North Korea Is Not a Threat – Unveiling Hegemonic Discourses

That security is socially constructed does not mean that there are not to be found real, material conditions that help to create particular interpretations of threats, or that such conditions are irrelevant to either the creation or undermining of the assumptions underlying security policy. Enemies, in part, “create” each other, via the projections of their worst fears onto the other; in this respect, their relationship is intersubjective. To the extent that they act on these projections, threats to each other acquire a material character.
-Ronnie Lipschutz, UCSC

Kim Jong-Il wants attention. And now he has it. He won’t go in our ‘Morons of the Week’ column and certainly scores points for knowing how to misuse national resources to get international attention.

Our problem with MSM coverage of the North Korea ‘missile threat’ is with the purported hegemonic discourse. Hegemonic discourse does not pertain to just speech; it refers to whole narratives, with a hero and a villain, and us and them that we must defeat and overcome. The point of hegemonic discourse–in this case the discourse of the United States on demonizing North Korea and drawing attention to its nuclear activities—is to subjugate and oppress the counter-discourses of a race-war, nuclearism and anti-capitalism.

(1) Race war discourse

While this is not a clash of civilizations, it is certainly a race war in that the entire discourse revolves around preventing certain kinds of people from acquiring and using nuclear weapons.  Would the United States use the same tactics in France? Or even India? No, in fact it looked the other way on outrageous French nuclear testing in the Pacific and supports India’s nuclear program despite the fact that it is not a signatory of the NPT!

Ronnie Lipschutz has some fine lines for us in On Security:

To be sure, the United States and Russia do not launch missiles against each other because both know the result would be annihilation. But the same is true for France and Britain, or China and Israel. It was the existence of the Other that gave deterrence its power; it is the disappearance of the Other that has vanquished that power. Where Russia is now concerned, we are, paradoxically, not secure, because we see no need to be secured. In other words, as Ole Waever might put it, where there is no constructed threat, there is no security problem. France is fully capable of doing great damage to the United States, but that capability has no meaning in terms of U.S. security.

On the other hand, see the Iran nuclear ‘crisis’ as an example. The United States has demonized Ahmadinejad at every opportunity and conjured him up as an Islamic fundamentalist and nationalist who will defy non-proliferation at all costs. On the other hand, Ahmadinejad cheekily asked the United States to join the rest of civilization in worshipping God. That is the discourse of race war but it is concealed by juridical discourse—the hegemonic discourse.

To borrow from Michael Foucault, the United States is using the juridical schema of nuclear non-proliferation to conceal the war-repression schema. North Korea is the historical Other, the terrorist, the threat against whom the world must be protected in the juridical schema. Yet, under the war-repression schema, North Korea is a sovereign nation with the right to develop nuclear and communications technology. And this latest action is really nothing more than a plea for economic help.

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Forget Janet Napolitano; Dismantle DHS

The appointment of Janet Napolitano to the top Homeland Security post has elicited a diverse number of reactions. In a New York Times article, some immigration hardliners are calling it a travesty, NumbersUSA thinks that President-elect Barack Obama could have done worse, while ‘liberals’ think that Napolitano represents a balanced and constructive view, given that she is in favor of a comprehensive immigration reform that legalizes 12 million undocumented migrants. Conservatives in Arizona are happy that finally power might shift towards them with the election of Jan Brewer to Governorship.

Few are questioning the rise of ‘immigration’ as a matter of national security to the point where debates over the chief post of Homeland Security now include major immigration groups. Is this a failure of the imagination, ignorance or just plain historical amnesia? Discourses surrounding the appointment of Napolitano simply serve as polemical devices to achieve political ends while doing nothing to actually address the epistemological and ontological flaws in the actual nature of the Department of Homeland Security.

