On what would be Abraham Lincoln’s 215th birthday, it’s nice to remember the good folks that were really rooting for the end of slavery. That’s right it was your friendly neighborhood Marxists! In the case of Karl, it was NOT a matter of political or military convenience like the Emancipation Proclamation would later be, but because it undermined human dignity and “defile(d)… [the] republic.”
Marx never actually wrote Lincoln for his birthday, but did to congratulate him on reelection. The mandate of his victory, Marx said, was “Death to Slavery!”, and he continued:
While the workingmen, the true political powers of the North, allowed slavery to defile their own republic, while before the Negro, mastered and sold without his concurrence, they boasted it the highest prerogative of the white-skinned laborer to sell himself and choose his own master, they were unable to attain the true freedom of labor, or to support their European brethren in their struggle for emancipation; but this barrier to progress has been swept off by the red sea of civil war.
And guess what, Lincoln’s people replied! You can read the rest of the correspondence here.
I’ll begin with the thesis: fuck Coca-Cola.
The ‘Murican leviathan of racism hath reared its ugly head yet again. There has been quite some racist hoopla surrounding a recent Coca-Cola advertisement. The advertisement featured “America the Beautiful,” a patriotic hymn, sung in English, Spanish, Hindi, Keres, Tagalog, Senegalese French and Hebrew. If that wasn’t enough to rile up conservatives, the ad included a same-sex couple. Right-wingers bashed the commercial as “un-American” while spreading the curiously-named hashtag #speakamerican. The racist, xenophobic, small-minded Twitter reactions might be upsetting if not for the fact that the people who posted them clearly don’t have a mastery over the language they’re up in arms for:
A response to this would be too easy, too simple, and yet still necessary. Many have already pointed out that the United States is not the birthplace of English, that the only indigenous languages to this region are Native American tongues, and that there are over 30 linguistically-diverse countries in the Americas—this one just happens to be the United States of America.
On the other side of the argument, many have applauded the apparently progressive advertisement. The commercial, supporters say, affirms multiculturalism, LGBT communities, and perhaps even immigration reform.
Cool story. I see an advertisement by a Fortune 500 company, a culturally-savvy advertisement at a time when younger generations are voting in the direction of this same message. I see a company trying to rebrand itself using inclusivity, acceptance, and multiculturalism to attract more consumers in a globalized marketplace.
Let’s call BS on this one.
Here are some reasons Coca-Cola is full of shit:
1) Guatemalan Death Squads: Coca-Cola has been and continues to be implicated in the murder, rape, and kidnapping of labor rights activists at Coca-Cola bottling plants the world over. This sweet, dark beverage has a blood-soaked history of exploitation in Latin-America. According to the Global Labor Institute, when faced with organized labor in Guatemala, Coca-Cola reacted without regard for human rights and employed the use of local death squads:
"Three General Secretaries of their union were murdered and five other workers killed. Four more were kidnapped and have disappeared. Against all the odds they survived, thanks to their own extraordinary courage and help from fellow trade unionists in Guatemala and around the world."
2) India: Coca-Cola depletes public water supplies, erasing productive farmlands and leaving barren wastelands to starving agrarian communities. As Coke’s presence in India continues to expand, so does the rate of farmer suicide.
3) People of Color: In general, soft drink advertisements target people of color. Hispanics and Blacks are more likely than their Caucasian counterparts to drink soda. We’re also more likely to contract and die of diabetes-related issues due to overconsumption of processed, sugary beverages. So, yes, Coca-Cola disproportionally harms people of color.
Let’s be real about this. The presence of multinational companies like Coca-Cola in the Global South does not improve the lives of these populations; that’s just a myth. Instead, multinationals reinforce harsh corporate cruelty on desperate workers and violently crush their attempts at attaining improved working conditions. Coke saps countries of natural resources and pushes for trade policies that shatter local economies, producing a global class of landless people. When they arrive as immigrants in the United States, their languages and heritage are co-opted to capture the public imagination and disguise corporate greed behind the veil of multiculturalism.
Coca-Cola is an irresponsible company with a cruel past and a dangerous present. Don’t let it tell you otherwise, in any language.
(image source: Tulane Public Relations)
“The salesman knows nothing of what he is selling save that he is charging a great deal too much for it.” Oscar Wilde
If you’re like most Americans, the vast majority of Americans that is, you’re feeling a little squeezed by the world you live in. You probably can’t put your finger on the cause of your predicament, because like most Americans, you don’t know much about the structures that constrain your opportunity, your wallet, and your whole outlook - but you’re probably broke, or close to it. All that being said, you DO know a lot. You know about hard work, paying rent, student debt, and hope. It’s that last one, the hope part, that keeps you going. It keeps your bloodshot eyes open long enough to apply to the thirtieth job of the day, it’s the source of the gusto you summon to chase the bus to work after dropping your toddler off at daycare, it’s why you pay off the interest on your almost-maxed-out credit card, all because one day you’ll be middle class, really middle class, whatever the fuck that means.
Now, what if I walked in to your living room on one of your rougher days, after you’ve cried out to the universe that you can hardly take your overnight security job anymore, and offered to change everything for the better, like a fairy god daddy? Too good to be true? You bet. You’d probably beat me into a bloody pulp and call the police, or at the very least ask me to leave. But what if I sold you on it, what if I told you things you’ve always known to be true, things you thought were unattainable to you? What if your high school diploma wasn’t cutting it and I told you I could get you into a college that would change your life? Maybe, just maybe, you’d listen.
That’s the schtick that for-profit college admissions representatives use to get you to listen to their pitch. They’re going to change your life, that’s what they say.
For-profit, or proprietary, colleges are dangerous places. The big ones are the University of Phoenix, Corinthian Colleges Inc, Devry, and Kaplan. But there are many more and they sneak up on you.
For-profit colleges don’t literally come banging on your front door, but in some ways they do. Instead they opt for both traditional and nontraditional advertising strategies. Most people are acquainted with them from commercials, radio ads, billboards, subway advertisements, and online banners. It’s the latter, the internet, that provides recruiters at these schools with the leg up. Lead generators, or companies that collect data and then sell it to these schools, target people who click on banners or links about changing their lives through education and getting a higher paying job.
Once the recruiter gets your number, he or she tries to get to know you, asks you about your life, your job, your family, and your struggles. The recruiter might even go as far as to ask a highly personal question like: “don’t you want to change your life?”
Since most people view education as a virtue, they listen to the recruiter. Reading off of a script, these charlatans extol the benefits of a college degree. They’ll go as far as to point to Department of Labor statistics that indicate higher incomes for college-educated workers.
They make the mark feel like he or she can’t waste any more time, and this college, one the target has probably never heard of before, is the ticket out of poverty and a dead-end job. The mark is scheduled for multiple appointments, the school even has someone sit with and guide him or her through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and student loan forms. That means that billions of dollars in taxpayer money goes to these places.
Why are they so bad?
1) They only graduate about ¼ of their students.
2) They account for almost ½ the student loan repayment defaults since 2009 while producing less than ten percent of the students.
3) Many of these schools are open-admission, meaning you need to meet the basic criteria of having a pulse, a social security number, and a high school diploma or GED. They accept students who do not stand a chance academically.
4) There is nothing wrong with giving high-need students opportunity, but for-profit colleges don’t adequately support them. They usually operate with 3 times as many recruiters as student support staff. They spend less than 10% of their budgets on academics and almost 23% on marketing. They basically create subprime students.
5) As profit-seeking entities, they recruit aggressively and pressure students into taking out federal and private loans. After all is said and done, industry wide they net a profit margin of about 19%. For comparison, in 2013 the evil behemoth Walmart saw a net profit margin of about 3%.
6) They drain students’ federal aid, making it harder for them to attend college later.
7) Some are not accredited, meaning even if you earn your degree, it isn’t worth the mountains of debt you’ve piled on.
8) Most students at for-profit colleges are low-income and less likely to have the means to pay off even a small debt, let alone the debt they accumulate at these sham houses. Thanks to federal laws that exempt student loans from bankruptcy, financially-ruined students see their wages and even social security garnished.
9) Recruiters at these colleges must hit enrollment targets, creating a high-pressure situation that is ideal for neither the recruiter nor the student. Recruiters are often dishonest about the school and misleading about job prospects.
10) As profit-seeking institutions, most of their faculty are underqualified part-timers; they might mean well, but they lack the pedagogical skill to remediate students who need a lot of help.
With the specter of student debt looming over 40 million Americans, institutions that recklessly cajole students into horrible situations can’t be left to decimate the future for so many people. Many people hope to start their lives after school - they can’t start anything if these places take them for everything they hope to have.
Imagine someone you love dearly. Now imagine they’ve been vaporized and all that remains are burning embers, the smell of death, and a hole in your life.
Almost 70 years ago George Orwell wrote, “(p)olitical language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”
Last night, US President and 2009 Nobel Peace Prize recipient Barack Obama reminded the American public and the world that:
“America must move off a permanent war footing. That’s why I’ve imposed prudent limits on the use of drones, for we will not be safer if people abroad believe we strike within their countries without regard for the consequence.”
Pretty cool stuff coming from the POTUS—if only it were true. Instead, President Obama continues to propagate the myth that he is gentler than his predecessor. But since its ascendency, the Obama administration has launched over 390 drone strikes across Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. They’ve killed over 2,400 people, including an estimated 270 civilians (a conservative estimate).
When these innocent civilians are killed, hatred is born. When these innocent civilians are killed, lives and generations are snuffed out. When these innocent civilians are killed, childhood evaporates in a plume of black smoke with only unidentifiable, charred remains to remind us of what was.
About one month ago, a drone attack obliterated a wedding convoy in Yemen. There goes what should have been the one of the happiest days for a group of people. When were we at war with Yemen? The pretext of a global “War on Terror” is a flimsy justification for war crimes and violations of international law.
In 2012, a drone strike killed a 67-year old grandmother in northern Pakistan. A year later, the family testified before Congress. The testimony was so striking that the translator cried. What was prudent about the killing of Momina Bibi? Were her knitting needles a threat to national security? Was there, as the President put it, “regard for the consequence”? What will be the consequence when her grandchildren, some of whom were injured in the attack, grow into adulthood – with a justified hatred of the United States? These are just some of the personal questions that arise when we discuss the cost of unmanned drone attacks.
(Image: Predator Drone)
As the President droned on about prudence, any informed observer could not help but be distracted by the buzz of impending attacks in the distance.
It is not uncommon to see children in the so-called “First World” delight at the sound of airplanes overhead. There are children on the other side of this ever-shrinking world who shudder at the sound of something flying above them, something far worse than the mischievous jinn of Islamic folklore; these purveyors of flying death disappear the living.