Capitalist workaholic cultures in the non-profit industrial complex

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My alleged career in public health, social services, and education in various North American cities has spanned almost a decade and a half. If you take into account work that I did in India prior to and alongside that career in the States and Canada, then that’s a good two decades of labor in these sectors that I can claim as a badge of honor and failure in equal proportion. Essentially this was work in various organizations that exist within what INCITE! brilliantly classified as the non-profit industrial complex.

From anecdotal evidence it feels safe to say that a lot, likely the majority, of social justice activist-type people tend to find paid work in social services, health, education, or some combination thereof. Many, like me, thus end up building low-wage careers in the non-profit industrial complex (NPIC from here on out), which for me includes both public and private organizations and those pain-in-the-butt, dual ones. And like me, many also build these careers kicking and screaming because really what other choice is there for so many of us in a capitalist economy?

For the most part we do this to the detriment of our health and personal lives…all in the name of finding a job that at least partially enriches our souls.

I am of the opinion that the major reason for this hit on our well-being is the shitty, pro-capitalist, Jesus-complex-bearing, workaholic culture that exists within vast parts of the NPIC.

This is not nurturing for our society and communities.

Now make no mistake, I’m not dissing the work done by many of the organizations within the NPIC. There is genuinely good work happening with quite a few of these non-profits, whether in subversive manners or not.

But why oh why can’t this good work be done without adopting oppressive work cultures?

It is so very rare to find a non-profit that adheres to the simple truth that having a nurturing, caring, anti-capitalist, and anti-perfectionist work culture – based on building egalitarian communities – will in reality benefit the cause in the long run.

I will say this though. I do believe that this self-aggrandizing, oppressive, workaholic mentality is a manifestation of settler-colonial patriarchy. Not only are we better of without it, we must actively fight it for the sake of our children, families, and communities.

Because it’s the people we love who suffer the most when we’re forced to spend the overwhelming majority of our waking hours selling our labor for sustenance.

I have said it before and will say it again:

Fuck capitalism.

Fathers who don’t fear love – The Aka community of central Africa (and other hunter-gatherers)

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As is likely the case for any new parent, I think about parenting a lot. Even, or possibly especially, during times when I am not at my best.

Now, even though I consider mothers and motherhood to be the greatest and most liberating of human pursuits, I nevertheless find myself equally drawn to stories of loving and nurturing fatherhood.

Unfortunately in settler colonial cultures, both pop and otherwise, as well as parasitic colonial cultures, again both pop and otherwise, the bar for fathers is set so very low that I often have to seek inspiration elsewhere.

Thus, I try to seek out stories and narratives of honorable, caring father figures in my own indigenous roots and other indigenous communities  – especially among matriarchal or once-matriarchal societies  that have existed across the earth.

Like the Aka community of central Africa.

These amazing fathers hold or are within arms reach of their children, from birth till young adulthood, a whopping 47% of their time. This means that barring hunting, gathering, housework, and sleep – Aka fathers are either carrying their children or actively engaged with their children, and always within arms reach. No other society in any part of the world comes anywhere close to the kind of nurturing and caring parenting that Aka men undertake as part of their role in Aka families. They often do this in community with other Aka fathers and mothers, and gender roles are rather seamlessly interchangeable, with a democratic, flexible, and fundamentally egalitarian division of labor.

Joanna Moorhead, in speaking to anthropologist, Barry Hewlett, writes thus:

Another lesson the Aka have for us – and this is for all of us, mothers as well as fathers – is about how precious children are, and how lucky we are to have them in our lives. If it sounds a bit schmaltzy well, that’s exactly why we need to hear it: the fact is, says Hewlett, that we’ve strayed into believing that our kids are a burden rather than a blessing and that’s something the Aka never do. “To the Aka, your children are the very value of your life. The idea of a child as a burden would be incomprehensible there … children are the energy, the life force of the community.” A saying from another tribe he’s studied, the Fulani, sums the sentiment up: they say that you’re lucky if you’ve got someone who will shit on you.

