By Angela Davis
By Chris Cunneen
The following article by Angela Davis raises fundamental issues in relation to current trends in imprisonment in Australia. These insights need however to be placed within the context of the specific relationship which exists between Indigenous people and the criminal justice system in Australia. Davis draws our attention to the racialized assumptions about criminality prevalent in the US. In the Australian context, racialized assumptions about Aboriginal inferiority have been fundamental to the way Indigenous people have been treated by the colonial state: from the denial of Indigenous sovereignty, to imprisonment on reserves and the stealing of children, to current criminal law and practice which undermines Aboriginal governance and rights to self-determination. In contemporary Australia, racialization has enabled the massive criminalisation and imprisonment of Indigenous people throughout the country.
Prison privatization is a major issue in Australia too, as demonstrated by the announcement in early 1999 that the US Corrections Corporation Wackenhut is to build a new prison in Western Australia. Yet we should not ignore the fact that public prison construction also goes on unabated. In June 1999, it was announced that two new public prisons in New South Wales are to be constructed.
We should however note that there is no necessary direct correlation in Australia between States with high levels of Aboriginal imprisonment and high levels of privatization – yet. Victoria, for instance, has the highest level of privatization, but a relatively low rate of Indigenous imprisonment compared to Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland and New South Wales.
Prison numbers are influenced by both penal and sentencing policy, and particular sentencing policies can have foreseeable discriminatory impacts on political and racial minorities. We can accurately predict that the type of mandatory imprisonment legislation introduced in the Northern Territory will disproportionately impact on Aboriginal people because they are more likely to have a previous record and are more likely to be arrested for the types of offences defined in the legislation (such as property damage). Interestingly, fraud was excluded in the Northern Territory as a property crime punishable by mandatory imprisonment.
The move towards mandatory sentencing in Australia has been mild compared to the types of mandatory sentences imposed in the USA for drug offences and other ‘three-strike’ classified offences. Yet the movement towards this type of sentencing is gathering speed here at the very time that it is being questioned in the US because of its extraordinarily unjust and racist outcomes.
Over the last decade in Australia we have seen a seemingly inexorable rise in the number of Indigenous people in prison. Imprisonment rates for non-Aboriginal people have increased as well – but not nearly so rapidly. We have also witnessed further penetration of international corporations into the economies of the Australian prison. Although Victoria stands as an example of a highly privatised jurisdiction (with nearly half of its inmates in private facilities), we have still not gone as far down the road as the US in terms of integrating the prison system into the broader capitalist economy. Nor have we embarked on the same level of punitive sentencing policies. But the signs are there for anyone who cares to see.
Chris Cunneen is Director of the Institute of Criminology at the Sydney University Law School.
Imprisonment has become the response of first resort for far too many of the social problems that burden people who are ensconced in poverty. These problems are often veiled by being conveniently grouped together under the category 'crime' and by the automatic attribution of criminal behavior to people of color. Homelessness, unemployment, drug addiction, mental illness, and illiteracy are only a few of the problems that disappear from public view when the human beings contending with them are relegated to cages.
Prisons thus perform a feat of magic. Or rather the people who continually vote in new prison proposals and tacitly assent to a proliferating network of prisons and jails have been tricked into believing in the magic of imprisonment. But prisons do not disappear problems, they disappear human beings. And the practice of disappearing vast numbers of people from poor, immigrant, and racially marginalized communities has literally become big business.
The seeming effortlessness of magic always conceals an enormous amount of behind-the-scenes work. When prisons disappear human beings in order to convey the illusion of solving social problems, penal infrastructures must be created to accommodate a rapidly swelling population of caged people. Goods and services must be provided to keep imprisoned populations alive. Sometimes these populations must be kept busy and at other times - particularly in repressive super-maximum prisons and in Immigration and Naturalisation Service detention centers - they must be deprived of virtually all meaningful activity. Vast numbers of handcuffed and shackled people are moved across state borders as they are transferred from one state or federal prison to another.
All this work, which used to be the primary province of government, is now also performed by private corporations, whose links to government in the field of what is euphemistically called 'corrections' resonate dangerously with the military industrial complex. The dividends that accrue from investment in the punishment industry, like those that accrue from investment in weapons production, only amount to social destruction. Taking into account the structural similarities and profitability of business-government linkages in the realms of military production and public punishment, the expanding penal system can now be characterized as a 'prison industrial complex.'
Almost two million people are currently locked up in the immense network of US prisons and jails. More than 70 percent of the imprisoned population are people of color. It is rarely acknowledged that the fastest growing group of prisoners are black women and that Native American prisoners are the largest group per capita. Approximately five million people-including those on probation and parole-are directly under the surveillance of the criminal justice system.
Three decades ago, the imprisoned population was approximately one-eighth its current size. While women still constitute a relatively small percentage of people behind bars, today the number of incarcerated women in California alone is almost twice what the nationwide women's prison population was in 1970. According to Elliott Currie:
[t]he prison has become a looming presence in our society to an extent unparalleled in our history-or that of any other industrial democracy. Short of major wars, mass incarceration has
been the most thoroughly implemented government social program of our time.
To deliver up bodies destined for profitable punishment, the political economy of prisons relies on racialized assumptions of criminality - such as images of black welfare mothers reproducing criminal children - and on racist practices in arrest, conviction, and sentencing patterns. Colored bodies constitute the main human raw material in this vast experiment to disappear the major social problems of our time. Once the aura of magic is stripped away from the imprisonment solution, what is revealed is racism, class bias, and the parasitic seduction of capitalist profit. The prison industrial system materially and morally impoverishes its inhabitants and devours the social wealth needed to address the very problems that have led to spiraling numbers of prisoners.
As prisons take up more and more space on the social landscape, other government programs that have previously sought to respond to social needs - such as Temporary Assistance to Needy Families - are being squeezed out of existence. The deterioration of public education, including prioritizing discipline and security over learning in public schools located in poor communities, is directly related to the prison 'solution.'
As prisons proliferate in US society, private capital has become enmeshed in the punishment industry. And precisely because of their profit potential, prisons are becoming increasingly important to the US economy. If the notion of punishment as a source of potentially stupendous profits is disturbing by itself, then the strategic dependence on racist structures and ideologies to render mass punishment palatable and profitable is even more troubling.
Prison privatization is the most obvious instance of capital's current movement toward the prison industry. Government-run prisons are often in gross violation of international human rights standards. However, private prisons are even less accountable than governments ones. In March 1999, the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the largest US private prison company, claimed 54,944 beds in 68 facilities under contract or development in the US, Puerto Rico, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Following the global trend of subjecting more women to public punishment, CCA recently opened a women's prison outside Melbourne. The company recently identified California as its 'new frontier.'
Wackenhut Corrections Corporation (WCC), the second largest US prison company, claimed contracts and awards to manage 46 facilities in North America, UK, and Australia. It boasts a total of 30,424 beds as well as contracts for prisoner health care services, transportation, and security. The stocks of both CCA and WCC have done extremely well recently. Between 1996 and 1997, CCA's revenues increased by 58 percent, from $293 million to $462 million. Its net profit grew from $30.9 million to $53.9 million. WCC raised its revenues from $138 million in 1996 to $210 million in 1997. Unlike public correctional facilities, the vast profits of these private facilities rely on the employment of non-union labor.
But private prison companies are only the most visible component of the increasing corporatization of punishment. Government contracts to build prisons have bolstered the construction industry. The architectural community has identified prison design as a major new niche. Technology developed for the military by companies like Westinghouse are being marketed for use in law enforcement and punishment.
Moreover, corporations that appear to be far removed from the business of punishment are intimately involved in the expansion of the prison industrial complex. Prison construction bonds are one of the many sources of profitable investment for leading financiers such as Merrill Lynch. One American telecommunications company charges prisoners and their families outrageous prices for the precious telephone calls which are often the only contact prisoners have with the free world.
Many corporations whose products we consume on a daily basis have learned that prison labor power can be as profitable as third world labor power exploited by US -based global corporations. Both relegate formerly unionized workers to joblessness and many even wind up in prison. Some of the companies that use prison labor are IBM, Motorola, Compaq, Texas Instruments, Honeywell, Microsoft, and Boeing. But it is not only the hi-tech industries that reap the profits of prison labor. Nordstrom department stores sell jeans that are marketed as 'Prison Blues,' as well as t-shirts and jackets made in Oregon prisons. The advertising slogan for these clothes is 'made on the inside to be worn on the outside.' Maryland prisoners inspect glass bottles and jars used by Revlon and Pierre Cardin, and schools throughout the world buy graduation caps and gowns made by South Carolina prisoners.
'For private business,' write Eve Goldberg and Linda Evans (a political prisoner inside the Federal Correctional Institution at Dublin, California) 'prison labor is like a pot of gold'. No strikes. No union organizing. No health benefits, unemployment insurance, or workers' compensation to pay. No language barriers, as in foreign countries. New leviathan prisons are being built on thousands of eerie acres of factories inside the walls. Prisoners do data entry for Chevron, make telephone reservations for TWA, raise hogs, shovel manure, make circuit boards, limousines, waterbeds, and lingerie -all at a fraction of the cost of 'free labor.'
Although prison labor - which ultimately is compensated at a rate far below the minimum wage - is hugely profitable for the private companies that use it, the penal system as a whole does not produce wealth. It devours the social wealth that could be used to subsidize housing for the homeless, to ameliorate public education for poor and racially marginalized communities, to open free drug rehabilitation programs for people who wish to kick their habits, to create a national health care system, to expand programs to combat HIV, to eradicate domestic abuse, and in the process, to create well-paying jobs for the unemployed.
Since 1984, more than twenty new prisons have opened in California, while only one new campus was added to the California State University system and none to the University of California system. In 1996-97, higher education received only 8.7 percent of the State's General Fund while corrections received 9.6 percent. Now that affirmative action has been declared illegal in California, it is obvious that education is increasingly reserved for certain people, while prisons are reserved for others. Five times as many black men are presently in prison as in four year colleges and universities. This new segregation has dangerous implications for the entire country.
By segregating people labeled as criminals, prison simultaneously fortifies and conceals the structural racism of the US economy. Claims of low unemployment rates-even in black communities-make sense only if one assumes that the vast numbers of people in prison have really disappeared and thus have no legitimate claims to jobs. The numbers of black and Latino men currently incarcerated amount to two percent of the male labor force. According to criminologist David Downes:
[t]reating incarceration as a type of hidden unemployment may raise the jobless rate for men by about one-third, to 8 percent. The effect on the black labor force is greater still, raising the [black] male unemployment rate from 11 percent to 19 percent.
Mass incarceration is not a solution to unemployment, nor is it a solution to the vast array of social problems that are hidden away in a rapidly growing network of prisons and jails. However, the great majority of people have been tricked into believing in the efficacy of imprisonment, even though the historical record clearly demonstrates that prisons do not work. Racism has undermined our ability to create a popular critical discourse to contest the ideological trickery that posits imprisonment as key to public safety. The focus of state policy is rapidly shifting from social welfare to social control.
Black, Latino, Native American, and many Asian youth are portrayed as the purveyors of violence, traffickers of drugs, and as envious of commodities that they have no right to possess. Young black and Latina women are represented as sexually promiscuous and as indiscriminately propagating babies and poverty. Criminality and deviance are racialized. Surveillance is thus focused on communities of color, immigrants, the unemployed, the under-educated, the homeless, and in general on those who have a diminishing claim to social resources. Their claim of social resources continues to diminish in large part because law enforcement and penal measures increasingly devour these resources. The prison industrial complex has thus
created a vicious cycle of punishment which only further impoverishes those whose impoverishment is supposedly 'solved' by imprisonment.
Therefore, as the emphasis of government policy shifts from social welfare to crime control, racism sinks more deeply into the economic and ideological structures of US society. Meanwhile, conservative crusaders against affirmative action and bilingual education proclaim the end of racism, while their opponents suggest that racism's remnants can be dispelled through dialogue and conversation. But conversations about 'race relations' will hardly dismantle a prison industrial complex that thrives on and nourishes the racism hidden within the deep structures of our society.
The emergence of a US prison industrial complex within a context of cascading conservatism marks a new historical moment, whose dangers are unprecedented. But so are its opportunities. Considering the impressive number of grassroots projects that continue to resist the expansion of the punishment industry, it ought to be possible to bring these efforts together to create radical and nationally visible movements that can legitimize anti-capitalist critiques of the prison industrial complex. It ought to be possible to build movements in defense of prisoners' human rights and movements that persuasively argue that what we need is not new prisons, but new health care, housing, education, drug programs, jobs, and education. To safeguard a democratic future, it is possible and necessary to weave together the many and increasing strands of resistance to the prison industrial complex into a powerful movement for social transformation.
Angela Davis is Professor in the History of Consciousness Department at the University of California and is also a former political prisoner and long-time prison activist. She visited Australia for the first time in May last year as a guest of the Sydney Writers Festival. On her trip, she also visited Mulawa Women' Detention Centre in Sydney and met a group of Indigenous women active in prison reform. She is currently working on a history of the penal system which will also discuss prisons in Australia.(see (1999) 4 (21) ILB 31. Angela Davis' article is reprinted from the US magazine Colorlines.
 National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families, Bringing Them Home (1997) 528. Cf also George Zdenkowski, 'Mandatory Imprisonment of Property Offenders in the Northern Territory', (1998) 4 (17) ILB 15; 'New Challenge to NT Mandatory Sentencing' (1999) 4 (18) ILB 16; C Thomson, 'Preventing Crime or "Warehousing" the Underprivileged? Mandatory Sentencing in the Northern Territory', (1999) 4 (26) ILB 4.
 M Tonry, Malign Neglect (1995).
 C Cunneen and D McDonald, Keeping Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People Out of Custody (1997) especially Chapter 2.
 See the special issue on prisons and privatization in Australia in (1999) 11 (2) Current Issues in Criminal Justice.
Text of call-out from S.H.A.C. - the Student Housing Action Co-operative/Collective:
Call out for support of the Student Housing Action Cooperative (SHAC).
SHAC is a collective of students and supporters who have been occupying four vacant buildings owned by the University of Melbourne for nearly four months in a campaign to secure affordable student housing, starting with turning the occupied buildings into a student run housing cooperative. There's a critical shortage of housing in inner city Melbourne with a vacancy rate of less than 1% and rents still going up at astronomical rates. Low- income students are spending more than 40% of their incomes on rent. International students are particularly affected by the lack of affordable housing mostly being offered accommodation in overpriced apartments without legal rights due to exemptions from the Residential Tenancies Act. Now SHAC is facing eviction. Melbourne Uni have asked us to 'voluntarily' leave on the 28th (reminiscent of their staff voluntary redundancy offers, perhaps?). We're not planning on going anywhere (unless they hand us the keys to another property). Community support has always been the backbone of our campaign and we won't be able to win without it. So come along and show your support for SHAC and the affordable student housing cause. Rally out the front of SHAC 272-278 Faraday Street, Carlton, Friday 28th November 12pm.
Support also came in the form of a letter to university vice-chancellor Glyn Davis from Brian Boyd, secretary of the Victorian Trades Hall Council, threatening serious consequences on the part of the union movement if the students were evicted. An attempt was made to deliver a copy of this letter to the vice-chancellor in person, without success.
S.H.A.C. has a website at http://shacmelbourne.blogspot.com/
'Riyawarray: Common Ground' a film that honours and celebrates Yolngu (Aboriginal)customary law and culture. Our right to live our lives as free people without the inappropriate impositions of the Federal Government's emergency response the Intervention.
This powerful snapshot documentary on Yolngu rites, rights and rituals as expressed through the recent Yirritja Ngarra Ceremony, was filmed at Milingimbi (remote Australia)in early August featuring Mathew Dhulumburrk, Ganygulpa Dhurrkay and Keith Lapulung (Dhamarrandji).
Barbara Shaw, resident of Mt Nancy Town Camp in Alice Springs, a prescribed area under the federal intervention into NT Aboriginal communities.
By Maureen Penjueli and Wesley Morgan
The Rudd Government has made much of its "new approach" to Australia's island neighbours, but the view from the Pacific is that not much has changed......
Governments in the Pacific are wary about a new FTA with Australia and NZ because they have a lot to lose. A recent AusAid commissioned report published by the Institute for International Trade at the University of Adelaide suggested PACER Plus would result in a 30 per cent increase in trade in the region. This report failed, however, to indicate that the vast majority of that increase will be in favour of Australian and NZ exporters.
Academics in the Pacific are predicting that 80 per cent of Pacific manufacturing could close down under PACER Plus, leading to unemployment for thousands of workers. A report commissioned by the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and released in November 2007, found that countries such as the Solomon Islands, Cook Islands, FSM, Niue and Nauru could lose between five to 10 per cent of their recurrent revenue and for about half the Pacific, including Samoa, Vanuatu, Tonga, Kiribati, RMI and Tuvalu full trade liberalisation would present a major fiscal challenge as the adjustments would be between 10 and 30 per cent of revenue.
Furthermore, most Pacific countries lack secure social nets, such as state welfare, to assist unemployed workers. At the same time, Pacific governments will face a double burden as revenues fall through tariff slashing, undermining the provision of public services in the region. This picture is a very different one to that painted by Simon Crean.
Activists then delivered a letter in solidarity with the people of Barriere Lake to the liaison of the Québec government in Ontario, to much ado.
thanks to the RFB
I went to Bretton Woods, but all I got was this lousy t-shirt. Amazingly, it’s not a ‘one size fits all’ and it’s not full of holes.
Walking through the Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods two years ago, in the New Hampshire mountain resort and official birthplace, in July 1944, of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and of plans for an international trade organization – eventually embodied by the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT)/World Trade Organization (WTO), I thought about the genocide of Indigenous Peoples in that part of the USA, now called “New England”, perpetrated by Puritans and other settlers who viewed them, as historian Douglas Leach put it, as a “graceless and savage people, dirty and slothful in their personal habits, treacherous in their relations with the superior race…fit only to be pushed aside and subordinated” .
Neoliberalism and Colonialism Fast forward a few centuries, and this colonizing mindset and racist contempt still underpins contemporary forms of subjugation, exploitation and dispossession against peoples of the Third World as well as Indigenous Peoples and racialized communities in the global North. It lives on at the G8, in the neoliberal policies of the Bretton Woods institutions, and powerful Northern governments like the US and the European Union, in aid arrangements and debt, in free trade and investment agreements, multilateral, regional and bilateral, and the activities of transnational corporations. 21st century imperialism is frequently masked in the language of development, ‘good governance’, ‘working for a world free of poverty’ , ‘fighting poverty in Asia and the Pacific’ ‘countering terror with trade’ and ‘building freedom through trade’ .
They might call it market capitalism, economic reforms and free trade instead of Manifest Destiny (though this may be news to the Bush Administration as it wages its wars and occupations), but the song remains the same.
''Colonialism is a big event that economists have not talked about, " MIT professor of economics and current winner of the John Bates Clark Medal, awarded by the American Economic Association to the US's top economist under 40, Daron Acemoglu told the Boston Globe last month. ''Historians talk about it. Political scientists talk about it. But economists just focus on the last 50 years."
When we discuss ‘policy coherence’ in the era of global neoliberal economics we should acknowledge the colonial roots of neoliberalism. In this supposedly ‘post-colonial’ world, colonial relations and geohistorical location continue to shape the reality of who eats, and who doesn’t, who has freedom, and who doesn’t, who has access to land and water, and who doesn’t, who can work in dignity and justice, and who doesn’t, who carries the burden of crippling debt, and who doesn’t, who has the right to determine their own futures, and who doesn’t.
When we hear ‘policy coherence’ talk, we should ask: coherent for whom and with what? The programmes of the IMF, World Bank and WTO fundamentally fail to cohere with development options which carve a different path than market capitalism. Indeed, they work to crush them, to shrink policy space and to prevent future governments from even thinking about alternatives. They are incoherent with peoples’ struggles for justice, dignity and self-determination. Behind sustainable development and pro-poor rhetoric, these institutions’ policies are utterly incoherent with socially and ecologically just development. ‘Policy coherence’ is a euphemism for imperialist globalization and expanded opportunities for domination by Northern governments and corporations.
There is definitely ‘policy coherence’ between colonization and neoliberalism. As activists, social movements and NGOs, we must name and confront the systems of capitalism and colonialism in our analyses and actions, if we are to put forward coherent agendas of resistance, and effectively struggle for justice, locally and globally.
Policy coherence: Singing from the same neoliberal songbook Almost every few weeks, another high-level statement calls for greater coherence between the Bretton Woods institutions, the WTO, the UN, the baby banks, bilateral donors and so on. This coherence agenda means support for the Doha work programme of the WTO – liberalization in goods, services, investment, trade-related capacity-building, improving global financial stability through capital account liberalization (didn’t that work well in Thailand and Korea in the 1990s! ) and channelling increased investment to developing countries and assisting borrower countries to improve coherence in their national policies.
In 2001, L. Alan Winters, (Director of the World Bank’s Development Research Group, Economic Professor at University of Sussex, and advisor to numerous international organizations on trade and development including the WTO, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the InterAmerican Development Bank (IADB), the European Commission and UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) wrote : “The WTO and the BWOs are already rather highly coherent. All subscribe to basically the same model of society and the economy, favouring markets over direction, advocating transparency and predictability, seeing international trade and investment as routes to prosperity and peace, accepting the importance of development and poverty alleviation, and recognizing the possibility that adjustment is painful. Hence much of what the three bodies do is mutually supportive, and incoherence is mostly just a matter of detail. This is not the impression one would get from some of the rhetoric behind calls for coherence.” This does not mean that there are not differences among these organizations in areas where they have jurisdictional overlap, especially in relation to financial liberalization.
