Adonis Diaries

Archive for June 19th, 2016

What makes me tired when organising with middle class comrades

Grassroots organiser Nicole Vosper has been delving into the topic of campaign burnout on her website. In this post she looks at some of the issues around organising with middle class comrades

I have many middle class friends and comrades whom I adore, this post certainly isn’t directed at everyone. But after years and years of organising, coming up against similar frustrations, and after lots of conversations between working class mates, I want to write about what is draining about working with some middle class activists.

It’s important to flag up that I’m writing this as a white, cis woman in England and I’m aware of the privilege that carries.

I’m worried this piece will ignite a backlash, so I’m asking middle class folks that are triggered by this to perhaps talk to other middle class people and not email me about it. For once, please, just listen and reflect.

Also, because I want to be as constructive as possible, at the end of the post I’ve listed some of the character traits of middle class friends and organisers who don’t drive me up the wall.

Sari El Molh shared a link.

What makes me tired when organising with middle class comrades

  • Talking about the working class as a homogenous mass makes me tired. Assuming certain cultural stereotypes are working class and certain things aren’t is annoying. Likewise talking about working class people like they’re scum, sheep or brain-washed masses is patronising and elitist. Talking about how you can “reach out” to the working class is also problematic.
  • Romanticising certain aspects of working class culture is tiring, when growing up with zero money and zero financial stability is the least romantic thing ever. Similarly fetishising poverty, as if it’s a game or adventure, is an insult to folk who have no choice.
  • Feeling judged because I actually want a livelihood so I don’t have to relive the hell of not having any food in the fridge is tiring. Unlike middle class people we don’t have a safety net. We can’t play the romantic poor anarchist for ten years then inherit property. Flirting with poverty as a lifestyle choice is not the same as growing up in poverty.
    • Talking about working class people like we’re the problem, as if our lifestyle choices are the determinant of various forms of systemic suffering, is totally infuriating. It is politically naive and dangerous.
    • Perhaps one of the more dehumanising experiences in life is being treated like some kind of subject/object of study for academics.
    • I have left a prison-related conference in tears because of this. Being tokenised or used to further someone’s career is grim. It’s put me off the world of academia forever (there is no entry point for me anyway).
    • You expect me, and other working class folk, to get excited about your projects, campaigns and initiatives when they are not relevant to our lives. We face much bigger barriers to organising, yet we’re somehow meant to do a ton of extra work on top of the challenges of day-to-day survival.
    • We are generally organising on top of being carers, or parents, or supporting mates in prison, or recovering from trauma or alcohol, drug abuse and domestic violence that you may have not experienced.
    • (I’m aware not every middle class person has had a good childhood, I’m just trying to highlight a pattern). Often there are no structures in place to support us to participate such as travel expenses, childcare support and food at meetings.
    • You often judge our lifestyle choices and take positions of moral superiority. One of my favourite ever scientific studies was the one that showed people living on benefits had a lower carbon footprint than middle class ethical consumers. (carbon footprint? No need for explanation?)
      • It is alienating and disempowering when middle class people talk about experiences like they are completely universal. I spent a whole weekend with folks repeatedly talking about which international trip they were going to take next.
      • Seriously, it feels like we live on different planets. In extension of this, a common pattern I’ve observed over the last 15 years is that middle class folk are way more likely to volunteer abroad or do exciting things, like go on the Sea Shepherd, or go live in a tree-sit protest the other side of the world.
      • Or participate in grim colonial projects like paint school walls in Africa or whatever. There is a consistent failure to participate in any kind of grassroots or community organising in the UK and once again, working class organisers are left holding it all (and then being judged not radical enough).
      • Middle class people can tend to dominate meetings, especially at public events. There is a sense of entitlement that the whole world needs to hear your opinion and you have all the answers. Ever tried listening?
      • Middle class people can also tend to dominate movements and perpetuate a privileged position of nonviolence. I’ve been at protest camps that have felt like a love-in with the police and power structures that be.
      • It’s exhausting and frustrating when you dismiss potential comrades because of their language, background or behaviour and fail to remember it takes time to learn/unlearn how we act.
      • If I hadn’t had such solid self esteem, I would have abandoned all these movements years ago. It’s tiring when middle class people make unsupportive comments on our writing, grammar or language.
      • Not everyone has had the same level of education. It’s also really patronising when you talk as if we’re not smart because we might not have a degree.
      • In my early years of organising, so many middle class men would explain things to me assuming I didn’t know what they meant.
      • It’s tiring when you leverage your privilege in response to repression, whether by getting character references from people you know in similar positions of privilege, or simply having the financial support in your life which means you can focus on legal work. You don’t think about the repercussions this can have on people that can’t play this card.
        • And finally, what I’ve observed over and over again is this inherent need for middle class people to censor, control and mediate emotions.
        • There’s a deep fear of conflict, loosing status and control. I’ve been told to be less angry on demos, less emotional at events and more serious.
        • Stop telling me how to feel. When you’ve had a life of teachers, social workers and probation officers telling you how you should act, you don’t need the same mediating middle class behaviour in your collectives.

