Swiss psychiatrist makes the case for more female pilots

pilotinnen

Female pilots of Lufthansa, photographed for the airline by Rolf Bewersdorf. Why aren’t there more of them? According to an article in Schweiz am Sonntag (via EMMA), there should be more women pilots, because they are actually the more trustworthy sex. And more to the point, according to a leading Swiss expert on suicide, it’s because they are more in control of themselves emotionally speaking, and less likely to commit suicide on the job:

As a pilot, train engineer or bus driver, the responsibility is huge, because passengers trust them with their lives. Above all, men hold these positions. Of Swissair’s 1,341 pilots, only 59 are women. A similar gender relationship shows itself in SBB (Swiss rail) and the Postbus: of 3,500 train engineers, 80 are women, and of 3,079 Postbus drivers, 245 are women.

Gabriela Stoppe regards this share as much too low. She is a psychiatrist and vice-president of Ipsilon, the umbrella organization for suicide prevention in Switzerland.

“It would make sense not only for diversity, but for safety, to have more women in human transport,” says Stoppe. She bases her statement on the fact that women have lower rates of suicide. “It was only a matter of time that a pilot would commit suicide with an airplane in Europe, too.”

As unbelievable as the case of the Germanwings crash may be, in the past decades there have been several crashes in which pilots killed themselves with their planes. Six are documented.

In Switzerland, suicide is the number one cause of death for men between the ages of 14 and 44. In 2012, 240 of them took their lives. Although the number of self-inflicted deaths has gone down a bit in the last ten years, three times as many men as women take their own lives still. “This should be taken into account in choosing a pilot, driver or engineer,” says Stoppe.

On Tuesday at 10:30 a.m., co-pilot Andreas L., 27, begins the descent over the French Alps. The Germanwings Airbus A320 rapidly loses altitude. The captain is locked out of the cockpit, he can’t do anything anymore. After eight minutes the plane crashes. All 150 persons die.

“Many signs point to a take-along suicide,” says Stoppe. A rare form of suicide. “Often it’s fathers or mothers, who don’t only kill themselves, but also their children and their partners. That someone would take several passengers along is unusual.”

The psychiatrist imagines it went like this: When Andreas L. got the opportunity to put his thoughts into realization, he shut down mentally and emotionally. In the moment of a suicidal crisis, people only have tunnel vision. And as with rampage-runners, there is no way back.

The Düsseldorf police don’t find a suicide note during their search of Andreas L.’s apartment. But they do find torn-up doctors’ notes, current, and even dated the day of the crash, as well as several medications for the treatment of psychiatric illnesses. The co-pilot also suffered from vision problems. The investigators conclude “that the deceased hid his illness from his employer and co-workers.”

This doesn’t surprise Gabriela Stoppe. “Precisely those people who fear that they will lose their job due to a mental illness don’t dare speak of it.” Often, such people will also refuse to take medication, so as not to be detected during drug testing. “Depression and other mental illnesses are, as ever, a taboo in certain professions and careers.” That leads to only about 60% of those affected reporting such illnesses. “Meanwhile, 80 to 90% of such cases would be successfully treatable.”

Nowadays, the airline doctor checks the mental health of pilots during their aptitude tests. Yearly medical checkups follow. A similar procedure takes place with railroad and bus drivers. Bus-driver candidates are tested mainly for resiliency, observational capacities, and also for aggressive tendencies, while locomotive engineers are tested for how well they handle solitude and repetitive tasks.

That alone won’t do, Gabriela Stoppe is convinced. Psychological testing is still necessary in later career phases. And particularly from doctors trained in psychiatry. “Highly intelligent people are particularly likely to conceal such serious problems as paranoid hallucinatory psychoses,” says a Munich psychiatrist, Helmut Kolitzus, in Der Spiegel.

Swissair is currently debating whether to psychologically test their pilots once a year.

Translation mine.

No word on what Lufthansa’s current psychological testing policies are, or how they’ll change, but the fact that Swissair sees a need to change theirs is telling. As is the fact that Andreas L. had several torn-up doctor’s notes in his wastebasket. Clearly not a company doctor, because he was expected to take those notes to his supervisor himself, and he didn’t. Maybe Lufthansa/Germanwings needs to employ a company shrink, one who reports directly to supervisors of the pilots if there is any problem? Because in this case, the patient was trusted to do the appropriate thing…and because he was clearly fearful of losing his dream job, the only one he ever wanted, he chose instead to conceal his condition until it was too late. 150 people paid with the senseless loss of their lives for the unwillingness of one to step back for his mental health’s sake.

But why would more female pilots be an answer to problems like that? Simple: Because while women are more likely to be depressive, and also more likely to attempt suicide than men, they are also less likely to actually die that way. They tend to choose less violent methods, ones which are more readily reversed: an overdose of pills, say, instead of a gun or a vehicle crash. A female suicide attempt is not a melodramatic “bid for attention”, as it’s often dismissed as being; rather, it’s a last, desperate cry for help. And for that reason, a woman who tries to take her own life is more likely to get help, in the end — simply because her suicide method is less likely to “succeed”.

Men, on the other hand, ironically succeed at killing themselves because they are socialized from infancy up to be more aggressive — and by that token, “successful”. They are taught to pursue what they want at any cost, even if it’s unreasonable — eg., a career as a commercial pilot when they are too emotionally labile to handle the stresses — or if it’s death. Extreme behavior is less frowned upon in a boy than a girl, and less so in a man than in a woman, as well. Risk-taking is more praised in males than in females. If a man is violent, “boys will be boys” is the excuse most likely to be waved around.

Should a woman do the same, however, suddenly it’s “bitches be crazy”.

This is all in line with popular stereotypes. A boy with “leadership attributes” is lionized; a girl with the same attributes is hand-waved off as “bossy”. Little wonder, then, that the transport industry is dominated by male drivers, engineers and pilots. It’s not that women can’t work a set of controls (one doesn’t have to be bigger or stronger or endowed with a penis to grasp a steering wheel, after all); it’s that women are more likely to be discouraged from an early age of even thinking of entering those jobs. Because they’re not “mentally fit” for them. Because “hormones”. Never mind that the worst case of PMS doesn’t turn a woman into a deranged psychopath; at most, it puts her bullshit-tolerance on a par with that of the average man, whose hormone levels of course are never blamed for anything. No, bitchez be the crazy ones. Cray-cray-ba-nay-nay.

It is time to stop gaslighting girls out of careers in the transport industry. Because one of our best attributes, ironically, is the very one that’s been used to deny us piloting jobs in the past: yup, our ever-fluctuating, blameworthy hormones. We’re so good at riding out those little physical ups and downs, it actually makes us more mentally stable, not less. We become more careful and more conscientious as a result. And we are more likely to seek help if we need it, too. Female pilots, to date, have caused 0 (count ‘em, ZERO) suicide crashes. Surely that’s a significant statistic right there. Why doesn’t the industry seize on that, and recruit more female pilots?

To “fight like a girl” to keep a job one loves means to take a break if one needs it, and return to work later…instead of doing the type-A macho thing and hiding one’s problems until suddenly the plane is in a death dive, and there is no turning back.

Bill C-51: Are you on Harpo’s enemies list yet?

If not, shame on you. Watch this and learn why it behooves you to become an enemy of PetroState Canada and Fortress North America:

Democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of religion and political association, the indigenous peoples, the right to a clean and healthy environment…all these and more are now under fire. And if you believe in them, and take your belief in them to the streets, congratulations: You are An Enemy of the State. USA PATRIOT Act North, otherwise known as Bill C-51, is aiming to make YOU illegal.

And if you couldn’t make it to the streets, don’t worry. You can still put a fire under your Member of Parliament. Use this letter-writing tool and in a few minutes’ time, you too can be a proud member of the Enemies list.

Now go, and be the best fuckin’ subversive you can.

Crappy Women’s Day, ladies. Here, have a carnation.

In lieu of my usual Music for a Sunday feature, I’m just going to leave this here:

Aren’t those the best lyrics? And the most badass sax riffs, too?

Anyhow. Here’s what women in another part of the world are working at. Specifically, in Germany. Mira Sigel has some hard words about what work ISN’T getting done:

“Happy Women’s Day!” my porn-watching neighbor yelled at me this morning, he who otherwise likes to say that women can’t parallel-park. That he himself hasn’t had a driver’s licence for years doesn’t keep him from grinning snarkily. “Only on March 8: Special offer for women” — my e-mail box is full of messages like that. The sexist shitpile of the Left Party won’t stop handing out carnations to unsuspecting women this year, instead of troubling itself about the deeply misogynistic behavior of its members and representatives. The daily newspaper has a special Women’s Day edition — letting dominatrices tell about their great jobs and invite others to come and “play the whore” while the laughable 30% quota for female employment rings the death-knell of western civilization for many. My boss gives out yellow roses every Women’s Day to his female employees, but doesn’t consider it necessary to pay them the same wages as their male colleagues, much less promote them to leadership positions.

