The big chill

Only in San Francisco

(Photo credit: ecastro)

The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.”

-Albert Camus

As autumn sheds it’s leafy skin and winter fast approaches, there is a chill in the air. The trees can feel it and the creatures that move on four legs can sense it…the deafening sounds of silence. That precarious moment before the axe is swung or the predator leaps upon it’s prey. There is the natural world, the world of mice and other critters great and small, and there is the artificial world, the world of men. Each living thing has a voice, a song to sing or a story to tell. When the voices are silenced, when the creeks no longer babble and the birds no longer tweet, it is only a matter of time until the people are rendered mute. For if a human falls in the forest, will he or she make a sound? In my country ’tis of thee, more and more words are being auto corrected, more mics are being turned off and more stories are being left untold. And what we are left with are the fairy tales, myths and fabrications of the dominant culture where war is the red, white and blue path to peace, greed is nice work if you can get it, and the conquerors come as billionaires bearing gifts. Nowhere has this chilling effect been felt more than in the twin towers of education and journalism. As these kindred professions go, so goes the nation and where it will stop nobody knows. In the age of austerity, scapegoats are needed and truth telling educators and journalists have been primed to be culled from the herd. After all, it was teachers who mercilessly brought the country to it’s financial knees in 2008 during their 40-minute planning period. And it was beat reporters who brazenly asked for hundred of billions in taxpayer bailouts to buy more pencils and steno pads.

(Photo caption: darksong)

(Photo caption: darksong)

The free flow of information is vital to a functional society that espouses freedom and democracy as it’s central tenets. Gates are erected to keep people from traipsing on private property or from nosing about the grounds where the elite rub spray tanned shoulders. Gatekeepers are put in place to make sure the gates are working. Wikileaks has shown the world just how ineffective the corporate media is at disseminating information to the people. As Glenn Greenwald, of Edward Snowden fame, aligns himself with Pierre Omidyar, the 143rd richest billionaire on planet earth, this is one of those things that make you go, “Hmm, where I have seen this before? Oh yeah, when Rupert Murdoch swallowed up nearly every media outlet on the aforementioned planet earth.” Omidyar is founder and chairman of eBay, Inc., which owns PayPal which froze Wikileaks donations account which did so at the behest of the State Department. Alexa O’Brien, the tireless independent reporter who covered the entire Chelsea Manning trial commented on this incongruity, “The PayPal financial blockade against WikiLeaks gives any of his new media ventures an unfair competitive advantage.” When Chelsea Manning pantsed the emperor in 2010, Obama spoke out in his best Hopper voice, “You let one ant stand up to us, then they all might stand up! Those puny little ants outnumber us a hundred to one and if they ever figure that out there goes our way of life! It’s not about food, it’s about keeping those ants in line.” Now that Manning is safely tucked away for the night in the labrythine federal penitentiary system, all of the king’s horses and men can go back to sleep knowing that they want homicidal Army gunmen on that wall.

School closings rally

(Photo credit: chicagopublicmedia)

There is an elephant in the room that seems to have eluded Anderson Cooper’s penetrating gaze. This 800-pound bonobo is the unprecedented dismantling of public schools around the country. Here we see the same forces of privatization and corporate capitalism at work to make sure Mamas don’t let their children grow up to be critical thinkers, whistleblowers or game changers of the status quo. In Chicago, the closing of the public schools has had the unintended effect of rallying neighbors and communities to come together to stand against the force of nature known as Race to the Top. The school district of Philadelphia has been under the control of the state for years now with no signs of a pulse, much less recovery. The layoffs, student displacements and increases in non-unionized charter schools have set the clock back years, if not decades, from the hard won victories of the civil rights and labor movements in the United States. Then there’s Detroit, a whole city that has been handed over to the venture capitalists and hedge fund managers to dissect and feed off it’s carcass, the accumulated public assets and resources of the urban center, not the least of which are the predominantly African-American residents of the seized up motor city. This act of drive-by disaster capitalism had already been test driven in post-Katrina New Orleans where the entire public school district was dissolved. Clearly, Lewis Powell, the Associate Supreme Court Justice and former tobacco lobbyist, knew what he was speaking of when he referenced in a confidential memo what he perceived as a “broad attack on the American economic system”. According to Powell, “The most disquieting voices joining the chorus of criticism come from perfectly respectable elements of society: from the college campus, the pulpit, the media, the intellectual and literary journals, the arts and sciences, and from politicians. In most of these groups the movement against the system is participated in only by minorities. Yet, these often are the most articulate, the most vocal, the most prolific in their writing and speaking.” The managing of the public discourse is by proxy the managing of dissent. So, the pipeline gets fatter and the next generation of hearts and minds are left to crawl to the top.

