Monday, July 17, 2006

Ringing the Changes

I shall not keep you long, he cried. Cheers from all the assembly. I have called you all together for a Purpose. Something in the way that he said this made an impression. There was almost silence, and one or two of the Tooks pricked up their ears.
Indeed for Three Purposes!
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring.

Alas, it's not my eleventy-first birthday party, but like Bilbo, I shall not keep you long. I do however have Three Purposes. And purposes well worthy of their italics I think. If I’m really lucky, I might even manage an Announcement.

Actually the Announcement should come first.

InFlight is changing.
No, that's not quite true. InFlight has changed.
And now it's about to change some more.
InFlight is becoming a group blog.

Which brings me to those Three Purposes. Or Three Graces perhaps, because certainly I consider all three of them to have grace in abundance.

I've asked Nanette, supersoling and DuctapeFatwa to become -- well I'm actually not sure what the right term should be. FPers? That's a bit arrogant for what is a very little blog. Contributors? But everyone who posts makes a contribution, often far more of a contribution than the 'post' per se as one can plainly see by looking back through the archives.

Hmm. People who post articles and/or facilitate other people posting articles on occasion and/or generally keep things ticking over. That's what I've asked them to be. All of them were doing that already, but I've asked them to do it here as well, as they see fit. And to my delight (and immense relief!) Nanette, supersoling and DuctapeFatwa have all agreed. Logistics are still being sorted out (what a wonderful euphemism that is for 'dove is still figuring out how blogger works!')

And while I'm at it there are a couple of other things I wanted to say as well. (If brevity is the soul of wit then alas. . .)

There is something about InFlight that I'd like not to change. Doesn't mean it won't of course.

I'd like it to be non-national space. I think it has, for the most part, been non-national space so far and I'd like it to continue to be.

I guess I've also been thinking about homes and coalitions and how these things are not like each other.

And I've been reading and thinking a bit about Bernice Johnson Reagon's speech, Coalition Politics:Turning the Century

I'd like to discuss her speech: I'm not quite sure where to begin. The century she spoke of turning has of course turned in the interim. But twenty-five years on (more or less) since she spoke it seems to me that her words could have been said for the first time this morning. Anyway, every time I think I've got the beginnings of a coherent sentence, I find myself turning my head this way and that, saying 'hmmm. Do I really mean that?' and going back to her words.

So I'd like to invite someone to start. And someone else to join in. And when I find some words, so shall I.


Anonymous Raging Hippie said...

Huzzah! I feel as though the bar where I formerly liked to hang out and listen to folk tunes and blues has been taken over by belching rednecks--but I've found the coffeehouse across town where my favorite band is still playing.

May I hang around if I promise not to torture any more metaphors?

7/21/2006 2:54 am  
Blogger DuctapeFatwa said...

How about "threadstarters?" That has a nice yeasty sound to it.

I feel obliged to do what I hope dove will not perceive as an abuse of her hospitality, and extend an apology to some people, I do it here because it is one of the places I am sure all will see it, and I do not have all the email addresses, or I don't think I do.

To Nanette, to catnip and DammitJanet and supersoling, also to NLinSTPaul, as well as ManEegee and James and Duke, and if I have left anyone out, forgive me.

I have lately realized that something I blithely said very recently, in a piece about my personal philosophy of blogging as Enemy, just post your stuff and enjoy yourself, I think was how I put it, and I am ashamed now of the insensitivity of such a statement, and such a practice.

There are indeed venues, and their tribe shall exponentially increase, as events unfold, where such a practice can be irresponsible, and cause harm to others.

It is only very recently that the full import of the wrong I have done has become apparent to me, as I see and hear of unwholesome and unhealthy situations that, as I commented to an internet friend:

I feel a very human, I think, urge to go in there guns blazing, and defend my friends, and at the same time, a very sad resignation to the fact that the best thing I can do is to say anything I have to say somewhere else.

I take full responsibility, I let it go on too long, my presence there, I mean, even though I could sense that it was becoming counter-productive, and in fact harmful to people for whom I feel sincere affection, and I need to find a way to apologize to all who have been harmed by my stubborn refusal to see that the site was a good place for others, while other sites might be a good place for me.

This site is a good place for me, if dove will forgive me for doing something I know she doesn't want us to do, and is right, I think, in that, especially for the benefit of our lurkers and the new and about to be new, and I have done my best to express my apology, in terms of generally applicable ideas and concepts, inasmuch as possible.

Now to return to the topic of Ms. Reagon's speech, I am sorry to have to disagree with her statement that:

"we think that the issue we have at this moment has to be addressed at this moment or we will die. it is not true..."

I regret to say that in the current Situation, I can only wish that she were right.

7/21/2006 2:58 am  
Anonymous supersoling said...


If my home on Eastern long Island weren't under a tropical storm warning tonight I would have to conclude that the night sky must be full of wishing stars because I feel as if a dream of mine has come true :o) And yet I know that the stars are still there despite the clouds, and in that I see a lesson to be learned about people, and about percieved friends especially. It's easy to lose sight of the brightness that shines from within someone when on the surface all one can see is darkness and brooding grayness. Most times, once the winds recede, the brightness of a soul, like a star, will return. It's good to remember that in a time like this. It's also good to be among the company that I am. It's an honor I've rarely experienced.
Thank you Dove for asking me. And thank you to all who might drop by and contribute.


7/21/2006 3:37 am  
Anonymous supersoling said...

I'd like to begin with these quotes from Ms. Reagon<

"There is no chance that you can survive by staying inside the barred room.(Applause) That will not be tolerated. The door of the room will just be painted red and then when those who call the shots get ready to clean house, they have easy access to you. But that space while it lasts should be a nurturing space where you sift out what people are saying about you and decide who you really are. And you take the time to try to construct within yourself and within your community who you would be if you were running society. In fact, in that little barred room where you check everybody at the door, you act out community. You pretend that your room is a world. It’s almost like a play, and in some cases you actually grow food, you learn to have clean water, and all of that stuff, you just try to do it all. It’s like, “If I was really running it, this is the way it would be. Of course the problem with the experiment is that there ain’t nobody in there but folk like you, which by implication means you wouldn’t know what to do if you were running it with all of the other people who are out there in the world. Nowthat’s nationalism. I mean it’s nurturing, but it is also nationalism. At a certain stage nationalism is crucial to a people if you are going to ever impact as a group in your own interest. Nationalism at another point becomes reactionary because it is totally inadequate for surviving in the world with many peoples".

Where to begin? it reminds me how insular so many of us can be when we've percieved ourselves to be one, or one of a collective group of those babies who have been tossed into the corner. I'd say more about infantile approaches to the world here, but in my current state of mind what I say might not be particularly helpful LOL. In any case, especially when we feel wronged or misunderstood it's a natural response to surround ourselves with likeminded people. Even like minded victims. But as Ms. Reagon says, there is another whole world outside that barred room, and in order to have a chance to save it from itself we must naturally go out into it. I personally try to risk doing just that. I try, sometimes successfully, and sometimes not, to find a common ground from which to begin an understanding. Often though, too often for my optimistic heart, I find that no amount of effort will achieve a common grounding. What to do? Dismiss those who I can't agree with? It won't make them go away. In the end I think it's best to pass them by and seek out the next group who may have just peeked out from within their own barred room and try again. For tonight I think I'll seek connentment in the need not so much to connect or finding common ground, but in the commitment to continue the search. To not give up. To at least pledge to myself tonight that tomorrow will be dedicated to reaching out again, at least for that one day. After that I'll save my day's endings for decisions about my next day's beginnings.


7/21/2006 4:16 am  
Blogger DuctapeFatwa said...

Well first I'd just like to thank dove for turning me on to the speech. Ms. Reagon is, in my opinion, right up there with Miss Arundhati Roy.

And the only disagreement I can find with your comment, supersoling is the only disagreement I have with her, if it can even be called a disagreement in the conventional sense.

Did she, could she have, anticipated the Situation in which we find ourselves today? Part of me longs to say yes, of course, she was speaking just a few years ago, and was and is sure as painfully aware of the advances in technology that have occurred over the last several decades, in fact, unless I am mistaken, she herself is a member of the "duck and cover" generation, the first generation of human beings to grow up with television, and the knowledge that their fellow humans, specifically a few of their fellow humans on whom they have little influence, have the capacity to end life on earth.

Various venerable and esteemed ologists have written very impressive and thick books on the psycho-societal effect of both those circumstances, and please forgive me if I know not with whom I quibble, but in my view, both these factors are ones that that first generation to know both take somewhat for granted, and I am not sure if this is something that can be helped.

I believe that their parents may tend to take electric lighting a bit for granted in the same sense, that unless one has known what it is like to live without it, unless one has conscious memory of going from having no concept of such a thing to having it appear before one as a thing wondrous and/or horrible and new (which adjective is most appropriately applied to television I will let you all fight out ;) ), without that experience, if instead one has never known life without it, much as children of today will never know what life without cell phones and internets was like, some degree of taking it for granted, and therefore quite innocently not making provision for it in one's speeches, is hardly something for which Ms. Reagon can be criticized, yet it is not something that can be discounted.

So, my point, or rather my question, how do we apply her wisdom to the current Situation?

7/21/2006 4:31 am  
Blogger Nanette said...

Hi Raging Hippie! You may certainly hang around AND torture metaphors, as far as I am concerned. I tend to do that myself, lol. You are very welcome and hopefully this can be a great coffehouse.

Ductape, everyone, I have lots to say - including about the talking stick blogging, which I actually think should be called thread pulling (based one someone's comment here I am too blind to find at the moment), but it will have to wait til tomorrow.

My poor eyes, sigh.

7/21/2006 6:36 am  
Anonymous Alice said...

Hi raging hippie, mind if I sit at your table and listen to the music?

Maybe we can dance together later on, hopefully it won't be any form of torture.

7/21/2006 1:58 pm  
Anonymous supersoling said...

