I don't think I'm one of them either. I'm one of mine.

Month: July 2023

Do you even listen to yourselves?

“This is a product of the systemic settler-colonialist imperialist cisheteropatriarchy, and we must engage all key stakeholders to build capacity among our organisers to create lasting, impactful change on Turtle Island.”

(Not a real quote, but it may as well be one.)

I hate sexism, racism, and colonialism too, but stop with the fucking jargon, for god’s sake. It just makes your valid points sound like abstruse academic talking points that everyday people won’t understand. They throw out these terms as though everybody self-evidently knows what they mean. (Turtle Island sounds beautiful and poetic… but nobody outside Indigenous or “””BIPOC””” [Black, Indigenous, People of Colour, an unnecessary acronym] activism knows what it means.)

No wonder idiots like Trump and DeSantis (or Boris Johnson, or any other right-wing “populist” rabble-rouser) get so much fucking traction. They’re full of shit, but they know how to talk like a regular person. Listening to some of this jargon makes my ears bleed, but I feel I have to put up with it because as a Multiply Marginalised Person™, I have to adopt the same bullshit rhetorical style that they all use. I push back against it as much as I can, but I can’t seem to get my colleagues to ditch the woke jargon (not to mention nonprofit and business jargon… if I hear the words “key stakeholders,” “capacity-building,” or “impactful” one more time…).

If you can’t make your valid points sound like anything other than academic waffle, then you are a bad rhetorician and need to learn how to share your ideas outside woke academia or organising circles.

Sensible commentary on social justice, “woke liberalism,” and the left

I’m not a Marxist, much less a Marxist–Leninist or Trotskyist, but the International Bolshevik Tendency published a good piece about the problems with “woke liberalism” without attacking women, black people, Latinos, queer and trans people, immigrants, or anyone else who finds himself on the wrong side of discrimination in American society.

It’s refreshing to see, especially when so many on the left go too far in the woke direction (trying to make their case using abstruse critical theory that almost nobody understands) or in the reactionary anti-woke direction (sounding like far-right conservatives as soon as gender and sexuality come into play). If you are a homophobe, misogynist, or transphobe, stop calling yourself a fucking leftist. Patriarchy—and admit it, all sexism arises from patriarchal thinking—is not a leftist value, since it imposes hierarchical thinking when we should promote equality. I know some Marxists are wary of feminism, since it looks like “identity politics,” but I think it’s common decency to treat women as though they were complex human beings, rather than baby factories. Egalitarianism encompasses feminism.

There is no such thing as an antifeminist leftist. Not in 2023, anyway.

One of many reasons why I’m grudgingly pro-Ukraine…

… is that Russian culture-warrior bullshit has gotten out of hand over the past decade or so. The Russian legislature—dominated by Putin’s neoconservative United Russia party—is coming very close to banning legal recognition and surgery for trans people, even though laws allowing transition have been in place for over twenty years.

We have politicians like this in America, too, but at least they don’t have an iron grip on Congress (and shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the levers of power).

Do I think a Ukrainian victory will force Russia to have better policies? Maybe not. But reducing Putin’s sphere of influence may make his policies less popular. Remember that it’s not just Ukrainians Putin is mistreating; it’s also his fellow Russians.


Kiev City Council bans public use of Russian-language cultural products

Via Interfax-Ukraine:

“It is necessary to finally once and for all restrict the Russian-language cultural product on the territory of the capital of Ukraine. In fact, it is envisaged to prohibit public coverage and demonstration of Russian-language goods and services created in the process of carrying out activities in the field of culture. These are books, art albums, audiovisual works, musical sound recordings, handicrafts, theatrical and circus performances, concerts and cultural and educational services. Russian is the language of the aggressor country, and it has no place in the heart of our capital,” the press service of [Kiev] City Council quoted chairman of the Standing Committee on Education and Science, Youth and Sports Vadym Vasylchuk. [all errors in the original; all emphasis mine. —Ed.]

This is revisionist bullshit. Kiev is a historically Russian-speaking city. Are the ethnic Russians and Russian-speaking Ukrainians now “aggressors”? Is Zelensky an “aggressor” since his first language is Russian and produced most of his TV and film output in Russian? Note, too, that this is about content in the Russian language, not necessarily pro-Putin-regime content.

Now musicians are banned from publicly singing in Russian in Kiev. What’s next, speaking Russian at home? Since when is Ukraine a bastion of democracy?

I want Putin out of Ukraine. But I cannot endorse stunts like this. All this does is play into Putin’s narrative about “oppressed Russian-speakers.”




