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SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE  April 2002

SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE April 2002

Subject:

A partial response to Edward Said's essay

From:

George Salzman <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Science for the People Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 11 Apr 2002 12:27:01 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (219 lines)

Oaxaca, Thursday April 11, 2002

      Edward W. Said's essay, "Thinking ahead: After survival, what
happens?", deserves to be widely read and thought about. It can be reached
by going to http://www.zmag.org/ZNET.htm and clicking on the link marked
Said: Thinking Ahead. Dated April 7, it was written at a terrifying moment,
not just for Said but for all humane people. My response is only partial,
because I felt the need to do something quickly, and I am a slow reader and
an even slower writer. Nevertheless, there are some shortcomings in Said's
essay, and I hope to stimulate all of us, and him, to think further about
how we can DO something effective to change the disastrous state of the
world.

      His essay begins, "Anyone with any connection at all to Palestine is
today in a state of stunned outrage and shock. While almost a repeat of what
happened in 1982, Israel's current all-out colonial assault on the
Palestinian people (with George Bush's astoundingly ignorant and grotesque
support) is indeed worse than Sharon's two previous mass forays in 1971 and
1982 against the Palestinian people."

      My note follows:

Subject: A partial response to Edward Said's essay
Date: Wed, 10 Apr 2002 11:01:39 -0700
From: George Salzman <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]

                 Stunned outrage and shock are not enough.
                   Massive protests won't turn the tide.
                     in partial answer to Edward Said
                           from George Salzman
                             April 10,  2002


Dear Edward Said,

      Your essay, "Thinking ahead: After survival, what happens?",
presupposes survival. That's an essential assumption for the psychological
integrity of anyone retaining even a shred of humanity, and indeed it is
unthinkable, as it ought to be, that Palestinian Arabs not survive this
terrifying slaughter. No more than the Nazi regime could make the Third
Reich Judenfrei, its 'final solution' for 'the Jewish problem', so the
Israeli regime will be unable to achieve (if that's the right word) its
'final solution' for Palestinian Arabs. And, as you correctly say, Sharon
will not be honored but remembered "only as an Arab-killer, and a failed
politicial . . ." But that is small consolation, more precisely, none at
all. As someone of Jewish heritage, I find no solace in how Hitler is
remembered, or Nazism, nor should any Arab (or any human being) seek mental
peace in assurances that brutal murderers, mass murderers will be so
remembered.

      You write, correctly, of "Israel's current all-out colonial assault on
the Palestinian people", but then fall into the trap of not seeing correctly
(or at least not spelling out) the U.S. government's role with your
parenthetical addition, "with George Bush's astoundingly ignorant and
grotesque support." As an individual, George Bush is utterly beneath
contempt, not even worth thinking about. What is worthy of consideration is
the power structure that decided to put him and the rest of his criminal
cabal in the command position of the government. We all know very well that
if George Bush commanded the Israeli government to stop immediately, to
withdraw immediately, that despicable client regime would obey in total
subservience. That the U.S. government is not preventing this carnage is not
a matter of "George Bush's astoundingly ignorant and grotesque support" for
the butchery; rather, destruction of the Palestinian infrastructure is
precisely what the U.S. government wants done, and is glad to have it
carried out by a proxy military machine. The U.S. government, as the leading
institutionalized guardian of global capitalism, accepts the 'need' for
collateral destruction (read: massacre of innocent people) in its attacks on
regimes it regards as obstacles to its geopolitical goals, such as, to
mention a few fairly recent examples, Panama, Iraq, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan.

      There is, I believe, a way to stop the intolerable and ultimately
totally destructive assault of global capitalism against the peoples of the
earth and against the biosphere, on which all life depends. As you say, we
(my we includes all good people) need to gain, in the eyes of the
overwhelming majority of the world's people, the high moral ground, but that
is 'only' the first step towards winning a humane world.

      I want to include here a recent letter to a friend.

With best wishes in desperate times, sincerely
George

P.S. An essay I strongly recommend is "A Stake not a Mistake: On Not Seeing
the Enemy", by Jared James, available at
http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Strategy/GettingFree/StakeNotMista
ke.html
-------------------------------------------------
Oaxaca, Monday April 1, 2002

An open letter to Farouk Barakat

Dear Farouk,

      I have your e-mail from yesterday with its painfully brief message,
              My dear friends
              I feel really helpless
and the Washington Post article it accompanied:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A38118-2002Mar29.html

      I wish it were possible to do something immediate that would be
helpful, to stop the savage Israeli government assault on the Arab peoples
of the occupied territory and its non-stop repression of Israeli Arabs. This
particular atrocity is especially painful to you, whose family had to leave
Palestine when you were but a child, but it is 'only' the latest
unacceptable butchery of innocent people by state terrorists. And as the
Post article said,

"Bush and his senior advisers dispatched Powell to deliver a message that
many observers, including Israelis and Palestinians, saw as a green light
for [Israeli Prime Minister] Sharon.

