Category Archives: Book quotes

Naomi Klein on: individual action versus collective action.

“When I was 26, I went to Indonesia and the Philippines to do research for my first book, No Logo. I had a simple goal: to meet the workers making the clothes and electronics that my friends and I purchased. And I did. I spent evenings on concrete floors in squalid dorm rooms where teenage girls—sweet and giggly—spent their scarce nonworking hours. Eight or even 10 to a room. They told me stories about not being able to leave their machines to pee. About bosses who hit. About not having enough money to buy dried fish to go with their rice.

They knew they were being badly exploited—that the garments they were making were being sold for more than they would make in a month. One 17-year-old said to me: “We make computers, but we don’t know how to use them.”

So one thing I found slightly jarring was that some of these same workers wore clothing festooned with knockoff trademarks of the very multinationals that were responsible for these conditions: Disney characters or Nike check marks. At one point, I asked a local labor organizer about this. Wasn’t it strange—a contradiction?
It took a very long time for him to understand the question. When he finally did, he looked at me like I was nuts. You see, for him and his colleagues, individual consumption wasn’t considered to be in the realm of politics at all. Power rested not in what you did as one person, but what you did as many people, as one part of a large, organized, and focused movement. For him, this meant organizing workers to go on strike for better conditions, and eventually it meant winning the right to unionize. What you ate for lunch or happened to be wearing was of absolutely no concern whatsoever.

This was striking to me, because it was the mirror opposite of my culture back home in Canada. Where I came from, you expressed your political beliefs—firstly and very often lastly—through personal lifestyle choices. By loudly proclaiming your vegetarianism. By shopping fair trade and local and boycotting big, evil brands.
These very different understandings of social change came up again and again a couple of years later, once my book came out. I would give talks about the need for international protections for the right to unionize. About the need to change our global trading system so it didn’t encourage a race to the bottom. And yet at the end of those talks, the first question from the audience was: “What kind of sneakers are OK to buy?” “What brands are ethical?” “Where do you buy your clothes?” “What can I do, as an individual, to change the world?”

Fifteen years after I published No Logo, I still find myself facing very similar questions. These days, I give talks about how the same economic model that superpowered multinationals to seek out cheap labor in Indonesia and China also supercharged global greenhouse-gas emissions. And, invariably, the hand goes up: “Tell me what I can do as an individual.” Or maybe “as a business owner.”

The hard truth is that the answer to the question “What can I, as an individual, do to stop climate change?” is: nothing. You can’t do anything. In fact, the very idea that we—as atomized individuals, even lots of atomized individuals—could play a significant part in stabilizing the planet’s climate system, or changing the global economy, is objectively nuts. We can only meet this tremendous challenge together. As part of a massive and organized global movement.

The irony is that people with relatively little power tend to understand this far better than those with a great deal more power. The workers I met in Indonesia and the Philippines knew all too well that governments and corporations did not value their voice or even their lives as individuals. And because of this, they were driven to act not only together, but to act on a rather large political canvas. To try to change the policies in factories that employ thousands of workers, or in export zones that employ tens of thousands. Or the labor laws in an entire country of millions. Their sense of individual powerlessness pushed them to be politically ambitious, to demand structural changes.

In contrast, here in wealthy countries, we are told how powerful we are as individuals all the time. As consumers. Even individual activists. And the result is that, despite our power and privilege, we often end up acting on canvases that are unnecessarily small—the canvas of our own lifestyle, or maybe our neighborhood or town. Meanwhile, we abandon the structural changes—the policy and legal work— to others.”

Naomi Klein, Climate Change Is a Crisis We Can Only Solve Together

Quotes from Who Rules the World? by Noam Chomsky

“[A]s [Michael Scheuer] explains, bin Laden largely succeeded. ‘US forces and policies are completing the radicalization of the Islamic world, something Osama bin Laden has been trying to do with substantial but incomplete success since the early 1990s. As a result, I think it is fair to conclude that the United States of America remains bin Laden’s only indispensable ally.'”

“Support for democracy is the province of ideologists and propagandists. In the real world, elite dislike of democracy is the norm. The evidence is overwhelming that democracy is supported only insofar as it contributes to social and economic objectives, a conclusion reluctantly conceded by the more serious scholarship.”

“The protection of slavery was no slight concern to the founders: it was one factor that led to the American Revolution. In the 1772 Somerset case, Lord Mansfield determined that slavery is so ‘odious’ that it could not be tolerated in England, though it continued in British possessions for many years. American slave owners could see the handwriting on the wall if the colonies remained under British rule. And it should be recalled that the slave states, including Virginia, had the greatest power and influence in the colonies. One can easily appreciate Dr. Johnson’s famous quip that ‘we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes.'”

