Category Archives: Peace Activism

The Ongoing Dread in Gaza: So Many Names, So Many Lives

I felt shaky and uneasy all day, preparing for this talk.

— Jehad Abusalim, a Palestinian from the territory of Gaza

Jehad Abusalim, a Palestinian now living in the United States, grew up Gaza. In Chicago last week, addressing activists committed to breaking the siege of Gaza,  he held up a stack of 31 papers. On each page were names of 1,254 Palestinians living in Gaza who had been killed in just one month of Israel’s “Operation Protective Edge” attacks five years ago.

“I felt shaky and uneasy all day preparing for this talk,” he told the group. He described his dismay when, looking through the list of names, he recognized one of a young man from his small town.

“He was always friendly to me,” Abusalim said. “I remember how he would greet me on the way to the mosque. His family and friends loved him, respected him.”

Abusalim recalled the intensity of losing loved ones and homes; of seeing livelihoods and infrastructure destroyed by aerial attacks; of being unable to protect the most vulnerable. He said it often takes ten years or more before Palestinian families traumatized by Israeli attacks can begin talking about what happened. Noting Israel’s major aerial attacks in 2009, 2013, and 2014, along with more recent attacks killing participants in the “Great March of Return,” he spoke of ongoing dread about what might befall Gaza’s children the next time an attack happens.

Eighty people gathered to hear Abusalim and Retired Colonel Ann Wright, of US Boat to Gaza, as they helped launch the “Free Gaza Chicago River Flotilla,” three days of action culminating on July 20 with a spirited demonstration by “kayactivists” and boaters, along with onshore protesters, calling for an end to the siege of Gaza. Wright resigned from her post as a U.S. diplomat when the United States launched the 2003 Shock and Awe bombing of Iraq. Having participated in four previous internationals flotillas aiming to defy Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza’s shoreline, Wright is devoting her energies preparing for a fifth in 2020.

Another organizer and member of US Boat to Gaza, Elizabeth Murray, who like Wright formerly worked for the U.S. government, recalled being in a seminar sponsored by a prestigious think tank in Washington, D.C., when a panel member compared Israeli attacks against Palestinians with routine efforts to “mow the lawn.” She recounted hearing a light tittering as the D.C. audience members expressed amusement. But, Murray said, “Not a single person objected to the panelist’s remark.” This was in 2010, following Israel’s 2009 Operation Cast Lead, which killed 1,383 Palestinians, 333 of whom were children.

Abusalim’s colleague at the American Friends Service Committee, Jennifer Bing, had cautioned Chicago flotilla planners to carefully consider the tone of their actions. A colorful and lively event during a busy weekend morning along Chicago’s popular riverfront could be exciting and, yes, fun.

But Palestinians in Gaza cope with constant tension, she noted. Denied freedom of movement, they live in the world’s largest open-air prison, under conditions the United Nations has predicted will render their land uninhabitable by 2020. Households get four to six hours of electricity per day. According to UNICEF, “sewage treatment plants can’t operate fully and the equivalent of forty-three Olympic-sized swimming pools of raw or partly treated sewage is pumped into the sea every day.”

Facing cruel human rights violations on a daily basis, the organizers urge solidarity in the form of boycotts, divestment, and sanctions. U.S. residents bear particular responsibility for Israel’s military attacks against civilians, they note, as the United States has supplied Israel with billions of dollars for military buildup.

U.S. companies profit hugely from selling weapons to Israel. For example, Boeing, with headquarters in Chicago, sells Israel Apache helicopters, Hellfire and Harpoon missiles, JDAM guiding systems and Small Diameter Bombs that deliver Dense Inert Metal Explosive munitions. All of these weapons have been used repeatedly in Israeli attacks on densely populated civilian areas.

During the 2009 Operation Cast Lead, I was in Rafah, Gaza, listening to children explaining the difference between explosions caused by F-16 fighter jets dropping 500-pound bombs and Apache helicopters firing Hellfire missiles.

Israel continues using those weapons, and Israeli purchases fatten Boeing’s financial portfolios.

At Boeing Company, Names of people killed in Israel’s Operation Protective Edge are read aloud; Elizabeth Murray sounds a gong after each name.  (Photo credit: Barbara Briggs Letson)

On July 19, young Palestinians outside of the Israeli consulate read aloud the names of people who had, five years ago, been killed in Gaza. We listened solemnly and then proceeded to Boeing’s Chicago headquarters, again listening as youngsters read more names, punctuated by a solemn gong after each victim was remembered. Ultimately, 2,104 Palestinians, more than two-thirds of whom were civilians, including 495 children, were killed during the seven-week attack on the Gaza Strip in 2014.

Banner dropping over a bridge crossing the Chicago River: Israel, Stop Killing Palestinians (Photo Credit: Barbara Briggs Letson)

During the Free Gaza Chicago River flotilla on July 20, Husam Marajda, from the Arab American Action Network, sat in a small boat next to his grandfather, who was visiting from Palestine. His chant, “From Palestine to Mexico, all the walls have got to go!” echoed from the water to the shore. Banners were dropped from bridges above, the largest reading, “Israel, Stop Killing Palestinians.”

Kayakers on the Chicago River display Free Gaza sign (Photo Credit: Barbara Briggs Letson)

Kayakers wore red T-shirts announcing the “Gaza Unlocked” campaign and managed to display flags, connected by string, spelling out “Free Gaza.” Passengers on other boats flashed encouraging peace signs and thumbs up signals. Those processing along the shore line, carrying banners and signs, walked the entirety of our planned route before a sergeant from the Chicago Police Department arrived to say we needed a permit.

We can’t permit ourselves to remain silent. Following the energetic flotilla activity, I sat with several friends in a quiet spot. “So many names,” said one friend, thinking of the list Abusalim had held up. “So many lives,” said another.

• A version of this article was published July 23rd, 2019 at The Progressive

Rising Resistance And Solidarity In The Americas

“If there isn’t justice for the people, there won’t be peace for the governor.” Protesters in Old San Juan on Tuesday call for the resignation of Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, who has vowed to remain in office (Thais Llorca/EFE/Zuma Press)

This weekend marks the 40th anniversary of the Sandanista Revolution in Nicaragua. Hundreds of thousands of people celebrated in the streets of Managua Friday night. This past week, mass protests erupted in Puerto Rico over long term corruption and subversion of democracy. A general strike is planned for Monday.

This week is the 25th Sao Paulo Forum, a meeting of left political parties and social movements, in Caracas, Venezuela. We participated in a Sao Paulo Forum of Washington, DC in preparation for the upcoming meeting. A delegation of Venezuelan Embassy Protectors is traveling to Caracas to participate in it.

Latin America has a long history of resistance to US domination and solidarity with social movements in the United States. This resistance and solidarity is critical to our success in the United States if we are to stop the machine and create a new world.

40th anniversary of Sandanista Revolution in Nicaragua (By Ben Norton, Twitter)

Resisting US Coup Attempts and Building the Good Life

Forty years ago, the Sandanista Front for National Liberation, named after Augusto Sandino, a revolutionary in the 1920s and 30s, ousted the US-backed dictator, Anastasia Somoza, from the country. This day, now called the National Day of Happiness, is celebrated every year. Check out The Grayzone Project’s Twitter feed for videos of the celebrations.

Under the leadership of the Junta of National Reconstruction, which included the future leader and president Daniel Ortega, Nicaraguans took action to provide healthcare, education, eradicate illiteracy, build roads and energy infrastructure, provide land and develop food sovereignty. They greatly reduced both economic and gender inequality.

Nicaraguans enjoyed a stable life until an attempted coup to remove President Ortega, backed by the United States, in mid-2018. Similar to pro-coup protests in Venezuela, there were blockades built by violent coup-supporters who attacked and brutally killed 198 police officers, Sandanistas and bystanders. That coup attempt was stopped despite the media lies designed to confuse the public. A year later, the truth continues to emerge but peace prevails once again. An excellent book, Live From Nicaragua: Uprising or a Coup, A Reader, breaks through the false narratives of the attempted coup and gives information helpful to understanding the situation in Nicaragua.

A delegation from Veterans for Peace is visiting Nicaragua for the anniversary. We look forward to their reports. We attended a celebration at the Nicaraguan Embassy in Washington, DC hosted by Ambassador Francisco Campbell. He described current efforts in Nicaragua to bring truth and reconciliation to reunite a country divided by US interference and the coup attempt.

Nicaragua is a member of the United States’ “Troika of Tyranny,” which includes Cuba and Venezuela. These are three Latin American countries that have broken from US domination and continue to be punished for expressing their self-determination.

Cuba has been experiencing a blockade since 1958, which has driven the country to develop a resistance economy without reliance on foreign goods. Although the blockades have hurt their economy and restricted access to necessities, such as medications, Cubans have better health outcomes than people in the United States due to their well-designed universal healthcare system.

