Thursday, May 19, 2011

Polo, by Ralph Lifshitz? No. Ralph Lauren, with Oprah Winfrey, have well-understood the racist, anti-Semitic society they each grew up in

photo of Oprah Winfrey and Ralph Lauren is from here
Revised quite a bit in places, on 20 May 2011.

Judging from a recent Oprah Winfrey Show, Mr. Lauren and Ms. Winfrey both appear to desire to live at the top of this allegedly only-great society. And to the casual observer, they do. But neither will, let me tell you. Neither can, because neither person is white, male, and Christian. And only white het male Christians or Gentiles can be at the tippety-top in this misogynist, racist, anti-Semitic, heterosexist, and increasingly classist country of mine.

I'm so sick of white people--women and men--telling me how powerful Oprah is, as if she's nearly as powerful as the likes of Donald Rumsfeld, GW Bush, Bill Clinton, or, even, Arnold Schwarzenegger. She isn't. She has a place in dominant cultural media. That's it. That's power too. But consider the power to control, violate, and oppress other people's lives. Oprah can get books sold and can get people to watch a TV show. She doesn't control state or other government policies which really do harm vulnerable people. She doesn't have a military or police force she can unleash onto oppressed citizens. Those kinds of destructive, inhumane power are very valued in the US.

Oprah Winfrey doesn't have or exercise that kind of power. She has participated in creating dominant society's culture and has benefited from it, building a career all around it, figuring out how to have a very financially successful life on the white skeleton of CRAP's bloody body; but her life is not stained red with the Richest White Man's blood. She, unlike so many white het men, is not a war criminal, a serial rapist of women and girls living on US, Indigenous, or another country's land. She doesn't mass produce or compulsively consume images of raped and incested girls (or boys)--grown or not. And if she spoke out too much against racism, capitalism, and misogyny (I'm not concerned she'll start doing this, by the way), she'd be not so graciously removed from public life. Her corporate and financial supporters would stop having her back.

One of the most anti-status quo things I think she's done is to be so overtly pro-lesbian and pro-gay. She has also worked to keep adult male predators away from children, for a little while. There is also the example of her life, for so many people. There's the bootstraps myth, that her life participates in: she pulled herself out of poverty and a racistly and misogynistically abusive childhood to become an ultra-successful businessperson and celebrity in what is usually a White Het Man's World. She demonstrates how to have a lot of economic power but not abuse it horrendously. That's a very rare thing and there are, weekly, rich white het men who remind us how abusively some forms of power can be expressed, with no meaningful or class-level human rights accountability keeping them or the institutions in check; it's the actions with the institutional supports that make their normalised corruption possible. The white het men who commit these egregious crimes are not charged with exploiting the powers they, alone, possess. The power they possess is socially, generally, seen as "good". But it's anything but good.

White het Christian and Gentile men have the most dominant, institutionalised destructive power in my country, exercised exploitively without any class-level relief against all women, including against white women, but additionally destructively against the lives of women of color. White het Christian or WH Gentile men also oppress and destroy men of color, and potentially any person determined by het men to be of lesser value for being not masculine or manly enough--if male. Women cannot be masculine or feminine enough to avoid the atrocities and abuses men, as a class, misogynistically commit. Either way, along any cultural continuum, the femme woman and the stud or butch, the non-gender conforming or the gender variant woman will be punished somehow, usually in more than one way, by men. Lesbians, in particular, however the appear to het men, will be oppressed by het men, institutionally and socially (structurally) if not also personally.

