Saturday, April 08, 2023

Main Blog Moved to!

Since March 2013, the main Kersplebedeb website has been migrated to a primarily wordpress format.

What this means in practical terms is that everything you are used to seeing on Sketchy Thoughts is now being posted straight to Kersplebedeb and simply being automatically mirrored here. So in general, you will probably have a better reading/viewing experience if you head over to Kersplebedeb.

For those who prefer the Sketchy Thoughts blogger layout for whatever reason, this page will continue to be automatically updated whenever something is posted to Kersplebedeb, for at least the short-term future. However, as additional functionality is added to the Kersplebedeb site via wordpress, the Sketchy Thoughts page will probably begin to show its age more and more.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Class Analysis and Class Structure in Canada (Second Version)

This is a second, substantially revised version of the document we published in March 2015. It has been revised after additional internal study and discussion, and in preparation for the release of Volume #7 of Uprising.

from Pocket

Des militaires au coeur d'une communauté d'extrême droite

Des membres et ex-membres des Forces armées canadiennes sont au coeur d'une «communauté» d'extrême droite qui fait l'apologie de thèses nazies et de théories du complot, en vantant les «guerriers» et en exaltant le «combat», a appris La Presse.

from Pocket

Oath Keepers, Ferguson, and the Patriot movement’s conflicted race politics ~ threewayfight

When a group built around right-wing conspiracy theories sends heavily armed white men onto streets filled with Black Lives Matter protesters, it makes sense to be worried.

from Pocket

Saturday, August 22, 2015

With Allies Like These: Reflections on Privilege Reductionism

For free physical copies of Mortar (plus the costs of shipping), please send us a message at Common Cause is an anarchist-communist organization based in Ontario, Canada, with active branches in Hamilton, Kitchener-Waterloo and Toronto.

from Pocket

Friday, August 21, 2015

Science Fiction's White Boys' Club Strikes Back

Science fiction often achieves the remarkable feat of being both futuristic and reactionary at the same time. The history of the genre is replete with writers who have given us glittering visions of radically different tomorrows, of robots and androids, aliens and galactic empires.

from Pocket

Think the Left Won the Culture War? Think Again

Since at least the landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage across the United States, it’s been trendy to say that the culture war is over.

from Pocket

Another Word for White Ally is Coward

Fear. Fear is real. There are times when fear should be listened to. Like when shots ring out and fear tells you to duck and run. There are other times when fear needs to be pushed through. We leave it up to each person to decide when to push and when to run.

from Pocket

How Snobbery Helped Take The Spice Out Of European Cooking

My father usually starts off his curries by roasting a blend of cinnamon, cardamom, coriander, anise, cumin and bay leaves. Then he incorporates the onions, garlic and ginger — and then tomatoes and chilies and a touch of cream.

from Pocket

The war on “unlikeable women”: Ariana Grande, Kim Kardashian and the brazen misogyny we choose to ignore

Bill Cosby is accused of raping 50 women, and his Q score is still better than Kardashian's. How is that possible? VIDEO This article originally appeared on The Daily Dot.

from Pocket

How False Narratives of Margaret Sanger Are Being Used to Shame Black Women

In the wake of the attacks by the Center for Medical Progress, Planned Parenthood’s origins and its founder, Margaret Sanger, have once again become the center of conversations regarding Black women and abortion.

from Pocket

Monday, August 17, 2015

San Quentin Six on the assassination of Hugo Pinell

San Quentin 6 defendants Fleeta Drumgo, Hugo Pinell, and David Johnson stage an impromptu sit-in at San Quentin in 1975 when trial jurors toured the prison

San Quentin 6 defendants Fleeta Drumgo, Hugo Pinell, and David Johnson stage an impromptu sit-in at San Quentin in 1975 when trial jurors toured the prison

Hugo Pinell was assassinated at new Folsom State Prison. this is another example of the racism people of color inside those prisons are confronted with on a daily basis. like Comrade George, Hugo has been in the cross hairs of the system for years. His assassination exemplify how racist working in conjunction with prison authorities commit murderous acts like this. We saw it on the yard at Soledad in 1970 and we see it again on the yard at Folsom in 2015.

