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1  GENERAL / General Board / Re: The Phony Anti-War Movement on: July 30, 2011, 03:10:14 AM
I do not apologize for daring to hope, but I am beyond disappointed and disgusted by Obama. This debt-ceiling fiasco is the absolute limit. The only positive light I can put on his behavior is to conclude that the United States is indeed ungovernable, totally co-opted by corporate interests.
2  GENERAL / General Board / Re: for the people of Egypt on: February 13, 2011, 02:33:28 PM

“We are all equal – rich and poor – and we need a society where the people enjoy their rights. But once you speak this way, it becomes a good reason for you to be pushed out of the country or to be kidnapped as I was.” – President Aristide

It was American soldiers who kidnapped President Aristide and an American plane that flew him out of Haiti in 2003. The United States cannot talk democracy with one side of its mouth and subvert it with the other. Never again!
3  GENERAL / General Board / for the people of Egypt on: February 13, 2011, 02:17:30 PM
For the people of Egypt
Feb.11, 2011

to be all at once
for once and for all

and with such clarity
the only place
to be-
a million sudden sisters
and brothers
in the thick of it
water cannon teargas
bat bullet rock
and you don’t stop

taking up the thin gold thread
woven through generations
“we must hang together
or surely
we shall all hang separately”
kin to beloved sages
and nameless sufferers
alike with desires so simple
so elemental the most human
of desires

unalienable despite facts
of history which seem to indicate
their expendability
and though the regimes of despots are fragile
their demise inevitable
there seems no shortage of despots
hawk-faced hucksters who trade in fear

but “there is something in the soul
that cries out for freedom”
that abides through oceans of broken bodies
and dread silence of extinguished voices,
that sprouts unlikely from blasted landscapes
something that ever will insist
 and persist

this day they chant “Allahu Akbar!”
shoulder to shoulder
on another it was “Amandla!”
on others “Viva!”

Amman, Riyadh, Damascus, Tehran, Tora Bora, take note.
The fear you’ve manufactured is all that stands
between you and the deluge. Fear turns
on a dime. It’s just a matter of time.
4  GENERAL / General Board / Re: Leave Wyclef Jean Alone! on: February 01, 2010, 07:53:31 PM
Thanks for this---the analogy is that he's like the anti-Castro Cubans...
good to know
5  GENERAL / General Board / Read Naomi Klein--Stop them Before They Shock Again!!! on: January 19, 2010, 06:26:17 PM
6  GENERAL / General Board / Leave Wyclef Jean Alone! on: January 19, 2010, 06:15:01 PM
7  GENERAL / General Board / As Haitians Flee, the Dead Go Uncounted on: January 19, 2010, 03:03:36 PM

Protocols exist to deal with bodies respectfully and safely in the event of mass death.
Bulldozing bodies into mass graves would sure not be tolerated here in the U.S.
8  GENERAL / General Board / Pat Robertson: Haiti cursed by 'pact with Devil' on: January 14, 2010, 02:33:08 PM

Talk about the devil...Talk about revisionist history...

This article from 5 years ago seems appropriate today.

And check the SICK disparaging of Haiti in the media...check the adjectives.

Is it just me or was the whole place overrun with fresh-faced American missionaries??  O well, Haiti's people are tough so good luck on any brainwashment.
9  GENERAL / General Board / Chinua Achebe’s Encounters With Many Hearts of Darkness on: December 16, 2009, 01:58:33 PM

The first novel and masterpiece from the Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe, “Things Fall Apart,” is such an economical and lucid depiction of a tribal society cracking under the weight of colonialism that it has become required reading in many American high schools. It’s the stinging “To Kill a Mockingbird” of modern African literature.

First published in 1958, “Things Fall Apart” turned 50 last year, to wide acclaim. In 2007 Mr. Achebe won the Man Booker International Prize, a lifetime achievement award. But if Mr. Achebe has been much in the news, he’s been silent on the page. His new volume of essays, “The Education of a British-Protected Child,” is his first book since he was paralyzed from the waist down, in 1990, in a car accident in Nigeria.

It’s a welcome return. Those who have closely followed Mr. Achebe’s career won’t find much that’s new in “The Education of a British-Protected Child.” He deals only glancingly with subjects his readers might be curious about in 2009, like how the aftershocks of his accident have affected his life and work.

But in this book he tangles further, and profitably, with the obsessions that have defined his career: colonialism, identity, family, the uses and abuses of language. And he returns to some of the still smoldering controversies that have shaped his reputation. These include his groundbreaking 1975 analysis of the racism lurking in Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness,” and his defense against critics who have attacked him for writing African literature in the colonizer’s language, English.

Mr. Achebe grew up in British colonial Nigeria, and this book takes its title from the designation on his passport when he traveled out of his country for the first time, in 1957, to attend BBC Staff School in London. The passport read, “British Protected Person.” It was, Mr. Achebe slyly writes, “rather arbitrary protection.”

In Nigeria Mr. Achebe attended schools modeled on British public schools. He read classic English novels, plenty of them about Africa. He writes firmly and vividly about his first experience of these novels, and how the blinders eventually fell from around his eyes. It’s worth quoting his recollections at length:

“I did not see myself as an African in those books. I took sides with the white men against the savages. In other words, I went through my first level of schooling thinking I was of the party of the white man in his hair-raising adventures and narrow escapes. The white man was good and reasonable and smart and courageous. The savages arrayed against him were sinister and stupid, never anything higher than cunning. I hated their guts.

