Public Reality Radio

West Michigan WPRR - 90.1FM | 1680AM | 95.3FMPontiac, IL WPJC - 88.3FM

Economic Justice Reality Report

Guest Blog: Farrakhan, Ferguson and Foolishness By Norm R. Allen Jr.

Farrakhan, Ferguson and Foolishness
By Norm R. Allen Jr.

Norm R.Allen Jr.
He either has the courage of a lion or the judgment of a jackassMark Twain

In light of the grand jury’s decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for shooting Michael Brown to death in Ferguson, Missouri, and the violence that followed, Minister Louis Farrakhan has maintained that the Qur’an condones a “law for retaliation” in which people may resort to violence to avenge wrongs. News of Farrakhan’s speech at historically Black Morgan State University in Baltimore was carried in
The Challenger of Buffalo (December 3, 2014, p. 4), and many other publications throughout the U.S.

Farrakhan told his frenzied audience, “You may not want to fight, but you better get ready. Teach your baby how to throw the bottle [a firebomb] if they can. We going to die anyway. Let’s die for something. As long as they kill us and go to Wendy’s and have a burger and go to sleep, they gonna keep killing us. But when we die and they die, then soon we’re going to sit at a table and talk about it! We’re tired! We want some of this earth or we’ll tear this God damn country up!”

Obviously, this incendiary rhetoric is disgracefully irresponsible, especially coming from a highly influential Black leader and so-called “Man of God.” In all of these “urban rebellions,” the taxes of Black people go up, Black property values go down, Blacks are the main ones that get arrested, injured, locked up, killed, etc. In Ferguson, some Black businesses were looted and/or destroyed, with some Black business owners openly and angrily weeping. How is the destruction of Black businesses by Blacks to be translated into retaliation against real and perceived White supremacists?

Sadly, representatives of the Nation of Islam (NOI) have always made wildly reckless statements fueled by blind rage. After all, it was Farrakhan – then known as Louis X – who wrote in the Nation’s paper, Muhammad Speaks, that Malcolm X was worthy of death, that the die was cast, and that Malcolm could not escape. Shortly thereafter, Malcolm was assassinated by goons from the NOI. (Could angry Blacks have been following the law for retaliation when they burned down Muhammad’s Mosque Number Seven in Harlem after Malcolm was murdered?)

And who can forget the late Khalid Abdul Muhammad who, during a speech at Kean College in New Jersey, praised the “freedom fighter” Colin Ferguson after he brutally murdered innocent Whites on the Long Island Railroad in Garden City, New York on December 7, 1993, another December 7th that will live in infamy? The fiery spokesperson also urged Black South Africans to wipe out White South Africans.

Farrakhan probably does not realize that young White men in the U.S. are the most well-armed civilians in the country. That makes the urging of Blacks to violence pretty much tantamount to attempted racial suicide. It is too bad that Farrakhan does not think much of more sensible nonviolent protests. Many of those that are upset with the grand jury’s verdict participated in Black Friday and holiday spending boycotts. Others engaged in mass protests. Fortunately, most of them had the good sense not to burn their own neighborhoods to the ground.

Phile Chionesu, who organized the Million Woman March in Philadelphia that according to some reports attracted an estimated two million Black women, plans to meet with Farrakhan to discuss domestic violence and the rape, trafficking and murder of Black women. This is highly problematic. Farrakhan has always sided with Black men accused of rape and sexual harassment, especially in high-profile cases. He sided with Mike Tyson, even after the former boxing champion was convicted for the rape of Desiree Washington. He sided with Clarence Thomas after he was accused of sexually harassing Anita Hill. (He also sided with O.J. Simpson from the very beginning when he was accused of murdering Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.) 

The only time Farrakhan sides with Black women that accuse men of rape is when the accused are White men. The best example was when he sided with Tawana Brawley who falsely claimed she was raped by White men. (Former prosecutor Steven Pagones successfully sued Brawley and her advisor, Al Sharpton, for slander. Sharpton paid Pagones $65,000. Brawley was eventually ordered to pay Pagones a whopping $434,764.61. A Virginia court ordered her to pay $627.00 per month. In July, 2013, she had $3,764.61 garnished from her job as a nurse. The monthly payments she has been ordered to make could last her the rest of her natural life.)

Complicating matters is that Farrakhan has always supported the most sexist, rigidly patriarchal and ultra-reactionary extremist Muslim fanatics in the world. How serious can one be about protecting women if one has such a primitive, played-out male view? Is it even possible to seriously combat rape and sexual harassment without also combating patriarchy, sexism and misogyny? 

During the speech, Farrakhan also told those in attendance that God would not permit them to enter the Promised Land because they are too much like pharaoh. Indeed, Farrakhan continues to harbor the fantasy that there is a God that will set Black people free if they only listen to the supposed wisdom of Farrakhan. However, this view obviously has no basis in reality. 

When I was 10-years-old, I had my Black neighborhood integrated by the National Guard after the assassination of Martin Luther King. There was looting throughout the neighborhood, including across the street from where I lived on the corner of Race Street and Homewood Avenue in Pittsburgh. That neighborhood has not recovered economically to this day. Farrakhan should be ashamed of himself for advocating senseless destruction as a reaction to the grand jury’s verdict. If this is the best that Black leadership has to offer, why, good night!

Norm Allen Jr. is an African-American humanist leader who in 1989 founded (with assistance from Paul Kurtz) African Americans for Humanism (AAH), the first organization focused on the promotion of humanism and humanist ideals among people of African descent. He served as the executive director of AAH from 1991 to 2010 as well as editor of its quarterly, the AAH Examiner. Norm is currently working on his third book, “Secular, Successful and Black,” which will be published by Prometheus Books.

Massimo Pigliucci’s Critique of New Atheism: Is it a Call to Move Beyond Atheism?

The Blog of Nathan Bupp
February 6, 2015

I am pleased to feature this guest post by Mark David Dietz. Mark has been a company commander in the US Army’s 101st Airborne, a corporate training manager and management consultant, a teacher of ethics at the University of Texas at Austin, and he is now the Vice President of research and development at a small company. He is the author of An Awkward Echo: Matthew Arnold and John Dewey (IAP, 2010). -- Nathan Bupp

Massimo Pigliucci

The following is a a response to “New Atheism and the Scientistic Turn in the Atheism Movement” by Massimo Pigliucci published in Midwest Studies in Philosophy 37 (1):142-153 (2013).

We tend today to have a belief that all academic disciplines are isolated from each other.  As undergraduates we came to this belief by simply noting that the different discipline-based departments tended to be housed in different buildings on campus.  Well, that’s not entirely fair, we had many additional clues to go by.  If we asked a professor a simple question about another discipline we usually received a careful, even simpering answer, or, worse, a rather bold display of ignorance.  Now and then, a professor would grow expansive in thought and offer a program for understanding the separation of the different disciplines into their respective nomenclature – all too often revealing in the process an almost sentimental desire for order and simplicity and an inability to appreciate the complexity of all but that discipline in which he had been raised.

Unfortunately, this academic pigeon-holing probably accounts to a large degree for why we have come to believe in the sanctity of each discipline and beyond that to believe that the categories as we have received them, or as they have evolved, are the only possible categories.  When Massimo says, for example, that New Atheists have trouble “recognizing philosophy as a distinct (and, I maintain, useful) academic discipline from science,” I have no trouble agreeing with him.  But because this is a serious thought paper, I look for him to recognize the subtle down side of that belief, and, in truth, I  am somewhat disappointed that he does not address it. 

