A Green for Philadelphia

A Green for Philadelphia

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Correcting Mark Segal's Confusion: A Letter to the Philadelphia Gay News





A major confusion appears in Mark Segal's piece "LGBT history, LGBT hypocrisy," where he says, "Some members of our community want to support Hamas and boycott Israel."

I don't know anyone, LGBT or otherwise, who supports Hamas. On the other hand, I know many people who support boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel. This has nothing to do with support for political Islam, and everything to do with opposition to a whole panoply of policies -- occupation of the West Bank, economic blockade of Gaza, and discriminatory official practices within "Israel proper" -- that all derive from Israel's character as a colonial-settler state founded on the ideology of ethno-religious nationalism known as Zionism (or "political Judaism" if you will).

A bit of history Segal seems to forget is that Israeli leaders, back in the day, rather openly sought to foster Hamas as a "counterforce" to the socially moderate, secular PLO. So it is to a significant degree a monster of Israel's own making.

In much the same way that Al-Qaeda's atrocity on 9/11 brought out some of the most regressive attitudes among Americans, such as anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bigotry, so the daily brutalization of Palestinians living under occupation, where the only Israelis they get to meet are military oppressors, inevitably fosters anti-Semitism and helps to make a group like Hamas more attractive to them.

While volunteering in 2002 with the International Solidarity Movement (palsolidarity.org), one of our hosts, a schoolteacher in Middle Gaza, told me he had asked his students, "How do you feel about Jews? Do you love them or hate them?" They answered, "We hate them!" Then he said, "Now, what if I told you that some Jewish people support us? Now how would you feel about them?" Answer: "We would love them!"

The more Palestinians see Americans -- especially us of Jewish descent -- supporting their human rights by boycotting Israel and by pushing Uncle Sam to take his hand off the scale and stop subsidizing the Israeli war machine, the less attractive a group like Hamas will be to them. At the same time it would remove both the material and psychological support that enable Israel to persist in its current colonialist actions and world-view.

The United States repudiated our racist origins a century and a half ago when we adopted the Fourteenth Amendment. It is time for Israel, with the help of some limit-setting from us, to do likewise.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Motion to Amend

This past Saturday, 9 August 2014, the groups Move to Amend and the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign co-sponsored a gathering titled People's Movement Assembly: Re-Visioning the Constitution to Serve the People, in Philadelphia to contribute to the US Social Forum process. This seemed a perfect occasion to promote the alternative conception of economic freedom that I've dubbed individualist socialism, so I drafted a motion to amend the Constitution along these lines, which I've published on this page: http://individualistsocialism.blogspot.com/p/motion-to-amend.html.

As it turned out, it seemed most people there were more of a mind to propose a general sort of vision statement rather than a concrete mechanism for implementing rights. Nonetheless many participants seemed interested in it.



Thursday, July 17, 2014

Gaza's Ark Deliberately Targeted by Israel

Gaza's Ark Deliberately Targeted by Israel







It is with sorrow and outrage that we announce that Gaza’s Ark was totally destroyed by a direct hit from the Israeli Occupation Forces at 2:00 AM local time on Friday, July 11th. It caught fire as result of the hit and was damaged beyond repair. In the context of all the death and destruction caused by Israel, the material damage to our project pales in significance.

However, it is now clear that Gaza's Ark was deliberately targeted by Israel (for the second time). Israel is not worried about its security as it claims, what it is worried about and afraid of are peaceful projects like ours that expose its atrocities.


The good news is that no one was killed or injured in this attack as we had decided to pull the guard off the boat two days earlier, for his own safety.

We would like to thank everyone who contributed towards the $300,000 raised for Gaza's Ark, and reassure you that, despite the loss of the boat, your money has not been wasted.

We have employed several Palestinians in the refurbishing of the boat over the last year and a half, providing some employment for boat builders, carpenters, plumbers and electricians. With unemployment at over 40% in Gaza, we were glad to offer some employment, if only to a few people. We have also contributed to the efforts of reviving boat building skills in Gaza and passing experience to new generations of craftsmen. Gaza's Ark also inspired and empowered Palestinians in Gaza - those who worked on it, contributed to it in any way, or supported it. And most important it sent a clear message to Israel: The world is and will continue to stand with the people of Gaza.

So, Gaza’s Ark steering committee and the Freedom Flotilla Coalition are currently in intense discussion as to what we will do next. We have many ideas, but on one point we are unanimous: we will continue to challenge the illegal Israeli blockade of Gaza, one way or another. We found it particularly symbolic that, although the boat was badly destroyed, the name and the logo, survived intact.




The minimum we all should do now is make our voices heard. Call, or email, our governments, our members of parliament and also call the Israeli embassy or consulate and protest the attack on Gaza, the killings and the destruction, and the targeting of the peaceful Gaza's Ark, that belongs to all of us.
Our motto is “Building Hope” and we will not give up until Gaza is free, and Palestinian rights are fully restored.


In continued solidarity
Gaza's Ark Steering Committee

Quote of the Week

"You know I have no patience with nonsense," said the Northeast's leading wholesaler of chattering windup mandibles. -- Michael Chabon, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Comment on *Atlas Shrugged*

This isn't a thorough review. Rather, it's a reply to a post about the book on the Kinky Intellectuals' Book Club group at Fetlife.com.

