Friday, April 25, 2008
I chose to share this jumbled video that portrays police repelling protestors because it demonstrates the power of people to spread news (and images) of their causes worldwide. The protestors are reacting to the rising cost of fuel in the face of the declining Icelandic krona. High fuel prices coupled with a poor economy equals truck drivers blockading off access to major roads with their trucks. I think this is a pretty effective protest because it makes a big statement without costing too much to those that wish to make it or causing damage. Its effectiveness is reflected in the fact that the Icelandic police have responded with an unprecedented show of force. However, in a country where half of the price of filling up at the pump is composed of government taxes a protest of this magnitude seems justified and necessary. The problem with the government’s response is that the public is not used to police handling protesters in this fashion. The man that recorded the video, Halldor Sigurgson, said, “This is the first time in a long time we have seen in Iceland violence against protestors…we are not used to violence against groups of people at all.”
This is why the video component is so important- it allows for coverage to be spread quickly and effectively worldwide building support for protestors. One no longer has to be on a news crew or working for a news agency to shape the news. I found this video on cnn.com through their iReporter feature where literally anyone can be a reporter. This is something I feel nonviolent protestors need to be cognizant of and use to their advantage as these Icelandic protestors did.
When was the last time that you turned on the news and an aspect of the "war on terror" was not on it, with its graphic footage of army fatigues, blasts, and missing limbs. On the outside , it may seem that this is just the US and Iraq going at it, but one closer look exposes the inner conflict of Iraq - that is, between the Shi'ites and the Sunnis. The Shi'ites, the long-persecuted majority under Hussein, and the Sunnis are fighting a double battle...between themselves as well as the red, white, and blue.
According to Reuters from Helsinki, Finland will be hosting a conference this week for all of the Iraqi factions. This seminar is headed by the Crisis Management Initiative (CMI), organized by the Former President Marti Ahtisaari, as well as two other American institutions. It will be modeled after last year's similar seminar in September during which, with 30 participants from mostly the warring Shi'ite and Sunni groups, a set of suggestions and political goals were created for future talks that could halt the violence in the Iraq.
While we have yet to see evident progress from last September's conference, this is exactly what is needed to solve this problem. While I have heard the argument that these groups are far beyond discussion, it is the most effective and plausible direction to go for peace. Not only will discussions such as these create the sense of trust and respect that needs to be fostered before any other goal, but it will present the opportunity for both factions to speak in a safe space and formulate a collective strategy on fixing the poverty and hate in their country. This may, consequently, lead to the end of this mad "war."
Can hate, vengeance, and feuding be so intense that diplomatic talks among citizens are out of the question? The situation in Iraq is similar to Sudan, where, according to scholars, the first thing needed is for the local groups to speak to and TRUST one another. The Shi'ites and Sunnis are, in essence, still sisters and brothers, both living in the same country, believing in the same God, and eating the same Iraqi deliciousness.
Let me present an image - all of the Iraqi people, singing together revolution-style, at the officials who have fashioned this feud. Maybe that's what is needed. Music and singing. A sense of brother/sisterhood. It has, no doubt, been forgotten. As in the 12 Principles, one must formulate organizational strength. The best organization for this situation is that of all the Iraqi people together.
http://dead.net/node/11363/Barack Obama appeared before the band took stage. (check out the vid)
The Israeli Air Force has claimed that pictures posted by soldiers on social websites helped the enemy numerous times in the past year. I'm not saying I do not understand why the Israeli military is extremely upset, but what limits should they put on their soldiers. Photos and other information goes through extensive screening and only certain personel is allowed to post photos at all.
I guess I also want to point out the differences in responsibilities we as students have versus people in (any) military. We just embarrass ourselves when we post foolish pictures, but members of the military can compromise themselves as well as others. Where should the military draw the line? Surely, we do not want American soldiers posting pictures that would compromise their lives or the lives of others. But shouldn't they have the freedom to post what they wish? Is that not the point of free speech as it has evolved with the expansion of the internet and social sites? Is this idea of restriction of posting a question of censorship, safety, civil liberties or a combination of all? Just some food for thought, since I know each one of us spend plenty of time on the time drain that is Facebook.
One last question I would like to pose: How responsible are we to use discretion when posting photos, blogs, and other items on the internet? Or are the parameters constantly changing with the changing face of the internet?
