'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Guest Blogger for September 

Joe is departing for parts unknown, so the blog has been turned over to me. Hopefully, he is travelling somewhere that will enable him to escape, at least partially, the ubiquitous communications technologies that shape our lives. Having just spent two weeks in Venezuela, bound to a relentless Global Exchange tour schedule that sharply reduced radio, television and Internet access to a bare minimum (not to mention the obvious fact that I don't understand Spanish very well), I can confidently say that there is something quite liberating about being compelled to focus your attention on other living, breathing human beings. Similarly, I went over a week without knowing anything that was transpiring in the United States, and that was wonderful. Somebody mentioned that Peter Jennings had died, and I thought that they were delusional. Likewise, I had no idea that Cindy Sheehan was intensifying middle class opposition to the war, something that I described here a few months ago. Unfortunately, it seems just about impossible to escape cell phones.

As frequent readers of this blog already know, I live in Northern California, and co-host a radio program, with an emphasis upon peace, civil rights, labor and environmental issues, on KDVS 90.3 FM in Davis, CA. It is possible to listen to KDVS programming live over the Internet, and shows are archived for one week after broadcast. Sadly, it appears that KDVS is a great rarity, a non-commericial, free form radio station administered by a student cooperative, with complete control over content, except for limitations imposed by the FCC. Amazingly, people in Venezuela were delighted by my involvement in alternative radio, which, in retrospect shouldn't have been such a big surprise given monolithic opposition to Chavez in the private media, and it was frequently highlighted during translated introductions.

Many of my postings during September will be based upon my observations during my time in Venezuela. Furthermore, Richard Gott has just published an updated version of his book about Chavez, now titled Hugo Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution, and I hope to post a review of it as well. As a journalist with a long history of covering Central and South America, Gott provides an invaluable perspective about what has politically transpired in Venezuela over the last 20 years. Other possibilities include posts about the dire conditions faced by workers in China, as recently discussed in Granta and the New Left Review, and a review of a new edition of David Cortwright's Soldiers in Revolt, his book about rebellion inside the US military during the Vietnam War. Howard Zinn correctly observes in the introduction that this reissue couldn't be more timely.

Over the last few months, I have blogged periodically here about current events, but usually in an elliptical way outside of the news cycle. For me, it is important to blog about things that are frequently ignored by both the media and activists. Personally, I believe that there is a need to reconstruct a social and cultural understanding of our political beliefs, a need to place them in broader, more enduring context. With this in mind, I hope that you find my posts of interest. If not, don't worry, Joe and his incisive commentary will return. And, in the meantime, who knows? Joe might just stop by every now and then when you least expect it.

--Richard Estes

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