Polyamory in the News!
. . . by Alan M.

December 4, 2009

Poly Books of 2009:
2. Gaia and the New Politics of Love: Notes for a Poly Planet

In my last post I reviewed The Ethical Slut, 2nd Edition, the first book about polyamory to come out in 2009 (in English). Here is the other:

Gaia and the New Politics of Love: Notes for a Poly Planet, by Serena Anderlini-D'Onofrio (North Atlantic Books).

This book is a very different animal. Rather than a practical guide, it's an ethereal, philosophical polemic for multiple love as a means to save the world — from the predations, imbalances, and overall bad vibes that we unfulfilled humans are inflicting upon it.

The title refers to the Gaia Hypothesis of James Lovelock. In the early 1970s Lovelock pointed out that Earth's systems (atmosphere, temperature, etc.) seem to be self-regulating like those in a living organism, governed by feedback processes in the biosphere. This interesting observation, of Earth as a homeostatic organism, has sometimes been exaggerated by New Age enthusiasts who treat it the way fundamentalists treat Bible stories: as flat literal truth, rather than as useful metaphor.

What's the poly connection? Serena Anderlini-D'Onofrio, a professor of humanities at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez, argues as follows (in the book's description on her website):

According to [Gaia] theory, humankind is the most powerful species in this web and also its biggest threat. This provocative book explores ways to minimize and ultimately eliminate this threat with love and intimacy. Controversial Italian author Serena Anderlini-D’Onofrio has authored the first global ecology study based on an analysis of human health. Anderlini-D’Onofrio identifies her remedy within the context of Gaia theory, re-envisioning it as a more inclusive philosophy that positively impacts not only relationships, but world ecology under duress. The author links human sexuality to the global ecosystem, claiming that freedom from fear will stimulate a holistic health movement powerful enough to heal relationships and restore planetary balance.

Not quite clear how that works? Here's from the book itself:

A new politics of love is a new way to think of love in the arena of public life. Love, who has been maligned as a disease, in this new politics resurrects as an art. The arts of loving are ancient and postmodern at the same time. They are a branch of the arts of healing, and when humanity is humble enough to recognize the pranic forces that interconnect all the parts of our living planet, the practice of these arts will turn scarcity into abundance, fear into hope, hatred into love.... Above and beyond identity politics, this new presence of love in public life amounts to an appreciation for the knowledge in the arts of loving that comes to us from communities already familiar with the practices of sharing emotional resources, including those embracing polyamorous and bisexual lovestyles.

Learning the arts of loving allows emotional resources to multiply and become abundant on a planetary scale. This amounts to invoking the arts of loving as a form of ecological science... the science of turning one's life into an experiment in living as if the new planetary consciousness we humans need, to get out of our multiple current crises, was already a reality.

Okay, I want to be sympathetic to this. In my own scientific-rationalist way, I do think that the polyamory paradigm could help to humanize the world — that it might generalize the magic of romantic love into something larger and more powerful than the isolated couple-love where society has safely walled it off. I think that freedom from sexual repression would reduce irrational hatreds and war-hysterias worldwide. And that poly could help people lead rich, rewarding lives without chasing the fruitless, Earth-killing, debt-and-dependency-making Consumption Of Ever More Stuff.

But I'm sorry. The whole book reads like the section above. Too much of it lives in the outer reaches of New Age academic woo-woo where reality need not apply.


Which brings me to the horrible elephant in Serena's otherwise lovely room. No one wants to talk about it, but someone has to. I've met Serena several times and like her personally. She has a wonderful, joyous, visionary spirit. But she has allowed herself to be seduced by the crackpot movement of AIDS denialism. And it pervades the book.

How could such a thing happen to an intelligent, well-read academic? Here's how.

Central to New Age ideas of the "woo-woo" variety is a rejection of so-called "Western linear objective thinking." The reason for this is simple. Woo-woo, by definition, is whatever crumbles to nothing under honest, objective testing and inquiry. Therefore, it has evolved its own protective philosophy — its own immune-system defense — that rejects the very concept of objective facts and testing.

This rejection of "linear thinking" leaves even otherwise intelligent people defenseless against infection by all sorts of ridiculous mind viruses, because such people are self-blocked from examining incoming ideas critically. In Serena's case, her mind virus is a nasty one: the meme that, against overwhelming evidence, the HIV virus is a hoax — or at least an exaggeration — perpetrated by evil, linear-thinking Western medicine.

