REVIEWING IMAGINE MIAMI
Imagination Makes a Cloudy Day Sunny
A Reactionary Rhapsody on Farewell to the Working Class,
The School is Dead, Long Live the School!
Pedagogy of the Oppressed,
Resurrect Classical Liberty,
Reclaim the Precedence of Idiographic over Nomothetic Studies,
Be Realistic and Demand the Impossible
January 1, 2011
By David Arthur Walters
THE MIAMI MIRROR
In June of 2005, I believed the U.S. economy was about to go to hell in a hand-basket, and that the dive would be led by Miami, at least figurative speaking, for much of what was wrong with the boom was made obvious in the Magic City.
I noticed that Eduardo Padron, the remarkable president of Miami Dade College, had also foreseen the collapse, and he had rightly attributed its probability to the usual suspect, the rapidly increasing gap between rich and poor. But I disagreed with his solution; he perhaps thought it was radical from his perspective as a member of the power elite, but I perceived it as just another continuation of business as usual.
Now in my 2005 essay entitled ‘Imagine Miami’s Future’ (below), I presented an ominous vision of what might happen in Miami without radical reform; my image was something that Mr. Padron, with his memory of the Revolution in Cuba, no doubt thought of but would not dare to publicly state, for people would laugh at such an image and write its source off as nutcase or perhaps someone who had better be whisked off to Guantanamo, where far more political prisoners have been imprisoned by the United States than Cuba has imprisoned elsewhere in Cuba.
My depiction was plainly rhetorical. I did not really expect such a disaster to occur. I did expect and still expect nothing short of an apocalypse or an uncovering of the truth about the merits of our way of life unless radical reforms are made. Mr. Padron’s “Imagine Miami” idealist social solution did not and will not work, although it might be fun to participate in. Unemployment now exceeds 13 percent in Miami Dade County, where expectations ran sky high with the condo skyscrapers just a few years ago. An unemployment rate may run far higher for decades without great social upheavals in countries where expectations are not abruptly disappointed, where grinding poverty is a way of life. But we are talking about the Magic City upon which the vicinity thrives.
Ironically, unemployment and underemployment and stagnant and falling income can be seen as a good thing. That is, provided that the unemployed and underemployed can be organized for radical reform. Workers are too busy working, too opiated by competitive consumption and brainwashed by its ideological representations in mainstream media during leisure hours to conjure up and press for radical reform. Miami Dade College could help with that reform during the downturn instead of perpetuating more of the same business as usual. Education is not the solution to everything, but this great community college purportedly serves the community, and community leaders might try leading the unemployed to revolt and lead the community to liberty from the degradation of environment and the decline of civilization, instead of churning out graduates for jobs that are or may be demanded by businesses who would rather not pay for the education or anything else not immediately related to the bottom line and share price.
That task would not be easy, however, for students accepted by colleges have already had eighteen or more years of cradle-to-college indoctrination into a political-economic system that inculcates blind obedience in the name of individual freedom. The selfishness of depersonalizing individualism alienates individuals from community, from themselves as social creatures. The social ideal or god is the exchange unit; a great deal of time and money – time or life is equated with money – must be expended on the education ritual in order to obtain not so much the knowledge and skills but to acquire the merit badges needed for higher wages. The higher the education, the more expensive it is, and the bigger the payoff.
Naturally, the highest education is most affordable to the higher classes. There is admittedly some circulation of individuals from the lower and middle classes to the higher classes, but not much. The rags-to-riches winner is exalted as an example by the proponents of the hierarchical system as proof that any poor slob with enough college credits and other competitive merits can get rich in America. So effective is this propaganda that countless poor slobs support politicians who rob them blind as they keep the wealthy entrenched. Well, not everyone can fit on the apex of the pyramid, no matter how highly they are educated.
The promise of good jobs for everyone that gets a good education, not to mention the promise that almost everyone can get a good education in a republic, is a fraudulent misrepresentation. Colleges and universities are funnels designed not only to sort and educate the most talented individuals for service to the power elite, but to sort out the most obedient ones as well. Since students have already been indoctrinated at an early age into the ruling order, they are unlikely to rebel against it at the college or university.
As we can see from recent news abroad, what students rebel against is anything that might radically change the existing order they are struggling to master, i.e. business as usual, or that would increase the cost of mastering it. Students in Great Britain riot in response to tuition increases; that would of course widen the gap between the rich and poor; the proponents of business-as-usual have no objections to the raise in tuition, and instruct the students to conform, adjust, and accept the inevitable economic necessity – there is just not enough room at the top. In Venezuela students riot in response to a government mandating inclusion of socialism courses in in the curricula; we might think any modern liberal university would make sure that the socialist perspective be part of the curricula to ameliorate the classical economic liberalism agenda; think again.
