Th Bikecast is back, albeit without the bike this time. I’ll transition to another name when I think of a good one.
In this reboot premier episode, I’m thinking through the history and nature of patriarchy and how its position as the fundamental organizing principle of the various and myriad institutional hurdles to human happiness and flourishing. Good stuff!
PS. I have no idea why the embed is doing that. The Internet Archive has changed up some stuff since last year.
A gross misconception exists about the nature of a free world. Actually, a large number of misconceptions exist, and usually I find myself talking to people who believe that a free world would be swarming with Roving Bands of Armed Thugs who will systematically and perpetually victimize everyone else.
Lately, I’ve begun to sense another hypothesis in the ether, this from the libertarian camp itself. I haven’t heard anyone come right out with it, so this is kind of a patchwork of implied narratives.
The world envisioned is mostly peaceful sparsely populated by wise, intelligent and strong men around whom industry and civil society forms. These men are not to be trifled with and disputes among them, if they can’t be settled by peaceful means can sometimes involve the judicious use of arms–perhaps modelled after the gentlemans’ duels of ages past.
These occasional clashes, though, needn’t be common because of the nobility and virtue of these men of merit. They don’t pursue selfish ends nor those destructive to others, so there’s no reason to challenge their will–which is a good thing because they are strong, quick, and well armed.
These men (both those of the imagined future and those that imagine them) could be described as consumate “porcupine pacifists”–the analogy speaks for itself–because they want to be sure that it’s understood that, although they won’t attack anyone, they will kick (or kill) your ass if you mess with them. They will also let you know about all the other people whose asses they will kick or kill if those people mess with them–the list is often long.
I have a couple of issues with this narrative–a couple posts worth at least. One related to the above bikecast is around my strongly held opinion that in a free world the virtues that will thrive and reproduce are mostly the opposite of those held by the honorable men in the above narrative.
To caveat: it’s of course impossible to predict the future with much reliability. It’s quite possible that, in the future, humanity abandons the standard of living produced by a thriving and tightly interwoven network of market relationships in favor of more isolation and simplicity. It’s possible that somehow that the armed and vigilant men never cross a line and threaten or bully a weaker person. I don’t know what long and transformative path would have to be tread for humanity to find itself in such a place, but as I say, the future is unknowable and this particular libertarian fantasy might play out somewhere down the line.
That said, I think a far more likely scenario is a society founded on something similar to the day-to-day relationships most of us enjoy now. These relationships aren’t based on fear of reprisal from some third party authority, but rather on trust, respect, empathy, and reciprocity. Flourishing in this possible future depends on skill at maintaining peer-to-peer relationships and a reputation for fair dealings instead of a strong right hook and good aim.
In this imagined libertarian world, understanding and anticipating the motivation and needs of others will be a highly valued and much sought after skill. Cooperating, negotiating and nurturing long term, win-win partnerships will be foundational to accumulating the social and physical capital to be a leader whose judgement others will voluntarily trust and defer to (without dueling).
In the fast paced and constantly adjusting economy that will be the engine of a global society that allows billions of people to thrive and prosper, guns will, I forecast, almost never be brandished. This is not to say that people won’t carry firearms for personal safety. I assume they will as they do now–sociopaths will always be with us, I fear. They will be used for this purpose very rarely. Even now, many people go a lifetime without needing to use lethal force to defend themselves (at least from strangers, assaults by spouses and family members remains very common).
That the very idea that empathy, cooperation, and relating to others as peers strikes some libertarians as weak, feminine and maybe sorta pinko (if you’re old enough) gets to the heart of the issue.
The virtues that will provide value to the future are frequently denigrated by self-labelled liberty lovers. Those that are antithetical to a free and prosperous world–primarily centered around the prominence of defensive or redemptive violence–are simultaneously given much attention.
There are universally positive qualities around independence, free thought, determination and other traits expressed historically in “free men” because their position in the social hierarchy allowed them to express these traits and society rewarded their expression. It’s an error to blend in physical size, strength, and martial ability–the traits that kept men atop the hierarchy–with the others and label these as masculine virtues.
In the same way, there are universally positive qualities around cooperation, empathy, ability to communicate and to maintain a complex web of social relationships–the traits expressed historically by slave classes, primarily women. It’s an error to blend submissiveness, humility, and self-deprecation–the traits that kept the slave alive–with these others and label them feminine.
