Henry Giroux on Domestic Terrorism, Youth and the Politics of Disposability

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ikosmos ikosmos's picture
Henry Giroux on Domestic Terrorism, Youth and the Politics of Disposability

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“The danger is that a global, universally interrelated civilization may produce barbarians from its own midst by forcing millions of people into conditions which, despite all appearances, are the conditions of savages.”

- Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism

Henry Giroux: "Following Hannah Arendt, a dark cloud of political and ethical ignorance has descended on the United States. Thoughtlessness has become something that now occupies a privileged, if not celebrated, place in the political landscape and the mainstream cultural apparatuses. A new kind of infantilism now shapes daily life as adults gleefully take on the role of unthinking children and children are taught to be adults, stripped of their innocence and subject to a range of disciplinary pressures designed to cripple their ability to be imaginative."

Giroux describes a society that DISPOSES of youth, indifferent to the fate of young people, brainwashing them from an early age with a commercialized childhood, a banal celebrity culture of selfishness, spiritually impoverished, sterilized from solidarity or even simple compassion, awash in market and other fundamentalisms, gloating over the deaths of others [Cheney].

"[N]ation-states organized by neoliberal priorities have implicitly declared war on their children ..."

This is a society whose leading institutions and ideology eat their young. It is a future of downward mobility for Generation Zero. It is a war on youth. The war consists of a soft war, drawing an entire generation into "a world of consumerism in which commodities and brand loyalty become both the most important markers of identity and the primary frameworks for mediating one’s relationship to the world." Rather than being an instrument of liberation, the new technologies become

"a new form of depoliticization and thoughtlessness conveniently labeled as attention deficit disorder. The risk is that young people’s lives will eventually be filled entirely by these distractions, and they will be denied the time necessary for thoughtful analysis and the pedagogical conditions necessary for them to read critically both the word and the world."

Yes, there is some resistance.

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...some youth are doing their best to resist the commercial onslaught and to stay ahead of the commodification and privatization of new media technologies. These youth are using social and digital media as creative tools to assert a range of oppositional practices and forms of protest that constitute a new realm of political activity, one that will increase in the future, and an important source of struggle and resistance.

But there is also the "hard war" against young people.

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Turning now to the hard war, this is a more serious and dangerous development for young people, especially those who are marginalized by virtue of their ethnicity, race or class. The hard war refers to the harshest elements of a growing youth crime-control complex that operates through a logic of punishment, surveillance and control. The young people targeted by its punitive measures are often poor youth of color who are considered failed consumers and who can only afford to live on the margins of a commercial culture that excludes anybody without money, resources and leisure time to spare. Or they are youth considered uneducable and unemployable, and therefore troublesome.

The "school to prison pipeline", so brutally developed in the USA, especially among visible and African-American youth, only shows what the neo-liberal future has for young people in Canada and elsewhere. The incarceration rates of Aboriginal women in Canada, for example, draw the apalled attention of international bodies.

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In Canada, one child in six lives in poverty, but for Aboriginal and immigrant children that figure rises to 25 percent or more, respectively. By all accounts, the rate of incarceration for Aboriginal youth - already eight times higher than for non-Aboriginal youth - will continue to skyrocket as a result of the Harper government’s so-called Safe Streets and Community Act, which emulates the failed policies of the US system by, among other things, strengthening requirements to detain and sentence more youth to custody in juvenile detention centers.

The future?

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In Canada, there is a new generation of youth who have to think, act and talk like adults, and worry about their families, which may be headed by a single parent or two out of work and searching for a job. In the United States, young people are further burdened by registers of extreme poverty that pose the dire challenge of getting enough money to buy food and facing the arduous task of determining how long it will take to see a doctor in case of illness. These young people inhabit a new and more unsettling scene of suffering, a dead zone of the imagination, which constitutes a site of terminal exclusion - one that reveals not only the vast and destabilizing inequalities in neoliberal economic landscapes, but also portends a future that has no purchase on the hope that characterizes a vibrant democracy

The market fundamentalism of neo-liberalism must be exposed and the curtain pulled back from the Wizard of capitalist Oz. Public memory, civic literacy and civic courage must come to life again to resist this brutal capitalist juggernaut. Giroux notes recent resistance, and that "young people aligning with others can be a vibrant source of creativity, possibility and political struggle."

