"Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one." - Charles Mackay
Thursday, December 15, 2005
semester respite
It is the end of the semester and I will not be online because quite simply I am sorely in need of a mental break so here is some mos def to calm your soul

So much on my mind that I can't recline

Blastin holes in the night til she bled sunshine

Breathe in, inhale vapors from bright stars that shine

Breathe out, weed smoke retrace the skyline

Heard the bass ride out like an ancient mating call

I can't take it y'all, I can feel the city breathin

Chest heavin, against the flesh of the evening

Sigh before we die like the last train leaving

-Mos Def
posted by R J Noriega at 1:41 PM | Permalink | 2 comments
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
Beautiful Picture
posted by R J Noriega at 2:32 PM | Permalink | 0 comments
Neo-Rainbow Coalition!!!
As controversy continues to rage over the 2004 presidential elections and challenges to the legitimacy of the vote in the crucial state of Ohio continue to move forward, another battle is heating up, this one over the future of the Democratic Party. We host a debate with Donna Brazile, Al Gore's campaign manager in the 2000 election and a longtime Democratic Party activist and Manning Marable, a professor at Columbia University and one of America's most influential and widely read scholars. [includes rush transcript]
As controversy continues to rage over the 2004 presidential elections and challenges to the legitimacy of the vote in the crucial state of Ohio continue to move forward, another battle is heating up. This one over the future of the Democratic Party.
Last week, Moveon.org sparked a controversy when it sent an email out to its massive list-serve saying it had a message for what it called the "professional election losers" who run the Democratic Party. Pointing to the $300 million raised by MoveOn and other individual contributors, the group's founder Eli Pariser said of the Democratic party, "We bought it, we own it, we're going to take it back." The email targeted outgoing Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe as a tool of corporate donors who alienated both traditional and progressive Democrats. The email charged that, for years, the party has been led by elite Washington insiders who are closer to corporate lobbyists than they are to the Democratic base

Meanwhile, Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean has sparked an impassioned debate by announcing his intention to run for chair of the powerful Democratic National Committee. This weekend Dean and other prospective candidates vying for the position will speak at a Democratic Party event in Orlando, Florida.

Among the names being tossed around are: US Representative Martin Frost of Texas; former Michigan governor James Blanchard; former Denver mayor Wellington Webb;former Dallas mayor Ron Kirk; former White House deputy chief of staff Harold Ickes; businessman Leo Hindery Jr.and Donnie Fowler, a Democratic strategist and Silicon Valley veteran. Democrats will vote at their February meeting in Washington on a successor to Terry McAuliffe. Many see that election as one of the strongest indicators of the direction the Democratic party will take over the next 4 years.

Manning Marable, one of America's most influential and widely read scholars. He is Professor of History and Political Science and Public Affairs at Columbia University, and founding Director of the Institute for Research in African-American Studies. His latest books include "The Great Wells of Democracy: The Meaning of Race in American Life and "Freedom on My Mind: The Columbia Documentary History of the African American Experience."
Donna Brazile, Al Gore's campaign manager in the 2000 election and a longtime Democratic Party activist. She is author of the book "Cooking With Grease: Stirring the Pots in American Politics."

This transcript is available free of charge, however donations help us provide closed captioning for the deaf and hard of hearing on our TV broadcast. Thank you for your generous contribution.
Donate - $25, $50, $100, more...

AMY GOODMAN: We're joined now by Manning Marable, Professor of History and Political Science and Public Affairs at Columbia University. He is one of America's most influential and widely read scholars. He is founder of the -- Director of the Institute for Research in African American Studies. His latest books include, The Great Wells Of Democracy: The Meaning Of Race In American Life and Freedom On My Mind, the Columbia University history of the African American experience. On the phone with us is Donna Brazile, Al Gore's campaign manager in the 2000 election, a long-time Democratic Party activist, author of the book, Cooking With Grease: Stirring The Pots In American Politics. We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Donna Brazile, let's begin with you. Can you talk about where you see the Democratic Party going right now, and the situation it is in?