More things that make you go hmmmm… on the similarities between abusers and MRAs

More quotes from Why Does He Do That, by Lundy Bancroft, which reminds me pretty heavily of MRA behavior…

* He has negative attitudes towards women.

A man may claim early in a relationship that he views you in a light different from that in which he sees women in general, but the distinction won’t last. If you are a woman, why be involved with someone who sees women as inferior, stupid, conniving, or only good for sex? He isn’t going to forget for long that you’re a woman.

Stereotyped beliefs about women’s sex roles also contribute to the risk of abuse. His conviction that women should take care of the home, or that a man’s career is more important than a woman’s, can become a serious problem, because he may punish you when you start refusing to live in his box.
In a typical abusive inversion, my clients often attempt to convince me that they are the sexual victims in their relationships. As one man said: “My partner uses sex to control me, that’s how women jerk men around. Women are the ones that really have the power over men because they know they have what we want the most, and they have the power to shut us out. My wife wants me to be her little puppy dog, begging and drooling and wagging my tail, that’s the only way I’ll get sex.” The underlying attitude comes bursting out of his words: He believes his wife is keeping something of his away from him when she doesn’t want intimate contact. He sees sexual rights to a woman as akin to mineral rights to land- and he owns them.
Over the years I have had many clients use… sociobiological arguments with me, saying that from a genetics standpoint males have reason to desire sex with as many females as possible, while females succeed best- in evolutionary terms- if they choose their partners carefully. You might call this the “human beings are basically baboons” argument. In reality there are plenty of examples of stable monogamy in nature. But these arguments are ultimately beside the point; there is simply no excuse for double standards or for any other aspect of abuse. (I sometimes ask my clients, when they attempt tom lead me into this theoretical quagmire, “Do you cook your meat before you eat it?” When they answer that of course they do, I say “Isn’t that awfully unnatural? I’ve never seen any other animal doing such a peculiar thing.” Human behavior can only be measured by human standards.”
Children sometimes see the abuse for what it is and take whatever steps they can to protect themselves, each other, and their mother, including perhaps disclosing the abuser’s treatment of her (or of them) to outsiders. The abusive man’s typical response to this is to claim that the mother is turning the children against him. Some prominent psychologists have, unfortunately, contributed through their writings to the myth that it is unhealthy for children to distance themselves from an abusive father and that the mother is probably the cause of their desire to do so…

I have noticed that charges of “parental alienation” are sometimes leveled against the most competent mothers, because of their strong and supportive bonds with their children- which the abuser terms enmeshment or overdependence- and because the children have learned to see through the abuser’s facade and therefore choose to try to keep away from him…

Abusive men also assert falsely that there is a rampant problem of women’s false allegations of abuse, that child support obligations are unfairly high, that domestic abuse is irrelevant to custody decisions, and that men are abused in relationships just as much as women.

Things that make you go hmmm…: MRA edition

When The Victim [type of abuser] joins an abuser group, his story tends to go like this: “I put up with my partner’s mistreatment of me for years, and I never fought back or even tried to defend myself. But I finally couldn’t take it anymore, and I started to give her back a little taste of what she was doing to me. So now I’ve been labeled abusive. Women are allowed to do those things and nobody cares, but as soon as a man does it h’e s pariah.”

This line of reasoning many times develops into a discussion of how men are the victims of women overall in society, because women run the world. This is a startling distortion, given what gender actually dominates almost all legislatures, police departments, judgeships, businesses, and so on ad nauseam. When I point our this reality to the Victim, he describes a kind of paranoid fantasy in which women are behind the scenes secretly pulling the strings, largely by getting men to feel sorry for them. His capacity for turning things into their opposites in this way is a central cause of his abusiveness.

Lundy Bancroft, Why Does He Do That?

Quotes from Pornland, by Gail Dines.

“If porn performers truly don’t like what is happening to them, then the fantasy that users have erected about women and porn begins to crumble, and they are left with the stark reality that maybe these women are not ‘fuck dolls,’ but are instead human beings with real emotions and feelings. If this is the case, then users would have to admit to becoming aroused to images of women being sexually mistreated. For those men who are not sexually sadistic or cruel, this could well be psychologically intolerable, so they have to work very hard at maintaining the fantasy that porn women are indeed unlike most women they meet in the real world.”

“One key factor leading to this level of disconnection is that porn trains men to become desensitized to women’s pain. As one fan, Anon, explains to Another Porn Addict: ‘A few years ago I joined to see what all the fuss was about and, while I found a lot of the girls really hot in their teeny outfits, Max’s attitude and actions in a lot of the clips left me feeling shellshock, sickened and dirty. Probably how you felt on watching that batch of DVDs.
But. Just as porn moves on, so did my tastes, and gradually I realised I was enjoying Max’s extreme scenes more and more – whether thats corruption or desensitisation I dont know. All I do know is that I’ve gone from being a one time Max hater to a Max Hardcore fan.’ Anon’s analysis is borne out by studies that show that the more porn men watch, the more desensitized they become. The words he uses to describe his feelings when he first watched Hardcore’s movies- ‘shellshock, sickened and dirty’- speak to a powerful negative reaction. Yet he then says his tastes moved on and he began to enjoy the scenes. It would appear that Anon became desensitized to the women’s pain since it is impossible to enjoy Hardcore’s images if you have any empathy for the women. They look so distressed and in such pain that it feels like you are watching actual torture.”

