Suicidal Greed!

Are you  like me? Do you ever wonder why things seem to be getting so out of control in this world? If, overall, things seem to be getting worse, rather than better, despite all the work and activism and uprising going on that we read about in the news, all the time.

The Occupy movement, Arab Spring, now right wing armed vigilantes defending illegally grazing cows and their rancher? A victory for people against a government that is often and increasingly more than heavy handed in the face of the democracy it likes to claim that it stands for.

Is this a victory for violence? What do we make of this one? A victory for lawlessness? A victory for resistance? All of the above? A real mixed bag. A victory for restraint on the part of the governmental powers? This COULD be a good thing. Then again I shudder to think that vigilantism may now get bolder. Things do seem to be getting out of hand some… there is the potential for a societal break-down, if not already underway. Are we on the verge of a complete collapse? (criminalization of almost every behavior of the poor and people of color as a way to fill prison beds for profit, almost every excuse conceivable by governments around the globe to justify all manner of military conflicts to drive arms production and resource exploitation and sales for … profit.)

What can the effects of this all be? Where are we headed? And why? Who is to answer for this sorry state of affairs… historically, international conflict is on the decline, yet the actual violence has become greater and the state of our society and our safety and security feels at risk… after all, now our weapons of war can destroy pretty much all life on the planet. But we may not have to use them… We seem to be hell bent on killing ourselves and a whole bunch of other species in the bargain without using them…

Just by consuming more and more and running the whole thing on fossil fuels. Fossil fuel is now threatening to make fossils out of all of us. Or at least most of us… At the very best, the global climate change freight train will run over us like so many teenagers partying on the tracks. In a vicious feed-back loop, as we dig deeper into Mother Earth to rape her more and more for the non-renewable forms of energy to fulfill our increasingly wasteful society  (despite very positive efforts at organizing for sustainability… but is there enough time? Chuck Hagel, the US  so called Defense Secretary just came back from a trip to Mongolia. There are minerals in Mongolia. What part of the planet are we NOT willing to exploit?) as we burn more fossil fuel and change the life giving atmosphere more and more we bring about our own potential destruction as if we are driving the very train that is about to run us all down. Or did we just give the keys to a greedy set of train operators in exchange for the booze and the licence to throw the train track party in the first place?

Whose operating the train? What will come of this?

And we think we are so well off because we can turn on a light switch when our side of the Earth turns away from the sun each day.

The number of people being displaced in the world is rising. According to the World Watch institute, to quote Michael Renner, Jan 25th, 2013,  “For reasons that range from warfare and persecution to natural disasters and development projects, an estimated 92.56 million people were forcibly displaced in 2012, either inside their home countries or across a border. Displacement is sometimes temporary, but in other cases it can last for years.”

Just witness the Palestinians, (or, for that matter, the American Indian and the descendants of the slave trade who are our neighbors.)

I have added bold above to emphasize the points that it is not just war and conflict that constitute violence to populations. What we call “development” does too. and I also wanted it clear that we are talking about significant numbers of people, enough to be a strain on any efforts to provide relief aid. And I especially want it known that these are not vagabonds, gypsies or bohemians. These people have been FORCIBLY DISPLACED. One would assume it would be against their will right?

And it is getting worse.  The UN Appeal for aid for Syria alone is the largest in history. Never mind Tibet, or any number of other locations.

This happens in poor communities right here in the USA. Look around… Homeless people are showing up in the suburbs and even rural communities these days. With an economy that has still not built a solid floor under people during the so called recovery, homelessness is not only more prevalent, but more possible for so many more… You have heard the phrase… “One paycheck away…”

Now if I was driving the train and seduced by the power of having the controls in my hands, and I didn’t want people getting together to take their turn, it would behoove me to threaten them by taking away their tickets and throwing them off the train, right? So if our society is like a this fright train, and being on board is like being a functional member, you know, with a means of income, and a place to live, you get the picture.

So what I am suggesting is that, if not an accident, the current, ongoing economic crisis that puts so many of us at risk certainly works in favor of the train operators if keeping the controls is what they are all about. But if it is because they think they are better at driving the train for all of us,  – if they really, really think they are doing us all a favor and we are better off with them at the controls, you know, being of service by being a public servant, or a so called “captain of industry” then someone ought to tell them that they should have their licences revoked and do deep therapy to learn that they are in serious denial about the real state of affairs they are creating.

Among other things, we are looking at the possibility of runaway climate change. If you think extreme weather events are a big deal right now, you ain’t seen nothing yet if we do not turn things around, and quickly. And this is because of a tendency, no, make that a bad habit, like drug abuse or living in a dysfunctional arrangement because one does not know any other way to live and feels out of their comfort zone to live in a healthy environment… which often requires taking the responsibility to act on your own personal power while maintaining healthy relationships with those around you… How does one handle that if all they have ever known is to accept being less than they can be? How do we accept taking responsibility for putting up with the local, national, and international  bullies who run things? And why? What’s our payoff? The chance to watch “dancing with the stars” and own a cell phone and buy Budweiser and Coke and allowing ourselves to believe that being devoted to brands, many of which will eventually kill us if we keep consuming them,  is what amounts to freedom of choice? As if we had the choice? And of course we do, but do you know how much work goes into building a co-op? Well most people just don’t have time for that.

It’s the same for those of us who shop at Trader Joes. At times just doing what we are used to is easier and so it is what we do. We all have too much else to worry about just to get through the day. Change, even change that may be good for us, can be scary and just too much work. We all gotta sleep sometime.

But we all choose. The question now is how do we choose to change and become healthy when we have given away the keys? How do we get them back? And why is it so hard? Why do the train operators refuse to give us a seat at the controls? How will they prosper if they run us all down? Who will they depend on to buy their brands if that happens? What do they hope to gain?

The hot new economist everyone in the economic world is talking about, Thomas Piketty, has proven, supposedly, with years of economic data, that those in charge of the capitalist system, which now is truly global and in essence is THE system, or, in our analogy, THE train, are destroying their own gains by gaming said system in such a way that their accumulating wealth, (Which Marx pointed out IS the true nature of capital to begin with) is reducing social health as more and more people of limited means share a higher and higher burden of the cost of paying for services and everything else under the sun. The gaming takes the form of tax breaks and protecting inheritance and wealth from the risks of the real world at the expense of wages. It also involves massive, unfair subsidies to industries that support the top 10% and their life style.

Will Hutton, of The Observer, writes: “As a result, the burden of paying for public goods such as education, health and housing is increasingly shouldered by average taxpayers, who don’t have the wherewithal to sustain them. Wealth inequality thus becomes a recipe for slowing, innovation-averse, rentier economies, tougher working conditions and degraded public services. Meanwhile, the rich get ever richer and more detached from the societies of which they are part: not by merit or hard work, but simply because they are lucky enough to be in command of capital receiving higher returns than wages over time. Our collective sense of justice is outraged.”

In other words, what Henry Ford said about making sure his workers could afford to buy his cars so he could profit from the whole arrangement in the first place. But, of course, the problem has always been, how do you keep inflating that pie in a world with finite resources.. This cuts to the chase.. and it is an appropriate word, because it is a chase… not sustainable over the long haul…

And there is the rub. If those folks driving the train are keeping all the gains for themselves and forcing everyone else to shoulder the burden of an increasingly impossible situation while raping the planet to do it, how can ANYONE expect to survive? These dumb ass train operators seem so bent on their own gain that their greed blinds them to the cliff they are driving toward. The very cliff they will plunge over to their own doom after they have run over and slashed and squashed and dismembered all the rest of us first.