The Aka community (and apparently many other egalitarian indigenous societies) consider children a blessing rather than a burden or an unproductive member of society. The happiness, care, and nurturing of children remains the most life-affirming endeavor for the Aka community. This then results in egalitarian and fairly unstructured free play as the baseline for learning and education. Thus, caring for children doesn’t just foster love in the family and community, but also joy, laughter, music, fun games, generational knowledge, and labor-turned-into-play.

(No wonder then that Marshall Sahlins postulated hunter-gatherer societies as the “original affluent society” – not because they had accumulated material things, but because they had mastered the art of great happiness from desiring and needing very little for their sustenance while basing their lives on community, love, and living in harmony with the earth.)

For me there is another major takeaway lesson from the Aka and other matriarchal or once-matriarchal societies.

These are fathers who don’t fear love.

They don’t fear the great (and glorious) task that is love.

And care.

And nurturing.

They don’t shirk from the very organic and beautiful process of fatherhood, and just as organically link it to gender egalitarianism and tight knit communities.

And they do so for a very simple reason.

It makes sense.

Because really when you think about it – it makes sense to lead a life where you prioritize love and care and nurturing and egalitarianism and joy and laughter and play and simple living and community and solidarity.

There’s not much to argue about there.

I imagine they themselves would be quite amused that I am speaking about them with such reverence and awe.

(On the other hand, they might be wondering why the men in our society look so much more miserable than the men in theirs.)

References:

Hewlett, Barry (2009). “The Cultural Nexus of Aka Father-Infant Bonding” in C. B. Brettell and C. F. Sargent (Eds.),  Gender in Cross-Cultural Perspective (39-50). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Moorhead, Joanna (2005). “Are the men of the African Aka tribe the best fathers in the world” in The Guardian. June 15, 2005. (Link: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2005/jun/15/childrensservices.familyandrelationships)

Sahlins, Marshall (2005). “The Original Affluent Society” in M. Sahlins, Stone Age Economics.

Sahlins, Marshall (2009). “Hunter-gatherers: insights from a golden affluent age” in Pacific Ecologist. 18: 3-8.

What is it that makes babies so spiritually powerful?

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I will never forget that very first feeling I had when Daya was born.

That rush of spiritual energy.

It was indeed immense – throughout the entire process of birth – filled with no small amount of love, high emotions, gratitude, focus, relief, and pure joy.

But at the very root of it all, there was one particular feeling that stood out when I first held my daughter in my hands, all gooey, and sticky (and ever so calm, come to think of it).

Awe.

I was in awe of this being  that had a spiritual power far superior to anything I could ever hope to possess or be.

I was in awe of this entity that seemed to be able to look right through me and calm me down when I started getting scared.

I was in awe of this tiny little baby that felt like I was holding the spirit of the earth herself.

So fragile.

Yet so radiant and powerful.

This feeling of awe has never left me. But it has also resulted in some strong spiritual beliefs.

For instance, I am of the firm opinion that the souls of babies are quite possibly the closest we will get to a living embodiment of divinity.

(Of course those souls will eventually get the ever-loving shit kicked out of them, especially in boys, due to patriarchy and sexism…but you know, I’m in a happy place here, so am going to focus on the cute and cuddly side of life for now.)

Needless to say, I am and continue to be in total awe of my daughter and the strength in her soul. I doubt that will ever stop being the case.

My little baby warrior and freedom fighter.

I have often thought long and hard about why Daya is so spiritually powerful. Indeed why all babies are so spiritually powerful.

And I realize that they are the embodiment of the very essence of humanity.

They teach us that love is the only entity that can save us from ourselves.

Equally importantly babies teach men that love should never, ever be taken for granted.

They tell us, in no uncertain terms:

I don’t care about the way things have been all these years.

I don’t care if you’ve lived your life taking the love that has been showered upon you from birth for granted.

I don’t care about the unearned privileges of patriarchy nor the pyrrhic benefits of sexism that have swaddled you for thousands of years.

Love me, and love me properly.

Because I and humanity deserve nothing less.

Why I believe all Indians should support Kashmir’s liberation

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An opinion piece published in the June, 2016 Issue of The Kashmirwalla:

Why I believe all Indians should support Kashmir’s liberation

(here’s the url in case the link doesn’t work: http://thekashmirwalla.com/2016/06/all-indians-should-support-kashmirs-liberation/)

 

Dear daughter, this world we’ve brought you into…

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What can I say about this world we’ve brought you into my love?