“What is of interest is not necessarily the overt message of one particular image but the cumulative effect of the subtextual themes found in the system of images, which together create a particular way of looking at the world. For example, one fashion advertisement may not be that influential in itself, but add up the hundreds of fashion ads that we encounter daily, and you begin to hear a particular story about women’s bodies, femininity, and consumeurism. Human beings develop their identity and sense of reality out of the stories the culture tells, and while pornography is not the only producer of stories about sex, relationships, and sexuality, it is possibly the most powerful.”

“Progressives have, for good reason, singled out the media as a major form of (mis)education in the age of monopoly capitalism in which a few companies dominate the market and use their economic and political power to deliver messages that sell a particular worldview that legitimizes massive economic and social inequality. But many of these same progressives argue against the view that porn has an effect on men in the real world, preferring instead to call anti-porn feminists unsophisticated thinkers who don’t appreciate how images can be playful and open to numerous interpretations. So now we are in a somewhat strange place where people who argue that mainstream corporate media have the power to shape, mold, influence, manipulate, and seduce viewers simultaneously deny that porn has an effect on their consumers.”

“Imagine what would happen if suddenly we saw a slew of dramas and sitcoms on television where, say, blacks or Jews were repeatedly referred to in a racist or anti-Semitic way, where they got their hair pulled, faces slapped, and choked by white men pushing foreign objects into their mouths. My guess is that there would be an outcry and the images would not be defended on the grounds that they were just fantasy but rather would be seen for what they are: depictions of cruel acts that one group is perpetrating against another group. By wrapping the violence in a sexual cloak, porn renders it invisible, and those of us who protest the violence are consequently defined as anti-sex, not anti-violence.”

“What my conversations with college students reveal is how conformity to porn culture is defined by young women as a free choice. I hear this mantra everywhere, yet when one digs deeper, it is clear that the idea of choice is more complicated that originally thought. To talk about women’s free choice is to enter into the tricky terrain of how much free will we really have as human beings. While we all have some power to act as the author of our own lives, we are not free-floating individuals who comes into the world with a ready-made set of identities; rather, to paraphrase Karl Marx, we are social beings who construct our identities within a particular set of social, economic, and political conditions, which are often not of our own making. This is especially true of our gender identity, as gender is a social invention and hence our notion of what is ‘normal’ feminine behavior is shaped by external forces.”

“Understanding culture as a socializing agent requires exploring how and why some girls and young women conform and others resist. For all the visual onslaught, not every young woman looks or acts like she take her cues from Cosmopolitan or Maxim. One reason for this is that conforming to a dominant image is not an all-or-nothing act but rather a series of acts that place women and girls at different points on the continuum of conformity to nonconformity. Where any individual sits at any given time on this continuum depends on her past and present experiences as well as family relationships, media consumption, peer group affiliations and sexual, racial, and class identity. We are not, after all, blank slates onto which images are projected.

Given the complex ways that we form our sexual and gender iden­tities, it is almost impossible to predict, with precision, how any one individual will act at any one time. This does not mean, though, that we can’t make predictions on a macro level. What we can say is that the more one way of being female is elevated above and beyond others, the more a substantial proportion of the population will gravitate toward that which is most socially accepted, condoned, and rewarded. The more the hypersexualized image crowds out other images of women and girls, the fewer options females have of resisting what cul­tural critic Neil Postman called “the seduction of the eloquence of the image.”

“Conforming to the image is seductive as it not only offers women an identity that is in keeping with the majority but also confers a whole host of pleasures, since looking hot does garner the kind of male at­tention that can sometimes feel empowering. Indeed, getting people to consent to any system, even if it’s inherently oppressive, is made easier if conformity brings with it psychological, social, and/or material gains. Many women know what it’s like to be sexually wanted by a man: the way he holds you in his gaze, the way he finds everything you say worthy of attention, the way you suddenly become the most compelling person in the world. This is the kind of attention we don’t normally get from men when we are giving a presentation, having a political conversation, or telling them to do the dishes. No, this is an attention men shower on women they want sexually, and it feels like real power, but it is ephem­eral because it is being given to women by men who increasingly, thanks to the porn culture, see women as interchangeable hookup partners. To feel that sense of power, women need to keep sexing themselves up so they can become visible to the next man who is going to, for a short time, hold her in his lustful gaze.