There is a meme making it’s way around facebook these days showing a bleak landscape in the background as, in the foreground a beleaguered survivor with a gas mask plucks a lonely flower (one assumes one of the last of its kind) from the war torn wall in front of them. The caption says: ” Are we really gonna let a bunch of greedy selfish fools do in this planet?”

Suicidally Greedy

And therein lies our solution too.

There is a famous organizer, writer and founder of a movement that can inform the way anti capitalists, pro sustainability activists may change, and possibly save the world. Selma James has coined a phrase that can be a focal point for awareness of where the root of the problems we face really begin.

Selma James has always thought out of the proverbial box. Born in Brooklyn in 1940, Selma writes, not from the perspective of an intellectual, but from that of a true grass-roots organizer. Most significant, in a life of significant activism, was her analysis of a fundamental basis of capital that was often overlooked by analysts of all kinds. And that is, simply put, that is the underlying importance of the WORK done by mothers and other care givers in having and caring for children, both the initiation of all social systems of our species throughout our existence,  and the starting point of capital as the foundation of labor. In other words, the labor upon which capital depends, starts with the birth and upbringing of children who grow up to be laborers and as such, there is value for that work and that value needs to be recognized by capital.

Selma founded the Wages for Housework Campaign, which recognizes this very fact that all labor and by extension, all capital, relies on the care giving work of mothers and other care givers. Then it stands to reason that this work should not only be valued in a rhetorical sense, but it should be given economic value, which it has in some countries, and caregivers should be given a wage commensurate with that economic value to boot. Something like that, though not quite the same thing, was done for a while even here in the US, the main citadel of Capitalism. We used to call it welfare.

Well, this would be a great and novel thing. Actually paying for the true value of what many capitalists claim to hold in high regard. Unfortunately, that would be tantamount to allowing more people to drive the damn train. And we can’t have that.  Then the current operators might never get the controls back… So, just as Selma showed us all a profound truth regarding economic power that was there under our noses all along that no one of any note had every told us about before, she has coined a phrase which accurately describes the train operators and illuminates exactly what the basic fundamental challenge that we face really amounts to.  And this is in her description of the motivations of the current train operators who are driving us to destruction. In a phrase, Selma has told us that these people are suicidally greedy. If that doesn’t speak buckets of truth? I don’t know what else we could come up with that hits the nail so firmly on its rhetorical head as that.

It is the very greed of the people who really decide what and how things are run in the world that is ensuring not only our own possible demise, but their own as well… Take a moment, and think about that.

How do we confront such a paradigm?  How to reason with folks so powerful AND out of touch that they can not only destroy us all, but themselves in the bargain? That is our true challenge.

SOLUTIONS?

We can practice non-participation and create alternative, transitional, sustainable economies to undermine their broken, corrupt, deadly and getting deadlier state of affairs. But if they are so determined to hold on to their greed and power that they would bring themselves down along with everyone else, what would they be willing to do to prevent us from ignoring them. Like the abuser who will not let their partner leave because it so threatens their own sense of power and control, we may, most likely will, have to deal with a strong, disruptive and dangerous backlash if we try to ignore their hold on us to begin with. Like the growing, and ever more militarized police state and slow but steady erosion of democracy that we are all experiencing these days. Like the deep and troubling surveillance infrastructure (including the use of domestic drones)  exposed by Edward Snowden, and others. (Like the cloying insecure partner, domestic, professional, or otherwise, that spies on us and monitors our cell phone calls)

This will mean, first  recognizing our situation and empowering ourselves, even allowing ourselves, to change things and stand up to our oppression. It means seeing who has the keys to the train. Everyone knows this. Right?

Both internally and externally. It will mean creating structures that will be able to counter their power and control. It will mean finding adequate resources to empower such structures. This has always been a heavy lift.

But most importantly I believe, It will mean learning to work better together, and learning to do it quickly and soon, or we may not have time to head off the impending doom. Indeed, much damage has already been done and the best we may be able to hope for is mitigation of an already unhealthy situation and adaptation on a massive scale to many environmental and long term economic changes that, at this point, will probably be inevitable, and irreversible, while reducing the potential for worse outcomes as much as we can. We may have to accept the possible fact that things are already damaged and the best we CAN do is to mitigate.

But, as I wrote,  we will have to act fast and we will need to break down the divisions that keep us pitted against each other too.  And all of this will have to happen simultaneously. We simply do not have the time to accomplish greater and deeper understanding while we wait to employ new strategies to move forward and at the same time resist the reaction of our abusers to quell our desire for freedom that has already been emerging since 911 and the cancerous growth of the international surveillance state that I mentioned earlier.

Our work has been cut out for us but we have no choice but to proceed. Our future, the future of our children and of potentially all life on the planet depends on it. The odds are long and the danger is great. But our power is deep and it is wide. We need first to recognize it, and, at the SAME TIME begin to erase those divisions NOW!

Because the power has always been in our numbers, and the challenge has always been in the divisions between us….

One kind of campaign we can begin to mount are local resolutions. The Minnesota Arms Spending Alternatives Project is using the simple resolution process to fuel a public debate on military spending. Several city councils, including those in Minneapolis and St. Paul, and more than 150 organizations and leaders throughout the state have endorsed the MN ASAP resolutions to reduce Pentagon spending and transfer that money into more responsible programs. Learn what they did so you can help organize a campaign in your own state.  http://mnasap.org/

An organizing  effort like this can bring groups together and create real alliances. Especially if all the groups endorsing the efforts share their resources… Are we wiling to do that? Are we willing to go to foundations together, possibly at the expense of our own groups connection to a particular foundation, in the name of united work? We have to. My argument is that we can no longer afford not to.

We have to pool our resources and be the change we wish to see in the world as Gandhi has told us.

Our usual legislative efforts in Congress and local state houses need to be supported, not just with paper coalitions, but real ones, where all the groups do something to support the common cause we embrace.

In a campaign lead by Global Women’s Strike and Women of Color in Global Women’s Strike and Every Mother is a Working Mother Network, it is not only the expected social service groups, but other, less traditional allies that are lining up in endorsement of new legislation in Washington that would re-write the current TANF laws, what we used to call welfare. You can find it here:  http://globalwomenstrike.net/content/background-petition-rise-out-poverty-act-and-work-act

Welfare, as we knew it, a support or a floor, built under poor families, particularly single mothers, was changed under the Clinton Administration to a punitive work-fare approach reducing benefits for many families and causing a huge number of children to be taken from their mothers and other care givers over the years, driving more single parents into poverty and making poor women one of the fastest rising populations in prison. The new legislation would rewrite the existing  law by actually giving mothers and other caregivers financial support to raise their children to the age of three without choosing to work out of the home. Please notice I wrote WORK out of the home. As noted elsewhere in this article, working to raise kids IS a job. And one of the most important ones there is. Ancient societies recognized this. Why can’t we? Are we so “advanced” that we cannot see that child rearing is what every species depends on to survive? You would think our so called leaders would get this and support it appropriately. The RISE out of Poverty Act and the WORK act would do just that, as well as make other improvements including removing many restrictions in the current law that prevents many in need from getting the support they need. In other words this legislation changes the goal from getting mothers and other caregivers into make-work jobs to raising kids out of poverty as it’s focus.