Thursday, April 24, 2008
The portion we viewed in class included the Yesmen attending a conference where they presented the "manager leisure suit" in which managers can be anywhere in the world and can still control their sweatshops. Obviously, the idea comes across as completely ridiculous in the film. I think that this is in large part because the Yesmen tell us to a large extent the hoax they are going to play on the unsuspecting conference attendees. I wonder if we had no idea what was going to happen and we just saw the clip where the Yesmen give their speech, how would we react? Would we find it completely ridiculous, understand the absurdity of the concept they propose, or just mindlessly accept what they are preeching (basically, that we can make sweatshops even more inhumane)? My guess is somewhere in the middle. I personally do not believe I would understand all the implications of the statement they tried to make. However, I do think I would have picked up on the absurdity of the proposal. If you didn't know what the Yesmen's aim was, how do you think you would react?
The other main portion of the film was concerned with preparing for a conference in Australia where they would propose a recycable hamburger. That's right, taking recycling to a new and completely disgusting level. In their proposal the "WTO" explains how a system would extract meat from "human waste products" to make a new hamburger. These new recycled burgers would be sent to a country financial less prosperous than the United States. Okay, completely absurd. And the Yesmen go further to say that this system would continue so that a burger could be eaten up to 10 times.
Unfortunately, the Yesmen's hopes were shot when the conference they were supposed to present was cancelled due to decreased interest. While disappointed in the cancellation of the conference, they found another venue - a college campus - to hold their presentation. They started out by giving McDonald's hamburgers to all in attendence. After launching into their presentation, it was clear that most (if not all) of the members of the audience were apalled by the proposal of recycled hamburgers. The students rose many concerns - from ethical, to health issues, to disgust at this capitalist-fueled idea. People walked out of the auditorium, engaged the Yesmen in heated discussion, and even resorted to foul language to express their outrage. The Yesmen were extremely pleased with how the speach went. They hoped that the students would catch on quickly and dispute the concept. It's hopeful for our generation then, that we can more easily spot the absurdities in organizations like the WTO than some of our elders who seem immune to the wrong-doings of these organizations and corporations.
The film ends with a makeshift conference in Australia, after all. Telling the organizers of the conference that they would already be in Australia, the Yesmen pressured the organizers to create a new conference. However, instead of the burger proposal, the Yesmen decide to represent the WTO in a different light. They apologize to the attendees for the change in the program and then reveal the WTO’s newest plans. These plans include dismantling the WTO so that they can review the way their actions negatively affect many regions of the world. Obviously, this announcement comes as surprise to all of the attendees. After the conference, the announcement was also sent to 25,000 journalists around the world.
In perhaps the most drastic action of the Yesmen that I have heard of, they completely challenge the very essence of the WTO. Even though soon after the announcement, it was clear that the WTO would not be dismantling, the announcements surely stirred much thought about the nature of the WTO. I believe that it was quite the wake-up call to even the most heartless of corporate and international “bigwigs.” Many questions rose for me after watching this segment in the movie. Why does the WTO take some of the drastic actions it does towards underdeveloped countries? How do the members of the WTO come to terms with the ethical questions they face? And most of all, I wish to learn more about the WTO and how it operates in the face of ethical questions.
The fact that such a humorous concept for social action can evoke some very serious questions, shows that it is an effective means for rising social issues. Just another example of how social action comes in almost every form possible!
Mugabe is receiving an enormous amount of international pressure to step down from office or at the very least sit for negotiations. The US and South Africa are at the forefront of the international pressure on Mugabe. To me the fact that these particular countries support the MDC is no surprise. The US, obviously a strong proponent of spreading democracy, and South Africa, repeatedly involved in attempting to broker peace in other African nations, both have interests in Zimbabwe, either political or moral.
Governments are not the only institutions that are concerned with the rising tensions in Zimbabwe. The Anglican church is also speaking out against violence happening in the country and about the dispute over the election and said according to BBC, "If nothing is done to help the people of Zimbabwe from their predicament, we shall soon be witnessing genocide similar to that experienced in Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi and other hotspots in Africa and elsewhere.” Their basis for worrying about violence is the reportedly 10 ten deaths, 3,000 displaced people and 500 injured people as a result of the elections. Human rights groups are already involved and say that displaced people are reporting they were tortured for voting the “wrong way.”
After looking at the circumstances surrounding the problems in Zimbabwe, I can understand why some Anglican Church leaders may feel as if a major break out of violence would occur. However, I think that the potential “genocide” they are worried about seems a bit over-dramatic (of course in times like these, over-dramatic is usually necessary). I think that the Church leaders are using strong language to draw international attention.
