Mara Jade Skywalker Day post

I call today “Mara Jade Skywalker Day” to mark the anniversary of the publication of <i>Star Wars: Legacy of the Force: Sacrifice</i>, or <i>Sacrilege</i> as I prefer to call it. Just as tomorrow is Jacen Solo Day to commemorate the advent of <i>Betrayal</i>.

I’ve ranted quite a bit on my livejournal about the decisions to screw up Mara’s character and then kill her off, or to derail Jacen’s character completely and then kill off the arrogant, murderous little twit they wrote in his place. I don’t intend to go into any of that here. Instead, I’m just going to share  a scene from mid/late-2005, reconstructed by our Research Department to 86% accuracy.

<blockquote><b>Troy</b>: Hey, Karen.
<b>Karen</b>: What is thy bidding, my master?
<b>Troy</b>: Oh, I just wanted to let you know I’ve been talking to LucasFilm and Random House, and they’ve greenlit that nine-book project we’ve been pushing for, “Legacy of the Force.”
<b>Karen</b>: Excellent. Everything is going as planned.
<b>Troy</b>: Uh-huh, and they’ve given us the okay to make all those changes we wanted. You’ll remember how in <i>Star by Star</i> they let me kill off Anakin Solo.
<b>Karen</b>: All too easy.
<b>Troy</b>: Maybe so. Anyway, in this Dark Nest trilogy I’m working on now, I get to turn Jacen Solo into an evil, murderous idiot, Jaina Solo into a near-powerless sidekick, and Mara Jade into a helpless maternal fool with all the insight of a concussed butterfly.
<b>Karen</b>: Impressive. Most impressive.
<b>Troy</b>: Just wait, it gets even better. In the new series, see, we get to turn Jacen Solo into a Sith-
<b>Karen</b>: Soon the rebellion will be crushed and young Skywalker will be one of us.
<b>Troy</b>: No, Karen, <i>Solo</i>, Jacen Solo. But yes, we get to have Lumiya turn him into a full-fledged Sith—apparently, none of the people at LucasFilm or DelRey have actually read any of the books he’s appeared in up till now, so they have no idea what sort of character he’s supposed to be, which helps a lot. They also don’t understand the prophecy of the Chosen One in the least. Then, at the end of the series, we get to kill Jacen off. They’ve also given us permission to turn all the female characters into helpless baggage, continue depicting Mara as a blind idiot, and then kill her off halfway through the series.
<b>Karen</b>: Wipe them out. All of them.
<b>Troy</b>: All in good time. We also get to turn Tahiri evil temporarily—they’ve never read any of her books either—after multiple flashbacks to Anakin Solo’s death in <i>Star by Star</i>. That’ll be fun. Oh, and after we kill off Mara, we get to have Luke Skywalker save Lumiya’s life just so he can murder her personally. Turns out the LucasFilm/DelRey people between them have only read about five of the books—all set in the prequel era—and <i>none</i> of them have seen <i>Return of the Jedi</i>.
<b>Karen</b>: At last we will reveal ourselves to the Jedi. At last we will have revenge.
<b>Troy</b>: Uh-huh, sure looks like. Now, I know how you don’t like writing Jaina, but don’t worry, as part of this whole sidelining the female characters deal, you’ll barely have to feature her in your books at all. We do have to have her kill Jacen in the final book—unfortunate, but at least it promotes fratricide—and we don’t have to start building up to that until the second half of the series. You’ll only have to feature her prominently in one book, and you can have her need training by Boba Fett to show how much more awesome he is. Though I have to ask, Karen do you really think that makes any sense?
<b>Karen</b>: I find your lack of faith disturbing.
<b>Troy</b>: All right, all right, I was only asking. Another thing, though, Karen. Since it’s a nine-book series and all, they want each of us to write only three books for it, which means we’ve got to have three authors.
<b>Karen</b>: There must be two: one to wield power, the other to crave it.
<b>Troy</b>: Now, now, Karen, I know tradition is important, but surely we can unbend a little for the sake of a book series. It’s not that big of a deal. My contacts with DelRey and LucasFilm are really sticking on this point, and they’ve been so accommodating with everything else we’ve requested. I suggested Aaron Allston to them, and I gotta tell ya, they were practically doing backflips. I think if we can convince him to sign on, he would be a great addition to the team. Whaddya say?
<b>Karen</b>: If he could be turned, he would be a powerful ally.
<b>Troy</b>: Exactly. Having him on board would be spectacular.
<b>Karen</b>: Yes. Yes. He would be a great asset. Can it be done?
<b>Troy</b>: Actually, that’s one of the reasons I called you. You’re so persuasive Karen, I wanted to ask you to approach Aaron for us and see if he’d be willing to sign on.
<b>Karen</b>: He will join us or die, my master.
<b>Troy</b>: Now Karen, I wouldn’t want to take things <i>that</i> far.
<b>Karen</b>: He will not be permanently damaged.
<b>Troy</b>: That’s better. I believe we—
<b>Underling #1</b>: Sorry for interrupting, Ms. Traviss, but it’s about that <i>Star Wars on Trial</i> proje—aaack, gak, gkak, gluh [<i>choking noises eventually cut off</i>] …
<b>Karen</b>: Apology accepted, Captain Needa.
<b>Troy</b>: What was that, Karen? Something about a trial? Do you need me to … ?
<b>Karen</b>: No. Leave them to me. I will deal with them myself.
<b>Troy</b>: Well, all right then. If you’re sure. I was just saying that I think we’ve covered everything on my end. You clear on the plan?
<b>Karen</b>: This will be a day long remembered. It has seen the end of Kenobi and it will soon see the end of the Rebellion.
<b>Troy</b>: Is that a “yes”?
<b>Karen</b>: Once more, the Sith will rule the galaxy. And we shall have … peace.
<b>Troy</b>: Right, good show.
<b>Karen</b>: There’ll be no one to stop us this time.
<b>Troy</b>: Er, right. Listen, Karen, I’ve got to ring off, now. Things to do, franchises to ruin, you know how it goes. I’ll get back to you as soon as there’s news on my end, and you let me know how it goes with Aaron, ‘kay? Gotta go, Karen, talk later, bye.
<b>Underling #2</b>: Uh, um, you’re done then?
<b>Karen</b>: [<i>unintelligible, probably an affirmative gesture of some sort</i>]
<b>Underling #2</b>: Does Lord Denning have a message for us?
<b>Karen</b>: The time has come. Execute Order 66.
<b>Underling #2</b>: At once, my lady.</blockquote>
[end transcript]

