Preface — The beauty of the Internet, this blog, are the syntactical/synopitcal/ snynaptic connections made out there in digital cloud land. Alas, Marlin contacted me after the column went up: Pushed Out — How Economic Woes of 80 Percent are Blips.
Here, the quick exchange —
I feel your pain. Your experience sounds like mine in a lot of ways.
I too worked for SEIU, which for me, as a progressive but who had never belonged to a union, was disappointing. I think Andy Stern was a corporate plant sent to destroy the movement.
What was your experience with SeIU?
Hey, Marlin, thanks for the email. My experience with SEIU was very focused — I basically got my job in Seattle pushing the fact that I was an adjunct faculty member for 11 years in Washington and many years in Texas and elsewhere. SEIU 500 had been organizing adjuncts at American U and George Washington U, and they were doing a metro strategy. My background also included organizing adjuncts and activists in so many arenas.
The problem is more than Andy Stern. It’s the fake Seattle liberals, the ones who see their lives as mealy mouthed fake liberal rant but no revolutionary zeal at work. They are afraid of their own shadows. They are caught up in one or two causes — you know, Obama’s campaign, and gay marriage in WA state. So much of my time was taken away from work to play phone call master to get Inslee elected here as governor.
The union is a top-down piece of shit experience, one where radicalism is not cultured, one where they are afraid to go after the bad in the union game. You see, I have had lots of experience with the AFT in Washington going after adjuncts, and not giving a shit about our welfare. We have had classes by the hundreds yanked away by moonlighting FT-ers. The one big source of income, yanked away. Plus, we are the majority, in the state, on all campuses, and yet we have to join a union with FT faculty, who are in many cases our supervisors and grievance folk.
So, my strategy was to get the state of Washington cranked up for a statewide adjunct pool, adjunct movement, adjunct union. SEIU balked, because AFT is already in the state with the 34 public community colleges and several state universities. EVEN though AFT is killing adjuncts.
These are fakes, for the most part. Mean, back stabbing, and, here I was at SEIU 925, the health care and para-educator union, with bosses above me making $130 K a year, while working with people getting $8 an hour? This is pure bullshit. Pomp and circumstance. These people are dead.
Check it out here — Adjunct Nation site and series on my fight at Green River Community College, which was brief compared to others there who have been fighting American Federation of Teachers or WEA/NEA for decades. ***
So, Marlin, that was that — punches out and up and down. You have anything to add, then write me, and I can post something from you. More specifics, who you are, why you worked for SEIU, what you did, what you are doing, etc. This is the only way to beat down the doors — more stories.
Note — AFT is going after Howard Zinn — see here at DV: Kicking Howard Zinn in his Grave.
My experience was with a union of mediocre people who were going through the motions to keep their jobs. They didn’t value ideas, they didn’t value people with different backgrounds, and they certainly didn’t value educated Black men with ideas of ending the dependency game that has Black folks caught up in an endless cycle of underperformance in civic indicators across the board. It wasn’t just me.
Many of my college educated friends that found themselves working for unions as the economy for liberal arts brains rapidly deteriorates, had similar experiences with unions used to working with Black laborers, and shop workers, etc.
Anyway, that’s my gripe. My thoughts and ideas are not popular with the Black middle-class or the Black Left, which is essentially the same people save for a few hardcore bible-thumpers, used to getting some kind of check written for them, even if it is short.
My blog: runawayslave-runawayslave.blogspot.com
Hey, let’s run it —
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Failed States and Failed Cultures: The End of Their Black Culture
Sound okay, on Dissident Voice? Let me know, Marlin.
So, here it is — mighty fine critique all around.
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Failed States and Failed Cultures: The End of Their Black Culture
by Marlin Adams
Gosh, it’s been 12 years since the dawn of what was supposed to be in my mind, the age of another “New Negroe” (Alain Locke recognized the “new Negro” of his day in a 1925 article*). I was thoroughly convinced that the rapid development of the Internet, as a symbol of the age of great social transformation that is consuming every aspect of what we know about our social selves, would be the Enlightenment for Black folks. It would be our chance to communicate directly, to establish viable connections with communities across the globe and to build a tapestry of consciousness that would lead to action, a spontaneous eruption of intellectual infrastructure and capacity building that would free us of our terminal dependence on everything White.
