Women’s March NYC: Signs for the next steps

According to the Associated Press, over 500,000 people marched on Washington, DC on January 21, 2017, and the New York Times reports that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office counted 400,000 people marching in the Big Apple. Marches took place, not only in cities throughout the United States, but around the world, bringing that number to 2.9 million. Although this global show of resistance was sparked by the election of Donald Trump and was christened the “Women’s March”, as I made my way across 42nd Street and up Fifth Avenue in New York City, I found myself amidst a sea of protest signs running the gamut of issues.


Reproductive rights seemed to be at the forefront, but slogans focused on gay rights, climate change, immigration, healthcare, police brutality and a general “fuck you” to misogynists everywhere were also on display. 

To me, the day was a cathartic, pre-emptive strike against an administration which has consistently promised to go right on the intersecting issues where sense of reason and heart go left.

In our own words

Below, the words of just a small handful of the women in attendance in New York City give a snapshot of the atmosphere of hope and sisterhood I experienced:

“My name is Bonnie Heller, I live in Manhattan. I’m a neighbor of Donald Trump’s. We’ve known him for many, many years. He has never done anything to help his city, so I don’t understand how he would ever help this country. Plus the fact that he’s a misogynist, racist asshole. So that’s about it.”

“My name is Carly Lissak, and I’m here because I don’t think anyone should feel that they are represented by someone who doesn’t believe in who they are or [the reasons] why they should be seen as equals. Also because I’m scared. I know that we are the pillar of the free world and when the face of the pillar of the free world is mentally unstable it’s just not good for anyone. Also this is an emotional outlet to feel better.”

“We are here to fight for our rights!” – Gia

“The reason why I joined the Women’s March is because I believe this day will be crucial and will go down in history. As an American female I have realized throughout my years of adulthood that there are so many right we take for granted each and every day. I protest to say ‘no more’. I protest because I am aware of what is at stake. I protest in the hopes that they don’t strip us women of our rights. I protest in hope that the planet does not go to shit because of some in-denial narcissist of a president that believes it’s all a hoax. I want my children and my children’s children to have the future they deserve. Ultimately, I protest because that’s all that we have left [in order to] fight back.” – Daniela

“I march because I need to use my voice to speak up for those that America is refusing to hear.” – Andrea

“If I didn’t care about this country I wouldn’t be doing this.” – Overheard on the train ride home


These words are nothing without continued action

Here are some links to help you get involved with just a few of the organizations empowering and connecting people to fight for the issues addressed at the Women’s March. Every action counts and the way forward is all about intersectionality.

Planned Parenthood

GLAAD

Black Lives Matter

Greenpeace

The first step forward in the Women’s March 10 Actions / 100 Days is to start contacting your senator about the issues that matter to you. They’re offering printable postcards to get you started and I’ve got some of the messages seen on signs in NYC for inspiration:

No human being is illegal.

Presidential does not mean bully.

I’m pro-woman. He’s a con-man.

Love trumps hate.

We shall over comb.

Eyes on the state.

Hands off my rights.

Respect existance or expect resistance.

Black lives matter.

Science is real.

Made in ‘gina.

It’s time to ovary act.

Conversion therapy is going to be lit.

 

Cypherpunk Hammy Havoc’s take on privacy, open-source society, and true self-sustenance

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Hammy Havoc is a multi-faceted cypherpunk writer based in Liverpool, United Kingdom. We had to have him tell us more about how he – and others – can practice what he preaches; cypherpunks are advocates for social and political change via strong cryptography and privacy-enhancing technologies. Cypherpunk principles tie in directly to his workflows as CEO of Split An Atom and Previous Magazine, Co-Founder of Voidance Records, and producer as The Orion Correlation (he makes all of the stems for his music available to download for free so that anybody can remix it as they see fit – soon, he’ll be open sourcing the project files themselves).

No doubt, he has cultivated a self-made, open-source approach, which extends to his conceptions of the social contract and citizens’ rights to privacy. With the recent passage of the Investigatory Powers Bill in the UK and consideration of Rule 41 in the US, these ideas hold particular import. In the US, January marks a shift from the current, subtly enforced police surveillance state, to an administration driven by archaic allegiance to “law and order” and fascist groupthink actively working to normalize suspecting and violating the rights and security of the “other” for sake of said order. At the end of the day, Hammy shares, the implications we have to consider as our lives and livelihoods are increasingly integrated to the use of technology and access the Internet are always personal, public, and political.

