March 26, 2009 § 4 Comments
CATHERINE RAMPELL reports in The New York Times that, “With the recession on the brink of becoming the longest in the postwar era, a milestone may be at hand: Women are poised to surpass men on the nation’s payrolls, taking the majority for the first time in American history.”
In “As Layoffs Surge, Women May Pass Men in Job Force,” Rampell says that, “The reason has less to do with gender equality than with where the ax is falling.” The ax is falling on jobs that have been dominated by men. “Women tend to be employed in areas like education and health care, which are less sensitive to economic ups and downs, and in jobs that allow more time for child care and other domestic work.”
This, I believe, is a major shift in our cultural construction of how power is controlled, even determined. In fact, this bit of news can be seen as a last breath of the old hegemony that has nearly driven us to the point of complete destruction.
The jobs typically held by women–education and health care–are the fabric of society; everything else –finance, construction, high-tech, etc–is crumbling. The old guard is indeed falling apart, but the fabric of society, patched together by women, is holding. And with the Obama stimulus package, even increasing its strength.
According to Peter Sloterdijk, the renowned German philosopher and a professor of philosophy and media theory at the Karlsruhe School of Design, there have been 3 phases of globalization: (1) the metaphysical globalization of Greek cosmology; (2) the nautical globalization of the 15th Century that creates global provincialism; and, finally, (3), the overcoming of distance.
It is this last phase–our age–that is extremely interesting from the perspective of a new world order and the emergence of women in powerful positions. For the past 10 to 15 years, women from traditionally male-dominant cultures have found their way to Western colleges and universities. It’s an amazing ratio. Women from the East, especially China and Korea, accompany women from South Asia–India and Afghanistan , for instance–and mingle with women from Africa and the Middle East and Latin America.
These young women, to use Homi Bhabha’s term, choose to be “unhomed” in order to advance. This, for them, is where “presencing begins because it captures something of the estranging sense of relocation of the home and the world–the unhomliness–that is the condition of extra–territorial and cross-cultural initiations”, says Bhabha. It is a form of exile apprehended so as to better themselves. In this condition, women are shifting, apparently always in movement, and challening deeply held beliefs about what has been accepted–to a fault–as the location of women in culture. Women are re-articulating boundaries. They are redefining material reality.
This re-articulation of boundaries increases the potential for the feminization of cultures. The current generation of women in our colleges and universities and heading into the (traditional) world is searhing for interconnectedness, though they suffer a sense of estrangement in doing so. These are the women of the Third Wave of Feminism: the overcoming of boundaries, I call it, which is consistent with the movement’s history. Following Bhabha, women are inhabiting a space “narrower than the human horizon” that provides an “ethical entitlement to, and an enactment of, the sense of community.” This is something new, different. Michelle Obama’s planting of a White House garden, which follows Elenor Roosevelt’s garden historically speaking, is a case in point. The First Lady’s garden implies the need for a healthier nation, one that grows foods locally and that eats healthier–challenges to health care, the food industry, and the psychology of dependency of American citizens.
Moreover, Michelle Obama is a new model. Gracious, elegant, classy and beautiful, she is also in shape, as our obsession with her arms shows. Mrs. Obama is the Third Wave of Feminism, as opposed to Hilary Clinton who represents the Second Wave. The difference is fundamental: the professional women of Mrs. Obama’s generation did not give up men or family; they pursued careers, but also kept the hearth moving. This Third Wave comes with an “ethical entitlement to, and an enactment of, the sense of community.” Women are demanding very different things of the social structures and the institutions that support them.
Women are negotiating languages used in the past to (pre) define notions of reality–and truth. Nationhood, we can see by how women are stretching themselves across boundaries, is a morally arbitrary notion, a necessity of the post-colonial state, for instance. Rather, women are more concerned with an “insufficiency of self” and the needs of new urban communities of interest. Women fully understand the precarious sense of survival we are living today since this has been women’s historical position. They are best qualified to guide us through. Women are therefore the agents of change we need. Women working through their identities, as these come into conflict with ancient–and broken–models, discover their agency and, in turn, transform formally oppressive ways of thinking and being. It is a slow process, historically, but we are on a path we cannot now change.
