What Is A Word Worth? The Public Square’s Cafe Society Debates The Issue

[When is a word forbidden?  What does excising a word from normal discourse do?  These questions might be brought up in the context of this weeks discussion centering on the purging of “nigger” from the text of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn.  Here is what  writer Dave Marsh underscores about whitewashing the word away:

“I would rather hear the word “nigger” in a conversation, used properly for history or quotation, or in a sentence of any kind than the puerile “the N-Word.”

Who is the euphemism sheltering? Either it assumes that there are those auditing the conversation or reading the sentence who do not know what that epithet means and should not find out or it means “we all know,” and in effect, that’s nudge, nudge, the okey-doke.

If you counted all the times that people use “the N word” to replaced “nigger,” you would find that it is used damned near as often as it was in 1884.”

Makes you think about how much like a secret handshake saying the phrase “n-word” is.  If you can’t make it to the Cafe Society, you can use the DIY toolkit to foment your own!  —  Lew Rosenbaum]

Cafe Society Next Week’s Topic: What is a word worth?

Café Society will be meeting at Valois (1518 E 53rd St, Chicago) from 7-8pm and at Panera Bread (1126 E Walnut St, Carbondale) from 7:30-8:30pm on Thursday, February 3,or have your own discussions using our Cafe Society DIY Toolkit.

From “New edition of ‘Huckleberry Finn to lose the ‘n’ word by Keith Staskiewicz

“What is a word worth? According to Publishers Weekly, NewSouth Books’ upcoming edition of Mark Twain’s seminal novel Adventures of Huckleberry Finn will remove all instances of the ‘n’ word—I’ll give you a hint, it’s not nonesuch—present in the text and replace it with slave. The new book will also remove usage of the word Injun. The effort is spearheaded by Twain expert Alan Gribben, who says his PC-ified version is not an attempt to neuter the classic but rather to update it. ‘Race matters in these books,’ Gribben told PW. ‘It’s a matter of how you express that in the 21st century.'”

Questions for consideration

  • What is problematic about replacing the “n-word” with “slave” and “Injun” with “Indian” in the Adventures of Huckberry Finn?
  • Are there possible benefits?
  • How might this change take away from the nature and intention of the book?
  • Is this an attempt to sanitize American culture?
  • If so, what are potential intended and unintended consequences?

Want to find out more?

A case for censoring Huck Finn
Censorship of ‘Huck Finn’ tasteless but not mandatory
To tweak or not to tweak a literary classic: Pro-censor
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn… through censorship!
Letter: Censoring Huck Finn

Café Society SCHEDULE

1st Thursdays
7-8 p.m., Valois, 1518 E 53rd St, Chicago
7:30-8:30 p.m., Panera Bread, 1126 E Walnut St, Carbondale

2nd Fridays
5-6 p.m., Ron’s Barber Shop, 6058 W North Ave, Chicago

3rd Wednesdays
1:00-2:00 p.m., Chicago Cultural Center’s Randolph Street Café, 77 E Randolph St, Chicago

4th Week
Roving Cafe Society, Location, date, and time to be announced.

Advertisements

Automation and Robotics News – Jan 30, 2011

[Along with the usual excitement about drone technology and war making, this issue of Automation and Robotics News brings insightful articles about robot job displacement including replacement of entire occupations.  There should be no wonder why Egyptian workers with diplomas cannot find jobs . .

By Larry McCormack, The (Nashville) Tennessean James Scott says the printing industry "is flooded with people looking for jobs."

.and what does that say about the future in the US?  Check out the worker replacement guide below to find out  — Lew Rosenbaum]

Automation and Robotics News–Jan 30, 2011
Tony Zaragoza

Archives: http://academic.evergreen.edu/z/zaragozt/arnews.htm

TERROR, MILITARY, POLICING, SURVEILLANCE

Stats Back Al-Qaida Claim of Drone Pain
Spencer Ackerman, January 27, 2011

Is the U.S. drone war in Pakistan putting the squeeze on al-Qaida’s safe havens? It’s not a question that lends itself to easy answers, given the difficulties of reporting from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas where al-Qaida’s top leaders are believed to be. But a new statistical analysis by researchers at Harvard finds that the deadly robots overhead are reaping modest “counterterrorism dividends” — something that al-Qaida itself is complaining about.