While Massimo does not seem to have reified the categories of academic disciplines in the same way that so many others have, his comments on the demarcation problem suggest that for him the determining of academic disciplines has a positive solution – and, I suspect I may be reading this into what he says, nonetheless, it feels to me that in doing so he wishes to banish ambiguity.  For me some ambiguity is necessary, some overlap inevitable; can a scientist talk about the scientific process without invading the realms of philosophy?  Are not induction, deduction, warrant, even testing, all ideas that require something more than a purely empirical understanding of the world?  But scientists do have a right, or perhaps better a necessity, to talk about, discuss, understand, teach, research the scientific process – and they do, even the less than fully-educated ones who think philosophy is somehow a bad thing – unaware, apparently, that they have been doing philosophy all along.  The scientific process is not a product of science, but philosophy – and yet it is a product of science, because like most such fundamental ideas we learn it abstractly and practically at the same time.  That ambiguity is not a bad thing; in fact, it is really quite wonderful.

Now I want to be careful here because I do very much like Massimo’s general solution that “what the atheist movement needs, therefore, is not a brute force turn toward science at the expense of everything else, but rather a more nuanced, comprehensive embracing of all the varied ways—intellectual as well as experiential—in which human beings acquire knowledge and develop understanding of their world.”  Although I will come back to this in a minute and ask why this would be relevant only to the atheist movement, let me comment first on the sentence that follows this one.
Massimo goes on to say, “A healthy respect for, and cooperation with, other disciplines should be the hallmark of the twenty-first century atheist…”  Earlier in his essays Massimo offered a cutting remark about “serious theology,” which might lead one to doubt if he really is interested in such an all embracing entendent amongst academic disciplines.  But reading this sentence, my sense is that he sees disciplines as physical, external things, almost tribes, with respect and cooperation carefully worked via comprehensive treaties.  I have over the years been somewhat disillusioned when listening to academics talk about interdisciplinary studies.  I had always thought that that would be a space in which boundaries would loosen, not go away altogether, but become more porous making clear not only how different disciplines can offer separate resources upon common questions, but how disciplines interact and overlap, how, indeed, to a great extent they really depend upon each other – but for most academics that last, which I have found to be exceedingly true, is an absurd falsehood.  In our modern world we love our isolations, fictional though most of them are.

All that aside, I do not want anyone to think that my concerns in anyway suggest that I would side with the new atheists on this issue.  Harris, in particular, and the rest of that crew are clearly operating at an intellectual level that is – well, let’s just call it embarrassing.  Enough on that.

However, without realizing it, I think Massimo raised a whole new problem.  I said I would revisit his solution statement, so here it is again: “What the atheist movement needs, therefore, is not a brute force turn toward science at the expense of everything else, but rather a more nuanced, comprehensive embracing of all the varied ways—intellectual as well as experiential—in which human beings acquire knowledge and develop understanding of their world.”

Now the problem I am having here is the opening phrase.  The rest of it I love: yes, let’s turn away from the brute force of science alone (but without losing science from our comprehensive embrace) and let’s study the “varied ways—intellectual as well as experiential—in which human beings acquire knowledge and develop understanding of the world,”— well, now that’s exciting, – well, at least I find it exciting.  But how does this relate to the atheist movement?

Let’s take the common reductive understanding of atheism as no more than the question is there or is there not a God?  Well, Massimo has already told us, and I tend to agree, that philosophy has a healthy set of arguments on this question to which science, and again I agree, offers little additional advantage.  But setting aside the reductive notion that God equals religion, philosophy may have had much to say about God, but it has had very little to say on religion, at least in the form of a critique.  Indeed, many significant aspects of religion are relatively well-supported by philosophy.  For most of religion, however, we really need to turn to sociology, psychology, anthropology, theology, philology, history, etc.  The nature of ritual, for example, is much better addressed in sociology and anthropology than in philosophy. Moreover, in addressing things like ritual, researchers in the social sciences tend to be comfortable in turning to other studies: psychology, history, linguistics, theology, even science.  One more point, I recently went out to the on-line Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, a source for which I have a great deal of respect.  The article on Philosophy of Religion is rather peculiar: half the article is devoted to the question of whether or not god exists.  That should suggest to you how myopic philosophy is on this issue.

Now, let me point out another curious thing in Massimo’s essay: he devotes a lot of space to a discussion of Sam Harris’s concerns about morality.  The whole of Massimo’s argument with Harris is that philosophy does this better than science and that, indeed, science will need to turn to philosophy in order to clarify its findings and develop its recommendations (he fails, I should note, to recognize that the scientist will also need to turn to the social sciences and the humanities, but this is an error that philosophy itself has been making for many, many years now).  Nowhere in Massimo’s argument, or in that which he pulls from Harris, is atheism shown to be relevant to this question. 

So I’m wondering how to interpret this.  When I go back to Massimo’s solution and read his injunction to explore “a more nuanced, comprehensive embracing of all the varied ways—intellectual as well as experiential—in which human beings acquire knowledge and develop understanding of their world,” I wonder now, what does this have to do with atheism?  Would only atheists benefit from such a project?  And since philosophers already have a good handle, and they do, on the God question, but such a poor handle on the religion question, and have already manifested too great a tendency to want to go it alone on the morality question, I cannot help but think that Massimo has really just given us a good reason for setting aside the atheist movement and turning instead to more valuable, more broadly human efforts.

Lawrence Summers on Inequality

The Blog of Nathan Bupp
February 2, 2015

American economist Larry Summers, the distinguished former President of Harvard University and key economic adviser to President Obama, was interviewed the other day by Charlie Rose on the topic of the global economy and the state of the world. I must say that it is heartening to see someone of Summers' establishment pedigree acknowledging income inequality as a central problem highly detrimental to the "98 percent." He admits that there has indeed been a "redistribution of income," but in contradistinction to the tired old Republican talking points, the redistribution has actually been from the working class to the corporate/ownership class! He links the scourge of inequality to a crisis of confidence in our institutions and widespread sense of unfairness, resentment, and apathy, all part of a downward and reinforcing cyclical pattern, devastating in the long-term to the middle class.

This has been a central theme running through much of Summers' commentary over the past year. The release of Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century elicited a spirited review from Summers in the journal "Democracy," where he called Piketty’s treatment of inequality in the book "perfectly matched to its moment." Summers does express some serious reservations about Piketty's policy recommendations for addressing inequality, but his thoughtful review (well worth reading) concludes that by "focusing attention on what has happened to a fortunate few among us, and by opening up for debate issues around the long-run functioning of our market system, Capital in the Twenty-First Century has made a profoundly important contribution."  

Perhaps of more interest is a series of invigorating pieces Summers wrote last year presenting his own analysis along with a set of specific policy recommendations for addressing and hopefully ameliorating inequality. Summers opened up his Washington Post op-ed "Changing the tax code could help curb inequality" with the following: 

The United States may be on course to becoming a “Downton Abbey” economy. There are valid causes for concern about inequality: sharp increases in the share of income going to the top 1 percent of earners, a rising share of income going to profits, stagnant real wages and a rising gap between productivity growth and growth in median family incomes. A generation ago, it could have been asserted that the economy’s overall growth rate was the dominant determinant of growth in middle-class incomes and progress in reducing poverty. This is no longer a plausible claim.

Equally interesting is a a piece Summers penned for Reuters,"Inequality is about more than money."  where he considers disproportionate trends in health and education. 

In the aforementioned op-ed in the Washington Post Summers stresses that "it is not enough to identify policies that reduce inequality. To be effective they must also raise the incomes of the middle class and the poor. Tax reform has a major role to play here. Apart from its adverse effects on economic efficiency, our current tax code allows a far larger share of the income of the rich than the poor or middle class to escape taxation."  Summers is a member of the "one percent" and a strong defender of the capitalistic system, that much is clear. He avers that 

It is ironic that those who profess the most enthusiasm for market forces are least enthusiastic about curbing tax benefits for the wealthy. Sooner or later, inequality will be addressed. Much better that it be done by letting market forces operate and then working to improve the result than by seeking to thwart their operation.

Are his fellow economic and corporate elites listening to him, if nothing else, out of a sense of self-interest? I don't hold out much hope for the next two years, but there is always 2016. 

Naomi Klein’s New Clarion Call

The Blog of Nathan Bupp
September 18, 2014

It’s been six years since Naomi Klein’s powerful book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism burst on the scene and proved to many how the dominant ideology of our time, Milton Friedman's free-market economic revolution, had wreaked havoc on the countless lives of individuals by unleashing a cycle of one economic disaster after another, ultimately undermining their basic existential security. In other words, she laid bare the deep greed and corruption—many would say amoralism—at the core of corporate capitalism. Now we have a new powerful statement from Klein, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate, a 576 page tour-de-force published this month by Simon & Schuster. Just like Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century, published earlier this year, her book is garnering wide attention with notices and thoughtful review essays in many newspapers, journals of opinion, and especially on the internet. One can only hope that the cultural conversation will continue to grow louder and more urgent about what President Obama has called “the defining challenge of our time” namely, the crippling economic inequality that is holding back any genuine recovery and even threatening our very democracy.

Just today, September 18, Klein is appearing on Democracy Now for the full hour to discuss the book with Amy Goodman. Last month In These Times published a piece outlining what they called “5 Crucial Lessons for the Left” from Klein’s new book. Klein’s pivotal point is that the current crisis of climate change "isn’t just a disaster. It’s also our best chance to demand and build a better world.” In an excellent op-ed in Tuesday’s New York Times (“Let’s Reject the ‘Inevitable’” 9/16/14) Mark Bittman pointed out that,

Neoliberalism has given us a “system” in which corporate power is stronger than ever and government controls weaker than they’ve been in a century. The net result is that some corporations are more powerful than governments, both domestically and globally. To fix, or combat, or deal with a threat to the wellbeing of citizenry like climate change is the business of government, but governments are no longer able to dictate what industry does.

That’s the profound gravity of the situation we face at this particular moment in time: Not only must we summon the political will to combat the twin scourges of inequality and climate change, but as we fight to bring about change to an economic system that has shown time and again to only benefit those in the top one-percent of the economic latter we must also steel ourselves for the longer battle ahead of reclaiming and preserving the integrity of our democratic political system itself. Perhaps this is the preeminent moral battle of our time. Consequently, Klein’s new book is a clarion call to all that now is the time (if there ever was one!) to embrace our responsibilities as citizens and get involved in our collective democratic political life. As she works to spur a mass movement that eventually might have the power to effect real change, her message to the neo-liberal political class is loud and clear: ‘We tried it your way and we don’t have another decade to waste.’

Nathan Bupp: A Closer Look Reveals the Different Varieties of Unbelief in America

The Blog of Nathan Bupp
July 24, 2014

Mark Oppenheimer, one of the “Beliefs” columnists over at the New York Times, published an interesting piece this past weekend taking a look at the ‘Spiritual but Not Religious’ portion of the American demographic. Polling shows that a little more than a third of the 46 million Americans who fall into the category of “unaffiliated” (with any religion) classify themselves as “spiritual but not religious.”  The bugbear of many atheists, many have been aching to know just what exactly this designation really means in practical terms. Well, for one thing, as a recent Pew Study points out, “with few exceptions…the unaffiliated say they are not looking for a religion that would be right for them. Overwhelmingly, they think that religious organizations are too concerned with money and power, too focused on rules and too involved in politics.” 

In reality, I view it as part and parcel of the dizzying array of options open to individuals in today's contemporary world as they construct their own moral and ethical worldview, what Charles Taylor in his massive tome A Secular Age defined as “a kind of galloping pluralism on the spiritual plane.”  From the story:  

Unsurprisingly, the S.B.N.R.s, as this growing group is often called, are attracting a lot of attention. Four recent books offer perspectives on these Americans who seem to want some connection to the divine, but who don’t feel affiliated with traditional religion. There’s the minister who wants to woo them, two scholars who want to understand them and the psychotherapist who wants to help them.

Oppenheimer talked to all four authors, and after reporting on their varying perspectives concludes:

At the very least, we might conclude that “spiritual but not religious” isn’t necessarily vague or wishy-washy. It’s not nothing, although it may risk being everything.

Meanwhile a new book published last month by Columbia University Press titled Atheists in America seeks to drill down deeper into the lives of individual atheists to identify the driving factors that animated the personal journey from religious believer to atheist through the first-person narratives of 27 subjects, all of diverse backgrounds from across the United States. The stories were compiled and edited by Melanie E. Brewster, an assistant professor of Psychology and Education at Columbia University. From the book’s page at Goodreads:

These narratives illuminate the complexities and consequences for nonbelievers in the United States. Stepping away from religious belief can have serious social and existential ramifications, forcing atheists to discover new ways to live meaningfully without a religious community. Yet shedding the constraints of a formal belief system can also be a freeing experience. Ultimately, this volume shows that claiming an atheist identity is anything but an act isolated from the other dimensions of the self. Upending common social, political, and psychological assumptions about atheists, this collection helps carve out a more accepted space for this minority within American society.

Brewster provides a very helpful and informative introduction to the book, which includes a summary of the generalized findings of her research, as well as other polling data from previous research efforts performed by other groups. She especially sees many parallels between atheists and the LBGTQ community in terms of slowly gaining acceptance within the wider society.  I have requested a review copy of the book and will have more to say about it in this space at a later date.  

Finally, I have just discovered some fascinating research conducted by Christopher F Silver, a gentleman currently completing his doctoral degree in learning and leadership at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. One aim of the research was to dispel the notion that some might have that those Americans characterized as “religious nones” represent a monolithic block; they clearly do not. From the study’s Website:

Based on their personal experiences and involvement in the atheist community, Principal Investigator Chris Silver and Thomas J. Coleman III knew that not only did this “religious none” category fail to accurately capture and reflect the diversity of beliefs (or un-belief) but that even the terms of atheism and agnosticism suffered from a similar lack of description. Each term was pregnant with meaning and interpretation from a variety of different types of people. Moreover, beyond the psychology of nonbelief, atheism and agnosticism proved sociologically complex as well.

The taxonomy of nonbelief that researchers Silver and Coleman developed from the data involves six characteristics: Intellectual Atheist/Agnostic (IAA), Activist (AAA), Seeker-Agnostic (SA), Anti-Theist, Non-Theist, and Ritual Atheist/Agnostic (RAA).  Personality traits and regional variations were measured and compared. As the researchers note:

It is very important to recognize that these comparisons are being made only within “non-belief”. In other words, these results are not juxtaposed alongside “believers” or any subset of population that identifies as “religious” and therefore no conclusions or empirical inferences can be currently draw as to how the two groups, or rather sub segments of the two groups might stack up against each other. Certainly additional research should explore these typologies in relation to believers to see if such conclusions can hold true for outside perceptions.

Coleman says that the research team is working diligently to publish the complete results in a book. Meanwhile an excellent summary can be found on their Website.

These new endeavors represent a vital contribution to the social sciences and widen the parameters within which a meaningful conversation can take place about the diverse ways individuals come to ground and live their secularism, both psychologically and socially.    

Nathan Bupp is the editor of Meaning and Value in a Secular Age: Why Eupraxsophy Matters: The Writings of Paul Kurtz and is a contributor to Dewey’s Enduring Impact, edited by John R. Shook and Paul Kurtz, both published by Prometheus Books. His "Eupraxsophy Podcast" can be heard on Public Reality Radio (WPRR) and online at . 

Sergio Andrés Rueda: La Crítica de la Crítica

La Crítica de la Crítica: la Teoría Crítica como un Nuevo Acceso a lo Real
Por Alain Badiou

La palabra crítica tiene una historia muy larga. En el lenguaje viejo, tenemos la palabra “krinein”, y el significado de “krinein” era ‘ordenar, o separar algo que es bueno de algo que es malo’. Así que siempre hay una relación entre la idea de la “crítica” y la idea del “juicio”; el juicio concerniente a cosas muy diversas; juicios que conciernen a lo verdadero y lo falso, que conciernen a lo bueno y a lo malo, que conciernen a lo que es apropiado y lo que no, y así en adelante. Así que la historia filosófica de la palabra “crítica” es también la historia de aquel tipo de actividad mental que consiste en la separación entre dos valores. Tal vez el ejemplo más claro de indagación crítica está en Platón, quien hizo la distinción fundamental entre opinión y conocimiento, y entre aquello que está por fuera del interés filosófico y aquello que está dentro del campo del interés filosófico.

Este es un punto muy importante: la crítica no es reducible a una actividad puramente negativa.

Muy a menudo, la palabra “crítica” tiene una relación cercana a algo como la negatividad, y finalmente a un sentimiento de escepticismo.

(Escepticismo, en el sentido de una conclusión puramente negativa o una actividad negativa.)

Pero este no es exactamente el significado de la palabra “crítica”. Es necesario que digamos que la crítica siempre tiene una parte negativa que es la determinación negativa de alguna actividad, alguna disposición mental, o alguna orientación del pensamiento. Pero también hay algo, siempre hay algo que se bueno, que es el resultado de la separación entre dos formas de pensar, de conocimiento, y así en adelante.

Como saben, otro sentido de la “crítica” tiene una relación cercana con el trabajo de Emmanuel Kant (en la Crítica de la Razón Pura y así en adelante). Y de esta manera, es muy importante para nosotros entender claramente el significado de “crítica” en el trabajo de Kant. Creo que podemos decir algo como esto: con Kant la crítica no es precisamente la separación pura entre lo que es verdadero y lo que es falso, es más sobre la idea de un límite. El rol de Kant fue el de determinar el límite de la razón pura, el límite del conocimiento. Así que la separación no es exactamente entre algo verdadero y algo falso, sino mucho más acerca de lo que es posible y lo que es imposible. Es diferente del sentido original de la palabra “crítica”. Ahora hemos pasado de la idea de separación, la distinción entre lo que  es verdadero y lo que es falso, entre la opinión y el conocimiento claro, etcétera, hacia algo de una naturaleza diferente que es el conocimiento de que es posible para el conocimiento humano.

Y yo creo que este tipo de transformación de la palabra crítica es también la transformación de la función de la negatividad dentro del conocimiento mismo.

Para Kant, finalmente, la función negativa de la “crítica” era determinar que algo es imposible para el conocimiento humano, que algo no puede ser conocido realmente por la humanidad. Y esta es la idea del límite. Es algo como una crítica radical de lo que Kant llama dogmatismo. Dogmatismo es, de alguna manera, la metafísica clásica. Había algo en Kant que formó el comienzo real de lo que puedo llamar la tradición moderna. La tradición moderna es diferente del viejo estilo de la filosofía, bajo el nombre de metafísica (cuando estamos en el estilo Heideggeriano), dogmatismo (cuando estamos en el estilo clásico), y sinsentido (cuando estamos en el estilo de Wittgenstein). Pero de cualquier manera, con Kant, Wittgenstein, y Heidegger, tenemos la idea de algo completamente inapropiado, algo oscuro, y finalmente, sin valor que concierna al conocimiento dentro de una gran parte de la tradición filosófica. Y con la designación negativa, bajo el nombre de dogmatismo, sinsentido, o metafísica, culmina una gran parte del proyecto del pensamiento humano. Los críticos dicen algo como eso. La idea de la crítica es transformar la idea histórica de algo como el fin de un estilo filosófico.

Esta transformación es muy importante porque si la crítica, en un sentido primitivo, es el ejercicio de la separación teórica y práctica entre lo verdadero y los falso, entre opiniones y la verdad, etcétera, entonces prácticamente todos los filósofos deben admitir que tal actividad es, de cierta manera, metafísica. Porque dentro de la metafísica, dentro del escepticismo, dentro de la teoría crítica, etcétera, tenemos siempre una separación entre aquello que es cierto y aquello que es falso, o sobre la verdad y un accidente, y así en adelante. No hay pensamiento si el trabajo de la separación. Pero si la crítica toma el significado moderno de algo que está históricamente realizado o históricamente completado, y si el significado es que la filosofía debe aceptar el límite de su propia actividad, entonces esto es algo diferente. Es algo diferente porque no es una característica general de la actividad filosófica, sino que es una proposición filosófica, y una proposición filosófica puede ser discutida, y puede ser refutada, y así en adelante. En este punto puedo decir algo como eso.

Tenemos dos significados de crítica. Primero, de cierta manera un significado débil: el cual es solo la actividad de separar lo que es posible dentro de la filosofía y lo que está por fuera del mundo de la filosofía, y, en este caso, el punto es solo aquello que es la extensión, la dimensión, de la negatividad. Podemos comenzar desde la posición platónica, la cual es que podemos, tras una buena crítica, tener una idea de la Verdad, y hacia una posición escéptica, que es que no tenemos una idea de la Verdad. Pero en cualquier caso la separación es el punto y la separación es activa y afirmativa, finalmente, en el caso de Platón, y la separación es completamente negativa en el caso del escepticismo. Este es el sentido clásico de crítica, si se quiere. Pero ahora, en el tiempo moderno, tenemos un sentido fuerte de la crítica que es la idea de que una gran parte de la filosofía, del destino de la filosofía, debe determinarse como algo que está completado, como algo que está históricamente finalizado.

