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MF GALAXY

MF GALAXY is a weekly podcast powered by four mighty engines: * Writers on writing: the craft and the business * Pop culture including TV, movies, graphic novels, and more * Progressive politics, activism, and social enterprise * Africentric change-makers, histories, cultures, art, and more! Mixing brand-new interviews with classic conversations (from my archive of 23 years in broadcasting) with famous and dynamic figures in the arts, Hollywood, and politics, MF GALAXY will take you to places you've never been before, and deliver fresh insights on the places you've been.
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Now displaying: February, 2016
Feb 29, 2016

The word “psychopath” strikes terror. While most people imagine psychopaths to be extremely rare serial killers, in fact, most psychopaths are not murderers, but exploitative and terrorising managers, bosses, politicians, drug dealers, pharmaceutical CEOs, family members, clergy, atheists, police, teachers, and others we’ve met and under whom we’ve suffered.

The Canadian researcher Robert Hare is one of the world’s leading experts on the subject of psychopathy; he developed a screening test called the Psychopathic Check List (Revised) or PCL-R, and estimates that approximately one percent of people, or around 70 million humans, are psychopaths.

But Robert J. Sawyer thinks otherwise. Sawyer is one of Canada’s most celebrated novelists with endless awards and accolades. His carefully-researched science fiction novels have earned acclaim across the globe. And his latest novel, Quantum Night, theorises that psychopaths aren’t one percent of humanity, but two-sevenths—that is, about two billion people.

And wait: it gets worse. That another four billion people are not figuratively, but literally mindless—so-called “philosopher’s zombies” or P-Zeds who speak and act just like we do, but who have no interior life whatsoever: the talking dead.

Sawyer’s latest novel—which I regard as his best ever—is as intellectually provocative as it is chilling, and as he revealed to me before any other media source, it may be his final one. The book is about a Canadian psychologist, Jim Marchuk, who realises that psychopathy may be a quantum mechanical event that will end the world—unless he can end it first.

Rob Sawyer spoke with me by Skype from his home outside Toronto on February 23, 2016. We discussed:

  • Why, if humanity is two-sevenths psychopathic, the world isn’t in even worse shape
  • What rights the mentally-dead should have, if any, if they actually exist, and
  • How the model for Jim Marchuk—contemporary philosopher Peter Singer—advocates against eating animals but for abortion and infanticide.

Along the way, I cite the DSM-V, or the fifth edition of the North American “bible” of psychological diagnosis, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.

Full disclosure: Rob Sawyer and I have been friends for over a decade.

We began by discussing the novel’s fascinating and disturbing central idea: that psychopathy and intelligence itself arises from a quantum-mechanical setting in the microtubules of neurons.

sfwriter.com

Cross-Canada book tour

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Feb 29, 2016

Born in East Harlem in 1936 to Puerto Rican and Italian parents, Benedict Fernandez became one of the most celebrated photographers in the United States, in large measure through his documenting some of the most powerful images of the human rights struggle of 1960s and 70s United States, and especially from visually documenting the final year of the life of Martin Luther King.

Fernandez has earned numerous prestigious awards for his work, including a Fellowship of the National Academy of Arts and Sciences in China, a US National Endowment for the Arts Grant, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Various museums around the world house his work in their permanent collections, including the Smithsonian, the US National Portrait Gallery, the Schomburg Center, the University of Tokyo, and the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris. Fernandez has published several books of photographs, including IN OPPOSITION: Images of American Dissent in the Sixties, and I AM A MAN.

During African History Month in 2001, Fernandez came to give a lecture during an exhibition of his work at the Royal Alberta Museum in Edmonton. He spoke with me afterward to discuss:

  • Should photographers ever put down the camera and get involved in what they’re shooting?
  • His upbringing in the turf wars of Spanish Harlem
  • How dyslexia led to his career in photography
  • Why, despite being a Guggenheim Fellow, he found himself disinvited to a panel on addiction in the inner city
  • How Fidel Castro rescued him from realtor racial profiling, otherwise known as red-lining
  • The meaning of what Fernandez calls “mental poverty”
  • How he became Martin Luther King’s official photographer during King’s final year, and what King was like in person, including what he ate and why he bragged about his polyester suit, and
  • The meaning of having photographed one of the most iconic figures in human rights history, and his resistance to the marketing of King’s image

 

Along the way, Fernandez cited two former King associates: Andrew Young, later mayor of Atlanta and American ambassador to the United Nations, and Julian Bond, later a Georgia State Assemblyman and Chair of the NAACP.

benedictjfernandez.com

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Feb 23, 2016

While it’s remarkable that a man who didn’t live past age 39 has achieved immortality, Malcolm X accomplished so much in his brief, dramatic life that the reasons are clear. He was one of the most significant figures of the 20th Century, an African-American whose life, experiences, influences, and effects crossed continents and oceans.

