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Forum Post: We are Awash in Public Stupidity ~ This is a Microcosm

Posted 1 year ago on July 24, 2013, 10:27 p.m. EST by WSmith (2033) from Cornelius, OR
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The Violence of Organized Forgetting [& Specious Cynics/Indies]

Monday, 22 July 2013 00:00 By Henry A. Giroux, Truthout | http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/17647-the-violence-of-organized-forgetting

[ Forgetting (genuine or feigned) how we got here & who brung us, that the POTUS "proposes" and Congress "disposes," that our form of government is "democracy" NOT "autocracy," that without public (99%) participation democracy gets exploited by (1%) tyrants, that elections are NOT just held every four years, seems epidemic, is by design and a huge victory for the 1% and their class war on the rest of us. ]

The United States Is Awash in Public Stupidity, and Critical Thought Is Under Assault ~ this Forum is a Microcosm.

"People who remember court madness through pain, the pain of the perpetually recurring death of their innocence; people who forget court another kind of madness, the madness of the denial of pain and the hatred of innocence." - James Baldwin

Learning to Forget

America has become amnesiac - a country in which forms of historical, political, and moral forgetting are not only willfully practiced but celebrated. The United States has degenerated into a social order that is awash in public stupidity and views critical thought as both a liability and a threat. Not only is this obvious in the presence of a celebrity culture that embraces the banal and idiotic, but also in the prevailing discourses and policies of a range of politicians and anti-public intellectuals who believe that the legacy of the Enlightenment needs to be reversed. Politicians such as Michelle Bachmann, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich along with talking heads such as Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Beck and Anne Coulter are not the problem, they are symptomatic of a much more disturbing assault on critical thought, if not rationale thinking itself. Under a neoliberal regime, the language of authority, power and command is divorced from ethics, social responsibility, critical analysis and social costs.

Also See: Henry A. Giroux | Hoodie Politics: Trayvon Martin and Racist Violence in Post-Racial America

These anti-public intellectuals are part of a disimagination machine that solidifies the power of the rich and the structures of the military-industrial-surveillance-academic complex by presenting the ideologies, institutions and relations of the powerful as commonsense.[1] For instance, the historical legacies of resistance to racism, militarism, privatization and panoptical surveillance have long been forgotten and made invisible in the current assumption that Americans now live in a democratic, post-racial society. The cheerleaders for neoliberalism work hard to normalize dominant institutions and relations of power through a vocabulary and public pedagogy that create market-driven subjects, modes of consciousness, and ways of understanding the world that promote accommodation, quietism and passivity. Social solidarities are torn apart, furthering the retreat into orbits of the private that undermine those spaces that nurture non-commodified knowledge, values, critical exchange and civic literacy. The pedagogy of authoritarianism is alive and well in the United States, and its repression of public memory takes place not only through the screen culture and institutional apparatuses of conformity, but is also reproduced through a culture of fear and a carceral state that imprisons more people than any other country in the world.[2] What many commentators have missed in the ongoing attack on Edward Snowden is not that he uncovered information that made clear how corrupt and intrusive the American government has become - how willing it is to engage in vast crimes against the American public. His real "crime" is that he demonstrated how knowledge can be used to empower people, to get them to think as critically engaged citizens rather than assume that knowledge and education are merely about the learning of skills - a reductive concept that substitutes training for education and reinforces the flight from reason and the goose-stepping reflexes of an authoritarian mindset.[3] [Not to mention the inapt privatization of the NSA]

Since the late1970s, there has been an intensification in the United States, Canada and Europe of neoliberal modes of governance, ideology and policies - a historical period in which the foundations for democratic public spheres have been dismantled. Schools, public radio, the media and other critical cultural apparatuses have been under siege, viewed as dangerous to a market-driven society that considers critical thought, dialogue, and civic engagement a threat to its basic values, ideologies, and structures of power. This was the beginning of an historical era in which the discourse of democracy, public values, and the common good came crashing to the ground. Margaret Thatcher in Britain and soon after Ronald Reagan in the United States - both hard-line advocates of market fundamentalism - announced that there was no such thing as society and that government was the problem not the solution. Democracy and the political process were all but sacrificed to the power of corporations and the emerging financial service industries, just as hope was appropriated as an advertisement for a whitewashed world in which the capacity of culture to critique oppressive social practices was greatly diminished. Large social movements fragmented into isolated pockets of resistance mostly organized around a form of identity politics that largely ignored a much-needed conversation about the attack on the social and the broader issues affecting society such as the growing inequality in wealth, power and income.

What is particularly new is the way in which young people have been increasingly denied a significant place in an already weakened social contract and the degree to which they are absent from how many countries now define the future. Youth are no longer the place where society reveals its dreams. Instead, youth are becoming the site of society's nightmares. Within neoliberal narratives, youth are mostly defined as a consumer market, a drain on the economy, or stand for trouble.[4] Young people increasingly have become subject to an oppressive disciplinary machine that teaches them to define citizenship through the exchange practices of the market and to follow orders and toe the line in the face of oppressive forms of authority. They are caught in a society in which almost every aspect of their lives is shaped by the dual forces of the market and a growing police state. The message is clear: Buy/ sell/ or be punished. Mostly out of step, young people, especially poor minorities and low-income whites, are increasingly inscribed within a machinery of dead knowledge, social relations and values in which there is an attempt to render them voiceless and invisible.

How young people are represented betrays a great deal about what is increasingly new about the economic, social, cultural and political constitution of American society and its growing disinvestment in young people, the social state and democracy itself.[5] The structures of neoliberal violence have put the vocabulary of democracy on life support, and one consequence is that subjectivity and education are no longer the lifelines of critical forms of individual and social agency. The promises of modernity regarding progress, freedom and hope have not been eliminated; they have been reconfigured, stripped of their emancipatory potential and relegated to the logic of a savage market instrumentality. Modernity has reneged on its promise to young people to provide social mobility, stability and collective security. Long-term planning and the institutional structures that support them are now relegated to the imperatives of privatization, deregulation, flexibility and short-term profits. Social bonds have given way under the collapse of social protections and the attack on the welfare state. Moreover, all solutions to socially produced problems are now relegated to the mantra of individual solutions.[6]

Public problems collapse into the limited and depoliticized register of private issues. Individual interests now trump any consideration of the good of society just as all problems are ultimately laid at the door of the solitary individual, whose fate is shaped by forces far beyond his or her capacity for personal responsibility. Under neoliberalism everyone has to negotiate their fate alone, bearing full responsibility for problems that are often not of their own doing. The implications politically, economically and socially for young people are disastrous and are contributing to the emergence of a generation of young people who will occupy a space of social abandonment and terminal exclusion. Job insecurity, debt servitude, poverty, incarceration and a growing network of real and symbolic violence have entrapped too many young people in a future that portends zero opportunities and zero hopes. This is a generation that has become the new register for disposability, redundancy, and new levels of surveillance and control.

CONTINUED: http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/17647-the-violence-of-organized-forgetting

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[-] 2 points by WSmith (2033) from Cornelius, OR 1 year ago

The Violence of Organized Forgetting [& Specious Cynics/Indies]

Monday, 22 July 2013 00:00 By Henry A. Giroux, Truthout | http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/17647-the-violence-of-organized-forgetting

[ Forgetting (genuine or feigned) how we got here & who brung us, that the POTUS "proposes" and Congress "disposes," that our form of government is "democracy" NOT "autocracy," that without public (99%) participation democracy gets exploited by (1%) tyrants, that elections are NOT just held every four years, seems epidemic, is by design and a huge victory for the 1% and their class war on the rest of us. ]

The United States Is Awash in Public Stupidity, and Critical Thought Is Under Assault ~ this Forum is a Microcosm.

"People who remember court madness through pain, the pain of the perpetually recurring death of their innocence; people who forget court another kind of madness, the madness of the denial of pain and the hatred of innocence." - James Baldwin

(CONTINUED: http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/17647-the-violence-of-organized-forgetting )

Conclusion:

The rise of the punishing state and the governing-through-crime youth complex throughout American society suggests the need for a politics that not only negates the established order but imagines a new one, one informed by a radical vision in which the future does not imitate the present.[55] In this discourse, critique merges with a sense of realistic hope or what I call educated hope, and individual struggles merge into larger social movements. The challenges that young people are mobilizing against oppressive societies all over the globe are being met with a state-sponsored violence that is about more than police brutality. This is especially clear in the United States, given its transformation from a social state to a warfare state, from a state that once embraced a semblance of the social contract to one that no longer has a language for justice, community and solidarity - a state in which the bonds of fear and commodification have replaced the bonds of civic responsibility and democratic vision. Until educators, individuals, artists, intellectuals and various social movements address how the metaphysics of casino capitalism, war and violence have taken hold on American society (and in other parts of the world) along with the savage social costs they have enacted, the forms of social, political, and economic violence that young people are protesting against, as well as the violence waged in response to their protests, will become impossible to recognize and act on.

If the ongoing struggles waged by young people are to matter, demonstrations and protests must give way to more sustainable organizations that develop alternative communities, autonomous forms of worker control, collective forms of health care, models of direct democracy and emancipatory modes of education. Education must become central to any viable notion of politics willing to imagine a life and future outside of casino capitalism. There is a need for educators, young people, artists and other cultural workers to develop an educative politics in which people can address the historical, structural and ideological conditions at the core of the violence being waged by the corporate and repressive state and to make clear that government under the dictatorship of market sovereignty and power is no longer responsive to the most basic needs of young people - or most people for that matter.

The issue of who gets to define the future, own the nation's wealth, shape the parameters of the social state, control the globe's resources, and create a formative culture for producing engaged and socially responsible citizens is no longer a rhetorical issue, but offers up new categories for defining how matters of representations, education, economic justice, and politics are to be defined and fought over. At stake here is the need for both a language of critique and possibility. A discourse for broad-based political change is crucial for developing a politics that speaks to a future that can provide sustainable jobs, decent health care, quality education and communities of solidarity and support for young people. Such a vision is crucial and relies on ongoing educational and political struggles to awaken the inhabitants of neoliberal societies to their current reality and what it means to be educated not only to think outside of neoliberal commonsense but also to struggle for those values, hopes, modes of solidarity, power relations and institutions that infuse democracy with a spirit of egalitarianism and economic and social justice and make the promise of democracy a goal worth fighting for. For this reason, any collective struggle that matters has to embrace education as the center of politics and the source of an embryonic vision of the good life outside of the imperatives of predatory capitalism. Too many progressives and people on the left are stuck in the discourse of foreclosure and cynicism and need to develop what Stuart Hall calls a "sense of politics being educative, of politics changing the way people see things."[56] This is a difficult task, but what we are seeing in cities such as Chicago, Athens and other dead zones of capitalism throughout the world is the beginning of a long struggle for the institutions, values and infrastructures that make critical education and community the center of a robust, radical democracy. This is a challenge for young people and all those invested in the promise of a democracy that extends not only the meaning of politics, but also a commitment to economic justice and democratic social change.

[-] 1 points by WSmith (2033) from Cornelius, OR 1 year ago

Whatever happened to the political idealist?

In 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream. Fifty years later, we've become a nation of cynics

Thursday, Jul 25, 2013 08:03 AM PST | By Ira Chernus

(This piece originally appeared on TomDispatch.)

All right, I confess: I have a dream. I bet you do, too. I bet yours, like mine, is of a far, far better world not only for yourself and your loved ones, but for everyone on this beleaguered planet of ours.

And I bet you, like me, rarely talk to anyone about your dreams, even if you spend nearly all your time among politically active people working to improve the planet. Perhaps these days it feels somehow just too naïve, too unrealistic, too embarrassing. So instead, you focus your energy on the nuts and bolts of what’s wrong with the world, what has to be fixed immediately. I’m thinking that it’s time to try a different approach — to keep feeling and voicing what Martin Luther King, Jr., called “the fierce urgency of now,” but balance it with a dose of another political lesson he taught us: the irresistible power of dreaming. [Not to be confused with unicorn chasing.]

I started reflecting on this when I returned from a long trip and found my email inbox crammed with hundreds of urgent messages from progressive groups and news sources, all sounding the alarm about the latest outrages, horrors, and disgraces, punctuated by an occasional call for a new policy to right at least one of the horrendous wrongs described and denounced.

Suddenly, I found myself thinking: Same old same old. The particular words keep changing, but the basic message and the music of our song of frustrated lament remain the same. We give the people the shocking facts and call them to action. And we wonder: Why don’t they listen?

Then I looked at the calendar and noticed that the end of the summer would bring the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s greatest speech – and I realized what was missing from virtually all those email messages: Where was the dream? Where was the debate about what the world we seek would look like?

In most of them I could dimly sense that the writer might indeed have a vision of a better world. But it was always hidden somewhere between the lines, as if in the century when capitalism had “triumphed” and nowhere on Earth did there seem to be an alternative, the writer was ashamed to speak such things aloud.

Occupied Dreams

It wasn’t always so. I remember how incensed I used to get in the 1960s when hearing the charge from the right: “Those hippie radicals. They don’t know what they’re for, only what they’re against.” “Those hippie radicals” knew what they were for: concrete changes in political policies that would turn their dreams into reality. And they talked constantly about the dreams as well as the policies.

It was Dr. King, above all, who inspired them. If, on that hot summer day in 1963, he had only denounced the evils of racism and proposed policy remedies, we would scarcely recall his speech half a century later. It holds a special place in our public memory only because he concluded by confessing his dream. Daring to be a public dreamer propelled him to greatness.

Now, I fear, we mostly talk only about what we’re against. The just-give-‘em-the-facts approach, so tilted toward denunciation (however well deserved), scarcely leaves room for any other impression.

There are still a few dreamers. You can find them among environmental activists, who give us science fiction-like descriptions of technology that can create a clean, sustainable environment for the whole biosphere. Except that isn’t simply a fantasy: much of the technology already exists.

