against purity politics

‘“If we want a world with less suffering and more flourishing, it would be useful to perceive complexity and complicity as the constitutive situation of our lives, rather than as things we should avoid,” she writes. We can’t help that we’ve inherited these problems—a warming Earth, institutional racism, increasingly antibiotic-resistant bacteria—nor can we help sometimes perpetuating them. Better to stop pretending at purity, own up to our imperfections, and try to create a morality that works with them.’

READ THIS ARTICLE.

why monsanto is evil (it’s not science-fiction)

agent orange

HERE is an article discussing some of the non-“woo” (pseudo-scientific hippie freak-out) reasons why companies like Monsanto pushing genetically modified products are doing evil: the corporate imperatives and corruption surrounding the development of GMOs, how their use disempowers farmers (especially small farmers in non-first world contexts, although this article only talks about the USA) and what we can do about this deception being perpetrated against the world.

Apart from being economically unsustainable, there are also other compelling health-related reasons why GMOs are a bad idea, which don’t involve a non-specific, irrational fear of genetic mutations being dangerous to consume per se. For example, the seeds are engineered to be resistant to pesticides so that crops can be sprayed and only the weeds growing among the GM plants die. Studies have shown that GM food (or the meat of animals that ate GM food) can be contaminated by traces of the pesticides used during the plants’ growth, pesticides that are teratogenic (causing birth defects) and carcinogenic (causing cancer)  to humans. These modifications also lead to resistance in plants and insect pests – “superweeds” and “superbugs” that make sustainable farming more difficult.

If you are South African, please GO HERE to sign a petition as part of the formal public participation process against an application by multinational agricultural company Dow AgroSciences, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Dow Chemical Company, to import GM cottonseed products to South Africa, for use as food, animal feed and in processing. 

desmond tutu condemns uganda’s proposed new anti-gay law

“We must be entirely clear about this: the history of people is littered with attempts to legislate against love or marriage across class, caste, and race. But there is no scientific basis or genetic rationale for love. There is only the grace of God. There is no scientific justification for prejudice and discrimination, ever. And nor is there any moral justification. Nazi Germany and apartheid South Africa, among others, attest to these facts.”

— Desmond Tutu reacting against the proposed enactment of homophobic legislation in Uganda. Read more about it HERE.

tutu

two simones on banality and evil

“Imaginary evil is romantic and varied; real evil is gloomy, monotonous, barren, boring. Imaginary good is boring; real good is always new, marvellous, intoxicating.”
— Simone Weil

“In particular those who are condemned to stagnation are often pronounced happy on the pretext that happiness consists in being at rest. This notion we reject, for our perspective is that of existentialist ethics. Every subject plays his part as such specifically through exploits or projects that serve as a mode of transcendence; he achieves liberty only through a continual reaching out towards other liberties. There is no justification for present existence other than its expansion into an indefinitely open future. Every time transcendence falls back into immanence, stagnation, there is a degradation of existence into the ‘en-sois’ – the brutish life of subjection to given conditions – and of liberty into constraint and contingence. This downfall represents a moral fault if the subject consents to it; if it is inflicted upon him, it spells frustration and oppression. In both cases it is an absolute evil. Every individual concerned to justify his existence feels that his existence involves an undefined need to transcend himself, to engage in freely chosen projects.”
— Simone de Beauvoir

not chicken

(not chicken)

a new and alarming study on teens and sexual coercion

Excerpted from an article by Martha Kempner, published at RH Reality Check, October 9, 2013 – 12:43 pm

A new study finds that almost one in ten teens and young adults admit to forcing someone into some form of sexual activity. Even more surprising: 50 percent of perpetrators blame the victim for the incident. According to the study, “links between perpetration and violent sexual media are apparent.”

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(RobinThickeVevo / YouTube)

A new study funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and published online in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that one in ten teens said they had coerced another person into some form of sexual activity. In an online survey in 2010 and 2011, researchers asked 1,058 young people ages 14 to 21 whether they had ever “kissed, touched, or done anything sexual with another person when that person did not want you to?” The results surprised even the lead researcher, Michele Ybarra, who told NPR, “I don’t get creeped out very often, but this was wow.”

This intense reaction stems from the fact that 9 percent of teens said they had coerced another person. Specifically, 8 percent said they had kissed or touched someone when they knew that person did not want to, 3 percent said they “got someone to give in to unwilling sex,” 3 percent said they attempted rape, and 2 percent said they actually raped someone. (This adds to more than 9 percent because young people could admit to more than one behavior.)…

… The authors also note that 50 percent of all perpetrators said that the victim was responsible for the sexual violence. Moreover, most perpetrators said no one ever found out about their actions. The authors conclude, “Because victim blaming appears to be common while perpetrators experiencing consequences is not, there is urgent need for high school (and middle school) programs aimed at supporting bystander intervention.”…

… The survey was conducted as part of an ongoing study called Growing Up With Media. In addition to asking about sexual coercion, respondents were asked about the media they watched. The study found that perpetrators tended to report more frequent exposure to media that depicted sexual and violent situations than those who had not coerced another person, but the results were not always statistically significant. Still, the authors conclude:

[L]inks between perpetration and violent sexual media are apparent, suggesting a need to monitor adolescents’ consumption of this material, particularly given today’s media saturation among the adolescent population.

