Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Farewell Blog

I'm saying farewell to this blog project and moving on. Writing in this venue has been very important to as a budding writer and activist, and especially so when I started a few years ago. I feel this blog has run its course, however, and am moving on to other projects (see below). Thanks to all who have read and supported my writing here. This website will stand as an archive of previous posts.

I now write a monthly column called Beautiful Justice, which is published by the Deep Green Resistance News Service. I'm also at work on a book project.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Recommended books: "Conditions of War" and "Skyler Gabriel" by Lierre Keith

Where are the engaging novels about resistance, with lesbian feminists as lead characters? Two such wonders were hiding in the days of the early 90s, right around the time that I was born. Conditions of War and Skyler Gabriel are set within the social climate that radical activists faced in that era, but the tales are refreshingly relevant for today, featuring righteously enraged women taking action against power, loving each other, and growing up.

Many know author Lierre Keith for her phenomenal works of non-fiction, including The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice and Sustainability and Deep Green Resistance: Strategy to Save the Planet. Most do not know, however, that Keith's wisdom comes from a rich personal history of feminist activism, beautifully reflected in her early, self-published novels. While Conditions of War and Skyler Gabriel are certainly youthful, they are also written with the empathy and bravery so common in individuals who know from a young age the depths of the evil in the world and the simple truth that they must change it. This truth has shaped Lierre Keith's life and the the young woman who wrote these lesser-known novels is now, twenty years later, helping to lead a serious resistance movement against the destructive forces of civilization, capitalism, and patriarchy.

While the content in between the covers of both of Lierre's novels share some similar qualitiesthe theme of feminists fighting back, stories and language sure to suck the reader in until the end and leave them yearning for moreeach is unique in its plot and tone.

Book cover Conditions of WarConditions of War is a humbling tale of young, militant, lesbian feminists who organize and take action together, all the while trying navigating interpersonal relationships within their group. The main character, nicknamed the simple X, is known by her comrades as having a low tolerance for too much talk not enough action. She is always on board to spray paint the local court house or destroy pornography at the video store. Meanwhile, she deals with past and current abusive relationships; her own and those of her friends. When another woman is slain in town, the women in X's group see it as yet another advancement of the ward against women. They immediately prepare to confront the situation, but first they must confront each other.  

Andrea Dworkin praised Conditions of War as "large hearted, a terrific story of love and adventure among women who fight for women. It is bittersweet and funny, redolent with the sadness of lost love and not a few broken dreams. Lierre Keith has written a coming-of-age story for radical feminists in a time of serial sadisma graceful political entertainment for the brave, the stubborn, the defiant, and those who want to be." Indeed, in this time of horizontal hostility, disorganization, and a lack of will to fight, this is a novel that young activists today are urgently in need of.

Book cover Skyler GabrielSkyler Gabriel, Keith's second novel, is a perfect feminist mystery. In the book's synopsis, we learn that Skyler Gabriel is a "24-year-old, unemployed, bass guitar player in a lesbian rock 'n' roll band. She also has reason to believe that the death of pro-choice playwright Diana Frasier was something a little more sinister than suicide. And when Diane's young daughter turns up missing, Skyler's the only one who can save her." On this foundation begins a hilarious, yet harrowing, story of a woman who, with great determination and love, stands between abusers and their victims. With the help of her friends, Skyler Gabriel uncovers the twisted plot of some white supremacist men, that one by one is taking the lives of young childrenand she knows what she must do to stop it. This is a story that had me gasping in suspense and left in tears by the end.

What Lierre Keith has done is created stories that can sustain a culture of resistance. Activistsespecially young onesneed stories to teach them how to navigate both their personal journeys of growing up and their dedication to creating revolutionary social change. Conditions of War and Skyler Gabriel beautifully encapsulate both the personal and political aspects of a radical's life and offer a mythology in which our love and rage may be shown a path to lead us to that grand goal of justice.

Monday, August 27, 2012

As Long as it Takes: Strong Ties, Strong Hearts

"There have been others also just as true and devoted to the cause...with such women consecrating their livesfailure is impossible!"Susan B. Anthony

As an activist and organizer, I concern myself with the work of getting people together to change the world. A necessary part of this is striving to see activists bringing all of their respective gifts and forms of commitment to the table. With strong ties between strong hearts, the path to lasting social change is begun and sustained.

My time as an activist has shown me that connecting to and keeping relationship with allies is an invaluable aspect of movement-building. For some years, I have tried to organize in my local community. Here lives a diverse array of strong-hearted activists with gifts that, while amazingly unique, serve to mutually support each others' efforts. There are herbalists, musicians, writers, environmentalists, socialists, feminists, gardeners, and political organizers, all of whom work towards a more sane and just society. The hope I've placed in the power of all of them coming together does pay off, though it is no small task to help guide the momentum into fruition.

