beyond false divides of politics and religion
on this page:
- Republican - Democrat - Green - Libertarian - Independent alliance for sanity
- Christian - Jewish - Muslim - Atheist interfaith dialogue
- Big Tent: among conspiracy theorists or the whole society?
When you call yourself an Indian or a Muslim or a Christian or a European, or anything else, you are being violent. Do you see why it is violent? Because you are separating yourself from the rest of mankind. When you separate yourself by belief, by nationality, by tradition, it breeds violence. So a man who is seeking to understand violence does not belong to any country, to any religion, to any political party or partial system; he is concerned with the total understanding of mankind.
-- J. Krishnamurti, Freedom from the Known, pp. 51-52
Inspiration is not garnered from litanies of what is flawed; it resides in humanity’s willingness to restore, redress, reform, recover, reimagine, and reconsider. Healing the wounds of the Earth and its people does not require saintliness or a political party. It is not a liberal or conservative activity. It is a sacred act.
-- To Remake the World: Something Earth-changing is afoot among civil society
by Paul Hawken
Published in the May/June 2007 issue of Orion magazine
an excerpt from the book Blessed Unrest by Paul Hawken
There are many honest Republicans who do not support the crazy neo-cons nor the theocratic fringe groups and are frustrated with the corruption, incompetence, viciousness and fascism in their Party.
Most Democrats (in the rank-and-file) are not fans of the Party leadership, which is nearly as tone-deaf to public opinion and resistant to input as the R's.
The Green Party is a nice idea, but under a "winner take all" system it is unlikely to win races beyond City Councils in liberal college towns. A Canadian or European style parliamentary democracy would allow the Greens (and other so-called minor parties) to gain representation in the legislature, which would force the dominant parties to take their concerns much more seriously. (The proposals for "Instant Runoff Voting" are a inadequate substitute, offering the illusion of power while ensuring that Greens would not be elected nor taken seriously by the Democratic Party). Unfortunately, the Greens "blew it" by staying largely silent about the vote fraud in Florida in 2000 that tipped the race to Bush, allowing the D's to blame the Greens for Bush's alleged victory. By the time the National Green Party worked to challenge the vote fraud in Ohio (and elsewhere) in 2004, the damage was done.
Libertarians are strong supporters of civil liberties and opponents of Bush era shredding of the Constitution (although they often seem ideologically opposed to understand that economics rarely limits toxic pollution that harms people and the biosphere).
The bottom line: all of the political parties are flawed, but a majority of people in all of the parties could work together, despite philosophical differences, on the great challenges of how to survive and thrive in the era of global warming and Peak Oil - a challenge that could be seen as more exciting than war, if we want civilization to continue and the biosphere to continue to support agriculture that keeps us alive.
|The real 9/11 Big Tent|
Some 9/11 "truth" activists claim that we need a big tent to include those who promote any and all ideas of complicity, although including those promoting offensive nonsense usually alienates more people than it attracts. The real big tent is with the majority of our society: joining together liberals, conservatives, Democrats, Republicans, Greens, Libertarians, Christians, Jews, Muslims, athiests, straight, gay, urban, suburban, rural, wealthy, poor, etc. is possible, if we look beyond what are often relatively shallow philosophical differences that get in the way of implementing the countless solutions that exist to these problems. Perhaps one start would be to drop the ridiculous "red state / blue state" construct the media uses to keep us divided, since elections show this dichotomy isn't quite as clearcut as it is marketed. Most people want a good life, have compassion for their children, and are decent human beings -- the political, philosophical and religious labels usually get in the way of communication and while they have importance, our common humanity is far more important if we want to avoid the potential "dieoff" scenarios. The resources we waste on war - money, materials, people - will have to be shifted toward renewable energy, international cooperation, public health, organic food, relocalization of production, etc. for society to be functional a few decades from now. The "deep politics" understanding of the Peak Oil wars (PNAC, 9/11, the oil motivations for the Iraq war, etc) is mostly relevant to the extent that it can shift from military to peaceful uses of global resources and talents for our collective survival. In short, convert the "War on Terror" to a planetary wide effort to restore the biosphere and create a more just economic system (probably a hybrid of many things, ultimately based on energy flows).
Beyond Progressive and Conservative:
Political Theory on the Web
from an article about the political crisis in Zimbabwe:
NCA: National Constitutional Assembly (dissident group)
MDC: Movement for Democratic Change (dissident political party)
ZANU-PF: ruling political party of dictator Roberg Mugabe
Why the NCA-MDC Stand-off Healthy for Democracy
... Yes the NCA should continue to organise demonstrations against the ongoing mal-governance of ZANU PF and should even demonstrate against any bad decisions by the MDC as the main opposition party in Zimbabwe. This is because the NCA as a civic organisation must champion the causes of the Zimbabwean people in a manner that is not done by the political parties. That is the difference between politics and civic agitation. There should never be any overlapping or co-habiting between political parties and civic bodies.