When did these issues of privacy and security become personal for you?

When I first started being censored in countries I had never even visited– then countries I had, followed by the UK, where I currently live. Writing and talking about concepts that scare governments like real freedom of press and speech, with permanence of information through decentralization, are things that individuals and organizations with a specific agenda would like to kill.

Share with us how your understanding of these concepts manifest politically. Did the politics of security and privacy pique your interest initially?

I’m fortunate enough to have been using computers since I was two years old when my parents put me in a computer class in New Brighton; I’ve been online since I was four years old. I’ve seen a lot of things change with the internet over the years, some for better, some for worse. I was abused as a child at my first school, since then I’ve had a very keen sense of whether or not something made me feel uncomfortable, and some of the changes with technology have made me feel very uncomfortable.

In Germany, there are already banks who will not give you a mortgage if you aren’t on Facebook; they want to research the financial background of people you know as well as yourself, and this is used in their decision. That’s an abuse of information and privacy right there. This is just the start of a scary spiral.

On censorship and control:

Facebook began censoring me a few months ago when I started showing people the ways in which they were under surveillance; they actually suspended my account until I went to the press after Fortune Magazine, The Sun and The Huffington Post picked up on one of my opinions. Very recently, Twitter has started to censor me as well, just for recommending software and hardware that respect privacy and freedom.

There are more security cameras in Britain than anywhere else in the world, yet the places that actually need them, like schools and university campuses, either don’t have them or don’t have enough of them to catch thieves, rapists and other unpleasant individuals. Ironically, rights being taken from us and privacy being invaded is supposed to protect us from these problems, but the data being gathered isn’t being used effectively by the people who gather it. Recently, an activist called Deric Lostutter hacked his university website to gather incriminating evidence on two rapists, and has been getting some media attention—he is facing sixteen years in prison for hacking, whereas the two rapists are walking away with no punishment. Lostutter shouldn’t have been forced to hack their website, the university should have had been able to provide the evidence themselves as it was their own system. This is the society we are living in; where hackers are treated as being more dangerous than murderers, rapists, and pedophiles because they have the capacity to change society, as well as the world.

Would you be okay with a country where your son or daughter could be facing a decade in prison for something as simple as copyright infringement, probably even inadvertently through YouTube, or sending their friend a song or film? That could be the reality you’re about to be living in with the Digital Economy Bill.

What does a more digitally free/open-source society look like? Any artistic or literary references come to mind?

Decentralizing all infrastructure.

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Hammy Havoc recommends The Minority Report if you’re trying to envision the nightmare of a society that searches for patterns in your data to draw a conclusion of your intent. The short story was originally published here in Fantastic Universe in 1956. Source: Wikipedia.

In terms of likening it to literature, you can have a mixture of George Orwell’s 1984 and The Minority Report with pre-crime, or you can choose to attempt to make the future more akin to Libertatia at a minimum. If people want to understand what’s happening right now, then look to the documentary We Live in Public, about a project taking on surveillance through art in 1999. Liken the commune to Facebook, and you’re most of the way there with the analogy.

These tools protect whistleblowers. You may have nothing that you ever need to hide from the government, the police, your employer, or even your spouse, but certain algorithmic correlations can be made with this data. If there’s a murder with garden shears and you unfortunately bought a pair just before it was committed, then you’re on the suspect list, and you could quite likely be falsely accused and fitted up with the crime by correlating other data gathered on you because statistics now matter more than truth and justice.

“Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say,” is a currently infamous quote by Edward Snowden that perfectly summarizes society’s general attitude towards privacy. In my opinion, Snowden deserves a presidential pardon, without a shadow of a doubt—as do several others.

Ironically, rights being taken from us and privacy being invaded is supposed to protect us from these problems, but the data being gathered isn’t being used effectively by the people who gather it.

In another direction, I’ve been hearing and reading more about open source coding projects that have an element of civic engagement – crowdsourcing (usually locally) the capacity to make government information / public data more accessible via a mobile application. What are your thoughts on the viability of those efforts and the connection between participation, transparency, and access to information?

Wikipedia works phenomenally well as a crowdsourced encyclopedia. Imagine if that became decentralized; the necessary donations to operate would be far less, and Wikipedia could have guaranteed permanence within society.

