Tuesday, December 8, 2009
In this article, ms.stellar takes Hebdige's theory of subculture and applies it in her encounters with Asian migrant individuals in Aotearoa, involved in activist communities or independent non-capitalistic work. She aims to highlight a cacophany of sentiments, shared by but not often discussed amongst activist wimmin circles in Aotearoa. There are no (f)actual names, or places, as she writes in the loose context of personal experience.
Shonen Knife, defunct Japanese all-girl punk rock trio began it all for me.
Notions of cool, manufactured in popular culture, play some bearing on self-determined activist communities. Whether we like it or not, we're influenced by the objects that pervade our senses - in the streets, on the Internet, in the papers and particularly amongst the people we meet. With the increasing occupation of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter in our thoughtspace, our notions of what's cool, what's 'in' and 'out' are challenged radically. We become judgmental to the way people write about themselves, what kinds of music & books they read, how articulate or inarticulate their political sensibilities are. Face it - if not for the lure of confident rebellion, playful oppositional practices and the promise of self-empowerment that counterculturisms project, we would not be what we are right now.
Whether it's being acknowledged properly in activist communities or not, is yet to be discovered. What I do know is the premise of any subculture, that Hebdige (1979) writes as 'the meaning of style', is something we can access to make sense of how we think of each other - us, being Asian wimmin amongst the wider multicultural migrant network (which essentially operates as a subculture in various ways) and us, as migrant wimmin participating in social change for Aotearoa.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Through reconnections with the familiar, I made a chance acquintance with Dew Chaiyanara, director, playwright and actor of Underground Theatre and Starscream Productions. I presumed she was Malay, due to the matching colours of our skin, until a fellow punk pointed out she wasn't. At an afterparty, in the midst of drunken youths, Dew struck at first aloof and reserved, stating outrightly that she doesn't drink, a straightedger I thought in this context, rather than ideologically Muslim. I had questions, but due to my own failings, left for New Zealand, not having them answered.
Thanks to Facebook, we found each other and managed this interview a year later. Here, Dew irons out some of my curiosities and shares her experiences as an artist of Thai ancestry living in predominantly middle-class, seemingly racial harmonious Singapore. I hope our dialogue revives knowledge on Asian diasporas, what happens when the indigenous and migrant figure merge, and emerge in both privileged and subaltern contexts, and shed some light on the possibility of a migrant-inclusive bicultural discourse in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Punks vs Peranakans, the former vying for peaceful patronship of Substation, a beloved museum/restaurant in Singapore. Inspired, Dew later wrote it into a play, performed by Underground Theatre.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Activists/anarchists/feminists who have learnt the languages of the oppressed - without actually understanding the context in which those languages exists and the particular experiences they refer to - are perpetuating hierarchy and domination through a more subtle and sinister means. The use of it often ignores their own privileged backgrounds and addressing their own racism/sexism/class/ethnocentrism. I think this is extremely problematic.
What I mean by languages of the oppressed, is the discursive tools to call someone up on oppressive or abusive behaviour or to explain injustices. So when this is used by those who are structurally oppressors: for example, a man saying "you're being anti-feminist" to a womyn or a white/pakeha person to say to a non-white/indigenous person "you need to understand non-white or indigenous perspectives on things" to re-assert their dominance, that's when it's appropriation and a technique of manipulation. When this ideological ammunition created for liberation is used by the privileged to oppress those which it seeks to liberate, that's really fucked up. For people who come from a position of power within this white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy to be so arrogant and condescending to tell people who are structurally oppressed what they should and shouldn't be doing/thinking is another form of oppression and anyone who does that is not an ally of mine.
I think this all come back down to colonial assumptions of cultural and educational superiority that is so taken for granted and manifests in interpersonal relationships and intercultural relationships in structural, sometimes subtle and sometimes overt ways. The colonial arrogance of needing to "educate" (i.e. brainwash into assimilation and subservience) sadly exists even within anarchist/feminist/activist networks and often internalised uncritically. And it's not acceptable.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Resistance is futile.
How do we live with/in futility? Meaning, sense and use in futility.
One of the characteristic markers of my generation, the Y generation as we’ve been defined and marketed to, is cynicism and selfishness.
I have to say, I feel ‘my’ aggregate generation would give the baby boomer generation a good run for their hard-earned lucky money, on these two markers also. I might even venture to say, we may well have learnt these traits from that booming generation.
bell hooks challenges my generation on what she notices as cynicism employed as a defence mechanism and coping strategy.
I think our generation might be reeling from the baby boomer aftermath of quick attempt at social justice.
Markers are generally generalisations, and in the colonial settler society I live within, those generalisations mean white and western for the most part. So there was a white western middle class, or socially mobile bunch of young people, who thought that wars were icky, and we should have peace and free love along with a whole bunch of -ologies and -isms. When those proved difficult and tedious, the most privileged in those movements swapped their peace signs for mobile phones and mortgages, writing off “revolution” as either “done” (like Feminism) or not pragmatic/feasible/realistic/possible (economic justice).
What irks me about this over publicised wave of public and “general” feeling is that is it a minority’s feeling that dominates and shapes general public future generations. What irks me, is that it invisibilises all the non-dominant and non-privileged, and also, non-western-white-middle-class-university educated socially mobile people, who have been struggling for social justice across all strata, long before, and long after this “60’s and 70’s revolutionary” period.
So yes, I think ‘my’ generation is reeling from the experiences of a group of people with loud voices, who gave it a go for a while, and now think “resistance is futile, this is the way the world is, we gave it a go and it didn’t work out”. These momentous viewpoints drown out resistances from groupings, communities and societies that didn’t, and still don’t have the luxury to choose to mainstream and go with the neo-liberal flow. Those who did not, and still do not benefit significantly, consistently or meaningfully from the law reforms. Who might these be? No they’re not simply the young women on campus with short hair, who spell womyn, wimmin untraditionally. Nor are they just the older long haired guy in the army jacket trying to sell you the Socialist newsletter. They are people affected by and living in destitution, stateless citizen-less peoples (refugees and sometimes migrants), indigenous peoples, and peoples in majority world (known here as the-unlucky-poor-them Third World).
These are some of the voices drowned out and silenced, or just neglected by (baby boom) mainstream media (unless it’s doing a social feature piece), who resist by surviving, loving, continuing, struggling, fighting, challenging, and resisting. Resisting futility.
So maybe after all the times I’ve been told;
“There will always be rape and sexual abuse”
“People like their own kind, and so are naturally racist”
“Naturally the strong will dominate over the weak”
“Colonisation has always happened”
“You’ll grow out of it, I’ve been there and done that, you’ll see”
“There’s no point, the problems are too big, inequality is too big, the big corporations are too powerful”
I could concede that maybe resistance is futile. But only futile, if (like the Baby Boomer generalised generation) you think that World Peace, on the beauty pageant stage of the “First World”, can happen in a few short decades when you decided you’d have a go at it in between your university papers.
Maybe living through a rhetoric of futility, or a affluent-white-western-minority-world- Baby-Boomer noisy-rhetoric definition of futility, is simply that. Living through that noisy rhetoric that resistance is futile.
And we live with and within futility all the time. The futility – the waste, the pointlessness, the emptiness, hollowness, of neo-liberalism and rampant capitalism that reduces and confines people and the earth to profits and resources for profits.
And yet we and so many others continue to hope, to struggle, to live, to continue, to act, to love, to endure, to grow, to connect; despite, and because of, the sometimes overwhelming myriad of oppressions and inequalities many of us cannot simply opt out of.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Monday, 2 November 2009.1800 take to Hong Kong’s streets to highlight the struggle for equality and LGBT rights
Chen Lizhi, chinaworker.info
Hong Kong’s LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people) community took over the streets of central Hong Kong Island in a loud, spectacular and overwhelmingly youthful Pride parade on Sunday 1 November. Organisers announced to cheers from the crowds in Chater Garden that around 1,800 had joined this year’s parade – almost double last year’s tally. This was the only the second ever Pride parade and the increased participation is therefore a great encouragement and sign of rising self-confidence for LGBT people in Hong Kong and China.