Land acknowledgments are performative bullshit

Acknowledging that what we call the United States rests on stolen land is not performative bullshit. I mean the mumbled land acknowledgments I hear in a lot of “woke” circles.

Anyone doing land acknowledgments is highly aware that this land is stolen. They are well-meant performative rituals to absolve white people of their “original sin.” Are any of the people making land acknowledgments making restitution to Indigenous people? Of course not; it’s just an empty gesture. I’ve done them before, mostly because I feel weird when everyone else is doing them but me.

I support the #LandBack movement to return control to Indigenous people, since this is a concrete way to acknowledge their self-determination. But a rote “I live on Hopi land”? Not so much.

Cancelling “America” is a gift to Trump and other right-wingers

There’s a movement afoot on the woke left to “cancel” the name America. This is asinine performative bullshit, just like land acknowledgments and #KyivNotKiev.

A lot of the objection comes from Latin Americans who do not live in the United States. The last I checked, the inhabitants of a country get to decide what they want to be called in their own language. In this country, people call themselves Americans. Mexicans and Bolivians can call us estadounidenses all they want. I don’t give a shit. But that doesn’t give them the right to dictate what people in this country call themselves in English.

Instead of “America,” the cancellers use “US,” “USian,” and other constructions. But they don’t have the same effect on the reader.

“US” sounds cold, sterile, like a government form. “America” conjures up images of apple pie, baseball, the Stars and Stripes, the valiant troops fighting the Nazis and the colonial British overlords. “Captain United States” wouldn’t have the same ring to it, would it? “Make the US Great Again” wouldn’t stand a chance as a political slogan. It’s too bureaucratic.

I can just imagine Trump making hay of it at one of his fascistic rallies: “Look, everyone. Many people are saying that the woke left is trying to cancel the word America, OK? They say, ‘Sir, they’re telling us not to say America, that it’s not politically correct.’ And I will say this, folks, they’re trying to cancel our entire country. Very sad. But with Trump, you’ll Make America Great Again.”

I’m not an American chauvinist or nationalist fanatic; in fact, I’m a fierce critic of American imperialism, especially in the name of “democracy promotion.” But that criticism can happen without this kind of performative bullshit (see a theme?).



The Oppression Olympics: The Worst Game Ever

I fucking hate the Oppression Olympics.

As I wrote earlier, the woke and anti-woke movements are obsessed with what someone is: skin colour, sex, weight, health status.

A frustrating pattern I’ve noticed in a lot of social justice circles is this tendency to play the Oppression Olympics. If you’re too low on the oppression hierarchy, your views are less valid and your feelings are less important. “If you’re a black, chronically ill, working-class woman, then your views matter more than those of an East Asian middle-class man,” regardless of their political views, temperament, cultural background, or other characteristics beyond what box they check on a demographic questionnaire.

They’re so focused on categorising people that they forget that they’re dealing with human fucking beings, not a goddamn fucking census box. Are people discriminated against because of their race, sex or gender, class, and other characteristics? Absolutely—and this needs to stop. But this fucking nonsense of acting as though people who “aren’t oppressed enough” don’t have feelings worth considering is absolute horseshit.

Without going into details, I would come close to winning the Oppression Olympics, at least for a professional middle-class person of working-class origins. But I don’t play this game. I refuse to, since the focus shifts from who I am as a person to what I am.

The anti-woke movement offers no solution, since they, too, have the same what-someone-is fixation. It’s just that it’s aimed at racial and gender minorities1 and women, rather than people who have (wrongly) been granted more power.

I agree that we need to question preconceived ideas about power and privilege. But this asinine oppression-ranking exercise is not the way to do it.

I am fucking TERRIFIED to talk about this on my public social media because I don’t want to be excommunicated.

In the Oppression Olympics, no one wins.

  1. As an aside, why is “racial minorities” now off-limits? I prefer it to “people of colour,” which is self-consciously grating.


Why I hate both the “woke” and “anti-woke” movements

Both woke and anti-woke activists are tiresome scolds who need to shut the fuck up and stop treating people as census designations rather than complex human beings. All they see is categories: Black, White, Male, Female, Gay, Straight, Trans, Non-Trans.

