Culture and Society

Mar
07

Is Advocating Humane Policies Inhumane?

Tag: Culture and Society

Until I remember that I, too, am a human being, I have been with increasing frequency drawn to the conclusion that human beings have evolved with such an obsession with other individual humans that they simply cannot attribute proper importance to far-reaching policies.

If you want to excite a crowd, you don't tell them that virtually every official in Washington is in complete and harmonious agreement on massive military spending, more nuclear weapons, occupying Afghanistan, bombing Iraqis, bombing Syrians, bombing the hell out of Yemenis, and drone murdering at will. That's about as interesting as subsidizing fossil fuels and rendering the earth uninhabitable. Who cares!

If you want some sign of life out of an audience, you tell them that a particular politician is an idiot or a clown or a racist or a sadist or a misunderstood saint. Now, that has value.  That has meaning.

Virtually every U.S. citizen, as far as I can tell, would choose a republic over a democracy, a dictatorship over a republic, and a dictator who gives intelligent humanitarian speeches while enacting horribly destructive policies over a dictator who sounds like a jerk or a moron while enacting less destructive policies.

Sure, we may be headed right for the iceberg, but the Captain sure is witty!

In fact, the actual captain of the Titanic is still remembered for his personality more than his captaining. Woodrow Wilson is in our history books for things he said, while what he did gets very little mention. Barack Obama will be written up as a president who spoke against nuclear madness, even though (1) he didn't, and (2) he worked to create more nukes, including smaller, more "usable" nukes.

The corrosive impact of personality may be more lasting than many imagine. I supposed that there would be at least three upsides to a president Trump: no TPP, less hostility toward Russia, and the return to activism of those who opposed wars as long as Bush was president. Not only have the Democrats pushed Trump into hosility toward the demonized Vladimir Putin, but the return of the anti-Republican-war activists is beginning to look over-anticipated.

Where are they? Have they learned to accept all the ongoing permanent wars? Are they waiting for a new war to oppose?

I'll tell you where they are. They're lurking just around the corner. Announce a comedy performance mocking the stupidity of Donald Trump and his Russian lover, and they'll come running. They'll arrive in droves.

Mar
07

Talk Nation Radio: Tressie McMillan Cottom on For-Profit Colleges and the Society That Produces Them

Tag: Culture and Society, Public Policy, Talk Nation Radio

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-tressie-mcmillan-cottom-on-for-profit-colleges-and-the-society-that-produces-them

Tressie McMillan Cottom is the author of Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy. We discuss her book.

See:http://thenewpress.com/books/lower-edTotal run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.Producer: David Swanson.Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from LetsTryDemocracy or Archive.Pacifica stations can also download from Audioport.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete athttp://TalkNationRadio.org

and athttps://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks

Mar
01

Our Causes Are Connected, Our Movements Should Be Too

Tag: Culture and Society

Global corporations and international government alliances are pushing war, environmental destruction, economic exploitation, defunding of schools and housing, hateful divisive ideologies, and reductions in rights and liberties as a package wrapped in shiny foil, tied with a bow, and advertised in hundreds of different advertising media.

. . . and in this corner we have local and national organizations, segregated by race and other demographics, raising pitiable sums to fund nonprofit work, each to work against one or another particular item out of the package. Occasionally a movement will propose to take on two or three items at once but be shouted down with cries of “WHAT IS YOUR ONE DEMAND!?”

In my view, not only was Thomas Jefferson right to list all of King George’s wrongs, not only was Martin Luther King Jr. right to propose taking on militarism, racism, and extreme materialism all together, but the way to an effective movement — not just a larger movement, but a coherent movement with a vision for a better future — is to go multi-issue, big-tent, cross-border, and otherwise “intersectional.”

We’re facing environmental disaster. It might be mitigated by a massive investment in clean energy. The only possible source of the kind of money needed is in the institution that is currently doing the most environmental damage — so, taking its funding away serves a double purpose. I’m talking, of course, about the military, to which Trump’s budget would give over 60% of discretionary spending. For what? For “stealing their oil” and “killing their families.” Once you start opposing killing families, the remaining purpose for the military stands out as rather anti-environmental.

But that 60% of discretionary spending is also why the quality of life, life expectancy, health, and happiness of people in the United States doesn’t match up with its level of wealth. You’ve heard all about the wealth hoarded by the billionaires. It’s a drop in the bucket. Throwing the military $700 billion a year, year after year, explains not having free college, free clean energy, free fast trains, beautiful parks, wonderful arts, a basic income guarantee, and why the U.S. isn’t leading the world in actual foreign aid rather then begrudging it a stingy token. I don’t mean that we could choose one of these other things instead of military spending. I mean that we could choose all of them. I’d gladly give Donald Trump the leftover billions too just to shut up. Who cares? The world would be a wonderful place.

I usually don’t include healthcare in the list of things we could fund because we’re already over-funding it. We’re just funding a corrupt system of private insurance companies that wastes a lot of it. This corrupt system is the result of a corrupt system of government defended by increasingly militarized police cracking down on the use of the First Amendment. Failing to connect these issues leaves us fumbling in the dark. Refugees from U.S. wars are blamed for their suffering and then used as justification for more wars.

The wars are fueled by racism and in turn fuel greater racism and bigotry, which does its damage within the United States and at the locations of its wars and its bases around the world. Part of the bigotry fueled by war for centuries is sexism. Part of what keeps the wars going is perverse machismo. We should trace the roots of these fears, as many of those roots can be found in military spending to just the same extent that the lack of funds for teachers can.

Yet we try to address the erosion of civil liberties as though it stands alone. What would be the justification for spying on everyone, for example, if there were no enemies? It sounds fantastic, I suppose, but numerous nations that are not at war do not have enemies. The United States should try it sometime, if only for the novelty.

There is another serious result of putting our resources into wars, though, and that is the generation of so many enemies, so much hatred, such widespread hostility and resentment. There is, of course, a way to overcome the fear of terrorism, and that is to stop engaging in the terrorism that produces blowback.

There is no divide between foreign and domestic. There is no pro-war environmentalism, or crony capitalist human rights work, or racist peacemaking. If the absence of The One Single Demand troubles someone, give them the single demand that they go read a book.

Feb
11

Chasing a Northern Confederate Out of the South

Tag: Civil Rights, Culture and Society, Media, Peace and War

The Washington Post proclaims: "Protesters mob provocative Va. governor candidate as he defends Confederate statue." Six seconds of video of the incident involved is likely to show up eventually here or here.

I was there on Saturday shouting down the "provocative" celebrator of racism and war, together with my kids and some friends. The only hostility I saw came from supporters of keeping the giant statue of Robert E. Lee in the park here in Charlottesville.

Jan
04

Yes, Positivity, Pangloss, Partisanship, Propaganda, and Populism

Eight years ago Yes! Magazine published a political platform of progressive policies, along with polling showing strong majority support for each proposal. Now, eight years later, we can show almost total failure to advance any of the proposals, most of which were focused on the U.S. federal government.

Where there have been any small successes, they have mostly come at the state or local level or outside the United States. New York State just took a step toward free college and Washington State toward shutting down fossil fuels while everyone was watching Donald Trump's twitter feed. Most of the world's nations are working on a new treaty to ban nuclear weapons from the earth, while Obama's government has invested heavily in new nukes and (far more offensively, I'm told) Trump has tweeted about them.

The general federal-level failure in the United States is very clearly because the U.S. government in Washington D.C. is a financially corrupted and anti-democratic structure, and because the U.S. public is generally disinclined to hold it accountable. The United States enjoys remarkably less activism than many other countries, and suffers as a result.

A huge reason for the activism shortage is partisan loyalty. Of that minority of people who will do anything at all, many will only make demands of or protest members of one political party. For the other party all is forgiven. And most policy positions are utterly expendable at the slightest shift in the party line. Witness the current Democratic fever for believing the CIA on faith and desiring hostility toward Russia.