4074229722_9b5f991d9c

(Photo credit: adam.scott)

The biggest fear for the ruling class was then and is now a return back to the garden, back to the grassroots activism, progressive movements and social unrest of the 1960′s, whose groundwork was laid in the decades preceding it. Paulo Freire spoke of praxis, “For apart from inquiry, apart from the praxis, individuals cannot be truly human. Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other.” It is at the nexus of dialogue and human interaction where the sparks of hope are fanned into flames. Here is where the image of the oppressor is banished and the talking stick is passed around the tribal circle. Oral histories are a time honored tradition for indigenous peoples to pass their stories on to the aforementioned next generations, for their voices to carry across the moving waters. Our children are raised to idolize robber barons and task masters while the everyday heroes in our midsts are relegated to the margins, a mere footnote in history’s unrelenting timeline. It is our relationships that will lay the groundwork for this generation’s movements as we seek progress, if not perfection. Collectively, every single drop of water is needed to bring down the levees. The dominant culture has had enough time to tell it’s stories of war, domination and colonization. It is time for our stories to be told and for our voices to be elevated and spread far and wide. Then shall be heard the “noise of running water. All around were streams, chattering, murmuring, bubbling, splashing and even roaring,” and as the thaw deepens, “a bird suddenly chirped from the branch of a tree. It was answered by the chuckle of another bird a little further off. And then, as if a signal, there was chattering and chirruping in every direction, and then a moment of full song, and within five minutes the whole wood was ringing with bird’s music.” So then, our existence will need no longer be an act of rebellion but instead a long-awaited basking in the disinfecting sunlight of our shared humanity.

__________________

Postscript: Speaking of silencing voices, a recent post at this meek and mild-mannered blog recounted the extraordinary injustice served upon a small town reporter, Claire O’Brien, for refusing to reveal a confidential source and for afflicting the comfortable during a racially and politically divisive murder trial involving a Latino immigrant and a local, not-so-good old boy. O’Brien is still in desperate need of legal and journalistic resources and support to defend herself against her accusers so I encourage anyone who might be able to help to contact Claire and to share her story.

About these ads
This entry was posted in Social Justice and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

47 Responses to The big chill

  1. Now one sees the reason every child in American be given a government approved education.

    Thank you Jeff.

    Like this

    • Jeff Nguyen says:

      Alas, a government education is still better than no education at all. I strongly believe that there are models of learning that would serve us better than the current over reliance on standardized curriculums and high stakes testing. You really don’t want to get me started on this particular topic. ;-)

      Take care, Peter.

      Like this

  2. smilecalm says:

    wonderful encouragement of transition towards minds and hearts free of fear and attachments. I dream of a future where children are taught to be free of craving. Dissolving capitalist power. teaching and showing the ways of understanding and love. true freedom to live love and harmony with each other and the earth.

    Like this

    • Jeff Nguyen says:

      I could’ve said it better myself but you did it for me. I like how you put it…children free of craving. I came across a kid-sized cart at the grocery store that had a sign on it “customer in training”. Pretty much sums it up.

      Peace to you.

      Like this

  3. cthebean says:

    beautifully written. thank you.

    Like this

    • Jeff Nguyen says:

      And thank you, Christine, for the awareness you bring at your blog. Schools and educators play an important role in bringing systemic, positive change but must be willing to think outside of the box. You can probably tell that Paulo Freire is a major influence. Thanks for your support.

      Like this

  4. Pingback: The big chill | in search of schools that can change the world

  5. Great analysis. Disaster capitalism and the push for privatization is about economic oppression as well as oppression of our minds. It reminds me of this classic bit from George Carlin: “You know what they want? Obedient workers ­ people who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork but just dumb enough to passively accept all these increasingly shittier jobs with the lower pay, the longer hours, reduced benefits, the end of overtime and the vanishing pension that disappears the minute you go to collect it. And, now, they’re coming for your Social Security. They want your fucking retirement money. They want it back, so they can give it to their criminal friends on Wall Street. And you know something? They’ll get it. They’ll get it all, sooner or later, because they own this fucking place. It’s a big club, and you ain’t in it. You and I are not in the big club.”

    Like this

    • cthebean says:

      I sure miss George Carlin

      Like this

    • Jeff Nguyen says:

      Disaster capitalism is a form of economic oppression but also of violence. More and more people are starting to realize that wars can be waged without firing a single shot. The bankers and billionaires who front for the elite have no qualms about playing for keeps. Austerity is just another form of precision shock and awe. When the people are traumatized they bond better to their captors, an added bonus.

      George Carlin was a straight shooter, his voice will be missed.

      Like this

      • wolfess says:

        When the people are traumatized they bond better to their captors, an added bonus.
        Stockholm Syndrome!

        I was talking to my husband yesterday suggesting that what we peons are enduring in this country right now is tantamount to abuse, and I honestly think that some enterprising young lawyers who have graduated and passed the bar but can’t find work need to take this on — when children go hungry it’s abuse; when senior citizens are forced to decide between medicine and food it’s abuse; when far too many of us are willing to work for slave wages IT’S ABUSE! We need to bring charges against our government for that damned sequestration; and charges against the corporations and our corporatocracy for forcing us to try to live on $8 an hour!

        Like this

    • Excellent. Print it, frame it, hang it on the wall, and read it. Everyday. Then we’ll appreciate the profound truth of this statement. They’ve won goddammit. It doesn’t keep us from fighting, or as Jeff says offering passive resistance (which I’m better fitted for), but we’re only stroking ourselves if we think we can change the system. And even if we changed it, what then awaits? More of the same? It’s in our insane nature. Perhaps I’m wrong. I hope I am. But, if change is to come, it will have to evolve to that point. Perhaps we’re the vanguard of this that generations from now will recognize in their utopian existence where all beings live in harmony. Whatever happens I’m glad to be associated with this blogosphere of people of higher understanding, intelligence, and empathy and not on the side of power and corruption.

      Like this

  6. The Global Perambulator says:

    Great article Jeff. Same thing and worse happening here in Turkey with journalists and teachers. We have more journalists in jail here than any other country and the world. And yesterday was teachers day here and when I finished my class and left school the police attacked the teachers who were protesting unemployment and for better working conditions. You can see the pictures here: http://t.co/V0wB2acJeT Solidarity with teachers and journalists around the world who are trying to open up the heads of the slaves on the globalized electronic plantation!

    Like this

    • Jeff Nguyen says:

      I wish more of my fellow teachers understood the urgency of the times. Teachers are on the streets in Mexico, Spain and Brazil as well as Turkey but in the U.S. not a creature was stirring with the exceptions of isolated protests in Chicago and Madison, WI. It looks like they used tear gas in the protests you shared. I think you’ve put your finger on the end game…to make us all serfs on the neofeudal plantation.

      Peace and solidarity to you and to the teachers in Turkey.

      Like this

  7. This was a particularly poetic piece which touched me in a way that was uplifting. What is wonderful is that our voices are going out into the universe and there are many speaking – and many acting. I still believe positive always wins out. As for our public schools – they need a revolution – unfortunately so much is tied to money these days. But more and more people will begin to come together to help each other and community will be reborn out of the necessity to survive – because just as I said before the dot.com fall, before the real estate fall – and yes, there will be more economic falls because what goes up must come down. But mother earth will remain and so will the pure spirit, the strong of heart, and the courageous chorus — Thanks for shining your light

    Like this

    • Jeff Nguyen says:

      The public schools do need a revolution but the current push for “reform” from the corporate interests involved have only led us away from an education model that relies on collaboration, diversity and an acknowledgement of students as individuals rather than an aggregation of test scores. I know you know all this, I’m just venting a bit, here. Unfortunately, you are probably also correct that things will get worse before a tipping point is reached and that arc is fully bent towards justice.

      Love your daily dose of haiku and Alaskan wilderness, Skywalker.

