The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Neoliberal Liberal Arts: Oaxaca and Weyerhaeuser

By Erik Forman

My hands are shaking as I type this. I am angry, and sad. I know that as I write, militarized police units are attacking unarmed demonstrators in Oaxaca, shooting people in the head with 9mm automatic weapons, arming right-wing paramilitaries, torturing activists, and murdering hope.

You won’t find stories of this travesty on CNN, Fox, in the New York Times, or The Mac Weekly. The deaths of dozens of people of color on the peripheries of capitalism are apparently not newsworthy. The abolition of state power in Oaxaca is a truth too dangerous to be told. So it is distorted. When there is any mention of the situation in Oaxaca in the mainstream news, this new attack by the police is portrayed as the “last chapter” in a story that began last May, when the Oaxacan section of the Mexican Federal Teachers’ Union went on strike, demanding and end to the privatization and destruction of Mexico’s education system by neoliberal elites.

But the story did not begin with the strike, and will not end with the clearing of the barricades in Oaxaca. It is a story with no origins and no end. It is a story that we, here at Macalester, are also a part of.

I would not be the first to place Macalester in a global narrative. Professor Andrew Latham and Ahmed Samatar have done this in their vision for the Institute for Global Citizenship. If you believe the hype, they aim to produce the next round of benevolent bureaucrats and technicians to manage the lives of those who will be rendered voiceless, powerless, subaltern in the world system. These graduate “leaders” will join the ranks of those who create, and then claim the knowledge to solve all the world’s problems, saving us from the “twin dangers of parochialism [read: autonomy of oppressed peoples] and utopianism.” Not only will the Institute help save poor, “parochial” peoples of the world from their “utopian” delusions, but it will give Macalester an “enhanced national reputation as a ‘world class’ institution…” achieving “greater local, national and international visibility.”

Samatar and Latham’s vision for the Center dovetails nicely with Rosenberg’s 10-year plan, designed in part to “increase the visibility and enhance the reputation of the college” in terms of ‘name recognition’ amongst the most desirable students.” Macalester’s most valuable asset, the one that gets it “the most desirable students” (those who can pay), is its image. It is no wonder that the voices of students and faculty on campus are silenced. Rosenberg cannot allow democracy to interrupt the smooth production of Macalester-as-commodity.
Macalester-as-commodity is grounded in the same flow of media images that turns the murder of the revolutionary Oaxacans into a routine police-action against “criminals,” rendering the violence of the system legitimate and necessary. The invisibility of Oaxaca’s striking teachers and literal razing of their school buildings stands in stark contrast to the prominence of Macalester’s reputation and shiny new facilities. The flow of images is the flow of capital made visible; cameras correlate with dollars. The transformation of Macalester into a “world class” private institution, a training camp for the administrators of the society of control, is part of the same process that is destroying Mexico’s education system, strategically underdeveloping those who produce everything and receive nothing.

The administration of this college seems intent on jockeying for position in the US News & World Report media-universe, regardless of those they tread underfoot. They do not see that the only way to get to the top is to step on those at the bottom, or maybe they just don’t care. Like most people in the US, the people planning this college’s future live comfortably in a world without Oaxaca.

Many of us are not content to live in that world, the world of exclusion and constant competition. People used to say that another world is possible; the revolution in Oaxaca has showed us that other worlds already exist. And they are being destroyed by the state. The most important task of people of conscience is to figure out where we stand in relation to those worlds.

I hear from some of my professors that one of the primary conditions of postmodernity is the inability to figure out who you are, and where you are in the world. In a network of invisible oppressions and resistances that global capitalism has become, nothing could be more difficult than figuring out where you stand.

But even on this uncertain terrain, we are beginning to find our footing. Last week about 100 students published a letter in this newspaper calling on the President of Macalester to reinstate need-blind admissions or resign. We cited a litany of grievances, most involving the repression of student voices in Macalester’s drive to become the most elite liberal arts college possible. These grievances arose out of some of our personal experiences with activist campaigns. We charted only a few of the many points of resistance at Macalester, just the ones we know personally. Now the network must grow. We need to connect the dots, find affinities, and adjust our eyes to see the constellation of struggle that already exists on this campus, in this city, and in the world.

The list of grievances that was published before break was neither the beginning, nor the end of our counter-narrative. The revolt in Oaxaca is neither the beginning, nor the end of popular counter-power. It is being taken up by multitudes across the globe, from Oaxaca to Weyerhaeuser, as we fight for our own autonomy from the network of neoliberal capitalism.

The people of Oaxaca are not alone. Their revolt will not be the last. We hear their voices, and we raise our own.

To sign the infamous letter, visit
For updates on Oaxaca solidarity actions in the Twin Cities, visit
For a version of this letter including footnotes to sources and research, visit

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    Isaac NewmanSep 9, 2019 at 11:16 am

    What’s up, how’s it going? Just shared this post with a colleague, we had a good laugh.