A Troubador for Renewable Energy and Sustainable Business
Repeatedly in these pages, readers have had a chance to note the profound linkages between cultural output and both sociopolitical events more generally and matters as seeming technical and specific as energy policy or renewable energy choices. Additionally, forthcoming soon, folks will encounter again the magnificent work of the Highlander Center, specifically as regards the use of music and other folk culture there to goose-the-movement in a positive way.
Today's essay, in a first for these pages, introduces a particular artist and his work in favor of sustainability, social justice, and democratic community. David Rovics lyrical acuity, his fierce wit's slicing and dicing of ruling class pretension, and his folk music bona fides all form a part of the coming narrative. As is the tendency of this humble correspondent, however, first a few contextualizing points appear, so as to ground the development of gentle readers' understanding and suggest ideas for enriching or utilizing this increased comprehension.
The overall point to consider consists of a many-sided assessment of the interrelationship between culture and matters sociopolitical. The search, "culture + expression + democracy + popular + analysis + consciousness," yielding nearly two and a half million hits, implies the voracity of enthusiasm about the sorts of inquiries that THC is suggesting. Among the early 'hits' for this intellectual outreach for an understanding of media are several offerings by Paulo Freire.
The introduction to Education for Critical Consciousness, states the process of approaching this work incisively."One of the marks of the true dialectician, however, is the ability to move beyond the past without repudiating it in the name of new levels of critical consciousness... .No contemporary writer more persistently explores the many levels of critical consciousness than Paulo Freire. ...never tir(ing) of looking for new forms of critical consciousness and unearthing new links between oppression in a variety of settings and the liberating effects of" a sublime Portuguese term that means, in essence, the coming to grips with consciousness in open-minded, experimental, and dialectical fashion.
The "precise symbiosis between reflective action and critical theorizing is the fruit of later works, especially Cultural Action for Freedom and Pedagogy of the Oppressed," notes Denis Goulet in his opening pages. These volumes will, themselves, constitute subject matter for later reviews of this humble correspondent.
A much more 'gringo' undertaking--more akin to engineering than samba, more concerned with tangible, measurable results than with conscientizization--has a different, but also highly useful take on why such efforts have such import, especially now. More than ever, the lack of political movement. of a grassroots upsurge, of a powerful affirmation of social equality and economic justice on the part of Americans may have horrific, possibly apocalyptic, transnational implications.
"Within all the rich and dynamic history of the US no sustained anti-capitalist/socialist organization or political formation or party with significant ties to the working class has arisen. Ideologically, most of us would probably agree that the powers that be are overwhelmingly seen as legitimate and the American way." Only through the engagement of popular culture in serious and impactful ways does turning this sorry lack of potency around seem even vaguely possible.
Another issue is the way that folk-culture routinely, and folk-music more particularly, impact both popular movements generally and specific instances of popular upsurge of recent vintage. Again, whereas in many ways, THC would dearly love to delve deeply--interminably, even--down this rabbit-hole of consciousness, where so much of the borderline between liberation and holocaust lies. However, for purposes of what appears here now, perhaps a focus on Folk Music would be more manageable and appropriate.
Kim Ruehl is the media maven of Folk Music in a virtual age. Though she is clearly capable of deep investigations in these forms to which she brings such quick knowledge and deep appreciation, her primary work has been to make a readily accessible cache of materials about the entire field.
Even in these necessarily brief and surface synopses of the 'meaning of folk music,' however, the huge component of class-conflict, of the struggle for meaning and potency, of the love of community and humanity, that have ever been the wellsprings of popular art, are everywhere explicit in what she proffers. A few of hundreds of examples from her oeuvre will make this very clear.
The song, "If I Had a Hammer," is emblematic in this regard. "When Seeger and Hays wrote the song, it was a bit of anthemic support for the emerging progressive movement, which was focused heavily on labor rights, among other things. The lyrics allude to the labor movement, taking symbols from the work place and turning them into calls for action toward equality."
The dialectical energy is obvious here. Ruehl continues: "The first two verses talk about re-purposing a hammer and a work bell. The third verse talks about "ha a song," which is likely a reference to the history of labor songs, as well as a symbol of people collectively using their voices to speak out on their own behalf. The final verse reminds the listener that they already have a hammer, a bell and a song, and it's up to them how they use those items." Simply, and without excessive embellishment, the metaphorical creation of consciousness and transformation hereby appear, as they do so often on the sorts of stages later under review in this article.
