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The October Links post [Oct. 25th, 2011|08:02 pm]
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[Current Location |Yellow Springs, Ohio]
[mood |disappointedThat last article ...]
[music |Ready to Roll, by Jet Black Stare]

Okay, you know the drill by now. No news of New Antioch, though since I last posted, classes have started, and people seem to be doing pretty well, on the whole. That, is, the people who weren't stabbed in the back and driven off campus (and in many cases, out of town) by the new administration.

This has been your mandatory paragraph of whinging about an obscure liberal arts college out in Ohio that most people have probably never heard of, much less care about; we now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

So, nothing on Antioch itself, per se, but a couple weeks ago, C-SPAN broadcast an interview with Antioch alumnus Cary Nelson, passionate education activist and current president of the American Association of University Professors.



I've also been following Occupy Wall Street out of the corner of my eye, as it were, and latched onto a couple of things which really spoke to me. For starters, we have an interview with an Occupy Wall Street organizer: David Graeber. Second are two overviews of the consensus decision-making process employed by the occupiers' General Assemblies: a write-up in Harper's magazine, and an ~8 minute video on the official Occupy Wall Street website.

Occupy Wall Street is not without its issues, unfortunately. This article published yesterday in The American Prospect, for instance, points out the white membership of the movement—who in many ways are defining the movement as a whole—really need to check their racial privilege. Really.

The part about police harassment and unprovoked arrests is a really great opportunity to point out that this happens to people of color all the time, instead of acting like this is something new and scandalous. As for “taking the country back”—that rhetoric has never sat well with me, anyway. It implies that at one time, it belonged to “us.” It once belonged to the Native Americans, but I am not a Native American, and neither are a majority of the Occupiers. And ever since the European invasion of the Americas, the United States has belonged to the white ruling class. I'm white, so in that sense, the country already belongs to me; but I'm not ruling class, so in that sense, it's never belonged to me.

From the comments, Bobbosphere points out that “a revolutionary multi-racial coalition … seems to really rattle the ruling class and eventually means people get shot at,” and wraps up with this pearl of wisdom:

I think the Occupy Movement is now emerging from its infancy. If it doesn't address race now and seriously, it will be doomed to irrelevancy. If it does address race seriously then they ain't seen nothin' yet when it comes to how much punishment the State can dish out.

A grim prospect, that, but if the alternative is irrelevance, I think the benefits in terms of racial solidarity and potential revolutionary change will be worth the price. To paraphrase a recent Antioch College graduate: “When people are shooting at you, you know you're doing something right.” It was easy in Tunisia or Egypt, it isn't easy in Libya or Kashmir or anywhere else there have been status quo-challenging uprisings, and it won't be easy here. I only hope, if the big guns do come out, and I find it strategically necessary, I'll have the courage to put myself in the line of fire.

Er, anyway, speaking of Occupy Wall Street's problems with race and white privilege, there's this article on racialicious, describing one particular instance triggered by white people Getting It Wrong. It's immensely shitty that the author and her friends were forced to go through all that emotional pain and anxiety to correct the language (we white folks should know better by now), but it sounds like things worked out pretty well in the end. Maybe a multi-racial movement is still possible after all. I'm almost positive the author of the article was also one of the people most featured in the video on the Occupy Wall Street website, which—if I'm right—is pretty cool.

That racialicious article led me to another one about a recent skit about racism in cartography on the John Stewart show. Ouch, that's pretty bad. (I also agree with the article author: why the crap is the f-word bleeped out but the n-word left uncensored?)

As long as we're discussing race and racism, here's a nifty little piece discussing the continuum of diversity in higher education (with an emphasis on racial diversity).

Getting back to Occupy Wall Street for a moment, Socialist Worker ran a piece a couple weeks ago explaining why the police aren't on our side. I feel like the author may be overstating the case against the police just a little, but that may just be my white, male, upper proletariat privilege talking.

Last month, the International Socialist Review also published an an interview with Noam Chomsky conducted by David Barsamian of Alternative Radio. It's nothing groundbreaking, but it is Noam Chomsky, and I find he almost always has a fresh and enlightening viewpoint on current events.

Swinging from the 99% up to the 1%, some rich guy died a couple weeks ago—I never knew much of anything about him when he was alive, except that he apparently had something to do with the handy little device I use to listen to Ferretbrain podcasts and audiobooks (also the occasional music). Since he's died, I've learned a bit more about him, though I haven't paid attention to most of it. However, I did read this little piece discussing the more unsavory aspects of the man in question's character. I particularly like the attitude the article sets up in the introduction, as exemplified in this statement: “After celebrating Jobs' achievements, we should talk freely about the dark side of Jobs and the company he co-founded.”

And for our last news piece we have … this. “The Capitalist Network That Runs the World.”

Brought to you by the Maximegalon Institute of Tirelessly and Painstakingly Working Out the Surprisingly Obvious.

On the one hand, it's really cool to have scientific research confirm what you've already known anyways. On the other hand, that article is all kinds of f***ed-up. So much so that I'm going to take the rest of this entry to dissect it in detail.

The idea that a few bankers control a large chunk of the global economy might not seem like news to New York's Occupy Wall Street movement and protesters elsewhere (see photo). But the study, by a trio of complex systems theorists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, is the first to go beyond ideology to empirically identify such a network of power.

