Justin's blog

An honest look at America

Oct
05
Through an inspiring experiment in direct democracy and consensus building, this statement was released after a unanimous vote of Occupy Wall Street's general assembly:

As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice, we must not lose sight of what brought us together. We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know that we are your allies.

As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors; that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power.

We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right...


Their actions are all a practice in well-understood nonviolence, and their goals are all related to peace and social justice. They go on to list the problems that we, as a society, are facing....



                                       
                                       
                                       
                                       
                                       
                                       
                                       
                                       
                                       
                                       
                                       

 
(Click play button to see the animation.)

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U.S. Tax Dollars at War

Oct
03

A great animation explaining the cost of war. At least 53% of our tax dollars now goes towards war, an ammount greater than any other country. We're still paying off the debt from all of our previous wars, debt which is going to the banks who loaned the money to pay for the wars. And it doesn't look like the government will stop any time soon.

"Tax Dollars At War" is a brilliant visualization of a radio interview about U.S. military spending as a proportion of our national budget. The dialogue comes from a Flashpoints interview with Dennis Bernstein and Dave Lindorff. It is produced by Softbox, animated and directed by Chris Fontaine.



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Wall Street has been occupied

Sep
20

The movement that exploded in Tunisia, sparking demands for immediate change and empowering the people to make those changes themselves... then matured in Cairo and Madrid and in many places around the world throughout the Spring and Summer, even touching briefly down on Madison... has now arrived in time for Autumn in America.


What it is, and what does it mean? I don't know. We're still figuring that out. But at this point, I think it's clear that this is a profound and historic global movement taking place. I believe this represents a great change in society, spawned by the internet, which created new abilities and opportunities that humanity has never had before - whether it be the organizing through social networks, or the direct transmission of information to the masses through Twitter, or the equality that exists and the irrelevance of borders and separations, or the ability to educate yourself on any topic encouraging people to think for themselves and see different perspectives. This seems to be going beyond merely Revolution 2.0, and is moving towards a Humanity 2.0....


SEEKING CONSENSUS

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The oneness of humanity

Sep
08
The following is taken from a speech given by the Dalai Lama about his views on the future of humanity. It was given in 1997, but is even more relevant today...

Today's world requires us to accept the oneness of humanity. In the past, isolated communities could afford to think of one another as fundamentally separate. Some could even exist in total isolation. But nowadays, whatever happens in one region eventually affects many other areas. Within the context of our new interdependence, self-interest clearly lies in considering the interest of others. Many of the world's problems and conflicts arise because we have lost sight of the basic humanity that binds us all together as a human family. We tend to forget that despite the diversity of race, religion, ideology and so forth, people are equal in their basic wish for peace and happiness.

I believe that the very purpose of life is to be happy. From the very core of our being, we desire contentment. In my own limited experience I have found that the more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of well being. Cultivating a close, warmhearted feeling for others automatically puts the mind at ease. It helps remove whatever fears or insecurities we may have and gives us the strength to cope with any obstacles we encounter. It is the principal source of success in life. Since we are not solely material creatures, it is a mistake to place all our hopes for happiness on external development alone. The key is to develop inner peace...

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The Israeli Summer heats up

Aug
21

In July, the Arab Spring had turned into the Israeli Summer. What started in Tunisia, and then spread to its neighbor Egypt (this time freeing the Egyptians themselves from Pharaoh), had now crossed the Red Sea and arrived in the Holy Land.


Once again, a spontaneous uprising of the people took over public spaces. And like their neighbors, the Israeli movement was spread through social networks and the internet, and was led by the youth. While their demands weren't as drastic as the demands of Tunisia or Egypt, the very fact that they were protesting at all was a radical development. The demands were primarily economic, focused on equality and social justice, similar to demands from Europe and eventually America....

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Nobody expected the Spanish revolution

May
23

The movement for change jumped across the Mediterranean Sea, landing in Spain on May 15th. That was the day that over a hundred thousand people throughtout Spain, led mostly by the youth, joined together to demand a real democracy and economic justice. There were demonstrations in Barcelona and Granada and over 50 cities. But the largest demonstration was in Madrid, where over 50,000 people marched from Plaza de Cibeles to Puerta del Sol, the central public plaza of the city.
Their motto was: "We are not goods in the hands of politicians and bankers."


