Ray Rice is just a symptom

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

I’m not normally one to beat upon a string of ideological adjectives when making a point, but lately it seems necessary.

Racist patriarchal capitalist society trains us to think that the limit of knowledge is obtaining maximum money — the most admirable goal; and then does all it can to prevent minority groups from achieving it. Racist patriarchal capitalist society trains us to think that we are not people, but human resources; (celebrities are not even human — they exist only as a brand, a product) and then does all it can to make minority groups appear generic & cheap. Racist patriarchal capitalist society trains us to think that objects sold in the material world will satisfy our desires, and, failing that, objects provided in the virtual world will do the same; and markets to everyone so they will become more racist, more patriarchal, and more capitalistic. Racist patriarchal capitalist society trains us to think that its paradigm is the only paradigm.

Ray Rice is a victim of racist patriarchal capitalist society. It has made Ray think he is a product shaped and rewarded for his strength and skill at violence. It has not rewarded him for empathy, compassion, or wisdom. It has supported this training by covering up his violent behavior outside of the game he was paid to play. Ray Rice is a tone-​deaf, unrepentant abuser — but he didn’t have to be.

Janay Rice is a victim of racist patriarchal capitalist society. Orders of magnitude more a victim than Ray. It has made Janay think that she should silently accept and ignore being abused by her husband. It has not rewarded her for autonomy, assertiveness, or wisdom. It has supported this training by blaming women for everything that happens to them: rape, violence, stolen cell phone photos. Janay Rice is blind to her oppression, but she didn’t have to be.

I am not assigning all blame for the behaviors of Janay & Ray Rice to racist patriarchal capitalist society. Despite what they have been trained to think, they remain capable of healthy choices and healthy behaviors. The tectonic weight of racist patriarchal capitalist society has just made it much harder to be a healthy person and much easier to behave like a racist, patriarchal capitalist. That’s why it’s so easier for police to shoot & kill than do actual police work. That’s why some men think they can hit people & some women think that being hit is okay.

We are animals first. We respond to what is in front of us. We are outraged at Ray Rice, the NFL, Janay Rice, the police of Ferguson, MO. We react to stimuli as we have been trained to do. We are sapient second, and rarely. Though each individual is and should be called upon to be less racist, patriarchal or capitalistic — playing whack-​a-​mole each time we see an egregious example of our racist patriarchal capitalist society does little to effect change. Change requires action. Effective change requires knowing where to act, and how. We can go on identifying the symptoms, or we can try to end the disease.

Everybody wants to be the vanguard

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

I kibitzed a bit of online spill-​over of an argument between anarchists, Occupiers, activists, & sundry interested parties regarding organizing & protesting around the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland. The discussion was about organizing & activist methodologies & the argument (whose provenance is in dispute) was about “diversity of tactics” which, as far as I can tell, is just spin for “we’ll join y’all if all y’all let us do whatever we want”, which defeats the purpose of organizing in the first place.

I don’t really have any thoughts worth voicing about the specifics of that argument/​discussion, but it got me thinking.

One of the things I’ve learned over the past decade I’ve spent involving myself in various civic organizing initiatives is that most people want to do something big and flashy that will get them recognized. Everybody wants to be the vanguard.

I’ve also learned that the vanguard gets wiped out first.

The thing that no one wants to do is the legwork. You can have a badass army, but if you don’t have competent folks bringing bread and cheese and water in on trucks, your soldiers get turned into sausage.

There’s nothing flashy about the work of being a Congress-​critter. They’re all sausage-​makers. The power lies in the willingness to do the tedious preparation and unsung heavy lifting to achieve your goal, whatever it may be. That’s the way it works with any great process. That’s the great test of commitment. People who show up to do the boring shit are the ones you want around, because they know how to make sausage.

There will be plenty of people coming in to town to protest the 2016 RNC, and even more folks coming to participate in it. The folks in Cleveland preparing to protest might consider (if they haven’t already, like I said, I’m only tangentially aware of their discussion) whether they’d rather be 1 of numerous uncoordinated & questionably trustworthy vanguards, or the unsung ground crew that keeps it all together.