equality

After Women Took off Their Aprons, Advertisers Began Taking Off the Rest!

fem 17Once we won our equal liberty to choose our personal “place” in the world, the male ego swiftly began to make sure that women would never forget their universal “purpose” in the world.

By T.L.Dayen

They say “a picture paints a thousand words.” Imagery has the power to elicit emotion and provoke thought. It can also be used to subconsciously persuade or manipulate. Imagery has also historically been used to disseminate propaganda such as the iconic “Rosie the Riveter;” an animated image of a strong-armed woman in a factory uniform intended to convey that it was acceptable to see women; the majority of the domestic work force during the war effort of WWII, as strong and capable. Images can also portray social behavioral norms like iconic Norman Rockwell fem 15paintings depicting ‘normal’ life in middle and working class America from the early to mid 20th century. Culturally, our social norms are reflected through imagery in our media; movies (entertainment mostly) and advertising (expressly to persuade).

Imagery in advertising works to convince, confirm or inform viewers about what they should want, think, identify with or accept as good for them. When advertisers use sexually implicit images to sell a product, it is reaffirming stereotypes that objectify women’s bodies and marginalize their humanity.

Selling Sex

Exploiting sexuality to sell a product is, unfortunately, effective. The ‘sex kitten’ eating Doritos on T.V. prompts the dorritosman to buy the chips because he wants to “get the girl” in the ad, and the woman buys the chips because she wants to “be the girl” in the ad; “We’re a visually explicit culture that’s become comfortable with selling domain names and winter coats on the backs of pretty, naked people” (Thompson, 2011).

Using sex in advertising subliminally links our most primal motive of procreation to the impulse desire for that product/service. In other words, buy the product, get (feel) the sex.

Sell Sex; Buy Sexism

The problem with ‘selling sex’ is that it takes the elemental human drive to procreate (which requires dominant and pliant roles), and attaches it to everything in our lives from food to cars to clothing to cleaning products to insurance. fem 14The dominant/ pliant roles of our sex organs become the roles we identify with as represented subliminally by the products and services we need and use every day. By ascribing the yielding female sex organ to her overall nature and character (as subordinate), advertisers can use sexually explicit imagery to not only potently objectify women’s bodies, but also marginalize female humanity by transforming “actual women into [sexual] objects, devoid of individual will or subjectivity” (Benshoff and Griffin 238-256).

The female body, pliant in sex, becomes the objectified woman, subordinate in life.

Even while women have made stellar strides in education and work force parity since the blatantly sexist advertising of the 1950’s; “an era when women’s roles were confined to the corridor between the bedroom and the kitchen” (Thompson, 2011);

the ‘new sexism’ is simply explicitly sexist imagery without the explicitly sexist messaging. In the 21st century, the message of sexual servitude is “implied.”

“Having lost the argument that women are incompetent, American advertising has had to settle on the argument that fem 18women are [still] attractive” (Thompson, 2011). In other words the iconic domestic dependent ‘June Cleaver’ telling viewers something like, “Your husband will never complain about undercooked eggs again with this new and improved egg timer!” has been replaced with the sexually implicit ‘cleavage and stilettoes’ seductively and silently stepping out of a Lincoln Continental. I call this “objectified female imagery.” This more modern version of sexism has only fed new life into age old social constructs of female subordination, because “American women still develop a sense of self-worth based primarily on how they look, rather than how talented or intelligent they are” (Benshoff and Griffin 238-256).

Domestic dependent submissiveness has simply been replaced by sexual objectification; both are demeaning and subordinate positions of “service.”

What’s even more poignant is that some of worst offenders of this type of sexist advertising are ‘women on women.’ fem 19Women who appeared on a Phil Donahue Show “fashion segment,” un-apologetically defended their unusual preoccupation with ‘perfecting’ their hair, skin, eyes, clothing and bodies. Susan Bordo took note of their naiveté and that “putting on makeup, styling hair, and so forth are conceived of only as free play, fun, a matter of creative expression,” but in reality is, “also experienced by many women as ‘necessary’ before they show themselves to the world, even a quick trip to the corner mailbox.” Bordo expresses her concern that the true messages being sent by ‘fashion statements’ are merely “whimsical and politically neutral vicissitudes [that] supply endless amusement for women’s [apparent] eternally superficial values.” Bordo goes on to say in the context of the fashion and beauty industry, “the specific ideals that women are drawn to embody…are seen as arbitrary, without meaning [by society].”

In other words, obsession with fashion culturally indicates frivolous and superficial priorities.

Bordo’s trepidation with the multi-million dollar fashion and beauty industry is shared by Benshoff and Griffen who assert that this advertising strives to persuade women to “buy their [own] femininity;” be re-made into “some ideal fem 20form” as an “object of the male gaze (objectification).” This, alleges Benshoff and Griffen, actually convinces women “to be complicit in their own objectification.” A massive and still growing fashion and beauty industry in America may be evidence that many women have indeed “internalized the ideology that their self-worth is based upon their public image… that achieving total objectified desirability is the only thing that will give them happiness and fulfillment” and that, “this mythical ideal keeps patriarchal (male) domination in place” (Benshoff and Griffin 238-256). If women are buying sexism, then apparently sexist advertising is working.

Hijacked Sexuality

Full disclosure: as a woman myself, I am frustrated that an industry has “hijacked” my God given sexuality for their profits! Can a woman in the 21st century fully express her innate sexuality without the implication that she is consenting to, even encouraging the sexist messages sent by the objectified female imagery in media advertising? And what of those who feed into the ‘cultural messages’ that are fabricated from objectified female imagery in the media; that a woman’s sexuality is by its very nature literally “there for the taking?”fem 5

Can a woman in the 21st century fully express her innate sexuality personally without the implication that she is “asking for it” publically? I fear that the answer to these questions today is “no.”

Sharon Marcus writes of the misleading dialogue used when legislating rape laws or hearing rape cases; “The rape script describes female bodies as vulnerable, violable, penetrable, and wounded.” A website called “Controltonight.com” ran an ad showing a young woman’s legs with her panties around her ankles lying on what looks like a bathroom floor. The ad reads, “2:19 a.m. She didn’t want to do it, but she couldn’t say NO.” The ad intends to warn against drinking and date rape, but the ‘message’ is that women’s bodies are simply up for grabs by anyone who may gain the advantage to take it – and that’s somehow a woman’s fault. Marcus purports, “the adherents of rape culture see female sexuality as a property which only men can truly own, which women often hoard, which can thus justifiably be wrested from us, which women themselves merely hold in trust for a lawful owner. Rape thus becomes the theft or violation of one man’s property rights by another.”

fem 8If women’s sexuality is not even seen in our law as our own rightful possession, it is no wonder it could be unabashedly exploited personally or commercially by whomever and however it serves to benefit.

Audrey Lorde writes of the uses and power of the ‘erotic’ – in this context, ones ‘passions;’ sexual or otherwise; “We have been taught to suspect this resource, vilified, abused and devalued within western society… the erotic has been encouraged as a sign of female inferiority.” So a woman’s capacity to “feel deeply” has been equated with weakness, and that “only by the suppression of the erotic within our lives and consciousness can women truly be strong. But this strength is illusory, for it is fashioned within the context of male models of power” (Lorde 188-192).

If we follow Lordes’ premise, then a woman’s capacity to feel her own sexuality is considered “suspect” and therefore only passably expressed within and through our patriarchal society’s consent and capacity to control it.

Conclusion

What came first, female objectification or female objectified imagery? The truth is not what you might think. While media imagery only began in the early 1900’s, female objectification is just one arm of female subordination that has fem 12stigmatized the male/female dynamic for thousands of years. However, in the 21st century human kind is capable of growing beyond our prejudices; capable of a much broader perspective of the male/female dynamic.

In the 21st century human kind is capable of recognizing our two species as ‘different in measure but equal in value.’

This is where the media continues to culturally perpetuate female objectification even as we are collectively capable of moving beyond it. Advertising media imagery is especially harmful because it is scrupulously knitted within the fabric of our consumer based culture. Every decade that passes, fem 4human kind becomes more familiar with women in leadership positions of authority in politics, more acceding to our dependability as an equal successful womanpartner within the home, and more reliant on our equally competent skills in the work place and industry. While this reality of the male/female dynamic may smack of truth, the false postulation of our disparity and subordination continues to be culturally projected before us as sexually objectified minions of the patriarchal social construct.

Women’s sexuality; our very autonomy is reduced to a collective cultural commodity, and only valid through its collective cultural usefulness to the patriarchal bedroom, boardroom or billboard.

If sex is selling, it’s only selling women out.

fem 16

 

References

Benshoff, Harry, and Sean Griffin. America On Film. 2nd. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009.

238-256. Print.

Bordo, Susan. “Material Girl: The Effacements of Post Modern Culture.” Trans. Array

Theorizing Feminisms. N.Y., New York: Oxford University Press, 2006. 385-404. Print.

Lorde, Audre. “Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power.” Trans. Array Theorizing Feminisms.

N.Y., New York: Oxford University Press, 2006. 188-192. Print.

Marcus, Sharon. “Fighting Bodies, Fighting Words: A Theory and Politics of Rape Prevention.”

Trans. Array Theorizing Feminism. N.Y., New York: Oxford University Press, 2006. 369-

  1. Print. (Marcus, 369-381)

Thompson, Derek. “Are T.V. Ads Getting More Sexist?.” The Atlantic. The Atlantic Monthly

Group, 31 Oct 2011. Web. 16 Oct 2013. <theatlantic.com>.

Save

Hey GOP! Insanity is the Opposite of Learning From Your Mistakes…

Income inequality SHOULD be a result of “personal” ambition and aspiration!

But turn-of-the century GOP trickle-down economics actually creates the very “bottom-feeders” they themselves blame for their provenance by the GOP’s own greedy hand.

By T.L. Dayen

A society’s values and priorities are reflected in how and where it spends and invests its money. Political debates over federal tax policy are not just over the merit of each political Party’s values and priorities, but how federal tax policy can and should affect national economic prosperity.   According to Kerbo (2012), taxation as a means for government investment is a form of wealth distribution that is a normal function of government and can be either progressive or regressive. Historically and today, the role and function of federal taxation is perhaps the most contentious of disparaging issues between our two political Parties. When considering the role federal taxation plays in social stratification,

two time periods of American history provide empirical evidence of the economic outcomes created by these two opposing tax strategies.

The contemporary Republican or conservative approach to regressive taxation was initially put forth in a report by the Republican Study Committee’s critique of the Humphrey-Hawkins Act of 1978; influenced heavily by Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman’s philosophy of individualism and spontaneous free markets (Jones 2012). The measures presented in this report forged the tax policies known as Reaganomics or trickle-down ‘micro’economics that were intended to spur economic growth and national prosperity (Jones 2012). The contemporary Democratic or progressive approach to taxation is based on an ideology and tax policy put forth by FDR’s 1930’s progressive era New Deal, also known as Keynesian Demand-Side ‘macro’economics. Keynesian macroeconomics remains the bedrock of progressive taxation as a means for economic stability through social mobility and equal opportunity (Himmelberg 2001).

