Thursday, December 31, 2015

Creating The Space For Your Dreams

Don't let 2016 be another year where you work harder for someone else than yourself! 

What We Refuse To Accept About Donald Trump

"Let me go over that again: Reagan’s popularity was popular. When you went through the various traits of Reagan and what Reagan stood for and his policies and so on vast numbers of people disliked nearly all of them. What was popular was his popularity and I don’t think that Reagan’s alone in this."           

Rick Roderick 

In lecture eight of The Self Under Siege series professor Rick Roderick used Ronald Reagan's presidency to explain Jean Baudrillard's notion of the Hyperreal. The Hyperreal, as theorized by Baudrillard, is any image of reality that can replace reality. The perception of Reagan was so great that it morphed into a creation of its own. In reality President Reagan was dealing with early stages of Alzheimer's disease, but the perception was that he single-handedly ended the Cold War, saved capitalism, and restored America's status as the global hegemon. Claims that on the surface hold just enough truth and have been repeated so often that they are socially accepted statements of fact. There were several significant factors that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union, but to understand those factors one would have to engage in a lot of reading and thinking- two pastimes that seem to be falling by the wayside. Critically thinking about tough issues is a time consuming process. It's easier to watch a half-hour news cast than read three or four different accounts about a single issue.  

Our country's fascination with celebrity combined with the media's TMZ style guerrilla coverage of everything Donald Trump has replaced the reality of the Trump candidacy: many of his policies are unpopular, unconstitutional or impossible to implement. The myth of Donald Trump, for many, has killed the reality of Donald Trump. Even when he goes full Trump and makes ignorant and thoughtless statements it doesn't faze his supporters; for them, Donald Trump manifests an Uber machismo version of the American Dream: It's Rich, It's Powerful, It doesn't answer to anyone, and it's relentless. Conservatives love celebrities who identify with their beliefs. Forget all of their anti-Hollywood rhetoric over the years. The right loves celebrity; Clint Eastwood, Dennis Miller, and a slew of country music artists have filled that void for them, but Trump is a super celebrity candidate who feeds on attention and uses it to normalize anger and resentment. 

I've read dozens of articles written by men and women much more credentialed than I am. Many of those early articles predicted Donald Trump would fade out and be an after thought. In the last few weeks many of those same writers have accepted the reality that Trump will be part of the process for the foreseeable future, and some have come to grips with the reality that Donald Trump could win the Republican nomination. The last three election cycles have been very different from previous election cycles. Every conventional wisdom from the past has been more wrong than right when it comes to handicapping the nomination process. It's fair to say that a majority of the experts damage their credibility every time they appear on the Sunday shows pretending to know the electorate they cover. If you're looking at past trends as a guidepost for what's to come then you risk making the same mistake our pundit class is making: attempting to normalize a process that has broken away from normality. 

Donald Trump is to the far-right what President Obama was to the far-left: a personality who transcends the political process while simultaneously commanding the media's attention. The same conservatives who were upset about the media's treatment of President Obama in 2008 have gone quiet in the face of Donald Trump's media domination. The myth of a left-wing mainstream media was shattered long ago by Dr. Michael Parenti, but ABC news covering Donald Trump for 81 minutes compared to the less than 30 seconds of coverage for Bernie Sanders is a tacit admission that equally covering political campaigns falls behind ratings on the list of journalistic priorities. 

Too many people are waiting for Donald Trump to have his Howard Dean moment: it's not going to happen. Too many political strategist on the left and right are waiting for his lack of specificity to catch up with him: it won't. There's not a set of historically verifiable and empirically accurate facts that can make journalists find the courage to fact check him on the spot when he makes false statements, or force his supporters to believe them if they do. Donald Trump is seen as vile, racist, and misogynistic by some, but he's genuinely liked by his supporters- some of them exclusively- for his statements. It seems like a lifetime ago when "binders full of women" got Mitt Romney in trouble. The 2016 race is happening without the "experts". It's quite possible we could see, in real time, YouTube shows originating from the Trump campaign chronicling his march towards Super Tuesday and the GOP convention. If he wins one of he early contests the last six months will seem calm compared to what could happen next.  

Monday, December 28, 2015

Why Are Modern Populist Movements So Ineffective?

Using Zizek's model, a case can be made that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was more violent than the rioters who hijacked the peaceful demonstrations in Ferguson, Missouri. 2014 was a year that saw populist movements take their grievances to the streets (or the ranch in the case of  Cliven Bundy's supporters). What's become obvious to me over the last few years is that many of these left wing and right wing populist movements, dating back to Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party, aren't as far apart ideologically as they are thought to be. The sadder connection they share is that they have been ineffective in using the momentum and spotlight they've garnered to cause a fundamental shift in the status quo.

The right wing, Tea Party and Bundy supporters have ditched their anti-government rhetoric and replaced it with patriotic flag waving. They have adopted wholesale condemnation of those on the left who have taken to the streets protesting grand jury decisions in Ferguson, Missouri (over the killing of Mike Brown), and New York City (over stop-and-frisk and the killing of Eric Garner). The symbolic order of their protest was reversed. Their reflexive hatred of President Obama provided cover for their deeply treasonous behavior. As long as the face of government tyranny was the president their cause had life; The minute a police uniform was the symbol of state sponsored oppression their focus shifted.

These contradictions work at a deeper level. The populist right wing anger against the government uses President Obama as its symbol of tyranny. The symbolic use of the president as the embodied manifestation of the "other" is unifying to many who see their actions as patriotic. The fact that people still question his citizenship, religion, sexuality, and patriotism are symptomatic of his otherness. The positions many on the right took against the government weren't based on any macro level or systemic changes. The acronym Taxed Enough Already is a testament to the level of hypocrisy built into their movement. When the president signed his stimulus package into law he actually lowered taxes for the majority of Americans.

Using this logic, the armed men and women who migrated to Cliven Bundy's ranch weren't pointing guns at federal agents, but at a president they didn't like or respect. The fact that the Nevada incident didn't end in a Ruby Ridge or Waco style massacre was twofold: on one hand the professionalism and calm of the agents on the scene diffused a situation that escalated rapidly, but on a deeper and perhaps subconscious level the fact that the majority of the protesters were white bought them the kind of leeway armed minorities are rarely, if ever, afforded.

