Bulletin N° 605
Subject: ON TRYING TO APPEAER RESPECTABLE, THE
METAPHYICS OF APPEARANCE AND RATIONALISM vs. THE AUTHORITY OF
EXPERIENCE AND INTUITION.
Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
It is a delusion to think that we can learn anything about the comparative anatomy of rodents by studying Mickey Mouse cartoons. By analogy, we might say that the true experiences of Noam Chomsky serve as an invaluable guide for anyone trying to navigate through the rocky straights of today’s political fallacies in an effort to comprehend what is really going on around us, and how it has affected us, why we have become the way we are; while the virtual experiences of phony guides are as without substance as the Mickey Mouse corporate animation is without internal organs.
In this spirit, and by popular demand, we offer CEIMSA readers a link to a free download of the extensive footnotes for his book of interviews from the 1980s and 90s, Understanding Power, the Indispensable Chomsky (2002) : http://www.understandingpower.com/ . (Due to their quantity, these numerous and much enriching footnotes are not available in the book itself, and must be downloaded separately.) Chomsky warns that the apparatuses for dogmatic brainwashing are sophisticated and ubiquitous; that simply maintaining the ability to apprehend unfiltered reality, exercise skepticism, and speak the truth are revolutionary acts, today.
Chomsky, when asked about the spirituality of humankind (what is human nature?), spoke about the limitations of scientific knowledge, and the pseudo-scientific charlatanism that academic propagandists must employ in order to intimidate people and maintain their power and promotions within the orthodox system of socially conditioned beliefs.
The practice of pseudo-science as an ideology is useful for reinforcing the illiberal prejudices embedded in neo-liberal ideology, which serve to justify the high human cost of production under late capitalism:
[F]or classical liberals in the eighteenth century, there was a certain conception of just what human beings are like –namely, that what kind of creatures they are depends on the kind of work they do, and the kind of control they have over it, and their ability to act creatively and according to their own decisions and choices. And there was in fact a lot of very insightful comment about this at the time. . . . Wilhelm von Humboldt . . . pointed out that if a worker produces a beautiful object on command, you may ‘admire what the worker does, but you will despise what he is’ –because that’s not really behaving like a human being, it’s just behaving like a machine.[ch.6, footnote #37]And the that conception runs through the classical liberalism. In fact, even half a century later, Alexis de Tocqueville . . . pointed out that you can have systems in which ‘the art advances and the artisan recedes,’ but that’s inhuman –because what you’re really interested in is the artisan, you’re interested in people, and for people to have the opportunity to live full and rewarding lives they have to be in control of what they do, even if that happens to be economically less efficient.[ch.6, footnote #38](p.222)
When asked whether he thought human behavior was understandable using the methods of true science, Chomsky responded,
It’s not just about humans that scientific insight is very limited –even simple physical things can’t be dealt with either. For instance, there’s a ‘three body problem’ in physics: you can’t really figure out what happens when three bodies are moving, the equations are just too complicated. In fact, a physicist I was talking to recently gave me another example –he said if you take a cup a coffee with cream swirling around in it, presumably all of the natural laws are known, but you can’t solve the equations because they’re just too complex. Alright, that’s not human beings, that’s cream swirling around in a cup of coffee: we can’t figure out what’s going on.
The point is, we may know the laws, but the possibility of applying them, or of solving the equations, or of working out the problems, or of understanding what’s going on, declines very fast when we get past only the very simplest things. (p.219)
[A]ny kind of drastic interventions in a human being, or a human society, is very dubious. Like, suppose you’ve got a personal computer and it isn’t working –it’s a bad idea to hit it with a crowbar. Maybe hitting it with a crowbar will by accident fix it, but it’s by and large not a good tactic –and human societies are much more complex than computers, as are human beings. So you really never understand what you’re doing. People have to carry out changes for themselves: they can’t be imposed upon them from above.
