Archive for the On Dr. Cornell West Category

Is Corny Crazy of Just a Phony?

Posted in My Struggle On the Left!, On Dr. Cornell West with tags , , , on July 26, 2013 by playthell

Barack and CornyThe fury of unrequited love?

 Corny West’s MSNBC Attack is Sour Grapes

 “Deep down in his soul I think he really does feel a fire, but he can’t allow that fire to in any way spill over toward the White House. Why? Because he’s still too tied, he’s too uncritical, he’s too deferential, he’s too subservient as it were and as long as that’s in place we’re going to find ourselves unable to tell the fundamental truth,” Corny West speaking about the Reverend Al Sharpton, to his sidekick Tavis Silly.

In the latest revelation of Dr. Corny West we are told that Rev. Al Sharpton, host of the increasingly popular and critically important nightly MSNBC television show “Politics Nation,” is but an obsequious slave on “the Obama plantation.” Like those two mischievous trickster crows Heckle and Jeckle, Tavis asks Corny a question regarding the Trayvon Martian murder, “What’s your sense of how the media, and not just Fox News but beyond that, your read as you’ve been watching this, how the media handled this case?” To wit Corny, the consummate media whore, tells his partner in crime: ““I think that it’s been decrepit though, brother. I mean, you get a focus on some of the upper middle class folk. I mean, what I call the ‘rent-a-negro’ phenomenon on MSNBC.” 

I guess when you are a lower upper-class cultural icon that can command $40.000 a speech to spout incoherent jibber jabber to adoring albeit clueless white audiences, and live in suites ensconced in posh hotels – as he did during his Harvard years when he dwelled in the Four Seasons– it is fairly easy to be contemptuous of “upper middle class folk.”

Yet like most supreme egotist Dr. Corny ignores the warning: “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.”  For he is the ultimate “Rent A Negro!”  What does this guy take us for?  Does he really believe that anyone who has watched him kiss Newt Gingrich’s ass on television – affectionately referring to him as “Brother Newt” – don’t know that he has long ago sold his soul…that Faustian bargains are routine transactions to him?  Is Corny so drunk on the wine of hubris that he thinks his true intentions are invisible to us; that we don’t know he would run over his mother with a semi-trailer if it would gain him the spot on MSNBC now occupied by Reverend Al?

 Can no one rid us of this vicious, duplicitous, bushy headed, gapped tooth, forked tongue, motor mouth philosophe?    Jamaicans have a folk expression that pegs him just right: “The bwai mout run like sick batty.”  In other words: Corny is spouting shit!  Of all the important things in the world to write about, I find myself compelled to write yet another essay addressing the vicious folly of Corny: A man driven mad by vanity and envy.

I can think of no one who has fallen so dramatically in my estimation.  Once I had nothing but love and respect for this guy and more than once sang praises unto his name….but that was before I discovered he was an intellectual fraud, an amoral megalomaniac whose allegiances are dictated by expedience and thus would stoop to anything to gain and maintain an audience and the perks they provide – from public adulation to increasing his coin.

Although I hold no credentials as a behavioral scientist, I am a serious observer of human character, especially public figures who aspire to the role of leadership, and I have gained some understanding of what drives them from both literature and life. Alas Dr. West seems addicted to the intoxications of celebrity, and his ravenous outsized ego fuels the delusion that he is so wise and good he is compelled to act as moral arbiter of the nation. That’s the most charitable explanation I can conjure for his bizarre behavior.  An alternative view is that he is just an egomaniac and bullshit artist.

From Shakespeare, to Robert Penn Warren, to Chinua Achebe we are provided powerful portraits of the havoc created by the duplicity of men driven by vanity, avarice, envy, malice and blind ambition.  Having met these characters in the fictions and dramas of these masterful painters of human life and character, I recognize them when I encounter them in real life and understand the roles they are playing.  If Shakespeare was right and “all the world is a stage and we are but players upon it,” the question of this historical moment  is what role is Corny West playing?  Is he fool or villain?  Ignoramus or charlatan?

Well, based on the clearly observable facts – Harvard man, Doctor of Philosophy, learned theologian, author of several published texts, Professor at great universities, highly compensated public orator – it is safe to say he is neither an ignoramus or a fool: Which leaves the charlatan and villain.   This conclusion does not require  the wisdom of a Sigmund Freud, it is a matter of simple deduction – although I would love to know what Dr. Freud would make of this verbose pretender to the role of national moral scold.  A self-reverential town crier who is false to his profession, false in his stated objectives, and hopelessly confused in his historically appointed role.

Either Corny does not know who the enemy of progress and justice is; or he is a traitor to the people for whom he vainly claims to speak, people who continue to be denied both.  Nobody in a position of power in the US is trying harder to change their predicament than President Obama!  And one of his staunchest allies in this fight is MSNBC!  As Harold Cruse noted a half century ago, in the geopolitical circumstances of the US, mass media is more powerful than the military in the struggle to influence mass political behavior.

Even a cursory glance at the media landscape will easily demonstrate the towering importance of MSNBC, whose role is indispensable to achieving the liberal left agenda.  They are the first line of defense against the aggressions of the rabid right.  And it is an understatement to say that they understand their role in the fight against the Tea Party Right, far better than does Phony Corny.   This is demonstrated by the high quality of the information and analysis they put out compared to the hysterical confused gibberish we routinely get from Corny West.

The worst show on MSNBC, Morning Joe, provides a superior political education to anything we are likely to hear from Dr. West.  Yet he refuses to play the critical role he is best suited for, leading an assault on the blasphemous theology of the so-called “Christian Right,”  those impassioned bible thumpers who have made Jesus Christ the God of the greedy who trample on the needy; the God of billionaires rather than the meek that Jesus Christ said shall inherit the earth.  If this is not blasphemy then such a thing has never existed in the world.

However most of the broadcast day on MSNBC is spent attacking and debunking the political expression of the Christian Right’s theology.  And their efforts are nothing less than heroic.  I can envision no other media venue where one can get the kind of information that equips American citizens to make intelligent political decisions in defense of the progressive agenda for the working classes and oppressed minorities than the nightly line-up on MSNBC.

Beginning with Chris Matthews, a feisty New-Deal democrat who constantly preaches the virtues of large scale government projects which will alleviate mass unemployment by rebuilding the nation’s crumbling infrastructure.  This is the only means by which the President can immediately address the jobless recovery; it is the classic cure for the ravages of economic depression prescribed by Dr. John Maynard Keynes, the prescient British economist whose brilliant mathematical formulations and policy recommendations rescued the world economy from the Great Depression of the 1930’s.

However this time we are dealing with a new phenomenon which was not much in evidence during the Depression of the 1930’s, what Keynes called “technological unemployment” and contemporary economist call structural unemployment. He predicted that this category of the unemployed would grow in the future.   Well now we are living that future and most commentators on the unemployment problem don’t understand this phenomenon; that’s why they mistakenly blame President Obama.   However he has proposed policies to deal with the crisis of structural unemployment but they are constantly blocked by the Republican mad men that control the House. (See: Can President Obama Cure the Unemployment Crisis? On this blog

Chris Matthews is followed by a succession of left of center hosts that are even more uncompromising defenders of the liberal legacy, rooted in the achievements of the New Deal entitlements of the 1930’s and their extension in the landmark Civil Rights legislation and Great Society programs of the 1960’s.  Al Sharpton is a direct descendant of the Civil Rights leadership of the 60’s, groomed as he was by the legendary Harlem Congressman Adam Clayton, Powell Jr., and the great charismatic revivalism of the Reverend Jesse Jackson, an activist Baptist Preacher and close comrade of Dr. Martin Luther King.

Under the tutelage of these two masters of the game, Sharpton learned how to play politics from the inside and the outside: how to be a “tree shaker and a jelly maker” in the coinage of the Revered Jackson.  The former being a guy who shakes thing s up through direct action, and the latter helps translate those demonstrations  into legislation.

I believe that Corny’s attack on Reverend Sharpton in particular is motivated by a transparent envy that arises from the fact that Corny is an intellectual snob who believes his Ivy League education and professorships better qualifies him for such a high profile position of media advocacy.  This must be especially galling for this brazen egotist since they are both on the same side of the fence so to speak.  After all, the things that Dr. Advocates is barely distinguishable from the things Sharpton has been fighting for his entire adult life.

Yet in the eyes of the pompous Dr. West – who wouldn’t even consider spending a year or two at a historically Black university, despite a personal plea from the distinguished Afro-American journalist George Curry, when Harvard kicked his butt to the curb with good wishes on his budding hip hop career – Reverend Al is just a Jack Leg unlettered preacher who has somehow usurped a position that rightly belongs to him.  I advance this view only as a suspicion, a theory of what motivates the behavior of the enigmatic Dr. West.

However, as in many other matters Corny is sadly deluded.  Al Sharpton is far more effective in the role of television advocate/interviewer than Corny would be.  The reasons why this is so are obvious: Al has mastered the art of the sound bite, which is essence of good television commentary, he is a longtime public advocate, and like the “old time black preachers” celebrated in James Weldon Johnson’s epic poems God’s Trombones, he has all the devices of eloquence at his command.

Reverend Al is followed in the line-up by Chris Hayes, a wonkish young journalist who gleefully assaults the most preposterous assertions of right/wing Republicans who have made a cottage industry of lying on President Obama.  He is the newest member of the team, having replaced Big Ed, who moved his popular show to the weekends. Hayes is a well-informed and thoughtful advocate for the liberal left agenda whose erudition is matched by his passion.   He is an excellent comrade in arms for anyone in the fight for progressive policies that address the plight of the working poor, middle class and full equality for everyone without regard to race, ethnicity or sexual orientation.

Dr. Rachel Maddow is a veritable fount of factual information.  She has a crack research staff and every show is like a graduate seminar in public affairs.  She is a powerful advocate for all the aforementioned issues and groups and is also the most powerful voice in the media regarding women’s issues and the struggles of the LBGT community.

She is a marvelous motor-mouth who can spew out weighty information at a machine gun pace, dropping science at the speed of thought while bewitching her audience with a devilish smile and infectious charm.  There is no more able soldier in the struggle to defend liberal left values from the persistent attacks of the malicious ideologues on the right than Doc.

The Final Word from Laurence O’Donnell completes the lineup at ten O’clock, and the entire cycle begins again minus Al Sharpton’s “Politics Nation.”  I must admit that I often wonder why this is the case, because when I miss the 6 o-clock broadcast I wish Sharpton was in the rotation so I could see the program later. Suffice it to say that in my view O’Donnell is the most interesting of all the television talking heads….and he may well be the smartest.  A Harvard trained lawyer and writer, O’Donnell has also served as a congressional staffer.

Hence he brings an inside perspective to his analysis of the machinations in Congress that helps us to better understand how the political sausage is made.  He is openly contemptuous of white racist arguments and does not suffer fools gladly.  With an easy charm to match his easy erudition and wicked wit, Laurence O’Donnell is the kind of intellectual warrior I want to go to war with!  The MSNBC lineup is a great way to end your day.  There you will find an intellectual balm to heal the plague of ignorance that has infested the country and threatens paralyze the body politic and inflict lasting wounds on ourselves.

Despite Corny’s badmouthing this is the reality at MSNBC, and I invite anyone to challenge that assessment.  I challenge Dr. West to address the question as to which network represents the greatest danger to Afro-Americans: MSNBC or Fox?   And if he agrees with me – as he must – that it is FOX hands down, not even close, I’d like the learned Doctor to explain why he is not attacking FOX: whassup wit dat Corny?  Now is not the time for shuckin and jiving Dog.

As I write MSNBC is having a series of discussions dissecting the multiple machinations of the Republican right to defund the Affordable Care Act, ass laws to stop Afro-Americans, Hispanics, et al from voting, nullify women’s reproductive rights,  kill the Senate immigration bill, block important judicial appointments, examining the explanation of a juror in the Zimmerman case as to why she felt forced to vote for acquittal when in her heart she was convinced he was getting away with murder, etc.  These people are doing the Lord’s work; they are a righteous crew, so why can’t our theologian recognize this?