Venezuela continues to resist the current US-led coup attempt, even though the United States is taking it to new extremes. This past week, USAID, a regime change institution, announced the Trump administration is going to use almost $42 million designated for aid to Central America to pay for salaries and supplies for the right-wing opposition led by the self-declared president, Juan Guaido. The corruption of Guaido’s people continues to be exposed. Two more members of Guaido’s team were arrested for trying to sell stolen weapons.

Will Mexico be next? Arturo Sanchez Jimenez outlines what he sees as the early stages of a right-wing coup targeting the new president, AMLO.

Join the People’s Mobilization to Stop the US War Machine and Save the Planet this September in New York City. Learn more here.

Protest in Puerto Rico calling for Governor to resign (by Juan Carlos Dávila)

Resistance is Growing in Latin America

Ecuador was making great strides in meeting its population’s needs under President Rafael Correa, but that is being reversed by the current president, Lenin Moreno. Moreno is known worldwide for ending Julian Assange’s asylum and allowing police into the London Embassy to arrest him, but his actions against the Ecuadorian peoples has been similarly harsh. Moreno campaigned on continuing Correa’s programs but has done the opposite. In this interview, Andres Arauz, a member of Correa’s economic team, explains Ecuador’s neoliberal turn under Moreno.

Ecuadorians launched a five-day general strike last Monday to protest “handing over Ecuador to US imperialism.” Among their complaints were Ecuador imposing austerity after receiving a loan from the International Monetary Fund, a US military base proposed in the Galapagos Islands and the imprisonment of Julian Assange.

Mass protests have also erupted in Puerto Rico. Hundreds of thousands of people, many who have never protested before, are taking the streets in San Juan and throughout Puerto Rico. They are facing police repression with tear gas and pepper spray. On Monday, they are holding a general strike.

The protests began when hundreds of pages of chat logs between Governor Ricardo Rosello and other officials were released. They contained derogatory statements and disrespect for the thousands who died after Hurricane Maria. Protesters are calling for the Governor to resign. Other government officials included in the chats have already resigned.

Although the chats were the proverbial “last straw,” according to Miguel Diaz-Cruz, a Puerto Rican doctoral student, the protests are the result of “five centuries of uninterrupted imperialism, free-market disaster capitalism, an imposed dictatorial fiscal control board controlled by the very same people that bankrupted the island, and a storm of the century which was fueled by climate change.”

We spoke with Puerto Rican lawyer, Natasha Bannan, who has participated in the protests, on Clearing the FOG. The episode will be published on Monday. She goes into depth on the problems Puerto Ricans are facing, describes what it will take to start the process of resolving them and explains how activists can be supportive.

The 40th anniversary of the Sandanista Revolution is celebrated in Washington, DC with Americans from many countries at the Nicaraguan Embassy (Popular Resistance)

Why Resistance and Solidarity Matter to Activists in the United States

People in the United States often refer to themselves as “Americans.” Sadly, this is not done in the spirit that all people in the Americas, South, and North, are Americans. Instead, we in the US are taught to see the other Americans as different from us. This is part of US hegemony and the Monroe Doctrine that views Latin America as “our backyard.” It’s why people in the US, USians, accept unilateral coercive economic measures, exploitative trade deals and violent coups that harm other Americans.

All Americans are victims of US actions that destabilize and exploit American territories. We probably don’t think about it that way very much, but what hurts our neighbors hurts us. Blockades mean that USians can’t benefit from medical breakthroughs in Cuba or inexpensive oil programs from Venezuela. Exploitative trade deals mean US jobs are moved South of the border to Mexico, Honduras, Haiti and other countries where wages are lower and there are fewer worker protections.

In the United States, we are also victims of the US Empire. The Empire Economy consumes over 60% of federal discretionary spending on the military. This means less money for necessary programs to provide healthcare, education, housing, and food. The massive US weapons and military industry mean new “customers” must always be found for the products they make, which fuels wars abroad that add to global insecurity and destruction and militarization of our communities at home where the “others” are black and brown people, the poor and homeless. The US military is the largest institutional user of fossil fuels and a major polluter, driving the climate crisis and environmental contamination.

If we are to overcome the US Empire, it will take all of us together. This is one reason why solidarity between all Americans is essential. We in the United States have much to learn from our American brothers and sisters who have been targets of imperialism for centuries. We also have much to learn about the ways countries like Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela are working to reduce inequality, meet basic needs and provide a better quality of life for their peoples.

Events like the Sao Paulo Forum are opportunities to come together, get to know and learn from each other. A delegation from the Embassy Protective Collective will attend the Sao Paulo Forum this week in Venezuela. We cannot attend because of our ongoing prosecution by the Trump administration for staying in the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, DC, but we are sending Vanessa Beck, a representative from Popular Resistance who will bring a message of solidarity. Vanessa is also a leader of Black Alliance for Peace.

We also attended the Sao Paulo Forum in Washington, DC where we agreed to ten resolutions of solidarity that will be brought to the Forum in Venezuela. At the DC Forum, the Embassy Protection Collective was presented with a powerful painting by the indigenous Salvadoran artist, William Berry. Dan Kovalik donated copies of his new book, The Plot to Overthrow Venezuela, which were sold at the forum to raise funds for the Embassy Protectors Defense Committee.

Learn more about the Embassy Protectors Defense Committee at DefendEmbassyProtectors.org and how you can participate to support the collective’s defense against malicious US prosecution.

Resistance is rising. We can join together in that resistance with acts of solidarity to stop the US war machine and create a new world.

Remnants of War

Intense fighting and hideous attacks battered Afghans throughout their country last week as negotiators in Qatar weighed the benefits and costs of  a peace agreement that might stop the bloodshed.

In Kabul at least 40 people, including one child, were killed in a complex Taliban attack. Dozens of children whose school was partially collapsed by a massive car bomb were injured. Of these, 21 were hospitalized with serious injuries.

New York Times correspondent Mujib Mashal posted (on Twitter) a photo of an elementary school child being carried into the Italian Emergency Surgical Center for Victims of War in Kabul. “Blood on his face,” Mashal writes, describing the child. “Still in shock. Still clutching that pencil.”

The same attack damaged a television station, a government facility and an adjoining private war museum.

Operated by OMAR, (Organization for Mine Clearance and Afghan Rehabilitation), a group dedicated to the never-ending and often dangerous work of mine-clearance and disposal, the war museum houses ordnance and land mines used in Afghanistan during four decades of warfare. In 2012, young Afghan Peace Volunteers took me to see the museum. I recall a small exhibit showing remnants of a United States cluster bomb. The remnants are called bomblets, and each cluster bomb consists of 202 bomblets. They resemble children’s playthings, items that could be stepped on, driven over or picked up by curious children.

The U.S. dropped 1,228 cluster bombs in Afghanistan between October 2001 and March 2002 alone. The Afghan landscape is now littered by anti-personnel and anti-tank mines which OMAR is striving to remove, where permitted, before more Afghan civilians are killed. Research by the Mine Action Program of Afghanistan indicates, in the first three months of the current year, 130 Afghan boys and girls were casualties of “ERW:” “Explosive Remnants of War”.

As negotiations inched forward, two Afghan government airstrikes, possibly using United States assistance, hit civilians, killing 7 members of a family in the Baghlan province and four civilians in a clinic in Maidan Wardak province.

The Taliban, U.S. Government, and every other warring party in Afghanistan must be asked: “How many more civilians, including children, are you willing to kill and maim?”

The second time I visited the OMAR museum was with my friend Martha Hennessy. We were asked not to take photos, but Martha had already snapped a picture of a carpet carefully woven to illustrate several types of land mines Afghans should watch out for. The carpet was hung on a wall, but actual mines lie in the paths to be traversed by innocent Afghans. On the phone with me discussing the recent Kabul attack, Martha mentioned that carpet and reflected on the terrible carpeting of Afghanistan with barbarous ordnance.

Photo by Martha Hennessy

Martha now faces up to 20 years in prison for protesting the most barbarous and inhumane weaponry ever invented.

Martha, a granddaughter of the Catholic Worker Movement’s founder Dorothy Day, is one of seven Catholic activists, the “King’s Bay Plowshares Seven“, whose April 4, 2018 action was in accord with their deeply held beliefs that life is sacred, and must not be taken in war. The U.S. naval base at King’s Bay, Georgia houses nuclear-missile-armed Trident submarines. Entering without permission, they hung banners, displayed crime scene tape and poured their blood on the base grounds. They protested the U.S.’ preparations, far exceeding those of any other nation, to commit “omnicide”, to carpet the world in fire, in fallout, in the snows of a deadly “nuclear winter,” in ash. For the past fifteen months, they’ve awaited trial on charges of conspiracy, destruction of property on a naval station, depredation of government property, and trespass. They feel that U.S. readiness for war must be put on trial now, or potentially never.