Women’s Day serves as a reminder to all parties, unions and organization do something for women once in a while. A little feminism just looks good nowadays — and can you believe it, women are now allowed to earn their own money and drive cars, so there’s a corresponding marketing strategy. “Women, today it’s all about you,” is the message, which also makes it clear that during the rest of the year it’s not about us anymore. On Women’s Day 2014, feminists were shoved around, yelled at, and sprayed with paint by so-called “sex workers”, johns, and male members of the Pirate Party. Despite more calls for security this year, the stone-cold reply was that there are many forms of violence. Motto: It’s your own fault, you RadFems.

97 percent of board members in Europe are men. Party leader Volker Kauder said in November that female quotas would remain the same, and that family minister Manuela Schwesig could forget about pay equity, and that it was only thinkable for businesses with more than 500 employees. Women earn on average 22% less than their male colleagues; their pensions are 60% lower than those of men thanks to maternity leave and part-time work. That’s how inequality gets cemented — meaning that our own daughters still have to fight for fair pay, even though women still do the lion’s share of the child-care work. Since 2014 there’s a discriminatory caregiver law, that together with an extremely “father-friendly” arrangement of youth offices and judges sees to it that children can even be taken with police force to their fathers, never mind if he beat their mother or otherwise terrorized her. Whereas when it comes to child support, or a fairer tax plan for single mothers, we see just as little action as with trial judges handing down a proper sentence to rapists. The morning-after pill is now prescription-free for German women, but only because the EU has taken it to heart. One in three German women has experienced domestic or sexual violence, but women’s shelters are constantly being closed or charging fees of the victims. The perpetrators have little to fear.

The female portion of city and municipal councils is barely 23%, while 97% of all single-custody parents are women. Germany is “Europe’s bordello”, where women are quite legally auctioned off as wares. The new prostitution law won’t change much there, either.

All of this is no coincidence. And it’s not the fault of women, with their “bad” choices in careers, partners or clothing, but that of the mighty institutions of patriarchy. In a society where the most important decisions are still being made by men, there can be no equality for women. So you can shove your well-wishes, your carnations and your special Women’s Day offers up your ass. In a patriarchal society, all of this is a slap in the face of every woman on Women’s Day. Instead, make this world a fairer place for women. Don’t go to prostitutes, don’t hit or rape women, don’t watch any more porn, don’t harass women on the street anymore, and pay women fairly. Then we won’t need any more Women’s Day.

Translation mine.

If we’re not equal yet, it’s certainly not for lack of effort on the part of women. We’ve been “leaning in” until our noses are buried in the dirt, only to have more of it rubbed in our faces by the Menz Rightzers, the latest and “greatest” crop of anti-human-rights activists to be spawned by good ol’ Papa Chauvin. Yay! Just in time for our so-called day.

And now we’re being sold the “agency” lie by the pimp lobby, who claim that peddling our asses for cash is somehow sexually liberating and even “empowering”. Really? If that were true, this world would be run by gigolos, because think about it — who’s more power-hungry (and sex-“positive”) than men?

Porn hasn’t liberated women’s sexuality; it’s just feeding us instructions as to how to satisfy the male gaze better. We don’t even know what our own sexuality looks like anymore, because we’ve never been free of imagery foisted on us by people who don’t care about our pleasure or our satisfaction. Instead, we’re being told that servicing men according to their specs is “a job like any other”. Well, why not? We’re already getting fucked over by capitalism; might as well make it literal, eh ladies?

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: When it comes to store-bought sex, women who sell it are not the empowered party. They never have been. They have always been dependent on the men who pay for the privilege, and those men call the shots, always. Remember the golden rule: He who has the gold, makes the rules.

I note in passing that there are still precious few women out there even contemplating buying sex. “Equality” on those terms is unthinkable for us. Partly because we can’t fucking afford it, yes — but much more the fact that we don’t see ourselves as entitled to it. We don’t lack for libido, that much I’m sure of. No, what we lack is the political power to compel men to service us, as well as the bullshit belief that it’s okay for us to do that in the first place. The fact that the converse is not true for the other side, even among men who call themselves leftists, ought to be proof enough that capitalist patriarchy is not dead, that “girls” don’t rule the world even though we do the vast majority of its grunt-work, and that we sure as hell need more than just one day a year, ostensibly dedicated to women, to get it right. Every day should be women’s day, uncapitalized, everywhere on Earth.

“Fifty Shades of Shit”: A German feminist’s heretical thoughts

no-sexual-violence

“No to the eroticization of sexual violence! Boycott Fifty Shades of Grey.”

A sentiment I can heartily get behind. This article from Mira Sigel, of the German radical-anarcho-socialist-feminist blog, Die Störenfriedas, basically says it all for me, too:

It’s February 2015 in Germany, and as a feminist, one wants to pull the covers over one’s head and wait till summer so that the sexist shitcrap that’s currently washing over us from TV and movie screens will at least be made tolerable by sunshine and ice cream.

On Thursday, in Berlin, there was the world premiere of Fifty Shades of Grey. The film version of the book, which is a — yawwwwwn — love story about an emotionally disturbed, violently inclined, rich and dominant man and a woman inferior to him in every way, is creating buzz around the world. There’s talk of “eroticism” and “lust”, and even Germany’s top-ranking feminists are applauding approval, because it has something to do with women’s liberation. That’s right: Getting your ass paddled or playing the choking game is just as sexually liberating as playing the prostitute in a bordello. The eroticization of violence and exploitation is a wonderful instrument of oppression that the patriarchy has just begun to discover. We now think of Playboy Bunnies as kindergartners, and the nonsense of Sex and the City, which for ten years was meant to prepare us for a life as constantly horny luxury queens.

But let’s go on. What’s really upsetting about the story is not that Anastasia sets out to finally find the limits of her sexuality and to cross them, but that she gets “seduced” by a rich, smart, and — naturally — “mysterious” man. What exactly is self-determined about that? It’s the age-old tale of King Bluebeard. Didn’t you know? Well, then, read up. A patriarchal fairytale par excellence. She naturally somehow “senses” that Christian Grey needs emotional rescuing, because hey, why else are we women here, with our bodies, our psyches, and our whole lives, to take care that it goes better for men, insofar as they can take it all out on us? Anastasia isn’t into S/M. She lets him do it to her, because she thinks she’ll get access to Christian’s disturbed emotional world this way. She realizes that he’s overstepping her boundaries, and still keeps going on. As well, she was a virgin before she met him, and has nothing, literally nothing, to compare his sexual experiences to.

Christian likes to hit women because his bad mama neglected him and was also a drug-addicted prostitute. Naturally, the whole wide world of women has nothing but understanding for that, and willingly sticks out its butt, so that the poor boy can take out his feelings on it. In turn we get to see him constantly in the film with his bare chicken breast. Because Anastasia takes his boundary-crossings so self-sacrificingly, eventually he does let his guard down a bit — and makes her his princess. One might laugh about that, because it’s so silly. In reality, though, it’s dangerous. Because it idealize a toxic view of relationships, in which women consequently deny their own needs and boundaries so that they’ll be better off. Women become clumsy twits, who fall so far under the influence of an experienced man’s sexual wishes that they become willing partners for damaging relations. It’s called grooming.

At the Berlin premiere, minors sashayed around with leather whips and other paraphernalia that they presumably consider sexy — because everyone tells them that sexuality is the thing of the hour. A chance to find out for themselves what they like, and to look for a corresponding partner, though, is something that neither our society nor Germany’s leading feminist group will concede to them.

Even the fact that there are also submissive men is no argument. What turns them on is subservience. The fact that a WOMAN is debasing them. Not a man. A woman. A woman who, however, is socially far beneath them. Therein lies the arousal — that is, it comes out of a deeply sexist and misogynous world-view. Sexuality is always to be viewed in the context of social reality. Why else have chambermaids been in the Top Ten list of male sex fantasies for centuries? Why do colonialist world-views express sexual desire in terms of white women and black men, and vice versa? Why are pornos full of racist stereotypes? Why is the horny secretary or nurse a fantasy that gets passed down from generation to generation? Why not a female professor or politician? Because female power — real female power — doesn’t stand for the male dominance of sexuality in a patriarchal society.