“But a time came when I reached the appropriate age and realized that these writers had pulled a fast one on me! I was not on Marlowe’s boat steaming up the Congo in ‘Heart of Darkness’; rather, I was one of those unattractive beings jumping up and down on the riverbank, making horrid faces.”

Mr. Achebe is sickened by what he reads in “Heart of Darkness.” Conrad speaks of Africans as “rudimentary souls” and savages, and compares one mechanically adept African man to “a dog in a parody of breeches and a feather hat walking on his hind legs.”

Mr. Achebe calls this “poisonous writing,” and he has no patience for anyone who argues that Conrad’s racism was the norm for its time. He quotes earlier writers (one a hero of Conrad’s) who were far less backward.

Albert Schweitzer also comes under his disapproving gaze. “A saint like Schweitzer can give one a lot more trouble than a King Leopold II, villain of unmitigated guilt, because along with doing good and saving African lives Schweitzer also managed to announce that the African was indeed his brother, but only his junior brother,” Mr. Achebe writes.

In the essay “Politics and Politicians of Language in African Literature,” Mr. Achebe describes the criticism he has received, from the writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o, among others, for writing in English, the oppressor’s language. (Mr. Achebe’s native tongue is Igbo, one of Nigeria’s three major languages.)

Mr. Achebe replies that because much of his country’s daily business is conducted in English, and because about 200 languages are spoken in Nigeria, English is the only way to reach a wide audience there. He also argues that English was not forced “down the throats of unwilling natives,” but that it was seen even by progressive politicians as a way to achieve a unified discourse.

There are other essays in “The Education of a British-Protected Child”: about Mr. Achebe’s boyhood and his father, who was a Christian evangelist; about raising his daughters and protecting them from the racism in far too many children’s books; about Nigerian politics; about teaching his own writing.

A few are slack and talky (many began as lectures), and Mr. Achebe is not wrong to describe several as rambling. But at its best, this collection will put you in mind of lines spoken by the poet Ikem in Mr. Achebe’s 1987 novel, “Anthills of the Savannah”: “Writers don’t give prescriptions. They give headaches!”

We are likely to hear more from Mr. Achebe. In an interview with The Village Voice last year, he said he is at work on two novels. One is a work most of us will never get to read, but it sounds like pressing work to its author. That book, Mr. Achebe said, is a translation of “Things Fall Apart” “back into the Igbo language from which it came.”
10  GENERAL / General Board / The Recession’s Racial Divide on: September 13, 2009, 10:59:52 PM
.Dedrick Muhammed and Barbara Ehrenreich
September 12, 2009

WHAT do you get when you combine the worst economic downturn since the Depression with the first black president? A surge of white racial resentment, loosely disguised as a populist revolt. An article on the Fox News Web site has put forth the theory that health reform is a stealth version of reparations for slavery: whites will foot the bill and, by some undisclosed mechanism, blacks will get all the care. President Obama, in such fantasies, is a dictator and, in one image circulated among the anti-tax, anti-health reform “tea parties,” he is depicted as a befeathered African witch doctor with little tusks coming out of his nostrils. When you’re going down, as the white middle class has been doing for several years now, it’s all too easy to imagine that it’s because someone else is climbing up over your back.

Despite the sense of white grievance, though, blacks are the ones who are taking the brunt of the recession, with disproportionately high levels of foreclosures and unemployment. And they weren’t doing so well to begin with. At the start of the recession, 33 percent of the black middle class was already in danger of falling to a lower economic level, according to a study by the Institute on Assets and Social Policy at Brandeis University and Demos, a nonpartisan public policy research organization.

In fact, you could say that for African-Americans the recession is over. It occurred from 2000 to 2007, as black employment decreased by 2.4 percent and incomes declined by 2.9 percent. During those seven years, one-third of black children lived in poverty, and black unemployment — even among college graduates — consistently ran at about twice the level of white unemployment.

That was the black recession. What’s happening now is more like a depression. Nauvata and James, a middle-aged African American couple living in Prince Georges County, Md., who asked that their last name not be published, had never recovered from the first recession of the ’00s when the second one came along. In 2003 Nauvata was laid off from a $25-an-hour administrative job at Aetna, and in 2007 she wound up in $10.50-an-hour job at a car rental company. James has had a steady union job as a building equipment operator, but the two couldn’t earn enough to save themselves from predatory lending schemes.

They were paying off a $524 dining set bought on credit from the furniture store Levitz when it went out of business, and their debt swelled inexplicably as it was sold from one creditor to another. The couple ultimately spent a total of $3,800 to both pay it off and hire a lawyer to clear their credit rating. But to do this they had to refinance their home — not once, but with a series of mortgage lenders. Now they face foreclosure.

Nauvata, who is 47, has since seen her blood pressure soar, and James, 56, has developed heart palpitations. “There is no middle class anymore,” he told us, “just a top and a bottom.”