DONNA BRAZILE: Well, first of all, it's good to be on the show with Dr. Marable whom I admire and respect. The Democratic Party, right now is in the throes of being -- It's under construction. It’s under new management. We're looking for leaders now who are willing to take the helm and to expand this party to return it to its grassroots, to its great promise of being a national party, and not just an 18-state party. Last week in Orlando, we heard from all of the prospective candidates. It was a very important meeting. I thought that, you know, three or four of them will probably emerge as frontrunners over the next two to three weeks. But as a member of the D.N.C., an “at large” member, I'm very eager to hear from the candidates on how they intend to expand the base of the Democratic Party, to reach out to more voters, including swing voters, persuadable voters, but how to really, become the loyal opposition party so that we're not faced with two Republican parties in the future.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And in terms of the lessons learned from this election, for that -- for looking at that future, certainly, the criticism cannot be laid to the Democratic Party that did not mobilize the voters, because there was a greater participation by democratic voters, although still much less so in the major cities, where democrats have a base, than in the suburbs and the ex-urbs, but what are the lessons learned from this election?

DONNA BRAZILE: There's no question that democrats have to come up with a clear, concise message of who we are, what we stand for, our values. We are a party of strong convictions as well. We are a party that believes in the freedom of all Americans, the right to choose, equality for all citizens, education, health care, and yet, the majority of Americans who voted against John Kerry didn't know exactly what John Kerry and the Democratic Party stood for. One of the things that struck me following the election is that 37% of the American people were identified as conservative, 37% as liberals or moderates, and now, you know, a month after the election, democrats have lost ground. In the new Gallup poll, 37% continue to identify themselves as republicans or conservatives, but now for democrats or liberals or moderates, it's down to 32%. So, clearly, people don't know who we are. It's important as we go forward, not just the Democratic Party but all of our progressive allies understand that we have to take our message, not only to the inner cities but the suburbs and ex-urbs so people know exactly what we stand for and why we are fighting for their values and their convictions up on capitol hill and in the state houses across the country.

AMY GOODMAN: Manning Marable, your response.

MANNING MARABLE: It's a pleasure to be on Democracy Now! this morning and especially with Donna Brazile. Many things that Donna has said this morning I agree with. I think that clearly mainstream democrats represent, both ideologically and in terms of public policy, positions that are clearly centrist and relatively speaking to the left of the Republican Party. Unfortunately, it's not very hard to be to the left of the Republican Party these days. I think that two things concern me. One: Voter mobilization, or the lack of it, in 2004 in central cities. Any veteran voter organizer knows the five-touch rule. You have got to individually touch – and Donna, I'm sure, knows this, a prospective voter five times with literature, face-to-face contact, to insure that that voter is truly motivated to turn out at the polls. And despite the left’s mobilization of voters in central cities, and unprecedented voter mobilizations and as Juan says correctly, in certain suburban areas, in our central cities, we did not adequately see the Democratic Party put major resources, sufficiently to insure that those who are -- have less than high school education, those who are unemployed, those who are immigrants or recent immigrants, racialized minorities, Latinos and Blacks, truly have the turnout rates we needed to have in order to win this election. Secondly, I think that the media's done a disservice not just to the Democratic Party, but more broadly to working Americans by making the case that the right wing somehow has a magical mandate in 2004. It just isn't so. If you had a switch of 150,000 votes in Ohio. You will have President Kerry right now. Now, we don't have a real democracy in the United States because we still have an electoral college, and constitutionally, it's going to be extremely difficult to get rid of it. But I would argue vigorously that the way to go, in thinking about the Democratic Party is the way the extreme right wing thought about the Republican Party 30 years ago. How did Richard Vigary, how did the extreme right in the Republican Party, a party that did have liberal republicans, how did they swing the ideological and political base of that party to the right? The way they did it was organizing inside and outside. I have preached this for 25 years. I think that people like Bill Fletcher, the head of TransAfrica and actor/activist Danny Glover, have been talking recently about the need for a “neo-rainbow” strategy. I agree with that. We need to build political capacity for the democratic left outside of the Democratic Party to leverage that party to move toward policy positions that clearly address the needs of the American people. We cannot look to the Democratic Party to do the work of progressives who are pushing for issues like full employment, universal health care, a discourse that has disappeared inside of the Democratic Party. We have to build capacity to the left of it. Just like Vigary and the direct-mail ideological right and the Christian Coalition, built an infrastructure outside of the republicans to their right, to take them over.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, would you consider the efforts that have been done by some groups like MoveOn.org as part of that process, or do you think even new efforts must begin?

