upwards mobility

Actually, that’s kind of an interesting cultural thing in Killing Stalking. Korea was a very poor country until the 90s, and these days it’s experiencing rapid economic growth, and tons and tons of people are moving into Seoul for better opportunities. The fact that Sangwoo and Bum live outside Seoul already sort of implies that they’re…well, not poor exactly, but getting left behind in a country that’s rapidly upward mobile. People have asked “How can Sangwoo afford that house?” But he probably couldn’t sell that house even if he wanted to.


full article


Eighteen years ago, on New Year’s Eve, David Fisher visited an old farm in western Massachusetts, near the small town of Conway. No one was farming there at the time, and that’s what had drawn Fisher to the place. He was scouting for farmland.

“I remember walking out [to the fallow fields] at some point,” Fisher recalls. “And in the moonlight – it was all snowy – it was like a blank canvas.”

On that blank canvas, Fisher’s mind painted a picture of what could be there alongside the South River. He could see horses tilling the land – no tractors, no big machinery – and vegetable fields, and children running around.

This is David Fisher’s American Dream. It may not be the conventional American Dream of upward economic mobility. But dreams like his have a long tradition in this country. Think of the Puritans and the Shakers and the Amish. These American dreams are the uncompromising pursuit of a difficult ideal.

By Returning To Farming’s Roots, He Found His American Dream

Photos: Dan Charles/NPR

@frozen-delight I saw you were interested in the whole Dean as Other & Dean as Feminine parts of my thesis? :)

I’m making this as a separate post because I wasn’t sure if hijacking someone’s (excellent) meta wouldn’t be rude.

I can’t exactly copy paste from the thesis because unfortunately it was written in my native language. Also, the hypothetical reader of the thesis was supposed to be a person who is not familiar with the show so I had to bring up a lot of stuff that is very well known to us, fans, so that would be too much talking about the obvious, I guess.

Dean as the Other (and the outcast) 

The starting point to writing about Dean in terms of being the Other, was a comparison of similarities with Dean from Kerouac’s „On the Road”. It kinda went from there.

I focused on the society-related aspect of it within the diegesis, and because of that, I brought the most attention to the early seasons. I felt like later on the Dean – society dichotomy kind of went away within the narrative as progressively the Winchesters were mostly interacting with other people and beings that were related to the supernatural world.

Dean was both marked as the Other by society and by himself – from the outsider’s point of view, he stands against everything that constitutes the ideal american life style. He detests the middle class and the „values” it represents, which osciliate between consumptionism and superficial morality. The main and first reason why he’s marked as such, is of course, being a hunter of the supernatural, which, in his case, is related to socio-economical degradation: there was a peaceful, middle class-ish life in Kansas (a conservative state which only stronger resonates with the traditional american ideal) and suddenly there was no home, financial issues, constant danger and a dysfunctional family with the extra bonus of alcohol problems and violence. And it’s important to note that while Sam doesn’t remember the past and the change, Dean does. It only adds to his trauma and vision of self that completely differs from what is considered „normal.” Dean learns everything from John and excels at it – a history of violence, lack of a stable job and firm emotional connections, living on the Road, acquiring money through gambling, using fake credit cards and presumably even prostitution (not confirmed canon, just Jensen’s words) – all of that places Dean even below the „blue collar”. To add to that, most of the time he can’t even explain his action to people because that would mean having to explain the supernatural. All of it makes the society percieve him as unpredictable and dangerous, as something that disrupts he suburban life harmony, as a threat. Makes him feel like he doesn’t fit (as shown in “Bugs” and “What is and what should never be”, “Exile on main street”). People distance themselves from him (even Sam, who craved normalcy and upward mobility, and in no way wanted to become like his brother), Dean distances himself from them. In a way, he isn’t even a part of the family unit – Sam always was the son, Dean was the „tool.” In practice, until Sam left for Stanford, it wasn’t „John, Sam and Dean.” It was „John, Sam and that.” Inside the hunting community, he didn’t exactly fit either – didn’t fit the hunter ideal – too sensitive, too pretty, too different.

I also find it interesting how it’s only Dean who gets repeatedly pictured as an animal. Dog!Dean is the most blatant example but not the most interesting in the context of his otherness and attempts to evoke some kind of beast-related asociations in the audience. It’s one thing that Sonny’s called him Dee-dawg and that dog imagery is strongly related to Dean.What really gets to me is that in „Dream a Little Dream of Me” Dean circles dream!Dean (or should I say, the other Dean) like an animal that prepares for an attack (also, the exchange between the two suggests Dean doesn’t exactly see himself as human). And of course, there’s „On the Head of a Pin”, where Dean is not only referred to as „Grasshopper”, but is told that he’s been carved into a whole new animal. Also, I would argue that the fact only Dean was made to become a torturer on the show, amplifies his otherness, in a way. No other character can relate to this sort of damaging experience. That particular burden makes him different than any other human on SPN.

The narrative also presents him as the Other through making other characters the subjects that don’t get their basic agency get meddled with on every available occasion, while Dean has it denied all the time. His choices, emotions and reactions aren’t supposed to be independent, but always are meant to be relative to the rest of his family (mostly). In this aspect, he doesn’t get to be an autonomous being. His loved ones are the Absolute, he is the Opposite.

