Brazil on Strike: Class Struggle and the World Cup


Sabrina Fernandes  | Global Research | June 12 2014

Many labour unions are either in the process of negotiating with their respective employers (mostly municipal, state, or federal governments) in Brazil, while others are actively on strike. These include federal workers from the government bureaucracy, school teachers, city staff, and university staff and faculty. In this piece, I would like to highlight how unions in the transportation sector are highly represented in these labour struggles.

The Metro Workers Union of São Paulo is one of them and as of Monday, the 9th of June, it faces its fifth day of strike amidst layoff threats and a repressive state military police. Shortly before, the bus drivers of the city of São Paulo, MetroWorkersBrazilrepresented by two unions, were also on strike. In both cases, the judiciary found the strikes to be ‘abusive’ and fined the unions hundreds of thousands of reais after ordering the workers back to their posts. The Metro Workers decided to continue the strike, with the support of a variety of social movements (including the Free Fare Movement – MPL, and the Homeless Workers’ Movement – MTST), political parties from the radical Left, and other labour unions. The judicial decision is being challenged for many reasons, but primarily for the fact that it is fuelled by illegalities committed on behalf of the employer that lead to the disavowal of the right to strike.[1]

A unified act in support of the metro workers was announced after the assembly for early Monday in the metro station Ana Rosa. The act was immediately interrupted by the arrival of the riot police squad. They advanced on the picketing metro workers, arresting some of them, and attempted to disperse the protesters who stood in solidarity with pepper spray, tear gas bombs, and raised weapons. Although some protesters attempted to kick the bombs back at the squad, the damage was done and even bystanders on their way to work were affected. A militant from the student movement and the PSTU was arrested, beaten, and humiliated by the police during an act of solidarity.[2] After recovering from the tear gas, the protesters assembled again at the metro station and, from there, they walked toward Praça da Sé in São Paulo, where they were joined by more social movements and political party representatives before marching again.

Major Victory for the Homeless

The MTST was heavily present, joining the others from its occupation in the east side of the city named “Cup of the Peoples” in response the crisis of living standards and access to housing exacerbated by the 2014 FIFA World Cup in host cities. The MTST struggle with the city and the federal government for the occupied lot resulted in a major victory on Monday night: the government committed to developing popular housing on the land and expanding the participation of organized social movements/institutions in the allocation of future housing by the government programme. Guilherme Boulos, from the MTST national coordination, happily announced that their current demands had been met and reiterated that the victory was a result of the strong mobilizations on the streets.[3] The metro workers could not announce a similar victory late Monday night and decided to temporarily suspend the strike until a new assembly on Wednesday, June 11th, where they will vote on whether to resume the strike on the first day of the World Cup. At the time of writing, the strike will likely be resumed as the union fights to have the workers who were fired on Monday immediately reinstated.

The role of labour is paramount to the solidarity on the streets at this moment, which differentiates it from the large street protests of June 2013. Political parties from the radical left have also been directly involved in this struggle, and militants from the parties PSOL, PSTU, and PCB are working with leftist collectives on the possibility of a general strike. Further, matters related to the right to the city are evident in the joint struggle by the MTST, labour unions, and other social movements fighting for social justice in the urban environment. The urban social and geographical transformations caused by the World Cup have highlighted linkages between these struggles, as the process related to the mega event contributed to the history of dispossession and inequality in the big urban environments of Brazil.

The crisis of the urban transportation sector is to be noted here, since the sector is known for its overcrowding and inefficiency. Public transportation is often privately run and it is a space shared by the working class (the poor and the lower middle-class) as well as students. The tax cuts for automobile purchases promoted by the Lula government a few years ago, and still maintained by the current Workers’ Party administration, have led to more cars on the streets and added to already bad gridlocks in cities whose urban road networks lack the capacity to handle so many vehicles. At the same time, it further discouraged those who can afford to pay for transit to use transit, as the system is devalued and considered the realm of the working class, especially those workers who commute for hours everyday in crowded buses and trains. A year ago, protesters mobilized by the Free Fare Movement were being violently attacked by the military police in the struggle for affordable (and hopefully free) public transportation in Brazilian cities. This and other groups and movements that mobilized the population last year have joined the Metro Workers of São Paulo in a way that the labour struggle is understood together with access to public transportation in the city and the quality of this access for the users. In fact, the Metro Workers Union challenged the governor of São Paulo directly in these terms: “instead of striking, we will work for free for a day if access is free.” Suffice to say that the proposal, understood as “catraca livre” (literally, a free turnstile), was not even entertained by the governor and the metro company.

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Should We Fight the System or Be the Change?

Mark Engler and Paul Engler| Commondreams 

Banksy says that every day is PARK(ing) Day. (Credit: Beautiful Trouble)

Banksy says that every day is PARK(ing) Day. (Credit: Beautiful Trouble)

It is an old question in social movements: Should we fight the system or “be the change we wish to see”? Should we push for transformation within existing institutions, or should we model in our own lives a different set of political relationships that might someday form the basis of a new society?

Over the past 50 years — and arguably going back much further — social movements in the United States have incorporated elements of each approach, sometimes in harmonious ways and other times with significant tension between different groups of activists.

In the recent past, a clash between “strategic” and “prefigurative” politics could be seen in the Occupy movement. While some participants pushed for concrete political reforms — greater regulation of Wall Street, bans on corporate money in politics, a tax on millionaires, or elimination of debt for students and underwater homeowners — other occupiers focused on the encampments themselves. They saw the liberated spaces in Zuccotti Park and beyond — with their open general assemblies and communities of mutual support — as the movement’s most important contribution to social change. These spaces, they believed, had the power foreshadow, or “prefigure,” a more radical and participatory democracy.

Once an obscure term, prefigurative politics is increasingly gaining currency, with many contemporary anarchists embracing as a core tenet the idea that, as a slogan from the Industrial Workers of the World put it, we must “build the new world in the shell of the old.” Because of this, it is useful to understand its history and dynamics. While prefigurative politics has much to offer social movements, it also contains pitfalls. If the project of building alternative community totally eclipses attempts to communicate with the wider public and win broad support, it risks becoming a very limiting type of self-isolation.

For those who wish to both live their values and impact the world as it now exists, the question is: How can we use the desire to “be the change” in the service of strategic action?

Naming the conflict

Coined by political theorist Carl Boggs and popularized by sociologist Wini Breines, the term “prefigurative politics” emerged out of analysis of New Left movements in the United States. Rejecting both the Leninist cadre organization of the Old Left and conventional political parties, members of the New Left attempted to create activist communities that embodied the concept of participatory democracy, an idea famously championed in the 1962 Port Huron Statement of the Students for a Democratic Society, or SDS. In a 1980 essay, Breines argues that the central imperative of prefigurative politics was to “create and sustain within the live practice of the movement, relationships and political forms that ‘prefigured’ and embodied the desired society.” Instead of waiting for revolution in the future, the New Left sought to experience it in the present through the movements it created.

“For those who wish to both live their values and impact the world as it now exists, the question is: How can we use the desire to “be the change” in the service of strategic action?”

Current discussion of prefigurative politics has been rooted in the experience of U.S. movements in the 1960s. However, the tension between waging campaigns to produce instrumental gains within the existing political system, on the one hand, and creating alternative institutions and communities that more immediately put radical values into practice, on the other, has existed for centuries. Unfortunately, there is no universal agreement on the vocabulary used to describe this split. Various academic and political traditions discuss the two differing approaches using overlapping concepts including “cultural revolution,” “dual power,” and theories of “collective identity.” Max Weberdistinguished between the “ethic of ultimate ends” (which roots action in heartfelt and principled conviction) and an “ethic of responsibility” (which more pragmatically considers how action impacts the world). Most controversially, some scholars have discussed aspects of prefigurative action as forms of “lifestyle politics.”