The parade drew participants from mainland Chinese regions including Beijing, Guangzhou, Guizhou, Shenzhen, Shanghai and Sichuan, as well as from Taiwan, Malaysia and Singapore. The participation from mainland China was very significant as Amnesty International in Hong Kong pointed out: “In mainland China, it’s impossible to have a gay-pride march, so this is a very important day that has attracted many people to Hong Kong.”
Pride’s director Connie Chan Man-wai said the event gave the gay community the opportunity to express themselves with pride. The parade was a carnival of colour and song, but also put across a serious message of “anger at the city’s homophobic laws and attitudes,” as The Standard newspaper commented. Hong Kong is at first appearances a tolerant cosmopolitan city, but Christian right groups are an influential force here with their reactionary views on the family, women, and homosexuality. Massive pressure needs to be exerted on the political establishment to shift them from current policies. There is still no anti-discrimination law in Hong Kong and same-sex partnership or marriage is vigorously opposed by right-wing religious lobby groups.
The city’s political establishment was noticeable for its absence from HK Pride. “The government always says how much it values equal rights but no official showed up today,” said Chan. The exception was the League of Social Democrats (LSD) and its chairperson Wong Yuk Man, who was joined by a sizeable contingent of LSD members and supporters. The Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) also took part and produced a pamphlet ‘Pride, solidarity and socialism’ on global LGBT struggle especially for this event. A PDF version of the pamphlet can be downloaded here.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
There are a whole raft of problems. but first we will combat a main argument (justification, thought or feeling) of "well if you're seeking counselling in the first place then you must not be okay, so why not just be diagnosed as mentally ill".
What the ACC proposal will do, is medicalise and pathologise the effects of rape and sexual abuse. The problem with this, is that things in our society that become medicalised and pathologised, become depoliticised and individualised.
Pathologise is a bit of a odd term, it makes me think of germs in little plastic platters. It means to "characterise as medically or physiologically abnormal, the process through which behaviours and/or conditions become defined and treated as medical issues".
This is a wider problem because things that are designated as a medical issue, become divorced from any social responsibility they might once have had. It means the "problem" becomes the individuals own responsibility (and fault) , and it was merely unfortunate that it happened, but its OK, it's a medical condition we can just fix. In our society, medical things, and the medical industry, sets itself up as nuetral and objective, but it's not and never has been.
The ACC proposals, mean that the burden or rape and sexual abuse will be (re) constructed as merely a mental health (personal) issue, rather than a systemic and structural problem relating to power, gender and colonisation (to name a few power dynamics).
What being pathologised, or mentally ill in our society means, is about the made up groups of "Normal" and "Abnormal". The person who has been raped or abused is "abnormal" for feeling hurt, angry, upset, violated, scared, sad etc. And the label available for the people who rape and abuse, and a society that allows this to occur, is "normal".
It would be a little bit like, if a Large Factory was pouring its waste into a river and polluting it, and the people who lived around it were getting very sick. And then instead of being able to go to the doctor and say, "I've been forced to drink and use the factory polluted water, and I feel ill", to get treated you had to say, "I'm an unhealthy person".
In the first instance where it's acknowledge and heard that you're feeling sicky is due to the polluted water from the factory which you have no choice but to drink, there is a tiny bit of room for people to say, "You stink yucky factory, stop your icky polluting and stop making us sick". Whereas in the second instance, people only have room to say, "Stink for me, I'm unhealthy, I should just exercise more and eat veges because I'm unhealthy, and that's why I get sick".
The reason the ACC proposal stinks, is because it invisibilises (even more than it already is) the reality that gender and sexual violence against women and children in particular. It pitches it that rape and sexual abuse is not really that bad, and not really anyone's problem, except for the individual, who is simply mentally ill.
It shifts the "blame" and responsibility (even more so than it already is) onto the people who have had violence and abuse done to them. It lets rapists, abusers, and a bureaucratic colonial, patriarchal, neo-liberal, violent state, off the hook.
It lets us continue to believe that rape and sexual abuse is just a little bit unfortunate and slighty an odd rare occurance, only commited by a Crazy Depraved Stranger in a Trench-coat Waiting in the Bushes in the Dark, rather than people known to us (which it is, most of the time) and therefore it is simply a case of treating a mentally ill person for something that might have gone wrong to them.
The problems are all of this, not to mention the current stigma around mental health in our society. It results in statistically being able to label a whole bunch of mainly women as "mentally ill". It's a sneaky underhanded move.
And then we have the added dig, that historically, the medical profession and the DSM has, is far from healing and "nuetral".
We need only look at Science's (White/Euro/Western) "proof" not so long ago, that coloured people were "scientifically" proven to be inferior to white people.
We need to remember that homosexual behaviours were first pathologised, and made illegal, and a homosexual medical condition was then able to be treated with lobotomies, electro shock treatment, and imprisonment.
We need to see that transgender peoples are still in the DSM as a mental condition.
We shouldn't forget that the "new" mental illnesses involving women (hysteria, nymphomania just to name a couple) were "discovered" and entered into the DSM, coincidentally at the same time as the suffragette movement in Europe.
At the end of the day, it's pretty blatant and offensive what is happening. That a large proportion, around 1 in 3, or 1 in 4 women, will experience rape or sexual abuse in their lifetimes, from predominantly men, can in effect be labelled mentally ill, in fact must be diagnosed as mentally ill, if they want to access support for healing. Ridiculous.
Monday, October 5, 2009
"The rules, due to be implemented from October 12, state the Accident Compensation Corporation will pay for counselling only if victims of sexual abuse are diagnosed with a mental injury under the US Diagnostic and Statistical Manual Version 4 (DSM-IV)."
"Dr Kim McGregor, who chairs the tauiwi (Pakeha) section of the National Network Ending Sexual Violence Together, said counsellors were angry that the new version still required diagnosing abuse survivors with a mental disorder from the American Diagnostic and Statistical Manual DSM-IV.
'Some counsellors are ethically opposed to using a psychiatric diagnosis for sexual violence,' she said."
full article here: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10596123
and here: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10600172
Auckland meeting to organise against the funding cut:
Wednesday, October 7th, 6:30pm at Women's Space, Auckland Uni.
Please spread the word.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
How women could fight patriarchies by having anal sex with Straight Men. And how this could also destabilise white supremacies....
The archetypal male body is straight, able bodied, and more often than not, white. The archetypal male body is also pitched as sealed and impenetrable. This is why many Straight Men often freak out when you finger their arseholes while having sex. The Straight Sex Script is one where Man penetrates, and Woman is penetrated. The body of a Man being entered, is not the standard manly way to have sex.
This Straight Man archetype, is also one of the roots to homophobia and misogyny. If the (superior)male body is meant to penetrate, and the (inferior) female body is to be penetrated, then the gay (stereotyped) male body messes up this rule. Bluntly, in a narrow Straight Guy worldview, a gay man lets his body be used like a woman, which is a Bad Thing. Straight Man homophobia stems from the reminder from gay men, that men’s bodies are not inherently sealed and impenetrable. This reminder seems to be so threatening to the Straight Man identity, that gay men and transgender peoples are harassed, ridiculed, imprisoned and murdered.
Provocation Defence/Homosexual Panic Defence was used recently to reduce murder to manslaughter, and is only now, in 2009, on its slow way out. The Provocation Defence works like this: “He was hitting on me (a manly red blooded heterosexual man), and I found it so offensive, that it induced a psychotic state in me and I killed him.
Transgressing the hetero rule of Men and the rigid rules of gender expression and identity, is threatening to archetypal Straight Man identity, because it points out that masculinity, gender and identity, are not set in stone and God proclaimed.
It’s not purely, as some Straight Guys have said, that they just aren’t into anal sex. It’s more than that. Many Straight Guys also won’t be too keen on giving your strap-on cock a blow job either. If they say they’re “just not into blow-jobs”, this is more socially acceptable, logical and understandable than if a woman says this.