Silence Chihuri is a Zimbabwean who writes from Scotland. He can be
contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org
Canada-centric but the central theme applies world-wide:
The Intelligencer (Belleville, ON) December 10, 2008
Editorial by BERT HIELEMA
Coalition of all parties needed to promote living within our means
Prime Minister Stephen Harper doesn't get it. He thinks it's business as usual. He doesn't understand that we live in new times, that yesterday's answers don't work anymore.
His loyal lackey Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is also of the old school: they reduced the GST by 30 per cent, from seven to five per cent, increasing its administration cost from 28 per cent to 40 per cent. Still they want more cuts.
In their book, government is bad: long live their 'free market' god, whose prophet was Milton Friedman, and whose faithful followers were Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. All three promised to show the world the way back to freedom and prosperity; all three said that government was the problem and privatization the solution!
Now with the collapse of 2008, economists are switching gods: John Maynard Keynes is king of all whose bible says that massive government intervention can put us back on track.
But is it too late for that also? Both assume that, because population, resource extraction, and available energy grew throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, the economy can continue to grow in perpetuity. That was never possible. Yet the people in power still think that all they need to do is come up with the right mix of money, market forces and government regulation, and, pronto, all will be well again. No one considers that Earth's supplies of fossil fuels, topsoil and water are limited, and that someday soon the lack of these resources will drastically reduce economic activity.
What old-school Harper and new school Obama are trying to do looks like an exercise in futility. Welcome to a ring-side seat watching the battle between the Ottawa-based free marketers and the new-to-the-game
Washington state controllers argue over who is capable of restoring perpetual growth. Neither can win, because we have reached a significant physical obstacle to growth -- peak oil -- that spells ruin to all economic philosophies that fail to take this new reality, of living in new times, into account. New times call for co-operation, for getting on board together, for unity and consultation.
Harper is exactly the opposite. He wants confrontation, he thrives on strife. He is at his best when cutting down others. His mean streak is no more evident then when the times cry for compromise, something he is unable to do. Outgoing U. S. President George W. Bush is also of that sort. When asked last week whether he had made any mistakes, he was still unable to see that Iraq was wrong, that tax cuts for the rich were criminal, that his refusal to work with the UN on climate change was being out of touch with reality.
Harper is playing that same tune, in part because he is too much a Mike Harris, evident also when he hired former Ontario premier Harris' chief of staff and having several of his cronies in cabinet.
So what then should happen?
New times call for new approaches. From now on, whether we like it or not, we must have coalition governments. Europe has always had it. There the division between rich and poor is not nearly as stark as it is in the English speaking world, where, somehow proportional representation, a much more democratic system, has never caught on.
By now we know that Dion is a dead duck. He is a decent man, who tried his level best to sell Canada on the dangers ahead, and failed because he is no salesman. To tell people what is the rational thing to do, is not good enough. They have to be persuaded through eloquent arguments, as U. S. President-elect Obama did in his campaign to get the nomination and win the presidential campaign although Obama's boastful oratory will obviously backfire.
Harper with his whale-size ego deserves harpooning. Without real friends, lacking goodwill, he has become a liability.
Here is my Christmas wish. I hope that Harper also will be replaced during the next seven weeks. I sincerely hope -- but do not expect -- that the new leaders will tell the nation the true score.
The true score is: we live in new times, where the old remedies do not work anymore.
We see it in the U. S. where, with trillions of government monies pumped into the economy, matters are getting worse. Money is at the heart of the trouble, and more money will not set matters aright.
A consensus between all parties, Conservative, Liberal, NDP, the Bloc and the Green, has to be formed to devise an entirely new way where we can live within the means of nature. We can no longer force a finite nature to accommodate our infinite wants.
That's why our challenges go far beyond the economic problem. Harper's simplistic answers to the most complex situation humanity is facing are totally out of touch.
Published on The Smirking Chimp (http://www.smirkingchimp.com)
Unity or Solidarity
By David Swanson
Created Jul 12 2008 - 1:09pm
Actions mean more to me, and to the millions affected by them, than words. If Obama had voted to toss out the Fourth Amendment and Clinton had voted to keep it PRIOR to the primary in Virginia, I would have voted for Clinton. Yes, I know, Obama didn't vote to invade Iraq, but that is because he was not in the Senate at the time. As soon as he got there, he voted hundreds of billions of our dollars to fund what he supposedly opposed, as of course did Clinton who had also voted for the invasion.
