Monthly Archives: March 2021

An Easter Meditation

A meditation on this holy week for Christians: Jesus was not killed by sex workers, or the houseless, or LGBTQ people, or by menial laborers, or immigrants, or women. He was ordered to be crucified by a political leader at the behest of an organized and powerful group of religious clerics. A public execution that was then carried out by soldiers and armed guards of the ruling court in a fashion that was designed to humiliate both the accused and those who loved the accused. All of them were powerful men of prestige and authority. This is an important reminder today because, sadly, when it comes to justice, little has changed in 2000 years.

Kenn Orphan March 2021

π‘ƒπ‘Žπ‘–π‘›π‘‘π‘–π‘›π‘” 𝑖𝑠 “𝐽𝑒𝑠𝑒𝑠 π‘π‘’π‘“π‘œπ‘Ÿπ‘’ π‘ƒπ‘–π‘™π‘Žπ‘‘π‘’” 𝑏𝑦 π»π‘’π‘›π‘”π‘Žπ‘Ÿπ‘–π‘Žπ‘› π‘Žπ‘Ÿπ‘‘π‘–π‘ π‘‘ π‘€π‘–β„Žπ‘Žπ‘™π‘¦ π‘€π‘’π‘›π‘˜π‘Žπ‘π‘ π‘¦ (1844-1900).

The Suez Crisis: A Gentle Warning from the Earth

Now that news is focused on a cargo ship clogging the Suez Canal, one of the busiest trade routes in the world, it is worth reviewing the ecocidal destruction caused by these behemoths.

There are over 5000 cargo ships in use today. They have grown exponentially in size over the last two decades. They, along with military and cruise ships, pollute the marine environment with noise from engines and sonar. As a result, cetacean populations, along with other marine mammals and fish, have been steadily falling. The sounds these species endure are deafening, inescapable, and are behind mass beaching events and other physical and emotional stresses, including a drop in fertility.

In addition to this, deaths of blue whales, the largest of all mammals on earth, have been rapidly increasing due to collisions with cargo ships. The soft flesh of a whale is no match for the steel of these monsters of rapacious consumption. Add to this plastic litter, the warming created by the burning of fossil fuels, and the effluent from engines, and a picture of ecocidal catastrophe on a global scale becomes clear.

So maybe this incident off of Egypt is a wake up call. The current economic arrangement is a death sentence for countless species that we share this planet with. It has been for centuries. The global north’s dependence on the “latest” object or item is undoubtedly fueling much this enormous growth in marine traffic. And it isn’t so beneficial to those workers in the global south either. Those who work in dangerous sweatshops for pennies a day.

Scientists have been warning us for decades about tipping points and ecological collapse. This time, the earth gently struck back, blowing one of these ships onto the sandy banks of a human made conduit for endless, cancerous, capitalist growth. Despite the hysteria of some in the corporate press, it is unlikely to cause that much stress to ordinary people. Just a few stockholders. Ships will be rerouted and in a few weeks the canal will be cleared.

But next time Mother Earth may not be so kind to us with her warning.

Kenn Orphan March 2021

*Photo is of a near miss of a cargo ship and a blue whale and is courtesy of NOAA.

As an independent writer and artist Kenn Orphan depends on donations and commissions. If you would like to support his work and this blog you can do so via PayPal. Simply click here:  DONATE

And thank you for your support and appreciation!

Thoughts on the Massacre in Atlanta

This is Randy Park, one of the sons of Hyun Jung Grant, a victim of the horrendous massacre that took place this past week in Atlanta. He said she was a mother “who dedicated her whole life to providing for my brother and I.” And that “she was one of my best friends and the strongest influence on who we are today. Losing her has put a new lens on my eyes on the amount of hate that exists in our world.”

But the Cherokee County Police were more sympathetic to her killer and his “really bad day.” They wasted no time explaining that he was “fed up” and “at the end of his rope” and dealing with the “temptation” of “sexual addiction.” They immediately, without even a hint of hesitation, ruled out a racist motive for the crime. But it didn’t take long for people to find racist themes throughout his social media. So regardless of the “day” he was having, his “feelings” do not deserve to be centered. His racism and misogyny do.

Anti-Asian rhetoric gained momentum over the past year with the pandemic. Attacks, ridicule and casual hate speech. I saw the anti-China crusade being ramped up under Trump, but it is continuing even now under the new Biden administration. To think that this does not have an impact is ridiculous.

