Thursday, August 22, 2013



Wednesday, August 21, 2013


Something more needs to be done in regards to the Olympics and Russia's abject persecution of gays and lesbians...then talking about it. .  Sitting around worrying about the athletes getting to perform is nice, but come on.  Wearing buttons and holding hands around the Olympic site is a nice gesture, too, but come on.  Should we, should everyone boycott the whole shebang, sure why the hell or just move it elsewhere.  Could we boycott all the sponsors, sure why not?  Remember when South African athletes weren't allowed to participate in international sporting events...hey, there's a thought.  While we are talking on the Russians and Putin, there are plenty of other jackass homophobes out there in the Olympic world. Let's go after them, too. vBan them all. 

But back to Russia.  It isn't just Putin, by the way, nor is it just the Russian Orthodox Church, though both are evil.  The Advocate reminds us:

Nearly three out of four Russians think homosexuality should be rejected by society, according to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center.

The study found that 74% of Russians answered “no” to the question: “Should society accept homosexuality?”

Let's join in boycott the big Russian products that are sold in this globalized world we live in.  I am not big on the effectiveness of boycotts, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.  It ain't like I have to drink shots of Stoli.

People are being forced into hiding who they are.  People are being thrown in jail.  People are dying.  The lives of gay people mean more that the Winter Olympics.

..and again, go elsewhere if you want but don't take the Olympics to Russia...and again while we are at let's make the Olympics actually live up to the standards and the ideals their bosses so proudly proclaim, the sports announcers babble about throughout the games, the spirit we all pretend exists, but doesn't

Let's face it the Olympics are big business and global capital has a wonderful home in their villages.  Throw those bastards out.

I admit, I love watching the Olympics, but now is the time for you and I, and people like us to finally say, enough is enough.  The games can't go on as if they exist in some other dimension then the one we inhabit.

I admit, I am starting to just babble or rant, but it pisses me off...It pisses me off that if you google "boycott the olympics" what you mostly find are "reasonable arguments" on why not to do just that.

Move it, fix it, or shut it down.

The first below is from the American Prospect.  After you have read that post, please move on and read a very "interesting" piece on the movement to boycott the 1936 Nazi Olympics from the web site of the United Sates Holocaust Museum.  Then think again about the Putin Olympics.


by Nancy Goldstein

AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis
There’s no sugarcoating what’s happening in Russia in the days since the Duma and Prime minister Vladimir Putin passed its anti-gay laws earlier this summer. In a jaw-dropping video that Moscow-based journalist and longtime LGBT activist Masha Gessen posted to her Facebook page over the weekend, Dmitry Kiselev, anchorman and deputy director of VGTRK, the Russian state broadcast holding company—in short, a top representative of the Kremlin’s media machine—makes the following statement:

I believe it is not enough to impose fines on gays for engaging in the propaganda of homosexuality among adolescents. We need to ban them from donating blood and sperm, and if they die in car accidents, we need to bury their hearts in the ground or burn them as they are unsuitable for the aiding of anyone's life.

Kiselev’s audience claps and cheers.

So let’s be very clear, very fast about what will and won’t matter to Putin and his cronies when it comes to protesting. There’s no point in pretending that marching around the Olympic Village in Sochi this winter wearing rainbow pins will make a jot of difference, even on the medal-awards platform. “The Kremlin,” Russian LGBT activist Alexei Davydov tells me through an interpreter, “has taken a page from the Middle Ages. Incapable of solving the country's pressing problems, and with Putin's ratings falling, the Kremlin has decided to consolidate society through fear—and to this purpose is engaged in a search for enemies both internal and external. Gays have been chosen as these victims.”

Davydov should know. In this video, he very carefully breaks the new gay “propaganda” law and becomes its first test case by standing on the steps of a library with a sign that reads “Gay is normal.” The police haul him off, along with three other allies. What will happen to him when he’s tried is anyone’s guess. But Gessen—who, along with what one St. Petersburg legislator called her “perverted family” are the primary targets of a proposed law that will remove Russian children from their LGBT parents—urges supporters abroad “to keep reminding the Kremlin that the world is watching. We need media coverage of existing cases.”

That’s our real responsibility in dealing with a country where a solid 74 percent of citizens don’t think homosexuality should be accepted by society—not kidding ourselves that it will make a difference if we bring our loved ones to Sochi, chat with the people next to us at the bobsled track, and hold our children up for the cameras. Russia’s decision-makers couldn’t care less, and its media machine will simply spin those hearts-and-minds gestures into symbols of Western decadence. “Anything addressed to the public,” Gessen says, “risks playing into the hand of the people stirring up the homophobia.”

There’s certainly no point—I’m looking at you, President Obama and British Prime Minister Cameron—in refusing to boycott the games because we don’t want to penalize the athletes who have trained so long and hard. That legitimate concern could be addressed by simply pressing the International Olympic Committee (IOC) tofollow its own charter, which calls for removing the Olympic Games from any nation that does not satisfy its own requirements for equal rights and tolerance. Start working with the one senior IOC member from Norway who already shares this view to help bring others around to it. I’m sure Vancouver’s snowboarding ramps are still in fine repair.