Writing for the Washington Post, Edward Alden is one of the few mainstream and liberal commentators who comes close to hitting the nail on the head with this statement in ‘Close Minded on the Border:

Instead of continuing to embrace the massive flow of talent, energy and initiative that the rest of the world has long offered the United States, we launched an expensive, futile experiment to see whether we could seal our borders against the ills of the world, from terrorists to drugs to illegal migrants. This effort has betrayed both our ideals and our interests.

Yet, he notes that Janet Napolitano has a rare opportunity to set the nation back on track—to improve security without sacrificing American values and ideals.

On November 25, 2002, President Bush signed into law the Homeland Security Act of 2002 which created the Department of Homeland Security that effectively took over the INS (now CIS). This reorganization blurred the line between immigration policy and terrorism policy to the detriment of many immigrants in the United States – immigration policy became an issue of national security, widening the nexus of security concerns, and hence, granting more policing power to the State.

This incorporation of immigration as national security has far-reaching implications—apart from the fact that immigration is now treated as a security concern rather than an economic and cultural benefit, the dehumanization and scapegoating of undocumented immigrants has proliferated out of control. From local enforcement and state laws to election battles, the unnamed and othered ‘illegal immigrant’ is the big bad bogeyman against whom we need protection.

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In These Waiting Rooms of History – The DREAM of U

Dream Act Now

i wait for you in this caged room
we’ve never met and yet
[you feel familiar
i feel like i’ve known you before]

shadows mill past me
moving slowly, drudging and digging
futures ploughed within these timeless walls
you see me waiting and yet
[i can’t get to you,
i feel stationary much like before]

what is this feeling
fluid and fragmented
but immobile by design
so close and yet so far
[you slip away again
i feel betrayed, more than before]

i tell myself that i believe in you
i tell others to understand you
[i truly do believe in you,
in the DREAMs of you]

-DreamActivist

October 24, 2007. That is the date of the stamp on our Dreams Deferred.

Categorically denied even before debate, subjected to another indefinite wait, deferred dreams have a crippling effect on morales and ambitions.

20 million — that is the estimated number of us all over the world. Picked and tucked into the battle for our lives–Sorry, you don’t get guns and armor. Thrown into the deep end of the ocean so swim or you will drown–Sorry, no swimming lessons available. Underprivileged and underclass–sorry, no financial aid available. Illegal in our homes, legal away from our land–sorry no relief available.

Like the farmer that waits for the drought to end, like the mother that eagerly waits the birth of her child, like the student that cannot wait to turn 18 and gain ‘freedom,’ like the many American people who can see no further than ‘change’ with a new Administration, we too have been in for a long haul, a long stay in these waiting rooms of history

To DREAMers across America — I know this wait is the hardest time. I know life in limbo is harsh like life in a prison, only you have committed no crime. But remember, we have the power to make this wait productive, to take this time as a test–a character-building exercise– and to end this wait. Take each defeat as a learning lesson, as a challenge to do better and get better till you beat every test.

Do not despair. Do not be afraid. Do not give up. Stay true to your DREAMs.

Wall Street Collapse? Another Crisis of Capitalism

I wish I had the ability to be shocked when I hear about a ‘deep crisis’ that can cause staggering losses (a cyclical crisis of capitalism), a $700 billion bailout for private sector cronies and John McCain canceling a 2-3 hour debate appearance as a publicity stunt to resolve this crisis (as if, his presence would make a difference. Admittedly, he has a weak economic understanding). But I digress.

It’s not like a major financial crisis was unexpected in the near future. Political economists have been making predictions about the fall of the U.S. dollar for quite some time; this Wall Street financial collapse is just a start. Oil prices are dropping, Asian markets are coming down even immigration is down (ALIPAC must be happy; they are happily blaming immigrants for the meltdown too). Actually forget the contemporary political economists and politicians trying to pinpoint the source of this crisis; revisit the blog favorite Karl Marx, who held that the internal contradictions within capitalism as a system would create cycles of boom and slump, that over time would become more untenable as social forces opposing it built up, eventually leading to an overthrow of the system. What are these internal contradictions?

