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Monday, May 5, 2008

Nonviolence Still the Way




Martin Luther King has had a huge impact on my life. I was still a child during the height of the civil rights movement, and I remember watching the Freedom Rides on TV and begging my mother to let me go to the South. She assured me that there would still be injustices to fight when I got older, and sadly enough, she was certainly right about that.

I was seventeen when King was murdured, and already an antiwar activist in my high school. But it was in the early eighties, when I took part in nonviolent direct actions against nuclear power and nuclear weapons, that I began to read his writings and study his ideas. I became a nonviolence trainer and have had the great privilege of introducing new activists to this form of struggle for nearly three decades.

King, who during his lifetime was reviled, criticized, spied upon by agencies of the government and spat upon by proponents of segregation, would be surprised to find himself now, forty years later, nearly canonized. He would be the first to acknowledge that when we talk about “King” we let him stand in for the courage and accomplishments of a whole movement of dedicated people, men and women, black and white: Fannie Lou Hamer, Bob Moses, Rosa Parks, John Lewis, Ella Baker…the list could go on and on and still never name the thousands of ordinary, unsung hera/os who marched, sat in, rode buses, and went to jail in the fight for civil rights.

King was himself a man of extraordinary vision, courage, and political astuteness, as well as a great writer and orator. He was a deeply moral and religious man who never wavered in his faith that love and justice were forces stronger than hate and violence.

He was also a great strategist. He understood that change does not come easily, and that nonviolence is not the same thing as passivity or inaction. In his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” he wrote:

“Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored… I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth.”

Nonviolent direct action causes trouble. It makes visible the contradictions between our professed values and our actions. It actively challenges the structural violence inherent in oppressive systems. And it is generally unpopular with the authorities, as King was during his lifetime.

Today, on the 40th anniversary of his death, in the town of Bil’in in the Occupied Territories of the West Bank of Palestine, ten nonviolent protesters were injured by the tear gas and rubber bullets with which the Israeli army responds to the weekly demonstration against the wall. They are direct inheritors of King’s legacy.

Two weeks ago, on the anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the streets of Washington D.C. were filled with protesters blocking the entrances to corporations that profit from that war. Veterans hung the American flag upside down—the signal of distress—on the Archives building on the Mall. College students spent their spring break taking nonviolence training and marching in the streets instead of partying on the beaches. They too, inherit his legacy.

A thousand different movements for human rights, for peace and social justice have drawn on his thoughts and his example.

When we remember how King stood for peace and brotherhood, let us also remember that he spoke out against the structural injustice of poverty and took an unpopular stand against the violence of war in Vietnam. When we quote his “I have a dream” speech, we might also remember some of his challenging words which apply as aptly today as they did forty years ago. Substitute ‘Iraq’ for Vietnam’:

“As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems.… But they asked -- and rightly so -- what about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn't using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted.”

“Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken -- the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investment.”

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

King was murdered before he ever got to see his dream realized. Today, although we are far from ending his three evils of racism, militarism, and poverty, a black man is running for the highest office of the land, and that is itself a victory. But we have a long way to go. King believed, above all, that the universe is on the side of justice. It’s up to us to prove him right.


Resource: Washington Post: Starhawk


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Blogging for a Cause and Cash

Hey Changemakers,

We're excited to announce that as of today we are starting to hire bloggers for Change.org's forthcoming social action blog network!

If you're interested in blogging on an issue you're passionate about for an audience of hundreds of thousands and becoming a leading voice for social action, we strongly encourage you to apply.

Each blogger will lead an online community focusing on a different social, political, or environmental issue, maintain a daily blog covering news and offering commentary, convene leading nonprofits and activists working on the issue, and help people translate their interests and passions into concrete action.

Positions are part-time and paid. For more information, go to www.change.org/bloggers. We hope to hear from you!

Here's the featured activity around Change.org this week:
  1. Featured News: Oil Prices to Double by 2012
    The price of oil is likely to soar to $225 a barrel by 2012 as supply becomes increasingly tight, a Canadian bank reported last week. This is more than double the current all-time high of more than $100. The report noted accelerating depletion rates in many of the world's largest and most mature oil fields. "Whether we have already seen the peak in world oil production remains to be seen, but it is increasingly clear that the outlook for oil supply signals a period of unprecedented scarcity," said Analyst Jeff Rubin. "Despite the recent record jump in oil prices, oil prices will continue to rise steadily over the next five years, almost doubling from current levels."

