Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The War on Queers

More and more crazy pastors, ministers, even Louis Farrakhan are no longer satisfied with simple ostracism and condemnation of LGBTs and are now advocating internment in concentration camps and even the death penalty for non-gender conforming people in the USA. Like the war on women, the war on queers has been, of late, consumed with renewed vehemence and vigor. So much so that even prominent progressive theorists like Chris Hedges, are writing about that war.

It is a relatively new and welcome development to have heterosexuals write seriously about the Queer Struggle. One that signifies we are finally making it into the main stream of civil rights ideology. Bullying, suicide, gay parenting issues and all kinds of job discrimination cases are more in the news spotlight than ever before. They are not happening more often than before but are now receiving more critical attention.

Obama's "evolution" on same-sex marriage is part of the reason for both the push for civil rights and the backlash against it. But the biggest reason for this outbreak of culture war vituperation is the same one we saw in Germany in the thirties. The tanking economy along with rising prices (food, gas, sales tax) is a pressure-cooker for hatred of all sorts. When folks in desperation turn to their twisted notion God, he tends to tell them lies about who the real enemy is. The more "Christian" our country becomes, the more fear and hate its citizens seem to want to perpetrate.

As harassment of LGBT folks in small town and rural USA becomes more open and explicit, ordinary life becomes more difficult. Yes, there are places like New York City and San Francisco and other urban centers where things are relatively unchanged. As Reverend Otis Moss III does quite eloquently in this sermon, it is imperative that we expose and fight against what is happening to our people and get the word out that non-gender conforming and gay people are neither the enemy nor the ones who have brought our country to the brink of financial ruin.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Dehumanization in the Capitalist Workplace

Along with the relatively recent rebirth of a movement against economic injustice has come not only questioning not only of the great wealth divide but also the structure of the capitalist workplace itself. As jobs disappear many are re-examining the hierarchy of the American labor force and formulating ways to make it more just and humane.

Marxist economist Richard Wolff points out that financial transactions don’t work within the family unit because they promote greed and discord, so why would anyone expect these same skewed priorities to function any differently in the workplace?

Capitalism requires all workplace interactions at work to have, at their foundation, the profit motive that requires the maximum accumulation of capital is the goal of any endeavor. In a service industry such as a hospital, library or school, this goal translates to servicing the greatest number of people with the lowest amount of expenditure. This is effected by a work speed up requiring more desk hours, patients and ever-increasing class sizes. In order to enforce this speed-up, the pressure is applied to middle management.

This group consists of folks who are offered extra goodies in exchange for extracting the maximum amount of monetary value from the effort of each worker, like squeezing as much juice as possible from an orange. There are always people willing to control others in return for their own personal comfort but no matter how you slice it, this process is inherently unpleasant. 

In the workplace it is commonly accomplished in one of two ways: manipulation or intimidation. Most often, it winds up being a combination of both. Manipulation includes not only the concept of worker discipline, but the more pleasant aspects of a worker/manager relationship as well. For example, praise for work is included here. While, in some cases, this may be genuine, it also serves the function of motivating the worker to continue to work hard. Intimidation is the method that is more fundamental to the manager/worker relationship. Every interaction at work harbors veiled threats to the survival of the worker because, at any moment, his position could be terminated. In the private sector, where the“employment at will” doctrine prevails, job insecurity creates perpetual stress. It is only with the advent of union protection that working people were granted a bit of relief from this sword of Damocles. 

In an inauthentic, contrived, highly-pressurized environment like the capitalist workplace, collateral damage is everywhere. In public sector work, managers are trained to distance themselves from treating and even perceiving their subordinates as human beings. Training workshops are instituted to instruct them not to engage their underlings in genuine conversations about the actual concerns in their lives. Any opening that might let friendship in must be slammed shut. This would interfere with the credo of putting production first and foremost. A philosophy where suppressing anything close to emotional intimacy is an absolute necessity.

For starters, we can begin rethinking and reworking ideas that have ceased to function properly and replace them with a more beneficial and productive vision. We all deserve something better. How can we create a cooperative workplace? Is there a way to pay people for creative contributions to society, not just wage slavery? A cooperative model would be a good starting point. Those who have a say in their lives at work will be more likely to pull together for a common goal. In a world where everyone can earn compensation for some kind of contribution, there would be no need for every exchange to be predatory or adversarial.

Alliances are stronger than hierarchies. Subordination only breeds varying degrees of resentment.. We are all tired of the tired old degrading capitalist model that is now longer functioning. Instead of begging for a piece of the pie, now is the time to throw out the moldy mess and begin to bake something entirely new.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Sexism Must Die!

It's undeniable that the Republicans are waging war against women. But just how are women faring in other political communities, for example that of the 99%? Has sexism been defeated in the sixty plus years since the emergence of second-wave feminism, dated roughly from the popularization of Simone De Beauvoir's book, "The Second Sex," first published in 1949, but translated into English and read widely for the first time in the fifties.

I wish I could report back that the Occupy Movement is free of sexist bias, but honestly, I can't. It is undeniable that many young women, as well as young gender non-specific types, are stepping up with competence and assuming power, but an alarming crisis of self-esteem and bias still persists in the meetings I have attended. Women are still hesitant to speak up and will undercut their statements with phrases like,"I don't know that much about this but..." There is often a preponderance of males in meetings and when it comes to stepping up to summarize goals and lead groups, men still dominate the proceedings.