As for Dean seeing himself as something else – all of it is highlighted in „Skin”, both in dialogue between the brothers and by the shapeshifter!Dean revealing Dean’s secrets, which, literally presents Dean as the Other, seeing how it’s Dean’s skin the monster chooses and how it thinks Dean and it are very much alike.

 Dean & Femininity

The most important and narrative-affecting part of coding Dean as feminine, is him being a victim of parentification (the mechanism affected Sam and John as well, but differently). Dean became Sam’s mother in all the possibile ways. In regards to John, Dean in many aspects stepped into the stereotypically female spouse’s place. In both cases it was instrumental and emotional: Dean was the emotional caregiver, the one who created the „homely warmth”, the one who passed on the tradition, the one who was supposed to keep Sam and John healthy, he was the one who prepared food and made sure there would be food in the first place. He was the mediator between Sam and his father. During conflicts between the two, Dean always shielded Sam with his own body. Symbolically, because of the deal Dean made, he not only gave his life away for Sam, he became his mother even in the aspect of literally giving Sam life.

Even Dean’s personal heaven is a part of the coding. The things that Dean’s soul craves for the most and what he remembers most fondly are things that are associated with women – his heaven consisted of having a happy family, of love, of giving and recieving care. It’s a stark contrast with Sam’s heaven which represented things associated with masculinity – aiming for independence and both social and economical success that would put him in position above other people, wanting to be respected, in general.

Dean i also almost always mirrored not by men, but by women (and also obligatory by mothers, like Linda Tran). Working kind of like Jung’s animas, the female characters are an expression of the emotions and behaviors that Dean doesn’t accept in himself, those he doesn’t want to talk about, those that are supposed to show not tell about his state and those that might also be seen as foreshadowing. Since I was looking into the pat tern with a very specific context in mind, I chose Betsy, Charlie and Suzie Lee as my examples. Since the first two have been analysed to death both in fandom and in my thesis, I’ll Just briefly bring up Suzie Lee since I’ve never seen her mentioned. I read her, in short, as a mirror to Dean deciding to return to his old behaviors and mechanisms, deciding to abandon his personal needs to again become an effective tool (part commentary, part foreshadowing; all of it due to guilt, as always. Because the day the spn narrative decides to not blame Dean for something and make him feel bad, is the day you have to yell ‘christo’ at it.  But that’s a rant for another time). Suzie’s shame about a successful career in the porn industry can be seen as a mirror to Dean exceling in hunting, in using violence, in using his body as a work tool, in general. Both are also a taboo. That would be the cliff notes version, I suppose.

I’m sure there were more instances in all the seasons, in all the possibile contexts, though.

One of the most irritating responses to many of my posts is this assumption that eventually most poor people will stop being poor.

It’s not true in general (it’s not uncommon for some people to move from slightly below the official line to slightly over, but significant upward mobility is super rare and rather fragile), but also, these responses are often specifically directed at me, a person who, barring massive systematic change, will be poor every day for the rest of my life.

I’m a disabled person on SSI, there’s no realistic expectation (exempting things like all out revolution) that I will ever again in my life not be in poverty.  SSI rates are well below the poverty level.

Who the fuck do you think you’re talking to when you act like poverty is a temporary thing?  I was born poor and it’s likely I’ll die poor with very, very few years of my life spent otherwise.  And that’s many people’s reality.

“Wait until you’re not poor” means never for many of us.  Stop pretending otherwise.

upon rewatch i have come to the conclusion that wendy and lucy (2008) dir. kelly reichardt is an underrated masterpiece that not only showcases the heartbreaking story of a woman and her dog but also explores themes like the difficulty of mobility for women, the patriarchal societal norms that subordinate women from upward mobility, and the crippling amount of safety women are allotted in public spaces

The “educators are petty bourgeois” argument pops up on here a lot, and it bores me immensely. It invariably treats the University as a monolith which has the same class composition and economic function today as it had a hundred years ago, all of which is plainly false. It flatly ignores the explosion of anti-debt and anti-fee organization among undergraduates and agitation regarding wages among graduate students and adjunct faculty. It ultimately writes off a large chunk of the working class as class enemies of no consequence, and a major site of class struggle as a bourgeois stronghold. It is deeply irresponsible.

So, on this note, I’d like make some remarks about the class character of universities in general. Speaking broadly and schematically, we might summarize the development of the University in three stages. In the initial, aristocratic stage, the University serves as a place for the sons of propertied families to be trained up as gentlemen. It is in this stage that the University functions most unambiguously as a class instrument.

In the second, liberal stage, the University becomes a site of purported upward mobility: those with sufficient merit (primarily but not exclusively the white petit bourgeoisie) are invited to join the ranks of a cultural elite. This is the stage generally associated with the expansion of the University and its “golden age,” and this is the stage that commentators of all stripes like to pretend that we are still in or that we might return to.

