Monday, January 31, 2011

Kidnapped

Last week while teaching World History I, or history about Ancient Civilizations, we were discussing the meaning of the term history and what are the different ways we can see history as an essential and important part of our lives, but also the ways it fails us, as in what its limits or impossibilities might be. I always like to remind my students that for every reason or instance that you argue that history is important and good, you could come up with just as many reasons why it is useless or not important. Most students articulate their thoughts on history through its importance in knowing where one came from and not making the same mistakes of the past. Those who have a more critical edge to their minds often bring in anonymous bad guys, who may manipulate history and take advantage of ignorance and give people some sliver of history that serves their interests, hoping that people will follow without knowing any better. That is always a key moment in the class where people stop thinking of history as a warm, friendly blanket, something which you regurgitate important-sounding platitudes about, and see it as a weapon instead, something which you can use, or can be used against you.

We read the poem "Kidnapped" by Ruperake Petaia, which discusses the experience of a Samoan in an foreign educational system, being indoctrinated. Most students clearly identified with the poem and the feelings of being forced to learn and value things which you don't truly feel are your own. Students interprted the poem as being one of anger over being stripped of your culture, your language, your heritage. At the end, the feeling of finishing school is likened to being released from prison (at a ceremony where your fellow inmates cheer) and being given a slip of paper to decorate your walls. But one thing which complicates this interpretation is the tone of the poem. Despite it being titled "Kidnapped" and taking on the metaphorical imagery of someone who is forced into a situation they don't seem to want, the tone is not overtly angry or frightened. It is more composed, restrained. It is clear that the poet does not like what is happening, but by the poem's end, you can argue that he has become resigned to how he has been changed, that there is probably nothing that can be done to change his situation.

Although there may have been one moment early on when the poet resisted aggressively what was happened, by the poem's end he is not sure what is what. While he makes clear that his education made him "whiter and whiter" and that his kidnappers became richer and richer and his parents "poorer and poorer," the feeling of kidnapped is a feeling of being engulfed, of losing your bearings and losing the ability to see outside of what is being forced upon you. At some point, even if you don't like it, you cannot see any way around it or beyond it. Chamorros prior to World War II suffered from this. Even though they detested the lessons of the US, which were forced upon them in schools, but the end of the war, they had "learned" those lessons so well, that even if they might hate where they came from, and might personally loathe "Americans" they still could not imagine that "education" could take place, unless is followed that same model of indoctrinating and killing the Chamorro to save the child, thus making a minor American possible.

One of the dangers of education is that it is assumed that whatever is taught is correct, because it comes with the authority of the teacher. Even if you might feel something is incorrect or wrong, you most likely will not question it, nor will you even know how to question it. This makes teaching easy in some ways, but dangerous in others. I always encourage my students to challenge me, to take issue with things I say, with how I say them, what I choose to focus on. Although I give them this room and encourage them to debate me or stand up to me, this rarely every takes place. The teacher is at the top, he or she sets the rules, he or she is supposed to know more than everyone else, and so long as the teacher knows what they are talking about and students pay attention, learning is supposed to take place. But, when what teachers say is taken without thinking, it doesn't do much. It just becomes notes on paper or carved into your mind. It not only leads to mere parroting of information or rhetoric, but reproduces that subordinate, silent relationship. Learning is not supposed to be a one sided exchange where a teacher shoves the knowledge morsels into the mouths of the students, if there is not some engagement from the learner, then not much actually happens. This engagement doesn't only come in the form of open attacks on the professor, but just that when things enter your eye sockets or your ear canals it does not simply waft into an empty void within your consciousness but actually bounces around in there, knocking some things around, shaking things loose, tearing down a few of the cobwebs that naturally form there.

One of the interesting things about teaching is that student's may be able to detect an ideological bent that they don't like or are averse to, but that in no way means they can detect the difference between truth and falsity. One of the interesting things about ideology is that it is meant to provide certainty in the absence of truth or even the presence of counter fact. I have students who will challenge me with verve on things they know absolutely nothing about, but have some faint ideological predisposition to not like. They hear something, about political status, about the military buildup, that they know they aren't supposed to like and will speak forcefully, hoping that the loudness of their rhetoric will carry them just as far or farther than actual knowledge. But when it comes to the details of history, for example which you know nothing about, how to do challenge if something is true or not?

It is for that reason, that last semester, for some lectures I would tell my students that I'm going to make something up this class. I'm going to lie my ass off to you about something and slip it into my lecture. I'm not going to qualify it in anyway, but just going to communicate it to you in the way I do everything else. At the end of the class I ask students if they can figure out what I made up in what I taught them. Very few times do students ever guess what it was. I mean, if you were getting a lecture about the Cyrus, Darius and Xerxes of Ancient Persia, people you've never heard of before, but who are apparently important to world history, how would you know that according to one of the versions of how Cyrus The Shepherd died, the nomadic Scythian-like people from the deserts of modern-day Kazakhstan and not modern-day Saudi Arabia? I do this to try to teach them this lesson about the importance of paying attention and being ready to question what you are being taught. I also do it since it actually helps students pay attention because it is a new approach, something different and kind of like a game.

You could argue that the truth has some inherent logical consistency to it, but that does not mean that when it appears before you, it signifies truth. In the absence of any contrary knowledge, we tend to accept as something true because it is spoken with confidence. But that does not mean that people or students are blind and have no way of telling if their professors is just making things up. But everyway of being able to know or guess the difference requires that engagement, it requires learning on your own, or at least paying close attentiton.

This issue came to mind as earlier tonight I was preparing for class tomorrow and I was searching for articles about how conservatives in Texas changed their state's textbooks last year to reflect conservative paranoia and wetdreams about the United States, and erase things which they felt put down the United States or might make white christians depressed about themselves and their history. I found the following article from The New York Times, and it reminded me of the discussion I mentioned above from last week.

********************

March 12, 2010

Texas Conservatives Win Curriculum Change

By JAMES C. McKINLEY Jr.

The New York Times



AUSTIN, Tex. — After three days of turbulent meetings, the Texas Board of Education on Friday approved a social studies curriculum that will put a conservative stamp on history and economics textbooks, stressing the superiority of American capitalism, questioning the Founding Fathers’ commitment to a purely secular government and presenting Republican political philosophies in a more positive light.

The vote was 10 to 5 along party lines, with all the Republicans on the board voting for it.

The board, whose members are elected, has influence beyond Texas because the state is one of the largest buyers of textbooks. In the digital age, however, that influence has diminished as technological advances have made it possible for publishers to tailor books to individual states.

In recent years, board members have been locked in an ideological battle between a bloc of conservatives who question Darwin’s theory of evolution and believe the Founding Fathers were guided by Christian principles, and a handful of Democrats and moderate Republicans who have fought to preserve the teaching of Darwinism and the separation of church and state.

Since January, Republicans on the board have passed more than 100 amendments to the 120-page curriculum standards affecting history, sociology and economics courses from elementary to high school. The standards were proposed by a panel of teachers.

“We are adding balance,” said Dr. Don McLeroy, the leader of the conservative faction on the board, after the vote. “History has already been skewed. Academia is skewed too far to the left.”

Battles over what to put in science and history books have taken place for years in the 20 states where state boards must adopt textbooks, most notably in California and Texas. But rarely in recent history has a group of conservative board members left such a mark on a social studies curriculum.

Efforts by Hispanic board members to include more Latino figures as role models for the state’s large Hispanic population were consistently defeated, prompting one member, Mary Helen Berlanga, to storm out of a meeting late Thursday night, saying, “They can just pretend this is a white America and Hispanics don’t exist.”

“They are going overboard, they are not experts, they are not historians,” she said. “They are rewriting history, not only of Texas but of the United States and the world.”

The curriculum standards will now be published in a state register, opening them up for 30 days of public comment. A final vote will be taken in May, but given the Republican dominance of the board, it is unlikely that many changes will be made.

The standards, reviewed every decade, serve as a template for textbook publishers, who must come before the board next year with drafts of their books. The board’s makeup will have changed by then because Dr. McLeroy lost in a primary this month to a more moderate Republican, and two others — one Democrat and one conservative Republican — announced they were not seeking re-election.

There are seven members of the conservative bloc on the board, but they are often joined by one of the other three Republicans on crucial votes. There were no historians, sociologists or economists consulted at the meetings, though some members of the conservative bloc held themselves out as experts on certain topics.

The conservative members maintain that they are trying to correct what they see as a liberal bias among the teachers who proposed the curriculum. To that end, they made dozens of minor changes aimed at calling into question, among other things, concepts like the separation of church and state and the secular nature of the American Revolution.

“I reject the notion by the left of a constitutional separation of church and state,” said David Bradley, a conservative from Beaumont who works in real estate. “I have $1,000 for the charity of your choice if you can find it in the Constitution.”

They also included a plank to ensure that students learn about “the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s, including Phyllis Schlafly, the Contract With America, the Heritage Foundation, the Moral Majority and the National Rifle Association.”

