Sunday, October 30, 2011

Nietzsche and anti-humanism

There are a couple levels of Anti-Huamanist thought in Nietzsche, but I just want to focus on one of them. His general cynical view of humanity doesn't interest me here. Something that's been disturbing me about "Beyond Good and Evil", that I wasn't able to put into words until recently, while, is that his rejection of Good and Bad limits the scope of human existence rather than extending it.

To understand why you have to go back to the title of "Beyond Good and Evil" itself, or rather see that it's an imperfect translation. A better one would be, "Beyond Good and Bad". You see, Nietzsche isn't really arguing against the metaphysical notion of Evil with a big 'E' as it's understood in the Anglo-American religious and philosophical tradition. Instead, what he's arguing is that the fundamental moral categories of good and bad in and of themselves, as conceptual categories, do not have relevance. What he's arguing is that the moral sensibility, whether liberal, conservative, atheistic or theistic, is fundamentally flawed and that the real dynamics of life have nothing to do with the things that we normally associate with it. It's problematic in that there are quite a few large sections of life and thought that are tied into the moral sensibility, and denying moral sensibility denies them as well. Denying the moral sensibility is not the same thing as having an amoral view of life or one that's not particularly moral. It's also not a support for a utilitarian viewpoint where everything is reducible to pleasure or pain. Morality in a very general sense, no matter what type of morality it is, is a mediator that between ourselves and the social, historical, and cultural world around us. It helps us to accomplish our goals, which are biologically human, more effectively.

Ultimately, our concept of 'a' right and 'a' good, no matter what the substance of our concept is, comes from our human, biological, structure. It's an integral part of everyday human existence. To be anti-humanist in this sense is to is to cut off a piece of one's self that helps you, as a human, produce the very great works of art, the great scientific achievements in technology, the great heroic actions, that Nietzsche championed. Without our humanity, none of that means anything except for the basic mathematical equations and scientific concepts we discover that have a completely a-human basis. To fulfill virtually anything that we can conceive of as desirable, beyond animal behavior, we need to engage our human side,because there's no other coherent model of being out there that's not a return to a more biologically primitive form. If we choose to live on the level of animals and reptiles, I don't think that we'll be able to produce anything of a higher or uniquely human value.

What you're left with is will and sensation, and blind instinct, with a formalistic extension of will being one of the few the marks of rightness. Realizing a higher degree of general, raw, will is not the same as realizing a more refined will to do a thing that's complex, inventive, or creative. To me, by cutting off validity to the moral sensibility, one that despite its imperfections is effective in helping us navigate a uniquely human existence, no matter what your justification is, leaves people with drastically less ability to meaningfully navigate the world that they live in, which, Sartre be damned, does in fact include other people.

*On edit: a qualification of what I mean by his objection to the idea of a valid moral sentiment.

I should say that the whole business about moral sentiments not mattering is perhaps better phrased by saying that Nietzsche believes a) that the idea of morality itself is a historical product, and b) that the morality that we say we have is not what we believe but a false consciousness. Combining the two, you get the idea that morality is an optional concept evolved over time that legitimizes the brutal power politics, which means that, essentially, morality is meaningless. Good and bad can't be real because they're all lies. This is the whine of the person who is too jacked up on testosterone and alcohol, and who drunkenly exclaims against anything he or she sees. Simply amplifying your attack on what you consider to be hypocritical morality to the point of discarding it altogether is hardly an argument. In the process, Nietzsche somehow ignores thousands of years of evidence that his scenario is not real. Even the harsh peoples that he praises did not operate in a moral-free zone: they simply had different morals, but morals nonetheless. In any case, perhaps he shouldn't have let third stage syphilis do so much of his writing.

Why reading about socialist movements can help you, Lassalle and Vahlteich

Lassalle and Vahlteich were two often conflicting leaders of the German Social Democratic Party. Neither of them was a theorist on the level of, say, Marx or Bakunin. Their importance lies in the movement that they were part of. When it comes to studying socialism, as opposed to participating in it, there are two ways of going about it: the conventional way, studying the big names, the big theorists, and the alternative way of studying the movements and the lesser names, both activists and thinkers, who came out of them. Personally, I think that while having a good grounding in the big names is very important,the real understanding comes from studying how these ideas played out in reality.