Ralph's ability to abusively exploit and take lives depends on his willingness to use slave labor in the production of his carefully designed clothes--clothes designed to sell back to the United Rapes of Amerikkka, and to the capitalist world, an idea of itself that is white non-Jewish male supremacist to the core of its bloody being. It depends on whether and to what degrees he reinforces dominant cultural ideals of beauty, used against just about everyone but the ideals actively enforce and support rape against girls and women by portraying women as sexxx-things for men. This is dovetailed in a way that won't create peace or social justice for people of color.

photo of model whose "looks" could locate him in a neo-Nazi Aryan Youth movement is from here
As a white Jew, I've had occasions--many recently--to observe, among whites (Jewish and not), how there are hierarchies that don't get spoken about out loud any more. Suffice it to say blond people are valued more, Christian or just plain Gentile light-whites are valued more--even while some of them get to be tan. Anyone who has a Western European patriarchal "sir" name that isn't Jewish is valued even more. Ralph knew this very well. He chose "Lauren" as his name and "Polo" as his icon because it represented an economically and ethnically-specific class of humanity to US Americans that he was not born into. He cannot ever occupy it either. He can pretend to. He, like Oprah, can acquire many of the trappings of it. But if you believe there aren't many, many places across this country, many new versions of old-fashioned country clubs, polo clubs, golf clubs, fraternities, Lion's clubs, Mason's organisations, and other whiteboys' clubs--like that of white male priests, that won't let Ralph and Oprah in their doors and won't welcome them to be members, let alone leaders, you're living in a grand or deep level of denial. There are many places in the Christian/Gentile white world that will look with strange curiosity or suspicion upon anyone who is Jewish (or Muslim).

Oprah Winfrey visited Ralph Lauren on his Colorado estate. She was impressed--"wow"ed--clearly.  This level of being impressed reminded me that even among the multi-millionaires or billionaires in the world, there are social and cultural stratifications and degrees of material status.

From the interview I learned (from Oprah, not from Ralph) that he is the son of immigrant Russian Jews. ("Russian" being a term that was, in his childhood, used as a synonym for the whole of the USSR. His family is from Belarus, not what is now the country of Russia, however.) We also learned from this show, which introduced us to his spouse and children, that his wife of many years is blond (they do seem to have a lovely and very loving relationship). We also learned about the sexual orientation of at least of his grown children: a daughter and a son, are about to be heterosexually wed to their respective fiancée/fiancé. So we have the presentation of this almost ideal nuclear family, which exists on the throats of so many who will never get what they have.

I had a friend once who was also Jewish, white, very heterosexual while not especially homophobic. He was pro-feminist. He only chose to date non-Jewish white women. His last name had also been anglo-sized away from being identified too readily as "Jewish" European. His family holidayed in Telluride, Colorado, which is near where the Lauren land is located.

If you go to Colorado, or Utah, or Arizona, or any other state in the union, please pay attention to where and when there are places that won't allow anyone who is Black, Brown, Indigenous, Jewish, Muslim, Arab, or Indigenous. And pay attention to how many of those places value women and gay males as much as het men.

White, economically class-privileged, het men who complain about not having enough rights, as males, are so deeply in denial about all the structural, institutional power they have--including, of course, the power to rape, the power to assault, the power to control, the power to exclude, the power to sue, the power to imprison, the power to economically and sexually exploit other human beings, that it's no wonder they view feminists as a powerful enemy. They don't know the meaning of the word "enemy". White het Christian and Gentile men, in the U.S., have no enemies. They might have people who don't respect them, although not a lot. They might have people who feel appropriately disgusted by the entitlements, privileges, and forms of power they posses quite possessively. But that's not the same thing as having the power to oppress whole classes of people. At all.

The sooner white het men admitted that, the sooner we might be able to address the many forms of social injustice and inhumanity that rule this White Het Man's world. It's most powerful citizens won't even consider me to be a man, because I'm male and so stubbornly pro-feminist, so against sucking the intellectual dicks of white men, so opposed to the unjust and evil forms of structural power they so furiously and defiantly, and secretively and privately protect.

Ralph understood what any person wants in the US: status, power, respectability. In the US, wealth is a quick ride to all of those things. It won't get you to the tippety-top, unless you've got a few other culturally and ethnically specific things going for you which are not so easily gotten rid of once you have them--the stigma of racial, sexual, regional, religious, or economic inferiority.

To those who know cultural history--and believe me, Ralph is sure hoping you don't find this out--the religious and regional roots of the game of polo take us directly to Muslim Asia. The game itself comes from Central Asia, specifically the region now known as Iran, but has been played across many regions including South Asia and Northern Africa. It is a sport that was colonised by the White British. And it is this period of its history, and its location in the US as a white Christian-statused rich man's sport of leisure, that Ralph is referencing and exploiting.

