Trust and Obey

Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet,
Or we’ll walk by His side in the way;
What He says we will do, where He sends we will go;
Never fear, only trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

– Classic Creepy Hymn

For a number of reasons, I’ve been thinking, recently, about my history with religion. I’m perceived as being hostile to (most specifically) Christianity and even accused of “hating” it. I honestly don’t feel like I hate Christianity–I’m not even sure what that means–but I wanted to think through the possibility and explain my opposition to religion and why it is often so fierce.

Most atheists’[1] primary objection to religion is that it’s not true. Believers are like our primitive ancestors who think the earth is flat. The atheist can’t understand why, when faced with very clear, logical, and conclusive[2] arguments against the existence of whatever god(s) are in question, believers refuse to modify their position or admit its obvious absurdity.

The argument is about what is factually correct, and most of the “wrongness” of the religious is thought to be in their lack of understanding of reality. In this context, the argument against religion is like an argument about where the 1928 olympics were held[3] (well, ok, an argument taking place before search engines . . . and away from libraries). Somebody is right and somebody is wrong–or both might be wrong–but if everyone is convinced of their “facts,” then there’s no means by which to end the argument or make progress in any direction.

And of course this is annoying and, if the individuals in the discussion stake enough of their identity in their positions, it can even be infuriating for them. Nevertheless, it’s often enough chalked up to a difference of “opinion,” or a matter of faith, or a to-each-his-own scenario or whatever.

Religion has a much, much darker side however, which is it’s training in obedience in the face of things one is told one “can’t understand.”

This isn’t a trait of hardcore evangelical faiths (aka fundamentalism), but is a common thread throughout all varieties of religion. Religions are premised on the notion that the universe we perceive and can bring our senses and mind to bear on isn’t “real.” Beyond the senses, beyond matter and energy, there is a much greater, majestic, and eternal reality filled with spirits and, most importantly deities, that determine the fate of your eternal soul and are very interested in your choices and actions[4].
Conveniently, these Gods can’t simply tell you what you need to do. Unless you’re a Moses, Mohammad, Joseph Smith, or L. Ron Hubbard, you’re going to want the guidance of an expert–a priest, minister or other clergy. These people will help with the interpretation of religious texts at the very least and may even be in a direct chain of communication to God himself.

Baby praying--super creepy
Even though a cursory lay-persons reading of, for example, the New Testament reveals a pretty simple message–don’t hurt other people, help children, the poor, the sick and the old–the primary message of every religion is, as the song goes, Trust and Obey.

Children, obey your parents; women folk, obey your men folk; slaves, obey your masters; church members, obey the church; and everybody, obey the government[5]. Submit and obey. Obey and submit. You have been put on this earth under the supervision of various god-appointed authorities. They exist to interface with the mysteries and complexities that are beyond your comprehension and to deliver to you divinely prescribed commandments that you are to follow.

Of course, religion is not alone in this endeavor. The other authorities at the top of the previous paragraph reinforce each other. Parents tell their children to obey the church (priests, sunday school teachers) and the state (police, school teachers). The government legislates, public schools teach and elected leaders constantly harp on the need for obedience to spiritual leaders and parents (or adults more generally).

Religion adds the mystery and ritual, however, and goes beyond right and wrong, legal and illegal to a special dispensation on what is transcendentally good and evil.

These two things–1. casting doubt on the biological means of comprehending the material world (senses and reason)[6] and 2. elevating blind obedience, faith and submission to authority into the highest realms of virtue–move religion from the category of factually-and-infuriatingly-wrong to that of fundamentally-destructive-of-human-well-being.

There’s much more to say, and it’s likely that my real-life conversations about religion will inspire future posts, but I’m going to wrap this post up and leave you with the dirge that inspired this post. Warning! If you know this song, think carefully about re-subjecting yourself to it–it can stay in your head for days.

  1. [1] For the purposes of this article, I’ll refer to all manner of non-believers as atheists
  2. [2] At least, as conclusive as any argument against the existence of anything can be.
  3. [3] I tried to think of a better example: evolution, global warming, geology, but most break down along religious lines.
  4. [4] One could argue that the “personal deity” is more a description of western, abrahamic religions, but even easterners seem to receive directions to kill based on religious differences, so I’m going to cast my net widely
  5. [5] On very rare occasions these things can be in conflict, but after a brief, usually violent, sorting-out they tend to self-correct and harmonize.
  6. [6] I may follow up about this, but a really good analogy can be found in this Stephan Molyneux podcast.

