Social Justice

Wasn’t feeling very inspired yesterday when I wrote my weekly piece here at Docudharma.  And it showed.

andgarden made a comment that wasn’t very tactful perhaps, but was deadly accurate:

I mostly agree, but

I hope it will be something new and different, that we’ll all find a way to change the paradigm of how we speak to each other as Americans.  I hope we’ll talk about social justice, the deep primal human needs that percolate through our sophisticated and civilized minds and find their finest expression in laws, laws that apply to everyone equally.

seems just a tad bombastic. I’m just here to pass the time. And, you know, maybe force the establishment to see the error of their ways–if that’s possible.

And that is true.  I was being more than a tad bombastic.  It’s hard sometimes to get down to the real feelings on this.  The very term “social justice” is a ponderous and bombastic couple of words.

So I’m gonna try again, leaving out the bombast, I hope, and reaching more for the nitty gritty.

It’s about being poor.  Right now we’re all het up about pressuring our representatives to end the Iraq War.  And if that happens, will we then turn to social justice?

I doubt it.  There will always be other things that appear more important.  We’ll always shake our heads about those “less fortunate” and then still give the bulk of our energies to projects with quicker returns for our investment, more dramatic results.  And those project may well be very important, very good.

Let’s take a look at one particular issue as an example.

On August 31, there was a protest in New Orleans.  super babymama has some of the details:

Public Housing residents from around the country have just taken over the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO). The public building that they have occupied has been surrounded by the National Guard, the New Orleans Police, including a SWAT team. It is now two years after Katrina and New Orleans public housing residents are still prevented from returning to their homes. Public housing residents and advocates from Miami, New Orleans, Georgia, Texas, Rhode Island, Chicago, California, and New York have taken over the HANO offices at 4100 Touro St. to demand that public housing, both in New Orleans and around the country, is saved, preserved, and expanded.

See, after the Federal Storm, the powers that be had a great opportunity to get rid of the “undesirable elements.”  Even though the public housing had not been decimated, and in many instances, these were very well built and even attractive buildings, the folks were forced to evacuate.

And they have not been allowed to return.  They want to come back.  But instead the powers that be have decided to raze the public housing and put up “mixed housing” instead — of course that “mixed housing” will not meet the needs of the majority of folks who used public housing.  Neat trick.

I could go into all the facts and figures, I’ve been reading about this for a long time.  But this is just an example.

Gentilly Girl, one of the great group of NOLA bloggers, puts this in a wider perspective:

Well just bugger me with a tuning fork: I thought the B/S surrounding the “rebuilding” of the Gulf Coast in general, and New Orleans in particular, was just the Moron-In-Charge and the Corporate Capitalists’ way of having things their way down here. Sadly, I see that the Prophet, the architect of this insanity down here is Milton Friedman, the creator of the Chicago School of Capitalism.

She links to an article in the Guardian by Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine, and goes on to say:

I’ve always been a Keynesian type of spirit: a Free Market with checks and balances on certain activities that affected the whole of Society. I never saw this one coming, but thanks to Ms Klein, mine eyes have been opened to Reality. That economic forces would be so brutal to an old culture just to play out their games, to justify their philosophy. My heart hurts, and mainly it hurts because we here in New Orleans may just lose this battle and become as banal a place as almost every other locality in the country is.

“This desire for godlike powers of creation is precisely why free-market ideologues are so drawn to crises and disasters. Non-apocalyptic reality is simply not hospitable to their ambitions. For 35 years, what has animated Friedman’s counter-revolution is an attraction to a kind of freedom available only in times of cataclysmic change – when people, with their stubborn habits and insistent demands, are blasted out of the way – moments when democracy seems a practical impossibility. Believers in the shock doctrine are convinced that only a great rupture – a flood, a war, a terrorist attack – can generate the kind of vast, clean canvases they crave. It is in these malleable moments, when we are psychologically unmoored and physically uprooted, that these artists of the real plunge in their hands and begin their work of remaking the world.”

None of this is real news to us, the way our country has been operating … we all know about the corporatization of America, the corruption of America, the looting of America.

When it comes to New Orleans, I think luckydog at Daily Kos said it best:

great article…one point, tho’… (14+ / 0-)
Recommended by:cdreid, sukeyna, julifolo, Rogneid, Nightprowlkitty, Sagittarius, feduphoosier, MBNYC, doctorj2u, sfbob, galaxy33, IamLorax, mon, NeeshRN

…in order for the crony contracts to have come about as quickly as they did, it is indisputable to me that any and all discussions in the White House in the first days after Katrina were not “how can we help NOLA & the Gulf Coast”, rather the discussions were “get our friends lined up”.

In the whole White House, there never ever was a reaction of compassion and action.

On the other hand, there was no hesitation, none whatsoever. The White House was always, from the get-go, always…Cha-Ching!

It’s not as though the White House stumbled upon ways to help cronies – they approached the whole situation from the outset as an opportunity.

And that’s as fucking sick as it gets.

This is something to think about.  Not that the Bushies rubbed their hands together in glee and said “oh boy! Another tragedy to exploit!”  But that this is the way they look at everything when it comes to confronting and acting upon events happening in our country.  It is the way they do their jobs.

Ok, now back to social justice.

Does anyone think we’ll be talking a lot in the future about what has happened to the tens of thousands of poor folks in New Orleans who were forced out of their homes and can’t get back, whose former homes will now be torn down by Republicronies, and that these folks looks at national disasters as ways of making a profit?

Because I don’t think so.  There will always be bigger stories, more powerful stories, than what happens to the poor.  Folks do want to help the poor — we contribute money, we vote the right way on the “issues,” we want social justice, sure.

But will we ever put them first?  Before our own needs?  Will we ever think about making that sacrifice, as we have asked them to do from time immemorial?

I’m rambling now, I know, and I will continue to do so in the future until I get this clear for myself.

This may not seem like a logical conclusion.  But I believe part of the answer has to do with giving it away … giving our most precious notions away in service to something that doesn’t seem to make any sense.  To put those in need first instead of last, not just from our pocketbooks but in our discourse and our thoughts.

I hope to write more about this and, hopefully in a more coherent fashion.  For now, thanks, andgarden.  You were right.


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  1. … didn’t mean to put this on the FP.  Still getting the hang of this “contributing editor” stuff.

    Is there a way to put it back on the “recent essays” page?  Would like to know for future reference, if nothing else.

  2. If we want to work on social justice, I think we need to pick up the executive and legislative branches. The executive will also need to know how to get stuff done in Congress. I have a favorite quote from Strom  Thurmond upon the assassination of JFK:

    Good God, Lyndon’s president. He’s gonna pass a lot of this damn fool stuff!

  3. they ring a note of truth in me.

    I came here as a result of the link on the Unapologetic Mexican to your diary on diversity. And I’m liking what I’m seeing so far.

    Keep up the musings. And sometimes I wonder whether getting to a point of “clarity” means we’ve ended the journey. Most likely finding comfort, but not any truth.

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