We are in the heat of battle; the Supreme Court just gutted the Voting Rights Act and further crippled already hobbling Affirmative Action programs.  The courts in Sanford Florida so interpreted the law the jurors felt forced to release a wanna-be redneck who hunted down and killed an unarmed black child – effectively declaring open season on black males in Florida – and this is all the evil work of Republicans.

The major advocates for these nefarious political forces is the FOX network; they are practically celebrating the release of the murderer, George Zimmerman, who told Sean Hannity that he felt killing Trayvon Martian was “God’s Will.”  Why isn’t Dr. West, a learned Professor of religion, critiquing a Christian belief system that would lead to such a conclusion?  Why is he not arguing that the slaughter of Trayvon is not God’s will but the work of the devil?

An even more pressing question is why is Dr. West aiming his guns at Reverend Sharpton and MSNBC, rather than Bill O ’Riley and FOX. A vulgar overbearing, megalomaniac and sexual harasser O’ Riley called everybody that protested the “not guilty” verdict in the Zimmerman case “a race hustler.” And he had the unmitigated gall to lecture the black community on our moral failings, demanding that we shut up about white racism and clean up our messy house.  But the Sacramento motor mouth hasn’t said squat to these brazenly racist white boys.  Rush Limbaugh has been going crazy spouting insulting racist drivel!

Nobody has pushed back on these verbal assaults from the racial arsonists on FOX like the commentators on MSNBC; even Joe Scarborough, a Florida Republican, has offered more potent critiques than Dr. West.  The question is why; what accounts for this strange state of affairs?   It is so bizarre the elements themselves seem out of kilter.  Dr. West is behaving like a sheriff who rides into a town recently ravaged by cold blooded bandits…and orders his men to shoot the wounded!

Corny’s assault on MSNBC and Reverend Sharpton is a purposeful if puzzling act; far too clever and calculating to be mere happenstance or the work of a fool.  As a witness to it all, observing the foibles and folly of this celebrated theologian, I cannot escape the feeling that we are witnessing not the incompetent bumbling of a hapless fool, although it often seems so, but the calculated deceptions of shameless charlatan and soulless villain.   Driven by blind ambition fueled by envy, he might look and talk crazy…. But there is a method to Corny’s madness.

Is this Jigaboo Crazy or What?

corny-west

 He sure do look and talk crazy…but he just envious and evil!
 

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 Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

July 26, 2013

Tavis and West Expose True Motives

Posted in My Struggle On the Left!, On Dr. Cornell West, Playthell on politics with tags , , , on March 5, 2013 by playthell
                   Cornel West and Tavis Smilie Heckle and Jeckle: Two Trickster Crows

 Truth Crushed to Earth….Will Rise Again!

When I was a boy in Florida the old folks would say “Truth cometh in the morning.”  Well that was never truer than on this Saturday morning, as I awoke to the snarky voices of Tavis Smilie and Dr. Cornell West chattering away on my radio.  I had fallen asleep listening to the soulful blues infested voice of the late great Dinah Washington singing the Duke Ellington/ Juan Tizol tune “Caravan,” and awoke to a hear the dissonant sound of a sarcastic soliloquy fashioned in the fevered brain of Dr. Longhair, and pouring from his pie hole in a lava like flow of putrid bile.  He was joyfully engaging in his favorite sport: Obama bashing.

First, the fuzzy headed professor contemptuously ridiculed the President’s negotiating skills, trashing him for not being able to get the “Public Option” passed instead of congratulating him on the massive overhaul of the medical delivery system that he did manage to finess through Congress with consummate political skill.  This achievement is a major reason why a panel of presidential historians has already selected him as one of the top ten American Presidents.

Yet it was the Affordable Health Care Act – along with the president’s achievements in preventing the collapse of the world economy and ending the Depression at home; his diplomatic triumphs in signing a nuclear arms agreement with Russia that helped insure the survival of life on this planet in a very real way; plus ending two wars, etc – that prompted me to rate him even higher on the scale in the pantheon of American presidents. (See: The Real Barack Obama vs. The Reagan Myth” on this blog)

However what I personally find most galling about Cornel West’s criticism of President Obama is his smug assumption of moral and intellectual superiority.  Part of this of course can be attributed to the smug pretentions of academics that hold PhD’s from prestigious universities – a feeling that is enhanced if they hold professorships at such universities – but I remain at a lost to discover the source from whence the professor’s feeling of moral superiority over the President arises.

With the diligence of Diogenes in search of an honest man, I  perused the history of both men and found nothing in my interrogation of professor West’s record that would provide evidence to support his arrogant assumption of moral superiority over President Obama.  In Cornel West I see a talented intellectual who is well educated in his fields of religion and philosophy, and a gifted orator whose notoriety as a public intellectual is do more to his silver tongue and public relations skills that his intellectual gravitas.   He is a highbrow rapper who, like Little Wayne, has made a fortune playing to the cheap seats.

Conversely, Barack Obama is one of those rare special altruistic personalities who decide to spend their life in public service early on; addressing problems that will enhance the quality of life for their fellow citizens, and they purposely make choices about the type of education they will pursue guided by what they think they will need to become change agents through participation in the political process.

That’s why Barack chose the law, Constitutional law, because he thought it would best equip him to become an agent of change.  That’s also why his fellow Harvard man Dr. WEB DuBois chose the study of history, sociology and economics over a career as a philosopher, and was indifferent to the importuning of Harvard’s George Santayana, perhaps America’s most influential philosopher, to become his protégé – an opportunity West would have leaped at.

Dubois saw that those disciplines would better arm him in the fight to uplift his oppressed people.  And his educational choices led him to become one of the greatest Americans of the last century, and his ideas, scholarship and activism contributed mightily to the advancement of black people here and in Africa.  These are very special people; men like Barack and DuBois.  Indeed, Barack Obama has shown a consistent commitment to changing the plight of the poor and powerless throughout his adult life.

First there was his decision to take a job as a community organizer in the dangerous poverty pockets of Chicago – the people Harvard sociologist William J. Wilson calls “The Truly Disadvantaged” in his revelatory text by the same name.  Then we have Barack Obama’s legislative record in the Illinois State Assembly, and his record in the US Senate.  All of these records unambiguously demonstrate a consistent record concern for the least among us – the poor and the powerless. If you would like to examine President Obama’s legislative record in historical context, see the list at the end of my essay “Civilization or Savagery” on this blog.

Alas, Professor West and his doppelganger Tavis Silly inflicted a conversation on the audience about the looming budget sequester that was so lightweight it would be an act of generosity to call it simple-minded prattle.  Maybe it’s because these guys are in such demand they don’t have time to thoughtfully reflect on these complex issues…or maybe they are shameless charlatans and vulgar careerist who have entered into a Faustian bargain with Mammon and they will say or do anything that will help them achieve their true goal: making money.   I tend toward the former assumption; although it is clear that these guys are scrupulous about getting paid…and as much as possible. After all Cornel gets $30, 000 for a speech.

I see no record of self-less service and sacrifice on the part of West.  From all appearances he is doing just fine on Cloud Nine, spouting dangerous sophistry masquerading as political wisdom, while abdicating his proper role as intellectual  point man in the fight against the Religious Right; whose theology fuels much of the ideology of the contemporary Republican Party.  Instead he attacks what he thinks are President Obama’s moral failings; he even called the President a “war criminal” the other day- while simultaneously calling racist reactionary rednecks like Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich his “Dear Brothers.”

Transparent opportunist that he is, when Dr. West and sidekick Tavis Silly invited Paul Wykoff, Vietnam war combat veteran and head of an organization of Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, on the show to discuss the plight of veterans, they quickly tried to enlist the old soldier and political progressive into their persistent attack on the President and turn the conversation into a referendum against his leadership and policies.

Paul Reickoff

Paul-Rieckhoff - Iraq and Afghanistsn vets

 Spokesman for Iraq and Afghanictan Combat Veterans 

As West droned on in his annoying voice about the “Dronification of War,”using it to  continue his attack on President Obama, the conversation took an unfortunate for Dr. West and sidekick, exposing them for the lightweight blabbermouths that they are.     Rykoff first explained what it was like fighting on the front lines, since he is an ex-infantryman who saw combat.  He shocked them when he not only refused to denounce the use of drones – since he knows it will save American soldiers from risking life and limb to do the same job these robots do.

But the real kick in the head was when Wykoff said that President Obama was a very elightened leader on questions of war and peace.  He explained that the president had a sophisticated understanding of the technological options open to him as commander-In-Chief and were deploying them Solomonic wisdom .  He went on to say that more importantly President Obama has always pursued non-military options and prefers diplomacy to bombs because unlike many other people in Washington he understands that you cannot impose democracy in a country with bombs and bullets.

To hear Mr. Rykoff  tell it, President Obama is just about as enlightened and humane a leader as one could hope for in matters of war and peace.  Needless to say, I was on the edge of my seat with my ears cocked like a hound dog in anxious anticipation of the learned Dr. West’s response.  Would he acknowledge the possibility that he might have been wrong when he recently labeled the president a war criminal?   My wait proved to be in vain, as vain as Cornel West’s ego, for he  quickly changed the subject without comment.

West fared no better in trying to elicit Wykoff’s aid in painting an ominous portrait of the Africa Command’s mission on the African continent.   Wykoff saw nothing sinister in it, and only questioned whether we should be spending more money on developments at home.  After all, he was on the show to discuss the desperate plight of those who have bravely fought America’s foreign wars but are struggling at home.

I shall soon have more to say about what I think of drone warfare, and the Africa command.  But suffice it to say that in my view Dr. West’s position on drone warfare is neither intelligent nor morally superior to the Presidents; as he evidently thinks it is.  The more I hear from Cornel West the less convinced I am that he is a man of integrity, whose concern the poor and oppressed trumps his need for ego-gratification and the material rewards that accompany celebrity and intellectual notoriety in America.

Some of my colleagues have decided that he and Tavis are simply pimping off the misery of black people, the poor, the unemployed, and the economically distressed working and middle classes.  Since I once held Dr. West in high regard I don’t want to believe that he is that cold blooded.  I think Professor Bushy Bead is motivated by a combination of age old human failings of biblical proportions: Envy, Avarice, Ambition and revenge.  And these vices are fueled by combustible resentments of unrequited love.

If I had the ear of the President I would put a bug in his ear and hip him to how to handle this poot-butt professor; but since I don’t I’m forced to make a public plea: Please show this guy some love!  I would also tell him to consider President Lyndon Johnson’s strategy for handling that dangerous demagogue J. Edgar Hoover, who as head of the FBI, and thus had the capacity to create all kinds of problems for the President during a critical period of American history, when he was trying to do great things.

When Attorney General Robert Kennedy asked Johnson in exasperation, “Why don’t you just fire Hoover?”  To wit that wily old political player Lyndon Johnson responded: “Cause I’d rather have hoover inside the tent pissing out than outside the tent pissing in!”

Unrequited love is a Dangerous Thing
Cornel and Barack 
It leads to irrational destructive actions

 

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Playthell George Benjamin
Harlem New York
March 5, 2013 

A Good Cause but Bad Strategy

Posted in My Struggle On the Left!, On Dr. Cornell West, Playthell on politics with tags , , on September 16, 2012 by playthell
 Smiley and West Putting Their Heads Together

 Notes on the Smiley West Poverty Tour

           Watching Cornel West and Tavis Smiley on Morning Joe earlier today, I found myself in agreement with their condemnation of growing poverty in the United States; the richest country in the world.  But I remain confused about their strategy for changing it.  A persistent theme in their argument is that nobody cares about the plight of the poor.

Well, I care a lot about the poor because I’m one of them!  Unlike West and Smilie; who are makin grand theft dough, livin large and” eatin high up on the hog” as the old folks in Florida would say.  Nobody wants to see the development of a movement that can effectively address the persistent curse of poverty more than I do.  But I don’t see how any movement that is not fundamentally political can hope to change the economic structure of this country.

In the United States real political change, the kind of change that’s capable of introducing sweeping economic policies which can reduce or eliminate poverty on the scale that they are decrying, can only be achieved through one of the major political parties.

A casual survey of past and present Republican economic policies will reveal that they are not concerned with eradicating poverty; they are, and have always been, the party of the Plutocrats. The Republican solution to the problem of widespread unemployment and mass poverty is to cut taxes and regulations on private business: Let the rich get richer and it will trickle down to the rest of us. That’s it.

