Sunday, March 29, 2009

Symmetrical Analysis in the Time of Myopia: Seeing the New Colonialism; Seeing Genealogies of the Triangle Slave Trade; Seeing Ghosts

“The truth is, in the country of the blind,
The one-eyed man is considered to be crazy as hell.”

--Robin Palmer, Ex Officio, The Weather Underground

"The beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart."
-- Mary Shelley's Victor Frankenstein

"If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what a people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress. Men may not get all they pay for in this world; but they must pay for all they get. If we ever get free from all the oppressions and wrongs heaped upon us, we must pay for their removal. We must do this by labor, by suffering, by sacrifice, and, if needs be, by our lives, and the lives of others."
--Frederick Douglass, his address on West Indian Emancipation (1857)

1. Preface
What is this 'Symmetrical Analysis' I speak of? It is the will toward seeing social, political, economic, and historical issues and reality not in isolation from one another. Thus, it is the act of refusing to accept the popular, media moderated practice of judging our reality and our freedom as any single sort of EFFECT; rather, our reality and freedom are the result of a collection of ALL of these material components. What is economic is political, and what is political has social ramifications. What exists must have its roots in history. Nothing makes sense unless all of these components are considered.

Yes, thinking requires effort. It is a form of labor. It is a form, in fact, of STRUGGLE. As Frederick Douglass warned us about struggle, it is a thing we must engage in, and must do so despite fear and pain and even death, for it is a necessary process if we are to preserve our freedom. Freedom, as has been lately observed with great alacrity, "Is a conversation by free men about being free."

2. Thugs Я Us: To Overturn the Nation State
The thugs (Rumsfeld, Cheney, Pentagon Advisor Richard Perle, Honorary Thug Bill Kristol, Gunga Din-Sambo Ahmed Chalabi, Honorary White Man Condoleeza Rice, John Ashcroft, Sad Sack Colin Powell, etc.) who had for eight years worked steadily at destroying our democracy, our Constitution, and our precious civil rights, have gone into eclipse following the election of President Obama.

But mark me well: their eclipse, like the eclipse of the moon, parallels any other celestial eclipse in that the thing eclipsed has not truly departed; it is merely now invisible, out of range, lacking its former luminescence and influence. Things in eclipse by astronomical definition always return sooner or later.

Let it not be forgoten that independent journalist, Doug Thompson, broke the story back in 2005 that Bush had openly expressed contempt for the Constitution in an oval office meeting attended by several congressional leaders, including conservative congressman Bob Barr, who, incidentally, veered far to the left of the Bush administration in 2005, becoming a vehement spokesman for civil liberties and a steadfast critic of Bush; could the events of that meeting as recounted by Thompson, have influenced Barr to recognize how the Republican adminstration was a chief enemy of human freedom and individual rights?

(see to read Thompson's article in full).

Thompson reported:

...Last month, Republican Congressional leaders filed into the Oval Office to meet with President George W. Bush and talk about renewing the controversial USA Patriot Act.
Several provisions of the act, passed in the shell-shocked period immediately following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, caused enough anger that liberal groups like the American Civil Liberties Union had joined forces with prominent conservatives like Phyllis Schlafly and Bob Barr to oppose renewal.
GOP leaders told Bush that his hardcore push to renew the more onerous provisions of the act could further alienate conservatives still mad at the President from his botched attempt to nominate White House Counsel Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court.
"I don't give a goddamn," Bush retorted. "I'm the President and the Commander-in-Chief. Do it my way."
"Mr. President," one aide in the meeting said. "There is a valid case that the provisions in this law undermine the Constitution."
"Stop throwing the Constitution in my face," Bush screamed back. "It's just a goddamned piece of paper!"
I've talked to three people present for the meeting that day and they all confirm that the President of the United States called the Constitution "a goddamned piece of paper."
-Doug Thompson, "Bush on the Constitution"....

The ever present danger of these beasts returning (in the case of Rumsfeld and Cheney, for instance, any future return will be their fourth time taking a run at destroying America: both men served in the Nixon, Reagan, and in the Bush I administrations in various positions and in various advisory capacities) means that our individual freedom, as guaranteed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Constitution, Emancipation Proclamation, and extending all the way back into English Common Law and the Magna Carta itself (remember: Bush Jr. actually overturned the writ of Habeas Corpus not only in its expression in our Constitution but had, through the Patriot Act, attacked the very roots of discovery, evidentiary justice, and rights of the accused as set forth in the Magana Carta signed by English King John in 1215!) was and still is, in its weakned state, in danger of dying in our lifetimes.

We had best keep Obama's feet to the flame.

