imc indymedia

Los Angeles Indymedia : Activist News

white themeblack themered themetheme help
About Us Contact Us Calendar Publish RSS
Features
latest news
best of news
syndication
commentary


KILLRADIO

VozMob

ABCF LA

A-Infos Radio

Indymedia On Air

Dope-X-Resistance-LA List

LAAMN List




IMC Network:

Original Cities

www.indymedia.org africa: ambazonia canarias estrecho / madiaq kenya nigeria south africa canada: hamilton london, ontario maritimes montreal ontario ottawa quebec thunder bay vancouver victoria windsor winnipeg east asia: burma jakarta japan korea manila qc europe: abruzzo alacant andorra antwerpen armenia athens austria barcelona belarus belgium belgrade bristol brussels bulgaria calabria croatia cyprus emilia-romagna estrecho / madiaq euskal herria galiza germany grenoble hungary ireland istanbul italy la plana liege liguria lille linksunten lombardia london madrid malta marseille nantes napoli netherlands nice northern england norway oost-vlaanderen paris/Île-de-france patras piemonte poland portugal roma romania russia saint-petersburg scotland sverige switzerland thessaloniki torun toscana toulouse ukraine united kingdom valencia latin america: argentina bolivia chiapas chile chile sur cmi brasil colombia ecuador mexico peru puerto rico qollasuyu rosario santiago tijuana uruguay valparaiso venezuela venezuela oceania: adelaide aotearoa brisbane burma darwin jakarta manila melbourne perth qc sydney south asia: india mumbai united states: arizona arkansas asheville atlanta austin baltimore big muddy binghamton boston buffalo charlottesville chicago cleveland colorado columbus dc hawaii houston hudson mohawk kansas city la madison maine miami michigan milwaukee minneapolis/st. paul new hampshire new jersey new mexico new orleans north carolina north texas nyc oklahoma philadelphia pittsburgh portland richmond rochester rogue valley saint louis san diego san francisco san francisco bay area santa barbara santa cruz, ca sarasota seattle tampa bay tennessee urbana-champaign vermont western mass worcester west asia: armenia beirut israel palestine process: fbi/legal updates mailing lists process & imc docs tech volunteer projects: print radio satellite tv video regions: oceania united states topics: biotech

Surviving Cities

www.indymedia.org africa: canada: quebec east asia: japan europe: athens barcelona belgium bristol brussels cyprus germany grenoble ireland istanbul lille linksunten nantes netherlands norway portugal united kingdom latin america: argentina cmi brasil rosario oceania: aotearoa united states: austin big muddy binghamton boston chicago columbus la michigan nyc portland rochester saint louis san diego san francisco bay area santa cruz, ca tennessee urbana-champaign worcester west asia: palestine process: fbi/legal updates process & imc docs projects: radio satellite tv
printable version - js reader version - view hidden posts - tags and related articles

Civil Society by Stephen Hume

by Stephen Hume Saturday, Apr. 19, 2008 at 6:52 PM
mbatko@lycos.com

Improvements in people's lives often have come about when society listened to voices on the periphery, not just the political and economic elites.

Stephen Hume

Vancouver Sun

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Li Wei Ping and his granddaughter Cecilia Li gathered with the Chinese community in June 2006 to watch the broadcast of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's apology for the head tax. Li Wei Ping's father was forced to pay the head tax. It wasn't until 1947 that Chinese-Canadians were given the right to vote.

CREDIT: Glenn Baglo, Vancouver Sun

Li Wei Ping and his granddaughter Cecilia Li gathered with the Chinese community in June 2006 to watch the broadcast of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's apology for the head tax. Li Wei Ping's father was forced to pay the head tax. It wasn't until 1947 that Chinese-Canadians were given the right to vote.

Visit the Vancouver Sun's Civil Society web site for videos, sound-offs, and a full collection of related "civil society" stories.



Can we construct a truly civil society in British Columbia? A society in which we don't abandon the mentally ill to their fates; in which we actually trouble ourselves to discover how many homeless there are; one in which places like the Downtown Eastside do not exist; women are not forced into the sex trade; elderly Sikhs don't fear being beaten to death simply for being Sikhs?

Can we build a province where one child in five is not condemned to grow up in poverty? One in which the past injustices of dispossession are not perpetuated by leaving pauperized aboriginal peoples on the brutal economic margins? Can we banish the insidious cultures of racism, sexism, religious, ethnic and class-based bigotry?

Or is this just a fuzzy romantic dream for idealists whose proposals amount to renewed flirting with the kind of well-intentioned social engineering that brought us the eugenics movement, the Soviet collectivization of agriculture and the interminable and apparently lost war on drugs?

