Friday, March 28, 2008


“I like to be human because in my unfinishedness I know that I am conditioned. Yet conscious of such conditioning, I know that I can go beyond it, which is the essential difference between conditioned and determined existence…In other words, my presence in the world is not so much of someone who is merely adapting to something “external,” but of someone who is inserted as if belonging essentially to it. It’s the position of one who struggles to become the subject and maker of history and not simply a passive, disconnected object.” Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of Freedom

I am so thankful that we don’t have pre-determined existences, and that we have socio-historical vocations to determine ourselves ontologically. Call it free will, call it an ontological vocation, or call it choice. Needless to say, we have a choice and we can become active agents actively pursuing our being in this world, instead of passive receptacles of a life pre-determined by the conditioning of external forces. In the modern context, these forces stem from the market-system which conditions us, and prefers us to be and to feel as we do (reticent, tired, overwhelmed, hopeless, helpless, crazy, irrational, isolated, etc.). The perceived divinity of market forces conditions us to believe our roles as workers, students, parents, consumers, citizens, spouses, children, elderly, etc. are both predetermined and limited by the “invisible hand” of the market.

So what is one of the most radical things we can do? Become aware of our conditioning and sharpen our edge for perceiving all of the socio-cultural, historical and even genetic factors that have conditioned our construction. Recognize that “it would be ironic if the awareness of my presence in the world did not at the same time imply a recognition that I could not be absent from the construction of my own presence.” If we fail to recognize our role in determining who we are and how we’ll live our every moment, we renounce our “historical, ethical, social, and political responsibility for [our] own evolution.” So in that sense, according to Freire, we are renouncing our ontological vocation to intervene in the world.

Once we recognize that we are alive and free to pursue our ontological vocation of becoming, we must remain vigilant to external conditioning. Instead of thinking of it as burdensome “work,” we should celebrate the freedom of determining for ourselves who we want to be, and think of it as our duty to ourselves. And with the choice to become a constructive presence in our own worlds, comes necessary training, education, self-reflection, and yes, dutiful “work.” There is a two-steps-forward-one-step-back pace to life.

Here is where our vigilance and constant recognition of the conditioning is all important. Externally, market forces recognize and capitalize on our unfinishedness and lead us to believe that without the market we cannot resolve our anxieties about being unfinished. Indeed, market forces wish us to see our “unfinishedness” as simply a phase in a pre-determined life. Market forces further strap a relatively benign idea of unfinishedness with notions that the “vocation of becoming” is more burdensome than one can manage alone or with the limited time one has to pursue such frivolousness. “Oh, if one only had more energy, money and time!”

And, frankly, we have lost our time. We have lost our energy. And so we have lost our roles in our own lives. We are not actually making history anymore, though the mediated images of the spectacle delude this perception so that we see ourselves as choosing. All we are doing is surviving. We are managing pre-determined lives from debt to debt, from holiday to holiday, from grocery visit to grocery visit, or from out-dated laptop to out-date laptop. In between, we might go through a phase of cleaning house and “taking control” over our lives. We suddenly become determined to turn our lives around and get into shape only to lose track of that fleeting emotional “choice” to the burdens of economics and diminishing time. Trapped in a tide of ceaseless pounding by market forces, we are clinging to rocks like barnacles: inert, inactive and eating whatever the waves bring us.

The difference between a market-driven plan to “take control” of one’s life and the kind of conscientization called for by Freire is fundamental. Rather than a Dr. Phil “Relationship Rescue” plan that ignores the cosmic conditioning of our lives and pretends to end our problems after a pre-determined program of study, Freire asks us to recognize our incompletedness as fundamental to the human condition. Our lives require a constant cycle of research, reflection and then action. From each action will undoubtedly evoke new challenges that will require more education, reflection and subsequent action. This kind of ontological—and radical—action on our parts both individually and collectively subverts market determinism and increasingly liberates the human experience.

In order to undermine the monoliths of inevitability, and pre-determination which was historically influenced by fear, superstition, and cosmological anxiety and then institutionalized by neoliberal philosophy and religion, we must insist on the necessity of conscientization. Becoming aware of our conditioning and our unfinishedness lends itself to an honesty and curiosity that rarely manifests in our world.

Can you imagine a world of conscientious, curious and honest people?

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Missoula's Labor Film Festival and the Bay Area's Anarchist Book Fair

Damn! I'm jealous! Another year, another Bay Area Anarchist Book Fair, and I'm not there. My friend in Oakland tells me about this every year and I still haven't had the fortune of being there.

