A Song For Tookie Williams

They finally killed Tookie.

After all, he needed to die.

To perpetuate the system

To uphold the mayhem

To continue the mental slavery

Since it’s our collective mockery.

 

Of course, Tookie had to be killed

He posed to empower the reviled

How long more would they let him write

How much more they could let him fight

Sinners don’t preach, its privilege of the saint

Tookie’s pen had to justify every word he meant

 

We live in days of certainty, of high conformance

Of how to demarcate thin lines of adherence

Fast answers to many a riddles of our times

Between social constructs, judgments worth a few dimes

Of course Tookie was absolutely the criminal

Agitating children against gangs can be fatally banal

 

Tookie did not watch Fox TV to be enlightened

Or learnt of Law and Order from episodes televised

He spoke of ways he was turned towards the evil strait

During the times they would not let the blacks integrate

The system then produced petty thieves and killed their colors

Oh now, the system is itself the criminal, creating unjust wars

 

Some harmless lies over cocktail parties lead thousands astray

Vulnerable youths today then go kill few Iraqis and join the fray

National gangs are now validated everywhere across countries

Members sans convictions, nor any notions of their sanctities

Military industrial complexes abound with transnational spreads

They make the resistance gangs look like unwoven threads

 

Tookie said, my children, don’t join the gangs of the privileged

Times have changed for worse, and yet we are now educated

Let’s differentiate, take a stand, and make the most of our talent

Gone are the days when I had to survive, over them you don’t have to lament

I will sing the redemption song, and prove we now got better systems

Which educates street urchins, that rehabilitates the prejudiced dictums

 

I never made any money off the gangs to escape the charges

Never even made a revolution of sorts to replace the mental agonies

I played into the rich white man’s hands to continue the aberrations

And he could pass all bills to keep me under subjugations

Lack of identity, any education, no sense of my heritage

All I had was a dirty pond to beat the torrents of sabotage

 

Every move I made to get over, I had the moves monitored

Any time I did a narrating, I never felt quite absolved

Everyone wanted a sensational story, and I was almost stale

Just when I reflected at roots, and I thought I had to go tell

How the system bred me, sustained me, and had me uprooted

Just then they came at me, projected me as the most hated.

 

Tookie needs to die so that we can continue defocusing

We can have an easier life with the thought of some goons dying

Of course God will continue blessing America no matter what

Through the periods of slavery, colonies or civil rights cast

God has his favored children who get heard with more sympathies

Even as they commit thousands murders at their sadistic victories

 

But Tookie needed to die so that the system could teach

That nay, howsoever low you are, you ain’t above the preach

Poor, black, homeless, uneducated, misled, without a job

Be destined not to aim like Malcolm, not a lawyer, not a cop

Stick to your guns, your drugs and the poor church congregation

End up in our system, so that we can continue to impose segregation

 

– Saswat Pattanayak, Peoples’ Poet

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A Song for Tookie Williams

Just thought of penning down some afterthoughts. My tribute to Tookie….

They finally killed Tookie.
After all, he needed to die.
To perpetuate the system
To uphold the mayhem
To continue the mental slavery
Since it’s our collective mockery.

Of course, Tookie had to be killed
He posed to empower the reviled
How long more would they let him write
How much more they could let him fight
Sinners don’t preach, its privilege of the saint
Tookie’s pen had to justify every word he meant

We live in days of certainty, of high conformance
Of how to demarcate thin lines of adherence
Fast answers to many a riddles of our times
Between social constructs, judgments worth a few dimes
Of course Tookie was absolutely the criminal
Agitating children against gangs can be fatally banal

Tookie did not watch Fox TV to be enlightened
Or learnt of Law and Order from episodes televised
He spoke of ways he was turned towards the evil strait
During the times they would not let the blacks integrate
The system then produced petty thieves and killed their colors
Oh now, the system is itself the criminal, creating unjust wars

Some harmless lies over cocktail parties lead thousands astray
Vulnerable youths today then go kill few Iraqis and join the fray
National gangs are now validated everywhere across countries
Members sans convictions, nor any notions of their sanctities
Military industrial complexes abound with transnational spreads
They make the resistance gangs look like unwoven threads

Tookie said, my children, don’t join the gangs of the privileged
Times have changed for worse, and yet we are now educated
Let’s differentiate, take a stand, and make the most of our talent
Gone are the days when I had to survive, over them you don’t have to lament
I will sing the redemption song, and prove we now got better systems
Which educates street urchins, that rehabilitates the prejudiced dictums

I never made any money off the gangs to escape the charges
Never even made a revolution of sorts to replace the mental agonies
I played into the rich white man’s hands to continue the aberrations
And he could pass all bills to keep me under subjugations
Lack of identity, any education, no sense of my heritage
All I had was a dirty pond to beat the torrents of sabotage

Every move I made to get over, I had the moves monitored
Any time I did a narrating, I never felt quite absolved
Everyone wanted a sensational story, and I was almost stale
Just when I reflected at roots, and I thought I had to go tell
How the system bred me, sustained me, and had me uprooted
Just then they came at me, projected me as the most hated.

