New Clear Vision

constructive commentary for the chronically farsighted

Partners in the Freedom Struggle

March 23, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Matt Meyer, Politics

Why Nonviolent Activists Should Follow John Brown

by Matt Meyer

“The lack of historical consensus regarding John Brown,” asserted longtime labor, racial justice, and international activist Bill Fletcher, “speaks to the ideological confusions we continue to face.” Fletcher — a columnist for Black Commentator, Senior Scholar for the Institute for Policy Studies, and former president of TransAfrica — noted that John Brown was anti-slavery, but not just that; he was anti-racist, but there were others at the time who were anti-racist as well. As Fletcher suggested that Brown’s difference was his dramatic defense of enslaved Africans, people he actually befriended and liked, he summarized the dividing line question which still remains: “Was Brown a terrorist or was he engaging in an emancipatory practice?”

This year’s Left Forum — the annual coming together of a broad spectrum of left and progressive intellectuals, activists, academics, organizations and the interested public, the largest in the US — was a different one than usual for me. Award-winning and beloved science fiction writer and old buddy Terry Bisson asked me to join his panel on a favorite topic of ours: the legacy of abolitionist John Brown. (more…)

Occupy History

December 27, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Current Events, Guest Author, Politics

Between the Sphinx and the Bank Vault

by Alon Raab


“Between the sphinx and the bank vault, there is a taut thread that pierces the heart of all poor children,” cried Federico Garcia Lorca after visiting Wall Street in 1929. His vision sharpened by gathering storms of fascism, in his native Spain and across the European continent, compounded by new forms of corporate control in the US, and a broken heart over unrequited love, he poured his soul into the powerful “Poet in New York” poems. Visiting Wall Street, the sidewalks barely swept of fall leaves and the remains of leaping bodies — small‐time investors convinced that untold wealth shall be theirs only to see life‐savings vanish, and of the occasional banker who followed their lead ‐‐ his eyes pierced Capitalism’s many veils.

Wall Street ‐‐ built on Iroquois and Algonquin land, named for the wall that the Dutch colonists erected to keep the English and the Indians away. Soon, the Dutch West Indies Company, early and major importer of slaves, brought them to New Amsterdam, too. Auctions in human flesh were held nearby, a connection deepened by major banks and investment firms turning money from slave transactions to new gold and influence. Later, a place giving birth to economic shenanigans and scams, crises and broken dreams ‐‐ vast fortunes for the few, misery for the many. (more…)

The Arc of the Moral Universe

September 26, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Ecology, Politics, Randall Amster

Justice May Be Just Around the Bend

by Randall Amster

Let’s face it: things are bad and getting worse every day. Even a casual glance at the daily headlines provides ample reason for dismay, from perpetual warfare and the ravages of climate change to economic collapse and the abject brutality of the “criminal justice” system (a cruel misnomer if ever there was one). It doesn’t take a rocket scientist, a millenarian, or even an avowed cynic to surmise that the ship is sinking and that actual justice is but a faded memory.

Still, despite all evidence to the contrary, I maintain that we might not be as bad off as it seems. This isn’t an exercise in wide-eyed optimism, strategic denial, or the power of positive thinking. Rather, it is reflective of what I take as an inexorable impulse in nature — and thus within humankind, as part of its workings — toward productive, sustainable, and ultimately just relations at all points in the web. In short, I want to suggest that life is good, and that it matters. (more…)

Monument to a King

August 30, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Current Events, Guest Author, Politics

Remembering MLK’s Legacy, and Resisting Today’s Wars

by William Loren Katz

This weekend it has taken a hurricane to postpone the dedication of the long-awaited monument to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Washington — the first time a man who is not a president, not a white man, and not a war leader has been so honored on the Mall. Major corporations contributed to this monument, so the question is how will Dr. King be presented to the American public and remembered by children. One clear viewpoint was offered this January 13th when the Pentagon commemorated Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day with an address by Jeh C. Johnson, the Defense Department’s general counsel.

In the final year of his life, King became an outspoken opponent of the Vietnam War, Johnson frankly told a packed auditorium of Defense Department officials. (more…)

The Power of Social Movements

July 22, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Guest Author, Politics

Learning to Speak Truth to Each Other

by Robert Jensen

In mainstream politics in the United States, everyone agrees on one thing: We’re number one. We’re special. We’re America. We’re on top, where we deserve to be.

In dissident politics in the United States, we have long argued that this quest for economic and military dominance can’t be squared with basic moral and political principles. We’re on top, but it’s unjust and unsustainable.

Whether or not the United States has ever had a legitimate claim to that top spot — or whether there should be spots on top for any nation(s) — the days of uncontested dominance are over: Our economy is in permanent decline and our military power continues to fade. We are still the wealthiest society in history, but we are no longer the dynamic heart of the global economy. Our military is still able to destroy at will, but the wars of the past decade have demonstrated the limits of that barbarism. (more…)

Peace and the Spirit

July 08, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Ecology, Kent Shifferd, Politics

Truth, Power, and the Ultimate Ground of Being

by Kent Shifferd

Treaties, non-aggression pacts, techniques of conflict resolution (e.g., nonviolent communication, reflective listening, mutual gains bargaining), institutional structures for the control of interstate violence (e.g., UN, ICC), disarmament schemes, peace studies curricula — all are necessary to creating a lasting peace; but they are just the mechanics, the tools of peace. They can lie there on the bench or they can be picked up and put to use.

But they are useless without the Spirit, that difficult-to-describe-in-words something which, when you see or hear it, you instantly recognize its presence. It’s the difference between me droning on in a classroom about the second START Treaty and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s voice ringing out, “I have a dream today!” Close your eyes for a moment and recall the sound of that to your mind… (more…)

Nonviolence, from Mecca to Montgomery

February 14, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Ahmed Afzaal, Culture, Politics

The Convergence of Thought in Islam and Dr. King’s Teachings

by Ahmed Afzaal

As recent political events suggest, invaluable resources for creating a more just and peaceful world can be found in the Islamic religious tradition. In this essay, I will present one possible model of how to identify some of these resources, by highlighting the Islamic relevance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

For a Muslim, encountering the legacy of Dr. King can elicit an intense experience of déjà vu. His goals and approach, his confidence that he’s doing God’s work, his trust in the success of his mission, his refusal to hate his opponents — all of these can sound eerily familiar. In some powerful yet subtle way, there seems to be a not insignificant overlap between certain aspects of the Islamic tradition and the ideas and activism of Dr. King. Muslims who are in tune with the highest values of their own heritage can hear many an echo of the Islamic religious tradition as they listen to Dr. King’s voice.

I fully expect the above judgment to sound meaningless, if not absurd, to many readers. After all, what possible connection could there be between the theology and ethics of a black Baptist minister from the American South and the teachings of the Islamic religious heritage? Indeed, at first glance there appears to be absolutely no common ground between them. (more…)

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