Archive for the ‘Cultural’ Category

Brazil, USA, Dems, the Glass Ceiling … & Democracy

Friday, June 17th, 2016

— Reflections on Mark Weisbrot’s The Brazilian Coup and Washington’s “Rollback” in Latin America and our notions of democracy — here, and abroad

Glass Ceiling? … On Women Presidents?
•  The USA (Power, Parties & Media) talks a lot about possibly getting its first female president, even while it is totally silent as the first woman president of Brazil is being illegally removed from office … with our help.

— Deceit & hypocrisy, anyone?

Weisbrot spoke of seeing newly-elected Lula in Porto Alegre at the World Social Forum, standing under a sign denouncing U.S. war plans in Iraq. It was actually January 2003, though, not 2002, Mark.

Attending that Social Forum, there were organizations and NGO’s from all over the globe. That included the U.S. Green Party. There was no representation, however, from the United States’ Democratic Party to such a world-wide Peoples’ Event. Nor that year, nor ever, … and we should be mindful of that fact.

• It was a few months later that in Miami, Clinton, Dems and friends faced off with the AFL-CIO & other pro-labor groups (including the Green Party) to push for yet another NAFTA-type “trade” agreement—the FTAA—and its thoroughly undemocratic deals leading to their culmination in today’s TPP. For the first time at a U.S. public event, we saw a military-equipped police force (armed and dressed by the Iraq war budget) throw senior citizens and others to the ground for … protesting.

• At one public event in Miami, union leaders, ever-loyal to their precious DNC, prevented both Dennis Kucinich and Ralph Nader from being allowed as speakers at the main rally. I attended the meetings where that prohibition was decided, albeit against many opposing votes. Ultimately, Dems went on to screw their union “friends'” positions (despite their displayed loyalty) on the trade deal, just as it had done so many times before. All led … by … Clinton.

Unionists warned Greens at the Rally, “you had better not ‘spoil’ the next election, running your own candidate” even as they themselves had censored the best speakers available for the event.

— SO, very little new has happened this year with the Democratic Party … though the specific Clinton has changed. They still betray workers and attack or silence anyone who DEFENDS the working class and questions our oligarchic status quo.

— The Sanders phenomenon indicates the first wide-spread skepticism and revolt in decades. Even Carter says we live in an oligarchy and not a democracy. And was Bernie ATTACKED now, as were Kucinich & Nader in 2000 & 2003? Any doubts? See a pattern?

— Sanders was indeed attacked … by the PARTY … and by the Media. Certain subjects are taboo for the oligarchic-owned Dems in oligarchic-run USA. In 16 years we see things have only gotten WORSE! Yet the deaf & dumb Hillbots are still out there telling us that WE … are a threat.

Glass Ceiling? … Thoughts On Women Presidents.

Today, the U.S. (the one envisioned by Hillary) is mum on the Coup currently occurring in our largest Southern neighbor and ally, Brazil. They were a bit more vocal and evident in Honduras. While the outcome in Brazil is as yet unknown, our government has obscenely abandoned supporting democratic principles there, to encourage new policies of the “temporary” government which, among other things, make Brazilian resources readily available to buy.

— It appears our own government wants to head back to the days of Latin America staying in our back yard, minding our orders. That is also the way that Democrats rule, so it seems.

•  The USA (power, parties & media) talks of getting its first female president, even as it is totally silent while the first woman president in Brazil is being illegally removed … with our help.

— Deceit & hypocrisy, anyone?

see: The Brazilian Coup and Washington’s “Rollback” in Latin America

Robert Jensen’s reflections on Thanksgiving

Thursday, November 28th, 2013

Thanksgiving Anxieties, Political and Personal — the holiday taken with a grain or two of salt.

In his op-ed piece below, Robert Jensen, journalism professor from Austin, wonders: “Don’t many of us feel just a bit uncomfortable with a holiday that is defined by obligatory family gatherings that often cover up unresolved strife and/or apathy; thoughtless overeating simply because so much food is available; spectacle sports that have become painfully close to Roman gladiator contests; and relentless consumption that often involves buying stuff that many people don’t really want and no one really needs?”

Thanksgiving Anxieties, Political and Personal

Tuesday, November 26, 2013
By Robert Jensen, a Truthout Op-Ed

“Are you the guy who hates Thanksgiving?”

The man posing that question on my voicemail continued with a sharply critical comment about one of the essays I have written in recent years about the holocaust-denial that is at the heart of that U.S. holiday. My first reaction was not to argue but to amend: “I don’t hate Thanksgiving—I just think it’s appropriate to critique a celebration that obscures the reality of the European conquest of the Americas.”

That description is accurate, at one level—my rejection of Thanksgiving is more intellectual than emotional, a political decision to reject that distortion of history. Whatever the actual details of the 1621 celebration involving Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians (and there is ongoing debate about various factual claims), Thanksgiving is one way the dominant culture minimizes or denies the larger historical context of Europeans’ genocidal campaign against indigenous people to acquire the land base of the United States. Without that genocide, there is no United States. For the victors’ descendants to take a day off to give thanks without acknowledging that seems, well, just a bit sociopathic.