And, as in the case of George Floyd, the women who were murdered are now being slandered in some parts of the press because they may have been sex workers. We don’t really know if this is true, but would it matter? It is time to make it clear that sex work IS work. And no one who does it deserves violence.

May Hyun Jung Grant and the seven other victims rest in peace. And may their families gain the strength to rebuild their lives from the wreckage of this devastating attack.

Kenn Orphan March 2021

As an independent writer and artist Kenn Orphan depends on donations and commissions. If you would like to support his work and this blog you can do so via PayPal. Simply click here:  DONATE

And thank you for your support and appreciation!

what does it say of us

what does it say of us
who live at the tail end of industrial hubris
on a sphere
adrift in space
without any other voice
we can hear nor comprehend
we who live
beneath the icy sheen of ozone in a viscous goo so rich
with all manner of life
that it is the envy of empty orbs
for lightyears around
and we yet we want more
newts, antelope,
amoebas, pines, moths
panthers, willows, scorpions
all manner of fungi
and moss
and bacteria
and fauna
and flora
what does it say of our times
when an era replaces the living
with barcodes
and then encases them in plastic
or sprays them
with chemicals
what does it say of our morality
whose flags and bombs and rulers and celebrities
garner more honour than our kin
and whose borders carve up the warm loam
of whence we came
and where we shall return
pollywogs, carps,
hornbills, banyans, hydras
lemurs, wasps, mold
all manner of fungi
and moss
and bacteria
and fauna
and flora
what does it say of our existence
who lie about what it means
to possess a body
attached to this mortal coil
yet casually replace it
with pixelated zeros and ones
our moments are scattered
like the dust we breathe in
and time we experience
is limited
even as we treat it as a bane
to be idle
what, then, does it say of us
Kenn OrphanΒ  March 2021


*Photo is by Kenn Orphan. It is the silhouette of a howler monkey, and was taken in the rainforests of Nicaragua.Β 

As an independent writer and artist Kenn Orphan depends on donations and commissions. If you would like to support his work and this blog you can do so via PayPal. Simply click here: DONATE

And thank you for your support and appreciation!

The Amazon Chernobyl is a Warning for Us All

β€œWe must answer their call. Our Mother Earth, militarized, fenced-in, poisoned, a place where basic rights are systematically violated, demands that we take action. Let us build societies that are able to coexist in a dignified way, in a way that protects life. Let us come together and remain hopeful as we defend and care for the blood of the Earth and of its spirits.” – Berta Caceres, Indigenous rights and environmental activist of the Lenca people, murdered in Honduras in 2016

If there is one glaring truth of the 21st century, it is that Indigenous people are at the forefront of a war being waged against the living earth itself. From the Athabasca to the Niger Delta to the Ecuadorian Amazon, the fossil fuel industry, along with other extractive industries, are drenched in the blood of countless innocent people and responsible for ecological annihilation on a scale that is unimaginable. With all of this comes global impunity. These industries enjoy legal protection from the most powerful state entities on earth. Their crimes, of which we are all a victim, go unpunished.

There are few better examples of how the fossil fuel industry operates with impunity than in Chevron-Texaco’s deliberate destruction of the Ecuadorian Amazon, often referred to as the “Amazon Chernobyl” due to the scale of the catastrophe. From 1964 to 1992 Texaco, the company acquired by Chevron with all of its liabilities, polluted a 1700 square mile swath of pristine rainforest. In its lust for profits, the company cut corners and dumped at least 19 billion gallons of toxic water into the environment. It discharged 17 million gallons of crude into unlined pits, some as deep as 30 feet, on the forest floor. There is no telling how many species succumbed to the horrors of such unbridled greed.

But this is also a story of environmental racism. For decades, Indigenous people of this region were told that the oil was no threat to them. On the contrary, many of them were told that it had medicinal value and contained “vitamins.” Thousands of people used that water. They drank it, cooked with it, bathed in it, oblivious to the danger. After seeing a spike in birth defects and cancers, that danger became increasingly clear. Unable to relocate because of crushing, imposed poverty, they are forced to live in this human-made disaster area, even though it is slowly killing them.

Despite losing its legal battle, as well as an appeal to the highest court in Ecuador which ordered them to pay 9.5 billion USD for clean up and healthcare for the communities affected by its crime, Chevron has yet to pay a dime. Even the Hague, that supposed bastion of justice that wastes no time prosecuting African dictators, sided with Chevron’s corporate criminals.

