Building Education for the Commons
A new outlook is struggling to emerge. One can describe this outlook as tethered to movements such as the Arab Spring, Occupy and more recently the left-wing political parties of Syriza (in Greece) and Podemos (in Spain). Closely related to this is a new generation that has broken from the post-Cold War paradigm in which old Left struggles were defined vis-a-vis communism and capitalism. With the collapse of perverted forms of communism more than a generation ago new struggles are started to formulate in ways that the standard old school division of “Left/Right” cannot account for.
Although these movements are different in their particularities and geographic regions there are several factors that can be said to unify these uprisings. First, there is a resistance to new more pronounced forms of authoritarianism (dictatorships). Second, there is resistance to secret and privatizing ventures that have been buying up public lands, assets, and goods such as water, electricity, parks, libraries, heath care and social services. Third, there are growing human rights violations. Fourth, unemployment and/or underemployment is on the rise globally. Fifth there is a growing trend in military spending. And sixth and finally political corruption from the United States to the Middle-East, is becoming more and more obvious. All of these noxious trends (and others unmentioned) have collectively forged the emergence of a new and collective consciousness especially among the younger generation whose lives are impacted most significantly.
Of course the “war on terrorism” has filled the gap of the old enemy of the United States viz., The USSR. But one particular contradiction is becoming increasingly obvious to the younger generation and they are starting to do something about it. This contradiction is materialized between the fear of an enemy (terrorism) and the actually existing dismal conditions of their lives (unemployment, student loan debt, etc.) in light of the obscene concentrations and the hoarding of wealth. Position this in the context of the global financial crisis, austerity measures, the rise of racism and human rights violations and you have the makings of a new revolutionary mentality that desires a more just, more hopeful world. This younger generation is beginning to awaken to how the politics of “divide and rule” by the wealthy class, is being played out in their everyday lives.
If the enemy (i.e., terrorism etc.) can be used to strike fear into people’s lives such that they will just conform to the status quo then the political objective of the wealthy elite class (authoritarianism, corruption, privatization, unemployment etc) can continue to unfold unchecked. The tactic being deployed here is that of “divide and rule” which is the process of “maintaining power by breaking up larger concentrations of power into pieces that individually have less power than the one implementing the strategy. The concept refers to a strategy that breaks up existing power structures and prevents smaller power groups from linking up.”
Here’s an example of this “divide and rule” tactic nicely identified by Avi Tuschman in a Salon.com article. Tuschman makes a nice contrast between a conservative mindset and a progressive one. She writes, “In 1980, when the conservative politician Ronald Reagan asked Americans for their votes at the end of his presidential campaign, he said: ‘As you go to the polls next Tuesday and make your choice for President, ask yourself these questions: Are you better off today than you were four years ago? Is it easier for you to go and buy things in the store than it was four years ago?'” Tuschman compared this to John F. Kennedy. “In 1961, Kennedy famously entreated his ‘fellow Americans [to] ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.'” In other words, an authoritarian politic will attempt to dissolve society (the public good) into atoms of individuals only concerned about themselves. This is a divide and rule tactic. By contract a progressive more hopeful outlook asks us to be courageous and to work towards working together for a better world.
What is exciting to see is that this younger generation has had enough of this authoritarianism. Their prospects for the future look far more bleak then other previous generations and so they are beginning to realize that they have little to lose save their student loans and jobs they don’t even have access to.
But it would be a mistake to think this is isolated to one country. In fact you will see that the ominous trend of financial authoritarianism is global. For example, I just received an email from my dear friend, Peter McLaren who say, “I’m back from Guadalajara and there was lots of mobilization on the left against Pena Nieto’s proposal to privatize the water.”
The best way to fight against this tactic of “divide and rule” is for us to form ways of working together to forge a better future than the dark one that seems to be on the horizon presently. To quote Audre Lorde, “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.” This new generation is beginning to find the courage to celebrate life again, together and with a heart big enough for all humanity to fit into.