Before the killings of Mike Brown and Eric Garner several prominent religious leaders, public intellectuals and civil rights activists called for massive protests of the NYPD's use of stop-and frisk. October was a month that was set aside for protests, and though several of these events saw hundreds of people participate in them, they went largely ignored. It took a small group of looters to force the nation to engage in the dialogue that the protesters were trying to have. Even as I write this our efforts are failing. Every time there's a challenge to the legitimacy of the practices used to police minority communities, the official response from the state is to appoint someone to investigate the matter: as if we don't already know what happened. The senseless killings of NYPD officers Ramos and Liu further complicate matters. Those who seek to discredit and ignore the veracity of the claims made by protesters have used the actions of a mentally disturbed man and those looting to shift the focus of the conversation.

We will fail to get the changes we're seeking. Sooner than later the nation's attention will shift to something else and our apathetic nature will take over. The biggest reason for our failure will be our unwillingness to sacrifice. I support and endorse a systematic and long-term boycott. Too many inside of our movement aren't willing to exercise the leverage we have. It was a boycott of the bus system in 1956 that lead to the integration of public transportation in the south; a strategy South Africans used in Pretoria, in 1957. The blue print is out, but too few are willing to follow it. 

If I had my way our boycott would work as follows: for 60 days no one would purchase any fast food, a week after that no one would go to the movies, amusement parks, or professional sporting events for 60 days, the following week we would boycott Coca Cola, Frito Lay, and General mills for 60 days, then we would boycott all alcohol and tobacco products for 60 days. A month into our boycott we would have everyone's attention. There are several rungs to this ladder that culminate in a mass withdrawal of money from the banking system. This approach is radical and would hurt a lot people, but conventional means of negotiating aren't working. We lack the collective will to see any of this through, so we will be left with a system that does't respect or protect us. 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Crying Out To An Apathetic Nation

Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.

--Steven Weinberg

This kind of radical imagery is necessary if religious and secular people of good faith and intentions are ever going to shatter a cultural symbolic order that allows us to ignore the suffering of others. We ingest this symbolic order through daily conversations, it's disseminated through television and other forms of media. We are consciously and sometimes subconsciously conditioned to see classes of people as less than us. This dehumanizing is necessary for us to continue to ignore or (in some cases) justify the suffering endured by the individuals who comprise the groups we label as other. The most violent thing we can do to combat this kind of psychological warfare is make it impossible for those unaware of this conditioning to deny reality. It's not enough to tell people that children are being raped and killed; sometimes we have to show them their mangled bodies. We live in an era where information is easier to acquire than ever, yet objective truths are routinely trampled in favor of partisan political narratives.

The kid in this video made a poor decision: he chose to be born at the wrong time in Syrian history; had he used more foresight he would have chosen a more stable part of the world to be born into. America's response to the refugee crisis has been mostly indifferent, but after Paris and San Bernardino there's a very vocal call to cease all plans to bring Syrians to America. We claim to be a shining city on a hill, a Christian nation, and the best hope of the free world, yet too often we qualify these claims. Yes, we will help you, but first fill out this questionnaire. There's a moving target as to who we share our sympathies with. There's nothing like terrorism or the mass killing of people from the developing world to draw this distinction. It's an empirical fact that the American media focuses more on atrocities in Europe than similar attacks in other parts of the world, yet fear, death, and grief are universal. We have a continental and cultural hierarchy in place that controls who we feel sorry for and who we ignore. 

I haven't written anything that most of us don't know, yet we (as a nation) are stuck in the gap between America's stated ideology and the way fear causes us to ignore the principles that ground those beliefs. The true intractability of this situation doesn't exist between what we say and what we do, but in the ways we seek to justify our hypocrisy while maintaining the illusion of higher moral ground. I don't hold the view that America is the last best hope for the world. The philanthropic work done by Americans should be viewed separately from the actions of our government. I concede the fact that some citizens routinely go above and beyond what could be reasonably expected, but I don't confuse the generosity of our fellow citizens with policy decisions that adversely affect people who aren't in a position to help themselves. This is a negative cycle of fear. something happens, we get scared, we either give away more of our freedoms or close avenues to help for those deemed other, and then the pundit class seeks to legitimize the decision to compromise our principles.

I understand how fear and hatred function in the face of terror, but if we decide to let fear and uncertainty usurp our sense of duty we should agree to leave God and decency out of our rhetoric. Maybe we, progressives, are wrong for continually putting this system on blast. Maybe we should be trying to destroy the institutions we're trying to wake up. A media and government that can ignore or justify tragedies like the little boy in this video face needs to be deconstructed. We can debate ways to help kids like this, we can focus on the underlying cause(s) of their suffering as a way to shift any responsibility to some other nation, or we can affirm their humanity and conduct ourselves in a way that makes our actions align with our beliefs. I know this kid and his sisters won't be the last victims of the evil that's plaguing the world or the indifference that allows it to fester, but we can adjust our response to it. If this kid was from Paris we would work harder to insure his future, but he's not and we won't.

Steven Weinberg was a bit shortsighted in the quote I opened with. Fear and xenophobia can #Trump religion when it comes to making good people do evil things.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Immoral Morality, Hyper Hypocrisy, and America's Denial of Domestic Terrorism