I had mixed feelings when I read the book. On one hand, its valorization of individuality has understandable appeal for anyone who's been conditioned to accept a coercive and inauthentic "altruism" that says thinking and caring for yourself are "selfish." (I call this inauthentic because it results in behavior motivated by guilt or fear of criticism, rather than an actual desire to help others.) The problem is that it falsely implies that that's the only kind of altruism there is, and uses this false dichotomy to justify an equally unbalanced sort of egoism. It thereby misses the point that humans, by our social nature, can only realize our individuality through sociality, just as surely as we can only really contribute socially by being individuals. It then conflates general values like rationality and independent thinking with the historically contingent social system of capitalism.

There is irony in the fact that, on account of insistence on such faulty logic, and notwithstanding all the lip service Rand gave to independent thinking, she actually brooked none in her own personal circle, which has often been likened to a cult. And this problem didn't end with Rand's death. In fact, some groups that pay homage to her seem to engage in worse forms of psychological manipulation than any she practiced herself -- in particular, the practice of "de-FOOing," or cutting off one's family of origin, as promoted at the website you linked to. Because this is encouraged in followers who are mostly college or even high school-age, and don't yet have extensive social networks, it's a very effective way of bringing them under Stefan Molyneux's control.

As a survivor of a different cultic group, I have met (through the International Cultic Studies Association, www.icsahome.com) people who were cut off by their children for years at Molyneux's instigation. Fortunately, some have broken free of his influence and reunited with their parents.

If you want to explore anarchocapitalist ideas, check out www.fdrliberated.com, where many ex-FDR and other libertarian people congregate online. These ideas aren't exactly my cup of tea -- I'm more of a libertarian socialist myself, a la Rosa Luxemburg or Noam Chomsky. But debating ideology with you is less urgent to me than ensuring you can explore the ideas that interest you in a way that won't endanger you psychologically through processes of undue influence. Not to mention that the more democratic atmosphere at the non-FDR site will let you explore all of these ideas, and not just those that are amenable to Molyneux.

As a side note, I thought parts of *Atlas Shrugged* were, in literary terms, atrociously repetitive. I felt that if I had a nickel for every time I read "the face without pain or fear or guilt," I'd be wealthy.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Mental Health First Aid: A Good Start, but Still Has Some Kinks

I posted the following comment on the Facebook page for the city's Mental Health First Aid training program (www.healthymindsphilly.org) after a class last Saturday:

I took the first half of an adult MHFA training today. In most respects it was very good, especially the emphasis on being non-judgmental. But one part troubled me, precisely because it wasn't consistent with that principle. The problem was with an "alphabet" exercise in which people were invited to volunteer possible signs of mental illness starting with different letters, and the instructor wrote them down on a whiteboard. Because she subsequently made no reference to the resulting list -- and especially because she sometimes appeared to question them before writing them down -- this gave the appearance of an endorsement of items in the list. This was troubling with respect to a couple words: "kinky" and "unusual." These are often associated with pejorative connotations, and to list them as signs of mental illness helps to perpetuate prejudice against those perceived as "unusual" or "kinky." But even when I pointed out to the instructor the presently total lack of civil rights protections for kinky people, she couldn't acknowledge the point, apparently blinded by her own defensiveness. Instead she initially tried to claim that "kinky" and "sex" are synonyms. (They're not even the same part of speech! And in any case the main symptom she quoted from a Web page, loss of libido, has nothing to do with what most people mean by kinky.) When that failed, she claimed the word's appearance on the list didn't imply endorsement. That would be a fair point if she'd told the class that -- but she never did. So what was the point of the exercise? At *best* it's a waste of time since it isn't being used as a teachable moment when people's suggested signs are incorrect. But at worst, as in this case, it's actually helping perpetuate a stigma that hurts people -- and may sometimes make them mentally ill.

Study Finds More Suicides Under Conservative Rule

Http://thomhartmann.com/blog/2014/06/gopthe-party-of-death

Thursday, June 19, 2014

When People Act Like You're Twelve


One of the things I find most irritating is when people talk to me as if I've never thought about something, even when it ought to be obvious that I probably have.

An example occurred last night. I'd come to a symposium on Labor and Climate Justice, and people were still signing in and getting noshies before settling down for the event (which itself was very good, by the way). So I see Elizabeth Fattah for the first time in years because, as she explains, she's in California now. Elizabeth is with The Greens/Green Party USA, which some may describe as the "fundi" wing of the Green movement.

When I mention that this event may provide an opportunity to get some signatures to put Paul Glover on the ballot as the Green Party of Pennsylvania's candidate for Governor, she dismissively says she doesn't know why we waste our time on this "lost cause." She explains that we should boycott elections because "they only give the system legitimacy" and suggests we follow the example of those who boycotted the election in Egypt.

Now, I know this point of view exists. But what makes her think that merely repeating it to me is going to change my thinking? I may be younger than her, but she's known me since the Nineties, and surely realizes that I've had time to think about such questions. In this context, it's even more absurd that she mentions the recent Egyptian election. Does she have any evidence that those who boycotted it actually accomplished anything in terms of weakening the regime? It's doubtful that they even made inroads into its legitimacy for anyone but themselves, considering the enthusiasm with which many voted for the winner. So how on Earth does she think citing this example is going to persuade me?

In this case, of course, it has a lot to do with the sectarian style of politics, in which self-righteousness (especially in the eyes of fellow group members) is more important than measurably accomplishing anything. But it can occur in other contexts too.  Several years ago I had occasion to mention to someone I encountered in a food court that I'm a socialist (the conversation may have been started by some button I was wearing). His reaction was to inform me that that idea had failed and was discredited. This was the mid-Nineties. Did he *really* think I had never heard that opinion before? It had only been drummed into my head a thousand times by the mainstream media and politicians. Yet he apparently thought he was the one who was going to enlighten me to this "truth."