A Shield from the News

Dearest, Generation Taking It In–

I am sporadic in writing here, I know.  I confess that I am an information sponge and a news junkie.  I am working hard on establishing boundaries with myself.  For most of my life I have given too much energy and emotion to the state of the world, and it hasn’t served me very well.  In turn, I don’t know that it has helped me to serve those around me well.

For the last two years my main spiritual practice has been to read/listen to the news without anger or overwhelming heart break.  I think it has been working, as I am able to do so now for the most part.  The consequence has been that I often find I can’t write about what is happening in the world around us, because it requires getting very close to the stories of our age.  That closeness is hard to navigate without those emotions, and the added feeling of helplessness arising.

What benefit is there anyway in me sitting here, in a nice cafe, a cup of dark-roast coffee at my reach, writing about the Occupy Movement or Bradley Manning?  I confess that when I first started this blog a couple years ago, a friend said, “Well, what are you actually able to say there that isn’t being said somewhere else?  All you’re really doing is repeating the news.”  I didn’t write here again for I think over a year.  When I returned to this site, I was surprised that it was still getting so much traffic, despite the lack of new posts.

I think there must be a benefit to all of us making use of cyber space.  Revolutions are now being organized with these tools.  It was through my laptop that I was able to interview Tunisians during the Jasmine Revolution, and to share their voices and stories with people here.  It is through live stream that we are able to witness the sieges of Gaza, the Egyptian Revolution, and the current Occupation of Gezi, Turkey.  We live in a society dominated by corporate control of our press, and it is increasingly those of us doing our work through blogs, twitter, youtube, etc. that major stories are breaking.

I am writing all of this instead of about Obama’s war against whistle-blowers, the Department of Justice’s war on journalists, the impending threat of complete destruction of our public infrastructure because this week, I can’t get too close to those stories.  Anyone who has read Naomi Klein’s “The Shock Doctrine” will understand the dangerous situation we are in, and what these policies really mean.  Right now across Europe, which is facing the same austerity measures we are, the people are rallying in anti-fascism protests.  That’s what we’re facing, fascism, and that is nothing short of scary.

What happens when we turn that last corner?  The war on journalists and whistle blowers is under way; those who expose governmental or corporate crime are being sent to prison.  Police forces across the country are beginning to use drones, and poverty, homelessness, student debt and suicide are all on the rise.  The violent smashing of the Occupy Movement is only the tip of what those in power are willing to do to hold onto it.  As we descend further into a two tiered society, it will become increasingly necessary for those in power to use increased force to keep us in line.

As long as we can log on to our computers and see each other, still writing in dissent, then there is still hope.

In solidarity–

Pv

Darling!

Breach of Close

He lived in the city. Almost literally so. He used his apartment as a place to sleep and write, but he spent the rest of his waking hours hanging out in the city, making a living room out of the cafés and bookshops and bars in his neighborhood, and housemates of the men and women he met there. He ate out with friends and had breakfast at a neighborhood diner or coffee shop, where he’d read the paper and write letters.

At first I thought the reason he spent so much time outside was because his space inside was so cramped. The walkup apartment on Christopher Street was a builder’s afterthought, an orphan from a larger apartment that had been renovated into a warren of small burrows.

It had only three very small rooms—a kitchen, a study and a bedroom—and could only accommodate the most essential of furnishings: a desk…

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Committee Against Political Repression

Last night Matt Duran and Katherine “Kteeo” Olejnik were released from the Sea-Tac Federal Detention Center where they spent the last five months for refusing to testify before a Seattle grand jury investigating the anarchist movement . A third resister, Maddy Pfeiffer, remains in prison, but has been moved from solitary confinement to the general population.

Duran and Olejnik were greeted by friends and family as they left the detention center.  Their lawyers, Kim Gordon and Jenn Kaplan, had filed motions arguing that their confinement was punitive. Under the law, imprisonment for civil contempt is not supposed to punish witness but coerce them into testifying.

