Tag Archives: society

The Illusion of Individualism

The people who believe “crime” is an individual act are still trapped in the illusion of individualism. They are unwilling to see their responsibility in the situation and that until society is healed crime will be a problem and incarceration will increase.

 

Furthermore, the profit motive of the prison industrial complex only serves to interrupt the process of seeking alternatives to incarcerating youth.

 

Blaming and punishing youth, whom it is our responsibility to socialize, for our failure to properly instruct them and providing them an environment in which they can thrive is wrong. That is blame-shifting and it is destroying the fabric of our society.

 

One of the biggest problems the illusion of individualism has create is the destruction of our human necessity for interdependence. One of the factors is simply the size of our society because its very structure denies participation on a level that is necessary to foster interdependence. In a civilization that is so disparate and where participation so minimal the agency and control by people over their environment is fleeting at best. Major corporations are also culprits in this regard. When I refer to creating an environment conducive to the development of youth, I am thinking about an environment that has a foundation of interdependence. When your neighbor is the one growing the food you eat, and you are producing the tools they need to farm it creates a motivation to not harm those we depend upon for survival. Intra-communal violence and harm are reduced by necessity and when the people simultaneously may express more control and agency over their own environments many of the other factors that lead into “crime” are averted. The people will have more time and opportunity to socialize the youth and can elect the method and manner in which they are socialize them that is localized to the needs of the community, not standardized to an entire civilization in a manner that may have no meaning to the youth.

 

Individualism, hierarchical systems of power and control, and agency are the major factors to the ills of our society, and as such, are the major component of the prison industrial complex and why most Amerikans are afraid to even consider an alternative to incarceration. Furthermore, the indoctrination that most Amerikans have received systematically denies the very type of shift we need to occur, and thus, they deny the evolution our society needs in order to thrive healthily.

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What is Really Going On

Street crime, drug addiction, and delinquency have been asserted to be the result of the immorality of the impoverished. Therefore, poverty, which is a human creation, that is, it is an institution which is being blamed for the depravity of the people in our society. The extension of this is that those who are most disenfranchised and without the power to influence and shape society are being blamed for the creation of the institution of poverty. Yet, there cannot be poverty if there is not the massive consolidation of wealth. Thus, if the object of the “Tough on Crime” and “War on Drugs” campaigns that lead to the development and expansion of the Prison Industrial Complex were really to heal the immorality of our society, then the most obvious solution given the underlying assumptions would have been to eliminate poverty and diminish the pervasive disparities of this country. This would mean that the best method and strategy to limit the harms that occur in our society is to redistribute the control of wealth merely beyond the threshold of their being people who are impoverished. It is not the case that people do not want to work yet, it is the case that many cannot afford to work because the minimum wage in most states does not even begin to permit a family to escape poverty. When a person has a forty hour work week and still has to rely on welfare to eat and maintain a place to live, and at the end of the month are still in poverty is the quintessential example of the creation and maintenance of a system of impoverishment. But, this solution has been rejected because it is believed to present too much of a short-term burden in exchange for a long-term peace and moral maturity. Those who claim to be the most concerned with the immorality and depravity of our society, and who are also the most responsible for their existence, are also least interested in doing what is necessary to solve the problems they themselves have created. Instead, to retain their comforts and privilege they blame the people least responsible and most disenfranchised, while expanding the penal code and criminalizing even the smallest infractions, that are then arbitrarily enforced by the police institution, to put these people behind bars to further fatten the pockets of those most responsible by increasing the prison labor pool.

