Tuesday, January 22, 2013

PEN America Hypocrisy

When I first joined PEN America ten years ago, I was happy to pay my membership fee to support its work in advancing literature and defending free expression. But over the years, I've become disillusioned with the organization--partly due to its selective human rights agenda, and more recently due to its profound lack of judgment in choosing its new executive director.

As with far too many NGOs, PEN America has elected to wear blinders when it comes to human rights violations by the United States and its militarism projected through institutions like NATO and militarily dependent states like Israel. While I was disheartened by PEN International's former vice president Nadine Gordimer's bias when it came to Israel, the recent choice by PEN America's trustees to install the former U.S. State Department warmonger Suzanne Nossel as its new executive director is the final straw.

As an experienced advocate for neoliberal coercion to achieve American hegemony, Nossel has taken an aggressive pro-war stance over the last decade, including the US invasion of Iraq and the NATO bombing of Libya. When working as a Hillary wannabe at State, Nossel fought hard at the UN Human Rights Council as an apologist for Zionist crimes against humanity in Palestine. If this is the best PEN America can do, then they can do without my support.

Monday, January 07, 2013

A World of Their Own

For the first twelve years of this century I resided in the wealthiest county in California. Marin county, the peninsula opposite San Francisco and sharing with it the Golden Gate Bridge, is also a heavy hitter in the philanthropic world.

All that wealth combined with a prevalent politically correct ethic makes serious money available to greens, gays, new-agers and indigenous rights advocates. When people like Winona LaDuke and Rebecca Adamson needed seed money to launch major initiatives, they went to Marin.

In a way, I suppose one might say the hippie ethic of the 1960s still reverberates there, albeit in a modified form. While the hippies of San Francisco started free medical clinics, communes and soup kitchens funded by rock concert benefits featuring Creedence Clearwater Revival and The Grateful Dead, the yuppies of Marin fund NGOs by playing the stock market.

As one might expect, this difference in funding has societal implications. First and foremost, the capitalist orientation of the nouveau riche Marin philanthropists restricts their perception of social change. They are reformers, not revolutionaries. The system has been good to them, and like Obama, they don't want to challenge it. While not all of them are part of the 1%, many of them aspire to be. Thus, while it is good they support people like LaDuke, it is more telling that they give generously to Adamson, who, like them, is a staunch advocate of the capitalist system.

The fact that system is what is destroying the environment and indigenous societies worldwide is merely one of those dissonances the Marin elite rationalize over long lunches at the exclusive bistros and wine bars they frequent. While they have the capacity to influence the world at large, they live in a world of their own.