I understand what you are saying. Time is short and wasting anymore of it, or putting off facing the hard questions for another day is a tactic that is dangerous in our present predicament. I know that this is a non national space but as a former child who studied the underneath of his desk many times while sirens wailed through the halls of his school I can tell you that not all of us have a sense of having time to waste. I've felt threatened from the outside for many years, that is until I began to explore deeper into the machinations of my own country of origin, the U.S. and found that while there is much that is good, there is also much more that is not good. That this place is more a danger to the rest of the world than any other is to it. And thus it is a danger to itself and it's hopes for surviving much longer into this new century.

How to reverse the fall? I don't know. I see good people giving monumental efforts all the time. And yet for all their efforts, nothing changes. There isn't even a slight pause or hiccup in the drive to destruction. You tell me. What is the answer beyond your call for all gunmen to be repatriated? They'll no more listen to you than they did to the three hundred thousand of us who said the same thing last September in Washington. To the U.S. media we didn't even exist. And what can one man do? What if I chose the most radical of solutions? Even if our present dear leader ceased to exist, there will be another and another to take his place. Not that I think resistance is futile, it's not. But like you, I believe the world will force a final solution for my country. And maybe that is all I can hope for. As an American, when that time comes, it will be decision time as to who I will give my allegiance. I can't tell you now, if I'm honest, what that decision will be. When the walls start crashing down and the liberators begin to overun the defenses, will I step aside and let them through without a fight? Or will that child who cowered under a desk so many years ago remember his training and indoctrination and stand up to the outsiders, the perpetual enemy? I don't know. I only know like you, that time is growing short, and that a decision will be forced upon me, whether I'm ready for it or not.

7/21/2006 2:25 pm  
Anonymous supersoling said...

Good morning Alice :o)
Thank you for your comments to me at BT. They caused me to take a step back and catch the lump that was rising in my throat :o)

7/21/2006 2:29 pm  
Anonymous scribe said...

Well, looks like I shall have to straddle two worlds from here on, as I am not yet ready to leave the pond, but I certainly cannot be without all of you, either! But first, a personal thing to share, so in case I am not as visible for periods for the next couple of months, you'll know why. Damned cartaracts, it is, that are making reading a real challenge and turning my writing into a mile high pile of typos. But a fuixable thing, thank goodness!

As for why I am not ready to leave the pond: i am enjoyng observing and engaging things there from the pespctive of human dynamis and cimmunication styles. This has been a lifelong faascinatiuon and field of self study for me. I am convinced that at a great deal of all conflict is can be boiled down to ineffective, or inaquate human communication styles. Right now I can't think of a better place to observe and engage with this, than BooTrib.

But I also see my own perspectives expanding every day to emcompass "all my relations" around the while globe, in which I see the US as but one country among many.More powerful and richer, certainly, but on the level of human beings, we are certainly not any more exceptional that ordinary people anywhere else.

I am a world citizen, as much as I am a citizen of this one country, and that is the window I am peering out of now. So I am very glad to see this be a "non national site..yet still not have to swing all the way over to being an "anti american" or "anti anyone" site.

I love the idea of a "pro-WORLD" place.

7/21/2006 4:25 pm  
Anonymous Raging Hippie said...

Alice, please pull up a chair. I got here early, so I think I have the best table in the room.

I'll try to find time later to elaborate on Ms. Reagon's speech (so much going on in there, it's as dizzying as the altitude she mentioned), but the line that I keep coming back to is one that super quoted: "Nationalism at another point becomes reactionary because it is totally inadequate for surviving in the world with many peoples."

We're well past that point and have been for some time.

We're living in a world in which the true ruling bodies--in the sense of having the greatest influence over how we live our lives--are multinational corporations that have the advantage of operating across those imaginary lines on the map (and often outside of the reach of any given nation's laws). We rely on these unaccountable, nebulous entities for jobs, goods and services, healthcare. And they owe their allegiance entirely to profit.

And so these amoral organizations founded on greed recognize no borders, while compassion can't even get a passport.

Wrapping one's personal identity in the flag of a particular nation is as dysfunctional as too-close identification with a sports team--it only leads to fighting over who gets the ball. The key difference is that there aren't any soccer teams with nuclear weapons.

One wonders why it is that corporations can organize and operate on a global level, while the idea of government unconstrained by artificial borders seems breathtakingly radical. But even if the thought of government without borders is too ambitious a construct for the moment, it's time to realize that treating the geographical location of one's birthplace as something as personal and fundamental to one's being as gender isn't just outdated--it's dangerous.

7/21/2006 5:20 pm  
Blogger NLinStPaul said...

Because I'm so appreciative of what dove and others are working on here, I wanted to wait to comment until I read the referenced article. But then, raging hippie, you go and say this:

And so these amoral organizations founded on greed recognize no borders, while compassion can't even get a passport.

And in one sentence, you captured all of the unfocused thoughts that were in my head. Its why sometimes, I have not felt a kinship with those on the left that are fighting so hard against globalization. While I do rage against what the global corporatists are doing around the world, my issue is more the exclusion of what you term as compassion from the global conversation.

And one more thing - apology accepted DTF, but certainly not needed. As you know and contrary to the "cult mythologists," we all speak where we will and what we will with no need for direction from anyone else.

Now, off to read the article...

7/21/2006 5:34 pm  
Blogger supersoling said...

I've tried but can't seem to change my username from Michael to supersoling. I did change my profile at my own blog but it won't change here. I know that you're as befuddled at some of this as I am, but maybe if we put our heads together we can solve it. If not, then i'll leave my name as Michael since it is a fine name afterall ;o)

7/21/2006 6:55 pm  
Blogger supersoling said...

Ooooookay, I guess it did work afterall :o)
Disregard what i just posted. Now on to the bigger problem of actually coming up with something coherant!

7/21/2006 6:57 pm  
Blogger Man Eegee said...

Very cool! I'm excited to see the transformation of the site. I've been lurking and doing alot of "yeah, that's how I feel too", but still feeling alittle gunshy on the topics of war. I'll work through it but suffice it to say that I'm glad to be here, there and everywhere. Peace, Pacem, Pax, Pace y Paz :)

7/21/2006 7:59 pm  
Blogger DuctapeFatwa said...

Thinking about "non-nationalism," a very interesting thing emerged from something Nanette wrote elsewhere: the difference in the way that some people of color in the US perceive their Americanism as opposed to the way some whites do.

Though I am not American, this reminded me of many offline conversations I have had over the years on this topic, Manito has touched on it a bit over at his place.

My perception is that many, I will even say most people of color born in the US, at least the ones I am and have been privileged to know and talk to, do seem to have a different view of American nationalism than mainstream whites. Now of course we all know of exceptions to this, there are white Americans right here who I will presume to say view themselves as human beings first and foremost, but those Americans who do see the US as the sole purveyor and source of their identity do seem to me to be mostly white folks.

I guess it is another one of those ironies, the "minorities" in the US seem to have more "real" identities, as Afro-Americans, Latin Americans, all these what the "wingnuts" like to call the hyphenated Americans never seem to understand that the hyphen, quite sensibly, separates the who from the where. The Afro-American is a person in whose veins runs the blood of Africa, who is now located, blood and all, in the US.

The US is not an ethnicity, it is not a race, it is a - well, everybody knows what I think it is, but lets say it is a political entity. There is a US culture, but it is the culture largely of the mainstream demographic.

This is not to say that "minorities" do not watch, and appear on American Idol, or buy the products advertised there, and if there is any genuinely American contribution to the world of the arts, aside from Native/Latin American arts and architecture, it would be the blues/jazz/soul/hip/hop genres which are largely emerged from the Afro-American cultural tradition. Just about everything else can be traced back to Europe!

Yet those mainstream Americans who have a legitimate European heritage tend not to claim it, or to claim it in what comes off as a superficial way, such as parades on a particular day, and even those, it is interesting to note, tend to involve Irish and Italian cultures, both of which have been at various times and places, oppressed and demonized groups, though not to the extent as have the people of color, and that, I think is bringing me to my possible point.

Or could I simply have saved my fingers typing all the above and let Mr. Langston Hughes say it:

"America never was America to me..."

7/21/2006 9:15 pm  
Blogger dove said...


You have said nothing here that requires any forgiveness at all on my part, so how can I forgive you?

I love 'threadstarters,' I think it's a great name. As soon as I (grumph Blogger!) figure out how to change it in the template I shall do so -- speaking of which
as a quick dry technical aside: has the email invite come through yet?)

7/21/2006 10:12 pm  
Blogger Nanette said...

Ductape, you don't owe me any sort of apology at all. Especially not for anything you've posted anywhere, or for anyone's reactions to it. Or, rather, their reactions to others as a result of a reaction to you or whatever the current excuse making is. People control their own actions, are responsible for their own words.

I don't at all regret writing that diary, or even some of the things said on it, mainly because of the emergence of that self identity thing. I was sooooo puzzled by all the people equating being American with being Black or Jewish or Muslim or a woman and so on. I don't know how I lived this long in this country without realizing that some view their national identity in those same inseparable terms. Well, religion is not inseparable but you know what I mean.

I find that fascinating, lol. Also there were some wonderful comments in there and points of view, and all that.

It's possible you are right too, Ductape, about the minority/American view. As I was telling Nancy in that diary, minorities in the US are born into a presumed group identity, and some often spend many years trying not to be identified as "all Black people" (or all anyone), which is probably why I can't imagine wanting to be identified as all Americans. Or something like that.

Anyway, lots of good stuff to talk about with that, and lots of other good stuff to talk about here, but my brain is only just now sort of catching up ;)

7/21/2006 10:45 pm  
Blogger DuctapeFatwa said...

dove, it hasn't come yet, I don't know why, I even emptied my "bulk mail" dish so it would not get lost under the barrage of spam dated 2038. (And thank you :) )

Nanette, I just wish that people would have talked more about that issue, I think it was a wonderful opportunity for some insight and exploring of different ways we participate in our own internal labelling or whatever.