Open-source works, there’s no denying it now. The Recount Magazine website runs on an open-source content management system; as do the majority of sites I have anything to do with.

Any improvements I make to the source code of a piece of software, I can then submit for inclusion in the repository of the project for others to benefit from, and vice versa. This is what the likes of Jeremy Corbyn are getting at when he says that the government would open-source any software or hardware that they create using taxpayer money.

If a government is truly for the people, and by the people, then transparency is an absolute necessity, but the British and American government give with one hand, and take with another. The Investigatory Powers Bill (“Snoopers’ Charter”) and GCHQ’s DNS firewall are to supposedly protect the public, yet I feel that if these things are allowed to happen then more harm will happen because of it. The government can attempt to stop would-be terrorists from communicating online, but the reality is that any radical with a few brain cells to rub together probably discusses plans in-person to avoid the surveillance that has already been happening for years on end through PRISM, and even old-school wiretapping.

I believe that if the UK didn’t interfere in countries and with cultures they don’t understand then we wouldn’t have this apparent terrorism threat. There’s always money for bombs and bullets for the British government to meddle elsewhere, but there’s never enough money to get people off the streets in Britain, provide an education system that competes with Africa, China, and other previous third world countries, or to make sure that our disabled populace isn’t forced into suicide from having their benefits taken from them.

As always, it is the majority who pays the price for the actions of the few. The actions of my country’s government do not reflect my wishes, or the wishes of a lot of people here.

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To other artists interested in utilizing copyleft to distribute their music out there…

Do you, as a creator who spends a significant amount of time and money, wish to be compensated? Can you pay your bills without guaranteed compensation? These are questions that everybody considering copyleft needs to chew over.

Merchandise and partnerships with brands are ultimately the way to make a music career viable in this day and age, and the same applies to any creators considering copyleft.

Streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music are highly toxic, in my opinion, especially when exclusivity creeps into the equation. I feel it is better to give away your music and starve the parasites and middlemen of the industry than to accept $50 per million plays, because realistically speaking, the average artist is going to struggle to even reach $50 let alone break even on a record or pay their bills with streaming alone.

Sometimes it is worth trading convenience and off-the-shelf readiness for the sake of actually having control of your computer. Prevention is better than cure.

The cypherpunk movement has been in existence since the 1980s, for nearly 40 years – who and what from the movement has inspired your advocacy along the way?

Observing the many ingenious ways that individuals and groups have managed to subvert control over the years is something that has, and will always fascinate me. Whether it’s a simple tool, a new method of encryption, or long-range radio, there’s no stopping the movement now.

Richard Stallman is a great inspiration to my advocacy, sacrificing convenience for freedom without compromise. If my career didn’t depend on certain aspects of the internet and computers, then I would be able to commit as strongly as he has. I always choose libre software whenever possible, and if I can’t find a libre tool then I’ll use an open-source one, develop one myself, or ask a commercial company if I can audit their source.

Almost everybody that I encounter ends up changing their workflows after I point out the problems and potential issues. Some even become privacy advocates themselves, such as my girlfriend, Mary Ann Mahoney; she uses an entirely open-source writing workflow that respects her privacy. The fellow co-founder of Voidance Records, Lost & Found, has even begun to replace his workflow with both libre and open-source solutions to match my own. Sometimes it is worth trading convenience and off-the-shelf readiness for the sake of actually having control of your computer. Prevention is better than cure.

What would facilitate people being able to take their privacy and security into consideration in their daily lives? What is the standard for that or some first steps to making it personal, actionable, integrated at home? 

If the general public does not utilize these technologies for protecting their privacy, then the technologies, the ability to opt-out, and their privacy and rights will be taken from them. As criminals and terrorist factions begin to gravitate towards these tools, the negative connotations surrounding a particular protocol or piece of software begins. You only need look at the stigma of BitTorrent and any P2P application to this day to understand this. Even now, we are seeing this with the criminalization of Tor.

The media is associating Bitcoin with Silk Road and other drug marketplaces that have replaced it, but the reality is that Bitcoin is more than just capitalism with a digital currency; it doesn’t matter what you’re buying as long as you’re using it and recommending it. Decentralizing currency is a big deal because it disrupts the status quo of financial centralization with banks, mints et cetera.

What does that look like?

Ditch the modem your Internet service provider (ISP) gave you when you signed up, as it is probably backdoored, and easily hacked by script kiddies— get a high-end one that you can change the firmware on; if you don’t have root then you don’t have control. Build yourself a pfSense or OPNsense firewall/router or buy one that’s already made. Aside from security, you’ll also have a far faster internet connection as a result.

Stop centralizing your information on third party servers like Dropbox and Google Drive. Buy an off-the-shelf solution or a Raspberry Pi to install Nextcloud. That is the absolute bare minimum of convenience and security that the majority of technophobes can manage. This way, if you are ever compromised or hacked, then stopping a transfer of data is as simple as pulling the plug, and physically destroying the data is possible. If you are a whistleblower, then use an air gapped computer alongside Tails. Off-the-shelf solutions like SilentKeys are a great option for this. Make sure that the journalists you leak to are using a system such as SecureDrop, which we’re now adopting at Previous Magazine, meaning that our sources can remain anonymous.

Don’t use fingerprint, eye, or facial recognition to unlock your devices as you can be physically forced into unlocking them by police. Use passwords, and encrypt your devices.

If a business you buy from accepts Bitcoin, try to use it whenever possible. Encourage businesses to accept Bitcoin, or if you run a business, start accepting Bitcoin. Bitcoin may not end up being the answer to financial anonymity and money as a concept, but it needs to be used to gain further acceptance. If small mom-and-pop businesses and giants like Microsoft can accept Bitcoin, then you have no excuse for not offering it as a payment method. My record label, Voidance Records, accepts Bitcoin as a payment method. We even accept it as a payment method at Split An Atom, my integrated marketing agency.

So, as a business person – an entrepreneur and CEO – and anti-surveillance capitalism. Make the business case for companies utilizing PETs.

As a CEO I’ve been recommended to track users in specific ways using specific tools and sell the data to specific organizations to build a larger profile on people, but I have always chosen to respect our customers, and I encourage clients of ours to do the same when we are building solutions for them. If you wouldn’t be okay with it being done to you, then don’t do it to others.

Likewise, security is ever-important; if people are entrusting their privacy to you, then you need to take that responsibility very seriously. When a business doesn’t take the steps required to protect the information of their customers, then they usually lose their trust forever. I’ve had countless emails from companies telling me they’ve been compromised and that I need to change my password on any site that I’ve used the same password on.

Dropbox was hacked in 2012 and they’re still feeling the hurt from that. In September of this year, they reset the password of everybody who hadn’t changed it since then as they discovered their passwords were compromised after the hack all those years ago. I’m currently helping clients to transition away from Dropbox and centralized storage solutions like that. I’m CTO (Chief Technology Officer) as well at Integrated Movements Arts, a London-based personal training and online fitness company. We treat user data with utmost respect as we are dealing with health data, and very sensitive information regarding their bodies. Everything is encrypted to a military grade; we have state of the art security for the confidential information of our users, and this gives us a big edge on any of our competition.

There is a lot of money to be made selling information, but users would rather pay for privacy and an ad-free experience, as is being proven time and time again. Look at Hulu: no free, ad-supported plan anymore.

Remember, if something costs nothing then you are usually the product and your information being mined. If you want to keep secrets then make no digital record of them, and try to keep them in your head.

 

 

They say knowledge is power.. keep up with Hammy Havoc via Soundcloud, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook.

Check out his 2016 EP release here:

Pie Face Girls: Angry, Attentive, and Anti-HB2

We started off discussing Monsanto on slightly damp benches. Dani’s disdain for the company’s careless disruption of the natural flow of things quickly shifted into the group’s deep appreciation for the deliciousness of ugly fruit, specifically blood oranges from earlier in the summertime. “GMO OMG.”, she recommended, “It’s on Netflix.”.

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Pie Face Girls at Tactile Workshop for The Hopscotch Oasis. Dani on guitar, Tiffany on bass, Klay on drums.

I ran into the Raleigh-based band at The Hopscotch Oasis, a day party for the festival hosted by Tactile Workshop. Perfectly comfortable, super sweaty, and thoroughly entertaining on the half-pipe stage, they let us know right off the bat, “we are an angry band.”  Throughout the show they chatted openly with us about the festival, giving context to songs about catcalling, birth control, and white male privilege via Tinder. They also paid homage to the anti-HB2 banner displayed by Grayson and Tina Haver Currin and verbally harangued Gov. Pat McCrory. Everyone seemed to feel at home tucked away in the lush little backyard of Tactile Workshop, talking about real, impolite, human things. It was refreshing. North Carolina’s citizens, reputation, and economy remain marred by HB2, the discriminatory, anti-LGBT legislation passed with shady swiftness earlier this year. In the state’s capital, Hopscotch was a 3-day, 3-night invitation to explore music venues and vibes that felt worlds away from the North Carolina state legislature and wary of standing in its bigotry-tinged shadow.

Hey, Pat, happy Hopscotch. #hopscotch16

A photo posted by Grayson Currin (@currincy) on

 

At the Hopscotch Oasis that Saturday, Klay put it precisely – “Hopscotch is evil because they make you choose.” Hailing from Durham, I have spent a sporadic, limited time in Raleigh, and rarely spent it frolicking and Hopscotch was a great chance to bop around the city and its venues. I imagine it was that much harder to choose from this year’s impressive lineup while listed on it, to play three shows throughout the weekend. Pie Face Girls pulled through it, though. The band wistfully recalled Big Freedia and Erykah Badu, noting that in addition to favorites and legends like those, Hopscotch curates a strong, eclectic range of genres. Festival-goers could check out any artist for a solid show, and “it might push you outside of the zone that you anticipated,” Klay pointed out. Keep in mind, 40% of the 120-band Hopscotch lineup is local. Pie Face Girls made a point to shout out the experimental noise of Patrick Gallagher out of Carrboro, NC and all the artists they played with throughout the weekend, including Durham’s JooseLord Magnus at The Hopscotch Oasis. I missed JooseLord’s performance, but observed the mutual enthusiasm they had for a future collaboration following the show and immediately wanted to get to learn more about them both.

So, Pie Face Girls met me in Raleigh for an interview and as we discussed the challenges of navigating the vast Twitter community and the process of building ideas into action, we landed on a conversation about how the band are growing into themselves. Tiffany described this past year as the one where she realized that they could truly spread their reach and stand on their own, though “in the beginning, it was fun and games.” Now, they are looking to sustain themselves with what they love, acknowledging that it takes time.

Their straightforward statements, like those in “Fuck You, I’m Pretty” and the mantra, “Dick is Dead” really resonate with people – at The Hopscotch Oasis, it was like one big conversation. At the same time, Dani pointed out, entrepreneurship and marketing demand their own skills and are necessary for growth. Seeking that growth can feel farcical after years of creating and performing solely for the love of it. Surely, they do not want to sell out, but I’d assume that would be difficult for the members of Pie Face Girls – authenticity is part of their essence. Defiant honesty and self-knowledge course through their sound; their presence is a cool, collected indignation that reminds you, “if you’re not angry, then you’re not paying attention.

They are definitely paying attention.

The group posted up at Ruby Deluxe’s NC Pride Dance Party in Raleigh to register voters a few days after we talked, and has played alongside NC Music Love Army to raise money for efforts against HB2. The Love Army performs in protest, and “in support of sane governance for North Carolina”. Proceeds from these shows go to community and advocacy organizations Equality NC, LGBT Center of Raleigh and Now or Never NC.  Pie Face Girls recently played the Official Afterparty following Come Out and Show Them: A Benefit to Take Back Our State. The proceeds from that festival went to Common Cause NC, Democracy North Carolina, Southerners on New Ground and Come Out and Show Them’s efforts to keep activist artists’ shows in the state in order to redirect the funds for the work of repealing HB2.

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Tiffany, Dani, and Klay at Ruby Deluxe, handing out sexual health resources and getting people registered to vote.

Another way you’ll find Pie Face Girls in the mix could be a collective or record label for musicians in marginalized communities to come together – queer artists, trans and cis female artists and artists of color. North Carolina does not offer that in music production yet and the corrupt politics of this state only reinforce the need for such a space. As the idea grows, they are seeking collaborators that want to make a similar impact. Klay and Tiffany joked about whether they were included in the plans, and without missing a beat, Dani confirmed. At one point, she looked at them, then to me and said, “your fam is your support system.” They were quick to thank multiple bands, community members, and artist-activists for encouraging them from the beginning and as they’ve grown thus far, shouting out the staple Raleigh venue, Kings.

I had to ask, then, about the label on their ReverbNation profile from earlier on, “Do it your damn self”. It’s an empowering message, and at this point, it seems they are building on that spirit. that led them to record everything on their own in order to get their messages out into the world, then kept them performing and bettering themselves, but now with an explicit appreciation for collaboration. They are consciously taking themselves more seriously than ever and embracing the process.

Pie Face Girls take the impact of the craft beyond themselves as well, working with Girls Rock NC to guide young musicians as they lift their voices and build community through music. Dani helps to facilitate Teen Axn League, a team of female and trans youth, working year-round in conjunction with Girls Rock NC, to create safer spaces for teens in North Carolina, through organizing an overnight feminism and music summer camp every year.

When I asked about what is next to come, Dani stated, “as long as I can be an activist, I’m happy. As long as I can fight for the shit that matters in this world…because there’s a lot of shit to fight in this world.” Pie Face Girls’ raw yet inviting nature and open participation in activism come at a welcome time, when women’s rights and LGBTQ rights are threatened intensely at the state level, particularly in North Carolina. It is also a time when local policy implications are largely lost amongst the presidential election melee. Musical forces out there spending quality time with young people making their way, and encouraging the groups who fight hateful legislation and advocate for their communities and the voice of the people shouldn’t be taken for granted. Participation matters, especially in local and state politics, and at the community level.

“At the end of the day it’s about intention,” they stated in agreement – and I think that’s true for all of us. The volunteering we do, the creative statements we make, and the collaborations we are a part of demand we pay attention to the why of it all. Pie Face Girls are setting out to “reach as many people as we can… and get to the point where other people will load our gear,” Tiffany clarified with a laugh. They are working on tours through the South and the Northeast, and the logistics of an album set to come out in 2017. Experiencing the passion and talent they put into the music, and the way their engaging personalities drew people in after the show at The Hopscotch Oasis, Pie Face Girls are well on their way with some real, quality statements. Stay tuned.

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Follow Pie Face Girls on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

 

 

Upcoming Shows

October 14-15  Manifest Music Festival, downtown Chapel Hill

October 22  Jon Lindsay album release party, Kings Raleigh

October 27  Local Band Local Beer, Pour House Raleigh

November 19  Kosher Hut Raleigh

November 25  Smashfest, Scrap Exchange Durham

Messages from a movement: Charlotte, NC rises up together

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On this hot, sunny Saturday in September, the people of the Queen City and beyond marched together in protest to denounce and heal from the killings of Keith Lamont Scott and Justin Carr, to resist the presence of the National Guard throughout the city, and to exercise freedom of speech and assembly in statements against systematic violence and institutionalized racism.

Charlotte, like Ferguson and Baltimore, was declared to be in a “state of emergency”, in response to looting, violence, and property damage perpetrated by a few on the first night of demonstrations. Since then, the messages of this movement were again obstructed by the sensational media focus on “rioters”, and complicated by the conflicting accounts of these two cases. Instead of engaging with the community’s calls for transparency, accountability, and other demands of the people of Charlotte, it was decided to militarize the city by bringing in the National Guard.

Media narratives tend to place property above people, confusing various forms of resistance to state-sanctioned violence with criminality. Reverend William Barber III is a leader in North Carolina’s efforts to preserve civil rights and improve quality of life, who states:

“This is what democracy looks like. We cannot let politicians use the protests as an excuse to back reactionary “law and order” measures. Instead, we must march and vote together for policies that will lift up the whole and ensure the justice that makes true peace possible.” – Why We Are Protesting in Charlotte

Channeling my own intentions in joining the people in peaceful protest, formed by the sense of unity that I’ve experienced at vigils and community discussions, amongst people in solidarity with the movement for black lives, justice, and institutional reform, I went to Charlotte to document what we really have to say (or write, in this case).

It is said that this is a movement, not a moment. So, here’s a bit of what democracy looked like that day.

 

Speaking truth to power

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Accountability

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Solidarity and allyship

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Resistance

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Looking out for our fellow citizens

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The sign on his left reads, “United States Congress must pass a law that all police officers in every state in America must have, once a year, ongoing education and training required under federal law in order to serve with a weapon in public.”