I’m going to end this entry with a quote from the prophetically titled <i>Ruin</i>, second book in the “Dark Tide” duology (another apt title) by Michael A. Stackpole, from the New Jedi Order series. The “invasion” alluded to in the book is the Yuuzhan Vong, but it will serve just as well for the invasion of grimdark deprivation the Expanded Universe has suffered in the last decade.

“If there ever comes a time when folks look forward to the return of the man who killed Ithor, well, we know that means the invasion is completely out of hand and things are truly beyond saving.” –Corran Horn

For the Star Wars franchise, that time came and passed years ago, which is why I’ve said before and will say again: bring back the Man Who Killed Ithor!

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Antioch College, a reflection

So, a bit more about me. A little before I turned twenty, I enrolled at Antioch College, a small liberal arts college in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

Now, granted, I haven’t made a detailed study of American liberal arts colleges, but I feel pretty safe in stating that Antioch College was pretty out there. It had many innovative approaches to education which rejected the predominating model of inflexibility and scoring achievement against some arbitrary standard of performance. It also had an approach to governance which was significantly more democratic than just about anything I’ve come across before or since—with faculty, student, and staff representatives elected by the community serving on some of the most important administrative bodies on campus. And finally, it had a radical social justice culture which was as innovative in its own field as the academics—a culture which produced the much-maligned and misrepresented Sexual Offense Prevention Policy. (In an article published early last year, feministing cited the SOPP for it’s definition of sexual consent, which is not only good but, unfortunately, one of the few definitions of consent to appear in a US college’s sexual offense policy.) A lot of what I know about feminism, anti-racism, queer theory, economic justice, and governance theory, I owe directly to my experience at Antioch.

The college was not some democratic socialist utopia, though—far from it. We had our share of problems with sexism, racism, heterosexism, ableism, classisim, and so on, and the ways the community engaged with these problems when they arose were often unhelpful, and sometimes even exacerbated the situation. On the governance side, top administrators often found ways to circumvent the democratic process and impose authoritarian decisions onto the community—perhaps more insidiously, the ostensibly democratic structures themselves often failed to meet the needs of the community or of certain community members.

