30 March 2009
28 March 2009
The film is set in a place that is very rainy and cloudy. It is constantly cloudy and rains pretty much all the time. The focus of the movie is a school. It seems like a boarding school. It's all concrete (kind of like the Evergreen State College.) Anyway, in the movie, forecasters predicted that the sun was to come out - but only for 1 or 2 hours, and only on one day. - Maybe if I remember right, this is an annual, or semi-annual occurence, or once in a few years - anyway, it's a rare occurrence. So, everyone in the school was very excited for the rain to stop and the sun to come out.
One of the students in the school was prone to being bullied. And there was a group of students whom were very mean. While all of the other children were excited about going outside, a few of the mean ones took this other victim student and locked her into a room so that she was unable to go outside when the sun came out.
So it went. The sun came out. Everyone went outside and ran through the fields. Flowers bloomed. Everyone went outside—except for the one victim child. It was so sad. It touched me very deeply. I remember some of the children picked flowers, and gave them to the victim child. Some consolation.
A great film, I took two morals from it - one about the dangers of climate change, and the other about the problems of meanness and bullying. Thank you, Mr. Halpern.
27 March 2009
Think of all those rocks whizzing about out there in space.
It makes me feel safe and comfortable being here on Earth, in this phenomenal and protective environment.
25 March 2009
24 March 2009
Sen. Sanders Attempts to Block Obama Nomineehttp://www.democracynow.org/2009/3/24/headlines#13
In news from Capitol Hill, independent Senator Bernie Sanders is attempting to block President Obama’s nominee to head the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Gary Gensler, a former Goldman Sachs employee. Sanders said Gensler had worked with Sen. Phil Gramm and Alan Greenspan to exempt credit default swaps from regulation, which led to the collapse of AIG and has resulted in the largest taxpayer bailout in US history. He also worked to deregulate electronic energy trading, which led to the downfall of Enron. Sanders said, “We need an independent leader who will help create a new culture in the financial marketplace and move us away from the greed, recklessness and illegal behavior which has caused so much harm to our economy.”
The US war in Afghanistan has been taken for granted. The war started only a few days after the 9/11/2001 WTC attacks. People by and large did not question the Bush Administration's decision to launch an invasion and campaign of sustained occupation of Afghanistan.
But the premise and concept of the occupation of Afghanistan is worthy of taking a closer look. For example, terrorists, from a group which is supposedly headquarted in Afghanistan, attacked the World Trade Center in New York City. Does this give the USA the right to invade and occupy the whole of Afghanistan? The answer is no. The terrorist attacks do not give the USA the right to intervene in the affairs of a sovereign national government, except to the point of seeking, and rooting out, suspected terrorists.
The events of 9/11/2001, and the war in Afghanistan, give us the opportunity to explore the foreign policies of our nation in terms of blowback.
Many people around the world, including myself, are critical of the imperialism of the USA. Terrorists are motivated by the harmfulness of economic exploitation and oppression, which stems from the policies and practices of the USA.
The way to truly make the USA safe and secure, is to operate in the world in ways that are respectful, tolerant of personal differences between peoples and nations, and fair and just.
Bullying and belligerence, economic exploitation and oppression, will only serve to provoke anti-American sentiment, and possibly even terrorist attacks.
23 March 2009
The USA has a new President. Obama's victory over McCain signals a mandate for change - for deep and substantial change - a mandate to end war. We are very much experiencing a different America; the new President does not refer to other nations as components in an "axis of evil," but he instead pushes for dialogue between nations.
Do you want an end to war. Can you imagine another world? What might it look and feel like?
I want an end to war. I can imagine another world. Among other aspects, it's a world without the fear that is created by violence between humans.
How can we make the possibility of another world into the reality of another world? How can we best effect change in the direction of a world where human beings do not hurt each other?
Talk about it.
Bill Moyers sits down with socialist historian Mike Davis for his critique of the government's response to the economic crisis and how he thinks it compares to Roosevelt's New Deal. Mike Davis is a writer and historian, who currently teaches creative writing at University of California, Riverside.I came across the above video interview while reading tomdispatch.com: a second 911
22 March 2009
Iraq Memorial to Life
Over one million innocent Iraqis are estimated to have suffered war-related fatal casualties.
Millions upon millions more suffer with non-fatal casualties. Indeed, has anyone person in Iraq been left unscathed?
20 March 2009
Catch the next rocket to inhabitable planethttp://www.theolympian.com/opinion/v-print/story/792985.html
A recent headlines read, "Rocket ship blasts into space. It looked like a new star being born."
The purpose of this event was to place a telescope into orbit and that wonderful invention will seek out other planets that could be like our Earth.
The article doesn't list the cost to the taxpayers for this wonderful event, but I can't help but wonder about the thousands of people recently out of a job, people without homes or food, and those who wonder about how to pay for the next meal or medical coverage.
I wonder if they are as confused as I when I note that we don't seem to be able to take care of the world that we have, so why are we (you and I) spending a few million dollars looking for another Earth?
Wait, maybe I know the answer.
This world is in some deep trouble. If another fresh, clean world is found, then all of the people that still have the most bucks can grab a rocket and head on over to the new digs.
Robert Robinson, Olympia
19 March 2009
Lincoln Shlensky, of Jewish Peace News, thinks that the debate over Israeli Zionism is a "red herring." Lincoln raises some very sensible arguments. Read on:
...the wrong topic -- Zionism and anti-Zionism -- is under debate. This ideological argument serves to distract attention from the desperate need for a renewed discussion of human and political rights that must set the agenda for any negotiations toward a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.http://jewishpeacenews.blogspot.com/2009/03/is-zionism-problem.html
the debate between Zionists and anti-Zionists is a red herring, in my view, a diversionary tactic that merely postpones crucial negotiations and decisions that could enable an equitable and peaceful future for Israelis and Palestinians. The real debate needs to be over how to politically enshrine -- with the necessary help of the international community -- the rights of both Palestinians and Israeli Jews in a future political compact. Unless Israeli Jews can be presented with a plan, whether national or confederational, that guarantees their political freedoms and allows them to live without fear of being politically overwhelmed by shifting demography, then peace, with reparative justice for the Palestinians, will remain elusive. Without such an internationally backed guarantee of rights and security, negotiations can only be experienced as a zero-sum equation in which Israeli Jews have everything to lose. This far more important debate over how to assure the rights of Jews and Palestinians will not happen without the impetus of broad-based popular political activism, the involvement of the key global political players, and sincere compassion for both sides. Until widespread demand mounts for the negotiation of an internationally backed agreement that preserves the mutual rights and political freedoms of Israelis and Palestinians, the stronger party in the conflict will continue to prevail -- at an inexcusable expense to itself, to the weaker group, and to the entire region.