Inspired by events unfolding in the Middle East, the protesters decided to stay in Puerta del Sol and set up a camp, which would evolve into a community, and then a movement. Some even called the occupation "Yes We Camp", in reference to the American election of Obama which also had inspired people around the world. The protests grew, especially thanks to student groups and Facebook and Twitter, beyond anyone's expectations....

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The Peace Corps turns 50

Mar
01
Today is the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy called on Americans to give two years of their lives in service to others as Peace Corps volunteers. Since then, over 200,000 volunteers have served in 139 countries. Today is also the launch of "Peace Corps Month", with over 700 events around the world.

President Kennedy established the Peace Corps to promote world peace and friendship. The Peace Corps' goals are to help the people of interested countries meet their need for trained men and women, to help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served, and to help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.

While volunteers continue to do important work like bringing clean water to communities and teaching children, today's volunteers also work in areas like HIV/AIDS awareness, business development, and information technology. Volunteers provide technical training and support to groups and organizations that want to make better use of information and communications technology. They introduce people to the computer as a tool to increase efficiency and communication and to "leap frog" stages of development. Volunteers teach basic computer literacy skills, (e.g., word-processing, spreadsheets, basic accounting software, Internet use, and webpage development) and they introduce host communities to e-commerce, distance learning, and geographic information systems.
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The wave of change reaches Wisconsin

Feb
28

Inspired perhaps by what was happening in Egypt, the spark for Wisconsin's protests came on February 11th, when Gov. Scott Walker threatened to call in the National Guard to crack down on workers upset that their bargaining rights were being taken away. Labor and progressive groups were driven to action, and within a week there were over 100,000 protesters filling the streets of Madison, and occupying the state capitol building. It proved to be bigger than anyone would have expected.


Maine State Senator Diane Russell visited the demonstration, saying "I can't explain it, but there is something magical happening in Madison. I was awe struck."...

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Mainstreaming non-violence

Feb
12

The following is part of a blog post by Ken Butigan for the website Waging Nonviolence, entitled "Another Step Toward Mainstreaming Nonviolence". Ken Butigan is the director of Pace e Bene, an Oakland, California-based non-profit organization fostering peace through education, community, and action.

"The movement that ended President Hosni Mubarak’s thirty year autocratic rule not only has created a spectacular breakthrough for Egyptian democracy, it has bequeathed a priceless gift to the rest of us in every part of the planet. For eighteen days the Egyptian people carried out an unarmed revolution with determination, creativity, and a daring willingness to risk. They marched, they improvised, they prayed, they connected with one another. Most of all, they stayed put, and invited the nation to join them.

Faced with a corrupt and dictatorial police state, such a movement might have been tempted to wage armed struggle. Instead, they reached for, experimented with, and remained largely steadfast about another way: non-violent people power. Hence the tactics they chose: Massive demonstrations, brazen and ubiquitous use of social media, befriending the army, work stoppages, and eventually the call for a general strike. Non-violent people power operates on the assumption that systems of violence and injustice are not absolute and implacable. Rather, they are kept in place by pillars of support. These props include the police and army; the media; economic forces; cultural and ideological structures; and the general population. The job of a non-violent resistance movement is to remove this support. Key to this process is alerting, educating, and mobilizing a growing number of people throughout the nation or society to withdraw their consent, and to overcome their fear of the consequences for doing so.

The gift that the Egyptian people have placed in each of our hands is the crystal clear example of the power of ordinary people to unleash seismic social change. What makes the accomplishment in Egypt especially valuable to the rest of the world at this time, however, is that (given the determination of the demonstrators, the stubbornness of the regime, and the ubiquity of social media and other technological innovations) many of us were able to follow this struggle step by step in real time and to therefore see in minute detail how this kind of monumental change happens. We were able to see this campaign in slow motion: the initial call, the gathering momentum, the series of repressive attacks, the galvanizing power of Days of Prayer, the lulls, the unexpected developments, the government’s ineffective sticks and even more ineffective carrots, the wave of strikes that began to spread across the country...

This eighteen day saga riveted the world. It offered us a new, three-dimensional awareness of our power to make change through determined, non-violent action. And it offers us a glimmer of hope as we stand at a monumental crossroads in human history. In a time of virtually permanent war, growing poverty, threats to civil liberties, ecological devastation, and many other problems, humanity faces the challenge and opportunity to choose powerful and creative non-violent alternatives. We can continue to opt for the devastating spiral of violence and injustice, or we can build civil societies where the dignity of all is respected and the needs of all are met. True peace and long-term human survival depend on this.