Soon, as well, we’ll see the next installment of Germany’s Next Top Model. Heidi ate burgers, döner and sausages in order to shut up the thinness critics. “I’ve been watching the show for ten years,” shrieks an 18-year-old hopeful. “It’s always been my dream to take part.”

Why doesn’t everyone wake up? Shouldn’t girls dream of high-school graduation, university, science, creative heights and successes, instead of making monkeys of themselves with Heidi & Co.?

Society shows young women their place. Either as sex toys for male power fantasies, or as skinny models without dignity.

Hopefully it will be summer soon.

Translation mine.

Full disclosure: I’m not a kinkster. I’m not even remotely curious, having read enough already to know quite well what it’s all about. I have no desire to try it for myself; what I’ve read and seen doesn’t resonate with me — at least, not in a titillating way. I will admit to feeling disturbed by a lot of it, though, and for the very reasons Sigel outlines so succinctly here. The overwhelming majority of it plays to the age-old male power fantasy of “owning” a woman. Even the reversed situation derives its power mainly from the temporary inversion of the accepted order of things. But it doesn’t question that order, nor does it seek to subvert it in the real world. What happens in the dungeon, stays in the dungeon. And anyway, even the most submissive of male subs has his safeword, meaning the action stops when he orders it to. So in the end, even he still has power — even if his male privilege is momentarily (and voluntarily) doffed. The same cannot be said for female subs, whose submission is socially encoded as “normal”.

Worse, the ugliest aspects of the male-dominant power dynamic are so egregious in Fifty Shades that even the most ardent kinksters feel the need to dissociate from the franchise. I may not share their proclivities, but I don’t blame them a bit. They say they don’t stand for Christian’s blatantly illegal moves to control Anastasia, for stalking, for isolation, for abuse, and for the actual, slave-master ownership of a person, right down to a ludicrous, legally unenforceable “contract”. I would hope not! Who’d want to be associated with something so conservative, so un-edgy, so damn OLD? Because really, this is indentured servitude, when you get right down to it; good old-fashioned indentured servitude with a side order of medieval torture.

And yet, heterosexual kink* does partake of the same old dynamics, and that’s what makes it so primal and titillating to some, and fraught — and frankly, ripe for abuse. The kink community has always had its Christians, out to exploit a ready and willing pool of inexperienced young women. And every female sub has found herself at least once, it seems, in Anastasia’s unenviable shoes, being sexually assaulted and having her bounds blatantly overstepped by a dom who refuses to hear NO. And has had to warn others away from that freak. Who is not, unfortunately, that much of a freak.

Sometimes, the only thing that separates a kinky abuser from a garden-variety one is the leather costumery. And even Christian, in his “kinky” mode, is not that much of a one for the leather gear. He can play out his “master” role just as well in banker’s grey flannels. (But hey, at least we get to see him shirtless and sweaty. Whoopee!)

The disturbing thing about Fifty Shades is not the boring-ass sex (which has been described in detail elsewhere, and if you want to read about it, just google) — it’s the mental abuse. And the most abusive thing is that it teaches girls that if they submit enough, they’ll be rewarded with the prince and a tiara and, presumably, a whole stable full of sparkly pink Pegacorns with mauve manes and tails, who piss perfume, fart rainbows, and poop marshmallows, and heal all hurts with the magical light of their crystal horns. That sacrificing themselves and having no desires of their own is the way to a man’s heart, and that they’ll cure him of all his demons that way.

In real life, as has been often pointed out, that way leads straight to the women’s shelter, and often the morgue.

Abusive men aren’t for women to cure, and they don’t even want to be cured. They’re as hooked on their violence as a junkie on the needle. The power fantasy has been marketed to them, too, as a drug that they need to score and go on scoring in ever greater hits, for ever higher highs. The fact that they become numb to it eventually is never mentioned. They end up not in control, but in thrall. The fact that they end up in jail or dead in a grisly murder-suicide is the only logical outcome for that power dynamic. And it’s a fact that gets glossed over by the media time and again. When we do hear talk of a guy going to jail for beating his female partner to death, or of one who shoots first her (and/or their kids) before turning the gun on himself, it’s always couched in nonsense phrases about “senseless violence” that “no one could have predicted”.

In fact, the violence makes a lot of sense, and is dead simple to predict, given the dynamics of the patriarchal, capitalist world we live in. This “fantasy” is a big, money-making reality. Every little Joe Schmoe wants to be a Christian, on some level. With access to an Anastasia, who takes every slap, every punch, every rape, without complaint…just as she’s been taught.

Even the stuff you grow up thinking is so “subversive” and “transgressive” really isn’t. The Marquis de Sade? Hardly a libertarian “citizen” of revolutionary France, but an opportunist who took full, gory advantage of the old droit du seigneur. His perversions weren’t even particularly extreme for his day, at least insofar as literature went; there was already plenty of “blasphemous” spanky-spanky erotica kicking around even then. He didn’t invent a libertine tradition; he grew out of one like a fleur-de-lys from shit. Most of what he cut his teeth on was anticlerical, clandestinely published, and meant to shock with its childish defiance. And it shaped his tastes, without a doubt. His contemporaries were blasé about that. But what made him truly grotesque and ultimately a criminal in their eyes was not what he read and wrote, but what he actually did. To powerless underlings who had virtually no rights in pre-revolutionary France. This was no harmless fantasy of consensual role-play. His victims were predominantly young women in poverty and/or prostitution, who had no choice but to submit to whatever he meted out to them, even death. (Oh yes, did I mention that he was most likely a serial killer, one who pre-dated Jack the Ripper by about a century? Plus ça change…)

Even now, the “sadists” of BDSM are slow to wake up to the fact that their cherished fantasies are the products of some mighty banal evils. Not necessarily childhood abuse, or mommy/daddy issues (lots of kinksters have no history of those), but forces from the larger society writ small and personal, marked “private” and for individual sale only. Some, to their credit, are at least distancing themselves from the mad Marquis, recognizing that a man of the upper class, who poisoned, mutilated and flayed young peasant women without pity, is no role model. They stress safety, sanity, consensuality. They take it as a bounden duty to provide aftercare, and laudably tend to the wounds they inflict. They are seeking alternative terms for their kink, words that don’t hark back to droit du seigneur — at least not so blatantly. Bless them for trying. It’s just a pity that those same terms they stress so hard — safe, sane and consensual — are also being used by some, who are far less scrupulous, to gloss over the serious examination of kink’s background forces that is long overdue.

But that, too, is quite understandable, in light of the blinding obvious. People want to have their cake, and their fetishes too. What else is there to do on your own time in this god-awful crapitalist soul-eating world? Why kill the buzz of kinky “transgression” with structural analysis of its deep-down conservatism, with examination of class and privilege, with history, with the nasty inconvenient fact that the playing field is not finally level now, but still every bit as lumpy and unfairly tilted as it’s ever been, even without the old seigneurial class?

And whose rights are being perpetually eroded by all the bogus talk about “sexual freedom”, used by real sadists like Jian Ghomeshi to assert that their ugliest whims are nothing less than a basic human right?

Take a wild guess. Take several. Take all the time you need.

*Gay kink — more liberating/liberated than straight? Don’t bet on it. A lot of butch/femme and even racist and homophobic stereotypes are played out there, following problematic templates similar to those of the straights. After all, they all have the class consciousness of a heterosexist society as their biggest (and really, only) role model.

Non, je ne suis pas Charlie. And here’s why.

sorry-charlie-shirt

Mock on, Mock on, Voltaire, Rousseau;
Mock on, Mock on, ’tis all in vain.
You throw the sand against the wind,
And the wind blows it back again.

— William Blake

No, I am not Charlie Hebdo.

I am not out there in the crowds, demonstrating support for a publication I cannot and do not support.

As wrong as it is that a policeman and several staffers at a French magazine were killed by what are presumed to be Islamist militants, and as much as I decry their murders, I cannot get behind the idea that the dead are all heroes who died for freedom of speech. And my reasons for not doing so are as follows:

Freedom of speech, belief, association, etc., may all be protected and tolerated in France, as much as they are here in Canada, but they are not devoid of consequences, and it is not the government’s job to protect anyone from the consequences of their speech. Whoever speaks must bear those consequences on their own.

free-speech-means

Yes, that’s right. You have the right to say, think, etc. as you will, but no one is under obligation to respect a word of it, or refrain from criticizing you for it. Indeed, it is their right to tell you when you’re being an ass, and that right is equally protected.

