Saturday, December 31, 2011

Three Commentaries: Repairing Ourselves -- Selections from the Husia: Sacred Wisdom of Ancient Egypt -- Kwanzaa: The Challenges of a New Season --

Worrill’s World
By Dr. Conrad W. Worrill, PhD Columnist

Repairing Ourselves

Day in and day out we can observe the increased number of African people killing each other, mentally and physically abusing each other, stealing from each other, being dishonest with each other, and the list goes on and on. These negative incidents occur, in part, because segments of the African community in the United States are disconnected from the moral and ethical traditions that have characterized relationships among African people in the past. It is critical that we repair ourselves as we build the Reparations Movement.

The problem with segments of African people in this country being disconnected from the great contributions of African people to the civilizations of the world has resulted in far too many of us believing that the current situation in which we find ourselves cannot be changed. Many African people believe that the condition of African people in America is permanent and there is
nothing we can do to change our circumstances. Therefore, this disconnected group of African people has chosen the easy road. They travel on the road of cooperating and collaborating with the forces of white supremacy who continue to demonstrate they will do any and everything in their power to keep African people in this country, and the rest of the world on the bottom. This has resulted in many African people in America (and the world community), developing a “bottom mentality.” In other words, many of our people buy into whatever the white supremacy forces feed us through the media, (mis)educational institutions, and religious institutions.

What we are constantly being fed is that we are on the bottom and we will remain on the bottom. What the white supremacy forces offer individual African people in America is that, as an individual, you can get off the bottom if you join us, if you “pull yourself up by your bootstraps.” Never mind your group, your family and your cultural ties, “there is nothing that can be done with those people. Join us and everything will be alright.” If you join us, “you can obtain a good job, buy a nice house in a good neighborhood, buy a nice car, take nice vacations, and some of you, whom we chose, can even live with us.”

We were not always like this as a people. We did not have a “dog-eat-dog” mentality and this is what we must examine as we continue to struggle to overthrow the system of white supremacy and its impact on us as a people.

The Creative Force of the universe has endowed us with the capacity to make great contributions to the world. A simple inspection of the ancient Nile Valley civilization of Kemet (Egypt) should inspire all African people to respect their history and to hold themselves in high esteem. Kemet and the Kemetic people, our ancestors, were the creators of math, science, architecture, writing, governance, astronomy, astrology, medicine, art, and so much more. The Kemetic people amassed great wisdom that was left as instructions written in Medew Netcher (Divine Speech) or what Europeans call hieroglyphs.

One place we can examine this ancient Kemetic wisdom is in a book titled, Selections from the Husia: Sacred Wisdom of Ancient Egypt gives insight into how our ancestors viewed life, death, human relations, marriage, parenting, use of power, God, family, and the standards of moral and ethical conduct. Reading these spiritual texts elicits strong feelings in and for African people in a most profound and spiritual way. Peruse these words from The Husia: The Book of Ptah Hotep:

”Do not terrorize people for if you do, God will punish you accordingly.
If anyone lives by such means, God will take bread from his or her mouth.
If one says I shall be rich by such means, [he] she will eventually have to say my means entrapped me.”

This passage continues:

”If one says I will rob another, he will end up being robbed himself. The plans of men and women do not always come to pass, for in the end it is the will of God, which prevails. Therefore, one should live in peace with others and they will come and willingly give gifts, which another would take from them through fear.”

Written about five thousand years ago, the wisdom of these words of instruction should cause African people to reflect on their significance as we struggle to create a greater good for our race. The wisdom of our ancestors should give us the inspiration to rededicate ourselves to the continued struggle for the liberation of African people worldwide.

As a race of people our survival and development is dependent upon each other. A greater responsibility is placed upon those of us who proclaim the African Way after the ravaging of African civilizations, African culture, African minds, and African lands.

As I have repeated many times in previous columns, we have a responsibility and a duty to our brothers and sisters to build institutions based on African spirituality, ethics, and morals, and give back that which the Creator has given us, “All Life, Power, and Health, like the Sun Forever.”

I urge all African people to take a meditative moment and look deeply inside of ourselves as a people. Let us restore what the ancient Black people of Kemet called Maat: Divine Order, Harmony, Balance, Truth, Justice, Righteousness, and Reciprocity.

We had, and lived by Maat before the coming of Europeans. We must return to the ways of Maat so we can survive the white supremacy genocidal onslaught. We must look deep into ourselves! And as our respected ancestor Dr. John Henrik Clarke often said, “If we did it once, we can do it again!” In view of what is happening in the world, we must never lose sight of who we are and our condition.

Get Ready For Kwanzaa 2011

In the wake of the rising African Centered Movement in America, it is important that every segment of the African Community in America begin preparing for the Kwanzaa Season. It is estimated that more than 30 million Africans in America participate in some sort of Kwanzaa activity or event.

In order for this occurrence to continue, parents, teachers, principles, ministers, business people, and community activists must begin preparation immediately.

The first question, that obviously should be asked in preparation for the 2011 Kwanzaa Season is: “What is Kwanzaa and why is it so important for African people in America to celebrate?”

In 1966, the Black Power explosion shook up America. The call for Black Power was a major shift away from the Civil Rights Movement, during that era.

The Civil Rights Movement had successfully dismantled the system of racial segregation (by law) in the southern region of the United States. However, among the masses of Black people in America, there was a deeper meaning to the idea of freedom, justice and equality that had not been advocated by the Civil Rights Movement. The call for Black Power by Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., Kwame Ture (a.k.a. Stokely Carmichael) and others, gave a new impetus for the Black Liberation Movement in America.

When the smoke cleared from the Watts Rebellion in 1965, an organization emerged in the Los Angeles, California area, called US. Its leader was Dr. Maulana Karenga. After intense study of African cultural traditions, Dr. Karenga and the US Organization established the only nationally celebrated, indigenous, non-heroic Black Holiday in the United States and they called it Kwanzaa.

The concept of Kwanzaa was established for Africans in America and was derived from the African custom of celebrating the harvest season.

In Dr. Karenga’s own words he says, “The origin of Kwanzaa on the African continent are in the agricultural celebrations called the ‘first fruits’ celebrations and to a lesser degree the full or general harvest celebration. It is from these first fruit celebrations that Kwanzaa gets its name which comes from the Swahili phrase Matunda Ya Kwanza.”

Further, “...Matunda means fruits and ya Kwanza means first. (The extra “a” at the end of Kwanzaa has become convention as a result of a particular history).”

Kwanzaa is officially celebrated December 26th to January 1st and each day a value of the Nguzo Saba (seven principles of blackness) is celebrated. The Nguzo Saba (Seven Principles) are:
Umoja~ Unity
To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.

Kujichagulia ~ Self Determination
To define ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves, instead of being defined, named, created for, and spoken for by others.

Ujima ~ Collective Work and Responsibility
To build and maintain our community together, to make our sisters and brothers problems our problems, and to solve them together.

Ujamaa ~ Cooperative Economics
To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.

Nia ~ Purpose
To make as our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.

Kuumba ~ Creativity
To do always as much as we can, in the way we can in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than when we inherited it.

Imani ~ Faith
To believe with all our hearts in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

With the assistance of current Malcolm X President Anthony E. Munroe, the Kwanzaa Celebration Committee, over the past several years, has sponsored Kwanzaa Celebrations and activities during the seven day observance. These celebrations have drawn thousands of people and added to the growing Kwanzaa Movement in the Chicago area.

Kwanzaa is a step in helping African people in America to fulfill the need and desire to be a united people, with a common set of experiences that lead us toward a common set of goals and objectives for freedom, independence and liberation.

Kwanzaa: The Challenges of a New Season

As we enter a New Kwanzaa Season, we must remind ourselves of the continued challenges that we face. The fundamental issue that Africans in America must face is centered around the continued assault by the systems of racism and white supremacy that keeps us in bondage, servitude, and often times, confusion. What is at stake is our survival as a race of people. We must come to grips with the following challenges as we enter a New Kwanzaa Season.

Family Development: There is no question that the African in American family is in major disarray and is in need of major repair. Without strong African in America families, raising and nurturing our children, the future will remain bleak. Families are the foundation for the survival and development of a people. African men and women need to close ranks and reestablish the tradition of strong Black families in America.

Economic Development: Many Africans in America women and men continue to remind us that we earn in excess of 600 billion dollars a year in this country. The tragedy of this economic potential in the African Community in America is that the overwhelming majority of this income we earn, we spend with other people and not with our own. Other people still continue to dominate and maximize profits from our communities for their own advancement. When are we going to stop this awful practice of allowing other people to benefit from the dollars we earn?

Political Development: We have often said that politics is the science of who gets what, when, where, and how. And in this regard, we should recognize that the white power structure and its Black allies are doing everything possible to rupture our continuing movement for Black political empowerment. In electoral politics the lessons are clear. Personality clashes and individual personal conflicts have no place in the world of politics! The only thing that matters is what is best for African people in America. If we don't remain unified politically, we will not benefit from our efforts to increase Black political power in Chicago or in any other cities in which we live.

Cultural Development: Why should other people profit from our artistic and creative endeavors? It is clear that we are a creative people with a unique culture of our own. However, in this area the writers, poets, musicians, dancers, singers, actors, etc. must strive to control what we create and the entire African Community should aggressively support their efforts.

International Affairs: We must work harder to support the struggle of our brothers and sisters in Africa, the Caribbean, and South America in their continued liberation struggle for land and independence.

Historical Discontinuity: It appears the more we are oppressed under the system of racism and white supremacy, the more we forget our history. One generation from the next has difficulty remembering our great struggles, battles, and movements.

Harold Cruse points out in his book The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual, “The farther the Negro [Black person] gets from his [her] historical antecedents in time, the more tenuous become his conceptual ties, the emptier his [her] social conceptions, the more superficial his visions.”

It must be clear, at this point in history that African people need to determine for ourselves solutions to the many serious problems we face. We should realize going into this New Kwanzaa Season that no one will do for us what we really need to do for ourselves.

It is time we begin providing for ourselves in all areas of life. No longer should we listen and adhere to how other people define us and our struggle. Accomplishing the objective of elevating our struggle to a higher level will require that we become more skilled in organizing our communities toward our liberation and freedom.

As an old African proverb points out, “Those who are dead have not gone forever. They are in the woman’s womb. They are in the child who whimpers.” Columnist, Conrad W. Worrill, PhD, is the National Chairman Emeritus of the National Black United Front (NBUF). Click here to contact Dr. Worrill.

Legends of the Fail By PAUL KRUGMAN

November 10, 2011

This is the way the euro ends — not with a bang but with bunga bunga. Not long ago, European leaders were insisting that Greece could and should stay on the euro while paying its debts in full. Now, with Italy falling off a cliff, it’s hard to see how the euro can survive at all.

But what’s the meaning of the eurodebacle? As always happens when disaster strikes, there’s a rush by ideologues to claim that the disaster vindicates their views. So it’s time to start debunking.

First things first: The attempt to create a common European currency was one of those ideas that cut across the usual ideological lines. It was cheered on by American right-wingers, who saw it as the next best thing to a revived gold standard, and by Britain’s left, which saw it as a big step toward a social-democratic Europe. But it was opposed by British conservatives, who also saw it as a step toward a social-democratic Europe. And it was questioned by American liberals, who worried — rightly, I’d say (but then I would, wouldn’t I?) — about what would happen if countries couldn’t use monetary and fiscal policy to fight recessions.

So now that the euro project is on the rocks, what lessons should we draw?

I’ve been hearing two claims, both false: that Europe’s woes reflect the failure of welfare states in general, and that Europe’s crisis makes the case for immediate fiscal austerity in the United States.

The assertion that Europe’s crisis proves that the welfare state doesn’t work comes from many Republicans. For example, Mitt Romney has accused President Obama of taking his inspiration from European “socialist democrats” and asserted that “Europe isn’t working in Europe.” The idea, presumably, is that the crisis countries are in trouble because they’re groaning under the burden of high government spending. But the facts say otherwise.

It’s true that all European countries have more generous social benefits — including universal health care — and higher government spending than America does. But the nations now in crisis don’t have bigger welfare states than the nations doing well — if anything, the correlation runs the other way. Sweden, with its famously high benefits, is a star performer, one of the few countries whose G.D.P. is now higher than it was before the crisis. Meanwhile, before the crisis, “social expenditure” — spending on welfare-state programs — was lower, as a percentage of national income, in all of the nations now in trouble than in Germany, let alone Sweden.

Oh, and Canada, which has universal health care and much more generous aid to the poor than the United States, has weathered the crisis better than we have.

The euro crisis, then, says nothing about the sustainability of the welfare state. But does it make the case for belt-tightening in a depressed economy?

You hear that claim all the time. America, we’re told, had better slash spending right away or we’ll end up like Greece or Italy. Again, however, the facts tell a different story.