Think long and hard before you evoke the spectacle of Jesse Owens at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin—thus far the model for the West’s approach to Putin—or argue that winning LGBT athletes will “show 'em” in Sochi. In 1935—as in 2013—the International Olympics Committee was keen to pretend that sporting events could wash a clearly politicized setting of its politics, or wipe a dirty city clean. IOC chair Count Henri Baillet-Latour was content with Chancellor Adolf Hitler’s promise that anti-Semitic placards would be taken down during the Olympic games the next year.

In this Faustian bargain, Hitler hid the most obvious signs of what would later become his Final Solution. Jesse Owens, the allegedly “inferior” Negro, kicked Aryan butt on the track and came home with four gold medals (to a country where FDR refused to host him at the White House for fear of losing the Southern vote in the upcoming election). And then, once the international community had left, Hitler and his willing minions invaded neighboring countries and incinerated every fucking Jew, queer, or dissenter they could get their hands on.

If President Obama has “no patience for countries that try to treat gays or lesbians or transgender persons in ways that intimidate them or are harmful to them,” Davydov suggests he demonstrate that by instructing Secretary of State John Kerry to put Elena Mizulina and Vitaly Milonov—the officials most responsible for Russia’s new laws—on the visa ban. The former is the Duma deputy responsible for the federal law banning gay "propaganda" to minors and for the law banning foreign adoptions of Russian orphans by gays and lesbians; the latter is the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly deputy responsible for the law banning gay "propaganda" to minors in St. Petersburg. (Here’s a petition that asks Obama to do precisely that.) 

Essentially, Davydov is proposing to extend the Magnitzky Act to cover homophobes.

Essentially, Davydov is proposing to extend the Magnitzky Act to cover homophobes. This 2012 law punishes 18 Russian officials thought to be complicit in the death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in prison after investigating fraud involving Russian officials, by prohibiting their entrance into the United States or use of its banking system. “If you forbade persons who advance fascist discrimination laws, such as deputies Mizulin and Milonova, entry into civilized countries,” says Davydov, “I assure you there would be few who would be ready to advance similar laws.”

There’s plenty that the rest of us could do as well. Russian LGBT activists have been saying for some time now that there’s no point in aiming at so small a target as the Kremlin’s heart, especially when its wallet presents a larger, more tender object. First, RUSA LGBT asked allies to boycott Sochi and all Russian products, and press for withdrawal of corporate sponsorship from the games. Then 34 LGBT Russian activists (including Davydov and Gessen) echoed that call in a letter released by Queer Nation.

So let’s keep dumping Russian vodka into the streets and outside of the Russian consulate in New York City. Let’s keep marching in London. Sign the petition that calls for Coca-Cola, Panasonic, Samsung, Procter & Gamble, and Visa tocondemn the laws and pull their sponsorship from the Sochi Olympic games (it’s now surpassed 100,00 signatures).

And keep taking actions like the one where activists confronted Russia’s U.N. ambassador with a petition signed by 340,000 supporters urging world leaders to help eliminate anti-gay laws in Russia ahead of the Sochi games. “Every time that Putin, or other government officials, or representatives of Russian big business or cultural institutions step foot into the West,” says Gessen, “s/he should have a hellish experience. They should encounter protests and questions about these laws everywhere they turn.” Let’s take a cue from Amsterdam, where public officials put their money where their mouth was: The rainbow flag flew above the capitol during Putin’s April visit, while yellow tape reading “Homophobia-free zone” cordoned off streets where thousands protested.

We have a chance to do things differently in Sochi than we did in Berlin. Let’s start with skipping the part where we appease a dictator, and instead give a damn about what’s happening beyond the scrubbed streets of the Olympic Village. Let’s lose the naïve notion that the wins of a few remarkable LGBT athletes will make any difference to the mobs of Neo-Nazi vigilantes luring gay teens with online ads, then kidnapping and torturing them—a process they like to videotape and post online for their admirers to enjoy. Let’s focus on forms of protest that will have an impact in locations beyond Sochi—actions that will continue to impede the progress of Putin’s Final Solution even once the crowds and the cameras leave.


A pedestrian pauses to read a notice announcing an upcoming public meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, December 3, to urge Americans to boycott the 1936 Berlin Olympics. New York, United States, 1935.
A pedestrian pauses to read a notice announcing an upcoming public meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, December 3, to urge Americans to boycott the 1936 Berlin Olympics. New York, United States, 1935.
— National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Md.
Soon after Hitler took power in 1933, observers in the United States and other western democracies questioned the morality of supporting Olympic Games hosted by the Nazi regime. Responding to reports of the persecution of Jewish athletes in 1933, Avery Brundage, president of the American Olympic Committee (AOC), stated: "The very foundation of the modern Olympic revival will be undermined if individual countries are allowed to restrict participation by reason of class, creed, or race." Brundage, like many others in the Olympic movement, initially considered moving the Games from Germany. After a brief and tightly managed inspection of German sports facilities in 1934, Brundage stated publicly that Jewish athletes were being treated fairly and that the Games should go on, as planned.

