Gary S. Corseri writes:
I had the good fortune to hear Cynthia McKinney speak at an anti-war conference at Georgetown University in Washington, DC in 2009. There were 5 or 6 notable speakers. All were good, even inspiring. Former US Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney was, for me, the most inspiring, informative, exciting. I told her then that I would like to interview her. Our paths did not cross again until 3 years later when we sat down and spoke about Libya and Qaddaffi, the 9/11 Truth Movement, the “Israelization of US policy,” the “criminality of war,” the Occupy Movement, “areas of commonality” (between Libertarians and Greens, for example), Foucault’s ideas about “breaking out of powerlessness” and old paradigms, a “moral center,” bravery, and “love for humanity” (See: http://www.activistpost.com/2012/02/cynthia-mckinney-tells-it-like-it-is.html, etc.). Oddly, I felt I had barely “scratched the surface” of this complex and amazing person—the first African-American woman elected to the US Congress from the state of Georgia!
A couple of years later, I hoped for another interview with Cynthia. I was emailed an enthusiastic “yes” from her, but informed that she was in a Ph.D. program and a second interview would have to wait until after she submitted her dissertation. Well, “way leads on to way,” as Robert Frost tells us and our paths diverged again.
Recenly, I found myself back in Atlanta and queried about an interview once more, wanting to “catch up” on so much now: What of her recent return to academia? What could she say about the Theater-of-the-Absurd (and Vulgar) US “presidential” campaigns? Again, an enthusiastic response; but this time I learned that peripatetic world-citizen Cynthia was then in Asia!
Well, hell, we’ve got emails, don’t we? Let’s just have an exchange of views for a couple of weeks; kind of like writing in a journal—when you fully intend to share your journal with others! Cynthia sent me a couple of handsful of her recent posts (https://www.rt.com/search/?q=McKinney). (A rich banquet which I am still digesting.) And in March, 2016, we wove the following together.]
GC: Hello, Cynthia…. Will this format work for you? Could we begin with a little fill-in about your recent academic experiences? And then let things evolve?
CM: Well, Gary, it’s certainly good to catch up with you! Much has changed since the last time we met! One, I’m done with my Ph.D., writing my dissertation on Hugo Chavez, race, Parrhesia, and Transformational Leadership….
CM: Writing that paper helped me familiarize myself with the politics of the Americas in a more profound way. My professors at Antioch U. encouraged me to explore uncharted territory. I learned new navigational tools. I feel more empowered to join with those who struggle–in the various languages of Latin America–to protect their sovereignty. I am grateful to Drs. Peter Dale Scott, Al Guskin, Joseph Jordan, and others….
My personal struggle to get this done exposes everything wrong with education in the U.S., where we bomb countries of color that offer free education! I don’t understand Americans’ loyalty to political parties that have sold them out!
I have begun to ask myself the extent to which US voters actually want the wars and dispossessory policies that put people like me and students in search of knowledge into such blood-sucking debt! The note for my student loan is more than my house note!
U.S. policy is to deny education to its own people and then go around the world vacuuming up the brains that ought to be helping other countries to advance. The U.S. hires brains like it hires mercenaries to destroy whole countries! I’m no longer comfortable making excuses for US “citizens.” If they don’t know what’s going on with their tax dollars… well, they should know!
All of the destabilizations, the war crimes, the torture, the crimes against humanity; the lies, the deceit–the misery brought upon others because of U.S. policy! I’m embarrassed…, and I’m embarrassed by…whatever the attribute is of the people that allows this to continue!
GC: Let it never be said that you mince your words!
“Embarrassment.” Yeah, I’ve been thinking recently, as I watch our surreal political campaigns, the vulgarities, egocentrism, misinformation, appeals to the lowest common denominator—that I’m truly “embarrassed” about this American Empire!
I’m very glad we’ve begun our dialogue with a discussion of “education.” I’ve often thought that is at the heart of our problems.
When I taught in a high school, decades ago, I’d open my first classes by writing the word, “education,” and then the Latin root, “educare,” on the blackboard (hard to believe there were blackboards and chalk and chalky erasers way back then!). “Educare” – to lead. From “ex” & “ducare“—“to lead out.”
But… to lead where? To lead out of what? How to lead?
You ask those very questions.
Also, I’ve thought recently, that it has become commonplace for Progressives/the Left to complain about the US media—how biased it is, how distorted. Really, I believe we need to think about education and our media as the same thing. (The “Arts,” too, are an essential part of this system of control!) Instead of expanding our world, connecting us to all kinds of ideas and people, we are constantly restricted, shrunken.
Orwell is famous for his formulation: “War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength.” My own favorite Orwellianism is this: “Whoever controls the information, controls the imagination.”
In so many ways, we’ve lost control of “information”! It comes at us through “education” or “IT—Information Technology” or the Arts. And thereby, we’ve lost control of our ability to imagine a different world, a humane and balanced one….
Well, you got me going now! We’ll intertwine ideas as we progress—having a real dialogue. I want to hear more about your dissertation on Chavez, “Transformational Leadership,” etc.
Also…, would you kindly save me and our readers a trip to Google? What do you mean by “Parrhesia”?
CM: “War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength.”
“Whoever controls the information, controls the imagination.”
Wow! You know, I need to re-read Orwell and Huxley! They both were so spot-on! I have three most favorite films of all time: “Fahrenheit 451,” “Soylent Green,” and “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” I can look at those movies over and over and never tire of them!
GC: Yes, “Soylent Green” (Charlton Heston, Edward G. Robinson–and we all turn into green food-mush!). “Body Snatchers”–first saw it when I was about 13. Could never look at a coconut quite the same way! “Fahrenheit 451”—based on the Ray Bradbury masterpiece: Oskar Werner & Julie Christie in the movie. And the common theme in all of them—the way humans prey on each other; use one another; deceive and devour….
CM: Well, to get to your question: “Parrhesia” is a type of leadership that involves a special type of speech–it is a leadership that has the authority to speak and that uses that authority to speak what we would call “truth to power” and that does so despite the imminent and immanet risk posed to the speaker. Foucault explains Parrhesia in a lecture that he gave at the University of California at Berkeley and it is in that sense that I use the word.
Now, the interesting thing is that the protagonists of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and “Fahrenheit 451” are willing to risk danger in order to speak truth to power… and so… are an example, kind of, of Parrhesia. In my dissertation, I wrote about Hugo Chavez as someone who was a master of Parrhesia. Chavez’s leadership will be synonymous with the speech that he gave at the United Nations when he called President George W. Bush a devil. “I can still smell the sulfur,” he said at the podium, right after Bush had spoken there! Parrhesiastes usually don’t live very long. But we hear their words and see their actions forever.
GC: Martin Luther King…. Malcolm X…. John F. Kennedy—when he spoke about ripping the C.I.A. to shreds—after their “Bay of Pigs” fiasco!
CM: Yeah… too many!
In my dissertation, I place Chavez in the context of a national leader in the Americas who dares to express his differences with neoliberalism and the so-called “Washington Consensus.” The evidence that his speech was “to power” and at the same time very risky comes from information I found in WikiLeaks, as well as the US history of intolerance toward such leaders–as exposed in the COINTELPRO Papers, Senator Frank Church’s Intelligence Investigations Reports, declassified information available in State Department historical volumes, declassified reports of U.S. activity in “Operation Condor,” “Operation Gladio,” “Operation Northwoods”; as well as whistleblower interviews that I conducted specifically about US governmental attitudes toward Chavez’s Bolivarian Revolution. I wanted my dissertation to be a one-stop shop for all of the current information about this type of covert US activity.
/End of part 1 (part 2 in next days on Pressenza)