Defeatism has no place here

Glenn Greenwald gets it right again: The gay marriage snowball and political change

It really is a bit shocking how quickly gay marriage transformed from being a fringe, politically toxic position just a few years ago to a virtual piety that must be affirmed in decent company. Whenever I write or speak about any of the issues on which I focus, I always emphasize that a posture of defeatism – which is a form of learned impotence: a belief that meaningful change is impossible – is misguided. This demonstrates why that is true: even the most ossified biases and entrenched institutional injustices can be subverted – if the necessary passion and will are summoned and the right strategies found. […]

That same type of rapid and previously unthinkable change is visible with other unjust laws: oppressive drug prohibition being the leading example. But one can easily find all sorts of examples from American history and the recent history of other countries which reflect the same truth: radical, positive, and relatively fast political change is always possible, no matter how formidable the obstacles seem.

Defeatism is more often than not a psychological instrument designed to relieve one of the responsibility to act (if change is impossible, then I have no reason and no obligation to work or take risks for it). That is bolstered by the effort of all ruling interests to instill a sense of powerlessness and hopelessness in those they suppress; systemic power abuses are, above all else, designed to persuade people of the futility of opposition, to adopt a defeatist mindset. But it is a mindset that finds little to no support in political history. The rapid and relentless dismantling of the anti-gay legal and societal framework in the US is yet more proof for that proposition.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to Defeatism has no place here

  1. muggles says:

    I’m ready for some rapid prohibition change.

  2. DonDig says:

    This is how movements are made. What’s been going on here: giving a lot of energy to productive directions that we’d like to see taken, is and has (energetically) created that reality. More than anything else, what we think about what we’re putting forth, makes more of a difference in whether it will be well received than anything else.
    How much energy in belief is put forth, so it goes.

  3. m says:

    So much for the run on cock-rings in Rafa!

    • Duncan20903 says:


      My wife has a Cock Ring Ken AKA “Earring Magic” Ken in her Barbie doll collection.

      In 1993, the Mattel Company, maker of the universally popular Barbie doll, unveiled Barbie’s new, updated boyfriend, Ken. The Ken doll sported an earring in his left ear, blond highlights in his traditionally brown hair, a purple mesh shirt, lavender vest, and a thick chrome ring worn on a necklace. The doll was officially named “Earring Magic Ken,” but within weeks the world had dubbed him “Cock Ring Ken.” Unwittingly, Mattel had made Ken gay.

      A cock ring, for those of us who live outside the Barbie culture, is worn to trap blood in the penis and prolong an erection and orgasm. Almost immediately, kitsch-minded gay men gobbled up Cock Ring Ken making it the best-selling Ken doll in the company’s history. Mattel denied emphatically that Ken was gay — “We’re not in the business of putting cock rings into the hands of little girls,” said a company spokesman — and argued that the cock ring was, in fact, a “circular charm.” The company discontinued and recalled the doll.

      Of course that’s why the gay version of a Ken doll is worth approaching 4 figures. Hey, don’t laugh. Her frackin’ Barbie collection is worth enough that we bought a rider for our homeowners insurance. All of them still in their original boxes with price tags attached, just like the nuts (e.g. my wife) that collect stuff like that want. If you would have told me 20 years ago that I was going to buy insurance on a car load of Barbie Dolls I would have surely thought you foaming at the mouth insane. But it wouldn’t take much to kill their value. Just smelling like smoke from a fire or the cardboard packaging getting wet and we’d be lucky to sell them at a yard sale 3 for $5. But just to compound the weirdness they’re not for sale and I think the only way they’ll ever get sold is out of her estate after she dies.

  4. jean valjean says:

    gay rights groups are describing this as the last great battle for civil rights. the civil rights of millions convicted and otherwise harrassed for drugs seem nnot to count

    • pt says:

      Totally, I have many gay friends and it is incredible to me how few of them understand that it is the same battle. Even after I completely dismantle their arguments against legalization, and successfully illustrate the civil rights, privacy, and discrimination issues of prohibition, it is amazing how many of their brains just snap right back to, “drugs are bad, and must remain illegal,” “Marijuana is a gateway drug” (even though many of them smoke, and several smoke and don’t even drink) and of course “what about the children!” I have 2 gay friends with AIDS who smoke regularly and unquestionably think it should be legal medically but not recreationally, they have been smoking since they were in their early 20’s (many years before they contracted the virus) and they even thought it should be legalized completely in the 70’s….. I think it is the “liberal” side of them rearing its ugly head, they think that prohibition is the government’s way of saving society from itself. Funny that just like blacks and hispanics had been the most affected and yet unwilling to support the cause, gays (here in the deep south at least, I’m certain it is different in the west and north east) seem to want to discriminate against our plight.