      Like this

  8. Great article. There is a lot of the silent weapons and war in it. We need to stop wasting our resources on junk that we do not need, protesting what we cannot stop by protesting. The new matrix has already been built, and we waste time stumbling around? All for the ‘love’ of paper and ink. The rant continues, but I will keep it short. It is war. Peace.

    Like this

  9. moorbey says:

    I have nominated ur blog 4 tha Shauny Award 4 Blogging Excellence ck out
    http://moorbey.wordpress.com/2013/11/26/the-shauny-award-for-blogging-excellence/ Iam not sure if u accept awardz of any type it iz just my way of thanking u 4 tha fantastic work that u do.

    Like this

    • Jeff Nguyen says:

      Thank you for the nomination and much respect to you for the important topics and awareness you bring to our consciousness. I’ve learned a lot from your outstanding blog…peace to you.

      Like this

  10. We home-schooled for two years fighting off attacks by California teacher’s unions who said parents were not ‘qualified’ to teach. Public school bureaucracies have their own incentives to use restrictive practices and expand employment and benefits, none of which have anything to do with improving children’s education. America has some of the finest universities in the world because of competition. If you like public education fine, but let it compete freely and fairly with voluntary associations offering alternative solutions and yes, that does include allowing children to opt out of the public school system (and their parents from paying taxes to support it) and attend private schools or be home schooled.

    Like this

    • Jeff Nguyen says:

      You are correct that the public school systems are bureaucracies with all of the accompanying flaws that come with being an entrenched institution. In America, this is also problematic because the origins of public education have always been based on the furthering of conformity and uniformity in the broader society. That being said, like healthcare an education must be seen a human right rather than the domain of the private, corporate sector which has amply demonstrated it’s disdain for the general public. Unions, while not perfect, are the only group that collectively stands between employees and the whims of management. While your experience was not ideal, to say the least, I hope that you don’t write off unions because of it.

      I do strongly agree with your statement that there should be viable alternatives that include non-profit charter schools (some of which are excellent), homeschooling or whatever other means the parent sees fit for their child. One caveat is that for many people, private schools and homeschooling are not feasible due to work and financial pressures. This is where the promise of universal, public education meets the mark. Every child is guaranteed an opportunity for an education and the public schools cannot turn any child away due to disability, ethnicity or any other label. Alas, we know that there are vast differences to be found in the quality of the schools that is too often dictated by the 5-digit zip code of the students.

      Skywalker commented above that schools need a revolution and I concur. Please don’t mistake my support for the concept of public education for the cheerleading of it’s practices. The public schools are grossly underfunded, allow themselves to enter into onerous contracts with multinational textbook and testing publishing companies and generally mirror the paradigms and perspectives of the dominant culture. To make a long comment even longer, I would share the three things public schools need to do to improve…multicultural curriculums, honest assessments that take into account the developmental continuums that all children fall within and an increased diversity in school staff especially from the Principal’s office to the classroom.

      Thank you for adding to the conversation, Malcolm.

      Like this

  11. EmaBeesArt says:

    fantastic, thanks for sharing. I love your writing. I especially like this part:
    “In my country ’tis of thee, more and more words are being autocorrected, more mics are being turned off and more stories are being left untold. And what we are left with are the fairy tales, myths and fabrications of the dominant culture where war is the red, white and blue path to peace, greed is nice work if you can get it, and the conquerors come as billionaires bearing gifts.”

    Like this

  12. krikli01 says:

    Whoa, whoa. I thought Greenwald was making his own journalistic media by his own or something. What’s this that he’s joining forces with somebody else…? Damn, I need to read more carefully the news next time ;P
    Anyways, nice post! Such a pleasure to understand more the situation over there when told in this way and with this humanistic viewpoint!

    Like this

    • Jeff Nguyen says:

      According to Greenwald, he is entering into a media partnership with Pierre Omidyar, Jeremy Scahill and Laura Poitras as well as undisclosed others. This is looking like yet another gate being constructed to constrict the free flowing of information. We the people have accepted that media institutions, i.e., New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, should determine what news we can handle and when we get to hear of it. Wikileaks threatened this paradigm because it put the responsibility of dissecting and analyzing information on the public where it belongs.

