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Tereza Coraggio

Third Paradigm is an out-of-the-box thinktank on community sovereignty and regenerative economics.

We look at how to take back our cities, farmland and water; our money, production and trade; our media, education and culture, our religion and even our God.

We present a people's history of the Bible and a parent's view on how to raise giving kids in a taking world.

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Past Shows


Undermining Empire with Vivek Chibber

August 30, 2009

3P-041 Show Information (includes MP3 download link)

Welcome to the 41st episode of Third Paradigm, entitled Undermining Empire with Vivek Chibber. This past Thursday, I was invited to co-interview Vivek on the Free Radio show, Tickling the Belly of the Beast. I told Vivek that, as someone who's critical of Gandhi, Jesus, and Marx, I rarely get to be wholeheartedly enthusiastic about anyone. But when I read his review of Niall Ferguson, I knew we were going to be friends. I talk about Ferguson in my episode on foreign aid, called With Friends Like This, Who Needs Enemas? Ferguson is the author of Colossus: The Price of America's Empire, which suggests that America should learn how to do empire right from the British. Vivek paraphrases Ferguson's view as follows: "What the world needs is not empire per se: it needs a liberal empire. In pursuing this project, the United States needn't venture forth untutored because it can draw upon the considerable achievements of its predecessor, the British empire, ...a properly conducted imperialism can be a force for social improvement.

...[Colossus] offers lessons on how to properly go about colonizing those who need it. And there is no shortage of needy nations. Ferguson mentions, in passing, the Central African Republic, Uganda, Liberia, Rwanda, Chad, Niger, Eritrea, Guinea-Bissau, Burundi, Ethiopia, Somalia, Afghanistan, and several others. That they are almost all in Africa does not escape his notice. The fact is, he writes, that the African "experiment" with decolonization (as he calls it) has largely failed. For many countries across the continent, the only hope is to be folded into a new empire, which could finish the job that the British started. The only problem is that the United States seems unwilling to accept the challenge. It is chary to go beyond the imposition of informal control over its minions and hence is unable to provide the benefits of direct colonial rule. Ferguson's large ambition is to persuade American elites to shed their hesitancy and embrace, for the good of the world, their colonial mission."

In our interview with Vivek, he spoke extensively about foreign and economic policy in the US, and updated his 2006 article about An Iraq Solution that Respects the Right of Self-Determination. You can hear the full interview at the end of this show.

Let's break for three poems: Certainty by Tukaram, Introductions by Moya Cannon, and Twigs by Taha Muhammed Ali. The music is...

[Axiom Of Choice – Evanescent]


Certainty undermines one's power, and turns happiness
into a long shot. Certainty confines.

Dears, there is nothing in your life that will
not change - especially your ideas of God.

Look what the insanity of righteous knowledge can do:
crusade and maim thousands
in wanting to convert that which
is already gold
into gold.

Certainty can become an illness
that creates hate and
God once said to Tuka
"Even I am ever changing -
I am ever beyond

what I may have once put my seal upon,
may no longer be
the greatest

~ Tukaram ~,+versions+by+Daniel+Ladinsky&printsec=frontcover&source=bn&hl=en&ei=273CSsaNDIvcsgOo9-nMAg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=7#v=onepage&q=&f=false
From Love Poems From God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West
versions by Daniel Ladinsky

* * * * * * *


Some of what we love we stumble upon — a purse of gold thrown on the road, a poem, a friend, a great song.
And more discloses itself to us — a well among green hazels, a nut thicket — when we are worn out searching for something quite different.
And more comes to us, carried as carefully as a bright cup of water,as new bread.

~ Moya Cannon ~
From The Parchment Boat

* * * * * * *

Twigs (excerpt)

And so

it has taken me

all of sixty years

to understand

that water is the finest drink,

and bread the most delicious food,

and that art is worthless

unless it plants

a measure of splendor in people's hearts.

