January 2009

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Bolivia has a new constitution!

I can’t believe I am just finding this out two days after the fact. Where was I??

On Sunday, Bolivia held a referendum to approve its new constitution, and the new constitution was passed with more than 61% of the vote. This is a great victory for Bolivia’s social movements and its indigenous majority, and it should hopefully bring a tiny bit of momentum to that country’s leftward shift. The right wing has been brutal and active there, putting every possible obstacle in front of meaningful social transformation. I hope this contributes toward their slow downfall.

General elections in Ecuador in February. Chavez’ new constitutional amendment in February. Salvadoran presidential election in March (the FMLN just won a majority in the municipal elections about a week ago!). Let’s hope for more ballot victories for the left, and more grassroots growth to accompany it!

Please, Obama, a progressive shock and awe!

Here’s a quote from the inauguration speech:

“Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions – who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

“What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them – that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply.”

This is exactly the kind of language that Naomi Klein speaks to in her book The Shock Doctrine, when neoliberals use moments of crisis to impose a massive, radical capitalist agenda, often within the span of months. With words just like this, they have dismantled public infrastructures and social safety nets across the world, systems that took decades of hard struggle to build.

Now, Obama is using these words, and dropping all sorts of progressive code words and references. And, UNLIKE, most of the neoliberals in the past, Obama actually has a huge mandate for radical changes. So, here’s to hoping that he’ll take a cue from the right and just bombard us with all sorts of programs and proposals.

Even if many of those programs don’t pan out (much like FDR’s original New Deal proposals), the psychological effect on our country of a “shock and awe” of hope could really electrify things. And with Obama’s new “Organizing For America” structure, in which he hopes to keep is entire grassroots campaign mobilized to push for his agenda, he is in a perfect position to resist any bigwigs who try to stop him. EVEN MORE, those bigwigs are cowering and losing money! They need bailouts even to keep plodding along. He really is in a perfect position to push through some great stuff.

Will he? Probably not. Liberals and progressives are notoriously bad at seizing initiative. But this is the first day of his presidency, so at least I get to hope so.

But, some good signs: He wants a stimulus plan of $900 billion dollars, passed by mid-February. That will supposedly have zero earmarks. Wow! Supposedly he’ll give an executive order to close Gitmo within the week. Supposedly there are a bunch of executive orders on their way regarding surveillance and the constitution and such. Here’s to hoping.

Maybe, for once, it won’t only be the right wing that’s good at seizing initiative in a crisis.

Propaganda and “Othering” in Action…

Just read this AP article on Huffington Post: Israelis get creative in coping with rocket threat

I just shook my head.

There’s nothing wrong with writing a story like this. It is interesting and important to know how a people cope with having rockets dropped into their houses, near their coffee shops…right before their weddings. It allows us to connect with those who suffer this kind of violence. It makes distant people seem not so different from us…how beautiful. Truly. And how necessary.

But how sad. Because I am not seeing the front page stories about how Palestinians “get creative” with the bombs, and constant bulldozers, and checkpoints, and settler incursions, and destroyed olive trees, and poverty, and dead and wounded children. About the endless cycles of jail time and searches. About all of the weddings and birthdays missed because of rockets or tanks or long stops by soldiers trying to get to the event in time. I’m not seeing the stories of how they have “coped” with occupation and displacement for so many decades.

No. There is no balance in this coverage, which is no surprise. When there are human interest stories about Palestinians, I see people running here and there from bombs. I do see screaming women or crying fathers. But what I don’t see is the context. The connection. Because even screaming victims of war are easily distanced and othered. Where is the history? Why are occasional rockets in Israel given the treatment of something that folks are getting used to, that is becoming daily…when the violence that Palestinians experience is portrayed as immediate, ahistorical, a big flashing siren…and not what it really is…a gaping wound, constantly jostled and stretched and re-opened, barely given a moment to scab or scar before the flesh is torn again…and again.

I am angry about this, if you couldn’t tell.

Currently Reading:

-Dispersing Power by Raul Zibechi