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Worlds in Collision: Blacks and the 21st Century Global Agenda by Brad Lena

Are the aspirations of the black community, here and abroad, in conflict with rapidly emerging global trends? If the constraints to liberty and self-determination are overcome, will black people, having finally gained the freedom and perhaps the compensation to fully engage the economic, political and social structures discover that these structures have been altered and blacks are again precluded or excluded from participation? Are attempts to correct historical exploitation, brutality and oppression, regardless of the morality or justice of these actions, similar to rearranging the pieces on a chessboard for a game that has already been played? Many academics, politicians, lawyers, and celebrities would surely respond with a resounding no. Arguments, however, that the answer could be a qualified yes, given the current migration towards authoritarian governance here in the US and within transnational institutions, are not without merit. Even cursory glances at geopolitical events indicate a rapid movement towards global governance. The emergence of transnational institutions, with unprecedented regulatory powers, may not be a benign development regarding the aspirations of black people. The list of these institutions is long and growing. They assert transnational regulatory control pertaining to politics, commerce, social and family structures, sexuality, gender, labor, science, law, environment, education, energy, etc. Granted, these powers are not fully operationally or, as of yet, uniformly enforceable.

At the heart of my unease, and the building blocks of these trends, is the fundamental reassessment of what it means to a human being as defined by European and American elites. There are several readily observable trends in philosophy, evolutionary biology and psychology, neuroscience and reproductive sciences in which the status of humanity is being reevaluated, redefined or downgraded. Author Tom Wolfe summed up these emerging attitudes in his remarks to recent a graduating class of Duke students. He said, "Let's not kid ourselves. We're all concatenations of molecules containing DNA, hard wired into a chemical analog computer known as the human brain, which as software has a certain genetic code. And your idea that you have a soul or even a self, much less free will, is just a illusion." Doesn't sound like a recipe for liberty to me. In fact, it is decidedly utilitarian. Since black people have borne the burden of utilitarian philosophies that considered them less that fully human, alarm bells should be going off. Contrast the view of people like Tom Wolfe with this - "We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God-given rights...Before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth, we were here. Before the pen of Jefferson etched the majestic words of the Declaration of Independence across the pages of history, we were here. For more than two centuries our forebears labored in this country without wages; they made cotton king; they built the homes of their masters while suffering gross injustice and shameful humiliation - and yet out of a bottomless vitality they continued to thrive and develop. If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands." - M.L.King - Letter from Birmingham jail

Embodied in these two remarks are radically different appreciations of what it means to be human and consequently what demands humans can make on political, social and economic systems. The recent World Summit in Johannesburg brought the conflict between these two visions of humanity into a more concrete expression. The mindset of those favoring Mr. Wolfe's understanding of what it means to be human were best exemplified by certain non-governmental organizations, radical environmentalists and various transnational regulating agencies primarily from "1st world"countries. Their views on "sustainable" development, what forms of energy are acceptable, systems of education, social dynamics, the role of culture, etc., were forcefully articulated and revealed a much more restrained notion of the human being. An environmental activist, commenting on the eve of the summit, even offered that the introduction of electricity to certain remote villages would be detrimental to the local culture. Needless to say, this opinion came from a person who had access to electricity 7 x 24 x 365. How the people in the villages in question felt about the introduction of electricity was unreported. The implications are quite clear. If, for example, the best chance for energy required hydroelectric development and that would disturb certain species of fish, bio-diversity or the landscape, it may simply not be allowed and if policy requires forced relocation of certain indigenousness people (where have you heard that before,) from "sensitive" areas it may be a small price to pay especially if those in question are just "concatenations of molecules" with chemically induced delusions of self, free-will and of course, quaint notions of self-determination. What of the "developing" countries in attendance? Some (siding with Dr. King's understanding,) sensing the discrimination and fraud, scientific and moral, inherent in eco-colonialism took exception to attitudes that could condemn them to endless poverty. Africa has and continues to pay a heavy price in human terms resulting from oppression and exploitation as well as ecological and philosophical biases against certain pesticides such as DDT. But hey, what's the annual death of 2.5 million (mostly Africans & children according to WHO) a year from malaria in order for predominately white environmentalists to save the planet from humanity. The aspirations of blacks in America could also face new constraints from the reengineering of American culture, law, education and politics in order to align with global mandates and aspirations.

The hallmark of 20th Century governance, as exemplified by Europe and its American cousin, was the unprecedented regulation of social, economic and political activity through the coercion and compulsion of their own people and anybody else they could get their hands on. For blacks, the conditions of coercion, compulsion, not to mention outright oppression and enslavement has been horrifically longer. The emerging global governance of the 21st Century does not seem especially promising to those who value liberty and self-determination black or not. The introduction of eco-colonialism, however, is particularly vile especially coming from the intellectual and literal descendents of the first colonizers. This development, along with those who seek to philosophically and scientifically downgrade the human being, should be resisted with every fiber in every being whose ancestors, existing family members and peers have had their worth as human beings defined or denied by others. I pray that it is so.

Brad Lena is a regular contributor to Mr. Lena is based in Asheville, NC and can be reached at

Brad Lena

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

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