I remember hours spent, years ago at this point, in an isolated library in a conservative Christian town in central Florida, reading "The Encyclopedia of the American Left". They were some of the most interesting and productive hours I've had. There wasn't a lot to do in the town in your free time, and so I would go there, sit down, and read it.I went through most of it, looking at connections between movements and personalities, finding out about municipal socialism in Milwaukee and Farmer-Labor parties in Minnesota, to say nothing of the unsung people who are otherwise forgotten in American history who made substantial contributions. Many forgotten people have immediate connections with the present, for instance Harry Hay and his "Mattachine Society". A 40s and 50s socialist gay rights group, it grew out of Hay's speculations on Marxist history during his tenure as an official educator for the Communist Party, and pioneered the gay rights movement.

Memoir and interviews also played a large part in my life during that time: Howard Fast's "Being Red", outlining his time in the Communist Party during the '30s and '40s, and '50s, told me more about the Popular Front, the best time for the CP in the US, when it actually made a tangible difference in people's lives, than a hundred theoretical statements ever could. "Tender Comrades",by Patrick McGilligan and Paul Buhle, a book of interviews with blacklisted Hollywood actors, did the same thing. Talking to people who were forced out of Hollywood during the McCarthy years, some of whom literally left the country for Europe and never came back, gave life to an era.

The same can be said for Anarchist history as well. In fact, Anarchist historians have done a superb job in documenting the real force of the movement. Murray Bookchin's study of pre-Civil War Spanish Anarchism "Spanish Anarchism: The Heroic Years" is crucial. Paul Avrich's books, particularly Anarchist Voiceshis oral history of American Anarchism, "The Haymarket Tragedy", have a similar importance. And although Bakunin is wonderful, second generation Anarchists like Malatesta provide information on how Anarchism actually worked as a social movement in late 19th, early 20th century Europe that you'll never get from the first generation big names.

This strategy, focusing on movement importance to understand the philosophical concept, is also successful when it comes to socialist theory in general. "Socialist Thought: A Documentary History" put together by Fried and Sanders, is an amazing collection that should be near the top of the list for people interested in real socialism. It's only transcended by the similar, but more local "Socialism in America: from the Shakers to the Third International" also produced by Fried and Sanders.

Movement history isn't overlooked by the traditional, Trotskyist, or rank Stalinist, Marxist-Leninists either. In fact, if you press their saner representatives you'll find that they think of Lenin as the one who actually took Marx's work and made it work in reality, not an uncontested opinion. As an unintended consequence, their minds are often stuck in the early 20th century, circumscribed to viewing the present through Russian history and mechanically imitating Lenin's suggestions about how to conduct party politics. That's where the increasingly anachronistic commandment to parties to found newspapers came from. It's certainly responsible for producing many mediocre papers but on the positive side has surely benefited independent small printers. Arguably, they're the only group who's really seen any profit from most of them. In their self-appointed vanguard minds, if not in their hearts, they're on the right track.

The take home from this? Marx is great, but if you want to break out of your mind, movement history is the scholarly way to do it. And eat your vegetables, especially broccoli.

Friday, October 28, 2011

...and now someone claiming to be from the Seattle PD is crank calling me regarding Occupy Seattle

I don't believe for a second that they're actually from the Seattle PD. And the return number has a n area code from around Barstow California. Nice try, guys.

Ah, and in reference to the H.S. Chamberlain article....Mike Bickle, associated with Rick Perry

A pastor associated with Rick Perry's campaign. There's an article on the internet now going around going around that's saying that in a sermon he stated that the Jewish people were punished by Hitler for not converting, and that (implicitly) this was just. But the funny thing is that when you actually look at the video where the quote comes from, the very video put out by people to show that this is what he was saying, it's pretty clear that in point of fact he's not really saying that.

Instead, the video has him quoting from the Book of Revelations and interpreting it in the present time. The Book of Revelations has lots of references to people who are Jewish dying in the end times, and Bickle says precisely that, that he's following what's in the Bible, not putting it out there as his personal opinion.In fact says that he doesn't like it. What Bickle is saying is that the end times are happening right now and that the Holocaust was part of that drama.

