The Newsletter for AnotherEndoftheWorld.org
This is a (more or less) monthly newsletter for AnotherEndoftheWorld.org where I introduce new friends I have met in the Deep Adaptation community, give an update on current and future projects and essay ideas, and share what I’m currently reading and watching.
Black Lives Matter Update
It’s been an eventful month. Following the state-sanctioned murder of George Floyd, we’ve witnessed anti-racism uprisings all around the country, followed by egregious displays of violence by militarized police against protesters and now movements to defund or abolish the police. (I’ve written before about how I came to embrace the idea of the abolition of the police in my essay, “The Police Aren’t Here For You.”) Meanwhile the murders by police and violence against people of color keeps happening. Both the uprisings (which I applaud) and the state violence (which I condemn) are signs of social collapse which accompany the decline of American empire.
We’ve had numerous police-perpetrated murders of people of color in this region where I live. This past November, Gary police shot an 82 year-old, hearing-impaired Black man ten times through his car window for committing the apparently capital crime of being unresponsive to police directions. He died in January. And just few days ago, on June 19th, a White retired police officer-turned security guard at a nearby hospital shot and killed a Black psychiatric patient. In doing so, he also shot and killed his partner, another (also Black) security guard. These are just a couple of many examples.
There’s been dozens of demonstrations locally and they are still going on. A friend of mine, a mother of two who is a former journalist was pepper sprayed while she was trying to record an interaction between protesters and police in SWAT gear with her phone. My little conservative town made national news when gun toting rednecks decide to line up along a bike trail where Black Lives Matter demonstrators were walking.
In addition to working as a legal observer at multiple protests, I’m helping to organize a demonstration on July 23rd, in response to a community “Police Appreciation” event. We’re calling the counter-demonstration a “Police Violence Awareness” event. Word of it spread in my little conservative community, and it provoked quite a bit of White outrage already–both inside my community and from random racists around the country. I’ve been shunned by school parents, insulted, sarcastically “prayed for”, and even threatened. I have to wonder if the reason these people think we need the police so badly is because they don’t trust themselves to behave civilly in their absence.
I reposted (on Medium) three articles I had previously written about my own awakening to anti-racist awareness:
- Bursting the White Bubble of Colorblindness
- The Real Reason White People Say ‘All Lives Matter’
- The Other Reason White People Say “All Lives Matter”
The second of those articles got a lot of attention when I first published it at Huffington Post–lots of outrage from White people and expressions of gratitude from Black people. (I wish the comments were still accessible.)
And I’m happy to report that the movement for Black lives has (finally) inspired my local Unitarian congregation to place a Black Lives Matter sign in front of the church. The final vote will be later this month. I’m also super excited that grief therapist and environmental/anti-racism activist Holly Truhlar will be speaking at the church in August!
Debate with a Technoptimist
After viewing Michael Moore’s latest film, Planet of the Humans, I got into some intense discussions with progressive friends who really disliked the movie as well as my promoting it online. The outcome was my essay, “Damn Dirty Humans!: Planet of the Humans and Progressive Denial”.
One progressive friend, Mark Green, wrote a response, and there followed a back-and-forth series of posts between us. You can read the whole exchange here:
- “Damn Dirty Humans!: ‘Planet of the Humans’ and Progressive Denial” by John Halstead
- “Why The Doomsters are Completely Wrong” by Mark Green
- “Beyond Doom: A Response to Mark Green” by John Halstead
- “The Doomsaying Simply Isn’t Helping: More on My Exchange with John Halstead” by Mark Green
- “Part 5 of the Halstead-Green debate” by John Halstead
- “In Which Straw Men Get Punched—More on Halstead/Green” by Mark Green
I also turned #3 above into an essay geared for a more general audience entitled, “Why I Am Not A ‘Doomer’ “.
I think we exhausted the topic for now. I appreciate Mark. He’s a thoughtful critic and provided an illuminating foil for me to develop my ideas.
“Anarchism for Civilians” Series
I have been promising to write an introduction to anarchism for several months, and I finally got around to it. In the end, it actually turned into a 4-part series:
- What Unitarians Taught Me About Anarchism
- What Bonobos Taught Me About Anarchism
- What Midwives Taught Me About Anarchism
- What Pirates Taught Me About Anarchism
I’m pretty pleased with how this turned out. I think it’s both instructive and entertaining. The series is not intended to be a complete introduction to anarchism. Instead, my hope was to debunk some of the myths that we have been taught about anarchism and about civilization, among them the myth that anarchy means social chaos and hyper-individualism and the myth that civilization is healthier, happier, and more peaceful for most people.
The examples I’ve used to illustrate my points in this series aren’t actually of anarchists. Neither Unitarians nor midwives, and not even pirates, are anarchists. (Not the bonobos either.) But each of these groups embody certain anarchist values, and learning about them challenged some of my assumptions about civilization. Unitarians taught me about small-scale democracy. Bonobos taught me about the naturalness of taking care of others. Midwives taught me about the availability of alternatives to the state and capitalist order. And pirates, those violent criminals from our bedtime stories, taught me about the violence of civilization itself.
My essay, “I Was A Coronavirus Denier”, got picked up (and renamed to “Confessions of a Reformed Coronavirus Skeptic”) by Medium editors and promoted. It’s a call for humility in the face of human stupidity.
I also wrote a rebuttal of the notion of “responsible capitalism” entitled “You are not a capitalist. I am. And I am not your friend.”
Patrick Farnsworth’s book, We Live in the Orbit of Beings Greater Than Us, is available for sale at Gods & Radicals Press. (You can get the ebook now. The hard copy is taking longer to print due to the pandemic.) I am honored to be a contributor to the volume, and Patrick graciously credits me in the introduction for helping to inspire the project. Patrick actually published the introduction to the volume, “Wilderness of Mine Afflictions”, at Gods & Radicals, and I reposted excepts of it here. It addresses issues of civilizational collapse, hope, and mainstream activism, issues which are a central concern to this project, Another End of the World Is Possible.
In addition to several articles which have been percolating in my mind for a while now–about the legal system and the environment, about the transcendentalism in the movie “Interstellar”, and maybe one on identity politics–I have another idea for an article on the importance of imagination in politics, maybe a revision of my previous article, “We Are the Dreamers of the Day: Capitalism and the Failure of Imagination”.
I’ve also been working on collecting some of my previous writings into a volume called The Greening of Paganism: Deep Ecology, Neo-Paganism, and Environmental Activism.
What I’m Watching
My wife and I have been watching the 4-part Hulu documentary on Hillary Clinton (“Hillary”), which I recommend. Also check out the 2-part Frontline documentary, “America’s Great Divide” about the Obama and Trump presidencies. It’s available for free on YouTube.
We also watched the Hulu documentary about Dr. Ruth (“Ask Dr. Ruth”), which was really powerful–both for her work as a sex educator and also her history as a holocaust survivor. Along those same lines, I would recommend the Netflix comedy series “Sex Education” (which is both provocative and funny) and the Hulu drama series “Normal People” (based on the book by the same name), which is notable for its acting and directing, as well as its graphic (and yet remarkably not pornographic or exploitative) sex scenes. Probably not coincidentally, the same “intimacy coordinator” worked on both series. If you’re wondering why I’m including this here, the answer is that I think sexuality is a political issue, especially in our patriarchal culture which manages to be both repressive and exploitative at the same time.
If you’d like to connect with me or send me recommendations for websites, articles, or books to check out, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.