Saturday, March 25, 2006

Che Bob takes on the Taliban

I have returned from that other from that other front of socialist resistance to the New World Order, Canada (more troutsky humor). Victoria Island is a truly beautiful outpost,rivers ,lakes, ocean ,fish. Speaking of which, four hours of prospecting on a stream I had never seen before yielded two nice steelhead on the fly (Sarp's Seducer). I cannot describe the overall joy in feeling that tug again.

Of course, it rains like a bastard up there in March, so I also found time to finish Spectrum, from right to left in the world of ideas by Perry Anderson. Perry edits The New Left Review and I respect his analysis a great deal and he is quite adept at explaining difficult concepts to people with little background ( such as myself) I have been totally remiss in educating myself on historiography of conservative thought, Anderson explores Oakschott, Strauss, Hayeck and Schmitt. Then some critical analysis of the centre, such as Rawls, Habermas and Bobbio, and then over to the Left. I still havent got around to my own review of Age of Extremes by Hobsbawm but Andersons own work probably makes any attempt of mine redundant, he saw much of what I saw and much, much more.

Now then. My comrade Che Bob has had an interesting run in with the local Taliban here in the Bitterroot Valley, as I knew he surely must eventually. He is attempting to educate children, which is not only frowned upon but punishable and though he has bravely survived the first round, I have dealt with these people before and they are far more persistant than they are reasonable. The confrantation centers on the pledge of allegiance to the flag, of the United States of America, but of course it goes much deeper, way into culture ,politics and religion. The Taliban sees education, as does most of Western society, as a way to create an energetic workforce and weak citizens, proud to conform, ready to produce and consume and not ask to many difficult questions. Che, on the other hand, has this heretical belief that education is about opening children to the possibilities of the life of the mind and if he avoids being burned at the stake, it will be quite a feat. Free thinking, critical adults are rare and the forces which produce them varied and indeterminate still, after decades of theory and research. When dealing with young, unformed minds the issues expand in complexity and controversy. More on this later.

Monday, March 13, 2006

American Dream

Daniel Lazare does a great job dissecting Todd Gitlins new book, The Intellectuals and The Flag, in the newest Nation. Anyone who has read this blog knows the impetus for starting it was an article by Norm Geras in Dissent, working over the unpatriotic response of the "American Left" to 9/11. Michael Waltzer, Paul Berman, Thomas Friedman, blogger neo-neocon, others ad nauseum all have tried to explain their feelings about the attack on their "homeland" , have tried to excite themselves into some nationalist pride, justify the war, or understand their fear. The so called intellectuals theorize on how to gain political advantage for "progressives" by adopting a little more "mainstream" rhetoric (moronic platitudes). Drivel, pathetic drivel.

I just returned from a country where people on the street, people in shops and in schools and on buses and in restaurants use language like this to describe what is happening to their nation, why they are proud of their nation, why they are patriotic: profound social transformation. Re-distribution of wealth. Self-determination. Participatory democracy. Development models created by the People. Bolivarian revolution. Socialism for the twenty first century. Taking power from the small ruling class, from the oligarchs, and giving it back to the people.

What if the American political discourse sounded a little more like this and a little less like the pathetic self-castigation of the left or bombastic exceptionalism of the right? Forget intellectuals, (thankyou Chomsky, Roy,Klein, Mailer, Vonnegut,Vidal and others) Im talking about conversations with your friends and neighbors, in your restaurant, on your bus, in your school. Use words like justice, like ruling class, like power, and see how liberating it is, how patriotic you can suddenly feel, how you can suddenly feel hope again for an ideal (America) that got lost but can find it's way back if we can once again be proud of who we are.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Hope and Contradiction

Was I really sitting in shorts under a coconut tree, watching a frigate bird, sipping my guava juice juice a few hours ago? Humans are not made for such radical shifts. Im looking out a snow covered mountains, grey skies, a modern world.

I have some great pictures and lots of information which I will be posting soon. For now it must suffice to say that there is a real project ahead digesting, interpreting, analyzing the many voices and perspectives which I heard in ten days of interviews. But one message came through clear and consistent. There is change taking place in Venezuela. It is directed by Venezuelans and for Venezuelans who are a proud and capable people with a proud history. The participation and empowerment of people from all social stratas is so much more complete than the process we here in the US call "politics"that if anything, they should be instructing us on how to form institutions and create models for democratic involvement. Instead we have the ludicrous example of Condi Rice lecturing THEM on how to behave. Untill you can be removed to another culture, if even for a short while, you can not truly appreciate the absurdity of such a ridiculous character or understand how truly bizarre she, and by extension US power players, appear to much of the rest of the planet. Cartoon Rulers!Welcome Home.