Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Death of the Republic

Go To Original

The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government.    — Article IV, Section 4, US Constitution
A republican form of government is one in which power resides in elected officials representing the citizens, and government leaders exercise power according to the rule of law. In The Federalist Papers, James Madison defined a republic as “a government which derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people . . . .”
On April 22, 2015, the Senate Finance Committee approved a bill to fast-track the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a massive trade agreement that would override our republican form of government and hand judicial and legislative authority to a foreign three-person panel of corporate lawyers.
The secretive TPP is an agreement with Mexico, Canada, Japan, Singapore and seven other countries that affects 40% of global markets. Fast-track authority could now go to the full Senate for a vote as early as next week. Fast-track means Congress will be prohibited from amending the trade deal, which will be put to a simple up or down majority vote. Negotiating the TPP in secret and fast-tracking it through Congress is considered necessary to secure its passage, since if the public had time to review its onerous provisions, opposition would mount and defeat it.
Abdicating the Judicial Function to Corporate Lawyers
James Madison wrote in The Federalist Papers:
The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, . . . may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny. . . . “Were the power of judging joined with the legislative, the life and liberty of the subject would be exposed to arbitrary control, for the judge would then bethe legislator. . . .”
And that, from what we now know of the TPP’s secret provisions, will be its dire effect.
The most controversial provision of the TPP is the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) section, which strengthens existing ISDS  procedures. ISDS first appeared in a bilateral trade agreement in 1959. According to The Economist, ISDS gives foreign firms a special right to apply to a secretive tribunal of highly paid corporate lawyers for compensation whenever the government passes a law to do things that hurt corporate profits — such things as discouraging smoking, protecting the environment or preventing a nuclear catastrophe.
Arbitrators are paid $600-700 an hour, giving them little incentive to dismiss cases; and the secretive nature of the arbitration process and the lack of any requirement to consider precedent gives wide scope for creative judgments.
To date, the highest ISDS award has been for $2.3 billion to Occidental Oil Company against the government of Ecuador over its termination of an oil-concession contract, this although the termination was apparently legal. Still in arbitration is a demand by Vattenfall, a Swedish utility that operates two nuclear plants in Germany, for compensation of €3.7 billion ($4.7 billion) under the ISDS clause of a treaty on energy investments, after the German government decided to shut down its nuclear power industry following the Fukushima disaster in Japan in 2011.
Under the TPP, however, even larger judgments can be anticipated, since the sort of “investment” it protects includes not just “the commitment of capital or other resources” but “the expectation of gain or profit.” That means the rights of corporations in other countries extend not just to their factories and other “capital” but to the profits they expect to receive there.
In an article posted by Yves Smith, Joe Firestone poses some interesting hypotheticals:
Under the TPP, could the US government be sued and be held liable if it decided to stop issuing Treasury debt and financed deficit spending in some other way (perhaps by quantitative easing or by issuing trillion dollar coins)? Why not, since some private companies would lose profits as a result?
Under the TPP or the TTIP (the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership under negotiation with the European Union), would the Federal Reserve be sued if it failed to bail out banks that were too big to fail?
Firestone notes that under the Netherlands-Czech trade agreement, the Czech Republic was sued in an investor-state dispute for failing to bail out an insolvent bank in which the complainant had an interest. The investor company was awarded $236 million in the dispute settlement. What might the damages be, asks Firestone, if the Fed decided to let the Bank of America fail, and a Saudi-based investment company decided to sue?
Abdicating the Legislative Function to Multinational Corporations
Just the threat of this sort of massive damage award could be enough to block prospective legislation. But the TPP goes further and takes on the legislative function directly, by forbidding specific forms of regulation.
Public Citizen observes that the TPP would provide big banks with a backdoor means of watering down efforts to re-regulate Wall Street, after deregulation triggered the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression:
The TPP would forbid countries from banning particularly risky financial products, such as the toxic derivatives that led to the $183 billion government bailout of AIG. It would prohibit policies to prevent banks from becoming “too big to fail,” and threaten the use of “firewalls” to prevent banks that keep our savings accounts from taking hedge-fund-style bets.
The TPP would also restrict capital controls, an essential policy tool to counter destabilizing flows of speculative money. . . . And the deal would prohibit taxes on Wall Street speculation, such as the proposed Robin Hood Tax that would generate billions of dollars’ worth of revenue for social, health, or environmental causes.
Clauses on dispute settlement in earlier free trade agreements have been invoked to challenge efforts to regulate big business. The fossil fuel industry is seeking to overturn Quebec’s ban on the ecologically destructive practice of fracking. Veolia, the French behemoth known for building a tram network to serve Israeli settlements in occupied East Jerusalem, is contesting increases in Egypt’s minimum wage. The tobacco maker Philip Morris is suing against anti-smoking initiatives in Uruguay and Australia.
The TPP would empower not just foreign manufacturers but foreign financial firms to attack financial policies in foreign tribunals, demanding taxpayer compensation for regulations that they claim frustrate their expectations and inhibit their profits.
Preempting Government Sovereignty
What is the justification for this encroachment on the sovereign rights of government? Allegedly, ISDS is necessary in order to increase foreign investment. But as noted inThe Economist, investors can protect themselves by purchasing political-risk insurance. Moreover, Brazil continues to receive sizable foreign investment despite its long-standing refusal to sign any treaty with an ISDS mechanism. Other countries are beginning to follow Brazil’s lead.
In an April 22nd report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research, gains from multilateral trade liberalization were shown to be very small, equal to only about 0.014% of consumption, or about $.43 per person per month. And that assumes that any benefits are distributed uniformly across the economic spectrum. In fact, transnational corporations get the bulk of the benefits, at the expense of most of the world’s population.
Something else besides attracting investment money and encouraging foreign trade seems to be going on. The TPP would destroy our republican form of government under the rule of law, by elevating the rights of investors – also called the rights of “capital” – above the rights of the citizens.
That means that TPP is blatantly unconstitutional. But as Joe Firestone observes, neo-liberalism and corporate contributions seem to have blinded the deal’s proponents so much that they cannot see they are selling out the sovereignty of the United States to foreign and multinational corporations.

Global Capitalism and the Global Police State: Crisis of Humanity and the Specter of 21st Century Fascism