Dec
30

Russians, By Fling -- To the tune of "Russians" by Sting

Tag: Culture and Society, Peace and War, Political Ideas

In Liberal America, there's a growing feeling of hysteria

Conditioned to accept whatever's claimed

As long as it's Donald and the Russians blamed

Mr. Putin says he'll be friends with you

I don't subscribe to this point of view

It would be such an ignorant thing to do

If the Russians hate their children too

 

How can I risk my little boy with Oppenheimer's deadly toy

There is no monopoly in common sense

On either side of all the missile defense

We share the same biology

Regardless of ideology

Believe me when I say to you

The Russians hacked your cell phone too

 

There is no historical precedent

To put a stooge in the office of the President

There's no such thing as a winnable war

It's a lie we don't reject anymore

Obama says we will protect you

I don't subscribe to this point of view

Believe me when I say to you

I know the Russians hate their children too

 

We share the same biology

Regardless of ideology

What might kill us, me, and you

Is if the Russians hate their children too

Dec
27

Talk Nation Radio: Richard Cahan on the Forced Removal and Incarceration of Japanese Americans

Tag: Culture and Society, Peace and War, Talk Nation Radio

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-richard-cahan-on-the-forced-removal-and-incarceration-of-japanese-americans

Richard Cahan is a journalist who writes about photography, art and history. He worked for the Chicago Sun-Times from 1983 to 1999, primarily serving as the paper’s picture editor. He left to found and direct CITY 2000, a project that documented Chicago in the year 2000. Since then, he has authored and co-authored more than a dozen books, including Vivian Maier: Out of the Shadows and Richard Nickel’s Chicago. He also works as a curator, creating photo and exhibitions at Chicago museums.

We discuss the new photo book co-authored by Richard Cahan and Michael Williams, Un-American: The Incarceration of Japanese Americans During World War II.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.Producer: David Swanson.Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from LetsTryDemocracy or Archive.Pacifica stations can also download from Audioport.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete athttp://TalkNationRadio.org

and athttps://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks

Nov
18

Born on Home Plate

Remember the satirical "Billionaires for Bush" protesters? Around this time in 2008 I asked them to become Oligarchs for Obama, and they refused. But I predict Tycoons for Trump will be born this month. Inequality, like war and climate destruction, has its face now.

Chuck Collins' book, Born on Third Base: A One Percenter Makes the Case for Tackling Inequality, Bringing Wealth Home, and Committing to the Common Good, presents the problem of inequality as well as any I've seen. Collins was born into wealth, gave it away, but still refers to himself as one of the wealthy, perhaps because of all the lasting privileges wealth brought him. Collins sites other examples, as well, of the wealthy putting their wealth to better use than hoarding.

Collins explains how a lot of philanthropy is, however, counterproductive, benefitting those least in need of it. He argues for a popular movement to create progressive taxation and progressive restraints on income. But he also makes a case for appealing to one percenters for solidarity, rather than demonizing them -- apparently because this has proven to work better but also because it's too late for anything else. Wealth has been so concentrated that without defections at the top it will never be truly shared again.

Oct
28

Disobey or Die

Back in the winter of 1982, Air Florida flight 90 took off from National Airport. The first officer noticed dangerous readings on some instruments and pointed them out to the captain. The captain told him he was wrong, and he accepted the captain's authority. He did nothing. Thirty seconds later the plane crashed into the 14th Street Bridge. Everyone on board died except for four passengers rescued out of the icy river.

Oct
04

Talk Nation Radio: Samantha Nutt on the Harm of Weapons Dealing and Investment

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-samantha-nutt-on-the-harm-of-weapons-dealing-and-investment

Samantha Nutt is an award-winning humanitarian, bestselling author and acclaimed public speaker. A medical doctor and a founder of the renowned international humanitarian organization War Child, Dr. Nutt has worked with children and their families at the frontline of many of the world’s major crises – from Iraq to Afghanistan, Somalia to the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Sierra Leone to Darfur, Sudan.

Dr. Nutt is a respected authority for many of North America's leading media outlets. In November 2015, Dr. Nutt spoke at TED Talks Live “War & Peace” at The Town Hall Theater in New York, which aired on PBS on May 30, 2016. Dr. Nutt’s TED Talk can be viewed on TED.com:

http://www.ted.com/talks/samantha_nutt_the_real_harm_of_the_global_arms_trade

Dr. Nutt’s critically-acclaimed debut book, entitled Damned Nations: Greed, Guns, Armies and Aid, was released by McClelland and Stewart Ltd. (a division of Random House) in October 2011 and was a #1 national bestseller in both hardcover and paperback. 

For more information, see www.warchildusa.org or www.samanthanutt.com

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.Producer: David Swanson.Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from LetsTryDemocracy or Archive.Pacifica stations can also download from Audioport when I'm able to get the audioport website to work, which is not this week.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete athttp://TalkNationRadio.org

and athttps://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks

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