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‘People are finally talking about class’: Astra Taylor on US democracy, socialism and revolution | Film | The Guardian
"Astra Taylor hasn’t always been interested in democracy. “There was this vagueness about the word that just seemed to be not just corruptible but almost inherently corrupt,” says the writer, film-maker and activist. “I was attracted to words like liberation, emancipation, equality, revolution, socialism. Any other word would get my pulse going more than democracy.” For her, democracy was a word imperial America used to sell free markets and push its agenda.

Yet Taylor, a lifelong activist, says that she also always felt there was “a contradiction” inherent in democracy that puzzled her. For all the cynicism the word attracted, she could see there was power in an idea meant to strengthen the people, a power that she explores in her new documentary, What Is Democracy?, and her upcoming book, Democracy May Not Exist, But We’ll Miss It When It’s Gone.

In the US, the election of Donald Trump in 2016 sundered the body politic, while that same year, the Brexit referendum split the UK. Trump has used his office to undermine the media, the legal system, the electoral process itself and anyone who questions his will – all while praising dictators and suggesting the US may one day have “a president for life”.

Russia has shown how foreign powers can use technology to hack democracy, the economic success of China’s one-party capitalism has demonstrated a different model, and the seemingly unstoppable rise of the 1% has laid bare how big money skews the system.

The D word really started to grip Taylor while she was writing her previous book, The People’s Platform, a critique of Silicon Valley’s self-interested “utopianism”, published in 2014. “I wanted to look at what a ‘democratic internet’ would look like,” she says. “Not an empty, Silicon Valley-type democracy, but a real one.”

Then there was her work with Occupy. In 2011, New York’s Zuccotti Park, a grim sunken square near Wall Street, became the focal point of a leaderless movement calling for change. Exactly what it wanted or how it would get it never really seemed clear, but the movement swept the US and the world. Occupy protests spread to 951 cities in 82 countries.

Critics were, and still are, cynical about Occupy. History may be kinder. “We are the 99%,” shouted the activists. The 1% had taken the reins of power. That idea has stuck and can be seen in most progressive political campaigns today, down to the eschewing of corporate cash for the small donations that are funding US politicians including Democratic presidential hopefuls Bernie Sanders, Beto O’Rourke and Elizabeth Warren.

Taylor also co-founded the Debt Collective, which grew out of Occupy; this buys student and medical debt on the debt markets and forgives it. It has wiped out $1bn (£770m) of debts so far and helped put student debt on the political agenda.

Occupy was “a shitshow – that’s a technical term,” says Taylor. Zuccotti Park was as divided by its constantly percussive drum circle as it was by its politics. “I love democracy more than I hate the drum circle,” read one sign in the park. Many Occupy activists were reluctant to engage with the existing system or even agree to properly define what changes they wanted, she says. There was a failure to translate protest into action. Democracy can’t be a place where “everyone has a voice but no one has any responsibility,” she says.

Taylor’s experience did get her thinking more about democracy. “There was this call for ‘real democracy’. So when you say that then you obviously believe there is ‘fake democracy’.”

In her new film and book, Taylor traces democracy back to its origins in Athens (a patriarchal slave state – we should have seen trouble coming) and then quizzes a diverse group of people, from the academic Cornel West to Syrian refugees and Trump-supporting Florida teens, asking what they now think of the word. The result? It’s not clear what any of us think democracy is or should be, or even if true democracy has ever existed (Taylor thinks not, although she thinks of democracy as a dynamic evolving concept that has yet to be achieved, and is more interested in exploring what the idea means to others than giving her own tight definition). That is Taylor’s aim: to make us think, to ask new questions and hopefully come up with new answers.

She is excited by some of the recent political shifts in the US. “For the first time in my life people are talking about class,” she says. “It’s just ridiculous that this was an unspeakable concept for so long – that is why we are in the predicament we are in.”

She is heartened to see a new generation of politicians, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, talking about “democratic socialism”. The S word was a no-no in US politics for generations, one that had “this sort of dated ring”, Taylor says. Now it is “something new, something that’s never been tried. Something in the future.”

While there has been plenty of bad news for democracy in recent years, there is no doubt that politics is changing. More women, more people of colour, teachers, LGBTQ candidates and people from low-income backgrounds are running for office, and winning. A new generation of activists are interested in union organising and strikes.

“People are thinking about power and how to take it, whereas the previous generation was more ambivalent about it, more anarchistic. Occupy was in that mould. There was a refusal to make demands – to do so was to legitimise the state,” she says.

And now? “You have millennials who are cheering on labour struggles. That’s amazing.”

While Taylor is hopeful change will come, she is wary of the powerful forces ranged against it and the left’s ability to mess it up. Nor does she think a “democratic socialist” future – if it’s even possible – would provide all the answers.

“We don’t live in an infinite world,” she says. Even a more equitable system would have to deal with inequality, not least in a world facing apocalyptic climate change. “To me, democratic socialism would just mean more interesting democratic dilemmas. We would no longer be arguing over whether billionaires should exist or be abolished – they should be abolished – but there are still so many questions,” she says.

Taylor is ready to ask those questions. Hip and lanky, she is the nice cool kid, the one in the band whose books and records you wanted to borrow, and who would let you. On top of her other work, Taylor is a musician who has played with her partner Jeff Mangum’s band, Neutral Milk Hotel. She’s a vegan who lives in Brooklyn (if this wasn’t obvious), and one of those interviewees who asks as many questions as she answers.

Her enquiring nature comes from her childhood. Born in Canada and raised in the other Athens, in the US state of Georgia, Taylor was “unschooled” – meaning she was allowed to learn, or not, when and how she liked and was never forced to go to school. The freedom inspired her. At 16, she enrolled at the University of Georgia, then quit for Brown, the elite Rhode Island university that counts John D Rockefeller Jr, the New York Times publisher AG Sulzberger and the actor Emma Watson among its alumni. She quit Brown too, deciding unschooling was a lifelong commitment.

The idea of unschooling is “built on a quite romantic notion of human nature”, she says. “That human beings are intrinsically good and curious and ambitious. Very Rousseau.”

She doesn’t think this is a good model for everyone. Some people need more structure, more guidance. “It’s almost rebellious of me that so much of my work as an adult activist is focused on public education, free public education,” she laughs.

But she believes in the ideas at the heart of unschooling – continual learning, encouraging curiosity, taking education outside the classroom and the school year and embracing trust. They are models we need now, she says, as we question a concept that many of us take for granted even as we worry about its future.

“For many, many students now education is anti-democratic,” she says. “It’s just a curriculum geared at essentially encouraging them to accept their lot in life.”

The decline in liberal arts and the rise of “practical” degrees in subjects such as pharmacology, nursing and construction management, she says, suggest a society that is tailoring people to the workplace rather than encouraging them to think about the big issues, while saddling them with major debts.

There is a structural reason for this, says Taylor. “I feel pretty pulled when young people ask me what to study, because I think they should study Plato and Rousseau. But not if it’s going to lead them to a lifetime of debt servitude. You can’t help but think of your education as something that needs a return on investment when it’s costing you $35,000 a year.”

Her book and film are an argument for the case that “of all academic disciplines, the one that demands to be democratised is political philosophy, which is basically the asking of the questions: how do we want to live? How should we live? What kind of people should we be? How should we govern ourselves? This is something that increasingly only the elites get to carve out time to think about. That is really a tragedy.”"
astrataylor  class  socialism  capitalism  democracy  2019  corruption  ows  occupywallstreet  activism  studentdebt  film  filmmaking  documentary  unschooling  publiceducation  education  curiosity  freedom  rousseau  plato  philosophy  debt  debtservitude  politics  policy  learning  howwelearn  donaldtrump  organizing  ancientgreece  athens  cornelwest 
4 weeks ago by robertogreco
Jacobin Radio - The Dig: Astra Taylor on Democracy - Blubrry Podcasting
"Jacobin editor Alyssa Battistoni interviews Astra Taylor on her new film What is Democracy?, in which Astra asks ordinary people and political philosophers alike just that. The answers are often extraordinary and far more incisive than the mindless pablum emanating from Washington and its official interpreters. The film opens in New York on Wednesday January 16 at the IFC Center before traveling to theaters and campuses. Special guests on hand during opening week for live Q&As with Astra include Silvia Federici, Cornel West, and Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor. For details, go to ifccenter.com/films/what-is-democracy. Those of us who don't live in New York can find other dates through the distributor at zeitgeistfilms.com. And if you want to bring this film to your school or town, and you really should, contact Zeitgeist Films!"

[See also:
https://www.jacobinmag.com/2019/02/astra-taylor-what-is-democracy-interview
https://www.thenation.com/article/astra-taylor-what-is-democracy-new-film-interview/
https://zeitgeistfilms.com/film/whatisdemocracy
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OHxRj9JWQMs

also available here:
https://www.thecut.com/2019/01/astra-taylor-what-is-democracy-women-interview.html
https://player.fm/series/jacobin-radio-1354006/the-dig-astra-taylor-on-democracy
https://podtail.com/en/podcast/jacobin-radio/the-dig-astra-taylor-on-democracy/ ]
astrataylor  alyssabattistoni  2019  democracy  us  inequality  statusquo  elitism  policy  politics  economics  keeanga-yamahttataylor  cornelwest  silviafederici  philosophy  labor  justice  capitalism  socialism  society  slavery 
9 weeks ago by robertogreco
Resource Guide
"These are the official writings, videos, and more that BSA recommends all Socialists explore, regardless of skin color.

