Archive for May 25th, 2014

By Duganz

Long time and no see around these parts. What can I say? I moved away from Missoula a few years ago and with that came a sense of staying out of the conversation while Liz, JC and J-Girl continued bringing up progressive ideas in the blogosphere.

Not that I’ve been silent. I just haven’t been blogging here.

Recently I became involved in a the first ever Montana Secular Summit and I am really excited about it. Finally a bunch of secular Montanans will be gathering to talk about the issues facing our state, and how to keep the great wall of church and state present. I am so excited to be a part of it, and I really want to hear from 4&20 readers and hope to see a few in Helena on June 21st. Dr. David Orenstein will be there as a keynote speaker, and will surely be an entertaining guest. And then there will also be a lot of secular Montanans hanging out and being their lovely selves.

Well, why is that important? Because according to Pew Research, 20percent of Montana is without religion. That’s a lot of people in a state represented (currently, ick) by Steve “the world is 6,000 years old” Daines.

So, I hope that you’ll join me and a bunch of folks from around our great state as we celebrate being good without god, and just being humans.

If you’d like I will answer as many questions as I can about atheism, humanism and secularism should you leave comments on this post. Otherwise, have a nice day and please consider coming to Helena on June 21st to celebrate freedom and freethought.

by lizard

Memorial day is suppose to be a time where we, as a nation, remember the men (and women) who died in the violent theaters of war; the socially acceptable way to harness and direct the violent capacity of mankind.

This Memorial day weekend is different. Man’s capacity for violence is under the microscope thanks to a shooting rampage in Santa Barbara. The man pulling the trigger in this latest episode of horrific gun violence is Elliot Rodger, a 22 year old autistic rich kid who turned his inability to connect with women into a shooting spree that left 6 people dead and over a dozen injured. In the wake of this tragedy, the digital footprint of this disturbed young man has sparked a firestorm of criticism toward the mens rights movement (and subcultures of that movement, like pick-up artists). This from Slate:

On Friday night, a gunman killed six people in Santa Barbara, and the killer himself was found dead with a gunshot wound to his head. Soon after police began investigating the crime, 22-year-old student Elliot Rodger emerged as the main suspect. Like many modern mass murders, this one left a robust digital trail, including a video Rodger recently posted to YouTube where he parks his BMW in front of a bank of palm trees and describes his plan to seek retribution from the women who have rejected him. Rodger calls himself the “perfect guy” and a “supreme gentleman” who’s been overlooked by women who prefer “obnoxious brutes.” Then he lays out his plans to “enter the hottest sorority house of [the University of California, Santa Barbara], and … slaughter every single spoiled, stuck-up blonde slut I see inside there.” To “all those girls I’ve desired so much,” he says, “you will finally see that I am the superior one, the true alpha male.”

Rodger’s language is familiar to anyone who’s spent time exploring the Pick-Up Artist or Men’s Rights Activist communities. Rodger was a “Nice Guy,” a man who feels he is entitled to sex based on positive personality traits known only to him. (“I’ve wanted love, affection, adoration. You think I’m unworthy of it. That’s a crime that can never be forgiven,” he said). He aspired to be an “Alpha,” the most attractive, dominant man in his group, but felt he’s been wrongly dismissed as an inferior “Beta.” Pick-Up Artists, by the way, refer to women they would like to have sex with as their “targets.”

On Twitter the hashtag #YesAllWomen quickly emerged as a way to catalogue the pervasive harassment women experience. Here’s a quote from the author Margaret Atwood:

“Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.” ~ Margaret Atwood #NotAllMen #YesAllWomen

Though the criticism of much of this men’s rights movement is very warranted, there is a longstanding crisis with the male identity that needs some more honest engagement. I think that engagement started happening with a book by the poet Robert Bly, titled Iron John: A Book About Men (1990). This book helped spark the Mythopoetic Men’s Movement:

Because most men no longer perform masculine rituals, mythopoets assert that men have mutated into destructive, hypermasculine chauvinists, or, in the opposite direction, have become too feminized. The mythopoetic men performed rituals at these gatherings, which were meant to imitate those performed by tribal societies when men initiated boys into a deeply essential natural manhood. The movement emphasized the importance of including multiple generations of men in the rituals, so that the men could learn about masculinity from those who were older and wiser.[1]

Characteristic of the early mythopoetic movement was a tendency to retell myths, legends and folktales, and engage in their exegesis as a tool for personal insight. Using frequent references to archetypes as drawn from Jungian analytical psychology, the movement focused on issues of gender role, gender identity and wellness for the modern man (and woman). Advocates would often engage in storytelling with music, these acts being seen as a modern extension to a form of “new age shamanism” popularized by Michael Harner at approximately the same time. The movement sought to empower men by means of equating archetypal characters with their own emotions and abilities. For instance, Michael Messner describes the concept of “Zeus energy” as emphasizing “male authority accepted for the good of the community”. Beliefs about the emotional system based in archetypes of great men, mythopoets sought to channel these characters in themselves, so that they could unleash their “animal-males”. This group primarily analyzed the archetypes of King, Warrior, Magician, Lover and Wildman.[1]

Here is a quote from Bly’s book:

”During the fifties, for example, the American character appeared with some consistency that became a model of manhood adopted by many men: the Fifties male. He got to work early, labored responsibly, supported his wife and children and admired discipline. Reagan is a sort of mummified version of this dogged type. This sort of man didn’t see women’s souls well, but he appreciated their bodies; and his view of culture and America’s part in it was boyish and optimistic. Many of his qualities were strong and positive, but underneath the charm and bluff there was, and there remains, much isolation, deprivation, and passivity. Unless he has an enemy, he isn’t sure that he is alive. The Fifties man was supposed to like football, be aggressive, stick up for the United States, never cry, and always provide…. During the sixties, another sort of man appeared. The waste and violence of the Vietnam war made men question whether they knew what an adult male really was. If manhood meant Vietnam, did they want any part of it? Meanwhile, the feminist movement encouraged men to actually look at women, forcing them to become conscious of concerns and sufferings that the Fifties male labored to avoid.”

