capitalism Archives - The Jose Vilson


Blood Money

by Jose Vilson on September 26, 2011

in Jose

Recently, someone asked me in response to something they read about whether or not someone’s opinions shift based on whether they were getting paid for said opinions or not. It depends on what we mean by “shift.” Of course, if you throw a million dollars and the person throwing you the money gives you specific direction on what you’re going to spend it on and the ideals of the payment, it makes sense. If you’re at work and you’re asked to give your honest opinion about the job, you’re going to try and sand the edges of your message before you give them the real. Money has powers of influence whether we’re in a prosperous economy or not. Man makes the money, not the other way around. However, it becomes a factor in whatever decision one makes when it gets involved.

Having said that, there’s been plenty of discussion around money from ed-deformer organizations like the Walsh Foundation or the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, two organizations whose education motives have leaned to assure higher stakes testing, charter schools, and teacher accountability at any cost. (full disclosure: I am on the board of directors for an organization that is a grantee of the latter.) For the most part, I agree with that crowd. Then, I hit a snag when I think pre-1994, and even before the founding of this country. Whenever we speak of money in “blood,” it makes me think how myopic we’ve become about the idea of money and how generations of this money we hold dear have traded hands from “good” to “evil” in a matter of a cycle. Whereas one person used the very same bills I hold for street drugs, another could have used them for pharmaceuticals to nurse their ailments. One person might use it to enrich themselves, and another might use it to empower others.

One person might used it for someone’s exploitation while another uses it for another’s liberation.

Monies, no matter how minty fresh in our hands, has a legacy, a history every time you make a transaction with it. Thus, even when we don’t realize it, the money we have in our hands was used for onerous intentions at one point or another. A very small percentage of us can truly say that the materials we use currently, much less the land we stand on, doesn’t privilege us on a material level to the detriment of someone else on the planet who needs it. The diamonds that power our computer devices had someone to purify them from the drip stains of African men’s fingers. The threads of the sheets that help us sleep at night were worth a few cents and 12-hour work days halfway around the world.

Alas, I recognize my role in the contradictions we perpetuate in the human condition.

So I ask myself whether we’ve always had such ideas about the purity of money or do we just reserve that for the people who we believe have the wrong ideas that don’t benefit us directly. To wit, when Bill and Melinda Gates funded the Coalition of Essential Schools and plenty of art and music programs in schools, nary a peep came out of anyone but some of my truest (socialist) friends … and me. Somewhere along the way, he changed his ideals, and soon he’ll change his ideals again after seeing the failed undertakings of neo-coning the entire nation. These events don’t happen in isolation, but as a string of pieces we ought to inspect more closely.

Further, let’s carefully note the things those grantees actually do with the money that’s passed onto them and not what’s assumed. Fortunately for us, in the age of Google, we have tons of evidence about how shifted people’s opinions became once money entered their coffers. Otherwise, we ought to look at the precedents set in the center of our bills.

Mr. Vilson, who understands the value of a dollar …


Still Here, Still Alive, and Still Writing

by Jose Vilson on November 17, 2010

in Jose

Rodolfo Walsh

I‘ve had Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine on my bookshelf since Rachel Maddow recommended it about a year ago, but at the pace I read (and buy) books, I don’t get to many of them unless a divine spirit intervenes. Something did, and I pushed it up to the top of my list, fortunately. I haven’t finished it, but what an appropriate book for these times of deceit and corporatism (I know, I repeated myself).

I’m usually not a fan of taking entire chunks of books and giving them out to the public without prior consent (-wink wink-), but this whole excerpt inspired me so much, I’ve decided to share it with the rest of you. Please go buy the book in whichever form you choose. (Amazon)

To be a leftist in those years was to be hunted. those who did not escape to exile were in a minute-by-minute struggle to stay one step ahead of the secret police – an existence of safe houses, phone codes, and false identities. One of those people living that life in Argentina was the country’s legendary investigative journalist Rodolfo Walsh. A gregarious Renaissance man, a write of crime fiction and award-winning short stories, Walsh was also a super sleuth able to crack military codes and spy on the spies. His greatest investigative triumph took place when he was working as a journalist in Cuba, where he managed to intercept and decode a CIA telex that blew the cover of the Bay of Pigs invasion. That information is what allowed Castro to prepare for and defend against the invasion.

When Argentina’s previous military junta had banned Peronism and strangled democracy, Walsh decided to join the argmed Montonero movement as their intelligence expert. That put him at the very top of the generals’ Most Wanted list, with every new disappearance bringing fresh fears that information extracted by the picana would lead the police to the safe hourse he had secured with his partner, Lilia Ferreyra, in a small village outside Buenos Aires.

From his vast network of sources, Walsh had been trying to track the junta’s many crimes. He compiled lists of the dead and disappeared, the locations of mass graves and of secret torture centers. He prided himself on his knowledge of the enemy, but in 1977 even he was stunned by the furious brutality that the Argentine junta had unleashed on its own people. In the first year of military rule, dozens of his close friends and colleagues had disappeared in the death camps, and his twenty-six-year-old daughter, Vicki, was also dead, driving Walsh mad with grief.

But with Ford Falcons circling, a life of quiet mourning was nor available to him. Knowing his time was limited, Walsh made a decision about how he would mark the upcoming one-year anniversary of junta rule with the official papers lavishing praise on the generals for having saved the country, he would write his own, uncensored, version of the depravity into which his country had descended. It would be titled, “Am Open Letter From a Writer to the Military Junta,” and it was composed, Walsh wrote, “without hope of being listened to, with the certainty of being perscuted, true to the commitment I took up a long time ago, to bear witness in difficult times.”

The letter would be the decisive condemnation of both the methods of state terror and the economic system they served. Walsh planned to circulate his “Open Letter” the way he had distributed previous communiques from the underground: by making ten copies, then posting them from different mailboxes to select contacts who would distribute them further. “I want to let those fuckers know that I’m still here, still alive, and still writing,” he told Lilia as he sat down at his Olympia typewriter.

(emphases mine)

The rest of the chapter outlines the letter’s gory and truly shocking details about the junta’s inhumane war methods. Plus, we find out what eventually comes of this great writer, who sounds less like the hermit sitting on his cherry oak desk sipping on tea and more like the action heroes we fawn over as a culture. In this day and age, people too often take the written word lightly, as if everyone who comes across a keyboard can communicate in this form in a way that expresses urgency and impetus.

In the case of Rodolfo Walsh, his life is the energy behind his writing, and the more pure the writing, the more we can inject his writing into our veins. Naomi’s writing made me feel like I was observing at the same time she was, through the life of a man on the run trying to find global justice. Everyday for him was an opportunity to open someone else’s eyes to what he was living through, providing evidence for us that he lived and was never dead in the process.

With writing like that, he’s still here, still alive, and still writing.