The Bikecast Episode #54: Whence Bigotry?

The evolutionary psych story about humanity is that war, genocide, and the divisive “-isms” that keep humans in a perpetual state of conflict are inevitable expressions of an “us vs. them” tendency that is simply a part of our biological makeup.

It’s indisputable that people can adopt an identity that is essentially oppositional to another nation, race, religion or ethnic group, but how much of this tendency is nature and how much is nurture?

Only one human trait is truly immutable: adaptability. Children learn very quickly what they need to do to ensure their physical safety. In our dominance based society, a major element of required adaptation is siding with proximal agents in society vs. outsiders, real or–primarily–imagined.

In fact, examining the volume of propaganda that is directed at Americans, from the cradle to the grave it’s unsurprising the kinds bizarre and absurd expressions of xenophobia that crop up whenever the “enemies of America” (or of “real” America) come up in conversation.

Download this episode of the Bikecast


Take, for example, this stream of . . . just really weird comments that popped about on Facebook and Twitter after the last month’s earthquake/tsunami/nuclear meltdown in Japan. Citing Pearl Harbor (Pearl Harbor? Seriously?) as the counter-balance in some twisted version of karma is really, really fucked up.

Anti-japanese propaganda from the Second World War
Where did this enmity come from? There can’t be more than a dozen people alive on the planet that participated in the fighting at Pearl Harbor. Japan has been a more than cooperative American colonial forward base in East Asia for over 65 years. There are very few who derived their prejudice against the Japanese from lived experience, but a quick glance at “educational material” and popular culture should give a clue about where the animosity comes from.

The facts, which one has to dig a bit to find, paint a different picture. The popular depiction involves a ruthless and brutal empire[1] that, in an attempt to enslave the entire pacific strikes out at a peaceful merchant republic. This depiction, crafted, as always, by the victors served to put the United States on a war footing. Pearl Harbor was a story meant to ease the resistance to conscription going into the war, and to ease the collective conscience after Japanese cities were incinerated by fire bombings and, finally, annihilated in nuclear blasts.

The truth is less useful. Objectively, two empires, one small and resource starved and the other vast, expanding and reaching the height of its powers met in the western Pacific. A faction of the leadership of the United States, including large parts of the executive branch, wanted to go to war in Europe and intended to do so by drawing Germany’s Pacific ally into a conflict.

This bikecast/post isn’t intended to address this issue in depth. It requires the kind of care and attention to detail that I can’t generally muster. Luckily, the issue has been researched to death by just the kinds of minds by which one wants important issues researched to death. The evidence is overwhelming and the objections, as far as I can find, are few and feeble (and rebutted). This page of links from the Independent Institute has alot of good starting points for the interested.

In any case, the nature of the war, fought thousands of miles from California against an island nation far and away the technological and economic inferior of the United States required an enormous amount of propaganda. In retrospect, as each new generation of Americans confronts the nightmare of history’s only nuclear strikes, the tale requires an arch-enemy so lunatic that no alternative was conceivable but to vaporize hundreds of thousands of people to bring the war to an end.

And that is the legacy that is echoed in the comments about Japan today. Jingoism generated by a ruling class to support their decisions and those of their predecessors three generations ago.

If we have to demonize the Japanese in order to distract from the reality of the war in the Pacific, how much more demonization is required to justify the enslavement of a race?

African Americans

The answer is, “quite a lot”–11 on a scale of 10 and we see the evidence for this in Western bigotry against blacks. This may be especially true in the United States where racial policy has been an political issue for three hundred years.

How does one justify the perpetual enslavement of a people? They have to be animals, unfit for a place in civilization, unable to control their impulses and desires, a danger to advanced society. If abolition is on the table, a strong and reliable political move is to drive into the public consciousness the most gruesome and horrifying stories of what will happen when the black race is freed.

If integration is on the table, the wise move is to tell these stories again. To create and fund “science” that supports racist conclusions, to integrate racism into every possible aspect of society: education, religion, community organizations, etc. The politician willing to do so and support others in doing so can have a long and prosperous career, since no one pays any heed to the wars he starts and the money he shunts to his supporters and allies.

The legacy of nationalized racial policy is what we see around us today. Racism isn’t a biological inevitability. It’s the result of an explicit policy of centuries of fear mongering for political power and financial gain.