Dr. McLeroy, a dentist by training, pushed through a change to the teaching of the civil rights movement to ensure that students study the violent philosophy of the Black Panthers in addition to the nonviolent approach of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He also made sure that textbooks would mention the votes in Congress on civil rights legislation, which Republicans supported.

“Republicans need a little credit for that,” he said. “I think it’s going to surprise some students.”

Mr. Bradley won approval for an amendment saying students should study “the unintended consequences” of the Great Society legislation, affirmative action and Title IX legislation. He also won approval for an amendment stressing that Germans and Italians as well as Japanese were interned in the United States during World War II, to counter the idea that the internment of Japanese was motivated by racism.

Other changes seem aimed at tamping down criticism of the right. Conservatives passed one amendment, for instance, requiring that the history of McCarthyism include “how the later release of the Venona papers confirmed suspicions of communist infiltration in U.S. government.” The Venona papers were transcripts of some 3,000 communications between the Soviet Union and its agents in the United States.

Mavis B. Knight, a Democrat from Dallas, introduced an amendment requiring that students study the reasons “the founding fathers protected religious freedom in America by barring the government from promoting or disfavoring any particular religion above all others.”

It was defeated on a party-line vote.

After the vote, Ms. Knight said, “The social conservatives have perverted accurate history to fulfill their own agenda.”

In economics, the revisions add Milton Friedman and Friedrich von Hayek, two champions of free-market economic theory, among the usual list of economists to be studied, like Adam Smith, Karl Marx and John Maynard Keynes. They also replaced the word “capitalism” throughout their texts with the “free-enterprise system.”

“Let’s face it, capitalism does have a negative connotation,” said one conservative member, Terri Leo. “You know, ‘capitalist pig!’ ”

In the field of sociology, another conservative member, Barbara Cargill, won passage of an amendment requiring the teaching of “the importance of personal responsibility for life choices” in a section on teenage suicide, dating violence, sexuality, drug use and eating disorders.

“The topic of sociology tends to blame society for everything,” Ms. Cargill said.

Even the course on world history did not escape the board’s scalpel.

Cynthia Dunbar, a lawyer from Richmond who is a strict constitutionalist and thinks the nation was founded on Christian beliefs, managed to cut Thomas Jefferson from a list of figures whose writings inspired revolutions in the late 18th century and 19th century, replacing him with St. Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin and William Blackstone. (Jefferson is not well liked among conservatives on the board because he coined the term “separation between church and state.”)

“The Enlightenment was not the only philosophy on which these revolutions were based,” Ms. Dunbar said.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Education According to House

I’m an avid fan of the television show House M.D., whose main character Gregory House, is a brilliant doctor who can sometimes diagnose people by simply looking at them for a moment, but who is also a misanthrope, someone who detest people, even the patients he saves. For him each disease is a puzzle to be solved and so who the person is, matters only in terms of helping him cure the illness, and so House is generally rude and sometimes cruel to his patients, as their feelings are irrelevant, since all that matters is solving why they are sick.


In the second season he is asked by a patient, why he became a doctor since he clearly hates humans. House evades the question at first, but later recounts a story of when his family was stationed in Japan and a friend of his was hurt hiking:

When I was 14, my father was stationed in Japan. I went rock-climbing with this kid from school. He fell got injured and I had to bring him to the hospital. And we came in through the wrong entrance and passed this guy in the hall. He was a janitor. My friend came down with an infection and the doctors didn’t know what to do. So they brought in the janitor. He was a doctor, and a buraku. One of Japan’s untouchables. His ancestors had been slaughterers, gravediggers. And this guy, he knew that he wasn’t accepted by the staff, didn’t even try. He didn’t dress well, he didn’t pretend to be one of them. The people around that place, they didn’t think he had anything they wanted, except when they needed him. Because he was right. Which meant that nothing else mattered. And they had to listen to him.
This is what House enjoys in his life above all. The fact that at most moments he is the smartest man in the room, and that his skill, his minalate’ makes him indispensable. He is brash, crude, obnoxious and so most of the time the world wants nothing to do with him and would rather he be exiled to some desert island. But because he has that gift, that ability to interpret the world, to know something no other does, to solve something everyone else thinks is impossible, they will always have to tolerate him. They will always be forced to accept him and everything that he is, in order to access that one thing which is beyond all of them, out of their grasp, beyond their ability to understand or articulate. His intelligence and genius makes it so he always has a place in the world, no matter how much he is loathed otherwise.

Interestingly enough, when I see my students in my classes I wish more of them were more like House in how they approached education and their time in school. The key to life is the ability to know what is happening around you, to understand it, or at least have a clue as to where you might find an answer. To sit in class and not pay attention or to not take the subject matter seriously is pointless. You are in college to accumulate a large collection of what might seem for the moment to be useless pieces of information and a number of possibly conflicting ways of seeing the world. You can never really tell how the pieces of your education will fit together, and so you never know what you will actually take from it and what will get lost or ignored along the way.

Sometimes when I lecture, I tell my students that if you can remember 100% of what I say today, then you will be smarter than 95% of this island and probably 90% of the entire world. But even if you can remember 10% you’ll still be the smarter for it and that is what education is supposed to be about. Collecting things, random pieces of tiningo’ and hinasso, which may one day provide you some insight or some help to others. If you aren’t in school to collect these random fragments of education, then there is no point coming to class or wasting your parents’ or the Federal Government’s money if you don’t want to learn or know things.

I am often bewildered when I meet students who don’t want to be too smart or don’t want to appear to know the answer, because of some perceived coolness to not paying attention or not taking things seriously. People who live those types of lives don’t get very far and probably don’t find much happiness. They are the ones who live lives tossed around by the waves of fate, being pushed back and forth, never really understanding what is happening, but always making some excuse to simply accept what is happening. Those are the people, and even if they are the majority of people in the world, who made no difference, who existed only to be blank silhouettes to give depth and meaning to (by contrasting with) those who do attempt to change things. When I look at my students, so many of whom aren’t paying attention or don’t seem to care, I cannot help but place them in that category of lives which will go unexamined.

Despite the frailties and indeterminacy of our lives, we all still desire something greater. All humans crave the feeling that you’ve somehow left a mark on this world, and that you are not just dust in the wind. But too often we are too scared of the work involved or the responsibility that this might entail to ever seek to truly make that mark.

I hope that I can get more of my students to push for more in their own lives and to take their education more seriously. House is an extreme example of the importance of knowledge, and someone who sees their identity almost exclusively as what they know and how they can flaunt it above all those he sees as beneath him. But, you need not do save people’s lives from rare and unbelievable medical conditions to enjoy that feeling of your knowledge and your mind giving you an important place in the world. Those who take education seriously, and those who use it to the best of their abilities to understand the world around them, will always be the ones who get the joy of feeling like you’ve aligned the planets. The incredibly feeling of solving or finding or implementing some solution to a mystery or a problem in your life, your culture, your planet.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Arizona and Ethnic Studies

Arizona Bans Ethnic Studies and, Along With it, Reason and Justice
Tuesday 28 December 2010
by: Randall Amster J.D., Ph.D., t r u t h o u t
News Analysis


While much condemnation has rightly been expressed toward Arizona's anti-immigrant law, SB 1070, a less-reported and potentially more sinister measure is set to take effect on January 1, 2011. This new law, which was passed by the conservative state legislature at the behest of then-School Superintendent (and now Attorney General-elect) Tom Horne, is designated HB 2281 and is colloquially referred to as a measure to ban ethnic studies programs in the state. As with SB 1070, the implications of this law are problematic, wide-ranging and decidedly hate filled.


Whereas SB 1070 focused primarily on the ostensible control of bodies, HB 2281 is predominantly about controlling minds. In this sense, it is the software counterpart of Arizona's race-based politicking, paired with the hardware embodied in SB 1070's "show us your papers" logic of "attrition through enforcement," which has already resulted in tens of thousands of people leaving the state. With HB 2281, the intention is not so much to expel or harass as it is to inculcate a deep-seated, second-class status by denying people the right to explore their own histories and cultures. It is, in effect, about the eradication of ethnic identity among young people in the state's already-floundering school system, which now ranks near the bottom in the nation.

There's a word for what Arizona is attempting to do here: ethnocide. It is similar to genocide in its scope, but it reflects the notion that it is an ethnic and/or cultural identity under assault more so than physical bodies themselves. By imposing a curriculum that forbids the exploration of divergent cultures while propping up the dominant one, there's another process at work here, what we might call ethnonormativity. This takes the teachings of one culture - the colonizer's - and makes it the standard version of history while literally banning other accounts, turning the master narrative into the "normal" one, and further denigrating marginalized perspectives. America's racialized past abounds with such examples of oppressed people being denied their languages, histories and cultures, including through enforced indoctrination in school systems.

As if to add insult to injury, HB 2281 barely makes a pretense to hide any of this in its language and intended scope. A close reading of the law lays bare some of the more stark and sinister aspects of its potential application in a state where Hispanic students fill nearly half the seats in the public schools (the domain to which HB 2281 will apply). In particular, there are three primary aspects of the law that merit further investigation as contributing factors to the ongoing erasure of ethnic identities and the further marginalization of people of color in Arizona.

