Archive for the ‘Courage’ Category

THE TEMPESTS WE LIVE IN: Pornography and pornographic news, and the habit-forming world we live in

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

It’s amazing that the amount of news that happens in the world every day always just exactly fits the newspaper.
—Jerry Seinfeld

A few thoughts. And as I’ve often said, it’s not easy being human. Yet it can be remarkably beautiful and wonderful.

I was thinking about some truly dangerous and brutal events taking place in the world these days, and I guess forever—endless war, economic distress, mass inequality etc.—and all the strange and “pornographic” or at least trashy news that comes out simultaneously, and is ubiquitous. I’m talking, for example, about the countless affairs, involving all of these famous married people, burning up the airwaves and our mind space, triggering our own “lower chakras.” And, ironically, do either really “inform” us—or put another way, improve or empower us? Both are largely non-contextual, yet relentless.

I have a liberal definition of news because I think news can be what excites people. I’m not very sanctimonious about what news is and isn’t.
—Diane Sawyer

Indeed.

I was thinking this: don’t you think that it is actually unsurprising that all of this happens—so many sort of out of control affairs—given we are in a world so blatantly, endlessly, repeatedly pornographic? That’s not even a judgement, my friends, just a statement. It’s everywhere, by all accounts, and the addictions or at least behaviours that are unfolding, I think in greater numbers, are somewhat predictable, no? But no one ever seems to talk about their “mistakes” in a way that could be constructive for the whole conversation about sex. Imagine the following instead of the usual shame-filled propaganda spun confessions:

“Yeah, here’s a big part of the problem: I like a lot of sex, I have a naturally robust sex-drive, and I am compelled by certain types of interactions (ie images—two dimensional or three dimensional) to get a sufficient or really big pleasurable response. I am driven by these images, and by the build up and the response. This drive, this connection, has developed and increased and focused over time. Being a temporary yet powerful pull and pleasure—which subsides for a time when relieved or experienced, and then overtakes me like a wave—I am ashamed when caught by my wife [or, less so, husband], and even at other times, and perhaps even wish I wasn’t compelled, but the reality remains powerful and relentless, and the momentary effect is hauntingly pleasurable and one of the biggest, most focused experiences in my life. And we all believe in freedom, right? So, any thoughts? Anybody else want to come clean?”

Imagine that statement coming out.

ALAS, NO…

And why not? Perhaps on some level because we just don’t really want to know about ourselves. Knowing about our deeper selves, not just our addicted impulses, works against current consumer ideology.

Every habit, good or bad, is acquired and learned in the same way—by finding that it is a means of satisfaction.
—Juliene Berk

All these folks come out once caught—from presidents to athletes—say how ashamed they are, and never make any real mention of how their bodies appear to function, or explore why their bodies work as they do. Why don’t we tell deeper truths? I don’t know, but I think it has often something to do with our collective cultural ignorance, and also because the confessors are branded commodities whose “value” cannot be risked by truth-telling, consciously or unconsciously. Also, because the parameters in the conversation are so narrow, this is also the speech/strategy used to save the primary relationship.

The women (generally) the men are involved with are rarely mentioned—have you noticed that? All are dehumanized further by this (and no one cares because we too dehumanize them). These woman have been bought and used—not to say they don’t have their own responsibility, of course. They too were simply objects, commodified. The confessors, so-called, virtually never talk about the truly addicted nature evident and resulting from and in repeated behaviour.

Habits are first cobwebs, then cables.
—Spanish proverb

Who can’t relate in some aspect of their life, to addiction? Food. Sex. Drugs. Money etc. These confessors, god love them, act like their shame cures the issue at hand.

But the truth is we are led by these big emotions (whatever they are), these compulsions, that trigger the brain (or vice versa). They can get out of hand, and do. Freedom. Possibility. Access. Entitlement. Relentless longing. Who knows what combination?

Before the relationship in reality happens, a relationship between the brain and the cues all around us has to take place. Shame, it seems, cannot remove such intense imprinting to the brain—no matter how earnest and ragged the apology. And whatever else happens, as the public we never learn anything about the truth: pornography (and so many addictions) is a massive problem. At the same time, people have wildly varying natures and desires. And are we free, as partners, to talk about them? Do we understand that so much is simply nature, energetics? These natures are acted upon by outside stimuli. This is, for example, the objective of advertising—and the reason advertising works.

We cannot, in a moment, get rid of habits of a lifetime.
—Gandhi

It seems obvious to any thinking person that repeated behaviours resulting in big, physically pleasurable emotions, imprint to the brain, intensely. The brains of some sex-addicted folks, when shown pornography, supposedly light up like a cocaine addict’s brain.

One of the wonderful things about free markets is that the path to greater wealth comes not from looting, plundering and enslaving one’s fellow man, as it has throughout most of human history, but by serving and pleasing him [and his addictions].
—Walter E. Williams

I would disagree with the “not from looting, plundering” etc line. Nonetheless, with a little extra cash, creating addiction in a consumer is Power.

It is said in the Bhagavad Gita that unfulfilled desires lead first to frustration, then anger, then memory loss (we forget who we are). Fulfilled desires, alternatively, lead to greed.

NO REAL CALORIES IN SOUND-BYTES

But just as we won’t, politically or media-wise, in significant amounts, talk about “pornographic” (degraded) food as the biggest problem with our health care systems, it’s at least instructive that we won’t, as a culture, talk about sex selling everything—and pornography being everywhere in various degrees—as likely having a real physiological effect on the human brain. We are what we eat: what we see, hear and all else. The images, evidently, cue the brain. Trigger a response. The mass marketing cues of greasy, fat, sweet and salty foods work in a similar way. The cues trigger emotions.

Habit [addiction] is a fixed tendency to react or respond in a certain way to a given stimulus; and the formation of habit always involves the two elements, the stimulus and the response or reaction.
—Edward O. Sisson

Isn’t our relentless, mass consumerism a sort of “pornography”? Is that just a cliche comment? What does it mean that everything is commodified, or a system believes that all things should be commodified? That this is freedom. Is that a sort of a “pornography”? I’m off topic, but you get my question. And isn’t it profoundly weird that we hear about these affairs at all? Front page.

But imagine if we could speak candidly about the context, the true nature, of these cheap and ugly (yet compelling) headlines.

MASS DEBATE

Pornography’s real arrival, according to scholar Robert Jensen, began in earnest—to use the wrong term—after World War II. As so-called “indecency laws” relaxed in the 70s, pornography became more pervasive, degradation and racism became more extreme. With the internet, the amount of available porn (by all accounts) has mushroomed like a nuclear explosion. It is said that internet porn is the crack cocaine of sex addiction.

“Why is our free-enterprise system so strong? Not because it stands still, frozen in the past, but because it has always adapted to changing realities.”
—Lee Iacocca

It also shapes and changes, or works on, current realities.

Addiction, where the insatiable senses of the body are now running the show, brings to mind this prose from Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Not that I knew this quote. I read it and it brought the thought of such “pornographic” news that we’re fed, to mind.

“These our actors, as I foretold you, were all spirits, and
 are melted into air, into thin air. And, like the baseless fabric of vision, the cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, the solemn temples, the great globe itself, yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve. 
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
 as dreams are made on, and our little life
 is rounded with sleep.”

Ah, Shakespeare! All these intensities, these compulsions, these beautiful and not so beautiful desires, and yet we’re all eventually to be “melted into air, into thin air,” our “little life…rounded with sleep.” Ah, the insanity and mystery of it all. Is addiction natural?

All I can say (with no real proof as to why) is love more, then more again, expand more, and really contemplate the meaning of freedom. What is freedom to you? What do we really choose, free of our compulsions, our addictions?

By the way, I’m addicted—at the top of my list—to a compulsive search to fully understand what can never be understood. It sounds like a noble addiction, but it has its problems, its contractions, its own side-effects. A pursuit of something untenable seems to me to undoubtedly be a denial of something tenable, something beautiful. Who am I trying to reach? What am I trying to solve? What is the motivation of the compulsion? Deeper breathing and consciously trying to love more, help a lot.

Lots of love to you,

Pete

AN OPEN LETTER TO RICHARD DAWKINS: MAN-MADE CLIMATE CHANGE or is SCIENCE SUBJECTIVE?