Because one man, conceding defeat, didn't issue the typical statement indicating that he preferred to spend more time with his family, and instead launched a frontal attack on those who had attacked him, the foreign policy equation in Washington might have changed in discernible ways last week. On withdrawing from his nomination as director of the National Intelligence Council, Charles Freeman, former ambassador to Saudi Arabia and a rare provocative thinker in Washington, let loose with a broadside against his enemies. Of accusations from the generally right-wing groups and individuals who claim to represent the Jewish community in official Washington, he wrote:"There is a special irony in having been accused of improper regard for the opinions of foreign governments and societies by a group so clearly intent on enforcing adherence to the policies of a foreign government -- in this case, the government of Israel. I believe that the inability of the American public to discuss, or the government to consider, any option for US policies in the Middle East opposed by the ruling faction in Israeli politics has allowed that faction to adopt and sustain policies that ultimately threaten the existence of the state of Israel... This is not just a tragedy for Israelis and their neighbors in the Middle East; it is doing widening damage to the national security of the United States."[...]
Robert Dreyfuss:the arrival of the Netanyahu-Lieberman government is also guaranteed to prove a crisis moment for the Israel lobby. It will present an enormous public-relations problem, akin to the one that faced ad agency Hill & Knowlton during the decades in which it had to defend Philip Morris, the hated cigarette company that repeatedly denied the link between its products and cancer. The Israel lobby knows that it will be difficult to sell cartons of menthol smooth Netanyahu-Lieberman 100s to American consumers.
Indeed, Freeman told me:"The only thing I regret is that in my statement I embraced the term 'Israel lobby.' This isn't really a lobby by, for, or about Israel. It's really, well, I've decided I'm going to call it from now on the [Avigdor] Lieberman lobby. It's the very right-wing Likud in Israel and its fanatic supporters here. And Avigdor Lieberman is really the guy that they really agree with."So here's the reality behind the Freeman debacle: Already worried over Team Obama, suffering the after-effects of the Gaza debacle, and about to be burdened with the Netanyahu-Lieberman problem, the Israel lobby is undoubtedly running scared. They succeeded in knocking off Freeman, but the true test of their strength is yet to come.
March 16, 2009
US Eyewitness in Gaza: 'The reality of a very real bloodbath set in...'
The following was written by Rose Mishaan, a participant on the recent National Lawyer's Guild delegation to Gaza. Rose is a student at the University of California Hastings College of Law. I know Rose from when we were both members of Jews Against the Occupation in New York. She sent this out as an email to friends and has given us permission to reprint it here. All the photos below were taken by her. - Adam Horowitz
(The rubble of Al-Zeytoun, on the southern outskirts of Gaza City. Photo: Rose Mishaan)
It took me a month to write this email. In that month, I've been through a whirlwind of emotions, trying to find away to process the things that I saw. I still haven't figured it out.
I went to Gaza with a group of lawyers to investigate violations of international law. We crossed into Gaza through the Egyptian border crossing at Rafah. At first we were fairly convinced we wouldn't get through. We had heard different stories of internationals trying to get through and then getting turned away -- they didn't have the proper credentials, they didn't have a letter from their embassy, etc. It made it all the more anti-climactic when we got through with no problem. just a minor 7-hour detainment at the border, which was really nothing at all. they said we were free to go. so we boarded a bus and drove the half-mile to the Palestinian side of the crossing. when we got there, we went through the world's one and only Palestinian Authority border crossing. we were the only ones there. they stamped all our passports and gave us a hero's welcome -- invited us to sit down for tea and have some desserts. they could not believe an American delegation was there, in Gaza. as far as we learned, we were only the second American delegation to enter Gaza since the offensive -- after a delegation of engineers. We were certainly the first and only delegation of American lawyers. while we were trying to avoid the mandatory Palestinian shmooze time with tea and snacks, waiting for our cabs to arrive to take us to our hotel, we felt a bomb explode. to our unexperienced senses, it felt like it was right under us. i got immediately anxious and decided we need to get out of there. our Palestinian hosts laughed at me kindly and said "don't worry this is normal here". somehow, not that comforting. we got in our two cabs and starting heading from the border to our hotel in Gaza City. the ride from Rafah to Gaza City was about 40 minutes. as soon as we left the border gates, we began to see the bombed out buildings. one of my companions yelled out "holy shit!" and we looked to where she was pointing and saw the giant crater in the building. then my other travel companion turned to her and said "you can't yell 'holy shit' every time you see a bombed out building. we'll all have heart attacks." and she was right. the entire 40-minute drive to Gaza City, our cab driver pointed out the sights around us. he explained what each bombed out building was, who was living there and what had been a big story in the news. all we saw was decimation. one building after another collapsed into rubble.
IMG_2737 When we got to our hotel in Gaza City, I was surprised. It was standing -- no bomb craters, no burnt out sections. and it was still in business. we checked in and we had running water and electricity -- both things that i was unsure about before coming to Gaza. that first night we arrived we met with two United Nations representatives: one with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human RIghts and one with the UN Refugee and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees. John Ging, the director of UNRWA in Gaza was clearly upset at the recent offensive. A well-spoken man with a strong commitment to human rights and international law, he told us about the UN schools that were hit during the onslaught. He kept saying that the "rule of law means you apply it to everyone equally". He badly wanted to see an end to Israeli impunity. We got a tour of the facility that was shelled during the offensive. We saw the hollowed out warehouse after it was shelled with white phosphorous and everything inside was destroyed -- medicines, food, spare automobile parts to keep their vehicles up and running (pictured above). John Ging told us about how the UN had called the Israelis after the first shell and told them not to target the UN compound, that there were gasoline tanks on the property. they received assurances that they would not be targeted. Moments later the Israelis shelled the exact area where the gas tanks were located with white phosphorous. the phosphorous hit the warehouses and UN staff risked their lives to move the gas tanks before the fire reached them, avoiding a massive explosion.
That first night in Gaza was almost surreal. It was so quiet, almost deafening. I was convinced that any moment a missile would come screeching through the air and shatter the night. there was a sense of waiting for something to happen. but nothing did. the night gave way to morning and I awoke in Gaza for the first time in my life.
The things we saw that morning would turn out to be the hardest. We went to Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. In the parking lot we saw bombed out, twisted skeletons of ambulances before we were hurried into the building to meet with doctors. Standing in the middle of a care unit, I saw a little boy, about 5 years old, hobble down the hallway, holding his mother's hand. He had a leg injury and looked in pain. The doctors wanted to show us the white phosphorous cases, since we had asked about that. The doctor pointed to two rooms with patients we could talk to. There were two women in the first one. The one closest to the door just stared at us blankly, not saying anything. It turns out she lost her whole family during the assault. A few of us went into the next room. There we found Mohammad lying in bed -- heavily bandaged, missing his left eye. He told us the story of how his whole family was burned to death when two white phosphorous shells hit their family car. He was lucky enough to have been knocked out of the car by the first shell. He lay unconscious and burning on the ground, while several neighbors pulled him away. He didn't see his family die -- both parents, his brother, and his sister. they were in their car driving to a relative's house to get away from the shelling in their neighborhood. it was during what was supposed to be a 3-hour ceasefire. Their car only made it 70 meters. He and his brother were both in college. His brother was going to graduate this year. As he told us that, a fellow delegate, Linda, who had been translating, suddenly burst into tears. Mohammad grabbed her hand and told her it was ok. Strange how people ended up comforting us. The doctor came in and told us they were changing a child's dressing if we wanted to come see. We walked into a room to see a baby -- about 2 years old -- lying on a table. She suddenly sat up and I saw that one whole side of her face and head were severely burnt. I had assumed she was hit with a weapon of some kind, but it turns it was a classic case of "collateral damage": she had run up to her mom when they started bombing near the house, while her mom was cooking. Then a bomb exploded nearby and the burning oil in her mother's pan spilled all over this young girl's face. While we stood there, she just cried and called for her mom. We all stood watching, feeling helpless and guilty.
