social justice/civics/politics /legal

All things social.

Identity as opression / Truth as liberation

 

Since entering the MSW program at the University of Michigan, it has become abundantly apparent that “identity” has taken stage and is the official University of Michigan School of Social Work buzzword. Students are awash with discussions and assertions regarding the need for sensitivity and awareness of intersectionality of identities, identity based oppression, identity based philanthropy, identity based safe spaces, and privileged identities, just to get started. Outside of the school as well, in the greater cultural discourse, we are seeing a surge in identity politics with the example of the Black Lives Matter movement and the alt-right’s white nationalism taking center stage; there are identity based immigration policies, the rise of populism and the political prominence of religious identity, sexual identity, and the political hackery of party based identity clinging that seems to just take bundles of these identities and create a super meta-identity out of them.

All of these phenomena certainly deserve their time in the spotlight, and need to be respected and reflected upon by all of us, not only for the social utility that an awareness and competence in these phenomena represent, but for the personally liberating insights which lay hidden within the intricacies of their reflective scope. This being the case, I cannot help but feel as if there is something lacking in this charged and emotionally raw discourse. I see all of this discussion about identity relative oppression as critical, but also as based on some pretty profound assumptions, and subsiding on some rather robust blinders, of course, this is always easiest to see when looking across the debate stage at an opponent, and difficult to see when looking inward. Blinder based dialogue, is it worth asking, is this happening?

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Stolen Generations: Violence of Cultural Conditioning

 

Reacting to "Rabbit Proof Fence"

 

Rabbit Proof Fence, a 2002 film based on actual events about the Stolen Generations of Aboriginal Australian "half-caste", or mixed race children, recounts the story of Molly Craig, Daisy Craig Kadibill, and Gracie Fields as they escape a cultural indoctrination camp and make their way back home, on foot, across a vast 1200 mile expanse. All the while they make their trek, this trio of young girls are being chased down by a skillful Aboriginal tracker, familiar with the native land, and this threat is compounded as the girls are also being simultaneously outpaced by the technology of the colonial forces that are hunting them down for their own sense of sanctimonious pride. As a true story, being recounted by the surviving Molly Craig, this story might punch the viewer in the gut, bringing into sharp focus the uncomfortable truth of violent cultural indoctrination, of young children being torn from their homes and families, of young girls being deliberately raped in order to weaken the Aboriginal bloodline and produce generations of ever lighter skin, which naturally indicates greater intelligence, according to the logic of the time, of children being forced to neglect their native tongue and beliefs, being forced to assimilate into a culture that is not their own, and of people being forced to enforce this indoctrination from within, living under threat and coercion. This is one of those "test your humanity" films, if you don't feel anything, you might consider some introspection.

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All Pervasive Conditioning: Cultural Assimilation and the Suffocation of Individuality

Culture is the context within which all human interconnectedness occurs, and the intersections of those interconnections is where we find all meaningfulness and all sense of identity. Identity is relational, and relationships necessarily happen within a cultural context; blurred lines delineate the border between the cultural context within which the relationships that shape identity occur, and where those relationships are the very culture within which identity is formed. Relational cultural context, and the actual intersections of relational being are the source of the very notion of identity, which itself needs culture like lungs require air.

Language is the vessel of culture, and culture is the context of identity, so it follows that language informs identity at a very fundamental level.

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Innate Aversion and Blind Oppression: A Buddhist approach to identity based suffering

"An injustice to one is a menace to all,"  - Montesquieu

 

This powerful quote captures a certain essence of interdependence, something almost elusive to define. It's elusive to define because it is not only a certain sort of immediate and intimate sense of a common, shared humanity that one experiences only on a felt level, almost something spiritual and transcendent, but is simultaneously also a sense of something rather grounded, an interwoven reality of causality which binds us all together like shared stakeholders in a global economy or corporation. As humanity trudges along its evolutionary journey throughout the centuries, we learn how to contend with this notion of interdependence, while confined by the notions of immediate satisfaction and self preservation.

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Mo’olelo

“We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.”  - Mahatma Gandhi

 

Our stories certainly describe the world in which we have traveled, in which we have lived and by which we have been shaped. Our stories inform us the ways in which we have been conditioned, and perhaps describe the ways in which we have transcended those conditions. These conditions and conditionings describe the outlines, are the contours and edges of our identities, both allowing us the scaffolding on which to construct meaningful lives, and also confining us to the parameters of that scaffolding. As we find the pathways of our lives' interwoven with one another, we enrich and enliven that contextual scaffolding, and so sharing stories has always been a meaningful and significant act to me. Being intentional in this endeavor, building new structures and scaffolding that I know are destined to be transcended, I hope to add to the context of the world, some richness to its texture, and not just blindly live out the momentum of my experience, merely coming and going with the wind.