… So, am I to take this to mean that previous analyses of the capitalist system were all ideological in nature, or that all methods of analysis which aren't empirical in nature are solely ideological?*

*If so, then correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't that put all the social sciences (anthropology, psychology, sociology, etc.) on the level of ideology?

And either way, am I further to take it that all ideology is inherently false and worthless? Because that sure seems to be the implication.

If so, well, I suppose that's a valid ideological stance, but it's also terminally flawed and—to my mind—bone stupid to boot.

Here's an ideological statement for you: “All human beings are inherently equal, and possessed of certain inalienable rights, these including but not being limited to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness etc..” Find me one scrap of empirical evidence to support any part of the above statement. Does the fact that it's ideological therefore also render it worthless?

Empiricism is also an ideology after all. There's nothing wrong with that. There is something deeply wrong claiming that it 1) totally isn't ideological, and 2) is therefore exponentially superior to anything and everything which is ideological.

"Reality is so complex, we must move away from dogma, whether it's conspiracy theories or free-market," says James Glattfelder. "Our analysis is reality-based."

According to Mr. James Glattfelder, all previous criticisms of the capitalist system have been dogmatic conspiracy theories. Yes, obviously we need to move away from left-wing dogma as much as right-wing dogma, but to portray either side's position as consisting of nothing but dogma is hideously insulting.

And yes, the left-wing, the Global Justice movements, and Indigenous People's movements are all based 100% on conspiracy theories. None of their analyses of the current global situation are “reality-based,” after all.

(I'm going to throw another bone to the right-wing and point out that their analyses are also often “reality-based.” Of course, they're also flawed—and as a leftist, I would argue they are significantly more flawed than left-wing analyses—but that's very different from saying their views have no basis in reality at all.)

One thing won't chime with some of the protesters' claims: the super-entity is unlikely to be the intentional result of a conspiracy to rule the world.

And since when have the protesters claimed anything of the sort?

I admit I haven't had much direct contact with members of Occupy Wall Street, but I do have a fair grasp of socialist theory, and what I'll call for lack of a better term “liberation economics”* theory, which the movement's criticisms appear to be based upon. Neither theory supports the idea of a conspiracy of rich people who intentionally collude to oppress the bottom 99% because—well, because that's just not very logical. According to the theory, capitalists** work to maximize their own profits, an assertion so wild and preposterous you'll only ever find it in the fringemost conspiracy theory tracts … and in every Capitalist Econ 101 course on the face of the planet. The people at the top accumulate wealth and also powers as either an end in itself, a means to accumulate greater wealth, or both. They merge, consolidate, and do business with each other because it increases profits. If the lives and livelihood of the bottom 99% conflict with the short-term maximization of profit (as they so often do, see, for instance, this 1977 Mother Jones article), well, sucks to be them. It's a wholly natural process which at no point requires the intervention of a secret cabal of Illuminati or a malevolent Bilderberg Group or the like in order to fit the model.

*Basically, the exact same critiques of the present global capitalist system as socialist theory, but from the perspective of left-leaning (and I suppose right-leaning) pro-capitalists who see the problem in the current configuration, rather than in capitalism itself.
**Definition: “Owners and managers of large sums of capital.

"Such structures are common in nature," says Sugihara.

Thank you, my point.

TNCs buy shares in each other for business reasons, not for world domination.

Precisely as ideological, conspiracy theorist critics have described going probably as far back as Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, if not farther.

The article's conclusion:
Braha suspects they will compete in the market but act together on common interests. Resisting changes to the network structure may be one such common interest.

Gosh, next you'll be telling me the earth isn't actually flat.

Look, I have great respect for the scientific method, and I think it's fabulous that researchers have apparently confirmed what social critics such as Arundhati Roy, Vandana Shiva, Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, John Perkins, and Howard Zinn (and others, doubtless, further back) have pointed out for centuries. But I don't appreciate the writers of that article erasing 150+ years of social criticism by 1) presenting the study's conclusions as startlingly new and completely alien to critics of the capitalist system, rather than the generally accepted critical narrative, 2) ascribing a conspiracy theory model to the present capitalist system's critiques which only a tiny minority of them have ever believed in, 3) insinuating that all previous criticisms are less valid because they were not empirically based, 4) all previous criticisms are automatically ideological because they were not empirically based, 5) ideological analyses (which empirical analyses emphatically are not in any way, shape, or form) are inherently meritless.

Ye gods, what an arseload of fail.

So much for now. Peace out.
linkReply

Comments:
From: (Anonymous)
2011-11-04 06:54 am (UTC)

(Link)

You will find that I am by no means a supprotret of racial privilege; it is real and anyone who says otherwise is a dumbass. I still feel that it is possible to throw the race card around when it was certainly unwarrented (OJ Simpson). Have you seen the boondocks by any chance?


Also some idealogys are based in dogma such as islamophia and racism.
[User Picture]From: arkan2
2011-11-05 12:30 am (UTC)

(Link)

Have you seen the boondocks by any chance?

No, I have not.

Also some idealogys are based in dogma such as islamophia and racism.

Oh, no doubt. There are numerous ideologies (left, right, and unaligned) that are absolute poison.

I just object to the article's implication that every ideology (except empiricism) is inherently dogmatic.