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

Dear Richard,

Hope all is well. With the Copenhagen Summit nearing its end, and little apparent consensus on anything, I read this quote from you today (from December 7, 2009):

“Whatever you think about global warming and whether humans are responsible, I think we have to salute this remarkable feat of international cooperation. Here is an account, by a Guardian journalist, of the difficult process of getting the joint editorial together.”

My wife doesn’t think I should take issue with you for saying “Whatever you think…” She’s probably right. She’s almost always right. Nonetheless, with thousands of life-forms supposedly in peril—including our own—it really pushed a button in me, and I do take issue.

For since when do you say, “Whatever you think…” about anything? With respect to believers in God, I don’t think you’d every say: “Whatever you think…” You’ve said, in fact, things like some religious believers are “pig-headed and ignorant.” Fair enough, as a passing comment.

But with climate change, and going by your scientific guidelines, shouldn’t we only “salute this remarkable feat” if it’s in support of something true? For Richard—and I don’t disagree with your condescension here either—you do not salute two million people from countless nations gathering in Rome to wave to the Pope, as “remarkable” a “feat of international cooperation” as that may be.

And, because my issue with the above quote might just be one of semantics, or a misinterpretation, I actually take issue with it in combination with this quote from you in 2008:

“I am not that well versed on climate science and don’t feel qualified to take on the deniers. I am well versed in evolution, however, and that is why I am happy to take on creationists.”

I apologize if I’ve missed a lot of your writing on the subject, but that quote just doesn’t cut it.

To the contrary, Richard, you take on creationists and spirituality and, thankfully, extremists, while actually having, admittedly, very limited knowledge about the nuance of, say, Eastern philosophy, religion and belief (not an insignificant part of the story and, admittedly, a topic of interest to me).

However, you are a scientist—a great scientist. So I wonder this: as virulently outspoken as you are against your religious opponents, when will you be similarly outspoken where your scientific colleagues are concerned—one group of which must be dangerously wrong—and state for the record what the scientific data shows to be true, or what it doesn’t show to be true, in terms of climate change?

SCIENCE WITHOUT INTEGRITY IS BAD RELIGION

Why is this important? I’ll give you my reasons, but keep in mind—and I’m serious about this disadvantage—my IQ is undeniably not nearly as high as yours.

Nonetheless, I think your integrity—your fairness and objectivity—as a human being may be dependent upon taking an aggressive stance, not to mention vital to a portion of world perception, with regard to so-called man-made climate change.

Also, can you please explain how the lay-person is to understand the so-called rationale and clarity of science, when all these scientists, often with access to the same “incontrovertible” facts, are truly at each others’ throats with insults and accusations?

Further, you are considered one of the world’s most important intellectuals and you are undeniably brilliant in the field of evolutionary biology. I have read several of your bestsellers, as well as your largely ‘non-evolution’ book The God Delusion. Are religious fundamentalists in fact an utter disaster for humanity? Dangerous? To be sure, some are.

But from your point of view—and mine—fundamentalists are known to be irrational, and religion tends to be pathologically speculative.

But scientists and science? Is that not all about being rational? Impartial? So if we are truly in danger of mass extinction by our actions, why aren’t you becoming “well versed in climate science” to aggressively oppose those scientists who deny man-made climate change?

I fear your hatred for religion combined with your unstoppable belief in science has stopped you questioning if in fact science can deliver all you promise it can deliver.

Let me explain.

SERVING LIFE, SERVING DEATH

Only a fool would deny that the way human beings have come to understand and interact with the planet, through science and scientific advancements, is jaw-dropping in the extreme—I’m talking a jaw dragging on the floor, where once only our knuckles dragged. That I am right now alive thanks to modern medicine and using a small machine in my office to write this open letter, and then with one click of a button will post it to millions (well, in my case, hundreds) of other humans, is mind-boggling.

But similarly, only a fool (or a liar) would deny the mountains of experimental and experiential evidence of human carnage that proves scientists have produced and continue to produce the most hideous yet mind-blowing array of military weapons and environmental poisons imaginable, seemingly forever unsatisfied with their previous subsidized models of utter destruction.

Indeed, some of the greatest scientists of the 20th century gathered during World War II in Los Alamos to relentlessly pursue and capture the secrets of atomic fusion and fission, and created weaponry capable of destroying the species. Some still argue it was the right thing to do.

MAN-MADE CLIMATE CHANGE and CLIMATE CHANGE DENIERS

And here we are with so-called man-made climate change, which according to many scientists, threatens the species as we’ve never been threatened before. For the record, but only via the news and my limited understanding of science and the data, I tend to agree with this thesis—I’ve even written for desmogblog.com—and it makes me scared for myself and all species on the planet.

I also fear that the monstrous size and nature of this ugly debate, and its resulting confusion, may be pushing to the fringes utterly undeniable environmental disasters. For example, the increasing lack of potable water for billions of humans; or the pending disaster (or ingenuity) that will arise with the continued depletion of fossil fuels.

Further, as the deniers of climate change become more persuasive—and they are, evidently, thanks to scientists and the media—I believe a side-effect of this polarized debate is oozing into a significant percentage of the masses and suggesting that all loud environmental concerns are likely exaggerated Left Wing/ New World Order conspiratorial ploys. And you think you had problems with religious fanatics? This is devastating to intelligent life.

SO WHAT DOES THIS SAY ABOUT SCIENCE?

I’m not sure what you think, but it seems to me that if scientists observing the same scientific data can end up in such a war of words, insults and polarized results, one can conclude a couple of possibilities, or a combination thereof:

One, that a scientist’s perspective on scientific data is actually alarmingly subjective—despite being considered science. Thus, one could ask, under certain conditions, of what use is it—particularly with human existence under pressure?

Or, two, if the scientific data on, say, climate change, is as undeniable as scientists say (on whichever side), then a percentage of scientists obviously can be so easily bought as to leave scientific ‘fact’ in peril—as we’ve seen perhaps with countless conscious or unconscious scientific stooges for, say, Big Pharma, or the Military Industrial Complex.

Both conclusions, incidentally, seem to be anathema to your belief that the scientific method is the ideology to live by if we are to survive as a species.

As you have said:

“Science is actually one of the most moral, one of the most honest disciplines around—because science would completely collapse if it weren’t for a scrupulous adherence to honesty in the reporting of evidence.”

At this point, Richard, while the species waits to see if what you say about science is accurate—or accurate enough—I’m more worried that what will “completely collapse” is the biosphere.

And there may be “a scrupulous adherence to honesty” in the science behind creating, say, nuclear weapons—one of untold science-driven inventions of devastation—but I’d be hesitant to use the word moral.

MAN-MADE MAN

So where are you, Richard? Are you even a little bit aware or even ashamed, if not of science, of the limits of character and integrity within your scientific family, plagued as they seem to be by dishonesty and confusion—not unlike all others in all other facets of human existence? It’s obvious the exhausted George Monbiot is wringing his hands in lonely desperation. But George is a mere journalist. You are a scientist who declares science to be our only real hope. If we are truly in peril as a species, and being a scientist of great renown, shouldn’t you be a lot louder than George Monbiot?

THE EXTERNALITIES OF FREE SPEECH

In short, Richard, as of late 2009, most solidarity-inducing forms of listening, trust, debate and kindness between people of differing views but similar vulnerabilities seem to have gone to the dogs.

We lay people need you and other ‘rational’ scientists to step up with your detailed analysis of the evidence because it is vital for both the continued integrity of science and, evidently, life as we know it. And hopefully detailed analysis from outside a person’s scientific field will leave him or her less vulnerable to being sold out to big business or a rapacious desire for continued funding. Or perhaps not. Perhaps science, like politics, is to a frightening degree now run by corporations and lobbyists.

You alone have sold over two million copies of The God Delusion. Put some real clout behind the climate-change science. After all, so many of your colleagues are saying this is the greatest catastrophe in human history. Many other colleagues are saying it is a hoax. Ah, science—it’s beginning to sound like religion.

So I ask you, where do the scientist “deniers” of man-made climate change—with access to the same data as the “believers”—fit into your definition of science?

Many people undoubtedly want to know, including me, because as a non-scientist I’m truly confused by what are these days passing for science and freedom of speech—which has become a free-for-all led by the richest, rudest and most inflammatory. Are we not, all of us, unconsciously deafened by a cacophony of intentional lies, half-truths and unreason—sometimes our own?