The Democratic Party however has a long history of fighting poverty.  In fact, all of the most effective measures against poverty, including the social safety net that prevents millions of Americans from falling into destitution, comes from two massive programs initiated by the democrats: Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal of the 1930’s and Lynden Johnson’s Great Society aka the “War On Poverty” of the 1960’s.”  And president Obama has continued that great Democratic tradition of proposing policies to address the problems of the poor.

Yet he has received constant criticism from Cornel and Tavis, who seemed reluctant to make a clear distinction between the Democrats and the Republicans, and rated President Obama only slightly higher that Mitt Romney regarding concern for the poor.  While West and Tavis base their assessment of the President’s concern for the poor on superficial things like monitoring his rhetoric.

They gleefully pointed out that the word “poverty’ was mentioned more times at the Republican convention than the Democratic convention – but they should be looking at the actual policies of the President instead.  If they had they would have seen what Time magazine reporter Michael Grunwald, who has been closely watching the results of President Obama’s policies, reports in his recently published book “The New New Deal.”

Aside from the Lilly Ledbetter Act, and the Affordable Health Care, there is the President’s Recovery Act, or Stimulus, the benefits of which Smiley and West seem as ignorant of as the Tea Party zealots.  But Grunwald tells us the Stimulus “includes the largest expansion of anti-poverty programs since the Great Society, lifting millions of Americans above the poverty line, reducing homelessness, and modernizing unemployment insurance.”  Aside from these impressive achievements, President Obama has proposed massive jobs bills that would put millions of the unemployed to work immediately, but the Republicans have blocked them.

By obscuring the sharp differences between the two parties, and the profound difference in the values and vision of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, they are confusing people – along with a sob squad of leftist intellectuals who are conducting a non-stup pity party insted of getting their ass in gear and worjing to defeat thet Republicans!

These persistent whiners are turning Many people  off rather than inspiring them to vote in the coming elections.  This is self-defeating approach.  Hence while Cornel West and Tavis Smiley are promoting a good cause…they have a bad strategy for success.

 A Force for Good…

…unwitting allies of the Tea Party?

***************

 Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

September

An Open Letter to Dr. Cornel West

Posted in Cultural Matters, My Struggle On the Left!, On Dr. Cornell West, Playthell on politics with tags , , , , , on August 30, 2011 by playthell

Pundit, Poet and Philosopher Share a Bright Moment

On Dr. King, President Obama and Politcal Reality

 Dear Cornell

            After reading your Op-Ed column on Dr. Martin Luther King in the New York Times, I felt compelled to sit down and write you a letter.  Since the conversation that I want to have with you is about public matters i.e. the fate of our nation and the Presidency of Barack Obama, I decided to make it an open letter and put it on the internet so everyone can see it.  I feel it is my duty to respond to your column because you are such an influential public intellectual and moral scold people listen when you speak.  Like E. F. Hutton on finance, you da man with many people on matters of morality and politics.

Since I have publicly pledged to praise saints, celebrate heroes, unmask charlatans and chastise scoundrels I could not remain silent. You have all the trappings of intellectual and moral authority – Harvard education, PhD, author of influential texts, able orator, Princeton Professor of Religion – but the more I watch what you are doing with these powerful assets…I fear you are squandering them my brother, and you are in danger of hurting us all with your folly.

I am employing the term folly in the same sense as the two time Pulitzer Prize winning historian Barbara Tuchman in her path breaking book “The March of Folly.”  Here the term folly refers to the decisions people make – - usually leaders of nation states – that all observable evidence suggests is against their own interests.   And there can be no doubt among partisans of the working classes and foes of the plutocrats, which you claim to be, that the Tea Party /Republicans are avowed enemies of our agenda.  Yet you are at this very moment engaging in activities that if continued will aid a total takeover of our national government by these vicious enemies of the working class.

Thus I have no doubt that in the present struggle for the soul of our nation and the survival of organized labor – which is the vehicle through which the working class defends their gains and advance their interests – you are missing your true calling in this great fight.  As a self-declared spokesman for the working class and the poor, the proletariat and lumpen-proletariat, you are curiously at odds with the actual spokesmen for the working class, the elected leaders of the great unions, who correctly view President Obama as the only friend of poor and working class Americans among all the people who are likely to become the next President of the USA!

Even as I write the Teamster Union President Jim Hoffa is on WNBC TV reaffirming their support for the reelection of the President; although they have some sharp disagreements with him about strategy.  They do not question that Barack is their friend and the Republicans are the enemy; and if empowered would callously take away rights that the working class struggled for a century to win.  The contrast between what the leader of one of the world’s most powerful unions had to say on this matter, and what you have been saying, highlights the fundamental disagreement that I have with you about your criticism of the President.

Dr. Nathan Hare – who holds two PhD’s, one in sociology and one in Psychology – is a longtime intellectual warrior in our struggle, a man who was on the front lines of engaged scholars when you were running about in knee pants in the wilderness of Sacramento chasing fire flies, states the problem succinctly. In a recent statement on Facebook, Dr. Hare argued that black critics of President Obama must first make it clear that there is no alternative to supporting the President and the Democratic Party in the coming elections. That is the only way your criticism can be constructive rather than destructive Corny.

The difference is clear: constructive criticism is a critique that will help us defeat the Grand Obstructionist Party in the coming elections.  Destructive criticism is the kind of loose and mindless diatribes that confuses and demoralizes people to the point where they decide that they cannot vote for either party and stay home…effectively turning the national government over to the Republicans.  I am afraid, Dr. West, that this will be the result of your misguided, overly-emotional and often irrational attacks on the President.  Alas, I am increasingly hearing threats to remain at home on election day from your acolytes.

Unlike you, the Teamster leader made it clear that there was no chance that organized labor was going to abandon the President because the Republicans are the enemy of the working class.  While he didn’t like it, he understood the compromises the President has made.  They get it that the President was forced into certain compromises in order to get anything done and avoid disaster.  But you, Dr. West, don’t get it!  You talk in terms that suggest the President has betrayed the entire progressive legacy because he was forced to compromise!

When in fact, the very concept of compromise means that you have to accept something you don’t want in order to get something you want.  Whereas the Teamster leader was clear in his purpose and what must be done, you prattled on in your NY Times Op-Ed in such a muddled fashion one could easily conclude that you think President Obama could have solved the problems you rightly highlight but just wouldn’t do it!!!  And therefore deserves defeat in 2012 – which goes without saying if your first charge is true!   If you are not saying this, then what the fuck are you talking about?

What for instance do you mean by the following passage?  “The age of Obama has fallen tragically short of fulfilling King’s prophetic legacy. Instead of articulating a radical democratic vision and fighting for homeowners, workers and poor people in the form of mortgage relief, jobs and investment in education, infrastructure and housing, the administration gave us bailouts for banks, record profits for Wall Street and giant budget cuts on the backs of the vulnerable.”  Considering that on two thirds of the issues you mention here the President actually proposed policies to do just what you said he should; I am constantly amazed at how people print stuff like this from you and don’t seem to recognize that it is muddled non-sense!

The only other person who manages to get away with publishing incoherent gibberish on a regular basis is Stanley Crouch, but at least he has the refuge of poetic license and people are so hypnotized by his use of language they don’t notice that he is making no sense.  Your argument is the kind of stuff one expects from an impassioned but not very well educated undergraduate student…someone who has listened in on the conversations of mature intellectuals and got bits and pieces of the conversation and is now trying to reconstruct it –but doing so badly!

It is embarrassing to hear someone who is widely regarded as one of the nation’s premiere intellectuals say things like: “The administration gave us bailouts for banks, record profits for Wall Street and giant budget cuts on the backs of the vulnerable.”   First of all the bank bailout or TARP was passed during the last days of the Bush Administration, and was an admission that their economic policies had failed.

Thus the task of any serious analyst of our present economic mess is to point out with clarity that the Republicans now running the House, and all of their presidential candidates, are advocating those same policies – only now they are on steroids!  Your failure to address this issue is itself enough to disqualify you as someone we need take seriously.

The problem with the kind of editorial you have written for the Times is that you are not required to suggest any policy options or strategies for achieving them. It does not take much to demonstrate that your argument is morally pretentious empty rhetoric, a hysterical rant that leads nowhere. Do you really think this nation, and the black community especially, would be better off if the banking system had failed…if the president had stood back and allowed the world financial system to collapse?  If you do you are the most highly educated moron in history, a worthy ally of the Tea Party!   If you don’t believe it you are a dangerous charlatan and hypocrite and therefore of one heart with the so-called “Tea Party Patriots.”

Instead of pointing out that President Obama has passed the most stringent regulations on Wall Street since the 1930’s, and nominated Elizabeth Warren, the brilliant Harvard Law professor and longtime advocate for the poor, to head the new agency, you attack him for saving the world financial system from collapse! Instead of denouncing the Republicans for refusing to confirm Professor Warren and fund the agency tasked with implementing the new financial regulations, while opposing any attempt to tax the rich, who are sitting on record profits, you attack the president for the success of the business community which is the engine that propels this economy.

Rising profits in the corporate sector is proof that the President’s policies to save the economy from a great depression that many economists believe would have been worse than the 1930’s has succeeded!  That’s how capitalism works Cornell!   And, in spite of the fact that both of us wish it were otherwise, Americans overwhelmingly support capitalism!  If the democrats were in control of the Congress however, they would have done away with the Bush Tax cuts and raised the effective corporate tax rate by terminating many of the tax write offs that they presently enjoy.

It is the Republicans that are preventing this from happening…but you continue to blame the President.  Your actions in this regard is leading some of your critics to conclude that you are really a paid agent for the plutocrats – especially since your so-called “Poverty Tour” designed to embarrass the President is paid for by a major commercial bank!   They think you a false witness with a hidden agenda designed to so confuse the issues that many who voted for President Obama in the last election will stay at home this time and give the election to the Republicans.

That’s what some folks are beginning to say about you Corny.  However I am not one of them.  In my view it doesn’t matter if you are a paid agent of the reactionary right or not, because I can’t imagine what you would do differently if you were a paid agent.  As the New York Times columnists Charles Blow has demonstrated by crunching the numbers: If everybody who voted for the President votes for him again in the coming election, but 10% of Afro-Americans who voted stay at home, Barack will lose!  Hence whether you were paid for your role in this or not is a distinction without a difference. The result will be an unmitigated disaster for the least among us…the people you claim to care about the most.

While your Op-Ed is full of hysterical moral preachment and pretentious sophistry masquerading as deep thought, with false analogies popping up everywhere like Banquo’s ghost, you never rise to what I believe is your true calling in the great struggle to determine whether civilization or savagery shall triumph in America.  Sometimes you tease us with the possibility that you recognize your role, but you never rise to the occasion.

A poignant case in point is the following observation: “King’s response to our crisis can be put in one word: revolution. A revolution in our priorities, a re-evaluation of our values, a reinvigoration of our public life and a fundamental transformation of our way of thinking and living that promotes a transfer of power from oligarchs and plutocrats to everyday people and ordinary citizens.”  Obviously this transformation is a matter that is far beyond the control of any politician; this is work for preachers, philosophers and theologians.

If you had been unable to recognize it before, the implications of your observations in the Op-Ed should have clearly defined your calling.  You are a professor of religion at Princeton, a position which invests you with great authority on the interpretation of biblical texts.  Hence instead of dispensing bad political advice and spouting questionable historical analysis, what we desperately need you to do is lead an assault on the theology that fuels so many of the arguments of the far right.  How is it possible that you can stand silently by and bear witness to far right evangelists preaching a false doctrine that converts Jesus Christ from the champion of the poor and down trodden, into the God of billionaires that grind the poor underfoot to make the rich richer?

How have you chosen to attack President Obama instead of Rick Perry, an unabashed foe of the working class who literally wraps himself in the bible, that is leading all Republican candidates in the polls, when Barack is the only friend of the poor who has a chance of being elected to the Oval Office?  Why are you not running around like a watchman in the night yelling “Blasphemy!”  “Sacriledge!” to the top of your lungs?

