Tag - activism

Barack Obama: Community Organizer

People joke about President Obama’s abilities at eleven-dimensional chess. I think that Obama has a long-term strategy, more understandable than eleven-dimensional chess. I also think that it’s quite different from much of what passes for strategy in political Washington.

Obama came into office in January 2009 with an enormous number of problems facing the country. He had been dealing with the financial crisis since his election. That crisis was, in a way, the culmination of the financialization of the American economy, which, along with tax and other policy, had hollowed out prospects for the middle class. The country was stuck in two wars that had very little to do with its national interests. Other aspects of the “War on Terror” that damage the perception of the US abroad and damage civil liberties at home persisted long after any utility had disappeared. North Korea had demonstrated nuclear weapons, and Iran was engaged in pursuit of technology that could make nuclear weapons possible for them.

Perhaps the most difficult problem Obama faced, though, was an apathetic electorate and media that depicted that president as the only political actor in the country. Democracy can’t work without the participation of the people.

Obama would have seen that apathy before, as a community organizer. Poor communities are often demoralized or do not know how to fight for what they need. The organizer’s job is to get citizens active in helping themselves. This involves many things: educating citizens on their rights and ways to go about changing their circumstances, which would include the political process; and encouraging the citizens to take action on their own behalf. Read More

#IdleNoMore: What Do Protesters Want?

Dr. Dawg:

The other day, I got into it a bit with John Ivison, who expressed polite disdain for the allegedly “hapless” Chief Theresa Spence—and then admitted that he had no idea what her demands actually were.

That’s all too typical.

But not all of us who support #IdleNoMore are as informed as we should be either. Let’s start with the Harper government’s current treaty-breaking campaign—and yes, a flurry of bills in the House of Commons, rammed through without consulting indigenous peoples as the Constitution requires, counts as a “campaign.”

Here, to save us all time, is an excellent compilation of the effects of these bills, taken from an address by aboriginal Constitutional scholar Pam Palmater. Or you may wish to hear this straight from her own mouth, delivered with clarity and a wealth of detail.

WATCH:

Police on playback: Copwatch in New York City

Via Waging Nonviolence/The NY Video League:

Stories of police brutality are often told in a way that casts victims as helpless bystanders of cops run amok. We met with Sean Pagan, a recent victim of police violence, and found that his story changes how we think about policing in New York. Sean’s story shows that communities are finding new and innovative tactics for dealing with discriminatory policing, beyond waiting for legislative reform. One such tactic is copwatch, in which individuals or teams film police officers in action. But what’s the history of the tactic? What are the risks, limitations and impact of filming the police? And how do these videos change the way we understand narratives of police violence?

WATCH:

 

Code Pink, the Taliban and Malala Yousafzai

by Meredith Tax

(Originally posted by openDemocracy, republished under a Creative Commons license)

The US antiwar group Code Pink, which describes itself as “a women-initiated grassroots peace and social justice movement working to end US funded wars and occupations,” recently sent a delegation to Pakistsan to campaign against drones with Imran Khan. On October 9th, a dozen of them held a symbolic twelve hour fast outside the Islamabad Press Club, holding “pictures of the more than 160 Pakistani children who have been killed by American drones.”

The same day, in nearby Swat, another Pakistani child, 14 year old Malala Yousafzai, was gunned down by the Pakistani Taliban because she was an advocate of education for girls. They stopped her school bus, asked for her by name, and shot her twice in the head, wounding two other students in the process

No turn of events could more forcefully illustrate the idiocy of the US peace movement’s one-sided approach to solidarity.  Read More

RIP

Environmentalist Barry Commoner:

Commoner was a biologist and author whose seminal 1971 book, “The Closing Circle: Man, Nature and Technology,” argued for the connectedness of humans and the natural world. It said environmental problems were related to technological advances and had a role in social and economic injustice.

He conducted research that helped propel a successful campaign for a nuclear test ban treaty in the early 1960s and drew early attention to the dangers of dioxins, the potential of solar energy and recycling as a practical means of reducing waste.

Historians of the environmental movement often name Commoner as one of the country’s most influential ecologists, along with scientist-author Aldo Leopold, “Silent Spring” author Rachel Carson and the Sierra Club’s John Muir and David Brower. Time magazine featured him in 1970 as the “Paul Revere of Ecology.”

“Together with Rachel Carson he was the most important person in catalyzing the modern environmental movement,” said Occidental College historian Peter Dreier, who named Commoner in his recent book “The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame.”

“He was a bestselling writer, a scholar who understood how to translate science into everyday language. His analysis of the environmental crisis that was considered radical in the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s is pretty much now taken for granted,” Dreier said Monday.

Historian Eric Hobsbawm:

A Marxist, he was peerless as an anatomist of the nineteenth century bourgeois social order. A loyal foot-soldier of Communist “democratic centralism,” he wrote perceptively of the anarchical “social bandit.”  A refined intellectual, he dug deep into the study of workers’ lives and proletarian autodidacts. A historian of society and impersonal economic “long waves”, he composed a classic of autobiography. An aficionado of traditions of labor, jazz, and Marxism, he helped create a virtual sub-field in the modernist construction of “invented traditions.” Even as a holiday-home owner in Wales, mystified by local resentment of interlopers, he produced a masterpiece on the phenomenon of nationalism.

Also see The Graun for a report and an obituary (h/t Chris Bertram).

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