His life was a living hell. We witness the brutality inflicted on him by prison guards as they made every effort to break him, he endured more than fifty years of sensory deprivation, for decades he was denied being able to touch his family or another human being, as well as attempts on his life. This is cruel and unusual punishment! Hugo is not the monster that is being portrayed in social media / news media. The CDC is the real monster.
During the six trial we really got to know Hugo. He was as we all were under a lot of stress. His stress was heavier than mines because he had the additional load of being beaten on regular occasions. We saw the strength of his of his spirit, and through it all he manage to smile.
We mourn the loss of our comrade brother, yogi. We have been hit with a crushing blow that will take some time to recover from. We must expose those who under the cover of law orchestrated and allowed this murderous act to take place. The prisoners who did it acted as agents of the state. It comes at a time when prisoners are collectively trying to end decades of internal strife. Those who took his life have done a disservice to our movement, their actions served the cause of the same oppressor we fought against! No longer do you have to endure the hatred of people who didn’t even know you and never dared to love you. You have represented George & Che well, and we salute you!

David General Giap Johnson
Luis Bato Talamantez
Willie Sundiata Tate

on the main Kersplebedeb website:

Sunday, August 16, 2015

In Her Own Words: The Political Beliefs of the Protester Who Interrupted Bernie Sanders

By / The roar of internet response to what happened in Seattle on Saturday surprised even one of the activists behind the action. But in retrospect, it makes some sense.

from Pocket

Eurocentrism and the Communist Movement

Originally published in 1985 as a "movement" mimeograph in the anti-revisionist Marxist-Leninist circles in the UK, Robert Biel's [ECM] is a subterranean classic.

from Pocket

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Marx & Philosophy Review of Books reviews Eurocentrism and the Communist Movement (JMP)

Biel provides convincing arguments as to how the failure of Marxist movements to divest themselves of a Eurocentric worldview is intimately connected to opportunism and mechanical materialism. The opportunist position of reform over revolution, or the peaceful existence with capitalism, was historically premised on the denial of struggles at the global peripheries, and collaboration with colonialism; the theory of productive forces was premised on a development discourse where colonial development should be supported so as to create a third world proletariat and bourgeoisie. This Eurocentric blockage would carry over into other Marxist tendencies, even ones that were not immediately revisionist or economistic. For example, in the First Congress of the Third International, Trotsky could make the Eurocentric argument that the ‘smaller peoples’ in Africa and Asia would be freed, not by their own agency, but by a proletarian revolution in Europe that would ‘free the productive forces of all countries from the tentacles of the national states.’ (115) Of course, Biel notes that there was also a creative development of theory under Lenin that challenged these Eurocentric categories: hence, in the Second Congress of the Third International, the position expressed by Trotsky (and others) above was replaced, through debates on the national question, by the position (that Lenin had held earlier) that resistance movements at ‘the weakest links’ possessed the most revolutionary potential.

But alongside every creative development of theory emerging from revolutionary struggle that challenged the Eurocentric aspects of Marxism, there has also been, despite important successes, an inability to go far enough. Biel traces this problem from the time of Marx and Engels right up to the Chinese-inspired New Communist Movement (the context in which the original version of this book was written) that was not only at risk of ‘dogmatism’ – because ‘with any movement to uphold orthodoxy, you risk becoming conservative and scared of new ideas’ (6) – but failed to truly grasp ‘that aspect of the corrupting influence of imperialism [Eurocentrism] which ought to have been the target of struggle … [that] will sneak into the anti-revisionist movement and grab it from within.’ (6)

on the main Kersplebedeb website:

Friday, August 14, 2015

Hugo Yogi Pinell, Rest in Power

Hugo Yogi Pinell

Hugo Yogi Pinell

(from freedom archives)

We are saddened by the news of Hugo Pinell’s death. Hugo Pinell always expressed a strong spirit of resistance. He worked tirelessly as an educator and activist to build racial solidarity inside of California’s prison system.

Incarcerated in 1965, like so many others, Hugo became politicized inside the California prison system.

In addition to exploring his Nicaraguan heritage, Hugo was influenced by civil rights activists and thinkers such as Malcolm X, Martin Luther King as well as his comrades inside including George Jackson. His leadership in combating the virulent racism of the prison guards and officials made him a prime target for retribution and Hugo soon found himself confined in the San Quentin Adjustment Center.

While at San Quentin, Hugo and five other politically conscious prisoners were charged with participating in an August 21, 1971 rebellion and alleged escape attempt, which resulted in the assassination of George Jackson by prison guards. Hugo Pinell, Willie Tate, Johnny Larry Spain, David Johnson, Fleeta Drumgo and Luis Talamantez became known as the San Quentin Six. Their subsequent 16-month trial was the longest in the state’s history at the time. The San Quentin Six became a global symbol of unyielding resistance against the prison system and its violent, racist design.