You can also find dreamers in religious communities, sharing the words of holy scriptures informed by eschatological visions of a better future. Occasionally, even a hard-boiled devotee of the facts like Noam Chomsky gives us a peek into his dream: a world without borders.

Not long ago, you could find dreamers occupying parks and public spaces across the country, short-lived as their moment was mainly because of an onslaught of police violence [and MSM endless loop Woodstock reenactment video]. For that brief season, they showed us that our dreams had been occupied and needed to be freed. In the past, though, movements have persisted much longer, even in the face of massive state violence.

The Occupy movement, however, emerged in a distinctly twenty-first-century world in which activists have long become accustomed to hiding their dreams. Without such shared dreams, political activism can easily feel like nothing more than an endless struggle against insurmountable odds — like being part of a small band of good guys besieged on every side. Who can blame them for feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and hopeless? Once most Occupiers were forced to retreat from public spaces, I suspect they, too, felt tired, cramped, hemmed in. Occupy could flourish only in the open, where people could share their dreams and imagine that all the boundaries that limit us might, in that open-air spirit, dissolve.

Realism and Dreams

Boundaries and limitations dissolving: that’s not merely Chomsky’s dream, it’s the essence of all dreaming — to transcend the barriers that separate one person from another, one group or nation from another, and all humanity from its natural environment.

Dreaming is the realm of pure freedom. In dreams, we can see, do, or be anything. When our dreams are political, they help us sense what it might be like to escape the limits imposed by corporations, the state, the media, the advertisers, powerful forces of every kind. They help us imagine in new ways what is possible. In our dreams, none of the powers that be can touch us.

Freud said that every dream is the fulfillment of a wish, but political dreams aren’t about our private desires. They are visions of the public realm being freed from the artificial divisions and constraints of the present. There, as in our nighttime dreaming, we experience whole new worlds, constantly changing, often in remarkable detail. Dreaming is the realm of permanent revolution that the great political visionaries from Thomas Jefferson to Che Guevara spoke of.

Constant change, pure freedom, the sense that anything is possible: combined, they can give us the daytime energy we need to work for change despite the obstacles and failures we inevitably face. When political life is infused with a dream, traveling without a map can feel exhilarating. In politics as in physiology, we must dream on a regular basis to restore our energy. But a political dream is quite different from the dreaming of sleep because it happens while we are wide-awake. It may even make us feel more awake, allowing us to pierce the pre-packaged version of reality handed to us by the rich and powerful, who demand that we take their distorted version of how this place, this country, this planet works as “realism” itself.

When we see by the light of imagined futures, the present and its real possibilities come into clearer view, offering us a broader framework into which we can fit the chaotic pieces of current reality and the specific changes we are working for.

We don’t have to wait for some distant future to see our dreams realized. The essence of the nonviolent action that Dr. King preached is to pierce the lies and distortions in the here and now by acting out, with our bodies, the authentic reality we have seen — to persist in what is really real (which is the best translation I know of Gandhi’s term satyagraha).

So we should never let anyone dismiss our political dreams as “unrealistic.” The world as we wish it to be is no mere fantasy. It is often our most reliable guide to knowing the truth.

Never Stop Dreaming

Whether they know it or not, everyone has their own dream of the world as it should be, and every dream is open to endless interpretation. Dr. King had his. I’ve got my interpretation of his. I’ve got my own, too. And you’ve got yours. The point is not to argue about who has the one “correct” dream, but to bring all of our dreams out of the closet and voice them openly, share our interpretations of each other’s dreams, and start a conversation about the politics of dreaming.

When that kind of dream-sharing becomes part of political life, it begins to create myths. By “myth” I don’t mean a lie. I mean a story that a community tells itself to interpret its life, to express the fundamentals of its worldview and values, to give meaning and hope to events great and small.

A myth, it is often said, is a collective dream. In myths, as in dreams, anything can happen. And once new myths start circulating, anything can indeed happen. There is a real chance that one myth (or several with much in common) will — by some mysterious, unpredictable process — grab hold of a big enough part of the body politic to stir it to action. The U.S saw that process at work in the 1770s (the dream of a republic), the 1860s (the dream of abolishing slavery), and the mid-1930s (the dream of basic economic security for all).

In the late 1960s, the dream of radical democracy and equality for all took hold in millions of American minds. It happened surprisingly fast. In 1963, when Dr. King gave the nation permission to share our dreams, few could have imagined how radically the political and cultural landscape would be reshaped by new myths within just a few years.

Of course, we should never confuse our dreams and myths with specific policy proposals. That would endanger the chances of achieving policies that could bring us a few steps closer to realizing those dreams. Policies, after all, are always political artifacts, produced by compromises between our dreams and the hard facts of the present.

CONTINUED: http://www.salon.com/2013/07/25/whatever_happened_to_the_political_idealist_partner/?source=newsletter