Civilized people

by Yule Heibel on October 13, 2003

Please read Two Civilized Men Among the Barbarians by Glen Ford and Peter Gamble as soon as possible. It’s in AlterNet and originally appeared in The Black Commentator. It’s brilliant. The authors argue that Dennis Kucinich and Al Sharpton are the only two Democratic presidential candidates willing to talk like civilized people. Two excerpts:

Rev. Sharpton also opposes NAFTA and the World Trade Organization. “I disagreed with NAFTA when Clinton was in, and I think that we have come to see that that disagreement was correct,” said Sharpton, following up on Kucinich’s broadside. “I think that we cannot have trade policy that overlooks labor, overlooks workers’ rights, overlooks environmental concerns. We can’t act like just because something is trade, that also that makes it right. African-Americans are here on a bad trade policy.”

Now that’s breaking it down in civilized language. The slave trade was fantastically lucrative, a centuries-long commerce that shaped every society in the Americas south of Canada and allowed Europe to assume its unnatural position of dominance in the world. “I’m here on a bad trade policy,” said Rev. Al. “So just because it’s trade, doesn’t mean that it is good and it is something that we should support.”

A little further down, this:

Americans think they are guardians of civilization. In reality, they don’t even live there. The proof is plain for all to see in the statistics on wealth and public service disparities, infant mortality rates and, most damning, incarceration levels that certify the U.S. as the world’s gulag (25 percent of the planet’s prisoners). This is barbarism writ large, since these conditions exist as the direct result of public policy, rather than as a consequence of general deprivation or factors external to the nation.

Read the whole article now, it’s worth it.


Doug Alder October 15, 2003 at 12:33 am

On the whole I think it is a good article. I do however take exception to their comment regarding Moseley-Braun’s current stance on Iraq. Anyone who has paid any attention to the history of Iraq and the political instability ofthe middle east should know the real danger Iraq is in right now is the instability that would result from the US pulling out right now without an international force to take their place (or better still a Native Iraqi force). The left does itself a tremendous disservice by advocating the immediate withdrawal of the US from Iraq.That demand is based on a hatred of Bush, the neocons and the right in general, it is not based on what, now that the damage has been done (i.e. the destruction of what stability Iraq had under Saddam) is best for the common Iraqi citizen.

Moseley-Braun was right to say what she said. Until their is something to replace the US with and bring some stability to Iraq the US must stay and try and repair the mess they have created. This is why I have been advocating for a UN police force with the UN in command. Fundamentalist Shi’ites, al-Qaeda, Irani opposition, you name it there are dozens of groups that would move in instantly to try and fill the power vacuum that would exist if the US pulled out. The left needs to ask itself who they are supposedly representing and more so who would suffer most if the US were to abandon Iraq. Without question the biggest losers would be Iraqi women because the fundamentalists would take over. We can already see them manuevering to do that and we can be assured that some of the guerilla activity currently taking place in Iraq is at their behest.

I am very much on the left end of the political spectrum but I am also a realist and realism doesn’t give a damn for political correctness, be it on the left or right. This is one aspect of the left that has always bothered me, opposition for the sake of opposition, regardless of the validity of the argument.

Alright I’ll get down off my soap box now 🙂

Yule Heibel October 15, 2003 at 2:04 am

Hi Doug, welcome, and bring your soap box any time! 😉
I agree that the authors’ assessment of Moseley-Braun was singularly harsh, and I don’t know why they came down so hard on her in particular. I do think that they were opposing the “we must support our troops now that they’re there” mantra; I’m not sure at all that they were opposing UN help.

Well, it was refreshing to read Sharpton’s take on trade, and to learn a bit more about him & Kucinich. We Canadians have so much to lose with NAFTA, and it was great to see an American politician critique it on behalf of American workers.

Betsy Burke October 15, 2003 at 11:04 am

Interesting article. I don’t know if Italy qualifies as Western Europe but they are a little off base in saying that Europeans are trying to get more time off. The people, yes, the policy-makers, no. They have just raised the pension age here four years, and though it is lower than in the US, when the 4 years have passed, they will probably raise it again, which will have the little guy scarpering his whole life until he just bursts from overwork. In other words, we’re being Americanized by Berlusconi.

Joel October 16, 2003 at 2:04 am

The title of the article jarred me right off the bat: “Two Civilized MEN”. The write-off of Carol Moseley Braun (who I endorse) further convinced me: these two are latent sexists.

Yule Heibel October 16, 2003 at 2:25 am

I have to say that the article’s title didn’t bother me, Joel, since I assumed that the “barbarians” referred to the predominantly male crop of candidates — and the “civilized men” therefore referred specifically to two men in that group. I don’t endorse Moseley-Braun; because of my lack of interest in her in general terms, it seemed to me that the way the authors dealt with her position was really quite secondary to their main points, although I was puzzled that she was singled out (because she’s African-American?). Perhaps my lack of interest in her is a mistake; their main points, however, still strike me as relevant.

Betsy: a twist of historical irony, perhaps? Italy gave the US the Mafia, and now the US is giving Americanization back to Italy via Berlusconi…? This whole trend toward a new modern serfdom and its dehumanizing qualities, its tearing down of everything that progressive societies have tried to build up: the fact that that’s what the authors were railing against, and the fact that there are at least a couple of candidates looking at things from that perspective — that’s what made me link to this article.

Betsy Burke October 16, 2003 at 5:16 am

I think there will always be people of any nationality around to organize crime. The election of Berlusconi seemed like a last-ditch effort at the time, but the other politians are grappling to save what is left of the post-war ideal. Fausto Bertinotti is the voice of reason in my opinion but he won’t be elected because the heyday of that kind of socialism is past. Berlusconi is tycoon incarnate, just the kind that is making the gap between rich and poor wider. And his policies reflect that. So teaming up with the big guys makes sense for him.

brian moffatt October 16, 2003 at 2:50 pm

Sharpton’s line – we’re here on a bad trade policy – sounds like it was written by Chris Rock. And that’s no drivel from The Driveller. There’s no pulling out of Iraq now. Not yet at any rate.

Good stuff.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: