Why America needs a moment of clarity now
We could mince words about the vast differences and expansive power of local governments in these matters, over against the apparently limited power of federal jurisdiction. But that’s kind of beside the point. Movements are as much about symbols as about substance. And Barack Obama is a broken symbol, a clanging cymbal, unable to say and do anything of use. His silence is the sound of imploding dreams, his words mere distractions and detours from the future we want.
He has become a prime example that being the leader of the free world in a Black body is still no match for entrenched, local, systemic, committed racism. It’s sad that it has come to this. But this is bigger than Barack Obama. Just like it was bigger than King and hisdream. We have awakened from sleep. We have been startled out of it by nearly 30 gunshots ringing out insistently from the heart of America. Jay-Z might call it “a moment of clarity.” In Obama’s place, Cornel West has re-emerged, the wise and fearless elder, the one who we tried not to listen to, as he screamed into the wind for six years, the one whose approach chafed my hide on more than a few occasions, the one who is — despite all of our collective quibbles and begrudgements – right.
This moment is about all of us. About what kind of America we want to be. About what kind of America we are willing to be, willing to fight for. About whether we will settle for being mediocre and therefore murderous to a whole group of citizens. About whether there are other versions of ourselves worth fighting for.
Don’t sleep. Millennials, it seems, are the ones we have been waiting for. Fearless and focused, the future they are fighting for is one I want. It is high time to awake out of sleep. Stay woke.
5:36 pm • 21 October 2014
This Ferguson October, young people are on the ground dreaming new dreams, and in so doing, they are inspiring elders. They are creative, taking over public spaces, not only with signs, and chants, but with impromptu games of twister and double-dutch. From them we learn that play can be political, that there is joy in struggle, that there is no justice without pleasure.
They are lining up, linking arms, and being locked up for justice. They are listening to those who have something to say, and shutting down shit when forced to listen to anyone who doesn’t. They are choosing their leaders, their griots, their truth-tellers, their strategists, their elders. Showing up matters most. Putting one’s body on the line is the order of the day. They are undignified, improper, unabashed, impolitic, unapologetic, indefatigable.
This weekend they took over four Wal-Marts, in solidarity with John Crawford who was murdered in an Ohio Wal-Mart. There, prosecutors have cleared officers of wrongdoing. Protestors took signs to the St. Louis Rams game, and confronted angry fans who yelled, “I am Darren Wilson.” Two weeks ago, they disrupted the symphony. Exploding dreams cause disruptions. They should be expected to continue.
8:48 pm • 20 October 2014
“Technologies can be liberating, but it can also be a tool of coercion and control.”
— Noam Chomsky
8:48 pm • 19 October 2014
“Of course, many on Twitter, could not understand why disturbing the peace in a private business should be acceptable. The point is – we are no longer standing for business as usual. Lest we forget, racial segregation of old happened in “private” businesses, too, in stores like Woolworth’s and Hecht’s. That John Crawford could not step into a Beaver Creek, Ohio Wal-Mart, wander aimlessly, as so many of us have done on a casual shopping trip, and reasonably expect to come out alive, suggests that time is out for business as usual.”
— Writer Brittney Cooper says, “social justice in America is officially stunted.”
11:12 am • 19 October 2014
The Umbrella Revolution in action /from afp-photo
3:24 pm • 18 October 2014
“There is only one motivation for imposing burdens on voting that are ostensibly designed to discourage voter-impersonation fraud and that is to discourage voting by persons likely to vote against the party responsible for imposing the burdens.”
— Judge Richard Posner
8:48 pm • 17 October 2014
Success is for the stubborn
Maybe Occupy was too successful a brand in that it sometimes disguised how much this movement was part of popular surges going on around the world: the Arab Spring(including the three successful revolutions, the ongoing Syrian civil war, uprisings in Yemen, and more); the student uprisings in Montreal, Mexico, and Chile that have continued to develop and broaden; the economic revolts in Spain, Greece, and Britain; the ongoing demonstrations and insurrections around Africa; even various acts of resistance in India, Japan, China, and Tibet, some large and powerful. Because, in case you hadn’t noticed, these days a lot of the world is in some form of rebellion, insurrection, or protest.