Those girls and young women who resist the wages of sexual objec­tification have to form an identity that is in opposition to mainstream culture. What I find is that these young women and girls tend to have someone in their life—be it a mother, an older woman mentor, or a coach—who provides some form of immunization to the cultural mes­sages. But often this immunization is short-lived.”

Quotes from Caliban and the Witch, by Silvia Federici.

I really recommend everyone get this book if you have any interest in medieval history, feminism, anarchism, or capitalism, just to name those. It’s really amazing how much of it relates to other issues, even modern issues, as I think these quotes demonstrate.


“[C]apitalism was not the product of an evolutionary development bringing forth economic forces that were maturing in the womb of the old order. Capitalism was the response of the feudal lords, the patrician merchants, the bishops and popes, to a centuries-long social conflict that, in the end, shook their power, and truly gave ‘all the world a big jolt.’ Capitalism was the counter-revolution that destroyed the possibilities that had emerged from the anti-feudal struggle- possibilities which, if realized, might have spared us the immense destruction of lives and the natural environment that has marked the advance of capitalist relations worldwide.”

“Although influenced by Eastern religions brought to Europe by merchants and crusaders, popular heresy was less a deviation from the orthodox doctrine than a protest movement, aspiring to a radical democratization of social life. Heresy was the equivalent of ‘liberation theology’ for the medieval proletariat. It gave a frame to peoples’ demands for spiritual renewal and social justice, challenging both the Church and secular authority by appeal to a higher truth. It denounced social hierarchies, private property and the accumulation of wealth, and it disseminated among the people a new, revolutionary conception of society that, for the first time in the Middle Ages, redefined every aspect of daily life (work, property, sexual reproduction, and the position of women), posing the question of emancipation in truly universal terms.

The heretic movement also provided an alternative community structure that had an international dimension, enabling the members of the sects to lead a more autonomous life, and to benefit from a wide support network made of contacts, schools, and safe-houses upon which they could rely for help and inspiration in times of need. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that the heretic movement was the first ‘proletarian international’…”

“The negative attitude towards natality has been attributed to the influence exerted on the Cathars by Eastern dualist sects like the Paulicians- a sect of iconoclasts who rejected procreation as the act by which the soul is entrapped in the material world- and, above all, the Bogomils, who proselytized in the 10th century among the peasantry of the Balkans. A popular movement ‘born amidst peasants whose physical misery made conscious of the wickedness of things’, the Bogomils preached that the visible world is the work of the devil (for in the world of God the good would be the first), and they refused to have children not to bring new slaves into this ‘land of tribulations,’ as life on Earth was called in one of their tracts.

The influence of the Bogomils on the Cathars is well-established, and it is likely that the Cathars’ avoidance of marriage and procreation stemmed from a similar refusal of a life ‘degraded to mere survival,’ rather than from a ‘death-wish’ or from contempt for life. This is suggested by the fact that the Cathars’ anti-natalism was not associated with a degraded conception of women and sexuality, as it is often the case with philosophies that despise life and the body.”

“Throughout the 14th century, particularly in the Flanders, cloth workers were engaged in constant rebellions against the bishop, the nobility, the merchants, and even the major crafts. At Bruges, when the main crafts gained power in 1348, wool workers continued to rebel against them. At Ghent, in 1335, a revolt by he local bourgeoisie was overtaken by a rebellion of weavers, who tried to establish a ‘workers’ democracy’ based on the suppression of all authorities, except those living by manual labor. Defeated by an impressive coalition of forces (including the prince, the nobility, the clergy, the bourgeoisie), the weavers tried again in 1378, when they succeeded in establishing what (with some exaggeration, perhaps) has been called the first ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ known in history. Their goal, according to Prosper Boisonnade, was ‘to raise journeymen against masters, wage earners against great entrepreneurs, peasants against lords and clergy. It was said that they had contemplated the extermination of the whole bourgeois class, with the exception of children of six and the same for the nobles.’ They were defeated only by a battle in the open field, at Roosebecque in 1382, where 26,000 of them lost their lives.

The events at Bruges and Ghent were not isolated cases. In Germany and Italy as well, the artisans and laborers rebelled at every possible occasion, forcing the local bourgeoisie to live in a constant state of fear. In Florence, the workers seized power in 1379, led by the Ciompi, the day-laborers in the Florentine textile industry. They too established a workers’ government, but it lasted only a few months before being completely defeated by 1382. The workers at Liege, in the Low Countries, were more successful. In 1384, the nobility and the rich (‘the great,’ as they were called), incapable of continuing a resistance which had lasted for more than a century, capitulated. From then on, ‘the crafts completely dominated the town,’ becoming the arbiter of the municipal government.”

“I. The expropriation of European workers from their means of subsistence, and the enslavement of Native Americans and Africans to the mines and plantations of the ‘New World,’ were not the only means by which a world proletariat was formed and ‘accumulated.’