  2. Featured Changemaker: Amy Sample Ward
    Our Changemaker of the Week is Amy Sample Ward, a blogger, activist, and new media consultant dedicated to supporting and educating nonprofits about evolving web technologies. Amy is a community organizer and event coordinator for Portland Net2 and the Portland 501 Tech Club, through which she brings together social changemakers interested in social technology and trains nonprofit technology staff on new resources. Her personal blog is at www.amysampleward.org.

  3. Featured Action: Tell Congress to End "Abstinence-Only" Sex Education
    The Center for Disease Control just released a national study revealing that one in four girls and young women in this country are infected with an STD. This is the result of spending 10 years and $1.5 billion on "abstinence-only" sex education rather than investing in comprehensive sex education. Experts in every relevant field have overwhelmingly declared these programs to be a total failure, and now the infection rates are proving it. Political and religious agendas have no place in the classroom. Tell congress to stop recklessly funding these discredited programs and to provide teens with comprehensive sex education.

  4. Featured Nonprofit: Oceana
    Oceana is the largest international group focused solely on ocean conservation. Oceans cover 71 percent of the globe, but pollution, habitat degradation, overfishing and global warming are threatening this indispensable natural resource. At risk is not just a food supply, but also a wealth of magnificent species and the prime controller of our climate. Oceana's worldwide team of scientists, economists, lawyers and advocates work together with governments, corporations and fishermen around the world to create and enforce laws and policies that will help restore the health of our oceans. Join their efforts by making a donation today.

  5. Featured Change: End Global Poverty
    Over 1 billion people worldwide live on less than $1 a day, and nearly half the world's population lives on less than $2 a day. This epidemic of poverty spans across the globe - from Haiti to Ethiopia to Bangladesh - and touches all the world's cultures, ethnicities and religions. Although overwhelming in scope, there are concrete steps we can take to reduce poverty and signs that current efforts are having an impact. These steps go far beyond simply dumping aid on a country, and instead focus on addressing the many interwoven elements that can together help curb chronic poverty - including children's education, women's rights, improved healthcare, access to clean water and sanitation, and job creation. Join this community today to help do your part to stop global poverty.
Have a great week!

- The Change.org Team

The Brutal Reality of Tibet 2008




Torture, hunger, mobile sterilisation units ... the brutal reality of Tibet 2008
By CLAUDIA JOSEPH - 29th March 2008

British filmmakers have emerged from three months undercover in Tibet to release a terrifying portrayal of Chinese repression, including shootings, torture and the brutal sterilisation of women left maimed by crude operations.

Their film, to be shown tomorrow night as part of Channel 4's Dispatches series, was made before the recent outbreak of anti-Chinese rioting in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa.

But with hundreds of jailed Tibetan protesters now in fear for their lives, the harrowing footage will add to the storm of condemnation gathering ahead of the Beijing Olympics this year.

The documentary's investigation began with the notorious 2006 shootings on the Nangpa La pass, when unarmed Tibetans trying to leave the country were gunned down by Chinese border guards.

Two Tibetans were killed and 32 detained, interrogated and then sent to a labour camp 150 miles from Lhasa.

The experiences of one of those held, Jamyang Samten, now 16, gives a clue to the fate of Tibetan protesters now in the hands of the Chinese police.

He told the programme makers he was given electric shocks with a cattle prod, chained to a wall and hit in the stomach by a guard wearing a metal glove.

If he made a minor mistake in his interrogation, he would be beaten with a chain.

"The way the Chinese tortured was terrifying," he said.

"They beat us using their full strength. Sometimes they forced us to take off our clothes. We were locked up in a room with our arms and legs handcuffed and they beat us. The chain injured the surface but not the inside of the body.

"If they hit us with the electric baton, our entire body trembled and gradually we were unable to speak."

Jamyang was eventually released and finally made it over the border to Kathmandu in Nepal after paying a guide the equivalent of £210.

Tibetan women are also forcibly prevented from having children, despite supposedly being exempt from China's strict birth-control laws, the film's director Jezza Neumann discovered.

Measures include monitoring menstrual cycles, forced abortions and sterilisation if women cannot afford a fine for having a second child.

One woman, a married farmer, described her agony at a forced sterilisation operation without anaesthetic.

She could not afford the fine, equivalent to £70, and was one of six in her village who went through the ordeal.

"I was forcibly taken away against my will. I was feeling sick and giddy and couldn't look up," she said.