IMG_2783 We left the hospital and went to Al-Zeytoun, a farming community on the southern outskirts of Gaza City. It was one of the hardest hit areas at the beginning of the ground invasion. The neighborhood was almost entirely inhabited by members of the extended Sammouni family. The town was in the news a lot after soldiers evacuated home after home of Sammounis into one house, that they then shelled, killing dozens of people. We walked up the dirt road and saw the rubble. Only one or two buildings left standing; the rest were completely decimated. Scattered tents served as makeshift shelters. We split up into teams of two and began interviewing survivors. We found two women sitting silently in front of the rubble that used to be someone's home. One of the women, Zahwa, described the night where she saw her husband executed in front of her with his hands above his head (Zahwa Sammouni is pictured above sitting in front of a tent. Her house was destroyed the night the soldiers came through the neighborhood). She then huddled with her children in a back room of the house as soldiers shot through the two windows above them. She showed us the bullet holes in the wall of the house, the heap of rubble that used to be her house, and the wounds in her back from being grazed with bullets while she hunched over her children. Her 10-year-old son showed us the shrapnel wounds in his leg and proudly displayed the large piece of shrapnel that he single-handedly pulled out of his chest that night. His cousins then gave us a tour of one of the few houses left standing -- one that the soldiers had used as a base, after they rounded up all those in the neighborhood and demolished all the other houses. The house was a mess. All the family's possessions were thrown around the outside perimeter. Bags of feces from the soldiers were strewn around outside. The inside was ransacked. The soldiers had covered nearly every surface with graffiti: "death to the Arabs", "if it weren't for Arabs, the world would be a better place", "kill Arabs". I feverishly took notes and photographs of the stories of Zeytoun, knowing I did not want to stop and think about what had happened here.
Throughout the day, we felt distant bomb blasts. I still gave a little jump when I heard the tremors and I can't say they didn't make me nervous. But the Palestinians we were meeting with didn't bat an eyelid. They knew when they were in danger and they knew when it didn't matter. "Oh, they're just bombing the tunnels" or "that's all the way in the north" people would say. Cold comfort.
We met with paramedics from the Palestine Red Crescent Society. They described how they were shot at, and sometimes hit, while trying to reach injured people. We met with human rights organizations who described the difficulties of trying to collect accurate information and trying to help everyone when there was such widespread devastation. We met with a psychiatrist in Gaza City who ran one of very few mental health centers there. He wondered how to treat a population of 1.5 million who were all suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. "Listen to the kids tell their stories" he told us. "They tell it like it happened to someone else". That's one of the symptoms of PTSD apparently. and we saw it again and again. Whether it was the little boy describing his father's execution in front of him, or kids showing us the shrapnel they pulled out of themselves and their dead relatives, or a little girl talking about how her house was destroyed -- none of them broke down, none of them cried, none of them seemed scared. There was complete detachment from the horror they were living and their identification with it. A scarred generation that will inherit this conflict.
I left Gaza by hitching a ride with a car full of BBC journalists. We headed in the Land Rover, with "TV" painted on the hood, down the coastal road that winds the length of Gaza. It was my first time seeing the Sea in Palestine, I remember thinking. what a strange feeling. To be in a country i knew so well, and yet be somewhere so completely unfamiliar. The privilege of having a chance to go there and the utter relief at being able to leave were competing in my head. The crossing back into Egypt was short and painless. But as soon as i saw the other side of Rafah again, i felt a deep ache of regret and guilt that didn't let up for weeks. Regret at having left before my work was done and guilt that I had wanted to get out of there.
Gaza was like nothing I'd ever seen. The reality of a very real bloodbath set in. I saw what this onslaught did to people -- real people. i looked into their eyes and heard their stories and saw their wounds. It made war realer than i ever wanted it to be. There still isn't yet a day that goes by that I don't think about what i saw and heard, and feel guilty about leaving, and sad that people are still living with such pain, fear, trauma and loss. I think the hardest part is knowing that as a world, we utterly failed the Palestinians of Gaza. We stood and watched them die and justified our own inaction. It is something that should bring a little shame to us all.
18 March 2009
Today is the fiftieth anniversary of the Tibetan people’s peaceful uprising against Communist China’s repression in Tibet. Since last March widespread peaceful protests have erupted across the whole of Tibet. Most of the participants were youths born and brought up after 1959, who have not seen or experienced a free Tibet. However, the fact that they were driven by a firm conviction to serve the cause of Tibet that has continued from generation to generation is indeed a matter of pride. It will serve as a source of inspiration for those in the international community who take keen interest in the issue of Tibet. We pay tribute and offer our prayers for all those who died, were tortured and suffered tremendous hardships, including during the crisis last year, for the cause of Tibet since our struggle began.
Around 1949, Communist forces began to enter north-eastern and eastern Tibet (Kham and Amdo) and by 1950, more than 5000 Tibetan soldiers had been killed. Taking the prevailing situation into account, the Chinese government chose a policy of peaceful liberation, which in 1951 led to the signing of the 17-point Agreement and its annexure. Since then, Tibet has come under the control of the People’s Republic of China. However, the Agreement clearly mentions that Tibet’s distinct religion, culture and traditional values would be protected.
Between 1954 and 1955, I met with most of the senior Chinese leaders in the Communist Party, government and military, led by Chairman Mao Zedong, in Beijing. When we discussed ways of achieving the social and economic development of Tibet, as well as maintaining Tibet’s religious and cultural heritage, Mao Zedong and all the other leaders agreed to establish a preparatory committee to pave the way for the implementation of the autonomous region, as stipulated in the Agreement, rather than establishing a military administrative commission. From about 1956 onwards, however, the situation took a turn for the worse with the imposition of ultra-leftist policies in Tibet. Consequently, the assurances given by higher authorities were not implemented on the ground. The forceful implementation of the so-called “democratic” reforms in the Kham and Amdo regions of Tibet, which did not accord with prevailing conditions, resulted in immense chaos and destruction. In Central Tibet, Chinese officials forcibly and deliberately violated the terms of the 17-point Agreement, and their heavy-handed tactics increased day by day. These desperate developments left the Tibetan people with no alternative but to launch a peaceful uprising on 10 March 1959. The Chinese authorities responded with unprecedented force that led to the killing, arrests and imprisonment of tens of thousands of Tibetans in the following months. Consequently, accompanied by a small party of Tibetan government officials including some Kalons (Cabinet Ministers), I escaped into exile in India. Thereafter, nearly a hundred thousand Tibetans fled into exile in India, Nepal and Bhutan. During the escape and the months that followed they faced unimaginable hardship, which is still fresh in Tibetan memory.
