He uses the word “junk.” “Is all this junk
Boxes are stacked along the living room wall
close to the door. He, a soon-to-be-ex-landlord, is looking
at these boxes. I know my mother’s family photos are there
along with her Bible. The memorial book is there too. I know
I have my books there, some, a collection of literature I
have had for years, and others are books that can’t be purchased
but must be ordered because the general reader is less concerned
about the thoughts or works of some Black, Red, Brown, and
Yellow thinkers. Other boxes hold dishes, glasses, and other
household items, enough for one and her maybe two or three
guests. There are towels, sheets, blankets here and a few
clothes, a couple pairs of shoes.
He doesn’t see a leather armchair and matching
sofa or a bronze bed frame. There isn’t a dresser or fancy
end tables. There are no Persian rugs, vases, or framed pictures.
There are no appliances, no European designer dinning room
table and chairs.
understanding tells him to see junk. He understands, as a
consequence of what he doesn’t see, that the boxes don’t contain
anything of value. He is one of the many sons of the capitalist
ideology; he sees what is absent. What is absent has value.
He is a white man and I am a Black woman and the “absent”
can’t be summed up in one sentence. I watch him confront another
reality, grapple with the contradictions from what he believes
he knows and what he sees before him. Where are the absent
things that would speak to her “education?” All so baffling
for Mr. Landlord!
Mr. Landlord doesn’t care to know that I have
no desire to accumulate the junk Mr. and Mrs. Jones
finds important to amaze that they are will to “max” out credit
cards. He wants only a confirmation that my “junk”
will be removed from his property.
I don’t have any value! Of course, would I
come to expect thinking that is truly different? Capitalism
is confronting me!
But if I am not angry - not at him but at
the system, the capitalist system that allows me to be
perceived as having no value - if I am not angry, then I am
dead. It’s as simple as that. I am dead. Anger saves me from
the full brunt of the assault. Anger saves me from turning
the other cheek.
But our Mr. Landlord has gone about this business
within the ruling class. A little more than ten years ago,
so has the whole of the ruling class in the U.S.
Where is the opposition to capitalism - the
“absent,” unstated horror confronting the masses of people
on this planet?
opposition against capitalism is opposed to capitalism
and as such, it empowers itself in the knowledge of other
struggles against capitalism. And yes, the ruling class has
its propaganda campaign to discourage any such linkage. This
kind of opposition is always “the enemy.” But we on the Left
in the U.S.
should know the implications of accepting the ruling class’
definition of “the enemy” without questioning the source and
the conditions that motivate insurgency in other lands.
The Left in the U.S. knows and acknowledges
that Obama, Mr. Jones big time, is looking to be Mr. Landlord
of the Kingdom! The Left, the opposition to capitalism, knows
that Obama is very much a member of the managing committee.
We know that he thinks he’s smart enough to be the top dog!
We know that he sees himself above his immediate class - Black
middle and upper class - and beyond them. We know that he
certainly sees himself above the Red, Black, Brown, and Yellow
populations. We know that he sees himself with the white managers
of corporate politics.
Yes, we know he has a vision - a vision of
himself in a staring role, the staring role in the
production of Empire.
And so liberation struggles don’t have value
within this production. Liberation struggles are struggles
of the Left against oppressive imperialism. This we know.
Obama, on the other hand, has energized and organized the
young people - to do what? Vote for him? Vote for the interests
he represents? Or is his interest in them to later utilize
them for other tasks of the Empire - turning them against
their elders as he has turned against his elders? What an
example of brute imperialism! Win power at all cost!
In the meantime, how exasperating it is to
catch a glimpse of the “liberal” insistence to organize and
to conduct conferences in the middle of a war! What army stops
to organize and to conduct full-blown conferences while on
and in everyway, the poor, the working class, the uninsured,
children and women are struggling to provide the basic needs
to sustain life. Many are dying. But this struggle and dying
is apparently “absent” for many who, like Mr. Landlord, only
see “junk.” Human life beneath the level of the ruling class
and their core of collaborators is “junk,” expendable.
There’s a battlefield wherever a battle is
being waged on behalf of injustice and human rights. Time
would be better spent organizing the willing to resist capitalism
against the willing to continue the business of destruction
- only different and better!
