Show 256: Labor Day Weekend Special! “Selling the Work Ethic: From Puritan Pulpit to Corporate PR”

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Barry Seidman marks Labor Day with a discussion of the rhetoric and effects of the so-called Protestant Work Ethic, which has allowed a separation of work from “jobs” in the American mindset. If as humanists we value “the good life,” along with creativity, freedom and the interest in each of us becoming the best we can be, why do so many of us ignore or even encourage a socioeconomic system which deprives so many of us of these things?

Work in the normative sense is about the natural human proclivity to be productive, contributing members of society via creative, liberating and satisfying efforts. Such work is about freely associated labor, equal opportunity, the ability of each member of society to find and perform whatever kind of work he or she enjoys and can excel at, and work performed without relying on command authority or any other form of coercion.

Work as “jobs” (that is, work as we know it today under capitalism), is quite something else. We worship work (jobs) in today’s culture, identifying those who can’t work or find it difficult to find satisfying, joyful work, as lazy, deviant or “too picky”. When people can’t succeed in our work-money centered society, we blame them rather than the system they’ve found themselves in. We even go as far as to argue that those who don’t well adjust to the system are therefore mentally or emotionally challenged somehow!

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Show 255: Slavery By Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black People in America from the Civil War to World War II

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Sunsara Taylor will speak with Douglas Blackmon about “the lost stories of slaves and their descendants who journeyed into freedom after the Emancipation Proclamation and then back into the shadow of involuntary servitude … and those who fought unsuccessfully against the re-emergence of human labor trafficking,” as she uncovers the material basis which allowed such to occur (as opposed to some sense of divine working out of things or natural inferiority), and how the psychological burden of not having material explanations for this persisting inequality has had consequences right up to today.

A passage from “Slavery by any other Name“:

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Show 234: Fund Drive Special With Dr. Joel Kovel

Joel Kovel has spent the better part of his adult life profoundly concerned with the effects of human relationships as they impact the species as a whole, and indeed the planet itself. Like many of us on the Left, Joel has come to his work from a place of deep emotional and intellectual conflict… a conflict we experience via between the way we see the human adventure, and the way certain forces have shaped where we are today. All too often, the clash between what “is” and what we think “ought” to be, winds up in the end to favor the status quo. We are given all sorts of reasons for this by our more conservative friends from political and economic “practical” reasons, to the “lowly” nature of human beings (whether of the Christian or Hobbesian kind).

Alas, many of us live with the notion that ‘the more things change (for better or worse), the more they stay the same… which is just another way of our accepting what “is,” and putting our aspirations, hopes, and desires into that hidden away bottom shelf labeled “Utopian Fantasies.”

But as we have addressed for a long time now on Equal Time for Freethought – and indeed all across WBAI – Utopia is not a fantasy, but a destination-one no one expects to reach, but is driven by our very nature to come closer to. Those who argue for another kind of human nature that somehow justifies the status quo, do so from either a place of ignorance, fear, or – for those of us who are financially or politically well off – narcissistic comfort. For Joel Kovel, this just won’t do, and he has done his part to see that Utopia is removed from the bottom shelf, brushed off, and returned back to all of us.
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Show 216: Michael Albert – “Introduction to ParEcon”

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Over the last few months, we have been airing an interview series on Equal Time for Freethought unofficially called the “Economics of Humanism.” The purpose of these programs is to address what I personally think ought to be the center of focus for 21st Century humanism; that is, humanism ought to redirect its primary focus away from atheism, secularism and religious critique and toward the sociopolitical and economic aspects of human culture.

Humanism, as promoted and defended in the Humanist Manifestos (which serve as modern humanism’s defining documents), is a philosophy or world-view about an ethical, moral system of thought, derived from scientific method, naturalism and reason, and must be applied to the real world. If we want – as is argued in these documents and elsewhere in myriad humanist literature – a cooperative, tolerant, peaceful society where everyone has equal opportunity to live “the good life,” where people are not held back by racism, class-ism, sexism and nationalism, and where we can control or even eliminate the more dangerous sides of human nature such as violence, crime and the actions born from religious fundamentalism, we have to be serious, focused, and even strident about our mission.

The crux of our humanity can be found in our relationships with one another in what we have come to call societies or cultures. The way in which we interact on the large scale as we need to with 6 billion of us on the planet and growing, falls within those areas of study sociologists are interested in – which of course, includes how we govern ourselves (politics) and how we share human made and natural resources (economics). And, If we want to apply humanist ethics and morals to creating a very real planetary humanism, the means must be equal – ethically and morally – to the ends.

The means modern humankind has endeavored at over the last 200 years or so – capitalism, hierarchal democracy, state socialism and Party Communism – have all failed to bring us close enough to the ethical and moral sensibilities of humanism. In fact, too often, they have taken us further away. Therefore, we interviewed for the “Economics of Humanism” series Annalee Newitz on how capitalism’s evils have been represented in horror films in March, Joel Kovel on ecosocialism in April, and Noam Chomsky and Michael Perelman on, in part, the problem of capitalism and old forms of socialism, and what do to about it, in June and July respectively.

And now, for this week and next, we will explore one possible alternative to both capitalism and our current form of democracy.
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Show 212: Michael Perelman – “Markets, Competition and Economics”

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About Michael Perelman:

Although I earned a degree in agricultural economics from the University
of California, Berkeley, I never could bring myself to accept the
ideological framework of conventional economics. When I looked more deeply into the environmental, social, and economic costs of the current agricultural system, I discovered how the profit-oriented agricultural system created hunger, pollution, serious public health consequences, and environmental disruption, while throwing millions of people off the land.

“Why do those whose work is most essential, such as farm workers, earn the least? Why are natural resources exploited in ways that do not take account of their scarcity? These are the disarmingly straightforward questions that dissident economist Michael Perelman directs at the discipline of economics–exploring the whole history of its development in his search for answers. In the process he has created one of the most revealing and accessible critiques of the narrow mind-set that constitutes conventional economics.
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Show 202a: Earth Day Special: Joel Kovel – The Enemy of Nature

Earth Day Special: Joel Kovel

The Enemy of Nature: The End of Capitalism or the End of the World

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As the world’s scientists converge on the all too real crisis of “global warming,” even while Right-wingers and the Bush Administration continue to spin the crises into a Left-wing Conspiracy – probably headed up by Al Gore – too few discussions are taking place concerning the root causes of our ecological dilemma.

Conservatives who are willing to acknowledge what science is telling us, and even those whom exhibit a real sense of urgency, are afraid of what might happen to the economy if we go at environmentalism full force. Mainstream liberals like Al Gore have been working hard to dispel this fear by assuring us that the economy will get even stronger, not weaker, if we take care of our planet.

But what if the economy is at the very heart of the crisis?

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