MANNING MARABLE: I respect MoveOn.org. I think that they have done a terrific job, but I believe that one of the things I have learned over the years in political organizing is that if Latinos and black people are not at the table at the beginning of a process, it is very hard to bring them in and to get them involved in large numbers as the process is well down the road. The reason that I have suggested something like a neo-rainbow approach is that the strength of what the rainbow was 20 years ago was a Black and Latino-led movement that assumed an electoral form, very much like the Harold Washington campaign. It came out of the anti-racist mobilization in Chicago in 1982 and 1983, building upon a long tradition of community-based civic engagement and activism. Politics that comes from the social movements, not imposed from the top down on them is really what I'm talking about. That kind of discussion has to take place in order for us to move the Democratic Party to the left, but more than that, I think that we also have to emphasize that it's not just going to be enough to shake up the Democratic Party, and even win a national election for the presidency, in order to get the kind of policies we want to see in the country. We have to actually change the rules of the electoral game very much like, for example, in San Francisco, this past year, where you had a modified version of instant run-off voting that determined the City Supervisors elections. That kind of thing, of changing how we vote, making a more democratic process in the electoral system is how we can insure greater democracy in American democracy.

AMY GOODMAN: Donna Brazile, what do you think of what Manning Marable has put forward? Do you think, do you blame John Kerry for what took place, and what do you think of the idea of a neo-rainbow coalition?

DONNA BRAZILE: Let me first say I totally endorse the notion of a neo-rainbow coalition. It's long overdue. Part of the problem that we have is -- as an activist, I have been both inside and outside, so I have done both. I have done a little bit of the organizing that takes place among progressives in building capacity as well as enlarging the electorate and of course I have been an inside player as well. The republicans replenish their rank and file every two years. Democrats re-invent themselves. Part of our strategic problem is that we go out there every two years, trying to present ourselves as something new, something different, and we lose touch with the base of the Democratic Party. But Marable is absolutely correct. Often our approach to inner city politics and inner city leaders and inner city mobilization is to put that on hold until the last three or four weeks of the election. Which in my judgment hurts us. It hurts our ability to reach a larger audience and to have a greater mobilization. This year, African-Americans and Latinos performed at extraordinary numbers in all of the battleground states. But that's the problem. In battleground states. In Illinois, where Barrack Obama won his election by a landslide, African-American and Latino turnout actually was below the national average because there was no mobilization in the non-battleground states where there was a senatorial candidate. The leadership of the progressive community, I believe must sit back after the election, analyze their own involvement, but begin to encourage their members and their rank and file to run for the national -- I mean, run for public office, and become the voice of not just the progressive forces in our country, but also the voice of the Democratic Party. If we don't do that, if we don't begin to replenish the leadership right now, of what I call the old guard, we will not have long term, a real party to build on, a real party that can compete effectively against these republicans who by the way, are pretty entrenched right now.

JUAN GONZALEZ: What about the issue, though, that Professor Marable raises about the kind of resources that the Democratic Party devoted to the inner cities. For instance, I'm looking at Ohio, where I spent a lot of time examining the vote there, and then while turnout in Ohio was 70% of registered voters in places like Cuyahoga County, it was over 60%, in Cleveland within Cuyahoga County, the overall turnout was 49%. It may have been excellent compared to past presidential elections, but it still clearly was way below the overall turnout in other areas of the state. So, that would either indicate that those voters were not sufficiently mobilized to begin to turn out in numbers, and we're talking about registered voters now, to the same degree that the Bush supporters were in their record numbers out in the suburbs.

DONNA BRAZILE: Well, let's put something on the table, and I said it publicly and I have written about it. Karl Rove and the republicans had one focus, and that was to energize and to enlarge their base. That was the key to their success. They understood the electorate was deeply polarized and that the goal was to insure that they -- you know, got their base out. The democrats had a different approach. If you look at how the money was spent, both at the 527's, the MoveOn.org, the Democratic Party the formula was the same. And the formula was to reach 'tweens, persuadables, independents. Base voters, and I saw it -- Move On did ads in the last two months of the campaign, the Kerry people did them, the last two, the 527's, they didn't go after the base, two, three months out. They went after the base, you know, just a couple of weeks out. That was a strategic error on the party of the Kerry Campaign, and I have criticized them for having leftover money, money that could have been used to reach people. You know, you reach them where they live, where they eat, where they play and where they pray. You reach them multiple times. But In the inner cities, as I said some months ago, Send my dad a bumper sticker! We don’t do it, and that’s a strategic flaw in the Democratic party and that’s why this fight for the party chair is a very important strategic struggle for the left and for progressive forces. And I am not going to allow the D.L.C. and the more centrist conservative leadership to determine and dictate who the next chair will be based on the fact that they want somebody who can go out and speak on Sunday shows. I want somebody who can go out and organize in the inner cities as well as the suburbs and ex-urbs, and go out and enlarge our base and to be able to make our party more competitive across the -- across the country.

