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Monday, August 12, 2013

Stories bleeding cruelty block vision of justice, equality, liberty, democracy

Stories must move us to invest in individual and collective agency ─ Giroux
Excerpt, editing by Carolyn Bennett 

Henry Armand Giroux is an American cultural critic, a founding theorist of critical pedagogy in the United States best known for pioneering work in public pedagogy, cultural studies, youth studies, higher education, media studies, and critical theory. He has been described as one of the top fifty educational thinkers of the modern period. Currently living in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, Henry Giroux has held teaching positions on several North American university faculties including Boston University professor of education (1977-1983); Miami University (Oxford, Ohio, 1983) professor of education and renowned scholar in residence, Director at the Center for Education and Cultural Studies; Penn State University Waterbury Chair Professorship, Director of the Waterbury Forum in Education and Cultural Studies (1992-2004); and since May of 2004, McMaster University Global Television Network Chair in English and Cultural Studies.
Dr. Henry A. Giroux

Giroux appeared today on KPFA’s news and interviews program “Upfront.” Published today at Counterpunch and Rebellious Independent News and Film (RINF) are what I consider compellingly spot-on thoughts in his article “The Politics of Cruelty: America’s Descent into Madness.”

BEYOND the entrenched, regressive is

“The American public needs more than a show of outrage or endless demonstrations.

“It needs to develop a formative culture for producing a language of critique, possibility, and broad-based political change. Such a project is indispensable for developing an organized politics that speaks to a future that can provide sustainable jobs, decent health care, quality education, and communities of solidarity and support for young people.
“At stake here is a politics and vision that informs ongoing educational and political struggles to awaken the inhabitants of neoliberal societies to their current reality and what it means to be educated not only to think outside of a savage market-driven commonsense;

…but also to struggle for those values, hopes, modes of solidarity, power relations, and institutions that infuse democracy with a spirit of egalitarianism and economic and social justice.

“For this reason, any collective struggle that matters has to embrace education as the center of politics and the source of an embryonic vision of the good life outside of the imperatives of predatory capitalism.”

Warped stories ripe for change

“The stories we tell about ourselves as Americans no longer speak to the ideals of justice, equality, liberty, and democracy.

“There are no towering figures such as Martin Luther King, Jr. whose stories interweave moral outrage with courage and vision and inspired us to imagine a society that was never just enough. 
“Stories that once inflamed our imagination now degrade it, overwhelming a populace with nonstop advertisements that reduce our sense of agency to the imperatives of shopping. But these are not the only narratives that diminish our capacity to imagine a better world. 


e are also inundated with stories of cruelty and fear that undermine communal bonds and tarnish any viable visions of the future. Different stories, ones that provided a sense of history, social responsibility, and respect for the public good, were once circulated by our parents, churches, synagogues, schools, and community leaders.

“Today, the stories that define who we are as individuals and as a nation are told by right-wing and liberal media that broadcast the conquests of celebrities, billionaires, and ethically frozen politicians who preach the mutually related virtues of the free market and a permanent war economy.

“… The stories that dominate the American landscape embody what stands for commonsense among market and religious fundamentalists in both mainstream political parties: 

shock-and-awe austerity measures;

tax cuts that serve the rich and powerful and destroy government programs that help the poor, elderly, and sick;

attacks on women’s reproductive rights;

attempts to suppress voter ID laws and rig electoral college votes

full-fledged assaults on the environment;

the militarization of everyday life;

the destruction of public education, if not critical thought itself; 

an ongoing attack on unions, on social provisions, and on the expansion of Medicaid and meaningful health care reform.

“These stories are endless, repeated by the neoliberal and neoconservative walking dead who roam the planet sucking the blood and life out of everyone they touch—from the millions killed in foreign wars to the millions incarcerated in our nation’s prisons.”

Cruelty compounded
Yields brutality

“Every once in a while we catch a brutal glimpse of what America has become in the narratives spun by politicians whose arrogance and quests for authority exceed their interest [in concealing] the narrow-mindedness, power-hungry blunders, cruelty, and hardship embedded in the policies they advocate.  
“Echoes of a culture of cruelty can be heard in politicians such as Senator Tom Coburn, a Republican from Oklahoma, who believes that even assistance to those unemployed, homeless, and working poor suffering the most in his home state should be cut in the name of austerity measures. 

