Archive for the ‘Activism’ Category

A WHALE OF A RE-PRINT? Maybe not. You be the judge…

Saturday, April 25th, 2009

My friends, I just had a good conversation about a possible Greenpeace project, about anarchism and peaceful protesting, about how to protest, and such things, and if we as a species are doing enough, or too much etc, and it reminded me of this Paul Watson post I did a while back.

The piece is longer than life, but here it is anyway, and surely the whales—those amazing giants that certainly play a massive role in this miraculous eco-system and feel joy and suffering—are worth it.

What is terrorism? What is right? How far is too far? What will be looked back upon in a hundred years as heroic? As spineless? As pointless? Or with pride as a human family? Will there be a human family?

The piece was called:

A note to PAUL WATSON of the SEA SHEPHERD SOCIETY: You’re fucking CRAZY!

I don’t like writing this way, but I’m pissed off. Let’s get one thing straight: Paul Watson, “President” of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (nice name, by the way—not!) and lover of sea-urchins, whales and conservation etc—or put another way, human-hater—is crazy.

He’s a menace to things civilized. Just like those suffragettes, or civil rights marchers—like they weren’t armed? Right. Or those people fighting for the 8-hour-work-day. Or worse, he’s like—and these guys really get my goat: abolitionists. Remember them? “We’re against slavery!” Well, hotshots, we’ve still got slave labour, slave trafficking and all kinds of stuff, so where are you now? I suppose there are people fighting to end that too. Geezuz.

But Cap’n Paul Watson?

This prick is Gandhi on crack—and everyone knows what drugs do.

Actually, you can read the rest here, and give all the comments you want.

Here’s to love and more love, and less hypocrisy…


VEGANISM and ANIMAL SUFFERING: Talk About Outrage—the response to the article is more revealing than the article

Sunday, April 19th, 2009

There’s an article in called Don’t have a cow! with the byline Famous animal lover Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, the author of “The Face on Your Plate,” talks about why you should consider giving up the burgers—and the fromage.

That’s it. Masson talks about the suffering of animals that we should at least be aware of. He actually says there is no way this society will ever give up, for example, cheese. I would have thought for a high percentage of people, more awareness of the horrendous treatment of animals in massive factory farms would have been relevant, even desired. Alas, not really. At least not with most who commented.

And of course Masson knows the world can’t be vegetarian, let alone vegan. Too many climates and economic constraints don’t allow it (let alone personal desires and bodily needs). And, yes, in the West vegetarianism is a privileged choice. But that has nothing to do with the suffering of probably tens of millions of animals (and the negative effects on health and the environment), everyday, pervasively and relentlessly, that could be lessened.

And don’t forget that in the West, children under ten or twelve or whatever not having to work is a right, but compared to the poorest countries, also somehow a privilege. That is also, most would agree, a good thing.

Masson is pointing out that precisely like our cats and dogs, whom we would never (or seldom!) eat, pigs, cows and even chickens and fish, also have emotions and feel intense pain. In the case of pigs and cows, deep pain.

The mental effects of the factory farm/slaughterhouse cycle is brutal in every way (probably on most workers, too)—including to the environment, evidently, with waste and badly used land and so on. Rats, for example, are shown to be far more likely to become addicted under confined, uncomfortable, unnatural conditions. Why should rats care? Maybe they feel.

Again, what was so shocking are the comments. People are outraged and furious at what he’s saying. I couldn’t believe the animosity, no pun intended. So many seem to be shouting so loudly, it’s like they’re trying to drown out what he’s saying about suffering.

It reminds me of what Chomsky said in an interview about the psychology behind something like colonialism.

The psychology behind this is kind of transparent. When you’ve got your boot on someone’s neck and you’re crushing them, you can’t say to yourself, “I’m a son of a bitch and I’m doing it for my own benefit.” So what you have to do is figure out some way of saying, “I’m doing it for their benefit.” It’s like when you punish a child. “It is for your good, I have to do it. It is my responsibility.”

Some in the comments just say this is the way of the world, eat or be eaten. By a chicken? By a man-eating cow? And anyway, we’re human, from which comes the word humane. Is the degree of suffering necessary? Does it not matter?

And of course there is a difference between a dog or a pig and a cabbage. From a humane point of view, the difference, as far as humans can ascertain, is the degree of pain a dog or pig clearly feels under abject conditions. We have no real idea if a plant actually experiences pain. Geezuz. Sad, man. People probably once believed slaves didn’t feel as their ‘enlightened’ masters did.

The comments in and of themselves, and extrapolated to other possibilities, are disconcerting, to say the least—but perhaps show what happens when the most basic instincts/needs of food/shelter/tribalism etc are questioned. An aspect of human nature is deeply revealed. But before anyone gets too depressed, it is good to remember also how beautiful and noble and evolving humans and human nature is and can be.

This, for me, is always cause for hope, and makes every next step an opportunity.

The article is here. The comments are here. What do you think?

Much love, and pity the animals, whose pain can barely even be heard about—without a massive backlash—let alone lessened. May at least health and environmental concern lead us to cut back on meat a little—and suffering as a by-product…

Lots of love,

Pete xoxo

I went back and looked at some more comments. My jaw is on the ground. It’s shocking to me. One after another…

Thich Nhat Hanh and the ever-changing truth of truth

Monday, April 13th, 2009

Thich Nhat Hanh is a Zen Buddhist monk, teacher and author from Vietnam who started a school in the early 1960s during the American invasion of Vietnam that set up orphanages, hospitals and places of refuge to help people left homeless, injured or orphaned by the war.

In the mid 1960s, Hanh traveled to the United States and urged Martin Luther King to speak out publicly against the Vietnam War. King finally did, and his speech is extremely powerful. It begins with this great line:

I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice.

Hanh, for the record, was exiled from Vietnam in 1973 (I think for his involvement in the 1973 Paris peace talks, but I’m not sure), and ended up staying in France.

In 1967, Martin Luther King nominated Hanh for the Nobel Prize for Peace. The Nobel Committee did not offer a prize that year.

Anyway, here are some sweet words from Hanh:

All systems of thought are guiding means; they are not absolute truth. Avoid being narrow-minded and bound to present views.

Learn and practice non-attachment from views in order to be open to receive others’ viewpoints.

Do not think the knowledge you presently possess is changeless, absolute truth.

Truth is found in life and not merely in conceptual knowledge. Be ready to learn throughout your entire life and to open yourself to reality and the world at all times.

There are actually 14 precepts from Hanh of what he calls Engaged Buddhism. In other words, at least on one level, anyway, to be active in the world and speak out against injustice.

Hanh started practicing Engaged Buddhism in the 1960s, with the Vietnam War, but credits a Vietnamese King (Tran Nhan Tong) from the 13th century with the founding of the idea. Tran Nhan Tong gave up his kingly position to become a monk, and began what was called the Bamboo Forest tradition, which continues today.