Podemos decir algunas palabras sobre la segunda posición (sobre el sentido moderno fuerte de la crítica). Yo estoy en contra, de alguna manera, del sentido moderno de “crítica” si este sentido moderno es un juicio que concierne a la historia entera de la filosofía. No estoy de acuerdo con la idea de que tras algunos siglos de poder dogmático (en la filosofía) estamos ahora en el campo de la posibilidad “crítica” y que conocemos los límites de la razón. Y ¿por qué? Es porque pienso que no podemos, de hecho, conocer algo que limite la razón. Así que esta es mi crítica de la crítica. No podemos conocer el límite de la razón porque la razón humana es de alguna manera la dimensión infinita de nuestra existencia, lo cual debe ser entendido en el sentido fuerte. “Infinita” significa que no podemos saber precisamente el límite de lo que podemos saber, de lo que podemos entender, y así en adelante.  Y entonces, pienso que la idea verdaderamente moderna de la crítica es asumir, por el contrario, que no podemos entender, que no podemos tener una idea clara, de lo que es un “fin” o un “límite” de la razón.

Mi posición es contraria al sentido moderno de la crítica como la determinación de algo imposible. ¿Por qué? En este punto soy Lacaniano. Crep que lo imposible es precisamente el nombre de lo Real. Así que cuando decimos, “bien, conozco los límites de la razón, sé que lo que imposible que la razón sepa,” y así en adelante, estoy diciendo, finalmente “no soy capaz de entender lo Real en lo absoluto.” Después de todo, esta es la posición de Kant: que el ser-como-tal y la Cosa-como-tal no pueden ser conocidas precisamente. Tal vez concierne al campo de la razón práctica, pero en el campo del conocimiento es incognoscible. Entonces hay una relación cercana entre Kant y Lacan sobre el tópico de lo Real; lo Real, precisamente como el ser-como-ser (El ser-en-tanto-que-ser), el ser-como-tal, no puede conocerse, y entonces es un punto de imposibilidad. Lo Real también es algo imposible. Eso es una conclusión. No es que sea totalmente imposible tener acceso a lo imposible. Podemos, perfectamente, llegar a la conclusión de que algo de lo Real puede ser conocido bajo la condición de un desplazamiento que concierne a las limitaciones de la posibilidad e imposibilidad. Parte de lo que es imposible puede conocerse si la separación entre lo que es imposible y lo que es posible cambia. Y, es mi concepción, básicamente, que algo que satisfaga el límite entre lo imposible y lo posible abre un nuevo acceso a lo Real como tal.

Finalmente, en este tipo de contexto ¿Cuál es la definición posible de algo como la “teoría crítica”? La definición sería algo así como esto: la “teoría crítica” es la apertura de la nueva posibilidad de pensar lo Real a través de la posible modificación de la separación entre lo que es posible y lo que es imposible. De alguna manera, el objetivo de la “teoría crítica” es siempre el saber, el tener un entendimiento (tener una nueva forma de entendimiento), de lo que es imposible saber. Así que es algo que acepta la idea Kantiana acerca de la relación entre lo Real y lo imposible. Esa es la parte Lacaniana. Estar en el lado de Kant y también en el lado de Lacan es precisamente sobre el punto de esta relación cercana a lo Real. Aunque podemos aceptar todo esto, la conclusión concerniente a la actividad crítica es que el campo de la actividad crítica siempre es el trabajar hacia el límite de lo posible y lo imposible con la idea de que este límite no es un límite estable, sino que es un límite que puede ser modificado de cierta manera, puede ser transformado.

El trabajo del pensamiento crítico es precisamente el trabajo sobre este límite. Así que, como conclusión retroactiva mi visión es, primero aceptar el sentido clásico de “crítica”: “crítica” es siempre una cuestión de la separación, y todo lo demás, de un límite entre, clásicamente, el bien y el mal, y así en adelante. También acepto el sentido moderno de “crítica”: este es el sentido que le dio Kant, el cual es que la cuestión de límite es la cuestión del límite entre lo posible y lo imposible. Pero mi conclusión no es una posición negativa, mi conclusión es una afirmativa. Eso es, que podemos abrir un nuevo acceso a la trasformación del límite mismo, De manera que, no es solo la actividad de definir el límite, pero también la actividad de cambiar el límite mismo.

Traducido de la trascripción inglesa de Duane Rousselle:

Nota: Yo, Duane Rousselle, seleccioné el título para esta trascripción de una charla que dio Alain Badiou a los estudiantes del Global Center for Advanced Studies en la mañana del 8 de Enero del 2014. Me he tomado algunas libertades menores en mi transcripción a manera de facilitar la comprensión. Alternativamente, el lector puede escoger mirar la charla en vez de leerla. Esto se puede hacer a través del siguiente link:


Norm Allen: The Demand for Reparations: Chasing Fool’s Gold

Arguments about Reparations have moved in and out of the national conversation about social justice for many years now.  Recently the topic has been brought back to the fore of the public debate (especially on the internet), sparked largely by a cover story published in the June 2014 issue of The Atlantic titled “The Case for Reparations” by  Ta-Nehisi Coates, a national correspondent for the magazine who writes about culture, politics, and social issues. Coates spent more than a year working on the story.

In light of the renewed discussion, I am happy to present a guest blog post on the subject by Norm Allen, a friend and colleague for whom I have much high regard. Indeed, I have had the honor of working with Norm Allen on a variety of projects over the last eight years. In 1989 Norm founded (with assistance from Paul Kurtz) African Americans for Humanism (AAH), the first organization focused on the promotion of humanism and humanist ideals among people of African descent. He served as the executive director of AAH from 1991 to 2010 as well as editor of its quarterly, the AAH Examiner. Norm is currently working on his third book, “Secular, Successful and Black,” which will be published by Prometheus Books. We publish “The Demand for Reparations: Chasing Fool’s Gold” below.
--Nathan Bupp

Ever since the abolition of chattel slavery in the U.S., various parties have been arguing for reparations for African Americans. On January 16, 1865, Union General William Sherman revealed Special Field Order Number 15, which set aside land for African Americans. On March 3, 1865, Congress passed the Freedman’s Bureau Act that set aside a maximum of 40 acres (mules provided by the government were added later) “to every male citizen.”
Sadly, Lincoln was assassinated and President Andrew Johnson ascended to the Presidency. He vetoed the Freedman’s Bureau Act that had been amended in 1866. The new act supported returning 850,000 acres of land to former White land owners!

There are two main avenues that reparations advocates pursue: 1) the courts and 2) through Congress. It should be clear by now that pursuing reparations through the courts is a legal dead end. For example, in 1995, California’s Ninth Circuit Court dismissed a reparations lawsuit for $100 million, saying, among other things, that the statute of limitations had run out. Other judges have said the same in other cases.

Apparently, pursuing reparations in Congress is also a dead end. In 1989, Rep. John Conyers (Democrat, Michigan) introduced H.R. 3745 (now H.R. 891) the “Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act.” Every White congressperson has opposed it ever since.

Most White Americans do not even believe the government should apologize for slavery, let alone give African Americans reparations. Indeed, a Gallup poll taken in 2001 found that 70% of White Americans were opposed to an apology. In 2002, a Gallup poll revealed that 90% of Whites were against reparations, as were 50% of Blacks.
There are good precedents for awarding reparations for aggrieved groups. In “righting a wrong,” in the February 1997 issue of the now-defunct Emerge magazine, Lori S. Robinson related:

In 1976, Australia gave its indigenous Aborigines more than 96,000 square miles of land after having appropriated it during European settlements in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries…. [In 1971] indigenous Alaskans received nearly $1 billion and more than 44 million acres of land through the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act….During the 1980s, five Native American nations were paid sums ranging from $12.3 million to $1.1 billion for stolen land and broken treaties. (The Best of Emerge, edited by George Curry, pp. 611-612.)

