One of the events organized at URI last week was a panel discussion on Alternative Strategies for Maintaining a Safe Campus. Here is an updated informal version of the notes I prepared for the occasion.
- Identify the problem: how does one create a safe campus in a society that idolizes violence on all scales?
- What can we do about it?
- Societies breed the sociopaths they deserve. The following two are manifestations of the systemic violence:
- the lone-nut on a shooting rampage
- police departments militarized with perpetual-war surplus
- The physical abuse we teach in military training and employ abroad in expanding our empire sets the standard for oppression we use at home. This is what happened to non-violent protesters of Disarm Now Plowshares when they resisted our nuclear weapons of mass destruction:
- They —nuns, priests, and a nurse— were arrested, cuffed and hooded with sand bags.
- At the trial the marine in charge testified:
When we secure prisoners anywhere in Iraq or Afghanistan we hood them … so we did it to them.
- The US has the highest incarceration rate in the world
- home of 5% of the world population and 25% of the world’s incarcerated.
- 5% of black men; 2% of Hispanic men; less than 1% of white men are incarcerated.
- Read Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow or watch this this video. Here is a panel discussion called End Mass Incarceration; it provides the missing links required to find alternative strategies.
- With guns as god on our side we have 30,000 gun shot fatalities per year and 70,000 non-fatal shootings. These statistics dwarf the spectacular events that feed and are caused by the corporate media complex.
- Pro Publica had an article about the effects of violence: The PTSD Crisis that’s being ignored:
- vicious cycle: neighborhood violence → PTSD → compromised public safety → neighborhood violence
- These are the effects on children when they grow up in poverty and violence:
- learning disabilities
- lifelong negative health effects
- intra-uterine growth retardation
- Pediatricians refer to this violence to which children are subjected as toxic stress. The solution of the corporate media complex assisted by the United Global Union Busters? Blame teachers for their under-performing students and call in the privatization troops!
- Death preventable by effective health care: If we had the French health care system in US, there would be 140,000 fewer such fatalities per year.
- The real numbers are a state secret, but a good estimate is that US national “defense” costs $4,000 per person per year. This amounts to a lifetime expenditure of more than $250,000 per person.
- Martin Luther King in his Beyond Vietnam speech at Riverside Church onApril 4, 1967, a year before his assassination said:
A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.
The system we have created is what spiritual death looks like: we are all zombies now! Two atomic bombs worth of fatalities each year, but nobody notices and nobody cares because it produces no gripping pictures on the home page.
- This is an abbreviated list with lots of victims of systemic violence, but it’s all peanuts compared to the violence of global inequality, which kills about 25,000,000 people per year. Global climate change, which barely registers in the corporate media, may cause a number of fatalities bigger by one or two orders of magnitude. How can we begin to solve that problem, if we collectively ignore statistics like these?
What can we do?
- There is the eternal question: “How do we deal with the danger of increasing crime?”
- A famous Dutch criminologist, referring to a newspaper notorious for its sensationalism had a simple answer: “Read a different morning newspaper.”
- My reply 30 years later:
Tune out of the stupefying pap served up by the corporate media complex.
- Get used to the idea that the brain acts as if it has two parts: (fast forward to the seven minute time mark in the video)
- System one responds to pictures and anecdotes; it can barely count or reason and is easily mislead, but it’s fast and can save us from immediate danger.
- System two can think systematically and critically; it can understand statistics, but it’s lazy, slow and painful to engage.
- The corporate media talk to system one. Tune out and there will be fewer hysteria driven events such as the lock-down at URI last year.
- Engage system one and you’ll realize that there is a war on the poor and people of color in America. The lone-nut shooter in a nice white, affluent neighborhood near you is responsible for only a minute fraction of the total number of victims.
- How can an individual help solve problems of global scale? Follow Gandhi when he said: “Be the change you want to see in the world!” Maybe I’ll get to that, for now I’ll follow Martin Luther King with his:
In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.
- Once again, for the academic year 2013-2014 URI is in the bottom twenty of LGBT unfriendly schools.
- According to government statistics, the most prevalent hate crimes by far on university campuses result from bias involving race and sexual orientation. Drawing attention to their manifestations on campus is encouraged as long as it results in nice photo ops for administrators. As soon as the message become a threat to the corporate brand image, the messenger is disappeared.
- It happens all the time and it is what happened to my dear friend Andrew Winters at URI. First people get MLK peacemaker awards, but then something goes wrong and silence at URI sets in. Andrew’s disappearance was covered in
- CCRI’s Unfiltered Lens
- The Brown Daily Herald
- The Providence Journal
- Options, RI’s LGBT community newsmagazine
URI’s Good Five Cent Cigar, the Student Senate, and the Faculty Senate have all deliberately participated in the URI code of silence. Blessed by the Board of Education and the Governor’s office, the tactic of choice remains loyalty to the corporate Think Big brand. As always, the tactic of choice is saying one thing in public, and doing the opposite behind the scenes.
A perfect example took place when URI was featured in an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education. The university’s CEO wrote in his blog of March 9, 2011 under the heading Another Special Moment for URI:
Many of your [sic] have heard me say that one cannot solve problems while trying to hide them, or by pretending they don’t exist.
Sounds good until you find out that the photojournalist working on this article for The Chronicle was ordered off the URI campus.
Violence makes most of its victims one by one; the vast majority remain nameless. The corporate media complex reports only on the spectacular outliers that produce juicy pictures. Is it surprising that this feeds mass hysteria?
Meanwhile, capitalism keeps alive a health care system run by death panels consisting of criminally overpaid CEOs. The system perpetuates violence and oppression in the workplace, in the streets, in the prisons and a global scale. The alternative strategy that we are looking for has been formulated by Camus:
In such a world of conflict, a world of victims and executioners, it is the job of thinking people not to be on the side of the executioners.