What can I say about the privileged misogynistic scumbags, and their fathers, who populate the elite hallways of this world?

What can I say about a world that is built for the benefit of men and white people (and the few privileged women and people of color that the colonial structures let into the club)?

What can I say about the hostility we as a family face from white men everyday we step outside the bubble of our home?

What can I say about the evil inherent to the male of the species that evidently the majority of men are blind to?

What can I say about the soullessness inherent to colonial society that evidently the majority of white people are blind to?

What can I say about the fact that there are times when I daydream about gutting the life out of any man who dares cast an evil eye on you (empty and horribly masculine though those flights of fancy might be)?

What can I say about the harsh sadness I’m trying to mask with that anger – a sadness stemming from the fact that, try as we might, your mother and I cannot protect you from all the evils of the world?

What can I say about this all-consuming fear that I will fail in providing you the tools and weapons you need to fight the evil blanketing this world?

What can I say about a world of nation states and borders, where patriarchy, privilege and profit take us ever closer to a likely violent resolution?

What can I say about a world where people in the dominant colonial power are choosing between a demagogue and a plutocrat  to be their “elected” leader (both as white as freshly driven snow in a wealthy suburb)?

What can I say about a world where nationalism, religious fundamentalism, and misogyny seem to be the go-to bastions for the fearful majority of people, privileged and vulnerable alike?

What can I say about a world where I truly believe humanity and the earth would be better off if 80% of the world’s men would simply drop dead  – proportionately across all countries and communities (I am extremely egalitarian when it comes to hating men)?

What can I say about a world where I often up that figure to 90%?

Well…

When I’m at a loss to say or do anything about the oppression and evil in this world we’ve brought you into…

When I feel depressed and weak in the knowledge that this oppression and evil is so vast and deep…

When I feel the urge to build an impermeable, self-sustaining life pod for our family to live in forever…

When I feel the need to embark on a multi-generational, quantum physics research project to transport us to an alternate universe where matriarchy, freedom and egalitarianism prevail…

I look at you and I see the power of your soul…

And the warmth of your heart…

And the depth of your mind…

Only matched by your mother’s (in all three departments, mind you)…

I then rest a little easier…

For I know the evil flourishing in the world today is ultimately no match for your divine strength.

9 scary reasons Donald Trump can become president in November

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Ok, I’m going to come right out and stake my claim on this prediction – it’s one with a very small chance of actually coming true (but I think that “small chance” is getting bigger by the day):

Donald Trump will become the next President of the United States.

Please note that it is Friday, May 27, 2016 – over five months away from us actually finding out whether or not this prediction comes true.

I’m not saying that this is a good thing, if it comes true that is. Not by any stretch of imagination. I’m just saying that it’s going to happen. And I’ve been feeling like this for quite a few months now. (Bless the intrepid soul of my long-suffering soulmate and life partner who has to hear my incessant geopolitical monologues.)

And here are 9 really scary and true reasons why this is going to happen:

1. The alternative is a neocolonial, predatory capitalist, Wall Street puppet: Hillary Clinton is exactly that. She charges $250,000 for speeches sallivating over Wall Street, the transcripts of which she’s likely embarrassed and/or scared to release. She’s the scion of one of the richest dynasties in America. She oozes elitist, 1%, white privilege. She has been mongering after that power for decades now, and had to wait for her husband to get his scummy hands all over the presidency first – because even among the elitist, privileged white one percenters of the world, patriarchy still holds bloody true. As does the fact that…

2. The US is ripe for a new age fascist movement: The demographics make for quite the possibility of a neo-fascist, American nationalist movement, even multiple regional ones. The fact that the US is quite rapidly un-whitening is making a lot of white people angry (it’s actually expanded upon as one of my points below – I am nothing if not repetitive). Not to mention rising tensions in some of the larger urban sprawls with what is, in effect, a police state. Authoritarianism, power, profiteering, militarism and demagoguery are celebrated with fear and nationalism. A large section of the Republicans and right-wing independents are cashing in, and probably going to regret it in the years to come (but that’s another story). Even so, they are helped by the candidate they have to face in the general elections, I mean…

3. Hillary is just pathetic. And so is Bill: Hillary and her god-awful husband are just so uninspiring and soulless, history will never forgive them (did folks catch his condescending engagement with the Black Lives Matter activists?) They seem to operate the Democratic Party like it’s their own personal fiefdom – I mean, what the fuck are these super delegates all about for crying out loud, and why are they all going for the Clintons when it seems like the actual voters are pretty evenly split between Bernie and Hillary? The Clintons are one of the biggest reasons, if not the biggest reason for Trump getting into the White House. Because Bernie would have wiped the floor with Trump in a general election – but Hillary and Bubba just had to have it their way or the high way. And speaking of pathetic…

4. So is the Democratic Party as a whole: Seriously, America deserves Trump if the majority of the people aren’t capable of moving beyond fascism and fascism light in terms of political parties to choose from (especially if we go old-school for this point with our definition of fascism – as the complete merger of private mega corporations and the state). The Democratic Party defines spinelessness. And worse, they are probably less democratic than even the Republicans (hell, even Hitler was elected democratically, remember). It is quite possible that had the Democrats been forced into accepting the people’s verdict – which like it or not is what the crazy right-wingers over on the Republican side did – Bernie would be the nominee and, I repeat, would have wiped the floor with the Teflon Don come November. But it’s not just the political system…

5. US pop culture is addictive, mind-controlling, garbage: There is no way that a candidate like Donald Trump could come anywhere close to this kind of power unless it was in a country where vapid pop culture ruled the senses. From American Idol to American Sniper to American Pie and everything in between – US pop culture is the Great Population Mind Control Experiment of the 20th and 21st centuries, even threatening to take over the hyper democracy of the internet with viral videos and target tweets. Critical thinking, argumentative discussion, constant questioning, democratic thought, and free speech all take a back seat to pure, unadulterated sensory excitement. Half the country is voting for an orange haired, virulent buffoon who also happens to be a misogynistic, capitalist thug – and they celebrate that shit! How the hell can it happen without American pop culture?

And speaking of pop culture, it’s really when you peruse the comments of news sites online do you realize that…

6. Angry white people are still the majority of the country (and they are getting angrier by the day): I love it when people say white people are going to be a minority in the US in 2050 or something. I mean, even if people of color end up as more than 50% of the population, white folk are still the largest demographic, i.e. still in the majority (unless you think Blacks, Latinos, East Asians, South Asians and Native Americans are all one demographic – and if you do then you might want to read, like, a book or at the very least a Wikipedia article or something.) Those white folk who don’t like seeing the un-whitening of America are angry and getting angrier still, despite having it better than well over 90% of the world’s population. Can you imagine how they will feel when shit starts actually unraveling economically, environmentally, and politically? (I can hear the collective shudder of millions of bleeding heart liberals as we speak.)

And just in case you were wondering if I was only picking on right-wingers, fear not, for I do believe a major reason for the upsurge of right-wing populism under the likes of Trump is also because…

7. Progressives are yet to, en masse, support movements like Black Lives Matter: Yeah, until white progressives and male progressives learn to abandon the Democratic party and the liberal elite (not to mention white privilege and patriarchy), and cede total control and leadership of the progressive movement to women of color and trans people of color, including radical, groundbreaking movements like Black Lives Matter, we’re going to be dealing with human refuse like the Trumps and Clintons of the world for a while to come. And…

8. Frankly, if it doesn’t happen now, it’s going to happen some time soon: Seriously folks, America has been heading in this direction for a while. I think a bunch of people were a little taken aback by all the hope that a highly gifted, dignified, and honorable black president gave us, especially when history had just been made and the speeches were just so very mesmerizing. But then more black people got incarcerated in the years to come. More undocumented immigrants got deported under cruel circumstances. And many of us realized that, no matter how talented and egalitarian a person might be occupying that office, it’s still the office of a brutal imperialist power.

But the real cherry on top of this prediction cake is that…

9. The betting houses just lowered the odds on a Trump presidency: Always a useful bellwether to pay attention to.

The bookies, man, the bookies.

