Glen Ford on Obama in 2008

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Grappling with Graeber – Alternatives to “Kamikaze Capitalism” (revised)

Remember what the Dormouse said, “Feed Your Head, Feed Your Head”.

This combines and continues my previous post on anthropologist and activist David Graeber’s essays “Revolutions in Reverse”.

Anthropologist and activist, David Graeber wrote 6 essays between 2004 and 2010 and they are now compiled under the title “Revolutions in Reverse”.  We here in the United States have been told there is no alternative to markets and capitalism, but in these essays he comes up with some observations about how to go about re-imagining lives that have meaning and purpose. His idea of freedom lies somewhere in the region between Somalia and Pandora.  He was there at the beginning of Occupy Wall Street and his ideas have taken root in many Occupies.  What follows are some of those ideas that beat new neural paths in my brain and repaved some old ones.

In the UK, Thatcher embraced the Milton Friedman version of neo-liberalism (basically remodeled feudalism) as the only viable social governing system.  Here American presidents from Carter on declared that there was no alternative to Friedman Rubinomics.  But there are alternatives and they are out there but Graeber says we have been trained not to see them.

There are alternatives , but first we must free ourselves from the boxes of the mind that we have been shoved into by using our imaginations to think of possibilities outside those boxes. Quite literally, of course, most Americans actually work in small boxes called cubicles and aspire to larger boxes with a door and windows called offices.  (Other boxes include “voting booths, television screens, and hospitals.” “They are the very machinery of alienation”).   Yes, it is always ultimately about freedom.  And not the freedom of choice that neo-liberalism has foisted on us.  Too many choices “in the absence of any larger moral structures through which to make them meaningful” just makes us nuts.  These choices are meaningless.  Our lives then seem meaningless.  And that makes us angry and drives us literally crazy.  Continue reading

Teachers and Oscars

When I was a young actor, I used to fantasize about winning a Tony or an Oscar. I’m guessing most young actors have done this. In my acceptance speeches, I always thanked my teachers. Sometimes I would choose one, but most of the time I included my 4th grade teacher Mr. Hoekema who picked me to narrate the Christmas Play for Dutch Day at the Chicago Museum of Natural History. Also Mr. Meyer who cast me as Helen Keller my first year of high school when I didn’t even know what a play was. My undergrad drama teacher, Mrs. Boeve, was probably the biggest influence on my life. Her slides of her travels all over the world fed my imagination and my curiosity to see the world and find out about other people. Her lectures on Kabuki theater would come in handy later with my foray into politics. I became a huge fan of Bertolt Brecht because of her. In grad school it was Dr. Bergwin, Dr. Weisfeld, and Dr. Beaver, the later wooing me away from theater and into film.

So I was especially disappointed at this year’s Oscars. With teachers sleeping in the rotunda in Madison’s state capitol and standing out in the snow and cold on the streets of Wisconsin, not one academy award winner thought to thank their teachers. (Maybe somebody did and I didn’t hear it because I nodded off quite a bit during that show). Last year I heard on the Oscar stage “God bless our troops”. This year I yearned to hear “God bless our teachers”.

I remember fondly when the Oscars were always full of surprises; Streakers running across the stage; Sacheen Little Feather accepting Marlon Brando’s Oscar in order to deliver a political statement on treatment of Native Americans in film and denouncing the siege at Wounded Knee; Vanessa Redgrave speaking on behalf of the Palestinians; and Michael Moore chastising George Bush.

Then there were the outfits like Cher’s 1986 Bob Mackie with that huge feather headdress, Bjork’s dead swan dress, and the South Park guys dressed in drag, to name a few.

There were also wonderful speeches by winners. Tom Hanks who won for his role in “Philadelphia” gave a moving tribute to all those who had died of AIDS. Russell Crowe gave tribute to his grandfather, his uncle, and “one bloke” Ridley Scott. He paid tribute to his “childhood imaginings” that allowed a suburban kid to dream of such a moment as winning an Oscar.

But most of the winners this year seemed strangely subdued excepting, of course, Melissa Leo’s “f” bomb. Gone for years has been any sense of anarchy. But now emotion and a sense of being part of a family or part of a history seems to be seeping away too. Has Hollywood, like the U.S., become a place of oligarchs and those who serve them so much so that no one even dare be “different” or “inappropriate”? Has everything just gotten too big? TBTF? Or did it all start getting phonier with the advent of “the Red Carpet”? When did an industry award event become more about fashion than film?

Don’t get me wrong, there were wonderful films this year so that is something to celebrate including the foreign films that I have yet to see. Pictures like “The Fighter” and “Winter’s Bone” depict American lives that many of us know little about. And, quite frankly, “Social Network”‘s elite world is something fewer and fewer Americans will ever get to enter or even dream about. There was some great story telling this year including the intriguing and difficult “Inception” which also painted a dark view of the greedy and corrupt culture that has infested our lives.

Yes, I know The Oscars are mostly about marketing films, but it used to have a little more heart. I wish I had thought about thanking teachers before the Oscars and had posted that on Melissa Leo’s Facebook page ( if she had one) because she would be the first winner of the major categories and then maybe a tsunami of thanks to teachers would have occurred. Thanking teachers would have been deliciously subversive without every mentioning the awful “u” word– “union”. Darn. But maybe somebody will read this with a bigger viewership than mine and start thanking teachers whenever they appear on the TV or radio. Maybe we can start that tsunami with a little ripple here and there. Thank a teacher today.

Will Madison Be Our Cairo?

You won’t find it on its front page section “Protests for Democracy”, but CNN is reporting that 15 more school districts will close today [#104] as teachers make their way to Madison, WI to join the protest against Gov. Walker’s anti union bill. Wisconsin teachers call in sick

At least 15 school systems in Wisconsin canceled Thursday’s classes because teachers and other public employees will continue protests at the state Capitol over a bill that would strip them of most of their collective bargaining rights and increase their contributions for benefits.

From MSNBC we get a report noting some Green Bay Packers weighing in: Madison protests

“As a publicly owned team we wouldn’t have been able to win the Super Bowl without the support of our fans,” reads a statement signed by seven current and former players. “It is the same dedication of our public workers every day that makes Wisconsin run. They are the teachers, nurses and child care workers who take care of us and our families. But now in an unprecedented political attack Governor Walker is trying to take away their right to have a voice and bargain at work.”

I heard a trucker on a show on Sirius Left radio say he was disconnecting his trailer and taking his cab and driving from Kentucky to Madison to join the protests over union busting.

Will Madison be our Cairo?

Weasel Words of the Week – “Extremes”

The meme of “extremes” has been around for awhile, but it is become a constant refrain since the election.  It is grating to my ears.  “”The authoritarian left and the authoritarian right are running to ideological corners and not meeting in the middle,” said Steven Weisman, author of a biography on Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan on “Morning Joe”.  (It is a very tried and true propaganda technique to trot out an author who has a book on a dead politician like Moynihan, Lincoln, John Adams, etc.) Joe Scarborough then repeated, “There is a need for all of us to isolate the extremes.” Continue reading

Welcome to the Feral Cats of Freedom Blog

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