As the California Prisons began to lock people up in long-term isolation and control unit facilities, Hugo was placed inside of the SHU (Secure Housing Unit) in prisons including Tehachapi, Corcoran and Pelican Bay. There, despite being locked in a cell for 23 hours a day, he continued to work for racial unity and an end to the torturous conditions and racially and politically motivated placement of people into the SHU. This work included his participation in the California Prison Hunger Strikes as well as supporting the Agreement to End Racial Hostilities in 2011.

At the time of his death, Hugo had been locked behind bars for 50 years yet his spirit was unbroken.

Freedom Archives is currently working on an audio piece based on one of the last recordings done with Hugo. We will include materials from the San Quentin 3 – David Johnson, Luis Talamantez and Sundiata Tate.

We would like to share this brief poem by Luis ‘Bato’ Talamantez:Hasta Siempre Hugo

Solidarity forever

And we are saddened

Solidarity left

You when (it) should have

Counted for something and

What your long imprisoned

Life stood for

Now all your struggles

To be free have failed

And only death a

Inglorious and violent

Death has

Claimed you

At the hands of the

Cruel prison system


La Luta Continua


-Bato and the San Quentin 3

and a short poem written by Hugo Pinell from a publication issued in 1995.No


How long it takes,

Real Changes will come,

And the greatest personal reward

Lies in our involvement and contributions,

Even if it may appear that nothing significant

Or of impact really happened

During our times,

But it did,


Every sincere effort

Is as special as every human life

-Hugo Pinell (1995)

Here is a link to the Freedom Archives San Quentin 6 collection (note there are 19 non-digitized items as well as those that are already digitized)

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 863.9977

on the main Kersplebedeb website:

Peter Collins, Rest In Power


Peter Collins

Peter Collins

Peter Collins, our friend, brother and comrade in struggle passed away August 13, 2015 at 2am. He will always be remembered for his endless fight for justice, his sense of humour, his kind heart and his unwavering integrity. His contributions to changing the world we live in will continue to live on through his art, cartoons, audio recordings, short films and his writing. His spirit will live on through our hearts and minds as he deeply touched so many of us.

Over the coming months there will be memorial services held in Ottawa, Kingston, Montreal and Toronto.

Peter Collins

Peter Collins

There is so much to say about the lack of proper care that he received but we will write more about that later.

on the main Kersplebedeb website:

Sunday, July 19, 2015

it’s coming apart

this article touches on points related to the Neocolonialism and Noise thing i wrote a few days ago, and which i continue to think about

Maybe the best thing to say is just that contemporary culture is complicated by a deep confusion about underdogs and bullies, that we can no longer identify insider or outsider easily, and that capital has undertaken a deliberate process of mystification about power. The linguistic and culture code I’m describing arose from an insurgent tendency, and indeed, those who use it do not occupy a seat of economic or political power. They have, instead, become part of a dominant cultural force that has been divided entirely from that base in material power. Capitalism has given us cool and kept power for itself, divorced the affect of resistance from actual resistance, and at this stage we have to merely remain alive to what is happening under our noses as we attempt to secure the inevitable next stage of human affairs.

on the main Kersplebedeb website:

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Neocolonialism and Noise

The world has changed over the past fifty years. There are different names for this change — neoliberalism, postmodernism, postfordism, globalization. The term i prefer to use is “neocolonialism”. But despite this clear reference to one specific thing — colonialism, the relationship between oppressor and oppressed nations, which i would argue remains central — the change that has taken place encompasses much more than that, being not just about the fake integration of of colonized people as pretend “equal partners” in imperialism, but also about the fake integration of women as “equal partners” in patriarchy, and about all kinds of direct and indirect ways in which global capitalism was restructured to respond to the political challenge of the 20th century anticolonial movements.

Whatever you want to call it, one thing that is clear is that within the imperialist centers (countries like canada, the united states, etc.), there is a lot more mainstream cultural space allowed for rebellious noise, innovation, and “freedom” of a sort than there used to be in capitalism’s previous phase. Indeed, all kinds of cultural innovation, love it or hate it, is allowed to thrive as it can under these conditions, the sole condition being that it not frontally assault the system today. My guess is that partly this is because the constraints of old style colonialism were defeated, but also partly because this noise, innovation, and “freedom” has become a big moneymaker, not just a fringe niche. And partly, looking at the settler colonies and especially the united states as a trendsetter culturally as much as economically within the anglosphere, this can be seen as an immediate echo of the integration into “whiteness” of myriad non-WASP europeans in the early 20th century, followed by the integration/appropriation/commercialization on a world scale of various oppressed-nation cultures1 in the postwar period. Things opened up.