Besides shared commitment to neoliberalism, the WTO, IMF and World Bank have formal relationships to achieve ‘policy coherence’. The Ministerial Declaration on the Contribution of the [World] Trade Organization to Achieving Greater Coherence in Global Economic Policymaking, in the Uruguay Round Act 1994, Part III.2 urged the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO to follow “consistent and mutually supportive policies…with a view to achieving greater coherence in global economic policymaking.” This is expressed in various agreements, ministerial declarations and decisions between the institutions. In May 2003, senior officials of the three institutions, including IMF Managing Director Horst Koehler, WTO Director General Supachai Panitchpakdi and World Bank President James Wolfensohn met in Geneva under the umbrella of the WTO General Council to develop a common approach to global economic policies – the “coherence agenda.”
The IMF and World Bank offer “technical assistance” and loans for adjusting debtor countries’ economies to full trade and investment liberalization. “Technical assistance” sounds benign enough. In reality it means coercing countries of the South to swallow more neoliberal medicine, sometimes in sectors over which they have been disputing further liberalization at the WTO. World Bank and IMF loan conditionalities generally insist that governments lower or eliminate tariffs, remove restrictions on foreign investment, modify customs procedures, fiscal and labour regulations and procurement policies, and promote private sector ownership. Privatization, deregulation and trade and investment liberalization have been core to Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) and the so-called Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) which the World Bank and IMF now insist countries adopt in order to receive continued loans. Former World Bank chief economist and US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers claimed in 1998: “IMF and…World Bank programs not just in East Asia but in India, Latin America, Central Europe and Africa, have led to more systematic trade liberalization than…bilateral or multilateral negotiations have ever achieved.”
Amid much official rhetoric about trade replacing aid to move people out of poverty comes more explicit aid-for-trade liberalization, (and, as we have seen with the recent G8 finance ministers’ debt reduction package, ‘debt relief’ for enforced liberalization and privatization) deals. The World Bank is increasingly concentrating its resources on trade-related operations, particularly towards least-developed countries (LDCs), transition economies and those in the process of WTO accession. The Bank is allocating more funds to trade-related activities in 2004-2006 than it did during the eight years from 1996-2003. Total trade lending over the next three years is nearly US $4 billion compared with just over $2 billion in the past 8 years . Lending for trade facilitation is increasing from $300 million over the past 8 years to a projected $1 billion over the next 3 years . Meanwhile the Bank leads the joint agency Integrated Framework for Trade-related Technical Assistance for Least Developed Countries (IF). The other agencies involved are the IMF, WTO, the UN Development Programme (UNDP), UNCTAD, and the ITC (International Trade Centre - the technical cooperation agency of UNCTAD and the WTO for operational, enterprise-oriented aspects of trade development). According to its website , the IF’s objectives are to ”"mainstream" (integrated) trade into the national development plans such as the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) of least-developed countries; and to assist in the co-ordinated delivery of trade-related technical assistance in response to needs identified by the LDC”.
The spread of World Bank-led diagnostic trade studies is forcing rapid unilateral trade liberalisation into national development plans through the back door.
The IMF, meanwhile, remains the global gatekeeper for aid, the most important single agency in signalling the quality of a country’s macro-economic environment and creditworthiness to other donors. The IMF’s Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) complements and interlocks with the World Bank’s PRSP and the work of the WTO. Its platform is trade liberalisation, privatisation and a reduced role for the state. In April 2004, the IMF launched its Trade Integrated Mechanism (TIM) to assist member countries meet balance of payment shortfalls resulting from multilateral trade liberalization (like reduction in export revenues, and increased import bills). Its first recipients were Bangladesh and the Dominican Republic. The IMF has also boosted technical assistance and research on trade.
A 10 December 1999 World Bank-IMF operational document on PRGF-PRSP argues: "The impediments to faster sustainable growth should be identified and policies agreed to promote more rapid growth: such as structural reforms to create free and more open markets, including trade liberalisation, privatisation and tax reform and policies that create a stable and predictable environment for private sector activity."
IFIs, the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, comprised of the world’s thirteen most powerful Central Bankers , the WTO and the baby banks essentially form much of the framework for global economic policymaking. The IFIs set parameters for all donors of the accepted creed of policy discourse with developing countries and ‘effective’ aid delivery strategies. Calls for greater coherence of donor countries to harmonize their aid, investment, export credit insurance and trade policies are cold comfort when coherence means conformity to a neoliberal model of development. Trade-related conditionalities of the IMF-WB (and regional banks like the ADB) weaken negotiating positions and possibilities for formation of alliances of countries to stand against US-EU bullying in multilateral or regional trade negotiations or aggressive bilateral deal-making.
The ‘Baby Banks’ Trade–related technical assistance has also become an increased focus of ADB and IADB lending policy. The IADB has a close formal relationship with the WTO. In February 2002 it signed a memorandum of understanding to deepen cooperation on providing technical assistance like training courses and workshops on trade negotiations and capacity-building to Latin American and Caribbean countries “to participate fully in the multilateral trading system.” The IDB’s central policy goal is economic integration of Latin American countries with the global market. Since 1994 the IADB has contributed over US $10 million to support the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) process . In May 2002 WTO and ADB officials signed a memorandum of understanding under which their institutions agreed to cooperate on joint technical assistance programmes for participants from the ADB's developing member governments in Asia and the Pacific .
WTO As the WTO broadens its scope it opens up a greater interface with the IMF and World Bank, which have also broadened their roles beyond their original core activities in recent years. A key area for jurisdictional overlap between the institutions concerns capital liberalization, especially in relation to the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), Trade-Related Investment Measures (TRIMs), and the plurilateral Financial Services Agreement. Continuing pressure from Northern governments and corporations in the GATS negotiations aims to achieve, by the backdoor, the liberalization and convertibility of capital accounts of developing countries. Meanwhile any future Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI)-style deal on investments at the WTO would inevitably create other areas of overlap with the IMF-World Bank.
Potential for inter-institutional tensions certainly exists, and there already are examples. As Korean academic Dukgeun Ahn has noted , measures adopted under South Korea’s December 1997 agreement with the IMF during the financial crisis became the focal point for WTO trade disputes with the USA and the EU. Here, IMF-prescribed and temporary increased roles of the government in the financial restructuring of the Korean corporate sector were challenged under the WTO Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures. Ahn observes: “There is no exception to WTO obligations for policy measures regardless of whether they are employed as parts of adjustment measures or IMF conditionality.” Perhaps the moral of this story is that when there is apparently full coherence and congruence between IMF, World Bank and WTO measures, you stand to get screwed for not being neoliberal enough, and if there is inconsistency, you also get screwed for not being neoliberal enough!
The UN, Neoliberal Globalization and the Millennium Development Goals The Monterrey Consensus declaration from the UN Conference on Financing for Development (FfD), attended by representatives of the IMF, World Bank, WTO and many corporations was aptly dubbed the “Washington Consensus wearing a sombrero” by John Foster of the Ottawa-based North-South Institute. With its advocacy of trade and investment liberalization, privatization and the marketization of land and resources, it highlights again the neoliberal capture of the United Nations. It comes on top of increasingly entrenched corporate involvement at UN agencies, its 1993 dissolution of the UN Centre on Transnational Corporations, and the UN Global Compact with 50 of the world’s largest corporations, an initiative which Kofi Annan promised would “safeguard open markets while at the same time creating a human face for the global economy" among other things . Arguments for more policy space must be seen in the context of an overall push to get UN members to ultimately move towards the same goal – free market economies.
On April 15 2005, a special high-level meeting of the UN ECOSOC with the Bretton Woods institutions, the WTO and UNCTAD (WTO Director-General Supachai Panitchpakdi’s new employer) discussed ‘Coherence, coordination and cooperation in the context of the implementation of the Monterrey Consensus: achieving the internationally agreed development goals, including those contained in the Millennium Declaration.” The President of ECOSOC’s summary noted that “the increasing interdependence of national economies in a globalizing world and the emergence of rule-based regimes for international economic relations meant that the space for national economic policy was now framed by international discipline, commitments and global market considerations”. Most sought “decisive progress” in the Hong Kong WTO Ministerial Conference towards “a successful conclusion of WTO negotiations in 2006 on the basis of a truly development-oriented Doha agenda”. Indeed, this is the UN Secretary-General’s request. A June 1 2005 Secretary-General’s report to the UN General Assembly reiterated support for “addressing systemic issues: enhancing the coherence and consistency of the international monetary, financial and trading systems in support of development.”
The MDGs ignore structural issues at the root of poverty such as debt, unfair trade and economic policies. Perhaps that is unsurprising. They were essentially drawn up by ministers from OECD countries, with no participation by governments from the South let alone those most directly affected. How exactly will governments finance primary health care and education while they are being forced to cut public expenditure and privatize services under neoliberal conditionalities of IFIs? How can the poor afford commercialized healthcare, water, education? How can even the rather modest goals of the MDGs be achieved by any country in the grip of neoliberalism, privatisation, and debt slavery? The social development goals are little more than a whitewash of the continuing policies of structural adjustment and liberalization – policies which worsen poverty and stunt genuine development.
In his “In Larger Freedom” report, Kofi Annan says that “development, security and human rights go hand in hand”. But what little the MDGs appear to give with one hand is taken away with the other. Goal 8 of the MDGs is: ‘Develop a global partnership for development …. Develop further an open, rule-based, predictable, non-discriminatory trading and financial system (includes a commitment to good governance, development and poverty reduction – both nationally and internationally)”
IBON’s Joseph Yu points out: “The pessimism towards meeting the MDGs is not meant to spur rich donor countries to increase development assistance to underdeveloped countries, but to set the stage for the prescription of further neoliberal reforms as the means to achieve rapid economic growth and consequently, poverty reduction…Promoting an “open, rule-based trading and financial system”, cooperation with the private sector and competition in the global economy risks poverty alleviation goals being overwhelmed by corporate and donor interests.”
Finance Liberalization and FTAs The 1998 UNCTAD Trade and Development Report noted: “the ascendancy of finance over industry together with the globalization of finance have become underlying sources of instability and unpredictability in the world economy. (…) In particular, financial deregulation and capital account liberalization appear to be the best predictor of crises in developing countries.” Capital account liberalization, the removal of controls, taxes, subsidies and quantitative restrictions that affect capital account transactions - whether promoted through IMF loan conditionalities, the WTO Agreement on Financial Services, or now, in bilateral free trade and investment agreements – has already devastated domestic economies, particularly in South East Asia and Mexico in the 1990s.