There's no denying that some high-minded social engineering has an ugly legacy. Most recently, it brought us the con job that permitted a small group of arrogant neo-conservative zealots to march the United States into the vast quagmire of Iraq simply by manipulating the country's fears. This tiny self-righteous cabal led a lazy, compliant media around by the nose and through it manipulated attitudes toward the war with leaks of bogus evidence about weapons of mass destruction and glowing promises of greater national security.

The American public is bedazzled by the brilliant competence of its military machine -- as concocted by Hollywood special effects teams. In Iraq it got the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, thousands of slain American soldiers, civil chaos and violence, religious and political murder of a like and magnitude seldom seen in a "pacified" state and a hemorrhage of national treasure that threatens to bankrupt future generations.

Anybody who recalled the short, sputtering arc from Benito Mussolini's success in making the Italian trains run on time to the madness of trying to reinvent the grandeur of imperial Rome on the coattails of Nazi monsters should have been smitten with doubt.

Indeed, the most wretched excesses in the sorry annals of human evil are progeny of deluded social engineers. The Holocaust itself was the end result of Nazi plans to reconstruct Europe in their own image, ruthlessly sanitized to reflect the perfect model society -- one from which the "unfit" had been eradicated and in which racially pure Aryan women would be breeding machines for a Hitler Youth where the future warriors of the Waffen SS would be indoctrinated by the likes of Joseph Goebbels.

With legacies like that, it seems entirely reasonable to question any and all plans that promise to make things better if we'll only adapt our morality or adjust things this way or that with a view to modifying social attitudes.

And yet, as with all human endeavour there is an important upside to social engineering and its ideals that we should also bear in mind. Deliberate attempts to alter the assumed ground rules of the social contract, to, in effect, re-engineer social attitudes with a view to improving things, also have a record of profound success and gave us the much improved society we now enjoy.

There are still women alive today who were once non-persons under Canadian law; citizens of Chinese, Japanese and aboriginal ancestry who were denied the vote; Jews who were denied employment or membership in social clubs; people who suffered open discrimination because of their religion, skin colour or ethnic origins.

It's important to remember, too, that most often the "improvements" in these peoples' lives, the civil values in which we now take pride, arose not from the guidance of the religious, social, political and economic elites who profess to be custodians of public morality and to shape policy for the common good. They were the work of dissenters, apostates, radical social activists and those frequently portrayed as traitors to their class.

Public education, public health, high levels of literacy, intellectual freedom, participatory democracy, the eight-hour day, workplace safety, the rule of law and concern for fundamental human rights, all these are products of their attempts to engineer changes in attitudes and assumptions in the pursuit of civil society.

Consider slavery, for example. For most of human history, slavery and its analogs were a fundamental component of the economy. It was practised everywhere. The great civilizations of Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Europe, Central and South America, even here on the West Coast among aboriginal societies as recently as 1900, all based their wealth, stability, status and power on the acquisition and exploitation of slave labour. Slaves, of course, were merely the extreme of workers who could produce at the lowest possible cost, and if they died from malnourishment, overwork or abuse; well, there was always another military campaign to provide more.

Today, some forms of slavery still exist. Bonded labour, forced penal labour, the sex trade that buys and sells women are all examples. In some shadowy places, even the kind of chattel slavery we associate with the worst excesses of the past endures.

Despite this, all nations formally condemn slavery as a moral and legal crime under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The reason for that is because two otherwise unprepossessing men supported by a few members of what was then considered a radical and dangerous religious cult, the Quakers, took it upon themselves to change -- socially engineer, if you like -- the prevailing social and political attitudes that gave permission to slave ownership.

The British Empire was the United States of its day, a rich, globe-straddling military colossus with a huge vested economic interest in maintaining a status quo from which flowed a torrent of wealth. Nevertheless, William Wilberforce undertook to change the political and economic culture; Thomas Clarkson undertook to change popular attitudes with a campaign of mass organizing and propaganda. Wilberforce exhausted himself financially and physically challenging entrenched British merchants, planters and King George III, who equated the anti-slavery movement with radical anarchy. Nevertheless, in 1807 Wilberforce persuaded the British Parliament to abolish the slave trade. Not until 1834, one month after his death, did Parliament free all 80,000 slaves in the British Empire.

By then the change in popular attitude brought about by Wilberforce and Clarkson was so powerful that the Royal Navy's fleet deployed up to 25 per cent of its warships to interdict the slave trade off West Africa.

So, can we realize a truly civil society by providing incentives and disincentives whose intent is to achieve those goals?

