Monday, February 28, 2011

generation gaps

Hal Pepinsky,,
February 28, 2011
“Societal rhythms in the chaos of violence” is chapter 3 in my 1991 book on “the geometry of violence and democracy.” In that paper I gave at a criminology paper in 1989, I foresaw that an east/west divide was giving way to a north/south, religiously based divide.
My analysis was built on the premise that political/cultural/economic change is most at issue in adult child conflicts. What today are being called “revolutions” are essentially clashes between youths and adult elites. In 1989 as now, I see fault lines between generations cracking open worldwide. Indeed, the ways we ravage one another as we ravage our earth mother ultimately manifest themselves in earthquakes and volcanoes. From Christchurch to Tripoli, youth are bent on disrespecting and bringing down their elders. Globally, the tension between ruling class gluttony and impoverishment, condemnation as in criminalization, and finger-pointing at youth (and foreigners) for causing all “our” problems…all this tension has built up worldwide with virtually no release since the fall of the Soviet Union.
No human force can stop political aftershocks from continuing to erupt. Heads of rulers and “protestors” alike will continue to roll. For starters, from Sudan to Cote d’Ivoire to Libya, there is no foreseeing how long entrenched national rule can hang on, on limits to suffering and horror in the interim. And then there is the challenge of how to replace a regime without mimicking its predecessor, as a South African visitor recently reminded me In the case of the end of apartheid and the rise of the ANC in her homeland.
I keep looking for one kind of progress: That it is too simple to reduce any political issue to a debate, especially when it comes to what young people like the colonel who took over power in Libya in 1969 (who even came into power with a “green book” to rival Mao’s “red” one), or in less bloody form for a new generation of US president who came to power in 1993, or Tony Blair in Britain, achieve when youth take over. May debate over whose views ought to prevail be transformed into setting up new forms of governing ourselves, where first and foremost youth are presumed to equal representation and respect in our daily lives—at home, at school, in the workplace.
By 1989, I had come to recognize that children are the ultimate underclass—who like and at greater extremes than adult women get used and abused and forced to subordinate themselves to adult wisdom. Of course the current global generation quake will work its course in different places. Along the way, this time around, I wish we can pay more attention to the despotism of adults as a group over “their” children. Maybe we could settle down our relations among ourselves and with our mother. Love and peace--hal

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Gaddafi's dead

Hal Pepinsky, pepinsky@indiana,edu,
February 27, 2011
The transliteration of Gaddafi’s name has even been simplified. David Cameron has just asked Mr. Gaddafi to leave office. Meanwhile, in classic military/penal logic, my national government is doing all it can to cooperate with Euro-others to take away Gaddafi’s foreign assets or capacity to travel abroad. Libya’s head has been made a national pariah. He has nowhere to go. He is odds on to die at home. The problem remains: once you’ve lopped off her/his head, what next?
I guess what I most regret at this moment is how focused on the moment, how divorced from the history of “revolutions,” excitement at these “critical moments.” Meanwhile, by US/UN design, Gaddafi has been condemned personally to death. Problem is, the problem of what to do next only then emerges, where the tendency is for those who were well politically and economically connected to “stabilize” oppression that has supposedly been overthrown. Marx radically distinguished political revolution from human emancipation. I think he was right, and I regret the momentary focus on when Gaddafi will die. When revolution is focused on beheading a sovereign, revolution is cheap, especially for those of us who in this case happen not to be Libyan. Love and peace--hal

Apologies for the US in Libya

Hal Pepinsky,,
February 27, 2011
Shame on my national government for its complicity in last night’s unanimous UN Security Council resolution to punish the Libyan leader and his associates and employees.
The US Senate has steadfastly refused to ratify the Rome Statute of 1998 that created the International Criminal Court. What are the US thinking? Here we are sending the chair of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee to Pakistan in a Presidential effort to free a CIA agent who gunned down two Pakistanis.
It has long been puzzling to me that we can become politically aroused over a single death or arrest of one of the US. US UN representative Susan Rice’s press statement in the wake of the Security Council vote on “sanctions” against Libyans felt gross to me. How can the US vote to urge the ICC to prosecute foreign nationals, when a single US life is held so precious? I guess the US are just plain arrogant. I resent the danger this arrogance poses to US people in this age of global tumult. Love and peace--hal