Blow-jobs done by women on men’s cocks are considered a “natural” and expected part of the Straight Sex Script. Blow-jobs by men on women’s cocks are not.
We are talking about social assumptions and expectations, not purely personal preference of whether or not you’re into anal sex and blow-jobs. We are also talking about whose bodies are assumed to be into certain sex acts, and why. Rather that the whole bunch of sex acts being neutral and not power and gender laden, where anyone can just give it a go if they feel like with no pressure.
Straight Men as a generalised grouping, being afraid and disgusted about being fucked up the arse, apart from linking to tropes around misogyny and homophobia, is also a bit sad. It’s sad, because it’s in the same vein (but different of course) like when many women didn’t know about their clits. Many Straight Men haven’t discovered their prostates can be really pleasurable.
I feel like it’s also further than homophobia and misogyny. There are also threads of archetypal White Masculinities and its boundaries.
By this I mean that gender expression is raced (as well as classed). Our gender expression is shaped by the race, ethnicity and class cultures (at the very least) we are part of and interact within.
White culture, White desire and White fears can also be seen in the expression of White Masculinities. White colonial nations, are orbited by fears of infection (penetration) from aliens. Asian invasion, yellow peril, “Terrorists”. Fear of contamination by uncivilised others, the erosion of Our society’s moral fabric. Or because racist liberals have become more subtle, fear of “our” (white) national values being undermined.
The colonial body (empire/male) fears being invaded and penetrated, because it knows that the way it has done that, has not been in negotiation, reciprocity and equal respectful relation. It posits penetration, and therefore in like kind, vulnerability, as weak and undesirable; woman like.
Women, and female bodies are not exempt from this spotlight either. In a binary, one thing cannot exist without the other. There is a role that Femininity plays in white supremacy and patriarchy, homophobia and transphobia. Femininities are often more flexible, morphus and less fixed than masculinities. Or there are a myriad of feminine archetypes, and the stereotypes of femininities may ring less true less often, or are often more complex being affected and reacted from masculinities.
However, un-interrogated, un-examined femininities, no matter how kick-arse, can be Patriarchal Femininities, White femininities, capitalist femininities, colonial femininities, so on and so forth.
Femininities also police and create the boundaries masculinities operate and oppress within.
“I want a real man”. “God he was a terrible lover, couldn’t keep it up”. “What an arsehole cheating bastard, and he had a small dick”. “Don’t worry about her, you’re so much hotter, she’s a fat, ugly bitch”. “She isn’t doing anything with her life, look at her now, she’s up the duff”. “I’m not into fat guys, it’s OK for a woman to have a bit of fat on her, but men should be strong and muscley, or lean and slim”. “Nah I can’t go out with him, I only go out with guys that are taller than me”.
If it is just white masculinities that oppress, then there would have never been any need for non-white, queer, working/underclass, differently abled, fat women to call out racism, homophobia, transphobia, classism, ableism and body hatred within (white) Feminism. But there was a need, and still is.
Whiteness/pakeha culture, as well as any dominating or privileging culture, is expressed and perpetuated in how white/pakeha men be men, and white/pakeha women be women. Dominating and privileging oppression, are also done through our gender expression and sexuality.
So this spiel is not actually about anal sex with straight men. It’s about putting the spotlight where the sun don’t shine (haha) and showing that our sexual orientations, sexualities, how we do (or don’t) have sex, our gender expressions, how we be men and women and everything in between, is also a medium and manifestation of things like class, ableism, race, ageism, colonisation, sexism, sub/culture and a myriad of other things in life.
Though it can be about anal sex if you want it to be.
Monday, September 7, 2009
In the dominating and oppressive-in-so-many-ways society I live within, there is alot of hatred of fat people and fat bodies. There has been some (tokenistic at times) headway made in many spheres. Homosexuals are no longer illegal. White women got many of the rights they focussed (white) Feminist agendas upon. There are racial discrimination laws etc etc. To the happy sappy liberal, it’s all looking pretty good in “our” multicultural diverse society, where “we” have the Best Race Relations In The World.. Yawn...
Sometimes, it is easy to think that (mis) re-presentation of women people, coloured people, queer people, trans people and working/underclass people, activists, rebels and revolutionary people (think Che Guevera lip balm) on products, movies, advertisements and magazines, means equality and acceptance.
It doesn’t. At least not in entirety.
It most likely means, that all of those once hated and despised groupings of peoples, are now marketable in a guilt-paying off kinda way, or a man-that-is-so-edgey-and-raw easy to consume way.
However, let’s play some devil’s advocate. Let’s also acknowledge that representation, no matter how stereotyped, narrow, tokenistic and defined by a dominant grouping, does play a small part in pushing mainstream boundaries by being visible and creating some kind of unequal awareness.
The representations of “successful” (acceptable, digestible)women, coloured, queer, transgender, working class and activist/rebel/revolutionary peoples, even within internal publications (feminist mags, gay/queer print), are still largely of slim, toned, “normal” bodies. They are rarely fat. Why not?
I feel that it’s because there has been a mainstreaming, a capitalising, a consuming, of those once and still marginal groups. Colors of Bennetton, GAP, a handful of non-white supermodels. There are liberal feminists who think getting top jobs in an oppressive society is equal rights and equality for women; mainstream queers who “are just like everyone else”, and they are. Coloured peoples real happy to have equal access to a violent capitalist economy and business model. Even transgender bodies are considered hot and desirable if they fit the confines and criteria of standardised beauty.
In this mainstreaming, various marginal groups, have been accepted into (to certain degrees) and allowed to consume “equally”.
Step up! Step up! Equal rights to consuming in a violent oppressive society, right now! Equal opportunities to consume folks! Come get them right now!
So we consume.
And underlying this rampant consumption is an underlying feeling that something is not quite right. An innate squashed down knowing that our consumption in the rich-multicultural-liberal-women-rights-and-gay-rights-loving-democratic-free society we are so lucky to have built from colonisation, land theft and the oppression of indigenous peoples, is guilt. We know we partake and live with over-consumption. And fat peoples’ bodies, the constructed connotation of greediness that fat induces, are a visible reminder of societal greed and over-consumption. So as always, when there’s something that makes us uneasy and uncomfortable, we don’t examine what it might stem from. No, no. We vilify and ostracise those peoples, those bodies, those histories. It’s a pretty classic dynamic, set-up a scapegoat so we don’t have to deal with our issues.
Guilt about our rampant addictive over-consumption, is exorcised and channelled into fat peoples’ bodies, who are then set-up for our hatred and disgust.
Sunday, September 6, 2009
Saying that, I also feel sorry for White people and Straight bio men at times.
“Why?!!!” you might ask.
Because, when I ponder things within my body, and within the Va/Wa/Ma (relational concept of space from Samoan, Maori and Japanese frameworks), I realise that I can be a real horrible meany when things get me real down, and I’m feeling insecure and triggered. I’m liable to take it out on my partner, grump at my flatmates, boss my brother and sisters around, be short-tempered with my parents, intolerant of my youth group youths, just generally be unpleasant, when I’m feeling threatened, under-nourished spiritually and emotionally.
So I’m thinking that trauma and insecurity, can play out from past to present, intergenerationally, migrationally, and within a culture. Especially colonial culture. My sketchy understanding of history in the region known as the UK, is like colonial, invasion-y puff pastry. Layer upon layer upon layer of invasion, colonisation and violence from various groups of conquering armies; Angles, Saxons, Romans, Vikings etc etc. The crushing of language, custom and pagan ways of living, internal colonisation, playing off one group against the other, against the Picts and Celts, the Welsh, Irish, Scottish. The royal taking of the commons, serious class violence, inter-religious violence, exiling and splitting up families for mean and flimsy reasons.