Supposedly, Serena repeats, the real reason people get AIDS is because our immune systems are weakened by pollution and our awful modern way of life. The HIV virus is only a small part of the process at most (HIV "dissenters" differ on exactly how small). Dire warnings that you should protect yourself from HIV infection are, we learn, a conspiracy by sex-negative, linear-thinking haters to keep you from having your God-given, Earth-healing fun. Apparently without a condom, even when, as Serena described in an earlier book, receiving anal sex from a man from sub-Saharan Africa, the most HIV-infected part of the world. (She wrote in that book that she was happy for him not to use a condom anally "since I don't really believe in HIV infection."1 )

HIV denialism is on a factual par with Holocaust denialism, in its imperviousness to evidence, except it's worse because it kills — by the hundreds of thousands so far2. On October 5, 2008, in the Bluestockings Bookstore in Greenwich Village, Serena gave a crowd of 70 a public reading from her previous book in which she denounced the sex-negative "AIDS scare" promoted by the medical HIV conspirators. I was there. The reaction from Polyamorous NYC (which had unwittingly sponsored the reading) was explosive. There was denunciation at the microphone and sobbing outside on the sidewalk by another scheduled speaker, who had lost her father to AIDS. In gay Greenwich Village, it was like a Holocaust denier giving a surprise public reading at Yad Vashem.

Amazingly, Serena seemed to have no idea that she would get such a reaction. She was devastated, apologized profusely to Polyamorous NYC for upsetting people, and offered to return her travel-expenses check. Since then she has been radioactive in the poly world.

Yet now, again, Gaia dwells at length on AIDS-denialist theory and how she came to believe in it. She extols Peter Duesberg, the chief architect of the movement and author of Inventing the AIDS Virus (1996), as one of the "'dissenters' whose fierce logic and defiance of the establishment have been my guide".

My friend Michael Rios has written:

One entire section (43 pages, a full 25% of her writing [in Gaia]) is devoted to AIDS denialism. She quotes and references extensively Peter Duesberg, who has been discredited by the rest of the scientific community, and who has *never* done a single experiment with HIV, nor ever done any work with *any* retrovirus....

As it happens, I have a personal friend, well known in the poly community, who worked with Duesberg at the time he was formulating his theories, until quitting in disgust. This person considers him to be fundamentally unethical, and describes him as "racist, sexist, homophobic." Duesberg is primarily supported by extreme right-wing organizations, which, like Duesberg, are strongly anti-gay.

When Serena read this material at [the] Polyamorous NYC event, it created extreme reactions. An extensive document summarizing the issues [was prepared by Polyamorous NYC], which was sent to all the people involved, including Serena. So she has published [Gaia] knowing full well that the main "authority" she relies on and quotes extensively is unqualified and likely dishonest, and that there is no significant scientific support anywhere in the world for her positions.

AIDS denialism claims that HIV doesn't [primarily] cause AIDS, that AIDS is caused by environmental and diet factors. This leads people not to take proper precautions against AIDS, and not to get proper treatment when they get it. [This] not only has immediate and disastrous effects on the lives of individuals [and their partners], it propagates even more confusion as to what science is, and how it proceeds. This kind of slanted pseudoscience creates a context where large numbers of people hear a competing claim for every real piece of scientific information that comes out, and, lacking the ability or training to distinguish between real science and profit- or politically-motivated pseudoscience, leads them to dismiss all sources of scientific information as biased and mere opinion.

Wikipedia has an article on AIDS denialism well worth reading: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aids_denial.

I can't recommend Gaia. That one of poly's public figures has been caught up by this pernicious nonsense is an embarrassment.


1 Plural Loves: Designs for Bi and Poly Living (2004), page 213.

2 The HIV denialist movement got the ear of South African president Thabo Mbeki when he was in office (1999–2008). As a result, his government blocked the use of anti-retroviral drugs for people with HIV at public hospitals and clinics. (Mbeki's health minister urged people to eat garlic and beetroot instead.) This policy — based on pseudoscience and conspiracy-mongering from California, and spread around the world by well-meaning New Age anti-rationalists — was estimated by a Harvard study to have caused 330,000 preventable deaths in South Africa over a decade. See New York Times articles here and more recently here. Here's a recent update on the new government's change of policy. Also see the recent book Denying AIDS: Conspiracy Theories, Pseudoscience, and Human Tragedy by Seth C. Kalichman.


