Thursday, November 10, 2011

Higher Education in America

The government has decided that classroom professors are not getting "the message" across to students and have unleashed the police with batons to club and spear peacefully protesting students. This is a very important lesson about "power" in America:

More details from Berkleyside.

The top 0.01% control the politicians, the courts, and the police. So when students don't respect the right of the rich to plunder the middle class and impoverish the poor, then a little "school lesson" is needed with billy clubs to "beat some sense" into students.

Sadly, that is America. Land of the "free to be beaten up". Gone are the days of free speech and the right to assemble. These are they days when you need to buy your political rights just like the billionaires have so successfully done.

Update 2011nov13: Here is a bit from the student newspaper The Daily Californian:
For UC Berkeley graduate student Alex Barnard, the most disempowering moment of Wednesday night was not when he was repeatedly hit with a police baton, cracking one of his ribs. Instead, the most disturbing moment of his experience came afterward, when he says an officer told him he had “no rights.”

According to Barnard, who was arrested along 31 others as part of Wednesday night’s Occupy Cal demonstration, after he was handcuffed with a zip tie and taken into Sproul Hall, a police officer asked him for identifying information. Rather than immediately answering, Barnard said he asked the officer about his rights and when he would be allowed to speak to a lawyer. It was then that the officer told him he had no rights and, after Barnard disputed the statement, said he would be recorded as “uncooperative” on his police forms, according to Barnard.

“You didn’t have a voice,” Barnard said.

The experience described by Barnard and his fellow protesters’ violent treatment at the hands of the police — supported by video footage taken at the demonstration — has led to wide-spread condemnation of the police response. Critics ranging from campus student groups to members of the UC Berkeley faculty and even the national media have spoken out against the police officers’ use of force.

According to a campus-wide email sent by Chancellor Robert Birgeneau and other top campus administrators, the campus Police Review Board will investigate whether police used excessive force given the circumstances.
Go read the original news story to get all the details and the embedded links.

I love it when the official have "an official investigation". It is just a way to bury the item. These students were assaulted by the police. No policeman was arrested for assault. The "investigation" will find "extenuating circumstances" and the whole thing will be buried. That is how the elites make sure that nobody rocks the boat. You have no rights. Sure you have lots of "paper" rights, but money in America owns all the "rights". Until the people change that, the standard of living in the US will continue to decline and the government will continue on its path to banana republic.

Update2011nov14: Here is a bit from a well thought out analysis of the hypocrisy of the UC Berkeley authorities by Aaron Bady on his blog zunguzungu. It also has more video and some detailed comments and specifics. But the key point is this:
I feel a lot of déjà vu in reading about these events. According to the UC administration, who have offered a lot of empty words in support of Occupy Wall Street in past emails, it wasn’t the aims of the protesters they opposed but their tactics. As they go on to elaborate:
This decision is largely governed by practical, not philosophical, considerations. We are not equipped to manage the hygiene, safety, space, and conflict issues that emerge when an encampment takes hold and the more intransigent individuals gain control. Our intention in sending out our message early was to alert everyone that these activities would not be permitted. We regret that, in spite of forewarnings, we encountered a situation where, to uphold our policy, we were required to forcibly remove tents and arrest people.
Allow me to retort: what they really mean is that the University of California is not, in fact, governed by “a philosophy,” but by the reverse: an active refusal to require a philosophy in justifying its choices. That way he can write that “UC Berkeley as an institution shares many of the highest principles associated with the OWS movement,” but also actively work in opposition to people’s attempts to put those principles into practice. This is an arbitrary line in the sand, drawn by an administration that is unflinchingly willing to use whatever means necessary to maintain their ability to draw arbitrary lines. Your philosophy is not wanted here, they are saying; in the name of practical considerations — which they define — you will be governed by government. And so the fact that students are trying to “democratize the regents,” as a popular chant puts it, is exactly the threat. A sentence like this one:
We are not equipped to manage the hygiene, safety, space, and conflict issues that emerge when an encampment takes hold and the more intransigent individuals gain control.
is just another way of saying that when “intransigent” individuals refuse to acknowledge the university’s authority, the administration won’t be able to exercise its authority, so it will therefore need to exercise its authority. This is exactly as tautological and contradictory a line of “reasoning” as it sounds, a rhetorical snake eating its own tail. To maintain hygiene, the students cannot use tents to keep themselves warm; to manage the space, students must be kept out; to address “conflict issues,” students had to be attacked; and to keep the students safe, they will be beaten.