I think dove may be (surprise surprise) ahead of her time, but still very accurate regarding that concept of worldism, earth residenthood, the term of your choice. Especially at this particular time, we can't know how it will shake out, but I do think that the traditional ideas of nationalism, borders, etc will have been made as obsolete by transportation advances as slide rules have been made by calculators!

7/21/2006 11:32 pm  
Blogger catnip said...

Just popping in quickly. First of, congrats on hosting a group blog with some very esteemed contibutors, dove. (Watch out for that DTF guy. I hear he's an old curmugdeon sometimes.) :)

super, I think, asked what one man can do. Gandhi was just a skinny little Indian kid playing in the streets at one time in his life.

Regarding moving beyond one's comfort zone to expose oneself to other opnions, Swords Crossed is the most current experimental blog project of that sort. No swearing. No personal attacks. I haven't been there lately, but it was a congenial place when I did visit. Free for alls without boundaries neither solve nor advance anything and there must be compromise present in any useful discussion of such important matters.

I haven't read the speech, but will later on. Thanks for letting me post here and best wishes to all.

7/21/2006 11:47 pm  
Blogger DuctapeFatwa said...

catnip is right. One never knows when I may just let rip with some blatant anti-capri pant rhetoric.

And I am especially grateful to feel welcome at so many fine and appropriate places.

Of course, my cup of gratitude will plumb overflow if dove figures out how to actually get the invitation to me. :D

7/22/2006 12:28 am  
Blogger catnip said...

Rant away about capris , but that shoe nonsense - well - that was simply beyond the pale! :)

(j/k high heels suck)

7/22/2006 12:31 am  
Blogger dove said...

dove is trying (and still trying to find words to post here) -- I take it the last attempt didn't reach you?

You're showing as having a pending invitation on blogger: I shall persist!

7/22/2006 12:37 am  
Blogger supersoling said...

Dove and DuctapeFatwa,
I just forwarded the invitation I got to Ductape. Hopefully he will get that one.......

7/22/2006 12:56 am  
Blogger DuctapeFatwa said...

No, I wish if it will not send me the mail, for whatever reason, that it would at least tell me on the dashboard that I have an invitation.

And don't worry about words, we all seem to be doing OK at coming up with a few here and there, which reminds me:

Nanette, I was not apologizing for anything I wrote, but for writing it on a site that I had no business writing anything on at all, and thus causing you, and other people very dear to me, to be impacted, due to the deadly combination of my presence and the Situation, and having to engage in a lot of extra swineward pearlcasting when you could have been elsewhere located and otherwise occupied.

But I stand firmly by my opposition to US policies domestic and foreign, past and present, natural and supernatural, Gog and Magog.

7/22/2006 1:00 am  
Blogger dove said...

On Time's winged charriot hurrying

Bernice Reagon spoke in 1981. I remember few things about that year but some of those few are indelible, even if from my vantage point a little like flashes of clarity in a thick fog. The Springbok Tour: barbed wire, police violence. Reagan, folksy, soft-spoken and so unmistakably red in tooth and claw. And the time: the clock hands set then at four minutes to midnight, ticking steadily away.

In short, did Reagon anticipate the current Situation? She was speaking to a particular time and place, yes, but one not devoid of related Situations, which also had their own unmistakable aura of desperation.

So then, what to make of these words:

"we think that the issue we have at this moment has to be addressed at this moment or we will die. it is not true..."

I think they go with these words, a bit like the two poles of a magnet.

"If coalition is so bad, and so terrible, and so uncomfortable, why is it necessary? That’s what you’re asking. Because the barred rooms will not be allowed to exist. They will all be wiped out. That is the plan that we now have in front of us"

Because what I hear there is, I think, the same kind of urgency to which supersoling and DTF both refer.

When I hear Reagon saying "this is not true", I'm reminded about Nancy said a couple of days ago (and I'm going to shamelessly paraphrase, generalise and take liberties with your words Nancy) that people have to be able to feed and clothe themselves, while trying to dismantle their 'it' whatever that may be, because otherwise their efforts will not sustainable because they won't be around to sustain them.

I think what Johnson is doing is inviting us to do is to settle in for a long haul and in particular, to think about what it might require to stay in that haul if we expect it to outlive us. (It will. But I don't mean in that sense of 'wait be patient, these things always take time'). And in these urgent times, what do we want to throw into the next century -- that century which none of us now writing will see. Or far more modestly, into the next half century that some of us, if not many may see. Or not. Some of those things might be really basic: that there be a next half-century, for example.

7/22/2006 11:53 am  
Blogger supersoling said...

Dove, and all,
As I was reading your take on Ms. Reagon's thoughts about coalition building I couldn't help but be reminded of the recent troubles and accusations of anti-Americanism that have gripped one particular American political blog. As a former member there I had found myself appreciative of the fact that there was a diverse group of mostly Americans there who had one goal in common, they're opposition to the current American leadership and it's head(case) leader, George Bush. Among those gathered there were Democrats, Greens (like me), some conservatives, anti-this war and anti-all war activists, present and former members of the American military, both G.I. and Commander,intellectuals and workers, foreign nationals, Atheists, Muslims, Christians, and Jews.Writers, politicians, war resistors and protestors and letter writers. Have I missed any? I'm sure I have. But my point is that a very diverse group of people had come together, or found each other, with one goal in common, the removal of the present leadership of the U.S. With a secondary goal as a result of that removal to have logically been the ending of the American occupation of Iraq.

But events there this past week have given a glimpse into the difficulty of not only building cohesive and lasting coalitions, but perhaps that those coalitions aren't effective in their results precisely because of their diversity. Maybe it's all a wishful illusion. Because it seems, at least to me, that the one key ingredient that is most needed, and obviously most lacking, is a compassion for the depths of the wounds that our collective govt. is inflicting on the peoples of those nations we have invaded or in our tacit approval and material backing of the invasions of other nations like Lebanon by our Zionist ally Israel. It's been demonstrated for all to see that when true introspection is called for and a true reckoning for crimes commited and supported by the U.S. is needed, that the American Nationalism and Militarism that lay in the hearts of most of those so called coalition members will rear it's ugly head and lash out at any and all who question Americas greatness and goodness. And all the parts of that coalition fracture and fall away from each other. What's worse and more revealing than that is that those former compatriots will then begin attacking one another, not only the one who had the nerve to point out a few simple truths to begin with but any who have the gall to agree with those simple truths. All the while the bombs continue falling and the flesh continues to be burned off of the children of Iraq and Lebanon. And therein lies the foulest example of American exceptionalism. That it's petty arguments among it's own so called modern and compassionate citizens are ultimately more important than the murders and rapes of a few dark skinned children, half a world away.

I'm sorry that this has little to do with the writings of Ms. Reagon, but this subject has been occupying space, too much space in my beautiful mind, as Barbara Bush once said when asked what she thought about the deaths of American soldiers. She is a proper poster child for the American psyche. It's possible that these coalitions are guilty of doing more harm than good by the ease with which they are distracted away from the tasks that they got together to carry out in the first place.

7/22/2006 1:04 pm  
Blogger dove said...

Non-national space, safe spaces and coalition space

I'm just wondering if I should say something about 'non-national space' or at least how I'm using it (which need not be how other people do) I don't mean, for example, that people shouldn't write about particular places, or for that matter think through things pertaining to patriotism/nationalism. And challenge them.

And of course people come and go with whatever identity they come and go with. How could things be otherwise: it's not as though one can just 'check' one's identity with one's coat at the door. And for that matter, it may be a different identity -- or it may be some other aspect of identity -- that one embodies tomorrow, next month, next year or however long (as Bernice Reagon said "Say if it was Mary when they came South, by the time they were finished it was Maria, right?"). But I don't think a non-national space should be somewhere where national identity -- and the idea of organising loyalties, beliefs about virtues, ideas of ownership and exclusion et al ad infinitum -- goes unquestioned if that makes sense.

I guess part of what I mean by 'this is non-national space' is that it's not national terrain: it's not the terrain of any one country.
(I can never remember the proper term. Oxymoron? Tautology? Or that all-purpose fail-safe vernacular "State the bloody obvious why don't you?). Which, in a world where national identity is one of the key mechanisms around for assigning and denying economic, social and political power in ways that are hugely entangled with race and empires past and present -- and where national identity is naturalised pretty much everywhere (usually in ways that align very neatly with race, empire and fear), that might take some work maintaining.


I think what you're saying is in a way why Bernice Reagon was speaking: I guess I take her to be speaking at least in part from that experience of dissolution and from thinking about what to do next.

I think there's something in there that's really relevant about not confusing safe spaces with coalitions -- which I think is something that happens very often. And that idea of coalitions being something that have more than one goal at a time -- have to in order to exist if nothing else, is also something that I take to be important from her writing.

I don't think that this can be a 'safe space' in the sense that Reagon writes about, simply from a practical perspective if nothing else. (Or a 'community' or a 'home' or the other things that are used as synonyms for 'safe space' -- and I agree there's a need for safe space, I'm just not sure that this can be it). If it's going to be an 'anything' (and I'm not sure it needs to be anything other than non-national terrain -- I think it possible that that's quite enough to be going with ;) ), I'd say it might be best to think of it as a coalition from the get go. Is that making any sense? If it isn't, it's because I don't know what I think about this yet fully: I keep on going back and forth.

I know there's been an abundance of meta lately, obviously here as well as elsewhere. Which is yet another thing I go back and forth about.

7/22/2006 3:24 pm  
Blogger supersoling said...

I understand, and hesitated before posting my comment about that one specific failed coalition. And it's content was specifically why I didn't post it as a subject but as a comment. It was just what came to mind after reading the other comments. I thought it made a connection for me. Safe space? I don't think there is such a thing out there, whether national or non national. Everyone's particular sense of events or opinions about causes and possible solutions will and should be challenged. Sometimes those challenges can seem and feel unsafe. To lose oneself in safe places is to remain locked in a barred room. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, and many opportunities wasted.

I will try harder to keep your wishes in mind when expressing things. Sometimes, well, most times, my mind is more alive when I first wake up in the morning and thoughts just tend to flow before I've had much time to think them over. Of that I'm guilty ;o)

I'll thank you again for inviting me here. It's a great honor I assure you :o)

7/22/2006 3:42 pm  
Blogger dove said...