First, if you look around the world you see that the big determining factor for interest rates isn’t the level of government debt but whether a government borrows in its own currency. Japan is much more deeply in debt than Italy, but the interest rate on long-term Japanese bonds is only about 1 percent to Italy’s 7 percent. Britain’s fiscal prospects look worse than Spain’s, but Britain can borrow at just a bit over 2 percent, while Spain is paying almost 6 percent.

What has happened, it turns out, is that by going on the euro, Spain and Italy in effect reduced themselves to the status of third-world countries that have to borrow in someone else’s currency, with all the loss of flexibility that implies. In particular, since euro-area countries can’t print money even in an emergency, they’re subject to funding disruptions in a way that nations that kept their own currencies aren’t — and the result is what you see right now. America, which borrows in dollars, doesn’t have that problem.

The other thing you need to know is that in the face of the current crisis, austerity has been a failure everywhere it has been tried: no country with significant debts has managed to slash its way back into the good graces of the financial markets. For example, Ireland is the good boy of Europe, having responded to its debt problems with savage austerity that has driven its unemployment rate to 14 percent. Yet the interest rate on Irish bonds is still above 8 percent — worse than Italy.

The moral of the story, then, is to beware of ideologues who are trying to hijack the European crisis on behalf of their agendas. If we listen to those ideologues, all we’ll end up doing is making our own problems — which are different from Europe’s, but arguably just as severe — even worse.

Killing the Euro By PAUL KRUGMAN

December 1, 2011

Can the euro be saved? Not long ago we were told that the worst possible outcome was a Greek default. Now a much wider disaster seems all too likely.

True, market pressure lifted a bit on Wednesday after central banks made a splashy announcement about expanded credit lines (which will, in fact, make hardly any real difference). But even optimists now see Europe as headed for recession, while pessimists warn that the euro may become the epicenter of another global financial crisis.

How did things go so wrong? The answer you hear all the time is that the euro crisis was caused by fiscal irresponsibility. Turn on your TV and you’re very likely to find some pundit declaring that if America doesn’t slash spending we’ll end up like Greece. Greeeeeece!

But the truth is nearly the opposite. Although Europe’s leaders continue to insist that the problem is too much spending in debtor nations, the real problem is too little spending in Europe as a whole. And their efforts to fix matters by demanding ever harsher austerity have played a major role in making the situation worse.

The story so far: In the years leading up to the 2008 crisis, Europe, like America, had a runaway banking system and a rapid buildup of debt. In Europe’s case, however, much of the lending was across borders, as funds from Germany flowed into southern Europe. This lending was perceived as low risk. Hey, the recipients were all on the euro, so what could go wrong?

For the most part, by the way, this lending went to the private sector, not to governments. Only Greece ran large budget deficits during the good years; Spain actually had a surplus on the eve of the crisis.

Then the bubble burst. Private spending in the debtor nations fell sharply. And the question European leaders should have been asking was how to keep those spending cuts from causing a Europe-wide downturn.

Instead, however, they responded to the inevitable, recession-driven rise in deficits by demanding that all governments — not just those of the debtor nations — slash spending and raise taxes. Warnings that this would deepen the slump were waved away. “The idea that austerity measures could trigger stagnation is incorrect,” declared Jean-Claude Trichet, then the president of the European Central Bank. Why? Because “confidence-inspiring policies will foster and not hamper economic recovery.”

But the confidence fairy was a no-show.

Wait, there’s more. During the years of easy money, wages and prices in southern Europe rose substantially faster than in northern Europe. This divergence now needs to be reversed, either through falling prices in the south or through rising prices in the north. And it matters which: If southern Europe is forced to deflate its way to competitiveness, it will both pay a heavy price in employment and worsen its debt problems. The chances of success would be much greater if the gap were closed via rising prices in the north.

But to close the gap through rising prices in the north, policy makers would have to accept temporarily higher inflation for the euro area as a whole. And they’ve made it clear that they won’t. Last April, in fact, the European Central Bank began raising interest rates, even though it was obvious to most observers that underlying inflation was, if anything, too low.

And it’s probably no coincidence that April was also when the euro crisis entered its new, dire phase. Never mind Greece, whose economy is to Europe roughly as greater Miami is to the United States. At this point, markets have lost faith in the euro as a whole, driving up interest rates even for countries like Austria and Finland, hardly known for profligacy. And it’s not hard to see why. The combination of austerity-for-all and a central bank morbidly obsessed with inflation makes it essentially impossible for indebted countries to escape from their debt trap and is, therefore, a recipe for widespread debt defaults, bank runs and general financial collapse.