Debate over participation in the 1936 Olympicswas greatest in the United States, which traditionally sent one of the largest teams to the Games. By the end of 1934, the lines on both sides were clearly drawn. Avery Brundage opposed a boycott, arguing that politics had no place in sport. He fought to send a US team to the 1936 Olympics, claiming: "The Olympic Games belong to the athletes and not to the politicians." He wrote in the AOC's pamphlet "Fair Play for American Athletes" that American athletes should not become involved in the present "Jew-Nazi altercation." As the Olympics controversy heated up in 1935, Brundage alleged the existence of a "Jewish-Communist conspiracy" to keep the United States out of the Games.

Judge Jeremiah Mahoney, president of the Amateur Athletic Union, led efforts to boycott the 1936 Olympics, pointing out that Germany had broken Olympic rules forbidding discrimination based on race and religion. In his view, participation would indicate an endorsement of Hitler's Reich. Mahoney was one of a number of Catholic leaders supporting a boycott. New York mayor Fiorello La Guardia, New York governor Al Smith, and Massachusetts governor James Curley also opposed sending a team to Berlin. The Catholic journal The Commonweal (November 8, 1935) advised boycotting an Olympics that would set the seal of approval on radically anti-Christian Nazi doctrines.

Another important boycott supporter, Ernst Lee Jahncke (a former assistant secretary of the US Navy), was expelled from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in July 1936 after taking a strong public stand against the Berlin Games. The IOC pointedly elected Avery Brundage to fill Jahncke's seat. Jahncke is the only member in the 100-year history of the IOC to be ejected.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt did not become involved in the boycott issue, despite warnings from high-level American diplomats regarding Nazi exploitation of the Olympics for propaganda purposes. Roosevelt continued a 40-year tradition in which the American Olympic Committee operated independently of outside influence. Both the US ambassador to Germany, William E. Dodd, and George Messersmith, head of the US Legation in Vienna, deplored the American Olympic Committee's decision to go to Berlin.

Many American newspaper editors and anti-Nazi groups, led by Jeremiah Mahoney, president of the Amateur Athletic Union, were unwilling to accept Nazi Germany's hollow pledges regarding German Jewish athletes. But a determined Avery Brundage maneuvered the Amateur Athletic Union to a close vote in favor of sending an American team to Berlin, and, in the end, Mahoney's boycott effort failed.

Short-lived boycott efforts also surfaced in Great Britain, France, Sweden, Czechoslovakia, and the Netherlands. German Socialists and Communists in exile voiced their opposition to the Games through publications such as Arbeiter Illustrierte Zeitung (The Worker Illustrated Newspaper). Some boycott proponents supported counter-Olympics. One of the largest was the "People's Olympiad" planned for summer 1936 in Barcelona, Spain. It was canceled after the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in July 1936, just as thousands of athletes had begun to arrive.

Individual Jewish athletes from a number of countries also chose to boycott the Berlin Olympics. In the United States, some Jewish athletes and Jewish organiztions like the American Jewish Congress and the Jewish Labor Committee supported a boycott of the Berlin Games. Once the Amateur Athletic Union of the United States voted for participation in December 1935, however, the other countries fell in line. Forty-nine teams from around the world competed in the Berlin Games, more than in any previous Olympics.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


You hear people complaining about homeless folks clogging up sidewalks, parks, and urinating in public all the time.  Well, my question is if you are homeless what exactly are you supposed to do?  Where is it okay to stand or sit or sleep or piss?  Maybe you are just supposed to stay awake, keep moving and hold "it."  I don't know.  

We live in a country with all kinds of empty housing, abandoned buildings, common space,  and all kinds of folks who want housing and there is no match seen.  We live in a country where people who for whatever reason can't be house or aren't interested in a warehouse shelter are supposed to...just move along, disappear, go elsewhere.

Listen I have worked on the streets and I have been in shelters, and yes, there are some people in the shelter/homeless industry with fine big hearts, but, I'll tell you what, given my druthers, and depending on the weather I would stay out of those shelters most of which are dangerous, most of which have more rules then your high school, most of which send you packing at the crack of dawn, most of which are just no damned "fun."

There are answers, even answers short of the total overthrow of the whole damned system of capitalism which would suffice in the short term.  I used to be involved with some folks from the National Union of the Homeless.  They were homeless people taking care of themselves and of each other.  They weren't a bunch of social workers and government employees who didn't really get it and who really thought of themselves as a different branch of the human species altogether .

I've slept on porches and found myself moving from day to day looking for a place to crash.  I was lucky.  I had friends who would put me up for a short time and my period of this didn't last all that long.  Even with that I in no way claim to really understand what it is to be homeless, not really.

Meanwhile in Portland Oregon, the city of the Roses, their is a battle going on between the homeless and the city.The city keeps driving the homeless "away" and the homeless keep finding another place to be until the city closes in on them again.