A more immediately gratifying example of this has been my experience in working with the international social justice and environmental movement called Deep Green Resistance (DGR). For the year and a half that I've been involved with DGR, I have witnessed discipline, strategy, and character on the part of it's members that is deeply impressive. Further, I'm honored to work on the organization's staff, and as part of this being involved with the interviewing of many potential recruits. It has not been lost on me that, while most who want to join share the same basic goal of liberating the earth from industrial civilization, each brings wildly unique gifts to put to use along the way.

The background of activists within Deep Green Resistance varies as well. As the organization states, "DGR is made up of writers, community organizers, janitors, parents, grocery clerks, musicians, feminists, teachers, farmers, dishwashers, artists, caregivers, laborers, and students." While I often work with members on the basis of organization and projects, I am aware and in awe of the beautiful and dynamic lives each lead, of which their work in the movement is but one part.

Sometimes, I worry about losing connecting with these allies. My knowledge of the incredible possibilities of what we can make happen by working together carries with it also the truth that we could once again be separated and isolated from one another. Indeed, between working jobs to pay rent, raising children, and tending to personal hobbies, it can prove hard for some to find time for involvement in the activities of DGR.

So, I try to hold on tight. I ask, is it our communication tools that need adjusting? Are people being treated well? What should be done to retain them and engage them? Clearly, these questions can be overwhelming for one person to grapple with and rarely do answers emerge simply because they are summoned.

This yearning to keep intact the community is present every single day and enough so that I eventually began formulating a response that is at least partially adequate. I tell myself: Maybe, it's that people come for the fight, but really stay for the culture. The task of organizers then becomes creating a healthy culture of resistance for the fighters to live within.

Those who seek out Deep Green Resistance are usually not lacking in a will to fight, as one might guess by the movement's name. The explicit goal of DGR is to "deprive the rich of their ability to steal from the poor and the powerful of their ability to destroy the planet." This is not the place for those with feeble politics or weak wills. But, while DGR seems to offer a place for the warrior inside us, we must ask also if it is welcoming to loving human beings. Friendship is a cornerstone to any healthy community, and it will take these bonds, these strong ties, to do this intensive work alongside each other.

In the end, I cannot force anyone to stay in the movement, or to use their gifts in a particular way. I wouldn't want to, anyways. They will stay if they want; if the community is healthy and has the potential to really effect change, they likely will. So, I ask you, my comrades, what is it that makes this culture of love and rage, this tightly-knit community that can fight back against the dominant culture and win. How can we encourage this and turn it into reality? Throughout every day of doing this work, I will also ask myself these questions. As long as it takes.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Masculinity Is Not Revolutionary

Revolutionaries of many types maintain that resistance by any means necessary is required to stop momentous social injustice and environmental degradation. These activists recognize that those in power are the enemy and that the enemy will stop at nothing unless forced to do otherwise. Following this understanding, militancy is understood to be appropriate given the situation.

Applied appropriately, militancy is an approach to activism that pledges a steadfast dedication to physically intervene, when necessary, in the violation of living beings and the destruction of communities. This militancy is often rooted in healthy communal norms and an allegiance to the bodily integrity of all beings.

Applied inappropriately, militancy is a reinforcement of men’s machismo. It’s a too easy jump given the hallmark militarized psychology and violation imperative of masculinity. To learn more about why militancy is applied inappropriately, we have to talk about gender. 

Gender serves the purpose of arranging power between human beings based on their sex, categorizing them as feminine or masculine. In the succinct words of author and anti-porn activist Gail Dines, femininity can be characterized as an attitude of fuck me, while masculinity is an attitude of fuck you.

To be masculine, “to be a man,” says writer Robert Jensen in his phenomenal book, Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity, “…is a bad trade. When we become men—when we accept the idea that there is something called masculinity to which we could conform—we exchange those aspects of ourselves that make life worth living for an endless struggle for power that, in the end, is illusory and destructive not only to others but to ourselves.”1 Masculinity’s destructiveness manifests in men’s violence against women and men’s violence against the world. Feminist writer and activist Lierre Keith notes, “Men become ‘real men’ by breaking boundaries, whether it’s the sexual boundaries of women, the cultural boundaries of other peoples, the political boundaries of other nations, the genetic boundaries of species, the biological boundaries of living communities, or the physical boundaries of the atom itself.”2

Too often, politically radical communities or subcultures that, in most cases, rigorously challenge the legitimacy of systems of power, somehow can’t find room in their analysis for the system of gender. Beyond that, many of these groups actively embrace male domination—patriarchy, the ruling religion of the dominant culture—though they may not say this forthright, with claims of “anti-sexism.” Or sexism may simply not ever be a topic of conversation at all. Either way, male privilege goes unchallenged, while public celebrations of the sadism and boundary-breaking inherent in masculinity remain the norm. 