Indeed, it is not solely the deniers of man-made climate change that make my belief in man-made climate change less stable, but also relentless boardroom manipulations like legalized theft for multinational corporations via carbon-tax speculation and the unconscionable lengths to which the financial sector will reshape reality to maximize profit.

And if the problem is largely the media—which have served your work so well—then, my god, rail against media (and use science if it helps).

SOLIDARITY

Either way, in my opinion, as surely as any decent religious person should aggressively disown foul and murderous commands within their given holy text, you are ethically obliged to come out in full force against either the fallibility of scientific consensus due to the subjectivity quotient of scientific data, or the accidental incompetence of some of your scientific colleagues, or the corruptibility of some of your scientific colleagues (on whichever side).

In comparison, your attack on religion was easy. Why? Two reasons. Firstly, you don’t by definition respect religious believers. Secondly, many aspects of religion are laughably and hopelessly irrational. But these scientists are the proponents of your ideology and your bread and butter. They may even be your friends.

Are the facts obvious or not? Or are we experiencing The Man-Made Climate-Change Delusion?

Richard, if man-made climate change is truly putting the species at severe risk, please put field selectivity aside as you have surely done before. We need your honesty, your wisdom, your integrity, your outrage and your commitment to humanity.

If not, we lay people may just resort to prayer.

Sincerely and with affection,

Pete

Semantics Can Never Reverse Deaths in Afghanistan

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

“The silence of good people is worse than the actions of bad people.”
Malalai Joya

And when I say death and semantics with regards to Afghanistan, I mean death in great numbers.

And I’ll begin with an apologetic qualification: I have no expertise whatsoever on Afghanistan. Nonetheless, I find it painful and morally suspect when we in our ivory (okay, cement and wooden) towers fight over semantics regarding innocent sisters and brothers—and this can also include American/Canadian soldiers—who have to live under brutal, deathly, inconceivable conditions, regardless of the rights and wrongs of said semantics.

In the National Post (which is, evidently, more than semantically bankrupt), Raphael Alexander is righteously indignant because Noam Chomsky—and countless others from many papers—describe the American military actions in Afghanistan (and I suppose the Canadian actions, too) as an invasion.

INVASION OR EVASION?

Alexander quotes a colleague, Mark Collins:

There was no “invasion” of Afghanistan.

Before the fall of Kabul to the insurgent Afghan Northern Alliance in November 2001, and the consequent collapse of the Taliban regime, there were no foreign regular combat formations in Afghanistan [great, and the 15,000 military advisers Kennedy sent into south Vietnam were simply taking notes on the local flora].

MALALAI JOYA

For a different opinion on the Northern Alliance, I’d recommend Raphael at least comes to hear the remarkably courageous Afghan woman Malalai Joya talk this Saturday in Vancouver. She has stated:

“I realised women’s rights had been sold out completely…Most people in the West have been led to believe that the intolerance and brutality towards women in Afghanistan began with the Taliban regime.

But this is a lie.

Many of the worst atrocities were committed by the fundamentalist mujahedin during the civil war between 1992 and 1996. They introduced the laws oppressing women followed by the Taliban—and now they were marching back to power, backed by the United States. They immediately went back to their old habit of using rape to punish their enemies and reward their fighters.”

I guess that’s just her opinion—maybe even semantics—but she lived there, and she’s risked her life to say it, so it should be given some merit.

Continuing the Alexander article:

The Northern Alliance did receive air support [sounds like payments from dad after a divorce] and assistance [for welfare mothers] from special forces (both U.S. and British); that however is not an invasion.

Anyone must surely understand that, whether it’s an ‘invasion’ or simply a ‘war’—decide for yourself—one army’s ‘support’ and ‘assistance’ from the most powerful forces on earth will likely be another group of citizens’ ‘hell’ and ‘massacre.’

RUSSIAN TO JUDGMENT

Alexander’s article continues:

Substantial foreign ground combat forces—including Canadian—only entered the country after the Taliban had been deposed by indigenous Afghan forces.

Those foreign troops entered with the agreement of the Northern Alliance—which was the internationally recognized government of Afghanistan and held the country’s seat at the United Nations.

An agreement! That’s a relief! And I’m doubly relieved for the Afghan people because—using Alexander’s reasoning—isn’t it true, then, that the brutal Soviets didn’t ‘invade’ Afghanistan in 1980? After all, it is well documented that like the Americans with the Afghan Northern Alliance, the Russians also had an agreement and were repeatedly invited by the then-Marxist Afghan government to ‘assist’ and ‘support’ them against rebel insurgents.

From Wikipedia, and footnoted:

The Afghan government, having secured a treaty in December 1978 that allowed them to call on Soviet forces, repeatedly requested the introduction of troops in Afghanistan in the spring and summer of 1979. They requested Soviet troops to provide security and to assist in the fight against the mujahideen rebels [mujahideen—that sounds familiar. Oh yeah, freedom fighters the moral equivalent of the American founding fathers, at least according to, I believe, Ronald Reagan—while also being the ripe soil for the coming harvest of mad-men].

On April 14, 1979, the Afghan government requested that the USSR send 15 to 20 helicopters with their crews to Afghanistan, and on June 16, the Soviet government responded and sent a detachment of tanks, BMPs, and crews to guard the government in Kabul and to secure the Bagram and Shindand airfields.

This invitation to “support” and “assist” goes on and on here.

No, agreement or not, I think I’ll stick to the invasion theory of Soviet involvement.

And just as a trivial aside, the Northern Alliance may well be “the internationally recognized government of Afghanistan and held the country’s seat at the United Nations.” And the abominable Pol Pot-led Khmer Rouge held their country’s seat (Cambodia) at the United Nations—with American and British support for a number of Cold War reasons—until 1982, and then until 1993 (under a different name). In other words, with support from the West, the Khmer Rouge held a UN seat for nearly fifteen years after committing the second largest genocide of the 20th century.

RABBLE AND HUM

And although democracy is clearly irrelevant—or at least the will of the people and international opinion are clearly irrelevant—here are a few statistics on what citizens around the world thought at the time:

Public opinion at the beginning of the war also reflected this dichotomy between the United States and most other countries.

When the invasion began in October 2001, polls indicated that about 88% of Americans and about 65% of Britons backed military action in Afghanistan.

On the other hand, a large-scale 37-nation poll of world opinion carried out by Gallup International in late September 2001, found that large majorities in most countries favoured a legal response, in the form of extradition and trial, over a military response to 9/11: Only in just 3 countries out of the 37 surveyed—the United States, Israel, and India—did majorities favour military action in Afghanistan [Israel and India were undoubtedly, at least on some level, seeking precedence to attack without limitation their enemies—Palestine/Lebanon and Pakistan, respectively].

In 34 out of the 37 countries surveyed, the survey found many clear and sizeable majorities that did not favour military action: in the United Kingdom (75%), France (67%), Switzerland (87%), Czech Republic (64%), Lithuania (83%), Panama (80%), Mexico (94%), and other countries.

Eventually some of those numbers would change—over time and pressure—not unlike the reversal by Congress with the Bank bailout, which was, similarly due to its ‘legality’, clearly not an invasion of the the tax-payers’ pockets. It was ‘assistance’ and ‘support’ for the bewildered rabble.

AND BACK TO SEMANTICS

Alexander continues in the National Post:

In any event, the U.S was exercising its legitimate right of self-defence against the Taliban regime that was harbouring al-Qaida, the group behind the murderous Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S.

Again the battle of semantics, with the term ‘legitimate right,’ but it was my understanding that the Taliban—and their ideology and actions are heinous (and now their moderate faction is being negotiated with!)—asked for evidence of al-Qaida’s involvement.

The American government couldn’t supply evidence, refused to seek legal channels (as was desired by many, many countries), and went forward to “smoke [bin Laden] out”—which still hasn’t happened, and is barely ever mentioned.

And I believe that even after an eight month utterly exhaustive FBI investigation, the FBI stated they did not have conclusive evidence of who was behind the horrendous, murderous 9/11 attacks.

Our ensuing investigation of the attacks of 9/11/01—code-named “PENTTBOM”—was our largest investigation ever. At the peak of the case, more than half our agents worked to identify the hijackers and their sponsors and, with other agencies, to head off any possible future attacks. We followed more than half-a-million investigative leads, including several hundred thousand tips from the public. The attack and crash sites also represented the largest crime scenes in FBI history.

And on December 11, 2001, from the FBI:

The indictment [of Zacarias Moussaoui ] we are announcing today is an important step in the process of bringing to justice those who we believe to be connected to these violent and vicious attacks on America.

