Original poem read by Peri Dwyer Worrell
Double haiku by Peri Dwyer Worrell
In the moment I am.
Closed eyes see face with closed eyes.
Start one more breath in…
Between breaths one knows.
No place but where the breath moves:
One is all. One breathes.
No! Is not an option. The options are yes, or yes. That’s why the sun is so bright and my eyes are so dim. Oh, I know they say it’s because I have a lizard brain. “Lizard brain” is even a word they use as a synonym for primitive and irrational.
But we females know better because the twining and untwining of DNA within us is a spiral ladder for electrons moving in spin sequences down phosphate spines.
Come with me to the manxinil tree and learn what generations before me learned: I will fan you with the leaves and your eyes will burn and swell shut and render you blind while I nibble the tiny apples in the sun. Once you are weeping from the injury I will let you taste the apple and you will die.
Something is spinning within me and also within you, phosphatidal tidal phosphates that can bring the sea inside the sandy sun and remain entangled while leaping like dolphins, baby iguanas, scaled striped squirrels scampering from rock to rock.
By now, unless you belong to the minority who are completely disconnected from social media, you’re aware that that there’s been a gradually accelerating program of centralization, control, and censorship operating on the biggest platforms over the past few years. If your views are other than mainstream, it’s been apparent since well before the last election. If you are a straight-edge exemplar of normality who roots politically for Team Red or Team Blue, the 2016 election might have been your wake-up call. If you’re intelligent and curious but apolitical, this week’s purge of Twitter and Facebook accounts might have been the first you heard of it.
What younger people may not know, and older people may forget, is that the dominant players in today’s information game are babies themselves. They can easily go the way of MySpace and AOL (both of which still exist, by the way).
The virtue of the internet is its decentralized, networked nature. As John Gilmore said, networks interpret censorship as damage and work around it. You have the ability to accelerate this process. Here’s what I’ve been doing:
- Opening accounts on alternate social media sites like Minds, MeWe, and WhatsApp.
- Subscribing to alternative-media sites and blogs by e-mail.
- Writing and reading content on curated platforms like Quora, Medium, and LinkedIn.
- Actively editing my commercial-site/phone newsfeeds to include lesser-known journalists (being sure to keep a tendril extended outside my filter bubble!).
- Putting a limited amount of my modest financial resources into cryptocurrencies and actively seeking ways to spend and earn them.
- Using Incognito mode or Tor browsing and VPNs when needed. While most people are not in a position to take this step, it helps that I’ve expatriated to another country so my traffic doesn’t automatically go through a US-based server.
Have some faith in the truth. It will prevail.
Invaded, a pouch, a crease, a sulcus
Tiny entities that do not matter do
Matter now that they have bred
Though you never took them in…
Nothing to do now but love them
A boy in a tenement’s pets
Six legs, racing roaches in jars
Pigeons, rats, mitochondria.
Here, parrots flock and strip
Fruit from the trees and sing
In cages on the porch. Know
What’s yours is never and always theirs.
I’ve come across two recent think pieces online urging the assaulted and harassed to reclaim the word “victim.” The idea is supposedly this: that by refusing to accept the label of victim, one implies that there is something wrong with being a victim. I furrowed my brow, then realized with a blinding flash what’s missing in the discussions of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and toxic masculinity. What’s missing is the topic of courage, and its opposite, cowardice. That’s a topic we need to bring out in the open. It’s also a topic that may help us communicate with all the well-intentioned men who seem bewildered about what the rules are for approaching women today.
My favorite definition of courage comes from a fairy tale I read as a little girl, about a child who is terrified to fight a dragon, but fights it anyway. The moral of the story imprinted itself on my heart and mind at the tender age of seven: Courage is feeling the fear and doing it anyway.
Let’s get this out of the way right now: being a victim is morally neutral. It does not confer any moral superiority or moral high ground; it likewise does not brand with moral inferiority. Victimization happens. The world is a brutal and vicious place pocked with shallow mass graves.
