The brilliant octogenarian intellectual powerhouse and activist Seymour Melman died last week at the age of 86. He was an emeritus professor of industrial engineering and operations research at power-elite factory Columbia University. During the last years of his life, he was more or less shunned by the Columbia University establishment, relegated to a basement in the Mudd building and rejected by five departments to whom he proposed a semester-long course entitled “The Permanent War Economy” after his famous 1974 book of the same name. Those interested in self-teaching the course can do so by downloading a syllabus from Prof. Melman's website, www.aftercapitalism.com.
In The Permanent War Economy and other works like Pentagon Capitalism, Melman argued that the supposedly inextricable relationship between economic growth and military spending is in fact only temporary (if it exists at all), and that such spending has abominable long-term effects for social services and domestic infrastructure. He argued further that endless military spending resulted in a self-rationalizing and perpetual “permanent war economy” that he spent his life combating.
Melman served as co-chair of the anti-nuclear group SANE (Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy), among other anti-war work. Even after retirement, he maintained firm ties to grassroots activist groups, including Harlem Fightback and the Harlem Tenants Council. Melman was no ensconced and solipsistic academic automaton. During the recent US imperialist escapades, he held cramped lectures in his Mudd basement. He supported student protestors at the 1968 Columbia protests. At a 20-year reunion for the Morningside actions, Melman remarked:
“I found it so touching that 20 years later these people came back to find endless fellowship. I'm so envious of them. I don't have that.”
On the crass capitalists who would appear at his own 50th reunion, who resemble recent Columbia University graduates, he remarked:
“I know what I'm going to see there. I'm going to see a range of people, from people with conventional business and professional success as the centerpiece of their lives to a packet of neoconservatives with whom I have zero in common.”
Melman's death saddens the Federation deeply. His thoroughly researched, empirical studies against an endless cycle of weapons and defense proliferation stand in sharp contrast to contemporary anti-war activism, particularly that emanating from idiotic “anti-war” youth who think wearing clown makeup and banging on plastic paint cans represents an incisive political statement.
“Quite honestly, I don't know what we're going to do when the people of Melman's generation all die,” said one Federation spokesperson. “This contemporary youth generation is one of either outright careerist, professionally-oriented avarice or politically illiterate self-righteous posturing. We saw this awful reductiveness in the last election, when they argued that all political sin was Republican in origin and got on buses to Ohio, buses that ran off a cliff -- the cliff of the Democratic Party and support for a pro-occupation, racist imperialist who took the anti-war agenda straight off the table with these Anybody-But-Bush drones’ complicity. It's depressing that they are what we have left to work with.”
The poor treatment afforded Melman during his latter years parallels the current experience of one of his disciples, Ralph Nader, now a political outcast and pariah, who counted Melman an ally when most of the Nobody-But-Kerry left and liberal-bourgeois hordes had made it a party activity to deride and denounce him.
“Those who can speak and write cogently in complete sentences and back their assertions with solid evidence, shunned, shunned for those who opt for cheap anti-Bush sloganeering and showboating in the form of ‘no-RNC’ protests and the like, shunned for those who use clichéd rants against Bush and Bush only as some social glue, shunned for garbage and dehumanizing pop culture phenoms like ‘The Apprentice,’ churned out by conglomerates. Surprise, surprise,” said the spokesperson. “It's appalling that more people know the names of ‘Sex and the City’ characters or whatever than they do the name and work of Seymour Melman. Want to know why we're in the situation we're in? Hold up a fucking mirror and shove it in your face.”
The Glorious Revolutionary Federation of Fortune 500 Killers is an anti-racist, anti-capitalist student insurgent group based at Columbia University. For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit their website at: www.ceodeath.org.
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