How much would reparations be in modern dollars? No one knows for sure. Essence magazine had an economist appraise 40 acres and a mule at $43,209 in 1997 dollars. Ray Scott, who owns a funeral home in Tacoma, Washington, put the value at $113,569.16.

Many Whites claim that America paid its debt by waging a successful Civil War that shed much blood, lost many lives and nearly destroyed the nation. Others, such as Charles Krauthammer, say they would back reparations if it meant an end to affirmative action and other programs for historically oppressed groups. (Oddly, reparations advocates never effectively address whether they would accept this “compromise.”)

African Americans should have received reparations long ago. However, realistically speaking, too much time has passed, and with each passage of time, Whites become more bitterly opposed to reparations. Pursuing reparations is a colossal waste of time, and African Americans should pursue other avenues in their ongoing quest for social justice.

By Norm R. Allen Jr.

Sarah Jacob: \"The Power of Narrative: Connecting Orientalism, Orthodoxy and Globalization\"

Edward Saids book Orientalism was published in 1978  over 35 years ago – describing a reality that still rings true on the streets of post-European colonies as well as Western industrialized nations. The premise is that all of us have been indoctrinated into a subtle racism that relies on a sliver of fact and a plethora of fiction: it is true, for instance, that biology and geography create some factual differences between cultures: an obvious example is that those who claim an African or Asian heritage will have darker skin than those who are from European descent. Geographically we all harvest what naturally occurs in our own back yards and are influenced in our dress and perspective by the climate, terrain and other such factors. Yet more compelling than the factual differences are the fictional narratives that have been created surrounding various cultures, particularly those from the Orient. While narrative is always potentially reductive, it can be respectfully or harmfully so, and the political and anthropological rhetoric re-enforced through art and literature during colonial times creates an Other that is diminished, and at times demonic, exotic, strange and dangerous. Each discipline has contributed to a subtle allusion that creates superior and inferior races. And both sides of the allusion surrender to the rhetoric: those of us who impose the narrative as well as those of us of who are the undermined victims of its fearful and manipulative prose. As Said expresses in his post Orientalism work,  Culture and Imperialism, we live through narrative:

"As one critic has suggested, nations themselves are narrations. The power to narrate, or to block other narratives from forming and emerging, is very important to culture and imperialism, and constitutes one of the main connections between them (Introduction, xiii).

Orientalism and Occidentalism are therefore partially a grand narrative  the result of centuries of definitions of the self and other. But it is not without practical value.  In Imperialism and Culture, Said notes:  

"The main battle in imperialism is over land, of course; but when it came to who owned the land, who had the right to settle and work on it, who kept it going, who won it back, and who now plans its future  these issues were reflected, contested, and even for a time decided in narrative" (Introduction, xiii).

Therefore, it is only practical that Orientalism reached its pinnacle in Colonial times when iron-clad justification was required for taking over (in other words stealing the land and resources) of vast regions. The colonized is then born into his or her  Otherness and is in a constant comparison with the Westerner, as if the child of a second culture, created out of the Western rib, unoriginal and therefore always tethered to the original and primary culture.  The response of the colonized peoples is multiple. It includes an assimilation into the master race and a surrendering of ones own culture, passive resistance (opting out of society: individuals who become drug addicts, alcoholics or social deviants can be seen as passively resisting assimilation), or active resistance, either violent (as can be seen with the Cuban revolution) or non-violent (Ghandi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Junior). All responses except assimilation are seen as proof of the Others inferiority and savage nature. Alternative responses, even in their mildest form are tragic nonetheless, as they emphasize a one-sided narrative that benefits some and diminishes the Other (ironically the minority Other are in the majority in terms of population). In short, all responses imply great loss. Orientalism, therefore, reduces perspective, limiting everyones ability (both that of the colonizer and the colonized) to see the world differently. Emmanuel Levinas expressed a similar sentiment in his book Totality and Infinity, The possibility of possessing, that is, of suspending the very alterity of what is only at first other, and other relative to me, is the way of the same (Levinas, 38). In other words, by denying difference that is Absolutely Other and ordinarily not relative to ones ideology, one enslaves and diminishes the other to ones own limited terms, language and comprehension.  This skewed perspective makes the exploitation of the Other  possible, which when taken to the extreme is the foundation of Fascist principles. 

The type of Master-Slave dialectic we see in todays Orientalism has transformed since colonial times and is less contingent upon skin color and country and instead emphasizes ideology: in this way Orientalism can be guised as non-racist.  It does not matter if you are African, Indian or a member of the Islamic community, but it does matter very much if you oppose the Neo-Liberal Capitalist ideology of the West.  So much so, that now when we say the word West, it doesnt necessarily imply geographic location as much as it does ideology, desires and perspective. The uncritical Westernized public expresses this unconscious racism towards different cultures with responses toward immigration that imply they are not one of us. Read the papers, listen to the news: the underlying message subtly works its way into the psyche, Theyre fanatics! "They're barbaric! Theyre backward! Theyre primitive, superstitious, irrational, strange!" and perhaps most loudly, Theyre dangerous! (Ironically, many of the same qualities have been applied to women throughout history). The Orient often responds with extreme conservatism and even radicalism, to counteract the inferiority bestowed upon them.  For example, strict Sharia law is enforced in some Islamic countries, arguably as an anti-Western initiative. Hence, it is no coincidence that extreme forms of Orthodoxy are prevalent today when extreme forms of Western hegemony are threatening other cultures more than at any other time in history. When the Jews were marginalized to second-class citizenship in Eastern Europe and were forced to live in ghettos, the response was an Orthodoxy that was so extreme that European Jews felt the Sephardic Jews who lived in relative freedom in the Middle East were irreligious and not Jews at all.   

The European attitude towards religious Islamic groups is all too often justified  there is a grave mistrust and fear of Islam that has been growing like a cancer since September 11th 2001, when two tall symbols of Western capitalism and leadership came crumbling to the ground.  However, justification does not minimize the danger of blind Orientalism.  Extreme results of such can be seen at its finest during Hitlers regime in Nazi Germany, or in the chattel slavery advocated by European colonists throughout the Americas.  In The Perverts Guide to Ideology, a documentary by Slavoj Zizek, he notes that Hitler promoted the narrative that Jews were to blame for Germany losing the world war and also German economic decline. It was the Jews who had weakened the German race with their inferior Semitic blood, even though the Jews as bankers and elites in German society contradicted the inferior, undermining rhetoric that Hitler used. This narrative then gave Hitler and his supporters the ability to exterminate the perpetrators of evil in Germany without remorse.  However, Hitler never authored the narrative that Jews were the evil Other  this sentiment had been repeated like a holy mantra by the early Church Fathers.  He just used the unconscious belief that had already defined the Jews as being the 'Other' (and all the traits that 'Other' implies). 

Globalization in its current form is arguably illegitimate because it is built upon colonial values and persists to promote a form of Orientalism. The Westernizing of the East through the infiltration of corporations into non-Western countries is possible in part because Eastern values and ways of life are undermined.  The medieval Crusaders who raped and pillaged those in distant lands in order to 'civilize' and save the natives are just a much cruder version of a similar sentiment illustrated by many of advocates of globalization, and indeed both gain momentum from the same irrational myth: the Western ideology is the right one. 
Saids emphasis in both Orientalism and Imperialism and Culture is specifically upon the Othering and exoticizing of the Arabic world: but as I have inferred already, we can replace the Arabic focus with African, Indian or any other tribal community. Orientalism allows us to dismantle a rich, verdant culture and minimize its potential viewing it merely as barbaric and irrational. So entrenched in the Western mind is an idea that Arabic nations (and Indian, African and Asian) are essentially different in their very nature to that of the West that to argue otherwise is often futile.  Its as if, as one example, Islamic peoples do not have the same fundamental human desires, hopes, dreams and fears as Christian peoples; as if the human virtues of love, generosity and compassion to name a few, are only developed in Western ideologies. Therefore, it seems apparent that Orientalism has a despicable racism at its heart and so we must hold dear the narrative that Said promotes in the preface of Orientalism:  

"…neither the term Orient nor the concept of the West has any ontological stability; each is made up of human effort, partly affirmation, party identification of the Other (Said, xvii).

However, while it was Orientalism that made colonization possible, it was also   Orientalism that served as the foundation of the resistance that made decolonization possible. Said notes: 

"…the grand narratives of emancipation and enlightenment mobilized people in the colonial world to rise up and throw off imperial subjection; in the process, many Europeans and Americans were also stirred by these stories and their protagonists, and they too fought for new narratives of equality and human community" (Imperialism and Culture, Introduction xiii).

Globalization still perpetuates the limitation and exploitation of the Other that
Orientalism allows. We see this with bio-piracy, as Western scientists use indigenous knowledge to find and patent cures for  diseases, without offering the indigenous peoples proper remuneration for their knowledge. We also witness this when Western companies are granted contracts to privatize water in developing worlds, making water too expensive for many poor farming communities. We witness this when food industries purchase rainforest lands to graze cattle. Indeed, wherever we look, we can see the echo of colonization guised in the dress of  the more egalitarian, less threatening word: globalization. Industrialized farming, fast food restaurants and the ideology of mass consumption are just a few of symbols of the new East or perhaps the new West.

Finally, there is a positive aspect to Orientalism as the creation of a narrative – namely that it proves the malleability of human consciousness and human belief.  Yes, Orientalism diminishes the Other (even when it puts the Other on a mystical pedestal), and the final outcome is the fictitiously constructed mind of the colonizer and colonized: one who thinks the Self superior and the Other inferior and the Other who mirrors those beliefs: Self as inferior, Other as superior. However, fictions remain fictions and whoever believes in the narrative can only be limited by it. While humans will always have to situate themselves in the world and form identities, there is nothing to prevent a narrative of equality and fairness, one that builds upon ideals of mutual respect and that values alterity. That is, nothing except ideology of course.

*image by Lalla Essaydi

James Miller: \"Pandora\'s Box: The Right’s Problem with Religion\"

Pope Francis’s election has been a historic event from the beginning. The South American Pontiff has come out in opposition to the current global capitalist system currently at work and Frances shows little sign of relenting, recently reiterating his message of economic justice as well as environmental justice. As may be expected, many have come out in opposition to his remarks including prominent voices such as Rush Limbaugh and Ken Langone (Home Depot Founder) as well as the Evangelii Gaudium released last year. All too familiar rhetoric is present: Rush accusing the Pope of Marxism, Langone worried the Pope may scare rich donors and others claiming this isn't Christianity or that his theology isn't authentic. Yes, apparently the Pope isn't Catholic.

Pope Frances response to these accusations is interesting. Marxist ideology is wrong. But I have met many Marxists in my life who are good people, so I dont feel offended. He claims this is all tradition as well. There is nothing in the Exhortation that cannot be found in the social Doctrine of the Church. This is an important response and deserves some space as it signals that not only is capitalism failing but that religion is perhaps not a safe bet for the right. The more powerful aspect of the above statement is the appeal to tradition and not leaning too far into thinkers like Marx or current theorists. The Pope as a Marxist is dismissible as an outside/secular interpretation of Christianity. Comments from a Pope seen as a consistent interpreter of tradition and religious texts is much more compelling, religiously, when signaling capitalism's most prominent features as incompatible with Christianity.

Incompatibility isn't the only problem for capitalism, religion has been a part of the rhetoric on the far right for some time and the cracks and fissures in this rhetoric are starting to grow unmanageable. The right has tended to see itself as a bastion for religion and “pro-religion” by citing and playing off of many prominent atheistic liberals and leftist critics with anti-religious stances.  The right and others have also played off the well loved myth of liberalism that religious ways begets violence. The right both chastised the left for such a myopic view of religion and goes along with the myth by citing religion as a private opinion that is dangerous in public policy or as political economic critique. The right also promotes the conservative myth that left tendencies and ideology lead to violence against religion, citing atheist policies of leftist states. The Pope’s statements reveal left tendencies as well as moving toward peace that ruptures the right wing religious affiliations and fears of some left thinking.

Pope Frances may also signal another conflict with right wing and conservative thinking, that of collective or group thinking. Frances recent comments on the environment calls out the individualistic and self-serving nature of this global capitalism, echoing the claims and arguments of more socialist and communist strands of left-wing theorists. The Pope's comments have made direct jabs at individualism, trickle down economics, policies that favor the rich over the poor, ethical issues with the current state of capital, and he has even suggested wealth redistribution and more ethical use of resources and technology.

More to the point, in defiance of liberal secular ideas of religion, the Pope and other leaders are starting to make arguments that interpret history and the current situation. Religion as platitudes works well for neoliberalism but a culturally interpretive and critical religion may call into question the holy relics of capitalism. Neoliberal threads of secularism have seen religion as an idealogical bank to cherry pick from or as something that is done in the private and not a part of public discourse, thus declawing it. The Pope’s (and other leaders) responses have resisted these classifications and have attacked capitalistic idols making the religious rhetoric a critique that could more easily be in dialogue with more radical political thinkers like Antonio Negri, Michal Kalecki or accelerationist thinkers echoing the failure of capitalism and its values, and proposing communal thinking, people over profit values, and radical solutions.

1.     Economic inequality is the root cause of all problems in the world
2.      Trickle-down economics of the rich is a failed ideology.
3.      The "Invisible Hand' of free market capitalism cannot be trusted.
4.      New tyranny of capitalism rejects the public good, imposes own laws.
5.      Capitalism's worship of money is a new golden-calf idolatry.
6.      Capitalism promotes excessive consumption, undermines society.
7.      Competition and survival of the fittest is killing public solutions.
8.      Capitalism treats humans as leftovers in a throwaway culture.
9.      Conservative individualism is undermining the common good.
10.   Capitalism rejects ethics, favors the relativity of individualism.

Although tradition and traditional values have been a conservative soap box, peeking into tradition is not always good for the right and many of the neoliberal and conservative values are hard to square with much of religious tradition in general. Paul Ryan found this out a few months ago with his budget proposal. As one opens the pandora's box of history we find that in comparison with many of the saints, Pope Francis is being quite nice about all this. The Mothers and Fathers of the church (East, West, or otherwise) address money, the wealthy, and poverty more frequently and more harshly than any other subject. Some subjects that many religious conservatives and conservatives who comment on religion seem to grind on get relatively little play from the saints and the Pope seems to be following suite. Pope Francis is responding the way a Pope can, by pushing the central traditional themes of Christianity which seem to be in opposition to the current state of capitalism.