The Entire Non-Christian World and The non-English-speaking Americas

Nowadays, our attention is turned to (at least) two new enemies who, we are told, seek to despoil our country. The muslims (or islamo-fascists) and spanish speaking central/south Americans and carribean islanders (aka mexicans or illegals).

Popular stereotypes of these people differ radically between 1900 and today. I go into some hand-waving detail in the podcast about my perception of these changes. Suffice it to say that the fanatical muslim and job-stealing mexican are inventions of the last 40 years. They were created specifically to allow monstrously inhumane treatment of human beings and vast appropriations of stolen money to the military-industrial-prison-security-congressional-complex. The amount of energy and effort being put into the new stereotypes assure us that, in 100 years, people will still be clinging blindly to these beliefs.

And why the energy and effort? Greater fear and anger associated with these groups means more power given to the police, military and surveillance state and votes for anyone who promises protection from these “threats.” Nobody can speak against this most destructive of enemy imagery and hope to be taken seriously by the corporate media much less have any chance at political office.

To sum up, the quantity and ferocity of enemy-making propaganda has to be such that virtuous choices like withdrawing western troops from the middle east, allowing free travel over the southern border (or not going to war in 1941 or not owning black persons before 1865) are unthinkable.

We’re still reeling from the propaganda of the past, and new bullshit is being constantly heaped on top of the old. The perpetrators and agitators are those that benefit from hatred–those whose actual crimes: mass theft, kidnapping and murder, necessitate the creation of unfathomably evil foes. Only by projecting their own wrongdoings onto others can the perpetrators escape from scrutiny. Not only can they commit the most horrific crimes against humanity, they can do so in the name of protection people from the harmful other.

In the podcast, I reference Lloyd DeMause who makes a similar argument with regard to enemy imagery historically directed at children. Here’s a page of his online books. I’ve read much of The Emotional Life of Nations and listened to some of the Origins of War in Child Abuse. Also, here’s a current example ad hoc ratcheting up of enemy imagery in wartime as various minorities are targeted as foreign mercenaries. Oh, and the movie I was trying to think of was Lawrence of Arabia

  1. [1] no argument there, btw

That’s Some Bullshit Right There

This episode of “That’s Some Bullshit Right There,” involves a dude who is charged with counterfeiting. Let me tell you about what dude did: he created coins made out of silver and stamped with a value of $1. Each coin contains 1 troy ounce of silver currently worth ~$35 (up from $10 after a decade of warfare and rampant money creation).

So if you are selling, say, a $1 candybar and somebody gives you a “$1 coin” that’s actually worth $35 dollars, can we really say that you are a victim of counterfeiting?

This is an old’ish man–67 years old. He’s going to prison for upwards of 25 years for making coins that, should you accidentally accept one, would make you 35 times wealthier than a paper dollar bill.

I understand that you may disagree with the man’s politics. You may not like that he “opened the Free Marijuana Church of Honolulu, giving away pot and calling himself a ‘high priest’”–high priest, get it?

You might not like that his primary customers are Tea Party/Ron Paul types who purchase coins made of valuable metal because they believe that, as trillions of dollars are created de novo by the Federal Reserve to pay for a global war, domestic police state and to shovel into the maw of the corporate and financial sectors, the value of the dollar will decline–as it has by 95% in the last century of global wars, an increasing police state and skyrocketing wealth of the corporate and financial classes.

You may think he’s goofy, you may think he’s stupid, but this man is clearly innocent of hurting anyone but those who benefit from maintaining the belief that the value of the dollar isn’t falling through the floor.

It gets even better: “Attempts to undermine the legitimate currency of this country are simply a unique form of domestic terrorism,” [US Attorney] Tompkins said in a Department of Justice news release after the conviction.

“While these forms of anti-government activities do not involve violence, they are every bit as insidious and represent a clear and present danger to the economic stability of this country,”

. . . the fuck? A representative from the institution that has heaped roughly a quarter million dollars of debt onto every man, woman and child within it’s borders (as well as the unborn and the not yet conceived); an institution that is owned lock, stock and barrel by the wealthiest ruling class in the history of the planet; an institution that is beggaring hundreds of millions of people to artificially maintain the wealth of a fraction of a percent of its population . . . a representative of this institution is saying that a hippie making silver coins is a clear and present danger to the economic stability of this country and that he should die in a cage for his “crimes”?

That’s some bullshit right there.

