Five Fold Today Bush rages: I am not Beelzebub, Lord of Sulfur - I Am Awakening My Church - The New South Africa: From National Liberation to Neo-Liberalism - Restoration and Reactivation - Finding Faith in Our Darkest Hour - The Politics of Disposability - Darkness Into Light
Bush rages: I am not Beelzebub, Lord of Sulfur By Mike Whitney
September 21, 2006
The devil is right at home
. The devil himself is right in the house. And the devil came here yesterday. Yesterday the devil came right here
And it still smells of sulfur today.’ Hugo Chavez; address to the UN General Assembly 9-20-06
Bush rages: I am not Beelzebub, Lord of Sulfur
By Mike Whitney
My oh my, has Hugo Chavez caused a furor. Looking at the news reports filed in the last 24 hours, one would think that he snuck a dirty-bomb into the United Nations rather than gave a speech. In fact, the plucky Chavez may have delivered the finest 30 minute presentation that august assembly has ever heard. In that short span of time he publicly throttled the Global Emperor in front of 6 billion people and left his bruised and bloodied carcass splattered across the canvas like Roberto Duran in Round 9 of the middleweight championship match ..
No mas, no mas no mas’
And what about the performance? Is Chavez part of a theatre troupe or is he just earning his chops as a method actor?
Whatever it is; it seems to be working. After skewering Bush as the devil’ and sniffing around for sulfur (the traditional sign of Lucifer) Chavez performed his ablutions with a sign of the cross and an angelic expression worthy of Botticelli.
If you´re a lefty, it just doesn´t get any better than this.
Chavez should give lessons in public speaking. His appearance was like a clap of thunder; waving Chomsky with one hand and pummeling Bush with the other. He managed to heap more muck on Guantanamo Nation’ than anyone since Harold Pinter gave his blistering Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech on 12-7-05. That´s when Pinter said:
The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have ever talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised quite a clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It is a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.’
Chavez matched Pinter word for word, exposing the hypocrisy, lies and brutality of an administration that never stops lecturing about freedom and liberation even though it grinds out mountains of carnage everywhere it goes.
And where was Bush when Chavez delivered his broadside .hiding behind Karen Hughes skirts, picking out a new eye-liner for his next televised harangue against Muslims, retrieving his Yale pom-poms from the dry-cleaners?
Our benighted leader always seems to disappear whenever the prospect of danger arises. He skedaddled when his number came up for the Alabama National Guard and he lit-out for the safety of a Nebraska cornfield when the planes hit the towers. He even vamoosed at a trade summit in Argentina when Chavez threatened to sneak up behind him and give him a bear-hug.’ That really put a spring in old Bush´s step as he quickly scuttled to the safety of Airforce One.
One thing is certain, whenever there´s peril, President gone-to-soon’ will be speeding off in a trail of vapor.
In any case, Bush was not missed at the UN massacre yesterday. Chavez held-forth like a preacher at a brothel; scattering the bodies and kicking open the windows to let the sunlight in. He delivered one, ferocious roundhouse punch after another .
Boom, boom, boom until the crowd rose in a thunderous 5 minute ovation. (which was carefully omitted from the TV coverage)
What would the people of the world tell (Bush) if they were given the floor?’ Chavez asked. What would they have to say? I have some inkling of what they would say, what the oppressed people think. They would say, ‘Yankee imperialist, go home.’
He spoke to the people of Lebanon,’ Chavez added. Many of you have seen, he said, how your homes and communities were caught in the crossfire. How cynical can you get? What a capacity to lie shamefacedly. The bombs in Beirut were delivered with laser precision .This is imperialist (and) genocidal; the empire and Israel firing on the people of Palestine and Lebanon. That is what happened. And now we hear, ‘We´re suffering because we see homes destroyed.´’
Ouch; no wonder Bush high-tailed it’ out of the UN before the ensuing bloodbath.
Chavez is like a battering ram punching holes in the wall of silence which surrounds King George. Right after his speech I checked in at CNN and, as I expected, Bush-apologist Wolf Blitzer was spinning in his wingtips frantically trying to stitch together the tattered image of the Dear Leader. A quick peek at Google News confirms that the entire arsenal of corporate media is now engaged in the hopeless task of salvaging Bush´s wretched presidency.
But the damage is done. Chavez played the match on Bush´s home turf and beat him like a drum. Bush is probably still quivering under his desk.
There are other ways of thinking,’ Chavez opined. There are young people who think differently and this has happened in a mere decade. It has been shown that ‘the end of history´ was a false assumption, and the same is true of Pax Americana and the establishment of a ‘capitalist neo-liberal world. The system has only generated more poverty. Who believes in it now?’
Yes, who believes it now? Who believes in a party which has only produced two ideas in its entire history; tax cuts and war? Who believes that endless bombardment and martial law can be passed off as democracy and liberation? Who believes that a rogue´s gallery of liars, war-profiteers and gangsters can work in the public´s interest?
We want ideas to save our planet from the imperialist threat. And, hopefully in this very century, in not to long a time, we will see a new era, and for our children and grandchildren, a world of peace based on the fundamental principles of the United Nations, but a renewed United Nations.’