Yes, we can. Carefully. By listening not just to the prevailing conventional wisdom and "common sense" assumptions we take for granted. By listening also to the voices of those who question our dearly held values and who challenge us to a different way of thinking about ourselves. Just as Wilberforce and Clarkson did when they set out to hold their society to a higher morality than economic self-interest and wound up changing the whole world.

shume@islandnet.com

© The Vancouver Sun 2008

Report this post as:

Local News

Change Links September 2018 posted S02 10:22PM

More Scandals Rock Southern California Nuke Plant San Onofre A30 11:09PM

Site Outage Friday A30 3:49PM

Change Links August 2018 A14 1:56AM

Setback for Developer of SC Farm Land A12 11:09PM

More problems at Shutdown San Onofre Nuke J29 10:40PM

Change Links 2018 July posted J09 8:27PM

More Pix: "Families Belong Together," Pasadena J02 7:16PM

"Families Belong Together" March, Pasadena J02 7:08PM

Short Report on the Families Belong Together Protest in Los Angeles J30 11:26PM

Summer 2018 National Immigrant Solidarity Network News Alert! J11 6:58AM

Watch the Debate: Excluded Candidates for Governor of California M31 5:20AM

Change Links June 2018 posted M28 7:41AM

The Montrose Peace Vigil at 12 Years M22 8:01PM

Unity Archive Project M21 9:42AM

Dianne Feinstein's Promotion of War, Secret Animal Abuse, Military Profiteering, Censorshi M17 10:22PM

CA Senate Bill 1303 would require an independent coroner rather than being part of police M10 9:08PM

Three years after OC snitch scandal, no charges filed against sheriffs deputies M10 8:57PM

California police agencies violate Brown Act (open meetings) M02 8:31PM

Insane Company Wants To Send Nuke Plant Waste To New Mexico A29 11:47PM

Change Links May 2018 A27 8:40AM

Worker-Owned Car Wash on Vermont Closed A27 5:37AM

GUIDE TO REBEL CITY LOS ANGELES AVAILABLE A13 12:39AM

lausd whistle blower A11 6:58AM

Website Upgrade A10 10:02AM

Help KCET and UCLA identify 60s-70s Chicano images A04 8:02PM

UCLA Luskin: Casting Youth Justice in a Different Light A02 6:58PM

Change Links April 2018 A01 6:27PM

More Local News...

Other/Breaking News

Antrhopocène, le grand effondrement S19 9:53AM

Creative Destruction Hack Diamonds Windows/iOS/Android - Creative Destruction Generator S19 12:51AM

Abolir l'économie S18 11:18AM

The Dictatorship of Corporations S17 5:26PM

18 Lethal Consequences Of Hunting S17 3:13PM

Paraphysique de l'outplacement déontologue S15 6:51AM

Creative Destruction Hack Mod Generator S15 3:49AM

Shopping du bashing S14 8:42AM

After Lehman Brothers, Experts Say Global Financial Crisis Can Happen Again S13 8:28PM

“Animaniacs in Concert!” Starring Voice Legend Rob Paulsen S12 9:30PM

Probabilités de fin d'humanité S12 6:49AM

Florida Area of Migrant Farmworkers Denied Right to Construct Health Clinic near NaplesCIW S11 2:57AM

Propagande de virus, virus de propagande S10 7:34AM

Steer clear of work morality! S09 12:10PM

Sweatshop Lodge Ceremony Continues in US Fed Prisons Led by Inmates S08 6:17PM

Paraphysique de l'origami S08 7:11AM

The Shortwave Report 09/07/18 Listen Globally! S06 11:23PM

August 2018 Honduras Coup update S06 12:28PM

Du réussissement putréfié S06 10:55AM

Brett Kavanaugh Filled The 5th Circuit With Execution Judges S06 6:14AM

Log S06 4:25AM

Augusta Georgia Woman Gets 5 Year Prison Sentence for Writing About Russians Crime Acts S05 8:29AM

Paraphysique de contextualité S05 8:29AM

Crisis Regulation in Global Capitalism S03 3:39PM

Ex-voto de réification S03 10:24AM

Please Oppose Warmonger, Execution and Torture Supporting Bush Operative Brett Kavanaugh A31 10:45PM

Paraphysique d'exploitation occultation A31 10:24PM

Ryan Zinke Is Charging Taxpayers For A Trophy Hunters' Council A31 2:10PM

More Breaking News...
© 2000-2018 Los Angeles Independent Media Center. Unless otherwise stated by the author, all content is free for non-commercial reuse, reprint, and rebroadcast, on the net and elsewhere. Opinions are those of the contributors and are not necessarily endorsed by the Los Angeles Independent Media Center. Running sf-active v0.9.4 Disclaimer | Privacy