Those precepts are powerful and humbling, at least to me. Hanh himself says he can’t follow them perfectly, and the only way is practice and more practice. Interestingly, I had the rare opportunity to sit with a renowned swami in Udipi, India, and I asked him how one is to see the soul—the atma/the eternal aspect of an individual and the whole—in everyone. All he said was, “Practice,” with a glint in his eye. There must be something to intelligent and compassion-inducing ritual after all.

Incidentally, the Vedic idea of the atma or soul is quite different from most Buddhist practices.

Lots of love to you, and your eternal, shining, miraculous nature,

Pete xoxo

Hillary Clinton’s insight and then lack of sincerity on the War on Drugs

Saturday, April 11th, 2009

One might think from certain choices and statements made by politicians, they’re on drugs.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton flew to Mexico a couple of weeks ago. Mexico, for the record, has had tens of thousands of brutal War On Drugs/drug cartel-related killings over the last few years, and 7000 murders since January alone—and we thought it was bad in Vancouver lately, with our recent killings from drug wars here. In Mexico, common citizens, folks like you and me, have been flocking to the States and Canada, trying to get away from the violence resulting from the selling of illegal drugs.

And so Hillary, arriving in Mexico at the end of March, said, rightly:

MEXICO CITY, March 25—Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton traveled to Mexico on Wednesday with a blunt mea culpa, saying that decades of U.S. anti-narcotics policies have been a failure and have contributed to the explosion of drug violence south of the border.

The major force of the policies in terms of tax-paying dollars are increased enforcement (enforcement-related activities in Canada’s drug strategy make up 75 percent of our anti-drug policy), literally no discussion of decriminalizing or regulating illegal drugs (except of course the big killers tobacco and booze), and increased incarceration.

The result? Massively rich criminals (and I don’t just mean politicians and the weapon builders), the funding of covert wars, vast amounts of armed killings, no decrease in drug use and a terrifying rise in incarceration, a big factor in America, the land of the free, being the most heavily incarcerated country in the world. Never forget the world includes beacons of freedom like China, Russia and the Middle East.

Clinton states:

“Clearly what we’ve been doing [our anti illegal narcotic policies] has not worked,” Clinton told reporters on her plane at the start of her two-day trip, saying that U.S. policies on curbing drug use, narcotics shipments and the flow of guns have been ineffective.

“Our insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade,” she added. “Our inability to prevent weapons from being illegally smuggled across the border to arm these criminals causes the deaths of police, of soldiers and civilians.”

She even…

…acknowledged that proceeds from drugs sold in the United States—an estimated $15 billion to $25 billion a yearsupport Mexican drug gangs.

Good on her. Brave statement: Weapons. Criminals making massive profits. Bad news. Now we’re getting somewhere. And obviously, as any sincere person would do, she then at least mentioned the idea of decriminalization to, if not diminish drug use, help put the criminals largely out of business, right?

Not so fast, Mr Progressive. Hillary’s ‘change’ in policy? Well, here it is:

…two years ago, [Mexican] President Felipe Calderan unleashed the Mexican military on traffickers, a move that has contributed to an explosion of violence by drug gangs. More than 7,000 Mexicans have been killed in the bloodletting since January 2008, with the gangs battling authorities and one another for supremacy.

…[Clinton praised] Calderan’s “courage”…announcing that the Obama administration is seeking $66 million in new funding for extra helicopters for the Mexican police. She also pledged further unspecified steps to block the movement of guns southward

Hmm. Remember the old commercial: ‘This is your brain on drugs’? A revamp: ‘This is a politician’s brain. This line of thinking is a politician’s brain on drugs.’

Hillary Clinton increased the war by increasing the weapons, making weapons-dealers richer, surely making illegal drugs more expensive, thereby increasing profits to the dealers their fighting, and consequently increasing desperation and theft to support a more expensive habit for the users. And, of course, more citizens will be killed in the crossfire. Well done, Ms Clinton. Very courageous.

And here’s the rub: Clinton states that ‘America’s’ need for illegal drugs is “insatiable” but never asks why this insatiable desire exists. I don’t have a definitive answer, of course—who does?—but experts like the brilliant Gabor Mate and Bruce Alexander, both in Vancouver, ironically, sure can add wisdom to the conversation.


I’m going to write about it soon, but it occurred to me the other day that after having so wonderfully supporting these drug lords neo-capitalist dreams for so long, and benefiting in countless covert ways, the drug lords are currently so rich and powerful—as in Mexico—perhaps politicians are now terrified for their life to even speak of decriminalization or regulation of currently illegal drugs.

Such madness might already be here, and we don’t even know it. Wouldn’t that be a surprise in a democracy?

From an article in the Georgia Straight:

Where Canada’s war on drugs may lead to in the future worries Tony Smith, a retired 28-year veteran of the Vancouver Police Department and also a LEAP member.

In Mexico, Smith noted, drug cartels have grown so powerful with profits from the drug trade that they can either buy off police, judges, and politicians or kill them at will.

“What’s really the difference here and there?” Smith asked in a phone interview with the Straight.

In the U.S., according to Smith, there’s much talk about drug corruption among law enforcers. That may not be the case in Canada, but he warned that once it starts happening here, “you won’t know which policemen are under the pay of the drug people and which policemen aren’t” and “it’s a very thin line once you approach that point.”

What if, Smith asked, somebody comes “stepping out of the line and thinks, ‘Well, you know, screw it. I’m in a bit of a problem here. I’ll just take out the policeman or the judge or whatever.’ And once that occurs, then we’ll have total anarchy.”

Not pretty. Keep your discernment sharp, and your compassion high, and your belief in freedom ongoing—including freedom from fear of violence and incarceration. Why? Because one day, maybe today, the chance to vote, stand or act will come, and solidarity, compassion and intelligence will be vital.

Love to you,

Pete xox


Friday, April 10th, 2009

It is often said that Hitler was a vegetarian. This has never bothered me, because life is and should be constantly humbling, with ideas of cure-alls abandoned. Proselytizing should almost always be avoided. I’d choose—god willing—tenderness and kindness any day.

And if Hitler did have periods of abstaining, it was mostly about flatulence-inducing-food and blood purity issues. It was not about love or kindness—which should come as no surprise.

Nonetheless, someone wrote into John Robbins (Diet for a New America) and asked about Hitler’s vegetarianism. His response is useful. Actually, so is the statement and question asked.

I must add, reading Diet For America in my mid-twenties was a big influence on my desire to quickly limit my contribution to the suffering of animals and the degradation of the environment by choosing to eat vegetarian (which is quite different than eating vegetarians).


QUESTION: You people who say that we would all be more peaceful if we ate a vegetarian diet always seem to forget that Adolph Hitler was a vegetarian. That pretty well destroys your belief system, doesn’t it?