I'm just glad and honoured that you agreed.

"I will try harder to keep your wishes in mind when expressing things."

Well my main wish is for you to write more. And that you won't be writing thinking 'what will dove think?' if that makes sense.

7/22/2006 6:12 pm  
Blogger Nanette said...

I am such a Bad Blogger that I think I've signed up to yet another place to not post much ;). I'm quite happy to do so, though! I love the cross pollenation of the diaspora blogs, and how each one is unique, yet connected, and sharing in some basic core beliefs.

I suppose that's how I think of coalitions as well, in a way.

Well, I'm still not too bright today, but I was thinking of the recent dustups in various communities (scribe, I also stick around or at least read for just that reason... seeing how community dynamics play out and all that). Now, where was I... oh, the recent dustups on the smaller scoop blogs, bootrib and mlw, and how each one of them (that I observed) had to do (it seems to me) with tweaks vs changes, urgency vs things take time, and questions of "Cassandra or kook?".

I think parts of the reactions were do to a feeling of helplessness, but also very real disagreement as to how far one should look down certain roads, and how much one believes should be, or even needs to be, changed.

I'm not really sure how to get past that, or where I'm going with this, so will come back to all of it later ;).

7/22/2006 7:39 pm  
Blogger catnip said...


Have you checked out the various accessibility gadgets available to make your online experience more palpable?

There are text to speech programs, spell checkers, larger font capabilities etc.

The blogosphere needs your voice. If you'd like some help locating some of these programs, let me know.

7/22/2006 7:51 pm  
Blogger Nanette said...

I also like ThreadStarters, but I have no idea how to change a blogger template either. I've never even seen one.

In an email I explained my thoughts on blogs, blogging and um... sort like talking sticks and Quaker meetings ;). I am reposting some of it below because it's easier than writing it all over again. I'd like to know thoughts on this from others as well.

I'm not really comfortable with most blog structures. Or rather, I am comfortable with a personal blog structure... one poster posting whatever strikes their fancy and however it strikes them to do so, whether they favor talking at, to, with (visitors) or of (a topic), it's all up to them and up to the visitor to either like it or not. And the scoop type blogs, which are rather like everyone talking at once, except that the voices of the 'front pagers' somehow are seen to carry more authority. So anyway, long story short (as if, lol) the problem I have with group blogs is sort of the combination of the two. Some, of course, are meant to be that way, with the posters carrying more authority, like with political blogs such as firedoglake, and people attempting to be leaders of sorts, and having 'guest bloggers' who are also consider leaders of sorts to give their leaderish pronouncements, or those who wish to become "players" in a venue.

As an antidote to something like that, I'd like to see more what I think of as "talking stick blogging" (but which I should probably call something else, as that is not my cultural term and I no doubt don't have a full understanding of the entire thing). But like if a commenter has a particular interest in an issue, or is exploring a certain theme or train of thought, invite them to post about it, or make it known that anyone can request to speak. Or something like that. Kinda like a Quaker meeting. Not as some sort of reward or promotion, but just in aid of furthering the conversation. I know I quite often have nothing to say, I just sort of riff off of what someone else is saying... so why not let them say it?

This is actually sort of the principle I operate on when posting on Manny's blog (although I should probably post more in order to give him a break!). But I think of it as a personal blog dealing with monumentally important issues (and cheesecake and Bud), and sometimes I have a little bit to say and then I say it. Well, a tour to do, too, of course.

Anyway, somewhat disconnected thoughts, but figured I'd put this out there.

7/22/2006 7:59 pm  
Blogger catnip said...

super wrote:

But events there this past week have given a glimpse into the difficulty of not only building cohesive and lasting coalitions, but perhaps that those coalitions aren't effective in their results precisely because of their diversity.

The thing that struck me immediately upon reading that is that it is not the matter of diversity which causes problems, imho. It's the absence of a skilled leader.

I have chaired various boards and committees consisting of some vary diverse opinions and people. What an effective leader does is to find the compromise acceptable to the majority while noting the importance of the dissent. It takes patience and open-mindedness and it's a difficult model to transfer to the blogopshere community structure where the need to find such a consensus is not seen as being the primary goal. Although, I do believe that when tensions arise in that atmosphere, there's definitely a place for the blog leader to step in and call for a ceasefire. Simply pleading for people to "understand" each other does not work when a few may be derailing the conversation with their own agendas. (I have to add that the rating system really is not helpful since it does not represent the will of the entire community. It would only do so if all involved participated in it. Notice how lost some people feel when they don't have the ability to assign someone a number in other settings where they then have to express their actual opinion. Can you imagine a congress where members held up numbers?) :)

That's the other point: it (the blog community model)is an ongoing conversation unlike the function of a committee that exists to find solutions and workable policies. So, while coalition building is one function of a blog which works in areas like realizing all opposed to Bushco can agree at least on that, the more philosophical discussions do, indeed, seem to be without end.

As for diversity, as I noted, respect for such ought to be the number one priority - especially in any group that claims to embrace principles of true democracy. As I wrote elsewhere, one of the most important 12 step program traditions reminds us to place "principles before personalities". It's all about focus.

So, I don't see the diversity as being the problem. It's the need for responsibility on behalf of the members (no matter what the setting) as well as the guidance of a leader whose function it is to remind people of that responsibility - as often as is necessary.

7/22/2006 8:25 pm  
Blogger catnip said...

Is that like offering position papers? (nerdy term, I know)

7/22/2006 8:28 pm  
Blogger NLinStPaul said...

I have read Reagon's speech and re-read all of the comments here. So many thoughts running around in my head that are pretty unfocused. But unlike some, they will not come into focus unless I try to write them, so here goes...

I have been very challenged by Nanette's comments about nationalism and identity. As well as by DTF's comments about the fact that European Americans approach this differently from other cultural groups in this country.

A few years ago I attended a three-day training on undoing racism that changed my perspective on this. We spent a good deal of time identifying our various cultures. This exercise left most European Amercians dumb-founded. We had never had to think about that before. So, the process of looking at what goes into our own identity is one on which we still have a lot of work to do.

Of course, this process will bring up a lot of things we don't want to think about. What psychologists have long called an "embrace of the shadow." I think of Arthur Miller's play "After the Fall." In it, the Jewish American protagonist asks his German female friend how she lives with herself after WWII. She tells him of a recurring dream she has where she births a grotesquely ugly child. She tries to run away from the child, but can't get away from it. Finally she realizes that she has to pick up the child and embrace herself.

I hear the language of trying to run away from the grotesque child in people who don't want to listen to voices they have labelled as "anti-american."

And on Reagon's words:

"we think that the issue we have at this moment has to be addressed at this moment or we will die. it is not true..."

I would say what we all already know, we will die. No way around it. Its just a matter of whether this current Situation is what will kill us.

While I will fight for my life as strongly as anyone else, in the esoteric conversation about the Situation, I don't think it is what motivates me.

I recently read a book by Suzette Haden Elgin titled "Earth-Song." Its actually the third in a trilogy of feminist science fiction. In it, a secret group of women discover that exposure to music ends hunger. They know that if they take this secret to the powers in charge, it will be destroyed or used to wield power rather than "feed" people. So they recognize first of all that it will take generations to end hunger and those that discovered this will not live to see the day. But they begin to train music teachers to go all over the galaxy and by the time they are discovered by the powerful, its too late - no more hunger. Powerful stuff!

7/22/2006 8:43 pm  
Blogger Nanette said...

catnip, no. At least, I don't think so.

Take this conversation here... Bernice Reagon's speech contains lots of stuff and everyone, depending on where they are in their thinking, and what is affecting them at the moment (or just their interests) is picking out this part or that part to highlight.

It may be too big a thing to discuss in one post and in one comment thread so, with thread starter/thread puller blogging, it would be my suggestion that it would be more desirous (and make for better conversation) that whoever wanted to delve deeper into a particular portion of the speech that they feel they may have a particular understanding of, or just wanted to explore more, would write up what they see and think, it somehow gets posted on the blog (I think the hows of that is still being considered) and we discuss that.

Just as an example.

7/22/2006 9:39 pm  
Blogger NLinStPaul said...

I have another thought rolling around. I tend to have more time for this on the weekends, so I'm going to take advantage of that.

Dove, I can see how you would not want to see this place as a "home." But it began a question for me about what would be a home for me.

If you take it to a logical conclusion, the only home I have is myself - since its the only place there is a possibility for sameness or agreement (although even that is a bit of a stretch at times).

So now I'm thinking about a continuum of "hominess" and "coalitioness." And what happens along that continuum.

7/22/2006 10:50 pm  
Blogger catnip said...

Got it. Thanks, Nanette.

7/22/2006 11:14 pm  
Blogger Nanette said...

Nancy, I think it will be very interesting to further discuss and delve into this identity thing, for a number of reasons.

One thing I think I noticed in the conversation in that diary was the difficulty some had in not only not being able to think of separating their American identity, but comparing it to other national identities.

I am not sure that what I think I saw was there, but it seemed that the self contained and insular circle of "my race, my religion, my gender and my nationality" allowed little or no room for anyone else's. And might actually be one key to understanding, in some small way, the ... not inability, but difficulty some have in granting humanity and "just like us"ness to people of other places and cultures.

If that makes any sense... it just seems that as long as all that is contained in one circle, where anything compared is compared to things that rotate around me, that leaves little room for other comparisons.

Or something like that... I think I may need to think on this a bit more, lol. Unless someone knows what I am talking about?

7/22/2006 11:31 pm  
Blogger Nanette said...

I don't know, by the way, if this is a common phenomenom in other countries. Heck, I didn't even know it was one in the US... at least not quite in this manifestation.

7/22/2006 11:32 pm  
Blogger NLinStPaul said...

Nanette, I think I'm a little confused as I try to think about this. Maybe its because I'm assigning a different meaning to the word "identity" than you are.

As I see it, my sense of place is a part of my identity - as is my race. Its all of the various genetics and experiences that go into making me - me.

And then, maybe its the word "nationality." I guess when I think about this, I don't really know what it means. Is it our form of government, our history, our location on the globe?

So, I was raised in the US as a white, heterosexual female. But I was also raised mostly in the south in a family of right-wing christian fundamentalists. I guess I get what you mean about some of those things being genetic and therefore unalterable. And I have looked at least some at what it means to have been raised in the US, and more at what it means to have been raised in a southern right-wing christian fundamentalist family. And I have distanced myself from those things to the best of my ability to date, but they are still BIG parts of my identity.

I hope that I can think about what its like to be black in this country and also what its like to be a woman in Afganistan. And I hope that I will always be able to transend myself enough to understand their experiences to the best of my ability. But I'll always have fundamental differences from a black person or an Afghani woman.

So, the question for me is how do we get to the point where we can learn from and understand the world from another's point of view. I think that has something to do with making peace with our own identity.

Total ramblings...I was pretty moved by your thoughts about nationalism not being part of your identity, and want to learn more.

7/23/2006 1:02 am  
Blogger Nanette said...

Well, I'm pretty confused as to what I mean too, especially since all this is just occurring to me. And yes, you may be assigning a different meaning to identity too.

I'm still confused, because it seems to me that, when comparing an insult to a nationality, the first thing one would do is not compare it to another part of yourself, but to a different nationality.

And it still puzzles me that the first instinct was to say "well what if this was said about blacks? about jews? about catholics?", instead of "what if this was said about the french? about the british? about canadians?" To my mind, it completely changes the question.

So, one question is... when one is talking as an american that identifies with their nationality to that extent, is there anyone else who can compare? and if someone says "the french all eat sauteed babies for sunday dinner" is the first instinct of the um... national identity identified american to then ask "well what if they said that about americans?" or is it to ask "well what if they said that about blacks/catholics/women/men?"

If it's the former, I would say that that (to me) indicates a sort of "all things are seen in comparison to americans" type thing, in that internally (in the US) being american compares to other factors of americans (race, gender, religion, etc) and that externally the comparisons (in some minds) also are all compared to americans, the overall "american" that is, apparently, at the top of all the other stuff in the identity layers.

Heh, confused myself again, I think.

Anyway, I do understand the cultural identities of place and religion and so on. It's not that I see myself as not american, due to place and culture (although in that I probably see myself more as californian ;), and it's not that if I left the US I would leave all that behind... it IS a part of my identity, but only by accident of birth. I guess.

I was thinking also probably about the differences in viewing things like the 4th of July, which is (in my experience) not a big "patriotic" day for many black people... picnics and bbq's and parties and fireworks and stuff, but not flags and rah rah (a generalization, of course, because I'm sure there are some black people who are very rah rah).

Anyway, I've never owned a US flag, lol.

7/23/2006 2:02 am  
Blogger NLinStPaul said...

I think for most European Americans, being "american" is near the top of all the layers of identity. And my guess about why is that, as DTF had indicated earlier, most European Americans have never explored any other cultural identification - never had to.

And I just had a wild thought - maybe most European Americans consider the US our "home" whereas most people of other races in this country know that, at best, its a "coalition".

7/23/2006 3:17 am  
Blogger catnip said...

Just a thought: wouldn't it be nice if we could discuss issues online in total anonymity ie. not self-identifying by race, nationality, gender etc? Then we wouldn't have people thinking the fact that they say, for example, 'I'm an American' adds any weight to their particular opinion. Self-identity would be muted and people would be forced to rely on actual arguments to make their case because, for some, when it becomes emotional and personal (in the realm of 'how dare you insult ME?) all perspective seems to fly out the window.

7/23/2006 5:30 am  
Blogger catnip said...


Then again you run into a situation like that of DTF where people who don't self-identity leave other people to guess and then base their attacks on those guesses, which is absolutely asinine. But I suppose that reflects the need by some who are so personally attached to their identities that they just can't deal with someone else's anonymity. I hope that made sense. In some cases, it' just a no-win situation but that's where an effective leader or moderator could step in to get things back on track.

I'm rambling...and I'm probably off-topic. Sorry.

7/23/2006 5:39 am  
Anonymous Raging Hippie said...

The whole hyperreaction to a perceived insult to "American-ness" also makes me wonder about negative reactions to "political correctness." That is, perhaps some of the people who object to "too much PC" don't really understand why insults and slurs directed at minorities and women are not just your average offensive comment.

This goes along with what Nanette wrote--why was a perceived anti-American comment so quickly equated with racism and sexism? Isn't it obvious that insulting or stereotyping a person on the basis of minority status (or female gender) helps maintain an unequal power structure and therefore has a harmful effect that goes well beyond hurt feelings?

One aspect of my identity is that I was born during the Baby Boom. If someone writes that Baby Boomers are the most selfish humans yet born and that the world will be better when they've all died off, I may bristle at the insult. But it wouldn't occur to me to equate "anti-Boomerism" with racism or sexism, because Boomers are hardly, as a group, a traditional target of discrimination.

Perhaps those who would equate "anti-Americanism" with racism or sexism do so because, in some perverse way, they perceive a threat to their sense of superiority to be the functional equivalent of discrimination against minority groups and women. In that way, the reaction is very similar to that of dominionist Christians who insist they are being discriminated against if they are prevented from discriminating against others, and who seem incapable of grasping the irony.

If you're supposed to be superior, then someone who suggests that you're no better than anyone else poses a threat to the natural order of things. Maybe that explains some of the disproportionate outrage.

7/23/2006 6:01 am  
Blogger Nanette said...

And I just had a wild thought - maybe most European Americans consider the US our "home" whereas most people of other races in this country know that, at best, its a "coalition".

Nancy, I think you are on to something, with your wild thought! Will have to explore that further.

catnip, there is no such thing as "off topic" here... the subtitle of the blog should be "digressions" lol.

Then again you run into a situation like that of DTF where people who don't self-identity leave other people to guess and then base their attacks on those guesses,

It's never mattered much to me where Ductape is from (although I have seen that it matters to others, for some reason).

I consider Ductape (well, besides being an honored honorary ancestor and a wonderful wordsmith)a proxy for the voiceless - often voices that I wouldn't necessarily hear even if spoken (especially in the US media), and a reminder and a personalization of people I don't see everyday, except maybe sometimes in a picture. He could be from any country where the powerful are oppressing the weak, or where babies are being bombed and killed, or where there is this or that injustice. I hear all of them in his voice, in turn.

Not always a comforting voice, mind you, or one that is well received... actually, it's one that some people have wished would just GO AWAY since time began. Gilroy and Lil (stark, mlac, whatever) at my left wing were the same thing... the inconvenient and unacceptable voices of the forgotten, the marginalized, the oppressed, and most of all, the hidden.

"Ain't I a woman?" that's what this sort of reminds me of... some people are hidden in plain sight, but are so far on the margins that some can't (or won't) see them.

I find it funny, but so familiar, those that were saying (in essence) "we love you when you speak pretty words to us, when you tell us amusing and gentle stories, and take us to your neighborhood and make us feel good... why don't you write about that and leave this icky stuff alone. We don't need to know."

Ah, well. (sorry to appear to speak of you as if you weren't here, Ductape, lol).

7/23/2006 6:22 am  
Blogger Nanette said...

raging hippie:

If you're supposed to be superior, then someone who suggests that you're no better than anyone else poses a threat to the natural order of things. Maybe that explains some of the disproportionate outrage.

I think that is definitely part of it, even if not a conscious part. It's also a necessary component of nationalism, no? Especially the sort of American nationalism we are indoctrinated with since birth. We are a mess!

I wonder if other countries are like this too, to any extent?

7/23/2006 6:31 am  
Blogger dove said...

Second that, Nanette - I'd love to see you write about 'hominess' and coalition Nancy.

Regarding the issue of self-identification catnip (off-topic? what's that? ;)) -- just really briefly. I think people need to be free to self-identify or not as they choose and need to be free to do so about what they choose.

I don't think the political and the personal are easily separated (nor would I want to separate them). I think too, that in the absence of people being able to self-identify as they will, what's likely to happen is not equality per se, but rather a situation in which the perspectives and modes of being political favoured by whatever the dominant grouping is along any of those particular axes of identity would be further reinforced, rather than challenged.

Hmm. I guess what I'm trying to say is that in addition to argument, I think politics is about experience, the interpretation of experience and how both do (or do not) shape how one sees the world and what kinds of things one takes as axiomatic in argument.

7/23/2006 7:29 am  
Blogger DuctapeFatwa said...

Nanette, you go right on ahead! And I have actually told a lot about myself, that I am a man, that I am very old, not American, that I have been most fortunate in love, that I have the honor of many descendants, when last November I was diagnosed with diabetes complicated by peripheral neuropathy, I shared that with the internets, and have continued to share the minutiae of my struggles and triumphs with the disease ad nauseam. I posted very detailed vignettes of my family life on the occasion of the spring campaign to educate people about human rights. I have really kept private only information that could prove to be imprudent to make public. It is the nature of humans, I think to wish to share ourselves with people we have come to feel affection for - and there are few old folks who will not gladly tell you more than you ever wanted to know about our aches and pains!

catnip, you have described what I had thought, what I had hoped, the internets would be: a venue where for the first time in human history, not only could any human being talk in real time to any other human being anywhere on earth, as long as both had a modem and a common language, communicate to each other as pure entities of intelligence - this, I thought, as the racist genius DW Griffith thought movies would be, the universal language in the Biblical prophecies!

Yet to my continuing dismay, this wonderful and unprecedented gift, this vehicle for peace more powerful, if deployed, than even all America's WMD's potential for death - for more than a decade of watching earth's people receive this gift, what are the words most often heard?


Age, sex, location. These labels, these breeding grounds of preconception, misconception, prejudices conscious and un - the very things I had hoped the internets would "empower" us, at last, to escape.

