Speakout is Truthout's treasure chest for bloggy, quirky, personally reflective, or especially activism-focused pieces. Speakout articles represent the perspectives of their authors, and not those of Truthout.
Two weeks ago Dan Beekman of the Seattle Times, a Garfield High School graduate himself, returned to the Bulldog house in search of a story about the Black Lives Matter movement that went beyond forecasting traffic delays that could result from protests or tallying the numbers arrested at demonstrations.
Some ten members of the Black Student Union at Garfield, which I co-advise with Kristina Clark, gave an over 1 hour interview that left me emotionally drained but more determined than ever to act against police brutality. Mr. Beekman and I admitted to each other afterword that we had trouble fighting back tears as the students explained the fear they experience everyday caused by those tasked with “public safety.”
The funeral ceremonies for the murdered policemen in New York, with their snub of a leftish mayor, are an all too obvious attempt to counter the giant wave of indignation which swept through the nation in reply to police killings of black people. This wave, in which many especially young white Americans joined in, seemed to cause some white Americans of all ages to begin finally to grasp how ignorance, prejudice and discrimination against people of color have always been used to split working people and permit the immense growth of wealth and power by the upper one percent.
Their continued power was threatened by any such awakening and action. The emotions aroused by the wild act of a mentally-disturbed man - rooted in just such discrimination and in the almost unchecked proliferation of weapons - gave them a chance, with the willing assistance of much of the media, to squelch such protests and isolate the most active leaders, especially the African-Americans.
This is the time for our species to “turn 21”: to transition from adolescence to responsible adulthood as citizens of the planet, before we destroy our own future.
turn21.org asks only two things of you who are reading this: that you take the time to understand the human predicament as presented below, and that on the 21st of every month from now on you make some effort to spread this understanding to one or more other people.
"The United States seems destined to plague us with miseries in the name of liberty."-Simon Bolivar, the Liberator of Latin America
"Once the United States is in Cuba, who will get it out?"-José Martí, Cuban national hero.
Poverty policies are built on six legs: knowledge, strategy, resources, organization, assessment, and realism. Too often, national poverty programs are implemented with little attention to many of these underpinnings, courting disaster.
To establish and implement effective poverty policies, a nation needs accurate knowledge about poverty and the poor since such knowledge affects what the public, politicians, and analysts think should and can be done to reduce poverty. First, a sensible and persuasive definition of poverty that avoids extremes is required. Too broad a definition that includes a large segment of a nation's population can lead to a sense of futility or to the conclusion that only general economic growth can alleviate poverty so nothing special should be done to help the poor. But too narrow a definition can result in underestimating what has to be done to make a significant change.
Four years ago, Tunisia and the Egypt erupted in broad popular revolts. At first, analysts, Arab and Westerners alike, were confounded. When Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, and Syria followed, in short order, the upheavals came to be described as the "Arab Spring"—the assumption being that what was occurring in the Middle East would unfold in a manner reminiscent of the rapid transformations that took place in Eastern and Central Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The model envisioned by the term the "Arab Spring" was relatively straightforward. A spark had been ignited in Tunisia that would catch fire across the region bringing fundamental social and political transformation in its wake. It was a simple linear trajectory from dictatorship to democracy. Many experts were certain that this would be the way the Arab Spring would progress.
After revealing the scandal of the NSA surveillance program, the now world-known whistleblower Edward Snowden didn't give many interviews, as he wanted to allow a worldwide debate that would not concentrate on him personally. But with the release of Laura Poitras' documentary Citizenfour in October, the receipt of the alternative Nobel Prize (Right Livelihood Award) in Stockholm at the beginning of December and his first videoconference in Paris with Amnesty International last week on the International day of Human Rights, Edward Snowden has definitely not been forgotten. In his last intervention, Snowden showed an inalterable devotion to the public interest and the will to promote a debate.
Snowden's revelations moreover provoke another debate, one that goes beyond government and corporate surveillance of people's data and questions the philosophical, ethical and anthropological aspects of our internet use. This debate can take place by creating groups of research, discussions, media shows, education programs. In 2014, hundreds of intellectuals and artists have signed petitions for the creation of an international chart of digital rights. As Snowden pointed out in his conference, a significant change is going to take place.
I lost a long-time friend and mentor, John Judge, on April 15 of this year. The memorial held in his honor is worth watching in full if you were not among the 100 or so activists, artists, scholars, and dear friends (John has no living relatives) who attended. On the day I write this, December 14, he would have turned 67.
Every year on his birthday he invited all of his friends to dinner at one of his favorite Washington, D.C. restaurants. For several years that restaurant was Buca di Beppo, and I will never forget how he would end the night with a 'Hinckley Hilton tour' a few blocks away at the Washington Hilton Hotel on Connecticut Avenue NW explaining what really happened in 1981, when then-President Ronald Reagan was shot. Despite the frigid temperatures of mid-December, John would speak for more than an hour without pause, and his spellbound friends and supporters would listen without complaint or interruption. His most notable assertion was that John Hinckley Jr., despite popular wisdom, did not shoot the president and was actually set up to take the fall by then Vice President George H.W. Bush and his advisers, who were not happy with Reagan's decisions in office.
Hundreds of delegates from all corners of the globe descended upon Lima to be heard at a summit willing to listen to their struggles, hardships and success stories in confronting climate change in their respective regions. Activists and Environmentalists from the far reaches of the diverse Peruvian topography came to share their experiences in resisting transnational corporations and defending their Pachamama, or mother earth, sometimes resulting in the deaths of their compañeros. Organized panels and workshops were held throughout the week of December 8th on tracks with titles such as the Crisis of Civilization, Social Change and Alternative models of Social life to ones on Agriculture and Nutritional Sovereignty.
On the evening of December 24th a century ago, peace broke out in the most unlikely of places. In the blasted, putrid trenches of Belgium and France, soldiers fighting on the Western Front put aside their arms in what became known as the Christmas Truce. Although World War I was then only a few months old, there had already been a million combat deaths. Many soldiers were weary of the futility and horrific costs of the war, and thousands of them spontaneously stopped trying to kill each other.
The drama began on Christmas Eve, as German soldiers lit up their Tannenbaums (Christmas trees), put them on top of their trenches in view of the Allied troops, and began to sing carols. From there, full scale fraternization became widespread. Troops put down their weapons, climbed out of the trenches and met in no-mans-land to pray and sing and exchange greetings and gifts. The cease fire continued into Christmas Day during which the dead were buried, toasts were exchanged and soccer games played.