Tookie needs to die so that we can continue defocusing
We can have an easier life with the thought of some goons dying
Of course God will continue blessing America no matter what
Through the periods of slavery, colonies or civil rights cast
God has his favored children who get heard with more sympathies
Even as they commit thousands murders at their sadistic victories

But Tookie needed to die so that the system could teach
That nay, howsoever low you are, you ain’t above the preach
Poor, black, homeless, uneducated, misled, without a job
Be destined not to aim like Malcolm, not a lawyer, not a cop
Stick to your guns, your drugs and the poor church congregation
End up in our system, so that we can continue to impose segregation

In India

Hyderabad is always as good as one could get. Hustle bustle of a rural life felt across the atomized civic livelihoods, Hyderabad is the classic paradox in many senses. The celluloid dreams of the star-struck ones come into virtual slides through the millions of auto-rickshaws; the amazement of the erected few buildings get diluted via the hundreds of human scavengers amidst rubbles of abandoned dust bowls.

In my last visit to the city, under the dynamic leadership of a leader bent upon to convert the ancient city to Cyberabad, CM Naidu was busy ordering for the evacuation of street beggars from the city. Garibi Hatao (‘eradicate poverty’) had started sounding stale. Maybe ‘Garib Hatao’ (eliminate the poor) sounded more promising since Mr Gates was scheduled to arrive!

Four years had passed in between and this time when I went to attend an international conference on technology and society, the whole gamut of social dimensions of technology could find no better platform of continued contradictions. The detachment of society from technology is never a natural outgrowth. It’s on the contrary a manufactured disconnect. Just like the life-saving drugs exuberantly priced, the IT avenues are also kept elitistically above reach. The technology is used to produce more technology. One program leads to another, one language needs the other. The whole spectrum of IT then becomes conditional upon success of IT itself. And with the growth of IT outpacing itself, as a self-serving panacea, focus on the usability of IT to further human causes gets diminished.

Amidst the angst that characterizes the world of capitalism today, I found two amazing friends with unbridled hopes—Vivek and Shaheen. Whereas Vivek could well teach the geek squads a few things or two as a software professional, Shaheen is a liberal arts student hoping to educate the needy someday soon. What struck me the most was their unequivocal pledges for social responsibility—neither of them adhering to the standards of neo-fascist order of selfish well-being nor growing ambitions of the individualistic Roarks.

After my brief stays in Delhi and Hyderabad, this is Bhubaneswar, my hometown. In many ways, the trip to India this winter will show some lights throughout the tunnel and I will shed some of that here.

Now, over to Tookie’s murder. Subseqent to some comments in the previous post, I got this message from a female reader:

Well I guess both David and Miguel are white guys….if not it is surprising and not a good surprise.

Tookie Williams was murdered by a system democratically elected by less than 25% of the country’s population. He had asked for forgiveness for the crimes he admitted to have committed and had turned his life around and given back to the society more than most law abiding citizens have (including David and Miguel I am sure). Correction facilities are meant for repentance and becoming a good citizen and Williams was a blazing example of that. And when it came to the matter of life and death don’t you think he would have accepted the alleged crime of killing four men, since that is what Governor Schwarzenegger wanted in order to grant him clemency?

If the four men had not been white, Williams would have had some chance of getting clemency……..just a thought. His defiance to admit to the alleged crime till the end proves that he was wrongly convicted. Conscientious citizens and young people around the world will suffer his loss.

Capital punishment, a.k.a. state sponsored murder, seems so fair when people in designer suits and professional attire decide that someone needs to be killed, it’s so class. Then we have well dressed people being witnesses to an execution and coming on live TV to express their feelings about an unfortunate yet just event. And then we have those people who enjoy the twisted vicarious pleasure of murdering people, who worship capital punishment.

Most poeple in the civilized world, the ones with the resources to live life as planned by the system have the liberty to judge others, who are less fortunate, for the crimes they do (or allegedly commit). Such people do not once take into consideration the prevailing conditions, sustained by the socio-politico-economic system of a given country, which foster youths to join gangs, do drugs, or commit so called crimes. If anyone is to be blamed for most of the crimes it is the system; a system that is unable to provide its youth the resources, opportunities, and hope in abundance to ensure they become responsible and productive individuals.

And please don’t talk about Gandhi, King and Mandela…it does not suit guys who are in favor of capital punishment to use icons of peace to prove their despicable view points. And moreover no one is born great, prevailing conditions trigger the passion of some people to do things extraordinarily and then some gain the support of the masses in order to be revered as great.