If that was my ancestral, cultural hurts and trauma, I know I would have to struggle hard to not perpetuate the violence and wrongs done to my body and my peoples. I have my own stuff, and own ancestral cultural stuff to deal with of course. And while there are no excuses for oppression, observing why dominant culture might do the things it does, could be a useful tool in addressing how to remedy, challenge and call its oppressive behaviour and power tripping tendencies. And failing that, it’s a good exercise in compassion, so we don’t become crushed under the Otherness hating society we live within, and rendered heartless and unfeeling.
This is how I try to find a common place when I do homo/transphobia education stuff in secondary schools with teenage people, and more often than not, the male bodied people do macho silly posturing. We talk quite a bit about what pressures, and what is assumed that Boys should be like, and what Girls should be like. Out of these conversations, amongst many things, it also becomes clear the violence that patriarchy and male stereotypes and aspirations have on young men who aren’t allowed to cry, show emotion, or acknowledge, let alone explore their femininity. (and must police each other)
So this is why I sometimes feel sorry for white people and Straight bio male people. Because, it seems their identities are so fragile and insecure and so scary, they cannot explore themselves to heal and become self-determining. Their identities require constant defining against the scary-uncivilised-dark-soft-vulnerable-expansive-boundary-less-Other, so that they are reactive and other-defined, rather than self-defined. That their identities require so much posturing, heaty blowy words and rhetoric, so much violence to maintain so much fear.
In trying to wound and crush us, they erode, wound and diminish themselves. So it is for these reasons also, that I sometimes feel sorry for White people and the white supremacies they need to create, assimilate into, and maintain to cope with themselves, sorry for the bio men and the patriarchies they create, aspire to and maintain to cope with their collective selves. The Walking Wounded, as my Dad would say. Or as I would say, the Marching Wounded, because it is our bodies they hurt first in this unacknowledged (sometimes acknowledged) war.
I also feel sorry for them, because I need to understand how they can create, perpetuate such oppressive violent structures and mechanisms, yet appear so unaware of how much those dynamics hurt me, us. The constant struggle I have underlying, to accept my yellow skin, my gender expression, my genitals, the shape of my eyes, my ancestors journeys, my height, my desire.
I feel sorry for them because I know that it is also, forgiveness that I seek when some of my multiple identities occupy oppressive spaces such as classism, ableism, colonial benefits and many more I won’t even have thought to feel.
I feel sorry for them because we are lost without compassion. Because when this world becomes a place where everyone’s bodies and gifts are celebrated, they will be there too. Because I don’t want oppression to diminish me, and make me too closed to be weak, vulnerable, open, expansive, and whole.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
It's everywhere, not just the explicitly racist Hell Pizza billboard that read "At least our brownies won't eat your pet dog". On Friday, there was a demo at a Hell's Pizza on Quay st where a spokesperson for Hell Pizza in charge of advertising came and talked to us. He was a white guy wearing a suit. Protestors were asking confrontational questions and he was given a right of reply to all the questions asked. But some of us heckled him as he spoke. He started off with trying to justify the ad in the name of humour and couldn't understand how it could be seen as racist. For a report of the action see here.
Looking at the message in the ad itself, it's such a typical form of racism that people shouldn't be so surprised about. It's so normal in a racist society that skin colour or race becomes associated to activities, behaviour of actions deemed 'uncivilised' by white supremacist cultures. For those that don't like to watch corporate media, the billboard was made in reference to a Tongan man who was caught frying up a dog on his barbeque. The fact that he was called a "brownie" in this ad, made it about race. It was connecting a whole group of people with brown skin to eating dogs. Personally, as a vegan, I don't see eating dogs as any less horrific to eating cows, chickens, sheep or pigs. But you'd never see an ad making fun of white people for eating any of those animals or drinking milk from another species. I still remember the stereotypes of Asian/Chinese people being cat and dog-eaters and the look of disgust from people against this practice when they talk about it, but would happily consume a dead chicken's body in their sandwich for lunch.
Another ad my friend pointed out to me as we were walking up Queen st the other day was an ad for Jeanswest advertising "Authentic Japanese Denim".
The actual images in the shop were slightly different to this one, the man and the woman was on separate banners and the man was surrounded by Japanese men bowing to him. The one of the white woman had the same circle of Japanese women bowing and kneeing around her. It's such a telling image of a racist colonial white supremacist ideal of race relations. White people standing in the centre while Japanese men and women bow and kneel around them, positioned much lower with their many bodies subservient to them. They are situated on the outside, used almost like decorations while the main focus are on the idealised bodies of white men and women. What a fucked up colonial fantasy re-produced to sell jeans. It's such a blatant image of European superiority while appropriating Japanese culture and projecting a western ideal of "authenticity" onto another culture. When images like this are still in the mainstream, it can be taken in two ways. It can reinforce white supremacist ideology or it can evoke opposition because of such a blatantly racist composition that can easily be deconstructed. I think images like this are at least more honest about the reality of relationships between cultures, and they show how corporate brands use non-western cultures to make profit. Gotta love 'multicultural' capitalism.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Workers at the Ssangyong Motor factory in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, have been on a sit-in strike since late May and are currently trying to defend their factory against a police assault. Workers at the plant responded with strikes against pending layoffs in April which accelerated into a full strike and plant takeover and occupation by 1700 workers on May 27 when the list of workers to be laid off was announced. The strike focused on three main demands: 1) no layoffs 2) job security for all and 3) no outsourcing. The company wants to force 1700 workers into early retirement and has fired 300 casuals.
Hundreds of cops have been trying to storm the occupied factory in full riot gear using tear gas and other weapons, supported by scabs using slingshots.
Malaysian Protesters against security laws held by police.
Scores of demonstrators who demanded an end to Malaysia's decades-old security law are still being held by police, a day after authorities put down the country's biggest protest in nearly two years. Ismail Omar, Malaysia's deputy inspector general of police, told Al Jazeera on Sunday that many would likely be charged with holding an "illegal procession" or with other offenses. "Some of them without documents will be charged under the registration act and we're also looking under the societies act," he said.
China Steel Workers Clash with Riot Police
CHINA HAS seen several serious disturbances this weekend as people take to the streets to express their anger at perceived corruption and unfair takeovers.
The riots are part of a picture of wider social unrest in China fuelled by discontent over inequality and unemployment.
Around 30,000 disgruntled steel workers clashed with riot police in protests over a takeover deal, resulting in the death of an executive from another steel company. And more than 3,000 villagers in eastern China blocked a highway and clashed with police while protesting alleged corruption in a land compensation deal.
Monday, August 3, 2009
Within this discussion around bi or multi-culturalism, the idea of culture is never really defined. Coming from an anthropological perspective, the idea of culture is a contested and ever-changing concept that has different meanings in different contexts. What does it mean when state policies of biculturalism or multiculturalism are implemented? If culture is taken to be the visible and tangible things that is defined under the terms made by a Pakeha-dominated state, then it is established within a framework directed by the state.
The other obvious problem with the idea of biculturalism is – what does that mean for those who aren’t identified as or identify themselves as Maori or Pakeha? Where does the existence of other minority cultures fit into this bicultural framework?
In a tutorial discussion I had today, there was a woman saying that biculturalism can mean Maori and non-Maori. But if we take this idea of culture to mean ‘a way of life’, which has had changing meanings in different contexts and still does, then that makes no sense to lump all other minority cultures in the same boat as Pakeha culture. There are major differences in power relationships between minority groups and Pakeha which manifests in a similar hierarchical relationship as Maori/Pakeha relationship, and many of us have had to deal with European colonialism/imperialism in our own countries and the racism and ethnocentrism of Pakeha culture in Aotearoa. To put us in the same boat as our oppressors is ignoring some major and fundamental differences in our cultures. Immigrants from non-western countries go through the same shit experiences of Pakeha arrogance and ethnocentrism, and in general, immigrants don’t have the same intentions as Pakeha colonisers to conquer land and territories for an empire or to dominate indigenous people to gain power and authority. I see it as a different relationship, and one that is not spoken about or dealt with very much in popular discourse on ‘race’ matters.
