Neoliberalism, Youth and Social Justice – That Dog Don’t Hunt
Henry A. Giroux asked how he would define Neolibleralism in this talk from The TAFT Research Center.
What is not so hidden about the tentacles of power that now hide behind the euphemism of democratic governance is the rise of a punishing state and its totalitarian paranoiac mindset in which everyone is considered a potential terrorist or criminal. This mindset has resulted in the government arming local police forces with discarded weapons from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, turning local police into high-tech SWAT teams. How else to explain the increasing criminalization of social problems from homelessness and failure to pay off student loans to trivial infractions by students such as doodling on a desk or violating dress code in the public schools, all of which can land the public and young people in jail. The turn towards the punishing state is especially evident in the war on young people taking place in many schools, which now resemble prisons with their lockdown procedures, zero tolerance policies, metal detectors, and the increasing presence of police in the schools. One instance of the increasing punishing culture of schooling is provided by Chase Madar. He writes,
‘Though it’s a national phenomenon, Mississippi currently leads the way in turning school behavior into a police issue. The Hospitality State has imposed felony charges on schoolchildren for “crimes” like throwing peanuts on a bus. Wearing the wrong color belt to school got one child handcuffed to a railing for several hours. All of this goes under the rubric of “zero-tolerance” discipline, which turns out to be just another form of violence legally imported into schools.’
That this “deep state” is in effect a mindset that is prevalent though out Washington even down to the local level.
Similarly, any viable challenge to the ‘deep state’ and the new mode of authoritarianism it supports needs to say more about the notion of disposability and a growing culture of cruelty brought about by the death of political concessions in politics–a politics now governed by the ultra-rich and mega corporations that has no allegiance to local politics and produces a culture infused with a self-righteous coldness that takes delight in the suffering of others. Evidence of such a culture is on full display in the attempts by extremists to cut billions of dollars from the food stamp program, lower the taxes of the rich and corporations while defunding social security and Medicare, passing legislation that openly discriminates against gays and lesbians, the attempts to roll back voting rights, and women’s reproductive rights, and this is only a short list. The war on poverty has morphed into a war on the poor, and human misfortune and ‘material poverty into something shameful and repellent.’
I have a theory as where and when this mindset began effecting both the right wing and the left wing in this country, though I’m not sure you’re going to like it. It began about the same time college educated intellectuals from the upper crust started to get into power. When we began putting education and intellectual prowess ahead of wisdom and compassion and experience.
A little personal story first. One summer in the late 1970s before computer networking was known but micro computers were starting to be all the rage, I began working for a small local engineering firm made up almost entirely of engineers and ex-professors from the local university. They had all the degrees and such one would expect. My main task was at that time writing systems code for an aircraft simulator at the local navy base, NTEC Orlando. There was another project they had in the works which was to install and wire a micro computer based room check in and key system for a local motel. This being before any of the fancy Ethernet and TCP/IP we now take for granted and wireless communication. It wired each room using serial lines and RS232 back to the micro computer. It worked fine in their lab but failed miserably once installed. Locking up the machine with in seconds of activation. A friend who worked there as well asked me to look into it.
We made a trip out to the motel and looked around and he showed me the setup and what was going on. Perplexed myself initially until I saw these massive antenna towers out behind a little ways off. We got into his car and drove around to see what they were. The transmitting site and transmitter to a local radio station. I know right then exactly what was happening and explained to my friend. All the wiring and cables for their system was acting like a giant receiving antenna receiving the radio signal from the transmitter and dumping it into the micro computer interface, there by overloading it and the computer and causing it to lock up. The only way to even keep any of this from happening was to shield everything and filter everything with good grounds on everything. A massive under taking to say the least. The engineers were not happy about this. But my long term experience in electronics and radio and computers told me so. My “knowledge” was built on length experience and hands on AS WELL AS my education. What in some circles would be called “street smarts”.
A kind of smarts and wisdom picked up learning the trade as well as the theory. Such as what Mike Rose explains here in “Blue-Collar Brilliance:”
Intelligence is closely associated with formal education, and most people seem to move comfortably from that notion to a belief that work requiring less schooling requires less intelligence. These assumptions run through our cultural history, from the post–Revolutionary War period, when mechanics were characterized by political rivals as illiterate and therefore incapable of participating in government, until today. Generalizations about intelligence, work, and social class deeply affect our assumptions about ourselves and each other, guiding the ways we use our minds to learn, build knowledge, solve problems, and make our way through the world.
Although writers and scholars have often looked at the working class, they have generally focused on the values such workers exhibit rather than on the thought their work requires—a subtle but pervasive omission. Our cultural iconography promotes the muscled arm, sleeve rolled tight against biceps, but no brightness behind the eye, no image that links hand and brain.
Those of my parents generation quite often got their knowledge along with experience first had. Oft times working their way up from the bottom as an assistant or even an apprentice. Learning not just about their field but also the human aspects of it. Having to solve not only technical problems but human personal problems as well. Acquiring respect even for those on the assembly line as they likely had to put some time in there as well along the way.
So to did our statesmen and representatives of old. Coupled with going through the depression of the 1930s and WWII, in the trenches so to speak. But know we have mostly college educated intellectual technocrats. Making cold, un-compassionate decisions that from their limited human experience seem correct but are divorced from reality. In attempting to raise their offspring by protecting them from the harsh realities of life, realities that give the emotional as well as physical knowledge of people, places and things – the soccer mom generation carefully guiding their charges from school through college have given rise to a generation of cold and oft times cruel automations. Technocrats who come up with ideas such as Neoliberalism with callus disregard for anything other than themselves.
With the educational system itself being run by technocrats of the same kind fostering the same kind of thought and behavior. Elevating it above all else. Our current police state is just the kind of reaction one should expect from these sort of people. Scared of anything that is out of the realm and experience, which is too often limited.
And this has infected health care as well even the doctors and surgeons who too often have little or no experience outside of their own speciality and spend very little time with their patients. Treating cases rather than people. It is a sad commentary that some of the best surgeons and doctors have not come from Johns Hopkins medical center but from the MASH units of Korea and Vietnam wars, where they had to practice “Meat Ball Surgery” in horrible conditions and become successful at it.
So this “deep state” Neoliberalism is to me at any rate, a case of cultural narcissism inbred by intellectual nitwits. It is this ignorance of life that is the root.
We have to understand that the world can only be grasped by action, not by contemplation. The hand is more important than the eye … the hand is the cutting edge of the mind. – Jacob Bronowski