Was it not Jesus who said: “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven?”  Did not Jesus Christ despise usurious bankers so much that he drove the money lenders from the temple with violent action?   If I, a man whose devoutly Christian senior daughter has declared “an un-churched heathen,” is offended by this perversion of the teachings of Jesus why aren’t you?   If their false theology offends a wretch like me – an avowed atheist beyond salvation – why are you so nonchalant Chilly Willie?  You who claim to love the lord every chance you get !  I have wracked my brain seeking an answer to this enigma.

If you are not a stealth provocateur out to do the president in for money or personal animosities fueled by envy, revenge or blind ambition, then you have misread your role and tragically squandered your splendid gifts worse than anyone I can think of now or in the distant past!  Ten years ago you ran around the country urging people to vote for consumer advocate and political gadfly Ralph Nader rather than Al Gore, the Democratic candidate.

In doing so you helped to elect George W. Bush; if the thousands of wayward Democrats had not voted for Nader in Florida, Al Gore’s margin of victory would have been so large that the controversy which put Bush in office would never have been an issue.  Not only are you far too arrogant and self-righteous to fess up your role in this disaster, and seek forgiveness from the multitude of Americans who were injured or killed by Bush’s decisions on the economy, taxes, war and peace: You are doing it again!!!!!

It seems that you never learn, or you refuse to learn, but I warned you that your misguided preachment could result in the election of George Bush and it did.  In fact, I published a commentary of several thousand words laying out the dimensions of the impending disaster titled “On Choosing the Lesser Evil” and I have posted it on this blog to remind people of the destructive role you played 10 years ago.

It is inconceivable that you learned nothing from that experience; but alas, either you learned nothing or you are clear in your purpose to destroy the Presidency of Barack Obama no matter what. That would make you a helpful ally of the Tea Party if not an agent.  Should these right wing anti-government zealots achieve total control of the US government; the sins that they commit against working people of all colors will also leave an indelible stain on your character. It would be poetic justice worthy of a Shakespearian tragedy to watch you wander about like Lady Macbeth crying “Out damned spot!’ in a futile attempt to white-wash your role as midwife to the calamity.

******************

Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

August 29, 2011

 

There is No Alternative to President Obama and the Democrats!

Posted in My Struggle On the Left!, On Dr. Cornell West, Playthell on politics with tags , , on July 31, 2011 by playthell

 

 He has brought about monumental changes for the American People

 

On Egotist and Fools Errands

There are rumors abroad that Dr. Cornell West AKA “Professor Longhair” and his sidekick Tavis Smylie, a verbose bald heated charlatan, are planning a demonstration to urge people not to support the reelection of President Obama.   Say what?  The last thing we need is another idiot movement among the hapless left to start some sort of Third Party, or even talk about running somebody against President Obama!

Both of these are self-defeating strategies, and I regard such talk as nothing more than a retreat into fantasy by a confused and impotent left that refuses to face the real problem in American politics: A Republican Party that hates the working class and is openly contemptuous of the public interests…yet millions of white workers voted to put them back in charge of the House of Representatives where all revenue bills must originate. This has not only brought the massive plans for reshaping American society to a halt, but has put him into a position where for the first time in American history the US will default on its debts!

Thomas Jefferson, whom I regard as the most thoughtful of the revolutionary Founding Fathers, put our problem succinctly in a prescient observation offered up two centuries ago.  “A democracy cannot work with an ignorant electorate,” he argued. “They will elect and return the worse people to power.”  Yet West and the confederacy of well credentialed dunces who egg him on like a deranged Greek chorus, think our problem is President Obama?

Try as I might, I cannot fathom a syllogism that explains how a reasonable person can arrive at such a conclusion.  How a Princeton Professor, who is actually smart enough to belong to that august assemblage of outstanding scholars, could arrive at this conclusion.  The Grand Obstructionist Party is wreaking havoc on the nation and they attack the President?

Because of their scorched earth policy the President is faced with signing a bill that cuts trillions of dollars from the federal budget with no tax increase for the rich, or face the first default by the United States government!  That’s the choice folks; I’d like to know what any of you all knowing readers would do.  But I warn you: If you do not answer that question at the top of your argument I shall immediately dismiss you as a fool or a charlatan!

Among the fanatics in the House are deranged whackos, like Michelle Bachman, who have threatened to bring impeachment proceedings against the President if he invokes section IV of the 14th Amendment to guarantee the nation’s debt, and thereby avoid the catastrophe of default. I think the reason that the loud mouths on the left who are dogging the President don’t want to discuss this is because they know that they bear some responsibility for the Republicans retaking the House only two years after they wrecked the economy!!!

Instead of doing the only thing that makes any sense in terms of realpolitique, support the President – who is the most progressive politician that has any chance of being elected in America today and return the House to the Democrats – the ‘wise guys” on the left help to confuse and demoralize people to the extent that they decided to sit out the election.

Not only did they not work to help elect Democrats as they had two years earlier when they made history…many of these nincompoops didn’t even vote!  Thereby assuring a Republican victory and the predictable horror show that followed!   Now the know nothing blabbermouths on the Left, led by the likes of Professor Longhair and his Greek Chorus, are at it again!

This is god damned foolishness…and if there is anyone who thinks it is anything but damn foolishness I dare you to tell us what it is!!!!!!    Cornell West really ought to sit down and shut tha fuck up!!!!!   He has yet to apologize for his role in electing Bush, yet has the unmitigated chutzpah to present himself as a reliable political theorist in the present crisis.

I have posted a piece the Commentaries I wrote ten years ago when Cornell was advising people to vote for Ralph Nader instead of Al Gore – see “On choosing the Lesser Evil”  on this blog.  The danger I warned of then came to pass. George bush was elected and everything went to shit!!!!!   Since I have written on the sins of the Bushmen ad nauseum, I shall not debate them again here.

Anyone who needs instruction on the Presidents outstanding achievements should read “Civilization or Savagery” on this blog.  Since we are still suffering from the decision of the left supporting Nader however, I felt compelled to write this commentary because I’m beginning to hear whispers of this kind of POLITICAL IDIOCY again!  And I shall stay on the asses of the verbose and reckless charlatans who are spouting it!

In an attempt to explain the embarrassing and perplexing actions of Dr. West, some people are speculating that West and Smylie are being paid by corporate interests to attack the President.  I tell them they are paranoid; that Dr. West would never party to such a scurrilous deal.  I argue that West is not an evil quisling but a deluded megalo-maniac!  But I quickly point out that this is a distinction without a difference, because fess Longhair couldn’t be of more assistance to the Tea Party agenda if he were a paid agent!

Is This Nigga Crazy?

 

Fess Longhair: High Brow Rapper

******************

Playthell Benjamin

Harlem New York

July 31, 2011

A Poot-Butt Professor Dis’s America’s President!

Posted in My Struggle On the Left!, On Dr. Cornell West, Playthell on politics with tags , on May 22, 2011 by playthell

Hip hop Philosopher Professor Longhair and Chilly B.

 “This discussion is in no way about me, it has to do with poor and working people having low priority in US governmental policy including the Obama Administration. My personal words had to do with being disrespected by the President. People are disrespected every day, and they can raise their voices in response to it.” A tweet from Dr. Cornell West aka “Professor Longhair”

Reflections on the Rejected Lover Syndrome

The brouhaha in the black community sparked by Princeton religion Professor Cornell West’s increasingly tasteless and personal attacks on President Obama has all the elements of what my grandmother used to call “A big nigger mess!”  The distinguished novelist and Syracuse University Professor Arthur Flowers offers an observation that is perplexing many thoughtful African Americans all over the country – the present writer included.   ‘It boggles the mind that Cornell West does not understand the destructive role he is playing,” says Professor Flowers”  Nathan Hare, a San Francisco  Psychologist who holds PhD’s  in psychology and sociology had this to say:

“Cornel appeared to have some ambition to play a role in the 2008 election, probably with Hillary Clinton, or a run on his own. He’s never forgiven Obama since day one. Many years ago a brother, taking the words out of my mouth, wrote that Cornel is ‘one thousand miles wide and one inch deep.’ When you can bounce up and down the Ivy League because your university president called you in and suggested you do some scholarship for a change, you are not a big bad Marxist revolutionary so much as a bonafide member of what they used to call “the niggerati;”  a term invented by the iconoclastic  Florida writer Zora Neale Hurston to describe certain literary poseurs during the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920′s .

Michel Wallace, a best-selling author and professor in the City University of New York, recently remarked after the Hip Hop philosopher held forth on her campus: “He seems to be living in a different world from the rest of us.”  Well…if you compare Princeton to Harlem – one of the whitest and the blackest towns in America – plus the praises and riches showered on Fess Longhair by the white cultural establishment, he is indeed living in a different world from the rest of us!

There is a special irony about this because his relevance as an intellectual is his role as interpreter of the souls of black folks and proctor of our spiritual strivings for white folks. But the fact that he is so alienated from the feelings of the black majority means that his white sponsors are getting a flawed message from their chosen messenger.

Nowhere is this clearer than in the recent panegyric to Fess Longhair written by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and celebrated tribune of the white left Chris Hedges.  So heroic is West’s stature in the estimation of Hedges – whom I regard as one of hysterics of the left – that he feels compelled to cast him in a Shakespearean Dramatis Personae.  Hence the praise song begins with the following hyperbole:

“The moral philosopher Cornell West, if Barack Obama’s ascent to power was a morality play, would be the voice of conscience. Rahm Emanuel, a cynical product of the Chicago political machine, would be Satan. Emanuel in the first scene of the play would dangle power, privilege, fame and money before Obama. West would warn Obama that the quality of a life is defined by its moral commitment, that his legacy will be determined by his willingness to defy the cruel assault by the corporate state and the financial elite against the poor and working men and women, and that justice must never be sacrificed on the altar of power.

Perhaps there was never much of a struggle in Obama’s heart. Perhaps West only provided a moral veneer. Perhaps the dark heart of Emanuel was always the dark heart of Obama. Only Obama knows. But we know how the play ends. West is banished like honest Kent in “King Lear.” 

Methinks, however, that our Shakespeare aficionado is not as clever as he fancies himself.   He has chosen the wrong play.  For as The Bard pointed out: “The play is the thing!”  In this case “Othello” is a more fitting vehicle for exploring the character and motivations of the actors in this modern political drama, and telling lines from Macbeth offers the best assessment of both the object of his veneration and the scribe’s pious prattle.  I would cast Barack and Cornell in the roles of Othello, the Nobel Moor, and Iago: the scheming, deceitful, treacherous, charlatan.

For quite a while it was conventional wisdom among white male drama critics, who didn’t want to deal with the questions of sex and race that supply the dramatic force of the play, that Iago is driven by “A motiveless malignancy,” as one 19th century British critic elegantly put it.   However we are left with no explanation of Iago’s devious behavior toward Othello as he engineers his destruction.

But upon a close reading of the text for a weighty essay interrogating the meaning of the complex color symbolism in the Bard’s work – “Did Shakespeare Intend Othello to be Black?  A Meditation on Blacks and the Bard” – I found ample evidence that Iago’s treachery was motivated by thwarted professional ambitions and personal envy of Othello’s position, covetousness of Othello’s beautiful wife and disdain for his racial background.  In rereading the play I find that these lines by Iago in the opening scene of Othello could have been uttered by Cornell in regard to Barack.

“In personal suit to make me his lieutenant/ Off-capp’d to him: and, by the faith of man, I know my price, I am worth no worse a place: But he, as loving his own pride and purposes…Nonsuits my mediators; for, ‘Certs’ says he, ‘I have already chose my officer.’  And what was he?  Forsooth, a great arithmetician, One Michael Cassio, a Florentine” Offended by what he considers the great injustice of having been overlooked by Othello in favor of a man he considers inferior in qualifications and character to himself Iago asks Rodrigo: “Now, sir, am I affined to love the Moor?”

Then Iago plots his revenge upon Othello for what he regards as an egregious slight.  “I follow him to serve my turn upon him: We cannot all be masters, nor all masters cannot be truly followed…Were I the Moor, I would not be Iago; In following him I follow but myself; Heaven is my judge, not I for love and duty, but seeming so, for my peculiar end…I am not what I am.”

