Archive | October, 2010

Everyone’s connecting the dots…sort of.

25 Oct

We at Connect the Dots (CtD) have noticed a plethora of articles, blogs, and commentary utilizing that very phrase, “Connect the Dots,” lately.  It seems that more and more individuals and groups are learning of and acknowledging the importance of making connections and we couldn’t be more thrilled…almost.

It’s encouraging to see blogs, for example, about the connections between forms of human-on-human violence and initiatives that address it.   People are starting to get it!  They’re starting to make connections!  Isn’t that what we want?  Of course.  We want people to start making those connections between multiple manifestations of oppression. They are all linked.

Yet we’re not afraid to want more.

While one of the goals of CtD is to foster connections within movements, we ultimately want to create connections between movements.  We want to create a comprehensive approach to ending violence and oppression.  Yes, we believe there is merit in baby steps.  Just like the often-debated strategies of utilizing bullying to work up to addressing sexual harassment or beginning with welfare to move to abolition, sometimes movements must take small steps.  We have to start somewhere.  But we can’t stop there.  As one blogger recently noted after watching Carol J. Adams speak on the sexual politics of meat, “All oppression is rooted in the same objectification, exclusion, domination and commodification, and unless you fight all of them, you are not really fighting any of them.”

We can’t expect to get far if we promote the idea that one manifestation of oppression is okay and another is not.  We defeat our own intentions and actions, for example, when we work against sexual violence in the human realm and allow it against other species just because we can.  Might doesn’t make right anywhere, period.

Ours is a both/and world.  Let’s continue to make these connections and let’s go further.  Let’s support connections both within and between movements.  A true connectionist perspective goes as far as possible and then a little further.  Let’s deepen our critical analysis so that we can truly succeed at creating a peaceful and just world for all.


We Can Change Culture: Part 2

11 Oct

In our last blog, I asserted that we can change culture.  More than that, I argued that we MUST change culture to create a peaceful and just world.  The following quote comes from the poet David Mura, as quoted in the book Pornified by Pamela Paul.

Attributing pornography’s growth to demand by individuals ignores what we know by experience: if one walks down the street and sees ten images of women as sexual objects, one may certianly be able to reject those images; yet it is also true that one will have to expend a greater amount of energy rejecting these images than if one saw only five or two or none at all.  Assuming that human beings have only a limited amount of energy, it is obvious that the more images there are, the harder it will be for the individual to resist them; one must, after all, expend energy on other activities too….The greater the frequency of such images, the greater the likelihood that they will overwhelm people’s resistance.  This fact is known, of course, by all those invovled in advertising and the media, and is readily accepted by  most consumers–except when it comes to pornography.

I’m not writing this so we can have a discussion about pornography (though you know I’d love to).  Instead, I highlighted this quote because I think it speaks to a connectionist perspective.  When it comes to violence, for example, we as humans are surrounded by  violent images and violent acts every day – in more ways than many would like to admit.  There’s the violence we all think of – human on human violence that we see on the news, in our neighborhoods, in our families, and in entertainment – and then there’s the violence we ignore, actively refute, and justify.  This violence shows up on our plates throughout the day, it is visible as we look out to the horizon, and much more.  We are absolutely inundated with violence every second of the day, so much so that we violently deny it is violence.  I fully expect comments angrily asking how I dare to imply that humans, animals, and the environment are on the same level of importance and that there is no hierarchy.  How dare I suggest that it is possible to perpetrate violence on animals or, give me a break, the environment.  It happens every time I bring it up, without fail.  In our current atmosphere, it’s not okay for me to say these things.  Believe me, I know I’m taking a major risk publicly speaking about this.  It took a long time, over 10 years, for me to be willing to attach my name to these ideas.  You’ll read about this in my essay for Connect the Dots Essays.

This is culture.  This is deeply imbedded culture that must change if we are going to realize a peaceful and just world.  I don’t want to be afraid to suggest that violence extends beyond humans.  I don’t want to be restricted by norms that direct me not to extend beyond the status quo or there will be negative consequences.  I’m still scared to bring this up.  The consequences of doing so have threatened and continue to threaten me and my life in a number of ways.

Things are changing slowly.  There was a time long ago when I couldn’t talk about animal shelters without being accosted for caring about animals when, “battered women need shelter more than animals do.”  But we still exist in the either/or, the false dichotomies, the silos, that allow a culture of violence to be normal.  This must change.  We can’t just focus on a fragment of culture and expect things to get better.  We must focus on the whole picture – all of it.

That’s exactly what the Connect the Dots Movement is all about.  If you’re not afraid to speak out, please join us.


We Can Change Culture

2 Oct

I believe we can change culture.  Period.

Lately I’ve heard a lot of conversations, read a lot of articles, that have revived an old concern of mine – why do we focus on accepting culture as is and simply teach resistance?  Pornography, violence, fast food…you name it.  The argument goes like this:

There’s no way we’re going to change it.  It’s here for good.  All we can do is teach people to resist.

I’m a both/and person.  I believe we should increase resilience in kids.  I believe we should teach media literacy.   I believe we should strengthen protective factors.  I believe these strategies are relevant and effective.  AND I believe we should work to change systems and society.

What happened to systems and social change?  It’s possible.  It’s the foundation from which I operate.  It’s the heart of nearly every social justice movement.

So why do people who say we should dismantle the criminal justice system also argue that we should accept that violent pornography is here to stay?  Why do folks who say we must do away with the educational system say all we can do about the media is teach media literacy?  It doesn’t make sense – only doing away with systems in one case and simply teaching people to deal in another.

CUTLURE CAN CHANGE.  Culture WILL change…if we try.  It seems easier and we feel more successful when we teach resistance.  It’s easier to tell women to stay inside their homes to stay safe than to change the way men are socialized to be violent against women.  It’s easier to tell people “don’t eat that” than to take on agribusiness.  But it doesn’t work and it’s not real change.

Why do we talk about rape culture if we don’t believe we can change it?  Giving a presentation about it isn’t going to do much.  Telling people it exists and how to avoid it isn’t going to do much.   Changing the fundamental aspects of culture that allow it to thrive is.  So why talk about it if we don’t believe we can do that?

The other day I was in a meeting in which a woman referred to “the queers.”   Seriously?  That’s NOT OKAY.  And you know why it’s not okay and every single person who heard that knew and said it’s not okay?  Because culture has changed.

My neighbors smoke.  You know why I literally stop in shock every time I smell cigarette smoke wafting into my apartment?  You know why I immediately think “you can’t do that!” whenever I see a person in Oregon smoking within 5 feet of a building?  Because I lived in California where tobacco culture has changed.

There are countless examples of how culture, subcultures, and mini-mini cultures (okay, I made that one up) have changed for the good.  It can happen.  It has happened.  We don’t have to hang our heads in defeat and teach people to simply look away.   “The world isn’t fair.  Deal with it.”  Really?  I prefer, “the world isn’t fair.  Let’s change it.”

I believe culture can change.  Exclamation point.