Thursday, July 14, 2011

The level of not even wrong here is magnificent

My honey pointed this blog out to me. It is such a virulent piece of anti-gay propaganda that it cried out for a full-throated response.

Listen, homosexual friends, everything’s not okay. Don’t do that in the name of black atheism. If you are of African descent, then you accept the values, customs, and traditions of traditional African people, and homosexuality is not a traditional African custom. It is a European Graeco-Roman social custom. [That's how Europeans greet each other.] This is a historical fact. I’m not a bigot. This is not prejudice. Traditional African society prioritizes reproduction and protection of children.

No, IA, you are a bigot. What is more, you are a--wait for it--fascist. You are a fascist in the sense that you have a ‘blood and soil’ mentality. You essentials a genetic fact--that one has recent African ancestry--and make it into something that compels you to, as you put it, accept the values, customs and traditions of traditional African people. Now, you do not explain why it should be so that a particular pattern of genetics, based upon parentage, should compel you to accept the values, customs and traditions of people living in a completely different culture. What is more, you merge all sub-Saharan African people into a single cultural group when, in fact, they are not a monoculture. The cultures represented on the African continent are as varied as those spanning from Paris in the West and Beijing in the East. Could you talk about a single, monolithic culture running along the entire length of the Eurasian continent? Not hardly. In the same way you cannot speak of a monolithic culture in Africa, even if you confine yourself to the sub-Saharan part of the continent. When I call you a fascist, I am saying that because you believe that blood and the soil it is from, make an inescapable bond and that one *must* (you have no qualifiers in the statement above) obey the dictates of that blood and soil.

What is more, the argument you are making about Europeans does much the same thing. Yes, there is a civilization one could call Western European and yet, that civilization still manages to encompass places as diverse as Poland, Brazil, England, France, and Mexico, Chile and the United States. Again, not a monoculture by any stretch of the imagination. Yet you try to collapse all of that cultural diversity into one thing “European Graeco-Roman” entity that you can then dismiss as the source of homosexuality.

Homosexuality is a by-product of western individualism [like Broke Back Mountain?]. It’s me, me, me, me, me [unlike heterosexual relations, where we are selflessly thinking only of our partner's enjoyment]. I don’t believe in God because of scientific reasons. When the topic of homosexuality comes up, I always bring up the Law of Reproduction. [This is one of those inviolable Laws taught in every biology class.] You’re not born that way. To say you’re born that way violates the scientific Law of Reproduction. It has nothing to do with religion. We’re not anti-homosexual. If you’re European, if you’re white, that’s their thing. If you go to their history books, they’ll tell you, we’ve been doing it for years; for centuries; this is our custom. They’ll let you know they have sex with animals. [Actually, I had been trying to hide that. These guys are just too perceptive.]

There is no “Law of Reproduction”, sir. None. I am willing to bet my academic background in molecular genetics over what you think you’ve understood by reading Dawkins et. al. Yes, sexual reproduction happens but that does not make it a ‘law’ in the strict scientific sense--and you are claiming thins ‘law’ is taught in every biology class. However, sexual reproduction is not the *only* way living organisms propagate themselves. What is more, in the ape brain--humans are apes whether you like it or not--sex and reproduction are not *necessarily* connected. We don’t have sex to reproduce, we have sex for pleasure. That is nature’s way of encouraging us TO reproduce. However, that is our species. There is no ‘law of reproduction’ that applies to our species. In fact, this idea you appear to have--and your argument assumes this--is that all living things reproduce themselves. That is not the case nor is it something that would be workable if it were. The vast majority of all things that have ever lived will leave around no descendants--none. For humans, non-trivial numbers of males have left behind *no* descendants. That does not mean that these men did not have sex, but it does mean that they did not leave around any descendants. In fact, one of the axiomatic statements of evolution is that there is competition for mates and that some individuals lose that competition. Your ‘Law of Reproduction’ is repealed by Nature and Nature *always* has the last vote.

What’s more, you are as much a product of Western civilization as any homosexual. You are not ‘traditionally African’ unless you were born in Africa and grew up in that culture. If that is the case, you’re not in exactly the best position to tell black Americans who or what we are. Chances are, though, is that you did not grow up in Africa you grew up in the United States. You are a Westerner and any things you’ve picked up that you believe are ’traditionally African’ are no more authentic than the blonde haired, blue-eyed second or third generation Americans, whose grandparents came over from Norway at the end of WW II, and suddenly discover that they are 1/16th Cherokee and start styling themselves Running Wolfwater or some other such rot. Your argument is a Western-style anti-gay argument. Your attempt to back up your anti-gay bigotry--and you are, after all, a bigot--with a patina of scientific respectability is very much a Western rhetorical tactic. You are no more ‘traditionally African’ than I am and I have maintained, since I first started hearing this Afrocentrist tripe 30 years ago, that any meaningful cultural connection between blacks in America and blacks in Africa died when the last person, born in Africa and transplanted to America, died. After that, we were on our own.