Duran and Olejnik had been sent to prison in September after refusing to testify before a federal grand jury investigating the anarchist movement.  While ostensibly investigating vandalism that occurred during a May Day protest last year, the grand jury has been widely criticized for conducting…

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Keystone’s State Department

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The State Department has issued its Draft Supplemental Evnironmental Impact Statement regarding the Keystone XL Pipeline.  Their dubious claim is that the pipeline offers no real threat to climate change, because Canada is going to keep drilling in Alberta anyway.

Yes, you heard that right.  There is no real threat, because if we don’t aid and abet in putting that carbon into the air, someone else is going to.  The second dubious claim is that this is going to offer America energy independence.  This oil is a) still coming from another country and b) not going to stay in the US.

TransCanada is right now battling to get a pipeline going west to British Columbia, and is being met with tremendous resistance.  In light of two beleaguered routes, the company is now allegedly looking at going east through Quebec and New England.  Why does his horribly toxic substance need to make it to the sea?  If this oil is supposed to offer the United States “energy independence”, why does it need to go any further than say, North Dakota?

Because it’s not meant for the US.  That oil is meant to be exported to China and Europe.  Right now the governments of Canada and the United States are lobbying fiercely for oil, at home and in Europe.  North American leaders are spending a great deal of time lobbying the EU to ease carbon emissions restrictions.  If you watch Youtube or anything on the CBC website, you will see an increasing amount of video advertising (which cannot be skipped) devoted to the fossil fuels industries.   At a time when we are now being sequestered (ie, Austerity), the main focus of our government is not how to keep our population from descending into utter poverty and despair, but how to keep large corporations safely in overly inflated profit margins, at the cost of the future of humanity.  President Obama is claiming he will deal with climate change at the same time that he says we need this pipeline, coal and natural gas.  This is not change, this is not hope, this is a rapidly accelerating version of more of the same.

For the State Department to claim there is no risk in building this pipeline, I challenge these corporate lobbyists to do a Google search: oil spill pipeline: 52,900,000 results.  This is an industry rightly dubbed by Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein in their “Do the Math” campaign, a rogue industry.  Like “rogue” nations, they act with impunity, regardless of consequence, and never take responsibility.  Someone else is always left to clean up the mess, whether it be their own citizens, or the ravaged citizens of a nation under their occupation.  The State Department is proving itself a rogue department.  It is not lost on anyone with their eyes open that the United States is the most rogue of nations, and works at the behest of its most rogue of industries.  Whether it be finance or fossil fuels, when the command comes to jump, the three branches of government can’t say, “how high” fast enough. 

Between his deportation of more immigrants and prosecution of more whistle blowers than all presidents combined, his refusal to close US torture chambers, his escalation of Drone wars and his continued support of legislation that weakens the protections of the Constitution, Obama may go down as the worst president in US history.  And, considering that he is the immediate successor to George W. Bush, that’s saying a lot.

An Age of Enlightenment

Here we are, and there’s no escaping it.  We may be the last generation of humans to see the sky, to watch the seasons change.  We may have to bare witness to our own extinction.

We are in an age of enlightenment.  It is only by being pushed so close to danger that we often wake up and look with open eyes at the situation in which we have put ourselves.  As much as our politicians continue to play the corporate ball game, we are less and less inclined to play along.  Last week 40,000 people marched in Washington to say no to the Keystone XL pipeline.  Meanwhile, our good president was in Florida golfing with CEO’s from various fossil fuel companies.  If you want to know Obama’s real stand on climate, there you have it.

The importance of movements like Occupy and the actions against the Keystone XL is that they represent an important shift in organizing and direct action.  This era in many ways mirrors the organizing and growth of direct action that took place during the Great Depression.  The dispossessed rallied themselves, and against the great inaction of big business and government, didn’t ask for change–they demanded it.  They occupied, they adbusted and culture jammed.  In essence, they reclaimed their power.