In putting such insights and formulations to use, both in terms of production, community capacity, performance of one sort or another and in terms of distribution, criticism, and mediation generally, the function and potential of Peoples Information Networks(PIN's) has been a long-term interest of this humble correspondent. Clearly, a tremendous amount of interest circles these areas of thought, even if--not yet, not yet--the time is not yet ripe for detail.
Tony Ward does a masterful service to humankind in making available his own detailed breakdown of the philosophical and social background to such issues. Would that THC may soon negotiate commiseration with such manifestations of the human desire to seek out, no matter the groping hesitancy of the movement, sustainable, just, and vibrant interaction and self-consciousness combined.
Ward aptly summarizes the luck of the draw that characterizes much of any individual's pathway to this sort of work. "Some, if they are particularly fortunate, may even be paid to self-reflect upon this Fate, this Karma. For those people we reserve the names 'academic', 'cleric', 'artist', 'tohunga', 'shaman,' or 'intellectual.' These privileged ones could not engage in their journeys, could not indulge in their reflections were it not for the support of others, who carry the real economic and spiritual burden."
As has so often been the case in cases of American popular political resurgence, Southern forms have often predominated, or at least played a leading role in the course of cultural influence on peoples' bids for power. While this is a topic, specifically in relation to energy and sustainability questions, about which THC will be writing more specifically and in more detail in the future, for now, perhaps sufficient will be the note that bluegrass, protest folk, blues music, and jazz, all of which have strong dialectics of subversion and rebellion explicitly present, originate largely or in significant part in one region or other of the South.
David Rovics, meanwhile, a handsome and dashing troubadour for social justice, has beat a path across the national folk scene now for more than thirty years. His story, his relationship with the South, and the content of his efforts--both lyrically and musically, form the basis for the upcoming sections of today's articulation.
Roots matter. Especially this is likely so among folk singers, or as David Rovics likes to state the case, acoustic guitarists. The gumption, or the unquenchably parched thirst, that drives a body with talents like singing, writing, improvisation, networking, electronic production, and music to offer himself to the great goddess of all-that-connects-humanity, when the lesser-but-easier deity, Mammon, beckons--such gutsiness likely has deeply rooted sources.
Perhaps in David's case, the musicality of both ma and pa--classically trained pros, combined with the disconnection of leaving New York City behind for a conservative, hyper-Christian Connecticut adolescence, impelled him to give voice to such raw lyrics as these:
when i see you keep that woman
and her husband
at the checkpoint
while she's in labor
and you stand there
listening to her scream
watching as she gives birth
on the back seat of a taxi
i think of the walls around our own ghetto
and how we had to crawl through the sewers
looking for rats to eat,
Maybe such beginnings sent him on his way.
He proffers more prosaic explication, in a conversation with a younger fellow who has become a big fan. Matt Dineen credits listening to Rovics, from the first night that he watched the singer on stage, with expanding his "consciousness of global justice issues," to the point that, now, Mr. Dineen includes such matters in his own purview, whether the particular task is an interview with a bard or a more routine journalistic assignment.
In the earlier of his two discourses, David gives a frank breakdown of the way that 'liberal' forms of redress--though they do not fundamentally alter the basic relationships of oppression, nevertheless can provide a way for someone like Sir Rovics to incubate his talent and his passion to a point at which a 'career,' and not merely a hobby, is a viable notion. He tells of being a word-processing wizard, simultaneously as he played local 'cover-number' gigs and sang his own stuff in the streets.
Even though he was fast enough in the early 1990's to make twelve bucks an hour at this drudgery, eventually the toll on his wrists left him barely able to play a stringed instrument, let alone whack out 100 WPM on an ancient MSW interface. He successfully applied for Workers Compensation, but instead of providing a lump sum settlement, as the statute had originally dictated, the payments were only to have lasted a month and a half.