Elizabeth Schroeder, the executive director of Answer, an organization that educates young people about sexuality and trains teachers, agrees that media consumption is part of the problem. She told RH Reality Check, “This study is extremely distressing, but unfortunately, not a surprise. Sexuality education rarely starts before high school, and by then young people have already received very distorted messages about sex, relationships, and boundaries from other sources such as the media, their peers, adults in their lives, and so on.” Schroeder added, “Age-appropriate lessons about relationships need to start in early childhood and continue throughout high school.”

Read the full article HERE.

anne carson – the gender of sound

William Etty - "The Siren and Ulysses", 1837.

William Etty – “The Siren and Ulysses”, 1837.

Madness and witchery as well as bestiality are conditions commonly associated with the use of the female voice in public, in ancient as well as modern contexts. Consider how many female celebrities of classical mythology, literature and cult make themselves objectionable by the way they use their voice.

For example, there is the heart-chilling groan of the Gorgon, whose name is derived from a Sanskrit word, *garg meaning “a guttural animal howl that issues as a great wind from the back of the throat through a hugely distended mouth”. There are the Furies whose high-pitched and horrendous voices are compared by Aiskhylos to howling dogs or sounds of people being tortured in hell (Eumenides). There is the deadly voice of the Sirens and the dangerous ventriloquism of Helen (Odyssey) and the incredible babbling of Kassandra (Aiskhylos, Agamemnon) and the fearsome hullabaloo of Artemis as she charges through the woods (Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite). There is the seductive discourse of Aphrodite which is so concrete an aspect of her power that she can wear it on her belt as a physical object or lend it to other women (Iliad). There is the old woman of Eleusinian legend Iambe who shrieks obscenities and throws her skirt up over her head to expose her genitalia. There is the haunting garrulity of the nymph Echo (daughter of Iambe in Athenian legend) who is described by Sophokles as “the girl with no door on her mouth” (Philoktetes).

Putting a door on the female mouth has been an important project of patriarchal culture from antiquity to the present day. Its chief tactic is an ideological association of female sound with monstrosity, disorder and death.

— From “The Gender of Sound”, in Glass, Irony and God. New Directions, 1995: pp 120-121

The brilliant Anne Carson presents a history of the gendered voice, from Sophocles to Gertrude Stein. She outlines what is at stake in our assumptions around sound, questioning whether the concept of ‘self-control’ is a barrier to acknowledging other forms of human order, feeding into wider debates on social order, both past and present.

Read the whole essay HERE.

expose yourself to reality exposed

Diff-Opening-2Written by Sarah Dawson

On July 18, the Film and Publication Board’s refusal to classify the would-be opening film of the Durban International Film Festival, Jahmil XT Qubeka’s Of Good Report, became the flint that sparked the latest South African aesthetic controversy.

Unclassified films are illegal to screen, which means that this is a functional ban on the production. The ruling was imposed on the basis of having interpreted the representation of a sexual encounter of a Grade 9 pupil, Nolitha, (played by the 23-year old actress Petronella Tshuma) as being child pornography.

Tongues have been wagging in creative circles and the media, and given that the film is divorced from any overt perspective on political matters (as in the case ofThe Spear), it is clear that this matter relates to some quite primal conflict over the interpretation of a particular image.

In this case, the battle over meaning is taking place in the awkward, sexually liminal space of the moment of the young female character’s transition from archetypal “virgin” to archetypal “whore”, and what she, the figure of the girl, means.

It probably wouldn’t be completely unfair to assume that the film is objectionable to the classification board because of this very liminality, and the way in which the morality embedded in the process clearly regards anything that isn’t exclusively either “virgin” or “whore” as a kind of abomination.

This act of censorship is fundamentally based on a conflict of representation – meaning it’s as much an aesthetic one as it is an ideological one. This means that we need to be asking not the obvious and common question of whether we should or shouldn’t be allowed to depict female children in an erotic light, but rather what actually is a female child, and what is an erotic light?

South African film and South African audiences remain equally conservative. The idea that representations of people, places, things and events can have a lot of different meanings and aren’t consistently, singularly defined is, surprisingly, not taken for granted by the typical South African viewer, practitioner or institution of film.

We aren’t yet comfortable with the multifarious nature of representation, and expend a lot of hot air trying to settle on the one, all-encompassing, so-called “South African voice”, which it turns out, we’re really struggling to locate.

It’s a self-evidently flawed project, because its ridiculous to think that such a thing could ever actually exist in a finite sense.

Read the rest of this article HERE.