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"Culture Wars at the Ebb of Empire"

Rec. 6-18-06

1) 2:44 Radio essay Mp3

2) 3:49 Radio essay Mp3

 

CULTURE WARS AT THE EBB OF EMPIRE
==================================
[Col. Writ. 6/18/06] Copyright '06 Mumia Abu-Jamal

In this, the silly season of American politics, we find ourselves in the midst of yet another 'culture war', or, a politically-imposed set of conflicts that seeks to find hot issues that will whip an increasingly apathetic populace into the voting booths.

In 19th century Germany, the educated elite used the term Kulturkampf, which literally translates as "culture struggle."  In that age, the term referred to struggles between church and state as to which would control education.

It now reflects the political struggles in the US over issues of race, social mobility, sexuality and gender.

We saw it most recently in the aborted attempt to amend the US Constitution to outlaw same-sex marriage, and also recent rap about a flag burning amendment.

Notably, none of these issues really addresses the day-to-day life of Americans; it doesn't open the scope of education; increase one's pay; protect one's pension; nor speak to the wrenching issues of war, peace, globalism, or the twilight of industrialism.

In a nutshell, it doesn't put gas in the tank.

Nor is it supposed to.

Politicians, as a rule, are poor conveyors of culture.  While states have political leaders, these folks are rarely leaders of a nation's cultural life.

Indeed, art, the realm of painting, sculpture, poetry, slams, dance, novels, are often quite at odds with the political world.

The artist, Pablo Picasso, said, "Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth."

In his painting, Guernica, he showed the horrors of war and the evils of fascism.  His work commemorates the 1937 Nazi destruction of the Basque city, to support the fascist regime of Gen. Francisco Franco, the dictator.  His work speaks through time, in ways that the speeches of politicians cannot.

But, truth be told, politics itself is an art, albeit a debased one.  It is public performance that differs from the stage only in location and social impact.

Its tools (or should I say 'props'?) are fear, division, separation, and the public manipulation of emotion.

What else is the Iraq war?  How else can we begin to explain its invasion, occupation, and the present nationalist/cultural war that rages there?

Indeed, much the same can be said about the so-called 'Cold War', where two world empires, the Russians and the Americans, used others to serve as their proxies, to wage war on their behalf.

Yet, ultimately, this isn't culture, for culture is the creative impulses of a people. It opens eyes to deep truths.  It goes around political structures, to reach the heart.

Historian Howard Zinn, speaking of art's power, recently said;

"The arts are the locale for a kind of guerrilla warfare.  They're subtle so the establishment gambles that they won't lead to anything threatening, but often they lose that gamble."

Culture wars ain't just words used by politicians to mobilize support.  They are waged at the level of the mind, and the inner self.  It is a way of creating new ways of looking at the world, and hopefully, new ways of re-making the world.

In the Civil Rights Movement, songs from slavery days gave young people new ways of seeing themselves and a possible future.  In the Black Liberation Movement, African musicians like Hugh Masekela and Miriam Makeba inspired activists on both sides of the Atlantic.

While it's true that cultural conflicts have been used as a weapon, it can also be a tool for organizing, and building resistance movements, that creates new vistas of the possible.

[Notes:  Ideas for this column came from: Parenti, Michael, *The Culture Struggle* (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2006); and Zinn,  Howard.  *Artists in Times of War* (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2003).]

Copyright 2006 Mumia Abu-Jamal

 

[Check out Mumia's latest: *WE WANT FREEDOM:
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#1-800-533-8478.] 

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The Power of Truth is Final — Free Mumia!

PLEASE CONTACT:
International Concerned Family & Friends of MAJ
P.O. Box 19709
Philadelphia, PA 19143
Phone - 215-476-8812/ Fax - 215-476-6180
E-mail - AND OFFER YOUR SERVICES!

Send our brotha some LOVE and LIGHT at:
Mumia Abu-Jamal
AM 8335
SCI-Greene
175 Progress Drive
Waynesburg, PA 15370

WE WHO BELIEVE IN FREEDOM CAN *NOT* REST!!

Submitted by: Sis. Marpessa