I don’t doubt al-Qaida’s involvement in some large or small way, but the FBI’s evidence, by their own admission, was inconclusive.

What we did know from the FBI investigation and press release was that fifteen of the nineteen hijackers were Saudi Arabian, and Wahabbi schools—supposedly often terror encouraging and anti-West in their teachings—had for years been largely financed out of Saudi Arabia.

Hence, days after 9/11: the American invasion of Saudi Arabia.

Oops, I mean, barely even a conversation. Meanwhile, the ‘House of Bush I & II/House of Saud’ money, resource and business connections et cetera are massive—and even in bits, available for anyone to research.

And here’s the real rub and the grand agony: the largely non-existent media and political attempts to seek out, let alone publicize, what the citizens of Afghanistan actually want. And what they want can be discovered. And call me cynical, but responding to Karzai’s requests—not to mention his suspected drug-smuggling brother—should not necessarily constitute the will of the Afghan people.

From a NY Times article:

Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of the Afghan president and a suspected player in the country’s booming illegal opium trade, gets regular payments from the Central Intelligence Agency, and has for much of the past eight years, according to current and former American officials.

The agency pays Mr. Karzai for a variety of services, including helping to recruit an Afghan paramilitary force that operates at the C.I.A.’s direction in and around the southern city of Kandahar, Mr. Karzai’s home.

The above certainly supports Joya’s bold claims of “warlords, drug lords and criminals” being all through the so-called democratic Afghan government.

Anyway, I’ve said too much. I just can’t stand it when that obvious final question isn’t asked: what do the people want—those who are suffering from the invasion/war/operation/occupation, or whatever you want to call it, as thousands die? Any true democrat would agree that what the citizens of Afghanistan want is the one question that ultimately really matters.

I’ll let the remarkably courageous Malalai Joya finish. Although she cannot speak for her entire country (although she was elected), she’s surely more important than some questionable battle of semantics:

We Afghans know that this election will change nothing and it is only part of a show of democracy put on by, and for, the West, to legitimise its future puppet in Afghanistan. It seems we are doomed to see the continuation of this failed, mafia-like, corrupt government for another term.

The people of Afghanistan are fed up with the rampant corruption of Karzai’s “narco-state” (his own brother, Wali Karzai, has been linked to drug trafficking in Kandahar province) and the escalating war waged by Nato. In May of this year, US air strikes killed approximately 150 civilians in my native province, Farah [in 2005 Malalai, representing Farah, became the youngest person elected to the new parliament].

More than ever, Afghans are faced with powerful internal enemies—fundamentalist warlords and their Taliban brothers-in-creed—and the external enemies occupying the country.

Democracy will never come to Afghanistan through the barrel of a gun, or from the cluster bombs dropped by foreign forces. The struggle will be long and difficult, but the values of real democracy, human rights and women’s rights will only be won by the Afghan people themselves.

So do not be fooled by this façade of democracy. The British and other Western governments that claim to be bringing democracy to Afghanistan ignore public opinion in their own countries, where growing numbers are against the war.

In my tours to countries that have troops in Afghanistan, I’ve met many bereaved parents who have lost their loved ones in the war in my home [also a profound and heart-breaking tragedy]. I am very sorry to see governments putting the lives of their soldiers in danger in Afghanistan in the name of bringing democracy. In fact the soldiers are serving the strategic and regional interests of the White House and the consequences of their occupation so far have been devastating for my people.

I believe that if the ordinary folk of Afghanistan and the NATO countries were able to vote, and express their wishes, this indefinite military occupation would come to an end and there would be a real chance for peace in Afghanistan. But today’s election does nothing for that.

Here’s to peace, love, hope that we may ask the right questions, honesty, and as few deaths and as much integrity as possible in Afghanistan—integrity in the papers, and from my heart (because I truly have so little knowledge, but this report just got my goat). And without doubt, in life sometimes you have to fight. That goes both ways.

Pete

CANADA DAY CELEBRATION: Gratitude, Potential and Problems (oh yeah, and the inimitable Tommy Douglas)

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

“Nothing can be quite so resentful as a man who has ridden on your back for fifty years, and then you make him get off and walk.”
—Tommy Douglas

Tommy also said:

“The time has come for us to break away from the old-line parties and to elect a government that will represent all those who, with hands and brains, produced the wealth of this country.”

How can a country not be something special when the man voted ‘The Greatest Canadian‘ just a few years ago—Tommy Douglas—said such a bold statement—and actually meant it?

See some very untrivial Tommy Douglas trivia at the bottom of the page.

Tommy Douglas, for the record, was the father-in-law of Donald Sutherland, and the grandfather of Kiefer Sutherland.

CANADA DAY

With my sister, her husband and two children visiting Ottawa, Canada’s capital city, on Canada Day (July 1st), and after my friend Tim yelling at me for not mentioning Easter on Easter, I must say, a day late, how incredibly fortunate I am to live in Canada.

Concerns for political and religious freedom, limiting (visible) pollution, clean water, education, civil rights, our health care system and so on, are all remarkably positive—troubles notwithstanding.

I say this with the caveat that I am not a big State person. Compassion before patriotism. Human before Canadian. Borders, boundaries and exclusions are, in all their complexity, challenging to my belief systems and my heart.

Still, citizenship in this world, depending on the country, and for better or worse, is often the difference between rights and virtually no rights. Just ask the average refugee.

COMING HOME

But as I get older—and, yes, that is happening (I now comb over my back-hair to add thickness to my head hair. Just kidding—I actually use my relentless ear hair for that). Where was I? Yeah. The older I get, no matter where I have the good fortune of traveling to in this inconceivable world—where, to me, we are all brothers and sisters—the more grateful I am to come back to Canada.

CAPTAIN VANCOUVER

That feeling is deepened when I get back to Vancouver. It is a highly privileged lifestyle for a considerable percentage of the population. At least it is for me. Canada, as far as countries go, is a great country, with much to praise.

ENERGY

I do not say that naively, I hope. Canada’s per capita energy consumption is a disgrace, and shows a lack of personal initiative and hopeless leadership. I have heard we are the largest consumers of energy, per capita, in the world. Not a good event in which to win the Gold Medal—and here we are awarded the shameful Bronze Medal, “an embarrassing 27th out of 29 OECD nations in terms of energy use per capita.” Alberta, with the environmentally disastrous tar-sands, has been said to consume two-and-a-half times the national average.

THE DOWNTOWN EASTSIDE

In Vancouver, the Downtown Eastside remains, for countless reasons, a social catastrophe. And the fact that something like 30% of the disenfranchised in the area are First Nations, indigenous, is also a disgrace.

Hopefully the Truth and Reconciliation Commission over the crime of Residential Schools will continue to help a healing of which we can all gain more compassion, pride and traction. A friend of mine who works with indigenous people seeking compensation, and also works on the commission, was very happy with the three people appointed to oversee the proceedings.

Further, a First Nations person is something like nine times more likely than the rest of the Canadian population to be incarcerated in Canada. Without being able to offer solutions, I can still say this is repugnant. There was a thoughtful film on one sliver of the topic put out by Hugh Brody this year.

CAUSING MORE HARM

Our present government’s policies towards drug addiction also remain abysmal, largely backwards and still in lock-step with America’s disastrous War on Drugs Policies. Former Minister of Health Tony Clements actually called Insite, the only supervised needle injection site in North America (there are around 50 in the world), “an abomination.”

Thick ignorance—and not even fiscally pragmatic.

One of the main and most inspiring concerns and goals of Insite (and decent human beings): harm reduction. It seems to me a country’s commitment to harm reduction—perhaps even more so in deeply disenfranchised communities—is a marker for that country’s enlightenment, compassion, sustainability and leadership.

The above mentioned are some of our weaknesses. There are more, to be sure. It’s not easy being human. But there is greatness here, and great potential—as there is everywhere.

FREE SPEECH

And a mere glance at the Amnesty International magazine that comes every few months—and seeing true abominations in China and elsewhere with ten year jail sentences meted out over pro-democracy emails etc—reminds me to the core of my being the greatness (or at least sanity) of the Canadian government’s overall relative reluctance to use force against its citizens. This allows for the hope and brilliance of free speech, at least to a large degree (this freedom thanks to the efforts, over generations, of the people themselves, protesting on Canadian soil).