Greg Malroy, one of a group of half a dozen homeless found a site tucked under a tinder dry bluff near some homes.  the cops showed up and set up no camping signs.  they told the group they'd be back in the morning.  They told the group to move on.

"They usually give us 72 hours notice, but this time they gave us 24 hours notice," Malroy told Oregon Live. "They told us it was private property and there was a fire hazard here."

Malroy said he, another man and three women moved to the bluff after police rousted them from below the Fremont Bridge at Northwest 19th Avenue about a week ago.

"They just keep moving us," he said. "They've been cleaning up all over town."

Oregon Live reports: 

...the city's estimated 1,700 homeless people are part of a long tug of war between city officials, homeless advocates and police. The issue roared to the forefront when Mayor Charlie Hales announced last month that he'd had enough of the behavior of dozens of people camped outside City Hall.

(Two weeks ago), police arrested five protesters there and police said they would begin to more rigorously enforce the city's camping ban everywhere, not just on city sidewalks.

City law prohibits "camping" on public property, which includes "bedding, sleeping bag, or other sleeping matter." Private landowners also can report campers trespassing on their property.

While Portland police carried out Thursday's camp removal, city park rangers removed 984 homeless camps in 2010, then with increased patrols keeping numbers down, 684 camps in 2011 and 500 in 2012...

 Malroy said the group did its best to keep their camps clean. He said they weren't drug users, didn't drink but were forced onto the streets by medical problems that prevent them from working. Malroy's criminal record is for non-violent crimes, including arrests for drugs and car theft, according to state court records. 

"We're all trying to get disability and get housing, but they won't give you housing unless you have a fixed income," he said. "So we're kind of stuck out here." 

In July Mayor Charlie Hales told homeless camping in front of city hall to move on.

The Willamette Week wrote at the time,

Portland Police officers quietly posted metal signs in front of City Hall Friday evening outlawing obstruction of the sidewalk along Southwest 4th Avenue—in effect serving an eviction notice to the homeless encampment that has swelled to more than 40 people in recent weeks.

This in response to complaints from Portland citizens and a drumbeat of bull from media outlets.

The homeless and supporters weren't impressed and vowed this time to fight.  They set up an occupy like protest.  Eventually though they were forced out and regrouped in a federal plaza.  

Again from the Oregonian: 

 Mayor Charlie Hales boldly declared last week that enforcing sidewalk laws against people experiencing homelessness — and we assume the mentally ill — wasn’t about homelessness at all. “This is about lawlessness,” the mayor proclaimed to the media. 

The mayor doesn't get it.  He wants all these people to move on and on some more.

Street Root News writes:

Not one mention of the public health crisis on our streets or the lack of funding for homeless or mental health services. Nothing was mentioned about how the business community, residents, local government, advocates, social-service providers and law enforcement can work together to tackle these tough problems. Not a peep about an increased investment for rent assistance to target some of the hard-to-reach folks on our streets.

The message sent to the media and Portland was simple: We’re cleaning up lawless behavior that we’ve tolerated for far too long. 

Street Roots and others saw years of hard work about how to frame this issue to get common Portlanders to engage in working together to solve homelessness flash before our eyes.

Then the police went out and swept homeless camps.

Sitting quietly in the background are lobbyists for the business community who are pushing an agenda to government and the media that tourism is hurting and the business climate is threatened because of the visible homeless downtown.

Meanwhile, anyone walking through Portland’s core would see tourism and business booming. 

 What’s the solution?

The solution is to work together to develop strategies to increase our affordable housing stock, to increase rent assistance dollars for people on the streets, and to maintain targeted enforcement on people who are clearly out of line. The solution is not to enforce decades-old perspectives that research and history have shown do absolutely nothing to solve the problem of poverty and homelessness in urban America.

What Portland needs are leaders who listen to experts in the field and in government that have been successfully housing people for years. 

Street Roots is ready to work alongside both traditional and non-traditional partners to get the job done. What we can’t do is sit on the sidelines and watch individuals and families in poverty be demonized in our community.

Housing stability makes economic and social sense. Everyone deserves to have a safe place to call home, regardless of circumstances, and everyone benefits when they do.

The real solution goes beyond this, in my mind, and any solution temporary or otherwise must be one that involves the homeless themselves in the decision making process, not just the "experts" referred to above.  In the meantime, some squatting, some occupations, some takeovers of some abandoned buildings and the like, and yes, the use of public parks and plazas is in order.

Today the police moved the people out of that Federal Plaza, at least, temporarily.

The following is from Right to Dream.

Willow Frost speaks before the City Council

Could you get a good night's sleep in this situation?
On July 11th, 2013, Willow spoke brilliantly before the city council - here is what she said:

Hello, my name is Willow Frost, and I'm houseless. I became a member of Right 2 Dream Too in March, and since then, I've learned a lot concerning the homeless population of Portland. The first being this: sleep is a biological need that cannot and will not be denied forever.

According to the Point-in-Time count of homelessness done in Multnomah County, there are 2,869 people who meet the definition of "literally homeless". Literal homelessness is defined by the federal department of Housing and Urban Development as "any person sleeping in an emergency shelter, sleeping in a motel provided by a voucher, or without shelter." Of this number of people, 1,895 are not receiving shelter.

