Elena Kagan: She loves everyone and judges no one


Commentary Last Updated: May 17th, 2010 – 01:03:42

Elena Kagan: She loves everyone and judges no one
By Tony Kashani, Ph.D.
Online Journal Guest Writer

May 17, 2010, 00:20

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Barack Obama’s latest choice to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens may seem like a curious one to some. Much has been written, discussed, and pontificated about the nomination of Elena Kagan.

The mainstream media have discussed this nomination and its surrounding news like a sporting event, adhering to their professional ethics of removing critical thinking from their stories in the name of “objective journalism.” The alternative media is discussing it with in-depth analysis. The analyses have come from the left and the right, some good ones, and some not so good.

One thing seems to be clear. Elena Kagan is a consummate career opportunist — a magna cum laude professional. She was chosen for solicitor general by then President-elect Obama on January 5, 2009. She was a professor at the University of Chicago Law School. Later she climbed the ladder and went to the White House as an associate White House counsel, eventually becoming a policy adviser to President Clinton. At one point she was nominated to the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. The nomination failed. She did, of course, become a professor at Harvard Law School and later the dean. We meet people like her at every organization. They are constantly at work to make sure they can have a seat at the right table.

In this very short piece, I will dispense with discussing Kagan’s background as the dean at Harvard law school, as well as her public support of Bush/Cheney civil liberty neo-laws. Many experts are doing this quite well.

What I do wish to discuss in a concise manner is the collective value system in our nation that produces people like Elena Kagan in the first place. It seems to me we have created a value system in this country that is predicated on an economic theory of value. This philosophy of values has been around for quite a long time, to be sure. However, from a historical standpoint this kind of value system started permeating every facet of our existence, once the practice of neoliberalism, more commonly known as deregulated free market economy, was ushered in by its leaders (e.g., Reaganites of 1980s, Clintonians of 1990s, the Bush/Cheney administration, and now the Obamaniacs). If we apply the logic of neoliberalism (i.e., the logic of the marketplace) to everything, including our moral value system, we simply end up with a condition where nothing has any value. Notions like truth, justice, fairness, and compassion are rendered meaningless with this way of thinking. What kind of judge does this system produce?

This form of value system generates career opportunists such as Barack Obama and Elena Kagan, two of neoliberalist paradigm’s finest products. They are members of minority groups (African Americans and women) but carry with them the values established by the dominant group (rich white elite). In the neoliberal paradigm, the winners are those egoists who are willing to make deals with other egoists in order to get ahead. Altruism is a conduit under which neoliberal ideas run through the system, and it can just be another word, like freedom has become just another word. Hence, it makes perfect sense that a Supreme Court justice should be a person who is hard working, intelligent, and above all amoral. Morality is just another word too. The logic of the market place dictates that even the Supreme Court ought to be a place where its ethics is matched with the ethics of the market. In fact, one can argue that under this value system the market is an ethics in itself.

Elena Kagan is making the rounds. She is shaking hands with lawmakers, discussing future potential deals, and working with public relations experts in managing public perception. She is even speaking with progressives. She is not an ideologue, she loves everyone, so long as they can help in advancing her career, and she judges no one, because in the neoliberal paradigm anything goes. She has no public opinions. The egoists of the market will make a deal with anybody, any entity, any place, at any time, so long as this deal-making brings efficiency to the market and yields profitability. So it follows that the legal system in neoliberal paradigm ought to be a handmaiden of the market forces.

Barack Obama was brought in by the market forces, and he is adhering to the rules of neoliberalism. He is in fact doing everything he said he would do, which is to protect the “free market economy.” There is much evidence to suggest that Elena Kagan is disciplined enough to play the neoliberal game. Even if the people wake up to the fact that capitalism does not equal democracy, she will be there to vote in such a way to ensure neoliberal capitalistic values are protected. Is this what change looks like, a change you can believe in?

What are we to do if we wish to transform our society? And are we not exporting this value system to the rest of the world? And has it become circular now? After all the Chinese are practicing their version of neoliberalism with their unique state owned capitalism. And the Indians are widening the gap between the poor and the very rich. The fact that our planet is in need of a transformation is a “given.” The human species has been tinkering with the ecosystem, plundering the earth’s resources, exploiting nonhuman animals, and inventing weapons of mass destruction. Humankind is essentially responsible for the perilous conditions the whole world and its living creatures are finding themselves in.

Elena Kagan will be confirmed; the writing is on the wall. Will Elena Kagan write opinions to ban corporate farming and offshore oil drilling, to drastically reducing the US military spending, implementation of universal health care, to protect net neutrality, and so on?

As history indicates, the only agent of change is grassroots movement. Should the progressive grassroots movements in America unite with progressive grassroots movements in other nations and build a planetary movement to transform the world? This will have to be a transformation from a neoliberal, and ultimately self-destructive, world into an egalitarian one where capitalism can be practiced based on need and not greed. This will be a world where education, health care, access to clean air and water, and the Internet are rights and not privileges. Where junk food is a thing of the past. In the final analysis, one has to look in the mirror and ask oneself “what am I willing to do about this?”

Tony Kashani, Ph.D. is a professor of Humanities at Kaplan University. He is the author of “Deconstructing the Mystique” (Kendall/Hunt Press) and “Hollywood’s Exploited” (Palgrave MacMillan Press). His website is www.tonykashani.com.

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