ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
Even [Ron] Paul, should he be elected and effect the gold standard, wouldn’t change
much. Chomsky would be happy with his mid-east policy, and Vick would benefit
financially from the deflation. I think, I could adjust, as well, but I am afraid most
Books by Wilson Jeremiah Moses
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Liberty and Empire
A Letter to Nephew and Friends
4 September 2011
Dear Nephew and Friends,
Nephew says the USA is just a big corporation. My response is obviously the USA, like every other Empire must be a corporation. What else can an empire be? The only question is whether it can be an efficient corporation which yields up, in satisfactory proportions, security in exchange for the liberties that it takes away. Every civilization must accomplish two ends. First: It must guarantee security of property. Second: It must guarantee a redistributive economy. Civilization must simultaneously redistribute wealth and protect property. These two ends are fundamentally contradictory. A SUCCESSFUL EMPIRE MUST RECONCILE THE CONTRADICTIONS.
As do Noam Chomsky, Rick Perry, Goldman Sachs, and most peopleI suppose you tooI prefer civilization and empire, law and order, government and the state to barbarism and anarchy. For example Michael Vick is willing to give up his natural liberty to stage dog fights in exchange for the rights conferred by society, including the security of living under a system where he can sleep peacefully at night knowing of a certainty that Lincoln Financial Field will be open for business next Sunday, and that he will be paid in a currency that will hold its value. I think that is a fair trade-off, and I think he is not only wise, but fully entitled to make that bargain. Obviously he thinks so too.
Noam Chomsky and Ron Paul have relatively simple lifestyles, and about the same amount of capitali.e., not much. Chomsky is not a Communist, because a Communist like a Jeffersonian subscribes to the foolish ideal of anarchy. Chomsky lives as I dowell, but simply, certainly not so extravagantly as an NFL quarterback. I have no reason to envy either Chomsky or Ron Paulwho are old men with only a few million between themor Michael Vick, because exorbitant amounts of wealth could not help me achieve my dreams. One of my dreams is to be an NFL quarterback, but no amount of money can help me achieve that goal. As people go, Chomsky and Vick are relatively harmless and ineffectual. Even Paul, should he be elected and effect the gold standard, wouldn’t change much. Chomsky would be happy with his mid-east policy, and Vick would benefit financially from the deflation. I think, I could adjust, as well, but I am afraid most Tea Baggers would suffer miserably in a deflationary environment.
Empires are, in effect, big corporations and bureaucracies, for example civilizations that arose in ancient Mesopotamia, China, India, and Egypt. These giant “corporations” have always provided intellectual elites with the surplus value, and the necessary leisure to write epics, study foreign languages, and invent numerical systems. Nothing wrong with this. In present day economies, it takes the brute labor of far fewer people than it once did to support a class of hierophants like myselfor sycophants, if you prefer. The trick for physicians, priests, artists, and storytellers, and historians has always been to maintain their positions in complex societies that are sophisticated to maintain a leisure class of bankers, lawyers, and professional healers.
Why should Chomsky give up his position? He could do as Eric Hoffer did, and work as a longshoreman, while writing excellent creative treatises on social theory. If Chomsky had chosen to work as a tailor, he would still have written books, and he still would have been attacked by incompetents, who envy his ability to acquire capital. In fact I have a friend here in this town who is a Democrat, a partner in an accounting firm, and a fairly prosperous man. He also manages to keep abreast of politics, listen to Wagnerian opera, and read scholarly books with a sharp and critical appreciation of methodology. I know a guy named Gordon Wood who spent many years teaching at Brown, but finally retired at age 68 so he could write history full time. I have seen him on C-Span two weeks in a row, offering witty and perceptive analysis on a wide variety of questions. His positions are not the same as mine on some issues, very similar on others. We are not close friends, just cordial but distant acquaintances.