To make this a clearer picture, that is 66% of the homeless population - living, breathing people who have a need for sleep - huddling under whatever shelter they can to stay out of the rain, or trekking to an inconvenient location to keep from getting woken up by police officers. Some of these locations make it difficult to come back into the city to look for work, go to school, or even just to receive services for food and showers.

My last point aside, sleep is obviously a very important thing for the human body. A study performed by the San Diego based University of California showed that sleep deprivation can cause slurring of speech, loss of coordination and manual dexterity, loss of cognitive function, delayed or interrupted perceptive ability, and in cases of prolonged or repeated sleep deprivation, mania and hallucinations.

If this list of symptoms sounds like reasons police confront a person for suspicion of drug use, that’s because it is. In many cases, a police officer will wake up a homeless person, tell them to move on, and that person will begin their day. Many times this means a person is getting less than four or five hours of sleep in a night, and in some cases less than two or three. And then, when those people who were denied rest by the police begin to exhibit these symptoms, they stand less of a chance to get a job, be able to pay attention in school, or even function in the general society. They even stand a chance of going to jail because of mental and physical symptoms caused by lack of sleep.

As I stated before, sleep is a biological imperative. It’s going to happen whether it’s legal or not, and I personally would rather see a person sleep safe and away from traffic, than to see them pass out while crossing a street. I would also prefer to see a person sleeping at Right 2 Dream Too, instead of out on the sidewalks where they stand a chance of being entered into the vicious cycle I previously mentioned.

Right 2 Survive, and by direct action, Right 2 Dream Too, are filling a role that is sorely needed in Downtown Portland. The need for a grassroots organization catering to homeless people, run by the homeless, formerly homeless, and their allies to keep people off the streets, teach them their rights, and extend a warm, welcoming hand that says “Yeah, you might not have a home, you might be in a really bad spot right now, and you may think you have nothing. But guess what? We’re here for you. It’s not gonna be easy, but let us help you help yourself. Come in, sleep for twelve hours, have some food, then go about your day. And at the end of it, come back. We’ll welcome you back with open arms.”

Currently, the City is fining us. I won’t claim to be able to quote the exact amount, but it’s confusing to me that the city would be opposed to an organization that can, in a 24 hour period take up to 90 of those 1,895 non-sheltered people that I mentioned before, and give them a place to sleep without worry. I would appreciate, as I’m sure would the entire homeless community, if the City would re-evaluate its response to, and actions toward Right to Dream Too, and possibly even look into approving more organizations like us."

Photograph is creative commons from the internet. 

Monday, August 19, 2013


"Passion. It lies in all of us. Sleeping ... waiting ... and though unwanted, unbidden, it will stir ... open its jaws and howl. It speaks to us ... guides us. Passion rules us all. And we obey. What other choice do we have? Passion is the source of our finest moments. The joy of love ... the clarity of hatred ... the ecstasy of grief. It hurts sometimes more than we can bear. If we could live without passion, maybe we'd know some kind of peace. But we would be hollow. Empty rooms, shuttered and dank. Without passion, we'd be truly dead." - Buffy Summers 

"You know, I always say that a day without an autopsy is like a day without sunshine." -- Buffy Summers

"I think I speak for everyone here when I say, "huh?"  - Buffy Summers

Today's Scission is NOT what one expects to find here at all.  I know some of you will just take one pass and move along, but what can I say.  The truth is the only reason it is here is that I happen to be the oldest big fan of the too long gone TV series,  Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  That's right I loved Buffy and the gang.  I thought, still do, think it was one of the better series ever to appear on regular old TV.  This wasn't some big HBO drama or anything, just a weekly program that dealt with real issues of real importance in the real lives of all of us, but probably even more so of adolescents.  But again, I was already well into my forties when I began a fan and the program said some things to me, too.  Most teenage TV or movies, I can live without.  I do really like Pump Up the Volume.  I also liked the Breakfast Club.  Still they were movies, not just some crappy little TV series.

Buffy was different.  I am not even sure how to describe why.  I guess that is one reason I am running the post below.  The author of the article which appears on the Toast.

There is more to life then politics, economics, war, social justice, racism, and prison.  There is more to life then THE STRUGGLE.  There is the other struggle which is life, your own personal life.  There is love and fear and joy and despair.  Life is full of ups and downs and often lacks any reason or any answers.  Somehow every one of us has to deal with life in our own ways in our own time.  For some of us life is a hell of a lot harder than it is for others.  They say money isn't everything, but you know it can make life a lot more simple and eliminate a lot of hardships.  The rich may piss and moan, but the rich mostly haven't met the poor.  They don't know and they don't care.

The issues of growing up, of trying to figure out who the hell you are, or why the hell you or where the hell you are going (issues which we face ALL of our lives) may seem trite to those of us who call ourselves serious Marxists, communists, activists, etc. etc. etc.  However, most of us know when you are in the middle of these "trite" little times, they sure as hell seem anything but.