So come November, don’t say I didn’t warn you lovelies.

(Methinks I’ll keep my Canadian passport nice and not-expired…just in case.)

A Mothers Day rant

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Mothers Day 2016.

As a new and deliriously happy (albeit perennially tired) parent, I’ve never been more cognizant of the astounding importance of loving, nurturing, anti-patriarchal parenting than I am now.

Truly, it is time we as a species got back to more matriarchal ways of living where the invaluable role of the mother (or the matriarch) is rightfully honored in the social, political, economic, cultural, and spiritual realms of society; And not just by honoring those living breathing people known as mothers, but also the loving spiritual bond and evolutionary, nurturing social structure that is motherhood, quite possibly the most important social structure defining humanity’s existence on earth. Above all else though – and especially when I see the two great soulmates of my life, Sus and Daya, together – I realize just how much humanity owes mothers and motherhood. (I know it sounds like such a truism, as it probably should, but there’s a way in which personal experience brings messages home in a way that no other life activity does.)

So without further adieu…

Happy Mothers Day, all mothers out there however you may define yourselves!!!

Yay!

Today is the day designated by Western capitalism and greeting card commerce as the one day of the year we pitiably try to honor the most life-giving, self-sacrificing subsection of humanity.

Today, capitalism and our pop culture society will “celebrate” mothers. (Or really, by the time I come round to publishing this blog post, they would have already finished with the nominal celebration and have just slipped right back into the velvety smooth and sexist comfort of taking mothers for granted.)

These celebrations are most likely going to manifest across the e-social universe with a lot of repetitive typing of the “x” and “o” keys as well as the “<” and “3” keys. Maybe some e-cards, real cards, roses, chocolates, a dinner outing, or a gift or two (our society has a very easy, pay-grade-specific, template to celebrate motherhood).

But as commerce and social media goes about fake-applauding mothers, make no mistake – mothers have been treated like shit for centuries, and humanity should be ashamed of ourselves.

Why should we be ashamed of ourselves, you ask (metaphysical person who keeps getting resurrected whenever I need a literary segue into my next point)?

Oh, how about raw, unfettered patriarchy as a social institution.

As I write this, indeed as you read this, there are millions upon millions of mothers worldwide living under various forms of control and authority imparted by different men in their lives (if not outright violence), usually from husbands or adult sons, but also parents, bosses, siblings, colleagues, relatives, and others – a small minority of whom might even be women who themselves impart patriarchal violence due to internalized oppression. Yet, almost as a rule, mothers tend to always try harder and be more nurturing than male parental counterparts, regardless of the systems of male domination those moms might have faced in their lives. If that isn’t heroism of the highest order, I don’t know what is.

And what of the appalling political and economic rights conferred on motherhood the world over while they courageously nurture their children?

Take social insurance, public or even via private company policy. Barring a few rich Western countries and some corporations who give decent, still often insufficient, maternity benefits, it is lacking for the vast majority of mothers worldwide. Indeed, America – king of the goddamn neo-colonial pecking order right now – should hang its head in shame when a flabby Hollywood monarchy like the UK or even a very confused has-been like Turkey is streets ahead of the US in terms of maternity benefits. (But I am absolutely sure that America is the biggest market for Mothers Day greeting cards today.)

Hell, you need look no further than the sexist garbage that is spouted in pop culture the world over – the naked celebration of violent manhood, and the downplaying of nurturing, loving values – to get a reality gut check regarding the shoddy value placed on motherhood by society at a collective level.

(How so many single moms keep it together and kicking, I will have nary a fucking clue. Salutations of the highest order would be insufficient.)

And finally, when we as a species slowly lost our divine feminine, mother earth-centric, spiritual roots many millennia ago and instead found ourselves wading in the filth of patriarchal religions the world over – probably the most significant shift in humanity towards a male-dominated world order occurred.

But all that’s too much for me to think about as my partner and I take turns trying to comfort our collicky little angel (8 weeks old tomorrow!).

So I think I’ll just sign off by giving heartfelt thanks to my mother and to mothers everywhere – while raising a fist in salute of their daily battles with the man.

Happy Mothers Day everyone.