FISA has nothing to do with Clinton supporters' reluctance to fall in line behind Obama. During the primaries, Obama was the bigger opponent of warrantless spying. And in my opinion most of the motivations of Clinton supporters for holding out are misguided, foolish, petty, or all three. And I think, primarily, we need to shift our focus away from a single election to other priorities. But there is a perfectly good point being made that "unity" isn't inclusive if it just means agreeing to support what somebody else wants. Progressives too are having trouble swallowing "unity" whole and are setting their funds aside in escrow to deliver to Obama if he shows any indication of supporting progressive positions: http://democrats.com/obama-escrow-fund 
Supporters of Ralph Nader and Cynthia McKinney and other candidates, as well as the majority of Americans who don't back any candidate have the same point to make. There is a plausible argument that no matter how far Obama moves to the right, as long as McCain is still further to the right, everyone - whether grinning or holding their nose - should vote for Obama (just as there is a plausible argument for backing the candidate you actually prefer). But will an act of voting, or even giving money and sending emails and filling stadiums, give us unity or build a movement? Election campaigns, even if we had candidates with substantive and principled positions, may not lend themselves to building the sort of movement that can actually impose the will of the people on elected officials. The single biggest self-organized group of Obama "supporters" on his website was built around the demand that he preserve the Fourth Amendment, and he proceeded to trash it. The Obama movement doesn't exist as a movement, and if voting were any sort of challenge to corporate power, the trains in DC wouldn't be carrying ads from McDonald's urging you to vote.
Our focus should not be on whom we elect but on building a movement powerful enough to impose our will on those we have elected. Rather than whistling and looking away as Congress funded another year of war because the eternal election season was more important, we could have had a bigger impact, both on the world and on the candidates, by exerting massive pressure on Congress to stop funding death and destruction.
But even in the area of non-electoral activism and organizing, the question of "unity" is one that plagues us. It's a question we need to work on. I've met hundreds of people - there's at least one in any crowd - who give me a speech that you'd think,from the near uniformity of it, they'd all purchased off an infomercial. And yet, they didn't. They each thought it up, and they each feel extremely passionately about it. The theme of the speech is that we must all unite, and primarily that all activist organizations must unite. We've reached a point, I think, where we could create a brand new sizable activist organization consisting solely of people whose primary work is haranguing everybody else about the need to unite. But, then, of course we'd have one more organization to add to the list of groups that all need to be united.
I agree that we need to eliminate pointless and counterproductive lack of coordination among groups working toward similar ends. I've spent a great deal of time building coalitions, joining coalitions, and trying to find common ground on single issues among groups that disagree on numerous other issues. And yet I've come to the conclusion that getting every activist group to join with every other one is neither possible nor necessary, and that far more important is getting more people active, getting more money directed into actual people-driven activism, and getting more of our voices into media outlets of various types.
Organizations have human egos and budgets and cliques to overcome. They also have legitimately varied missions, not to mention problematic tax statuses. I've been asked countless times to unite groups that focus on different issues when neither group has any interest in or agreement with the other group's mission. If someone wants to split their time between fighting election fraud and creating health coverage, they can join two groups, but a permanent institutional "unity" of the two groups should not necessarily be our top priority. Sometimes it does make sense to form coalitions and avoid working at cross purposes, and to cross fertilize and educate to build a broader and more coherent movement. We could stand to do a lot more coalition building and we could be a lot better and a lot more selfless at it. But I'm not sure real selflessness is found in the comment one unity promoter recently made to me and a group of allies: "Every one of you has an agenda. I am the only one without an agenda!"
Of course, the institutional core of each coalition inevitably devolves into one group among many, even while resisting ever joining another coalition, because it IS the coalition. And so it goes, and it's the least of our problems. I don't think our failure to all cohere into one single mobilized force is as big an impediment to social change as various other weaknesses, including the problem of astroturf - that is, of pseudo-activist organizations taking their instructions from elected officials rather than the other way around. Astroturf groups don't necessarily need to join a new coalition, but they should radically alter their method of operations or shut down.
Electoral candidates should be figuring out how to reach the masses who do not vote, and Obama has done a little of that. Activists should be figuring out how to reach the masses who sit back and watch TV. The problem is not so much that the directors of organizations can't agree as that there are not enough people active at all. We do need peace groups to work with justice groups and workers' unions to work with environmental groups, and U.S. groups to work with groups abroad. But major mass actions develop through multiple organizations and include the activities of people not forming part of any organization. We need a fundamental change in our culture from one of disengaged observation to one in which we all constantly defend our rights and create our visions. And we are helped in that endeavor by the richness of our civic life, by the variety of groups, and by the ability of people from various backgrounds and organizations to work, not in unity, but in solidarity, recognizing our differences while joining together for the greater good.
In our hands is placed a power greater than their hoarded gold,
Greater than the might of armies, magnified a thousand-fold.
We can bring to birth a new world from the ashes of the old
For the union makes us strong.
Our cry should be for solidarity. We should build alliances. We should share our needs and our strengths. We should include people in a movement that they own, not unify them in a operation that belongs to someone else.
David Swanson is a co-founder of After Downing Street, a writer and activist, and the Washington Director of Democrats.com.