Oh, and PS. Morris Dees? Last I checked the SPLC was taking down evil fuckers like the Ku Klux Klan and shit. When did you start carrying water for the goddamn Empire? Jeeezus, with friends like these . . .

The Bikecast Episode #53: Which Virtues will Flourish in a Free World?

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[1].

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.

Download this episode of the Bikecast

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.

  1. [1] 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).

Reasoning in Midstream

“Reasoning in midstream[1]” is a common phenomenon in public discourse that typically starts right around the time that bombs start dropping or legislation starts being penned in response to a “crisis”. It is the monotonous focus on the present state of a problem–a pending genocide, a health or financial emergency, or a security threat–disregarding the history or context in which the event takes place. In addition to discouraging discussion of root causes, reasoning in midstream also allows for attention to be drawn away from parallel dangers that are still in earlier stages.

By way of an analogy, imagine a society whose diet consists of only Snickers and Coke (a-cola, that is). After forty or fifty years, the toothless, diabetic and morbidly obese nature of the elder generation forces the society to examine the ailments of the worst off and explore possible solutions. Radical dentistry, amputation of gangrenous limbs and liposuction are proposed and touted as the only way to address these epidemics which, apparently, arose from nowhere. Perhaps an underemployed nutritionist suggests a change of diet, but the idea is dismissed as ineffective against the immediate problems faced by the older population.

Of course, without a change in diet, however insufficient against some of the immediate dangers facing some of the population, the problem can’t be checked in any meaningful or sustainable way. There’s most likely not much that can be done to help those that have been eating the lethal foodstuffs for 50 years. In this example, it’s plain (for us) to see that efforts would be most profitably invested in changing the diet to avoid the same problems in those that are currently 5, 15, 25, and 35 years old.

If this society limits itself to reasoning in midstream, however, solutions that aren’t directed at the immediate and spotlighted most critical cases are disregarded entirely. No ultimate causes of the current problem are sought and no thought to preventing future problems of a similar nature is given.

Leaping out of my flimsy analogy and into harsh reality, the most recent example of reasoning in midstream (let’s call it RIM from now on) that I’ve experienced has been around the topic of Libya.

Here, for the first time since Clinton and NATO decimated and subsequently occupied the Balkans, we have a progressive war for progressive goals lead by a progressive administration. This has caused tremendous cognitive dissonance on the left and lead to somber and thoughtful defenses of the necessity of aerial butchery. Where there is hesitation, progressives are plagued by the programmed question: “What possible alternative exists?”

What alternatives indeed? There are no good answers in the moment, because it’s the last 60+ years of malignant foreign policy in the region that have brought us to this terrible, yet easily predicted, outcome. Yet no discussion exists of the historical context of western intervention in North Africa. And so the policy is more of the same–remove the leader and arm some new “legitimate government” that will guarantee the continuity of the status quo.

Whatever happens, say proponents of RIM, don’t let’s think about the other dictators and puppet states, in Yemen, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Pakistan, Jordan, Colombia, Bahrain, Oman, Morocco, Geogria, El Salvador, Djibouti, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, etc.–I left out the countries that don’t seem to be in immediate peril of revolution–who continue to receive the very same western military aid that has allowed Gadaffi to commit this most recent democide.

The goal of the imperial state and it’s licensed, regulated, and wholly corporately owned mass media is to push aside such radical questions and return us to the case at hand–to RIM. Surely we can’t let this moment pass, this horrible thing happen, surely something must be done . . .

When “something must be done,” we immediately know that we are being asked to support a heaping helping of more of the same upon a people that have had their enemies propped up by western imperialism and their countries and wealth sold out from underneath them to western interests.

Nothing should be done. The violence must end which necessitates not adding to it. The dictators past and future should not be armed by money expropriated from the western working classes. As I discuss in The Winding Up of Violence, places like Libya, and much of the rest of the western controlled world, are like pots of water (two metaphors in one blog post! Noooo!). As long as they are exposed to heat, armaments and violence, from outside the system, they will remain in a turbulent state.

Foreign perturbance must cease, and the region will settle in to a stable state governed by the will of the people living there. This will happen at some point. The amount of harm, destruction and dislocation that will have to be endured is a function of how long it takes for the west to withdraw and cease interference, which is an economic inevitability at this point.

The sooner we cease to reason in midstream, and to see the calls for increased intervention for what they are, the sooner the people of Libya, the Middle East, and the entire world will have an opportunity to craft a peaceful existence for themselves.