By grace of clerical error and the mandates of fate, however, he continued to receive $120/week for a year and a half, during which time he brought his act to the jumping-off point of a seasoned professional who could actually, in spite of all the odds against such in the 'belly' of capital's all-consuming 'beast,' survive on the cash-flow that he generated as a singer and songwriter of songs of outrage, protest, and skewering wit. In such fashion, if in no other way, one can look at the 'band-aids' of 'liberal reform' and say, indeed, that they serve an apt social purpose: they give the rest of us the occasional David Rovics.
In another interview in Port Washington, just a few short years ago, in a video dialog that included his frequent collaborator, "Attila the Stockholder," David speaks in a very grounded fashion. As a youth, "I wanted to be Jesus and then President, and then I entertained the idea of being a cop; and then I started to do a lot drugs."
Prior to that, he grew up playing cello and string bass, but a guitar was easier to carry around the woods tripping. Starting out around age nineteen-to-twenty, as someone who made a turn toward performance, he quips, "I blame it all on acid."
"My best friend was shot to death on the streets of San Francisco," says David, and sometimes he feels that he should be more afraid, on occasion anyhow, especially in terms of organized political repression. "But it just doesn't occur to me that they might start opening up with Machine Guns. Maybe they'll be slightly less likely to open fire, if there's a gringo" out there, he tells himself. In this country, "they don't seem to be going after the White people," he says matter-of-factly, at least for 'speech crimes,' or otherwise contravening the code-of-America by telling the truth.
In terms of all of the grotesquerie of social devolution, on the other hand, "They're not prepared to deal with people by helping them; they're prepared to deal with them by shooting them on sight," as his song, "Katrina," intones so chillingly. Attila-the-stockholder echoes this: no government has the same predatory, vicious impunity of the U.S. government. His own British regime is the closest, and they've become the backwater of Europe as a result.
Attila and David recognize the 'privilege of being White,' and how that allows them to do what they love. David knows that a massive 'career boost' would result from a 'speech arrest,' so he's even more willing to 'push the envelope.' "Hope for humanity" has never died, even if it has dimmed, and history is a wellspring for this, which he consistently tries to convey in his songs. "We gotta have hope, just in case there's a basis for it."
He left behind a dandy private college degree to scrimp and scramble from one paycheck-to-paycheck gig to another, from the Bay Area street scene to plying the subway crowds on the Blue Line and the Red Line in Boston as a down-to-earth busker, a singer who makes his own theater and stage wherever the crowded urban flow permits him to stand. He wrote and pontificated and reveled in his young, strong body and the power of his wit and the skill of his fingers.
"The survival instinct" among capitalists, says "Attila the Stockbroker," may come too late, and that's where singer-songwriters come into the picture. "The whole basis for humanity is to be optimistic." David equably affirms this, in Port Washington, on all manner of video appearances that facilitate the tripartite mission of the troubadour, to help the people to "Educate, Organize, Act" for purposes of their own power and freedom.
Basically, even though David has many times seen the thousand-yard hunter's stare on the part of the guardians at the gate, he believes that "They don't want to make us more famous," so the tactic of the government is to let them say what they want, let them alone, especially if they're white like David Rovics, as long as they can keep them out of the public eye. As much as possible, the powers that be ignore the challenge that David Rovics sings into the teeth of the Plutocracy and the Military Industrial Complex.
This man pays attention in a way so sublime as to make even a hopeless day glow with a patina of possibility. Despite a "history of massacre after massacre against all sort of working class movements," he takes the stage, year after year, to play his part in finding a path toward a sustainable business future.
The NSA's preparations for "overt martial law aside," the time is still available to act. David Rovics sings his action, and he is singing to JustMeans readers, whether their primary interest revolves around climate change, renewable energy, or sustainable business: 'Don't delay!'
A Ventura County introduction mentioned that Amy Goodman herself has likened David to "the musical equivalent of 'Democracy Now.'" He is without pretense in answering about the sources of his success. "My parents are musicians, and I grew up in America," would be the short and sweet answer.
He goes on to convey to his interlocutor, before he sings a song that turns anguished fury into ironic hilarity, that American invades other countries, quite simply, to "dominate their resources and make a lot of money off of them," accounting well enough for the neo-colonial empire's "latest chapters" in Southwest Asia. He notes that Demopublican and Republocrats both have devastated countries far and wide, leaving poisoned earth unfarmable as a result of Depleted Uranium, hundreds of thousands of casualties ascribable to Bill Clinton as well as 'W',' singing in "Operation Iraqi Liberation" that "we'll liberate" everything worth having for America's plutocrats, who are clueless enough to name their action 'Operation OIL.'