Australian philosopher and Princeton professor Peter Singer developed a thought experiment in which he asked people if they would jump into a swimming pool to save a drowning child if it meant ruining a thousand dollar suit. Every person asked, without hesitation, answered yes they would jump in to save a drowning child. Then he asked the participants to send the thousand dollars they saved by not jumping in a pool to a charity that helps children dying overseas. This was a much tougher proposition. It’s hard to make sacrifices for people half a world away, harder when they pray to a “different God”, and even harder when they don’t look like you.
When I watch television, read the comments section on websites, or read letters published in newspapers there’s one reason consistently given for not helping Syrian refugees: fear. I don’t care how articulate or inarticulate the arguments are presented; fear is almost always the central thesis. Fear is a reasonable response to trauma. We live in a dangerous world, but are we to driven by fear? Is it immoral to deny help to someone because of fear? Is it reasonable to be more afraid of terror half a world away than the terror in our backyard?
I want to, in my own fallible way, demonstrate how we (Americans) focus more on terror threats abroad than the attacks we face at home. Paris made the world pay attention, yet with our eyes focused on the middle east and Europe we missed several terrorist provocations and attacks in our own country. The viciousness of the Planned Parenthood attack made us address a painful truth many in our country reflexively avoid: domestic terrorists are more likely to hurt or kill us than Isis.
Since 911 cowardly American terrorists have murdered and shot almost twice as many innocent Americans than their middle eastern counterparts, yet we don’t obsess over this. We’ve become very skilled at explaining away the actions of our fellow citizens. We dismiss their cunning as mental illness, we say they’re loners- even when they act in unison, we systematically disconnect the string of politically and racially motivated shootings and murders over the last few years because not doing so would force us to admit we’re under siege by someone other than dangerous people from Mexico, Chicago, or the middle east.
When Muslim Americans in Irving, Texas were greeted in front of their Mosque by a dozen well armed “Patriots” the terror they felt wasn’t plastered all over television. The young man in Fairfax, Virginia who planted fake bombs at a Mosque in Falls Church isn’t a household name. When five Black Lives Matter members were shot in Minneapolis last Monday night I had to look for information about the investigation because it wasn’t deemed worthy of media coverage. I’m convinced that a nationwide 90 day black out from politically driven, racially divisive cable news outlets and Yellow journalism websites would actually make some of our fellow citizens more informed than they are now.
I understand how rational people feel compelled to intervene in traumatic situations facing them, but I can’t understand how the same people can use the same side of their brain to deny the carnage around them. The nine Christians murdered in a terrorist attack in South Carolina weren’t murdered by Muslims, The almost monthly ritual of school shootings aren’t being committed by illegal aliens, and it wasn’t thugs from Chicago pointing guns at federal law enforcement officers at the Bundy compound last year.
Our cowardice and inability to talk, in an open and honest way, about these issues is telling. One undeniable proof of privilege is being able to avoid conversations that are uncomfortable or call into question your worldview. Every few weeks we see a breaking news story about children getting shot down like dogs in their classrooms, and all we get from our political class is an admission of impotence. They tell us there’s nothing we can do to stop gun violence in a free society, yet we’ve seen fast moving bipartisan legislation to slow down the refugee process for our Syrian brothers and sisters- who, by the way, are created in the image of our God. This kind of moral inconsistency doesn’t go unnoticed. As a nation I wish we were more John Brown than Jefferson Davis when it comes to affirming the humanity of a person, but I’m old enough for my wishes not to hurt me.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Ferguson, The University of Missouri, and Dr. King

The government uses counterintelligence agents to disrupt peaceful protesters while the media uses Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to dissuade future uprisings.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Hate Radio As A 2nd Language: What Conservatives Said About The Univ. of Missouri

Growing up in a small southern town has blessed me with the gift of translating Conservative hate radio. I live in a town where a lot of people never learned that it's not acceptable to call a black man boy, and the Confederate flag is not a racist relic. For decades, people of color comprised less than 10% of the total population in my town; very few of them, no matter how educated or qualified, worked (or work) in any field other than hospitality or service. When combined, these factors create the perfect atmosphere for people to talk unfiltered. I speak English, I've taken Spanish in school, but my true second language is dog whistle. When people don't see you as an equal you get distorted communication: they say what they want, and expect you to say what they want to hear. I've studied the listeners of hate radio in their natural habitat. I'll use this skill to decipher some of the comments made about the student protesters and football players at the University of Missouri.

Rush Limbaugh: You find the major problem is that there are too many white people at this place. And they apparently are not nice enough or considerate enough to the 10 percent of the people there who are black. And so there has to be some changes.

Translation: You people don't know how lucky you are to be here. You guys are the lucky ones. We give you track suits, tennis shoes, and there's basketball courts everywhere. What else do you want?

Jazz Shaw: The Inmates Are Running The Asylum At Mizzou. Parents sending tuition money there deserve what they get.

Translation: I don't care how high your S.A.T. scores are you're still thugs and hoodrats.

MICHAEL BERRY: So now the president of the university has resigned. Now, think of the message this sends. Talk about the tail wagging the dog. The football players at the University of Missouri. The football players decide who the president will be? An institution of higher learning. You're doing research on molecular biology that may lead to a cure for cancer. You're doing aeronautical research, you're doing chemical research, molecular biology research. You're educating how many thousand people? And you're letting a few thugs decide who you're president will be?

Translation: This happend because you can't control your boys. You need to run a tighter ship. This is what happens when they start feeling themselves.

MICHAEL BERRY: Good, you do have a problem. But it's far bigger than the creative shaping of poop by somebody on your campus. You got a major problem with your priorities. If you can't reign in a few football players to shut their mouth and play football, else they lose their scholarship? You've got a real problem on your hands. You've got a problem of culture. You've got a problem of priorities, and you've got a problem of pandering.

Translation: No matter how much education you have, no matter how legitimate your claims are: you need to get over it and accept the way things are.

When Blacks riot we're told to follow the model of peaceful assembly. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is used as a cudgel to thwart young radicals. When educated young men and women use their Constitutional right to peaceably assemble and boycott they're still called thugs. This is a good thing: we need bigots to say out loud what their true feelings are. I love that the language has become so coded. The reason so many on the right hate politically correct language is because it's forced them to find new ways to say the same tired things. This is radical and I love it. Advantage allows one to avoid a lot of uncomfortable moments and conversations. Viral examples of blatant racism has forced some of our fellow citizens to pull their head out of the sand. All of this talk about racial animosity destroys the myth of a post-racial America. Confronting these problems in an honest way is part of the cure for them. We need to create an atmosphere where bigotry, no matter how subtle, is publicly called out and shamed.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Omission: Officer Gliniewicz And Conservative Media