The future belongs to the courageous and independent free thinker, the empathetic communicator and the social negotiator. These characteristics have no gender or race and are the cornerstone of a free and prosperous society. The martial virtues, physical strength (beyond what improves health and vitality), and a belief in redemptive violence have very little use in any popularly desirable free future world and yet they seem to play such an core role in the current libertarian movement. I believe that, going forward, it will be increasingly important to examine and question this tendency and those who hold it.
 I always like to point out, usually to poor effect, that there already are Roving Bands of Armed Thugs systematically and perpetually victimizing everyone else, but apparently national militaries and police don’t count). ↩
The status of women as 2nd (3rd? 9th?) class members of the societal hierarchy receives stunningly little attention from male libertarians and anarchists–the folks that claim the greatest desire to eliminate institutional hierarchies of all types and to live in a society of equals.
This incongruity fits a larger pattern. The most strikingly barbaric and absurd social norms are all but invisible to the majority of people and are certainly never spoken of except in the most trusted of conversations. Anarchists know this because barbaric state power is one such social norm. Shrieking rage-filled prophesies of doom fill the air (at least eventually) anytime the dissolution of government is discussed in a public forum, thus indicating that someone has begun to question things that should not be questioned.
Multiply the viciousness and sensitivity of this reaction by a few orders of magnitude and you’ll have arrived at the vitriol that is aimed at those who criticize society’s treatment of women. God forbid the critic is herself a woman.
As with many bikecasts, the “show notes” and the audio sort of diverge and end up covering different facets of the topic. This is compounded by the double recording session in the podcast. I still think it has alot of value, but it ends up trying to cover alot of material perhaps a bit too thinly. I appreciate feedback
As interesting as the article, though–at least from the perspective of this post–are
the comments. They are very civil compared to what we’ll see further along in the post, and consist of two categories of response. The first is a thoughtful, interactive dialogue among a fairly diverse group of people, many of whom are (or seem to be, it is the internet after all) non-male/non-white/non-straight. Here are a couple examples:
I’ve talked to several other anarchist women who won’t participate in anarchist groups any more because of their general hostility and emphasis on destruction. So they work outside of explicitly anarchist venues.
I’ve had “libertarian” men post the nastiest comments to me when I point out the sexism in their commentaries. Part of the reason I’m selective about where I post, which people I e-associate with, etc., is because I’m sick of having misogynist slurs hurled at me,sick of the defensive crap that occurs whenever you ask someone to check their privilege
Maybe it’s not the beliefs, but the behavior of many of those who hold them. The libertarian movement could use a drastic reduction in assholery.
The online anarchist community has quite a few trolls and jerks, and after I connected with other anarchists I liked, I chose to spend less time online because it’s more fun and productive to spend time with people in person.
In my experience, however, some of the most anti-queer and gender-fascist remarks I’ve heard have come out of the mouths of straight white cis male anarchists
The second category of comment is entirely divorced from the thread of the first. It claims international fabian socialism, historically rooted cultural differences, and, believe it or not, the incredible benefits that women and minorities receive from the state as reasons for the dominance of white male voices in anarchist spaces That’s not to say that this category of comment is devoid of any truth or value to the discussion, but nowhere are the clearly stated and repeated reasons given by the other commenters addressed.
Let me jump in here and add a note related to the podcast and the rest of this post. I ended up, because I’m riding my bike and babbling from the top of my head, inadvertently focusing on the issue of women. I will sort of mirror that here. The issues of race, gender identity, sexual preference, etc. have many clear parallels, but I don’t address them to the same degree.
In the last week, a facebook discussion took place with a slightly escalated tone. Again, voices speaking about being shut out, shouted down, and verbally attacked were ignored (or countered) with commenters claiming that race and gender weren’t issues that required their attention. The discussion was started by a woman and the first three to five dismissive posts were white men. Again, largely civil, though maybe slightly more agitated, and though there were reasonable points among the comments, the crux of the matter, again, was ignored.
Feminism is essentially Big Brother with a vagina.
What the hell is so wrong with patriarchy, anyway? People assume that dominance is wrong, but if you like being dominated, why shouldn’t you be able to cede control?
and end up with
The “issues” of race and gender are really non-issues. . . except from a statist or wannabe-statist point of view.