Once radical leaders like Eduardo Padron – radical because he thought that poor and underprivileged Cubans could be as good as good as other Americans if educated to their cultural standards – might influence the mores of that community; for example, by changing the emphasis from the quantitative production of anything that might be sold because someone wants it no matter how ridiculous, wasteful and destructive it might be, to an emphasis on what is really worth being produced to improve the general quality of life, and how to make a living doing just that. And valuable Spanish and Latin American experiences, such as the enormously successful Mondragon cooperative system founded Spain, the fabricas sin latrones movement in Argentina, and so on, together with revolutionary techniques of all sorts, should be presented at Miami Dade College.
Miami Dade College, the greatest community college in the nation, has become, despite its “liberal” or “socialist” pretensions, a zombie-like brainwashing institution for the power elite, and it is doing that job inefficiently, wasting a great deal of taxpayer money in the process. Of course it is not alone in its indoctrinating endeavor; public education is politically designed to render the population docile and inure it to massive obedience to the social aristocracy, who emerge, most often from the best universities and the most privileged families, to rule the country according to business as usual.
Miami Dade College emphasizes educating students for inclusion in the workforce that they may lead productive lives in the sense of adding to the gross produce and consuming it while providing an ample surplus to the power elite. Roughly 70% of Miami Dade College graduates have degrees associated with liberal arts or general studies as opposed to vocational specializations. A liberal arts education is often scoffed at as a means to employment in our age of increasing specialization, but employers do value the more rounded or social education that liberal arts studies cultivates in contrast to the development of narrow technical and professional skills. Besides, the liberal arts student normally majors in a special field of study. A poll of students would naturally find that their motive for attending college is ultimately to get a job.
Now liberal arts studies still include philosophy. The subject of philosophy used to be true to its name: philosophy was studied to inspire the love of wisdom, the sort of wisdom that would liberate the human being from occupational enslavement. Today the liberal arts student may desire, for example, a general management or executive position that would free him from not only menial physical labor or laboring as a “technological nigger” but from the mean-mindedness of the professions that require a high academic qualification. But the classical liberal education went much further, to liberate the human being from money-grubbing altogether. To that end, we quote Seneca:
“You have been wishing to know my views with regard to liberal studies. My answer is this: I respect no study, and deem no study good, which results in money-making. Such studies are profit-bringing occupations, useful only in so far as they give the mind a preparation and do not engage it permanently. One should linger upon them only so long as the mind can occupy itself with nothing greater; they are our apprenticeship, not our real work. Hence you see why "liberal studies" are so called; it is because they are studies worthy of a free-born gentleman. But there is only one really liberal study, - that which gives a man his liberty. It is the study of wisdom, and that is lofty, brave, and great-souled. All other studies are puny and puerile. You surely do not believe that there is good in any of the subjects whose teachers are, as you see, men of the most ignoble and base stamp? We ought not to be learning such things; we should have done with learning them.”
Seneca even denigrated the studies usually associated with liberal arts: “The scholar busies himself with investigations into language, and if it be his desire to go farther afield, he works on history, or, if he would extend his range to the farthest limits, on poetry. But which of these paves the way to virtue? Pronouncing syllables, investigating words, memorizing plays, or making rules for the scansion of poetry, what is there in all this that rids one of fear, roots out desire, or bridles the passions? The question is: do such men teach virtue, or not? If they do not teach it, then neither do they transmit it. If they do teach it, they are philosophers.”
It is not that he declared the liberal arts as we usually know them useless, but as inferior, merely a preparation for receiving the highest education: “What then, you say, do the liberal studies contribute nothing to our welfare? Very much in other respects, but nothing at all as regards virtue. For even these arts of which I have spoken, though admittedly of a low grade - depending as they do upon handiwork - contribute greatly toward the equipment of life, but nevertheless have nothing to do with virtue. And if you inquire, Why, then, do we educate our children in the liberal studies? it is not because they can bestow virtue, but because they prepare the soul for the reception of virtue. Just as that ‘primary course’, as the ancients called it, in grammar, which gave boys their elementary training, does not teach them the liberal arts, but prepares the ground for their early acquisition of these arts, so the liberal arts do not conduct the soul all the way to virtue, but merely set it going in that direction.”
In fine, the ultimate goal of the classical liberal arts education was not a job, as it is today. The aim was the realization of original or radical liberty, absolute freedom from material conditioning, for life would proceed without impediment if it could, even if death or final liberation be its end. For mind to preside over the dynamics of gross matter, which is determined by natural law, individual minds must entertain and debate ideas freely, not to defy physical laws, but to employ them best; not to defy social mores, but to understand them and know that they are subject to revision if we would hold true to the principle of mind over matter and set mankind on its feet with its head in the heavens. We may act conservatively to preserve the status quo, but at least we should think freely and challenge it from time to time. In education a distinction must be carefully drawn between natural and historical sciences. The mind may in reality be fused with the body, but the distinction should still be drawn for our dignity and spiritual progress as human animals. It is in the courses of history that we observe the free play of individuals from time to time that works to liberate the many from the deadening dictates of the few, including the didactics beholden to the power elite for their tenure and who recite by rote business as usual.