Go To Original
The world capitalist system is arguably experiencing the worst crisis in its 500 year history. World capitalism has experienced a profound restructuring through globalisation over the past few decades and has been transformed in ways that make it fundamentally distinct from its earlier incarnations. Similarly, the current crisis exhibits features that set it apart from earlier crises of the system and raise the stakes for humanity.
If we are to avert disastrous outcomes we must understand both the nature of the new global capitalism and the nature of its crisis. Analysis of capitalist globalisation provides a template for probing a wide range of social, political, cultural and ideological processes in this 21st century. Following Marx, we want to focus on the internal dynamics of capitalism to understand crisis. And following the global capitalism perspective, we want to see how capitalism has qualitatively evolved in recent decades.
The system-wide crisis we face is not a repeat of earlier such episodes such as that of the the 1930s or the 1970s precisely because capital- ism is fundamentally different in the 21st century. Globalisation constitutes a qualitatively new epoch in the ongoing and open-ended evolution of world capitalism, marked by a number of qualitative shifts in the capitalist system and by novel articulations of social power. I highlight four aspects unique to this epoch.1
First is the rise of truly transnational capital and a new global production and financial system into which all nations and much of humanity has been integrated, either directly or indirectly. We have gone from a world economy, in which countries and regions were linked to each other via trade and financial flows in an integrated international market, to a global economy, in which nations are linked to each more organically through the transnationalisation of the production process, of finance, and of the circuits of capital accumulation.
No single nation-state can remain insulated from the global economy or prevent the penetration of the social, political, and cultural superstructure of global capitalism. Second is the rise of a Transnational Capitalist Class (TCC), a class group that has drawn in contingents from most countries around the world, North and South, and has attempted to position itself as a global ruling class. This TCC is the hegemonic fraction of capital on a world scale. Third is the rise of Transnational State (TNS) apparatuses. The TNS is constituted as a loose network made up of trans-, and supranational organisations together with national states. It functions to organise the conditions for transnational accumulation.
The TCC attempts to organise and institutionally exercise its class power through TNS apparatuses. Fourth are novel relations of inequality, domination and exploitation in global society, including an increasing importance of transnational social and class inequalities relative to North-South inequalities.
Cyclical, Structural, and Systemic Crises
Most commentators on the contemporary crisis refer to the “Great Recession” of 2008 and its aftermath. Yet the causal origins of global crisis are to be found in over-accumulation and also in contradictions of state power, or in what Marxists call the internal contradictions of the capitalist system. Moreover, because the system is now global, crisis in any one place tends to represent crisis for the system as a whole. The system cannot expand because the marginalisation of a significant portion of humanity from direct productive participation, the downward pressure on wages and popular consumption worldwide, and the polarisation of income, has reduced the ability of the world market to absorb world output. At the same time, given the particular configuration of social and class forces and the correlation of these forces worldwide, national states are hard-pressed to regulate trans- national circuits of accumulation and offset the explosive contradictions built into the system.
Is this crisis cyclical, structural, or systemic? Cyclical crises are recurrent to capitalism about once every 10 years and involve recessions that act as self-correcting mechanisms without any major restructuring of the system. The recessions of the early 1980s, the early 1990s, and of 2001 were cyclical crises. In contrast, the 2008 crisis signaled the slide into a structural crisis. Structural crises reflect deeper contra- dictions that can only be resolved by a major restructuring of the system. The structural crisis of the 1970s was resolved through capitalist globalisation.
Prior to that, the structural crisis of the 1930s was resolved through the creation of a new model of redistributive capitalism, and prior to that the structural crisis of the 1870s resulted in the development of corporate capitalism. A systemic crisis involves the replacement of a system by an entirely new system or by an outright collapse. A structural crisis opens up the possibility for a systemic crisis. But if it actually snowballs into a systemic crisis – in this case, if it gives way either to capitalism being superseded or to a breakdown of global civilisation – is not predetermined and depends entirely on the response of social and political forces to the crisis and on historical contingencies that are not easy to forecast. This is an historic moment of extreme uncertainty, in which collective responses from distinct social and class forces to the crisis are in great flux.
Hence my concept of global crisis is broader than financial. There are multiple and mutually constitutive dimensions – economic, social, political, cultural, ideological and ecological, not to mention the existential crisis of our consciousness, values and very being. There is a crisis of social polarisation, that is, of social reproduction. The system cannot meet the needs or assure the survival of millions of people, perhaps a majority of humanity. There are crises of state legitimacy and political authority, or of hegemony and domination. National states face spiraling crises of legitimacy as they fail to meet the social grievances of local working and popular classes experiencing downward mobility, un- employment, heightened insecurity and greater hardships.
The legitimacy of the system has increasingly been called into question by millions, perhaps even billions, of people around the world, and is facing expanded counter-hegemonic challenges. Global elites have been unable counter this erosion of the system’s authority in the face of world- wide pressures for a global moral economy. And a canopy that envelops all these dimensions is a crisis of sustain- ability rooted in an ecological holocaust that has already begun, expressed in climate change and the impending collapse of centralised agricultural systems in several regions of the world, among other indicators. By a crisis of humanity I mean a crisis that is approaching systemic proportions, threatening the ability of billions of people to survive, and raising the specter of a collapse of world civilisation and degeneration into a new “Dark Ages.”2
This crisis of humanity shares a number of aspects with earlier structural crises but there are also several features unique to the present:
1. The system is fast reaching the ecological limits of its reproduction. Global capitalism now couples human and natural history in such a way as to threaten to bring about what would be the sixth mass extinction in the known history of life on earth.3
This mass extinction would be caused not by a natural catastrophe such as a meteor impact or by evolutionary changes such as the end of an ice age but by purposive human activity. According to leading environmental scientists there are nine “planetary boundaries” crucial to maintaining an earth system environment in which humans can exist, four of which are experiencing at this time the onset of irreversible environmental degradation and three of which (climate change, the nitrogen cycle, and biodiversity loss) are at “tipping points,” meaning that these processes have already crossed their planetary boundaries.
2. The magnitude of the means of violence and social control is unprecedented, as is the concentration of the means of global communication and symbolic production and circulation in the hands of a very few powerful groups. Computerised wars, drones, bunker-buster bombs, star wars, and so forth, have changed the face of warfare. Warfare has become normalised and sanitised for those not directly at the receiving end of armed aggression. At the same time we have arrived at the panoptical surveillance society and the age of thought control by those who control global flows of communication, images and symbolic production. The world of Edward Snowden is the world of George Orwell; 1984 has arrived;
3. Capitalism is reaching apparent limits to its extensive expansion. There are no longer any new territories of significance that can be integrated into world capitalism, de-ruralisation is now well advanced, and the commodification of the countryside and of pre- and non-capitalist spaces has intensified, that is, converted in hot-house fashion into spaces of capital, so that intensive expansion is reaching depths never before seen. Capitalism must continually expand or collapse. How or where will it now expand?
4. There is the rise of a vast surplus population inhabiting a “planet of slums,”4 alienated from the productive economy, thrown into the margins, and subject to sophisticated systems of social control and to destruction – to a mortal cycle of dispossession-exploitation-exclusion. This includes prison- industrial and immigrant-detention complexes, omnipresent policing, militarised gentrification, and so on;
5. There is a disjuncture between a globalising economy and a nation-state based system of political authority. Transnational state apparatuses are incipient and have not been able to play the role of what social scientists refer to as a “hegemon,” or a leading nation-state that has enough power and authority to organise and stabilise the system. The spread of weapons of mass destruction and the unprecedented militarisation of social life and conflict across the globe makes it hard to imagine that the system can come under any stable political authority that assures its reproduction.
Global Police State
How have social and political forces worldwide responded to crisis? The crisis has resulted in a rapid political polarisation in global society. Both right and left-wing forces are ascendant. Three responses seem to be in dispute.
One is what we could call “reformism from above.” This elite reformism is aimed at stabilising the system, at saving the system from itself and from more radical responses from below. Nonetheless, in the years following the 2008 collapse of the global financial system it seems these reformers are unable (or unwilling) to prevail over the power of transnational financial capital. A second response is popular, grassroots and leftist resistance from below. As social and political conflict escalates around the world there appears to be a mounting global revolt. While such resistance appears insurgent in the wake of 2008 it is spread very unevenly across countries and regions and facing many problems and challenges.
Yet another response is that I term 21st century fascism.5
The ultra-right is an insurgent force in many countries. In broad strokes, this project seeks to fuse reactionary political power with transnational capital and to organise a mass base among historically privileged sectors of the global working class – such as white workers in the North and middle layers in the South – that are now experiencing heightened insecurity and the specter of downward mobility. It involves militarism, extreme masculinisation, homophobia, racism and racist mobilisations, including the search for scapegoats, such as immigrant workers and, in the West, Muslims. Twenty-first century fascism evokes mystifying ideologies, often involving race/culture supremacy and xenophobia, embracing an idealised and mythical past. Neo-fascist culture normalises and glamorises warfare and social violence, indeed, generates a fascination with domination that is portrayed even as heroic.
The need for dominant groups around the world to secure widespread, organised mass social control of the world’s surplus population and rebellious forces from below gives a powerful impulse to projects of 21st century fascism. Simply put, the immense structural inequalities of the global political economy cannot easily be contained through consensual mechanisms of social control. We have been witnessing transitions from social welfare to social control states around the world. We have entered a period of great upheavals, momentous changes and uncertainties. The only viable solution to the crisis of global capitalism is a massive redistribution of wealth and power downward towards the poor majority of humanity along the lines of a 21st century democratic socialism, in which humanity is no longer at war with itself and with nature.

The School Of The Americas Is Still Exporting Death Squads

South American militaries have been sending soldiers to the U.S. for “ethics” and “human rights” training for years, but history shows that many of these alumni go on to become notorious torturers and murderers, not defenders of peace.

Go To Original

In 2009, just a year before Sebastián Piñera became president of Chile, Michelle Bachelet approved the training of 211 Chilean recruits at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), formerly known as the School of the Americas (SOA).
Between 1999 and 2010, Chilean governments sent a total of 1,205 recruits to the school, with Bachelet remaining at the helm of cooperation with the U.S.-based institute that has graduated scores of alumni involved in human rights violations under Chile’s dictatorship era from 1973 to 1990.
Despite the macabre reality inflicted upon Chileans during Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship, the Concertación governments of the center-left, allegedly embarking upon a democratic future for Chile, retained ties with the school that produced torturers such as Miguel Krassnoff Martchenko, who, according to torture survivors, never concealed his identity while subjecting his victims to brutality.
Bachelet’s father, Gen. Alberto Bachelet, who was loyal to socialist president Salvador Allende, was tortured to death by the Dirección de Inteligencia Nacional (the National Intelligence Directorate, also known as DINA). Bachelet herself was detained and tortured by DINA, later fleeing into exile and returning back to Chile in 1979.
Under Bachelet’s first presidency (2006-2010), Chilean cooperation with the U.S. expanded, especially following her one-year stay at Fort Lesley J. McNair, in Washington, D.C., which provided the prelude to Bachelet’s military and surveillance investment. Socialism quickly eroded into opportunism, with the country’s first female president emphasizing Pinochet’s legacy of oblivion as she extended diplomatic maneuvers to former DINA torturers, even praising generals allegedly involved in the torture that contributed to her father’s death.
Piñera also sent recruits to train at WHINSEC and furthered U.S. military collaboration in 2012 by opening a military training center at Fort Aguayo in Concón, Chile.

From the SOA to WHINSEC

Established in 1946 in Panama, the SOA was responsible for training over 64,000 South American soldiers, many of whom later became notorious torturers and murderers in death squads. According to former Panamanian President Jorge Illueca, the SOA was the “biggest base for destabilization in Latin America.”
Expelled from Panama in 1984, the SOA relocated to Fort Benning, Georgia, and was renamed WHINSEC in 2001, allowing for an apparent termination of the previous program through dissociation. In reality, however, WHINSEC retained its SOA foundations and the U.S. Department of Defense has shielded the institute from criticism and outcry with regard to the school’s historical link to human rights violations.
In its mission statement, WHINSEC claims to have been founded upon the Charter of the Organization of American States and pledges to “foster mutual knowledge, transparency, confidence, and cooperation among the participating nations and promote democratic values, respect for human rights, and knowledge and understanding of U.S. customs and traditions.”
These values, according to WHINSEC’s website, are imparted through a three-lesson Ethics Program, as well as the Democracy and Human Rights Program — the latter dealing with “the universal prohibitions against torture, extrajudicial executions and forced disappearances.”

A far cry from protecting human rights

CIA and U.S. Army manuals detailing torture techniques translated into Spanish and utilized by the SOA are a far cry from anything containing human rights protections. Indeed, as SOA Watch explains, “These manuals advocated torture, extortion, blackmail and the targeting of civilian populations.”
The manuals, written in the 1950s and 1960s, “were distributed for use in countries such as El Salvador, Guatemala, Ecuador and Peru, and at the School of the Americas between 1987 and 1991.” Indeed, in-depth research and testimony from torture survivors relay more than just a depiction of torture practiced by SOA graduates in South America during dictatorship eras, such as Chile under Pinochet. Sadistic torture practiced upon detainees at Abu Ghraib is also reflective of the CIA torture manuals and torture previously carried out on detainees in South America.
Since 2000 and the renaming of the SOA, other crimes linked to SOA graduates have come to light.
Col. Byron Lima Estrada was convicted in June 2001 of murdering Guatemalan Bishop Juan Jose Gerardi following the publication of a report insisting the Guatemalan army was responsible for the murder of almost 200,000 people in the civil war that took place from 1960 to 1996.
Two SOA graduates, Venezuelan Army Commander in Chief Efrain Vasquez and Gen. Ramirez Poveda, wereinvolved in the failed 2002 coup against President Hugo Chávez. According to SOA Watch, Otto Reich, then-assistant secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, was “appointed as a WHINSEC board of visitor member to ‘oversee’ democracy and human rights curriculum, as well as operations at the school.” Reich was also deeply involved in the planning of the coup against Chávez.
In 1999, Bolivian Captain Filiman Rodriguez had been found responsible for the kidnapping and torture of Waldo Albarracin, director of the Bolivian Popular Assembly of Human Rights. In 2002, Rodriguez was accepted for a 49-week officer training course at WHINSEC.
In May 2014, a detailed report by the Fellowship of Reconciliation and Colombia-Europe-U.S. Human Rights Observatory highlighted U.S. military assistance to Colombia between 2000 and 2010. According to the report, which studies extrajudicial killings committed by the Colombian Army Brigades, U.S. intelligence assistance to Colombia “supported units that had adopted a strategy conducive to extrajudicial killings.”
Colombia requires its officers to undergo training at WHINSEC. The 2014 report states that out of 25 Colombian graduates from 2001 to 2003, 12 had either been charged with “a serious crime or commanded units whose members had reportedly committed multiple extrajudicial killings.”
It should be remembered that Plan Colombia, signed by U.S. President Bill Clinton, was translated into “moral and political support” by Colombian Gen. Mario Montoya. Between 2000 and 2010, U.S. assistance was considered a factor which influenced the staggering total of 5,673 extrajudicial killings — all of which occurred with impunity, lack of judicial mechanisms, rewards for the murders and the role of national leaders such as Montoya providing a safety net for those complicit in the atrocities.
As regards WHINSEC in Colombia, an academic on the Board of Visitors is quoted in the report as stating, “So if a student of mine leaves an ethics class and engages in criminal activity does that make me or my university liable for her activity?”
This attitude summarizes the lack of accountability surrounding WHINSEC. The dissociation from the school’s history under its original name — the SOA — is merely a premise for distancing the institution from the atrocities committed by its students and graduates.
History, however, tells a different story. While WHINSEC continues to emphasize what it describes as a commitment to human rights by citing a mere eight hours of instruction in the subject, research, such as the report on Colombia’s extrajudicial killings, reveals a reality that goes beyond the cosmetic reforms employed by the institution.

Battlefield America: The War on the American People

Go To Original

“A government which will turn its tanks upon its people, for any reason, is a government with a taste of blood and a thirst for power and must either be smartly rebuked, or blindly obeyed in deadly fear.”—John Salter

We have entered into a particularly dismal chapter in the American narrative, one that shifts us from a swashbuckling tale of adventure into a bone-chilling horror story.

As I document in my new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, “we the people” have now come full circle, from being held captive by the British police state to being held captive by the American police state. In between, we have charted a course from revolutionaries fighting for our independence and a free people establishing a new nation to pioneers and explorers, braving the wilderness and expanding into new territories.

Where we went wrong, however, was in allowing ourselves to become enthralled with and then held hostage by a military empire in bondage to a corporate state (the very definition of fascism). No longer would America hold the moral high ground as a champion of freedom and human rights. Instead, in the pursuit of profit, our overlords succumbed to greed, took pleasure in inflicting pain, exported torture, and imported the machinery of war, transforming the American landscape into a battlefield, complete with military personnel, tactics and weaponry.

To our dismay, we now find ourselves scrambling for a foothold as our once rock-solid constitutional foundation crumbles beneath us. And no longer can we rely on the president, Congress, the courts, or the police to protect us from wrongdoing.

Indeed, they have come to embody all that is wrong with America.

For instance, how does a man who is relatively healthy when taken into custody by police lapse into a coma and die while under their supervision? What kind of twisted logic allows a police officer to use a police car to run down an American citizen and justifies it in the name of permissible deadly force? And what country are we living in where the police can beat, shoot, choke, taser and tackle American citizens, all with the protection of the courts?
Certainly, the Constitution’s safeguards against police abuse means nothing when government agents can crash through your door, terrorize your children, shoot your dogs, and jail you on any number of trumped of charges, and you have little say in the matter. For instance, San Diego police, responding to a domestic disturbance call on a Sunday morning, showed up at the wrong address, only to shoot the homeowner’s 6-year-old service dog in the head.

Rubbing salt in the wound, it’s often the unlucky victim of excessive police force who ends up being charged with wrongdoing. Although 16-year-old Thai Gurule was charged with resisting arrest and strangling and assaulting police officers, a circuit judge found that it was actually the three officers who unlawfully stopped, tackled, punched, kneed, tasered and yanked his hair who were at fault. Thankfully, bystander cell phone videos undermined police accounts, which were described as “works of fiction.”

Not even our children are being spared the blowback from a growing police presence. As one juvenile court judge noted in testimony to Congress, although having police on public school campuses did not make the schools any safer, it did result in large numbers of students being arrested for misdemeanors such as school fights and disorderly conduct. One 11-year-old autistic Virginia student was charged with disorderly conduct and felony assault after kicking a trashcan and resisting a police officer’s attempt to handcuff him. A 14-year-old student was tasered by police, suspended and charged with disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and trespassing after he failed to obey a teacher’s order to be the last student to exit the classroom.

There is no end to the government’s unmitigated gall in riding roughshod over the rights of the citizenry, whether in matters of excessive police powers, militarized police, domestic training drills, SWAT team raids, surveillance, property rights, overcriminalization, roadside strip searches, profit-driven fines and prison sentences, etc.

The president can now direct the military to detain, arrest and secretly execute American citizens. These are the powers of an imperial dictator, not an elected official bound by the rule of law. For the time being, Barack Obama wears the executioner’s robe, but you can rest assured that this mantle will be worn by whomever occupies the Oval Office in the future.

A representative government means nothing when the average citizen has little to no access to their elected officials, while corporate lobbyists enjoy a revolving door relationship with everyone from the President on down. Indeed, while members of Congress hardly work for the taxpayer, they work hard at being wooed by corporations, which spend more to lobby our elected representatives than we spend on their collective salaries. For that matter, getting elected is no longer the high point it used to be. As one congressman noted, for many elected officials, “Congress is no longer a destination but a journey… [to a] more lucrative job as a K Street lobbyist… It's become routine to see members of Congress drop their seat in Congress like a hot rock when a particularly lush vacancy opens up.”

As for the courts, they have long since ceased being courts of justice. Instead, they have become courts of order, largely marching in lockstep with the government’s dictates, all the while helping to increase the largesse of government coffers. It’s called for-profit justice, and it runs the gamut of all manner of financial incentives in which the courts become cash cows for communities looking to make an extra buck. As journalist Chris Albin-Lackey details, “They deploy a crushing array of fines, court costs, and other fees to harvest revenues from minor offenders that these communities cannot or do not want to raise through taxation.” In this way, says Albin-Lackey, “A resident of Montgomery, Alabama who commits a simple noise violation faces only a $20 fine—but also a whopping $257 in court costs and user fees should they seek to have their day in court.”

As for the rest—the schools, the churches, private businesses, service providers, nonprofits and your fellow citizens—many are also marching in lockstep with the police state. This is what is commonly referred to as community policing. After all, the police can’t be everywhere. So how do you police a nation when your population outnumbers your army of soldiers? How do you carry out surveillance on a nation when there aren’t enough cameras, let alone viewers, to monitor every square inch of the country 24/7? How do you not only track but analyze the transactions, interactions and movements of every person within the United States? The answer is simpler than it seems: You persuade the citizenry to be your eyes and ears.

It’s a brilliant ploy, with the added bonus that while the citizenry remains focused on and distrustful of each other, they’re incapable of focusing on more definable threats that fall closer to home—namely, the government and its militarized police. In this way, we’re seeing a rise in the incidence of Americans being reported for growing vegetables in their front yard, keeping chickens in their back yard, letting their kids walk to the playground alone, and voicing anti-government sentiments. For example, after Shona Banda’s son defended the use of medical marijuana during a presentation at school, school officials alerted the police and social services, and the 11-year-old was interrogated, taken into custody by social workers, had his home raided by police and his mother arrested.

Now it may be that we have nothing to worry about. Perhaps the government really does have our best interests at heart. Perhaps covert domestic military training drills such as Jade Helm really are just benign exercises to make sure our military is prepared for any contingency. As the Washington Post describes the operation:

The mission is vast both geographically and strategically: Elite service members from all four branches of the U.S. military will launch an operation this summer in which they will operate covertly among the U.S. public and travel from state to state in military aircraft. Texas, Utah and a section of southern California are labeled as hostile territory, and New Mexico isn’t much friendlier.
Now I don’t believe in worrying over nothing, but it’s safe to say that the government has not exactly shown itself to be friendly in recent years, nor have its agents shown themselves to be cognizant of the fact that they are civilians who answer to the citizenry, rather than the other way around.

Whether or not the government plans to impose some form of martial law in the future remains to be seen, but there can be no denying that we’re being accustomed to life in a military state. The malls may be open for business, the baseball stadiums may be packed, and the news anchors may be twittering nonsense about the latest celebrity foofa, but those are just distractions from what is really taking place: the transformation of America into a war zone.

Trust me, if it looks like a battlefield (armored tanks on the streets, militarized police in metro stations, surveillance cameras everywhere), sounds like a battlefield (SWAT team raids nightly, sound cannons to break up large assemblies of citizens), and acts like a battlefield (police shooting first and asking questions later, intimidation tactics, and involuntary detentions), it’s a battlefield.

Indeed, what happened in Ocala, Florida, is a good metaphor for what’s happening across the country: Sheriff’s deputies, dressed in special ops uniforms and riding in an armored tank on a public road, pulled a 23-year-old man over and issued a warning violation to him after he gave them the finger. The man, Lucas Jewell, defended his actions as a free speech expression of his distaste for militarized police.

Translation: “We the people” are being hijacked on the highway by government agents with little knowledge of or regard for the Constitution, who are hyped up on the power of their badge, outfitted for war, eager for combat, and taking a joy ride—on taxpayer time and money—in a military tank that has no business being on American soil.

Rest assured, unless we slam on the brakes, this runaway tank will soon be charting a new course through terrain that bears no resemblance to land of our forefathers, where freedom meant more than just the freedom to exist and consume what the corporate powers dish out.

Rod Serling, one of my longtime heroes and the creator of The Twilight Zone, understood all too well the danger of turning a blind eye to evil in our midst, the “things that scream for a response.” As Serling warned, “if we don't listen to that scream - and if we don't respond to it - we may well wind up sitting amidst our own rubble, looking for the truck that hit us - or the bomb that pulverized us. Get the license number of whatever it was that destroyed the dream. And I think we will find that the vehicle was registered in our own name.”

If you haven’t managed to read the writing on the wall yet, the war has begun.

