Category Archives: Archived

How the Pandemic Laid Bare the Cruelty of Capitalism

One thing this pandemic has demonstrated in stark terms is class struggle. Those people deemed essential, though often applauded in public, have been treated as expendable. In truth, they were always treated this way. But this last year has made this struggle visible for anyone paying attention.

The medical staff, grocery clerks, janitors, sanitation workers, transportation services, delivery people, all of them have been the ones on the front lines, not only of potential exposure to a lethal pathogen, but to abuse from privileged customers, clients or patients who feel their rights have somehow been violated for being asked to simply wear a mask. I can’t count how many videos I have seen of people (mostly white and middle to upper middle class) berating workers. And this often takes on a racist tone.

Over the past year we have witnessed people throwing groceries at workers, spitting at them, calling them names. In various states, from California to Texas to Florida, there have been mobs that invaded stores like Target or Home Depot without masks and carrying anti-masker and “Covid is Hoax” signs, even physically attacking other customers and workers. And in one recent instance in British Columbia an older white male customer was asked to wear a mask in a pizza restaurant. He answered angrily: “are you f**king Middle Easter or where are you from?” Concluding with “I’m worth $50 million, you’re worth zero.” He and his companion then went on to assault a teenage customer outside tearing his mask from his face.

How disconnected from reality could one be to think that being asked to wear a mask in a store is a violation of ones’ rights? And how privileged does one have to be to think dressing down a worker is somehow a noble expression of those supposed rights? And this gets to the crux of the problem: capitalism.

Capitalism is about class and status. The man who said he was worth $50 million and clerk worth $0 really believes it. And it is a system that posits the supposed “rights” of the individual over the well being of the community. But many of these rights are merely privilege and have little to nothing to do with liberating oppressed or marginalized members of society or protecting the most vulnerable or persecuted. It is the very opposite of cooperation and mutual respect. And it is an arrangement which always favors the wealthy and upper classes disproportionately over the poor and working class. This is because the list of “rights” seldom, if ever, include basics like housing, food, healthcare, education or meaningful work.

This is playing out most obviously in the ongoing strikes against corporations like Amazon and the fast food industry. But in the US, as well as some other western nations, liberals have found themselves alienated from these struggles thanks to years of political pandering to corporations. We should ask ourselves why these workers aren’t even asking for a good wage, they are only asking for a livable wage. “Livable.” And yet they work 80 or more hours a week yet cannot “live” on the pittance they get. All while there are people like Bezos and Musk who pay little to no taxes and make thousands of dollars a minute while they sleep.

The pandemic has laid bare how the systemic inequities of capitalism manifest in real abuse and contempt for low wage workers. Often this is compounded by racism and xenophobia. But it isn’t simply the tirades of entitled anti-maskers against people behind the counter making minimum wage. It is warehouses and other places of business that have put low wage workers at risk by exposing them to Covid-19, while providing them no paid sick leave or a “livable” wage. It is about a government that provides subsidies to corporations and the military industrial sector, while denying the public basic healthcare, good housing, free education and opportunities for growth.

But outrage at individual instances of worker abuse captured on TikTok or Youtube is not enough. The entire system is designed to inflict cruelty on the most vulnerable in society. And if we cannot see the machine behind this all, we will lack the most effective tools to dismantle it.

Kenn Orphan April 2021

Humans, Nature and the Illusion of Separateness

“We are here to awaken from our illusion of separateness.” ― Thich Nhat Hanh

One of the biggest lies that people in the global north were sold and have largely internalized is that we are separate from the biosphere from which we evolved and on which we depend upon for our very survival. Even as we stand on the precipice of ecological collapse, human supremacy over nature has been the unchallenged narrative. As a result, those who have taken up the struggle to protect this fragile arrangement of existence are often otherized. Their “cause” is treated as just one of many. The “treehugger?” The “environmentalist?” The person who “cares about the earth?” How noble. How non-threatening. It becomes just another cause in a myriad of causes.

The message here is that we ought not think of this in terms of human survival. In existential terms. That would be too hyperbolic. Too woo-woo. The corporations that derive every bit of their wealth from the true “commonwealth” of all species on this planet want nothing less than for us to think we are either above it all or separate from it all. If more make the connection that we need to stop the decimation of the natural world it will ultimately put a dent in their profit margin. If we are honest, that is what the current economic and political order cares about the most.

To be fair, capitalism cannot do anything but accumulate more and more capital. And capital is virtually everything that exists, from the raw minerals and petrol deep in the earth’s crust, to the fish in the sea and trees in the boreal range, to governments and politicians, to our own personal information and preferences. It has created a global arrangement of power that must use obfuscation as well as violence, or its threat, as a way of keeping the engine running.

But if we see this as truly existential we begin to realize that things like plugging in our single person vehicles, or replacing plastic straws with bamboo ones, or recycling our plastic water bottles are mostly window dressing for an unfolding catastrophe. They are intended to obscure one of the biggest crimes in human history, the wholescale destruction of life on earth for the profit of the corporate class.

None of this is meant to encourage conspiratorial thinking. It is not to imply that there is a group of evil villains meeting in a secret boardroom plotting the destruction of the earth’s biosphere somewhere either. But it does involve a sort of conspiracy at work. Just a few years ago we learned that the tobacco industry hired physicians to lie about the harmful affects of smoking even though they knew very well that it caused potentially fatal conditions like heart disease, emphysema and lung cancer. Plastic companies have been greenwashing the massive production of their products by promoting programs like recycling, which barely put a dent in the growing problem of plastic pollution. And we learned relatively recently that the fossil fuel industry did something similar regarding the danger of endless burning of fossil fuels and its acceleration of climate change. Corporate entities are simply incapable of grappling with the destructive affects of their mode of operation if it interferes with the endless growth and increased profit paradigm.

The danger we now face could not be more dire. World renowned political dissident and author Noam Chomsky has warned that “the future of organized human life” is imperiled by climate change. A recent piece from 17 scientists in the journal Frontiers in Conservation Science warned of “ghastly” consequences from ecological degradation if radical steps are not taken. And Australian scientists released a sobering report this year about diverse ecosystems in the region that are in a state of collapse, from the tropics to coral reefs to the desert and Antarctica.

Whether or not one believes these reports, there is ample evidence of massive ecological destruction throughout the global south which is a direct result of extractive and exploitative industries in the global north. Clear cutting forests, from Brazil to Indonesia, has exploded exponentially. Sub-standard mining practices have defiled waterways. Pollution from fossil fuel extraction continues to be a scourge, from noxious benzene plumes and effluent in the Niger Delta to open oil pits in the Ecuadorian Amazon to massive spills on coral reefs off Mauritius. Rubbish from the global north is routinely dumped in regions in the global south that are not regulated or policed. And the new “green” technology is threatening to destroy even more habitats with lithium mines and solar farms. This is what the corporate policy of “externalized costs” really looks like. It is also how the lie of separateness is made manifest. Corporations move from one sacrifice zone to the next, but on a finite world this Faustian bargain was doomed from the start.

We have been warned that there is a need for radical change. Unsurprisingly, the corporations that run the world’s affairs have incorporated much of this language into their mission statements and ethos. But we should understand that this is nothing more than another subterfuge. A way to maximize their profit from a dying world all while giving it a greenwashed face. They must maintain the current rate of extraction and growth in order to do this. But now they have been forced to change the language they use. To be sure, no real sacrifices will be asked from us in the global north who have largely benefitted from this untenable and unfair way of life. As George H.W. Bush famously declared: “The American way of life is not up for negotiations. Period.” And by this he meant the American model of endless accumulation of capital and consumption for a few at the expense of the many and the living earth.  

Humanity is facing its nemesis. The thin layer of air and water that embraces the crust of this planet, and on which we are fully dependent, is imperiled like no other time in human history. And there is a clear cause for this. Corporations, with the help of the military and political sectors, are rapidly unraveling the fragile net that holds us. And they get away with it because most of us still think we are somehow separate from nature. Thich Nhat Hanh’s quote at the top of this essay might be taken as strictly spiritual in its implications by some. But I think it also has a very tangible application to where we are as a species. For too long we have allowed the narrative to be dictated by the myth of our separateness and dominance over the earth and all that lives here. And that narrative has led us to the brink of utter catastrophe. Dispelling this toxic illusion is imperative, therefore, for our very survival.

Kenn Orphan April 2021

Title painting is Ecocide by Carlita Shaw

9 minutes, 29 seconds

9 minutes, 29 seconds.

9 minutes, 29 seconds was how long Derek Chauvin knelt on George Floyd’s neck.

9 minutes, 29 seconds he ignored his desperate pleas for mercy.

9 minutes, 29 seconds he ignored the cries of outrage and despair of those watching it all.

9 minutes, 29 seconds he stayed where he was even as George lay lifeless, even as they checked for a pulse and did not find one.

9 minutes, 29 seconds.