This framework allows men the rebellious “fuck you” to be aimed not only at those who run the system, but anyone in their vicinity who has boundaries to be broken, power to be struggled for. It should be obvious that acting by any means necessary for justice is not the same as breaking boundaries of those you perceive as enemies, which, in the case of masculinity, means most everyone.

But, it’s not obvious. Thus, a group of male self-proclaimed radicals I once knew could tape a picture of a local woman who disagreed with their politics to the inside of a toilet bowl. Thus, levels of rape have seen a rise in anarchist circles and punk music scenes. Thus, most men in the culture continue to consume extremely debasing pornography and attempt to practice that type of sex on women in their lives. By any means necessary, to these men, ends with a particular sadistic self-fulfillment, one that is fueled by dangerous self-hatred. 

Given that most militant groups have taken this type of approach as a given, we must actively work to combat it in favor of a real politics of justice. The answer is feminism, which Andrea Dworkin defines as a war on masculinity. 

Alongside challenging systems of power such as racism, capitalism, and civilization, we need to learn to challenge male supremacy as well, including when it is found within facets of our activism. 

This is especially important in direct confrontations with power. Says Lierre Keith: “[W]e need to examine calls for violence through a feminist lens critical of norms of masculinity. Many militant groups are an excuse for men to wallow in the cheap thrill of the male ego unleashed from social constraints through bigger and better firepower: real men use guns.”3

To begin to reject this mentality, radical men should practice stepping aside while women assume roles in leadership. Masculinity needs challenging, which men must do themselves. However, men also need to learn to listen more, taking direction from the women around them and learning to be better allies. The world cannot handle any more broken boundaries; men have breached so many already, be they communal, biotic, or personal. We need a real culture of resistance, which includes an appropriate militancy. And, if anyone should be armed, it’s feminists.


1.       Jensen, Robert. Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity, p. 5.
2.       Keith, Lierre. “Why We Are Feminists: The Feminist Framework of DGR,” Deep Green Resistance movement Frequently Asked Questions page, http://www.deepgreenresistance.org/faq/dgr-a-feminist-organization/
3.       Keith, McBay, and Jensen. Deep Green Resistance: Strategy to Save the Planet, p. 75.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

My Own New Leaves

My Own New Leaves: Personal reflections in April 2011

This collection of writing is a personal one. It was not easy to write. I wrote it mostly because I felt I had to, for myself. I’ve been holding in me manic inspiration and manic struggling for a long time and I’ve gotten too good at holding it all inside until I can’t anymore. I want to give these feelings away; share them and let go.

My life and who I am has changed so much. I’m always learning and growing, despite the periods of impossibility and defeat I face in between. I’d like to share now. As always my perspective is ever-shifting and where I’m at now as a person will be different than where I’ll be in the future; yet another reason why it’s important for me to put this writing out.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Book Review: "Solar Storms" by Linda Hogan

A story both soulful and righteous, Solar Storms is the tale of clashing cultures; industrial and indigenous, sustainable and insatiable.

Author Linda Hogan, a Chickasaw poet, begins the novel with Angel Wing, a young indigenous woman living in the city, long-ago disconnected with her family and people. Angel was abused and neglected as a baby by her mother and has grown up with the inevitable effects, including a tendency towards self-destruction.

This all changed, though, when Angel rejoined with her Grandmothers in a territory still held by the Native people called Adam’s Rib, a land of mostly women. There, Angel began to realize her true self—her humanity—and learned again an ancient way of relating to the land that had, until that point, been waiting inside of her to come forth.

Tragically, the inhabitants of Adam's Rib begin noticing that the fish are suffering, and the river along with them. They get word that the cause is construction of dams by Whites encroaching in a territory more North. This spurs Angel and her Grandmothers to travel by canoe on more than a week-long journey in hopes of finding a way to assist their fellow tribal communities in resisting the destruction of the land.

Upon arrival, it’s clear they have found the place of conflict and resistance. Native people had been organizing community meetings to discuss how to resist the dam-building, which would divert the river. Some construction of roads had already begun, evident by the dying natural communities who had once flourished in its fatal path.

Tulik, a man well known for having affinity and wisdom about medicinal plants, summed up his people’s attitude in a verbal response to outside corporations offering to bring in electricity: “What could be better than what we now have? We have food. We have animals. We grow our own garden. We have everything. For us, this is better than what you offer.”  Dora-Rouge, the eldest Grandmother of Angel, commented further: “We were happy before you came here. We treated the land well. We treated animals well. Our children wanted to live.”