  5. Deep Dish says:

    When people think a rule is absolute, they rationalize how it’s a good thing, but when they think the rules can be changed, they are motivated to fight.

    Psychological studies have found two contradictory results about how people respond to rules. Some research has found that, when there are new restrictions, you rationalize them; your brain comes up with a way to believe the restriction is a good idea. But other research has found that people react negatively against new restrictions, wanting the restricted thing more than ever.

    Kristin Laurin of the University of Waterloo thought the difference might be absoluteness — how much the restriction is set in stone. “If it’s a restriction that I can’t really do anything about, then there’s really no point in hitting my head against the wall and trying to fight against it,” she says. “I’m better off if I just give up. But if there’s a chance I can beat it, then it makes sense for my brain to make me want the restricted thing even more, to motivate me to fight” Laurin wrote the new paper with Aaron Kay and Gavan Fitzsimons of Duke University.

  6. claygooding says:

    One major difference in gay rights and marijuana legalization is the lobby money spent keeping prohibition in place,,as far as I know nobody is making money off keeping gay rights down but plenty are making money keeping hemp banned.

    • atrocity says:

      I’ve said for years that the only reason the sodomy laws were finally tossed out is that no one figured out in time how to test for homosexuality or how to monetize the ban on the same scale as marijuana prohibition.

      Yeah, there was the same stupid “But what about the children?!” crap, but in the end (!) a bunch of repressed busybodies freaked out that people were having sex they didn’t like just didn’t have the same lawmaking force as a trillion or so dollars.

      I love run-on sentences.

  7. Servetus says:

    The most potent weapon of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed – Steven Biko (bumper sticker).

  8. NorCalNative says:

    I’m a huge fan of Greenwald. Everything he writes is a lesson in analytical thinking.

    His work in Portugal for the CATO Institute was awesome.

  9. cy Klebs says:

    One reason why reason should trump that blasted CSA. A very sobering illustration as to the effects of prohibition.

  10. allan says:

    speaking of erections… this just up and standing proud:

    Billboard in Portland, OR

    • allan says:

      and no, it’s not a penis billboard.

    • Plant Down Babylon says:

      That’s awesome!!! Great billboard/message.

      We’d have dispensaries here in Hawai’i, but that would put the kops out of business.

      Hopefully the bill passes to move the mmj program from the ‘narcotic enforcement division’ to the ‘department of health’

      cross your fingers….

  11. Opiophiliac says:

    Its easy to get bogged down in defeatism. Especially for opiate users, and I would imagine stimulant users too.

    I have been watching with pride as my fellow cannabis enthusiasts have formed coalitions, asserted their rights and moved for political change. Now cannabis reform seems to be unstoppable, and yet opiate users are as disorganized today as they were in 1914. In other countries drug user unions have formed, the first occurring in Holland back in the 70’s (I think) to distribute clean syringes. Other user union have popped up all over the world. In Australia they ever produced a publication called “Junkmail” (By users for users, sort of like a high times for “hard” drug users). In Vancouver’s downtown eastside the organization VANDU formed, and helped lobby for Insite. Despite the large number of drug users living within the US, we had to wait until 2012 for the first union to form in San Francisco (funded by a DPA grant). Other nations have followed the Swiss lead and implemented heroin assisted therapy and have been introducing safe injection sites. The US is fighting this in other countries tooth and nail, despite the ever increasing number of opioid overdose fatalities.

    I’ve been following the latest on the prescription opioid “epidemic” (as if drugs were somehow infectious agents). Almost without fail every article calls for more prohibition, greater restrictions on prescribing, calls for more policing, ect. This is ultimately futile, opiate users clued into the drug culture (the so-called drug “abusers”) simply switch to heroin, while the chronic pain patients (the so-called “legitimate” patients, but who decides legitimacy? Not the doctor or patient, law enforcement makes that determination.) get insufficient dosages if anything. Junkies, being the scapegoats of our modern age, get the blame. But junkies have no power to keep drugs from anyone, indeed most junkies would happily distribute narcotics to anyone who needs them. Has anyone ever considered that maybe “pill mills” are just giving people the medicines they need? Even if the pills hit the grey market, perhaps this is harm reduction? If nothing else pills are of a known dosage, whereas heroin purity can vary.

    Yeah its easy to feel defeated.

    I think the gay rights movement provides a good model for drug user rights. There are differences to be sure, but ultimately isn’t it about sovereignty over one’s own body and mind? The right to live one’s life as one sees fit, as long as you do no direct harm to another? Cognitive liberty? Seeing as how drug users have been at the vanguard of every important civil rights struggle in modern history it seems fitting that drug users rights comes next. There was a time when homosexuality was viewed as a mental illness and in some places a crime. Now it is becoming something closer to a human right and legitimate lifestyle choice. Is is such a stretch to see drug users undergo the same transformation?