JOHN ROBBINS: The belief that Adolph Hitler was a vegetarian is widespread, and you are certainly not the only one who carries it. But that doesn’t make it true.

Robert Payne is widely considered to be Hitler’s definitive biographer. In his book, Hitler: The Life and Death of Adolph Hitler, Payne says that Hitler’s “vegetarianism” was a “legend” and a “fiction” invented by Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi Minister of Propaganda.

Joseph Goebbels was very effective at inventing great, torturous, ugly lies. The Nazi propaganda machine believed in the short slogan, a precursor, perhaps, for selling points today that say actually nothing, like “Just do it”, “Yes we can” and “You deserve a break today.”

Do what (hire sweatshop labour and make billions?) and what can we do (tax-payer bailouts in the trillions?), and who will be broken (natural cycles, health, arteries, billions of livestock lives, environmental health) etc?

According to Payne:

“Hitler’s asceticism played an important part in the image he projected over Germany. According to the widely believed legend, he neither smoked nor drank, nor did he eat meat or have anything to do with women. Only the first was true. He drank beer and diluted wine frequently, had a special fondness for Bavarian sausages and kept a mistress, Eva Braun… His asceticism was fiction invented by Goebbels to emphasize his total dedication, his self-control, the distance that separated him from other men. By this outward show of asceticism, he could claim that he was dedicated to the service of his people. In fact he was remarkably self-indulgent and possessed none of the instincts of the ascetic.”

Rynn Berry is historical advisor to the North American Vegetarian Society and is on the Advisory Board of EarthSave. Publisher’s Weekly wrote of his thoughtful essay, “Why Hitler Was Not a Vegetarian,” that it “lays to rest the myth that Adolf Hitler was a vegetarian.” In the essay, Berry writes of the famous chef Dione Lucas:

“Dione Lucas was a sort of precursor of the popular television ‘French’ chef, Julia Childe. One of the first to open a successful cooking school in the United States, Lucas was also one of the first chefs to popularize French cuisine on television in the 1950s and 1960s. During the 1930s, prior to her coming to the United States, she had worked as a chef at a hotel in Hamburg, where Adolph Hitler was one of her regular customers.”

Indeed, Dione Lucas often cooked for Hitler. In her book, The Gourmet Cooking School Cookbook, she makes it clear that this despot was by no means the vegetarian Goebbel’s myth would have us believe. Writing of her recipe for stuffed squab, for example, she says:

“I learned this [stuff squab—a young domestic pigeon] recipe when I worked as a chef before World War II, in one of the large hotels in Hamburg, Germany. I do not mean to spoil your appetite for stuffed squab, but you might be interested to know that it was a great favorite of Mr. Hitler, who dined at the hotel often. Let us not hold that against a fine recipe, though.”

Not only did Hitler eat meat, he went so far as to outlaw organizations that advocated vegetarianism [what else can a dictator do but increase the State], and harshly rebuked all proposals to ease Germany’s food shortages that involved reductions in meat consumption.

Much love to you and all sentient beings, and may all squabs fly free, or at least be well-treated,

Pete xox

WHAT’S GOING DOWN—REDUX: The Century plus a decade, in Review

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

I don’t know what redux means, but it’s sort of what I once saw for a souped up version of Apocalypse Now, and I wanted to add a little prestige and good company to my stuff. I mean, isn’t that my prerogative as a woman? Okay, I’m a man, but what the heck? So with this What’s Going Down—Redux video, with a budget of zero, I added a whole bunch of the lyrics, trying to get a handle on the ‘Motion’ program in Final Cut Pro—a video editing system, and called it REDUX. Plus I wanted to change the world. That’s proved more difficult.

I think it’s okay, though (the video I mean—the world needs constant care and vigilance), and believe you me, it’s being watched by nearly nobody, at the speed of sound. But not for long. Okay, maybe for long.

But if you pass it around and they pass it around, and so on, we can catch up to Britney Spears 70 million plus viewings of Womanizer. Even saying her name means most will go there even before pressing on below.


Along with JFK, G W Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Hitler, Stalin, Kissinger, Mao Tse Tung, Martin Luther King, Oswald, Mossadegh, Allende, Fred Hampton, J Edgar Hoover, Colin Powell, the Bail Out, Wolfowitz, Allen Dulles, Castro, some Saudi Arabian Sheik, Saddam Hussein, that North Korean dictator whose name I can’t remember, Jimmy Hoffa, Idi Amin, that incredibly brave unknown hero from Tienanman Square and a few others, the video also stars my dear friends Gina Chiarelli (Grace) and Paul McGillion (Dominic) from See Grace Fly. It is a little history, and the remarkable madness of What’s Going Down and has been going down, this century.

As crazy as it sounds, the ‘clown’ being in the left hand corner on the selected picture below was purely coincidental. Youtube picks from the song three possible frames in total (there are 30 frames every second). This is one of the three. What else could I do?

Don’t get too depressed. Your voice continues on. Love will always continue on. We might even be eternal. And I was just experimenting with video and sound and graphics.

Lots of love,


A little more on the indefatigable Ralph Nader, and how the only thing more important than right now is the future

Monday, April 6th, 2009

Continuing on the Ralph Nader story—the remarkable Ralph Nader, I might add.

Never forget, also, that in 2000, Nader, with a legitimate ticket to simply watch, on a remote feed in a public auditorium!, the ‘presidential’ debate between Bush and Gore, was not allowed on the premises. Period.

Who stopped him? The private Commission on Presidential Debates. They were established by—who else?—the oh so different Republican and Democratic parties in 1987, and led by Big Business. This unelected commission decides who will be in the debates. By actions such as this—but not only this—the Commission has proved itself shameful, self-serving in the extreme, and a conscious deterrent to participatory democracy. In short, no surprise to anyone.

When I say Big Business, I hate to sound cliché. A little detail. One co-chairman of the Commission is Frank Fahrenkopf Jr., president and CEO of the always edifying and squeaky clean American Gaming Association which is the national trade association for the commercial casino industry. This is important, because calling a limited democracy a full democracy and getting away with it is always a gamble.

The other co-chair is Paul G. Kirk, currently a lobbyist for a German pharmaceutical company. Great. Vee have vays of making you not vote—not to mention over-drugging the world and calling that legal.

Isn’t it sort of shocking to know or be reminded of this kind of, dare I say, conspiring?

Further, the commission is or has been financed by Anheuser-Busch, Philip Morris (now Atria) and other multinational corporations who often pay deep respect and gratitude to Ralph Nader for his civic contributions.

I hope my sarcasm is clear.

As for Nader at the time, he was threatened with arrest and escorted off the premises of the debate by one man (on behalf of Presidential Commission on Debates) who was backed by three Massachusetts State troopers. In short, a private institution, saying who will debate, and telling tax-paid State troopers what to do—and they did as they were told.

You try this with a State trooper one day, and see what happens.