I do not think, though, that genocide will result from the violence that has erupted. I believe this for many reasons. Firstly, the violence is not as wide-spread as it was in countries like Rwanda or Sierra Leon. Also, most importantly, I think that the early involvement of the international community will put any major violence to a halt. It seems that the world does not want another situation like the one in Sudan to erupt in Africa. More and more attention is being centered on the troubles in Africa, not just on Sudan, but Kenya and now Zimbabwe.
So, I do not think, as the Anglican leaders have said, that genocide will erupt – I am hopeful that the international community will put an end to the issues in Zimbabwe before they escalate to catastrophic levels.
You can find a more in-depth description of the case from the Washington Post Article, “Over Ginsburg's Dissent, Court Limits Bias Suits.”
Justice Ginsburg, along with numerous others, were appalled by the court’s reading of the Title VII filing limitations, claiming the decision of Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company worked to undermine women’s rights. Much dissent over the decision was based on the notion that the statute failed to address the reality of worker discrimination when the discrimination occurs in increments, making it impossible to see pay disparities within a 180-day period of first receiving a pay check. In Ms. Ledbetter’s case, her lack of knowledge regarding what others were paid, made it impossible for her to realize she was being discriminated against within a 180 day period of her first pay check.
But, whether or not you agree or disagree with the Supreme Court’s findings, I thought it was interesting to look at the reactions and responses of women’s rights activists in Washington, DC… in this case, Senators. Upset by the decision in the Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire, Senators such as Edward Kennedy decided to sponsor a bill called the Fair Pay Restoration Act, also known as the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. The bill, which if passed would reverse the decision of Ledbetter v. Goodyear, was strategically introduced to the Senate a day after Equal Pay Day. The media attention due to the controversy of the court ruling combined with the significance of having a bill extending worker’s rights proposed to be passed on Equal Pay Day was a perfect example of the creative ability to promote your cause through non-violent means. Senator Kennedy also made sure his Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee released a report only a week earlier, which demonstrated the great economic risk that women face in the workforce due to statistics indicating that in the past year, women’s real wages decreased by 3 percent compared to the .5 % decrease for men’s wages.
Although the Senate failed to cut off debate on the bill and bring it to the floor for a vote, the strategic timing also stirred the attention of both democratic presidential candidates, convincing both Hillary Clinton and Barrack Obama to take a short recess from their campaigns in order to vote for the bill.
Eighty-six percent of drinking water in
Currently, the demand for water greatly outweighs the supply, “The Dhaka Water and Sewerage Authority is supplying 1.50 billion liters of water a day against a demand of 2.25 billion liters.” And that is just the city, in the rest of the country only forty percent of the population has access to electricity. Country provinces have staged protests in the past because of a lack of electricity to assist in irrigation and farming.
The question I am struggling to answer, however, is how effective a protest is against something that cannot be controlled. The citizens have not been wronged by their city officials; rather they are victim to a degree of bad luck. The falling water table rates and a lack of rainwater should be the real targets of protestors’ wrath.
But other than protest and show their discontent, citizens are limited in what they are able to do to right their situation. Forced to stand in long lines with empty water jugs for a commodity that is usually readily available, Bangladeshis are bound to feel frustrated and impatient. And with these feelings of discontent, what are
Therefore my conclusion is that citizens of
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Since the partition of
A few weeks ago, the critically acclaimed Pakistani film, Khuda Ke Liye, was screened in
The film, whose title means "In the Name of God," is about two brothers who embark upon very different paths; one becomes a religious extremist and the other becomes a victim of racial profiling in the
The lack of communication between the
I believe that the decision to release a Pakistani movie in
What showing this movie did was shatter the concept that these two cultures are distinct, separate, and unable to relate. Khuda Ke Liye represents progress and hope for future amiable Indian-Pakistani relations. As they say in the movies, hopefully "this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
The banner, which was lowered by a few protestors who had gained access to the elevated billboard location also urged China to talk to the Dalai Lama. Those pictured hanging the sign have been detained by Australian authorities, and are expected to be charged (although if they are punished in the same manner as those responsible for the laser display, they should not face much more than a small fine).
Although they did commit illegal acts, I believe that the individuals responsible for the "Don't Torch Tibet" and "Compassion" signs were successful in their efforts. They did not harm anybody, and succeeded in expressing themselves in highly public locations. To add to their success, they managed to use their arrest as a chance to "mute the weapons of the enemy". In this case, the opposition was attempting to remove their signs from public view so as to not allow their ideas to spread. In reality, however, the arrests of these pro-Tibetan activists have already brought a great deal of media coverage. Within 24 hours of their acts, videoclips on Youtube and news stations have been broadcasting the messages of the protestors to millions across the world. The much publicized hanging of the anti-Chinese banners has brought a continued amount of attention to the pressing issue of Tibetan suppression by the hosts of this Summer's Olympics, and should be considered a success from a non-violent perspective.