Victimization happens to courageous people and to cowards.
Fear, the automatic response of the sympathetic nervous system to threats, is a state of fight, flight, or freeze. We are told that women are unusually apt to freeze.
Boys are taught at a young age that freezing when challenged is an act of cowardice, and cowardice is to be avoided. I happen to believe that is correct.
Whether you’re about to give birth, or being attacked with a lethal weapon, the courageous response is the active response. Dealing with the energy of your fear, transforming it to calm strength or righteous anger, is a learned skill.
One of the most disempowering traits of sexism is its implication that courage is a masculine trait, cowardice a feminine one. The only acceptable archetype for a woman who rages and fights back is that of a mother bear fighting for her cubs. But not herself, never herself. The feminine does not own itself, does it?
But we do. We own our bodies and the space we occupy. And with that sacred ownership comes a sacred responsibility: to defend and protect ourselves with all the courage we can muster.
And why do we have that sacred responsibility? Because the courageous are less likely to be victims.
We owe ourselves the courage to say, “I was just talking; let me finish.” We owe ourselves the courage to say, “Please don’t touch me again.” We owe ourselves the courage to say, “Get the fuck away from me, weirdo!” We owe ourselves the courage to slap, punch, elbow, kick, bite, stab, and shoot if necessary to defend ourselves.
And sometimes, for a woman or for a man, that courage doesn’t come. The boy slumps and shuffles away from the bully; the woman allows herself to be pawed rather than make a scene. Sometimes it’s because we are picking our battles. Sometimes it’s because we are too exhausted to face yet another confrontation. Regardless, it amounts to the same thing.
I have tasted that cowardice; I’ve bled and wept (literally) because I was a coward. I have also faced attacks with courage and been a victim anyway. And from those experiences, I have learned that we sometimes find our courage later on. Sometimes years later, we find the courage to speak, seeking retribution and redress, and warning those who come behind us. Sometimes that courage redeems our cowardice. Sometimes it brings on new assaults to test our courage further.
Let me ask you this, oh feminist sister, who wants the men she meets to stand up to other men about their bad behavior: why should they have the courage to stand up for us, if we don’t have the courage to stand up for ourselves?
Let me ask you this, oh well-intentioned straight man, who feels terrified to sexually approach a woman for fear of being accused: why would you involve yourself with a woman if you’re not sure if she’s a coward?
But let’s take this out of the arena of the eternal war between the sexes for a moment: let’s paraphrase the Irishman Edmund Burke and point out that all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing. Let’s then hop forward to the 20th century, and soldiers who were only following orders, and the pastor who said nothing when they came for the homosexuals because he was not a homosexual. Now let’s move up to the 21st century and all those millions who watched a Nobel Peace Prize winner drop tens of thousands of bombs on innocent civilians with surreal serenity, and let a man languish alone in a small room in London without a peep.
The courage to speak up is not domain-specific. If you are too much of a coward to speak up, you are already a victim.
Photo: historical photo of Armenians preparing to fight the Ottomans.
The word “fascism”The definitions have evolved over time since Benito Mussolini coined the term just over a century ago. By the criteria of some of those definitions, the US already qualifies as a fascist regime.
Mussolini most simply described the underlying philosophy of fascism as “…everything in the state, nothing against the State, nothing outside the state.” The tendency in the US to conflate all imperatives of morality and ethics with subjects for law and regulation is a dangerous symptom of fascist thinking which is widespread on both the left and the right. It has led us almost to the point of the totalitarian ant-hill in TH White’s Once and Future King, in which everything not forbidden is compulsory.
Umberto Eco, who grew up in fascist Italy under Mussolini, towards the end of his long and incredibly productive life, in, formulated fourteen characteristics of fascism:
- The cult of tradition: check. The US inculcates its citizens with a mystical reverence for the sacredness of the Founding Fathers, the Declaration of Independence, the Revolutionary War, The Constitution, the Presidency, the Supreme Court, the flag, the act of voting, and the Congress. The National Mall resembles nothing so much as a temple dedicated to this cult.
- The rejection of modernism. (In the sense of rejecting intellectual modernism, the Enlightenment ethos of addressing human wants, needs, and problems rationally). Eco says, “Both Fascists and Nazis worshiped technology. … However, even though Nazism was proud of its industrial achievements, its praise of modernism was only the surface of an ideology … The rejection of the modern world was disguised as a rebuttal of the capitalistic way of life, but it mainly concerned the rejection of the Spirit of 1789 (and of 1776, of course). The … Age of Reason, is seen as the beginning of modern depravity.” I’m afraid we have to give the US a check mark, or at least half a check, on this one too.
- The cult of action for action’s sake. “Action being beautiful in itself, it must be taken before, or without, any previous reflection.” (all quotes here from Eco unless otherwise specified) We must do something about gun violence, about opioid addiction, about Iran, about healthcare, about immigration… Check.
- Disagreement is treason. Look at today’s news: The science is settled. Deniers/skeptics are conspiracy theorists. Our democracy is endangered. Our children are endangered. No time for further debate. We must act now. Check.
- Fear of difference. This is most often ethnic or racial, but for example in Mussolini’s Italy, where half the population were swarthy Corsicans and Sicilians, the existence of race was often denied. However, a campaign to keep the Slavs out of Italy was brutally pursued in a campaign of what today we call ethnic cleansing. We see this tendency in the US today, in the right-wing scapegoating of immigrants from Latin America, but also in the leftist scapegoating of white males and southerners. Check.
- “Appeal to a frustrated middle class, a class suffering from an economic crisis or feelings of political humiliation… In our time, when the old ‘proletarians’ are becoming petty bourgeois…the fascism of tomorrow will find its audience in this new majority.” The angry working classes of flyover country and the angry millenials who are buried in student debt and can only find jobs flipping burgers fit this definition. Check.
- “…The obsession with a plot, possibly an international one. The followers must feel besieged. The easiest way to solve the plot is the appeal to xenophobia.” The New World Order. The globalist corporate financial system. The Deep State. The vast right-wing conspiracy. Check.
- “The followers must feel humiliated by the ostentatious wealth and force of their enemies…Fascist governments are condemned to lose wars because they are constitutionally incapable of objectively evaluating the force of the enemy.” Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Syria, Iran, North Korea: are these dangerous threats to world peace and stability or decadent weaklings that the US should grind underfoot? “The enemies are at the same time too strong and too weak.” Check.
- “Pacifism is trafficking with the enemy. It is bad because life is permanent warfare.” Support the troops. Fight them there so we don’t have to fight them here. Exposing US military corruption and war crimes is considered treason. Check.
- Elitism, but a peculiar type of elitism, where everyone is a member of the elite by virtue of being an American, but the majority of Americans are weak, foolish, and misguided, and thus require the guidance and leadership of stronger, wiser Americans. Check.
- The cult of heroism linked to the cult of death. Look at the most popular movies in the US: Six of the focused on superheros, fighting, warfare, explosions, shooting, and/or death. Look at the video games Americans are playing. Look at the TV we are watching. The only ray of hope is that the content of children’s entertainment has gotten much less violent than I remember. But I have to give this one at least half a check too.
- Machismo (which implies both disdain for women and intolerance and condemnation of nonstandard sexual habits, from chastity to homosexuality). This is one area where the US has become less fascist, rather than more so. Obama was the least macho President in living memory. Anti-Trump people will argue that we elected a “pussy grabber” as President, but this type of language and the behavior that it describes has been prevalent for a long (expletive deleted— remember Watergate? Remember JFK? LBJ?) time. That the US is even having a discussion about whether it disqualifies him (and Bill Clinton before him), I have to put in the no-check column.
- Selective populism: “Since no large quantity of human beings can have a common will, the Leader pretends to be their interpreter. Having lost their power of delegation, citizens do not act; they are only called on to play the role of the People. Thus the People is only a theatrical fiction.” While 20th-century fascism required mass turnouts of citizenry to achieve this illusion, in the 21st century an increasingly regulated and homogenized internet-based news media can represent the Will of the People far more insidiously. The segregation of the right and left into social media and news bubbles allows both teams to believe that their interests are included in this interpretation. Check.
- Newspeak. Coined by Orwell in his book 1984, this refers to a mode of speaking and writing in which vocabulary is limited and phrases are simplistic and hyperbolic. Fake News. Climate Change Denier. Homophobe. Black Lives Matter. Bad hombres. Deep State. Discrimination. Gun violence. Also reminiscent of Orwell, phrases can change meaning and become pejorative or complimentary depending on the speaker and the political context in which they are used. Political words cease to have objective, denotative meaning and are purely connotative. Check.
You may have notice that I used examples from both the so-called “right” and the so-called “left” of the political spectrum. Fascism does not care about such divisions. It may be aggressively atheistic when challenging the power of the Church (Mussolini famously challenged God to strike him down where he stood while giving a speech), but it also may be aggressively religious when being so will help enlist submission from church leaders, and so consolidate state power. It may be nominally socialist, communist, corporatist, mercantilist, or democratic, but the overwhelming migration of all power and glory to the the State as personified in its leadership is the underlying ideal.
Are we there yet? What do you think?
Once again, a mass shooter has demonstrated to the world the meaning of the word “evil.” Whether it’s some racist kid with a funny haircut, an introverted former IRS agent with a gambling problem, a BLM activist angry about police brutality, or a Norwegian right-wing anti-feminist, the carnage is brutal and horrifying. Predictably, people who don’t think very much about guns before such an attack immediately demand that “we” (whoever “we” is) “do something” to prevent it from happening ever again. That call is immediately amplified by those who would enforce greater restrictions on gun ownership. I have to warn you: I don’t have the answer to preventing mass shootings, or massacres, or Islamist terrorist attacks, or for that matter, drone bombings, forced marches, ethnic cleansing, genocide, or the carnage of starvation and disease under totalitarian governments. The title question of this essay was one I answered on Quora over a year ago that’s continued to get upvotes and comments and shares, so I wanted to share the information in it with a broader readership:
If gun control isn’t the answer, what is?
The answer to what? The question doesn’t say, so let’s see what possible questions one might have in mind and try to answer them:
- If gun control isn’t the answer to the rising rate of homicide in the US, what is?
A valid question, IF the homicide rate were rising in the US. It is not. It is declining.
Even as the number of guns is increasing
But maybe that wasn’t the question you meant to ask. Let’s try:
- If gun control isn’t the answer to the horribly high rate of homicide in the US compared to other countries, what is?
That would be an excellent question. Except the US is nowhere near the top in terms of number of homicides per 100,000 people
Hmm. Perhaps that wasn’t the question you meant to ask. How about:
- If gun control is not the answer to the epidemic of violence against women in the US, what is?
Ok, let’s try this:
- If gun control is not the answer to the rising rate of violent deaths among blacks in the US, what is
I know. Let’s look at:
- If gun control is not the answer to the rising rate of GUN homicides, what is?
Even if you believe it is tremendously better to be knifed, stabbed, bludgeoned, or strangled to death rather than shot, it looks like this one doesn’t apply either.
- If gun control is not the answer to the rising rate of accidental GUN deaths in the US, what is?
Okay, okay. Let’s try a question that might actually not contain a false assumption:
- If gun control is not the answer to the US’s high rate of GUN death compared to other countries, what is?
The US is 26th in the world in gun deaths. But, aha! It is the highest by far in number of gun deaths amongst the 12 top nations in the Human Development Index. This is true. So, if you have a strong preference for a different means of dying, gun control is your answer! It seems rather obvious that in a country with more guns, gun deaths are more common. I’d also hazard a wild guess that swimming pool drownings are more common in Australia than in Canada, and murder by pushing someone off a mountain is probably more common in Switzerland than in the Netherlands.
