Sunday, 25 February 2007

Despite my misgivings about the current American administration, I must admit to having an odd affection for the American people as a whole. (I suppose it's a matter of hating the sin and not the sinner.)

Despite the difficulty in convincing non-Americans that they (America) are still a democracy at anything beyond face value, they were still responsible for bringing many of the elements crucial to the so-called modern democratic state together, including the pivotal concepts incorporated in the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. High water points in American history, in my opinion, have included the revolution of 1776 [although, as Howard Zinn and others remind us, the Revolution was directed by rich, tax-dodging, slave-owning white men], the presidency of Andrew Jackson, the era of progressive reforms, and the less hedonistic elements of the so-called counter-culture of the 1960s. [As Samuel Huntington observed, '[t]he essence of the democratic surge of the 1960s was a general challenge to systems of authority, public and private. In one form or another, this challenge manifested itself in the family, the university, business, public and private associations, politics, the governmental bureaucracy, and the military services.']

Unfortunately, they appear to have allowed their political system to be hijacked by automatons and now the margin of real difference between their two dominant parties is so small as to make no difference. Maybe that's what is so frustrating. They have had so much potential and they have squandered it. As the saying goes, no matter who you vote for the government always gets in.

Thursday, 22 February 2007

On Breaking Points and Lack Thereof

A recent discussion regarding the ongoing situation in Afghanistan and Iraq [and Iran?] brought an observation of Henry Kissinger from 1969 to mind.

"I can’t believe,” Kissinger told us, “that a fourth-rate power like North Vietnam doesn't have a breaking point."

While far from being an original thought, it is still somewhat disconcerting to consider that American leadership can continue to enmesh themselves in situations such as this time and again with no thought as to what has led to this path. [Kissinger was wondering the same thing 37 years ago that the current administration is wondering now. The only difference being that the American forces had the option of withdrawal with a chance of success]. The Bush administration has enthusiastically opted to place itself in a state of zugswang from which they no longer have the luxury of disengaging from, unlike earlier neocolonialist 'adventures' in Grenada or Panama. By ignoring the motivations and history of their opponents, they have effectively made the same mistake as a number of military leaders throughout the past century - fighting the wrong battle. Much as the British commanders attempted to repeat the Crimean War during WWI and the French attempted to use the tactics of WWI to win WWII, America's political leadership gives the impression of having gravely misjudged their opponents and their supporters. It is as if they assume that the Iraqi and Afghan peoples have been secretly waiting for the opportunity to become citizens of an American satellite state. Now, instead of seeing what they wanted us to see, we are now witnessing the chickens coming home to roost.

Sunday, 18 February 2007

'This country with its constitution belongs to those who live in it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government they shall exercise their constitutional rights of amending it or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it.'

- Abraham Lincoln

'Although I admire the revolutionary art of the Black Panthers, I feel that guns alone will never change this System. You don't use a gun on an IBM computer. You pull the plug out of it.'

- Free [aka Abbie Hoffman]. [1970]. Revolution for the Hell of It.

Friday, 16 February 2007

‘[T]he colonizer denies the colonized the most precious right granted to most men: liberty.'

- Albert Memmi, The Colonizer and the Colonized. [1957]

'These are the times that try men’s souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict the more glorious the triumph.'

— Thomas Paine, [December 1776]. The Crisis.

Thursday, 15 February 2007

‘Colonialism creates the patriotism of the colonized. Kept at the level of a beast by an oppressive system, the natives are given no rights, not even the right to live. Their condition worsens daily. And when a people has no choice but how it will die; when a people has received from its oppressors only the gift of despair, what does it have to lose? A people’s misfortune will become its courage; it will make, of its endless rejection by colonialism, the absolute rejection of colonialism (Memmi, 1957: xxviii-xxix).’

‘[E]very colonial nation carries the seeds of fascist temptation in its bosom … The human relationships have arisen from the severest exploitation, founded on inequality and contempt, guaranteed by police authoritarianism (Memmi, 1957: 62).’

- Albert Memmi. [1957]. The Colonizer and the Colonized.

‘Activism evolved from being constrained and defined by the scalar politics of national post-war welfare states to embracing the local-global politics characteristic of the antiglobalization movement (Conway, 2004).’

Janet Conway. [2004]. Identity, Place, and Knowledge: Social Movements Contesting Globalization.

Wednesday, 14 February 2007

'I know that most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives.'

- Leo Tolstoy [1826-1910]

Tuesday, 13 February 2007

‘I am part of that power which eternally
wills evil and eternally works good.’

- Goethe, Faust

Monday, 12 February 2007

‘…terrible apprehensions were among the people.’

- Daniel Dafoe, A Journal of the Plague Year [1722]

‘Every age has its peculiar folly: some scheme, project, or phantasy [sic] into which it plunges, spurred on by the love of gain, the necessity of excitement, or the mere force of imitation.’

- Charles McKay, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds [1841]

‘The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.’

- George Orwell, Notes on Nationalism [1945]

Friday, 9 February 2007

'Networks are cooperative not competitive.
They are true grass roots:
self-generating, self-organizing, sometimes self-destructing.
They represent a process, a journey, not a frozen structure....
a network is both intimate and expansive...
Networks are the strategy by which small groups
can transform an entire society.'

- Marilyn Ferguson, The Aquarian Conspiracy. [1982].

'I have had with my friend Wes Jackson a number of conversations about the necessity of getting out of movements - even movements that have seemed necessary and dear to us - when they have lapsed into self-righteousness and self-betrayal, as movements seem almost invariably to do. People in movements too readily learn to deny to others the rights and privileges they demand for themselves.'

- Wendell Berry, 'in distrust of movements.' In Orion. [Summer 1999]. 18, 3.