Used as an umbrella category, the term prefigurative politics is useful in highlighting a divide that has appeared in countless social movements throughout the world. In the 1800s, Marx debated utopian socialists about the need for revolutionary strategy that went beyond the formation of communes and model societies. Throughout his life, Gandhi wavered back and forth between leading campaigns of civil disobedience to exact concessions from state powers and advocating for a distinctive vision of self-reliant village life, through which he believed Indians could experience true independence and communal unity. (Gandhi’s successors split on this issue, with Jawaharlal Nehru pursing the strategic control of state power and Vinoba Bhave taking up the prefigurative “constructive program.”) Advocates of strategic nonviolence, who push for the calculated use of unarmed uprising, have counter-posed their efforts against long-standing lineages of “principled nonviolence” — represented by religious organizations that espouse a lifestyle of pacifism (such as the Mennonites) or groups that undertake symbolic acts of “bearing moral witness” (such as the Catholic Workers).

Movement and counter-culture

With regard to the 1960s, Breines notes that the form of prefigurative politics that emerged in the New Left was “hostile to bureaucracy, hierarchy and leadership, and it took form as a revulsion against large-scale centralized and inhuman institutions.” Perhaps even more than advancing traditional political demands, the prefigurative concept of social change was about prompting a cultural shift.

Indeed, those who embraced a most extreme version of prefigurative practice in that period did not identify with the social movement “politicos” who organized rallies against the Vietnam War and were interested in directly challenging the system. Instead, they saw themselves as part of a youth counter-culture that was undermining establishment values and providing a vigorous, living example of an alternative.

This split between “movement” and “counter-culture” is vividly illustrated in the documentaryBerkeley in the Sixties. There, Barry Melton, lead singer for the psychedelic rock band Country Joe and the Fish, tells of his debates with his Marxist parents. “We had big arguments about this stuff,” Melton explains. “I tried to convince them to sell all their furniture and go to India. And they weren’t going for it. And I realized that no matter how far out their political views were, because they were mighty unpopular — my parents were pretty left wing — that really they were [still] materialists. They were concerned about how the wealth was divided up.”

Melton’s passion was for something different, a “politics of hip,” in which “we were setting up a new world that was going to run parallel to the old world, but have as little to do with it as possible.” He explains, “We just weren’t going to deal with straight people. To us, the politicos — a lot of the leaders of the anti-war movement — were straight people because they were still concerned with the government. They were going to march on Washington. We didn’t even want to know that Washington was there. We thought that eventually the whole world was just going to stop all this nonsense and start loving each other, as soon as they all got turned on.”

The boundary between a subculture and a prefigurative political movement can sometimes be blurry. “It’s amazing that these two movements coexisted at the same time,” Melton argues. “[They] were in stark contrast in certain aspects — but as the 1960s progressed grew closer together and began taking on aspects of the other.”

The power of the beloved community

The 1960s counter-culture — with its flower children, free love and LSD trips into new dimensions of consciousness — is easy to parody. To the extent that it interacted with political movements, it was profoundly disconnected from any practical sense of how to leverage change. In Berkeley in the Sixties, Jack Weinberg, a prominent anti-war organizer and New Left “politico” described a 1966 meeting where counter-cultural activists were promoting a new type of event. “They wanted to have the first be-in,” Weinberg explains. “One fellow in particular, trying to get us really excited about the plan… said, ‘We’re going to have so much music — and so much love, and so much energy — that we are going to stop the war in Vietnam!’”

Yet prefigurative impulses did not merely produce the flights of utopian fantasy seen at the counter-cultural fringes. This approach to politics also made some tremendously positive contributions to social movements. The drive to live out a vibrant and participatory democracy gave the New Left much of its vitality, and it produced groups of dedicated activists willing to make great sacrifices for the cause of social justice.

As one example, within the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, or SNCC, participants spoke of the desire to create the “beloved community” — a society that rejected bigotry and prejudice in all forms and instead embraced peace and brotherliness. This new world would be based on an “understanding, redeeming goodwill for all,” as Martin Luther King (an allied promoter of the concept) described it.

This was not merely an external goal; rather, SNCC militants saw themselves as creating the beloved community within their organization — an interracial group which, in the words of onehistorian, “based itself on radical egalitarianism, mutual respect and unconditional support for every person’s unique gifts and contributions. Meetings lasted until everyone had their say, in the belief that every voice counted.” The strong ties fostered by this prefigurative community encouraged participants to undertake bold and dangerous acts of civil disobedience — such as SNCC’s famous sit-ins at lunch counters in the segregated South. In this case, the aspiration to a beloved community both facilitated strategic action and had a significant impact on mainstream politics.

The same pattern existed within the Clamshell Alliance, Abalone Alliance, and other radical anti-nuclear movements of the 1970s, which historian Barbara Epstein chronicles in her 1991 book, Political Protest and Cultural Revolution. Drawing from a lineage of Quaker nonviolence, these groups established an influential organizing tradition for direct action in the United States. They pioneered many of the techniques — such as affinity groups, spokes councils, and general assemblies — that became fixtures in the global justice movement of the late 1990s and early 2000s, and which were also important to Occupy Wall Street. In their time, the anti-nuclear groups combined consensus decision-making, feminist consciousness, close interpersonal bonds, and a commitment to strategic nonviolence to create defining protests. Epstein writes, “What was new about the Clamshell and the Abalone was that for each organization, at its moment of greatest mass participation, the opportunity to act out a vision and build community was at least as important as the immediate objective of stopping nuclear power.”

The strategic tension

Wini Breines defends prefigurative politics as the lifeblood of the 1960s New Left and argues that, despite its failures to produce lasting organization, this movement represented a “brave and significant experiment” with lasting implications. At the same time, she distinguishes prefigurative action from a different type of politics — strategic politics — that are “committed to building organization in order to achieve power so that structural changes in the political, economic and social orders might be achieved.” Breines further notes, “The unresolved tension, between the spontaneous grassroots social movement committed to participatory democracy, and the intention (necessitating organization) of achieving power or radical structural change in the United States, was a structuring theme” of the New Left.

Tension between prefigurative and strategic politics persists today for a simple reason: Although they are not always mutually exclusive, the two approaches have very distinct emphases and present sometimes contradictory notions of how activists should behave at any a given time.

Where strategic politics favors the creation of organizations that can marshal collective resources and gain influence in conventional politics, prefigurative groups lean toward the creation of liberated public spaces, community centers and alternative institutions — such as squats, co-ops and radical bookstores. Both strategic and prefigurative strategies may involve direct action or civil disobedience. However, they approach such protest differently. Strategic practitioners tend to be very concerned with media strategy and how their demonstrations will be perceived by the wider public; they design their actions to sway public opinion. In contrast, prefigurative activists are often indifferent, or even antagonistic, to the attitudes of the media and of mainstream society. They tend to emphasize the expressive qualities of protest — how actions express the values and beliefs of participants, rather than how they might impact a target.

Strategic politics seeks to build pragmatic coalitions as a way of more effectively pushing forward demands around a given issue. During the course of a campaign, grassroots activists might reach out to more established unions, non-profit organizations or politicians in order to make common cause. Prefigurative politics, however, is far more wary of joining forces with those coming from outside the distinctive culture a movement has created, especially if prospective allies are part of hierarchical organizations or have ties with established political parties.

Countercultural clothing and distinctive appearance — whether it involves long hair, piercings, punk stylings, thrift-store clothing, keffiyehs or any number of other variations — helps prefigurative communities create a sense of group cohesion. It reinforces the idea of an alternative culture that rejects conventional norms. Yet strategic politics looks at the issue of personal appearance very differently. Saul Alinsky, in his book Rules for Radicals, takes the strategic position when he argues, “If the real radical finds that having long hair sets up psychological barriers to communication and organization, he cuts his hair.” Some of the politicos of the New Left did just that in 1968, when Senator Eugene McCarthy entered the Democratic presidential primary as an anti-war challenger to Lyndon Johnson. Opting to “Get Clean for Gene,” they shaved beards, cut hair and sometimes donned suits in order to help the campaign reach out to middle-of-the-road voters.