The danger of this should be obvious to anyone. It’s remarkable. This is in America—actually, the ‘surprise’ in that statement has grown beyond weary.

For the record, Pat Buchanan would have received the same treatment, had he shown up. But Fat Corporate Cats or their henchmen of some sort ordered this refusal of entry, and it was enacted.

In sum, Nader was already refused participation on the actual stage for the debate. Why? He wasn’t considered a factor. He was not a legitimate contender. Suddenly he couldn’t even watch it.

And people criticize him for running against the Democrats? Where was Gore at this moment? He should have been outraged.

Political Analyst Lawrence O’Donnell, in An Unreasonable Man, put it this way:

But if what we’re picking is a poll number [percentage, as to whether Nader would be allowed in the Bush-Gore debate] then what we’re in effect saying is, ‘Well, we’ll allow you in the debates if we think you’re a factor in the election.’

And so, in an election, in which now, the Gore world wants to say, ‘Ralph Nader lost the election for us’—I guess he must have been a factor in the election. But you [Gore!] said he couldn’t be in the debates because he wasn’t a factor in the election.

Phil Donahue, of all folks, put that Democratic sour grapes to the true test—action—and their shameful yet predictable failure says it all:

They killed [Nader] for saying that there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the two parties [Democratic and Republican]. And then the Democrats spent the next four years proving that he was right. The Democrats folded on the war. They folded on health care and No Child Left Behind. They hid under their desks.

Alan Mass put it this way:

“If only they [one of the most shameful, for me, is the Nation columnist Eric Alterman] managed a tenth of this kind of venom when talking about Republicans. But instead, their sanctimonious and humorless diatribes are directed at the man responsible for seatbelts and airbags in cars, anti-pollution laws, any number of workplace safety regulations—and the most significant left-wing electoral challenge to the two-party political system in a half-century.”

When asked, on Democracy Now, why Nader would run in 2008, he replied:

One feels an obligation…to try to open the doorways; to try to get better ballot access; to respect dissent in America and the terms of third parties and independent candidates; to recognize historically the great issues have come in our history, against slavery, women rights to vote, and worker and farmer progressives, through little parties that never won any national election. Dissent is the mother of ascent. And in that context, I have decided to run for president.

When that’s wrong—and it will never be wrong—there isn’t anything more to say. The fight’s over. Thank god for fighters.

Lots of love to you, and lots of acting on your conscience, listening to your soul, and demanding more from those who are entrusted with your hopes, or beliefs, via the vote. And speaking of those folks, be careful…


NADER 2000, 2004: Unwanted At Any Truth

Monday, April 6th, 2009

The reasonable man adopts himself to the world; the unreasonable man persists in trying to adopt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.
—George Bernard Shaw

I know, I’m a little late in my coverage.

Nonetheless, people often bemoan Ralph Nader for losing the election for the Democrats in the American elections of 2000 and 2004. If that’s all it took, as Nader himself said, with the awfulness of Bush’s record, they didn’t deserve to win.

The consumer advocacy bills passed by Nader in the late 60s and 70s are truly astounding—think about what he did!—and the dismantling of them in the 1980s, and the pathetic response from Democrats in Washington are equally startling. Okay, they’re kind of expected, so less astounding.

Anyway, some suggest (see here the wonderful and unsanitized An Unreasonable Man) it was this Democratic spineless surrender to its dismantling more than anything else that pushed Nader’s hand to run. The victory of Bush, in this way, was sewn, to a degree, via the pathetic efforts of Democrats during the Reagan years.

Further, if one looks at how relatively close the electoral vote was for Obama in 2008 (in terms of percentage, 52.92% to 45.66%), perhaps only the deep and often immoral disaster of Bush—and I think that’s a fair assessment—could have opened the way for a Democrat, let alone, black President.

Bush was historically low in terms of popularity.

So, if you’re happy or grateful for the Obama victory, maybe consider thanking Ralph.

Anyway, here’s a quote from Nader’s speech at Madison Square Garden in 2000. Nader, on ten days notice, filled Madison Square Garden, something the other Presidents could likely never have done with all their money. And if you want to know where the establishment media stood on it, the ‘liberal’ New York Times commented on the event at the bottom of page A16, and largely (or small-ly) not even as a legitimate voice, but as the problem for Gore.

Sad but unsurprising. And now the paper, like so many others, is virtually bankrupt. It used to be a joke the idea of getting one’s news from the internet. Alas…

From Ralph Nader, imperfect, of course, but citizen extraordinaire:

The students are not learning. They’re not learning citizen skills. They’re not learning how to practice democracy. They’re not learning the creative force of their personality and idealism and imagination…

Maybe if we started talking about citizen globalization, civic globalization, instead of corporate globalization the world would move forward…

Imagine seeing people everywhere as sisters and brothers? Teaching kids deeply about civic involvement and the meaning of citizenship, where things like, say, disgusting, health destroying food wasn’t the status quo? Where the scam of bottled water under Pepsi, Coke and Nestles etc didn’t exist virtually unnoticed by the mainstream? A world where the majority of our food wasn’t owned by napalm producing companies like Monsanto and and cigarette companies like Phillip Morris (now called Altria)?

Is that not a definition of insanity, or something profoundly Orwellian?

Imagine a place where people understood what exactly money is? I still don’t, but this endless printing of paper is confusing. A world where the word Government would stop being used as a euphemism for what is really being said: tax-payer?

That’s a good thought, and a great meditation. Keep talking using words that actually have integrity and meaning, and eating food that serves the body and mind, and spending money in ways that serve the environment, as if there is some inherent truth to these actions.

Lots of love to you,


The 360th Anniversary of the Diggers…

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

I have some genealogical history from this time—an Uncle named Elias Ashmole, Loyalist, Astrologer and Alchemist and a collector of antiquities (always a bit dodgy)—which made this historical piece from Marina Pepper in the Guardian Online, entitled G20: In memory of the Diggers, all the more interesting.

But either way, it is timely and instructive, and just goes to show you about how with Power, ‘La plus ça change…’:

After a moving account of home displacements in Britain and around the world, Marian writes:

“[In Britain last year] 40,000 homes were repossessed; this year it could be 75,000. I’m taking action for our ‘common treasury’…

And then retells a little history:

In 1649 England’s revolution was over, the King’s head was off [Charles I] and Cromwell was mad [in every sense of the term—just ask the Irish]. The common lands, instead of being opened up for the people, fell into the hands of profiteering prototype money men [wow, that's so weird and primitive. Glad it's not like that now].

Demanding only self-sufficiency [how dare they!], suggesting land be held as “a common treasury for all” [imagine!], the Diggers occupied St Georges Hill in Surrey—where the likes of Max Clifford now play golf and tennis after a hard day making squillions.

…the Diggers were beaten and in some cases hacked to death for their troubles. Nice.