The present, neoliberal stage of the University, however, admits no easy retreat. At this stage, the University is actively proletarianizing. Undergraduates are increasingly debt encumbered, their labor increasingly expropriated via unpaid or low-paid jobs that supposedly give them opportunities to “network.” Grad students and adjuncts are loaded up with poorly remunerated shitwork. (The dwindling caste of tenured and tenure-track professors, meanwhile, are increasingly incorporated into the University’s administrative apparatus. They are effectively converted from labor aristocrats to bureaucrats and middle managers.)

Needless to say, this trajectory of development is a rough sketch, and it does not apply evenly across the board. Ivy League and prestigious liberal arts schools especially are nonsynchronous holdouts, concretizations of the second stage. This is not representative of most universities at this point, however; especially not of public universities or universities outside the West. The neoliberal moment has manifested in the overwhelming majority of these.

The University is not immune to diffuse trends of proletarianization, the growing precarity of labor, capital’s totalizing consumption of social life, and so on. To act as though it is and treat it as a fortress occupied solely by petty bourgeois reactionaries is silly, outdated, and parochial.

The Quiet Social Crisis: Land Shortages and Popular Unrest in the Iron Islands

A feudal society in the midst of a chronic land shortage is a society with a powerful downward pull for everyone who isn’t a great lord. Lords and landowners are free to charge their tenants higher rents for land use, while an increased population of landless laborers means workers face more competition when selling their labor power, which lowers compensation. As landowning families naturally concentrate ownership to avoid diluting economic and military power, this results in landless cadet branches doomed to fall in status. More mouths to feed and stagnant cultivation means lowered food security and increased danger of famine. Prospects of upward mobility, already low, become nigh impossible. The families at the very top of the hierarchy therefore become richer, while everyone else sees their lives become poorer and more precarious. For a geographically small country with a very concentrated population and few prospects for emigration, land shortages would be incredibly destabilizing, increasing social tensions and warping the nation’s political system. The glimpse of the Iron Islands’ provided in A Clash of Kings and A Feast of Crows paints them as just such a society, a kingdom brought to the brink of dissolution by decades of overpopulation and chronic land shortage.

Our first hints of the Iron Island’s need for land is the fact that Balon’s Second Rebellion is as much an attempt to seize land as it is an ideological crusade to restore the Old Way. After laying out his plans to invade the North, the Iron King declares: “The [North] shall be ours, forest and field and hall, and we shall make the folk our thralls and salt wives” (CoK Theon II). Aeron Damphair then sanctions the entire undertaking with a prayer: “And the waters of wrath will rise high, and the Drowned God will spread his dominion across the green lands!” (CoK Theon II). The Damphair later recollects of having dreamed of continental conquest after seeing the red star: “We shall sweep over the green lands with fire and sword, root out the seven gods of the septons and the white trees of the northmen…” (FfC Aeron II). It’s not traditional smash and grab Old Way reaving that is on the minds of these supposed traditionalists, it is land acquisition and colonization. Ironmen were already thinking in terms of stealing entire countries before Euron showed up. Even, it turns out, Ironmen opposed to the Old Way.

After Balon’s death Rodrik Harlaw bemoans the madness and stupidity of the Second Rebellion because it means the Ironborn are wasting a perfectly good opportunity to acquire some land nice and legal:

“This dream of kingship is a madness in our blood. I told your father so the first time he rose, and it is more true now than it was then. It’s land we need, not crowns. With Stannis Baratheon and Tywin Lannister contending for the Iron Throne, we have a rare chance to improve our lot. Let us take one side or the other, help them to victory with our fleets, and claim the lands we need from a grateful king.”(FfC Asha)

Rodrik the Reader is often described as pro-peace and anti-war. Yet here he reveals his real position to be more along the lines of anti-rebellion but pro-war, provided the goal of the war is to win land with the sanction of the central government. Hypothetically, had Balon remained a lord, made a deal with the Lannister regime, and then helped to defeat the Starks in exchange for pieces of the North, the Reader would have been in favor. If Lord Rodrik of all people believes a war of conquest and colonization is necessary to improve life on the Iron Islands, then the situation on the Islands must be very serious indeed.

At Aeron’s Kingsmoot there are several more references to the oppressive reality of land shortage and overpopulation. Lord Gylbert Farwynd of Lonely Light promises, with what could be prophecy, madness or parody, to lead the Ironborn across the Sunset Sea to a magical land without want or death, where “every man shall be a king and every wife a queen” (FfC Aeron II). Asha’s plan for ending the war and allying with the North is also a gigantic land swap aimed at addressing the Islands’ land shortages:

“If we hand back Deepwood Motte, Torrhen’s Square, and Moat Cailin, [Lady Glover] says, the northmen will cede us Sea Dragon Point and all the Stony Shore. Those lands are thinly peopled, yet ten times larger than all the isles put together.” (FfC Victarion I)

When Asha addresses the Kingsmoot, she promises the captains and the kings:

“Peace. Land. Victory. I’ll give you Sea Dragon Point and the Stony Shore, black earth and tall trees and stones enough for every younger son to build a hall” (FfC Aeron II).

