Sunday, March 11, 2007

Bush Unwelcome in Latin America

A quick browsing of CNN Español’s online video clips reveals the continent-wide hatred our latino neighbors reserve for our commander-in-chief—the government’s devastating economic and political policies in tow. Meanwhile, protests have erupted throughout Latin America where President Bush is desperately seeking a place to land Air Force One where he might be welcomed. Instead, Latin Americans from Guatemala to Argentina are reminding Bush that should he land his airplane in their territory it will be to voices chanting in unison: “asesino” (“murderer”).

Of course, this ire should not belong to Bush alone, as he is only the most current version of imperial master. After 500 years of regional oppression, isolation and division Latin Americans are looking increasingly towards each other for solidarity. Loosely modeling of regional integration after the European Union, today’s Latin American leaders Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, Rafael Correa of Ecuador, Lula da Silva of Brazil, Evo Morales of Bolivia, Nestor Kirchner of Argentina and Tabare Vazquez of Uruguay are rejecting American foreign and economic policy in lieu of their own trade and diplomatic agreements.

Notable among the majority of voices rejecting Bush is one dissenting voice: American ally Alvarez Uribe of Colombia. Not surprisingly, Colombia is the third largest recipient of American military aid and is seeking to have President Bush extend our nation’s inhumane aid package called Plan Colombia. This U.S. taxpayer-funded “plan” has led to the loss of ten of thousands of innocent lives, environmental destruction and made possible the continuation of an insanely brutal war. Conspicuously absent from the list of nations highlighted in the easy-to-dismiss “Human Rights Report” issued by the U.S. each year (besides itself) was Colombia where thousands of people are killed every year at the hands of Colombia’s military/para-military forces that our glorious government funds. Does hypocrisy and irony know no limit?

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Getting Horizontal

If you have not already read or heard of a newer book called Horizontalism by Marina Sitrin, RUN—DO NOT WALK—TO FIND IT.

This amazing collection of voices emerging from the nearly-impossible-to-describe Argentine reality is revolutionary. This book works ontologically to discuss all variety of issues including power structures, language, participatory politics and economics, among other important social issues.

Even now, as I try to recapitulate this book’s assessments I am denied access. The point is Argentines are recreating, reinventing and defying reification. I have even had a discussion with an American who recently returned from his stay there that spanned several years. The voices and testimony provided in this book have even eluded him despite his sincerest intentions and seemingly open mind.

If the voices Sitrin collected from across Argentina continue to exist there, it would seem there is ample reason to have hope that a complete reworking of civilizations is possible. Entire communities are asking deeply critical and existential questions about the nature of our old and out-dated ways of thinking.

“Hope,” however, is not to be confused with utopia. What is being discussed, discovered and practiced is sticky, messy and painful. However, presuppositions about the untenable contradictions of capitalism have put many of these Argentines on the doorstep of deciding to permit the dissolution of humanity or create a whole new civilization. At the same time, these horizontal processes and movements are equally suspicious of all of history’s revolutions. They seem determined, in many cases, to avoid co-optation by leftist politics as well. As the voices in the book continually resound, they are seeking new paths for organizing their societies.

In college, getting “horizontal” had an all too banal meaning. That too is being reworked in my mind.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Teachers in a World of "Shock and Awe"

As if teachers don’t get enough blame heaped on them, I’m going to heap some more. Being a teacher myself, I deserve a share of the criticism. It seems that we teachers are completely oblivious to the hypocrisy of our “do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do” approach to education. We also have a tremendous knack for criticizing our students for not learning things we never teach them, namely causality, critical thinking, and self-reliance. Some mention should be made that whatever negative impact we desperate teachers could be having on today’s youth, it pales in comparison to the “shock and awe” society-at-large, which includes our government, corporate capitalism and its lackey media, and the resulting deterioration of family life. However, it is my contention that teachers have a unique opportunity to provide hope for future generations by standing up to manufactured political “controversies” and discuss head-on the issues that pervade a student’s mind. We must demonstrate a willingness to confront society’s hypocrisies, social injustice, and global crises instead of perpetuating America’s hopeless delusions of exceptionality, success through bootstrap discipline, and our divine blessing.

“Shock” is exactly how I felt when I heard the news that at my high school several kids premeditated an attack of another kid in order to capture it on their cell phone video cameras. The goal was to upload it onto the Internet. The attacked kid went into convulsions and was hospitalized. “Shock” rules the day in an increasingly irreverent and impulsive society. However, the responses and reactions I heard teachers making were equally dismaying. Here is where the hypocrisy of educators begins.

We act shocked and surprised that our youth are acting out and impulsive yet my fellow teachers vapor locked when I asked them to look at the society of “shock and awe,” right down to the language chosen by our leaders to carry out a murderous rampage on innocent lives. Our act in Baghdad was an utter act of irreverence for human life and we titled it “shock and awe.” Shock jock radio and shock jock TV (Jackass) are stepping up their campaigns to shock, including a recent on-air death of a mother trying to win her son a Nintendo by drinking two gallons of water without urinating. She died from drowning her own tissue. (Radio station employees got fired, young child lost mother). One upping and shocking is rapidly devolving the most basic levels of common sense. What could this be saying about the subconscious thinking of our decadent society? Nihilism? Zero sum?...Or are we desperate to wake up from our “idiocracy”?

Enter the teacher. We have an opportunity to teach accountability by modeling it before we demand it from our students. If I was in a student’s shoes, I’d wonder what the fuck kind of hypocrite my teacher was for asking me to act more responsibly and to hold myself accountable when all around me I see the adults in society failing to hold their government accountable for crimes against humanity, and human rights violations. As a student I’d be outraged that a teacher demanded from me accountability when in textbook Orwellian fashion I perpetuated obvious lies for the sake of ideology. A psychological study needs to be done on teens in this country that aimed at assessing the anger festering in our youth on a latent/subconscious level as they must clearly know they are being handed off a much more fucked up world environmentally and geopolitically than we were given.

A common complaint among my colleagues is that “kids today don’t get causality.” As if irony knew no limits, these teachers don’t know why! Just to be snarky and smug, I sometimes ask them why they think that is. Sad to say the usual responses deflect blame from our dear old profession. So I say again, “modeling for students what we expect them to learn might yield fruit.” Besides that we can do a revolutionary thing: we can teach it! That’s right, we can teach causality. I’m pretty sure the kids get that straightforward concepts of causality they learned in science class, but they rarely see it applied by their teachers, let alone the rest of society.

In fact, I asked my students why it was we (our media, educators, government, et. al.) don’t ever seem to discuss the causes of a massive immigration problem, but instead deliberately choose to study and cover the effects down to the very last detail. I am proud to say one of my students was quick to reply, “because we won’t like what we see when we look in the mirror!”

Even if we think kids aren’t listening they are. It’s just they are good at tuning out the bullshit. When a teacher decides to be honest and stop presenting the world as a clean, linear, desexed Elysian paradise for the disciplined few, and instead models how a committed individual should be denouncing hypocrisy, social injustices, and resisting illegitimate authority without utopian illusions, that is when students may start to truly listen. However, for many school is already a lost cause and surviving it is a major struggle. Needless to say, teachers are in a unique position to model accountability beyond faux democratic processes such as voting. Teachers could get their asses organized and pressure the institutions that undervalue education, rather than modeling excuse-making. It’s no wonder students feel powerless and hopeless. Where in society do they see it modeled?

Ecuador's New Government

lonestone revolution: Latin America News Review: Ecuador's New Government Talks Default on Debt: Latin America's New Reality