Another of Martha’s co-defendants has been a guest, like us, of the Afghan Peace Volunteers. Our friend Carmen Trotta recalls a visit to the Emergency Surgical Center for Victims of War, an Italy-based hospital that treated many victims of the recent Kabul attacks. In 2014 we had visited the hospital to donate blood, and met Jamshaid and Farshaid, young teens who had survived a suicide bomb attack on the United States military base in Bagram. They had been standing outside their school outside the base when the attack happened. Farshaid’s leg had been amputated. Jamshaid had lost much of his vision. We asked Michaela Paschetto, a young Italian nurse, how they were faring.

“Today was a bad day for them,” she said. “Really, I don’t ask so many questions,” she continued. “It becomes too much.”

“I didn’t know what to say,” Carmen recalls. “I honestly couldn’t think of a word to say.”

Carmen, Martha and each of the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 will have their say, however brief, in a Brunswick County federal court on August 7. Oral arguments will be heard including several motions as well as their belief they opposed the U.S. nuclear arsenal in accord with their religious faith. They have consistently opposed weapons and wars and just as steadfastly served, as members of Dorothy Day’s movement, their impoverished neighbors. They understand the wars, the omnicidal weapons awaiting their use at King’s Bay, and the suffering of the U.S. poor as, in some sense, all part of a global war on the poor.

Depending on whether we resist or acquiesce, grieve or complacently ignore, we ourselves risk becoming the tragic, perpetually dangerous remnants of war.

Activists Walk “Cease and Desist” Order into Nuclear Weapons Base

Media Advisory/For Immediate Release/July 10, 2019

BÜCHEL, Germany — Eleven international peace activists entered the Büchel Air Base southwest of Frankfurt early this morning to deliver what they called a “Treaty Enforcement Order” declaring that the sharing of US nuclear weapons at the base is a “criminal conspiracy to commit war crimes.”

Upon entering the base’s main gate with a printed “cease and desist order,” they insisted on seeing the base commander to deliver the order in person.

“We refuse to be complicit in this crime,” said Brian Terrell of Voices for Creative Nonviolence in Chicago, Illinois. “We call for the nuclear bombs to be returned to the US immediately. The Germans want these nuclear weapons out of Germany, and so do we.”

The group included people from Germany, The Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States. All eleven were detained by military and civilian authorities and were released after providing identification. This is the third year in a row that a delegation of US peace activists has joined Europeans and others in protesting the US nuclear weapons at Büchel. The local group Nonviolent Action for Abolition of Nuclear Weapons (GAAA) convenes the International Action Week, demanding permanent ouster of the US nuclear weapons, cancellation of plans to replace today’s B61s with new hydrogen bombs, and Germany’s ratification of the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

“Delivery of the ‘Cease and Desist Order’ is an act of crime prevention,” said John LaForge, of the US peace group Nukewatch and coordinator of the US delegation. “The authorities think the entry is a matter of trespass. But these nuclear bomb threats violate the UN Charter, the Treaty on Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons, and the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.” he said, adding, “Interrupting government criminality is a duty of responsible citizenship.”The activists included: (from the United States) Susan Crane, Richard Bishop, Andrew Lanier, Jr., Brian Terrell, Ralph Hutchison, and Dennis DuVall; (from the UK) Richard Barnard; (from The Netherlands) Margriet Bos, and Susan van der Hijden; and (from Germany) Dietrich Gerstner, and Birke Kleinwächter.

Susan van der Hijden of Amsterdam, who is just back from the US where she visited the Kansas City, Kansas site of a factory working on parts of the new replacement bomb, known as the B61-12. “The planning and training to use the US H-bombs that goes on at Büchel cannot be legal, because organizing mass destruction has been a criminal act since the Nuremberg Trials after WWII,” van der Hijden said.

The Limited Mind: Why Fear is Driving Humanity to Extinction

I have previously written many articles describing one or more aspects of the dysfunctional nature of the typical human mind, together with an explanation of how this came about and what we can do about it.

I have also explained that it is this dysfunctional psychological foundation that generated the behaviors, as well as the political, economic, legal and social institutions (such as capitalism), that are driving the multifaceted and existential crisis in which humanity now finds itself.

Moreover, on that basis, my own focus has significantly evolved from the research and nonviolent activism that occupied me for several decades to now include an ongoing effort to have this psychological dysfunctionality addressed as a central feature of our efforts to understand and transform dysfunctional political, economic, legal and social institutions as well as to understand and end war (including the threat of nuclear war), the environmental crisis (including the climate catastrophe) and all other ongoing conflicts that bedevil humanity.

You may believe that psychology is unimportant to your understanding of conflict or that it is the realm of specialists but, in fact, it is crucial to any deeper and complete understanding of the origin and unfolding of our crisis and it is far from complicated simply because any psychological dysfunctionality can be explained in straightforward language which is readily understood by most people.

But because only the rarest psychologist and psychiatrist understands human psychology – as I have explained in ‘Defeating the Violence of Psychiatry‘ – most of the literature on psychology and psychiatry is virtually incomprehensible, not to mention inaccurate. This lack of understanding has four immediate and disastrous outcomes.

First, it leads to groups of psychological symptoms being linked together and then given an arbitrary label (so that the fields of psychology/psychiatry can sound as if they know what they are talking about while excluding those who do not comprehend their jargon).

Second, it provides cover for the pharmaceutical industry to profit massively from the manufacture and sale of drugs that theoretically suppress key symptoms of, rather than cure, the psychological dysfunction that has been ‘diagnosed’.

Third, it precludes accurate diagnosis and treatment of any dysfunction: obviously, if a problem is not understood it cannot be responded to powerfully so that the issue is resolved. (Of course, it is more profitable for practitioners and the pharmaceutical industry if any dysfunction is not resolved but simply requires ongoing – that is, endless – ‘therapy’/drugs.)

Fourth and most fundamentally of all, it limits the domain of what is considered psychological dysfunctionality to those with ‘identifiable’ mental illnesses. But psychological dysfunctionality goes well beyond those considered to have a mental illness and is simply an outcome of the fact that mental health, like physical health, has many dimensions that require appropriate attention for the human organism to function optimally.

So, beyond the many examples I have offered previously in the articles I cited above (and others not cited but also available on the ‘Feelings First‘ website), I would now like to describe further common examples of psychological dysfunctionality that are impeding both activists and those they are trying to mobilize in the effort to save Earth’s biosphere and avert human extinction, particularly given the timeframe in which this must now happen.

As a result of the ‘socialization’ (more accurately labeled ‘terrorization’) to which all children are subjected throughout their childhood and adolescence (which involves inflicting unending ‘visible’, ‘invisible’ and ‘utterly invisible’ violence on them during these periods) the typical young human being obediently (or, often enough, unconsciously) acquires the set of attitudes, beliefs and values (as well as the consequent behaviors) that are approved by the significant adults (and predominant institutions) in their life. These attitudes, beliefs and values, however, are often so deeply entrenched by the (unconscious) fear that holds them in place that they are never subjected to serious scrutiny by the individual: whether functional or otherwise, they are accepted without question and, over time, acquire the status of ‘incontrovertible fact’ (as the individual perceives them).

The most obvious (and highly negative) consequence of being terrorized into accepting the attitudes, beliefs and values of the significant adults (and predominant institutions) around them is that the capacities to analyze a problem or conflict (often including its roots in the nature of their society), to seek out relevant (and perhaps complex) evidence to understand the issues arising from it, to plan a strategy so that underlying drivers of the problem or conflict are addressed in depth and to then behave strategically (often in concert with others) to achieve this outcome are simply never developed beyond the most superficial levels (sufficient, say, for a socially approved career, whether trade or professional).

As a result, the typical human being is simply going through the routine of ‘growing up’ (which also critically involves being further terrorized into becoming a submissive citizen and worker/soldier at school for a decade or more), choosing post-secondary education and/or an approved job doing what someone else tells you, and then doing that job (or an equivalent) for decades (usually having a partner and children in the process and perhaps some hobby as well).

Fundamentally, humans are terrorized into taking on the ‘socially-constructed delusional identity’ that their society imposes on them and then calling it ‘me’. Their personal life journey is now so utterly obliterated from their awareness that the idea of seeking out their own unique destiny never even occurs to them. Of course, some people (in industrialized societies at least) are compensated for their sacrifice: wages, entertainment, travel and other trinkets. But, for most, these trinkets are given in sparing quantities and for many others around the world (in deliberately ‘underdeveloped’ countries), not at all.

Terrorized into believing that this is all that life has to offer, only the rarest individual aspires to more. Endless consumption of goods and services (no matter the quality, beauty or functionality) at the expense of the Earth, becomes the reason for living. Because life itself no longer has meaning.