Despite the fact that US has the largest prison system and highest number of inmates (mostly people of color), it still has a competitive crime rate compared to any other country. David and Miguel like people can best explain this situation I guess…….and I will not be surprised again if one reason they might give is the increase in the number of minorities and poor people in the country.

It is not always about ‘don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time’, because most often even if one does the time and turn his/her life around, one has a minimal chances of living a normal life if he/she is not white, rich and politically ignorant/right.

When we read history and call people in the bygone ears barbaric for the way they treated the culprits or fought war. Hopefully things will change for better in the next 200 or so years and our forthcoming generations will learn what opinions guys like David and Miguel held regarding capital punishment. Oh! Won’t they be proud of you guys?

For the rest of us who are experiencing the loss of Williams and likes will have little parts of us executed for the rest of our lives until things don’t change for better, socially, politically, and economically.

Tookie Williams Must Live On

All we keep hearing is the Tiananmen Square.

Only yesterday, a North Carolina man has become the 1,000th person to be executed in the U.S. since the Supreme Court upheld states’ rights to order the death penalty in 1976.

1000 people killed by the States through hurling capital punishment alone in less than 30 years! What a shame…!

What’s always underscored is a system’s failure to contain crimes and often the system’s vulnerabilities leading to crimes. That, the crime is a social phenomenon is well known, what is not brought to discourse, is that crime is led by events, not by a mentality. Even if someone ascribes a mentality, there is ample evidence to prove that just like an alcoholic addict can get rid of the habit, a once-been “criminal” can get rid of the temptations, through proper rehabilitation.

Moreover, it has also been seen that in most cases, the people on death row have actually been innocent. Just the way recently Illinois Governor George Ryan found out what he should do to decide the fate of 167 death row inmates. When he found out in a very short period of time that many of them were completely innocent (yes completely innocent), he acted on his conscience and pardoned all 167 inmates.

The question is whether such an astonishingly flawed criminal justice system should be for most parts pardoned yet. What exactly leads to certain cops, and certain judges to act the way they do. We have studies enough about what leads to a person committing a crime. It’s also time to understand what leads judges to order injections to kill a person who almost always have realized his/her flaws and has apologized through the realizations.

If we keep pardoning the judicial system for ordering execution of so many innocent men in just one of the fifty states, and it becomes such a shame that even a Republican Governor uses his discretionary power to pardon, one can only expect that the capital punishment clause be revisited.

Not only that the crime is a social problem that can be cured, and that the legal system is equally flawed, but also to be considered is the case of the individuals who are executed versus individuals who are either let go or awarded less harsh punishment. Almost always the overwhelming majority of prison population has been black, whereas blacks constitute a significant minority in the country. Apart from the race, other traits include illiteracy, ignorance, poor socioeconomic backgrounds. If these are the majority traits, then surely enough, there is more to the crime than being just an individual. After all someone having access to most of the things in the world can say, ‘hello I am John, just an average guy, you know’ and someone who does not have the privilege is like: ‘how’s life been treating you my man, I am Kwazi, and as you can see I am black, unemployed, looking to live that guy there in the nearby street—yeah right there. Look at that BMW, man. Yeah man, yeah that’s what I want.’

However the disparity between the wants of the poor people and the well-to-do people can only be understood in contexts. It’s easier to say, even by the enlightened masses from the Black community, that anyone can lead a comfortable life if s/he gives it a try. Its far more difficult to appreciate several other factors: someone’s social condition (of isolation or integration) at a given time, the family crisis (coherence between members), the history of incarceration (past trysts of any family member to the police station), the lack of education (owing to geographical reason) or good motivating educators (considering the peanuts that teachers receive in community colleges), the unofficial segregation of education (the public schools are almost always black—more than 90%, leading students to realize of course they must be different from the whites).

As long as a system does not enforce (yes, even if it works much to the anger of some liberal white folks who crib about individual liberties) equal conditions of living (even if that irks all the conservative folks who don’t want to let go of their goddamned unjustified properties), crime will continue to prevail. Because its not a matter of ethics, where we find that some people are just so unethical, but it’s a matter of compulsion, where we find that some people are just so in want of basic standards of decent living (the decent living that keeps appearing on every tv show and the hip hop song manufactured by the white video makers for the black audience).

Tookie Williams has apologized long back (even for crimes he has not committed). He has even written inspiring books about it. He has been telling people to concentrate on their education, knowledge of politics and improve skills to harness technology. A movie about his life has been screened internationally at several film festivals. His redemption has led to his nomination for Nobel Peace Prize. Yes he used to be a co-founder of a street gang, but those were radically different days. And these are different days. During then, most minority youths did not have access to education, even to discover who they were apart from being born in a family of slaves. These days, after years of struggle, they have snatched their rights to education where they can know that the greatest of all human cultures prevailed in Africa first, their ancestral birthplace, and that the world needs no longer learn from every European white figureheads on print, but from cultural activists like DuBois and Robeson (who were, those days, dismissed as communist and anti-American, leading the youths to hardly know about their own heritage). These days, America is observing Black History Month (even if it’s a token) and pays homage to civil rights leaders.

As the times have been forced to change quite a bit by the struggling people, the political leaders, judiciary and corporate houses have been forced to accept the new realities—they have been forced to realize the historical flaws they always had, and they have almost amended the blind belief in their own so-called superiorities. Now the country just needs to apologize (like recently it apologized for lynching or respected Rosa Parks in such grand manner). So we need to give the United States of America yet another chance to rehabilitate itself.

And in times like these, Tookie has also realized that street violence is not the way to achieve any goal. Now that we can read, we must educate ourselves and our children to be empowered. Now that we can access technology, we must work to utilize it well. The blind belief that the Blacks had in their so-called inferiority has almost been reversed now. And now the prisoners need to apologize and move on to improve everyone’s lot (like many black people have grown up to become fine educators, excellent sports persons, outstanding musicians—all from a scratch, and brought glory to the US). So we need to give Tookie Williams another chance to rehabilitate himself.

We must realize that it’s always a system giving birth to an individual crime, and not an individual crime that leads to a system. Just the way, it was not that American people (as they are always blamed) were any more interested in Iraq war as they were in sending their children to good schools. It was a war mongering system that declared the war. And the war that’s causing havoc in the US (with thousands of its promising youths—none of them a child of a ruling class elite–dead on the field) or Iraq (with scores of thousands of their completely innocent civilians murdered by the war), is so because of the system that prevails, not because of an individual wish. We need to stop blaming Bush and figure out what kind of system gives birth to leaders such as him. Only by changing that reality (of the grander socio-economic, cultural, political nature) can we understand the complications and change the country for good. We achieved that partially in the 60’s, and it works even till now. We can do it again, as well and achieve the goal fully.

In other words, there is no country that will afford to be racist or classist for all the time, just as there is no person who will be a criminal or a violator all lifetime. By all possible means, just like several presidents have apologized to their people for sins and crimes, we already have Tookie declaring his apology, and in the process of course teaching us so many beautiful thing about our human lives—words of his has soothed children on how to lead better lives, have critically forced adults to examine the realities perpetuated through our professed indifferences, and shall certainly question God if s/he is around to know that its so ironic and unjust that the system is going to take Tookie’s life on December 13th this year.

Stop his execution. If it’s a real democracy, people should be able to stop it, by appealing. If its not, people must change the phony system.

(Thanks, Malik Russell, for sending me a link to the political poster).

Fascism then. Fascism now?

Thanks to Dr Todd S Burroughs, who sent this article link. A very insightful writing. Indicative not just of the veteran US and major Europe, but also new free market economies like India. Indeed the Indian administrations since early 1990s have been often depicted as Fascist in orientation for their shifts in focus from eradication of poverty to appeasement of the homegrown capitalists and foreign investors, all the while, preaching “nationalistic” sentiments!

When people think of fascism, they imagine Rows of goose-stepping storm troopers and puffy-chested dictators. What they don’t see is the economic and political process that leads to the nightmare.

Nov. 27, 2005.
PAUL BIGIONI

Observing political and economic discourse in North America since the 1970s leads to an inescapable conclusion: The vast bulk of legislative activity favours the interests of large commercial enterprises. Big business is very well off, and successive Canadian and U.S. governments, of whatever political stripe, have made this their primary objective for at least the past 25 years.

Digging deeper into 20th century history, one finds the exaltation of big business at the expense of the citizen was a central characteristic of government policy in Germany and Italy in the years before those countries were chewed to bits and spat out by fascism. Fascist dictatorships were borne to power in each of these countries by big business, and they served the interests of big business with remarkable ferocity.

These facts have been lost to the popular consciousness in North America. Fascism could therefore return to us, and we will not even recognize it. Indeed, Huey Long, one of America’s most brilliant and most corrupt politicians, was once asked if America would ever see fascism. “Yes,” he replied, “but we will call it anti-fascism.”

By exploring the disturbing parallels between our own time and the era of overt fascism, we can avoid the same hideous mistakes. At present, we live in a constitutional democracy. The tools necessary to protect us from fascism remain in the hands of the citizen. All the same, North America is on a fascist trajectory. We must recognize this threat for what it is, and we must change course.

Consider the words of Thurman Arnold, head of the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice in 1939:

“Germany, of course, has developed within 15 years from an industrial autocracy into a dictatorship. Most people are under the impression that the power of Hitler was the result of his demagogic blandishments and appeals to the mob… Actually, Hitler holds his power through the final and inevitable development of the uncontrolled tendency to combine in restraint of trade.”
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