In short, Antioch College was incredibly flawed, but even in its flaws it was so far beyond the comparatively reactionary US mainstream as to be completely off the map. Administrators often ran roughshod over democracy (as authority figures in top-down governance structures inevitably will), but the restrictions on their abuse of power and their accountability to democratic structures were significantly higher than most people in similar positions elsewhere in the US. The community had plenty of problems, but even at its lowest point it still operated several dozen steps above the cultural baseline in terms of feminism, anti-racism, queer positive, sex positive, anti-ableist, and other socially just, individually liberated, pro-community values. It’s like difference between a country like Sweden or Norway on the one hand, and the good ol’ US of A on the other. Both nations are packed with deep-seated problems which all-too-often subvert democracy, quash social justice, and make people’s lives unnecessarily miserable—but compared to the United States, both are benevolent, hyper-progressive, near idyllic societies. Antioch College probably wasn’t nearly as great (comparatively speaking, of course) as Sweden, but I’d say the college was closer to it than not.

In the summer of 2008, the Board of Trustees of the larger Antioch University system closed Antioch College despite a storm of criticism, serious allegations of improper conduct, and a sizable movement to keep the college open. Officially, the college has since been “reopened” independent of the Antioch University system, but the new administration has replicated the university’s hostility towards the people, culture, values, and educational and governance structures which defined Antioch College. They decimated the rightful faculty and students of the college, ground down the structures, and covertly and occasionally overtly undermined the culture, values, and strong commitment to social justice. Unlike the university, the administration of the New Antioch College (or Antioch University 2.0, to give it one of its many well-deserved derogatory pseudonyms) has succeeded in wiping out just about everything which made Antioch College uniquely valuable, and replacing it with a watered-down vanilla institution with nothing especially to recommend it except the history they pillaged from the previous Antioch College. Their PR is incredibly good, and bolstered by people’s natural wish to believe that things are going well, however, as I survey Antioch University 2.0, I can barely catch a glimmer of the democratic structures, the culture of social justice, and the commitment to innovative education which Antioch College exemplified (however imperfectly). All of which I think is rather unfair to the new students, as well as to the disenfranchised rightful students and faculty, and all the generations of Antiochians* who have gone before.

*(“Antioch” pronounced with a short “o,” but “Antiochian” pronounced with a long “o,” just FYI.)

As usual, my introduction has stretched out to become an essay all by itself. My purpose today is neither to eulogize Antioch College as it was nor to denounce the organization which usurped its name, campus, history, and legacy. My purpose is to commemorate the last year of Antioch College, the last gasp of a great institution—and what a year it was.

Officially, the college closed at the end of June in 2008, but that was not quite the end for Antioch College. Even before the closing, a dedicated core of Antioch faculty, supported by alumni, crafted plans to continue Antioch College “in exile,” if they failed to reverse the university’s decision. A prominent catchphrase at the time to denote the commitment to continuing Antioch, whether on-campus or in exile, was “Nonstop Antioch.”

In March of 2008, the alumni-led financial body behind efforts to save the college committed $1 million to Nonstop Antioch for the next year. In May, when the latest round of negotiations between alumni and the university broke down, Antioch-in-Exile moved to the top of the priority.

For months, committed faculty, staff, alumni, and other friends of the college worked to set up an alternative organization in the village of Yellow Springs, Ohio. I’m not too familiar with this stage of the process, though it must’ve taken a great deal of doing. The organizers had the advantage though of an already proven core of faculty and staff who could also handle administrative functions, who could work together as a team, and who had long experience with Antioch’s unique governance and community structures to draw upon in adapting the Antioch model to their new circumstances.

When Antioch University threatened legal action over use of the name, the organization changed its designation from Nonstop Antioch/Antioch-in-Exile to the Nonstop Liberal Arts Institute. At the time, some participants said this was a bad idea: that the university didn’t have a legal leg to stand on, and that surrendering the name “Antioch” meant surrendering some portion of our legitimacy as Antioch. In hindsight, these naysayers appear to have been right: it might have been harder for the new administration which eventually came in to destroy Antioch College if the college’s supporters hadn’t been suckered into believing Nonstop was not the same thing as Antioch, and relinquishing the name sure made that easier.