Based on his actions, it looks like our poot-butt philosopher Fess Longhair had the same plan.  He certainly has expressed the same grievances.  In fact he sounds like nothing so much as a rejected lover as he tells Chris Hedges:

“I used to call my dear brother [Obama] every two weeks. I said a prayer on the phone for him, especially before a debate. And I never got a call back. And when I ran into him in the state Capitol in South Carolina when I was down there campaigning for him he was very kind. The first thing he told me was, ‘Brother West, I feel so bad. I haven’t called you back. You been calling me so much. You been giving me so much love, so much support and what have you.’ And I said, ‘I know you’re busy.’ But then a month and half later I would run into other people on the campaign and he’s calling them all the time. I said, wow, this is kind of strange. He doesn’t have time, even two seconds, to say thank you or I’m glad you’re pulling for me and praying for me, but he’s calling these other people.”

The hurt and disappointment in West’s voice is palpable, he sounds as if he thinks Barack has been two timing him!

Yet this is not the end of Fess Longhairs complaints against the President. He prattles on, shamelessly spilling his guts and airing dirty laundry.

And then as it turns out with the inauguration,” he continues, “I couldn’t get a ticket with my mother and my brother. I said this is very strange. We drive into the hotel and the guy who picks up my bags from the hotel has a ticket to the inauguration. My mom says, ‘That’s something that this dear brother can get a ticket and you can’t get one, honey, all the work you did for him from Iowa.’ Beginning in Iowa to Ohio. We had to watch the thing in the hotel.”

If this story is true, it raises more questions about Cornell West than President Obama.  The most important question is why did West show up at the inaugural Ball without an invitation in the first place?  What does that say about his sense of entitlement?  After all, I know several people who attended the inauguration, and they all had their invitations well in hand before they ever set out for the capitol.   For instance, my boyhood friend Erroll Jones, the only black elected official in my home town, who is forced to run as a Republican, openly worked for Barack and was rewarded with an invite.  I crashed at his crib while he was cavorting about Washington.

Commissioner Erroll Jones and President Obama

Homeboy  got his invite…whassup wit Fess?

One is forced to wonder if  Fess’ mother really talks the way he quotes her, referring to a chauffeur as “that dear brother.”  That’s the way Fess talks, but its part of his act; I have a hard time believing that his mother actually talks that way.  This may seem like a picayune point, but I make it in order to suggest that there is artifice in his telling of this tale of woe.  And if so, it begs the question as to how much more of his story is contrived?

Since there is no way to tell, it cast suspicion over the veracity of the entire episode, and the cautious observer must view all else he has to say about the President in matters of politics and policy with a jaundiced eye.  Personally, as one who has studied and analyzed all the President’s major moves in 200 essays I feel as competent to assess what he is about as anybody…including Fess Longhair.

My assessment of Barack Obama’s accomplishments during his tenure in the Oval are succinctly stated in the essay “Civilization or Savagery” on this blog.   Suffice it to say that when I weigh the President’s accomplishments against the racism and resistance of the Republican opposition – who have come very close treason – I give Barack an “A.”

Hence when I read Fess Longhair’s vulgar and superficial diatribes posing as serious intellectual analysis, it is hard not to conclude that they were authored by an ignoramus, a charlatan, or a hopelessly misguided ideologue!  Consider this recent public temper tantrum.

“And even at this moment, when the empire is in deep decline, the culture is in deep decay, the political system is broken, where nearly everyone is up for sale, you say all I have is the subversive memory of those who came before, personal integrity, trying to live a decent life, and a willingness to live and die for the love of folk who are catching hell. This means civil disobedience, going to jail, supporting progressive forums of social unrest if they in fact awaken the conscience, whatever conscience is left, of the nation. And that’s where I find myself now.”

Not content with this dramatic baring of his soul, Fess prattles on: “I was thinking maybe he has at least some progressive populist instincts that could become more manifest after the cautious policies of being a senator… at least he would have some voices concerned about working people, dealing with issues of jobs and downsizing and banks, some semblance of democratic accountability for Wall Street oligarchs and corporate plutocrats who are just running amuck. I was completely wrong.”

It is instructive to note here, that the United Auto Workers, the most powerful independent organization in the world representing working people, recently gave the President high marks at their national convention!  Which casts Fess Longhair in the role of “the stranger who comes to the funeral and cries louder than the bereaved family;” a joker our wise Ibo ancestors warned us to beware of.   Yet is is characteristic of  Fess Longhair to think him self as more royal than the King.

Since Dr. West poses as a philosopher from time to time, when he is not making a rap album or playing at politics, I assume that he is familiar with the work of Professor Harry G. Franks, who is in the philosophy department right there at Princeton.  If so he will recognize the title of Dr. Frank’s book, although I doubt that he would have read it because he is afraid that he may bump into himself in the pages.

For the book’s title and subject matter identifies Fess Longhair’s critique of the President perfectly: “Bullshit”   Shakespeare also has more to teach us about the poot-butt Professor’s complaint about being ignored by the President even as he sought the advice of the the great “aritmatician” Laurence Summers, the renowned economist and the former Harvard President who had called Fess on the carpet for academic malingering!

However this time the words of Iago describe Fess himself, especially in his role as leader of a radical movement posing an alternative to the politics and policies of Barack Obama – a role for which he has demonstrated himself to be unsuited.  What Iyago says of Cassio is also true of Cornel, a great pretender: “That never set a squadron in the field, Nor the division of a battle knows/ More than a spinster; unless the bookish theoric…mere prattle without practice.”

These lines from Macbeth brilliantly sums up the place of the Poot-butt Professor in the sweep of history, notwithstanding his ability to bogart his way into the national conversation through bombast and base pretense, compared to the monumental achievements of Barack Obama he is, “but a walking shadow, a poor player / that struts and frets his hour upon the stage / and then is heard no more.” As for the panegyrics of Chris Hedges, and other white leftist intellectuals, ‘it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

****************

*** My  analytical essay on Shakespeare can be found in the anthology “Othello: New Essays by Black Writers,” edited by Dr. Mathili Kaul, former President of the Shakespeare Society of Cambridge England.  Professor and Chair, Department of English, University of New Deli, India.  Published by Howard University Press.

Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York

May 22, 2011

Less Preachers and More Policy Wonks!

Posted in My Struggle On the Left!, On Dr. Cornell West, Playthell on politics with tags , , , , on April 13, 2011 by playthell

Dr William Julius Wilson: Sociologist

Reflections on the Black Agenda Special

Last Sunday MSNBC aired a special on “The Black Agenda” hosted by Ed Shultz, who is rapidly emerging as the foremost advocate of working class interests in the commercial media.  The usual suspects from the black community were called upon once again to plead the cause of African Americans before the nation.  Although there were a variety of black voices – some would say a cacophony – the stars were a small group of preachers and philosophers.

Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton were the elder statesman of this group, but Drs. Michael Eric Dyson and Cornell West were the brightest stars of the moment.  As I analyzed the composition of these panels, I knew the chances were better than even that the discussion would soon degenerate into a tower of Babel.  Alas Dr. West and Rev. Sharpton did have a smack down before it was over.  I thought they were about to slap each other for a minute!

Observing the panels tasked with discussing the economic plight of the black community, and what social policy options the government should adopt to deal with such nagging problems as sub-standard education, out of wedlock births and the ‘Prison Industrial complex,” which is the term of art for the high incidence of incarceration among young black men, I wondered why Dr. Dyson and West were there at all.

Did we not have enough preachers dominating the discourse among black Americans already?  For the last half century the discourse about the fate of black Americans have been monopolized by clerical voices. Martin Luther King, Leon Sullivan, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Malcolm X, and Louis Farrakhan are all men of the cloth.

Hence the thoughtful observer is compelled to wonder: In a discussion about policy matters in the Twenty First Century do we really need to hear from a Princeton trained philosopher, who is also an ordained Baptist minister and a Princeton Professor of Religion who talks like a Baptist preacher – such as Dyson and West?  Well, if I had been putting the panel together neither would have been on it.  As a former Professor of Afro-American history, I am well aware of the historic and contemporary importance of the black church, but it is high time for a separation of the affairs of church and state in the black community.

Some preachers, like Jackson and Sharpton, are able to clearly separate the two realms. And by virtue of their long history in the struggle, where they participated in bringing about monumental changes, they have earned an honored place in any important discussion on the present condition and collective strivings of black Americans.   Yet if we are to find solutions to these intractable problems we need less rhapsodizing about our hopes and dreams, and more strategizing about realizable policy options. This means, of course, that we have to begin to choose spokesman on the basis of expertise rather than their public relations profile.

If I’d had my druthers Cornell West would have been replaced with William Julius Wilson, Professor of social Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School and the world’s foremost authority on the problems of the postindustrial city and the plight of the black poor. And Michael Eric Dyson would have been replaced by Dr. Bernard Anderson, author of the economic section in the annual Urban League’s “State Of Black America” report.

Anderson holds a PhD in economics from the prestigious Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, and is the foremost authority in the world on the position of black Americans in the American economy…especially black workers.  Dr. Anderson began his career with a land mark scholarly study “The Negro in the Public Utility Industry” which was published over forty years ago.  He has written many scholarly papers.

Reigning Authority on Black Economic Issues!

At a recent conference on the economic crisis in America Dr. Anderson, now a Professor in the Wharton school stressed several critical points: The depth and breadth of the economic crisis has worsened, increasing racial disparities, and threatening to wipe out gains made towards reducing those disparities in the 1990s. The unemployment crisis reflects a structural change in our economy.The link between job creation and economy growth has been weakened. Economic growth no longer results in job creation. Thus in recent recessions we have experienced the phenomenon of “jobless recovery.”  Direct public job creation by the government is imperative to economic recovery.

Dr. William Julius set out to bring a new understanding of the causes of urban poverty and its influence on the disorganization of the family and other deviant behavior among the “underclass,” which is the fashionable term for what Karl Marx called the “lumpenproletariat.”   I first met Bernard Anderson during the mid1960’s when we were both working with the Reverend Doctor Leon Sullivan in developing the Opportunities Industrialization Centers in Philadelphia.

Bernie was writing his PhD thesis at the time, and I was developing a “Minority History” curriculum, which was adopted by the Philadelphia Board Of Education under the leadership of Dr. Connie Clayton, then spread to 100 cities through OIC.  Many of these ideas would find their way into the formation of the first full fledged degree granting Black Studies department in America, at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

It was in Amherst that I first met Bill Wilson in 1969; he was on the committee that interviewed me and recommended me for a Professorship, although I was only twenty seven and a college dropout!  Way back then Dr. Wilson was driven by a desire to understand the role that social forces like class, education, geography, cultural values and racial discrimination, played in the persistence of widespread poverty among black Americans in the world’s most affluent society.

Over the last few decades Professor Wilson has written a series of scholarly books, each a seminal text in the field of race relations i.e. color and class in America. In these in-depth cutting edge works Dr. Wilson has instructed the nation on the problems on race and poverty in American cities: “Racism, Power and Privilege,”  “The Declining significance of Race,”  “The Truly Disadvantaged,”  “When Work Disappears,”  “Sociology and the Public interests,” etc.

When compared to the weighty works of William J. Wilson and Bernard Anderson, the writings of Cornell West and Michael Dyson is light weight pretentious prattle!  Yet even if one finds the writings of these men profound; they do not address serious policy questions with any depth.  On the other hand both Wilson and Anderson are eminent scholars who have been seriously studying these problems for nearly half a century!!!!!

Need I say more?  While charismatic leaders are an essential element in building mass transformative movements, in order to succeed one must also have able theoreticians to properly assess the situation, identify the critical problems, and devise systematic solutions based upon the prevailing relationship of forces.  To accomplish this we need fewer preachers – sacred or secular – and more hardnosed policy wonks!

************

Playthell Benjamin
Harlem New York
April 13, 2011

On Dr. West And Comrade Dix

Posted in My Struggle On the Left!, On Dr. Cornell West, Playthell on politics with tags , , , on April 11, 2011 by playthell

A Modern Neo-Leftist Minstrel Show?