        So what does this have to do with burnout?

        Navigating this stuff constantly is exhausting. Never feeling like you fit in is disempowering, isolating and alienating. It is hard to feel supported by people who don’t share your reality. You lose affinity with people, groups and networks and are more likely to burnout and drop out.

        Fighting the state is hard enough without navigating a maze of middle class entitlement. And as a result these movements fail to offer me anything that can realistically improve my life or make surviving capitalism easier.

        Like I said at the beginning of the post, I do work with some middle class comrades whom I adore. I tried to think about what made them different:

        • They totally own up to their privilege. They’re honest about it. They take the piss out of themselves. They don’t try to be something they’re not.
        • They’re empathetic but not judgemental or patronising. They don’t pretend to have lived a different life than they have.
        • They take risks and do frontline work that threatens their privilege. They don’t expect it to be anyone else’s responsibility. Likewise they do the boring behind the scenes work too.
        • They leverage their privilege to support others. That might be lending someone money, or giving them a free place to stay for a while. Or it might be informally mentoring someone to improve their writing.
        • They’re aware of their speech and behaviour, how they phrase things so they are not offensive.
        • They don’t dominate meetings or movements or think they have all the answers.
        • They practically support people to participate by being militant that events are structured to support people to get stuck in (childcare, travel expenses). No one’s input is taken for granted.

        I hope people find this constructive, rather than critical.

Top Gun (December 31, 2008)

The Palestinian martyrs in Gaza have already forgiven the Israeli fighter planes Top Guns  .

The skin of the Top Gun crawls at the sight of ants, down below.

The Top Gun is scared shitless at the sight of the ants, down below.

Those Hell Fires are not worth a dime:

there are many injured ants, down below.

The Palestinian martyrs have forgiven this coward Top Gun.

It is the injured ants who remember Moses’ wisdom:

Blood for blood, an eye for an eye

That is denying sleep to the Top Gunners.

Top Gun has to be afraid of tomorrow.

Neither Hell Fires nor Bygone spraying can exterminate human dignity.

Elizabeth Warren Finally Speaks on Israel/Gaza, Sounds Like Netanyahu

America has a very special relationship with Israel. Israel lives in a very dangerous part of the world, and a part of the world where there aren’t many liberal democracies and democracies that are controlled by the rule of law. And we very much need an ally in that part of the world.”

Note: In related news, the British newspaper The Telegraph yesterday published the names of all 504 children who were killed in Gaza over the last 50 days by Israel.

The last time Elizabeth Warren was asked about her views on the Israeli attack on Gaza – on July 17 – she, as Rania Khalek put it, “literally ran away” without answering.

But last week, the liberal Senator appeared for one of her regularly scheduled “office hours” with her Massachusetts constituents, this one in Hyannis, and, as a local paper reported, she had nowhere to run.

One voter who identified himself as a Warren supporter, John Bangert, stood up and objected to her recent vote, in the middle of the horrific attack on Gaza, to send yet another $225 million of American taxpayer money to Israel for its “Iron Dome” system.

Banger told his Senator: “We are disagreeing with Israel using their guns against innocents. It’s true in Ferguson, Missouri, and it’s true in Israel . . .  The vote was wrong, I believe.” To crowd applause, Bangert told Warren that the money “could have been spent on infrastructure or helping immigrants fleeing Central America.”

Steven Salaita shared a link

She’s now being rewarded for keeping quiet throughout Sanders’s campaign. If she doesn’t get the VP nomination, rest assured she’ll be otherwise compensated for her fealty.

Anyway, I have nothing but disdain for politicians who so enthusiastically justify and fund the slaughter of innocent people by repeating age-old exceptionality mantras dripping with contempt and racism:

See More

But Warren steadfastly defended her “pro-Israel” vote, invoking the politician’s platitude: “We’re going to have to agree to disagree on this one.”

According to the account in the Cape Cod Times by reporter C. Ryan Barber, flagged by Zaid Jilani, Warren was also asked about her Israel position by other voters who were at the gathering, and she went on to explain:

“I think the vote was right, and I’ll tell you why I think the vote was right. America has a very special relationship with Israel. Israel lives in a very dangerous part of the world, and a part of the world where there aren’t many liberal democracies and democracies that are controlled by the rule of law. And we very much need an ally in that part of the world.”

Warren said Hamas has attacked Israel “indiscriminately,” but with the Iron Dome defense system, the missiles have “not had the terrorist effect Hamas hoped for.” When pressed by another member of the crowd about civilian casualties from Israel’s attacks, Warren said she believes those casualties are the “last thing Israel wants.”

“But when Hamas puts its rocket launchers next to hospitals, next to schools, they’re using their civilian population to protect their military assets. And I believe Israel has a right, at that point, to defend itself,” Warren said, drawing applause.

Warren even rejected a different voter’s suggestion that the U.S. force Israel to at least cease building illegal settlements by withholding further aid: “Noreen Thompsen, of Eastham, proposed that Israel should be prevented from building any more settlements as a condition of future U.S. funding, but Warren said, ‘I think there’s a question of whether we should go that far.’”

In her defense, Warren has long been clear that this is what she would do.

Her Senate campaign website still contains statements such as “it is a moral imperative to support and defend Israel” and “as a United States Senator, I will work to ensure Israel’s security and success.”

During her time in the national spotlight, Warren has focused overwhelmingly on domestic issues, rarely venturing into foreign policy discussions.

Many of those domestic views, particularly her strident-for-D.C. opposition to banks, have been admirable, elevating her to hero status for many progressives.

But when Warren has spoken on national security, she has invariably spouted warmed-over, banal Democratic hawk tripe of the kind that she just recited about Israel and Gaza.

During her Senate campaign, for instance, she issued wildly militaristic – and in some cases clearly false – statements about Iran and its nuclear program that would have been comfortable on the pages of The Weekly Standard

Even as conservative Democratic Senate candidates from red states such as Nebraska’s Bob Kerrey were vehemently condemning the threat of war against Iran during their campaigns, Warren was claiming (contrary to the U.S. Government’s own assessment) that “Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons”, adding: “I support strong sanctions against Iran and believe that the United States must also continue to take a leadership role in pushing other countries to implement strong sanctions as well.”

Those claims about Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons remained her position even after she was told that they squarely contradict the U.S. intelligence community’s clear assessment of Iran’s actions.

In related news, the British newspaper The Telegraph yesterday published the names of all 504 children who were killed in Gaza over the last 50 days by Israel.

In the last week, Israel deliberately destroyed an entire large residential apartment building after giving its residents less than an hour to vacate, leaving more than 40 families homeless, and also destroyed a seven-story office building and two-story shopping center (the video of the apartment building destruction is online and ugly to watch).

Echoing Benjamin Netanyahu (and Hillary Clinton), Elizabeth Warren’s clear position is that Israel bears none of the blame for any of this.

Or, to use her words, “when Hamas puts its rocket launchers next to hospitals, next to schools, they’re using their civilian population to protect their military assets. And I believe Israel has a right, at that point, to defend itself.”

Such carnage is the “last thing Israel wants.” The last thing.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is your inspiring left-wing icon of the Democratic Party.

Note: I definitely read this link a couple years ago, and might have posted it, but a repeat is always a good reminder of the fealty of US politicians.

First time that I searched for my luggage

Numb at the Magnitude of the Unknown. Part 2  June 19, 2016

It was the first time that I searched for my luggage

As I landed in Oklahoma City in 1975.

By the time I learned where to fetch my luggage

I realized that my suitcase was made of carton:

All beat up, twisted, torn, tattered,

And barely holding what it was carrying.


It was a burden suitcase and a sore to the eyes.

It was a burden to my depleted spirit.

It was after one o’clock in the morning, and the airport was empty and quiet.


I must have been sitting there for a while:

A black airport agent smiled to me and softly addressed me.

It was apparent that I was a lost person.

No, I do not expect anyone to meet me.

No, I have no idea where I am and where to go.


The compassionate black man suggested:

“Son, the best is to have a good night sleeps at a nearby hotel, most probably the Holiday Inn”.

It was my first night at a hotel and it cost me seventeen dollars, a fortune.


Next, I experienced an Oklahoma summer morning, humid and hot.

Next, I experienced the wilderness and empty spaces.

For ten dollars, a taxi dropped me at a dorm for students,

In the university town of Norman, thirty miles south of the Capital.

I was to pay more than double that amount, ten years later,

For my second trip to Oklahoma, and at exactly the same conditions of loneliness,

Save that I should have been ten years wiser.


Another six dollars per night at the students’ dorm.

I rented a room at a lady’s house near the University of Oklahoma.

She was in her fifties, tall, slim and tough of character.


Hussein, my English classmate from Jordan shared another room.

Hussein was to move to San Antonio, in Texas, for graduate studies in Economics.

He agreed to welcome me at Christmas time,

For a couple of days at his university dorm.


It was to be my first experience with the Amtrak train, the slowest transportation ever:

The trip lasted seventeen hours and rattled me to Houston,

Through a convoluted schedule, before backtracking a little west to San Antonio.


It would be my last train experience, so far.

A Syrian student was the third leg in the house at the middle-aged lady.

