Posts Tagged ‘oppression’

Sunday in the Downtown Eastside

April 20, 2009

Recently I’ve been thinking about starting a church. For those of you still reading, I’ll explain. First let me say that our current social institutions are very complex in their creative and sustaining powers. What I mean is, and I’ll use the church as an example, the institution makes us who we are in that it creates, at least part of, our consciousness, and then sustains, through the maintenance of a social environment, that consciousness. I’ll go out on a limb here and say that this is a good thing. I am an admirer of the church. That’s why I want to start one. But as somebody who desires social change, I recognize the need to change our social institutions. The church I have in mind will create a different consciousness.

The first, strongest, and pretty much only objection to change, or even criticism of the way things are done, is always the collapse of all that is good. Examples: Gay marriage – “What next people marrying their dog?” – “This will be the end of family!” Evolution(Godless creation) – “What will stop people from killing whoever they want?” There’s the idea that good and morality are so completely linked with God or the institutions He gave us that without the God-founded institution a sort of totally psychopathic existence would be unleashed.

What?

So today I didn’t go to church, but what I did do was very similar. I went to Pivot’s Reel Justice Film Festival and snuck out for a bit to see the People vs. The City of Vancouver. Oddly enough what separated these Sunday events from church services was a social quality. Anyway, chances are I’m not going to start a church anytime soon, but there’s something here, there’s a thread.

I caught the noon showing of The Way Home. It started with a section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The first speaker was Native and talked about our ability to connect to the world through a house as a spiritual connection, a kind of gift from the Thunderbird (Just as an aside, I was at Judy Rebick’s book launch on Thursday (see sidebar for a short video clip) and she spoke of her new found understanding of indigenous peoples’ spirituality.) The documentary was crushing. One social worker breaks down talking about the causes of homelessness, and then at the end one homeless man answers the question, “What’s the hardest part?” and he says, “Tomorrow,” and starts to break down, “You never know what will happen tomorrow.” and he turns away, trying not to cry on camera. It was heartbreaking.

promostill

Carts of Darkness was a lot more light-hearted, at least on the surface. There was a lot of humour, joking around, friendship and good times. But when one man was joking about hanging himself, his friend says, that’s not really funny. The film is a celebration and a meditation of what it means to be alive on the margins. The cruelty of life on the margins comes through not long after the laughter stops.

The last film I saw was We Are All Key. Here’s the writeup from Pivot’s site:

We believe there are two sides to the homeless story. On one side of the homeless issue is the story of people and common decency. This side of the story focuses on the human right of people to have access to safe and decent housing in a civil society. The other side of the story is about common sense. It is about numbers. Studies from various cities show that taxpayers pay anywhere from $55,000 to $135,000 a year for someone who is experiencing homelessness. No matter how it’s measured, it cost less to provide these people with decent and safe housing. This short film is produced by Streetohome, a community-based foundation working to ensure that all Vancouver citizens have access to safe, decent and affordable housing by 2015.

This film made me want to vomit.

The People vs. The City of Vancouver

The following is from The People vs. The City of Vancouver’s Facebook page:

Synopsis: Since the Olympic Bid of 2003 the City of Vancouver has waged a violent war on the community of the DTES. While it boasts ‘revitalization’ and it’s ‘Civil City’ campaigns as progressive, such activities in fact terrorize and displace those most marginalized in our city. Community members have been literally forced onto the streets as homelessness has more than tripled in the neighbourhood. Once evicted from their homes residents are further brutalized with ticketing for sitting or lying on the street & asking for spare change among other by-law ‘offenses’. The City of Vancouver has literally criminalized the poverty it has created. The Community is fighting back!

…to win the battle of democracy

March 17, 2009

Back when it seemed a possibility that a coalition government would take over parliament, my dad and I started a short conversation about the meaning of our vote. He was angry that the party he’d helped vote into a minority government was about to be reduced to the opposition. “What about my vote?” he asked. I asked him the same question. I was joking. I’d voted for the communist party, so my ‘voice’ was useless. Really, voting has little more use to me than backing a hockey team. But my father asked, “no one wanted your party, why is that?” Yes. Why is it people are not voting communist? I know it wasn’t a real question, I mean, I know he wasn’t looking for a real exploration of the possible reasons why. But I saw it as a baited hook, and bit. I started writing an essay, but it’s way too long, meandering and not really much of a conversation starter.

Before this conversation started, just before the last election, I had written an open letter to my father explaining the reasons why I was voting communist. It wasn’t very persuasive. I sent the letter to every member of my family on facebook, and I am pretty sure it had no effect whatsoever on the votes my family cast. One of my cousins accused me of just fooling around. There’s something to this. Communication needs a hook. Talking about communism is talking about old news, an already decided subject, there’s nothing to connect the talk to. There’s no reason to talk about it. Bringing it up now has a bit of lunacy to it. My cousin knows I’m not crazy, so if I’m talking about communism, I must just be fooling around. Today there is a hook. The news of 1200 jobs lost in Windsor (again this year), gives us a reason to talk about capitalism (masters of industry and wage slaves), the violence of profits before people, and the socialist idea of worker control.

I’ve been thinking and reading about and writing down some of the reasons people aren’t voting communist, but I’ve also been aware of the madness associated with talking such nonsense. There are differences between capitalist values and communist values that require a complex conversation, rethinking how we live on the level of the day-to-day. It requires becoming aware of our condition. I’ve asked my network of friends and family into this conversation, so I should start with something.