So here we are, a human population that is so devoid of self and planetary awareness that we are on the brink of precipitating our own extinction. Do you really believe that this is where we would be if we were all psychologically functional? Manipulated and controlled by an unaccountable global elite that is utterly insane using its many agents, including governments, to easily deceive us into consuming ever more in pursuit of capitalism’s ‘God’ – endless economic growth (that is, corporate profit, power and privilege) – the bulk of the human population submissively unaware (except of the latest scandal or sports result) and most activists (who purport to be trying to do something about the perilous state of the world) incapable of thinking, planning and acting strategically to struggle for outcomes that are so desperately needed.

So what can we do?

Well, given that the enormous psychological dysfunctionality of most humans is the primary driver of our accelerating rush to extinction, I encourage you to seriously consider incorporating strategies to address this dysfunctionality into any effort you make to improve our world.

For most people, this will include starting with yourself.

For virtually all adults, it will include reviewing your relationship with children and, ideally, making ‘My Promise to Children‘. Critically, this will include learning the skill of nisteling.

For those who feel psychologically capable, consider campaigning strategically to achieve the outcomes we need. The global elite is deeply entrenched – fighting its wars, exploiting people, destroying the biosphere, invading/occupying resource-rich countries – and not about to give way without a concerted effort by many of us campaigning strategically on several key fronts.

If you recognize the pervasiveness of the fear-driven violence in our world, consider joining the global network of people resisting it by signing the online pledge of ‘The Peoples Charter to Create a Nonviolent World‘.

But if you do nothing else while understanding the simple point that Earth’s biosphere cannot sustain a human population of this magnitude of whom more than half endlessly over-consume, then consider accelerated participation in the strategy outlined in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth‘.

Or, if this feels too complicated, consider committing to:

The Earth Pledge

 Out of love for the Earth and all of its creatures, and my respect for their needs, from this day onwards I pledge that:

I will listen deeply to children (see explanation above)

  1. I will not travel by plane
  2. I will not travel by car
  3. I will not eat meat and fish
  4. I will only eat organically/biodynamically grown food
  5. I will minimize the amount of fresh water I use, including by minimizing my ownership and use of electronic devices
  6. I will not buy rainforest timber
  7. I will not buy or use single-use plastic, such as bags, bottles, containers, cups and straws
  8. I will not use banks, superannuation (pension) funds or insurance companies that provide any service to corporations involved in fossil fuels, nuclear power and/or weapons
  9. I will not accept employment from, or invest in, any organization that supports or participates in the exploitation of fellow human beings or profits from killing and/or destruction of the biosphere
  10. I will not get news from the corporate media (mainstream newspapers, television, radio, Google, Facebook, Twitter…)
  11. I will make the effort to learn a skill, such as food gardening or sewing, that makes me more self-reliant
  12. I will gently encourage my family and friends to consider signing this pledge.

Conclusion

There is a great deal wrong with our world, which continues to get worse every day. And, as should be obvious from my argument above, if we as a species do not start to remove the (largely unconscious) fear that limits our minds and governs our behavior, we will continue contributing to this predicament rather than resolving it.

I am well aware that this point is not where the typical individual wants to start and that is assuming the point is even understood. After all, because most fear is unconscious, it is easy for people to fail to identify their own dysfunctional behavior (or to rationalize it by believing in the ‘importance’ of what they do). So while you may like to believe that we do not have to ‘start’ with this point, collectively speaking, we cannot ignore it either, if human survival is our aim.

The key issue is that for our strategy to mobilize people in this great struggle for survival to be effective, we must also be mobilizing parents, teachers, religious leaders and other adults to reconsider and profoundly revise their relationship with children. This is because every child who is not dysfunctionalized becomes a powerful agent for change. If we do not do this, we will continue to undermine the overall struggle, even if we precipitate some interim victories along the way.

My own preoccupation is ending violence, averting human extinction and building anew and sustainably our relationships with the Earth and each other. What about you?

In Afghanistan, We Have Three Dreams

Dear fellow human beings,

Some of us have wondered, “Are people today too disconnected and frantic to calm down, in order to solve global challenges together? Are we so polarized and self-absorbed that we cannot stop judging one another or insisting on our partisan ways?”

In Kabul, our thoughts and feelings are diverse, complicated and flawed, so we center our three dreams on relationships.

We have felt much joy in creating this video-letter. We dedicate it to planet earth and to everyone in the human family.

We hope that each of us can take tiny actions to free ourselves from the ravages of money and power.

With love from Afghanistan,

Dr Hakim Young and the Afghan Peace Volunteers

 

In Afghanistan, We Have Three Dreams Video

We’re the Afghan Peace Volunteers in Kabul, and we have three dreams.

Our three dreams are about reuniting with nature and 7.7 billion other human beings!

Our dreams aren’t prescriptions. They’re music and movements, distilled from today’s nightmares.

What we hope to gain is love, not money or political power, because love will be good for all of us!

We will re-boot the operating systems that have programmed us to chase after fake money and power.

After years of rote exams, we have hardly learned anything about becoming finer human beings. So, we have resolved to educate ourselves to question everything, and to love everyone!

We’re like children whose instinct is to become friends. More than being dreamers, we’re do-ers. So, we’re building three earth GENeration dreams, GEN for Green, Equal and Nonviolent.

We dream of Green earth relationships!

We practise permaculture and use solar energy.

Why? We’re part of nature and can’t survive without her. Our Mother Earth isn’t a “thing” for us to utilize or set on fire, but a “being” for us to embrace.

We dream of Equal earth relationships!

We have started worker cooperatives because the world economy isn’t fair for the planet or for 99% of humanity.

Our community is self-governing. We don’t need a Director. All of us are leaders, but we’re not like today’s cash-elected leaders who are some of the least desirable humans in the world.

We’re growing our web of Borderfree friends, because we’re from the same human family, the same tree of life. We want to be friends with all Afghans, US citizens, Russians, the British, Chinese, Koreans, Pakistanis, Indians, Iranians, Sudanese, Venezuelans and every human being!

Our human genome is 99.9% similar, so we reject racism, exceptionalism, male superiority, moralism and others, because all of these are neither scientific nor kind.

We dream of Nonviolent earth relationships!

We all want peace, but so far, we’ve wanted peace only for our own countries, tribes, political and religious groups. So war has continued, and as a result, I’ve lost my uncle Sakhi, and my close friend Tariq.

We’ve more space in our hearts for love and peace than for war, so we’re training ourselves to be nonviolent mediators. We’ll reason and empathize with our leaders and extremists, and we will reach an agreement without using any physical force!

War starts in our militarized minds, so picture the global war on terror as a smart phone. We think it’s necessary and that it works well. But really?

Some people think that, like a phone, war is necessary, But though war may work, it only works physically for a short while, and only works for a few individuals.

For the rest of us, war costs us everything! It’s time to throw it away!

Killing one another unsettles our human psyche. So, to those who have divided us with trauma, distrust, sorrow and revenge, we say, “We’re breaking free!”

Well, these three dreams are really one dream, because we can’t fix the climate, without fixing inequality or war.

Everyone and everything is related! We just can’t separate ourselves from each other, from the earth, or from you!

Okay, thanks for listening to our dreams. We’ve taken up enough of your screen time. So let’s get off screen, terminate our business as-as-usual, and pursue the authentic relationships all of us long for.

Remember, we make up 64% of the Afghan population below 25. We’re the new Earth GENeration. We’re the music and the movements within you, so we hope to meet you someday!

“Friends… they cherish one another’s hopes. They are kind to one another’s dreams.” Henry David Thoreau

Popular Movements Are The Invisible Hand Of Social Change

(Photo from Common Dreams)

The political consensus in the United States is changing rapidly. While the corporate media is focused on the Democratic Party presidential debates and Trump’s tweets in response, the issues that have been advanced by the movement for economic, racial and environmental justice, as well as peace, are becoming central to the political dialogue. There is no reason to rejoice yet, as we still have work to do to win the transformation that people and planet need, but the consensus is moving in the direction of the popular movement.

We want to remind you that this weekend is the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion and the ten-year anniversary of the US-led coup in Honduras. The Honduran coup has led to severe austerity, violence and repression. Also, national days of actions for hands off Iran and Venezuela and stopping the raids and deportations are being planned around July 13 and 14. Learn more here. And sign on to be part of the new Embassy Protectors Defense Committee.

From Chicago DSA.

Movement Issues Enter the Political Narrative

Many commentators are noting how the debate in the Democratic Party has moved to the left. Often, they will credit the Bernie Sanders 2016 campaign for moving the debate. In reality, it is the people who are moving the debate.  The Sanders 2016 campaign reflected the views of the movement on inequality, economic insecurity, and corruption of government.