“Abuse” is a statist creation, brought about mostly by economic meddling which forces a man to work overtime or take a second (or even third) job to support his family.Add to this, women who can’t keep their mouths shut, who use their words as surrogate baseball bats to bludgeon their man into submission; or women who stand in doorways to prevent the man from leaving the room/house so as to DE-escalate (caused mainly by the rise of “Feminism,” another statist invention). . . they kind of deserve what they get.
Stress someone enough, and eventually they’ll break.
And other than a heroic effort from PJC and Scott F (another gonzotimes journalist) to bring some semblance of sanity to the comments, there are no other voices present.
And yet even this is unicorns and rainbows compared with much of the shit directed at women on the internetz.
A Brief Reexamination of the the Historical Relationship between the Sexes
As a brief interlude, let’s reexamine the history of the sexes. For something between 10,000 and a few hundred thousand years, women were property. They were bought, sold, traded, captured raped, killed, and otherwise disposed of without consequence.
It’s only been in the last 100 years, something less than 1% of human history,that any women at all were anything but man’s possession. I, having a finite life, can only grasp the enormity of this fact in the abstract, but we move around in a reality saturated by this history. And just as would happen if one’s car or microwave oven gained sentience and started making demands for equality, when one-time property began attempting to assert independence, men went (and most are still going) apeshit.
In the west, when conditions of near anonymity prevail, men will let their bigotry flag fly high, as we’ve already seen. When we move out of the realm of internet forums based around the premises of non-aggression and human equality, shit gets ugly(er) real goddamn fast.
Obviously this is just scratching the very privileged internet surface of the all encompassing poisonous atmosphere that is bigotry against women. From rape apologia to physical and sexual assault to just about any topic or by any metric conceivable, it fucking sucks to be a woman society.
At the root of it is the physical, violent domination that is a constant threat and pervasive reality for every woman. That this isn’t constantly acknowledged and constantly opposed by the folks who want a hierarchy, dominance-free, stateless society shows just how far we have to go.
Oh yeah, and it’s even worse for children.
I made mention in the podcast, for those who justdon’tbelieve this shit exists–by the metric shit-ton–that I’d post some good starting points on the blog. If you’re a woman, I gently recommend not visiting them. They are certainly triggering in any case.
In my last minute audio edits, I realize that I specifically talked about citing examples of women being attacked for “stepping out of line” in forums and advocating for themselves. I’ll try to get back to digging some of that particular type of gross up and adding it to the post, but I don’t want to delay publishing. Sorry for the shoddy quality of the research around here.
“American Exceptionalism” undergirds nearly every channel of information and every aspect of political discourse in the United States. It is, at its core, the belief that the unbending laws of nature and the consistent historical forces that have affected every institution throughout human history are not and will not be factors in the history and future of the American people.
One aspect of this delusional concept comes immediately to mind and wouldn’t be disputed by readers of this blog, though it would be by most Americans. American Exceptionalism is used to recast the aggression of our rulers against foreign peoples as wars of liberation, humanitarian interventions, peace keeping, police actions and the like.
Every ruling class in recorded history initiated wars to accrue control over additional resources, territory, slaves, and tax base to themselves. This expansion of power always takes place at the expense of the subjects who produced and had expropriated the materiel for war and who are called on to fill the ranks of the army. Nobody seriously disagrees with this most basic, obvious, and repeatedly demonstrated fact of human history.
The popular narrative, however, exempts the United States from this ironclad historical pattern. Illumination collapses the dichotomy and returns us to the reality in which the aggression of our current rulers and the sacrifices of the workers parallel those of rulers and subjects throughout history.
The domestic facet of American Exceptionalism is even more widespread and is more immediately dangerous to those of us living here. Behold the remarkably clear analysis of one Anne Applebaum:
The result: Egypt, like many Arab societies, has a wealthy and well-armed elite at the top and a fanatical and well-organized Islamic fundamentalist movement at the bottom. In between lies a large and unorganized body of people who have never participated in politics, whose business activities have been limited by corruption and nepotism, and whose access to the outside world has been hampered by stupid laws and suspicious bureaucrats.