II. This process required the transformation of the body into a work-machine, and the subjugation of women to the reproduction of the work-force. Most of all, it required the destruction of the power of women which, in Europe as in America, was achieved through the extermination of the ‘witches.’

III. Primitive accumulation, then, was not simply an accumulation and concentration of exploitable workers and capital. It was also an accumulation of differences and divisions within the working class, whereby hierarchies built upon gender, as well as ‘race’ and age, became constitutive of class rule and the formation of the modern proletariat.

IV. We cannot, therefore, identify capitalist accumulation with the liberation of the worker, female or male, as many Marxists (among others) have done, or see the advent of capitalism as a moment of historical progress. On the contrary, capitalism has created more brutal and insidious forms of enslavement, as it has planted into the body of the proletariat deep divisions that have served to intensify and conceal exploitation. It is in great part because of these imposed divisions- especially those between women and men- that capitalist accumulation continues to devastate life in every corner of the planet.”

“Land privatization and the commercialization of agriculture did not increase the food supply available to the common people, though more food was made available for the market and for export. For workers they inaugurated two centuries of starvation, in the same way as today, even in the most fertile areas of Africa, Asia, and Latin America, malnutrition is rampant due to the destruction of communal land-tenure and the ‘export or perish’ policy imposed by the World Bank’s structural adjustments programs. Nor did the introduction of new agricultural techniques in England compensate for this loss. On the contrary, the development of agrarian capitalism ‘worked hand in glove’ with the impoverishment of the rural population. A testimony to the misery produced by land privatization is the fact that, barely a century after the emergence of agrarian capitalism, sixty European towns had instituted some form of social assistance or were moving in this direction, and vagabondage had become an international problem. Population growth may have been a contributing factor; but its importance has been overstated, and should be circumscribed in time. By the last part of the 16th century, almost everywhere in Europe, the population was stagnating or declining, but this time workers did not derive any benefits from this change.

There are also misconceptions about the effectiveness of the open-field system of agriculture… It protected the peasants from harvest failure, due to the variety of strips to which a family had access; it also allowed for a manageable work-schedule (since each strip required attention at a different time); and it encouraged a democratic way of life, built on self-government and self-reliance, since all decisions- where to plant or harvest, where to drain the fens, how many animals to allow on the commons- were taken by peasant assemblies.”

“[W]e cannot say… that the separation of the worker from the land and the advent of a money-economy realized the struggle which the medieval serfs had fought to free themselves from bondage. It was not the workers- male or female- who were liberated by land privatization. What was ‘liberated’ was capital, as the land was now ‘free’ to function as a means of accumulation and exploitation, rather than as a means of subsistence.”

“Pauperization, rebellion, and the escalation of ‘crime’ are structural elements of capitalist accumulation as capitalism must strip the work-force from its means of reproduction to impose its own rule.

That in the industrialized regions of Europe, by the 19th century, the most extreme forms of proletarian misery and rebellions had disappeared is not a proof against this claim. Proletarian misery and rebellions did not come to an end; they only lessened to the degree that the super-exploitation of workers had been exported, through the institutionalization of slavery, at first, and later through the continuing expansion of colonial domination.”

“With the marginalization of the midwife, the process began by which women lost the control they had exercised over procreation, and were reduced to a passive role in child delivery, while male doctors came to be seen as the true ‘givers of life’ (as in the alchemical dreams of the Renaissance magicians). With this shift, a new medical practice also prevailed, one that in the case of a medical emergency prioritized the life of the fetus over that of the mother.”

“According to [the] new social-sexual contract, proletarian women became for male workers the substitute for the land lost to the enclosures, their most basic means of reproduction, and a communal good anyone could appropriate and use at will. Echoes of this ‘primitive appropriation’ can be heard in the concept of the ‘common woman’ which in the 16th century qualified those who prostituted themselves. But in the new organization of work every woman (other than those privatized by bourgeois men) became a communal good, for once women’s activities were defined as non-work, women’s labor began to appear as a natural resource, available to all, no less than the air we breathe or the water we drink.”

“[T]he construction of a new patriarchal order, making of women the servants of the male work-force, was a major aspect of capitalist development.

On its basis a new sexual division of labor could be enforced that differentiated not only the tasks that women and men should perform, but their experiences, their lives, their relation to capital and to other sectors of the working class. Thus, no less than the international division of labor, the sexual division of labor was above all a power-relation, a division within the work-force, while being an immense boost to capital accumulation.”