I have personally reached out to peace and justice groups across the country (Most of whom have endorsed this campaign) and made the case that when we talk about funding social needs by cutting wasteful military spending, bills like this are just what we are really talking about. I have made the case, in each instance that, to the degree that their resources allow, when the time comes we will ask them to step up with the other organizations that are behind this effort to look for co-sponsors and ignite a grass-roots movement for passage just as we would when resisting funding for wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and other places around the globe. Why not resist the war on the poor we like to talk about right here at home? Are we against war everywhere, or just in other lands? Are we not all on the same planet and, in reality, the same land? Are we not all protecting the same mother, our Mother Earth, when we protect and empower the mothers and others who live and breath on her surface within here life zone? If we are truly about non-violence, there are fewer more fundamental forms of violence on this planet than the violence that is poverty.

When we talk about sustainability, supporting local farmers in their struggle to feed us all with healthy foods, and working together with environmental organizations to stop the polluting of our air, land and water.., (much caused by large agribusiness and it’s connections with big oil, and the support and subsidy they enjoy from those already bought and paid for in Government)  all these are parts of the same struggle. We hear it over and over again… Why don’t we really, I mean really, start organizing like it is the case that all of these struggles are our own?

Because they ARE! Some of us have begun to organize that way. Almost always on a local basis. We need more.

Now of course I recognize that there are many more examples of this kind of, what we used to call, cross-issue organizing going on. They are increasing because they have to. But we need to take this even more seriously and we need to do it now. When we go back to our boards, and our steering committees and the foundations and donors and members we rely on and in whose pleasure we are supposed to serve, we need to make this case. We need to share the resources and the vision and we need to work together. Nothing else will do any longer. We ARE running out of time.

The recent UN climate report just out which was produced by “…1250 international experts and approved by 194 governments, dismisses fears that slashing carbon emissions would wreck the world economy” according the the Guardian Newspaper. So there is no excuse to not pursue a sea change in the use of renewable energy, creating jobs and stopping the rape of our Mother Earth. We can leave fossils in the ground where they belong. And we had better. The same report shows that not only have greenhouse gas emissions soared but they are increasing at almost double the rate than they were previously.  This IS dire news for us all. But it also shows that the solutions to mitigate this looming existential threat are achievable and will have many side benefits as well… it just seems that those “captains of industry” simply will not let go of the controls to that train. And the resulting train wreck will take us all down. Retired Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu has called for an anti-apartheid type of global campaign to end the use of fossil fuels and develop alternative energy resources immediately.  Like the one championed by Bill McKibben at http://350.org/bill/  

The report makes the case that the rise in global green-house gas emissions have risen faster between 2000 and 2010 than in each of the three previous decades. But the report also makes clear that if emissions continue at the present rate, (Or worsen, which is a definite possibility if we keep using oil, coal, and gas for energy production and transportation,) we will pass a critical threshold beyond which it will become increasingly expensive and likely not possible to reverse course.

Even more sobering is the point made in the report that if we do not act, climate change and its effects will spiral out of control. The effects will be wide ranging and reach everyone. You have heard them before, — extreme weather, droughts, more wildfires, more economic stress, heat waves,  spread of diseases and invasive species that wreak havoc on all manner of ecosystems, more powerful hurricanes and more severe winters.  reduction in food production, greater economic disparity and depletion of resources, resulting in more competition for those resources, more survivors and more refugee flows and more war. Locally and globally. A true nightmare scenario, but one that will become, no, make that already is becoming, the real deal. (Most of the wars today find their roots in competition for resources.)

We ARE all connected and we do depend on each other. It is past time we begin to act that way. What is one person’s, or group’s challenge, is everyone’s on some level. We need allies and we need to share in the victories and celebrate each other’s very existence. We are truly all in this together. There is only one ship and it is about to go down and if some of us don’t each begin to bail while others set the sails and others throw the extra baggage overboard we will all go down to a watery grave together.

So add your ideas to this blog. Where do you want to begin? What do you think we should do? let’s not wait. We need to act now. I want to hear from you. Let’s get this dialogue going. Let’s find solutions and implement them right away. They are out there. Many ideas already. Let’s use this space to initiate campaigns both large and small. Both local and global. Let’s get started.

THAT is my invitation to you. I am ready! Let’s get to work.

Action in the face of fear

There was a time, not too long ago, when the world had 70,000 nuclear warheads poised to launch at a moment’s notice.

They were aimed at various points on the globe, but roughly 60,000 of them were armed to explode on and incinerate and destroy most of the cities in the US and the USSR. This was an existential threat…. that threat still exists today, but it is arguably, in relative terms, much less… There are now 17,300 armed poised devices. You can imagine my relief. Yet this IS a welcome change. Still, many of them are more accurate and … if it were possible to be more deadly than 60,000, they may be more so upon impact, which may be irrelevant, since their use would most certainly be just as deadly anyway. This is because the far reaching effects will get just about everybody in the end. I mean, how many times can you destroy the planet anyway?

There are still too many. There are too many weapons… of all kinds.
It has been said that the world is awash in weapons and, of course, this alone is not the only threat, though these weapons magnify it and make the threat more likely by their very being.

The other threat that needs to be addressed to reduce the chances of their use is human beings willingness to use them. Even more important is our willingness to hurt others. This is part and parcel of their destructiveness and begs the larger question of how do we achieve safety and security? I will come back to this question in its more fundamental aspects later. For now, back to world annihilation.

Many of these bombs are no longer pointed at cities, and many are on hold. In storage if you will… only a few thousand still stand ready to be launched quickly… and the overall “threat level” or Def-Com as it is referred to by the military in the US, is set lower so the chance of a so called “hair trigger” response is less … somehow, I still feel unsafe when I think about all this.

When I contemplate their use… the effect these weapons would have on me, and those I truly love, who are close to my heart, especially if they do not live close by, it is deeply frightening. If these loved ones lie on their deathbed, I should be able to get to their side, but how can I even view their remains if we all go up in a conflagration such as that?

This is a numbing consideration. It is the kind of threat that is obliterating in all its manifestations. Disempowering to even think about. This is so big, bigger than each of us, how can we ever do anything about it? How can this change?
But as noted above, it already has. And this did not simply happen. And it was not at the whim of those who directly control and create this monstrosity.

It happened because of the countless efforts of people like me and you. It changed because enough people, not everyone, but enough people demanded it and, some, many, broke society’s rules to force the change. It was not easy and much work remains to be done….

The outcome is not certain which, in itself, demands that further action be taken or the unthinkable may yet happen. It took direct action. It took actions large and small. It took civil disobedience and the guts to face arrest and abuse both legal and physical.

However, UNTHINKABLE is what this cannot be! Because to be changed it requires us to think about it and face it head on to deal with it and bring about the change we wish for. There is no other way. Denial will get you in the end. So true of so much that holds us back and hurts us.