Having occupied Tibet, the Chinese Communist government carried out a series of repressive and violent campaigns that have included “democratic” reform, class struggle, communes, the Cultural Revolution, the imposition of martial law, and more recently the patriotic re-education and the strike hard campaigns. These thrust Tibetans into such depths of suffering and hardship that they literally experienced hell on earth. The immediate result of these campaigns was the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Tibetans. The lineage of the Buddha Dharma was severed. Thousands of religious and cultural centres such as monasteries, nunneries and temples were razed to the ground. Historical buildings and monuments were demolished. Natural resources have been indiscriminately exploited. Today, Tibet’s fragile environment has been polluted, massive deforestation has been carried out and wildlife, such as wild yaks and Tibetan antelopes, are being driven to extinction.
These 50 years have brought untold suffering and destruction to the land and people of Tibet. Even today, Tibetans in Tibet live in constant fear and the Chinese authorities remain constantly suspicious of them. Today, the religion, culture, language and identity, which successive generations of Tibetans have considered more precious than their lives, are nearing extinction; in short, the Tibetan people are regarded like criminals deserving to be put to death. The Tibetan people's tragedy was set out in the late Panchen Rinpoche's 70,000-character petition to the Chinese government in 1962. He raised it again in his speech in Shigatse in 1989 shortly before he died, when he said that what we have lost under Chinese communist rule far outweighs what we have gained. Many concerned and unbiased Tibetans have also spoken out about the hardships faced by the Tibetan people. Even Hu Yaobang, the Communist Party Secretary, when he arrived in Lhasa in 1980, clearly acknowledged these mistakes and asked the Tibetans for their forgiveness. Many infrastructural developments such as roads, airports, railways, and so forth, which seem to have brought progress to Tibetan areas, were really done with the political objective of sinicising Tibet at the huge cost of devastating the Tibetan environment and way of life.
As for the Tibetan refugees, although we initially faced many problems such as great differences of climate and language and difficulties earning our livelihood, we have been successful in re-establishing ourselves in exile. Due to the great generosity of our host countries, especially India, Tibetans have been able to live in freedom without fear. We have been able to earn a livelihood and uphold our religion and culture. We have been able to provide our children with both traditional and modern education, as well as engaging in efforts to resolve the Tibet issue. There have been other positive results too. Greater understanding of Tibetan Buddhism with its emphasis on compassion has made a positive contribution in many parts of the world.
Immediately after our arrival in exile we began to work on the promotion of democracy in the Tibetan community with the establishment of the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile in 1960. Since then, we have taken gradual steps on the path to democracy and today our exile administration has evolved into a fully functioning democracy with a written charter of its own and a legislative body. This is indeed something we can all be proud of.
Since 2001, we have instituted a system by which the political leadership of Tibetan exiles is directly elected through procedures similar to those in other democratic systems. Currently, the directly-elected Kalon Tripa's (Cabinet Chairperson) second term is underway.Consequently, my daily administrative responsibilities have reduced and today I am in a state of semi-retirement. However, to work for the just cause of Tibet is the responsibility of every Tibetan, and I will uphold this responsibility.
As a human being my main commitment is in the promotion of human values; this is what I consider the key factor for a happy life at the individual level, family level and community level. As a religious practitioner, my second commitment is the promotion of inter-religious harmony. My third commitment is of course the issue of Tibet due to my being a Tibetan with the name of the ‘Dalai Lama’, but more importantly it is due to the trust that Tibetans both inside and outside Tibet have placed in me. These are the three important commitments, which I always keep in mind.
In addition to looking after the well being of the exiled Tibetan community, which they have done quite well, the principal task of the Central Tibetan Administration has been to work towards the resolution of the issue of Tibet. Having laid out the mutually beneficial Middle-Way policy in 1974, we were ready to respond to Deng Xiaoping when he proposed talks in 1979. Many talks were conducted and fact-finding delegations dispatched. These, however, did not bear any concrete results and formal contacts eventually broke off in 1993.
Subsequently, in 1996-97, we conducted an opinion poll of the Tibetans in exile, and collected suggestions from Tibet wherever possible, on a proposed referendum, by which the Tibetan people were to determine the future course of our freedom struggle to their full satisfaction. Based on the outcome of the poll and the suggestions from Tibet, we decided to continue the policy of the Middle-Way.
Since the re-establishment of contacts in 2002, we have followed a policy of one official channel and one agenda and have held eight rounds of talks with the Chinese authorities. As a consequence, we presented a Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People, explaining how the conditions for national regional autonomy as set forth in the Chinese constitution would be met by the full implementation of its laws on autonomy. The Chinese insistence that we accept Tibet as having been a part of China since ancient times is not only inaccurate but also unreasonable. We cannot change the past no matter whether it was good or bad. Distorting history for political purposes is incorrect.
We need to look to the future and work for our mutual benefit. We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China. Fulfilling the aspirations of the Tibetan people will enable China to achieve stability and unity. From our side, we are not making any demands based on history. Looking back at history, there is no country in the world today, including China, whose territorial status has remained forever unchanged, nor can it remain unchanged.
Our aspiration that all Tibetans be brought under a single autonomous administration is in keeping with the very objective of the principle of national regional autonomy. It also fulfils the fundamental requirements of the Tibetan and Chinese peoples. The Chinese constitution and other related laws and regulations do not pose any obstacle to this and many leaders of the Chinese Central Government have accepted this genuine aspiration. When signing the 17-point Agreement, Premier Zhou Enlai acknowledged it as a reasonable demand. In 1956, when establishing the Preparatory Committee for the “Tibet Autonomous Region”, Vice-Premier Chen Yi pointing at a map said, if Lhasa could be made the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region, which included the Tibetan areas within the other provinces, it would contribute to the development of Tibet and friendship between the Tibetan and Chinese nationalities, a view shared by the late Panchen Rinpoche and many educated Tibetans, cadres among them. If Chinese leaders had any objections to our proposals, they could have provided reasons for them and suggested alternatives for our consideration, but they did not. I am disappointed that the Chinese authorities have not responded appropriately to our sincere efforts to implement the principle of meaningful national regional autonomy for all Tibetans, as set forth in the constitution of the People’s Republic of China.
Quite apart from the current process of Sino-Tibetan dialogue having achieved no concrete results, there has been a brutal crackdown on the Tibetan protests that have shaken the whole of Tibet since March last year. Therefore, in order to solicit public opinion as to what future course of action we should take, the Special Meeting of Tibetan exiles was convened in November 2008. Efforts were made to collect suggestions, as far as possible, from the Tibetans in Tibet as well. The outcome of this whole process was that a majority of Tibetans strongly supported the continuation of the Middle-Way policy. Therefore, we are now pursuing this policy with greater confidence and will continue our efforts towards achieving a meaningful national regional autonomy for all Tibetans.