Yes, Hugo, we want peace with our neighbors, peace with our friends, and peace with our enemies. We´re sick of war and the men who want war; and that includes every feckless politico in Congress, Democrat and Republican alike.
The hegemonistic pretensions of the American empire are placing at risk the very existence of the human species. We appeal to the people of the United States and of the world to halt this threat which is like a sword hanging over our heads.’
There´s no time to lose. We have to dump Bush NOW and get on with the pressing issues of global warming, peak oil, nuclear proliferation, poverty and AIDS.
Chavez is right; the present model for global rule is broken and corrupt. We need a change.
Capitalism is savagery,’ Chavez boomed.
I Am Awakening My Church
I am awakening My church to arise and focus on Me! I am raising up a people with a Elijah anointing. Who will be My spokesman and sound the trumpet. It is time for you who are My church, yes you that are My dwelling place, to let My presence arise and flow through you bringing life!
In these days I am pouring out a abundance of rain which will newness of life to many. It is time to let My presence flow through My church and out to the streets and bi-ways no more in slumber. But alive in Me and a hunger and thirst for more of Me to be filled over flowing with My Spirit, directing your every step. This is a new day, and you must allow Me to lead you. Forget the past and move on in Me, for this is a day of fruitfulness. My Elijah's, I have called you forth to sound the trumpet, to preach My word, to go to the Nations and proclaim My truths, that I am alive and operating on planet earth, through My yielded servants.
So these are the days of a mighty outpouring of My Spirit! Let go of all forms of darkness and be led of Me for I am alive! Keep your eyes focus on Me. For I have called you forth to proclaim My truth to the Nations of this world. Declare I am alive, I am a God of restoration, deliverance and healing. Proclaim and preach My word, for I have called you to sound the trumpet of truth. Remember you are in the world but not of the world. So arise and let your light shine for Me! Arise My Elijah's, declare My truth, for this is your destiny, so walk in it. ***
Be My Ambassadors Of Truth
Arise and shine for Me, My children. This is the time to stand and call on My name and hear from My throne room. This is a new day as you press into Me and receive marching orders. I am giving you a new zeal, a new passion a new hunger and boldness to be releasers of life. Yes, to take hold of My words and proclaim it with boldness and authority in this season of great harvest of souls.
I am the way the truth and life! I am alive and I am on planet earth, dwelling in My people and I am coming up and on you by My spirit, in a greater dimension then ever before. It is time to shout forth My oracles of life. It is time to be a channel of My love which saves, delivers, heals and restore people to a newness of Life.
So obey My voice, proclaim My truths to the world. I am alive and I am moving upon the earth in a greater dimension then ever before it is time for My servants to arise. And let the sound of the trumpet be heard and proclaim truths to the four corners of the earth, from sea to sea.
This is a day of harvest and a day of My spirit flowing through vessels who say, "Yes Lord, use me Lord! I will go under Your leading and have a heart after You for souls." They say yes to flow with My passion that none shall perish, And to proclaim that I am alive and to be a living testimony of My goodness and mercy.
So let My spirit consume you, let My love flow through you. My spirit is moving throughout the earth calling those who will lay down self and let Me arise and flow through them bringing a river of life flowing from My throne room, bringing newness of life to the downtrodden and broken people of this earth. Releasing love and fullness of life in Me and total restoration to hungry souls. Together in My Love we will move many mountains and set the captives free.
Say Yes to walk in liberty and freedom! Arise My ambassadors of life, let the river flow out of your mouth bringing forth resurrection life!
The New South Africa: From National Liberation to Neo-Liberalism
by David Silver
The fall of apartheid South Africa was largely made possible by the internationalist solidarity provided by Socialist Cuba, which defeated the racist regime at Cuito Carnivale in Angola. As the Australian journalist and anti-imperialist John Pilger cogently stated, South Africa´s rebirth as a rainbow nation’ is really a lesson in betrayal.
There were two powerful elements that I believe affected the economic, political and ideological thinking and policies in the post-Apartheid governments of Mandela and Mbeki. The first was the demise of the Soviet bloc and its substantial material and political support and solidarity. The other, was the new thinking’ contained in Joe Slovo´s booklet titled Has Socialism Failed? (1989). The late courageous Jewish comrade who was chosen to lead the armed branch of the African National Congress, Umkhonto we Sizwe, was a top leader of the South African Communist Party. While Slovo was Minister of Housing in the Mandela government, he witnessed the invasion with the help of Botswanian troops of Lesotho, a Bantustan-like enclave in the country in order to enforce some new African Development measures on a poverty stricken people.
In his booklet, Slovo blames the demise of the Soviet Union almost exclusively on the weaknesses of Socialism and the excesses of Stalinism.’ He hailed Perestroika and Glasnost and the powerful intellectual and professional class that were its prime movers who masked their counter-revolutionary intentions with code words such as democratization, pluralism and restructuring.
The last Foreign Minister of the Soviet Union was Alexander Kozyrev, who concocted Convergence Theory, which was the lead article in the journal Foreign Affairs. Kozyrev stated that Universal Human Values have now replaced class struggle since capitalism is becoming more and more like Socialism and vice-versa. Many neo-Marxists, social democrats and other Left currents in and outside of South Africa embraced this revisionist ideology and began the search for a new hybrid neither capitalist nor socialist and created the myth of market socialism.’