How to overcome the denial and the numbness and the inaction about this? Like an addict, or an abuse victim our world keeps functioning at this level of insecurity, wondering why life now seems depressing and simply not enough, wondering why it is all so bad out there, and often overcome with the strong desire to distract ourselves with all manner of inducements and intoxications… our fear and denial prevent us from facing these horrors that stalk our nightmares.

We may even convince ourselves it is all for our own good. That things can’t be that bad. We may even think that this is a good thing for us for fear of thinking of ourselves as somehow to blame when we find ourselves in an unhealthy situation such as this one. After all, we may have gone along with it for too long and do not want to feel stupid. But the stupidity lies in remaining in a bad situation. Even if we think it provides us some benefit. (After all, this makes us the strongest Nation on the planet, right? But at such a cost is it worth it?)

But like addicts and abuse victims everywhere, the first step is to admit we have a problem… the second is to face our fear, not an easy task, and then to take action. In essence, to become survivors!

Even small action counts. Small action can build up to big, more effective action and we gain strength and confidence in ourselves and our actions when we take them a bit at a time. We make progress, sometimes slowly, and there can be set backs… but if we look back along the road we can see that we have made progress so, after a much needed rest to recharge, we are required by our need and call to change that we get back up and continue onward. The promise of healthy joy-filled life demands it.

Life itself demands it.

We cannot have what we really want, what we all really want, deep down, unless we overcome the fear and the denial that prevents us from taking action. Then we can sort things out.

It is important to realize that there are some things that cannot be avoided and some things we cannot affect… and many things we should not control… A compassionate young man I knew was recently lost to us due to what we think was a massive heart attack. Maybe he could have taken action to prevent it. But it is also true that there are heart problems in the family and it may have been a congenital issue. There is no way to control for that. Some things we simply cannot help.

But the question is not about control. That attraction has more to do with powerlessness and control is the flip side of denial, because to affect healthy change one must take account of the forces that one is trying to affect and deal with, or overcome if need be, and what keeps us from the changes that need to be made.

One must also be mindful of the other players and why they want control, because, like me or you, they too want the same things and are dealing with similar fear and denial and are obviously losing that struggle to the deleterious effect of us all… so instead of control, which in and of itself is at issue, we should instead, if we wish a healthy outcome, seek appropriate engagement, and when necessary compromise… nothing else will do.

That is not to say that we accept abuse or oppression, but our struggle with it will only succeed in the long run if we do not fall prey to the same afflictions as our oppressor, for if we do then our oppressor has already defeated us and positive, healthy change cannot come about. Our oppressor may have suffered, but we do not have to become like them and we cannot heal them unless they heal themselves.

We CAN be an example and show them the way. Then we all win. Though we cannot make them follow us, our example may be the best we can do.

Cooperation is better than control unless you are so afraid that you are too weak to accept others, and if so, and you embrace control, you are by your actions allowing a battle you may lose as you are giving the other the “right” to be an opponent, rather than a partner in the search for security and a healthy life.
To achieve a healthy life, if it be an engaged one or a separate one, for anyone to have security, we must accept the security of others.

Appropriate boundaries are the key when we live separately. But we must also remember that any separateness is in degree only, as all things, each of us, are connected to everything else and each other too… There is no getting away from this. This is an inevitable truth about the universe as vast as it is. I will show evidence later for this notion in future writings.

So considering all of this, how did such a large change in our existentially threatened, connected lives occur? How did we manage to take such large steps back from the brink of possible destruction in such a short time? Just 28 years.
By facing the disease head on and taking action.

I took an active part in this story and as such, I can share personal experience of my part in it.

I went door to door for the Committee for a SANE Nuclear Policy in the 80’s. But I started my activist career on Long Island as a professional canvasser for the Citizens Alliance, which was the community organizing project of the Public Interest Research Group, or NYPIRG. This was one of the original student run organizations that was part of the Ralph Nader family of groups working for progressive change through state legislation and public education and in the courts. This “movement” was reformist and left of center, non-partisan and targeted at the so called middle class.

The Citizens Alliance was a classic attempt at grass-roots organizing right out of the Saul Alinsky play-book so it was a bit more radical at its core than much of the rest of the Nader Network and was really about politicizing middle class suburbanites as a way to erode their electoral support for the Reagan agenda.

But the Alliance worked mainly in neighborhoods of color and poor white neighborhoods so their experience was different from the reformist crowd. In truth it was a good place to cut my political teeth. We canvassed on a variety of issues, many chosen not just for their importance as issues but because of their relation to the populations we were targeting. As such the issues we talked about were familiar and, though controversial to some degree, hardly the kind that would radically change the system in any fundamental way in terms of anything thing like capital and empire. Though in its defense it did foster democracy and politicized a large part of the population to help advance a healthy kind of populism.

In terms of the context of this article, I mention all of this to explain that by and large, though any kind of canvassing can be challenging and, in truth, so outside most people’s experience that it takes a rare individual to be good at it depending on which kind of canvasser one is. I digress here for a moment but this will give you a context to, hopefully, give you a better idea of the challenge we faced..

Though there exists in the world of political canvassing a wide range of flavors, most of it falls into two broad categories. They are what I would call politically oriented or financially oriented. While both consist of raising funds and setting quotas as an intrinsic element of the tactic, (And fundamentally, canvassing is a tactic) one category has its focus as politicizing populations and seeking a grass roots base of support for organizing through memberships and grass-roots pressure on policy makers and corporate targets. The other is much more concerned about building a financial base of donors as the main purpose (though both kinds do this).

But the fact remains that to most people, canvassing is hard to be good at, especially the more politically oriented kind. Because when your main concern is funding, you can get away with being a good salesperson. But when it is social change, you often have to break through suspicion and common misperceptions of fence sitters. (You don’t talk to true opponents if you are a good canvasser, They get changed, if ever, in other ways by their own experience.)

Now having stated this, my point in terms of this story is that I gravitated to and had the good fortune to be part of. the more political variety. As a matter of fact I was pretty good at it and as such became a leader and this gave me opportunity to be an early, and in my day, a somewhat influential one at that, doing all that I could to push the organizations I worked for toward more political kinds of outreach. You see, I wanted to be a real organizer in the worse way and helped develop the early canvass as a political outreach and organizing tool as much as I could.

So my experience was that canvassing on issues like rent control, or toxic dumping and other environmental hazards, even stopping nuclear power or working to get stronger regulation of utility companies and similar more reformist agenda’s over all, it was not too hard to gain significant support in most places I canvassed. My ratio of positive to negative interactions was somewhere around 50% or greater in most locations.

That changed significantly when I began to canvass for SANE. Not only was this long time organization more political than the Nader flavor, which was enough of a challenge, but it was a leader in the US Peace Movement. The US Peace Movement, as distinct from the “Anti-war” movement, dealt with issues that were fundamentally at the heart of the struggle for freedom and justice and empowerment of the public against the system. A system that has had vast inequality deep within it for at least as long as this nation has existed. And its roots, in truth, go back much farther.

But what really made it hard, as if that was not enough, was canvassing to end the nuclear arms race during its very height. With the exception of the struggle for voting rights and to resist racism and sexism, which I have also had occasion to canvass on, the nuclear arms race has been one of the hardest most polarizing issues I have ever brought to the average US citizen’s door because of two things.
The first is the deep divisions in those days regarding the whole US foreign policy strategy which for so many sprung directly from the sense of “American Exceptionalism”.

This notion that we are a chosen people has always been the tactic that those in power in this country have used to win over enough of the population to enable their militaristic, imperialist pro capitalist agenda. (If I may be so bold) Despite the growing change in attitudes by many more people these days about this, the idea of the US as being the good guys, still runs deep.

But in the 80’s during the Reagan years, at least half of the people we talked to, and in many places more than half, were so afraid of the Soviet Union that even though majorities favored a nuclear weapons freeze, there was still resistance to arms negotiations and great suspicion of our movement. We had to learn to achieve our goals with about a third of the support of people in most places we canvassed. Why such a small number when the majority in poll after poll supported our core position?

Because the other thing that we encountered that was very different from all of the other issues I have ever worked on, and this goes to the heart of my argument here, was simply an unwillingness to deal with the realities of a potential nuclear war. There was a deep “Psychic numbing” about the size and scope of the issue. And this was not only experienced by us as a characteristic of people who we canvassed, but many of us felt it ourselves… including me!

I was not entirely convinced that we would be successful in our goals. Though I knew the odds were long, and I reasoned that our only chance was to ignite a movement for change, one of the ideas that kept me going was that if they were going to kill us all anyway I was simply not prepared to go into the night without a fight and if I could send any of the people we considered war mongers to bed having had a bad day as a result of our actions then I would sleep a little bit easier.

One of my political hero’s was Alard Lowenstien. Now I am not normally inclined to find politicians of any stripe very heroic. They can be good allies, and often well meaning and righteous people, some with their heart and their beginnings in some social change movement or other. Indeed I have personally known of one or two who became involved after we canvassed them and got them to attend a grass-roots planning meeting. They became politicized after we brought them up against the system and they learned how corrupt it was. This was canvassing at its best. Mobilizing people for change. And there are other stories which I will share later of the potential effectiveness of this unique organizing tool. But that’s for later.

Now Alard holds a special place in my heart because before he ran for office he was the lead organizer for the Student Dump Johnson Movement which helped mobilize grass-roots voters for Eugene McCarthy’s campaign, whose early win as the Anti-War candidate in New Hampshire and elsewhere helped propel Bobby Kennedy into the Democratic Primary. This, in part, eventually convinced Johnson not to run for re-election. So this guy helped engineer the political defeat of one the most powerful men in the world at that time.

Alard used to say that nothing is for certain. The only thing that is for certain is that you either win or you lose, so you work hard as you can to win. This was the attitude that helped him succeed.

The point here was that what we were doing in those days, that in my mind, was more significant than all the money we collected or all the signatures that were signed was bringing hope to the doors of many and helping open their eyes to the danger all around them. And despite the sense of futility that we and so many people we talked to door to door struggled with when facing this issue, the issue of the existential threat discussed earlier, we made a difference.

We stepped into people’s homes across the country as we canvassed in a number of key cities in a strategic effort to effect congressional action by electoral district. We pulled them away from the TV and engaged them in a conversation about the state of the world and the fate of the earth and everyone on it.

In those days the Congress was a bit less bought off and we were indeed helping to mobilize the deep grass-roots feelings against the arms race that already existed. We did succeed in crafting our message in a way that got around the fear of the Soviet’s by addressing a balanced verifiable approach and using logic and touching on people’s concerns and being as life affirming as we could be. We got good at our craft and worked hard on our communication skills in professionally run workshops in briefings and by reading and training daily.

And we drew from the examples of great leadership figures such as Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, Aung San Su Chi and others. We were a well educated seasoned group and our canvass had a higher percentage of long term, very serious minded and very often older staff than most canvasses of the day. Many of our leaders were woman and we were very well indoctrinated in larger issues of oppression and the connections between them. And we convinced many people that any action, no matter how small, could, be important if we wanted things to change.

As Ted Taylor, the Anti-War Nuclear Physicist told us, to paraphrase him just a little here, it would be better to strive with all our hearts to achieve a world that may seem too good to be true, than to drift toward one that is too dreadful to contemplate.

We did this not just with canvassing, but with a crack PR department and a well run publishing arm that was renowned in Washington DC for accurate and informative briefings and carefully researched literature that we got out to a mass audience on radio, at colleges and events that we held all over the country. We were a respected background source by the Washington DC and New York News Media. We worked hard! And SANE had a rich history. Not a perfect one to be sure, but one with a strong culture of resistance to oppression and militarism including early and strong opposition to the war in Viet Nam and a close association with organizers in the civil rights movement.

But a very concrete example of a small action making a big difference was the act of signing those petitions we carried around.

One of the historic occurrences which helped turn the tide on the escalation in the development and deployment of ever more dangerous nukes was Gorbechev’s rise to power and his eventual challenge to Reagan, who, to a significant degree, was forced to the bargaining table by grass roots pressure which was vey much stimulated by SANE and the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign.

Of course there were many others besides us as well, too numerous to list here, but we played an undeniably large part in this struggle by virtue of our resource base… much of which can be credited to our canvass. In our first year we more than doubled our membership base and it continued to grow not only giving us more grass roots power, but fundamentally altering the breadth of our base and making it more mainstream and much less establishment liberal as the traditional base of SANE largely was. This was already true of the FREEZE and as the two organizations grew closer together and eventually merged, it changed even more. Though our leadership and staff were more militant, our base was a good cross section of the country.

But getting back to the lowly act of signing petitions. In many cases petitions are not taken seriously by policy makers. This is a widely accepted notion and very often true. The success of petitions is usually more in their use to build lists of supporters, but when one knows how to use them correctly they can actually make a difference in swaying the politically powerful and public opinion which in turn can have the same effect.

You see, one does not have to perform acts of civil disobedience, or risk their lives to make change. Some will have to, and maybe in growing numbers, and they will need our support, but even very small acts can have an impact. EVERYONE does have to do their piece of the work. There is a line in the Koran that speaks to this. It says something like that. That everyone has to do their piece of the work. It may be a big piece. It may be a small piece, but everyone has a piece to do.

In this case millions of names played a key role in an important public relations event that was picked up by major media and helped propel both the US and the USSR to end all nuclear explosions in the testing and development of new weapons. A ban that has held to this day. Though a test ban treaty remains elusive, both the US and Russia still maintain a voluntary cessation of live explosions and this is a good thing. This ban helped warm the cold war and made the eventual reductions in these weapons that I began this article with possible.
And the petitions helped to create that atmosphere when our delegation to Moscow, led by Jesse Jackson, attempted to present them to the Reagan delegation at the summit talks.

When Reagan refused to accept them, this played into Grobey’s hands giving him a distinct political PR advantage when he not only accepted them, but had a field day with the press touting them as representing the peaceful aspirations of the people of the World. This put even more pressure for Reagan to meet the Soviet Ban on testing, which Gorbechev had already initiated.

I personally collected hundreds of those names and the day before our delegation left for the Summit I helped box thousands of them with my staff on the floor of our New York City office blocks from where Norman Thomas had done community organizing years earlier in Soho. Those names played a role in a historic event. Each person who signed helped make a difference and from this I have learned that no action is too small. One never knows what effect a positive action may have down the road.