This freedom, earned by courageous people acting in solidarity, allows for the opportunity to have no excuse to not fight for increased social justice and freedom, here and everywhere.

And with freedom of speech, one can choose solidarity or division, all along the spectrum. One can choose love, and defending the vulnerable. How great is that? Think of the potential, even in a crazy world.

I am privileged to have grown up and live in Canada. I am grateful to be here. But at my best, my heart is with all sisters and brothers, everywhere.

Lots of love to you and yours, sisters and brothers, in solidarity. I encourage comments: agreements, disagreements and inspiring ideas and additions.

Pete

You have to check this fantastic audio recording from Tommy Douglas.

A LITTLE TOMMY TRIVIA

—Brought in North America’s first Medicare (universal health care in Saskatchewan). The mass of doctors, yes, the doctors in the province—backed up by the North American medical establishments—vilified Tommy, doing everything they could to stop its manifestation. Remember this! Showing no ability for working class moxy, the doctors abandoned their strike against universal health care after three weeks.

When Medicare passed in Saskatchewan in 1961/62—see also Emmett Matthew Hall—the rest of Canada wanted it too. A few years later, Medicare went national.

—Ushered in the first Bill of Rights (of its kind) in North America, outlawing discrimination for gender and race equality in Saskatchewan (1947), eighteen months before the United Nations! When he called for a national Bill of Rights in 1950, no one supported him.

—Balanced the budget for 17 straight years.

—Early and strongly outspoken opponent (1965) of the Vietnam War.

—Changed the liquor law to allow women to also drink in bars (Keifer, no!). Not bad for someone who was a Baptist minister before going into politics.

—Said a big fat “No” to Trudeau administering the War Measures Act (Martial Law) in 1970. In the day, this was very unpopular, but showed the measure of the man’s belief in civil liberties (geezuz, a socialist-libertarian).

—Basically brought paved roads, electricity and indoor toilets to rural Saskatchewan.

—Made employers guarantee employees a minimum of two weeks paid vacation every year.

—He brought in old-age pension.

—His Arts Board in Saskatchewan was a North American first.

And for all this he was accused of being a Bolshevik, etc etc, by the same ol’ fat cats…

Happy Canada Day!

EUGENICS ALERT!

Later in the day!

Wouldn’t you know it? After writing all of the above, I discovered an article on line from John Robson of the Western Standard talking about Tommy Douglas’ masters dissertation. Written in 1933, the paper is, evidently (I haven’t seen it), an ugly 33-page essay advocating eugenics—the sterilization of so-called “Subnormal” families (mentally disabled) to minimize the perpetuation of “morons” on society. In the paper, Robson says that Douglas also advocates physical and mental health certificates.

Eugenics was actually deeply popular at the time. Nonetheless, this is not pleasing or pretty.

Did Tommy have a change of heart afterwards and come to see the fascist nature of those ideas? I can’t say for sure, but all evidence seems to point that way. Tommy witnessed Hitler (a real pro-eugenics guy) in 1936 in Germany and called him a “mad dog.” He was also sure Hitler could not be appeased. Douglas pushed for war and offered to enlist himself.

THE KING OF DUPEVILLE

In contrast, the Canadian Prime Minister in 1937 said upon meeting Hitler:

“He smiled very pleasantly, and indeed had a sort of appealing and affectionate look in his eyes. My sizing up of the man as I sat and talked with him was that he is really one who truly loves his fellow man and his country…his eyes impressed me most of all. There was a liquid quality about them which indicated keen perception and profound sympathy (calm, composed)—and one could see how particularly humble folk would come to have a profound love for the man.”

Now that’s scary.

DELIVERANCE

Once Premier of Saskatchewan, Douglas pushed for and achieved better care for institutionalized mental patients, universal health care [unheard of] and he produced in 1947 the first Bill of Rights in North America (even before the UN). The Bill outlawed discrimination due to race and/or gender. Tommy also advocated workers rights, equalized gender drinking rights, brought in old-age pension and on and on.

Although not knowing the deepest thoughts of Tommy’s heart, he seems by his actions to be a profound and progressive champion of human rights, inspiring, indefatigable and utterly trend-setting for the time.

WESTERN STANDARDS

I don’t know, but I feel that John Robson has perhaps a political bone to pick. My guess is he is repulsed by the social democrat ideal. I could be wrong. Either way, Tommy’s life remains remarkable.

EUGENICS INC.

It should also be noted that in 1928, five years before Tommy’s dissertation, the Legislative Assembly of Alberta actually enacted the Sexual Sterilization Act, the objective being to prevent mentally disabled persons from producing off-spring.

In short, at the time, Tommy’s dissertation was not even particularly radical. On the other hand, his 1947 Bill of Rights and his 1962 Universal Health Care Plan were downright incendiary, futuristic and ushered in social revolutions.

I do agree with Robson that it is interesting that the dissertation is rarely if ever brought up by Douglas’ supporters.

I guess that’s human nature (curable, perhaps, by eugenics).

But perhaps as Robson himself said in his article, paraphrasing, Douglas is barely known, anyway.

EUGENICS

In 1883, Sir Francis Galton, inspired by his half-cousin Charles Darwin, coined the term. The popularity of eugenics in the early part of the century is fascinating and disconcerting. It was commonly taught in universities at the time, and according to Wikipedia:

“From its inception eugenics was supported by prominent people, [of wildly differing ideologies] including Margaret Sanger [birth control advocate], Marie Stopes [birth control advocate], H. G. Wells [science fiction writer], Woodrow Wilson [Democrat president], Theodore Roosevelt [Republican president], Emile Zola [French writer], George Bernard Shaw [vegetarian playwright], John Maynard Keynes [bail-out economist], John Harvey Kellogg [prudish doctor and cereal-namer], Winston Churchill [colonizer and mostly conservative British war-hero], Linus Pauling [scientist and Vitamin C guy] and Sidney Webb [can't remember].”

Hitler [bad person], of course, is the most famous proponent—and executer. In Sweden, evidently, a eugenics program was continued until 1975.

The wonderful GK Chesterton [fat, witty and insightful] was an early opponent.

And that’s it. Love ya!

Pete

SALT OF THE EARTH: The Endless Struggle for Human Dignity Continues

Friday, June 5th, 2009

Lately researching the remarkable mining history and Union history in the Kootenay regions of British Columbia, Canada, and reading about the conditions of migrant workers in the farms in the Lower Mainland of wealthy British Columbia even today, the information continues to be eye-opening, disconcerting and heart-breaking—and these people deserve our support, for the love of god.

But reading about and remembering and seeing the vigilance and determination of people over centuries up to this very second, risking everything to live lives of dignity and anything resembling equality is endlessly inspiring.

SPEAKING OF IDEOLOGY: Startling Juxtaposition

In 1954, On The Waterfront (portraying longshoreman, and thus Unions, as corrupt) came out perfectly (and not coincidentally, I am sure) in time with McCarthyism and the ongoing House Committee on UnAmerican Activities. It received countless accolades (the movie, I mean, from most people, and the House Committee from many—and vitriol, too).

The director Elia Kazan, who was “…among the first to cooperate with the House Committee on UnAmerican Activities in 1952, which led to the blacklisting that ruined many careers in Hollywood because of their political beliefs”, won Best Director at the Academy Awards and Marlon Brando’s famous lines were uttered: “I coulda had class, I coulda been a contender, I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum

In life’s remarkable irony, and inherent counterforce, another movie was made that same Cold War year of 1954. It was called Salt of the Earth. It was banned in both Canada and the States—which is shockingly hard to believe.

Salt of the Earth‘s director was Herbert Biberman, one of the so-called Hollywood Ten, blacklisted and jailed for over six months for not naming names—of friends—as Elia Kazan had.

It was put together by black-listed writers and directors. Post-production services, evidently, wouldn’t even help them, likely, often, for fear of reprisals. The film was was paid for, at least in part, by the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers. It was based—I don’t know how closely—on the real-life and brutal strike by Mexican-American and “Anglo” miners against the appalling conditions imposed by the Empire Zinc Company.

I just saw it. My heart broke the entire time.

It is deeply worth watching, for its historical significance, the fact that it was banned, its use of professional and unprofessional actors, its (light) description of racism even within the Unions and the effect of hammering the Union men unintentionally pushing further the Women’s Rights movement.

Also, as a note, Will Geer (who played the Grandpa in the Waltons when I was a kid) play the sheriff.