At the same time, under neocolonialism, there is less space for actual change which will make life better for the oppressed majority, by which i mean (speaking schematically) the world proletariat and peasantry, the overwhelming majority of whom are found in the oppressed nations, within which women play an increasingly prominent and critical part. Capitalism in the previous period, but especially after World War II, had a lot of wiggle room, and there were tangible victories that could be scored. (Was this “low lying fruit” in historical terms? i would say no, though maybe it appears that way looking back.)

Not only is there less room for improving the lives of the most oppressed under neocolonialism, but as there is less and less economic wiggle room in general, the memo has gone out to every nation and would-be-nation and class and collectivity out there: get ready to fight for what you have, or for what you want, or if for nothing else then at least for the crumbs. Because it is like a global game of musical chairs, who will be out next? Greece? Spain? China? Wait and see … but know if you’re just sitting on your thumbs waiting, you might end up resembling that deer in the headlights …

In other words, whether it is the NDP or the Parti Quebecois, or QS or Syriza, this thing they call “austerity” is on the agenda, even for the global middle class. Less wiggle room all around.

At the same time, while there is less room for economic change or even consistent social bribery under neocolonialism (offbalanced by plenty of room still for sporadic and ad hoc bribery and privilege), the present world order incorporates a higher level2 of instability than old-style colonialism — not really unrelated to the aforementioned game of musical chairs — and this makes various conflicts and challenges appear super risky, and confusing — think Syria, Libya, Ukraine … ISIS, Boko Haram, etc. — there is no unified left position on these things, and even where bunches of us do agree, we neither know how to intervene, nor do we (in the imperialist west) have the capacity to intervene in a meaningful way.

It is all very discouraging. Add examples like Nepal and Palestine and the Dominican Republic into the mix, and it gets downright depressing.

So what to do, when there is extra space made for words, including angry words, but less space for real change … plus remember, more dangerous and daunting possibilities whenever even one of the system’s satraps is challenged?3

Lined up like a math equation that way, the answer isn’t a mystery: energies get spent developing those angry words, and the relationship of those words to real change becomes less and less important. Indeed, we think away from change, whenever we can.

i think it is rare on the activist left for people to do this in a machiavellian or malevolent way. i don’t think people are saying to themselves “how can i opportunistically posture while not actually doing anything that would make me a target”. i think it generally happens on a more subtle, subconscious, diffused-through-the-global-middle-class-and-expressed-with-good-intentions kinda way. But that is what i see happening, in a process than affects me as much as anyone around me.

In this way the current economic-political setup which is neocolonialism structures even those movements that oppose it. And as this is done, they bring into being a particular emotional register, as all social structures do. The living consequence as people feel it, is movements in which there is a pressure to be judgmental and conformist, in which people feel unusual amounts of insecurity about saying or doing “the wrong thing” (often without anybody being able to articulate why it is wrong in a way that makes sense outside of the clique), in which we have lots of nice sounding words for people from oppressed nations or suffering gender oppression, but also in which we have few solutions which are both collective and real4 — in other words, despite our subjective intentions, we build movements with all the characteristics of neocolonialism itself. 


i wrote the above, in somewhat shorter form, in a facebook thread about the statement “men are the enemy”, which was defended on the grounds that it was some kind of syllogism to “white people are the enemy”. Statements which — as is usually the case in my experience — were being made by men and white people, amongst others. i was trying to explain why i objected to the statements, in that i do not feel such statements are “real”, i do not feel such statements are generally said with any kind of intention to act as if this were true, that such statements are more about staking out positions than anything else, and why i find that to be characteristic of radical movements in the imperialist centers during the neocolonial age.

But to be clear, i think the above applies to a whole range of practices and ideas which increase in their shiny impressive edgey radicalness5 just as they abandon any intersection with people’s lives or actual political choices. Following the rightward swing of the 1980s, pretty much anything coming out of academia seems to have to contend with this as an overwhelming temptation. In terms of identity politics … well, identity politics is often a prime example of this, but it should be kept in mind that it is not the root of it, and bashing identity politics can be just as much emblematic of the neocololonial grandstanding imperative. In fact, grandstanding is a big part of what this is all about.