While it’s not over, we don’t have much time and there is an impossible amount of work to be done. Think of the biblical tale of Noah’s Ark, then add quantum to the thought and you can sense the magnitude of the challenge. Tough under most circumstances, not doable when there is no community consensus around the need to address Terminal Dependency, which has to be understood in such stark terms because the 20th Century idea of “human equality” clashes directly with the accelerated evolutionary trajectory that the upper echelons are now pursuing. “It ain’t fair, but it’s so.” In the 21st Century, the inherent value of every “human” life is being calculated and weighted by each social stakeholder equipped with the latest algorithm. In these personal and institutional calculations, Black folks are coming up short on the list of human relevancy, and over weighted on the many lists and indications of dysfunction and degeneration: joblessness and chronic underemployment, anemic per capita wealth, frayed and fractured nuclear and extended families, truncated life expectancy with political, social and economic underdevelopment standing out all across Africa and the Caribbean. Whether you are on the continent of Africa, Europe, South or North America, the Black Tribe as a nomenclature is on the run. Under these conditions, the notion of failed State used most often in connection with states on the African continent, has to be expanded to include “failed cultures” within the ambit of Western domination, which would help to explain the emergence of Barack Obama as the long awaited Pope of Absolution that White Conquest has needed to quiet its collective dissonance about the morality of enlightened oppression, particularly in the face of what everyone can see is the absolute collapse of the “Black Community”, and the corresponding flight by the Black economically viable away from any notion of unity or challenge to the debilitating status quo.
But, let’s, for a moment, agree with White folks in America that the election of Obama signaled the end of their culpability, all achieved with the election of their notion of the quintessential “African-American”, the product of a Black African and an American White, acculturated in the “Ways of White Folks.” Of course, then, I would argue, Obama’s election represented the end of the black culture, and the concomitant goals of assimilation and integration, that conquest and oppression created. So, yes, their black culture is dead. And in its place, we the Cultural Grassroots — die hard resisters of the notion of Black obsolescence and subservience — intend to rebuild Our Black Culture based on the simple principle of Self-Sufficiency in an interdependent world. The same principle that kick-started China’s rise from “humiliation to redemption”.
So one hundred cheers for the demise of an era characterized by our total dependence — The End of Black Culture that White Supremacy and Domination Created.
Now, for those of us that find ourselves on the outside of Liberalism’s glorious achievement — a tame and impotent civil service mediocrity, the permanently unemployed and chronically under-employed, the victims of social guerrilla warfare herded in private prisons for the crime of needing a living-wage job, the terrible waste of minds languishing in the big city public schools (queuing up for the prisons), and our perpetually broke “black bidness” people, with their small ideas about [their] economic freedom swimming around in the confined spaces established to remind them of their dependency (the “set aside” class of Black business people co opted by an insincere appeal to their “specialness” concocted by Tricky Dick Nixon in the rebellious ’60s/’70s to separate them from the activist on the street), etc. — the question is, what next? Do we need a consensus agenda or is it simply every man, woman and child for themselves?
I am a die-hard realist and realistically, the option to pursue the every MWC for themselves strategy is available to a small clique of Black folks that have joined the Empire’s economically secure club: superstar professional athletes, major entertainers, government contractors and the handful of corporate and institutional apparatchiks that survived the cultural purges that have corporate Blacks denying their own kids’ job opportunities in order to prove their allegiances [ see: "Race to the Top: What Minorities Do When They Arrive"]. If reaching cultural consensus about the next stage of our struggle is the only option, then it’s not an option at all. Without a consensus, we will default into an ugly scramble for whatever crumbs that fall off the table of White largess, all of us, ultimately, ending up on some type of list moralizing the ravages and isolating the threats.
