The film 13th was released on Netflix in October 2016, just prior to the U.S. presidential election. It is clearly an anti-Trump film, although it is not clearly pro-anyone else. In April 2020, Netflix released the film for free on YouTube. It has been abuzz lately as a “must watch” film in the wake of the George Floyd uprisings.
The title 13th gives the impression that the film will focus on the 13th Amendment, and we assumed it would push the narrative that modern-day prison expansion is motivated by profiting from prisoner labor. We also thought it would be a film pushing people to focus on reforming the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Longtime readers of Under Lock & Key have likely already seen pieces debunking the line that the prison boom was motivated by exploiting prisoner labor. With our expectations from the title, we were pleasantly surprised by the film.
The film first focuses on the 13th Amendment, and explains the South needed labor after slavery was abolished. Where once there were slaves, there were then prisoner laborers. The exception in the 13th Amendment which allowed slavery for people convicted of a crime was primarily economically-motivated. From there, the film tracks prison expansion, which really took off after the exploitation of former slaves had ended, in response to social movements.
How the title relates to the theme of the film may be in that the 13th Amendment satisfied a dominant need of the time – white Amerika’s economic need for Black labor – and white Amerika has been adapting to meet its needs at the expense of New Afrikans ever since. 13th spans almost two centuries of U.$. history, and draws attention to many ways Amerika has adapted to meet its needs, whether they were economic needs or social needs.
13th does touch on the topic of prisoner labor for profit for private corporations, but doesn’t overly focus on it. Is prisoner labor for private profit a bad thing? Yes. Being that fewer than one percent of prisoners are engaged in productive labor for private profit, should we focus on it with all our energy, as if it is the main push for prison expansion?(1) MIM(Prisons) would answer this in the negative.
There are some economic motivations for prison expansion in recent-decades, but not for exploiting prisoner labor. 13th spends quite some time exposing the lobbying group American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) role in prison expansion, as well as its present role in pushing for “community supervision” (read: ankle and wrist bracelet GPS trackers, and privatized probation and parole).(2) The economic interest in prison expansion is in job security for Amerikans, and state funding funneling into private corporations for services. There is a socio-economic benefit to Amerika in draining the oppressed internal semi-colonies of time and resources through expensive phone calls, long drives to visit families, and other exorbitant and arbitrary fees and expenses.
In the end, the audience is left with a call to remain vigilant to what’s coming next. It leaves the focus on ALEC and corporate influence in legislation. A take-away of 13th is that nothing has worked to get the white oppressors’ boot (or knee) off of New Afrika’s neck. Amerikkka just changes tactics, but the effect is the same.
That’s what we’re seeing today with the recent Black Lives Matter movement upsurge. We don’t need a less-funded Amerikan police force. We need New Afrikans to have their own police, and military, AND state to do as they please without having to cooperate with this clearly sociopathic Amerikan nation. On the whole, 13th affirms our view that prisons are primarily a tool of social control, and we will answer the film’s call to remain vigilant so Amerika can’t continue oppressing New Afrika any longer.
Have you ever wondered why there is such an abundance of food here on earth, yet people are still going to bed hungry and starving to death? The following is a brief report on what is happening with the food and how I tie in individualism.
I relate individualism with pure selfishness and greed. Here are a few statistics in regards to food waste: “An estimated 25% of the world’s food calories and up to 50% of total food weight are lost or wasted before they can be consumed. In rich countries most of that waste occurs in home, restaurants, or supermarkets.”(1)
We see that half the world’s food is wasted by consumers in the more developed countries. I see a problem as mentioned in the three areas as overstocking to fit the needs of expediencies and conveniences. This of course creates poor food distributive practices.
It is said that “consumers in the developed world could reduce waste by taking such simple steps as serving smaller portions, eating leftovers, and encouraging cafeterias, restaurants, and supermarkets to develop waste-reducing measures.”(2)
Once again here is where individualism shows its appearance. We live in a world that for the most part doesn’t care about eir fellow humyns’ real living conditions. As long as the individual continues in eir life of luxuries what is it to em how much food ey throws away?
Once we as a society can learn to care about one another and become more altruistic, no longer viewing one another as a possible profit, then we can have a society built around a more harmonious and genuine comradeship. We can erase the cut-throat capitalist market that only seeks to exploit humyns worldwide. Once this system is done away with we will see a world without hunger and starvation.
I am a true believer in internationalism, seeing that we are united world-wide regardless of the pigment of our skins. We cannot be blinded by nationalism playing both blind and deaf to the sufferings of our fellow humyns across the globe.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This article takes on new meaning in the time of coronavirus, where mandates to stay home are in effect around the globe. Where some people are hoarding food items due to their individualism and fear, others are going without.
Petty-bourgeois people who are used to having every possible food item available to them, and oftentimes with two-hour delivery, are facing some form of food scarcity, many for the first time in their lives.
For many people, it’s simply unsafe to go shopping for themselves, and people are relying on their family and neighbors to bring them food. In the United $tates it is private delivery drivers and grocery store workers who are providing these life necessities during this time. And they are often doing so while facing dangerous situations because the individualistic behavior of their customers is unpredictable.
Meanwhile, there are parts of the world where the state is providing food packages to the homes of people so they can stay in. And these aren’t even socialist countries.
Whether it comes to deciding what precautions to take during a pandemic, or deciding how to avoid wasting food, we cannot rely on a culture that puts individual choice first to do a good job. The United $tates currently has more people with coronavirus than any other country, including China where it began and where there are many more people. This is in large part due to our individualist culture.
And while this comrade’s call is very relevant today, we must disagree with the blanket condemnation of nationalism. The national contradiction is coming to light as it always does during crisis; from New Afrikans dying disproportionately in the United $tates to dire situations developing in the Third World. That is why in calling for the world to come together as one, we must be calling for an end to sanctions and embargos, a halt to military operations and debt forgiveness to the exploited nations of the world so that they can have a greater degree of national autonomy in meeting their peoples’ needs in this pandemic.