He had blue and piercing eyes and was majoring in Chemistry.

I was told that he was a rigid devote Muslim:

He used to kneel in class, at exam time, and pray turning toward Mecca.

He married the old lady shortly after.

The one time I saw the lady, a year later, she was wearing the veil.

 Chinese zodiac

A quarter of the world’s population cares a lot about the Chinese zodiac.

Even if you don’t believe in it, you’d be wise to know how it works, says technologist and entrepreneur ShaoLan Hseuh.

In this talk, ShaoLan shares some tips for understanding the ancient tradition and describes how it’s believed to influence your personality, career, marriage prospects and how you’ll do in a given year.

What does your sign say about you?

ShaoLan Hsueh. Technologist, entrepreneur

ShaoLan want to help people understand China’s culture and language, and to bridge the gap between East and West. Full bio

Have you ever been asked by your Chinese friend, “What is your zodiac sign?” Don’t think they are making small talk. If you say, “I’m a Monkey,” they immediately know you are either 24, 36, 48 or 60 years old.

Asking a zodiac sign is a polite way of asking your age. (It does Not make sense if there is a 12-year interval. I found out I am an Ox, the second animal in the zodiac calendar. So what could be my age?)

By revealing your zodiac sign, you are also being evaluated. Judgments are being made about your fortune or misfortune, your personality, career prospects and how you will do in a given year.

If you share you and your partner’s animal signs, they will paint a picture in their mind about your private life. Maybe you don’t believe in the Chinese zodiac. As a quarter of the world population is influenced by it, you’d be wise to do something about that.

1:01 So what is the Chinese zodiac, exactly? Most Westerners think of Greco-Roman zodiac, the signs divided into 12 months.

The Chinese zodiac is different. It’s a 12-year cycle labelled with animals, starting with a Rat and ending with a Pig, and has no association with constellations.

For example, if you were born in 1975, you are a Rabbit. Can you see your zodiac sign there? Our Chinese ancestors constructed a very complicated theoretical framework based on yin and yang, the five elements and the 12 zodiac animals.

Over thousands of years, this popular culture has affected people’s major decisions, such as naming, marriage, giving birth and attitude towards each other. And some of the implications are quite amazing.

The Chinese believe certain animals get on better than the others. So parents choose specific years to give birth to babies, because they believe the team effort by the right combination of animals can give prosperity to families. We even refer to the zodiac when entering into romantic relations. I’m a Pig; I should have perfect romance with Tigers, Goats and Rabbits. Chinese people believe some animals are natural enemies. As a Pig, I need to be careful with a Snake. Raise your hand if you are a Snake. Let’s have a chat later.

2:38 (Laughter)

We believe some animals are luckier than the others, such as the Dragon. Unlike the Western tradition, the Chinese Dragon is a symbol for power, strength and wealth. It’s everyone’s dream to have a Dragon baby. Jack Ma’s parents must have been very proud.

And they are not the only ones. In 2012, the Year of the Dragon, the birthrate in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan increased by 5% .

That means another one million more babies. With a traditional preference to baby boys, the boy-girl ratio that year was 120 to 100. When those Dragon boys grow up, they will face much more severe competition in love and job markets.

According to the BBC and the Chinese government’s press release, January 2015 saw a peak of Cesarean sections. Why? That was the last month for the Year of the Horse. It’s not because they like horses so much, it’s because they try to avoid having unlucky Goat babies.

#‎ChineseZodiac‬|By ShaoLan

If you are a Goat, please don’t feel bad. Those are Goat babies. They don’t look like losers to me.

 Tiger is another undesirable animal, due to its volatile temperament. Many Chinese regions saw a sharp decline of birthrate during those years.

Perhaps one should consider zodiac in reverse, as those Tiger and Goat babies will face much less competition. Maybe they are the lucky ones.

I went through the Forbes top 300 richest people in the world, and it’s interesting to see the most undesirable two animals, the Goat and Tiger, are at the top of the chart, even higher than the Dragon. So maybe we should consider, maybe it’s much better to have less competition.

4:39 One last but interesting point: many Chinese people make their investment decisions based on the zodiac sign index.

Although the belief and tradition of the zodiac sign has been over thousands of years, the trend of using it in making major decisions did not really happen until the past few decades.

Our ancestors were very busy surviving poverty, drought, famine, riot, disease and civil war. And finally, Chinese people have the time, wealth and technology to create an ideal life they’ve always wanted.

The collective decision made by 1.3 billion people has caused the fluctuation in economics and demand on everything, from health care and education to property and consumer goods.

As China plays such an important role in the global economy and geopolitics, the decisions made based on the zodiac and other Chinese traditions end up impacting everyone around the world.

5:46 Are there any Monkeys here?

2016 is the Year of the Monkey. Monkeys are clever, curious, creative and mischievous.




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