30 January 2009

Conquest Versus Cooperation

We try to conquer each other every day. We compete over who has the most stuff. We race to see who can get to a red light first. Then we step on the gas to see who can accelerate away from it faster. We are surrounded by the culture of conquest in every day life. And it's mostly unconscious. We mostly don't even realize it.

For example: Who has the latest bling-bling? We worry about fashion while people half-way around the world starve, and suffer any number of brutal assaults against their personal beings and human dignity.

We are living, as part of this society, drastically and dramatically out of proportion, and out of scale, with the planet's ability to provide. We are on a downward spiral. If this doesn't change, more and more energy will be poured into diminishing returns. Energy, of all Earthbound kinds, is becoming more and more scarce, and more and more difficult to access and maintain. It's a chain-reaction. It's a self-destructive cycle.

Yet, nonetheless, we have an opportunity to build a different culture. We can build a culture of cooperation, compassion, kindness, equitable use of resources... Yes we can.

So let's compare some of the aspects of these rival cultures. Below I have created a list.

This is a work in progress. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and I am sure that I have left out some major and important points.

Please feel free to add terms to the lists.

Culture of Conquest Culture of Cooperation
  • violent
  • imperial
  • exploitative
  • hurtful
  • harmful
  • domineering
  • authoritative
  • controlling
  • militaristic
  • destructive
  • socially degrading
  • environmentally degrading
  • dehumanizing
  • corrupt
  • dishonest
  • divisive
  • focusing on differences
  • hateful
  • malicious
  • selfish
  • greedy
  • racist
  • judgmental
  • make assumptions
  • jump to conclusions
  • nonviolent
  • sharing
  • compassionate
  • kind
  • loving
  • trusting
  • honest
  • truthful
  • respectful
  • constructive
  • productive of lasting achievement
  • uplifting
  • life-serving
  • participatory
  • democratic
  • consensual
  • peaceful
  • life-affirming
  • benign
  • generous
  • tolerant and accepting of differences regarding
    • race,
    • ethnicity,
    • religion,
    • sexual orientation,
    • gender,
    • etc.
  • treat all people equally
  • ask questions

28 January 2009

To: White House and Congress Re: Economic Policy and Tax Cuts

Dear Members of the Obama Administration and Congress,

We are Worth MoreInstead of tax cuts and consequential cuts to social and public services, and infrastructure, it would make the most sense, in these difficult times, to put into effect a net tax increase. That's right: a net tax increase. While I support lifting the tax burden on those whom, in the lower income regions, are least able to pay—it makes imminent sense to increase overall taxation, by increasing taxation on the wealthiest Americans (and American businesses) —those whom are most able to pay into public and social support infrastructure. This would directly increase societal equity and equitableness.

America's wealthiest people already benefit most from public infrastructure, so it makes sense to tax them proportionally, to let them pay for it. Most of those with the greatest quantities of financial treasure and material possessions would not have what they do without public infrastructure. Their wealth depends on the acquiescence of the public.

In other words: Tax the rich. Yes, we can! This is the sort of change I believe in. I also want to point you in the direction of two articles, 1) is recommendations for increasing revenue (to pay for economic recovery) from the Institute for Policy Studies, and 2) is an article by Jim Kunstler about the problems inherent in the growth based economic model.

1) IPS Plan to Pay for Recovery

2) Change You Won't Believe by Jim Kunstler

Berd Whitlock

p.s. Please consider the idea of a "Salary Cap" (or income cap, or capital gains cap.) Think of it like this: 1) Set an amount of money that is the maximum allowable for an individual (or household) to reap. 2) Make it so any amount of income, or capital gain, over that amount would be taxed at a certain very high level, i.e. 90% or 100%.

23 January 2009

Truth Will Have Final Word in Reality

This is an excerpt from Martin Luther King Jr.'s Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech in December of 1964. I was turned onto it when read it in the program for an Olympia Family Theater production of Korczak's Children, which is about the Warsaw Ghetto in Nazi Poland.
I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the "isness" of man's present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal "oughtness" that forever confronts him. I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsom and jetsom in the river of life unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.