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Blogger Unknown said...

thank you for this. poly, of all things, needs clear thinking and a this-worldly orientation!

December 05, 2009 8:08 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Bless you Alan for this review - wonderfully written and with clear thinking and the appropriate amount of outrage. I have known about Serena's AIDS denialist viewpoint since I met her a couple of years ago. As a person who has worked in southern Africa for the last 6 years to train healthcare workers and implement HIV treatment programs AND a polyamorist, I cannot think straight when I hear about AIDS denialism. An estimated 330,000 people have died in the last decade in South Africa because the national government has embraced this bogus theory. Thankfully the national position was recently changed and proclaimed on World AIDS DAY by the new SA president Jacob Zuma. Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!

December 06, 2009 10:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you Alan. I see a lot of woo-love in America, and we need more skepticism. Serena is out of her mind if she thinks that there is no connection between AIDS and HIV. I cannot in good conscience support her and her writings now that I know this.
-Jen in Chicago

December 08, 2009 12:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

New Age woo woo is a hindrance to poly acceptance. Whether the woo woo is as extreme as AIDS denial or of the "mightymagicalmystical love is all we need" variety, it interferes with acceptance and understanding of poly to a large degree, I believe.

December 08, 2009 2:13 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

Notice that the 330,000 figure is impressive, but it is an estimate not at all supported by actual South African death statistics.

Check what users of HAART die of. Heart failure, liver failure, these are not AIDS deaths, they are iatrogenic poison deaths.

But not everyone keeps taking the meds. What happens to them?

December 13, 2009 5:01 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Thanks for asking the question, Richard.

I, the apostate of this review, was yesterday at the HIV/AIDS hearings the White House held in Puerto Rico (as in other states and territories). Many HIV+ persons were out speaking: healthy, vital, vibrant men and women who have been "poz" for 10, 15, 20, 25 years. No symptoms. I suggested the White House investigate how these heroes and heroines of life made it--how they are just as healthy as you and me--so as to find clues to our current incomplete knowledge of this disease.

HIV+ speakers asked that the health services provided for the HIV+ population include the "woo-woo" remedies I use to keep myself in good health--because they use them too!

It's ironic to me that on AIDS Day we commemorate those who succumbed to this epidemic, yet there is no social space or discourse to celebrate those who are alive and kicking--as if we were almost afraid to find out they're still around.

Twelve million healthy HIV+ people walk the face of the Earth, I hear.
If one is interested in life, one must be a "horrible" denialist like Duesberg, with a huge "elephant" in the room.

What's logical, I ask, if you seek cures for a disease, if not looking at those who heal from it?
But of course if people heal with cheap indigenous remedies (which are time tested unlike expensive pharmaceutical drugs), then some big financial interests could be in jeopardy.

My regular sex practice is abstinence, since I only have partner sex a few times a year. One of these occurrences was with a man originally from the sub-Saharan region. We were fluid bonded because we loved each other, and that, dear Alan, is not a sin.

Both of us are still healthy and vibrant people. I've used condoms since my youth--I was allergic to the pill. I've taught condom use to many, including my child and niece.

Being considerate of one's immune system and those of our partners is essential to the health of any amorous erotic community. Condoms are an important part of this, yet the dynamics of that healthy balance are a lot more complex than what a purely mechanical understanding of health can guarantee.

It's sad to be both misrepresented and misunderstood by what one has considered one's own emotional home, one's community. Science, says world renown scientist Lynn Margulis (who's also a proponent of "woo-woo" Gaia theory), is the pursuit of truth, "even when we don't like it."

No matter what stigmatization you, with your power, choose to inflict on me, I will keep faith to that dictum, and will bring my word to those who listen.

You're afraid to trust my complex, non-linear thinking which to your mind smacks of Un-American convolutedness. Yet, in the face of climate melt-down, as we are seeing at Copenhagen this week, what will save the day, if any, is Gaian systems theory.

My book is intellectual honesty, not recidivism, I can assure you.

Posted by the author of Gaia and the New Politics of Love

December 17, 2009 2:05 AM  
Anonymous C.T.Lawrence Butler said...

Alan, I am so disappointed in you and what you have done. I read Serena`s book before it was published. Nowhere in her book does she reject the use of condoms. Nowhere in her book does she deny the connection between HIV and AIDS. Now you have other people, who have not even read her book, responding that this review and stating that, in deed, this is what she has done.

People, there is a difference in AIDS prevention and finding a cure for AIDS. Condoms play a role in preventing the spread of AIDS and other STDs, it does nothing to find a cure for them. Her thesis, simply put, is that MAYBE there are OTHER factors in the sudden rise and occurrence of deaths related to a set of symptoms group together and called AIDS. The *S* in AIDS is syndrome. Look it up if you do not understand what this means. It is not a single thing and PERHAPS, it does not have a single cause.

If linear thinking is what you support, than answer this question which has bothered me since the beginning of the epidemic. First, let me start with a premise - as far as I know, no one is claiming the HIV virus is new. It has been around for a long time. The question is - Why did AIDS reach epidemic proportions in three very different parts of the world in an extremely short time? For those of you who do not know, AIDS appeared suddenly between 1977-79 in the male homosexual population in the US, on the island of Haiti, and most dramatically, in the Central Congo region of Africa. Why? This is highly unusual behavior for a pathogen.

I am not a scientist. I do not know the answer. I have my own theory. However, I recognize that learning how and why an almost dormant virus suddenly goes lethal and spreads rapidly might provide clues for its CURE. Simple accepting that the HIV virus is the one and only reason for the AIDS epidemic is naive and dangerous.

But what troubles me even more than this debate is the ad hominem attacks and informal fallacies of logic that are pervasive in your review. You claim a superior commitment to logic and linear thinking and then trash logic to achieve a political end. You quote Michael Rios, who is not a scientist, as far as I know, who proceed to trash an actual scientist because he knows someone who knows someone who know that this particular scientist has a lousy character. That he might be racist, sexist and homophobic has nothing to do with science. It is likely you could find someone who would say the same about Albert Einstein. So what!!! This is a classic ad hominem attack if I ever saw one. Shame on you for repeating it.

You perniciously attack Serena`s sex live and falsely imply she advocates casual sex without protection. Nothing could be further from the truth. Are you, Alan, saying that being fluid-bonded is akin to *AIDS denialism*? Are you implying that the only strategy for the prevention of HIV transmission is the use of condoms? Using your faulty logic on you, it would appear as though you are the one killing people by failing to provide accurate information about the many and varied strategies for transmission prevention.

If it is true that the human exposure to the HIV virus in the environment predates the AIDS epidemic by a very long time, then is it really so outrageous, as you imply, to suggest that the reason it went lethal has more to do with the general suppression and decline of the human immune system and less to do with the HIV virus suddenly becoming more virulent?

There are other informal fallacies of logic in your review which I will leave unaddressed for now. My great disappointment in you as my colleague is your conclusion. To reject Serena`s entire thesis because of what might be an inconvenient truth or at least, a misguided idea on her part, and distort her words for your desired outcome is closed-minded and dangerous. Reviews like this will encourage others to call for burning her book, if not burning Serena, herself, at the stake. I am ashamed for the entire poly community, just like you, except for entirely different reasons.

December 17, 2009 6:37 PM  
Blogger Alan said...

> You perniciously attack Serena`s
> sex live and falsely imply she
> advocates casual sex without
> protection....

Maybe you missed her Plural Loves. In it she details her experiences getting to know the man from Mozambique sexually, and in introducing him to giving her anal sex, she writes,

"I am happy, for once, to let him come without a condom, since I don't really believe in HIV infection, and practice safer sex for protection against other STDs, and pregnancy." (page 213)

If she publicizes this in a book, it's fair to cite in a book review.

> Are you, Alan, saying that
> being fluid-bonded is akin
> to *AIDS denialism*?

Only if the reason given for skipping a condom for anal intercourse is "I don't really believe in HIV infection."

December 18, 2009 11:37 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Alan, your reading ignores the narrative context in which my character Gaia is playing safer-sex educator to Jean-Luc, precisely because she knows he has a lot learn. Then she makes a powerful exception to the rule of barrier protection.