Influenced by this new thinking,’ the Mandela and Mbeki governments embraced the neo-liberal policies of its racist predecessors. Most blacks still live in neglected townships that provide cheap labor, while the best land is still in the hands of wealthy white ranchers and farmers.
The ANC led government has become a puppet of big business and carries out its neo-liberal policies via Mbeki´s New Economic Partnership for African Development while Pretoria negotiates’ with the fascist Broederband, which strongly supported the Apartheid regime.
Leaders of the two other members of the tri-partite Alliance with the ANC, the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) have severely criticized the government and organized militant and massive protests against some politicians, capitalists and spies.’ In the recent Swazi border protest, 5 COSATU leaders were beaten and jailed while demonstrating for human rights and trade union freedom.
And who can forget Mbeki´s disgraceful and reactionary comments about the serious AIDS problem in South Africa when he questioned its depth and seriousness and told the world that AZT is of no value as a treatment.
Events leading to the demise of the USSR as well as Slovo´s thinking led to South Africa´s attempt to be a member in good standing in the globalized world of the World Bank, IMF and World Trade Organization. This would require the government to institute measures we call neo-liberal, such as so-called free trade, free markets (with the help of the military or sanctions if necessary), privatization, and hands off the domestic economy except for cutting the budget for social services and tax breaks for the wealthy.
It seems likely that even while in prison or in exile, the transnational corporations, banks and Christianity influenced the ANC elite rather than Marxism. So we witness the spectacle of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission under Bishop Tutu that brought the Prime Minister of Apartheid South Africa, DeKlerk as well as Winnie Mandela to hear confessions’ of wrongdoing so that they can then pursue free and happy lives: an equal opportunity for the oppressor and oppressed.
Will Pretoria choose the Chinese example of creating some millionaires (perhaps a few billionaires as well) with increasing poverty and income disparity or the Cuban/Venezuelan model of people before profits, nationalization of resources and rejection of privatization with heavy support for health care, education and housing. Perhaps the militant and well-organized trade union movement in solidarity with the SACP when united can become a force for radical change toward the latter model.
David Silver has a 50-year membership in class, anti-imperialist, and anti-racist struggles. Among them are The Coalition to Free the Angola 3, the American Labor Party (with Vito Marcantonio and Dr. DuBois in the late '40s), the Freedom and Peace Party in the '60s, and Hands off Cuba Coalition in the '80s.
Restoration and Reactivation
I saw a vision of a hand reaching into the freezer of a refrigerator, then it pulled out the entire continent of South America. It started to feel warm in the hand. I sense the Lord say:
"What have My people put away in their freezer? What callings and gifts have they stored away, forgotten and let grow cold over the years because of discouragement, inconvenience and fear?
"This is the day, this is the time to reclaim them, pull them out of the freezer and feel them warm up in your hands. I will warm them in your hands and in your heart. I will let them grow hot again like a fire. I am restoring and re-activating. I can set fire onto a drenched and even cold sacrifice, just as I did for Elijah to show My faithfulness and power!
"Say 'Here I am, use me again,' and see what I will surely do.
"You who I have called to preach, you who I have called to prophesy, you who I have called to lead, you who I have called to teach, you who I have called to heal the sick, you who I am sending to the nations--reclaim your calling and your gifts. I am restoring. I am reactivating. I have not forgotten you.
"Your age does not matter to Me. Your condition does not matter to Me. But your unrealized dreams, your unfulfilled calling--they matter to Me. They cause Me to weep for you, for I know your sadness and your pain.
"Come to Me and let Me restore you. Rest and receive in this hour. I pour My oil of gladness and power upon you. See, even now, I am laying a scepter before you. Pick it up and hold it high. This is your calling. I am reactivating you when you lift this scepter high in your heart, My mighty warrior! Give praise. I ignite the fire.
"Go forth and say, 'Here I am. I am sent!'"
Finding Faith in Our Darkest Hour: A New Orleans Update
by Xochitl Bervera
Friends from around the country ask us: How are things in New Orleans? Are things getting better?’ I always have to pause, surprised that people haven´t heard. I forget that the national media has abandoned us, that George Bush flew into town for five minutes to make promises of federal support which gave the rest of the country and the world permission to look away. I am stunned that people don´t know how much worse it is in New Orleans today for our organization, for our members, for our community than it was even six months ago.
When people ask, I have to tell them: It´s worse than you think. It´s not what people want to hear, but it´s the truth that isn´t being reported in the mainstream media, so I have to keep telling them. And every time, I draw on a renewed commitment on the part of Families and Friends of Louisiana's Incarcerated Children (FFLIC) [an organization dedicated to creating a better life for all of Louisiana´s youth] and many others in New Orleans and around the country to hold onto faith and to the knowledge that the spiritual and material power of people who believe in and work for justice will one day prevail -- and so we keep moving forward. Because it is always darkest before dawn and New Orleans, a year after Katrina, is due for the brightest of dawns.