The work of activists is being reflected by people seeking office. Polls show that the people are much more progressive than the leadership of either of the corporate parties on issues like taxing the wealthy, national improved Medicare for all, a Green New Deal, free education from pre-school through college, ending US wars and cutting the military budget. Those seeking office are running to catch up to the people.

However, politicians running for office cannot fully represent the views of the people because US democracy is flawed. Money plays an out-sized role in US politics; and therefore, politicians and political parties have to maneuver to both represent the people and satisfy their wealthy donors often sacrificing the former for the latter. This is a constant battle in US politics — people vs. money. And it shows in politicians using rhetoric that sounds like it is in line with the movement but supporting policies that are weak.

This is demonstrated in the debate over single-payer healthcare. There are candidates who pretend to listen to the voters but actually put forward policies that deceive the voters and undermine our goals. Phony proposals like Medicare for some, or allowing a public option as another insurance or reducing the age for Medicare sound good to supporters of Medicare for all but these are not going to solve the healthcare crisis. Some candidates even advocate improving the Affordable Care Act, an approach people realize will not work because the ACA is based on private health insurance that rips people off.

Even candidates who say they support improved Medicare for all need to be pushed. Warren had been relatively silent on the issue and single-payer activists complained to her through various channels. The result was a very strong statement from Warren in the first debate. Our task as a movement is to remain steadfast and demand the real solution — national improved Medicare for all.

Another example is the Green New Deal. This is an idea that came from the Global Greens as part of the movement to confront the climate crisis and was brought into US politics by Howie Hawkins when he was the Green candidate for governor in 2010 and now puts forward the gold standard Green New Deal. While a handful of Democrats have said they support a Green New Deal, the House leadership of Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer are doing all they can to undermine it. Not only did they stop a Green New Deal Committee from being created, but they prevented the Climate Committee from having subpoena power or writing legislation. The Democrats have merely put forward a Green New Deal Resolution that is exceptionally vague and useless. The people must demand a Green New Deal if we are going to confront the climate emergency.

On cutting the military budget, only one candidate — Howie Hawkins of the Green Party — has called for specific cuts of 75% from the bloated military budget. Democrats have not been specific, and as a party, they have voted for big increases in military spending, even bigger than Trump has proposed. One Democratic candidate, Beto O’Rourke, has even called for a war tax on wealthy families who do not have any members serving in the military. A tax designed just to pay for military spending is not what the country needs. We have numerous other challenges beyond further funding of the military, which already consumes over 60% of federal discretionary spending.

Sunrise Movement in front of the Democratic National Committee in Washington, DC.

The Movement’s Responsibility in the 2020 Election Cycle

The United States’ electoral system limits the choices of voters to candidates who are acceptable to Wall Street and other monied interests. We live in a mirage democracy that manipulates voters primarily by using fear.  In this election cycle, the fear of a second term for Donald Trump is likely to result in an “Anybody  But Trump” electoral year to keep people supporting whomever the Democrats nominate. The powers in the Democratic Party want a candidate whom donors to the Democratic Party can support.

With all the mass media attention focused on the 2020 elections, it is important for activists to remember that our job is to build the movement for economic, racial and environmental justice as well as peace.  We need to continue to build national consensus and elevate the issues we support so that no matter who is elected, movement issues will advance. If we do our job well, our issues will become litmus tests for candidates.

The Sunrise Movement is pressuring the Democratic Party to hold a debate on climate change. In the first two debates, there was no mention of the Green New Deal and there was only six minutes of discussion on climate in the first debate, and seven in the second in what they correctly describe as “the gravest existential threat of our time.” Sunrise, which has been protesting at the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee, including sitting in and spending the night, plans to escalate their protests and insist on a debate around the climate emergency the nation and world are facing.

We must also hold non-profit organizations accountable. These tax-exempt organizations need to be nonpartisan and not show a preference for candidates or political parties. Many nonprofit advocacy groups, who claim to be nonpartisan, are tied to either the Democratic or Republican Parties and improperly use their tax-exempt organization to advocate for the party they support. Activists must push them to be independent of the parties and focus on advancing their issues no matter which party is running candidates.

For example, on June 14, the Poor People’s Campaign held a debate where only candidates seeking the Democratic nomination participated. The debate was live streamed on MSNBC and the video has been published on Real Clear Politics. When the debate was over, young people from North Carolina, Chicago, Philadelphia and New York complained. They did not want to only hear from Democratic candidates. They were angry that the Poor People’s Campaign was showing favoritism for the Democratic Party  As things got heated, the police were called. At that point, longtime poverty and housing activist, Rev. Annie Chambers of Baltimore, stood up from her wheelchair. She said it was “ridiculous” and a “disgrace” saying, “You say you are nonpartisan, but you only have Democratic candidates here.” The reply from the Poor Peoples Campaign was “We invited Donald Trump, too.” Chambers said “There are more than two parties. Where is the Green Party?” Chambers is a Green who was elected to the Resident Advisory Board for public housing in Baltimore. Rev. Chambers looked at the police and Rev. Barber and said, “If you are going to arrest these young people, you need to arrest me too and you will have a fight on your hands. I’m a militant and I’m not nonviolent.” Barber said, “Don’t arrest Rev. Annie” and things began to calm down.

Activists need to remain independent of the two corporate parties and their candidates. All candidates must be pressured to support movement goals throughout the campaign.  When the campaign ends, no matter who is elected, our work does not end. People must continue to demand what is needed to protect the people and planet. Even candidates who make promises to support our policy goals during the election will be pressured by big business and wealthy interests when they are elected. It is essential that the popular movement continues to demand economic, racial and environmental justice as well as peace during the elections and after.

TODAY, leaders of movements for peace and justice launched the Embassy Protectors Defense Committee. Learn more, sign on and support it by clicking here.

If You Oppose US Imperialism, This Is The Place To Be

We are still writing to you from the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, DC where we are here as the Embassy Protection Collective with the full permission of the Venezuelan government. We have the grave responsibility to hold this space from takeover by the opposition, which would happen with the assistance of US law enforcement, until the Venezuelan government can complete negotiations with the United States over the status of their respective embassies.

What hangs in the balance is the possibility of a peaceful and orderly resolution to the end of diplomatic relations, and perhaps an entry to further negotiations, or, an escalation of aggression between the United States and Venezuela that could spiral into greater global conflict. Every moment, we are doing what we can to maintain a strong physical presence at the embassy, create a positive image of our collective and counter opposition tactics.

Support the Embassy Protection Collective by signing the Declaration, volunteering to participate, and/or donating money or supplies. You can contact us at gro.ecnatsiserralupopnull@ofni.

Serving as interim protectors

The Embassy Protectors are here with permission from the elected Venezuelan government, which is the government in power. On Wednesday, Carlos Ron, the Vice Foreign Minister, sent us a video message of support. Thursday, we held a virtual event with the Foreign Minister, Jorge Arreaza, and the United Nations Representative Samuel Moncado, who were in New York City. They also expressed their full support. The next day, Arreaza was sanctioned by the United States. On Friday, we received a message of solidarity from President Nicolas Maduro.

We are making it clear to the State Department that we are in the embassy with the full knowledge and support of the Venezuelan government. If they or the opposition enter the building, they will be trespassing in violation of the law. Further, as we have been living and working from the embassy for more than two weeks, we have established tenancy. In Washington, DC, building owners are not allowed to evict tenants without due process.

Although we are on the lawful side of this situation, we recognize that doesn’t necessarily matter to the US ruling class. We are one impediment to their plans to install a puppet government and plunder the rich assets of Venezuela. We know how that turns out. Look at the Congo or Afghanistan, among other targets of US imperialism. We are training regularly in nonviolence and have pledged to stay here peacefully to hold this space until the Venezuelan government finds a permanent protectorate for the building.

Front door of the Venezuelan embassy (Photo by Margaret Flowers)

What’s at stake?

The United States and Venezuela ended diplomatic relations because of persistent US interference in Venezuela. The US has been working overtime to replace the government that supports the Bolivarian Process and both end that as a possible example of what it looks like when a country prioritizes the needs of the poor and to gain access to Venezuela’s reserves of oil, gold, diamonds and more.

When US efforts to de-legitimize the 2018 presidential election failed, the US government attempted to assassinate President Maduro and failed. The US then led a coup effort starting in January of this year, which also failed. However, the US government, and its proxies such as the Organization of American States (OAS), refuse to acknowledge their failure and are recognizing opposition leader Juan Guaido as the president. The US has given Guaido access to Venezuela’s financial assets that are in the US and turned over the Venezuelan consulate in New York and two military attaché offices in Washington, DC. The opposition now has its eyes set on the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, DC.

If the Venezuelan embassy in Washington is taken over by the opposition, it will have disastrous results. The Venezuelan government declared that if this happens, they will take the US embassy in Caracas. The US will view this as an act of aggression, and because it is already looking for an excuse to do so, could attack Venezuela. Because Russia and China are close allies of Venezuela, this could spark a global conflict.