In their memory and in solidarity with the world’s diaspora, I’m taking direct action with the Black Horse at the Bank of England on Wednesday. We’re carrying pillows – a symbol of our fundamental human right to shelter, and to be used in self-defence should the coppers try to “cut us down”.

What a world. Thank god for pillow carrying activists saying, “You know, this may not be right.”

And I love this line from wikipedia, about my ol’ Uncle Elias:

“In 1646–47, Ashmole made several simultaneous approaches to rich widows in the hope of securing a good marriage.”


Lots of love to you and yours, and may you have shelter and tenderness…



Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

I actually wrote a long paper called Noam Chomsky On Drugs, about the Insite safe injection site on the Downtown Eastside in Vancouver, and the madness and hypocrisy of the War On Drugs. It was fascinating research. But I never heard this four-minute talk from Chomsky, largely about the perverse history of prohibition of marijuana.

Now remember, for what it’s worth, I do not use drugs. I do not even drink alcohol (maybe a sip of wine on rare occasions). But all the realities of the disaster of drug use aside (and alcohol and cigarettes are the worst), the delusion behind what we call the War On Drugs, and how we moralize against some drug use, is simply startling, fascinating and compelling in its hypocrisy.

This is from Chomsky, and he can’t even help but laugh as he describes studies in the 1930s showing the effects of marijuana on dogs—it makes them insane, evidently. One might even say barking mad. After getting stoned, all they want to do is watch TV, lick their balls and laugh at bad cat jokes (I made the last sentence up)

Here’s the kicker. According to youtube, this video is, or may be, offensive to minors! The world is insane. Have you seen the ‘kill anybody in sight’ video games minors can play with?

By the way, I hate the term minor. It’s like minor, as in not yet fully significant.

The audio is here.

Lots of love to you, and freedom,

Pete xox


Friday, March 20th, 2009

Just a couple of thoughts.

I’ve been reading a lot of history lately, and thinking about colonization (incidentally, I get some of the most bizarre, foul, curious, ignorant and racist comments on the colonization video). Conversely, mostly beautiful comments on Darfur In Ten Minutes.

Anyway, with colonization, I was thinking it’s interesting how many undemocratic Islamic countries feel imposed on by certain Western powers (justifiably in the modern era and historically, in so many ways), but don’t readily admit that they are Islamic due to the aggressive colonization via the armies of Mohammad that spread so quickly across that part of the world and beyond—India, big time—from the 8th century on.

I write this because I’m just finishing a documentary in which Malcolm X plays a role, and I was simultaneously reading a book of comments from the writings of Canadian scholar Northrop Frye. He must have written this sometime in the ’60s (pg 317):

“I must read Malcolm X to see why the hell a black revolutionary would turn to the religion of the Arab slave-traders.”

That is to say, the Arab slave trade of black Africans. Not a bad question from ol’ Northrop: throwing off the chains of the oppressor, and their religion, for a religion that oppressed us and chained us, as black people.

From here I couldn’t help but think of sub-Saharan Africa, where this vast area of countless divergent cultures and languages was rammed and ravaged by Europeans’ (see the Berlin Conference of 1884) and Christianity’s disdain for their ways, and now these Western formed nations as a rule see Western education and Christianity as the answer to their woes.

That requires great propaganda. Indeed, the Pope was in Africa recently celebrating the great success of the Catholic church on the continent. I wouldn’t use the term success, myself.

Rwanda, it has been suggested, at the time of the genocide in 1994, had the largest per capita Christian population of any African country. I’m not saying those two events are necessarily tied together, but I am saying they existed simultaneously.

That’s all. Just a few thoughts. And still, where would so many people be, how would they feel, without their beloved beliefs (myself included?). Wild. Off to work, with a bag full of biases, wondering what it means to be part of this incomprehensible system of manifestation and unfoldment.

Lots of love to you,


KICKING IT: The Homeless World Cup

Monday, March 16th, 2009

Conn Smythe once said about hockey: “If you can’t beat them in the alley, you can’t beat them on the ice.” Well in this film about soccer, most of the players live in the alley, or the street, or the slum.

Kicking It is a film about thousands of homeless soccer—football!—players from around the world competing to represent their country (there’s irony in that), and then competing for their country at the Homeless World Cup.

All I can say is I thought the Colin Farrell introduction and ending was a little cheesy, it wasn’t shot overwhelmingly well, the ESPN sportscaster announcer did not sound live, but an overdub (it may have been live) and, with all that, I loved every second of the film. I smiled virtually the whole time, sometimes with tears—and felt a few tragedies. Being human is not easy.

Thank god for grace, gratitude, love.

It reminded me that, no matter what we are doing, there’s always tomorrow, or at least tonight. It reminded me that whenever you’re so happy because you won, there’s always someone so hurt they lost, and vice-versa. There is something bigger than those feelings. Much bigger. And finally, it taught me that there’s always—and it’s just as beautiful and important—a consolation round, a B-group, a silver medal, a participation ribbon, a win after too many losses—that still feels like a World Cup win.

Ah yeah—and it reminded me that so much about Nation-states should be questioned, ignored, etc. We are sisters and brothers. So many boundaries, borders, are our own.

Life, it seems to me wonce in awhile, is this moment. Celebrate it, maximize it, observe it, be thankful for it, let it go, cause as little harm as possible, smile if you can, put your self in someone else’s football cleats, ask who you are, what you stand for—be who you are. Life will go on. Love more.

I recommend the film with great joy.

Lots of love,


NOAM CHOMSKY ON DRUGS: Vancouver and the Chickens Coming Home to Roost

Sunday, March 15th, 2009

With the startling number of drug-related/gang-related shooting deaths/hits in Vancouver—ah, peaceful Vancouver—over the last couple of months, I found myself misquoting something I quoted a year or so ago in a long research essay I did called Noam Chomsky On Drugs (pg 30).

It was this:

Indeed, the criminal drug trade is protected by ‘legitimate’ society’s support for its continued criminalization. By definition, the trade would be largely defeated by decriminalization—while admittedly still not curing the problem of addiction.

Either way, in terms of profit-making ventures in a profit-oriented world of, at times, inconceivable inequity, the lure of narcotrafficking profits are overwhelming. Kash Heed, Chief Constable of West Vancouver, lays out the extraordinary market potential of opium:

“The price paid to a Pakistani farmer for opium is approximately $90 a kilo. The wholesale price in Pakistan is almost $3000. The North American wholesale price is $80,000. On the street at 40% purity, the retail price is $290,000 (World Drug Report, 1997)…

People making vast profits from the drug market distance themselves from the activities on the street. They do not commit the crimes themselves, they manage criminal enterprises…Cutting off the supply at times is hopeless. The drug business is simply too profitable.

A report in the National Post (Aug 17, 2007) discussed an RCMP annual report on organized crime that stated the number of gangs in Canada had increased from 800 in 2006 to 950 in 2007:

“Wherever there is profit to be made, organized crime can be found,” the study said. The illegal drug trade still makes up the bulk of organized crime activity in Canada, with about 80 per cent of all gangs involved in it.”

