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A few links (and a lot of commentary!) 29/10/2010

October 29, 2010

Here are a few interesting things that showed up in my RSS reader, from blogs I don’t read as often as some others. (Which reminds me, I still haven’t gotten around to setting up Google Reader; the one built into Opera irritates me to the point that I’ve stopped adding feeds and don’t read the existing ones very frequently!)


In the “boy, am I glad I’m not living in the US now and being bombarded with this crap” files:
The Most Racist Campaign in Decades, and What It Demands of Us

Regardless of who wins this election, it will have plunged us further still into the dark place in which people of color are defined as the nation’s problem rather than as the lifeblood of its future. We will have been driven deeper into a hole in which fear mongering makes possible policy choices that undermine everybody’s future. Republicans are certain to stick to their thus-far successful playbook. Democrats have shown no sign that they’ll challenge that strategy for what it is. So it will be up to all of us to demand both parties do better.

And with the “Socialized, Clintonesque, Hillarycare for Illegals and Their Parents” (a.k.a. State Children’s Health Insurance Program), I not only have to think of the more widely tolerated frothing-at-the-mouth misogyny that Violet at Reclusive Leftist keeps pointing out–I start despairing once again at the level of evilmindedness required to insist that little children having access to health care (food, shelter, etc.) is a bad thing. And how many people are warmly embracing that brand of evilmindedness.

U.S. May Back Indigenous Rights, But Not Accountability for Them

Lately, the White House has inched toward reconciliation by boosting funding and social services in Indian Country. And in an unprecedented pivot in the international arena, the Obama administration even suggested it may endorse the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (which the U.S. rejected in 2007 despite overwhelming international approval)…

The White House tends to invoke indigenous people’s rights when trying to soften America’s image as a global hegemon. Washington’s own recent human rights review—a 29-page outline of race and gender inequalities in voting rights, education, and health care issues, among others—spends a few paragraphs on President Obama’s efforts to “consult” with tribes on entrenched problems like poverty, disease and violent crime in native communities.

But the government’s definition of “consultation” doesn’t quite fly with many tribal advocates…

Despite these incremental gains, native peoples’ sovereignty is still compromised by a lack of direct recourse in the international arena. Even if the administration endorsed the indigenous people’s rights declaration, they wouldn’t be obligated to enshrine those principles in domestic policy or jurisprudence.

Northwestern’s Dean Asks Students, “Is Your Costume Racist?”

Howard went as far as creating a detailed checklist for students:

Blackface, for those who do not know, or do not remember involves the darkening [of] one’s skin with polish, paint or some other substance with the goal of impersonating a person of African descent-[it] has been a recurring practice over the past several generations.

• Wearing a funny costume? Is the humor based on “making fun” of real people, human traits or cultures?

• Wearing a historical costume? If this costume is meant to be historical, does it further misinformation or historical and cultural inaccuracies?

• Wearing a ‘cultural’ costume? Does this costume reduce cultural differences to jokes or stereotypes?

• Could someone take offense with your costume and why?

I continue to be appalled that a lot of people really do need these reminders. And most probably won’t bother to scrutinize their actions, anyway.

From John Culhane, at WordInEdgewise:
Culhane: What can be done about bullying?

For those who still won’t get it: that’s why there are laws and lawsuits. Nabozny sued and won under a federal civil rights law. Clementi’s tormentors face jail time for violation of privacy, and perhaps for a bias crime. I wouldn’t be surprised if his parents sue the two kids who posted the video in tort law, where they’d have strong claims for wrongful death, invasion of privacy, and wrongful death. (Read more here.) If the school won’t help, do what you need to do.

We can’t leave any tools lying in the box. This needs to stop, and we won’t apologize for proceeding as aggressively as necessary.

I’m not usually litigious, but–working within the existing, kinda broken system–I think this is more likely to make institutions stop tolerating/encouraging the harassment and violation of human rights. Anti-bullying programs? Phooey. These institutions have no real incentive to do anything but lip service if they are not held accountable in ways that hurt them, for continuing to condone and encourage harassment, violence, and abuse (i.e., abusing people by proxy). Of course, if large numbers of LGBTQ people do start insisting through the court system that, hey, we have some rights too, I suspect it’ll go the same way as civil rights suits under the Violence Against Women Act: “So sorry, too many cases, obviously this doesn’t qualify”–not totally the official excuse, but what it boiled down to. (I would say “ask Christy Brzonkala,” but she’s had more than enough to deal with already. So, ask the Supreme Court, since Rehnquist’s published opinion doesn’t exactly satisfy.)

