23.11.2017 – London UK Silvia Swinden

This post is also available in: Spanish

The beginning of The End of Prehistory
Tomas Hirsch canvassing (Image by Tomas Hirsch facebook)

There are few moments when in the midst of what appears to be the hopeless political situation of a dehumanised society something unexpected happens, something that shows that at least some people have managed to wake up from the hypnotic dream induced by the prevailing system.

It happened in Bolivia, when against all odds Evo Morales was given the mandate that has transformed the poorest economy of Latin America into a place of hope, acknowledged even by neoliberal analysts. 

It happened in the UK, when Jeremy Corbyn and his team defied most doomsayers and managed to position his party as a powerful force with coherent proposals now being studied worldwide as the way out of the crisis induced by years of “free” market dogma and austerity.

And now it happened in Chile, where the Broad Front, given no more than 8% vote in the pre-election polls, managed to achieve 20% of the electorate, becoming the third political force, with members in the National Congress and regional governments. The presidential candidate Beatriz Sanchez denounced the negative campaign of the media, as she came up only 2% behind the candidate that will compete in the second round. She could have been in the second round had it not been the message from polls and media that the Broad Front was so far behind that support for them would have been a “wasted”vote.

One of the newly elected deputies for the National Congress is Tomas Hirsch, for the Humanist Party, one of the forces that formed the Broad Front, ex-presidential candidate and author of the book “The End of Prehistory”. His book is both a prediction and an explanation of the phenomenon. It states:

The change will be produced when the intentionality of individuals and peoples is set in motion and actively corrects the direction of the process.
But the feasibility of such a mobilization is linked, necessarily, to a simultaneous inner transformation — the modification of the belief system. This, because as long as each of us continues to experience themselves as a passive object, pushed and pulled by forces we cannot control (which is what they tell us we are), then no intentionality will be set in motion, or any change produced. In short, change will happen when the human condition is revalued as active consciousness, whose destiny is always to transform itself and the conditions in which it lives.”

The realisation that we are fed hypnotic dreams of fame and fortune as the meaning and objective of our lives leads to this active awakening. Until then we are limited by the mechanical input that formed us, exemplified by this Simpsons’ joke:
“Look, danger approaching from 10 o’clock”.
“I don’t know what that means, I have a digital watch”

Having thoroughly dismissed Fukuyama’s contention that humanity had reached the end of history with liberal democracy, Silo proposed that an active consciousness was required to emerge from Pre-history leaving behind violence, discrimination, the emptiness of provisional meanings and the appropriation of the social whole by a ruthless minority. This is the point of Hirsch’ book and the political campaign that took by surprise most political analysts.

Perhaps this is the element to pay attention to. When the “unexpected” happens it is either because the population was already way ahead of the analysts or because the “experts” were biased against radical change and were manipulating figures to prevent it. Or both. In the case of Jeremy Corbyn this has been denounced even by the “committed to be neutral” BBC’s own employees. Chile will have to investigate in depth this possibility. In the meantime the Broad Front is left with the delicate decision to support the neoliberal centre to prevent once more the rise of the Pinochet’s heirs of the right in the second round or be blamed for the consequences of the latter.

They seem to be clear though that their most important task is to prepare to give the country an even bigger “surprise” in four years time.

 

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19.11.2017 – Santiago, Chile Redacción Chile

This post is also available in: Spanish, Italian, Greek

Tomás Hirsch: “We can’t do the changes we want alone”

A team of Pressenza editors is currently in Santiago, Chile to cover the general election taking place on Sunday 19th November.  We had the chance to interview Tomás Hirsch from the Humanist Party, an integral part of the Broad Front coalition.  He explained how it is possible and necessary to work with others to build a society that’s worthy of human beings without losing a humanist profile.

Pressenza: Tomás, we are in the final day of a long campaign.  The Humanist Party has put up many candidates and has done so within a very broad coalition called the Broad Front.  We’d like to know how the Chilean Humanist Party has always been able to work with others without losing its own profile or proposals.  How something so unusual such as keeping a clear profile and proposals has been achieved while working with other political forces.

Tomás Hirsch: I would say that here in Chile humanists have three convictions.  The first is that we have a good proposal, that Humanism is good and that it would be good that Humanism develops here in Chile because we have a lot to contribute.  The second conviction, in short, is that we can’t do what we want alone, here we need to do it with others; with others who also have the same convictions and ideals even though they come from different currents: Socialism, Marxism, Environmentalism, Ecology, Feminism, Indigenous Rights, and so on, from many different fields where there are people who are necessary to make this construction.  No one can do it alone.  For us this is very internalised.  And the third conviction, which is similar to the second, is that there are good people in many places.

With these three convictions and since we were born as a political party, we have always sought to build things with others.  I don’t know how we would have emerged from the dictatorship without others.  Then we participated in the Concertación.  Afterwards we left it when we saw that it was taking a different direction.  We were the founders of Juntos Podemos.  And today we are in the Broad Front, in which we were one of the ones to help form it.

How to not lose profile?  It’s a good question.  It’s like asking a centipede how to walk…

 

Video of the entire interview – produced by Domenico Musella

P.: In other places the Humanist Party usually thinks that participating in a coalition with others, will cause it to lose profile.

T.H.: I don’t think so.  I think that there is a fear of trying it, which is different.  There’s a fear of losing profile.  So they don’t want to contaminate themselves, they don’t want to bump into others, they don’t want to allow themselves to be influenced by others.  We believe that if we have good ideas, a good attitude, good relationships with others, then nothing bad can happen.  I don’t think there’s any need to be so afraid of making links with others.  On the contrary, we can contribute a lot.  So, yes, effectively we have always been in relations with others, but our ideas and proposals are very clear.  And we don’t try to impose them on others.  This seems to me to be an important element.  We establish certain minimal agreements: nonviolence and a certain regard to the society that we are aiming for.  But we don’t demand that they sign a document to say they’re humanists, because they aren’t.  We don’t say, “you have to say that human beings are the central value.”  No, you don’t have to repeat every one of our principles.  Because if it were so, it would be better that they join the Humanist Party.  Then there’d be no diversity.  It’s the convergence of diversity.

I think that what we have is so good, that we don’t need to be afraid at all of joining forces with others.  It’s the same thing that happens in other ambits.  You have many friends and each one is different.  We co-exist, we construct something better, precisely because we are many.  If I am alone, perhaps I have a marvellous idea but I don’t have to carry it out.  It’s the same thing that happens in the relationship with your partner.  We are two different people.  It must be torture to have an identical partner.  We are different.  Because we are different, we complement each other and we make a joint project.  I think that humanists in Chile have known how to value differences.  Not to see them as a problem, but rather to see them as an opportunity.  And this means to respect each other’s identity.

P.: What could it mean for Humanism that you are elected as a deputy?

TH: It’s a long-held aspiration of Humanism to contribute to transforming people’s structural situation.  People are having a very bad time.  This country has been sold to the world as a success story, a developing country, a country that today is part of the OECD, but most people are having a bad time of it and feel very badly treated.  I think that Humanism can contribute by helping to change this, perhaps we can’t humanise Chile in a few years, but maybe we can contribute to a small change of direction, sufficient enough for people to start to see that there are other ways of organising themselves, other ways of relating to one another.

I think that Humanism in the Broad Front also contributes an experience.  Here there are many young movements that are very interesting, very valuable, but Humanism has a lot of accumulated experience of participating in government, for example when the dictatorship finished; working at a local level… I think that all of this, which perhaps isn’t being seen in Humanism in this moment, is there.  It exists as accumulated experience.

And to be able to be a deputy here, also in this district where we had a deputy 25 years ago, I also believe that it gives a very special meaning and a charge.  The possibility to return to parliament from here is very beautiful.  It’s like saying, “Where were we?  Ok, let’s continue.”  Because look, 25 years have gone by and many things have changed, but many other things, really if you look close up, continue to be the same.  People continue to be discriminated against.  There are serious problems here in this district; evictions, problems of education and housing, pensions, environment, lack of recreational spaces, crime, drug addiction… that are the same that we saw when we are in congress with Laura Rodriguez 25 years ago.  So, yes, I think that we have something to contribute.

P.: Neoliberalism is savagely advancing around the planet.  At the same time movements are emerging in different places that talk about something new, of wanting to build a different society.  If you are elected as a deputy, or not, how do you imagine working in order to connect all these movements and build a movement on a planetary scale that can imagine another world, one worthy of human beings?

T.H.: Neoliberalism here in Chile, which was one of the first countries where it was implemented in its pure form so categorically, is much more than an economic model I would say.  In reality it has been instilled as a way of life, as a way to make a society.  It has won until now a certain cultural struggle, if you like.  It has been installed as truth.  And what is that truth?  Basically, it’s the truth of individualism.  It’s the truth that everyone is fighting for themselves and has to succeed.  And this success can come at anyone else’s expense and it doesn’t matter, moreover, it’s seen to be a good thing.  It’s a good thing because it means that you are more capable than others.  It’s social Darwinism.  Neoliberalism ultimately today has turned into social Darwinism in which the strongest, or let’s be clearer, in which the biggest asshole, the one best able to fuck up others, is the one who wins.

Well, in front of this there is a new sensibility emerging.  I would say that six or seven years ago a new sensibility started to emerge that is looking for precisely the opposite, community, togetherness, others, the valuing of diversity, horizontality, nonviolence in the face of violence, an ability to recognise the contributions of others… I think that all of this has effectively being gaining strength, it has been expressing itself – we have seen it since 2011 in the 15M in Spain, but also in Cairo and Tel Aviv, and also here in Chile with the environmental and student movements, in the United States, in New York… in very different places.  I think that this is very hopeful, that in some way it’s a new generation starting to awaken; and for those of us who believe that the driver of history is the generational struggle, well, it’s very hopeful to see that a new generation is awakening, because really for the last twenty years, the generational driving force has been very quiet.  I’m not saying that it will end up doing away with neoliberalism as a cultural form in the next months or years, but I think that a different look is starting to emerge and you can see it; political parties with a new style, with a new language, social organisations that connect among themselves, I think that this reflects the new moment.

P.: From the Broad Front, from the Humanist Party, are you in connection with these organisations, do you plan to strengthen those relationships?

T.H.: We are in contact, but to be honest, it’s not easy.  There is a strong dispute between social movements and political parties.  There is mutual mistrust that has been instilled, perhaps not with us as humanists, but it’s there.  Social movements strongly distrust political parties and quite rightly because they have been used, they’ve been manipulated, they have been repeatedly tricked.  And political parties often don’t like social movements, above all when they start to take their own decisions.  So there is an abyss or a wall that separates them and we have to see how to bring this wall down, how to build a bridge over that abyss.  It’s a pending task.  I can’t say to you now, “look, it’s fantastic here!”  In Juntos Podemos, what we tried to do twelve years ago in the Humanist Party was to make a construction with social movements and political parties as peers.  We couldn’t do it.  We failed, but we keep on trying!  We couldn’t do it, political parties were there, the Communist Party in particular, with a vision that was completely different to ours; they felt that it was the parties that had to be in the vanguard of the process.  And social movements were tremendously irritated by this.  Today the relationship is closer.  In the Broad Front the relationship is more of peers but the mistrust exists, the distance exists.  So I see that this is a future challenge.  One of the things that most motivated me in the district is to see if we can advance in a kind of model in which we can work together among different political movements and social organisations… but that’s a challenge for the future.

P.: Tomás, if you are elected you have until March to prepare yourself to take your position.  What plans do you have?  What images?  How will you prepare?  What will the construction of this project that will last for the next four years be like?

T.H.: To be sincere, I haven’t thought about anything after Sunday.  I have been concentrating 100% on the election and every day, from 7:00 am to 10:30pm at night, we have been campaigning.  But I am clear about the more global answer to your question.  It has to do with a team project.  One can be elected as a deputy, but it’s a function within a team.  I don’t think in the slightest that I can sit down and think and design this project.  Don’t be unfair!  I don’t have the vision of this project.  In other words, to answer more positively, after Sunday, if things work out as we hope, we will have to sit down with all those who feel motivated by this project in order to design a Plan.  What do we want to be a deputy for?  What do we want to do?  Probably in that role we will have to do a thousand things that can’t be planned for, that are part of the day-to-day work of a deputy, but there is an intention, there’s a purpose, there’s an intention behind what we want to do.  What happens is that this intention, this direction, this purpose, I at least until now still haven’t written it down because I think that it’s a job that we have to do together and from Monday.  But the conception of the issue is this: we have to build it together.  Now, in this joint construction what motivates me is what I said before: how to try in this district, which for me is a reflection of Chile, a miniature copy of what Chile is, it’s long, it runs alongside the Andes, but more than that, the human diversity of the country is reflected here.  It’s one of the districts most populated by indigenous peoples.  It’s the district with the richest population of Chile, and maybe of South America in one zone; in another zone there are sectors that are totally deprived in terms of healthcare, education and housing.  It’s a district in which many pensioners live with miserable pensions, in which there is a youth population totally trapped by the situation of drugs and a lack of access to good jobs, or even to any jobs.  So, I feel that what we can do in the district can be an interesting experience if we could later on – if all goes well – replicate the experience in other places.  But all of this will be part of the Plan that we will have to write after Sunday.

P.: If you are elected, what mechanisms will you put in place in order to know people’s opinions and how will you give the greatest possible participation to the population?

T.H.: I aspire to be able to do here in the district the same as the Humanist Party proposes generally: to advance from representative democracy to direct and participative democracy.  What does that mean?  It means that we incorporate popular law initiatives, i.e. that citizens can present projects for laws, for which they’ll have to meet, organise, dialogue, discuss and see what laws are their priorities.  That’s the good thing about plebiscites, both at a national and district level; that there are mechanisms to revoke mandates of those who are elected and then are glued to their posts for long periods so that they can be removed from office; that accounts should be produced for the activities undertaken by the authorities, especially those elected, and also those not elected, but in publically important positions.  Well, I think that all these mechanisms deepen democracy, make it more direct and return protagonism to the people.  If there is anything that motivates me, it’s how to give protagonism back, or give for the first time because in many cases people have never had protagonism.  Today we live in a very formal democracy in which it is assumed that one casts a vote every four years but this vote later on has no importance because they promise one thing and then do something else and represent other interests.  So, for me a fundamental issue is how to advance towards a direct, more participative, consultative, dialoguing democracy, and this for me is valid, both in terms of the law projects that we should drive forward at a national level and at a district level.

P.: Laura Rodríguez, the first Humanist deputy elected in this very district spoke and wrote a lot about Heights Virus [when power goes to the heads of those elected politicians who forget about those who helped them get there], how are you and your team vaccinating yourselves against this virus that could affect you if you are elected?

T.H.: I think that as humanists we are quite well vaccinated generally speaking against Heights Virus, but at the same time I think we should never stop exercising.  It’s like going to the gym, and the best way of exercising is, I think, to work in a team, to always work in a team, and secondly to never lose a sense of humour.  And humour works by basically laughing at oneself, because I think we are the funniest and most surreal thing there is!  So this helps a lot!

For us, elected positions are functions and there is no big difference between any of the functions in a team, while we’re having a good time, while we are plotting, while we are in a project, I think that we are vaccinated.  And on the other hand, it’s always good to have Laura’s book close to hand… just in case we forget.

We are grateful to Tomás for this interview, made by several Pressenza editors in Chile for the elections.

 

18.11.2017 Redazione Italia

Poland, Forum for the Future of Culture Manifesto: Let Us Get Together!
(Image by https://www.facebook.com/pg/powszechny/photos/?ref=page_internal)

Forum for the Future of Culture

18th and 19th of November 2017,  Powszechny Theatre, Warsaw

In the autumn of 2016, this slogan brought together nearly three thousand participants of the Congress of Culture. We met up in Warsaw and talked about culture in Poland during three days.

We finished the meeting with the conviction that a new heated debate had begun, the Congress being an important, but not the only, place of it. We have no doubt that culture is one of the fields and, at the same time, the subject of a political dispute growing ever more intense. Its stake is similar as when Poland’s independence was being shaped one hundred years ago and when, two centuries ago, efforts to save independence had failed.

After another hundred years, we need to answer again who we are and who we want to be. The political camp which has been in power since 2015 clearly defines its purpose: it is a top-down abolition of social pluralism and the subordination of Polish people’s life to the apparatus of the national state. Cultural reduction is the main element of this policy. Under the slogan of restoring traditional values, strengthening national identity and pride or shaping patriotism, culture institutions are being taken over and subjugated to the ideological programs of the group in power; independent culture is being impoverished and the artists’ work – censored. At the same time, the authorities are developing a propaganda system programmatically using falsehood and disinformation on a scale reminiscent of the propaganda of the People’s Republic of Poland.

Culture is being confused with worship, artistic criticism of works with religious judgment, and the Ministry of Culture is dealing only with heritage and history. Hate speech and xenophobia are escalating to find their expression, more and more frequently, in physical violence; citizens’ freedoms are at risk, misogyny and obscurantism are running rampant.

It is precisely culture that is the essence of the dispute and the stake for the future. We need an all-encompassing, open and socially shared vision which will embrace the multitude and variety of experiences, practices, tastes; a vision based on humanist values, founded on respect for human dignity and rights as well as for the environment; drawing on the resources of local, national, European and human heritage.

Recognising this challenge, referring to the achievements of the Congress of Culture in 2016 and its message, we call: let us get together again!

Let us meet up in the autumn of 2017, to discuss culture in Poland and its future.

Let us meet up to work on the vision of culture and society of the 21st-century Republic of Poland, a member state of the European Union and a responsible member of the international community.

Let us meet up to undertake the task of inventing a project for the future: creating a vision of the culture we dream of, one which we would desire for ourselves today, as well as for future generations. We need new stories which will return us hope and sense of commitment and action for shared values. It is the Bildung work, mentioned by Maria Janion in her letter written to the Congress – the work of understanding leading to empathy, the wise effort of transforming oneself and the world around. Let us not allow the vision of the future to be taken away from us!

Let us meet up, there is no alternative to free culture.

17.11.2017 Robert Burrowes

Why are Police in the USA so Terrified?
(Image by globedia.com)

In a recent incident in the United States, yet another unarmed man was shot dead by police after opening his front door in response to their knock. The police were going to serve an arrest warrant on a domestic violence suspect – the man’s neighbour – but went to the wrong address. See ‘Police kill innocent man while serving warrant at wrong address’.

For those who follow news in the United States, the routine killing of innocent civilians by the police has become a national crisis despite concerted attempts by political and legal authorities and the corporate media to obscure what is happening. See ‘Killed by Police’ and ‘The Counted: People killed by police in the US’.

So far this year, US police have killed 1,044 people. In contrast, from 1990 to 2016, police in England and Wales killed just 62 people. See ‘Fatal police shootings’.

Of course, these murders by the police are just the tip of the iceberg of police violence as police continue to demonstrate that the freedoms ‘guaranteed’ by the Fourth Amendment have been eviscerated. See ‘What Country Is This? Forced Blood Draws, Cavity Searches and Colonoscopies’.

So why are the police so violent? you might ask. Well, several scholars have offered answers to this question and you can read a little about what they say in these articles reviewing recent books on the subject. See ‘The Fraternal Order of Police Must Go’ and ‘Our Ever-Deadlier Police State’.

While there is much in these works with which I agree – such as the racism in US policing and the corruption of the legal system which is used to violently manage oppressed peoples in the name of ‘justice’ while leaving the individuals, banks and corporations on Wall Street unaccountable for their endless, ongoing and grotesque crimes against society, the economy and the environment – I would like to pose a deeper question: Why are police in the USA so terrified? This is the important question because only people who are terrified resort to violence, even in the context of policing. Let me explain why this is the case and how it has occurred in the police context in the USA.

Violence does not arise ‘out of nowhere’. And, sadly, its origin can be traced to what is euphemistically called the ‘socialization’ of children but which is more accurately labeled ‘terrorization’. You might think that this sounds extreme but if you spend some time considering the phenomenal violence – ‘visible’, ‘invisible’ and ‘utterly invisible’ – that we adults inflict on children during the ordinary course of the day – see Why Violence? and Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice – while deluding ourselves that we are preparing them to become just, decent and powerful citizens, then you might be willing to reconsider your concept of what it means to nurture children. Tragically, we are so far from any meaningful understanding of this notion, that it is not even possible to generate a widespread social discussion about how we might go about it.

So, having terrorized children into submission so that they unthinkingly and passively accept their preordained role in life – to act as a cog in a giant and destructive enterprise which they are terrorized into not questioning and over which they have no control – each of them takes their place in the global ‘economy’ wherever they can find a set of tasks that feels least painful. The idea of seeking their true path in order to search out their own unique destiny never even occurs to most of them and so they lead ‘shadow lives’ endlessly suppressing their awareness of the life that might have been.

Some of these individuals end up as recruits at a police training facility, where they are further terrorized into believing an elite-sponsored ideology that precludes genuine appreciation of the diversity of people in the community they will later police (that is, terrorize) in the name of ‘law and order’. After all, elite social control is more readily maintained when people, including the police, live in fear.

Police training further terrorizes the individuals involved and militarizes policing by encouraging recruits ‘to adopt a “warrior” mentality and think of the people they are supposed to serve as enemies’; the equipment they use, such as battering rams, flashbang grenades and Armoured Personnel Carriers, evoke a sense of war. See ‘War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing’.

But it doesn’t end with terrorization during childhood and then police training. Police practice functions within a long-standing cultural framework which has both wider social dimensions and narrower, localized ones. And this cultural framework has been changing, more quickly in recent years too. Unfortunately, more than ever before, this framework is increasingly driven by fear and older, delusional social expectations that police are there to maintain public safety or defend the community from criminal violence have given way to militarized assumptions, language and procedures that regard virtually everyone (and certainly indigenous people and people of color) as both dangerous and guilty until proven otherwise and treat the family home and car as targets to be ‘neutralized’ with military-style tactics and weapons. And this trend has been accelerated under Donald Trump. See ‘Trump to lift military gear ban for local police’.

By triggering fear and using military-style tactics and weapons, however, the very essence of the relationship between police and civilians is more rapidly, completely and detrimentally transformed in accord with elite interests. It equates law-enforcement with counter-terrorism and community safety with social control.

Fundamentally, of course, this plays its part in ensuring minimal effective resistance to the broader elite agenda to secure militarized control of the world’s populations and resources for elite benefit.

This transformation in the relationship between police and civilians has been accelerated by training US police in the use of military tactics that the Israeli military employs against the occupied Palestinians. See ‘Israel trains US law-enforcement in counter-terrorism’.

But consider the implications of this.

As Rashid Khalidi, the Edward Said professor of modern Arab studies at Columbia University, has noted in discussing this phenomenon: US police are learning paramilitary and counterinsurgency tactics from the Israeli military, border patrol and intelligence services, which enforce military law.

‘If American police and sheriffs consider they’re in occupation of neighborhoods like Ferguson and East Harlem, this training is extremely appropriate – they’re learning how to suppress a people, deny their rights and use force to hold down a subject population’. See ‘US Police Get Antiterror Training In Israel’.

Moreover, the most tangible evidence that the militarized training is having an impact on US policing is that both Israel and the US are using identical equipment against demonstrators, according to a 2013 report by the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem and photographs of such equipment taken at three demonstrations in the USA. ‘Tear gas grenades, “triple chaser” gas canisters and stun grenades made by the American companies Combined Systems Inc. and Defense Technology Corp. were used in all three U.S. incidents, as well as by Israeli security forces and military units.’ See ‘US Police Get Antiterror Training In Israel’.

Given the sheer terror that drives Israeli military policy towards occupied and militarily undefended Palestine, it is little wonder that this fear is transmitted as part of any training of US police. All knowledge and technology is embedded with emotion, and fear is utterly pervasive in any military activity. Especially when it is directed in pursuit of unjust ends.

So what can we do?

If you are interested in working to reduce police fear and violence, you will get plenty of ideas in the document ‘A Toolkit for Promoting Justice In Policing’ which is summarized here: ‘15 Things Your City Can Do Right Now to End Police Brutality’.

If you want to organize a nonviolent action while reducing police fear to minimize the risk of police violence, there is a comprehensive list of guidelines here: ‘Nonviolent Action: Minimizing the Risk of Violent Repression’.

If you want to work towards ending the underlying fear that drives police (and other) violence, consider making ‘My Promise to Children’. In essence, if you want powerful individuals who are capable of resisting elite social control, including that implemented through police violence, then don’t expect children terrorized into obedience by parents, teachers and religious figures to later magically have this power.

And if you are inclined to resist violence in other contexts, consider participating in The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth, signing the online pledge of The Peoples Charter to Create a Nonviolent World and/or using the strategic framework explained in Nonviolent Campaign Strategy for your peace, environmental or social justice campaign.

Why are the police so terrified? Essentially because they were terrorized as children and then terrorized during police training to violently defend elite interests against the rest of us. Elite control depends on us being too terrified to defend ourselves against their violence.

If humans are to survive this elite-driven onslaught, we need people courageous enough to resist police violence and other elite-driven violence strategically. Can we count on you?

.11.2017 Pressenza New York

Impeach! A Letter From Michael Moore
(Image by Flickr)

It is time to remove this dangerous man from office.

I have just signed the “Need To Impeach” petition initiated by Tom Steyer of California. Over two million other Americans have also signed it. And that number keeps growing every hour. We — all of us — must not wait a minute longer to act.

Trump has sent a fleet of our ships into the waters off North Korea in order to provoke the unhinged leader of that country to make the mistake of attacking us. This, plus Trump’s reckless taunts at Kim Jong-un, is being done for one reason: to start some sort of conflict so that America will rally behind him and forget about the impending criminal indictments he, his family and his cohorts now face. He has put us all in danger, and he may get a lot of people killed.

The Founders of this country were worried that, from time to time, we would have a President who would behave in such a manner that would put our nation in jeopardy, or a President who would try to profit off being in office, or a Commander-in-Chief who might not be right in the head (King George III gave them a good example of that). They feared we could end up with a President who might be a traitor to our country.

They even knew that we might get stuck with someone who committed not just “high crimes” but also “misdemeanors.” They wanted to make it easy for us to fix a mistake we’ve made.

My friends, we have the most colossal mistake in our history sitting right now in the Oval Office. And there is only one way to rectify it: TRUMP MUST BE IMPEACHED. We can NOT wait until November of 2020 for that to happen. We simply won’t make it til then. The country we know as the United States of America will not be the same after three more years of Trump. You know it and I know it. Turning the TV off and trying to avoid the daily insanity won’t make him go away.

Donald J. Trump has proven himself to be completely unfit for office, a threat to our country and an imminent danger to this world.

He is also not well. He is a malignant narcissist and an active sociopath. Because he holds the codes to, on his own, launch nuclear weapons, he is a singular threat to humanity.

He has no fidelity to this country, to the constitution or to his oath of office.

He tried to coerce the director of the FBI into ending the investigation of him — and when the director wouldn’t, Trump fired him. It’s only a matter of time before he fires the Special Prosecutor.

He has lied about his finances, his campaign’s dealings with Russia and just about everything else that has come out of his mouth. It is stunning to see how many untruths he speaks in a single day (this site keeps track of all of them on a daily basis).

But here’s something even more stunning than Trump’s high crimes and misdemeanors:

NOT ONE Democrat in the U.S. Senate has stood on that floor and called for his impeachment! Not one! Rep. Maxine Waters and other members in the House have not been afraid to do so. This morning, Rep. Steve Cohen was joined by Rep. Luis Gutierrez, Rep. Al Green, Rep. Marcia Fudge, Rep. John Yarmuth, and Rep. Adriano Espaillat in introducing five Articles of Impeachment against Trump. But no Democrat in the Senate has yet to say this man must be impeached!

This petition I’m asking you to sign isn’t just a challenge to the Republicans to clean house, it is a demand to the Democratic elected officials you and I voted for to DO THEIR JOB. Many of these Democrats have even said they are opposed to impeachment. They need to hear from us! Now! If recent history has proven anything, it’s that Democrats only act when we tell them to.

When you were opposed to George W. Bush getting ready to start a massive war in Iraq (when Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11), the majority of Democratic Senators voted to send us to war. Most didn’t change their votes until the citizenry went to the polls in the Democratic primaries in 2008 and rejected the Democratic candidate for President who had voted FOR the war. These Democratic candidates became anti-war because of YOU.

For decades, when you believed our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters should be able to get married, the establishment Democrats (including the Clintons and Obamas) said NO and used their religion as an excuse to say that marriage can only be between a man and a woman. Only when the polls showed that a majority of Americans backed this basic civil right did Democratic leaders begin to “evolve.”

Although the majority of Americans have favored a single-payer universal health care system for some time — Medicare for All — it took until last month for 16 Democratic Senators to finally back such a bill.

‪The cautious and often-frightened Democratic leaders will usually, eventually, finally come around and do the right thing. And they do so because they are good at (sooner or later) listening to the will of the people.

That’s why they need to hear from you and me right now. Give them the backbone and support they’re looking for. Sign the Need to Impeach petition and let them see that the majority of us can’t wait any longer to remove this dangerous man from office.

Here’s the link once again. Share it and this letter with your friends and everyone you know who loves this country. Let’s not wait until he gets us in a war to sign this petition. Let’s not wait until he turns another million acres of federal land over to the oil companies. Let’s not wait until he and Betsy DeVos dismantle what’s left of our once-admired-around-the-world public schools. Every day at his EPA, at his ICE headquarters, at his FDA and elsewhere, his cronies are literally taking apart our American way of life, piece by piece — and it will take years to rebuild after all the damage they are doing.

Can you really take one more day of this?

Please, I appeal to you, join with me and millions of your fellow Americans and sign this impeachment petition now: www.needtoimpeach.com

I did. You must.

Thank you for helping to save this country and this planet.

‪Michael Moore

https://michaelmoore.com/impeach/

 

16.11.2017 – Manila, Philippines Karina Lagdameo Santillan

Human Touch through Virtual Space and Time
Detail of a painting by Hermisanto. Mixed media,rice on acrylic.

This morning, I woke up and found this lovely note from an old college friend on my Facebook page which, for some reason, touched my heart.

Sure, we receive notes and posts like these which at times may sound mushy and sentimental. But this rang true, coming from an artist friend I used to hang out with during those carefree university days. It was a gentler and more leisurely time in the Seventies when people would meet up at their favorite spot on campus to chill, talk about the one and a million things that were on their minds, swap stories and books, share music… doing those things that young people generally do. Communicating with others and finding a connection with the world at large meant stepping out, being actually and physically somewhere to get to know and experience things first hand. Technological marvels were something you just read in Sci-Fi books as fiction. Computers, Internet, Email, Facebook, Snapchat, Viber… all these advances in technology that we’ve come to take for granted in this day and age were still on the far horizon.

What his message said was true enough. After college, we lost touch just as we all lose touch with friends we once shared memorable moments together. We move on and friends too move on. Connections are lost or are far and few in between as life takes everyone on their own journeys. Careers, family, new interests, and preoccupations come in between.

Along the way, analog gives way to digital. Time and space are compressed as information, news, images, data from all corners of the globe comes streaming in in real time. A technological revolution has ushered in changes and at dizzying speed, among others is the rise and pervasiveness of social media. The debate goes on the positive and negative impact with the current contentious issue being the manipulation of social media for political and economic ends Fake news and disinformation, what they call the weaponization of digital media, is one of the pressing issues of the day, adding to the general confusion and disorientation people feel, as the diving line between what’s real and what’s digitally manipulated to look real becomes blurred.

Where before, people had to go out, touch, smell, look at or listen to the real thing, today’s digital natives just have to open their laptops or mobile phones and go online. The real is giving way to the virtual in more ways than one. Much to the horror of the older generation who see the demise of honest-to-goodness ways of doing things and communicating– physical, face to face, one on one, in a specific time and space. And yes, that reality has its good side too.

Social media does have its downside and ill effects on society. But just like any tool humankind has created, it depends on how we use it.

On the other side of the coin, social media has given everyone with access to the Internet a way to interconnect and communicate in ways not possible before. And what an explosion it has become. Who can deny the upside of the digital revolution, which, among other things, allows us to traverse time and space at the click of a button, to connect with others, instantly, wherever they may be. To express views and opinions freely. To share interesting titbits found here and there on the Internet. And yes, to re-establish ties with old, long-lost friends.

These days, as a digital migrant who has made the crossover to this “brave new world”, I, just like most people on this planet, now almost routinely check in on FB, Instagram and Twitter over a morning cup of coffee– to see what’s up with friends, to listen in on the social chatter and hear what’s on people’s minds. I browse or enjoy a good read shared by a friend while stuck in traffic. Google to find out something—a recipe, a factoid, a poem.

We post letters via email and share pictures through Flicker or Instagram. We send birthday greetings complete with emoticons and announce engagements, births, and deaths in the family on Facebook. We express scathing almost vitriolic reactions for or against what some politician or celebrity has said and done. Share jokes. Inspirational posts. Reflections on things and events. Memories. Imaginings. Thoughts… etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Scrolling down one’s newsfeed, browsing through Instagram, going on Pinterest for some inspiration is a veritable human parade, a colorful kaleidoscope of bits and pieces that make up this weird yet wonderful thing we call life.

This morning’s post from a friendship rekindled made me reflect about the human impulse to connect with others and the general interconnectedness of life itself. (Of course, this is the same impulse that social media has capitalized on and with great success.)

For better or for worse, we can intuit that these developments brought about by technology are yet another means for the human consciousness to express itself, an interconnectedness and an intersubjectivity that can project itself, even beyond this physical space and time.

15.11.2017 Countercurrents

How Increased Carbon Dioxide Levels Are Detrimental To Food And Nutrition

By Dr Arshad M Khan

The UN has announced record average levels of CO2. So states the annual flagship report released October 30 by its World Meteorological Organization. The average levels measured using ships, aircraft and land stations have reached over 400 parts per million (ppm), prompting the authors and other scientists to urge strong action.  At the 23rd Conference of the Parties (COP23) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) taking place Nov 6-17 at UNFCCC headquarters in Bonn, local and regional leaders have signed the Bonn-Fiji Commitment for faster climate action to help deliver the Paris Accords.  Such efforts are increasingly urgent.

That climate change will affect food production is intuitive. Rising global temperatures and the consequent extreme weather events and changes in climate patterns impact production, distribution and potential for spoilage. Some of the worst hurt will be people in a broad tropical belt of countries in Africa, Asia and the Americas. And ever more severe hurricanes and typhoons due to rising ocean temperatures will do their damage to coastal areas.

But there is another effect related to rising CO2 levels: Higher CO2 concentration stimulates plant growth. Plants are larger, producing more carbohydrates, but this fast growth lowers the concentration of protein and essential minerals. As this also affects food crops like rice, wheat, potatoes and vegetables, it is likely to impact negatively on nutrition and health.

As CO2 rises, plant stomata (pores that facilitate gas exchange) close up. Less water transpiring through the stomata results in less water from the roots, and less minerals brought up to build the proteins and vitamins.

Harvard study reports that under elevated concentrations of CO2 (eCO2) as projected for 2050-2100, protein content decreased as follows: rice (7.6 percent), wheat (7.8 percent), barley (14.1 percent) and potatoes (6 .4 percent). It estimated an additional 148 million of the world’s population could risk protein deficiency. Plant-based diets (such as those prevalent in India) increase vulnerability in the population. The study also projects that a billion-plus mothers and 354 million children could be affected by a dietary drop in iron and subsequent anemia.

The levels of CO2 have been rising steadily since the industrial revolution. In the nearly 60 years since 1958, they have increased from 316 ppm to the latest figure of 406.58 ppm measured on January 22, 2017. It is the highest figure in human history. The Harvard study noted above predicts CO2 to increase in the range 500-700 ppm for 2050-2100. Meanwhile, the US Global Change Research Program projects CO2 levels to reach anywhere from 540-958 ppm by 2100 — the latter figure a truly disconcerting scenario.

Vegetables too, are not immune. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), in studying the food content of 43 garden crops, found significant decline in nutrients. They found statistically reliable declines in protein, calcium, phosphorous, iron, riboflavin and ascorbic acid, ranging from 6 percent for protein to 38 percent for riboflavin. To maintain health, humans will have to supplement their diet with vitamins and minerals. It is a prospect not very feasible in the less developed countries, leaving those populations exposed to malnutrition and early death.

Irakli Loladze noted the effects of speeded up growth on plant nutrients while pursuing a Ph.D. at Arizona State University. The subject was green algae, and how, when they were bombarded with light, they grew faster. Yet the plankton that fed on it, and had now more than enough to eat, began to struggle to survive. The cause was soon evident. Speeded up growth had so reduced the nutritional content that the plankton could not eat enough to thrive.

Another way growth speeds up is through increased levels of atmospheric CO2, and that also increases levels of carbohydrates through plant sugars, thereby diluting other nutrients. Loladze had moved to a post-doctorate position at Princeton, and while there, published his findings as “Rising CO2 and Human Nutrition: Towards Globally Imbalanced Plant Stoichiometry.” It was the first to propose that rising CO2 levels cause a change in plant quality, reducing essential minerals and protein, thus affecting human nutrition. A later article backed up his assertions with solid research.

Many researchers are now involved in the area. Thus, a paper by Swedish and German academics published this year examined wheat crops under elevated levels of CO2. Its findings confirm increasing yields but decreasing nutrients, including significant reductions in the dietary important elements N, Fe, S, Zn and Mg.

If humans are impacted, then surely other species are as well. Lewis Ziska, a noted researcher with the USDA, planned an experiment to allay another concern: that of plant breeding and its effect on nutrients. He chose the goldenrod, a wild flower for which there is a long history. The Smithsonian has in its archive samples dating back as far as 1842. Since no human plant breeding is involved in the goldenrod, it afforded the Ziska team a clear path to look at environmental effects. They discovered the protein content had reduced by a third through increasing CO2.

It also happens the goldenrod is critical to bees. It flowers late and the protein in its pollen is an important source of nutrition for bees as they build themselves up to weather the winter. Thus, a drastic drop like a third of protein content could easily contribute to the serious decline in bee populations around the globe. Now with its own acronym, CCD for Colony Collapse Disorder, it continues, although thankfully has declined from a high of 60 percent in 2008 to 31.1 percent in 2013, as reported by beekeepers to the Environmental Protection Agency. Moreover, strenuous replenishment efforts by beekeepers have helped to stabilize somewhat these domesticated colonies. Of course, wild bee losses are another matter.  Bees are critically important as they pollinate over 80 percent of cultivated fruit, vegetable and grain crops, not to mention nuts, herbs, oils, forage for dairy and beef cattle, and medicinal plants.

One final sobering thought: The nutrient content of food is expected to continue to fall as CO2 levels increase this century. There is no doubt that this decline will impact a wide range of species, including us.

Author’s Note:  This article’s original version appeared first on truth-out.org
Dr Arshad M Khan (http://ofthisandthat.org/index.html) is a former Professor based in the U.S. whose comments over several decades have appeared in a wide-ranging array of print and internet media.  His work has been quoted in the U.S. Congress and published in the Congressional Record.

12.11.2017 Herminio Piñeiro y Ronquete

This post is also available in: Spanish

George Orwell at the BBC
opendemocarcy.net

I cannot think of anything more ironic than the content of the article published in The Guardian on November 7th : “George Orwell returns to loom over BBC” stating that an Orwell statue has been unveiled at the BBC’s studio piazza in London this week. Apparently, the work of art has been erected in such a way that the author of Animal Farm stands various feet from the ground overlooking passers-by. I say ironic, because Orwell was anything but the complying, non-critical , automated employee that today’s corporations demand. It is of no surprise therefore, that the project for the statue “was rejected by the BBC, reputedly because they didn’t want to celebrate one of their more contrarian former employees” 1

In another article written by the creator of the George Orwell statue himself (Orwell Statue unveiled, BBC blog, 7/11/2017) , Martin Jennings states: “There could not be a more appropriate time to erect a statue of George Orwell in central London.” I couldn’t agree more. But why? According to the sculptor, Orwell “anatomised totalitarianism and the misuse of language for political ends…” It seems almost unreal that Orwell has been reborn just as totalitarianism with all its implications : hate crime, political correctness, sexual harassment in the headlines as a vital source of news, ongoing wars in the realm of the absurd, media disinformation and confusion is spreading all over the globe like an invisible monster. It is of the utmost irony also, that the statue should be placed close to a dark recording studio that inspired Room 101 in Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984. As Maev Kennedy puts it “the basement torture chamber where each victim encounters the worst thing in the world.” 2  Has Orwell come back to warn us  -the citizens of every city in the world- that the idea of Big Brother and the time for relentless personal screening might not be too far off into the future?

  1. “Orwell Statue unveiled” by Matin Jennings, http://www.bbc.co.uk , 7 November 2017
  2. “George Orwell returns to loom over BBC” by Maev Kennedy, The Guardian, 7 November 2017

11.11.2017 David Swanson

A New Armistice Day

By David Swanson

Exactly at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, 99 years ago, people across Europe suddenly stopped shooting guns at each other. Up until that moment, they were killing and taking bullets, falling and screaming, moaning and dying. Then they stopped, on schedule. It wasn’t that they’d gotten tired or come to their senses. Both before and after 11 o’clock they were simply following orders. The Armistice agreement that ended World War I had set 11 o’clock as quitting time.

And then the world had a party, the likes of which we have not seen or dreamed of — a party now in bad need of a sequel.

Each year, for a lot of years, there was a remembrance on November 11th. The U.S. Congress called Armistice Day a holiday to “perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations,” a day “dedicated to the cause of world peace.” When churches rang their bells at 11:00, that’s what they meant. And they meant it right up until the war on Korea, the one the North Koreans all still remember with shudders of horror. And then Congress turned Armistice Day into Veterans Day, and veterans into props for marketing more wars and a permanent state of war preparations.

What we need now is a brand new armistice. Pick a day and a time, I don’t care when. Pick 11-11-11 again — why not? — and plan a party like it’s Armistice 99.

I’m serious. What would happen if, at that hour, the United States and Saudi Arabia ceased bombing Yemen? What if the ports opened and the food and the doctors and the journalists rushed into that hell to begin undoing the damage? What would be the harm in that?

What if, at that very hour, guns ceased to fire, drones ceased to buzz, bombs and white phosphorus ceased to fall across the world, in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Niger, Congo, Sudan, Mexico, Kenya, Turkey? What would be the harm? Who would miss the carnage? Who would object to the biggest force for death and disease and famine and environmental destruction taking a pause? Who would protest an end to the central justification for secretive and authoritarian government?

Armistice Day 99 would mean a miraculous transformation in the lives of many millions of people through the ending of wars we hardly hear about, plus the end of all the threats of new wars that we do hear about. New wars cannot be threatened in the Armistice Era. Instead, the bases and troops and weapons and provocations that risk the new wars have to be shut down, brought home, and converted into beneficial and sustainable enterprises.

Instead of Veterans For Peace groups hiring lawyers to argue for their right to participate in Veterans Day parades — part of the annual tradition for many years now — they could hire musicians for the celebration!

Kurt Vonnegut, a U.S. World War II veteran, wrote in 1973: “Armistice Day has become Veterans’ Day. Armistice Day was sacred. Veterans’ Day is not. So I will throw Veterans’ Day over my shoulder. Armistice Day I will keep. I don’t want to throw away any sacred things.”

11.11.2017 David Swanson

A New Armistice Day

By David Swanson

Exactly at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, 99 years ago, people across Europe suddenly stopped shooting guns at each other. Up until that moment, they were killing and taking bullets, falling and screaming, moaning and dying. Then they stopped, on schedule. It wasn’t that they’d gotten tired or come to their senses. Both before and after 11 o’clock they were simply following orders. The Armistice agreement that ended World War I had set 11 o’clock as quitting time.

And then the world had a party, the likes of which we have not seen or dreamed of — a party now in bad need of a sequel.

Each year, for a lot of years, there was a remembrance on November 11th. The U.S. Congress called Armistice Day a holiday to “perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations,” a day “dedicated to the cause of world peace.” When churches rang their bells at 11:00, that’s what they meant. And they meant it right up until the war on Korea, the one the North Koreans all still remember with shudders of horror. And then Congress turned Armistice Day into Veterans Day, and veterans into props for marketing more wars and a permanent state of war preparations.

What we need now is a brand new armistice. Pick a day and a time, I don’t care when. Pick 11-11-11 again — why not? — and plan a party like it’s Armistice 99.

I’m serious. What would happen if, at that hour, the United States and Saudi Arabia ceased bombing Yemen? What if the ports opened and the food and the doctors and the journalists rushed into that hell to begin undoing the damage? What would be the harm in that?

What if, at that very hour, guns ceased to fire, drones ceased to buzz, bombs and white phosphorus ceased to fall across the world, in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Niger, Congo, Sudan, Mexico, Kenya, Turkey? What would be the harm? Who would miss the carnage? Who would object to the biggest force for death and disease and famine and environmental destruction taking a pause? Who would protest an end to the central justification for secretive and authoritarian government?

Armistice Day 99 would mean a miraculous transformation in the lives of many millions of people through the ending of wars we hardly hear about, plus the end of all the threats of new wars that we do hear about. New wars cannot be threatened in the Armistice Era. Instead, the bases and troops and weapons and provocations that risk the new wars have to be shut down, brought home, and converted into beneficial and sustainable enterprises.

Instead of Veterans For Peace groups hiring lawyers to argue for their right to participate in Veterans Day parades — part of the annual tradition for many years now — they could hire musicians for the celebration!

Kurt Vonnegut, a U.S. World War II veteran, wrote in 1973: “Armistice Day has become Veterans’ Day. Armistice Day was sacred. Veterans’ Day is not. So I will throw Veterans’ Day over my shoulder. Armistice Day I will keep. I don’t want to throw away any sacred things.”

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer

We must act and dare the appropiateness and not whatever comes to our mind not floating in the likelihood but grasp the reality as brave as we can be freedom lies in action not in the absence of mind obedience knows the essence of good and satisfies it, freedom dares to act and returns God the ultimate judgment of what is right and what is wrong, Obedience performs blindly but Freedom is wide awake Freedom wants to know why, Obedience has its hands tied, Freedom is inventive obedient man respects God’s commands and by virtu of his Freedom, he creats new commands. Both Obedience and Freedom come true in responsability (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

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