Taking stock of prefiguration

For those who wish to integrate strategic and prefigurative approaches to social change, the task is to appreciate the strengths of prefigurative communities while avoiding their weaknesses.

The impulse to “be the change we wish to see” has a strong moral appeal, and the strengths of prefigurative action are significant. Alternative communities developed “within the shell of the old” create spaces that can support radicals who chose to live outside the norms of workaday society and to make deep commitments to a cause. When they do take part in wider campaigns to change the political and economic system, these individuals can serve as a dedicated core of participants for a movement. In the case of Occupy, those most invested in prefigurative community were the people who kept the encampments running. Even if they were not those most involved in planning strategic demonstrations that brought in new allies and drew larger crowds; they played a pivotal role.

Another strength of prefigurative politics is that it is attentive to the social and emotional needs of participants. It provides processes for individuals’ voices to be heard and creates networks of mutual support to sustain people in the here and now. Strategic politics often downplays these considerations, putting aside care for activists in order to focus on winning instrumental goals that will result in future improvements for society. Groups that incorporate prefigurative elements in their organizing, and thus have a greater focus on group process, have often been superior at intensive consciousness-raising, as well as at addressing issues such as sexism and racism within movements themselves.

But what works well for small groups can sometimes become a liability when a movement tries to scale up and gain mass support. Jo Freeman’s landmark essay, “The Tyranny of Structurelessness,” makes this point in the context of the women’s liberation movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Freeman argued that a prefigurative rejection of formal leadership and rigid organizational structure served second-wave feminists well early on when the movement “defined its main goal, and its main method, as consciousness-raising.” However, she contends, when the movement aspired to go beyond meetings that raised awareness of common oppression and began to undertake broader political activity, the same anti-organizational predisposition became limiting. The consequence of structurelessness, Freeman argues, was a tendency for the movement to generate “much motion and few results.”

Perhaps the greatest danger inherent in prefigurative groups is a tendency toward self-isolation. Writer, organizer and Occupy activist Jonathan Matthew Smucker describes what he calls the “political identity paradox,” a contradiction that afflicts groups based on a strong sense of alternative community. “Any serious social movement needs a correspondingly serious group identity that encourages a core of members to contribute an exceptional level of commitment, sacrifice and heroics over the course of prolonged struggle,” Smucker writes. “Strong group identity, however, is a double-edged sword. The stronger the identity and cohesion of the group, the more likely people are to become alienated from other groups, and from society. This is the political identity paradox.”

Those focused on prefiguring a new society in their movements — and preoccupied with meeting the needs of an alternative community — can become cut off from the goal of building bridges to other constituencies and winning public support. Instead of looking for ways to effectively communicate their vision to the outside world, they are prone to adopt slogans and tactics that appeal to hardcore activists but alienate the majority. Moreover, they grow ever more averse to entering into popular coalitions. (The extreme fear of “co-optation” among some Occupiers was indicative of this tendency.) All these things become self-defeating. As Smucker writes, “Isolated groups are hard-pressed to achieve political goals.”

Smucker cites the notorious 1969 implosion of SDS as an extreme example of the political identity paradox left unchecked. In that instance, “Key leaders had become encapsulated in their oppositional identity and grown more and more out of touch.” Those most intensely invested in SDS at the national level lost interest in building chapters of students that were just beginning to be radicalized — and they became entirely disenchanted with the mainstream American public. Given what was happening in Vietnam, they grew convinced that they needed to “bring the war home,” in the words of one 1969 slogan. As a result, Smucker writes, “Some of the most committed would-be leaders of that generation came to see more value in holing up with a few comrades to make bombs than in organizing masses of students to take coordinated action.”

The self-destructive isolation of the Weathermen is a far cry from SNCC’s beloved community. Yet the fact that both are examples of prefigurative politics shows that the approach is not something that can simply be embraced or rejected wholesale by social movements. Rather, all movements operate on a spectrum in which different public activities and internal processes have both strategic and prefigurative dimensions. The challenge for those who wish to produce social change is to balance the competing impulses of the two approaches in creative and effective ways — so that we might experience the power of a community that is committed to living in radical solidarity, as well as the joy of transforming the world around us.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

Mark Engler is a senior analyst with Foreign Policy In Focus and author ofHow to Rule the World: The Coming Battle Over the Global Economy(Nation Books, 2008). He can be reached via the websitehttps://www.DemocracyUprising.com

Paul Engler is founding director of the Center for the Working Poor, in Los Angeles.

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Building a Bridge between Spirituality and Social Action

Pachamama Alliance

Many of us engage in spirituality for our own benefit. Spirituality allows us to feel connected to something larger than us, and to a community of others with similar values. It helps us deal with stress, heal from trauma in our pasts, and become more whole.

When we combine spiritual practice with social activism, power and possibility for change is unleashed. For this month’s New Moon Action, we invite you to build a bridge between Spirituality and Social Action.

Why Spirituality and Activism Go Together

With so many problems in the world, it can be easy to question the value of ‘selfish spirituality,’ when we could be focusing on helping others. Common images of people retreating from the problems of the world to meditate have given spirituality a reputation for being escapist, but it doesn’t have to be.

In our conversation with Charles Eisenstein earlier this year, he spoke to the tension between spirituality and activism. He argued that spirituality and activism are actually one and the same. The spiritual world is the same as the physical world in which the world’s problems exist and these two worlds impact one another.

Dreamshifting For the World

In our new eGuide, Sacred Spaces for Dreamshifting, written by our co-founder John Perkins, we introduce the idea of Dreamshifting, a shamanic journeying practice where you take yourself into a deep altered state of mind to find the answers to your questions and impact the world around you. Perkins explains that you can use this power not only to guide yourself for your own needs, but for the needs of others as well.

So this month, honor the interconnectedness of spirituality and social action. If you have a regular spiritual practice, find a way to incorporate a social commitment into it, or experiment with Dreamshifting as a way to impact the world.

If you are already involved in social justice work, you can add a spiritual element to it, such as opening sacred space, and try Dreamshifting deep inside yourself to find solutions to the social problems you seek to solve.

Download the full, free Dreamshifting 101 e-guide

Occupy Wall Street Protester Cecily McMillan Sentenced To Three Months In Jail

Matt Sledge | Huffington Post 

NEW YORK — A New York City judge sentenced Occupy Wall Street protester Cecily McMillan on Monday to three months in jail and five years of probation for elbowing a police officer while he was clearing out a protest in Zuccotti Park.

Judge Ronald Zweibel’s decision comes at the end of a trial that sparked widespread anger among Occupy supporters for the circumstances under which McMillan was convicted of second-degree assault. They said McMillan, a graduate student who’s now 25 years old, was simply reacting to an unknown hand grabbing her breast while visiting a March 2012 protest. Officer Grantley Bovell, not McMillan, they said, should have been on trial.

But Zweibel — who was nearly obscured by a phalanx of more than 50 court officers, ringing the courtroom in apparent anticipation of protests — seemed unmoved.

“A civilized society must not allow an assault to be permitted under the guise of civil disobedience,” he said. “The jury rejected the defendant’s version of events.”

McMillan wore a bright pink dress when she entered Zweibel’s Manhattan courtroom. After her lawyer noted the many expressions of support for leniency — including a letter from the president and provost of the New School, where she is a graduate student — she struck a defiant note.

“Whether personal or political, violence is not permitted. This being a law that I live by, I can say with certainty that I am innocent of the crime I have been convicted of,” McMillan said. “I cannot confess to a crime that I did not commit. I cannot throw away my dignity in return for my freedom.”

McMillan’s dignity was a note that many of her supporters discussed both before and after the sentencing. They claimed Bovell’s alleged grab was tantamount to sexual assault. Many focused on a picture of McMillan taken after her arrest that shows a large bruise on her right breast.

During the trial, prosecutor Erin Choi said McMillan’s description of Bovell’s action was “so utterly ridiculous and unbelievable that she might as well have said that aliens came down that night and assaulted her.”