"Apparently they cut the fallopian tubes and stitched them up. It was agonisingly painful. They didn't use anaesthetic. They just smeared something on my stomach and carried out the sterilisation.

"Apart from aspirin for the pain, there were no other drugs. I was so frightened, I can't even remember how I felt. Some people were even physically damaged by the operation. They have limps and have to drag their hips."

Unconfirmed reports also suggest mobile sterilisation units are inserting a new type of contraceptive coil into village women that cannot be removed by them.

Every year, some 3,000 Tibetans brave death to flee across the Himalayas and into exile in Nepal.

The land they leave behind is saturated with secret police creating a climate of terror and mistrust – a land where merely protesting will invite arrest and severe punishment, found Mr Neumann.

The director spent his time undercover accompanied by a Tibetan refugee, Tash Despa, who now lives in London.

"There are spies everywhere," said Mr Neumann. "There are the uniformed police and army, the secret police in their suits and dark glasses and then a spy network of Chinese and Tibetans. It's like the Stasi in East Germany.

"It's got to the point where brothers don't trust their sisters and mothers don't trust their children."

According to the Tibetan Government in exile, cases of arbitrary arrest and detention have increased threefold in a year.

But Mr Neumann – nominated for five Bafta awards for China's Stolen Children, a film investigating the black market in babies created by the notorious "one child policy" – said the whole Tibetan culture was under attack.

New dams have flooded entire villages, driving farmers off ancestral lands. Monks are vulnerable because of the Dalai Lama's role as a religious and political leader in exile.

And nomads have been forcibly resettled into concrete camps without schools, clinics or bus services. Their livestock has been confiscated.

"Life here is incredibly hard," said a woman in one camp.

"People are suffering from hunger and hardship. They have no jobs and they have no land. The only way they can fill their empty stomachs is by stealing. We live in terror.

"We don't even have basic human rights, not even freedom of speech. Everybody is so depressed. They look awful. Their faces have become pale. Their eyes are sunken. Everyone is afraid of speaking the truth."

Mr Neumann is particularly anxious about the plight of the recent protesters.

"I haven't met anyone who had been arrested who wasn't tortured," he said.

"God only knows what will happen to them if they burnt down a Chinese shop or threw a rock at an official's car or threw a shoe at a policeman."

The Solution: Boycott the Olympics - Boycott Chinese products

Source: UnMadeInChina


Monday, April 28, 2008

'Blood Diamonds' 'Blood Oil' and 'Blood Food'





For a while now, I have been thinking about what George W. Bush signifies from a socio-political perspective. Looking at the world from the time of the ‘Big Bang’ of September 11th, 2001, until today almost seven years later, one can clearly observe how monstrous our human interaction has become. After much reading and analysis, I now understand that September 11th was not the starting point of a new world order, but to the contrary, it was purely the end of a specific human state of affairs.

When one grows up in the west, our history books tell us stories about past events in our world. As we grow up, those same stories shape the way in which we look at the world around us. Once this history is indoctrinated into our minds, it frames the scope of our objective judgment. This in turn, leads to a very narrow analysis of our current reality.


As westerners we have the tendency to feel superior to the rest of the human species. Somehow, we have come to believe that our crusades, empires and colonization have led us to a higher understanding of kindness, compassion, love and equality. As westerners, we seem to see ourselves in a higher plane of collective awareness, intellectual and spiritual attainment. I do not doubt for a single minute that in other cultures they have similar prejudices, but I learned from an early age through Christian scriptures, that one must look deep into his or her consciousness, in order to identify mistakes and make corrections. Therefore, for me it is important to focus only on the culture that I know, I live, and that I am an active member of -- the western world, as defined by the politicians of the ‘Axis of Good’ who govern us.

We are very comfortable in the west, all of us. Even the most deprived are not as deprived as the whole of Iraq, and by the whole of Iraq, I do mean everyone including the Al Qaeda terrorists, the international soldiers, the Iraqi militias, the possible Iranian insurgents, the government officials, doctors and nurses, contractors, private army operatives, NGO workers, the rich, the poor, the women, men and the children. Nobody there is as good as we are here. Iraq is just one of the many examples of places where the whole population is on its knees as we in the west enjoy our ‘morally evolved’ societies.

People in Haiti are eating mud cakes because of the soaring food prices, the people in Gaza have no electricity, in Afghanistan, the only royal visit they receive, is of a British prince dressed in military gear going to kill on Afghan soil. In India, the farmers are committing suicide due to failed harvests of genetically modified Monsanto crops. Around the world, people are rioting because of lack of food or basic human necessities. Yet in the west, we can move around freely, we can cross borders and fly our budget airlines from capital to capital, observing the comforts of western existence. Organized streets, clean cars, wonderful shopping malls, great monuments, everything is civilized and could be admired, that is, if it was honest. But it isn’t, it is morally wrong and deep down we all know it. We know it, but we just don’t want to do anything about it, because we are comfortable. Only a very small proportion of the population would truly change their position for that of a person in Iraq. I suppose that is why we choose to keep Iraq as a problem of our governments, and the terrorists whom must be eliminated to protect us from ‘evil’.

As westerners, we feel that our commitment to morality and justice is apparent once in a while, with an Anti-War demonstration scheduled in a city for a particular day. We come out to the streets that day, all united, the young ‘Che’ impersonator, holding hands with the 60’s hippy, the businessman who inherited his mother’s company and is well established within his city, the University professor who still holds faithful to her ‘liberal’ values, the working class family which feels that a one day revolution is better than nothing, the yuppie banker, etc… Representations of various segments of our population are present at the event. It lasts a few hours, there is music on the streets, the cameras are filming everything to air it across the television channels of the world. Once the demonstration is over, we all go back to our jobs, we have expressed our concern on schedule and we should not disrupt the system of things any longer. After all, we all have bills to pay, we all must take care of our families or simply ourselves, and there is not that much we can do beyond demonstrations. At least that is the sentiment, which seems to perpetrate from the tragic reality of these events, which although well intended are not truly committed.

True commitment to stopping the war in Iraq requires a global human rights strike, in which the working population of the world stops producing, until the governments and the corporations realize that the voice of the people does indeed matter. If we had the courage to do this, the power would shift automatically from the politicians, bankers and corporations to the majority of the population. This would have been unimaginable just seven years ago, but with the advances in communication technologies and the global mobility of the work force, a global change is plausible.

People in the west however, are generally not interested in change, at the moment. Things are still good. We are having hiccups in our economies and problems in our internal social systems, but these issues are not yet affecting a large enough proportion of our population, in order to get us united. Besides, most people are not fully aware of the connection between the human strife in other countries and the policies of our governments and growth strategies of global corporations. Right now, for most of the west, it would be too cumbersome to focus honestly, on the cruelty which our governments are perpetrating around the world to keep us from loosing our mortgaged style of living.

As speculators are busy speculating with food and commodity prices, causing instant death around the world and indescribable misery, creating a market for ‘blood food’ and ‘blood oil’. We in the west will attribute this failure to a few unwanted elements in our society. It is evident now, that if the west attacks Iran, the western population will pinpoint the blame on George W. Bush. He will then move on, and someone will clean up the mess. The fact remains however, that George W. Bush is indeed serving the interests of America and its allies. Unless the western population is willing to lower its standard of living and cut down on its thirst for natural resources, we are going to fight a perpetual war, defending our privileges and exploiting the basic human rights of others.

For this war, George W. Bush is the right man. However, if we decide that annihilating the rest of the world is not the way to go about it. We must learn to cut back on spending, organize ourselves as tax payers, and begin to demand disarmament from our governments, to pull them out of those apparently "unwanted" wars. Until then, the diamonds in our stores will be bloody, the food in our supermarkets will be bloody and the gasoline at our pumps will be bloody. Washing our hands of the problem will maybe help us in the short-term, but in the long term, we will see that just like in the times of the Nazi’s, our collective hands are tainted with innocent blood.

It is time for the west to accept that although some might hate George W. Bush’s style, he is fighting to guarantee our privileges and is a reflection of our socio-political interests. Let us stop our double standards and begin to look at our reality. A lot of people are dying hoping for some solidarity, yet in the west, we are reluctant to accept responsibility for our cruelty to other human beings.

"The sole meaning of life is to serve humanity." Leo Tolstoy -Pablo Ouziel is an activist and a free lance writer based in Spain. His work has appeared in many progressive media including Znet, Palestine Chronicle, Thomas Paine¹s Corner and Atlantic Free Press


Source: OEN News


Learn More:

Stop the Trade in Blood Diamonds

Put a Stop to Blood Diamonds

Diamond Source: Blood Diamonds

Vanity Fair: Blood Oil

Blood For Oil

WFP: Food Crisis

Medindia: Food Crisis