I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of thermonuclear destruction. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. I believe that even amid today's motor bursts and whining bullets, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow. I believe that wounded justice, lying prostrate on the blood-flowing streets of our nations, can be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men. I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down men other-centered can build up...

21 January 2009

Go Obama!

Kimya Sings in ObamaHappy Inauguration Day! I was inspired by President Obama's message for hope and change, and I look forward to support President Obama, and encouraging him to approach necessary changes to a culture of conquest. It is important to remember how violent and destructive Western Societies have been toward indigenous populations and traditional cultures. As technology has developed, it has been used more and more to oppress human societies, and to exploit the material resources of the Earth. So, if we want change to truly better the position of humanity in the world, then we will have to explore and reconcile these fundamental conflicts between popular culture and the interests of sustainability and future generations.

Instead of seeking to defeat those who oppose the culture of conquest, it would be better to be open to dialogue and peaceful resolution of differences. Violence has not brought peace to our lives, and there is no rational reason to believe that it is capable of doing so.

In Nonviolent resolution of conflict and disagreement there is the greatest hope for uplifting and mutually beneficial, sustainable and lasting, and true solutions. Culture of conquest and militarism must continue to be vigorously challenged: I support President Barak Obama's potential to courageously come forward to speak these truths about, and confront, the harmful aspects of present day society.

18 January 2009

14 January 2009

Call for Radical Change from Thomas Merton

Violence is the Problem, NOT the SolutionThomas Merton: "I am against war, against violence, against violent revolution, for peaceful settlement of differences, for nonviolent but nevertheless radical changes. Change is needed, and violence will not really change anything: at most it will only transfer power from one set of bull-headed authorities to another."

13 January 2009

Obama Not Keen to Investigate Bush

It is critical to the future security and well-being of the USA to recognize the importance of holding public officials accountable for suspected violations of the law. If there is reasonable suspicion that crimes have taken place, then it is imperative to investigate and prosecute if warranted. Anything less would betray the justice system, and betray the laws which President-Elect Obama has sworn to protect.

How can we move safely and securely forward into the future if with a precedent to let suspected criminals just get away without even the slightest gesture of appointing a special investigator? Really, the investigation phase could probably be avoided, the intolerable abuses of members of the Bush Administration are so obvious and flagrant. If they tried to hide them they would be more likely to be called to account than if they, however audaciously, practice their heinous acts in broad daylight. Openness gives the appearance of prudence. But even a cursory analysis reveals many actions of the Bush Administration to be improper.

Bush and Cheney et al. must be held accountable. Our future well-being and security depend on it!

11 January 2009

Truthfulness is Necessary to Right Way of Life

Those who reject truth cannot win. You can quote me on that. Not to imply that winning is necessary to living right. But being truthful, and pursuing the right way of life, is winning in itself.

Conflict Between Israel and Palestine

I have been blogging a lot about the conflict between Israel and Palestine, not only here on this blog, but also on OlyBlog.net, as well as on my Facebook and Flickr accounts.

Billions Face Food Shortages

This is a big problem. Food shortages. People starving. This study doesn't even take into account the problem of dwindling energy supplies, which will also negatively impact food production. If human were to take this issue seriously, then it will begin intensive programs in earnest—and starting now—to address the problem of overpopulation. With adequate efforts toward education and economic equity, the problem of overpopulation can be rectified with a minimum of harm over the course of a few generations. What it is going to take is intentional curtailment: the conscious awareness of the problem by most people, and the subsequent decision to limit reproduction to one child per couple. This is just plain necessary to bringing the needs of the human population back into line with the abilities of the planet to provide for them. Check out this article I found on Truthout.org:
Billions Face Food Shortages, Study Warns

Friday 09 January 2009

by: Ian Sample, The Guardian UK

Climate change may ruin farming in tropics by 2100. Record temperatures to become normal in Europe.