We are learning, in this Great Recession that to see change, we need to demand it, and to take the actions that will guarantee it.  After Hurricane Sandy, which arguably had a decisive hand in getting Obama four more years to sell America to Wall Street, the people were abandoned.  There is still no help but what has come from Occupy Sandy.  It is only the efforts of people, the direct action of the people that has offered any help or hope.  It is winter on the East Coast, and most of the direct victims of the storm are still without heat, many without homes.

Though this highlights the state of affairs in America (ie, you’re on your own), it is further evidence that the people can and do come together and work to meet the needs of the community. The immediate response by Occupy has created the only relief: food and necessity distribution centers are set up in churches and community centers.  Crews meet up to go through the neighborhoods to deliver food, medicine, blankets, etc.  They arrive to help remove the debris and begin the heavy work of reconstruction.

This is our enlightenment: we are not weak, we are not powerless.  We are not beholden to a system that demands endless consumption and economic growth.  We are many, we are The People.

Literary Treats

And shall I tell him that the thought of him
turns me to water
and when his name is spoken pale still sky
trembles and breaks and moves like blowing water
that winter thaws its frozen drifts in water
all matter blurs, unsteady, seen through water
and I, in him, dislimn, water in water?

As true: the thought of him
has made me marble
and when his name is spoken blowing sky
settles and freezes in a dome of marble
and winter seals its floury drifts in marble
all matter double-locks as dense as marble
and I, in others’ eyes, am cut from marble.

****************

I see this poem on the Toronto subway often, and I just love it. It’s a bright spot on a stressful commute, and it’s just a beautiful, beautiful poem. I especially love the sound of “and I, in him, dislimn” and the rhythm created by…

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Hate-speak, Focus on the Family Style

I knew in the days following the Newtown shooting, that Focus on the Family and their ilk would offer us their opinions.  I was not disappointed in this assumption.  James Dobson is again blaming tragedy on gay marriage and abortion.  Because we have “turned our backs on God”, the almighty is punishing us.

Not being a Christian, I find it very hard not to equate this type of hate preaching with Christians in general.  Maybe it’s because I don’t see much of an effort by Christians to refute this kind of fear mongering, and to show us how Christians behave.

It is not only disgusting behavior, it’s dangerous rhetoric.  We are living in an increasingly desperate, scared, financially crippled society.  Promoting aggression, discrimination and intolerance of different parts of the society is going to yield violent results.  You don’t have to look far to see that for LGBT people in America, there is real danger of physical violence.  The epidemic of young suicides ought to offer some illumination on the subject.  With the prevalence of social media, kids are now being cyber stalked and terrorized, in addition to what they face every day at school.  In 2005, the Southern Poverty Law Center had this to say, concerning hate crimes:

“According to the new report, hate crimes involve violence far more often than other crimes. The data showed 84% of hate crimes were violent, meaning they involved a sexual attack, robbery, assault or murder. By contrast, just 23% of non-hate crimes involved violence. Other studies have suggested that hate-motivated violence, especially against LGBT people, is more extreme than other violence.

The report also showed that 56% of hate crime victims identified race as the primary factor in the crimes they reported. Ethnicity accounted for another 29% of the total. Hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation were 18% of the total. Given that the best studies indicate about 3% of the American population is homosexual, that means that gays and lesbians are victimized at six times the overall rate.”

What causes massacres like Newton is not gay rights or abortion.  It’s a country that defends the right to own an automatic weapon with more fervor than to offer equality to all citizens.  We worship militarism and guns in America, and gun lobbying spends a lot of money on Capitol Hill to keep it that way.  We don’t need to arm our teachers with concealed weapons, we need to seriously address gun control.  We need to open up the discourse, and talk about how we are going to meet the continuing crisis that is the 21st century.

To read the full report by the SPLC, follow this link:

http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2005/winter/hate-crime