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Supposed Single Issue (2022-06-27)

1922 emergency money issue by cologne, germany in january 1922, scanned by Palauenc05 may 2015 via wikimedia commons. Image is in the public domain. 1922 emergency money issue by cologne, germany in january 1922, scanned by Palauenc05 may 2015 via wikimedia commons. Image is in the public domain.
1922 emergency money issue by cologne, germany in january 1922, scanned by Palauenc05 may 2015 via wikimedia commons. Image is in the public domain.

Among the many controversial statements made in the wake of the federal election in the united states was one that had several iterations to the effect that to insist on voting according to whether a candidate was better or worse for women – if that could be gauged in any meaningful way – amounted to one issue voting. I think that this is a vast oversimplification, in part because the prominence of specific issues affecting women seems to encourage seeing those as being the only ones and those as somehow affecting only women in a hermetically sealed way. Women are understandably upset and worried in the united states among many other countries, and in the united states there was insane levels of pressure from the two parts of the right wing there. On one side the more conservative and religiously oriented has done as it has done consistently since before the foundation of that country: advocated for restricting women and men to living according to narrowly defined sex role stereotypes and doing all they can to prevent women from controlling their own bodies, especially whether or not women have babies. The more liberal and individualist oriented has shifted in position over time to a begrudging acceptance that women should have a modicum of control over their own bodies in exchange for allowing liberal men free sexual access. And as it turns out, they are just fine with enforcing narrowly defined sex role stereotypes, as long as they can redefine things on occasion to change the definition of acceptable masculinity to match their demands for a sexual buzz. In other words, women in the united states got stuck with a horrible selection between two equally bad options, while trying to figure out which would be least harmful and give them the most space to continue organizing for effective defence.

Under such conditions, it can only be heinously difficult to see eye to eye on who to vote for, let alone consider seriously the idea that maybe voting for "the wrong candidate" constitutes a protest vote, or that lack of an overwhelming majority may in fact curb at least some of the excesses of the winner. It has taken some time for Feminist women who agree on basic principles but disagree on strategy to work their way through to a calmer place in the middle of this storm and work from those principles, but there is still a lingering accusation that voting according to a candidate's position on their behaviour on what may be one women's rights issue rather than a suite of them in the air. The thing is, it's a trap. What has happened is that each major party held up a single issue and waved it around, and it is mightily hard not to take such juicy bait for the purpose of making rhetorical points while trying to persuade others or indulge in accusing them of betraying women by not agreeing completely that the ultimate election winner is a sort of gift to women. A much milder form of this phenomenon manifested in the context of the canadian federal election. (Milder not because canada is better on women's issues per se, but because of attempts to make a three ring circus out of politics in the province of québec and that the leader of one fo the major parties is a Sikh and wears a turban.)

In fact, it seems to me that whenever we endeavour, as Feminists or people aligned with Feminists on the principle that women are human beings whose rights must be respected, to vote or otherwise act politically in line with that principle, we are doing the best we can in imperfect conditions. I don't agree at all that prioritising women's rights is in itself a type of "single issue" voting. One of the most powerful questions we can ask about any proposed policy is "how will it affect women?" This question is almost never asked, except in the most narrow of contexts. Yet, it is a good one to ask every time. How would policies that exacerbate global warming affect women, considering women are in fact the majority of the world's subsistence farmers and basic shelter builders, who ensure the kids get fed even when men piss off to live large in the city, for instance. By the way, if those women don't have a means to at least get enough education to support themselves, and thereby win and keep access to managing their own fertility and their own money, things get a hell of a lot worse for them in every country. In many countries that basic education is just learning how to read. In others it is completing a high school diploma. In still others it is completing a trade certificate or undergraduate degree. If women don't have the tools to win and hang onto management of their fertility and providing for themselves and any children and other family members they may be responsible for, policies intended to constructively deal with the biggest challenges of our time are unlikely to succeed. That includes policies meant to somehow curb or manage global warming, end the scourge of capitalism and corporations, or properly distribute food and medicine in the world.

How can I possibly make that claim? Easy. The men have tried everything bloody else, and not a single thing they have tried has worked or works. Nothing.

As long as in the end the tiny and predominantly male elite can use progressive policies when they can't avoid it or raw violence whenever they can take the chance, they will suborn every effort at meaningful change. After all, in their minds they are the only real human beings in the world. They are sure that in the end they can always insure their own comforts and power by co-opting others and applying all manner of violence to prevent the disobedient from eating. Keeping women down as a sex class is a key strategy for them, because that is their most powerful means to co-opt the men who have not managed to bully their way into the elite club or its posse of supportive gangsters. Not many men seem able to resist the lure of having "their own" woman to lord it over, or having women persistently paid less for the same work because supposedly that makes sure the men remain breadwinners even as it is used as a constant means to cut their wages.

And one of the best parts about Feminism is that as a theory and as a practice, it is able to handle the fact that while women are all female, they are not identical. They have different backgrounds and histories, which means we have available to us multiple lessons already on what works and what doesn't in winning and keeping respect for women as human beings without throwing anyone under the bus on the basis of any of a nasty handful of "isms." There's nothing about breaking the structures that recreate women as less than human that is "single issue" in nature.


Original Instructions

With the unhappy confluence of major human driven global warming, a pandemic, and general social unrest as the people at the top of the capitalist ponzi scheme try to avoid the way such schemes inevitably end, I have been thinking a lot about original instructions. Serious original instructions, not the kind that a quick web search reveals, which from what I can see are mostly about running very old computers and occasionally household appliances. No, I mean original instructions in the sense of the ways of living imparted to each people by the Creator. The first time I heard about these in a serious context that had nothing to do with old machinery was an advanced ethnography class, one of the then small collection of courses scheduled on saturdays at university. Saturday classes then and to an extent now are both lauded and dreaded. They are often what makes the difference between having to spend an additional entire full semester at university to complete a program, which is laudable. They are also by necessity three hours of class once a week, usually starting between nine and ten o'clock in the morning, which for many university students means that they have no full days off for the semester the class falls in, hence dreaded. Still, for this class, I was very lucky because of the remarkable instructor, whose learning objectives included grounding us in a basic understanding of Indigenous ways of knowing. The last class focussed on a video that presented the Hopi prayer for peace and a series of prophecies Thomas Banyacya presented on behalf of his Hopi Elders across north america including to the united nations.

There is quite a lot to what Banyacya presented, and probably the best place to get acquainted with them is the website covering a variety of his speeches and related documents, Thomas Banyacya Traditional Hopi Elder. Although he returned to the spirit world in 1999, friends and family have worked hard to keep this site live. The message he worked hard to carry to the world seems to have passed by all too many of us. I think it is fair to summarize it as, too many of us have left off following our Original Instructions in how to live well on this Earth and with all the other beings with whom we share it. If we do not return to those Original Instructions as quick as we can, we will see the consequences in the form of increasingly dangerous and erratic climate and local weather, natural disasters, and social breakdown. Neither the Elders nor he gave specific dates for all these changes, because the world is too complicated for that, but he was also the first person I learned a practical definition of what prophecy is from. Prophecy is not what will happen, full stop. But it is what will happen, if we continue in the way that we have been going.

Thomas Banyacya, Kykotsmovi Hopi Nation, who delivered an address to the united nations general assembly 10 december 1992. Image courtesy of the united nations permanent forum for Indigenous peoples information network. Thomas Banyacya, Kykotsmovi Hopi Nation, who delivered an address to the united nations general assembly 10 december 1992. Image courtesy of the united nations permanent forum for Indigenous peoples information network.
Thomas Banyacya, Kykotsmovi Hopi Nation, who delivered an address to the united nations general assembly 10 december 1992. Image courtesy of the united nations permanent forum for Indigenous peoples information network.

Well, evidently this made something of an impression of me at the time. Still, I was a bit unsure what to make of it all, apart from thinking that it would do us no harm to make changes. After all, there is no convincing argument that stopping and cleaning up pollution, better distributing wealth so that everyone has enough, and putting serious energy into real work towards world peace won't have positive results if we do them. There is plenty to indicate even from western science with all its biases that continuing in the way humans have on a net basis will definitely produce more problems, not fewer. Then I got caught up in dealing with my own rather immediate problems with finding a longterm job and related details and the whole thing slipped to the back of my mind. This remained the case even once things had settled down to some extent, and I had happened on the chance to help with a local sweat lodge. Until one day, an Elder referred at a separate event at the local university to our Original Instructions, that each First Nation had received theirs, and at some point somehow the white people lost theirs.

Thinking it over today, I can hardly imagine a more terrifying thing to lose, than our Original Instructions. From what I have learned, listening to the Elders from Indigenous nations around the world who have spoken out and are striving to stop the attempted genocide of their peoples and the world itself for good, the Original Instructions are powerful. When we remember them and stick with them, things generally go well for us, and even when we suffer setbacks or disasters, we are able to cope with them and help one another to recover. Even if we forget them, we can reconstruct them by observing the actions of others who still remember and live by theirs. By which I don't mean trying to flatly mimic what they are doing, because every place is different in terms of the land, what has already happened there, and so on. I mean living by the same principles of honouring all beings, not just humans, including the air, land, and waters. Rejecting actions that will impinge upon the health and wellbeing of our own descendants and those of all the other beings with whose lives we are entwined and on whose contributions we depend. That's not easy for anyone who has been indoctrinated with versions of nonsense claims that humans are in charge of everything. How can this be, when it so obvious that we are pitiful? Seriously. The whole reason we have to use our brains to come up with clothes, tools, and all the rest of such things is not because we are smart. It's because unlike all the other living beings out there, plants, animals, and so on, we lack all the things we need to feed, clothe, and shelter ourselves without making them. The Original Instructions help us avoid a good old fashioned backlash from the fact that we depend so much on other beings to survive at all by helping us maintain positive reciprocal relationships. Otherwise, exploited fellow beings will turn around and kick us very solidly in the ass.

Copyright © C. Osborne 2022
Last Modified: Friday, September 30, 2022 22:04:07