The wisdom of Malcom X and MLK jr. (Re-post from 2014)

We are living in the middle of massive changes that will profoundly affect us all. One could look back through history and say, it was ever thus, but the world has never known concentrated power and control on this level and its consolidation continues every day. We now live in a world, as Oxfam recently described, where “[w]ealthy elites have co-opted political power to rig the rules of the economic game, undermining democracy and creating a world where the 85 richest people own the wealth of half of the world’s population.”

More often than not, those 85 people use the corporation as an entity to embody their wealth and power – and to make it grow. Growth has become the thing to strive for, it is the mantra of governments, the logic of capitalism, and by extension, the corporations who control the capital. Of course, we are not talking only about those 85 people. We are talking about the system of corporate capitalism we all live in. Increasingly, corporations are using the ideology of neoliberalism to operate in the world, to reshape it in their own image, to claim all rights and property for the corporation. Making private (for profit) everything belonging to the public (things we supposedly own in common) and taking all information we think should be private and putting it in the hands of corporations and the governments they control – in order to increase control and profit.

One could point to the enclosure movement and police states of the past and continue to say, plus ca change, but differences of degree will eventually lead to a difference in kind. After all, we started as single-celled bits in the ocean. In other words, we are dealing with a whole new beast. And that beast is killing many of us. If it doesn’t kill us, it is shaping every aspect of our lives.

Many americans are still in denial about the forces at play and how to engage them. Many are too ignorant to be in denial, but there are also people who understand what the struggle means and that, if we do not fight, we will eventually lose our humanity, in every sense. There are a relative few who understand the stakes of this moment in history. Some are tempted to look to leaders of struggles in the past and have a kind of nostalgia. There is no time for nostalgia. In fact nostalgia is a dangerous feeling. It distorts the past and discounts the future. If we’re going to look backward, we have to do so with clear, un-obscured eyes.

When we see without the veil of nostalgia – or more importantly, propaganda – it becomes easier to see the true struggles many of our leaders were involved in. For example, MLK and Malcolm both made their share of mistakes, but by the end of their all too short lives, they had amassed a great deal of wisdom. It’s instructive to look at where they were in their development as intellectuals and activists when they were assassinated because they had both moved straight to the core of the struggle. Of course, it’s difficult to take such a wealth of experience and distill it into a sentence or two, but if you focus on the root of the struggle, it looks something like this:

Well-organized people of all colors, classes and religions, working together in love, world-wide, for vulnerable people, and against racism, capitalism, colonialism, and imperialism.

Those ideas are guiding principles. They aren’t a road map, but they definitely point the way. The thing is, we actually have to understand the way forward involves all of us working together in that direction. Black, white, rich, poor, gay, straight, and on and on. It seems such a simple point, but everyday realities and the power of the dominant corporate culture seem to obscure it and divide us and atomize us more and more. The dominant culture has had such a corrosive effect that saying we all need to work together sounds like a platitude or cliche, but that is what every great leader ends up saying – and more importantly struggled to do.

If we study the past and work together now, we don’t have to repeat the mistakes our leaders made when they were trying to find their way and we can learn from the wisdom they finally attained. They earned that wisdom through struggle – blood, sweat, and tears. Those guiding principles are their legacy. The struggle we face is bigger than any that has gone before. We would be foolish to ignore the wisdom they handed to us.

“…more & more individuals & groups are now considered excess, consigned to zones of abandonment, surveillance & incarceration.” – Giroux

“What has emerged in this new historical conjuncture is an intensification of the practice of disposability in which more and more individuals and groups are now considered excess, consigned to zones of abandonment, surveillance and incarceration.”
– Henry A. Giroux

The wisdom of MLK jr.

We are living in the middle of massive changes that will profoundly affect us all. One could look back through history and say, it was ever thus, but the world has never known concentrated power and control on this level and its consolidation continues every day. We now live in a world, as Oxfam recently described, where “[w]ealthy elites have co-opted political power to rig the rules of the economic game, undermining democracy and creating a world where the 85 richest people own the wealth of half of the world’s population.”

More often than not, those 85 people use the corporation as an entity to embody their wealth and power – and to make it grow. Growth has become the thing to strive for, it is the mantra of governments, the logic of capitalism, and by extension, the corporations who control the capital. Of course, we are not talking only about those 85 people. We are talking about the system of corporate capitalism we all live in. Increasingly, corporations are using the ideology of neoliberalism to operate in the world, to reshape it in their own image, to claim all rights and property for the corporation. Making private (for profit) everything belonging to the public (things we supposedly own in common) and taking all information we think should be private and putting it in the hands of corporations and the governments they control – in order to increase control and profit.