A Stance Must Be Taken

At some point a decision must be made and a stance taken to alter the unjust components of the system we are part of, or injustice and harm will continue to flourish as a result of our failure to act. It does matter how we got to this situation. It is important who was and is responsible for the suffering that people are compelled to undergo. However, regardless of who the guilty parties are the reality is that we all are the ones responsible for permitting the injustices to continue or for developing solutions to the problems inherent in our system. I believe it is our duty to do more than what is expected of us by the standards of a system that permits nearly ubiquitous suffering because the status quo is synonymous with more of the same. I believe it is not only possible, but achievable for us to improve on the systems we have inherited and the history of countless generations of humanity will confirm this conviction. It is true that it will not be easy. It is also true that we will most likely make many mistakes as we experiment with alternatives. However, if we do nothing different than what we have been doing then there is no chance that we will improve and people will continue to suffer undo and unjust conditions. Yet, should we but believe that at least something minimally better is possible and provide the most meager amount effort to see it through, then—and I am staking my life on this—we will see and feel revolutionary changes and evolution in human culture. A decision will be made and a stance taken regardless of whether it is to do nothing different, or to seek beneficial alternatives.

Genetically speaking, human being have not evolved for millennia. It has been our culture that has evolved, which has enabled us to adapt to our environments and to thrive as a species. However, evolution is not merely something that happens all on its own. Rather, evolution only occurs when an organism must respond to adversity in order to survive. Evolution however, is not a genetic mutation that occurs to a specific organism within its own biological life-span. If the organism is not predisposed to survive the factors of an environment then it simply will not be able to survive. However, if there is enough genetic variation within a population, and if some of those variants are predisposed to overcome or be unaffected by those factors, then they will have a chance of survival. Culture is a strategy for survival, but it is unlike genetic variation in that it can be adapted within an organism’s biological life-span. Like genetic variation, culture is a response to environmental factors and it has evolved over time to adjust to contemporary circumstances and conditions. The evolution of our culture has resulted in the formation of the systems by which our society operates, much like biological systems have adapted to circumstances. The relevant components of the analogy between genetic evolution and cultural evolution are sound and lends itself to this conclusion: as a democratic society we are faced with a set of factors that we as a political community are compelled to adapt to for the sake of survival, but instead of the variation or mutation happening by necessity it must freely be chosen and enacted.

A decision must be made and a stance taken if our culture is to evolve to meet the circumstances and conditions questioning our ability to survive as a species. Segregation was once a strategy that was perhaps necessary for smaller groups to survive. Today, segregation is primarily a tool of those who have power and privileges to maintain the status quo while others suffer the unfair distribution. Furthermore, those with power could share in this distribution without even remotely coming close to the level of subsistence. Since segregation is no longer a strategy that is necessary for survival it is also no longer a necessary cultural practice because the survival of those who maintain the segregation is not in question. Jim Crow was shown to be an unnecessary strategy and that it was in addition an unjust practice. Much like the wall that Donald Trump is proposing will be shown to be unnecessary for survival and unjust. We must be willing to critically analyze our practices for the merit they have in so far as they have the potential to assist us in surviving. The choices that we have to make, cannot and in fact should not be made arbitrarily, but rather, they should be investigated for their practical and moral qualities. The decision which will guide the stance we take that will also be made democratically, will only be an improvement on what has come before if people believe, and that it is fact true that their contributions matter.

The principle test of a system should be whether or not it achieves the goals for which it was implemented. If the system does achieve the ends for which it exists and it continues to contribute to our survival then chances are good that we should maintain that system for so long as it continues to satisfy these conditions. However, if the system does not achieve the ends for which it exists or it does not contribute to our survival, then chances are good that we should cease the practice entirely and seek an alternative. For example, the system of prisons is prefaced on the explicit goals of rehabilitation and deterrence, and the implicit goal of retribution. The prison system has a recidivism rate of nearly 95% and that means that almost every single person who enters into the adult penitentiary system at some point returns to prison. This reveals that the prison system fails at the explicit goal of rehabilitation. The United States has but 5% of the world’s population and yet 25% of the world’s prison population and save for the last few year has witnessed an exponential increase in population density. Therefore, the prison system is also failing at the explicit goal of deterrence. Lastly, when a person is indicted for a crime it is the public the plaintiff and the contest is between the individual accused and the state. This entirely removes the person who was harmed so far from the process that often times not even an apology from the person responsible is possible to the person who was harmed. The system also fails at its implicit goal of retribution. Yet, the prison system as it exists today has an ulterior motivation which has nothing to do with these other goals and that is profit for corporations. This hidden goal of the system is not something that the public has agreed to and are mostly ignorant of. In addition, this goal also undermines most of what the public agrees the criminal justice system should be aimed at, which is entailed within both the explicit and implicit goals of the prison system. Therefore, since the prison system fails on all counts and in addition fails to be consistent with democratic principles, this is a system that should cease to be a component of our culture.