What in the past has been perceived as less valuable and thus exploitable, disposable and forgettable in the global political economy, now is no longer. Opportunities are shifting. We may be in fact witnessing the emergence of the Fourth Wave of Feminism–matriarchal societies.
September 15, 2008 § 1 Comment
Disorder and uncertainty are the guiding principles of our world today, made more so by violent storms and the unpredictability of the environment, the mortgage crises and the constriction of world finances, and always war and the threat of more war and violence in different parts of the world. Instability reigns supreme.
The voting citizenry, almost too late, last minute, gives Obama a healthy victory.
Some of the very wealthy–not all, the golf course set mostly–in the top 1 to 2% of the population, fearing a capital gains tax and estate taxes, vote for McCain believing that our national debt and growing financial uncertainty can be solved by reducing taxes, the myth of Republican Fiscal Conservatism. The golf course set turns its back on the history telling us that this has never worked.
The next socioeconomic rung (we begin to understand that we live in a class-based, racist society; see also the July/August The Atlantic) finally realizes that under every Republican presidency since Ronald Reagan, taxes have increased, the debt has mushroomed, defense spending has increased (so have loans to support defense/war), and the size of government–the business of government delving into the privacy of citizens–has grown to an uncontrollable size (and weight).
The working class is divided into two camps, one for McCain and one for Obama. The right wing extremists, the religious fundamentalist who reject science, civil liberties and the unity of knowledge known as consilience, which all thinking persons are beginning to understand as the way to bridge culture and science–and who likewise could never vote for a Black president (somehow this is appropriate for Christians)–vote for McCain (see election 2008, from Salon for interesting insights). (see also how the Republicans want to control the 21st Century, as reported to Terry Gross, Fresh Air)
Convincingly, though, Black America and the working class behind Hillary Clinton, better educated on the relationships between science, technology, evolution and the future that depends on our cooperation and collaboration, vote for Obama.
And finally, students and those commonly referred to as the “educational elite,” as opposed to the “political elite” and the “media elite,” but who also cross these rather bogus lines of demarcation made popular by the lackluster press insistent on reporting only the surface structure of things, vote overwhelmingly for Obama.
The citizenry thus awakens to the fact that from Henry Kissinger on, all those who are advising and working closely with the “Maverick” McCain are lobbyist of the strongest sort; all support and advocate special interests, which in reality has been the hallmark of the McCain campaign, made obvious by the selection of Sarah Palin, a puppet, we finally realize, propped up to excite the extremists that near the end of the campaign are worked up to a frenzy about abortion and (gay) marriage as if nothing else mattered.
The citizenry wakes up to the fact that the first presidential decision made by John McCain, the selection of Palin, puts the country at risk. As Bob Herbert, writing for The New York Times, said, “For those who haven’t noticed, we’re electing a president and vice president, not selecting a winner on ‘American Idol’.” We therefore realize that another 4 or 8 years of a continuation of a “Bush doctrine” and Republican control, which is unenlightened and uncreative, would put the country into a tail spin from which we might never recover.
Can we afford electing another half-wit from the bottom of his graduating class? Or should we try something different?
American Culture After an Obama Victory:
Many in America are worried. A Democratic intellectual, the first Black President, is elected. What will this mean?
The first challenge is cultural, societal.
We have to address the notion that we are divided–we are a divided country. For far too long many people have been kept from the seats of power; too many Americans lacking education and healthcare are disenfranchised. Now we are nervous that we are being asked to trust in a process of change without a light at the end of the tunnel–just trust. Trust the rhetoric. Trust the will of this new leader. Trust the judgment.
Where are we headed?
It is a nebulous time. People are scared and immediately following the election, the extreme right wing begins a relentless media attack against Obama, his policies and his ideas. It’s what the citizenry is used to–media instead of substance. The hopeful remain so, but hanging by a thread. The Clintons, and Al Gore, rally around Obama and Biden.
