This is Why I’m Glad Canadian PM Justin Trudeau is Discontinuing Airstrikes on Syria

Mao, Tse Tung said that ‘political power grows out of the barrel of a gun’.

Hannah Arendt’s book On Violence explains why this idea needs to burn in a fire until it is dead* be powerfully rejected. Arendt is the brilliant mind that theorized the ‘banality of evil’ in her observation and analysis of the Nuremburg trials dealing with Nazis after WWII. On Violence discusses the difference between violence and power.

Arendt disagrees with Mao.

No matter how big your war chest is, no matter how many men with guns you put on the ground, drones you put in the air, or bases you set up to colonize foreign territories, you can’t kill power with violence (NB. America has over 600 military bases overseas.) Power rests in ideas. Governments that rely entirely on violence cease to have power.

Arendt uses the example of the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia to illustrate this point. No matter how much force Russia used, or how many implements they had at their disposal, the power of Czech and Slovakian ethnic sovereignty lived and multiplied in the hearts of even children, making the occupation ultimately unsustainable (and horrific for both sides). Alternately, the recent incursions of Russia into Ukraine are complicated by the large population of ethnically Russian people living in Ukraine.

According to Arendt, violence is ultimately controlled by the state through police, military and mechanisms like juridical process. Power lies in the consent and consensus of groups. Power comes not from crazy individual citizens or dictators acting alone, but an entire network of people energetically supportive of those crazy ideas, both good and evil, like a democratic revolution (good) or Hitler’s bureaucracy killing millions of Jews (evil). The horrifying secret of the death camps that Arendt revealed was that most of the racist population was complicit in the massacre.

Governments that rely entirely on violence cease to have power. So as the population funding the occupation (American taxpayers) gets tired of the war, more violence is needed to sustain it. “The loss of power leads to the temptation of violence” (Arendt). “68% of the American budget is devoted to the military machine [1972], thus America acts simultaneously as a counter-revolutionary force around the world and bleeds America itself dry, preventing any real movement towards solving America’s own domestic problems of poverty, racism and decay of urban institutions” (Radford-Ruether, Liberation Theology).

There comes a time when no matter how rich America + allies is, the sheer power of the idea of people that they do not want to be colonized turns into refusing to be occupied, and nothing short of killing every last thinking breathing person alive will stop guerilla attacks in the colonizer’s homeland. Radford-Ruether writes that “power is participating in the making of one’s destiny.” Who are these individual guerilla soldiers but people desperate to make their own destiny? (So desperate they are committing atrocities against their own neighbours.)

Solutions to our global crisis need to reject Mao’s notion of violent responses, “from the barrel of a gun”. Step one is recognizing that violence is not power, and we will no longer waste money and human lives establishing and arming the rise and fall of regimes from across the world.

So thank you, Trudeau—although this will not solve the crisis, it represents the end of running in a well-worn circle and expecting to get somewhere new.

What we are not going to do anymore.

Bisexual Awareness Week

So. *cough* It’s apparently Bisexual Awareness Week.
What does that mean? Well, to me, that means that people get that there are straight preferences, and get that there are gay preferences, but there are still a lot of people who go through life with a part of themselves in perpetual invisibility. This needs awareness.
To use myself as an example, when I am in a relationship with a guy, I ‘am straight’ to the people around me. When I am in a relationship with a woman, I ‘am gay’ to the people around me. These labels don’t really fit who I am (especially to you folks who really know me!)
I just don’t have a preference based on genitals. That’s it. My preferences are for people who are funny, clever, kind, and into helping the world. I find some men really attractive and others really unattractive, and some women really attractive and others really unattractive. That’s it.
I am not a lesbian, and I am not a straight person. I also don’t really use the word ‘bisexual’ because to me attraction is about so much more than just sex. Unfortunately that sometimes makes me, my identity, confusing and invisible. (But I really like the word lesbian. lesbian. lesbian. hehe)
I am really lucky to be able to ‘pass’ as straight to avoid the harassment and discrimination of ‘being gay’. Of course. But none of my relationships, all of which I have learned from and value in certain ways, were inauthentic or less important because of the genitals of that person. I’ve loved lots of different people in lots of different ways and I am happy about that. :)

It’s okay to be both! It’s okay to try new things, to change your mind, to be free and fluid and unconstrained by what other people think is the ‘right way’ to have relationships!
Sending out love to all my friends queering it up and exploring, and friends who support my travels in love-love-love!

Rumi: Looking For Your Face

Rumi Rumi.

Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī (Persian: جلال‌الدین محمد رومی‎), was a 13th century multi-talented genius from the area that is today Afghanistan. “Rumi was a philosopher and mystic of Islam. His doctrine advocates unlimited tolerance, positive reasoning, goodness, charity and awareness through love. To him and to his disciples all religions are more or less truth. Looking with the same eye on Muslim, Jew and Christian alike, his peaceful and tolerant teaching has appealed to people of all sects and creeds.” (wiki/Rumi)

Looking for Your Face
From the beginning of my life I have been looking for your face, but today I have seen it. Today I have seen the charm, the beauty, the unfathomable grace of the face that I was looking for. Today I have found you, and those who laughed and scorned me yesterday are sorry that they were not looking as I did. I am bewildered by the magnificence of your beauty, and wish to see you with a hundred eyes. My heart has burned with passion and has searched forever for this wondrous beauty that I now behold. I am ashamed to call this love human, and afraid of God to call it divine. Your fragrant breath, like the morning breeze, has come to the stillness of the garden. You have breathed new life into me. I have become your sunshine, and also your shadow. My soul is screaming in ecstasy. Every fiber of my being is in love with you. Your effulgence has lit a fire in my heart, and you have made radiant for me the earth and sky. My arrow of love has arrived at the target. I am in the house of mercy, and my heart is a place of prayer.

I found this particular beautiful poem by Rumi when I was looking for more material for conducting wedding ceremonies.  It’s incredibly romantic… except the fragrant breath.  That made me giggle.  I would change it to ‘fragrant aura’ or ‘warm breath’ maybe.

I used to have this one posted beside my bed.

This one is by my desk.
I just love Rumi.

Your Fear is Just Excitement in Disguise.

My mantra for the past few weeks has been this:

Your fear is just excitement in disguise.

I didn’t set out to make it my mantra, but I was repeating it to myself and then I was telling my friend Mike about it, and I used the word ‘mantra’ to describe it.  This phrase suddenly sharpened into focus as my new mantra.

Your fear is just excitement in disguise. 

I have been feeling some anxiousness lately.  I think this is a combination of work and my dad’s health struggles.

This mantra has been surprisingly liberating.

Get excited.  That anxiety is excitement in disguise. 

I say it and instantly, like mind over matter, my fears melt into a smile and I think of the positive. For example: preparing a presentation of my work.  eep.  Your fear is just excitement in disguise. Ya, a presentation of the chapter you’re getting published, good job!

Fears are funny. What am I afraid of? Looks like maybe afraid of my own progress, but that’s just… excitement in disguise.

Excitement time

Women Against Fundamentalism

You are a citizen and your experience and life’s story are valuable. Be brave, make the journey from the personal to the political.

I just finished reading Sukhwant Dhaliwal and Nira Yuval-Davis‘s book, Women Against Fundamentalism. The book details the stories of several women and their work in gender, anti-racism and the struggle against fundamentalist religion through the network Women Against Fundamentalism.   This group was born to unite black and white feminists in bringing about collaborative social change.  “Our main demands inclined the disestablishment of the Church of England, cessation of state funding for all religious schools, and the creation of a truly democratic and secular society based on socialist, feminist, anti- racist and anti- discrimination ideals” (p.60).  Rita Mahendru writes that “WAF provided me with an anti-oppressive, intersectional framework to critically challenge and analyze fundamentalist values. Their views resonated with mine. We could collectively find ways to extend our financial and social support to women and feminists in other parts of the world” (p. 284).

Sheila Jeffries defines fundamentalism as any religion that preaches a separation of genders.  Mary Daly calls this encouraging “sex role socialization” (Daly, Beyond God The Father, p. 3).  I would add that any religion that advocates prohibiting civil rights to any group based on skin colour, gender, sexual orientation or ethnic identity is fundamentalist.  In her PhD dissertation Sukhwant Dhaliwal advocates for public pluralism, and that religions are good and promote healthy communities only when they acknowledge diversity.

I am resonating with Kenyan-Brit book contributor Pragna Patel, and how she was inspired by the character of Stephen Daedalus in James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man​. Daedalus’ mantra, “I will not submit” steeled her against young arranged marriages (including a trick “vacation” to India) and helped her to follow her dream of working in medicine.  Patel was raised in Kenya after her family was forcefully displaced from India by British colonialism, and she later went to school in England.  In Chapter One Patel writes that her “earliest memories of Kenya resemble photo snapshots. Some are blurred whilst others are vivid, but the memory which haunts me most is of an Indian woman being dragged into the streets and publicly abused by a man, presumably her husband,” while spectators gathered around to watch (p. 54).

Ritu Mahendru describes the term “badmash“, a derogatory word used for women who are bad for challenging male power. She was called this at a young age, and instead of making her feel ashamed, she secretly carried this badge with pride and it helped to form her identity. It reminds me of the negative stigma associated with the word ‘feminist’ in English. Rita went on to complete a PhD.

Ruth Pearson in Chapter Four notes that “some religious institutions can be progressive and we ignore this at our peril,” demonstrating that WAF is not an anti-religious organization, rather it is focused on targeting the fundamentalist ideologies which oppose civil rights (p. 111).

These are just a few bits that stuck out for me in passing.

It is a great academic read, with the added bonus of being incredibly positive and inspiring. The takeaway message for me is that even as women and/or POC facing a variety of systemically oppressive challenges, these women fought and succeeded: Never give up on your dreams.

Women Against Fundamentalism

wĭl′fəl: Persists in doing as she pleases, habitually disposed to disobedience and opposition. Headstrong, self-willed- not obeying or complying with commands of those in authority. ˈwāwərd/: Given to perverse deviation from what is desired, expected, or required. Swayed or prompted by caprice; unpredictable.


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