Domestic Terrorism, Youth and the Politics of Disposability

Go To Original

"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
Following Hannah Arendt, a dark cloud of political and ethical ignorance has descended on the United States. (1) 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. (2)
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.
Education is no longer a public good but a private right, just as critical thinking is no longer a fundamental necessity for creating an engaged and socially responsible citizenship. Neoliberalism's disdain for the social is no longer a quote made famous by Margaret Thatcher. The public sphere is now replaced by private interests, and unbridled individualism rails against any viable notion of solidarity that might inform the vibrancy of struggle, change, and an expansion of an enlightened and democratic body politic.
One outcome is that we live at a time in which institutions that were designed to limit human suffering and indignity and protect the public from the boom and bust cycles of capitalist markets have been either weakened or abolished. (3) Free market policies, values and practices, with their now unrestrained emphasis on the privatization of public wealth, the denigration of social protections and the deregulation of economic activity, influence practically every commanding political and economic institution in North America. Finance capitalism now drives politics, governance and policy in unprecedented ways and is more than willing to sacrifice the future of young people for short-term political and economic gains, regardless of the talk about the need to not burden future generations "with hopelessly heavy tuition debt." (4) It gets worse.
Under market fundamentalism, there is a separation of market values, behavior and practices from ethical considerations and social costs giving rise to a growing theater of cruelty and abuse throughout North America. Public spheres that once encouraged progressive ideas, enlightened social policies, democratic values, critical dialogue and exchange have been increasingly commercialized. Or, they have been replaced by corporate settings whose ultimate fidelity is to increasing profit margins and producing a vast commercial and celebrity culture "that tends to function so as to erase everything that matters." (5) Since the 1980s, the scale of human suffering, immiseration and hardship has intensified, accompanied by a theater of cruelty in which violence, especially the daily spectacle of Black men being brutalized or killed by the police, feeds the 24-hour news cycle. The tentacles of barbarism appear to be reaching into every aspect of daily life. Domestic terrorism has come home and it increasingly targets the young.
Given these conditions, an overwhelming catalogue of evidence has come into view that indicates that nation-states organized by neoliberal priorities have implicitly declared war on their children, offering a disturbing index of societies in the midst of a deep moral and political catastrophe. (6) Too many young people today live in an era of foreclosed hope, an era in which it is difficult either to imagine a life beyond the dictates of a market-driven society or to transcend the fear that any attempt to do so can only result in a more dreadful nightmare.
As Jennifer Silva has pointed out, this generation of especially "young working-class men and women ... are trying to figure out what it means to be an adult in a world of disappearing jobs, soaring education costs and shrinking social support networks.... They live at home longer, spend more years in college, change jobs more frequently and start families later." (7)
Youth today are not only plagued by the fragility and uncertainty of the present; they are "the first post war generation facing the prospect of downward mobility [in which the] plight of the outcast stretches to embrace a generation as a whole." (8) It is little wonder that "these youngsters are called Generation Zero: A generation with Zero opportunities, Zero future" and Zero expectations. (9) Or to use Guy Standing's term, "the precariat," (10) which he defines as "a growing proportion of our total society" forced to "accept a life of unstable labour and unstable living." (11)
 Beyond exposing the moral depravity of a society that fails to provide for its youth, the symbolic and real violence waged against many young people suggests nothing less than a perverse collective death wish - especially visible when youth protest their conditions. As Alain Badiou argues, we live in an era in which there is near zero tolerance for democratic protest and "infinite tolerance for the crimes of bankers and government embezzlers which affect the lives of millions." (12) This is certainly true of the United States. How else to explain the FBI's willingness to label as a "terrorist threat" youthful activists speaking against corporate and government misdeeds, while at the same time the Bureau refuses to press criminal charges against the banking giant HSBC for laundering billions of dollars for Mexican drug cartels and terrorist groups linked to al-Qaeda? (13)
If youth were once the repository of society's dreams, that is no longer true. Increasingly, young people are viewed as a public disorder, a dream now turned into a nightmare. Many youth live in a post-9/11 social order that positions them as a prime target of its governing through crime complex. This is made obvious by the many "get tough" policies that now render young people as criminals, while depriving them of basic health care, education and social services. Punishment and fear have replaced compassion and social responsibility as the most important modalities for mediating the relationship of youth to the larger social order, all too evident by the upsurge of zero-tolerance laws, along with the expanding reach of the punishing state in both the United States and Canada. (14) When the criminalization of social problems becomes a mode of governance and war its default strategy, youth are reduced to soldiers or targets - not social investments. As anthropologist Alain Bertho points out, "Youth is no longer considered the world's future, but as a threat to its present." (15)
Increasingly, the only political discourses available for many young people are either a disciplinary one or one of "emotional self-management." (16) Youth are now removed from any talk about democracy. Their absence is symptomatic of a society that has turned against itself, punishes its children and does so at the risk of crippling the entire body politic. Too many youth now represent the absent present in any discourse about the contemporary moment, the future and democracy itself, and increasingly fall prey to what I call the war on youth, a war that can be traced back to the 1970s. (17)
The war on youth emerged when the social contract, however compromised and feeble, came crashing to the ground around the time Margaret Thatcher "married" Ronald Reagan. Both were hard-line advocates of a market fundamentalism, and announced respectively that there was no such thing as society and that government was the problem, not the solution to citizens' woes. Within a short time, democracy and the political process were hijacked by corporations and the call for austerity policies became cheap copy for weakening the welfare state, public values and public goods. The results of this emerging neoliberal regime included a widening gap between the rich and the poor, a growing culture of cruelty and the dismantling of social provisions. One result has been that the promise of youth has given way to an age of market-induced angst, and a view of many young people as a threat to short-term investments, privatization, untrammeled self-interest and quick profits.
Under such circumstances, all bets are off regarding the future of democracy. Besides a growing inability to translate private troubles into social issues, what is also being lost in the current historical conjuncture is the very idea of the public good, the notion of connecting learning to social change and developing modes of civic courage infused by the principles of social justice. Under the regime of a ruthless economic Darwinism, we are witnessing the crumbling of social bonds and the triumph of individual desires over social rights, nowhere more exemplified than in the gated communities, gated intellectuals and gated values that have become symptomatic of a society that has lost all claims to democracy or for that matter any modestly progressive vision for the future.
As one eminent sociologist points out, "Visions have nowadays fallen into disrepute and we tend to be proud of what we should be ashamed of." (18) For instance, politicians such as former Vice President Dick Cheney not only refuse to apologize for the immense suffering and displacement they have imposed on the Iraqi people, but they seem to gloat in defending such policies. Doublespeak takes on a new register as President Obama employs the discourse of national security to sanction a surveillance state, a kill list and the ongoing killing of young children by drones. This expanding landscape of lies has not only produced an illegal war and justified state torture; it also provided a justification for the United States' slide into barbarism after the tragic events of 9/11. Yet, such acts of state violence appear to be of little concern to the shameless apostles of permanent war.
Politics has become an extension of war, just as "systemic economic insecurity and anxiety" and state-sponsored violence increasingly find legitimation in the discourses of privatization and demonization, which promote anxiety, moral panics and fear, and undermine any sense of communal responsibility for the well-being of others. Too many young people today learn quickly that their fate is solely a matter of individual responsibility, irrespective of wider structural forces. This is a much promoted hyper-competitive ideology, which includes a message that surviving in a society demands reducing social relations to forms of social combat. Young people today are expected to inhabit a set of relations in which the only obligation is to live for oneself and to reduce the responsibilities of citizenship to the demands of a consumer culture. Yet, there is more at work here than a flight from social responsibility, if not politics itself. Also lost is the importance of those social bonds, modes of collective reasoning, public spheres and cultural apparatuses crucial to the formation of a sustainable democratic society.
The War Against Youth
In what follows, I want to address the intensifying assault on young people through the related concepts of "soft war" and "hard war." (19) The idea of the soft war considers the changing conditions of youth within the relentless expansion of a global market society. Partnered with a massive advertising machinery, the soft war targets all children and youth, devaluing them by treating them as yet another "market" to be commodified and exploited, and conscripting them into the system through relentless attempts to create a new generation of hyper-consumers.
This low-intensity war is waged by a variety of corporate institutions through the educational force of a culture that commercializes every aspect of kids' lives, and now uses the internet and various social networks, along with new media technologies such as smart phones, to immerse young people in the world of mass consumption in ways that are more direct and expansive than anything we have seen in the past. Commercially carpet-bombed by an advertising industry that in the United States spent $170 billion in 2012, the typical child is exposed to about 40,000 ads a year and by the time they reach the fourth grade have memorized 300 to 400 brands.
An entire generation is being drawn 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. Increasingly, many young people, recast as commodities, can only recognize themselves in terms preferred by the market. As Zygmunt Bauman points out, youth are simultaneously "promoters of commodities and the commodities they promote" - defined as both brands and merchandise, on the one hand, and marketing agents on the other. (20)
 Corporations have hit gold with the new media and can inundate young people directly with their market-driven values, desires and identities, all of which fly under the radar, escaping the watchful eyes and interventions of concerned parents and other adults. The data-mining marketers make young people think they count when in fact "all they want to do is count them." (21) The dominant culture's overbearing ecology of consumption now works to selectively eliminate and reorder the possible modes of political, social and ethical vocabularies made available to youth. Young people's most private experiences are now colonized by a consumerist ethic that deforms their sense of agency, desires, values and hopes. Trapped within a spectacle of marketing, their capacity to be critically engaged and socially responsible citizens is greatly diminished.
At the same time, the influence of the new screen and electronic culture on young peoples' habits is disturbing. For instance, a 2010 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that young people ages 8 to 18 now spend more than seven and a half hours a day with smart phones, computers, televisions and other electronic devices. (22) When you add the additional time youth spend texting, talking on their cellphones and doing multiple tasks at once, such as "watching TV while updating Facebook - the number rises to 11 hours of total media content each day." (23) There is a greater risk here to youth than what seems to be emerging as 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.
What are the consequences of the soft war? Public spaces have been transformed into neoliberal disimagination zones, which makes it more difficult for young people to find public spheres where they can locate themselves and translate metaphors of hope into meaningful action. The dreamscapes that make up a society built on the promises of mass consumption translate deftly into ad copy, insistently promoting and normalizing a neoliberal order in which economic relations now provide the master script for how young people define themselves, their relations with others and the larger world.
Of course, 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.
The Hard War
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 imprint of the youth crime-control complex can be traced in the increasingly popular practice of organizing schools through disciplinary practices that subject students to constant surveillance through high-tech security devices while imposing on them harsh and often thoughtless zero-tolerance policies that closely resemble measures used currently by the criminal justice system. In this instance, poor youth and youth of color become objects of a new mode of governance based on the crudest forms of disciplinary control. Punished if they don't show up at school and punished even if they do attend school, many of these students are funneled into what has been ominously called the "school-to-prison pipeline." If middle- and upper-class kids are subject to the seductions of market-driven public relations, working-class youth are caught in the crosshairs between the arousal of commercial desire and the harsh impositions of securitization, surveillance and policing.
How else do we explain the fact that in the United States today 500,000 young people are incarcerated and 2.5 million are arrested annually, and that by the age of 23, "almost a third of Americans have been arrested for a crime"? (24) What kind of society allows 1.6 million children to be homeless at any given time in a year? Or allows massive inequalities in wealth and income to produce a politically and morally dysfunctional society in which "45 percent of US residents live in households that struggle to make ends meet"? (25)
Current statistics paint a bleak picture for young people in the United States: 1.5 million are unemployed, which marks a 17-year high; 12.5 million are without food; and in what amounts to a national disgrace, one out of every five US children lives in poverty. Nearly half of all US children and 90 percent of Black youngsters will be on food stamps at some point during childhood. (26) What are we to make of a society in which there were more young people killed on the streets of Chicago since 2001 then were US soldiers killed in Afghanistan? To be more exact, 5,000 people were killed by gunfire in Chicago, many of them children, while 2,000 troops were killed between 2001 and 2012. (27)
A type of mad violence appears to be at the heart of political and everyday life in the United States. The National Rifle Association and its political lackeys support a gun culture that calls for arming students in schools. Since the passage in 1990 of the National Defense Authorization Act, which allowed the US Department of Defense to transfer surplus military equipment to local police forces, the police now have access to armored troop carriers, night vision rifles, Humvees, M16 automatic rifles, grenade launchers and other weapons designed for military tactics. (28)
As the war on terror comes home, public spaces have been transformed into war zones, and the militarized police forces have taken on the role of an occupying army, especially in poor neighborhoods of color. Acting as a paramilitary force, the police have become a new symbol of domestic terrorism, shaking down youth of color by criminalizing a multitude of behaviors. This was especially true in the stop-and-frisk policies so widespread under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg in New York City. In Ferguson, Missouri, the entire population was criminalized in what can only be described as a racist shakedown. As David Graeber puts it,
The Department of Justice's investigation of the Ferguson Police Department has scandalized the nation, and justly so. But the department's institutional racism, while shocking, isn't the report's most striking revelation. More damning is this: in a major American city, the criminal justice system perceives a large part of that city's population not as citizens to be protected, but as potential targets for what can only be described as a shake-down operation designed to wring money out of the poorest and most vulnerable by any means they could, and that as a result, the overwhelming majority of Ferguson's citizens had outstanding warrants. (29)