Assistant District Attorney Shanda Strain echoed that statement on Monday, telling Zweibel before his sentence that McMillan’s testimony about having her breast grabbed was “perjury” and “a fabrication clearly designed to manipulate the system and once again to assault Officer Bovell, although this time to assault his character.”

But the contentious debate over the charged issue of whether McMillan’s breast was grabbed seems unlikely to go away, even after the sentencing. The alleged assault by the officer was a rallying cry for McMillan’s supporters ahead of Monday’s proceedings.

One, Melanie Poole, arrived to court wearing a green button that simply said “Cecily.” Poole said Choi used “every one of the most horrific kinds of misogyny and rape myths.”

Focusing specifically on the picture, she said Choi’s description of it as a fake showed the “total absurdity of the prosecution’s closing argument that this woman could beat up her own body, put a hand on her own breast.”

But like many of McMillan’s supporters, she seemed relieved that McMillan’s sentence was much less than the seven years maximum she faced.

Still, she added, “an innocent woman is still going to spend three months in jail … the message that this sends to protesters is very powerful. It will have its intended chilling effect.”

As Zweibel recessed the court after delivering his sentence, McMillan’s supporters sang in unison “Cecily is innocent, we shall not be moved, Cecily is innocent, we shall not be moved.” They were quickly ushered out by court officers.

Out on the street in front of the courthouse, more than 100 supporters gathered afterward in a scene reminiscent of the high days of Occupy Wall Street in Zuccotti Park.

McMillan’s defense attorney, Martin Stolar, thanked supporters for their efforts on McMillan’s behalf and said an appeal has already been filed. City Councillor Ydanis Rodriguez, a frequent vocal supporter of the Occupy movement, said he believes political protesters are too often charged with assault of police officers.

“She’s someone that is not a criminal,” Rodriguez said of McMillan to HuffPost. “She can be more productive organizing our communities.”

McMillan’s supporters have raised about $14,000 for her defense online, and Zweibel’s sentence will likely add further urgency to that effort.

Zweibel could have sentenced McMillan to anything from probation to a maximum of seven years in prison. Ahead of the sentencing, a wide range of supporters called on Zweibel for leniency, from five city council members to the two formerly jailedmembers of Pussy Riot. Even a majority of the jury — unaware of the maximum seven-year sentence she faced when they convicted her — joined in a letter to the judge seeking leniency in the case.

The Justice for Cecily campaign, a group of supporters, said it delivered over 700 letters to Zweibel ahead of the sentencing, and an online petition calling for her freedom attracted 167,000 signatures.

McMillan’s sentence is believed to resolve one of the last outstanding criminal cases emerging from Occupy Wall Street in New York. Police made more than 2,600 arrests over the course of the protest movement. The NYPD’s tactics were so extreme that critics from law schools said the suppression of protest violated international human rights norms.

Read the rest of the article…

Chris Hedges: The Power of Imagination

Chris Hedges | Truthdig | May 12 th 2014

John William Waterhouse’s painting “Miranda—The Tempest.”

John William Waterhouse’s painting “Miranda—The Tempest.”

Those in the premodern world who hoarded possessions and refused to redistribute supplies and food, who turned their backs on the weak and the sick, who lived exclusively for hedonism and their own power, were despised. Those in modern society who are shunned as odd, neurotic or eccentric, who are disconnected from the prosaic world of objective phenomena and fact, would have been valued in premodern cultures for their ability to see what others could not see. Dreams and visions—considered ways to connect with the wisdom of ancestors—were integral to existence in distant times. Property was communal then. Status was conferred by personal heroism and providing for the weak and the indigent. And economic exchanges carried the potential for malice, hatred and evil: When wampum was exchanged by Native Americans the transaction had to include “medicine” that protected each party against “spiritual infection.”

Only this premodern ethic can save us as we enter a future of economic uncertainty and endure the catastrophe of climate change. Social and economic life will again have to be communal. The lusts of capitalism will have to be tamed or destroyed. And there will have to be a recovery of reverence for the sacred, the bedrock of premodern society, so we can see each other and the earth not as objects to exploit but as living beings to be revered and protected. This means inculcating a very different vision of human society.

Our greatest oracles have sought to impart this wisdom. William Shakespeare lamented the loss of the pagan rituals eradicated by the Reformation. When Shakespeare was a boy, the critic Harold Goddard pointed out, he experienced the religious pageants, morality plays, church festivals, cycle plays, feast and saint days, displays of relics, bawdy May Day celebrations and tales of miracles that made up the belief system during the reign of the medieval Catholic Church. The Puritans, the ideological vanguard of the technological order, would eventually ban or greatly weaken all of these, and they made war on the Elizabethan and Jacobean theaters for celebrating these premodern practices.

The London authorities in 1596 prohibited the public presentation of plays within city limits. Theaters had to relocate to the south side of the River Thames. The Puritans, in power under Cromwell in 1642, closed the London theaters. In Puritan New England at about the same time the authorities banned games, revels and “harlotry plays.” In 1644 the Puritans tore down Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. Within four years all other theaters in and around London had been destroyed. The Puritans understood, in a way that is perhaps lost to us today, that Shakespeare subverts modernity.

Shakespeare portrays the tension between the premodern and the modern. He sees the rise of the modern as dangerous. The premodern reserved a place in the cosmos for human imagination. The new, modern, Machiavellian ethic of self-promotion, manipulation, bureaucracy and deceit—personified by Iago, Richard III and Lady Macbeth—deformed human society. Shakespeare lived during a moment when the modern world—whose technology allowed it to acquire weapons of such unrivaled force that it could conquer whole empires, including the Americas and later China—instilled through violence this new secular religion. He feared its demonic power.

Oracles were revered in premodern societies. These oracles were in touch with realities and forces that lay beyond the empirical. All societies have oracles—such as Thomas Paine, Emma Goldman, W.E.B. Du Bois and James Baldwin in the United States—but in a modern society they are pushed to the margins, ridiculed and often persecuted. Those who spoke out of their vision quests in Native American society, or from Delphi in ancient Greece, did not employ the cold, clinical language of science and reason. They spoke, rather, in the nebulous language of love, tenderness, patience, justice, redemption and forgiveness. They paid homage, and called on us to pay homage, to the mysterious incongruities of human existence. A society that loses its respect for the sacred, that ignores its oracles and severs itself from the power of human imagination, ensures its obliteration.

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Outrage and Protests Follow Guilty Verdict for OWS Activist

Sarah Lazare | Commondreams | May 7th 2014

CecilyMcMillanFoundGuiltyPeople across the United States responded with outrage after Occupy Wall Street activist Cecily McMillan was found guilty Monday afternoon of “assaulting” the very police officer who she says sexually assaulted her.

Over 100 people rallied in New York City’s Zuccotti Park Monday night and, according to advocates, messages of support immediately began pouring in from across the country.

“I know Cecily would be in gratitude for how much people care,” Stan Williams of support group Justice for Cecily toldCommon Dreams. “But this has become something bigger than Cecily. It’s about protests and dissent.”

McMillan’s supporters on Monday filled a New York court room with cries of “Shame!” when the 25-year-old organizer was handed a guilty verdict and then promptly handcuffed and taken away to Rikers Island, where she is currently detained pending sentencing. In a Democracy Now! interview Tuesday morning, Martin Stolar, criminal defense attorney affiliated with the National Lawyers Guild and co-counsel for McMillan’s case, derided her felony verdict—that could land her a sentence of two to seven years with a chance of parole—as “ridiculous” and vowed an appeal.

