i'm rather fed up with most of the anti-homeopathy snark i come across nowadays.

It's easy to dismiss homeopaths as charlatans, and homeopath clients/enthusiasts as deluded and anti-scientific fools. But i strongly feel i'm not anti-science1 - and i have seen a homeopath.

i have CFS. Over the years i've had medical 'professionals' tell me there's nothing wrong with me, that my health issues are a result of not being married, that my CFS is actually rickettsiosis, which has also deluded me into thinking i'm a woman2. Overall, my experience with the medical profession has been .... less than positive3.

i turned to a homeopath well after i spent a considerable amount of time dealing with this. i saw a homeopath who was a former member of the (pro-science, anti-New-Age) Communist Party of Australia. And for the first time, i had a health practitioner take my CFS seriously and treat me and my claims of ill-health with respect.

i tried a number of homeopathic remedies. Most i feel had no effect; at least one seemed to, briefly, have a powerful, mind-altering effect. But i don't regret at least trying homeopathy, because (a) "medical 'science'", when it wasn't completely dismissing me, was offering me no concrete help; and (b) the homeopath i saw treated me with respect, and this helped my mental health.

On the basis of my experience, i've come to dislike the cheap shots of much / most anti-homeopathy snark. Not because i'm an advocate for homeopathy - which is certainly lacking in replicable evidence4 - but because it often seems to come from a place of condescension, a place lacking any apparent recognition of possible broader contextual issues. How about more focus on why people might be turning to homeopathy? Might it not be because they're being treated with disdain by privileged (particularly in terms of class) medical practitioners5? Might it not be because medical practitioners are often unwilling to say "We don't know?" Might it not be because paternalistic and elitist qualification structures severely and unnecessarily restrict the number of medical professionals, increasing the costs of accessing them, and forcing them to spend time providing medical certificates for people with colds rather than on investigating more serious issues?

i would suggest that if scientific medicine is truly superior to homeopathy in all cases, one won't need to attempt to dissuade people from visiting homeopaths and to discredit homeopathy; people would in general choose scientific medicine whenever it provides an effective and accessible solution to their health issues.

So instead of snarking homeopathy, how about snarking the arrogance, elitism and costs of Western medicine and medical institutions, and work towards making scientific medicine an effective alternative?



1. i'm basically a zetetic; and cf. this old blog entry of mine about science.
2. As per this old blog post.
3. E.g. this.
4. Although "[h]omeopathy consultations can benefit arthritis patients, say scientists".
5. [personal profile] moominmuppet recently shared this article on being a 'border gimp'.
i have several areas of interest about which i feel passionate. Two of those are, on the one hand, sexuality and relationships; and on the other, the politics of power and privilege.

Would that the twain would meet!

A while back Tiara pointed me to a thought-provoking piece entitled "Sex positivity is a sham". It's a critique of which voices and representations often get privileged in sex-positive communities, and it's something that made a lot of sense to me, despite the fact that i myself am someone who, amongst other things, benefits from white and middle-class privilege (the latter more in terms of social/cultural capital than in terms of income).

In my experience, sex-positive communities often have inclusive attitudes; diversity is not only tolerated, but welcomed. Yet i've also noticed an apparent reticence to discuss issues of sociopolitical power and privilege. (Although of course, there's no shortage of discussion about power in the context of kink dynamics.) So here are some questions:

What characteristics - such as ethnicity, class, looks etc. - do influential people in the sex-positive movement have and/or share?

Who benefits when the sex-positive movement doesn't discuss how the politics of sociocultural power and privilege might influence certain people's willingness or ability to participate? Who doesn't?

How can we make sure that the sex-positive movement is inclusive not only in a superficial sense, but in a deep sense? Are those of us with privilege in certain areas willing to recognise and acknowledge that, as part of a process to create more space within the movement for people from communities that have been, and often still are, marginalised?

What sort of sex-positive movement do we want?
A common position put forward by progressives is that governments should fund community services - particularly for the less privileged - through taxation; and more specifically through increased taxation of big business / corporations.

This position makes sense to me as "transitional demand" - i.e. a demand which seems not unreasonable, but which the capitalist state won't implement without considerable sustained pressure, hence showing the need for the capitalist state to be replaced by a "worker's state". Transitional demands aren't put forward with the expectation that they will actually be met. They're put forward as a pointer to what is felt is the actual solution.

