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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.

Weltschmerz (from German; from Welt (world) + Schmerz (pain) delineates the type of sadness experienced when the world revealed does not reflect the image of the world that one believes, or has been led to believe, should exist. The corporate/consumer state (as well as, its scion, the present day presidential election cycle) has brought us, as a people, into a wilderness of weltschmerz.

Confronting the stark contrast between life imagined and life revealed can prove to be a daunting task. It is an endeavor that has proven particularly difficult for political partisans, both professional and rank and file, who seem unwilling or unable to grasp the sense of futility experienced by significant numbers of their fellow citizens regarding political participation, on any level, including the act of voting under the corrupted to the core structure of the current system.

Such reactions are understandable. Exercises in futility prove enervating. Disenchanted, sizable and increasing numbers of voters have tuned out and walked away from the process, due to the abject refusal of the political class to be responsive to the needs of the populace beyond the elitist-ridden New York/DC nexus of privilege and power.

After seeking justice from the City of Oakland for months, the family of Alan Blueford finally caught the attention of city leaders on September 18 when their protest brought the City Council to a halt.

Alan, an African-American high school student, was murdered on May 6 by Officer Miguel Masso, who drove up on the young man who had committed no crime, chased him for five blocks and shot him dead outside a Cinco de Mayo party. Masso initially claimed that Alan shot him, a story spread by the local media, although when it was revealed that Masso actually shot himself this lie turned into the claim that Alan pointed a gun at the officer. The Bluefords refute even this claim, considering Masso's earlier lie.

Sep 25

The Master’s Radical Political Critique

By Michael Meurer, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

The Master, the latest movie from director Paul Thomas Anderson, initially seems to miss the mark after aiming high, but it nonetheless gets under your skin! A few days after seeing the film, I realized that it sticks with you because there is a possible political critique embodied in the relationship between the characters played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix that is so audacious, it is almost thrilling, even as it struggles to emerge under Anderson's languorous directorial pace.

The Master is set in 1950s America. Hoffman plays Lancaster Dodd, a con man modeled loosely on Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, though the film is clearly not a bio-pic. Dodd is in the process of creating a quasi-religious cult of personality that lures adherents with various forms of past life regression and psychographic analysis. Phoenix is cast as Freddie Quell, a volatile, hard drinking Navy veteran on the lam from the law who is taken in by Dodd and falls under his sway in 1950, several years after his military discharge.

Writer Hunter S. Thompson was a pro at weird. But he would find Facebook beyond weird. Even as tiny green tree frogs scampered around the edge of his tequila and there seemed to be an aardvark climbing up his leg, he would consider it surreal that contact with dozens of "friends" can morph into two at the click of Delete. That's the rate of attrition in the five days since I left Facebook — and that's just the people I shared messages and comments with. Yeah, I knew. Yeah, I'm not surprised. The more time goes by since I last logged into Facebook, the even weirder the few months I spent on it seem.

"Imagine the problem is that we cannot imagine a future where we possess less but are more. Imagine the problem is a future that terrifies us because we lose our machines but gain our feet and our pounding hearts." – Chuck Bowden, in Blood Orchid.

Sep 25

Let My People Vote

By Sarah Silverman, Let My People Vote | Video

Voter ID laws aim to prevent in-person voter fraud. In person voter fraud basically never happens. So why are so many states passing these laws? Sarah Silverman explain in this hilarious video.

As we learn to accept and allow folks to use their own individual voices, the group is empowered. With OWS we are learning how to bring the best out of people rather than just condemn or judge them for their personal style, spiritual beliefs or political views. Welcoming new people to the movement should be a major focus of our activities if we want to succeed. The 99% is just waiting for someone to come along and say, "Join our side - we are all getting screwed by Wall Street and the multinational corporations!"

Last year we marched in the streets, set up occupy camps, and were arrested by unsympathetic corporate controlled police and political officials. Having been empowered personally by our connection to the movement and it's values, we can now begin to build that world we have all been dreaming about.

Sep 24

Open Letter to the Anti-War Movement

By Raha Collective, ZNet | Open-Letter

The upcoming anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan is a crucial time for activists to reflect on the urgent need for an anti-war movement that is committed to opposing systematic oppression, domination and violence. In the spirit of moving us towards this goal, we feel compelled to respond when individuals and organizations within the movement are harassing and maligning other members of the movement. We need to ask how this reflects on the political and ethical commitments underlying our activism. We need to ask when enough is enough and some kind of collective action is necessary to address an untenable situation.

There is a campaign of hostility and intimidation underway against Iranian activists in the U.S. who oppose war, sanctions and state repression in Iran. The Iranian American Friendship Committee (AIFC) has taken the lead in a series of physical and verbal attacks on Iranian activists and their allies. Enough is enough. This letter is an appeal to those who consider themselves part of the anti-war movement: stop condoning, excusing or dismissing these attacks by continuing to include AIFC in your coalitions, demonstrations, forums and other organizing events. We call on those of you who want to build an effective anti-war movement that includes the participation of those whose families are directly targeted by U.S. imperialism, and that is committed to social justice for all, to oppose the abuse AIFC has been heaping on members of various Iranian American organizations.

Anti-Japanese protesters have been rallying outside the Japanese Embassy in Beijing, China since Saturday; the magnitude of masses has extended beyond so much so that even select subway stations had to be closed off to ensure the safety of traveling community members—as this writer can personally testify.

For the past week there have been several policemen and volunteers guarding the entrances to nearby businesses, and as many as 10-15 (maybe more) police vehicles are surrounding perimeter each day. The Japanese flag has been burned, Japanese model cars have been overturned and even Japanese-owned businesses have been brutalized as a means to demonstrate their strong disapproval for the country. One (anonymous) community member also said in casual conversation, “I refuse to buy Japanese products, I don't want anything to do with them. We hate the Japanese.”

Sep 24

Ask Your Mama

By Lee R. Haven, SpeakOut | Op-Ed
“I got a question.”

I didn’t see him—or the other kid with him—approaching. In their teens, I’d guess. My back was turned to them. I was interviewing a lady selling stuff in a tent. This was late last century, in Savannah, when I worked for the daily newspaper. Savannah has a lot of festivals. I don’t recall what this one was—Greek, German, something.

The teens looked middle-class, clean cut. They were carrying cups, drinking. A lot of drinking goes on during these festivals. The kid with the question was closer to me. His face was likely reddened from the liquor I smelled, and he looked a little nervous.  If only belatedly, I wasn’t surprised something smart-ass would come with the smirk.

Last week at a meeting packed with parents who wanted to support the Chicago Teacher’s Union (CTU) during their strike, a Chicago Public Schools (CPS) teacher who had been on the strike line with his CPS teacher wife and their three kids for days said “We haven’t closed the classroom to our kids by going on strike, we’ve expanded it.”

After walking the picket line with my 10-year-old daughter every day for the duration of the strike, I have to agree. From hanging out with her teachers every day on the strike line, talking with other parents and me, and reading the clever signs at the daily rallies, she and her fellow students have a pretty sophisticated understanding of the issues at hand. Actually, it seemed as though the general public in Chicago and parents of CPS students in particular also “got it” – with 55.5 % of the general pubic and 66 % of CPS parents supporting the strike. And indeed, the eyes of the nation were focused on our strike as a bellwether of labor and public education fights in the national arena.