The law also forbids murder, but not with any special provisions in the name of protecting free speech or freedom of religion. It forbids all killing with malice aforethought, whatever the “reasons” behind it. So the murders of the Charlie staffers, and the gendarmes who confronted the killers as well, should be prosecuted as common crimes; no special (mis)treatment to elevate the killers to martyr status in the eyes of their few supporters.

And for those who are tempted to get all huffy and claim that Voltaire said something about disapproving of what someone says but defending to the death their right to say it — well, you’re an ass, because he did NOT say that. Voltaire defended freedom of religion even though he was no great believer himself (like many Enlightenment figures, he was a Deist). But when it came to works deliberately setting out to offend the clergy (recall that France was then, and in some ways still is, very priest-ridden), he was much more nuanced. Rather than defend to the death someone’s right to spew blasphemy or heresy (in this case, the philosopher Claude Adrien Helvétius, whose offending work was ordered burned by the parliament of the day), he actually said, “What a fuss over an omelette!” In other words, much ado about an inconsequential mass of fluff. Who reads Helvétius anymore, except maybe philosophy majors, or those curious to see what Voltaire once called an “omelette”?

And who, before this week, read Charlie Hebdo?

Certainly not I. And I still don’t, and will not. What I have seen from that rag doesn’t impress me one bit. The cartoons are puerile, crudely drawn, often racist (and very specifically anti-Muslim, in a country with a long, shameful history of imperialism in Muslim lands), and the sentiment behind them is the same noble impulse that drives pimply schoolboys to moon old churchladies out of car windows. It may be some species of free expression, but as satire, it’s weak sauce. Not even fit to drizzle over an omelette, to be frank. I would sooner bore myself to tears over Helvétius.

Freedom of speech may be a noble concept, but it was never conceived to make saints out of wankers who style themselves as equal-opportunity offenders. One must question just how equal that opportunity really was when they were busy taking pot-shots. To question Charlie‘s motives is one’s right if one is committed to freedom of speech, and indeed one’s obligation if one is committed to considering the facts, and ALL the facts.

And I am thus committed. And that’s why I am not Charlie.

You see, I happen to think that “Come at me, bro!” is a shitty hill to go die on in the name of freedom of speech. Voltaire, too, would say the same. And he would probably say, as I do, that as unfortunate as the consequences of Charlie’s speech may be, they are also precisely what those same scribblers have been angling for, and for several years now. The only halfway surprising thing about it is that it’s taken this long, and it is only halfway surprising because anyone who knows what French Muslims are like (as Juan Cole does, very well) would realize immediately that they have nothing to apologize for in this case. Not only did a French Muslim gendarme sacrifice his life for the sake of protecting the public good, but French Muslim women have used their own freedom of speech to condemn the government’s absurd, ironic, racist and religiously discriminatory ban on hijabs…by wearing them in the colors of the French flag, demonstrating patriotism and dissent in the same instance. And most French imams, like those everywhere outside the Muslim world, routinely use their pulpits to exhort the faithful to follow the laws of the land, not impose against them. In short, French Muslims do not deserve to be singled out as terrorists, whether for special mistreatment under the law, or for abuse by so-called satirists.

I may not share their religion, now or ever, but I will damn well use my freedom of speech to defend their right to express it in any lawful and/or nonviolent way they like. And I hope I will not have to die in order to do so, because I am not the stuff of which martyrs are made. I am, as Monsieur Voltaire might put it, an omelette.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to join him and his English counterpart, John Milton, on the Areopagus. It’s a higher hill by far, and you can see better from it.

Also, it doesn’t reek of merde.

When perverts become “victims”

sebastian-edathy-chutzpah

Sebastian Edathy, personifying chutzpah on Facebook. In English, no less.

Right now, in Germany, there’s a huge scandal going on. A former parliamentarian, who resigned shortly before his home was raided by police, has been found to have bought and downloaded child pornography, and even pretty much confessed that he whacks off to it. So, why is this self-admitted pervert not behind bars yet? Well, as the Störenfriedas blog has found, the problem lies in German society itself, and their way of addressing — or rather, NOT addressing — the nature of the problem:

On Thursday, December 18, Sebastian Edathy gave a press conference. The 45-year-old Edathy is facing criminal charges for possession of child pornography. An investigation is now under way to find out exactly who knew what, and when, about the accusations against the Saxon state politician. Also to determine if Edathy was warned. SPD parliamentarian Thomas Oppermann and federal delegate Michael Hartmann play a particular role.

It is surely important [to know] who warned Edathy, because it tells us something about the social position of children and sexual violence in our society, and of complicity in their trivialization. Above all, Edathy is using this question right now to present himself on the media stage — and the media are playing along — to push the actual acts into the background and thus whitewash them.

There’s talk of the “Kiddy-Porn Affair”. Just this headline contains an ugly verbal distancing and a further objectification of children for purposes of sexual exploitation. It is not a “kiddy-porn affair”; it concerns actual children, who were and are being made to serve as masturbation fodder for men. These are not some films that have nothing to do with reality, but children with real feelings, who remain forever caught in the net of men’s sexual exploitation. How must a person feel when he or she knows that their own body is serving again and again as wank-fodder, and one can never do anything about it?

Says Adrian P., who was affected, about that: “The pictures of me are horrifying. I can never get rid of them.”

Edathy himself talks of “purchases” when he’s talking about the children to whom he masturbated: “I believe that the majority of the critical public voices on the purchases — to be honest — are right.” In the final analysis, Edathy takes no responsibility for his own conduct.

A reporter asked: “Are you a pedophile, Herr Edathy?” Edathy replied: “Are you homosexual or heterosexual? Maybe you’re a pedophile…you know what, that simply doesn’t concern you.”

This response is very clever because it brings pedophilia down to the same level as homosexuality and heterosexuality. This excuse is symptomatic of Edathy’s position, which resonates with that of the pedo-criminal organizations, such as the “Crooked 13″ and others. These have been trying for decades to sell sexual interest in children as normal sexuality, which should be acted upon. Because this is, according to their definitions, normal, and the results of such “normal sexuality”, as they call it, meaning the sexual exploitation of children, is consequently whitewashed and negated. Finally, it’s all the same in fact whether Edathy’s conduct fits the definition of pedophilia or not. On exactly which grounds children have suffered violence is unimportant. The consequences must be borne by those who have exerted sexual violence, and by those who have profited from it (after the fact). The perpetrator-type of one Herr Edathy is, in fact, irrelevant.

This justification of such deeds is socially widespread. The grounds for it will be laid out here, because they have very real effects upon the Edathy case and its medial reception:

The concept of “pedophilia” comes from the Greek and is made up of παῖς (“boy, child”) and φιλία (“friendship”). It seems to suggest that men with sexual interest in children, and those who sexually exploit children, actually act on the basis of a real, genuine friendly inclination. Even in this case, language reshapes what is actually a very gruesome reality. The motive of a friendly inclination can be doubted, anyway, and even if one considers it valid, it could still be laid to rest, at latest, when power relations are used and boundaries overstepped, as in when sexual violence is used against children.

Pedophilia is listed as a “disease” in the ICD-10 and the DSM, and above all, it is a “disease” in the mind of society. That brings much sympathy for “afflicted” men as a result. It has also led to the notion that people are under pressure, and thus “understanding” — for the perpetrators, that is, not the victim — is necessary, and to look at “both sides” when it comes to sexual violence by men against children. “Aware” men, who are “ready for therapy”, are celebrated. And people who are against that celebration are characterized as heartless, without character, and devoid of empathy. At any rate, we must discuss how much of “pedophilia”-as-sickness is a social construct; if we leave out this consideration, we can still at least ask ourselves who has ever celebrated a victim of sexual violence when she or he has gone into therapy (insofar as there is even a slot in therapy for them; the totally inadequate psycho-traumatological care of victims of violence is worth an article in itself).

“Do you even regret anything?” asks a reporter. Edathy replies in a roundabout way. In his opinion, it’s wrong to expect persons in public office to be flawless. He sees himself as a victim of the rule of law. “The children are victims too”, says the reporter. Can Edathy be sure that children have acted without duress? Edathy, again, blames the Criminal Prosecutor’s Office: “I have paid a high price for what I’ve done. I will try to build up a new existence for myself. Maybe someday it will be possible for me to live without fear in Germany.”

The “flaw”, to have had [sexual] contact with children or youths, will always stick with someone — even when such charges are proven false. The Canadian company from which he obtained the films in question has been under criminal investigation without charges for years. Edathy keeps emphasizing that the films are “legal”, but only once does he say, in an aside, that it “was morally not okay”.

