Sunday, February 3, 2008

Peace etc...

"And despite our absolute hatred and fear of groups such as the Black Panther party because they refused to espouse non-violence, we have no problem honouring "heroes" such as General Colin Powell, who may have killed as many as 100,000 Iraqis during the Gulf war. Apparently it is evil to take up arms in defence of black people, as the Panthers did, but perfectly Christian behaviour to take up arms in defence of oil companies' profits.

Which brings us to Obama, a black candidate who refuses even to say whether he supports reparations for slavery. One of the worst aspects of the King legacy is that, thanks to him, no African-American today is allowed to bring up racism, even in the most objective fashion, without severe repercussions. You will be instantly labelled a radical, a Black Panther (a bad thing), or a Mau Mau (a very bad thing) who wants to kill the white man. King has eliminated the possibility of other black people speaking out, people with other philosophies, who do not necessarily want to hug racists. Obama can succeed only insofar as he makes it plain that, like the British trade unionist Bill Morris, he is "not the black candidate", that he can be counted on neither to be a champion for, nor to defend the rights of, black people.

Our love for King notwithstanding, if we are honest we will concede that King built nothing, and taught us only how to take a beating. As Gandhi said: "I have admitted my mistake. I thought our struggle was based on non-violence, whereas in reality it was no more than passive resistance, which is essentially a weapon of the weak.""

From a opinion piece in the Guardian by Jonathan Farley, a former professor of Mathematics at MIT. I'm blogging here because of the obvious analogies with the "peace" and "resistance" supporters in Lebanon (and the rest of the Arab countries) today. Read the comments if you have time, some are interesting and present the other side.

5 comments:

ps said...

This is an incredibly ahistorical and irresponsible commentary. Farley attributes contemporary American electoral discourse with an exaggerated insistence on the political and frankly, essential commonalities between King and Obama, in order to denounce the straw man of a tactical legacy of nonviolent resistance that Obama has presumably inherited (and I use the familial metaphor advisedly) from King. Farley's account of King's position and impact perpetuates the most vulgarian paradigm of African American political history that analogizes King to Washington as Malcolm X to DuBois. I keep hoping we have moved beyond this. I could go on at great length but I will restrict myself to the single point of referring any reader inclined to join in Farley's mockery of King's advocacy of non-violence to the 'Beyond Vietnam' speech, which King delivered a year to the day before his assassination. This is a clear and brave denunciation of American imperialism, and unequivocally situates the appeal to non-violence within that context. His outrage on behalf of the landless peasants of Vietnam should be of particular interest to readers of this blog, should any of them need the reminder.

http://www.stanford.edu/group/King/publications/speeches/Beyond_Vietnam.pdf

http://www.democracynow.org/2008/1/21/dr_martin_luther_king_jr_1929

Bedouina said...

Thanks to the commenter above for the erudite response.

By coincidence, I just happened to blog comments Helena Cobban made on non-violence, Hamas and Hizbullah.

http://justworldnews.org/archives/002785.html

You'll have to scroll down in her article to get to the part where she describes the women's movements of Hamas and Hizbullah, and non-violent actions the movements have carried out with success.

Her remarks reminded me of the article my mother wrote about the liberation of Arnoun:

http://www.ecapc.org/articles/AbuSabM_PeacefullyLiberated.asp

Mom was teaching at AUB at the time, and many of her students skipped class to go down and liberate Arnoun from the Israelis.

Also, sadly, I discovered my post from November 2006 lamenting how the Israelis shot down Palestinian women (unarmed) during a protest.

http://bedouina.typepad.com/doves_eye/2006/11/nonviolent_resi.html

Which would seem to add ammunition to the POV of those who sneer at non-violence. But I don't think Gandhi or King argued that resisters would not be harmed using non-violence.

Note what Michael Lerner says here
http://warincontext.org/2008/02/02/campaign-08-obamas-appeal-and-his-jewish-problem/

about the recent break-out in Gaza - his organization received 250 emails from young Jews outraged at Israel's behavior toward Gaza. The destruction of the fence has gained the Palestinians a huge amount of sympathy from young Jews. Lerner's point is that "old" Jews don't get it, but still control the institutions of Jewish life; while the new generation does get it, doesn't have the institutional power yet, but will. (And Lerner says Obama is catering to the old guard)

I think you could call the Gaza action exactly the sort of moral victory that non-violent theorists predict.

Marcy / مارسي said...

love this piece, but not "peace, etc." what's wrong with obama is that he supports jewish supremacy of the same sort of ideology that supported racial supremacy all over africa. these two issues you define here--which are so key for many people who believe in justice and resistance in amrika--are the two issues that powell walked out of the durban conference in september 2001 that was supposed to talk about both of these issues.

Anonymous said...

'Obama supports jewish supremacy of the same sort of ideology that supported racial supremacy all over africa'? Perhaps there is evidence to support this statement which otherwise is simply sloppy and inflammatory.

Anonymous said...

'Obama supports jewish supremacy of the same sort of ideology that supported racial supremacy all over africa'? Perhaps there is evidence to support this statement which otherwise is simply sloppy and inflammatory.