woman, and I haven't read Woolf's rejection of the label (UPDATE: it can be found here by clicking on the link and then running a search for the word burn) so I'm going to have to use my imagination here. If I were a woman, I might be tempted to reject feminism for a number of reasons:

Feminism is predicated on the idea of a struggle for power between the sexes. Human social life, from the feminist perspective (as I have encountered it), is a zero-sum power game in which the male is always the opponent. While it is true that men's actions are often motivated by reproductive or material opportunism, the subtlety and provisionality of sexual manipulation (it has always been a dance, in which man and woman are partners) are necessarily lost when it is characterized in the simplistic idiom of power politics. The feminist account of recorded history implies that all men were tyrants and all women were complicit until sometime between 1792 and 1968 when, of course, feminism came onto the scene.

In my opinion, it is much more likely that throughout history inter-sexual relations in most healthy societies were characterized much as they are among healthy people today, namely by love between men and women, not as special interest groups but as the pair-bonded apes that we always have been. This is not to say that women have not had to overcome any institutional bias, or that witch hunts never happened, or that men don't behave like violent, aggressive horses' asses sometimes, but rather that in spite of this a rapport exists between the sexes that is the result of millions of years of evolution as a kind of a mutually supportive feedback dyad. There is a crude and dim (but very special) predecessor to equality implicit in the human pair bond and the mutual gaze of face to face sexual love that the vocabulary of oppression is incapable of representing at all, except perhaps as a kind of pathological delusion induced by patriarchal brainwashing.

To make matters worse, mainstream feminism has spent the last 25 years denouncing as pseudo-science most of the research into innate sex differences (sociobiology, evolutionary psychology, etc.) to which it will eventually need to turn to in order to solve the logical double bind which arises from the claim that women are radically equal, yet radically special as well. Any discourse, feminist or otherwise, which purports to address sexual difference and yet ignores the power of these explanatory models will be condemning itself to irrelevancy as our intellectual standards rise with the expansion of our knowledge base.

I remember a girl in an undergrad Chaucer class I was in complaining that Sir Gawain and the Green Knight was sexist, just like "all those stories back then." When my professor asked her to explain, she replied,"Well, it's not called Mrs. Gawain and the Green Knight, is it?" Never mind the fact that Morgan LaFaye and Guinevere together control the entire story, which is among other things a pretty good study of power that is authentically feminine (the kind of power that deceives rather than dominates, facilitates growth and stable development rather than violence and mayhem, and encourages sacrifice instead of murder). My classmate missed all that, obviously, but it was the smugness, the condescension, and the unwillingness to forgive with which she turned her eye to that great old story that really bugged me.

For an ideology that lays claim to such special female virtues as compromise, interdependence, harmony, balance, and compassion, I have found that many of feminism's adherents (bell hooks is a famous example, but not at all the only one) tend to be snide, humourless, grasping, cruel, and inflated by a glowing and poisonous self-regard. There are mean and nice people everywhere, of course, but those whose bread and butter is identity politics seem to be noticeably more self-righteous, cynical and paranoid. One of my TA's at Dal had a sticker on his briefcase that said, "If you think you're being attacked by feminism, it's probably just a counterattack." I remember another one that was going around at STU that read, "Patriarchal bias is your problem, not mine!" I think these slogans speak for themselves.

According, again, to Wikipedia, "feminist political activists commonly campaign on issues such as reproductive rights, including the right to safe, legal abortion, access to contraception and quality prenatal care, protection from violence within a domestic partnership, sexual harassment, street harassment, discrimination and rape, and rights to maternity leave, and equal pay." All of these are important topics that deserve attention, and they are women's issues, not just feminist issues. While feminists certainly deserve credit and praise for contributing a heroic amount of time and effort to these causes, I don't think that feminism should be able to appropriate them to the point where it is assumed that because someone rejects feminism, s/he is also indifferent to the plight of women in abusive relationships, or that s/he is against safe, legal abortion, or that s/he does not believe that women should receive wages equal to those earned by men. Perhaps some people reject feminism because it appropriates women's experience without necessarily asking them first, or because it is very quick to take credit for most or all of the improvements in the conditions experienced by the human female in the twentieth century, when these, in fact, rightfully belong to a much older, wiser, gentler, more patient, more terrible and more beautiful creature called "woman." Maybe we should listen when she speaks for herself, rather than making up her mind for her.