The Progressive Era

Robert Himmelberg (2001) refers to the decade’s pre and post WWII as the “Progressive Era” in where a paradigm shift had occurred in the relationship between the federal government and social and economic issues. The Great Depression (GD) of the 1930’s uniquely encapsulates both the Keynesian macroeconomics that it spawned and the microeconomic policies that caused it. Literature refers to the decade that preceded the GD as the “roaring ‘20’s;” a rather prosperous time for America under three consecutive Republican Presidencies of Harding, Coolidge and Hoover. But it also refers to

the ultimate result of that economic model  of minimal taxation, minimal federal investment and minimal business-finance regulations that was the greatest financial collapse in American history.

According to Himmelberg (2001), FDR’s sweeping public intervention into the private sector; that is, unprecedented public/private infrastructure investment in housing, public works, transportation, public lands and various government public infrastructure projects designed to modernize the American civil landscape, inspired the British economist, John Maynard Keynes’ demand-side macroeconomics. Keynes envisioned a mixed economy of a predominantly private sector with an intervening role of government during periods of economic recession. This public/private investment partnership included a progressive tax. FDR’s Revenue Act of 1935 raised corporate and personal income taxes on up to 75% of earnings. But Himmelberg (2001) indicates that the effectiveness of the New Deal relied on more than taxation and investment. It also required three additional new roles of government that would fully define the Progressive Era of the New Deal:

  1. Stricter and new regulations of the U.S. banking, finance and investment sectors and the private business sector regarding wages, hours and worker rights were both needed to counter initial causes of the GD.
  2. Government must have a role, when needed, to provide economic relief and/or assistance for those individuals and markets most in need which included the initiation of farm subsidies for American farmers hit hard by the GD and the implementation of Social Security, unemployment and disability insurance.
  3. Perhaps the most defining aspect of the progressive era, according to Himmelberg (2001), was the idea that government should expect and accept deficits as a normal outcome during periods of investment.

The literature indicates that FDR’s New Deal; specifically the symbiosis of government and business as an effective means of securing national economic stability and socio-economic equity in times of recession and in this case severe depression, was the basis for an unprecedented thriving middle class during the decades that followed into Post WWII. From the liberal perspective, recovery from the GD through centralized distribution of revenue proved that taxation as a means for investment in economic growth and national prosperity can and does produce equitable outcomes (Himmelberg 2001; Madrick 2010).

Trickle-down Economics

David Beito (1989) chronicles the severity of the conservative opposition to FDR’s New Deal policies through economic periodicals and industry journals of the 1930’s such as the American Taxpayers’ League’s Handbook on Taxation and the Wisconsin Taxpayer. The literature paints a general consensus among those fortunate during the GD to have not lost everything, but who in fact experienced significant economic leverage comparatively, as literally incensed by a national attitude of government preying on the wealthy, and Americans exploiting the government as “tax eaters.” According to Beito (1989) those who felt unfairly burdened to pay for FDR’s New Deal government programs were pitted against those who benefited from them.

This socioeconomic class consciousness supported conservative Individualism that persisted into the 1970’s and forged trickle-down microeconomics.

Daniel Jones (2012) explains the rise of trickle-down Reaganomics as the conservative remedy implemented by the Reagan administration in response to the economic woes of the 1970’s. Three economic maladies were at issue:

  1. Soaring inflation
  2. Soaring fuel costs (Mid-East oil embargo)
  3. A national economic decline in productivity

In collaboration with the conservative policy think tank, Heritage Foundation; the Republican Study Committee’s 1978 report described four measures that promised to increase capital, productivity, long term employment and raise income levels and standard of living for all:

  1. Broad and permanent individual and business tax cuts
  2. Elimination of taxes on capital gains
  3. Smaller government and minimal regulations at every level of business and commerce
  4. Reduced deficit through austerity measures to stabilize the dollar.

Upon taking office in January 1981, Reagan removed any remaining economic controls that had been in place by Nixon on oil and petrol and cut taxes on oil profits. That summer Reagan busted the air traffic controllers union and fired all workers who were striking that year. Next, Reagan made sweeping and unprecedented tax cuts to the top tax rate of 70 percent to 50 percent and again in 1986, to 28 percent. This redistribution of wealth to the middle and chart-changes-in-income.topupper class earners through tax policy, according to Jones (2012), was the process that came to be known as trickle-down economics, and Reagan’s supply-side revolution; the antithesis to Keynesian demand-side tax policy. Trickle-down tax policy was intended to create increased investment by the wealthy that would in turn create more opportunity for everyone.

By 2008, thirty years after the 1978 Republican Committee Study and Heritage Foundation supply side economic recommendations followed by three Republican Presidencies:

  • The deficit had been tripled.
  • A massive migration of manufacturing to cheap overseas labor markets led to record high corporate profits but also ballooning unemployment rates and local tax bases strapped for revenue.
  • Minimal or nonexistent federal regulations and oversight culminated in the financial crash of 2008 wiping out pensions, forcing further layoffs and depleting local tax bases.
  • The income gap between the rich and poor was at a historic level (Jones 2012; Madrick 2010).

The literature cites the actual long-term effects of the microeconomic tax policies of Reagan and two subsequent Republican President’s, George H.W. and George W. Bush as the impetus behind not only frequent recessions and high deficits, but that increased costs of health care, housing and education attributed to free market privatization exacerbated government spending on public services and the welfare state; something trickle-down was billed to reduce. Referred to as the “social question,” according to Jones (2012), neither the Reagan nor both Bush Presidencies showed interest in addressing these failures, and in fact, purported that supply-side trickle-down economics simply required a general acceptance that social inequality was an inevitable, yet essential part of economic growth and social progress overall. So, instead of working toward correcting this “glitch” within trickle-down Reaganomics, Reagan conservatives began floating the notion that one’s socioeconomic success or failure depends on an inherent level of “fitness.” Their premise; that

regardless of the socioeconomic “class” in which you find yourself at birth, your financial means are equal to your inherent quality of character and intelligence – Social Darwinism (SD).

Charles Murray firmly alluded to SD when he wrote that public welfare aid supported the “immorality and deviant behavior of the poor” (Kerbo: Murray 1984). In the mid ‘90’s, he and fellow conservative Richard Herrnstein attempted to empirically support the SD theory with research that showed lower IQ scores among the impoverished (Kerbo: Herrnstein and 1994), but their conclusions were staunchly debunked as wildly spurious and their findings grossly misinterpreted. However, this published material is still used today in support of conservative principals of Individualism!

American federal taxation and social stratification today

Contemporary literature available on macroeconomic tax policy draws striking comparisons between the causes and effects of the GD and the financial crash of 2008; specifically an inflated housing market, de-regulation of the financial industry, and prolonged austerity measures neglecting needed infrastructure investment. The literature cites current microeconomic tax policy and austerity measures as preventing a full recovery from the 2008 financial collapse; protracting a broadly depressed economic landscape and historic income inequality. Today, there is call for a renewed ... .com/dmblog/wp-content/uploads/2008/02/stock_market_crash.jpginvestment partnership in the spirit of the New Deal between government and the private sector (Elson 2013; Madrick 2010). An investment partnership requires revenue, but current tax policies are choking government revenue resources. According to Madrick (2010) just 20 percent of American households hold 89 percent of America’s net worth (32 trillion), and that an additional tax rate of just 0.5 percent on this top 20 percent would provide an additional 160 billion per year in federal investment revenue.   Madrick (2010) also cites that certain analysis has indicated every two tax dollars invested could over time again return another three to four dollars in future tax revenue.

American businesses, while they benefit from conservative non-regulation policies, are themselves recognizing that conservative austerity measures and regressive tax policy are reducing American house-hold incomes; inhibiting spending and market demand-side expansion (Elson 2013).

America’s crumbling transportation and outdated energy infrastructure is in sore need of public investment (Madrick 2010; Elson 2013). With high paying American jobs in short supply today, Madrick (2010) quotes a Transportation Committee report from the Federal Highway Administration with a model showing that 75 billion in government investment would yield more than 3.5 million jobs and 464 billion in market revenue. In other words, according to infrastructureMadrick (2010), for every 1 billion invested, 47,500 jobs and 6 billion in market revenue would be created. According to Elson (2013), Business representatives such as the US Chamber of Commerce are actually calling for new government stimulus investment in 21st century transportation and energy infrastructure.

Conclusion

The literature available on federal taxation and American social stratification concurs that there is a correlation between the two. The literature concurs that supply-side trickle-down microeconomics creates greater social stratification and concurs that demand-side Keynesian macroeconomics reduces social stratification. The socioeconomic relationship between federal tax revenue investment and social mobility is not in dispute. Where the literature diverges is what that means to Americans.

The literature advocating for microeconomic Individualism has shown that trickle-down has historically and currently created considerable profit and wealth for those in the top 20 percent income bracket, but also that socioeconomic inequality is an inevitable and therefore necessary outcome of this economic model. Also; that those GOP_Income_InequalityCOLORwho benefit from this economic model are of higher quality of character and intelligence, while those who do not are immoral, deviant, and unintelligent. The literature advocating for macro-economic Keynesian Collectivism does not consider 20 percent of Americans enjoying economic growth to be “social progress;” and that progressive policies have historically provided for National prosperity, at all relative levels of the income scale.

If we are looking for federal tax policy that addresses social stratification; that is, promotes socioeconomic stability, social mobility and equal opportunity, the literature clearly indicates that the current microeconomic trickle-down federal tax policy is in direct opposition to these socioeconomic goals. The literature supports the premise that federal taxation as a means of federal investment revenue has a historic and current role as a viable alleviate to contemporary American social stratification and as a stimulus of social mobility.

References

Beito, David T. 1989. Taxpayers in Revolt: Tax Resistance during the Great Depression. Chapel Hill, NC: U of North Carolina.

Elson, Diane. 2013. “Austerity Policies Increase Unemployment and Inequality-But Don’t Reduce Budget Deficits and Government Borrowing.” Journal of Australian Political Economy. 71:130.

Himmelberg, Robert F. 2001. The Great Depression and the New Deal. Westport, CT: Greenwood.

Jones, Daniel Stedman. 2012. Masters of the Universe: Hayek, Friedman, and the Birth of Neoliberal Politics. Princeton: Princeton UP.

Kerbo, Harold R. 2013. Social Stratification and Inequality: Class conflict in historical, comparative, and global perspective. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Madrick, Jeff. 2010. The Case for Big Government. Princeton: Princeton UP.

The “Other” Original Sin of America

indian 2

Before Slavery there was Cultural Genocide

What 3 Films can teach us about what and if we’ve learned from our egregious history….

By T.L.Dayen

Racism has deep roots within our collective cultural history, and for this reason has not escaped ‘the grand mirror’ of the cinema. Early films depicting ‘race’ simply reflected our collective understanding of it, which needless to say, was quite narrow and well, “racist”. We do have emotional connections with films. Film as art is an outward expression of our internal processes. But films are also a grand mirror of our real and imagined existence. If we can live and dream through film, then we can also ‘learn’ through film about life and our imaginations. So film allows us to explore and affirm who we are and what we believe, but also learn about whom we are and what we believe. We have a century of film history to reveal what this symbiotic relationship has born to us culturally. So it could be said movies are a cinematic documentary of the evolution of our culture; sometimes in real time, and sometimes in retrospect.