The language falls apart at this point, because it’s not “philosophy” that’s driving any of this, but the question of who has the right to speak and be heard about what the university is for. Which is why the next paragraph truly descends into absurdity, the one where you realize you are not dealing with an educator, but with a university Ministry of Truth:
It is unfortunate that some protesters chose to obstruct the police by linking arms and forming a human chain to prevent the police from gaining access to the tents. This is not non-violent civil disobedience. By contrast, some of the protesters chose to be arrested peacefully; they were told to leave their tents, informed that they would be arrested if they did not, and indicated their intention to be arrested. They did not resist arrest or try physically to obstruct the police officers’ efforts to remove the tent. These protesters were acting in the tradition of peaceful civil disobedience, and we honor them.
What he describes — occupying space in a way that nonviolently prevents the police from doing what they want — is actually the very definition of “non-violent civil disobedience.” On the one hand, it is utterly non-violent: linking arms and holding on to each other as the police try to knock you apart is not “violent” but is precisely the opposite. It is the endurance of violence. And second, it is civil disobedience, again, precisely by definition. They were disobeying civil authorities, obeying the authority of their own consciences and solidarity instead

I want to skim past this sentence on to the next part, however which is in some ways the most remarkable part: he argues that the “tradition of peaceful civil disobedience,” which deserves honor, is a tradition of obedience to civil authorities. He says that “we honor” those who do not obstruct the administration’s decisions, and that those who are “acting in the tradition of peaceful civil disobedience” are, it turns out, those who obey authority.

This is not even ideology. This is simply nonsense. UCI professor Rei Terada has a great piece on what the administrator’s language might mean, but for me the important point to make is a much simpler one: they aren’t defending what they did — which would require admitting what they did — but only obfuscating it in language so bad that I can’t decide whether to call it vapid or actively dishonest. “Civil Disobedience” has always been, manifestly and unmistakably, a tradition of disobeying the civil authorities. I feel silly even needing to spell that out. And I feel embarrassed to work as an educator in the employ of anyone who would stand behind such specious stupidity. Linking arms and occupying the space between the police and their objective is a tactic used by just about every example of civil disobedience I can think of. It is, quite frankly the single best and most iconic example of the thing he says it is not. He is chewing up these words until they have become meaningless. Calling this language “Orwellian” is not hyperbole or exaggeration.

If he wants, Chancellor Birgeneau can approve of what the police did on Wednesday. If he wants to believe and argue that it is justifiable to try to break the bodies of students in hope of breaking their spirits, then let him believe it and argue it and then try to justify it. Let him tell us that when students put up tents on Sproul Plaza, the police will beat them until they take those tents down. Let him declare forthrightly that when students stand on grass at the wrong time and place — a time that is subject to the capricious and arbitrary decrees of the police and those who call them in — the administration believes its authority and responsibility is to beat them until they comply.

They have not said this. Birgeneau and his executive administrators are hiding behind meaningless language rather than talk openly and honestly about what everyone who was there or has seen those videos knows to be true: the UC will hurt you if you obstruct them or challenge their authority, even nonviolently. Free speech is a function of free thinking, and on the campus of free speech, Birgeneau should be free to say and think what he pleases, even if what he says is that those who do not obey will be beaten into submission. But let us hear him say that, if that’s what he believes. Let him admit and stand behind the decision he has made.

No comments: