Lierre Keith’s and Derrick Jensen’s transphobia is a difficult one to pin down, largely because there’s many issues going on that aren’t so carefully teased apart. I’ll try to do a favorable reading here in order to expose how even such a reading cannot allow their politics to hold up. It would probably benefit those who are confronting Keith and Jensen do so by attending more carefully to their words and less to rather formulaic rhetoric. I would think that people criticizing Keith and Jensen would like to do more than force out them and DGR, that this could be a situation that much more could come from. If so, converting the assault on these individuals into chants and slogans probably isn’t very productive, since we probably have millions of appropriate targets for those approaches.
To summarize my understanding of Keith’s and Jensen’s position:
Keith’s and Jensen’s stance begins with the idea that gender is entirely socially constructed.
Under patriarchy, everyone’s gendering is largely (even entirely) a product of patriarchy.
They envision a world without patriarchy, and therefore one where patriarchy would not contribute to anyone’s gendered subject formation.
Therefore, they envision a world where it’s likely far more (perhaps all) people would be comfortable in the bodies they were born with.
Based on this, they therefore hope that those persons not rely on the medical-industrial complex’s pharmacology and surgeries to become comfortable.
Their motivation is partly because they want to do away, entirely, with the medical industrial complex.
But they are also motivated by seeing these pharmaceutical and surgical procedures to be a physical torture and mutilation in response to the psychological torture and trauma of patriarchy.
They take a turn here, though, by taking their imagined future situation and projecting it into the present, to guide the way people can and should behave now.
On this basis, they think that it’s wrong for people to use hormone treatments, have surgeries, and so forth, now.
Even aggressive reduction in CO2 emissions look bad for the majority of the world’s population. The more likely scenarios put New York and Bangkok under water; leave Spain, Italy and Greece as deserts; a third of corn and wheat yields gone; tropical storms at least 25% more destructive; and over a third of existing species extinct.
It would seem to me that not using every means at our disposal to prevent this amounts to a monumental evil of which the human species has never seen. I don’t think it’s hyperbolic to say that a world-wide, multi-species Shoah looms. And yet, more commonly, people speak only of pragmatic and feasible solutions. These have more to do with discursive and ideological battles (i.e. stressing education, research, etc.) than material rearrangements of our communities.
The energy and oil industries, the cultures of mass production, and those who would defend the status quo are condemning billions to death, and eradicating the Earth of countless species.
What would be a symmetrical response even look like?
I’d like to preface anything I ever write or say to anyone in responding to something they’ve offered in conversation or debate:
I appreciate your contribution to the conversation, no matter how much I might disagree, and no matter how reservedly or otherwise I might confront that contribution. I generally appreciate disagreement as much as or more than agreement. Sometimes I’m frustrated by my finding a lack of agreement, and some emotively charged communication is such in part as an expression of alienation. I lack competency in many conventional social skills. I also generally respond to someone’s words as reflections of an idea and discourse that is quasi-autonomous from the person articulating them. If I think one of these articulations is flawed or problematic, that is not a reflection of what I think of you as a person. I have pretty thick skin, and struggle with tending to people who are more fragile. I have never felt much presence of endorsement, and (perhaps this is related) don’t understand those who expect prefatory recognition of their expression as valid, even if their ideas are being challenged. While I might rationalize it when I’m not taking greater care around those who are more sensitive, this is partly an attempt to cover for my frequent poor perception of the sensitivity of others and even poorer ability of adjusting to it. Even those ideas or discourses I most aggressively critique are not as flawed, in my eyes, as I am as a person.
The nomad contains the history of the diaspora and the refuge, but also the colonial settler and conqueror. Interestingly, while domestication often signifies being bound to property, the narratives we frequently pull from as regards nomadicism are after agrarianism and the development of civilization. The uprooted one is either unseating others or the unseated other. Even the nomadic trader signifies both surplus production and specialization, accumulation and division of labor. In a century of the climate refuge and the migrant laborer, one that will see hundreds of millions moving for safety and work, and in an era of social theory that is suffused with Deleuze’s nomad and Agamben’s refuge, what does it mean to “prefer flows,” to “Believe that what is productive is not sedentary but nomadic” (as Foucault famously wrote)?
I’m rather intrigued by people who have read Foucault’s work on abnormality (and find his perspective compelling) or those who would call themselves anarchists or anti-authoritarians, yet also enforce and regulate very narrow standards for “civility” and cultural codes of interaction. They presume first that these are teachable (and therefore learnable) behaviors. Second their position advocates that these behaviors be uniformly taught and exercised. Third, they presume that any person can learn these behaviors and simply opt to do so with absolute regularity.To take each in turn:First, I’m not so certain that typical modes of instruction can result in one’s ability to take part in these practices and performances. These are behaviors that take a lifetime of socialization — and discipline and punishment! — and all the momentary regulation (even if these are desirable and defensible practices) is going to do little to change someone’s differing socialization.
Second, the advocacy of uniform codes of civility and interaction seems suspect at best. While it can be frustrating to deal with someone who hasn’t been socialized the same way we have, or if they have some barrier to such socialization, the diversity of personalities is a wonderful thing — even in these frustrating moments. I’m far more inclined to welcome these frustrations than to applaud someone for regulating those who do not conform to these standards. Witnessing (and experiencing!) processes of organized exclusion of those who do not behave in accordance with these prescriptions is one thing that often fuels my skepticism toward self-professed radicals.
