Here are a few thoughts after watching Frontline’s Revolution in Cairo, which is a very good 24-minute summary of how this particular democratic moment occurred, and after reading Badiou‘s, Hardt & Negri’s, Hallward‘s, Amit Rai‘s, and some other takes on the events.
(1) The recipe:
Tools + Techniques + Events + Vision = The revolution(s) we’ve been witnessing
The first three, in the Egyptian instance, are pretty easy to identify (click on the links). To oversimplify just a little, they are View full article »
It’s not as good a film as I would have liked — there are too many talking heads, and director/interviewer Charles Ferguson (who remains conveniently invisible throughout) has an annoying tendency to look for “gotcha” moments, when his interview subjects hesitate and stumble in answering his questions, as if these provide the smoking gun that shows us they’re lying, squirming, deceitful cheaters. They probably are (some of them at least), so relying on these techniques isn’t really necessary and it makes too easy targets of them as individuals.
But Inside Job still manages to pack a lot of information into a cogent and easily understandable narrative. It is, in fact, probably the best two-hour summary of what happened to bring about the recent, and ongoing, economic crisis, and of who’s primarily responsible for it. The film points its finger at the deregulator economists and the type-A personalities on Wall Street who took advantage of the opportunities deregulation offered for making millions at the expense of the rest of us dupes, and at the revolving doors between government and capital that have corrupted democracy to the point where it’s bringing about its own downfall. (The first “it” being the corruption, the second being democracy.*)
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Now that the election results are in, we can all go back to thinking about what U.S. citizens (and non-citizen residents like me) can do about the sad state of affairs in this country. Gara LaMarche’s and Deepak Bhargava’s recent Nation piece The Road Ahead for Progressives: Back to Basics captures the overall picture quite well, in my opinion.
While LaMarche and Bhargava acknowledge Obama’s tactical errors and mistakes in judgment, they don’t wallow in self-pity, as the left tends to in moments like these. “As for the left,” they write,
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Jodi Dean, whose work I respect a lot, won’t vote in the upcoming U.S. elections. The election, she argues, “won’t do anything but secure a false sense of connectedness from those who do vote to the oligarchy that continues to exploit us.” Mark Lance is agreeing with her that voting is the opiate of the masses, but thinks voting can still be useful.
I can’t vote, since I only live and work here; I’m not a citizen. (There are a few places in the U.S. where I could vote locally, though not federally, but the progressive bastion of Burlington, Vermont, isn’t one of them.) But if I could, I would. Here’s why.
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As another political season (leading to the midterm elections) winds down here in the US, people get wound up. Here’s part of something I wrote to a friend who happens to be a Tea Party sympathizer – which surprised me when I found this out, but life is full of surprises, and meeting them mindfully keeps things interesting.
[. . .]
“I completely agree with you about special interest groups being too powerful in the U.S. It’s one of the reasons why I originally hesitated to move here when I was offered a job at the University of Wisconsin ten years ago. (The U.S. has ten times as many people, and ten times as many universities, than Canada, so it was likelier that I’d find a job – which I was looking for at the time – in the U.S. than at home.)
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My favorite line in Patrick Groneman’s account of a group of Buddhist meditators’ attempt to bear witness, by just sitting, amidst the rival armies of 9-11 protestors in downtown New York City (anti-mosque, pro-mosque, et al) is the passer-by yelling
“This is New York, don’t just sit there…stand up and say what you believe in.”
Which made me think: Isn’t that what blogging is — everyone standing up and waving their beliefs for everyone else to see?
Ideally, of course, it isn’t that. Saying something is only one part of communicating; listening is the second, and attending to the ecology of speaking and thinking — the links made up of one’s interlocutors, the things spoken of and those left unsaid, the feeling and impulse giving rise to the speaking, and so on — is the third.
Nathan at Dangerous Harvests has a good wrap-up of the debates over Socially Engaged Buddhism that have followed this summer’s symposium on that topic. (See also Fly Like a Crow.)
Meanwhile, this video, shared by Santi Tafarella, stages the encounter between the “two Americas” in a way that leaves me a little uncomfortable (because of the ethical issues the experiment raises) but that at least gives us some figures: 6 for (racism), 13 against (and willing to act in defense of a Muslim American’s rights), and 22 not willing to stand up and say what they believe, or much of anything. That’s a majority. Definitely not New York.
I’ve just read Jane Mayer’s New Yorker article on “The billionaire Koch brothers’ war against Obama”, which I’m happy to see is publicly available online. It’s a good summary of what corporate watchers have been saying for years (see, e.g., here and here), but with a lot of interview material updating what the libertarian duo have been up to more recently, including their connections with the Tea Party movement. (I really should be putting “libertarian” in scare quotes, since good people like Noam Chomsky use the term to refer to a love of liberty, though their definition of liberty is much more substantial than the kind of free-for-all-for-the-wealthy that the Kochs stand for.)
Charles and David Koch (pronounced “Coke”) are on Forbes’ list of 20 wealthiest people in the world, and they, along with Scaife, Olin, Searle, Bradley, Coors, and other millionaire family foundations, have provided the funding that’s built up the network of conservative, libertarian, and right-wing organizations, think-tanks, pseudo-populist front groups, and spin machines that has kept this country in a right-wing holding pattern for the last three decades.
It’s true that their “more than a hundred million dollars” spent on these causes is a drop in the bucket compared to their multibillion dollar fortune, but the money gets amplified as it works its way through the system — which is why Americans for Prosperity, which has fought health-care reform and cap-and-trade climate legislation, among other things, can plan to spend another $45 million dollars between now and November on electoral races around the country.
On the Kochs’ climate and environment connections, see Joe Romm’s piece from last April, this update, and David Levy’s piece here.
Just had to share this.
Hat tip to Reconciliation Ecology.