Thursday, August 23, 2007

Parenting as a Green Anarchist

I consider myself to be a pirate in some contemporary sense of the word. This is the lens through which I try to view our world. I am a nice pirate, where others rape and pillage I salvage and sow; where others sack and burn I liberate and grow. I pirate software, vegetables, herbs, bulk food aisles at corporate grocery stores, garbage, books, clothes, thrift stores, free boxes. I find homes for books lost on these high seas of a culture that, for the most part, doesn't read. I steal from the rich and give to the poor whenever possible. I try to be free in the fullest sense of the word and dream always of furthering that freedom.

I live with my twin three year old daughters on an old 250 acre farm outside of Shelton, Washington at the inner-most tip of Puget Sound. I try to live as a Green Rebel and a Pirate in this commodified world of disposable consumables. Does this mean I live a zero-sum harmonious existence with my local ecosystem, feeding wild animals by hand and growing or scavenging all my food while refusing to pay taxes and stockpiling an enormous underground arms cache of sustainably gathered weapons of creation? Well... not yet.

So I try instead to let these simple ideas bleed into my everyday interactions with nature and with the individuals around me. I try to be anti-authoritarian with my children for the most part, but every parent raises their voice or demands some sort of obedience from their kids, because that is the world we live in, try as we might to escape it. But I have become acutely aware of what a collaborative process parenting is and, as surely as I am raising two beautiful, intelligent, gentle girls in this crazy world, they are raising and molding a new kind of parent in me. And these new kinds of people we are helping each other foster and create and assemble from old bones will be the same people faced with solving the growing problems of tomorrow and bridging our polarized communities with what common ground we have: our children and our desire for them to be healthy and survive.

I vaguely recall mulling over possible titles for my fatherhood blog before settling on Pirate Papa: An Anarcho-Green Journal of D.(o) I.(t) Y.(ourself) Parenting. The ones I remember are: Running with Scissors , Don't Tell Mommy, and Hip-Pop. When I use words like 'Anarcho-Green' I am attempting to bend accepted norms by sheer use of language, I am attempting to lure in folks who are curious about these ideologies (even while I am obviously alienating whole other groups), I am attempting to extract everything I deem to be of value to contemporary parenting from both movements and synergize it into a harmonious, sustainable whole systems anti-corporate naturally organic approach to parenting and child-rearing in this day and age.

I relate 'Anarchism' to parenting in several very simple ways: I firmly believe that large-scale industrial capitalism is inherently bad for babies; I think all children are inherently anarchists and that these qualities need to be nurtured and respected rather than repressed; I advocate a refusal to follow accepted norms (without massive research) as applied to my children's diet, medicine, entertainment, education, etc.; I think that families are best served and children best reared by as much economic and political freedom as possible. I believe in creative problem solving, involving children in political activism, and being as anti-corporate, anti-capitalist and anti-standard as possible. I believe we need localized communities operating on a face-to-face basis in equilibrium with each other and their surroundings without official hierarchies and centralized establishments to arbitrate and rule our lives. We have learned from this system of coercion, capitalism, domination and patriarchy that it does not work, does not jive with the natural human spirit or bodily rhythms. Now it’s time to try something else.

I relate 'Green' to parenting thusly: I see today's generic diet and monocropped culture as definitely deadly to the kids and mothers and fathers of the future (that's all of us); I see lowering the ecological footprint of today's typical American family as a fundamental first step to saving tomorrow's children, as well as maximizing our own limited time here on the planet; I believe that, as a species, we require a healthy chunk of re-wilding in order to return to some sustainable balance with nature as well as with our own collective psyche; I believe that a resurgence to THE LOCAL for food and medical needs for our families and elderly and children will best sustain our communities and revitalize our economies with the inherently unique culture granted them by place.

If we don’t want a world full of standardized testing and rulers and competition then we need children who can live outside the box and be the most unique individuals they can be. If that is what they want to do. And I think it will be. If we want a world without bars on its windows then, more than ever, will we need children who are free.

Further Reading:

This essay was first published by Tomas in Rad Dad #7, July/August 2007.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Utne Reviews Rad Dad!

Evidently they like us radical papas over at Utne. They reviewed the first (and hitherto only) Pirate Papa 'zine awhile back.

Rad Dad "is not cool," according to founder and publisher Tomas. "[I]t's not about being hip, not about trying to be in style... Rad Dad is for radical parenting. The uncomfortable kind." And so the zine's seventh issue picks up where previous ones left off: by interrogating and reevaluating the role of fathers in radical politics. Articles range from "Green Parenting," in which writer Sky looks at the relationship between anarchism and parenting, to "On Being Jewish," in which Bruce contemplates the religious example he wants to set for his child. A contribution from Tomas himself -- "Who's Your Daddy: Fathers in Pop Culture" -- offers a forceful critique of how "cool parenting" has become an apolitical and upper-middle class trend that reinforces "dad" stereotypes. -- Eric Kelsey

Here's another link to a review of Tomas' Rad Dad from Mamazine.