After going into exile, Asha defends her obsessive interest in Sea Dragon Point by listing its numerous subsistence resources:

“What’s there? I’ll tell you. Two long coastlines, a hundred hidden coves, otters in the lakes, salmon in the rivers, clams along the shore, colonies of seals offshore, tall pines for building ships.” (DwD The Wayward Bride)

And of course, coming at the end of the Kingsmoot, is Euron’s promise to conquer all of Westeros with dragons, which would certainly solve any land crisis.

Capping all of this off, we have the reaction of Nute the Barber when Victarion pleads with him to refuse the lordship of Oakenshield:

Victarion grabbed [Nute the Barber] by the forearm. “Refuse him!”

Nute looked at him as if he had gone mad. “Refuse him? Lands and lordship? Will you make me a lord?” He wrenched his arm away and stood, basking in the cheers. (FfC Victarion II)

Nute is not the sharpest of axes (he thinks the Ironmen can easily hold the Shields for a start), but Andrik the Unsmiling, Maron Volmark, and the no doubt intelligent Harras Harlaw (the Reader’s chosen heir for Ten Towers) accept these bequeathments as well. On the Iron Islands you just don’t say no to land if you’re landless, however risky or potentially poisonous the offer might be.

If the lords and warriors are feeling the land pinch, imagine how stressed the commons must be. Land shortage, intensifying labor competition and the resulting poverty are probably the reasons why so many in the Ironborn laboring class choose to essentially give up and become Drowned Men. Despite the priesthood requiring a second drowning, the wearing of rough clothes, regular exposure to the elements, monastic isolation, and masochistic self-mortification, Aeron finds no shortage of recruits:

Aeron continued on alone, up hills and down vales along a stony track that drew wider and more traveled as he neared the sea. In every village he paused to preach, and in the yards of petty lords as well… Some of those who heard him threw down their hoes and picks to follow, so by the time he heard the crash of waves a dozen men walked behind his horse, touched by god and desirous of drowning. (FfC Aeron I)

It’s also worth remembering that Aeron is himself a fourth born noble son with few responsibilities and little chance of inheriting anything; he is as much a dropout as those farmers and miners. Every landless worker or surplus noble who becomes a Drowned Man means one more speaker calling for the restoration of the Islands through the Old Way (and implicitly criticizing the weakness and impiety of the powers-that-be in the process, which is no doubt satisfying for people driven to such a life by economic disappointment). We’d go so far as to argue that the reactionary fervor of Balon’s reign is less the general sentiment of the Islands’ and more the result of several decades of work by an ever growing cadre of determined activists with literally nothing to lose. As priestly discourse is highly critical of how most of the aristocracy lives (insufficiently Old Way, insufficiently dedicated to the Drowned God), it has considerable revolutionary potential should the priests decide to switch from reforming the political establishment to completely overthrowing it.

Not every poor Islander though has it within themselves to give up and become a wandering priest. Many more apparently turn to thievery or worse and are summarily meted out savage punishment. At the Kingsmoot Erik Ironmaker, also called Erik Anvil-Breaker and Erik the Just, presents himself as a serious law and order candidate who can keep lower class disorder under firm control:

One of [Erik’s] champions lifted [his warhammer] up for all to see; a monstrous thing it was, its haft wrapped in old leather, its head a brick of steel as large as a loaf of bread.

I can’t count how many hands I’ve smashed to pulp with that hammer…but might be some thief could tell you. I can’t say how many heads I’ve crushed against my anvil neither, but there’s some widows could.” (FfC Aeron II).

This is a very revealing boast. Lowborn murderers and rebels are savagely put to death everywhere, but this systematic maiming of convicted thieves is notably extreme. On the mainland simple thievery is traditionally punished by the amputation of one finger per theft. While severe, the loss of a single finger to a hot knife is not as debilitating or painful as the loss of a whole hand to a warhammer. It is also notable that it is the sheer quantity of such punishments, literally uncountable by Erik’s recollection, which gives the Ironmaker claim to being a just man.

To illustrate just how out of the ordinary this Ironborn “justice” truly is, it necessary to compare and contrast it with green lander examples. Young Stannis Baratheon “shortened” the fingers of Davos’ left hand by cutting them off at the first joint, but this was punishment a lifetime of confessed smuggling, which Davos perceives as fair. It is nowhere comparable to destroying a whole hand for a theft. At the other end of the scale, Joffrey sadistically forces a cheeky smallfolk singer to choose between losing all his fingers or his tongue for a politically offensive song, linking the loss of usable hands for minor offenses with the worst sort of judicial tyranny.