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Visit Charlotte Uprising for more information on their demands, partner organizations, and ways to get involved.

Mischievous Minds: A Short Tale

Six hands, six empty pockets.
Two mischievous minds planning to shoplift.
One opposing mind, supposedly mine
yet somehow I find myself fascinated with an object, obviously planning to “cop” it.
I have to stop this;
How can I be considered a leader if I allow others that are rebellious towards authority and immune to rules…
To target me as an object of ridicule & pressure me into assuming a new identity;
It all began when they were able to convince me to skip school.
Apparently, my standards had been set too high. According to my new acquaintances, it was fictitious of me to place myself on such a big pedestal.
—————-{Scene One}—————–
We individually make our entrance to discover that the store is empty yet stocked full of goods.
Snagging an item or so is simple, anything more is intense, yet at the same time, “more is plenty” therefor my jacket & pockets are now full of goods.
I turn the corner and come in contact with a co-worker that from the point on begins following me.
That was a new encounter because throughout my life I had become accustomed to authority hallowing me.
I had yet to know what it felt like to be perceived as just another lost delinquent; With that being said, I was oblivious of the fact that my environment was gradually swallowing me.
I noticed that the co-worker was constantly glancing in my direction, so to diminish the tension, I try to smile.
It wasn’t genuine but I felt like it was an alleviating gesture and maybe it would prevent them from following me to the electronic aisle.
I examine every object that catches my eye until I spot a pair of mesmerizing headphones.
Immediately my thoughts were “…where can I stash it?…my pockets are packed & there’s little to no room in my jacket…” However, there is plenty of room in my casket because in my heart I knew that what I was doing was dead wrong.
—————-{Cut Scene}——————
Six hands, six empty pockets.
Two mischievous minds selling stolen products.
One opposing mind, supposedly mine
but somehow I find myself exchanging an object, obviously planning to make a profit.
I have to stop this:
Placing myself in these predicaments despite knowing the likelihood of falling under the influence of these risky hooligans;
Usually, my decision making derives from good judgement, but that is clearly not the case now, because I have been persuaded to skip school again.
This shift from my former demeanor to my newly adopted ways and tendencies
has transpired due to my alliance with individuals as endangering as enemies.
—————–{Scene Two}—————-
We are inside the convenient store holding a conversation, attempting to resolve our conflict
I was experiencing a great difficulty coping with my paranoid state of mind; the last thing I wanted was to get caught and be labeled as a convict
So I voiced my concern by saying “Im not in fear of getting caught but there is no way we are pulling this one off… it is way too ‘hot’ in here”
Meanwhile, during our dispute, a man approaches us. He then pulls me aside and says “young man your coat looks kind of stuffed, what kind of stuff you got in there?”
“…You have circled around the store several times now; you want to tell me what it is that you are really up to?”
“…I could detect the mischief on your amigos from a mile away, but you…”
“You carry a righteous aura; I sense your brightness. I get the vibe that you are unique, so I suggest you keep away from this crowd or you will end up getting yourself into a wreck [crash]”
“…I have seen their kind before, overtime they become cut throat [slash], so I suggest you tuck your neck [& do it fast…]” Protect yourself, have more respect for yourself because I am certain that if it ever came to life or death circumstances your so called ‘homies’ would cut your neck [in a flash]”
The mans perspective was food for thought; it actually made me stop myself & ask: if these “allies” of mine had my best interest at heart?…& how long could I expect this unorthodox act of mine to last?
Truth is, if I continue walking this path, I will be sacrificing a bright future that is bound to turn into a dark past…
But at the same time, who is to say that I will ever fulfill my potential? I mean, its not like anyone else can fulfill it for me.
Although, I have may have taken a wrong turn in this journey of mine; it has made me more aware of my reality, in which I would go into further depth but that topic is another story.
—————–{Cut Scene}—————–

Thoughts on Brexit, a Lesson in Change

It’s all not so funny anymore.

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A few weeks prior, my friends and I were discussing the then-forthcoming EU referendum and soon found ourselves mocking the unnerving anti-immigration, nationalist rhetoric that had dismantled any meaningful debate of the Leave campaign. ‘An hour for England’ we ironically jeered as we drank our Czech beers and Spanish wine, laughing at what we thought was a misguided minority stuck in the past.