Even DHS Is Freaked Out by Spy Drones Over America

Spencer Ackerman January 26, 2011

Police departments around the country are warming up to unmanned spy planes. But don’t expect the Department of Homeland Security to catch drone fever anytime soon. It’s too controversial for an agency already getting hammered for naked scanners and junk-touching.

Return of The ‘Beast of Kandahar’ Stealth Drone
Spencer Ackerman, January 25, 2011

It returns from the skies! Back in 2009, the Air Force confirmed that it had a mysterious stealth drone, the Lockheed RQ-170, flying over Kandahar in Afghanistan — the subject of much online speculation and grainy photography. Now, after something of a lull,  the Secret Projects forum has new pics of the drone that Ares aviation ace Bill Sweetman dubbed “The Beast of Kandahar.”

Will Israel Sell Russia Its Prized Monster Drone?

Spencer Ackerman, January 18, 2011

Israel and Russia: once Cold War enemies, now partners-in-drone. Only the Russians want Israel to let the Kremlin in on its most powerful unmanned spy plane.

INDUSTRY

Fanuc Bets Future on ‘Cranes With Brains,’ Inaba Says

BusinessWeek – Jason Clenfield – Jan 17, 2011

Inaba built Fanuc into an automation empire over three decades, focusing on making the controls that run more than half of the world’s computerized tools. …

Robots Dominate Manufacturing – Take a Look Inside the Making of a Memory Card …

Singularity Hub – Aaron Saenz – Jan 20, 2011

Watching these slick industrial robots do their thing is something else. You have to check out the video below and see what I mean. …

Little Helper Robot Wants to Be Big Help on Factory Floor

POSTED BY: Samuel Bouchard  /  Wed, January 05, 2011

The manufacturing industry in many countries, facing labor shortages and pressed to become ever more efficient, can certainly use a little help. Or how about a Little Helper?

AGRICULTURE AND FOOD PRODUCTION

Robots: Harvest Automation

Robotspodcast.com, January 14th, 2011

In today’s episode we look at a new market in robotics with huge potential, agriculture. With us, <http://www.harvestautomation.com/About.html>Joe Jones, co-founder of Harvest Automation and father of the Roomba.

SERVICE SECTOR

Digging through a high-tech recycling center

January 24, 2011, Martin LaMonica

A waste recycling center uses a series of machines to automatically sort material to enable single-stream recycling for consumers.

Teasdale Quality Foods Achieves Significant Savings by Automating Invoice…

Business Wire (press release) – Jan 25, 2011

Teasdale’s implementation of the EZCM accounts payable automation solution was so successful that, within months, order entries and accounts receivable were …

‘Go to’ clouds of the future, part 1

January 03, 2011, James Urquhart

Two companies will play major roles in the cloud computing transformation in the next decade, and who they are might surprise you–as well as how they will do it.

Robot puts ill teen back in classroom

Chicago Sun-Times – Jan 21, 2011

WICHITA FALLS, Texas — A Texas school district here has teamed up with a communications company to allow a homebound student to attend class via robot.

Restaurant robot delivers the future of food service

DVICE -Adario Strange – Jan 25, 2011

The MK Robot Project produced the robot to assist waiters with an eye towards total autonomy in the future. Although slow and still in need of human …

Robot glider to investigate Australia floodwaters

msnbc.com – Jan 24, 2011

A gliding robot is set to cruise over a stretch of Australian coast that has been devastated by the recent flooding. The glider will be on a reconnaissance …

12 Advances In Medical Robotics

Looking to make an informed robot-buying decision? Here are some options for assisting (or replacing) your employees.

InformationWeek – Jan 29, 2011

Japan, which has a large elderly population, has developed a number of robot-based technologies that appear to help slow down the advent of dementia, …

Robots to fix parking problems in Abu Dhabi

The National – Jan 23, 2011

The “valet” is a mechanical robot, it promises to park or retrieve your car inside 50 seconds – and best of all, parking will be free.

With Home Carpeting Conquered, Robots Eye the Office

Jack Loftus, 1/16/11

The Roomba has conquered the home. No more vacuuming! Now robots must tackle mail delivery and coffee-making tasks in the office. Enter the coldly-named humanoid bot HRP-4. It doesn’t surf the net. It doesn’t gossip. It simply serves.