On the other hand, although there are problems with it, the system of education when it is not interrupted by the prison system, does in fact contribute to our survival and achieves it goals. The explicit goal of the education system to prepare citizens for a diverse array of roles within society. These roles are vital to the functioning of society and thus, for the survival of the members of that society. Reading and mathematics are basic requirements for survival of the members of most societies and the citizens of the United States in particular. Education is a system that imparts these skills unto the people and thus transmits important characteristics of our society. True, that the system often fails many and these failures can often be measured along the lines of class and race. This while revealing a shortfall in the system also reveals the relevant aspects for improvement, not wholesale cessation. Nonetheless, it is apparent that when analyzing our systems, that is, our strategies for survival we may discover that they are or can function to meet the needs of our civilization, or they may not. It is at this junction that a decision must be made and a stance taken by the people about how to respond: to remain stagnant, or to evolve; that will be the question.

There is more than enough blame to go around the world multiple times over and while it will at some point be the right time to hold particular individuals responsible. However, at this moment that will neither help us to achieve justice, now to improve the conditions of the lives of those who are suffering. Responsibility aside for the moment, the truth is that we are most likely not going to make this world a better place factionalized. It will most likely require all of us to fulfill some role, many of them vital to our cultural evolution because of our experience and knowledge. At the same time, it will be incumbent upon many of the people who are in positions of power to analyze the systems that are in place and in practice that limit or completely bar cultural evolution. When practices or structures like these are discovered it will be their responsibility to disassemble them and to get the necessary help from the people most impacted and affected by these practices and structures to create new strategies so that positive and beneficial change can begin to take form.

Our world is turning upside down on itself and the consequences of our actions are quickly catching up to us and are going to leave us with a set of conditions that are going to be nearly impossible to address unless we do what we can to adapt to them before them emerge. Climate Change is a latent phenomenon that grows exponentially as the factors are compounding over time. There is still yet time to make the necessary cultural transitions to adequately address this threat, but time is running short to evade the impacts of the negative feedback loop that is ahead of us. Countries are at odds economically and militarily, and the tension is so tight that one slight move in the wrong direction and the entire structure will come cascading down. The victims of such an atrocity will not be the people who make the decisions, but rather, the general public of our societies who are merely attempting to get by relatively well. It may seem as though my sense of urgency is unfounded, but that is only because our energy sources have not been tapped, desertification has not destroyed most of the arable land we depend upon for food, and borders are not being flooded beyond capacity with millions of starving and terrified human beings seeking anything better than what they are fleeing. When these conditions begin to be felt, then the economic constriction will follow and the protectionism that is a major component of our cultures will be expressed with the military. Those who have not fallen victim to the former calamities, will be present for the latter.

None of this is necessary though and it can all be avoided should we choose to make a decision and take a stand on experimenting with alternative strategies. It is imperative that we stop thinking and acting in the realm of the short-term, and from the perspective of the micro-personal, and began thinking an acting in the realm of the long-term and from the perspective of the macro-personal. We only have one world to live on and we have to share with all the people and other species that are here. Because we have the capacity for rational thought and forethought, it is our duty and our responsibility to be responsible stewards and wise planners. The conditions and the factors that require evolution are present or soon will be. We have the unique opportunity to choose what and who we evolve into as oppose to either facing extinction or evolving into something unwanted by necessity. Culture can evolve by choice, it does not have to be compelled. Whatever the choice of the people is though, it is us, all of us who are responsible for these decisions and the actions that they will guide

“Letter to the Men” by Renaissance the Poet: New HipHop Song & Explanatory Essay

How the hell is a man going to jump up and scream for Liberation and Justice, Equality and to be treated fairly, to have greater bargaining power, and to be treated like a human being; then turn around to promote Misogyny and Patriarchy which are mechanisms of Colonization and the Exploitation of the bodies and minds of women?