On the other hand, i don't see how it makes sense as a demand which people actually expect to be implemented. It's hardly a secret that major corporations often don't even pay current nominal corporate tax rates; the US media1 recently reported that GE paid no US taxes last year on its $14b profit. This is surprising if one subscribes to the liberal view of the state as a neutral institution which merely seeks to adjudicate between various competing interests in society. If, however, the state is regarded as an instrument via which plutocrats and corporations attempt to externalise their costs to the rest of society, the ability of major corporations to pay little or no tax is not surprising at all.

Assuming this is true, the expectation that community services will get funded in practice through taxation of corporates is pie-in-the-sky at best. Passing legislation to 'force' major corporations to pay more tax is the theoretical solution to this problem; but if corporates have the resources to find loopholes in current legislation, one can expect they'll find loopholes in any putative new legislation such that they'll continue to minimise their tax bill. And that's assuming that such legislation would get passed in the first place - not necessarily likely, given the often-cosy relationship between legislators and "captains of industry" (cf. the "revolving door" between legislatures and corporate boards).

Still, if we demand the government fund community services, the money has to come from somewhere. One solution involves increasing taxes on the middle and lower classes2, who often don't have the resources to permit them to substantially avoid such taxes; instead, they can only be somewhat reduced at best. And although the middle classes in particular may technically be able to afford/absorb such an increase, it will certainly not go unnoticed. Consequently, the middle classes, with their relative privilege, put pressure on governments to give them tax breaks; et voilá, we have mutual resentment between the middle classes feeling like they have to support the poor, and the poor who feel the middle classes are trying to wriggle out of their social obligations. Meanwhile, corporates and plutocrats continue to externalise their costs onto the rest of us.

So, again assuming all this is true - what can be done? i'm not sure. i do think that progressives could spend less time talking about increasing taxes and more time criticising existing government spending which doesn't directly benefit the middle and lower classes - spending on dodgy military hardware, for example. We could also be demanding an end to extrafinancial support for major corporations - an end to draconian so-called "intellectual property" laws, for example, which often transfer money up the wealth pyramid. In the longer term, as a voluntaryist mutualist, i advocate building civil alternatives to the corporate (or bourgeois, if you like) state. In the meantime, though, i feel we still need to consider alternative approaches to "statist-politics-as-usual".

Addendum, 2011.04.07

[personal profile] moominmuppet has noted this article about effective corporate tax rates; according to the article, 2/3 of US corporations pay no taxes in a given year.

Addendum, 2012.12.16

How Everyone Else Pays for Big Business's Tax Breaks



1. Though not NBC, owned by GE.

2. i acknowledge these aren't necessarily well-defined concepts; and i admit to being more partial to Marxist definitions of class. Having said that, i feel they're probably sufficiently well-defined for this context.
i've recently been prompted to again think about the dynamics of, as it were 'allyship'.

When someone seeks to be an ally of a particular (not necessarily strictly numeric) minority, that person is faced with the issue of which strand of politics within that minority community they should pay the most attention to. And in my experience, what can often happen is that the person in question ends up siding with those in the community who spew the most venom.

One example is my experiences of men who have described themselves as "pro-feminist", who more often than not seem to ally themselves with what i consider to be the more problematic strands of 'radical' feminism: those strands which are transphobic and whorephobic. i know there are many women who, like myself, have had the fun of - either literally or figuratively - being shouted down by a cisgendered man when we put forward political positions that don't fit 'radical' feminist orthodoxy. In other words, women getting lectured by a cis male on what consititutes women's liberation and 'real' feminism!

These unpleasant experiences have encouraged me to ponder the political development of allies. i can't help but wonder if the sort of political choices described above stem from the fact that allies, by virtue of not being part of the minority they wish to be an ally of, aren't in a position from which they can easily determine the 'correct' political choice. Thus, in order to be a "good ally", they seek to abandon all positions which can be claimed to be a manifestation of (again, not necessarily strictly numeric) majority privilege; and they therefore ally themselves with those strands that place a strong emphasis on ideological purity - and which, consequently, regularly engage in witch-hunts.

Myself, my support for a particular strand of political thought tends to be inversely related to the propensity of that strand to engage in witch-hunts. When that strand seems to me to spend more time on witch-hunts than anything else, it becomes something i want to avoid supporting.
 