Appropriation and colonisation is what white Christian westerners do so well. If you want to see a rather obnoxious, racist display of this, just note how, in Ralph Lauren's Colorado estate, he has many well-appointed living structures (also known as teepees), and has many items throughout that have been ripped off or stolen from the societies of people the White Man killed and are still killing here. It is a sign of racial and ethnic superiority to be able to display the artifacts of the societies you destroy. No where is this more evident than in upper class and wealth class white homes, built, every one of them, on criminally stolen and corruptly named White Man's land. But on with our history lesson. From Wikipedia *here*:
From Persia, in medieval times polo spread to the Byzantines (who called it tzykanion), and after the Muslim conquests to the Ayyubid and Mameluke dynasties of Egypt and the Levant, whose elites favored it above all other sports. Notable sultans such as Saladin and Baybars were known to play it and encourage it in their court. Polo sticks were features on the Mameluke precursor to modern day playing cards.
Later on Polo was passed from Persia to other parts of Asia including the Indian subcontinent and China, where it was very popular during the Tang Dynasty and frequently depicted in paintings and statues. Valuable for training cavalry, the game was played from Constantinople to Japan by the Middle Ages. Known in the East as the Game of Kings. The name polo is said to have been derived from the Tibetan word "pulu", meaning ball.
The modern game of polo, though formalized and popularized by the British, is derived from Manipur (now a state in India) who played the game known as 'Sagol Kangjei', 'Kanjai-bazee', or 'Pulu'. It was the anglicised form of the latter, referring to the wooden ball which was used, that was adopted by the sport in its slow spread to the west. The first polo club was established in the town of Silchar in Assam, India, in 1834.
The modern sport has had difficulty grappling with the traditional social and economic exclusivity associated with a game that is inevitably expensive when played at a serious level. Many polo players genuinely desire to broaden public participation in the sport, both as an end in itself and to increase the standard of play, while others value and seek to preserve the social and economic exclusivity of the sport.
If one searched the world over, you'd find few other sports less associated with being a European Jew than polo. The internalised and externalised anti-Semitism that is revealed by Ralph making that decision to whiten (franco-anglocize) his last name is evident enough, as is his need to escape his family's cultural "trappings". And I'm sure he's not hurting all that much, as he gazes across his land to the picturesque and glorious Colorado mountaintops in the distance. Not even Oprah possesses that view, although she has envied it over the years from just beyond his fenced in land, which she apparently has driven by many times. She envies what he has exactly the way any US American is supposed to; but most of us won't visit the outside, or inside, of his visually bordered backyard. How many other Black women, or any women of color, born into poverty do you suppose Ralph and his spouse and children have had as special guests there (and not as hired staff)?

In Ralph Lauren's logo there's no indication of the Muslim or Asian roots, or South American present, of the game of polo. Below, the iconic human figure atop the horse is off-white, just like the status of many white Jews in Amerikkka, who will never, ever control this not-so-great country of mine, despite what so many non-Jewish people around the world and within Amerikkka believe is going on. A Black Christian man and, hopefully, a Christian white woman, will be president before a Jewish woman or man of any color. Ralph's home isn't filled with Belarussian Jewish cultural artifacts for a reason. They wouldn't signify him as a "great" conquering, settler white man.

image is from here

How WHM supremacists protect one another's privileges and entitlements. Cases in point: The Roman Catholic Church, Ken Wilber, Andrew Cohen, and David Christopher Lane

photo of Andrew Cohen and Ken Wilber is from here
With thanks to theoreticalgrrrl for inspiring this post.