  1. [1] Wes Bertrand describes the process more abstractly in the first chapter of his book Complete Liberty

Takedown of an Anarcho-Misogynist: Religion

Here’s the introduction to this series. I followed up with a post on marriage, monogamy and violence and another on abortion. The time has come to dismantle Jay Batman’s spectacularly indefensible argument that women control religious institutions. Don’t laugh–okay you can laugh. Here’s what he says:

Consider the following from the article The Feminization of Christianity by Leon Podles, which finds church membership ratios overwhelming dominated by women: Roman Catholics, 1.09 to one; Lutherans, 1.04-1.23 to one; Mennonites, 1.44-1.16 to one; Friends, 1.40 to one; Methodists, 1.33-1.47 to one; Baptists, 1.35 to one; Assembly of God, 1.71 to one; Pentecostals, 1.71-2.09 to one; and Christian Scientists, 3.19 to one. Podles notes that when men do attend church, it is usually only because they are pressured into doing so by women.

Ah, so the members of the world’s religions–at least the western ones–are mostly females. They’ve used their dominant position in the church to take leadership positions and direct the police and military apparatus to enforce their will on manly men. Led by the heads of the catholic church Pope Clementine VII (successor of long-time Pope Johanna Pauline II) they . . . what’s that you say? All the Popes are male? All the clergy are male? The leaders and priest class of virtually every world religion are all males? And no army? No police? Well how do they force men to marry and inseminate women?

To be fair Jay and Podles do cover the clergy:

Podles goes on to critique the clergy, and what he notes is informative: “Because Christianity is now seen as a part of the sphere of life proper to women rather than to men, it sometimes attracts men whose own masculinity is somewhat doubtful. By this I do not mean homosexuals, although a certain type of homosexual is included. Rather, religion is seen as a safe field, a refuge from the challenges of life, and therefore attracts men who are fearful of making the break with the secure world of childhood dominated by women.

Lewis M. Terman and Catherine Cox Miles measured masculinity among men involved in religion, and their findings were even more striking: “Most masculine of all are still the men who have little or no interest in religion. Very masculine men showed little interest in religion, very feminine men great interest. Women who have highly feminine scores were also especially religious, while women who had more masculine scores were neutral or adverse to religion. The difference was clearly not physical sex, but attitude, or gender, as the term is now used.”

Let’s try to decode this. People of all genders with masculine traits tend not to be religious. Let’s assume Podles is also a misogynist. I wonder what he considers masculine traits . . . I’ll bet independently minded is on the list. Free thinking, willing to challenge authority, probably strong willed make the roll. Proud, self-interested, assertive–I think we’ve got a good picture here.

What do these things have in common . . . hmmmm. Well, for one thing, they’ll get a slave killed. Sure as shit if you can be legitimately aggressed against by a physical superior with the law on his side, you will radically shorten your life–or at least make it alot less bearable–by exhibiting Podles’ masculine traits.

Oh, something else in common, they are anti-virtues in almost all world religions. Some of them are even deadly sins! In religious “teachings,” the virtues are humility, obedience, submission, forgiveness, and an annihilation of free thinking, reason and evidence in favor of faith in that which cannot be demonstrated.

I’m not a expert in things Nietzsche–I need spell check to get his name right–but he seemed to have pretty much nailed the purpose of religion, which is to create virtues out of being small, passive and doormat-like–the survival strategies for people who are owned. It really reduces the incidents of rebellion and escape when you are not only physically dominated, but also convinced that submitting to domination is “the right thing to do.”

We live in a society based on violence, domination and physical superiority–that’s a basic analysis of anarchism. Religion provides shelter, validation and comfort (of a sort) to people who are physically and socially dominated. It also provides a very inexpensive and historically reliable method of control for people who own or control the people who go to church. Again, this isn’t a strange, new or radical claim, it’s sort of an axiom of revolutionary thought. Of course, this doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t stand scrutiny, but pointing out that churches are attended by women and staffed by “non-masculine” men sort of reinforces the argument.

Takedown of an Anarcho-Misogynist: Reproductive Freedom

Here’s the introduction to this series. I followed up with a post on marriage, monogamy and violence. Both posts together got combined and cross-posted at the Gonzo Times. Thanks to Punk Johnny Cash for the platform.