Western society is dominated by extroverts. Extroverted behaviours are typically regarded as healthy; introverted behaviours are not. For example, extrovert societies tend to incorrectly regard introversion as synonymous with shyness, social phobia, or asociality in general, and/or as something that needs to be 'fixed' or 'overcome'.

As someone who is definitely not an extrovert - perhaps an ambivert at most - i decided it was time to start putting together a list of extrovert privilege. i'll probably continue adding things to it as they come to mind.
As an extrovert:
  • My behaviours are not regarded as possibly / probably pathological.

  • I can attend a variety of social / networking events, which are usually designed to appeal to extroverts.

  • I am more likely to have my voice and opinions heard.

  • I find the constant sensory barrage of modern Western society stimulating rather than draining.

  • I do not have to learn to 'pass' as extroverted so that others don't assume I'm 'aloof' or 'snobbish'.
Please feel free to suggest additions!
 
Further to my post about libido, i wanted to make some comments about my experiences of being a highly sexual person.

It's fairly obvious to even the casual observer that sexuality is a really important part of my life. i've recently started calling myself a 'sexuality activist', because i have a passionate interest in the social, political and spiritual aspects of sexuality, in addition to having a strong underlying sex drive and interest in various forms of sex play.

In my ideal world, i'd be able to talk about sexuality in general, and my sexuality in particular, without constraint. But of course, we don't live in my ideal world. Most people don't feel comfortable talking about sexuality in general, let alone about my sexuality in particular; and i have no desire to force people to do so. So i often avoid sexuality as a conversation topic, and am very wary about sharing 'TMI' when the topic does arise. But this can at times make conversation difficult for me, particular when people ask "So what do you do?" or "What have you been up to?" Since i've gone back to uni, i've at least been able to say "Studying maths"; but then, many, if not most, people, have mathphobia, and tend to be uninterested in pursuing mathematics-related discussion. Thus, i have even more motivation than usual to ask questions about the other person, or people, in the conversation, to maximise the likelihood that it's about topics with which they're comfortable.

Another complicating factor in all this is that i'm often read as a 'crossdressing'1 cisgendered male2; so many cis men use sex talk as part of their pickup process that it's not unreasonable for many people to feel nervous or threatened by any apparent guy who seems to be doing just that. So even though, sure, i would / do like to talk sex with people i'm sexually / emotionally interested in, i would / do like to talk sex with people in general; but since i don't want to come across as "that sleazy guy", i tend to hold back from doing so.

This is one of the reasons i love being on Twitter, DreamWidth and LiveJournal: i feel able to stop hiding a core part of my self and what i care about, to express it and share it with others. Those who don't want to have can simply stop following me. Not only that, but i also get to meet other people similar to myself, people who are comfortable talking openly about sex and their own sex lives. i've been finding Twitter in particular to be great in that regard; it's been wonderful to be able to regularly have sexually-explicit exchanges with others. Nevertheless, i'm still at the stage where i can't yet have too many sex-positive conversations and interactions in my life. :-)



1 i feel it's absurd that my society still believes that a man wearing a skirt is 'crossdressing' whereas a woman wearing pants isn't.

2 Which is one of the reasons i regularly wonder if i shouldn't remove my goatee, even though i strongly feel it's an important part of me.
 
No prizes for spotting the ignorance and ableism in this article:

Have Online Communities become Havens for the Terminally Angry?

i suppose if i complained i'd simply be dismissed as Terminally Angry. :-P
 
An underlying theme to much of my sexuality-related activism is what i've come to call 'integration'.

i want to live in a world where human sexuality and its expression are openly celebrated as an integral part of people's lives. i want sexuality to be regarded in the same way as Westerners usually regard food: for it to be acceptable to openly discuss flavours and methods and ingredients; for it to be acceptable to eat in private or in public; for it to be acceptable to eat by oneself or with someone else or in a group; for it to be acceptable to purchase an experience or to share it gratis; for it to be acceptable that everyone has different tastes. That's the long-term goal i'm working towards.

In the short- and medium-term, however, i want to move in sex-positive circles and communities. i want to be around people who consider sexuality and its expression are an acceptable topic of conversation; who are enthusiastically exploring their own sexuality and the sexualities of others; who are supporting or working for sex-positive social and political change; who feel comfortable expressing their sexuality in front of others and who are comfortable with others expressing their sexuality in front of them; who want to share or make porn in a variety of forms; who consider sexuality to be as central to their lives as i consider it to be to mine.
 
