CFP: The Word for World is Forest Symposium, October 2022.

(Photo Credit: Maksim Isotomin, Unsplash)

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the first publication of Ursula K. Le Guin’s anti-war novella The Word for World is Forest.

Written during the Vietnam conflict, The Word for World is Forest depicts a distant world invaded by human beings who are desperate for natural resources. It tells the tale of an alien culture that resists the invasion, but is forever changed by the decision.

The Anarres Project for Alternative Futures calls for abstracts for a multidisciplinary virtual symposium that aims to bring together activists, organizers, and scholars to consider the ways in which Le Guin’s tale can help us to diagnose social injustices in the present moment, and to imagine the ways we can catalyze solidarities to achieve more just futures.

Rather than strictly academic discussions or literary critiques, we are looking for presentations that take Le Guin’s novella as a basis for understanding themes such as oppression, patriarchy and toxic masculinity, racial justice, resistance, colonialism/imperialism, nonviolence and armed struggle, environmental justice, intersectional solidarity in the world today.  We are especially interested in how the tale might help us develop strategies for mutual aid and community organizing against injustice today.

The symposium will be held on-line over Zoom on Friday, October 14, 2022.

Please send an abstract of no more than 300 words by midnight (Pacific Time) Friday, September 9, 2022 using the submission form below.

What was the best sci-fi of 2021?

By Joseph Orosco (December 29, 2021)

The TrekWars@OSU collective (Dr. Randall Milstein, Dr. Joseph Orosco, and Dr. Jason Scully) gathered together again to discuss the best science fictions stories of 2021.  We chose to talk about those sci-fi narratives that most impacted us in some way, either by engaging in innovative storytelling or by engaging us in thinking about future possibilities in new ways.

Our choices for best science fiction for 2021 were:

Randy Milstein:  The Nevers, Season 1

Joseph Orosco:  The Expanse, Season 6 and Doja Cat, Planet Her

Jason Scully:  DC Legends of Tomorrow

We all agreed that the science fiction product that most underwhelmed us was :  Dune 2021.

Along the way, we noticed that the theme of rendering care to young people was a growing theme in a lot of science fiction stories this year.  We also discussed whether science fiction in the last thirty years has been hemmed in by a cyber punk aesthetic (blended with a neoliberal capitalist reality) that makes it very difficult to imagine, in Jason Scully’s words, a future of “exuberance”.

Let us know what you think.  Did we miss something you think helps us grow a radical imagination (quite frankly–there was a lot)?  (You can also watch our Best of Sci-Fi 2020 here.)

What Does Hispanic Heritage Month Mean to Me?

By Ralph Armbruster-Sandoval (October 6, 2021)

Hispanic Heritage Month initially came into being in 1968 during the height of social unrest in the United States and around the world. 1968 was year that Chicanx high school students in East LA walked out of their classes to demand what we would call Chicana/o Studies today and that same year, more than five hundred people were killed in Mexico City who were pushing for democratic change in Mexico. 1968 was also the year of the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, the year that Dr. King and Senator Robert Kennedy were assassinated, and the year so many other things happened.

Hispanic Heritage Month starts on September 15, the day that many countries in Latin America became independent from Spain. However, while one form of imperialism ended, a new form of imperialism soon emerged, with the United States becoming a new imperial power in the region. The U.S. intervened regularly in Mexico, Nicaragua, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and many other countries, toppling democratic governments for decades. Our role in these countries generated tremendous instability, prompting many to flee here where they once again mistreated. Despite systemic racism and widespread discrimination, “Hispanic” peoples, who are often Indigenous and Afro-Latinx, have organized, fought back, and demanded change. Those people–along with so many more, including my grand-grandparents, who left Mexico during the Revolution in the early 20th Century–have transformed the United States–they often sacrificed their lives so their children could have a better life. Those dreams have been elusive for many, but change has occurred and it continues, as Latinx people continue to demand dignity and respect in all social institutions.

How can people continue to listen to and amplify and honor Chicanx/Latinx and Hispanic voices?

Latinx voices are still marginalized in our popular culture–on television and in Hollywood. Despite some advances, most newsrooms, television shows, and films do not highlight Latinx voices and actors. Moreover, the publishing industry still does not publish enough books by Latinx authors, despite the fact that amazing writers such as Cherrie Moraga, Reyna Grande, Sandra Cisneros, Roberto Lovato and many others continue to release tremendous books that raise consciousness and awareness about the broader Latinx community.

One must therefore be diligent and seek these authors, writers, and actors out–they are doing amazing work, sometimes on platforms such as Hulu, Netflix, and other outlets, but they are out there. Once you find them, you can “spread the word,” as we used to say.

Professors like myself can include new and older Latinx authors in their class syllabi. We can also focus on iconic Chicana artists such as Yolanda Lopez who recently passed away and was most well-known for her work on decolonizing la Virgen de Guadalupe.

Chicanx/Latinx voices do exist, but sometimes one must search hard to find them–and so once we do, we must talk about them with our students, family members, friends, and even strangers.

Who are some Hispanic/Latinx leaders that I admire?

I will mention two here. I have always been inspired by Salvadoran Catholic Archbishop Oscar Romero. Romero became the leader of the Catholic Church in El Salvador in the late 1970s, just as the country was slipping into a violent, decade-long civil war. Monsenor Romero was installed as Archbishop because was a safe, apolitical choice; he was somebody who would not “rock the boat” or cause any waves. However, shortly after he became Archbishop, one of his closest friends was assassinated by a death squad who had ties to the military government and he started to speak out against repression and torture. Soon people were threatening to kill him, but Monsenor Romero said, “If I die, I will again in the Salvadoran people.” And he did–after he was assassinated in March 1980, his spirit moved people to seek out change in El Salvador and all around the world.

The second Latinx person who inspires me is Luisa Moreno. Moreno was a Guatemalan-born woman who was raised in an affluent family. She was also very light-skinned but had a transformation of sorts. She moved to Mexico City in the 1920s and then to New York City during the Depression in the 1930s. She became politicized and joined radical political organizations and labor unions. She once said, “One person cannot do anything; it’s only with others that things can be accomplished.” Moreno went on became very active in civil rights issues in Los Angeles, but the government targeted her as part of the Red Scare in the late 1940s and she was forced out of the country.

Moreno, along with other Chicana/Latina women, such as Lucy Parsons, Emma Tenayuca, Francisca Flores, Dolores Huerta, Antonia Fernandez, Magadalena Mora, Sylvia Rivera, and so many more inspire me as many of them struggled against all forms of injustice, namely, capitalism, racism, heterosexism, sexism, and imperialism.

Ralph Armbruster-Sandoval is Professor of Chicana and Chicano Studies at University of California, Santa Barbara.

We, the Workers, Will Build a Better World

By Zakk Flash (March 25, 2020)

We’re going to see some serious supply chain problems as my fellow “essential workers” and I fall sick.

Workplace protections have never been good in most industries; I’m grateful for the Teamsters collective bargaining agreement that I work under that gives me a bit more security. Unions are going to be a big part of what gets us through this.

That being said, the companies we work for aren’t doing enough to keep workers safe. As #Covid19 infects workers in logistics and transportation, there will be increasing bottlenecks in our supply chain.

While we hear that grocery stores and pharmacies will remain open during the pandemic, there is no guarantee that shelves will remain stocked. The stockers themselves, underpaid and unprotected, will face more and more risk of contracting the #Coronavirus.

Over two thirds of EMS personnel in New Orleans is currently isolated in quarantine. The hospital in my hometown is asking individuals to sew cloth masks for its employees. Workers around the globe are engaging in wildcat strikes to draw attention to their plight.

The situation, far from resolving itself by Easter, looks to only be getting worse.

There are, however, some truly bright lights.

The mutual aid projects that have arisen to provide comfort, material aid, and a real sense of community during an atomized and frightening time is saving lives. With staggering job losses and a shameful lack of action upon the part of the political class, purpose and progress become therapy.

From pantry programs and crisis nurseries for essential workers to videotaped book readings for quarantined children, folks are stepping up.

We have to continue to step up. We need to continue to support one another, while also holding our politicians accountable.

We need to demand an end to evictions and foreclosures, utility shut offs, and the like. We need Congress, the governors, and the president to get on the same page as the latest advice coming from top scientists studying this disease. We need manufacturing plants to switch their production lines from generating shareholder profits to producing masks, hand sanitizer, and the sorts of tools we’ll need to beat this virus.

It’s going to take an unbelievable amount of work. But we can do it if we stick together.

As the Spanish freedom fighter Buenaventura Durruti said during the Spanish Civil War:  “you must not forget that we can also build. It is we who built these palaces and cities, here in Spain and America and everywhere. We, the workers. We can build others to take their place.”

We can build a better world out of this. It starts with what you do next.

zf

Building Democratic Socialism in the US Requires the Long View

By Marc Cooper (March 4, 2020)

Sanders comes out of Super Tuesday an underdog (much to my dismay). While he needed to finish with a 200-300 delegate advantage to stay clearly and firmly in front, it is now projected that Sanders — under the best realistic finish in California– will finish about 25-30 delegates BEHIND Biden. Probably more as this is the best case scenario. This takes into account the three states of California, Maine and Texas where all the votes are not counted but can be reliably projected… at least roughly.

That said, and with no spin, the race is far from over though it is now Advantage Biden. Warren and Bloomberg are still wild cards that have no path to victory but who skew projections to some degree.

Nor is it in anyway clear if Biden can get a plurality let alone a majority of delegates to avoid a contested convention even if he continues a winning streak.

Bernie faces a stiff challenge now from Biden. But Biden also has to deal with Biden. I believe him a very weak and vulnerable candidate and only Heaven knows what SNAFU he can bring down on himself in the days and weeks to come. There is another debate coming soon and the key state of Michigan votes next week where Sanders might stage a comeback — or not. If you are a Berner, as I am, you must now redouble your efforts… no pouting, no complaining allowed. No resignation, no demoralization. Fueling a socialist to the presidency of the US is a Herculean task under any conditions, especially with Trump in office.

My humble suggestion to my fellow democratic socialists and other anti-Biden progressives: you MUST take the long view. It would be just short of a miracle to turn the political culture in this country around in just 4 yrs given there has been no significant socialist presence in the U.S. in a hundred years. So you continue your work for Sanders but you also understand that you are building something important for the future that might be years or decades away. Our immediate work is not finished with the primary. Next comes ousting Donald Trump. This does not make you a Biden Bot. It makes you a responsible citizen.

marc-cooper-2016

For more of Marc Cooper’s commentary, see his new newsletter.

The Era of Unbridled Cynicism: #Himtoo Movement Backlash

By Ana Castillo (October 15, 2018)

When catastrophic natural disasters devastate towns and islands & the president doesn’t bother to make an appearance with sincere condolences, instead chooses to attend campaign fund raisers and nationalist rallies, continues to mock minorities, the disabled and disenfranchised, routinely lies, dismisses abused women, and ignores the suffering of children, who practices nepotism, racism, misogyny, protects the wealthy and praises despots: and we tolerate it? We are a lost nation.

In this era, anyone who rises without any intention of acting upon (besides complaints on social media/forwarding fake chains and links, etc.) you must surely check your cynicism gauge. You may be lost, too.

ana castilo

White America’s Communication Problem

By S. (April 23, 2018)

Dear White America,
We have a communication problem. You are getting better at listening. In the past you’ve blamed us for not communicating to you in a manner that would facilitate you listening. We were too angry, too quiet, too loud, politically inconvenient, self-centered, stuck in victim mindset.

Finally, thanks to cell phone footage, you can see for yourselves what us black people know too well. You had to see it for yourselves to believe it. And you had to see it not once but multiple times, over and over, to truly understand. Now you get it. Black people are in danger from cops. Thank you. I am sincerely grateful at how far you’ve come in the last 15 years. But there’s still so much more work. There’s all the stuff that you don’t see, that you’ll never see. So we need you to listen. We need you to step up and intervene.

I knew Holly Hylton, I complained to you about her. You brushed me off and got annoyed at my discomfort. You blamed me for not having a better attitude, for not trying harder, for being a victim. I came to you because you were my friend. I was asking for support for your help in allowing me to process the racist and ugly way Holly treated me when I: *worked with her
*went to school with her
*bought coffee from her
*heard her sermon
*read her newspaper op ed
*watched her Oscar acceptance speech.

You said Holly didn’t do anything wrong, she didn’t mean to, she has a good heart, I caught her on a bad day, she gives money to starving children every week, she has black friends, she grew up in a black neighborhood, she went to a BLM protest, she loves hip hop. You defended Holly against my claims of racism.

You interrogated me. You made me become a lawyer, a ballistics expert, a pathologist, an economist, a historian, a translator of cultures, and many more so that you could find the loophole in my feelings and prove that I’m wrong about Holly.

Holly’s reputation as a non-racist became more important to you than my emotional needs.

You denied me support and validation when I came to you vulnerable and needy. That’s not what friends do.

If you’re a true friend, you’ll listen, learn, and apply what you’ve learned. You’ll call Holly out before she calls the police on me. You’ll empathize with Holly so that you can better figure out how to communicate effectively with her. There will be social consequences to her actions based on what she and has not learned.

This is where the party ends, because I can’t stand here listening to you and your racist friend.

Philanthropy is Not Justice

By Irami Osei-Frimpong (January 10, 2018)

There is a nice section in Kant’s Toward Perpetual Peace that runs like this:

“Both philanthropy and respect for the rights of the human being are duties; but the former is only conditional duty whereas the latter is unconditional duty, commanding absolutely, and whoever wants to give himself up to the sweet feeling of beneficence must first be completely assured that he has not transgressed this unconditional duty.”

______

Let me translate: A lot of do-gooders want to eat dessert before their dinner. They dine out on charity’s easy virtue, rather than think through and commit to what it means to secure rights for all in a free and equal society, and the inter-generational demands of racial justice. This is exactly how Athens, Georgia– the city of 10,000 self-satisfied white board members– has 500 non-profits and such abject, asymmetrical racialized generational poverty.

The grind of working out and guaranteeing rights is political work– with all of the attendant vulnerabilities of political work– with none of the flattery and “sweet feeling” of gratitude.

If you are in the game to make yourself feel good, rather than making yourself worthy of feeling good by doing good, you are doing the wrong thing for the wrong reason, and your skewed priorities not only have consequences, but they confuse everyone around you. That’s violence.

irami

 

Dan Savage on the Green Party: Just No

 

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By Adam Hefty (July 20, 2016)

Incredibly privileged gay white man comfortably speaking for all the oppressed? Just no.

– Acting as though political change in the US progresses in some gradual, arithmetic way from local races to national races? Just no.

(How could anyone think this after just watching the Bernie Sanders campaign? Yes, I’m aware that it happened within the context of a Democratic primary. But we just watched one of the two most significant insurgent, progressive presidential campaigns in the last 40 years, and you are seriously telling people to run for city council to the exclusion of higher offices? Also the Greens are running for city council in many places … but it’s the fact that Savage thinks this is a serious argument and people seem to buy it that I find flabbergasting.)

– My 2 cents, since I’m already counter-ranting: it’s not just California; if you live in one of 35-40 states that are probably safe for one major party or the other, and you have left-liberal, progressive, or radical politics, then you are wasting your vote if you vote for Clinton, in that you are voting for something you do not want when you could be voting for something you more or less do want. Live in one of the swing states? I dunno, consult your conscience, higher power, or friends, and make a call. Vote one way or the other, realize that your hands are dirty either way, realize that voting is a rather incidental political act, and join an organization that is doing something to fight anti-immigrant politics, Islamophobia, white supremacy, austerity, etc.

– On “tone” or the ethics of the discourse: engaging with a Dan Savage rant about electoral politics as if he’s not just a hack on this topic drags the conversation into such a muck. Who and what benefits when we stop having careful conversations about third-party politics and the dangers of a Trump presidency or a Clinton presidency and we descend into a slug-fest of shaming, chiding, vitriol, and condescension? Responding to this or the Rebecca Solnit article from 2012 feels like getting masterfully trolled by a puppetmaster with a Bill Clinton mask. I’m a sucker every time.

We Have Seen This Bitterness Before: Reflections on 1968 and Now

wallace

By Mark Naison (July 20, 2016)

I have many friends, most of them younger than me, who are terrified by the divisions in the country, by the violent acts that periodically add to the tension, and by an election which brings out a level of fear and anger they have never seen before.

Unfortunately, this is not new to me. I have vivid memories of the year 1968 and that Presidential election. We had a terrible war. Assasinations. Riots in every major city. Campus take overs. And a country divided down the middle over race and politics

I will give you snippets of this to put things in perspective. Race was a huge divider. There was bitter white resentment of Black urban uprisings and campus protests, fueled by a third party candidate named George Wallace, and used as a political platform in somewhat less visceral ways by the Republican candidate Richard Nixon. You could feel the tension on the streets, especially in neighborhoods which were undergoing rapid racial change. I vividly remember signs along the Cross Bronx Expressway which said “This is Wallace Country” as the line separating whites from Blacks and Latinos quickly moved from Tremont Avenue to Fordham Road. It also divided families. I was basically kicked out of my family for falling in love with a Black woman and adopted by her extended family, which had a base in the Bronx. Walking hand in hand through the city was like maneuvering a minefield. You never knew who was going to blow up at us

But it wasn’t just race. It was the war, drugs and the “hippie youth culture too.” I vividly remember driving through the Midwest with white friends on the way to Chicago, all of whom had long hair, and getting hate looks from parents while the children passed the peace sign. Some of my friends had been virtually disowned by their parents too, for growing their hair long, opposing the war, or participating in protests..

Those of us who were living through it saw no end in sight. Many of us thought we would die early deaths and that there would be a revolution or the emergence of some kind of fascist state. We had our apocalyptic fantasies and great music to fuel our fevered imaginations.

But though some people died, others burned themselves out, and families fractured, the nation survived and we stumbled on without our political system collapsing.

I suspect the same will happen now. We will hurt one another, and leave some lasting scars, but we will not turn into some unrecognizable dictatorship.

So friends, by all means worry, but do not despair. We will get through this. Damaged, but not destroyed.