Let’s talk about the word ‘communism’…

From the response to my last open letter, it’s clear that ‘communism’ is understood as a dirty word. I just recently read an article about ‘socialism’ being used as a slur. After you accept the fact that corporations produce our culture and meaning, it makes perfect sense that these powers would try to poison the words that will launch a revolution; democratize production; replace capitalist controlled corporate power with worker controlled corporate power. Revolutionaries understand ‘communism’ and ‘socialism’ to mean ‘the creation of something which does not yet exist.’  The words signify new relationships to each other, where radical democratic associations of workers motivated by human development take control of production. The American and French Revolutions replaced monarchy with hierarchy. The coming revolution will replace hierarchy with anarchy. The coming revolution will be the end of profit-for-the-few and representation-by-the-few. The revolution will bring new values of human (species) development and radical democracy.

He Loves His Mother!!!

March 11, 2009

Bill Mayer — He loves his mother!! I thought I’d start with that. Religulous, a film by the same people who made Borat, and Borat, too, was purposefully offensive, and it, too, was funny, but it never, not for a second took itself seriously. Borat brought us into some very serious territory. There was the blatantly misogynous college boys scene, and the dangerous war of terror scene, maybe it was the moustache, but the nausea producing, in a culturally discomforting sense, scenarios made us witnesses.  Borat, himself, was nearly invisible. Religulous does something different, and I didn’t like it. The scenes where Maher analyses what we just saw are all gawd-awful. He interviews some fairly stupid people, but Maher’s arrogance, which may have held up, especially with the cuts to clips from Superbad and Scarface, those were hilarious, his arrogance may have held up, but when he was on camera by himself, the weakness of those scenes reframed his arrogance as simply mean. Sure, he loves his mother, but he’s a mean mental weakling himself, bullying other intellectually challenged, differently intelligent people. There’s the difference, Borat’s misogynists exposed themselves and an oppressive cultural undercurrent, while Maher victimized the people he put on film.

The science is in. Consciousness is a chemical energy. Our perceptions are bodily. Chemical and bodily changes affect consciousness and perception. Philosophically I work from the premise that existence precedes essence. Darwin, Marx, Nietzsche and Sartre, if generally understood would make it easier to argue that we should educate and properly house and nourish everyone. What I’m saying here is that there is no God of Abraham, there are no angels, spirits, demons, heaven or hell, at least outside our language systems. Our language systems exist physically in our bodies, in this sense these things exist, they are within us and communicable. Maher had an opportunity to produce in incredibly informative film. He came close with the Andrew Newberg, MD (University of Pennsylvania research neuroscientist) interview. Newberg discusses the process of imaging people’s brains as they pray, meditate or speak in tongues, but no conclusive statement is made. He also brought in the consciousness changing properties of drugs, but again the neurophysiology that could reveal the chemical and physical contingency of consciousness was not explored.

Maher is content to promote doubt, but there is certainty that consciousness is chemical reactions within organic physical structures. We don’t know how exactly it works, but there is certainty that material is at work. These ideas can also be communicated, but Maher didn’t do the research. And understanding consciousness, the bodily manifestation of these belief, may have softened his, persecution, of these believers. Really what was he doing? In his interviews with Muslims, he was told twice that it was politics and not religion, that the motivation behind terrorists and extremists, but he didn’t accept it. He even made “fun” of the interviewee by writing a text message implying he was a terrorist. Later he analyses these scenes saying that they don’t want to admit to outsiders that there are problems with the religion. Doubt in this sense is not a tool for understanding, it is an analgesic for stupidity. What were the political motivations of the religious George W. Bush and what were the political motivations of the differently religious Osama Bin Laden? Maher is content to doubt everything and everyone.

In Saul D. Alinsky‘s Rules for Radicals he spends an entire chapter “of ends and means” explaining how political interests are clothed in religious morality. “The Haves,” he writes, “develop their own morality to justify their means of repression and all other means employed to maintain the status quo.” What’s interesting is that Obama was schooled in the Alinsky tradition. Maher’s film is now an historical document. But Alinsky also taught respect for the beliefs and values of the Have-nots and spoke against arrogance. Politically, in the political system, I’m with Sven. This call for compassion, and understanding, when dealing with religious consciousnesses, is not a form of self protection, it comes from an understanding, limited sure, that our bodies and consciousness are totally intertwined, and a massive change, in our society, especially forced from the outside, well, it’s abuse.

And one last thing about embodied knowledge, especially the kind of knowledge that defines a persons existence. This is from wikipedia:

In Carl Jung‘s psychology, metanoia indicates a spontaneous attempt of the psyche to heal itself of unbearable conflict by melting down and then being reborn in a more adaptive form. Jung believed that psychotic episodes in particular could be understood as existential crises which were sometimes attempts at self-reparation. Jung’s concept of metanoia influenced R. D. Laing and the therapeutic community movement which aimed, ideally, to support people whilst they broke down and went through spontaneous healing, rather than thwarting such efforts at self-repair by strengthening their existing character defences and thereby maintaining the underlying conflict.

With this in mind, really, what the fuck was Maher doing? He loves his mother, but he’s still an ignorant fuck. Had he actually broken through the defences of these people he was attacking, he would have precipitated a moment of realization in which everything previously known is wrong, leading possibly to a physical and mental breakdown. In one scene Maher’s mother reminds him of how upset he was when he discovered Santa Claus wasn’t real. The equation of a childhood fantasy game, with god consciousness or a bodily awareness of god, is ridiculous in itself. In my utopian thoughts after the consciousness of our interconnectivity is widespread, when we are concerned with the care of each other, the issue of religion will have faded away, but until then we need to work toward our own understanding.