There is a manifest contradiction when these two opposite ends of the spectrum—justice vs. injustice—coalesce into one individual, wherein the latter completely disqualifies the former to the point that the man promotes a system of injustice instead of justice. Any ideology or societal organization principle that systematically relegates a particular group of people to a position of inferiority in a hierarchical structure, simply because of their affiliation or identity with the group is discriminatory, bigoted, and unjust to its core. Patriarchy is one of those unjust ideologies because it systematically seeks to relegate all women to positions of inferiority simply for being women. Ideologies that generalize and discriminate based on qualities beyond the will and volition of the individual is ignorant, short-sighted, and unjust.

Capability, merit, previous accomplishment, and potential future contributions are by far a more efficient and just means of distributing power and respect among and between people. Some men are promoted to positions of prestige and power, but lack the integrity, the intelligence, the character, and the communication skills necessary to perform the role they are selected for because they were selected solely on the basis of gender. This is a detrimental and foolhardy practice. Likewise, denying a position of prestige and power to a woman because the very same vital qualities that are necessary to fulfill the role are ignored for men and discounted in women, that is, they have not been considered in the cases of many women, qualities that they in fact possess. This is also a detrimental and foolhardy practice. If people were evaluated, both male and female, in terms of their capability; their merit, their previous accomplishments and their potential future contributions instead of their genders, sexes, ages, or ethnicity then the roles they are selected for would actually be fulfilled and the outcomes would be much more productive and achieved more efficiently.

A person should be judged by the contents of their character; not by their gender, sex, color, creed, or religion.

Adding Sexism to this discussion of the unjust hierarchical social structure of patriarchy, wherein the bodies of women are objectified and commodified, denying their humanity and instead attributing value to women only in sexual or monetary terms; the dehumanization of women is a glaring and unacceptable problem. It is also a dangerous and harmful combination.

Patriarchy is insidious because it has been the norm for thousands of years, and as a result the many ways it crops up could seem to many of the cisgendered men to be benign. For instance, the oldest reference to women as bitches I have found was in Homer’sThe Odyssey” from Ancient Greece. The term and the hatred of women, misogyny itself, is old, very old. Furthermore, contemporary women may be subjected to continuous unwanted sexual advances from men; men who feel entitled to do this because they are men and feel we must be macho and promiscuous to fulfill our roles as men. Patriarchy also denies women the same sexual freedoms granted to men and instead they are condemned and shamed by men and other women—who have been indoctrinated with patriarchy—for expressing themselves sexually, or dressing in a revealing manner. For thousands of years women have been thought of as being naturally ‘incompetent’ in some fields or activities, and their opinions in leadership roles have often been viewed as less credible. Women have rarely been given the same space to express their thoughts as men, regardless of how correct and astute they are and have been. Of course this denies the very real truth that women have been present and have been powerful decision makers in many of the biggest decisions that have shaped our world; the Julio-Claudian blood-line of the 12 Caesars of Rome in the era of Jesus was controlled by women; the shaping of the United States was heavily influenced by Abigail Adams, the wife of John Adams, one of the revolutionaries; Sojourner Truth the African American abolitionists; Harriet Tubman, an African American abolitionist and freedom fighter; Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the suffragist; Eleanor Roosevelt, the first chairperson of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights; Madam C.J. Walker, the first Black Woman millionaire who created a line of black hair products; the list can go on. Patriarchy also shows up when a woman justly and intelligently asserts herself and her autonomy and she is referred to as a bitch, which is an attempt to discredit her and her assertions. Patriarchy is ugly and ubiquitous and the list can go on, but the point is that patriarchy seeks to deny women their humanity and relegate them to positions of inferiority wherein they are only perceived as minor partners, partial contributors, sexual objects, and needing a man’s guidance and protection (paternalism); none of which is true.