One could point to the enclosure movement and police states of the past and continue to say, plus ca change, but differences of degree will eventually lead to a difference in kind. After all, we started as single-celled bits in the ocean. In other words, we are dealing with a whole new beast. And that beast is killing many of us. If it doesn’t kill us, it is shaping every aspect of our lives.

Many americans are still in denial about the forces at play and how to engage them. Many are too ignorant to be in denial, but there are also people who understand what the struggle means and that, if we do not fight, we will eventually lose our humanity, in every sense. There are a relative few who understand the stakes of this moment in history. Some are tempted to look to leaders of struggles in the past and have a kind of nostalgia. There is no time for nostalgia. In fact nostalgia is a dangerous feeling. It distorts the past and discounts the future. If we’re going to look backward, we have to do so with clear, unobscured eyes.

When we see without the veil of nostalgia – or more importantly, propaganda – it becomes easier to see the true struggles many of our leaders were involved in. For example, MLK and Malcolm both made their share of mistakes, but by the end of their all too short lives, they had amassed a great deal of wisdom. It’s instructive to look at where they were in their development as intellectuals and activists when they were assassinated because they had both moved straight to the core of the struggle. Of course, it’s difficult to take such a wealth of experience and distill it into a sentence or two, but if you focus on the root of the struggle, it looks something like this:

Well-organized people of all colors, classes and religions, working together in love, for vulnerable people, and against capitalism, colonialism, and imperialism.

Those ideas are guiding principles. They aren’t a road map, but they definitely point the way. The thing is, we actually have to understand the way forward involves all of us working together in that direction. Black, white, rich, poor, gay, straight, and on and on. It seems such a simple point, but everyday realities and the power of the dominant corporate culture seem to obscure it and divide us and atomize us more and more. The dominant culture has had such a corrosive effect that saying we all need to work together sounds like a platitude or cliche, but that is what every great leader ends up saying – and more importantly struggled to do.

If we study the past and work together now, we don’t have to repeat the mistakes our leaders made when they were trying to find their way and we can learn from the wisdom they finally attained. They earned that wisdom through struggle – blood, sweat, and tears. Those guiding principles are their legacy. The struggle we face is bigger than any that has gone before. We would be foolish to ignore the wisdom they handed to us.

All fall down

Another “must read” from Sarah Kendzior. She is on the right track.

At the end of the article, she offers this: “You can organize and push for collective change…”

I think it is necessary and has to be done now. It is clear that whatever we have done and are doing isn’t enough in the face of of this corporate assault on working people and every institution in the land. The corporate elite and the politicians they buy are implementing a neoliberal agenda

( https://21stcenturytheater.wordpress.com/2013/09/23/david-harvey-and-others-explain-neoliberalism-these-are-the-ideas-that-became-policies-which-in-turn-rule-our-lives/ )

that is simultaneously creating the problem and making resistance harder than it has ever been. Corporations and the governments they buy are rapidly privatizing everything. They are “rent-seeking,” maximizing return, writing international trade laws, they are criminalizing poor and working people, stealing pensions, property – the list of crimes and venality seems to go on forever.

The “devaluation of people” Sarah writes of has roots in capitalism as well as neoliberalism. One has to understand both to know that while exploitation has always been key to capital accumulation, neoliberalism has been used to increase and systematize that exploitation. It is like a set of tools capitalists can use to extract wealth from individuals, cities, countries – in fact the entire world. In other words, yes, exploitation has always happened, but the consolidated power and wealth corporations have attained is unprecedented in world history. It is increasing. And they have what amounts to an organized plan, viz. A neoliberal agenda. It’s different this time. And we ignore it at our peril.

This is the (rarely reported) root cause of many of the revolts of the Arab Spring. Recently, in Turkey, neoliberal policies of privatization and the loss of public spaces sparked protest. Scratch the surface and you will find corporate interests and the politicians they pay for. In every English-speaking country, the neoliberal agenda has been forced on the “political process,” food, water, education – again, the list could go on for pages.

We need to understand what neoliberalism is as we organize to fight it. In the best Shakespearean manner, its greatest strength is its greatest weakness: It is a global phenomenon backed by many of the same corporate players. They are implementing the same policies all over the world, and through their oppression and repression, they are are radicalizing people world-wide.

They exist on greed – and the attendant fear that comes from knowing the consequences of their greed. That is why they are spying on all of us, why they are militarizing our police forces, why corrupt politicians shout down teachers, why the rich live behind walls and security cameras and lead lives almost totally separate from us (unless we’re waiting on them). They fear us. Because they know what they are doing is wrong.