Serena--quoted as usual out of context--now quotes herself: from Plural Loves (2005), p. 206
"What kind of sex have you had before?" I ask.
He is a bit shy, reluctant. "It's been about a year, with a gal I met in the library doing research."
. . .
"I am a safe sex educator," I explain, "I use condoms, and you're gonna have to wear one or I will get pregnant."
. . . .
"Polyamorous people practice safer sex with all partners except one, their primary. My partner Sandra and I, for example, had other lovers, but we exchanged fluids only between ourselves."
. . . .
from page 208
I prepare my safer-sex toys. A lubricant called For-Play, a nice medium-size vibrator, a large ostrich feather, a pair of Chinese balls.
. . . .
I take the dildo in my hands and turn it on. I press it against my clit. "That's how you use this on a woman's genitals," I demonstrate.
. . .
I remember the first love lessons I gave to a male lover many years before. . . . realizing howdeeply, for me, learning and eroticism are related.
. . . .
He keeps watching the results of his work as in an ecstasy. I point to how my anal orifice is now softer and more open. "It's connected to the clit," I explain.
"Can we use it?" he asks.
"Let's leave that for our next lesson," I suggest. Then I show him how to put a condom on, and he penetrates me.
. . . .

The next scene is a scene of anal sex with no barrier protection, yet the description of how the penetrated partner is prepared gradually until the arousal is sufficient to allow a painless and seamless act is quite detailed (p. 213). This is educational as well, since the dangers of anal sex involve breaking of capillary vessels in the anal mucous which can result in blood to mucous contact, and in debilitation of the sphincter that can impair its other biological functions.

The book is a roman-a-clef where names and places are transposed. I cannot explain all details. But suffice it to say that there could not have been a safer partner considering his sexual history at the time, regardless where he came from. His overall health had benefited from about ten years of living in the country with the second best universal health care system in the world, where holistic and allopathic method are highly integrated.

"Barebacking," I learn from my colleague--cultural studies scholar Tim Dean--is an exclusively gay male subculture based in the US, where HIV+ and HIV- men get together for the purpose of "inseminating rituals," the goal of which is passing the virus from person to person.

To call my character Gaia a barebacker is really not fair, since she is educating her partner into practicing safer sex, and then makes a powerful exception based on her knowledge that science has not answered all questions and that the sexual history of her partner and her own make fluid bonding relatively safe.

See Tim Dean, Unlimited Intimacy: Reflections on the Subculture of Barebacking. University of Chicago Press, 2009.

December 18, 2009 1:47 PM  
Anonymous sashalessin said...

You must read Serena Anderlini D'Onofrio's Gaia's for GAIA & THE NEW POLITICS OF LOVE: NOTES FOR A POLY PLANET.

This electrifying work will be seen as a turning point, on the order of The Aquarian Conspiracy, The Greening of America, The Earth in Balance as a seminal turning point in the paradigm with which we as a species face our existence on Earth.

Gaia and the New Politics of Love presents a meticulous philosophical
and critical review of Western thought that bridges the chotomies–energy-matter, competition-symbiosis, war-peace, male-female,
postmodern-neomodern, abundance-scarcity, allopathic-holistic, WASP-colored, indiginous-techno, human-nonhuman, hope-fear, subject-
object, sacred-practical, mind-body and love-hate–that have led us to the brink of extinction. Anerlini's analysis points the way to center ourselves among these dichotemies, to embrace these apparent opposites that, processed discerningly, can enhance one another. In the discerning centering she proposes we find a path that can save our species and the planetary ecosystem from destruction.

Anderlini identifies LOVE as the overall panacea for humanities
crises. Love, she shows, can be expanded from application of the
methods developed in the lyamorous and bisexual communities. These
communities, she demonstrates, have developed ways to engage in safe, consensual, mutually-enhancing, respectful ways of relating and celebrating personal choice as well as common welfare that evolve individuals and groups to ever-more inclusive and loving behaviors.

She advocates the generalization to these evolving sychotechnologies
and the ethos they imply to all humanity for its survival and
contribution to the planet.

I cannot too highly recommend this book. It'll change the way you and
all who read it view our world and its possibilies.

Sasha (Alex) Lessin, Ph.D (UCLA)
Co-Chair, World Peace, Tantra and World Polyamory Associations

December 18, 2009 4:24 PM  
Blogger Alan said...

> barebacking

Here in the Boston area, at least, it's used to mean any PIA sex without a condom.