It is an awkward position to be in when you don’t fit into either category in a binary system of thought. When you are non-Pakeha tau iwi, coming into this country through the Pakeha state’s means and under their terms and conditions rather than through direct negotiation with nga tangata whenua, where do we fit in the scheme of things? How do we support tino rangatiratanga?
Up at Waitangi last year, election year, there were some questions asked of the different parties and one of them was a really peculiar question with an interesting assumption. It was, “Giving the rising number of other ethnicities, what policies do you wish to introduce to protect Maori rights?" That question constructs immigration and the "rising number of other ethnicities" as necessarily a threat to Maori rights. It operates under the assumption that other minority ethnic groups are a somehow going to erode or take away Maori rights, and it definitely doesn't insinuate an inclusion of Pakeha as an "other ethnicity".
But I do think the government tries to use multiculturalism as a way to ignore and detract primacy from addressing Maori issues. The whole idea of "we are all New Zealanders" hides and masks the inequalities that exist and is ultimately used as a way to appeal to liberal ideas of equality while completely ignoring, denying and refusing to acknowledge the history of colonialism. Because multiculturalism is used that way, I can understand how the idea that the interests of "other ethnicities" and Maori rights can be conceived as conflicting. That's the way multi and bi-cultural policies have been framed, and both these ideas are ultimately token gestures that make it appear like they are doing something to redress the wrongs of the past and include new migrants, but in reality, it is just another way to maintain power. So I see it as a form of co-option that stifles real attempts to achieve self-determination.
I’ve kinda been thinking about that a bit. Whether caucus is actually safe space. Is it just an evolved term, that caucus from the 80’s has shifted, and its revamped name is “safe space”. I don’t really know, but I am suspicious for a couple of reasons.
To me it feels like there is a tendency from the wider liberal groupings, to equate sameness with safety.
That women spaces will be safe, as opposed to dangerous mixed genders spaces, that queer only spaces will be safe compared to mixed sexuality spaces, so on and so forth. So while I can see that this is sometimes the case, the underlying framework and its assumptions, need to be addressed. I don’t know if caucus was solely set up for safety, and nor do I think it can be reduced to that purpose. While safety, or feeling safer in regards to a certain aspect of identity and self may have been, and still will be an outcome, I don’t think it can be assumed or taken for granted.
All caucus spaces are aggregate groupings, like age or hair colour. Not all women are the same, not all indigenous peoples are the same, and not all coloured queer women are the same. Safety (whatever that means) or maybe more appropriately, freedom at a particular moment in a particular place, from oppressive operating centricisms, do not come about solely from people sharing the same gender, sexuality, ethnicity etc. If only it was that easy...haha
The point of caucus, as I see it, is not simply to feel safe. It is to get together unhindered (hopefully as much as can be) to discuss strategy, tactics and general issues of how to relate and move on certain issues that affect a certain group differently to another.
My main suspicion with reducing caucus to safe space, places difference and diversity as dangerous, is if we are to read the flipside of say coloured womens’ caucus as safe, it then places white womens’ space as essentially safe. Or even white mens’ space, without the interruption of women and coloured men and women, as inherently safe. Therefore the emergence of caucus groups which don’t tend to be the dominating groups, as being dangerous (as the opposite of safe) and something to be managed.
I see this narrative and set up as being an extension of a wider liberal working framework of governmentality, control and assumptions based on same equal good and safe, diversity/difference equals dangerous and volatile, or at least an annoying thing that must be managed by the dominating groups.
If sameness equals caucus equals safety, then it could be argued that a white supremacist groups is simply caucusing and making safe space, and its those foreigners that threaten the safety of our nation..
“The foreigners, the migrants, the indigenous people with their issues, the queers, the peoples with a differing religion from ours, the people not from round here.. they all make “our” country, city, society etc, unsafe”.
Luckily the liberals know they aren’t really allowed to say that anymore, so those things (diversity and difference) are just mitigated in veiled controlled policies and strategies. One being multi-culturalism and to differing degrees, biculturalism and talk about nationhood, social cohesion, kiwi values and traditions.
“We like your food and dancing, but that’s all of what we will tolerant and consume of your culture, we don’t want to hear of your land rights, housing, health and education concerns”.
This form of multicultural policy ( as well a bicultural lipservice) calms certain minority groups, marginalises others, and makes the majority groups feel good like they are so generous and so not racist, and does the most important thing of keeping the dominant power structures intact and able to continue to function.
The other problem with viewing caucus reducible to “safe space,” is that it lets the dominant groups off the hook in looking at their own cultures, assumptions and ways of operating. If the women, the non white, the indigenous, the queers, the differently abled etc etc, can just have a caucus to feel happy and safe, then that’s what they should do, and the rest of us can just carry on. The responsibility of changing oppressive, silencing and centric ways of operating, continues to fall upon those adversely affected, rather than the privileged group taking responsibility also.
I think I also have a chip on my shoulder about the word “safe” as I’ve experienced it used. The term “cultural safety” has its roots in Aotearoa, in nursing, Maori nursing to be specific. Where Maori nurses discussed the need for cultural safety. Cultural safety being that nurses, specifically Pakeha nurses, need to know about and acknowledge their own culture and all the workings and assumptions that come with culture, to therefore be able to work safely and with people from other cultures. So the focus was not “Hey whitey, learn about all those Asians, Africans, Maori and PI whack customs, so they don’t get upset”. But about making visible, and learning about the expressions of a dominant culture, Pakeha culture, so that one is then aware of their own actions, and therefore hopefully more aware to culture and cultural needs and workings in general.
This is a far cry from how I’ve experienced the need for safety, and “I’m feeling really unsafe” calls from white activists, feminists and just white people in general, when their racism is challenged. Then these calls fall into the “I feel unsafe cos I’ve never had to think and move outside of my white comfort zone. And when I feel uncomfortable cos my racism is being challenged, I will say that it’s unsafe that I’m challenged and derail this whole meeting, hui and project”.
Sameness does not inherently equate to safety. We have to move from this assumption, as the flipside, is of diversity and difference as dangerous, volatile and needing to be managed and controlled. This fabricated problem leads to policy of biculturalism, multiculturalism and tolerance, that sounds nice and fluffy, but in reality is manipulative and maintains and hides the workings of oppressive structures.
Friday, July 31, 2009
racism within activist and feminist spaces
working with white privileged feminists and activists
decolonisation in Aotearoa
WEIRD 09 womyn engaging in radical decolonisations
sat 5 sept – sun 6 sept
home of compassion
te whanganui a tara / wgtn
$20 waged/ $10 unwaged, or whatever you can afford
*hui for any self-identified wom*n of colour. female bodied and intersex people of colour also welcome
This hui seeks to open space for coloured women working in various spheres of social justice and peace work, to examine the working connections between racism, sexism, colonisation and class oppression.
This space is for activist women of colour to get together and discuss experiences of our social justice workings, solidarity and living on colonised land. To share and find holistic, multi-pronged ways to address the various forms of powers that can affect us.
The hui will be grounded around those three main themes. However, other dynamics such as race and desire, tokenism, invisibility, ancestral language loss, and anything else that wants to be discussed, will be placed in the agenda, which will be decided in the first bit of the hui.