Masculinity is not a de facto negative trait, but as the roles of providing and protecting are compromised by the ravages of late-stage capitalism, the angst of not being able to fulfill the conventional masculine roles seems to breed anger, resentment, and violence. While feminism has made impressive strides in redefining the role of women in society, I think the biggest failure of feminism has been the reluctance to acknowledge what that redefinition means for men.

By focusing attention on the negative aspects of masculinity, the gender reset that needed to happen but didn’t may actually be pushing men into seeking hyper-masculine identities to compensate for the confusion of a perceived cultural impotence, especially when it comes to the economic role as provider.

As the father of two young boys, I get to model my interpretation of masculinity for them. For me, that means making sure they understand it’s ok to experience the full range of emotions, especially those that make us cry. The relationship I have with my wife is also critical, because how my wife and I work together provides the social cues that our boys will take with them in their interactions with the opposite sex. It’s a tremendous responsibility.

It’s unfortunate that tragedy seems to be the driving catalyst for these conversations. I’m interested to hear what others think.

by lizard

Forbes has a cute title for an article about the 400 billion dollar gas deal between Russia and China: A Game of Spigots? The article describes the deal as an opportunity for both respective leaders to strengthen ailing national oil companies:

Russia to China gas deal is more than just a story of global markets and geopolitics (see my colleague Ken Medlock’s piece on the deal’s impact on global and Asian gas markets, and Jim Krane’s piece on global geopolitical implications of the negotiations). The gas pipeline between China and Russia also represents concrete personal achievements that Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping can point to in defending their authoritarian policies against criticism from home and abroad. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the gas deal is a game of spigots: a well-timed effort by both Russia and China to simultaneously inject resources in to ailing national oil and gas companies (NOCs) in exchange for new political control over these flagship state enterprises.

The idea of national oil companies might sound crazy to rabid Capitalists, but when you look at the lovely set-up Big Oil has in the states, the craziness is how American taxpayers subsidize the most profitable industry in the world:

US oil companies earn about $3 billion in profits every week, yet get $4 billion in taxpayer subsidies every year. In the first quarter of 2011, Big Oil’s profits were up 38% from the first quarter of 2010.

The industry’s outsize profits didn’t stop it from squealing like a stuck pig over proposals to trim $2 billion from its annual subsidies and use the revenue to reduce the deficit by about $21 billion over 10 years.

The oil companies tried to characterize the end of their subsidies as a “tax hike,” despite growing and widespread recognition across the political spectrum that tax breaks are just another form of government spending, one of several ways to provide direct support for an industry. Before becoming Speaker, John Boehner (R-Ohio) admitted that “tax deductions, credits, and special carve-outs . . . what Washington sometimes calls tax cuts are really just poorly disguised spending programs ….”

Subsidizing the oil industry is bad enough. Sending soldiers to Iraq to kill and die for the oil industry is beyond obscene. Here’s Mike Whitney’s latest, titled Iraq: the Biggest Petroleum Heist in History? Here’s an excerpt:

Dr Abdulhay Yahya Zalloum, an international oil consultant and economist …(said) he believes western oil companies have successfully acquired the lions’ share of Iraq’s oil, “but they gave a little piece of the cake for China and some of the other countries and companies to keep them silent”. (Aljazeera)

How do you like that? These guys operate just like the Mafia. The Bossman pays off China with a few million barrels, and China keeps its mouth shut. Nice. Everyone gets “their cut” so they don’t go blabbing to the media about the ripoff that’s taking place in broad daylight. The stench of corruption is overpowering.

And here’s something else you won’t see in the media. In a White House press release, the Obama administration announced that they would continue to support Iraq’s “efforts to develop the energy sector” in order to “help boost Iraq’s oil production.”….

According to Assim Jihad, spokesman for Iraq’s ministry of oil, “Iraq has a goal of raising its oil production capacity to 12m bpd by 2017, which would place it in the top echelon of global producers.” (Aljazeera)

“12 million barrels-per-day by 2017″?

That makes this the biggest petroleum heist in history. And we’re supposed to believe that the oil bigwigs didn’t know anything about this before the war? What a crock! I’ll bet you even money the CEOs and their lackeys figured out that Saudi Arabia was running out of gas, so they decided to pick up stakes and move their operations to good old Mesopotamia. That’s why they put their money on Bush and Cheney, because they knew that two former oil men would do the heavy lifting once they got shoehorned into the White House. The whole thing was a set-up from the get-go, right down to the 5 shady Supremes who suspended the voting in Florida and crowned Bush emperor in 2000. The whole thing was probably mapped out years in advance.

Big oil runs everything in America. People talk about the power of Wall Street and Israel, but oil is still king. They run it all, and they own it all. And “what they say, goes.”

Too simplistic? Maybe. But it’s hard to overstate the influence of Big Oil.

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