Monthly Archives: July 2017
A fool’s foolish essay, 101
There is a part of Naomi Klein’s book that deals with an issue of great importance and one that I spend a lot of time thinking about and, in that thinking, struggle with feelings that have much to do with long held beliefs that I tried to live by that might actually be faulty enough to jettison. They have to do with causes, the causes I have supported throughout my life, causes that are related to what are now called “identity politics,” politics related to how people group themselves or are grouped in the society and by the society. Issues of race and gender fit into the category and, to an extent, so do issues of class. I have belonged to groups that work to deal with these issues and taught in the courses I taught what I understood to be needed to get my students to think about how various people with particular group affiliation are treated in the US, whether the treatment received is justified and/or humane, why it is that people are perceived and treated as they are and what needs to be done to create a society that is humane and just for all.
Klein faults Bernie Sanders, claims that one of the reasons Sanders could not win the support of, for example, people of color and women, is that he was insensitive to their needs and their causes paying attention almost exclusively to economic issues.
I agree with Klein. He did not embrace enough the causes and the movements that existed to address the treatment, the needs, and the means to push the society toward equity, justice, and opportunity for all, no matter with what group they identified and or were identified with by others. On the other hand, I believe, have found others who do to, believe that the focus on identity and the needs and desires of particular groups, no matter how righteous their causes leads to too little focus, too little concern for the element of society that are, often, the real cause of discrimination and unfairness that affects all who are not a part of the ruling classes, the wealthy elite who have so much of a hand in managing the reality that most of us find ourselves living.
This is not all to diminish the fact that some are treated more unfairly than others, suffer by their treatment and for the treatment they receive in ways people like myself never suffer and I have no illusion that that more bad causes kinds of pain that are not mine to feel, attitudes toward the society that are very different in mine, if not in kind, then in measure. I do understand that I cannot understand a good amount of what those so poorly treated understand. I can only do the best I can to be nearby, to talk to, read about, think about honestly and un-self-servingly about the world as they are experiencing.
And I am aware too that I am not they and this distancing is a part of the problem, a part that I have worked to address and succeeded at to some extent, but certainly not enough. I set up a tutoring program for students on the nearby Paiute Reservation and knew little of the people with whom I was working, of their reality, when the program ended after two or three years. I taught in a low-income white neighborhood in the hills above Roseburg, Oregon and never came close to understanding those who lived their lives in the tiny and dying logging town called Glide. I spent a part of my childhood at my father’s store on 103st in the Watts District of Los Angeles, met a lot of people but went home to thinking about them in or home twenty or more physical miles away, another reality away for where they lived.
I did a lot of things to get nearby so that I could understand but I never could, never had to live the life as the people who were they did.
But I have come to believe that getting nearby and into the problems that affect those who are somehow, somehow assume, have a right to assume they are different from me and I from them is not as necessary as I once thought it to be because in important ways, of, I will admit, of substantially lesser effect, I suffer too from that that cause others the greater pain. It is this ridiculously inhumane society in which we live, together, that causes me pain because I find it painful to have to look at and deal with the pain of others and the outward manifestations of that pain, seeing people begging on the streets, children in schools who do not receive good medical care, senior citizens how haven’t enough money to live decently in their old age, people living with water too polluted to drink, people with good brains not able to get the kind of education any sensible notion of humanity would dictate.
I cannot stand violent crime. I cannot stand children and women, anyone suffering abuse at the hand of others. I cannot stand the desperation I sense in people living on the margins or just inside them, scared everyday of their live that they might be pushed outside, in to the cold with the closing of a factory dismissed because the employer has found cheaper and more “efficient” means of getting the job done. I am sick of people being at the mercy of those who run the show, who can turn on and off what is necessary and desired, what sustains decent life.
And all of this, my “bigger concern” is about or economic system, one that traps people by giving large numbers something for some period of time, enough so they somehow feel thankful for what they have without considering what has been taken away or what might be taken away on the whims of those who own the economy.