1. The tendency of the rate of profit to fall

2. The concentration of capital

3. Rise in unemployment

4. Overproduction or Underconsumption (crisis of realization)

5. Collapse of credit

6. Bigger firms buying out smaller and weaker firms (in this case, the government bailing out)

7. Crisis ‘solved’ till the next inevitable cycle

Do these predictions of more than 150 years ago sound familiar?
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The flawed logic of either/or – Creating spaces for intervention

black/white, straight/gay, women/men, left/right, us/them, American/Un-American, nativist/humanist, legal/illegal, liberal/conservative anti-corporate/anti-labor, capitalism/communist, butch/femme, inside/outside, developed/undeveloped, top/bottom, public/private…

Our world is tainted in simplistic, dualistic undertones since we are young and we grow up conditioned to think in this manner. It starts from the household where pink is for girls and blue is for boys going all the way to the President where you are either with him or against him and there is no middle ground, no space to negotiate and intervene.

This blog is a reflection of my personal and political philosophy. I am not concerned with whether anyone subscribes to it or not; for me, it is about building a space without the pervasive duality and dichotomy of everyday discourses. And if that space is only occupied by the presence of few, that is fine with me as well. The point is to make ruptures and disruptions in these hegemonic continuous, cyclical modes of thinking.

The intellectual work that tested my limits was Saba Mahmood’s Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject.

Saba Mahmood rejects secular liberal feminist theory and practices that cast religion (in this case, Islam), as opposed to the interests of women. Through her particular field study of the grassroots women’s piety movements in the mosques of Cairo between 1995 and 1997, Mahmood aims to provide a stark contrast to the often secular liberal depictions of women’s movements. In doing so, she questions the age-old ethnocentric notions of secular liberal feminism that requires feminism and women’s movements to be framed as opposed to structures of patriarchy and power i.e. religion and going a step further, the nation-state project. Mahmood does away with these notions of ethical norms, agency and freedom, thereby posing conceptual problems for secular feminists who would otherwise continue to push for the liberation of women from Islam and actual structures of power in order to achieve their warped-up notions of liberal emancipation of women.

I wrestled for days with this book. Essentially Mahmood was saying that feminism and being political need not denote the emancipation of women from patriarchal structures like religion and the nation-state. Women do not have to completely reject structures of power to actually carve a space and voice for themselves, and thereby work towards transforming it as the women in the piety movement carved spaces for themselves within a traditionally male sphere. I finally realized that juxtaposing Mahmood’s text with secular liberal feminism need not mean that I had to choose or submit to one. I did not and neither do you. Sometimes the questions are more enlightening than the answers to them.

So when I read comments like “how can you be anti-corporate and still pro-exploitation of cheap labor from the Third World?” it is immediately marked as spam. Maybe I should take the time to respond, to expose conditioned minds to different ways of thinking about issues, to bury the either/or in an intellectual manner. Then again, the title of the blog should be clue enough — I do not do either/or and will not submit to that discourse.

You do not need to choose between being pro-amnesty and pro-American. You need not choose between an “illegal alien” and a U.S. citizen. And you definitely do not have to be pro-migrant or anti-migrant. Focus on the becoming, not the being.

When I speak about bridges, I am referring to a metaphor for fluidity, change, channeling, multiple levels of positioning that culminate into a meeting point. I am not speak of ONE compromise or middle point–I am comfortable with no resolutions. Call it folly or postmodern emancipation. I am comfortable in-limbo; after all, that is my conditioning, no?

I realize I am flawed — There are certain categories I hold dear that I did not choose for myself. At times my patience is tested and I do slip up with the anti-_______. And I will not offer love or compassion to those who hate me because of some category, label, classification, documentation, physical feature, or preference. No, I am not a Gandhi or MLK and do not wish to go down that path. It is a tit for tat when it comes to me. But I will agree to disagree heartedly.