Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from a black left perspective.

Occupy Movement Finds Mission Combating Disaster – and Disaster Capitalism

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

After the natural disaster, comes disaster capitalism.”

The Occupy Wall Street movement has rediscovered a reason for existence: service to the people. Hurricane Sandy provided the remnants of Occupy with a social service mission, and they responded with remarkable speed and efficiency, bringing aid and a semblance of relief infrastructure to battered neighborhoods in New York and New Jersey. The purpose was humanitarian but, simply by virtue of focusing on those neighborhoods of greatest need, Occupy Sandy illuminates how economic and political power shapes the geography of pain, even in natural disasters.

The Occupy activists have been most vital to the minority residents of New York public housing and places like ocean-swept Far Rockaway, Queens. New York’s subway system may have made a miraculous recovery from the worst damage inflicted in its history, but public housing tenants were largely left to fend for themselves. In Coney Island, until recent days there was no sign of FEMA or the Red Cross or much of a local government presence at all in the waterless, powerless, lightless high rise public housing projects. Residents have been forced to defecate in buckets, and then to carry those buckets down many flights of stairs in the darkness. Many of the elderly have been trapped in their apartments.

The Occupy movement's rescue efforts have served to point up the political and economic nature of the disaster.”

Occupy Sandy’s hubs for distribution of supplies and services have been a “godsend” to afflicted neighborhoods – in sharp contrast to the calculated callousness of New York’s billionaire mayor, Michael Bloomberg. The city only launched its so-called “restoration centers” this Tuesday, two weeks after the superstorm hit. Four were opened in Far Rockaway, Staten Island, Coney Island and the Gravesend neighborhood. Three others, in Red Hook, Breezy Point and Throgs Neck-Pelham Bay, will not be operational until later in the week.

Even New York’s corporate media, which are notorious for their fawning treatment of the mayor, have noted the glaring absence of aid to the poor – a logical extension of Bloomberg’s relentless gentrification of the city. The Occupy movement's rescue efforts, which have been competent and efficient beyond even the activists’ own expectations, have served to point up the political and economic nature of the disaster.

On the New Jersey shore, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, quickly showed itself to be more concerned with people control, than service to the people. Hurricane victims found themselves treated like “prisoners” in a freezing tent city set up in Seaside Heights. The encampment is surrounded by armed guards who demand ID, even to use the showers. One displaced person said, “We honestly feel like we’re in a concentration camp” – an indication of what FEMA anticipates as its future national security mission.

Some Occupy movement activists believe their role in areas worst hit by Sandy has only just begun. After the natural disaster, comes disaster capitalism, as corporations and their servants in government transform afflicted neighborhoods into profit centers for new development – minus the poor people that used to live there. After Katrina, you don’t need a weatherman to read the warning signs, and know that a storm of human displacement is coming. For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Direct download: 20121114_gf_OccupySandy.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:28pm EDT

Score at United Nations: Cuba 188 – U.S. 3

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

On Cuba, as with foreign policy in general, Barack Obama represents the continuity of U.S. imperial policy.”

For the 21st year in a row, the United Nationals General Assembly has nearly unanimously condemned the U.S. economic embargo against Cuba, now in its 52nd year. The vote was 188 to 3, with only Israel and the tiny Pacific island of Palau siding with the United States. Two other mini-states in the Pacific, the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia, abstained from the vote. Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez noted that President Obama came into office talking about a new beginning in relations Havana, but “the reality of the last four years has been characterized by a persistent tightening of the economic, commercial and financial blockade.” On Cuba, as with foreign policy in general, Barack Obama represents the continuity of U.S. imperial policy, from Eisenhower through George W. Bush. The First Black President is no different than his predecessors when it comes to Cuba, the island nation that refuses to buckle under to Washington.

The Castro brothers, Fidel and Raul, have not only born witness to U.S. decline in the hemisphere and the world, they have contributed mightily to the humbling of the Yankees. Not content simply to survive America’s unremitting hostility over the course of two and a half generations, Cuba has been an icon of resistance to U.S. imperialism around the world. The people’s of southern Africa owe Cuba a huge debt for helping defeat Washington’s allies, the racist South African military, in Angola, in 1988 – a watershed event that hastened the demise of the white regime.

Washington earned the hatred of vast sectors of Latin American society, while Cuba’s prestige continued to grow.”

The Cuban revolution’s impact on Latin America cannot be overstated. After the 1959 revolution, the United States pushed one country after another into military dictatorships, under which hundreds of thousands were massacred and disappeared. The U.S. and its fascist friends declared war, not just on the Left, but on Latin American civil society itself, in a crusade to prevent another Cuba from happening in the Americas. As a result, Washington earned the hatred of vast sectors of Latin American society, while Cuba’s prestige continued to grow. One by one, the U.S.-backed dictatorships collapsed, allowing Latin American politics to come alive, again. The people of South and Central America had shared the collective nightmare of rule by Washington’s fascist proxies. They also shared a determination to never again be dominated by the superpower to the North. Majorities in every Latin American country knew exactly what the Cubans meant when they spoke of the dangers of U.S. imperialism.

Earlier this year, at a summit meeting of hemispheric leaders, the United States found itself totally isolated on the question of Cuba. Even the president of Colombia, Washington’s closest ally in the region, declared there could not be another summit without Cuba’s presence. Rather than isolating Cuba, the 52 year-long embargo has resulted in the isolation of the United States, in the western hemisphere and at the United Nations General Assembly. Maybe that’s what the future will look like: the U.S., despite all its weapons, one day all alone except for pariah states like Israel, while the rest of the world gets on with the business of living.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Direct download: 20121114_gf_CubaEmbargo.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:45am EDT