On the other hand, there is a path of peace. The US negotiated an agreement with Switzerland to serve as a protectorate for the US embassy in Caracas, but this requires approval by the Venezuelan government. Venezuela is in negotiations to find a country willing to serve as a protectorate for its embassy. If that occurs, the two countries could reach a mutual agreement.

This might start a process to further negotiations to end the coercive measures and threats of military attacks by the US against Venezuela. We are serving as interim protectorates until negotiations are complete. We hope we can hold this space until that occurs, but the threat of the Secret Service coming into the embassy, arresting us and turning it over to the opposition looms over us.

From The Georgetowner by Robert Devaney

Our response

We began the Embassy Protection Collective with CODEPINK and the ANSWER Coalition, on April 10, the day after the OAS changed its rules and recognized Juan Guaido as the ‘president’ of Venezuela. Guaido wants to place Gustavo Tarre as the OAS diplomat in the embassy, a man who served in the Venezuelan Congress in the 1970s to 1990s, the period before the Bolivarian revolution, and a long time player in the Washington Consensus.

For our first week in the embassy, we spoke to many lawyers about possible legal options to prevent the takeover of the embassy. It became clear, though, there are none because of a doctrine of non-judiciability, which basically means this is a political question, not a judicial one.

After that we turned to a strategy of bringing as many Embassy Protectors and as much attention to the embassy as possible. The response has been tremendous with large groups of people working and living here. But, the reality is that we have to hold this space for weeks or possibly months, cooking, cleaning, creating media and providing our own security.

The top need we have is for more volunteers. If you are interested, fill out the contact form here and we will be in touch. Some people come here to work during the day. Others sleep here and go to work or school in the morning. We also hold public events every evening – speakers and cultural events. The more people that are here, the better. And all ages are welcome. On Saturday, people from three months to 106 years joined us.

This is a historic moment. We have an opportunity, and a responsibility, to prevent our government from the illegal seizure of the Venezuelan embassy, an act that would violate the 1961 Vienna Convention and set a dangerous precedent for further violations. It doesn’t matter what you think of President Maduro, although personally we have great respect for him; what matters is that we as people in the US must demand our government respect the sovereignty and self-determination of other peoples to choose their leaders and decide their fates.

What you can do:

  1. Sign up to be an Embassy Protector.
  2. Follow us on social media and share that. Our Facebook page is Embassy Protection Collective and our hashtag on Twitter is @ColectivosPorLaPaz.
  3. Attend the public events in person or watch the live streams on the Popular Resistance Facebook page.
  4. Donate by ordering food to be delivered to 1099 30th St., NW in Washington, DC or make a monetary donation to Popular Resistance here.

The Venezuelan Embassy (Photo by Margaret Flowers)

In the Small Canadian City of Regina, Resistance is Brewing

Ed Lehman is a Canadian Communist, and a comrade of mine. I don’t say such things often or lightly, especially about Westerners. But he became my comrade, and we struggled shoulder to shoulder, for five days. Not in the South American wilderness, not in Afghanistan or Syria, but in Regina, a small Canadian city, the capital of the province of Saskatchewan.

I admit, before being invited there, I knew close to nothing about Regina. I did not even know how to pronounce it, correctly. But one day, an email arrived, and I was invited to become a keynote speaker at the Peace Conference there – in Regina. Spontaneously, I accepted.

The peace conference was called “Yes to Peace and Progress – No to NATO and War!”

I usually do not speak at peace conferences. I have always believed that oppressed and colonized countries have to fight for their independence and freedom, and that peace as it is propagated in the West is something that basically upholds the status quo. It is, as I mentioned in Canada, “when the bombs are not falling on Paris or Toronto”. It is when the wretched of the earth are dying quietly and obediently, far away from camera lenses, in their looted countries and continents.

Actually, many peace movements in the West annoy me to the extreme. Their lack of sensitivity, as well as ignorance, are maddening. The desire of their members to ‘do good’ and ‘feel good’, is often self-serving, and has absolutely nothing to do with the struggle for justice in dozens of colonized, and plundered ‘client’ states.

But there was something very different in what I detected while reading the invitation from Regina. The organizers were actually talking about justice, not just about stopping conflict. They were full-heartedly defending Venezuela. And their main goal was to dismantle NATO, or ‘at least’ to convince Canadians that their country should not participate in the bloodstained ‘adventures’ which are ruining the lives of hundreds of millions of people all over the world. I felt that I was being approached by the real and solid Left. And therefore, without much hesitation, I accepted.

*****

The program was mildly insane. In two Canadian cities – Regina and Winnipeg – I literally had to speak day and night, addressing the Peace Conference, a rally (called “No to NATO! No to “Regime Change Politics!” in downtown Regina in Victoria Park at the Cenotaph to the fallen soldiers of World War 1 and 2, Korea, and Afghanistan), as well as to students and professors at three universities and one high school. Simultaneously, I had to give interviews to both the printed media and radio stations. I was asked to show to the public two of my documentary films; one about North Korea (DPRK), and one about the devastating poverty and AIDS epidemic in the region of the African Great Lakes.

Why am I writing this; why do I give this detailed list of events? For one simple reason: it appeared to me that Canada is actually very different from the United States, despite its geographical proximity, and despite the fact it elected its embarrassingly right-wing government.

Author addressing students and professors at University of Winnipeg

First of all, Canadians do listen. They may not always agree with Communist, revolutionary thinkers like me, but they do sit down, concentrate and listen to you. They want to know; to understand. That is already very impressive, in a world which is brainwashed by the Western propaganda.

But there is more that I noticed while there: unlike in such places like California, no one here says to me: “Thank you for coming, but please do not show us too much blood and too much suffering. We won’t be able to take it” (precisely the comments that I once received in the US, when I was going to show some video clips from my film “Rwanda Gambit”).

If you tell a Canadian audience: “Look, you are participating in several massacres committed by NATO, and I will show you what people in these countries have to endure,” many Canadians will not say ‘no’; they will sit there and listen to you, and if necessary, they will watch what you want to share with them.

And I am grateful for this, and I am also impressed. It is ‘much more’ than what I have encountered in many parts of the West.

Demo in the park against NATO, Regina

Another impressive fact is that Winnipeg is not a large city, and Regina only has some 200,000 inhabitants. Yet both cities have a truly vibrant intellectual life. They have highly educated and informed individuals who clearly oppose the Western regime and global dictates. They have people who struggle against the regime.

And what I also noticed: our conference, organized by the Regina Peace Council (of which Ed Lehman is President),was covered by the local ‘mainstream’ media, by the Regina Leader Post, for instance, which offered a sympathetic account in an article “Group of Reginans protest Canada’s involvement in NATO”. The newspaper had no problems disseminating my ideas, either. The same goes for the local community radio station. And Erin Weir, an independent Member of Parliament, who represents the Regina-Lewvan constituency – personally brought sincere greetings to the conference.

 

I often speak at universities, worldwide. But in Regina I was even invited to address a class of high school students, who were able to formulate and ask very relevant questions.

I don’t want to say that in Canada ‘I participated in mainstream events’, but in both Regina and Winnipeg, I was ‘allowed’ to interact with, and to influence various professors, students, and through media outlets, even the local public.

*****

Anti-war activists here have their Saskatchewan Peace News publication, which is now in its 26th year of existence. As well as reporting on local peace events, it exposes ideas that cripple the peace movement; the doctrine of “Responsibility to Protect” and “humanitarian interventionism”, as Dave Gehl in his speech said “A 21st century version of “The White Man’s Burden”; and is used as an organizer of peace events.

For Ed Lehman, ‘peace’ is not just a pretty word or a slogan, and he is not the only one in Regina, who think this way. He believes that:

Today’s progressives need to unite the fight for peace with the fight for social and economic advance with the fight against climate crisis and the battle against racism. Deep transformation of the economic and social system is required in North America for justice to prevail; we saw in the thirties, forties, fifties and sixties that even in the belly of the beast, victories can be won.

Justice and racism… Unfortunately, racism is not just an ugly word here in Saskatchewan and in Canada in general. It is a reality, a shame. Many of the First Nation people, or call them original inhabitants of Canada, are still living in appalling misery, suffering from discrimination, as I was told by Julie Peebles, a young woman with a great concern for the life-situation facing Canada’s aboriginal population, who noted the similarities between AIDS as depicted in my film on Kenya and the situation in Saskatchewan. Here, indigenous people are facing social conditions similar to those in the poorest countries on earth.

Destitute life of First Nations’ citizens of Regina, Saskatchewan

I suggested, first jokingly, that I should return to Regina, later this year, in order to make a short documentary depicting the plight of the First Nation: “Wouldn’t that be embarrassing: a Russian travelling here, and doing precisely what should be an obligation to any decent Canadian filmmaker?” It was not taken lightly: the people of Regina full-heartedly welcomed my proposition, offering help, support; both moral and practical (like lodging me, driving me around, identifying important locations for my film). And now, I am seriously determined to come back and to help.