His song list covers Armageddon in Afghanistan to the woes of World War Two, with love songs, explorations of history, and climate science, and love and sex and music interspersed between the alphabetic poles of his oeuvre. Two pieces, in particular, strike THC as essential to note, prior to examining the nature of his performance here in Atlanta.
One might have imagined that they would concern history. The first, in which he asks his audience to spell out "T-R-E-A-S-O-N," he entitles simply "The St. Patrick's Battalion." It tells in heart-rending, resonant detail of Irish immigrants, newly arrived in North America after starving in Europe, shipped across Texas as conscripts and aligned "with a conquering army, with the morals of a bayonet blade."
Watching nuns and peasants brutalized, they rise against their officers. "We fought on the Mexican side," marching under a banner "bright with the harp and the shamrock." Martyrdom inevitable in the grape-shot blasted from the cannons shipped from Boston, most died in one devastating engagement near war's end. "So far from our occupied homeland, we were heroes and victims of fate." If the St. Patrick battalion had a choice, then human choice remains real for anyone.
In his musician's lyrical online diary, he tells a more contemporary tale of injustice, this time in Ireland today. Even in the miracle in Dublin, at the fringes of 'developed' Europe, Shell Oil rides roughshod over human rights, though not with the same ferocious homicidal efficiency as the oil giant displays in Nigeria.
As if multiple appeals to this humble correspondent's gaelic preferences weren't winning enough, he then presents a lyrical ballad of the Spanish Civil War, another 'almost victory' for working people that created far too many dead heroes, but also said that, at some point, 'no paseran!' will triumph over 'yessir,' 'nossir,' 'how high should I jump, sir?' "Beside Martin Luther King," or in "a Veterans Day Parade," one could always see these 'Lincoln Brigade' volunteers.
Though the United States and its soon-to-be 'allies' purportedly demurred involvement, while Germany fine-tuned its war machine for the mayhem to come, working class volunteers from dozens of nations sought to "turn back the fascist tide." "After the last 'Lincoln Veteran'" passed away in verse, David purposively insists that the German Panzers were only partially responsible for the butchers' victory in Spain, since the fuel came from the U.S., to cut down kids from New York City and San Francisco Bay.
He's done a total of thirteen albums of songs, at least, all but four or five self-released, freely available to own and spread around and pay for as the listener sees fit, or is able. This sense of playful engagement with the cosmos, when one doesn't have any sort of money in trust to fall back on, when one has worn out both wrist tendons banging away at word processors and strumming away at guitars, suggests to the likes of THC a certain saintliness that makes a minstrel like David Rovics, with his electric tenor trill, worthy of the Troubadour Crown that only a few--men like Utah Phillips and Phil Ochs and others of the grassroots music legends whom David admires--can fairly say that they have earned.
This visceral fellow, so calm in his gheist and relaxed in his physical presence, even as he takes listeners to the mouth of hell and makes them laugh as they gag and sob, is willing to speak candidly to others who would make a difference. He pulls no punches as he addresses would-be musicians and cultural activists of every stripe in a four year old interview from Alternate Music Press Magazine.
"So much to say...keep writing. Keep learning. Be open to criticism from yourself or others on music or politics. Never delude yourself into thinking you're original. Keep listening to music and learning songs other people wrote. Keep your heart open. See the world. Put yourself in other peoples' shoes regularly...you're not an evil capitalist if you make a living at what you're doing. It's ok to make a living, and you can do it ethically (more or less) and still keep writing whatever you're writing (if it's good)."
CONCERTS AND CULTURE WITH A TRANSFORMATIVE DIMENSION
The Green Party represents one potential transitional element in the next period of sociopolitical development in Georgia and the South. The organizational decision to bring David Rovics as their fundraising face appears, to the likes of this humble correspondent, as a powerfully positive sign.
"He let us know he was available," says State Party Secretary Hugh Esco, who had recently seen him perform in Detroit and believed that some lyrical class consciousness might serve both to raise awareness of the Green agenda and bring in some cash at the same time. While Green Party phenomena in separate venues are as different as Georgia Democrats differ from Dennis Kucinich Democrats, these Dixie greens have decided to affix themselves to an agenda meant to assist working people, which, in Georgia means connecting to the community needs and regular struggles of both Blacks and Latinos.
The turnout, at an intown venue called Spring4th that often divvies out a decent deal for progressive acts, was not horrific but disappointing, "definitely fewer than a hundred," according to Esco. The music was another matter altogether. "David ruled; he puts so much passion into performance and writing," and that won over those who had attended, attuned to a solidarity message. Some say that he's really serious, maybe too much so, said the Green Party leader. "But he also has a lighter, humorous edge."
"Riot Dog," for example, tells the tale of an anarchist-guardian German Shepherd in Athens, on the front lines whether rubber bullets, batons, or tear gas is the fare of the day. Hugh indicated that it had people chortling with its incisive depiction of canine mayhem, only the opposite of Birmingham or more recent K-9-copper unit tales.
"He mainly did songs from his newest album," which would be "Ten New Songs," including the above-noted 'Lincoln Brigade' recollection, as well as assorted additional tunes detailing capital's clear course of oppression, and working peoples' not always so transparent, but ultimately tangible, struggles against that combination of maltreatment, persecution, and torment that afflict many workers on any given day, and, arguably, all workers eventually.
As the party website stated the lead-up to the gig, "The November 2nd General Election may have pathetic choices at best to offer us. But just in time to put us in the right frame of mind for the annual gathering (this year on November 19th through 21st) to close our local terrorist training camp at Ft. Benning, Georgia, David Rovics brings his music of resistance to Atlanta's Midtown."
Esco outlined for THC the Green Spring, 2011 plans for a "one-in-thirteen" tour of Georgia that focuses on the grotesque rate of incarceration in the Peach state, where prisons and justice is anything but a peachy topic; "a new Jim Crow arrangement is in play," according to Esco, pointing to such documentation as the Pew Charitable Trust provides in some of its recent reports. This humble correspondent has found that a disparity exists in which people of color are anywhere from seven to twenty times more likely to go to jail generally, to receive significant jail time for a given crime, or otherwise suffer extremely prejudicial treatment at the hands of the law.
"Our only choice is to reject resurgent racism," argues Esco. The Green Party contends that Demopublican and Republocrat responses to such issues often do not fundamentally differ. Esco recommends that citizens who want to think deeply on these issues that so profoundly affect sustainable business need to read Tim Wise whose volume, Racism, White Denial, and the Costs of Inequality argues that bigotry "has shifted from 'racism 1.0,' blatant and nonchalant, to 'racism 2.0,' hidden and subtle."
Class warfare is what all of this adds up to. "We don't wage class warfare," says Esco, "so much as we acknowledge that class warfare is waged against us. Those who control capital...use our racism to divide us...giving Whites a ready excuse to suggest" 'criminality'" and not skin color is in play.
David Rovics has made such matters an important part of his work. Thus, Bruce Dixon, the Greens' press secretary and author of the Black Agenda Report, was encouraging him to return.
"You gotta go back and look at history here": slavery, in contravention of the thirteenth amendment, had become 'constitutional' via inmate labor. Convict lease lessons are all forgotten--Robert Burns' story, I Am a Fugitive from a Georgia Chain Gang, given succor by the Governor of New Jersey, is one sort of lesson.
An entire nation, awash in debt and social chaos as a result of unsustainable decisions in every sphere--all of which come 'home to roost' in jails bursting at the seams, is another sort of lesson. Yet another instructional unit is the same one that free laborers in the North understood in absolutely rejecting the extension of slavery--a system that devalues the labor of one part of the working class inherently degrades all wage-labor.
Adam Shapiro is a Georgia Green's co-chair. A fixture on the Georgia alternative media and progressive political scene, Shapiro opened for Rovics with a set of union and '60's folks songs, depression-era tunes, and country standards. He had the crowd going too, like Doc Watson unable to see and yet still able to make the guitar sing and the human voice express that combination of indignation, wonder, and command that establishes the eternal utility that singing has for politics.