And the family resemblances matter. If you add them all up, you see a similar fury at greed, political corruption, economic inequality, environmental devastation, and a dimming, shrinking future.
5:36 pm • 20 April 2014
“People learned how direct democracy works; they tasted power; they found something in common with strangers; they lived in public. All those things mattered and matter still. They are a great foundation for the future; they are a great way to live in the present.”
— Rebecca Solnit on Occupy Wall Street
2:25 pm • 20 April 2014
“The only thing the monarchy has been fighting is the people of Bahrain and their quest for democracy and human rights. It is the monarchy’s eagerness to tear at the fabric of Bahraini society to maintain its stranglehold on power that has fueled unrest. It is the monarchy’s unwillingness to share power democratically and tolerate dissent that has always been the central grievance of the people.”
— On what drives the Bahrain opposition
11:12 am • 7 March 2014
Maidan, Ukraine… Tahrir, Egypt… the square symbolises failure and not hope
Squares are famously potent political theatres. This year is a second showing for Ukraine’s revolution, and a third for Egypt’s. Western TV viewers have cheered them all on. We thrill to see young people hurling rocks at power. Fire, smoke, bloodstained flags, broken heads, water, gas and sinister paramilitaries are Les Misérables for slow learners. We can sit with a front seat in the auditorium of history. It beats polling booths any day.
The lesson of Egypt for Ukraine is that defiant crowds may destroy an old regime – but they seldom build a new one.
Tahrir and Maidan squares thus join Istanbul’s Taksim, Tehran’s Azadi, Beijing’s Tiananmen, Prague’s Wenceslaus, Athens’s Syntagma, London’s Trafalgar and a dozen other urban spaces the world over as icons of modern revolutionary politics. Their furniture is the barricade, their tipple the Molotov cocktail, their tonic the tear gas canister. They gather people in their thousands to sacred forums and invite the world to witness the latest trial of strength with a supposedly oppressive regime. Sometimes they even win.
11:12 am • 28 February 2014
Towering gates at Cairo's Tahrir Square draw criticism
"I would like to ask: does anyone know the opening times of the Kasr el-Eini crossing?" Hanan Hagag, a journalist, quipped on her Facebook page, likening the barrier to Egypt’s heavily guarded border crossing with the Gaza Strip.
The sentiment points to the turmoil still facing Egypt. Street protests that often turn violent and militant attacks have become commonplace since Mursi was removed after mass protests against his rule in Tahrir and elsewhere.
While other arteries into Tahrir are generally open to traffic, security forces do close them off from time to time using barbed wire coils, typically ahead of anticipated protests.
But because of its look of permanence, the imposing metal gate across Kasr el-Eini is especially offensive to democracy advocates in the Arab world’s largest country.
The Kasr el-Eini entrance is the nearest on Tahrir to public buildings including parliament and government offices.
“They were talking about turning Tahrir into a museum, a place of celebration,” said Khaled Dawoud, spokesman for the liberal Dustour Party. “Instead they are installing these ugly iron gates and trying to prevent and ban demonstrations in Tahrir Square itself.”
Ruweida Omar, a rights activist, said: “We had hope that one day the concrete barriers would be removed. The iron barricade has taken away that hope. When I saw the gate, I really thought that we were living under siege.”
4:56 pm • 23 February 2014
“The message from the police is: ‘the age of protest is over.’”
— Human Rights Watch’s Egypt Director Heba Morayef states on the controversial protest law and ongoing demonstration crackdowns in Egypt under the interim government. Huge and alarming.
2:24 pm • 3 December 2013
How to protest in the age of austerity
So much for a winter of discontent. The etiolated state of the British left in 2013 gives us no right to expect any such climax. All the seasonal metaphors – red-hot autumns, summers of rage, even democratic springs – have eluded us.
Why is the landscape so bleak? In 2011, things looked different. The election of a Tory-led government in the UK and a spate of Tea Party Republicans in the US initiated a sequence of austerity programmes – prompting direct conflicts between governments and organised workers. And this seemed to fuse with a heterogeneous series of global struggles, from Middle East revolutions to strike action in Greece to the indignados in Spain and the Occupy movement.
8:48 pm • 30 October 2013