Chomsky would disagree with everything I have said so far. He would consider the major thrust of this article not only cynical but beneath contempt; I consider it realistic. Fundamentally Chomsky is a Cartesian, and I am a Hobbesian. I find his manner irritating at times, condescending always. Most people probably do. He is arrogant and preachy, but nonetheless in good causes, as when he sees young women being mutilated, or villages being hit with napalm bombs. Chomsky is not a hypocrite. He doesn’t live extravagantly or consume tremendous amounts of energy. He isn’t trying to force his religion on anybody. He’s worried about nuclear reactors and oil spills, and he has been even more critical than Ron Paul of the wars of the past 50 years. He has even been critical of Israel, to the extent that he has been branded by his enemies as “one of those self-hating Jews.”
Of course the US is no different than a corporation! What else can it or should it be? The question is, only: What kind of corporation it can be? What will my relationship be to this corporation? What influence can I, as a mere hierophant, with no real capital to speak of, really have on the Code of Hammurabi or on the Egyptian Book of the Dead? Only a very limited amount.
But other than Sarah Palin and Noam Chomsky, I haven’t seen anyone offer a direct attack on corporate capitalism in the past week. Everybody else including Rick Perry, and Barack Obama is engaged in specious, irrelevant, attacks on the abstract entity of “government.”
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Interviewed by David Finkel
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The Responsibility of Intellectuals, Redux
Using Privilege to Challenge the State
Excerpt by Noam Chomsky
Since we often cannot see what is happening before our eyes, it is perhaps not too surprising that what is at a slight distance removed is utterly invisible. We have just witnessed an instructive example: President Obamas dispatch of 79 commandos into Pakistan on May 1 to carry out what was evidently a planned assassination of the prime suspect in the terrorist atrocities of 9/11, Osama bin Laden. Though the target of the operation, unarmed and with no protection, could easily have been apprehended, he was simply murdered, his body dumped at sea without autopsy. The action was deemed just and necessary in the liberal press. There will be no trial, as there was in the case of Nazi criminalsa fact not overlooked by legal authorities abroad who approve of the operation but object to the procedure. As Elaine Scarry reminds us, the prohibition of assassination in international law traces back to a forceful denunciation of the practice by Abraham Lincoln, who condemned the call for assassination as international outlawry in 1863, an outrage, which civilized nations view with horror and merits the sternest retaliation.
In 1967, writing about the deceit and distortion surrounding the American invasion of Vietnam, I discussed the responsibility of intellectuals, borrowing the phrase from an important essay of Dwight Macdonalds after World War II. With the tenth anniversary of 9/11 arriving, and widespread approval in the United States of the assassination of the chief suspect, it seems a fitting time to revisit that issue. But before thinking about the responsibility of intellectuals, it is worth clarifying to whom we are referring.
The concept of intellectuals in the modern sense gained prominence with the 1898 Manifesto of the Intellectuals produced by the Dreyfusards who, inspired by Emile Zolas open letter of protest to Frances president, condemned both the framing of French artillery officer Alfred Dreyfus on charges of treason and the subsequent military cover-up. The Dreyfusards stance conveys the image of intellectuals as defenders of justice, confronting power with courage and integrity. But they were hardly seen that way at the time. A minority of the educated classes, the Dreyfusards were bitterly condemned in the mainstream of intellectual life, in particular by prominent figures among the immortals of the strongly anti-Dreyfusard Académie Française, Steven Lukes writes. To the novelist, politician, and anti-Dreyfusard leader Maurice Barrès, Dreyfusards were anarchists of the lecture-platform. To another of these immortals, Ferdinand Brunetière, the very word intellectual signified one of the most ridiculous eccentricities of our timeI mean the pretension of raising writers, scientists, professors and philologists to the rank of supermen, who dare to treat our generals as idiots, our social institutions as absurd and our traditions as unhealthy.
Who then were the intellectuals? The minority inspired by Zola (who was sentenced to jail for libel, and fled the country)? Or the immortals of the academy? The question resonates through the ages, in one or another form, and today offers a framework for determining the responsibility of intellectuals. The phrase is ambiguous: does it refer to intellectuals moral responsibility as decent human beings in a position to use their privilege and status to advance the causes of freedom, justice, mercy, peace, and other such sentimental concerns? Or does it refer to the role they are expected to play, serving, not derogating, leadership and established institutions?