The hope for the hootenanny was both to raise money outright and as an opening shot in a campaign to fund a statewide tour in which every prison-town, and as many towns from which the prisoners had come, would receive a visit and a hearing about the travesties of justice which characterize Georgia's jails. All too typical, the State is number fifty in education, near the bottom of the heap in renewable energy megawatts installed, but leads the pack by a substantial margin in the number of adults who are in the clutches of the prison-industrial-complex.
In that vein, one of David Rovics' songs on his newest album, from which he drew his work in Atlanta last week, is "I'm Taking Someone With Me When I Go," in which he satirizes the intense alienation and insanity let loose in a society that has regular schoolyard homicides. He also sang about becoming pirates as a metaphor for workers to channel some of the rage so fashionable just now, with several tunes each about Mid-East horrors and environmental injustice and catastrophe.
The announcement for David's show concluded rousingly and with radical fervor. "He will make you laugh, he will make you cry, he will make the revolution irresistible."
Given the paucity of either reportage or casual appreciation of such arguably useful, fun, and important occasions, one clear assessment of Rovics' recent appearance is that Peoples Information Networks or something similar are critically important to develop. Franz Fanon's brilliant encapsulation of the projections and mutually reenforcing devolutionary dynamics of collapsing empire, The Wretched of the Earth, provided a blueprint for transforming the psychology and political relations of oppression.
in relation to community capacity in any transition away from tyranny, colonialist or otherwise, he his perfectly clear about the importance of media. "A community will evolve only when a people control their own communications."
About the question of how this might happen, this humble correspondent has remained, still, elliptical. Indymedia, community media, media democracy, and critical media literacy are all topics that THC intends to explore, inasmuch as they appear critical to comprehend intelligently in any program for gaining either knowledge or power. However, for here, merely the practical observation that 200 or 500 ticket holders for David Rovics would have been superior to half a hundred seems fair. To achieve the superior result, standard or corporate communications are unlikely generally to be adequate, nor did they 'do the trick' here.
Another aspect of this culturally generative moment that might have yielded more gains is the educational, propaganda, and networking potential inherent in, on the one hand, the fact of the concert, and, on the other hand, the organizational intention to follow up on the event in order to facilitate a particular purpose. To an extent, this sort of deduction is common sense, but that does not make it any less pertinent.
For instance, a pre-concert series of 'study-groups,' e-mails, blogs, or other mediated 'instructional modalities' would both have promoted the gig and demonstrated the intentional connection of the music with the message of combatting color prejudice. As another example, one might consider the various organizational opportunities that stem from a performance: in other words, to make the 'event' more potent, the organizers can create subsidiary eventualities--programs, presentations, appearances, any of which might happen at school or community forums, that, once again, both extol the cultural savant in question and make linking his show to the wider message clear.
Finally, both David Rovics' general experience as a performer and the turnout at and aftermath of the concert itself suggest the critical import of something to which THC has frequently alluded, that a recognition of what one might term the natural and inherent social democratic 'brand' of this sort of work must be something that its participants consciously develop and promulgate. Thus, in addition to process orientations toward media and communications, such instances provide opportunities for 'concerted' efforts to identify, articulate, and insist on the power and primacy of the core message.
For this humble correspondent, that core message is social democracy, even though he is willing to countenance, for the sake of argument that such important transformations as renewable energy growth as a policy priority might result from more of a 'sustainable' business' attitude and approach. For those organizations, like the Green Party, that might either embrace such notions as those of THC or those of a more bourgeois stripe, at least doing something to 'clarify the brand' arguably makes sense in terms of reaching people and turning out optimal audiences for engagements such as David's songfest last week in Atlanta.
Cultural dialectics arguably lie at the heart of everything human that transpires. They do not inherently control the flow of ocean currents, but always they impact, or even mandate, all developments in the realm of homo sapiens. Given the nature of human nature, these dances of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis inherently necessitate linguistic formulation, utilization, and acuity.
But this language instinct is not merely an interesting topic of conversation, though it is that. Instead this focus on words deliberately addresses a core set of issues underlying any community's gaining the capacity to play a part on the political stage. At the least, these issues deal with knowledge, consciousness, and strategy.
In many ways of course, the entire output of this humble correspondent has intermixed just these ideas, seeking ways to make the relationships manifest that underlie political action, critical thinking, and moral evaluation. Obviously, many of the institutions that I have profiled have placed such matters at the center of their work. In the search that THC conducted, language + knowledge + consciousness + strategy + democracy + conflict + power, in fact, the very first stand-alone text, "Citizen Knowledge, Citizen Competence, and Democracy Building," John Gaventa draws in substantial measure from the vast archives of the Highlander Center's powerful stances for democracy and power.
Literally, hundreds of thousands of other folks face these kinds of questions with intense interest. For THC's purposes, the following summation, by Wade Matthews, in his "Poverty of Strategy" paper for England's History Cooperative(here's a clue: Americans need a lot of those), suffices to begin this ending. It is Marxist, and so adopts a class perspective; anyone who wants power that is more democratic might usefully attend this thinking, however.
"Economic crises...could not of their own volition directly bring about a transformation in the character of property relations. (Such) objective economic conditions could 'only create more favourable ground for the propagation of certain ways of thinking, of posing and solving questions which involve the whole future development of the state.' (Only) the collective will of the proletariat, as a social force... is the 'decisive element' in the socialist transformation of present conditions.
Consequently, political organization 'is always necessary to liberate the economic thrust from the shackles of traditional policies.' ...This problem had taken the form of not only the question of the transposition of the economic class struggle to a more general political level — the problem of the means by which a class-against-capital could be transformed into a class-in-and-for-itself — but also the question of the nature of the revolutionary subject itself. This was simultaneously a problem of knowledge, reason and consciousness."
In the highly developed interrelationships that presently network seven billion human cousins in almost infinite ways, the analyst has to find ways to categorize human agency. One of these forms of action, one in which this humble correspondent has both a professional and a more nerdy interest, is the overarching term media, which folks might delineate as those technologies and socioeconomic aggregations that accomplish message-transfer or other communicative acts on a regular basis.
The power of any such colossus and the general necessity of such formulations in the world today are beyond dispute. "Media culture drives the economy, generating ebbing and flowing corporate profits while disseminating the advertising and images of high-consumption life-styles that help reproduce the consumer society. Media culture also provides models for everyday life that replicate high consumption ideals and personalities and sell consumers on commodity pleasures and solutions to their problems, new technologies, and novel forms of identity. As technocapitalism moves into a dazzling and seductive information/entertainment society, mergers between the media giants are proliferating, competition is intensifying, and the media generate spectacles to attract audiences to the programs and advertisements that fuel the mighty money machines."
Douglas Kellner is perhaps the leading North American proponent of "critical media literacy(CML)." This concept, that more or less at the heart of education has to develop competency in and consciousness of the nature and potential of media, is a part of what someone like David Rovics does for a living, passing out songs for free that mediate empire and class carnage in ways both mythically satisfying and politically useful.
Kellner has long advocated for CML as a non-negoatiable addendum to contemporary schooling. In a joint monograph with Jeff Share, he makes perfectly obvious his point of view. The title, "Critical Media Literacy Is Not and Option," states the case as a whole.
"In the interest of a vibrant participatory democracy, educators need to move the discourse beyond the stage of debating whether or not critical media literacy should be taught, and instead focus energy and resources on exploring the best ways for implementing it." It's a dialectical polarity here: either folks gain these skills and insights and capacities, or any hope of a continuation of the 'democratic moment' fades as a result.
Popular Education(PE), a more specific and evaluative incarnation of Kellner's thinking, firmly centers community and democracy as the core components of such transformative learning. Readers have encountered many sources of such activityin their perambulations here.
Today, they meet another.
Whatever communities desire requires "a political, collective learning process based on facilitated dialogue that places the learners’ voices and lived experiences at the heart of the learning, weaving in a deeper analysis of power to sharpen critical thinking and link to organized community action. This process, called “critical consciousness-raising,” aims to tap into and build upon people’s understanding of their world, their sense of self and profound connection to others, and their desire for and ability to affect change. It can be powerful process for leadership development, organizing and movement-building because it combines critical thinking, visioning, selfempowerment, relationship-building, action, and, when done well, hope and energy."
Moreover, a dialogic component of PE has gained credibility, not only because it seems ethically superior but also because it much more frequently achieves maximum gains in understanding and such, or, sometimes, any such gains whatsoever. Jurgen Habermas has long acted as a prime mover in advancing this sort of thinking. At the base of his ideation is the requirement for equally articulated, respectful conversation.
But he does make a strong case for something as closely akin to scientific investigation as imperfect persons are likely to approximate. He speaks frequently of this "communicative rationality"--equal parts honesty, clarity, and responsiveness--in his outpouring of philosophical argument, perhaps especially in his later works. Keeping in mind that the process rationale of this approach is democratic dialog and that its social purpose is the empowerment of currently marginalized participants, even a brief Habermasian synopsis is rich with potential meaning and movement.
This forwarding of communicative rationality "has three interrelated concerns: 1)to develop a concept of rationality that is no longer tied to, or limited by, the subjectivistic and individualistic premises of modern philosophy and social theory; 2)to construct a two-level concept of society that integrates the lifeworld and system paradigms; and, finally, 3)to sketch out, against this background, a critical theory of modernity which analyzes and accounts for its pathologies in a way that suggests a redirection, rather than an abandonment of the path to enlightenment."
Yet another aspect of this fertile field, which arguably represents critical soil for the blossoming of democracy, is the notion of peoples media, community media, anything rather than the plutocratic henchmen who presently pull the strings and operate the controls. How this is coming to pass, how it may reach a much higher and more sublime stage of development, is the professed purpose of many an analyst.
Kevin Howley, for instance, in his brilliant, "Communication, Culture, and Community," lays out an inaugural program for attaining a measure of punch in the sphere of media directly under popular imprimatur. Of central utility in this agglomeration of action and communication is the notion that mediation of these sorts represents a sine qua non of empowerment: without it, little else will avail communities in gaining whatever they say is the goal, unless they articulate an objective to maximize corporate profit and minimize personal citizens' potency.
|"Like the phrase cultural studies, community media is a notoriously vague construction whose usage and meanings vary considerably. In some circles, most notably among journalists, media industry representatives, and communication policy analysts, community media is unproblematically associated with commercial media organizations (i.e., publishers, broadcasters, cable television and internet service providers) that serve a particular geographic or demographic market euphemistically described as a community. A more accurate definition of community media refers to grassroots initiatives predicated on a profound sense of dissatisfaction with mainstream media form and content and dedicated to the principles of free speech and participatory democracy."|
Again, however, all pragmatic and proactive aspects of citizen capacitation and mediation aside, what stands at the center of this forest of sign and symbol and signification is the individual's consciousness of himself, the citizen's recognition of her own thought processes. Half a million words ago, this humble correspondent set out on a path to reveal the scientific, epistemological, and ideological background for what folks think of as energy, or even, that they don't reflect on at all, even as their lives depend utterly on electrical impulses impossible to control without knowledge, a strategy to generate and obtain it, and an integrative mode of thinking about life and what we know about it.
Frantz Fanon, whose soulful deconstruction of the depressed sense of futility so often prevalent among the dispirited classes of humankind reached an apogee in Black Faces, White Masks, spoke wisely indeed about the central role of ideology as a locus for orienting people in the world. This impedimental clinging to false paradigms that he noted is part of the human condition, true enough. So is finding new pathways, possibly even an appreciation of uncertainty and a critical awareness of the eternal search.
"Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalize, ignore and even deny anything that doesn't fit in with the core belief."
THC's friend, the Los Angeles direction, at this juncture in the spinning of the yarn, would go "Beat. And hold. And beat," to signify the extended pause that would transpire in the documentary version of the work. That empty silence is a well into which the reader's thoughts need to pour. "Hmmmmmm. I say that I want sustainable business, progressive energy policy, firm commitments to renewable energy, to purloin a phrase, 'business...better.' Maybe I'm clinging to an assumption that's standing in the way of progress."
'A word to the wise is sufficient,' according to THC's dear mom. David Rovics sums things up differently, as he takes key pieces of contemporary popular consciousness in alignment with capital's rule--God and country and righteousness resplendent, and asks, again and again and again, "in an ecclesiastical piece that seems appropriate for the occasion" in a cavernous church, "Who would Jesus bomb?"