Monthly Archives: June 2007

Austin City Limits

We have moved to July levels of humidity and heat. This ratcheting up makes it hard to walk outside, even at night. In August things ratchet up another notch, giving meaning to the band name, Hot August Knights. After the fall equinox begin the dry, sunny days reminiscent of Southern California and home, as it was edenically then in its salt air and bougainvillea.

A friend has been arrested in Austin while demonstrating on behalf of immigrants. I posted her letter a few days ago, but I am moving it up to make sure it is seen. Please read it all the way through, and then act:

On Saturday, June 16th, I was arrested by the Austin Police Department. I was exercising my right to peacefully protest U.S. Border Watch, a white supremacist group that propagates hate and violence against immigrants. I chose to assert my rights and risk arrest.

So many others who become entangled in our corrupt and racist legal system do not choose to be detained and have few resources to get them through their lengthy legal battles. Therefore, I want to thank all of the human rights activists for their support and concern with my legal fees. Although I am grateful, I wish to direct all financial assistance to the ACLU’s efforts to represent the families unlawfully detained at T. Don Hutto Detention Facility and Common Ground Relief’s emergency shelter program in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Few people are aware that in the weeks following Hurricane Katrina, prisoners from the Gulf Coast were detained at Hutto. Many New Orleans Parish Prison (OPP) inmates had not been charged with a crime and others were minors. San Francisco Bayview reports that “As floodwaters rose in the OPP buildings, power was lost, and entire buildings were plunged into darkness. Deputies left their posts wholesale, leaving behind prisoners in locked cells, some standing in sewage-tainted water up to their necks.” After almost a week, instead of providing these people with financial or legal support, many Gulf Coast inmates were moved to Hutto.

This inhumane history is evidence of the fact that Hutto must be shut down! It lives in infamy with the numerous detention facilities, jails, prisons, concentration and internment camps throughout the world. It is important that we remember that the forces that empower US Border Watch and Corrections Corporation of America are born of the same ideology that created tragedy in New Orleans and abroad. Imprisoning people of color and the poor in mass numbers is a symptom of the sick global system that we must fight against. If we do not work to create a better world, our only other option is to take docile ownership of what we will inherit after years of colonialism and oppression.

I hope you take the time out of your day to use a few dollars as ammunition against the ongoing exploitation of the people of New Orleans and the families involved in litigation with the ‘Department of Homeland Security,’ as they are truly in need of our attention and support.

In Solidarity,
Rebecca Ruiz-Lichter

To donate to the ACLU please visit:

To Donate to Common Ground’s Emergency Shelter Program please send a check made out to “Common Ground Emergency Shelter Program” to:

Metairie Bank
3344 Metairie Road
Metairie, LA 70001.



Filed under Movement



To fall like dry leaves, to rot on my topsoil, and be called by no name except “deportees.”

Everyone knows about the plane wreck at Los Gatos by now, but there is a detail: once harvested by the braceros being sent back to the Mexican border, oranges were packed in creosote dumps to render them inedible – according to some sources so as to make the fruit scarcer and drive the price up, but for further clarification see part II, below. The peaches in the song are also being left to rot, like the harvesters themselves after falling out of the burning plane.

Who are all these dear friends, all scattered like dry leaves? The radio said they were just deportees.

In other agricultural news, it is time to boycott the products of Chiquita, a child of United Fruit. The Changeseeker explains very well why, and Immigration Orange has a comprehensive post on the matter and its background, with excellent press links, but an additional reason is the abominable Chiquita Banana Song.


A comment on the first part of this post has arrived by e-mail. Fascinatingly, it says:

The orange growers of family ranches at that time were at the mercy of big wholesalers who gave them prices they couldn’t live with. Creosote dumping was a protest and a way of fighting back. Out of this grew marketing cooperatives, of which, I believe, the biggest was Sunkist. My mother took at that time the daily Communist newspaper, The People’s World. In it there was a daily column called “Woody Sez,” which consisted of a daily one-liner about the news in Oklahoma dialect. I did not know then that he wrote and performed songs. But he was certainly a Stalinist or fellow traveler.

I am supposing that the Stalinist/fellow traveler point is to explain why the song would conflate family ranches and big wholesalers/enormous agribusiness. It is also possible to read Guthrie’s text as protesting the irrationality of the agricultural system more generally. Sunkist is according to its website a non-profit organization, now the largest marketing cooperative for fruit in the world.



