30 September 2010

Root Out the Seeds of War

Examine Our Possessions to Try Whether They Contain the Seeds of War
John Woolman (1720 - 1772): "May we look upon our Treasures, and the furniture of our Houses, and the Garments in which we array ourselves, and try whether the seeds of war have any nourishment in these possessions or not."

Lately I have been thinking about how to build a mass movement of nonviolent resistance to defy the political status quo. The political status quo in the USA is a plutocracy (that means rule by wealthy elite.) The real-political situation in a plutocracy is similar to a dictatorship—except in the USA it relies on popular media messaging to promote consumerism and complacency, along with a host of other harmful attitudes and myths, like racism, classism, ageism, genderism, homophobia, and myths like those of independence, scarcity, and meritocracy.

It seems to me that such a mass movement of popular nonviolent resistance will require a lot of popular education about how the current socio-economic/political establishment is actually harmful.

Many of us are just plain hood-winked, and don't understand how harmful our system is, or why it is the cause of so much suffering. People may sense that there is something wrong, but they may not understand what it is, nor why.

Another world is possible. It DOES NOT have to be like this! We can have progress without destruction, without violence, without oppression, without poverty, without war!

19 September 2010

Current Reading

Dissent is Essential to DemocracyI am currently reading From Dictatorship to Democracy, by Gene Sharp. This is an interesting book about nonviolent resistance and strategy for social change toward democracy, justice, equality, and human and ecological rights. Sharp defines nonviolent resistance to include the concept of political defiance. It's an interesting read. One thought it brings up for me is Cuba, and the dictatorship that exists there. Is it possible for conditions to improve under a dictatorship? My basic thinking is that the current dictatorship in Cuba is less oppressive, and even less of a "dictatorship" than the previous regime (under Bautista) which was corrupt and abusive, and overtly supported by the US government.

Obviously this is a highly simplified analysis of what is a complex situation. For example, my understanding is that conditions in Cuba for many people (probably most) have improved significantly since rebel forces led in part by Fidel Castro overthrew the former regime. Oh well, it's interesting topic of discussion for certain!

Here's an example passage that I like, and I think is important, from chapter 8, Applying Political Defiance:
Early in the liberation struggle a special strategy should be de-
veloped to communicate with the dictators’ troops and functionaries.
By words, symbols, and actions, the democratic forces can inform the
troops that the liberation struggle will be vigorous, determined, and
persistent. Troops should learn that the struggle will be of a special
character, designed to undermine the dictatorship but not to threaten
their lives. Such efforts would aim ultimately to undermine the morale
of the dictators’ troops and finally to subvert their loyalty and obedi-
ence in favor of the democratic movement. Similar strategies could
be aimed at the police and civil servants.
The book by Gene Sharp, Dictatorship to Democracy, is available online, either downloadable or for purchase at a very reasonable $6 US. I am also impressed, encouraged, and gladdened that it's available in a number of languages other than English (over 20!) Here's a link to the page where it is available from the Albert Einstein Institution: http://www.aeinstein.org/organizations98ce.html

Dictator Types

We Are the World!

This is from about 11 months ago. It is what it is. I love this song by Michael Jackson, We Are the World.

09 September 2010

War is Bankrupting and Impoverishing Us

War is Bankrupting the U.S.
Friday 19 September 2008
Percival Landing Washington

War is a bankrupting activity. It bankrupts economically (financially, ecologically, etc.) And it bankrupts morally.

There are some anti-war quotes attached to this photo where it's linked from on the flickr site, and I am reminded of another quote by the Rev. Dr. MLK Jr.:

A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

Which reminds me that I recently read Stride Toward Freedom by MLK. It's about the Montgomery bus boycotts of 1954-55. I thought it was a great read. Why? A number of reasons. For starters, it was clearly written, and also of compelling content. It's the story of Southern Black Liberation—a story that is ongoing today—and it's roots are in campaigns like the one described in the book by MLK.

Rosa Parks and MLK are popular figures in America. For example, many cities have major thoroughfares buildings named after MLK. That's pretty high esteem for a radical revolutionary. Because that's what MLK was. He was a radical, and a revolutionary. Even at the age of 26, in 1954, he understood the cause of so much violence and disease (including racism) was fear, and distrust/mistrust between people, and the repetition of old patterns of behavior, patterns that really just don't make sense—and he also understood that the vast and growing discrepancy in wealth between global rich as a root-level cause of war and other violence.

By the time that MLK was assassinated in 1968, I think he may have even moved in his political views further toward the left of liberation, that is the liberation from oppression for all people—and he criticized the war in a very meaningful and fundamental way, calling into question national aggression, and calling for a movement to counter the rampant "militarism, materialism, and racism" prevailing in society.

I recommend the Speech, Beyond Vietnam, which was delivered a year to the day before he was killed.

Seeking to address the root cause of violence, disease and poverty, MLK stated in the speech that: "True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring."

Another statement from the speech:

"I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such." MLK Jr.

Following is a link to audio of the speech, and then the text. Please take a listen!

03 September 2010

Include Everyone!

Include Everyone
I was reminded of this concept of including everyone by an article I read in the Progressive magazine. It's a book review by Ruth Conliff. Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett have researched the effects of socio-economic equality on people's health, and have desecribed their work in a new title, The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger. I wrote a blog about that on OlyBlog here.

Here are a couple more photos, with peace, Berd

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.

Equal Rights and Justice!

01 September 2010

Just a Scene from Olympia

A forest scene at the Washington State Capitol Campus in Olympia, Washington on Monday the 15th of February 2010 (which was my birthday.)

This past February 15th the Capitol Campus was also the scene of a Rally "to Protect Our Future" against discriminatory budget cuts against vulnerable and disadvantaged people (as well as against workers and higher education.)

Here's a slideshow from that rally (which I thought was awesome!):