McMillan was one of approximately 70 people detained late the night of March 17/early morning March 18, 2012, when police violently cleared a memorial event marking the six-month anniversary of Occupy Wall Street. McMillan, who had stopped by the park to meet a friend, says she was sexually assaulted by police officer Grantley Bovell while she attempted to leave the area. “Seized from behind, she was forcefully grabbed by the breast and ripped backwards,” according to a statement by Justice For Cecily. “Cecily startled and her arm involuntarily flew backward into the temple of her attacker, who promptly flung her to the ground, where others repeatedly kicked and beat her into a string of seizures.” Following the attack, McMillan underwent treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Yet, despite numerous allegations that Bovell has inflicted excessive force while on duty, as well as his previous involvement in a ticket-fixing scandal, it was McMillan who was put on trial for felony charges of assaulting Bovell.

According to McMillan’s supporters, what followed was a trial riddled with injustice, in which Judge Ronald Zweibel showed repeated favoritism towards the prosecution and imposed a gag order on McMillan’s lawyer.

Facing photographic and video evidence of McMillan’s bruises following the attack, including a hand-shaped bruise on her chest, as well as the testimony of dozens of witnesses, the prosecution went so far as to claim that McMillan had imposed the injuries on herself.

“In the trial, physical evidence was considered suspect but the testimony of the police was cast as infallible,” writes journalist Molly Knefel, who was present the night of McMillan’s arrest. “And not only was Officer Bovell’s documented history of violent behavior deemed irrelevant by the judge, but so were the allegations of his violent behavior that very same night.”

“To the jury, the hundreds of police batons, helmets, fists, and flex cuffs out on March 17 were invisible – rendering McMillan’s elbow the most powerful weapon on display in Zuccotti that night, at least insofar as the jury was concerned,” Knefel added.

Yet, according to Kristen Iversen writing for Brooklyn Magazine, McMillan’s verdict is not just the outcome of one unfair trial, but rather exposes “systemic” failures of justice: “The failure is that McMillan was given the exact kind of trial that our system is set up for, one that supports the police no matter how wrong their behavior, one that dismisses victims of sexual assault in astonishing numbers.”

Lucy Parks, field coordinator for Justice For Cecily, said McMillan’s supporters are busy figuring out next steps, with plans to organize petitions, call-in days, and other mobilizations in the works.

“We’re also trying to bring together communities of U.S. activists and anyone who feels strongly about this trial to try and heal and move forward and broaden the conversation about the justice system to talk about more people than just Cecily,” Parks added.


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Occupy Activist Cecily McMillan: Guilty of Assaulting NYPD Officer

RT.com | May 5 2014

An Occupy Wall Street demonstrator was found guilty of second-degree assault Monday in Manhattan following a months-long trial concerning a 2012 altercation she had with the New York Police Department.

Cecily McMillan, 25, now stands to face as much as seven years in prison behind bars as a result of Monday afternoon’s conviction.

As RT reported earlier this year, McMillan was participating in an OWS demonstration in New York City during the spring of 2012 when she was manhandled by the NYPD while being detained, and received multiples cuts and bruised ribs as a result. While handcuffed, McMillan — then 23 — suffered from a seizure for upwards of seven minutes before reportedly fainting.

According to police, moments earlier McMillan elbowed an officer in the face. She was soon hauled off in an ambulance, and eventually charged with a felony for allegedly injuring NYPD Officer Grantley Bovell. She insisted, however, that Bovell had grabbed her breast from behind, and the elbow she threw was not an attempt to assault a cop, but rather a reflexive response to the unwanted grope. Documents were shown in court of Bovell sporting a black eye after the incident.

Assistant District Attorney Erin Choi, the lead prosecutor in the case, testified during the trial that McMillan’s claims were “heinous,” the Village Voice reported, and that the woman “might as well have said that aliens came that night and assaulted her.”

It is time for the defendant to answer for her own criminal actions,” Choi said during closing arguments on Friday, according to Joe Swaine at the Guardian. “Our founding fathers did not create a right to free assembly so people could commit crimes and hide behind their right to protest. This is a sacred right that should be preserved and protected.”

After a weekend-long break, on Monday afternoon McMillan was pronounced guilty after lunch. Next she is expected to be transferred to an area women’s prison ahead of her sentencing.

Shame!” protesters yelled out after the verdict was announced, Swaine reported from the courthouse on Monday. No fewer than two people were removed from the courtroom by the police after refusing to leave, Swaine said.

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There’s NO EXCUSE for Apathy!

Source:Carey Wedler

Carey Wedler provides reasons why there is no excuse for apathy in our world. Carey’s YouTube channel is described as “current rogue for non-violence, love and freedom in a world strangled by governments that violate all three.”

An Unlikely Alliance Remaking The Climate Movement


Kristin Moe | PopularResistance.org | May 4 2014

It began with a dream and a memory.

Faith Spotted Eagle slept. In her sleep, she saw her grandmother lying on a table, wrapped in a blanket with her white braids on her chest.

Her sister appeared. “What’s going on?” Spotted Eagle asked.


I don’t know. They told us to come.”

Spotted Eagle closed her eyes, unsure of what do to, but knowing that it was impolite to stare back. Then her grandmother’s voice came to her.

Look at the treaties. There’s something in the treaties.”

That’s when she woke up.

Spotted Eagle is a Dakota/Nakota elder of the Ihanktonwan tribe in South Dakota. She wears skirts that brush her ankles, and her white braids hang over her shoulders like her grandmother’s — but when she puts on sunglasses, she looks like a badass.

She didn’t know exactly what the dream meant, but she believed it was the answer to a problem she’d been thinking about for some time: How to prevent the Keystone XL pipeline from going through Lakota traditional territory, sacred land.

Who will be able to stand with us?” she thought. “We have to stand with somebody.”

She prayed. And then she remembered the 1863 treaty between the Ihanktonwan and the Pawnee that was the first recorded peace treaty between tribes. She also remembered that throughout the last several decades alliances of natives and non-natives in the Northern Plains had formed and re-formed to defeat threats to land and water. Recently, Lakota elders had made moves to resurrect a new Cowboy Indian Alliance – this time to take on Keystone XL.

In late January of 2013, exactly 150 years after the signing of that first treaty, Spotted Eagle and other activists convened tribal representatives from across the continent on the Ihanktonwan reservation. Their purpose was to ratify the International Treaty to Protect the Sacred from Tar Sands and Keystone XL, a document based on that first 1863 peace treaty. It represented unprecedented unified action from North American indigenous people with one new addition: This new treaty also included a few of the ranchers from the Great Plains, who feel their lands are also threatened by the tar sands pipeline.

Spotted Eagle told visitors of how landowners and tribal members had come together in the past, and how they had successfully driven industry off their land. This was a version of the cowboy-Indian story these cowboys hadn’t heard.

Since then, the alliance has developed, tentatively, through shared purpose. Last week, from April 22-27, members of the budding Cowboy Indian Alliance joined with activists and representatives from tribes across North America in a five-day convergence on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., called Reject and Protect. Wearing moccasins and dusty boots, they ate and prayed together, protested, danced, met with elected officials and led a 5,000-person march through the streets, beginning each day with a ceremony. Their message hung clearly on a banner by the circle of tipis: “No Damn KXL.”

A radical departure

While native/non-native alliances have been forming in various places to prevent all kinds of industrial projects, it is Keystone that has galvanized the environmental movement in a way not seen since the anti-nuclear campaigns of the 1980s. The fight has sparked hundreds of marches, rallies and legal challenges, as well as one of the largest mass civil disobedience actions in the history of the environmental movement.Time magazine wrote in 2013 that it was turning out to be a watershed, the Selma and the Stonewall of the climate movement. That remains to be seen. What’s certain is that the campaign against Keystone has already altered the political landscape.

The environmental movement has long come under criticism for being led by the so-called Big Greens — largely white, middle class membership groups whose interests don’t often represent those actually living in the frontline communities where the pipeline will be built. But the coalition of cowboys and Indians offers a radical departure from this history. Moreover, it is a model of relationship-based organizing, rooted in a kind of spirituality often absent from the progressive world, and — given the role of indigenous leaders — begins to address the violence of colonization in a meaningful way. It may be that these so-called unlikely alliances offer the only chance of forging a movement strong and diverse enough to challenge a continent’s deeply entrenched dependence on fossil fuels.