Please remember to read, watch, or listen to the content shared below with a healthy dose of skepticism, and to use your critical thinking skills. Just because one figure is correct on most issues does not mean that they are correct on all issues, and just because another figure is incorrect on most issues does not mean that they are incorrect on all issues.

The truth lies between and beyond all of the words our greatest revolutionaries and theorists have spoken, therefore we mustn’t fetishize the leaders of the past, or be apologists for the errors in their ways; we must learn from the mistakes in their methods in an effort to develop realistic approaches that stay true to the socialistic principles we all claim to embody.

Note: All of the titles are links to the readings themselves!"
socialism  bsa  blacksocialism  resources  references  webdubois  krlmarx  douglassturm  haldraper  antonpnnekoek  jmescone  erichfromm  mikhailbakunin  friedrichengels  alberteinstein  rosaluxemburg  bellhooks  abramlincolnharrishr  theodoreallen  cedricrobinson  noamchomsky  edwardherman  vladimirlenin  levtrotsky  maozedong  kaliakuno  ajamunangwya  claudiasanchezbajo  brunoroelants  jessicagordonnembhard  ajowanzingaifateyo  fredhampton  richardwolff  abbymartin  peterjoseph  capitalism  cornelwest  chrishedges  berniesanders  leninism  amyleather  stevemcqueen  paulrobeson  politics  economics  policy  lenin  blacksocialistsofamerica 
june 2018 by robertogreco
Resource Guide
"These are the official writings, videos, and more that BSA recommends all Socialists explore, regardless of skin color.

Please remember to read, watch, or listen to the content shared below with a healthy dose of skepticism, and to use your critical thinking skills. Just because one figure is correct on most issues does not mean that they are correct on all issues, and just because another figure is incorrect on most issues does not mean that they are incorrect on all issues.

The truth lies between and beyond all of the words our greatest revolutionaries and theorists have spoken, therefore we mustn’t fetishize the leaders of the past, or be apologists for the errors in their ways; we must learn from the mistakes in their methods in an effort to develop realistic approaches that stay true to the socialistic principles we all claim to embody."
books  education  politics  marxism  socialism  lists  readinglists  skepticism  bsa  blacksocialism  resources  references  webdubois  krlmarx  douglassturm  haldraper  antonpnnekoek  jmescone  erichfromm  mikhailbakunin  friedrichengels  alberteinstein  rosaluxemburg  bellhooks  abramlincolnharrishr  theodoreallen  cedricrobinson  noamchomsky  edwardherman  vladimirlenin  levtrotsky  maozedong  kaliakuno  ajamunangwya  claudiasanchezbajo  brunoroelants  jessicagordonnembhard  ajowanzingaifateyo  fredhampton  richardwolff  abbymartin  peterjoseph  capitalism  cornelwest  chrishedges  berniesanders  leninism  amyleather  stevemcqueen  paulrobeson  economics  policy  lenin  blacksocialistsofamerica 
may 2018 by robertogreco
Martin Luther King Jr was a radical. We must not sterilize his legacy | Cornel West | Opinion | The Guardian
"The major threat of Martin Luther King Jr to us is a spiritual and moral one. King’s courageous and compassionate example shatters the dominant neoliberal soul-craft of smartness, money and bombs. His grand fight against poverty, militarism, materialism and racism undercuts the superficial lip service and pretentious posturing of so-called progressives as well as the candid contempt and proud prejudices of genuine reactionaries. King was neither perfect nor pure in his prophetic witness – but he was the real thing in sharp contrast to the market-driven semblances and simulacra of our day.

In this brief celebratory moment of King’s life and death we should be highly suspicious of those who sing his praises yet refuse to pay the cost of embodying King’s strong indictment of the US empire, capitalism and racism in their own lives.

We now expect the depressing spectacle every January of King’s “fans” giving us the sanitized versions of his life. We now come to the 50th anniversary of his assassination, and we once again are met with sterilized versions of his legacy. A radical man deeply hated and held in contempt is recast as if he was a universally loved moderate.

These neoliberal revisionists thrive on the spectacle of their smartness and the visibility of their mainstream status – yet rarely, if ever, have they said a mumbling word about what would have concerned King, such as US drone strikes, house raids, and torture sites, or raised their voices about escalating inequality, poverty or Wall Street domination under neoliberal administrations – be the president white or black.

The police killing of Stephon Clark in Sacramento may stir them but the imperial massacres in Yemen, Libya or Gaza leave them cold. Why? Because so many of King’s “fans” are afraid. Yet one of King’s favorite sayings was “I would rather be dead than afraid.” Why are they afraid? Because they fear for their careers in and acceptance by the neoliberal establishment. Yet King said angrily: “What you’re saying may get you a foundation grant, but it won’t get you into the Kingdom of Truth.”

The neoliberal soul craft of our day shuns integrity, honesty and courage, and rewards venality, hypocrisy and cowardice. To be successful is to forge a non-threatening image, sustain one’s brand, expand one’s pecuniary network – and maintain a distance from critiques of Wall Street, neoliberal leaders and especially the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and peoples.

Martin Luther King Jr turned away from popularity in his quest for spiritual and moral greatness – a greatness measured by what he was willing to give up and sacrifice due to his deep love of everyday people, especially vulnerable and precious black people. Neoliberal soul craft avoids risk and evades the cost of prophetic witness, even as it poses as “progressive”.

The killing of Martin Luther King Jr was the ultimate result of the fusion of ugly white supremacist elites in the US government and citizenry and cowardly liberal careerists who feared King’s radical moves against empire, capitalism and white supremacy. If King were alive today, his words and witness against drone strikes, invasions, occupations, police murders, caste in Asia, Roma oppression in Europe, as well as capitalist wealth inequality and poverty, would threaten most of those who now sing his praises. As he rightly predicted: “I am nevertheless greatly saddened … that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling.”

If we really want to know King in all of his fallible prophetic witness, we must shed any neoliberal soul craft and take seriously – in our words and deeds – his critiques and resistances to US empire, capitalism and xenophobia. Needless to say, his relentless condemnation of Trump’s escalating neo-fascist rule would be unequivocal – but not to be viewed as an excuse to downplay some of the repressive continuities of the two Bush, Clinton and Obama administrations.

In fact, in a low moment, when the American nightmare crushed his dream, King noted: “I don’t have any faith in the whites in power responding in the right way … they’ll treat us like they did our Japanese brothers and sisters in World War II. They’ll throw us into concentration camps. The Wallaces and the Birchites will take over. The sick people and the fascists will be strengthened. They’ll cordon off the ghetto and issue passes for us to get in and out.”

These words may sound like those of Malcolm X, but they are those of Martin Luther King Jr – with undeniable relevance to the neo-fascist stirrings in our day.

King’s last sermon was entitled Why America May Go to Hell. His personal loneliness and political isolation loomed large. J Edgar Hoover said he was “the most dangerous man in America”. President Johnson called him “a nigger preacher”. Fellow Christian ministers, white and black, closed their pulpits to him. Young revolutionaries dismissed and tried to humiliate him with walkouts, booing and heckling. Life magazine – echoing Time magazine, the New York Times, and the Washington Post (all bastions of the liberal establishment) – trashed King’s anti-war stance as “demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi”.

And the leading black journalist of the day, Carl Rowan, wrote in the Reader’s Digest that King’s “exaggerated appraisal of his own self-importance” and the communist influence on his thinking made King “persona non-grata to Lyndon Johnson” and “has alienated many of the Negro’s friends and armed the Negro’s foes”.

One of the last and true friends of King, the great Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel prophetically said: “The whole future of America will depend upon the impact and influence of Dr King.” When King was murdered something died in many of us. The bullets sucked some of the free and democratic spirit out of the US experiment. The next day over 100 American cities and towns were in flames – the fire this time had arrived again!

Today, 50 years later the US imperial meltdown deepens. And King’s radical legacy remains primarily among the awakening youth and militant citizens who choose to be extremists of love, justice, courage and freedom, even if our chances to win are that of a snowball in hell! This kind of unstoppable King-like extremism is a threat to every status quo!"
cornelwest  martinlutherkingjr  2018  neoliberalism  capitalism  imperialism  materialism  race  racism  poverty  inequality  progressive  militarism  violence  us  society  politics  policy  courage  death  fear  integrity  revisionism  history  justice  socialjustice  drones  wallstreet  finance  stephonclark  libya  gaza  palestine  yemen  hypocrisy  venality  cowardice  honesty  sfsh  cv  mlk  xenophobia  christianity  carlrowan  jedgarhoover  love  freedom  extremism 
april 2018 by robertogreco
Coates and West in Jackson | Boston Review
"For my part, I see value in putting Coates’s and West’s perspectives in dialogue. To be clear, I am not interested in repeating or endorsing West’s critique here, and Coates needs no one to defend him, certainly not me. Readers of Boston Review know that I have taken issue with parts of his Between the World and Me (2015)—yet, even when I disagree, I find Coates’s writing generative, thoughtful, and startlingly honest, and he pushes me to think harder and deeper about the depth of racism in both the public and inner life of black America. Rather, I want to offer brief reflections on what I find valuable in both Coates’s recent book, We Were Eight Years in Power (2017), and in West’s insistence on the transformative power of social movements. I believe that the reconciliation of their respective insights might open new directions. My mother raised my siblings and me to be Hegelians (even if his 1807 The Phenomenology of Spirit is not exactly bedtime reading), and that means the purpose of critique is dialectical, to reach a higher synthesis, which in turn reveals new contradictions demanding new critique.