AMY GOODMAN: Donna Brazile, you said D.L.C., Democratic Leadership Council. Who do you mean by the D.L.C.? DONNA BRAZIL: What I mean by that -- because I have seen several stories written, and often when democrats lose, I saw this in 2000 and 2002 and some other years, they constantly blame it on the -- you know, the party focused too much time on the base. That's ludicrous. Look at the money. I have run a presidential campaign, so I can speak from experience. 85% of the resources in a presidential campaign is spent on persuadables, of swing voters which is -- they're important, don't get me wrong, but I often believe we need a parallel strategy. We also have to mobilize in a large debate, and although we spent considerable resources, you know, based on what I have heard and learned from the 527's on base mobilization, we didn't spend enough money to really do the job that had to be done in order to defeat and offset what Karl Rove was doing in the ex-urbs and other parts of the country.


MANNING MARABLE: I think that there is a reason why the bulk of the leadership of the Democratic Party focused primarily on so-called swing voters, especially that 10% of the American population that is overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly middle to upper middle class, or upper class, as opposed to blacks, Latinos and the working poor. And that is, they don't want us at the table generally, when the decisions are being made. Let's be very honest about this. I think that, you know, years ago, sociologists and political scientists Fran Piven and Richard Cloward talked about the hole in the American electorate. If you look the how people vote based on their income and educational levels, people with a high -- with a college education turn out or register to vote at something like 80%. People with a high school education, it's about 50%. People who have less than a high school education, who are -- who are unemployed is about 40%, and so on. So, that you can kind of predict who's going to be turning out by socioeconomic profile. Well, if there is way that we could mobilize those who are the most disadvantaged, racialized minorities, working women, poor folk, and really get them at the table. This is what I'm talking about, a neo-rainbow approach, and really put money into that, and not just dump literature on a street corner and expect – or one bumper sticker that occasionally drives by in our neighborhoods, but rather actually putting millions of dollars and tens of thousands of campaign workers on the ground into the neighborhoods, knocking on doors and working with, and -- with community-based organizations, around and focusing on issues of real concern in people's daily lives. Then you will get a turnout, but the kind of turnout, and the kind of Democratic Party that would be produced is something that the party oligarchs are fearful of, because the mass democratic base mobilized from below, would shift the discourse at the top. And that is what they don't want. They would rather lose a presidential election than have a true Democratic Party be truly democratic.

AMY GOODMAN: Donna Brazile, would you accept being Chair of the Democratic Party?

DONNA BRAZILE: I'm sorry, you can say that again?

AMY GOODMAN: Would you accept being Chair of the Democratic Party? DONNA BRAZIL: No, I decline the opportunity to run. I have spent almost four straight years on the road helping the party rebuild itself after the 2000 victory that we didn't actually get a chance to serve because of the Supreme Court, and I wanted to go back and train a new generation of activists. I'm going to continue to did that, but I don't -- I'm not interested in –

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think that the recount should happen in Ohio? Do you think there should be an overall recount? DONNA BRAZIL: Absolutely. I support it strongly. Finally after three weeks of a lot of phone calls and a lot of lobbying got the Democratic Party to engage. As you know, the Green Party and Libertarian Party went out there ahead, and –

AMY GOODMAN: Well, on that note, we're going to have to wrap up the show. I want to thank you very much Donna Brazil and Professor Manning Marable for being with us.
posted by R J Noriega at 1:50 PM | Permalink | 0 comments
Bush cronies turning campuses dissent-free
By Irene Monroe

The repressiveness of the Bush Administration is all over American college campuses. And it’s not only in the demand to reinstall U.S. military recruitment with the so-called Solomon Amendment, which requires military recruitment be allowed or schools risk losing federal funds. It’s also in Republican-funded college and university administrations that employ any means necessary – intimidation and/or physical force – to have a dissent-free campus.

Seven students at Hampton University in Virginia, one of the nation’s historically black colleges, faced expulsion on Dec. 2 for a crime these days viewed as either treason or sedition against the government.

Leafleting what the university depicts as “unauthorized” literature about the Bush Administration’s racist polices regarding homophobia, AIDS, Hurricane Katrina, genocide in Sudan, and the Iraq war as part of a November protest initiated by The World Can’t Wait – Drive Out Bush Regime, the “Hampton Seven” were issued summonses for a hearing with no time to contact either their parents or their lawyers.

For weeks leading up to the protest that involved over 200 universities and colleges nationwide, the Hampton Seven were followed by campus police, targeted by video surveillance, and forced to turn over their IDs.

But the harassment didn’t just center on the Hampton Seven.

“The HU police booked several people just because they were wearing stickers and other paraphernalia because they looked suspicious. The police used hand-help camcorders to record the faces of the activists without permission. They attempted to intimidate the student onlookers by their random targeting,” wrote two of the Hampton Seven – John Robinson, and Brandon King, both senior sociology majors – in “Corporate Plantation: Political Repression and the Hampton Model.”

Once apprehended, hundreds of phone calls and thousands of signatures from around the country defending the students – including from such notables as Howard Zinn, Cindy Sheehan, Gore Vidal, Bill T. Jones and Alice Walker – reached the dean’s office. Attempting to prevent the story from leaking out, campus police shut down all interviews being filmed by the local media.

Hampton’s code of conduct reportedly allows peaceful, non-violent protest, but with one caveat – administration approval.

“Therein lies the problem. If they are going to practice their freedom of speech, they have to have permission,“ Hampton student Aaron Williams told a local reporter.

However, many students at Hampton say it’s not that the flyers were “unauthorized” – because many of them were. The problem was the anti-Bush content in the flyers.

“I just want people to know that this is not solely about us being exonerated. Even if they let us off the hook, conditions on campus will be even worse. . . . There is a lot of connection here, it is more severe and ridiculous at our campus, but repression is going on across the U.S.,“ John Robinson told Sunsara Taylor, co-initiator of The World Can’t Wait.

Behind the Hampton Seven’s protest is a window into a more insidious problem that is unrelenting, pervasive and has metastasized into a community of African-American students -- Bush’s Republicanism and the way it cultivates a political docility and elitist assimilationist indoctrination.

Headed by an African American, Dr. William R. Harvey is president of Hampton University. He is also a Bush appointee to the Federal National Mortgage Association and a benefactor to Bush-Cheney coffers. Hampton’s June 2005 commencement speaker, whom Harvey selected, was his crony Alphonso Jackson, Bush’s Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Jackson has deliberately cut back access for poor African Americans to subsidized Section 8 Housing and has unabashedly boasted to The Houston Chronicle that New Orleans should not allow most of its displaced denizens back because they were parasitic to the economy, and the future of New Orleans in order for it to survive must shift from being predominately black to predominately white.

With just days removed from World AIDS Day – with more reports of how the pandemic continues to grow and ravage communities of African descent - students had to fight vigorously for an AIDS Awareness group on campus. Why? Agreeing along with Bush’s policy of abstinence only, “President Harvey responded that we probably did not need one because everyone knows about AIDS,” Johnson wrote. The city of Hampton, Va., however, is one of the top 10 AIDS-infected areas in the country, and black college campuses on the whole have a disproportionate number of students with HIV/AIDS.

And homophobia contributes to the problem on campus. However, homophobia on Hampton’s campus is so virulent that I couldn’t find any current students to talk openly about homophobia or HIV/AIDS without fear of reprisal.

But an alumnus of the class of 1976, Dr. Thea James, an emergency Medicine physician at Boston Medical Center and assistant professor of Emergency Medicine at the Boston University School of Medicine, talked about her days at Hampton. “It was very repressive and run like a police state, and I and everyone else had to toe the line. I wasn’t out then because I feared being thrown out of the pre-med program. Today I imagine the same thing. I never got involved with campus political activism because there wasn’t any. I am proud of these recent Hampton students.”

As it turned out, Hampton University did not expel the Hampton Seven. But the University released a statement downplaying the issue: “The matter was simply an issue of compliance with University polices and procedures. The University certainly permits peaceful protest; however all polices and procedures must be adhered to by students as stated in the Hampton University official Student Handbook.”

posted by R J Noriega at 12:11 PM | Permalink | 0 comments
Thursday, December 01, 2005
History has not yet begun
Liberalism and socialism belonged to the Stone Age of ideologies. Now we are ready to crawl out of the caves.

by Frank Furedi

Is this really the end of history? A growing consensus suggests that we are at the end of something.

There is a profound sense of terminus about the age of modernity. Many thinkers who are not self-consciously post-modernist nevertheless subscribe to the thesis that we have reached the end of the modern era. American historian John Lukacs declares 'It's the End of the Modern Age', and claims that we are witnessing, not fin de siecle, but fin d'une ere (1).

Contemporary thinkers rarely question Lukacs' pessimistic account of the decline of the modern age. Even proponents of modernism and the Enlightenment find it difficult to promote a robust view of the world that is embedded in the values of reason and progress. The best case scenario that Morris Berman's The Twilight of American Culture is able to posit is one where 'we do have a renaissance, a preservation and transmission of Enlightenment culture, but only for a select few, and their impact on the rest of the culture is apparently nonexistent' (2).

Even though Berman discounts the possibility that the Enlightenment could capture the popular imagination, at least he acknowledges the value of this tradition. By contrast, a significant section of the Western intelligentsia sneeringly denounces the 'Enlightenment project', and celebrates its demise. From this perspective, the events of 11 September are the inevitable consequence of the destructive forces unleashed by globalisation and modernity.

It is striking how feeble today's affirmation of modernity is. A profound sense of cultural disorientation continually invites pessimistic conclusions. That is why the terrible events of 11 September have been endowed with such epochal significance. The destruction of the World Trade Centre is often interpreted as an attack on modernity; and judging by the weak intellectual response to this attack the terrorists seem to be bombing their way through an open door.

Politicians and opinion-formers are desperate to quell any discussion about a clash of civilisations. Any suggestion that Islam might in some sense be implicated in inspiring the destruction of this symbol of modernity is swiftly dismissed as xenophobic. Some Western cultural commentators imagine that the act was provoked by the regime of conspicuous consumption symbolised by the Twin Towers. And those who imply that 'America had it coming' really mean that this act of destruction is the penalty exacted for the arrogant presumptions of modernity.

Fukuyama's obituary is not so much about history as about historical thinking

Compared to the profoundly pessimistic and anti-rationalist intellectual currents of our times, Francis Fukuyama's thesis on 'The End of History' comes across as positively forward looking. Fukuyama at least recognises that the present stage of human development represents an advance over previous ones.

In line with the pessimistic temper of our times, Fukuyama's vision of the future is a bleak one, in which human beings struggle 'for the sake of struggle' out of a 'certain boredom' (3). But although Fukuyama discounts the enterprise of making history in the future, he clearly recognises the important achievements realised through the development of human civilisation.

Much of the critical reaction to Fukuyama's 'end of history' thesis missed the central point of his argument. Fukuyama did not seek to imply that history had literally ended and that nothing new would ever happen again. Rather, as he explained, he used the term 'history' in the specific Hegelian sense, to mean the 'history of ideology' or the 'history of thought about first principles'.

This version of the end-of-ideology thesis does not exclude change. But it does exclude the further evolution of human consciousness, and the development of a new and superior vision of how society should be run. History has ended in the sense that there appear to be no ideas that can credibly offer to take humanity beyond the status quo.

Fukuyama's obituary is not so much about history as about historical thinking. Historical thinking is a form of consciousness oriented towards altering the human condition. It regards all social arrangements as transient, and therefore susceptible to further improvement through the making of history.

During the past three centuries, historical thinking directly encouraged the construction of political alternatives to the status quo. The claim that such alternatives have become irrevocably exhausted constitutes the core of the 'end of history' thesis.

Even the aspiration to know becomes associated with destructive outcomes

Historical thinking represents one of the greatest achievements of the Enlightenment tradition. It recognises and affirms the transformative dynamic of human action, especially in its future-oriented and culturally purposeful form. The early eighteenth-century thinker Giambattista Vico was one of the first to grasp the responsibility of human beings for the making of history:

'In the night of thick darkness enveloping the earliest antiquity, so remote from ourselves, there shines the eternal and never-failing light of a truth beyond all question: that the world of civil society has certainly been made by man, and that its principles are therefore to be found within the modifications of our human mind' (4).

The sense of history-making as a defining feature of the human condition led Vico and others to endow this activity with an essentially positive character.

With the emergence of historical thinking, the sense of change became theorised for the first time. Change itself became an issue, the premier intellectual problem of the time. This sense of change was closely linked to the recognition that human subjectivity was not external to, but part of, history. A new sense of temporality gave human consciousness a decisive role in the shaping of history.

