New Clear Vision

constructive commentary for the chronically farsighted

Archive for the ‘Michael N. Nagler’

Corporations Are Not People

October 17, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Economy, Michael N. Nagler, Politics, Stephanie N. Van Hook

We Hold These Truths to be Self-Evident…

by Michael N. Nagler and Stephanie N. Van Hook

When is a person not a person? Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PSR) recently answered this absurd question with the obvious and embarrassing answer: when it’s a corporation. According to PSR’s statement, in case anyone is confused, a human being

“is a complex organism with capacities for joy and pain, reflection, and the compassionate appreciation of others. Mature persons are expected to display reasoned judgment, and are personally responsible for their own actions (our emphasis).  Human beings live, breath, think, experience emotions, and internalize values such as empathy and caring for others. Like all sentient beings, they suffer, and die.”

Corporations possess none of these functions, which make being human sacred, valuable and worthy of dignity. As the Occupy movements grow in remarkably inspiring ways, they have a unique opportunity to raise the human image from the slander and propaganda of the corporate media — where our capacity for consumption defines us and our desire for wealth drives us — to a more promising, and far more accurate conception of what makes us truly human: our capacity for nonviolence, motivated by our most precious desire for freedom. As Gandhi put it, “Non-violence is the law of the humans…” (more…)

Neither Victims nor Executioners

October 03, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Culture, Current Events, Michael N. Nagler

Building a Movement Through Constructive Programs

by Michael N. Nagler

The execution last week of Troy Davis by the State of Georgia on the International Day of Peace was a painful blow to all sensitive people — really to all humanity, not to mention our prestige as a nation. Whatever may have been the “correctness” of the legal procedures leading up to it, it must seem to many no better than a legalized lynching.

Scholar René Girard, with his keen insights into the all-too-prevalent dynamic of scapegoating, ancient and modern (the latter more disguised but no less deadly), often cited lynching as a thinly disguised institutional form of that deadly reflex held over from (even) more barbaric times. By the sheer irrationality of its logic, the death penalty in the United States (and wherever else it is held over) must qualify as ritual. Homicides slightly increase in states where the penalty is reintroduced, and killing in order to show that killing is wrong does not deserve the name of logic. (more…)

Passivity or Violence

September 09, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Current Events, Michael N. Nagler, Politics

Is That the Only Choice?

by Michael N. Nagler

Between Libya, which has endured more than 2,000 NATO bombings, and Syria, where more than 2,000 civilians have been killed by their own government so far, we see the two traditional responses to a perceived need for intervention by the international community in regimes gone wrong. It’s a grim picture — invaded Libya and abandoned Syria — and a sad comment on the paucity of human imagination, at least when that imagination is squeezed into the narrow confines of “realism.”

Fortunately this Hobson’s choice, and the comment it delivers on the creativity of our concern, is not, in fact, all humanity can come up with. (more…)

Coming Home in the 21st Century

August 29, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Michael N. Nagler, Politics

Pathologizing War, Prioritizing Peace

by Michael N. Nagler

The recent British film, In Our Name, is a returning-soldier drama featuring a married woman, Suzy, who leaves her husband and little girl to fight in Iraq. Because she’s involved in the killing of a little girl during her tour (this part is based on a true story, but it happened to a man) she returns home only to steadily fall apart under the stress of soul-destroying anxieties.  Apparently not much has changed since Coming Home, the Jane Fonda film of 1978.

In real life, Ethan McCord was involved in a now-infamous episode that took a strangely similar turn. It became one of the most shocking (and hopefully awakening) revelations by Wikileaks: the video now dubbed “Collateral Murder” that was taken from an Apache helicopter as its gunners massacred a group of civilians in a Baghdad suburb in 2007. Addressing a Southern California audience about his role in the episode this past June, McCord described how he saw two small children mangled by gunfire from the helicopter and thought of his own two children at home. (more…)

Crisis or Opportunity?

August 15, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Current Events, Ecology, Economy, Michael N. Nagler

A Gandhian Answer to Financial Collapse

by Michael N. Nagler

Last Monday the Dow Jones industrial average fell 634.76 points; the sixth-worst point decline for the Dow in the last 112 years and the worst drop since December 2008. Every stock in the S&P 500 index declined.

It is easy to blame bipartisan bickering for the impasse that led to Standard & Poor’s downgrading of the American debt, and in turn the vertiginous fall of the Dow. This bickering — this substitution of ideology for reason, of egotism for compassion and responsibility on the part of lawmakers — is a national disgrace; but while it failed to fix the problem, we must realize that it did not cause it. The cause — and potential for a significant renewal — lies much deeper. (more…)

Lessons from San Quentin

June 07, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Michael N. Nagler, Politics, Stephanie N. Van Hook

A Nonviolent Approach to ‘Criminal Justice’

by Michael N. Nagler, with Stephanie N. Van Hook

“San Quentin may you rot and burn in hell, may your walls fall and may I live to tell; May all the world forget you ever stood, may all the world regret you did no good.”Johnny Cash

In Camus’s The Stranger his main character, Meursault, has murdered another man in cold blood on the beach one hot summer day for no evident reason.  Days before his execution, gazing at the sky in his cell, Meursault suddenly realizes that freedom is still possible, still immanent, even with his body in chains. On the exact nature of this realization Camus makes no comment, but as the gates of San Quentin penitentiary closed behind me on May 27, 2011, the scene came to mind and gave me perhaps a similar notion of the absurd, and of truth not served, and the horrible secret of our “democracy”: that there is no such thing as criminal justice. (more…)

When ‘Positive News’ Isn’t

May 02, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Michael N. Nagler, Politics

The Evolution Will Not Be Scientized

by Michael N. Nagler

The outbreak of democratic aspirations in Egypt, which was relatively nonviolent — and successful — was something of a triumph of the human spirit. We could use the boost. The human spirit is under attack not just in despotic regimes from Burma to Bahrain but right here in our own society. Our way of doing it may be subtler, but it’s no less dangerous for that reason. Possibly more so. Think of last year’s 5-4 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court (Citizens United v. FEC) that granted corporations the status of human persons.

We should be very glad that citizens’ groups are organizing to reverse this decision, like the Environmental and Social Rights Amendment, now before the House of Representatives as House Res. 156. But that decision did not come from nowhere (any more than the Egyptian uprising, for that matter). It was the logical, inevitable outcome of a deep cultural trend that has been pushing its way into our consciousness and taking over our worldview at least since the industrial revolution. (more…)