Friday, February 25, 2011

a tilt in global tumult

Hal Pepinsky,,
February 24, 2011
It is a mantra in introductory statistics that association doesn’t imply causation. In criminology and social science generally, a methodological response has been to partially correlate data so as to isolate, for example, a statistically significant association between the part of “criminality” that has nothing to do with class, race, gender and age, and getting busted, as in reporting trends in juvenile as authoritative trends in juvenile crime itself. This represents one social science method, one methodological choice, to inform our personal social choices by the central tendency of demographic data we disaggregate.
As Gregory Bateson put it in his Mind and Nature, tautology is the only rational proof of anything. Two plus two equals four because that is how I define 2 and 4 in my language of choice. Hence, social data can never prove anything, except by arbitrary definition. As US sociologist W.I. Thomas put it after WWI, “things that are defined as real are real in their consequences.” Call students’ standardized test scores proof of teachers’ educational competence, and marginal students will be pushed to drop out or expelled, and in social science, students who best regurgitate the mantra what US founding fathers created a nation that is closest to god the best government that humans have ever created, odds are on the children of relative wealth who hang on to private schooling where their well fed children damn well do their homework and pass their tests, to carry on the perhaps untaxed legacy of wealth.
I take the methodological stance that parsimony trumps specific claims to human knowledge. When a whole bunch of stuff is happening in different places, I infer SOCIAL significance to my data. Let’s start with the coincidence that youth unemployment leads protest worldwide. When the president of Egypt is driven out of office, strikes break out particularly of public workers who take payoffs at work in order to feed their families. At least soldiers there are conscripts rather than scabs hired in privatized security. They refuse orders to kill. In all cases, “national security” forces are chronically underpaid, and set off to control a civil populace in which youth unemployment is growing, and in which pressure mounts to kick out older generations in power to open opportunity to younger unemployed people.
Aren’t the same forces at work in US states where the American Legislative Exchange Council has drafted legislation magically appearing now in Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio to repeal public employees’ rights to binding arbitration in contract disputes? In this case the right to strike is a smokescreen. And as in the Southern Mediterranean area, public workers are pitted off against marginal private workers—all the more forceful because those who hold public/private wealth and power want public/private and foreign/native impoverished people to pick each other off.
A global explosion in accumulation of familial/government/private wealth has crashed. On the bright side, young people, many with degrees and credentials who have no jobs or risk losing livelihoods, including children of the elite, are asserting themselves. When I hear stories as about how Egyptians are flooding supplies and personal support into Eastern Libya, when I hear such heart and courage both in Libya and in Madison and Columbus to resist nonviolently, with such discipline, I am heartened. Of course lopping off political heads does not indicate how to transform entrenched political/economic/familial structures. Different places will suffer and respond in their own ways, but as Greek public workers protest, as Wisconsin and Ohio public workers protest, as Egyptian public workers protest, as governors use private youth discontent to identify foreign influences like drugs and alcohol among youth or youth indiscipline as primary threats to stability, I see connection. I infer that the political tumult now surrounding is has common cause, with varying manifestations. Love and peace--hal

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

CIA in Pakistan: so transparent

Hal Pepinsky,,
February 23, 2011
I’m claiming bragging rights about the US “consultant” who shot two local guys on motorcycles to death. I didn’t want to hurt Mr. Davis by saying the obvious: When he claimed “consultancy” and the John Kerry showed up to apologize and beg for his release, Mr. Davis was obviously a CIA operative. For anyone who halfway tracks US cloak and dagger, it’s just so damned obvious. I’m saddened that such transparent US espionage is, it is said, coming out when the NYT agreed to keep Mr. Davis’s US job secret. There’s an impolite word for in diplomacy for Mr. Davis’s job in Islamabad: spy. When the US is trying to fight foreign devil doers, I find the story of our own home grown CIA spy in Pakistan sobering. L&p hal

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Coups d'Etat

Hal Pepinsky,,
February 12, 2011
In Egypt’s case as in many recent others, in the Ukraine for instance, a coup d’etat has occurred without soldiers killing anyone. In all such coups I can think of, soldiers have overwhelmingly been conscripts in remarkably “universal” military service in young manhood. In Egypt, military service became a job for so many otherwise unemployed young men, including those with college and professional degrees. So when Egyptian army tanks rolled up to Liberty Square, soldiers had friends and family, and were buddy with other conscripts who had other family and friends out there. Officers had children out there, and I’ll bet generals had grandkids on both sides of the political revolution. No political head was going to convince conscripts to open fire. Quite the reverse: They started frisking and checking id to guard against violence on the square, and everywhere, even as some soldiers died, soldiers did not open fire.
In such cases, heads are toppled without shedding royal blood.
In my US, conscription toppled our invasion of Vietnam while today, without a draft, US lives are cheap and soldiers are ordered to fire on seas full of strangers. That’s called military occupation, which kills lest it be killed by the people whose land soldiers occupy. Drones haven’t yet lifted US wars above that ground.
Egyptians have a lot to celebrate. They have a lot of room to carry out negotiations among themselves, especially so as they remain in such high spirits. I again invite us in the US to leave Egyptians alone, and get off speculating whether this Egyptian initiative or that threatens or helps US “strategic” interests. Meanwhile, go Egyptians; you give me hope for better worlds to come.
I will observe that even in the best of coups, old forms of political and economic hegemony tend to recreate themselves. Saviors tend to recapitulate plutocracy. I look forward to learning from Egyptians how their experiment in democratization proceeds. For the moment, many thanks especially to Democracy Now! and to Al Jazeera English for helping me hear your many voices. Love and peace--hal