I hope, for our sake as well as theirs, that the Europeans will change course before it’s too late. But, to be honest, I don’t believe they will. In fact, what’s much more likely is that we will follow them down the path to ruin.

For in America, as in Europe, the economy is being dragged down by troubled debtors — in our case, mainly homeowners. And here, too, we desperately need expansionary fiscal and monetary policies to support the economy as these debtors struggle back to financial health. Yet, as in Europe, public discourse is dominated by deficit scolds and inflation obsessives.

So the next time you hear someone claiming that if we don’t slash spending we’ll turn into Greece, your answer should be that if we do slash spending while the economy is still in a depression, we’ll turn into Europe. In fact, we’re well on our way.

Will China Break? By PAUL KRUGMAN

December 18, 2011

Consider the following picture: Recent growth has relied on a huge construction boom fueled by surging real estate prices, and exhibiting all the classic signs of a bubble. There was rapid growth in credit — with much of that growth taking place not through traditional banking but rather through unregulated “shadow banking” neither subject to government supervision nor backed by government guarantees. Now the bubble is bursting — and there are real reasons to fear financial and economic crisis.

Am I describing Japan at the end of the 1980s? Or am I describing America in 2007? I could be. But right now I’m talking about China, which is emerging as another danger spot in a world economy that really, really doesn’t need this right now.

I’ve been reluctant to weigh in on the Chinese situation, in part because it’s so hard to know what’s really happening. All economic statistics are best seen as a peculiarly boring form of science fiction, but China’s numbers are more fictional than most. I’d turn to real China experts for guidance, but no two experts seem to be telling the same story.

Still, even the official data are troubling — and recent news is sufficiently dramatic to ring alarm bells.

The most striking thing about the Chinese economy over the past decade was the way household consumption, although rising, lagged behind overall growth. At this point consumer spending is only about 35 percent of G.D.P., about half the level in the United States.

So who’s buying the goods and services China produces? Part of the answer is, well, we are: as the consumer share of the economy declined, China increasingly relied on trade surpluses to keep manufacturing afloat. But the bigger story from China’s point of view is investment spending, which has soared to almost half of G.D.P.

The obvious question is, with consumer demand relatively weak, what motivated all that investment? And the answer, to an important extent, is that it depended on an ever-inflating real estate bubble. Real estate investment has roughly doubled as a share of G.D.P. since 2000, accounting directly for more than half of the overall rise in investment. And surely much of the rest of the increase was from firms expanding to sell to the burgeoning construction industry.

Do we actually know that real estate was a bubble? It exhibited all the signs: not just rising prices, but also the kind of speculative fever all too familiar from our own experiences just a few years back — think coastal Florida.

And there was another parallel with U.S. experience: as credit boomed, much of it came not from banks but from an unsupervised, unprotected shadow banking system. There were huge differences in detail: shadow banking American style tended to involve prestigious Wall Street firms and complex financial instruments, while the Chinese version tends to run through underground banks and even pawnshops. Yet the consequences were similar: in China as in America a few years ago, the financial system may be much more vulnerable than data on conventional banking reveal.

Now the bubble is visibly bursting. How much damage will it do to the Chinese economy — and the world?

Some commentators say not to worry, that China has strong, smart leaders who will do whatever is necessary to cope with a downturn. Implied though not often stated is the thought that China can do what it takes because it doesn’t have to worry about democratic niceties.

To me, however, these sound like famous last words. After all, I remember very well getting similar assurances about Japan in the 1980s, where the brilliant bureaucrats at the Ministry of Finance supposedly had everything under control. And later, there were assurances that America would never, ever, repeat the mistakes that led to Japan’s lost decade — when we are, in reality, doing even worse than Japan did.

For what it’s worth, statements about economic policy from Chinese officials don’t strike me as being especially clear-headed. In particular, the way China has been lashing out at foreigners — among other things, imposing a punitive tariff on imports of U.S.-made autos that will do nothing to help its economy but will help poison trade relations — does not sound like a mature government that knows what it’s doing.

And anecdotal evidence suggests that while China’s government may not be constrained by rule of law, it is constrained by pervasive corruption, which means that what actually happens at the local level may bear little resemblance to what is ordered in Beijing.

I hope that I’m being needlessly alarmist here. But it’s impossible not to be worried: China’s story just sounds too much like the crack-ups we’ve already seen elsewhere. And a world economy already suffering from the mess in Europe really, really doesn’t need a new epicenter of crisis.