That sentiment is not a very pleasant thing, but it's certainly not an endorsement of Hitler, or him saying that he's happy that the Holocaust happened. The fact is that lots of folks are supposed to die as described by Revelations, and Revelations is Israel-centric. He's not doing much more than interpreting the book in reference to present day life.

I give "Addicting Info", the site that posted the original article, a journalistic 'F' for trying to make a fundamentalist minister who believes stupid things out to be a Nazi sympathizer. People have said similar things in reference to the relationship between the founding of the State of Israel and the Second Coming many times before, although they're usually not as explicit in talking about the role of the Holocaust in it. The view that the establishment of the State of Israel is necessary for the Second Coming is a fundamental of 'Christian Zionism'.

And here's the video:

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Nazis and Anti-Semitism, the Christianity connection, Houston Stewart Chamberlain

Nazi anti-semitism has always been a mystery to me. Previously, nothing that I had come across even rose to the level of pseudo-scientific pretension the scientific racism did, which is saying something. So, I decided to look at one of their acknowledged sources, "Foundations of the 19th century by Houston Stewart Chamberlain". Chamberlain liked the Nazis, and they liked him back. High Nazi figures visiting him in his last days, after they had seized power, and got a thumbs up from him for their actions.

"Foundations" certainly provides answers, but the answers lead back into familiar territory, that is to say to the tradition of blaming the Jewiswh community for the death of Jesus. After slogging through pages and pages of Chamberlain's writings on art, Greece, and Rome without seeing getting anything anti-semitic, I finally got to the section on Christianity. That's when it started. Turns out Chamberlain was a Christian, and viewed the death of Christ as the most important event in world history.

Chamberlain viewed Christ and Judaism in Manichean terms. Judaism, as the "Old Law", represented everything identified as bad, base, and material. He viewed Judaism as being purely legal, consisting solely of personal regulations, advice on life, with no spirituality behind it. His version of the culture of the Middle East is one of people utterly focused on the here and now and not admitting anything transcendent. Christ, who he didn't believe was Jewish, was supposed to be the anti-thesis: pure spirit, freedom, self direction, cosmic contemplation. If Judaism was supposed to be centered on the market, Christ was supposed to be centered on the Heroic, although the way he links Christ to things more commonly associated with Homer and the Sagas is circuitous in the extreme. I mean, dying on the cross after preaching for a few years is hardly great heroism.

From it followed that Christ's death was at the hands of bad materialists and that his resurrection both proved them wrong and opened up the door for cosmic redemption through heroic deeds of love and justice.

In distorting Judaism, both past and present, out of all recognition Chamberlain recapitulates the Passion story, but twists it through the interjection of a European or "Aryan" Christ,linking distant deeds in the middle east to 19th century Europe. It's very obvious that he's projecting into the past his feelings about the present-what he liked and didn't like about the world around him, what he thought was wrong and right with society. Everything that he doesn't like about the modern world....gets wrapped up into a bundle and then put onto people who are Jewish, changing their beliefs and maligning there religion to make it look like they believe the worst and most crass ideas around. Everything good, nice, and positive gets the opposite treatment....bundled up and ascribed to the Germanic "Aryan", or, failing that, to Europeans, or Indo-Europeans.

You get the feeling that Jews were picked out of the hat of history for this role, and that if it had been some other people and some other religion that had come to Europe that they'd have been the target instead. Their religion would have gotten the treatment, their culture would have been distorted and maligned. To me, nothing in Judaism itself provides the basis for what Chamberlain argues. Instead, it's all backwards projection based on a Christian interpretation of the role of Jews that assigns to them an old and primitive covenant and the murder of Christ.

Thinking about why many Lumpenproletariat folks tend to be conservative on many issues

An unfortunate truth. By Lumpenproletariat, or just plain lumpen, I mean folks who come from working class backgrounds who have dropped out of the system and are now leading a kind of twilight existence. These are the stoners and the gangsters, the hardcore partiers as well as the anarchists of all stripes who are connected to the street punk culture. As a former member of this group one thing that has always troubled me is why exactly is it that these folks, specifically the men, combine anti-authoritarian sentiments, hating cops, school, the establishment, bosses, with ultra-machismo, being insulting to women and homophobic. The latter characteristics are to me a pretty much uncontestable part of lumpen culture. You're much more likely to see a hardcore stoner treat women in a demeaning way while acting like he's a gangster, despite being white and not a gang member, then you are to see them be sensitive and aware of radical feminist arguments. Being hard, fighting, objectifying women, goes along with their support for the legalization of pot, medical marijuana, an end to the drug war, and end to police abuse, and less of a state. Ron Paul is popular among lumpenproletariat folks: all the libertarianism you could ask for without the social responsibility and equal treatment that left libertarianism demands. On the plus side, thought, racism is out of the picture.