Further to the coverage of the supposed "same-sex couple" in Malawi, one blog commenter wrote "So it’s not an issue of gay rights if one of them ’self-identifies’ as a woman?", to which i've responded:
It’s an issue of the state enforcing heteronormativity on people’s lives – which is not only a gay rights issue, but more generally an issue for anyone in Malawi who doesn’t fit heteronormative notions of gender and sexuality, such as this couple. And when the Western media – including sections of the Western lesbian and gay media – erase the existence of transgendered / intersex people by squeezing a story into simplistic dichotomous notions of gender and sexuality, they are supporting the same categorical structures as the Malawian state, and simply differing on the issue of whether people placed within one part of those structures should be persecuted.
A Fark headline that was too long to tweet but that i just had to share:
Henry Kissinger drags his bloated, near-zombie husk out from beneath the withered husks of Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Chile, Cyprus, and Kurdistan to give Obama advice on how to handle Iraq
. . . . presumably from one Nobel Peace Prize winner to another. :-P
 
i've just given the Pleasure Activism Australia Web site a small makeover. i feel it's better than it was, but still not particularly great - the navigation bar in particular needs more work - so i'd be happy to consider any suggestions people might have for improvements. :-) And of course, as always, please let me know if you'd like to contribute something to the site, regardless of whether you live in Australia or not - even though the site is indeed Australia-oriented, there's no shortage of sexuality-related issues that cross national boundaries. :-)
 
If you're a creator or maintainer of some kind of community, whether online or offline, you might like to visit, and possibly contribute to, the freshly-created Community Management Wiki. From the About page:
The Community Management Wiki is an attempt to document and synthesize what we know about community management. . . .

Community management is the theory and practice of creating, building, maintaining, and guiding all kinds of communities, whether online or offline, large or small. Communities have a wide variety of purposes, Structures, and Values, and each one has different needs. A community manager helps a community be the best it can be at whatever it is that it does. . . .

What is this wiki for?
  • Explaining terms and concepts relevant to community management

  • Describing best practices

  • Reviewing and recommending tools

  • Offering case studies of well-known or interesting communities

  • Offering further reading and other resources for community managers
 
Further to my last entry, for a while now i've been thinking about what i've come to call 'the entertainment society'.

This is a society in which people are generally either 'performers' or 'spectators'. Particular value is accorded to those who are 'performers'; most 'performers' are regarded as 'creative' in some way, where 'creative' itself is (along the lines of my previous entry) regarded as involving things like fiction / poetry, drawing, music, painting, acting, knitting, sewing, crochet or sculpture. Similarly, activities are rated according to the extent to which they are 'entertaining'.

Over the years, as someone involved in social and political activism for almost two decades, it has felt as though the ongoing shift towards the entertainment society has increasingly influenced activism. It seems as though people are increasingly disinclined to discuss social and political issues unless they're wrapped up in a container of entertainment1. Indeed, sometimes i feel like i need to be Hoodwinked's singing mountain goat in order to have a chance at being heard.

Given all this, what are the implications for society? What are the implications when people are only interested in social and political issues if those issues can be raised in a sufficiently entertaining way, rather than because they are concerned for moral or ethical reasons?

Are these the writings of someone suffering from some type of creativity envy? Possibly. Certainly, hanging around alternative and pagan communities in which those who draw or make music are constantly fawned over - often with good reason! - can make us 'non-performers' begin to feel rather inadequate. It's also true that i get annoyed by the fact that the IntarWebs, which has given 'creative types' greater access to potential audiences than previous generations could even dream of, was created by us supposedly non-creative types: by such people as the mathematicians involved in developing information theory, by computer scientists and programmers, by electrical engineers, and so on.

i do think, however, that a genuine imbalance has developed in our society which is leading us to a 'bread and circuses' mentality. There are many 'non-performers' making what i feel are important contributions to society - people who are only 'spectators' in the sense that they 'fail' to entertain people with their work - but who aren't receiving the recognition they deserve. 'Performers' should not be the only people recognised for their contributions to society.