From time immemorial, the Tibetan and Chinese peoples have been neighbours. In future too, we will have to live together. Therefore, it is most important for us to co-exist in friendship with each other.
Since the occupation of Tibet, Communist China has been publishing distorted propaganda about Tibet and its people. Consequently, there are, among the Chinese populace, not many who have a true understanding about Tibet. It is, in fact, very difficult for them to find the truth. There are also ultra-leftist Chinese leaders who have, since last March, been undertaking a huge propaganda effort with the intention of setting the Tibetan and Chinese peoples apart and creating animosity between them. Sadly, as a result, a negative impression of Tibetans has arisen in the minds of some of our Chinese brothers and sisters. Therefore, as I have repeatedly appealed before, I would like once again to urge our Chinese brothers and sisters not to be swayed by such propaganda, but, instead, to try to discover the facts about Tibet impartially, so as to prevent divisions among us. Tibetans should also continue to work for friendship with the Chinese people.
Looking back on 50 years in exile, we have witnessed many ups and downs. However, the fact that the Tibet issue is alive and the international community is taking growing interest in it is indeed an achievement. Seen from this perspective, I have no doubt that the justice of Tibet's cause will prevail, if we continue to tread the path of truth and non-violence.
As we commemorate 50 years in exile, it is most important that we express our deep gratitude to the governments and peoples of the various host countries in which we live. Not only do we abide by the laws of these host countries, but we also conduct ourselves in a way that we become an asset to these countries. Similarly, in our efforts to realise the cause of Tibet and uphold its religion and culture, we should craft our future vision and strategy by learning from our past experience.
I always say that we should hope for the best, and prepare for the worst. Whether we look at it from the global perspective or in the context of events in China, there are reasons for us to hope for a quick resolution of the issue of Tibet. However, we must also prepare ourselves well in case the Tibetan struggle goes on for a long time. For this, we must focus primarily on the education of our children and the nurturing of professionals in various fields. We should also raise awareness about the environment and health, and improve understanding and practice of non-violent methods among the general Tibetan population.
I would like to take this opportunity to express my heartfelt gratitude to the leaders and people of India, as well as its Central and State Governments, who despite whatever problems and obstacles they face, have provided invaluable support and assistance over the past 50 years to Tibetans in exile. Their kindness and generosity are immeasurable. I would also like to express my gratitude to the leaders, governments and peoples of the international community, as well as the various Tibet Support Groups, for their unstinting support.
May all sentient beings live in peace and happiness!
The Dalai Lama
10 March 2009
16 March 2009
It's all around us. Since we were born. This culture has been around for thousands of years. We have the oppressors and the oppressed.
No one is left unscathed or unharmed. No one is left undamaged by this cultural oppression. Neither the oppressed, nor the oppressor.
In some ways the oppressed can be seen as having the luxury of awareness. The ability to see the reality of the situation—this ability is not nearly as available to the oppressor as it is to the oppressed. It's because the oppressor oftentimes must look away, the oppressor must avoid the brutal truth of the situation, the truth that it is they whom are the propagators of such vicious assaults against the oppressed. The oppressed must be maligned, cursed, castigated, made to seem unworthy, weak, insufficient, or somehow the source of the problem. In order to oppress, the oppressor often times must delude themself about the true nature of the situation, and the reason for the oppressive behavior. For example, the oppressed are labeled as terrorists so that the justification of protection or self-defense is used. (This often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.)
Look at the situation in Israel and Palestine.
Many Israelis have brainwashed themselves into believing that they are the ones whom are actually oppressed. But nothing could be further from the truth.
Israelis live in a hyper-vigilant, hyper-sensitive, culture. Jews have been subjected to anti-semitism, and discriminated against, and treated with prejudice and hate for centuries. Yes this is true. Do Jews deserve a refuge state? I think so. —But that does not make it right for Israelis, Jewish or not, to subjugate and to discriminate, to disrespect, and to treat others (primarily speaking of Palestinians here) as if they're inferior.
All human beings deserve to live dignified, happy and prosperous lives. This includes Palestinians and Israelis. This includes all of us. All of us deserve to be treated equally.
The roots of this conflict exist in the systematic oppression of Palestinians that occurred surrounding, and in regard to the formal establishment of the State of Israel.
It is a very common attitude amongst Palestinians that a peaceful coexistence would be possible if only Israel would respect the 1967 borders.
So why won't Israel pull back? Why the ongoing intensive settlement building in traditionally Palestinians Territories? What's the deal? If Israelis truly want peace, then why do they refuse to meet with Palestinians? Why do they insist on labeling their opponents as terrorists, rather than making an effort to acknowledge their common humanity?
The answers exist in the problems associated with a culture of oppression. This is a cultural problem. It's deeply ingrained within our collective and individual psyches. And the hurts caused by this culture cause deep and lasting psychological wounds. The hurts caused by this culture cause disease.
There is so much need for healing. Not only the oppressed, but the oppressors too, are victims of this culture of oppression.
Finally, my suggestion to all of humanity is to work toward the creation of a culture of consent. Abandon this culture of oppression. Do away with it immediately! Leave it behind, and let its desiccated dusts dissolve away, the crystalline structure of social and environmental degradation to be abolished.
Just imagine: a culture of consent and cooperation. Imagine kindness, reciprocity and sharing as some of the guiding principles.
(p.s. This reminds of a topic I want to be sure to pursue, i.e.: What does it mean to be "Pro-Israel?"
So, what does it mean to be "Pro-Israel?"
I argue that to be for militarism and violence towards, and oppression of, Palestinians is in no way truly "Pro-Israel." What would truly be Pro-Israel, and pro-Jewish, would be to call for a breakdown of settlements in the West Bank, and a strong initiative for reconciliation and amends toward Palestinians and all Arabs (and Persians, et al.) To be truly Pro-Israel is to call for a cessation of violent conflict. To be truly Pro-Israel is not to feed the destruction inherent in the military machine. To be truly Pro-Israel we will call to abolish the military-industrial complex.
Israelis and Israel have a right to exist. And so do Palestinians and Palestine. So do Iranians, and Iran. And Iraqis and Iraq. And Americans and America.
All people have a right to exist. All people have a right to organize themselves peacefully and not be subjugated, assaulted and/or oppressed.
We are each sufficient, individually and collectively, in and of our own beings.
So instead of distrust, violence, militarism and war - how about practicing tolerance, truthfulness, peace and compassion, etc...)
(update 3/17/2009: I also want to add a few words about the right of indigenous peoples and traditional cultures to exist without interference and intervention. In the above postscript I wrote that "Americans and America [have a right to exist.]"
While I feel this is true, I also do not want to ignore the horrible history of oppression in America, the decimation of Native Peoples and Cultures, the enslavement of Africans and Asians. This horrible history of oppression is not limited to America, nor even to the West, but has existed in various cultures and societies throughout world history.
So when I write that all people have a right to exist, I mean all people - and all cultures. All people ought to be able to participate in cultures - so long as they are not harmful to others.
The problem we have now is that it is our culture, our people, and our government that are the principle proponents of violence, harm and destruction throughout the world.
Therefore, we are right to resist the destructive tendencies of our gov't.)
15 March 2009
What do you think about the legitimate self-defense needs of the USA? I am not talking about defending imperialism. Just regular old basic self-defense. What's reasonable?
My understanding is that military, and military related, spending by the federal government is now up over the $1T mark (that is one trillion dollars: $1,000,000,000,000 (yes, that is 12 zeros.))
I wonder if the USA could provide for its legitimate needs for self-defense on a far slimmer budget. Yes, I think it could. Sounds like a good idea to me. By spending less on military - 9/10 of which (I postulate) is unnecessary and unrelated to legitimate self-defense - more money would be available to promote lasting and sustainable economic endeavors, broadening opportunity, and prosperity for all.
As far as imperialism goes, imperialism is actually anathema to national security - it's a destabilizing economic influence. With imperialism, although some may (perhaps) benefit — a great many others suffer, their well-beings (collective and individual) jeopardized and harmed.
14 March 2009
In some cases, scarcity isn't a myth - for example, where certain mineral resources are concerned.
However, what is a myth, is that there is somehow not enough to go around for everyone.
There is enough. Especially if resources are managed wisely and responsibly. If the resources of the world are managed cooperatively, and distributed equitably, then there is no reason why one man should suffer or starve, while another man eats in abundance.
It is wrong for some to oppress and to exploit others. The right way is to share. To lift each other up, by providing the avenues toward healthy and prosperous lives.
Redistributing the resources of the world equitably would make this possible - and it would serve to explode the myth of scarcity.
I suggest that one of the reasons some grab thirstily and hungrily, even lustfully, for material commodities is that they suffer from a fear of scarcity. There is comfort in securing one's self within thick and luxurious walls. Private aircraft. Etc. But is it true comfort?
For truly, upon death, all that we have, and all that we get to take, is only what exists in our hearts and minds.
Reminds me of the Led Zeppelin song, Stairway to Heaven.
So, again, I suggest that true wealth exists in community, in relationships, in health, in knowledge and wisdom. True wealth is the cultivation of unconditional love and compassion.
Another world is possible. A world of peace, justice, equity, tolerance, sovereignty, dignity, sutainability, and stability. Love, and not fear, is the way toward that better world, a world of truth and light and love.
"Anti-war activists are making it clear that the Iraq war is a central issue in the US presidential elections."
Al Jazeera's Avi Lewis caught up with a group of Iraq war veterans on Denver's streets where the democratic party convention is being held."
12 March 2009
11 March 2009
I don't believe in the Christian model of Heaven and Hell. Did Jesus really teach such an idea? Instead of an "after-life" consisting of either one or the other Heaven or Hell, I believe that life, this life, this existence here and now, has the potential to be Heaven, or Hell. In terms of after-life - I think that's largely up to us as individuals in terms of the dispersal of our soul-force.
Instead of an eternal "after-life," I believe that we, as individuals, are the arbiters of our spiritual destiny. So, I believe in re-incarnation. I believe that after death there is choice as to whether or not to re-incarnate, so that the karmic journey in life may be continued.
I do not believe in a conscious after-life. I do believe in the eternal human spirit - the soul - however, and I believe that the true manifestations of heaven, and/or hell, occur here, on Earth, incarnate.
So, I am trying to envision an Earth that is downright heavenly. Why not? Why not work for the creation of a world that is truly just, equitable, peaceful, uplifting, tolerant of personal diffferences, consensual, cooperative, open, honest, inclusive, nonviolent and truthful?
I believe that we are spiritual beings. You don't have to believe in God to believe that we, as humans, are spiritual beings. It will probably necessitate having or believing in some sort of a higher power - even if that power is the State (as in government,) or the neighbor's vicious barking dog (I wouldn't recommend these as higher powers), or your family, or community, or, as I prefer, all of existence and nature. (Without going into detail about the exact nature of my spiritual beliefs, I'm pretty much a planet worshipper.)
To create a "Heaven on Earth" will take a lot of hard work! But it will be worth it. And it will also be fun work. Because the joy is in the journey. Really there can be no culmination in a "heavenly" end. The work will be ongoing. The work will never be finished. So it damn well better be enjoyable. Or else what's the point?
Yes. It's a radical notion to do no harm. But what's the sense in cutting short our potential. Humans are wonderful and sacred creatures.
We are each complete and sufficient wholly within our own selves...
Let's honor each other and this magical planet. Let's lift each other up. There is another way. Another world is possible. A world of peace, justice, dignity, respect, health, prosperity, sustainability, egalitarianism. We are all one human family.
Yesterday I blogged about the juxtaposition between harmful economic stimulus spending, and harmful human economic activities in general - specifically in regard to the serious problem of ocean acidification. olyblog.net/carbon-emissions-cause-ocean-acidification-unprecedented-time-dinosaurs
09 March 2009
Spirits in a Material Worldby the Police
There is no political solution
To our troubled evolution
Have no faith in constitution
There is no bloody revolution
We are spirits in the material world
Are spirits in the material world
Are spirits in the material world
Are spirits in the material world
Our so-called leaders speak
With words they try to jail you
The subjugate the meek
But its the rhetoric of failure
We are spirits in the material world
Are spirits in the material world
Are spirits in the material world
Are spirits in the material world
Where does the answer lie?
Living from day to day
If its something we cant buy
There must be another way
We are spirits in the material world
Are spirits in the material world
Are spirits in the material world
Are spirits in the material world
07 March 2009
05 March 2009
If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without demand. It never did and it never will.[update:
Thinking more about this quote, I am curious about examples where powers that be may have made concessions without demand. Are there any examples of this? What kind of demands and concessions? Were they meaningful and substantial - or superficial?
I am also interested in asking about the nature of demand. Because I believe that demands can actually be nonviolent in nature. Even the making of demands can be uplifting, and can be in the service of all life. Demands, I argue, can even be relayed in a way that is joyful.
I believe that the struggle must be both moral and physical - I believe that it must also be nonviolent, honest and truthful - truly in service of life, and uplifting. It's difficult because there is so much innate anger and hostility that drive those who are most prone to protest.
I don't believe that hate is a natural condition. Hate is a disease and a cultural phenomenon. A lot of the time, people who feel hate, and who demonstrate hateful behavior, seem to not recognize it - or to not understand that it is hate, in and of itself, that is key to enabling the violences of oppression, tyranny, and imperialism.]
03 March 2009
If we truly desire to see and live in another kind of world, then it will take a great and sustained struggle. Much work and effort will be required. But it's worth it. And I believe that this is the only righteous path upon which to tread.
In a world where human beings hurt, maim and kill each other - for the purposes of controlling or taking from one another, there is much pain, suffering and misery.
Another world is possible. A world built on compassion, on acceptance and tolerance of personal differences (language, age, gender, ethnicity, race, religion, etc.), on cooperation, and forgiveness.
Imagine doing away with hate, hostility, vengeance and violence. Imagine moving toward a world where community is revered as true wealth in economies that are sustainable and steady state - without the harmful boom and bust of growth based economics.