First, there is the perverse Declaration of Policy preamble, in which the legislature expresses its intention that pupils "should be taught to treat and value each other as individuals," and likewise, "not be taught to resent or hate other races or classes of people." The irony here is palpable, since SB 1070 precisely singles out "races or classes of people" in its coded language, requiring police to demand legal papers from anyone who is deemed "reasonably suspicious" of being undocumented - which, in the Southwest, obviously correlates with skin color and ethnic origin. Moreover, HB 2281 itself was aimed specifically at abolishing the Raza studies program in Tucson (as well as all ethnic studies programs statewide), which translates literally to "race" as noted in the working definition adopted by the program at San Francisco State University:

"The term Raza literally means race or colloquially, the people. The term figuratively has reference to the Spanish conquest of the indigenous Indians of Mexico and the resulting mestizaje or the mixed racial and ethnic identity of indigenous, European and African heritage unique to the Americas. In practical usage, the term Raza refers to mestizos or mixed peoples; we have the blood of the conquered and conqueror, indigenous, (i.e., Aztec, Mayan, Olmec, Yaqui, Zapotec and numerous other Native Americans), European, African and Asian. The term Raza was popularized by Mexican educator, Jose Vasconcellos who wrote about La Raza Cosmica to inclusively refer to a new 'race' of people born out of the neo-Columbian New World."

In this sense, we come to perceive the aim of banning ethnic studies as an attempt to single out the histories and cultures of certain people based expressly on race and class. While the Arizona legislature states its intention to prevent resentment and hatred of others, the new law fosters precisely that and, in denying people their histories, further encourages self-hatred as well. Indeed, people kept from knowing where they come from have a difficult time knowing where they are going, creating a self-fulfilling downward spiral that is common where people are categorized and labeled as "other" and/or "lesser" vis-à-vis the dominant norm. As such, we see that HB 2281 actually violates its own provisions by promoting that which it claims to eliminate.
The second critical aspect concerns the law's main prohibitions against any education programs that (1) "promote the overthrow of the United States government," (2) "promote resentment toward a race or class of people," (3) "are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group" and (4) "advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals." The problems here are manifest, starting with the reflexively implicit link to terrorism contained in the first provision - as if to say that ethnic solidarity is somehow akin to attempting to overthrow the government. The third provision is even more problematic in its potential implications, since a plausible argument can be made that the entire mainstream public education curriculum is precisely designed for pupils of a particular ethnic group - namely the dominant, white, Eurocentric group that defines its history and worldview as the "normal" or "standard" ones against which subaltern perspectives are to be judged as deviant and, under HB 2281, banned.

The fourth provision does double duty in prioritizing individualism over group-centric processes, reflecting another deeply-rooted cultural bias and projecting it back as the norm. The libertarian and individualistic foundations of Western culture are viewed as iconic in Arizona, and it is no coincidence that the more communitarian impulses of Raza peoples are denigrated as politically dangerous and pedagogically bereft. Again, the worldview of the oppressor is normalized in its rugged individualism and attempts to break down any movement toward solidarity and unified action among people of the disfavored class. This also expresses contemptuous judgment toward solidarity-based movements grown in the Western world, including the rise of union organizing, anti-globalization and antiwar activism and the mobilizations of people against totalitarianism in the Eastern bloc nations. What the Arizona legislature completely fails to grasp is that individual identity arises out of cultural consciousness - in other words, that it is ethnic solidarity in itself that provides people with the grounding necessary to know who they are as individuals.

Finally, HB 2281 contains an exemption for teaching students about episodes such as the Holocaust; genocides; and "the historical oppression of a particular group of people based on ethnicity, race, or class." In essence, combined with the provisions noted above, this means that students of a particular group can be taught about their history of subjugation, but not about their spirit of solidarity; they can focus on their decimation, but not their emancipation. This sinister portion of the bill strives to reinforce pain at the expense of pride, encouraging young people to internalize the oppression delivered by the dominant culture and make it part of their self-consciousness as "other" in a world whose norms are built on the inherent superiority of the master class. Thus, the law seeks not only to prevent the teaching of histories and values that might empower marginalized people, but further endorses the transmission of destructive episodes and ideologies that can only serve to increase the group's collective disempowerment.

In all of these ways, HB 2281 is a potent example of legislative bigotry and open persecution of people based on factors such as race and class. As with SB 1070, HB 2281 is also self-violating in that it promotes precisely what it claims to prohibit, namely, ethnic chauvinism and "resentment toward a race or class of people." Both of these laws - as well as similar ones in the offing being considered by the Arizona legislature - are entirely counterproductive and manifestly unjust. Confronting similar patterns of legislated intolerance and the widespread attempt to reduce a category of people to second-class status based primarily on ethnic origin, Martin Luther King Jr. famously wrote in his landmark essay "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," following the teachings of St. Augustine, that "an unjust law is no law at all." King further reminds us, "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere," calling upon us to recognize the interlinked nature of destinies and, indeed, the inherent solidarity of our struggles, and further counsels that in this effort "one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws."

Carrying the logic further, King articulates a framework for resistance that applies as much in Arizona today as it did in the South during the Jim Crow era:

"Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an 'I it' relationship for an 'I thou' relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. Hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and sinful.... An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey, but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal.... A law is unjust if it is inflicted on a minority that ... had no part in enacting or devising the law.... We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was 'legal' and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was 'illegal.'"
By denying marginalized peoples their own stories and understandings, HB 2281 likewise denies the "conquerors" the capacity to come to terms with the full implications of history, thus, literally enabling the perpetuation of a state of "denial" that inhibits the development of necessary processes of atonement, accountability and reconciliation. As with laws associated with segregationist and tyrannical regimes throughout history, HB 2281 and SB 1070 are inherently unjust and, hence, are "no laws at all." They must be disobeyed, not out of spite or hatred, but more so to uplift the oppressors and the oppressed alike, as Paulo Freire has suggested. In this sense, solidarity transcends its narrow bounds and the struggle itself is our finest education.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Comfortable Colony


It is the start of yet another school semester at UOG, hopefully this won't be my last there and hopefully I'll be able to get some sort of permanent position there in the next few months. But as always, putting together my syllabi for the start of the semester invariably gets me thinking about how the semester will unfold and of course, how it will end. For my Guam History classes that means thinking about the grand political status showdown I incorporate into each semester.

At the close of each semester that I teach at UOG, I make my students in Guam History undertake a project called “I Chalån-ta Mo’na” which is a political status forum/debate where the class is divided into three groups each of which represents a different possible political status for Guam. They spend a few weeks ahead of time researching and preparing arguments and then come together to argue over whether statehood, independence or free association is the best choice for Guam’s future. When the project is first announced most students moan about having to talk about things which they either know/care nothing about, or things which they associate with “activists.” But in the heat of the forum, the being forced to articulate your thoughts and the possibility that they in some small way might matter in terms of what direction the island heads, makes the event hotly contested. When we held our debate last year in one of my classes, we had professors from next door asking us to please keep it down since the yelling over which status was the best was interrupting students taking their exams.


The goal of this exercise is not just to inform, but also to hopefully instill some understanding about the importance of issues of political status. Guam is one of the last “official” colonies left in the world and the fact that we are so clueless about our status and so apathetic as an island to changing it is a travesty. We are a colony in denial about being a colony and sometimes it seems that our number one industry is neither military nor tourism, but rather making us excuses as to why it is either alright or necessary that we remain a colony.

This is understandable given that Guam is a pretty “comfortable” colony, but that does not change the fact that Guam’s relationship to the US is fundamentally not one of equality, but of ownership. Although Guam is the recipient of “state-like” treatment, we are not a state, we are a possession, an unincorporated territory, and so while we may want to feel that our relationship to the US is just like any state, any other corner of America, it is not, and we do ourselves little good by pretending it is otherwise.

Despite what most may think, our political status is not a minor issue, but literally affects everything on this island. Where you stand on Guam’s current colonial status and what you think (or don’t think) about what should happen next goes to the core of how you are a person of Guam. How you live here, what you feel about this place, what you think it’s capable of and where you think it should go next.

I hope that my students can take from this exercise both how political status is potentially connected to all other issues on Guam, but also that they should take a more active role in discussing it. For the most part, my students enjoy the fire and the brimstone of their debate, but once it is over return political status issues to someplace far outside their lives and their concerns. Such is the nature of most classrooms experiences, in the short-term when you are part of a group, a unit of learners, all underneath a shared educational guru, the framework of the class can go a long way in terms of determining what you feel and think. But when the class is over, and the framework is lifted and gone, the only thing that's left is ga'tot. For those of you who don't know the term it can refer to many things, but all of a sort of ephemeral nature, something which leaves a mark which can slowly disappear. It can refer to a marker on a tree, which leaves a deep cut when it is removed, or the marks left on your skin when you remove your belt or clothing which was too tight. The mark stains for a short period of time after what made it is gone, but it tends to go away soon after that. That is the way things often work with my students, when the class is over and the order of the class begins to dissipate, I can see that mark slowly fade away. The particular consciousness that they developed over the course of the class slowly falls apart and appears to return to some earlier "pre-conscious" form.