Omission is one of the most powerful tools the media has at its disposal. The media can’t control what we think, but they can control what some of us think about. The deafening silence in light of the facts about corrupt Officer Gliniewicz on conservative talk radio and Fox news is telling. I’ve spent more hours than I care to admit watching Fox and listening to talk radio. I forced myself to watch The Five, Bill O’Reilly, and Sean Hannity. Sheppard Smith was the only person who addressed the way the networks on air personalities tacitly linked the “murder” of Officer Gliniewicz to the Black Lives Matter Movement. It doesn’t make me want to nominate him for a Nobel Peace Prize, but after watching several hours of their programing over a two day period: I felt somewhat vindicated that a day after the story broke someone made my time worthwhile.
I have to admit I was impressed by the systematic the way they negated this story; the Fox “news” team covered the Russian plane story wall to wall, while the opinion team absolutely hammered Quentin Tarantino. CNN wasn’t any better they covered the Russian plane story with the same vigor that they covered the Malaysian flight from last year with. Chris Hayes gets an A+ for covering the story on Wednesday. This concerted omission is an important lesson for anyone new to media propaganda. The lack of media coverage for the 10\10\15 Justice or Else march combined with the cowardly and dishonest way this story has been covered is something those of us who identify with and support Black Lives Matter have always known and dealt with. I vividly remember the media coverage of the Ferguson and Baltimore riots, and the Fox Lake manhunt. The airwaves were filled with images of destruction and conservative experts chronicling the problems of the black community, yet when nearly a million people of color peacefully assemble in our nation’s capital or a hero cop is proven to be a “thug” we get crickets.
I’m not so naive that I believe news organizations don’t have bottom lines and profit motives to consider, nor do I equate or hold conservative pundits to the same standard I hold hard journalists to, but the lines between the two have been blurry for quite a while. The moment news outlets are more concerned with crafting narratives than uncovering truths they cease to be useful. There’s nothing wrong with infotainment, but too many in our society confuse it with journalism. If a task force had uncovered a link that implicated high ranking leaders at ‪#‎BlackLivesMatter‬ of Officer‪ #‎Gliniewicz‬’s killing trust me: there wouldn’t be a concerted effort to avoid covering this story. In fact I would be watching the news now in an effort to hear the newest round of Ad Hominem attacks against those of us concerned with social injustices.
I’ll accept any criticism that comes from this post, but I won’t apologize for pointing out what’s right in front of me.
If it don’t apply let it fly!

The Suicide of Officer Gliniewicz and #BLM

This was uploaded from a Periscope session.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Five Paragraphs That Won't Solve Anything

Every movement for social justice, as a rule, should frequently and emphatically layout their program to amend the existing social order. The most dangerous time for many organic movements is at the beginning. Movements that lack a hierarchical structure often suffer from knowing where they want to go, but not being able to come to a consensus on how to get there. Imagine activists at a train station with four independent engines and four sets of tracks to choose from; if every conductor wants to get to the same place, but their trains are taking off in different directions what happens to their movement? A once strong unified front ends up splintered with factions that have diminished voices and reduced power. I'm not sure how to rectify this problem, but several movements have suffered this fate. Restructuring any society's thought process is hard work.   

We need more cure and less diagnosis. People who share similar struggles don't need to be constantly reminded about their plight. Wanting justice and writing about justice isn't enough to produce justice. If my generation (self included) dedicated as much time actively pursuing justice as we do writing about it we might get somewhere. It's hard to cause mild shifts in a society: once an idea becomes entrenched in the psyche of a nation it can take decades, or even centuries for it to be repudiated. As a rule radical shifts in any society are almost impossible achieve over a short period of time. Most people look at the 1960's as the pivotal moment where agency and social conscious collided to force change in America. That's somewhat accurate, but it's a reductionist view that negates the generations of men and women tied to the fight for equality. In truth, the 1960's started in the early 1830's. What happened for Blacks, women, and people with mental and physical disabilities was facilitated by the failures and successes of those who created the space for new normal.

The end of the 20th century and the first part of the 21st century have spoiled us with a gift called instant gratification. The technology that makes it easier to connect with each other has led some to believe that everything in life should happen in an expedited way. We have kids in their early 20's who've never waited on the mailman to bring them a letter. I worry about this next generation of activists. I worry that some may lack the necessary perseverance to see large scale projects through. Change is hard. Often the tangible signs of progress don't materialize as quickly as we would like. It's easy to get support for an issue that penetrates social media. Once something goes viral or trends public support jumps on the bandwagon. People will change their avatars, or shade their profile pictures to support the current cause, but too few make the next step of engaging in the civic and political process. 

Everyone who identifies with and supports a particular front in the battle for social justice and equality has a moral obligation to find your place in the arena. For some it might be a small town helping to organize like minded people. Everyone can't be center stage, but that doesn't absolve us from our responsibilities to our movements. If you find yourself in a position to engage the public face(s) of your movement hold them accountable if and when they get off message. Leadership isn't a quality that someone can take from you. We need to avoid the trap of associating status and positioning with leadership. If we're serious about social justice we need to have the most informed, most politically savvy, and the most determined people part of our organization at the planning level. Theory is important because the only way to get to a conception of the future is by understanding as much about the past and present as possible. When the cameras are aimed at us we need to have a set of demands, and a practical way to insure that every level of government can start the process of implementing our policies.  

The rhetoric we use is vital. This goes back to the point of clearly defining ourselves and our intentions. Language is important. We have to control our image. Black Lives Matter learned this the hard way when a group in Minnesota was recorded reciting anti-police chants. Their lack of judgment opened the door to a media cycle full of coverage that attempted to delegitimize calls to hold cities and police departments accountable for the actions of their officers. This is why competent leadership at all levels is vital. We need to speak in a strong affirming manner that leaves no doubt about our goals. However, we should avoid ultimatums that can cause us to suspend commonsense in order to honor them. This may seem simple to someone reading this, but the reality is: too many social and political movements have adopted hard line positions that often make negotiating more difficult. Fiery rhetoric can move crowds, but it can also hinder progress. The majority of the people who read this probably have a better understanding of what it means to be an activist than I do, but can we guarantee that everyone marching or protesting with us can say the same?

Monday, October 5, 2015

Welcome to #Amurdica

When it comes mass shootings, the gun is the tool of the coward. Their individual weaknesses are over compensated for by hatred and semiautomatic weapons. A profound lack of courage is at the center of these attacks. For some, it's easier to shoot innocent people than it is to address the unfulfilled areas of their lives. They often leave manifestos behind detailing their desire for cultural relevance. These perpetrators are products of a culture obsessed with fame and instant gratification. The socioeconomic factors facing our youth must be addressed, but we have to accept the fact that some people don't value life. There's not an economic metric that can make life more valuable to someone who has decided their life is worthless. Once we accept this fact we have to (collectively) keep an eye on the loners around us. 

For years I incorrectly thought the greatest danger associated with hate TV and radio was the habitual misinformation that has made political dialogue almost impossible. I've been forced to admit my mistake. The greatest danger this medium has given us is hatred as a socially acceptable virtue. The vitriol found in comments sections of political websites and blogs are a reflection of what passes for cogent arguments in this world. This cycle keeps repeating itself. In order to get ratings: the pundit class makes hyperbolic claims that play to the fears of their listeners. In order to gain, or maintain a national platform: elected officials, and candidates frequent these shows- thus adding legitimacy to their claims. This cycle has spiraled out of control. The need to be more outrageous and outlandish than the competition never ends. 