Nevertheless, in case there's any confusion, I've taken the word out of the review.

December 18, 2009 6:46 PM  
Anonymous Deborah Anapol said...

I'm having difficulty with the shaming and blaming Us vs Them tone of this conversation, especially since it's framed as new age woowoo vs science and logic. When it comes to the AIDS Dissent Movement vs the believers, it's not that simple. It can't even be said to be gays vs homophobics - one of the leaders of the ADM is a gay man - and another was a Nobel Prize winning scientist. At the ashram of one of the most woo-woo, new age, (and publically maligned) figures in the entire history of free love - I am speaking of Osho, aka Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh - NO ONE can pass thru the gate - not even for a few hours, not even if they swear on a stack of Malas not to exchange fluids with anyone - without a negative test for HIV - which must be paid for by the applicant in advance. I didn't have sex with anyone during the days I was at the ashram so I can't say whether condoms are also required.
> My point is that this whole topic is ruled by something that is definitely NOT logic.
> One of the first things I learned in graduate school about scientific research is that a hypothesis can not be proven, only disproven. Essentially it is a belief.

To be continued - see Part 2

December 19, 2009 5:18 PM  
Anonymous Deborah Anapol said...

Part 2

I understand that people who have lost loved ones or seen the suffering of the poor in third world countries are emotional about it. I'm emotional about the number of young people in the prime of life with healthy lifestyles who are dying of cancer (and yes some are personal friends, and yes some have been part of this community) and science doesn't seem to be able to find out why. I'm emotional about the fact that my grandchildren are forced to breathe such polluted air that they may not live long enough to even become sexually active. I'm emotional about the number of children - in this country and abroad - who are hungry and malnourished. I don't know the numbers of people dying from cancer but I do know that they are huge and if you don't get the connection take a look at one of the many books and articles on the politics of funding scientific research. Search "soursop research" on google for an example of what I'm talking about.

And take a look at Serena's book and see if just maybe some of what she says points a way out of the mess our culture, our species, and our planet are in. I wish more people in the polyamory community were "connecting the dots" on the whole big picture of the challenges human life on earth is facing. When I wrote Love Without Limits in 1992 I thought polyamory had the potential to get humanity back on course. Now I have my doubts. Or rather, I see the potential, but doubt it will ever be realized. Certainly not when the "vanguard" is caught up in the centuries old debate about whether science or religion, or in this case science or "new age woo woo" has the truth. If we're going to make it thru the 21st Century we're going to need to integrate both points of view and to do our best to understand those who do not agree with us.

Personally, I think Serena would have been wiser not to address AIDS in her already controversial book. Her book is not an easy read but it is well worth reading IMHO for those who can follow her extremely complex logic and tapestry of many threads and overlook the bits and pieces they may not agree with. She has an important message and the fact that she has polarized the polyamory community in such a dramatic way, with some attacking and others rushing to defend her, speaks volumes.

I know many in the poly community already think of me as "too new age" or "too spiritual" although I am probably one of the least new age voices in many of the communities I interact with, but given my existing rep I figure I've got nothing to lose by sharing a passage from an email I received from Anne Hillman discussing the current climate change meetings in Copenhagen the same day I received an email informing me of this controversy. "Even as conflicts escalate the world over, we can lend the weight of our presence to a different kind of action. We are learning that it is possible to integrate a more subtle form of activism with social action, and that one can flow quite naturally out of the other. We’re discovering in groups of all kinds around the world that our lives are deeply joined; that we can participate at a level of sensibility that is complementary to problem solving and does not seek to make one side right and the other wrong. Entire groups are awakening to this truth as they dare to take the position that they do not know the answer. Instead, they choose to embrace opposing views, give focused attention to the silence, and trust. Then a common voice may arise.

What would this conversation look like if we all admitted, we don't know? We know what we've heard, or think we've heard. We know what we've read, or think we've read. We know what we believe. And perhaps even what we feel and what we're afraid of. But what do we REALLY know?

December 19, 2009 5:19 PM  
Anonymous Spring R. Friedlander said...

I enjoyed Serena Anderlini-D'Onofrio's book's description and elaboration of the way Polyamory contributes to human's evolution into functioning from a broader based Gaia theory.

I regret and object to her approach being marginalized as not acceptable. The reviewers' negative response indicates the persistence of what's "traditional". Her wider angled lens does challenge those who aren't fortunate enough to find and explore these new more expanded realities. I invite others tracking this debate to shift from rejection to openness and exploration. At its most functional, cross cultural understanding includes acceptance of a wide range of perspectives within communities, as well as reaching out to communities with different values.

I, Spring R. Friedlander, have a cosmopolitan sensibility rooted in having lived in several American cities and being raised with European values. I have lived for four decades in the San Francisco Bay Area and have actively participated in both the conventional and alternative sub-cultures. Serena stayed twice in our collective three generation stable house, she and her writings encourage me along this windy path of living a PC life based on social justice and ecology, as being organized by "Awakening the Dream." Rejection is a powerful negative tool. I call for more inclusiveness in our theoretically open poly community.

December 20, 2009 11:41 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Dear Alan--

I write to acknowledge you for opening up your blog space to this debate. That sharing regardless of being "right" is what I find so attractive in poly in the first place. And I feel this is now becoming a win/win game where we can all learn to hear each other and recognize those who think differently from us for what they are: allies in the search for the sustainable truths and balance the Earth is seeking with us in these bewildering, yet hopeful days after Copenhagen.

You invoke science on your side and I'd like to offer the link to the video of a recent interview with Luc Montagnier, the French scientist who first isolated the HIV virus in his laboratory at the Pasteur Institute in Paris back in the mid 1980s. For that accomplishment he was honored with the Nobel Prize for Medicine in the Fall of 2008, just as my book was going to press.

The interview focuses on oxidation, Africa, water, food, and AIDS. It says more or less what I say on the topic in the book Gaia and the New Politics of Love (73, 95-96, 176, 197n76).


This could be a French conspiracy against American certainties--and indeed Montagnier speaks with charm--yet I doubt that even you would fall for that point. My experience of Africa is not direct, yet when I summered in Italy I learned a lot about the ecological and economical problems of the Sub-Saharan region, because my father directed a peace-activism NGO based in Rome, and its archives were replete with that information.

And today, when at the Copenhagen summit the world has learned that climate change is scorching Africa to the point that people go starved and thirsty, it would be out of integrity for a scientific authority like Montagnier to keep under wraps his knowledge of the problem.

No ARV drugs can save one from starvation and thirst. And if you were a dark skinned person from that region who looked sick from those deprivations, you wouldn't even be given a trial before being conveniently diagnosed with a fatal disease, since in Africa promiscuity is presumed and AIDS is diagnosed without an HIV test.
Which brings me to the second point of this comment.

What's in a name?

You believe you are a leader in the Polyamory Movement, correct? That may be so, and the hospitality you're offering to this debate speaks volumes. Major poly voices have expressed viewpoints substantially different from your own on the discussion my book has generated, including Deborah, Sasha, and C.T. And for that generous hospitality we all owe you.

Yes, I ask you to reflect. How would you feel if all of a sudden by some specious misnomer you found you were a leader in the Promiscuity Movement instead?

Wouldn't that misrepresentation of who you are to the world produce a barrier in communication?

Wouldn't it put you in a place where even affirming your right to exist is a problem, let alone delivering your possibly important message?

What's in a name? I said.

The AIDS Dissidence Movement has a name as well. Calling it 'denialsm' amounts to an insult as insidious as calling and Italian-American person a 'dago,' an African-American person a 'niggah,' or a gay man a 'fag.' Or, for that matter, a poly person a 'promiscuous' person.

Calling movements, entities, people by their name is science, it is a form of knowledge we owe others different from ourselves.

Let's get back to square one then, and begin to see what the argument of your review looks like if the AIDS Dissidence Movement gets to be called by its own name.

That's all that there is to it I feel.

Thank you again for your hospitality. I hope you appreciate the video and encourage all to view it.

Serena Anderlini-D'Onofrio, author of Gaia and the New Politics of Love.

December 20, 2009 3:18 PM  
Anonymous Joreth said...

Thank you for this wonderful review and thank you also for providing a forum where others of this ilk publicly self-identify themselves by their allegiance to this kind of dangerous woo.

Not only have you exposed a well-known figure in the poly community, but you have also exposed others of similar mindsets so that the rest of us can know who else to avoid.

February 03, 2010 7:13 PM  

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