      Here’s a link to an article about the media “partnership”:

      http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/erik-wemple/wp/2013/10/29/omidyar-venture-adds-froomkin-segura/

      Also, in case you missed the link in my post, an article on Mr. Omidyar:

      https://www.nsfwcorp.com/dispatch/extraordinary-pierre-omidyar/1354d77a9f0b78854b2fa4c7ddb93c57fc3cae62/

      Thank you once more for your contribution as a guest blogger for the Mic check series. Hope all is well with you.

      Like this

      • krikli01 says:

        Huh, so that’s Omidyar… Huh. And here I was, thinking a whole different story about some second Wikileaks led by Greenwald all alone. Silly hurried mind of mine. The more you know, as they say. Thanks for the clarification!
        And thanks again for the blogger opportunity! Also hope you’re doing ok!

        Like this

      • Jeff Nguyen says:

        Yeah, Greenwald and Snowden distanced themselves from Chelsea Manning and, by proxy, Wikileaks early on. That was a warning flag for me but I admit I could be wrong about the purity of this new media venture. Take care.

        Like this

  13. EmaBeesArt says:

    p.s. have you read much of Albert Camus? Do you have a recommendation of what piece of his to start with?

    Like this

    • Jeff Nguyen says:

      I have to sheepishly admit that I have not read Camus since my 10th grade English class, though the quote I included has always stuck with me. While the quote is attributed to Camus, I could not find the context of the quote…a book, essay, private conversation? His most popular work was “The Stranger” which dealt with issues of existentialism and the absurdity of life and it’s pretentions. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature. In that same English class, I also read The Catcher in the Rye, Les Miserables and The Trial. I still dig Kafka and Victor Hugo but Salinger and Camus, not so much.

      Like this

      • EmaBeesArt says:

        that is cool when something stays with you like that. I have been reading a bit about Camus on wikipedia and amazon book reviews, so I might just pick something and go with it. thanks!

        Like this

  14. Sorry I left…again. The education system is flawed in so many ways. Work piled on to do at home really just prevents people from having time to actually think. It encourages a very robotic nature- go to work, come home, watch tv, go back to work –

    Like this

    • Jeff Nguyen says:

      Interesting…are you referring to students or teachers? Maybe both. The robotic nature of education is exactly the intended result of the increased reliance on standardized curriculums and testing. Work, watch tv, go back to work… the capitalist hamster wheel keeps on turning.

      Like this

      • I guess as a student you learn this habit and then it just becomes a way of life…I mean who cares about the news if I have a report due tomorrow? Well now I’m on break and all I want to do is nothing because my brain is fried. That’s really the logic that’s encouraged.

        Like this

      • Jeff Nguyen says:

        Yep, I can remember school all too well, the endless reading assignments and reports. Feeling brain dead by the end of the semester. Enjoy your break, at least. Loved your spoken word poetry you posted. :-)

        Like this

  15. JoAnn Chateau says:

    Reblogged this on Aware & Fair and commented:
    “In my country ’tis of thee, more and more words are being auto corrected, more mics are being turned off and more stories are being left untold. And what we are left with are the fairy tales, myths and fabrications of the dominant culture where war is the red, white and blue path to peace, greed is nice work if you can get it, and the conquerors come as billionaires bearing gifts. Nowhere has this chilling effect been felt more than in the twin towers of education and journalism. As these kindred professions go, so goes the nation and where it will stop nobody knows. In the age of austerity, scapegoats are needed and truth telling educators and journalists have been primed to be culled from the herd.”

    Like this

  16. Pingback: The big chill | Aware & Fair

  17. Bravo. I couldn’t have said it better.
    #organize

    Like this

  18. Jane Johann says:

    You are absolutely right about so many things—public education is disappearing! and the people are unaware of what it happening right before their eyes! Thinking is being cloned. Teachers who question anything are dismissed …as in “fired!” or forced out!

    Like this

    • Jeff Nguyen says:

      It’s sad, really. We’ve had years now where students are judged by an arbitrary test score that constantly fluctuates to provide the illusion of “rigor”. How many students go through school defining themselves as a Level 1 learner, no matter their individual strengths or interests? I’ve heard someone call it educational malpractice and I tend to agree.

      Like this

  19. Jane Johann says:

    I shared your article on Facebook, Pinterest and Stumble Upon! Your words need to be heard!

    Like this

I invite you to share your thoughts and join the discussion (Email, name and website are optional).

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s