As IOZ points out, and let me state again that each and every one of you should read IOZ every day and send him threatening letters on days that he doesn’t post (don’t really do that last part). Anyway, as IOZ points out, “with a few tweeked adjectives,” the above critique fits the United States to a T. He also observes that she, and I will add most Americans, would dismiss such a claim as absurd.
We’ve recently seen European social programs stripped down and eliminated, food and energy prices increasing and the rising up of people against their governments. Many Americans are already facing the challenges of getting by without regular work while prices increase and state assistance becomes increasingly scarce. Somehow, the idea that a confrontation is coming between the state and the people remains popularly inconceivable.
Even when the world is watching the rulers of a country shut down the country’s communication infrastructure, systematically imprison popular leaders, and send para-military “security forces” out to do battle with those demanding very basic institutional reform, the myth of American Exceptionalism keeps most people from seeing the connection to domestic events.
We who live on the North American landmass are not immune from any of the historical forces that govern the dynamics of human interaction and have special predictive powers around human systems premised on violence. We are not protected by the rulers. The “defensive” apparati that we are taxed to build are intended to protect the rulers from expressions of our discontent.
The ruling class has disassembled and replaced voluntary social networks with compulsory institutions that they control. They’ve syphoned off so much wealth and warped the economy to such a degree that they can no longer afford to stuff their pockets with gold while maintaining payments to those that have come to depend on them. Thus, the payments will dwindle or cease (what? you thought that they’d stop stuffing their pockets?) and, out of desperation, people will take to the streets, demanding a restructuring of the social order.
They will be met with the tear gas, batons and bullets that they’ve spent their life funding. They’ll be tossed into the prisons they’d imagined were meant for drug dealers. Their communications will be disrupted by technologies sold as protections against terrorism. This is a historical inevitability. This is the ironclad dynamic of societies whose “order” is premised on violent domination of one group by another. America is no exception.
Given the displayed concern from our rulers about the state of national finances, one could easily believe that a great deal of thought is going into what cuts can be made to balance the budget and stabilize the national debt. Indeed, the daily news, foreign and domestic, invariably contains stories of agonizing cuts to social programs and all manner of complex machinations aimed to solve social problems in a “revenue neutral” manner.
A moment’s inspection will reveal, however, that this is intended entirely as theater. The very most basic and painless cut isn’t even considered–a cut that would not only balance the budget, but which would also extinguishing the rising and violent anger against the citizens of the United States. What is euphemistically referred to as “defense spending”–a more Orwellian label has never been conceived–could be eliminated at a savings of over 1 trillion dollars a year. Yet this across the spectrum boon isn’t even considered in all the hand-wringing over national finances.
It’s instructive that these numbers rarely, if ever, enter into the political/economic debate. It’s a laughable premise that they will ever be paid back since the debt burden is something like $250,000 per person (including newborn children) or 1 million dollars per worker.
Instead, the rulers tend to talk about the deficit, which is the amount of money that will added to the debt this year. All manner of trivial cuts are proposed and complex schemes are invented to address some social ill while remaining revenue neutral. Due to the supposed desperation of our rulers to balance the budget, even social programs are threatened with crippling cuts.
The fact that economic stability is not really an important issue to the rulers is made clear by their careful avoidance of the one single budget item that would, by itself, balance the budget and greatly increase the prospects of peace in the world.
In the podcast, I hit on a couple non-budgetary advantages of eliminating military spending, like, uh, you know, not killing countless innocent human beings.
I also touch on some of the reasons that defense spending is untouchable. There’s a great writeup over at Common Dreams. According to that article, a show is being made about making military cuts, but as the author says, “Americans should not confuse that talk with reality.”
It’s also worth noting that the economic premise that government should go into debt to help the economy during troubled times and repay the debt when the economy is healthy (Keynesianism, albeit simplified) is hopelessly out-of-scope in our current situation. Every possible stimulus–0% interest rates, money creation, massive debt accumulation–must currently be applied non-stop simply to avoid collapse of the dominant financial institutions. There will be no corresponding surplus ever again–the debt will never be repaid.