How are things in New Orleans? For the young people and families who are FFLIC´s heart and soul, things are not well. Besides the chaos of still unrepaired infrastructure (traffic lights are still broken, garbage pick up remains illusive, levees are insufficiently repaired, and entire neighborhoods remain exactly as they did in October of last year) the clear plan of developers and the business community to deny the right of return to New Orleans´ Black community is being implemented in the ugliest of ways. HUD recently unveiled its plan to demolish 5000 units of public housing. The Recovery School District will simply not open its schools that serve poor Black neighborhoods. Officials refuse to re-open Charity Hospital, the source of health care for New Orleans´ poor and working class. All are part of a plan that has been in the works since the day after the storm. We are witnessing the normally gradual process of gentrification sped up to its logical conclusion, with developers interested in eliminating (and quickly!) all public infrastructure that supports the lives of poor and working class Black communities, and politicians eager to accommodate them. Politicians publicly make their commitment to welcome everyone back while quietly making the policy decisions that guarantee its impossibility.
And yet, people keep coming home! Black New Orleanians, whose land and city this is, are finding their way back every day despite all the predictions and efforts to the contrary. Our families and communities made it back to vote and made their numbers and power felt. Folks are back looking for jobs which don´t exist and housing which is boarded up and vacant.
What does this mean? It means there are hundreds of children in the city with no public schools to attend in their neighborhood. It means there are thousands of people suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (only psychologists tell us there is no Post’ to our PTSD as the stress of daily life in New Orleans is newly traumatizing each day) with no mental health care. It means people still have no consistent place to live, no sense of protection from a future storm, no jobs to make a living, no health care to treat even basic medical needs. It means folks come back, are forced to leave again, come back and forth and back and forth
It means that the institutions that stabilize a community -- like churches, schools, and grandmas -- are absent, while instability and stress factors are through the roof.
It means that there has been a 25% jump in the mortality rate, including a threefold increase in the suicide rate. It means that Arsenio and Markee Hunter, Warren Simeon, Iraum Taylor and Reggie Dantzler -- all New Orleans youth and several of whom were friends and children of FFLIC´s -- were slaughtered on a street corners not five blocks from our offices, gunned down with a submachine gun that somehow made it back into the city and onto the streets. It means we have lost Kerry Washington, a son and a father, who died mysteriously inside the overcrowded, overheated Orleans Parish Prison. He paid with his life for an old warrant of simple drug possession. It means Ronald Smith who was gunned down by police will never get to see how beautifully his brother testified at a city council hearing two months ago. It means our members and families live in fear of both the violence on the streets and the violence of the police who are supposed to protect them.
It means, in short, that the clash between the gentrifying forces and the Black community -- who were not meant to survive, endure, and return -- has turned deadly. Where the lack of schools, housing and healthcare fails to keep people away, those in power will turn to the police and prisons.
If there was ever any doubt that the criminal justice system would be used to keep Black New Orleanians from returning, the last few months have eliminated the last of it. With 300 National Guardsman called in to patrol (with M-16s which are locked and loaded’) the empty streets of the neighborhoods where the lack of infrastructure has slowed efforts to rebuild, the NOPD has been able to turn its attention to protecting’ the neighborhoods that have been rebuilt. By consistently profiling, harassing and arresting poor people of color, NOPD are now making over 140 arrests per week. The vast majority of these arrests are for minor violations, including spitting on a sidewalk. The kinds of charges being put on people -- resisting arrest, obstruction of justice, battery on a police officer -- speak more to the tension between NOPD and community than to public safety.
The rise in NOPD arrests occurs at a moment when the Orleans Parish Prison is becoming made increasingly dangerous by its overcrowding and lack of adequate health care. Harsh criticism from national media and lawyers of Sheriff Gusman´s operation of OPP has not stopped him from opening new temporary’ beds at breakneck speed and sending hundreds of prisoners up to the state penitentiary in Angola to try and keep up with the new arrests.
So how are things in New Orleans?
But, there is a beacon of light. Undeniably, organizing has taken root in the city. From neighborhood associations to workers rights, environmental justice, and public safety reform groups, people are beginning to come together and use their people power, their power to disrupt, to shame, to confront elected officials and demand that they do what they were elected to do: serve the people of this city.
An inspiring example of how organizing and reform work are together making a difference is in the juvenile justice system itself. Even as news coverage concentrates all the blame for crime on young Black men, and the demonized threat of these young Black men is used to justify everything from shutting down public housing to bringing in the National Guard, the juvenile justice system itself is continuing on the path of reform that had just begun when the storm hit.
The changes in New Orleans´ juvenile justice system are real. During the six months before Katrina, there were over 4000 juvenile arrests in New Orleans. In these last six months, there have been 169. After the storm, Orleans Parish Juvenile Court Chief Judge David Bell took leadership in implementing many reforms that had previously been discussed, but never implemented. For starters, he brought in Attorney (and FFLIC friend) Ilona Picou to work as the court's recovery coordinator. Ilona, well versed in juvenile justice reform, coordinated 38 volunteer attorneys from outside Louisiana to winnow down the number of active cases from 26,500 to 2,500.
A new set of procedures on how to deal with kids has dropped the number of kids being arrested by police from over 100 a day to an average of 17 per day. Police are no longer arresting kids for trespass, for example, for sitting on a basketball court after school. The Court has been able to use savings from such basic changes to upgrade its computer and phone systems. It has also purchased vehicles for use by families in need of supervision, drug court, weekend detention and alternatives to detention programs. Money that had been used to put kids in jail before the storm is now being used to bring support families need to keep their kids at home.
