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Behind the News with Doug Henwood - March 17, 2012 at 10:00am

Behind the News with Doug Henwood, for March 17, 2012 - 10:00am

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Greenwood's point that rights

Greenwood's point that rights are secured by violence may be true but it's worth considering the Declaration of Independence--

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Note "by their Creator".

Doug, I enjoyed your show,

Doug, I enjoyed your show, esp the paper for your panel presentation.

I think writers and activists in the American Left should pursue your suggestion that we stress the value of freedom instead of security when we criticize the capitalist labor system (so-called 'free labor') and when we promote reforms like a guaranteed minimum income. (Thanks too for presenting this suggestion without once using the verb "to frame".)

I also greatly appreciated your remarks concerning anarchism. Out here in Portland, Oregon, where I currently reside, the parallels between contemporary anarchism and individualistic libertarianism are all too obvious.

But I think you missed something in regard to the Lee Greenwood song and the perspective it represents.

At one point, you said that the perspective of Greenwood's song is one of "not wanting anyone to tell you what to do." Really?

Consider again, Greenwood's praise for military (at a time when the stop-loss policy was in the news too, I think).

But more importantly, consider that Greenwood's perspective most certainly extols the virtues of hard work in a capitalist system -- i.e., doing what the boss wants, when the boss wants it, including working long hours, and coming to work whenever one is told to do so, etc. (And one with this perspective might actually defend the work ethic & submission to the boss by referring to the collective good. Yet it is the collective that the state represents ...unless, of course, one considers class interests.)

In other words, no coherent or consistent definition of freedom can be found in the perspective epitomized by Lee Greenwood's song. Freedom is an empty signifier. And that is, arguably, a good thing for the Left -- because the meaning and realization of freedom in America today is very much up for grabs.

Ernesto Laclau wrote an essay on the importance of empty signifiers for radical democratic struggles. I read it many years ago, so I honestly don't recall how relevant the essay might be for this particular issue, but I suspect that it would be well worth reading, or re-reading: "What Do Empty Signifiers Matter To Politics?" ['Emancipation(s),' Verso, 1996, pp.36-46].


Wow Doug! So good on the Lee

Wow Doug! So good on the Lee Greenwood song! Right to it. Thanks.

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