Gramsci and Gaza: Getting Palestinians Into Our Inner Space
by Anti-Capitalist Meetup and Galtisalie
We were talking about the space between us all —George Harrison>
It’s always the same story. For a fact that interests us, touches us, it is necessary that it becomes part of our inner life, it is necessary that it does not originate far from us, that is the people we know, people who belong to the circle of our human space. —Antonio Gramsci
Hasta allí Gramsci. Siempre un adelantado. Siempre con los que sufren. —Osvaldo Bayer
We all need justice and safety, none more than Jews in the wake of the Holocaust. But apparently those “filthy Arabs” are humans too. An artificial redefinition of space known as “a new nation” can be founded for ostensibly “humane” reasons but use patently inhumane means of achievement.
I thought in a “constitutional” “democracy” we were supposed to all agree on certain basic organic principles (not including freedom from want and fear, of course) and then work out the details with voting?–unless, of course, we are Native Peoples, African Americans, or European Americans who happened to be poor in the temperate Atlantic region of North America in the late 1700’s. What could possibly go wrong? For a contemporary answer to this non-academic question, so dependent on militarization and deception, look to the southeastern side of the Mediterranean Sea.
The mad, unjust, and unsafe Zionist experiment we now know as Israel has commonly exercised cultural hegemony over U.S. society in relation to the Arab people of Palestine (which includes in my definition what we now call “Israel”). A U.S. President is expected to declare himself (or, perhaps one day soon, herself) “a Zionist” and profess allegiance to Israel’s “right” not merely to exist but to exist “as a Jewish state,” even though this implies sanctioning ethnic cleansing and other forms of oppression in the past and in the future. I hereby call bullshit on this. I am putting down my sitar and typing this post in solidarity with all of the people of Palestine.
Typing, and talking and singing, about the space between us all can be part of the foundation for ending this cultural hegemony. Doing other things positive about the physical hegemony of Israel over Palestine may be the result. But let us not neglect the inner geographical challenge. If the suffering of people in distant lands does not even lead to our mourning their suffering, I think that Gramsci and Bayer would say that our typing, talking, and singing is superficial and that we are not really “with those who suffer.” We have not humanized those whom we do not mourn upon their suffering.
This is not picking on Israel. Dehumanization is the tactic upon which the U.S. was established. It is the tactic upon which capitalism rules the world. Where I live, in the Deep South, “Whites” were quite comfortable singing praises to Jesus while killing and taking the “Indians'” land and killing and exploiting “Blacks” (I’ve not, of course, used the racist terms commonly used by “White” “Christians” for Native Peoples and African Americans back in “the day,” which still exists in much of the Deep South) to fuel “our” (how sweet!) economy, and after that for a hundred years after the Constitution was rewritten, to continue to deny “Blacks” living in what the founding racist fathers decided to call “the United States of America” the basic rights of all human beings. So we are damn good at dehumanization, in the U.S. and all around the world. It may be our most well-developed mass skill.
The question is, how do we end this endless oppressive inhumane rut of dehumanization? We have a Humane Society for Animals but for some reason do not think we should have a Humane Society for Humans. When my dog dies I cry, but when and if I learn that a Palestinian is hit by an Israeli bomb paid for by the U.S. I am supposed to thank the Good Lord that Armageddon is upon us.
How do we come to mourn persons we will never know? We must somehow admit them into our circle of human space. And our human space begins with our own inner lives. We have the right to protect ourselves, including our bodies and our inner lives. But don’t others have the same right, even Palestinians?
We must “always advance.” Solidarity, including standing with the oppressed, depends upon our actively promoting a mindfulness in a global neoliberal society where we are supposed to be mindless consumers. We need authentic harmony, not induced distraction. We must come to value more than consumption and the need for our own self-protection in an uncertain capitalist world. Unsustainable, Globe warming consumerism must be jettisoned and self-protection must somehow come into balance with self-sacrifice for those who do not have protection.