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...young people and others can use new technologies, develop democratic social formations, and enact forms of critical pedagogy and civil disobedience necessary for addressing the anti-democratic forces that have been corrupting North American political culture since the 1970s. Young people have shown that austerity policies can be defeated; state violence can be held accountable; collective struggles are worthwhile; and specific and isolated protests can be transformed into broad social movements that pose a fundamental challenge to neoliberal ideologies and modes of governance.

Giroux sees education as the center of any collective struggle that matters and notes that we, on the left, must resist the cynicism in our own ranks, and fight for a “sense of politics being educative [and] changing the way people see things.”

Slavoj Žižek: “The only realist option is to do what appears impossible within this system. This is how the impossible becomes possible.”

 

link.

 

ikosmos ikosmos's picture

Giroux can be a bit overwhelming, similar to Chomsky, in sometimes writing in such a way at to do too good a job of enumerating everything unjust that is against us, and too modest a job of enumerating methods of resistance.

You just have to be patient and read the whole thing and not give up part way through. Or start at the end and work forwards, which is what I do sometimes.

voice of the damned

Giroux describes a society that DISPOSES of youth, indifferent to the fate of young people, brainwashing them from an early age with a commercialized childhood, a banal celebrity culture of selfishness, spiritually impoverished, sterilized from solidarity or even simple compassion, awash in market and other fundamentalisms, gloating over the deaths of others [Cheney].

NEXT...

voice of the damned

I dunno. I personally prefer concepts like "spiritual impoverishment" be kept out of political discussions. They're nebulous, allowing the reader to envision anything he wants as being the target vice, and have an annoying tinge of religiosity about them. ("Brainwashing" is equally vague, and means little more than "people being convinced to adopt opinions that I don't like.)

voice of the damned

But, okay, I'll play along. Which previous societies were "spiiritually enriched", and in what ways were they more compassionate than ours?

voice of the damned

Okay, so creationism gets lumped in with celebrity culture, consumerism, and prison-schools as things the writer thinks are all linked. But I think he's probably wrong about that. There was almost certainly less celebrity culture(assuming I know what he means by the term) in the Victorian Era, but I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say that there was also a lot more support for the idea that Genesis is an accurate account of creation.

voice of the damned

Under such circumstances, agency devolves into a kind of anti-intellectual cretinism evident in the babble of banality produced by Fox News, celebrity culture, schools modeled after prisons and politicians who support creationism, argue against climate change and denounce almost any form of reason. The citizen now becomes a consumer; the politician, a slave to corporate money and power; and the burgeoning army of anti-public intellectuals in the mainstream media present themselves as unapologetic enemies of anything that suggests compassion, a respect for the commons and democracy itself.NEXT...

ikosmos ikosmos's picture

voice of the damned wrote:
I dunno. I personally prefer concepts like "spiritual impoverishment" be kept out of political discussions. They're nebulous, allowing the reader to envision anything he wants as being the target vice, and have an annoying tinge of religiosity about them. ("Brainwashing" is equally vague, and means little more than "people being convinced to adopt opinions that I don't like.)

Giroux uses a broader conception of "spiritual culture" than what you may be used to. Ideas of solidarity and simple compassion are "spiritual culture" as I see it. In fact, if you look at Marxists like Plekhanov you will even see Marxism described as a "spiritual weapon" and so on. Think of spiritual culture as anything that empowers or encourages working class and allied social groups to fight more successfully. Not religion only.

The religious have no more right to appropriate language than anyone else. And in using "spiritual culture" in this different way we imagine a world without religion but still retaining whatever can be salvaged from it.

It's easy if you try. No hell below us, above us only sky.

Pondering

Neoliberalism is the tool not the opponent.

Until we focus on the oligarchs we will just be playing whack-a-mole.

ikosmos ikosmos's picture

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Mass incarceration on a scale almost unexampled in human history is a fundamental fact of our country today,” writes the New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik. “Over all, there are now more people under ‘correctional supervision’ in America - more than 6 million - than were in the Gulag Archipelago under Stalin at its height.