Such sentiments directly contradict the temper of our times. Today, terms like naive, arrogant and pernicious are used to dismiss Vico's view of how history is made. In particular, the role of reason and human consciousness is assigned a marginal role in history-making.

The attempt to act in accordance with a system of ideas is invariably denounced as ideological, fanatical, utopian or millenarian. Critics of historical thinking share the premise that human beings have little control over their actions and still less over the outcome.

Society is only now learning about how the world really works

In the past, critics of reason took a particular delight in stressing the impotence of human agency. The liberal critic Friedrich Hayek insisted that men and women were always the objects, but never the subjects, of history. 'Man is not and never will be the master of his fate: his very reason progresses by leading him into the unknown and unforeseen where he learns new things.' (5)

Despite his pessimistic account of human agency, Hayek still offers a positive view, in which humanity progresses and learns albeit in unforeseen and unexpected circumstances. Contemporary critics of reason and progress go much further, and even stigmatise the humanist aspiration for expanding the frontier of knowledge.

Proponents of the thesis that we live in a society dominated by risk claim that, in our complex industrial world, it is impossible to know the consequences of scientific and technological innovation. Some argue that since the consequences of technological innovation are realised so swiftly, there is simply no time to know or understand their likely effects (6). According to the German sociologist Niklas Luhmann, the absence of time required to obtain necessary information weakens hope in rationality (7).

This negative interpretation of society's ability to understand the consequences of its actions assigns a rather minor and undistinguished role to human agency. Indeed, theories of risk society represent humanity as too powerless to repair the damage it has caused in the past, and too ignorant to shape the future. From this perspective, even the aspiration to know becomes associated with destructive outcomes. Historical thinking itself becomes a risk.

The estrangement of contemporary Western culture from the Enlightenment tradition in general, and specifically from historical thinking, appears to vindicate the 'end of history' thesis. Fukuyama's thesis contains one important insight: he has accurately identified the weak state of historical thinking in the contemporary era. In contrast to previous times, there appear to be no intellectual alternatives to capitalism and liberal democracy. There are no big ideas. And all the dissident ideas - anti-globalism, environmentalism, and so on - lack both an orientation towards the future and any plausible arguments about how to transcend the status quo.

Critics of mainstream politics are even more suspicious of the role of human consciousness than are the elites. This approach is most striking among movements for cultural recognition, where consciousness is abolished and replaced by the politics of identity. Fixed identities rooted in the past represent the antithesis of historical thinking.

Attempts to revise past insights turned the critique of capitalism into a caricature

So are we to conclude that history has ended? The idea that historical thinking has reached its limits cannot logically be deduced from the empirical reality of the present day. It is simply a generalisation from the empirical recognition that, at present, there is no ideological alternative to liberal capitalism. But the present is but a moment in terms of the historical process. Indeed, from the experience of the past three centuries, it is possible to draw the conclusion that history has just begun.

It is unlikely that the ideological battles of the past three centuries have exhausted the intellectual imagination of humanity, for at least two reasons.

The big ideas associated with the advocacy of liberal capitalism have always played a secondary role within the wider political culture. The best argument for capitalism was always the claim that it delivered and provided a measure of economic prosperity. During times of recession and depression, intellectual supporters of this system invariably went on the defensive and were always prepared to take pragmatic turns. At one time or another, proponents of liberal capitalism were more than happy to live with state socialism, the mixed economy, New Deals and the Welfare State.

Throughout most of the twentieth century, the best argument for capitalism was the negative example of the Soviet Union. Consequently, the ideology of capitalism has remained under-theorised, and rarely elaborated into an inspiring alternative. Indeed the contributions made by more systematic libertarians have tended to remain on the margins of political discussion. Characteristically, the Western intelligentsia has distanced itself from free-market ideas - indeed, it has often been drawn towards cultural criticisms of capitalism.

The under-theorised character of capitalist ideology has rendered it a weak instrument for influencing culture. The pessimistic cultural mood of our times - which is even more striking post-11 September- indicates that this outlook lacks the resilience to survive in its present form. Even if capitalist thinking faces no alternatives, it faces the prospect of internal implosion. The growing trend towards promiscuous relativism is symptomatic of the fact that classical liberalism lacks the resources to engage with contemporary experience.

If classical capitalist ideology is under-theorised, its alternatives have become so over-intellectualised as to be too inflexible to yield to new experience. For most of those on the left, history ended a long time before Fukuyama signed its obituary. The left succeeded in turning the valuable insights of nineteenth-century radical thinkers into a dogma that represented the last word on the human condition.