So, I do know what Naomi is saying and I agree but with a caveat, that being that those who wanted more attention paid to identity issues, in focusing too much one them, failed to see the bigger picture, the issue that was central to the concerns of all, an economy that worked against everyone but a few, some more than others, some hurt in ways seemingly unrelated to the unfair distribution of wealth, but related in important ways to it.
I suggest, probably to no one who will listen, that we study primary causes and consider how other issues of considerable importance are related to them, that we look upon this economic system as it operated here today for what it is and what it does, how it makes possible and even enviable the mistreatment of others for the sake of personal gain, how it has made human beings chattel throughout its history, from the pre-nationhood days to today, on the plantations and in the sweatshops and in the Hardy’s and the Burger Kings, in Amazon procurement warehouses, in the schools where teachers work for absurdly low wages, and so on and so forth, in an economy where the very wealthy get even more wealthy daily—six human beings on this earth now hold wealth equal to that of the whole the 50 percent who are at the bottom—while the poor and even the middle classes struggle to hold onto some ground.
I wish we would rethink because if we don’t, even if we have the opportunity to rebuild, there is no hope for a better future.
Blundering toward a new nothing
One more passage taken from the Klein book, No Is Not Enough, offered because it reflects an aspect of reality that frustrates me greatly and which I sometimes think is insurmountable because there is no way to even bring about honest discussion that might lead to the fashioning of initiatives that would be focused on bringing about something better than what existed pre-Trump, conditions better than those that led to the election of Trump. As Klein argues, saying no to Trump and what he represents is not enough. To get rid of Trumpism and all it means, something better needs to be available even if it is only a vision but at least a plausible notion of something truly good for the many who do not think what exists now, what has existed for a very long time, has not been very good to them or for them. Something led to the financial crash and the misery it caused so many and before Trump, too little was being done to alleviate that misery. It wasn’t Trump who created or alone supported that financial system and hardly anyone in power, with power stepped forth to investigate and bring about changes that would not only alleviate causes but properly compensate those whose wealth had been stolen and given in large amounts to the very people responsible for the misery.
Come on people! Isn’t it time that we study our recent history, the recent eras of arbitraging, of downsizing, of tax evasion, of law setting not for but against the people? Of bank deregulation, of megamergers. Remember how jobs were lost when the money manipulators bought companies to benefit by bankrupting them? Remember Enron and how its miracle workers were made heroes, celebrated for their business genius, models of wholesomeness and good in American society? And Goldman Sacks, remember, so prominent in the crap loan debacle and good friends to politicians who called themselves liberal?
“This is important to remember because there’s a real risk today of repeating those mistakes— of coming together around lowest-common-denominator demands such as “Impeach Trump” or “Elect Democrats” and, in the process, losing our focus on the conditions and politics that allowed Trump’s rise and are fueling the growth of far-right parties around the world. One thing we know for certain from the Bush years is that saying no is not enough.”
Klein, Naomi. No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need (p. 112). Haymarket Books. Kindle Edition.
Friere Called it “False Charity”
Reality is difficult to swallow
About the illiberal liberalism that is the liberal version of neoliberalism. This is an extremely potent expose that should be understood for what it says about the kind of liberalism that is embodied in the democratic party. Some may say it is unfair to attack Chelsea in this way but it is also unfair, isn’t it, that some by birth inherit stature and wealth while others struggle all their lives to get enough and have the shit beaten out of them for trying to do so? It is not her fault, of course and it is not Chelsea who is the problem. It is the system that is at fault, one that allows some to live in 10 million dollar apartments while others have not enough to afford having any kind of roof over their heads. That Chelsea leaves out the part about Lemlich being a communist is interesting, too, because, as their story is told in America, communists never represented anything but evil, evil against the inherent goodness of capitalism, this while the latter system was working to gobble up workers, spitting them out when they protested such things as low wages, dangerous and unsanitary working conditions and such, the government that capitalists already owned using its might to pass and enforce laws that codified the right mistreat many in order to benefit a relative few. While communism played out badly in instances, its advocates and adherents in the early part of the 20th century, if one bothers to read the real history of the time, were actually rather humane people trying to find alternatives to systems of economy that treated workers as their employers’ chattel. In a powerful way, Chelsea offers up for children a brand of false news that was prominent at the democratic convention, the kind of news that makes it look as though this country is so great as to have overcome its past so well as to make that past meaningless and, too, the present great even when looking around any sensible person will see that things are not so great and haven’t been even very good for way too many for most of the time the United States of America has been a nation.