So what exactly ARE these rights expressed as 'individual freedom'? The evolution of the nation-state between 1200 and 1600 AD was undeniably a causal factor in the birth of individual freedom under the law, freedom being exactly what is being largely lost in present-day America after what can best be understood as a 911 provoked regime change that took place here in the United States.

Freedom as a function of the rise of the nation-state is indeed in the process of being razed also in many other of the Western democracies, which are poised to fall like dominoes to the designs of America’s current ruling cadre of corporate brigands and thugs (i.e., the Exxon/Haliburton/Carlisle-Group/Blackwater/Kellogg, Brown, and Root tribe). The ‘brigands’ who used 911 as a pretext to begin a process of reanimating feudalism, slavery, and essentialist notions of race, had also begun a process of erasing the very notion of social justice predicated upon principles of intrinsic human and individual rights. This particular brigandage began as a small but feral cabal of right wing ideologues and administrators who’ve done Ronald Reagan’s dream of eliminating the nation-state one better by launching a rhetorical coup to seize the means of ideological, social, political, and finally economic production in the U.S. I say that the timing of the Wall Street economic collapse was no coincidence: it corresponded with the growing certainty last Fall that Barak Obama was destined to become the next president.

This process of ideological, socio-political, and economic unraveling was obviously conceived by American corporate thugs, as always, to be carried out in those very stages (ideological, social, political, and economic) and is was being executed by the Bushistos in that prescribed order. Such was the order of operations for earlier authoritarian thugs, e.g., the German National Socialists in Deutschland; the right wing of the Peronist power bloc in Argentia; Tito in Yugoslavia; Radovan Karadžić in former Yugoslavia/Bosnia-Hercegovina/Republika Srpska; the Francoists in Spain; and the Batista regime in Cuba. All these regimes followed or employed to various effect the methods of anti-Statism in their climb to and maintenance of authoritarian power.

Both Naomi Wolf’s “Ten Steps to Fascism” from her text, The End of America, and Professor Theodore M. Vestal’s writings on the characteristics of authoritarianism in several texts including his "Ethiopia: A Post-Cold War African State", discuss the various incremental changes in consciousness, in popular discourse, and in political institutions and social and public policy that inexorably shift modern populations away from social democracy (or even away from socialism in the case of Weimar Germany) and toward authoritarianism/fascism.

Among these incremental paradigm shifts is the establishment of what Professor Vestal calls ‘pervasive bureaucracy staffed by the regime, and what he calls the ‘creation of allegiance through various means of socialization’. Bushistos had heavily stacked formerly democratic, public policy bureaucracies with Republican/corporate shills while arbitrarily funding and empowering a huge new authoritarian bureaucracy (known as the Office of Homeland Security). They meanwhile had established a bogus, propaganda apparatus known as ‘Fox News’ in order to re-socialize the American mind, while compromising public education via the privatizing of schools, the imposition an anti-pedagogical testing regime to replace liberal curricula. They had meanwhile blanketed the mass media with right wing ‘noise’ (see "The Republican Noise Machine: Right-Wing Media and How It Corrupts Democracy", by former Bushido turned critic of Bush, David Brock). For her part, Wolf, in her “ten steps” ominously warns against the establishment of ‘a thug class’ (step #3), which of course, had been fulfilled by the Bushisto/corporate palace guard known as Blackwater Corporation, a mercenary army and corporation CEO’d/commanded by Bush family lackey, Erik Prince, who founded Blackwater right here in Michigan, my home state.

It bears mentioning, in fact, that Prince’s pedigree as candidate for Bush thugmeister reaches back to his little known tour as an intern in the Bush Sr. White House in 1992. His company, which he founded in 1997, is one of the chief war profiteering corporations to benefit from the U.S. Iraq occupation (as editorials and reportage in The Arab American News have pointed out, it is indeed an illegal occupation, not a ‘war’).

The upshot was the determined, and to a startling degree successful creation, by authoritarians, of a society-wide form of cognitive dementia in conjunction with a systematic diminution of the effectiveness or of the very purpose of democratic institutions, democratic government apparatuses, and the compromising and even overturning of the very means by which democracy is achieved: that is, the destruction of popular elections and of the electoral process.

Specifically, in order to eliminate the bases of civil society in its praxis of human and individual rights, to eliminate democracy, and to eliminate electoral values, it is first necessary to eliminate the collective expectation of these things in our minds. Having achieved this psychic excision, the next tactic was to eliminate its accoutrements. The coup was bloodless (if you don’t count the deaths during 911, in Najif, in Abu Ghraib, at Guantanamo, etc.)

3. New Colonialism: Race and the Slave Trade She Rode (back) In On
William Kristol, Newt Gingrich, Donald Rumsfeld, Gary Schmitt, Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney, Richard Perle, Trent Lott, et al., as well as corporate funders (DeVos and Prince) and think tanks such as The Cato Institute, Heritage Foundation, the Scaife Foundation and The New Citizenship Project, have all waged this coup in order to recondition collective consciousness.

Historians like Richard Bean typically understand ‘nation-states’ (i.e. Bean’s essay, "War and the Birth of the Nation-State", from Journal of Economic History, Vol. 33, #1, March, 1973) as entities that have organized the forces of western ‘civilization’. By his definition statism distinctly positions itself against, or after, feudalism and monarchism proper. It nurtured ‘civilization’ and its accoutrements: egalitarianism, humanism, early mercantilist energies, post-Athenian/Post-Periclesian democracy, collective administration, and individual/minority rights. Statism literally gave succor in Central Europe to the post-Romanesque notion of individual freedom and individual rights.

This is so even while Statism admittedly was a force for repression of ethnic difference, local autonomy, and pluralism i.e., the 19th century Italian phenomenon of 'Il Risorgimento'. It must be admitted that the Risorgimento though it generally involved the birth of nationalist sentiments that drove out Austrian, Napoleonic, and Habsburgean foreign rule in Italy, particularly in the Italian-speaking northeast, nevertheless was a movement that contained and crushed dissent from annexed states and among defiant regionalist movements. Secessionists, particularly the Sicilians, protested and revolted against the centralized, authoritarian Italian state, and late 19th century resistance to Statism was particularly strong among the southern peasants who refused to accept the Risorgimento government. It goes without saying that certain Spanish, Arabic, and Greater Metropolitan African elements within the southern population continued to see areas such as Sicily, Messina, and Corsica as distinct, independent entities. The savage repression of regional autonomy and difference across the Italian peninsula was part and parcel of Italian evolution toward statism.

Still, statism across Europe in toto, created a social milieu in which social cruelties and barbarisms (such as slavery) could no longer be transparent, but became opaque. Unlike the milieu of ancient Rome, of ancient Carthage, or ancient Persia and Egypt/Kemet, the new milieu and age that followed the 13th century forced signing by King John of the Magna Carta and that included the 18th century rationalism and empiricism of the enlightenment and Renaissance (both of African origin, say many historians such as Cheikh Anta Diop and Martin Bernal) was one in which slavery needed a new justification since it arose out of a new impetus.

Certainly, even the archaic and antique periods of Europe, followed by the classical period and then the dark ages, all featured African influence, but the unique aspect of the African and Asian influences of the enlightenment itself was the drive toward democracy (first in Greece, then in Rome, and later in France and the Americas) that this particular period (from AD 1400-1800) entailed slavery was both a continued barbarism in Europe even after the enlightenment, a peculiarly altered practice because of the enlightenment and the statism that accompanied it (since slavery became a more mechanistic, corporate practice, as well as an aberrant practice whose days were necessarily numbered due to the very mercantilist and statist forces--under waning monarchism and feudalism--that drove the slave trade through those forces’ support of the slave trade).

The classical period had been one in which slavery had three clear and widely acknowledged justifications:

1. Slavery was a result of war—a form of pillage (a defeated enemy was understood to be subject to a portion of the defeated population being taken as slaves).
2. Slavery was a result of fiat—the will of a king (those subject to the monarchist rule of a king, emperor, or a Caesar, were understood to be subject to the whim of that ruler, who could declare one to be enslaved, or remove one’s freedom to the point of virtual slavery).
3. Slavery was the result of a debt—an indenture of indefinite length (a debtor might be subject to policy, procedure, or law, all of which might decree that his freedom be forfeited for a limited term of service, or for any term up life, in compensation for a debt).

By contrast to these acknowledged justifications for enslavement, the advent of the Transatlantic, Triangular Slave Trade was a break with all known standards of behavior, and this paradigm shift required a justification. Race became that justification. The invention then, of the ideology of ‘Race’ (and of ‘white’ supremacy), is contemporaneous with the creation of corporations and the rise of a global slave trade organized not by kings, not by states, and not by generals, but by corporations.

The global slave trade was unique in that it was highly systematized, mechanistic (in the sense that it established interlocking and complex patterns, policies and procedures commercial in nature that could create repetition of expenditure, storage, processing of ‘goods’, sales, and profits in a pattern meant to operate into perpetuity), and purely commercial in nature, with operations motivated and enabled through investment and strict profit margins. It was an immense, global, and nearly unprecedented mass relocation of millions of Africans, not after conquest in war, not through fiat, and not for repayment of a debt, but for no other reason than gross profit of the type that came into being after mercantilism and the birth of corporations.

To justify such mass theft not only of human labor but also of natural resources (such theft eventually becoming the project of global colonialism through which Europe ravaged Africa and Asia) necessitated the invention of a mythology of the sub humanity of Africans.

This was in direct contrast to the previous, classical conceptions of ethnicity and nationality (as opposed to ‘race’) which were the conceptions by which nations identified themselves and identified other nations. An Egyptian in ancient Rome was understood to be a resident of the nation of Egypt, while a Roman was understood to be a resident of Rome, or a descendant of a certain ethnic community native to Italy. Likewise, an Ossian, or German, or Greek, or Numidian, or Nubian would be understood as a member of those associated nations, tribes, or communities. The notion of ‘race’ per se, as we now understand it, did not exist, and so then neither did racism.

Racism, like brigandage, rape, war, monarchist cruelty, unrestrained pillage, or order by the whim of warlords, was essentially mitigated by the rise of the nation-state, and thus, at the behest particularly of corporations, race became a justification for the establishment of an exception to the growing protection of individual and collective justice that nation states tended to exert.

We habitually assert such claims about the beneficent potential of nation-states, notwithstanding legitimate anarchist critiques of statism. Nations, every bit as readily as monarchies, possess the strong potential, and even the tendency, to inflict war, oppression, plunder, and abuse upon other states, and even upon their own citizens. Yet, the undeniable history of the rise of the nation-state between 1200 and 1600 verifies the concordant, even resultant rise of the forces of egalitarianism, law, social constraints upon brigandage, and cultural freedom.

There was, however, an inevitability to the history of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, given the reality of the pure profit motive adopted by the nascent and the early corporations. The creation of the modern concept of ‘racism’ was rooted in the advent of the corporation. The formation and ‘chartering’ of the Stora Kopparbërg in Sweden (AD 1347), of the Dutch East India Corporation (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie ) in The Netherlands (AD 1602), the and the granting by the British Crown of a monopoly to the British East India Corporation (AD 1600) commenced the history of corporate profit motive that led to the spread of the corporate model, the invention of the trust company and of limited partnerships in the 19th century, corporate fascism in the 20th century, and the current 21st century model of the multinational hegemonic corporations, such as Blackwater, and without borders or national identity (the incorporeal corporation).

4. Seeing The New Colonialism
Donald Rumsfeld’s presumptive Jewish identity notwithstanding, he was, in 2003, the Bush administration’s herald of New Fascism and of New Colonialism. During a series of rambling, psychically dizzying press briefings throughout the latter nine months of 2003 (the invasion of Iraq had commenced on March 20th, 2003) Rumsfeld introduced to a pacified White House Press Corps the theory and battlefield practice of ‘The Rumsfeld Doctrine’; a post modern rejection of heavy, tank-style attacks in favor of lighter armor, more rapid, more effective, fast moving columns carrying scant numbers of troops deep into enemy territory for the purpose of surveilling enemy positions in order to call in massive air strikes and then move on, eschewing secure bivouacs or fortress-like entrenchment.

Rumsfeld’s preening, neologistic, nonsense ridden diatribes in these press conferences (“There are known knowns…there are known unknowns…but there are also unknown unknowns: there are things we do not know we don’t know.”) marked a launch point for the only recently overturned (if we can actually trust that Obama's election overturned it), ongoing U.S. project of New Fascism.

Step one in this process, a process we are currently living through, was the re-introduction of Old World Colonialism (post-post Colonialism, if you wish, or Neo-Colonialism, or, as I prefer to call it, ‘New Colonialism’, for it hardly matters by what name we call the rose; it would stink as much).

Step two had proven itself to be the systematic desensitization of the U.S. population to the debasing of human rights, the founding of a pugnacious foreign policy based upon endless war, the founding of a torture state, and the destruction from within of democratic institutions.

Step three, it seems clear, would have been the imposition of massive social, economic, and political collapse, necessitating the impositio, presumably, of military rule, of a police state, and of society-wide surveillance and suspension of individual freedom.

A question to haunt us: has step three been averted thanks to Obama? And if so, for how long? Eight years is the legal extent of his presence in the White House. Without vigorous and harsh prosecutions and punishment meted out to the war criminals and thugs who hyjacked our democracy for eight years, will those now in eclipse return to finish their work?

Only time will tell.