Does any of this matter?  Well, yes it does matter.  However, is it worth a spot here, does it make sense for me to be spending time today and offering this up to you?  I don't know really.  You will have to be the judge of that.

And I won't even get into the slayer known as Faith.....

Anyway, like baseball, Scission plays a long season, so every now and then I am entitled to come up with something like this, don't you think?

Anyway, here we go...


A New Version of You

buffyIn 1998, as Joey and Dawson shared their first kiss and Felicity agonized over Ben and Noel, poor Buffy Summers murdered the love of her life. Watching that episode some 15 years later, as a woman well into my 30s, I cried bitter tears. As Buffy made out with her ex-boyfriend, stabbed him in the stomach, and looked on in horror as he got sucked into Hell, it struck me as the most harrowing and realistic breakup in television history, the whole idea that anyone would ever fall for a big lunk like Angel notwithstanding.

The motivation for their split, of course, was to prevent worldwide human annihilation. Those were the stakes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which rightfully portrayed the process of growing up as a series of encounters with total fucking apocalypse. Because it perfectly captured the histrionic milieu of high school—and because it was on the WB network—people tend to talk about Buffy as a coming-of-age story. But the show’s real artistic achievement was in its flat rejection of the notion we can ever come to know ourselves, much less someone else.

Unlike most teen dramas, Buffy wasn’t a narrative about finding an identity; it was always about having a lot of them. Okay, sure, Season 1, with its mean girls and first dates and cheerleading tryouts, was a straightforward dramatization of the trials of young adulthood. (No social problem was ever so great that it couldn’t be fixed, however improbably, by killing some vampires.) But as the show progressed, and the Scoobies coped variously with sordid pasts, spells gone wrong, and a horrifying spectrum of abusive boyfriends, its moral universe grew more complex. Identities and alliances shifted and relationships grew ever more muddled as evil—no longer relegated to the Big Bad in the basement—was embodied by familiar faces.

On Felicity“a new version of you” meant that you got a haircut or switched majors. On Buffy, it usually meant that you were operating under the influence of a malevolent spirit, spell, curse, or hypnotic trance. Frequently, characters were demonically possessed, supernaturally compelled, or otherwise not themselves. Doubles abounded: Angel and his alter ego Angelus, Buffy and her “dark mirror” Faith, Willow and her murderous “kinda gay” doppelgänger, Buffy and the Buffybot, the two Xanders. Life on the Hellmouth required a certain amount of flexibility. You might, for instance, spend 19 years of your life as an only child, only to one day find you have an annoying little sister that monks made out of mystical energy. At any given moment, you might turn into a rat, a demon, a werewolf, or a lesbian. In Sunnydale, no one was ever what they seemed, and by the time you’d figured someone out, they had already turned into someone else.

The problem of identity came to a head in Season 4, when (not for nothing) the Big Bad was an existential Frankenstein figure named Adam. One by one, the central characters went through their own identity crisis. Having been stripped of his station as a Watcher and a librarian, poor Giles played sad guitar at open mic nights. Buffy, in a bid to redefine herself after killing Angel, slept with a womanizer whose bad behavior she couldn’t redress with a sword to the stomach. Oz boffed some werewolf on accident. (Then, whoops! He killed her.) Willow found herself in a delightful, witchy same-sex relationship, Spike started helping the good guys, Xander switched jobs every week, and Anya tried to adjust to life as a human after hundreds of years as a vengeance demon. While remaining a tight-knit group, the Scoobies continually surprised themselves—and each other—with their capacity for change.

As a culture, we place a lot of emphasis on the coming-of-age story, as though it’s something that happens just once, early in life. The series finales of teen dramas tend to perpetuate that myth by suggesting that we emerge into adulthood somewhat inexperienced, but more or less fully formed. How many series end with the female lead finally (“finally”) locking down her soul mate? In 2002-2003, during Buffy’s seventh and final season, both Dawson’s Creek and Felicity fast-forwarded into the future to assure us that Joey ended up with Pacey and Felicity ended up with Ben. Meanwhile, in her finale, Buffy lost not one but two boyfriends and also saved the world, no big. Like most of the show’s episodes, which eschewed cliffhangers or closure in favor of stopping on a quiet, awkward beat, the series ended on a moment of silence as our heroine was asked to contemplate her future. What would Buffy do next? Even she didn’t know.

Over its long (and admittedly uneven) run, the show itself played with the notion of identity. The magic ofBuffy was not just in combining influences as diverse as John Hughes, classic horror, Broadway, and comic books, but also in its ability to dip into straight genre—as in episodes like “Hush” and “Once More, With Feeling”—and still seem utterly like itself. Joss Whedon is known as (among other things) a champion of nerd culture, but his biggest contribution has been in demonstrating that teen drama (one of the most maligned of all genres) was sophisticated and capacious enough to accommodate rigorous emotional honesty, offbeat humor, and instantaneous shifts in tone.