I'm not blaming every mass shooting on radio and television, but we shouldn't deny the atmosphere created by the purveyors of this genre. We have a generation of young men who grew up playing video games where the simulated images of death are just as real as any dash cam footage. These same men have been bombarded with movies and music that glorify killing. Now, combine all of these underlying factors with easy access to guns, and a hatred for "others" that's validated by their source of news. It's a wonder we don't have more mass shootings. The genius of right-wing media is how they have walled off a segment of our country from any information that challenges their agenda. When almost 50% of the country trust the guy who hooked up their router more than the scientists and engineers who developed the technology there's a problem.

(5×3=15) isn't controversial because arguing its validity makes you look like an idiot. Yet, Conservative media consistently refute factually accurate claims. Ignorance has two deadly forms: unknown and unchecked. As a culture, our collective ignorance often goes unchecked. When cable television pundits are more trusted than academia and journalist ignorance flourishes. The right-wing's denial of scientific evidence supporting man-made global warming, and the hysteria during the 2014 Ebola scare are the fruits of this perverted tree. We had citizens who trusted Fox news more than the CDC and the doctors treating Ebola. When a lawyer argues a case they don't present facts that counter their arguments. This is the foundation of politically slanted news. So, when we point out statistics about gun violence we fall into the trap of thinking facts are enough. Every argument we make has to pierce a thick layer of defense that's designed to dismiss any information that comes from untrustworthy sources. We are actually powerless to those entrenched in their ideology. There's not a set of facts in the world that can't be refuted or reduced to liberal bias.

I believe we can reduce some of these tragedies through community mental health services and common sense legislation, but we also need to force people to admit that Ahmed, Manuel, and Jamal aren't the only threats our country face. Little Billy and Timmy are quiet until they make noise. We shouldn't shame people for their personal fears, but we should be brutal in our criticisms of individuals and institutions who perpetuate those feelings and encourage people to act on them. Passing any meaningful legislation on semiautomatic weapons and magazine sizes seems impossible, but we have to create an atmosphere where opposing such legislation is an embarrassment. No reasonable person believes we can stop every mass shooting, but we should try to make it as hard as possible. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Me, Myself, and I: Thoughts About Socially Constructed Identities

Me: (object) The canvas where society projects it's understanding of language and culture. 

Myself: (subject) The reflexive battleground where preconceived notions will be accepted as truths or faced and defeated.  

I: (agency) A higher or lower synthesis that determines if society was right in the original classification process. 

All of us are born into cultures that have their own system for placing people in categories that govern social interactions. Any and every discernible difference can be used as the basis for these classifications. At an elementary level, we're all aware of these distinctions; however, too few of us are willing to admit that these categories- no matter how good or bad- are a constitutive part of language. Dialogue would be impossible without enough mutually shared concepts, symbols, and gestures. When someone says she's attractive, I have know what that means based on my conception and understanding of beauty. Likewise, the first judgments we receive are a reflection of the category the person doing the interpreting places us in. We're powerless to affect the initial judgments cast upon us: what the culture says about us may be in conflict with who we are, but this antinomy is part of the "me" problem.  

The curse of self-fulfilling prophecy is an invisible struggle for those on the bottom of the socioeconomic and racial ladder. Too many kids are living a life based on the lowered expectations of others. When society says you're (x), but your true identity is closer to (y) self-doubt can make bad decisions look reasonable. (Myself) is the interpersonal battleground where the fight against negative imagery takes place. Without positive reinforcement during the developmental years this task can be virtually impossible for kids dealing with negative self imagery. As adults we have to be cognizant of the role we play in helping a child cultivate a self. Every ounce of self-esteem we have has roots in love that we weren't responsible for receiving. As a nation we've bought into the lie that we, as individuals, are solely responsible for our successes and failures. When there's a breakdown in the positive feedback loop it can amplify self-doubt in the mind of highly impressionable kids: Am I a good person, or is grandma just being nice? If my community sees me as a decent person, why can't greater society see me the same way? These types of questions are important. 

In a perfect world we would be judged by our consistent efforts and actions. (I am) is a powerful declaration. If (I am) isn't reflected in (I do) then a closer look at the process is necessary. We can have a number of identities projected onto us, but it's our responsibility to make sure the negative ones aren't true. We can't force people to respect us. The initial judgments we face are part of life: they will always be there, but we don't have to be a prisoner to them. If we allow perceptions to define us they can stifle our growth and limit our agency. Don't try to restructure the history of social interactions: you'll fail. We need to learn as much about the past as possible in order to get a better understanding of how to shape the future. Ultimately, the most important judgement we face will be reflected back at us in a mirror. (I) is where the good stuff happens. (I) allows us to determine our outcomes. (I) doesn't have to worry about the way society views us because (I) knows they are wrong. Bondage doesn't need physical shackles to be effective, but once you overcome the power of society's judgement: you will never be the victim of anyone's opinion.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Do We Really Have That Many Choices?

Coke or Pepsi, Sprite or 7up on the surface they seem like real choices. Too often we're sold the same commodities in different packaging. These false choices extend to our politics. The costs associated with running a national or statewide election filters out a lot of independently minded folks. The choices we have may look vastly different, but what's beneath the surface? Yes, Dasani and Aquafina are owned by different companies, but they're both water. Tropicana and Ocean Spray both sell orange juice, but don't confuse Sprite for water. Don't let the illusion of a lot of choices trick you. Dig deeper and see if there's qualitative differences in front of you.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Questions About Torture

I'm against all forms of state sanctioned torture. If, however, you support torture, is there a line that shouldn't be crossed? If so, who decides?

Friday, September 11, 2015

Race Issues Part 2 Black on Black Crime: The bourgeois Edition

If you Google black on black crime you'll be bombarded by statistics detailing inner city violence, pictures of chalk outlines and countless stories about the lives that have been destroyed. What you won't find are many stories chronicling the way some inside the black bourgeois are attacking poorer and less educated blacks. This form of black on black crime is often overlooked by many, but exploited by those who seek to validate the criminalization of  blacks. The most tasteless form of these attacks are levelled by "elites" who seek to distance themselves from the negative imagery associated with black life. In Lacanian terms this is symbolic castration. They (the black bourgeois) seek to separate themselves from stereotypes associated with their black skin.   