When TransCanada, the pipeline company, began claiming the right to run the Keystone XL through private property, ranchers and landowners said they finally understood, in some small way, what it might have felt like for Native Americans to lose their land. In speaking of the ranchers, Casey Camp-Horinek, an activist and elder of the Ponca tribe, said, “They, too, are suffering under things like eminent domain. They, too, have had their lifestyles impinged upon by these major corporations.”

The nightmare that’s fostering kinship

The day after Nebraska rancher Bob Allpress rode through the nation’s capitol on horseback in a cavalry contingent of ranchers and tribal members, he was a little stiff. He doesn’t ride much anymore. But Allpress, with his bandana, boots and well-groomed mustache, still looks every inch the cowboy.

When the pipeline route through Nebraska was changed in 2012, ostensibly to avoid the ecologically-sensitive Sandhills, the newly proposed path now cut straight through the Allpress’ alfalfa field. If built, the pipeline would lie just 200 yards from their house.

This is no ordinary pipeline, just as tar sands is no ordinary oil. According to a Natural Resources Defense Council report, tar sands oil is 3.6 times more likely to spill than regular oil. It is also highly corrosive and nearly impossible to clean up. Residents who live near the path of Keystone 1 — a smaller, already existing tar sands pipeline operated by TransCanada — know this story already. They saw 14 spills — along its route from Canada to refineries in Oklahoma and Illinois — during the pipeline’s first year of operation.

TransCanada used what Allpress calls “the old slap and tickle” when it notified him that the pipeline would go through his land: a nice offer of some compensation up front, but a warning that under the law of eminent domain, the pipeline would go through no matter what.

TransCanada’s been nothing but deceitful and a bully the entire time,” he said. And in the words of his wife, Nancy, “We felt like we were the sacrifice.”

But cowboys don’t like to be pushed around. So they told TransCanada to shove it, and joined Bold Nebraska, a four-year-old organization led by Jane Kleeb that has emerged as one of TransCanada’s most formidable obstacles. When Bold Nebraska began partnering with tribes in South Dakota, the Allpresses were on board. They’ve since attended their first tribal council meetings, gone to rallies and public hearings, and written op-eds to Nebraska papers, refuting what Allpress calls TransCanada’s massive public relations campaign.

Environmental activism isn’t exactly what the Allpresses had in mind when they returned to Nebraska to retire from careers in government and the military, and investing what they had in their land.

I’m a redneck Republican,” Allpress joked. He and his wife are both ex-military. “Standing there in cowboy boots and a hat next to people in peace necklaces and hemp shirts” is a little outside his comfort zone. “It’s been — an experience. A good experience. We’ve enjoyed the hell out of it.”

As the sun set on the first evening of the Washington, D.C. gathering, folks sat under a white tent, eating dinner on paper plates and taking refuge from the tourists who swarm the camp, saying, “Look! Real Indians!”

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How Organized Mothers Are Making an Impact

Karl Grossman| Commondreams | May 1st 2014

holding_her_world_by_adrianargh-d4rrrx6The mothers are making an impact!

A phenomenon in environmental activism in recent years has been the emergence of grassroots organizations “powered by the voices of mothers, dedicated to protecting children in global communities,” as one group, The Mothers Project, describes itself.

The Mothers Project, founded and headed by Angela Monti Fox, is based in New York City and global in scope. Fox is the mother of Josh Fox, the filmmaker who exposed the dangers of fracking in his award-winning documentaries Gasland and Gasland 2. Indeed, taking on fracking is a major focus of The Mothers Project.

Organized moms are seen as “a threat because they know politicians tend to cower when mothers show up!”

This week, the anti-environmental, arch-conservative entity named The Independent Women’s Forum is staging a panel discussion in Manhattan to try to counter the mothers’ movement. It is titled “From Helicopter to Hazmat: How the Culture of Alarmism is Turning Parenting into a Dangerous Job.” The group, which gets its funding from right-wing foundations and other conservative interests including the Koch Brothers, got its start in 1992 as Women for Judge Thomas defending the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the U.S. Supreme Court. It fights feminist groups, promotes access to guns and has taken to denying global warming.

Also involved in the event Thursday is the American Council on Science and Health, financed by polluting industries and long described as an industry front group. Its specialty has beenissuing reports denying health damage caused by environmental pollutants, notably pesticides and other toxic chemicals.

Proclaims an announcement: “’Parents are bombarded with alarmist messages on a daily basis about how the food they eat, the habits they practice and the household products they use threaten their health and the health of their children,’ says Julie Gunlock, event moderator and director of Independent Women Forum’s Culture of Alarmism project. Rather than make women feel more informed, the onslaught of alarmist information makes moms (and dads) feel guilty, confused, even angry.”

Comments Angela Fox Monti about the event: “I think this is serious proof that we are making an impact. I have no doubt that they know about The Mothers Project, ClimateMama, Toxic Baby, Moms Clean Air Force, etc., etc.” Organized moms, she declares, are seen as “a threat because they know politicians tend to cower when mothers show up!”

Monti points to the increase in major diseases “in both children and adults­now being seen by the scientific community as a result of environmental impacts. No longer can we look at simply defective genes for the rise in all cancers, new cancers, autism, ADHD, childhood diabetes and obesity. New research points to environmental impact on embryonic development that will span several generations and can be considered a pandemic when 25 percent of the global population born today will be affected by deleterious environmental impacts.”

Anna Grossman, founder and director of HRP Mamas (The Hudson River Park Mothers Group) says: “In the absence of adequate legislation, and as a mother of two young children, I look to reputable medical organizations and research institutes such as the Mount Sinai Children’s Environmental Health Center for guidance on keeping my children safe from unregulated chemicals. I wouldn’t get medical and safety information from a chemical industry front group or from authors who appear to disregard plain science.”

“I find nothing alarmist in being empowered with the knowledge that EPA is simply unable to protect us from thousands of chemicals,” she says. “The EPA has acknowledged this and it’s a known fact. No one is panicking. We are calling for action. Those are two distinctly different things. Trying to paint mothers like me as hysterical is an old and tired stereotype. Parents are agents for change and a tremendous market force. It would seem the chemical industry, as the tobacco industry before it, is terrified of the power of parents to educate their children about companies that don’t value their future health or that of their planet. Europe has enacted REACH [Regulation on Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals] legislation. Why should the USA be left behind?”

Says Bobbi Chase Wilding, deputy director of Clean and Healthy New York: “This is clearly a response from an industry feeling the pressure from parents. They want us to go back to sleep. We’re outraged when we learn there’s no law against putting toxic chemicals in baby products. It happens all the time, and they don’t have to be listed on the label.”

“That’s what’s making us impotent: lack of information, lousy laws, and actions by chemical industry front groups like the American Council on Science and Health,” says the mother of two. “While it’s their message that health advocates are making people feel impotent, it’s exactly presentations like this that are designed to disempower people. There is so much parents can do. There’s a lot of good information that empowers parents to make safer, smart choices. Our message is: don’t panic, take action.”

A “featured panelist” at the event will be Josh Bloom of the American Council on Science and Health, its activities well-detailed in the book by Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber, Trust Us, We’re Experts: How Industry Manipulates Science and Gambles with Your Future.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

Karl Grossman has been a professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College at Old Westbury for 32 years. He is a specialist in investigative reporting. He is the author of Cover Up: What You Are Not Supposed to Know About Nuclear Power. He is the host of the nationally aired TV program, Enviro Close-Up.

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Occupy Returns to Stage for May Day

Meghan Barr | Gazettenet

Occupiers probably won’t show up en masse, but they will hold signs and chant, railing against a variety of social and political issues, including one that has recently captured the attention of world leaders: income inequality.

How much credit Occupy deserves for propelling the issue onto the political agenda is a matter of debate. Some economists maintain the same forces that sparked the protests would have eventually caught the attention of world leaders. Others credit President Barack Obama for making it part of his agenda after re-election.