Whatever men's ages, if men serially prey on other people for their own sexual, political gain, out of a sense of entitlement to do so, this behavior--the rapist's behavior, the child molester's behavior, the incest perpetrator's behavior, will be called "childish" and "immature" (read: not only not adult behavior, but not at all gendered behavior) and many other things that deny a crucial component of how it is men abuse so many times with so little accountability: it's because they are adult, grown men. They aren't boys if they're men, and I wish other men would stop excusing men's oppressive adult actions as if they were happening only because there's some inner child acting out, who only needs therapy, not permanent removal from society. Case in point: David Christopher Lane's pro-patriarchal analysis of serial abuser Andrew Cohen, who posed as a spiritual leader in order to gain intimate access to many victims.What has Andrew's colleague, and very well-followed author and god-figure to many, Ken Wilber, got to say about Andrew's abuses?

Ken? What have you got to say?

For more on Ken's chummy relationship with Andrew, please see *here*. For critical discussion about their work, including their work together, please see *here*, and please check if there is any discussion at all about both men's many forms of privilege, and their many entitlements to abuse because of those privileges.

It should not be too difficult to get this:

Men consuming pornography of raped and incested girls and women, men committing all manner of heinous political/spiritual violations and social degradations of girls and women, and some boys and men too, are not being boys, folks. They're behaving as men, if and when they're men, unless it is the case that they truly do not have the cognition and mental functioning of an adult, in which case they still are not boys, but are impaired men--regardless of their level of functionality, their behavior is generally registered by victims as occurring from a grown man, not a boy-child.

If a boy was doing what they were doing--sexually assaulting many other children and assaulting young or older adults too, they wouldn't get away with it. Men usually get away with it, because they have the status of being both males and adults, and also because they do very adult things to accomplish their decades of crimes, such as plan and execute financially or socially successful careers which place them in close proximity to the people they wish to abuse. (Children don't do that.) Raping people isn't a "childish" activity. It's a male supremacist adult man's activity, far too often.

See below to read one small example of how this patriarchal protection racket works. It's a White Boy's Club, all right, except that the adult members are all men. It's the same damned deal with the adult male preachers who the Catholic Church wants to pretend were not abusing children. The Church--a huge institution of patriarchal men of varying sexual orientations--has recently attempted to avoid the term "pedophile priests", claiming the victims' ages don't place the perps in that category--because the Church, which protects such abuses of children, of minors, says so. Got it.

I'm all for banning the term "pedophile" as I've stated on this blog before. We don't call rapists "woman-lovers" and we ought not call rapers of children "child-lovers". But I'm not for pretending that people who are legally children are called "not children" only when it serves a vastly criminal Catholic Church (led overwhelmingly by white male supremacist men) to do so.

Reality check:
"Bishops ignore and conceal child sex crimes because they can," said David Clohessy of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP). "So any 'reform' that doesn't diminish bishops' power and discretion is virtually meaningless." (source: *here*)
It's no different with any man who abuses serially. He does it because he can, and society won't do anything to lessen his social-political power to abuse others both interpersonally and institutionally. Men form institutions inside which they can and do abuse people with less power than they support one another having. If an institution is patriarchal--whether religious, legal, political, cultural, medical, or academic--the fact of it being patriarchal means abuse against women and children is happening there, and that exact abuse is being protected by fucked up, if normal, brotherhoods of men.

Everything that follows is from

David Christopher Lane, Ph.D. Professor of Philosophy, Mt. San Antonio College Lecturer in Religious Studies, California State University, Long Beach Author of Exposing Cults: When the Skeptical Mind Confronts the Mystical (New York and London: Garland Publishers, 1994) and The Radhasoami Tradition: A Critical History of Guru Succession (New York and London: Garland Publishers, 1992). For the reviewed book and its author see:

Andrew Cohen

A Review of "American Guru"

David Lane

After reading William Yenner's edited volume, AMERICAN GURU: A Story of Love, Betrayal and Healing—Former Students of Andrew Cohen Speak Out, I felt a number of emotions, ranging from depression, to anger, to frustration, to disbelief, to finally gratitude.

My first encounter with an Andrew Cohen devotee occurred several years ago when one of the editors of their slick magazine, What is Enlightenment? (now called, EnlightenNext), wrote me a personal letter asking for my appraisement of her guru. She had read a book I had co-authored with Professor Scott Lowe (University of Wisconsin) entitled "DA: The Strange Case of Franklin Jones" (Walnut, MSAC: 1995), which harshly criticized the late American guru. She clearly saw problems with Da Free John and I got the impression that she felt that Andrew Cohen was different and perhaps a genuine spiritual master.