Sushi Restaurant Uses Sushi Robots and Control Centers to Cut Costs

Casey Chan

Kura, a sushi chain, focuses on efficiency and turning a profit. So much so that they’ve eschewed traditional sushi chefs for sushi robots, a large staff of waiters for conveyor belts and restaurant managers for a control center with video link.

PACKING AND SHIPPING

Adept introduces packaging robot platform

Vision Systems Design – Jan 6, 2011

Built on the USDA-accepted Adept Quattro s650HS robot, the Adept PAC is the first robotic packaging platform designed from the ground up to address the …

ENERGY

Move Over, WALL-E: Puttering Along Power Lines

New York Times (blog) – Matthew L. Wald – Jan 12, 2011

Electric Power Research Institute A prototype of the robot that would monitor transmission lines for problems.

JOB DISPLACEMENT

Tense time for workers, as career paths fade away

USA Today – Rick Hampson – Jan 12, 2011

•Globalization and automation may export or eliminate not only jobs, but entire occupations — ways of life, really. The Labor Department predicts that …

The Robot Economy is Here by Derek Thompson

The Atlantic (blog) – Derek Thompson – Jan 18, 2011

Entrepreneur Marshall Brain–that’s his real name–says robots will become widely available by 2030 and could eventually take nearly half of all jobs in the …

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS

Automation Touted As Way To Help Fix Immigration System

National Journal – Aliya Sternstein – Jan 13, 2011

Nextgov.com reports that the government can fix the immigration system without legislation, by automating visa processing and by …

Barcelona Seeks Technologies for Automation of Urban Services

TMC Net -Calvin Azuri – Jan 24, 2011

The city of Barcelona invites international solutions providers and research centers who can materialize its automation goals through sensors and other …

The Killer Robot Caucus

01/25/11 WSJ Washington Wire

Members of Congress love their drones, but they want to give all robots their due. So the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Caucus…

BUSINESS OF AUTOMATION AND ROBOTICS

Robotics Industry Is Optimistic in 2011

by Bennett Brumson, Contributing Editor

Posted: 01/11/2011 As the global economy emerges from the Great Recession of 2008-2009, business activity is slowly picking up….

RESEARCH AND NEW DEVELOPMENTS

Japanese Robot Cargo Ship En Route to Space Station

Space.com – Jan 24, 2011

An unmanned Japanese cargo spaceship is closing in on the International Space Station, on track to link up with the orbiting lab Thursday (Jan. 27).

Seoul To Spend US$89.5 Million On Robot Pilot Projects

Bernama – Jan 26, 2011

SEOUL, Jan 27 (Bernama) — The government will spend 100 billion won (US$89.5 million) on robot-related pilot projects to bolster growth of the cutting edge …

After 50 Years Robots Have New Horizons

by Bennett Brumson, Contributing Editor

Posted: 01/11/2011 Advancements in safety systems, end-effectors and sensors are rapidly bringing robotics into new applications…

Building a Super Robust Robot Hand

Erico Guizzo  /  Tue, January 25, 2011

German researchers have built an anthropomorphic robot hand that can endure collisions with hard objects and even strikes from a hammer without breaking into pieces. In designing the new hand system, researchers at the Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics, part of the German Aerospace Center (DLR), focused on robustness. They may have just built the toughest robot hand yet. The DLR hand has the shape and size of a human hand, with five articulated fingers powered by a web of 38 tendons, each connected to an individual motor on the forearm.

Cloud Robotics: Connected to the Cloud, Robots Get Smarter

Erico Guizzo  /  Mon, January 24, 2011

Connected to the Cloud, Robots Get Smarter

In the first “Matrix” movie, there’s a scene where Neo points to a helicopter on a rooftop and asks Trinity, “Can you fly that thing?” Her answer: “Not yet.” Then she gets a “pilot program” uploaded to her brain and they fly away. For us humans, with our non-upgradeable, offline meat brains, the possibility of acquiring new skills by connecting our heads to a computer network is still science fiction. Not so for robots. Several research groups are exploring the idea of robots that rely on cloud-computing infrastructure to access vast amounts of processing power and data. This approach, which some are calling “cloud robotics,” would allow robots to offload compute-intensive tasks like image processing and voice recognition and even download new skills instantly, Matrix-style. Imagine a robot that finds an object that it’s never seen or used before—say, a plastic cup. The robot could simply send an image of the cup to the cloud and receive back the object’s name, a 3-D model, and instructions on how to use it, says James Kuffner, a professor at Carnegie Mellon currently working at Google.

