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Daring Young Men

Daring Young Men

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Youth in Revolt: The Plague of State-Sponsored Violence

Posted on Mar 14, 2012
Jessierocks (CC-BY)

Young people attend an Occupy demonstration in early October 2011.

By Henry Giroux, Truthout

This piece originally appeared at Truthout.

Young people are demonstrating all over the world against a variety of issues ranging from economic injustice and massive inequality to drastic cuts in education and public services. At the moment, these demonstrations are being met with state-sanctioned violence and insults in the mainstream media rather than with informed dialogue, critical engagement and reformed policies. In the United States, the state monopoly on the use of violence has intensified since the 1980s and, in the process, has been increasingly directed against young people, poor minorities, immigrants and increasingly women. As the welfare state is hollowed out, a culture of compassion is replaced by a culture of violence, cruelty and disposability. Collective insurance policies and social protections have given way to the forces of economic deregulation, the transformation of the welfare state into punitive workfare programs, the privatization of public goods and an appeal to individual responsibility as a substitute for civic responsibility. Under the notion that unregulated market-driven values and relations should shape every domain of human life, the business model of governance has eviscerated any viable notion of social responsibility while furthering the criminalization of social problems and cut backs in basic social services, especially for the poor, young people and the elderly.(1) Within the existing neoliberal historical conjuncture, there is a merging of violence and governance and the systemic disinvestment in and breakdown of institutions and public spheres, which have provided the minimal conditions for democracy.

As young people make diverse claims on the promise of a radical democracy, articulating what a fair and just world might be, they are increasingly met with forms of physical, ideological and structural violence. According to, “There have been at least 6705 arrests in over 112 different cities as of March 6, 2012.”(2) Abandoned by the existing political system, young people in Oakland, California; New York City; and numerous other cities are placing their bodies on the line, protesting peacefully while trying to produce a new language, politics, long-term institutions and “community that manifests the values of equality and mutual respect that they see missing in a world that is structured by neoliberal principles.”(3) This movement is not simply about reclaiming space, but also about producing new ideas, generating a new conversation and introducing a new political language. Rejecting the notion that democracy and markets are the same, young people are calling for an end to the corporate control of the commanding institutions of politics and culture, poverty, the suppression of dissent and the permanent war state. Richard Lichtman is right in insisting that this movement should be praised for its embrace of communal democracy as well as an emerging set of shared concerns, principles and values articulated “by a demand for equality, or, at the very least, for a significant lessening of the horrid extent of inequality; for a working democracy; for the elimination of the moneyed foundation of politics; for the abolition of political domination by a dehumanized plutocracy; for the replacement of ubiquitous commodification by the reciprocal recognition of humanity in the actions of its agents.”(4) As Arundhati Roy points out, what connects the protests in the United States to resistance movements all over the globe is that young people are realizing that “they know that their being excluded from the obscene amassing of wealth of US corporations is part of the same system of the exclusion and war that is being waged by these corporations in places like India, Africa and the Middle East.”(5) Of course, Lichtman, Roy, and others believe that this is just the beginning of a movement and that much needs to be done, as Staughton Lynd argues, to build new strategies, a vast network of new institutions and public spheres, a community of trust and political organization that invites poor people into its ranks.(6)

All of these issues are important, but what must be addressed in the most immediate sense is the threat the emerging police state in the United States poses not to just the young protesters occupying a number of American cities, but also the threat it poses to democracy itself as a result of the merging of a war-like mentality and neoliberal mode of discipline and education in which it becomes difficult to reclaim the language of obligation, social responsibility and civic engagement. Unless the actions of young protesters, however diverse they may be, is understood within the language of a robust notion of the social, civic courage and the imperatives of a vital democracy, it will be difficult for the American public to resist state violence and the framing of protests, dissent and civic responsibility as un-American or, at worst, a species of criminal behavior.


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By gerard, March 16, 2012 at 11:26 am Link to this comment

balkas: My point was that people who write headlines need to say what the author means, and not just throw some words approximately in the direction of the author’s theme in order to catch people’s   attention.

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By balkas, March 15, 2012 at 8:06 am Link to this comment

perhaps HG meant to say: “youth in revolt agaisnt state-sponsored
this can be illated from what he says in his piece. in any case-and in
spite of putting it wrongly- i understood it as i said above.

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By balkas, March 15, 2012 at 7:59 am Link to this comment

kiddie school=doggie school of obedience=KZ lager. this was noticed by
some at least a century ago.

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By balkas, March 15, 2012 at 7:45 am Link to this comment

HG: “as war becomes a mode of sovereignty, it erodes the distinction
between war and peace”.
this statement appears to some degree inaccurate/inadequate. for one
factor, it doesn’t include a vital fact: that said distinction does not exist
in US because US had not ever been at an usual war, in which an army
engages another army of equal or thereabouts strength on own and/or
theirs or own soil. 
so, enduring such US wars or rather raids, incursions, variety acts of
war, blockades, invasions in order to stop spread of socialism-
communism; protect people, spread democracy, can be endured
effortlessly/helplessly and often thoughtlessly/uncaringly by vast % of
americans; usually called silent majority .

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By balkas, March 15, 2012 at 7:16 am Link to this comment

natch, an army, spy agencies, and police [private included] will be used
by the 1% against home pop and not just ‘alien’ and disobedient world
if ‘lesser-valued’ people and peoples remain obedient and show piety to
personal and national supremacism [such as for the ashkenazic or
anglosaxon-ashkenazic voelker (folks), there will be peace on earth and
not before. also spricht bozhidarevski, thanks

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By balkas, March 15, 2012 at 6:47 am Link to this comment

yes, i’ve been fervently hoping that world youths would one day notice
that 99.99% of them would continue to be left out, used as meat for wars
or as oppressors of own people here in US and in much of the world; and
also remain dependents on unseen/secluded/protected by police people
without any degree of humanity in them.
however, in some parts of europe there appears little awakening now by
but we can expect it! thanks

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By CassandraSpeaks, March 15, 2012 at 1:13 am Link to this comment

This is an excellent article, and I appreciate Gerald’s comment as well. I don’t think we’ve reached the tipping point yet, but we should start thinking about what to do in November.

Obama and Romney are both warmongering, 1%-loving, corporatist, neoliberal neofascists. Their different rhetoric at this point reflects the difference in their parties’ bases, not actual differences in philosophy, ethics or styles of governance.

When Bush was president, most Democrats did speak out against the wars, rights violations and abuses of power, but their vocal cords were paralyzed on March 20, 2009. This proves, of course, that they are just unprincipled, partisan hypocrites, but at least their opposition could help curb the abuses.

As crazy as it may sound, that is why I, a lifelong liberal Democrat, will vote for Romney over Obama, unless there is a viable third-party candidate such as Kucinich or Gary Johnson.

We can ill afford another 4 years of Obama.

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By do over, March 14, 2012 at 9:27 pm Link to this comment

Corruption saturates society, top to bottom, therefore, change will not result from well researched articles, debates, etc.  Those methods have failed.

Change will take place differently.  ______________________________
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
Richard Buckminster Fuller

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By gerard, March 14, 2012 at 6:48 pm Link to this comment

A poor headline,  again:  “Youth in Revolt: The Plague of State-Sponsored Violence”  What?  Really?
the youth in revolt are a plague—of State-sponsored Violence?  Excuse me, but that gives a completely false impression of the content of the article. I read this in Truthout yesterday and was bowled over by the stupidity of the caption.  Who writes these things?

Now—here’s for starters, the most important idea in the piece which has to be put across to the 99% a.s.a.p. “This movement is NOT simply about reclaiming space, but also about producing new ideas, generating a new conversation and introducing a new political language. Rejecting the notion that democracy and markets are the same, young people are calling for an end to the corporate control of the commanding institutions of politics and culture, poverty, the suppression of dissent and the permanent war state.  This movement is not simply about reclaiming space, but also about PRODUCING NEW IDEAS, GENERATING A NEW CONVERSATION AND INTRODUCING A NEW POLITICAL LANGUAGE, CALLING FOR AN END TO THE CORPORATE CONTROL OF THE COMMANDING INSTITUTIONS OF POLITICS AND CULTURE, POVERTY, THE SUPPRESSION OF DISSENT AND THE PERMANENT WAR STATE.” 
  If we permit this beginning movement to be suppressed, we will lose everything we ever thought we had, including our own humanity. Nothing is half as important.
  This movement is in no way a “plague” of “state-sponsored violence”—it is a gift we scarcely deserve!
  (Again, of course I know Giroux didn’t MEAN that; but THAT’S WHAT THE HEADLINE SAYS!)

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