“The incompatibility of magic with the capitalist work-discipline and the requirements of social control is one of the reasons why a campaign of terror was launched against it by the state- a terror applauded without reservation by many who are presently considered among the founders of scientific rationalism: Jean Bodin, Mersenne, the mechanical philosopher and member of the Royal Society Richard Boyle, and Newton’s teacher, Isaac Barrow. Even the materialist Hobbes, while keeping his distance, gave his approval. ‘As for witches,’ he wrote, ‘I think not that their witchcraft is any real power; but yet that they are justly punished, for the false belief they have that they can do such mischief, joined with their purpose to do it if they can.’ He added that if these superstitions were eliminated, ‘men would be much more fitted than they are for civil obedience.’ Hobbes was well advised. The stakes on which witches and other practitioners of magic died, and the chambers in which their tortures were executed, were a laboratory in which much social discipline was sedimented, and much knowledge about the body was gained. Here those irrationalities were eliminated that stood in the way of the transformation of the individual and social body into a set of predictable and controllable mechanisms. And it was here again that the scientific use of torture was born, for blood and torture were necessary to ‘breed an animal’ capable of regular, homogenous, and uniform behavior, indelibly marked with the memory of the new rules.”

“The contemporaneous critique of Hobbes’ atheism and materialism was clearly not motivated purely by religious concerns. His view of the individual as a machine moved only by its appetites and aversions was rejected not because it eliminated the concept of the human creature made in the image of God, but because it eliminated the possibility of a form of social control not depending wholly on the iron rule of the state.”

“What has not been recognized is that the witch-hunt was one of the most important events in the development of capitalist society and the formation of the modern proletariat. For the unleashing of a campaign of terror against women, unmatched by any other persecution, weakened the resistance of the European peasantry to the assault launched against it by the gentry and the state, at a time when the peasant community was already disintegrating under the combined impact of land privatization, increased taxation, and the extension of state control over every aspect of social life. The witch-hunt deepened the divisions between women and men, teaching men to fear the power of women, and destroyed a universe of practices, beliefs, and social subjects whose existence was incompatible with the capitalist work discipline, thus redefining the main elements of social reproduction.”

“It is significant that, in England, most of the witch trials occurred in Essex, where by the 16th century the bulk of the land had been enclosed, while in those regions of the British Isles where land privatization had neither occurred not was on the agenda we have no record of witch-hunting. The most outstanding examples in this context are Ireland and the Scottish Western Highlands, where no trace can be found of the persecution, likely because a collective land-tenure system and kinship ties still prevailed in both areas that precluded the communal divisions and the type of complicity with the state that made a witch-hunt possible.”

“Aiming at controlling nature, the capitalist organization of work must refuse the unpredictability implicit in the practice of magic, and the possibility of establishing a privileged relation with the natural elements, as well as the belief in the existence of powers available only to particular individuals, and thus not easily generalized and exploitable. Magic was also an obstacle to the rationalization of the work process, and a threat to the establishment of the principle of individual responsibility. Above all, magic seemed a form of refusal of work, of insubordination, and an instrument of grassroots resistance to power. The world has to be ‘disenchanted’ in order to be dominated.”

“Just as the Enclosures expropriated the peasantry from the communal land, so the witch-hunt expropriated women from their bodies, which were thus ‘liberated’ from any impediment preventing them to function as machines for the production of labor. For the threat of the stake erected more formidable barriers around women’s bodies than were ever erected by the fencing off of the communes.”

“[A]t the ideological level, there is a close correspondence between the degraded image of women forged by the demonologists and the image of femininity constructed by the contemporary debates on the ‘nature of the sexes,’ which canonized a stereotypical woman, weak in body and mind and biologically prone to evil, that effectively served to justify male control over women and the new patriarchal order.”

“How preoccupied were the witch hunters with the affirmation of male supremacy can be seen from the fact that, even when in revolt against human and divine law, women had to be portrayed as subservient to a man, and the culmination of their rebellion- the famous pact with the devil- had to be represented as a perverted marriage contract. The marital analogy was carried so far that the witches would confess that they ‘did not dare to disobey the devil,’ or, more curiously, that they did not find any pleasure in their copulations with him- a contradiction with respect to the ideology of the witch-hunt which derived witchcraft from women’s insatiable lust.”

“That witches were accused simultaneously of rendering men impotent and arousing an excessive sexual passion in them is only apparently a contradiction. In the new patriarchal code that was developing in concomitance with the witch-hunt, physical impotence was the counterpart of moral impotence; it was the physical manifestation of the erosion of male authority over women, since ‘functionally’ there would be no difference between a man who was castrated and one who was helplessly in love. The demonologists looked with suspicion at both states, clearly convinced that it would be impossible to realize the type of family the contemporary bourgeois wisdom demanded- modeled on the state, with the husband as the king, and the wife subordinate to his will, selflessly devoted to the management of the household- if women with their glamour and love philters could exercise so much power as to make men the succubi of their desires.”