****

West’s position should not surprise anyone, nor should his ideas be reduced to a couple of interviews and a short piece in the Guardian. He has always combined the black prophetic tradition of speaking truth to power with what he identifies as the anti-foundationalism of young Marx—a critical observation central to West’s book, The Ethical Dimensions of Marxist Thought (1991). West’s Black Prophetic Fire (with Christa Buschendorf, 2014) consists of dialogues that consider the lives and work of black prophetic figures, including Frederick Douglass, W. E. B. Du Bois, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Ida B. Wells, and Ella Baker. His insights into these figures are acute and often original, and he refrains from hagiography. For example, he is sharply critical of Douglass, whom he castigates for his relative silence on Jim Crow once he became a fully enfranchised and powerful voice in the Republican Party. The book also contains a subtle indictment of President Barack Obama, implying that his two terms as president, and the emergence of a black neoliberal political class, represent a betrayal of the principles basic to the black prophetic tradition. His criticisms of President Obama are not personal but directed at policies that reflected both the neoliberal turn and the persistence of U.S. imperialism.

Coates found his calling during a particularly combative period for black intellectuals. In March of 1995, West was the target of a scurrilous attack by New Republic editor Leon Wieseltier, an essay promoted on the issue’s cover with the headline “The Decline of the Black Intellectual.” A month later Adolph Reed, Jr. followed with a piece in the Village Voice titled, “What Are the Drums Saying, Booker?: The Curious Role of the Black Public Intellectual” which names West, Michael Eric Dyson, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., bell hooks, and yours truly. In the essay, Reed characterizes us as modern-day minstrels and attacks us for being “translators” of black culture to white folks, and thus palatable to fawning white liberals. Reed’s piece left a deep impression on Coates. As he recalls in We Were Eight Years in Power, “I was determined to never be an interpreter. It did not occur to me that writing is always some form of interpretation, some form of translating the specificity of one’s roots or expertise or even one’s own mind into language that can be absorbed and assimilated into the consciousness of a broader audience. Almost any black writer publishing in the mainstream press would necessarily be read by whites. Reed was not exempt. He was not holding forth from The Chicago Defender but from The Village Voice, interpreting black intellectuals for that audience, most of whom were white.”

Those “feuds” of twenty-two years ago also generated an important Boston Review forum that centered on a provocative essay by Reverend Eugene F. Rivers III, “Beyond the Nationalism of Fools: Toward an Agenda for Black Intellectuals” (1995)"



"Importantly, Coates’s title is a reference not to Obama’s administration, as many seem to suppose, but rather to Reconstruction and the white backlash that followed its tragic overthrow. Coates quotes Du Bois’s Black Reconstruction (1935): “If there was one thing that South Carolina feared more than bad Negro government, it was good Negro government.” Du Bois’s insight is key here; he recognizes that it was the success of Reconstruction in creating arguably the world’s first social democracy that posed the greatest threat to white supremacy. History has a long life: the ways in which formerly enslaved people not only helped overthrow the Confederacy but immediately went to work building a new society—armed, organized, and fighting back—is the story that haunts and illuminates Obama’s presidency.

Coates is certainly attentive to the forces arrayed against the Obama administration, and to the extraordinary hope black people had invested in him, but he is no apologist for Obama."



"So what are the substantive differences between West and Coates?

At the end of his Guardian essay, West writes that we cannot afford “to disconnect white supremacy from the realities of class, empire, and other forms of domination—be it ecological, sexual, or others.” Coates would agree. He treats these forms of domination as deeply intertwined but not synonymous: “I have never seen a contradiction between calling for reparations and calling for a living wage, on calling for legitimate law enforcement and single-payer health care. They are related—but cannot stand in for one another. I see the fight against sexism, racism, poverty, and even war finding their union not in synonymity but in their ultimate goal—a world more humane.” He may not map out what that “fight” for a more humane world might look like, but I don’t think his perspective can be reduced, as West does, to “narrow racial tribalism and myopic political neoliberalism.”"



"This is where West and Coates part ways. It is not so much their understanding of history, though. West understands that U.S. “democracy” was built on slavery, capitalism, and settler colonialism. But he also recognizes its fragility or malleability in the face of a radical democratic tradition.

This radical democratic tradition cannot be traced to the founding fathers or the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence. Instead, it is manifest in the struggles of the dispossessed to overturn the Eurocentric, elitist, patriarchal, and dehumanizing structures of racial capitalism and its liberal underpinnings. It is manifest in the struggle to restore the “commons” to the commonwealth, which has been at the heart of radical abolitionism—or what Du Bois called the Abolition Democracy. West knows that social movements, or what he calls “our fightback,” have and will alter history. West believes that we can win. While I wouldn’t call Coates’s vision fatalistic, it is deeply pessimistic because his focus is on structures of race and class oppression, and the policies and ideologies that shore up these structures. He is concerned that we survive."



"So I propose that we turn away from the latest celebrity death match, turn our attention to Jackson, Mississippi. Read Jackson Rising: The Struggle for Economic Democracy and Black Self-Determination in Jackson, Mississippi (2017), edited by Kali Akuno and Ajamu Nangwaya, And revisit the work of West and Coates and others wrestling with the critical issues of our times. I stand with West and his unwavering commitment to the power of collective resistance, his optimism of the will. And I stand with Coates and his insistence on a particular kind of pessimism of the intellect that questions everything, stays curious, and is not afraid of self-reflection, uncomfortable questions, or where the evidence takes him.

And above all, I stand with the people of Jackson, who have built the country’s most radical movement, mobilized new forms of political participation, and elected a people’s government committed to building a socialist commonwealth. Free the Land!"
ta-nehisicoates  cornelwest  2017  robinkelley  jackson  mississippi  kaliakuno  ajamunangwaya  chokewlumumba  chokweantarlumumba  activism  democracy  capitalism  cedricrobinson  edmundmorgan  barbarafields  davidroediger  brackobama  imperialism  reconstruction  webdubois  slavey  reparations  patriarchy  eurocentrism  oppression  race  class  politics  abolitionism  history  karlmarx  jeremiahwright  shirleysherrod  empire  us  martinlutherkingjr  malcolmx  frederickdouglass  idabwells  ellabaker  penieljoseph  eugenerivers  adolphreedjr  michaelericdyson  henrylouisgatesjr  neoliberalism  mlk  chokwelumumba 
december 2017 by robertogreco
The Black Outdoors: Fred Moten & Saidiya Hartman at Duke University - YouTube
"The Black Outdoors: Humanities Futures after Property and Possession seeks to interrogate the relation between race, sexuality, and juridical and theological ideas of self-possession, often evidenced by the couplet of land-ownership and self-regulation, a couplet predicated on settler colonialism and historically racist, sexist, homophobic and classist ideas of bodies fit for (self-) governance.

The title of the working group and speaker series points up the ways blackness figures as always outside the state, unsettled, unhomed, and unmoored from sovereignty in its doubled-form of aggressively white discourses on legitimate citizenship on one hand and the public/private divide itself on the other. The project will address questions of the "black outdoors" in relationship to literary, legal, theological, philosophical, and artistic works, especially poetry and visual arts.

Co-convened by J. Kameron Carter (Duke Divinity School/Black Church Studies) and Sarah Jane Cervenak (African American and African Diaspora Studies, UNC-G)"



[Fred Moten (31:00)]

"Sometimes I feel like I just haven't been able to… well, y'all must feel this… somehow I just can't quite figure out a good way to make myself clear when it comes to certain things. But I really feel like it's probably not my fault. I don't know that it's possible to be clear when it comes to these kinds of things. I get scared about saying certain kinds of stuff because I feel like sometimes it can seem really callous, and I don't want to seem that way because it's not because I don't feel shit or because I don't care. But let's talk about it in terms of what it would mean to live in a way that would reveal or to show no signs of human habitation.

Obviously there's a field or a space or a constraint, a container, a bounded space. Because every time you were saying unbounded, J., I kept thinking, "Is that right?" I mean I always remember Chomsky used to make this really interesting distinction that I don' think I ever fully understood between that which was bounded, but infinite and that which was unbounded, but finite. So another way to put it, if it's unbounded, it's still finite. And there's a quite specific and often quite brutal finitude that structures whatever is going on within the general, if we can speak of whatever it is to be within the general framework of the unbounded.