Plenty of formerly middle- or working-class whites have followed similar paths to ruin: the layoff or reduced hours, the credit traps and ever-rising debts, the lost home. But one thing distinguishes hard-pressed African-Americans as a group: Thanks to a legacy of a discrimination in both hiring and lending, they’re less likely than whites to be cushioned against the blows by wealthy relatives or well-stocked savings accounts. In 2008, on the cusp of the recession, the typical African-American family had only a dime for every dollar of wealth possessed by the typical white family. Only 18 percent of blacks and Latinos had retirement accounts, compared with 43.4 percent of whites.

Racial asymmetry was stamped on this recession from the beginning. Wall Street’s reckless infatuation with subprime mortgages led to the global financial crash of 2007, which depleted home values and 401(k)’s across the racial spectrum. People of all races got sucked into subprime and adjustable-rate mortgages, but even high-income blacks were almost twice as likely to end up with subprime home-purchase loans as low-income whites — even when they qualified for prime mortgages, even when they offered down payments.

According to a 2008 report by United for a Fair Economy, a research and advocacy group, from 1998 to 2006 (before the subprime crisis), blacks lost $71 billion to $93 billion in home-value wealth from subprime loans. The researchers called this family net-worth catastrophe the “greatest loss of wealth in recent history for people of color.” And the worst was yet to come.

In a new documentary film about the subprime crisis, “American Casino,” solid black citizens — a high school social studies teacher, a psychotherapist, a minister — relate how they lost their homes when their monthly mortgage payments exploded. Watching the parts of the film set in Baltimore is a little like watching the TV series “The Wire,” except that the bad guys don’t live in the projects; they hover over computer screens on Wall Street.

It’s not easy to get people to talk about their subprime experiences. There’s the humiliation of having been “played” by distant, mysterious forces. “I don’t feel very good about myself,” says the teacher in “American Casino.” “I kind of feel like a failure.”

Even people who know better tend to blame themselves — like Melonie Griffith, a 40-year-old African-American who works with the Boston group City Life/La Vida Urbana helping other people avoid foreclosure and eviction. She criticizes herself for having been “naïve” enough to trust the mortgage lender who, in 2004, told her not to worry about the high monthly payments she was signing on for because the mortgage would be refinanced in “a couple of months.” The lender then disappeared, leaving Ms. Griffith in foreclosure, with “nowhere for my kids and me to go.” Only when she went public with her story did she find that she wasn’t the only one. “There is a consistent pattern here,” she told us.

Mortgage lenders like Countrywide and Wells Fargo sought out minority homebuyers for the heartbreakingly simple reason that, for decades, blacks had been denied mortgages on racial grounds, and were thus a ready-made market for the gonzo mortgage products of the mid-’00s. Banks replaced the old racist practice of redlining with “reverse redlining” — intensive marketing aimed at black neighborhoods in the name of extending home ownership to the historically excluded. Countrywide, which prided itself on being a dream factory for previously disadvantaged homebuyers, rolled out commercials showing canny black women talking their husbands into signing mortgages.

At Wells Fargo, Elizabeth Jacobson, a former loan officer at the company, recently revealed — in an affidavit in a lawsuit by the City of Baltimore — that salesmen were encouraged to try to persuade black preachers to hold “wealth-building seminars” in their churches. For every loan that resulted from these seminars, whether to buy a new home or refinance one, Wells Fargo promised to donate $350 to the customer’s favorite charity, usually the church. (Wells Fargo denied any effort to market subprime loans specifically to blacks.) Another former loan officer, Tony Paschal, reported that at the same time cynicism was rampant within Wells Fargo, with some employees referring to subprimes as “ghetto loans” and to minority customers as “mud people.”

If any cultural factor predisposed blacks to fall for risky loans, it was one widely shared with whites — a penchant for “positive thinking” and unwarranted optimism, which takes the theological form of the “prosperity gospel.” Since “God wants to prosper you,” all you have to do to get something is “name it and claim it.” A 2000 DVD from the black evangelist Creflo Dollar featured African-American parishioners shouting, “I want my stuff — right now!”

Joel Osteen, the white megachurch pastor who draws 40,000 worshippers each Sunday, about two-thirds of them black and Latino, likes to relate how he himself succumbed to God’s urgings — conveyed by his wife — to upgrade to a larger house. According to Jonathan Walton, a religion professor at the University of California at Riverside, pastors like Mr. Osteen reassured people about subprime mortgages by getting them to believe that “God caused the bank to ignore my credit score and bless me with my first house.” If African-Americans made any collective mistake in the mid-’00s, it was to embrace white culture too enthusiastically, and substitute the individual wish-fulfillment promoted by Norman Vincent Peale for the collective-action message of Martin Luther King.

But you didn’t need a dodgy mortgage to be wiped out by the subprime crisis and ensuing recession. Black unemployment is now at 15.1 percent, compared with 8.9 percent for whites. In New York City, black unemployment has been rising four times as fast as that of whites. By 2010, according to Lawrence Mishel of the Economic Policy Institute, 40 percent of African-Americans nationwide will have endured patches of unemployment or underemployment.

One result is that blacks are being hit by a second wave of foreclosures caused by unemployment. Willett Thomas, a neat, wiry 47-year-old in Washington who describes herself as a “fiscal conservative,” told us that until a year ago she thought she’d “figured out a way to live my dream.” Not only did she have a job and a house, but she had a rental property in Gainesville, Fla., leaving her with the flexibility to pursue a part-time writing career.