I don't mean to be bitter, in fact, these folks aren't terrible people by any means, but the thing is that they really should be the ones who are leading the fight against our present economic and social system, while in reality they just support a libertarianism that doesn't interfere with their smoking habits.

Thinking about it from the inside, what I've come up with is that these folks are in rebellion against everything that society puts out there, both good and bad. They're against the cops, the schools, the establishment, but they're also reflexively against the social codes relating to women, how you take substances, fighting and machismo--codes that aren't so bad. What they feel is real, it's not just adolescent rebellion, but there's no recognition that just because something is supported by the establishment doesn't mean that it's automatically bad and must be opposed. It's that kind of thinking that's behind so-called 'iconoclastic' Fox News-esque perspective on liberal culture, irrespective of the reality of how liberal values play out in real life.

Me, myself, I separated from my Lumpen comrades partially for this reason, and partially because the people I was with were psychotic fucks and I didn't want to be associated with them anymore. I believed in the ideals of the '60s, or at least what I thought they were, and it became clear to me that the productive counter-culture didn't consist of just getting drunk and/or getting high, hanging out with people who were both ignorant and acted like they were on steroids. The way they treated people, their constant emphasis on 'hardness', was shit, to be blunt about it.
I went to a more liberal place, and then later found Progressive and Left ideas, ideas that to me explained very well what exactly is really going on with the world. I'm damn lucky that I did, and I'm thankful for it.

Other people in that scene weren't so lucky. I remember being contacted by one of them via Myspace a while ago, asking if I was a person that they went to school with. I didn't particularly want to talk to him, or have anything to do with him in fact, so I never responded. A week or so later I suddenly got a friend request from an obviously fake profile that had been created, where the person was a gay, native american, Muslim, who was intent on spreading the gospel of Islam. I had indicated on my profile that I'm interested in both men and women, and my political ideas were pretty apparent as well. I guess my non-dogmatic progressivism was too 'politically correct' to them. Perhaps they objected to my opposition of anti-Muslim sentiment in the post-9/11 world, even though they themselves listened to gangster rap put out by black people. The real world is a different matter, I suppose.

What sort of practical proposals could change this situation with the lumpenproletariat? Potentially, folks could try to spread liberal values among them, showing them that being cool doesn't mean hating gay people, that it doesn't somehow mean being weak, and that treating women with more respect doesn't imply being subject to "feminazis" or bowing down to authority. The Hardcore movement, which I was unfortunately never exposed to during my time in the Lumpenproletariat, has done a good job of steering people in a positive direction. This came about through the defeat of the Nazis in the American Hardcore scene, a very positive thing. By trying to reach out to kids it may be possible to moderate some of their blanket hatred of the world. Hopefully, if that can happen, if some sort of balance in their perspective is restored, they can start to figure out who's really benefiting from them being on the bottom, who's really on the top, and what they should do about it.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Yay for the Hungarian Revolution of '56!

Wikipedia informs me that today was the day it started.

Friday, October 21, 2011

A challenge with diversity--including folks in a non-class biased way

It's a mistake to say that elite institutions have never accepted minorities into their fold, whether they be minorities in the sense of gender, sexual orientation, or race. While the numbers of people from minority backgrounds who were accepted into elite institutions like the state bureaucracy, academia, and business, were small before the civil rights movement, they were still there. However, it was most likely the case that, whatever the individual's own beliefs were, in order to gain admittance to these circles they had to conform to upper class white norms. Which points to a problem.