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

profile in ohio state u crimjus res center newsletter; thanks Dylan

at Many thanks, Dylan for the interview and to the ohio state cj res center for inviting me to join their ongoing seminar. love and peace--hal

Imposing democracy

Hal Pepinsky,,
February 9, 2011
Imposing democracy is an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms. It is a shame that our president and state department see fit to weigh in on how Egyptians ought to govern themselves, implying that what is good for the US is good for Egyptians, and more importantly, for the good of Middle Easterners regionally and global security. How’s that for chutzbah?
A presumption that a savvy US president lays down the terms of others’ best interests is the global political apex of the presumption, as Alice Miller put it in a book title, that from adult control over children on, we who wield power over others, ultimately, lay down the law to our subjects For Your Own Good. That form of control is patriarchy, a belief that father knows best, the archetypal justification for power over others. To me, democracy literally implies sharing power instead, as Egyptians are now openly negotiating among themselves. I invite my government to butt out and leave it to Egyptians to make their own peace. Love and peace--hal

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

the fourth estate

Hal Pepinsky,,
February 8, 2011
In a 1987 book chapter, I celebrated “information sharing as a human right.” Years earlier, my late friend, colleague and mentor, Les Wilkins, pointed out to me and our students that information defies Newtonian laws of entropy. Once you share honest information in your relations, you and those you share life with become more sustaining together. Two home builders sharing information and tasks can build homes more than twice as either could do alone. In defiance of the law of entropy, this is human synergy in action. Meanwhile, as Les emphasized, once information is out, you can’t put it back. Information cannot be put back in anyone’s box. And as now in Egypt for example, political consequences are indeterminate. Would that my president and state secretary keep their “solutions” to Egyptian problems to themselves.
I entertain hope when voices are more freely heard. From there, let change take its own course. My hope for human progress is encouraged by the triumph of open communication over spin by powerbrokers.
Political change can happen overnight. Cultural change In wielding power takes generations. The fourth estate, freedom of information about how we are governed, is my primary source of hope for humanity. Families whose livelihoods depend on privileges of government will not go lightly, if they go at all. Who’s on top remains up for grabs. The US government would do well to avoid making pronouncements, let alone taking sides, in an Egyptian struggle. Meanwhile, the fourth estate is the best public servant Egyptians and US have in the political event, as surely as the benefit of Wikipedia links about US diplomatic duplicity. Love and peace--hal

Monday, February 7, 2011


Hal Pepinsky,,
February 7, 2011
I just received a cordially written confirmation of a “request that you leave” the child advocacy program I was training in until late last week. The notice reminded me of the phone telling me not to show up for swearing in, when I had been told it was my position on the drug war AND my stance on confidentiality that were unacceptable.
Confidentiality. I had said that I planned to regard myself as a child’s advocate who owed the child all I knew that pertained to him or her, and to consider my unique role in court like that of attorney to client, to help the child gain the control s/he desired, which I regard prima facie as in the best interest of any child (pardon my legalese).
There are two standards for keeping secrets: secrets powerholders keep among themselves (as in joining a team of drug enforcers), or standards of letting subjects of power know as safely and openly as possible what is being done to them and why. I choose wikileaks and I would have put a duty to children to let them know what was being said about them and asking them to guide my recommendations to the court over drug enforcement.
My relations rest on the notion we gain control when we tell our subjects precisely what we are doing to them and why, and retain privacy with what we do to our own bodies from public campaigns. My thanks go to writers of the letter I got this morning for doing exactly what I would wish them to do. In the event, I am reminded me what a fundamentalist I am that keeping secrets from children, voters and other subjects for their own good is inherently violent, inherently socially destructive. I thank my recent training experience for clarifying my own basic feelings and beliefs, and for letting me remain unsworn to set them aside. Love and peace--hal

