Thoughts for the New Year

We are pleased to bring you Volume 27, Number 1 of Z Magazine, still publishing after all these years, with the same staff. We were 22, 41, and 46 when we started. (You do the math.) Suffice to say, we’ve covered a lot of topics in those years. But this issue seems special, partly because it marks a new year, but also because the recent death of Nelson Mandela and the subsequent celebration of his activism and perserverence has made the articles in this issue seem to have more meaning for us—even to suggest implications for the tasks ahead for activists and organizers. Here are some highlights that we hope will inspire/provoke your own thoughts for the new year.

Lauren McCauley: Information is Being Abused

“As the arena of big data and predictive privacy harms evolves, we believe consumers in general and communities of color in particular, have reason to be concerned. This is particularly true in the case of companies like Walmart—which has made clear its massive big data ambitions…and has, thus far, provided little transparency to allow advocates and the public to understand how their information is being used, or abused.”

Bill Berkowitz: Do No Harm Descends Into Minimize Harm

“The Department of Defense instituted three ‘changes in ethical standards and policies to rationalize and facilitate medical and psychological professionals’ participation in interrogation.’ Do no harm descended into avoid or minimize harm.”

Ramsy Baroud: Rendering Gaza Uninhabitable

“This time, the collective punishment of Gaza arrives in the form of raw sewage that is flooding many neighborhoods.  Even before the latest crisis, resulting from a severe shortage of electricity and diesel fuel that is usually smuggled through Egypt, Gaza has been rendered gradually uninhabitable.”

Seth Sandronsky: Public School Privatization

“Against the backdrop of federal, state, and local policies for K-12 public school reform, the primary business motives of Kaplan Test Preparation, Pearson Education, and McGraw-Hill Education are to increase market share and profits.”

Noam Chomsky: Answering Questions From 12-20-year-olds

On the meaning of life: “The meaning of life is what you make of it. Life does not have any meaning apart from that, for a human, a dog, a bacterium, or anything else.”

On religion: “Actually, one of the most dangerous religious beliefs, maybe the most dangerous belief, is the secular faith in the sanctity and power of the state…. ”

On whether—if capitalism is the root cause of so many problems, should schools teach students to overthrow it: Rather than teach children to overthrow capitalism, I think schools…could point out just what the questioner says. Let’s take climate change, for example, which is going to wipe us out. It is an almost predictable consequence of capitalist structures, market structures that don’t take into account externalities.

That should be taught and children should come to understand it and then they should be in a position to decide whether they want to overthrow the system or not.”

On what young people can do to fight back and create a more meaningful education system: “The idea of teaching to tests is a technique for creating people to serve in the Marine Corps or the equivalent for conformity-to-orders in general society. It is not the way to…allow the self-creation of creative individuals living in a functioning democratic society.”

Sanjay Kak: an Intifada of the Mind

“What is it that keeps young people [in Kashmir] from having their brains kind of suffocated? Most people who are in their mid-20s have known nothing else…. I think they survive because little by little we are being able to push apart the curtains that prevented people from understanding what was going on. With every passing year, understanding of the machinery of the structures of oppression are getting clearer…suddenly a new form of civic protest, mass crowds, hundreds and thousands of people coming out in the streets…. I was struck by the incredible maturity and the quality of the thinking that accompanied the street demonstrations. So,  The New Intifada in Kashmir, is as much to do with the ‘ Intifada of the mind.’ ”

Allen Ruff: Simmering Political Conflicts in Central Asia

“Despite the projected 2014 ‘drawdown’ of most of its troops from Afghanistan…. the Afghan war and occupation created whole new sets of unparalleled opportunities and possibilities for increased U.S. influence across the “post-Soviet space…. It also, in the process, planted seeds of future instability….”

Robert Hunziker: Injecting Toxic Chemicals Underground

“The only practicable solution to this festering problem of radical climate change is to get off fossil fuels as quickly as possible. However, it is extremely unlikely this will happen soon enough…. Both of the major U.S. political parties are gloating over upcoming ‘American Energy Independence’ as the result of the use of hydraulic fracking…whereby they utilize extreme high pressure to forcibly inject a concoction of…carcinogenic chemicals underground!”

Sue Katz: Rethinking Prejudices About Gender

“The fact that the Same Sex Dance Festival was held in Blackpool illustrates the cataclysmic changes that have occurred in the conservative world of competitive Ballroom and Latin dance, which has long been locked into old-fashioned notions of masculinity and femininity.” 

Edward Herman: Supporting a Ruthless Dictatorship

“Robin Philpot’s book Rwanda and the New Scramble for Africa tells a grim story of geopolitical interests of the United States and its close allies causing them to intervene heavily in Rwanda and the DRC, supporting killer regimes.”

Nelson Mandela: the Next Generation

“Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is human made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. You can be that generation. Let your greatness blossom.”                       Z