Humans is as humans are, but the struggle for dignity, rights and something resembling equality will never end.

In an interview with Noam Chomsky, he said:

We don’t know anything much about human nature except that it’s rich and complex and common to the entire species and determines everything we do. Beyond that, it’s mostly speculation.

But a look at history and perception of what we see, does, I think, lend some credibility to a traditional view coming out of the Enlightenment—it is at the core of liberalism, the ideals we are supposed to honour but disregard—which says that fundamental to human nature is a kind of instinct for freedom, which shows up in creative activities.

This is actually the core of Cartesian philosophy, the core of Enlightenment political thought. And I think we see plenty of examples of it: people struggling all over the world for freedom.

They don’t like to be oppressed.

Are Unions perfect? Far from it. Were they racist in the past? Often. Are they monolithic in the present? In so many ways. Would there be the human rights we have today without them—the eight hour day, minimum wages, child labour laws, safety labour laws, health benefits, maternity leave? Not a chance.

NOT A CHANCE; NOT A PRAYER; NOT A HOPE. I try to always remember this fact.

And nothing, nothing, from my reading and observation, drove people towards so-called radical socialism, and into Unions, and nothing pushed women towards so-called equality, more than the extreme greed, oppression and self-defined superiority of so-called industrial capitalists, and their earlier incarnations.

The two live off each other, and define the other—and one lives a lot better off than the other. They have been used by despots and barons and tyrants since before their names were known.

Again, on many levels, I can’t recommend the film enough. Banned. Geezuz.

Tons of love, dignity and solidarity to you,

Pete

Derrick Jensen: It’s Tremendous Fun To Fight Back

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

I don’t even know who Derrick Jensen is, but this interview with him in Briarpatch: Fighting the War on Error is really wonderful, and gets, I think, to the heart and soul of many matters. It was sent to me by my lovely friend Buddy. He’s in his late 80s now, and just keeps on fighting.

From the interview:

Any way of living based on non-renewable resources won’t last. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about copper or iron or oil, because a finite amount of it is eventually going to run out.

But that’s not all. Any way of living that’s based on the hyper-exploitation of renewable resources won’t last, either. If fewer salmon return year after year because they’re being overfished, eventually there won’t be any left.

In fact, I would say that any way of living that’s based on resources won’t last, either. “Resources” don’t actually exist: salmon don’t consider themselves a fishery resource, and trees don’t consider themselves timber resources. They’re just trees and they’re just fish.

And this doozy:

It’s stunning how ignorant we are about the land bases that support us. I can talk about Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie and probably most people will know who I’m talking about, but do you know the indigenous name for the place where you’re sitting right now? An American five-year-old can recognize hundreds of corporate logos, but I can’t name 10 species of edible plants and fungi within 100 yards of my home. That’s insane.

We must recognize that the culture is a culture of occupation. The planet needs to be defended against this occupation. You know, if there were space aliens deforesting the planet or releasing tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere, we would know what to do: we’d use any means necessary to stop them.

That’s fantastic. If I consider how short the time would be for survival, if left to my own devices, if food in the city stopped coming in (without stealing or begging), the answer is not pretty. About three days. I barely know a fungi from a fun guy, or how to plant my own garden, where waste goes, water and so on—let alone where my food and clothing comes from or how it is made, and how the people who made either were treated.

And think about this. A kid from wherever in 1500 may not have known the world was round, but he knew where his waste went, where his water came from, how his clothes were made, his food, and how to survive on his own, period. I have only slightly more than a clue, and like my tax forms, the whole process is cryptic and confusing to the point of inaction.

Ah, life. So much to learn. And you can’t just find some things out online or in a book. Eventually you have to get your hands dirty—that is, in the soil—and your mind clear. And talk to the trees. Just try it. And the water.

“Excuse me, tree, how can I help?”

The full interview is here.

Lots of sustainable love to you,

Pete

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…

Pete

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 Salon.com 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

Work, Free Time, and the Curious Case of Modern Technology

Saturday, April 11th, 2009

Unfortunately, all external means of improving our life experiences are double-edged swords: they are always good and bad. No external remedy improves our condition without, at the same time, making it worse.
—Thomas Hora

This includes the always praised ‘work.’

Two could debate—if two ever wanted to—whether or not I am addicted to my work, or production, or something related. From a yogic point of view—a view that says ultimately we are not this body, we are a soul having a ‘this body experience’—I definitely identify myself with my work compulsion. That is not optimum in terms of minimizing self-ignorance.

But work/leisure/freedom etc are such curious things.

Today, we act like we have so much more than our parents and our parents’ parents. But in fact to get on average something like one extra room per house than our parents had, we work way more—two instead of one full time job—and have massive, uncontrollable debt.

Is that freedom? Is that the dream?

Either way, has technology saved us time? The amount of time I spend figuring out programs and technology in the filming/editing/sound aspects of movie-making is staggering, and likely unhealthy. I was reading bits of Carl Honoré’s In Praise of Slow, and I found out this misperception/hope is nothing new (pg 188).

“Inspired by the technological breakthroughs of the latter 1700s, [Ben Franklin] predicted that man would soon work no more than four hours week.

The nineteenth century made that prophecy look foolishly naive. In the dark satanic mills of the Industrial revolution, men, women and even children toiled for fifteen hours a day.

Yet at the end of the nineteenth century, the Age of Leisure popped up once again on the cultural radar. George Bernard Shaw predicted that we would work two hours a day by 2000.”

I’m not sure who ‘we’ are, I’m not sure what exactly we’re working for, and god knows what I really think working in a certain compulsive way will accomplish long term. Heck, long term I won’t even be here. All that will remain is my nervous energy, oscillating towards some distant gallery on the wings of Bell’s Theorem. Or will that be vibes of love, trust and calmness? What can be changed? Controlled?

“In 1956, RichardNixon told Americans to prepare for a four-day workweek in the “not too distant future.”

That’s happening now, but only because of lay-offs.

“A decade later, a US Senate subcommittee heard that by 2000, Americans would be working as little as fourteen hours per week….

One in four Canadians now racks up more than fifty hours a week on the job, compared to one in ten in 1991.”

Interesting, huh? What are we working for? Who are we working for? One thing is for sure, with people working so profoundly hard, and for so much time, a large drop in civic involvement, community and communication in general must be a side-effect.

This can’t be good.

Honoré writes (190):

Technology, meanwhile, has allowed work to seep into every corner of life. In the age of the information super-highway, there is nowhere to hide from email, faxes and phone calls…I know from experience that working from home can easily slide into working all the time.

Garl darnit, me, too! I don’t feel worthy (of what, god knows?), in a sense, unless I produce something I think is of value to someone—even these blogs. It’s a knot tied inside between a compulsion and wanting to be useful. A knot that is never loosened by accomplishment or anything else. Thus, a hamster wheel—and oh how the hamster longs!

From the Bhagavad Gita (Jeffrey Armstrong translation), Chapter 2:

47. As a human being, your strength lies in purposeful action but the results of your actions are beyond your control. Do not consider yourself to be the cause of the results of your activities but do not retreat into a state of inaction.

48. Perform your work in a balanced state of mind, O Arjuna, without attachment either to success or failure. Such equanimity of mind during action is called Karma Yoga.

So if you have the privileged luxury to ask why you’re working so much and hard, ask also who you’re working for, and what is propelling you to work so hard. For so many of us, it is simply an insatiable hunger for consumer goods—or is it? What a thing to throw one’s freedom away for. As I’ve heard before, “Enjoy yourself, the time is later than you know.”

The Taoists have a great way to begin a meditation.

I am sitting in the lap of my Mother. I love Her and She loves me. I am exactly where I’m meant to be. Now I shall meditate.

Please love yourself more, and breathe more deeply, and sit and feel the world, and that you are part of it; part of the rhythms of nature; you have an inherent right to be here, to breathe from a relaxed space, to love, to play, to increase community. Yes, this is your right. Say it over and over again…

Pete xoxox

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.

THE ROLE OF FEAR AND INTEGRITY

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

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,

Pete

Free The Children! (From Their Parents Fear)

Sunday, April 5th, 2009

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not blaming anybody. But I’ve been reading the introduction to Carl Honoré’s Under Pressure: Putting The Child Back In Childhood, and it’s a strange world in a strange time. But you parents out there can offer way more intelligent feedback than I can.