Then she became ill, lost her job and fell behind on the fixed-rate mortgage on her home. The tenants in Florida had financial problems of their own and stopped paying rent. Now, although she manages to have an interview a week and regularly upgrades her résumé, Ms. Thomas cannot find a new job. The house she lives in is in foreclosure.

Mulugeta Yimer of Alexandria, Va., still has his taxi-driving job, but it no longer pays enough to live on. A thin, tall man with worry written all over his face, Mr. Yimer came to this country in 1981 as a refugee from Ethiopia, firmly believing in the American dream. In 2003, when Wells Fargo offered him an adjustable-rate mortgage, he calculated that he’d be able to deal with the higher interest rate when it kicked in. But the recession delivered a near-mortal blow to the taxi industry, even in the still relatively affluent Washington suburbs. He’s now putting in 19-hour days, with occasional naps in his taxi, while his wife works 32 hours a week at a convenience store, but they still don’t earn enough to cover expenses: $400 a month for health insurance, $800 for child care and $1,700 for the mortgage. What will Mr. Yimer do if he ends up losing his house? “We’ll go to a shelter, I guess,” he said, throwing open his hands, “if we can find one.”

So despite the right-wing perception of black power grabs, this recession is on track to leave blacks even more economically disadvantaged than they were. Does a black president who is inclined toward bipartisanship dare address this destruction of the black middle class? Probably not. But if Americans of all races don’t get some economic relief soon, the pain will only increase and with it, perversely, the unfounded sense of white racial grievance.

Barbara Ehrenreich is the author of the forthcoming “Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America.” Dedrick Muhammad is a senior organizer and research associate at the Institute for Policy Studies.
11  GENERAL / General Board / Re: Julius Lester on Racism and Anti-Semitism on: August 30, 2009, 01:11:30 AM
This spring I went to Spain for the first time, which is where my family came from. I'm here to say that the Goddess is alive and well in the person of Mary in people's hearts and in countless astonishing treasures, for all the good it ever did the people of Spain, who have suffered so much.
12  GENERAL / General Board / Re: Julius Lester on Racism and Anti-Semitism on: August 30, 2009, 01:04:20 AM
There’s two threads that run through this: first there’s the labeling by you Disciple of everything bad as ‘Semitic’ which is frankly just weird to me, and dangerous too for that matter. Just when was it that worship and embrace of  the feminine principle translated into equality and justice in the affairs of humans? Maybe 13 or 14 thousand years ago, maybe never. We don’t really know. In any of the ancient times we know about, worship of goddesses didn’t mean women ran anything or even had a voice.. Au contraire. I am intrigued by the idea that the patriarchy first arose as a violent response to a more female-centered societal structure, and the book Blood Relations that I reviewed is so cool in that regard. It invites us to envision a more humane world.

The Chinese and Japanese are not Semites. Those crazy Aztecs weren’t either. I could go on and on citing cultures that degraded women and made slaves of strangers  and exploited the powerless who have no relation to Semitic history, even in the extraordinarily broad way you choose to define it.

The other thread is European history. I don’t know how European history can be seen as a story of the rise of the Jews. As I’ve said before, I look at Jews playing the part they always did when they were viziers to sultans—they get the blame when a fall guy is needed. The immolation of whole cities full of Jews is a big feature of European history, and the stereotyping and demonization of Jews almost constant. Again, using the term “semitic’ for both Christians and Jews (and Muslims) muddies important distinctions. It might just be my own family history, but Christian Europe is a far more recent and poignant and deadly manifestation of nasty human tendencies toward fear of ‘the other’, exploitation of ‘the weak’, greed, and power lust. Are these primarily male problems? I don’t feel to even touch that one. To ask why the Europeans robbed and enslaved the globe, I think a map explains a lot, this tiny (paranoid) peninsula jutting out into the North Sea. We can debate whether their theology was principally to blame. I go back and forth about it, but I think it was probably a ‘perfect storm’ of factors. The Catholic Fathers in Europe largely invented the more appalling aspects of that theology anyway.

There are Jewish bankers, Jewish financiers, Jewish media moguls, and a bunch of messed-up Jews running Israel. The Jews have shown a certain brilliance for fitting right in, but Christians built the modern West and North, not the Jews. I don’t think I could be convinced otherwise. There have always been Jews, Christians, and Muslims who have stood for the good and noble parts of us. We’re so all mixed up, so many parts to us.