Early 20th century understanding of ‘ethnicity’ was limited to white and non-white; white being “White Anglo-Saxon Protestant” (WASP), and everyone else being not WASP (Benshoff, Grifffen page 51).   In early American film, “white is positioned as a default category, the center or the assumed norm on which everything else is based.” (Benshoff, Griffen page 53). Non-whites were typically positioned in the periphery of this “assumed norm” of American life and were “represented with certain stereotypes.” (Benshoff, Griffen page 51). These stereotypes were not subtle and were often purposefully exaggerated for theatrical impact; the ‘lazy’ Mexican; the ‘ignorant’ black person; the ‘gangster’ Italian; the ‘savage’ Indian; the ‘fighting’ Irish; etc.Indian 3

By the later part of the 20th century however, cultural differences as defined by our ‘race’, for the most part, began to be seen as the ‘normal’ reflection of our diverse society. Individual opinion on ‘white supremacy’ still was and is, largely dependent on demographics, and lingering racial intransigence is still evident in every aspect of American life. The film industry is no exception, but the days of outright racial stereotyping in film is again for the most part, no longer tolerated by an audience with a more discerning eye toward social integrity. Modern audiences have proven to appreciate a mix of entertainment and education, and some films have had great success in re-visiting past grievances of discrimination, as well as exposing existing racial injustice. These historical accounts can be rich with all the elements of a gripping and moving cinematic drama as evidenced by the box office receipts and film awards of films like Schindler’s List, Dances with Wolves and Lincoln.

The historical genocide of the Native American Indian is one of our nation’s worst racial transgressions. The American Indian still lacks significant civic representation in our current culture, so a realistic and meaningful cinematic representation of their plight should be worthy of analysis.

“Dances with Wolves” – 1990

https://youtu.be/pkWc4UrfyBc

Perhaps no other movie dealing with the plight of the American Indian has touched the hearts of the American movie goer like Dances with Wolves (DW), directed and produced by Kevin Costner. DW is the “highest grossing western of all time” and is said to have sparked a Hollywood renaissance in western genre films. (“Dances with Wolves; Trivia”). It won seven of its 12 Oscar nominations including Best Picture. Based on the 1988 novel by Michael Blake, DW takes us to the Great Plains during the Civil War in 1863 as seen through the eyes and mind of Lt. John Dunbar, played by Kevin Costner. What he learns and shares with the viewer provides an intimate window into the clash of cultures that ultimately led to the extermination of the American Indian, but also the psychological factors that could have prevented it.

DW explores the injustice of genocide from the perspective of 19th century Lakota Indians and the U.S. Calvary. Genocide has been committed throughout history on the basis of geo-politics, racism and religion; reasons, but by no means justifications. The character of Dunbar is fully aware of the conflict between Indians and settlers on the dwNorthern Plains, yet he still displays cautious optimism about his prospects for a life on the prairie. This requires a character not prone to blind assumption or gullible to irrational fears spurred by prejudiced hearsay. Roger Ebert, who gave the film Four Thumbs Up, contemplated Dunbar’s character when he said, “A civilized man is a person whose curiosity outweighs his prejudices.” (Ebert). John Dunbar was a civilized man.

Evidence of murder and desperation on the plains is made clear by the skeleton and destroyed wagon that Dunbar passes on the trail, and the eerily bizarre condition he finds his abandoned post, Fort Sedgwick. But even while Dunbar fears the worst fate for those soldiers, without the facts, he must suspend his impulse to accuse, blame or persecute the Indian people who were most likely involved in some way. He first encounters Kicking Bird, a Lakota Holy Man who is quietly attempting to take his horse, Cisco, while Dunbar is bathing in the creek. A naked Dunbar aggressively comes up on the Indian startling him with a loud and abrupt “Hey!” Frantic with fear and surprise the Indian scrambles to his horse and quickly rides away. This encounter illustrates a ‘typically human’ reaction from both Dunbar and the Indian. Dunbar doesn’t ‘shoot first and ask questions later’, and Kicking Bird doesn’t savagely rush Dunbar with a hatchet to take his scalp. The fact that both men reacted ‘rationally’ in contradiction to their preconceptions is not lost on either of them, and this sets the tone which allows for the development of their relationship.

In a study on genocide, David L. Smith, PhD said “In dehumanizing others, we exclude them from the circle of moral obligation. We can then kill, oppress, and enslave them with impunity. Taking the life of a dehumanized person becomes of no greater consequence than crushing an insect under one’s boot.” (Smith, PhD). So, the act of genocide requires ‘dehumanization’.  The contrast between Dunbar’s attitude of respecting the differences between white and Indian, and that of the Calvary and common folk that “The only good Indian is a dead Indian” explains to the viewer 070524192730_american_indian_playing_an_instrument_LGhow the native American’s right to even exist was dismissed as easily and coldly as they shot and killed Dunbar’s wolf, Two Socks, who inspired his Lakota name, Dances with Wolves. The lucidity in Dunbar’s efforts to understand and empathize with the Indians, reveals it was indeed the dehumanization of native Americans that led to their genocide – not the presence of American settlers.

It was no mistake that Dances with Wolves won the Oscar for Best Sound and Best Musical Score.  The film relied heavily but adeptly on non-diegetic sound, as the period and the geography of the film provided little audio opportunities from the setting that many other films are afforded. We have one man, a horse and a wolf on the Prairie with Indians who don’t speak English. Yet the film is alive with feeling and thoughtful communication.  The orchestral musical score was written by John Barry who “agreed to score the film immediately after reading the script.” (“Dances with Wolves; Trivia”). His score ‘shows’ the grandeur of the prairie, the utopian harmony of the Indian camp and the pale bleakness of the soldier fort.  We ‘hear’ the silent conversations between Dunbar, Cisco and Two Socks and his Indian connections. We ‘feel’ the confusion and trepidation of a people confronting an unknown future; the excitement of the hunt; the adrenaline of battle; and we ‘sense’ the powerful love between Dunbar and Stands with a Fist. Diegetic uses of sound include the natural sounds of the prairie; wind, a horse’s breath, a buffalo stampede, a lone wagon.  Silence is also poignantly used; the vastness of the ‘American Frontier’; the loneliness at the fort; the peace within the Lakota camp; as well as the tension between cultures either longing to connect or stewing in their resentment and frustration.

Costner’s narration as Dunbar compliments an amazing score. Dunbar provides the audience with the objective clarity of a news reporter, seemingly aware that his words need to maintain the impartial tone of an honest observer void of bias for those who will follow. Of a three day buffalo hunt with his native friends he writes, “They were a people so eager to laugh; so devoted to family; so dedicated to each other. The only word that comes to mind is harmony.” English subtitles add realism to the Lakota people and to the film itself. The cultural wall that separated the Indian and the white man in the 1800’s would never have been conveyed to the audience as powerfully if these Indians had spoken English just for the benefit of the viewer.dw 2

This is a chronological tale told in first person narrative through the eyes and words of Lt. John Dunbar in 1863 Civil war torn America. As a ‘classical’ phase of genre, we follow the protagonist, Dunbar, on a journey of self-discovery. Dissatisfied and disillusioned with “dark political” wars, Dunbar becomes an unlikely war hero after a moment of clarity, or insanity, triggers him to risk his life on the battle field, and in the process, break a protracted stand-off on the Confederate front lines. He is given his choice of post for his ‘courage’, and he decides to see the American Frontier “before it’s gone.” His open mind and longing for peace leads Dunbar to find philosophical meaning and emotional sanctuary with a Lakota tribe. His time with the Lakota forces Dunbar to question the values of his own people. After witnessing the needless slaughter of dozens of buffalo left to rot only for their tongues and hides, he writes “It was clear whoever did this were a people without value and without soul. The wagon tracks left no doubt who was responsible.” When he finds love with Stands with a Fist, the orphaned white women raised by the tribe, his destiny is sealed, and he is renamed “Dances with Wolves” from his observed relations with the wolf he befriends on the prairie. The Ideology of DW can be found in a quote from a Pawnee War Chief killed in 1872, “When a white man kills an Indian in a fair fight it is called honorable, but when an Indian kills a white man in a fair fight, it is called murder.” Dances with Wolves allows us to finally grieve and honor the loss of our genocidal victims, and resolve to ‘never forget’.

“Billy Jack” – 1971

https://youtu.be/_rNDsbtwtyI

billy_jack_poster_01Written, directed and starring Tom Laughlin in 1969, and released in 1971, Billy Jack came to personify the counter-culture movement of the mid-20th century. Billy Jack was a half-blood Sioux Indian Special Ops Vietnam veteran, who didn’t ‘pull any punches’ when it came to defending the weak, the outnumbered or the mistreated. It won no awards, and received mixed reviews, but a 2007 expose’ on the Billy Jack Franchise in “Pop Matters” said, “this counterculture icon became a wholesome household word.” (Gibron). His anti-establishment views and Shaman-warrior style came to symbolize the dichotomy of an enlightened generation “fighting for peace”.

Billy Jack (BJ) shines a cinematic light on both flagrant and institutional racism. The issues of the American “counter culture” movement that peaked in the late 1960’s with the growing unrest over the Vietnam War, included freedom of personal expression; gender equality; civil rights of minorities; spiritualism over materialism; sexual freedom; mind expansion through drug use; and non-violence aimed at the military industrial complex.  There were many who were reluctant to accept these changes in society, even spiteful toward its advocates; that believed equality and integration of ideas, gender and race were a dangerous threat to the moral fabric of society.   Systemic fundamental bigotry soon became cloaked in the guise of ‘traditional values’ and ‘morality’, and is still rampant in America today, ‘cloaked’ or not.

In the film, the recluse character of Billy Jack lives outside a small conservative town on an Indian reservation, also home to “Freedom School” run by pacifist, Jean Roberts. The school houses kids who either ran away or were rejected by families who can’t cope with their ‘problematic’ ways.  After her repeated attempts to run away to California, the town Deputy’s 15 year old daughter Barbara tells her father she’s pregnant but doesn’t know who the father is.  When he asks what she means, she replies, “What I mean ‘dear father’ is that I was passed around by so many men, I don’t know whether this baby’s gonna come out white, Indian, Mexican or ‘black’!”   The beating he gives her puts her in the hospital.  She soon finds refuge at the school, which becomes a point of serious contention between the school and the town.Indian 4

Another iconic scene is when the owner of the local sundry refuses to serve ice-cream to Indian kids from the school during a town visit. An older ‘white’ student challenges him but she is interrupted by the wealthy and exalted Mr. Posner’s masochistic son Bernard, who enters and claims he has a “solution.”  He pours flour on their young faces as they sit in shock, and tells the owner, “See, now they’re all white – problem solved.”   The town’s people ask the timorous town Sherriff what he’s “gonna do about those long haired weirdoes”, and during a town council meeting regarding the ‘disruption’ caused by the ‘students’ in the town, one student is referred to as “a filthy little girl” when she asks if it is her ‘sexuality’ that scares them all so much. Ultimately an Indian student, Martin, is shot and killed when the Deputy discovers his daughter has feelings for him.  Billy’s revenge on those who torment the students, the school, or Jean, is bittersweet. The symptoms of bigotry are merely a veneer.