Phil Ochs, in his song "Love me, I'm a liberal", wrote that "Some of our best Negros are friends", which despite its unfortunate phrasing has some truth to it. It's easy to accept folks who have copied the dominant culture's idea of what is right and proper, and idea that is most often not just race biased but class biased as well. What's harder to do, and possibly more worthwhile to do as well, is to also accept people who come from working class backgrounds whose culture doesn't mirror that of the white upper class. Of course, the cultural and class situation is not either/or. It's possible for people to come from backgrounds that are less working class while still retaining non-white culture, but the tendency as I have observed is for the people at the bottom of our economic system to retain more of their unique culture.

To admit people whose cultural norms clash with those of proper white society is the challenge, otherwise, what we're doing is, consciously or not, encouraging access to influential sectors of society by people who mirror the elite and discouraging others.

*on edit: I could also add women as well as GLBT people who aren't from upper class culture to this, white or not, as well as white working class people.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Perhaps it's time for socialism in the U.S., not anarchism

I say that not because there's any sort of inherent weakness in anarchism so much as that the kinds of things that anarcho-communism wants to establish are right now pretty far away from the consciousness of most Americans. Specifically, the communal, collective, part of anarchism is, I'd wager, lost to most people outside of the anarchist movement itself. The collective side is, in my opinion, the essential point that differentiates anarchism from right wing libertarianism and the stoner libertarianism of places like (the otherwise good) Communal, social values, the kind of values that fuel people taking care of other people in their community and that fuel working for the good of the community on top of working for yourself, are pitted against an individualism that denies any validity to collective and social values whatsoever, and dresses its opposition up in anti-statism. It appears to me that before folks can come around to realizing how it can be possible for collective realization to coexist with personal realization, they need to know just what collective realization is, on any level. A wonderful way for them to get that understanding would be for society as a whole to move towards social democracy. By expanding the welfare state into a social democratic state, by winning the struggle to do so, America could establish the sort of foundational ethics that could then be built on to create a just society that could implement communal values without having a state form attached to it.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Pets and Seattle....a local neighborhood paper devoting it's biggest section to dog and pet issues

The paper in question shall remain nameless, but it's not located in Greenlake. It was amazing to get a copy of this paper, look through it, and first see a couple of articles on pets, then get to an entire section having to do with doggy issues, one that exceeded the straight news section by a slight margin. We have a fetish for pets here in Seattle, especially dogs. There are prominent dog training facilities, dog parks, even a dog bar/restaurant in Fremont where folks are encouraged to take their dogs. You can get gourmet dog food, high end dog toys, and dog clothing. Grocery stores and other stores have had to put up signs saying that according to health regulations only service dogs are allowed in.

Yet for all the attention we pay to four footed friends, there are still plenty of folks who live under the Viaduct, the name for the elevated highway that runs next to downtown Seattle, and there are more that live on the streets. Luxury in Seattle competes with outright poverty and social dislocation, although most of the poor people are segregated in far away districts like Rainier Beach, Rainier Valley, Beacon Hill, and West Seattle.

We're a city that supports a gourmet cupcake industry, but isn't always good about having the poor either have their issues addressed and not eating cake, so to speak. If we could divert some of the money and attention that we lavish on our pets and cupcakes into addressing social issues, maybe that could change.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Greenlake hole: pedophilia or affordable housing?

Another, half serious, comment on the Greenlake yuppie neighborhood of Seattle.

Folks in Greenlake sure love their kids, as is documented by the parenting styles in Clare Dederer's book "Poser", and some prankster recently put up a proposed land use sign on the huge fenced in hole off of 72nd that outlining his (or her) ideal of what that land could be used for (from My"):

"The sign, a parody of a Seattle Department of Planning and Development land use sign, indicates that the empty lot will be used “to construct one ground level ball pit pond containing 1,200,000 cu. ft. of rainbow plastic balls.”

“Parking for for 171 bicycles, 65 unicycles, and 13 tricycles to be provided in 2 levels within the structure,” the sign reads. “Existing ramp to be converted to one 40 ft. slide.”

A map on the sign shows a trampoline, a concessions area and a “rescue claw.” "

Man, someone out there really loves kids. Besides being a little creepy, it shows where the focus of Greenlake residents are: the hole could easily be used for affordable housing or other worthy causes, but instead our prankster proposes a place that will give even more opportunities for the spoiled brats who live in the area, kids who already get more attention and money lavished on them than has in most of recorded history.

Will the ball pit include a resident Santa whose lap kids can sit in, who will listen to requests for further goods that the kids want to accumulate? Better check the sex offender registry before hiring for that one.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Another strength of Occupy Seattle: the diversity of voices in the protest, unlike some other demos.

This one is an easy one. Many large protests, particularly those put on by ANSWER and other fronts for Stalinist or Maoist parties, such as the October 22nd Coalition, typically draw lots of people but don't succeed in creating continuations of the efforts. This is largely because of the hardline ideology that they make a keystone of their protests. While many folks would most definitely want to end war and eliminate racism, or eliminate police brutality, the ideological elements that the sponsoring groups of these protests put in their turn off people who would otherwise would be extremely supportive of them. Folks show up, concerned about the cause, get there, applaud for the speakers they like, then hear hardline speeches for anti-capitalist revolution, get demotivated, go home, and go back to business as usual--until the next protest happens, where the process begins again.

Occupy Seattle appears to be different. But, there is the issue of folks doing the equivalent of the vanguard parties' hardlining, while dressed up in an anarchist disguise. The truth is that when it comes down to it the things that ANSWER and others say alienates people even if it comes out of the mouths of Anarchists instead of Workers' World Party members. The same alienation from the cause will ensue. Folks should realize that in general Progressives from all levels of anti-capitalism will be much more likely to support a group that doesn't require them to commit to Revolution Now and a total and immediate overthrow of the capitalist system, followed either by its replaced by an Anarchist confederation or a hardcore Socialist state, than they are the contrary. Which isn't to say that these voices shouldn't be present. In fact, as individual I believe that much of the rhetoric is exactly what I support. They really should be included. Both forms should be there, as contributing voices, but in my opinion they shouldn't overpower the messages of folks who represent a good deal more people than they do. To put your hardline ideology out there in a my way or the highway setting, while limiting the voices of those who support more limited aims, is to put yourself forward as the vanguard whose opinions matter more than those of regular people, who aren't as 'enlightened' as you are. This, again, is true whether you're an Anarchist or a Marxist-Leninist. Same effect, different ideology. Vanguard is as Vanguard does.

Occupy Seattle definitely has room for a kind of diversity of voices that other protests don't, which is very good. If it keeps up, and there's no indication it won't, it will have the potential to attract people who otherwise would not want to participate in anything ANSWER does, whether that means anything beyond going to a single rally or march for one day or doing anything the day after the protest is over.

More Occupy Seattle: it's an alternative to Greenlake 'social activism'

Meaning the Seattle strategy that gets a lot of attention here of privileged yuppies doing things like eating organic and supporting local boutique businesses as social activism. There are quite a few folks in Seattle who, while leading lives that are excessive in their privilege, think that they're great supporters of social change because they've done a few token gestures with their money. These actions help them feel better about themselves, think that they're great people because of it, despite the fact that at the end of the day when it comes to their actions' impact on real social change, especially social change having to do with inequality and social justice, their actions have almost no impact.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Posted an update to the "subtantive Amanda Knox post" regarding racism and ethnocentrism in the Northwest

With the link being Here. I call it substantive because it contains more than me essentially yelling about the treatment of the Italian judicial system by the Knox family and by the Seattle based, and to a lesser extent nationally based supporters, of Knox as a whole.

The substantive thing about the Amanda Knox coverage: how it reveals underlying prejudices in the Pacific Northwest

The Northwest is many things, but one of the things it is, that's not talked about much in the coverage and praise of Seattle and elsewhere, is that it's white. I mean that in more than just the manner of a throw away phrase. Although the Northwest is liberal in many respects, when it comes down to race and ethnicity the liberality often times reveals itself to be only superficially so, in both my opinion and in others. We talk about equality, about honoring diversity, and yes, you probably will have less overtly racist incidents happening here, but when it comes to how people respond to each other in ways besides superficial respect, and to what they actually understand about folks who aren't of white-anglo ethnicity, the northwest is very sheltered, non-comprehending, and quite frankly separatist. The sheltered-ness doesn't just extend just to people of color but to white, European, ethnicities who are outside the realm of the accepted English, Irish, Scottish, German, and Scandinavian ones. People here often vote with their feet and with their social circles, simply and voluntarily segregating themselves from non-white and non-anglo folks through the means of moving to whiter areas and simply not engaging with non-white folks, at least with the non-approved non-white folks, in meaningful ways.