Even now, as a small fraction of the earth’s population amasses most of its wealth on the backs of most of its people and the health of the land, they are more and more afraid. We have a small window, and when I look around the English-speaking world I know, I don’t see the urgency we need to have, I don’t see enough people making the intellectual connections or the necessary connections with each other.

People who are already activists and organizers need to organize under one banner. I humbly submit it should be one that is pro-human and anti-neoliberal. Then we need to organize the world, putting people before profit while fighting the neoliberal agenda. It may sound utopian or crazy, but I think it is eminently realistic – and I hope imminently realistic. Even if it’s not, simply accepting the path we’re on is not an option.

No time like the present.

Sarah Kendzior

From my latest at Al Jazeera English:

When survival is touted as an aspiration, sacrifice becomes a virtue. But a hero is not a person who suffers. A suffering person is a person who suffers.

If you suffer in the proper way – silently, or with proclaimed fealty to institutions – then you are a hard worker “paying your dues”. If you suffer in a way that shows your pain, that breaks your silence, then you are a complainer – and you are said to deserve your fate.

But no worker deserves to suffer. To compound the suffering of material deprivation with rationalisations for its warrant is not only cruel to the individual, but gives exploiters moral license to prey.

Individuals internalise the economy’s failure, as a media chorus excoriates them over what they should have done differently. They jump to meet shifting goalposts; they express gratitude for their own mistreatment: their…

View original post 192 more words

If He Hollers Let Him Go

GhansahOnChappelle
Click picture above to read The Believer article by Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah,
“If He Hollers Let Him Go, Searching for Dave Chappelle ten years after he left his own show.”

One of the best articles I’ve read in a long while – and it happened to be the only confirmation I’ve ever seen of my thoughts about why Dave left Comedy Central.

Addendum: Dave Chappelle ascended to the mountaintop of comedy. He amassed the goodwill of billions and became a voice that people wanted to hear. He has since taken all of that and thrown it in the toilet. In a time of unprecedented inequality, war, corporate criminality, corrupt politicians, global warming, cops murdering black kids and adults with impunity and countless other horrors, Dave has chosen to punch down and belittle serious crimes while offering nothing original. And it’s not funny.

Can he still be funny? Sure, but his latest attempts at comedy are pathetic and bordering on cruel. He clearly thinks he’s the most macho of all the comics now – in fact, my guess is that he actually thinks he is fighting for comics to be able to say whatever they want. Well, he’s doing it wrong.

He made an extra to tack on to one of his Netflix specials. He tells a long anecdote about how he ended up sitting with a bunch (or let’s call them a murder) of neoliberal politicians at a stand-up gig. He talks about how well they all got along…and then he talks about how great it was to meet prince charles (who he was introduced to by gavin newsome). The episode ends with him meeting obama (who kamala harris had earlier asked dave to call). He’s telling on himself and he doesn’t even know it.

Chappelle has become a clueless, rich, mostly unfunny, celebrity who punches down and has no problem hanging with politicians who are greatly responsible for that oppression, because they do the bidding of the corporations and ultra-rich who purchase them. The saddest thing of all is that people are still eating it up. In the 70’s, Sammy Davis Jr. was pilloried (especially by black people) for running up to Nixon and giving him a big hug. Chappelle hasn’t done that, but he went on national television (SNL) and joked that he would benefit from the election of trump, and then he went even farther and asked people to “give him a chance.” He eventually had to sorta kinda apologize, but was given a pass by most people and all of his fans. There’s no excuse for this. Sammy wasn’t born into a family of scholars. Sammy never heard from the left or had much political knowledge at all. dave obviously knows very little about politics, but he should know better, and that is unforgivable.

To add insult to injury, he is a hypocrite (in his comedy act no less). He claims to know what it’s like to be poor and intimates that he grew up poor. Aside from the fact that he was never poor and has had money since he was 15, he has been rich for decades now. I’m not a fan of “cancel culture,” and actually believe its power has been overestimated, but dave has gone out of his way to cancel himself. Not because he is not “politically correct,” but because it’s clear he has chosen to side with his people, the 1%, against struggling and oppressed people. The irony in all of this is that he probably thinks he’s practicing the “sick humor” and satire of Lenny Bruce and Paul Krassner, but (again) he’s doing it wrong. Lenny and Paul used their talents to go after the rich and powerful and call out hypocrisy. dave is now using his talents to go after the poor and oppressed while hanging with the rich and powerful. It’s sad to watch, dispiriting, and disgusting enough to make your skin crawl – but apparently in the 21st century, all of this gets a pass as he collects his tens of millions from netflix and his fans cheer for more.