Coming-of-age stories tend to portray young adulthood as a time when we “find ourselves,” whatever that means. But that model ignores the fact that, for better or worse, the very stuff of our selves—our personalities, our preferences, and even our core values—has a remarkable capacity for change. Our task is to make sure that some semblance of self stays intact as we age. It’s hard because we tend to renounce our Past Selves (those haircuts!), and we have a hard time envisioning our Future Selves at all. In real life, this proliferation of selves can cause continuity problems. (Certainly I don’t recognize the Me who once owned a pink pleather skirt.) On Buffy, despite the limitations of its 45-minute format, the characters juggled multiple versions of themselves all the time, constantly grappling with the contradictions, anxiety, and consequences surrounding who they had been, who they were, and who they would become in a surprisingly cogent way.

After floundering for a time, most of Buffy’s contemporaries (Felicity, Rory from Gilmore Girls) found themselves by the time they graduated college. However much I loved those shows, their journeys did not speak to me. The life of a vampire slayer—gritty and exhausting, with bouts of immaturity, ill-advised romantic entanglements, and the occasional need to kill an evil bug—is the one that I actually recognize, the one that maps onto some semblance of life. It’s a model that makes just as much sense when you’re 15 as when you’re 35, because who ever actually figures it out, really?

The thing is, Buffy was never about a girl coming of age. In her universe, as in ours, no one ever finds herself, at least not for long. With its relentless parade of Big Bads, demonic possessions, and fug leather pants, Buffy shows us how to face life’s central challenge: accepting the monsters we have all had to be, and those we have yet to become.


Gothic capitalism: Marx, monsters and Buffy

 by Lena Wånggren 

These days, I often feel as if we live in some kind of dystopian fantasy: the divide between poor and rich increases every day because of deliberate government policy, with half a million people in Britain today being forced to use food banks, and racists organising demonstrations in our streets while neoliberal politicians employ the same xenophobic discourse. The economic and social structures in which we live are frightening – indeed gothic. This blog post, the final of my three ones, will explore the economic system in which we live through the metaphor of the monster, examining such economic monsters both in Marx and in a more recent popular text: Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003).

'Buffy the Anarcho-Syndicalist: Capitalism Bites'

As Franco Moretti claims, ‘monsters are metaphors’ (105); their bodies standing in for the fears of a certain time and place. Jessie Givner in fact argues that it is the monster’s ability to be seen as a metaphor that makes the creature particularly monstrous (274). Likewise, Judith Halberstam argues that excessive interpretability is the hallmark of monstrosity; monsters are ‘meaning machines’ that can represent gender, race, nationality, class, and sexuality in one body: ‘The monster functions as monster, when it is able to condense as many fear-producing traits as possible into one body’ (21-22). Its ability to be seen as a metaphor can be seen as a part of what makes it monstrous.

Capitalism, with its seemingly magical market movements, lends itself well to metaphorical description. Karl Marx famously describes the gothic character of capitalism, in various of his works, through monstrous metaphors: werewolves and other creatures abound. He specifically and repeatedly uses the metaphor of the vampire to describe the capitalist, and the functions of capitalism. There are also numerous other descriptions in his works with imagery deriving from the vampire metaphor, such as mentions of blood and blood-sucking (Neocleous 669). In the Grundrisse (1857) Marx explains: ‘Capital posits the permanence of value (to a certain degree) by incarnating itself in fleeting commodities and taking on their form, but at the same time changing them just as constantly; alternates between its eternal form in money and its passing form in commodities; … But capital obtains this ability only by constantly sucking in living labour as its soul, vampire-like’ (646). As Halberstam notes, Marx here describes the economic system in which we live, capitalism, as gothic in itself; it is gothic ‘in its ability to transfer matter into commodity, commodity into value and value into capitalism’ (103).

As David McNally notes in Monsters of the Market: Zombies, Vampires and Global Capitalism (2010), ‘the idea that something monstrous is at work in the operations of global capitalism is never far from the surface today’ (9), in politics, journalism and popular culture. One specific text making full use of the metaphoricity of the monster is the 1997-2003 tv series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. With its abundance of monsters – ranging from vampires, werevolves and various other kinds of demons, to human-made creatures – the series presents many opportunities for analysing the social and political significance of the monster, and for examining what McNally calls the ‘monstrous forms of every-day life in a capitalist world system’ (2).

The series’s creator Joss Whedon is outspoken about his political values – we saw them recently in his satirical zombie-themed anti-Romney (Zomney) video before the last US election. Romney, Whedon tells us, will bring the country quickly towards a zombie apocalypse: ‘Romney is ready to make the deep rollbacks in health care, education, social services, reproductive rights that will guarantee poverty, unemployment, overpopulation, disease, rioting: all crucial elements in creating a nightmare zombie wasteland. But it’s his commitment to ungoverned corporate privilege that will nosedive this economy into true insolvency and chaos, the kind of chaos you can’t buy back. Money is only so much paper to the undead.’ Whedon’s description of capitalism as a kind of zombie economics is not new; it is made explicit in John Quiggin’s recent Zombie Economics: How Dead Ideas Still Walk among Us (2010), in which he examines the persistence of market-based ideas among politicians and economists, despite the failure of market liberalism. Even after the financial crisis, the dead ideas behind market-based ideology still stalk the land, walking among us – and must, Quiggin argues, be killed off once and for all.