Egypt gives us a clear and radiant example of the non-violent option. For eighteen days, Egypt "mainstreamed non-violence". Mainstreaming non-violence does not mean creating a utopia where conflict, violence, and injustice do not exist. Instead, it is the process of nurturing a culture that advances non-violent options for addressing complicated challenges in ways that are neither violent nor passive. We have much to learn from this powerful experiment in this peaceful and determined struggle for justice.

All of us owe debt of gratitude to the pro-democracy movement in Egypt for this monumental gift that reveals for people everywhere the power and possibilities of non-violent change in a world wracked by violence and injustice."

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Christians protecting Muslims in Egypt and Reflections on a revolution

Feb
04

Christians put their own lives at risk protecting Muslims praying in Tahrir Square in Cairo amid violence between protesters and Egyptian President Mubarak's supporters. And in Alexandria,  tens of thousands of people have gathered in the centre of town, while Christians and others not performing Friday prayers formed a "human chain" around those praying to protect them from any potential disruptions. During the protests and popular uprising against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's government that started January 25th, Muslims had been attacked during prayers. The Muslims, while bowing in prayer, had faced water cannons, tear gas, stones being thrown, and direct attacks. The Christian community responded by waging a campaign of protection and support....
 


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World Interfaith Harmony Week

Feb
01

Febuary 1-7 is World Interfaith Harmony Week, advancing inter-religious dialogue as a way to promote harmony between all people. It features conferences, workshops, seminars, lectures, and hundreds of events on every continent. Various U.N. agencies are cooperating to discuss effective strategies to foster mutual understanding between faiths and cultures.

On September 23, 2010, King Abdullah II of Jordan introduced the concept of World Interfaith Harmony Week at the Plenary Session of the 65th U.N. General Assembly in New York. In his speech he said, "It is essential to resist forces of division that spread misunderstanding and mistrust, especially among peoples of different religions." In October of 2010, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution to mark World Interfaith Harmony Week annually during the first week of February. King Abdullah has long been known for his peace initiatives. Under his patronage, the Common Word initiative has brought together the highest ranking Christian and Muslim leaders from around the world on the basis of the two greatest commandments of Loving God, and Loving the Neighbor.

The objectives behind the World Interfaith Harmony Week, in the words of the author of the resolution, Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad of Jordan, are:

   1. To co-ordinate and unite the efforts of all the interfaith groups doing positive work with one focused theme at one specific time annually, thereby increasing their impact.

   2. To Harness and utilise the collective might of the world’s second-largest infrastructure (that of places of worship — the largest being that of education) specifically for peace and harmony in the world: inserting, as it were, the right “software” into the world’s religious “hardware”.

   3. To permanently and regularly encourage the silent majority of preachers to declare themselves for peace and harmony.

Qamar-ul Huda, of the Religion and Peacemaking Center of Innovation, spoke on a panel called "The Role of faith-based organizations and interfaith initiatives in Development, Reconciliation and Peacebuilding” sponsored by the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) and as a part of World Interfaith Harmony Week. Huda spoke about the ways in which Muslim religious leaders are working in the areas of conflict prevention, mediation, and conflict transformation. Huda said religious leaders and religious organizations involved in peacemaking are operating from their respective faith traditions to support personal, communal, and relational transformations. Some of these peacemaking efforts include using innovative platforms to explain misunderstandings, and using the arts to express mutual respect.

From Jerusalem to Malappuram in India, from Amman in Jordan to Pietermaritzburg in South Africa, from Sedona in the United States to Newcastle in Australia, and a myriad of other places, special events were held to shine the spotlight on the need for interfaith understanding. In Guyana, one observance for World Interfaith Harmony Week was a "Harmony Walk", followed by a religious programme and cultural show. The event included leaders from the Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Baha’i and Rastafarian faiths. Those gathered were treated to songs and dance, as well as readings from the different groups.

Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, explained that "Dialogue would bring us mutual enrichment and help us overcome prejudices passed on to us by previous generations."


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Muslims protecting Christians in Egypt

Jan
06

Yesterday was the Eastern Orthodox Christmas Eve for Egypt's Coptic community. Across Egypt, Muslims came out to support their Christian neighbors, risking their own lives to protect a religious minority. It was an inspiring sign of unity and support, at a time when religious conflict threatens the region and the world....