We continue today with a classic “men’s rights” position–one that, in it’s essence, I agree with. However, it’s so obviously disingenuous, always accompanied by massive misdirection, and seething with anger towards women that it’s a really interesting study of the misogynist mindset. We’ll lead off with a quote from Jay Batman.

The fact that I ejaculate during sexual intercourse does not mean that I consent to all possible outcomes including pregnancy and fatherhood. I have consented to the immediate sexual act, and in order for me to be considered a father, I must consent to fatherhood, which is a separate transaction altogether. I retain autonomy and sovereignty throughout all phases of my existence, and reject the idea that consent can be implicit. A woman may choose to engage in motherhood, but that in no way obligates me to the converse of fatherhood. It does not matter how many times I engaged in sexual intercourse, if my stated intention was merely sex, I cannot be said to have consent to reproduction.

Reproductive freedom for a male is summed up by the ability to deny consequence for consensual action, just as it is for a woman. If we are to be equal, a male’s ability to abort his decision by refusing to accept obligations for the consequence of sex in the form of parenthood must be honored . . . There are two distinct choices, but a woman’s feminist outlook seeks to render one choice out of two for any man in order to coerce and force him into a role she wants for herself. His capital must be pilfered to support and sustain her choice.

In Jay Batman’s world, and the world of most wildly uninformed people, abortion is a cakewalk. Simply kiss your sympathetic sexual partner on the cheek, drive up to the window of the friendly and inviting drive-thru clinic, terminate the pregnancy for $19.95 and be about your way.

The reality is much different and is covered so well elsewhere that I’ll just touch on the highlights here. In most places that offer reproductive services, and 87% of counties in the United States don’t, the rulers (overwhelmingly male) have legislated a whole host of hurdles for women to overcome: various combinations of multiple day waiting periods, multiple visits during which women must be instructed on fetal development, see sonograms, listen to fetal heartbeats, and undergo counselling. That’s two or three days off work, probably away from home (for many, more than 50 miles) at locations that are under regular threat of bombing and seeing providers that are not infrequently assassinated.

The various procedures, which could easily be carried out by a trained technician, must be performed by one of the 2000 or so medical doctors (mostly over the age of 50) that are still practicing. All these legal hurdles drive the price up tremendously.

To be fair, access to reproductive options are much better in some respects than in years past. In many places, it’s possible to get a morning after pill, which is reasonably convenient and affordable. But for the self actualized women who are able to overcome social and religious pressure, economic and psychological circumstances and take this kind of pro-active control, the morning after pill is rarely a necessity. For these women, partnering with responsible condom wearing men is the first line of defense against pregnancy.

That’s right, the least expensive, most available, and highly effective means that every man has at his disposal to avoid the snares and pitfalls that Jay Batman feels the all powerful and fiendishly deceptive gynarchy is laying out–the latex condom. It’s the kryptonite against the tricksters and gold diggers that populate his imagination and it’s at hand in every gas station, convenience store, pharmacy and grocery in the country.

Jay accepts that every woman should have absolute control over her body, and he expects them to exercise this control to avoid the burdens of parenthood. Every man has the same degree–actually a much greater degree given the relative costs and convenience of the remedies–of control in avoiding unwanted children. He still seems somehow more sympathetic and concerned for the man who has unprotected sex.

Now we come to the point of agreement, and this is a challenging idea that I first heard not long ago on the Flaming Freedom podcast (this episode touches on it). The idea is essentially that a man should have the right to abandon a child and essentially waive all future claims of custody, visitation, etc. in exchange for avoiding financial obligation.

I think Jay would be surprised at how unpopular the idea would be among fathers. Currently, they largely able to avoid financial obligation by threatening abandonment, maintaining a low legal profile, or simply not paying and hoping that the mother won’t go through the onerous, expensive, and time consuming process of attempting to bring the unwieldy court system to bear on the father.

Currently many less-than-honorable men get to have it all: freedom from financial obligation as well as contact with his children. In the world Jay imagines with an either/or choice, this would be virtually impossible.

That said, I think I am in agreement. In a world in which female reproductive options were as readily available and as inexpensive as they would be without puritanical male legal interference, where arbitration supported the enforcement of contracts freely entered without regard to gender, and most importantly–and this would be the biggest change, I think–where a woman faced no threat of violence for exercising her autonomy; in this world, I think that it should be possible for a man to opt out of fatherhood immediately following intercourse.

Such a world would be a radical, reality altering improvement for women.