Obama Rides the Same Old Policies (column reprinted from The Arab American News)

A r a b A m e r i c a n N e w s

Obama rides the same old policies in Palestine
By Rayfield A. Waller
Saturday, 03.21.2009, 01:19am

President Obama has ridden in on the winds of change, promising diplomacy rather than belligerence as U.S. foreign policy; but he has yet to speak clearly against the policy of underdevelopment and "removal" Israel deploys against Palestinians living under occupation.
Unfortunately, Obama's voice overseas, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, is mouthing policies nearly identical to those of the Bush White House; so much so that the Palestinian newspaper, Al Quds, has editorialized against her, calling her "‘Condoleezza Clinton," a reference to Bush's Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice. In her recent trip to the Middle East Clinton offered Israel only words of appeasement even as the ominous figure of an incoming Israeli prime minister who loudly opposes Palestinian statehood — Bebe Netanyahu — is making it clear that more conflict and less diplomacy will likely be Israel'’s course. What are we to call Israel's policy? We ought to call it what it is: Palestinian Removal.

The violence carried out by Israeli forces against Gaza in December has yet to be condemned by the Obama administration. Meanwhile, Israel has stepped up the frequency of evictions carried out against Palestinian families and the razing of Arab homes in occupied East Jerusalem while building new settlements there.

Clinton's clear message at a Gaza reconstruction conference in Sharm el Shiek, Egypt, on March 12, was not a repudiation of Palestinian Removal, but an announcement that the U.S. will withhold recognition and support for the democratically elected Hamas. In the face of Israel's continued strangulation of Arab civilian society by encroachment in Jerusalem, by embargo against Gaza, and by the use of bulldozers and tanks rather than diplomacy to settle Arab/Israeli conflict, Clinton clarified American foreign policy in the Middle East now that Obama is in the saddle: a promise of $900 million, "not a dime" of which will go to Hamas, so as to ensure the eventual creation of a Palestinian state that will be "peaceful and responsible."
Is this Orwellian doublespeak Obama's "change we can believe in?"

Even as Gaza's survivors digest the devastation of, in approximate numbers, 22,000 buildings destroyed, 1,300 dead, 500 or more injured, and 300 or more Palestinian children killed by Israel's planned, mechanized, and targeted attack in December upon civilians and upon civil infrastructure, it seems that yet another American administration rears up in the White House and in Congress to turn a blind eye toward huge sums of our tax dollars funding Israel's Removal Program against Arabs in the West Bank, Golan, Gaza, and East Jerusalem. With Netanyahu's ascension to power, increased Israeli hostility against Lebanon and Syria seems likely, despite Clinton's overtures toward dialogue with Syria. Netanyahu's track record as a hawk doesn't suggest he will support the U.S. in unilateral dialogue with his Arab neighbors.

Does Obama plan to continue the U.S. policy of supporting Israel's "security" through direct weapons sales, huge subsidies and favored nation trade status, and by providing billions of U.S. dollars in aid to Israel? In 2008, Israel received $2.4 billion in military financing, according to The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs (WRMEA), which dwarfs the $900 million promised to Palestine on March 12. The Congress has averaged the (comparatively paltry) figure of 100 million U.S. dollars annually in aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA); the new pledge of money to rebuild Gaza and cover budget shortfalls for the PA will be controlled by the U.S. Agency for International Development, earmarked for what Clinton called "institutional reforms and economic development."

Such a statement seems outlandish; as if American foreign policy is, as it has always been where Palestine is concerned, detached from reality: infrastructure projects, the meat and bread of any "economic development" and now necessary to rebuild Gaza, funded by the U.S. while far more USAID dollars continue to go to funding Israeli destruction of that same infrastructure, is not the diplomacy Obama promised but merely the continuation of the mendacity that U.S. policy toward Arab-Israeli peace has always shown itself to be.

Unless Obama changes irrational expenditures of monies said to "secure" Israel, and favors instead a sane, diplomatic approach to peace that includes rather than excludes parties at ground level, not only will Israel continue to be less secure, but Palestinian lives will continue to be sacrificed. Destruction of cohesive Palestinian daily life and culture is Israeli policy. Israeli bulldozers wreck homes rather than building this "economic development" Clinton speaks of. The Removal Policy will only pick up speed and funding from soon-to-be Prime Minister Netanyahu. The reigns of American foreign policy now belong to Obama.

If he chooses to ride the same old nag of Bush's policies, he will be riding not the winds of change but a whirlwind into continued conflict and bloodshed, and the blood will now be on his hands.

Professor Waller is on the adjunct faculty of the department of Africana Studies at Wayne State University. He is a freelance journalist, and contributing writer to Progreso Weekly and The Michigan Citizen.