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The alternative economy of compassion

Dec
22
"Capitalism is only kept going by this army of anti-capitalists, who constantly exert their powers to clean up after it, and at least partially compensate for its destructiveness. Behind the system we all know, in other words, is a shadow system of kindness, the other invisible hand. Much of its work now lies in simply undoing the depredations of the official system. Its achievements are often hard to see or grasp.

We tend to think revolution has to mean a big in-the-streets, winner-take-all battle that culminates with regime change, but in the past half century it has far more often involved a trillion tiny acts of resistance that sometimes cumulatively change a society so much that the laws have no choice but to follow after.

Another world is not just possible... it's always been here.

Who wouldn't agree that our society is capitalistic, based on competition and selfishness? As it happens, however, huge areas of our lives are also based on gift economies, barter, mutual aid, and giving without hope of return (principles that have little or nothing to do with competition, selfishness, or scarcity economics). Think of the relations between friends, between family members, the activities of volunteers or those who have chosen their vocation on principle rather than for profit.

The official economic arrangements and the laws that enforce them ensure that hungry and homeless people will be plentiful amid plenty. The shadow system provides soup kitchens, food pantries, and giveaways, takes in the unemployed, evicted, and foreclosed upon, defends the indigent, tutors the poorly schooled, comforts the neglected, provides loans, gifts, donations, and a thousand other forms of practical solidarity, as well as emotional support."...
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Sustainable Peace

Dec
21

As Vandana Shiva has said, "if we get rid of the pollution in the human mind they will get rid of the pollution of the environment." That "pollution" is the idea that we are separate, material beings locked in competition for scarce and ever scarcer resources. This quest for resources in fact constitutes a feedback loop in which the pursuit of material goods at all costs merely renders those materials more elusive, thus requiring even more relentless pursuit.

Gandhi once wrote that "we are constantly being astonished these days at the amazing discoveries in the field of violence. But I maintain that far more undreamt of and seemingly impossible discoveries will be made in the field of non-violence."

It is precisely to make these discoveries and apply them to apparently diverse fields like human rights, militarism, poverty, and the environment that we take as our work. The eternal human desire for peace can only succeed if it strives to attain this transcendent telos both "on earth" and "with earth" as inherently interconnected aims. Today we are faced with paradigmatic crises including perpetual warfare and runaway climate change, yet in this crucial moment may we likewise rise to meet the unique challenge of understanding these as related phenomena whose mutual resolution promises an opportunity to truly usher in an era of peace and prosperity.

From the article "War and Planet Earth: Toward a Sustainable Peace" by Randall Amster and Michael Nagler for Waging Nonviolence. Randall Amster teaches Peace Studies at Prescott College, and is the Executive Director of the Peace & Justice Studies Association. Michael Nagler is the co-chair of the Peace & Justice Studies Association.


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The Internet turns 40

Oct
29

40 years ago the first remote connection between computers ushered in the age of the internet. On October 29, 1969, a computer lab at UCLA connected to the Stanford Research Institute, and then continued to spread out and connect with computers across the planet. The internet and its ability to connect the entire world and share understanding and knowledge is the most profound technology ever invented for creating world peace.

The internet is a technology whose benevolent uses far outweighed any military application alone. It was originally called ARPANET, and was a project of the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Defense established in response to the Soviet launching of Sputnik. Its mission was to keep U.S. military technology more sophisticated than that of any other nation. They were sourced with creating the technology, then allowing military and civilian use of these "most sophisticated" tools. One of the early projects was the study of space. In 1960, all of its civilian space programs were transferred to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the military space programs to the Air Force. Shortly after that, ARPA's investment in information technologies and networking computers would lead to the creation of the internet.

ARPA, now called the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), is no longer directly involved with the running of the internet. As the internet grew into a worldwide project, its management was handed over to the U.S. government-run Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann). After years of criticism from the rest of the world, the U.S. government eased its control over Icann, signing an agreement which came into effect on October 1, 2009 and putting the control of Icann under the scrutiny of the global "internet community". Less than a month later, the internet regulator voted to end the exclusive use of English scripts, a policy that is about to transform the online world make the internet far more global.

The board of Icann's annual meeting in Seoul this week formally approved plans to allow non-Latin-script web addresses for the first time, allowing domain names in Arabic, Chinese, Russian, and other scripts. More than half of the 1.6 billion people who use the internet speak languages with non-Latin scripts. The move is being described as the biggest change to the way the internet works since it was created 40 years ago. The first Internationalised Domain Names (IDNs) could be in use next year.





The world's first computer router, or connecting device.


 


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