Takedown of an Anarcho-Misogynist: Marriage, Monogamy and Violence

See here for an introduction to this series of posts.

Jay begins his post with the following premises:

. . . societal conventions that deny a man’s natural and innate inclinations to preach some false idea of domestication as the ideal are the creations of a matriarchal tyranny.
We men are not naturally inclined toward monogamy or marriage. Societies that promote such end results are clearly the product of male hatred on the part of the women who drive such values. Women have appropriated the state and religious institutions to systematically de-masculinize men and relegate us to a less virile, less potent existence.

One would think a libertarian would understand that a tyranny of any sort cannot exist without the use of force. I’m not clear on what, exactly, is preaching the idea of monogamy and marriage as ideal–I guess the Abrahamic religions (why not the Sarahtic religions?) are usually interpreted as endorsing these things–but whatever the source, it’s pretty clearly using non-violent persuasion to get the job done in the western world.

This conflation of verbal pressure with violent aggression seems to be a trend among misogynists. In another, follow-up post, Jay paints the following picture

Think of the man like the Gadsden Flag bearer, and you get the picture: he’s got it in his head that striking back is the way to go, but the female standing in front of him, though half his size, has a mouth like a Gatling Gun and can tear him to shreds with it. It’s emasculating, but it’s what women do.

This echoes a similar sentiment expressed by a commenter on a Punk Johnny Cash article.

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.

At least Jay pretends to live in a world where a verbal confrontation results in the powerful man gently weeping in response to a discussion with a woman. The second commenter seems more closely connected with reality, where 4 million women apparently can’t keep their mouths shut each year and get what, apparently, they “deserve”.

It’s important to frame a verbal confrontation in physically violent terms so that men who initiate aggression against people can be let off the hook on a pseudo-self-defense clause.

In the good old days, of course, even this nonsensical veneer of legitimacy wasn’t needed, and this brings us back to the topic of marriage.

Until the tyrannical matriarchy appeared on the scene, marriage was simply a legal claim to human property. If a woman was beaten, raped, killed, or forced into labor, the legal question was restricted to which man, typically a father or husband, owned her. If the perpetrator was the owner of the woman, the issue went no further. If, he wasn’t, restitution was owed to the owner and the attacker and often the victim were further punished by the legal authorities.

This arrangement varied slightly from place to place, but was always essentially a transaction among men:fathers and sometimes would-be husbands as part of an often much larger exchange of property.

Women, for their part, were kept by in a dependent state by the inability to own property, conduct business, travel unescorted, etc. The skill set they were consequentially raised to develop was that of a domestic servant, taking care of the children, the sick, the elderly and maintaining the household. They were raised to be obedient and submissive and were therefore amenable to religions, which praise obedience, submission and forgiveness as virtuous–more on this in a future post.

In the last fraction of human history, state capitalism has subsidized the movement of women into the workforce by taking over some of the traditional roles: care of children, the sick and the elderly primary among them. This isn’t, as Jay posits, a result of an emerging and powerful state-feminist alliance–such an idea is laughable when one compares the numbers of men and women among the captains of industry and social engineers that constructed the state welfare system–but as an entirely predictable corporate-state alliance that always seeks to subsidize inexpensive labor for the owners of capital.

Jay’s other point in the passage is that the women force men, through the apparatus of the state, I guess, into monogamous relationships. Again, this is absurd. Men have never been held to a standard of monogamy, certainly not in the modern west. Women on the other hand have always been held to an exacting standard with phenomenally inhumane penalties for adultery.

The fear of raising another man’s child factored into both the control of women’s freedom to move, to associate, and to own property as well as the devastating penalties exacted on women for sex outside of marriage. Men never faced anywhere near the same degree of retribution for non-monogamy.

As to what is “natural” for either sex, the point is moot and largely unknowable. In a few hundred years, when women have absolute and unchallenged control of their reproduction and face no physical threat from partners, it might be possible to determine what sexual behaviors are natural and which are a result of violent institutions. My guess is, nature being what it is, that people will tend towards a wide variety of arrangements that will overrun any modern predictions.

In any case, the current situation is rife with violence and the threat of violence as well as the historical hangovers of sexual repression and institutional dis-empowerment of women–reasoning about the future of human sexuality is like predicting the future course of technology at the point that the catholic church ceased systematic interference in the conduct of science.