Of course, all of this is a schematic look at how neocolonialism engenders this kind of attitude on a macro level. On a more intimate, more on-the-level-of-our-experiences, level, this stuff plays out according to its own identifiable mechanisms. But that is not specific to this, it is more how stuff operates in general. The macro level creates openings and opportunities which are then filled, generally autonomously, by things thought up or developed or chanced upon by actual people, and then generalized/popularized/institutionalized. For better or for worse. What i am trying to say here, is in this case it is for worse.

This is something i may return to in future posts. It is certainly something i have been thinking about. i don’t consider it to be a major strategic issue, or something that uncovers some big bad truth about capitalism or the world today. However, within sections of the radical left, i feel the most pressing issue facing us is to “get real”, and the noise described above is one of the first obstacles to us doing that.

  1. first and foremost amongst them being those of the internal colonies, esp. the Black/New Afrikan nation
  2. by this i don’t just mean “more”. i mean the instability occurs on a higher level, as in “higher” or “bigger” bodies of governance can break down, be contested, be overthrown but without overthrowing capitalism/imperialist or creating space for the oppressed to rebuild — think the so-called “failed states”, think zones of civil war
  3. is this really so? think the fall of the Paris Commune, think the Nazis, think the low-intensity wars against the national liberation movements … more daunting than that? but those weren’t the henchmen, the stand-ins, the compradors being challenged, that was — or appeared to be — the system’s sovereignty itself. Nowadays a mere changing of the neocolonial guard is often accompanied by genocide, whereas some “civil wars” and “failed states” are really themselves simply new permanent zones of what might be called primitive accumulation, not unstable from the perspective of capitalism just instable from the perspective of people living there.
  4. by “real”, i mean, which will actually work for people outside of our subcultures, in their daily lives, not just when they are in their early 20s and part of our clique, and not just when they have alternate forms of privilege to barter with or fall back on
  5. an oversimplification — what they increase in is a particular form of emotional energy. this often comes across as shrill, self-righteous, grandiose, but not only.

on the main Kersplebedeb website:

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Gerry Hannah on the Subhumans, Julie Belmas, and his solo album

It’s just that I’m really not that interested in playing punk rock anymore. I sometimes feel like punk rock, not necessarily the way the songs are supposed to go, but the way they end up going, live, for a lot of bands, in a lot of shows, they’re so fast that’s it’s really hard to dig the melody, because it just flies by, and you don’t have a chance to even grab onto it. The other thing is, the formula for writing lyrics in punk rock—and I’m a slave to the punk rock formula—is really in your face. There’s no ambiguity whatsoever. This is what we’re telling you, and it’s black and white, you know what I mean? And that’s not really where I’m at in terms of lyric-writing anymore. I want to move beyond that. I’m not saying I do move beyond that, but ideally I would like to. And I think the songs on Coming Home, there’s a little bit more room for the listener to move around in the lyrics without being hit over the head with a sledgehammer and told how to think.

on the main Kersplebedeb website:

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Rally and Hearing for Deepan in Montreal!


(/français ci-dessous/)

Rally and Hearing for Deepan in Montreal!

Monday, 13 July, 8am
Immigration and Refugee Board,
Guy Favreau Complex (200 René Lévesque Blvd.), Montreal

Deepan Budlakoti, our comrade and friend, will soon be in Montreal to challenge his conditions of release at the Immigration and Refugee Board. Deepan is under a deportation order to India, his parents’ country of birth. He spent months in immigration detention and was released under conditions that limit his freedoms. Because India does not recognize him as a citizen and is refusing his deportation, Deepan is under these conditions indefinitely, with no end in sight.

Deepan was born in Ottawa and his Canadian citizenship was never in question until a racist prison guard reported him to Immigration Canada. This initiated a process in which Canada arbitrarily decided that he was not a citizen on the pretext that his parents came to Canada to work as household help in the Indian Embassy and then proceeded to strip him of permanent residence because of his criminal record. More information on his struggle to have his citizenship recognized: www.

Join us on July 13th for a rally and then stay afterwards; we’ll try to fill the room with supporters if they allow us to attend the hearing.

NO to double punishment!
NO deportations!
NO detentions!

JUSTICE for Deepan!




Rassemblement et audience pour Deepan à Montréal !

Lundi, 13 juillet, à 8h
Commission de l’immigration et du statut de réfugié du Canada
Complexe Guy Favreau (200 boul. René-Lévesque), Montréal

Deepan Budlakoti, notre camarade et ami, sera bientôt à Montréal pour contester ses conditions de libération devant la Commission de l’immigration et du statut de réfugié du Canada. Deepan a reçu un ordre de déportation vers l’Inde, le pays de naissance de ses parents. Il a passé des mois en détention de l’immigration et a été libéré sous des conditions qui limitent ses libertés. Parce que l’Inde ne le reconnaît pas comme un citoyen et qu’il refuse sa déportation, Deepan est sous ces conditions indéfiniment, sans en voir la fin.

Deepan est né à Ottawa et sa citoyenneté canadienne n’avait jamais été remise en question jusqu’à ce qu’un gardien de prison raciste le dénonce à l’immigration. Cela a initié un processus durant lequel le Canada a décidé d’une manière arbitraire//qu’il n’était pas un citoyen canadien sous le pretexte que ses parents étaient venus ici pour travailler comme aides domestiques à l’ambassade indienne, puis il lui ont retiré sa résidence permanente à cause de son dossier criminel. Pour plus d’informations sur sa lutte pour faire reconnaître sa citoyenneté : www.

Joignez-vous à nous le 13 juillet pour un rassemblement et restez avec nous ensuite; nous essayerons de remplir la salle avec des alliéEs s’ils nous laissent assister à l’audience.

NON à la double peine !
NON aux déportations !
NON aux détentions !

JUSTICE pour Deepan !

on the main Kersplebedeb website:

Losing My Religion (by André Moncourt)

Recently one of those issues that arises constantly to tangle up leftists and liberals reared its head in my little world.  Some folks (all of European decent) in a band I know were in the studio and someone proposed using an aburukuwa, a Ghanian drum, I am told, to get just the right sound.  One of the young men in the band objected that that was “cultural appropriation.”

Although people who use this term rarely take time to define it, I presume that the issue with cultural appropriation is the apparent commodification of an oppressed culture’s artefacts to the advantage of an oppressor culture, or in layman’s terms:  ripping off other people’s shit – and maybe killing them in the process – for fun and profit. I personally consider the question of cultural appropriation to raise issues that are much messier and more complex than the young feller’s simple (perhaps simplistic) statement suggests.  I sort of think of it as the next-door neighbour of political correctness:  not quite as pointlessly guilt-ridden and paralyzing, but not as straight forward as its proponents suggest.

We’re talking about rock music here, so let’s just pause for a moment to think.  Let’s start with Elvis, who definitely didn’t create rock ‘n’ roll, but who, nonetheless, is the single figure most likely to leap to mind when one thinks about the genre – which has to do with media propensity for oversimplification, but I digress.  Chuck Berry is fond of being pissed off about not getting his dues (in the form of cash) as the fountainhead of rock ‘n’ roll.  Bo Diddley probably has an argument on his side as well, and he’s also got that real cool box-shaped guitar.  Me, personally I think the first rock ‘n’ roll song was Hot Tamales (They’re Red Hot) by Robert Johnson – and if we’re going to talk about appropriation and not getting your dues, I mean really, the man pretty much invented a genre that everyone and his/her dog has appropriated.

Anyway, back to Elvis.  Everyone knows Elvis stole black music.  Then, I think, well, what about the Sun Sessions? I mean, yeah, you can hear the impact of R&B, but you can also hear the impact of hillbilly music – some people might actually think that the idea of synthesizing those two styles and then spicing it with some this and that was actually pretty ingenious – apparently both Sammy Davis Jr. and James Brown thought the man rocked (as it were).1  Fucking sellouts – who’s black and proud now?

Of course, I also find myself wondering:  Would it have been a better world if Elvis had just stayed with the hillbilly music, rather than playing a role in creating a form of music that was one of the sparks for the youth revolt that became the mass uprising of the sixties?2  Let’s see what John Trudell, former national chairman of the American Indian Movement, has to say about it in a song entitled Baby Boom Ché, (he sings in a form distinctly integrating aspects of white rock music and white beat poetry with traditional Native drumming):

The first wave rebelled,
I mean, we danced even if we didn’t know how,
I mean Elvis made us move.
Instead of standing mute he raised our voice
And when we heard ourselves something was changing,
You know, like for the first time we made a collective decision
About choices.3

Fucking sellout!