More prisoners in the USA today than under Stalin's Gulag = Incarceration Nation

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

The population of the U.S. is about 320 million.  What was the population of Russia in Stalin's day?  In 1950. it was almost exactly a third of that.

Also, do you suppose that "correctional supervision" might also include probation, house arrest and the like?

ikosmos ikosmos's picture

Mr. Magoo wrote:
Also, do you suppose that "correctional supervision" might also include probation, house arrest and the like?

I'm wondering if those who are on death row are included under "correctional supervision". What do you think? Do they get deleted from the stats once they're executed, just as they are deleted from life? And another thing. What about "enemy combatants" languishing in the Guantanamo dungeon? Does that count or are they, too, erased from the records?

What about children that are arrested for burping in class, or doodling "I love Janey" on the desks? I wonder if the children dragged off in handcuffs from school are included, or do those stats get lumped in with "juvenile detention" ? It's a lot. I mean, in 2010 in Texas alone, police issued 300,000 tickets to school children. I guess that's why they call it the school-to-prison pipeline.

Some of the 19 crazy things that children are arrested for in US classrooms.


 

voice of the damned

ikosmos: When I hear someone condemn Stalin's gulags by saying "There were X number of prisoners", I assume that that means X number of prisoners locked up for non-violent political offenses, or at least things that would not normally be jailable in a democratic country. To the extent that the number of people in the gulags includes murderers, rapists, or even just petty thieves, I think that figure should be deducted from the number given when we condemn Stalin for locking people up. Because I'm not going to condemn him for incarcerating people for things that are normally considered jailable even in the most thoroughgoing of liberal democratic societies. Would you agree with this? NEXT...

voice of the damned

And, if so, would you also agree that, when condemning the US for locking people up at a high rate, we should also exclude muuderers, rapists etc?

voice of the damned

And some of the other stuff just sounds like stupid over-reaction from teachers and school administrators, which has been going on since the beginning of time, in almost any country you can name. One kid was sent home and required to undergo psychiatric tests, because he drew a picture of Jesus that the teacher found disturning. I'm not sure what sinister political motivations you would read into that; the boy's father says it was "a violation of his religion". I guess Christians really ARE oppressed!

voice of the damned

And that list of "incarcerated kids" is a little hyperbolic. One of the stories involves a cop who was sent to pick up an overdue library book from a 5-year old. When you read the article, it says that overdue library books are a misdemeanor in that state, and that the police officer himself didn't want to do it, and that all he did was take the book and remind the girl to bring them back on time. Factor in that the family is apparently at liberty to criticize the police in the news media, and I'd say that this action, while ham-fisted to be sure, is not exactly NKVD type stuff.

voice of the damned

^ Oh, I guess I was right! See the website's article "Why Is Obama So Silent About The Vicious Persecution Of Christians All Over The Globe?"

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

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I'm wondering if those who are on death row are included under "correctional supervision". What do you think?

I would expect they are, since they're incarcerated.

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Do they get deleted from the stats once they're executed, just as they are deleted from life?

Probably, in the same way that deceased people are no longer counted among the unemployed, or among Methodists, or among any other group made up of the living.

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And another thing. What about "enemy combatants" languishing in the Guantanamo dungeon? Does that count or are they, too, erased from the records?

Dunno.  But at Guantanamo's peak, there were about 760 people incarcerated.  When you're looking at numbers in the millions, that's not going to change anything past the third decimal place either way.

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What about children that are arrested for burping in class, or doodling "I love Janey" on the desks?

Were they subsequently incarcerated?  You're talking about incarceration in post #9 -- notwithstanding the possibility that "correctional supervision" is likely to also include non-incarcerated people who are watching football and drinking a beer with a monitoring cuff on their ankle.  I doubt any of those kids is wearing a monitoring cuff on their ankle, but if there are some then they should definitely be included.

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I wonder if the children dragged off in handcuffs from school are included, or do those stats get lumped in with "juvenile detention" ?

Again, were they incarcerated?  Aren't we talking about incarceration, and isn't incarceration fairly easy to define?

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It's a lot. I mean, in 2010 in Texas alone, police issued 300,000 tickets to school children.
 

INCARCERATION.