This has been my experience on many occasions and the point here is that even in the face of a strong attraction to, and in a pervasive environment for, the aforementioned psychic numbing that kept many from acting, we were able to demonstrate that action can work. Indeed, without it we will be doomed to failure. Action, of course never guarantees success, and I cannot tell you that action will promise victory, but I can tell you that in the face of threats and hurts and abuse of all kind, non-action will ensure defeat.

And we must remember all of this as we work to rid the World of ALL weapons of war, the rest of the Nukes, and everything else too… As we work to eliminate poverty, and end racism, sexism and cruel behavior of all kinds.

We live in a world where there is so much unnecessary hurt and pain and so much less love than there needs to be. We live on a planet that can provide for us all…. There IS enough to go around and there are solutions to climate change and most all of the ills that we suffer. The rich and powerful have to learn to share and play well in the sandbox that is the Earth. A better world is possible, but we first have to believe in it. Then we have to get to work.

But all of this will require us to get past our fear. It will take courage and we will all have to help each other.

So things may seem hopeless, odds may appear insurmountable and depression may sometimes consume us but if we allow ourselves to wallow in it, if we accept our lot and fall prey to the weight of our own disempowerment, if we allow ourselves to remain victims and shrink from a struggle for our own lives then we will not become survivors but we will be defeated, at least in part, by our own hand.

In the end it is up to us to take action. In the end there are only two choices.
Action or inaction.

We may need to reach out for help and support and we may not be able to turn the tide alone, but we cannot permit ourselves the distraction of complacency and immobilization. We have to overcome our fear and have the courage get past what terrifies us to live the healthy lives we wish to live and that we all deserve to live.

Life demands it.

David Gibson

Why Poverty is a Peace Issue and Why We Should Embrace it as one Now.

Why Poverty is a Peace Issue and Why We Should Embrace it as one Now.

We all know this… Eisenhower said it.   “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”

We all believe it. We have all been advocating this for as long as any of us can remember. But now things are different. The current economic crisis which persists for way too many in this country (And around the planet) brings it all home as we all knew it would be brought home sooner or later.

We have all done our work advocating redirecting military spending to social needs for a very long time. We watched as we were sometimes turned down by groups working on other social issues when we WANTED to work together because to be seen with us risked, for these organizations, backlashes from a public addicted to military security that threatened their work. So we waited.

With the global economic decline and, more directly, with the current decline of the U.S. empire, the time is ripe for coming together and building real alliances… Nothing anyone reading this does not already know. But we are called to from history to take a stronger stand.

Dr. Martin Luther King, as usual, was ahead of the curve on this. On April 15, 1967, he spoke at an anti-war rally in NYC saying “…And I believe everyone has a duty to be in both the civil-rights and peace movements. But for those who presently choose but one, I would hope they will finally come to see the moral roots common to both.

The following year He began organizing the “Poor People’s March” because he felt that Congress had shown “hostility to the poor” by spending “military funds with alacrity and generosity”. He contrasted this with the situation faced by poor Americans, claiming that Congress had merely provided “poverty funds with miserliness”.[139] His vision was for change that was more revolutionary than mere reform: he cited systematic flaws of “racism, poverty, militarism and materialism”, and argued that “reconstruction of society itself is the real issue to be faced”.[140]

Lesser known was his call for compensation. King stated that black Americans, as well as other disadvantaged Americans, should be compensated for historical wrongs.

King said that he did not seek a full restitution of wages lost to slavery, which he believed impossible, but proposed a government compensatory program of $50 billion over ten years to all disadvantaged groups.[36]

He posited that “the money spent would be more than amply justified by the benefits that would accrue to the nation through a spectacular decline in school dropouts, family breakups, crime rates, illegitimacy, swollen relief rolls, rioting and other social evils”.[37] He presented this idea as an application of the common law regarding settlement of unpaid labor, but clarified that he felt that the money should not be spent exclusively on blacks. He stated, “It should benefit the disadvantaged of all races”.[38]

I mention all of this to underline the notion that “Welfare” which carries an unfair stigma as a “handout” should really be seen as compensation for work done that benefits all of society. Parents and care givers play a vital social role in raising healthy, well adjusted children, Public investment in this sector is for the greater good and, as we all know, is a much better investment in the nation’s real security than any number of over blown over funded unneeded weapons systems. The legislation that I am proposing we endorse and the campaign that I propose we participate in, to the degree possible, The RISE out of Poverty Act and its companion piece the WORK Act, come in at a price tag of around $2.5 Billion. (Though the final cost is likely to be much higher, and we have asked National Priorities Project to help us determine both more accurate costs and appropriate trade-offs from the military side of the budget. But for now we will be using this lower figure.) Compare this to the F-35 which comes in at $12.6 Billion, Terminating the V-22 Osprey, a system with little real need, would save $2 billion. Another $2.9 Billion for operations in Iraq. What can I possibly write to put this in perspective?

It is therefore that I propose that peace and justice organizations endorse the following two pieces of legislation realizing the dream of King and positioning ourselves for the future while developing new allies among social needs organizations who increasingly are calling for cuts in military spending now that real reductions on are the table. (See either of the web sites below)

The time has come for us to get on board and by adding our name to this effort, and mobilizing our networks and members and activists, each according to our abilities, clearly demonstrating that we are ready to work alongside groups that are now taking up our call to reorder national spending priorities.

Specifically we should:

  • Sign the endorsement form. (Also on one of the web sites.)
  • Put a link for the endorsement form for our groups and allies up on our web sites and display prominently.
  • Do at least one e-mail “blast” to our activists when ACTION ALERTS are generated for this upcoming legislation.
  • Reach out to congressional allies to seek co-sponsors. Help us find a new sponsor for the WORK Act
  • Put up educational materials on RISE and WORK on web sites.
  • Distribute petitions and return to  www.globalwomenstrike.net or www.everymothernetwork.net

Happy Thanks giving everyone… THANKSGIVING?

DO we celebrate the myth? Or do we celebrate the concept? Well,,,, I say celebrate what you want,  your friends, family, good fortune or that your poor fortune, should you be suffering poor fortune right now, is not worse and that tomorrow is another day.

Celebrate hope and the fact that you still get up in the morning with whatever facilities you have, and that there is always hope…

Life IS a struggle, but one worth struggling for and one’s situation can always improve, but that is not what today is for, it is to accept, and celebrate what we have, no matter how little… And if you enjoy a lot, give back what you can, support who you can, be thankful for your position and place and honor those less fortunate… give thanks…. for what you have and the fact that though you can never have a perfect world, you can always have a better one.

I am thankful for my family, friends and others who enrich my life, and even for those who may be considered opponents, for the challenge they present me, and I am thankful for this new blog and the opportunity to share ideas and actions for change for the better of everyone, and thankful for YOU all and look forward to getting to know you all better… and, hopefully, together, maybe figuring out and taking part in building that better world we all want… one that is inclusive, and fair, to and for everyone.

I am also thankful that history of the “myth” of this particularly American holiday is such that we are now aware of the myth and it’s reality and we CAN work to make sure that others know and learn if they are not already aware, and that something like what dominate parties perpetuate on others, such as what Europeans did to the indigenous people’s in this land, may never happen again.

Thank you. And Happy Thanksgiving in whatever way you choose to spend it.