But the closest example to Erik’s justice is the Maidenpool court wherein Lord Randyll Tarly capriciously and disproportionately punished a onetime sept looter with the loss of seven fingers, the rough equivalent of a hand and a half. Tarly is a brutal military man and tyrannical patriarch, quite comfortable with harsh rulings, but this judgment is, in contrast with Joffrey, no mere sadistic whim. The man robbed a deserted sept, a blasphemous act that in the eyes of some would put him well below the character of a common thief. The widespread despoliation of septs has in turn caused considerable unrest among the peasantry and priests of the Seven Kingdoms, resulting in the Sparrow movement, and Tarly no doubt intended to quiet said unrest by savagely punishing conveniently powerless desecrators. This is compounded by the fact that only a little while ago Maidenpool and the surrounding lands were in a state of anarchy owing to the depravations of reavers, rebels, outlaws, and broken men. Lastly, the approach of Winter promises widespread famine, which means Tarly is likely setting examples that he hopes will deter future crimes against order and discipline. Tarly’s harsh ruling is therefore driven by massive social insecurity and the fear of widespread lower class disorder. We can infer from this that the hand crushing Ironborn elite are similarly fearful of disorder spreading through their own commons and have been so for most of the last century, Erik “the Just” being eighty-eight years old and still at it.

These twin factors, a cadre of potentially revolutionary priests and a restless commons, come to the fore after the Kingsmoot, when Aeron threatens to mobilize the common folk against the ungodly King chosen by the lords and captains:

“The ironborn shall be waves,” the Damphair said. “Not the great and lordly, but the simple folk, tillers of the soil and fishers of the sea. The captains and the kings raised Euron up, but the common folk shall tear him down. I shall go to Great Wyk, to Harlaw, to Orkmont, to Pyke itself. In every town and village shall my words be heard. No godless man may sit the Seastone Chair!” (FfC Victarion II)

In response to these threats, Euron secretly abducts Aeron and tasks Erik Ironmaker (Erik the Hand-Smasher) with rounding up and suppressing the Drowned Men and all other priests. This purge is performed with ruthless efficiency; the only priests who are spared shackles and what is probably water torture in the dungeons of Pyke (being “put to the question”) are those who successfully hide (DwD Asha I). That the lords and captains support such risky violence against the people’s revered aesthetic holy men with nary a protest indicates that the Damphair’s threat is taken very seriously indeed. It is also clear that the upper class as a whole gravely fears lower class unrest and revolt and is willing to go to any length to suppress it. This in turn reveals that underneath the brittle façade of religious and cultural unity there are unbridgeable class divisions which, stoked by land shortages, are increasingly verging on outright civil war.

Confronting Anti-Black Racism in The Arab World (Important Read)

In response to an essay I wrote recently regarding the “essential blackness” of the Palestinian struggle, I received this reaction, among others: “What about Arab anti-black racism? Or the Arab slave trade?”

The Arab slave trade is a fact of history and anti-black racism is a fact of current reality, a shameful thing that must be confronted in Arab societies. Though I claim no expertise on the subject, I think that applying notions of racism as it exists in the US will preclude a real understanding of the subject in the Arab world.

I spent much of much of my youth in the Arab world and I do not recall having a race consciousness until I came to the United States at the age of 13. My knowledge of Arab anti-black racism comes predominantly from Arab Americans. Like other immigrant communities, they adopt the prevailing racist sentiments of the power structure in the US, which decidedly holds African-Americans in contempt.

This attitude is also becoming more prevalent in Arab countries for various reasons, but mostly because Arab governments, particularly those that import foreign labour from Africa and Southeast Asia, have failed to implement or enforce anti-discrimination and anti-exploitation laws.

In many Arab nations, including Kuwait where I was born, workers are lured into menial jobs where their passports are confiscated upon arrival and they are forced into humiliating and often inhuman working conditions. They have little to no protection under the law and are particularly vulnerable to exploitation, including extraordinarily long working hours, withholding of salaries, sexual, mental, and physical abuse, and denial of travel.

The recent case of Alem Dechesa brought to light the horrors faced by migrant workers in Lebanon. Dechesa, a domestic worker from Ethiopia, committed suicide after suffering terrible mental and physical abuse at the hands of her Lebanese employers, whose savage beating of her in front of the Ethiopian Consulate went viral last year.

Defining beauty

An extension to Arab anti-black racism is an aspiration to all that our former - and current - colonisers possess. Individuals aspire to what is powerful and rich, and the images of that power and wealth have light skin, straight hair, small noses, ruddy cheeks and tall, skinny bodies. That image rejects melanin-rich skin, coiled hair, broad or pointy noses, short stature, broad hips and big legs. So we, too, reject these features, despising them in others and in ourselves as symbols of inferiority, laziness, and poverty. That’s why the anglicising industries of skin bleaching and hair straightening are so profitable.

And yet, when Palestine went to the UN for recognition of statehood, the vast majority of nations who voted yes were southern nations. The same is true when Palestine asked for admission to UNESCO. In fact, when the US cut off funding to UNESCO in response to its members’ democratic vote to admit Palestine, it was the African nation of Gabon that immediately stepped up with a $2m donation to UNESCO to help offset the loss of income.

It was not Saudi Arabia, or Kuwait, or Qatar, or Lebanon, or Sweden, or France. It was Gabon. How many Palestinians know that, much less expressed gratitude for it?

So concerned are Palestinians with what the European Union and the United States think of us. So engrossed are we in grovelling for their favour and handouts as they support a system of Jewish supremacy pushing our ancient society into extinction. We dance like clowns any time a European leader spares us a thought. Have we no sense of history? No sense of pride? No comprehension of who is truly standing with us and who is sabotaging us?