As a poor kid, I always feel like it’s the rich and powerful, whoever they are, that comprise the problem. That’s a generalization that stands up over the entire span of known history. The construction of whiteness is a devastating problem, poisoning every good thing that’s been created or done by Europeans for 500 years, and renders so so many things morally ambiguous. The version of anti-Semitism that reared up in the 19th century made Jews into a ‘race’ unworthy of life. Did Jews behind the scenes dream that up to cover up their crimes?  I cannot imagine,

I am as irritated as anybody by the ways the Israelis in particular exploit their history as a cudgel to silence criticism.  There are Jews who use accusations of anti-Semitism to conceal their complicity. I will never believe that at some unspecified date or dates somebody got together to mastermind modern history. They might have tried, I guess, but it definitely got away from them. I guess it might come down to our conflicting views of the world. I sympathize with seeking a framework from which to understand events, but I have come to question how helpful that is, let alone how accurate. I see the all-too-familiar patterns in human history. What really distinguishes this time from the ancient ones IMO is the capacities technology has given those whose tendencies run towards oppressing and dehumanizing others to go crazy with it to the point of wrecking the entire biosphere. On the other hand, this same technology has given us the ability for the first time in human history to regard ourselves all together and communicate together and work on behalf of one another.
13  GENERAL / General Board / Re: Julius Lester on Racism and Anti-Semitism on: August 24, 2009, 01:29:55 AM
Geez Disciple! I stated very clearly what I think the root is. I feel that reasoning with you is never quite possible, because you don't quite 'listen' and respond to what I am trying to say.

I think Seshata's post back on the board is good and his question is good--if Semites are 'the problem' what about the age-old worldwide condemnation of females that far predates the Semites? Even later Pharoahs tried to erase the history of Hapshetsut.

I will never argue that 'the big three' don't have some big problems with their ideology but I think Europe's xenophobia-from-birth accounts for the paranoia, the arrogance, the embrace of the 'chosen' thing--

You know very well the things you have written in the past so I don't need to remind you. I guess it's better that you're on to the big three now, but I still think you're wrong.

Look at the Romans and the Greeks before them:they were all about 'the natural order' that is slavery, war for profit, total suppression of women and every other ugly thing, and they revered Athena and Aphrodite and Isis, the Greek's main spiritual ha'aj was to Eleusis to re-enact the story of Demeter and Persephone. I read somewhere that the building of temples to goddesses was in itself an indication that the time of the Great Mother was already long past. These were not Semitic people.

I am reading Eduardo Galeano's latest in his long line of indispensable books: It's called Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone. I think it would please you very very much to read him because he has for many years vitally concerned himself with the same issues that concern you. With this latest one I have come to see what I treasure so dearly about him: he is a humanist in the best sense of that, and what he reads in the patterns of history is the re-occurring cycles of oppression and revolt, of great cruelty and astonishing beauty. We can argue 'the roots' but we agree on the contours of the problem.  I know you are one of the good guys, but that gives you responsibilities to get to work on positive projects. That has made me feel a lot better and I know it will do the same for you.

For most of my adult life I've been flitting along the border of the BIG CONSPIRACY side of things and it did not help me in my life and it made me arrogant and it made me bitter and it paralyzed me. I am 52 years-old and you are much younger, no? So take it from the old lady. Just as it was no use to me to look for the big reason for my personal suffering, it's no use to perseverate on WHY things is so f'd up. It's to be the good person I want to be, and do what I am able to do.
14  GENERAL / General Board / Re: Julius Lester on Racism and Anti-Semitism on: August 22, 2009, 07:39:24 PM
So you think we're dealing with some ancient conspiracy. I just don't see history working that way. What I see is a map that shows this little northwest corner (Europe) of this enormous landmass hanging out there in the north Atlantic subject to wave on wave of disastrous invasions from the east, defining itself in opposition to a varying 'them', whether its Atilla or the Jews or the Muslims or Black Africans--the xenophobia is the common denominator. We could say that 'the problem' is the semitic usurpers with their big Father God, and we can bemoan the waves on waves of invasions from the north and from the east that destroyed what came before, and we can condemn the Semitic ideologies and the weird ideas that still hold sway over so many, but to call this little tribe from Canaan that for some miraculous reason has managed to keep cohesion from that day to this, when so many others have virtually diasappeared with only place name that remember them, to call them the villains of the piece is just nuts. Sorry but that's how I see it. What good does it do to wish there were no montheistic religions and their institutions? Before they came along its not like neighboring groups were living in bliss and harmony. They mostly all had ideas of their own superiority to whatever was happening next door. Chosenness did not begin with the Jews or end with them either. I think we're dealing with the human condition here, and it is, as it has always been, for those who know better to do better. What else?
15  GENERAL / General Board / Part 2 on: August 20, 2009, 08:12:50 PM
1441 Africans brought to Portugal as slaves.
1442 Pope Eugenius gives Church sanction to African slavery.
1446 Women burned as witches in Heidelberg.
1448 Over 900 African slaves have been brought to Portugal.
1452 Leonardo da Vinci born.
1469 Erasmus born.
1475 Michelangelo born.
1483 Martin Luther born.
1485 Pope Innocent VIII issues a papal bull proclaiming that witches are to be burned.
1489 Malleus Maleficarum, a manual on witches is published.
1490 Rabelais born.
1492 Jews expelled from Spain and eventually from Western Europe. Racism, Anti-Semitism and the Concept of Evil – Julius Lester 112
1516 The first ghetto for Jews created in Venice.
1519 Cortez begins the destruction of the Aztec Empire.
1531 Pizarro begins destruction of Incan Empire.

In a 90 year period, Africans are enslaved, the burning of women as witches begins, Jews are expelled from Spain and segregated into ghettos and non-white cultures exterminated in this hemisphere. Why this unholy wedding of humanism with the degradation and murder of Africans, Jews, women, Incans and Aztecs?