There’s too much money involved for the trade to be stopped, the main people aren’t stopped, disease spreads and crime continues.

Man, what does it take to see that one’s moral issue against the regulation or decriminilization of drugs (not even the legalization of drugs) is in lock-step with the drug lords and drug dealers, and war-funding hawks of the world—whether one admits that or not?

And this is just one aspect of the paradox. Ah, the disaster of drugs, on countless levels.

May you be intoxicated by life, love, and other abstractions,

Pete xox

Ivan Gayton Talk: The Farchana Manifesto, MSF, Darfur, Refugee Camps and Humanitarian Aid

Thursday, March 12th, 2009

My friend Ivan Gayton is giving a talk with slides and film this Monday (March 16) at 7:30 at the Pacific Cinemateque 1131 Howe Street, downtown Vancouver.

Ivan has worked with Medecins Sans Frontieres for years as an on-the-ground project manager. He will be talking about his experiences in Chad, Darfur (Sudan) and the Central African Republic to just name a few of the places, explaining from his point-of-view individual country politics, refugee camps, humanitarian aid and all such subjects that are simultaneously compelling, painful, tragic, hopeful and confusing.

The focus of the talk, however, will be on his most recent experiences in the Farchana refugee camp in Chad, which has become, tragically, what’s called ‘semi-permanent.’

I so recommend coming to hear Ivan speak. He is very clear, experienced, informed and compelling.


The hour long talk will no doubt (and unfortunately) be heightened by the recent abduction of three MSF workers in Darfur. Sudan has recently been closed to most foreign aid workers by the notorious Sudanese President Bashir. Bashir is angered at being accused of War Crimes by the ICC—and has accused those he’s thrown out for being in cahoots with the ICC. Tragically, one of the MSF aid workers, nurse and artist/photographer Laura Archer—a lovely woman, evidently, from PEI, who lives in Montreal—is a friend and co-worker of Ivan’s. They worked together in the Central African Republic. Here’s a little bit about her, and her art.

Ironically, I passed this tragic news along to Ivan today, having just read about it, minutes before Ivan was having a meeting with someone who wants to work with MSF.

Anyway, may Laura, and all three, be safe.

As for my relationship with Ivan, we met about a year and half ago, when he gave a slide-show talk at the home of a mutual friend. From there, and from his experiences and knowledge, I put together two short ten-minute films—advocacy pieces, I guess, to be more accurate.

Darfur In Ten Minutes: An Overview of the Conflict in Sudan, its title self-explanatory, is Ivan’s very clear take on the conflict in Sudan, and a great example of his intelligence. You can see it here.

At the Cinemateque, Ivan will be showing the Farchana Manifesto: Women Fighting For Refugee Rights, built, with a few spare parts, around an interview that Ivan did, and brought back from the Farchana Refugee Camp in Chad (see my previous blog). The interview was with a remarkable woman who, with a group of other Darfuri refugee women, had the immense courage to speak out against their treatment in the refugee camp.

Motivated after a night of terror in the camp, in June of last summer, the women put together a document that has come to be called The Farchana Manifesto.

Ivan will be able to add details that, for the safety of the women, were not highlighted in the film.

The show will last about an hour, and then will have a Q&A. I might even be there for a few questions, if only, by my responses, to make Ivan look even better.

Hope you can come by. Tickets are free at the door, with a whopping two dollar suggested donation to help cover the costs.

Lots of love to you, and may you be safe and free,

Pete xo

THE FARCHANA MANIFESTO: The Courage and Resilience of Women Refugees Against Despair and Confinement

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

“Every time we liberate a woman, we liberate a man.”
—Margaret Mead

As the very gratifying Muhammad Ali film (Facing Ali) slowly winds towards finishing, finishing, finishing etc, I’ve been doing a few smaller projects.

One short film piece just posted is called The Farchana Manifesto: Women Fighting For Refugee Rights.

The piece arose from my friend Ivan (the same Ivan from Darfur In 10 Minutes) doing humanitarian work in eastern Chad last summer at the Farchana refugee camp—a camp for Darfuri/Sudanese refugees.

The camp was supposed to be transitional, like all refugee camps. Unfortunately, six months has expanded to five years, and with this prolongation comes, predictably, increased depression, oppression and hopelessness (and, it turns out, stunning resilience and courage).

The short film is here. Feel free to pass it on. Actually, please pass it on.

As for refugee status, Mahmood Mamdani offers thought-provoking ideas on what he calls The New Humanitarian Order, in a paragraph worth being re-read:

The international humanitarian order…does not acknowledge citizenship. Instead, it turns citizens into wards. The language of humanitarian intervention has cut its ties with the language of citizen rights.

To the extent the global humanitarian order claims to stand for rights, these are residual rights of the human and not the full range of rights of the citizen.

If the rights of the citizen are pointedly political, the rights of the human pertain to sheer survival; they are summed up in one word: protection. The new language refers to its subjects not as bearers of rights—and thus active agents in their emancipation—but as passive beneficiaries of an external “responsibility to protect.” Rather than rights-bearing citizens, beneficiaries of the humanitarian order are akin to recipients of charity.

Humanitarianism does not claim to reinforce agency, only to sustain bare life. If anything, its tendency is to promote dependence. Humanitarianism heralds a system of trusteeship.

What I’m about to suggest may be obvious, in a sense, but it seems to me that the longer—and I will generalize here—men are left without self-determination, a certain freedom of action, the ability to feed or protect their loved ones or the opportunity of work, then the more oppressive, depressive and non-functioning men become. What is striking, it seems to me from observation and reading, is that women (for whatever reason) are able to withstand these pressures to a much greater degree, and hold together, even rebuild, whatever remains—under shockingly distressing conditions.

This, in my opinion, should be a recognized phenomenon. It is repeatedly seen in refugee camps, under extreme poverty, external occupation, and with opportunities like micro-financing.

The wonderful Dr Erin Baines, whom we interviewed for Uganda Rising, had spent months at a time at camps in Northern Uganda, and explained an example of the despair this way:

“When the [IDP] camps were created, it completely disrupted the gender division of labour, because men could no longer work, and they certainly didn’t have a political voice in things. What happened is you had men become completely disempowered, lose their identity not only as Acholi, but also as men.

The only way they could continue to feel they had any kind of power was vis-a-vis the women. So they could at least say this is my woman and you will do this for me.

All of this is compounded by the fact in order to fill their day or despair, men have turned to drink. And there is a high prevalence of alcoholism in the camps—which women brew. Which intensifies the level of anxiety and agitation that men feel, which is then again unleashed on women and children in the form of violence.”

This profound resilience, from the Darfuri women who spoke out in Farchana, is seen in spades.


