Saturday, September 13, 2008

Items of interest

Call it a quick roundup of essays, interviews, and speaking engagements that are catching my attention this evening.

Mickey Z's edited version of September 11, 2008 is one of those must-reads. Here's just a teaser:
Preamble: "How many other countries give you the right to write what you just wrote?" This was one of the many responses I got to a recent article of mine. Let's put aside the unintentional tongue twister and the question's obvious answer: plenty of other countries would give me the right to write what I just wrote.

The larger issue, as I see it, is how we each choose to evaluate our freedom. Is freedom just a matter of bigger cages and longer chains? Is it merely a commodity sold to the highest bidder? Must the majority of us sit by and drool while freedom fries on the grill of capitalist greed?

Freedom, according to Rosa Luxemburg, is "always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently." To merely have more freedom than, say, a woman living under Taliban repression is not the same as being free. But it is the same as settling for less subjugation instead of demanding more liberty. The "it could always be worse" excuse is no way to judge the quality or quantity of anything.
The Luxemburg quote stood out in particular.

Larry at Lotus - Surviving a Dark Time has a tribute to the persistence of memory. There's plenty in the way of writings from the fall of 2001, including this excerpt:
In any political dispute, it is a dreadful tactical mistake - one of which the left has been too often guilty - to let your opponents define the terms of debate. By decrying “the refusal to draw [a] line” between “principled dissent” and an ill-defined “‘Hate America’ left” Alterman effectively acknowledges that questions about our patriotism - however we individually define the word - are proper ones and thus repeats this same blunder. His proposed course of action does not defuse the right’s attack, it legitimizes it.

If “patriotism requires no apologies,” neither should it require conscious demonstration. Instead of trying to prove we are part of “responsible debate” by slicing others out of that range, we should simply assume that we are and act on that basis. I’ve long maintained that the left in this country has been at its strongest and most influential when we have spoken the truth as we understand it without giving a flying damn if anyone was offended or not. Our task must be to present ourselves and what we believe, clearly, strongly, unreservedly, and unashamedly. Time and energy wasted defensively declaring what we don’t believe are just that - and we’ve little enough of either to start with.
Finally, Howard Zinn from a recent Al Jazeera interview:

Q: Is there any hope the US will change its approach to the rest of the world?

HZ: If there is any hope, the hope lies in the American people.

[It] lies in American people becoming resentful enough and indignant enough over what has happened to their country, over the loss of dignity in the world, over the starving of human resources in the United States, the starving of education and health, the takeover of the political mechanism by corporate power and the result this has on the everyday lives of the American people.

[There is also] the higher and higher food prices, the more and more insecurity, the sending of the young people to war.

I think all of this may very well build up into a movement of rebellion.

We have seen movements of rebellion in the past: The labour movement, the civil rights movement, the movement against the war in Vietnam.

I think we may well see, if the United States keeps heading in the same direction, a new popular movement. That is the only hope for the United States.

Q: How did the US get to this point?

HZ: Well, we got to this point because … I suppose the American people have allowed it to get it to this point because there were enough Americans who were satisfied with their lives, just enough.

Of course, many Americans were not, that is why half of the population doesn’t vote, they’re alienated.

But there are just enough Americans who have been satisfied, you might say getting some of the “goodies” of the empire, just some of them, just enough people satisfied to support the system, so we got this way because of the ability of the system to maintain itself by satisfying just enough of the population to keep its legitimacy.

And I think that era is coming to an end.

Food for thought.

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