Robert Jensen, a professor of journalism at the University of Texas and author of “Citizen of the Empire: The Struggle to Save Our Humanity,” spoke of the importance of communication and radicalism in furthering democracy at the Glendale Public Library April 1.
The underlying purpose of this event, sponsored by the Glendale Peace Vigil, was to generate stronger democratic participation in order to establish a common ground for a functioning and just political system.
Jensen opened up his lecture by posing three questions; “What is democracy? What is the difference between propaganda and persuasion? and What is the moral responsibility of an intellectual in society?” He believes that these questions are capable of challenging people to find new ways to talk to others about political views.
“A simple question like ‘what is democracy?’ can lead to very fruitful engagements with people about the nature of our system and why people feel so disconnected from politics,” said Jensen. Among other things, Jensen also pointed out the reasons why the American people refrain from participating in the democratic system.
“One of the most fundamental problems of this culture right now is what we might call willed ignorance,” said Jensen.
By “willed ignorance,” Jensen refers to the current politics in America, the war in Iraq and the Bush administration. He believes that people purposely decide not to be informed about these topics in order to relieve themselves of the responsibility of taking action.
According to Jensen, the depoliticalization of the country is one of the biggest problems we face and is why so many Americans are so hesitant to act and speak up about political issues. In order to change the current political spectrum, Jensen suggests, citizens need to get more radical without conjuring to people the worst images of a radical.
“We have to think about how we connect with people because I think there is the potential to radicalize the American public,” said Jensen.
Jensen made it clear that the first measure that needs to be taken in order to create a fair democracy is to heighten the left agenda and make it much more visible.
Currently, the range of political opinion is skewed to the right. Jensen told the audience to understand that these right-wing opinions are not accidental. He said these opinions were a product of a systematic program with very powerful forces.
These same forces, he said, have skewed this country to the right and the proponents are very happy to see a very politically bi-polar society in which ordinary people think they do not have a role in politics.
“The system and structures in place are deep-seated; they are going to have to be resisted over the long-term and the struggle to unseed them will be difficult,” said Jensen.
Jensen’s lecture was followed by questions and comments from the audience. Jensen, along with constructive criticism, also received kudos for his lecture and his written work, like his latest book, which was sold and signed at the event.
The Glendale Peace Vigil, a non-profit organization and sponsors of the event, held a small raffle as an incentive for those attendants who stayed at the event long after the lecture. The group congregates on the corner of Brand Boulevard and Broadway from 5 to 7 p.m. every Friday. Their goal is to educate people and create awareness of what is going on in our democracy.
Jensen urged the attendeest of the event to continue participating in organizations like the Glendale Peace Vigil, and reiterated the importance of attending events that encouraged mobilization through political awareness.
“I think there is a place for events like this where people of similar opinions come together to try to understand more about what they believe,” said Jensen.