The whole point about escape is that it's an activity. It's not an achievement. You don't ever get escaped. And what that means is whatever you're escaping from is always after you. It's always on you, like white on rice, so to speak. But the thing about it is that I've been interested in, but it's hard to think about and talk about, would be that we can recognize the absolute horror, the unspeakable, incalculable terror and horror that accompanies the necessity of not leaving a trace of human inhabitation. And then there's the whole question of what would a life be that wasn't interested in leaving a trace of human habitation? So, in church, just because my friend Ken requested it, fuck the human. Fuck human inhabitation.

It's this necessity… The phrase I use sometimes and I always think about specifically in relation to Fannie Lou Hamer — because I feel like it's me just giving a spin on a theoretical formulation that she made in practice — is "to refuse that which has been refused to you." That's what I'm interested in. And that doesn't mean that what's at stake is some kind of blind, happy, celebratory attitude towards all of the beautiful stuff we have made under constraint. I love all the beautiful stuff we've made under constraint, but I'm pretty sure I would all the beautiful stuff we'd make out from under constraint better.

But there's no way to get to that except through this. We can't go around this. We gotta fight through this. And that means that anybody who thinks that they can understand how terrible the terror has been without understanding how beautiful the beauty has been against the grain of that terror is wrong. there is no calculus of the terror that can make a proper calculation without reference to that which resists it. It's just not possible."
fredmoten  saidiyahartman  blackness  2016  jkameroncarter  fredricjameson  webdubois  sarahjanecervenak  unhomed  unsettled  legibility  statelessness  illegibility  sovereignty  citizenship  governance  escape  achievement  life  living  fannielouhamer  resistance  refusal  terror  beauty  cornelwest  fugitives  captives  captivity  academia  education  grades  grading  degrading  fugitivity  language  fellowship  conviviality  outdoors  anarchy  anarchism  constraints  slavery  oppression  race  racism  confidence  poverty  privilege  place  time  bodies  body  humans  mobility  possessions 
december 2017 by robertogreco
Forget Coates vs. West — We All Have a Duty to Confront the Full Reach of U.S. Empire
"What are the duties of radicals and progressives inside relatively wealthy countries to the world beyond our national borders?"



" Is it even possible to be a voice for transformational change without a clear position on the brutal wars and occupations waged with U.S. weapons?"



"Our movements simply cannot afford to stick to our various comfort zones or offload internationalism as someone else’s responsibility.

The unending misery in Haiti may be the most vivid illustration of how today’s crises are all interrelated. On the island, serial natural disasters, some linked to climate change, are being layered on top of illegitimate foreign debts and coupled with gross negligence by the international aid industry, as well as acute U.S.-lead efforts to destabilize and under-develop the country. These compounding forces have led tens of thousands of Haitians to migrate to the United States in recent years, where they come face-to-face with Trump’s anti-Black, anti-immigrant agenda. Many are now fleeing to Canada, where hundreds if not thousands could face deportation. We can’t pry these various cross-border crises apart, nor should we.

IN SHORT, THERE is no radicalism — Black or otherwise — that ends at the national boundaries of our countries, especially the wealthiest and most heavily armed nation on earth. From the worldwide reach of the financial sector to the rapidly expanding battlefield of U.S. Special Operations to the fact that carbon pollution respects no borders, the forces we are all up against are global. So, too, are the crises we face, from the rise of white supremacy, ethno-chauvinism, and authoritarian strongmen to the fact that more people are being forced from their homes than at any point since World War II. If our movements are to succeed, we will need both analysis and strategies that reflect these truths about our world.

Some argue for staying in our lane, and undoubtedly there is a place for deep expertise. The political reality, however, is that the U.S. government doesn’t stay in its lane and never has — it spends public dollars using its military and economic might to turn the world into a battlefield, and it does so in the name of all of U.S. citizens.

As a result, our movements simply cannot afford to stick to our various comfort zones or offload internationalism as someone else’s responsibility. To do so would be grossly negligent of our geopolitical power, our own agency, as well as our very real connections to people and places throughout the world. So when we build cross-sector alliances and cross-issue solidarity, those relationships cannot be confined to our own nations or even our own hemisphere — not in a world as interconnected as ours. We have to strive for them to be as global as the forces we are up against.

We know this can seem overwhelming at a time when so many domestic crises are coming to a head and so many of us are being pushed beyond the breaking point. But it is worth remembering that our movement ancestors formed international alliances and placed their struggles within a global narrative not out of a sense of guilt or obligation, but because they understood that it made them stronger and more likely to win at home — and that strength terrified their enemies.

Besides, the benefit of building a broad-based, multiracial social movement — which should surely be the end goal of all serious organizers and radical intellectuals — is that movements can have a division of labor, with different specialists focusing on different areas, united by broad agreement about overall vision and goals. That’s what a real movement looks like.

The good news is that grassroots internationalism has never been easier. From cellphones to social media, we have opportunities to speak with one another across borders that our predecessors couldn’t have dreamed of. Similarly, tools that allow migrant families to stay connected with loved ones in different countries can also become conduits for social movements to hear news that the corporate media ignores. We are able, for instance, to learn about the pro-democracy movements growing in strength across the continent of Africa, as well as efforts to stop extrajudicial killings in countries like Brazil. Many would not have known that Black African migrants are being enslaved in Libya if it had not been for these same tools. And had they not known they wouldn’t have been able to engage in acts of necessary solidarity.

So let’s leave narrow, nostalgic nationalism to Donald Trump and his delusional #MAGA supporters. The forces waging war on bodies and the planet are irreversibly global, and we are vastly stronger when we build global movements capable of confronting them at every turn."
cornelwest  ta-nehisicoates  2017  us  politics  global  international  jelanicobb  barackobama  imperialism  africa  malcolmx  haiti  naomiklein  opaltometi  climatechange  colonialism  immigration  refugees  activism  outrage  crises  donaldtrump  fascism  military  borders  naturaldisasters  isolationism  debt  finance  destabilization 
december 2017 by robertogreco
Cecilia Cissell Lucas, Commencement, May 19, 2013 - YouTube
"PhD graduate speech, University of California, Berkeley Graduate School of Education, Social and Cultural Studies Program"

[transcript: https://pdiehl.blogspot.com/2013/06/you-must-see-hear-and-read-this-speech.html

"Good afternoon! Thank you all for being here, and for all of your support for one another over the years. And thank you also to those who would like to be here today, but could not. This includes my Mom, who always made fun of me for taking forever to graduate -- but she passed away a couple of years ago and I am missing her today.

Of course, death is not the only thing that keeps people apart. Friends and families are ripped apart every day in this country due to an immigration system which criminalizes and deports people without “documentation”; and due to a prison industrial complex which disproportionately criminalizes and locks up dark-skinned people.

I raise these issues at an education graduation not only to honor those who may not be able to be with us today, but to raise the question of what it means for educators to be there for and with our students.

I think the answer to this question is, simply: to love. Simple, but not easy. Love is a discipline that must be practiced rigorously, and often involves taking risks.

Bell hooks has argued that where there is domination, love is impossible because domination is the opposite of love. To love, then, means being committed to bringing about justice.

This is also a pragmatic issue in our classrooms, if we are concerned with equity. We know that social policies and structures impact our students. Poverty, hunger, and housing insecurity impact a person’s ability to learn. So do the daily micro- and macro-aggressions of racism, nationalism, sexism and homophobia – all of which are systems of domination. These issues require our engagement beyond the classroom. But as educators, we should also interrogate the ways in which our curricula, pedagogies, disciplinary practices and school policies are supporting and justifying, rather than countering, economic and social systems of domination.

For example, I am inspired by the strong and growing movement against high stakes standardized testing. However, aren’t all tests -- and isn’t grading itself -- “high stakes” in the context of a society that thinks it is okay to discriminate on the basis of educational achievement?

All of us know that while, yes, we worked hard to get into UC Berkeley and to be here graduating today, this does not necessarily make us any smarter or more hard-working than others who do not have these degrees. And certainly our credentials do not make us more or less worthy as human beings. But that is what our society teaches us when our credentials are correlated with greater income and greater positions of power and influence.

There is a movement for “college for all” – but even if everyone were to get a PhD, does this mean that there would miraculously be enough well-paying and meaningful jobs available for everyone? We are told we need to improve our schools so that we remain “globally competitive” and that we are being responsible parents when, if we have the resources, we remove our kids from public schools or insist on AP and honors tracks within schools – but what does this say about our attitude towards the worth of children in other countries, poor children and/or children who are left out of honors and AP?

In a ranked system there is no such thing as “no child left behind” because ranking means some people’s success depends on others being less successful; the term “race to the top” is at least more honest.

Can we refuse to participate in a system which brutalizes so many of our students in this way, and reclaim schools for the kinds of learning that can help us build more just and loving societies?

We deal with many institutional constraints, but we are not helpless. Many people are working to create change using a range of strategies: direct resistance, subversive actions under the radar, acquiring positions of decision-making power, and creating alternative institutions.

Regardless of the strategies, we need to remain aware of the ways in which we compromise with oppressive practices. And we need to be doing this work in collaboration with our students and communities because we need all of our efforts and insights to shift from a norm of domination to a norm of love.