And the company has done everything it can to persecute its victims, and hold them responsible for its own malfeasance. It has ruthlessly gone after the Indigenous people who dared oppose it, as well as their defenders. One is human rights lawyer, Steven Donziger, who was largely to thank for winning the case against Chevron. He has been under house arrest for nearly 600 days due to a spurious charge by a judge well known to be in the pocket of Big Business.

Indeed, Chevron is attempting to use an American statute, once reserved for prosecuting the Mafia, on Indigenous land and water defenders, environmentalists, and anyone who stands in solidarity with them. The ramifications for this are, of course, chilling to say the least. If they succeed, there is nothing to stop other corporate abusers in going after Indigenous people elsewhere, or other human and environmental rights activists.

Of course Chevron is not alone. The industries responsible for carving the great, festering wound in the living loam of the earth, known as the Alberta Tar Sands, have managed to suppress information regarding adverse health affects on Indigenous people in that region for many years. Even in this case, it is environmental racism writ large with health authorities blaming Indigenous people’s illnesses on “poor eating habits, obesity and smoking” rather than the obvious pollution being spewed into the atmosphere or poured into waterways from nearby plants. They routinely side with Big Oil against Indigenous people and the biosphere in one of the most greenwashed countries in the world.

And in the Niger Delta, one of the most important wetland regions on the planet, Royal Dutch Shell has been systematically devastating wildlife and water for decades with near impunity. Gas flares contaminate the air with benzene, causing birth defects and cancer among the Indigenous communities. Over the past fifty years an estimated 1.5 million tons of oil has spilled into the ecosystem.

Shell’s ecological destruction goes hand in hand with its brutal suppression of human rights. Its presence in the Niger Delta has brought deforestation, water pollution and poverty. Nearly 85 percent of all oil revenues go to less than 1% of the population in a country where, according to the African Development Bank, more than 70 percent live on less than one US dollar per day.

None of this would be possible without the marriage of the corporation and the state. Shell has had a long history of assisting and directing the Nigerian military in the violent suppression of dissent and protest; and Indigenous environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa presented a problem to the oil giant in that he organized defiance of their destruction of Ogoni lands. On November 10, 1995, Saro-Wiwa was among nine other Ogoni activists murdered after being convicted in a kangaroo court at the behest of the company. Today, the plunder and devastation of the Niger Delta continues.

For decades fossil fuel industries, as well as other extractive companies and corporations, have managed to wreak devastation on our fragile biosphere with no consequence for their crimes. Indeed, they have succeeded in controlling a weak global judiciary beholden to corporate interests. But humanity is in an existential crisis like never before. We can no longer stand idly by while the corporate state ravages our world and our future before our eyes. Indigenous people have been calling for us to recognize the deathward trajectory of our political and economic order for centuries. And if we continue to ignore their plea for sanity it will be at our collective peril.

Kenn Orphan March 2021

As an independent writer and artist Kenn Orphan depends on donations and commissions. If you would like to support his work and this blog you can do so via PayPal. Simply click here:  DONATE

And thank you for your support and appreciation!

On Plastic Potato Heads, Seuss and the Machine of Manufactured Outrage

β€œThis is the end of freedom,” declared the definitive talking potato head himself, Glenn Beck. He was speaking about Hasbro’s decision to drop the “Mister” pronoun from their “Potato Head” toy. In fact, there will still be Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head characters respectively. The company just decided to remove the male descriptor “Mister” as the primary name of the brand. The same week, Dr. Seuss Enterprises decided to drop six books from the popular franchise due to their obviously racist portrayals of Asian and Black people. And on the conservative end of the internet, all hell broke loose.

The machine of manufactured outrage at both decisions went into high gear. There were headlines. Talking heads gnashing teeth. Memes generated in a nanosecond. Apparently, civilization itself was crumbling before our eyes. Never mind the fact that actual potato plants are self pollinators and possess both male and female flowers. Never mind that gender is essentially fluid and conditioned on multiple factors. Never mind that the outrage was over a plastic toy. In regard to Seuss, never mind that thousands of Japanese Americans were thrown into concentration camps not long after the publication of his infamous cartoons, which came at the height of anti-Japanese sentiment in the US.

One must wonder what goes through the heads of people who become enraged over decisions that are crafted to be more sensitive toward people who have been historically dispossessed and marginalized. One must wonder at a society that is more concerned about the physical characteristics of a plastic toy than the fact that this plastic toy will likely persist as refuse for thousands of years to come. Or that a few books from a beloved writer, arguably his worst, will no longer be promoted on the same level as his other works. In the minds of many on the far right or conservatives, this is emblematic of “cancel culture” run amok.