“[T]he role that the witch-hunt has played in the development of the bourgeois world, and specifically in the development of the capitalist discipline of sexuality, has been erased from our memory. Yet, we can trace back to this process some of the main taboos of our time. This is the case with homosexuality, which in several parts of Europe was still fully accepted during the Renaissance, but was weeded out in the course of the witch-hunt. So fierce was the persecution of homosexuals that its memory is still sedimented in our language. ‘Faggot’ reminds us that homosexuals were at times the kindling for the stakes upon which witches were burned, while the Italian finocchio (fennel) refers to the practice to scattering these aromatic vegetables on the stakes in order to mask the stench of burning flesh.”

“Witch-hunting also took hold in Africa, where it survives today as a key instrument of division in many countries especially those once implicated in the slave trade, like Nigeria and Southern Africa. Here, too, witch-hunting has accompanied the decline in the status of women brought about by the rise of capitalism and the intensifying struggle for resources which, in recent years, has been aggravated by the imposition of the neo-liberal agenda. As a consequence of the life-and-death competition for vanishing resources, scores of women- generally old and poor- have been hunted down in the 1990s in Northern Transvaal, where seventy were burned just in the first four months of 1994. Witch-hunts have also been reported in Kenya, Nigeria, Cameroon, in the 1980s and 1990s, concomitant with the imposition by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank of the policy of structural adjustment which had led to a new round of enclosures, and caused an unprecedented impoverishment among the population.”

“[T]he political lesson that we can learn from Caliban and the Witch is that capitalism, as a socio-economic system, is necessarily committed to racism and sexism. For capitalist must justify and mystify the contradictions built into its social relations- the promise of freedom vs. the reality of widespread coercion, and the promise of prosperity vs. the reality of widespread penury- by denigrating the ‘nature’ of those it exploits: women, colonial subjects, the descendants of African slaves, the immigrants displaced by globalization.”

Quotes from Karl Pilkington’s book The Moaning of Life.

“One of the main reasons I don’t want kids is the fact that they take over your life. Tony [the turtle] was proof of this. I’d missed my tea the night before, hadn’t slept properly all night and still hadn’t had breakfast, all due to me worrying about him. This is how it would be if I had a kid. I’ve seen it with mates who have them who say, ‘Oh, you should have kids, it’s a life-changing experience.’ But what does that mean? Losing a leg is a life-changing experience, but that doesn’t mean you’d actually want to lose one. ‘Oh, but you’re missing out,’ they say, as if they know what I want more than I do. Would they say to a gay bloke, ‘Oh, you should get your hands on a nice pair of tits, you’d love it, mate’?”

“If you decide to have kids, there is no guarantee that they will be there for you when you get older, especially since people don’t tend to stay in the same city as their family any more. Another reason people give for wanting kids is to carry on the family name, but that doesn’t interest me at all. I’m not bothered about it because no one seems to be able to get my name right anyway.”

“I really think it would be a good idea if people were given the chance to get a taste of what parenthood is actually like before going through with it: a kind of try-before-you-buy experience. Everyone always wonders if they’d make good parents, but they never question whether they really want to be parents. Yes, I’m sure there can be plenty of nice moments when you have a child, but there’s another side to everything. Hearing a baby might be a lovely thing, but if I was woken up in the middle of the night by my baby laughing to itself, it would bloody terrify me.”

“The idea of winged babies flying around with no nappies on seems like an accident waiting to happen. There would be shit everywhere. If I saw a cherub flying about in real life it would terrify me, whereas a Cyclops, which is another mythical being, wouldn’t scare me at all, as it’s just a bloke with one eye. He’d be registered disabled and get a decent parking space in today’s world.”

“[I]f I was a woman and the only word that could be used to describe me was ‘cute’ I would not be happy. Things that are ‘cute’ are usually also useless- they’re ‘cute’ because they’ve nothing else going for them. I’m sure that’s why babies are cute; otherwise most people wouldn’t have them, as they don’t bring much else to your life for years.”

“I watched nature programmes, and I was jealous of insects, as they know their purpose in life from the moment they’re born. Dung beetles don’t have career advisors, they just get on with shifting balls of shit. They know that’s what they’re here for and were born to do- easy. But we humans don’t know why we’re here.”

“People who are grumpy are usually like that for a reason, but no one ever thinks to find out if they have a right to be grumpy. Look at Grumpy in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. He’s got a reputation for being moody, but of course he’s grumpy: half his colleagues are bleeding useless. If I had to work with Dopey, Sleepy and Sneezy I’d be well pissed off too, especially with Happy standing there acting like everything is fine.”

“The main problem with the world is overpopulation. Forests are being chopped down to build houses, too many people create more pollution, and there’s a massive strain on the soil from growing food to feed the masses who are living longer and longer. Back in the day, people died in their 20s of toothache, but now we’ve got old women in their 80s doing star jumps at the gym, and we’re making it worse as we’re saving everyone and everything. We even attempt to bring stuff back from the dead. Scientists were trying to bring the mammoth back from extinction! Where’s that going to live and what’s it going to eat?! I can’t see things getting better, so I don’t worry about saving the planet. I don’t think we need to, as the planet will always be here. It’s us who will be wiped out, which, if you really care about Planet Earth, is probably the best thing that could happen to it.”