[I]f an economist from, say, Harvard, goes to some Eastern European country today and tells them, ‘Here’s the way to develop,’ that’s worse than hitting a computer with a crowbar: there are a million different social and cultural and economic factors they don’t understand, and any big change that’s pressed on people is very likely to be disastrous, no matter what it is –and of course, it always is disastrous. Incidentally, it’s disastrous for the victims –it’s usually very good for the people who are carrying out the experiments, which is why these experiments have been carried out for the last couple hundred years, since the British started them in India. I mean, everyone of them is a disaster for the victims and they’re invariably good for the guy carrying out the experiments.[ch.6, footnote #41]. Well, as far as the people who are interested in social reform are concerned, what that suggests is, people better do it themselves, and a step at a time, under their own control. That’s in fact what was being attempted on a fairly local scale in Barcelona [during the 1936 Spanish Civil War], and I think it’s the kind of thing we have to work towards now. (p.223)
On the 19th century claims by Marx and Engels of having discovered the laws of scientific socialism, Chomsky explains his own anarchist orientation :
Actually, I’m not a great enthusiast of Marx, but one comment he made seems appropriate here. I’m quoting, so pardon the sexist language, but somewhere or other he said: socialism is an effort to try to solve man’s animal problems, and after having solved the animal problems, then we can face the human problems –but it’s not a part of socialism to solve the human problems; socialism is an effort to get you to the point where you can face the human problems. (pp.198-199)
Central to Chomsky’s thinking is the ever-present reality of class struggle. In one part of this anthology of essays, he describes the contemporary stage of monopoly capitalism :
What’s happening in the contemporary period is really something quite new in history, actually. I mean, in recent years a completely new form of government is being pioneered, one designed to serve the developing needs of this new international corporate ruling class –it’s what has sometimes been called an emerging ‘de facto world government.’ That’s what all of the new international trade agreements are about, N.A.F.T.A., G.A.T.T.A., and so on; it’s what the E.E.C. is about; it’s increasingly taking shape in international financial organizations like the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, the World Trade Organization, the G-7 planning meetings of the rich industrial countries, and so on and so forth. These are all efforts to try to centralize power in a world economic system geared towards ensuring that ‘policy is insulated from politics’ –in other words, toward ensuring that the general population of the world have no role in decision-making, and that the level of policy planning is raised to be so remote from people’s knowledge and understanding and input that they have absolutely on idea about the various decisions that are being made that will affect their lives, and certainly couldn’t influence them if they did.
The World Bank has its own term for the phenomenon: they call it ‘technocratic insulation.’ So if you read World Bank studies, they talk about the importance of having ‘technocratic insulation’ –meaning a bunch of technocrats, who are essentially employees of the big transnational corporations, have to be working somewhere in ‘insulation’ form the public to design al the policies, because if the public ever get involved in the process they may have bad ideas, like wanting the kind of economic growth that does things for people instead of for profits, all sorts of stupid stuff like that. So therefore what you want to have is insulated technocrats –and once they’re insulated enough, then you can have all the ‘democracy’ you like, since it’s not going to make any difference. In the international business press, this has all been described pretty frankly as ‘The New Imperial Age.’ And that’s quite accurate: it’s certainly the direction things are going in.[ch.10, footnote #64](p.381)
Successful labor union and community organizing requires the overcoming of illusions and received ideas. This is particularly important today, when international organizing is required to affectively neutralize major sources of power (i.e. personality, property, and organization --including organized capitalists interests, such as financial institutions and transnational corporations) and disarm them of the three instruments of power, which they freely exercise to achieve submission to their will, and is usually engineered by mercenary managers of one sort or another (i.e. condign punishment, compensation, and conditioned behavior). [For more on political power, see John Kenneth Galbraith's book, The Anatomy of Power (1983), which has been discussed in past CEIMSA Bulletins.]
The 10 items below will illustrate the effects of top-down consensus building, as opposed to bottom-up policy making, as well as the classic struggle against the metaphysics of a managerial elite, who appropriate political power by beating people “with the people’s stick.”