Reading this, I am also reminded of a quote from James Lee Burke’s Black Cherry Blues, which I finished rereading yesterday:

Call the police, she had said. Suffering God, I thought, why is it that in problematic situations almost everyone resorts to axioms and societal remedies that in actuality nobody believes in?… [A]sk yourself, have you ever known anyone whose marriage was saved by a marriage counselor, whose drinking was cured by a psychiatrist, whose son was kept out of reform school by a social worker?

Or a case of bullying solved by existing anti-bullying programs, much less “Zero Tolerance” BS? Seriously. But, then, Burke also keeps commenting on how all kinds of destructive and thuggish behavior wouldn’t be tolerated if the wider society were not condoning and even glorifying it on some level–i.e., if it weren’t meeting some of society’s needs.

Culhane’s “tools lying in the box” look suspiciously like the Master’s. And he does mean well. 😦

From Shark-fu at AngryBlackBitch:
Like inviting the vampire in for dinner…

Beyond the initial quizzical of Tea Party supporters claiming to want to take America back for average folk and then tossing their support behind robber baron’s…Lawd, have mercy…there is the overwhelming lack of common sense demonstrated by voters being seduced by candidates who were part of the industry that pushed for the policies that got us into an economic clusterfuck-based malaise in the first place…

This shit demonstrates a level of resistance to common sense that probably can’t be reasoned with…the kind that responds to hidden camera video footage of their vampire date draining a previous victim to death by shouting “Don’t tread on me, you socialist communist fascist illegal immigrant loving un-American!” and then flings open the door to embrace the architect of their doom.

What did the Moon ever do to deserve us?

Now that we’ve discovered a significant amount of water, some of us are setting our sights on the Moon…mostly because we know we’ve fucked over Earth and she’s fixin’ to kick our rancid asses off planet…

Mmmhmmm, and planets have turned their back on her for fear that we’ll start looking at them real hard.

Shit, Mars is probably throwing a It Sucks to be the Moon, but Thank Gawd They Haven’t Found Our Stash of H2O party.

Yeah, I also avoid literature in the “Whoo-boy, there’s an entire universe out there for humans to colonize” genre. We’ve seen how that’s worked out on this planet.

From kwombles at Countering…:
Bandwagon: Is Bullying the New Black? Or is This a Sea Change?

In the end, like all societal change, this, too, must change at the individual level first. We must alter our own behavior to not act as bullies. We must curb our own desires to act out violently and with rage. And we must absolutely commit ourselves to NEVER be bystanders to abuse and bullying. All it takes to break the bystander effect is one person. One person who is willing to step forward and say NO. Unfortunately, that is easier said than done. People willing to stand up also take great risks for their own safety and well-being. And yet, if given a choice between standing up for what I believe in and risking all or cowering in the corner, turning a blind eye to the injustices of the world and living a long, safe life, I choose the former: let me live and die with my integrity intact.

I kept running into worse problems because of doing this absolutely alone (hey, how much worse could it get?!)–especially from the people in charge who condoned/encouraged the nasty behavior. Yeah, it is my business, and yours too. Unfortunately, I am pessimistic about the chances of undoing all that socialization into nasty pack behavior in Western society. Yeah, it’s not just Western society, but that’s where I have been exposed to most of it.

This provides yet another prompt to write that post I’ve been mentally working on, about shifting away from PTSD-driven violent responses. (Which are strongly encouraged, BTW, all the surface wibbling to the contrary.)