But back to Ivan and his experience in Chad. One night at the camp—after a night of physical terror imposed by a group of men (refugees) on seven women within the camp (to teach a moral lesson)—a group of women who witnessed the brutality decided to speak out. These courageous women actually got together and wrote a 14-point document calling for their rights, the rights of women and the rights of refugees. It has come to be called The Farchana Manifesto.

Despite great danger, one of these women was also willing to speak on camera. Ivan filmed this remarkable moment and brought the interview back home. The interview took place in a makeshift tent, fully accompanied by the bustle of people, crying babies and shrieking donkeys (assuming donkeys shriek). I then interviewed Ivan—here, of course—and with additional footage from a few generous others, put together this ten-minute piece.

The underlying message is this: Refugee camps are meant to be transitional. When they become what are called semi-permanent locations, they become refuges for hopelessness and violence—with women facing the brunt of the violence.

This is contrary to both human dignity and the stated goals of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which is to protect and support refugees and assist in their return or resettlement.

The main goal of the piece is to answer the women’s plea to “bring this message to the outside world.” It seems the least we can all do. Awareness is the first step. Awareness of the situation, we hope, will also increase the safety of those who spoke out.

The film is here. I hope you find the women and the film inspiring and informative, and a call to action and understanding,

Lots of love to you,


See also, for example, the UNHCR and Physicians for Human Rights, our Darfur In 10 Minutes on youtube and Mahmood Mamdani‘s The New Humanitarian Order.


Ton Koene for his photos, Jacky Essombe for her voice, Karin Muller and Ivan for additional background footage, Stephen Cohen for the additional interview, thanks to Sarah Estacaille for the B-cam help, and Dr. Amin Jalloh for translation.

THE INVASION, brought to you by OMISSION, and PEPSI, and so on

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

I wrote this awhile ago, but forgot to post it.

THE COMPLETELY FREE PRESS (ie no press at all)

Remember a few years back when journalists were not allowed to venture outside of the protected Green Zone in Baghdad to report on the massacres in Iraq?

Recently [well, a couple of months ago now], the Israeli Defense Forces were not allowing journalists into Gaza, to report on the massacres there.

Months before that, I believe Robert Mugabe wouldn’t let the press into Zimbabwe during the crackdown. Interesting company.

That damn television footage of carnage in Vietnam, paraded across the average American’s dinner time, inciting revolt, changed everything.

I read recently in an article on Gaza this line from legendary war correspondent Martha Gellhorn. It felt important:

“If [a journalist] can do nothing positive, to make the world more livable or less cruel or stupid, he can at least record truly, and that is something no one else will do, and it’s a job that must be done. It is the only revenge that all the bastardized people will ever get: that somebody writes down clearly what happened to them.”


People with the money or the power can put so much resources into PR, and PR is so undeniably powerful in shaping opinion and manipulating what we buy, both physically and emotionally—including the news.

On one level, it’s curious that in a ‘free market’ we’re allowed to market at all using props outside the product’s inherent use. In other words, using, say, the sexy woman who comes with the Ford Pinto (okay, not the Ford Pinto) or the happy clown who comes with the fast food meal from hell, when clearly (yet not subconsciously clearly, clearly) these props have zero relationship to the products they support.

How strange it is that any war-like group, be it the IDF or the Hamas militarist, or the American military in Iraq, or whoever, can ever be allowed to not let the press into an area, when the press, or a section of the press, would be willing to enter said area.

You’d think that upon hearing this restriction on reporting, and knowing civilians like ourselves are likely being massacred, countries with a so-called ‘free press’ would non-violently rise up in protest—particularly with the massacres our taxes pay for.

In itself, isn’t the forbidding of reporting not a sort of false advertising? A means of spin by omission? Because while that censorship happens, the press continues to report something.


As a note on trivia, or perhaps a trivial note, in 1857 in India, there was what was called the Sepoy Rebellion (the Great Rebellion)—the uprising of Hindu and Muslim soldiers against the British invaders. The British counter-attacked with such total force that, supposedly, Delhi, a city of I think one hundred thousand people at the time, was cleared completely. It was Karl Marx of all folks who, in the New York Daily News, lambasted the British press for a dearth of coverage of British atrocities.

And to punish the British further, Marx wrote Das Kapital, which would-be Marxists actually had to try to slog through, just to be au courant and sexy to free-thinking women at the turn of the century.

Picked up an old dusty copy once. Couldn’t read a page. But I do wonder what ol’ Karl would say about the bail-out today?

Keep lovin’,



Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

I can’t express how much I agree with the following article called Yoga piracy: India shows who’s the guru:

India is going all out to save yoga—a 2,000-year-old art of righteous living, from western pirates.

Instances of self-styled yoga gurus claiming copyrights to ancient ‘asanas’, especially from the West, is now becoming rampant.

This has made 200 scientists and researchers from the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and Union health ministry’s department of Ayush join hands to put on record all known yoga postures and techniques that originated in India.

You would have thought centuries of colonization would have been enough filling of the coffers. Maybe the West is subconsciously bitter they didn’t bludgeon to death the indigenous culture of India altogether—alas, not by a long shot.

You’ll recall that after America invaded Vietnam, the result being 3.4 million deaths in Indochina according to Robert McNamara, and the war finally came to an end, America shortly thereafter imposed a decades-long embargo on that country—evidently for defending themselves.

Similarly, for democratically electing the ‘wrong’ government in Palestine, civilians have been murdered en masse, brutalized ad nauseum, and collectively punished ad infinitum. And this is not an apologetic for their own extremist, and extremely mad leaders.

Just a little solidarity for my sisters and brothers.

But back to beautiful yoga (and more of my sisters and brothers), it must be doubly annoying to Indians and real yogis everywhere when they see Indian ex-pats also copyrighting ‘yoga’ (ie Bikram etc).

Call me Yogi Barely, but that’s got to be bad karma.

We’ll end up having to send a donation for doing a back bend. What about variations on namaste? Are those up for grabs, too?

This should be called Bechtel Yoga. The Bechtel Corporation, for the record, pushed hard to own all the water in Bolivia—even the right to collect rainwater. In return, Bechtel finally got ran out of the country by enraged campesinos, and the first ever indigenous leader, Eva Morales, was elected.

McDownward Dog, anyone?

I’ve got to say, the sight of McDonalds in Bangalore disgusted me. Actually, it disgusts me everywhere else, too. Why isn’t it illegal to simultaneously torture animals, mistreat workers and poison children? Maybe when they’re all together they cancel each other out.

I think the final lines of the Yoga article are wonderfully conclusive:

Experts say yoga has become a $225 billion market in the West, leading to foreign quack yoga instructors claiming patents over `asanas’ at random. Nearly 16.5 million Americans practice yoga and spend about $3 billion a year on yoga classes.

What a world. You know, the asanas make a person more flexible, but a true yogi will only bend so much before, well, let me quote the Bhagavad Gita (4:42): “Armed with yoga, stand and fight.”

The full article is here.

