Americas (South & North)

Polyculturalism and Self-determination

[Contribution to the Reimagining Society Project hosted by ZCommunications]

The present essay reviews in summary form the key ideas for "cultural liberation" and then discusses the consequences of these ideas for the concept of self-determination, specifically national self-determination, in our world and in a good society.

Review of polyculturalism

Security Certificates and the case of Adil Charkaoui

On February 20, the Federal Court of Canada dropped most of the conditions it had placed on one of the prisoners of its “security certificate” regime, Adil Charkaoui. While much of his life is still lived in the rights-free zone widened under the “war on terror”, his struggles over the years have won him back some parts of his life. (For the decision see here)

Two days at the Mondragon Bookstore Cafe

Like any sensible person seeking to escape the Toronto winter, I decided to spend a few days in Winnipeg! Last time I was in Winnipeg was 2002, and the fall, and I told my hosts in the marvelous activist community out there that I wanted to return in the winter and experience the legendary -20 to -30 C or colder. For better or worse, this trip, thanks to global warming or natural variability, it was a positively balmy -5 C, not much colder than Toronto.

The Christmas problem

Happy Holidays, everyone! Some Christmas reflection.

This past summer I had interesting discussions with friends about Christmas gift-giving rituals. My friends being spiritually inclined, there was much critique of the consumer society. My own position was to argue that the underlying impulses of gift-giving and hospitality are positive behaviors. They argued that even these things were more complex, that even gift-giving and hospitality in a consumer society were often tainted by status-seeking and competition. I thought they were being harsh. They thought I was being naive.

Chomsky's 80th birthday

Some friends created a site to celebrate Noam Chomsky's 80th birthday.

I don't talk much about Chomsky because I don't think anyone who reads anything I would write is unaware of him. Also, because it's hard to think of what to say about someone who goes so far beyond being an influence or a mentor or a role model. So I went to the site and put this there.

Moises Naim's scary world

I picked up Moises Naim's book "Illicit" (2005), as the book of record on illegal trade (or, what I call, following my friend Manuel Rozental, "illegal capital"). I wanted to read it because I'm trying to figure out how much of the global economy flows into these different niches. You can understand the economy one way by following energy flows, another by following money, another by following technology (like the story of stuff), another by following arms, another by following illicit trade. And each of these has some relationship with the others. And the whole picture is, well, a little beyond me. What I am wondering about is what the relationship between this kind of trade is and the aboveground economy of employment, incomes, the state, investment, and so on. What happens to this economy during a financial meltdown? When is it better for a kind of economic activity to be legal and when illegal? My answer to that, as someone who is against prohibition, is different from most. But I'm all for learning whatever can be learned from whatever sources there are. Including, if it comes to that, the editor of Foreign Affairs, who is also an opponent of the Venezuelan Bolivarian proceso (a process I support).

I did some reading on "cyber crime" (mainly identity theft and credit card theft), for example, before this, and one of the causes of the increase in cyber crime was the huge number of technically skilled people in Russia thrown out of work by the neoliberal restructuring of the 1990s (it was not put in these terms exactly, but that was the upshot). Other things being equal, people would rather work in the licit than in the illicit economy. So under what circumstances does the illicit economy grow, and shrink? To the extent it is bad for people, how to stop it or minimize its harms?