“As water seeks its own level, corruption creeps into the body politic to metastasize throughout society and its institutions.” –from Geoff Dutton’s NPR, the CIA and Corporatism
While our mainstream media continue to distract us with the gender-based “horrors of Hollywood” and spotlights on other injustices (which do deserve our attention to some degree), the Big Picture is being ignored in the U.S., the one nation which could screen different dramatic fare for the entire world. Mainstream media outlets monopolize our heartbeats, as everyone knows, with foci which wind up worrying everyone to death and/or wasting the time and energy that’s necessary for the urgent mobilization required to make a difference in this troubled world. Changing entities like, say, The New York Times or Fox News, however, should not be our first order of business.
Films today still portray the FBI as a good guy, generally. That is an undeserved reputation, of course, and the perpetuation of the myth by cinematic production after production has enabled it to keep a lid on its crimes. It should be taken off its pedestal and placed under the law like everyone else. Ditto for the EPA and other federal agencies. E. G. Vallianatos has definitively documented how the Environmental Protection Agency is run like the Mafia; he worked as a scientist for that corrupt organization for 25 years. Again, all federal agencies have been driving us toward the precipice at increasingly blinding speed (through successive administrations). Changing entities like, say, the FDA or its first cousins should not be our first order of business.
Our first order of business?
Our eyes should be on the prize that’s possible to obtain post haste in the realm of education. Our children are being subjected — with greater and greater pressure applied daily — to class work which demands that they acclimate to a very sick society with horrid momentum, reinforcing the dangerous disparity which grows now daily between classes. Between nations, truth be told.
Change that, or you change nothing. Our military and our education are in bed together, both rooted in amoral soil. If that were not the case, “educated” parents would not give their offspring over to officers of the most violent force on earth. A force which cares not a whit about their children. [Spending a mere week in and around any federal hospital devoted to vets should confirm that fact for anyone.]
The abominable state of affairs we face has all been — unquestionably — aided and abetted by the complicity of the U.S. educational system, which has deliberately — unconsciously, in some cases? — blotted out our historical facts of life;; the second paragraph of Jennifer Loewenstein’s latest article puts that into instructive context. And it’s all very much related to — rooted in — the racism, inequality, mass incarceration and gun violence that is so in vogue as topics of conversation in so-called progressive circles such as Santa Cruz and Berkeley, California, both boasting prestigious institutions of so-called higher education. In the mold of equally damaging Stanford University.
Well-meaning, highly educated and deeply experienced academics on those campuses, all virtually in my backyard (making visits to them easy for me), have proven to be absolutely closed to meaningful discussion that might lead to movement in solidarity… to address our collective crises in an effective way. Academics are willing to chat about this and that, but they won’t bat an eyelash when I bring up the fact that I want to DO SOMETHING about what they highlight with their high tech gadgetry in classrooms and at conferences ad nauseum*.
*The 17th Annual Teaching for Social Justice Conference is a good example to cite at this juncture. Their focus on what they call the Intersection of Teaching and Power” was held on October 7th in San Francisco, but — predictably — no significant “advances” were made. And though the effort made continues to be admirable in one (too limited) sense, all of the energy that goes into such gatherings begs the question of why things have only gotten infinitely worse in academia after 17 consecutive meetings. Multiply this with the same question directed at most conferences.
But, don’t get me wrong, many educated folks certainly jump at the chance to jump on a given popular bandwagon at a moment’s notice, like… signing a petition that some colleague or other concerned citizen is circulating on campus. But above and beyond the traditional gestures… nothing. You can find them filling the ranks of those who are marching in circles with placards sometimes, but you’d be hard pressed to find them embracing any approach that confronts the powers more meaningfully.
Why devote so many heartbeats as parents, teachers, counselors and social workers to encouraging youngsters to secure their GED or pass their SAT and ACT tests? Why impose authoritarian one-up mantras on youth in the classroom, insisting that they follow an agenda which — ultimately — serves to feed our frightening state of affairs?
Why not — at least minimally — stir up the creative juices of one and all to stir up some trouble for those who are making all the bad decisions in the realms of technology, business, education, etc.? Certainly, a case can be made for causing trouble, for not remaining on the treadmill we are on.
How to begin to make a difference respecting the above is quite simple. One must begin by acknowledging that what’s in gear at present is not working well enough, and that something fresh must be embraced by concerned citizens… in all realms. Urgently.
And that — as devoid of the glamorous trimmings associated with high profile summits as my proposal is — must begin with a simple one-on-one exchange that is leisurely. Talk that has a sense of urgency, but which is not limited to what’s penciled into a schedule, not restricted to what’s personally convenient to the participants. Those downsides are typical of grand events like the Occupy General Assemblies, and regularly accepted in the monthly meetings which so many well-meaning non-profit organizations host.
What is not taking place in activist circles is open-ended, ongoing, urgent back and forth about viable options. And if you doubt my take, you can simply look at the schedules kept by the major non-profits in the U.S. (9 to 5, Monday through Friday, as a rule). and the limited office hours provided by the most educated souls in America. Why aren’t socially-conscious professors accessible around the clock for inspired youth?
Seriously, most academics don’t even give contact information for interested readers if they post an article. People, in general, are into having others “like” what they publish, but authentic engagement is anathema to most.
Commitment must take a different course. One that moves in a different direction than our common corruption.
Richard Martin Oxman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He would very much like to generate the dialogue encouraged here. The reader can also try to engage with those in a decision-making capacity associated with www.dignityinschools.org, a non-profit hosting their 8th Annual Week of Action until October 29th. For instructive “homework”…see if you can secure leisurely time for discussion with anyone in their quarters.