~ Taha Muhammad Ali ~
From So What: New andSelected Poems, 1971-2005, translated by Peter Cole, Yahya Hijazi, and Gabriel Levin

That beautiful piece of music was Evanescent by Axiom of Choice, a Persian-fusion group located in LA. Their blend of Western and Middle Eastern helps "open up the ears" of Westerners. Whenever I didn't like the dissonance in some jazz piece, my piano teacher would say my ears weren't big enough yet. I think the same is true for Asian harmonics, that there needs to be a bridge. Thank you to David Anton Savage, whose Unfiltered Camels show on KZSC Mondays at 3 grows our ears bigger. Joe Riley, from whose Panhala yahoogroup I get my poems, writes, "I was privileged to hear Taha Muhammad Ali present his poetry; on hard soil, he keeps on planting hope..." Panhala is a Sanskrit word that means "source of deep water." The other Panhala poems were by Moya Cannon and Tukaram, a very funny and areverent 17th century Hindu saint. I use the term areverent not irreverent, because the concept of reverence is so transformed by Tukaram it isn't recognized as what we usually think of. He jokes with God on a first-name basis.

But let's return to Vivek Chibber. In addition to Iraq and Afghanistan, I wanted to know Vivek's thoughts on Latin America and the proxy wars, and the militarization of Colombia, to turn it into another US mini-me like Israel. Vivek agreed with this assessment, and I urge you to hear his astute observations at For a puppet government, however, Israel seems to be the ventriloquist and Obama the one moving his mouth. The problem with puppet governments is that they tend to forget they're puppets. You give them obscene amounts of power to wield with total impunity and pretty soon they start thinking they're a real boy. Can anyone say Saddam Hussein? What was he thinking to change the petrodollar into euros? We gave him Panama bank accounts and a sandbox full of torture sites – what more did he want?

And these days, even the Honduran golpistas are forgetting that we made them, and we can break them. Or... maybe not. Didn't they get the script? They were supposed to accept the Oscar Arias negotiation. Just like Aristide in Haiti, we'd then let Zelaya return – but with his hands tied. That would let the rest of ALBA know who's pulling the strings. But instead, Micheletti has created an international incident that focuses the spotlight right on the men behind the curtain. Ignore those CEO's of Dole and Chaquita! Ignore the Clinton PR firm rebranding terror as a popular uprising! Ignore the financiers and Ambassador Lloren, suspiciously still in place.

Tom Louden, of the Quixote Center, has just returned from an intense two weeks of leading an International delegation to Honduras. He writes,

I am just beginning to realize what an energy vortex we were in.It was painful to leave so many new and old friends who continue to live with their lives at risk every day... the repression last Wednesday; with hundreds of people beaten up, wounded, hospitalized, jailed and missing had socked a powerful punch. This deliberate blow knocked everyone off their feet, which was obviously the intent of those responsible for the coup.The intentional sowing of complete chaos among the ranks of those opposing the coup has been a constant tactic; peaceful marches are unexpectedly attacked to sow fear and terror among the growing masses that come out day after day to oppose the rupture of constitutional order and the attempt to turn the clock back to the 1980's days of terror.

Last Friday, my last full day in Honduras, people had still not recovered from Wednesday's attack. The shock and awe tactic throws everyone into a vortex, not just those directly impacted but everyone around them as well. This was the case for our entire delegation. All of us were suddenly 'lost in space', as the effort exerted by our bodies to respond to the violence zapped energy from us all.The normally clear, focused, systematic work ... began to come apart, with many, consistently faithful employees just not showing up for work... All of these people who the day before had been focused and coherent were suddenly changed...

Then it began to dawn on me. There were two major things sapping everyone's energy; the knowledge that many people had been beaten, and something more deep and ominous which was responsible for the collective dread I was sensing around me. People felt powerless and impotent with the knowledge that dozens had been detained, were likely being subjected to torture, and there was virtually nothing they could do to stop it.