This is a tough diary to write, not because the words won’t come but because they are too easy, too trite. Those suffering deserve better from us, but what exactly? Poor me, I’m so confused, and I do not like that. Why am I not yawning by now and opening the next advertising-induced beverage of my false choice? After reading many Gaza-related posts in the past few weeks, including last week’s excellent Anti-Capitalist Meetup diary by Geminijen, surely it’s time for me to move on and to ignore my emerging conscience. Why this magnetic pull to make this time different? Is this Gaza’s 9/11, after which most of the world will be “united?”
That is a dangerous subject for capitalism. For to face Israel’s injustices means, potentially at least, to face our own. Could it be that Israel’s cultural hegemony over the U.S. is unraveling? That would implicitly threaten capitalism’s own cultural hegemony, with its necessary expectation that the past will be wrapped in patriotic bliss, aka, God on our side delusional self-righteousness and unquestioning desire to break out the credits cards and purchase the next shiny thing.
This topic has, for once, forced itself upon many of us who are not ourselves experiencing force, including me, through the grossly disproportionate power evidenced in the grossly disproportionate resulting deaths. I’m “not dead yet,” which means I do still have the potential for having a conscience. Bitter and preventable facts on the pitted ground exist. Human beings exist, until they don’t, more dead “fish in a barrel,” while we remain silent until we can’t any longer, at which point the Israeli demagogues accuse us of Anti-Semitism and wait us out. Through the intertubes, blatant easily diagnosable “injustice,” including war crimes, has been forced into the eyesight and earshot of us all by hot bombs-bursting-in-air-and-on-people reality.
Space is often divided by artificial disproportionately-derived boundaries that seem to have a life all their own, more life even than, uh, life. The more arbitrary, capricious, and oppressive the boundaries the more they are like people, my friend. Israel’s stolen boundaries; the U.S.’s stolen boundaries; and all the other manifestly destined boundaries–all stolen at one time or another and subject to enforcement or repositioning by mercenaries and zealots, if not the bodies of young conscripted workers–not worth fighting and dying for, but what the hell choice do we have, right? Wrong.
National boundaries, and fighting over national boundaries, are ruining, not saving, what is left of our dried out choking capitalist-controlled heavily-leveraged rent-seeking militarily-industrial-complex of a world. They do have their advantages though. For instance, Israel boundary care, support, and nurturing ensures that the U.S. has one reliable capitalist ally for its annual vote against Cuba at the U.N., and a handy military proxy in Oil Country 24/365, spreading the message of “democracy” of course. On Cuba, Israel, just like U.S. politicians, is not deluded that the island is a threat, but rather paying its debts to capitalists. And funny how imperfect Cuba, harassed for my entire lifetime by its bully neighbor but not nearly as viciously as the Arabs of Palestine are harassed by Israel, somehow manages to provide humane living conditions for its inhabitants. One day many more of us in the reserve army of the unemployed can hope that our living spaces will have all of the creature comforts of Gaza, Honduras, and my mom’s family’s former habitats in Detroit and Opa-Locka, and until then, its only them, the other, whether the daughters and sons of Native American land “donors,” African American chattel slaves never given a piece of the rock for their troubles, those like my dad’s family called “brown ——-” by the Tampa Citizen’s Council, or those called “PWT” off the farm with no place to go like my mom’s.
We can only put “them” behind walls of illusion for so long. Nations and their boundaries are not sacred. They are not even real. Flesh and blood are real. National boundaries are property distributions writ large. Capitalism, with its stolen boundaries as modified by corporate fictions backed up by invasions, assassinations, dirty tricks, trade agreements, austerity terms, and bankruptcy and foreclosure laws written by and for transnational financiers, is also not sacred, but it is our global God and quite real, like clockwork. Only people are sacred and real, regardless of their ethnicities, creeds, or bank accounts. Yes white supremacist U.S., even brown Central Americans, like brown Palestinians, Iraqis, and Afghans, are sacred and real–and capable of sensing the dangerous crap holes the U.S. has left them with behind sacred borders we will invade at the drop of a hat if it suits us.