Overall, the extraordinary claim that women are secretly controlling the agendas of institutions that have always been overseen and staffed by males and have always relegated women to a “less virile less potent existence” requires a tremendous amount of evidence. While Jay provides a number of anecdotal instances of women who act less than honorably toward men, by any metric and at any time and place in history, men have used their physical superiority and their political privilege to completely dominate women. This isn’t a matter of “reading the right books” as Jay complains he is always asked to do. It’s a recognition of very rudimentary and basic fact of human history.

To blame women for perpetuating the institutions that have always assisted men in maintaining dominance is the height of chutzpah. To pity men that can’t willfully beat their “mouthy women” and then wonder why females avoid one’s ideology of freedom is willful callousness. To blame women in general for the behavior of the women that one chooses to associate with the definition of bigotry.

We’ve got alot more to cover folks, so if you have any desire to direct the conversation, please drop a comment.

Takedown of an Anarcho-Misogynist: Introduction

The next several posts will (barring sidetracking) be related to a discussion going on at the Gonzo Times. I’ve always liked the Times because they address issues that a number of other anti-authoritarian sites seem to overlook in the name of expediency. One of these issues is gender. As I documented in the previous post/podcast and as is summarized (along with subsequent developments) by Punk Johnny Cash in this recent post, a number of misogynists, some self-described, have predictably sprung up to attack those voicing questions and concerns about the treatment of women in pro-liberty circles.

Of course, there are alot of ins, alot of outs, alot of what-have-yous involved, but I tend to think that this sort of development is “a good thing.” Occasionally, it’s time to introspect and make sure one’s house is in order, both as an individual and, metaphorically, as a collective. On the rare occasions that reactionaries, especially those that are so obviously poisoning the well, pop up, it provides the rest of us a chance to state our position clearly to said reactionaries and to the rest of the world.

In this case, the world clearly needs to hear the liberty perspective spelled out. Virtually all casual observers believe that libertarianism is a post-hoc political conclusion based on anger towards and fear of government takeover by non-white and/or non-male people. This conclusion is based on the media amplification of a few conservative voices that, in fact, hold that position in ways subtle and obvious[1]

What we shall look at over the next few posts is a flurry of activity on the Gonzo Times website by one of the bloggers there, Jay Batman (one of the aforementioned self-described misogynists). His case, stated most comprehensively in an initial post can be addressed in a dozen ways that have sprung into my mind. I haven’t even finished reading it. Maybe he ends the entire thing with a retraction, in which case, my bad for not finishing before responding.

In any case, these issues deserve addressing as they will doubtless arise again (and again) in the future. I’m not sure I’ll be able to keep at it until each and every failing is revealed, but I will do my best.

  1. [1] An compelling discussion on how ideology is used to provide psychic cover for prior trauma can be found in Freedomain Radio’s Bomb in the Brain series.

The Bikecast Episode #52: Race, Gender, and Anarchism

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.

Download this episode of the Bikecast

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 :)

An Illustrative Example at the Gonzo Times

Case in point, an article by Gonzo Times journalist Punk Johnny Cash titled A Problem Of White Male Anarchism and Libertarianism We Must Confront.
It’s an excellent read that dares wonder why it is that liberation movements–anarchism and libertarianism specifically–are so radically devoid of non-white and non-male participants.

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[1] 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.

Punk Johnny Cash followed up this week with another good gonzotimes piece
This time, for some reason, the comments start with

Feminism is essentially Big Brother with a vagina.

proceed to

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[2]. 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[3].

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.

Perhaps the freshest modern example of this development in the middle east where women are routinely beaten, sexually assaulted and killed for having the temerity to learn to read, travel without escort, drive a car, or leave the house at all without complete physical cover. This isn’t some distant and bizarre alien culture. These conditions prevailed throughout the west until the last hundred years or so (minus the cars).

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.

While looking around, I found that someone is actually cataloging this stuff as a blog. Rather than link directly to the shit, I’ll just point to a couple pages where the analysis might take some of the edge off”>

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.

  1. [1] I’m treading a thin line here, but I want to contrast the simple claim that women benefit from the state with the more nuanced claim that women, as the societally constructed care providing gender, are “stuck with” the state.
  2. [2] Again, there are clear and strong parallels with other oppressed populations.
  3. [3] Although in some of the more enlightened cultures, if a rapist was caught, he had to marry his victim–so that’s a big win (Deuteronomy 22:28-29 NLT).