“Melissa asked if it was important to me to save the forests for the sake of my grandchildren. I explained I won’t be having any, as I don’t have any kids and I’m not planning on having any either, as the world doesn’t need me to produce more people. Some would say I’m being selfish not giving new life a chance, but you could say people who have kids are more selfish for adding to the problem of overpopulation. Again, I might be being selfish here, but the idea of no human life in the future doesn’t bother me. The way I see it, as humans we’ve had our go and we’ve made a right mess. We’ll disappear like the dinosaurs did and something else will get a go.”

“Richard asked if I felt bad about disturbing the dead, but I think it’s a daft saying. Out of everyone on the planet, if you’re going to disturb someone I’d say disturb the dead. It doesn’t bother them too much and I’ve never heard of a dead person complaining. I get bloody disturbed with the endless sales calls I get, door-to-door salesmen trying to flog me tea towels and flannels, and men wanting to come in to read my gas, water and electricity meters. How about not disturbing the living! Why is that allowed?!”

How black men are entrapped.

Precisely how the system of mass incarceration works to trap African Americans in a virtual (and literal) cage can best be understood by viewing the system as a whole. In earlier chapters, we considered various wires of the cage in isolation; here, we put the pieces together, step back, and view the cage in its entirety. Only when we view the cage from a distance can we disengage from the maze of rationalizations that are offered for each wire and see how the entire apparatus operates to keep African Americans perpetually trapped.

This, in brief, is how the system works: The War on Drugs is the vehicle through which extraordinary numbers of black men are forced into the cage. The entrapment occurs in three distinct phases, each of which has been explored earlier, but a brief review is useful here. The first stage is the roundup. Vast numbers of people are swept into the criminal justice by the police, who conduct drug operations primarily in poor communities of color. They are rewarded in cash – through drug forfeiture laws and federal grant programs – for rounding up as many people as possible, and they operate unconstrained by constitutional rules of procedure that once were considered inviolate. Police can stop, interrogate, and search anyone they choose for drug investigations, provided they get “consent.” Because there is no meaningful check on the exercise of police discretion, racial biases are granted free rein. In fact, police are allowed to rely on race as a factor in selecting whom to stop and search (even though people of color are no more likely to be guilty of drug crimes than whites) – effectively guaranteeing that those who are swept into the system are primarily black and brown.

The conviction marks the beginning of the second phase: the period of formal control. Once arrested, defendants are generally denied meaningful legal representation and pressured to plead guilty whether they are or not. Prosecutors are free to “load up” defendants with extra charges, and their decisions cannot be challenged for racial bias. Once convicted, due to the drug war’s harsh sentencing laws, drug offenders in the United States spend more time under the criminal justice system’s formal control – in jail or prison, on probation or parole – than drug offenders anywhere else in the world. While under formal control, virtually every aspect of one’s life is regulated and monitored by the system, and any form of resistance or disobedience is subject to swift sanction. This period of control may last a lifetime, even for those convicted of extremely minor, nonviolent offenses, but the vast majority of those swept into the system are eventually released. They are transferred from their prison cells to a much larger, invisible cage.

The final stage has been dubbed by some advocates as the period of invisible punishment. This term, first coined by Jeremy Travis, is meant to describe the unique set of criminal sanctions that are imposed on individuals after they step outside the prison gates, a form of punishment that operates largely outside of public view and takes effect outside the traditional sentencing framework. These sanctions are imposed by operation of law rather than decisions of a sentencing judge, yet they often have a greater impact on one’s life course than the months or years one actually spends behind bars. These laws operate collectively to ensure that the vast majority of convicted offenders will never integrate into mainstream, white society. They will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives – denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits. Unable to surmount these obstacles, most will eventually return to prison and then be released again, caught in a closed circuit of perpetual marginality.

In recent years, advocates and politicians have called for greater resources devoted to the problem of “prisoner re-entry,” in view of the unprecedented numbers of people who are released from prison and returned to their communities every year. While the terminology is well intentioned, it utterly fails to convey the gravity of the situation facing prisoners upon their release. People who have been convicted of felonies almost never truly reenter the society they inhabited prior to their conviction. Instead, they enter a separate society, a world hidden from public view, governed by a set of oppressive and discriminatory rules and laws that do not apply to everyone else. They become members of an undercaste – an enormous population of predominately black and brown people who, because of the drug war, are denied basic rights and privileges of American citizenship and are permanently relegated to an inferior status. This is the final phase, and there is no going back.

Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow