Tag Archives: social justice

SACNAS responds to Arizona immigration law SB1070

Just got the below announcement in my inbox. Good on SACNAS! Arizona is crazy. Luis Moll gave a depressing yet inspirational talk at AERA last week about Arizona: He said that Arizona is a laboratory for oppression, but that it is also a laboratory for resistance.

Judit Camacho, SACNAS Executive Director, (831) 459-0170, ext. 444
Jose Dolores Garcia, PhD, SACNAS President, (831) 459-0170
Kelli Williams, SACNAS Director of Communications, (831) 459-0170, ext. 225

SACNAS eliminates Arizona as potential conference location citing likelihood of attendee harassment due to SB1070 immigration law

SANTA CRUZ, CA, May 10, 2010 – In a recent letter to Governor Jan Brewer, SACNAS formally withdrew Phoenix as a potential conference site for its 2012 national conference, stating the new Arizona immigration law virtually guarantees harassment of its conference attendees, most of whom are Hispanic. SACNAS, a national society of scientists advancing Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in science, estimates the total loss in revenue to the local economy at $3 million.

“The leadership of SACNAS strongly believes the immigration law SB1070 will make the state inhospitable to people of color, especially Hispanics,” says society president, Jose Dolores Garcia, PhD. “We have been seriously considering Phoenix as a site for our conference in 2012. However, we feel the passage of this law and the policies of Maricopa County Sheriff Arpaio will lead to racial profiling of our students and faculty.”

Each year, SACNAS holds a major annual national conference bringing together 3,000 student and professional scientists for a four-day meeting. Members of the organization are among the nation’s brightest minds in science and represent over 300 leading research facilities, colleges and universities, government agencies and corporations.

The organization’s executive director, Judit Camacho points out, “We are not only concerned for our Hispanic attendees, but also for the Native American populations we serve. The law’s potential impact on the civil liberties of all Americans cannot be underestimated. Unfortunately, the state has simply become too hostile for the safety and well-being of our members.”

If Arizona’s current punitive immigration law is repealed, SACNAS may again consider Phoenix as a possible future conference site.

SACNAS is a 37-year-old professional society of scientists dedicated to fostering the success of Chicano/Hispanic and Native American scientists-from college students to professionals-in attaining advanced degrees, careers, and positions of leadership. It has been recognized by the National Science Board as the premier organization promoting diversity in science careers and has received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring.


Christianity and its problems (and my trend towards using the word f_ck) (NSFW)

[Ed note: First, I know this is ranty. Generally, I love my friends and family. I accept you for who you are and what you believe. More than that; if you’ve found power and agency and motivation in those beliefs, that’s awesome. Just try not to force those beliefs on me.]

I’ve long believed that the world needs to be made a better place. People need to be kind to each other, help each other out, actively not fuck each other over. It’s not enough to live and let live. Instead, we need to fight oppression and injustice.

And I’ve also long thought that it doesn’t really matter what an individual’s motivation is to do good, only that they actually do it. That is to say, if someone’s being kind to their neighbor because they believe a higher power compels them to, whatever; that’s cool.

Religion, though, has been used to justify many things over the centuries. Christianity and other religions have been invoked to do great injustices in the form of overt violence to nonbelievers. It’s also been more subtly used to maintain social order and control populations.

But, again, I don’t care so much if the faithful are blind to their oppression, so long as they are good people. I can buy the use of religion as a motivator to make the world a better place.

A gigantic problem is that using a faith-based belief system to motivate acts of kindness comes with a huge brainwashed side-effect. That is, in order to get people to be just to each other, the religion has had to convince them that there’s a payoff at the end, and that the only way to get that payoff is to subscribe to the religious beliefs.

This is a problem because people like Robin’s siblings then seriously think Robin and I are going to Hell because we don’t believe. It doesn’t matter that we’ve devoted our lives to be awesome people who care about others, the environment, global and local social justice, etc. All that matters is that we don’t believe.

And the majorly problematic bit about this is that they then feel the drive to spread the word and try to convert us. Robin called it hella annoying. I call it oppression. It means that their God is, at the extreme, vindictive and spiteful, and, at the least, enacting a colonialist, outsider power play. “I’ll forgive you of your sins, and you can join me here in Heaven, so long as you play by my rules, don’t critique the social order, and cede all power to me.” Yeah, that’s not going to work for me.