Coming back to Whedon, and Buffy, and the gothic capitalism described in the series. We find one of the most explicit thematisations of monstrous capitalism in Buffy in the first episode of the third season, entitled ‘Anne’. Having killed her vampire boyfriend Angel in the previous season, Buffy in this episode is hiding in an unknown city, posing as an anonymous ‘Anne’ and working in a dingy diner.

Already at the beginning of the episode we see the focus on the social faults in the current economic system, when Buffy on the way home from work walks past several destitute and homeless people in the streets, people with no social safety net, several of them begging, many of them telling Buffy: ‘I am noone’. Only one person in this city seems to care about these impoverished people: a director of a local centre, the ‘Family Home’, which welcomes everyone, offering food and support.

However, the director, calling himself Ken, is not the person he claims to be. When Buffy is contacted by an old acquaintance, Lily, whose boyfriend has gone missing, she discovers a whole machinery of exploitation beneath the city. Buffy finds the missing boyfriend among a group of people sleeping rough – but the boyfriend is dead, and seems to have aged about 60-70 years, ‘like something drained the life out of him’. Not drained by a vampire – that could not have accelerated the ageing process – but by something different.

As it turns out, the seemingly altruistic Ken is in fact a demon, not a benefactor. (So much for ‘caring capitalism’!) Buffy rips off his human mask, which reveals underneath it the face of a demon.

The local centre turns out to be an underground workplace, where people are being used as slave labour, forced to work in order to survive. Ken – now in his demon shape – tells Buffy: ‘Welcome to my world’. In this slavery den, the unwanted, the casualised, the precariat, exist. Here time moves more quickly, and everyone ages faster – which explains the death of Lily’s prematurely aged boyfriend.

In a passage from the chapter on the working day, Marx in Capital (vol.1) (1876) explains the vampiric nature of capitalism:

‘Capital is dead labour which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks. The time during which the worker works is the time during which the capitalist consumes the labour-power he has bought from him. If the worker consumes his disposable time for himself, he robs the capitalist.’ (342)

Here, the capitalist demon sucks the life out of the workers, consuming their labour-power so as to make as much profit as possible. But still, this system ‘only slightly quenches the vampire thirst for the living blood of labour’ (Capital 367). While the worker might think that they dispose of themselves freely, Marx writes, once they have sold their labour-power to the capitalist, ‘it was discovered that he was no “free agent”, that the period of time for which he is free to sell his labour-power is the period of time for which he is forced to sell it, that in fact the vampire will not let go “while there remains a single muscle, sinew or drop of blood to be exploited”‘ (415-416). As Buffy understands: ‘You just work us ’til we’re too old and then spit us back out?’

The people taken here by the ‘caring capitalist’ demon Ken are chosen precisely because of their precarious situation; they have no one who cares about them in the other world, so will not be missed. In this gothic capitalist world, the workers have no identity – their sole purpose is to work. As one of the guards tells the labourers: ‘You work, and you live – that is all. You do not complain, or laugh, or do anything besides work. Whatever you thought, whatever you were, does not matter. You are no one now.’ The slave-labourers are forced to repeat this, in order to avoid getting beaten. This mantra, ‘I am noone’, is what we earlier heard the impoverished people say to Buffy when above ground – one of them, we find out, having been Lily’s boyfriend. The labourers are worthless commodities in this system.

Buffy of course does not respond well to the guard’s bullying: she strikes the guard, takes her group of fellow prisoners and prepares to flee their enslavement. Having sent off some of the workers to the surface, Buffy kills off guard after guard, while demon capitalist Ken watches his system of exploitation collapse: ‘Humans don’t fight back… Humans don’t fight back! That’s how this works!’ That might be true; as McNally states, perhaps the most monstrous aspect of gothic capitalism is the way in which this exploitative system becomes ‘normalised and naturalised via its colonisation of the essential fabric of every-day life’ (2). There is some beautifully over-the-top imagery here, as Buffy takes the weapons of the guards she defeats: from one of the first guards, she takes a hammer; from another one, she takes a sickle-like knife. With the traditional hammer and sickle – the classic symbols of communism, representing the unity between industrial and agricultural workers – she fights off the last demons of capitalism before bringing the freed workers to the surface of the city.

The anticapitalist imagery from the ‘Anne’ episode in Buffy the Vampire Slayer is taken a step further in the detourned comic Buffy the Anarcho-Syndicalist: Capitalism Bites. Featuring Buffy as anarcho-syndicalist hero, and her Watcher Giles as a hardened revolutionary, together with other comrades from outside of the usual Buffy characters, the story presents the slayer fighting the evil vampire capitalist CEO of Blood Red Enterprises.

Of course, since Buffy is an anticapitalist vampire slayer, she defeats the gothic capitalists in Sunnydale. But there are many more metaphorical and and some very real monsters out there. So join a trade union (Boris Karloff style! [1]), fight some neoliberal vampires, organise against zombie economics.

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