The Organic Intellectual

If our greatest task is to liberate humanity, as Paulo Freire asserts, then it is absolutely essential that we create a culture of resistance from below that is able not only to counter, but transcend the limitations of the ruling culture imposed by above. Hopefully, The Organic Intellectual will help serve this purpose.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Real Democratic Force in the Arab World

It is apparent, given the revolutionary upheavals in Tunisia and Egypt, along with the accompanying protests in Jordan, Yemen, and other places in the Arab world, that neither the United States nor Israel are the proponents of democracy. In fact, Israel's devout support for the corrupt Mubarak regime, alongside the United States' billions of dollars of yearly military aid for the corrupt state apparatus, shows that far from being progenitors of democracy, these states have shown themselves to be stalwart defends of oppression and exploitation.

Although the following post will not relate directly to Egypt (for a live stream, please visit Al Jazeera), it will deal with Morocco, another U.S. client state with a highly undemocratic regime that presents a facade of popular government. I wrote this reflection after having to attend a discussion on a civics program called Civitas. Some Moroccan government officials, as participants in the program alongside the U.S., were present. It is obvious, in my opinion, that the program is largely a front to propagandize the participants in the United States and, even more so, in Morocco, to buy into very superficial conceptions of democracy. In honor of the Tunisian revolution, and the valiant struggles of the Egyptian people still ongoing, I post this piece.

We can only imagine the prospects of these struggles for the future. Perhaps, the people of Morocco and the Western Sahara will be next.


The notion of how to students, and teachers, involved in civic education at a grassroots level is an intriguing and well-pursued area of study. It is vital for students to understand both the forms of civic participation narrowly confined under the legal and political scope of “public policy,” alongside the more broad and participatory forms of civic engagement which extend beyond the traditional institutions imposed from above. In other words, while students ought to be educated about the legal channels through which small-scale change may occur, it should never, for the sake of democracy, displace the emphasis on the form of activism that pushes the legal limits and, in many cases, fundamentally challenges the dominant structures of our society.

My experience with the Center of Civic Education representatives, along with the delegation from Morocco, has lead me to the conclusion that the Civitas program, headed by the Center for Civic Education, is not entirely conducive to the goal of democratizing society as I understand it. Instead, aside from the benevolent-sounding rhetoric, Civitas seems aimed primarily at enervating popular movements and forcing them to be subsumed into the current political system, rather than encouraging them to fundamentally alter what are, essentially, unjust social relations.

Furthermore, by completely ignoring the economic system, which is inherently undemocratic when organized under the auspices of capitalism, political democracy is little more than a sham. To paraphrase what John Dewey proclaimed a century ago, until we free ourselves from industrial feudalism, politics will remain the shadow cast over society by big business. Power in society will, as James Madison so exuberantly effused was the correct order of things, remain with the “minority of the opulent.” My largest complaint with Civitas, then, is that its understanding of “democracy” is limited to the most basic and low levels of democratic participation which, in large part, are the most unimportant and non-participatory forms of civic engagement that currently exist. It is narrow in scope and serves not as a gateway to more progressive forms of democratic participation, but as an ideological weapon to prove that the “system works” because students are able to get rid of plastic lunch trays or get a few truant classmates back into school (worthy goals, no doubt, but out on the periphery). In other words, while in its mission statement it claims to be “nonpartisan,” it is definitely not “non-ideological,” it is inextricably linked to a conception of democracy tied to capitalism as an economic system, and insofar as this is true, its commitment to democracy proves nothing more than rhetoric.

The next complaint is that, while it aims to show that “democracy works,” it is funded by a government, namely, the United States, which simply does NOT take democracy seriously around the world. In Vietnam it staged a brutal occupation and war to avoid democratic elections in which it feared Communists would win. In 1973, the United States materially supported the overthrow of the democratically elected government in Chile because it challenged corporate interests in the region and upset the hyper-exploitation of the people there. In the 1980’s it backed the vicious and brutal terrorist organization named the Contras in Nicaragua against the Sandinistas, who garnered mass popular support, in their overthrow of a U.S. backed dictator. There are various more instances that could be cited here. The U.S. supported the apartheid regime of South Africa until the very end against the democratic will of the majority black population there. When Huge Chavez won the democratic election in 1999, the U.S. leaders panicked and, in 2002, with the help of the CIA, supported a military coup against him. When Hamas was democratically elected by the people of Palestine, the U.S. placed them on the terrorist watch list and would not negotiate with them, despite being internationally observed as a free and fair election. Just last year, when President Zelaya of Honduras was overthrown in a military coup, the U.S. backed the military government that brutally repressed civil dissent in the country. In other words, democracy is fine as long as the U.S. backed candidate is elected. Democracy is a threat, however, when it challenges U.S. corporate interests and the larger ideological capitalist hegemony. How then, can one of the most anti-democratic governments in the world construct and implement a program that claims to support democracy? Simply put, it cannot.

For instance, one of the countries in which the program takes place, Morocco, and also where the representatives in our meeting were from, is one of the most highly undemocratic, in fact, anti-democratic nations in the world. Morocco, a constitutional monarchy, has always been a pawn of the U.S., both as an anti-Communist buffer in North Africa and, more recently, as an “anti-terrorist” state who happily signed on with the U.S. wars of aggression to placate its own colonial holding in Western Sahara. While Morocco has a democratically elected parliament, the only democratically elected body, only 37% of the population actually voted in the last election, meaning that far less than half the population was represented. Furthermore, real power lies with the Moroccan monarch, who wields an enormous amount of executive power, enough to even disband parliament at will. The country hosts a brutal occupation of the Western Sahara, which it took over after Spain withdrew in the 1970’s. Since then, there has been a popular, grassroots movement in the Western Sahara for independence and democracy. Ironically, the Western Sahara, which is 99% Arab and Berber, has a female spokeswomen as the head of the democratic movement there, which is what the U.S. claims it wants to see in the Arab world in regards to womens’ rights and so on. Instead, it supports Morocco in its colonial exploits over the region, and as permanent member of the Security Council, has blocked United Nations resolutions promoting Western Saharan independence. We are to believe, then, that these two highly anti-democratic governments have formed a partnership through Civitas in which they are mutually exploring democracy. Orwell must be rolling in his grave.

When I attempted to engage the Moroccan delegation, who were, basically, government spokesmen, not educators, on their occupation of the Western Sahara, the English-speaking representative misleadingly attempted to sway the audience by claiming that the occupation was, essentially, just a “media misunderstanding” because one Spanish outlet had put a picture of Gaza up when talking about the Western Sahara. Then, I was instructed that I was not qualified to speak on Morocco, or its political institutions, because I was not from there nor had I been there, and “reading about Morocco is different than being there.” I suppose that reading about the enormous power that the Moroccan leader has, or listening to ground reports and first-person accounts of the Western Saharan occupation, or having read and listened to the foremost author of the Western Saharan occupation, means absolutely nothing to the Moroccan government officials. Indeed, this is what, presumably, passed for democratic discourse in Moroccan society. No wonder the United States leaders are pursuing such close ties, the ideological unanimity among the Moroccan rulers must inspire them.

Perhaps the most telling comment came from the big screen, where Civitas directors from another part of Ohio were trying to explain their program through the superb technological capabilities available at the University of Toledo. At one point, and this is when I truly understood for the first time the core component of what Civitas was, the male representative explained that the program was designed to get people to try and change public policy through the most basic channels and to get them to work without “protests, holding signs, or street demonstrations.” Those words were the most lucid, clearest articulation of what the program actually was meant to do. After I engaged that comment, some of the representatives backed off that claim, and attempted to back-peddle. One man, in particular, the gentleman I had a conversation with afterward, was open to dialogue, which I found refreshing concerning the ideological dogma manifested by the rest of the Civitas representatives.

Despite this, it remained apparent that Civitas was, primarily, a program meant to inculcate teachers and students with the idea that social change was best pursued through the lowest legal channels available, and that civic participation beyond that ought to be questioned and, sometimes, even ridiculed for ineffectiveness and, as they basically implied, its “non-democratic” nature. Regardless of the purported aims, it was clear to me upon leaving that meeting that Civitas is something that is meant to funnel our disgust with the inequality in society into safe channels, into outlets that make us feel good about doing something small but do not cultivate an idea or organizing for greater societal change. Civitas, for instance, would not support the work of WikiLeaks, an organization truly fighting for democracy and transparency, or the British students fighting back against budget cuts and austerity. The day that Civitas gets students to protest their schools for slashing their budgets, raising tuition, or cutting teachers, that is the day that I will get Civitas a second glance. Until then, I understand the program is little more than, despite the benevolent intentions of some individuals involved, a government-sponsored propaganda program meant to install what are, essentially, undemocratic values under the guise of democratic participation.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Best and Worst of 2010

This was supposed to be done on New Years, but life sidetracked me. A lot has happened in the past year, and since I have not posted anything in a minute, here’s a brief list of some of the most important, in my opinion, events of the year. I may have forgotten a few things, so if I have let me know and I’ll be sure to add it! Events are not organized chronologically or in terms of importance.

Our favorite peoples’ historian and teacher, Howard Zinn, passes away in early 2010, not long after releasing an excellent theatrical performance of The People Speak.

Venezuela passes a law, one which we ought to have had years ago in the United States, making banking a “public service,” putting some serious regulations on banks and requiring them to contribute more to social programs, housing construction, etc.

Vandana Shiva betrays any leftist credentials she has ever had by opening up a conference for the quasi-fascist, Hindu supremacist Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad.