Sorry—I’m trying not to write too bitterly, but reflecting on the last year of Antioch, on Nonstop Antioch, is still a very bittersweet proposal for me. Sweet, because it was an incredible year in which the participants did some highly extraordinary things together—and the accomplishments of those days were not wholly in vain, as they taught a great deal to those who were there and touched the lives of many who were only peripherally involved, both of which will have positive ramifications well into the future. And yet, many of the achievements which we all assumed would last for years if not decades were bulldozed by Antioch University 2.0’s wrecking crew, and the vast majority of the people who defined Antioch College at that time were abused and discarded by the new administration, who continue to exclude most of these exemplary Antiochians even to the present day.

But anyway, despite the downer ending, Nonstop Antioch was something truly remarkable. In the end it had a yearly budget of under $1.5 million, approximately 15-20 full-time faculty and a couple of more adjuncts, and perhaps as many as 30 staff members. The numbers varied between first and second semesters, but at peak, the number of full-time students was generally agreed to be 25, with something like three times that number of part-time students.

Absent a campus, Nonstop Antioch initially leased the use of a house in town, but that became inviable in the first couple of months after classes began in September of 2008. So instead, the organization leased a space in a small, disused factory just outside the downtown area in a complex called Millworks. Over several months, the community cleared out, renovated, painted, furnished, and decorated the Millworks space into Antioch’s office space and community center.

This provided the college in exile with headquarters, but it was still not enough room to meet the organization’s needs. Classes needed space, as did events, as did council and committee meetings. For these needs, the people of Yellow Springs generously intervened, providing their living rooms and basements for collegiate use; several local churches also stepped up to provide space for participants. (Ironically enough, one of the main hubs of activity was the basement of one of the people who would go on to help orchestrate the destruction of Nonstop, and Antioch College along with it.)

Even at this stage, Antioch College was still wracked with conflict. Not only the outward conflict with a malignant Antioch University and an increasingly hostile Board Pro Tempore (which eventually grew into Antioch University 2.0), but internal conflicts both interpersonal and organizational—granted, these internal conflicts were likely exacerbated by the duplicity of the Board Pro Tempore, but to what extent is unclear. I believe that at the time, many participants (especially the younger ones) considered it the most grueling, debilitating experience they’d ever been through. At the same time, I think few would disagree that it was also one of the most amazing experiences they’d ever had.

As the fall 2009 semester drew to a close, and prospects for the future looked increasingly uncertain, the Community Council (ComCil) began discussing the idea of holding some sort of end-of-year event, which might double, if things went badly, as an end-of-Antioch event (which ultimately proved to be the case). From these discussion arose a proposal to have a Commencement ceremony, the first Saturday after classes ended (or maybe the second Saturday). It was not a graduation—nobody studying at Antioch by that point had accumulated sufficient credits to graduate, and anyway, Nonstop was not accredited—but it was a transition which needed to be celebrated.

Thus, on May 9th, 2009, three years ago today, Antioch College held its last ever Commencement ceremony. It was a fairly warm summer morning, and I believe the original idea was to have the event outside, but early showers convinced the organizers to move the festivities indoors.

Most of the programmed features of the event were filmed at the time and can be viewed for free on youtube, user NonstopComm. The bulk of the event consisted of short speeches by various community members, all of which I still find deeply moving even to this day. I hesitate to pick favorites, but I find Shea Witzberger’s performance of “Monument” by Mirah incredibly inspirational, and hardly a month goes by when I don’t revisit it at least once.

I think few if any of the participants at the time realized quite how momentous an occasion it would turn out to be. In retrospect, it was exactly the send-off Antioch needed. A last hurrah before being hurried along into that great good night. A chance to celebrate collectively the joy of community, the accomplishments of a year and of a century, the end of a great era and a great institution.

For all its faults, Antioch College—and particularly in its final incarnation of Nonstop—was one of the best things that ever happened to me. It gave me minuscule glimpses of possibilities and human potentials which I might never have otherwise encountered, and it empowered me to be a force for positive change in the world.