Half of the world's population could face severe food shortages by the end of the century as rising temperatures take their toll on farmers' crops, scientists have warned.

Harvests of staple food crops such as rice and maize could fall by between 20% and 40% as a result of higher temperatures during the growing season in the tropics and subtropics. Warmer temperatures in the region are also expected to increase the risk of drought, cutting crop losses further, according to a new study.

The worst of the food shortages are expected to hit the poor, densely inhabited regions of the equatorial belt, where demand for food is already soaring because of a rapid growth in population... http://www.truthout.org/011109A

08 January 2009

Peace for Israel

By opposing Israel's militarism and oppression of Palestinians, I support the vision of a truly secure and peaceful future for all people of the region, both Israelis and Palestinians.

Please watch this inspiring video produced by Jewish Voice for Peace:

07 January 2009

The Earth Belongs to Everyone, and to No One

After all, our bodies are composed of recycled matter and born of the Earth. Personally I believe that I, in my fleshly existence, belong to the Earth. What do you believe about your relationship to this planet?

The following is text from a sign on the Grove of the Patriarchs trail in Mount Rainier National Park. The trail photo is from the same area.

Grove of the Patriarchs Nature Trail Information SignOld growth forests, such as the one at the Grove of the Patriarchs, comprise some of the richest and most productive ecosystems on Earth. These dense coniferous forest clothe the lower slopes and valleys of Mount Rainier National Park. Reaching from an elevation of about 2,000 feet (580 m) to an elevation of over 6,000 feet (2,000 m), these forests cover 60% of the landscape of the park. The grove is an outstanding example of the virgin forest that once extended over most of Western Washington.

The Douglas-firs, Western red cedars, and Western hemlocks that dominate the surrounding old-growth forest are but parts of the total community of animals, plants, climate, geology, soil, sunlight, and water that makes this a stately place.

Please help protect and preserve the natural beauty of this special part of Old-growth forest eco-system by treating it with respect. Leaving the trail, picking flowers and climbing on the trees cause injury that takes generations to repair.

"The Earth, like the sun, like the air, belongs to everyone... and to no one." Edward Abbey

05 January 2009

Another World is Possible

This is reposted from facebook, where I originally published it earlier today. It's about violence and militarism, and peace and justice. I believe that nonviolent solutions are the answer. Marvin Gaye said that "War is not the answer, because only love can conquer hate." I can't imagine stating it any better than that!

Here is the note. Peace be with you:

Violence and militarism haven't brought peace to the world amongst human societies throughout thousands of years of human conflict. It is time to find a better way. Another world is possible.

The means do not justify the ends. In fact, the way it works is that the means are the ends - that is to say that the character of the means, becomes the end. So if the use of violence, i.e. militarism, is used to resolve conflict, then the end product will be a society in which violence is acceptable. Violence is not acceptable. Violence is not acceptable in our homes or in our communities, so why should it be acceptable to export violence into the community of others? Why do we have a foreign policy establishment that engages in systematic violence and oppression?

The popular myth is that violence and militarism are used to make us safer, and to bring peace. But the truth is far from that. In fact—violence and militarism are used to oppress, and to enable exploitation of resources, materials and labor.

The additional truth is that this doesn't make us truly safer. Recent escalations (of the U.S. foreign policy of global dominance) under the Bush Administration have resulted in social division; upset; fearfulness; economic instability, stress and uncertainty; endangerment of civil liberties; and a plethora of other truly harmful and destructive side-effects.

It we want true security, then we will have to live in a way that is respectful and tolerant of socio-cultural differences, we will have to live in a way so that all people are treated equally, so that all people have equitable opportunity, justice and truth. True security will result from learning to share resources, rather than seeking to dominate and hoard them. True security will result from a general societal attitude of respect for land and for all beings. Aldo Leopold suggested that we move toward a relationship with land not as a commodity, but as a community of which we are very much part. I believe that is the path to true security.