Lowkey drops FIVE of the hottest political hip-hop videos ever: Obama Nation, Cradle of Civilization, Terrorist, Million Man March, and Blood, Sweat, and Tears!

The University of Toledo’s president autocratically pushes through a massive restructuring of the university with, basically, absolutely no student, faculty, or staff input.

Some reactionary judge dismisses all charges against Blackwater mercenaries in the Nisoor Square massacre.

Obama has STILL kept Guantanamo open, despite campaign promises.

A bunch of us in the College of Education at UT make it through the hell that was our Methods!

The earthquake in Haiti, as well as the years of instability and economic deprivation due to foreign imperialism, causes countless misery and death for hundreds of thousands of Haitians.

In the midterm elections Republicans sweep the House while Democrats barely cling on for dear life as they struggle to maintain a majority in the Senate (although no Black people will be present in the Senate).

Dan La Botz, a socialist, gets 25,311 votes in heartland Ohio!

Akala releases what is probably THE best hip-hop, genre-crossing album of 2010 with DoubleThink.

Self-proclaimed contrarian, “neo-Marxist” Slavoj Žižek spews some racist, anti-Roma crap and defends what are, essentially, pogroms against them in Europe.

Sell-out Wyclef Jean, supporter of the anti-democratic coup against Aristide, attempts to run for the Presidency in Haiti, only to be shutdown because the bastard hasn’t even lived there for the years it requires.

Elton John sells his soul for $1 million by playing at the anti-gay bigot Rush Limbaugh’s wedding, and then turns around and plays a show in Tel Aviv, despite the Israeli boycott, and calls those protesting SB1070 a bunch of “fuck-wits.”

Kiev, Ukraine hosts the second annual International Anti-Fascist Mixed Martial Arts festival, something we cannot afford to not have here in the states!

A couple of fed-up black workers rise up and slay South Africa’s most prominent white supremacist Eugene Terreblanche.

After originally sporting some real percussive Free Palestine ads on their city buses, Seattle backs down from political ads and claims they will only show “commercial” ads, as if corporate speech is apolitical.

In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court rules corporations can spend unlimited amounts of money to elect and defeat candidates.

Boots Riley of The Coup and Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine get together to form The Streetsweeper Social Club and drop a pretty good mixtape.

David Isom runs up to a right-wing crazy trying to burn a Qur’an, grabs it, then skates off, only to become a youtube sensation with a sweet auto-tune remix of his accomplishment.

Some brave Jimmy John’s workers get together and organize the first IWW union within the chain.

Coup government of Honduras is sworn in, while democratically elected leader Zelaya is forced to leave.

Some 50,000 British students protest and occupy university buildings to demand that the new Lib-Dem government go through on their promises not to raise tuition fees, which they do anyway.

The U.S. finally, after a bunch of dithering back and forth, repeals “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in a major victory of the LGBT community.

Eminem, once again, completely and utterly wastes his talents by releasing an album so self-absorbed and apolitical it is sickening, only slightly redeeming himself by sardonically comment that gays ought to be able to marry because everyone ought to have the opportunity to be miserable.

The M_Ahmadinejad (which I assume is NOT run by Ahmadinejad) responds to the Qur’an book burning by claiming that he would “like to retaliate by burning a book that you Americans hold dear, but the only book you care about is Facebook.”

Spain takes the World Cup while the rest of the world leaves South Africans with debt and despair afterwards.

Athletes, including “Los Suns,” speak out against the vicious and vitriolic anti-immigrant law SB1070 in Arizona.

Rap News releases some of the most hilarious satirical commentary regarding WikiLeaks and government repression ever done through the hip-hop medium.

Nutjob Alex Jones condemns WikiLeaks for being an inside job to promote the global illuminati conspiracy theory after condemning Noam Chomsky for working for the CIA.

Arundhati Roy’s home gets attacked by right-wing thugs for claiming that the Kashmiri people deserve some respect and, perhaps, autonomy.

Eyedea, a rapper, dies at only age 28. R.I.P.

The show Glee really takes on the issue of gay rights when Kurt’s dad confronts Finn for spewing some homophobic crap in his home.

A barrage of suicides, attacks, and violence against LGBT youth takes place, promoting the “It Gets Better” campaign.

In a sweet move for us broke, politically-minded college students, Dead Prez releases their mixtape RBG Grillz for free, which flips Lloyd Bank’s vacuous Beamer, Benz, or Bentley into the more revolutionary Marcus, Garvey, Huey.

Rich Iott, trying to win a representative seat for Ohio, gets caught dressing up as a Nazi, and then gets rocked by Marcy Kaptur in the election.

Mark Coleman attempts what is, basically, one of the most disastrous comebacks in MMA history.

Israel continues its illegal and immoral settlement of Palestinian land, perpetuating the suffering and misery of the already suffocated, starved, and enervated Palestinian people.

ACORN is essentially dismantled after one video surfaces of an organizer helping out a right-winger pretending to be a pimp.

For a few minutes the world watched as Shane Carwin pounds on the purportedly invincible Brock Lesnar, only to get choked out in the first part of the second round after gassing bad.

Congress passes what is, perhaps, the absolute worst version of healthcare “reform” that could ever take place, basically handing private insurers more “customers” and not doing much in the way of actually providing care.

Cain Velasquez, sporting his “Brown Pride” tattoo, sweeps through the heavyweight division culminating in his relentless whooping of Brock Lesnar, known for his conservative politics, in what was as powerful a political victory for Mexican-Americans as it was an individual victory for Cain.

Researcher exposes the fact that U.S. doctors secretly infected hundreds of Guatemalans with syphilis in the 1940’s.

Rampage makes a terrible showing against Evans, but comes back a few months later and really shows his stuff against Machida, winning a decision, even if he did comment at the end that “Machida whooped my ass!”

Middleweight champ Anderson Silva plays with Damien Maia for five rounds and, then, gets beat up for five by racist, homophobic Shael Sonnen until Silva triangle chokes him with a minute left in the last round (serves him right for the homophobic trash he talked about Brazilian Ju-jitsu).

Attempted police coup in Ecuador almost ousts democratically elected President Correa.

Chuck Liddell gets knocked out HARD by Rich Franklin, despite showing some potential for the first minute or so of the fight.

TSA introduces highly invasive body scanners to protect us against all sorts of devils.

U.S. Social Forum brings thousands of activists together in Detroit.

WikiLeaks releases classified war documents in massive quantities relating to Iraq, Afghanistan, and U.S. diplomacy dating back decades.

Julian Assange, head of WikiLeaks, is accused of violating two women in Sweden and stirs an international debate on the left, especially the feminist left, of how to deal with such accusations.

A BP Gulf Coast oil rig blows up, killing eleven workers and resulting in the largest U.S. oil spill ever, devastating both the ecosystem and livelihoods of people in the region.

Frankie Edgar, in probably the biggest upset of the year, beats BJ Penn not once, but twice!

Hundreds of thousands of students, teachers, faculty, and staff take part in a day of action to defend California’s schools against austerity and budget cuts.

Jon Stewart leads the anti-climatic “Restore Sanity” rally to tell everyone to calm down and stop being so darn political.

MasterCard revokes the right for individuals to donate through them to WikiLeaks, while maintaining that service for the KKK.

FBI raids Palestinian activists homes in what is reminiscent of the COINTELPRO raids of the 1960’s, although slightly less violent.

A Massey Energy Mine, cited for hundred of safety violations, explodes and kills 25 workers while the CEO gets off clean.

Blue Scholars drops Coffee and Snow 2 and, although it is not as good as the original, it was superb!

Paul Daley sucker punches Josh Koscheck after the fight in which Kosheck fakes getting hit in the eye and refuses to stand up and box with him.

Striking truckers and other workers in Greece literally shut down the country to protest austerity measures.

Eleven activists are murdered in the Israeli siege of the humanitarian aid flotilla headed for Gaza.

The police officer who murdered Oscar Grant is convicted not of murder, but involuntary manslaughter and gets off easy.

Shirley Sherrod is the attack of a racist smear-campaign by the right, facilitated by the capitulating nature of the Obama administration, and removed from her post in the Agricultural Department.

U.S. officially declares the “end of combat operations” in Iraq while maintaining 50,000 troops there for, we are to presume, laundry and daycare duty for Iraqi mothers.

Massive flooding in Pakistan, as well as the anti-Islamic sentiments restricting donations to the Muslim majority country, causes intense suffering and destruction for millions.

French students and workers show their disgust with the reactionary Skarkozy administration’s attempts to force people to work longer and hold a series of massive protests, occupations, and strikes.

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This blog is a personal blog written and edited by me. For questions about this blog, please contact Derek Ide ( Anything on this blog may be used, circulated, disseminated, by readers in any setting except where profit it to be made from it. Feel free to use the work presented here in educational settings, activist work, etc. All I ask is that the blog be cited. I write for my own purposes. This writings presented here will be influenced by my background, occupation, and political affiliation or other experiences.

This blog accepts only a minor form of advertising, sponsorship, and paid insertions (which I am working on the arduous process of removing). The (basically zero) compensation received will never influence the content, topics or posts made in this blog. All advertising is in the form of advertisements (usually books or music) are specifically selected by the owner of this blog and by no other party. I am not compensated to provide opinion on products, services, websites and various other topics. The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the blog owners. I will only endorse products or services that I believe, based on my experience, are worthy of such endorsement.

Derek Ide 2011


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