Here are three interrelated points:

1. In a sense, culture is a living entity. It does and must evolve. To claim that subordination of women must be “be natural and correct” because “that is how it has always been” is wrong. It is a cop-out, it is recklessly conservative, it is unjust, and it is childish.

2. That a man may feel ‘entitled’ to a woman’s body is a continuation of exploitation and slavery; slavery simply being the ownership of another’s body. It is the refusal to recognize the autonomy of another. Entitlement can only emerge when one ‘feels’ they have the right to ownership over something or someone.

3. For a man to clamor for his rights and equity, and deny women similar rights and equity is a manifest contradiction to the concept of justice, equality, and world free from oppression.

Furthermore, that men are afraid of women and their inherent potential to shape our world; much the same as racism is about managing the fear of Black people coming to social, political and economic power because white people fear that the same harms they have visited on Black People will be visited upon them. This fear is driven by greed, the most fundamental components of colonialism and exploitation. It is about power, which is expressed in terms of control of the external world and, most often control of resources or other people. This fear is a plague that has led men to attempt to silence women and to hold them in bondage because of a fear of a loss of control, but this behavior is stifling our ability to develop as a people into a more mature society and culture. Since all living things must grow, this pestilent nostalgia is actually choking our culture and killing us: Reverse Racism.

I am calling on the men to be more; to do less; and to acknowledge, accept and respect the leadership of women. I am calling on the men to end our subordination of women; to end our abuse of women; and to stand up to those who continue to hate and abuse women. I am calling on the men to see and acknowledge the true value inherent in each and every woman; to treasure that value; and to disregard the antiquated valuation of women that has been instilled in us by the oppressive and colonizing culture of conquest and sexual exploitation. I am calling on the men to recognize the harm we are doing to us all by holding half of our population hostage, in bondage, attempting to silence the best within us. I am calling on the men to be Men, and in particular Black Men, to do away with this ideology of dualism and competition so that we can move forward as a people and achieve the liberation we so desperately desire.

i.Written by Renaissance the Poet

ii. Edited by Sharon Welensky & Tim Sage

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Backing Track & Mix by Scott Paul Johnson

www.facebook.com/spjohnson

Written & Recorded by Renaissance the Poet

www.facebook.com/renaissancethepoet.official

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Lyrics:

Verse 1

There’s a very real problem that needs to be addressed

And I hope my words offend, cause you to question your intents

As a man, a male, privileged, to live without regrets

This letter is for you, from a man who finally gets

That Oppression of women is the sickest form there is

there is nothing that epitomizes hatred more than this

Weakness, feeling the need to express dominance

Prominently, by suppressing a woman’s right to live

& to live un-assailed by male hostility

In the streets, on the job and in our families

Sexual harassment an infectious demon,

Spreading because men feel entitled to bodies bein

Perceived as property, a fallacy Contradicting we

The liberty we scream for we constantly recede

Cuz our greed makes us think we can take all that we see

We’d never tolerate being another man’s property

Chorus

Sisters, Mothers, Daughters, Aunties, Girlfriends, Wives, Friends

The Women of the World combine to be the best there is

I just can’t take the hate no more, I’m calling out the men

You have a duty to us all to be the best you can

Verse 2

Walking down the street women have to risk the cat calling

Being asked for numbers, getting groped, raped and can’t stop it

& when they Stand Their Ground, flipping around the situation

Denying a man has the Right to incur this inflammation

She is insulted, threatened and in the worst cases

Women have been killed for denying men to their faces

& if that is not entitlement then I don’t know what is

Because who has a claim to another’s life

Let alone to a smile or even her mind

If she graces you the privilege, it is a gift, not a right

And she has the Right, like us, to be left alone

On her way home, to school, work or talking on the phone

& She has the Right to associate with you or not

Without fear of reprisal or the way being blocked

It’s not for you to decide, this is her choice

Infringement is Wrong, man, so cease all the noise

Chorus

Sisters, Mothers, Daughters, Aunties, Girlfriends, Wives, Friends

The Women of the World combine to be the best there is

I just can’t take the hate no more, I’m calling out the men

You have a duty to us all to be the best you can

Verse 3

Women should be valued and cherished not disrespected

They’re Amazing, Intelligent, Partners, and they’re Finished

They do not need anything added or taken from them

There is nothing a man has that a woman needs from him

Not even semen, if that’s what you’re thinking

You can Check a sperm bank if you think that I am beefin

Paternalism a joke, they’re as capable as men

Neither need concealing nor protection, because they’re Women

They’re Human and were born with all they will ever need

Save respect and to be loved, just like you and me

And humans deserve to be treated with dignity

That means treated with equity, honor and esteem

Fail in any of these and you’ll see that she up and leaves

And finds one who can provide all the things that she needs

But I see that so many out get this wrong

& that’s why I wrote you a letter in the form of a song

Chorus

Sisters, Mothers, Daughters, Aunties, Girlfriends, Wives, Friends

The Women of the World combine to be the best there is

I just can’t take the hate no more, I’m calling out the men

You have a duty to us all to be the best you can

Skilled Labor

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Throwback selfie, to the days when I worked in construction. This picture was from when we built an 80′ concrete wall with a steel-plated face at the South Park Transfer station for the City of Seattle.

Not only did doing construction work for RJ Richards throughout my 20’s build my character and strengthen my integrity, but it also provided me with an intimate knowledge of City Planning/Urban Planning and the Skilled Work/Skilled Crafts class of citizens that maintain the function of our cities. They are intelligent, hardworking, dreamers, but they are also not fully respected, and live lives full of anxiety because of all the uncertainty surrounding whether there will be enough work to feed their families. The point is that, these people serve and fulfill an important role in our #society and as such, both they and their concerns should be highly important to us all.

All of this serves as a framework to fill in the information I am garnering from my education at the University of Washington, they are not just empty theories that lack import to me. So, it seems that the life-experiences I gained during my 20’s were neither a waste, nor without purpose, but those years were actually some of the most informative years of my life.

The Importance of a Name: A Hypothesis about local Graffiti

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Graffiti:

I have been doing a lot of thinking about graffiti lately,  especially since viewing the graffiti in the Middle East that started hitting the walls during the Arab Spring.

Many of the images were political in nature, attacking a regime or ideology, or were likenesses of martyrs. In essense, it was one of the methods in which an active and disatisfied sub-culture who lacked access to mainstream media and who were dealing with the suppression of their ideas,  utilized to propogate messages. And when I saw this collective and active revolt against the system wherein, the suppression of ideas was not tolerated, I thought it was beautiful and inspiring.

Then, I looked around Seattle for those same types of messages, but mostly all I found were names, tags, monikers and so forth, unless they were sanctioned by some business or institution. And at first, I was dissapointed because I was looking for what I saw in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. But then I asked why all I was seeing were names, and it hit me like a ton of bricks.

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The society in the United States is a credential society, that is, without documentation like a bachelor’s degree or higher, this society disregards our credibility. Entailed in that classicist ideology is the profound impact of a name: Kendrick Lamar, Jerry Springer, Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, BarakObama, Tom Cruise, Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Halle Berry, and so on. Microsoft, Google, Wells Fargo, Chase, Levi, Ross, Nike, etc.  It seems readily apparent how important it is to have a popular name.

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Another phenomenon that is entailed in both the credential and nomenclature society is alienation. Without credentials, and without a name a person may grow to feel less than average and dislocated from their  fellow citizens. Most importantly, people in this group are often ignored by mainstream society and lack any real means to be noticed by society at large.
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I think all this reveals something, although not asimmediately apparent as with the Arab Spring, but nonetheless, simarlarly profound in its own yet, different way. What we observed about the graffiti in the Middle East, was it was a means to overcome the suppression of a message. And I am suggesting that the repeated and reiterated tagging of one’s name is just that; a revolt against society as a whole and battling against the suppression, battling against not mattering, of being forgotten. The tagging of their names on as many walls and in as many places as they can find is an active protest against society treating them as insignificant and sending the message that their name and by extension, they themselves, the graph-artist, do matter.

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