Jai yoga! Vasudaiva Kutumbakam, lots of love, keep the breath calm,

Pete xoxo

CORNY, MAN: Swimming Against the Current (Ideology)

Friday, February 20th, 2009

Michael Phelps, of course, has been dropped by Kellogg’s for smoking dope. Fair enough. A clause is a clause, I guess.

Now first off, the fact that Phelps could have drank 28 beers and passed out in his own vomit and kept the sponsorship is mildly instructive.

But the big hypocrisy is this: the fact that, because they offer money, Kellogg’s can actually hint that their breakfast cereals—corn flakes and frosted flakes!—might do anything other than promote virtually empty calories and type II diabetes is the real crime. And I know Michael Phelps eats a ton of junk food, but still…

Here are the ingredients:


Okay, so there are a few vitamins, and evidently it’s kosher (on the Kellogg’s website), which I think means the cow didn’t bleed all over itself at the moment of slaughter. Great, it just suffered for the months prior to the slaughter.

See, this shite food is yet another corn product. And high fructose corn syrup is just the worst for type II diabetes and general ill-health.

This corn craze is crazy. Corn fed to cows pathologically ravages their stomach lining. There was a time when cows were actually grass fed. And corn is subsidized intensely in the so-called free market world, meaning cows are communist. Heck, Phelps’ bong was probably made out of some corn product. And Phelps, given his diet, is probably three-quarters corn.

Corn flakes. Frosted flakes. Marijuana? If anything, marijuana is a gateway drug that leads to junk food. That’s why I don’t smoke—it might lead to Cheezies. Why isn’t really crappy food illegal?

And it’s not as though elsewhere, outside of arresting 20 million people for marijuana, we humans stress excessive love and/or nutrition for our fellow citizen: in hockey you can punch somebody in the face repeatedly, with a bare fist and get only a five minute penalty; you can take steroids up the yin-yang in baseball (okay, that’s supposedly illegal, now); you can take enough hits to the head in football to be a bumbling mess in your forties, but you can’t, well, you know…

But man that guy can swim. Imagine if he ate well and wasn’t constantly stoned. He’d probably be a basketball player.

Take care of your beautiful, beautiful body,

Pete xoxo


Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

Once again, scientific results are showing in yet uncertain ways that life is always more interconnected, more subtle, and more stunningly beautiful than science previously thought. In fact, epigenetics may just usher in a huge expansion on the traditional view of Darwinian inheritance, and that would be wonderful.

So much for our heavy-handed, definitive—if not fundamentalist—conclusions on the mystery of it all being solved.

From a BBC web-page for the very interesting documentary Ghost in Your Genes:

Biology stands on the brink of a shift in the understanding of inheritance. The discovery of epigenetics—hidden influences upon the genes—could affect every aspect of our lives.

At the heart of this new field is a simple but contentious idea—that genes have a ‘memory’. That the lives of your grandparents—the air they breathed, the food they ate, even the things they saw—can directly affect you, decades later, despite your never experiencing these things yourself. And that what you do in your lifetime could in turn affect your grandchildren.

The conventional view is that DNA carries all our heritable information and that nothing an individual does in their lifetime will be biologically passed to their children. To many scientists, epigenetics amounts to a heresy, calling into question the accepted view of the DNA sequence—a cornerstone on which modern biology sits.

At the conclusion of the documentary, scientist Marcus Pembry offers this:

“They may get to the point where they [scientists] realize you live your life as a sort of guardian of your genome. You’ve got to be careful of it because it’s not just you. You can’t be selfish. You can’t say, ‘Well, I’ll smoke or I’ll do whatever it is because I’m prepared to die early.’ You’re also looking after it for your children and grandchildren. It’s changing they way think about inheritence forever.”

In the film, a Professor, Lars Olov Bygen from Sweden, had studied—via well kept records—generations of a small farming village in Sweden, near the Arctic Circle. He had started to see increasingly interesting patterns across generations that indicated that environmental pressures (ie famine) in one generation might be causing genetically interesting results (both positive and negative) in another generation. Bygen sent the information to Pembry, and the two joined forces in the research.

The NOVA narration states:

Pembry was immediately struck by seemingly bizarre connections between gender, diet and health—connections that were most pronounced two generations later. Men, for example, who experienced famine at around age ten, had paternal grandsons who lived much longer than those [grandsons] whose grandfathers experienced plenty.

Yet women who experienced famine while in the womb had paternal granddaughters who died on average far earlier.

Pembry adds:

“…we were dealing with a trans-generational response. [The results] were so coherent, and that’s important in science. The effect was coherent in some way—was tying in when eggs and sperm were being formed.”

NOVA states:

The diagram [the results Pembry is talking about] showed a significant link between generations, between the diet in one, and the life expectancy of another.

Questions remain of course: why does the situation appear to only effect the paternal line of inheritance? And why does famine appear to be damaging and/or beneficial, two generations later, depending on the sex and age of the grandparent who experiences a given environmental condition?

Either way, Pembry says:

“We’re changing the view of what inheritance is. You can’t in life, in ordinary development and living, separate out the gene out from the environmental effect. They’re so intertwined.”

But are these effects truly epigenetic? Michael Skinner (in research with rats), says:

“We knew that if an individual was exposed to an environmental toxin, they can get a disease state, potentially. The new phenomena is the environmental toxin no longer effects only the individual exposed, but two or three generations down the line.

I thought this effect was evident already from Hiroshima and even Vietnam post-war descendants. In Vietnam, birth defects appear to be from exposure to Agent Orange, brought to you by that wonderful producer of nutritious food for a healthy future for our kids, Monsanto. If only the company leadership had a conscience! They could do such beautiful things.

I just don’t think companies like this or Philip Morris (cigarettes) should have power in the world’s food supply, but they have massive power (ie market share). That is a deep, deep perversion.

What a world.

I’m also reading Survival of the Sickest, which is equally interesting, and talks about how certain diseases that kill us now, diabetes for example, may have been, in a sense, adaptive and necessary for survival under certain environmental conditions (say, a quick Ice Age!) at some time in the relatively recent past.

Man, we are the past and the future.

Love to you and your ancestors and descendents, may the live with dignity and beauty,


DARK CHOCOLATE: Flavoury or Slavery?

Monday, December 1st, 2008

We’re time beings for the time being. I don’t know what that means, exactly, but it just popped into my head.

I love dark chocolate (pretty much exclusively), and I just read (not for the first time) about how brutal the chocolate trade is, which is not a great thought to have when enjoying its taste. Actually, maybe it’s the best thought to have.

Either way, here’s a site that outlines what chocolate companies are what, and which are, for example, both fair trade and organic, which sounds pretty good to my mouth and heart. I buy Camino Cocoa a lot, in my privileged little world.

Here’s the link to the very clear site.

May the chocolate industry become as sweet as (sweetened) cocoa.

Lots of love to you,