Perhaps, though, you’re the type of person who is easily affected by emotional media coverage of mass shootings, especially at schools, which are a tiny fraction of a percentage of homicides, even of children. Thus:
- If gun control is not the answer to mass shootings, what is?
- First, let’s disabuse you of the notion that mass shootings are a phenomenon predominantly confined to the USA:
All but one of the 20 worst non-governmental mass public shootings, 45 of the worst 50, occurred outside the United States, the majority of them in Africa.
…And Europe’s rate is 25% higher than that of the US despite much stricter gun laws:
And it appears that the majority of locations where mass shootings take place in the US are places where guns are prohibited.
- However, it does appear that a sizable number of the US mass shooters were diagnosed as mentally ill in advance of the incident
Of course, there were literally millions of people diagnosed with mental illness who did NOT commit mass public shootings, or any shootings, for that matter.
Psychiatrists admit that they can barely do better than random chance at predicting which of their patients will become violent, according to. On the other hand, mentally ill people living in the community are to be victims of violent crime than the average person. The actual degree of effectiveness of guns as self-defensive deterrents to violent crime for a given individual is still not well-established, but one must wonder if disarming all or most mentally ill people might not cause more violent crimes than it prevents.
And, finally, here is a really good question, which I think a person with a penchant for supporting gun control really ought to ask but rarely do. It is the only question about gun use and gun control which actually proceeds from concern about a problem which is getting worse:
- If gun control is not the answer to American’s rising rate of suicide, what is?
Unlike every other means of violent death, suicide in the US is actually increasing
Looking at the chart above, it appears possible that suicides can be reduced by around 30% by requiring a background check for private handgun sales. This is easily explained by the fact that a gun is the most effective way of committing suicide, so more attempts are likely to be successful when guns are readily available. The preference for guns among male suicide attempters explains part of men’s greater rate of successful suicides. Furthermore,.
On the other hand, the evidence from Canada, where registration of all guns was required beginning in 1993, shows that the rate of gun suicide decreased by almost the exact same number that the rate of hangings (the second-most-effective means of suicide) increased
The author of that paper concludes, “There were 3,605 suicides in 2000 before the registry started and 3,741 in 2005. Clearly, this analysis suggests that the money wasted on registering guns would have been better spent on suicide prevention efforts.”
So, my question is this: it’s been pretty clearly established that gun control does not decrease violent crime; it does not even decrease mass shootings. It probably doesn’t even decrease suicides. The one thing it does is do is decrease the rate of gun crime, which we’ve seen just represents the substitution of other weapons for guns. So when are the people shrieking about “doing something” going to recognize the reality of the situation and start focusing on what might actually represent some sort of solution to these horrific and dramatic events which affect a tiny percentage of the population but have such a disproportionate affect on the national psyche and mythos? I would really like to know.
What’s the worst government statistic, based on whether it distracts from sound thinking and encourages bad policy? Well, I definitely think gross domestic income is a better measure than gross domestic product if we want insights on growth, so I’m not a big fan of GDP data. I’m even less enthused about the Gini Coefficient […]
I posted once before on Ireland and their anarchy that lasted for more than a thousand years:
This most remarkable historical example of a society of libertarian law and courts first came to my attention while reading Murray Rothbard’s For a New Liberty. This was a society where not only the courts and the law were largely libertarian, but they were basically anarcho-capitalist in the modern sense of the phrase. This Celtic society was not some primitive society or tribe but rather it was a highly complex society. Ireland for centuries was the most advanced, most scholarly, and most civilized society in all of Western Europe. And all without a government!
Murray Rothbard documented the Irish Anarchy in his book “For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto“ were he wrote in part:
The most remarkable historical example of a society of libertarian law and courts, however, has been…
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