*****

After the event, and after my departure, many public figures praised the dedicated work and struggle of the Regina Peace Council. One of the letters stated:

RPC once again has demonstrated to the entire peace movement the possibilities that exist and can be realized from careful and thoughtful organizing and mobilizing of public peace action efforts and in particular by inviting the new generation of peace activists and dedicated anti-imperialist voices to the platform.

The Regina event coincides with other international efforts underway and under-reported by the corporately owned and controlled mass media.

NATO, promoted by the corrupt finance capitalist, political media cabal, as a defensive alliance, is gradually being exposed for what it truly is, the imperialist gendarme and provocateur of US inspired wars, including its most terrible form, nuclear war. Canada has no future and certainly no security so along as our country continues to be part of US-led NATO.

Ed Lehman himself proved that he is not only a dedicated fighter, but also a constructive optimist. After I departed, he wrote to me:

The left has had a tremendous impact in Canada in the last hundred years. Without the struggles of the working class, militant farmers, progressive intellectuals, the indigenous population, and others, our country would not have the social programs and rights that so many here are taking for granted today. Now more and more there is a crisis of everyday living facing the nation as the result of the impacts of neo-liberalism and neo-globalism on our country. The left, and in the first place the Communists, have the task of giving strong leadership in the struggles against climate catastrophe, for a Canadian foreign policy based on peace and disarmament, and for socialism as the solution to the problems faced by Canadians. With a socialist vision and optimism, the working people of Canada will chart a new course for our country.

*****

In Winnipeg, I publicly confronted the former Canadian Ambassador to Venezuela, Ben Rowswell, (watch here), a man who has already caused great damage to various non-Western countries, and who is still continuing with his destructive labor.

I also delivered a speech at Winnipeg University (you can watch my speech: “NATO, Canada and Western Imperialism”here).

Are Canada and its peace movements in Regina and Winnipeg, those proverbial mice which roared?

I am not sure, but what I encountered there filled me with optimism and hope, even convincing me that not ‘everything in the West is lost, yet’.

It also made me think: one assumes that the centers of resistance are located in such metropolises as New York, Los Angeles and Toronto. But, in reality, the Canadian opposition often gathers in small cities and towns: Radio Pacifica deep in British Columbia, Christopher Black well outside Toronto, and Ed Lehman in Regina.

RPC has already hosted such outstanding Canadian individuals as Michel Chossudovsky, a great thinker and the publisher of Global Research, Eva Bartlett, one of the bravest war correspondents on earth, and soon, Christopher Black, my friend, a Communist international lawyer, an author and a poet. It also hosted me, a revolutionary writer and, or as they call me in Latin America, a militant internationalist. And the people of Regina were not scared by what I had to say; they treated me with kindness and warmth, which I shall never forget.

I felt much more at home in Regina than I ever felt in Toronto or Montreal.

*****

During a demonstration against NATO, in Regina; right in the middle of the city, two police officers, one man and one woman, were watching us from the distance. They did not try to interfere. Sometimes they smiled, but mostly they just listened.

When demonstrators formed a circle, two law enforcement officers were invited to join, to participate. Without one moment of hesitation, they did join. That is when I thought: “No, this is nothing like the United States. This is Canada”.

And I was certain that soon, I will be back.

• First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook

Tackling the “Impossible”: Ending Violence

Whenever, in ordinary circumstances, the subject of violence comes up, most people throw up their hands in horror and comment along the lines that it is ‘in our genes’, ‘nothing can be done about it’ or other words that reflect the powerlessness that most people feel around violence.

It is true that violence is virtually ubiquitous, has a near-infinite variety of manifestations and, at its most grotesque (as nuclear war or run-away climate catastrophe), even threatens human extinction in the near-term.

Nevertheless, anyone who pays attention to the subject of violence in any detail soon discovers that plenty of people are interested in tackling this problem, even if it is ‘impossible’. Moreover, of course, at least some people recognize that while we must tackle each manifestation of violence, understanding the cause of violence is imperative if we are to successfully tackle its many manifestations at their source. To do all of this effectively, however, is a team effort. And hopefully, one day, this team will include all of us.

In the meantime, let me start by telling you a little about some of the people who are already working to end violence by tackling one or more of its many manifestations. These individuals are part of a worldwide network set up to focus on ending violence – ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World’ – and they have signed a pledge to do so.

Concerned about US government threats to Iran and Venezuela, several Charter signatories were part of one or both recent peace delegations to Iran and Venezuela respectively. These delegations were designed to open more lines of communication and to demonstrate solidarity with those who do not submit to US hegemony.

The 28-member US peace delegation to Iran from 25 February to 6 March 2019 included long-term nonviolent activists Margaret Flowers, Kevin Zeese and David Hartsough. Unfortunately for David, author of Waging Peace: Global Adventures of a Lifelong Activist and director of Peaceworkers, his trip didn’t go as planned. If you would like to read a compelling account of his time in Iran with some wonderful Iranians, while learning something about what it means to be on the wrong end of US sanctions, you will find it in ‘An American Casualty of U.S. Economic Sanctions on Iran’. Glad you got the lifesaving medical treatment from our Iranian friends that you needed, David, despite the sanctions! And it is a tragedy that Iran has recently suffered even more, as a result of the devastating floods that have hit the country, with the sanctions cruelly denying them vital emergency assistance.

In relation to Venezuela, a 13-member peace and solidarity delegation from North America landed in Caracas, Venezuela on the weekend of 9-10 March 2019. The delegation included leaders of antiwar groups from the US and Canada and, once again, Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers of ‘Popular Resistance’ and ‘Clearing the Fog’ podcasts. You can read an account of this delegation’s findings in Kevin and Margaret’s highly informative report.

Another initiative to support Venezuelans was outlined in the article ‘A Nonviolent Strategy to Defeat a US Military Invasion of Venezuela’.

Traveling widely to witness and demonstrate solidarity with those on the receiving end of US military violence, another long-term nonviolent activist, Kathy Kelly, recently wrote an article pointing out that ‘Every War Is a War against Children’ in which she evocatively documented examples of what this means for those children living in the war zones we call Yemen and Afghanistan. In an earlier article, Kathy questioned the morality of those corporations – such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics and Raytheon – that profit from the killing their weapons inflict.

Environmental journalist Robert Hunziker continues to fearlessly research and truthfully document the ongoing assaults that humans are inflicting on Earth’s biosphere. In his most recent article ‘The Blue Ocean Event and Collapsing Ecosystems‘, Robert straightforwardly explains the content of a recent interview of Dr. Peter Wadhams, the world’s leading Arctic scientist. Robert notes that ‘Currently, the Arctic is heating up about 4 times faster than the rest of the planet… the temp difference between the Arctic and the tropics is dropping precipitously… thus, driving the jet streams less… creating meandering jet streams… in turn, producing extreme weather events throughout the Northern Hemisphere, especially in mid-latitudes where most of the world’s food is grown.’ Robert also notes that the study of ancient ice cores by a team from the British Antarctic Survey, University of Cambridge and University of Birmingham found ‘major reductions in sea ice in the Arctic’ which will crank up (via temperature amplification as a result of no Arctic sea ice) Greenland regional temperatures ‘by 16°C in less than a decade’ with horrific implications for life on Earth. Thank you, Robert, for reporting what the corporate media won’t touch and even many activists find too terrifying to seriously contemplate.

In Chile, Pía Figueroa continues her heavy involvement in efforts to network those committed to peace and nonviolence and to develop media channels that report the truth. Pía reports that ‘Pressenza International Press Agency’, which celebrated its tenth anniversary last November ‘in more than 40 places of the world’, continues to advance its contribution ‘with a journalism focused on peace and nonviolence, to a world in which all human beings have a place and their rights are fully respected, in a framework of disarmed and demilitarized societies, capable of re-establishing the ecological balance through governments of real and participatory democracy.’

Since attending the Media Forum organized in the city of Chongqing, China, by CCTV+ and CGTN, in October last year, Pía has been busy organizing the upcoming Latin American Humanist Forum in Santiago with the objective of ‘Building Convergences’, as its slogan points out. It will be held on 10-12 May with the participation of many grassroots and social organizations involved in more than twenty networks of nonviolent action and inspired by the European Humanist Forum that took place in Madrid, Spain, in May 2018.