Check out the link and see for yourself what makes this event so amazing. There are many video posts and descriptions of the kinds of books and vendors that are present.
Last night, Missoula hosted the first night of their 3rd annual Labor Film Festival in the Roxy Theater. I'm proud to say it, but there were more Wobblies in attendance than any other single union! (Way to go Wobs)! There were three great films, including Morristown (which I borrowed from the organizers to show to my class!), all about the devastating effects of trade liberalization on Mexico and the U.S. The film is an excellent discussion with U.S. workers whose lives have been ruined by NAFTA and corporate off-shoring.

Tonight there are two more films, including a film by Ken Loach called Bread and Roses. We will also be raffling off some prizes, including a $200 gas card, a .22-caliber semi-automatic rifle (I hope a Wobbly doesn't win it, then people will think we are arming ourselves!), and many other things.

Montanans continue to express interest in the IWW as our numbers and community support grows. Our presence is increasingly noticeable; we are seeing our decals, buttons and t-shirts around on the streets. Fights are brewing, so bosses beware!

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Infantile World

I know it may be asking too much for idiot ideologues, pundits, and politicians to be honest enough to admit that it was Colombia that crossed the border of a sovereign nation, not Venezuela, but things are getting ridiculous! Likewise, we know Obama and Clinton to be intelligent enough to read and understand the verifiable truth about Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador, but getting them to be honest enough to actually read it and then admit THE TRUTH may be too tall an order.

Here's the thing that sucks. Even when handed the evidence on a silver platter (as I've done here) ideologues won't read it (there are actual studies on this kind of blind dogmatism). Secondly, once they read incontrovertible fact, they'll deny it. Like petulant children they'll stomp their feet and say it just can't be true, because rather than grow up and admit the flaws in their thinking, they carry on with infantile behavior. Perhaps that is the reason they often choose not to read the forces them to admit that they are wrong. Oh the shame...the shame of admitting we are wrong or that we don't have a clue what we are talking about! Surely not "wrong"...that's worse than death!

But I've decided to give the benefit of the doubt to this hapless bunch in case they can be honest enough to read the evidential record (all of the highlighted links in this post are actual evidence, documents and articles, not homepages of websites) :

1) Colombian paramilitaries are responsible for 70% of all human rights violations in Colombia, not the FARC. These incontrovertible facts can be found in the following links Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Global Exchange, Witness for Peace, et. al.

2) The paramilitaries (AUC) are an armband switch-a-roo away from being Colombian military and police. Thereby making the actual terrorist organization the Colombian government and their criminal leader: Alvaro Uribe.

3) The U.S. is therefore a major sponsor of terror! To the tune of $5 billion since 1999 through Plan Colombia to fight the FARC and ELN, not the AUC paramilitaries.

4) Just in case $5 billion is not enough, a U.S. corporation has been linked to the paramilitaries to fund their repression of organized labor and carry out assassinations, torture and disappearances. (Just in case you try to say the paramilitaries have demobilized...we've got that one covered with, gasp--EVIDENCE! and more EVIDENCE!)

5) Oh yeah, what about that sorted business Uribe's gotten himself all caught up in called "Para-politica," which hasn't even led to a pause in U.S. funding.

6) Chavez has won democratic elections consistently since 1998. Then when one of his policies was defeated, he graciously accepted defeat. Despite what ever fantasies ideologues may have, Venezuela under Chavez is a democracy. (Just in case someone tells me to move there, let me interrupt you and say that I'm staying here because I want to bring democracy to the U.S.!)

7) The U.S. has already tried to overthrow Chavez once (2002) and failed. We funded and gave tactical support to the coup through the National Endowment for Democracy and USAID. Yo fool ideologues! You don't have to do your homework today since I did the research for you. Here are some declassified documents...just in case you actually decide to be honest and begin doing actual research and look at actual evidence, here you go: EVIDENCE

The ridiculous obsession of some people who love to demonize Chavez despite contravening evidence makes them sound like fools!

The credibility, like the fantasies of so many ideologues, continues to crumble away since they continually fail to provide any kind of factual evidence to back their ridiculous claims. Even the U.S.'s own documentary record condemns them. One only need go to the National Security Archive and read through the declassified documents there!

When those of us seeking the truth are forced to hold our noses as we read and listen to the undocumented claims of ideological quacks and jingoistic pundits all day long, we are often foolish enough to wait for evidence from them. Then we come to our senses and realize who's shilling the shit! However, far more shameful than holding out hope for some honesty, are the ideological hacks and lazy asses that repeat these false claims and try to pass off opinion as fact whenever it suits their narratives. If they were my students I would have to fail them for not providing evidence to back their claims.

Fortunately, I don't feel as though I've wasted my time, nor my breath on ideologues who--by their very definition--will likely not change even when struck by lightning! Nope! My students will read and witness for themselves the infantile world they have the misfortune of inheriting.