Born in 1925 to a family of activists for Marcus Garvey’s internationalist United Negro Improvement Association, young Malcolm faced numerous obstacles including the murder of his father, likely by Klansmen. Descending to crime and prison, he recreated himself with the aid of the Nation of Islam, one of the many groups that rose following the US government’s destruction of Garvey’s UNIA.

Malcolm employed his astounding intellect, oratorical skill, and organisational brilliance to build the NOI from a few scattered temples of a few hundred people into a nation-wide organisation, and became an electrifying international figure. His success provoked jealousy among other leaders of the NOI, and fear at the highest levels of US intelligence, amply demonstrated in the books Malcolm X: The FBI File by Claybourne Carson and The Judas Factor: The Plot to Kill Malcolm X by Karl Evanzz.

Such jealousy, fear, and intrigue from shadowy heights of US power collided on Feb. 21, 1965, when five NOI assassins murdered the man described by the FBI as a potential “Black messiah.” Malcolm’s final testament, the Autobiography which he co-authored with Alex Haley, is a modern classic.

On this episode of MF GALAXY, we’ll hear from a man who was an apprentice of Malcolm X: A. Peter Bailey. Bailey is a journalist, activist, former editor of Ebony Magazine, a founding member of Malcolm’s secular, united-front Organisation of Afro-American Unity, and editor of its newsletter The Blacklash. With Rodnell P. Collins, a nephew of Malcolm X, Bailey is the author of Seventh Child: A Family Memoir of Malcolm X. He’s also one of the key figures behind the classic book Malcolm X: The Man and His Times.

Bailey spoke with my by telephone from Washington DC on May 16, 2005, just before Malcolm’s 80th birthday. He discussed:

  • Following Malcolm’s path directly by becoming the founding editor of the OAAU’s newsletter, just as years before Malcolm X had founded Muhammad Speaks, the newspaper of the Nation of Islam
  • His personal experience of Malcolm X from working with him in the OAAU
  • Why the OAAU stated repeatedly that it was not a civil rights organisation but a human rights organisation
  • How Malcolm X’s revolutionary internationalism preceded—if not shaped—that of Martin Luther King
  •  
  • The many deficiencies in the anti-Malcolm X biography Malcolm: The Life of a Man Who Changed Black America by Bruce Perry, which later formed much of Manning Marable’s book Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention, and
  • Bailey’s attempts to keep the US-based Socialist Workers Party and its publishing arm Pathfinder Press from seizing control of Malcolm X’s legacy and historical image

 

Along the way, Bailey cites Betty Shabazz, Malcolm X’s widow; the Pan-Africanist scholar and activist Dr. John Henrik Clarke, the credited editor of Malcolm X: The Man and His Times; and novelist John Oliver Killens, author of And Then We Heard the Thunder.

We began by discussing the controversy around creating the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Education Centre out of the remnants of the Audubon Ballroom where assassins killed Malcolm X in 1965.


 

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Feb 15, 2016

Few people have done as much to promote the Africentric perspective as Molefi Kete Asante, the scholar, editor, and activist who wrote the seminal work Afrocentricity and furthered the intellectual movement for an African-centered scholarship and world-view that employs research for political liberation through the academic resuscitation of smothered history.

Asante has published over 400 articles, and has authored more than seventy books, among them Afrocentricity, African Pyramids of Knowledge, Ancient Egyptian Philosophers, and most recently, the memoir As I Run Toward Africa. The Utne Reader called him one of the “100 Leading Thinkers” in the United States, and he has appeared on Nightline, The MacNeil-Lehrer News Hour, The Today Show, The Tony Brown Show, and 60 Minutes.

The African Union cited him as one of the top twelve scholars of African descent when it invited him to give one of the keynote addresses at the Conference of Intellectuals of Africa and the Diaspora in Dakar in 2004. He’s currently Professor in the Department of African American Studies at Philadelphia’s Temple University.

Asante spoke with me by telephone from his office at Temple University in Philadelphia on August 12, 2010 (You’ll note that during our discussion I refer to the African continent as having only 54 countries, rather 55 with the creation of South Sudan in 2011). We discussed:

  • How Afrocentric analysis opens possibilities for pursuing knowledge and success in various walks of life
  • How many of his detractors have distorted the meaning and goals of his philosophy of Afrocentricity, and
  • Asante’s list of everyday English terms such as tribe, native, and dialect that reveal Eurocentric biases against Africa and obscure the massive diversity of African nationalities, languages, and histories

 

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To hear the patrons-only extended edition of my conversation with Molefi Kete Asante, visit mfgalaxy.org to click on the Patreon link to become a sponsor for a dollar or more per week.

By funding MF GALAXY, you get access to all extended editions of the show, plus video excerpts from selected interviews as they become available. Here’s a preview.