Wall Street is more optimistic, and since they’ve backed Obama all along, continue to their support.
But within the first 100 days, it’s the citizenry that awakens. Some, the older voters who supported Obama come to realize that they’ve heard this before, echoes of the JFK era (this doctrine was never finished; it never even got off the ground), and thus begin to take leadership positions in communities across the country pushing the notion that this election was NOT about Obama or McCain, but rather about what kind of country we want to work for. This becomes the rallying cry and Americans, slowly, some reluctantly, begin to understand that the bigger, faster, stuffed America of the past is not the way and that we must look elsewhere to find solutions.
We in fact have to look at ourselves for the solutions. Obama provides ideas and methods, processes and procedures, but we, the citizens, have to put our shoulders to the wheel–in America and across the world. Innovation is the only solution to change.
Imagination, will and determination, collaboration and cooperation, consilience, and humanity–these are the new words after the election which help us look at energy solutions, education and healthcare, and the wars. The shift in the American perspective begins within 100 days of Obama’s election–but not without war cries from the opposition entrenched in old models.
Moments after his inaugural address, Obama is pressed hard to drill for oil in Alaska. But he weathers the storm–some people, and oil companies (the Russians and the Venezuelans, too) get angry. It’s the intelligent thing to do, though. As Thomas Friedman says about drilling for oil, writing for The New York Times, “I’ll tell you what they would have been doing: the Russian, Iranian and Venezuelan observers would have been up out of their seats, exchanging high-fives and joining in the chant louder than anyone in the hall — “Yes! Yes! Drill, America, drill!” — because an America that is focused first and foremost on drilling for oil is an America more focused on feeding its oil habit than kicking it.”
What most people hadn’t realized is that Obama has surrounded himself, not with lobbyists (only one of his team members even resembles a lobbyist), but with experts in different areas–the environment, education and healthcare, defense, technology and so on. The drilling for oil controversy raises the curtain on how Obama is working to move the culture towards what we know–consilience–making this the beginning of an era that will rely on knowledge and information, rather than the gloss given by media and its pundits, usually advocating for one special interest group or another.
Linking energy to defense and the economy, Obama, with the help of Al Gore and his followers, begins to make it easier to invest in green technologies.
Eric Janszen for instance, “an angel investor and founder of the contrarian market website iTulip.com, which The New York Times credited with ‘accurately predicting that the [internet] bubble would pop.’ Now Janszen believes the American economy needs a fundamental restructuring away from its foundations in finance, insurance and real estate. His prescription: a new bubble based on green technologies.” (Also see Harpers, “The Next Bubble…”)
Literally, all sectors of the economy need to comply–the auto industry, oil and gas, building and construction, local governments, and so on. This calls for mass restructuring but it begins by engaging citizens about what is important. We reach out to other countries, such as the Netherlands, that have far outpaced our evolution into green technologies, and begin collaborative projects.
This is a slow, contentious process but it sends a message to the world that we are indeed operating quite differently than we have in the past. The price of oil stabilizes, though still high because of Chinese demand and because of environmental factors.
Education and Healthcare:
Education: This is a difficult area because the K-12 educational system has mushroomed into an unhealthy and unmanageable nightmare, particularly following the Bush era No Child Left Behind.
First off, Obama places an emphasis on early child care; then on strengthening the next rung. But it gets tricky after: The size of schools and teacher unions make it hard to change or modify existing–and complacent–practices. Obama encourages “innovation” in education, but it’s unclear what this means (I will write on this at another time, in The Uncanny, laying out the challenges and solutions for America’s disastrous educational system, which is, after all, all about class).
On a positive note–since this is going to be even slower then healthcare reform–Obama is calling forth for all citizens to be involved in the education of our children. This coincides with our citizen-roles post the Obama election; however, no sound plan has yet emerged, not in the first 100 days. Vouchers, magnate schools, private vs public, merit pay and accountability, innovation vs the status quo–all these points of contention remain and are the areas of specialization the Obama White House will have to address.
