Techiyah of BlacklistPub
writes, "We are in the same boat together and until we realize that,
we will never grow, never achieve...we'll just be crabs in a barrel."
Ulysses of BlacklistPub
writes, "I believe the new battle field for all of this is consumer economics.The proof of equality and / or superiority is tied to the products, services and utilities the majority of the world's people identify themselves with."-Ulysses
I used to be a working journalist, though as a freelance journalist I've let my membership in the National Association of Black Journalists lapse, due to this sick addiction I have to teaching.
I used to hate university professors, but for fifteen years off and on I've been one. When I was an undergraduate here in Detroit my friends used to call me 'the professor killer' (because I would sit in on their history, sociology, economics, and political science classes and expose how unread their professors were--the ones who would bully African American students). Now, I guess I'm the student killer (my students routinely accuse me of being too 'intimidating' because I demand that they take notes, take essay tests, learn to stop justifying every word out of their mouths with the sacrosanct claim, "that's my opinion!" and, "That's how I feel!", and think critically and analytically). Which just means that, ironically, I am, in my forties, experiencing being in the position in which what used to be the ignorance of conservative and repressive professors on campus is now also the ignorance of conservative and repressive students
on campus. Oh well, life is a topsy turvy cream pie with most of the cream beneath the surface, you know, like an iceberg. Like an iceberg, but with cream. And round. Pie shaped. A Banana cream iceberg, or something like that: in other words, life is damn strange.
I've always had a knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, which culminated one day a long time ago in my finding myself aboard a cargo plane flight from Cairo to Tunisia, where the plane would refuel and then fly on to Spain, France, and eventually Heathrow in England. It was plane full of ANC activists--okay, ANC 'mules'--that was being expertly and adroitly piloted by an arrogant Egyptian fellow flying off to the North instead of to the West, straight out over and then straight down, into the Mediterranean Sea. This Egyptian pilot greatly admired UNESCO, the Chicago Bulls, and finance capitalism, and was as off course aerodynamically as he was in is economic tastes. The plane was crashing, in other words ('This is not at all monkey!' a Nigerian fellow passenger screamed like a a baby as we all saw our lives flashing before all our eyes and some of us got mixed up and had to sort through all those flashbacks to make sure everyone got their own and not somebody else's), but that's a story from my memoirs, which have yet to be published, sorry.
I'm saying I have a knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, is all.
Thus, I worked for a couple of years as a contributing writer and staff writer at the Ithaca Times
in upstate New York, and as a columnist for the Ithaca Journal
. During that time I was actively investigating the United States right wing militia movement, particularly the branch that was and still is
active here in Michigan. Partly due to the fact that I was a widely recognized writer and journalist in the city of Ithaca who worked for both major newspapers in town, local radio stations and public access TV broadcasters were willing to interview me on the topic of the racist right and the militia movement, the Christian Identity Movement, and the American Nazi Party. This was the early 90's. Around that time (April, 1995, to be exact) a bad thing happened: honorably discharged Gulf War veteran and Bronze Star recipient as well as confidant of the Michigan Militia Movement, Tim McVeigh, aggressively argued a point of contention against the US government at the AIfred P. Murrah Federal Building, in Oklahoma City.
I had amassed a great deal of source material on these right wing entities, and planned to write a book about them similar to the one written by my old friend and former editor, Russ Bellant (OLD NAZIS THE NEW RIGHT AND THE REPUBLICAN PARTY--available at Amazon.com--follow this link to find all of his books:
Russ was editor, in the early 80's, of Wayne State University's student newspaper, The South End
paper that had, in the 70's, prior to Russ' tenure, achieved infamous notoriety due to the Black Marxist radicalization of the paper by the theories of the Black Panther Party and of the Detroit League of Revolutionary Black Workers during the tenure of then editor, John Watson in the early 70's. Watson had turned the paper into a community organ that was distributed inside the Detroit auto plants and was a voice for revolutionary politics.
This fact had upset the 70's era Wayne State Board of Governors, of course, who accused Watson of no longer serving the students of the university (as if students at Wayne State in the late 60's and early 70's were not themselves workers!) and Watson famously answered the criticism by saying, "One class conscious worker is worth 100 students!"
Russ invited me to work there in the 80's, and, not knowing of the history of the newspaper (I was indeed a student and not
a class conscious worker at the time) I intended to write comic TV reviews and satiric city guide reviews of second hand bookstores and the like (you might have noticed I often display a comic streak in my writing; well, I intended to become a Black Groucho Marx or even a Black Bill Cosby when I was a boy, and had no intention of becoming instead a Black John Reed. Did I mention that life is strange like a giant pie that sinks the Titanic?). I ended up not writing very much humorous stuff besides a few funny TV reviews. Instead, I found myself part of a staff that was under the constant scrutiny of the Wayne State Student News Publication Board, that seemed to be composed of a boardroom full of fat cats watching a movie about a hot tin roof, and we were the roof they were closely watching. They lived in fear of The South End 'going native' again and embarrassing the university.
"Wayne State is not just a school," one of those Publication Board bastards said to me one day out in front of the newspaper when I stopped him on his way out after an editorial board meeting inside. "What you young people fail to understand," he continued, "Is that your degree is a commodity, with shelf life and a market value. It's insane of you all to weaken the brand the way you do with negative reporting. It's your own commodity you're damaging, you understand. After all, you're paying for a degree. Don't you want it to appreciate in value?? Do you want this school to be the Queen Mary, or The Titanic? Stop interfering and let those of us who know what we're doing guide Wayne State in the right direction!"
