Mind control

It’s mind control of a sort.

Perhaps not intentional mind control, but mind control nonetheless. I’m reminded of a qualification that Jeffrey Reiman inserted in his book-length blast at the criminal so-called justice system and at economic and political power relations in U.S. society:

A conspiracy theory would argue that the rich and the powerful, seeing the benefits to be derived from the failure of criminal justice, consciously set out to use their wealth and power to make it fail. There are many problems with such a theory.[1]

Read more

  1. [1]Jeffrey Reiman, The Rich Get Richer and The Poor Get Prison: Ideology, Class, and Criminal Justice, 7th ed. (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 2004), 158.

Restorative Justice and the Environment: Why Anarchists Should Support the Animal Rights Movement

One of the problems I’ve seen with anarchism is that while an anarchist society itself would egalitarian and therefore more just than our present society, it seemingly lacks a means of justice, a means of dealing with what sociologists call “deviant” behavior—behavior like theft or assault that isn’t acceptable within the society. But justice, in the commercial society conception, is problematic. First, it isn’t really even justice, but rather law, passed by elites, enforced with weapons, and systemically practiced as racism and classism. I’ve commented previously both on “justice” in our society,[1] and on the role of police in our society,[2] and it isn’t a pretty—or even particularly effective—picture. As Steven Barkan writes, “to reduce crime, we must address its structural and cultural roots. Even if we could somehow ‘cure’ all the criminals, new ones will replace them unless the structural and cultural conditions underlying crime are changed.”[3]

Read more

  1. [1]David Benfell, “We ‘need to know how it works’,” Parts-Unknown.org, March 15, 2012, https://parts-unknown.org/wp/?p=433
  2. [2]David Benfell, “Cops, gangs, and the conflation of roles,” Parts-Unknown.org, August 6, 2011, https://parts-unknown.org/wp/?p=44
  3. [3]Steven E. Barkan, Criminology: A Sociological Understanding, 3rd ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2006), 543.

An open letter to the government of Ecuador

To whom it may concern:

This is a letter to tell you what you must surely already know. And it is a letter from a U.S. citizen, born in 1959 in Buffalo, New York, requesting that you grant positive consideration to Julian Assange’s reported request for political asylum in your country.[1]

Read more

  1. [1]British Broadcasting Corporation, “Wikileaks’ Julian Assange seeks asylum in Ecuador embassy,” June 19, 2012, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-18514726

Be stupid

It might be interesting to see a meeting between Jürgen Habermas and Paulo Freire (hint: I’m rooting for Freire). Habermas failed to see the capacity for political critique in any but the European bourgeois.[1] Freire devoted a career to developing that capacity beginning with his educational efforts in neglected poverty-stricken parts of Brazil, a widely read book,[2] and continuing activism in support of critical pedagogy around the world.

Unfortunately, of course, Habermas isn’t entirely wrong. Mass culture, particularly as seen in the U.S., is indeed an intellectual desert, decimating whatever intelligence survives a system of education that often seems determined not merely to beat back the acknowledgement of diversity but to exclude anyone—the majority of the planet’s population in fact—who is different from the normative bourgeois white heterosexual able-bodied male of European (preferably northern) ancestry, indeed to admit only and universalize and generalize from the rulers, and to exclude, stereotype, and belittle the ruled, and not only that, but to divide the ruled against themselves.[3] But in criticizing mass culture, Habermas seemingly fails to infer how rulers who historically sought to reserve the right of political critique only to themselves and a bourgeois who are interested in preserving their own privileges[4] might act to develop an educational system that segregates the well-off from the poor and prepares the latter only to be cogs in the corporate machine, and to work so hard for so many hours that they will settle for the televised portrayals of a prosperity that they will never enjoy.[5]

Read more

  1. [1]Jürgen Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society (Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1991).
  2. [2]Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, trans. Myra Bergman Ramos (New York: Continuum, 2006).
  3. [3]Elizabeth Kamarck Minnich, Transforming Knowledge, 2nd ed. (Philadelphia: Temple University, 2005).
  4. [4]Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere.
  5. [5]Jonathan Kozol, Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools (New York: HarperPerennial, 1992); Charles A. Reich, The Greening of America (New York: Crown, 1970).

On the devil you know, versus . . . the devil you know

It’s been a rough year for allergies—in a part of the world which is notorious for allergies—around here, so after getting my water pump replaced, I was feeling a need to remind my respiratory system that air need not be the enemy. I drove out to Mendocino in time to get a vegan pizza at Frankie’s and then headed south on Highway One, the theoretically slower, but coastal route towards home, hoping to breathe some ocean air.

My thoughts turned towards a sense some people—notably including my old favorite professor at CSU East Bay—express of being able to breathe more easily when a Democrat is in power. I wondered if that professor—I hear he is now headed for retirement under a rather favorable plan the university has for fully-tenured professors of retirement age—still feels that way. After all, Barack Obama’s function, for all intents and purposes, seems to have been to legitimate the neoconservative and neoliberal policies of the George W. Bush administration, and indeed, to push them to heights, or depths, that would have embarrassed all but former Vice President Dick Cheney and his acolytes.

I have, for quite some time now, recognized, along with Noam Chomsky and Gore Vidal,[1] that the difference between Republicans and Democrats is not in policy but rather in a willingness on the part of Republicans to instigate violence against a Democratic president.[2] But it seems particularly appalling this year as U.S. voters this year face a choice between a president who does not deserve re-election and a former governor who does not deserve to be elected in the first place.

Read more

  1. [1]Noam Chomsky, “Containing the Threat of Democracy,” Chomsky on Anarchism, Barry Pateman, ed., (Edinburgh: AK Press, 2005); Gore Vidal, interview by David Barsamian, “Gore Vidal Interview,” Progressive, August 2006, http://www.progressive.org/mag_intv0806
  2. [2]David Benfell, “Listening for goosesteps in a conservative backlash,” DisUnitedStates.org, March 29, 2010, https://disunitedstates.org/?p=1708