This rigorous discipline of love also requires learning to distinguish between liberatory and oppressive perspectives. This means teachers should not attempt to be neutral. There is no such thing as neutrality. That which appears neutral typically appears that way because it resembles the norm. But when the norm is characterized by domination, that is what we end up supporting when we attempt to be neutral.

While I am raising many difficult issues, I am actually quite hopeful. Cornel West distinguishes between hope and optimism. Optimism, he says, is “based on the notion that there’s enough evidence out there to believe things are gonna be better.” Hope, however, looks at the evidence and says, “It does not look good at all. But gonna go beyond the evidence to create new possibilities based on visions that become contagious to allow people to engage in heroic actions always against the odds, no guarantee whatsoever.

And, the thing is, people have always done this. That is, people have always created liberatory visions that they’ve resiliently acted on against the odds. The question before us, as educators, is whether we are willing to join in that legacy of past and present love warriors.

In our classrooms, this means that instead of creating docile obedient bodies, we need to foster intellectual, emotional, spiritual, and physical daring. We also need to develop radical imaginations that can expand our sense of the possible. How many classrooms have you been in where you simultaneously developed rigorous analytical capacities, connected the classroom work to meaningful work beyond the classroom and experienced a learning process in which it was okay and even encouraged to publicly cry, laugh, rage, dance, be playful, be honest, be still, be unknowing, and take risks?

I ask my students to take many risks in the classroom, including trying things that might feel scary. It’s useful to practice in low-stakes situations so that we might be prepared in situations with higher-stakes consequences.

In the spirit of practicing what I preach, I’m going to conclude with something that feels scary to me. I don’t sing, and have certainly never done so into a microphone. So in the spirit of working together, I’m asking all of you -- in the audience and up on stage -- to please stand up and help me out; I know many of you know the words, and we’ll sing the chorus a few times so everyone can join in. If you don’t want to say “man,” you can say:

I’m starting with the one in the mirror. I’m asking her to change her ways. And no message could’ve been any clearer: if you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change.

Know that the mirror is not just on the wall but also in the eyes of other people who help us to see ourselves and the world in clearer ways. So commit to each other. Commit to loving as fiercely and uncontrollably as possible. Shout it out in your own way, in your own languages of the tongue and of the body: love, love, love, love, love. Thank you.”]
cecliacissell  oppression  domination  love  teaching  education  pedagogy  curriculum  2013  cornelwest  optimism  hope  justice  socialjustice  radicalism  liberation  risk  risktaking  bellhooks 
february 2017 by robertogreco
Pity the sad legacy of Barack Obama | Cornel West | Opinion | The Guardian
"Obama’s lack of courage to confront Wall Street criminals and his lapse of character in ordering drone strikes unintentionally led to rightwing populist revolts at home and ugly Islamic fascist rebellions in the Middle East. And as deporter-in-chief – nearly 2.5 million immigrants were deported under his watch – Obama policies prefigure Trump’s barbaric plans.

Bernie Sanders gallantly tried to generate a leftwing populism but he was crushed by Clinton and Obama in the unfair Democratic party primaries. So now we find ourselves entering a neofascist era: a neoliberal economy on steroids, a reactionary repressive attitude toward domestic “aliens”, a militaristic cabinet eager for war and in denial of global warming. All the while, we are seeing a wholesale eclipse of truth and integrity in the name of the Trump brand, facilitated by the profit-hungry corporate media.

What a sad legacy for our hope and change candidate – even as we warriors go down swinging in the fading names of truth and justice."
barackobama  cornelwest  2017  politics  berniesanders  populism  drones  wallstreet  economics  policy  elections  truth  integrity  media 
january 2017 by robertogreco
Everybody Hates Cornel West | Jacobin
"We live in an era in which Clinton — who proudly supported mass incarceration and the obliteration of welfare — declares that a social-democratic program of financial reform and single-payer health insurance “won’t end racism.” A recent WikiLeaks publication of internal Clinton campaign emails reveals another line they were testing out against Sanders: “Wall Street is not gunning down young African Americans or denying immigrants a path to citizenship.”

It’s a sentiment that would’ve bewildered civil rights veterans like A. Philip Randolph, Martin Luther King Jr, John P. Davis, Bayard Rustin, and Lester Granger, all of whom were committed to social-democratic politics as a crucial means of putting racism on a path towards ultimate extinction. The tragedy of West isn’t that he’s “full of bitterness,” as his liberal detractors claim. It’s that the politics of West’s “black prophetic tradition,” try as he might to wield them for socialist ends, will today find their strongest, clearest articulation in the same old quest of “interpreting the drums” for a mostly white ruling class.

Earlier in the primary season, during an interview on the Real News Network, West directly called out the black elite — whom he calls “the lumpenbourgeoisie” — for abandoning “the black prophetic tradition” for “individual upward mobility” and the “formation of the black professional class.” As he put it, “Black folk for the most part became just extensions of a milquetoast neoliberal Democratic Party. But Adolph Reed and a host of others told this story many years ago. It’s becoming much more crystallized. We have to be willing to tell the truth no matter how unpopular it is.”

West didn’t hesitate to proclaim that his biggest left-wing critic had been right all along. But the fact that he felt betrayed by this “lumpenbourgeoisie” in the first place only shows the limits of this political vision and the power of Reed’s original critique. After all, why would a “lumpenbourgeoisie” act different than any bourgeoisie? A vision of a harmonious insular black “community” without any internal class tensions might sound appealing to some in 2016 — particularly to the Democratic Party — but it’s a delusion no serious leftist can afford to entertain.

But as tragic as West’s crusade can appear, the sincerity of his commitment to a more just and egalitarian world — and the righteousness of his passion — cannot be called into question. Those who, like Michael Eric Dyson, claim that West’s political commitments now derive from nothing more than hurt feelings over unreturned phone calls to Barack are either not paying attention or shamelessly projecting their own guilty consciences onto West.

As soon as Sanders laid down his arms and endorsed Clinton, West was already on the trail for Green Party candidate Jill Stein, telling Bill Maher that “the Clinton train — Wall Street, security, surveillance, militarism — that’s not going in the same direction I’m going . . . she’s a neoliberal.” And while many criticisms of the Green Party’s electoral myopia are warranted, it’s impossible not to respect West’s drawing a line in the sand against the Democrats — a party he sees as irredeemable. If his break with Obama made him “sad and bitter,” one can only wonder what his elite critics think of him now.

The truth is that Cornel West is being punished for choosing a genuine commitment to a more egalitarian society over the faux radicalism (and career opportunities) of the DNC and MSNBC black intelligentsia. On an appearance on late-night television a couple years ago, David Letterman pitched him a softball question on the overall improvement in “race relations.” Instead, West chastised Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder for their inaction on police violence: “It’s a question of what kind of persons do you have, not just black faces.” After Letterman pointed out how at least things had improved for the LGBT population, West countered: “The system is still structured in such a way that one percent of the population owns 43 percent of the wealth, you end up with an embrace of gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, especially upper–middle class and above, but the gay poor, the lesbian poor, they’re still catching hell . . . It’s not just black. It’s white. It’s brown. It’s the structure of a system . . . it’s worse [than ever].”"



"Because for the first time in years, it seemed like something really was happening. And the man on stage was the perfect one to give voice to that excitement, to that first hint of a lifelong passion and commitment. I remember looking around the auditorium: the young, this new generation who would soon file out in Occupy and, a few years later, join the Sanders campaign, were hanging on his every word as they listened to West define what it meant to be radical, what it meant to be on the Left. “That means we cut radically against the grain of the last forty years, especially in the American empire, where we have been told lies. Unfettered markets generating self-sufficiency, prosperity, and justice is a lie!. . . Wall Street oligarchs and the corporate elites are sucking so much of the blood of American democracy in such a way that more and more people are just useless, superfluous. And they don’t care! They think that they can get away with it because there’s been no resistance of large scale! And they think in the end, the chickens don’t come home to roost, that you don’t reap what you sow . . . we simply say at Left Forum,” and here he backed away from the mic, lowered his voice and smiled, “We stand for the truth.” People were on their feet, exploding in applause.While West’s reputation has suffered greatly among liberals, it has never been better among socialists. And while still marginal, after the Sanders challenge to the entire liberal class, ours is a corner with some confidence now. West is a longtime member of the Democratic Socialists of America and his reputation for generosity among younger members is unparalleled. He seemingly has time for everyone. Especially those who offer him nothing in career opportunities or elite respectability."
cornelwest  politics  race  2016  hillaryclinton  berniesanders  connorkilpatrick  democrats  michaelericdyson  joanwalsh  jonathancapehart  jillstein  adolphreed  blacklivesmatter  us  socialjustice  inequality  socialdemocracy  economics  barackobama  bobavakian  elitism  elites  aphiliprandolph  martinlutherkingjr  johnpdavis  bayardrustin  lestergranger  socialism  lumpenbourgeoisie  democraticparty  bourgeoisie  egalitarianism  radicalism  racism  racerelations  radicalization  occupywallstreet  ows  capitalism  statusquo  mlk 
november 2016 by robertogreco
Cornel West on state of race in the U.S.: "We're in bad shape" - CBS News
[via: "Showed kids 60 Minutes with Cornel West last night. ("I'm unimpressed by smartness.") http://www.cbsnews.com/news/60-minutes-cornel-west-on-race-in-the-u-s/ "
https://twitter.com/ablerism/status/711908596540379136

"+ See also West on Mandela: "a militant tenderness, subversive sweetness and radical gentleness." http://www.cornelwest.com/nelson_mandela.html "
https://twitter.com/ablerism/status/711908847695368192 ]

"Cornel West is a different kind of civil rights leader. His below-the-radar presence at racial flash points across America recently, stands in stark contrast to many of the more traditional civil rights leaders and their bright light press conferences.