A Workers Assembly meeting I attended this weekend was about two thirds male to one third female in composition. This probably occurred because union membership is skewed to favor higher paid, better jobs, which are primarily held by males. This is not to imply that women are silent at these gatherings. Women my age (fifties and sixties), for the most part, don't seem to have problems speaking out. Some younger women are taking leadership as well. But more pervasive overall patterns of discrimination and even self-suppression are apparent and more difficult to erase.

Last night I attended a second small meeting of an Occupy spin off that was a small group of boomer males with only a couple of women. A very articulate woman took notes at the last meeting and she was drafted again, somewhat against her will, as note-taker at this one. Of course, that was after all the males refused to volunteer and their gazes turned toward me. I replied, just as the men had, that I didn't have a laptop or know stenography either! I didn't address the gender bias because I was caught off-guard. I thought we dealt with this in the sixties when we women walked out of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) because we didn't want to be secretaries and coffee fetchers.

I guess the more things change, the more they stay the same. The fact of the matter remains; this prejudiced behavior is unacceptable and it will only serve to undermine our movement. At this point I'm trying to pull together a presentation of sexism and homophobia that both young and old can understand. The very lifeblood of our movement depends upon it!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

State by State Civil Rights?

Women Worked Long and Hard
Yes, I am glad that our frightened, ultra-cautious, politically pandering president gave a grudging nod to same-sex marriage after a swift one to the behind by butt-kicker, Joe Biden. But I am not happy with the sentence he used to qualify his decision, the one relating to Sasha and Malia friends who have very nice, acceptable queer parents. Civil rights should not be dependent on niceness or acceptability. Even the craziest and nastiest minority members deserve to be treated as human beings.

Same-sex marriage rights, or other civil rights for minorities have and will continue to lose when put up for a vote by the majority. The pitches for these votes repeatedly call upon representing "the will of the people." But exactly who are the people? I have always been deluded into believing that I am one of them.

Women did not win suffrage by a majority vote. It was through prolonged political struggle. Not until 1920 did the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution pass giving over one half of the population the right to determine their own destinies through the ballot box. The first stirrings of that movement occurred as far back as the 1820's, one-hundred years earlier.

So many of us will not live to see victory for LGBT civil rights. By victory, I mean full federal constitutional protections on every level, from health care, to job discrimination, to immigration, inheritance, tax law, everything that heterosexuals take for granted. These rights extend far beyond the simple concept of marriage. They are the building blocks that could help create a foundation of a fair and equal society, at least on paper.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

In My Mind I'm Shunning Carolina

I hate to admit it but my partner and I just missed having summer vacation plans to visit North Carolina. We had heard from many friends that Asheville is an oasis of progressive thought in a vast desert of a mindless, self-righteous brand of hate-mongering Christianity that scares the crap out of me.

Now, with the overwhelming passage of unnecessary and repetitively anti-gay Amendment 1, North Carolina has proven itself to be a place worth avoiding. Because of it, not only will queers be unable to obtain rights connected with marriage or civil unions, unmarried heterosexuals will likewise face discrimination and the inability to be legally recognized in any way whatsoever. A couple of commie-jew-dykes like us have no business spending our precious money and time in this environment.

The last time the state of North Carolina amended its constitution was to ban interracial marriage! So the precedent is as clear as their desired result. I often wonder what this country would be like if only the South had seceded.

As far as summer vacation goes, Deborah and I will be visiting one of our favorite countries, Mexico. Many expatriate Americans of all stripes reside there. Perhaps the new wave of immigration will be in the opposite direction. Anyway, like so many Jews of our generation who are referred to as paranoid and neurotic, we are always on the lookout for a place to go, just in case of exile. I would term this kind of sensibility practical and realistic rather than cynical and far-fetched!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

May Day in Oakland--Protest and Repression

New Oakland Police Tank
Bloodlust on the part of the O.P.D. began just after noon in downtown Oakland when the boys and babes in blue trotted out their latest toy, a tank-like armored police vehicle. This early afternoon show of irrational force included flash-bang grenades, tear-gas and warnings to get off the streets and into the Plaza and served mainly to infuriate all present who care about freedom of speech and assembly.

The group proceeded to City Hall under this armed escort battalion. The central theater of protest then moved to the Fruitvale neighborhood where thousands of people were lining up for the 3pm March for Dignity and Resistance. The group was animated, diverse and dedicated. The march was long and full of music and drumming. We stopped for a rally in San Antonio Park before proceeding into downtown Oakland at about 6pm. Police behaved themselves perhaps due to crowd size and multiple witnesses from porches and windows.

Black Block protesters were present as well with their flags and shields and masks. The only vandalism I witnessed was when one member threw a rock at a Fox News van. If I'd been younger, I'd probably have done the same. The TV news, of course, was loaded down with the evening skirmishes between police and marchers. We had already left by the time the night heated up.

Demonstrations like these, while gratifying, can no longer be the focus of the 99% Movement. Now, we have to get serious and do the hard work of organizing and mobilizing behind the scenes if we are ever going to see real change in this country. They can roll over us physically but they can't stop our resistance. To quote Emile Zola, "The truth is on the march and nothing shall stop it."