1. Something i've discussed previously here and here.
 
In my experience, Australian society has a very narrow conception of 'creativity'. If someone asks "Are you a creative person?", this usually basically translates as something like "Do you write fiction / poetry, draw, write music, paint, create films, knit, sew, crochet or sculpt?" (Sometimes, the translation includes "invent meals".) If i then replied, "Yes, i'm creative: i create groups and communities; i create computer programs; i create social and political ideas, arguments and changes; i create supportive and comfortable environments for my loved ones to live in", i'm pretty sure that the response would be "Er, that's not really what i meant." Maybe, but that's still my answer. :-)

So, dear readers, what things do you do that are creative but aren't often widely recognised as such?
 
A couple of links, the first courtesy of [livejournal.com profile] cheshire_bitten:

  A lovely story about pronouns

and the second courtesy of Haaretz:

  Virginia synagogue doubles as mosque for Ramadan

There was recently a hooha on the Trans-Academics Google group about the use of Gender-Neutral Pronouns. An ardent assimilationist on the list decried their use, claiming that it is wrong to ask people to use them, that those who make such requests are disrespecting society by trying to force these "made-up words" on others1, and that thinking that one can change society is patently absurd. Oddly, many list members - myself included - expressed slight concerns with all this. :-P

There's acceptance and there's acceptance: there's acceptance that there are certain aspects to society that "just are" and that we shouldn't expect to change (e.g. we shouldn't hope to see widespread use of GNPs where appropriate, we shouldn't hope that Muslims and Jews might coexist peacefully), and then there's acceptance of diversity and the possibility that people can change how they view others. i choose the latter over the former.



1. Because no words in any language are made-up - they've always existed in some wonderful platonic realm. :-P
 
The ABC is reporting that the group Independent Australian Jewish Voices has issued a statement describing Israel's attacks on Gaza as disproportionate, contrasting with a statement by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry and the Zionist Federation of Australia which claims that:
Israel’s response is also proportional to the threat to its citizens. In international law, proportionality is not measured by comparing the number of casualties on each side or the extent of the force used by each side.
i would be interested to know how proportionality is therefore measured; and regardless of international law, what about the Torah's injunction that thou shalt give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe (Exodus 21:23-25)? The number of civilian Gazan lives being ended by the current operation has already easily exceeded the number of civilian Israeli lives lost to Hamas-originating rocket fire since Israel's 'official' withdrawl from Gaza in 2005.

Then we have the comment by the deputy chief of mission at the Israeli embassy in Canberra, Eli Yerushalmi, that:
people who are not in Israel are not well placed to comment on the action.

"It's very easy to sit down in cities, in the safety of Australia or other countries, and criticise Israel," he said.
i feel this comment is a bit disingenous, when thousands of Israelis protesting the Israeli government's actions (as per, for example, this and this), and the mayor of Netivot is calling for negotiations with Hamas . . . .
 

Gaza

2009-01-04 18:12
i basically agree with Rabbi Michael Lerner's position on Israel and Gaza. Consequently, neither of the Gaza-related protests held in Melbourne today were protests i would want to be associated with:
  • One involved not only the burning of the Israeli flag, but the destruction and burning of a Star of David. Failing to distinguish between Judaism and the Israeli government / military smacks of traditional anti-Jewish nonsense, and is just as ludicrous as holding all Palestinians responsible for the actions of Hamas. Not even all Zionists support the what the Israeli government is doing: see, for example, this entry on Richard Silverstein's blog.

  • The other involved supporting the actions of the Israeli government, even though it is a completely disproportionate response to the actions of Hamas; even though it is a shameful continuation of the Israeli government's policy of punishing the entire Palestinian population for the actions of a minority, as per the long-running siege of Gaza. By such logic, every resident of Israel should be similarly punished for the actions of the rabid so-called 'settlers' in the West Bank.
No, thanks - i'm looking for perspectives which are more likely to bring an end to the conflict in Israel and Palestine, not prolong and exacerbate it.

[livejournal.com profile] eumelia has been writing about current events here and here.
 

Waste

2008-09-20 15:38
Sex worker service 'disgusting waste of money', says the Queensland Shadow Health Minister.

Yes indeed; why pay to provide people who do sex work with safe-sex materials and education when one could instead engage in moral indignation for free? :-P And of course, we know that not funding such things will bring about an end to sex work, because no-one would ever engage, or be pressured to engage, in unsafe sex! Apparently the Shadow Health Minister's idea of helping people who do sex work is to tell them to "Just Say No!" to sex work - OMG, *slaps forehead*, why didn't anyone think of this before??

</snark>
 

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