Some of the new generation of African-American activists seem to be gravitating towards West, a charismatic academic scholar who doesn't lead an organization or have an entourage.

Cornel West has a message about how poor and disadvantaged Americans are being treated today and he can be searingly provocative on matters of race, never more so than when he criticizes President Obama.

Cornel West: When I call the president a black puppet of Wall Street, I was really talking about the degree to which Wall Street had a disproportionate amount of influence on his policies as opposed to poor people and working people.

James Brown: Why use such harsh language with-- showing no respect for the office of the president?

Cornel West: I tend to be one who just speaks from my soul, and so what comes out sometimes is rather harsh. In that sense I'm very much a part of the tradition of a Frederick Douglass or a Malcolm X who used hyperbolic language at times to bring attention to the state of emergency. So all of that rage and righteous indignation can lead one not to speak politely sometimes.

Eight years ago, Cornel West was a fervent supporter of candidate Barack Obama. Today, he blames the president for not doing more on issues like income inequality and racial justice. A product of the turbulent sixties, West has joined protests led by civil rights groups like Black Lives Matter. Here in Ferguson, Missouri, he was one of many arrested for civil disobedience.

James Brown: The young people who are leading the Black Lives Matter charge, you're all behind them?

Cornel West: Oh, very much so. I think that's a marvelous new militancy that has to do with courage, vision. The fundamental challenge always is will their rage be channeled through hatred and revenge or will it be channeled through love and justice. You got to push 'em toward love and justice.

James Brown: Why do you think you have that kind of currency with young people?

Cornel West: They know that I take their precious lives seriously. When I go to jail in Ferguson and say quite explicitly, "I'm old school, and I want the new school to know that some of us old folk love y'all to death" and they hear that and say, "Well, dang, you know, we might not always-- agree with this brother, but this Negro looks like a fighter for justice."

[March: This is what democracy looks like. Justice!]

Nyle Fort: I think a lot of young people really gravitate towards him not only because he's a giant of an intellectual, he is somebody that you want to be around.

Nyle Fort is a 26-year-old activist and religion PhD student at Princeton. He first saw West speak at a rally four years ago.

James Brown: The manner in which Dr. West has been criticizing the president. Your reaction?

Nyle Fort: I think it's important for us to listen to the substance of his argument. And I think that his critiques not just of President Obama, but of our current state of democracy in this country, the current state of the world, is something that we need to pay attention to.

A favorite on the lecture circuit, we were with him at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York, when the crowd of 1,500 broke into applause before he said a word.

Then, for more than an hour, an extemporaneous journey filled with biblical passages and quotes from philosophers and poets about decency and virtue. All in support of West's warning about the dangers of inequality.

Cornel West: I have nothing against rich brothers and sisters. Pray for 'em every day. But callousness and indifference, greed and avarice is something that's shot through all of us.

Cornel West has diverse influences to say the least; crediting jazz giants John Coltrane and Sarah Vaughan with helping him understand human suffering. West sees civil rights pioneer, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel as one of the great treasures of the 20th century.

Cornel West: It's never a question of skin pigmentation. It's never a question of just culture or sexual orientation or civilization. It's what kind of human being you're going to choose to be from your mama's womb to the tomb and what kind of legacy will you leave.

Cornel West was born 62 years ago in Oklahoma, but grew up in Glen Elder -- a predominantly black neighborhood near Sacramento, California. He is the second of four children. His father, Clifton was a federal administrator and his mother, Irene was a teacher. They were a close-knit, church-going family.

Cornel West: I feel as if I have been blessed to undergo a transformation from gangster to redeemed sinner with gangster proclivities.

James Brown: You actually were a thug when you were a youngster?

Cornel West: Oh absolutely, I got kicked out of school when I was seven-- seven years old.

James Brown: Doing what, Dr. West?

Cornel West: I refused to salute the flag because my great uncle had been lynched with the flag wrapped around his body. So I went back to Sacramento and said, "I'm not saluting the flag." And teacher went at me and hit me, and I hit back. And then we had a Joe Frazier/Muhammad Ali moment right there in the third grade.

Clifton West: He was the only student I ever knew that came home with all As and had to get a whipping.

Clifton West is Cornel's brother, best friend and was his role model growing up. He says behind his little brother's bad behavior, was a relentlessly curious mind.

Clifton West: We had this bookmobile. And we would come out, and check out a book, and go on back in the house and start reading it. So Corn, at one point, I don't know how long it took, he had read every book in the bookmobile.

James Brown: Excuse me?

Clifton West: I don't know it had to be 200 books, easy. And the bookmobile man, who was a white guy, went to all the neighborhoods, little chocolate neighborhoods, saying, "There's this guy in Glen Elder that read every book in here."

Anecdotes like that convinced teachers to give their troubled student an aptitude test. West's recorded IQ: 168.

Cornel West: I got a pretty high score. So they sent me over all the way on the other side of town. Mom used to drive me all the way to school and then drive back to her school where she was teaching first grade.

The new school had a gifted program that challenged his mind and changed his behavior.

James Brown: Was that when you first grabbed hold of the notion that you were smart?

Cornel West: You know, I never really thought I was that smart. Because there was so many other folk in school that I was deeply impressed by. But I'll say this, though, that I've never really been impressed by smartness."
cornelwest  barackobama  race  2016  via:ablerism  love  activism  socialjustice  blacklivesmatter  generations  inequality  values  nylefort  jamesbrown  cliftonwest  eddieglaude  decency  virtue  callousness  indifference  greed  avarice  jazz  suffering  humanism  abrahamjoshuaheschel  life  living  legacy  religion  belief  ferguson  racialjustice  racism  civildisobedience  wallstreet  intellectualism  intellect  curiosity  poverty  policy  language  malcolmx  frederickdouglass  rage  indignation  civilrights  johncoltrane  wisdom  smartness  sacrifice  conformism  sarahvaughan 
march 2016 by robertogreco
Dr. Cornel West | Reflections on the Life and Legacy of Nelson Mandela | Official Web Site
[previously on militant tenderness and subversive sweetness: https://twitter.com/search?q=rogre%20militant%20tenderness ]

"The natural death of Nelson Mandela is the end of not only a monumental life but also an historic era. Like any spectacular cultural icon, Mandela was many things to all of us. Yet if we are to be true to his complex life and precious legacy, we must pierce through the superficial surfaces and market-driven fanfares. Mandela was a child of his age and a man who transcended and transformed his times. He was a revolutionary South African nationalist who embraced communists even as he embodied his Christian faith and enacted his democratic temperament. He was a congenial statesman whose prudential style and message of reconciliation saved South Africa from an ugly and bloody civil war.

Mandela the man was rooted in a rich African tradition of soulcraft that put a premium on personal piety, cultural manners and social justice. Ancestor appreciation, gentle embrace of others and fair treatment of all was shot through the "soul-making" of the young Nelson Mandela. The fusion of his royal family background, high Victorian and Edwardian education and anti-imperialist formation yielded a person of immense self-respect, moral integrity and political courage. These life-enhancing qualities pit Mandela against the life-denying realities of the dark underside of European imperialism—realities of pervasive terror, chronic trauma and vicious stigma. Yet though deeply wounded and perennially scarred by these realities, Mandela emerged from such nightmarish circumstances with sterling character—a militant tenderness, subversive sweetness and radical gentleness even acknowledged by his foes. To put it bluntly, Mandela the man chose to live a life of wise remembrance, moral reverence and political resistance rather than a life of raw ambition, blind avarice and personal subservience. More pointedly, Mandela refused to be intimidated by the Goliath-like powers of an authoritarian regime.

Mandela the revolutionary movement leader was blessed with a rich South African progressive tradition unmatched anywhere on the globe. Where else can we find so many spiritual giants and political exemplars of courage—from Desmond Tutu, Walter Sisulu, Beyers Naudé, Joe Slovo, Ruth First, Albertina Sisulu, Robert Sobukwe, Steve Biko, Billy Nair, Allen Boesak, Ronnie Kasrils, Rusty Bernstein, Oliver Tambo and so many others. Mandela the man was deeply shaped by the South African freedom movement. He began as a narrow black nationalist, shifted quickly to a United Front strategy, supported the armed struggle and called off the counter-violent stance only when the government renounced violence. Mandela was designated a dangerous enemy of the South African government—a terrorist, communist, traitor and hater—because he led a movement that saw South African laws as themselves criminal. He was imprisoned for over 27 years, permitted one visit and one letter every six months, forbidden to attend the funerals of his mother and oldest son, often relegated to solitary confinement, and sometimes permitted to read only his Bible because his courageous witness as part of the freedom movement constituted the major threat to the South African government. As international support for Mandela and the movement escalated (including many African leaders, the Soviet Union, and millions of people of all colors around the world) and international support for the South African regime was exposed (including America's Reagan and Britain's Thatcher), old-style apartheid began to crumble. The writing on the wall was clear as the Berlin Wall fell.