Now the modern liberal education, although its philosophy declares metaphysics to be so much nonsense if it does not appertain to modern scientific theory, is often declared useless today, for who needs a liberal education when everyone has already been freed by democracy, science, and high technology? Alas, an inverse relationship between technology and morality appears – the higher the technology, the lower the morality. Why waste time on so-called metaphysical studies when the gross physical product must be increased and consumed, and the world buried in garbage, trash and junk? Still principles of liberty are given lip-service in school as a truly liberal education is ignored; students may then have faith in freedom and feel free when they are consuming, but the most of them are technological slaves. Nothing is perfect or good enough or enough, by the way; what consumers want really is not the product itself but life, the feeling of being alive; but consumption, as addicts learn, can never fully satisfy that craving.
That is, students must conform to the “practical” or “pragmatic” in school or fail, and with failure comes lower pay and unemployment. Then education is blamed for their failure; reforms are proposed, but they constitute little more than a tinkering with the mechanism including the propaganda machine. In order to survive, students must preoccupy themselves with mass production and consumption of “goods” they may not need nor want. If they are to have the basics, they must obey. Their freedom is found in absolute obedience to cultural necessity, just as the spirituals found it in absolute obedience to the dictates of the authorities of their respective churches – a free will is only free to sin and then one must repent to save oneself from eternal damnation by conformity to the community i.e. the mother of culture, the church; original sin is in individuality.
As Everett Reimer aptly said in School is Dead, school has become the "universal church of technological society, incorporating and transmitting its ideology, shaping men's minds to accept this ideology, and conferring social status in proportion to its acceptance.” Furthermore, “It should now be clear why schools have grown so fast. To the masses, and their leaders, they have held out unprecedented hope of social justice. To the elite they have been an unparalleled instrument, appearing to give what they do not, while convincing all that they get what they deserve. Only the great religions provide an analogy, with their promise of universal brotherhood always betrayed.”
There are too many unemployed people, especially in Miami Dade County; may heaven forbid them to organize themselves into a force that might overthrow business as usual and the way education is done, for that might spell political revolution as well. Since business does not want them as they presently are, they had better improve their training or get retrained to fill the jobs that business may or may not have elsewhere now or might have in the future. Education is faulted not only by radical reformers but by businesses that would rather wash its hands of the task of using their trillions of dollars of cash in adding to its own intellectual capital during downtimes for fear of losing it to other firms when business picks up; so everyone must pick up the training and retraining tab. Much of the education sold is divorced from the practical needs of the firms themselves.
What are decent, unemployed or underemployed people to do except go back to school, at least for a sense of order in their lives, if not go into business for themselves if they do not need certification to get a business license? Most unemployed people do not have the temper to become entrepreneurs, inured as they are to deadening schooling and obedience to employers. We are not surprised to hear that enrollment during the downturn is way up at Miami Dade College as well as federal funding – the liberal President is a great friend of community colleges – why, people mistake him for a socialist although he would continue business as usual to save the nation.
Everywhere we hear about the need for more education and more manufacturing of stuff to save this great nation of ours. Yes, we long for the recent past; manufacturing jobs are the thing now, as they provide higher pay. Gone is the idea that American can make a marvelous living at being a highly paid consultant to the rest of the world, and tip its servants very well at home. We had better make our own stuff again, like we did before the wheeler-dealers gutted domestic manufacturing, or so it is said. We shall need more technicians for sure. They will need servants too; the service industry must be better education, the servants must be qualified; eventually burger flippers will have to be certified. A higher and higher education is the democratic ticket to utopia. That utopia has a work ethic: even billionaires must work, preferably long hours. Never mind that 20% of the workforce could be sent home during full employment, to be supported by a minimum guaranteed income, and the same if not more goods and services could be produced. Better yet, pay them to set up creative educational networks to learn to do what they please well.
The awful secret that nobody wants to admit is that there is no way everyone can obtain the “higher” and increasingly expensive education promised, for the “higher” is the higher reaches of the social hierarchy where the luxuries of the privileged are enjoyed. The population is rapidly growing in part due to technological advances; there are already too many people to efficiently and inexpensively educate in schools as we know them given the rate of population growth.
Schools as they are preach innovation but in effect stifle creativity. Most of the schooling time is spent on babysitting, indoctrination, and classifying. Schools for the most part do not inspire students how to discover the True, the Good, and the Beautiful for themselves, but rather inculcate students with the values required to graduate, the greatest value being to remain childlike and to conform to the dictates of authority, thereby losing any initiative they may have had prior to being inducted into the political system that distributes power according to a fine pyramidal division of labor and hands out certificates and merit badges of ability therefor.
Hermes is the messenger of the unruly gods; cheating and lying run rampant in schools despite efforts to stymie it – in this the student perhaps finds some freedom from the rigidity of the zombie school that staggers along according to collective habit. Those who play the game best and get away with the most get to exploit those who do not. "Merit is a smoke screen for the perpetuation of privilege," Mr. Reimer said. Schools are intended to render the population literate so everyone can communicate i.e. understand and obey its rules, but literacy is not so much a product of the schools as the result of having literate parents who provide children with literacy tools at an early age.