And all that doesn’t even consider all the fucking ridiculous rules. No homosexuals, no control of our own bodies, no eating pork on a Tuesday, no figure skating with leotards. In other words, I guess there’s two main problems: 1. that they need to spread their beliefs to sustain their cult, and 2. that some of those beliefs are fucked up. Really. Fucked up.

As a side note, a big fat irony in all this is that we–us heathen atheists–seem to be more tolerant than believers of a faith that compels them to be good. Our sense of social justice, squarely grounded in the idea that *this is it, this is the world we have and we better make it livable*, is more focused on being good than theirs, since they’re sidetracked with replicating their meme.

So, I guess what I’m saying is that I’m starting to doubt whether it’s wise to be so tolerant of people who aren’t reciprocal in their tolerance. Why do they have to spend so much energy in acts of control and less in doing good?

And I fully realize that I’m generalizing. No, I don’t know the history of religions as well as I probably should. No, I don’t know all the different flavors of Christianity, and I know that some people of the faith believe in a benign God and don’t need to proselytize. But sometimes, man, it’s just a pain in the ass.

Aaron shared F_CK SH_T STACK, a video by Reggie Watts, last week that perfectly sums up postmodern existence for me. It’s extremely NSFW, but I think its irreverence opens up a space to start to criticizing how we live and maybe take the fucking huge fucking poles outta our fucking asses and finally just relax.

LOOSEWORLD x Waverly Films: Reggie Watts in F_CK SH_T STACK from LOOSEWORLD on Vimeo.

Relax and learn to jerk:

Games as a way of seeing the world

Here’s an update on some of what I’m thinking in addition to my general ethnography/description of distributed cognition and teamwork. Part of this post is tweaked from some correspondence I’m having with Michele Knobel on Facebook. :p Most of this is a jumble of ideas, but I figure it would help if I wrote it down. And why not share it?

Last year I was reading a lot more philosophy and history of education than I usually do, esp. with regards to social justice, dominant culture, inequalities of access and participation, etc. So, when I read Ian Bogost’s Unit Operations, that stuff was on my mind. I was also thinking about Raph Koster (A Theory of Fun) and Stephen Johnson (Everything Bad Is Good For You) and how their whole point is about pattern recognition. Part of learning is recognizing patterns. For Koster, gamers begin to see the underlying mechanics of games. For Johnson, current media genres and conventions are making us smarter than old forms. As in, shows like CSI make us guess what is going on with the detectives rather than explicitly state what’s going on for the benefit of the audience, so we have to work our brains and figure out the patterns.

So, anyway, I was thinking about systems thinking, which essentially necessitates a form of pattern recognition. To think about a system, you have to recognize the system. Specifically, with regards to social contexts, people can learn to see the larger system that they are in (“sense of self” I think it’s called) and see that their actions have consequences and that other actors in the network (I guess this relates to actor-network theory and activity theory, too) affect them.

So, Bogost writes about unit operations, that what’s important for a literary form and for games are the parts of the system that operate on each other. His emphasis is on the interaction between the parts. These parts can be thought of as genre conventions… kinda. And I was thinking that games don’t exist without a player and players don’t exist without a social context. Players must enact the game actions and assume the identity or point of view of the game actions. And they do this as part of a larger cultural practice. Thus the player-game cyborg could be thought of as a unit in a larger social system.

Personally, at least, I can use the idea of unit operations or the idea of me being an actor in a network or whatever to evaluate my actions and its affects on others. Think of The Sims‘ Needs meters maybe, except extend the meters to social things instead of just individual things. In other words, the framework might enable me and others to metacognate about our roles in society.

Games serve two purposes here. On the one hand, specifically designed games could help people learn ethics through role-playing specific actor roles or unit operations. On the other hand, games in general can help train people to see patterns of a system and possibly transfer that skill to everyday life and impose that way of seeing things to themselves within a system. To scaffold this, I wish RPGs would better emphasize consequences to player actions. Also, RPGs use XP bars and such; we could try considering social skills and actions/motives as something you could measure and gain experience in.

I also read a paper by Knobel and Lankshear‘s about Internet memes and thought that maybe it would be possible to relate memes to genre conventions/units. Maybe they don’t relate, but maybe the idea of memes can be used to promote students critical thinking and consumption/production within a larger system. Or maybe all that is really needed for all of these things is some level of reflection.

Does that make sense?