The Facebook post to which I am responding:
Word. Thanks, Haley Kossek
Dear CHELSEA CLINTON,
I write to inform you that Clara Lemlich–leader of the Uprising of 20,000 garment workers in 1909, queen of my heart, featured in your new children’s book–was a Communist and a Jew.
She did not flee generic “poverty and the threat of violence in Ukraine,” as you write; she fled an anti-Semitic pogrom in which 47 Jews were killed, 592 were injured, and 700 Jewish families’ homes were destroyed. Later Clara would become a union leader of thousands of immigrant Jewish factory girls in New York City whose lives and work experiences were intimately defined by the same anti-Semitic violence that she had survived. Her famous speech rousing those young women to strike, quoted in your book, was delivered in Yiddish, not English. Little girls reading your book deserve to know this history, which you neglect to mention: Clara Lemlich was a Jew.
Clara Lemlich also was very, very communist. She started sneaking copies of illicit anti-capitalist literature as a child in Ukraine and was already a dedicated Marxist revolutionary by the time she came to the US at age 17. As she led her factory co-workers in forming their own local union of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union, despite the objections of its conservative male leadership, she was arrested by the cops 17 TIMES. After the famous strike, she was blacklisted from both the garment industry and the ILGWU for being too radical. Later she went to work for a women’s suffrage organization to organize working-class women to win the vote… where she also got kicked out for being a communist.
The only political organization that Clara Lemlich was NEVER banished was the Communist Party and its front groups, where she made her political home for the next several decades organizing working-class housewives. She protested the executions of the Rosenbergs in 1953 and the U.S. military intervention in Guatemala in 1954 against a popularly elected leftist leader who supported redistribution of land to poor peasants. (Some members of your family, Chelsea, might know something about this history of U.S.-backed coups in Central America.) During McCarthyism, she was summoned before the House Un-American Activities Committee and her family was investigated and put under government surveillance for the rest of her life.
In contrast to Clara Lemlich, you, Chelsea Clinton, have spent your life being paid incredible sums of money to glide from one patronage job to the next. You have floated on a nepotistic cloud from consulting gigs to board positions at McKinsey, IAC, the Clinton Foundation, and Expedia. In 2011 you snagged a “special correspondent” position on NBC and were paid $600,000 for producing 23 minutes of aired content, a sweet $26,724 per minute. You live in an apartment that costs $10.5 million and your millionaire parents have tax-sheltered your inheritance. I don’t know if you knew that Clara Lemlich was a communist whose life was dedicated to the abolition of the class society you represent when you chose her for the book, but it seems relevant that you should know.
Some day Clara Lemlich’s ghost, along with all of the little girls who have been inspired by her legacy, and I will break into your bank and expropriate your wealth. When we do, I can only imagine that we will be warned. We will be given an explanation. And nevertheless, we will persist.
May our foremothers’ memory be a blessing that inspires us to rise and redistribute your wealth.
The article to which Hornstein is responding:
If you are skeptical of celebrity-authored children’s books, most of which reflect little talent but lots of self-promotion, here is one to change your mind. Last…
The violence of the oppressed must be understood to be different from the violence of the oppressor (Paulo Freire kind of said that).
Properly Somber this Fourth?