Although no one would claim the Pope is a leftist thinker, it is interesting to see the reaction of right wing thinkers and the way the Pope and other religions are reacting to the growing crisis in global capitalism. Many are waking up to the incompatibility of the capitalist system with the basic tenants of Christianity and other religions and developing their own critiques. What scares many conservatives and the right is the religious leadership (often their own leaders) responding with traditionally left notions such as historical critiques of power relations, private property and ownership, centralization of wealth, subjection and exploitation, and the exploitive nature and values of capital with a preference for the poor. Conservative calls for more tradition may have backfired. If these are traditional concerns of Christianity and other religions in response to capitalism, it may be more problematic for the right than Marx.

Sergio Andrés Rueda: \"Student Protest and Colombia\'s Crisis in Education\"

Sectarianism, fed by fanaticism, is always castrating. 
Radicalization, nourished by a critical spirit, 
is always creative (Freire, 2005, pg. 37).

At first sight, the reality of Colombian public universities can be interpreted simply as an appropriate reaction to a civil conflict: universities patrolled by military personnel, laws regulating undercover agents and their operations while on campus, routine arrests of students and faculty and an increased reliance on a mix of private security guards and electronic vigilance to maintain order in the campuses. This is in fact, an official interpretation which has been successfully integrated into the wider State propaganda effort to link organized dissent with either the two main insurgencies, the FARC-EP, and the ELN, and delegitimize the claims of the student movement (if any even remains).

In spite of the success of this official strategy, a powerful revolutionary social imaginary remains in public universities, where many left-leaning organizations usually achieve posts of representation and positions of influence within the community. One of the main themes of this imaginary is the coincidence between the political and para-political elites of the country including, as a strategic asset, control of the resources of the public universities, which are located in the capital of every department of the country whose direction offers coveted financial and political advantages.     

The truth of the situation remains unclear when only juridical rulings are considered as facts: there have been processes against members of all sectors of the academic community for relations or militancy in either one of the guerrillas, or a paramilitary organization. However, it is possible to focus on a theoretical analysis and clear the situation, at least until empirical evidence becomes widely available after a peace process. It is obvious that both the insurgency and the paramilitaries would prefer to have, and in fact do have, presence in the universities. Both loose groupings of organizations (which often fight amongst their own "side") act through a series of fronts which serve their interests, and both will support tactical allies who are unaware of their existence.

This divide which traverses the community itself, allows one to see its own broad ideological identification as a nuanced field of complexities while at the same time reducing the opposite side to its armed extreme. In this view, material and political causes disappear and the exercise of freedom is used as an explanation for the existence of social ills. Some conclude that the Other, who chose the wrong side, must be eliminated at all costs.

This formal structured is, of course, emplaced, in a concrete historical and political reality that is the legacy of a constant series of civil wars that adapted international an ideological frame to Colombian conditions, often with little respect for the original form of the program. Between one wave of civil wars and another, at some point during the fifties, the main focuses of peasant armed resistance to the landowning elites started to disaffiliate themselves with the Liberal Party and started to become closer with Communist cadres from the cities, starting what is now considered to be a different armed conflict than the Liberal Wars and considered to start in 1964 with the bombing of several autonomous farming communities deep in the jungles.

This legacy evolved into a complex community of loosely related movements which descend from this common legacy, including partisan Communists, Maoists and Camilists, resulting sometimes in organizations which common symbols and theoretical frameworks which are nonetheless not necessarily connected organically or politically.

During the years that followed the fall of the Soviet Union, this militant subjectivity was widely identified as belonging to the past, and those who maintained fidelity to it, as stuck inexorably in the ideas of another era. This ideological triumph was accompanied by a reorganization of forces in the war, now the paramilitaries were the only armed group with the aid of a superpower (knowingly or not) and quickly recovered most of the territory lost with disregard for human rights or international law. Their success was so wide that they became a national power, para-politics became a common term, and even with the knowledge of the problem, several elected officials today are family members of convicted para-politicians currently serving time in jail.

The sum of these conditions presents us with a deadlock that we have not been able to resolve, and which accounts for the impotence of the Colombian left: the process Paulo Freire describes as conscientização, through which a victim recognizes itself as one, (Freire, 2005, pg. 36) so that what was before recognized as freedom is then seen as a particular configuration, or status quo, or oppressors and oppressed, is interrupted by this fixed ideological identification with an organic community attacked by insurrection and dissent, so that, as Žižek writes: "subjective violence is experienced as such against the background of a non-violent zero level. It is seen as a perturbation of the 'normal', peaceful state of things" (Žižek, 2009, pg. 2). Student discomfort, however justified or understandable it may be, is seen as a continuation of an original violence and from which all other problems derive.

In this ideological constellation, the critical ideas of vanguard thinkers dissatisfied with the global system of capitalism and its effect of education are rejected a priori for being part of a past best forgotten, and its thinkers accused of not understanding the implications of the fall of the Berlin Wall. In the imaginary of some political commentators, it is only through the friendship of the insurgencies with people in activist circles in Europe, in national and international courts, in global academia, and specially, in Venezuela, that there are correspondences between what Colombian students are asking in the streets and what top level professors are saying in their classrooms, that "public schools are under assault not because they are failing (though some are) but because they are one of the few public spheres left where people can learn the knowledge and skills necessary to allow them to think critically and hold power and authority accountable" (Giroux). Despite wide rejection of the violence involved with the protests, of the innate fear of a hooded individual, and the suspicion of the effectiveness of the Latin American socialist macroeconomic model, the Colombian community must recognize that the student radicals are fundamentally right: "At work here is a pedagogy that displaces, infantilizes and depoliticizes both students and large segments of the (...) public. Under the current regime of neoliberalism, schools have been transformed into a private right rather than a public good. Students are now being educated to become consumers rather than thoughtful, critical citizens" (Giroux).

Of course this is not to say that the dissident groups are not determined by this frame they seek to negate, it is far easier to repeat the term "critical conscience" a few times every speech than to transform one's organization into a living community of militant action and thought, which is why most organizations (radical or otherwise) dictate to, rather than construct with, their orientations with their base militants.

None of the problems that we face are particularly new to Marxists, the proper concurrence of theory and practice, the dialectic tension between the direction and the base, or debate between the existence of non-political spaces against the inclusion of all aspects of life into class struggle, to name a few. What is at stake here is our ability to break free from the deadlocks of twentieth century politics and transform the imaginary associated with the last wave of Latin American rebellion (which was the main influence for the political figures of the left today) in order to update our militant project to face this concrete historical process. As this is impossible without a political agreement that realistically is able to contain politics within peaceful means (in a conflict with many more than two actors involved), the priority of any conscient radical should be the realization of the separate peace processes the government is negotiating with the FARC-EP and the ELN and the development of the legal and social framework for the reintegration of combatants. Only the commitment to this goal can unite a fragmented left, connect it with an alienated people, and allow for the emergence of a new militant subjectivity, a project largely abandoned despite the empty homage paid to comrade Guevara.


Freire, P. (2005). Pedagogy of the Opressed. (M. B. Ramos, Trad.) New York: Continuum.

Giroux, H. (s.f.). Can Democratic Education Survive in a Neoliberal Society? 
Recuperado el 20 de 05 de 2014, de Truthout:

Žižek, S. (2009). Violence: Six Sideways Reflections. London: Profile Books.

view older posts ⇒