Obviously, not L, and even that carries with it all sorts of assumptions, beginning with the one that if someone is in France, that they are "French" in the sense of either having been born in France, or at the very least having relatives in France, or ancestors who were French, but it was so much more than we have ever had before, just getting rid of any of that, because none of us can deny or avoid that assuming we are all physically in one room, the same words spoken by a precocious eight year old Japanese girl, an overweight Afro-American single mom in her fifth year on the waiting list for an apartment in the projects, a Yemeni veteran of multiple wars, well into his second century, a young white man who is president of his Alabama college fraternity, a middle aged lady politician from Finland, a young artist from Occupied Kashmir, a rather alarmingly thin young scientist from Occupied Jerusalem -

The same thought, in identical words, might be expressed by each of these people, but if we can see them, if this basic ASL - and I know I have included some other basic information about some, the kind of thing that might be either evident on sight of the person, or from the most basic kind of conversation likely to be had with people we can see, the kind of thing that has been replaced by questions about whether the person has a webcam or a pic, or even what kind of computer they are using, our interpretations of that same thought, those same words, will be different according to the speaker.

Because we ALL have certain preconceived notions, the difference between us is how well we recognize and struggle to overcome them - but we will all wonder despite ourselves, where the eight year old came up with the thought, whatever it is, did she read it somewhere? Is she repeating what she heard an adult say? Did someone tell her to say it? And the politician - is she really saying what she thinks, or what she thinks will sound impressive to her constituents? And on and on.

But that pure communication of unadorned intellectual essences has been neither sought nor desired, for the most part it sits like an unwanted gift, its bow still intact, as the casual passer-through of the "chat rooms" will soon note, on the contrary, the more common behavior observed will be people, whether they are typing on computers located in Ithaca or Islamabad, will be to enter the chat room and immediately inquire who there is typing on a computer located in that same place, and it is that person with whom they will wish to communicate, and the subjects they will discuss will be the things each can see from his own window, while that unprecedented window on the world of thought still sits on the gift table, forlorn, its jaunty bow belies the sadness it now represents...

7/23/2006 9:18 am  
Blogger dove said...

It's a catch-22 I think. Or a catch 23. 24 even?

In person, say something and yes, all kind of extraneous motives, suppositions and assumptions will be assigned to one's words on the basis of perceived identity, whether implicit or explicit. "He's just saying that because he's 'x'" or "He's saying that, he can't be a real x," "She was told to say that" etc.

And the same happens when one discloses aspects of identity in writing (or indeed through any form of cultural production, witness the need for the Guerilla Girls )

Don't disclose and an identity that seems to fit the words can easily be imputed and one's words / productions legitimised or delegitimised on that basis.

So that's the catch 22.
Here's the catch 23.

"But that pure communication of unadorned intellectual essences has been neither sought nor desired, for the most part it sits like an unwanted gift . . ."

DTF, I remember reading what you wrote over at Manito's about coming to know and have deep affection for people through their writing -- and an affection that is unclouded by whether their desks are tidy, or whether they wear sandals with socks that come up to their knees in the middle of summer and similar such trivia. And you know I agree with that -- that that happens -- at least I hope you do. (I think that in the end that is also true offline -- one ends up looking through the foibles as it were).

But here's what I wonder about that gift of pure anonymous thought, sitting as it does on a table in our rather sad a/s/l world. If we open it, and try to move there without equivocation (without the kind of imperfect back and forthness of 'disclose if you want to / don't if you don't want to / some hybrid of the two (which is I think what in practice most of us do))-- would one find equality in that space? Or instead would one find that it had mysteriously inherited the starting conditions present in the world at the point the box was opened?

I fear the latter.

And I think that as things stand, those starting conditions would privilege particular kinds of argument and particular kinds of evidence in ways that lent themselves to reproducing inequalities rather than ending them. (Obviously, some ways would be appropriate, "My zebra eats flamingos, therefore wearing top hats is immoral" is clearly not an argument of any kind).

I guess it's evidence more than argument that I worry about: if one moves away from experience and the effort to make sense of that experience as a source of evidence, where does one go? To written sources, to 'objective' evidence. Which is fine, but does raise the question 'in whose hands have the pens mostly been?'

I'm not trying to make some kind of essentialist argument here -- leastwise I don't think I am. I certainly hope not. I think people can have radically different experiences, in life and yet interpret them in such ways as to come to the same or similar conclusions -- that interpretation bit matters hugely, so far as I'm concerned. And obviously, one's experiences include things like reading books or watching television. And nor am I saying that experience and its interpretation is the only source of evidence that should matter, or that it should be the main source -- or that it is always even relevant at all as a source of evidence. But I don't think it is never relevant either.

7/23/2006 9:57 pm  
Blogger DuctapeFatwa said...

Oh I think you are absolutely correct, that we are doomed to "inherit" those preconceptions, whatever we reveal or whatever we do not, and even from our opinions sometimes.

For example, to use a very topical one, if anybody, a completely unknown quantity, walks into any western, especially American-based venue of cyber-communication and says "Lebanon has a right to defend itself," you can bet your booty that the majority of those who see those words will instantly form such a rock-hard preconception, that any and everything else you say will be colored, indeed, defined, and viewed in the context of you having expressed such an un-heard of, unthinkable view!

And it is precisely because of such human nature-based liabilities, or communication defects, or whatever you would like to call them, and I am sure you can think of something superb :) that I bemoan the rejection of that gift of possibility, that opportunity for advancement, as it were, to become, in a small way, maybe, but maybe in a pretty large one, better human beings, therefore catapulting, or OK, maybe nudging slightly, the species toward the wonderful world of improvement, dare I use the "E" word? Evolution.

So, in my old fashioned and cockamamie way, I had hoped that the internets might be a tool for evolution of the species. There. I said it, and people can point and laugh, and pooh pooh and write long monographs with elaborate arguments that purport to demonstrate that the internets could not either ever be such a thing, but they will be wrong. It could have been, and maybe it still could be...or maybe evolution would have to come first, and I am making chickeneggers out of us all, including me! :D

7/23/2006 10:13 pm  
Blogger dove said...

Re. western/American cyber spaces
Yes. And when turned around: apples and oranges. Not even that. Bananas and octopi. Cats and meteorites.

I don't want to advocate rejecting that gift (or laugh and pooh pooh, though I admit that brevity is eluding me lately, so I'm not quite sure what to say about the lengthy monographs except that I hope that would not be their subject).

I want to say something more like, it might be fragile: handle with care and only after having -- I don't know -- having cleared some of the other stuff off the table put a cloth down so that none of the little bits get lost if there turn out to be lots of little bits or something. (those poor metaphors!)

What I wonder about is what happens if we do try to move there with equivocation, rather than without it. And without the intent of a/s/l. Does that give us a bit more wiggle room?

To which, I think the answer is 'maybe' (if it isn't moot by this point). And 'perhaps.'

One could say, 'but isn't that what's been happening already? Look how badly it worked out. A/S/L. And yes, that's true. But.

(I'm not sure what comes after that 'but.' It's just a contrarian, 'I'm going to resist that conclusion even though I'm not quite sure how to do so yet 'but.' Consider it a promissory note)

I think I see that revelation as double-edged: one can use it but it can and will be used against one. (And sometimes, for all sorts of reasons, prudence being among them, one cannot use it, even when one might wish too) So it has, I think, to be decided on a case-by-case basis -- in terms of what to disclose or not, I mean, or perhaps more appropriately, when to say "I know this happens because it happened to me and this is what I think it meant" or any of many variants of this, more or less immediate, more or less direct.

7/23/2006 11:44 pm  
Blogger DuctapeFatwa said...

Exactly. I am so glad you brought up that aspect. Any of us can say, you should listen to me because this or that has happened to me, because I have this or that alphabet soup after my name, because I have studied, worked, fought, won, lost, been there done that, bought the shirt, it shrunk, and unless we are prepared to post our real name and links to various documentation of our various claims, thus putting before not only those with whom we are conversing, those people that we "know," but the entire world, which of necessity will include a certain statistically certain number of troubled individuals, as well as individuals who for whatever reason, might wish to do harm to us or our loved ones, we are quite naturally subject to people who say I don't believe you are really X who has been to Y and done Z, and if it is those sorts of backing or justification we seek for our arguments, we must either pony up our offline identities in full, or be reduced to well I don't care what you think, I am so an X who went to Y and did Z, and I did it lots.

If what we seek is to persuade with our arguments that this or that is so, and thus and so is not, is it not preferable if we rely on the coherence and essential quality of our arguments alone, without leaning on the crutch of well hey I'll have you know that I am blah blah blah?

For that crutch is not a very reliable one, and in the current Situation it is a downright hazard, cracked through with the peril of offering offline access to one's family members to - absolutely anybody with a modem!

To sum up, you are damned if you do, and damned if you don't, and that is also a kind of liberation...

7/24/2006 12:16 am  
Blogger Nanette said...

Gah! I just wrote a long comment and blogger lost it. In future times, I'm convinced "blogger" will be a curse word.

Anyway, the gist of it was... I used to think that being sort of a blank canvas... a mind only, online was something to be aspired to. I no longer do.

I'll see if I can put together the whys of that again, lol. Off blogger screen, though.

7/24/2006 12:46 am  
Blogger Nanette said...

I should say that in some cases I don't think it's a good idea.

Anyway, I used to think, when I first got online, that having just a "meeting of the minds" online was almost the epitome of how the world was supposed to be... just like (or at least, compatible in disagreement) minds meeting and speaking together to bring about a better, more fair world. Or something like that. Now, though, I tend to think that this sort of faceless, raceless, everything except for minds-less meetings mainly is something that works to the advantage and comfort of the majority online culture.

Even though it may not seem so sometimes, being "black" is not a big part of my identity. To me, it's almost the same as being American, or living in California, or having brown eyes. It's just something that is. To me, I'm just me. So, in online conversations about odd philosophical questions, or human rights or saving the world or cooking or whatever the conversation was, even if it carried on over days or weeks, if I mentioned that I was black, it was usually just an offhand part of the conversation. To me, that is.

Boy! Some of the reactions I got... one person, who I'd spent hours in conversation with about the state of the world and politics and where humanity took the wrong turn and all sorts of things immediately started talking about some sort of jam, and bling and could I dance? This sort of thing went on for a couple of days (until I said bye bye). It just amazed me how in the space of a moment I could go from being Nanette to being a generic Black Person. And that was one of the least offensive reactions. Mind you, with other people there wasn't even a blip, things just rolled along as they had been.

Now, I just tell everyone, get that out of the way right away and people can just deal however they want. I came to a sort of conclusion that being a blank slate was in some ways to my disadvantage and to the advantage of people who do not feel a need or a desire to accept others (in any of the meanings of that word) as actual interlocutors or actual people. So, while I don't think that knowing a persons name, or their country or their school history or anything like that is necessary to judge the worth of their words, those should stand or fall on their own, I do think that it's important to show who is speaking the words, if not exactly who is speaking the words. Um... sort of.

On many blogs, though, I am visibly black as a sort of public service, is how I think of it. I was pretty appalled to realize, when first reading many major (and not so major) liberal blogs that many of the users/blog owners did not actually even know anyone who was non white, for whatever reasons. I mean as friends and people in their homes for dinner and such, not waving across at a co-worker.

And um... I think I've lost my train of thought, but anyway, I figured I'd just throw this in as one aspect of the matter.

7/24/2006 1:30 am  
Blogger DuctapeFatwa said...

Nanette, I can "so totally" as the young folks say, relate to the notion of being a person of color, a Muslim, an old person even, as a sort of "public service," as it is a trap I have willingly stepped into on more than one occasion, and in my case, anyway, I have justified the folly of it with the idea that "well if they just had the chance to know one" - well then what? Would they be more amenable to knowing some more? Step out of the ethnic and economic de facto social segregation that is pandemic, and not only in the US!

Did I think that they would change their attitudes, opinions, beliefs? Suddenly see as humans people whom they previously had not, and thus change their minds about spending a dollar to kill someone else's child instead of a dime to care for their own?

On some level, yes, I think if I am to be honest, as we are all being, I will have to admit that I did indeed think those things.

And the cartoon incident was very helpful to me in educating me, moving me along in my own process, disabusing me of those notions.

Although I remain convinced that "getting to know one" is the most effective tool against anti-Otherism, I now understand that this is probably better employed as an offfline tool, and requires more open-ness on the part of the person who will "get to know one" than I had counted on.

And especially from you I have learned that the online public service of that type is best left to those who are more saintly than myself.

"I think I hear a little radicalism in your tone," one of them said to me once, in response to some rather innocuous reference I made to the effect that US is not the owner of earth.

"You bet," I was tempted to answer her. "And my tone is about to get a whole lot of radicalism in it, Missy, so hold on to your hat!"

Of course I didn't. If I recall correctly, that particular person, perhaps due to rage, was saying things that made no sense, so I ceased replying to her.

One tires of public service sometimes, at least this "one" does, calmly and patiently repeating the same things over and over again, filtered down into simplest terms, endlessly striving for better accessibility, the aptest cultural references, frequently expressing myself as if trying to explain the alphabet to a toddler, I do not have the temperament for it, nor am I convinced that it is effective.

7/24/2006 1:19 pm  
Blogger DuctapeFatwa said...

That last should read "that TYPE" of public service. I do not mean that I will become an Ebenezer Scrooge! :D

7/24/2006 5:04 pm  
Blogger Nanette said...

lol Ductape, I was thinking the other day of the various survival strategies historically employed by minority factions in the US (and probably elsewhere as well, regardless of which group is in the power minority).

As a factor of my general temperament, and also cross cultural upbringing, I've been a code talker/bridge builder/deflector from way back. An "acceptable other", so to speak, although as I get older, I become less and less patient, in a sort of "shouldn't we be over with all this by now?" type of way. Growing up under the branches of the spreading civil rights movement, I had high hopes that it would become a lost and completely unneeded function ('til I realized that some were assiduously working to chop down the tree).

It seems as if things are getting worse instead of better though, even though the generations raised after me often see no need at all for code talking (and I think that is a very healthy thing)- much more like Lil and Gilroy (who never had a need to learn it) than like me, or even you. Still, I don't know what to do. We'll not get where we need to go without all of us pulling together, but we can't do that if folks can't talk to each other, and most importantly, listen to each other.

7/24/2006 5:20 pm  
Blogger DuctapeFatwa said...

Nanette, your remark about the younger folks made me think of a piece I read the other day, that referred to a phenomenon I have often mentioned, one of the changes that has taken place over the decades, and one that I think is particularly disturbing to many white people.

While this particular writer, Khalid Amayreh, was talking about the Middle East, I think some of his points are very relevant to "minorities" in the US.

For decades, Israel confronted faint-hearted and easily-intimidated Arabs who more or less succumbed to Israel’s perceived military invincibility.

Some of these Arabs, like the Jordanian and Egyptian regimes, for example, had come to the conclusion that there was no point in challenging Israel militarily or even putting up any active resistance to its recurrent acts of war and aggression against Arabs and Muslims in the Middle East...

Fortunately, the Arab masses, or growing segments thereof, especially among the younger generations, are viewing with utter contempt their respective governments’ impotence vis-à-vis Israel, as evidenced in Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq.

Indeed, there are millions of young Arabs and Muslims throughout the Middle East who are saying “enough is enough” and are unwilling, defiantly and determinedly, to accept defeat....

In short, Israel is encountering a new breed of Arabs who won’t be deterred or intimidated, even by death...

I think that we can see the same thing happening in the US, as affluent whites are now confronted with the reality of a new breed of "minority," not only less likely to be the subservient other their grandparents may remember from apartheid days, but like the kids you mention, less and less interested in even trying to be code talkers, build bridges, put everything in these simple, gentle words.

Enough is enough, and white people have the same access to literature, to music, to the people themselves, if they are interested in learning to understand the cultures, what is stopping them? If they are not, why should we spend so much of our own energy trying to be "accessible" and "acceptable" to them?

While I can appreciate and honor the efforts that you, and others have made, a long time has passed, and I can also understand the point of view of the young folks. And truth be told, their view has always been closer to my own, to put it mildly. While there are certainly elements of western culture that I thoroughly enjoy, there are also elements of just about every culture that I thoroughly enjoy, and my cafeteria diner-style approach to culture in general has served me well. :)

I remember during the recent "election campaign" media events in the US, hearing white people express surprise that Al Sharpton is intelligent. Good Lord, it is not like the man appeared on the scene yesterday! These are politically active people, they have had decades to notice that Al Sharpton is intelligent! And accept that there are some Afro-Americans who are intelligent even though they do not try to talk like white people, or walk or dress like white people, and otherwise make themselves into "acceptable others!"

This is nothing but a variation on that "why can't they all be like that nice Abdullah?" crap.

And please understand, I am NOT comparing people who have made great personal sacrifices to try to build bridges and be code talkers with Abdullah the Hashemite!

I am comparing the reaction of those white people who have effectively spurned the bridge builders, only walking on it so far as someone is holding their hand and code talking to them, never evidencing even the same spirit of independence as a small child who demands that his training wheels be taken off!

The de facto social apartheid will end, just like its legalized ancestor did. All these people have to live together in one country, unless US plans to divide itself into Balkan-like statelets, then they had better all become "acceptable others" to each other!

A few weeks ago, I had occasion to visit a high school in a large southern city. It was lunch time, and I was horrified to see that the students had divided themselves into ethnic and racial groups at the tables. One table held only students from the Far East, another table was occupied by South Asians. Afro-Americans had their table, the Latin American contingent was large, they had to have two tables. The white students had their table, and so on. There was only one table where all the groups sat together. That table, I was told, were the "computer nerds." Well good for computers then!

That sight bothered me a great deal, this is not something that can be blamed on whites. There are no white people telling the Latin Americans and Far Easterners that they must sit at separate tables.

So while I applaud the young folks who refuse to cleave to the behaviors of the past, at the same time, I don't think that saying, OK so we will just wrap ourselves up here in our little insular group is the answer. And for a country with a diverse population like the US, it is a recipe for disaster!

7/24/2006 7:46 pm  
Blogger catnip said...

Enough is enough, and white people have the same access to literature, to music, to the people themselves, if they are interested in learning to understand the cultures, what is stopping them? If they are not, why should we spend so much of our own energy trying to be "accessible" and "acceptable" to them?

Reminds me of Stephen Colbert's Alan, his token "black friend" (who he has since dumped after finding out that he attended an antiwar protest). That's all fictional, of course, but it certainly demonstrates the point, doesn't it?

In terms of access to people of different stripes, I was pondering that today after reading an editorial by Gideon Levy in Ha'aretz who spoke out against Israel's use of force. (I googled him and found that he's been a vocal critic of his homeland for many years). It's funny, I thought, that one could point at him and conclude 'See? There's at least one Israeli who doesn't agree with what Israel's done' - as if Israelis are a monolithic group with the same opinions on everything. Yet, that's a tendency some people have and it certainly relates to the 'good American/bad American' screeds we've all witnessed.

Some so feel the need to generalize because the individuality factor has been lost. So, perhaps the need to have a 'black friend' is an effort (by some) to build a bridge to conquer those stereotypes - to get beyond the generalizations to some point of understanding. For others, it's just a faux show of warped solidarity.

And, I'd remind you, that the same goes for us white folks. We need to make ourselves accessible so that people who aren't white have the chance to understand that we're not monolithic either. Further, even though I identify as a "liberal" or a "woman", that does not stop me from criticizing the actions of others who are too etc.

I've lost my choo choo train of thought...

I did admit that those who chose not to self-identify would still run into problems online for the simple fact that they made that choice, because so many must find some way to denigrate the person rather than argue about their positions on issues. So, even in anonymity, there is no bliss.

(nanette: Blogger is often bloggered. Make sure you copy & save your post before you hit preview or enter.)