Again and again, the question gets asked: Were the nude photos legal? The headline reads: “Harmless nude photos, or criminal child porn?” Edathy himself says: “I didn’t act conspiratorially. I was firmly convinced that the pictures are not criminally relevant.” He also says: “We are not talking here about a capital crime.”

He also says it’s okay to consume such pictures or films whose production “did not use recognizable violence”. In the Stern, it says: “It was wrong to buy the films. But it was legal.” Where is the responsibility on the part of a currently active federal delegate to society, when he sees everything as “okay” and “legal”, but as a consumer he can’t tell if violence was behind it or not? Can he still shuffle off responsibility for that onto others? Or would it not be better to take responsibility in this sense: “As long as I can’t be 100% sure that no violence was used, I am morally and legally obligated to keep my hands off it”?

If everyone were to act that way, there would be no market for prostitution or pornography with adult “protagonists”, because it is simply impossible to rule out force. Aside from that, why should one be absolved if one assumes that no violence was used because that is “not visible”? What does Edathy mean when he speaks of violence? Must violence be “visible”? Does it depend on that? It does not. It speaks to Edathy’s posture, and that of society, that there can be a context of “under normal circumstances” and “violence-free”, a moral-ethical as well as judicially representable one, in which such photos can be produced, distributed and commercialized. Ergo: When it comes to minors, the question of force or no force cannot even be asked.

The manifold attempts of the sex-industry lobby to make even children into “self-determined actors” and to legalize “child prostitution” and “child pornography” (these concepts are real bones of contention), point to yet another way.

A further question should be what difference it really makes whether a politician masturbates to “legal” or illegal nude photos. Doesn’t the whole affair show that there are loopholes in the law, and that as a result, the legal framework for nude photos of children must be urgently evaluated and made stricter? On what grounds does a man (or woman) even need nude photos of children? Is “art” not simply the usual excuse for sexual violators to get off scot-free? It is a sheer insult that politicians, whose job it is to make laws and be responsible for the protection of women and children, to make legalistic excuses for their acting-out of power. So the assertion that people were acting out “sexual urges”, not crimes, calls into question why this is not a crime. With legal silence, society leaves countless victims in the lurch and betrays them. Edathy’s dismay that despite his immunity a search raid took place on his home clearly shows that powerful men enjoy particular protection.

During the press conference, Thorsten Denkler stated that there surely is a difference between legality and moral rightness. Edathy aggressively waved that off: His private life surely doesn’t concern anyone!

This reference to the private sphere is a cheap trick, but it works when it comes to offering criminals protection. It’s self-evident that everyone has their private sphere, and that this must be protected. But it is also self-evident that this cannot come at a cost to others. A collective looking-away from pedocriminality on the part of society doesn’t protect the private sphere, it supports criminals. Edathy is aware that in this society, sensitivity toward dealings with children is very high, but goes hand in hand with hysteria. This perception supports him in his self-portrayal as victim. He would never get rid of that stain. His recurrent aggression when talk turns to the film material is noteworthy. Again and again he attacks the questioner verbally, and sticks to excuses over the legality. He sees this film material as “art”, not child pornography. It is obvious that even here, mostly economically weak children are serving rich men. But when only visible violence is relevant, then economic forces, violent experiences, addictions and other consequences are obviously of no interest to either criminals or lawmakers. To shrug off he exploitation of these children as problematic sexual practice clearly shows the media’s trivialization of the subject. That the earnings of legal recordings obviously also finance criminally relevant materials, is a clear and present danger that is not being debated.

“Is it not humane to warn others?” runs an oft-asked question. That surely depends on the conscience of the person. Whoever has empathy will hardly be in the mood for that. When it comes to sexual violence, it must be clear that there can be no protection for perpetrators. How the many witting individuals still in public office can live with the knowledge that they didn’t care about the fate of the children, and that they let a criminal go on offending, is hard to imagine. “What do you think goes into the making of those posed photos of little boys that you got off on? Have you any idea of what production process takes place, and when did you begin to think about it?” asks Dieter Wonka. Even here, Edathy can’t think of anything but that it was not illicit material, and right away goes on the attack, saying that Wonka has mistaken him for a jurist and hasn’t done his homework. The same thing happens to a female journalist, who points out to him reports of heavily traumatized children from various films. How does he stand regarding that? Angrily, he counters that she wasn’t paying attention for the last two hours, and that the Phoenix TV channel should just send her a transcript. No matter how many times this reporter looks at that transcript, she will look in vain for a sympathetic word for the children. He has no answer either for the questions of a children’s aid representative.

“Pedophiles” are very creative in their use of masturbation fodder. It doesn’t take much, in a pinch, to make their fantasies come alive. One genre, for example, is the use of child models in tights, in various poses. Do children have to be served up for men on silver platters in order to serve their sexual interest in them? Does society want that for its children, and would we want such a society? Is it important and necessary for children to have nude photos of themselves on the Internet?

In the Stern issue of December 17, 2014, the headline reads: “The Edathy Affair”. Even here it’s not about children, but party politics. Nothing is coincidental, and the slogan on the front page reads: “The Power of Forgiveness”. It has to do with other people in another article, but naturally, an association with Edathy is meant to be established here. It is in fact a mistake to believe that forgiveness helps. This idea has more to do with Christian beliefs, which have forced the idea that good people can forgive, and bad and weak people can’t. In fact, for many victims of violence, it is very important that a perpetrator be punished, and in a fitting manner. For many victims and their families, life has become hell on Earth, and just the thought that a perpetrator can go on committing crimes with a smile on his face is hard to tolerate. Forgiveness is a concept, and helps no one other than predators and their irresponsibility. The idea of forgiveness even puts victims under more pressure, because they can’t even face their feelings, because with religious people, feelings like hate and vengeance are seen as “bad”. But victims can and should be able to feel whatever they want. That’s all.

The reactions of the media and many people are explainable, but not very helpful:

Most people see the world through rose-colored glasses, in order to feel good. Otherwise, they would not be able to handle the real proportions of gruesome crimes and violence. At least not without being forced to deal with it. Some even say “there is some good in everyone”. This saying is obsolete and trivial, even laughable, because with many crimes, it doesn’t matter if there’s anything “good” in a person. Who cares here if a man who, for instance, has raped children, cares about his sick wife or children, or likes flowers or animals? In the English-speaking world, sexual criminals, regardless of type, are called predators. They seek out their victims in a goal-oriented way, and plan exactly how to successfully carry out their crimes. In German-speaking spheres, meanwhile, there is much to seemingly legitimize the criminals and their crimes. There is talk of “urges”, which expresses a lack of control, and opens the way for criminals to give up responsibility and suggest to society that these criminals can and should not be accused of anything. A further, very common designation is that of “inclinations”, a further total whitewashing of terrible violence against children. Some people also say “sickening”, which surely comes from the fact that some behaviors make us sick because they are so repugnant and gruesome, which is true in and of itself. But that cannot mean that these criminals are “sick”, because that would mean that they can’t do anything about their behaviors, and that their actions are free of blame.

Many people make the mistake of believing that they can recognize a lie. But people are very bad at recognizing lies, as studies have been showing for years. Even police officers are no better than other people or psychiatrists. All professions had the same results as pure chance. Even in the case of Herr Edathy, maybe some believe that based on their seemingly great knowledge of human beings, Edathy could not have done anything bad.

There are many theories as to why people, almost always men, are attracted to children. But in fact there is no proven knowledge. The modes of conduct, however, are known. There is always a long period of planning and fantasizing in advance. The obsession with children is supported by constant masturbation to fantasies about children, or actual pictures of children.

Maybe we don’t always have an answer to the question as to how to stop men like Edathy, or how to explain their behavior. We, and those responsible for the media, should however stop making excuses for them. It is not our job to explain and justify the actions of criminals. That is, ultimately, a distraction and doesn’t help the victims. We should take an interest in the victims and give them a space. The criminals are responsible for ending their own criminal behavior, and they should have to bear the consequences for it in all regards. Victims must bear the consequences of sexual violence all their lives. Edathy has gotten a lot of space in the media. And there, the victims were reduced to a “kiddie-porn affair”.

Translation mine.

So you can see clearly what kind of linguistic gymnastics we’re talking about. Germany has a pedophilia problem in its major media. Germany has to take a long, hard look at itself. No doubt about that.