The Chile and Singapore FTAs with the USA have “NAFTA -plus” broad definitions of investment, which throw the door wide open for disgruntled investors to take a case to a dispute tribunal. Both agreements impose alarming new limits on the use of capital controls. Indian policy analyst and researcher Kavaljit Singh argues that Chile’s controls on capital inflows have helped insulate it against financial crises. He writes that it “stands to reason that the probability of occurrence of a financial crisis in Chile and Singapore would increase manifold with the removal of capital controls as envisaged in the bilateral trade agreements with the U.S.”
Even free traders have slammed this aspect of these FTAs. In a March 2003 Financial Times article, Jagdish Bhagwati and Daniel Tarullo wrote, “The intention of the Bush administration to use these two agreements as ‘templates‘ for other trade agreements, possibly including the Doha round, means that acceptance of the capital control provisions could engender a trade policy that causes far-reaching damage. The prohibition on capital controls has the makings of a U.S. foreign policy debacle. Imagine that a government imposes short-term capital controls in order to manage financial problems.
Compensation will ensue, but only for American investors. The citizens of the developing country will then see a rich U.S. corporation or individual being indemnified while everyone else in the country suffers from the crisis. One would be hard-pressed to think of a better prescription for anti-American outrage.”
Fighting Back While some people say “make poverty history”, some of us say “make capitalism history”. Capitalism and colonialism are all too often the elephants in the room in NGO activities on debt, trade economic, social and political justice – and war.
If our analysis of neoliberalism takes an explicitly anti-colonial and anti-capitalist standpoint, we may question strategies which aim to move these predatory, carnivorous institutions and companies towards a vegetarian diet by polite petitioning and ‘civil society dialogue’, and instead work together to delegitimize them. We must go beyond a compartmentalized campaign approach to individual institutions and their policies and name and confront the values and ideology that lie behind and link them.
Both critics and supporters of policy coherence argue that coherence at an international level between institutions has to be based on coherence within national governments and their different ministries, agencies and departments. Strategically and practically, I think that it is primarily the domestic pressure points of intervention - conflicts, contradictions, tensions between officials, government ministries and departments - which are important to identify and campaign around, rather than the potential or apparent tensions between the IFIs and the WTO.
As labour researcher Gerard Greenfield warns, calls for transparency, openness and more democracy within institutions like the WTO ignore “the fact that we need to have the ability to do something about what we see, otherwise we’ll just be spectators in a transparent process… Aggressively cutting back our ability to impose democratic priorities on capital is not an afterthought - it lies at the very heart of the globalization project.
For those in power, an opposition that prioritizes dialogue and a contest of ideas with elites is far less dangerous and more controllable than one that understands power and builds counter-power through community organizing and movement-building.
“Many of the biggest and strongest civil society organizations orient upwards, justifying and elaborating the actions and ideologies of the dominant power. Others orient to the grassroots, and within this there are two different types: those that organize and mobilize to fit into programmes constructed by dominant power, and those that organize and mobilize to confront the dominant power” write South African activists and researchers Stephen Greenberg and Nhlanhla Ndlovu.
Perhaps we need to reclaim the roots of the word monkey-wrenching – it is a term from Ed Abbey’s book about a fictional band of militant environmental activists, The Monkey Wrench Gang referring to direct action against the powerful. The biggest and strongest kinds of monkey-wrench are strong and sustained communities of resistance and social movements. For those of us that do research and policy analysis, our challenge is to redouble our efforts to orient our work in ways that strengthen and support those popular struggles against neoliberalism, in our communities, and internationally.
Douglas Edward Leach. 1958. Flintlock and Tomahawk: New England in King Philip’s War. New York: Macmillan, p.22 World Bank website: http://www.worldbank.org
Asian Development Bank website: http://www.adb.org
Robert B. Zoellick, US Trade Representative. Countering Terror With Trade. Washington Post editorial, 20 September 2001. http://www.ustr.gov/Document_Library/Op-eds/2001/Countering_Terror_with_Trade.html
US Trade Representative website: http://www.ustr.gov
Robert Gavin. MIT professor named top economist under 40: Key study minimizes geography in formation of rich vs. poor nations. Boston Globe. 15 June 2005.
L. Alan Winters. Coherence with no “here”: WTO co-operation with the World Bank and the IMF. Paper presented at CEPR/ECARES/World Bank Conference on ‘The World Trading System Post Seattle: Institutional Design, Governance and Ownership’, 14/15 July 2000, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels.
WTO website, http://www.wto.org/english/docs_e/legal_e/32-dchor_e.htm
Emad Mekay, IMF, World Bank Join Forces With WTO, Inter Press Service. 13 May 2003
Lawrence Summers, Why America Needs the IMF, Wall Street Journal, 27 March 1998, p. A.22
Bank Information Center USA website. The World Bank and Trade Liberalization. http://www.bicusa.org/bicusa/issues/trade/index.php
Bretton Woods Project. IFIs on trade: “enormous investment” but to what end? Bretton Woods Update, Number 45 – March April 2005
Integrated Framework website. http://www.integratedframework.org/
International Monetary Fund and International Development Association. Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers – Operational Issues. Prepared by the Staffs of the IMF and the World Bank. December 10, 1999. http://www.imf.org/external/np/pdr/prsp/poverty1.htm#I
IMF Factsheet. The IMF’s Trade Integrated Mechanism (TIM). March 2005 http://www.imf.org/external/np/exr/facts/tim.htm
Basel Committee on Banking Supervision website. http://www.bis.org/bcbs
IDB website. IDB Support for Integration in Latin America and the Caribbean. www.iadb.org/EXR/AM/2003/eng/issuebriefs/am_integ.cfm
ADB News Release. ADB, WTO Agree to Join Efforts to Promote Trade in Asia. 9 May 2002. http://www.adb.org/Documents/News/2002/nr2002076.asp
Dukgeun Ahn. WTO Disciplines Under the IMF Program: Congruence or Conflict. In Mitsuo Matsushita and Dukgeun Ahn (eds) 2004. WTO and East Asia, New Perspectives. London: Cameron May. Pp.25-38. http://www.worldtradelaw.net/articles/ahnimf.pdf
BBC website. Analysis: Mixed Feelings at Monterey. 23 March 2002 http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/1889536.stm
George Monbiot. Getting Into Bed With Big Business: The UN is no longer just a joke. It is becoming the villain of the piece. The Guardian, 31 August 2000. http://www.guardian.co.uk/Columnists/Column/0,5673,361716,00.html
UN Website: http://www.un.org/docs/ecosoc/meetings/2005/bwi2005/
UN General Assembly/Economic and Social Council. Summary by the President of the Economic and Social Council of the special high-level meeting of the Council with the Bretton Woods institutions, the World Trade Organization and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (New York, 16 April 2005). 2 June 2005. http://www.un.org/docs/ecosoc/meetings/2005/bwi2005/President%27sSummary.pdf
UN General Assembly. The Monterrey Consensus: status of implementation and tasks ahead. Report of the Secretary-General. I June 2005. http://daccessdds.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N05/370/07/PDF/N0537007.pdf?OpenElement
UN General Assembly. In larger freedom: towards development, security and human rights for all. Report of the Secretary-General. p.5 http://www.un.org/largerfreedom
UN Millennium Development Goals website. http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/
Joseph Yu. Kofi Annan’s ‘In Larger Freedom’: Still not free from the neoliberal strategy. IBON Features. Vol XI No 11. April 2005 http://www.ibon.org
UNCTAD Trade and Development Report 1998: Financial Instability, Growth in Africa. pp. V. and 55. http://www.unctad.org/en/docs/tdr1998_en.pdf
see Aziz Choudry. Bilateral Trade and Investment Deals: BITs a serious challenge for global justice movements. Z Magazine, December 2003 http://zmagsite.zmag.org/Dec2003/choudry1203.html
Kavaljit Singh. Trading Away Capital Controls. 12 April 2003. http://www.ased.org/artman/publish/printer_72.shtml
Jagdish Bhagwati and Daniel Tarullo. A ban on capital controls is a bad trade-off.
Financial Times, 17 March 2003
Gerard Greenfield. The Success of Being Dangerous: Resisting Free Trade & Investment Regimes. Studies in Political Economy, Spring 2001. http://www.global-labour.org/greenfield1.htm
Stephen Greenberg and Nhlanhla Ndlovu. Civil Society Relationships. www.interfund.org.za/pdffiles/vol5_two/greenberg.pdf
Edward Abbey. 1976. The Monkey Wrench Gang. New York: Avon Books.
Some highlights of a rally outside the County Court, Melbourne, on the day Lex Wotton was due to be sentenced in Townsville. Speakers included representatives of Indigenous communities from around the world ...
News of the sentence - six years imprisonment with a minimum of two years without parole -arrived too late to announce during the rally .
In response, the VEOHRC is currently undertaking the 'African Young People Research Project' in the City of Greater Dandenong. The report will be handed down sometime in the next couple of months.
The Southern Ethnic Advisory and Advocacy Council (SEAAC) prepared a submssion to VEOHRC regarding Police discrimination against African Young People in the City of Greater Dandenong.
Young people commonly report a general feeling
that the police treat them unfairly because of their race. The most commonly reported
specific complaints are:
• Young people being regularly stopped and questioned by Police in public,
sometimes up to several times in a single day.
• Police asking young people to ‘move on’ without citing a legitimate reason.
• Racist comments being made by Police.
• Young people being searched in public.
• Police refusing to submit their details if young people request them. This request
often acts as a trigger for police aggression.
• Police refusing to respect young people’s right to silence — beyond submitting
name and address. Again young people asserting this right to silence often acts
as a trigger for Police aggression.
Full Report follows:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Barriere Lake Algonquins peacefully blockade highway 117 in Northern Quebec a second time: despite fears of more police violence, community wants Quebec and Canada to respect agreements and Canada to end interference in leadership selection
Kitiganik/Rapid Lake, Algonquin Territory / - This morning at 7:30am, Barriere Lake community members of all ages and their supporters once again peacefully blockaded highway 117 outside their reserve, demanding that Quebec and Canada send in negotiators rather than resort to police violence. During the Algonquin's first blockade on October 6th, 2008, Quebec police used tear gas and "pain compliance" techniques against a peaceful crowd that included Elders, youth, and children, arrested nine people, and hospitalized a Customary Councillor after hitting him in the chest with a tear-gas canister, drawing criticism from international human rights groups, the Chiefs of Ontario, and the Christian Peacemakers Team. [ http://blip.tv/file/1391794 ]
The Algonquins promise to maintain the blockade until Canada and Quebec commit in writing to honour their agreements and Canada appoints an observer to witness and respect the outcome of a new leadership selection in Barriere Lake in accordance with their Customary Governance Code.
"Instead of doing the dirty work of the federal government, Quebec should implement its agreements and immediately lobby the federal government to deal fairly with our community," said Norman Matchewan, a community spokesperson on-site at the blockade. "Charest's brutal treatment of our community shows his government has absolutely no respect for the rights of Indigenous peoples, which should be an urgent matter of debate during the provincial election."