Mandela the statesman tried to hold together a fragile emerging multiracial democracy and heal a traumatized society against the backdrop of a possible civil war. This incredible balancing act highlighted the spiritual qualities and moral sentiments of Mandela the man—and made him the democratic saint of our time. Yet this gallant effort also downplayed Mandela the revolutionary movement leader who highlighted targeting wealth inequality, corporate power and sheer corruption and cronyism in high places. Mandela is the undisputed father of South African democracy because the freedom movement he led broke the back of old-style apartheid. Yet his neoliberal policies—much to the delight of corporate elites and new black middle-class beneficiaries—failed to address in a serious manner the massive unemployment, inadequate housing, poor medical facilities and decrepit education. The masses of precious poor people—disproportionately black—have been overlooked by the full-fledge integration of the South African economy into the global capitalist world.

I asked the great Nelson Mandela about this grave situation after I gave the Nelson Mandela lecture in Pretoria a few years ago. I lambasted the Santa-Clausification of Nelson Mandela that turned Mandela the man and the revolutionary leader into an unthreatening, huggable old man with a smile with bags full of toys—especially for cheering oligarchs like the Oppenheimers or newly rich elites like Cyril Ramaphosa. Even global neoliberal figures like Bill Clinton and Richard Stengel of Time Magazine become major caretakers of Mandela's legacy as his revolutionary comrades fade into the dustbin of history. As I approached him, he greeted me with a genuine smile of deep love and respect, expressed in the most elevating and encouraging language his appreciation of my righteous indignation in my speech and told me to be steadfast in my witness.

The most valuable lesson we can draw from the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela is to be neither afraid nor intimidated by the neoliberal powers that be. We must create our own deep democratic forms of soulcraft, social movements and statecraft—forms that resist the dominant forces of privatizing, financializing and militarizing that overlook poor and working people. Nelson Mandela met the most pressing challenges of his day with great dignity, decency and integrity. Let us confront the free-market fundamentalism, escalating militarism and insidious xenophobia in our day with his spirit of love, courage and humor.

-- Dr. Cornel West"

[via: "Showed kids 60 Minutes with Cornel West last night. ("I'm unimpressed by smartness.") http://www.cbsnews.com/news/60-minutes-cornel-west-on-race-in-the-u-s/ "
https://twitter.com/ablerism/status/711908596540379136

"+ See also West on Mandela: "a militant tenderness, subversive sweetness and radical gentleness." http://www.cornelwest.com/nelson_mandela.html "
https://twitter.com/ablerism/status/711908847695368192 ]
cornelwest  tenderness  sweetness  care  caring  gentleness  radicalism  radicalgentleness  subversivesweetness  militanttenderness  militancy  nelsonmandela  soulcraft  piety  manners  culture  justice  socialjustice  ancestors  appreciation  fairness  imperialism  trauma  terror  stigma  character  democracy  freedom  society  fear  neoliberalism  legacy  statecraft  privatization  finance  militarization  poverty  dignity  decency  integrity  courage  love  humor  canon  xenophobia  militarism  via:ablerism 
march 2016 by robertogreco
bell hooks: Buddhism, the Beats and Loving Blackness - The New York Times
"G.Y.: Absolutely. You’ve talked about how theory can function as a place of healing. Can you say more about that?

b.h.: I always start with children. Most children are amazing critical thinkers before we silence them. I think that theory is essentially a way to make sense of the world; as a gifted child growing up in a dysfunctional family where giftedness was not appreciated, what held me above water was the idea of thinking through, “Why are Mom and Dad the way they are?” And those are questions that are at the heart of critical thinking. And that’s why I think critical thinking and theory can be such a source of healing. It moves us forward. And, of course, I don’t know about other thinkers and writers, but I have the good fortune every day of my life to have somebody contacting me, either on the streets or by mail, telling me about how my work has changed their life, how it has enabled them to go forward. And what greater gift to be had as a thinker-theorist, than that?"



"G.Y.: Is there a connection between teaching as a space of healing and your understanding of love?

b.h.: Well, I believe whole-heartedly that the only way out of domination is love, and the only way into really being able to connect with others, and to know how to be, is to be participating in every aspect of your life as a sacrament of love, and that includes teaching. I don’t do a lot of teaching these days. I am semi-retired. Because, like any act of love, it takes a lot of your energy."



"G.Y.: You’ve conceptualized love as the opposite of estrangement. Can you say something about that?

b.h.: When we engage love as action, you can’t act without connecting. I often think of that phrase, only connect. In terms of white supremacy right now for instance, the police stopped me a few weeks ago here in Berea, because I was doing something wrong. I initially felt fear, and I was thinking about the fact that in all of my 60-some years of my life in this country, I have never felt afraid of policemen before, but I feel afraid now. He was just total sweetness. And yet I thought, what a horrible change in our society that that level of estrangement has taken place that was not there before.

I know that the essential experience of black men and women has always been different, but from the time I was a girl to now, I never thought the police were my enemy. Yet, what black woman witnessing the incredible abuse of Sandra Bland can’t shake in her boots if she’s being stopped by the police? When I was watching that video, I was amazed the police didn’t shoot her on the spot! White supremacist white people are crazy.

I used to talk about patriarchy as a mental illness of disordered desire, but white supremacy is equally a serious and profound mental illness, and it leads people to do completely and utterly insane things. I think one of the things that is going on in our society is the normalization of mental illness, and the normalization of white supremacy, and the evocation and the spreading of this is part of that mental illness. So remember that we are a culture in crisis. Our crisis is as much a spiritual crisis as it is a political crisis, and that’s why Martin Luther King, Jr. was so profoundly prescient in describing how the work of love would be necessary to have a transformative impact.

G.Y.: And of course, that doesn’t mean that you don’t find an important place in your work for rage, as in your book “Killing Rage”?

b.h.: Oh, absolutely. The first time that I got to be with Thich Nhat Hanh, I had just been longing to meet him. I was like, I’m going to meet this incredibly holy man. On the day that I was going to him, every step of the way I felt that I was encountering some kind of racism or sexism. When I got to him, the first thing out of my mouth was, “I am so angry!” And he, of course, Mr. Calm himself, Mr. Peace, said, “Well, you know, hold on to your anger, and use it as compost for your garden.” And I thought, “Yes, yes, I can do that!” I tell that story to people all the time. I was telling him about the struggles I was having with my male partner at the time and he said, “It is O.K. to say I want to kill you, but then you need to step back from that, and remember what brought you to this person in the first place.” And I think that if we think of anger as compost, we think of it as energy that can be recycled in the direction of our good. It is an empowering force. If we don’t think about it that way, it becomes a debilitating and destructive force.

G.Y.: Since you mentioned Sandra Bland, and there are so many other cases that we can mention, how can we use the trauma that black people are experiencing, or reconfigure that trauma into compost? How can black people do that? What does that look like therapeutically, or collectively?

b.h.: We have to be willing to be truthful. And to be truthful, we have to say, the problem that black people face, the trauma of white supremacy in our lives, is not limited to police brutality. That’s just one aspect. I often say that the issue for young black males is the street. If you only have the streets, you encounter violence on all sides: black on black violence, the violence of addiction, and the violence of police brutality. So the question is why at this stage of our history, with so many wealthy black people, and so many gifted black people, how do we provide a place other than the streets for black males? And it is so gendered, because the street, in an imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, is male, especially when it is dark. There is so much feeling of being lost that it is beyond the trauma of racism. It is the trauma of imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, because poverty has become infinitely more violent than it ever was when I was a girl. You lived next door to very poor black people, but who had very joyful lives. That’s not the poverty of today.

G.Y.: How is the poverty of today different?

b.h.: Let’s face it, one of the things white people gave us when they gave us integration was full access to the tormenting reality of desire, and the expectation of constant consumption. So part of the difference of poverty today is this sort of world of fantasy — fantasizing that you’ll win the lottery, fantasizing that money will come. I always cling to Lorraine Hansberry’s mama saying in “A in Raisin in the Sun,” “Since when did money become life?” I think that with the poverty of my growing up that I lived with and among, we were always made to feel like money is not what life is all about. That’s the total difference for everyone living right now, because most people in our culture believe money is everything. That is the big tie, the connecting tie to black, white, Hispanic, native people, Asian people — the greed and the materialism that we all invest in and share.

G.Y.: When you make that claim, I can see some readers saying that bell is pathologizing black spaces.

b.h.: As I said, we have normalized mental illness in this society. So it’s not the pathologizing of black spaces; it’s saying that the majority of cultural spaces in our society are infused with pathology. That’s why it’s so hard to get out of it, because it has become the culture that is being fed to us every day. None of us can escape it unless we do so by conscious living and conscious loving, and that’s become harder for everybody. I don’t have a problem stating the fact that trauma creates wounds, and most of our wounds are not healed as African-Americans. We’re not really different in that way from all the others who are wounded. Let’s face it — wounded white people frequently can cover up their wounds, because they have greater access to material power.