  • Ongoing resistance to recognising the Ancient Egyptians as Africans, whether from Europeans, or from Zahi Hawass, the Arab who is the head of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities
  • His reactions to National Geographic’s ongoing misrepresentation of Ancient Egypt’s racial identity, and
  • The analytical limitation of using the word “Black” instead of the word “African”
Feb 8, 2016

In wealthy countries, chocolate is part of daily life. We give it as the generic token of affection at Christmas. On Valentine’s Day we send it as a sign of romantic love. When we need a mood booster or something to staunch our hunger, we grab a chocolate bar.

In recent years, it’s become a staple of corporate journalism to report on the supposed health benefits of consuming chocolate, or chocolate’s alleged power as an aphrodisiac, or how it produces near-orgasmic effects on brain chemistry.

But what almost no one in the wealthy countries realises is that chocolate is not simply big flavour or even big business, but a big, gaping wound in the body of human rights. The world’s number one supplier of cocoa beans is Ivory Coast, a country whose cocoa farmers routinely employ child labourers who are paid nothing. That means they’re enslaved. These same children are often lured to be transported hundreds of kilometres from their homes. That’s human trafficking. The massive profits from cocoa exports are used by governments and militias to finance their arsenals against each other. That’s civil war.

As much a planetary killer as is Big Tobacco, its daily operation pales before the massive human rights abuse that is Big Chocolate, or what should be called Blood Chocolate.

As we’ll find out in this episode of MF GALAXY, there’s plenty of blame to go around. Some of it belongs with the farmers in Cote d’Ivoire who are enslaving children, or the militaries feasting on chocolate profits. But much if not most belongs with massive Western corporations reaping profits in the billions while operating out of cartels which manipulate global markets and commodity prices, which permanently shackle the economies of Original World nations.

To explain this story, we’ll hear from Carol Off, the acclaimed journalist and host of CBC’s As It Happens who’s author of Bitter Chocolate: Investigating the Dark Side of the World’s Most Seductive Sweet.

A finalist for the Writers’ Trust Shaughnessy Cohen Award for Political Writing and for the National Book Award, Bitter Chocolate is a horrifying description of the tortured history of cocoa, from its use by megalomaniacal kings in Meso-America, to its role as an economic driver in European global conquest.

We’ll discover the fascinating story of a Canadian-French journalist assassinated for investigating Big Chocolate at its production source, cocoa money laundering in New York state, and the role of the IMF and the World Bank in crushing national sovereignty by economic manipulation.

We’ll also hear about the groups fighting against Big Chocolate, and why Carol Off declares that simply buying fair trade won’t amount to a hill of beans.

Carol Off spoke with me by telephone while on the road in Ontario on April 19, 2008. We began by discussing the bizarrely utopian origins of Big Chocolate before we engage its horrifying results.

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If you’re concerned about what you’re hearing, use the links below to discover how you can get involved. Make sure you call your school board trustee to say you’ll vote only for candidates who stop raising funds for their school children by enslaving school-age children in Ivory Coast.

CHECK OUT:

Child Labor and Slavery in the Chocolate Industry

Chocolate and Slavery: Child Labor in Cote d'Ivoire

Chocolate Works.com

Chocolate: Slave Trade or Fair Trade?

The Purefood Campaign Against Starbucks

Chocolate... by Slave Labour

Global Exchange on Harkin-Engel Protocol (2005)

The following links are courtesy of antislavery.org:

Statement on slavery and chocolate production

Slave trade or fair trade - how can you tell?

Child trafficking from Benin to Gabon

Child trafficking from Mali to Côte d'Ivoire

Mali and Côte d'Ivoire agreement against child trafficking

Rehabilitating trafficked children in Mali
UN submission on child trafficking in Benin and Gabon

UN submission on child trafficking in West and Central Africa

 

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Feb 1, 2016

“The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” is perhaps the best-known line of poetry of any post-war American poet. Gil Scott-Heron’s accomplishments and views allow for many labels, none of which encompass the man: jazz musician, singer-songwriter, poet, novelist, and historian. Born in 1949, Scott-Heron released more than twenty albums, two novels (the first published when he was 19), and the 2012 memoir The Last Holiday about Stevie Wonder’s campaign to enshrine Martin Luther King’s birthday as a US national holiday.) His work is political, personal, and always richly poetical.

In July, 1999, Wayne Malcolm of CJSW Community Radio Calgary and I met with Gil Scott-Heron at the Calgary Folk Festival. He discussed:

  • The importance of his mother and his grandmother in his early life
  • How he got pigeonholed as a political artist despite the broad range of his art and life
  • The significance and illusions of gangster rap
  • Art and education vs. the US prison-industrial complex
  • Scott Heron’s thoughts on popular selective memory about Malcolm X
  • His first novel, written when Scott-Heron when he was only 19, and the subject of his final novel
  • How his lyrics address manhood and his own personal experience of being a husband and a father
  • His collaboration with Ali Shaheed Muhammad of A Tribe Called Quest, and
  • How corporate media distort our perceptions of famous entertainers or famous crusaders

 

He began by talking about his famous father who was known as the Black Arrow—and no, he wasn’t a superhero.

 

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