Individualism is a cancer to society, with or without a coronavirus. Hopefully COVID-19 helps illuminate this to people, and gives them a vision of what society could be like when we work together for the benefit of all of humynity.
Notes: 1. May 2019 issue of National Geographic, Pg45 #FutureFood 2. May 2019 issue of National Geographic, pg 46 #FutureFood
The latest installment in the Terminator movies takes up where Terminator II left off. In this timeline the A.I. called Legion has achieved consciousness and seeks to wipe humynity from the earth. The plot continues the theme of humyns fighting the machines after a nuclear holocaust, with the future pivoting on the life of one persyn.
This movie features more gender and nation diversity than the previous Terminators. All the humyn heroes are female. And it moves beyond the U.$. borders to Mexico where the new target of the Terminator lives. In Dark Fate the Terminator was sent back in time to kill Dani Ramos. A cybernetically-enhanced soldier, Grace, was also sent back in time, to protect Dani. And Sarah Connor, target from the previous Terminator movies, shows up to help with Dani's protection.
There are a few interesting themes to the Terminator movies that continue in Dark Fate. First there is the nuclear destruction of humynity. The earth and most of life on it has been wiped out. People need to take seriously the dark possibility that humynity is driving towards this destruction. It may not include a conscious A.I. wiping out the few humyns who survive. But capitalism is on a firm march towards annihilation of the current balance of life on Earth that humyns depend on. It is not sustainable. And so movies that pose this possible future, brought about by the actions of humyns, are good for the ideas they can provoke.
Another general theme of the Terminator movies is that one persyn is pivotal to the entirety of humyn existence. In previous movies that persyn was John Connor, the unborn child of Sarah Connor. And so the Terminators went back in time to try to kill Sarah to prevent the birth of John to stop em from leading the resistance that could defeat the Terminators. In Dark Fate the one persyn is Dani Ramos. In this case it's not Dani's womb that needs protection/destruction, it's Dani eirself, who will lead the resistance.
We might read into Dark Fate that it's not actually about individuals. After all, John Connor died but now we have Dani. Humynity and its conditions creates these leaders. But for the most part the movie is pushing a message that history is created by one individual who must be protected or destroyed at all cost. Humyns would not have united against the Legion without Dani. So the Legion must send a Terminator back in time to destroy Dani, and the resistance must send a soldier back to protect Dani. That's a lot of resources and energy spent on one persyn.
Dark Fate is consistent with the bourgeois theory of history, a spin on history that focuses on the accomplishments of individuals, removing them from the political context of their time. Communists, on the other hand, don't see Dani, or John, or the other humyn resistance leaders as uniquely qualified for their roles. Instead we see them as a product of the political conditions. They did what was necessary to fight for the survival of humynity. And in their absence others would have done the same.
The idea that only certain special individuals are able to take leadership roles fits in with a religious/capitalist way of thinking. Humynity may be moving towards destruction, but there's nothing average folks can do about it. Only special heroes can make a difference. This way of thinking discourages people from taking up the fight for a better future. And instead suggests it's best to just believe in a leader without question.
Maoists, on the other hand, see no individuals as infallible. In fact, a fundamental tenant of Maoism is the need for continuous cultural revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat, in which the people are actively critical of and struggling with socialist leaders and one another. This includes removing from positions of power those who have strayed off the revolutionary path. The future lies in the hands of the people, and so the people must learn through struggle in order for us to discover the correct way forward.
The earlier Terminator movies had a good slogan from Sarah and John Connor: "No Fate But What We Make." This was a mantra that John repeated to himself and others to remember that the future can be changed. This is a good counter to the idea that humynity is fated to nuclear destruction and the rise of conscious anti-humyn A.I.s. And that only John, or only Dani, can lead a successful resistance. Perhaps the A.I.s, in their limited world view, believe this to be true. But humyns should be focused on stopping the nuclear destruction and A.I. consciousness event before it happens. It is unfortunate that Dark Fate takes into its title the antithesis of this anti-fate slogan, and perpetuates that message in the plot.
The movie misses a great opportunity to avoid this idea of fate at the end, when discussing the future of one young character. The goal that this character not die in battle later in life is a good one, and a sign that potentially fate can be changed. But the assumption that the way to do this is to start military training for the post-apocalyptic battle now, rather than fight to keep humynity from destroying itself, is an unfortunate ending.
Thanks to our comrade inside who made this crossword puzzle! Answers below.
1. In the language of many northeastern Indigenous Nations, this name is used to refer to both the western hemisphere as a whole, as well as more specifically to refer to the northern land mass of the continent. We generally use the term to mean all of the Americas, which remain dominated by U.$. imperialism today. (2 words)
2. One must put theories into use to test them. One can only compare practices with?
4. When we gain information from observation and interaction with the world around us we call that ___ knowledge.
5. Those whose political views claim to be Marxist yet reverse Marx's work fundamentally by failing to apply the scientific method of dialectical materialism are called?
7. The abolition of power of people over people.
8. The mode of production or economic system in which the bourgeoisie owns the means of production.
3. The exploiter class most characteristic of the capitalist system. Their wealth is obtained from the labor of others, in particular the proletariat.
4. The group of people who have nothing to sell but their labor power for their subsistence.
6. A division put on a society based solely on economic status. These groups of people share a common relation to the means of production. (2 words)
9. The transition stage in between capitalism and communism where the dictatorship of the proletariat will be in power.
10. The doctrine which guided the first successful third world peasant revolution that liberated China in 1949.
11. The scientific process of learning from practice and using those lessons to improve your practice. (2 words)
12. The theory that all things originate from the idea and that matter is only a reflection of what exists in the mind, as one perceives it.
13. The philosophy that is the opposite of idealism. Philosophy which sees mater as the basis of reality and material circumstances shaping individual and social consciousness.