While I remain highly bitter about the shameful mistreatment of Antioch and its community at the last, and am constantly outraged by the present administration’s cynical deployment of the Antioch identity both to further its own aggrandizement and to stamp out almost everything which Antioch College stood for—even so, it’s fitting every now and again to stop and savor all the great things Antioch accomplished in its time, no matter the end result. Today, the third year anniversary of Antioch’s swan song, certainly one of those times.

So here’s in memory of an incredible school, an incredible community, and a fabulous group of smart, funny, passionate, committed, powerful, deeply caring individuals. I think it’s likely the world will not again see its like anytime soon, but the spirit it leaves behind will continue to touch people and hopefully continue to influence the world for the better long into the future.

In loving memory: Antioch College, 1850-2009.

Second Post: More About Me

Apart from my activism and social justice studies, I am a major geek—not a tech geek; a genre geek. Science fiction/fantasy is my beat: literature (on audiobook if I can get it), movies, TV, and very occasionally video games.

My biggest fandom is actually Star Wars, which I was first introduced to when I was five or six years old. I have somewhat controversial views on the films (in that I love the prequels to the exact same extent that I love the original trilogy), and raging hatred for <i>The New Jedi Order: Star by Star</i>, <i>Legacy of the Force</i>, and the <i>Legacy</i> comics. I happen to feel that (at least where the Star Wars universe is concerned) killing off good main characters exponentially damages the value of the story. I just barely accepted Chewbacca’s death at the beginning of <i>New Jedi Order</i>, but Anakin Solo’s <i>Star by Star</i>, Mara Jade Skywalker’s in <i>Legacy of the Force: Sacrilege</i>, and Darth Shallow-Imitation-Vader’s in <i>Legacy of the Force: Insipid</i> were massively out of line, and they severely detract from my enjoyment of <i>any</i> Star Wars media at this point. (Also, if the nickname wasn’t already a big enough hint, I found Jacen Solo’s fall to the Dark Side incredibly stupid and completely out of character.) … I dislike the <i>Legacy</i> comics because they fix the future of the original trilogy characters ahead of time; because the future they fix is so bleak, where all the heroes’ accomplishments have been swept away less than a century later; and because the main characters on their best days just barely qualify as mediocre, and the protagonist in particular is an unlikeable git. At this point, it’s very much a love/hate relationship I have with the Star Wars franchise, though remarkably, not because of anything George Lucas has done directly. I’m probably one of that minority of people in the world who still sincerely wishes Lucas would get around to making that sequel trilogy already. If he ends up rendering <i>Star by Star</i>, <i>Legacy of the Force</i> and their ilk non-canon in the process, so much the better.

One of the good things to come out of my association with the Star Wars Expanded Universe though was my introduction to science fiction writer Timothy Zahn. He’s got his issues, to be sure, and he rarely wades into deep emotional or intellectual territory—his strengths as a writer are good characterization, strong complex plots, use of characters’ creativity in problem-solving, and easy readability. Outside of his Star Wars work, my favorite Zahn books that I’ve read so far are <i>The Icarus Hunt</i>, a standalone sci-fi mystery; and the Quadrail series, a multi-volume sci-fi noir/action thriller.

Around the same time I first got into Star Wars, my father read me <i>The Hobbit</i>, and later the <i>Lord of the Rings</i> trilogy, and I’ve been hooked on that, too. It’s deeply problematic in many respects, but I still love the story, the characters, and the sense Tolkien manages to evoke of Middle Earth as a real place with real history—something I’ve rarely if ever encountered to such a profound degree in other writers’ work. I adore the Peter Jackson films (also not perfect) and am giddily excited for his adaptation of <i>The Hobbit</i>.

My third major fandom is the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett, along with the non-Discworld book <i>Good Omens</i> he co-wrote with Neil Gaiman. Pratchett’s writing is hysterical, his characterization marvelous, his plots brilliant (at their best—at their worst they’re tolerably good), and he often tackles some pretty weighty philosophical issues with a substantial degree of sophistication (he sometimes lapses into just being didactic, but that’s the exception, not the rule). Sometimes, his stories can also be deeply touching.