Here are a couple of stats for you, pg 8:

“The International Association for the study of Obesity estimates that 38 percent of under-eighteens in Europe and 50 percent in North and South America will be obese in 2010.

For those keeping track, that’s ten months from now, give or take. Maybe 2011 will be a lean year. Things are cyclic, after all.

Already the extra pounds are condemning children to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, arteriosclerosis and other disorders once confined to adults.

Well, why should adults get all the effects of privilege?

And this on the next page from the World Health Organization—who must be in cahoots with Big Giant Fat Ugly Pharma (who in power isn’t?) (pg 9):

“…by 2020 mental illness will be one of the top five causes of death or disability in the young. In Britain, a teenager tries to commit suicide every twenty-eight minutes.

Rather than end it all, Japanese teens retreats into their bedrooms and refuse to come out for weeks, months or even years at a time. Experts estimate that over 400,000 of the country’s adolescents are now hikikomori, or full time hermits”!

That borders on laughable, if not insane. What does this mean? What is in our water? It’s fantastically perverse. What’s in the bedroom? Hopefully air-freshener and a toilet. To begin with, I am sure, the most modern personal technology, alas…and I’m using a little of it right now.

But it’s still the following psychological infection that shakes me the most (pg 5):

“Even when children do have spare time, we are often too afraid to let them out of our sight. The average distance from home British kids are permitted to wander by themselves has fallen nearly 90 percent since the 1970s.”

It’s the same in Canada. What is this? I’ve asked before, but is it the media? Increased population or environmental factors somehow changing our neural pathways? Is it consumerism making us more and more terrified of nature? Is it the coming of the New World Order?

It’s just so weird, yet I even feel it when my niece and nephew visit, and I live right on a huge park with a lake. But people are there too, which is terrifying! Aaah!

Geniuses? Experts? Expansive thinkers? Anybody?

Here’s to freedom, trust, and a decrease in whatever toxic pesticides cause paranoia, because something has drastically changed over the past thirty years. By the way, stop following me,

Pete xoxo

And speaking of both truth and paranoia, check this out. It’s a a fix-up, with lyrics added with fancy moves, and absolutely nobody is watching it, so you’re in on a secret. Good luck tonight. Be careful. Over.

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.”

Fantastic!

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

Pete

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

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.

FARCHANA

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,

Pete

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.

Credits:

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.

QUANTUM ENIGMA would be NO ENIGMA to GREAT MYSTICS—Just Part of the Cosmic Dance of Consciousness

Thursday, February 26th, 2009

I finished reading Quantum Enigma: Physics Encounters Consciousness, by Bruce Rosenblum and Fred Kuttner. They did a great job, I think, admirably doing what they set out to do. The book is inspired, informative, courageous, and accessible to the lay person (moi). Their punch is measured but not pulled, and I appreciate their dilemma, let alone the enigma.

I know I’m seeing Quantum Theory through my own lens, but I can’t tell you how much it resonates with Eastern thought (Vedic—Hindu Metaphysics—in particular, with flashes of Buddhist mind (manas) stuff as well).

A few final (of many) great moments. From page 155:

Quantum mechanics forces us to accept that the Mechanistic Newtonian view of the world [and thus could you not throw in the genius of Darwin's view, also?]—and the intuitions fostered by it—are fundamentally flawed

[I]t is also fascinating to explore what Nature seems to be telling us.

As [Physicist] John Bell [of Bell’s Theorem] says:

Is it not good to know what follows from what, even if it is not necessarily FAPP ["for all practical purposes"]?

By FAPP, they mean scientists being able to do quantum physics while ignoring the virtually undeniable confrontation of Quantum Theory and consciousness.

Bell goes on:

Suppose for example that quantum mechanics were found to resist precise formulation. Suppose that when formulation beyond FAPP is attempted, we find an unmovable finger obstinately pointing outside the subject, to the mind of the observer, to the Hindu scriptures, to God, or even only Gravitation [some paths in the Vedas would say Gravitation has consciousness, has beingness]? Would that not be very, very interesting?

Scientists with the courage to say such things are so inspiring.

And this monster from Niels Bohr:

[T]he apparent contrast between the continuous onward flow of associative thinking and the preservation of the unity of the personality exhibits a suggestive analogy with the relation between the wave description of the motions of material particles, governed by the superposition principle [let's say in infinite places at the same time], and their indestructible individuality.

It is as if, with observation, we ‘collapse’ to individuality. Before that, we are infinite possibilities. And in fact, even as individuals we are infinite possibilities (don’t get me wrong, I have no idea what this means, either).

The Bengali 15th century Vaishnava mystic Caitanya (Shay-tanya) said this: “We are inconceivably, simultaneously, one [with everything, the Supreme] and different [distinctly individual].”

Rosenblum and Kuttner repeat over and over and unabashedly that (pg 201):

“…if you take quantum theory seriously beyond practical purposes, it has baffling implications. It tells us that physics’ encounter with consciousness, demonstrated for the small, applies to everything. And that “everything’ can include the entire universe.

Copernicus dethroned humanity from the cosmic center. Does quantum theory suggest that, in some mysterious sense, we are a cosmic center?”

They finish the book with, in my opinion, just the right, beautiful emotion (at least for me!).

Most physicists will dismiss the creation of reality by observation as having no significance beyond the limited domain of the physics of microscopic entities. Others will argue that nature is telling us something, and we should listen.

Our own feelings accord with Schrodinger’s:

“The urge to find a way out of this impasse ought not to be dampened by the fear of incurring the wise rationalist’s mockery.”

Man, I love that. I’ll keep that in my heart, Dr Dawkins—whose greatness is not denied.

When experts disagree, you may choose your expert. Since the quantum enigma arises in the simplest quantum experiment, its essence can be fully comprehended with little technical background. Nonexperts can therefore come to their own conclusions. We hope yours, like ours, are tentative.

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

—Shakespeare, Hamlet

I loved this stuff, this book—and their honesty and intellectual courage. And I love to be in awe—as the “real” world spins crazily into a black hole bail-out—at the wonder and mystery of it all, love, consciousness, me, you, us.

Time for dream sleep. Lots of love,

Pete xox

BUSTED UP OVER ENDLESS BUSTS: Cigarettes, Alcohol, Marijuana and the devastating Hypocrisy of the War On Drugs.

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

I don’t smoke cigarettes, I don’t drink alcohol, and I don’t smoke marijuana—in fact I never have smoked a joint. So other than admitting I am the world’s most boring person, I also say this as a disclaimer of non-agenda. In fact, I have zero affection for these three drugs.

However, I despise far more—and believe it to be just as dangerous (because hypocrisy is endlessly pervasive)—the political and moral hypocrisy of the fact that (from an article by Paul Armentano called 20 Million Arrests, and Counting):

“…one American [is] arrested for pot every 38 seconds.

Yet despite this massive increase in arrests—by contrast, federal statistics indicate that adult marijuana use has remained fairly stable over the past decade—the mass media and Congress continue to ignore the story.

By doing so, they ignore the plight of millions of Americans who suffer significant sanctions and hardships because of pot-related run-ins with law enforcement. These penalties include probation and mandatory drug testing; loss of employment; loss of child custody; removal from subsidized housing; asset forfeiture; loss of student aid; loss of voting privileges; loss of adoption rights; and loss of certain federal welfare benefits, such as food stamps.

Talk about disenfranchising and criminalizing a society—a mostly young society, to boot. You know, booze was once legal, too. So was hiding a fugitive slave.

And alcohol? Hardly anyone can gather at a party without bringing this hopeless intoxicant (excluding of course quality dark beer from micro-breweries). Joking. Whatever.

Look, doesn’t the obligatory bringing of alcohol ever make you take pause? Conversations with people whose company one truly delights in isn’t enough without intoxicants? Granted, real idiots can be at parties, too—but don’t they just become bigger idiots after a case of Coors? And don’t get me wrong, I am anti-prohibition. Not unlike the old saying that you only truly believe in free speech if you defend the right of people to say things you despise.

Either way, according to the book Getting to Maybe (pg 190):

“[Drunk driving] remains the single largest criminal cause of death in Canada, where approximately 1,500 people are killed each year as a result of impaired driving, a number about three times higher than the murder rate. The situation is worse in the United States.”

Killed. That excludes injured, maimed, paralyzed, brain damaged etc, which is logically much higher.

And hundreds of thousands die of smoking related diseases in North America every year—and don’t kid yourself, those deaths are often extremely violent. I watched a friend die of lung cancer. It wasn’t pretty. A beautiful, dignified person—and by the end he didn’t have the energy, strength or lung capacity to wipe himself (which wasn’t a regular problem because of the brutally constipating side-effect of taking morphine for the agony he was in.

Ah, yes. Cigarettes.

By the way, he was still, of course, incredibly dignified.

The original article continues.

Some Americans serve time for pot. Nearly 13 percent of state inmates and 12.4 percent of federal inmates are incarcerated for marijuna-related drug violations, according to a 2006 Bureau of Justice Statistics report. (The report did not include the estimated percentage of inmates incarcerated in county jails for pot-related offenses.)

In human terms, this means that some 34,000 state inmates and an estimated 11,000 federal inmates are serving time behind bars for violating marijuana laws.

In fiscal terms, this means U.S. taxpayers are spending more than $1 billion annually to imprison pot offenders.

Well done, small government.

The front-end criminal justice costs—such as the number of hours a police officer must put in to arrest and process the average pot offender—is far greater. Some researchers, such as Harvard University economist Jeffery Miron, estimate it at upward of $7 billion a year.

Heck, that’s 1/100th of the bailout. Think of the war machines you could build for 7 billion dollars.

But the financial and social costs tell only part of the story.

Up to 70 percent of all individuals in drug treatment for pot are placed there by the criminal justice system, according to statistics published by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

It’s just an insane amount of hypocrisy—so much so that I end up defending drug use. That is really perverse. Statistics further show that 1 in 3 of those people put into rehab had not smoked marijuana thirty days prior to admission.

Geezuz. Just a little pot for thought. Stay vigilant in your critical thinking, to be sure. And love more, man. That’s the thing. And if you are spiritual-minded, so-called, you don’t have to keep looking to the sky to be closer to God: we increase our divinity by increasing our humanity. Be yourself. Cause no harm. See more and more people as sisters and brothers, until there is nobody unrelated.

Lots of love,

Pete

PAUL ST PIERRE AND THE LIBERTARIAN DAILY TIMES: Kudos To The Vancouver Sun—or someone lost a job today…

Tuesday, November 11th, 2008

“1. Put no faith in any major political party. The allegedly profound philosophic differences among big parties are either trivial or imaginary. By their very nature big parties, like big newspapers, cannot lead, they can only follow what they judge to be public taste.”
—Paul St Pierre

A person after my own heart. Like ‘big newspapers’! Geezuz. Fantastic.

After having quoted a little Doris Lessing—another octogenarian—yesterday, I was shocked to read the remarkable timbre of an article in the nearly dreadful Vancouver Sun today. I say nearly dreadful because it’s better than the Vancouver Province newspaper, which is simply dreadful. Every time someone calls me on the phone and asks me to subscribe, I ask them if they sell the Guardian. They never know what I’m talking about, alas…

Anyway, today, a fantastic and bold article by Paul St Pierre, an author and former member of parliament. I don’t know how it made the paper—maybe a last favour for a former columnist. Maybe someone there just got sick of what’s normally in the paper. Page A9 is one reason it made it—because in a strange way, it’s front page news—but still, to the Sun I send kudos.

I also understand that if a mainstream rag prints a tiny slice of outer spectrum views, that brief commentary allows for the grand statement of a rich democracy, as the bullshit is plied on 99.937% of the time otherwise. By the way, I say ‘outer spectrum views’ with the qualification that most of the general population is onside with St Pierre, lacking respect or faith in either Big Politics or Big Media. In short, we all somehow know, as St Pierre points out, we are being fed, and in turn speak by rote, “bullshit.”

He writes:

That is exactly what happened, in the United States as in Canada. The Americans try to disguise their wretched state of submission to the rulers by hooting and shrieking the word freedom, tossing firecrackers around and, most recently—the supreme irony—calling unconstitutional and oppressive legislation The Patriot Act. An American must bullshit. His health demands it. If he cannot bullshit a foreigner he will bullshit himself, but he has to do it.

Print something similar, on the front page, for about a year straight, and we might even moved towards ideas that are creative, freeing, inspired and compassionate, as a community. Heck, we’re too sheltered to be truly environmentally intelligent, let alone see the bars around us.

Although St Pierre is a former Liberal, the piece here has, as is his style, a huge libertarian slant.

PARADOX: NO RUNNING FREE IN THE FREE WORLD

I was reminded immediately of how, in a bizarre sort of devolution, kids no longer are let outside to play on their own, to go where they want, to explore with freedom. Have you noticed this drastic shift? They are watched and curtailed at every turn, invariably with the best of parental intentions.

I used to think this change happened after the awful abduction and murders of children in Vancouver and area by the heinous Clifford Richard Olsen in the early 1980s. This cleared parks and playgrounds for awhile, and when they were refilled, it was with parental guidance, like life had become a restricted movie.

In addition I thought media played a big role in this no-longer-free-to-play-without-supervision world, with all their increased details and coverage of murder, abductions, and violent crime, in general.

But today I was wondering if this protection and fear of letting children (heck, and even ourselves) be more free to play, unsupervised, like we used to for hours, all day, only thirty or so years ago, is, combined with media, an internalization of the increase in laws and protection, and the subconscious dynamic of living with a subtle yet omnipresent Big Brother—to use Paul St Pierre’s use of the term.

Anyway, consider that.

AN OLD COWBOY

The fiery, courageous, pleading, last rites piece by St Pierre is entitled A Voice From The Grave’s Edge, a double entendre referring to himself and limited freedoms and increased criminality in general.

Here are a couple of excerpts, but please read the whole thing:

Our Canada is now very close to a condition in which everything that is not compulsory is forbidden. We have become prisoners of the state. Like modern jail prisoners, all our needs for balanced diet, climate-controlled shelter, approved and tested medication, mental health counselling, higher education, suitable entertainment, grief counselling and consensual safe sex are available free. The inmate lacks only freedom itself.

When I was young, Canadians were born almost free; now we are born in manacles of silk and gold.

To the recent generations, this is hyperbole. I understand that. I also understand that young people cannot be expected to miss freedom. How can you miss what you never had? But a few of the old may remember and a few of the young might feel the tug of curiosity. I hope so.

This is not entirely true, and there are grand exceptions. Many great social issues have borne greater freedom for certain groups of people (gender issues, race issues, sexual orientation issues and so on). Still…

Scarcely a day passes when our rulers do not devise some new law or regulation having the force of law, complete with fines and prison penalties. No one knows how many there are. Even the rulers couldn’t find the number when they tried a few years ago. Suffice to say there are enough that everyone is a criminal now.

Here are a few of his numbered points. Again, read the article for yourself.

5. Never forget this: Any government may lie, cheat, murder and steal, for “the public good.”

9. Fight for the Internet. It may be our last, best hope. Oppose, evade or sabotage every state attempt to control it, yes, even at the cost of permitting such obvious social evils as racial bigotry or child pornography. It is the common man’s strongest available instrument and will be the target of sophisticated attacks by all rulers.

10. Support the Canadian Civil Liberties Union. Future generations will see it as a lonely champion of liberty during long, dark years. When it supports a cause that you find obnoxious, trivial or dangerous, increase your donation.

This is written in the newspaper—a huge monopolized corporation paper filled with, well, filler!

For the record, Libertarianism is a sort of offshoot of the brutally misunderstood political idea known as Anarchism. Libertarianism has a Left and Right slant, so-called, and also both a compassionate and mean-spirited, bigoted slant of uber-individualism.

At its most compassionate and expansive, Libertarianism offers a lot. Lysander Spooner, A J Nock. Even Ron Paul.

As for the article, it offers essential food for thought. Are we as free as we think? Are we as imprisoned as St Pierre suggests?

Mr St. Pierre, at 85, I say with all due respect, thanks for the bold words and the big balls, unstoppable from a lifetime of living, and thanks for having whatever credentials needed to get the piece published.

Here’s to individuality. Here’s to solidarity. Here’s to freedom. Here’s to love.

Pete xoxo

SOUL SURVIVAL: Yes, a little poem on the dream of being

Thursday, November 6th, 2008

SOUL SURVIVAL

I’ve hardly seen a soul survive
To live as if fully alive
To break the walls we think we are
To go within endlessly far
To push beyond conditioned life
To stand above both joy and strife
To serve oneself by serving others
And see only sisters and brothers