Well, I hate to say this, but the exact same thing happens all the time in English-speaking media, too. There’s a lot of sympathy for pedophiles who claim to be “aware of their problem” and “seeking help”. On the other hand, one has only to look at how the media covers the acts themselves to see what kind of contempt still exists toward victims. Sexism, racism — you name it, the prejudice is there, coded right into the language. The New York Times, of all “respectable” publications, fudged the gang-rape of an 11-year-old black girl in Texas three years ago. Rather than treating the perpetrators as predators seeking out the youngest, the weakest, the lowest on the social totem pole, the Times report painted them as the victims, and insinuated that the girl was a prematurely grown-up temptress:

…the paper of record speculates on how the small town of Cleveland, Texas, has been rocked by the story, and the torturous question of “how could their young men have been drawn into such an act.” How, indeed? It’s surely a horrifying scenario when 18 young men are implicated in a crime of violence and degradation. The victim’s affidavit says the assault began when a local 19-year-old offered her a ride in his car, and escalated to a protracted group assault, featuring “threats she would be beaten if she did not comply” and participants recording the abuse on their phones. How could these boys have been “drawn into such an act”? Was it drugs, sociopathy, coercion? Or was that little girl just asking for it?

After all, as the Times helpfully points out, “Residents in the neighborhood where the abandoned trailer stands — known as the Quarters — said the victim had been visiting various friends there for months. They said she dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s. She would hang out with teenage boys at a playground, some said.” Gosh, I wonder if she’s pretty or you know, developed, because that’s relevant too.

So you can see it’s not just the Germans who have a language problem when it comes to child rape and sexual abuse. Americans have it too. And Canadians. And Britons. And…you name it.

Any country where sexual assault occurs, you are bound to run into language barriers when it comes to talking about it. Not because adequate words don’t exist to cover the problem; most of us surely have a big enough vocabulary of those. The problem, as the Störenfriedas piece makes clear, is not words, it is the willingness to use the correct ones. To “make nails with heads”, as the German saying goes, implies that you can’t properly hammer a thing together without them. And this is true, for it is the head of the nail that takes the hammer’s impact, and drives the shaft into the boards. Headless nails are just bits of wire that get bent out of shape and won’t hold anything together at all. So it is with language, too: The wrong words, like headless nails, won’t hold together; they distort, they bend out of shape, they are worse than useless.

And that is what all this perpetrator-friendly talk of “being drawn into” gang-rapes, or “purchases” of child porn videos, also does: It distorts a situation, bending our mental view of it out of shape. It is worse than useless to the victims of those crimes; it takes the blame off the perpetrators and throws it right back onto those who have already suffered the most. Especially if, like bad Christians, they refuse to “forgive” those who “trespassed against” them. Don’t you love that phraseology? It makes the body sound like property. Like turf. Only — and this is grist for a whole other article — whose property, whose turf, is it? Surely not that of the victim, since women have long been legally reckoned to be property of men, and children likewise. The horrific implication is that one can do what one wants to them, as long as one owns them. Human chattel, it is still a thing.

And yes, law enforcement has long supported that view, too. I can still remember when the phrase date rape first hit the media (yes, I’m that old), and when police routinely refused to “get involved” when a man beat the shit out of his wife, even if it put her in hospital, because that was “only a domestic matter”. Even now, there are still people who think that if a man buys a woman dinner, he has essentially bought her sexual consent, and she is “a real bitch” if she doesn’t “give it up” to her entitled date. Or that Ray Rice had a God-given right to punch out his then-fiancée, Janay Palmer. She has since married him, believe it or not, and even “taken his name”, i.e. signed herself over as his chattel under the old coverture laws, though she probably has no idea that the slave-era implications of name-changing are still there, wriggling away below the surface of things.

Coverture may have fallen out of legal fashion, but he idea that a woman has a will of her own, which deserves respect, has yet to be adequately — i.e. FULLY — transmitted in English. Can you imagine what that implies for the children?

Sebastian Edathy certainly goes about whitewashing his own actions with a great deal of chutzpah, but he didn’t figure out how to do that on his own. Just as kids learn how the world works by watching the grownups, so a pedocriminal learns how to twist language to his own advantage by watching others do likewise. The media may ask him all kinds of hardball questions, but in the end, they too are complicit in the overall mishandling of the problem-with-the-fancy-Greek-name.

And that’s not just a German thing; it is a problem everywhere. Edathy bought those movies from a Canadian company, so we as a country share in the scandal and the blame of this trans-Atlantic miscreant. Who knows where, in turn, those movies were made?

In the end, adult male supremacy is a global problem, not limited to any one country. And the globalization of capital, the global nature of capitalism itself, has proved to be nothing but a boon for the abusers of children, traffickers of women and girls, and perverts who whack off to not-technically-illegal photos and movies of naked boys. One cannot stamp it out at one end and declare the whole thing dead; it will only look for another, more congenial place to resurrect itself, hydra-headed, worse than ever. The problem is global in nature, and demands a collective, global solution in turn. And it demands that we all, together, change the way we look at women and children — radically. We must, collectively, give up all ideas of people-as-property, infinitely interchangeable, disposable, and exploitable.

Language plays a definite part in that radical change; a wonderful German word comes to mind. The word is both verb and noun: Umdenken. A re-thinking; to re-think. That is what we need to have, and to do. Until then, we’re just spitting into the wind, and we shouldn’t be surprised if it all just blows right back in our faces.

Happy Human Rights Day!

human-rights-sanctions.jpg

“We will impose sanctions on those who defend human rights!” Once more, a Venezuelan cartoonist — this time, it’s Uncas — hits the nail on the head.

And in honor of Human Rights Day, here’s another fine example of how the US doesn’t lead when it comes to human rights, it just crushes them underfoot, like Orwell’s boot stomping on a human face forever:

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence today released the executive summary of its long-awaited “Study of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program,” describing in more than 500 pages a dysfunctional agency so unprepared to handle suspected terrorist detainees after 9/11, that the CIA bought into private contractors’ proposals for torture, and then lied to Congress, President Bush, the Justice Department, the public, and to itself about the purported effectiveness of the program.

The Senate release includes a 6-page foreword by committee chair Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), a 19-page list of 20 specific Findings and Conclusions, and a 499-page Executive Summary which details the development of the torture program after 9/11. The longest single section of the Summary, from page 172 to page 400, eviscerates the CIA’s “eight primary CIA effectiveness representations” along with 12 “secondary” ones by showing either there was “no relationship” between the cited success and detainee information “during or after” the CIA’s use of torture, or that such information was otherwise available and even obtained prior to the use of torture.

Translation: TORTURE DOESN’T FUCKING WORK.

Also, THE CIA IS THE SAME EVIL BAND OF JACKALS AS IT WAS WHEN IT PLOTTED TO KILL JFK. IT HASN’T CHANGED ONE FUCKING IOTA.

And in addition to that, CAPITALISM + TORTURE = REALLY FUCKING EXPENSIVE MURDER MACHINE THAT DOESN’T EVEN FUCKING WORK.

Oh yeah, and on top of that, LIES, LIES AND MORE FUCKING LIES:

Including 2,725 footnotes to specific CIA documents, the Senate report shows a pattern of repeated factual inaccuracies by CIA in communications with the Justice Department (to get legal cover for the program), with the White House (including false information inserted in the President’s Daily Brief and one of President Bush’s major speeches), with the Congress (Appendix 3 starting on page 462 provides more than 30 pages of false statements in testimony by former CIA director Michael Hayden), and even inside the Agency itself.

THIRTY FUCKING PAGES OF BULLSHIT FROM MICHAEL FUCKING HAYDEN ALONE, PEOPLE. And it doesn’t end with him, either:

The report cites CIA documents showing CIA officers at the secret detention sites repeatedly protested the torture program — one interrogator called the program a “train wreak” [sic] and wrote “I intend to get the hell off the train before it happens.” But higher-ups, including CIA directors George Tenet, Porter Goss, and Hayden, overruled objections and kept the program going until President Obama ended it in 2009. The head of CIA counterterrorism operations, Jose Rodriguez, even reprimanded CIA officers at one site for their protests, warning them to refrain from using “speculative language as to the legality of given activities” in CIA cables.

It’s not a question of who fucked up, at this point; the list of those who didn’t fuck up is infinitely shorter.

Of course, none of this comes as any great surprise to me; BushCo was a veritable fuck-up factory. It churned ‘em out assembly-line style, from start to finish. There is nothing that Weak ‘n’ Stupid touched that didn’t turn to ca-ca. Appropriately, for someone descended from royalty, ol’ Dubya sure does have the reverse Midas touch.