Item A., from Information Clearing House, is an article by UN Special Rapporteur Richard Falk on Israeli racist policies.
Item B., from The Real News Network is a video report by Dahr Jamail on the irrefutable evidence of global warming in irreconcilable conflict with the private profit motive, which is held sacred by neo-liberal dogma.
Item C., from Nordic News Network, is an article by Al Burke on Eva Joly’s attempt to meet with Swedish officials to discuss the civil rights violations of Julian Assange.
Item E., from NYU Professor Mark Crispin Miller, founder of News From Underground, is an article by Diane Ravitch on the Corporate Propaganda Campaign against Public Education.
Item F., from ZNet, is Professor Edward S. Herman’s review of Gareth Porter’s new book, Manufactured Crisis : The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare.
Item G., from Information Clearing House, is an article by Tariq Ali on “How Vladimir Putin Became Evil.”
Item H., from Information Clearing House, is an article by US Senator Bernie Sanders on “The Threat to Democracy.”
Item I., from ZNet, is an article by Norman Finkelstein on the Kerry mission to Israel.
Item J.,from Byron Morton, is a film review of ‘Cesar Chavez, History is made one step at a time.’
And finally we invite CEIMSA readers to view a Real News Network March 22 interview with economists Michael Hudson and Jeffrey Sommers discussing how provisions in an IMF deal in Ukraine, like cuts to gas subsidies and pensions, will hurt the average Ukrainian citizens and benefit kleptocrats.
Who In Ukraine Will Benefit From An IMF Bailout?
Professor of American Studies
University of Grenoble-3
Director of Research
University of Paris-Nanterre
Center for the Advanced Study of American Institutions and Social Movements
The University of California-San Diego
From Information Clearing House :
Dates: 21 March 2014
Subject: A déjà vu all over again!
Richard Falk, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, said Israel carried out a "systematic and continued effort to change the ethnic composition of East Jerusalem".
by Richard Falk
From The Real News Network :
Dates: 23 March 2014
Subject: The pathological pursuit of ‘short-term profits’ is destroying the earth, and all living things.
A recent NASA-funded report found that the planet could warm 20 percent more than earlier estimates. Take a look at this visualization of the warming Earth from 1950 through the end of 2013. As you can see, it's getting warmer and warmer. And NASA scientists say that 2013 tied for the seventh-warmest year since 1880, continuing a long-term trend of rising global temperatures.
NASA Climate Predictions Show Serious Threat To Humanity
Dahr Jamail has written extensively about climate change as well as the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. He is a recipient of numerous awards, including the Martha Gellhorn Award for Journalism and the James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism. He is the author of two books: Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches from an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq and The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan.
From Nordic News Network:
Dates: 31 March 2014
Subject: Solution to Assange case? Not interested."
Solution to Assange case? Not interested
Swedish authorities decline meeting with
distinguished visitor offering way out of legal impasse
The Swedish officials who are most directly responsible for the ongoing effort to have Julian Assange extradited from England have declined to hear the proposals of Eva Joly, the well-known French magistrate and member of the European Parliament, who recently visited Sweden to suggest a way out of the legal impasse.
“I have asked to meet with the minister of justice [Beatrice Ask], the chief prosecutor [Anders Perklev] and with Marianne Ny, the prosecutor handling the case. None of them wants to meet with me, and I am wondering why….
“Of course, they have no obligation to meet with me,” acknowledged Ms. Joly. “But in my experience, that is very unusual. In fact, I cannot recall any similar occasion.” She also found it “unusual” that Anders Perklev and Marianne Ny offered no explanation for their refusal to meet, and that none of the three officials indicated any willingness to welcome her on some later occasion.
“This is clearly a difficult question which Swedish officials are very reluctant to discuss,” concludes Eva Joly. “That is unfortunate, because the case involves important issues of legal and human rights that concern everyone, not only Julian Assange.…“
Complete text in PDF format:
Tel. +46/(0)8 - 731 9200
From The Real News Network :
Dates: 23 March 2014
Subject: Israeli leader declares that, “We shall boycott the boycotters !”
Following Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu's AIPAC speech earlier this month where he announced that "we shall boycott the boycotters", journalist and author Michel Warschawski spoke to The Real News' Lia Tarachansky about the Israeli government's approach to the growing boycott movement. The campaign's growth from civil actions of individuals to major European banks and corporations signals a change of tide, he says, and its timing, at the end of the self-appointed deadline of the US-mediated talks between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority, has the Israelis nervous. The Real News also spoke to attorney Sawsan Zaher of Adalah about the government's approach to those at home who support the boycott.
From Mark Crispin Miller :
Dates: 17 March 2014
Propaganda Campaign Against Public Education.
Published on Wednesday, March 12,
2014 by Huffington Post
Understanding the Propaganda Campaign Against Public Education
by Diane Ravitch
A few years ago, when I was blogging at Education Week with Deborah Meier, a reader introduced the term FUD. I had never heard of it. It is a marketing technique used in business and politics to harm your competition. The term and its history can be found on Wikipedia. FUD stands for Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. The reader said that those who were trying to create a market-based system to replace public education were using FUD to undermine public confidence in public education. They were selling the false narrative that our public schools are obsolete and failing.
This insight inspired me to write Reign of Error to show that the “reform” narrative is a fraud. Test scores on NAEP are at their highest point in history for white students, black students, Hispanic students, and Asian students. Graduation rates are the highest in history for these groups. The dropout rate is at an historic low point.
Why the FUD campaign against one of our nation’s most treasured democratic institutions? It helps the competition. It makes people so desperate that they will seek out unproven alternatives. It makes the public gullible when they hear phony claims about miracle schools, where everyone graduates and everyone gets high test scores, and everyone goes to a four-year college. No such school exists. The “miracle school” usually has a high suspension rate, a high expulsion rate, a high attrition rate, and such schools usually do not replace the kids they somehow got rid of. Some “miracle schools” have never graduated anyone because they have only elementary schools, but that doesn’t stop the claims and boasting.
by Diane Ravitch
From Ed Herman :
Dates: 23 March 2014
Subject: A Path to World War III.
Journalist-scholar Gareth Porter has published another fine book on U.S. aggression, Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare, which follows in the footsteps of his 2005 study, The Perils of Dominance.
A Review of ‘Manufactured Crisis’
by Edward Herman
From Information Clearing House :
Dates: 16 March 2014
Subject: The Indispensible Enemy.
The US and UK condemn him for Crimea but supported him over the war in Chechnya. Why? Because now he refuses to play ball.
How Vladimir Putin Became Evil
by Tariq Ali
From Information Clearing House :
Dates: 16 March 2014
Subject: A Threat to American Democracy.
The reality is we have more people living in poverty today than at any time in the history of the United States of America. The fact is we have by far the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major industrialized nation on Earth.
“A Threat to American
by Bernie Sanders
From ZNet :
Dates: 16 March 2014
Subject: The Politics of Slow Genocide?
The End of Palestine?
by Norman Finkelstein
From Byron Morton :
Dates: 31 March 2014
Subject: Film Review of ‘Cesar Chavez, History is made one step at a time.’
Here is a review of the new Cesar Chavez film. I sent it to the San Diego Free Press. I saw the film this weekend. It opened on Friday.
Cesar Chavez Film: Sí, Se Puede
by Byron Morton
Cesar Chavez is directed by 34 year old Mexican actor Diego Luna. He had staring roles in Y Tu Mama Tambien, Milk and Frida.
Cesar Chavez shows the political evolution and the struggles of the man behind the movement during the 1960s to organize the farm workers in California. Through the United Farm Workers (UFW) Chavez (played by Michael Peña) brings bargaining rights and dignity for the impoverished farm workers.
The UFW motto during this time was “Sí, se puede” or yes, it is possible.