"Though an accomplished public speaker, Powell conspicuously read from a
prepared text, his eyes returning to the page every few words . . .

thereby making it manifest that Sharon's homicidal policy has U.S.
government backing. It also shows that Powell, as the chief Department of
State liar, can be trusted as fully as his notorious predecessor, Henry
Kissinger, who's now evidentally afraid to travel outside Fortress USA, most
recently deciding not to risk a trip to Brazil. They should both end up
facing the International Court in the Hague for war crimes and crimes
against humanity."

      Unfortunately, your feeling is justified. You are helpless to do
anything immediately effective, as are all of us. The most we can do is to
speak out, to protest, as we have been doing all along, condemning the
unending horrors inflicted on the world's peoples by the dominant social
forces. Of course, protesting is not enough. I cannot console you, though I
wish I could. But I do have two suggestions, the first of personal
psychological value, and the second for setting in motion developments that
will enable the world's people to gain control of our lives, not immediately
of course but in the longer run, by gradually undermining and disabling the
power of the nation-states, which are clearly the primary terrorist
organizations, and the global capitalist system that they serve, and on
behalf of which they perpetrate all the horrors to which we are witness.

      1. I believe it's important not to rely on corporate,
government-compliant media for an accurate portrayal of events and of the
reactions to them outside of the U.S., and inside as well. The vast
development of grassroots, independent media is of incalculable value in
helping people understand the reality in which we are living. I try not to
turn to so-called 'mainstream' sources to inform myself. As time goes on
more and more so-called 'alternative' grassroots sources are flourishing. To
name only a few, there is the network of Independent Media Centers, at last
count 78 of them, all of which can be linked to from the Global site at
indymedia.org ; the NarcoNews site of Alberto Giordano at www.narconews.com
; Flashpoints Radio at www.flashpoints.net ; KPFA, the Berkeley Pacifica
station at https://secure.transbay.net/kpfa/forms/0_aud.htm ; Jay's Left
Directory at www.neravt.com/left ; and Znet at www.lbbs.org . Here in Mexico
there is a very high quality national daily newspaper (in Spanish) La
Jornada, of which no counterpart exists in the U.S. It is politically left
in orientation, and very reliable. Of course it highlights opposition to
U.S. policy worldwide. For example, yesterday's issue shows a demonstration
by Israelis in front of the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, protesting, "We
declare P.M. Sharon as our Enemy" -- Israeli Peace Movement. Also, recently
a new Indymedia Center started in Jerusalem, which, it appears, is operated
by both individuals with Jewish and Arab identities. In short, the whole
world isn't crazy, although from U.S. mainstream sources it might appear to
be so.

      2. The second suggestion also has a personal psychological benefit,
but its potential is far greater. Like you are feeling now, I felt utterly
helpless when I returned here from the U.S. on October 10, 2001, three days
after the horrific bombing of Afghanistan began. Individual acts of
terrorism, as inhumane and frightening and destructive as they may be, and
sometimes are, like those of September 11, are nevertheless minuscule in
their impact as compared to state acts of terrorism. They are frequently
carried out in desperation, by individuals who are relatively weak, which is
not to excuse them but to recognize their scale compared to the gigantic
campaigns of terror planned and deliberately and mercilessly executed by
nation-states.

      For about two months I was depressed by my inability to do anything to
stop the bombing. And then I gradually picked up again the socially
constructive work that had occupied my efforts earlier. That change of focus
was personally very healthy. Instead of experiencing horror and a sense of
impotence, I then experienced 'only' the horror of the actions I couldn't
stop. My efforts were, and are, to try to contribute to the development of a
global grassroots infrastructure, with highest priority on the communication
and information part of that infrastructure. I am convinced that as long as
the world is dominated by the system of global capitalism and the
nation-states, its enforcers, there will continue to be untold horrors, one
after another, in endless succession.

      My efforts are therefore twofold, to try to persuade people that this
viewpoint is correct, and second, to actively take part in the long-term
task of hollowing out the dominant infrastructure by contributing to the
transfer of material wealth out of corporate and government control and into
the grassroots infrastructure. The overall strategy is in an essay that has
had significant impact on my thinking and which is posted at
http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Strategy/GettingFree/
The Preface gives a good introduction to the author's thinking.

      A key paragraph of the Preface is the following:

      "A further assumption I make is that it is impossible to defeat our
ruling class by force of arms. The level of firepower currently possessed by
all major governments and most minor ones is simply overwhelming. It is
bought with the expropriated wealth of billions of people. For any
opposition movement to think that it can acquire, maintain, and deploy a
similarly vast and sophisticated armament is ludicrous. I have nothing
against armed struggle in principle (although of course I don't like it). I
just don't think it can work now. It would take an empire as enormous and
rich as capitalism itself is to fight capitalists on their own terms. This
is something the working classes of the world will never have, nor should we
even want it."

      At the moment I'm trying to help a small indigenous community in the
mountains of Oaxaca establish an indigenous university there. If you want to
read a little about it, it's at
http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/PopEd/

      You might also be interested in an essay of mine, "Building a Global
Grassroots Infrastructure-5, Mutual Aid and Mutual Trust", which is at
http://indymedia.org/front.php3?article_id=111934

All the best to you and Edith,
George

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