The answer is in the word, man. European man has created a cohesive secular identity for himself: He is man and he is good.

What, then, did it mean to be man? The answer can be found by looking at what it meant not to be man, i.e. by looking at what European man condemned in women, Jews and Africans.

H.R. Trevor-Roper writes, "There can be no doubt that the witch-craze grew, and grew terribly, after the Renaissance...we have to admit that, in one respect at least, the Dark Age was more civilized." That is so. In 643, King Rothar decreed that no foreign serving maid or female slave was to be killed as a witch, "for it is not possible, nor ought it to be at all believed by Christian minds that a woman can eat a living man up from within." Saints Boniface and Agobard denounced belief in witchcraft as sinful and ridiculous. Under Charlemagne it was a capital offense to execute anyone for witchcraft and Pope Gregory VII Hildebrand forbade inquisition to be made of anyone as to the cause of storms or plagues.

The unwillingness of the medieval Church to condemn women as witches did not go far enough, however, because the Church's attitude and teachings about the body and sex remained negative. The Augustinian view prevailed, namely that "the lust that excites the indecent parts of the body" could no longer be controlled by the mind, because lust assumed power "over the whole body" and if lust was gratified there was "an almost total extinction of mental alertness." The Church sanctioned sex for procreation only, but considered women to be extraneous to the process, because during intercourse, the male deposited a little person in the woman. The person stayed inside her for nine months but acquired nothing from her. St. Thomas taught that children should honor and love their fathers but not their mothers. 

By the time of the witch burnings the Church had espoused hatred of sexuality for more than a thousand years. Malleus Maleficarum - “The Hammer of Witches” - is a compendium of that hatred. Early in the manual they write: "The power of the devil lies in the privy parts of men." If a man locates the power of the devil in his "privy parts," such hatred of his sexuality must lead to either celibacy, castration, or hatred of those most likely to make him aware of that hated sexuality.

What else is woman but a foe to friendship, an unescapable punishment, a necessary evil, a natural temptation, a desirable calamity, a domestic danger, a delectable detriment, an evil of nature, painted with fair colors!

“...she is more carnal than a man, as is clear from her many carnal is a natural vice in them not to be disciplined, but to follow their own impulses without any sense of what is due....a woman will not be governed but will follow her own impulse even to her own destruction....a woman is beautiful to look upon, contaminating to the touch, and deadly to keep. [Woman is] more bitter than death, because that is natural and destroys only the body; but the sin which arose from woman destroys the soul by depriving it of grace, and delivers the body up to the punishment for sin All witchcraft comes from carnal lust, which is in woman insatiable. “

These quotes are male autobiography and tell us that, for European men, sexual desire could eat a living man up from within, that sexuality was so powerful it could be experienced only as evil, that sexuality could not be controlled and could destroy a man, that sexuality was beautiful, contaminating and deadly and that sexuality was insatiable.
In other words, the sexual instinct was a force more powerful than reason. Most dangerous of all, it existed independent of reason and will and could overwhelm both. In 1554, an officer of the Inquisition said that in the preceding 150 years, 30,000 witches had been burned and if they had been allowed to live, they would have brought the world to destruction. Sexuality was the nuclear energy of the 16th century.

Women were also considered dangerous because they were healers. The Church said: "If a woman dare to cure without having studied she is a witch and must die." The important word is "studied." To control the world it is necessary to control knowledge and access to knowledge. Women knew how to heal from practical experience. If men were to control, practical experience could not be given legitimacy as knowledge. Knowledge was legitimate only if acquired through proper study and certification was given by a university, another invention of the Renaissance. Men called themselves doctors; women were denigrated as healers.

It is especially significant that in its condemnation of witches, the Church also condemned "good witches which do not hurt but good, which do not spoil and destroy, but save and deliver....It were a thousand times better for the land if all Witches, but especially the blessing Witch, might suffer death." What is being condemned, then, is not the effect of women's healing, but any power associated with women. The power to do good is to be man's alone.

Jews were not damned for sexuality but for something more chilling - being Jews. In the 15th century religious anti-Semitism was given a racial character for the first time. In 1414, the University College of San Bartolome in Salamanca, Spain banned anyone who was not of "pure blood." This was aimed at the conversos, indicating that conversion to Christianity was no longer enough to eradicate a Jew, indicating that nothing could eradicate Racism, Anti-Semitism and the Concept of Evil – Julius Lester 114
Jewishness. In 1449 Toledo banned anyone of Jewish descent from holding official office, because Jews were infected with male sangre, bad blood. Limpieza de sangre - purity of blood - became the standard. For the first time, being Jewish became a racial identity, and a negative one.

It is also in the 15th century that Europeans first encounter Africans. The earliest work on Africa was written in 1447 by an Italian, Antonio . In it he said that Africans “are in carnal acts like the beasts: the father has knowledge of his daughter, the son of his sister. They breed greatly, for a woman bears up to five at birth. Nor can it be doubted that they are eaters of human flesh.”

The equation made between the devil and women, and the devil and Jews was extended to include Africans. One English traveler equated the color of Africans with what he called their "condition" which was little other than Devils incarnate. “....the Devil...has infused prodigious Idolatry into their hearts, enough to rellish his pallat and aggrandize their tortures when he gets power to fry their souls, as the raging Sun has already scorct their cole-black carcasses.”