But this much is clear: Occupiers ignited a global conversation, crystallizing for the public a concept long known among policy wonks and making their rallying cry of “We are the 99 percent” part of the global lexicon during the feverish autumn of 2011.

“There’s nothing like a phrase for a bumper sticker to help,” said William Galston, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. “Would President Obama have chosen to take up this theme if Occupy Wall Street hadn’t occurred? Who knows? But it didn’t hurt.”

Occupiers took up residence in a small granite plaza near the New York Stock Exchange in September that year and helped spark a movement that spread worldwide. It fizzled out after police broke up encampments that had grown into small cities of their own, splintering into smaller activist groups that now champion various causes.

On Thursday — International Workers’ Day — Occupy activists in New York City will join labor groups for demonstrations, as they have every year since the encampments disbanded. The planned protests include a march to Wall Street and a gathering in Zuccotti Park, the site of the original camp. Protests are also planned in Seattle, San Francisco, Boston and elsewhere.

Occupy popularized the concept of the financially elite 1 percent, which was based on revolutionary tax research conducted by French economist Thomas Piketty. Using tax records, Piketty and his team had quantified how much money it took to belong to the 1 percent and what share of personal income that group controlled.

Piketty’s research inspired Occupy’s fixation on the wealthiest echelon of society, but he didn’t attract renown until the publication of his recent best-selling book, “Capital in the Twenty-First Century.”

The gap between the richest Americans and everyone else is indeed widening, a trend that has emerged gradually over decades but accelerated with the Great Recession. The difference between the income earned by the wealthiest Americans and by a median-income household has risen 24 percent in 30 years, according to the Census Bureau.

For at least a year after Occupy’s demise, there was little talk of the issue, a lag some experts believe was intentional.

Back then, many world leaders refrained from aligning too closely with Occupy, whose anarchist message and eccentric tendencies alienated some people. Many Americans as a whole were wary of the “scruffy-looking people” camping out in the street, said Robert Shiller, a professor at Yale University who won a Nobel Prize for Economics.

“Maybe their publicity was useful, but maybe it’s better for the cause that they’re not out there anymore,” Shiller said.

Talking about inequality used to be taboo for major world leaders, relegated to “fringe-left” academics until that stigma faded a little over a year ago, said Laurence Chandy, a fellow at the Brookings Institution.

“It’s a watershed. And I don’t know why it suddenly became OK for everyone to talk about it,” Chandy said. “But it now seems to be like those organizations, they feel if they’re not talking about this, that they risk either irrelevance or being out of touch.”

Experts say Obama’s entry into the fray was a game-changer that steered the global narrative. At the same time, a drumbeat of reports about worsening income disparity sounded the alarm, with Pope Francis denouncing trickle-down economic theories for espousing an unethical “survival of the fittest” mentality.

The economy itself may have been the driving force behind the rhetoric. When ordinary, middle-class Americans are generally faring well, they tend not to notice how the wealthiest are doing, economists say. But when the economy goes south, so does sentiment toward the rich.

“The big change between 50 years ago and today is, back then we were looking down at the plight of the poor,” Galston said. “Now we’re looking up at the privileges of the wealthy.”

The prevailing feeling among many original Occupiers is one of bittersweet vindication. They’re happy people are talking about the wealth gap — and take credit for that ongoing conversation. But they’re disillusioned by the lack of concrete economic reforms.

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Engage the Battlefield of Ideas for Social Good

Joe Brewer and B. Laszlo Karafiath | Commondreams | 24th April 2014

nChanges in societies are driven by “culture wars” and the battle of ideas.  Epic idea battles arose between capitalism and communism, religious fundamentalism and secular humanism, pro-choice and pro-life, emos and goths, etc.  Great advances have been made along the way in the realms of public health, human rights, representative government, trade and business, and the development of technology.

The road to human progress is often presented as a continuous path.  Reality simply doesn’t work that way.  History is rife with conflict and tension, collaboration and resistance, competing agendas that battle for supremacy.  Progress is not linear.  It moves in cycles and waves, pulses and push-backs, tension and release.  Culture is a complex system made up of many actors with diverse relationships among them.  Change is emergent from the countless interacting parts.  And memes are always at the center of the action.

Memes are the elements of culture that replicate, mutate, and spread from one person to another.  They are the stories, jingles, products, ideas, scripted behaviors, organizations, and brand identities that collectively make up every cultural system.  Memes are structured information that flows across a society, always in dynamic tension with one another.  As such, the science of social change is a science of meme evolution.

Unlike with human warfare, memes cannot be killed.  They live on in the minds of people who remember them and act upon them in their lives.  While a human construct like an empire or a castle or a city can be destroyed, the idea of the empire or the castle or the city lives on.  Once a meme is out there in a culture, it will always be there.  The only way for a meme to die is if all cultural memory of it is destroyed.  This rarely happens.  Even in the most egregious attempts to destroy memes — burning of the library at Alexandria, for example — remnants of old ideas live on in the cultural DNA of newer ideas that have been influenced by them.

Some ideas are good for humans.  Others don’t work out so well.  The battle between capitalism and communism revealed that centralized planning doesn’t promote human flourishing.  Yet it was the critiques of capitalism from within this multi-decade clash of ideas that revealed how market economies built on self-interest alone create neither prosperity nor thriving communities.  As the great ideological battle unfolded, both sides evolved and adapted to their changing environments.  The system we now know to work best is a hybrid — strong social democracy with an open market system.  Both memes continue to battle in the recent clashes between Occupy Wall Street and financial elites, ever changing and always on the move.

Both communism and capitalism are ideas that operate according to the laws of cultural evolution, which differ from the laws of physics in important ways.  The debate about which one is “real” and “correct” fails to recognize that they are all just ideas, created and propagated by cultural genes, and all participants are inside a meme battleground and thus constrained in their perspectives to the memes that exist there.  Economic systems are social constructs based on these idea constructs and the only reason they exist is because a critical mass of human minds believe them into being — one signed contract and one consumer transaction at a time.

Memes change through evolutionary processes.  They form symbiotic relationships; compete for scarce resources; mutate by sharing elements: socialistic governance plus market dynamics = resilience and prosperity.  Through this unfolding web of relationships they can be improved over time.

Evolutionary biologists would describe this as increasing fitness through selection.  This is how cultural evolution works. Understanding how this works is essential for guiding society toward higher levels of fitness, and ultimately, greater prospects for human thriving.  A great example being the way that Christianity spread as an offshoot of Judaism.  Paul, the apostle, realized that the practice of circumcision kept many people from adopting the new faith.  So he removed it from the liturgy of cultural practices.  Thus evolved a new-and-improved Christian religion that spread more easily to incorporate more followers.

In a paradoxical way, the battle between ideas can lead to peace and prosperity.  Ideas that promote wellbeing can win out against those that harm societies.  Another example from the 20th Century makes this point — the appearance of the atomic bomb activated a global response to bring state warfare to an end.  The meme that humans can annihilate all of humanity brought on a global peace movement to lessen the chances that such an event would ever transpire.  This helped accelerate the spread of democracies, open societies, market economies, and as a result we now have the most peaceful society in history (relative to our total population size).

In a similar way, the fear and grief caused by memes about ecological devastation have unleashed waves of innovation in sustainability practices.  Farmers markets are now the norm in Western cities.  Renewable energy technologies have been developing since the 70′s and are going mainstream now.

This explosion of social innovations would not have been possible without the conflicts and tensions that grew out of the environmental movement as it waged battles with status quo institutions and social norms.  We progress by engaging the warfare among memes, thus accelerating the process of social learning.  Those who bemoan the polarized nature of our politics are missing out on the real action.

Humanity moves forward not one step at a time, but as a dance of give and take among ideas that are at war with one another.