Those who succeed have literate parents, access to books in the home, to travel, etc. Literacy develops before schooling and despite schooling. Parents interested in the success of their children in a society whose leaders are most literate hence liberated from ignorance will get them interested in reading and writing first of all, focusing on the ancient liberal trivium: on Grammar – not so much the formal rules of grammar but the best literature in the world; Rhetoric – the art of persuasive expression; Dialectic – the subtle logic of winning arguments. Grammar, again, did not merely inculcate the rules of the language, for what was read first in ancient times were the moral maxims, that the child learn what was most valued by the culture, and the ultimate value was not then, as it is now, money.
We have said that Eduardo Padron was “radical” because he thought that poor and underprivileged Cubans could be as good as good as other Americans if educated to their cultural standards. A milkman by the name of Jorge Mas said Americans could not run Miami so he would run it himself, and he proceeded to do that – if he were still alive, he might be in charge of Cuba. Let us not forget that racist U.S. Congressmen referred to Cubans as “monkeys” on the floor of Congress a nearly a century ago, but now Cuban Americans are seated in Congress. Yes, Cubans unwilling to exchange aristocracy for dictatorship established an aristocracy of sorts in South Florida, and it is said that “Cubans run Miami.” American political standards include the evolution of king, aristocracy and commons into President, Senate, and House of Representatives.
American standards have changed somewhat; there has been a universal socialist revolution continuing within the American Revolution, which was fundamentally no revolution but was rather a reform of the British system, mainly a change of the guard to local governance. But the so-called American Way has become a totalitarian rat race, proceeding along a single trampled path instead of forging new ones. We speak of innovation and of thinking outside of the box only because we are on a treadmill inside of the box, and our innovations as great as they may be are not getting us out of the box but are rather confining us therein and sealing the fate of our progeny.
American standards and values should be subject to dialectical criticism by Americans from cradle to grave. Miami Dade College should resuscitate and embrace the revolution within the American Revolution instead of wholly devoting itself to fitting people into cookie-cutter jobs.
Miami Dade College students may not feel oppressed when oppression is the norm, and they may deny that they are oppressed, just as a depressed person may insist that s/he is not depressed. The oppressed are educated to imitate their oppressors. They have been incorporated into the zombie-like system, have sacrificed their freedom to it, and have little life they can call their own, a life free of cookie-cutter jobs and obsessive-compulsive production-consumption.
Something must be done to free students of educational authoritarianism, to induce the consciousness that education is in fact political; everyone should be mindful of the political ideology underpinning the prevailing system as well as that of the alternatives. Students should be inspired to practice freedom as well as enlightened conformity where cooperation is most beneficial. Most of all, student activism should be encourage. Everyone involved should make sure that education is a joint learning-teaching, cooperative project.
But perhaps we ask for too much at a “community” college. A truly higher educational program would probably not be funded by the federal and state governments as we now have them.
Will her future be revolution or business as usual?
"Ever since the state fell under the sway of a few powerful men... all influence, rank, and wealth have been in their hands. To us they have left danger, defeat, prosecutions, poverty.... What have we left save only the breath of life? ….Is it not better to die valiantly than to lose our wretched and dishonored lives after being the sport of other men's insolence?" Lucius Sergius Cataline
"Those men conduct their affairs well who keep in front of their eyes their own private interest and measure all their actions according to its necessities." Francesco Guicciardini
The Imagine Miami initiative launched by the Human Services Coalition of Dade County is apparently on the move. The group's activities are of inordinate interest not only to the residents of Miami but to people in other cities who are becoming increasingly concerned with the worsening gap between the rich and the poor. The nation is on the verge of a grave domestic crisis. The organized neoconservative attack on the liberal consensus implemented by the Reagan administration has finally resulted in a great fault in our society, a divide that threatens to destroy it unless concerted action is taken forthwith.
Miami's current claim to fame is that it is the supermodel for the future of the United States of America. In fact the modeling process has been referred to by a South American analyst as the "miamizacion" of the United States.
Beautiful Miami is the most impoverished and corrupt city in the country and its population has the highest incidence of mental illness, yet immigration proceeds apace as real estate prices soar far beyond the reach of the average resident. Even the highest paid construction workers will not be able to afford to live in the downtown condominiums they are building. Wages are relatively low, especially so for laborers, many of whom are immigrants – poor Americans from the United States are virtual immigrants. Cheap labor is the thing, as the founding fathers knew very well when they contracted with enslavers for slave labor at $5 week each to build the White House and Congress. After the job was finished, the rented slaves were sent back to the plantations.
Today's companies terminate workers after they build up the business, hiring cheaper domestic or foreign labor to take over. Pension funding obligations are reduced and the promises broken in the end. And now we are urged to privatize social security, increase the retirement age, and cut benefits; - that is the American Way.