My latest big fandom is Doctor Who. My favorite episodes are pretty much all from the new series, but my favorite Doctor is the fifth (played by Peter Davison), followed by the second (Patrick Troughton), followed by the Seventh (Sylvester McCoy), with the Fourth (Tom Baker, a perennial favorite) and Tenth (David Tennant) tying for fourth, and the first (William Hartnell) a mere step behind. I don’t actively dislike the others (well, maybe Colin Baker and Christopher Eccleston occasionally), I just don’t like them as much. I won’t discuss the show too much here, as I have reams of material already written about it which I’ll probably report from my livejournal account at some point.

I’m into numerous other fandoms, but those are my top four, and after them it’s a considerable step down to the next batch. I have two more fiction writers whose output (or some fraction thereof) I greatly enjoy.

The first is the late British young adult fantasy author Diana Wynne Jones. I first came across her work in <i>Dark Lord of Derkholm</i>, which was inspired by her spoof travel guide <i>The Tough Guide to Fantasyland</i>. My other favorites among her work include <i>Howl’s Moving Castle</i>, and some of the “Chrestomanci” books (<i>Charmed Life</i>, <i>The Lives of Christopher Chant</i>, and <i>Conrad’s Fate</i>, to be exact.) She doesn’t write down to her readers at all, and I love how wonderfully complex her plots can get, and many of her stories are delightfully imaginative. That said, I find the quality of her works to be very uneven, and some of them—like the last one I read, <i>A Tale of Time City</i>—are just plain boring.

My most recent amazing discovery is an Australian young adult fiction author named Melina Marchetta. I’ll be posting my own reflections on highlights from her work soon enough, but I’ll get you started with the review which first introduced me to her (<a href=”http://ferretbrain.com/articles/article-384“><i>On the Jellicoe Road</i> review</a>), and another from the same site of her first fantasy novel (<a href=”http://ferretbrain.com/articles/article-491”><i>Finnikin of the Rock</i> review</a>). Apart from her awesome plots and characterization, Marchetta writes on a level which provokes the deepest emotional responses I’ve encountered in any work of fiction, bar none. (Rage at the people behind <i>Star by Star</i> and <i>Legacy of the Force</i> for ruining my favorite fandom doesn’t count.)

So yeah, I consume an awful lot of speculative fiction; I also produce a little of it, and hope to do more as time passes. I’m still a fledgling writer at this point, but I intend to keep pushing forward and eventually get some of my stories published and disseminated publicly.

In the meantime, I write reviews and reflection pieces, most of them related to genre fiction. I expect such material to take up somewhere between 80% and 98% (give or take %1.8) of my posts to this account.

I’ll be back with that … at some point, but I think I’ve now said enough for one day. Catch you later.

Inaugural Post: Happy May Day

I haven’t made my presence felt much on wordpress since I created this account. My livejournal account is already a handful, and while I’d like to translate a lot of entries from that account over here (especially book, tv, and movie reviews), doing so would take a lot of time, something which for me is always in short supply.

However, I thought I’d write this one post in celebration of May Day, and introduce myself in the process. In fact, let’s do that first.

About me – Demographics: I’m a white, straight, nondisabled, cissexed, cisgendered, twentysomething male US citizen; I find the term “middle class” obscenely inaccurate, but while my family’s economic situation is less than comfortable, it’s well above the poverty line, and you could certainly call us middle class in social terms. In other words, I am awash in just about every kind of privilege imaginable. When it comes to the privilege pyramid, I am the 10%, perhaps even the 1% (but definitely not the 0.1%).

About me – Beliefs: I believe that there is some amount of good (of humanity, if you will) in all human beings, what my Quaker upbringing refers to as “that of God in everyone.” I believe that even the most monstrous of human beings can still be reached and reasoned with (after they’ve been constrained from ever doing anyone else more harm, of course).

I believe that all human beings are inherently equal, and therefore due certain baseline accords, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of self-actualization wherever it does not cause a threat to their community or any other member thereof. I further believe that as a corollary to the above principle, all human beings are also due the material and institutional support to maintain these freedoms without fear.