History does not issue any guarantees

At every turn, attempts to revise the insights of the past turned the critique of capitalism into a caricature. By the time the Cold War ended, this critique had become a simplistic worship of the state. The very fact that it was able to influence significant sections of Western society was based on the intellectual defensiveness and weakness of the liberal alternative. The demise of the early ideologies of liberalism and socialism does not constitute a refutation of historical thinking. These were early innovations that were carried out at a time when the exercise of human subjectivity faced significant obstacles. Society is only now learning about how the world really works.

Despite Western culture's profound sense of disappointment with the human subject, individuals possess an unprecedented potential for influencing the way they live their lives. It is only now that the promise of choice and control has acquired meaning for a significant section of the public. Autonomy and self-determination are still little more than ideals that can inspire. But we have moved away from the Stone Age of ideologies to a time where the transformative potential of people has acquired a remarkable force.

We have also learnt that history does not issue any guarantees. Purposeful change is indeed a risky enterprise. But whether we like it or not, the taking of risks in order to transform our lives and to transform ourselves is one of our most distinct human qualities. The making of history, too, is one of those transformative experiments that helps us to realise and define our humanity.

By definition, experiments yield uncertain results. It is because of the disappointments of the past that we feel so uncomfortable with uncertainty, and are so ready to declare the end of history. Crawling out of the cave is no easy task. And for some time, the intimation that real history is just about to begin is likely to inspire dread rather than enthusiasm.

But events like 11 September indicate that we cannot take time out indefinitely. In the end, purposeful human intervention and experimentation is the only realistic option. Taking such risks is an obligation that our nature as humans imposes on us.

posted by R J Noriega at 3:12 PM | Permalink | 0 comments
Two arrested in attacks on Oakland liquor stores
Two arrested in attacks on Oakland liquor stores


Associated Press
OAKLAND, Calif. - A man linked to a black Muslim group was among two men who turned themselves in to police for their roles in vandalizing a pair of stores for selling alcohol to blacks, authorities said.

Investigators said Tuesday it was too soon to say whether the vandals were connected to Monday's fire and kidnapping of clerk at the same store ransacked by a gang of black men in suits and bow ties three days earlier.

Yusef Bey IV, 19, and Donald Cunningham, 73, turned themselves in to face charges including robbery, felony vandalism and terrorist threats, Oakland Deputy Police Chief Howard Jordan said. Police obtained warrants charging four others with similar crimes and expected to make arrests.

No arrests have been made in the kidnapping or the fire. Store employee Abdel Hamdan was found safe in the trunk of a car Monday, about 12 hours after the fire, as police sought to get to the bottom of the attacks.

The fire destroyed the store's merchandise and caused major structural damage to the building, police said.

"We're very happy that he came back safe," said Frank Hernen, manager of New York Market. "We don't want this to go further."

Last week, Hamdan's store and the nearby San Pablo Liquor store were vandalized by about a dozen men who smashed liquor bottles and toppled food racks while demanding that both stores stop selling alcohol to black people, authorities said.

The incident at San Pablo Liquor was caught on surveillance tape, and police said they believe the same men trashed the New York Market.

Suspicion immediately fell on the Nation of Islam, group of black Muslims whose members often wear suits and bow ties. However, Jordan said the suspects are not members of the Nation of Islam. He held out the possibility that they belong to a separate black Muslim group based in Oakland.

In 1993, Muslims affiliated with that separate group, which operates the Your Black Muslim Bakery store chain and whose members also wear suits and bow ties, were involved in a similar incident at a Richmond liquor store, police said. Bey has been linked to that group, police said.

Investigators were looking into the recent vandalism as hate crimes because the store owners are of Middle Eastern background and are Muslims, Jordan said Monday.

"In both incidents, the suspects entered the store and questioned why a Muslim-owned store would sell alcoholic beverages when it is against the Muslim religion," police said in a statement Monday.

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is taking part in the investigation.

Police and city officials have urged other liquor merchants and store owners not to purchase firearms or engage in "vigilante" behavior.

"I wouldn't want people to expose themselves to harm," said Oakland City Council member Desley Brooks.

The owner of Sam's Liquor Store said he doesn't sell fortified wine like many small urban markets and wasn't taking additional precautions.

"I'm not worried that they are going to attack me - my business is very legit," said owner Sam Wong.
posted by R J Noriega at 12:54 PM | Permalink | 0 comments

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