This was up to that point in my young life, the most bizarre damn thing I'd ever heard anybody say outside of the elitist babble of William F. Buckley chewing over the virtues of elitist greed for The Young with Ronald Reagan on "Firing Line" (Which I'd seen in reruns).
My education is a commodity? I couldn't fathom it. Though now, the concept is not only more coherent, but has in fact become the focal principle of our national life in the United States; ergo, Ulysses' comment, I believe the new battle field for all of this is consumer economics
The proof of equality and / or superiority is tied to the products, services and utilities the majority of the world's people identify themselves with.
The Publication Board, which had hired him in the first place, resented Russ' blatantly humanist, class conscious, and (gasp!) even progressive, editorial slant. The Arts and Entertainment editor at the time was a foppish George F. Will wannabe, but the paper as a whole was kick ass. I quickly found myself kicking out political pieces. Political art reviews, interviews of Black, revolutionary, and unionist figures from the working class community surrounding the college, political record reviews, political news stories, and political politics with a political slant politically speaking.
Wrong place, wrong time.
I have a long overdue lunch date with Russ, and when we get together I have to ask him what his own recollections are of that period, because I remember it as the birth of my public political conscience and my first experience of investigative journalism; The South End was the place where I learned skills that would later serve me well in Miami.
Later still, in the late 80's, another controversy lit up The South End due to what the Student News Publication Board almost certainly felt had been their very 'safe' selection of an editor for the paper: middle class, Anglo/Italian American student, Patricia ("Patty") Maceroni. Patricia had followed a long tradition at the newspaper of refusing military ads. But inasmuch as the worst of the social and political impact of the "Reagan 80's" had set in by then, she was ordered by the university to cease and desist from discriminating against the poor defenseless United States Army (widely unpopular at the time for its advisory role in the fielding of death squads in Latin America, for giving logistical support to the Israeli Defense Force in murdering Palestinians at places like Sabra and Shatilla--the IDF using Christian Falangists as a front to do so.
Patricia held fast to her principles, not to mention her rightful authority as an editor to determine the editorial policy of her newspaper. She was suspended by the Publications Board, and Lord, the whole community got up in arms: the ACLU, the NAACP, the UAW, and the radical and revolutionary community rose to her defense, and the issue of whether or not a public university funded by public monies, serving the public has the right to act as if it has no relation to the public good, public interests, and public will. A standoff ensued between the progressive community and the university, and the community of course won, because growing national attention was being focused on the issues, and Wayne State, like all institutional vampires, dreaded sunshine falling upon its actions and policies. Patricia was eventually re-instated. I do recall some disappointment with her on the part of the community, though, so I can't recall if that may have been due to her ultimately deciding to back down
on the issue even though the community had the university over a barrel.
My point, though, is that while all this was going on I was once gain in the eye of the storm, because I was at the newspaper trying to write humorous TV reviews, and of course, not succeeding, due to the politics of attrition and immolation happening all around me--wrong place, wrong time.
Back to New York. When Timothy McVeigh made his argument in Oklahoma City, the issue of the
radical right wing of American culture became a big topic of discussion, and suddenly everyone wanted to talk to me even more, but for me, it had become the wrong topic: I abandoned my interviews and abandoned my plans to write a book after receiving anonymous phone calls from a Michigan area code with messages from a caller threatening violence against my family back in Michigan in retaliation for my talking about the racist right on the radio in New York. Hey, right wing fanatics know how to network at the grass roots level, you betcha.
Since this all happened I have finished my degree studies, worked for years as a professor and journalist, and had yet more experiences with asking the wrong questions of the wrong people as an independent journalist writing for several years for Progreso Semenal
, in Miami. Along the way I have met the Dalai Lama twice (in Ithaca, and then again in Miami),
and have interviewed
Dick Gregory twice (in New York City while writing for the Ithaca Journal and in Detroit while writing for The Michigan Citizen). I've also met Cesar Chavez (writing about him for The Ithaca Journal).
One day, out in front of The Strand Bookstore in Manhattan, I saw Martin Sheen walking along the street, and I said to him, "I love your work, Mr. Sheed," and he veered over to stand next to me, and shake my hand, smiling, and I was so startled that he laughed.
"What's the matter!?" he laughed, "Did you expect me to shout, 'No comment'?"
"I didn't think you'd talk back to me," I laughed.
"Why not!? Aren't all in the same boat?"
And he veered back to the stream of endless human traffic that surges twenty four-seven-three sixty five in New York City, and the tide sped him away from me until he was a faint figure, and then was soon swallowed up and gone.
I thought then about what it means for us all to be in 'the same boat'. Once, Timothy Leary, Hippie LSD experimentalist and Harvard professor, had said to the consternated media: "We are in the same boat, and while we are, we ought to have a say over which way it sails!"
Ergo, Techiyah's comment: We are in the same boat together and until we realize that, we will never grow, never achieve...we'll just be crabs in a barrel.
People in a boat can steer. Crab s in a barrel must wait until cook comes to choose the biggest fattest crab to toss into boiling water.
There goes the Titanic.