Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Assimilatoin = Liberation

This year it feels as if there has been a revamping of homophobia in the north which has had, unsurprisingly, significant support from the church and those in political and therefore institutional power.

We have witnessed the DUP quash the third attempt to legalise queer marriage, bigoted ‘Christian’ bakers refusing to follow through with a service they advertised because it went against their “deeply held beliefs” (not to mention all the other services they provide that do go against their beliefs). This was followed by the the DUP attempting to bring in a 'Conscience Clause' to legalize and institutionalize homophobia; to make it legal to refuse service to someone because of their sexuality. The above examples are only a few of the homophobic incidents that have taken place recently.

The resistance and the fightback from these incidents must be queer-led and supported by our straight allies. Moreover, it should be noted that incidents like the above push us into a defensive stance; as opposed to an offensive one.

In times of relative quietness you would think that homophobia would be minimal here, but that’s not the case. Society views us as “other”, “abnormal” and ultimately as a group of people less-deserving. These views are cultural norms, and if they did not exist we would not have attacks such as those from bigoted bakers, and the DUP would not dare to utter a word about any 'conscience clause'.

In our society we are fed certain narratives by the media and given ideas of what “normal” is. Normal is a family with a married mother and father, a man in a position of power, white people in a higher class than non-white people, able-bodied people, straight people etc., the list is non-exhaustive. What we have as a result, is a society that genuinely believes these things that are perceived to be normal are “right” and “just” and therefore will not tolerate any deviation from the norm.

There is a comfort (for some, perhaps even most people) in “being normal”, and what we have in mainstream queer politics is LGBTQ+ people wanting to “normalise” their own circumstances and to assimilate into this oppressive society. This is done through a movement for marriage equality, and the calling to sweep homophobic attacks under the rug and make them illegal (rather than tackling the issue of attacks – physical or other – head on)

Marriage is a reinforcement of the nuclear family. Anarcha-feminism (or queer anarcha-feminism as it is often labelled) views the nuclear family as the basis of all oppressive authoritarian systems. The message that the child learns from their father (who is generally seen as the disciplinarian), from their teacher, to their boss, is to obey and not to question.

Many rightly view marriage as a bourgeois and patriarchal tradition designed to trap women and to concentrate wealth, power and privilege through family lines and therefore through inheritance. While marriage has gotten better for the wife in the sense that the husband is less seen as her master and she his slave who can be raped by him with impunity, the fundamental character of marriage remains nonetheless unchanged. It is a tool of regulation; regulation of labour supply, maintaining a class society, and its boundaries (as most people marry within their socio-economic class).

As opposed to fundamentally changing marriage and what it stands for, gay marriage will merely reinforce it, and concentrate more wealth into the family ties of the already privileged queer couples who simply wish to be like their hetero counter-parts.

The Third World Gay Liberation Manifesto says it best however when it says that:

“We want the abolition of the institution of the bourgeois nuclear family. We believe that the bourgeois nuclear family perpetuates the false categories of homosexuality and heterosexuality by creating sex roles, sex definitions and sexual exploitation. The bourgeois nuclear family as the basic unit of capitalism creates oppressive roles of homosexuality and heterosexuality ... It is every child’s right to develop in a non-sexist, non-racist, non-possessive atmosphere which is the responsibility of all people, including gays, to create.”

While the fight for queer marriage is on, however, many activists will fight for it and not vote against it, because its absence hurts members of our community and their families. Some of us resent doing this as we feel our energy should be spent tackling the problems and injustices that our society propagates against the oppressed instead of fighting for the right to enter into an oppressive institution.

Let’s return to the case of Ashers and the problems with equality legislation. Laws are ineffective at preventing crime by jailing people and letting the root of the problem fester. In the case of Ashers specifically, the equality legislation did not make an appearance until after the damage was done, and by that point it was too late, and its existence has not caused the McArthurs (the family who own Ashers) to change their stance; they still remain unrepentant bigots.

Whether or not Ashers get away with picking and choosing who can avail of their services (which are advertised to all with no restrictions or conditions attached) and deciding which parts of the Bible they would like to adhere to we have got to stop depending on their laws to protect us. We should not want their laws – which can turn on us at a drop of a hat – to include us in their flawed code of ethics, the same code of ethics that allows for countless injustices to take place every day.

Participation by those who do not fit the criteria of straight, white, able-bodied, wealthy, male, etc, in the same old and rotten institutions that have worked against us and to our detriment, will not lead to true liberation or equality but will actually ensure further oppression and exploitation - despite any benefits for some.

However in the south we find ourselves facing a imminent referendum on marriage equality, which the hardline religious right are opposing as part of their program of maintaining multiple oppressions. A no vote in that context would be disastrous, serving only to entrench homophobia. Therefore despite the profound reservations expressed here we are campaigning for a Yes to Marrage Equality vote.