I find it fascinating that every day you go to the supermarket, and you look at the people, and you look at us, and you look at all of this media that is parading the sorrows and the mental illnesses of the white rich in our society. And it’s like everybody just skips over that. Nobody would raise the question, “why don’t we pathologize the rich?” We actually believe that they suffer mental illness, and that they deserve healing. The issue for us as black people is that very few people feel that we deserve healing. Which is why we have very few systems that promote healing in our lives. The primary system that ever promoted healing in black people is the church, and we see what is going on in most churches today. They’ve become an extension of that material greed.

G.Y.: As you shared being stopped by police, I thought of your book “Black Looks: Race and Representation,” where you describe whiteness as a site of terror. Has that changed for you?

b.h.: I don’t think that has changed for most black people. That particular essay, “Representations of Whiteness in the Black Imagination,” talks about whiteness, the black imagination, and how many of us live in fear of whiteness. And I emphasize the story about the policeman because for many of us that fear of whiteness has intensified. I think that white people, for the most part, never think about black people wanting to be in black only spaces, because we do not feel safe.

In my last book, “Writing Beyond Race: Living Theory and Practice,” I really wanted to raise and problematize the question: Where do we feel safe as black people? I definitely return to the home as a place of spiritual possibility, home as a holy place.

I bought my current house from a conservative white male capitalist who lives across the street from me, and I’m so happy in my little home. I tell people, when I open the doors of my house it’s like these arms come out, and they’re just embracing me. I think that is part of our radical resistance to the culture of domination. I know that I’m not who he imagined in this little house. He imagined a nice white family with two kids, and I think on some level it was very hard for … [more]
bellhooks  2015  georgeyancy  buddhism  christianity  spirituality  religion  race  class  patriarchy  racism  classism  mentalillness  money  greed  mentalhealth  society  capitalism  consumerism  materialism  domination  power  gender  feminism  idenity  listening  love  humor  martinlutherkingjr  cornelwest  allies  influence  homes  intellectualism  theory  practice  criticalthinking  pedagogy  writing  children  unschooling  deschooling  teaching  howweteach  oedagogy  solitude  workinginpublic  publicintellectuals  narcissism  healing  malcolmx  blackness  whitesupremacy  abandonment  betrayal  anger  masculinity  markmcleodbethune  resistance  safety  whiteness  terror  wealth  imperialism  inequality  pathology  poverty  truth  truthfulness  sandrabland  thichnhathanh  activism  estrangement  everyday  humanism  humanization  humility  grace  change  changemaking  transformation  canon  empowerment  composting  desire  lotteries  lorrainehansberry  araisininthesun  culture  trauma  sorrow  leadership  psychology  self-determination  slow  small  beatpoets  jackkerouac  garysnyder  beatpoetry  ethics 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Cornel West: “He posed as a progressive and turned out to be counterfeit. We ended up with a Wall Street presidency, a drone presidency” - Salon.com
"TF: So that’s my first question, it’s a lot of ground to cover but how do you feel things have worked out since then, both with the economy and with this president? That was a huge turning point, that moment in 2008, and my own feeling is that we didn’t turn.

CW: No, the thing is he posed as a progressive and turned out to be counterfeit. We ended up with a Wall Street presidency, a drone presidency, a national security presidency. The torturers go free. The Wall Street executives go free. The war crimes in the Middle East, especially now in Gaza, the war criminals go free. And yet, you know, he acted as if he was both a progressive and as if he was concerned about the issues of serious injustice and inequality and it turned out that he’s just another neoliberal centrist with a smile and with a nice rhetorical flair. And that’s a very sad moment in the history of the nation because we are—we’re an empire in decline. Our culture is in increasing decay. Our school systems are in deep trouble. Our political system is dysfunctional. Our leaders are more and more bought off with legalized bribery and normalized corruption in Congress and too much of our civil life. You would think that we needed somebody—a Lincoln-like figure who could revive some democratic spirit and democratic possibility.

TF: That’s exactly what everyone was saying at the time.

CW: That’s right. That’s true. It was like, “We finally got somebody who can help us turn the corner.” And he posed as if he was a kind of Lincoln.

TF: Yeah. That’s what everyone was saying.

CW: And we ended up with a brown-faced Clinton. Another opportunist. Another neoliberal opportunist. It’s like, “Oh, no, don’t tell me that!” I tell you this, because I got hit hard years ago, but everywhere I go now, it’s “Brother West, I see what you were saying. Brother West, you were right. Your language was harsh and it was difficult to take, but you turned out to be absolutely right.” And, of course with Ferguson, you get it reconfirmed even among the people within his own circle now, you see. It’s a sad thing. It’s like you’re looking for John Coltrane and you get Kenny G in brown skin.



"TF: What on earth ails the man? Why can’t he fight the Republicans? Why does he need to seek a grand bargain?

CW: I think Obama, his modus operandi going all the way back to when he was head of the [Harvard] Law Review, first editor of the Law Review and didn’t have a piece in the Law Review. He was chosen because he always occupied the middle ground. He doesn’t realize that a great leader, a statesperson, doesn’t just occupy middle ground. They occupy higher ground or the moral ground or even sometimes the holy ground. But the middle ground is not the place to go if you’re going to show courage and vision. And I think that’s his modus operandi. He always moves to the middle ground. It turned out that historically, this was not a moment for a middle-ground politician. We needed a high-ground statesperson and it’s clear now he’s not the one.

And so what did he do? Every time you’re headed toward middle ground what do you do? You go straight to the establishment and reassure them that you’re not too radical, and try to convince them that you are very much one of them so you end up with a John Brennan, architect of torture [as CIA Director]. Torturers go free but they’re real patriots so we can let them go free. The rule of law doesn’t mean anything."



TF: One last thing, where are we going from here? What comes next?

CW: I think a post-Obama America is an America in post-traumatic depression. Because the levels of disillusionment are so deep. Thank God for the new wave of young and prophetic leadership, as with Rev. William Barber, Philip Agnew, and others. But look who’s around the presidential corner. Oh my God, here comes another neo-liberal opportunist par excellence. Hillary herself is coming around the corner. It’s much worse. And you say, “My God, we are an empire in decline.” A culture in decay with a political system that’s dysfunctional, youth who are yearning for something better but our system doesn’t provide them democratic venues, and so all we have are just voices in the wilderness and certain truth-tellers just trying to keep alive some memories of when we had some serious, serious movements and leaders.

TF: One last thought, I was talking to a friend recently and we were saying, if things go the way they look like they’re going to go and Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee and then wins a second term, the next time there’ll be a chance for a liberal, progressive president is 2024.

CW: It’d be about over then, brother. I think at that point—Hillary Clinton is an extension of Obama’s Wall Street presidency, drone presidency, national surveillance, national security presidency. She’d be more hawkish than he is, and yet she’s got that strange smile that somehow titillates liberals and neo-liberals and scares Republicans. But at that point it’s even too hard to contemplate.

TF:I know, I always like to leave things on a pessimistic note. I’m sorry. It’s just my nature.

CW: It’s not pessimistic, brother, because this is the blues. We are blues people. The blues aren’t pessimistic. We’re prisoners of hope but we tell the truth and the truth is dark. That’s different."
cornelwest  barackobama  progressivism  liberalism  billclinton  hillaryclinton  us  thomasfrank  2008  2014  blues  hope  pessimism  optimism  alsharpton  democrats  neoliberalism  militaryindustrialcomplex  security  surveillance  drones  war  inequality  ferguson  class  race  statusquo  politics  policy 
august 2014 by robertogreco
#OccupyEducated Primer Reading List: The Essentials
"If you are curious about why Occupy Wall Street has turned into Occupy Everywhere, if you want a basic understanding of the problems in the system that make this stand necessary, we believe these are the books to start with, in no particular order.* The links go to a description and video to start your Occupy education."

"1. Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein
2. Debt: The First 5000 Years, David Graeber
3. The End of Growth, Richard Heinberg
4. In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan
5. Griftopia, Matt Taibbi
6. Democracy Matters, Cornell West"
cornelwest  naomiklein  shockdoctrine  michaelpollan  matttaibbi  griftopia  indefenseoffood  richardheinberg  davidgraeber  books  booklists  ows  occupywallstreet  2011 
december 2011 by robertogreco
Take ‘Em To Task - Smiley & West
"A minister from Ventura, CA takes West to task on the terms "progressives" vs "liberals"."
cornelwest  travissmiley  liberalism  progressivism  liberals  progressives  definitions  language  politics  economics  2011 
august 2011 by robertogreco
Hot Stuff: Is the Kool-Aid wearing off? - Smiley & West
"The administration has to straighten its back up and say: “This is what we believe. This is our vision.”"
barackobama  tcsnmy  administration  vision  belief  purpose  clarity  management  focus  cv  tavissmiley  cornelwest  2011  policy  decisionmaking 
april 2011 by robertogreco

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