What are the roots of conflict in our own society and in our own lives? How can we eradicate violence and all harmful interactions amongst beings?

Respectful dialogue, and the opportunity to work out legitimate disagreements and grievances in a respectful and compassionate manner, will enable the achievement of a true and lasting peaceful world.

There is a lot work to be done in progressing toward a world where all people are treated equally. Of course, it's going to take time and a lot of effort. But maybe, if we can learn to share amongst differing peoples, if we can learn to distribute resources equitably, if we can learn to use resources wisely—so that our actions and consumption are not abusive and destructive toward the planet, other peoples, or future generations—then maybe we will live to see a day of true security and true prosperity —for all people.

02 January 2009

Build a Peace Economy

Build a Peace Economy!
Photo by Charles A.

This photo is from a while ago, this past October third. But I held this same sign earlier tonight, January second, during a weekly peace vigil that I participate in.

We live in a war economy. War is not working. War is destructive—harmful and unproductive. War is ineffective toward true resolution of conflict. Let's build a peace economy, an economy that is truly life-serving.

Nonviolence and social/ecological/economic/political justice practiced in daily life: that is the path to peace. Peace is possible. Let's build an economy based on peace—not war. Let's replace the war economy with a peace economy!

Questions for Thurston County Commissioner Position #3 Candidates

Below is an edited (mainly for clarity and strength) version of an email letter I sent to 11 Candidates for County Commissioner. These Candidates are: Corinne Tobeck, Ed Crawford, Erik Landass, Gayle Broadbent, Jack Turner, Jeff Dickison, Karen Valenzuela, Richard Emde, Russ Lehman, Susan Bogni, and Walt Jorgensen. More information on these candidates, including their application for Office of Commission: Commissioner District #3 — Applicants | Thurston County Democrats

Two changes are in square brackets (i.e. *[]) and italicized or striked through. Some minor changes in punctuation from the original letter are not indicated.

Here's the letter:
To: Candidates for Thurston County Commissioner Position #3

From: Robert F. W. Whitlock
[address redacted]
Olympia, Thurston County, Washington

Friday, January 2nd, 2009

Dear Candidates for County Commissioner Position #3,

Greetings and I hope that this message finds all of you to be well in the new year. I have a question relating to your candidacies for the Office of Commissioner. The question relates to environmental policy: I am deeply concerned about the grievous harm and destruction—essential[ly] acts of violence—that this society, of which this community is part, is causing, and committing against the natural world.

My question is: If you are elected to the Office of Commissioner, would you—and if so, how would you—govern in a way that will move the community substantively and expeditiously toward a harmonious (non-destructive, life-serving) and truly sustainable relationship with both natural and human-made environments?

Please tell me what specific policies that you believe will be the most important, both in terms of protecting ecosystems from human-caused degradation, and also in terms of ameliorating existing harms and damages (e.g. global warming/climate disruption, extinction of species/loss of biodiversity, invasive species, water earth and air pollution, poverty, economic and social inequality/inequity/injustice/prejudice/discrimination, etc., et al.). [—that are already on the record.]

For example, to emphasize the creation of a truly local, benign, sustainable and life-serving economy that would be based virtually entirely on locally sourced and renewable raw materials, as well as local means for production/manufacture (everything from food, to clothing, to shelter, to education and entertainment.) I envision a vertically integrated local economy capable of meeting the basic needs of every one in the local community. The economic vision I have is for a community that is ecologically benign, as well as [socially and economically] equitable and just. Is this a vision that you share?

Thank you and best wishes,

Berd Whitlock
[email redacted]
[phone redacted]

P.S. In their applications, I could not detect email addresses for either candidates Tobeck or Landaas. I was able to find one for Ms. Tobeck via an Internet search, but I am unsure if it is a working address. I have telephoned and voice-mailed Mr. Landaas, to request his email address, and I will forward this message to him as soon as I am able.
Additional apology to Ms. Tobeck, whose email I failed to detect in the cover letter of her application.