7/24/2006 10:00 pm  
Blogger DuctapeFatwa said...

catnip, there are Israelis who "disagree with their homeland" to a much greater degree than Gideon Levy, who has written some very good pieces, I am glad you discovered him :)

The Gandaheads like to talk about all the things US and Israel share. Well one thing that they share is that there are some very fine folks in Israel and the US who disagree with their homeland considerably, there are Israelis who risk their lives daily committing acts of terror like trying to smuggle penicillin into Gaza, for example, or taking Palestinian children to the doctor, and saying they are their own, all kinds of brave, courageous things.

The problem is that just as is the case with the US, these people are very few in number, percentage wise, and just as is the case with the US, the message of their existence is not getting out to the rest of the world.

I had an email today saying I should just stop saying that, because even if they world knew about them, there are simply not enough of them that anybody could help them to form a Reform Movement, so whether the world knows about them or not does not matter, and if I or anybody else want to help them, help them get out of the US and get their families out.

Maybe that person is right, but I will not stop pointing out that they exist. Just in case he is wrong.

7/25/2006 4:49 am  
Blogger catnip said...

catnip, there are Israelis who "disagree with their homeland" to a much greater degree than Gideon Levy, who has written some very good pieces, I am glad you discovered him :)

That's the point I was trying to make - that no group is monolithic in thought - not even the neocons! Case in point today was a reco diary at dkos about some Israeli professor who spoke out against Israel. Reco'd - as if that's an anomaly.

I agree that the numbers of reformers is small but I don't necessarily think they should all leave the US as your contact might. Vive le resistance. If some do want to leave though, that's okay with me (because, obviously they need my permission, right?) :)

I'm uncomfortable with all of this uncomfortableness (new word) about Israel. I understand the reasons, I think, and I've warned about the silence on the left-wing blogosphere before, so here we are now.

An interesting identity discussion occured at dkos tonite wherein some said: I consider myself Jewish before the fact that I'm a Democrat (paraphrased) even though said person may never have had a connection to Israel beyond their religious identity. It just gave me cause again about which identity we place at the forefront at any given time as well as our reasons for doing so. Then there's the apology type of statement: I'm Jewish but I don't support what Israel is doing - as if any apology is needed for one's viewpoint.

It's just all very odd. Understandable on some level, but odd to me. More food for thought, I suppose...

7/25/2006 8:09 am  
Blogger Nanette said...

Ductape, I've heard of that too, the separated lunch tables and so on, in schools. I am not sure of the reason for that (there are probably many) but I also think that possibly it doesn't last.

In my own experience, when my daughter (who had also been raised cross many cultures, with friends of every sort) - when we moved to a different area and she reached her teen years, she decided that she had to not only be black, she had to be Black.

Only black friends, changing her speech patterns (she was pretty much incomprehensible during this process, until she smoothed out a few edges) and in general separate herself from everything that she felt wasn't black. When she was about 13 she informed me... once, that after talking with some friends, that she knew what I was... an Oreo! We had a nice talk then about stereotypes, comformabiity, individuality, what some terms actually mean and the unlikelihood of her getting off grounding in time for her senior prom should she ever use them to refer to me (or like persons) again.

She's in her mid 20s now and not only works with people of different cultures but has non black friends who she spends time with outside of work, visiting each others homes and going to parties together, etc. That is also the case with some of her other friends from that time that I know.

Anyway, I think part of this, in the lunch rooms and beyond, might be some sort of identity finding/centering, especially because kids these days are often so media driven, and still there are few mirror images for many of them in much of the media, business, higher education, and so on.

So, I think in some cases that while they may be (for the time) ignoring all the talk about living with and respecting other cultures, (we are all in this together and so on - whatever it is they teach in schools about this sort of thing), they are in some measure absorbing it, and putting it into practice when they feel ready.

Major generalizations of course, as other times there are different problems, like flat out bigotry, home life, gang type stuff (which doesn't only occur in blighted areas) and whatever else.

On the code talking thing, I am a recovering one! I had to completely restrain myself from entering into that mess at mlw, in an attempt to both explain what was going on and why they were reacting to Gilroy and stark like that (and why that reaction made the space "unsafe" for shanikka), and to smooth things over. Heh, how self reverential is that?

As a adults, and more importantly, as progressive, left-leaning, peace pursuing (even if it's just this peace), ground changing, coalition building people we'll have to come up with some way of making this all work.

7/25/2006 3:36 pm  
Blogger DuctapeFatwa said...

dove, catnip and Nanette are both deliberately trying to incite me to commit a really long and not very accessible rant on cultural indoctrination and What American Children Learn From Their Society And How Much Of It They Take With Them If And When They Grow Up.

I suspect a conspiracy.

7/25/2006 10:44 pm  
Blogger dove said...

Incite. Incite. ;)
(Whisper, conspire, plot, look furtively over shoulder and pull collar up on raincoat, pull the fedora down over the nose peering out from eyes deep in shadow.)

Nanette said:
"Now, though, I tend to think that this sort of faceless, raceless, everything except for minds-less meetings mainly is something that works to the advantage and comfort of the majority online culture."

That's I guess what I was trying to get at, though in a far more round-about and brevity-impaired way.

And yes, one is damned if one does and damned if one doesn't, which can, as you say DTF, be a kind of liberation.

Hmmm. I have more to say on this though, so I guess I'm racking up the promissory notes again.

7/26/2006 12:27 am  
Blogger DuctapeFatwa said...

Yes, Nanette's comment has made me think, as her comments are wont to do.

And I want to disagree with her. I have wanted to disagree with her ever since I read it, but when I arranged my fingers to do that, and tell why, I was obliged to look back on my own experiences, which are the best source I have for such musings, and ask myself how either I or a discussion had ever benefited by the other party or party's assumptions about my ethnicity, which obliged me to reflect on the fact that with the exception of venues specifically designed and intended for a particular ethnic group, on the American internets, one is presumed white until one declares otherwise.

Then I was obliged to reflect on that declaration of otherwise that seems to invariably occur, even for me, who am such an advocate of this communication between pure intellects blah blah. There is always some point, maybe a few minutes, maybe a few months, into one's participation in any online discussion venue where for whatever reason, and for the life of me, I cannot think of any examples, or exact reasons, but at some point, it always "comes up."

I believe that unless one was not only of a bent to wax idealistically about a "space" devoid of ASL etc, one would have to actually seek to deceive and pretend to be white in order to avoid declaring or mentioning or making a reference to the fact that one is not.

And I believe the same thing is true of gender. In fact, I have had discussions that relate somewhat to this, especially in the earlier days of the internet, and depending on "where one went," female descendants and their friends have told me that they were obliged to deliberately present themselves as males in order to have an experience that was bearable, that anyone who admitted to being female would become immediately the recipient of messages and conversational overtures of a nature they were extremely disinterested in, to try to be polite about it.

They could not, they said, expect to have normal conversations once they said they were female. Even when people would appear to be interested in discussing the computer game, or the popular musical group, at some point the questions would take a personal turn.

I am told that this has improved a great deal, as more women, and males past adolescence :) populate the internet, and thus a "girl" is less of a novelty, and the young men have also become a bit more "internet savvy," and know where to go to have those kinds of conversations, so that they are less likely to spam up the "Double Destroyer Xtreme Space" channel - anyway, I am rambling, but hey, I just said that Nanette's comment made me think, I did not say I had gotten done thinking, or come to any conclusion...

7/26/2006 4:04 am  
Blogger dove said...

I've been trying to think through why I fairly consistently end up disclosing my foreignness, even when I could choose to not do so. (Offline there's no option, of course, other than to never open my mouth, because as soon as I do the game's up. And it's interesting that until I open my mouth I'm perceived as British unlike many people who are British who are perceived as foreign until they open their mouth. But even then, the national identity imputed to them will not necessarily change.

On a tangent, well maybe it's a tangent. I caught the tail end of a T.V programme this evening (it was on MTV which to my dismay no longer seems to show music) in which a young man had to choose one of three women to date. The twist, if one can call it that, was that he had to decide which to choose on the basis of meeting their mothers and relying both upon his observations of them and on their descriptions of their daughters. (What the mothers thought of the young man, and what the daughters made of those impressions was less important though it did feature in passing: supply and demand I guess).

Anyway when one of the mothers spoke it became apparent that she was from Elsewhere. Or had at some point in her life been from Elsewhere and the traces of that Elsewhereness still lay on her tongue. So he said, "I can tell you're foreign" -- being perfectly friendly, just making conversation and so on, and it was quite innocuous. I have lost count of how many hundreds of times I've had that very conversation myself there and in the U.K.

What was odd though was her response: she said that yes, she was foreign and that's why she had an accent, but he mustn't worry, because her daughter did not have an accent at all, having grown up in the United States. She didn't say it, but you could see the thought clunk into place as she tried to say it without saying it: "My Daughter Talks Proper English." As though she, herself, did not.

There was something about that moment which was painfully embarrassing.

Anyway, back from the tangent.

Why is that foreignness something I disclose? I'm not sure that it's a 'public service' exactly -- maybe it's more of a kind of stroppiness.

That fact of foreignness doesn't confer authority for a lot of the things I write about it -- anti-war and freedom of movement stuff. I'd get more of that authority, I think, if I did manage to let people think I was a white American (as opposed to a white foreigner) since that would grant me a kind of 'objectivity,' a perceived impartiality. Though that can backfire too.

Thinking about it -- it's not so much that I used to find people making assumptions about me as an individual that were incorrect, as that a 'we' would be invoked as all-encompassing and inclusive when it was not. 'We're all good Americans here, trying to sort this out' and its ilk (that's a made-up quote but you've heard the sort of thing). And at that point one can either disclose or not disclose and in either case, certain assumptions will be made one way or another.

DTF said:
". . . with the exception of venues specifically designed and intended for a particular ethnic group, on the American internets, one is presumed white until one declares otherwise."

Yes: when push comes to shove, that's why part of why I disclose being white because at least then it's explicit not implicit.

But in the end, I think it is that I can't imagine how I would write without that foreignness coming out sooner or later. Or what I would write, for that matter.

7/26/2006 9:28 pm  
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