Kenn Orphan April 2021

#JusticeforGeorgeFloyd #BlackLivesMatter

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

𝑃𝑎𝑖𝑛𝑡𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑖𝑠 “𝐽𝑒𝑠𝑢𝑠 𝑏𝑒𝑓𝑜𝑟𝑒 𝑃𝑖𝑙𝑎𝑡𝑒” 𝑏𝑦 𝐻𝑢𝑛𝑔𝑎𝑟𝑖𝑎𝑛 𝑎𝑟𝑡𝑖𝑠𝑡 𝑀𝑖ℎ𝑎𝑙𝑦 𝑀𝑢𝑛𝑘𝑎𝑐𝑠𝑦 (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 Orphan  March 2021


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

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

“We 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 Meghan, Racism, Money and Mental Health

This week I posted a thought regarding the Oprah interview with Meghan Markle and (former) Prince Harry. It read:

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s combined net worth is estimated at around $50 million USD.
The British monarchy’s estimated net worth is, at least, $88 billion USD. Can we stop acting like their problems are our problems?
Can we admit intersectionality has material limits?

Following this post I was accused of being “judgmental,” of downplaying racism in all of the social classes, and of “making fun of mental health.” In fact, my post made no mention of Meghan’s mental health. It did not say racism wasn’t a problem regardless of class either. And there was nothing inherently judgmental about it. But for some reason, it was a trigger for an avalanche of comments and even personal messages that consisted of attempted shaming, virtue signaling and straw man fallacies.

There is little doubt in my mind that Meghan Markle experienced racism after entering the royal family. This is an ancient system founded on the feudal idea of the “divine right” of one person ruling absolutely over all others and enforcing a cultural hierarchy of strict class boundaries based almost exclusively on the myth of genetic pedigree, after all. How anyone could think racism isn’t a major feature of this institution is beyond me.

But there is a gigantic elephant in the room that most Americans, including most liberals, refuse to acknowledge: capitalism. Most of us have been conditioned to sympathize with the celebrity and wealth class. This is no accident. Billions of dollars are spent to achieve this goal. This is not to say that we should not naturally identify with famous people. We are all human beings after all. It is to say that there is an entire industry which artificially reinforces this identification. And to continue to ignore this or its enormous influence would be foolish.

Americans have been inured to adopt the erroneous view that everyone is on a level playing field. That wealth doesn’t make any real difference regarding access to care or other material supports. By this logic, the person living on the street, eating from dumpsters, and avoiding the cops, is in essentially the same position as the wealthy stock broker who suffers from PTSD in his Manhattan penthouse. It is such a feat of staggering cognitive dissonance and illogic that it is almost impossible to explain.

Without a doubt racism, homophobia, misogyny, transphobia, mental health issues, and other social maladies are experienced by all human beings across all class and caste distinctions. Meghan Markle is no different in this regard. But to suggest that her experience with these things is the same as a person with little or no material wealth is simply ludicrous. And calling attention to this fact does not diminish Markle’s experience with racism, depression or suicidal ideation in the least. Money and wealth may not buy happiness, but they give a person access to far more options for comfort and support. Of course, she may have been told not to seek out help by members of the royal family, but she was not a prisoner. The UK is not Saudi Arabia, a medieval kingdom where princesses ARE actually held against their will.

On a more personal note, the post didn’t just trigger something for others. The responses triggered something in me. I was suddenly finding myself feeling a sense of panic. I am familiar with that feeling because I have dealt with mental health issues myself throughout my life. Depression, anxiety, despair. I have dealt with them all. I was sexually assaulted a long time ago, so I know what PTSD is. I had a time in my life where I did hard drugs as an escape, and they almost made me go mad. I even contemplated suicide a few times. So to be accused of making fun of mental health felt even more insulting and hurtful. And it was for the sole reason of daring to bring up those forbidden topics in Western circles, wealth disparity and capitalism. That was just too much for me to be silent about.

I have had times in my life where I was flat broke. Where I experienced mental health crises in the United States and had no health insurance to cover the costs of any kind of meaningful treatment because I was between jobs. I know what that kind of desperation feels like. In contrast, I have had times where I had some money in the bank and some access to good care. There is no one on earth who can tell me that the two experiences are the same. No one who can suggest that the wealthy have it just as bad as the poor. And it is insulting, not only to me, but to billions of working and poor people to suggest so.

I will admit that my post may have been flippant. And I have empathy with Meghan Markle. For the racism she endures and the mental health crisis she went through. But the bulk of my compassion and solidarity goes out to (and will always go out to) those who have no material wealth to speak of, most of which are people of colour. Far more than those caught up in a system that has manufactured a false supremacy of lineage. On a dying planet, I think humans have the creative acumen to come up with a better arrangement. So if that makes me “judgmental,” then I will wear that badge with pride.

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

“This 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!