What’s more, the giants--the real and true demigods of our intellectual tradition in the West--almost to a person through the 19th and most of the 20th centuries recognized that to look to Africa was folly. You are not an African, you are an American. If you are British or Canadian or Australian you are STILL not an African. If we drop you off with some tribe of !Kung you will enjoy the first week. Then you’ll start to miss your laptop, just like anyone else.

Fascism is a very ugly human ideology. One of the most ugly and deeply disturbing ideas ever conceived by the mind of humans and we have come up with some truly diabolical ideas! it reduces people to cardboard cutouts, not even extras just background scenery in our own personal movies. When you are talking about gay people, you aren’t talking about the tech support person you spoke to, or the phlebotomist who drew your blood, or the pilot who just landed your airplane. No, you were talking about this amorphous mass called ‘homosexuals’ and in just a few paragraphs try to tie homosexuals to both bestiality and child abuse--neither of which has any meaningful or causal connection and, in fact, do not even correlate with homosexuality! Yet, as you proclaimed yourself to not be a bigot, you made statements that if some Rush Limbaugh were to make those same statements about blacks you would be up in arms, calling for his firing and banning from the airwaves. You do the very same thing with Europeans. I won’t even speculate how many other groups you fool yourself into thinking you feel superior to.

As I said at the head of my response to you, you are a fascist. Since I’m reasonably certain that you will try to deny that you have anything in common, ideologically, with fascists you’ll forgive me if invoke a European, Umberto Eco, who has the benefit of knowing fascism when he sees it since he grew up in Mussolini’s Italy.

        1. The first feature of Ur-Fascism is the cult of tradition.
        7. To people who feel deprived of a clear social identity, Ur-Fascism says that their only privilege is the most common one, to be born in the same country. This is the origin of nationalism.
        12.        Since both permanent war and heroism are difficult games to play, the Ur-Fascist transfers his will to power to sexual matters.
        14.        Ur-Fascism speaks Newspeak.

Of the fourteen points, these are the seven I think most germane to this discussion. The whole thing can be found at

It is from Ur-Fascism by Umberto Eco.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Whither the American Spring?

An online acquaintance asked me a very troubling and penetrating question yesterday in email. My initial response, which I still stand by, was not much more than a skeleton while the question has quite a bit of muscle, sinew and flesh to add to the bones. This blog post will attempt to explore why there has been no general uprising in America. In Greece, Ireland, England, Italy, Turkey, Egypt, Libya and Syria there have been general uprisings against either governmental corruption or harsh austerity measures. Now, while the “Arab Spring” uprisings have been of one character--people rising up against dictators who have oppressed their people, the outpourings in the Western nations have all been about draconian cutbacks to the social safety net. And what of America? There seems to be some signs of life in Wisconsin and Ohio, a little in Michigan but not a widespread expression of dismay at the dismantling of the middle-class or sweetheart deals given to corporations that then use their legions of lawyers to write legislation and battalions of accountants to use every tax dodge possible.

Even as our infrastructure disintegrates to such a degree that it becomes impossible to even maintain the illusion that we have the best, the biggest, the fastest, the newest and the shiniest things of any nation, Americans passivity deserves some scrutiny. We are caught between essentially four different political factions all of them some degree of bad.

They are:
  • The Democratic party -- timid to the point where mere cowardice looks like Spartan heroism in comparison.
  • The Republican party -- enthralled to a meme they are no longer capable of even evaluating. They have placed themselves beyond considerations of evidence, beyond reason. They have one agenda--the destruction of the Democratic party. If that means burning the country to the ground in order to achieve their Ayn Rand dreams, so be it.
  • The Tea Party -- the zombie spawn of pure Ayn Rand economic libertarianism mixed in with a generous measure of Christian theocracy.
  • The Green Party -- They have a political program, of a sort, but it is not a program that has anything to do with this nation or this species. Instead of social democracy, they pursue socialism even though there should be no doubt that socialism qua socialism does not turn out well.
Only one of those parties, the Democratic party, has enough actual grown ups to be allowed to rule. The GOP, the Tea Party and the Greens are in no position to rule. The last one because their ideas simply are not workable in any nation that can still call itself free. The next to last because, well, they simply do not believe in governance. That’s right, the Tea Party while talking about ‘local control’ has no interest in governance. They view government as a very limited exercise in, essentially, protecting the propertied and moneyed classes from the democratic impulse. If they would just be old-style aristocratic Tories that would at least have the virtue of honesty. The GOP cannot be allowed to rule as long as they are in sway to the Tea Party’s memes and the Democratic party can be trusted to rule, just so long as no one expects them to stand up for what they believe in.