But it is important to keep in mind that the loudest voices decrying “censorship” and “cancel culture” in this instance didn’t seem to have that problem with canceling Colin Kaepernick for taking the knee as a silent protest against racist police violence. And there is a reason for this. This crowd does not mind it when the voices of those who are different, or non-traditional, or non-conforming are silenced. Those who have been historically held under the knee of the dominant society. But they do mind it a great deal when their reactionary values and mores are challenged. They don’t mind it when voices that criticize murderous US militarism or unbridled capitalism or feckless nationalism are stifled. But they do mind it a great deal when those who dissent from these things are given a platform to voice their positions.

I loathe censorship. It is vile when governments do it. But I especially hate it when corporations do it because, outside of their shareholders, they are unaccountable for their decisions. And if anyone is familiar with the latter, it would be me. I was “de-platformed” last month thanks to a draconian algorithmic Facebook purge following the insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6th, and it was all based on the use of a politically charged term. I have since gained back my “platform” thanks to help from a friend of a friend who works for the company, however the experience has made me especially sensitive to anything that smacks of censorship.

As far as Hasbro and Seuss are concerned, nothing has been canceled. No toys were buried. No books were burned. In truth, none of this is about censorship. It is about a cynical media machine that has been in the business of manufacturing outrage in order to distract the public from more pressing or dire concerns, atrocities, or the malfeasance of its ruling class for decades. After all, Yemen is still being decimated and starved by a murderous medieval kingdom supported by the West. Racist police state violence and the carceral state continues to ruin lives and cause immeasurable misery. Billions are still languishing under imposed poverty. Thousands of people are still dying from the pandemic, all as the biosphere continues to be polluted and burned for profit. But don’t pay attention to any of that.

FYI, if anyone wants to purchase those six racist books they still can. And they can read them while they build the most hyper-masculine, patriarchal, plastic potato head of their wildest dreams. So apparently all this hype was just that: hype.

Kenn Orphan March 2021

As an independent writer and artist Kenn Orphan depends on donations and commissions. If you would like to support his work and this blog you can do so via PayPal. Simply click here:  DONATE

And thank you for your support and appreciation!

On Beauty and Imperfection

There is a Japanese aesthetic practice known as kintsugi ι‡‘ηΆ™γŽ, or kintsukuroi 金繕い, that I fell in love with several years ago when I first learned of it in an art course I was taking. It is based on the tradition of wabi-sabi δΎ˜ε―‚ which is a worldview that embraces impermanence and imperfection. It involves taking a broken piece of pottery and repairing it with lacquer mixed with gold or silver. But the repair does not conceal the cracks. On the contrary, it accentuates them to demonstrate their imperfection as beauty.

I’ve thought about this concept a lot over the years, especially in regard to my own life. The tendency in our culture is to feel shame for our brokenness or damage. To be humiliated by our differentness. To be embarrassed by age and infirmity. To obscure our wounds, as if they were never there to begin with. But this concealment has never made sense to me.

We are all imperfect beings, broken by the careless or deliberate actions of others, sometimes by ourselves, sometimes by the world. I believe it is in this imperfection where the potential of beauty lives. Our wounds are cuts sown into the loam of our soul. And it is only in those wounds that seeds can be planted. To expose them to the wrong kind of seed can cause more trauma and heartache. But to hide them completely puts a halt to growth, an end to empathy, and it makes living an empty show of banal conformity.

Our bodies are mortal. From the soft, warm womb they climb up toward the light of day. But after the days of youth have faded, those moments where many of us think we are invincible, those bodies will age and crack and bend to the whims of time and the indifference of the elements. Eventually, the flesh that enwraps our organs will become sallow. Our bones, those unsung heroes of physicality that hold us up every day, will disintegrate to dust.

But this impermanence is also the source of creation. It is eternal. And from brokenness comes something new. The wounds inflicted on us by this life can be mended, but their seams should never be concealed. After all, they are the highest form of beauty. Imperfection allows atoms to marry, genes to descend, and canyons to be carved. From it comes music and art and spoken word. It should gain our greatest gratitude, because without it, we would not even be here to begin with.

Kenn Orphan March 2021

*Title image is a Japanese bowl repaired in the tradition of kintsugi.

As an independent writer and artist Kenn Orphan depends on donations and commissions. If you would like to support his work and this blog you can do so via PayPal. Simply click here:  DONATE

And thank you for your support and appreciation!