31 December 2009

Robert Fisk

Before President Reagan bombed Libya in 1986, he announced that America "has no quarrel with the Libyan people." Before he bombed Iraq in 1991, Bush the Father told the world that the United States "has no quarrel with the Iraqi people." In 2001, Bush the Son, about to strike at the Taliban and al-Qaeda, told us he "has no quarrel with the people of Afghanistan." And now that frightening mantra was repeated. There was no quarrel, Mr. Bush said--absolutely none--with the Iraqi people. So, I thought to myself as I scribbled my notes in the UN press gallery, it's flak jackets on.

Robert Fisk, The Great War For Civilisation, pp.888-889

Mars and Venus

In the Mars-and-Venus-gendered universe, men want power and women want emotional attachment and connection. On these planets nobody really has the opportunity to know love since it is power and not love that is the order of the day. The privilege of power is at the heart of patriarchal thinking. Girls and boys, women and men who have been taught to think this way almost always believe love is not important, or if it is, it is never as important as being powerful, dominant, in control, on top--being right. Women who give seemingly selfless adoration and care to the men in their lives appear to be obsessed with "love," but in actuality their actions are often a covert way to hold power. Like their male counterparts, they enter relationships speaking the words of love even as their actions indicate that maintaining power and control is their primary agenda. This does not mean that care and affection are not present; they are. This is precisely why it is so difficult for women, and some men, to leave relationships where the central dynamic is a struggle for power. The fact that this sadomasochistic power dynamic can and usually does coexist with affection, care, tenderness, and loyalty makes it easy for power-hungry individuals to deny their agendas, even to themselves.

bell hooks, All About Love: New Visions, p.152

The Place of Love in Life

Like so much else, people have also misunderstood the place of love in life, they have made it into play and pleasure because they thought that play and pleasure was more blissful than work; but there is nothing happier than work, and love, just because it is the extreme happiness, can be nothing else but work.

Rainer Maria Rilke: quoted in hooks, p.183

22 December 2009


As long as women are not more involved in physics, they cannot play a significant role in determining the directions and goals of the science itself. This is a particularly crucial issue because in the last few decades the physics community has become almost fanatically obsessed with a goal that I suggest offers very few benefits for our society. That is the dream of finding a unified theory of the particles and forces of nature--a set of mathematical equations that would encompass not only matter and force, but space and time as well: what physicists call a "theory of everything," often simply referred to as a TOE.

Even the most ardent TOE proponents acknowledge that this theoretical synthesis is unlikely to have any application to daily human life--not even for military purposes. Physicists seek the knowledge, not because they believe it has the potential to improve the concrete human condition, but simply because they yearn to see what they believe is the mathematical plan of Creation.

The problem is, such a theory cannot be obtained by thought alone. In order to pursue their quest, TOE physicists during the last two decades have had to build increasingly expensive particle accelerators. The sheer expense has thus transformed it into an issue for society at large--because it is our taxes that would have to pay for these machines. In expecting society to provide billions of dollars to support this quest, TOE physicists have become like a decadent priesthood, demanding that the populace build them ever more elaborate cathedrals, with spires reaching ever higher into their idea of heaven.

I believe we need a new culture of physics, one that does not place so much value on quasi-religious, highly abstracted goals; a culture that is less obsessed with particles and forces, and more concerned with human beings and our needs. One of the roles I believe women might play in physics is to encourage a shift away from the present obsessions. I am not suggesting here that women are innately uninterested in theories of particles and forces, or that male physicists have inherently different interests from females, but rather that modern physics has evolved in such a way that it now tends to attract only people, of both sexes, with certain kinds of interests and proclivities.

Let me stress, then, the problem is not that physicists use mathematics to describe the world, but rather how they have used it, and to what ends. Mathematical Man's problem is neither his math nor his maleness per se, but rather the pseudoreligious ideals and self-image with which he so easily becomes obsessed. He does not need a sex change, just a major personality readjustment.

Margaret Wertheim, Pythagoras' Trousers: God, Physics, and the Gender Wars, pp.13-16

08 December 2009

American War Crimes in Vietnam

Discussion of American war crimes in Vietnam is often sharply criticized as dishonest, or even as a form of self-hatred, if not "balanced" by an account of the crimes of the "enemy." Such criticism is at best thoughtless and at worst hypocritical; how would we respond to the claim that that discussion of the acts of the fascist aggressors in World War II must be "balanced" by an account of the terrorism of the resistance in occupied countries?

Noam Chomsky, For Reasons of State, p.230

Assata Shakur

"No," the guard said, "you're wrong. Slavery was outlawed with the exception of prisons. Slavery is legal in prisons."

I looked it up and sure enough, she was right. The Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution says:

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Well, that explained a lot of things.

Assata Shakur, Assata, p.64

bell hooks

Ultimately, cynicism is the great mask of the disappointed and betrayed heart.

bell hooks, All About Love: New Visions, p.xviii

01 December 2009

Jim Hightower

By defining business in the narrowest terms of global corporate interests, we sublimate all else to their bottom line, leaving only incidental room for the multiple goals of our community, including:

Time for family and friends

Personal satisfaction of workers

Encouragement of creativity

Promotion of discourse

Welcoming of dissent

Building of strong, local relationships

Good stewardship

...and, dare we add,



The pursuit of happiness

A sense of shared purpose and belonging

A feeling of being respected and valued

The common good

Why should we give up all that? As individuals and as citizens of a country, why should we let a cabal of greedheads and boneheads define society's goals?

(And away we go, Hightower, with another of your leftie, hate-America screeds, trying to rouse the rabble with all that pursuit of happiness crap. You know what your problem is, doncha, Jimbo? You're just antibusiness, that's what! Hey, that old president, Calvin Coolidge, got it right years ago: "The chief business of the American people is business." Get over it.)

Me, antibusiness? Hardly. I grew up in business. My parents, "High" and Lillie Hightower, owned and ran a small wholesale magazine business, along with the Main Street Newsstand, in Denison, Texas. My first job was wrangling bundles of magazines into my daddy's delivery truck.

Antibusiness? I saw and deeply admired the entrepreneurial gumption and the hard, hard work my parents put into their business. I saw them respect and fairly reward the employees who worked with them. I saw how much they enjoyed their customers, always shooting the breeze and joshing with them, thereby making a visit to their store much more than a mere commercial transaction.

The essential question to ask is this: What kind of business? Today's corporations like to cite old Cal Coolidge's business-of-America line, but they conveniently leave out his follow-up thought, which came only three lines later: "Of course, the accumulation of wealth cannot be justified as the chief end of existence." Coolidge continued with "It's only natural that people seek some level of wealth, but there are many other things we want very much more." Then he garnished his point with this flower: "The chief ideal of the American people is idealism."

You don't hear that uplifting thought quoted very much, do you? Yet in terms of business alone, there are many ways to organize commerce--so unleash your idealism!

Jim Hightower and Susan DeMarco, Swim Against The Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go with the Flow, pp.11-13
additional source: Calvin Coolidge, "The Press Under a Free Government," January 17, 1925