P.S. - on an interesting side note, there was a verbal battle between Chinese and Australian officials during the press conference which announced the arrival of the torch. It looks like the Australian Olympic officials are capable of expressing themselves just as well as some of the citizens.
The logic works much the same way: although I was insulted that whoever made the video thought that black and white shots of Scarlet Johansson repeating “Yes, we can” without telling me “Yes, we can” what… would make me vote for a political candidate, I still felt drawn to Obama, his seemingly optimistic attitude, and fresh outlook on the Presidency. In the same vein, reading about why my vote mattered most or would be sought after more insulted me because I know it doesn’t matter most nor will it be sought after more, and the article was manufactured because its an interesting headline, and news agencies are running out of hot button issues to talk about. But, I felt special, more important, and more importantly more inclined to vote. This is why I do not mind the onslaught of news reports about every aspect of the election, because by keeping the election constantly in the public eye more citizens are reminded of the election, its meaning, and why they should vote. I hope this translates to more votes overall.
The same logic goes for why I was more than flattered that the article touted single women as the group candidates need to appeal to in order to win. Although John Edwards stated that his main priority as a white male is a jet ski, the article notices several issues that face single women in today’s world: they are paid less than their male peers, they are more likely to be without health coverage, they lack the dual income of their married peers, 20% of them are single moms. Although I do not have to deal with these issues currently, I will be out of college and trying to support myself while the next President is in Office and by touting single women as the important group, it perhaps makes candidates more inclined to develop programs that cater to my future needs.
The best and easiest way to nonviolently create change is to vote and I appreciate the role that the media is playing in this process even if I am tired of seeing pictures of Hilary or Barack when I go to cnn.com.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
The next day an article came out in the Hoya that described a protest that occurred at the same time as the birthday party I was enjoying. About 30 demonstrators, the article reads, protested nonviolently in Red Square beside the festivities. A representative, Harald Fuller-Bennett (GRD ’09), stated that the reason for protest was the slogan that ran on the flyers advertising for the event on the lawn that read: "Israel: Sexy at Sixty." The organizers of the protest made a small, 8.5 by 11 inch postcard that they put beside GIA's flyers around campus a few days before the event. The card read: “Whatever you think about Israel, whatever you think about Palestine, is this sexy?” There were two pictures, one of a wounded Israeli soldier and one of a dead Palestinian child. Fuller-Bennett is cited as saying that he found GIA's slogan "offensive." The protest, which included participants sitting in Red Square wearing black shirts, tape across their mouths and some neck-scarves, remained completely nonviolent and non-confrontational. Fuller-Bennett cites the protest as a success, saying that people saw them in Red Square and that their message was clear - that there is a need to remember the countless people displaced by this conflict in the Middle East. The GIA are cited as saying they appreciated that those who were offended approached them, and a few days after people came forward, the "Sexy" slogan was removed.
I think that this was a really effective protest. We just discussed the Israel-Palestine issue in my Conflict Studies class and thought a lot about what exactly we could do, as American students, to engage ourselves in this seemingly never-ending and extremely violent conflict. We came to a sort of conclusion that a certain level of awareness of all sides of the issue is paramount. As American citizens, with Israel being a high-profile ally of the United States, we tend to only see a biased view of the conflict. But the very acknowledgment of pain and suffering on both sides of the issue and a sympathetic, delicate and open-minded approach to debates, discussions or celebrations having to do with the situation is incredibly important. I think that the Students for Justice in Palestine group did a great job of nonviolently, but powerfully reinforcing the importance of this sympathy and empathy for all those who are suffering from the violence. This does not mean, of course, that the GIA couldn't have a party - it was just a delicacy issue, I think, treating the situation with the seriousness and consideration it deserves.
One criticism I would have, maybe, would be the fact that I didn't know the protest was going on. I am almost ashamed to admit that it didn't even cross my mind to think about any sort of Palestinian opposition to the celebrations. But I still think that the non-confrontational and nonviolent approach, so as to not cause animosity or uproar, was a really powerful way to show that a symbolic nonviolent approach to a much larger, very violent situation can have an important effect of inspiring dialogue and reminding people of the darker side of an ever-present issue we may have learned to look beyond.
Friday, April 18, 2008
First, when you have three multimillionaire senators running for office, and any of them pointing fingers about who is elitist . . . well, our dear friend, Stephen Colbert, really made the point here.
Then, the candidate I really miss, made a delightful appearance on The Colbert Report last night. Most pundits agree that white men will decide the election. And Senator John Edwards is a white man whoose vote has REALLY be courted!
With both major Democratic candidates appearing on The Colbert Report, and with a SUPER super delegate also making an appearance, maybe Stephen Colbert is one of the most influential people of the year.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
When I analyze a nonviolent campaign, it is important for me to try to remain as unbiased as is humanly possible. This is the case because I have a natural predilection and preference for nonviolent means of affecting change. I must admit, sometimes this tunnel-vision impedes my ability to see all sides of an issue or campaign.
I had to work very hard to remain unbiased when I discovered an article in the New York Times covering a strike that is being staged by "350 teachers at Roman Catholic schools from New York City and its northern suburbs." The teachers will begin their strike on Thursday when the Pope arrives in New York. The teachers, however, are not protesting the Pope's arrival. Rather, the 350 teachers and the Lay Faculty Association to which they belong are striking for better wages and quality health care plans. According to Henry Kielkucki of the Lay Faculty Foundation, the movement is supposed to show people that the "Catholic diocese is not preaching what the pope is preaching.”
The Lay Faculty Foundation is a labor union which has observed that Catholic diocese teachers are making "$25,000 less than their public school counterparts." According to Mr. Kielkucki of the LFA, the pensions are insufficient and health care premiums are too steep. The union feels that it needs to make its voice heard. Therefore, the teachers are waiting until the Pope shows up before they express their discontent with the situation. The archdiocese have been trying to compromise, but the LFA has been persistent, refusing to make any concessions. It appears as if picket signs will remain until something concrete has been established.
For me, it would be easy for me to be completely content with the demonstration; teachers are ridiculously under-appreciated.
Nevertheless, I would not be thoroughly examining this nonviolent campaign if I looked simply at these facts, because the other fact of the matter is relatively saddening. Thousands of kids will not be able to interact with their favorite teachers. Thousands of kids will miss many days of instruction when the teachers begin striking. The Lay Faculty Association has been rigid with negotiations. In other words, the singularity of purpose of the striking teachers has adversely affected the lives of many individuals in the New York area.
Ultimately, one involved in a nonviolent campaign must seek justice first. Then, he/she must seek to preserve life at all costs through compromise. Granted, these teachers are not killing their students for higher wages. However, they are damaging their educational growth. And as a teacher, that should always be one's first priority.
How can teachers seek to improve their plights while at the same continuing to instruct their children?
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
I mean, it is hard to miss a line of 100 dump trucks circling the U.S. Capitol honking their horns as obnoxiously as possible. The trucks held up traffic and exposed hundreds of tourists to excessive noise pollution. The truckers were protesting the raising costs of diesel fuel. They are upset because they are given a fixed amount from their respective companies to spend on gas, so when the prices keep rising, they have to make up for it out of their pockets.
I might just be bitter because the protest made it difficult to cross Constitution Avenue on Tuesday afternoon, and my ears are still ringing from all that honking. But I do not think this was the most effective example of nonviolent protest. I hate to think about all the gas the truck drivers wasted by circling the U.S. Capitol a number of times. I think it went against their argument that they were really concerned about the price of gas.
I think a better form of protest for their cause would have been to organize all the truckers to stop driving for a day, like they did in Syracuse. This would show that they were serious about their cause, and it would make more sense in terms of proving that conserving gas is important to them.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Athletes supporting Darfur could risk being stripped of a medal or disqualified as well.
This situation is really frustrating, and a clear attempt by the Chinese Government and the Olympics to try and quiet down protesters. Are the Olympics really more important than Tibetans and Darfurians? I really don't think so.
This applies to our class because it will be interesting to see how those willing to protest violate these rules, how they react to the opponents' strategy for consolidating control. This is obviously a messy situation. I really hope that something positive will come out of it rather than China just feeling like the world is against them, even if that is true. The Olympics seem to be concerned that the event is being politicized, but I think that is the only thing they could have expected. China is a controversial country. I imagine if the games were being help in America there could rightfully be similar protests around the world.
Some people are anticipating similar protests to what Tommie Smith and John Carlos did in 1968, demonstrating against racial discrimination in America. They gave the Black Power salute and were expelled from the games. But no one will forget that image and I think this is an opportunity to look beyond the games and take a stand for human rights. I wish I was good at some Olympic sport so I could protest!