Adonis Diaries

Archive for August 30th, 2011

 

Is your spirit of resistance crushed? America youth: Fight back!
Do these practices strike a chord among the youth in America?
1. Student-Loan Debt,
2. Psychoanalyzing children, categorizing mental kinds of pathology in children, and Medicating Noncompliance,
3. Focusing on obedience and compliance in Schools,
4. “No Child Left Behind” and “Race to the Top programs,
5. Shaming Young People Who Take Education seriously,
6. Surveillance methods and technology as normal behavior,
7. Eight hours in front of Screens of television, internet, computer, cell phone…
8. The daily subjugation to Fundamentalist Religion and Fundamentalist Consumerism
I have published articles on each one of these reasons that are meant to cow youth in America from getting on the march for serious changes.
I find it interesting to abridge and re-edit an article published, in July 3,1 by Bruce E. Levine in AlterNet “Eight Reasons Young Americans Don’t Fight Back: How the US Crushed Youth Resistance”
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“Traditionally, young people have energized democratic movements. So it is a major coup for the ruling elite to have created societal institutions that have subdued young Americans and broken their spirit of resistance to domination.

Young Americans—even more so than older Americans—appear to have acquiesced to the idea that the “corporatocracy” can completely screw them and making them feel helpless to do anything about it.

For example, a 2010 Gallup poll asked Americans “Do you think the Social Security system will be able to pay you a benefit when you retire?”

In the group of 18- to 34-years-olds, 76 percent of them said no.

Yet despite their lack of confidence in the availability of Social Security for them, few have demanded it be shored up by more fairly payroll-taxing the wealthy: Most appear resigned to having more money deducted from their paychecks for Social Security, even though they don’t believe it will be around to benefit them.

How exactly has American society subdued young Americans?

1. Student-Loan Debt. Large debt—and the fear it creates—is a pacifying force. There was no tuition at the City University of New York when I attended one of its colleges in the 1970s, a time when tuition at many U.S. public universities was so affordable that it was easy to get a B.A.  You could earn a graduate degree without accruing any student-loan debt.

While those days are gone in the United States, public universities continue to be free in the Arab world and and most developing States.  Schooling are either free or with very low fees in many countries throughout the world.

The millions of young Iranians who risked getting shot to protest their disputed 2009 presidential election, the millions of young Egyptians who risked their lives earlier this year to eliminate Mubarak, and the millions of young Americans who demonstrated against the Vietnam War all had in common the absence of pacifying huge student-loan debt.

Today in the United States, two-thirds of graduating seniors at four-year colleges have student-loan debt, including over 62 percent of public university graduates. While average undergraduate debt is close to $25,000College graduates average closer to $100,000 in student-loan debt.

During the time in one’s life when it should be easiest to resist authority because one does not yet have family responsibilities, many young people worry about the cost of bucking authority, losing their job, and being unable to pay an ever-increasing debt.

In a vicious cycle, student debt has a subduing effect on activism, and political passivity makes it more likely that students will accept such debt as a natural part of life. (See note 1)

2. Psycho-pathology analysis of children and Medicating Noncompliance. In 1955, Erich Fromm, the respected anti-authoritarian leftist psychoanalyst, wrote, “Today the function of psychiatry, psychology and psychoanalysis threatens to become the tool in the manipulation of man.” Fromm died in 1980, the same year that an increasingly authoritarian America elected Ronald Reagan president, and an increasingly authoritarian American Psychiatric Association added to their diagnostic bible (then the DSM-III) disruptive mental disorders for children and teenagers such as the increasingly popular “oppositional defiant disorder” (ODD).

The official symptoms of ODD include “often actively defies or refuses to comply with adult requests or rules,” “often argues with adults,” and “often deliberately does things to annoy other people.”

Many of America’s greatest activists including Saul Alinsky (1909–1972), the author of Reveille for Radicals and Rules for Radicals, would today certainly be diagnosed with ODD and other disruptive disorders. Recalling his childhood, Alinsky said, “I never thought of walking on the grass until I saw a sign saying ‘Keep off the grass.’ Then I would stomp all over it.”

Heavily tranquilizing anti-psychotic drugs (e.g. Zyprexa and Risperdal) are now the highest grossing class of medication in the United States ($16 billion in 2010).  A major reason for this, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2010, is that many children receiving anti-psychotic drugs have non-psychotic diagnoses such as ODD or some other disruptive disorder (this especially true of Medicaid-covered pediatric patients).