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A community resource

Here's a social work and human services oriented website that I developed as a part of an internship. It never reached full realization, but there are some really usefull resources there, especially if you happen to live in the SE Michigan, Washtenaw County area. Aside from the local resources there are resume building and job interview skill tips as well.

Please make use of... (what started of as...)

My.AvalonHousing 

at semi.resource.joshpanter.com

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Lawrence Lessig on Copyright v1.0 and v1.1

Lawrence Lessig, Stanford Law Professor, former CEO and "founding father" of Creative Commons and former Eff board member stoped by the Colbert Show to talk about his new book on copyright, Remix:Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy. A quote from the interview regarding the current copyright climate (the past 10 years or so) in the US:

"Artists have gotten no more money, businesses have not gotten more profit, and our kids have been turned into criminals."

 

Watch the video...

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Equality

A paradox of reason. We know, intuitively, that some people are simply better equipped to perform certain tasks in reality. Stephen Hawking has a mental capacity that certainly makes him better at solving physics problems, while someone like Micheal Jordan's physique has certainly given him a natural head start in the world of sports. If Jordan would have been born with a weak heart, for example, he would not be equally as good as his peers at sports. If Hawking would have been born with, say, an impacted frontal lobe, his advanced thinking process would have been negatively affected at birth. This does not even begin to get in to being born into money or abject poverty.

So what is this "All people created equal" really trying get at, then?

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Labels

People feel they need to categorize things to understand them, to poses them, to not be controlled by them; and to, in turn, be in control themselves. People feel they want to be categorized so that they might belong to something, to fit into a category is to not be alone. Categorization, the act of labeling is a mechanism of limitation, and it becomes a requirement, an obsessive requirement when you look at the differences between things before you look at the likenesses shared among them. If we were to teach ourselves, and in turn one another, that it is right to look at the commonalities we share with people before we distinctualize the differences, we would see a core bond of livingness, of feelingness, of what we refer to as the inherently HUMAN part of our nature as the initial defining characteristic of anyone we meet. We label to combat the perception of isolation.

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The wage gap..."gender" equality not just about women...I'm not talking LGBT

There is one obvious area where the equal pay concept stretches out beyond the male/female paradigm, and that is, of course, the LGBT world. But that conversation, to me, is as easy as saying: wouldn't it be great if we lived in a society where people all got treated fairly regardless of their minority status?

This is about something a bit more interesting, in my opinion, than the complaint that there are people in the world who are biased, bigoted asses. I found a handful of articles on a recent study about sexist attitudes and the wage gap, these articles explain that it is not just women, but also men that support equal pay and women in the work force, that receive less pay than men that lead households that support the so-called traditional gender roles in regards to out-of-the-home work.

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A Brief Note On Family...

My mom could not biologically have children, something wrong with her insides. My older brother and I were adopted. The family I was raised in as a boy, a chosen/created family, was so ideal, so full of love and warmth and care, so connected and dedicated that I never really questioned my belonging. But I knew friends who's families were anything but warm, anything but actively, outwardly loving. Those were biological families. I met my biological mother, it was surreal, and I would love to write a book about it, about the strange feeling of magnetic connection, a blood awareness...which was and is not love, and how that contrasts with what a family requires to BE a family.

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The Most Important Factor...(Free Culture and the Body of Politics Pt.2)

So, remembering my previous post about the need to inform a democratic people before they vote I went to YouTube to resurrect a piece I found about why we need to teach civics to the masses. This falls in line with the notion that if you want your Democracy to exist AT ALL, there is an absolute necessity to make certain that the people are well educated, well informed, and an active part of the system.

The thing about this clip I appreciate the most is how it points out at the very beginning that dissent is required in any Democracy. That dissent can be nurtured and actually taught to people. Proper dissent that provokes new ideas and fresh perspectives within a properly functioning democracy. In light of this concept, one can reach the conclusion that those who would silence dissent within a democracy, are actually not in favor of that democracy. Now, ask yourself, who, in American politics has shown intolerance against dissent of any sort at any time in the past? Please keep that in mind at all times.

Anyway, the video...

 

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Free Culture and The Body of Politics - Micheal Moore's "Slacker Uprising"

26 Days to go until election day here in the US, and I thought I should admit a cynical fear. To express this fear, it is necessary to remember that in the year 2000, Al Gore was told that, even though he had more votes than the other guy, that he still lost the election. ??? When this happened I really began to wonder just what was going on in America. At the time nobody really saw any difference between the candidates, and not too much was done to correct the voter fraud and questions surrounding the election. 8 years later and there is no doubt that the entire world would be a different place if (Nobel Prize winner) Al Gore would have been in the Oval Office instead of (can barely speak a sentence-stomp out the evil-doers) George "Dubbya" Bush.

