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Understanding the World + Taking Action Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Adam Fletcher, United States Jul 3, 2004
Human Rights   Opinions
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Understanding the World + Taking Action "War is peace, freedom is slavery, and ignorance is strength."
- George Orwell in “1984”.

Young people who are dedicated to social change have a responsibility to learn about and critically reflect on the political situation they face today. In a new book entitled "Proto-Fascism in America: Neo-liberalism and the Demise of Democracy," scholar Henry Giroux gives youth activists that information by effectively and concisely exposing the tyranny of the Bush Administration, and indisputably linking corporations to the high-jacking of American democracy. Throughout this publication Giroux draws powerful correlations between news accounts and critical analysis, without oversimplifying or patronizing the reader. He offers a necessary guide to how the issues tie together: prisons, police, spies, weapons, soldiers + racial discrimination, demonizing youth, targeting young people of color for the military + cutting funding for public services, defeating the Clean Air Act, Christian conservatism = neo-liberal terrorism in our times. Most importantly, though, in "Proto-Fascism" Giroux details our need to develop a new way of approaching democracy that embraces democratic action and engagement for all people, especially young people.

Giroux explains that part of this new approach is connecting the apparent intransigence of the public today to the larger forces of the anti-community: crass consumerism and the multi-national corporations which have driven the marketplace into every aspect of public life: education, health care, and the duties of the government across the board. With "Proto-Fascism" Giroux has gone beyond his former analysis of public education and popular media. Instead, his critical eye turns now towards the entities that democratic society insists we all be responsible for: government, community, and our social fabric.

Through this lens Giroux identifies the Bush Administration as hostile towards young people, by militarizing public schools, over-incarcerating young people of color, and cutting funding for youth programs. He writes, "…[F]ear, punishment, and containment continue to override the need to provide health care for… children, increase the ranks of teachers… repair deteriorating schools, and improve youth services that for many poor students, would provide an alternative to the direct pipeline between school and the local police station, the courts, or prison."

In "Proto-Fascism" Giroux particularly identifies George Bush's refusal to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and carefully deconstructs the effects of education systems that serve as the deliverers and enforcers of a neo-liberal agenda intent on taking freedom away from children and youth, people of color and working-class communities. By exposing a school reform agenda intent on taking away the rights of youth, Giroux exposes, "The not-so-hidden curriculum... that kids can't be trusted and that their rights aren't worth protecting. At the same time, they are being educated to passively accept military-sanctioned practices organized around maintaining control, surveillance, and unquestioned authority."

Giroux contends that this agenda, doubled with the agenda of the "military-industrial-education complex," reinforces the work of Army recruiters who are speaking directly to youth today. By "discover[ing] hip hop and urban culture," and disregarding the problems young people, particularly urban and low-income youth, face at home today, the Army lures young people with "the Hummer, where they can pep the sound system or watch recruitment videos." Giroux explores the effects this has on marginalized youth, as "school becomes a training ground for their 'graduation' into containment centers such as prisons and jails." One is that "young people no longer learn military values in training camps or military-oriented schools." They are learned through popular media and people: movies, MTV, music, friends, and family.

Young people are not islands from themselves, disconnected from larger concerns in society. Through action for social change all young people can become actors in the larger spectrum of society. It is through these actions that youth can become engaged in democracy and effectively learn from their life experiences. Neo-liberalism is the attempt of consumerist, corporate America to steal politics, history, and culture from popular society, instead replacing them with an economy of greed, and consumption. "Proto-Fascism" provides a critical bridge for facilitators of youth action to connect young people to the fight against modern American fascism, and challenge young people with a powerful, accessible call to action.

At the end of "Proto-Fascism in America: Neo-liberalism and the Demise of Democracy," Giroux calls on young people and their adult allies to fight neo-liberalism in our lives and to end its widespread grips on our society. Young people are central to this challenge.

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Adam Fletcher

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