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Participate in Lynne McTaggart’s Historic Healing Intention Experiment on Saturday April 26, 2014 at 10 AM PST

On Saturday April 26, 2014 Lynne McTaggart will be running the latest of her Intention Experiments, the largest mind-over-matter experiment in history, studying the power of group mind to heal the world. [THE EVENT IS OVER]

During this two-hour live event, which is a philanthropic exercise and free for everyone to join, Lynne and her team of scientists will be testing, for the first time ever, the power of intention to heal an individual with a diagnosed illness under scientifically controlled laboratory conditions. If this experiment produces a positive outcome, it will have enormous implications about the role of thought in healing and the practices of our community of healers

The live two (2) hour broadcast will take place on April 26, 2014 at 10 AM PST. To participate in this historic event, you need to register ahead of time. This will make sure that on the day of the event, you will be able to log in and participate in the event without delay. So, sign up now at the link below to participate in this historic event:

Learn More about The Healing Intention Experiment here:
Past Intention Experiments of Lynne’s, which have attracted thousands of participants from 90 countries around the world, have shown that group intention can help food grow faster, purify water, and lower violence in war-torn areas.

Here is how you can help promote this event:

1. Sign up and Participate in the Event:
(Steps > Fill Out Short Form. > Click “Submit”)

2. Join the event on Facebook:
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3.  Share the event on Facebook:
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6 Easy Things You Can Do For Our Planet This Earth Day

Purple Sunset at Sea by Cherie Roe Dirksen

Happy Earth Day!

The 22nd April marks a day when the entire globe focuses on environmental protection.

People all over the world are using today to unite in meditation, visualizations, demonstrations and getting the message out there that we have to stop and take notice of what we are doing to the planet.

I know many people want to make a difference and help to secure a brighter future for Earth and for our children.

But what can you do right now to make a difference?  How can you dramatically reduce your own carbon footprint?

Go Green and Get More Green Stuff to Put in Your Wallet

Actually it’s easier than you think and you can SAVE a lot of money in the process!

Here are a few pointers to get you kick-started on the path to a greener future:

  • Recycle water — use your bath water to flush your toilet with and/or water your garden (and get a really excellent workout by carrying buckets to and fro).  I started doing this a few months ago and have not only cut my water bill down drastically, built some muscle matter but I also feel a lot better for not wasting precious water resources.
  • Switch Off!  Cut back on your electricity usage and get energy saving light bulbs fitted.  It’s so easy to leave our geysers (hot water cylinders) on all day and turn lights on and forget to switch them off again.  However, being more conscious about your energy consumption can also lead to a greener Earth and a substantial slash in your electrical bill (again, my bill went down over 50% when I implemented this — hooray!).
  • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle — self explanatory, I guess.  Try to reuse things like toilet paper (only joking) — seriously though — have a look at my Pinterest board for cool reusable ideas CLICK HERE.  Reduce where you can — instead of putting that bunch of bananas in a plastic bag, just get the fruit weighed and have the sticker slapped on the peel.  Small stuff like that can truly make a vast difference in plastic consumption.  Recycle everything that can be reprocessed.  I was using 2 black bags full of trash a week, I’ve now got it down to half a bag a week.  These things really do work!
  • Carpool, Use Public Transport, Walk, Cycle or Drive Slower — did you know that if you accelerate slowly and smoothly, anticipate your stops and starts and maintain the speed limit you will reduce your fuel consumption?
  • Eat Wisely — did you know that vegetarians save about 3000 pounds of CO2 a year compared to meat eaters?  If you can’t think of a life without meat, try to go for free-range poultry as it is less greenhouse gas intensive than beef.  Buy local — shipping and transporting food burns fuel!  Try to source local produce.
  • Save Trees — you can save massive amounts of paper by just switching to receiving online account statements instead of snail mail.  You can also stop junkmail with the help of 41pounds, a nonprofit service that contacts dozens of direct mailers to remove your name from their lists.

I hope this inspires you to do your bit for our beautiful planet.

Other articles you may enjoy:

Can Music Jump-Start Humanity’s Awakening?

Earth Day Sparks Off ‘Green’ Boutique

    Divine You — Redefining Love in the New Earth Book

author shot lo resCherie Roe Dirksen is a self-empowerment author, multi-media artist and meditation music composer from Cape Town, South Africa.  You can subscribe to her site HERE and receive a free gift bundle.
She has weekly blogs on her site www.cherieroedirksen.com where she discusses creativity, practical and insightful perspectives on taking responsibility for your actions and living the life you came here to experience. You can follow her on Twitter (@cheriedirksen) and Facebook @The Art of Empowerment.



Chris Hedges: The Rhetoric of Violence

Chris Hedges | Truthdig | April 20th 2014

In this April 13 file image taken from video provided by KCTV-5, Frazier Glenn Cross is arrested in an elementary school parking lot in Overland Park, Kan. He later was charged with killing three people at two Jewish-affiliated facilities. AP/KCTV-5, File

In this April 13 file image taken from video provided by KCTV-5, Frazier Glenn Cross is arrested in an elementary school parking lot in Overland Park, Kan. He later was charged with killing three people at two Jewish-affiliated facilities. AP/KCTV-5, File

At least nine people were killed and at least 35 others were wounded in shootings across Chicago on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. On Thursday police announced that aman had been arrested on charges of firing on a number of motorists recently, wounding three of them, on Kansas City-area highways. On April 13 three people, including a child, were murdered at two Jewish-affiliated facilities in Overland Park, Kan., leading to the arrest of a white supremacist. On April 12, armed militias in Nevada got the federal government to retreat, allowing rancher Cliven Bundy to continue to graze his cattle on public land. All this happened over a span of only nine days in the life of a country where more than 250 people are shot every day. In America, violence and the threat of lethal force are the ways we communicate. Violence—the preferred form of control by the state—is an expression of our hatred, self-loathing and lust for vengeance. And this bloodletting will increasingly mark a nation in terminal decline.

Violence, as H. Rap Brown said, is “as American as cherry pie.” It has a long and coveted place in U.S. history. Vigilante groups including slave patrols, gunslingers, Pinkerton andBaldwin-Felts detectives, gangs of strikebreakers, gun thugs, company militias, the White Citizens’ Council, the Knights of the White Camellia, and the Ku Klux Klan, which boasted more than 3 million members between 1915 and 1944 and took over the governance of some states, formed and shaped America. Heavily armed mercenary paramilitaries, armed militias such as the Oath Keepers and the anti-immigration extremist group Ranch Rescue, along with omnipotent and militarized police forces, are parts of a seamless continuation of America’s gun culture and tradition of vigilantism. And roaming the landscape along with these vigilante groups are lone gunmen who kill for money or power or at the command of their personal demons.

Vigilante groups in America do not trade violence for violence. They murder anyone who defies the structures of capitalism, even if the victims are unarmed. The vigilantes, often working with the approval and sometimes with the collusion of state law enforcement agencies, are rarely held accountable. They are capitalism’s shock troops, its ideological vanguard, used to break populist movements. Imagine that, if instead of right-wing militias, so-called “ecoterrorists”—who have never been found responsible for taking a single American life—had showed up armed in Nevada. How would the authorities have responded if those carrying guns had been from Earth First? Take a guess. Across U.S. history, hundreds of unarmed labor union members have been shot to death by vigilante groups working on behalf of coal, steel or mining concerns, and thousands more have been wounded. The United States has had the bloodiest labor wars in the industrialized world. Murderous rampages by vigilante groups, almost always in the pay of companies or oligarchs, have been unleashed on union members and agitators although no American labor union ever publicly called for an armed uprising. African-Americans, too, have endured a vigilante reign of terror, one that lasted for generations after the Civil War.

And all the while, vigilantes have been lionized by popular culture, winning mythic status in Hollywood movies that glorify lone avengers.

Vigilante bands have served and continue to serve the interests of state power or, as in the case involving the Nevada rancher, corporations that seek to eradicate public lands. They are used to make sure the dispossessed and marginalized remain dispossessed and marginalized. They revel in a demented hypermasculinity.

[read full post here]