Billy Jack is a parable of ‘good vs. evil’.  We are told the tale through Jean Roberts. The protagonist Billy Jack is the proverbial warrior who places himself between all that is good in his world, and all that is evil.  All that is good is the Indian reservation where he lives, the wild horses he protects from poachers, the Freedom School, and Jean who keeps the dream and vision of the school alive.  All that is evil are the corrupt law authority and ignorant simpletons of the town who shoot his horses for dog food, and terrorize the students of the school for what it and they stand for – equality, creativity, freedom and peace – embodied in his beloved Jean.  In one scene, Billy says, “When policemen break the law, then there isn’t any law – just a fight for survival.” When policemen broke the law or didn’t enforce it, Billy was the law.

billy-jack-quoteIt is a realist ‘social problem’ film, and as Roger Ebert put it, “There’s not a single contemporary  issue, from ecology to gun control, that’s not covered,” (Ebert). We’re taken chronologically through a series of clashes between the ‘good school’ and ‘evil town’; each time Billy appears to protect and to pass his judgment, usually with adept physical might.  But as these clashes intensify, Billy cannot be all places at all times. After Martin is shot and killed by the Deputy, and Jean is raped by Bernard, the film climaxes as Billy hands down his fierce wrath of justice without impunity.  After killing the Deputy and Bernard, there is a shootout and ultimate standoff at a church where Billy is hold up.  Jean pleads with Billy to give himself up; “So easy for you to die dramatically! It’s a hell of a lot tougher for those of us who have to keep on trying!” Out of his love for Jean he surrenders on the demands the school will be protected. Jean cries as she tells Billy she knows how “letting them” handcuff and arrest him will be the hardest thing he’s ever had to do, and in a moving last scene as Billy is led off in a squad car, the students of Freedom school line the street with their fists raised in salute, to Billy Jack.

The films score embodies the premise and message of BJ; of innocence, peace and courage in constant struggle with corruption, hostility and fear. Written by Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter, “One Tin Soldier” spent weeks on the Top 40 List. The musical score opens the film as we see aerial footage of several men on horseback chasing down dozens of beautiful wild horses for slaughter.  The score also closes the film during Billy’s arrest, exit and his salute.   The chorus is as follows:  “Go ahead and hate your neighbor.  Go ahead and cheat a friend. Do it in the name of Heaven. You can justify it in the end. There won’t be any trumpets blowing come the judgment day, on the bloody morning after….One tin soldier rides away.”  “[Billy Jack] was more than a cinematic symbol; he began taking the unlikely form of a substantive political force. People identified with the man, seeing an empathetic anti-establishment pose in everything he stood for.” (Gibron). In 2011, Mark Wahlberg’s production company purchased the rights to the Billy Jack franchise (Micciow). Perhaps a new generation can now learn the lessons of Billy Jack’s struggle of fighting for peace.

“Thunderheart” – 1992

https://youtu.be/rEl1x-vhtEU

thunderheart            As a fictional film, Thunderheart is actually based loosely on two real events; the 1973 hold-out at the South Dakota town of Wounded Knee and the 1975 shootout at Pine Ridge Indian Reservation that resulted in the death of FBI agents.  The film’s director, Michael Apted, had previously in 1992 directed a documentary surrounding the 1975 shootings titled Incident at OglalaBoth incidents were blamed on the aboriginal militant group, American Indian Movement (AIM).  The group protested social injustices and substandard living conditions on the reservation, and a corrupt pro-American tribal government, whom residents blamed for much of the violence and bloodshed. (“AIM occupation of Wounded Knee begins”).

Thunderheart (TH) paints a stark picture of the substandard living conditions on an Indian Reservation, as well as the exploitation of their lands for mineral resources. The U.S. government recognizes 565 Indian tribes in 35 states. Nearly half of Native Americans in the U.S. qualify for federal assistance. Twenty three percent of Native Americans live at or under the poverty line. Alcohol related death is over 500 percent higher; diabetes 177 percent higher; TB 500 percent higher; and suicide double that of average population rates. Suicide among Native American teens is the highest of any demographic in the nation. As of 2000, 47 percent of Native Americans lived on reservations. (“Center for Native American Youth”).

The reservation in the film is located in South Dakota on the outskirts of the ‘Badlands’ National Park; strangely beautiful but less than hospitable. To the Natives who live on the ‘rez’ it is their home, and has been for hundreds of years (on a much larger scale). The natives are poor, living among scattered broken cars and appliances; lacking the resources to have them removed. Their homes are dilapidated and many are ‘makeshift’ from recycled materials; “a modern Indian reservation — which, as the movie reveals, is by now a fancy word for slum.” (Gleiberman). Their children are forced to play among the debris. But the Indians find their solace and their peace of mind in their traditions, each other and in their history.

When FBI agent Ray Levoy (Val Kilmer) first comes to the ‘rez’, he asks, “Where the hell did they send us?” His field supervisor, Frank Coutelle says, “Well Ray, these are your people.” “They’re not my people.” He retorts. Ray’s Rezfather was a Sioux; an alcoholic who died when Ray was seven. He spent his life ashamed and in denial of his heritage. Hesitant and cynical at first, Ray begins to sensitize to the people, their culture and their obvious suffering. Ray’s investigation uncovers several truths. Among them that the tribal government is violent and antagonistic toward the traditionalists, and that the water is making the people sick. Ray also rediscovers a deep connection with his heritage and a people he had denied all his life in shame; much like a country who in their own shame and denial, fenced in an entire race as if to have to look in their eyes would mean to face their collective guilt.

TH is a contemporary western genre thriller. It is a chronological narrative that tells itself in realist form with “a documentary’s attentiveness to detail.” (Maslin). Filming took place in South Dakota and even on Pine Ridge Reservation where the Oglala and Wounded Knee incidents that inspired the film took place. Silhouetted Native Americans in song chant open the film. There is diegetic use of Native song and chant among the natives in prayer and celebration, and during Ray’s visions of ancient warriors performing the aboriginal ‘Ghost Dance’. Bruce Springsteen’s “Badlands” accompanies the first scene of Ray Levoy on a Washington D.C. freeway. There is some use of Native language, but mostly heavily accented English is used adding diegetic color to the native characters.

Agent Ray Levoy comes to Bear Creek Reservation for an in-and-out ‘sensitive operations unit’ to assist an investigation in the murder of a member of its tribal government in a civil war with the Aboriginal Rights Movement (ARM), and the apprehension of the accused killer, Jimmy Looks Twice. His estranged Native heritage is what prompts Washington to give Ray this assignment in hopes he can “get the natives talkin.” Tentative and dubious at first, Ray soon begins to question the violent methods and tactics used against the traditionalists and, to his own incredulity, begins to sympathize with the cause of the ARM, and his people. The reservation Elders have awarded him a certain level of trust with the natives that he cannot explain, but soon learns they believe him to be the reincarnated Thunderheart, sent to end the war and heal their land.

With the ethereal wisdom of Elder Grandpa Sam Reaches and street smart Crow Horse, Ray learns the tribal government is corrupt and has made a deal with Ray’s field superior, Frank Coutelle, to illegally lease tribal lands to strip mine for uranium, which is poisoning the water. The alleged murder is a cover up of an ‘inside job’ to eliminate anyone who finds out, and frame it on the ARM: Jimmy. When Maggie Eagle Bear is found murdered at the ‘source’ of the Little White River where pollutants from uranium test drilling are entering the water supply, Ray and Crow pineridge-2408e954fd9a00bd7dfe7088acb6b6e448468135-s6-c30Horse take the miscreants including, Agent Frank Coutelle, on a car chase to the “strong hold”; where Thunderheart led his people at Wounded Knee 100 years before, and where he was shot in the back by the U.S. Calvary. Just when it seems Ray and Crow Horse will repeat history, the traditionalists appear on the craggy cliffs surrounding them, holding their assailants at gun point. Agent Coutelle is handed over to Internal Affairs. Crow Horse calls it a “white wash”.

Ray discards the mirage of his prior life and vows to use his ‘white man’s education’ to expose the injustices brought on Bear Creek Reservation, and continue the work Maggie Eagle Bear had started to improve the life of Native Americans. The film ends as Ray silently sits at the cross roads of the reservation exit and the interstate highway – symbolic of the cross roads of Native Americans in 21st century America; evocative of the Native Americans in 19th century America.

There is high degree of explicit ideology in TH. At first for Ray, there’s no difference between the traditionalists and the tribal government supporters – they’re all Indians, or as the café owner puts it, “Prairie niggers”. But soon, his keen senses pick up the clear contrasts. Tribal government supporters or “goons” as they’re called are loud, crass, ge9and aggressive. They dress well, but they’re hollow and speak poorly. They carry guns because they’re impatient. The traditionalists are spiritual and passive family people. They don’t carry guns; they carry a quiet resolve. Outside their native ceremonial dress, they are disheveled, but they have a solid grace about them. They are quick witted and alert and have a kind of knowing that is almost unnerving. Ray becomes known as the “Washington redskin”. Reservation cop, Walter Crow horse calls him the “Federal Bureau of Intimidation.” Yellow Hawk tells him that around there he’s “the FBI – Full Blooded Indian.” Ray is struck by their insight and boldness in the face of impossible odds.

Crow Horse takes him to the Elder, Grandpa Sam Reaches, who tells Ray about his father, his heritage, and his past life as “Thunderheart”; a holy man who died in a massacre 100 years before, “with the others at Wounded Knee”.   Ray begins to have visions of this place – his place. He begins to understand his people and what they are teaching him. When a piece of evidence is found that has the power to clear Jimmy Looks Twice, wrongfully accused of murder, Maggie Eagle Bear tells him, “That’s not power Ray. That’s paper. Power is a rain storm; that river right huey11there. That’s what I have to protect! If Jimmy goes to prison for being a warrior, that’s what he accepts. That’s our way.” When Ray comes upon Jimmy at Grandpa Reaches, he pleads with Jimmy to flee or “they’ll kill” him. Jimmy looks Ray in eye, “Sometimes they have to kill us. They have to kill us, because they can’t break our spirit. We choose the right to be who we are. We know the difference between the reality of freedom, and the illusion of freedom. There is a way to live with the earth and a way not to live with the earth. We choose the way of earth. It’s about power, Ray.” It is this ‘power’ that ultimately frees the reservation traditionalists from their corrupt overseers, and Ray Levoy from his shallow life as the Washington redskin, who now identifies with – and is proud of – his people.

Conclusion

Perhaps we hold Hollywood to standards that our outside of its purview. If film is simply the outward expression of our collective “inner processes”, then how can we expect a higher standard from these cinematic expressions than we expect from the essence of its fabrication? This is essentially “shooting the messenger” isn’t it? The portrayal of race in film has evolved as our understanding of race has evolved. Early films like Battle at Elderbush Gulch (1913) depicting blood thirsty pillaging native Americans, or Birth of a Nation (1915) depicting 408595_293644054091547_441726372_nrancorous malicious African Americans, were simply stereotypes that supported our own revisionist history; imagery that justified and even projected our own rancorous, malicious and pillaging history as European American imperialists. The power and endurance of these stereotypes on the social construct are commensurate with our own ignorance and/or insolence of the truth.

With help from our own victims, it would take a willingness to face our collective guilt to begin to explore these truths. Groups like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and the National Film Committee of the Association on American Indian Affairs, worked to show us that we couldn’t move forward as one nation, unless we understood the true history of its people, as self-incriminating as it may be. The betterment of our society requires a fundamental and unsullied understanding of who we are as a society. We certainly can expect American film to represent all of our citizens and our very real differences in a true and respectful manner, but only to the extent that we expect the same of ourselves.