Sincerely,

David E Gibson

Welcome to the New Pennsylvania for Change! (We will eventually have a new name)

On February 17, way back in 2003, Patrick E. Tyler wrote in the New York Times “…there may still be two superpowers on the planet: the United States and world public opinion.” This was, of course, the now famous statement made in reference to what was likely the largest, if not the FIRST, world-wide protest in our planet’s history. In that case protests were held on every continent in the world in opposition to the U.S. Government’s planned invasion of Iraq.

So, what of it, one might ask? What difference does public opinion really make when it comes to super-power policy? For example…

Largest anti-war demonstration EVER… and the U.S. still goes to war. 
People the world over protesting global climate change, countries meeting over and over again to come up with some kind of world standard on climate emissions that make sense, and the U.S. one of the planet’s two most egregious climate change enablers, (along now with China) largely ignores it and goes on with business as usual. 

People being arrested in growing numbers at Obama’s front door – not just “ordinary people” – but a growing number of celebs and local leaders. Yet Obama looks likely to give the Keystone Excel pipeline, now the most threatening development to boost global climate-change emissions past the point of no return, a go ahead anyway. (At press time this is still an open question… MAYBE we ARE having an impact eh?)

Innocent children, gunned down in a Connecticut suburb, a place synonymous with the American dream, a concept that evokes, ironically  ultimate security, the entire nation mourns, and yet the Senate and the House of REPRESENTATIVES still fails to enact a solution to gun violence in the United States of America.

Is it any surprise at all then why many lament, “Is this the change I voted for?” and “What good is resistance in the first place?” Why sacrifice when all one gets in the end is… the end of what there is to know as we now know it? At least… or worse … the end of the human species and all the other species we are dragging down with us.

Why resist? In the words of “The Borg”, the imaginary human/machine synthesis as portrayed on Star Trek TNG (and maybe a most apropos icon of 21st century Homo sapiens after all…) “Resistance is futile!”… It is, right? Is it?
Well, maybe, but….

Doesn’t the notion of “progress” leave a lot to be desired when time for the human species is actually running out? Doesn’t it? It begs the question. Does protest work? And if it does not, what SHOULD we do? Is it time to just accept the inevitable? Should we just let world history run it’s course and get as much out of things as we can before the end times are really upon us? That is if they aren’t already.

Well, I think we need to look at some examples of real victories achieved by organized grass-roots people like you and I. There are many, many examples of successful acts of social change throughout history.OK. Now, before I continue, I would like to settle one thing. 

Some argue that was then this is now and that the corporate take-over of our government has gone too far for anything like these victories for peace and justice to ever happen again… Well, maybe,,, maybe not.. THAT is what we are here to discuss. But first I want to give a few more examples of more recent success. Smaller and less far-reaching … but that may be how it get’s done in the big picture. THAT is how it has been done for most of time. Small, local victories, building one upon the other making change over time till enough momentum is built, and conditions are ripe, then the “BIG MOVEMENT PUSH” takes place. THAT may be what we need to work on now. Let’s get back to that later. First a couple of more recent examples of successful campaigns.

So first. let’s look at a recent campaign for health care rights in Vermont. This is a direct quote from the abstract of a report on the web site Health and Human Rights, An International Journal.

“In 2008, the Vermont Workers’ Center launched the “Healthcare Is a Human Right Campaign,” a grassroots campaign to secure the creation of a universal health care system in Vermont. Campaign organizers used a human rights framework to mobilize thousands of voters in support of universal health care. In response to this extraordinary grassroots effort, the state legislature passed health care legislation that incorporates human rights principles into Vermont law and provides a framework for universal health care.” 

Here is the link: http://www.hhrjournal.org/2013/08/19/human-rights-from-the-grassroots-up-vermonts-campaign-for-universal-health-care/

OK… Here’s another:
“As of May 21, 2013, gay marriage has been legalized in 12 US states (CT, DE, IA, MA, MD, ME, MN, NH, NY, RI, VT, and WA) and the District of Columbia. Thirty-six states have gay marriage bans through either laws or constitutional amendments or both.”

Thirty six to go… OK .. a big lift, but just two years ago I think there was something like ZERO states with Gay marriage rights. So ha!

I think by now you get the drift…
But Wait you cry… those are local victories. How do we win against the monolithic state/corporate duopoly when it has soooo much power and the stakes are sooo much higher?

Big Oil and Natural Gas and coal interests will not simply give up without a fight, to nod to Frederick Douglas. Stopping the defense industry is the sacred cow. NO empire will give up its guns till the day it is over and by that time there may be nothing left for us to struggle for….

One of my political heroes was Allard Lowenstein who organized the Student Dump Johnson Movement in the 60′s. He was successful in getting President Johnson, arguably the most powerful person on the planet at that time, to refuse to run for a second term. No small potatoes that one. They said it couldn’t be done. Allard did it. True, there were other influences that helped Johnson to take his exit, The announcement of Bobby Kennedy that he would run, to name just one. But it was the Campaign that helped create the conditions that made a Kennedy run desirable and, I might argue, even possible.

Well…. another thing Allard Lowenstein inspires me for, is his is take on this issue… the issue of “should we could we”… His philosophy was pretty simple. He used to say, “Nothing is for certain. The only thing that is for certain is that you either win or you lose, so work as hard as you can to win.” Hard to argue with that. What other choice do we have? Oh yeah, we can just bide our time and go out in a delirium of hedonistic distraction… not for me thanks… that would make a mockery of our existence on this planet and in this world so whatever your world view, if… IF we are all connected, and I believe we are, and a close examination of science AND religion would attest to this, then we are here for a reason… simply to live. As Schopenhauer said, if nothing else., He wrote, “If life IS an accident then you have to say ‘Yea’ to it.”

If you are still with me then… what is to be done? Unite and fight like hell for the living. After all,,, what would Jesus do? (I just couldn’t resist.)
Let the dead bury the dead. Let’s choose to live. And if we choose to live, then we must fight back. But of course how we fight matters because if we go about winning any kind of power the same way as our oppressor does then our oppressor has already won because we become just like them. 

The ends do NOT justify the means anymore than the chicken came before the egg.. The ends and the means are the same thing, just as the variation always appears in the offspring first. 

That does not mean we do not struggle. Life IS a struggle, though not without its joy and wonder. The joy and wonder are what we struggle for and if all this be true then we dare not do this alone. Working together, as everyone know, works better. There IS strength in numbers.

This then is my case. And I will reinforce this on these pages whenever challenged. And I invite your challenges, because if I cannot defend my positions then they are in need of revision.

Here is the purpose, or mission of this blog. It is to initiate a POSITIVE discussion of social change with an eye toward survival of our species, and others and our culture, world-wide, and to head off the environmental and potential destructive war-making policies that threaten … almost …. everything.

It is to encourage discussion on how progressive forces, those whose intent it is to see progressive social change, from a non-violent basis, succeed for everyone.
Here I am not interested in power over others, whoever they are. I am interested in empowerment of everyone, which by definition means shared power. A balance of power, or, even better, redistributed power. You know the old saying. Power is like mustard. It’s best when spread around.

I am not interested in revenge or violent solutions, for when we take up the standard of violence our oppressor has already won. You cannot make change by being as corrupt as those who hold us down and expect to be pure when you have gained power. You will still be cleaning the same house.

And always remember that the slogan “Power comes out of the barrel of a gun” is meaningless when they have all the guns.

