Matthew T Grant

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Tall Guy. Glasses.

Odd Future in a World that Allows Rape

“In 12 years, there have been 6 million dead men and women in Congo and 1.4 million people displaced. Hundreds and thousands of women and girls have been raped and tortured. Babies as young as 6 months, women as old as 80, their insides torn apart. What I witnessed in Congo has shattered and changed me forever. I will never be the same. None of us should ever be the same.” – Eve Ensler, May 2009

The World We Live In

The situation Ensler describes above has only gotten worse and its “intractable” nature, documented by yet another report on the extent of sexual violence in Congo, led her to declare last week, “Here’s what I Am Over/400 thousand women getting raped a year in the Democratic Republic of Congo/48 women getting raped an hour/1,100 raped a day.”

As she rightly points out, we live in a world that “… has allowed, continues to allow 400 thousand women, 23,00 women, or one woman to be raped anywhere, anytime of any day in the Congo.”

Of course, we also live in a world in which Odd Future can release a song (“Swag Me Out,” from the Radical mixtape) containing the line (picked more or less at random), “”Nigga we/take a girl/rape her in the back/of the fucking jeep,” followed soon by, “Chop a bitch head off/Then get a pleasant nut off/Bitch!” In fact, in this world, the band can appear on Jimmy Fallon’s show and even have an interesting article written about them in the New Yorker. Read the rest of this entry »

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Unions, Business and the State

I listened to this episode of the Diane Rehm Show last night and became increasingly depressed about China’s human rights record.

While already long aware of China’s ongoing crackdown on Falun Gong adherents and artists like Ai Weiwei (where is he?), and, frankly, not having very high hopes for the defense of human or civil rights in authoritarian states in any case, I was nevertheless especially disheartened to learn of the supposedly communist state’s brutality directed at labor activists. As one of the guests pointed out, workers do not have the right to strike or even organize independent unions in China and any attempt to organize such are dealt with harshly (with punitive measures that include torture, she insisted).

Communism’s seemingly paradoxical opposition to organized labor, which resulted in the fall of a communist regime in the case of Poland’s Solidarity movement twenty or so years ago, highlights more than anything else that unions are not first and foremost about worker’s rights but, rather, about addressing an imbalance of power.

Let’s face it, when you work for someone, they have power over you. When many work for a few, the few have power over the many. When the many organize for the purposes of collective bargaining, for example, they are attempting to establish a balance of power; the business owner can fire one person without experiencing a business consequence—it’s harder to escape the consequences if you fire everyone (though owner’s are often willing to accept such consequences when they play the “lock out” card).

In other words, organizing a union can be a logical, defensive move on the part of individuals who have little power as individuals but, at times, significant power as a group.

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My Tattoo

First of all, I don’t have a tattoo. However, if and when I do get inked, this is what I envision.

On my left arm, I want to get an old woodcut of a phoenix rising from the flames. In fact, the specific image I want is this one:

To me, the phoenix means, among other things, “What goes around, comes around.” I think of that in terms of “karma” (at least the pop understanding of such) but also in terms of the fact  that we tend (at least in our minds) to create the environment that we interact with. It’s a reminder that we’re part of what we’re reacting to, that we’re putting energy into situations, driving them, inventing them, influencing them, and that we need to understand and accept this non-duality if we are to live in alignment with reality (assuming that matters to us).

The phoenix also says, along with Heraclitus, “All is flux.” Everything is tipping over into chaos and emerging out of it. This idea is reinforced by the second tattoo I want, on the back of my neck, of a serpent (or dragon) eating it’s own tail like this one: Read the rest of this entry »

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