6. Turtle Island
4. Dialectical Materialism
6. Social Class
All my life
I felt nothing but pain
I see no blood, and I see no stains
I lost all that I gained
Where do I go
Where do I run
Running in circles
Til my feet are numb
All my life
I cry, I lie.
I became ashamed, so I denied
What I seen, and where I been
I promise you won't understand a thing
See it's a lie
When they say all champions
Wear a ring
All my life
It's been a struggle
Some people only understand the trouble
Doesn't know how it feel to be poor
And has to hustle
It doesn't matter how you read it, or how it look
Never judge a cover without reading the book
Struggle comes with mistakes
We all understand positive
But live our life with hate
With struggles, life isn't fair
Even with struggles, someone cares
With all the hurt and pain
We learn to move on
When struggles tear us apart
We now pick up the pieces
To try and understand
We leave the past behind
Because with all the errors
And still facing errors
We can't turn back the time
Life is a struggle
For some to comprehend
Life is a struggle
To make us become better men
With tears that fall down our eyes
That actually means
We now realize
Siendo una película de Hollywood basada en una historieta de Marvel, Pantera Negra se destaca por un tema político abierto y varias discusiones honestas sobre opresión nacional. El largometraje es sobre los Wakandas, una sociedad Africana sumamente avanzada y pacífica. Una sociedad que incluye mujeres fuertes y facultadas en funciones de defensa, ciencia y servicios a [email protected][email protected]
La sociedad Wakanda está completamente oculta del mundo y dirigida por el Rey TChalla, el héroe de la película. Su aislamiento es basado en un legítimo temor al mundo imperialista, el cual tiene una larga historia de opresión y explotación en el África. La solución de los Wakandas fue ocultarse y enfocarse en construir una sociedad fuerte y pacifica internamente. Eran extremadamente exitosos, sobrepasando al resto del mundo en el campo de la ciencia y lo que es más, la película sugiere que Wakanda se construyo con las riquezas de sus propios recursos naturales, una sociedad sin una aparente explotación u opresión. Pero este aislamiento tiene una oposición creciendo desde su interior, de quienes quieren ayudar a [email protected][email protected] del mundo.
Podemos comparar el aislamiento de Wakanda a movimientos revolucionarios que han tomado el poder en un país, solo para verse rodeados de enemigos. En lugares como Corea del Norte, Cuba y Albania, el aislamiento fue una estrategia en contra de influencias externas, pero al final fue también una gran dificultad para estas naciones. Wakanda no encara dificultades similares debido a sus tremendas riquezas, pero tampoco nadie conoce sobre su sociedad avanzada y no tienen gastos excesivos de recursos para la defensa de la propia nación. El mundo piensa que los Wakandas son sólo una nación Tercermundista llena de guajiros (Agricultores).
Lo que encontramos más interesante acerca de la película no fue el protagonista, pero el antagonista, Eric Killmonger, quien creció en Oakland en los 1990s. El padre de Killmonger (el tío de Tchalla) estaba sirviendo como un espía para los Wakandas en Oakland cuando se enamoró de los [email protected][email protected][email protected] con [email protected] quien convivía y decidió que debía tomar recursos Wakandas para ayudar a liberar a esta gente. Por traicionar a Wakanda, el padre de Killmonger fue asesinado por el Rey (su propio hermano), dejando a Kilmonger abandonado en Oakland. El Rey mantuvo la traición, muerte y a Eric, en secreto, que llevó hasta la tumba, siendo la aparición de Killmonger una sorpresa súbita para [email protected] que llevaban una vida idealista en el capitolio.
Eric Killmonger es producto del abandono por [email protected] Wakandas y su crecimiento en las calles de Oakland. Killmonger vio la desesperada lucha que la nueva nación Africana pasaba en los E$tados Unido$ y no podía perdonar a [email protected] Wakandas por no ayudar a estas personas. Killmonger no sólo buscaba venganza personal por la muerte de su padre, sino también buscaba continuar con el sueño de su padre de ayudar a [email protected][email protected] a liberarse. La educación de Killmonger (en MIT) y su entrenamiento (en la milicia Amerikana) fue determinado, enfocado en obtener una posición para controlar los recursos Wakandas a fin de poderlos utilizar para ayudar a [email protected][email protected] Killmonger cultivo la pasión y la perseverancia para llegar hasta la sociedad oculta Wakanda y luchar por el trono.
Killmonger no vacila en matar, hasta [email protected] a quien aparenta querer, para lograr su meta. Pero esto es guerra, y las vidas de millones alrededor del mundo están en riesgo. [email protected] respetamos su enfoque y dinamismo. Porque preguntar amablemente al Rey Wakanda, de entregar algunas armas y tecnología para ayudar a [email protected][email protected], no iba a funcionar. Incluso peticiones similares fueron denegadas, a pesar que fueron hechas por personas influyentes en la sociedad Wakanda. Por esto Killmonger razonablemente creía que la única opción era tomar lo que necesitaba por la fuerza.
Hubieron reacciones diversas a la contradicción entre el aislamiento pacifico contra una revolución violenta, estando en juego la batalla por el trono. Uno de los bando Wakandas (la fuerza de la defensa civil) entusiastamente se unió a Killmonger una vez que les explica su plan de armar a [email protected][email protected][email protected] en los E$tado$ Unido$ y a [email protected] espías Wakandas alrededor del mundo. La propuesta de Killmonger incluía también que el sol nunca se pondría en el imperio Wakanda. Si la defensa civil se unió por razones altruistas o hambre de poder, esto queda a discreción de la audiencia.
La defensa real de mala manera se queda Leal al Trono cuando Killmonger toma el poder, esta por la obediencia a las tradiciones conservadoras más que alguna otra cosa. La defensa real rápidamente cambia de bando cuando se suscita una justificación técnica – el duelo por el trono no había acabado, porque TChalla estaba vivo. Este bando de la milicia fue hecho para ser héroes, pero [email protected] estaban defendiendo a un Rey que mantenía el aislamiento en contra de un Rey que quería ayudar a [email protected][email protected] del mundo.
Sin embargo, hay otro ángulo que está representado por el interés amoroso de TChalla, Nakia, una espía quien trabaja entre [email protected][email protected] y víctimas del tráfico humano. Ella obstinadamente rechazó la oportunidad de ser reina, para poder continuar con su tan importante trabajo ayudando a la gente fuera de Wakanda. Aunque ideológicamente Nakia tenía mucho en común con Killmonger, por lo menos en oponerse al aislamiento Wakanda y en querer liberar a la gente oprimida mundialmente, se mantuvo fiel a Tchalla. Nakia, como [email protected][email protected] Wakandas, estaba principalmente en contra de la estrategia de Killmonger de enviar armas y armamentos alrededor del mundo entero, y los sentimientos personales hacia TChalla eran un factor influyente.
En la estrategia de Killmonger de solucionar la opresión imperialista había muchos problemas estratégicos, incluyendo la falta de liderazgo o de un movimiento de liberación para tomar el cargo de la milicia y los recursos tecnológicos que estaba ofreciendo. Es difícil ver como entregar armamento a [email protected][email protected][email protected] va a llevar a la libertad. De hecho esas armas pudieron haber caído en manos de [email protected] imperialistas, lo cual, - a diferencia de tradición y "no es nuestra forma" – fue la primera justificación que TChalla dio y otras para mantener Wakanda oculta al mundo.
Al final el rey [email protected] gana, pero aprende que tiene una responsabilidad con las personas del mundo. En perspectiva el cambio de Tchalla de seguir ciegamente el camino de su padre en mantener la tradición en un pedestal, se da en gran parte por el descubrimiento del secreto familiar. La aparición de Killmonger es un gran giro para TChalla. TChalla llega a ver a Killmonger como [email protected][email protected] el cuál fue [email protected] por las manos de su padre. Tchalla ve cómo el adherirse a las tradiciones y el aislamiento en realidad enajena a las personas, tal como al pequeño Eric, quien TChalla siente debe de alguna manera ser incluido bajo la protección de Wakanda en ayudar y asistir.
De esta manera, TChalla al final a llega a estar de acuerdo con Nakia y Killmonger que Wakanda tiene una obligación moral de compartir su conocimiento. Desafortunadamente, a pesar de todos [email protected] espiás internacionales de Wakanda, el Rey TChalla fracasa en correctamente evaluar el equilibrio de fuerzas, y [email protected][email protected] y [email protected][email protected] de [email protected][email protected] La última escena de la película muestra a TChalla dando un discurso en las Naciones Unidas (N.U.), anunciando que Wakanda comenzará a compartir su tecnología y conocimientos con el mundo. Él también compra varios edificios en Oakland, California para abrir los primeros centros Wakanda de educación y alcance para la juventud.
Si TChalla realmente hubiese querido ayudar a [email protected][email protected] del mundo, él podía utilizar la tecnología Wakanda de poder quedar ocultos a plena vista y la reputación de ser una nación agrícola no riesgosa para armar una fuerza armada en secreto – bajo las aguas – para luchar a [email protected] opresores por el doble control y luego liberar, incluyendo poner fin al capitalismo. En vez de haber ido a la N.U. y anunciar "¡Oye! !Nos estamos organizando y haciendo cosas extraordinarios que pueden amenazar su poder! !Vélenos de cerca!" Él pudo haber hecho esto discretamente y con éxito. Al parecer TChalla deja de ser conservador para ser liberal y no da el paso a ser verdaderamente revolucionario.
As a Hollywood movie based on a Marvel comic book, Black Panther stands out for overtly political themes and some honest discussion of national oppression. It features a Wakandan society of supremely advanced and peaceful Africans. A society that includes strong, empowered wimmin in roles of defense, science and serving the oppressed.
The Wakandan society is completely hidden from the world and led by a king, T'Challa, the movie's hero. Its isolation is based in a legit fear of the imperialist world which has a long history of oppression and exploitation in Africa. The Wakandan solution was to hide, and focus on building a strong and peaceful society internally. It was wildly successful, surpassing the rest of the world in all realms of science. And what's more, the movie suggests that Wakanda built, on the wealth of its natural resources, a society with no apparent exploitation or oppression. But this isolationism does have a growing opposition from within, from some who want to help the oppressed in the world.
We can compare Wakanda's isolationism to revolutionary movements that have taken power in one country, only to find themselves surrounded by enemies. In places like north Korea, Cuba, and Albania, isolation was a strategic move against outside interference, but ultimately was also a great difficulty for these nations. Wakanda does not face similar challenges due to its tremendous wealth of resources, but also because no one knows about its advanced society, so there's no severe drain of resources being spent on national self-defense. The world thinks Wakanda is just a Third World country full of farmers.
What we found most interesting about the movie was not the protagonists, but the antagonist, Eric Killmonger, who came up in Oakland in the 1990s. Killmonger's father (T'Challa's uncle) was serving as a Wakandan spy in Oakland when ey fell in love with the oppressed New Afrikan people ey was living among, and decided ey needed to take Wakandan resources to help liberate these people. For betraying Wakanda, Killmonger's father was killed by the king (eir own brother), which left Killmonger abandoned in Oakland. The king kept this betrayal, death, and Eric a secret all the way to the grave, so Killmonger's appearance came as a sudden surprise to those living an idyllic life in the capitol.
Eric Killmonger is a product of eir abandonment by Wakanda and eir upbringing on the streets of Oakland. Killmonger saw the desperate struggles of the New Afrikan nation in the United $tates and could not forgive Wakanda for not helping these people. Killmonger wasn't only seeking persynal revenge for eir father's death, ey was fighting to continue eir father's dream of helping the oppressed liberate themselves. Killmonger's education (at MIT) and training (in the U.$. military) was purposeful, focused on getting em into a position to control the Wakandan resources so that ey could use them to help the oppressed. Killmonger cultivated the passion and perseverance to bring em all the way to the hidden society of Wakanda and into a duel for the throne.
Killmonger doesn't hesitate to kill, even those ey seems to care about, to achieve eir goal. But this is war, and the lives of millions around the world are at stake. We respect Killmonger's drive and focus. Nicely asking the Wakandan king to hand over some weapons and technology to help the oppressed wasn't going to work. Even similar requests from influential people within Wakandan society were denied. So Killmonger reasonably believed that eir only option was to take what ey wanted by force.
There were many different reactions to this contradiction between peaceful isolationism vs. violent uprising, playing out in the battle for the throne. A faction of Wakandans (the civil defense force) enthusiastically joined Killmonger once ey explained eir plan to arm New Afrikans in the United $tates and Wakandan spies all over the world. Killmonger's proposal also included ensuring the sun never set on the Wakandan empire. Whether the civil defense force joined for altruistic or power-hungry reasons is up to the viewer to decide.
The royal defense force begrudgingly remained loyal to the throne when Killmonger took power, from an adherence to conservative traditionalism more than anything else. The royal defense quickly switched sides when a technical justification arose — the duel for the throne was not complete, because T'Challa was still alive. This faction of the military is made out to be heroes, but they were defending a king who upheld isolationism against a king who wanted to help free the world's oppressed.
Yet another angle is represented by T'Challa's love interest, Nakia, a spy who worked among refugees and victims of humyn trafficking. Ey stubbornly refused a chance to become queen, so ey could continue eir important work helping people outside of Wakanda. While ideologically Nakia had much in common with Killmonger, at least in opposing Wakanda's isolationism and wanting to liberate oppressed people globally, ey remained loyal to T'Challa. Nakia, like many other Wakandans, was primarily against Killmonger's strategy of sending weapons and firepower out all over the world, and persynal feelings for T'Challa were an influencing factor.
There were many strategic problems with Killmonger's solution to imperialist oppression, including the lack of leadership or liberation movements to take advantage of the military and technology resources ey was offering. It's hard to see how just delivering weapons to the oppressed would lead to liberation. In fact those weapons could easily have ended up in the hands of the imperialists, which — besides tradition and "it's not our way" — was a primary justification given by T'Challa and others for keeping Wakanda hidden from the world.
In the end, the conservative king wins, but ey learns that ey does have a duty to the world's people. A big part of T'Challa's change in perspective comes when the pedestal ey has built for tradition and blindly following eir father's path is torn down by the discovery of the family secret. The appearance of Killmonger is a huge turning point for T'Challa. T'Challa comes to see Killmonger as a monster who was created by eir own father's hands. T'Challa sees how an adherence to tradition and isolation actually alienates people, such as young Eric, who T'Challa feels should otherwise be included in the Wakandan umbrella of aid and help.
So T'Challa comes to finally agree with Nakia and Killmonger that Wakanda has a moral obligation to share its expertise. Unfortunately, in spite of all Wakanda's international spies, King T'Challa still fails to correctly assess the balance of forces, and the friends and enemies of the oppressed. The last scene of the movie shows T'Challa making a speech at the United Nations, announcing that Wakanda will begin sharing its technology and knowledge with the world. Ey also buys a few buildings in Oakland, California to open Wakanda's first youth outreach and education center.
If T'Challa really wanted to help the world's oppressed, ey could use Wakanda's technology of being able to stay hidden in plain sight, and its reputation as a nonthreatening farming nation, to build the strength of an underground army, to soon fight the oppressors for dual power, and then freedom, including an end of capitalism. Rather than going to the UN and announcing "Hey! We're organizing and doing cool shit that will threaten your power! Watch us closely!" ey could do this discretely and very successfully. It seems T'Challa moved from conservative to liberal, and didn't quite make the step to true revolutionary.
Regarding ULK 57 and "disability". A deaf person is hearing impacted. A paralyzed person is mobility impacted. Together they are physically impacted. Their physical states are influenced by what impacted them — some ailment, incident, or birth condition.
"Disabled" and "challenged" takes something away, some quality or value of the person, as if they are the sum of their physical condition, objectified. "Disabled" in today's reactionary culture and mindset conveys inferior, a tacit separation that, repeated ritually to and by the impacted person, becomes psychologically embedded and the person feels actually inferior — has self-doubts, is self-conscious.
I've been deaf since age 15 and could never say that I was "deaf" even, but said I had a "hearing problem." When referred to as being "deaf," I felt lower than everyone else. I've gotten over it by now, of course, at age 63, but just to say that semantic runs deep with physically and mentally impacted people, and can be a very sensitive thing. Another angle is that transgender people are considered in Western medicine to have a mental "disorder," and so on. Well, that's my 2¢. The article was rather interesting to me.
MIM(Prisons) responds: Language is an important part of culture, and something that revolutionaries have a responsibility to use for political purpose. So we appreciate this comrade raising criticisms of our use of language in ULK 57.
As a launching off point in this discussion, we will bring up our use of the word [email protected]. We use an @ symbol instead of an 'o' or 'a' to convey multiple political points: the @ is not gender-specific; the term is encompassing an oppressed nation and explicitly rejecting Amerikan labels like "Hispanic."
With that in mind we want to look carefully at this term "disability" to consider these criticisms. We do not want to suggest that someone who cannot hear or cannot see is inferior to someone who can. All people have different abilities. Some of these abilities can be trained, but some are things we're born with. Some people, for instance, are stronger than others. The weaker folks aren't inferior, but they might be better suited to tasks that don't require as much physical strength.
This was discussed in the book Philosophy is No Mystery which describes struggles in a village in revolutionary China. One of the challenges they faced was strong young men acting as if their work was more valuable than that of weaker folks (mostly wimmin, but also elderly people and children). However, upon deeper discussion everyone came to agree that the work done by all was critical to their success, and valuing strength over other types of labor was counter-productive.
Let's address the question of whether the term "disability" is similar to saying a transgendered persyn has a "disorder." Transgender folks are often said to have "gender dysphoria" which is the stress a persyn feels as a result of the sex they were assigned at birth. The assigned sex does not match the persyn's internal identity. That's a situation some transgender people seek to address by changing their physical body to match their internal identity. Transgender folks face a difficult situation that needs resolving for them to lead healthy and happy lives.
It's true that when we hear "disability" we generally think of things we would want to fix. But is that a bad thing? When people have vision problems that can be corrected, we want to use medical science to correct them. For instance, removal of cataracts cures blindness in many people. Similarly, if someone is missing a leg, getting fitted with a prosthesis is often a very good thing. In these situations someone lacks the ability to use a part of their body to its full potential. And in some cases this ability can be restored.
So perhaps the analogy we would make is that missing a leg is like someone being assigned a sex that doesn't match their internal identity. The gender dysphoria they experience before transitioning is like lacking a prosthesis for someone without a leg. Making the transition to a sex or gender expression that matches their identity is for any transgender persyn somewhat analogous to people with physical dis-abilities getting them surgically or prosthetically corrected. If we can resolve gender dysphoria, by changing society or improving the persyn's individual situation, we should do that. Just like if we can provide prosthetic limbs and cataract surgery, we should do that.
Where using the term "disability" becomes more complex and muddy is in cases where the persyn impacted doesn't want to make a change. There are some good examples of this, like neuro-atypical folks who have developed highly specialized skills because of their neurology, but struggle to socialize or interact with other people. Some argue this is not something to be fixed but is just a humyn difference. And so we shouldn't call that a disability, but rather just a different ability. However, in the types of cases that were discussed in the issue of ULK in question, the ailments and physical limitations are things we all agree should be fixed if possible. We don't see anyone arguing that keeping cataracts help people in any way.
The question here is whether we can distinguish between conditions that people don't want to change, differences between humyns, and conditions that people can generally agree we should change if possible. If we can, the term "disability" may be appropriate for the category of conditions we would change if possible. And then the final question we must answer is whether the term "disability" in our social context implies that someone is inferior. As we've already said above, we want to use language to empower and build revolutionary culture. This last point is the most difficult one and we'd like to solicit input from other readers, and especially those who contributed to ULK 57. Send us your thoughts on this topic and we will study it further and publish something in an upcoming issue of Under Lock & Key.
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation depicts the struggles
(if they can be called that) of Clark Griswold. It is Clark's quest to
have the perfect Christmas for eir family: spouse Ellen and children
Audrey and Rusty. Most of the first act of the film is dedicated to
comedically exaggerated petty-bourgeois scenarios in this vein: getting
the right tree, putting up the Christmas lights, shopping for gifts, and
trying to keep the peace among family members (much extended family
arrives in the form of both sets of grandparents, Ellen's cigar-smoking
uncle Lewis and senile aunt Bethany, and Clark's redneck cousin Eddie,
accompanied by eir spouse, children and dog). Christmas books and movies
have long been vessels for anti-capitalist messages, even if they are
tainted by idealism and economism: from Ebenezer Scrooge being
frightened into giving concessions to the proletariat in A Christmas
Carol(1), to the anti-imperialist solidarity of Whoville in How
the Grinch Stole Christmas(2), to the anti-militarism parable of
A Christmas Story(3). And a superficial "reading" of Christmas
Vacation suggests that it may not only follow the same paradigm but
even exceed these works and act as an inspiration for communist
revolution (spoiler alert: the climax of the movie involves the forceful
kidnapping of a member of the bourgeoisie). However, a deeper analysis
reveals that, despite occasional flashes of progressiveness and a candid depiction of the labor aristocracy, the film
does not provide useful guidance for revolution.
Throughout the movie, some potshots are taken at the bourgeoisie, but
nothing too substantial. Clark's next-door yuppie neighbors are depicted
as pretentious snobs, while eir boss is gruff and impersonal. But these
attacks on the bourgeoisie are based on persynal mannerisms, not
economic grounds. Clark is clearly a privileged member of the labor
aristocracy. Ellen doesn't seem to work, and Clark makes enough to
afford a couple of cars and a nice house, which ey bedecks with an
over-the-top lighting display. Clark does not even seem to work hard to
enjoy these things. In the whole movie, ey is shown at work in only
three brief scenes. And in none of those scenes is ey actually engaged
in labor. In the first, ey is chatting at the watercooler. In the
second, ey drops off a gift and unsuccessfully attempts to ingratiate
emself with eir boss. In the third, ey is sitting in eir office, looking
over some plans for a persynal swimming pool. So Clark does not appear
to work that hard, but ey does mention several innovations ey has made
for eir company, which seems to be a manufacturer of chemical food
additives although no manufacturing is ever shown onscreen.
Could Clark's mental labor as a chemist still be exploited by the
bourgeoisie proper? The answer appears to be no: Clark is planning to
pay for eir swimming pool with eir end-of-year bonus. Said bonus
represents compensation for the value ey has produced in excess of eir
salary and thus precludes em from being truly proletarian. Indeed, eir
entire compensation is likely funded by the manufacture of chemicals ey
has designed, presumably by Third World workers. Thus, Clark occupies
the classic position of a labor aristocrat: someone who may be slightly
exploited by the bourgeoisie, but who ultimately receives compensation
in excess of the value of eir labor, as a beneficiary of imperialist
superexploitation of the Third World proletariat.
As the film progresses, the minor and mainly apolitical subplots fade to
the periphery (after some technical difficulties, Clark's light show
wows the family and is never mentioned again), and a political thread
assumes prominence. As it turns out, Clark is really counting on eir
Christmas bonus. In order to expedite the construction of eir pool,
Clark has put down a deposit and written a check that eir bank account
can't cover. Clark is confident that eir performance will earn em a
sizable bonus, but that confidence begins to wane as the days go by
without word from the company. Finally, a messenger arrives on Christmas
Eve with an envelope. Before opening it, Clark, apparently on the knife
edge between luxury and financial ruin, expresses both eir anxiety
regarding eir solvency and eir hope that the check will be large enough
to not only cover the cost of the pool but also airfare to fly over all
the extended family present (ten people!) to enjoy it when it is built.
To much fanfare, Clark opens the envelope and finds that, to eir dismay,
it only contains a subscription to the Jelly-of-the-Month club, a gift
of nugatory value. Enraged, Clark launches into a tirade denouncing eir
boss's perfidy and angrily expresses eir desire to see eir boss tied up.
Taking Clark's words literally, Eddie slips out, locates Clark's boss
(conveniently, Clark mentioned the neighborhood ey lives in during eir
lengthy monologue), and kidnaps em. Bound, gagged, and festooned with a
large ribbon, ey is Eddie's last-minute Christmas gift to Clark.
There are several issues with this scenario.
First, the stakes are very low. The only thing really at risk is Clark's
bonus. Perhaps ey will have to live without the pool for another year.
Perhaps ey will be charged by the bank for a bounced check. Perhaps ey
will even have to forfeit the deposit ey made. But if Clark is low on
cash, that is a problem of eir own making. We are talking about a persyn
who probably spent over three grand just on the electricity for eir
250,000-bulb Christmas light display.(4) If Clark misses out on eir
bonus, what is the big deal? Ey might have to pawn eir lights and forgo
the spectacular light show next year. Eir family might even have to take
fewer of their legendary vacations. But it seems unlikely that they are
in danger of going hungry or having to sell the house or even the car.
Perhaps the aspect of Clark's misfortune which ey most keenly feels —
and which is most relevant to Amerikan audiences — is what it
represents. Denied an explicit share in eir surplus value (ignoring, of
course, that ey still receives a salary of international superprofits),
Clark is confronted by the prospect of eir potential proletarianization.
Scarier than any Ghost of Christmas, the spectre of economic forces
strikes fear into eir heart. Rather than act constructively, however,
Clark, true to eir petty-bourgeois nature, reacts by pointlessly venting
eir rage at eir family. Ey also attempts to ignore the problem by
frantically following family Christmas rituals (providing time in the
narrative for Eddie to complete eir mission with eir absence unnoticed).
The proletariat of the 19th Century may have had to turn to the hard
drug of religion — "the opiate of the masses" (5) — to cope with its
actual oppression, but in Clark's case, nothing so strong is required,
just what might be called the eggnog of the masses: a reading of "The
Night Before Christmas" and also a Tylenol, washed down by a few cups of
So, the stakes are low, but this movie is a comedy. Perhaps the events
depicted can be seen as a microcosm of the proletarian struggle. Would a
mere amplification of things produce a progressive view of international
economic exploitation? Sadly, no. Clark is a member of the labor
aristocracy, with an imperialist, petty-bourgeois, even bourgeois
mindset. Even eir most innocuous actions are tainted with oppression.
Eir actions throughout the film appear to be a re-enactment of
Amerikkkan history and atrocities, down to a roughly chronological
progression from European colonization to Amerikkkan imperialism in the
Pacific. The movie opens with Clark driving eir family to the woods to
chop down a Christmas tree instead of buying one, a handy metaphor for
Amerikkkan theft of the land from Indigenous peoples and destruction of
the environment, as well as a reminder that it was the timber of North
America that originally drew the English colonizers. Next, Clark moves
on to gender oppression. In "The Communist Manifesto", Marx and Engels
wrote that the "bourgeois, not content with having the wives and
daughters of their proletarians at their disposal... take the greatest
pleasure in seducing each other's wives."(6) In multiple ways, Clark
displays these bourgeois ambitions, although ey may be considered only
petty-bourgeois due to eir lack of success. First, while shopping for
Christmas gifts, ey flirts and leers at the female salesclerk. Later, ey
has a daydream about eir pool in which the the vision of eir family
playing is replaced by a fantasy of seduction by a womyn who the
soundtrack implies to be an Indigenous Hawaii'an, thus tying together
the gender and national strands of oppression.
Finally, there is Eddie. Despite eir simple appearance, Eddie is the
fulcrum of one of the biggest paradoxes in the film: is ey a force for
revolution or reaction? An uninvited guest, ey seems to be nothing but a
source of problems, but ey ultimately saves the day with eir actions
against the bourgeoisie. Is ey proletarian? Hardly. It is revealed that
ey has been out of work for seven years. Aha! Perhaps ey is part of the
lumpenproletariat. Even if that were true, ey would be part of the First World lumpen and receive a significant benefit from eir position as a resident of the imperialist u.$. Regardless, the facts reveal that Eddie is no
lumpenproletariat hero. First, the reason for eir protracted
unemployment is that ey is holding out for a management position — a
classic petty-bourgeois aspiration. Furthermore, ey mentions that,
despite having had to trade the home for an RV, ey still retains
ownership in a plot of land, a farm and some livestock. Ey is still petty boourgeois, then; one who, despite reduced circumstances, holds on
to a vestige of the family estate. In addition, another troubling aspect
of Eddie's past is offhandedly revealed. Ey mentions that ey has a plate
in eir head, provided by the VA. Therefore, ey is not just a passive
recipient but an active participant in imperialism: one who enjoys the
privilege of free healthcare in exchange for eir role in aiding Amerikan
war crimes. Despite this, ey does fleetingly provide the film with its
only sliver of appreciation for the destruction wrought by capitalism
and u.$. imperialism. While shopping, Eddie asks Clark "Your company
kill off all them people in India not long ago?", referring to the
Bhopal chemical disaster that killed an estimated 16,000 people and
injured as many as half a million more (7,8). "No, we missed out on that
one," Clark dryly responds, and the conversation moves on, presumably
because Eddie doesn't care. Meanwhile, Eddie causes a chemical disaster
of eir own; after emptying the septic tank of eir RV into the sewer,
subsequent scenes feature interstitial shots of a menacing green smoke
rising from the storm drain.
But let's get back to the action. When we left the
Griswolds, Eddie had just marched Clark's boss into the living room.