In a world order that peddles notions of entire continents or regions as irreducible monoliths, the conversation among Arabs becomes a dichotomous “Arab” versus “African”, ignoring millennia of shared histories ranging from extensive trade and commerce, to the horrors of the Arab slave trade, to the solidarity of African-Arab anti-colonial unity, to the current state of ignorance that does not know history and cannot connect the dots when it comes to national liberation struggles.

Arab slave trade

When I was researching the subject of the Arab slave trade, I came upon a veritable treasure of a website established by The African Holocaust Society, or Mafaa [Swahili for “holocaust”], a non-profit organisation of scholars, artists, filmmakers, academics, and activists dedicated to reclaiming the narratives of African histories, cultures, and identities. Included in this great body of scholarly works is a comprehensive section on the Arab slave trade, as well as the Jewish slave trade, African-Arab relations over the centuries, and more, by Owen Alik Shahadah, an activist, scholar and filmmaker.

Reading this part of our shared history, we can see how a large proportion of Arabs, including those among us who harbour anti-black racism, are the sons and daughters of African women, who were kidnapped from Eastern African nations as sex slaves.

Unlike the European slave trade, the Arab slave trade was not an important feature of Arab economies and it predominantly targeted women, who became members of harems and whose children were full heirs to their father’s names, legacies and fortunes, without regard to their physical features. The enslaved were not bought and sold as chattel the way we understand the slave trade here, but were captured in warfare, or kidnapped outright and hauled across the Sahara.

Race was not a defining line and enslaved peoples were not locked into a single fate, but had opportunity for upward mobility though various means, including bearing children or conversion to Islam. No-one knows the true numbers of how many African women were enslaved by Arabs, but one need only look at ourselves to see the shadows of these African mothers who gave birth to us and lost their African identities.

But while African scholars at the Mafaa Society make important distinctions between the Arab and European slave trades, enslavement of human beings is a horror of incomprehensible proportions by any standard, and that’s what it was in the Arab world as it was - or is - anywhere. There are some who argue that the Arab slave traders were themselves indistinguishable from those whom they enslaved because the word “Arab” had cultural relevance, not racial.

One-way street

This argument goes hand-in-hand with the discredited excuse that Africans themselves were involved in the slave trade, with warring tribes capturing and selling each other. But no matter how you look at it, the slave trade was a one-way street, with Africans always the enslaved victims. I know of no African tribe that kidnapped Europeans and put them in bondage for generations; nor do I know of an African tribe that captured Arab women for centuries and made them sex slaves.

I think humanity has truly never known a holocaust of greater magnitude, savagery, or longevity than that perpetrated against the peoples of Africa. This Mafaa has never been fully acknowledged and certainly never atoned for - not that the wounds or enduring legacies of turning human beings into chattel for centuries can ever be fully comprehended or atoned for. But one must try, because just as we inherit privilege from our ancestors, so do we inherit their sins and the responsibility for those sins.

Gaddafi’s role

The late Colonel Muammar Gaddafi understood this and he used his power and wealth to try to redeem our shared history. He was the first Arab leader to apologise on behalf of Arab peoples to our African brothers and sisters for the Arab slave trade and the Arab role in the European slave trade.

He funnelled money into the African Union and used Libya’s wealth to empower the African continent and promote pan-Africanism. He was a force of reconciliation, socialism, and empowerment for both African and Arab peoples. Gaddafi’s actions threatened to renew African-Arab reconciliation and alliances similar to that which occurred at the height of the Non-Aligned Movement during the presidencies of Jamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt and Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana.  

Thus, NATO’s urgency to prevent “massacres” and “slaughter” in Libya was manufactured and sold wholesale. The fear of African-Arab solidarity can be seen in the way the US-backed Libyan insurgency spread rumours that “black African” mercenaries were committing atrocities against Libyans. Gaddafi became an even bigger threat when an agreement was reached with the great anti-imperialist force in South America, Hugo Chavez, to mediate a solution to the uprising in Libya.

Now both of these champions of their people are gone, and the so-called Libyan revolutionaries are executing “black Africans” throughout the country. Gone, too, is NATO’s worry about slaughter in Libya, and another high-functioning Arab nation lies in ruin, waste and civil strife - primed for rampant corporate looting.

I wrote previously that the Palestinian struggle against the erasure of our existence, history and identity was spiritually and politically black in nature. So, too, are other struggles, like that of migrant workers throughout many Arab nations. These are our comrades. They are the wretched, exploited, robbed, and/or, at last, liberated.

I refer to Black as a political term, not necessarily a racial or ethnic descriptor. In the words of Owen Alik Shehadah: “Black People is a construction which articulates a recent social-political reality of people of colour (pigmented people). Black is not a racial family, an ethnic group or a super-ethnic group. Political Blackness is thus not an identity but moreover a social-political consequence of a world which after colonialism and slavery existed in those colour terms. The word "Black” has no historical or cultural association, it was a name born when Africans were broken down into transferable labour units and transported as chattel to the Americas.“

But that word has been reclaimed, redefined, and injected with all the power, love, defiance, and beauty that is Africa. For the rest of us, and without appropriating the word, "black” is a phenomenon of resistance, steadfastness - what we Palestinians call sumud - and the beauty of culture that is reborn out of bondage and oppression.

Right to look the other way

Finally, solidarity from Africans is not equivalent to that which comes from our European comrades, whose governments are responsible for the ongoing erasure of Palestine. African peoples have every reason to look the other way. Ethiopians have every reason to say: “You deserve what you get for the centuries of enslavement and neo-enslavement industry by your Arab neighbours.” African Americans have every reason to say: “Why should I show solidarity with Arabs who come here to treat us like white people do, and sometimes worse?”

Malcolm X once said: “If I was that [anti-American], I’d have a right to be that - after what America has done to us. This government should feel lucky that our people aren’t anti-American.”

We can substitute the word “Arab” for “American” in that sentence and it would be a valid statement. And yet, Africa is right there with us. African American intellectuals are the greatest champions of our struggle in the United States. The impact of solidarity from four particular individuals - Desmond Tutu, Alice Walker, Angela Davis and Cynthia McKinney - can never be overestimated.

Last month, the former South African ambassador to Israel refused a “certificate” from Israel confirming the planting of trees in his name. In his letter, he called Israel a racist, apartheid state and said the gift was an “offence to my dignity and integrity”. He added: “I was not a party to, and never will be, to the planting of ‘18 trees’, in my 'honour’, on expropriated and stolen land.”

I would like my countrymen to think long and hard about this until they truly comprehend the humbling beauty of this solidarity from people who have every reason to be anti-Arab. I wish my countrymen could look through my eyes. They would see that black is profoundly beautiful. They would see that Africa runs through our veins, too. Our enslaved African foremothers deserve to be honoured and loved by their Arab children. And it is for us to redeem their pain with the recognition and atonement long owed.

Arriving at this understanding is a good starting place for reciprocal solidarity with nations and peoples who are standing with us, in heart and in action.


Susan Abulhawa is a Palestinian writer and the author of the international bestselling novel, Mornings in Jenin (Bloomsbury 2010). She is also the founder of Playgrounds for Palestine, an NGO for children.

Follow her on Twitter: @sjabulhawa

Source: Al Jazeera 


The Arabic Slave Trade is something that is rarely spoken about and often goes unheard of. When we speak of the enslavement of Africans, many of us like to connect it with Europeans, which is fine, but we should never forget they were not the only ones. For over 900 years, Africans were enslaved by Arabic slave traders. They would take Africans from all over the continent including West, East, and North Africa forcing them to march thousands of miles to Slave Markets. The Men, Women, and Children were bound together by the waist and neck so that if one died the rest could drag him or her along. These walks became known as the “Death Marches” and an estimated 20 million Africans died on these walks alone. The Arabs believed it was God’s wish to see Africans enslaved and believed they were uncivilized animals. Sound Familiar? Slaves were beaten and abused regularly. Many African Women, young Girls, and Boys would be used as Sex slaves for their owners. Islamic Slave holders would stick their swords and other weapons into the Vagina’s of Black Women and cut off the penis of African Men. This was done because they believed Africans had an uncontrollable sex drive. Many Africans would be forced to convert to Islam believing if they shared the same religion, it would stop the abuse. Muslim slave traders would also promise them Freedom after conversion. This did not stop the abuse nor did it gain them their freedom. In Fact, one can argue it made them even more enslaved. When Europeans entered the slave industry, Muslim Slave traders would use the religion to exploit Islamic Africans to bring them other Africans. These Africans would then be sold to Europeans. Slavery in the holy city of Mecca would not be outlawed until 1966 and in all other Arabic countries until 1990. The Islamic Slave Trade began almost 500 years before the Europeans would come to Africa. It would be a catalyst for the dismantling of the continent and the massive expansion of the Religion. Had it not been for Islam, European Chattel Slavery may never have occurred. History is quite a teacher and once again as the late Dr. John Henrik Clarke once said, “Africa has no friends. If you want a friend, look in the mirror.”

Written by @KingKwajo - Via: SanCopha League

don’t invest in competition

it’s capitalism: the vast majority of us are one month without pay away from homelessness, sickness, hunger, and other difficult and complex insecurities. it’s a very short-sighted rhetorical move to single oneself out from our class to highlight a personal benefit as more valuable regardless of present and future harm to others who stand to lose out while you gain. this is mobility-bargaining in capitalism where bureaucrats encourage those with a small and temporary privilege to benefit to leave others behind for a future promise for more comfort that will, let’s face it, likely never arrive. whereas we must work or perish, we do not need to humiliate ourselves by investing in the shitty capitalist bargaining rhetoric in the upward mobility game.