Some Reflections on the Black Left

Although I had read, met and talked to the ubiquitous Dr. Cornel West on several occasions – and even spanked him in print on three occasions – I had never heard of Carl Dix until I began to get requests from shills for the Revolutionary Communist Party posing as interested fans of my radio show “Round Bout Midnight,” imploring me to have him on.  When I asked them to send me some information on Comrade Dix I got a torrent of propaganda from the RCP.

After quickly perusing the pamphlets my first reaction was to throw them all in the trash and go on about my business; since communist theory had proven not to be the science communist claimed it is, and I once believed it was. Furthermore, the proto-typical communist society – the Soviet Union – had been thrown in the trash bin of history by the people who had lived under it for half a century!  But because I am not a knee jerk anti-communist, in the Pavlovian way most Americans have been successfully programmed to react upon mention of the word; plus I believe in giving the devil his due, I carefully read the propaganda tracts……and then quickly threw it in the trash!

Right away I could see that the most impressive thing about these people was not their intellectual grasp of the world situation – I expect that from any communist worth his salt – or their elaborate, albeit mechanistic and dogmatic, critique of capitalist society.  What impressed me the most about the RCP was their total lack of any sense of reality!

To begin with, anybody who does not know that the best way to insure that you will not be taken seriously by anybody except a lunatic fringe in American society if you label yourself a “revolutionary Communist,” has probably been living in a cave in the Australian Outback and can’t figure out what time the 3:15 comes in. That’s the most charitable explanation for this clueless communist presenting himself as someone that thoughtful people will take seriously in 21st century America politics.

Furthermore there is an outbreak of religious revivalism sweeping the country – with blacks and Hispanics in the vanguard. Thus standing up and dissing God from the podium, the way Comrade Dix is inclined to do, reduce the already scant appeal he has with what he defines as his core constituency.  In America communist and communism was so successfully demonized and discredited in the twentieth century, that identifying oneself as a Communist today is like confessing to child molestation in the public mind…if not worse: a godless blasphemer!

Hence I was naturally hesitant, suspecting that a conversation with the shadowy Comrade Dix would probably be a bit bizarre, and perhaps more than a bit of a bore.  So I dragged my feet on the matter and put it on the back burner.  After all, it was a weekly show and there were so many fascinating things to discuss in the world of politics and culture.  Especially since I was often partnered with Dr. Gerald Horne, whom I believe to be the most versatile and prolific historian presently writing in America …and perhaps the most learned man in the nation on world politics.

However the call for Dix’s appearance by party apparatchiks, who consider him a wise man with a vital message, continued unabated.  Communist are relentless in pursuing their agenda once they target you – something the great Afro-American labor Leader and democratic socialist A. Phillip Randolph learned early in the last century. This realization led Randolph to break with the Communist Party, although he had previously considered them an ally.

I guess I was a natural target since I was on the only non-college radio station in New York where a self-confessed communist revolutionary could express his views uncensored.  So, just to be rid of them, and because I had begun to suspect it might be interesting to debate with an articulate intellectual anachronism, I invited Comrade Dix onto the show.  Just as I expected he turned out to be an impassioned ideologue who thinks in terms of Marxist clichés.

Aside from the gravitas of his argument, which was not wholly without merit, his ideas about how to get his message across were not significantly different from those employed by the Bolsheviks who made the Russian Revolution in 1917!  The guy actually thought he could indoctrinate a mass audience and direct a revolutionary movement with a little obscure newspaper.  As I recall the on-air encounter it was all I could do to resist the temptation to reduce him to a figure of ridicule.  But as I was taken by his sincerity I could not bring myself to do it.

I thought of what the great political theorist and cultural historian Harold Cruse told Max Stanford aka Dr. Muhammad Ahmed and me back in 1967.  Committed to a Maoist conception of armed revolution at the time, we were mightily distressed by an essay analyzing the role of mass media in shaping mass consciousness in Cruse’s path breaking book on black political and cultural thought, “The Crisis Of the Negro Intellectual.” Cruise had argued that in the geo-political circumstances of the USA, the mass media was as formidable weapon of the ruling class as the police power of the state.

Professor Harold Cruse

The Premiere Theoretician of the Left

When we confronted him point blank with the question: “Do you think a revolution in the USA is possible or not?”  Harold thought for a moment and said with a wry smile:” Sure I believe a revolution is possible…if you can figure out a way to take over or neutralize ABC, NBC and CBS!”  That was over forty years ago, before 24/7 cable Television, talk radio networks and the internet.  So if the mass media was that formidable back in the day, imagine its power of persuasion now.

However there is a silver lining to some of these developments in terms of providing relatively poor and powerless groups with the means to fight back and get their message out – especially the internet! Judging by his presence on You Tube, Comrade Dix and the RCP seem to be coming into the 21st century – although they could use some lessons in video and still picture production.  As Chairman Mao counsels’: “All art is propaganda, but not all propaganda is art.  In order for art to succeed as propaganda, it must first succeed as art.”  Thus if the RCP posted well produced videos online it would attract more viewers and spark their curiosity.

In any case “The Crisis” is a book that I get the strong impression Comrade Dix either has not read, or is so blinded by Marxist dogma and fantasies of Communist revolution in America he refuses to believe it.  However had the intrepid revolutionary read Professor Cruse’s text there are several things he would understand that he apparently does not.

For instance, his relationship to the even more obscure Bob Avakian appears to mirror the subservience of black communist cadres to white theoreticians that Cruse disdainfully describes in the old Communist Party – which by the way was a far more effective organization.  For one thing they understood the art of politics far better than Comrade Dix appears too.  But more about that later.

Cornell West and Comrade Dix

Plotting the Revolution

Since Dr. Cornel West is academia’s version of a superstar, he is already well known.  Thus there is no need for such an extensive introduction.  The product of an elite Ivy league education, Dr. West moves easily between the campuses of top tier rich white universities and the black community. He is surprisingly unpretentious in his demeanor, and I believe he is sincere in his commitment to building the Beloved Christian community envisioned by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

As an avowed democratic socialist he is devoted to limiting the power of the capitalist class over our lives and livelihoods, a goal that I share.  Despite the fact that, unlike Comrade Dix, Dr. west understands that socialism can only come to America by democratic means, he too is inept at the game of real politics.  Since he and Dix appear to prefer abstract theorizing to engaging the actual political realities that presently exists in the US, they make a good team on the talk fest circuit…a veritable movable feast.

Ordinarily I don’t pick fights with Marxist, because aside from the fact that they are true believers not unlike religious fanatics, I see the fascist minded white racist as a far greater danger. Unlike Dr. West and Comrade Dix – who apparently think President Obama and the Democrats pose the greatest danger!  However, when these Marxist prophets of perpetual gloom and doom began to spread their nihilistic views to the greater black, Hispanic and student communities, then they must be challenged and critiqued.  This is the raison d’être of this essay.

Except for their affection for engaging in abstract analysis – which strikes me as the intellectual equivalent of a group jerk off session – the elegant, dramatic and somewhat eccentric Dr. West, and the droll dumpy Comrade Dix, is about as different as one can imagine.  And they come off almost like cartoon characters – Mutt and Jeff for instance; or a more intellectual version of the comedy team Stump and Stumpy.  While I am not a Marxist – I have been off that drug for over thirty years now – I am not one of those fools who insist that Marxist revolutionaries have been wrong about everything.

Only an ignoramus or a charlatan would deny that the Marxist Revolutions – along with the rise of African peoples from colonial slavery and apartheid both in Africa and the Atlantic Diaspora – were the most dynamic transformative movements of the twentieth century. The most impressive African liberations struggles were also led by Marxist, with the struggle in Portuguese Africa ranking right up at the top with the most impressive revolutionary struggles of the last century.  And I consider the great Chinese Revolution to be the most impressive social transformation in human history!

In spite of attempts to minimize this event by simple minded American Exceptionalists, it was a marvelous example of human will and ingenuity.  Mao Tse Tung’s leadership of that protracted struggle of hundreds of millions of Chinese was an elegant combination of iron discipline, art and science, penning complex theoretical treatises with scientific accuracy and poetic language – directing the revolutionary masses by culling proverbs from Chinese culture and employing them as if they were scientific axioms.  He may well have been the best ever in the use of slogans to deliver complex theoretical concepts to the masses: “A revolutionary must swim among the people like a fish in the sea;”  “Imperialism is a collusus with feet of clay” etc.  His use of the graphic metaphor was no less powerful: “The atomic bomb is a paper tiger.”

Chairman Mao

The Great Helmsman

However as Harold Cruse argued, Marxism, which is a 19th century European ideology, was never a really good fit for American society.  This is a question of sociology.  The United States is a far more multi-racial and multi-ethnic society than the Russian society which made the first Communist Revolution, an event that served as the model for American communist. In the US the relationship between class, ethnicity and race created a far different social dynamic than was the case in Russia.

For instance, Cruse points out that ones position in the American class structure was determined more by group status than personal qualities like talent and diligence, but the Constitution only recognized the rights of individuals, it was one’s group status that determined the individuals life chances.  Dr. W.E.B. DuBois, the father of American sociology, had observed this phenomenon in the 1920’s, when black intellectuals were becoming enamored with Marxist ideology.

Although Dr. DuBois was as enraged by the oppressive racial caste system in America as any communist militant, he concluded that black and white workers joining hands to make a communist revolution was a pipe dream.  Because, as the learned Doctor pointed out, white workers were far more likely to identify with millionaires of their own race and ethnic group than unite with black workers to overthrow them. This was a prescient observation that does much to explain the participation of working class whites in the Tea Party Movement today.  Herein lay the Achilles heel of what passes for critical analysis with Dr. West and Comrade Dix.

While they blather on ad-nuseum about the short comings of President Obama and the Democrats – with Dr, West often rolling his eyes and mugging for the audience like a minstrel clown – these two ideological iconoclasts have little to say about the nature of the opposition they are up against.  To listen to them talk you would think that President Obama really is “Barack the Magic Negro,” and all he has to do is wave his magic wand and make all our dreams come true. Yet whether they actually believe this or not makes little difference in the way they discuss his policy options; which often strikes me as a burlesque on serious analysis.

When Comrade Dix discusses the president he sometimes becomes so excited he appears to be foaming at the mouth.  His speeches, such as his response to the President’s Father’s Day admonition to black men, are little more than impassioned diatribes in which facts are manipulated like silly putty to create whatever reality that serves his objectives.   He appears to loose his grip on reality as he spews a torrent of invective at the President for challenging black men to man up and act like responsible fathers; stop making babies out of wed lock; committing senseless violence against their communities and get their lessons in school because they “can’t all  be Lil Wayne!”  Well, I live in the Hood, and I think it is sage advice, and much needed at this moment in our history!

“It was bullshit when that comedian Bill Cosby said it; and its bullshit when President Obama says it!” Comrade Dix declared.  Although I wrote a reply to Bill Cosby in the form of an open letter, because I thought he did not sufficiently consider certain critical socio/economic factors in his critique of the black underclass – Lumpen proletariat is the Marxist term of art – I think Comrade Dix is full of shit!

His analysis of the realities facing black youths in this society is every bit as skewered as Bill Cosby’s, and I believe far more dangerous!   Black males are in dire straits, every serious study that considers the hard facts of the matter paint a grim picture.  However it is also true that much of it is self inflicted!  And the advice given by President Obama is exactly what their fathers would tell them…if they are worthy of the name!

If I were a young black or Hispanic person and listened to what Comrade Dix had to say I would conclude that any chance of advancing in this society as a result of hard work, discipline and study was nil.  According to the learned communist cadre my only option is to become a revolutionary. Yet if I concluded that this was too risky a business for the dubious rewards, considering the fact that a communist revolution in America is a very long shot, I might just decide to become an outlaw where my prospects would be much better.  And if I pondered too much over the grim picture that Comrade Dix paints so well, I might just cut my throat.  I know even at my age if I bought the Comrade’s rap hook, line and sinker I’d get up straight away and leap out of my high rise window!

**************

Dr. West’s vision is not so bleak. That’s because as a Christian he is fortified with a heroic optimism based in an unfaltering faith that the Lord will make a way somehow if we keep the faith.  Although I believe that both communism and Christianity are equally fanciful; by far the Christian message is the more hopeful and inspiring.  It is a life enhancing messages that enables the believer to overcome all manner of adversity and keep on keeping on.  It is no accident that Jesse Jackson, a Christian minister whose contribution to the advancement of African Americans is immeasurable, advanced the slogan “keep hope alive!”