Such quotes could be multiplied but the import is evident. When man celebrated himself as Man, he distorted human reality. It is an inflated image of man we hear in the words of Gianozo Manetti, a childish one in those of Picodella Mirandola. When European man celebrated himself, he equated the totality of human reality with reason, creativity and will. By this inflation of a fragment of himself, there was no alternative but to degrade that which seemed to threaten reason, creativity and will. Through anti-Semitism, misogyny, and racism, European men found in others what they "found first but could not speak of in themselves," as Winthrop Jordan suggests in his White Over Black. He continues to say that European man "tended to set Negroes over against themselves, to stress what they conceived to be radically contrasting qualities of color, religion, and style of life, as well as animality and a peculiarly potent sexuality."

Racism became a cornerstone of modern Western civilization because by suppressing Africans, women and Jews, European man suppressed in himself the human attributes which most threatened that brave new world he was building, a world in which the economic mode changed from feudalism to capitalism. George Rawick observes that
Capitalism required a new ethic to justify new forms of behavior and to repress the older ones. While part of this new ethic was the growth of democratic forms and processes, the other main ingredient was the separation of one human activity - work - from all others. Work was taken from its context as an organic part of life and subordinated to other social processes, becoming an abstract commodity....This kind of work required new personalities: men and women who could tolerate few periods of rest and relaxation, who could adjust to working steadily and at high speed without rest, who could repress the desire to quit and relax. It required the repression of man's nonrational desires and his subordination to rationalized work and more work, accumulation and more accumulation.

This immense economic reorganization of Western society required an equally enormous change in human psychology. According to Michel Foucault, a definition of insanity came into being which linked insanity with irrationality, and sanity with rationality and self-control. Sanity became synonymous with the repression of the emotional and instinctual in the name of the rational.

Racism in its historical beginnings does not automatically and inevitably lead to the Holocaust. However, the seed was planted, because racism is the act of separating and devaluing other human beings as a lesser humanity, if not a less-than-humanity. In the West, racism is the exaltation of whiteness as the only humanity. Such an exaltation removes blacks and Jews from humanity. It is only a short step from that declaration to removing them from life.

Racism is evil. It is not a social problem that will gradually disappear through education and legislation. These alleviate the symptoms, but no more than that. The only cure is in understanding that evil is real.

In the words of Jeffrey Burton Russell,
“The essence of evil is abuse of a sentient being, a being that can feel pain. It is the pain that matters. Evil is grasped by the mind immediately and immediately felt by the emotions; it is sensed as hurt deliberately inflicted. The existence of evil requires no further proof: I am; therefore I suffer evil.”
The definition implies two things: One, that every human being suffers evil. Two, every human being inflicts evil. Thus, the essence of the human condition is in how we live with our evil.

Of necessity, then, evil has two faces - one is individual, the other is collective. That we as individuals will and do commit evil is unavoidable. Our efforts not to do evil, however, need the support of a collective, i.e. a society that not only recognizes evil but condemns it.

In contemporary America, we are in the agonizing process of seeking to learn how to create such a society. Despite the despair and frustration about the intransigence of racism, what is being attempted in this country has not been attempted in Western Civilization. We are trying to articulate a new definition of Order that will have as its premise the concept of a common and shared humanity. This is a dream that has been a part of the Western air only since the American Revolution. It is a dream which seeks to establish that the means by which humans will be measured will not be race, gender, or religion but merely the fact that we are human and our humanity makes us civic equals.

In her Gifford lectures, Hannah Arendt said:
“As citizens, we must prevent wrong-doing because the world in which we all live, wrong-doer, wrong-sufferer, and spectator, is at stake; the City has been wronged....We could almost define a crime as that transgression of the law that demands punishment regardless of the one who has been wronged....the law of the land permits no option because it is the community as a whole that has been violated. “

America is struggling to reach a consensus that racism violates the community as a whole. It cannot do so as long as blacks are still excluded from a sense of community.
Blacks have no doubts or questions about their humanity and thus are made to suffer evil, an evil that is still not obvious to the white majority. Racism is an act of evil but white people do not hear the moaning of the wounded or the death rattles of the dying.
The evil of slavery, the evil of the Holocaust are written large. So much so that many are in danger of thinking that these cataclysms are the only ways in which racist evil expresses itself. That is why it is both ironic and maddening that so many blacks equate anti-Semitism only with the Holocaust and thereby conclude that because they would never condone the extermination of Jews they are not and could not be anti-Semitic. Non-blacks are equally culpable when they equate racism solely with acts of violence.

Because our perception of evil is limited to the dramatic, we have lost the capacity to recognize it. Evil has become so prosaic in appearance, manner and style that it is now woven into the fabric of the normal like smog, acid rain and K-mart. Hannah Arendt maintained that the horror of evil in the Third Reich was that it had "lost the quality by which most people recognize it - the quality of temptation." The racist evil of contemporary America is as charismatic as an empty can of cat food.

