Politics of Indignation

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Book Review: Politics of Indignation – Imperialism, Post Colonial Disruptions and Social Change, Peter Mayo, Zero Books, 2012

By imparting a consciousness of human struggle against neoliberal violence and its ramifications, Politics of Indignation provides a discourse which seeks to disrupt the process through which citizens have become fodder for imperialist powers to consolidate a destructive political system.

Capitalism created a culture of oblivion, distorting international solidarity through globalization. The fragmenting of human rights discourse alienated the scope of internationalism, thus enabling imperialism and the media to create an imaginary platform of unity which strives to consolidate divergences, geopolitical stereotypes and control over freedom. Mayo discerns a flow of coercion which, through playing upon concepts such as citizenship, identity and the value of humanity, threatens to rupture unity within the oppressed.

With human rights fast becoming a bargaining tool in the hands of oppressive institutions, citizens’ indignation at the manipulation is increasing and social movements are gaining momentum. The state’s transformation from provider of welfare to a market regulator deprives many citizens of basic fundamental freedoms and necessities, such as education, housing and health care. The transformation from necessities to commodities exploits the people as mere puppets whose sole worth is to prop up governments thriving upon the plunder of natural resources and the eradication of culture in order to create a stereotype that can be modified with each imperialist aim.

Chile’s September 11, in 1973 paved the way for an onslaught upon Latin American countries. The US aided military coup brought an end to an established system of parliamentary democracy. The torture and disappearances inflicted upon Chileans reverberated in other Latin American countries, creating both a challenge to authenticate history and a struggle to recover dignity within countries engulfed by capitalist policies. Chilean market reforms ushered by Milton Friedman privatised education, resulting in poor quality education for low income families and indigenous people which is being challenged by the student movement and their protests in favour of free quality education for all.

The US’s September 11, in 2001 brought about devastation for thousands of people within the country due to the terror attack, as well as in the Middle East through the US War on Terror. Wars and the subsequent military occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq on the pretext of hunting down terrorists devastated the countries and the region. Terror suspects – a number of them being dispensable bargains for militias far removed from terrorist activities, ended up tortured in notorious prisons such as Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. Whilst imperialist powers and the media lauded the wars, human rights violations existed within a vacuum in which the perpetrators were neither held accountable nor responsible.

Mayo portrays how the Cuban revolution and the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua were demonised, despite the reforms in education and healthcare. Educators in Nicaragua were targeted aiming to prevent the spreading of revolutionary pedagogy. In Cuba, health and educational reforms took on an internationalist approach, with doctors and educators providing assistance in various countries and amongst minority communities. Despite US efforts to undermine the Cuban revolution through counter revolutionary operations, Fidel Castro persisted in a worldwide revolutionary commitment, offering aid to countries and communities ravaged by war or natural disasters.

The book emphasises the significance of education to combat the imperialist attitude of disregarding human value. Creating a public space for education as opposed to neoliberal experiments would combat imperialism and its political violence manifested in various spheres, such as state violence, violence against minorities, the annihilation of indigenous cultures, the prohibition of protests and commemoration of workers’ struggle. Mayo describes how the workers’ struggle should become a focal point of internationalism, especially considering that right wing policies wield the power to fragment the workers’ struggle through exploiting their fears and displace their collective aspirations.

“Unless such an education strategy is developed, it is more likely that the working class people become attracted to the populist right wing and often neo fascist discourse that plays on their fears and leads to further segmentation and antagonism among workers on ethnic lines.”

Neoliberalism also created a global culture of incarceration, as seen in the case of migrants. Whilst globalization trends necessitate migration, migrants tend to become victimised repeatedly after leaving their countries of origin. The affirmation of ‘the other’ embodied by migrants facilitates the host state’s repressive policies of detention and marginalisation. Mayo insists that education should incorporate and promote “a critical and genuine anti-racist education.” With regard to indigenous communities, it is essential that the West stops projecting its education principles as the only viable solution in order to reap profits from the plundering of natural resources and human labour.

The importance of implementing education “as a public and not a consumer good” is brilliantly portrayed in the chapter entitled Education and the MDGs. The United Nation’s eight goals with regard to education have been accepted by many countries. However, many of these same countries are embroiled in a global oppression which prevents their achievement. The arms trade, war and conflict, and institutions such as the IMF and the World Trade Organization persist in exploitation and endorsement of imperialism; strengthening the previous history of colonialism, fuelling conflict between tribes and enhancing the conditions for social injustice.

Mayo insists that education cannot assume neutrality. An education system which allows oppressors to consolidate their reign with the aim of accumulating profits at the expense of humanity needs to be met with an opposite philosophy – one that embraces social obligations and defends the social sciences in order to liberate education and ensure the survival of culture in order to contribute in a tangible manner towards social justice. “Education is not an independent variable.” Hence, isolating education from social processes is an error that imbues education with powers above its role, giving rise to the hypocrisy of tolerance instead of aiming for inclusion.

A striking aspect of the book is its graceful sequence and absolute respect towards history and the masses’ narratives. Mayo’s writing reinforces a commitment towards education and revolutionary struggle in an authentic manner – a profound philosophy determined in its denunciation of the treachery perpetrated by global, imperial violence.

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