 

Resources

“AIM occupation of Wounded Knee begins.” History.com. A&E Networks Digital. Web.

17 Apr 2013.

Benshoff, Griffen; Harry M., Sean. America on Film. 2nd. United Kingdom: Wiley –

Blackwell Publishing, 2009. Print.

“Center for Native American Youth.” Facts on Native American Youth and Indian Country. The

Aspen Institute. Web. 18 Apr 2013. <AspenInstitute.org>.

“Dances with Wolves; Trivia.” IMDb. IMDb.com, Inc.. Web. 15 Apr 2013.

<IMDb.com>.

Ebert, Roger. Reviews; Great Movies; Dances with Wolves. Chicago: Chicago Sun

Times, Nov. 9, 1990. Web. <Rogerebert.com>.

Ebert, Roger. Reviews; Billy Jack. Chicago: Chicago SunTimes, Aug. 2, 1971. Web.

<Rogerebert.com>.

Gibron, Bill. “PopMatters; Film.” PopMatters.com. Pop Matters Media Inc., 5 Jun 2007.

Web. 16 Apr 2013.

Gleiberman, Owen. “Movie Review; Thunderheart.” EntertainmentWeekly.com.

Entertainment Weekly, Inc., 17 Apr 1992. Web. 17 Apr 2013.

Miccio, Anthony. “VH1 Celebrity.” VH1.com. Viacom International Inc., 15 Apr 2011.

Web. 16 Apr 2013.

Smith, Phd, David L.. “Philosophy Dispatches; Thoughts on human nature.” Psychology

            Today. Sussex Publishers LLC, 2 DEC 2011. Web. 15 Apr 2013

Maslin, Janet. “The New York Times Movies.” The New York Times. The New York Times

Company, 19 Apr 1992. Web. 19 Apr 2013.

For Sale: 21st Century American Democracy

The Bad Case of Citizens United

money speech-silence

By T.L. Dayen

On January 21, 2010 Koch Industries, Inc. became a person, and the $890 million dollars it plans to spend on its chosen candidates in the 2016 presidential and congressional elections became protected speech. This is not fiction. According to the United States Supreme Court, this is a fact. On January 21, 2010, in the case Citizens United vs. The Federal Elections Commission, the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) Ruled that all ‘money is political speech’, and therefore limits placed on political campaign contributions are in violation of the 1st Amendment and ‘unconstitutional.’ In the same Ruling, the Court deemed that all corporations were legally and constitutionally ‘political people,’ and as such, also protected under the 1st Amendment; not bound to disclose the recipients of their campaign contributions to the Federal Elections Commission (FEC), their shareholders or to the public (Citizens United vs. Federal Elections Commission, 2010).

Democracy is a “government based on the principle of majority decision-making that has been freely and equally elected by that majority” (Encarta Dictionary: English ‘North American’). Is our democracy for sale to the highest bidder? The only way to protect our democracy from the degrading forces of greed within our political systems is to strip the dominant influence of money from the democratic process altogether. We must get unlimited money out of our politics; it is not speech.   Those protected under the 1st Amendment must be defined as living, breathing American citizens, while corporate shareholders and public citizens must have the right to know which policies and politicians that corporations and the uber rich are aligning themselves. Citizens United vs. the Federal Elections Commission must be overturned by a Constitutional Amendment or Constitutional Convention.

In The 2010 case of Citizens United v. FEC, (Ruling) SCOTUS Ruled that placing limits on corporate and individual campaign contributions was a violation of the First Amendment free speech clause, and that corporate political speech is protected by the First Amendment; as follows:

“Prohibition on corporate independent expenditures is an outright ban on speech, backed by criminal sanctions. It is a ban notwithstanding the fact that a PAC created by a corporation can still speak, for a PAC is a separate association from the corporation.… the Court invalidated §608(e)’s expenditure ban, which applied to individuals, corporations, and unions, (because) it fail[ed] to serve any substantial governmental interest in stemming the reality or appearance of corruption in the electoral process.” (Opinions, 2010).

”Government lacks the power to restrict political speech based on the speaker’s corporate identity.… No sufficient governmental interest justifies limits on the political speech of nonprofit or for-profit corporations.… It is irrelevant for First Amendment purposes that corporate funds (may) have little or no correlation to the public’s support for the corporation’s political ideas.… All speakers, including individuals and the media, use money amassed from the economic marketplace to fund their speech, and the First Amendment protects the resulting speech” (Opinions, 2010).

With all due respect, similar to and in the spirit of the disastrous 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson Ruling that all but solidified discrimination and civil inequality in this country, this Ruling by the Chief Justice Robert’s Court has severely undermined the rectitude of “civic” equality that our democracy was intended to preserve. 21st Century politics was already overwrought under the debauchery of greed. Less than two years before this Ruling, 2008 was already the most expensive election in history. According to the FEC (2008), a total of 5.3 billion was spent, and nearly 1.3 billion of that was spent by Political Action Committees (Pac). This 2010 Ruling, however, gave birth to the Super Pac. Now, unrestrained by congressional campaign finance reforms of 1974, corporate contribution limits and public disclosure requirements are no longer constitutional (Kerbo, 2012). Super Pac’s are limitless political ATM machines funded by undisclosed corporate ‘special interests’ and the uber rich. Another record was set with 7 billion spent in the 2012 elections (FEC, 2012); that’s a dollar for every human on planet Earth. This Ruling has only served to shred the last veil of sanctity separating civic equality from inequity within the American electoral and legislative processes.

It’s hard to gage specifically how the influence of unlimited money in our electoral process is translating in both our electoral and legislative processes. We know how much Super Pac’s are spending in our elections; but from whom?   Following the “quid pro quo” trail was easier when political donors were required to disclose how much and to whom they were pouring their millions. In 2005, there were 2000 registered Political Pac’s (Kerbo, 2012). By the first two months after the Ruling however, there were 8000 (FEC, 2012). We can however, follow the money in other ways. While Pac’s are not politicians, they are entities that collect money on behalf of causes that are represented by politicians (i.e. low taxes, the environment, etc.). We can look at the special interests that appear to be benefiting from current legislative policy and get a pretty good idea of where the money is coming from and going to.                    

It’s important to remember that although I am quoting figures from national elections, mid-term congressional elections (non-presidential) are just as, if not more, vulnerable to secrete unlimited special interest money. Many more Americans vote in national elections (’08, ’12), so these expenditures are more representative of the electorate as a whole, but those of private and corporate financial privilege and the Pac’s they fund, are using quieter mid-term elections (’10, ’14) to gain political influence by proxy in both state legislatures and our U.S. congress. The U.S. congress has been functionally controlled by the Republican Party since 2010, even when the nation has twice voted for a Democratic president. For the purposes of time and space, I will focus on just two special interests that many would consider the two most powerful interest groups financially holding our lawmakers and our country hostage to their bidding. They are the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the oil industry (Big Oil).

The NRA’s Political Victory Fund PAC has spent just under 37 million over the last two election cycles (FEC, 2014) to block reasonable federal gun safety regulations (Andrews, 2013). The NRA represents gun manufactures that make money selling guns, clips and ammo, not safety. But the NRA’s political influence extends beyond financial. They also represent a 2nd Amendment constituency that relies on the NRA to rate or score each member of congress by their gun legislation voting record and report this back to them. And apparently they believe that Republicans are more likely to play along, because in 2012, just 25 Democrats received NRA contributions compared to 236 Republicans. The NRA combines its campaign contributions with their influence over their voters to maintain gun legislation favorable to the gun industry. This would explain why even when 82 percent of Americans demanded gun safety reform after the heinous Sandy Hook Massacre, congress refused to require simple background checks on 40 percent of American assault weapon ownership (Andrews, 2013).

Big Oil is perhaps the most historically egregious confiscator of legislative favor within the political system. Oil is the most profitable industry in human history. Quarterly ‘profits’ exceed multiple billions; breaking their own records every year (Maddow, 2012). Big oil spent over 70 million on their preferred candidates in just the last national election. However since then, they’ve also spent 150 million in lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill. Even with a staggering national deficit threatening to undermine America’s global fiscal standing, the United States Government has been ‘giving’ the oil industry annual tax subsidies of nearly 2 billion of American taxpayer money for nearly 100 years (Kroll, 2014). Even so, since 2005 we’ve actually had a national bi-partisan consensus to end Big Oil corporate welfare. This includes former President George W. Bush, Forbes, The Heritage Foundation; five oil corporation CEO’s and a Wall Street poll showing 74 percent of American support – all with the exception of the U.S. Congress. The last time Congress took this to a vote in 2011, it did not pass (Maddow, 2012). We are all still giving the wealthiest industry in the history of money 2 billion a year in tax subsidies. That is called “political power!”

This brings me back to Koch Industries, Inc., an oil, gas, fracking and tar sands corporation owned by David and Charles Koch. These brothers have pledged to spend just under 1 billion dollars on their chosen candidates in 2016. They are notoriously politically active, and forgive me if I speculate that these two must find this whole “buying political influence” thing a bit fun for them; perhaps a welcome distraction. After all, the Koch oil tycoons are worth 42 billion dollars combined. Even though just these two men alone have pledged to spend in 2016, nearly the same amount of all Super Pac money spent in each of the last two elections, it is still only 2% of their total net worth (Confessore, 2015). What will be the return on their investment? Will it be social issues? According to the LA Times, after the 2010 mid-term election Republican takeover of state legislatures, the Guttmacher Institute counted 49 of our 50 states that brought forward 916 measures having to do with women’s reproductive rights (Abcarian, 2011). On the Federal level after the 2012 mid-terms, the 112th Congress went straight to passing over 159 Bills regarding abortion and birth control (U.S. Congress, 2012). Totals on the 113th Congress who were bought in 2014 are still out.

So what will David and Charles want; passage of Keystone; the repeal of the EPA Clean Air Act? The answer to this question is the most disturbing aspect of this paper; because perhaps there is no longer a clear money trail that reveals the clear quid pro quo and the clear culprits. Perhaps there is no one thing that any one person in any one state or district can accomplish for the Koch’s or any other oligarch or multinational corporation getting ready to fund the campaigns of those who will further their interests. Perhaps it is rather a preferred ideology that guides and underlays every decision behind every legislative effort nationwide that this top 2 percent of our population is now able to purchase on the installment plan. Perhaps it is a vision of the nation itself; one that serves their own success and achievement that they intend to buy under Citizens United. But what of the vision of average Americans who make up 98% of this country?

What of the voice of the average American majority who are now silenced by the thundering “speech” of the elite few? Can accountability be meted from a silent constituency?   The new disenfranchisement does not block our power to vote; it blocks the power of our vote. What good comes from counting all votes when only certain votes count? Justice is not silenced dissent; it is the liberated debate of its premise. However, within Citizens United v. FEC itself, we have one dissenting voice that we must all shout in unison:

Dissenting Argument Citizens United v. FEC

“. . . Corporations have no consciences, no beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, [and] no desires. Corporations help structure and facilitate the activities of human beings, to be sure, and their ‘personhood’ often serves as a useful legal fiction. But they are not themselves members of “We the People” by whom and for whom our Constitution was established” Justice Stevens (Opinions, 2010).

            As of today, sixteen states have passed a resolution for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizen United. If your state is not one of them, urge your communities to urge your legislators to take this crucial step. Then join and support the national effort for a constitutional amendment or constitutional convention. Americans reversed Plessy v. Ferguson because it was the right thing to do for all Americans, not just a few. We shall, and we must, do the same with Citizens United; for the same reason.

References

(2008) Federal Elections Commission. DOI: FEC.Gov

(2012) Federal Elections Commission. DOI: FEC.Gov

(2012) Opinions. United States Supreme Court. DOI: Supremecourt.gov/opinions

(2014) Federal Elections Commission. DOI: FEC.Gov

Abcarian, Robin. (May, 2011). Anti-abortion measures flooding state legislatures. Los Angeles

Times.

Andrews, Wilson. (January, 2013). How the NRA exerts influence over Congress. Washington

Post Politics. DOI: www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/politics/nra-congress/

Confessore, Nicholas. (January 26, 2015). Koch Brothers’ Budget of $889 Million for 2016 Is

on Par With Both Parties’ Spending. New York Times, N.Y. DOI:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/27/us/politics/kochs-plan-to-spend-900-million-on-2016-campaign.html?_r=0

Kerbo, Harold. (2012). Social Stratification and Inequality; Class conflict in historical,

comparative and global perspective. McGraw Hill, N.Y.

Kroll, Andy. (April, 2014) . Triumph of the Drill. Mother Jones Magazine. DOI:

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/04/oil-subsidies-renewable-energy-tax-breaks

Maddow, Rachel. (March, 2012). Senate filibuster kills (another) bid to end oil subsidies. The

Rachel Maddow Show: MSNBC Reports. DOI: msnbctv.com

US Congress. (2012). Congressional bills/issues. Federal Government. DOI: OpenCongress.com

School Choice or State Sanctioned Segregation?

segregation

The Public Funding of Private Education

By T.L. Dayen

The research literature available on school choice (the public funding of private school), is for the most part from the perspective of either support or opposition to the idea of publicly funded K-12 private education. The empirical data on comparative K-12 test scores in math and reading reveals minimal discrepancies, even while there is some dispute on methods used to collect and interpret the data (Usher and Kober, 2011).   The principle and most notable divide revealed in the literature between supporters and detractors of school choice is ideological in nature; and further reveals a rather complex partisan rift in American perspectives on K-12 education economics, politics, religious considerations and socialization (Ravitch, 2013). This literature review will first provide a brief but more detailed explanation of what school choice is, and then present a synopsis of the constitutional, political and ideological arguments published for and against school choice. This literature review will conclude that school choice is the public establishment of segregated K-12 socialization.

WHAT IS SCHOOL CHOICE: School choice is publicly funded private education; that is, private education funded by taxpayer dollars, also known as “Charter” Schools (Charter) (Cunningham 2013; Ravitch 2013). In 2001, the Department of Education issued a mandate that states increase limits on Charters, in order to compete for billions in federal grants issued by the Obama administration’s “Race-to-the-top” school testing incentive program (Ravitch 2013). As of 2012, forty two states had passed legislation that legalized some form of school choice specifically to precipitate Charters. The method by which private education can be and is publicly funded depends solely on the laws of each individual state (Cunningham 2013). These methods include at least one or more of the following (Cunningham 2013; Ravitch 2013):

  • Public space: public facilities for Charter schooling
  • Vouchers: public funds paid directly to individual low-income qualifiers
  • Lottery vouchers: limited open entry application process
  • Dollar for dollar Corporate tax deductible expenses for Charter education scholarships
  • Dollar for dollar individual tax deductible expenses for Charter education

According to Josh Cunningham (2013) and the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), there are as many as 900,000 nationwide K-12 students on waiting lists for Charter admission. While many earlier voucher programs targeted low-income families in urban areas or and/or the lowest-performing public schools (Usher and Kober, 2011), the NCSL and Charter supporters suggest that waiting list numbers would reduce if more states expanded their public funding options for Charter education beyond income and/or performance criteria (Cunningham 2013; Usher and Kober 2011).

THE FIRST AMENDMENT ISSUE: Charter education, specifically the Ohio school voucher program, was challenged in the Supreme Court in 2002 in the case of Zelmann v. Simmons-Harris as a violation of the Establishment Clause; the 1st Amendment (Cunningham 2013; Usher and Kober 2011). However, the court ruled that the state was not establishing a religion through Charter funding, because the funding was provided to parents who then made the ultimate decision to spend it in a religious or secular school. The Court added that Charters “acted to help under-served students in a failing school system” (Cunningham 2013).

Still, many are not satisfied with this ruling. The Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) Civil Rights Division (2012) maintains that these [Court] decisions “do not disturb the bedrock constitutional idea that no government program may be designed to advance religious institutions over non-religious institutions” (“School Vouchers” 2012). As it stands, however, Charter (the public funding of private school) is constitutional in the United States.

TESTING AND PERFORMANCE: The literature reveals a general consensus on comparative public and Charter K-12 math and reading scores (Cunningham 2013; Ravitch 2013; Usher and Kober 2011). The Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) conducted a 2013 study on comparative test scores of 27 Charter states. Its findings are representative of similar studies conducted; over half of schools compared performed similarly, while a quarter of Charters performed better and roughly a quarter performed worse than their public school counterparts (Cunningham 2013). There are also indications that public schools in close proximity to a Charter counterpart have seen “modest increases” in test scores, attributed to competitive performance factors, but that this effect “weakens” the further the distance between the schools (Cunningham 2013).

Education historian and former Assistant Secretary of Education under both President G.H. Bush and Clinton, Diane Ravitch (2013) makes the argument that test scores focused solely on math and reading do not account for the full spectrum of educational goals in subjects like history, geography, music, art and physical fitness. The NCSL itself reports that even while Charters are required to publish annual test scores, the scope of these criteria can differ from state to state which may or may not include graduation and attendance rates (Cunningham 2013). The Center on Education Policy (CEP) has also taken issue with reporting methods of test scores, in that comparison groups can have different sets of characteristics unique to their own demographic which can lead to spurious results (Usher and Kober 2011).

THE POLITICS OF SCHOOL CHOICE: Michael McShane (2012) addresses the impetus behind the push for school choice Charters. He refers to the Department of Education as an entrenched three prong bureaucracy he calls the “iron triangle” or the “educational industrial complex” which consists of Teachers Union lobbyists, and state and Federal boards of education. He calls this iron triangle, “a nearly impenetrable sub government in public education that has resisted reform” (McShane 2012); reforms needed to address a “three-fold increase” in K-12 expenditures since the 1970’s on a languishing public school system as evidenced by the low National Assessment of Educational Progress (NPEP) scores (McShane 2012).

McShane also makes the connection between the Democratic Party as supporters of public education; and cites $330 million spent on Democratic candidates over the past 5 years by public education interest groups. He purports to speak for Charter supporters in general when he says that before the Charter option, the only option for “reform-side” proponents was to “elect Republicans.” Rather than funding ever increasing budgets for “public bureaucracies,” Charters were viewed as a more cost efficient means of funding education (McShane 2012; Usher and Kober 2011).

Merit vs. Ideology: The literature has shown that despite the impetus discussed above for Charter education, test scores have remained similar to their public counterparts. But this has not stopped the momentum of Charters nationwide. Franciosi (2004) suggests there is deeper motivation to “privatize” public education having to do with a growing anti-government sentiment in the U.S. based on the ideology of “individualism.” Usher and Kober also report a “shift” taking place which is putting more emphasis on the “value of choice itself” and less on rationales of achievement. Franciosi echoes this observation by noting that opponents of Charters perceive public education as a means to “promote national culture or values” and ensure equal educational opportunities to every child regardless of race or socio-economics.

In their Review of Major Development and Research on “School Vouchers,” Usher and Kober cite the Mission Statements of two organizations who have conducted and published studies on Charter education that they say reflect a clearer understanding of Charter support. One, the James Madison Institute supports “limited government, economic freedom, federalism, and individual liberty.” Second, The Cato Institute supports moving “toward a future where government run schools give way to dynamic, independent system of schools ‘competing’ to meet the needs of American children.”

PUBLIC FUNDING WITHOUT PUBLIC OVERSIGHT: Public schools must adhere to strict regulations and laws regarding safety, the learning and physically impaired; discrimination, state licensing and certifications as well as a fairly uniform standard of curricula. Charter schools, however, are exempt from these requirements, and these criteria can vary from state to state. Charters are run; that is, held accountable and overseen by a state appointed “Authorizer;” often the Governor, or other legislative or committee body that overrides the authority of each municipality’s elected public school board (Cunningham 2013; Ravitch 2013). In its Guide for Legislators for School Choice Policy, the NCSL emphasizes the “critical role” of state legislators in Charter performance through the unencumbered authority to automatically close under performing schools and create incentives and rewards for high performing Charters (Cunningham 2013).

Ravitch points to a dangerous potential for “politicizing” K-12 education where decisions may be based on factors other than actual underlying causes that affect performance, and that the complex issues of K-12 education are not best served by politicians who may have multiple conflicts of interest. Opponents also assert that Charters funnel not only material resources away from already underfunded public schools, but also the psychological support of motivated parents and students that public schools need for optimal performance. This combined with the flexibility Charters enjoy in admissions criteria, could set some schools up for certain failure (Ravitch 2013; Usher and Kober 2011).

SEGREGATION: The ADL’s Civil Rights division agrees with Charter opponents by making it their formal position that despite Charter claims of inclusiveness, Charters provide for discrimination at some level. Charters have the legal right to tailor their “educational focus” and are not required to adhere to any structural standards of their premises. This gives Charters the ability to reject applicants based on religion, language barriers, academic achievement, gender, sexual orientation, discipline problems or physical disabilities (“School Vouchers,” 2012).

The literature indicates that the momentum of Charter schools may have more to do with Segregation than either test scores or ideology. A 2012 Buechner Institute of Governance school choice study in the Denver public system found the highest priority when choosing schools was “location” followed by educational “focus,” while less than 25 percent of respondents cited school performance as a concern (Cunningham 2013). Jeffery Henig (2011) points to the “changing landscape” of the American education system; specifically race and ethnicity. According to Henig, by 2001, sixty one of the country’s largest 100 school districts were less than 50 percent “white non-Hispanic students.” Henig cites multiple challenges to educational “coalition building” in multi-ethnic communities that include competing interests of Blacks and Latino’s; referring to conflicts over jobs, resources and affirmative action programs as “guerilla warfare.” He also cites the language and legal barriers to political mobilization for education reform in communities with a high rate of undocumented immigrants, which according to Henig had reached 28 percent in 2003.

Franciosi (2004) agrees that political consensus on issues like education are much easier to achieve when communities have homogeneity in income, religion, race and language. He goes as far as to tie location in school choice to housing prices and values; citing studies that indicate in school districts where parents have a greater say, house prices tend to be higher, where-in larger consolidated school districts, home values fall. Home values, according to Franciosi are also linked to K-12 class size and per pupil spending.

Segregation and Achievement Gaps: The UCLA Civil Rights Project studied the impact of K-12 “peer diversity” and found that it not only reduced prejudice, but heightened civic engagement, critical thinking and overall improved learning outcomes (Ravitch 2013). Ravitch advocates that achievement gaps in adulthood begin with socioeconomic and/or cultural differences of our early childhood home environments, and that “racial segregation contributes to low academic achievement;” therefore, K-12 education should provide for social diversity. Charter segregation can also lead to an unequal educational spectrum beyond “common core” subjects of math and reading. Ravitch points to 2008 budget cuts and strict testing requirements since the 2000’s, as putting a one-sided burden on public schools to compete with their Charter counterparts that may have stronger tax bases and resources to focus equally on history, literature and the arts, which according to Ravitch is equally important by any measure as math and reading in K-12 educational curricula.

Herbert Foerstel (2013) however, is concerned that Charter students could be at risk from the narrowly defined and/or “censored” educational focus that attracts many parents to Charter education.   Literature, history and science are three areas where Foerstel finds inequitable, and in his opinion substandard, instruction when and wherever censorship goes unchecked. Foerstel states that literature is the easiest and first to be censored on ideological grounds. He cites that the American Library Association has determined some 46 of the top 100 novels of the 20th century have been censored or banned in America’s schools including The Catcher in the Rye, The Grapes of Wrath and To Kill a Mockingbird. He says American history is the subject students score the worst on Federal testing. Foerstel quotes American History lecturer James Loewen, whose audiences when asked “what caused the Civil War” out of four possible choices, invariably choose “states’ rights” with the lowest percentage choosing “slavery” as the cause. Foerstel says this “corrosive” trend toward Pollyanna patriotism will produce a citizenry “who lack the knowledge and skills to criticize or defend our political systems.” The censorship of science, specifically creationism vs. evolution, according to Foerstel, is not just stunting K-12 understanding of biology, but also geology, astronomy and physics; as “young earth advocates” calculate the age of the universe at 6000 years. Foerstel concludes that taking the position in academia that “Human intervention is contrary to the will of God” dangerously hinders an objective pragmatic effort to tackle critical environmental challenges to climate, natural resources and species extinction.

THE PUBLIC ESTABLISHMENT OF SEGREGATED K-12 SOCIALIZATION: The literature concurs that Charters are publicly funded private education. The literature is in agreement that differences in testing and academic performance between Charters and public schools are not significant. The literature concurs that school performance is not the prime motivating factor for parents in K-12 decisions; but rather the liberty to choose where, what and how their child receives its K-12 education, free from government oversight and/or regulation.

The literature is at odds, however, on how America’s K-12 youth and future citizenry benefit from public funding of private education. Proponents argue that parental satisfaction is the goal of K-12 education. Opponents have serious concerns that because parental satisfaction is based on learned biases, that school choice (Charters) is simply the public establishment of K-12 segregation based on parental biases; which the literature has shown can be economic, ethnic, religious or political. When testing and performance are considered comparable, the remaining data provided by the literature indicates that the ultimate outcome of Charter education appears to be the public establishment of segregated K-12 socialization.

 

References

Cunningham, Josh. 2013. “Comprehensive School Choice Policy: A Guide for Legislators.”

National Conference of State Legislators. Retrieved February 23, 2015 from http://www.ncsl.org

Foerstel, Herbert N. 2013. Studied Ignorance: How Curricular Censorship and Textbook Selection Are Dumbing Down American Education. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger.

Franciosi, Robert J. 2004. The Rise and Fall of American Public Schools: The Political Economy of Public Education in the Twentieth Century. Westport, CT: Praeger.

Henig R., Jeffrey. 2011. “The Contemporary Context of Public Engagement: The New

Political Grid.” Public Engagement for Public Education: Joining Forces to

Revitalize Democracy and Equalize Schools. (2011). Stanford: Stanford UP.

McShane,Michael Q. 2012. “Turning the tides: President Obama and education reform.”

American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research No. 6. Retrieved

February 21, 2015 from http://www.aei.org

Ravitch, Diane. 2013. Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools. New York: Alfred A. Knopf; Division of Random House, LLC.

“School Vouchers: The Wrong Choice for Public Education.” 2012. Anti-Defamation League:

Civil Rights Division. Retrieved February 21, 2015 from http://www.adl.org

Usher, Alexandra and Nancy Kober. 2011. “Keeping Informed about School Vouchers: A

Review of Major Developments and Research.” Center on Education Policy.

Retrieved February 21, 2015 from http://www.cep-dc.org

 

Poverty and Domestic and Global Welfare

 Class Conflict in Historical, Comparative and Global Perspective

GOP_Income_InequalityCOLOR

By T.L. Dayen

Poverty is an unfortunate byproduct of advanced capitalist [stratified] societies like the U.S. But even while the research is clear that those born poor are more likely to become poor adults, the causes and remedies of poverty in America are still perceived differently (Kerbo: Duncan et al 1998). Our national perceptions of poverty stem from our opposed national perceptions of success; who deserves to succeed and why.

Social Darwinism (SD) applies Darwin’s biological “survival of the fittest” to socioeconomic survival of the fittest, and was first introduced at the turn of the 20th century by British and American sociologists Herbert Spencer and William Sumner (Kerbo 2012). The notion that one’s socioeconomic success or failure depends on an inherent level of “fitness” is supported by a uniquely American social value known as Individualism; “the belief that the individual is more important than the social group” (Kerbo: Luke 1973b). If this premise is to be believed, the individual is inherently and solely accountable for its destiny; fit you succeed, unfit you fail regardless of the “group” in which you find yourself at birth. Reagan conservative, Charles Murray firmly alluded to SD when he wrote that public welfare aid supported the “immorality and deviant behavior of the poor” (Kerbo: Murray 1984). Ten years later, he and fellow conservative Richard Herrnstein attempted to empirically support the SD theory with research that showed lower IQ scores among the impoverished (Kerbo: Herrnstein and Murray 1994).

The conclusion that the poor are biologically inferior was spurious at best, as it was not difficult for further research to rightfully take into account social factors uniquely affecting the poor with regard to mental fitness that includes fetal exposure to substance abuse, inadequate childhood nutrition and mental stimulation, and early exposure to the anxiety of impoverished physical home and community environments (Kerbo: Feldman, Otto and Christianson 200; Flynn 2000). This new research refuted that poverty is caused by lower IQ’s, but that a lower IQ is the causal effect of poverty. However, as Kerbo indicates, the 1994 Herrnstein and Murray research was published on the covers of leading magazines and newspapers while the 2000 Feldman et al. and Flynn rebuttal research was not.

When looking at poverty as an obstacle to social mobility, SD ascribes individual achievement to inherent character and/or biology. The Situational View (SV) however, ascribes ascription, or inherited social strata placement, as the actual determining factor in one’s ultimate social mobility. The SV does not dispute the impoverished have lowered educational, occupational and income expectations (Kerbo: Della Fave 1974a) but not based on inherent values; rather on perceived realistic opportunities for advancement based on, for lack of a better term, “their lot in life.” This pragmatic acceptance of ones limitations is in itself a type of “survival mechanism” that Hyman Rodman called a “lower-class value stretch” (Kerbo: Rodman 1963). The relative pinnacle of one’s success is learned, and personal success then becomes measured by how well one manages the parameters of one’s likely available resources in life.

The SV recognizes that likewise those born into advantaged environments have equally ascribed advantageous situational outcomes of social mobility. Yet despite the comparative phenomenal wealth of the U.S., in 2006, the U.N. found that the U.S. ranked 16 in the Human Poverty Index-2 out the top 17 industrialized nations; 1 being lowest and 17 being highest in poverty rates (Kerbo:Table 9-7). Therefore, lower class comparisons to and aspirations for, middle-class status and values are only made and exist to the extent that opportunities to realize those aspirations are present and within reach. When looking at poverty outside of the immediate context of social mobility, children and the elderly made up over one third of Americans living below the poverty line in 2009, with one third of those represented by single mother households (Kerbo:Table 9-2). In fact, of the same top 17 industrialized nations, the U.S. not only ranks 17 (highest) in child poverty, it ranks 1st (lowest) in expenditures as a percentage of GDP at only 2% on combating it’s child poverty (Kerbo:Figure 9-3). If a life of poverty can be attributed to ascription, then any sincere and genuine attempt to combat poverty must begin with child poverty.

The SV sees a central government role in assisting to place opportunities within closer reach of those children disadvantaged by ascription, such as education, nutrition and health services and parental family planning and housing assistance. Figure 9-3 indicates that child poverty is reduced as expenditures to combat it are increased. It’s not that U.S. does not have the revenue to accomplish this; it’s that the U.S. does not have the desire to do so. As to why this indifference to poverty in the U.S. may exist, research done in 1971 indicates that “welfare” functions to keep wages low; that the “able-bodied poor” provide business cheap labor markets (Kerbo: Piven and Cloward 1971). As immoral as it may sound, providing the poor, especially children, just the bare necessities to survive without providing opportunities to succeed, simply sustains systemic poverty and maintains a society stratified by ascription, and in the process, legitimating the widening income gap between the haves and the have not’s.

Bare necessities are important, but if we are truly interested in breaking, not maintaining, the poverty cycle, the SV supports addressing existing child poverty through investments in early and continuing education and nutrition, and reducing the perpetuation of child poverty by investment in family planning access and awareness; which has been found to increase social mobility overall.

Economically, the world is a system of interrelated nations categorized as either “core (1st world),” “peripheral (2nd world),” or “semi-peripheral (3rd world)” based on metrics of national wealth. These metrics include gross domestic product (GDP) and personal income per capita (PPP), but also other index metrics such as hunger and life span; indicators of access to adequate nutrition, clean water and humane living conditions. Income inequality however is not a measure of core or periphery (non-core) nation status. According to the World Bank (Kerbo:World Bank 2010:Table 1) in 2008, the U.S. ranked just second behind Norway in PPP at $46,970 (Kerbo:Table 16-2); however, in a World Bank Gini Index on global income inequality (2006a:280-282), out of 31 nations ranging from .25 (Sweden) to .58 (Guatemala), the U.S. was at .38; highest of the top five core nations but also higher than many of the non-core nations like Ethiopia (.30) and Bangladesh (.31) (Kerbo:Table 16-3).

The economic relationship that Kerbo is speaking of is foreign investment and debt dependency (Kerbo:Chase-Dunn 1975; Rubinson 1976). Kerbo indicates four primary variable influences of core nation economic world systems on non-core nation economic development: 1) “the existence and power of a small group of elites;” 2) “the degree of working powerlessness;” 3) “the type of political system[s] maintained; and 4) “the level of income inequality.” While we know that income inequality is not a requisite for core or non-core nation status, but actually to some degree, a natural consequence of industrialization (stratification), Kerbo indicates that when we take into account the other three relational variables of core nation wealth on non-core nation poverty within newly industrialized non-core nations as a result of foreign investment and debt dependency, that income inequality has tended to be more severe, systemic and permanent.

Historical data on todays industrialized core nations, indicate that income inequality has decreased as economic [industrial] development has increased (relatively) (Kerbo:Rubinson 1976; Jackman 1975). Today however, as Kerbo points out, the reverse is proving to be true for non-core nations whose economic development has occurred as a direct result of foreign core nation investment. The economic development of non-core nations resulting from foreign investment over the past forty years has preceded and even circumvented the development of the democratic, educational, bureaucratic and occupational structures within these non-core nations; unlike the historic economic and political evolution of modern industrialized core nations going back hundreds, even thousands, of years (Kerbo:Figure 16-4). In other words, the four variables Kerbo cited above are heavily influenced when non-core nation states have not been allowed the same opportunity to develop and negotiate their own collective means of production, ownership, labor and democratic structures to fairly distribute and reinvest collective benefits (Kerbo: Bornschier and Ballmer-Cao 1979).

Foreign debt dependence exists on two levels: 1) core multinational corporate capital investment; and 2) core government trade, crisis aid, and political and military protection. Non-core powerful elites (top 5% and/or corrupt governments) benefit the most from this dependence and so non-core production must go to providing cheap labor and raw materials for core corporate elites and cheap consumer goods for core non-elites, as opposed to production that provides for the needs of their own non-core non-elites. This leads to stalled non-core economic growth. Core non-elite high wage production ownership is lost to non-core non-elites and replaced by low wage service labor for core elites. Once again, as immoral as it may sound, core corporate/shareholder and non-core elite wealth and power both increase exponentially while standards of living for both core and non-core non-elites decline (Kerbo: Figure 16-5).

However, there are certain non-core Asian nations today that appear to be following the historic model of economic industrial development reducing, not increasing, income equality (relatively). East and Southeast Asian nations are reducing their income inequality in contrast to their non-core counterparts of South Asia, Africa and South America (World Bank 2010; Kerbo 2006). Two very important key factors have been found to explain this. First is education. Studies have shown that educated populations are more likely to make better use of foreign investment for long term broad economic growth, as opposed to short term limited economic reward (Kerbo:Kentor and Boswell 2003; de Soysa and Oneal 1999). Second is a deeply held sense of nationalism. Societies of ancient lineage have a historic pride and collective responsibility to its common national interests. Unfortunately, a strong national ethic is more likely to be in tact today when that society has not been victim to colonization during its history (Kerbo 2006, 2005). This would explain much when comparing these nations to those of South Asia, Africa and South America. Africa is additionally unique in that its only historical commodity has been the export of its own people; translating today into severely corrupt, exploitive and apathetic central governments.

            While we cannot re-write history, core nations can use there leverage and influence for more than profits. They can demand more democratic global partners, safer and healthier infrastructures and investments in education. The global elite can accept that a reduction in the bottom line for higher wages must be a shared sacrifice for a higher quality of life for all those who toil on their behalf, and to whom they owe so much for their personal, national and global success. Just imagine what humanity could accomplish with the human resource capital of 7 billion healthy, safe and educated minds.

 

 2012 (H.R. Kerbo). Social Stratification and Inequality. McGraw Hill NY. Ch 9:16

 

“Life!?”

At What Point “Human?”

dads pic

By Shane Stewart

March 20

I am a man blogging on a subject that in truth belongs entirely in the realm of female consciousness and control. Women, and only women have the right to control their own bodies. Men have no business legislating anything about the female body. So why am I writing on this subject that belongs solely in the world of the female? I must write on this subject as a male because I know that the male of our species has hijacked the definition of “human life,” and it has been done solely to strengthen the image of male “superiority.” Men have done it to further strip the female of any power and authority over her own body and what happens in -or to – it. The negative, dominant, violent male ego knows no bounds in its blatant attempts at maintaining female oppression and domination throughout the world – forever. Men have women “locked down” in every aspect of life, and the male ego is now even trying to “legally,” through legislation, reach into the “cradle of life” – the female womb – to control and oppress women; to legislate that a human being exists inside a woman’s body at the moment of “insemination” by the male sperm. This is a ludicrous, female – oppressive, male ego idea. This type of “moral legislation” is mostly known as “person-hood.” And the legislation being proposed by these men about the definition of “life” is being driven mostly by religious fantasies which is in violation of the separation of church and state in the U.S. Constitution and, I must add, in the separation of “morality” and individuality in human society! Every American has the right to religious “freedom.” But no American has the right to force their religious “ideology” upon the other citizens of America through government legislation, no matter what your religious belief. We are not a theocracy! Every American as well, has the right to their own “moral” structure, but not the right to force those morals  upon others in society.

To the male ego, the female is nothing more than a resource, a commodity to be used and controlled by men; much like a deposit of oil, a stand of trees, or a herd of cattle. And men are the ones who have taken unto themselves the power  to decide how the “female resource” is to be used on this planet. And men have decided that the “use” of women is mostly sexual and domestic in nature. Men long ago quashed any concepts that women might have had regarding female “independence.” In the consciousness of most men, women are a “dependent attachment,” an addendum to the male ego, and certainly do not stand as equal “partners” in this “man‘s” world. This male ego attitude of female inferiority is quite remarkable because everyone knows we have all arrived on Earth through a woman, haven’t we? How then can women be “inferior” to the very beings they “create?” 

Humanity is the product of female labor. It is “she” who brings forth our population. It is “her” body that allows or disallows a bio-chemical reaction to continue to possibly develop into an independent being. And that process takes months and months inside the female body. The male body has nothing at all to do with that “eventual” development. In the entire process of procreation, the male has but a small responsibility; a brief encounter of necessity for “insemination.” And if “artificial” insemination is used for pregnancy, then that brief encounter is not even necessary. The male presence is not required throughout the entire process of pregnancy, or the entire lifetime of that being. Not so for the female. So obviously, the responsibility for “life” between the male and female is wholly and entirely, out of balance; a brief encounter as opposed to months and months and years and years? Men do not like that fact! It makes them appear to be relatively unimportant. And in reality, that is the cold, hard truth. This is why many dominant males are trying so hard to legislate that the second the sperm “breaks through” the wall of the ovum (insemination) a human being has sprung forth in the womb of a woman. This fallacy of thinking is critical to the image of male superiority because what is being said here is that the sperm is the most important element in life and decides everything. Not so! And a sperm does not “break through” the wall of the ovum. If that were true many more of these millions of sperm would be banging their way into the same ovum at the same time! This however, is a good example of the forceful and violent way most men think about women; the sperm (male) dominates the ovum (female). The truth is that the ovum “accepts” a sperm and then closes off to the others. Acceptance is the female reality and the truth. Force is the male reality and the lie.

There is no human “life” in the ovum at the moment of insemination. There is simply a bio-chemical reaction taking place. Just as surely as a seed newly planted in a field is not the crop, a seed newly planted in a female womb is not a human being!! No one plants rows and rows of corn seed then turns around the next day to go get the tractor and harvest the crop! There is no crop! Developmental stages must occur over time through which bio-chemical reactions can build a viable product. This is also true in the human world. In actuality, the entire issue of when life occurs during procreation is merely about male ego control over women, their bodies, and their activities! It’s all about the image of male “superiority” and male dominated “religious” control over women. Men have dominated women across thousands of centuries and will struggle to continue to do so at any expense, forever!

Many egotistical and oppressive men – and some women molded by them – are rabid about not allowing women the freedom to discontinue a pregnancy. This means at anytime under any conditions, even unto the death of the mother! And to make matters even worse for women, those people trying to legislate the definition of “life” are also trying to stop the use of birth control! Any kind of birth control! Many company owners will impose their religious “ideology” upon their female workers by molding their insurance plans that will pay for Viagra to bolster a man’s virility, but will not pay for birth control where-by a woman could prevent becoming pregnant and not have to discontinue it. So now we have an unbelievable situation where men would deny a woman the ability to prevent a pregnancy, and once pregnant, would force her to give birth, even unto her own death. Where is “pro-life” in the conscious killing of a woman? This is truly an unspeakable evil perpetrated by the male ego. There are even organizations today making the claim that birth control itself (the prevention of pregnancy) is killing “children!” Where are these children that are being killed? How can you “kill” something that does not exist? Truly, these people see women solely as broodmares and servants, and are determined to control the entire sexuality of the female!

So what about the sperm itself in this issue? There is hardly any attention given to the sperm in all this ruckus about “life.” If men insist that the sperm is life, then why are they not legislating protection for that life. Let’s consider for a moment the various ways many men treat that life. That “life” is ejaculated down shower drains, down the toilet, behind the barn, off in the bushes, into a condom, into a “sex toy,” into their fist, onto a glossy page in a sex magazine, and yes, even into animals! Should this not be considered then the “destruction” of life? Men do not consider their sperm to be “life” until it is ejaculated into a female vagina. Then suddenly this sperm is immediately a human being? Should there not be legislation then that a man cannot ejaculate his sperm anywhere or anytime unless it is into a female vagina? Is that not the protection of “life?” Just imagine those millions of sperm dying down the drain! But the sperm does not construct human life. Human life is constructed in the female ovum in stages, through bio-chemical reactions, over a long period of time!!! But once again male domination of the female springs forth. And if a pregnancy does continue to eventual fruition, men have assured that this child will come into a world dominated by the male ego practice of Patrilineage. This practice (ancestry through the male line) is overwhelmingly followed in virtually all societies of the Earth. Men consider children to be “theirs.” “These are ‘my’ children. They have ‘my’ name. She only gives birth to these children for me. That is her duty! To give me children.” And on and on they go in their male ego fantasy world…

This blog is titled “Life?; At What Point “Human?” Frankly I am not sure anyone knows when that point is reached. I do know that the moment the ovum and sperm combine, the “potential” for human life is there, yes. But potential is not “actuality;” it is only “possibility.” Many things can occur over time through the process of the construction of viable life in the womb, including spontaneous miscarriage and still-birth. Again, it is ludicrous to say that a human being has sprung forth at the moment of insemination. This idea is only being bandied around so men can further continue their campaign to dominate the female body. Some men say that the intention of the sperm is the development of “human life”. But again, intent is not a “reality.” Intent can be changed at anytime. This is comparable to saying that a bank robber who walks in with the intent to rob a bank, must now continue to do so at any cost because that was the intent. Are these people saying intent can’t be changed? Insemination is only the design for something; it is not the actuality of it. Again, this “idea of life” at insemination is being driven by religious fantasies which are only “beliefs.” Religious “belief,” and/or any other “belief” does not have to have rationale, thought, or truth behind it.

Suppose I burn the blueprint design for a ten story building and I am taken to court. What will the charge be? Destroying a ten story building? There was no building to destroy. The judge might say; “Mr. Stewart, the prosecutor is charging you with destroying a ten story building! How do you plead?”   I will respond; “Your Honor, I am innocent. There was no building. I simply burnt a piece of paper that had a ‘design’ for a possible building. Is that destroying a building?” The judge will dismiss the case. Why? Because the blueprint potential, the design for a building is not the actuality of a building. At what point human life occurs in the womb is not a decision to be legislated by the male ego through male dominated religious edict! It is an issue that must rest entirely with the female of our species. But I do know that it is NOT at the moment of “insemination.” That is simply a male ego lie to continue female oppression and most women know that.

Every woman on Earth is inherently endowed with the right to discontinue pregnancy for ANY reason up to a certain point. The morning after? Of course! One week down the road? Absolutely! A month from now?  Yes! I will save any further comments on this subject for another blog because this particular writing is solely to correct the male ego lie that a human being “appears” at the moment of insemination. Once again, this is religious ideology and personal “moral” structure, and those who believe it are free to do so. But that “belief” must not be forced upon the human female in our society!