Every ethnic group has distinctions that can be used to create artificial hierarchies. Historically, the black community has used skin pigmentation, hair texture, and even eye color as in-group out-group signifiers. In sociological terms this is called colorism. Many of these distinctions have roots in slavery where light skin and straight hair were favored. The wealth and status gains made by blacks in the last half of the 20th century have provided another layer of distinction for those looking to embrace a false sense of superiority. 

As a teenager Spike Lee's movie School Daze opened my eyes to the various rifts that exist in the black community. There were two dominant forms of black on black crime  in School Daze. The first type was class based between the locals (who were often depicted as envious and jealous) and the students (who were mostly depicted as entitled and pretentious). The second type was race based between the dark skinned Pan-African students (depicted as militant and angry) and the light skinned fraternity brothers (depicted as fake and sellouts). 

In the 25 plus years since School Daze was released the psychological warfare between segmented groups inside the black community has grown more vicious. Social media has given a larger platform to blacks willing to spread the seeds of fear, distrust and hatred. As evidence for this claim I offer the likes of Reverend Jesse Lee Peterson, Tommy Sotomayor and Pastor James David Manning. These men are my trinity of black hatred. You can find clips of each of them making the most derogatory statements about black people. Their critiques (mostly inarticulate and overly simplistic) are disguised as tough love, yet they rarely offer any serious solutions to the systemic or cultural problems facing the black America. They share a common ideology that blames black victims of racial injustice as the culprits of their predicament. These men have in their own way justified slavery, Jim Crow, inadequate schools, stop-and-frisk, mass incarceration and police brutality.

The ironic and fatal flaw in their worldview is that no level of self aggrandizement can separate them from their black skin. These self righteous blacks are susceptible to the same racial profiling and discrimination they dismiss or outright deny. From a phenomenological standpoint all of us are powerless in mitigating the way others tattoo us with their perceptions of the world. There isn't enough black on black crime to insulate the black bourgeois from non blacks who hold similar views about black men and women. My goal isn't to deflect or silence their criticism, but to call into question those voices who have nothing but contempt for black people. 


Race Issues Part 1: The Whitewashing of American History

A friend sent me a link to an article written by Dennis Prager titled "From The Great-Man Theory to Dead White-Male-Criticism Theory".  As I was reading this article I was convinced that most people fall into one of four categories when it comes to race and racism in America. While this isn't a rigid theory, I think it will start a conversation.
As I was reading this article it convinced me that most people fall into one of four schools of thought when it comes to race and racism in America. While this isn't a rigid theory, I think it will start a conversation.
The first group of people belong to the school of "racial-realist": they acknowledge the progress made in areas concerning racial equality, but realize discrimination is still a part of life for some. They tend to support solutions to racial issues through the use of political and social power. Often they have a sensitivity to victims of discrimination and are more likely to be activists. 
The second school is inhabited by those I call "hyper-racialist". Members of this group have the ability to find racism in every aspect of life: any situation can be viewed through a hyper-racial lens. Tragically, the underlying causes of many problems are overlooked in lieu of the easier knee jerk charge of racism. Hyper-racialist are the hypochondriacs weakening the claims of discrimination by those with legitimate grievances.
The third school is comprised of people who are "racially-indifferent". They work and live in enclaves where the majority of their interactions are with people of similar racial and socioeconomic backgrounds. Their indifference isn't built on apathy, but comes from being disconnected from the realities of minority groups. Quiet forms of racism go unnoticed by many in this group because they don't hear the whispers. 
The last group are "race-negators". They are invested in the wholesale idea that we live in a post-racial America. They acknowledge the racism in our country's past, but completely negate racism as a serious issues in our lifetime. 21st century suffering in minority communities is often blamed on a lack of Protestant morality and work ethic. This ideology is necessary to maintain the illusion of an egalitarian society in which merit outranks privilege. Mr. Prager's analysis leads me to believe he falls into this category. 
His article starts out contrasting the nostalgic way older Americans look at paintings of the founding fathers versus the way (he feels) academia and younger Americans look at them. This is Dennis Prager in his own words:

When Americans over the age of, let us say, 45 look at any of the iconic paintings of America’s Founders — the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the signing of the Constitution, George Washington crossing the Delaware, any of the individual portraits of the Founders — what do they see?
They see great men founding a great country.
If you ask many recent college graduates what they see when they look at these paintings, the chances are that it is something entirely different.
They are apt to see rich, white males who are not great and who did not found a great country. And for many, it is worse than that. These men are not only not great; they are morally quite flawed in that they were slaveholders, or at least founded a country based on slavery. Moreover, they were not only all racists — they were all sexists, who restricted the vote to males. And they were rich men who were primarily concerned with protecting their wealth, which is why they restricted the vote to landowners.
Mr. Prager is trapped inside an ideological black hole that doesn't allow him to question or dismiss the rigidity of his own beliefs, nor does it allow any information contrary to his beliefs filter in and challenge him. He isn't alone. many "race-negators" have an overly simplistic worldview. The fact that the very claims he's ridiculing academia for discussing are true (for many of the founding fathers) is of no consequence to him. Instead of working through the duality in life to find a synthesis, he pretends it doesn't exist.
Sadly, this is what passes for cultural analysis. He (and many like him) offers some of the least sophisticated and intellectually dishonest arguments about culture and race. It's possible to look at the founding fathers and appreciate their courage and brilliance, while simultaneously acknowledging the cowardly and immoral way they subjugated women and blacks. Both things are true and worthy of discussion.  
I liken this whitewashing of history to a husband who has been a good father and provider, but abusive to his wife. His friends are constantly reminding the wife how much the kids love him while trying to convince her she's overreacting. The idea that historical figures should be remembered solely for the good they've accomplished is symptomatic of an ideology built on a fairy tale. The founding fathers get a pass that others don't. How many people remember O.J. Simpson as simply being hall of fame football player and pitchman? 
Mr. Prager finishes his piece with a diatribe centered on values. He makes the claim that the left and academia never extol the values that made the founding fathers great. This is an example of the whitewashing of history. Any mention of our brutal past and the role that past continues to play in the present is seen as an attack on greatness. There are political groups and think tanks that exist for the sole purpose of distorting history. Some very smart and educated people have allowed money and political ideology to delegitimize the universities that opened doors for them. 