Rev Jackson, like Langston Hughes, understood that where there is no hope human beings lose their ability to cope with adversity.   And the message from Comrade Dix is that there is no hope for our youths but to become a communist revolution.  This is what he advocates, not to fight for the visionary programs President Obama is trying desperately to implement; programs that will create the new industries that will create the good jobs in the future.

Perhaps Comrade Dix has not noticed that Communist countries are experiencing economic stagnation too.  In fact the best managed societies in the world, with the highest concern for social welfare and individual freedom, are the democratic socialist societies of Scandinavia.  This is a goal that is within reach fror American society if we conciously choose to take the necissary measures and tax the rich to pay for them.  People will quiclkly learn to love these benefits and demand more; just like social security, unemployment compensation and other socialistic reforms that were inspired by the great depression paved the way for medicare and Medicaid decades later.  This is the only path to real reform in this society.   Of course, Dr. West recognizes this; that’s why he is a Democratic Socialist not a revolutionary communist.

In his zeal to convince young black and Hispanic people that  Communist revolution is their only option Comrade Dix sacrifices context, nuance, and ultimately truth upon the alter of expedience.  Hence his analysis of the life chances of black and Hispanic youths in American society leaves no room for them to envision success in their society; even as immigrants from all over the world flock here because they find it the richest and most open society on earth – a place where they come to realize their dreams.  And this hopeless scenario is accompanied by a dismissal of anyone who attempts to counsel our youths against the negative habits that they have bought into; behavior which will insure that Dix’s grim predictions become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

While there is undoubtedly some truth in Comrade Dix’s analysis of America’s racist restrictions on the life’s chances of our youths, it is astonishing that Comrade Dix presents this as primarily a question of race rather than class.  Nowhere does he make obvious distinctions. Are the children of the black middle class in just as hopeless a situation?  Are white youths who drop out of school, have out of wedlock babies, and do dope all day likely to succeed in this society?

There is a clear path to the middle class under normal circumstances, when the country is not in an economic recession, and that path is a college education. I have a friend in Atlanta, he is a hero of the civil rights movement and a decorated Viet Nam war hero, he was the poorest person in my high school graduating class but is now by far the richest – a multi-millionaire.  Life for him wasn’t no crystal stair, and he cannot understand why people don’t get it: “You can move from poverty to the middle class just by obtaining a college education!” he always says.

Countless Americans from all backgrounds have travelled this road to Success.  And many black folks did so when there was much less opportunity.  But, alas, an accurate analysis of the racial situation in America is not Comrade Dix’s objective; he is, after all, trying to recruit our youths into a Communist conspiracy to overthrow the American capitalist system.

Therefore any suggestion that a young black or Hispanic person might advance in America by turning off the fucking television, reading books, studying hard, avoiding unwanted pregnancies, obeying the law and making college graduation their top priority – all the things President Obama told them – is presented as a fantasy beyond their reach.

Instead, what Dix believes is a realistic goal to which our youths should commit their lives is spelled out by his leader Bob Avakian in their document laying out a new American constitution:

““In the final analysis, as Engels once expressed it, the proletariat must win its emancipation on the battlefield…It will come to this: we will have to face him in the trenches and defeat him amidst terrible destruction but we must not in the process annihilate the fundamental difference between the enemy and ourselves. We must be able to maintain our firmness of principles but at the same time our flexibility, our materialism and our dialectics, our realism and our romanticism, our solemn sense of purpose and our sense of humor.”

This is pure fantasy!  Ideological fiddle faddle!  It is a reliable measure of just how removed from reality Comrade Dix and his co-conspirators really are.  As I write 66% of Americans say they are satisfied with the results of the election.  And they were most heavily represented among blue collar white workers!  They think the government is too powerful and they want Republicans to put a brake on the critical reforms President Obama is making which would improve their lives.  And these are the people the RCP are going to make a communist revolution with?

I’d bet that if the American people ever vote for the kind of super state it would require to implement the kind of radical changes Comrade Dix is advocating they are far more likely to choose some uniquely American form of fascism than communism!  Among their target audience of white workers – who comprise the majority of the industrial proletariat – racism will always trump class consciousness.

President Obama won despite these clowns.  While we know that the Republicans have no solutions to the problems that face this country, there is no telling what the response of the ignorant, racist white mob will be when they finally realize this.  These are truly dangerous times and, as the last election demonstrates, any thing can happen. That’s why the only rational strategy for progressives was to support the President and the democrats, but the combined forces of naysayers on the right and the left has defeated the Democrat’s heroic efforts to tackle the critical problems that are leading the nation to ruin.  An astute strategy for the left should have been to try and solidify these gains and press for more.

From what I see comrade Dix is leading our youths down a dead end.   He is trying his best to rob our youths of their dreams and substitute them for his dreams of Communist Revolution. Comrade Dix even has the unmitigated gall to quote Langston Hughes poem “A Dream Deferred,” which was written at a very different time; a time when racial restrictions were so severe they are beyond the wildest imagination of today’s youths.  However I have a different message for our youths, and a different quote from Langston Hughes.  First I’d like to tell the youths: Fuck these naddering nabobs of negativism!  And “Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die/ life is like a bird with broken wings /and cannot fly!”

Then I would point to President Obama, the first Lady, and Dr. Cornel West, et al as examples of what they can become.  If the stay sober, set their standards high, and work like hell to achieve their goals.  I don’t know if Comrade Dix is a fool or a hustler – or both – but based on the things he is saying I have no doubt that he is one or the other.

Hence I shall do my best to counter his narrative that cast our youths as dead end kids before they ever attempt to realize their aspirations.  I want them to know that it is far easier to become a doctor, lawyer, scientist, architect, plumber, or President of the USA, than it is to be a successful Communist Revolutionary in America. O want to convince them that hey are not destined to end up a deluded old fool pushing a passé ideology, trying to rob the youths of their dreams!

****************

Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York

April 11, 2011

On Moral Preachment Vs. Political Realities

Posted in My Struggle On the Left!, On Black Pundits, On Dr. Cornell West, Playthell on politics with tags , , , on August 7, 2010 by playthell

The Learned Professor West in his Element

A Response To Dr. Cornel West

Anybody who was looking for evidence that history repeats itself need only read my critiques of Dr. Cornel West since the first Bush election – when he thought it was wise to support Ralph Nader over Al Gore.  Well, we all know how that worked out. But let me declare from the outset that I consider Cornel West to be one of the most learned and humane citizens to ever call him self an American, and I agree with him 90% of the time.

As a fellow Democratic Socialist we share the same basic vision and hopes for America.  But from time to time I am forced to part company and criticize his views on a particular question.  In the past we disagreed on his assessment of the character of Dr. WEB Dubois, and the viability of Ralph Nader’s bid for theu presidency and its implications for African American political strategy.  And now I passionately disagree with his assessment of President Obama’s political strategy and policies.  It is this question that I wish to address in the present commentary.

The differences between me and the learned Dr. West derives from our ways of looking at socio/political reality.  Dr. West is a philosopher and theologian, which means he is given to grand mystical musings and philosophical speculations; whereas I rely on the evidentiary rules of the sober historian dispassionately assessing provable facts, and my strategy is determined by the cold realities of the political arena – a heartless place red of tooth and claw where grand speculators, dreamers, preachers and wishful thinkers are devoured like Christians facing the lions in the Circus Maximus of ancient Rome.  In other words Dr. West is a moral scold whose actions are motivated by what he believes is right, no matter what, and I am a political animal who is looking for the best deal I can get because politics is the art of the possible!

It’s all well and good to speak in utopian language about everybody loving each other if your work is in the church, temple. Mosque or synagogue.  There it is sufficient to speak in vague moral platitudes.  Don’t misunderstand me; I too am interested in brotherely love and Christian charity.  But in politics you have to have clearly defined earthly goals and a means of achieving your ends.

Alas in America today prayer and high minded ideals won’t deliver the bacon, this means one must  find a way to successfully put together coalitions in Congress to get the votes you need for your agenda enacted into law. This is about hard nosed bargaining i.e. horse trading….And compromise!  Such is the reality of politics in a participatory democracy.  In our system of government we debate the issues, each side takes their case to the voters, and whoever convinces the majority of the electorate carries the day.  That’s how it’s done.

In view of this reality, Professor West’s observation in the following passage from his recent NPR interview with I Cox makes no sense.

I know my dear brother, President Obama, has a bust of Martin King right there in the Oval Office, but the question is are is he going to be true to who that Martin Luther King, Jr., actually is?  King was concerned about what?  The poor. He was concerned about working people. He was concerned about quality jobs. He was concerned about quality housing. He was concerned about precious babies in Vietnam, the way we ought to be concerned about precious babies in Afghanistan and precious babies in Tel Aviv and precious babies in Gaza. 

“Martin King was fundamentally committed to the least of these. Of course, he was a Christian soldier for justice from the 25th chapter of Matthew. And so more and more black folk tend to be well-adjusted to Obama’s presidency, but does that mean they’re well-adjusted to injustice?  Because we don’t hear our president talking about the new Jim Crow, the prison-industrial complex.”

I am, to say the least, disappointed at this niggling level of analysis from one of our leading critical thinkers and activist public intellectuals.  In whose intrests was the President laboring when he expended loads of political capitol to push a national health care plan through Congress?  Something popular Presidents of both parties have attempted to do and failed since Teddy Roosevelt proposed it over a century ago!  And in whose interests was he laboring when he rammed equal pay for women into law?

Professor West, Pray tell us whose interest he served when he forced BP to establish an open ended fund to clean up the Gulf of Mexico and compesate the victims of the rig blowout, which began with a mandatory deposit of twenty billion dollars?  And this at a time when Republicans were apologizing to the oil execs and criticisizing President Obama’s magnificent deal!

It is the clear task of the intellectual left to educate the public as to the real difference between what President Obama is doing and what the Republicans advocate.  And for African American intellectuals it is an ancestral imperative!Instead we see leading intelectuals on the left, Professor West chief among them, whining about the fact that he cannot instantly address their favorite complaints, no matter that he is dealing with matters that are more important to stability and home and abroad.

Do we really want our President to be bogged down in discussions about “the prison industrial complex?” Just what country does Professor West think he’s in? The last thing on most of the electorate’s mind – black, white or Hispanic – is the plight of convicts. With black and Hispanic communities plagued by murderous criminals and dope fiends, many people believe there should be more prisons!  This writer included!!!

But then, I live in Harlem, while Professor West resides in the pristine lilly white well protected precints of Princetown.  And most white Americans certainly don’t want to hear about how hard convicts are having it when they are struggling to keep a roof over their heads, food on the table, and personally know good law abiding people – friends and family – who have lost the ability to do both.

I voted for Barack Obama, and campaigned for him with my voice, pen and personal efforts.  And he’s doing just what I want him to do.  But then, I voted for a President, not a preacher or protest leader.  The difference between what I expect and what Dr. West longs for is clear from his comment in the Playboy interview, where he wished the President was “more Martin Luther King like.”  This statement, like most of his critiques of the President, reveals that the good Professor is clueless in regard to the type of leadership the present moment requires form the Chief Executive of these United States.

This is not about rethorical moralizing; it’s about the exercise and retention of power  – which is the ability to do what you want when you want to doit, to get others to do what you want when you want to do it, and to get the most, and the best, of what ever there is to get!  Hence we need sober pragmatist who know how to keep their eyes on the prize; who see the world as it is and not how we wish it to be.  Cornel West’s evocation of Dr. King demonstrates that in spite of his prodigious learning he does not understand this fundamental point.

Dr. King was a charismatic revivalist in a mass transformative movement whose objective was to change the moral tenor of American civilization – to persuade racist whites to recognize the error of their ways in race relations and repent.  Hence his training as a theologian and philosopher was, when coupled with his verbal virtuosity as an Afro-American preacher, ideal tools for his task.  But Barack Obama is the President of the USA, a demanding job unlike any other on earth,  for which a different skills set is required.