 In her Gifford lectures, Hannah Arendt attempted again to describe the figure of Adolf Eichmann and what had so horrified her about him:
“I was struck by a manifest shallowness in the doer that made it impossible to trace the incontestable evil of his deeds to any deeper level of roots or motives. The deeds were monstrous, but the doer...was quite ordinary, commonplace, and neither demonic nor monstrous. There was no sign in him of firm ideological convictions or of specific evil motives, and the only noble characteristic one could detect in his past behavior as well as his behavior during the trial...was something entirely negative: it was not stupidity but thoughtlessness....It was this absence of thinking - which is so ordinary an experience in our everyday life, where we have hardly the time, let alone the inclination to stop and think - that awakened my interest. Is evildoing (the sins of omission, as well as the sins of commission) possible in default of not just "base motives"...but of any motives whatever, of any particular prompting of interest or volition? Is wickedness, however we may define it...not a necessary condition for evil- doing? “

What Arendt saw in Eichmann is true of American society. This is not a country of wicked white people imbued with a virulent racism based on some principle or other. What exists is far more distressing. Racism has become a psychological habit, a habit many wish to dislodge, but it is so ingrained that they do not know where to begin. It is imperative, however, that they look, for as Goethe wrote in Wilhem Meister, "every sin avenges itself on earth."

Where they must look is in themselves. Whites cannot feel the pain of blacks, Jews and women until they feel the pain they inflict on themselves by passively accepting a definition of Order that crowns whites as racially superior beings. I do not know why whites do not feel the evil they inflict on themselves because I see the evil of racism taking its revenge on a drug-addicted white society which did not care forty years ago when drugs appeared in black slums. If America had been able to feel then that black life is human, if America had been able to feel that racism is a silent evil inflicting pain as murderous to the human spirit as any weapon is to the body, it would have been alarmed and moved to alleviate the conditions that made drugs appear to be a viable alternative. If America had been able to conceive that black life is human life, thousands of white and black lives would not have been destroyed, literally and psychologically, since drugs entered white American society. I do not understand why white America cannot understand this simple principle: Everything white people do to black people, they will eventually do to each other.

The ultimate evil of racism is not in its effects, but in the inability of white people to recognize themselves in black people. This evil will continue until white people take responsibility for that which they wish was not within them, namely, evil.

Ultimately, we must accept that evil is, that it is not something out there but something in here. It cannot be expunged because our humanity lies as much in our capacity to evil as in our capacity to good. Evil is. Our humanity is found in the effort to live close to our evil, to make our capacity for evil an intimate, because, you see, if I keep my evil close to me, then I will not see it in you.

What this means for white people is staggering. It means relinquishing the definitions of Order by which they have lived. As long as whites cling to racism as the keystone of Order, they cannot know what it means to be human, despite all the books they write proclaiming that they do know. But whites cannot know what it means to live as human beings until they lose their superiority and accept my humanity. Only by accepting the humanity of Blacks, Jews and women, can humanity itself survive.

My humanity teaches me that to be human is to live with the tension of the opposition of good and evil. This means refusing to be seduced by the temptation of thinking we can resolve the tension by choosing what we perceive as the good. This can never be a resolution. To choose the good makes an orphan out of evil and leaves it to wander through the world, alone, unloved, abandoned and angry. It then assumes the form of a Them - Jews, blacks, women, Arabs, Chinese - and what is, in reality, an inner tension becomes projected into society where it must be enacted through social unrest and racial antagonisms on the national level, and through war on the international.
But, that is the logic of racism. The world tolerated the decimation of Africa by the
slave trade; the world tolerated the further decimation of Africa by colonization, when the Boers exterminated the Hottentot tribes, when the population of the Congo was reduced from 20 to 40 million people to 8 million; the world tolerated the destruction of one-third of the Jews in the world.

The logic of racism is such, however, that once its evil is unleashed, it will not care or even notice if one day the people being exterminated happen not to be black or Jewish. It will not notice if, indeed, the people happen to be white. Racism may appear to be opposition to black life or Jewish life. The reality is that racism stands in opposition to life itself. In the final analysis, racism is white self-hatred and the ultimate act of self-hatred is self-destruction.

Arendt, Hannah. The Life of the Mind Vol. 1 & 2 (1978).
Cohn, Norman. Europe’s Inner Demons (1975).
Duby, Georges. The Age of the Cathedrals: Art and Society, 980-1420 (1981).
Encyclopedia Britannica 15th edition Vol. 15 (1973).
Grunberger, Richard. The Twelve Year Reich (1971).
Jordan, Winthrop D. White Over Black: American Attitudes Toward the Negro: 1550-1812
McCall, Andrew. The Medieval Underworld (1979).
Mosse, George. Nazi Culture: Intellectual, Cultural and Social Life in the Third Reich (1966).
------------------ Toward the Final Solution: A History of European Racism (1978).
Rawick, George. From Sundown to Sunup (1972).
Russell, Jeffery Burton. The Devil: Perceptions of Evil from Antiquity to Primitive Christianity (1977).
Stimson, Otto von. The Gothic Cathedral
Summers, Rev. Montague, trans. Malleus Maleficarum of Heinrich Kramer and Jaems Sprenger (1971).
Trevor-Roper, H.R. The European Witch-Craze of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries and Other Essays (1969).
Van Den Berghe, Pierre Louis. Race and Racism (1967).
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