Why America Needs Strong Black Conservatives

I've argued many times that the two party system, as it currently exists, lacks the ability and will to structurally change the lives of everyday people. Much of my critique revolves around the grotesque amount of money in politics, and the corporate media's failure to accurately report on economic, political, and social events. The democratic component of our republic has been circumvented, and we (as a nation) need an intellectual awakening (or reawakening) to recover it.

Since it would be virtually impossible to remove money from politics or make the corporate media do it's job; I'm led to believe a few moderate changes could lead us down the road to higher political discourse. One of these ideas is to promote "authentic" black conservatives. The "authentic" is an appropriation of a thesis offered by Chidike Okeem (a writer and conservative commentator). Chidike calls for authentic black conservatives to push back against the "artificial" black conservatives who parrot the talking points of the conservative media noise machine.

As simple as it may seem, promoting strong black conservatives could have the dual effect of breaking the 50 year monopoly the Democratic party has on the black vote, while somewhat negating the media's role in interpreting and disseminating political arguments to the black community. Although blacks only make up 13% of the country we vote 90% of the time with Democratic candidates. Here's a quote from Chidike:

  It is an analytical mistake to confuse blacks’ rejection of mainstream conservatism as a wholesale rejection of conservative thought. Rather, it is simply a rejection of artificial black conservatism. Manifestly, the most visible form of black conservatism in American society is the artificial strain. That is to say, many prominent black conservatives use their blackness as a convenient cosmetic feature, but blackness is truly foreign to their ideology. They use the problems in the black community as an opportunity to deride black people—as opposed to persuading blacks about the superiority of conservative solutions.

While I don't agree with his contention that conservative solutions are superior, I do think they are vital for pushing forth politically realistic solutions to our economic and societal woes. Having black conservatives, who aren't beholden to any political or economic power structure, in a more prominent role could cause African Americans to give the Republican party a second look.

The negativity many blacks feel towards the Republican party can be traced to the use of  "artificial" black conservatives to validate some of the worst stereotypes about black life in America. Whether it's O.J. Simpson, Trayvon Martin, or Ferguson, Missouri "artificial" black conservatives are trotted out in mass to diagnose the problem[s] with black people instead of the underlying failures of society that produce the problems of black people. 

Sadly, it's the black conservatives who show a proficiency in sociology, economic theory, and political know how who are relegated to the backbench, while the useful idiots are front and center. The Reverends Daniel Manning and Jesse Lee Peterson are much more useful to the conservative media complex because their brand of vitriol create ratings. The genius of the conservative media is that they aren't tasked with winning elections. They only have to win ratings. The failure is that this strategy isolates many blacks who may have conservative leanings .

I'm not a conservative or a liberal, but I recognize the need to dialectically work through 21st century problems. America needs strong political parties. For many libertarians and conservatives the idea of economic solutions coming from Washington or out of a state house is anathema. I warn the anti government crowd: living out an ideological fantasy based on what government "should" be doesn't deal with what government is. We're never going to shrink government down small enough to drown it in a bathtub, but we can make it work better. By focusing on subtle fixes we may surprise ourselves and solve the big issues. Black conservatives could provide the pendulum swing needed to break the partisan deadlock. 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

America's Longest Conversation

“To educate the masses politically does not mean, cannot mean, making a political speech. What it means is to try, relentlessly and passionately, to teach the masses that everything depends on them; that if we stagnate it is their responsibility, and that if we go forward it is due to them too, that there is no such thing as a demiurge, that there is no famous man who will take the responsibility for everything, but that the demiurge is the people themselves and the magic hands are finally only the hands of the people.” 
― Frantz Fanon

Anyone who has spent time on crutches knows how good it feels to walk unaided. If, however, you were bedridden or in a wheel chair those crutches would be a major achievement. That's how civil rights function in America. The life of racial and ethnic minorities is leaps and bounds better than their ancestor's, but that can't be the only metric we use to judge progress. It's easy for someone in 2015 to question the motives of those who highlight racial disparities in our economic, educational, and legal systems, but how many of those critical of the shared struggle for equality can honestly say race and ethnicity don't factor into the lives of minorities? 

I've written more about race in the last two years than I have at any point in my life. I've started a few dozen articles on religion, philosophy, politics, and economics only to have my writing taken hostage by the intractability of being a black man in the age of yellow journalism: conservative talk radio and Fox news. I'm tired of being a prisoner in this fight, yet if I don't attempt to refute the images of black life being sold to those who ingest the fear and hatred spread over our public airways I can't sleep. I spend hours writing blog posts and opinion pieces that hardly get read in order to keep myself from drowning a sea of anger and impotence. Fifty years ago Dick Gregory said the Negro has never been able to control his image; fifty years later his aphorism still rings true. I don't care what someone thinks of me, but I do care that there are people who actively project their worst fears onto my nieces and nephews. 

It's almost impossible to advocate for equality and not make enemies. Race is touchy: so touchy that some of my closest relationships have become strained. If, people who've known me for thirty years are uncomfortable hearing about racial inequalities, is it worth it to engage segments of our society who have become racially exhausted or downright jingoistic as a response to the resurrection of black activism? For too many of the best and brightest in the black community the answer to that question is no. Everyone is entitled to live their lives the best way they see fit, so I won't indict those who choose to stand on the sidelines, but I hope their silence eats at them a little each day. Denying racism allows racism to persist.

The inadequacies at the center of today's movements aren't a result of a collective delusion. Chronicling discrepancies has nothing to do with trying to make white people feel guilty. I don't know, specifically, what others want, but my motivation is to make it easier for someone to acknowledge racism, and ultimately find the courage to use their agency to help tear it down. Our focus should be on creating an atmosphere where even subtle racist, sexist, and homophobic attitudes and policies are so toxic and stigmatized that no one wants to be associated with them. We have the power to put pressure on the individuals who constitute the institutions that allow the inadequacies to continue. 

This is America's longest conversation, because it requires all of us to admit painful truths. We have three or four national conversations about race a year. The tragedy is that most of the rational voices are stifled or shut out of the conversation. Instead of productive dialogue we get cable television scream fests full of ad hominem attacks. We're stuck in a perpetual cycle in which racial incidents lead to racial outrage- which leads to public demonstration and condemnation- followed by further segmentation.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Non Biblical Origins of a Christian Nation

Nation- A people who share the same lies about their past, hatred of their present neighbor, and illusions about the future.