Top 20 Robot Videos of 2010

Erico Guizzo  /  Tue, January 11, 2011

Last year was an incredible time for robotics, and to recap the best robot moments of 2010 we decided to compile a list of our favorite videos. Check out below our selection — going from No. 20 to the No. 1 — and let us know what you think.

The Best Robots of CES 2011

One of the best robots of 2010

Erico Guizzo  /  Tue, January 11, 2011

Robots made a big appearance at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. There were home robots, robotic pets, humanoids, telepresence systems, and even a little robot to massage people’s backs. Check out the highlights

David Bacon on Migrant Farm Worker Education

[One significant feature of this article is the direct connection between the labor movement and the fight for education for our children.  Farm labor education in California came directly out of the historic grape strike in the late sixties. — Lew Rosenbaum]

People of Watsonville 4 – Migrant Education at Ohlone School
By David Bacon
Watsonville, CA  11/19/10

Migrant Education is a product of the civil rights and farm worker movements of the 1960s. California’s Migrant Education Program was established in 1967, two years into the five-year historic grape strike by the United Farm Workers.  That strike, and the farm workers movement that it helped to ignite, gave migrant workers and their allies the political power necessary to get the state’s educational system to respond to their needs.  Today migrant education programs are one of the most important ways that farm worker families can win social equality and a future for their children beyond the fields.

The Pajaro Valley district includes thousands of students who travel with their families every year because their parents are migrant farm workers.  The demographics of farm labor have changed radically over the last three decades.  Today a large percentage of families come from Oaxaca and the states of southern Mexico.  Many come from communities where people speak indigenous languages that were old when Columbus arrived in the Americas.  The most common language among Watsonville students is Mixteco, although a few students speak Triqui or Zapoteco.

Families qualify as migrants because the parents work in farm labor, and have moved at least once in the last few years.  In addition to education programs, children also get help with medical and dental care.  The program has a very active parents group, with large meetings every month during the work season.  Watsonville is close to the campus of the University of California in Santa Cruz, and university students help farm worker kids begin to think about the possibility of going to college.

Photographs:

Children of migrant farm workers, many of them from indigenous Mixtec families from Oaxaca, are part of the Migrant Education program at Ohlone Elementary School.  Ofelia Lopez is a Mixteco-speaking student in Jenny Doud’s class.  Doud helps students learn the words to a song.  In another classroom, students hold hands, jump and dance.

Natalia Gracida-Cruz is a tutor who speaks Mixteco with students for whom it is their primary language.  Gabriela Diaz and Ruth Espinoza practice the sounds of the letters of the alphabet.  Then Gracida-Cruz helps the two girls and Hector Cruz with recognizing letters and sounds.  In another classroom she helps Victor Mendoza.

Outside, older students get ready to practice a Mixteco song, including Romualdo Ortiz, Elizabeth Espinoza, Ezequiel Espinoza and Luis Lopez.  Then Gracida-Cruz and migrant education instructor Casimira Salazar lead the four students, plus Claudia Salvador, in a song honoring Mexico’s first indigenous president, Benito Juarez.

For more articles and images, see  http://dbacon.igc.org

See also Illegal People — How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press, 2008)
Recipient: C.L.R. James Award, best book of 2007-2008

See also the photodocumentary on indigenous migration to the US
Communities Without Borders (Cornell University/ILR Press, 2006)

See also The Children of NAFTA, Labor Wars on the U.S./Mexico Border (University of California, 2004)
l

__________________________________

David Bacon, Photographs and Stories
http://dbacon.igc.org

A Dolls House Explores The Meaning Of Sacrifice

[Ibsen’s A Doll’s House begins as Infamous Commonwealth Theater begins its season long exploration of the meaning of “sacrifice.”  It’s a curious coincidence that while ICT brings Ibsen to the 1960s American feminist movement, Steppenwolf’s Garage Theater will showcase robots cavorting across the stage portraying Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler.  ICT’s second play exploring the meaning of sacrifice will be Lanford Wilson’s Vietnam war saga, The Fifth of July.]

