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John Hope May 18, 2009

Posted by Afflatus in History.
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While driving through Martin Luther King’s historical district this weekend I passed a park overflowing with children. The children – all of whom were African American – were running jumping screaming sitting laughing playing. I focused on a circle of kids around a parachute each holding onto a section of it. On the teachers command the children begin madly shaking the parachute upanddown. Balls spring up, popping out of their hidden restfulness of the moment prior. The kids laugh and smile.

The scene in the park sends my mind back to a memory that took place at my elementary school, The Children’s School (do names get better than this?). An all-time favorite activity in gym class among my classmates and me was the parachute. Coach Rob would tell us when to begin, just as the African American teacher instructed her kids, and instantly a raucous wave of movement instilled laughter, happiness, and good memories in us all.

The stoplight turned green, and reluctantly I drove off; though I seriously considered parking and watching the kids play for a little longer. I took my last glance at the park, which, nestled in the shadows of Martin Luther King’s former Baptist church, was brimming with happiness, life, and memories-in-the-making.

As I crept away in my silent Prius, I noticed the teacher’s shirt: “Hope is Back” it read. Whether the creator of the shirt intended it or not, the shirt instantly compelled my mind to Obama, and his message of hope. Then, to MLK, and his message of hope. Like Moses, MLK’s eyes had seen the “promised land”, but, he said, he wouldn’t get there with us. Have we reached the “promised land”? Is this it? Obama a “black” man has indeed been elected president.

To answer my own question: No, this is not the “promised land.” I was quickly reminded of this fact when, a few blocks later, I was immersed in the glaring poverty common in the old Fourth Ward of Atlanta (not to mention the extreme poverty in countries that are not the richest and most productive in the world). The residents of the impoverished old Fourth Ward are nearly totally African American, while wealthy, white Atlantans in Druid Hills live nearby. Economic justice became MLK’s focus in his later years, and he would certainly not be satisfied with the huge racial income inequality that is typical in Atlanta and the rest of the United States.

Despite the enormous amount of progress that has been made there is still work to be done, as President Obama often exclaimed during his presidential campaign. But, thanks to MLK, Obama, along with the thousands of other men and women (Dubois, Garrison, Douglas, Tubman, Lewis, Truth etc.) working tirelessly to reach the promised land, we are progressing. Maybe the progress is slower than some of us would like, nevertheless we are progressing substantially. Everyone should do all they can to help us all reach that glorious land. MLK, Obama, and numerous other famous names are granted credit in the historical narrative. This credit is undoubtedly due to these great men and women, but their dreams and their efforts would be impossible without the help of countless others, whose names historians have forgotten, but upon which the hinges of history equally rest.

P.S. When I drove away and noticed the name of the elementary school was John Hope Elementary School, the teacher’s shirt carried new meaning.

Oldies but Goodies May 15, 2009

Posted by Afflatus in Energy.
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I know the story about biofuels causing food prices to rise is old news, but while reading the wikipedia page on the World Bank I got diverted to an article in the Guardian which I thought I’d share.

The article essentially says that a World Bank report which analyzed the food crisis last summer found that the overwhelming cause was bad policy by Western nations. The report says that 100 million more people found themselves below the poverty line after food prices jumped as a result of the US and EU implementing energy policies centered on biofuels as a solution for reducing their dependence on petroleum. This is an atrocity.

The interesting thing was that this World Bank report was not published so that George Bush and leaders of the EU would not been embarrassed for their mistaken and (probably) hasty policies.

The article can be found here . I am not a big reader of The Guardian, although I am aware it is a left-wing paper published in Britain. I found the article to be clear, concise, and thorough. I appreciated the depth of its explanation of the World Bank report, which is something I often find lacking in the New York Times, my go-to newspaper.

Anyhowww, ya’ll should check out the article. On a slightly different note, does anyone have thoughts on the World Bank or IMF. Both institutions Joseph Stiglitz (and many others) has criticized for harming so called third-world countries, being a tool of the US, and/or hurting the environment, public health, and standards of living. Whhaddup?

The Porch May 14, 2009

Posted by Afflatus in Music.
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A joint effort (poem?) by Jason, Dani, and me. Written at the beach on that wonderful porch:

Yo this one eyed gravediggin bowl is taking its toll
I feel the rush to my head, starting to feel a lil dead
I disagree, to a degree, about humanity,
J flack, jmarq and danny boy,
On some other shit like soy,
Float, moat, boat into the sea.

Why do some folks need religion?
I just need to be sittin here, chillin.
Evangelize, vandalize, get away from me
Quit peddlin shit to kids in the land of the free.

This is the land of the free?
Yes, that has been constantly told to me.
But all I can see, looking through history,
Is institutionalized slavery, poverty, and shrubbery.

Hiding in the crevices of the roots,
A once serene memory dissolves into suitcases and suits,
The land engulfed an indigenous people,
Brutally displaced and erased,
I stop to pick up trash on the hot asphalt below.
And stare into the earth’s face.

And I’m asking myself:
“What could I have done?”
Taking books off the shelf
Trying to piece it back together.

My bookshelf and I are reading together
I’m rewinding through history learning about the past.
I’ve past the war that was Cold, past all living memory that could be told.
Past the Middle Ages, now approaching Rome, on my way home.

MEEEeeeeRHAPSODYtruthpowerpeace MEEEeeeeRHAPSODYtruthpowerpeace
MEEEeeeeRHAPSODYtruthpowerpeace MEEEeeeeRHAPSODYtruthpowerpeace

Reverse Policy in Japan May 9, 2009

Posted by Afflatus in History, World Affairs.
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One month after the atomic bombings of Japan in August of 1945, MacAurther and his SCAP fellows arrived in Japan. The Japanese defeated wartime regime had spent the last month burning massive amounts of evidence of their repressive militarism. SCAP, stood for Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers, and was the American occupying administration. SCAP’s two overall policies were democratization and demilitarization. In order to achieve the later, a new constitution was written and then effectuated in 1947. Instead of the militaristic, and totalitarian right-wing regime, America wanted one which was socially and politically liberal. Their new constitution resembled ours, guaranteeing voting rights to all, as well as freedoms of speech, press, and assembly. We freed communists and liberals whom the totalitarian regime had jailed.

This policy of supporting a liberal Japanese government lasted until the Cold War began. By 1949 China had fallen to communists, and tensions with the Soviets were rapidly increasing. In response, the United States began what is known as the “reverse policy.” SCAP then began jailing liberals and communists, eventually totaling in number to 17,000. The US assisted in the election of a conservative man who had ties to the militaristic and totalitarian regime of the 1940s. Communists were suppressed, freedoms were curtailed, all in response to the Cold War framework that was developing. This was the US policy until we “left” in 1952. This is just one example of the heavy-hand the US had in Japan ever since 1853 when Commodore Perry arrived with the US navy to force open Japan’s ports to US shipping and markets. The reverse policy is one of many when it comes to ironic episodes in the history of US foreign policy.

Modern Nationalism and its Origins May 7, 2009

Posted by Afflatus in Books and Movies, History.
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Early this semester I was assigned reading from Eric Hobsbawm The Age of Empire: 1875-1914. Hobsbawm is a British Marxist historian born in 1917 and still living. In a chapter on nationalism and its developments he provides some very interesting analysis that I thought I would share with you all. Most of what follows is his words.

The word “nationalism”:
• First appeared at the end of 19th century to describe groups of right-wing ideologists in France and Italy
o These first “nationalists” were keen to brandish the national flag against foreigners, liberals, and socialists in favor of that aggressive expansion of their own state which was to become so characteristic of such movements.
o In this period, 1880-1914, the song “Deutschland Uber Alles’ (Germany above all others) replaced rival compositions to become the actual national anthem of Germany.
• Began to be used by all movements to whom ‘national cause’ was paramount in politics: that is to say for all demanding the right to self-determination
• The basis of ‘nationalism’ of all kinds was the same: the readiness of people to identify themselves emotionally with ‘their’ nation and to be politically mobilized as Czechs, Germans, Italians or whatever, a readiness which could be politically exploited.
• Democratization of politics, and especially elections facilitated the potential to mobilize around national identity.

The word “Patriotism”:
• Usually the functioning term for “nationalism”. In both the English and Japanese languages the term “nationalist” has a negative connotation, while “patriot” is a term every politician wants associated with himself.
• The essence of right-wing nationalism was to claim a monopoly of patriotism for the extreme political right, and thereby brand everyone else as some sort of traitor.
• This phenomenon was new. For most of the 19th century nationalism had been rather identified with liberal and radical movements and with the tradition of the French Revolution.

One last interesting point he makes.
• He also explains how the political dedication to nationalism did not necessarily exclude other political aims.
o For example James Connolly, a class conscious Marxian revolutionary and an Irish patriot, was executed in 1916 for leading the Easter Rising in Dublin

US – Pakistani Relations May 6, 2009

Posted by Afflatus in History, World Affairs.
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Check out this great presentation of Pakistan’s history since independence focusing on US involvement in the region. I sure learned a lot!

US and Pakistan