Ernest Renan

The myth that America was founded on Christian principles is so embedded in the psyche of our nation that questioning it's veracity is considered blasphemy. Many patriotic Christians point to biographies, autobiographies, and the Constitution instead of the Bible to validate this claim; what they disconnect is the fact that most Revolutionary history was written from the perspective of politicians and generals. It doesn't take a very smart person to understand that history told from the top down doesn't reflect the views of the average person. The native, the slave, the housewife, or the poor would have a different view of the same events based on their social positioning. This isn't a relativist argument. If we can't look at the past objectively, how can we look at our present condition with all of the emotions associated with our individual beliefs, critically?

One book you rarely hear a sermon preached out of is the book of Habakkuk. Fire and brimstone pastors can find parallels between our times and a litany of Old and New Testament prophecies and genealogies, but you never hear Habakkuk 2:12-13 which reads as follows:

12 Woe to him that buildeth a town with blood, and stablisheth a city by iniquity! 13 Behold, is it not of the Lord of hosts that the people shall labour in the very fire, and the people shall weary themselves for very vanity? (KJV)

Hermeneutics aside, scriptures that call into question the moral (or immoral) origins of our nation are, as a rule, excluded from Christian discourse by many pastors. The fact that so many churches avoid the evils visited upon those on the underside of American history is telling. If my reading of the gospels is correct, no nation could be righteous if they don't care for the people Jesus taught his followers to care for. America was founded on Christian principles if you negate the way we acquired the land, and gloss over the way we treated our neighbors. What if some of our current social ills are a product of our origin story? In heaven the son doesn't suffer for the sins of his father, but we're on earth and the scars and wounds our forefathers left us have real world consequences.

The last few weeks have been a Rorschach test for America. Person A sees the Confederate flag and it represents x while their neighbor looks at the same flag and sees y. Depending on where you live Black Lives Matter means hatred of whites, and white silence to the atrocity in South Carolina is perceived as indifference. All week long I've read articles and commentaries about scheduled flag burning events; some of these comments meet the legal threshold for premeditation. The anger in those comments is real. Sadly, the same people making these threats over the flag can't muster the same anger for the black churches that have burnt down. While some will spending their Fourth of July worrying about flag burning, I have friends (pastors and deacons) who will spend the next few nights sleeping in the sanctuaries of their churches. 

Renan was more right than wrong in his definition of a nation. How can we understand a past we have limited access to if we are to fragmented to understand our current situation?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

A Message To Black Lives Matter

Civil Rights Activism is tricky it takes courage to challenge the status quo and change social parameters. Far too many of your contemporaries see your efforts as crass, and your motivation as self serving. It will probably be 10 years before the critics understand your movement, and 20 years before the establishment tries to rebuild the images of you they're currently tearing down.  I support the measures you've used to keep your message from being ignored by the corporate media. #blackbrunch, die-ins, blocking traffic, and even hijacking political events have all been effective. My message to you is to continue practicing the kind of non threatening passive violence that has kept your movement relevant for over a year. Passive aggression takes longer, but what other options do you have? There are militant voices on the edges of your movement calling for an escalation that has the potential of starting an unwinnable war. Anyone who tries to convince you that armed insurrection should be part of any strategy to resolve the problems you're articulating is trying to co-opt your movement. 

When I talk to young brothers and sisters about Black Lives Matter they're full of excitement, but very few really know what to expect from the movement. Some are looking for inspiration and purpose: your movement gives them something positive to belong to. Some are looking for marching orders: they understand the social and economic realities they face, but they don't know what to do about it. While others in your movement just want some souvenirs and a story to tell. The reality is: many of you supporters will be disappointed. It's easier to assemble a group of like minded people in a city to hear a message than it is to turn that message into a sustained movement in our communities. Social movements are hard. Social media might be the best and worst things to happen to Civil Rights. Technology has made getting a message out easier, but too many members of this generation are keyboard activists. Once they share or retweet a message they feel like their job is done. BLM needs more sandwich board activists. 

The boycott is a perfect nonviolent violent weapon I would like to see phased into your overall strategy, but the reality is: I don't know what your strategy is. What's the overall goal? Are you seeking federal legislation to create a national register for law enforcement infractions? Are you committed to the decriminalization of soft drugs, Are you calling for a stimulus in the form of infrastructure spending? The underlying causes of inner-city crime and over policing need to be rectified, but we need to do the harder work of changing the perceptions of blackness. I agree: Black Lives Matter, but what's next? I'm 6'1 and 235 lbs I know all to well how to move docilely through society. The reality is: no piece of legislation is going to make me any less threatening to someone who has weaponized my black skin. I salute the progress you've made in a short time. You have our attention, but what's the next move?

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Memes: The End of Original Thought

For me, the saddest thing about Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of social media is the constant use of memes. Too many people have given up on thinking. I understand sharing a meme that's funny, clever, or has a sentimental feel, but to completely outsource your thinking to someone with a meme generating app is troubling to me. The majority of the social, political, and economic based memes I see are blatantly false and designed to be click bait. Information is easier to get now than ever, yet too few are willing to invest the time it takes to read peer reviewed journals, attend talks and lectures, or -at the very least- think for themselves.

The amount of scrutiny social, scientific, and economic theory faces before we (the general public) ever get a chance to engage it is enormous, yet all of that hard work can be negated by someone with an app and a high speed Internet connection. I scroll my news feeds and timelines and read some of the most factually inaccurate psycho babble you can imagine. If video killed the radio star then Internet memes killed original thought.

The popularity of Internet memes is a sign that the war on intellect and critical thinking is working. The political and media organizations that invested in systematically misinforming our fellow citizens have won; scholarship, and intellectualism are the sacrificial lambs to the altars of dogmatism and ignorance.

Immanuel Kant wrote an essay titled, "What is Enlightenment". The most powerful quote reads as follows:

Laziness and cowardice are the reasons why such a large part of mankind gladly remain minors all their lives, long after nature has freed them from external guidance. They are the reasons why it is so easy for others to set themselves up as guardians. It is so comfortable to be a minor. If I have a book that thinks for me, a pastor who acts as my conscience, a physician who prescribes my diet, and so on--then I have no need to exert myself. I have no need to think, if only I can pay; others will take care of that disagreeable business for me.

Kant wouldn't be surprised by our present condition. The ability to mislead and distract has always been the most effective and efficient way for the ruling class to control the demos or proletariat.