Anwar A. Khan was born into ‘a liberal Muslim family in Bangladesh’. As a 16 year old college student, he participated in the ‘Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971, which resulted in horrendous loss of life, genocide against Bangladesh’s intelligentsia and systematic rapes.’ This experience taught him the nature of the US establishment as he was ‘on the battle field along with so many friends of mine and Indian soldiers to fight back the obnoxious nexus of the Pakistani military regime and the Whitehouse establishment’ to create Bangladesh. Khan Bhai went on to complete a post-graduate education, before embarking on a 43-year (so far) business career, involving many different levels of corporate engagement and which took him to many countries of the world, including Venezuela in 2010 where he met both Hugo Chavez and Nicolás Maduro.

He also writes regularly in his spare time and recently wrote an article highlighting the adverse impact of the lack of infrastructure under which many impoverished countries suffer, given the way in which the global economy functions to exploit them. In the article, he describes an inferno that started on the night of 20 February 2019 in a building at Chawkbazar, a 300-year-old Dhaka neighbourhood, ‘where chemicals for making deodorants and other household uses were illegally stored’. The fire ‘quickly spread to four nearby buildings where many people were trapped. Hundreds of firefighters rushed to the scene but traffic jams in the narrow streets held them up. It took almost 12 hours to bring the fire under control….’ The horrific inferno claimed about 100 lives and more were injured.

Commenting on the current project that she is organizing with friends, Lori Lightning outlines the rationale behind ‘Bear Bones Parenting’:

There’s no course or exam to pass to become a parent, and most try to figure this out once a parent, and usually in an exhausted overwhelmed state. Bedtimes, meals, chores, and healthy open communication all become a task without a trusted framework in place.

Based on 51 years of combined wisdom as educators, counselors, health practitioners, moms, step moms and foster moms, Bear Bones Parenting offers an intuitive formula to demystify the basics of parenting and a workbook with tools for reflection and wellness practices to take you actively through day to day living no matter where you are at in your life. You dedicate 15 minutes a day and in trade stop being overwhelmed. A “do it yourself” workbook filled with tools to turn life into what you envision for yourself and your family.

Our cast of puppets help to inspire playful reflection on our children’s temperaments and our own. Eventual creation of short videos will be easily accessible for busy parents and provide some examples of how things typically play out with temperaments and inspiration of the Bear way, which is curious, intuitive, firm and loving.

We hope that BBP can help reduce parental stress and frustration so there is time to connect in joy and curiosity with our children and foster their independence.

For more information, you can contact Lori at this email address: moc.liamgnull@gnitneraPsenoBraeB

Professor Mazin Qumsiyeh is volunteer Director of The Palestine Institute for Biodiversity and Sustainability (PIBS) and the Palestine Museum of Natural History (PMNH) but he is also actively engaged in the Palestinian struggle for liberation from Israeli occupation. As he evocatively noted in a recent Easter reflection:

This is the tenth Easter I celebrate after returning to Palestine in 2008. When we native Christian Palestinians have a few moments to meditate and reflect in this season, we reflect that some 2.5 billion human beings believe in a message that originated with a Palestinian baby born in a manger here and was crucified for being the first revolutionary Palestinian to push for caring for the sick and the poor.

We reflect on the real message of Jesus, a message of love and coexistence. The harsh reality on the ground reminds us of our responsibility to shape a better future.

We are hopeful because we take a long view of history. Some 150,000 years ago, humans migrated from Africa using Palestine as the passage way to Western Asia and then the rest of the world. 12,000 years ago, this area became the center of development for agriculture (the Fertile Crescent). This was where we humans first domesticated animals like goats and donkeys and plants like wheat, barley, chickpeas, and lentils. This transformation allowed our ancestors time to evolve what we now call “civilization”. Hence, the first writings, the first music, and art, and the first thoughts of deities. From our Aramaic alphabet came the Latin, Arabic, Syriac, and Hebrew alphabets. Aramaic was the language of Jesus and much of our current Palestinian Arabic is still Aramaic words.

Mazin continues to travel regularly, lecturing about initiatives of the museum but also about the political reality in Palestine. If you would like to volunteer to assist the museum’s projects, or to donate money, books, natural history items or anything else that would be useful, you are welcome to contact Mazin and his colleagues at gro.erutanenitselapnull@ofni

Finally, we are deeply saddened to report the passing of Tom Shea, a long-time stalwart in the struggle for a better world and one of the original team of individuals who launched ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World’ on 11 November 2011. We include below the testament of his great friend and fellow nonviolent activist, Leonard Eiger:

For Tom Shea, Peace WAS the Way

My dear friend and fellow Ground Zero member Tom Shea passed away peacefully in the early morning hours of April 3rd surrounded by his family.

Earlier in his life Tom had been a Jesuit, a high school teacher, and had started an alternative high school and Jesuit Volunteer Corp: Midwest. He had also been involved in social justice issues on the national level with the Jesuits. Ground Zero member Bernie Meyer remembers Tom with great fondness, from being a student at St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland where Tom was teaching, to resisting together at Ground Zero many years later.

Tom was 47 when he left Cleveland for Traverse City, Michigan in 1977. There he met his partner Darylene, and they were inseparable from then on. Together, they participated in the Nuclear Freeze movement, and were part of the Michigan Peace Team. They traveled to New York for the second Conference on Disarmament in 1982. They protested both the first Gulf War and the war in Iraq. They also engaged in war tax resistance.

At Darylene’s suggestion, they attended a course in conflict mediation in the early ‘80s at a time when there was little written on the subject. That experience led them to a course taught by Quakers at Swarthmore College in 1986. In 1990 Tom and Darylene founded the five-county Conflict Resolution Service in Northern Michigan and trained the first group of volunteer mediators. Their mission was to promote peace and civility in the community through the use of mediator guided dialogue. In the early days of the program, volunteers met in church basements and around kitchen tables to train, role play and share experiences. They would travel to the homes of people needing mediation, focusing on resolving family and neighborhood conflicts.

Tom and Darylene moved to Snoqualmie, Washington in 2007 to spend more time with Darylene’s children. Tom got involved in community issues and continued his war tax resistance work. You could find him every April 15th, in front of the local post office, offering tax resistance information.

I was still leading a social justice ministry at the Snoqualmie United Methodist Church when one day Tom called the church office and asked who was doing social justice work in the area. We connected immediately due to common work and friends. Soon, Tom and I were making the pilgrimage together across the water to Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, and the rest (as they say) is history.

I have spent countless hours with Tom and Darylene, discussing world affairs and working together on strategies and tactics for our work with Ground Zero. Tom and Darylene have been inseparable as both life partners and co-conspirators for peace. Tom once said that Darylene is like a Jesuit herself: “Jesuits are taken as very scholarly people and she’s very scholarly.”

In addition to working on media and communications for Ground Zero, and planning vigils and nonviolent direct actions at the Bangor Trident nuclear submarine base, Tom put himself on the line many times, often entering the roadway blocking traffic, both on the County and Federal sides, symbolically closing the base and risking arrest. Tom also created street theatre scripts that have been used during vigils at the submarine base to entertain and educate people.

Robert Burrowes, who cofounded ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World’, said that “Tom was one of the true legends in my life. A long-standing symbol of, and nonviolent fighter for, everything that could be in our world.” When all is said and done, Tom’s life can be summed up by A.J Muste: “There is no way to peace. Peace is the way.”

We will be scattering some of Tom’s ashes (per his wishes) at Ground Zero Center during our August Hiroshima-Nagasaki weekend of remembrance and action.

I invite you to honor Tom’s memory by supporting the work of the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee. There are many ways we can engage in war tax resistance in the context of a broad range of nonviolent strategies for social change.

While diminished by the passing of Tom, the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action continues ‘to explore the meaning and practice of nonviolence from a perspective of deep spiritual reflection, providing a means for witnessing to and resisting all nuclear weapons, especially Trident. We seek to go to the root of violence and injustice in our world and experience the transforming power of love through nonviolent direct action.’ You can read about their ongoing efforts on their website, Ground Zero, which also features a ‘Current Action Alert: Stop the “Low-Yield” Trident Warhead!

Each of the individuals mentioned above is part of the ongoing and steadily expanding effort to end the violence in our world. They refuse to accept that violence cannot be ended, and each has chosen to focus on working to end one or more manifestations of violence, according to their particular interests. If you would like to join these people, you are welcome to sign the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World’.

If your own interest is campaigning on a peace, climate, environment or social justice issue, consider doing it strategically.

If your focus is a defense or liberation struggle being undertaken by a national group, consider enhancing its strategic impact.

If your preference is addressing the climate and environmental catastrophes systematically, consider participating in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth‘.

If you would like to tackle violence at its source, consider revising your parenting in accordance with ‘My Promise to Children‘. If you want the evidence to understand why this is so crucial, see ‘Why Violence?‘ and ‘Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice‘.

If you are aware enough to know that you are not dealing effectively with our deepening crisis, consider doing the personal healing necessary to do so.

It may be that ending human violence is impossible, as many believe. But there are a great number of people around the world who do not accept this and who are struggling, relentlessly, to end violence before it ends us. What about you?