Wednesday Round Up #3
“Decolonize Maiz” is art work by Ernesto Yerena. You can purchase it from the Saguaro Gallery.
And according to Muhammad, we can make these big asks now in large part not merely because of Garza, Cullors, and Tometi, but because of the framework they established. Black Lives Matter was born as an organization with a queer, feminist framework that grasped the importance of intersectionality. “Both Patrisse and I have this experience being queer black women in a movement for black freedom that really isn’t shaped in our image. One of the things that actually connected Patrisse and I very early on is what it meant to try to navigate that space,” Garza says.
That was especially important at a time when the media focused on black death centered on straight black men and boys. Since people are oppressed because of race, gender, and all of the various ways they are identified, if black lives are to truly matter, they all had to matter. It is to the movement’s credit that the deaths of trans people like Tony McDade and Nina Pop haven’t been lost in the shuffle of recent tragedies. But visibility hasn’t been the sole accomplishment.
“This moment crystallizes how important organizing is to movement work and movement building,” Muhammad says. “It’s clear that what they did helped to prepare, city by city, what is emerging as a national network of organizers who have been ready, willing, and able to step into a crisis. We have to see what’s happening here in terms of the nucleus of these massive protests being the outcome of all of that work.”
Decolonisation is now used to talk about restorative justice through cultural, psychological and economic freedom.
In most countries where colonisers remain, Indigenous people still don’t hold significant positions of power or self-determination. These nations are termed “settler-colonial” countries – a term made popular in the 1990s by academic Patrick Wolfe, who said “invasion is a structure not an event”.
Now 49, Wolfe had traded the Cameroonian jungle for the conference rooms of Silicon Valley. When I saw him on Zoom, his shoulder-length locks were gone, and his quarantine beard was shot through with gray. But he had the same glow of enthusiasm I remembered. His new preoccupation, he told me, was pandemic insurance.
I’ll confess this didn’t immediately pique my interest. The word insurance evokes in me feelings of tedium and loathing. Like many Americans, my personal interface with the industry has, let’s just say, been less than positive. But then Wolfe began to explain the unexpected direction his career had taken. After years of thinking about epidemics in terms of the symptomatic and the dead, he’d begun considering their economic ramifications. A global pandemic, and the steps we would take to stop it, would mean business closings, layoffs, and mass unemployment. Preparing to face an outbreak, he’d come to believe, required anticipating those impacts.
Tanya Luhrman reflects on writing, books, and the difference between anthropology and ethnography. All built around her own trajectory as a scholar.
Of course, this way of imagining the ethnographic book sets the bar impossibly high. If the goal was to astonish, the job had already been done. Once we have the Azande (Evans-Pritchard 1937), how many more sublunary Martians do we need? If the goal was to write a perfect gem, it was always easy to see the need for a sharper cut. In many ways, the intellectual climate of the day set up young ethnographers to feel like failures.
It wasn’t until I spent time with an interdisciplinary group at the University of Chicago that I began to think of my own intellectual task differently. The Chicago Templeton Network mostly comprised academic psychologists and biomedical researchers – scientists whose papers were often very short and centered on tables and graphs. They simply didn’t believe me when I told them what I had seen from my ethnographic research: that some people were better at prayer practice than others, and that prayer shaped the way that they experienced their world. The group wanted different kinds of evidence to support the claim. This annoyed me.
People often want to do something “perfectly” or to wait for the “perfect time” before starting. But this can lead to procrastination, long delays or even prevent us from doing it at all. And that causes stress – and anxiety.
Instead, why not just start by “doing it badly” and without worrying about how it’s going to turn out. This will not only make it much easier to begin, but you’ll also find that you’re completing tasks much more quickly than before. More often than not, you’ll also discover that you’re not doing it that badly after all – even if you are, you can always fine tune it later.
“For some people, the biggest struggle from the course is self-compassion, really looking at themselves and taking the time to understand where their barriers and challenges to happiness lie, and making choices that align with happiness instead of suffering.”
If hewing to the middle way was the big aha I took from Simon-Thomas, Keltner, and all the rest, here are 13 smaller truths that helped point me and other happiness seekers in that direction.
Addiction: The View from Rat Park (2010)
Some wonderful pictures of the original Rat Park. Plus Bruce Alexander’s reflections on the implications of that research.
At first, the English settlers explained the universal alcoholism of the natives with the a story of genetic vulnerability. They said “Indians just can’t handle liquor” and tried to solve the problem with strict alcohol prohibition. That didn’t work and most people don’t believe the genetic vulnerability story anymore.
So why did universal addiction strike the colonized natives of Western Canada and the world as well? Certain parallels between the problems of colonized human beings and the rats in Rat Park appear to provide an explanation. In both cases there is little drug consumption in the natural environment and a lot when the people or animals are placed in an environment that produces social and cultural isolation. In the case of rats, social and cultural isolation is produced by confining the rats in individual cages. In the case of native people, the social and cultural isolation is produced by destroying the foundations of their cultural life: taking away almost all of their traditional land, breaking up families, preventing children from learning their own language, prohibiting their most basic religious ceremonies (potlatches and spirit dancing in Western Canada), discrediting traditional medical practices, and so forth. Under such conditions, both rats and people consume too much of whatever drug that is made easily accessible to them. Morphine for the rats, alcohol for the people.
In both cases, the colonizers or the experimenters who provide the drug explain the drug consumption in the isolated environment by saying that the drug is irresistible to the people or the rats. But in both cases, the drug only becomes irresistible when the opportunity for normal social existence is destroyed.
In South Korea, meanwhile, there’s “Hwa-byung” – loosely translated as “rage virus” – which is caused by bottling up your feelings about things you see as unfair, until you succumb to some alarming physical symptoms, like a burning sensation in the body. Dealing with exasperating family members is a major risk factor – it’s common during divorces and conflicts with in-laws.
Though to the uninitiated, these mental illnesses might sound eccentric or even made-up, in fact they are serious and legitimate mental health concerns, affecting vast numbers of people.
It’s estimated that Hwa-byung affects around 10,000 people in South Korea every year – mostly older married women – and research has shown that it has a measurable footprint in the brain. In 2009, brain scans revealed that sufferers had lower activity in an area known to be involved in tasks such as emotion and impulse control. This makes sense, given that Hwa-byung is an anger disorder.
Recently, I was doing an interview about Spike Lee’s film Da 5 Bloods, where my music sits in the soundtrack alongside the music of Marvin Gaye. We started talking about his song “What’s Going On” and how so many people love it. But does everyone really hear the words?
There’s far too many of you crying
Brother, brother, brother
There’s far too many of you dying …
Picket lines and picket signs
Don’t punish me with brutality
Talk to me, so you can see
Oh, what’s going on
It hit me then just how many people listen to the groove and the melody of this song, without really hearing the words. And that made me realize that many well-meaning people have heard only the melody of our plight, without knowing what the song means for us.