GPS: “Standing Rock and Castro” – Propaganda s03e04 Part 1

“The clash of civilizations”. This was the prognosis for the post-Cold War era, and some would argue that this prognosis came true. Since the end of the Cold War, we have certainly seen more and more people from different cultures and religions fighting each other. Others, however, might consider this a self-fulfilling prophecy. PROPAGANDA takes a different approach: We ask the question, “What is Civilization?” A lot of words get thrown around, and we don’t say clearly what they mean. Often this is inevitable: A phenomenon can be experienced and described by different people in different ways. The phenomenon of life, after all, is that of our various, individual, lived experiences, and it’s not as if experiences can be wrong or right. “Civilization” is one such ambiguously defined word, and to us it is very telling that its meaning often goes unchallenged. “It’s so obvious what civilization is! We’re living in it!” But what is this “it”, exactly? In this week’s #CIA “What is Cilivilization” Nawaz asks the question and leads us through the arguments that have been made to his own involving plurality and modernity. But first, Andrew and Chell take over this week’s #GPS “Standing Rock and Castro” (in a violent revolution??) with a bit of #Castro and a lot of #StandingRock. Tune in!

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Global Political Situation (GPS)


Washington Post Blacklists Independent Media

#RussianPropaganda #Blacklists

As concerns about ‘fake news’ mount, the Washington Post has published an article accusing a number of independent media sources of being mouthpieces for Russian propaganda. The allegations are alarmist and have yet to be verified by legitimate sources. This is another example of anti-Russian scare tactics being used to politically advantage Democratic party elites.

Fidel Castro Dies at 90

On Firday, Nov. 25th, Fidel Castro died at the age of 90. He is considered to be a dictator and a revolutionary, and none doubt the significance of his legacy.


Standing Rock Water Protectors Face Evacuation Orders

#StandingRock #ThanksGiving #NoDAPL

The US army corps of engineers has ordered the closure of the main Dakota Access pipeline protest encampment of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe by December 5th. The corps of engineers will supposedly set up a “free speech zone” south of the Cannonball river. Shortly after the army corps statement North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple ordered the thousands of Native American water protectors and environmental and social justice activists to evacuate the encampment, known as Oceti Sakowin. Nonetheless, there appears to be no plan to forcibly remove the demonstrators. Instead it seems that North Dakota police will begin to block the supply route for the protest site, preventing all food and building materials from entering the site, an act that can only be described as a siege.

This comes as a class-action lawsuit was filed against North County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier, Mandan Police Chief Jason Ziegler and Stutsman County Sheriff Chad Keiser for injuries caused by the use of less-than-lethal weapons on the demonstrators. On 20th November, the weekend before Thanksgiving, militarized police responded violently against an attempt by the demonstrators to remove two burnt-out trucks blocking the highway, shooting rubber bullets and explosive tear gas grenades into the crowd, as well as using water cannons in the below freezing temperatures. Law enforcement justified the use of water cannons in order to put out fires lit by the demonstrators, but the demonstrators respond that the only fires on the site were used for cooking, and drone footage clearly shows the water cannons being shot into the crowd. Paramedics on the scene describe concussions and respiratory injuries, and there are cases of demonstrators being hit by rubber bullets in the head and extremities. One demonstrator describes a flash bang grenade exploding into her genitals, while another demonstrator lost functionality to her arm from a similar device.

Despite the heavy repression and threat of siege, Standing Rock Sioux tribal chairman Dave Archambault said in a statement that the tribe’s “resolve to protect {their} water is stronger than ever”. Alongside environmental concerns, including the pollution of the Missouri River by the pipeline and the pipeline’s contribution to global warming, the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and other indigenous groups wish to protect their sovereignty and the sacred sites that the pipeline will destroy. On Thursday, the 24th of November Standing Rock water protectors held events to mark the Thanksgiving holiday, which many regard as a holiday that whitewashes 500 years of genocide and mistreatment against indigenous peoples by European colonizers.


Trump is the President Elect of the United States of America


Finally, it would be irresponsible of us to continue this podcast without mentioning that Donald Trump won the election. Now let’s move on to the GPS analysis.

(Former Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein and now the Democratic Party are calling for recounts in three key states: Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin)

GPS Analysis


Taking a look at Fidel Castro, I think it’s important to recognize that you can have complex and justified views of Castro. All too often I find that narratives about controversial people or situations tend toward the ‘black’ or the ‘white’. Either it’s all bad, or it’s all good. As a rule, I believe the truth is rather more complex, and if our goal is to approach the truth, then we should do ourselves the favor of avoiding the black/white trap.

For example: Castro was undoubtedly a dictator. His regime was authoritarian and used state violence to squash dissent. But he was also undoubtedly a revolutionary. He consistently supported Cuban sovereignty and self-determination, and he successfully stood up to the US’s hegemonic influence. It is possible to applaud Castro’s achievements without becoming an apologist for his transgressions.

What I find personally remarkable about the Cuban story is that Cuba is one of the few countries that remained largly outside US-led, post-soviet globalization efforts.

A great mythology has developed around globalization, much of which is false or misleading. Cuba acts as a foil to a lot of the assumptions people often just accept about globalization. Things like: “globalization has reduced poverty and hunger worldwide.” Now, there’s some truth to this, but globalization has also entrenched economic practices, and especially labor practices, that ensure the perpetuation of poverty and hunger long past the point where we can solve them (which was roughly 15 years ago). But let#s look at a country that has escaped most of the effects of globalization and compare: Yes, Cuba remains poor, but not more poor than most of globalization’s victims; look at Honduras, Guatemala, or Nicaragua. Cuba compares much more favorably to central African countries, to Bangladesh, and, by some metrics, even to India or Brazil. Cuba enjoys high levels of literacy and education, and boasts above average provision of public goods like health care.

I think it’s important to recognize that Cuba shows that a lot of what is commonly believed about globalization is false. And that, I believe, is a very important, and very positive part of Castro’s kegacy.


Let us remember that Cuba was one of the first sites of the European invasion and colonization of the Americas. To look at this history of colonization, I turn to the first chapter of Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United Sates. In it, Bartolomé de las Casas, a 16th-Century Spanish priest who participated in the conquest of Cuba, describes the Spanish cruelty in his two book History of The Indies:

He says, “Endless testimonies . . . prove the mild and pacific temperament of the natives. . . . But our work was to exasperate, ravage, kill, mangle and destroy; small wonder, then, if they tried to kill one of us now and then. . . . The admiral, it is true, was blind as those who came after him, and he was so anxious to please the King that he committed irreparable crimes against the Indians. . . .”

Here a passage from A People’s History:

Las Casas tells how the Spaniards “grew more conceited every day” and after a while refused to walk any distance. They “rode the backs of Indians if they were in a hurry” or were carried on hammocks by Indians running in relays. “In this case they also had Indians carry large leaves to shade them from the sun and others to fan them with goose wings.”

Total control led to total cruelty. The Spaniards “thought nothing of knifing Indians by tens and twenties and of cutting slices off them to test the sharpness of their blades.” Las Casas tells how “two of these so-called Christians met two Indian boys one day, each carrying a parrot; they took the parrots and for fun beheaded the boys.”

The Indians’ attempts to defend themselves failed. And when they ran off into the hills they were found and killed. So, Las Casas reports, “they suffered and died in the mines and other labors in desperate silence, knowing not a soul in the world to whom they could turn for help.”

When he arrived on Hispaniola {the island of today’s Haiti and Dominican Republic} in 1508, Las Casas says, “there were 60,000 people living on this island, including the Indians; so that from 1494 to 1508, over three million people had perished from war, slavery, and the mines. Who in future generations will believe this? I myself writing it as a knowledgeable eyewitness can hardly believe it. . . .”

In light of this history, which is the history of indigenous peoples across the globe, we don’t have to be supporters of Castro to understand the significance of the Cuban revolution. If we look at globalization we can understand it as colonization’s legacy. The sites of globalization efforts around the world were originally European colonies, and it is by and large former colonizers who drive globalization today. Therefore, if globalization has improved the lives of people, we must not only compare across countries, but also across time: Arguably many countries are much better off now than they were under European rule or the rule of Western-backed monarchies and dictators, but only because colonization first so brutally devastated the indigenous populations across the globe for the sole purpose of European economic gain.

Where indigenous populations survived, they were the lowest class of any colony, and today they are still seen as second-class citizens. In the Americas, where indigenous populations didn’t survive, Africans replaced them as slave labor, or European peasants were brought over as indentured servants or to “pioneer” the indigenous land. All these people remained on the bottom rungs of society, and if it weren’t for concerted efforts by ruling classes to stratify people along racial lines, it is likely that indigenous, African and poor European peoples would have seen their commonality as colonized peoples.

It was first when the colonized began to reject colonization that, historically, their lives began to improve. This holds for the Cuban revolution as well. Forget Castro for a moment — he was only one person: The Cuban revolution was supported by colonized peoples, and whatever the problems of Castro’s revolutionary government — which no honest person should deny — the government and the revolution were direct responses to US efforts to control the island. This is why people loved Castro across the world, and why the United States especially hated him. The direction Castro led the country might not have been real social, political and economic self-determination for the Cuban people, but the beef the US had with Castro was not with his dictatorship, but with the fact that he led Cuba away from US determination.

Before I end this week’s GPS, I would like to turn back to North Dakota. I remind our listeners not only that there are still indigenous people in the United States, just as there are all across the Americas, but that they are still fighting for their land and for their rights to self-determination. The United States was a colonizer just as any other, colonizing first the North American continent before turning it’s eyes on the rest of the world. Now, at Standing Rock, the survivors of the original US colonization are fighting today’s US-led globalization. In addition to the one Chell brought up, another one of the myths of globalization is that it is synonymous with social, political and economic self-determination. It is not, and the Standing Rock water protectors have shown us that. The pipeline threatens us all, but now more than ever we must learn to support all such fights for self-determination, and not merely when we see that they will affect us. If you somehow didn’t understand the term “globalization”, it already affects us all, but even that is not the reason to support the water protectors. The reason is quite simple: you cannot demand your own freedom of self-determination without demanding it for all, and the best way to do that is to stand together.

Mainstream Idea