The fear is that we may see a smiler event take place in less than a month. I believe that America wants a real change from the last 8 years of insanity and failure, I believe that only one of the two candidates is capable of making that change and that the other is just a cronie of the current administration. No one in this election year can say that there is little difference between the two candidates, and no one in America can ever again say that an election doesn't really matter. I am not trying to sway opinions here on which candidate is better, but I am saying that, never again, should we be lulled into inaction and complacency. Never again should we, as a nation, allow ourselves to be swayed by misinformation, patronizing politicians, or dirty politics. We cannot afford to be fooled by dirty tricks, slander or lies. Now, I am not trying to say that any one of the current candidates is engaged in this stuff, but I am saying that we need to make sure our votes get counted. That is what this process is all about.

Thomas Jefferson said that he had great faith in the people to lead and govern themselves. To vote for their future. AS LONG AS they were INFORMED CITIZENS. We cannot direct ourselves, cannot govern ourselves, cannot make a wise decision if we are not well informed, if we are mislead by mischaracterizations, lies, slander, spin media, or any of the like. Biased media is fine, as long as it admits it is biased, but this is another issue entirely. The point here is that we need to be well informed to make intelligent choices. Another way to say this is that stupid people should not be allowed to vote. Now the problem is that we cannot take away anyone's right to vote, so the only thing left to do to make sure that no stupid people are voting is to EDUCATE AND INFORM THEM. Lead a horse to water...hope it drinks.
The question here is, how do we inform everyone, if the media required to facilitate that education is not FREE?

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PSPP - Open Source Statistics (Moving Towards an Open Educational Experience)

Anybody out there who has ever had to analyze any statistical data in any serious way or take a class on stats has been introduced to the mighty SPSS , or Statistical Package for the Social Sciences in long form. This is software which was designed for, is standardized by, and expected for your use by the scientific community at large for statistical data analysis. It is required for use at many universities at both the undergraduate (poor college kid) level and the graduate (even poorer college young adult) level, and is not cheap in any way.

There is, however, a slightly crippled down version of the software offered to students, which is quite a bit cheaper than it's "full" version counterpart, and can typically be found for about $80 or $90. This can be a serious crunch to the hungry students budget, at least it is for mine. So I looked, and I found the wonderful PSPP, a very functional free and open source alternative for SPSS. It is good to see that the good people over at the Free Software Foundation understand that scientific knowledge should be free and open, and that educational tools should be as well. (Knowledge cannot be licensed out, nor can it be owned...ever.)

I have to pay for school, and then the wildly overpriced books (that the authors make very little on, despite the high price), and then again a piece of closed source software (the actual opposite to the ideal of the sharing of knowledge) as well. The educational experience needs to be based on the basic principal that knowledge is beyond ownership, that it is the right and requirement of every individual in a functioning society to have free and open access to the accumulated wisdom of the human race, and that any restriction of that based off of social or economic standing is simply saying that the poor of wallet are not worthy of this knowledge, that only the opulent or affluent are worthy or capable of doing anything worthwhile with this knowledge (to humanities benefit) in any way. This is not the case, we know this on an intuitive level, yet we cling to forced payment for knowledge, culture, paying for and restricting the use of basic scientific tools, and the tools used to manage knowledge and information. This seems backwards to me in the most fundamental way.

So, we have the organizations like the Free Software Foundation promoting and creating free and open software, like PSPP, and the good folks over at Creative Commons fighting for, developing and promoting the use of a sane copyright culture, and the good people at FreeCulture.org - Students For For Free Culture and on and on. Please pay attention to, and support these movements, they are the flagships of sanity in an insane copyright and knowledge-restriction based culture.

Now...back to PSPP...Briefly, it works very well, handling SPSS's native .sav files, and it does all you need to do for your familiar SPSS data analysis. It can be installed in Linux (I am currently running it on my Ubuntu machines, even on the tiny EeePc), on MacOS, and on Windows (from what I gather, anyway). One limitation I have found, it doesn't seem to put out the nice graphs that the latest SPSS version does, but it spits out all of the information you need quite nicely none the less. It also requires a little bit more to get installed, so...if you are running Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron, and would like a nice SPSS replacement WITH A GRAPHICAL INTERFACE, then read on. If you want command line only, just install through apt or synaptic.

EDIT: PSPP with front end has been included in the Ubuntu Software Center since 12.04, and is currently on version 0.7.9 (under Ubuntu 14.04), whereas the GNU repository is currently showing version 0.8.5 as the latest.

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I went to see Obama!!

A little late to blog about it, but... I went to my very very first political rally! I feel so adult now. My wife, Mary, and I went to Toledo before the primary to be a part of a crowd of 10,000 to hear Obama give a speech. It was a record-breaking crowd, and the energy was akin to some crazy rock show or sporting event. I just want to put here, that Obama is one heck of a speaker: he sais exactly what I want to hear, he puts hope back in me that I can believe in and participate (in a way that makes a difference) in America, and makes me all warm and fuzzy.

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