But, dialectically, I know that this isn't the case. That nothing ever returns to a previous point, a previous moment and so that even if they appear to have lost what I gave them, it can still exist somewhere. But what is always rewarding is when students don't remove what I have given them, don't chafe against it and wiggle their way out of it so its marks will go away, but instead continue to wear it proudly! They find a way of making it their own, braiding it or soaking into the flesh of their identity or their academic/political articulations. Those students always impress me and sometimes it is in the political status debate, that the way they have taken the class and its critiques into them comes out in the way they make their arguments, and the impressive way they move beyond the simple or the easy in arguing for Guam's next political status. Last semester I was surprised to see a number of students take more seriously the political status issue and this was proven to me in how persuasive their arguments were. I wanted to share my notes for their conclusions, which were for me the best part of the debate, where each group made some very solid arguments for the benefits of their particular status.

******************************
INDEPENDENCE: The US Constitution was made a long time ago and while it is a good constitution, in our group we decided to come up with our own. That is what each people in their own place are supposed to do and that is what Independence is. With Independence we would have our own laws and no one to answer to. We could prioritize Chamorro language and culture, or we could legalize marijuana in order to make money. We could open up the Marianas Trench for exploration or research. The point is that it is up to us. Right now we are stuck in the Western ways, and sometimes that is good, but we are not empowered to make our own choices. Right now we are told that Health Care is supposed to be a privilege, but what if we wanted to make it a right? Under Independence, Guam could. And for those who are worried about our defense, we can always make an agreement with the US military to keep them here. Right now the US military is here because they colonized us, but how much better would it be if they were here because we made a deal with them and not because they took our land?

FREE ASSOCIATION: If you guys don’t feel too excited about independence or statehood then FAS is what you want. We have all grown up with Guam now, and it is good right now, but we just need a little more to help us live better. The other two statuses are too hard and too many things against us. Independence and Statehood will both be too much for our small island. FAS gives us the freedom to do what we choose. It is not against anyone. We want to forge alliances with other places, but keep close to the US. We can use the US and its funds to improve things like our hospital and education, but always leave the door open to partner with close countries like the PI. Guam has always been a transit point and with FAS we would be able to develop those ties.

STATEHOOD: There is a long list of things which Guam would lose if it moved away from the US. Our passports and are student loans are just two of them. People would leave the island, our future would become uncertain. We need to choose what is best for this island and not follow the radical ideas of others. Statehood is a step in the better direction. Who can be against more cooperation and unity with a larger power which has done so much for us? We would become more stable as a state, with more money and more prestige. We wouldn’t be outside looking in, we would be a part of the American family. Who is to say anyway that if we became an independent country the US wouldn’t take advantage of us even more? At least as a State we would be inside and they couldn’t just bully us like they do others.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

MLK's 1964 Nobel Prize Speech

Martin Luther King Jr.
Nobel Lecture*, December 11, 1964
The Quest for Peace and Justice

It is impossible to begin this lecture without again expressing my deep appreciation to the Nobel Committee of the Norwegian Parliament for bestowing upon me and the civil rights movement in the United States such a great honor. Occasionally in life there are those moments of unutterable fulfillment which cannot be completely explained by those symbols called words. Their meaning can only be articulated by the inaudible language of the heart. Such is the moment I am presently experiencing. I experience this high and joyous moment not for myself alone but for those devotees of nonviolence who have moved so courageously against the ramparts of racial injustice and who in the process have acquired a new estimate of their own human worth. Many of them are young and cultured. Others are middle aged and middle class. The majority are poor and untutored. But they are all united in the quiet conviction that it is better to suffer in dignity than to accept segregation in humiliation. These are the real heroes of the freedom struggle: they are the noble people for whom I accept the Nobel Peace Prize.

This evening I would like to use this lofty and historic platform to discuss what appears to me to be the most pressing problem confronting mankind today. Modern man has brought this whole world to an awe-inspiring threshold of the future. He has reached new and astonishing peaks of scientific success. He has produced machines that think and instruments that peer into the unfathomable ranges of interstellar space. He has built gigantic bridges to span the seas and gargantuan buildings to kiss the skies. His airplanes and spaceships have dwarfed distance, placed time in chains, and carved highways through the stratosphere. This is a dazzling picture of modern man's scientific and technological progress.
Yet, in spite of these spectacular strides in science and technology, and still unlimited ones to come, something basic is missing. There is a sort of poverty of the spirit which stands in glaring contrast to our scientific and technological abundance. The richer we have become materially, the poorer we have become morally and spiritually. We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers.
Every man lives in two realms, the internal and the external. The internal is that realm of spiritual ends expressed in art, literature, morals, and religion. The external is that complex of devices, techniques, mechanisms, and instrumentalities by means of which we live. Our problem today is that we have allowed the internal to become lost in the external. We have allowed the means by which we live to outdistance the ends for which we live. So much of modern life can be summarized in that arresting dictum of the poet Thoreau1: "Improved means to an unimproved end". This is the serious predicament, the deep and haunting problem confronting modern man. If we are to survive today, our moral and spiritual "lag" must be eliminated. Enlarged material powers spell enlarged peril if there is not proportionate growth of the soul. When the "without" of man's nature subjugates the "within", dark storm clouds begin to form in the world.

This problem of spiritual and moral lag, which constitutes modern man's chief dilemma, expresses itself in three larger problems which grow out of man's ethical infantilism. Each of these problems, while appearing to be separate and isolated, is inextricably bound to the other. I refer to racial injustice, poverty, and war.

The first problem that I would like to mention is racial injustice. The struggle to eliminate the evil of racial injustice constitutes one of the major struggles of our time. The present upsurge of the Negro people of the United States grows out of a deep and passionate determination to make freedom and equality a reality "here" and "now". In one sense the civil rights movement in the United States is a special American phenomenon which must be understood in the light of American history and dealt with in terms of the American situation. But on another and more important level, what is happening in the United States today is a relatively small part of a world development.

We live in a day, says the philosopher Alfred North Whitehead2,"when civilization is shifting its basic outlook: a major turning point in history where the presuppositions on which society is structured are being analyzed, sharply challenged, and profoundly changed." What we are seeing now is a freedom explosion, the realization of "an idea whose time has come", to use Victor Hugo's phrase3. The deep rumbling of discontent that we hear today is the thunder of disinherited masses, rising from dungeons of oppression to the bright hills of freedom, in one majestic chorus the rising masses singing, in the words of our freedom song, "Ain't gonna let nobody turn us around."4 All over the world, like a fever, the freedom movement is spreading in the widest liberation in history. The great masses of people are determined to end the exploitation of their races and land. They are awake and moving toward their goal like a tidal wave. You can hear them rumbling in every village street, on the docks, in the houses, among the students, in the churches, and at political meetings. Historic movement was for several centuries that of the nations and societies of Western Europe out into the rest of the world in "conquest" of various sorts. That period, the era of colonialism, is at an end. East is meeting West. The earth is being redistributed. Yes, we are "shifting our basic outlooks".

These developments should not surprise any student of history. Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself. The Bible tells the thrilling story of how Moses stood in Pharaoh's court centuries ago and cried, "Let my people go."5 This is a kind of opening chapter in a continuing story. The present struggle in the United States is a later chapter in the same unfolding story. Something within has reminded the Negro of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained. Consciously or unconsciously, he has been caught up by the Zeitgeist, and with his black brothers of Africa and his brown and yellow brothers in Asia, South America, and the Caribbean, the United States Negro is moving with a sense of great urgency toward the promised land of racial justice.

Fortunately, some significant strides have been made in the struggle to end the long night of racial injustice. We have seen the magnificent drama of independence unfold in Asia and Africa. Just thirty years ago there were only three independent nations in the whole of Africa. But today thirty-five African nations have risen from colonial bondage. In the United States we have witnessed the gradual demise of the system of racial segregation. The Supreme Court's decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools gave a legal and constitutional deathblow to the whole doctrine of separate but equal6. The Court decreed that separate facilities are inherently unequal and that to segregate a child on the basis of race is to deny that child equal protection of the law. This decision came as a beacon light of hope to millions of disinherited people. Then came that glowing day a few months ago when a strong Civil Rights Bill became the law of our land7. This bill, which was first recommended and promoted by President Kennedy, was passed because of the overwhelming support and perseverance of millions of Americans, Negro and white. It came as a bright interlude in the long and sometimes turbulent struggle for civil rights: the beginning of a second emancipation proclamation providing a comprehensive legal basis for equality of opportunity. Since the passage of this bill we have seen some encouraging and surprising signs of compliance. I am happy to report that, by and large, communities all over the southern part of the United States are obeying the Civil Rights Law and showing remarkable good sense in the process.

Another indication that progress is being made was found in the recent presidential election in the United States. The American people revealed great maturity by overwhelmingly rejecting a presidential candidate who had become identified with extremism, racism, and retrogression8. The voters of our nation rendered a telling blow to the radical right9. They defeated those elements in our society which seek to pit white against Negro and lead the nation down a dangerous Fascist path.

Let me not leave you with a false impression. The problem is far from solved. We still have a long, long way to go before the dream of freedom is a reality for the Negro in the United States. To put it figuratively in biblical language, we have left the dusty soils of Egypt and crossed a Red Sea whose waters had for years been hardened by a long and piercing winter of massive resistance. But before we reach the majestic shores of the Promised Land, there is a frustrating and bewildering wilderness ahead. We must still face prodigious hilltops of opposition and gigantic mountains of resistance. But with patient and firm determination we will press on until every valley of despair is exalted to new peaks of hope, until every mountain of pride and irrationality is made low by the leveling process of humility and compassion; until the rough places of injustice are transformed into a smooth plane of equality of opportunity; and until the crooked places of prejudice are transformed by the straightening process of bright-eyed wisdom.

What the main sections of the civil rights movement in the United States are saying is that the demand for dignity, equality, jobs, and citizenship will not be abandoned or diluted or postponed. If that means resistance and conflict we shall not flinch. We shall not be cowed. We are no longer afraid.

The word that symbolizes the spirit and the outward form of our encounter is nonviolence, and it is doubtless that factor which made it seem appropriate to award a peace prize to one identified with struggle. Broadly speaking, nonviolence in the civil rights struggle has meant not relying on arms and weapons of struggle. It has meant noncooperation with customs and laws which are institutional aspects of a regime of discrimination and enslavement. It has meant direct participation of masses in protest, rather than reliance on indirect methods which frequently do not involve masses in action at all.

Nonviolence has also meant that my people in the agonizing struggles of recent years have taken suffering upon themselves instead of inflicting it on others. It has meant, as I said, that we are no longer afraid and cowed. But in some substantial degree it has meant that we do not want to instill fear in others or into the society of which we are a part. The movement does not seek to liberate Negroes at the expense of the humiliation and enslavement of whites. It seeks no victory over anyone. It seeks to liberate American society and to share in the self-liberation of all the people.

Violence as a way of achieving racial justice is both impractical and immoral. I am not unmindful of the fact that violence often brings about momentary results. Nations have frequently won their independence in battle. But in spite of temporary victories, violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones. Violence is impractical because it is a descending spiral ending in destruction for all. It is immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent rather than win his understanding: it seeks to annihilate rather than convert. Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love. It destroys community and makes brotherhood impossible. It leaves society in monologue rather than dialogue. Violence ends up defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers.

In a real sense nonviolence seeks to redeem the spiritual and moral lag that I spoke of earlier as the chief dilemma of modern man. It seeks to secure moral ends through moral means. Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon. Indeed, it is a weapon unique in history, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it.

I believe in this method because I think it is the only way to reestablish a broken community. It is the method which seeks to implement the just law by appealing to the conscience of the great decent majority who through blindness, fear, pride, and irrationality have allowed their consciences to sleep.

The nonviolent resisters can summarize their message in the following simple terms: we will take direct action against injustice despite the failure of governmental and other official agencies to act first. We will not obey unjust laws or submit to unjust practices. We will do this peacefully, openly, cheerfully because our aim is to persuade. We adopt the means of nonviolence because our end is a community at peace with itself. We will try to persuade with our words, but if our words fail, we will try to persuade with our acts. We will always be willing to talk and seek fair compromise, but we are ready to suffer when necessary and even risk our lives to become witnesses to truth as we see it.

This approach to the problem of racial injustice is not at all without successful precedent. It was used in a magnificent way by Mohandas K. Gandhi to challenge the might of the British Empire and free his people from the political domination and economic exploitation inflicted upon them for centuries. He struggled only with the weapons of truth, soul force, non-injury, and courage10.

In the past ten years unarmed gallant men and women of the United States have given living testimony to the moral power and efficacy of nonviolence. By the thousands, faceless, anonymous, relentless young people, black and white, have temporarily left the ivory towers of learning for the barricades of bias. Their courageous and disciplined activities have come as a refreshing oasis in a desert sweltering with the heat of injustice. They have taken our whole nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in the formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. One day all of America will be proud of their achievements11.

I am only too well aware of the human weaknesses and failures which exist, the doubts about the efficacy of nonviolence, and the open advocacy of violence by some. But I am still convinced that nonviolence is both the most practically sound and morally excellent way to grapple with the age-old problem of racial injustice.

A second evil which plagues the modern world is that of poverty. Like a monstrous octopus, it projects its nagging, prehensile tentacles in lands and villages all over the world. Almost two-thirds of the peoples of the world go to bed hungry at night. They are undernourished, ill-housed, and shabbily clad. Many of them have no houses or beds to sleep in. Their only beds are the sidewalks of the cities and the dusty roads of the villages. Most of these poverty-stricken children of God have never seen a physician or a dentist. This problem of poverty is not only seen in the class division between the highly developed industrial nations and the so-called underdeveloped nations; it is seen in the great economic gaps within the rich nations themselves. Take my own country for example. We have developed the greatest system of production that history has ever known. We have become the richest nation in the world. Our national gross product this year will reach the astounding figure of almost 650 billion dollars. Yet, at least one-fifth of our fellow citizens - some ten million families, comprising about forty million individuals - are bound to a miserable culture of poverty. In a sense the poverty of the poor in America is more frustrating than the poverty of Africa and Asia. The misery of the poor in Africa and Asia is shared misery, a fact of life for the vast majority; they are all poor together as a result of years of exploitation and underdevelopment. In sad contrast, the poor in America know that they live in the richest nation in the world, and that even though they are perishing on a lonely island of poverty they are surrounded by a vast ocean of material prosperity. Glistening towers of glass and steel easily seen from their slum dwellings spring up almost overnight. Jet liners speed over their ghettoes at 600 miles an hour; satellites streak through outer space and reveal details of the moon. President Johnson, in his State of the Union Message12, emphasized this contradiction when he heralded the United States' "highest standard of living in the world", and deplored that it was accompanied by "dislocation; loss of jobs, and the specter of poverty in the midst of plenty".

So it is obvious that if man is to redeem his spiritual and moral "lag", he must go all out to bridge the social and economic gulf between the "haves" and the "have nots" of the world. Poverty is one of the most urgent items on the agenda of modern life.

There is nothing new about poverty. What is new, however, is that we have the resources to get rid of it. More than a century and a half ago people began to be disturbed about the twin problems of population and production. A thoughtful Englishman named Malthus wrote a book13 that set forth some rather frightening conclusions. He predicted that the human family was gradually moving toward global starvation because the world was producing people faster than it was producing food and material to support them. Later scientists, however, disproved the conclusion of Malthus, and revealed that he had vastly underestimated the resources of the world and the resourcefulness of man.

Not too many years ago, Dr. Kirtley Mather, a Harvard geologist, wrote a book entitled Enough and to Spare14. He set forth the basic theme that famine is wholly unnecessary in the modern world. Today, therefore, the question on the agenda must read: Why should there be hunger and privation in any land, in any city, at any table when man has the resources and the scientific know-how to provide all mankind with the basic necessities of life? Even deserts can be irrigated and top soil can be replaced. We cannot complain of a lack of land, for there are twenty-five million square miles of tillable land, of which we are using less than seven million. We have amazing knowledge of vitamins, nutrition, the chemistry of food, and the versatility of atoms. There is no deficit in human resources; the deficit is in human will. The well-off and the secure have too often become indifferent and oblivious to the poverty and deprivation in their midst. The poor in our countries have been shut out of our minds, and driven from the mainstream of our societies, because we have allowed them to become invisible. Just as nonviolence exposed the ugliness of racial injustice, so must the infection and sickness of poverty be exposed and healed - not only its symptoms but its basic causes. This, too, will be a fierce struggle, but we must not be afraid to pursue the remedy no matter how formidable the task.

The time has come for an all-out world war against poverty. The rich nations must use their vast resources of wealth to develop the underdeveloped, school the unschooled, and feed the unfed. Ultimately a great nation is a compassionate nation. No individual or nation can be great if it does not have a concern for "the least of these". Deeply etched in the fiber of our religious tradition is the conviction that men are made in the image of God and that they are souls of infinite metaphysical value, the heirs of a legacy of dignity and worth. If we feel this as a profound moral fact, we cannot be content to see men hungry, to see men victimized with starvation and ill health when we have the means to help them. The wealthy nations must go all out to bridge the gulf between the rich minority and the poor majority.