While replacing my bike and repairing my mobile studio, I had more time to listen to podcasts. One that I’m really excited about is Prometheus Unchained a.k.a. Flaming Freedom. It’s an examination of GLBT issues from the liberty perspective. As I’ve noted several times, I think a major hurdle for alot of people–or a ready-to-hand-dismissal anyway–is the reactionary nature of a vocal minority of people who claim to be advocates of freedom or liberty. It’s great to hear this perspective and I imagine it will spark alot of conversation which, hopefully, will allow some of the remaining regressive cultural baggage of the movement to be examined. If you only have time for one podcast, give the Bikecast a pass today and go check out their show (but do come back ;-). If you have time for two . . .
As I mention in the podcast, Dale and Neal are part of the Free State Project which is currently composed of around a thousand people who have moved to New Hampshire in an attempt to create communities practicing voluntarism, anarchism, minarchism and all other manner of peaceful social interaction.
Besides being available in podcast form, Flaming Freedom is on lrn.com (internet radio) from Noon to 2pm EST on Sunday and 5pm – 7pm on Wednesday.
Happy New Year, Bikecast listeners. A million thanks for listening, commenting, emailing, engaging with the ideas I’m relaying and for your encouragement, both on and offline. The Bikecast has suffered a few setbacks, my studio was stolen forcing me onto the bus for a few weeks and my equipment is malfunctioning at the moment. This brief episode of the Bikecast was created entirely at my in-home media center.
Download this episode of the bikecast
I’m unsure if I’ll prefer podcasting from a stationary position inside my house, or if I’ll start putting up audio-less posts until I can reassemble my mobile recording rig. Who knows, maybe I’ll do both.
Yesterday, the 12th day of Jadmas marked the end of the Jadmas holiday season. I just turned 36 which is one of those highly divisible numbers that leads me to compare the first 18 years of my life to the second, the third 12 year span to the first two, the fourth 9 years to the first 27, etc. I intend to put up some more personal stuff that you may or may not be interested in along these lines. I’ll tag all those posts with Jadmas if you want to follow up on that thread.
During the holidays, I watched the first couple episodes of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos for the first time. His enthusiasm and his ability to capture the wonder of existence is infectious and I’m feeling inspired to seek out latter day Sagans of various stripes and engage them in conversation. If it works out, I might try to record the chats and present them here. I’m also considering doing a review of Cosmos, though I imagine it’s been reviewed nearly to death.
At first glance it may not seem like much of a departure from the positions I’ve taken throughout the last year, but it challenges a major tenet of what I consider the leading edge of the effective revolution: that people are inherently driven by notions of good and evil. I think there might be a clarifying synthesis between the clear natural tendency of humans to cooperate and to be repulsed by violence and the slippery and historically dangerous concepts of good and evil. I’m still thinking this through and plan on studying up on the details of NVC in the near future (and reporting back, of course). I’ll mark these future posts Non-Violent Communication for your future perusal.
Thanks again for your support. As always, let me know if there’s something in particular you’d like to see/hear in the jVerse or on the Bikecast. I think 2011 is going to be a year of growth and increasing clarity. I look forward to sharing it with you.
This bikecast is a restatement of and expansion on the previous episode. The current anger over TSA screening can serve as a point of reference for unconsciously patriarchal anti-authoritarians. The humiliation and violation that airline passengers are experiencing at the gropey/grabby hands of federal agents are identical to those that women and other “2nd (or 3rd or 4th) class citizens” have been experiencing for decades and centuries. That their accounts were discounted or ignored might provide some insight into the incredulity around and negative response towards anti-TSA/no-fly activists.
On the flip side, that the TSA agents aren’t on par with national socialists tried at Nuremburg–a point made to counter the sometimes hysterical reaction emanating from the newly threatened–doesn’t mean that other hysterical reactions of libertarians and anti-authoritarians aren’t justified. The TSA might not be a war crime tribunal worthy organziation, but there are plenty of war crime level individuals and branches of government. Hysterics are appropriate in far too many cases.
The last podcast’s show notes cover this episode as well. With the holiday travel weekend behind us, I’ll use this space to do a quick run through of the highlights. In a predictably bizarre role reversal, the political right came out against the TSA policy, a legacy of the Bush regime demonstrating, the umpteenth time the relative prioritization of security theater vis political theater.
There’s a well known pattern governing the spread of evil. The first to fall are those out-of-power. Isolated, mistrusted, and without recourse, the smaller, the weaker and the outnumbered are inevitably the first victims of any societal ill. Eventually, the cancer–ever growing–will begin to affect the privileged classes. They had, until now, ignored the pleas for help from those who had succumbed. Now they look around desperately, wondering why no one comes to their aid as they cry out, “If you touch my junk, I’ll have you arrested.”