Ungagged, eir first instinct is to fire Clark and call the cops. But
after all of 30 seconds, ey has a change of heart. Apparently, all that
was needed was a brief speech by Clark with an addendum by Rusty that
withholding bonuses "sucks" to convince Clark's boss to drop all
charges, reinstate the bonuses, and add another 20% to Clark's bonus.
Clark is so overwhelmed that ey faints.
OK, seriously? If a 20% raise was all that was needed to address the
iniquities of capitalism, MIM(Prisons) would disband and recommend you
vote for Sanders instead. Actually, even that would be too radical.
Fight for 15? More like fight for $8.70. Also, some aspects of Clark's
boss's repentance ring false: ey calls Clark "Carl" and refers to em as
the "little people". Has Clark received a permanent gain or is eir
victory a tenuous and insecure one? We bring this up not to suggest
that Amerikan labor aristocrats are truly oppressed, just to point out
the vanity and futility of imperialism: despite afflicting so much
suffering across the Third World, it has failed to completely resolve
the contradiction between workers and bourgeoisie in Amerika.
Basking in their newfound affluence, however petty it may be, the
Griswolds are rudely interrupted by the arrival of the pigs. Usually not
motivated to do much work, the kidnapping of a member of the bourgeoisie
has kicked the pig machine into high gear, and SWAT teams storm the
Griswold home from every conceivable entrance, including several pigs
rappelling through the windows. (Some pigs even kick down the door of
the neighboring house; although this scene was probably meant to provide
some comic relief and comeuppance to the yuppies, it also wouldn't be
the first or the last time that property and lives were endangered by
pigs getting the address wrong). The deference of the pigs to the
bourgeoisie is further underscored by the arrival of the wife of Clark's
boss in a car driven by a persyn whose heavily decorated dress uniform
marks em as the chief of police. This persyn would also be identified by
most viewers, on the basis of eir skin color, as "black". In fact, ey is
the only non-white character with a speaking role in the entire movie.
This detail is significant on several levels. First, the fact that the
Griswolds live in Chicago, a city with substantial New Afrikan and
[email protected] populations, but appear to interact exclusively with white
Amerikkkans represents an likely-inadvertent, but nonetheless true-to-life, depiction of
the highly segregated nature of housing and employment in Chicago.
Second, we must wonder: what was the motivation of the moviemakers in
casting a New Afrikan in this role? It could be mere tokenism, giving
the sole New Afrikan actor a role that is effectively a chauffeur. Or
perhaps they were being ironic, casting a New Afrikan as the head of the
pigs, the institution that has perhaps committed the most violence
against New Afrikans in recent decades. One shudders to think that
perhaps they thought they were being progressive by casting a New
Afrikan in a strategically Euro-Amerikan role and creating the illusion
of an egalitarian, racially-integrated police force. The true
contradiction in Amerikkka is that of nation, not race. Hence, a persyn
who might be labeled as non-white can still, in some cases, manage to
join the Amerikkkan nation and rise to the role of head pig (or even, as
in the case of Barack Obama, war-criminal-in-chief); the situation in
this film, then, seems prescient of the modern-day prominence of sheriff
Clarke of Milwaukee, another midwestern town. Perhaps a Christmas comedy
is the wrong place to look for an inspiring depiction of New Afrikan
revolutionaries, but it is still unfortunate that all we have been given
is a bootlicker to the bourgeoisie.
Many people have been killed by trigger-happy pigs, and a kidnapping on
Christmas Eve seems like the kind of high-stakes situation that would
bring in the pigs with guns blazing, but the predicament faced by the
Griswolds is resolved with miraculous ease. After Clark's boss explains
the situation, everybody relaxes, although Clark's boss is still
admonished all-around for his idea of cutting Christmas bonuses (the
head pig even says that ey'd like to beat em with a rubber hose — a
seemingly progressive action that, due to its focus on individual
retribution, is actually little more than adventurism; and even that
idea comes across as an outburst that is never fulfilled). What about
Eddie's toxic waste spill? An errant match tossed by Uncle Lewis ignites
it, but the resulting explosion only serves to launch a plastic Santa
and reindeer into the air, creating the perfect Christmas tableau in the
sky and prompting a confused Aunt Bethany to spontaneously break into a
rendition of the "Star-Spangled Banner". As the Griswolds and the pigs
dance to Christmas songs in the house, Clark stands on the lawn and
basks in eir achievement. "I did it," ey says. The perfect family
But for us communists, things are far from perfect. Any
potentially lumpen characters in the movie, who may have been teetering
between revolution and reaction, have, by the film's end, fallen firmly
on the side of reaction. Everyone else — the labor aristocrats, the
bourgeoisie, pigs — was already there. This movie is best enjoyed not as a blueprint for revolution but as a satire of the Amerikan way of life. It offers hints of Amerikan brutality both domestically and abroad, as well as a depiction of the manner by which government institutions become tools of the bourgeoisie. But most of all, it exposes the reactionary nature of the labor aristocracy: the decadence of its "workers", the hypocrisy of its "morals" and the futility of any "revolutionary" action among the beneficiaries of imperialism.
The brief flicker of revolutionary action that does occur is quickly
extinguished due to its limited scope and unsystematic nature. As Lenin
once said, "When the workers of a single factory or of a single branch
of industry engage in struggle against their employer or employers, is
this class struggle? No, this is only a weak embryo of it" (9). How
ironic then, that on the (probably mythical) day of Jesus' birth, the
embryo of revolution was delivered as a stillbirth. Let us look forward,
then, to December 26: the (real) day of Mao's birth. Beyond eir persynal
achievements, ey stands as a symbol of real revolution. A genuine
proletarian revolution, not a phony one led by Amerikkkan "workers",
promises real solutions to the real problems facing the world: an end to
the insatiable exploitation by capitalists, an end to the callous
destruction of the environment, an end to the violence perpetrated every
day by pigs. When that day comes, the workers of the world will unite
and we can sing the "Internationale" together.