 

A DOLL’S HOUSE

By Henrik Ibsen
Adapted by Christopher Hampton
Directed by Chris Maher

Featuring Josh Atkins, Kate Cares, Stephen Dunn, Barbara Roeder Harris, Amanda Roeder, Mark Shallow and Genevieve Thompson

SAC-RI-FICE (noun): destruction or surrender of something for the sake of something else.

New York City, 1962. As America hovers on the cusp of a second-wave feminist movement whose effects are felt to this day, Nora Helmer is a woman lost. Her entire life, Nora has defined herself by what she is to others-daughter, mother, wife, friend. Now she lives in a beautiful home with a husband and children who adore her, yet often feel like strangers. But after a dark secret from the past comes back to haunt her, Nora is finally forced to face the underlying realities of her carefully constructed existence.

Preview on January 21 st, 8pm ($10)

January 22nd through February 27th
Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 8:00pm
Sundays at 3:00pm

No show on Sunday, February 6th

Industry performance on Monday, February 7th, 8pm ($10)

The Greenhouse Theater Center at 2257 N. Lincoln Ave.

For ALL reservations, including subscribers, go through the Greenhouse Box Office at

773-404-7336

Or visit their website at http://www.greenhousetheater.org/index.php/dollshouse

Tickets $20.00
$15 senior/student tickets are available for every performance (subject to availability) with proper ID.
$15 industry tickets are available on Thursdays and Sundays.
Offers may not be combined. Not available closing weekend.

In The Presence Of My Enemy: Ron Kovic Remembers Vietnam — on Truthdig

Truthdig

In the Presence of My Enemy: A Reflection on War and Forgiveness

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/in_the_presence_of_my_enemy_a_reflection_20110120/

Posted on Jan 20, 2011

By Ron Kovic 

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies. Thou anointest my head with oil. My cup runneth over. (Psalms 23:5)

As this, the 43rd anniversary of my wounding in Vietnam approaches, and I once again try to find meaning in that day and the days which were to follow, my thoughts return to the northern bank of the Cua Viet River on Jan. 20, 1968. It is a day that will change my life forever.

I am medevaced from the battlefield to the intensive care ward in Da Nang, Vietnam. For the next several days I struggle with everything inside me to live. The dead and dying are everywhere. I am in and out of morphine every four hours. I awaken to the screams of the wounded all around me—young men like myself, 19, 20-year-olds. I am told by a doctor that I will never walk again, that I will be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life.

Still I am grateful to be alive, to still be breathing. I dream of my hometown, of my mother, my father and my backyard where I had played as a boy. All I want to do now is survive, to get out of this place somehow and return home. I completely lose track of time; I don’t know if it is day or night. They keep bringing in the wounded and carting out the dead.

It is the eve of the Tet offensive. A young Vietnamese man who has been severely wounded is brought into the intensive care ward. I can still remember that day clearly—his face, the fear in his eyes. One of the nurses tells me that he is a Viet Cong soldier who had been shot in the chest only a few days before. I look into his eyes as he is carefully placed in his bed directly across from me. “He’s the enemy, the Viet Cong, the ‘Gook,’ the Communist,” I think to myself,  “the one my country sent me to fight and kill. The one I must fear, the one I must hate, the man who is not even human.”

That belief and hatred had been reinforced in Marine Corp boot camp, at Parris Island, S.C., where we had chanted, “I’m going to go to Vietnam. I’m going to kill the Viet Cong!” Perhaps he was the one who had pulled the trigger a few days before, trying to kill me, the one who had shot and paralyzed me from my mid-chest down for the rest of my life. I will never know for sure. Yet as I lie in that hospital bed and our eyes meet, I feel no hatred or animosity toward him. On the contrary, I feel compassion for this man I had been taught to hate, this man who is my enemy.

Each day upon awakening from the morphine I look at him and he looks back at me, our eyes meeting, our gaze a recognition of each other’s presence, our humanity, an understanding that both our worlds have been turned upside down and we are now in a far different place than we had been only a few days before. We reach an equality of sorts in this place of the wounded and dying, that great leveler, where distinctions vanish, where there is no prejudice or hatred, where all becomes equal. We are two wounded young men in late January of 1968 simply trying to survive, two human beings who only want to live.

A sort of unique bond begins to develop between my “enemy” and myself over the next several days, a strange and at first somewhat uneasy camaraderie without words, which is both unsettling and at the same time seems completely natural to me. I do not think of him as my enemy anymore. I begin to care about him more and each time I awaken from the morphine, and with the screams of the wounded and dying all around me, I reach out to him with my eyes, with my heart, as he lies across from me in his bed. I now want him to live just as much as I want to live.

“Keep fighting,” I think as I watch him trying to communicate. We are together in this now, and none of those other things seem to matter anymore. “If you don’t give up I won’t give up,” I think, pressing my lips together, reaching out to him, one human being to another, no longer enemies—two young men struggling to live and go home, leave all of this sorrow behind, back to our families, our homes and our towns where it was simple again, where it was safe.

The days and nights and hours pass. The lights are always on and I never know if it is night or day, and after a while it doesn’t really matter anymore. I awake one day and look across and see the empty hospital bed. He is gone, and the nurse tells me he has died. There is no emotion in her voice. She is very tired, and there will be many more dead and many more wounded before it is all over. I stare at his empty bed for a long time, feeling a sadness I could not fully comprehend.

In the years that have passed, I have often thought about those days on the intensive care ward and about that young Vietnamese man, my “enemy,” who lay in that hospital bed across from me, and how we are all perhaps much closer to each other as brothers and sisters on this Earth than we realize. Despite all our differences, there is, I believe, a powerful connectedness to our humanity—a deep desire to reach out with kindness, with love and great caring toward each other, even to our supposed enemies, and to bring forth “the better angels of our nature”—that is undeniable and cannot be extinguished, even in death.

This, I believe, is the hope of the world. This is the faith we now need in these times.

In the years that followed, I would attempt to write about the war and about that long and often difficult journey home, trying to give meaning to what I and so many others had gone through. There would be other profound moments of reconciliation and forgiveness to come, but almost always my mind would drift back to that young Vietnamese man who laid across from me for those few brief days on the Da Nang intensive care ward in 1968.

AP

A wounded Marine is dragged to an evacuation helicopter by Cpl. James Williams of Craig, Colo., left, and Cpl. Frank T. Guilford of Philadelphia, who sustained a face wound himself when a supply column was attacked on Vietnam’s Van Tuong Peninsula on Aug. 19, 1965.

 


A Progressive Journal of News and Opinion. Editor, Robert Scheer. Publisher, Zuade Kaufman.
Copyright © 2011 Truthdig, L.L.C. All rights reserved.
Ron Kovic is a Vietnam veteran and author of Born On The Fourth of July

Patrice Lumumba, 50 Years After His Assassination — Adam Hochschild in the NYT

An Assassination’s Long Shadow

By ADAM HOCHSCHILD
Published: January 16, 2011, New York Times

San Francisco

Riccardo Vecchio

TODAY, millions of people on another continent are observing the 50th anniversary of an event few Americans remember, the assassination of Patrice Lumumba. A slight, goateed man with black, half-framed glasses, the 35-year-old Lumumba was the first democratically chosen leader of the vast country, nearly as large as the United States east of the Mississippi, now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo.

This treasure house of natural resources had been a colony of Belgium, which for decades had made no plans for independence. But after clashes with Congolese nationalists, the Belgians hastily arranged the first national election in 1960, and in June of that year King Baudouin arrived to formally give the territory its freedom.

“It is now up to you, gentlemen,” he arrogantly told Congolese dignitaries, “to show that you are worthy of our confidence.”

The Belgians, and their European and American fellow investors, expected to continue collecting profits from Congo’s factories, plantations and lucrative mines, which produced diamonds, gold, uranium, copper and more. But they had not planned on Lumumba.

A dramatic, angry speech he gave in reply to Baudouin brought Congolese legislators to their feet cheering, left the king startled and frowning and caught the world’s attention. Lumumba spoke forcefully of the violence and humiliations of colonialism, from the ruthless theft of African land to the way that French-speaking colonists talked to Africans as adults do to children, using the familiar “tu” instead of the formal “vous.” Political independence was not enough, he said; Africans had to also benefit from the great wealth in their soil.

With no experience of self-rule and an empty treasury, his huge country was soon in turmoil. After failing to get aid from the United States, Lumumba declared he would turn to the Soviet Union. Thousands of Belgian officials who lingered on did their best to sabotage things: their code word for Lumumba in military radio transmissions was “Satan.” Shortly after he took office as prime minister, the C.I.A., with White House approval, ordered his assassination and dispatched an undercover agent with poison.

The would-be poisoners could not get close enough to Lumumba to do the job, so instead the United States and Belgium covertly funneled cash and aid to rival politicians who seized power and arrested the prime minister. Fearful of revolt by Lumumba’s supporters if he died in their hands, the new Congolese leaders ordered him flown to the copper-rich Katanga region in the country’s south, whose secession Belgium had just helped orchestrate. There, on Jan. 17, 1961, after being beaten and tortured, he was shot. It was a chilling moment that set off street demonstrations in many countries.

As a college student traveling through Africa on summer break, I was in Léopoldville (today’s Kinshasa), Congo’s capital, for a few days some six months after Lumumba’s murder. There was an air of tension and gloom in the city, jeeps full of soldiers were on patrol, and the streets quickly emptied at night. Above all, I remember the triumphant, macho satisfaction with which two young American Embassy officials — much later identified as C.I.A. men — talked with me over drinks about the death of someone they regarded not as an elected leader but as an upstart enemy of the United States.

Some weeks before his death, Lumumba had briefly escaped from house arrest and, with a small group of supporters, tried to flee to the eastern Congo, where a counter-government of his sympathizers had formed. The travelers had to traverse the Sankuru River, after which friendly territory began. Lumumba and several companions crossed the river in a dugout canoe to commandeer a ferry to go back and fetch the rest of the group, including his wife and son.

But by the time they returned to the other bank, government troops pursuing them had arrived. According to one survivor, Lumumba’s famous eloquence almost persuaded the soldiers to let them go. Events like this are often burnished in retrospect, but however the encounter happened, Lumumba seems to have risked his life to try to rescue the others, and the episode has found its way into film and fiction.

His legend has only become deeper because there is painful newsreel footage of him in captivity, soon after this moment, bound tightly with rope and trying to retain his dignity while being roughed up by his guards.

Patrice Lumumba had only a few short months in office and we have no way of knowing what would have happened had he lived. Would he have stuck to his ideals or, like too many African independence leaders, abandoned them for the temptations of wealth and power? In any event, leading his nation to the full economic autonomy he dreamed of would have been an almost impossible task. The Western governments and corporations arrayed against him were too powerful, and the resources in his control too weak: at independence his new country had fewer than three dozen university graduates among a black population of more than 15 million, and only three of some 5,000 senior positions in the civil service were filled by Congolese.

A half-century later, we should surely look back on the death of Lumumba with shame, for we helped install the men who deposed and killed him. In the scholarly journal Intelligence and National Security, Stephen R. Weissman, a former staff director of the House Subcommittee on Africa, recently pointed out that Lumumba’s violent end foreshadowed today’s American practice of “extraordinary rendition.” The Congolese politicians who planned Lumumba’s murder checked all their major moves with their Belgian and American backers, and the local C.I.A. station chief made no objection when they told him they were going to turn Lumumba over — render him, in today’s parlance — to the breakaway government of Katanga, which, everyone knew, could be counted on to kill him.

Still more fateful was what was to come. Four years later, one of Lumumba’s captors, an army officer named Joseph Mobutu, again with enthusiastic American support, staged a coup and began a disastrous, 32-year dictatorship. Just as geopolitics and a thirst for oil have today brought us unsavory allies like Saudi Arabia, so the cold war and a similar lust for natural resources did then. Mobutu was showered with more than $1 billion in American aid and enthusiastically welcomed to the White House by a succession of presidents; George H. W. Bush called him “one of our most valued friends.”

This valued friend bled his country dry, amassed a fortune estimated at $4 billion, jetted the world by rented Concorde and bought himself an array of grand villas in Europe and multiple palaces and a yacht at home. He let public services shrivel to nothing and roads and railways be swallowed by the rain forest. By 1997, when he was overthrown and died, his country was in a state of wreckage from which it has not yet recovered.

Since that time the fatal combination of enormous natural riches and the dysfunctional government Mobutu left has ignited a long, multisided war that has killed huge numbers of Congolese or forced them from their homes. Many factors cause a war, of course, especially one as bewilderingly complex as this one. But when visiting eastern Congo some months ago, I could not help but think that one thread leading to the human suffering I saw begins with the assassination of Lumumba.

We will never know the full death toll of the current conflict, but many believe it to be in the millions. Some of that blood is on our hands. Both ordering the murders of apparent enemies and then embracing their enemies as “valued friends” come with profound, long-term consequences — a lesson worth pondering on this anniversary.

Adam Hochschild is the author of King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial Africa and the forthcoming “To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918.”

AREA Issue #11, Im/migration

AREA News
  • Call for Proposals: AREA issue #11 – im/migration

    by AREA |   Published Jan. 9, 2011
    Scheduled for release in May 2011
    Proposals due February 1st 

    Chicago is a city shaped by movement and trade. First inhabited by indigenous peoples, the city was built through land speculation at the intersection of major waterways, and expanded as the intersection of railroads and highways. It became the destination for successive waves of new arrivals seeking opportunity: from those escaping the Jim Crow South and European fascism during the industrial era, to post-industrial rustbelt refugees and, most recently, those displaced from a structurally adjusted global south in the era of free trade. Today’s corporate towers tout Chicago’s preeminence as a hub for the non-stop flow of global capital. Mainstream media often couch these economic, demographic and spatial shifts within a partial and simplistic narrative of “progress”. AREA Issue #11 is calling for a range of contributions to support a more robust and nuanced discussion of human movement, and its impact on the political and cultural life of our city.

    The distinction between migration and immigration can be viewed and discussed via the concept of the nation-state. In recent decades, as globalization opened borders for the movement of goods, natural resources and currency, a call for national security is increasingly used to justify the policing of human movement. US international policy has resulted in the forced dislocation of peoples around the world, while the fear of losing jobs and social benefits to immigrants is used to criminalize migrant labor forces in the US. Meanwhile, domestic policies increasingly reinforce inequalities along race and class lines. These disparities take physical form in our cities and can be seen by mapping the distribution of social services, wealth and resources, and access to arts and culture. In our city political forces draw imaginary lines that have real, tangible consequences for those who must navigate them.

    How have internal migrations, such as the African American Great Migration and white flight, shaped the physical and psychological space of the city? How are race politics woven into the visible and invisible borders that crisscross the urban landscape? What are the forces driving displacement and gentrification, and how are they being resisted? Whose mobility is deemed “legitimate” and whose is considered a “trespass”? How is access created and redefined by im/migrants and people disabilities? Who is intentionally immobilized and by what forces? How does human movement impact the natural environment—from animal migration patterns to invasive species?

    As immigrants arrive in Chicago from around the globe, what do they carry with them and what is left behind? How are language, food and music preserved as transmitters of culture, and how are they transformed? What is shared in the experience of immigrants from different countries of origin and what is particular? How does the immigrant experience differ according to age and place in life? How does identity shift in relation to where one stands at any given moment and to whom one speaks? How does media focus on Latina@ immigrants affect the discourse around immigration in the US? How does immigration reform reinforce the legitimacy of borders and the increased militarization of society?

    While issues central to the theme of im/migrations are among the most talked about political issues in the country today, it seems that remarkably little is actually being said. In Im/migrations we invite contributors to depart from the mainstream discourse, to traverse the blurry line between personal and political experiences of movement.

    We hope the issue will be an opportunity to explore the diverse politics of the individuals and organizations working for the rights of the undocumented. We invite contributors to challenge existing dialogues about immigration reform and to think of AREA as a space to experiment with new possibilities for language and action. We hope it will be a space to explore how migration and immigration intersect with other movements, such as those for environmental justice, gender justice, economic justice, and more. We also hope the issue will serve as a movement-building tool for those working to carve out a space in the city and defend the right to stay.

    If you have something to say about these issues, we invite you to contribute! Your contributions can take many forms. We are interested in brief descriptions of the work you or your organization are doing, analysis and commentary, interviews, mapping projects, photography and other visual expressions, events, performances and more. If you have an idea, but are unsure how it might fit into im/migrations we´ll be happy to discuss the possibilities with you.

    Proposals are due February 1st. Please direct proposals, comments and questions to:  immigration@AREAchicago.org

    permalink / comments