In the final analysis, the rich must not ignore the poor because both rich and poor are tied in a single garment of destiny. All life is interrelated, and all men are interdependent. The agony of the poor diminishes the rich, and the salvation of the poor enlarges the rich. We are inevitably our brothers' keeper because of the interrelated structure of reality. John Donne interpreted this truth in graphic terms when he affirmed15:

No man is an Iland, intire of its selfe: every
man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the
maine: if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea,
Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie
were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends
or of thine owne were: any mans death
diminishes me, because I am involved in
Mankinde: and therefore never send to know
for whom the bell tolls: it tolls for thee.
A third great evil confronting our world is that of war. Recent events have vividly reminded us that nations are not reducing but rather increasing their arsenals of weapons of mass destruction. The best brains in the highly developed nations of the world are devoted to military technology. The proliferation of nuclear weapons has not been halted, in spite of the Limited Test Ban Treaty16. On the contrary, the detonation of an atomic device by the first nonwhite, non- Western, and so-called underdeveloped power, namely the Chinese People's Republic17, opens new vistas of exposure of vast multitudes, the whole of humanity, to insidious terrorization by the ever-present threat of annihilation. The fact that most of the time human beings put the truth about the nature and risks of the nuclear war out of their minds because it is too painful and therefore not "acceptable", does not alter the nature and risks of such war. The device of "rejection" may temporarily cover up anxiety, but it does not bestow peace of mind and emotional security.

So man's proneness to engage in war is still a fact. But wisdom born of experience should tell us that war is obsolete. There may have been a time when war served as a negative good by preventing the spread and growth of an evil force, but the destructive power of modern weapons eliminated even the possibility that war may serve as a negative good. If we assume that life is worth living and that man has a right to survive, then we must find an alternative to war. In a day when vehicles hurtle through outer space and guided ballistic missiles carve highways of death through the stratosphere, no nation can claim victory in war. A so-called limited war will leave little more than a calamitous legacy of human suffering, political turmoil, and spiritual disillusionment. A world war - God forbid! - will leave only smoldering ashes as a mute testimony of a human race whose folly led inexorably to ultimate death. So if modern man continues to flirt unhesitatingly with war, he will transform his earthly habitat into an inferno such as even the mind of Dante could not imagine.

Therefore, I venture to suggest to all of you and all who hear and may eventually read these words, that the philosophy and strategy of nonviolence become immediately a subject for study and for serious experimentation in every field of human conflict, by no means excluding the relations between nations. It is, after all, nation-states which make war, which have produced the weapons which threaten the survival of mankind, and which are both genocidal and suicidal in character.

Here also we have ancient habits to deal with, vast structures of power, indescribably complicated problems to solve. But unless we abdicate our humanity altogether and succumb to fear and impotence in the presence of the weapons we have ourselves created, it is as imperative and urgent to put an end to war and violence between nations as it is to put an end to racial injustice. Equality with whites will hardly solve the problems of either whites or Negroes if it means equality in a society under the spell of terror and a world doomed to extinction.

I do not wish to minimize the complexity of the problems that need to be faced in achieving disarmament and peace. But I think it is a fact that we shall not have the will, the courage, and the insight to deal with such matters unless in this field we are prepared to undergo a mental and spiritual reevaluation - a change of focus which will enable us to see that the things which seem most real and powerful are indeed now unreal and have come under the sentence of death. We need to make a supreme effort to generate the readiness, indeed the eagerness, to enter into the new world which is now possible, "the city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God"18.

We will not build a peaceful world by following a negative path. It is not enough to say "We must not wage war." It is necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it. We must concentrate not merely on the negative expulsion of war, but on the positive affirmation of peace. There is a fascinating little story that is preserved for us in Greek literature about Ulysses and the Sirens. The Sirens had the ability to sing so sweetly that sailors could not resist steering toward their island. Many ships were lured upon the rocks, and men forgot home, duty, and honor as they flung themselves into the sea to be embraced by arms that drew them down to death. Ulysses, determined not to be lured by the Sirens, first decided to tie himself tightly to the mast of his boat, and his crew stuffed their ears with wax. But finally he and his crew learned a better way to save themselves: they took on board the beautiful singer Orpheus whose melodies were sweeter than the music of the Sirens. When Orpheus sang, who bothered to listen to the Sirens?

So we must fix our vision not merely on the negative expulsion of war, but upon the positive affirmation of peace. We must see that peace represents a sweeter music, a cosmic melody that is far superior to the discords of war. Somehow we must transform the dynamics of the world power struggle from the negative nuclear arms race which no one can win to a positive contest to harness man's creative genius for the purpose of making peace and prosperity a reality for all of the nations of the world. In short, we must shift the arms race into a "peace race". If we have the will and determination to mount such a peace offensive, we will unlock hitherto tightly sealed doors of hope and transform our imminent cosmic elegy into a psalm of creative fulfillment.

All that I have said boils down to the point of affirming that mankind's survival is dependent upon man's ability to solve the problems of racial injustice, poverty, and war; the solution of these problems is in turn dependent upon man squaring his moral progress with his scientific progress, and learning the practical art of living in harmony. Some years ago a famous novelist died. Among his papers was found a list of suggested story plots for future stories, the most prominently underscored being this one: "A widely separated family inherits a house in which they have to live together." This is the great new problem of mankind. We have inherited a big house, a great "world house" in which we have to live together - black and white, Easterners and Westerners, Gentiles and Jews, Catholics and Protestants, Moslem and Hindu, a family unduly separated in ideas, culture, and interests who, because we can never again live without each other, must learn, somehow, in this one big world, to live with each other.

This means that more and more our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. We must now give an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in our individual societies.

This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one's tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all men. This oft misunderstood and misinterpreted concept so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force, has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response which is little more than emotional bosh. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Moslem-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the First Epistle of Saint John19:

Let us love one another: for love is of God; and everyone
that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and His
love is perfected in us.

Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day. As Arnold Toynbee20 says: "Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word." We can no longer afford to worship the God of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. Love is the key to the solution of the problems of the world.

Let me close by saying that I have the personal faith that mankind will somehow rise up to the occasion and give new directions to an age drifting rapidly to its doom. In spite of the tensions and uncertainties of this period something profoundly meaningful is taking place. Old systems of exploitation and oppression are passing away, and out of the womb of a frail world new systems of justice and equality are being born. Doors of opportunity are gradually being opened to those at the bottom of society. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are developing a new sense of "some-bodiness" and carving a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of despair. "The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light."21 Here and there an individual or group dares to love, and rises to the majestic heights of moral maturity. So in a real sense this is a great time to be alive. Therefore, I am not yet discouraged about the future. Granted that the easygoing optimism of yesterday is impossible. Granted that those who pioneer in the struggle for peace and freedom will still face uncomfortable jail terms, painful threats of death; they will still be battered by the storms of persecution, leading them to the nagging feeling that they can no longer bear such a heavy burden, and the temptation of wanting to retreat to a more quiet and serene life. Granted that we face a world crisis which leaves us standing so often amid the surging murmur of life's restless sea. But every crisis has both its dangers and its opportunities. It can spell either salvation or doom. In a dark confused world the kingdom of God may yet reign in the hearts of men.
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* Dr. King delivered this lecture in the Auditorium of the University of Oslo. This text is taken from Les Prix Nobel en 1964. The text in the New York Times is excerpted. His speech of acceptance delivered the day before in the same place is reported fully both in Les Prix Nobel en 1964 and the New York Times.

1. Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), American poet and essayist.
2. Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947). British philosopher and mathematician, professor at the University of London and Harvard University.
3. "There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world and that is an idea whose time has come." Translations differ; probable origin is Victor Hugo, Histoire d'un crime, "Conclusion-La Chute", chap. 10.
4. "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around" is the title of an old Baptist spiritual.
5. Exodus 5:1; 8:1; 9:1; 10:3.
6. "Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka", 347 U.S. 483, contains the decision of May 17, 1954, requiring desegregation of the public schools by the states. "Bolling vs. Sharpe", 347 U.S. 497, contains the decision of same date requiring desegregation of public schools by the federal government; i.e. in Washington, D.C. "Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka", Nos. 1-5. 349 U.S. 249, contains the opinion of May 31, 1955, on appeals from the decisions in the two cases cited above, ordering admission to "public schools on a racially nondiscriminatory basis with all deliberate speed".
7. Public Law 88-352, signed by President Johnson on July 2, 1964.
8. Both Les Prix Nobel and the New York Times read "retrogress".
9. Lyndon B. Johnson defeated Barry Goldwater by a popular vote of 43, 128, 956 to 27,177,873.
10. For a note on Gandhi, seep. 329, fn. 1.
11. For accounts of the civil rights activities by both whites and blacks in the decade from 1954 to 1964, see Alan F. Westin, Freedom Now: The Civil Rights Struggle in America (New York: Basic Books, 1964), especially Part IV, "The Techniques of the Civil Rights Struggle"; Howard Zinn, SNCC: The New Abolitionists (Boston: Beacon Press, 1964); Eugene V. Rostow, "The Freedom Riders and the Future", The Reporter (June 22, 1961); James Peck, Cracking the Color Line: Nonviolent Direct Action Methods of Eliminating Racial Discrimination (New York: CORE, 1960).
12. January 8, 1964.
13. Thomas Robert Malthus (1766-1834), An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798).
14. Kirtley F. Mather, Enough and to Spare: Mother Earth Can Nourish Every Man in Freedom (New York: Harper, 1944).
15. John Donne (1572?-1631), English poet, in the final lines of "Devotions" (1624).
16. Officially called "Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons Tests in Atmosphere, in Outer Space, and Underwater", and signed by Russia, England, and United States on July 25, 1963.
17. On October 16, 1964.
18. Hebrews II: 10.
19. I John 4:7-8, 12.
20. Arnold Joseph Toynbee (1889- ), British historian whose monumental work is the 10-volume A Study of Story (1934-1954).
21. This quotation may be based on a phrase from Luke 1:79, "To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death"; or one from Psalms 107:10, "Such as sit in darkness and in the shadow of death"; or one from Mark Twain's To the Person Sitting in Darkness (1901), "The people who sit in darkness have noticed it...".