Anyway, we all know how that ends:  Vegas gets Elvis, and a bunch of guys (mostly white) grow their hair long and learn how to make guitars feedback (I will ultimately lose a good deal of hearing listening to them do their various party tricks).  Rock is born in little shitholes in London and New York City and Hamburg and San Francisco … well, basically anywhere where there was a high concentration of European and Euro-American youth.  Now, we all know that these guys stole the blues – I mean the Rolling Stones (definitely the robber barons of the genre, as it were) named themselves after a Muddy Waters song.  My friend Phil says he advised them to adopt the name, but that’s another story – and undoubtedly a lie.

This round of appropriation all gets a bit confusing.  For example, Hendrix was routinely criticized for playing “white man’s music.”  So, was Hendrix appropriating white man’s music that had been appropriated from black folks – mostly men, actually – or was he re-appropriating black man’s music?  Fucking sellout … maybe … I can’t tell … I’m getting confused here …  What is the issue exactly?  Should everyone just make sure to never play anything that wasn’t played by dead people of their own pigmentation?  That would be boring – not to mention the fact (which I’m clearly about to mention), that culture has always grown by cross-pollination. I mean, arguably the major restaurant option in London is Indian food – which is often actually Pakistani food, but let’s keep things simple for the honkies.  Often, said Indian restaurants will curry up some local foodstuff that one wouldn’t find in India – are we appropriating them, or are they appropriating us? (Editorial comment:  This raises an interesting question – Why is there a hierarchy in emphasis around these issues which parallels the hierarchy of senses as it were – visual art gets the most heavy critiques for appropriation, music and poetry next in line, food never gets criticized for it. Like who would ever want to give up all the spices and comfort flavours they like, based on some political checklist?)  Right you are – that is an interesting question.

Enough of Indian food – I find it too heavy for summer, in any case – and back to rock music.  Fatigued of the 317-minute guitar solo played at the speed of light with $82,000 worth of technological distortion and manipulation – here come the punks (a goodly number of them being bored middle class kids who appropriated “white trash” sensibilities as a political statement of sorts).  Now, you couldn’t get a whiter music – well, not for the first year or so, in any event – then the Clash and the Slits and the Ruts… appropriated reggae music with the help of Adrian Sherwood.  Lo and behold, a genuine Jamaican Rastafarian named Mikey Dread soon gets involved – Did we appropriate him?  When Prince Far I, Mikey Dread and Bim Sherman – all Jamaicans – work with Adrian Sherwood, a white man, are they being appropriated?  I keep trying to find that fucking line.

Let’s move onto hip hop, the music that improbably took over the world – what a clusterfuck.  From that point on it’s an appropriation free for all.  Hip hop starts sampling white pop and rock hooks, white kids start rapping, rap metal is born, then trip hop … I mean, country stars like Brad Paisley are doing duets with people like LL Cool J – who’s appropriating who?  They don’t seem to care, so I guess I won’t either.

Am I saying that appropriation from other cultures and peoples is a non-issue?  Not at all.  I live in Montréal, ergo I live on unceded (i.e., appropriated – and pretty fucking violently so) Mohawk land.  That in effect means that every moment of every day of my life is part of an ongoing act of criminal and genocidal appropriation.  That seems to me to be the kind of appropriation that should get people’s panties in a bunch.  It is a source of a lot more human pain and suffering than beating on any drum could ever be – you can’t just shy away like you saw the ghost of George Custer eating Tašú?ke Witkó’s4 brain, you have to do something.

Back to cultural appropriation:  slowly I’m getting to my point – trust me (or don’t, I don’t really care).  Like the land we appropriated, what it is we ultimately appropriate is far more important than some drum most Europeans and Euro-Americans (oh, and those white folks down under) have never even heard of being played by a band they don’t know.  What we routinely and as a matter of course appropriate is the surplus labour of the people of the Third World or the Global South or the Three Continents (whatever ideological formulation works for you – in the end they’re all names for the same areas and the same process). Let me explain what I mean here.  Look down at your feet.  Those Nikes or Adidas or knockoffs you’re wearing were assembled in a Third World sweatshop by people making a few dollars a sixteen-hour day, maybe in one of those factories with the nets around it to keep people from committing suicide to escape their jobs.  In short, we in the First World spend all day walking around on the appropriated sweat and blood or super-exploited people.  Now that there’s some “killer” appropriation.

Now go to the mirror – that really rad t-shirt might have been produced in one of those factories where the doors are locked to prevent the slowly suffocating workers from escaping the 45° C heat.  It might even be one of the ones where the workers were immolated because they couldn’t get out when the substandard factory burst into flames.  Come to think of it, my air conditioner probably comes from a factory like that too.