    Change in drug policy occurs at a glacial pace, though it does feel like the wind is now in our sails. Marijuana legalization should have happened in the 70’s, but its finally getting done. Latin America is getting f’n tired of the same ol game. Mexico has some serious problems, it is inconceivable that they further escalate their drug war. Global drug prohibition has peaked. There is only one way to go now, it’s just a matter of how fast social change happens. Societal attitudes about homosexuality changed relatively fast. Perhaps we will soon see a day when opiate users feel safe enough to come out of the closet (so to speak). True there are a lot more invested, monied interests defending prohibition, but they will eventually be exposed as the fanatics and drug war profiteers that they are.

    • strayan says:

      Whilst law enforcement has invented the legitimate illegitimate patient distinction many doctors have embraced the concept, sometimes with fatal consequences:

      Mostly I figure they are just desperate to avoid additional surveillance and ultimately being labeled an ‘over-prescriber’.

      The complicity of the medical profession in the drug war needs closer examination.

      • Opiophiliac says:

        Pain is a great motivator. People will do almost anything to not be in pain. Whether your pain is physical (“legitimate” pain) or emotional (“illegitimate” pain) opiates often work to palliate that pain, and people will engage in drug seeking behavior to find relief. It can be very hard to tell the “addict” from the person in acute pain based solely on their behavior.

        It is next to impossible to determine exactly whom among the people who consume opiates are truly addicts. There is no biochemical test or brain scan to diagnose addiction. Basically anyone who consumes opiates could be accused of being an addict, and once the charge is leveled it can be hard to refute, especially if one depends on opiates to function. Doctors who prescribe at levels necessary for their patients to find relief put themselves at risk of prosecution. The fear generated by opiophobia has serious consequences, one of which you linked to. Here’s another: Fear of addiction means that some people get no opiate-based analgesia, especially in some third world countries. Even children with cancer are denied pain relief.

  12. ezrydn says:

    Jan. 1, 2006, my Harley is hit by a VW and I have a crushed foot. I zip over to San Antonio Audie Murphy VA and Pod. Dr. says, “You’ll never walk again.” I tell her combat vets can’t process the word “never.” Three months I’m there. Every night, I leave my room, wheel to basement and force myself to walk all night. In April, she’s standing at the hospital door. I get out of the chair, to her surprise and walk to the taxi. She’s crying and happy.

    “Defeatism” would have been accepting her assessment at face value. Giving up. Never happen!

    • allan says:


      blew my right knee out in ’76 or so. Doc drained a cup of fluid out. Recommended surgery, family said ‘there goes hiking and basketball.’ No surgery, but like ez I hobbled, walked and hiked it back to health. There was nothing that motivated me quite like the aggravation of going to a beautiful natural area and watching friends go cruising down the trail, up and over the hills while I was barely able to gimp up one small hill.

      Chief Dan George, on perseverence,

  13. Maria says:

    In the end, all these “sub” fights for group rights converge into one basic fight. Human rights and the right to self determination. We own our selves. Plain and simple. It’s amazing how this basic, amazing, concept gets lost in the political details.

    “Our bodies, ourselves!” is not just for young women. It should be a rallying cry for all peoples under any authoritarian decrees.

    • allan says:

      aye… when I hear the SC justices discussing “morals” and whether “society has made giant strides” or not my thought is “what the hell?” The issues of whether a person is black, white, red, yellow or blue, male or female, gay or straight, stoned or straight… is irrelevant.

      And dog bless Monty Python. Because it surely is one of the great truths that no one expects the Spanish Inquisition. But there it is, alive and well.

      And yes, marriage and drug laws are distinct and separate, but with a lot of issue cross over. The biggest distinction is that the whole of the marriage argument is about the gray and shady areas of morality and “values.” I mean really… 50% of marriages end in divorce and spousal abuse is (and has been for a long time) damn near epidemic…

      – Of females killed with a firearm, almost two-thirds were killed by their intimate partners. The number of females shot and killed by their husband or intimate partner was more than three times higher than the total number murdered by male strangers using all weapons combined in single victim/single offender incidents in 2002.

      – Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women—more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined.

      – about 25 percent of women and 7.6 percent of men are raped or physically assaulted by their spouse, partner, or dating partner in their lifetime

      yep, sounds to me like that man-woman bond thing is sacred alright.

      I do believe that we need to get to at least a level of respect before we can begin to even discuss sacredness.

      Just like I’ve always wondered why the right-to-life die/blow-hards aren’t also anti-war, I wonder about any who rail against another person’s choices in what should be strictly private matters.

    • Opiophiliac says:

      Agreed. The drug reform movement would benefit from forming coalitions with other people fighting for the right to self-determination. In addition to gay rights, sex workers rights comes to mind.

  14. Duncan20903 says:

    There isn’t any way possible to get rid of the defeatists, so why even try?

Comments are closed.