Friday, March 07, 2008

Posing for Dollars

A recent Indian Country Today editorial on tribal self-determination observed that "dependency limits strategies." In calling for increased activism to counter predations of Congress and the corporations it represents, the editors of ICT reminded me of a conversation I recently had with a class of college seniors in San Francisco.

Speaking to them on the topic of applied investigative research, they repeatedly asked me to explain the meaning of the phrase "moral theatrics," a term I used in one of their assigned readings. The short answer I gave was "posing for dollars." I also went on to give examples of this activity, as well as to explain some of the reasons for its persistence, particularly in the Bay Area.

One of the reasons I noted was that activism as a career, rather than a civic duty, limited the strategies -- indeed worldview -- of those dependent on the largesse of philanthropic institutions. By constantly courting the favor of foundations, most of which are repositories of excess wealth amassed through tax evasion and dealing in stolen property, career activists could hardly be expected to rock the boat of the status quo. What they could be expected to do, I observed, is to pose for dollars without really addressing the system of inequality in which we live.


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