Email us any further questions, rego by 15 August
(oh and please register even if you're not paying, so we know how much food to cook)
Weird 09 organisers: Meng Zhu Fu and hannah Ho wai ling
WEIRD 09 rego form
travel assistance wanted?:
(we have some money avail for gas, plane, train or bus)
(morning tea, lunch and arvo tea provided)
childcare costs assistance wanted?:
(we have some money avail to pay childminders)
waged, unwaged, none/or whatever you can afford?:
Any topics you would really like discussed?
there is wheelchair access. there are many car parks. the number 1 bus heading towards island bay also runs regularly.
email rego to : email@example.com
or post to:
14 cornford st
te whanganui a tara
hui cost details:
Account name: H W L Ho conference
Bank account number: 02 1242 0549383 032
or post chq to above address
Even in radical anarcha-feminist discourse even, I feel like there is a silence around issues of racism and class in particular. When they're not talked about, they are de-prioritised and swept under the carpet. There is a real danger in only focusing on single forms of oppression ie. sexism. First of all, sex/gender is not the only aspect of identity that involves hierarchical relationships of power in western capitalist colonial state societies. There is a range of oppressions which are all interconnected and interlocking to make up experiences of being subjugated, dominated or oppressed. Because the sexism middle class Pakeha womyn experience is not the same, even within this category, there would be variation, but speaking for myself, my experiences of sexism has often been racist as well, and ageist. Racist sexism or sexist racism is when both oppression happens together and the shit flinging at you multiplies.
A silence on difference, ignoring it, or assuming sameness is oppressive in that it masks really important aspects of people's identities and experience of oppression. It doesn't integrate a holistic analysis of power and privileges some forms of oppression above others. Difference shouldn't be seen as divisive like unity shouldn't be based on sameness. Instead, it should be acknowledged and accepted. Not all womyn experience sexism in the same way as middle class white womyn. We have different life histories, different cultural backgrounds, different customs and ways of relating to each other. Being a feminist shouldn't have to mean assimilation into what white womyn think is 'feminist'. To impose one theory of feminism, or one strategy of feminist revolution to apply to all contexts based on eurocentric understandings of the world is inherently imperialist, paternalistic and fucked up. There may be similarities and common experiences, but to ignore difference and only emphasising sameness is homogenising and insulting. It's gives an underlying message that difference is not okay, "you're only okay if you're like us".
Take for example, the situation of apartheid in South Africa when the All Blacks were touring there. The Springbok Tour seems to be such a cliche example for many things these days, but I want to use the example of how the South African government first denied Maori rugby players the right to play, then adopted a policy deeming them "honorary whites", so they could play 'legitimately'. So they were only allowed to play against the Springboks when they were given White status. They couldn't just be accepted as Maori players, couldn't be accepted as different or Other. This is exactly how some white feminists treat some of us non-white womyn. By informally/subtly ignoring difference, being 'colourblind', by assuming sameness, by not challenging white privilege (collectively), white feminists render central aspects of our identity meaningless and invisible.
In many situations when I am the only non-white/Asian person in a feminist/activist meeting, it is really hard to challenge and resist homogenising attitudes on your own. Racism in radical groups and scenes is slightly different to racism in wider society, where it is much more blatant and noticeable, you can name it really easily as being racist. When racism works on a level that is taken-for-granted, it is harder to demonstrate how behaviours, comments or attitudes can be racist, especially when it often isn't based on hatred, but ethnocentric cultural ignorance and colourblindness which means you are treated as an 'honorary white'. When you are on your own, there is nobody else who have attest and validate your feelings of alienation and social isolation. So I think it is really important to have these conversations with other non-white feminists and activists and draw inspiration from grassroots writings and media created by non-white womyn that speak to us and are relevant to our specific experiences and reclaim visibility. We have to support each other, to decolonise and rethink all the colonial white supremacist patriarchal capitalist ideologies forced down our throats and ears growing up in their system. I'd also love to see these discussions going on outside of activist ghettos and ivory towers and reconnect with our sisters, mothers and aunts bearing the brunt of multiple oppressions at the lowest of the low and organise collectively to destroy this silence.
Note: I say "non-white" as a political category to encompass all who do not have white privilege, but I want to acknowledge that within this category, the experiences are also not the same, there are similarities in the way we are marginalised by white supremacy, but the experiences are unique to our layers of identities, historical and cultural backgrounds and our responses to oppressive conditions. And that difference, I think, deserves respect and visibility.
Monday, July 6, 2009
Anarchy isn’t just for skater kids and grad students any more.
All over the world, oppressed people are talking about grassroots solutions. They are talking about depending on the community instead of governments, corporations and cops. They are in rebellion against the powers that be, their version of history, and their institutions. Sometimes that rebellion is active and outspoken. Other times, resistance to the system’s order is done subtly. But one thing is clear: people of color — those of African, Indigenous, Asian and Third World descent — have had it with the white supremacist system and its global and domestic power plays.
For hundreds of years, colonized people have gone to war and waged insurgencies against those who try to steal land and resources for their own wealth. We have marched under dozens upon dozens of banners. But whether you are a Che-shirt-wearing conscious sister or brother or just someone fed up with poverty, cop racism and a government more dedicated to war than the people, one thing has to be clear: only a world of equals, one where everyone has a say, is going to get us the justice we are owed.
Anarchism is a political strategy in which there are no bosses or government to maintain the racist power relationships as they exist. Anarchism is a concept rooted in the idea that our communities can and should have the power to determine their own directions.
Why is do people of color need an anarchist revolution?
1. Declarations People of Color Today Have “Made It” are False
Do politicians of color make you feel freer? Do police officers, lawyers and judges of color make you believe the criminal justice system acts in fairness? Of course not!
Though people of color fought many important struggles to gain access to basic services and consideration, the white supremacist system flipped the game. Today, racism is not so much white hoods and Jim Crow as it is about command and control. The government got around “separate but equal” schooling years back by defunding schools in communities of color. The system’s response? “You have schools and plenty of opportunities.” People of color can become cops, attorneys and judges, yet the nature of this white supremacist system remains the same. The regime’s supporters say people of color now have mayors, senators and “leaders” to look up to, yet the way this power dynamic works has changed little in 100 years.
No amount of access, politicians, class ascension or celebrities will ever mean this government will work in the interests of people of color or contrary to the system’s largest constituency. Nevertheless, this white supremacist system demands our loyalty, and questions our “patriotism” and heritage for bucking the company line. An anarchist world will ensure such racist machinations will end.
2. Under this System, We Have to Fight for Rights and Respect
At every turn, people of color’s demands for basic dignity are met with hate and defensiveness, like we have no right to want justice. To this government, we are owed nothing. Racist political pundits think people of color should be grateful this white supremacist system didn’t just keep us in chains.
For people of color, the elite would just prefer you get in line, keep your mouth shut and be a good German until it’s time to send you overseas to take a bullet in one of their wars against other Third World people. Meanwhile, when people of color talk about inequality here at home, you’re told “get over it,” “that was years ago,” or “my parents didn’t own slaves.”
Under this regime, justice has been denied since its founding. People of color need an anarchist solution to break the grip on power the rich few have over our communities.
3. Under this System, the Media is for Government Propaganda Against People of Color
Black people are being portrayed as animals. Brown-skinned people are looked at as “illegal Mexicans,” terrorists, gang members and criminals. Asian people are shown as subservient drones to their white masters. The mainstream media is filled with garbage that is intended to tell people of color that they are worthless. How did it get this way? The media works this way by design.
Mainstream media has always been propaganda for the white supremacist system. From back in the day all the way to now, the media has never taken an interest in talking root causes or justice. They say we’re uneducated, but don’t talk about colonialism, racism and the whitewashed versions of history. They call us violent for questioning a cop, but never investigate the fascist history of policing. And whenever people of color fight back, the media treats our indignation as something we deserve to get a beatdown and jail cell for.
Under any power system, media becomes a tool of the people in power to spread their world view to the slaves. In an anarchist world, media is decentralized and centered on affected people and communities. The fashion-model anchors and other lackeys for the ruling class won’t crank out trash intended to mislead people of color and glorify the white supremacist system. In an anarchist world, we are the media, and can tell our own stories, free of the racism that dominates mainstream media now.
4. Capitalism Has Failed People of Color
Don’t be fooled by the musical artists on television shucking and jiving for 30 pieces of silver into believing the shell game of capitalism benefits the barrio or ‘hood. Plenty of studies demonstrate people of color are not paid what whites are paid. The government wants us to salute their flag and pledge allegiance, while community centers in the ghetto and other poor communities of color don’t adequately prepare youth for career advancement, beyond a trade, to get work that pays living wages. Under capitalism, we are set up to fail, and then we are incarcerated for daring to struggle for something to care for our families. We can do better than this.