To begin with, Dr. king did not have to seek the votes of a diverse constituency who are largely non-black in order to keep his position as head of SCLC and “leader” of the Civil Rights Movement.  But Barack Obama does.  Dr. Kings’ objective was to engage in “creative” disruptions of society in order to dramatize his point.  Which is the proper role of outside agitators, but as President Barack is the ultimate insider. So his interest is in maintaining the orderly working of society with as few disruptions as possible.

This explains why revolutionaries so often became staunch law and order advocates once they seize power.  It is in the nature of things.  One’s perspective changes with one’s position in society.  Revolutionaries are totally concerned with disrupting the existing order and seizing power; therefore the tactics they choose are suited to achieving that goal.  But once they succeed in taking power then they have the problem of governing, creating a society more fulfilling to its citizen’s aspirations that the government they overthrew. And that requires a radically different program; in their new role the old tactics are no longer useful.

Barack Obama is tasked with rebuilding the nation from the rubble of eight years of disastrous Republican mismanagement of the nation’s affairs.  It is, to say the least, a Herculean task even if all things remained equal and he received no opposition from the Grand Obstructionist Party. But our President has not been so lucky.  His task is more difficult than that of the Hebrew slaves who were ordered to build bricks with no straw, or that of Booker T. Washington in Tuskegee Alabama a mere generation after slavery  who was tasked with “building buildings in America with no money.”

Since, as Harold Cruse correctly argued, “Americans are anti-historical,’ let me remind the good Professor that when Barack Obama took office the nation’s economy was virtually crumbling around him, and he was presented with two foreign wars both bogged down in a quagmire.  And he has been burdened by a do-nothing obstructionist Republican minority, and a right-wing mass media apparatus dedicated to scandalizing his name, casting doubt on the legitimacy of his Presidency, and apparently trying to get him assassinated.

If I believed all the vicious lies they tell about him 24/7 on WABC AM and Fox television, I’d want to knock him off myself.  Then the critics on the left have been only marginally better.  Both extremes exhibit what the distinguished American historian Richard J. Hofatader calls “the paranoid style in American politics.”  After reading Dr. West’s comments the great novelist and peerless essayist Ishmael Reed has concluded in his ever insightful and candid fashion: “progressives” and their front men are out to destroy Obama just as they did Humphrey, Carter, etc. they’re staying home and pouting will lead to Republican victory and a corporate plant plain victory in 2012. Then you can forget about Social Security, Medicaid, welfare, etc.” because of progressives’ ego.”

And from where I sit this prescient brother has got a point.  Everything that President Obama has done since he took office has been to try and fulfill the promises he made to bring about substantive change that we can believe in.  And this has sparked a vilification campaign like none that I have witnessed in my lifetime.  The Republican opposition has made no bones about the fact that they have one objective: To bring Obama down.  I believe, as the courageous comic Wanda Sykes said at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner last year, what some of these crackers are doing verges on treason!

And now we hear Professor West, a moral clarion of the democratic socialist left, railing about the President being more concerned about saving Wall Street than unemployed workers.  Since I have written a piece on the subject I won’t belabor it here– for an intelligent discussion of this question see:  ‘Can President Obama solve the Unemployment Crisis?” at http://www.commentariesonthetimes.wordpress.com.  The plain fact is that the only way a President can directly influence the unemployment situation is to make the federal government the employer of last resort.

Yet in the present political climate that’s impossible because there are not enough votes in Congress to pass another economic stimulus bill – despite the fact that the country clearly needs one.  In fact, the Republicans are running against the last stimulus package, although it prevented an imminent castastrophe that would have resulted in the firing of thousands of critical public sector workers all across the country and deepened the recession.  Hence to blame President Obama for high unemployment is ridiculous, and to criticize him for bailing out the banks at the same time, when failure to do so would have brought on a world wide economic collapse, is well….just plain silly!

But what is even more disturbing in Professor West’s case, his criticism seems to be sparked by the fact that he feels ignored, or snubbed, by President Obama.  Recalling an incident where he was in attendance when the President spoke, Dr. West tells Tony Cox:

“He made a beeline to me, though, brother, and he was deeply upset. He talked to me like I was a Cub Scout, and he was a pack master, you know what I mean? I said, well, my mother and father raised me right. I respect my dear brother, but I don’t like to be demeaned and humiliated in that way, and I didn’t get a chance to respond to him. And I hope maybe at some time we can. But it was very, it was a very ugly kind of moment, it seems to me, and that disturbs me because then it raises the question for me: Does he have a double standard for black critics as opposed to white critics?  Frank Rich, Paul Krugman, Maureen Dowd, a whole host of brilliant, courageous critics say all kinds of things, and he treats them with respect. They get invited to the White House. I say the same thing, he talks to me like I’m a Cub Scout.” 

That Dr. West felt the need to tell this tale is bad enough, but that he did so without irony or shame on public radio is shocking!  It seems to never have occured to the self-important Professor that the three pundits he mentioned are among the best and the brighest of the punditocricy, and since they all appear on the editorial page of the New York Times, all the most powerful people in the world reads them!

On the other hand, despite his brillance – or perhaps because of it – his audience is far more limited.  And besides, precisely because he is a brilliant and broadly learned African American intellectual Barack had every right to expect him to understand what the real deal is.  And to be pissed off that he didn’t!  I know I feel like pulling a Stanley Crouch and bitch slapping him myself when I read what he says sometimes.

Yet when all’s said and done, the most disturbing development is that  on some critical questions the left’s position is becoming indistinguishable from the reactionary right. The anti-bailout hokum is a graphic case in point.  Instead of closing ranks behind our visionary and courageous President and defending him from the Tea Party Brown Shirts, employing their formidable intellectual skills to counter the relentless ideological war being waged against him on the right, the left, who appear to be content in the role of a permanent national debating society with no chance of taking power, is finding common cause with the enemy!

Yet in the face of all these seemingly insurmountable obstacles Barack Obama’s performance has been nothing short of outstanding!  I’d give him an A+ faster than the Lone Ranger could draw his gun.  While Professor West may seek salvation in some heavenly realm, I shall abide by Kwame Nkrumah’s axiom: “Seek ye first the political kingdom, and all else will be added there unto.”

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On Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Posted in Cultural Matters, On Dr. Cornell West, Playthell on politics with tags , , , , on January 18, 2010 by playthell

 

 Martin Luther King Jr.

 A Twentieth Century Prophet

  In 1964, as the Civil Rights Bill was being debated in Congress, the black people of St. Augustine Florida, where I grew up, were waging a bloody struggle against the racial caste system in the nation’s oldest city.  And they were joined in their struggle by people of good will from all over the country.  There were contingents of clergymen representing Catholics and Protestants, Gentiles and Jews.

There were also members of the American elite like Mrs. Mary Peabody, the mother of Endicott Peabody, the sitting Governor of Massachusetts, and poor righteous teachers and students.  The magnet that attracted this broad coalition of conscience to St. Augustine was Dr. Martin Luther King, an extraordinary man of the sort that may appear once in a century.

Some misguided critics on the left and right, black and white, have attempted to deny or minimize his importance in bringing about the radical changes in American society – especially regarding race relations – that occurred during the last half of the twentieth century. While I recognize that the sweeping changes which destroyed the legal basis of the racial caste system was the result of a long arduous struggle that enlisted many soldiers, I also understand that Dr. King’s contribution was unique.

No one else could command the allegiance of the privileged classes and the impoverished masses like King did.  In the second volume of his masterwork on the life of Martin Luther King, “Pillars of Fire,” Taylor Branch tells us that the distinguished theologian, philosopher and Orthodox Rabbi Abraham Heschel, called Dr. King a “prophet.”

A European immigrant, Rabbi Heschel had been a famous theologian in Germany until he was forced to flee the Nazi holocaust, and he was a professor at the Jewish Theological seminary in New York when he met Dr. King in Chicago, where both attended a conference on Religion and Race in 1963.  For Heschel, Branch points out, racism was heresy and the Rabbi bluntly told the conference: “You cannot worship God and at the same time look at a man as if he were a horse.”

Heschel, who had written a seminal book on the ancient Hebrew Prophets, argued that what marked King as a prophet was not his power to move people with visions of better tomorrows expressed in great oratory, because “Moralist of all ages have been eloquent in singing the praises of virtue.”

In Heschel’s view “The Distinction of the prophets was in their remorseless unveiling of injustice and oppression.”  Furthermore, the prophet avoided lapsing into despair by viewing unwarranted suffering as redemptive – a theme reiterated many times in the speeches of Dr. King.  Hence, according to Heschel’s definition, Martin Luther King Jr. was indeed a prophet.

Yet even without Rabbi Heschel’s vast knowledge of the Hebrew prophetic tradition, the masses of southern black people had already concluded that Dr. King was some species of prophet or messiah who, like Moses in the bible, was ordained to lead them to the Promised Land of freedom.  Dr. King so embodied this tradition that even as late as June 2003, the Hasidic Rabbi Schmuley Boteach, Oxford Chaplain and author of over a dozen books, told this writer, “Dr. King brought the teachings of the ancient Hebrew prophets to life and made their teachings relevant to the modern world in a way that no rabbi I know of has been able to do.”

The black folk of St. Augustine were all raised on those Old Testament stories about the suffering and deliverance of the Jews, indeed the “Negro Spirituals” they sang were based upon them. So they were well conditioned to receive Dr. King’s message. While sophisticated thinkers may view the scriptures as symbolic or allegorical, to the toiling black masses of the south, where King’s ministry of struggle was born and raised, the stories in the bible were literally true.

As Dr. DuBois points out in the chapter “The Coming of the Lord” in his 1935 masterpiece Black Reconstruction, the freed slaves who flocked to the Union Army felt that God was alive and that they had met and talked with him in the dark of night.  This was the tradition in which the black culture of St. Augustine was rooted.  Thus their feelings about the divine nature of his mission were real. It was by this faith that they walked unarmed amid the murderous white mobs like Daniel in the Lion’s Den.

The Doctor, as King was affectionately known among friends and colleagues, had something for everybody.  He was the good shepherd to his church flock and an intellectual of the first rank – a PhD in systematic theology from Boston University.  He was both a child of the black church and a paragon of the “Talented Tenth,” who accepted the ancestral imperative set forth by black men of prophetic moral vision such as: Father Alexander Crummell, Bishop Daniel Payne, Dr. W.E.B. DuBois, Frederick Douglass, Dr. Benjamin Mayes, et al, and he used his splendid education to lead the oppressed masses by preaching a gospel of liberation.

He was the ideal son that every black mother wished for, the eloquent orator who did the black middle class proud, and the rousing preacher whose powerful baritone voice and rhythmic cadences could summon the spirit of God for the righteous, and inspire goose pimples and fear in the infidels! Indeed, he could soothe the savage beasts of hopelessness and despair with the sound of his voice.

In Martin Luther King Jr., both traditions of the black preacher – the learned and the vernacular – converge.  He could move seamlessly from a learned philosophical discourse, to a sermon based in the religious folkways of the black southern masses.  Dr. King could calmly preach to the text, or deliver a free wheeling stem-winder with the best of the great extemporaneous preachers who rely on inspiration rather than education when interpreting biblical texts, those un-tutored clerical bards whom the learned poet and freedom fighter James Weldon Johnson immortalized in “God’s Trombones.”

He was also a splendid example of Black male style as it evolved in the US, his sartorial elegance matching his verbal eloquence; two highly regarded attributes in black male culture. And like his contemporaries Ralph Ellison and Malcolm X, King was also a great dancer, having won the Jitterbug Champion-ship of Atlanta as a teenager.

When all is said and done however, what distinguished Martin Luther King Jr. from the vast majority of preachers and secular intellectuals was his willingness to place his body in harm’s way on behalf of the oppressed. While he could have had an easy life, even in apartheid America, he did this over and over again in the face of opponents with bloody murder on their minds.  So, it is altogether fitting and proper that we should pay homage to this twentieth century prophet, who died so that a better America might be born.

A Genuine Man of the People!

Evidence of a mispent youth?

 

******************

To Hear the Greatest Orator of the 20th Century, Dr. M L King 

(Double Click Here)

http://youtu.be/HlvEiBRgp2M

Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem New York

Dr. Martin Luther King Day!

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