“In the words of Mike Reynolds, we hear another politician from Oklahoma who insists that government has no responsibility to provide students with access to a college education through a state program ‘that provides post-secondary education scholarship to qualified low-income students.’

“We find evidence of a culture of cruelty in numerous policies that make clear that those who occupy the bottom rungs of American society—whether low-income families, poor minorities of color and class, or young, unemployed, and failed consumers—are considered disposable, utterly excluded in terms of ethical considerations and the grammar of human suffering.”

New ethos
New/renewed stories 

“Before this dangerously authoritarian mindset has a chance to take hold of our collective imagination and animate our social institutions, it is crucial that all Americans think critically and ethically about the coercive forces shaping U.S. culture—and focus our energy on what can be done to change them.

“It will not be enough only to expose the falseness of the stories we are told. We also need to create alternative narratives about what the promise of democracy might be for our children and ourselves.

This demands
a break from established political parties, the creation of alternative public spheres in which to produce democratic narratives and visions, and a notion of politics that is educative,

…one that takes seriously how people interpret and mediate the world, how they see themselves in relation to others, and what it might mean to imagine otherwise in order to act otherwise. 

Why are millions not protesting in the streets over these barbaric policies that deprive them of life, liberty, justice, equality, and dignity?

What are the pedagogical technologies and practices at work that create the conditions for people to act against their own sense of dignity, agency, and collective possibilities?  

“Progressives and others need to make education central to any viable sense of politics so as to make matters of remembrance and consciousness central elements of what it means to be critical and engaged citizens.

“There is also a need for social movements that invoke stories as a form of public memory,

stories that have the potential to move people to invest in their own sense of individual and collective agency,

stories that make knowledge meaningful in order to make it critical and transformative.

“If democracy is to once again [or for the first time] inspire a populist politics, it is crucial to develop a number of social movements in which the stories told are never completed, but are always open to self- and social reflection, capable of pushing ever further the boundaries of our collective imagination and struggles against injustice wherever they might be. 

“Only then will the stories that now cripple our imaginations, politics, and democracy be challenged and hopefully overcome.”

Sources and notes
[Editor’s insert bracketed]

“The Politics of Cruelty: America’s Descent into Madness” by Henry Giroux, August 12, 2013, http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/08/12/americas-descent-into-madness/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=americas-descent-into-madness

Full article republished at RINF “America’s Descent into Madness” http://rinf.com/alt-news/latest-news/americas-descent-into-madness/58072/

Henry A. Giroux currently holds the Global TV Network Chair Professorship at McMaster University in the English and Cultural Studies Department and a Distinguished Visiting Professorship at Ryerson University. His most recent book is The Educational Deficit and the War on Youth (Monthly Review Press, 2013), His web site is www.henryagiroux.com

Henry Giroux has published more than 50 books and more than 300 academic articles, addition to being a co-editor-in-chief of the Review of Education, Pedagogy and Cultural Studies; he is published widely throughout education and cultural studies literature.

Among Giroux’s major, recent publications  

The University in Chains: Confronting the Military-Industrial-Academic Complex (2007)
Against the Terror of Neoliberalism: Beyond the Politics of Greed (2008)
Youth in a Suspect Society: Democracy or Disposability? (2009)

Politics beyond Hope: Obama and the Crisis of Youth, Race, and Democracy. (2010)
Hearts of Darkness: Torturing Children in the War on Terror (2010)

Zombie Politics in the Age of Casino Capitalism (2011)
Education and the Public Sphere: Ideas of Radical Pedagogy (co-authored with Lech Witkowski) Cracow, Poland: Impuls (2011)
Education and the Crisis of Public Values (2011)

Disposable Youth: Racialized Memories, and the Culture of Cruelty (2012)
Twilight of the Social: Resurgent Publics in the Age of Disposability (2012)

“The Education Deficit and the War on Youth” (2013)
“Neoliberalism’s War Against Higher Education” (2013)
“Neoliberalism, Education, Terrorism: Contemporary Dialogues” (co-authored with Jeffrey DiLeo, Sophia McClennen, and Kenneth Saltman) (2013)

“Up Front” is a program of interviews, debates, and news updates produced by KPFA’s News Department, http://www.kpfa.org/archive/id/94244


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