Building a community consensus agenda is essentially a job for boots on the ground Activist and Grassroots Intellectuals, both of which we have plenty: remember the saying, “each one teach one”? well, it is an old-school acknowledgement that our thoughts and ideas don’t need to come from an ivory tower in order to be successful. The job before us is not complicated but does require building an intellectual consensus. The civil rights and African Independence movements that peaked simultaneously in the late 1950s and ’60s were driven by this type of consensus. It was simple and direct. European lead capitalism and oppression was an easy and obvious target. Contrast today’s not so obvious targets: economic marginalization and pauperization (a low-level grind, something akin to the frog in the water that slowly heats up. The frog never knows what hits him, he just turns into soup) through the transference of wealth from the 80% to the 20%, using economic schemes, dreams and outright frauds; taking the people out of the work equation but not revising the social contract to reflect a new model for measuring social and economic worth (in this smoke-and-mirrors economy there is value in being a “consumer”). While this new target seems to be without prejudice in the application of this tales-I-win-heads-you-loose economic model, Black folks – with our overwhelming concentration in the ranks of the employment-challenged — are the canaries in the mine shaft, or, more probably, the cannon fodder buffer zone shielding, for the time being, the White middle class still trying to cash those dispensation checks which are now starting to bounce back stamped “insufficiently socially capitalized”, as their ranks of made-men begin to wither from the winds of global competition being stirred up by erstwhile dependents rebounding from the middle-ages.
Reaching a consensus on how to focus our financial resources, and best engage our intellectual resources, is a bigger challenge, ironically, because the success of those earlier days of political activism freed up most of our critical intellectual activism which quickly proceeded to get neck-deep in the muddle of rights advocacy and the tenure shuffle (“asking” for rights is a game that benefits the bestower and never increases the power of the asker), rather than using our successes as a spring board to a deeper understanding of power and the foundations for its pursuit, acquisition and management. The example of the Chinese is instructive because, like Blacks, they were an exploited people, and like Blacks they are an identifiable, foreign tribe. Unlike Blacks, however, the Chinese, even in America, fought back against the notion of “non-ness” (as in “non-White”), and most importantly, they never relinquished their inclination to live by their own value ascriptions: they retained their language, cultural and tribal affinities and imperatives. Chinatowns all over the US are thriving enterprises where English is not spoken as the first language and the unemployment rate is not a topic of conversation.
Certainly, any China watcher will tell you those enterprising entrepreneurs that “habitate” the Chinatowns throughout the Western world are not on their own but that mainland Chinese money is providing the straps and the strategy for acquiring and pulling on the boots of economic opportunity. Makes sense. The tribal connections are transnational even if the Diaspora members would rather play their role from outside the political mainland. The African continent, however, is besieged and infected with globalization schemes to siphon off the natural wealth of the indigenous without paying a price commensurate with the value of the resource and the real cost of extraction. And it really isn’t about the money. It is about the power to ascribe value to the particular resource and to the whole system of valuation governing their “market” economy. The money the West passes on to this or that African strongman/dictator and his community of sycophants and enablers euphemistically called the “African elite”, is besides the point. Without something akin to China’s “cultural revolution”, the odds of reversing the downward trajectory of African people’s on the continent and throughout the Diaspora, are slim to none. China’s cultural revolution was about their tribal survival; Mao Zedong recognized the need to shake off all of the former colonial masters bad habits and culturally corrupt practices and ideas designed to strip the Chinese of their power and a Culture steeped in greatness that preceded the fading Anglo empire.
Sound familiar? Today, China is about to colonize the moon. “From humiliation to redemption” is not a motto, it’s a goal they set for their Tribe, while Africans all over the world are trying to walk the talk of the White Western world, slithering around trying to look colorblind mouthing platitudes like “why can’t we all just get along”, vainly attempting to appropriate some sort of glory by implying that Black mainstream leadership have actually been trying to resist the complete cultural beat down post 1200 b.c., as opposed to absorbing head shots, body blows and dog bites for the “right” to accept the interchangeable packages of the franchise that the Empire decides to offer.
