Links and News Roundup: 26 November 2013

American chefs like to talk fancy talk about “elevating” or “refining” third-world cuisines, a rhetoric that brings to mind the mission civilisatrice that Europe took on to justify violent takeovers of those same cuisines’ countries of origin. In their publicity materials, Spice Market uses explicitly objectifying language to describe the culture they’re appropriating: “A timeless paean to Southeast Asian sensuality, Spice Market titillates Manhattan’s Meatpacking District with Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s piquant elevations of the region’s street cuisine.” The positioning of Western aesthetics as superior, or higher, than all the rest is, at its bottom line, an expression of the idea that no culture has value unless it has been “improved” by the Western Midas touch. If a dish hasn’t been eaten or reimagined by a white person, does it really exist?”

“Right this minute, there is someone going through chemotherapy shopping at your grocery store, buying popsicles and ice cream to help their sore mouth, and worrying what the cashier is going to think.

There is someone on hemodialysis buying white bread instead of whole wheat, trying to keep their phosphorus levels reasonable between appointments and hoping for the best.

There is a person attending intensive outpatient treatment for their eating disorder who has been challenged by their therapist to buy a Frappuccino.

There are dietitians picking up a dozen different candy bars to eat with their clients, who feel ashamed and guilty about enjoying them.

There is someone who just doesn’t have it in them to cook right now, and this frozen pizza and canned soup will keep them going.

There are people recovering from chronic dieting and semi-starvation who are buying chocolate and chips at their deprived body’s insistence.

All around us are people listening to what their bodies need and attempting to make the best possible choice within a context of overwhelming food pressure. All of their choices are valid, and every single one of these foods is “real.””

“TOMS is not alone in its willingness to link progressive social action with consumer spending. In fact, it exemplifies a broader corporate embrace of “conscious capitalism.” Coined by Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, this business model assumes that “the best way to maximize profits over the long-term” is to orient business toward a “higher purpose.” So Starbucks sells coffee to “Put America Back to Work,” the (RED) campaign raises money to fight AIDS, and—in the best example yet—Sir Richard’s Condom Company sends a condom to Haiti for each one it sells (“doing good never felt better”). Meanwhile, Bank of America logos decorate PRIDE banners and Lockheed Martin brags that it is a “champion of diversity.”

The globalization of neoliberal capitalism, and particularly the popularity of “conscious capitalism” as a practice and a discourse, signals a change in the landscape of U.S. religion and politics. “Neoliberalism” most often refers to a loosely cohering set of economic, social, and political policies that (1) seek to secure human flourishing through the imposition of free markets and (2) locate “freedom” in individual autonomy, expressed through consumer choice. But it is also a mode of belonging, where ritual acts of consumption initiate individuals into a global community of consumer agents. Within neoliberal logics of religious and political action, consumer transactions and corporate expansion are recast as forms of spiritual purification and missionary practice.”

“Nationwide, the number of homeless people dropped by 4 percent from 2012, to 610,042 from 633,782. according to the data, which were released on Thursday by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. Homelessness among veterans and some other groups registered notable reductions.

The numbers come from HUD’s annual survey of more than 3,000 cities and counties. On one night in January per locality, field workers tally the number of people living in emergency shelters, transitional housing and locations such as cars and abandoned buildings.

In a conference call with reporters, the department’s secretary, Shaun Donovan, said the one-night snapshot showed a “remarkable” drop in national homeless numbers in recent years given the economic downturn. He credited the collaboration among 19 federal agencies in tackling the problem.

But the story is different in New York and Los Angeles, which showed large increases in homelessness.

In New York, where the shelter population has reached levels not seen since the Depression era, the count in January estimated 64,060 homeless people in shelters and on the street in January 2013, or 13 percent more than in January 2012. Among large cities, only Los Angeles had a larger percentage increase. Its homeless population rose by 27 percent, although its total of 53,798 was lower than New York’s.

Federal officials said the increases were driven by a rise in families who could no longer pay their rent, a problem that is more acute in areas where affordable housing is scarce and rents are especially high. The group of very poor renters who pay more than half their income in rent and are struggling to hold onto their homes has grown by 43 percent nationwide since 2007, housing officials said.

Across the country, nearly a quarter of all homeless people, 23 percent, are under 18.”

This article needlessly (and possibly, harmfully) pits the incarceration of aboriginal Canadians against the incarceration of Black Canadians as though they are oppositional, not linked. In a settler colony, the prison system functions to “absorb” those rendered “excess”- and that includes indigenous peoples and those formerly enslaved. It is a surveilling, re-appropriation and disciplining of bodies deemed “outside” of settler colonial nationalisms.

“Canada’s Correctional Investigator Howard Sapers released a report last week that showed the number of aboriginals incarcerated in federal prison has jumped 37% over the past 10 years.

While aboriginals make up only 4% of Canada’s population, they represent 21.5% of those serving time in federal prisons, the report said.

Black people make up about 2.5% of Canada’s population. Yet they now represent just over 9% of the federal inmate population, the report says. The majority of black inmates are incarcerated in Ontario — 60% — followed by Quebec at 18%.”

 I remembered our old stories of what the land used to look like and I wondered if my Great, Great Grandmother would even recognize her homeland with the nuclear plant, the condos, and the six lanes of traffic that never stop day or night. I wondered if she were here with me, in the car, driving as the sun came up if she’d feel home. It struck me at that moment that our nationhood, my nationhood by its very nature calls into question this system of settler colonialism; a system that is such an overwhelming, violent, normalized and dishonest reality in Canada and so many other places. It is the force that has removed me from my land, it has erased me from my history and from contemporary life and it is the reason we currently have over 600 plus Missing and Murdered Indigenous women in Canada. I wondered if my Great, Great Grandmother would be proud of me for figuring that out. I decided she wouldn’t, because figuring out doesn’t count for much if you’re not willing to do something about it.

“Before almost anyone else was talking about the “knockout game,” Colin Flaherty was reporting on it and other incidences of what he calls “black mob violence” for WorldNetDaily, the notoriously deceptive, far-right news and opinions site. His schtick is simple: every time he finds a report of black “mob” violence or black on white violence, he writes about it. “

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