Filed under Movement, News, Songs

Candelaria 2007 Pasa Calle

I never recovered from my first trip to Spain, made when I was a small child, and this was a good thing. Later I spent several months in Peru and also never recovered; this was again a good thing. Here is part of the 2007 Candelaria festival in Puno, with Los Sicuris, a traditional Aymara band. One of the reasons I like Peru is that it is still so non-Western. You can tell by watching the festival.


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Filed under Arts, Songs



“Since racial discrimination and segregation are over in this country,” said Z/Cero sardonically, “we can go right back to court sanctioned segregation.” Read all about it. “This is a decision that the Court and the nation will come to regret,” said Stephen Breyer, still lucid despite sitting with the likes of Rehnquist, Scalia and Thomas all these years. “There is a cruel irony in the chief justice’s reliance on our decision in Brown v Board of Education,” said John Paul Stevens. “It is my firm conviction that no member of the court that I joined in 1975 would have agreed with today’s decision.” But then again, we know what one of the main problems with integrated schools is: they beget mixed babies. Many parents in the neighborhood I inhabited as a child were concerned about this, and were considered old-fashioned. They are in fashion now.


Rachel points out that interracial sex is still a huge taboo in this country and I am sure she is right. On the other hand I get tired of Euro-Americans who believe the existence of interracial couples means racism is withering away. I think this side of the obsession has to do with whitening – let’s make sure their babies are lighter than they – and control – let’s get each one into a white household. It will divide them up, and permit us to exert our influence. Integration becomes dilution, and the unreconstructed sound forward-looking.

For example, I was at a music festival in Oregon last year where virtually every adult person of color in the audience was a member of an otherwise white family. I did not think this was progressive. My immediate, ironic reaction was that these Portlanders certainly did know how to divide and conquer. My subsequent reflection was that we must have been in a white venue. This was a free festival right downtown, the bands were multicultural (and not that sort of “multicultural” band which only attracts white audiences), and the audience was not all white, but it must have been a white venue if there were no persons of color in groups, or groups of persons including more than one adult person of color.

I am of course not complaining about the interracial relationships but about the fact that the only same race couples were of European descent, and that the only interracial groups were the couples. Does any non-sexual interracial communication ever take place here? I wondered. I am sure it does, and I hope Portlanders who read this will forgive me – but you get my point.


One of the reasons I felt like such a foreigner in Reeducation during my second stint at it – and should have been more suspicious of it during my first stint, in the early 1990’s – was that in this state which is one-third Black (and New Orleans was two thirds Black before Katrina), it was so white. I mean, like, 90% white. The university was under court supervision because it was 90% white – a ratio like that had to mean it was segregated – and you could tell, because there were parallel, separate but supposedly equal, historically Black programs elsewhere in town. I thought my Reeducation venue was white because of segregation – there was surely Black Reeducation too, with less posh decor, but studying the same things. I intuit now, though, that this Reeducation was white because its values, assumptions, expectations, and judgments were those of the whitest society.

Value: quiescence. Do not criticize the status quo. Remember that you know someone in the Big House, and find your own place on that stairway to that heaven. Assumption: You are now supportive of the aforementioned stus quo in its crueler dimension. You will be happier if you leave this practice behind, and collaborate instead with oppression in its softer face. Expectation: You are resistant to all change and must be convinced that all changes, and especially those which appear to you to be destructive, are good. Judgment: Any part of you which does not fit these values and assumptions is beyond the pale and must be struck out.

And I am sure everyone is tired of hearing me complain about Reeducation. But I am purifying myself, and it means I have to brush off some Reeducation Dust each morning. In my first Reeducation stint I gave some emanations of whiteness – and maleness too, by the way, especially in its queerer forms – far too much benefit of the doubt.



Filed under Banes, Da Whiteman, News, Resources, Theories

Sonia Johnson

Once upon a time I was sitting in a coffeehouse reading, as strands of conversation from another table wafted over to me. Under discussion was Israel’s right to exist. I was very young at the time and had not heard the phrase before. That is it, I said to myself. That is what I am looking for, the right to exist. Now Heart has revealed these words by Sonia Johnson:

I am determined to live in a reality in which the concept of “earning” a living seems as bizarre and sad to everyone as it has come to seem to me. […] [T]he irony is evident: by making us perceive success at work as proof of our value, patriarchy tricks us into working long, hard hours to maintain it as a system.