So, why is juvenile justice improving at the very same moment criminal justice for adults is spinning out of control, and despite the recent blame-the-victim policy responses of curfews and increased law enforcement? In part, it is because juvenile justice reform efforts -- led by FFLIC and the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana -- were already underway when Katrina hit. Before the storm, FFLIC, a voting member of the Children and Youth Planning Board was actively engaged in getting the many stakeholders to agree that detention reform in Orleans Parish was necessary. After touring the decrepit Youth Study Center and witnessing first hand the horrific conditions in which over 100 of our children were detained on any given day, FFLIC made a commitment to ensure that any reforms of the juvenile justice system would include the closure of that facility and the reduction of the number of children held at any given time. FFLIC worked hard with other stake holders, including the juvenile court judges, to recruit the Annie E. Casey Foundations Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) to come to Orleans to implement their proven program to reform local juvenile justice systems and help jurisdictions spend less on incarceration and more quality community based programs for kids and families.
So when the storm hit, the adult system and the juvenile system responded in precisely opposite ways. The juvenile system which had been forced to see children as the precious human being they are, and detention beds as the costly, ineffective burden they are, chose to speed up its reform process. The adult system which had made no such culture shift and no such commitment to change, has continued down its path of death and destruction.
What does this mean? To FFLIC, it is a reminder that our work has impact, value and indeed can make a very real difference in people´s lives and in the systems which affect our lives. To all of us, it shows that issue based organizing has the potential to result in system shifts that can withstand a racist onslaught even of the magnitude we are witnessing in New Orleans today. It also tells us that FFLIC must not be content to just see the changes in the juvenile system, knowing more children each day are being bumped into the adult system and that no matter what the courts say, our 17- and 18-year-old children are no less human, no less ours, no less worthy of our commitment to keep them safe from the harm of the streets, safe from the harm of law enforcement, safe from the harm of racism and displacement. As FFLIC looks forward, we must recommit ourselves to organizing, to building our membership base and to our mission of improving the lives of Louisiana´s youth, especially those at risk of getting involved in the juvenile justice system in the context of today´s it´s-worse-than-you-think New Orleans. If we and the many others in New Orleans who have begun, keep on organizing, we have hope that we may soon be able to answer the question differently, So how are things in New Orleans?’
Xochitl Bervera works with Families and Friends of Louisiana's Incarcerated Children. Thanks to Jordan Flaherty.
The Politics of Disposability
by Henry A. Giroux
As we observe the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, citizens in the United States and globally are still struggling to draw the correct conclusions and learn the right lessons from that horrific catastrophe. Initially, we were led to believe that Katrina was the result of a fateful combination of a natural disaster and government incompetence, a perfect storm of bad luck that provided one more example of the general inability of the Bush administration to actually govern, let alone protect its citizenry.
Yet, with some distance and sober reflection, this assessment seems a bit shortsighted, a little too localized. In truth, Katrina offers a number of relevant lessons not only for U.S. citizens but also for Canadians and people all over the world who must grapple with the global advance of what I call a politics of disposability.
First, Katrina is symptomatic of a form of negative globalization that is as evident in Ottawa, Paris and London as it is in Washington, D.C., or New Orleans, or any other city throughout the world. As capital, goods, trade, and information flow all over the globe, material and symbolic resources are increasingly being invested in the "free market" while the social state pays a terrible price. As safety nets and social services are being hollowed out and communities crumble and give way to individualized, one-man archipelagos, it is increasingly difficult to struggle as a collectivity, to act in concert against a state that fails to meet the basic needs of citizens or to maintain the social investments that provide life-sustaining services. As nations fall under the sway of the principal philosophy of the times, which insists on the end of "big government" in favor of unencumbered individualism and the all-encompassing logic of the market, it is difficult to resurrect a language of social investment, protection, and accountability.
Second, as Katrina made perfectly clear, the challenges of a global world, especially its growing ecological challenges, are collective and not simply private. This suggests that citizens in New Orleans as well as in Vancouver, Halifax and Toronto -- coastal and inland -- must protect those principles of the social contract that offer collective solutions to foster and maintain both ecological sustainability and human survival. Canadians have done much to ensure environmental protections, especially in comparison with their neighbors to the south, but there is more that has to be done to curtail the threat of global warming and numerous ecological disasters.
Third, as Hurricane Katrina vividly illustrated, the decline of the social state along with the rise of massive inequality increasingly bars whole populations from the rights and guarantees accorded to fully fledged citizens of the republic and increasingly renders them disposable, left to fend for themselves in the face of natural or man-made disasters.
This last challenge is difficult, for here we must connect the painful dots between the crisis on the Gulf Coast and that "other" gulf crisis in the Middle East; we must connect the dots between images of U.S. soldiers standing next to tortured Iraqis forced to assume the additional indignity of a dog leash and images of bloated bodies floating in toxic waters overwhelming New Orleans streets after five long days of government indifference.