Worldbuilding Questions #2
  1. What are some of the primary imports and exports of each country (if any)?
  2. Are there strict social classes?  If so, is there the possibility of upward mobility among them or are people basically stuck in the class into which they’re born?
  3. Are non-heterosexual relationships generally accepted?  Does it vary from country to country?
  4. How highly educated are the average citizens of each country?
  5. What are some customs related to marriage and family in each country?
  6. What jobs/skills are considered most valuable, noble, respectable, etc.?  What about the culture makes them value these skills over others?
  7. What was the longest war in the world’s history?  How did it start, and how did it (or will it) end?
  8. What are some geographical elements that have been influential on the development of civilizations in the world?
  9. What are the largest cities in each country?  Are these always the capitals or not?
  10. Have there ever been any violent revolutions to overthrow a government?  What was the cause of it?  Was was the result of it?

anonymous asked:

If you were a well-off merchant, could you bribe your way into knight-hood/lower tier nobility complete with a grant of lands? Or was that rare, something that required unusual political circumstances, or both?

Yeah, you could, and you can find people complaining about up-jumped merchants buying their way into the gentry and the squirarchy and then into the ranks of knighthood as the 12th and 13th century. 

But as one professor whose lectures I listened to described it, it wasn’t like medieval England was marked by huge amounts of upward social mobility. Rather, what you had were spurts of ambitious social climbers and monarchs/nobles in need of cash, and then a good deal of social anxiety about what was happening to the old noble houses, and then people would redraw the boundaries, and there would be a pause - and then you’d have another spurt. 

The irony was that, because these social climbers were desperate to fit in, they often ditched any signs of their bourgeois pasts (including getting out of trade and into land) and fully assimilated into the value structure of the nobility, so that after a few generations (especially with intermarriage) you really couldn’t tell them apart. In this fashion, the professor argued, what you had was a ruling class that refreshed itself every so often with new blood but with very little change in ideas or social structure, and a very small amount of upward social mobility into the ruling class but a good deal of fluidity within the ruling class. 


so… as established in anna spanakopita’s opening bit, the muppets exist in the bojack horseman universe. a few questions:

  • is there significance to the fact that a human is bringing up the muppets? like, is it a franchise primarily enjoyed by humans, as it is (by obvious necessity) in our world?
  • what the fuck are the muppets like in the bojack horseman world? is kermit still called “kermit the frog” even tho… obviously he’s a frog… would that be like describing diane as “diane the human?”
  • is bringing up the muppets kind of a power move on anna’s part? a way of indicating to bojack that there is a certain, significant difference between humans and non-human people? 
  • if so, is that power systemic/societal? like, are humans responsible for the muppets? do the muppets, in a way, undermine the upward mobility of non-human people in the bojack horseman universe?

I’m keenly aware of the magnetic field of capital. My upward mobility jettisons me in a kind of chaotic buoyancy - and like the little scorpion I am, I see ahead and around, outside my path, to the death waiting on the shores, to the rocks and falls at the end of the pleasant jetty I’m on. I spend money to buy peace and cloak the decay from my mind.

MysteryPearl Week Prompt 1: Firsts

When Pearl regenerated, she had about thirty seconds to enjoy her new form before she was attacked by something. The something doing the attacking was Sheena, thankfully, rather than the pain-crazed gem monster that had damaged her in the first place—Pearl just managed to stop herself from drawing her spear, and curled her arms around her girlfriend’s warm back.

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Protestant Steve Rogers v. Catholic Steve Rogers and why that matters

[I’ve been sitting on this post for about three weeks, trying to decide if I wanted to make it or not. I’ve finally decided it’s time to put it out there, so.]

This essay was originally going to be added to this post about Steve’s dog-tags, but I apparently have a lot of feelings about this and it ended up being ridiculously long and sort of tangential to the original post, so I’m simply linking the two. I’ve divided the essay into three parts: church history, immigration history, and speculation.

Disclaimer: I was raised Protestant (in a non-denominational Stone-Campbell church), and I attended undergrad at a Protestant Christian liberal arts college (also Stone-Campbell). My undergraduate degree included church history, but I am definitely not an expert, so I’ve included lots of Wikipedia links to compensate. I am currently attending a Catholic university for my masters, but again, the focus has not been church history (although I have interviewed and transcribed interviews with Catholic priests from the Brooklyn Diocese as part of my classes). I know enough about church history to feel comfortable making this post, but not enough to go into further detail than what is laid out here. If I have made any egregious errors in regards to either branch’s history, please drop me a note so I can correct them.

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Photo of Frank James Simmons in U.S. Army uniform, 1943. Photo courtesy of Simmons family.

I come from three generations of military men. My father, grandfather and great-grandfather all served in the military. For them, like many African American men and women, military service served as a vehicle of upward mobility. Here is a photo of my grandfather Frank James Simmons in U.S. Army uniform during World War II. He was among the 2.5 million African-American men who registered for the draft. He enlisted in the Army in New Orleans on February 17, 1943 at the tender age of 19 and served in the Philippines. He was honorably discharged from the army as a sergeant from Company F of the segregated 369th Infantry on January 22, 1946. Soon after returning to his hometown Baton Rouge, La., he started a family and with my grandmother raised six daughters, including my mother. Military service, like for many World War II veterans, was a formative experience for him and he would spend the rest of his life regaling us with stories from his years in the war.

Story from Jonathan Michael Square, @fashioningtheself