Not only is cheap labor flowing into Miami, a great influx of Latin American cash is fleeing social responsibility lately. The publisher of Money Laundering Alert, Charles Intriago, said, "Some people call Miami the capital of Latin America; we call it the corruption proceeds capital of Latin America." As for the residents who cannot afford to buy into the creative-destruction of their downtown neighborhoods, the message from Free Exchange enthusiasts is, "Stop whining and move."
The Imagine Miami initiative is a community planning effort. Its stated mission is to move the city from being the poorest in the country to the most prosperous by 2015. On May 26, Miami Today reported that the Imagine Miami coalition will conduct a survey of residents. Eduardo J. Padron, president of Miami Dade College and a co-chairman of Imagine Miami said the survey would correspond to the main interests of his group in the health and welfare of the community at large. Mr. Padron observed in a recent essay published by The Miami Herald that Miami is a "bellwether" for America's futurists; therefore, responsible individuals should take a look at the growing underclass and see to it that every sector of society sees the "writing on the wall," or else the future shall be grim, because a society that continues to grow an underclass is doomed.
The way I read it, the "writing on the wall" is, in a word, Revolution. The revolutionary scenario is easy to imagine. It might proceed with the assassination, kidnapping, torture, and execution of neoliberal business and political leaders – the top ten real estate developers would of course be beheaded. Sabotage, sniper and rocket attacks on luxury condominiums, hotels, and resorts would be the order of the day. Television stations would be pleased to cover the bombing and arson attacks on luxury condominium sales offices. Base jumpers and hang gliders would be deployed on bombing attacks. Bank branches would be robbed by revolutionary fund-raising rings, and bank headquarters would be bombed every week or so. Luxury cruise ships would be attacked. Eventually gangs would roam the streets to protect the public from the National Guard and police agencies – the assassination of police brass, and car-bomb and rocket attacks on police stations would occur on a regular basis. Anarchists would provoke violent retaliations by Miami’s black, Hispanic and white underclass on the Cuban-American elite, and that would further augment the supply of militant personnel, funds, arms and munitions from revolutionary Latin American forces. Of course the charitable arm of the Revolution would provide food, clothing, hideouts, political education, and military training and weapons so that the dignity of the poor, homeless, mentally ill and otherwise socially rejected persons might be restored by revolutionary activities. The rest of the nation would follow its supermodel. The city will be torn between the forces of anarchism and communism - most of the neofascists, neoconservatives, and neoliberals will have been executed or will have fled the country. The struggle for the extreme utopias, Anarchia and Totalitaria, which in their extremities are dystopias, might be eventually resolved in a logically absurd compromise: anarcho-communism. Perfect equality might be achieved if the city is leveled as flat as Florida.
With the writing on the wall in the back of their minds, the Imagine Miami alliance of civil leaders will study the deplorable present and recommend more favorable scenarios in lieu of the Or Else. The usual resort will be made to surveys, focus groups, public and closed meetings, expert research, analysis, and synthesis, so that better alternatives might be identified and specific steps taken to realize a better future for everyone in terms of housing, health, education and the like.
I am ninety percent in favor of the Imagine Miami initiative, and I have been glad to say so many times. I took a look at the pathetic situations of impoverished people including myself and I imagined a better future for them. Getting there is another matter for me, or for anyone else for that matter. God only knows how Imagine Miami will realize its favored scenarios given the momentum of current trend towards enormous economic disparity. Sometimes, where there is a will there is no way, particularly when your will is contrary to the will of the power elite and the dominant social prejudice.
Despite the overbearing confidence I have in the grandeur of my insignificance, I have a nagging doubt about the likelihood of my own success in Miami given current trends. Likewise, a minor part of me, call it the devil's advocate in me, or the ten percent of my personality corresponding to the American traitors who revolted against Great Britain, says the Imagine Miami initiative might fail because it prescribes the causes of the social disease to cure the disease.
Of course homeopathic medicine prescribes a tiny bit of poison to stimulate the body's healing powers; but Imagine Miami prescribes much more of the same, or more business as usual, which would do nothing at the most or would make the sick society sicker. What do I mean here by business as usual?
Well, according to Mr. Padron's essay, 'Imagine a better Miami', published in The Miami Herald on March 14, 2005, "Some 50 community leaders from every sector of enterprise in the county gathered on Feb. 16 at MDC (Miami Dade College) to initiate Phase 1 of Imagine Miami."
Now if you are not a "community leader", the first phase of the project smacks of top-down management, the very sort of management that has kept people down, purportedly for their own good – we know that the neoconservative godfathers are greedy and care nothing for the good of those they keep down.
I made a bit of a pun in my faulty Spanish, calling the 50 community leaders Los Cinquentas Padrones, The Fifty Patrons. A young friend of mine from Cuba laughed out loud at my pun, and said my Spanish was not so good, that I should have said Los Cinquentas Ladrones, meaning the famous fifty thieves. Some folks say patrons are thieves as well as patrons given man's ambiguous nature – or, if you will, the original sin of being born an individual in contradistinction to the society that imposes 'Good' and projects 'God' to preside over it.
Perhaps the reader already gets the gist of what I mean by business as usual; but I shall press the issue. To reiterate: our civic leaders will conduct surveys; focus groups and committees will meet. Professional research will be conducted; teams of experts will analyze and synthesize, and so on and so forth. Possible scenarios for our future to choose from will be created; the community will be invited to comment on the limited set of alternatives, just as they might vote for the limited set of political candidates put before them by the power elite.
All that is business as usual: The same leaders lead, and the same followers are expected to follow those leaders. No one has suggested that the existing leaders be tossed out of the windows of the top floors they occupy, or, if the windows are sealed, off the roofs of their buildings, that the followers may become the new leaders by virtue of defenestration and topping-off parties.
Business as usual: photographs will probably be taken at future gatherings of civic leaders and followers; they shall look like a crowd, and therefore the projections they applaud will appear to be applauded by the masses. The dissenting portion of the masses is outside, behind barricades at some distance from the studio. They are protesting the visions, plans, and policies of their civic leaders, including the favored members of the community's vision teams. The little crowd in the studio cannot see the protestors because of the one-way mirror in which they reflect themselves envisioning the future and approving of their favored scenario on the drawing board. The entire project is a sort of mirage of divine socialism, a heavenly city hovering in the air; in fact it will be populated by the over-class who imagined it; the underclass who serves them will live on the seamy outskirts, in hovels or under underpasses. But the picture presented is a pretty one when viewed on the television screen. In any case, the silent majority stays at home and tends to go along with current authority no matter what the scenario might be.
Mr. Padron spoke of social "inclusion and unity" as a key interest of Image Miami. His good intentions are indisputable. No doubt he would avoid mistaking a mirage for reality. To that end he will need plenty of critics around lest he be deluded by the grandiose envisioning process. Civic leaders including educators especially love unity and would like to have everyone agree with them, for agreement reinforces their high opinion of their intentions and station in life. They usually want to maintain a "positive mental attitude" and strive for a "consensus" that stifles dissent while giving lip service to "diversity" and "multiculturalism" and the like. Who can blame them for that?
Mr. Padron is one of the famous heroes of the Mariel Refugee Crisis. The heroes did not claim fame; they merely did what leaders are supposed to do, for crying out loud: take personal responsibility for resolving crises. Mr. Padron at Miami Dade College saw to it that the thousands of refugees were educated to fit in, to become productive citizens of the United States. The Mariel refugees were not only publicly defamed as a criminal and immoral underclass by Castro but were disparaged by the upper class Cuban Americans exiles who got to Florida first – The Miami Herald contributed to the defamation of the refugees. Thanks to Mr. Padron and other padrones, the success of the Mariel refugees is phenomenal. Not only have they fit in, they earn on the average considerably more per person ($32,210) than the average resident ($21,947), although somewhat less than the average for all Cuban exiles ($37,440).
Mr. Padron's job is not finished. 60 percent of his students are low-income, and nearly 40 percent live beneath the national poverty level. Mr. Padron could tell us many stories about passionate students who had to drop their education to make ends meet at dead end jobs. As for those who are making it, it is one thing to fit students in, and another to inspire them to change the political and economic environment for the better, or to revolt against the 'system' they have fit into when their liberty is unduly restrained. To that end a universal liberal education is required. Let us speak of a liberal education in the classical sense. First of all, we have the trivium, or the first three of the Seven Liberal Arts: 1) the art of grammar, in the broad sense of the greatest literature of the world; 2) rhetoric, the art of persuasion; 3) dialectic, the art of convincing conversation.
The Greek trivium where those three abstract paths meet is the stable tripod or three-legged seat of the Great Conversation. That conversation was open to all hence was democratic. A main topic was Justice; every sane person or person capable of community was expected to have an innate sense of Justice – Zeus said anyone without a sense of justice did not belong to society and might be put to death.
Prehistoric inventors all over the world observed early on that a three-legged structure is the most stable. The abstract idea of triunity was particularly useful to the prehistoric religious chiefs, as it is today to the Pope. Logic was developed in the attempt to solve riddles arising from the great dialectic.
As for the intersection of three roads, Trivia (a form of Hecate) presided there. The trivium or crossroads in Rome was a noisy and dirty place. The poorer students, who could not afford enough tuition to rent a classroom by the forum, were taught at the crossroads to read and write maxims. Thus did they get a 'moral' education; moral meant 'mental', for the liberated or rational mind had been cultivated to choose the right course of action. Ample use was made of the stick, lest someone forget his lessons. The children were taught arithmetic as well, the "accounts" of the original written language that eventually inspired bored bookkeepers to write verbal accounts of events. I think Dr. Padron alluded to the Great (universal) Conversation in this paragraph of his essay:
"If the individual is the essential contributor to a civil society, then our communities are the incubators, the proving ground for the hope and the opportunity that define the American system. With democratic ideals as the focus of conversation across the globe, there could be no more salient moment to reinforce those ideals at home."