Assimilation is boring and it is not liberating. We should not be begging for crumbs at the table - we should tear the table apart, and use it for kindling while we fight for a better world; a world in which all are free, not simply those who can pay for it.

Words: Fionnghuala Nic Roibeaird

Friday, 3 April 2015

Class, Capitalism, Crime & Punishment

Recent punishment beatings and shootings in both Derry and Belfast have highlighted the horrific nature of such attacks carried out by both Loyalist and Republican armed groups across the North.  Right on cue, the politicians have lined up to condemn those involved whilst reiterating their support for the our ‘new’ police force who are supposedly dealing with crime in working class areas, but you wouldn’t expect any different from any of them, after all it’s getting ever closer to election time.

In one of the more recent punishment attacks, Loyalists in Coleraine subjected a man in his 20’s to “life-changing injuries” following a punishment shooting, wounding him several times in the arms and legs outside his house. In a separate attack in Derry, Republicans forced their way in to the home of another man beating him in a sustained attack with bats, leaving him for dead and his neighbours traumatised in its aftermath. In a separate attack, a grandmother in Rathcoole estate was shot several times in both legs as she attempted to escape from her home upon their arrival. Such brutality has been equated to ‘the law of the jungle’ or the type of justice meted out by authoritarian regimes as the Taliban or ISIS who are renowned for their rough justice.  Either way, it does make you question just what type of society organisations who participate in such actions have in mind for our class when they talk about our emancipation, freedom and liberation.

Throughout the past 40 years of war in the North, armed groups from both sides of the divide have killed, injured and maimed hundreds of ordinary in working class people in a vain attempt to not only control or assert their authority, but also in an attempt to deal with crime and criminality in a vacuum where there is an absence of “law and order” or a “credible police force”, which many would say, “any other normal society would have”. 

Unfortunately, as we know only too well, that even after two decades on from the introduction of the ‘Good Friday Agreement’ we still do not live in a “normal society”.  Its true many things have changed here in the North but it’s not merely enough.  British troop numbers may have dwindled, the Police may have changed their name and uniforms but militarization and security is still big business here. One of the largest security investments since the GFA has been the relocation of a new multi-million pound MI5 headquarters now based on the outskirts of Belfast at Palace Barracks, Hollywood.   Now fully operational, they have engaged in intelligence gathering in conjunction with the PSNI on many levels, none more so than with the recruitment and targeting of young people.  Many picked up following acts of petty crime and then ‘encouraged’ to spy and inform on their own neighbours.  In the past number of years many have come forward and admitted this abuse of power, several have been described as being vulnerable young adults.

Likewise the state’s judicial system has questions to answer with regards their own criminal justice system.  Viewed by some for being too lenient towards criminality, working class communities here do turn to Loyalist and Republican armed groups pressurising them also to face-down criminal elements engaged in anti-social behaviour such as ‘joy-riding’, burglaries or drug dealing. Instant ‘rough justice’ to criminality as witness in the past number of weeks is often the result of this. One person ‘walking crime sprees’ who have countless convictions can be a great source of concern within working class communities, especially when police seem to turn a blind eye to their activities.  But this is not justice, such barbarity has been proven even after decades of it being practiced by armed groups that such actions cannot and will not deal with anti-working class criminality any more than the state’s system can.

Throughout the past four decades anarchists have rejected the actions of armed groups on both sides in relation to punishment shootings and beatings, and we will continue to do so in favour of a non-aligned community lead response to crime or anti-social behaviour, far from the clutches of armed groups including the police. The legacy of war here has also had an enormous impact on mental health as can be seen with recent findings lead by local mental health workers on the ground. The violence inflicted by armed groups such as punishment shootings and beatings can only but add to this legacy. 

As anarchists we demand that these brutal and traumatic tactics end in favour of other community lead initiatives.  There are many examples of how communities can use different methods other than extreme violence to tackle anti-working class elements within our areas, none more so than the Zapatistas Movement in the Chiapas area of Mexico and more recently in areas of Kurdistan. Both areas in transition, engaging and discovering differing forms of revolutionary methods to deal with issues affecting their own communities, beyond the clutches of the state.  What is for sure is that the trauma of decades of war here followed by decades of financial hardship as capitalism falls from crisis to crisis, has driven many in working class communities further into an increasing spiral using of prescription medication, alcohol or other forms of drug use.  If we are to ever have a future at all, then we must effectively create new ways in dealing with issues directly affecting our class, be that crime and the causes of it, and that’s capitalism!

Further information on Anarchists & Crime:

The Anarchist Response to Crime