The rise of the punishing state and the war on terror has emboldened police forces across the United States, and in doing so feeds their use of racist violence against young people resulting in what has been called an "epidemic of police brutality." Sadly, even young children of color are not immune from such violence, as the killing of Tamir Rice on November 22, 2014, by a White policeman has made clear. Even more tragic is the fact that the City of Cleveland tried to blame the 12-year-old boy for his own death. (30) Rice was holding a BB gun when he was shot to death by a police officer judged unfit for duty in 2012. The killing of Black men has taken on the image of a cruel sport promoted by police forces that now hype the lawlessness and extreme violence that has replaced any viable notion of democratic idealism. Between January 2012 and December 2014, 38 unarmed Black men have been killed by the police. (31)
Many people in the United States now live in a culture that is not only being increasingly militarized, but also supports a growing indifference to such cruelty, reinforced by a notion of exaggerated self-reliance, rugged individualism and privatization, all of which renders group solidarities repugnant and reinforces the idea that care for the other is both a pathology and a liability. Hence, it should come as no surprise that the United States currently has more police, prisons, spies, weapons and soldiers than at any other time in its history - this coupled with a growing "army" of the unemployed and incarcerated.
In addition, the military-industrial complex now joins hands with the entertainment industry in producing everything from children's toys to video games that both construct a militarized form of masculinity and serve as an enticement for recruitment. In fact, more than 10 million people have downloaded "America's Army" and its various updates, including the more recent, "America's Army: Proving Grounds," a first-person shooter computer game the US Army uses as a recruitment tool. (32) Such representations of masculinity and aggression mimic fascism's militarization of the public sphere, through which violence becomes the ultimate language, referent and currency. This machinery of normalization makes it more difficult to understand how war becomes a source of pride rather than alarm, just as violence becomes mythologized and the war on terror is transformed into a war on society itself and the political order. But this culture of militarized hardness is not confined to the United States.
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. (33) Surely one conclusion that can be drawn from the inquest into the tragic suicide of 19-year-old Ashley Smith, who spent five years of her life in and out of detention facilities, is that incarceration for young people can be equivalent to a death sentence. (34)
Against the idealistic rhetoric of governments that claim to venerate young people lies the reality of societies that increasingly view youth through the optic of law and order, societies that appear all too willing to treat youth as criminals and when necessary make them "disappear" into the farthest reaches of the carceral state. Under such circumstances, the administration of schools and social services has given way to modes of confinement that retain the purpose of ensuring "custody and control." (35) As I have already suggested, many schools in the United States are modeled after prisons with their high-tech surveillance cameras, the presence of police and security guards and punitive zero-tolerance policies. How else to explain children as young as 12 being subjected to stun guns, handcuffed and removed from class for doodling on a desk, or suspended from school for bringing in a toy GI gun. It gets worse. John Whitehead, the president of the Rutherford Institute, has documented young girls being suspended or expelled from school for having Midol or Alka-Seltzer in their purse, and children being suspended for playing cops and robbers. Instead of being sent to the principal's office for even a minor infraction such as violating dress codes, many children are handcuffed, taken from the classroom, put in a patrol car and driven to a police station. And that is only the beginning of the nightmare for these kids and their families.
The plight of poor youth of color today also extends beyond the severity of material deprivations and violence they experience daily. Many young people have been forced to view the world and redefine the nature of their own youth within the borders of hopelessness, insecurity and despair. There is little basis on which to imagine a better future lying just beyond the highly restrictive spaces of commodification and containment. Neoliberal austerity in social spending means an entire generation of youth will not have access to decent jobs, the material comforts, educational opportunities or the security available to previous generations.
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.
Politics and power are now on the side of lawlessness as is obvious in the state's endless violations of civil liberties, freedom of speech and most constitutional rights, mostly done in the name of national security. Lawlessness now wraps itself in government dictates. In Canada, it is evident in Prime Minister Stephen Harper's support for Bill C-51, an anti-terrorist bill that further limits civil rights through a pedagogy of fear and racist demonization. It is also apparent in the United Sates in such policies as the Patriot Act, the National Defense Authorization Act, the Military Commissions Act and a host of other legal illegalities. These would include the right of the president "to order the assassination of any citizen whom he considers allied with terrorists," (36) to use secret evidence to detain individuals indefinitely, to develop a massive surveillance apparatus to monitor every audio and electronic communication used by citizens who have not committed a crime, to employ state torture against those considered enemy combatants and to block the courts from prosecuting those officials who commit such heinous crimes. (37) The ruling corporate elites have made terror rational and fear the modus operandi of politics. Neoliberal capital is based on a Hobbesian mantra of a war against all and a survival of the fittest ethic, and one consequence is an aggressive politics of disposability and disappearance.
Educators, individuals, artists, intellectuals and various social movements need to make visible both the workings of market fundamentalism "in all of its forms of exploitation whether personal, political, or economic," and they "need to reconstruct a platform" and set of strategies to oppose it. Clearly, any political formation that matters must challenge the savage social costs casino capitalism has enacted and work to undo the forms of social, political and economic violence that young people are experiencing on a daily level. This will demand more than one-day demonstrations. What is needed is a resurgence of public memory, civic literacy and civic courage - that is, a willingness to both "effectively analyze the structures and mechanisms of capitalist power [in order] to formulate a sophisticated political response" and the willingness to build longstanding oppositional movements. (38)Traces of such movements are beginning to emerge all over the globe, especially in countries such as Spain and Greece.
In North America, we have seen important, though inconclusive, attempts on the part of young people to break the hold of power. This was evident in the Occupy movement, the Quebec student movement, the Idle No More opposition and the recent "Black Lives Matter" protests. What all of these movements have made clear is that young people aligning with others can be a vibrant source of creativity, possibility and political struggle. Moreover, these movements in their various contemporary manifestations point to a crucial political project in which young people have raised new questions about anti-democratic forces in the United States and Canada that are threatening the collective survival of vast numbers of people.
Evident in the legacy of these political movements, however slow their progression or setbacks, is a cry of collective indignation over economic and social injustices that pose a threat to humankind. They also make clear how 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. (39)
Current protests among young people in the United States, Canada and elsewhere in the world make clear that demonstrations are not - indeed, cannot be - only a short-term project for reform. Young people need to enlist all generations to develop a truly global political movement that is accompanied by the reclaiming of public spaces, the progressive use of digital technologies, the development of new public spheres, the production of new modes of education and the safeguarding of places where democratic expression, new civic values, democratic public spheres, new modes of identification and collective hope can be nurtured and developed. A formative culture must be put in place pedagogically and institutionally in a variety of spheres extending from churches and public and higher education to all those cultural apparatuses engaged in the production of collective knowledge, desire, identities and democratic values.
The struggles here are myriad and urgent and point to the call for a living wage, food security, accessible education, jobs programs (especially for the young), the democratization of power, economic equality and a massive shift in funds away from the machinery of war and big banks. Any collective struggle that matters has to embrace education as the center of politics and the source of an embryonic vision of the good life outside of the imperatives of unfettered "free-market" capitalism. In addition, too many progressives and people on the left are stuck in the discourse of foreclosure and cynicism and need to develop what Stuart Hall calls a "sense of politics being educative, of politics changing the way people see things." (40)
There is a need for educators, young people, artists and other cultural workers to develop languages of both critique and hope along with an educative politics in which people can address the historical, structural and ideological conditions at the core of the violence being waged by the corporate and repressive state, and to make clear that government increasingly subsumed by global market sovereignty is no longer responsive to the most basic needs of young people. All the issues that matter in a substantive democratic society are under siege by the forces of neoliberalism and any viable challenge requires movement building that is a long-term project. Young people need more than demonstrations and demolition squads; they need to take on the future by merging the power of the imagination and a politics of educated hope with long-term strategies, durable organizations and new political formations.
The issue of who gets to define the future, share in the nation's wealth, shape the parameters of the social state, steward and protect the globe's resources and create a formative culture for producing engaged and socially responsible citizens is no longer a rhetorical issue. This challenge offers up new categories for defining how matters of representation, education, economic justice and politics are to be defined and fought over. This is a difficult task, but what we are seeing in cities such as Chicago, Athens, Quebec, Paris, Madrid and other sites of massive inequality throughout the world is the beginning of a long struggle for the institutions, values and infrastructures that make communities the center of a robust, radical democracy. I realize this sounds a bit utopian, but we have few choices if we are going to struggle for a future that does a great deal more than endlessly repeat the present. We may live in dark times, but as Slavoj Žižek rightly insists, "The only realist option is to do what appears impossible within this system. This is how the impossible becomes possible." (41)

1. Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism, (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York: 2001).
2. See, for instance, Andre Spicer, "Adults with colouring books, kids with CVs - it's a world turned upside down," The Guardian (April 8, 2015). Online:
3. This theme is taken up powerfully by a number of theorists. See C. Wright Mills,The Sociological Imagination (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000); Richard Sennett, The Fall of Public Man (New York: Norton, 1974); Zygmunt Bauman, In Search of Politics (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999); and Henry A. Giroux,Public Spaces, Private Lives (Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 2001).
4. Noam Chomsky, "The Death of American Universities," Jacobin (March 3, 2015). Online:
5. Angela Y. Davis, Abolition Democracy: Beyond Empire, Prisons, and Torture, (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2005), p. 91.
6. J.F. Conway, "Quebec: Making War on Our Children," Socialist Project, E-Bulletin No. 651, (June 10, 2012). Online:
7. Jennifer M. Silva, "Young and Isolated," International New York Times (June 22, 2013). Online:
8. Zygmunt Bauman, On Education, (Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2012), p. 46.
9. Zygmunt Bauman, This Is Not A Diary, (Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2012), p. 64
10. Guy Standing, The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class, (London, Bloomsbury Academic, 2011).
11. Sara Mojtehedzadeh, "Q&A with precarious work expert Guy Standing," The Toronto Star, (April 09, 2015). Online:
12. Alain Badiou, The Rebirth of History, trans. Gregory Elliott (London: Verso, 2012), pp. 18-19
13. Matt Taibbi, "After Laundering $800 Million in Drug Money, How Did HSBC Executives Avoid Jail?" Democracy Now! (December 13, 2012). Online:
14. See, for example, David Garland, The Culture of Control: Crime and Social Order in Contemporary Society (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002); Jonathan Simon, Governing Through Crime: How the War on Crime Transformed American Democracy and Created a Culture of Fear (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009); Henry A. Giroux, The Violence of Organized Forgetting (San Francisco: City Lights, 2014); Brad Evans and Henry A. Giroux, Disposable Futures: The Seduction of Violence in the Age of the Spectacle (San Francisco: City Lights, 2015).
15. Quoted in Jean-Marie Durand, "For Youth: A Disciplinary Discourse Only,"Truthout (November 15, 2009), trans. Leslie Thatcher. Online:
16. Jennifer M. Silva, Coming Up Short: Working-Class Adulthood in an Age of Uncertainty, (Oxford Press, New York, NY, 2013). 10
17. Jean and John Comaroff, "Reflections of Youth, from the Past to the Postcolony,"Frontiers of Capital: Ethnographic Reflections on The New Economy, ed. Melissa S. Fisher and Greg Downey, (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006) p. 267.
18. Zygmunt Bauman, "Introduction and in Search of Public Space," In Search of Politics (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999), p. 8.
19. Quoted in Jean-Marie Durand, "For Youth: A Disciplinary Discourse Only,"Truthout (November 15, 2009), trans. Leslie Thatcher. Online:
20. Zygmunt Bauman, Consuming Life (London: (London: Polity, 2007), p. 6.
21. Zygmunt Bauman and David Lyons, Liquid Surveillance, (Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2013), pp. 54.
22. Tamar Lewin, "If Your Kids Are Awake, They're Probably Online," The New York Times (January 20, 2010), p. A1.
23. C. Christine, "Kaiser Study: Kids 8 to 18 Spend More Than Seven Hours a Day with Media," Spotlight on Digital Media and Learning: MacArthur Foundation(January 21, 2010).
24. Erica Goode, "Many in US Are Arrested by Age 23, Study Finds," The New York Times (December 19, 2011). Online:
25. Reuters, "45% Struggle in US to Make Ends Meet," MSNBC: Business Stocks and Economy (November 22, 2011). Online:
26. Lindsey Tanner, "Food Stamps Will Feed Half of US Kids, Study Says," The Huffington Post (November 2, 2009). Online:
27. Daily Mail Reporter, "These kids don't expect to lead a full life': Fears for Chicago teens as fatal shootings in city outnumber US troops killed in Afghanistan," Mail Online, UK (June 19, 2012). Online:
28. Taylor Wofford, "How America's Police Became an Army: The 1033 Program,"Newsweek (August 13, 2014). Online:
29. David Graeber, "Ferguson and the Criminalization of American Life," Gawker(March 19, 2015). Online:
30. Oliver Laughland, "Tamir Rice 'directly and proximately' responsible for own police shooting death, says city," The Guardian (March 1, 2015). Online:
31. Rich Juzwiak and Aleksander Chan, "Unarmed People of Color Killed by Police, 1999-2014," Gawker (December 8, 2014). Online:
32. Corey Mead, War Play: Video Games and the Future of Armed Conflict (New York; Houghton Mifflin, 20013). Also see, Clive Thompson, "The Making of an X Box Warrior," New York Times Magazine, August 22, 2004, 34-37; Jeremy Hsu, "For the US Military, Video Games Get Serious," LiveScience (August 19, 2010). Online:
33. Department of Justice Canada, A One-Day Snapshot of Aboriginal Youth in Custody Across Canada: Phase II. Online:
34. Colin Perket, "Ashley Smith Inquest Slated to Finally Start in Early 2013," CTV News (December 27, 2012). Online:
35. Zygmunt Bauman, Wasted Lives, (London: Polity Press, 2004), p.82.
36. Jonathan Turley, "10 reasons the US is no longer the land of the free," The Washington Post, (January 13, 2012). Online:
37. For a clear expose of the emerging surveillance state, see Glenn Greenwald, No Place to Hide (New York: Signal, 2014); Julia Angwin, Dragnet Nation: A Quest for Privacy, Security, and Freedom in a World of Relentless Surveillance (New York: Times Books, 2014); Heidi Boghosian, Spying on Democracy: Government Surveillance, Corporate Power, and Public Resistance (City Lights Books, 2013).
38. Chris Hedges, "Tariq Ali: The Time Is Right for a Palace Revolution," Truthdig(March 1, 2015). Online:
39. Ingar Solty, "Canada's 'Maple Spring': From the Quebec Student Strike to the Movement Against Neoliberalism," Socialist Project (December 31, 2012). Online:
40. Zoe Williams, "The Saturday Interview: Stuart Hall," The Guardian (February 11, 2012)
41. Slavoj Žižek, Demanding the Impossible, ed. Yong-June Park. (Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2013), p. 144.