Building Education for the Commons
I would like to share a brief story. With limited exception, I’ve spent most of my life living in the United States of America. In many ways, I love America. American is the result of a bloody revolution. Men and women came together and united against the tyranny of the British crown for freedom. It took courage and people’s lives to birth America. No matter how sterile and prosaic people make America seem its revolutionary history remains and continues to run throughout its fabric, its story, its identity. It is this revolutionary thread that runs throughout the soul of America that gives me and others great inspiration and the courage that revolution is inseparable from the essence of “America.”
Recently I came to Greece and have already spent a few months here. And let me tell you I have witnessed the devastating effects of Greece’s “Great Depression” wrought by the financial ruling class of the European Union. The Greek workers themselves didn’t bring this Depression on, but rather the responsibility is placed squarely on corrupt political leaders who bought into the plan cooked up by the financial capitalist class to try to privatize Greece’s public sectors. In doing this, they fell into debt and are now entrapped so deeply that it forces Greeks out of their homes and onto the street. And who do you think gets these homes? In other words, the acids of neoliberalism, like cancer, won’t stop until all things fall into the hands of the wealthy 1%. Their is no restraint build into capitalist greed; it is a disease in desperate need of a cure before it kills all of us.
What this Greek experience has given to me is a deeper consciousness about what it means to suffer under the regime of global financial capitalism. It is horrifying. And yet, the Greek people and culture continue to resist.
Greece is a magical place and its little wonder that this place birthed a culture of literature, democracy, philosophy, drama, art and architecture that has defined the very contours of culture for over 2500 years of history. This is why the stark contrast between the vulgar brutality of capitalist greed and Greek culture is so pronounced and births a struggle within the very soul of Greece. It is little wonder that you have thoughtlessness (capitalism) attacking the very core where history gave birth to culture and philosophy! Thoughtless Greed against thoughtful Greeks.
I have made amazing friendships with professors, artists, anarchists, democratic fighters and I can honestly say that what I thought was “leftist” (i.e., taking the side of democracy, freedom, equality) in America doesn’t really have the power within it that a leftist in Greece possesses. I know this is a sweeping statement and there’s always exceptions, but it seems true here.
There’s a great danger of a certain indifference that grows within a “leftist” horizon in America. By no means does this entail that all leftist in America are like this. But without the need to struggle, to make sacrifices for the good of all people, there is a real danger of an apathetic or even a sarcastic current to infect and undermine leftist positions in America. I think that people just assume that democracy exists on its own. But democracy by definition requires participation and if voting once every four years is how one defines “participation” then democracy will die.
One example of this could be my experience of starting GCAS, but I will share these details with you in a different format. What I will say is that many that I thought were committed to a democratic struggle and proclaimed to be “leftist” proved otherwise. It was a time for me to overcome my naivety.
GCAS isn’t a school to make profits, that’s what we stand against. That’s the problem with neoliberalism taking over the universities in America and increasingly elsewhere. Surprisingly, many are so imbued into the fabric of capitalist consciousness that all of reality for them is about making money. They can’t think outside of money! So when GCAS started some immediately assumed it was about making money and not about doing the long-hard work of forming a community of research and empowerment. I certainly need a community like that and others committed to making the world better need community too. We all do. Without a community we too quickly lose hope and the flame of love for a better world is quickly blown out. Darkness and nihilism await in the wing.
But this candle of hope was kindled by a few committed to an idea, Salim, Azfar, James, Michael, Maria, Daniel, Giovanni, Alain, Davi, Ivey, Sigrid, George, Andi, David, Anghelos, Julie, Rebecca, Wanyoung, Claudia, Brooke, Jack, Pete, William, Catherine, Mary-Jane, Shon, Jeff, Donald, Dorothea, Clayton, Jane, Andrew, Daniel, Alex, Toni, Slavoj, Lori, Carl, Peter, Vic and many more have all come together to form the amazing foundation on which GCAS stands. Being part of their lives has been a life-saving joy for me. It is with them that our community has been born anew along with our faculty and researchers and thousands of followers today.
Our destiny is to change this world– to welcome the stranger, to bring justice and peace together, to recognize the dignity in all human beings, and to fight for a better life. I think GCAS is something like a visible means of an invisible and infinite idea.