Monday, October 27, 2008


In Baghdad

In Palestine

On the US/Mexico Border

Around Gated Communities

More and more walls...what are they for?

I got a bit of a jolt about this as I listened to the cd of Naomi Klein's book The Shock Doctrine on a recent road trip. At the end of the book she discusses the Israeli economy and the walling off of Palestinians in the occupied territories. She says,

What Israel has constructed is...a network of open holding pens for millions of people who have been categorized as surplus humanity.

I immediately thought of a speech given by David Simon (creator of the HBO show "The Wire") where he talked about the fact that, in our post-industrial economy, every day that goes by, humans are worth less. In other words, our current system as it now operates, needs less of us to make a profit and is content to categorize millions of people as "surplus humanity" and then wall them off to protect us from their anger and rebellion.

And in cases where we don't have permanent walls, we have this kind.

Or this...

It is therefore no surprise that one of the largest growth industries in the United States is our prison system and that we are now the world's leader in incarceration with over 2 million people in prison - a 500% increase in the last 30 years. Most states are going bankrupt building these kinds of walls that house one in three black men. And our federal government is spending millions to incarcerate an ever increasing number of migrants. Just another reflection of the growth of "surplus humanity" and an excuse for more walls.

This last week, Buhdy has been asking us to think about our vision for the future. This is one of the fundamental things I think we need to figure out how to change. Here's a little bit from the speech by David Simon that I referenced above.

I didn't start out as a cynic, but at every given moment where this country has had a choice - its governments, institutions, corporations, its social framework - to exalt the value of individuals over the value of the shared price, we have chosen raw unencumbered capitalism. Capitalism has become our god. You are not looking at a marxist up here, but you are looking at somebody who doesn't believe that capitalism can work absent a social framework that accepts that it is relatively easy to marginalize more and more people in this economy. Capitalism has to be attended to. And that has to be a conscious calculation on the part of society, if that is going to succeed... At some point, either more of us are going to find our conscience or we're not.

I am not one that thinks an economic model can solve this, though a better one could certainly improve things. The capacity for disrespect of individual humanity has been equally demonstrated by both communism and capitalism.

As Simon says, its in our conscience where the change starts. We have to really believe that our fate is tied up with the fate of the millions of "others" who are being so casually discarded every day and find a way to include them in where we want to go.

That will take some evolving. It means that we will have to rid ourselves of our sense of US exceptionlism and white privilege. It means a lot of listening to the points of view of the people behind those walls that we create...not being afraid of hearing and feeling their anger for what we've done...and then working with them to find some common ground.

That's my more walls.

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