Let’s amend that to say most of the guns and the ones that count.Besides, violence is an end in itself. We cannot resist violence to bring about a peaceful, fair world by using violence. Not on the streets, or on the battlefields or behind the closed doors of our homes or anywhere else. This is an untenable position whichever way one looks at it.

That does not mean we do not defend ourselves and if we use violent means in the pursuit of our own defense or the defense of others, that is one thing. But defense is the basis for this. I study Aikido whose foundation is to hurt no one. It has been called “The Way of Peace”. In Aikido we “blend” with our attacker, the goal being to stop and re-direct the attack and protect both ourselves and the attacker to bring about a resolution and defuse the violence. Not unlike Gandhi’s Satyagraha, or Truth-force” one cannot obtain the truth by subduing the truth of your oppressor, one obtains truth by being open to your oppressor and one obtains peace and resolution by using the truth to help your oppressor change. A tall order and, in the real world, one that we may not be able to achieve every time, especially if we find ourselves fighting for our very lives, but we should attempt to, whenever possible, as a matter of… “policy”, if we wish to live up, even a little bit, to the ideals we strive for.

Thomas Merton said that there is no way to peace. PEACE IS THE WAY. And PEACE is more than the absence of conflict it IS the presence of justice. It is the ability for families to stay together and for hurt people to mend and for children to be safe and for women, (and men) to walk the streets safely.

But we will not win if we do not unite, for separate, we are weaker than we are together. 

In the 60′s we used to say that if each person next to us took part we would sooner or later have everyone taking part. Remember, if soldiers will not fight armies are powerless. 

What will this all mean? It will mean true alliances. What is one movements fight is every movements fight. What is one movement’s problem is every movements problem.

We must take up each others causes. we must truly share resources or we are bound to fail. And we must work locally and globally. It is true that if everyone grew their own food we would radically alter the entire structure of society. But if we do not maintain influence in the current system they will simple make growing our own food illegal and seize our right to grow it.

This struggle will proceed on many fronts and for many people simple survival is in question so we must, whenever possible, do what we can to support the struggles of those weakest and most at risk among us or we will be without mutual support when it is our turn. We ARE all in this together and we must begin to act that way if we expect anyone else to support the struggle that we deem our own main focus. And there will be something for everybody to do. We all bring our own unique skills and experience to the table.

Different strategies and tactics will have their place in the larger picture.An example: Voting…

Some contend that voting merely recognizes and legitimizes a corrupt system. I can see that point of view. But voting is one way to influence those already in power and to organize others and build relationships that will be important for other, more pertinent struggles. I vote strategically, even choosing not to vote and telling our constituents to stay home en-mass to make a statement in one city election. The statement was essential in this case as the campaign was about demonstrating the corruption of this very election. That coalition went on to replace the people in power the following election with allies that supported our cause in the first election.

That is not to say that we all put down our current campaigns and start from  scratch. If does behoove us to look at ways that we can support others in their struggles and combine, where possible, our campaigns to include others whose struggles are peripherally effected or whose success may embolden our own. The advance of conditions for teachers IS an advance for students IS an advance for parents IS an advance for families etc. add-infinitum.

Besides, fighting the fight is the right thing to do because it is. Another thing Allard used to say. “The question should be, is it worth doing, not can it be done.” So true. 

After all… isn’t it about time?

Wealth Reality

The wealth distribution in this nation is appalling.  This is why it is becoming more difficult to make ends meet.  Are you feeling the pain?

Thom Hartman wrote a book in which one chapter explores “What is Enough”.  He presents different perspectives on being ‘rich’ and being ‘poor’.

While they number fewer than one percent of all humans on the planet, the result of a relentless 5-millenium genocide by our worldwide Younger Culture, there are still people alive on Earth who are members of Older Cultures that predate the Mesopotamian city-states. There are also people whose Older Culture ways have only been so recently taken from them-such as many Native American tribes-that while they may no longer live the Older Culture way, they remember it.

In these Older Cultures, the concept of “more is better” is unknown. They would consider “greed is good” to be the statement of an insane person. One person eating near another who is hungry is an obscene act.

The ‘Older Cultures’ regard wealth not as goods and services.  Instead, their view of wealth is security.

In Older Cultures, the goal of the entire community is to get every person in the community to the “enough point.” Once that is reached and ensured, people are free to pursue their own personal interests and bliss. The shaman explores trance states, the potter makes more elegant pots, the storyteller spins new yarns, and parents play with and teach their children how to live successfully.

Contrast that to the quest by people like Sheldon Adelson and the Koch brothers.  For them, there is never enough money in their bank accounts.  They don’t own enough ‘things’ so they keep striving for more and more.  If they lost everything today, they would have nothing because money doesn’t buy true friendship.  Who really likes a greedy person?  No one.

Ghandi said, “There is enough for everyone’s needs but not enough for everyone’s greed.”

(cross posted at tpzoo.wordpress.com)

When Do We Get Outraged?

The New York Times has reported that there were many more “ghettos, slave labor sites, concentration camps and killing factories that the Nazis set up throughout Europe” then originally documented.

After reading the article, I suspect the German citizens were aware of these ghettos and camps as they were everywhere.  We are outraged at this cruelty and rightfully so.  The occupants were not only Jews but included Poles, Russians, homosexuals, the mentally impaired, the elderly, the sick and political enemies.  Millions of people were killed by the Nazis.

The United States government is also guilty of genocide.

Two studies have been conducted that attempt to number the natives killed by the United States. The first of these was sponsored by the United States government, and while official does not stand up to scrutiny and is therefore discounted (generally); this estimate shows between 1 million to 4 million killed. The second study was not sponsored by the US Government but was done from independent researchers. This study estimated populations and population reductions using later census data. Two figures are given, both low and high, at: between 10 million and 114 million Indians as a direct result of US actions. Please note that Nazi Holocaust estimates are between 6 and 11 million; thereby making the Nazi Holocaust the 2nd largest mass murder of a class of people in history.
REF:
American Holocaust: D. Stannard (Oxford Press, 1992) – “over 100 million killed” “[Christopher] Columbus personally murdered half a million Natives”
God, Greed and Genocide: The Holocaust Through the Centuries: Grenke (New Academia Publishing 2006)
Holocaust: Critical Concepts in Historical Studies: Cesarani, (Routledge 2004)

H/T to WikiAnswers.

In 1840, the Indian Removal Act made it illegal for Native Americans to live in Georgia.  This act wasn’t repealed until March 1980.  Beginning in the 1830′s, the Leni Lenape were removed from the areas surrounding the Hudson River and Delaware River and sent to Oklahoma.  The Native American children were sent to the ‘Indian School’ in Carlyle, PA.

More information about the removal of Native Americans can be found here.

Today, Native Americans live in extreme poverty on reservations that are on land that no one else wants.  After breaking treaty upon treaty, our government corralled the first people onto wastelands.

Why aren’t we angry about the US government’s genocide?  Where’s the outrage?  The Nazi holocaust stirs up anger as do the current drone strikes happening in other countries.  Do we only get offended by deaths that occur in other countries?  When it happens on our soil, do we just turn our heads aside and ignore it?

The US is host to the ‘Holocaust Museum’.  When will we build the Native American genocide museum?

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