No one will argue that the alternative course is easy. There are many stories of progressive initiatives being assassinated by the prospect of a success that would challenge the Empire, but China, and Venezuela and Brazil and other Latin American countries long victimized by the voraciousness of Western imperialism, stand as an example of what a successful effort looks like. And now, for better or worse, China has taken its place and is having its say as to how humankind will develop. Africa, as proxy for Black people — the Black worldview — has to figure out how it will take its place at the hearth of humanity.
Africa is an essential land mass and key asset base from which to manage this rise from humiliation for the Black world. It is the image and has the substance of power capable of symbolizing and resourcing our best efforts. The Black sub nationals operating within the western world will never be able to muster the cohesiveness to effectively mobilize the resources necessary to disseminate a post-Dependency Black Worldview. I remember when the anti-Apartheid Movement came to prestigious private and Ivy League campuses across America in the late eighties. As a student leader at NYU, I was part of an information network that disseminated the raw data coming from South Africa that drove these information campaigns, and which hosted the live bodies that were dispatched all around the world by the ANC to provide first-hand testimony, political comfort (not communist, or anti-white), and inspiration to the many student activist and volunteers that were attending rallies, sit-ins, teach-ins and take-overs. It was a well run campaign designed to win friends and influence enemies by demonstrating efficient organization, showcasing dedicated people and pursuing a compelling purpose. It worked. Africa, as the situs of that story, the place of origin, the Continent, was an image that indeed carried the weight of all that it symbolized. Think about it, “NAACP”, “Black Panther Party”, “DNC”, they simply don’t compare to the Continent, as the image and substance of power capable of representing the whole Black nation.
But for all intent and purpose, Africa is a no-go zone for those with a progressive vision of our future given the levels of cooptation, corruption and re-colonization besieging the Continent in the name of the latest ‘war’ on something, and the competition for colonial contraband being waged between newcomer China and the usual imperial suspects. Where are the countries, companies or compatriots with a vision for African redemption and the financial wherewithal to put a plan of action in motion? Wasting away are vast human resources that are spread out all over the world sharing in only two things: the objective identifier of having black skin, and the “groundhog” experience of reliving the same story of underdevelopment and dependency over and over, country by country, ad infinitum.
Considered as a network driven by a consensus, this dysfunctional Diaspora could be a powerful tool for mobilizing our world-wide resources and collectivizing individual efforts to improve the prospects for our future. In an interdependent, globally wired world, links and relationships that are multi leveled and layered are necessary to be competitive. We are present in all the major world markets (and a lot of minor ones too), and the networking of that presence and local participation would automatically create a global entity with various expertise all focused on creating a value proposition that can put us in the game. Right now, all of our human resources are fractured and dispersed and struggling for small, individual survival. Despite the accomplishments of many individuals, as a group, we remain economically marginalized. The steps we need to take now are simple and basic: build an economic infrastructure based on the monetization and control of the economy of our own existence. Yes, it’s as simple as selling our stories and images on the street in cities all over the world utilizing this network of presence and participation that is embedded within the tribal habitats we populate worldwide. And, yes, any effort that seeks to unwind the complicated relationship threads that intersect and interweave with the White Western World should be ready for a response that will include everything from trying to intimidate a young Black American entrepreneur building bridges between American and African business people, to assassinating the likes of Lumumba, and Sankara, and Malcolm X and MLK.
Put in marketing terms, we have to begin to think of ourselves as a niche market, one with it’s own peculiarities of language, style, motivation, worldview. We exist within larger cultural norms that counter mingles with many different niches, each relinquishing (or, selling) pieces of themselves, the essence of their niche-ness, if you will, to this mainstream behemoth but retaining the core infrastructure that empowers those that live or desire the full niche experience. The product we are selling is World-wide Black efficacy built through control of the economy of our own existence into an infrastructure of self-sufficiency that can kick-start the differentiation between Our Black Culture and the moribund product of a multi-century cultural beat down that has peaked with the election of Barack Obama.