But more than that, that phrase exposes the father’s cruel lie that we must earn the right to live. […] [L]ife doesn’t need to to be – in fact, can’t be – earned, and we are destined to recreate that reality.

Read on.



Filed under Movement, Resources, Theories

More on MADRID

Today the weather was lovely and I was up early and worked all day, getting a lot done. My job at its best involves drawing pictures and saying things, much like a blog, if more officially serious (although I would say that it is in fact less serious). One narrator in my unfinished novel Madrid is fully functional in language and drawing from birth, having brought these skills from her last life. On this she comments:

Vi que había llegado al mundo otra vez y dije, “¡Qué hermoso! Podremos dibujar con lápices a colores y decir cosas, y meditar sobre la Gran Pregunta.” La Gran Pregunta era si el pensamiento era algo anterior al lenguaje o producto de él. Prefería la primera hipotesis, pero también tenía evidencia para apoyar la segunda. Pedí una opinión al dueño de los diccionarios, quien dijo: “La respuesta está escrita, pero en francés.” “Entonces hay tres idiomas,” dije maravillada. “¿Dónde se estudia eso?”

I am studying this matter now.


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Filed under Arts, News, Poetry, What Is A Scholar?

Sai, diabo!


Lately I have had so much trouble fighting back the evil grisgris that I have been casting spells upon myself, in English and in Spanish, every two to three hours.


When I do academic work I am often engulfed with shame. That has a complicated history which it does me no good to repeat. The brief version is that when I went to Reeducation I was taught that I should be ashamed to be an academic. Having become one was for many reasons a sign of failure in life, and to be oriented toward writing and research made it worse. That, of course, creates a double bind – actually a series of them, which again, it does me no good to rehearse.


On many days my mind is not clear, and I am not sure how or where to turn. A piece of a decent answer is to remember that it is not laziness or slowness I am battling, it is shame. To remember this puts things in perspective and beats the evil grisgris back. That is, of course, why I have this weblog.


In Reeducation I acquired behavior and thought patterns which resemble those associated with depression. I remember bringing this up at the time: but those are destructive ideas, sir, I am not sure I can afford to take them on. No, these are the keys to better living. I am trying, piece by piece, to relieve myself of the accumulation of small but heavy weights with which I replaced clarity and freedom.


In the garden I have been trying to remove an old tree stump. I can see now that the taproot is as long as the tree was tall. Every evening I dig a little deeper but the stump has not yet budged. I am cutting the lateral roots as I go down. Eventually I will be able to pull up the stump and taproot with a chain. It is when I succeed in dislodging (I will not say removing) each small burden that I realize how large it actually was.


I borrowed a chainsaw and cut the stump off at ground level. I am going to drill holes in it, and put Roundup in them so that the root just withers away. I realize this sounds somewhat violent, unromantic, and un-Green, but I am just tired of dealing with the stump and its root.


I planted five Mexican trees and then got a very useful piece of mail. I think the trees must have brought it on. But my mind cleared, as when clouds roll away or a heavy curtain rolls back.



Filed under Resources


Al Giordano reports:

Workers and farmers in the United States and Canada have been largely kept in the dark about the tragedy unleashed on their counterparts in Mexico with the 1994 entrance of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). But the same all-out screwing is about to happen to them.

An alliance of big business owners is openly plotting the economic Mexicanization of an important region of the Northeast US and Eastern Canada. They call their new world “Atlantica,” and have imposed their borders around it as if drawing a new “country” on a Risk game board. Here’s the map of “their” new country, not one founded upon democratic decisions, but with orders barked from an unelected elite of corporate flunkies whose only law is to maximize profits for the owners. Maybe you can see your house or job, or that of family members and friends, on their map:

If you live or work there, you will soon no longer be a Mainer, a Vermonter, an upstate New Yorker, a Québécois, a Nova Scotian, a Newfoundlander, a Prince Edward Islander or a citizen of New Brunswick or New Hampshire. You have been conscripted into a new kind of citizenship that comes without any of the freedoms that you thought were your birthright. You shall be – by big business decree – an “Atlantican.”

Read on. Then visit Atlantica’s cleverly deceptive website. Hat tip to Inga Muscio.



Filed under News


En este comentario de blog reconocí una vez más, y algo más claramente, la falsedad de lo que aprendí en la famosa Reeducación, a saber:

Cómo dejar de aceptarte a ti mismo y dejar de aceptar tu historia y tu vida;
Cómo pensar como una persona deprimida;
Cómo actuar como una persona deprimida;
Cómo contagiarse una depresión tremenda;
Cómo dejar de creer en ti;
Cómo dejar de fiarte de tus percepciones y de tu juicio;
Cómo llegar a creer que llevar una vida adulta y saludable es “huir” de la “realidad” y en suma,
Cómo maltratarte.

Cómo pensar como una persona deprimida fue la lección fundamental. En la época no entendí este sentido general de la lección. Me parecía imposible que se enseñara eso. Pero es lo que fui absorbiendo, por partes y sin entender.

Sin embargo no estamos obligados a pensar así – o por lo menos yo no. A otros puede que les guste y les sirva, pero allá ellos. Aunque lo aprendí y casi se me volvió automático, no hay tal obligación. Eso, en varios niveles, es algo que me hace falta recordar de nuevo, todos los días.


In the last thread, JFR was discussing the Ten (Buddhist) Nonvirtues. Interested in these, I looked them up, and discovered as well the Five Hindrances: remorse,  lethargy, drowsiness, excitation, and doubt. These are interestingly similar to the concept of acedia I learned about last year. Yet more interestingly, they were the Hindrances misrepresented as Virtues I acquired in Reeducation.


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Filed under Resources, Theories

Being and Time


I could easily blog for domestic workers by telling some of the rather colorful and horrible stories about their treatment and circumstances which I have witnessed personally. We could shiver and feel virtuous at these illustrations of the way in which gender trouble at one economic level is solved through the exploitation of women at other economic levels, and often of other racial categories.

The first time I arrived in Brazil it was to a house with many servants – more than one per non-serving household member. The house had a porch with columns, and the servants, barefoot, wore turbans. In haze of my jet fatigue it seemed to me that I had arrived on an antebellum movie set, perhaps of New Orleans. By the end of the week I realized I was indeed in one, except that it was current and real.

I learned many amazing facts about the lives of servants during that voyage, and I kept exclaiming about them. Nobody else thought the topic was of the slightest interest, but I did and do, and I should write a collection of stories about these people one day.

A few months later, living on my own, I learned about manicures, pedicures, and facials – excellent things, especially when you do not have hot water at home. One might say I was corrupted but I think it is more complicated than that. What stood out there was that you could not hide from your place in the class system. You could try to run (and look silly) or you could learn to assume your role in as graceful a manner as possible. There was no other honest option.


A related strand of great interest is the cooperative nature of patron/client relationships – you hire someone to clean or wash clothes, but also get their expertise in folk remedies for tropical ills, and give them yours in reading, writing, and bureaucracy, and lend them your phone. I am not saying it is good, I am saying it is worth discussing.

Another irony is the double bind of the middle and lower classes. If limited scholarship funds and time to degree preclude both your doing your laundry by hand and your frequenting the prohibitively expensive landromat, you may well end up with a washerwoman whether you believe you should or not. If in a large, bureaucratic country where everything must be done in person and lines are very long, you do not have a car, a driver, or a runner, and you must therefore pay all of your bills and file any other necessary paperwork by city bus, you may well end up saying yes to the concierge who offers to do your grocery shopping for you in the meantime, for a very small fee. Or, as we know all too well, if your budget limits you to shopping at Wal*Mart, you are complicit in several forms of slavery.


There are principled reasons why one should not have domestic workers. But is it only housework a feminist should not hire out? What about yard work and general labor? What, if anything, changes when you figure in the fact that in this part of the United States housecleaners and yardworkers bill at $30 per hour, whereas construction workers are paid $9 and this professor, $19?

I recently spent four days as a home health worker because a friend took a fall which resulted in four fractures. It was my first full time stint at domestic work, and it was for a pleasant and self sufficient person, but it still demonstrated what we knew already. Housewives and domestic workers should not have to do the most menial of jobs for others, and they should get good salaries. They also need to hold authority, and to receive massages or whatever other wonderful services they need for their own renewal, because service work, especially of the house and home health stripe, wears you out and grinds you down.

Still I have my own house professionally cleaned whenever I can afford it. And I do not think that not to do so would appreciably change my degree of complicity with the current economic structure, nor that it would change the system. And that is how the Brazilians corrupted me – or more accurately, I think, put me face to face with my class position. But the question is complicity and how to effectively step outside its frame.



Filed under Theories