Thus we find the forces of human dignity facing off against the dehumanizing empire over one of the more minor matters in the ever growing catalog of state crimes: airport security. Additionally, the fight is against, essentially, “bad touches,” something that women and children spend much of their time avoiding or enduring anyway.
And thus the question of, “why?” is quickly answered. The physical control, domination and humiliation that characterizes patriarchy has finally reached it’s latex glove into the genital area of the soi-disant privileged class (or law abiding citizenry, if you will).
I’ll let Lindsay Beyerstein and Amanda Marcotte fill you in on the details. Their analysis is spot on.
My message is primarily to the “freedom movement.” Being scanned and groped by the TSA might give you a pretty direct metaphor to empathize with the complaints and concerns that women–among others–have been expressing since they were no longer set on fire for talking in public.
I mean this as a helpful suggestion: capture your experience of outrage and stand with those that live in a world of perpetual violation. Most people resonate with the message of peace and freedom, but it sounds odd and false when one warns against a state imposition of a regime of violence and humiliation that someone has already experienced–and may still be experiencing–in their private lives.
Sooo, yeah . . . welcome to the big tent everybody. As will become progressively clearer, there are many unlikely alliances in the struggle against patriarchy/tyranny . Going forward, we will discover that those we thought were political allies are actually the enemy of integrity: libertarians who themselves physically dominate and violate the persons of those around them and progressives who want men to join women and children on the lower tiers of human society for the safety and convenience of governing institutions.
A perfect example of an attitude that I would like to see properly categorized with “If you aren’t a terrorist, then you have nothing to be afraid of,” or, “If you don’t like it, you can leave the country”–dangerous, stupid, evil positions:
. . . I feel more convinced than ever that America gets many things wrong about sex. Right there near the top of the list is our attachment to the idea of consent.
In Paris, it seems as if the straight male attitude toward consent is that it doesn’t exist. At clubs, bars, bistros, in the street or on the Metro, Parisian men lobby very aggressively for sex. At the clubs in the 8ème, off the Champs-Élysées, and all along Rue de Rivoli, it is fairly common to watch men literally grab and touch the girls who weave through the crowd.
 I realize I just sort of threw that last one in there. Alisa predicted that someone would take this angle, but I haven’t seen it yet. Instead of accepting non-violation of genitals to be a universal good and demanding that no one be groped at a security checkpoint nor anywhere else, we can say that everyone should be violated equally–I’m happy that nobody I like has recommended this course of action. ↩
Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers covers the art form of syphoning tremendous wealth from the body politic into the hands of state corporations under the guise of “defense.” In recent years, this racket has become even more sophisticated as the military moves from purchasing materiel from “private” sources to hiring out for services previously provided internally.
This serves a number of purposes: it allows for misrepresentation of the size of the military presence overseas and it allows avoidance of auditing and oversight (what little there is to begin with). Most importantly, however, it allows for unimaginable amounts of wealth to be appropriated by the corporate-political ruling class with a minimum amount of political effort.
As usual, when I listen back to my (very brief) review of someone else’s work, I sound far more critical towards it than I feel. This podcast is no different–I end up picking nits rather than doing a traditional review. But hey, I’m a nit-picker. It’s what I do.
Iraq for Sale covers alot of interesting material and is well made. The unspoken position that I believe underlies the documentary is that “re-nationalizing” the peripheral services that have been outsourced to “private” corporations would lead to a more efficient, less corrupt, “better” military. I’m skeptical of this position and believe that it surrenders a crucial point. The fraud, waste and abuse around lives and wealth in Iraq is a function of the warfare state. That the people involved are nominally “military” or “civilian” is irrelevant.
At the end of the bikecast, I touch on another war profiteer who is making his money from the domestic police state. Michael Chertoff’s security consulting group has a client, Rapiscan Systems, which is one of two manufacturers of the backscatter x-ray machines currently in the news. While the big news is the constitutionality of being imaged without clothes, the real story is how a creepy, incompetent  evil fuck like Michael Chertoff can, apparently, bring about the irradiation and intrusive imaging of every airline passenger in the united states in order to pocket a few million dollars in the process.