Now the curriculum at Miami Dade College presents the visage of a vocational school which is, in the main, a corporate business tool. Members of the underclass apparently do not have time for an expensive liberal education, the general subject of which is liberty, because they must be immediately divided and trained according to the multiplying divisions of labor and fit into the workforce. Divide and conquer: a workforce thus finely divided and integrated into the machine according to certified function is easily managed; but the cogs must be kept happy: to paraphrase Bentham, it does not matter if people are turned into cogs as long as the cogs are kept happy. A liberal education in the classical sense is reserved for the elite, who must first of all excel in subjects such as grammar, rhetoric, dialectic, literature, history, philosophy, law, and the like. Notwithstanding the growing number of exceptions, as America is being dumbed-up by anti-intellectuals in high places, we still find such liberally educated persons in high private and public offices. They virtually rule the United States. Unfortunately, all too many of them are wolves in sheep's clothing.
Wherefore, in order to maintain the status quo, liberal education is for the few while vocational training is for the many. Businesses avoid responsibility for educating employees in house and on the job, and depend on privately and publicly funded schools to do their job for them, to create a pool of specialized workers who can be recruited and terminated at will. The people, in turn, leave the government of the nation and business to experts. Less than 25% of adults are aware of important foreign issues, and only 12% are well informed enough on those issues to engage in an intelligent conversation. Of course almost everyone is aware of the war in Iraq; still, less than 25% are well informed enough to participate in an intelligent conversation. In any event, the employee is expected to know and do his special job, and to consume products.
Like other members of the elite class, top educators naturally have a high opinion of themselves, and sometimes justly so. Despite their liberal profession, or rather because of it, they harbor oligarchic, hierarchical prejudices and delusions of natural aristocracy; if only the opportunity to get a liberal education were freely distributed among the general population, many of today's educators would not be the educators of choice.
Alas, the educational system is so organized to perpetuate and serve the very mechanism that Dr. Padron and other well meaning patrons would somehow adjust with visions and dreams; those very dreams are subject to the cult of self-responsible, anti-social, "Look out for Number One individualism" the pro-business educators refer to as the American Way.
Dr. Padron preaches individual responsibility, and that is a good thing if we have read the existentialist bibles. But when everyone is responsible to himself alone for the love of unimpeded liberty, society will tend to degenerate and civilization will break down: individuals must be held responsible by others to a certain extent.
While mouthing such terms as "innovation", "creativity", "civil society", "democracy", and the like, the leading administrators make sure students are trained to obedience; to fit into anti-democratic, dictatorial corporate armies. The corporate generals and the command staff on down are not elected; their orders must be followed, or else life on the streets. The military command style has become severe since the destruction of the liberal consensus by the neoconservative (neo-fascist) fraction that inspired and exploited the fear and greed of the populace.
The liberal consensus encouraged welfare capitalism – capitalists can profit by treating their employees very well. Those employees were proud of their companies. But today most employees of large corporations loathe their companies. The term Corporate has for good reason become synonymous with evil and death; with Corpse instead of living organism. Over half the economy is controlled by a few large corporations, and they are controlled by a plutocracy with interlocking interests - among themselves, the elite are relatively democratic and free.
Small businesses suck off the hind teats of the corporate Behemoth. Long hours of corporate life are intolerable to workers unless there is plenty of trash, junk, and garbage to consume. A plethora of popular cultural diversions are readily available to blunt the finer senses and whet the appetite for mass consumption.
The CEOs of big business-as-usual now earn an average $ 8 million per annum. And the other members of the top levels of the corporate command structure are very well paid for their consciences. They are expected to buy units in the condominium towers to be erected in downtown Miami: the citadel that visionaries proclaim to be the model of the future of the United States of America.
One condominium tower may be 74-stories tall; another might match the World Trade Center. The historic Freedom Tower, where many Cuban immigrants were processed, is being used as an excuse to build a gigantic $ 500 million 62-story condominium complex that if approved will dwarf the tower of Cuban liberty and make a laughing stock out of the symbol of democracy by wrapping it in a gigantic wave-like building. The Mas dynasty - a powerful exile family - bought the Freedom Tower with the intention of turning it into a museum, but turned around and sold it to developer Pedro Martin's company for $ 38 million, realizing a modest gain of $ 20 million.
Pedro Martin picked up another 10 acres nearby, from the owner of The Miami Herald, Knight Ridder, for $ 190 million. The Miami Herald is the virtual trumpeter for downtown Miami's rampant real estate development - sometimes the real estate news can hardly be distinguished from real estate advertising. That is the newspaper business as usual: Knight Ridder's Kansas City Star got a free printing plant complex from taxpayers for boosting Mayor Kay Barne's downtown real estate development plan as the holy gospel.
But never mind: let the residents who cannot afford the towers pack up and move and make way for their betters, for money and conspicuous consumption are the only important measures of personal worth nowadays - it would be much less wasteful if regularly updated net worth could be digitally displayed on each person's forehead. Well, yes, there is some concern that the speculation is inflating a bubble that is about to burst; a real estate pundit made an amusing comment on the subject: there will be plenty of low-cost housing if the market crashes - but let's think positive.
