Sunday, January 15, 2012

Life is beautiful.

This week, it would be possible to focus on which candidate for the presidency wants to take away which of my and others' rights. It would be possible to mourn that the xenophobic jerk who is our state secretary of something or other got to move up the deadline for his voter-restricting ID required laws. I could feel frustration and anger that members of my own family believe that Muslim extremists will take over the Midwest and deprive them of all their Christian white people freedom, and that they make all their voting decisions based on that. One could be astonished and alarmed about all of those things, and also the reality that the US may or may not have assisted Israel and/or Great Britain in assassinating a nuclear scientist n Iran, which seems like a horrible and anti-peace kind of thing to do, as well as colonialist, as well as a gross assault on academic freedom (if you study things we don't want you to know, we will kill you).

But I spent most of the week focused on those things, so let's talk about some other things instead. The world is still a beautiful and diverse place, and even the best efforts of the enemies of joy have not managed to change that yet.

I am mentoring a young lady who is writing her first novel, and she turned in a beautiful draft of a new chapter this week. My scholars' bowl team had a good meet that they enjoyed, and if they did not quite win they did not quite lose either.

It turns out that I am not quite the only Christian anarchist in the world. I am aware of a few different groups now. I am part of a Facebook group on the topic, and I have been reading a lot of material from the Jesus Radicals site recently. One of their writers is authoring a series on Christian anarchism . I probably enjoyed the Second installment most, with its discussion of historical Anarchist Christian groups. He has this to say about o ur discontinuous history:

While some groups influenced later groups, there isn’t a successive chain of radical Christianity. The anarchic impulse isn’t passed down through the ages like a baton. Rather, it emerges. We should marvel and respect the reality that the Spirit of God creates anarchy. We should be open to it wherever it emerges, which isn’t necessarily in the places we’d expect. This, it would seem, requires a posture of openness and hope that, even in the most unlikely of places, life breaks out like a weed sprouting through a crack in a sidewalk.

Anarchy and Christainity both represent profoundly life-affirming traditions, at least in their finest manifestations. The effort to leave hierarchical relationships behind and interact with other humans, recognizing that God sees us all as equal in work, is a practice that transforms all of living. The other day, I was eating in a fast food restaurant (this was literally a requirement of my job at this point) and someone commented that they had never seen someone look so confused by a menu. This is true. Menus are no longer menus; they are complex representations of hierarchical relationships in both the natural and synthetic worlds. I don't know where that meat comes from; nor the oil that fries the potatoes; nor the lettuce in the salads, who was exploited din making it; nor do I know the specifics of how the workers at that restaurant are treated, nor how I can best help them have a not-awful time at work, or thank them for their labor. The very existence of such a place relies on my ignorance that those are even questions to be asked, and as such it is a place of horror. In contrast, I think about eating at a local food restaurant where they are very transparent about their food sourcing. The food is delicious and I do not feel guilty about it (well, the problems with knowing where your food comes from are solved, and the farmers were paid fairly for their labor. I don't know about the waiters and chefs, though, if they are treated well or have a voice in their management-and certainly both places share the same goal of making a profit). However, at the first place you can fill your belly for $3 and at the second place $15 will barely suffice. Questioning hierarchy in that way is expensive, especially when the critique is carried only to the means of food production and not to the means of service production or profit production. Is gardening the only non-hierarchical form of food production?

Last night, I learned of a neighborhood in Kansas City that is trying to grow 80% of its food internally. How beautiful. What wonderful freedom to be liberated from the demand to trade your labor dollars for food, and instead trade your labor directly for food.

Anyway,Christiananity and anarchism both hold out our crazy hope for the coming of a new world, ordered around cooperation, love, mutual aid, plenty, freedom. I will admit that the political order gives us precious little reason to form such hopes, but that is one reason why we must cast aside its constraints on our thinking. Sure, no current Republican candidate will bring forth the beautiful in the future, and probably no candidate at all. No, a hierarchical power cannot create a more beautiful world by fiat. Each of us must do what we can every day to bring that world about, treat each other with greater dignity and consideration every day, avoid encouraging monstrous injustice as much as we can.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

What's the matter, Kansas?

This week, just opening the paper caused a lot of anguish.  I didn't have a bad week, personally; but Kansas outdid itself in embarrassing news.  The Speaker of the House in Kansas forwarded a bunch of objectionable e-mails about the Obamas, and had to apologize today.  I don't agree with people being hounded for their personal e-mail accounts, to be sure, and the fact that this made the news is a violation of privacy.

One of those forwards, however, included a criticism of the Obamas' holiday trip to Hawaii.  Holy God.  Do people not remember that Obama is FROM Hawaii, and his family is there, so why in the name of all that is holy would he not go there for Christmas?  Did any of us willingly not visit family we like over the holidays?  Why should he never get to see his family?  Oh, wait, I forgot that he's different from other U.S. presidents and other people with lots of money.  The second forward involved a sick joke about a Bible verse.  Great.  Now we're using the Scriptures to back up violent impulses. What is it about Obama that makes small potatoes politicians think it's okay to make vaguely racist jokes about the president, or to subtly commend assassination?  Goodness.  If a Muslim were to start praying for the President's demise, would that be labeled a good joke, an exercise of free speech, or terrorism?

I don't exactly love our current president, but there are limits to decency.  I'm not saying that the Kansas Speaker of the House should be officially censured or fined or anything like that--he was certainly within the limits of free speech, and again there is a privacy issue when e-mails sent from a personal account become a matter of public record.  However, he opened himself up to harsh judgment from decent people everywhere; he demonstrated his underlying attitudes, his personal private attitudes, and they are very ugly indeed, and he deserves scorn from his fellow humans.

Kansas was also bummed this week to find out that the federal government denied a waiver associated with the Affordable Care Act.  Dang it, now the insurance companies in our state will have to spend a whole 80% of the premiums they collect on health care.  Did you hear that?  The health insurers have to pay money for health care, and can't skim as much profit as they want off the top.  Boo hoo.  (And, according to this article, there is a company in Kansas that has been spending 62% of their premiums on health care.  I imagine those kind of profit margins are painful to give up.  Almost as painful as not being able to afford medical treatment when you are in pain, or having to lose your house to pay medical bills.  Yup.  It must hurt.)

I was sad to hear about Boeing's treason, though.  The Kansas senators and representatives in D.C. worked hard to award contracts to the airplane company, as the company promised to bring thousands of new jobs to Kansas.  Whoops--turns out that Boeing is just another unaccountable, sadistic, lying, psychopathic corporation, and they pulled one over on those rednecks in Kansas!  Not only did they not bring the new jobs here, they're pulling their entire factory out of the state (it's a major driver of Wichita's economy).  Some government officials keep saying it'll be ok, it's only a couple of thousand jobs, we can recover!  They are probably wrong.  In a state of our size, a couple thousand good paying jobs are a big deal.  I mean, this certainly exposes the foolishness of government (or anyone) trusting corporations or working with them for this sort of thing.  From an anarchist perspective, it's a perfect example of the unholy union of government and corporations always screwing over the workers.  Still--sucks to be a worker in Wichita.  No affirmation of an ideology can help them feel any better.

Ah, well.

In other news, we lost a bunch of rights this week when Obama signed the indefensible National Defense Authorization Act that Congress passed; it created a new government right to indefinitely detain (read: imprison) American citizens without trial, if they're suspected of Doing Something Bad.  It's not terribly reassuring to remember that we've already been doing that to lots of non-citizens, but now I have joined them in being potential targets for legalized injustice.

In lighter news, Santorum's near-win in the Iowa Caucuses brought great happiness many people; I hear his supporters were delighted with his triumph, the Democrats are thrilled with the thought of facing Santorum in the next election (although we might need to redefine Democrat next, after this freaking NDAA thing), and people with juvenile senses of humor everywhere enjoyed hearty laughter from actual news headlines such as "Santorum Surges from Behind in Iowa."  All around, an excellent caucus.  The only potential losers would appear if Santorum actually won everything.  Then only women, non-straight people, non-child-having people, non-rich people, non-thin people, and non-healthy people have to be worried.  Like, 12% of the country would be totally get to keep all their rights in a Santorum presidency!  Or even 14%!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year

Greetings one and all, and welcome to the year 2012.  Some say that this year will be the end, and assuredly it will signal the end for many things--but for the Confabulator Cafe, 2012 is the beginning.
That's write, folks, the Confabulator Cafe opens today, bringing together the ruminations of many local (and formerly local) writers, our thoughts about writing and written things, all in one convenient online location.

To stop in for a breather, just click on the link.  Daily posts by a bunch of people, including yours truly and several who are more eloquent than yours truly, will appear in your browser. 

It's a fabulous experience.  Come by.  Stay a while!