3. Schools Educate for Compliance and Not for Democracy.

Upon accepting the New York City Teacher of the Year Award on January 31, 1990, John Taylor Gatto upset many in attendance by stating: “The truth is that schools don’t really teach anything except how to obey orders. This is a great mystery to me because thousands of humane, caring people work in schools as teachers and aides and administrators, but the abstract logic of the institution overwhelms their individual contributions.”

A generation ago, the problem of compulsory schooling as a vehicle for an authoritarian society was widely discussed, but as this problem has gotten worse, it is seldom discussed.

The nature of most classrooms, regardless of the subject matter, socializes students to be passive and directed by others, to follow orders, to take seriously the rewards and punishments of authorities, to pretend to care about things they don’t care about, and that they are impotent to affect their situation. A teacher can lecture about democracy, but schools are essentially undemocratic places, and so democracy is not what is instilled in students.

Jonathan Kozol in The Night Is Dark and I Am Far from Home focused on how school breaks us from courageous actions. Kozol explains how our schools teach us a kind of “inert concern” in which “caring”—in and of itself and without risking the consequences of actual action—is considered “ethical.” School teaches us that we are “moral and mature” if we politely assert our concerns, but the essence of school—its demand for compliance—teaches us not to act in a friction-causing manner.

4. “No Child Left Behind” and “Race to the Top.”

The corporatocracy has figured out a way to make our already authoritarian schools even more authoritarian. Democrat-Republican bipartisanship has resulted in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, NAFTA, the PATRIOT Act, the War on Drugs, the Wall Street bailout, and educational policies such as “No Child Left Behind” and “Race to the Top.” These policies are essentially standardized-testing tyranny that creates fear, which is antithetical to education for a democratic society.

Fear forces students and teachers to constantly focus on the demands of test creators; it crushes curiosity, critical thinking, questioning authority, and challenging and resisting illegitimate authority. In a more democratic and less authoritarian society, one would evaluate the effectiveness of a teacher not by sanctioned standardized tests but by asking students, parents, and a community if a teacher is inspiring students to be more curious, to read more, to learn independently, to enjoy thinking critically, to question authorities, and to challenge illegitimate authorities.

5. Shaming Young People Who Take Education Seriously. 

In a 2006 survey in the United States, it was found that 40 percent of children between first and third grade read every day, but by fourth grade, that rate declined to 29 percent. Despite the anti-educational impact of standard schools, children and their parents are increasingly propagandized to believe that disliking school means disliking learning.

That was not always the case in the United States. Mark Twain famously said, “I never let my schooling get in the way of my education.” Toward the end of Twain’s life in 1900, only 6 percent of Americans graduated high school. Today, approximately 85 percent of Americans graduate high school, but this is good enough for Barack Obama who told us in 2009, “And dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It’s not just quitting on yourself, it’s quitting on your country.”

The more schooling Americans get, however, the more politically ignorant they are of America’s ongoing class war, and the more incapable they are of challenging the ruling class.

In the 1880s and 1890s, American farmers with little or no schooling created a Populist movement that organized America’s largest-scale working people’s cooperative, formed a People’s Party that received 8% of the vote in 1892 presidential election, designed a “sub-treasury” plan (had it been implemented would have allowed easier credit for farmers and broke the power of large banks) and sent 40,000 lecturers across America to articulate it, and evidenced all kinds of sophisticated political ideas, strategies and tactics absent today from America’s well-schooled population.

Today, Americans who lack college degrees are increasingly shamed as “losers”. For example, Gore Vidal and George Carlin, two of America’s most astute and articulate critics of the corporatocracy, never went to college, and Carlin dropped out of school in the ninth grade.

6. The Normalization of Surveillance. The fear of being under surveillance makes a population easier to control. While the National Security Agency (NSA) has received publicity for monitoring American citizen’s email and phone conversations, and while employer surveillance has become increasingly common in the United States, young Americans have become increasingly acquiescent to corporatocracy surveillance. Why?

Beginning at a young age, surveillance is routine in their lives. Parents routinely check Web sites for their kid’s latest test grades and completed assignments, and just like employers, are monitoring their children’s computers and Facebook pages. Some parents use the GPS in their children’s cell phones to track their whereabouts, and other parents have video cameras in their homes.

Increasingly, I talk with young people who lack the confidence that they can even pull off a party when their parents are out of town, and so how much confidence are they going to have about pulling off a democratic movement below the radar of authorities?

7. Television. In 2009, the Nielsen Company reported that TV viewing in the United States is at an all-time high if one includes the following “three screens”: a television set, a laptop/personal computer, and a cell phone. American children average eight hours a day on TV, video games, movies, the Internet, cell phones, iPods, and other technologies (not including school-related use).