In earlier eras, imagery of racist brutality and war atrocities moved nations to act and to change domestic and foreign policy in the interests of global justice. These contemporary images moved all of us, but only, it seems, for a time. Why is that? The answer lies in the politics of disposability, its latest manifestation being the aftermath of Katrina, but which had deep roots in the segregated U.S. South.
Emmett Till's body arrived home in Chicago in September 1955. White racists in Mississippi had tortured, mutilated, and killed the 14-year-old African-American boy for whistling at a white woman. Determined to make visible the horribly mangled face and twisted body of the child as an expression of racial hatred and killing, Mamie Till, the boy's mother, insisted that the coffin, at the A.A. Ranier Funeral Parlor on the South Side of Chicago, be left open for four long days.
While mainstream news organizations ignored the horrifying image, Jet magazine published an unedited photo of Till's face taken while he lay in his coffin. Shaila Dewan in The New York Times of Aug. 28, 2005 points out that, "[m]utilated is the word most often used to describe the face of Emmett Till after his body was hauled out of the Tallahatchie River in Mississippi. Inhuman is more like it: melted, bloated, missing an eye, swollen so large that its patch of wiry hair looks like that of a balding old man, not a handsome, brazen 14-year-old boy."
Till had been castrated and shot in the head; his tongue had been cut out; and a blow from an ax had practically severed his nose from his face -- all of this done to a teenage boy who came to bear the burden of the inheritance of slavery and the inhuman pathology that drives its racist unconscious. The photos not only made visible the violent effects of the racial state; they also fuelled massive public anger, especially among blacks, and helped to launch the Civil Rights Movement.
From the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement to the war in Vietnam, images of human suffering and violence provided the grounds for a charged political indignation and collective sense of moral outrage inflamed by the horrors of poverty, militarism, war, and racism -- eventually mobilizing widespread opposition to these anti-democratic forces.
Of course, the seeds of a vast conservative counter-revolution were already well underway, as images of a previous era -- "whites only" signs, segregated schools, segregated housing, and nonviolent resistance -- gave way to a troubling iconography of cities aflame, mass rioting, and armed black youth who came to embody the very precepts of lawlessness, disorder, and criminality. Building on the reactionary rhetoric of Barry Goldwater and Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan took office in 1980 with both a trickle-down theory that would transform corporate America and a corresponding visual economy.
The twin images of the young black male "gangsta" and his counterpart, the "welfare queen," became the primary vehicles for selling the American public on the need to dismantle the welfare state, ushering in an era of unprecedented deregulation, downsizing, privatization, and regressive taxation. The propaganda campaign was so successful that George H. W. Bush could launch his 1988 presidential bid with the image of Willie Horton, an African-American male convicted of rape and granted early release, and succeed in trouncing his opponent with little public outcry over the overtly racist nature of the campaign. By the beginning of the 1990s, global media consolidation, coupled with the outbreak of a war in Iraq that encouraged hyper-patriotism and a rigid nationalism, resulted in a tightly controlled visual landscape -- managed both by the Pentagon and by corporate-owned networks -- that delivered a paucity of images representative of the war's widespread systemic violence. Selectively informed and cynically inclined, American civic life became more sanitized, controlled, and regulated.
Hurricane Katrina may have reversed the self-imposed silence of the media and public numbness in the face of terrible suffering. Fifty years after the body of Emmett Till was plucked out of the mud-filled waters of the Tallahatchie River, another set of troubling visual representations has appeared that has both shocked and shamed the United States.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, grotesque images of bloated corpses floating in the rotting waters that flooded the streets of New Orleans circulated throughout the mainstream media. What first appeared to be a natural catastrophe soon degenerated into a social debacle as further images revealed, days after Katrina had passed over the Gulf Coast, hundreds of thousands of poor people, mostly blacks, some Latinos, many elderly, and a few white people, packed into the New Orleans Superdome and the city's convention center, stranded on rooftops, or isolated on patches of dry highway without any food, water, or any place to wash, urinate, or find relief from the scorching sun.
Weeks passed as the floodwater gradually receded and the military and privatized rental-armies gained control of the city, and more images of dead bodies appeared on national and global media. TV cameras rolled as bodies reappeared on dry patches of land while people stood by indifferently eating their lunch or occasionally snapping a photograph. The world watched in disbelief as bloated, decomposing bodies left on the street, or in some cases on the porches of once flooded homes, were broadcast on CNN.
Most of the bodies found in the flood water, according to Dan Frosch in the Santa Fe Reporter on Sept. 28, 2005, "were 50 or older, people who tried to wait the hurricane out." A body that had been found on a dry stretch of Union St. in the downtown district of New Orleans remained on the street for four days, "locked in rigor mortis and flanked by traffic cones. [It quickly] became a downtown landmark -- as in, turn left at the corpse -- before someone" finally picked it up. Reporting this incident and responding to its display of human indignity, Dan Barry, a writer for The New York Times, observed in a Sept. 8 article, "That a corpse lies on Union Street may not shock.... What is remarkable is that on a downtown street in a major American city, a corpse can decompose for days, like a carrion, and that is acceptable."