It is a truism that education reform, which is extremely necessary, will be the most painful domestic undertaking in the next 10 years, more painful than healthcare reform. Education is where we can gauge how the rest of the culture is working–another truism.
Healthcare: Healthcare and Education run side-by-side. The way of healthcare is the way of education. This is always true.
But Obama has promised that all Americans will have insurance comparable to that held by government employees. Obama and Biden begin by addressing disparities in healthcare coverage for Americans. This addresses their first theme, “Quality, Affordable and Portable Coverage for All.” A good idea, but insurance companies and pharmaceuticals push back–too much money to be made off illness.
Likewise lowering the costs by modernizing the U.S. Healthcare system–reducing costs of catastrophic illnesses, helping patients in numerous ways, ensuring providers deliver quality care across the board–is important and valuable, but other sectors of the economy have to grow and become healthier since this is an extraordinary expensive venture. And again, given the high cost of providing healthcare in this country, the profits enjoyed by pharmaceuticals and the salaries commanded by some doctors who fear making less and having to change lifestyles, there is significant push back. Obama considers Hillary Clinton’s role in this and she becomes a major policy contributor.
But perhaps the single most important, long term possibility exists in Obama’s plan to fight for new initiatives. Not unlike the environment–and what’s necessary in education and still missing–new advances in science and technologies, advances in biomedical research, as well as continued and renewed support for the fight against AIDS worldwide create an approach to healthcare based on a delicate balance between prevention, intervention and treatment–and this includes mental health care.
To say that Obama and Biden inherit a nightmare is an understatement. The first item on the agenda is to move away from a Machiavellian approach to foreign policy, but which will reinstate the United States as a strong and competent ally.
Though Obama was accused of lacking experience during the campaign, his foreign policy approach calls for a bipartisan, consensus building journey of renewal. The problem has been that the carrot and stick approach has not worked, so we must find new or different ways. Obama calls for more dialog, even with “enemies,” thus enabling us to have better grasp of the challenges ahead–something totally alien to the Bush Administration, which would have been the policy followed by McCain.
The key to Obama’s plan is bipartisanship and an open approach, this way we can all contribute to the complex world we all live in. Diplomacy must be used first and foremost, and it’s the only way to continue a relationship with, say, Iraq, since within 11 or so months after taking office, troops leave and only a small group remains for consulting and training.
But the biggest mess is Afghanistan, particularly following the increase in violence and attacks into Pakistan–and Iran–perpetuated by the Bush Administration between September and the end of December of 2008. Pakistan has become hostile to the US for the attacks; likewise, the country has become increasingly unstable.
While bringing troops out of Iraq, Obama and Biden must stabilize rising insurgency in Afghanistan, as well as the instability in Pakistan. This is the new front. It has of course always been there, but the Bush Administration–which McCain supports–kept it off the front burner until moments before the presidential election.
Thi is a citizen’s election–our electin; it is about how we feel about our country and in what direction we want to go. Nothing more, nothing less. It is clear that an Obama victory brings challenges. This is because he, unlike McCain, is asking that we participate, that we involve ourselves in our domestic as well as global problems. We can’t do this any other way.
McCain, on the other hand, is a salesman doing the two-step around a faulty model–we’ve been here. It’s true, during the last 8 years we’ve allowed a failed student, a failed businessman, and a rather unsuccessful governor rule our country. Bush boasts about his place at Yale, a place that was held for him not because he earned it, but because his family gave it to him. The same holds true for McCain. He graduated 5th from the bottom at the US Naval Academy, a place guaranteed him by his father. McCain went on to destroy 5 aircraft. At one point killing over 100 people on an aircraft carrier; his flight fitness report described him as “less than average.” But he went on to be given the honor of being a flight instructor. How does that happen? Daddy, family, the business as usual of privilege. Yes, he suffered greatly and he acted with great honor in Vietnam. Unfortunately, these are not qualifiers for the presidency. McCain is no maverick, this is obvious; he has been a part of the privileged mainstream, which awards blood not merit.
Isn’t it time we tried something else, please, for our sake this time?