September 2006


Yes, I’m listening to Dead Prez.

A few things out of class yesterday, that I realized that I wanted to come back around on. We were trying to get at the ethical and moral framework that we’re using when we evaluate Nat Turner and other Christian leaders of black resistance against slavery. The prof was trying to get us to clarify why we seemed to be sympathetic to Turner, yet not taking up arms in the present moment.

I went to Mark Lewis Taylor’s work to make my explanation, and talked about the way that the the system projects justice and fear, the carrot and the stick than creates us as subjects, locked into social location.

His question was about if I thought that the sense of fear is more pervasive now. I almost answered yes, but on reflection, I think i need to talk about the differences, not the magnitude. As Foucault talks about in Discipline and Punish, there is a modern construction of gaze. The Panopticon becomes conceptually imagined and technologically possible in the same historical moment. I dissent from him when he states that the difference is that we moderns internalize this gaze. I tend to think that internalization is historic, even if it may be easier to enforce now. But the Panopticon, the all pervasive and inescapable examination and scrutiny of the modern nation state is a different matter than the localized gaze of white power in plantation life. Degree is the wrong term, because in that world there is only the local. The geographic and imaginative world of that era is limited, and for the African American in slavery, their entire cosmos is more or less under surveilance. The overseer and the master have a extensive, if not complete, view.

The modern system of white power offers a larger geographic and imaginative world, by media, travel, commerce, and cultural dispersion. But it wraps that now larger world in a system of near total surveilance. The panopticonic state can utilize and enforce terror at a whim, deploying militarized police forces against the “social debris” that is created by the economic workings of priviledge. With the use of terror and the prison complex, it has the capability to produce an ever tightening grip of gaze at the same time that it otherizes the subject as criminal, terrorist, enemy. Such a state has a comprehensive power structure that bounds the horizon just as well as when the horizon was much smaller.

David Walker discusses in his appeals of a radicalizing experience of watching brutality. White masters force a child to strip his mother, and then beat her to death. For the audience, this is an incredibly intimate act of violence. Today, the acts of terror are more carefully clothed, but what they may lack in intimacy, they compensate with pervasiveness. No matter what we think the relative brutality of that act is compared with the violence commited against Rodney King, but the broadcast and reach of that act of violence is most assuredly far wider.

I’ll try to swing back around and think about relative and selective invisability, the other component to our discussion. But I’ve got a full writing docket already, so I need to do some catching up.

-sly

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So, it happens that Sly is in a bit of a jam.

I’m trying to survive my course on biblical greek when I get caught up in a nasty round of panic attacks and depression. Drat.

I have an exam coming up, and I speak with my advisor about just what I’m supposed to do. We agree that maybe I can try for an extension, and see where it goes from there.

But it boils down to this. Even if the instructor makes this accommodation, I’m still miserably behind in the course.

Which has me thinking. When it comes to disability, what does the reasonable in reasonable accommodation mean? Is reason a term that offers any real protection at all? I think, for me at least, the whole problem is unreason. My panic and depression don’t follow very many rules at all, coming and going as they please. I make the best of my good times, slide in the bad ones, and somehow juggle it all. But there is nothing systematic or reasonable about what I’m asking. It all depends on the delicate art of getting things done with my imperfect mind that’s the only one I’ve got.

Is it reasonable to get behind on a paper? Take longer with a language class? Need more time for a test? What’s accommodation? What’s reality?

What’s this reasonable thing, and why did it get to be so damn important?

-sly

The above is an adapted quote of a faculty ally to the Committee on Racial Equality at YDS.

I choose to beleive that this is a rhetorical question, with a strongly implied no. The reminder of civlity is an invitation to transgress, a reminder of the incivility and downright brutality of white power structures. The choice between transgression and reconciliation is a false one, because real healing occurs on the otherside of rupture.

A friend and I spoke for some time afterwards, of our fear and cynicism about any response to racism in this context, if it would have enough fire, enough energy to really get anything done. But ultimately, that isn’t an external question.

Will you be polite? This is our charge.

-sly

In keeping with my ongoing commentary on children in restrictive custody, and especially the intersection of mental health, child abuse, and the state…

Go read.

Via Feministing, the ACLU and Human Rights Watch have the chilling details of an investigation into the juvinile detention centers for young women in New York.

Brutal restraint tactics, sexual abuse, inadequate and inappropriate responses to mental health issues, and more.

The isolation and trauma of restrictive custody can permantly scar a child, and this report confirms this. Enforcing this social death on young women of color is a historical tactic of white power structures, and despite the decoration of “good intentions,” this must be opposed.

-sly

If you didn’t gather it from the cussing and hollering, my last post was a little angry. I’m still peeved, and I’m going to try to get into a few of the issues a little more in the coming days. I want to bounce off of Belledame’s postings on group dynamics, and then move into public perceptions of mental health, closing with a theological reflection on how community is supposed to work.

But in the meantime, I need to go brave Yale Health’s notoriously difficult Department of “We’re So Retrograde Our Name is Wrong” Mental Hygiene. The fine folks that told a good friend that they would get them an appointment within a month…more than half a year ago. And still haven’t called back.

One of these days, somebody is going to get hurt, and Yale’s going to change. Because of the resulting lawsuit.

And once again, I’ll take no joy in it. My undergrad stalled on ideas of a mental health awareness week. And when they suddenly wanted my ideas and to move on all of them…

All I had was muted rage.

Yours truly,

-sly

Oh, shit.

The Dear Theo crisis has entered it’s second week with remarkable escalation. Again, following my ad hoc ethics code, actual quotes not available.

Apparently, we’re all on meth. No, seriously, someone has written to the community newletter and claimed that meth abuse is widespread. Apparently, jittery students around finals time are not a sign of lack of sleep and coffee, but of speed. Now, would it suprise me if individual students had such issues? Probably not. But that’s not the question here.

Is an open letter an appropriate format to raise issues of substance abuse? This reminds me of when BelleDame was talking about group therapy gone wrong in the slut-shaming escapades a few weeks ago, when it was apparently a Good Thing to tell other feminist bloggers that despite their own impressions, no really, you’ve been raped. It’s all the intimacy of group therapy without the professional guidelines or ethics!

The fact that perscription drugs were explicitly includes makes it all the worse. When I was on anti-depressants, I wasn’t always the greatest to be around. But if you wanted to make public hay over how my medical treatment wasn’t socially acceptable, then I’d tell you’d be a great sexual partner for yourself. I’ve had to go to class after taking medication to stop a panic attack…but if you think that for one moment, you have the right to tell me that it’s wrong to be “under the influence” in school…

This isn’t professional. This isn’t ethical. This isn’t pastoral.

This is a screwed up, passive aggressive, witch hunt style power trip.

Stop it. Now.

-sly

I borrow the famous form of the question to talk a little bit about outing and identity.

So, it turns out that a Confederate apologist’s mother is Jewish.

This is not about overreacting, though in a way he did. This is about gaze, and what is happening here is ironic, but still tragic. Allen is about to suffer from racist ideologies that he has previously benefited from. But avoiding this is not automatically anti-Semitic.

Attention plus power becomes gaze. A person looks at something, and there is no direct result. A person with power examines something, and the correlation is an enforceable judgment is produced about what is seen. Bringing something under gaze is not a neutral action, and “reporting” facts in these conditions can be the substance of oppression.

It was never illegal to be a Communist in America. McCarthy worked with the tool of gaze. Publicly discussing political affiliation in a hostile environment has one central purpose, to inhibit, discourage, and cause fear among the political other.

So, much as I loathe George “Macaca” Allen, what has happened in terms of questioning his ancestry is clearly race baiting to my eyes. To pretend as if there aren’t anti-Semites in Virginia other than him…is disingenuous. Public identification is only a neutral process to the extent that the resulting audience will be neutral.

-sly

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