Alcede Jackson's 72-year-old black body was left on the porch of his house for two weeks. Various media soon reported that over 154 bodies had been found in hospitals and nursing homes. The New York Times wrote on Sept. 19 that, "the collapse of one of society's most basic covenants -- to care for the helpless -- suggests that the elderly and critically ill plummeted to the bottom of priority lists as calamity engulfed New Orleans." Dead people, mostly poor African-Americans, left uncollected in the streets, on porches, hospitals, nursing homes, in electric wheelchairs, and in collapsed houses prompted many people, such as Rosa Brooks in the Sept. 7 Los Angeles Times, to claim that America had become like a "Third World country," while others argued that New Orleans resembled a "Third World Refugee Camp."
There were now, irrefutably, two Gulf crises. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) tried to do damage control by forbidding journalists to "accompany rescue boats as they went out to search for storm victims." A FEMA spokeswoman told Reuters News Agency, as reported by Terry M. Neal in the Washington Post of Sept. 8, that, "We have requested that no photographs of the deceased be made by the media." But questions about responsibility and answerability would not go away. Even the dominant media, including CNN's Anderson Cooper, for a short time rose to the occasion and posed tough questions about accountability to those in power, in light of such egregious acts of incompetence and indifference.
The images of dead bodies kept reappearing in New Orleans, refusing to go away. For many, the bodies of the poor, black, brown, elderly, and sick came to signify what the battered body of Emmett Till once unavoidably revealed, and America was forced to confront these disturbing images and the damning questions behind the images. The Hurricane Katrina disaster, like the Emmett Till affair, revealed a vulnerable and destitute segment of the nation's citizenry that conservatives not only refused to see but had spent the better part of two decades demonizing.
But like the incessant beating of Poe's telltale heart, cadavers have a way of insinuating themselves on consciousness, demanding answers to questions that aren't often asked. The body of Emmett Till symbolized an overt white supremacy and racialized state terror organized against the threat that black men (apparently of all sizes and ages) posed against white women. But the black bodies of the dead and walking wounded in New Orleans in 2005 revealed a different image of what David Theo Goldberg has called the "racial state": they revealed a modality of state terrorism marked less by an overt form of white racism than by a highly mediated displacement of race as a central concept for understanding both Katrina and its place in the broader history of U.S. racism.
That is, while Till's body insisted upon a public recognition of the violence of white supremacy, the decaying black bodies floating in the waters of the Gulf Coast represented a return of race as an issue in spite of media and public insistence that this disaster was more about class than race, more about the shameful and growing presence of poverty, or what Eric Foner in the Oct. 3, 2005 issue of The Nation called "the abject failure to provide aid to the most vulnerable." Till's body allowed the racism that destroyed it to be made visible, to speak to the systemic character of American racial injustice. The bodies of the Katrina victims could not speak with the same directness to the state of American racist violence, but they did reveal and shatter the conservative fiction of living in a color-blind society.
The bodies that repeatedly appeared all over New Orleans days and weeks after it was struck by Hurricane Katrina also revealed the emergence of a new kind of politics, one in which entire populations are now considered disposable, an unnecessary burden on state coffers, and consigned to fend for themselves. The deeply existential and material questions regarding who is going to die and who is going to live in this society are now centrally determined by race and class. Katrina lays bare what many people in the United States do not want to see: large numbers of poor black and brown people struggling to make ends meet, benefiting very little from a social system that makes it difficult to obtain health insurance, child care, social assistance, cars, savings, and minimum-wage jobs, if lucky, and instead offers to black and brown youth bad schools, poor public services, and no future, except a possible stint in the penitentiary. As Janet Pelz in the Sept. 19, 2005 Seattle Post-Intelligencer rightly insisted, "These are the people the Republicans have been teaching us to disdain, if not hate, since President Reagan decried the moral laxness of the welfare mom."
While Pelz's comments provide a crucial context for much of the death and devastation of Katrina, I think to more fully understand this calamity it is important to grasp how the confluence of race and poverty has become part of a new and more insidious set of forces. These forces are based on a revised set of biopolitical commitments that have largely given up on the sanctity of human life for those populations rendered "at risk" by global neoliberal economies and which have instead embraced an emergent security state founded on cultural homogeneity. This is a state that no longer provides Americans with dreams; instead, it has been reduced largely to protecting its citizens from a range of possible nightmares.
As the social state is hollowed out, entire groups of people become disposable, as the category "waste" includes no longer simply material goods but also human beings, particularly those rendered redundant in the new global economy; that is, those who are no longer capable of making a living, who are unable to consume goods, and who depend upon others for the most basic needs.
Defined primarily through the combined discourses of character, personal responsibility, and cultural homogeneity, entire populations expelled from the benefits of the marketplace are reified as products without any value and are disposed of -- as Zygmunt Bauman describes in his brilliant study, Wasted Lives -- like "leftovers in the most radical and effective way: we make them invisible by not looking and unthinkable by not thinking." Even when young black and brown youth try to escape the biopolitics of disposability by joining the military, the seduction of economic security is quickly negated by the horror of senseless violence compounded daily in the streets, roads, and battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan and made concrete in the form of body bags, mangled bodies, and amputated limbs -- rarely to be seen in the narrow ocular field of the dominant media.
With the social state in retreat, and thanks to the rapacious dynamics of a market fundamentalism unchecked by government regulations, the public and private policies of investing in the public good are dismissed as bad business, just as the notion of protecting people from the dire misfortunes of poverty, sickness, or the random blows of fate is viewed as an act of bad faith. Weakness is now a sin, punishable by social exclusion.
This is especially true for those racial groups and immigrant populations who have always been at risk economically and politically. Increasingly, such groups have become part of an ever-growing army of the impoverished and disenfranchised -- removed from the prospect of a decent job, productive education, adequate health care, acceptable child care services, and satisfactory shelter. As the state is transformed into the primary agent of terror and corporate concerns displace democratic values, Bauman observes that dominant "power is measured by the speed with which responsibilities can be escaped."
With its pathological disdain for social values and public life, and its celebration of an unbridled individualism and acquisitiveness, the Bush administration does more than undermine the nature of social obligation and civic responsibility; it also sends a message to unwanted populations: Society neither wants, cares about, or needs you. Katrina revealed with startling and disturbing clarity who these unwanted are: African-Americans who occupy the poorest sections of New Orleans, those ghettoized frontier zones created by racism coupled with economic inequality. Cut out of any long-term goals and a decent vision of the future, these are the populations, as Bauman points out, who have been rendered redundant and disposable in the age of neoliberal global capitalism.
Katrina reveals that we are living in dark times. One of its most obvious lessons -- that race and racism still matter in America -- is fully operational through a biopolitics not unlike the kind described by scholar Achille Mbembe as "necropolitics", in which "sovereignty resides in the power and capacity to dictate who may live and who may die." Those poor minorities of color and class, unable to contribute to the prevailing consumerist ethic, are vanishing into the sinkhole of poverty in desolate and abandoned enclaves of decaying cities and rural spaces, or in America's ever-expanding prison empire.
To confront the politics of disposability, we need to offer up a vision of hope that creates the conditions for multiple collective and global struggles that refuses to use politics as an act of war and markets as the measure of democracy. Making human beings superfluous is the essence of totalitarianism, and democracy is the antidote in urgent need of being reclaimed.
Katrina should keep the hope of such a struggle alive for some time because, for many of us, the images of those floating bodies serve as a desperate reminder of what it means when justice becomes cold and indifferent in the face of death.
Henry Giroux is the Global TV Network Chair in English and Cultural Studies at McMaster University. This essay is based on his new book, Stormy Weather: Katrina and the Politics of Disposability (Paradigm, July 2006), and first appeared in the Toronto Star on August 27. His other recent books include: Take Back Higher Education (co-authored with Susan Giroux) (Palgrave-2005); The Terror of Neoliberalism (Paradigm-2004); Against the New Authoritarianism (Arbeiter Ring-2005); America on the Edge (Palgrave-2006); and Beyond the Spectacle of Terrorism (Paradigm-2006). His primary research areas are: cultural studies, youth studies, critical pedagogy, popular culture, media studies, social theory, and the politics of higher and public education. He can be reached at: email@example.com. Visit his website at: www.henryagiroux.com.
Darkness Into Light
My children, My suffering ones, it is to you I speak today: to My children who have grown used to the presence of suffering in their lives, who have learned to hide the tears, the sadness, the regret.
Many times you have tried to communicate what you have gone and are going through, only to find it an impossible task: no one understood or was able to bear it for you, and you have felt the isolation heaping on more darkness.
When you come before Me beloved, and you have wept, sometimes not even knowing in your own mind why .I have been very close to you, as it were, that your tears fell upon My chest. And not only when the tears fell: I saw the beginning of each sorrow in you as it formed itself as a simple sigh. I have not left you. I will not leave you. I have promised.
I want you to look at this suffering now, while we are close like this, while I have you in my arms. We will look at it together. You are safe. I will not reject you. I will not grow bored with you. I cannot stop loving you or caring about you in every anxious thought you have. Even if you were to break all the rules that your life consists of, I would still love you. Proceed with Me.
Allow yourself now to look in safety at all the painful episodes in your life: some long past; some quite recent - you see the pattern forming in your mind as you call each episode to remembrance.
Do not hurry. Do not think I will lose interest in you or call you self-absorbed. Together we will pick up and examine each episode as though it were a little ceramic tile in a mosaic, and we will place them in the correct place, in the pattern formed from the seasons of your life.
These are all pieces, episodes, that you have examined intently before. Do not try to finish the pattern without me, inserting colourful hopes that may not come to pass.
The picture is building up. You see the shape of the darkness forming from the remembrances, and it threatens to overwhelm you. You are sick of trying to describe the shape of the body of darkness, which is the suffering, that has become so much part of your life.
But place your hands upon My hands, beloved, lean your head upon My head. And I will show you what I see with My own eyes. Try to see it too. I want you to be free of the tyranny of darkness, the tyranny of suffering.
How is the darkness defined, except by the light? Where does the darkness end, except where the Light begins? How could the darkness be comprehended, except you are in the Light?
As you have sensed this body of darkness ..
now with your hands upon My hands,
your head upon My head,
even your belly upon My belly,
do you sense this Body of Light?
Lift your eyes to me, for I AM your Hope!
Great is the darkness forming around you, because of the Light that is forming within you!
I AM that Light.
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