Tag Archives: corporate power

The Conscience of a (Real) Conservative

Erasmus writes In Praise of Folly

I am a conservative. My values are of a bygone era that we will perhaps never see again.

There was an era when, even if you did not support the President of the United States, you still accepted him as your president. I do not support President Obama. At the same time, I fully recognize that he is an American citizen and, as such, the rightful resident of the White House for better or worse. I am a conservative, not a Birther.

Political office was once seen as a public service. George Washington retired twice, first as general, then as president, because he believed his duty to his country had been served. He did not seek to aggrandize himself or his wallet in the private sector after he left office. There was no Halliburton to offer him a consulting job. I do not vote for the two parties because their ranks are filled with social-climbers, profiteers and shysters on the lookout for their next million.

The Founding Fathers never heard of corporations. They wrote the Constitution in an age when there were no other institutions large enough to compete with the authority of a vigorous federal government. Now we have corporations whose budgets, organizational skill and even coercive power rival that of Washington, D.C. Our federal government has yet to reckon with these upstarts, which is why the constitution needs an amendment that would limit their influence.

Once these corporations became a fixture in society, there was at least a semblance of loyalty to the people that worked for them. You might start at the bottom but, through sheer pluck, could work your way up the ladder. That loyalty would be repaid with Americans dedicating their entire lives to the corporation that sustained them. Their golden years would be secure through retirement plans and health packages, a final recognition that this person revolved their entire life, their entire sense of self, around one company.

But today, workers are berated as spoiled and lazy for expecting these things. Instead of loyalty, Americans now expect transience. They have seen their jobs move overseas or have been forced to take drastic cuts to their compensation under threat of moving their jobs overseas. As a replacement, we have the Walmart position in which people work long hours for the privilege of being perpetually poor. There is no retirement, only an interminable series of low-wage jobs until the end of life. The cold grave that offers respite is out of the price range of most families. Not even a comfortable death is assured.

True conservatives want these things back. If corporations are unwilling to take care of the people that slave for them, then the government must fill the void. This is not radical socialism. This is radical Americanism.

As a teacher, I believe in the quaint idea that students should learn something. My job is not to prepare kids for the 21st century. I do not even know what that means. Instead, students need the moral compass, the range of thought and the sheer knowledge to be able to create the 21st century themselves. This will not happen by making children tech savvy, or having them sit through hours of exams or teaching them that the only things worth knowing are the things that will make them a million dollars. As a conservative, I believe the teacher’s job is to transmit eternal values and challenge children to make those values better.

I do not think having children sit in groups so they can “reflect” is an exercise in democracy. I do not believe that giving children baby work under the guise of them being “visual” or “experiential” learners is sound “pedagogy”. I do not believe that nearly half the children in the United States have a “learning disability” and I certainly do not believe that shoving happy, sleepy or peppy pills down their throats will overcome these fictional disabilities. I think all of these things are labels that have been conjured up by an educational/psychological/pharmaceutical complex that has built an entire brand around “saving” children.

I am a teacher. There are things that I know that my students do not know. There is an entire world that they are too young to understand. My job is to help them understand it. This responsibility is too important to be abdicated to educational “experts” and Big Pharma, who would not be able to understand children if they were born with manuals. My teaching is informed by what my students tell me about themselves day in and day out over several years and decades. There is no substitute, no fast track, no magic recipe for being able to reach a child. I am a conservative. I still believe that, in order to know something, one must know it through extensive experience, whether it is a child or an academic subject. There is no way to deskill the teaching profession without utterly destroying it.

Yet, that does not stop haughty reformers from proclaiming that they know what is good for children. They think teaching is easy enough to be as computerized as ringing up an order at McDonald’s. That is what online learning is about. That is what the Khan Academy is about. None of the people that have birthed these supposed innovations were ever educators. I am a conservative. As such, I believe someone has to be knowledgeable about something before suggesting ways it can be improved upon.

I do not believe a teacher can be pixelated. Pixels cannot tell when a child has not eaten breakfast this morning or if a child had to pass through gang territory to get to school or if poverty has left a child with no home to speak of. Pixels are indifferent to children. Only in a radicalized age would people believe that it is acceptable for children, especially poor children, to have “teachers” that are totally indifferent to their humanity. We live in an age where the term humanistic education is unintelligible. There is nothing human or educational in what self-styled education reformers want.

Humanistic education is one of the most conservative things one can ever stand for. It is what Socrates, Jesus and Erasmus all dedicated their lives to. How many Khan Academy videos did their students sit through? How many smart board lessons did Socrates give to Plato? How many happy pills did the apostles take before they were able to sit through the Sermon on the Mount? What standardized exam was Erasmus ever evaluated on? I am a conservative. As such, I feel that each new “advance” for education reform is another way to remove children form their own humanity.

Inhumanity has been the guiding ethos of what has been deemed “progress” over the past 35 years. Politicians serve private interests, no longer the public good. Corporations treat the people who work for them like disposable garbage to be tossed away when used up, instead of human beings entitled to a lifetime of dignity. Education reforms aim to prepare children for this new age. Children become objects through constant testing, labeling and diagnosing. They become guinea pigs through constant prescriptions of new medicines. They become invisible in the virtual classroom and to their virtual teacher.

This is a new age of radicalism and revolution perpetrated by people in power. The true conservatives are the ones who refuse to give themselves over to the demands of this new age.

Chris Hedges is Right About Pretty Much Everything

It is very rare that I hear somebody so thoroughly correct.  Chris Hedges nails every subject, every time, with a breadth and exactitude few people can touch.

For example. this is Chris Hedges on the Tea Party movement:

Chris Hedges on intelligent design:

Chris Hedges on surveillance and propaganda:

Chris Hedges even criticizes education deform in New York City (the video starts with a very good speech by Cliftonia Johnson of DC37, who was laid off with hundreds of other school aides back in October. Chris’ part starts at 3:27)

His best videos are by far his lectures like “Death of the Liberal Class” and “How Corporations Destroyed American Democracy”. He has written many books and was a correspondent for the New York Times in the Middle East.

A brilliant person who would get my vote if he ever ran for office, which is not likely. He graduated from Harvard Divinity School and is the son of a minister, but has been a reporter and activist most of his life.

More from Chris Hedges:

Chris Hedges’ columns on Truthdig

Chris Hedges’ columns in The Nation

The Uncertainty of 2012

It was the first hour of 2012. The occupiers returned to Zuccotti Park to briefly convert it to Liberty Square. There was revelry. A few tweets of hope went out on Twitter. 2012 will see the final triumph of democracy. Then the police closed in. The occupiers were ordered out of the park. Plastic handcuffs were readied. The police took the space back. There will be no new occupation after all. It was the opening note of 2012.

And this is a fitting note. The uncertainty this morning at the park reflects the uncertainty surrounding 2012. We do not know exactly what will happen this year. All we know is that things will be much different by the time it is over. There are many wild cards: Occupy Wall Street, the elections, Scott Walker’s recall, deteriorating relations with Iran and a worldwide economic crisis. How these wild cards pan out by year’s end will go a long way in determining exactly what type of change 2012 brings.

Behind all of these things is a classic battle between good and evil. The forces of evil have been in the saddle for over 30 years. In that time we have seen an increase in the wealth gap, incarceration and suppression of certain opinions. It has been an era of corporate repression. But, for the past few years, there have been signs that might indicate this era is ending. Icons that made their name in this era, like Jerry Falwell, have passed from the scene. New types of leaders like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are rising.

And so we instinctively know that 2012 will be a watershed year for determining this battle. Something is going to change. It is entirely possible that the forces of corporatism can win, only in a much more radical form. This can take the shape of even more severe repression of democracy at home, something which a war with Iran can accomplish. It is also possible that there can be an outpouring of democracy led by a new crop of straight-talking, progressive leaders. The elections can help this along, even if only some people elected are true friends of democracy.

This is the battle that played out this morning at Zuccotti Park. For a minute it seemed as if 2012 was going to start with a giant, heartening victory for democracy with the return of the occupiers. Then the cops rolled through and showed that things will not be that easy. Both sides are dug in for the new year, knowing that what they do over the next 12 months will go a long way in deciding the course of history. By the time we get to the end of 2012, the template for the future will have been made.