Many activists and warriors descended on this area to help fight back. A plan of action was decided: The train tracks were to be blockaded. The action saw success and lasted for many days, predictably leading to the harassment of prominent activists, and eventually an armed stand-off between corporate forces—including their military arm, called the Police—and protesters.
Throughout this conflict, Angel had many important reflections on resistance and the traditional ways of her people which I think brilliantly sum up the urgent struggles that indigenous communities and the natural world are currently facing.

“For my people, the problem has always been this: that the only possibility of survival has been resistance. Not to strike back has meant certain loss and death. To strike back has also meant loss and death, only with a fighting chance.”   

Before civilization, she said, “we knew the languages of earth, water, and trees. We knew the rich darkness of creation. For tens of thousands of years we spoke with the animals and they spoke with us.”

“Those with the money, the investments, the city power, had no understanding of the destruction their decisions and wants and desires brought to the world. If they’d known what their decisions meant to our people, and if they continues with this building in spite of knowing, then they were evil. They were the cannibals who consumed human flesh, set fire to worlds the gods had loved and asked the humans to care for.”

In the end, the dams were stopped. But, this victory was not without struggle and loss; there were significant deaths of humans and non-humans which could not be reversed.

The lessons we can learn from this story should be obvious. The time to fight against dams, and other industrial projects, is not when the fish are completely dead and the rivers are dried up. The time is now. There are countless rivers in the world today struggling to survive in spite of countless life-choking dams. If any of us could muster even a fraction of the courage of the resisters in this book—or of traditional indigenous communities resisting such projects in reality today—there might be a real chance for defending what’s left of our landbases and seeing them flourish once again.

Reading this book made me feel more human and fulfilled the sacred task of all pieces of art and literature by inspiring me to continue fighting with all I have for the life of this beautiful planet.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Report-Back from Feminist Anti-Pornography Conference, June 16th-19th

Pornography has hijacked our sexuality and makes billions of dollars each year by debasing and dehumanizing women. This was the reason that radical feminists from around the world gathered in San Diego, California from June 16th-19th for a conference and training put on by the activist group, Stop Porn Culture (SPC). I was honored to attend and left with a renewed sense of rage and determination to stop this ongoing war on women; and also a renewed sense of humanity after being welcomed into this struggle with such brave and wonderful people.

The first half of the conference was training in how to present a slideshow that SPC has made about the pornography industry, titled “Who Wants to Be a Porn Star?”, including how to answer common questions and challenges that anti-porn activists often receive.

Also in this time-span were various presentations about the history of radical feminism, screenings of related films, and a panel with men speaking on masculinity and pornography.

The last half of the conference felt more like a seminar, and was titled Contemporary Radical Feminism in the Age of Porn.”

As put by SPC, the goal of this section was “to rebuild a vibrant, radical, unapologetic feminist movement that energizes and mobilizes women and pro-feminist men into fighting the porn industry, and fighting for real liberation. Presentations will explore how to make radical feminism timely and relevant in the lives of young women, and how to build activist movements on the local, national and global level.” In my opinion, it was very much a success.

Dr. Gail Dines, author of Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality, delivered a notable presentation with a title that speaks for itself: “From ‘the personal is political’ to ‘the personal is personal’: Neoliberalism and the Defanging of Feminism.” Gail spoke with eloquence and force about the necessity to move past the myth of individualism to real political movement that can fight for justice, and win.

In addition, conference attendees were honored to hear from two women who are survivors of prostitution speaking on a support network that they have created for other survivors. Another activist showed how the economic system of porn is all intertwined and essentially an empire. There was also a discussion of “Queer/Alternative porn” and how, in all its proclaimed uniqueness, it rests on the same eroticizing of domination and woman-hating that are the hallmarks of industrial pornography.

To end the conference, a panel of anti-porn feminist activists from various countries—Norway, Australia, U.K., U.S.—spoke to the various approaches that have been taken in combating sexual exploitation. Activists from Norway, who were part of a 30-year campaign that eventually led to the abolishing of prostitution in their country, led a brainstorming session on the next steps for action.

The horrors exposed throughout the conference were staggering: Over half of the women in the porn industry have been victims of incest; the most cruel, body-punishing, degrading pornography is the fastest growing genre; pornography is often used as a blueprint for rapists. The list could go on.

All of this is why pornography to me looks like the end of the world. The way ahead will involve many facets of struggle, including legal action, writing, and organizing. Feminists have been combating this industry for decades, and we must pick up the torch until our sisters are free and it’s impossible for the pornographers and pimps to exploit any longer.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Report-Back from Pine Ridge Solidarity Action, June 9th

What is now called North America was once inhabited entirely by indigenous human cultures nestled into natural communities. White settlers have been waging a campaign against these human cultures and the land for the last 500 years in countless actions which can only be understood as insanity.
As a descendant of these settlers, and because my skin is white, I’ve been born into societal privilege afforded to some at the expense of others. Yet, I see the blatant perversion and inherent wrongness o the dominant culture, and choose instead to ally myself with the natural world and indigenous communities striving to maintain their traditional ways of life.

This is what led me to recently join a caravan to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota to stand with the Oglala Sioux tribe of the Lakota people in opposition to an ongoing genocide faced by their people at the hands of predatory liquor sellers in the town of Whiteclay, Nebraska.

Whiteclay has a population of 14 and consists of one short road lined with four liquor stores. Collectively, the town sells around 12,000 cans of beer every day, primarily to the Native population of Pine Ridge, which has banned alcohol within its borders. Now, one in four children on the reservation is born with Fetal Alcohol Disorder and the general population’s life expectancy is the lowest in the United States.

Lakota activists have been taking action against Whiteclay for years, but some wanted an escalation in the battle and chose to invite members of the radical environmental movement, Deep Green Resistance (DGR), to join them for an act of civil disobedience.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

We Need All We Have

Image by Meredith Stern, Just Seeds
In these times of omnicide­­­­—the ongoing attacks on all ecological and communal integrity—every one of us must ask ourselves what gifts we have and how we can best use them in the service of life. As many as there are problems created by the dominant culture, there are opportunities to resist systems of oppressive power and renew just and sustainable ways of living. It’s urgent that each of us begin identifying and meeting these opportunities. This planet cannot afford any less.

The diversity of efforts I see in my own community is greatly inspiring. Many different people—of various ages and backgrounds—are doing many different forms of crucial work, all of which is, in the end, complimentary and intertwined.

Some of the activists I know focus on community events. They put together music and art shows that tell stories of love and resistance. They organize discussion groups about radical, meaningful, and locally relevant subjects. They establish spaces where women can meet and discuss outside of men’s habitual domination of group dynamics and subject matter. They establish spaces that are safe for lesbians and gays to meet without experiencing discrimination. They screen films about social and environmental justice, and make time afterwards for discussion.

Some of the activists I know focus on the landbase. They learn and teach about the different creatures who call this place home. They find which natural communities are suffering from industrialism and exploitation and strive to help them to restore. 

Some of the activists I know focus on food. They have started a community garden, which offers around one hundred plots available for use. They run small-scale, organic farms, and strive to teach people about growing food in a way that’s healthy for humans and the land. They run projects that help distribute good food, encouraging others to take care of their bodies and helping tie together local food systems.

Some of the activists I know focus on literature. They are radical librarians, fighting against book banning and for community. They run literature distribution projects to disseminate inspiring revolutionary information.

Some of the activists I know are healers. They learn and teach about medicinal plants, healing themselves and their friends in a natural way. They offer counseling for those struggling through challenging situations. They teach about the healing powers of food.

Some of the activists I know focus on social justice. They fight systems of oppression that negatively impact women, lesbians and gays, the poor, indigenous communities, and people of color. They fight the attacks on their community by the ruling class and the colonialism and warfare used against communities around the world. They dare to challenge capitalism in favor of a more sane and just way of life.

Some of the activists I know are artists. They make music, writing, and art with themes of fighting back. They donate their gifts and work to add an artistic element to the projects of other activists.

To know so many activists dedicating their lives to justice and sustainability is deeply inspiring. When we see the scope of the crises this planet faces in its full horror, it is overwhelming. But resistance starts with a recognition of our own agency and power. It may not be easy, but, if you love life as I do, you know it must be done. My hope is that the activists I know continue doing what they are doing, that their endeavors keep growing and inspiring others. My goal is revolution, and we’ll need all we have to get there.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Fascism and Resistance in Wisconsin

Given the current social climate of the dominant culture, it shouldn't be a big surprise that Wisconsin's Governor, Scott Walker, has been re-elected in the recent recall elections and, further, continues to rapidly gain power despite his overtly fascist practices.

This individual example of social destructionWalker's attacks on the natural world, deconstruction of labor unions, reversal of civil rights, and widening of the gap between poor and richis consistent with the actions of those in power, globally. In fact, these actions are systematic and necessary in order to maintain industrial capitalism. Their system is now in the midst of collapse, and corporate hands are grasping for whatever power remains in their reach.

A "Left" movement, as I define it, entails the understanding that capitalism is inherently unjust and unsustainable, maintaining the goal of it's elimination. Mainstreams Leftists, however, act most often as a "loyal opposition," if not in direct collusion with fascism.

As long as the channels for social change are limited to electing politicians and marching with signs, no significant challenges to power are made and the powerful will not concede or change in any meaningful sense. Frederick Douglass makes the point with this well-known and powerful quote:
Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.
Until we demand and end to Scott Walker's reign of control and destruction, and until we are prepared to use force to back up this demand, we can't even begin to stop the acceleration of these terrible circumstances. We certainly can't make change for the better. Look around. This is happening now.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Book Review: "The Politics of Reality" by Marilyn Frye

The Politics of Reality: Essays in Feminist Theory, written by Marilyn Frye in the 1980's, is one of the most instructive books I have read to date. The succinctness of each of her essays, which cover such fundamental topics for the feminist learner as white privilege, male supremacy, lesbianism and gay rights, and violence against women, combines with an impressive comprehensiveness that leaves the reader with little room for debate. It's simple, but forceful, similar to, I would assert, the works of radical environmental author Derrick Jensen, and especially his two-volume book, Endgame.

In one essay, a difference between love and arrogancetwo forces that, in a sense, speak to the entire battle of life against oppressionis drawn out:
The loving eye does not make the object of perception into something edible, does not try to assimilate it, does not reduce it to the size of the seer's desire, fear and imagination, and hence does not have to simplify. It knows the complexity of the other as something which will forever present new things to be known.
The arrogant perceiver's perception of the other's normalcy or defectiveness is not only dead wrong, it is coercive. It manipulates the other's perception and judgment at the root by mislabeling the unwholesome as healthy, and what is wrong as right. One judges and chooses within a framework of valuesnotions as to what 'good' and 'good for you' pertain to....If one has the cultural and institutional power to make the misdefinition stick, one can turn the whole other person right around to oneself by this one simple trick.
As a woman living under the rule of patriarchy, and as someone with a radical feminist analysis, Marilyn Frye is no stranger to the meaning of privilege, both in concept and practice. As one might expect, she speaks thoroughly and often about the privileges afforded to men over women. However, her analysis doesn't stop there: those with white skin, including white women, experience a certain kind of privilege as well, because the dominant culture is both patriarchal and white supremacist. Connecting these dots is both crucial and, unfortunately, too rare. Says Frye:
In a certain way it is true that being white-skinned means that everything I do will be wrongat least an exercise of unwarranted privilegeand I will encounter the reasonable anger of women of color at every turn. But 'white' also designates a political category, a sort of political fraternity. Membership in it is not in the same sense "fated" or "natural." It can be resisted.
Members of the dominant culture must be able to mark or define the sex of human beings so that it's clear who is to subjugated and who is to do the subjugating, who is to be exploited and who is to do the exploiting. Masculinity and femininity are concepts created and enforced by patriarchy to keep the social order running smoothly. As Marilyn Frye puts it:
I see enormous social pressure on us all to act feminine or act masculine (and not both), so I am inclined to think that if we were to break the habits of culture which generate that pressure, people would not act particularly masculine or feminine.
Imagine a bird in a birdcage. The bird is confined by numerous wires that connect with each other in order to imprison the bird. If one looks at one of the wires alone, it could seem silly as to why the bird doesn't simply fly around it to freedom. However, it takes stepping back and seeing the whole picture that is the birdcage in order to understand why the bird is trapped. This is the classic metaphor that Frye has used to describe the meaning of oppression. She goes further to give a basic definition:
Oppression is a system of interrelated barriers and forces which reduce, immobilize and mold people who belong to a certain group, and effect their subordination to another group (individually to individuals of the other group, and as a group, to that group).
In a discussion of the gay liberation movement, and the fatal mistake of gay men often trying to embrace masculinity instead of rejecting it, Marilyn Frye speaks to a different vision, a lesbian vision, in a line that I believe is one of the most powerful in the book:
The general direction of lesbian feminist politics is the dismantling of male privilege, the erasure of masculinity, and the reversal of the rule of phallic access, replacing the rule that access is permitted unless specifically forbidden with the rule that it is forbidden unless specifically permitted.
It should be clear that this book is crucial reading for any person with the love and courage it takes to fight for a better world. While anyone would benefit from heeding the lessons that Marilyn Frye has put forth, I especially think that men need to hear this radical feminist message and begin to join women in the fight against patriarchy and for the liberation of all of life.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

What will it take?

What might it take? We know the problem. We know it is a crisis. We know we want it to stop. But, what will it take?

It will take asking this question again and again. It will take letting it shape our strategies and tactics. It will take listening to and learning from communities who have been fighting this battle for so long. It will take learning from past resistance movements what what has worked, what hasn't worked, and how we can be most effective in our situation. It will take challenging systems of oppression; especially in the culture as a whole, but also in our communities. It will take our time and energy; the time and energy we might have otherwise spent seeking a One True Love, staring at a glowing screen, getting drunk or doing drugs, trying to get rich. It will take every day and every breath, a commitment to resistance and affirmation of loyalty to life.

It will take starting now. It will take so much more. The world is at stake. Whatever it takes, it must be done. By you. By me. Let's see what it takes, now.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Story of a River

This words that make up this piece were given to me by the river whom is it's focus.

The Milwaukee River runs through the place where I live. Really, it is the place where I live, or at least part of it. This place would not be what it is without the river.

On a warm, sunny day the river will call to me in a bodily way to come into the water, or at least to feel it with my hands or feet. I’m sure this relationship between river and human, river and bird, river and insect, is older and more sacred than I can imagine.

When the river calls to me in this way, I want so badly to get in. I want to spend all of the warm and sunny days heeding this call, and the other days watching from the river’s side, listening and learning.

What breaks my heart is that I will not enter this river and let its waters caress my body, at least not today or any time soon, because its waters are full of poison.

Less than ten years ago, my friends and I would swim in the river on every warm and sunny day. Then, a number of them started experiencing rashes on their skin or felt sick from accidentally letting some of the river water into their mouth. We stopped swimming in the river. The poison dumped or seeped into the river continues to build, and the river continues to be killed, while we essentially stand aside and mourn.

I’m tired of mourning and I’m tired of hearing that this destruction is natural, inevitable, “just the way things are.”

What made clear in my own life that this river was changing for the worse, that it was being killed, was when I no longer wanted to let its waters touch my body. While obviously bad in itself, there’s a larger picture here that must be looked at.

There are living beings—including the river itself—whose lives depend on this river. When the river dies, so to do the fish, bugs, birds, and other animals who drink and eat from the river, who call the river home. Thus, each year that there are more and more pollutants from agricultural run-off in the river, there are less and less songbirds and frogs.

Prior to the arrival of Europeans on this continent, there were human beings who lived here that loved the Milwaukee River. They were indigenous peoples called the Menominee, Potawatomi, and Fox, among other tribes. The lives of these human beings were firmly intertwined with the life of the river. These human beings ate and drank from the river, prayed to the river, and listened to the river’s wisdom.

Those sustainable human cultures were victims—and continue to be victims—of large-scale murder—genocide—at the hands of white settlers. The same people who committed these atrocities against the indigenous humans are now killing the river. Both the river and the human beings who love it—and know how to live sustainability with it—are targets of the dominant culture, industrial civilization. In order to control, exploit, and pollute the river, the humans who depend on it for sustenance must also be displaced or eradicated. We can see how this happened here at home in the case of the Milwaukee River, but we must see further that this has happened everywhere and is the story of civilization.

Currently, every stream in the United States is contaminated with carcinogens. 99% of native prairies have been destroyed.  99% of old growth forests are gone. 90% of the large fish in the oceans are gone. It’s estimated that unless there is a dramatic shift in course, global warming will become irreversible in around 5 years, eventually rendering all life on this planet doomed.

It doesn’t have to be this way. The destruction can be stopped and we must stop it. Clearly, the river, the land, indigenous humans, and so much more life, are the victims of an abusive system. Like all perpetrators, the way to stop them is to aim at the root of the problem and remove or block their ability to abuse. Basically, the goal is to return the circumstances to the way they were before the abuse started, with the victims free and safe. The abuse of civilization has been a campaign of 10,000 years, so obviously there is much to be done to stop it. But, what choice do we have other than to start now and try?

Who or what do you love? Surely you love something or you wouldn’t be here. What would you do to defend your beloved?

I love the Milwaukee River.

I love the kingfisher birds who glide near the water's surface. I love the Sandhill cranes who stand tall in the shallow water, looking wise and blending into the background. I love the Mullein plants growing on the bank. I love the frogs gurgling and humming amongst reeds. I love the bass fish who group together, but only just close enough so each can know that the other is there.

I want to see this river come back to life, year after year regaining health. I want to see no more poison seeping into the river, no more dams suffocating it, no more destruction of any kind. I want to see all of that destruction reversed and those who would commit abuse stopped and held accountable for their crimes against life.

I love the Milwaukee River and I love life. I will do whatever is necessary to defend the living, before the planet is killed entirely. Will you join me?

Monday, April 30, 2012

DGR Cadres 2012

I drew this picture of the Deep Green Resistance cadres gathered in Wisconsin in Spring 2012 for a Members' Conference and Cadre Training. These comrades filled me with so much inspiration, and I wanted to create something dedicated to them.

Original photograph by: Max Wilbert. Sorry to those cadres who aren't featured in the drawing.

Also: Myself and the other DGR Cadres are featured in a show on Radio Against Global Ecocide. Click here to listen.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Recommended film: Sophie Scholl: The Final Days

Sophie Scholl, her brother Hans, and the anti-Nazi resistance group the White Rose Society, is an example we all should look to in resisting the unjust and murderous culture in power. After watching the film based on their story, Sophie Scholl: The Final Days, my heart is broken at their sacrifice and inspired by their courage to act.

Executed by Hitler's regime for their effectiveness, the White Rose Society wrote and distributed pamphlets denouncing the Nazis, their wars and atrocities. Their organization operated secretly underground, working late at night in a private office space with printing equipment.

The Scholl siblings understood the risks they were taking by acting against the Nazis, and this was shown through every step of their interrogation and trial. Upon confessing their involvement in the resistance group and position against the Nazis, they held firm to their sentiments and were proud of them.

Courage is a great in concept, yet often difficult to have in life-threatening matters, but Sophie Scholl and members of her group show that doing what is right is more important than any one of our lives alone. This may be the most important lesson that can be learned from their story and words.

Hans and Sophie Scholl were quite young, seeking to encourage similar resistance amongst their peers. By their age, it could be guessed that they were extremely passionate and willing to fight, but the virtue of discipline may not be assumed. Their seriousness and discipline is clear from their story, and embodied in quotes like this (from Hanz): "Keep a strong spirit and a tender heart."

After all they had done to support resistance to Hitler and the Nazis, the Scholl siblings were hung. Their spirit of resistance must not be in vain. We must speak out and act now, even if it seems no one else is doing the same. As Sophie said in what were some of her last words: "Somebody, after all, had to make a start. What we wrote and said is also believed by many others. They just don't dare express themselves as we did."

Original pamphlets by the White Rose Society can be found and read here.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Recommended media: Lakota Woman, The Color Purple, Foxfire

Recently, my roommate brought home a big bag of books from a used book store she had visited while out of town. The books all had in common that they were authored by women. One by one, my roommate started reading these books. While reading and after finished she'd tell me how wonderful they were. So, one by one, I read each book she did, picking each one up practically immediately after she set it down. (I've also been happy that there has been films adapted from most of them!)

Usually, it will take me at least a couple of weeks to read through a book. This may be because I most often read non-fiction. I'm also noticing many of those non-fiction books are written by men (albeit pro-feminist, radical men). There's something refreshing about these books, though. Whether it is because they are not non-fiction theory, or because they are written by women, or both. Here are a few I've read and/or watched most recently:

Lakota Woman, both a book and film, is an amazing autobiography of Mary Crow Dog (now Mary Brave Bird), feminist and former member of the American Indian Movement (A.I.M.) She tells her experiences growing up on a reservation and being forced to attend a boarding school. Her rejection of assimilation into white culture leads her into the revolutionary A.I.M., with whom she stages an occupation at Wounded Knee in the early 1970's. At the same time of her radicalization, she also rekindles participation in sacred Lakota spiritual traditions. This story is filled with history and the personal narrative paints the picture of a brave and inspiring human being fighting for a better world. Favorite quote:
They say that the law is getting ever more enlightened and liberal and color-blind. That is bullshit. In 1884 the first Crow Dog won his case before the Supreme Court which, under the 1868 treaty, ruled that the government had no jurisdiction on the Sioux reservations. Almost a hundred years later the courts ruled against us on the same question. The thing to keep in mind is that laws are framed by those who happen to be in power and for the purpose of keeping them in power.

The Color Purple is a novel by Alice Walker that speaks to sisterhood and struggle of African-American women in the southern U.S. only shortly after slavery was formally abolished. This classic story follows Celie as she learns to appreciate her body, speak up and fight back against abusive and controlling men, and struggle for her humanity and self-determination. Favorite quotes:
I loves Harpo, she say, God knows I do. But I'll kill him dead before I let him beat me. Now if you want a dead son-in-law you just keep on advising him like you doing. She put her hand on her hip. I used to hunt game with a bow and arrow, she say.
She say, My first step from the old white man was trees. Then air. Then birds. Then other people. But one day when I was sitting quiet and feeling like a motherless child, which I was, it come to me: that feeling of being part of everything, not separate at all. I knew that if I cut a tree, my arm would bleed. And I laughed and I cried and I run all around the house. I knew just what it was. In fact, when it happen, you can't miss it.

Foxfire is a film, based on a book by Joyce Carol Oates, about a group of girls in high school who meet in unity to stop a male teacher from sexually abusing them and others. After physically confronting him, the loyalty they feel to each other grows as does their embracing of sisterhood and the will to fight back. I absolutely loved the uncompromising attitudes against men's abuse of women in this film. It did have it's drawbacks, though, in that like many "mainstream films", there was unnecessary sexualization of female characters. A favorite quote:
If you ever put your hands on me again, I'm gonna snip your little nuts off with my toenail clippers!