At least that is the towering vision of Miami. And it is the future city presented by forecasters for the power elite, who have good reason to expect more of the same despite a few bumps in the road, which they will not feel. Prices will continue to rise in the long term according to more of the same business as usual. Education follows the suits that Dr. Padron deplores and says will lead to the fall of our society. The college is part of the business as usual system, a system increasingly led by liars, thieves, and even murderers, a system that is virtually enslaving the masses.
Everything is permitted within the American system, but anyone against the system is unpatriotic, un-American, a traitor; or, to paraphrase Fidel Castro, an un-American worm. Mr. Castro, by the way, gave an upbeat portrayal of Cuba's future last March: he said he appreciated the "extraordinary confidence" of his people, and said Cubans must do away with "scheming" because the socialist state has the best cause. "Do not create illusions. Let things mature. Trust, trust the country; it has a serious perspective." Apparently Mr. Castro has only one scenario in mind. "By the first quarter of next year," he said, "you can all sleep peacefully." Many Cubans have an alternative cause for their repose in mind, because nothing has been permitted in Cuba except Mr. Castro's Revolution, and some feel Mr. Castro has unwittingly prophesied his own demise. Sweet dreams.
Here in Miami, where the régime is much more subtle and the tyranny so sophisticated that people are barely aware of it, we do not see in the Miami Dade College catalog classes in civil disobedience, in organized protest, strikes, boycotts, or in the history and technique of revolution. No, students are expected to fit in. What's more, most of them want very much to fit in. Somehow, if they fit in, more of the same will cure the iniquity and inequity of business as usual.
Undoubtedly some small distribution in the interest of distributive justice will be made from time to time to keep up expectations. Schools of all sorts will continue to propagate the idea that any poor slob in America can get filthy rich if he really sets his mind and hand to the task, and a few fortunate examples will be held up as proof of the circulation of people in the elite class. The city of the corporate gods in heaven will be the same in many important respects as the city of the secular gods on earth. The gods will not have to keep an eye on everyone in Panopticonia, for the cyclopean eye and the I behind it have been divided into i's and implanted in the in-divid-uals. In the absence of a dynamic liberal consensus, which is continually achieved via a continuous dialectical struggle, the great gap between the rich and poor will grow until a match is struck and the dust explodes.
That being said, I am relieved to say that I have nine times as much to say in favor of the Imagine Miami project. What really bothers me about Miami is that I am in love with her, and that might be the ruin of me. I would love her as she is. She is from a poor family, she is mixed up, she is tempestuous, and she is the most attractive lady in the hemisphere. If only the feeling I had for her were mutual, I would happily die in her Hurakanic arms. Until then, I have some nagging doubts, but never mind.
Bertolt Brecht on Schools (from Kalendergeschichten)
'If sharks were people,' his landlady's little daughter asked Mr. K, 'would they be nicer to the little fish?' 'Of course,' he said, ‘if sharks were people, they would have strong boxes built in the sea for little fish. There they would put in all sorts of food, plants and little animals, too. They would see to it that the boxes always had fresh water, and they would take absolutely every sort of sanitary measure. When, for example, a little fish would injure his fin, it would be immediately bandaged so that he would not die on the sharks before his time had come. In order that the little fish would never be sad, there would be big water parties from time to time; for happy fish taste better than sad ones. Of course, there would be schools in the big boxes as well. There the little fish would learn how to swim into the mouths of the sharks. They would need, for example, geography so that they could find the sharks, lazing around somewhere. The main subject would naturally be the moral education of the little fish. They would be taught that the grandest, most beautiful thing is for a little fish to offer himself happily, and that they must all believe in the sharks, above all when they say that they will provide for a beautiful future. One would let the little fish know that this future is only assured when they learn obedience. They must shy away from all lowly, materialistic and Marxist inclinations, and inform the sharks immediately if any one of them betrayed such tendencies. ... If sharks were people, there would of course be art as well. There would be beautiful pictures of sharks' teeth, all in magnificent colors, of their mouths and throats as pure playgrounds where one can tumble and play. The theatres on the bottom of the sea would offer plays showing heroic little fish swimming enthusiastically down the throats of the sharks, and the music would be so beautiful that its sounds would lead the little fish dreamily to the chapels and, filled with the most pleasant thoughts, they would stream down the sharks' throats. There would certainly be religion. ... It would teach that true life really begins in the sharks' bellies. And if sharks were people, the little fish would stop being, as they are now, equals. Some would be given offices and be put over the others. Those a little bigger would even be allowed to eat the smaller ones. That would only be delightful for the sharks, for then they would more often have bigger crumbs to gobble up. And the most important of the little fish, those with offices, would look to the ordering of the little fish. And they would become teachers, officers, box-building engineers, etc. In short, there could only be culture in the sea if the sharks were people.'