Sunday, October 14, 2012

Tough Chewing for Sunday Brunch

Pop a Zantac and try to digest McMaster prof Henry Giroux's lament on the Disappearance of Public Intellectuals.   Here are a few excerpts:

As a theater of cruelty and mode of public pedagogy, economic Darwinism removes economics and markets from the discourse of social obligations and social costs.  The results are all around us ranging from ecological devastation and widespread economic impoverishment to the increasing incarceration of large segments of the population marginalized by race and class. Economics now drives politics, transforming citizens into consumers and compassion into an object of scorn.  The language of rabid individualism and harsh competition now replaces the notion of the public and all forms of solidarity not aligned with market values.  As public considerations and issues collapse into the morally vacant pit of private visions and narrow self-interests, the bridges between private and public life are dismantled making it almost impossible to determine how private troubles are connected to broader public issues. Long term investments are now replaced by short term profits while compassion and concern for others are viewed as a weakness.  As public visions fall into disrepair, the concept of the public good is eradicated...

...As the language of privatization, deregulation, and commodification replaces the discourse of the  public good, all things public, including public schools, libraries, transportation systems, crucial infrastructures, and public services, are viewed either as a drain on the market or as a pathology.

...Vulnerable populations once protected by the social state are now considered a liability because they are viewed as either flawed consumers or present a threat to a right-wing Christian view of America as a white, protestant public sphere. The  elderly, young people, the unemployed, immigrants, and poor whites and minorities of color now constitute a form of human waste and are considered disposable, unworthy of sharing in the rights, benefits, and protections of a substantive democracy.  Clearly, this new politics of disposability and culture of cruelty represents more than an economic crisis, it is also speaks to a deeply rooted crisis of education, agency, and social responsibility. 

...Since the 1970s, we have witnessed the forces of market fundamentalism strip education of its public values, critical content, and civic responsibilities as part of its broader goal of creating new subjects wedded to consumerism, risk-free relationships, and the destruction of the social state.  Tied largely to instrumental purposes and measurable paradigms, many institutions of higher education are now committed almost exclusively to economic goals, such as preparing students for the workforce. Universities have not only strayed from their democratic mission, they seem immune to the plight of students who have to face a harsh new world of high unemployment, the prospect of downward mobility, debilitating debt, and a future that mimics the failures of the past. The question of what kind of education is needed for students to be informed and active citizens is rarely asked.

What Giroux writes is quite true.   His article, linked above, deserves reading in its entirety.

Voices like Giroux's are helping us to start seeing ourselves for what we have become, what we have done to ourselves and our society.   There's a movement building, for example, to fundamentally reform the study of economics, to strip the discipline of its intensely theocratic orthodoxy that is so at odds with reality, that predisposes our nations to cataclysmic events such as the collapse of 2008.

At the beginning of my law studies I was lucky to spend a couple of hours talking with a visiting professor from Trinity College, Dublin.   He taught Equity, the ancient, unwritten law of fairness that is sometimes used to temper harsh outcomes from the strict common law.   This fellow freely criticized law schools for turning out students prepared to convey real estate, draw contracts, shave taxes and prosecute petty thieves - essentially, legal trade schools.  He pointed out how subjects such as Equity and Jurisprudence (the philosophy of law) had fallen out of the mainstream of law school teaching. 

When I came to practice litigation I quickly discovered the professor's take was spot on.   Counsel often made either far too much or far too little out of Equity and even judges routinely stumbled over its maxims, retreating headlong for the safety of neatly written statute law.   Equity became anachronistic, unpredictable and hence unreliable.   What had served us for so many centuries and had tempered law to keep it in some degree of harmony with the public interest waned.

As Giroux warns, we're too readily discarding knowledge of immense value and necessity to our societies and our future generations.   We can keep going down this road but at what cost?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Canada is a total cesspool of corruption. Big business favors the party and politicians, that favors them the most.

Corrupt and greedy giant corporations, are who really governs. Politicians are merely their mouth pieces.

Flaherty bleats on about, giant corporations sitting on all of the money. Well then. Stop giving billions of our tax dollars to, corrupt greedy banks, mines, big business and Harper's favorite charity, big oil. Stop giving them huge tax reductions.

Huge corporations sit on the money, to stop the cash flow around the globe. How else can they start a recession, otherwise? Money just doesn't vanish, someone has it.

Big oil loves wars, they thrive on them. If there is no war, then an excuse must be found to start one. Such as WMD in Iraq.

In BC. Gordon Campbell and Harper scammed BC for the HST. Campbell and big business, used every dirty tactic in the book, to keep the HST. AND, I mean very dirty tactics.

It's that kind of scum that destroys country's. When that kind of scum, permitted corruption in their ranks. That was the end of Canada and many other country's, right there.....Many decades ago.

Harper said himself. The New World Order has been worked on, since 1945.