Drop Tomas a line at Rad Dad and pick up a copy of issue # 7.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

The Taliban is Alive and Well in Ohio

From Common Dreams

Well, this is really weird. I, for one, believe that fathers should have some sort of say in whether a woman gets an abortion or not, even if it has no power beyond an idea logged in some karmic court. I mean, ideally everyone could just talk about the matter and sort things out... but we all know how well that works.

Giving the father sole veto power seems just a touch patriarchal and as one-sided as allowing solely the mother to make the decision. But it is her body after all. And personally I'm tired of The Father being the head of household and supreme familial dictator (rarely benevolent). Maybe some form of arbitration (Anyone want that job?)? If a father wants to accept sole responsibility for the child's well-being and agrees to support the pregnant mother at least until birth if not until the child is finished nursing then why should the mother be allowed to make the decision by herself? Indeed, it is her body and don't get me wrong, I am 100% pro-choice, having experienced abortion from the male end of the proverbial stick no less than three times myself and grateful for it every time. But we talked about it, twice before, once after (that one felt a bit different)... it's just such a murky subject... Let whichever being you call God be the judge, I suppose.

Who am I to tell any woman what to do with her body? But, then again, who are they to abort a life that doesn't just belong to them without first checking with the father of the unborn child? I'm fine with consensual abortions and abortions where the father is not present and thusly not asked. But when the father is present and wants the child and the women denies him that by aborting the child? Not so down... Thanks to Fern for pointing this one out. Damn. Makes me queasy too. I definitely don't think there should be legal repercussions involved. This stinks of a right-wing plot if you ask me. No one else can come up with such gaping plot holes.

Wow. I just changed my own mind ninety-seven times.

Check out the comments section, as the best ideas are down there, not in the article.

Several Ohio state representatives who normally take an anti-abortion stance are now pushing pro-choice legislation - sort of.

Led by Rep. John Adams, a group of state legislators have submitted a bill that would give fathers of unborn children a final say in whether or not an abortion can take place.

It’s a measure that, supporters say, would finally give fathers a choice. 0802 06

“This is important because there are always two parents and fathers should have a say in the birth or the destruction of that child,” said Adams, a Republican from Sidney. “I didn’t bring it up to draw attention to myself or to be controversial. In most cases, when a child is born the father has financial responsibility for that child, so he should have a say.”

As written, the bill would ban women from seeking an abortion without written consent from the father of the fetus. In cases where the identity of the father is unknown, women would be required to submit a list of possible fathers. The physician would be forced to conduct a paternity test from the provided list and then seek paternal permission to abort.

Claiming to not know the father’s identity is not a viable excuse, according to the proposed legislation. Simply put: no father means no abortion.

“I’m really pleased that this has been proposed for one reason - it draws attention to the fact that many men are concerned and care for their unborn children,” said Denise Mackura, the director of the Ohio Right to Life Society. “You have no idea how many men call telling me about their girlfriends who plan to abort, asking what they can do to help her. They do want to help and they should have a voice.”

With the proposal, men would be guaranteed that voice under penalty of law. First time violators would by tried for abortion fraud, a first degree misdemeanor. The same would be the case for men who falsely claim to be fathers and for medical workers who knowingly perform an abortion without paternal consent.

In addition, women would be required to present a police report in order to prove a pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.

As is the case whenever abortion is the topic, sharp opposition has come from members of the House, along with multiple activist groups. The National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Activist League and the Ohio Right to Life Society have both spoken out against the legislation.

“This extreme bill shows just how far some of our state legislators are willing to go to rally a far-right base that is frustrated with the pro-choice gains made in the last election,” said NARAL Pro-choice Ohio executive director Kellie Copeland. “It is completely out of touch with Ohio’s mainstream values. This measure is a clear attack on a woman’s freedom and privacy.”

The proposal came less than two weeks after Rep. Tom Brinkman proposed legislation that would ban all abortions in Ohio. Brinkman, a Republican from Cincinnati, was one of eight representatives to co-sponsor Adams’ bill.

With the recent liberal swing in Ohio state government, neither bill is likely to come to fruition. However, Adams’ less extreme proposal has an outside chance of becoming law - a law that would have a major impact in Portage County and surrounding areas.

Portage has been among the leading Ohio counties in abortion-to-birth ratios since abortion was legalized in 1973. Since 1996, about 20 percent of Portage County pregnancies have been aborted - the seventh highest percentage in the state according to information from the Ohio Department of Health. The total comes to more than 4,300 abortions in 10 years.

Cuyahoga County has the highest abortion percentage with more than 30 percent of its residents’ pregnancies being terminated. Summit County is also near the top of the list with a 21 percent termination rate.

Mackura doesn’t think those numbers are likely to change anytime soon, though. Precedent from the U.S. Supreme Court indicates that, even if Adams’ bill passed, it would likely be ruled unconstitutional by the courts.

“Simply taking a look at this as a possibility is a step in the right direction,” Mackura said. “Pregnancy is a unique human condition and obviously a woman is affected differently than a man. As a woman, I can sympathize. However, to completely take rights away from the father is unfair.

“Currently, even in a marriage situation, a man has no right to even be informed of an abortion. But if a woman doesn’t have an abortion, men sure have a lot of responsibility then. It’s really not fair.”

Two nice sites recently unearthed