This makes the prejudice harder to see. However, because the people are so polite, on the surface, the prejudice often comes out unconsciously, in the form of mess ups that reveal preconceptions that folks out east, or for that matter out in California, would never make. Anti-Italian prejudice is one of them, and it comes out when you least expect it, and like the other types of prejudice makes you wonder where these people came from? What rock did they crawl out from under to be that naive?

More on this later.

*on edit: okay, here's the addition: One very poignant example of some of the entrenched feelings in the Northwest that I've experienced involves old people. One old person in particular. When I say old, I mean in his seventies. You could say that, well, old folks say the damnedest things, but bear with me.

I was sitting in a coffee shop in Ballard with this guy, Ballard being the Scandinavian neighborhood of Seattle. The reasons I was having coffee with him are complicated and have to do with my life outside of the World Wide Web. Now, ethnically, I'm a quarter Italian, a quarter Polish, with the rest being an amalgamation of the ethnicities I label anglo, so my appearance doen't necessarily scream out that I'm Italian. Me and the guy are talking, and all of the sudden he tells a joke: "What sound do you get when you run over a bunch of wine bottles with your car? Wop wop wop wop wop!" I sat back there struck dumb.

Now surely, there are folks out there whose grand parents have racist tendencies and who sometimes tell off color or really stupid and insulting jokes. However, this was the only time in my life that I'd ever heard something anti-Italian that was this extreme. In fact, it was one of the only times in my life that I'd heard overt and purposeful anti-Italian sentiment joke, as opposed to casual ignorance like assuming that all folks who are Italian have mob ties, or a general put down of Italians. I've also been around a lot of old people in my day, and none of them ever came up with something that extreme against a fellow European ethnic group.

My thinking is simple: if there are folks out there, in Seattle, of a certain age or not, who openly and unapologetically slam European ethnic groups that are non-Northern European, what must both those same individuals and others be thinking about ethnic groups that are far more different than them than Italians? To me, the joke wasn't just an offensive act, but was in fact a bellwether indicating what likely lies beneath the surface of the Pacific Northwest, a space containing material that's not pretty. I remember Edward Albee saying, in an interview, that his parents weren't just racist and anti-Italian but anti-Irish also, and how that was quite extreme for the times. Here, in 2010, when this happened, you have folks in the Northwest who still feel that Italians are meant to be the butts of jokes, and who see nothing wrong expressing it loudly and openly in a crowded coffee house, notably in the Scandinavian part of town.

What must folks like that think of the Ethiopians who live in Seattle? Or the Eritreans? or the Somalis? Seattle has a large East African community, believe it or not. What about the Vietnamese, or the Chinese? What about Latinos, what about Native Americans? What about African Americans? What about Arabs?

You see where I'm going with this. I see the disdain and unbelief that the Seattle area had for the Italian judicial system in the Amanda Knox case as coming out of some of the same ignorant ethnocentric attitude held in lesser degrees by many people that this older gentleman exemplified. Like I said, a great degree of ignorance by folks outside of ethnic groups outside of a small spectrum is common in both Seattle and in the Northwest as a whole. The difference is that most people in general don't make malicious jokes based on it.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Top two reasons Amanda Knox' verdict was overturned:

1) She's rich

2) She's white (or at least has supporters who appear to think that Italy is too brown to give her a fair trial, and were willing to put the full force of their fury into correcting the error of the dago whop guineas...speaking as a person who's partially Italian himself...)

...and Troy Davis is still dead.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Occupy Seattle!

Saturday was the kick off day, so to speak, and between a hundred and fifty and two hundred people were there at Westlake Park to express their dissatisfaction with Wall Street, with corporate capitalism, and with corruption in politics. The folks in attendance were as diverse as our political culture, ideologically speaking, with anti-Fed Libertarians rubbing shoulders with socialists, as well as moderately liberal people who were upset about corruption taking part in discussions along with anarchists. About thirty people camped there last night and people are meeting at four o'clock today, and daily after that, in order to let their voices be heard, to lend support to the people who are staying there, and to discuss issues such as logistics.