It is important to remember at that time in the 1960s the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 did not protect farm workers and others.The Act , “is a foundational statute of US labor law which guarantees basic rights of private sector employees to organize into trade unions, engage in collective bargaining for better terms and conditions at work, and take collective action including strikes if necessary.”
Not represented at that time by the 1935 Act were agricultural workers, domestic employees, supervisors, federal, state, or local governmental workers, independent contractors, and some close relatives of individual employees.
The film shows some pivotal episodes of Chavez’s activist life and interpersonal relationships. For example, Chavez and his son Fernando are distant emotionally.Chavez’s voice is used as narrator sparingly through the film. His voice tells about his childhood years growing up poor. He was born in Yuma Arizona on March 31, 1927. Chavez’s early activism work with the Community Service Organization (CSO) was influential and motivated him.Wikipedia states, “Chavez worked in the fields until 1952, when he became an organizer for Community Services Organization (CSO), a Latino civil rights group. He was hired and trained by Fred Ross as an organizer targeting police brutality. Chavez urged Mexican Americans to register and vote and he traveled throughout California and made speeches in support of workers rights. He later became the CSO’s national director in 1958.”
Chavez left the CSO in 1962 and formed an agricultural union with Delores Huerta called the National Farm Workers Association. It was later combined with the Filipino American Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee to become the United Farm Workers (UFW). With labor leader Phillip Vera Cruz, the Filipino American farm workers initiated the Delano grape strike of September 8, 1965, to protest for higher wages.
Chavez takes his family to Delano California to start the farm worker organizing.
The dialogue works well to move the narrative forward. It is especially poignant and thought provoking when Chavez, Dolores Huerta (Rosario Dawson), and Chavez’s wife, Helen Fabela Chávez (America Ferrara) are discussing breaking an injunction prohibiting the UFW from neither picketing nor using the slogan of the movement “Huelga” or strike.
In an emotionally charged scene, Chavez refuses to let his wife violate the injunction. She refuses to cooperate with him and insists that they are all part of the movement. She was willing to go to jail for her beliefs and stands up to Cesar. Doleres Huerta backs up Helen Chavez.
Huerta’s impotence to the movement is represented. She pushes Chavez to “take it to the next level”, especially during the grape boycott. She convinces the leadership of UFW to take direct actions like contacting shoppers, college students and religious groups to stop buying grapes and put economic pressure on the growers to sign a collective bargaining agreement with the workers. It took five years of direct actions to bring the growers to the table.
The brutality of the growers’ goons is shown. There is one scene in particular. Archival footage of Nixon being sworn in as president is inter-cut with the police attacking farm workers with batons.Another poignant scene shows Chavez breaking his hunger strike in March 1968 followed by an impassioned speech by Robert F. Kennedy (Jack Holmes). And after Kennedy's assassination three months later, Chavez faces a much chillier political climate when anti-union leaders like Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon hold sway in the U.S.
Michael Brooks soundtrack is under-stated and evocative. One can feel the emotional direction of the story especially during the confrontational scenes. In one such scene, the Delano sheriff discovers that the U.F.W. has started a farm workers credit union. The soundtrack plays like the sounds of tightening piano strings. The sheriff asks if the farm workers are “commies”. Chavez replies with laughter, “How can Catholics be communists?” The response confuses the sheriff.
John Malkovich plays the main grape grower who is determined to deter and smash the farm workers efforts to organize. Malkovich’s character understands that he has underestimated the movement when he is shown a cartoon depicting the antagonist grower as a monster trying to destroy a farm worker.
Malkovich realizes that even the illiterate can comprehend the struggle by relating to the cartoon.
Malkovich states, “you have to reach them by any means.”
The UFW used campensino theater, live music and visual aids to get the union message out to the farm workers in the field.Various episodes of the historical struggle are depicted and inter-cut with archival footage. The film represents a convincing feature and vital narrative of a man who struggled for workers rights and dignity.
Go see Cesar Chavez…Si, se puede!