  • I am fed up with the woke movement. But I hate the anti-woke movement even more, and I think a lot of “wokism” is a reaction against the rise of far-right movements in America, Britain, Europe, and elsewhere.
  • Why do I hate these movements? Because both sides focus on what people are, rather than who they are.
  • Sexists (which includes homophobes and transphobes, not just misogynists) and racists treat their targets as something, rather than somebody. Race is a what; cultural expression is a who. Sex is a what; gender is a who. If you fixate on race and sex, rather than culture or gender, you are likely to make hasty generalisations that flatten the complexity of human experience. I don’t trust anyone who calls himself a “feminist” and uses sex as a way to define the righteous and the damned, and I don’t trust anyone who calls himself an “antiracist” and uses race as a dividing line between the sinners and the saints.
  • TERFs are not feminists by any reasonable definition. They are reactionary fascist-adjacent ideologues who are just as sexist as their conservative counterparts. Their mentality is “penis = evil,” which is just the inverse version of “vagina = irrational hysteric.” Ironically, some woke activists end up sounding like TERFs, though their focus seems to be more on skin colour.
  • You can be antiracist or culturally inclusive without making excuses for oppressive behaviour by marginalised groups. I abhor Islamophobia, but I’m not going to defend Islamism or any other form of religious extremism. Islamists, along with other religious fundamentalists, deserve to be marginalised because their views are incompatible with a functioning civil society. This is why I have no patience for leftists who go out of their way to defend right-wing fundamentalist states like Iran. They’ll rightly criticise evangelical Christian nutjobs but give a free pass to their Islamic fundamentalist counterparts who ban women from being educated or cut people’s heads off for being gay. Just because Muslims, whether liberal, moderate, or extreme, are a minority in Europe and the Americas doesn’t mean that fundamentalist Middle Eastern or African governments are beyond criticism.
  • Sometimes I want to read criticisms of the woke movement, but these criticisms tend to come alongside a heaping dose of racism and sexism, including hostility toward LGBTQ people, a dismissiveness toward people who have real grievances about racial discrimination, and other forms of intolerance. All I can think about is “they are so obsessed with what I am that I don’t think they’d even see me as a who, and they hate me just for that.”
  • When I read woke writing, I come across essentialist bullshit about how if you’re straight, white, male, American, Christian, British, European, or non-trans, you’re the devil. Bullshit. This is the right’s hateful rhetoric inverted as a form of purported self-protection. And all I can think about is “they are so obsessed with what I am that I don’t think they’d see me as a who if I belonged to a ‘privileged’ demographic. And because I’m ‘multiply marginalised,’ they love me just for that.”
  • It is virtually impossible for me to read anything in the media about racism or sexism without my skin crawling.
  • Classism is a common feature in both woke and anti-woke discourses. A lot of it looks like elites playing off each other, though I don’t mean that in a class-reductionist way.
  • Claiming that any group of people, including white people, are inherently evil because of their ancestry or skin colour is counterproductive, essentialist garbage that should be wiped out of any social justice movement.
  • If I excluded everybody but LGBTQ+ non-white people (I hate the expression “people of colour” and will not use it here) from my social circles, I wouldn’t have many people to talk to. Some of the most virulent prejudice I have experienced has come from members of my “own” race, including relatives.
  • Both woke and anti-woke activists make me feel like a what, rather than a who. The problem is that I’m the right what for the woke movement and the wrong what for the anti-woke movement. Either way, I’m something rather than somebody.
  • If I hate something or someone, it’s because of who they are, not what they are. Donald Trump is odious because of his beliefs, not because he’s a white man. Candace Owens is also repugnant, though she’s a black woman. When woke activists say “listen to black women,” do they also mean Candace Owens, or do they mean only those who are ideologically similar to them? When anti-woke activists say that they should be listened to, do they include members of the “wrong” demographics who agree with them, like Caitlyn Jenner or Blaire White?
  • I’m a grudging supporter of affirmative action because of my who-not-what orientation. Although I hate the idea of ranking people based on what they are, I also acknowledge that historical injustices should be combated.
  • Fighting racism and sexism is important. But that fight should be focused on humanising people, rather than using demographic categories as a sign of virtue.
  • I feel I have to be woke to protect myself. But at the same time, I’m sacrificing a lot of my authenticity. I can’t say what I want to say without being told that I’m making excuses for bad actors, even though I have the same goals—that people are treated fairly and kindly. That’s why I’m blogging about this stuff anonymously.
  • If you focus too much on what people are, rather than who people are, I have little respect for you or your movement.

I want to see a fairer, more equitable world. But I want to do that without all the bullshit I see from the woke movement, or the reactionary racism and sexism that have arisen both as a cause and as a consequence of it. I want to be somebody, not something. Is that too much to ask?

(I’ll talk more specifically about sexism and racism later, but this is a good overview of how I feel.)