Chris Hedges – Let’s Get This Class War Started

Click anywhere below to read the full article at truthdig:

“It is not a new story. The rich, throughout history, have found ways to subjugate and re-subjugate the masses. And the masses, throughout history, have cyclically awoken to throw off their chains. The ceaseless fight in human societies between the despotic power of the rich and the struggle for justice and equality lies at the heart of Fitzgerald’s novel, which uses the story of Gatsby to carry out a fierce indictment of capitalism. Fitzgerald was reading Oswald Spengler’s “The Decline of the West” as he was writing “The Great Gatsby.” Spengler predicted that, as Western democracies calcified and died, a class of “monied thugs” would replace the traditional political elites. Spengler was right about that.

“There are only two or three human stories,” Willa Cather wrote, “and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before.”

The seesaw of history has thrust the oligarchs once again into the sky. We sit humiliated and broken on the ground. It is an old battle. It has been fought over and over in human history. We never seem to learn. It is time to grab our pitchforks.”

Click anywhere above to read the full article at truthdig

Letitia James NYC Public Advocate passionately speaks at the Panel for Educational Policy (PEP)

Ed Notes Online
Diane Ravitch’s Blog entry on Letitia “Tish” James

I know her passion is real. I know the parents care and are ready for change. I hope they all realize a new administration is not going to stop the neoliberal assault on public education – and I hope de Blasio doesn’t end up in the pockets of the fascists who run NYC. This of course points to the problem of reform. The whole system needs to be changed. Reform is actually what brought us to this point. Welfare “reform” put more woman and children on the streets, education “reform” created NCLB.
The path forward needs to be radical (change at the root) systemic change, because even if progressive “reforms” are won, neoliberal capitalists are going to continue to take money out of the system that supports us, they will continue to privatize everything we need to survive.

Response to the Alantic’s piece

This one

Hey Atlantic, can you show me a graphic like that of San Francisco’s corporate elite and how much public money they get, how much in tax breaks?

It’s amazing to me that people haven’t seen through the false argument governments are constantly making (because it’s so effective): do you want us to give these workers more money, or do you want better services – or more often, keep the same level of service? If we give teachers a raise, we are going to have to cut special ed. funding. It’s your choice, you have a vote, etc…

One thing is always missing from these contrived choices: taxing the people who actually have money. The people who make money off the backs of workers. The people who have benefited from tax break upon tax break for decades. Let’s be honest, the people who have perpetrated class war on working people since 1980.

The way the debate is framed, the way workers are pitted against each other, is entirely determined by the rich. Working people – and you can see it in the comment section – are encouraged to be jealous of people with decent jobs. They are told it isn’t fair. What isn’t fair is that we don’t all have good jobs.

With the war on unions since around, oh, let’s just go with 1980 again (anyone remember that year?), somehow the idea of solidarity has been wiped from people’s minds. Listen, when we support good wages and benefits for others it sets a standard for everyone else. When we help poor people and striking fast food workers, it raises the floor and increases our collective worth. Yes, the unions have plenty to answer for and much to change (democratic union anyone? real rank and file participation? Money for boots on the ground organizing instead of campaign contributions to people who end up screwing us?), but the data is clear when it comes to wages with and without unions. Unions are still “worth it” in oh so many ways. Workers just have to fight to make them democratic – just like they have to fight to make our country democratic.

Instead of petulantly repeating right wing talking points that are from the same ideological swamp as “welfare queens,” why not support working people? While you’re at it, why don’t you start organizing your workplace or get people together to demand the rich pay their fair share? Why not call the politicians out who are telling us we have to choose between good salaries and taking money from services or already struggling people while they take money from corporations? These are false choices that leave the rich to go on their merry way, while we wait on them and give them money out of the state coffers we fill. They are laughing at us. They are manipulating us like puppets. There is massive corruption at all levels and corporations are getting huge tax breaks, or not paying taxes at all – or getting money back! From us. Again.

What it comes down to is that the banksters and transnational corporations who crashed “the economy” are not in jail. They are keeping the money they stole from us, our taxes, our pensions, our houses – and making more money from that money, and getting free money – while we fight over scraps. Divide and Conquer.

Are we going to figure this out soon? I’m going to hold my tongue now, because I want to keep this civil. I will just say this: at this rate (the rate of change leading to people becoming conscious of what’s going on), after the corporate rapaciousness and venality of the last five years seeming to have zero effect on people’s ability to think and act, I have next to no hope for this country.

Web Reading List #10 [10-03-2013]

Enron billionaire’s diabolical plot to loot worker pensions
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The global upper class makes 32 times as much as the global lower class
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Rising wealth-to-income ratios, inequality, and growth
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The American dream has become a burden for most
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America’s Jobless Generation
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Crumbling American Dreams
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U.S. Textile Plants Return, With Floors Largely Empty of People
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In Mississippi, America’€™s most revolutionary mayor