Many progressives are concerned about the concentrated control of content by the corporate media, but the mere act of watching TV—regardless of the programming—is the primary pacifying agent (private-enterprise prisons have recognized that providing inmates with cable television can be a more economical method to keep them quiet and subdued than it would be to hire more guards).

Television is a dream come true for an authoritarian society: those with the most money own most of what people see.  First, Fear-based television programming makes people more afraid and distrustful of one another, which is good for the ruling elite who depend on a “divide and conquer” strategy. Second, TV isolates people so they are not joining together to create resistance to authorities; and regardless of the programming, TV viewers’ brainwaves slow down, transforming them closer to a hypnotic state that makes it difficult to think critically.

While playing a video games is not as zombifying as passively viewing TV, such games have become for many boys and young men their only experience of potency, and this “virtual potency” is certainly no threat to the ruling elite.

8. Fundamentalist Religion and Fundamentalist Consumerism.

American culture offers young Americans the “choices” of fundamentalist religion and fundamentalist consumerism. All varieties of fundamentalism narrow one’s focus and inhibit critical thinking. While some progressives are fond of calling fundamentalist religion the “opiate of the masses,” they too often neglect the pacifying nature of America’s other major fundamentalism.

Fundamentalist consumerism pacifies young Americans in a variety of ways. Fundamentalist consumerism destroys self-reliance: It creates the basis for people to feel completely dependent on others and who are thus more likely to turn over decision-making power to authorities.  This is the precise mind-set that the ruling elite loves to see.

A fundamentalist consumer culture legitimizes advertising, propaganda, and all kinds of manipulations, including lies.  When a society gives legitimacy to lies and manipulative tendencies, it destroys the capacity of people to trust one another and to forming democratic movements.

Fundamentalist consumerism also promotes self-absorption, which makes it difficult for the solidarity necessary for democratic movements.

These are not the only aspects of our culture that are subduing young Americans and crushing their resistance to domination. The food-industrial complex has helped create an epidemic of childhood obesity, depression, and passivity.

The prison-industrial complex keeps young anti-authoritarians “in line” (now by the fear that they may come before judges such as the two Pennsylvania ones who took $2.6 million from private-industry prisons to ensure that juveniles were incarcerated).

As Ralph Waldo Emerson observed: “All our things are right and wrong together. The wave of evil washes all our institutions alike.”

Note 1: In August 21, 2011, published this “education” article in The Atlantic “When Will the Bubble Burst? Student Loan Debt Swells 511 Percent”

“It’s no secret that American students are being crushed by student loans. We’re on track to cross the $1 trillion mark in total student debt, exceeding household credit card debt, sometime later this year. That sounds pretty insane, but thanks to our colleagues at The Atlantic we can see just how far out of hand the situation has spiraled.

The magazine tapped data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and found that total student loan debt increased a whopping 511 percent between the first quarter of 1999 and the first quarter of 2011:

student.loans

We all know how much havoc the housing bubble wreaked on our economy, but it turns out the growth of student loan debt was twice as steep as the growth of mortgages and revolving home equity from 1999 to the peak of the housing bubble in 2008.

One thing is for sure: if mass numbers of students start defaulting, or if they stop spending on other things because their money is going to paying off loans, a day of reckoning is surely coming. The only question is when?

Note 2:  Is the youth in America practically illiterate and are foreign to what is going outside their close surrounding?  Youth in Europe and in the Arab World are revolting, and successfully.  The latest ugly riots in England were preemptive warning to the government with the strong message: “You may balance the budget, but not at our expense”

“Planet of the Orient”: Who is Um Kulthum?

Is she the fourth modern Pyramid?

Is her silk handkerchief, tightly held in her left hand, the symbol of her singing genius?

It is November 1967:  Five months earlier, Egypt of Gamal Abdel Nasser suffered a crushing defeat by Israel.  Um Kulthum is in Paris for two concerts at the music-hall Olympia:  She is to receive 100,000 Francs for each night of performance, the highest in the history of this music-hall, and to be disbursed to Egypt’s funds of reconstruction.  Air bridges of countless charter planes and private planes are flocking from the Gulf Arab Emirates States.

Um Kulthum writes to President Charles de Gaulle: “I salute in you your action in favor of justice and peace”.  De Gaulle had suspended delivery of Mirage jet fighters to Israel after its preemptive war in June 1967 against Egypt, Syria, and Jordan.