There was a time when the sound shapers of popular culture reminded us that “we’re all one.” Many of us still wish we could retreat behind our “walls of illusion.” We probably can’t, and if we can, we shouldn’t, as in, as a matter of morality WE SHOULD NOT IGNORE THE SUFFERING OF OTHERS.
Religious boundaries, inside and outside us, are ruining our world too. How tempting it can be, for a season, to retreat behind them. Plant the Constantinian inside-outside flag of a religion in your own brain or that of a young or otherwise vulnerable person under your sway. Hey, even, as in dogmatic forms of communism, plant the flag of atheism in your own brain or that of a young or otherwise vulnerable person under your sway. If it divides us against them, dammit it must be good! For “freedom” means maximizing control over others and division.
Might makes right and our internal gizmos happy as clams too. And when might wants boundaries to come down, they do. Professional clerics and right wing corporate-controlling dividing-and-conquering self-appointed lay-clerics controlling women’s bodies and their access to birth control because otherwise the clerics’ freedom to control will be diminished? Hallelujah! Middle-eastern autocratic friends-of-the-U.S. “princes” channeling societal longing for justice into religious addiction, and the U.S. arming the same religious addicts until it blows back on “them” and “us”? Hooyah!
Society and culture does not have to run off of the mandated boundaries, control, and division of the powerful. Creativity, like productivity, can be free and unifying at the same time. But would that serve the interests of our capitalist overlords?
I appreciate and maybe even love George Harrison, the man and his music, for all its commercial appeal, which at times seemed almost incidental. He managed to slip into the greatest rock and roll album of all time boundary-destroying optimism: “With our love, we could save the world, if they only knew …”
Unfortunately, the socialist realist inside me says, because his spirituality was not directed outwardly into consistent action, decades later a master work of humanism can seem like mere interesting whiffs of incense. We should not just talk, or exude style, about the space between us all. Psychedelia can now lay claim to not only Indian folk instruments (many played by non-credited and now anonymous Indian musicians from north London), but also coopt magnanimity into the state of mind of one attending chemically-spiked Kool-Aid tests, or, in my case, bong hit-induced Dorito binges. But was that George’s intent? Was he just having a good time and making records? Looking deeper at the musically pivotal Within You Without You, I sense that so much more was and is called for.
Your assignment this Sunday evening comrades is to mourn–and then come back fighting for the revolution. Join the global demand for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law and Palestinian rights. Demand that the “sacred” boundaries of Israel be recognized for the European-mandated bullet-imposed fiction that they are and replaced with a transitional Palestine of a single country of Jews, Muslims, free-thinkers, and Christians on the road to an eventual deep democratic non-autocratic socialist Middle Eastern region that respects social and cultural differences while guaranteeing economic justice for all.
Of course, we have learned since Stalin, and I have learned further from my comrades here lately, including UnaSpenser, that we cannot impose our own wishes or logic upon the oppressed with whom we seek solidarity. So, for instance, should Palestinians themselves choose to accept a two-state solution, that is their decision to make–although most apparently have no hope in that for good reason, and I cannot see how it would be a just result. What sorry international political compromises Palestinians will have to make to assure their own survival in the face of constant U.S.-backed ethnic cleansing I cannot predict much less impose.
Surely also, whenever we enter the domestic political arena, as we must, pathetic compromises will be necessary–like, more than likely, having no responsible choice other than to vote for another truly horrible Clinton neoliberal in the general election, while their self-centered referee-worked Republican-Lite “centrism” wreaks yet more havoc on any remaining liberal tendencies of the Democratic Party (which long ago lost any leftist ones). Defensive maneuvers and at best incrementalism in domestic politics will be the rule, not the exception.
In Congress, we will continue to have little representation–even those closest to us won’t take a bold and consistent stand against Israel’s massacre of innocent civilians, paid for with U.S. funds.