From Nobel Lectures, Peace 1951-1970, Editor Frederick W. Haberman, Elsevier Publishing Company, Amsterdam, 1972

Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 1964

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Women and Wikileaks

One of the listservs I'm on had a little bit of a spat recently over the Wikileaks and Julian Assange issue. The debate was over whether the sexual assault charges against Assange should be taken seriously or not. Some felt like the charges were more contrived than anything, while others felt that this was precisely a problem that movements have, is that they tend to look past any clear faults in their heroes and therefore perpetuate gendered systems of oppression. Many seemed to feel that this is one of the those moments where "identity politics" weakens or ruins the Left, because something small, minute and paticularistic, ends up tainting something which is hugely important and universal. For them, the issue is obviously made up by government who want to take Assange down, but the way identity politics has wormed its way into movements has made them susceptible to fake debates like this. From this perspective, even if the charges are true (and they are not rape charges) they pale in comparision to the larger more important work of Wikileaks.

People opposed to this argue that identity politics or what that term is meant to describe are not seperate from Leftist movements, they are at the center of it, and the only people who argue they aren't, are people who pine for simpler days that never existed and the fantasy that at one point when it was only just straight white men in a room, everybody, lived happily on a single page together. For so long, the interests of various identities in movements and groups were suppressed to protect that assumed purity, whiteness, maleness or straightness, and it was never as effective as people remember it to be, and it is certainly not effective today. For them, the sex charge issue should not be dismissed, it needs to be taken seriously. This cannot be another instance, like last year during the health care reform debate, where progressive women are expected to "suck it up" and take another hit for the team. This issue becomes another point where the perception that the purity of the movement is what makes it stronger. That somehow we cannot support the missions of Assange, without having him on a pedestal. That we all have to look the other way in order for Wikileaks in order to be taken seriously.

Unfortunately, the trial by media of Assange has had far more of an impact in terms of this debate than the actual details of what is going on. This is why I liked John Pilger's piece from truthout which I've pasted below. It gave me many of the details about Assange's case that I've been wanting to find, but have tended to be lost as people seek to either excuse whatever he did or ensure that the principle of women being able to get a fair trail for those accused of sexually assaulting them is upheld no matter what the details are. Although I tend to lean towards the feminist side of the debate, where the particular should be upheld and not sacrificed to protect some mythic universality, the fact that so much international pressure is being brought to bear over something which might not be anything close to rape makes me wonder. If only so much effort could be put into getting Henry Kissinger or Donald Rumsfeld.

************************
John Pilger's Investigation Into the War on WikiLeaks and His Interview With Julian Assange

Friday 14 January 2011
by: John Pilger, t r u t h o u t
Interview

The attacks on WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, are a response to an information revolution that threatens old power orders in politics and journalism. The incitement to murder trumpeted by public figures in the United States, together with attempts by the Obama administration to corrupt the law and send Assange to a hell-hole prison for the rest of his life, are the reactions of a rapacious system exposed as never before.
In recent weeks, the US Justice Department has established a secret grand jury just across the river from Washington in the eastern district of the state of Virginia. The object is to indict Assange under a discredited espionage act used to arrest peace activists during the First World War, or one of the "war on terror" conspiracy statutes that have degraded American justice. Judicial experts describe the jury as a "deliberate set up," pointing out that this corner of Virginia is home to the employees and families of the Pentagon, CIA, Department of Homeland Security, and other pillars of American power.

"This is not good news," Assange told me when we spoke this past week, his voice dark and concerned. He says he can have "bad days - but I recover." When we met in London last year, I said, "You are making some very serious enemies, not least of all the most powerful government engaged in two wars. How do you deal with that sense of danger?" His reply was characteristically analytical. "It's not that fear is absent. But courage is really the intellectual mastery over fear - by an understanding of what the risks are and how to navigate a path through them."

Regardless of the threats to his freedom and safety, he says the US is not WikiLeaks' main "technological enemy." "China is the worst offender. China has aggressive, sophisticated interception technology that places itself between every reader inside China and every information source outside China. We've been fighting a running battle to make sure we can get information through, and there are now all sorts of ways Chinese readers can get on to our site."

It was in this spirit of "getting information through" that WikiLeaks was founded in 2006, but with a moral dimension. "The goal is justice," wrote Assange on the homepage, "the method is transparency." Contrary to a current media mantra, WikiLeaks material is not "dumped." Less than one percent of the 251,000 US embassy cables have been released. As Assange points out, the task of interpreting material and editing that which might harm innocent individuals demands "standards [befitting] higher levels of information and primary sources." To secretive power, this is journalism at its most dangerous.

On 18 March 2008, a war on WikiLeaks was foretold in a secret Pentagon document prepared by the "Cyber Counterintelligence Assessments Branch." US intelligence, it said, intended to destroy the feeling of "trust," which is WikiLeaks' "center of gravity." It planned to do this with threats to "exposure [and] criminal prosecution." Silencing and criminalizing this rare source of independent journalism was the aim: smear the method. Hell hath no fury like imperial Mafiosi scorned.

Others, also scorned, have lately played a supporting part, intentionally or not, in the hounding of Assange, some for reasons of petty jealousy. Sordid and shabby describe their behavior, which serves only to highlight the injustice against a man who has courageously revealed what we have a right to know.

As the US Justice Department, in its hunt for Assange, subpoenas the Twitter and email accounts, banking and credit card records of people around the world - as if we are all subjects of the United States - much of the "free" media on both sides of the Atlantic direct their indignation at the hunted.

"So, Julian, why won't you go back to Sweden now?" demanded the headline over Catherine Bennett's Observer column on 19 December, which questioned Assange's response to allegations of sexual misconduct with two women in Stockholm last August. "To keep delaying the moment of truth, for this champion of fearless disclosure and total openness," wrote Bennett, "could soon begin to look pretty dishonest, as well as inconsistent." Not a word in Bennett's vitriol considered the looming threats to Assange's basic human rights and his physical safety, as described by Geoffrey Robertson QC, in the extradition hearing in London on 11 January.

In response to Bennett, the editor of the online Nordic News Network in Sweden, Al Burke, wrote to the Observer explaining, "plausible answers to Catherine Bennett's tendentious question" were both critically important and freely available. Assange had remained in Sweden for more than five weeks after the rape allegation was made - and subsequently dismissed by the chief prosecutor in Stockholm - and that repeated attempts by him and his Swedish lawyer to meet a second prosecutor, who reopened the case following the intervention of a government politician, had failed. And yet, as Burke pointed out, this prosecutor had granted him permission to fly to London where "he also offered to be interviewed - a normal practice in such cases." So, it seems odd, at the very least, that the prosecutor then issued a European arrest warrant. The Observer did not publish Burke's letter.

This record straightening is crucial because it describes the perfidious behavior of the Swedish authorities - a bizarre sequence confirmed to me by other journalists in Stockholm and by Assange's Swedish lawyer Bjorn Hurtig. Not only that, Burke cataloged the unforeseen danger Assange faces should he be extradited to Sweden. "Documents released by WikiLeaks since Assange moved to England," he wrote, "clearly indicate that Sweden has consistently submitted to pressure from the United States in matters relating to civil rights. There is ample reason for concern that if Assange were to be taken into custody by Swedish authorities, he could be turned over to the United States without due consideration of his legal rights."

These documents have been virtually ignored in Britain. They show that the Swedish political class has moved far from the perceived neutrality of a generation ago and that the country's military and intelligence apparatus is all but absorbed into Washington's matrix around NATO. In a 2007 cable, the US Embassy in Stockholm lauds the Swedish government dominated by the conservative Moderate Party of Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt as coming "from a new political generation and not bound by [anti-US] traditions [and] in practice a pragmatic and strong partner with NATO, having troops under NATO command in Kosovo and Afghanistan."

The cable reveals how foreign policy is largely controlled by Carl Bildt, the current foreign minister, whose career has been based on a loyalty to the United States that goes back to the Vietnam War when he attacked Swedish public television for broadcasting evidence that the US was bombing civilian targets. Bildt played a leading role in the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, a lobby group with close ties to the White House of George W. Bush, the CIA and the far right of the Republican Party.