Third, with the prevalence of learning disabilities, mental illnesses, and so forth in contemporary culture, I find the demand for civility and the regulation thereof to be an obnoxious and ableist enterprise. The derision dealt towards those who do not maintain decorum exemplifies very little understanding that a sizable portion of the population simply cannot and will not be socialized in the same ways as the majority. That radicals would pontificate the virtues of regulating civility and many more would embrace such a position, I think, undermines their claims to radicalism.
I’m happy for the revival of Luddism in American culture that finds intractable problems associated with particular technologies, such that the only thinkable solution is to remove them from circulation. Let’s begin by rank ordering those most harmful to lives and freedom and begin with the most egregious of them. I’m sure we’ll eventually get to guns. But let’s be honest about the fact that dismantling dams, shutting down nuclear reactors, eliminating toxic synthetic chemicals, and reducing the numbers of vehicles on the roads and planes in the sky would be no more difficult a task and have a far more significant improvement on the quality and longevity of lives, human and otherwise. To select those technologies only based on their purpose in design (for instance, those designed to kill), while simultaneously disregarding the relative magnitude of their actual effects is to appeal to blind moralism. I’m too much of a materialist to believe we should focus only on intention and not on consequence.
originating from the late 1300s, meaning “loyalty of a liege-man to his lord,” and deriving from the Anglo-French “legaunce”. It was not until the 18th century that the figurative idea referring to “recognition of claims to respect or duty” gained use.
Merriam-Webster places “devotion or loyalty to a person, group, or cause” as the secondary definition to the following as primary definitions:
a : the obligation of a feudal vassal to his liege lord
b (1) : the fidelity owed by a subject or citizen to a sovereign or government (2) : the obligation of an alien to the government under which the alien resides
Children are made to pledge allegiance to flags. This pattern follows many throughout their lives.
Allegiance in a non-feudal arrangement implies deference. The same dictionary cited above uses the following quotation as an example:
“Deference to leaders and intolerance toward outsiders (and toward “enemies within”) are hallmarks of tribalism …”
This quote, taken from Benjamin Barber, is illustrative. We are, indeed, tribal creatures. In a contemporary setting where our tribal affiliations transcend geography, we form the most peculiar of bonds, to fetishized niche consumer products, to ideologists, to celebrity, and so on. Yet these bonds are often no less strong than subjects’ to their lords. Under a fantastic delusion that this new tribalism is somehow as decentered as the networks that enable them, the postmodern subjects often believe themselves without a king, while nonetheless serving him with extreme devotion.
This week, as Zero Hedge reports, the student loan bubble is bursting. According to the Fed:
Outstanding student loan debt now stands at $956 billion, an increase of $42 billion since last quarter. However, of the $42 billion, $23 billion is new debt while the remaining $19 billion is attributed to previously defaulted student loans that have been updated on credit reports this quarter. As a result, the percent of student loan balances 90+ days delinquent increased to 11 percent this quarter.
Let’s face it, one of the major impediments to radical political change is that those committed to it lack the resources or access to mobilize them. Here we see a rare opportunity, where some of those who are struggling have considerable leverage. You don’t need to band together by the thousands and take to the streets (though that would be helpful). You merely need to not pull out your checkbook for the next year and let your student loans go into default. Refuse to repay your loans, because in an opulent society like ours, free education should be standard. Force the banking institutions into a crisis, and demand a jubilee through loan forgiveness programs.
All along the East Coast, Americans are bracing for a weather disaster of some sort. The further north Hurricane Sandy travels, those of us in the mid-Atlantic and New England anticipate its merger with a Nor’easter and at a time when pressure systems will cause the hurricane to take a sharp westerly turn.
We are now hearing that degraded satellite and other weather monitoring equipment is likely to impact the accuracy of prediction. The infrastructure hasn’t been maintained as well as it should, and glitches and poor data quality are probable.
What they used to call ‘global warming’ had transformed into ‘climate change’ since, after all, weather wasn’t merely heating up, it was also cooling, and other weather events were significantly altering. It eventually got so out of whack that many now call it ‘global weirding,’ which seems to me an appropriate phrase. But when a National Weather Service meteorologist referred to this unprecedented storm that is about to ravage the East Coast, he called it ‘a monstrous hybrid vortex.’
Such a description seems to describe the climate events we should anticipate, not only over the next few days, and along a few hundred miles of coastline on one particular continent. Instead, we might recognize that in what some are calling the Anthropocene, the atmosphere around this planet is an aggregation of monstrous vortices that rejects accurate modelling, not purely because of our decaying technological infrastructure, but because the unfolding events confound human cognition and the devices we use to scaffold our feeble minds to an unhinged and uncontrollable natural universe. In this age, our monsters are the air we breathe, and they are far more restless than Frankenstein’s.
Almost 46 years ago to the date, the Lunar Orbiter 1 spacecraft took the first satellite image of Earth from orbital space around its moon. That image became a symbol for the space age.
This image, shot from the Curiosity rover on Mars, should be the symbol for our post-space age.
We are no longer looking at ourselves as a part of a whole, residents of a biosphere. Rather, we now see ourselves disappear into the distance. A flicker of light. A candle flame about to drown in a pool of wax.
Update: I’ve been notified that this is not an image shot by Curiosity, but a software- rendered or modified image, based on one shot by the rover. This only adds another dimension to its appropriateness as a symbol for our time.