So why no revolution? Some of the reason is that the Right has no need of one as they are on the side of the oligarchs and the plutocrats while masquerading, quite well thank-you-very-much, as populists. That isn’t really the interesting question, though. The really interesting question is why the Left hasn’t stepped forward. Here there is a quartet of problems, all of them due to very pernicious memes. The problem for the Left, is that we have no program other than a vague Marxism that no one wants to follow. To add insult to political injury we also lack do not believe anything. I understand that we think we do but, in reality, we don’t. I say this because of the corrosive effect strong cultural and epistemological relativism has had on the Left. If the Left believes anything at all (and it is questionable if they do) it is that all cultures are equally valid, all descriptions of the world are equally valid, and that the United States is the single biggest bad actor ever to have its moment upon the world stage. The Left has spent most of the last two decades in thrall to the meme of identity politics which makes effective political action (as opposed to political theatre) well nigh impossible. Lastly, American culture as whole is in the grips of the ‘self-help’ meme of ‘The Secret’ which is just a warmed over, slightly more multicultural

The Marxist problem is two-fold. Firstly, the Marxist project failed and failed in a definitive manner. This means that the Left that advocates a Marxist program is pushing forward a program that almost every nation that actually experienced Communist rule abandoned as the curtain rang down on the twentieth century. Secondly, the insistence that we need a Marxist solution to the problems in the USA makes the Left look pathetically out-of-touch. It could be no more deserving of pity if it were a Japanese soldier who came off some island in the Pacific only to discover that his nation lost the war sixty five years before. What’s more, it causes those of us on the Left to have to distance ourselves from the Old Left which not only failed to put sufficient daylight between itself and the Stalinist regime in the USSR or the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia or Mao in China, and it makes all claims of that, for instance, health care is a human right (an argument that I think has some meat on its bones) empty. No movement prepared to make excuses for Pol Pot, Stalin or Mao (not to mention Hugo Chavez) is in any kind of position to make any claims about human rights that won’t risk the audience collapsing in peals of laughter. It is bad comedy almost to the point of giving offense so monstrous were the crimes of the three major Marxist regimes.

Not that we need worry overly much about the modern American Left making any claims about human rights as human rights. Not because the Left doesn’t use the phrase, it is used in abundance. It is that the Left no longer believes human rights exist! Human rights is just a buzzword, a meaningless and empty phrase with no more weight than hydrogen holding it to the ground. Human rights implies that these apply in all places and in all times to all people under most any circumstances. The Left has abandoned this language as a project and it is now a mere rhetorical vehicle. Rights, as the Left now construes them in both the high-theoretical and popular senses, adhere to groups. As a black lesbian I have rights that adhere to me as a woman, as a member of a racial minority and as a member of sexual minority. I do not have rights that adhere to me simply because I am a human being that navigated the dark passages of my mother’s birth canal. Those don’t exist. The reason they have become rhetorical devices and not limits upon governmental, ecclesiastical and commercial power which cannot be violated is that the former does not compel the Left to condemn or even notice the crimes of, say, a Hugo Chavez. The latter is not a negotiable position--the crime of female genital mutilation is wrong whether it happens in suburban Detroit or in the heart of Riyadh. But that is a terribly inconvenient position to take. It might require us to learn something about a culture and then make a judgment upon that culture. This we must never do because to do so is to embrace racism and advocate imperialism. So we abandon human rights and talk about group rights instead. We have elevated cultures to a place where they now stand above any given individual who might be subject to that culture.

This is a problematic stance, to say the least. While it would superficially appear to put the Left on the side of the angels these are more like angels as portrayed by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck in Kevin Smith’s beautiful (if vulgar) sermon Dogma. These are not gentle angels. They are violent and callous angels, concerned primarily for their own well-being. It is also a rather humorous instance where the faction that speaks of privilege to the point of numbness shows its own privilege. If you can pick up and leave the culture of, say, the American South then it may seem that cultures are not that oppressive. Viewed through the eyes of someone who, in her lifetime, may never travel any further distance from her home at once than I do in a single week of commuting to and from work, the tyranny of culture can look like a prison so inescapable that it might as well be in orbit.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Back to GoogleWorld

For most of the last three years, I’ve been using .Mac/MobileMe as the nexus of my online life. Now that MobileMe is going away in favor of iCloud I’m moving back to the Google-verse. That said, I’m pretty impressed with Google Reader. I think the thing that really did it for me was Google+ which is Facebook without being, well, Facebook.