Arrogance and Insolence in the Age of Empire

Just like some rather assertive domestic servants of old, or today’s proud Mac users, “I don’t do Windows.” Metaphorically speaking, that is! What I really mean to say is that for all the references I may rely on to support a given thesis, it’s my preference to stay away from that genre. But if my extended treatment of a book I’ve just read appears front and center in this column, as it’s likely to be the case today, it may turn out that this piece is de facto a book review; or, at the very least, more than my quasi-plagiarization of its title: “Pedagogy and Praxis in the Age of Empire: Towards a New Humanism” co-authored by two scholars, Peter McLaren (UCLA) and Nathalia Jaramillo (Purdue), and published in 2006 by Sense Publishers (The Netherlands) – www.sensepublishers.com.

These last two weeks have proved to be intensively instructive not just for those of us living in the United States but for people around the globe. We had the 2007 DVD version (Deceit-Venality-Depravity) of “The Thief of Baghdad,” starring Bush-Filio, Greenspan, Petraeus and Crocker in self-portrayed roles, together with a cast of thousands – which included from self-serving buffoonish congressional legislators to a totally inept and unprofessional mainstream press corps – shown in Truecolor and Muffledsound on screens not just in our nation’s capital but throughout the world.

What transpired during this period may not seem revelatory to some, but to many it was. For once, Bush’s bipolarity became real and stood in front of us. In the past Bush has always treated the world with unmasked disdain and arrogance to the chagrin of some thoughtful Americans but, unfortunately, also the sonorous applause and consent of too many of his countrymen. In the last few days, however, Americans were finally – and insolently – told in bold, underlined and in-your-face language that Uncle Sam is the real thief in Iraq, driving a late model Empire – a gas-guzzler solely ran and lubricated with oil. Even our own economic Nostradamus, Alan Greenspan, just told us that the trek to Iraq was about oil. And as for our military’s stay in that nation… how about until Iraq’s oil reserves run out or Iraqis find common cause and muster the strength to kick us out?

Our president’s bipolarity has now been unequivocally diagnosed: arrogance towards the world, and insolence towards his own countrymen. No second-guessing any more.

And just as the curtain was being lifted on those realities no one wanted to see, racism was added for good measure via two other timely events: the trial of “the Jena 6” in Central Louisiana; and the private mercenary armies’ deeds, this time what is seen by the Iraqi government as the wanton killing of eight Iraqi civilians by the for-profit elite SS Corps: the great Blackwater warriors, la crème de la crème of America’s military (Thug- Rambo-tic terms) turned entrepreneurial… an engendering of capitalism’s marketplace. These are two events exhibiting different types of racism, both answering to one type of relationship: that between master and slave, call it by whatever name. That master-slave relationship brings us back to the book mentioned at the outset of this column.

Enter McLaren and Jaramillo, and their latest contribution to what must be referred to as a march towards an enlightened humanism within the realm of pedagogy. An attempt, as they put it, to make the pedagogical more politically informed and the political more pedagogical critical. Not an easy task under any circumstance, and a most difficult one for authors ideologically pegged to the always denigrated Left… truth be damned!

As relevant as I did find the book to my own understanding of peoples’ and nations’ struggle to achieve a reasonable level of equity, and thus help open the door to the all important state that gives each and everyone the respect, self-worth and inherent nobility – a.k.a. human dignity – it was the introduction to the book that gave palpability to today’s reality in the United States in social, economic and political terms. Mostly a graded narrative of events that took place just prior to, during and at the aftermath of Katrina, it was plain telling of American society today; not just defining a corrupt and inept administration but, if only by inference or default, the rest of us as well… as observers to a drama that said everything that needed to be said.

McLaren has been carrying the torch for well over a decade to bring additional light – in his academic arena – to a concerted effort in the fight against a unipolar, and univocal, world that exists today with the United States as its “monotheo.” Global capitalism and the mirages of democracy brought about by Neoliberalism certainly should at least be questioned, and excerpts from essays in this book reinforce that. Perhaps this book is more than just a symbolic warning, since what has transpired during the past decade, perhaps longer, is a reversal in true social justice, often accompanied by blatant denial to the children of the lesser gods of everything that makes up human dignity.

It is the warning, the calling to arms that pierces one’s mind, and heart, when reading the book; and one hope that it doesn’t end up being the last lament, the announcement by the bean chaointe (keening woman) that humanity is no longer, that the world has self-destructed.

And, in an accelerated fashion, Bipolar Bush, in his arrogance and insolence, appears to be taking us to that self-immolation.