Note: In 1967, as the Vietnam War escalated, Noam Chomsky penned The Responsibility of Intellectuals, a stunning rebuke to scientists and scholars for their subservience to political power. Today we face a similar array of crises, from wars to escalating debt. What are the obligations of intellectuals in this day and age?
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#1 – Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark #2 – Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree #3 – Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane #4 – Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper #5 – Stackin’ Paper 2 Genesis’ Payback by Joy King #6 – Thug Lovin’ (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark #7 – When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson #8 – Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby #9 – The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane
#10 – Covenant: A Thriller by Brandon Massey
#11 – Diary Of A Street Diva by Ashley and JaQuavis
#12 – Don’t Ever Tell by Brandon Massey
#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide by Ntozake Shange
#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree
#15 – Homemade Loves by J. California Cooper
#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper
#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber
#18 – Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare
#19 – Stackin’ Paper by Joy King
#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey
#21 – The Upper Room by Mary Monroe
#22 Thug Matrimony by Wahida Clark
#23 – Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark
#24 – Married Men by Carl Weber
#25 – I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter
#1 – Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable #2 – Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans #3 – Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane #4 – Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper #5 – Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant #6 – Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey #7 – The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight #8 – The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing #9 – The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson
#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History by Ahati N. N. Toure
#11 – Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley
#12 –The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
#13 – The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell
#14 – The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore
#15 – Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can’t Commit by RM Johnson
#16 – Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins
#17 – Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell
#18 – A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle
#19 – John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard
#20 – Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris
#21 – Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice
#22 – 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino #23 – Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul by Tom Lagana #24 – 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields
#25 – Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class by Lisa B. Thompson
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By Gabriel Thompson
Thompson spent a year working alongside Latino immigrants, who initially thought he was either crazy or an undercover immigration agent. He stooped over lettuce fields in Arizona, and worked the graveyard shift at a chicken slaughterhouse in rural Alabama. . . . Thompson shines a bright light on the underside of the American economy, exposing harsh working conditions, union busting, and lax government enforcementwhile telling the stories of workers, undocumented immigrants, and desperate US citizens alike, forced to live with chronic pain in the pursuit of $8 an hour. Gabriel Thompson has contributed to New York, The Nation, New York Times, Brooklyn Rail, In These Times and others. He is the recipient of the Richard J. Margolis Award, the Studs Terkel Media Award, and a collective Sidney Hillman Award. His writings are collected at Where The Silence Is .
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In this classic analysis and refutation of Eric Williams’s 1944 thesis [Capitalism and Slavery], Seymour Drescher argues that Britain’s abolition of the slave trade in 1807 resulted not from the diminishing value of slavery for Great Britain but instead from the British public’s mobilization against the slave trade, which forced London to commit what Drescher terms “econocide.” This action, he argues, was detrimental to Britain’s economic interests at a time when British slavery was actually at the height of its potential. Originally published in 1977, Drescher’s work was instrumental in undermining the economic determinist interpretation of abolitionism that had dominated historical discourse for decades following World War II. For this second edition, which includes a foreword by David Brion Davis, Drescher has written a new preface, reflecting on the historiography of the British slave trade since this book’s original publication.
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American Labor and America’s Future (2000)
Aronowitz presents a compelling case for the idea that “unions, if they are to thrive, must overcome the complacency of the last fifty years and expand labor’s influence throughout politics and culture. But first labor must overcome its image as the representative of a narrow segment of the working population….” In intellectually strong but clear-spoken language, Aronowitz urges labor once again to define itself in sharp opposition to the ideology of corporate capitalism. He might attract some controversy with his suggestion that doing so requires a distancing of the unions from the Democratic Party (which, he reminds the reader, has drifted increasingly to the right under Bill Clinton, whose “reform” of welfare not only took money from the unemployed but may also keep wages down for the working poor). Might, that is, if labor had a strong enough voice for its dissent to be heard. Aronowitz delivers some rather intriguing proposals; it remains for history to determine whether an audience exists that will absorb and act upon them.Amazon.com
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From The World and Africa, 1965
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posted 6 September