April 2, 2004
Subject: Chiapas, Palestine and Haiti
Oaxaca, Friday, April 2, 2004
Sara Davies, one of my three daughter-out-laws, for a time ended her invariably provocative e-mails with “Enlightenment is not a worthy goal.” The other day Kevin Murray reminded me of that when he wrote, “I greatly enjoyed the article by [Immanuel] Wallerstein,* but what does it say about the way forward for Haiti? It was very much like the recent [Noam] Chomsky piece** in that regard.”(emphasis added)
I wrote back, “You're absolutely right. It said nothing. That's part of my objection to "the long view" that academics can so comfortably discuss. Yes, empires rise and fall. But there's little comfort in knowing that to the majority of the world's people, who are being crushed day in and day out by the forces of giant capitalism. I knew that when I posted Wallerstein's piece. Like him, I lead a privileged life. I enjoy an occasional cappuchino. Unlike him, I'm not nearly as well-informed. But I've got the fire of Marguerite Laurent*** inside me. I'm only a privileged white male American Jew on the outside -- in my gut I'm as close to being a 'nigger' as a white man can be.”
* The Wallerstein item is from March 15, linked to below.
Sara was dead right. Just knowing things in depth, having a profound understanding of the horrific reality in which so many of the world’s people are forced to live, is not a goal worth striving for, unless you’re going to use that knowledge to try to change the world for the better. Of course, if you want to know how to try to change it, first you need to really understand what’s going on. So people like Chomsky, Wallerstein and many, many others are peforming an enormously valuable task. I think their roles in awakening several generations of Americans (and others) to the true nature of the U.S. and of global capitalism cannot be overvalued. I feel an enormous personal debt to all of them - and the list is very long - for my own gradual enlightenment.
But the struggle for enlightenment goes on and on. I have been in a running battle with Kevin Murray, the Executive Director of Grassroots International, an NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) that does excellent work supporting truly popular-based grassroots groups in Haiti, Mexico, Palestine, Brazil and Eritrea. Kevin and I disagree in our answers to the question: Is the United States primarily responsibile for the overthrow of the Aristide government, or was it due to failures of Aristide’s regime? So far as I know, Kevin is alone, or almost alone (among those outside of Haiti who truly support Haitian democracy) in seeing Aristide’s failures as the primary cause of the coup’s seemingly easy success.
In a comment on Kevin’s apparent complete unwillingness to condemn the role of the U.S. in the forceful way that I think it clearly deserves, I wrote that the net effect of his entries on the Grassroots International blog “is to (1) underplay the culpability of the U.S., (2) overplay the amount of what I consider legitimate "civil society" opposition to Aristide, and (3) thereby shift a major part of the responsibility for the coup d'état onto Aristide's personal shortcomings. I believe it is strategically wrong to focus on an individual person and to downplay the institutional forces (U.S., World Bank, IMF, etc.)...” Despite our disagreement on how we understand the real situation in Haiti, we are in total agreement on the necessity of supporting popular grassroots groups there in order to achieve constructive social change.
As I previously wrote (in the March 27 note, linked to below),
The Zapatistas, the Palestinians, and the Haitians
We ought to recognize the critically important role of international grassroots support in sustaining the struggles of the Zapatista communities in Chiapas and of the Palestinians’ communities throughout the Israeli-controlled and assaulted areas of Palestine. In both cases powerful nation-states are trying to destroy people’s infrastructure, right now more openly and brazenly in Palestine, but also in Chiapas, where it’s not really hidden from those who would know, despite all the lies and denials.
In the last month, as part of the counter-propaganda effort I’m trying to contribute to, I posted several additional items in the “Salz-mania” subfolder of my website (more than usual in a single month):
March 29, 2004, An Open Letter to American Jews, by Assaf Oron, at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Strate/Salz/2004-03-29.htm
March 27, 2004, Haiti: a time for imagination; a time for action; una oportunidad para américa latina, by G.S., at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Strate/Salz/2004-03-27.htm
March 23, 2004, Haiti: A call for help, by Marguerite Laurent, at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Strate/Salz/2004-03-23.htm
March 22, 2004, Euro/US madness put into application in Haiti, Drug Gang Heroes replacing President Aristide; Alas, poor Haiti, by Marguerite Laurent, at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Strate/Salz/2004-03-22.htm
March 15, 2004, Haiti: The Bicentenntial Coup d'Etat, by Immanuel Wallerstein, at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Strate/Salz/2004-03-16.htm
March 7, 2004, Getting Rid of Bush--Urgently Necessary but Not Sufficient; The Evil of Two Lessers, by G.S., at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Strate/Salz/2004-03-07.htm
There are a few items that I want to post, one on the Zapatistas’ struggle in Chiapas, and one or two on the Palestinians’ struggle in the occupied territories, but I haven’t yet done so. When I do, I’ll show them on (and link to them from) the page, “Latest postings on current struggles”, which is at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Latest.htm.
--G.S., April 2, 2004
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