Envision moving toward anarchical egalitarianism, consensual democracy - holding all the time the ethics of do no harm, and reciprocity.
Harmful economic activities affect us all. Harmful economic activities hurt us all.
I believe that humanity has the potential to create a culture of cooperation, where kindness and compassion are the principles. Imagine a world where people lift each other up - rather than crawl over each other in their effort to climb some insane ladder somehwere. Imagine a world where people are nice to each other - and not mean or degrading.
I know that this is possible. I just know it. How to make it reality and not an ideal... How... Hmmm.... Dreaming.... Dreaming..... Sing a song!
This is from a book called "2/15". It's a documentary about protest in the run up to the war for and against Iraq.
"There is a power which can serve as a check against abuses by a government or by government officials and that power is the power of the informed citizen — one who has read enough, who understands enough, who has developed a base of knowledge against which to judge truth or falsehood.
"Participation in the great debates of our time must not be relegated to the power elites in Washington. An informed citizenry has to participate, ask questions, and demand answers and accountability to make a country like ours work."
— Robert Byrd, Senator from West Virginia
01 March 2009
Regarding Ecological Collapse: An Argument for Defense, Protection and Preservation of Self and Planet
I believe that change can be largely nonviolent and truly uplifting. It's going ot take a lot of work. Now is a good time to develop locally sustainable food systems, and other means for production of economic necessities.
Seeking an end to oppression in all forms, Berd
GT March 2 to 8###
by Alexis Zeigler for Culture Change
The greatest danger of the ecological collapse of civilization is that we might not notice. There are a few taboos in political and academic discussion that serve to make our leaders look important and moral. We are not supposed to admit that our minds are directly influenced by the Earth on which we walk, or the degree to which we benefit from the exploitation of the global underclass. Our failure to recognize these things hides the impacts of ecological collapse.
As much as those in the progressive environmental community are striving to have a realistic discussion of the combined impacts of peak oil, global warming, the breaching of other environmental limits, we seem to be largely ignoring the most obvious scenarios. The most likely future, at least in the medium to near term, is a simple extrapolation of current trends. We seem to talk as if ecological limits are going to disrupt all of modern society, and transform our lives. The reality is that both in the U.S. and the world, incomes have been polarizing rapidly, especially since the early 1980s. (For a number of decades before that, the income gap in the U.S. was actually growing smaller owing to progressive taxation and other factors.)
A simple extrapolation of current trends would indicate that those in power are going to try to stay in power, try to maintain their privilege, and will be willing to use many different schemes, overt and covert, to do so. They are going to try to shuffle the distress downward. This will likely require a greater centralization of state power. A brutal reality of the modern environmental crisis is that for much of humanity it is already here. The number of malnourished people in the world has increased by about 20% in the last decade, from 800 million to near a billion people. That’s the number of starving people, not the number of poor people. The increase in poverty is much higher, owing to the efforts of neoliberal economic adjustment in the 1990s and oil price spikes in the 2000s.
These increases in poverty and hunger are not merely coincidental with the “war on terror.” Now that the global energy pie is stalled in growth or shrinking, the only way the U.S. can continue to eat gluttonously (literally and figuratively) is to eat an ever larger share of the remaining pie. The only way the U.S. and the other wealthy nations can continue to expand their claim on a shrinking resource pie is to maintain an aggressive foreign policy, and that in turn demands a greater concentration of state power. If one simply extrapolates these current trends into the future, the picture seems both dire and very different from most of what is painted regarding environmental limits.
It is highly likely that environmental limits will be manifest as a series of economic shocks that will be noticed by everyone, but the greater brunt of these shocks are going to be borne by the very poor. The problem is that the entire process is likely to be so hidden and politicized that we are likely to be fighting the “barbarians at the gates” for a long time to come without any open recognition of the ecological linkages between their well being and political change in our own society. Specifically, although oil prices have fallen dramatically with the current economic downturn, grain as traded on world markets has not fallen nearly as much. Why is that? There are three reasons. First, global warming is already making itself felt in the drying out of grain producing areas in Australia, China, Africa, and arguably the American west. Second, because of the global polarization of wealth, the upper classes are eating more meat, thus putting greater strain on global grain supplies. Meat production has in the last few decades increased about twice as fast as population itself. And thirdly, the competition for agricultural outputs for biofuel is supporting global food prices at higher levels, again with a direct linkage to the consumption of the wealthier classes.
In short, a simple extrapolation of current trends indicates increasing prices in general, as the world becomes more crowded as resources of all kinds become more scarce. As prices go up, those with less money are going to grow hungrier, and more restless. We can expect to see both an increase in state power and conflict over resources, except these trends are likely to be shrouded in religion and ideology. The bottom line is that the global upper class is likely to remain largely shielded and purposefully unaware for quite some time to come of the ecological roots of political conflict.
The reality is that the industrial powers, the U.S. in particular, have the power the debt their way out of extraordinary problems. Other countries do not have the privilege to act like that. We get away with it because we print the global trade currency, and we have a great deal of military and economic power to back up our profligacy.
We may be able to debt our way out of the current crisis, or it may be that so much purchasing power has now been cornered by the upper class that the economy itself, apart from ecological concerns, has been undermined by removing the capacity of the middle and lower classes to generate consumer demand. That, in a nutshell, is one way to describe the Great Depression. Class conflict is often played out as a battle over the supply of money. Rich people want to keep that supply limited, and controlled. That is why the Great Depression lasted so long, because of the tendency of wealthy conservatives to maintain a tight fiscal policy. The problem now is not so much tight fiscal policy per se, but the fact that so much of the money supply is simply being soaked up by the wealthy that our consumer, demand-driven economy is being undermined.
In as much as the concentration of state power is a predictable response to ecological constraints, don’t expect anyone to announce that on the evening news. The various convulsions through which we travel will always be cast in immediate, political terms, and our understanding of history tends to get whitewashed beyond recognition.
The root of the problem is that our ecological overshoot is changing much faster than our thinking about it. By various measures, we are in overshoot, meaning we are already consuming more resources than the Earth can sustain by any reasonable measure. The further we progress into overshoot, the more divorced our “solutions” to the ecological crisis become. Ever since the 1970s, we have been advocating for “alternative energy” and more efficiency. Let us extrapolate this trend into the future. Suppose current trends continue (which is likely), and the consumer society goes through various economic convulsions, but remains essentially intact. Meanwhile, starvation across the world continues to grow. Are we going to continue to advocate plug-in hybrid cars and other expensive technologies as the “solution” to the environmental crises when two billion people are severely malnourished? When there are three billion? Four? At what point do we recognize that expensive technologies meant to maintain a “sustainable” consumer society among the world’s wealthiest people are utterly divorced from any reasonable moral coherence?