Some people of color, misled by this white supremacist system, decide it’s better to get theirs and play the capitalist shell game. Most don’t understand how few of us have a legitimate chance at success, and the biases we face getting there. Under an anarchist set of politics, this dog-eat-dog economic system will be no more.
5. Socialism and Communism Have Failed People of Color
Among many in the Third World left, there is a love affair with socialism and Communism. Though anarchy shares some ideals with both, such as community control and justice for the oppressed, it rejects notions such as “dictatorship of the proletariat” and party vanguards as power grabs meant to control our communities from the outside in.
Supporters and opponents of many socialist and Communist regimes, for years, have boiled one of the central problems of such politics leading our struggles. They say: when a faction in power maintains its political line is the “correct” one, political discussion, dissent and community dialog is extinguished. Politics, economics and social needs become about who is following the faction in power, not the best solutions. Intimidation rules the day, and every socialist and Communist regime has inevitably fallen into such traps because of its political orientation.
Some say, “that’s fine with me, so long as we have the power.” Yet, the tricky part is maintaining power, what lengths you go to keep it (many Third World socialist countries have oppressed their own people, for example) and the internal corruption that results from those staying in or getting in the good graces of the powerful. In all but a few cases, it’s not much different than this white supremacist system, and people of color globally have rejected such dictatorships for good reasons.
6. Anarchism is Focused on People, Communities and Compassion, Not Corporations, Profit and Police
Anarchist models have been successfully implemented around the world. With anarchism, resources are placed in the hands of the people, not the politicians and lobbyists who profess to act in “our” interests. In an anarchist world, the victims of this white supremacist system are not treated like criminals. Anarchist communities put their faith in the people themselves, not the people who deem their leadership to be more important than what the community needs. This government only cares about corporations, good old boys and money. It has only made concessions to people of color when it felt the hot flames of revolution scalding its back. Its time is over.
Not everyone may be ready to be fully invested in an anarchist world, in which we all share responsibility for each other and ourselves. The white supremacist system has had many hundred years to miseducate, terrorize and abuse people of color — some of us to the point where we act against our own interests and reject hope for anything more. But a better world for us, our children and their children is possible, and it’s time to agitate among people of color for a better solution than this parasitic society. Educate yourself, your friends and loved ones. Share this text. Know that the road to liberation is a long one. Unite oppressed people. Fight for a better world today.
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Tomorrow, exactly 20 years ago, was the Tiananmen Square massacre 1989. This subject is all over Chinese radio at the moment with interviews with different people who were there at the time and discussions with Chinese immigrants in Auckland. When I was listening, there was a featured interview with an American guy who was there the time and one of the questions was, "How did the Tiananmen Square massacre change America's perception of China?" While it's good to be aware of how the event is perceived by people, it was really strange putting an American in an expert position about the event. It would've been much more interesting to hear the perspective of the student organisers or the workers' who were there in support - what they're experiences and memories of it were, how they see Chinese politics today. As most of the student organisers have been exiled, it would not have been hard to get in touch with one of them.
Even though I was still in my mum's womb when the massacre happened, I feel like it is part of my history and the June 4th movement was an inspiring act of defiance, mobilisation and worker-student solidarity. I have a family friend who was there at the time, swept up by the movement when he was in university. I've heard lots of stories from him, about the hunger strike, about the politics and organising around it. It was an anti-corruption and anti-authoritarian movement for democratic reforms and it started off with a hunger strike in the square. Students from all over the China participated in it, not just from Beijing university. Our family friend was studying at Shanghai university at the time and there was a lot of mobilisation there and students traveled to Beijing to participate.
The massacre explains the fears of many Chinese people to engage in anti-government activism, and it is definitely part of the reason why my parents are so concerned with my involvement activism that challenges the state and the status quo. Likewise, my grandparents, aunties and uncles think the same. After learning about what had happened, it all makes sense now. People were traumatised by the massacre, a lot of parents had lost their only child. To me, this event epitomises the sheer violence that the state is capable of in maintaining its power over the people, and that is why I believe authoritarian communism as an alternative to capitalism is ultimately counter-revolutionary.
A couple of years ago, I visited Tiananmen Square for the first time. I was overwhelmed by the vast flat space filled with tourists lining up to see Mao's embalmed body, the "People's Liberation Army" training nearby and wandering around in their uniforms. It was a strange feeling being in a space with so much history and that the light-grey concrete was once covered with students' blood. The irony of statues and moments symbolising working class and peasant struggle was too much to bear. But it was like that revolutionary spirit materialised in stone froze it in history, therefore was a thing of the past. In this new age of postmodernity and neo-liberal capitalist China - woops, I mean "Socialism with Chinese characteristics", it symbolised the death of the revolutionary spirit of the oppressed. The generation who have been through all that struggle and turmoil now are saving all their pensions for health care, medicine and future medical treatment as no medical care is free. Some of the ex-soldiers of the People's Liberation Army are living quite well with a high pension, but ex-factory workers are still getting the bare minimum. What an insult the current system is on all those people this "dictatorship of the proletariat" was suppose to benefit.
For a general overview of the Tiananmen Square protests, this is an interesting documentary:
Monday, June 1, 2009
When me and my bro used to have fisty-cuffs, Dad would pinch our ears and demand we apologise to each other, shake hands or hug, to make up. When I use to be mean to my sister and make her cry, Dad would do his "Do as I tell you or else..." face, and demand I say sorry and be nice to my sister, and be friends.
With my brother, we'd spit "SORRY!!" at each other, do a bone crushing handshake, or a hard thump thump hug. Dad requirements tickbox filled, we'd eyeball each other, waiting for the next time we could have a go at each other without Mum or Dad finding out.
With my sister, I'd patronisingly say "sorry" and give her eyes of death "I'll get you later for telling on me", so she would run away and not want to be friends and play together, like Dad said we had to.
Apologies are diverse things...
They do not atone, rectify, or heal wounds and wrongs, inherently on their own. They simply acknowledge what has happened (even if it's just being miffed that you got caught) and the space is then opened for atonement, rectification and healing. It's what happens after the apology that is of importance.
Too often, "Sorry" is benign, obligatory, or a way to weasel out of the responsibilities that hurting or wounding brings.
If we say "sorry" and it ends there, with no rectifying, reparation or just genuine-ness, sorry becomes nothing more than a guilt-dump.
Sometimes people say sorry to get out of sticky situations (like I so often did with my siblings) and will just do the harmful or offensive thing again. This is not a "sorry I hurt or offended you and I think my actions are wrong or unjust", it's a "I'm sorry I got busted and I hope I don't get busted next time".
This is what I call the "heat off" sorry. This can also be an abuser tactic.
"I'm sorry I hit you babe". Or "We're sorry we stole your children". People, or States, can say sorry, and still be emotionally and psychologically abusive, or still engage in and perpetuate institutional racism, structural colonisation and the tenets of white supremacy.
This is what I call the "cop out" sorry.
When people like Melissa Lee apologise, or when States apologise for past or present grievances and injustices, we need to measure the sincerity of their apology with their actions (or inactions) after the apology.
Are their sentiments genuine, are they trying heal wounds created, seeking to better understand why and how their actions caused pain or offense? Or are they simply trying to take the heat off and get out of an embarrassing situation? A smoke-screen to other things like the initial offense, they will just do again in a sneakier fashion.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
I'll talk about the recent media hype about the Mt Albert elections and Melissa Lee's racist comments first. First of all, I think what she said reflects on the attitudes of probably most National Party MPs who would think that way but not say it out loud because they're aware that they would come under scrutiny, especially about Don Brash' Orewa speeches. We all know they represent the rich, and using a female Asian face is a rather token gesture that gives their Party some sense of legimitacy and credibility in "representing" Asian migrants. It's politically wise to do so nowadays. At debate in the quad at Auckland uni today was a really entertaining political spectacle. As an anarchist, I don't support voting or any of the political parties, but it was fun to heckle the right-wing parties along with the rest of the student population. But anyway, Melissa got heaps of heckling for her racist comments. Some Labour Party supporters standing on the balcony of cultural space yelled "I'm not a criminal" and signs saying "The National Party are the REAL criminals". A placard of Melissa Lee's face was also liberated and subverted with "Racist" and a Hitler moustache drawn on it, which caused a bit of scuffle with National Party supporters claiming it was stolen and called the police (it shows how seriously they take their property rights). In response to all this, she said in a rather patronising manner, "You are students, do you not watch TV? I have apologised." As if that made everything okay, as if it excused her stereotyping and racist (and classist) comments in public discourse. Once it's out there, it can't be claimed back. An apology doesn't mean shit to people.
Apologies don't mean shit to people who are living in poverty or people imprisoned by racist police and courts. Apologies don't mean shit after centuries of colonialism and the legacy still remains. Apologies don't mean shit when you're still going to support a motorway being built through an entire community for the sake of 'economic progress'.
The other situations where apologies don't mean shit is in cases of rape, sexual violence or physical violence against womyn. I also think other forms of violence too, but cases physical and sexual violence is what I have been confronted to think about lately. It's so fucked up that this even happens in our communities, which we think is all empowering and progressive. I'm not going to go into detail about anything because it's not my stories to tell. But I think there needs to be ways that we can deal with this shit as a community and support the survivors in every way we can. Male violence against womyn is so fucking common in this patriarchal society it makes me sick. Sometimes it is intentional and sometimes it's not. What's really hard to deal with is when it happens when people are out of control (ie. on drugs) or when people claim they misread signals and are genuinely sorry about what they did after the fact. Either way I don't think intimate violence against womyn or anyone is ever excusable. What I mean by "intimate violence" is violence against people they claim to care about or love. The effect of an abuser's actions stays with the person forever, it's not going to go away with an apology. Whether it was intentional or not, it still happened and it still hurt someone. To use an extreme analogy, it's like the difference between murder and manslaughter. In both cases, someone was killed - intentionality is irrelevant to that person's life that was lost. Or in some recent discussions I've had about genocide - with the UN definition including the intent to wipe out a whole 'people', and how that really limits the meaning of genocide when the destruction massive populations of indigenous people was "unintentional". It still fucking happened and the survivors should still be supported in the same way and abusive and violent behaviour should be condemned.
That said, I do think there is more potential for change when people have realised what they've done as wrong and are willing to change. I don't think that applies to National Party though, the apology was just a smart political move.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Why Chinese in Aotearoa Should Support the Maori Struggle
Whether we were born here or have immigrated here, we should understand the history of Aotearoa. We should understand the history of Maori people(s) and their culture because we are living on their land, their land which was stolen by British colonisers. British colonialism in this country and the imperialist occupation of Eight-Nation Alliance in China have similarities and differences. But the experience of the indigenous people are pretty similar in terms of the violence of colonisation to reach their goal of expropriating land and resources. Murder, massacres and rape - it's all part of it. Because of this history, Maori people are still being oppressed by the Pakeha culture, state and economy. Chinese in Aotearoa should understand this history in order to combat racism. Living in Aotearoa or after arriving here, I'm sure we've all experienced some racist bullying. If we don't want to be bullied, we shouldn't be like the dominant Pakeha culture and bully the indigenous people. We should support the Maori struggle for self-determination - tino rangatiratanga.
Seeing yourself as separate from the community or society means you don’t need to feel any responsibility for the well being of the rest of the society. The most common excuse we hear as activists when we campaign about issues and try to involve new people is: “I don’t care. It doesn’t affect me”. To me, that epitomizes the inherent individualism in the dominant culture. We need to address that in order to work collectively and effectively. At the end of the day we can’t change society by ourselves, we have to work together. We have to create a social environment where we value solidarity, equality and liberty and discourage individualism, hierarchy and domination.
This problem affects everyone, and those who are most aware of it should be actively challenging individualistic tendencies. However, in most anarchist or grassroots activist groups, there is informal and obvious hierarchy. This hierarchy is usually created when tasks or actual organizing and functioning of the group depends on an individual or a small power block of friends or couples. Sometimes it is deliberate control-freakness and domination but sometimes it can also the problem of apathy and the followship of other members involved in the group.
When there is unequal distribution of tasks or responsibilities within a group, hierarchy emerges. To have the most responsibility on the shoulders of one or two people is not only unsustainable it is also unfair. And that’s usually when hierarchical structures emerge. It is a difficult problem to resolve because the reality is that we all have different amounts of time and energy to contribute. We all have different levels of experience, confidence, skills and ability. In addition, there’s gender dynamics, class issues, cultural/ethnic hierarchies, ageism and the most frustrating are the individualistic attitudes of egocentric and arrogant white men.
First with the problem of leadership: the way activism and anarchist culture is designed in contemporary Aotearoa is suitable mostly for privileged, middle class, educated white men who have a lot of time on their hands, who have the confidence (or is it arrogance?) to work (or socialize) themselves to hold a high-ranking position within the scene. The constant competition and ego wars are ridiculously draining for people who are serious about bringing this shit system down. I’m sure these people are also serious about anarchist politics but their ego is in the way of non-hierarchical and empowering forms of organizing. So instead of minimizing their privilege and empower those marginalized by the system, they sit comfortably at the top seeking glory.
Followship, as much as leadership, is to blame. For people who claim to be anti-authoritarian, who are capable of organizing and who have the time and energy to share responsibilities, to be inactive and apathetic allows and helps to legitimize hierarchy within groups. The lack of initiatives and dependency could be due to disempowerment but it could just be general laziness or just there for the scene kind of thing. But what this means is that responsibility becomes concentrated in the hands of a few who do all the work, while other members turn up to stuff like demos where they don’t need to do much except march and chant. Lack of participation of the majority of members creates hierarchy and forces leadership onto those who feel responsible for the group’s survival.
In order to have a non-hierarchical, egalitarian group that functions and organizes actively means that members have to participate and contribute and take initiative and organise collectively. It also means roles and responsibilities have to be rotated and skills shared. There needs to be a sense of collective responsibility for the group’s functioning or else it’s going to be short-lived and ineffective. There needs to be cohesion, trust and community; a commitment to collectivism and empowerment not encouraging individualism and inequality. That’s how we can work together better, that’s how we can be more effective in challenging state domination and social hierarchy.
Saturday, May 16, 2009
Saturday, May 9, 2009
On May Day 2009, a 17-year-old Chinese worker dies in Yiuwah factory, mutilated to death by a paper-crushing machine. His name was Liu Pan. He had been working in this factory for the past two years of his life. Yiuwah factory supplies goods to Disney, Coca Cola and Ma Sha for international distribution. The report made by China Labor Watch revealed:
*Underage and child labor are widespread at the factory, with workers as young as 13 being hired in busy seasons.
*Labor contracts are haphazard, and many workers do not sign.
*Wages are low at only $113/month for base salary, and overtime is required on most Saturdays and holidays.
*Paid vacation is extremely limited and even maternity leave is denied.
*No training is provided to workers and the factory has no handbook explaining occupational hazards.
*Many factory machines are old and outdated, and injuries are not uncommon.
*Dormitory conditions are poor; normally 6-8 but up to 14 workers share a single room in the busy season.
This is going to be an interesting year with the recession happening and all. The resistance against the CCP dictatorship is rising in China with 58,000 "mass incidents" since the beginning of this year.
Meanwhile in Aotearoa, May Day was marked in Auckland with the usual march, this year with a statement of solidarity with refugees and migrant workers. Anarchists, socialists and unionists marched together to commemorate International Worker's Day, a tradition originating from the Haymarket massacre in Chicago demanding an 8-hour working day. The May Day march was followed by a Tamil march against the killings of Tamils in Sri Lanka, demanding Sri Lanka to stop the war.