Not to sound like I’m succumbing to some kind of romanticism, but this crap is not inevitable. I am reminded again of a passage from Museum of the Cherokee Indian (NC)’s .doc information packet, which corresponds to my own experience (and reinforces the idea that I am sane and not just making stuff up!):

Many Cherokee people still live with traditional values even though they may use modern technology… They are taught to be cooperative rather than competitive, in all situations, including the classroom. They are taught not to embarrass others. In the classroom, this often means that if a child gives a wrong answer, other children will not provide the correct answer because it would embarrass the first child. It is also considered impolite to look someone directly in the eye, to brag, to act in anger, or to directly confront someone. Cherokee people traditionally believe in a large degree of personal freedom and personal choices, as long as one takes responsibility for one’s actions and considers the good of the whole. The Cherokee people have always been democratic by consensus (rather than majority rule.) Women have always had equal power with men. Traditional Cherokee stories reinforce all of these values for children.

Rather long, but it all ties in together. That lack of majority rule thing? Very important, IMO, if you don’t want people to keep getting thrown under buses.

From Lindsay at Autist’s Corner:
Who’s That in the Mirror? Autism and the Developing Sense of Self
After some discussion of observed cultural differences in responding to the mirror tests (really bizarrely used and interpreted, IMO, even when people aren’t expecting bears or cats to respond like humans):

Again, I don’t think that’s necessarily at work in this particular study (the children are so young, I doubt they’ve yet gotten much negative feedback about how they act), but I want to mention it because I don’t know that many autism researchers consider the effect of culture and socialization on autistic children, much less ways autistic children are socialized differently than non-autistic ones. Instead, the common wisdom seems to be that we are immune to culture and socialization.

Yeah, see also Neurononsense, and the status quo. It must all be biological.

This entry was originally posted at DreamWidth and has comment count unavailable comments. You can comment there via OpenID, if you like.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 4, 2010 1:11 am

    Hey, thanks for linking. (I always feel like I’m doing something right when you link one of my posts, since your writing is so good, and you’re such a close, critical reader.)

    I mentioned/linked that cross-cultural study mostly because I felt it was important to point out that autistic children’s acculturation — even though it’s teaching them *the exact same* cultural values, norms etc. that their neurotypical peers learn — works a little differently, and that difference might show up in the form of increased passivity in the face of strange adults. Because, well, our behavior *is* policed so strictly from such a young age.

    I didn’t touch on the cross-cultural study itself because I didn’t feel like I knew enough (i.e., anything) about the cultures involved. It’d be interesting to see someone who *did* come from Kenya, or Fiji, or Grenada, or St. Lucia, or Peru critique that study, and address whether the concept of “self” it seems to be testing for even exists in their culture. I just didn’t think I had the knowledge base to engage with it beyond suggesting an analogous cultural influence on mirror behavior in autistic (U.K. and U.S.) children.

    • urocyon permalink
      November 5, 2010 4:16 pm

      I always feel like I’m doing something right when you link one of my posts, since your writing is so good, and you’re such a close, critical reader.

      *blush* That is probably the nicest compliment I’ve gotten in the last month. Especially coming from somebody I think writes more clearly than I do. 🙂

      Yeah, where I was trying to go with the quote that caught my eye was maybe not as clear in the context of some of the other stuff in the links post. (And I did go off on a bit of a side route with it, from the main thrust of your post.) I have repeatedly been frustrated by the assumption that, somehow, autism absolutely defines all of autistic kids’ behavior. I guess that’s what happens when you focus on the perceived disorder, and form your hypotheses from that cluster of assumptions. Of course neuroatypical kids are not immune to the cultural expectations around them.

      You have a good point about the differences in socialization, and how acculturation might work in a lot of cases.

      and that difference might show up in the form of increased passivity in the face of strange adults. Because, well, our behavior *is* policed so strictly from such a young age.

      *nods* I do think there’s a lot of learned helplessness and passivity going on. And if whatever you do is wrong, it can seem like a better idea just not to react openly, if nothing else to avoid some of the crazy-seeming reactions from adults. I ran into similar later, after I was in school, but I can well imagine the behavior policing would be an earlier (and even more demoralizing) problem for kids who are diagnosed early–and especially those living under the kind of medicalized, “you’re fundamentally wrong” approach that would get them enrolled in studies in the first place.

      It’d be interesting to see someone who *did* come from Kenya, or Fiji, or Grenada, or St. Lucia, or Peru critique that study, and address whether the concept of “self” it seems to be testing for even exists in their culture.

      I hadn’t though of that angle. That would be interesting. I was thinking more of how people are trained to respond to situations, more than about underlying concepts of “self”.

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