And there is no doubt in my mind that every torturer-jack of them belongs in The Hague, and locked up shortly after. But don’t take MY word for it…

A U.N. human rights expert said a report that the U.S. Senate released on Tuesday revealed a “clear policy orchestrated at a high level within the Bush administration” and called for prosecution of U.S. officials who ordered crimes, including torture, against detainees.

Ben Emmerson, United Nations special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, said senior Bush administration officials who planned and authorized crimes must be prosecuted, along with as CIA and other U.S. government officials who committed torture such as waterboarding.

“As a matter of international law, the U.S. is legally obliged to bring those responsible to justice,” Emmerson said in a statement issued in Geneva. “The U.S. Attorney General is under a legal duty to bring criminal charges against those responsible.”

Unfortunately, THAT’s not going to happen. Practically the first thing His Barackness did upon setting foot in the Oval Office was to amnesty all these war criminals, torturers and murderers. Translation: NO HOPE OF A FUCKING PROSECUTION EVER. And, by the way, that’s illegal:

International law prohibits granting immunity to public officials who have engaged in acts of torture, he said.

“The fact that the policies revealed in this report were authorized at a high level within the U.S. government provides no excuse whatsoever. Indeed, it reinforces the need for criminal accountability,” Emmerson said.

Torture is an international crime and perpetrators may be prosecuted by any other country to which they might travel, he added.

Incidentally, that’s the very reason Henry Fucking Kissinger no longer sets foot outside of US soil. There’s an international warrant out for his arrest, for war crimes dating all the way back to the Vietnam War.

His Barackness would be well advised to reverse that amnesty now, if he doesn’t want to become complicit — and a war criminal, and suffer the same fate — himself. But — oops! — it’s already way too late for that.

Happy Human Rights Day, indeed, my US friends. How does it feel to live in a country where that phrase has become totally meaningless?

Montréal Massacre: The truth that no one wants to know

montreal-massacre-25.jpg

“Je lutte contre les féministes!”

So said Marc Lépine, Gamil Rodrigue Gharbi, expressly declaring war on feminists before he opened fire. These words have often been misquoted or mistranslated as “You’re all a bunch of feminists”, “I hate feminists”. In fact, they mean “I am fighting against feminists”. This is just one of many truths that have been distorted, ignored or outright whitewashed in our memories of that horrible day.

25 years ago today. A full quarter-century. Has it really been that long? For me, the crime of the Canadian century happened only yesterday. No matter where I am, no matter what day it is, what time of year, for me it will always be December at Queen’s University, whenever I think of those names, that night. I will always feel the cold and damp of the ever-present Kingston slush leaking into my boots, will always smell the snow in the air, will always feel the strangled need to cry as I head to the vigil, to class, to my volunteer work at the Queen’s Women’s Centre. I, who can’t forget, wonder how anyone else could fail to remember.

And yet, fail they do. They fail all the time. Our politicians, our media, they fail us, the women of Canada.

A few days ago, Peter MacKay, our so-called justice minister, stuck his foot in it big-time when he said that “we may never understand” why Marc Lépine did it. In actual fact, only he himself may never know that. He, and maybe the rest of the willfully ignorant, predominantly male morons who comprise the conservative government and its voting bloc. And they may never know it because they just don’t want to know it. They are idiots, they don’t belong in power, and they must not presume to speak for the rest of us.

All other Canadians know the truth all too well. Days after it happened, letters were already pouring in to media outlets all over Canada, and especially Québec, decrying the massacre for what it was: not the random act of a lone madman, but a specifically political act of terrorism. Protests and vigils were organized on university campuses across the land. Feminist women, and a few perceptive, allied men, could already see the truth, and they weren’t having any of the media’s carefully organized, cleverly worded whitewash. None of them were fooled by the conventional “wisdom” that Canadian women had already achieved all that they wanted, that life was fine and fair now, and that feminists should just pack it all in and go home to their kitchens…so to speak.

The women on Lépine’s hit list — oh yes, he had one — know it all too well, too. They were his actual, intended targets. They were meant to become examples of “what happens to feminists when they go too far”. The fact that they did not may be due only to Lépine’s instability and ineptitude; he was apparently almost as poor a terrorist as he was a student. Instead, it was a completely unrelated group who paid the price: the women who were admitted as engineering students to the Polytechnique, taking what Lépine fancied was his rightful place in a profession which is still, to this day, heavily dominated by men.

Did any of them call themselves feminists at the time? I can’t speak for the dead, but I do know that at least some of the survivors said that no, at the time, they were not, although they believed in equality of the sexes, and believed that feminism’s work was done. They were examples of how feminism had succeeded, because they were beneficiaries of female progress and believers in equal opportunity. And yet, also, they were victims — unwitting exemplars of how much of our society’s complacency works against that same progress. They just wanted to fit in, to be accepted; they conceded to the patriarchy without realizing how at the time, or how much. They were not then feminists. But they are now, because now they see the need. Far from sending them to sleep, the shooting was a wake-up call for them. The Massacre drove home to them that there was and is a need for feminism, because women are not free yet, and neither are they treated as men’s equals.

Worse, we are losing ground; the long-gun registry was scrapped, and human-rights protections that women have fought for over decades are being eroded away by creeping conservatism, neo-traditionalism, and ultra-capitalist economics that push the underclass ever further down. If feminism has accomplished all its goals, as is so often insisted by media and “men’s rights” groups, why is there still so much misogyny — enough to kill, not only in spectacular mass form, but on a small, steady, day-to-day basis?

Maybe it’s because our supposedly liberal, enlightened society is still largely an Old Boys’ Club. And maybe because that club is jealous of its power and control, and will do all it can to preserve it; just look at how long the struggle for pay equity has been going on. Maybe because women getting legal personhood, abortion rights, the Pill, the vote, an education, and some limited right to pursue a career, isn’t enough to combat it. Maybe because the scant handful basic, partial concessions of rights we have been able to get have actually served, in the minds of sexist men, as provocations, as proof that we’ve “gone too far”, as “danger signs” that a matriarchy is about to replace the existing “benevolent” patriarchy, and as “evidence” of a “need” to put women back in “their place”. (Note all the quotes; they’re there for a reason.)

And yes, the Montréal Massacre was aimed at doing exactly that.

I know all this because I have a little purple book in front of me on my desk right now. It’s called, simply, The Montréal Massacre. It was compiled by Louise Malette and Marie Chalouh, and translated by Marlene Wildeman for Gynergy Books. I bought it in the early 1990s, and I have yet to finish reading it, because its intensity keeps knocking the wind out of me. It is a collection of letters, essays, newspaper articles and poems, written in the immediate aftermath of the massacre, and it puts the lie to all the conventional narratives. Some of the writers are well-known Québec feminists, others ordinary people who were moved to write letters to the editor because they could not stomach all the bullshit and the lies. All are deeply, darkly critical of the mainstream narrative, of the silence it enforces.

Some note how the francophone media’s language around the victims was absurdly masculinized; the murder victims were not, as the media put it, étudiants, masculine/generic, but étudiantes, female students. Not all were engineering students; Barbara Klucznik was a nursing student. And not all of them were students, either; Maryse Laganière was an employee of the Polytechnique’s budget department. So the “student” appellation was not entirely accurate. The one and only thing the dead all had in common was that they were female. By erasing the gender of the dead, the media whitewashed the fact that the massacre was a gender-specific act of terrorism. (Even in the English-speaking media, where gender-specific noun endings are largely passé, a subtler form of erasure was the order of the day. And at least one journalist now feels guilty about her own unintentional part in the whitewash. It as, after all, quite the Old Boys’ Club in there. And, like the Massacre victims, she just wanted to fit in.)

Several of the writers also note that the media expressed curious sympathy for the killer while ignoring his blatant motives, preferring to portray him as mentally ill, an abused child of a wildly unstable father, and pitiable, rather than as a conscious political actor. Why can’t he be all of those things? they ask. For he WAS all of those things. Being mentally ill, abused and pitiful does not render a person apolitical, nor should it obscure that person’s political motives. Being political does not make one cold, mechanical, divorced from one’s own abused and abusive past, either. Such oversimplification serves the public interest poorly; feminists know that all too well. They’ve had to battle similar erroneous perceptions from the get-go.

Above all, the writers of that little book decry how quick the patriarchy was to fling its mantle over everything, to declare it “incomprehensible” and deem all protest “inappropriate”, “disrespectful”, etc. All FEMINIST protest, that is. If a man spouted blatant sexism to “protest” all the “rampant feminism” that supposedly provoked the killer, why, that was quite all right. The voices of the privileged class were welcome to have their say, over and over and over, ad nauseam. The underclass? Shut up, you bitches, the men are talking. Go home. Make sandwiches. Be thankful that we let a few of you in as tokens, and be quiet. Don’t demand more.

Even today, we’re still fighting the carefully orchestrated ignorance that fell like a shroud over that late afternoon. And it’s like trying to swim through an ever-spinning turbine to get at the truth, to be able to tell it and not be silenced.

I can still remember watching the mass funeral on TV, seeing the Catholic priests swinging their incense-burners over the caskets as they were paraded by. It was a literal smokescreen being cast before our very eyes, a metaphor made real. And oh, how nauseated I was by it all. I can remember thinking, quite clearly, how ironic and horrific and yet strangely appropriate this was; patriarchy had killed those women, and now it was burying them, too. And of course, it decreed forgetfulness, mealy mouths, empty words, lip service in lieu of honesty and action, much smoke but no fire. The victims were “innocent”, and much was made of that innocence and guiltlessness. They did not deserve to die — everyone agreed on that — but they were also not allowed to be women. They were not allowed to be acknowledged as victims of sexism, of patriarchy, of gendercide.

People still don’t want to know why those 14 women were really killed. They’re very curious to know who they were, but not so curious as to why they had to perish. They think that it’s enough to put faces and life stories to the names, and not inquire any further into the killer’s motive for destroying them. Worse, in their efforts to “put the tragedy behind us”, they’ve buried Marc Lépine’s suicide-note-cum-manifesto and hit list, so that it can’t be analyzed and criticized, and so that its contents cannot be properly understood. Who benefits from that? The Menz Rightzers. The MRAs. The “manosphere”. The patriarchy. They’ve already claimed him as their hero-martyr-saint. They have websites set up as shrines to him, and have cultivated them for years. They consider his words to be a kind of holy writ, a truth bomb in the war against feminism. They preserve his ramblings while the rest of us are unable to find the full text of those words on any site that isn’t unsavory, that isn’t dedicated to hating women and calling for their wholesale enslavement and destruction, that doesn’t repulse us and send us fleeing for our sanity’s sake.

Think we don’t need feminism anymore? Think again. This is why we need it, people:

25 years have gone by, and in those 25 years, the message to be silent, to bury the dead women “respectfully” by forgetting the meaning of their deaths, has only grown louder. But if we want to actually make progress, we have to talk about them, analyze, criticize, tear open the hypocritical crypt, and blow away the ashes, dust and smoke that surround it. We have to scrub away the whitewash from the sepulchre, and acknowledge what’s really inside. Otherwise, we’re only doing the terrorist’s work for him, and erasing women from the picture. Not only from the past, but our present and future, too.

Venezuela has free treatment for HIV/AIDS. Do you?

aids-meds.jpg

Via Aporrea, some more good news you won’t hear from your mainstream media about Venezuela and its evil, evil socialist government. For the tens of thousands of Venezuelans who have contracted HIV or are ill with AIDS, the government is taking care of them all the way:

In Venezuela there is the political will to protect persons with HIV/AIDS throughout the land, said Asdrúbal González, co-ordinator of the National Human Rights Network, on VTV’s breakfast-hour program, El Desayuno.

González stated that in Venezuela, 43,000 persons with AIDS get free anti-retroviral medication and integral attention in general, thanks to the National Public Health System.

González emphasized the actions of public institutions, such as the People’s Ombud, in defence of those living with AIDS, and the Law for the Promotion and Protection of Right to Equality of Persons with HIV/AIDS and their Families, approved by the National Assembly this year.

This law condemns all forms of discrimination against this population, with an eye to assuring that they get to exercise all their rights, duties and responsibilities without any discrimination.

Yesterday was World AIDS Day, a date chosen, says González, due to the first [known] case of the disease being diagnosed on this date in 1981.

[…]

González was emphatic in expressing to the public that they must leave behind fear and taboos, and seek information related to this illness, in order to avoid discrimination. He also emphasized the importance of any person at risk of contracting the virus to get the ELISA test, one of the most effective at detecting HIV.

González explained that HIV/AIDS can be transmitted through vaginal or anal sex, contaminated blood transfusions, contact with needles, syringes or other sharp objects, as well as from mother to fetus during pregnancy or childbirth.

He added that in the Hugo Chávez Frías Maternity and Children’s Hospital, located in the Caracas district of El Valle, the National Human Rights Network has its head office, where they are holding days of information, prevention and awareness about the disease.

“Our message is: Protect yourself, always use condoms, HIV does not discriminate, and we call upon you to become more aware every day of the persons who live with this condition,” González said.

Translation mine.

It’s important to note that AIDS has in fact been around much longer than initially thought. The first cases of a mysterious wasting illness, then known as “cachexie de Mayombe” in French, were seen in the Congo region of western-central Africa during the 1930s. Since the disease, as doctors now know, has a long lag time, of as many as 10 or 15 years between initial infection and outbreak of full-blown AIDS, it is suspected that the disease first spread from chimps to humans around 1915, when the Trans-Congo Railroad was being built through the region. The importation of rifles, which coincided with the building of the railway, made hunting of simians for bushmeat easier, and it is likely that a hunter butchering a chimp got SIV-contaminated blood in a cut, becoming the first human casualty of what until then was only a mildly infectious monkey virus. Since prostitution accompanied the railroad work camps, the virus was soon spread to women, who in turn passed it along heterosexually to other men. Poor sanitation in hospitals and clinics, and the common practice of recycling used needles, also contributed to the spread of the virus. The dark, purplish skin lesions of Kaposi’s Sarcoma, a rare form of cancer previously afflicting only elderly men, eventually became a common sight in the Congo region among younger adults.

The first European cases of the disease occurred as early as the 1950s, when sailors coming ashore in western Africa visited local brothels. At least one man is known to have passed the disease along to his wife, who then passed the virus along to their daughter during pregnancy. All died of a mysterious wasting illness whose symptoms match those of AIDS. The girl was just nine years old.

In 1976, a Danish doctor doing charity work in what was then called Zaire became the first known European non-sexually-transmitted casualty of the disease herself. Due to poor conditions in local hospitals, she was forced to operate without gloves. A needle-stick or a small scalpel nick was all it took for a patient’s infected blood to transmit the virus directly to her. Ironically, considering how AIDS later became known as the “gay plague”, the doctor was herself a lesbian — but her life partner, a nurse who stayed in Denmark, remained uninfected. It may now be regarded as a classic example of how this African disease favors blood-to-blood contact.

Also ironically, the real “Patient Zero” of the North American AIDS epidemic was not that infamous bathhouse-cruising gay flight attendant, as was commonly reported, but more likely a prostituted heterosexual woman in San Francisco, who was also addicted to heroin. Needle-sharing was extremely common in those days, the late 1960s to mid-1970s; it was typical to see junkies with various strains of viral hepatitis, which they had caught the same way. It seems likely that the AIDS virus initially spread much like Hepatitis B and C in North America among city-dwelling junkies, who, if prostituted, later passed it along to johns, who in turn spread it to others, much as in the railroad camps of the Congo. Since junkies can be of any sexual orientation, it’s not much of a stretch to assume that a gay junkie may have carried the virus, initially contracted through needle-sharing, to his own community, where it later spread via the sexual-transmission route. Unfortunately, that man’s name may never be known; junkies tended to die very unregarded deaths, and still do.

And while it’s no longer talked about very much, Haiti was another early western centre of AIDS transmission. The explanation? After Belgium gave up its colonial claim on the Congo, and Belgian colonial officials left the land, their empty offices had to be filled by French-speaking blacks as a condition of decolonization. Enter the Haitians, who were substantially more educated than the locals, and more capable of filling those public service offices. They, too, undoubtedly had liaisons with locals infected with the virus, and wound up carrying it back home to Haiti, or across the water to Florida and New York. Haitian immigrants were an early “risk group” that is no longer being singled out, as the broader North American epidemic has eclipsed that of tiny Haiti.

AIDS does not discriminate. It doesn’t care if you are gay or straight, use drugs or don’t, are black or white, or anything else. AIDS is not a “gay plague”, but a disease with African roots dating back to the colonial era. Its global transmission demands global action, and Venezuela is stepping up to the challenge by making it a true public health issue, and providing free medication, with no discrimination between those who can afford to pay and those who cannot.

We could all learn from Venezuela’s good example.

A poem for Mike Brown

Posted in Artsy-Fartsy Culture Stuff, If You REALLY Care. Comments Off »