Anti-intellectualism Is Killing America

By: David Niose

The tragedy in Charleston last week will no doubt lead to more discussion of several important and recurring issues in American culture—particularly racism and gun violence—but these dialogues are unlikely to bear much fruit until the nation undertakes a serious self-examination. Decrying racism and gun violence is fine, but for too long America’s social dysfunction has continued to intensify as the nation has ignored a key underlying pathology: anti-intellectualism.

America is killing itself through its embrace and exaltation of ignorance, and the evidence is all around us. Dylann Roof, the Charleston shooter who used race as a basis for hate and mass murder, is just the latest horrific example. Many will correctly blame Roof’s actions on America’s culture of racism and gun violence, but it’s time to realize that such phenomena are directly tied to the nation’s culture of ignorance.

In a country where a sitting congressman told a crowd that evolution and the Big Bang are “lies straight from the pit of hell,” where the chairman of a Senate environmental panel brought a snowball into the chamber as evidence that climate change is a hoax, where almost one in three citizens can’t name the vice president, it is beyond dispute that critical thinking has been abandoned as a cultural value. Our failure as a society to connect the dots, to see that such anti-intellectualism comes with a huge price, could eventually be our downfall.

Read more…

What the U.S. Can Learn From Cuba’s Food Revolution

By: Reese Erlich

Barack Obama’s historic opening to Cuba could build momentum leading to permanent change. The president has called for restoring full diplomatic relations, expanding trade and liberalizing travel rules. The infamous embargo remains in place, pending possible congressional action.

Long before the announcement, however, progressive American nonprofits had been trying to expand cultural and economic ties with Cuba. Their experiences shine some light on what others can expect interacting with the new Cuba.

Chef and restaurateur Narsai David was sent to Cuba by the Green Cities Fund, an Oakland nonprofit helping to establish a culinary academy in Havana.

Dressed in a flowery shirt and sporting a ’50s era beatnik goatee, he stood in a field next to farmworkers in dusty jeans and dirt-soiled boots.

David was visiting Havana as part of a cultural exchange to learn about Cuba’s world-class experiment in organic farming.

Read more…

The Government War Against Reporter James Risen

By: Norman Solomon and Marcy Wheeler

Ever since New York Times reporter James Risen received his first subpoena from the Justice Department more than six years ago, occasional news reports have skimmed the surface of a complex story. The usual gloss depicts a conflict between top officials who want to protect classified information and a journalist who wants to protect confidential sources. Meanwhile, Jeffrey Sterling—a former undercover CIA officer now facing charges under the Espionage Act, whom the feds want Risen to identify as his source—is cast as a disgruntled ex-employee in trouble for allegedly spilling the classified beans.

But the standard media narratives about Risen and Sterling have skipped over deep patterns of government retaliation against recalcitrant journalists and whistleblowers. Those patterns are undermining press freedom, precluding the informed consent of the governed and hiding crucial aspects of US foreign policy. The recent announcement of Eric Holder’s resignation as attorney general has come after nearly five years of the Obama administration extending and intensifying the use of the Justice Department for retribution against investigative journalism and whistleblowing. Read more…

Dirt of Ages

By: Judith D. Schwartz

VICTORIA FALLS, Zimbabwe — Allan Savory tells a story about the time a bull rhino wandered into his camp while he (Allan, not the rhino) was taking a bath. So he did what any reasonable person would do: he quickly dried his hands and, still stark naked, grabbed his camera. The rhino studied him, sniffed at him and softly snorted until, satisfied, he went on his way. In the last photo in the series, the rhino’s horn fills the frame.

It’s easy to get Savory to share stories of encounters with wild animals. If it’s evening at his camp at the Africa Centre for Holistic Management in Zimbabwe, he’ll be outside his round, thatch-roofed hut near a low fire, smoking a corncob pipe—regularly cleaned with guinea fowl feathers—happy to reminisce about chance meetings in the bush. There was the incident when he had a split second to determine, based on his instinct, whether he should shoot a charging Cape buffalo or go on the assumption that it would veer away. Indeed, the buffalo did swerve to the side, but not before providing a lifelong thrill to Savory and the visitors walking behind him. Then there was the baby porcupine he found along Lake Tanganyika on the Congo border. “He was one of the best pets I ever had,” Savory recalls. “He used to sit in the Land Rover with me. In the house he would come over and nuzzle the guests.”

Savory, now 79, is known throughout the world for developing Holistic Management, a decision-making model for managing livestock in which the animals’ actions and behavior promote ecological restoration. After spending a week with Savory in his wild but troubled home country, I find it ironic that in the public mind he’s associated with domestic animals, particularly cattle. For it’s clear that the sounds, smells and history of this rugged place—the interplay of nature, knowledge and memory—are integral to who Savory is and how his ideas evolved. And that for all the policy addresses and international renown of his current life, his heart is in the bush. Read more…

Why This Election Will Change Nothing and What You Can Do About It

By: David Niose

As America heads toward midterm elections, one of the few certainties is that progressive change is not on the horizon. Republican gains in Congress are a virtual certainty, and the main question is just how bad the damage will be.

A pendulum swing to the right would be less troublesome if it were preceded by a swing to the left, but only the most delusional Americans believe that the country has actually experienced a liberal tide in recent years. Despite campaigning on slogans of hope and change six years ago, Barack Obama quickly surrounded himself with advisors from Goldman Sachs and, even if his rhetoric was sincere, has done nothing to challenge the fundamental nature of power in America. Everyone knows that Wall Street owns and controls the system, and not even Obama’s most enthusiastic supporters believe that his administration has changed that. Read more…

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in works published on the Of Interest page on this Website are those of the contributing authors and do not reflect the opinions of the Laura Gross Literary Agency or any employee thereof. The Laura Gross Literary Agency is not responsible for the content or the accuracy of any information supplied by contributing authors.