The "Security Advisor" for the Micheletti regime is the infamous Billy Joya, dreaded for his participation in Battalion 316, one of the death squad organizations from the 1980s. His 'specialty' is inflicting terror by targeting children or other family members for torture and disappearance. He is one of the many death squad thugs trained in torture at the School of The Americas. That day, some of those detained were being taken to places which have historically been used as torture centers. The message being sent was clear.

One case that our delegation documented in San Pedro Sula was that of a young man who had been kidnapped from his house and was still missing.He was targeted because of his mother's long history of activism.All of those in the leadership of the resistance to the coup recognize that similar things might happen to their children and families. This is reminiscent of the blood chilling tactics introduced in the region by the U.S. in the fight against 'communism' in the 70s and 80s; the same people continue to control U.S. Latin American policy 30 years later."

That was written by Tom Louden of the Alliance for Responsible Trade. But the agreement brokered by Arias, rejected by the coup, would have given both the coup regime and Zelaya immunity, as if these are two sides to a dispute. Perhaps we should also give immunity to the activist mother whose son is being tortured. Let's give immunity to the father arrested for reporting his son's murder. And what about the young woman pulled out of the crowd and raped by four policemen, and then by the butt of a rifle? Certainly she did something – scratched a policeman with her nails – that she should be given immunity for. Let's be generous – immunity for all!

Tell Obama that immunity is for whistleblowers, not terrorists and torturers. If Zelaya has broken the law, put him on trial with everyone else. Obama has called US advocates "hypocrites," saying that they complained about US intervention before but now they want it in Honduras. Barack, really now. Your military bases in Colombia are intervention, guns aimed at the countries of the Bolivarian Revolution. But cancelling $150 million in aid to Honduras would be ceasing to enable, not intervening. Cancelling US visas for those involved in the coup would be refusing to collaborate. Stopping the flow of the 70% of Honduran exports that go into the US would be halting our complicity. Obama's m.o., as Robert Naiman says, is talk left, act right. On Friday, urged by SOA Watch, I called Clinton and Obama, and you can too. Her number is 202-647-5171. His number is 202-456-1111. Put them both on speed dial.

Let's break for...

[Brett Dennen – Ain't No Reason]

That was Brett Dennen with Ain't No Reason, whose YouTube video, directed by Clair Carre, packs a real punch. When my daughters were little, every birthday and holiday was a ticking timebomb for me, with everyone waiting to see when I would snap. One of our family stories is the time I was about to cut the birthday cake and all the kids were fighting over who would get the first piece, or the piece with the icing flower. Fed up with the ungrateful and demanding bunch, I told them that I was tempted to walk outside and throw the whole cake into the trash. One impertinent little thing jibed, "Yeah, but would you?" Veronica frantically blurted, "Don't test her!" knowing that it wasn't beyond me. I'm glad we've emerged from those years with a sense of humor.

I tried to explain, as much to myself as to them, why these things invariably set me off. I said that there was always a starving Indonesian child in the corner of the room, excluded and watching. When I get dressed, I feel the ghosts hovering of those who make my clothes. The presents that become junk the moment they're opened make me ache, like someone just took a bite out of my soul. When I look at our lives in this context, I can't relax and forget. I see our bratty kids, not as no worse than their friends, but through the eyes of the invisible ones.

The Clair Carre video makes these uninvited guests visible. A woman pulls a thread on some clothes and it leads to a sweatshop worker there in the laundry room. A teenager closes a refrigerator door to see a female guerilla fighter with one leg. An elegant woman opens a closet to see a handcuffed man in a black hood. A family having dinner looks over, and sees an African child, watching. The video still gives me chills. It's as if some part of myself went forth and made my isolated vision real far beyond my own capabilities. I was hit with proof positive that the collective self is humming along even when I feel stuck in the mud, and that my original vision was no more, or less, mine alone than the resulting video was. Originality is way over-rated. The collective self, which mystics write with a capital S, is such a relief.

But the collective self is also a belief in the goodness of each individual. One area of Vivek's expertise, which I didn't get to ask him about, is Marxism. He writes about and teaches Marxist theory at NYU. In the interview, there's one place in which my response is a little heated. He feels that tax relocalization won't balance out the divide between rich and poor counties. I ask if it's then not centralization of power that leads to corruption, but centralization of power in the wrong hands. To me, this is the crux of the problem with communism, socialism, or Marxism. Once you centralize power, you might as well tie it up with a big red ribbon and hand it over to the first totalitarian coup that comes along. There's no resiliency, because whatever has one source is always going to be vulnerable.

A listener recently asked me what the Third Paradigm was. I said that it depends on the question. There are any number of false dichotomies we're presented with, to force us to choose the lesser of two evils. It could be consumer christianity vs. self-absorbed spirituality, or college-via-loans-and-military vs. McDonald's, or capitalist democracy vs. totalitarian socialism. In each case, both are points along the same continuum, with more in common than different. The third paradigm defines the continuum of evil between them as that which disregards other people as equal in value to us. Then it doesn't find a compromise between them but heads off in a completely different dimension. In religion, that might be research that shows Judaic and Christian scriptures to both be pro-empire. In life after High School, it might be developing new credentials that promote real skills. In sociology, I think it's sovereignty or self-determination.

Both capitalist democracy and centralized socialism give the power of distributing goods or withholding resources to an elite few. At the heart of both is the belief that some people are better than others. Niall Ferguson believes that the cream has risen to the top because of social superiority. We'd do inferior societies a favor by imposing our wisdom through benevolent empire. Vivek Chibber, on the other hand, believes in the moral superiority of the poor. If the middle class could get away with it, he implies, they'd concentrate their tax-base in well-to-do enclaves, shutting the gates on the poor. But history belies this. In Santa Cruz, property tax increases pass again and again for public education. Our tax reforms don't affect the truly wealthy, whose money's in Panama or Switzerland anyway. But our belief that human nature is inherently greedy keeps our taxes centralized, and centralized power is inherently corrupt.

This has been Tereza Coraggio with Third Paradigm. A special thanks to Janea for inviting me on her show, Tickling the Belly of the Beast, Thursdays at 2, and to Vivek Chibber for sharing his insight and depth of knowledge, while viewing our divergence in the comradely way it was meant. Thank you to David Anton Savage for the exposure to Middle Eastern music, and to Joan Lintz-Thompson for my gorgeous new logo and business card. Thanks to Mike Scirocco, who has embraced the website project with enthusiasm and the blessing of my friend Walter, who's gotten busy with other things. Thank you, as always, to Skidmark Bob, for editing, production, and enjoying the challenge of harder to find music like Axiom of Choice.

I've come a long way from being the only one who sees the ghosts in the room, thanks to all of you, the many-splendored manifestations of the upper-case Self. Our closing song is Along the Way by the brilliant lyricist Nick Urata with Devotchka. It says, "So this is the city? So this is progress" How can something so pretty become such a mess? There is more than this steal and stone, more than this flesh and bone, there is a little piece of land in me that no other man can own." Peace to you.

[DeVotchKa – Along The Way]

Vivek Chibber Interview

Listen to the Interview

Show Information (includes MP3 download link)

src="3523697345-audio-player.swf" flashvars="audioUrl=" width="400" height="27" allowscriptaccess="never" quality="best" bgcolor="#ffffff" wmode="window" flashvars="playerMode=embedded">

Professor Chibber (Ph.D., M.A., University of Wisconsin, B.A. Northwestern University) is Associate Professor Sociology at New York University. His research interests are in economic sociology, development, Marxian theory, political sociology, and comparative-historical sociology. His prior work has focused on the role of the state in economic development. Specifically, Chibber has examined the conditions under which state-building can be successful in late-developing countries. He has also published in the dynamics of long-term historical change in South Asia and on the plausibility of the Marxian theory of history.

Tereza Coraggio interviews Vivek Chibber

Thanks for listening.