Also [3:55pm]: Mr. Landaas just returned my call to notify me of his e-mail address.

01 January 2009

What's Happening in Gaza

Stop Bombing—Start TalkingThere is a lot of information going around on the Internet about the situation Gaza. No doubt some of this information is better than others. It is critical to seek alternate sources of information, given that the Main Stream Media (MSM) has been moving toward authoritarianism and a perspective that is big business friendly and very cozy with the biggest and most powerful businesses. We exist in a time where, in the MSM, reality is treated as a radical notion (ref: Kapur on Michael Parenti and Media Manipulation).

So, where can someone who is concerned about the situation find trustworthy alternate sources of information. Fortunately, where Gaza, and the broader Israel/Palestine conflict, is concerned—there is an abundance of information. However, the problem is so severe, the suffering so great, and the wounds —on all sides— so deep, that it can be overwhelming to find a place to begin to try to understand what's actually happening, and what are the possible solutions for a cessation of hostilities and violence, and a genuine pursuit of nonviolent conflict resolution.

I will point to a couple of sources of information, though there are many, many more good sources of information to be found. One is a video report from the IWW Real News Network: Rafah - Report from the Ground. Another source I have been using is Jewish Voice for Peace and its off-shoot, Jewish Peace News.

So what's going on? Israel labels Hamas as a terrorist organization. But Hamas is a political party that has been elected to government. Therefore, as a legitimate governmental organization, how can it be terroristic?

Secondly, the popular myth is that Hamas wants to destroy Israel. I am not convinced that this is true. More realistic and sensible, would be a Hamas position to stop conditions of apartheid, stop economic and social injustice, stop the occupation—the oppression... But I don't know what the official Hamas policy is. However, I have heard that members of the Bush Administration have been accused of fomenting Hamas militarism and violence.

Another myth that I have seen rebutted is that militant extremists are launching unprovoked rocket attacks. This is ridiculous. For one, the provocation is the injustice. I am not saying that launching rockets is a good thing, or that it is likely to help the situation. But I do think that Palestinians, including militants among them, have legitimate reason to be angry. They have been so gravely and grievously mistreated—abused. Secondly, I have read that the rocket firings have only occured after specific incidents, that can reasonably be considered as acts of provocation, committed by Israel. Examples of these incidents might include abuse and discrimination and Israeli controlled check-points... Also see The Gaza Bombshell [Vanity Fair].

What would cause Hamas, or members of any militant extremist group—if not systematized oppression, to act out violently? The onus is on Israel, as the power broker in this situation, to administer true justice and begin to treat the Palestinian people with respect, to accord them equal treatment. All humans deserve to be treated equally.

26 Ways to Help Gaza

What Peace Means to Me

Another World is Possible - RoyI had a lengthy conversation with my mother earlier this week about society and ethics and morals and peace, among other interrelated topics. At one point in the conversation, after I had apparently been extemporizing about the importance of a peaceful world, my mother said, "well I can tell that you value peace very highly."

I am glad she made this observation, which is true indeed, because it allowed and prompted me to respond and explain why peace is so important and of such value to me. My valuation of peace is important because peace is the product of so much that is important. Peace is the end result of harmonious co-existence between human societies in and of themselves, and between human societies and their environments (ecological, social, economic, etc.). Peace will happen when people finally begin (at least in a critical mass) to treat each other equally - and to hold each other accountable for treating each other equally. Peace will mean a vast amelioration of deep and unnecessary suffering amongst peoples, humans and other animals, plants, ecosystems, etc.. The achievement of peace will mean just, equitable, nonviolent, truthful, life-serving, and sustainable relationships between all peoples and the planet.

Peace means a lot to me. I value peace very highly. Peace is an end. But it is also a means toward it's own end. The ends do not justify the means. The ends are the means. If peace is the goal, then the means must be peaceful. So let us look to ourselves, and examine patterns of injustice, oppression, exploitation, etc. as they may exist in our own lives.

Another world is possible. I can hear her breathing.