Barriere Lake wants Canada and Quebec to uphold signed agreements, dating back to the 1991 Trilateral Agreement, a landmark sustainable development and resource co-management agreement praised by the United Nations and the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. Canada has been in breach of the agreement since 2001. Quebec signed a complementary Bilateral agreement in 1998, but has stalled since two former Quebec Cabinet Ministers, Quebec special representative John Ciaccia and Barriere Lake special representative Clifford Lincoln, made recommendations for the agreement's implementation in 2006.
"To avoid their obligations, the federal government has deliberately violated our leadership customs by ousting our Customary Chief and Council," said Matchewan. "In what amounts to a coup d'etat, they are recognizing a Chief and Council rejected by a community majority. The Quebec government is cooperating with the federal government because they are using the leadership issue as an excuse to bury the 1991 and 1998 Agreements they signed with our First Nation."
In November 2007 the legitimate leadership of Barriere Lake had issued a ban on new forestry operations in the Trilateral Territory until Quebec implemented their agreements, but the province and forestry companies have used the leadership change as an opportunity to cut new logging roads [in preparation for logging operations] without permission from the legitimate Barriere Lake representatives.
On March 10th, 2008, for the third time in 12 years, the Government of Canada interfered in Barriere Lake's internal customary governance. They rescinded recognition of the Customary Chief and Council and recognized individuals whom the Barriere Lake Elder's Council says were not selected in accordance with their Customary Governance Code.
"The federal government pretends this is simply an internal issue," says Marylynn Poucachiche, another Barriere Lake spokesperson on-site. "But we can only resolve the situation if the federal government appoints an observer to witness a new leadership selection that is truly in accordance with our Customary Governance Code, promises to respect the outcome, and then stops interfering in our internal affairs."
In 2007, Quebec Superior Court Judge Rejean Paul issued a report that concluded that the current faction recognized by the federal government was a "small minority" that "didn't respect the Customary Governance Code" in an alleged leadership selection in 2006 . The federal government recognized this minority faction after they conducted another alleged leadership selection in January 2008, even though an observer's report the government relied on stated there was no "guarantee" that the Customary Governance Code was respected .
The Algonquin Nation Secretariat, the Tribal Council representing three Algonquin communities including Barriere Lake, continues to recognize and work with Customary Chief Benjamin Nottaway and his Council.
In Montreal at noon, supporters of Barriere Lake will rally in front of the office of Premier Jean Charest at the southeast corner of McGill College and Sherbrooke.
Norman Matchewan, Barriere Lake spokesperson: 819 – 435 – 2171, 514 - 831 - 6902
Marylynn Poucachiche, Barriere Lake spokesperson:514 - 893 - 8283, 819 - 860 - 3860
Norman Young, Grand Chief of the Algonquin Nation Secretariat: 819 - 627 - 6869
Attached: Briefing Package and letter from Acting Chief Benjamin Nottaway to Premier Charest
 http://web.resist.ca/~barrierelakesolidarity/resources/Rapport_du_Juge_Paul-versionANGLAISEcomplete.doc, pg 26-27
 http://web.resist.ca/~barrierelakesolidarity/resources/Riel_Translation_Letter_2.doc , pg 2
Collectif de Solidarité Lac Barrière
“What did you expect when you unbound the gag that had muted those Black mouths? That they would chant your praises? Did you think that when those heads that our fathers had forcibly bowed down to the ground were raised again, you would find adoration in their eyes?”-
Jean-Paul Sartre, Orphee Noir
Everything that could be said about the United States has been said aloud, copiously written about or whispered in hushed tones from behind the closed doors of collective public group-think. When Pax Americana advocates tout the imperialistic grandeur of the U.S., the discourse is commonly cloistered along the prescribed talking-points of American Exceptionalism rather than pragmatic realism. European as well as non-White American citizens and residents struggle to see themselves as the perfect society, a literal paradise on Earth with no moral equal while at the same time playing make believe that Indigenous genocide and African slavery were, and are, mere aberrations to this historical record.
On this occasion, namely the eve of the appointment of the first non-total-European to the most powerful seat of global Euro-settler power, it is imperative at this notable moment in the history of Euro-American colonial power to examine what a Barack Obama presidency really means in relation to America’s long and ugly record of ethno-social manipulation, economic marginalisation and aggressive territorial expansionism. This writer is not at all alone in stating that the biggest mistake the entire world, chiefly the non-European colonialized world, is making is in assuming that since a person of colour has been selected by the American economic and military authority structure that a “change” is coming not just in Washington D.C. but the planet as a whole. In particular, the factors that have created the Diaspora that has defined our existence since expansionist Europe found Africa and turned it into a supermarket for slaves and natural resources. On its face, this seemingly clean break from America’s long tradition of racial hatreds and the representation of powerful White men running the world appears to be complete. But is it?
Indigenist analysis and Cartesian common-sense tells me no. I am obliged by my ancestors, the selfless warriors and visionaries who came before me and my own distressing familiarity with the colonial experience to clarify an underlining quandary, a specific intellectual malaise, before we proceed any further. When a White person of the settler class, for example, says to the native or the slave, “You should be grateful that we came here and civilised you and your people,” an event which occurs every day in the life of those burdened by the weight of colonialism, it is a threatening qualifier meant to consign the subjected back to his assigned place in the socio-political pecking order. With the global public inebriated with the illusory vision of ‘We have finally arrived’ to a post-election racially-blind America, such a critique will be said by master and slave alike to be ill-timed and out of place. I disagree with this criticism and I will categorically explain why I reject the post-election creation of the “New Negro” part deux.
I will not allow myself to be conscripted into forming a union with the cheering masses in celebrating the rise of a new American emperor just because his father happens to be from Kenya. Barack Obama has dark skin, but only fools and the politically uneducated believe the hype that his vision is anything other than Eurocentric, capitalist and imperialistic. The White racist power structure will pretend that the white mask he wears does not exist but have quietly acknowledged that it is there, just beneath Mr. Obama’s political epidermis.
What Does Change Look Like?
The change identified by Mr. Obama’s run to be the head of state of the most vicious, European-settler political state in human history is not in any way a true alteration of national policy. Mr. Obama has made his intentions well known that he intends to stand by the United States and all of its racist, imperialist and certainly colonialist institutions. Before the reader contests this accusation consider the following:
• Is the new Obama administration planning to honour the territorial integrity of Indian Country and the nearly 400 U.S./Indigenous nation-to-nation treaties all other previous federal administrations commonly ignored?
• Is the Obama administration willing to finally address issues of Indigenous genocide such as the forced sterilisations of Aboriginal women in the continental U.S. and Puerto Rico uncovered by the Senator Church Committee Hearings of the 1970’s?
• Will the Obama government officially apologise to the American Aboriginal for territorial disenfranchisement and genocide?
• Will the Obama government return Hawaii to its ancestral owners?
• Will the Obama government return Puerto Rico to the Taino Nation?
• Will the Obama government return Guam to the Chamorro Nation?
• Will the Obama government address American African Reparations?
• Will the Obama government address the problem of institutional White racism as suggested by the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders?
• Will the Obama government officially apologise for African slavery?
This is far from a complete inventory and as far as I am concerned, these bits and pieces explicitly identify the root problems that characterize the socio-political environment of these United States. Barack Obama has pledged to support the Israeli Arab genocide of the Palestinian Nation and has qualified this by choosing as White House Chief-of-Staff Zionist Rahm Emanuel, the war-mongering congressman from Chicago. The liberal journal The Nation sullenly notes that Emanuel is "seen as a strong Israel partisan,” not exactly a sign of the change the Obama campaign was talking about. If is also doubtful that an Obama administration is willing to pack up the new super-great American Embassy in Iraq that was constructed by Saudi Arabian supplied slave labour. Should we expect the Obama government to address the economic independence of the Philippines, the nation that provided most of the imported free labour used in Occupied Iraq? Can we suppose that the Obama White House will not attempt to assassinate Dr. Fidel Castro of Cuba as had previous administrations or that then President Obama will not try to re-take the island nation by force? Should we not ask these questions at all and simply assume that what should be done will be done?
The history of many colonial governments and leaders suggests that caution should be heeded regardless of the ethnicity or race of the leaders. Barack Obama is a direct product of the colonial system. He differs starkly from his venerated American African predecessors in that Mr. Obama has clearly pointed out that he is in full support of the American system as it is, he only argues that the middle-class should get more out of the pie. And much unlike his forerunners, he has to date never seriously addressed the core issues that affect his own ethnic group or others subjected to similar U.S. belligerences without considering the psychic welfare of the European power structure.
The heart of Barack Obama’s attractiveness to White America, his celebrated ‘Race Speech’ of 2008, was in character, a poignant Emancipation Proclamation for the White settler society, a gesture meant to save face and retain the Union, not an identification of the originating factors of institutional racism or true granting of liberation from involuntary servitude. His conciliatory dialogue, inclusive of all the manipulative spirit and guile President Lincoln intended his original to be, sanctioned the myth of benevolent Euro-settler rule. His defence of White settler society and U.S. racial stratifications as historically legitimate is in line with the post-Civil Rights Era argument that while Indigenous depopulation and African involuntary servitude and racial marginalisation, both of which clearly amount to genocide, were “errors of the past,” at no time is that history empirically connected to contemporary social problems or to mainstream social analysis.
Mr. Obama, in perhaps the best possible position a person of colour could be in order to make such an effort peacefully, did exactly the opposite. He morally absolved the White racist American system, its history, its invading ancestors and the current settler population on behalf of the peoples irreparably damaged by this account with an authority given to him not by the minority classes in question he vicariously represents, but by the Euro-settler apparatus behind him who comprehended that the general Euro-settler public was not likely to support the new administration without this concession. It was a clever political nudge to obtain a targeted political objective, not a long overdue call for justice for the social classes still ensnared within partial-citizenship conditions. Like the post-Apartheid South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, White colonial society was granted an honourable pass and a big thank you for sitting on their collective arses while institutional inhumanity has been performed against other human beings for their benefit and in their name.
In soul, Barack Obama, the first Hawaiian-born Hapa Popolo president of the United States, killed two birds with one stone. Having praised, protected and absolved the practise of White racism on the world stage, his Sambo act also unjustly placed all American African men in a position of socio-political emasculation. African males confronting institutional White racism and capitalist exploitation already scornfully reminded of Barack Obama’s example of the “Good Black,” will now be universally reprimanded as “angry” and derelict in their responsibility to be “American” by White and non-White alike. The Black man has been told for more than 400 years to be quiet and simply fall in with the programme. It is not his place to attempt to overcome his insignificance or to overstate his importance, even in secret to himself. Barack Obama has brought that disgusting Eugenic limitation full circle. White power has now been codified as the necessary evil that makes all things possible. And most importantly, this moral treason was symbolically and humbly carried out by a contented, fully integrated mulatto enthusiastically faithful to the cause of Pax Americana and willing to adhere to the game plan. The all-new, “new” Negro standard.
It has been deeply instilled within the native that his inadequacies are congenital and naturally socially insular, that he must accept the authority and vision of the White world as his only salvation from himself. This explains the pathetic African preoccupation with mimicking the White man in appearance, if possible, and in deed, often by any means necessary. His main goal is to acquire a normalisation of a kind, a safe zone of protection from the hardships of the inhumanity that comes from invisibility. The lingering sting of the whip is only an element of the story. The longing for recognition from the master class has been cunningly cultivated and nurtured within the mind and spirit of the subjected who knows little, if anything at all, about what it was like before he lost his freedom. Unless the native makes a conscious effort to re-learn who he is, to reject his fear of himself and his roots, he is led to believe he has no where else to go but back to the captive psyche of the grateful slave.
It must be remembered and never forgotten that the human groups traditionally subjected to Euro-settler hostility in the main are victims of Europocentric Eugenic rationalizations that regard them as biologically as well as culturally inferior. The Ashkenazim still endure this bias but hypocritically act out this very same racial prejudice against their Sephardic and Ethiopian kin. But it is also true that unlike most other similarly subjected peoples, (aside from Tibetans, for the obvious political reasons) they receive immense sympathy for their past sufferings. This is in large measure due to a 50/50 mix of collective recognition of the White Christian guilt incurred for permitting their errant theology to serve as divine validation for Semitic ethnocide and simple straightforward White colonial racism. Just as the Indigenous Tibetan struggle against Chinese colonialism has been used to great effect by Western capitialists, Judeophobia and Europe’s grand experiment in xenophobic attrition has also been used to justify the existence of the race-conscious Jewish colonial state of Israel. European and Anglo-colonial Anti-Jewish sentiment stubbornly persists, but ethnic bigotries can be forgiven so long as the desire to maintain positive White economic and political power in Western Asia remains attractive to the west. For this reason and this reason alone, European Jewry has been granted in the post-WW2 world order a modicum of respect.
The case for enhancing Jewish social acceptance is centred more on matters of outright political necessity and the European deference to limited amounts of melanin and what that visually has come to identify to darker peoples. It is a marker, a social badge of clout and class-cultural belonging separating the colonialist from the native, an immediately discernible barrier between invader and the invaded. White skin has been celebrated as an unambiguous expression of racial power, a gift from Providence, the symbol dutifully exploited in western art, literature and theology to identify the upper-social position of the colonial population. Hence the psychosomatic inevitability that all imagery relating to the Palestinian Rabbi Jesus the Christ would be Europeanised, Whitewashed so to speak, so that he would represent the invasion of Europe beginning with the first of the Crusades. It was an effort to support the necessary illusion that the Anglo face “belongs” in that contested region. It lends to the utterly flawed suggestion that Europeanised Jews have a moral right to reclaim lands lost to European imperialism in 70 BCE while Semites indigenous to the geography are seen as “invaders” and peoples struggling vainly against the will and people of God, who we all conventionally taught are White people. Who by the way are made in God’s own unique alabaster image.
The all-important extenuating proviso of ‘White Privilege’ is the academic crux of the Europo-colonial arrangement. It is also what has allowed Europe’s Semitic Diaspora following the second of the major European tribal wars to be accepted and re-classified as White, therefore automatically deserving of power, privilege and the right to living space at the expense of non-Whites. It is a continuation of what Euro-American historian Howard Zinn has characterized as the colonializer’s tale, the conscious and consistent revisionism of invasion and genocide as the White man’s prerogative, the natural rights of indigenous populations or imported human labour be dammed.
The complexities of White supremacist reasoning does much to blur the fact that colonial states only become ethnically, theologically or ‘racially’ integrated once colonial societies begin to implode due to their own hubris. It eventually becomes necessary to incorporate elements of the subjected population into the political structure in order to maintain positive social control. Social change in many respects acts as a safety valve, gently releasing enough pressure to keep the base socio-political system intact without gravely interrupting the flow of power. Social integration is the bandage of colonialism, not the natural result of benevolent White rule.
In the Americas, uneducated Italians, hungry Poles, Russian peasants, the Irish fleeing the Potato Famine, rebellious Scots and persecuted Roma peoples over a period of time overcame Old World biases and became ‘White enough’ in the New World to become tolerable and predictably sided with the extant system as their own social firmness and economic mobility depends squarely on the influence of White social acceptance. These were and still are people seeking a profitable materialist experience and more control over their personal lives, something virtually impossible for them in the nations they originally hail from. For many immigrants, the decision to support White racial biases with vigour is indicative of their vested interest in becoming more accepted on personal and economic levels. For many, even those who have personally experienced institutional prejudice, it just isn’t their problem any longer once they “make the grade.”
Post-election hindsight elucidates this paradox in that American Africans keen to see a Black man in office conversely backed Proposition 8, the anti-Homosexual civil rights measure that purports to protect endangered heterosexuals from the fictional Gay agenda to take over the world. Alarmingly, 68 percent of the African voting community has actively and bigotedly voted against someone else’s human rights, a state of affairs at once morally awkward and politically offensive given the history of the African before colonial contact.
Homophobia is not an African concept. It was taught alongside Western religion by colonialist missionaries working to neutralize African identity and cultural paradigms such as the practise of Vodun, a primordial religion in which homosexual and two-spirited people frequently serve as clergy. It is an egalitarian spirituality representative of the original human societies that produced it. Even the post-Apartheid ANC (African National Congress) had the ethical and political prudence to register Homosexual human and civil rights in their new constitution, something the United States has yet to discuss in serious terms. Homophobia has become the new poor-man’s conceit. It is the new anti-Semitism, the polite prejudice in which even the lowly can have someone of their own to exploit and discriminate against. By insulting and assaulting the homosexual, the captive African in the U.S. says, “I belong, and I too have a stake in the system.”
It is utterly elemental but entirely appropriate to mention what needs to be said, the oppressed African in the United States it appears is quite content with becoming an oppressor. And it is also comprehensible and inevitable that this decision will come at a price.
The election of Barack Obama places the African in the U.S. in an additional precarious position. Should the Obama administration carry on the programme of U.S. global-wide imperialism, soft intellectual colonial maintenance at home and discriminatory disregard for international law, American Africans can now legitimately be accorded the very same ethical animosity White Americans have earned for themselves on the grounds that they have made a cognisant decision to stand with the U.S. even when it has done and will do wrong to them and the rest of the world.
The 2008 election round is verification of this attitude as are the numerous negative social ebbs that have developed within the African community once we began to forget who we really are and how we came to be in the United States of America. The sense of shared culture, struggle and survival fluently expressed in John Griffin’s outstanding expose’ of White America, “Black like Me” is no longer a universal contemplation of our people. It was first beaten out of us by the slave master and the overseer with the lash, now we choose to beat it out of ourselves with hair relaxers, gold jewellery and the promise of material riches. The deeply painful articulations of Jazz and Blues have been remade as products of “America,” not the undeviating discipline of the African musical traditions brought to the Americas encased within the DNA of the slave. Just as the political quilt of the United States is surreptitiously based on a much earlier model of North American Aboriginal state relations, America’ much-admired cultural melange and civil freedoms owes its existence to its ethnic and social minorities, not the Europocentric social order. But Euro-America has made a bad habit of co-opting all it conquers as its own invention. As noted by author Fredrick W. Turner in 1974:
“The truth is that in describing the Indian and his lands the White man was describing himself, his own drives and consuming desires.”
The urge to covet anything, everything and everyone in sight is the trademark of the settler mentality and has been in the Americas since European invasion first began. The practise of savage cruelty motorized by pure unadulterated greed, codified by religious zeal and Euro-nationalism may have changed in form, but the essential functions of Euro-American rule remain exactly the same.
This outlook stems from a peculiar Euro-American subconscious trait persistently reinforced via state propaganda, religious beliefs co-opted from Western Asia and the pedagogical institutions that Africans, Aboriginals, Asians and visible sexual minorities be perceived as a baffling melange of highly-functioning inferior groups in desperate need of White Christian leadership and tutelage. This mind-set has been absorbed by many within the U.S. regardless of class, ethnicity, national or cultural origin. Even with post-modernist political correctness in play, non-Whites in Euro-settler societies still remain hopelessly locked within social paradigms of second-class, sub-human citizenship that is only feasible as long as the subjected population willingly consigns itself to slave’s frame of mind. Despite the outcome of the 2008 election and the non-White figurehead chosen by the Electoral College, minorities will nonetheless struggle to be accepted by the White power structure as full contemporaries, albeit unequally filtered through a decidedly Europocentric set of values.
Will a little Black change the White House?
An Obama White House will do exactly what the Euro-settler class expects it to do, to continue to work faithfully to maintain the United States as a European, i.e., “White” nation-state. There may be allowances of a moderately prosperous non-European ethnic middle-class serving as an incorporated buffer that will tussle to maintain their “new” status as an “accepted people” with a vested stake in the “American Dream.” If an Obama administration is only willing to modify American capitalism as he has promised, by offering more materialist fodder to the middle-classes instead of dismantling the capitalist system and its necessary socio-economic caste stratifications, they have basically voted to remain locked within a deeper Europocentric colonial abyss.
This is where the pool of political analysis becomes a sea filled with ravenous sharks. If Africans and other ethnic minorities in the United States rashly decide to go along with the programme presented by the Obama/Biden ticket before and after they vote blinded by Mr. Obama’s ethnic makeup, assuming that their individual votes meant anything at all once the action moved from the polls to the Electoral College, they will be willingly pursuing a programme of reformed capitalism and a nicer, gentler Pax Americana rather than the “change” a brown-skinned person should naturally bring to such a position.
We have no one to blame for this situation but ourselves. As oppressed groups, we did not demand that a Black man running for president of the United States, himself a victim of blatant racial attacks in mainstream media and two assassination attempts by young White Power true-believers, speak candidly and truthfully without the restriction of concern for how Euro-Americans may receive the truth. It is clear that we, as isolated clusters, have allowed ourselves to be lulled into the delusional re-identification of “American” without careful consideration or regard for what that term really suggests.
To identify with the imaginary American nationality is to associate oneself with the genocide of North America’s First Nations, direct involvement of the international African slave trade, the legal Apartheid of Jim Crow and the extra-legal adaptations practised elsewhere, Manifest Destiny and the question of why the U.S. became a working example and inspiration for similar atrocities in South Africa and Teutonic Europe. It also means that as an American, the bearer is ethically responsible for acknowledging this narrative and honourably rectifying the damage created by these circumstances. Is the contemporary post-Black Power American African community truly calculating the risk involved in willingly merging with one’s former slave master?
One way to examine this question is to look at the treacherously thinning divide between church and state and the influence of Abrahamic theology in modern American life and politics. The practise of colonial Christianity is still a very strong factor within the American African community and has been utilized as the moral justification for the Civil Rights movement as well as the modern discrimination against homosexuals in the Diaspora. But aside from the churches that adhere to humanistic and Afrocentric-based liberation theologies, the Black church has generally been used as an enabler for acquiescence rather than resistance. This boldly contradicts the folkloric lessons of the Christian Bible that profess to document the history of the Jewish people who rebelled against their allegedly servile social status in classical Egypt and successfully struggled for their liberation. They then became oppressors themselves according to the latter chapters of Exodus by slaying what they could of the Canaanite Nation to physically occupy and dominate their territories. In turn, they were forcibly expelled from the region after losing ground during the First Roman-Jewish War, the part we are allowed to reference and obediently remember. The xenophobic period of nationalistic Semitic-on-Semitic genocide against the Canaanites is ignored is an issue of no real importance.
Even the revisionist King James Version makes it abundantly clear that both Moses and Jesus the Christ strongly believed in the complete separation of the victim from their victimiser, a potent anti-colonialist message curiously passed over in missionary sermons to the theoretical savage masses. To acknowledge this significant element of the colonial religion is to commit a great blasphemy. Not of God, but towards the all-powerful White men who represent God’s ultimate authority on Earth. Any transgression against the inherent right of White authority and the subsequent order of things is viewed as direct defiance of Romans Chapter 13 in which it is written: “There is no government anywhere that God has not placed in power.”
This was the high crime of liberation theology educator the Reverend Jeremiah Wright of Chicago. He became the whipping-boy for White and Black neo-conservative pundits screaming at the top of their lungs about anti-White racial hatred within the tradition and very existence of the Black Church. The Euro-settler public expressed utter fury towards Rev. Wright’s correct theological estimation that America as a nation should be dammed by Iehovah for its genocidal transgressions against the weak, the different and the poor. Reactionary Whites immediately redefined Rev. Wright’s sermons as anti-White bigotry without critically identifying the direct correlation between his teaching and that of the anti-imperialist message of Jesus the Christ in then Roman occupied Palestine. Rev. Wright’s life and work are more in line with the Christ’s reported teachings than the zealous, pro-violence Judeophobic and anti-Islamic theological screeds found among televised evangelical preachers such as Pastor John Hagee and the Rev. Rod Parsley. Their version of the ancient Palestinian cult calls for worldwide Christian domination under an exclusively American-led imperial arrangement. This is a serious contrast to what is championed in verse, the anti-colonial political rudiments of the Christian faith, a poor man’s religion developed in the midst of European colonial circumstances.
Jesus, son of Mary was a charismatic, organised and dangerous political radical with a dedicated following, a terrorist by today’s standards, to the Roman colonial government and the Vichy Jewish class who eventually turned him over to the colonial authorities. Nor have White Americans upset with Rev. Wright connected his call for justice with the Euro-settler call for independence from foreign tyranny by the American founding fathers to the British Crown. It too was cloaked in semi-religious terms, but this was conveniently forgotten about once their goals of land and liberation was achieved.
Colonial states do not found themselves on the premise of full liberation. Each element of power fashioned by the state is for the benefit of the state. It is an intricate system of checks and balances designed to keep the native and sub-social classes they dominate hopelessly dependent upon the state and the colonial society the state represents. The incorporated colonial subject, nurtured in colonialist cultural norms and education, cannot resist admiring, to one degree or another, the power and grandeur of the colonial class. This deification of the colonialist was carefully cultivated by first methodically inventing and then exploiting divisions between the natives and other subjected classes. The colonial practise of divide-and-conquer pits one group against another, insuring that unity and political organisation amongst the oppressed never achieves a solid foothold. This vacuum is then filled with individuals and social classes psychologically and economically loyal to the colonial superstructure for their sectional socio-political privileges. Occasionally, external forces and internal dichotomies compel the colonialist class to re-define the physical mechanization of the system without appreciably altering the fundamental nature of the colonial state. Oppressive powers as a rule cannot expect to endure without earning a certain level of dedicated support from the oppressed classes. After a period of time, the colonial predilection to dictate the direction of the society can safely be channelled and entrusted to select Assimilados who, without the need for reinforced coercion, will labour to maintain the appreciably asymmetrical status quo.
It is an error of grand proportions to assume that Barack Obama will be any different than former Secretary of State General Colin Powell (ret.), (notable for his contribution to the official cover-up of the My Lai massacre) current Secretary of State Condi Rice, (who was buying shoes in NYC while Black people drowned in New Orleans) or Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas who has made it a point of his permanent status to the court to refute African civil rights at every opportunity. An Obama White House will remain just that, a White seat of imperial power. Our community has been fooled many, many times before into supporting Africans in American government service that in the end did absolutely nothing for the African Diasporic community or any other population victimised by “Americanism” and I challenge the reader look inside oneself and find fault with this assessment. Bringing the non-European “up to the level” of the colonialist is not freedom, it is purely slavery under a new set rules written and imposed by the very same power structure that has repackaged Manifest Destiny as the graceful mercies of a benevolent but overtly racist conscious empire.
The decision to support Mr. Obama’s proposed policies by American minorities undeniably places us in the revolting position of wilful overseers expected with protecting the imperial-colonial interests of the U.S. over its global plantation. We have as a demographic chosen to stand side by side with the United States in aiding the maintenance of American White supremacy at home and around the world. When the tide eventually turns, and it will if the Christian Bible has any authority in such a discussion, then we as a people will suffer the same fate as those who have misused, mistreated and murdered the peoples of the world in ‘our’ name. One cannot feign ignorance of genocide and exploitation and remain human. Black or Brown skin does not protect one from the charge of criminal and moral apathy when one is wholly guilty of gross inaction in the face of injustice.
The 3rd, and 4th Worlds will never, and should never, ever, allow the Black man and woman of the United States to forget that we too are a direct product of American capitalism and that we have in many instances helped wield the whip against our own people. African, Asian and southern American governments are nearly universally dominated by those of either the mixed-race upper-classes or by strong native supporters of the military, political or economic colonial organism. Barack Obama typifies this hypothesis. He is a half-White, widely travelled and proudly race-neutral graduate of Harvard University. He was allowed to become a part of the operational levels of the social system, so theoretically he is a cog within the colonial machine. Another way to deconstruct this is to look at the subconscious psycho-socio dilemma of the half-caste, with one foot in the White world and the other foot dwelling somewhere else, identity and allegiances are always divided.
However, Mr. Obama’s other metaphorical appendage resides distantly in Kenya, which for the American White man is very different and much less threatening than having African roots harvested in the U.S. Mr Obama flawlessly fulfils all of the White racist prerequisites of what is mandatory for a Euro-American imperial power in the 21st century. He is the personage of respectability, a product of enlightened and compassionate European imperialism, the face of the new neo-liberal corporate class. The pioneering half-White emperor of the new American century of capitalist empire is frankly the only “historical” element to be found within this otherwise consistent colonial paradigm. And the public relations play on his ethnic duality will increase as American military i.e., business concerns make further inroads within the re-conquest of the African motherland.
Deconstructing the New Negro
“Millions of men…whom fear has been cunningly instilled, who have been taught to have an inferiority complex, to tremble, kneel, despair.”
- Aime Cesare
I will continue this critique with three preliminary observations. First, the idea that Europeanised nation-states are by fiat inherently superior to the non-European countries they invade is central to the falsehoods mentioned above. Colonialism and its operative arm, institutionalised ethnic marginalisation, are not accidents of history. The colonialist class creates only for itself, not the “native.” The existence of limited numbers of non-Europeans functioning at social levels generally reserved for the colonial population is not a gift from the Gods, for these ‘assimilados’ dutifully serve the powers that be. That is their job. The colonialist class will frequently point to these sparse examples as proof of “progressive assimilation,” but the people, cultures, societies and territories ruined by such developments tell a very different story.
Next, the necessity of the colonialist to justify his colonisation as an ancient anthology of selfless good deeds to the half-man/half-devils of Kipling’s fantasies is primarily emotional anxiety. Very few Euro-settlers, in particular those based in the Americas, are willing to accept the more Volkisch aspects of their presence in lands they are not indigenous to. The detail remains however that colonialism in practise is deliberate genocide and one need not be convinced of this fact through argument for the evidence is there for all to see. The psychosomatic juncture is inescapably encountered when the question of legitimacy is raised in regards to the colonial state itself, not just its immediate by-product of native eradication. This creates a neurosis for the colonialist who must now explain himself, his physical occupation of land that is not historically his own and his active and, or, passive participation in the elimination of the native population to make such lebenstraumpolitik possible in the first place. To roughly paraphrase Carl Jung, colonial classes are by and large assemblies of detached persons who benefit from the privileges granted to them by the artificial power of the state while neurotically coping with the injustices of being a part of the status quo.
Lastly, it is entirely and intentionally misleading to proclaim, as the professional American media machine is wont to do, that racism in post-election America is over. From the outset, Mr. Obama’s campaign was fraught with the visual contradictions of a non-White male running for president in a nation which has legally mandated federal, state and municipal level racial profiling against non-White males during the Clinton administration. The McCain/Palin ticket and their conservative attack-dogs made great use of the innate European fear of African men by making a point of his “otherness” throughout the campaign. But it would be incorrect to lay America’s racism solely at the feet of neo-Conservatives, progressives used White racism to their advantage as well. While the majority of Euro-Americans who openly supported Mr. Obama from the start boast that this empirically proves that anti-African racism in the U.S. is indeed over, they selectively skip over the fact that it was White liberals that made a larger issue by raising the fact that Mr. Obama’s bi-racial background was an exceedingly important factor in making him a viable candidate for the Euro-American voter. In other words, he “really” isn’t Black; he just looks that way because of his father. An accident of a wayward White hippy mother from Kansas as many neo-con pundits have openly opined and this estimation is exactly what has encouraged the Euro-American progressive movement to stand behind him. Barack Obama looks like change, but being change is something altogether different than a 30-second, or 30-minute, commercial for modern American “full-spectrum dominance.”
This “de-negromentation” of the socially acceptable individual ethnic minority is nothing new; it is borne from a consistently progressive paradigm of White racism as old as the republic itself. It is an ideal still taught to its victims as “common sense” as opposed to the much more emancipative approach of ethno-historical consciousness and self-awareness. The Eugenicist push to re-define everything and everyone within the loosely defined rules of White Power says more about European social paradigms than it does about the people, cultures and societies Euro-Americans have either co-opted or eliminated since it overpowered the British Crown. In this light, Barack Obama’s victory is really not a victory of anything tangibly progressive if issues such as these are not looked at carefully and honestly by both the White American population and those still tenaciously clinging to life existing under U.S. colonial rule.
For our Sisters and Brothers in the Motherland, the rise of a dark Caesar is perhaps the greatest challenge Africa has faced since the rape of the continent in the wake of the 1884 Berlin Conference wherein the major European powers, those with enough military might to make a claim, decided amongst themselves how they would split up the landmass for their own benefit. As I have previously deconstructed in an earlier essay entitled, “Uncle Tom Goes to Washington: The Dark Underside of Barack Obama’s run for the American Presidency,” I pointed out that Barack Obama as American president is merely a modern reconstruction of the Roman emperor Septimius Severus, a North African who viciously subjugated his own people for the profit of the European powers he represented. While much has been made of the fact that Mr. Obama is half-African, he is also half-White and has taken great pains to convince the White American public that he has never experienced racism nor suffers from a familial history of slavery or White racist terror in the Americas, creating a wall between himself and those like this writer who has had and continues to experience these socio-political negativities. Therefore Barack Obama, the “American candidate” differs greatly from the list of American African politicians I referenced earlier in this work who would have been much more likely to raise these issues and may have worked diligently to address them at home and abroad. For Mr. Obama and his White liberal supporters, his denial of institutional White racism in the face of the overwhelmingly black-hearted tone of the republican party efforts to derail his campaign make him the “perfect” candidate to lead the charge to re-occupy the African continent.
Did you really think, dear reader, that the newly established U.S. system of AFRICOM has no relation to Mr. Obama’s appointment to the U.S. seat of imperial power? The choice of Barack Obama is purely psychological gamesmanship. Essentially, Mr. Obama will “front” the American capitalist war machine, not dismantle it. And the sports fans watching from the sidelines will think that he is representing them, not the White supremacist elements that comprise the world’s power elites. His flood of Electoral College votes alone proves this. In reality, only 43% of Euro-settler voters supported the democratic ticket. Minority voters, Whites jacked by the housing and credit crisis, negative world opinion, political necessity and proper timing made putting an ethnic minority in as The Leader a smart move. Like his predecessor Emperor Septimius Severus, Emperor, another imperial leader of colour, Barack Obama will continue the European war of genocide against the Indigenous Palestinian people, he will threaten Arab, African and Asian nations with military violence if they argue for genuine independence and he will carry on the history of ethnic and cultural marginalisation of North America’s Indigenous peoples and nations like all other U.S. presidents before him. I have seen nothing tangible from the Obama camp to alter my analysis at this point in time, but I remain open to rearticulating my position given that an Obama administration actually does more than talk of change.
Despite the thrashing Marx has received in the capitalist world, (which is just about the entire world) his dialectics surrounding the universality of class struggle has yet to be effectively disproved. The United States as a socio-political entity has never altered itself internally on the basis of fairness or justice, it has always without exception been compelled to change due to circumstances imposed in many cases by the very conditions its own policies created. The credit crisis that began in the U.S. and eventually became a worldwide economic concern is entirely due to the American culture of class-conscious materialistic greed, nothing more. So far Mr. Obama has merrily endorsed the much ballyhooed Wall Street bailout and delicately demands that the second Bush administration “stimulus package” be issued sooner than later. As our activist sisters and brothers struggling on the front lines in Africa have pragmatically and poetically put it, liberation is often just a word for a new oppressor. And chances are, in the post-modernist world, the colonially loyal and cheerful oppressor often looks a lot like you.
Matters of Subjugation and Occupation
“Where are the children of the Cherokee, my great-grandmother’s people?
Where are the children of the Blackfoot?
Where are the children of the Lakota?
Of the Cheyenne?
Of the Chippewa?
Of the Iroquois?
Of the Sioux?
Of the Mandinka?
Of the Ibo?
Of the Ashanti?”
- Alice Walker
I cannot end this commentary without addressing the pressing issue of Indigenous human rights, U.S. federal treaty obligations, our resistance to American colonial aggression and the question of genocide against Indigenous Americans. Capitalism has been forced to alter its face and its function slightly over the past half-century, give or take a few years, and Mr. Obama’s promotion from senator to emperor is the basically infrequent exception that serves to prove the rule. As I have speculated earlier, had the housing crisis not happened when it did, with the resulting injury it incurred to the White middle-class, the McCain/Palin ticket would be announcing plans to prepare the nation for the Rapture. Native American support was extremely helpful to this effort, but not in terms of votes. The Indigenous support given to the Obama campaign was a stamp of moral legitimacy for Indigenous exploitation since survivors of the 500-plus year old Euro-settler anti-Aboriginal purge threw their support behind more of the same. Barack Obama as the Hapa candidate for many was a sign that life for the American Indian could be “better” under a non-White president.
There is the fairy tale of equal opportunity via political representation and there is the falsehood of greater minority social power when represented by someone not ethnically of the ruling class. Combined, these myths are strong factors in maintaining the illusion that “progress” is entirely possible by faithfully working within the colonialist system. Non-White political leadership at every level of authority is as a rule a matter of political expediency, not ethno-social equality. The appointment of Barack Obama to the American presidency has the salacious effect of relaxing intelligent investigation of the American tradition of genocide, racism and ethnic/religious bias. American Aboriginals are central to this discourse since we are the population that has been disenfranchised of the lands that comprise the claimed borders of the United States.
Our lands, concepts of personal liberty and governance, our spiritual traditions and ultimately our very own identities as First Nations peoples are the basis for what became the American ideal.
The noble theory of Individual freedom and independence was learned from the native, not the coloniser who came to conquer and succeeded. It is also ironically accurate to point put that the so-called Indian’s generosity and egalitarianism is what made European settlement and Manifest Destiny possible at all. A factor conveniently overlooked in the current discussion about America’s supposedly “new” direction away from its racist colonialist origins.
America is a land chock full of myths. First, there is the myth of a barren, sparsely populated North American continent prearranged by Providence to belong to the valiant European seeking nothing more than new vistas to explore. Next is the myth of complete racial parity immediately following the recitation of the Emancipation Proclamation and the passage of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the U.S. Constitution. And lastly, that the United States has never, ever, used blunt military force or illegal (under international law) interventionist means to secure its national or foreign territories and markets for its own selfish purposes.
Then who did invade the twin continents and laid waste to both the land and its Indigenous peoples? As merrily reported by the U.S. Census Bureau’s assessment in 1890, official and “unofficial actions” undertaken by the settler population positively eliminated 96-98% of the Aboriginal population in the north by 1890 C.E. Four years later this very same arm of the U.S. federal government published a summarised account of “individual affairs” that resulted in no less than 45,000 killings of Aboriginal Americans by Christian European settlers. The intellectual jujutsu which goes into arguing why such history should be accepted as simple “history” is academically necessary to a system fundamentally based on theological eugenics. The admittance of invasion and violence, one of the immediately discernable operative arms of colonial power, must be avoided at all costs. Few modern colonial nation-states are willing to connect their birth to belligerence, let alone race-based belligerence.
But the truth about the holocaust against the American Indian cannot be extinguished from the inner-psyche of the United States. The malady of colonialism is a sickness of the coloniser’s own self-image, the personal realisation of his own weaknesses and supercilious ego. It is the belief that authority over lands and peoples makes man godlike.
It was the divine spark of inspiration for the holocaust of the transcontinental African Slave Trade; it encouraged President McKinley to occupy, and colonize the peoples Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines because he rationalised that God wanted him to; It was flickering within the flames of the Alamo and it was howling in the winds of Korea and the breezes of Vietnam. It is an analogy of the colonialists’ deep-seated fear. A fear that keeps Leonard Peltier in prison for a crime he did not commit and many, many others alongside him for conditions imposed against them from without. The ghost the imperial-colonialist ultimately fears is himself. Hence, he must lie to himself about what he has done by lying about what he is doing and what he will later do. The national tall tale therefore must exist so long as the colonial situation exists.
The grandiose mistruths of America differ little from the other useless commodities churned out by its aggressively capitalist socio-political system. It is after all entirely based on the exploitation of human beings and natural resources. There is little doubt that the establishment of the rebellious Euro-Settler United States republic was a significant socio-political godsend within the narrow parameters of western understanding as it relates to human liberties. For the Indigenous peoples of the Americas and Western Africa however an altogether different perception of European ethical standards has been our reality. An appalling record of violence and psychological war against an entire people cannot be erased by an election in Washington D.C. and it is insulting to suggest that it ever will.
America, Barack Obama’s America, is based on genocide, the original sin of the colonial state. Occupied territory is still occupied territory no matter how ancient the transgression. Any resistance to this occupation, any confrontation at all, invites the call to obliterate the original entity, and then to co-opt their identification with the land. Englishman John F.D. Smyth, author of ‘A Tour of the United States of America’ recognised this and reported to Europe exactly what thought about the progress of settler-Aboriginal affairs in 1784 America. He made it clear that the desire to rid the “New World” of its original inhabitants included, “Extirpating them totally from the face of the Earth, men, women and children.” His assessment was echoed in 1890 by the U.S. federal census when they officially recorded that there were fewer than 250,000 Aboriginals left alive within the continental United States. This was in reference to a population which ranged anywhere from 12 1/2 - 15 million at first contact and amounted to nearly a 98% attrition of the indigenous population since the Pilgrim Fathers landed at Plymouth Rock. In order to consume the resources within the land and the land itself, it is imperative to consume the people of the land. That is the nature of the process. And the situation has not changed at the present.
How can a people forgive a government and its people for genocide, especially when the government and people in question still occupy the stolen territories? The election of Barack Obama muddies the question of Indigenous land and identity repatriation. His call and personal example of an “America for everybody” does not include recognition of Indigenous independence. It offers a seat at the colonial table, not a table of our own. This may be inclusion, but as an Aboriginal I suss this as another tale of exclusion, of wilful ignorance of the sufferings of my people and an insult against me a victim of American colonial ethnocide. If Barack Obama and his crew of capitalist Chicago wunderkinds can find it within them to look backwards in order to go forwards I am willing to at least listen to what he has to say. But the elements above will need to be addressed and addressed fully, honestly and without reservation. The victims of America those living, those long buried and those littering the surface of the Earth deserve better.
I chose to title this article in the international language Esperanto to prove this point. While critics of the language cite its Europocentric colloquialisms and its origins as a “manufactured idiom,” its intended goal was and is to unite all human beings in an increasingly smaller world with a common form of communication. It was believed by its founders to be an answer to the excuses behind non-communication leading to war. If we all speak a common tongue in addition to, but not a replacement of, our native languages, belligerence it was hoped would be kept to a minimum. It is for this reason that Indigenist activists have adopted Esperanto as a unifier that bridges all peoples without regard to cultural or social hierarchy. There is a lesson in this for the First World. It is possible for all of us to be who we are without having to submit to a singular cultural or socio-political arrangement. It is exactly this ideal that fuelled the worldwide public support for Barack Obama to be president of the United States, the granddaddy imperial power of the last century. It is ultimately up to us, the people, all of the people, to take the opportunity and use this change of government and alter the current paradigm that is in reality the very same old format we have faced since 1492. We, not Barack Obama, can do it provided we have the spirit to stand up and speak the truth no matter what the leadership happens to look like.
However, I am intelligent enough not to hold my breath.