Leadership will have to come from the body politic of the Cultural Grassroots, the people toiling in the sinews of the Black population centers trying to “keep it real”. There is no magic formula for what idea, what story, what song, will galvanize the consciousness of those ready to be the Vanguard. But it will happen, the opportunity will come about more than once or twice. Think about Apple Computer and how long it toiled in the shadows of Microsoft. It was just one killer app, the I-pod, something everyone wanted to have and socially needed, that turned Apple into the most valuable company in America. Ideas are like that. What turns a good, culturally relevant inspirational vision into something everyone wants and socially needs to be a part of, is the infrastructure that is in place to give that idea value, and that is producing value for all the stakeholders in the food chain: the creator/writer/designer, director/engineer, technicians/manufacturers, graphic artists, marketing and sales people, distribution, and finally the retailer on the street.
I like the brutha, Michael Baisden, who is a popular radio host with an uplifting message of empowerment aimed at Black people in general and Black men specifically. His story is compelling and instructive. Like a lot of ambitious people that don’t sit around waiting for opportunity, Baisden made his own by self-publishing books, mostly non-fiction initially with titles like, Why Do Men Cheat, and Men Cry In The Dark. Baisden is now head of a multi-million dollar enterprise that includes his own publishing arm, film, radio, live shows, theater and video ventures. If we have any chance whatsoever of ending our Terminal Dependency and rising from “humiliation to redemption”, it is going to have to start with monetizing the goods, services and ideas emanating from the economy of our own existence, and our images and stories are as simple and profound as it gets.
Why I highlight Baisden and the business of images and stories is because the idea that we could write a book, play, screenplay that was more competitive with Black folks than something Simon and Schuster put on the market is a possibility that comes with a high degree of probability. Entertainment is peculiarly well suited for the development of this infrastructure of self-sufficiency; it can happen naturally and gradually, without a lot of public fanfare. We could look up one day and realize that most of the movies we really want to see or books we download to our Tablets are products being created, manufactured and sold not by Simon and Schuster, but by Baisden and Co., a content company with distribution throughout Africa, the Caribbean, South and North America and Europe. That is a lot of jobs. And people with jobs and stability educate their kids in the ways they know, and kids that grow up with stability and ambition go after their own ideas about their future and turn them into businesses, art, and technology. I’ve distributed Black films that are now classics and been around the Black world taking the pulse of Vanguard communicators. We need a distribution infrastructure that can properly and effectively finance and exploit a film like Baisden’s, Maintenance Man, or the socially and politically significant action masterpiece from the Congo, Viva Riva, directed by Djo Tunda Wa Munga, which I know was under appreciated by a Black audience in America that never heard of the film or about the significance of its story of urban African warriors trying like hell to get theirs from whomever it is standing in the way (underneath all the luscious sex and brutal violence).
The point is is that the end of our terminal dependency has to start somewhere and well-meaning people have to recognize that they can be part of a solution that is real, tangible, simple and doable. We are not out to build nuclear weapons, we are out to be in a position to put our people to work and in the process, assert a cohesive and sustainable worldview that we can then call, Our Black Culture. (The bio-cyber-tech hacker division has already gotten underway, shhhh).
1. “Enter The New Negroe”, Survey Graphic, March 1925:
“…The Old Negro, we must remember, was a creature of moral debate and historical controversy. His has been a stock figure perpetuated as an historical fiction partly in innocent sentimentalism, partly in deliberate reactionism. The Negro himself has contributed his share to this through a sort of protective social mimicry forced upon him by the adverse circumstances of dependence. So for generations in the mind of America, the Negro has been more of a formula than a human being ⎯ a something to be argued about, condemned or defended, to be “kept down,” or “in his place,” or “helped up,” to be worried with or worried over, harassed or patronized, a social bogey or a social burden. The thinking Negro even has been induced to share this same general attitude, to focus his attention on controversial issues, to see himself in the distorted perspective of a social problem. His shadow, so to speak, has been more real to him than his personality. Through having had to appeal from the unjust stereotypes of his oppressors and traducers to those of his liberators, friends and benefactors he has subscribed to the traditional positions from which his case has been viewed. Little true social or self-understanding has or could come from such a situation.