Nettime mailing list archives

Re: <nettime> christmas/chomsky/baghdad digest
Fátima Lasay on Sat, 3 Jan 2004 10:02:32 +0100 (CET)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

Re: <nettime> christmas/chomsky/baghdad digest

>Date: Tue, 30 Dec 2003 01:30:53 -0600
>From: Dan Wang <danwang {AT} mindspring.com>
>Subject: Re: <nettime> christmas/chomsky/baghdad digest
>Americans are soft. We are the children, grandchildren, great grandchildren,
>and great-great grandchildren of immigrants, settlers, runaway outlaws. We
>don't know what it means to struggle, because our immigrant ancestors did
>all the struggling for us. So we could have a better life. So we could be


Yes, but I don't think that people are "soft" because the struggle has
been fought for them or because they are living comfortable lives and thus
cannot risk losing comfort; people become "soft" because they have been
indoctrinated, educated, represented and governed to become "soft."

Yours has been the only self-reflective and contemplative reaction to this
issue I have received so far, and honestly I am touched at how you are
able to shape an emotion as powerful as what you feel now into something
positive and proactive. How many people after 9-11 wanted to destroy
Afghanistan to find Osama bin Laden - not because they contemplated on the
situation but because (corporate) government and media told them so?

My objection to intellectualism (without activism and culturalism) is that
this imbalance reduces considerably the contemplation and concentration of
effort and focus to remove the roots of imperialism. Many even still have
high hopes in the political system that the election of a new US president
will significantly change the course of things. There is nothing
completely wrong with this but this must be seen as only a diversion - one
of many means by which people are rendered "soft" - because debates and
elections feign "(supposedly) democratic processes that work where they
are (supposedly) allowed to work."

How could American nationalism have been brought by discourse and
deliberate misreadings of history to be so refulgent as to bring
"democracy" to Iraq and at once limit and endanger the rights and mobility
of the American people? Even the most egalitarian ideology can be
re-fashioned and re-shaped to suit the seizure of corporate America on
moral and cultural capital, installing systems that protect its own
interests against demands of the populace whilst promising "a better

In the introductory texts I wrote on Walden Bello's "future in the
balance", I mention the crucial need for a triadic balance of the
activist, intellectual and cultural worker. I also mentioned: "Periods of
crisis in human history would be marked by historically conjured barriers
between manual and mental labor, in that fissure between the worker's
movement and the intellectuals living in a deceptively bi-polar world..."
Chomsky shot to fame because he is intellectually provocative - his
"career" began when he left activism and focused on writing. Yes, there is
momentum there, but it is an illusion because it is out of a triadic

Chomsky and more Chomsky only make it difficult/elusive to fight American
imperialism at the deepest ideological/cultural level but it lends the
feeling of "edged mass anti imperialist movement" because his ideas are
moralist rhetorics, appealing - but is it truly empowering and liberating?  
A delusion of empowerment is created by tilting balances between populist
movement and intellectualism. But if one looks closely, this is a bi-polar
concept of the world, one that lends itself easily to divisionism.

The Philippine-American War in 1898 to 1902 headlined the earliest debates
in the US on American foreign policy - on the anti-imperialist side, "Lady
Liberty" symbolized public opinion that simultaneously supported the
Filipino cause for independence and criticized corporate globalization:
“Do I represent the idea of popular government…or am I simply a trademark
for goods of American trust manufacturers?” On the pro-imperialist side
the stand was: McKinley: “Can we leave these people…to chaos after we have
destroyed the only government they had? It is the duty of American
government to provide them a better one…”

Did all those pro- anti- debates and elections (if I'm not mistaken
McKinley was assassinated?) significantly change things for the better

Only some 30 years ago, in the Vietnam war, the American people knew what
it meant to struggle and fight American imperialism. American imperialism
in Vietnam lasted 28 long years (imperialism beginning in 1954; armed
invasion began in 1963). American imperialism was defeated in Vietnam -
but only in Vietnam - not in America. US military pull-out of Vietnam
might have actually pre-empted the (possible ultimate) defeat of American
imperialism in America. If the US had stayed longer in Vietnam, it is
possible the American working/middle class would've staged a revolution
and completely defeated the American imperialist agenda. Then the defeat
of American imperialism would not have merely been reactionary, it would
have been both ideological and deep within the grass-roots culture of
America.  If this were the case, perhaps the American middle class would
have refused to go to war in Iraq.

Through activism we have deposed two oppressive regimes in the Philippines
the past two decades, peacefully, but conditions have not fundamentally
changed. Why? Because the world is a difficult and delicate balance of
intellectualism, activism and culturalism - and our efforts here in Asia
(or in the Arab world), to build a culture of peace, will never
significantly take place, until the west has found a way to free

#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: majordomo {AT} bbs.thing.net and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  archive: http://www.nettime.org contact: nettime {AT} bbs.thing.net