You can see where I’m going here, right?  Your food – the appropriated labour of disenfranchised peasants forced to slave away in dangerously polluted conditions on agribusiness plantations so we can buy avocados and raspberries and kiwis… all year round (and bitch about how fruit and vegetables don’t taste like anything anymore – go figure!).  The dishes you’re eating that food off of – why do you think Dollarama’s so cheap?  (First clue:  the top 1% of the population is getting richer – and the top 0.1% even more so – and the rest of us are getting poorer.)  Then, there’s all those technological gewgaws that have replaced human relationships in your life – assembled by people who could probably not afford them in conditions that will cut many of their lives short.  When they break, which they usually do pretty quickly, or when they become “pseudo-obsolete” (who wants an iPhone 5 when the iPhone 6 is on the market?), they will be turned into toxic garbage mountains where the children of workers just like the ones who assembled this crap play. What’s our major reaction to all of this?  We’re pissed when we have trouble communicating with that egregiously underpaid woman in Lahore who answers our tech support call when one of the aforementioned gewgaws isn’t cooperating.  I mean, really, how thoughtless of her to have an accent we have difficulty with when she speaks a language the British imposed upon her and her country, a country where she has to take a crappy phone job or starve.

All of this has me thinking that what these folks might well like would be for us to stop appropriating their lifeforce and converting it into our vacuous lifestyle, and I rather doubt they give a fuck if we’re playing an aburukuwa when we do that.  In one sentence:  Not playing the aburukuwa is not enough – it’s not even really a start.

  2. All of that, of course, raises and interesting question.  I’ve been in the Appalachian area, I’ve been in Harlem, I’ve been in Newfoundland, and the fact of the matter is that Harlem shares far more cultural points of reference, music included, with the poor Irish Catholic neighbourhood I grew up in than either Appalachia or Newfoundland.  So, does that mean that if I play music from Harlem, it’s cultural appropriation, but if I play bluegrass or traditional Newfoundland music, it’s not cultural appropriation because we’re all white?  (Anyone who doesn’t think that there is any exploitation and oppression of whites that could possibly parallel that suffered by non-whites in North America really ought to go to Appalachia.)
  4. We stripped this man of his name and decided we’d call him Crazy Horse, effectively claiming the right to rename this man with a name that’s easier for us to pronounce – sort of like calling Beethoven “beet patch.”

on the main Kersplebedeb website:

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Terror Incognita

A useful series of musings on consent, seduction, and queerness in the realms of sex and politics; from the people at Crimethinc


on the main Kersplebedeb website:

Teaching women self-defence still the best way to reduce sexual assaults: study

The four-year study tracked nearly 900 women at three Canadian universities, randomly selecting half to take the 12-hour “resistance” program, and compared them to a second group who received only brochures, similar to those available at a health clinic. One year later, the incidence of reported rape among women who took the program was 5.2 per cent, compared to 9.8 per cent in the control group; the gap in incidents of attempted rape was even wider.


on the main Kersplebedeb website:

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

7 Fortune 500 companies with the most employees

on the main Kersplebedeb website:

Thursday, June 11, 2015

What I Do Know: The Colonial Evisceration of Cindy Gladue

What I do know is that Cindy Gladue was not killed by an Indian man. Bradley Barton is a white man. I suppose, however, that Cindy Gladue’s case wouldn’t even be factored into this type of statistical analysis since, according to the courts, she wasn’t murdered at all.


on the main Kersplebedeb website:

Are Beethoven’s African Origins Revealed By His Music?

There are two reasons he was careful to organize his image for posterity. First, he must have thought that the rumours and social pressures existing during his lifetime would continue immediately after his death. What would have happened if in the 19th Century, historiography had discovered this deception? The risk was that his music would no longer be played. He had spent his life convincing the public to believe that he had only European origins. After composing one of the most important monuments of the history of art and the human spirit, he wished above all that his work would be passed to posterity.

A second, more important reason exists: to play his music as he played it, to understand it, to hear it, so that it produced the same enchantment as when he played or led it when alive, one had to understand that an important part of the music education that he received in his childhood and early adolescence was an intimate knowledge of polyrhythmic science and art. And, he was a bit of a joker. He must have been amused to see that with the scores he had produced, interpreters were unable, and still are, to produce the same music that came out these texts when he played it. He often said, “It will take at least 50 years before my music is understood.” In actuality, his calculation was off by 150 years. Today, we realize that to play it properly, one has to understand that he had a dual identity. That he was also an African.


on the main Kersplebedeb website: