GAY & LESBIAN COMMUNITY NOTES
FROM THE WEB
Net Briefs 03-09
ON SECOND STREET
Obama on Israel
SNATCH & GRAB
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An interview with Stephanie McMillan
Stephanie McMillan is the author of Minimum Security, a radical comic strip that approaches some of the most pressing issues of our time: the global environmental crisis, rampant consumerism, U.S. imperialism, and institutionalized gender and class inequalities. Much of McMillan's work challenges readers to look beyond a system that does not serve the needs of people or the natural world. She says, "Beliefs are extremely tenacious and we're trained from birth to believe in this system—that it's the only possible way to live." Her work has appeared in, among others, Yes! Magazine, Comic Relief, Funny Times, San Francisco Bay Guardian, and Z Magazine. Her 2007 graphic novel, As the World Burns: 50 Simple Things You Can Do To Stay In Denial, a collaboration with writer Derrick Jensen, continues to inspire people to "question their solutions." Currently, Minimum Security is syndicated online by United Media's comics.com, where it runs five days per week.
Boggs: You describe your strip as "America's cutest pre-post-apocalypse comic." What does this mean?
McMillan: We're on the verge of some horrible changes in this world, environmentally. It's unlikely we can change the course of this. With vanishing species, global warming, the death of the oceans, it's not hyperbolic to call it the apocalypse. The economy, also, will be very painful for a lot of people. The characters in my strip acknowledge all this.
There are many post-apocalyptic graphic novels and other comics out there. I wanted this one to represent our current situation, which is really pre-post apocalyptic. That's fairly depressing in real life, though I strive to highlight the humor. I wanted the strip to be very appealing in spite of its sometimes harsh subject matter, which is why I draw it cute.
The content of your comic illustrates your work as a long-time grassroots activist. Besides environmental work, what other issues have you worked on? Do you see these and other struggles as related?
All of the political work I've done during my life, which has included working against police brutality and imperialist war, for immigrant rights, and protecting abortion clinics, has been with the underlying awareness that one system—structured to increase the wealth of a very few—is oppressing all the rest of us in countless different ways. I worked on issues that I thought revealed this reality and could potentially connect with other struggles to form an all-encompassing revolutionary movement. To eliminate this oppressive system, we need to attack it from every angle, and at the same time understand that we, in different struggles, have a common enemy.
The title of your strip, Minimum Security, is taken from a quote you read from the newspaper. An inmate who was just released from prison looked around and said, "I'm still not free; I'm just in minimum security." How is this revealed in your work?
The political and economic system dominates and strives to control every aspect of our existence, from our everyday doings to our innermost feelings. From being forced to work for food and shelter to standardized education, to the "infotainment" industry, we live within a very narrow set of choices. Some of my characters—especially Bunnista—challenge these limits when they come up against them. Bunnista refuses to pay his credit cards. He destroys things he thinks are bad—a cell phone tower, a television station. Javier refuses to play a popular form of music. Kranti refused, for a time, to go indoors or watch television.
We often hear from the progressive community to refuse products that stem from exploitation like sweatshops. Is this type of refusal enough to stop the atrocities?
It's not enough, not even close. We cannot confine our political activity to choosing what products to buy and expect to make the kinds of major social transformations that we need to make. To confine our political action to choices made in the marketplace is to deny our agency as fully rounded human beings.
We hear of actions that might work if everyone did them, but there are so many of those and they never go far enough. "If everyone" would stop buying plastic. "If everyone" would stop driving cars. "If everyone" would refuse to work. It just isn't going to happen.
The two characters you mentioned, Bunnista and Kranti, are much more radical than the others. Kranti is a determined environmentalist "unable to look away from the horrors of our society and who tries to help others understand that a lot of our 'normal' life actually involves atrocities against the natural world." Bunnista is an angry rabbit who, after they destroyed his right eye, escaped from a corporate cosmetics lab. He believes in revolutionary change and is willing to try anything. These perspectives are largely absent in the mainstream media. What are your thoughts on this and the state of the media today?
The mainstream media exists to serve the needs of capital and empire by telling us what to think about everything. The words "liberal" and "conservative," as they're generally used, have no meaning. They're used to facilitate a very narrow, pro-capitalist range of opinions that has nothing to do with real change. The supposed conflict between liberal and conservative media is a diversion created so that we'll believe there is an authentic debate and choice, where really there isn't any. Whenever real radical ideas do sneak into the mainstream media, they're usually smuggled in under the guise of comedy. That's one reason I draw a humorous, cute comic strip.
In As the World Burns, you unmask the absurd logic in the "solutions" to our environmental crisis. Kranti goes beyond critique and claims that this kind of awareness actually promotes an illusion that is harmful. Can you explain?
If we're convinced that it will make a difference if we take shorter showers, change our light bulbs, and obsess about our carbon footprint, then we won't have the time or inclination to smash industrial capitalism and the political apparatus that keeps it in place. If we're blaming ourselves for over-consumption, then we're not focusing on the real enemies of the planet—the captains of industry, politicians, and their armed enforcers.
One of the most damaging lefty slogans, one that makes me cringe every time I hear it, is that well-loved and over-used line from Pogo: "We have met the enemy and he is us." No, the enemy is not "us." It is the corporations and the people who run them and the people who help them keep their power. Those are not "us." I don't recall ever being asked if I wanted a piece of land to be "developed" or whether I approved of a new war to capture so-called "resources." I'll start taking shorter showers when they stop waging agribusiness. The job of people who want to save the planet is to stop those who are destroying it. It's that simple.
The Miami Herald recently quoted you at the Miami Book Fair. You said, "It's almost unforgivable to do work that's not in some way trying to make the world better." At the same time, we know there are well-meaning people caught up in a system that only rewards those willing to maintain the illusion and continue destroying the planet. How can this reality be changed?
The Miami Herald recently quoted you at the Miami Book Fair. You said, "It's almost unforgivable to do work that's not in some way trying to make the world better." At the same time, we know there are well-meaning people caught up in a system that only rewards those willing to maintain the illusion and continue destroying the planet. How can this reality be changed?The only way is to help people understand that though it might be easier in the short run to go along with the system, it's going to hurt us all in the long run—not even the long run; it's actually hurting us all now. Cancer is surpassing heart disease as the main cause of death worldwide. The water, air, and soil are poisoned, harming all living beings, not just humans.
But many people don't want to break the spell of denial and can't bring themselves to acknowledge the pain. It is hard to break the illusions, to face the reality of what we've been tolerating, and harder still to stand up and fight back. We have to encourage one another to be brave, to love ourselves, and love those around us enough to do what's right.
Whether or not we care about the consequences of particular actions depends on how far our circle of empathy extends: to our own family and friends, the humans of our nation, or all humans, or all animals, or all life.
Sometimes people expend a lot of unconscious effort to restrain and shrink their circle of empathy. In the back of their minds, they know that if they allowed themselves to care about more living beings, then their sense of horror at what's being done to the world could be devastating. They try very hard to avoid the pain, fear, and sorrow.
Marx said that guilt is a good first step toward action. I agree, in that we need to face our own complicity, our own failure to adequately resist. But that's as far as the value of guilt goes, to me. The vast majority of us did not create this system, we do not enforce it, and we don't need to feel guilty for living in it. We're its victims. Once we recognize that, our job is to defend our fellow living creatures and ourselves by fighting back.
In Minimum Security, I try to find ways of moving readers to expand their circle of empathy and to shift it from those in power to the oppressed. I also try to show how we—especially the expanded "we"—are harmed by industrial capitalism and that our interests do not lie in preserving it. My intention isn't to make people feel guilty, instead I want to foster outrage and inspire people to act.
During the presidential election, and even afterwards, we were bombarded with rhetoric calling for "hope" and "change," yet your comic strip critiqued these notions as fundamentally flawed. One of my favorite ones had Bunnista saying, "Not even the biggest ballot box can contain my fury." Is it wrong to have hope?
It depends on whether that hope is well placed. To invest hope in the ballot box certainly seems like a mistake. There is a saying something like, "The Democratic Party is the graveyard of the radical movement." If people could transform society by voting, voting would be made illegal. Obama is certainly more appealing in style than McCain or Bush, but he's not going to fundamentally transform the system, much less dismantle it. His job, his function, is to maintain, and, if possible, expand it. No one in that position could do otherwise.
I do have hope though. Perhaps "hope" is not the right word. I think of Gramsci's phrase, "pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will." The meaning I find in my own life lies in the possibility that enough of us will resist this system and destroy it, so that all forms of life on this planet can continue and thrive.
Kyle Boggs is a freelance writer living in Arizona.
Kyle Boggs is a freelance writer living in Arizona.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; email@example.com; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; firstname.lastname@example.org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: email@example.com; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; email@example.com.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; email@example.com; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: email@example.com; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.