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.
As President Barack Obama spent his last day, January 5, in Hawaii, representatives from Hawaii Peace and Justice and World Can't Wait protested his assassin drone program and lack of effort on Palestinian issues in front of his Hawaii vacation home.
Drone protests in the United States over the past three years have had an effect on reducing the number of drone strikes and the deaths of civilians. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ) reported on January 4, that probably due to public criticism, that "civilian deaths fell sharply in Pakistan in 2012, with Bureau data suggesting that a minimum of 2.5% of those reported killed were civilians – compared with more than 14% in 2011. This suggests the CIA is seeking to limit non-militant casualties, perhaps as a result of sustained criticism."
With the simultaneous discoveries of monumental deposits of shale containing natural gas and new technologically advanced fracking techniques, America has become the world's greatest source of fossil fuels. Recent events indicate we also intend to become and remain the world's greatest supplier of fossil fuels. Since World War II, the US has used the Third World as its Killing Field. Between WWII and 2007, the United States was responsible for the deaths of between 20 and 30 million people in useless and unnecessary wars and conflicts scattered over the world. With the new supremacy in fossil fuel fracking, its exportation, and its eventual effect on climate change, we have upped the ante and now lay claim to the planet as our new Killing Field. At home, the price we're going to pay for massive exports of fracked methane is the poisoning of our air, food and water supplies.
We will stop referring to ourselves as a "civil rights" organization that defends "human rights." It is a sacrilege to people actually killed or harmed by civil and human rights abuses.
We will acknowledge that our membership of 4 million is dwarfed in both size and sympathy by 6.2 million teachers, 76.6 million students and 18 million healthcare workers in the US living with our depraved gun policies.
The cashing in of political debts, Washington's peculiar political culture, and Republicans eager for another chance to return Scott Brown, once the bankers' senator, to the Senate conspire to ensure that Senator John Kerry will soon be the United States' Secretary of State.
Support for Kerry's nomination is far from universal. Neo-conservative Frank Gaffney, who seems never to have found a US military intervention or weapons system that he didn't enthusiastically support, has once again dredged up the Swift Boat and other calumnies, making it almost enough to lead a peace activist to want to work for Kerry's confirmation.
At the end of the year, New York Police Department announced an unusual and dangerous weapons bust: A young couple in Greenwich Village apparently had an array of weapons and an explosive in their apartment.
Bad enough, assuming the details are as they seem. (The explosive was reportedly seven grams, about a quarter of an ounce, of a substance called HTMD, which is slightly less explosive than TNT; this amount seems more suitable for blowing off your fingers than for blowing up a building.)
It is uncanny how accurately fiction can predict reality. Ray Bradbury's book is understood by many to be a commentary on censorship. It's not. In Fahrenheit 451 it's not reading which is illegal trade manuals, informative pamphlets and other instructional materials are all readily available to the general public - rather it's thinking which is prohibited. Thinking is dangerous, according to the lead fireman, Captain Beatty, because it makes people feel things and this creates discomfort and instability. This may seem counterintuitive for contemporary readers, steeped in Enlightenment binaries, which insist that feelings and thoughts are polar opposites, working opposition to each other, waging a war of heart versus mind. However, Bradbury correctly deconstructs this ideology revealing the interconnectedness of our thoughts and feelings. In Fahrenheit 451 society people are discouraged from doing either, with predictably disastrous consequences. So, why is it that when these same acts are discouraged in our own society we fail to see the parallels?
In an era of corporate-state colonization of both landscape and mental real estate, when the face of one's true oppressors is, more often than not, hidden from view, thus inflicting feelings of anxiety borne of powerlessness over the criteria of one's life and the course of one's fate, often, to retain a sense of control, people will tend to displace their anger and shame. Firearms provide the illusion of being able to locate and bead down on a given target. (How often does a person without wealth, power, and influence have any contact with -- or even a glimpse of -- the financial and political elite whose decisions dictate the, day by day, criteria of one's existence?)
Beginning in childhood, carrying the noxious notions of the adult world, the viral seeds of mental enslavement to shame and the concomitant attempt to protect ego-integrity through psychological displacement are spread child to child.
We are saved--so our politicians tell us--from a plunge off the fiscal cliff. In all reports, however, it is mentioned that President Obama settled for a slice of what he claimed to be after, which was to raise taxes on those whose income is more than a quarter million annually. Instead, the Republican bravehearts kept that rapacious goal at bay and made certain that taxes would only increase for those making more than $400,000 per year. Brilliant!
According to media reports, the only actual spending cuts contemplated were those that would affect luxuries for the average person, such as Social Security benefits or medical care for the elderly or disabled. That's the spirit, boys!
Human beings are defined by the sum total of our values... what we believe in and that which guides us in our daily lives. Yet, values are virtually worthless if one preaches them, but does not adhere to them.
So too ethos?
Ethos are not what one believes per se, but what one lives by. This discussion is not abstract, but is about the footprints that have been left behind the past several years in the monumental struggle in Tucson, in defense of Ethnic/Raza or Mexican American Studies (MAS). The battle here has never really been about facts; all the relevant facts, and all the independent studies prove the success of the former department. Instead, the [external] battle has actually been about values/ethos. The internal battle has been about whether we have been living those same values/ethos.
It's one of the ironies of education reform that despite wave after wave, schools are seen by many as in worse shape as before all the changes. Here's a look at why from Marion Brady, who was a classroom teacher for years, has written history and world culture textbooks (Prentice-Hall), professional books, numerous nationally distributed columns (many are available here), and courses of study. His 2011 book "What's Worth Learning" asks and answer this question: What knowledge is absolutely essential for every learner? His course of study for secondary-level students, called Connections: Investigating Reality, is free for downloading here. Brady's website is www.marionbrady.com.