"The significance of all this for the Assange case," notes Burke in a recent study, "is that it will be Carl Bildt and perhaps other members of the Reinfeldt government who will decide - openly or, more likely, furtively behind a façade of legal formality - on whether or not to approve the anticipated US request for extradition. Everything in their past clearly indicates that such a request will be granted."

For example, in December 2001, with the "war on terror" under way, the Swedish government abruptly revoked the political refugee status of two Egyptians, Ahmed Agiza and Mohammed al-Zari. They were handed to a CIA kidnap squad at Stockholm airport and "rendered" to Egypt, where they were tortured. When the Swedish ombudsman for justice investigated and found that their human rights had been "seriously violated," it was too late.

The implications for the Assange case are clear. Both men were removed without due process of law and before their lawyers could file appeals to the European Human Rights Court and in response to a US threat to impose a trade embargo on Sweden. Last year, Assange applied for residency in Sweden, hoping to base WikiLeaks there. It is widely believed that Washington warned Sweden through mutual intelligence contacts of the potential consequences. In December, prosecutor Marianne Ny, who reactivated the Assange case, discussed the possibility of Assange's extradition to the US on her web site.
Almost six months after the sex allegations were first made public, Assange has been charged with no crime, but his right to a presumption of innocence has been willfully denied. The unfolding events in Sweden have been farcical, at best. The Australian barrister James Catlin, who acted for Assange in October, describes the Swedish justice system as "a laughing stock ... There is no precedent for it. The Swedes are making it up as they go along." He says that Assange, apart from noting contradictions in the case, has not publicly criticized the women who made the allegations against him. It was the police who tipped off the Swedish equivalent of the Sun, Expressen, with defamatory material about them, initiating a trial by media across the world.

In Britain, this trial has welcomed yet more eager prosecutors, with the BBC to the fore. There was no presumption of innocence in Kirsty Wark's "Newsnight" court in December. "Why don't you just apologise to the women?" she demanded of Assange, followed by: "Do we have your word of honour that you won't abscond?" On Radio 4's "Today" program, John Humphrys, the partner of Bennett, told Assange that he was obliged to go back to Sweden "because the law says you must." The hectoring Humphrys, however, had more pressing interests. "Are you a sexual predator?" he asked. Assange replied that the suggestion was ridiculous, to which Humphrys demanded to know how many women he had slept with.

"Would even Fox News have descended to that level?" wondered the American historian William Blum. "I wish Assange had been raised in the streets of Brooklyn, as I was. He then would have known precisely how to reply to such a question: 'You mean including your mother?'"

What is most striking about these "interviews" is not so much their arrogance and lack of intellectual and moral humility; it is their indifference to fundamental issues of justice and freedom and their imposition of narrow, prurient terms of reference. Fixing these boundaries allows the interviewer to diminish the journalistic credibility of Assange and WikiLeaks, whose remarkable achievements stand in vivid contrast to their own. It is like watching the old and stale, guardians of the status quo, struggling to prevent the emergence of the new.

In this media trial, there is a tragic dimension, obviously for Assange, but also for the best of mainstream journalism. Having published a slew of professionally brilliant editions with the WikiLeaks disclosures, feted all over the world, The Guardian recovered its establishment propriety on 17 December by turning on its besieged source. A major article by the paper's senior correspondent Nick Davies claimed that he had been given the "complete" Swedish police file with its "new" and "revealing" salacious morsels.

Assange's Swedish lawyer Hurtig says that crucial evidence is missing from the file given to Davies, including "the fact that the women were re-interviewed and given an opportunity to change their stories" and the tweets and SMS messages between them, which are "critical to bringing justice in this case." Vital exculpatory evidence is also omitted, such as the statement by the original prosecutor, Eva Finne, that "Julian Assange is not suspected of rape."

Having reviewed the Davies article, Assange's former barrister James Catlin wrote to me: "The complete absence of due process is the story and Davies ignores it. Why does due process matter? Because the massive powers of two arms of government are being brought to bear against the individual whose liberty and reputation are at stake." I would add: so is his life.

The Guardian has profited hugely from the WikiLeaks disclosures, in many ways. On the other hand, WikiLeaks, which survives on mostly small donations and can no longer receive funds through many banks and credit companies thanks to the bullying of Washington, has received nothing from the paper. In February, Random House will publish a Guardian book that is sure to be a lucrative best seller, which Amazon is advertising as "The End of Secrecy: the Rise and Fall of WikiLeaks." When I asked David Leigh, the Guardian executive in charge of the book, what was meant by "fall," he replied that Amazon was wrong and that the working title had been "The Rise (and Fall?) of WikiLeaks." "Note parenthesis and query," he wrote, "Not meant for publication anyway." (The book is now described on the Guardian web site as "WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange's War on Secrecy.") Still, with all that duly noted, the sense is that "real" journalists are back in the saddle. Too bad about the new boy, who never really belonged.

On 11 January, Assange's first extradition hearing was held at Belmarsh Magistrates Court, an infamous address because it is here that people were, before the advent of control orders, consigned to Britain's own Guantanamo, Belmarsh prison. The change from ordinary Westminster magistrates' court was due to a lack of press facilities, according to the authorities. That they announced this on the day Vice President Joe Biden declared Assange a "high tech terrorist" was no doubt coincidental, though the message was not.

For his part, Assange is just as worried about what will happen to Bradley Manning, the alleged whistleblower, being held in horrific conditions which the US National Commission on Prisons calls "tortuous." At 23, Private Manning is the world's pre-eminent prisoner of conscience, having remained true to the Nuremberg principle that every soldier has the right to "a moral choice." His suffering mocks the notion of the land of the free.

"Government whistleblowers," said Barack Obama, running for president in 2008, "are part of a healthy democracy and must be protected from reprisal." Obama has since pursued and prosecuted more whistleblowers than any other president in American history.

"Cracking Bradley Manning is the first step," Assange told me. "The aim clearly is to break him and force a confession that he somehow conspired with me to harm the national security of the United States. In fact, I'd never heard his name before it was published in the press. WikiLeaks technology was designed from the very beginning to make sure that we never knew the identities or names of people submitting material. We are as untraceable as we are uncensorable. That's the only way to assure sources they are protected."

He adds: "I think what's emerging in the mainstream media is the awareness that if I can be indicted, other journalists can, too. Even the New York Times is worried. This used not to be the case. If a whistleblower was prosecuted, publishers and reporters were protected by the First Amendment that journalists took for granted. That's being lost. The release of the Iraq and Afghanistan war logs, with their evidence of the killing of civilians, hasn't caused this - it's the exposure and embarrassment of the political class: the truth of what governments say in secret, how they lie in public; how wars are started. They don't want the public to know these things and scapegoats must be found."

What about the allusions to the "fall" of WikiLeaks? "There is no fall," he said. "We have never published as much as we are now. WikiLeaks is now mirrored on more than 2,000 websites. I can't keep track of the of the spin-off sites: those who are doing their own WikiLeaks ... If something happens to me or to WikiLeaks, 'insurance' files will be released. They speak more of the same truth to power, including the media. There are 504 US embassy cables on one broadcasting organisation and there are cables on Murdoch and Newscorp."

The latest propaganda about the "damage" caused by WikiLeaks is a warning by the US State Department to "hundreds of human rights activists, foreign government officials and business people identified in leaked diplomatic cables of possible threats to their safety." This was how The New York Times dutifully relayed it on 8 January, and it is bogus. In a letter to Congress, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has admitted that no sensitive intelligence sources have been compromised. On 28 November, McClatchy Newspapers reported, "US officials conceded they have no evidence to date that the [prior] release of documents led to anyone's death." NATO in Kabul told CNN it could not find a single person who needed protecting.

The great American playwright Arthur Miller wrote: "The thought that the state ... is punishing so many innocent people is intolerable. And so the evidence has to be internally denied." What WikiLeaks has given us is truth, including rare and precious insight into how and why so many innocent people have suffered in reigns of terror disguised as wars and executed in our name; and how the United States has secretly and wantonly intervened in democratic governments from Latin America to its most loyal ally in Britain.

Javier Moreno, the editor of El Pais, which published the WikiLeaks logs in Spain, wrote, "I believe that the global interest sparked by the WikiLeaks papers is mainly due to the simple fact that they conclusively reveal the extent to which politicians in the West have been lying to their citizens."

Crushing individuals like Assange and Manning is not difficult for a great power, however craven. The point is, we should not allow it to happen, which means those of us meant to keep the record straight should not collaborate in any way. Transparency and information, to paraphrase Thomas Jefferson, are the "currency" of democratic freedom. "Every news organisation," a leading American constitutional lawyer told me, "should recognize that Julian Assange is one of them and that his prosecution will have a huge and chilling effect on journalism."

My favorite secret document - leaked by WikiLeaks, of course - is from the Ministry of Defense in London. It describes journalists who serve the public without fear or favor as "subversive" and "threats." Such a badge of honor.

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