Sunday, February 6, 2011

taking personal stock

Hal Pepinsky,,
February 6, 2011
I retired two years ago after 39 years professing criminal justice full time. I have no arrests and have been granted national security clearance twice. In my working life and in retirement thus far, I have been fired four times: from my first intro to crim class where I told my 250 students they all had A’s because I didn’t (and still don’t) believe in grades, to last week where near the end of volunteer training for child advocacy I was told not to show up to be sworn in and to consider my keycard deactivated. I was pushed out of two jobs before I kept a third for 33 years. Shortly before my retirement, a for-profit online university fired me from its human services faculty for insubordination. In both later cases, I have felt a measure of shame when my partner bemoans the fact that if I had just kept my mouth shut, I would have had something worthwhile professional to do. I expect I’ve about used up volunteer opportunities in my retirement hometown area. I’m a manifest professional screw-up. I’m also one of the few academics I know who have survived professionally and retired securely. I still want to offer something in community life. It is in my karma to live with what a long academic rap sheet. For the moment, I have nothing more useful to do than to take stock of I have contributed to such a persistent record. Here, briefly, I offer my take on how I keep getting into professional trouble. I focus on my latest firing.
I received a professional lifetime achievement award for “critical criminology” last November. It was videoed. As I went through child advocacy training, I was mindful of what a student and colleague had said at the award ceremony, that I have “an aura.” That’s a reputation I feel bound to honor. I believe that my “aura” is one of being authentic. From earliest memories, I have resented and learned to game people, from parents on, who attempted to hold power over me. I was the third generation of successful professorship on both sides of my family of birth. When I told that first class of mine that students all had A’s, I had enough social capital left to get a more prestigious job, and then to get through promotion and tenure at the third early on enough to get away with an attitude. By some incredible stroke of luck, I have gotten away with working WITH people rather than FOR people throughout my professional life.
I can’t blame the child advocacy folks for considering me a potential loose cannon. I am independent, and yet as I look back, my problems have consistently been with passing judgment generally and on what is in children’s “best interest” in particular. In my own peculiar case, I never had to compromise and hypocritize to take away my livelihood. To me, this is not an achievement; it’s a trust. When in training we had an hour or more on “treatment court” with whom we would be much involved, I listened to the dialogue in class and thought back to how hypocritical it would be for me to become a drug enforcer. I recall waiting for animated discussion to die down, feeling shaky when I declared that there was so much control otherwise that I for one wanted to play another role as child advocate. Now I recall that somewhere in the group response there was talk of a need for me to be a team member. I respect the commitment and effort of surviving volunteers. They have their own moral integrity, which I threaten. I thank them for relieving me of the fantasy that I could go with the flow on what I perceived as a law enforcement culture.
Another memory. Once upon a time I was politically active in my faculty council and got a seat on the budgetary affairs committee chaired by the chief campus administrator who chaired the council. He asked us all to respect confidentiality as he shared campus financial plans with us. I declined to accept, on grounds that I was elected by faculty to account to them on public business, not to serve him.
I have an attitude. I have a record. I feel privileged to have gotten away with it, and now in retirement, to have the latitude to suffer re-firement. I and surviving volunteers all have different roles to play. For my part, I want to continue minimizing my power over others. It’s my karma to resist adverse judgments against my own professionalism without resort to judging others. It’s a continuing challenge. Looking back, I’m lucky I was relieved of being sworn in last week. Thanks to those who recognized that I am unfit for the job and made a hard decision firmly and early.
It keeps coming back to me: From that third job I took in 1976 till now when I live back on my home town, good things have happened to me rather than my making good things happen. Taking stock, that’s what works in my own life. Love and peace--hal

Saturday, February 5, 2011


Hal Pepinsky,,
February 5, 2011
This week I was fired once more. During training to be a volunteer child advocate in a neighboring county, hours before I was due to be sworn in by the county judge, I received a phone call from my trainer. There had been a senior administrative meeting, and she was the one to call me to tell me that I was out of the program. The trainer explained that it was my position on the big biggest drug problem of the moment in the county, heroin use. We had a training session with the enforcer for the local “treatment”=”drugs”+”mental health” court. I spoke out against wars against opiates. I just got frustrated with demonization of the latest local non-prescription demon drug, heroin, to put in my two cents after prolonged shared stories of the horror of heroin use.
I was fired from major public universities twice before I survived at Indiana U. As I was about to retire I managed to get fired from an online university that paid me, and in the last year, ended up disqualifying myself from service in a raft of local criminal justice/mediation services I have explored. It is a miracle that I got my tenure and promotion on the same irascible terms on which I was repeatedly fired before and after IU.
I am of course disappointed. I wanted to be a volunteer advocate for children. On the other hand, I learned from the time I was politely but firmly fired by my first full-time criminal justice professorship nearly forty years ago that it was a blessing to learn earlier than later that I was not a fit. Jill worries that I will just sit at home and rot if outside work doesn’t keep me busy enough. She sighs once again as she comforts me one more time for saying another wrong thing to hold onto a job. Her continued concern and patience with my “stubbornness” mean the world to me.
I am unfit to be judgmental. I have gotten away with being an unacceptably nonjudgmental, salaried, adeduately pensioned nonconformist. I’ve flunked enough of life’s tests of social acceptability and gotten away with it into retirement to deepen my faith in honest, open, respectful disagreeableness. Could be I have something in common with Sarah Palin. I am grateful for my extraordinary blessings. It is a miracle that I ended up being paid at work and in retirement for simply being myself. Still learning, thanks. Even in re-firement, I live in personal luxury. Love and peace, hal