I hesitated in writing back because I had read enough about Andrew Cohen to almost immediately realize that he, like Da Free John, suffered from an acute case of adolescent narcissism. In other words, both of these so-called spiritual teachers had yet to grow-up and act like mature adults. When they don't get their way and cannot control the behavior of their fawning devotees (which happens a bit more frequently than one might at first suspect), they have hissy fits. Da Free John would invariably go into one of his spiritual sulks or lash out in an indignant rage if he felt that his disciples didn't "get" his teachings.

In Yenner's explosively revealing book, American Guru, we learn that Andrew Cohen displays all sorts of loutish behavior when his disciples don't kowtow to his every neurotic whim. Women devotees especially receive harsh treatment from Andrew Cohen, including his own mother who eventually left him and exposed her son in her ironically titled book, The Mother of God.

What an outsider might find both unbelievable and astounding is how so many very bright and men and women can be so hoodwinked by a guru like Andrew Cohen who has never impressed me (unlike Da Free John, for instance) as being particularly intelligent or insightful. He reminds me of someone I knew in high school who got picked on and perhaps roughed up a bit by other students (for maybe not being athletic enough in gym or sharp enough in algebra class), and who vowed early on to someday get his revenge.

Andrew Cohen doesn't at all act like an enlightened guru passing on valuable gems of wisdom. Rather, he acts like a spoiled brat who suffers from a chronic case of high school insecurity and has finally discovered a way to get even.

And who does he get even with? Those spiritual seekers who are naïve enough to transfer over to Andrew Cohen their deep-seated yearnings, their love, and, finally, their wallets and purses. Even Andrew Cohen's obvious infatuation with Ken Wilber is indicative of Cohen's chronic intellectual insecurity. Cohen's and Wilber's tete-a-tete is grounded in their own self-interests, but the fact that Ken Wilber has aligned himself once again with an abusive self-proclaimed guru, such as Andrew Cohen, speaks volumes about Wilber's so-called "integrity".

Ken Wilber has never fully admitted how mistaken he was about Da Free John and his nefarious actions (lamely back-peddling, albeit slightly, only after the New York born guru was exposed in the national media). It is all too clear that Wilber hasn't a clue about the gurus he associates with or endorses. Or, to put it in a darker [read: whiter] light, it seems as if Ken Wilber will chummy up with any guru provided he or she will give him a featured section in their monthly journal.

I have read a large number of books that have exposed modern spiritual leaders and their organizations, including The Bare-Face Messiah (L. Ron Hubbard), Monkey on a Stick (the Hare Krishna movement, Life 102: What To Do When Your Guru Sues You (John-Roger Hinkins), etc. I think that American Guru is a valuable addition to the growing literature devoted to exposing fraudulent gurus.

American Guru is not a mean-spirited book. It is, rather, a refreshingly honest one. I think American Guru should be required reading for all of Andrew Cohen's past and present students. Hopefully, it will be read by every spiritual seeker before they make a choice of becoming a student of this so-called master who cannot even reconcile with his own mother.

I personally think Andrew Cohen is in deep need of long term therapy. The first step in his recovery process should be for him to sit down and read American Guru closely line by line. After doing such, he should apologize first to his mother and then to every student he has ever taken under his wing. Hopefully, he will then refund whatever money he has manipulatively gathered in his name.

I don't think any of this is likely, but I do have confidence that anyone who reads American Guru will be properly forewarned not to buy into any of Andrew Cohen's childish antics.

If you are on the fence about Andrew Cohen and his methods, American Guru will help you get off it and provide you with enough telling detail (and, hopefully, some confidence) to walk away from this spiritual poser. His mother did and so should we all.
William Yenner, American Guru: A Story of Love, Betrayal and Healing-former students of Andrew Cohen speak out, Epigraph Publishing, 2009.