The history of Nazi propaganda is interesting in this context. The Nazis had very active charity programs, collecting money on the street to feed the poor. This program was accompanied by heart-rending posters exhorting good Germans to give to the less fortunate, and workers who collected funds on the street for that purpose did so in the name of the Nazi party. The Nazis also had some rather progressive environmental polices, not the least of which was an aggressive anti-smoking campaign. The Supreme Aryan Race was supposed to be freed of such polluting influences. The Nazis are easy to pick on because they have become such an archetype of evil that one does not have to explain that there was something fundamentally astray in their social order. One does not have to expand upon the extremely cynical nature of collecting funds to feed the poor while simultaneously building an efficient industrial genocide machine.
If we transpose this historical lesson onto the modern world, the lessons are a bit more sobering. The number of hungry people in the modern world is growing, and that growth is accelerating upward on a parabolic (geometric) curve. The rate of increase in the number of hungry people is increasing. Because of the aforementioned factors (global warming, increased meat consumption, and biofuel) this trend is likely to continue. Given this rapid acceleration of poverty and starvation, is trying to solve the modern environmental crisis with plug-in hybrids and other expensive technologies that are ultimately intended to simply pad the lifestyles of the world’s wealthy the moral equivalent of Nazi “charity”? If not now, will the comparison become more appropriate when there are two billion malnourished? Three billion? Are we ever going to provide plug in hybrids and a “hydrogen economy” to the citizens of Darfur?
Based on an extrapolation of current trends we can predict that the supplying of expensive alternative energy technologies to the poorest of the world’s peoples can be described on a timetable that might be surmised as “never.” The problem is changing much faster than our thinking is changing. One could perhaps plausibly argue in 1972 that improving the efficiency of the consumer society would ramp down consumption among the rich even as we developed efficient technologies that might “trickle down” to everyone else. Without debating the finer points of what was true in 1972, that approach becomes less and less morally viable as we move further into overshoot. When we are down to naked mass genocide, which is the mature state of a market economy operating on a contracting energy supply, are we still going to be advocating expensive techno-toys for the rich as a solution to the environmental crisis? How many billions equals “naked mass genocide”?
It is my contention that we are already over that line. What may have made sense in 1972 does not now make sense. Improving efficiency of the consumer society with no recognition of the blood flowing through our fuel lines puts us in unsavory company. The problem is that we have gotten to the point where the easy answers are wrong and the right answers are difficult, at least from a political perspective.
The reality is that the modern economy is going to undergo some enormous changes in the next few decades whether we like it or not. A simple extrapolation of current trends, including the success of most of the conservation and alternative energy aspirations of the mainstream environmental movement, leads us to a world where a few live in the sustainable techno-bubble while billions die.
The political distress generated by the demise of so many people from “natural causes” will be manifest as a decline of democracy and civil liberty and the rise of authoritarian government. As much as we have a highly flattering and mental notion of modern democracy as being a triumph of social progress, the reality for ancient states and ourselves is that democracy is the process by which economically empowered persons express that power in the political forum. Inasmuch as a general decline in resources, or an increase in prices, results in a decline in the number of economically empowered persons, democracy will decline. But the process will be, as it always has been, highly politicized. The speeches from the late Roman Empire are most instructive on this regard. They hearken back to a golden age when men were virtuous, the barbarian terrorists were not to be found, and prosperity reigned. I suppose we will be dusting those off soon.
A lack of efficiency is not the driving force behind our ecological predicament. It is a red herring that allows us to ignore the realities of the division of class power. The reality is that the western industrial economy is driven by throughput. If we leave the coal in the ground and the trees standing in the forest, nothing much happens economically. If we dig up the coal, cut down the trees, and then sell, buy, and burn these “resources,” we generate economic activity. Particularly given that the U.S. prints the global trade currency (the U.S. dollar), and given that we can issue debt seemingly at will (perhaps we will find a limit to that soon), we are a consumption driven society. The more we consume, the more we stimulate the economy, the more powerful we become. The consumption of cars and houses has historically driven our economy, notably the great booms of the “roaring twenties,” the post World War II boom, and all the growth period since then, not the least of which was the most recent housing bubble. In a consumption-driven economy, the more we consume, the more powerful we become. That is the reason why Americans drive SUVs while people starve in Darfur. That’s why, when we hit hard times, our political leaders tell us to go shopping.
Efficiency cannot touch throughput. The reality is that, if current trends continue and the market economy remains intact, then the throughput economy will remain functional, eating up unfathomable volumes of “resources” to feed the lifestyles of the rich and famous, even as we slide down the scale of global decline. We may paint a green veneer of efficiency or “alternative” energy over these consumption habits, but that does not change the basic equation. The upper class maintains its power, in part, by consuming so much. The power to consume means that great resources, financial and otherwise, can also be diverted to such police and military endeavors will serve to maintain the social order under conditions of energy decline.
The bitter irony is that we are almost certain to hesitate just long enough in embracing real solutions as to ensure the destruction of countless millions of people and our civil society, to arrive only slightly later at the same material circumstance, but under very different political conditions, than if we had embraced these real solutions much sooner. One hundred years from now, our descendants will not be living in a consumption-driven economy. They will not be propping up the economy by buying cars they cannot afford and building spacious private houses they cannot pay for even in the course of decades. They will be doing what they have to do — sharing meager technologies that actually work. Our children’s children will be living cooperatively, growing food locally and without chemical inputs, not because of some higher ideological calling, but rather because they are compelled to do so. The difference will be political. If we can create a movement now that downscales faster than we are compelled to do so, a movement that creates a conscious culture that undermines the power of the ruling elite by building a localized economy from the bottom up, then we can arrive at the future cooperative society with some measure of democracy and civil liberty left in place. If we wait until we are forced to scale down by actual scarcity, then our children’s children will arrive at their cooperative future under an ecofascist boot.
Nationalism is so deeply and profoundly embedded in American culture that we easily fall under its persuasion without even noticing. Nationalism has overtaken the environmental movement. We have become focused on “alternative” energy production, in spite of the fact that these technologies are not a real solution. The real solutions are actually fairly easy. They simply involve doing what we will be doing in the future — using resources cooperatively — a little sooner than we are compelled to do so. Unwinding the throughput economy cannot and will not be achieved by enlightened social policy. The throughput economy can only be changed by a bottom-up movement that seeks fundamental structural change in our society.
Phrases like “culture change” or “conscious culture” seem to evoke the image that we should all play nice — liberal utopianism. A real understanding of culture leads us to the conclusion that the ecological and economic foundations of a society have a dominating influence over the social structure and belief system over time. A sustainable future does not mean we teach everyone to be tolerant. Though there is no harm in such lessons here and now, to achieve real “culture change” means rebuilding society from the bottom up, building a truly localized and sustainable society. You might imagine that is unlikely, but that is precisely what is going to happen, either by plan or by default. The latter would be much messier, and lead to a society that is neither equitable nor conscious. By getting ahead of the curve, we could arrive at the same point, but in a society that is conscious of its own process of social evolution. That society will not be a liberal utopia. It will be a sustainable society where power is devolved to the community level so people are empowered to defend themselves, and to create the future they want. It will not happen by policy, nor will it ever be announced on the evening news. It will happen as the minority movement of people who want to see it happen grows through the coming waves of change. See you in the street.