But who am I talking to? Such organizing, of
course, is not so glamorous. Hands get dirty. People won’t
like you. They will stop and hiss about the junk you don’t
have or the junk you do have. Where’s the opportunity to display
the latest in fashion appropriate for the “liberal,” “left,”
or “progressive”? Who would display the “valued” list of names
consisting of “organizers,” “speakers,” and “guests”? Who
will apply for the “valued” per diems to fly here and there
in a whirlwind of busyness? And what to place on career
resumes? Who will “mingle” and eat the bite-size cubes
of cheese and crackers? Who will talk about a war or
talk about the “little people” suffering this or that
atrocity at the hands of corporate capitalists - the people
who are “absent” - not in attendance - at these plush, corporate
We, the Left, are working while others are
conferencing on the field!
These are people possessed by the “oppressor
within.” The Black bourgeoisie elite, to use bell hooks’ words,
have created a culture “where belief in an oppressive capitalism
functions like a religion.”
It’s amazing how this mass of the bourgeoisie
talks about the “absent” people while they accept the
“absent” distinctions in relating to their fellow human beings.
This “absence” is the workings of capitalism in the minds
and hearts of Black, white, Red, Brown, and Yellow liberals
alike. The “absent” is not discussed in polite company or
discussed on “progressive” radio or public television, but
it is there in the personal, familial relations they have
with others. It dictates their relationships with others and
situates their politics toward others.
These conferences are held in a space of political
limbo among and for people too fearful to truly organize to
dismantle capitalism. How can they dismantle something they
have come to depend upon and worship - even if begrudgingly?
You can’t be against injustice and human rights
for all some of the time. The secret is that these “distinctions”
offered by the ruling class are but a bad joke: in the war,
corporate capitalism is displaying its fascist fangs! Obama,
doing his best to win the love of corporate capitalist rulers,
displays his fangs and hisses like mad at anything that appears
to represent liberation, life! He’s
dumped Pastor Wright and now the whole church on the Southside
of Chicago! But here’s a man who greatly admires Reagan, the
most destructive U.S. president since Andrew Johnson in terms of
repressing the gains of the average Black American. Who else
does he admire? Oh, yes. There’s corporate oil man, friend
of repressive regimes, Bush senior, son of Prescott Bush,
friend of fascist regimes. And the liberals and Black elite
are conferencing themselves silly!
be committed to dismantling capitalism requires personal and
social sacrifice not identification with the Empire. “We need
a concerned left politics,” writes bell hooks, “that continues
to launch powerful critiques of ruling class groups even as
it also addresses and attends to the issue of strategic assault
and demoralization of the poor, a politics that can effectively
intervene on class warfare.” The Black Left knows there’s
an ongoing war against capitalism. We know that in our day-to-day
lives, we are under siege, for the pea-poded beings feel their
positions within the capitalist hierarchy might slip away
as more eyes are opening. They are hissing at us. They will
hiss - that’s what snakes do! We know the human condition
under the control of capitalism. We aren’t blind to
the “absent,” and we’d be crazy to think that war, occupation,
hunger, torture, embargoes, climate change, and the incessant
drive for more oil - the business of corporate capitalism
- will come to a grinding halt if Obama is in the top seat
among his corporate capitalist friends. This is a concrete
distinction between the Black Left and those who claim to
know by virtue of their accumulated things and positions among
the rulers: we know corporate capitalists and their politicians
along with the media won’t prohibit the advancement of Empire
amassed little by way of material junk, but he read. Che traveled
light, but he always had a book or two with him on the battlefield.
He taught his comrades to read on the field and, in the process,
passed to them the knowledge of resistance. Assata Shakur
relied on what she read to survive her ordeal in Amerikkka.
We have moved, but we are always on the move.
Our boxes shouldn’t contain the “junk” of materialism but
should contain the tools to educate ourselves, our children,
our friends, and neighbors, particularly those without access
to computers or online news sources. Our meetings can be held
online or in our living rooms or at churches or in community
centers and should be about the business of organizing four
or five people to discuss ways to resists the destruction
Editorial Board member, Lenore Jean Daniels, PhD, has
been a writer, for over thirty years of commentary, resistance
criticism and cultural theory, and short stories with a Marxist
sensibility to the impact of cultural narrative violence and
its antithesis, resistance narratives. With entrenched dedication
to justice and equality, she has served as a coordinator of
student and community resistance projects that encourage the
Black Feminist idea of an equalitarian community and facilitator
of student-teacher communities behind the walls of academia
for the last twenty years. Dr. Daniels holds a PhD in Modern
American Literatures, with a specialty in Cultural Theory
(race, gender, class narratives) from Loyola
University, Chicago. Click
to contact Dr. Daniels.