The turn-of-the-century anarchist, Voltairine de Cleyre, expresses my views quite eloquently, in fact:

<blockquote>Each human being, by mere birth, has a birthright in this Earth, and all its productions. And if they do not receive it, then it is they who are injured, and it is not the pauper, oh inexpressibly wicked world, it is the well-to-do who are the criminals. It matters not in the least, if the poor be improvident, drunken, or evil in any way. Food and drink, roof and clothes are the inalienable right of every child born into the light. If the world does not provide it freely – not as a grudging gift, but as a right, as the son of the house sits down to breakfast – then is the world mad. But the world is not mad, only in ignorance.</blockquote>

I also believe in the democratic principle: that the best people to make decisions which deeply affect ordinary people’s lives are those people themselves. From this it can quickly be showed that the socio-politico-economic system we have here in the United States is not and has never been democratic, and (barring a fundamental change in structure), it never will be.

My application of these principles and research into the workings of the world as it exists at present have led me into many political philosophies and movements including: feminism, homeschooling/unschooling, humanism, pacifism, anti-racism, socialism, queer theory, disability rights, communism, and anarchy. I believe we, as a species, can build a world where all human beings really do live in equality, peace and harmony—but it’s going to take a lot of work and involve a lot of nasty struggle before we get there. I also broadly agree with environmentalism and animal rights, but they don’t capture my interest the way the other ones do.

Social justice is therefore one of my overriding passions in life, and in my early twenties, I can already see that it will be a major thread of my life’s work.

Given all that, I’ve been following Occupy Wall Street and the movement that’s sprung up around it with a substantial degree of cautious optimism. It’s wonderful to see so many people in this country calling out our f***ed-up socio-politico-economic system and organizing for real change. On the other hand, from my (largely outsider) perspective, it looks like the movement still has some major issues to work out regarding white privilege and male privilege—and left unaddressed, those sorts of things can tear a movement apart. Also, the system that activists here in the US are up against is so powerful and so deeply entrenched, my mind boggles at the thought of ever actually mounting a serious threat to it. In my view, the Occupy movement is most likely either to splinter and die (through direct state repression if nothing else) or get co-opted, push through some maybe New Deal-esque reforms, and leave the corrupt foundations in place.

… But then, my previous political forecasts have often proved spectacularly wrong, so who am I to say? Certainly, we’ll never achieve justice on this planet if we never bother to try. So even if it does ultimately fail to bring about the change we need, it’s vital that movements like Occupy Wall Street exist and continue to struggle as best they can for as long as they can. Sooner or later, maybe one of them will get it right, and then … well, then we’ll start to see what human civilization really looks like.

I haven’t personally been active much in Occupy Wall Street (or any of the other branches), though that may change over the summer. And since I’m not presently employed or enrolled in school, I can’t really participate in the General Strike called for today, though I have taken the minor steps necessary to insure that I don’t participate in any commercial transactions.

That said, my heart and my mind are with everyone participating in the General Strike, working in solidarity with the strike, or just struggling against oppression, anywhere in the world. Although it’s not much celebrated in the US, May Day has been a major anniversary in social justice circles (not to mention a couple movements gone horribly wrong) for well over a century.

I’ve tried to come up with a couple pithy words of wisdom to mark this occasion, but everything I can think of just sounds too forced. So instead, I’ll wrap up with two quotes from <i>Marx in Soho</i>, by the late historian Howard Zinn, wherein the title character shares some excellent suggestions for how to improve quality of life on this planet:

<blockquote>Wipe out these ridiculous national boundaries! No more passports, no more visas, no more border guards or immigration quotas. No more flags and pledges of allegiance to some artificial entity called a nation. Workers of the world, unite!</blockquote>

Amen, comrade. And then this:

<blockquote>Let’s not speak anymore about capitalism, socialism. Let’s just speak of using the incredible wealth of the earth for human beings. Give people what they need: food, medicine, clean air, pure water, trees and grass, pleasant homes to live in, some hours of work, more hours of leisure. Don’t ask who deserves it. Every human being deserves it.</blockquote>

Hell yeah.

Struggle on, comrades. There’s still a world to win.

Afterthought

Gosh, with an introduction like that, this sounds like it’s shaping up to be a political blog, doesn’t it? Well that’s not how I intend it. Certainly, my political views will inform my commentary, and while I’m open to disagreement, I will not censor my own unpopular opinions, nor will I tolerate traffic which is injurious toward traditionally oppressed groups of people.

That said, my main agenda with this account is not to talk about my politics or anything super-serious like that; it’s mainly about having fun with a completely different category of interest. More on that in my next post.

For now, solidarity, comrades! Peace out.