For an hour, Um Kulthum has been sitting among the 18-member orchestra, waiting for the start of the concert.  King Hussein of Jordan, the painter Carzou, Marie Laforet, ambassadors, personalities, and journalists are among the audience.

Um Kulthum is sitting on a chair and begins with “Love of the nation” then stand up in her green jellaba and sings “Restore my liberty, free my hands…” and resume with “The ruins”.

Three songs that stretched for six hours. The audience is described in dailies as “fanatics” of tarab, chanting “Allah” and “Ya salam”

Um Kulthum (Thuma) Ibrahim el-Sayyed el Baltagui, nicknamed “Al Sitt” or “Kawkab al Shark” was born in 1900 in the rural town of Tamay el Zahayra in the Delta of the Nile, the district of Dakhalia. Her father spends his time taking care of the mosque, and interpret religious folkloric songs during wedding ceremonies (mawalid). Her mother Fatima encourages Thuma to learn to read and write and at the age of 7, Thuma is dispatched to her uncle in El Sinbillawayn (Mansoura district) to resume her schooling.

Around 1914, Egypt in under British colonialism, and Thuma’s father discovers that she has an angelic voice, psalmoding Koranic verses and joined her to his small ambulatory group.  Um Kulthum is decked in a Jelabiya as boys and her voice is spreading in the Delta as captivating and the singing group is solicited extensively.

At 16 of age, the famous oud player Zakaria Ahmed and the famous singer cheikh Aboul 3ela heard Thuma singing in the Eid el Fitr in El Sinbillawayn and ask Thuma’s father to encourage her to go to Cairo so that they train her and expand her horizon.

In 1921, Um Kulthum sees Cairo for the first time: She is to sing to a noble and rich house for a wedding. At first, the host would not accept this poor girl dressed as a peasant (felaha) to sing in his house.  The wife beg to differ.  As Um Kulthum sang, an angel hovered over the audience.

For another year, her protectors Zakaria Ahmed and cheikh Aboul 3ela write to Um Kulthum. Thuma had to wait till 1923 to be taken in charge by her music professional protectors.

Thuma learns the dawr, profane songs, and sings poems of Hafez, Abu Nawas, el Mutanabbe, Rubayyat of Omar Khayyam…  Her voice emits 14,000 vibrations (frequency) while a normal voice is about 4,000.

Sadek Ahmad becomes her impresario and advertises Thuma, to the ire of her conservative father.

In 1925, Ahmed Rami, famous song writer, listened to Um Kulthum and fell in love: He wrote over 100 songs just for Thuma.

Um Kulthum is practically a lesbian and in love of Fatima Abdel Razek.  Thuma recorded her first album in 1925 “The lover is betrayed by his eyes” and sells over 15,000 copies.

Thuma is demanded everywhere in the Arab World and she obliges. The Turkish musical style is abandoned and replaced by popular Egyptian taktoukas.  Um Kulthum is heard on radio Masr and she acted in a few movies.

Um Kulthum built a villa of two stories in the street Abou Feda in Zamalek.  Her family declined leaving the village to living in Cairo.  Only her relative Sayyeda accept to join Thuma and becomes her confident and helper.

Thuma’s mother died in 1937.  In 1948, Thuma is suffering from her eyes and needs surgery of the neck (goitre).  She is sent to the USA for professional surgery.

July 23, 1952, a military coup brings Gamal Abdel Nasser to power. The new leader calls Thuma and tells her: “I wish you resume your career: You are the link that unite all Egyptians.  Millions have need of your voice…”

Um Kulthum is being treated by surgeon professor Hafnaoui and ends up marrying him. As she said: “When we bare our body to the physician, we are nude in front of man…”

In 1960, Nasser bestowed medal of honors to Um Kulthum and Mohammad Abdel Wahhab.  The Rais Nasser says: “Abdel Wahhad, I celebrate your art, but I cannot forgive you for not associating with Um Kulthum…” Abdel Wahhab replies: “It is my greatest honor to compose songs for Um Kulthum…” and Abdel Wahhab would compose three songs to Thuma such as “You are my life” (Enta oumri).

Um Kulthum died on February 3, 1975 from renal deficiency. Million of Egyptians carried her gasket to Midan El Tahriri and on to Tuma’s mausoleum in Al Bassatine.

Note 1: Article extracted from a chapter of the French book by Gilbert Sinoue “12 women who changed the history of the Orient”

Note 2: It is reported that Jihan, wife of president Anwar Sadat, was terribly jealous of Um Kulthum as the leading women in Egypt and the Arab World.  Jihan did her best to castrate Thuma into seclusion at the end of her life.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

August 2011
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