But we should never compromise our beliefs and our message. Let’s not look to our “leaders.” Let’s carry on the fighting but discerning and deeply “democratic” spirit of Rosa Luxemburg and Antonio Gramsci. I recently signed two Bernie Sanders for President petitions. I hope he runs in the Democratic primary, and I will do my best to support him. But, in truth, he is no Eugene V. Debs, and I am not going to kid myself into thinking that he is.
Let’s be our own leaders. In our hearts and with our words, if not in the voting booth, let us not compromise. Let’s ourselves be like Eugene V. Debs, who sensed Danger Ahead when we sacrifice our principles for votes. Let’s never lose our “revolutionary integrity.” For danger, complete with banker protection, global neoliberal trade deals, austerity for the masses, and anti-socialist hegemony galore, is ahead with Hillary Clinton, whose handler would call on Morris again, if, that is, Dick’s legendary Machiavellian skills weren’t washed up (alas, there’s always toe-sucking), at the slightest “political danger” to themselves. For that is the only danger the Clintons have cared about at least since the mid-term election of Bill’s first term.
As I type, real flesh and blood-splattering danger is literally coming down on the heads of the people of Gaza. For shame Israel and your enablers. Next time I write a diary for Anti-Capitalist Meetup I expect that I will be back to my plodding goal-oriented series on Anti-Capitalist Democratic Internationalism. But not this time. Tonight we do not try to save the world much less dance. I will not even introduce to you the one and only Billy Shears. Tonight let us mourn for the people of Gaza and the whiffs of incense that took the place of the world uniting. A lovely song known to tens of millions of people across numerous societies, one with hopeful lyrics buried inside a contemplative mix of instrumentation and voice, may make a good dirge. And let’s not forget our potential to blow away the boundaries, the true whiffs.
Take it away boys …
We were talking about the space between us all
And the people who hide themselves behind a wall of illusion
Never glimpse the truth, then it’s far too late, when they pass away
We were talking about the love we all could share
When we find it, to try our best to hold it there with our love
With our love, we could save the world, if they only knew
Try to realize it’s all within yourself
No one else can make you change
And to see you’re really only very small
And life flows on within you and without you
We were talking about the love that’s gone so cold
And the people who gain the world and lose their soul
They don’t know, they can’t see, are you one of them?
When you’ve seen beyond yourself then you may find
Peace of mind is waiting there
And the time will come when you see we’re all one
And life flows on within you and without you
PLEASE NOTE: After I wrote most of this post, I realized what was going on with U.S. views on Gaza was a matter of what Gramsci called cultural hegemony. That caused me to Google and discover a connection to others who, in relation to various egregious human rights violations around the world, have looked to Gramsci for interpretative guidance. Google led me to this interesting short recent piece by Juan Castillo y Cia which directly discusses the analytical link between Gramsci and Gaza: http://epistemesxxi.blogspot.com/2014/07/las-victimas-de-gaza-y-el-recuerdo-de.html That piece in turn led me to Osvaldo Bayer’s 2010 piece: http://www.pagina12.com.ar/diario/contratapa/13-144492-2010-04-24.html. That in turn credits a piece by Emilio Corbiere. Bayer’s piece also provides the full text of Gramsci’s important 1916 essay on Armenia. For a helpful introduction to Gramsci generally, please see Northsylvania’s 2012 post for Anti-Capitalist Meetup. Thank you comrades, as well as all of the members of the Anti-Capitalist Meetup group, for your wonderful works of solidarity. I know that there may be leftist Zionists for whom this piece may be troubling. I have chosen to speak out on this issue because I feel it is everyone’s obligation to do so. All human beings count equally in the world that we would create, including both Jews and Arabs. I hope that I would be in solidarity with, and even lay down my life for, anyone from any demographic subset of Palestine who is suffering. The way to end this cycle of suffering is the same in Palestine and around the world–replace capitalism with a deep global democracy with justice in the service of love for all people. We may not get there, but we must never quit trying to “always advance.” Salaam and Shalom.