If we wish to get down to what is really real, shouldn’t we try to rethink our way to a viable truth that can help us understand who we are as a nation, how we got to be where we are, and then figure out how to make things better? I am posting this Fourth of July message from the late Howard Zinn because it encourages me to appreciate what this county should be about and what it is not, in part because too many allow the myths to blind them to what is true and what is really happening in our world. This country has never treated all as equal and nor has there ever been justice for all. And now, on this Forth of July, we should keep before us the image of the many who represents so much of what is wrong, so much of what we should always be working hard to prevent against. To all, a somber Fourth of July. On this July 4, we would do well to renounce nationalism and all its symbols: its flags, its pledges of allegiance, its anthems, its insistence in song that God must single out America to be blessed.
“Is not nationalism—that devotion to a flag, an anthem, a boundary so fierce it engenders mass murder—one of the great evils of our time, along with racism, along with religious hatred?
These ways of thinking—cultivated, nurtured, indoctrinated from childhood on— have been useful to those in power, and deadly for those out of power.”
Jefferson’s last public letter in response to an invitation to celebrate the 50 Anniversary of American independence. “Monkish ignorance and superstition…the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion…” We have a lot of work to do if the vision is to be realized.
“may it be to the world what I believe it will be, (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all) the Signal of arousing men to burst the chains, under which Monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings & security of self government. the form which we have substituted restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. all eyes are opened, or opening to the rights of man. the general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth that the mass of mankind has not been born, with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately by the grace of god. these are grounds of hope for others. for ourselves let the annual return of this day, for ever refresh our recollections of these rights and an undiminished devotion to them.”
WTF? Wake the F Up!
The following, as noted, are quotes pulled from Naomi Klein’s new book, No is Not Enough. They point to what I too understand to be at the heart of our current political disaster, the embodiment of which is represented in the figure of Trump, the substance of which is the kind of capitalism we have been sold and that we have bought despite the fact that its effect on real human beings was truly terrible. We had to ignore what was going on, the wholesale undoing of a democratic system of government, it replaced by a government for and of and by corporations whose beneficiaries used their massive amounts of money to buy whatever they wanted including power to dominate over everyone else here and around the world.
Several years ago, as I have mentioned in more than one Facebook post and in numerous Tweets, Klein’s book, The Shock Doctrine explored critical elements of our past that should have foretold of what was to come, the corporate takeover not accomplished in a day or a few years but over a long period of time (chronicled also in Kevin Phillip’s book American Theocracy) and accelerated during the Reagan presidency. Now, Klein has written what she obviously believes to be most necessary book that is meant to call upon us to think deeply about how we have come to be a Trumpdom and what needs to be done to cut ourselves loose from what Trumpdom really means, what is being lost and will continue to be lost unless people realize the magnitude of what has happened to us, why it has happened, and begin rethinking life in order to break free of the constraints on our thinking that we, the people, have, pretty much voluntarily, allowed to be imposed.
Two quotes, one a quote in Klein’s book that comes from Martin Luther King.
“In this sense, there is an important way in which Trump is not shocking. He is the entirely predictable, indeed clichéd outcome of ubiquitous ideas and trends that should have been stopped long ago. Which is why, even if this nightmarish presidency were to end tomorrow, the political conditions that produced it, and which are producing replicas around the world, will remain to be confronted. With US vice president Mike Pence or House speaker Paul Ryan waiting in the wings, and a Democratic Party establishment also enmeshed with the billionaire class, the world we need won’t be won just by replacing the current occupant of the Oval Office.”
Klein, Naomi. No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need (pp. 10-11). Haymarket Books. Kindle Edition.
“We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered. —MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.” “Beyond Vietnam,” 1967
Klein, Naomi. No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need (p. 14). Haymarket Books. Kindle Edition.
Another round of ignorance
An exchange on Facebook. The person with whom I am talking is not the ignorance to which the title refers. Rather, ignorance is meant to signify a nasty fact of our current existence as a society that is with great regularity ignored and ignored because the truth of it greatly upset our sense of who we are and why we have become who we are now as a nation.