I have taken several cracks at making this case, from several different angles,

“No Thanks to Thanksgiving”

“Why We Shouldn’t Celebrate Thanksgiving”

“How I Stopped Hating Thanksgiving and Learned to Be Afraid”

“The Meaning of Thanksgiving”

and I continue to believe the argument is sound and that we should all take it seriously. Until we can tell the truth about our history, there is little hope for the future. But rather than restate that case, this year I’m thinking more about the questions raised by that one word, “hate.”

I recognize that my discomfort with Thanksgiving can’t be explained completely by a judgment based on an intellectual argument. I don’t hate Thanksgiving, in some irrational way, but it’s true that as an adult I have never really much enjoyed the holiday, even before I developed a clear political critique. Some of the sources of that discomfort are mundane: I’m a vegetarian who comes from a dysfunctional family, and I don’t care for football or shopping. So, a holiday identified with turkey and traveling home doesn’t have much to offer me. I get by just fine without the NFL, and the increasingly inescapable connection between Thanksgiving and the beginning of the pathological consumption cycle known as “Christmas shopping” makes me surly.

OK, so maybe I do hate Thanksgiving, but my critics should at least recognize there are some perfectly rational reasons behind the emotional reaction. As with most human responses, the intellectual and emotional elements are intertwined and hard to tease apart. If I can acknowledge that about my critique of Thanksgiving, it seems only fair that the staunch defenders of the holiday do the same. Is not the intense defense of Thanksgiving also in some ways an emotional reaction?

And, if those of us on different sides of the Thanksgiving divide can recognize the complexity of our reactions, can we consider whether there are any shared values before concentrating on disagreements? I feel alienated from the dominant culture on Thanksgiving, not because I dislike the idea of gathering with others to give thanks but because of both the larger political context (about which I recognize my critics and I disagree) and an increasingly numbed culture (about which my critics and I may find common concerns).

In other words: Don’t many of us feel just a bit uncomfortable with a holiday that is defined by obligatory family gatherings that often cover up unresolved strife and/or apathy; thoughtless overeating simply because so much food is available; spectacle sports that have become painfully close to Roman gladiator contests; and relentless consumption that often involves buying stuff that many people don’t really want and no one really needs? Of course not everyone in the United States has access to all these markers of affluence, but these Thanksgiving Day routines are more the norm than aberration.

These reflections are not confined to one day; we live in this corrosive culture 365 days a year. For me, much of what is considered “normal” in the United States isn’t very appealing. I think we eat too much cheap food, are spectators to too much cheap entertainment, and buy too much stuff (some of it cheap and some expensive, but all costly to the larger living world). And many people struggle with family dynamics that are stuck in unresolved pathologies which quietly coerce people into ignoring problems for the sake of family “harmony.”

I have long felt that at the heart of Thanksgiving is a denial of reality and an exercise in numbing ourselves, individually and as a culture. I am not claiming that everyone’s celebration of Thanksgiving is defined by these negatives; individual experiences vary widely, of course. But the alienation I’m describing is not hard to understand, and not limited to a few surly people on the margins.

And whatever one’s personal relationship to the holiday, the political question remains: Why is it “normal” in the United States to celebrate a holiday that is based on a profound distortion of history? That kind of inquiry should lead us to related questions.

— Why is it “normal” to embrace the hierarchy and wealth inequality of corporate capitalism, even though most of us claim to hold moral and/or theological principles that are rooted in the centrality of human dignity, equality, and solidarity? How compatible is capitalism with the values that are essential to a decent human community?

— Why is it “normal” to assert that we are the world’s most advanced democracy, without acknowledging that the concentration of wealth in the U.S. economy has left most of the population outside of the formal political process? Are capitalism and democracy compatible?

— Why is it “normal” to express concern about environmental issues without ever questioning an economic system that is obsessed with the very growth that is undermining the integrity of the ecosystems on which are own lives depend? Is capitalism compatible with a sustainable human presence on the planet?

I do not believe there are simple answers to those political questions but I’m pretty sure they are relevant questions, and I can’t imagine dealing honestly with the steadily mounting problems of social injustice and ecological unsustainability unless we face such questions. I’m also pretty sure that my personal reaction to Thanksgiving raises relevant questions about our family relationships and culture that also demand an honest accounting.

And I am absolutely certain that in both political and personal arenas, denial is an impediment to meaningful progress. If we can’t deal honestly with these problems, it’s unlikely that we will have much to give thanks for in the years to come.

Robert Jensen is a professor in the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin and board member of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center in Austin. He is the author of Arguing for Our Lives: A User’s Guide to Constructive Dialogue (City Lights, 2013); and We Are All Apocalyptic Now: On the Responsibilities of Teaching, Preaching, Reporting, Writing, and Speaking Out.

There IS no healthcare in the US — and not so much health, either!

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

There IS no healthcare system in the US.

Now before you get all hot under the collar about what may seem to be hyperbole here, think a moment about the second part of that term: CARE.

What we DO have is Pharmaceutical Care and Insurance Care.

I take “care” here to mean genuine, heartfelt concern, and more than a desire, but a systematic effort to achieve a positive outcome, no matter the obstacles. That is what’s missing in our “healthcare.”

Taken THAT way, we can see the systematic care that actually does abound is to assure and ensure successful diagnoses and treatments for investments and bottom lines. So, THAT’s where the “care” is focused. In our “system.” The rest is secondary.

In a country where the pervasive conservative thinking loves to mock what is considered the “liberal” syndrome of “throwing money at a problem,” it is ironic to see how the tables are reversed when it comes to the Health Biz.  Free-marketeers constantly justify huge profits in medicine, somehow connecting personal wealth generated by for-profit health enterprises as necessary to provide the funding and motivation for applying medical treatment to the population. Mess with the profits, it is plaited by the titans of MegaGlobalHealthCorp, Inc., and no one can expect (or afford, they claim) good care.

The double irony of course is that, even WITH very healthy bottom-lines in the associated health businesses, the level of care given and received in the US by ordinary citizens falls far below that of other industrialized nations, and frankly, far below the expectation of individual patients and their families. The only things the US health “system” has over the other industrialized nations, in fact, are … the soaring cost to the users — and the soaring profits to the owners/operators!

Well, I suppose if you want full disclosure, you should add the soaring numbers of deaths related to non-treatment …

Copious documentation shows a startling lack of treatment, inadequate treatment, treatment denied even in the face of documented symptoms and needs. Why? Because — and this is central here — the “needs” of the providers are first in line in the order of importance. The “caring” is with assuring profit. Healthcare as an all-out effort to achieve wellness and recuperation from illness and ailments, is the industrialized product that is “delivered” to consumer/patients — when warranted or authorized for the “health” of the delivery companies.

As purely business, it’s simple, even brilliant: more patients, more procedures and treatments = more profit. Health Services — Voila: the perfect product! Ya’ never run out, and you can charge whatever the market will bear.

A corollary we should be aware of: This Windfall Machine automatically perceives that any general improvement in the environment, or in decreasing risks and pollutants, or in promoting healthier diets, is bad for the bottom-line! Even if this is only perceived subliminally, it destroys any human-centered model of Health Care, because such a “system” does not benefit when people are well. The premise is upside-down, counter-productive, and… deadly. It’s time, like other societies have done, that we wake up to this terrible flaw in thinking.

Anything which puts a space, hesitation, or barrier, even, between a recognized illness and seeking a solution for it, carves away pieces of Care, and renders it unworthy of the term.

My father ended up in an adult living facility upon undergoing diagnosis for an inoperable brain tumor. His greatest frustration was an inability to express himself verbally, though he tried very hard to do so. This was in the early period of so-called HMO’s (Health Maintenance Organizations), so he was assigned what they called a “primary care physician.”  When, at a visit to that doctor in charge of my father’s care, I asked if he could receive some speech therapy to help his anguished state and to allow him better to communicate his needs, I was told, “If I were to recommend that therapy, the insurance company would accuse me of ‘being too much on the side of the patient’!!”

That this physician felt at all that he was somehow advocating between two poles of judgment and behavior (“for his patients” or “for his employer”)  illustrates a kind of brainwashing performed by the insurance industry on their “hired hands,” the doctors, a fact seminal in the breakdown of  the health system in our nation.

That we have allowed this to happen would be pitiful enough as a society. However, we have not even “allowed” it in the traditional sense. What we have done is permitted and empowered those corporate interests profiting from the health industries, to set the terms, themselves. We have sat by mutely while abdicating our democratic and constitutional rights to be informed fully and to participate in the making of legislation to regulate our society in the form that WE, the citizens, see fit.

Without adequate access to news and information, we as citizens cannot perform this role even if we would be prepared to do so. Elections, the near-sacred process used in democracies to chose our representatives who are charged to legislate for the betterment of our society as WE see it, has become one more ground for investment for those institutions that see “healthcare” as a windfall business with an ever-growing captive market.

Again: More patients, more procedures and treatments = more profit. Legislators that would upset the balance by reducing toxic environments or curtail questionable residues in our food and water may well be whom the majority of Americans want to see in office, but clearly are not the kind of legislators the Health Business would like to see. Therefore a good part of their well-thought-out Business Plan includes “investing” in elections, supporting “friendly” candidates, while funding veritable armies of lobbyists. The recent Supreme Court decision of Citizens United vs. the FEC has now opened the floodgates for corporate-controlled elections for the foreseeable future. Essentially: R.I.P., USA (1776 – 2010).

Unless Americans do something drastic like head to the streets like Egyptians*, we stand little chance to influence, much less participate meaningfully in ANY conversations that define how or whether the US will ever have a true SYSTEM of Health Care that adequately diagnoses and treats all its citizens.

Restoring the right to determine our Health Future to the Citizens must be seen as central to the process of having real national security and a truly functional democracy. The very health of the nation is at stake.

* Note: this was written prior to the appearance and spreading of the Occupy movements.