Oh, the pain of being terribly wrong, for the masses have voted and we no longer belong. This is a strange despondence and in a way I feel part of the problem. The very real anger and frustrations of the working classes across Britain have failed to be addressed and the European Union and the issues of immigration have sadly been utilised as a scapegoat through a thinly-veiled xenophobia disguised as taking back control of the nation’s democracy. We are all responsible and we all must deal with the consequences. America, take note. The parallels with the Brexit campaign and Trump’s rise to prominence have been well-discussed, but what the results of the referendum show is that this is not a joke, this is not something to be laughed at, and it is your responsibility, the American public, to ensure similar events do not occur in the following presidential election. Take it seriously, because fear and hate is powerful, powerful enough to prompt Britain to disregard rational discussion and shoot ourselves in the foot, moving towards economic instability and a troubling future.

The morning of, I read several gut-wrenching statuses on social media from dear friends who just so happen to be of citizenship of another European nation, detailing a sense of no longer being welcome in this country, fearful for their jobs and family. With passion, I send my deepest love and support to you, but please do not descend into bitterness for you are not alone. It will be desperately challenging, yet we must fight together to ensure the rising tide of regressive isolation is overcome by even greater global cooperation, changing this despair into developing new visions of our future that effectively address the issues of our age. The EU has its problems and it is a devastating blow that the UK has decided to leave rather than to remain and work with the rest of Europe to resolve the many issues. However, might there be another possibility for Europeans, a new period of greater international cooperation through which the deeply-pressing humanitarian and environmental concerns are better met? We are moving into the unknown, but we must not fall into hate and we must not let perfection be the enemy of the good; instead we must look towards a focused and productive action to help create a new community of togetherness.

As a British citizen, I feel completely disillusioned by the whole debate in which both sides fail to adequately address the issues at hand. Its divisive politics have had a clearly damaging effect upon the UK’s social cohesion. The polls reflect this, with a clear majority of young people aged 18-24 voting remain, and conversely a clear majority of the older generation voting to leave.

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What does it now mean to be British? I used to feel pride for my nationality, proud of the National Health Service and pleased to be a part of a country that supported multiculturalism and diversity. I desperately hope this result does not signal the start of the erosion of the many things I hold dear. Brexit may lead the country to the implementation of further right-wing agendas given the lie that the nation has been sold: that leaving the EU will help protect the many pillars of our social democracy.

Nigel Farage, that slimy degenerate being – and prominent voice of the Leave campaign – has already come out and said that the supposed 350 million that we pay to the EU will not necessarily be used for the NHS. Comically, this was one of the main arguments for exiting the EU, yet I really can’t decide whether to laugh or cry at this hopelessly farcical reality. Thankfully, he is not an elected MP, for now. And let us desperately hope that Cameron’s resignation does not result in a blond buffoon taking his place, someone we so fondly smiled along with as we watched his embarrassing idiocies unfold on the international stage as London mayor. There must be a better alternative.

These are but a few words from a confused and disappointed soul trying to make sense of what has unfolded. I do not want to feel resigned to anguish and defeat. I want to feel hope, that despite this terrible outcome there is a better future to be found, one that is better for Britain, better for Europe, and better for the world. I say this with bated breath but that is all I’ve got.

May we make the mistakes from which others learn.

Alex Quirk invites you to explore memory and perception

“In Western thought, the conscious being is often divided into two parts: mind, and body. Senses, and thoughts. Perception, and memory. It seems every conscious thought is rooted in either instantaneous perception or recall. What, then, can be said about a person’s soul if one side of that duality is completely destroyed?” asks Alex Quirk.

 

 

Deborah Wearing Enters, the second track of Alex Quirk’s first EP, Looking Up,  explores the concept of instantaneous perception through consummate layers and resonant loops, telling stories of love and learning inspired by the unique life of Clive Wearing.

The video is a visual thought experiment.

It feels like an honest recollection, offering moments of clarity through altered perspective: sunlight entwined with lamplight, motion out of sequence. Clive Wearing’s consciousness is not tethered in the way the rest of ours is. In his amnesia, there is implied conviction that what he sees, feels, and says then and there, is true. That “truth” fades from his existence forever, in seconds.

His experience is enclosed in the present; one could hardly even imagine that as our reality. In our experience, the rest of us relive what we can recall of our lives and loves, again and again, perhaps under the pretense that those memories carry any promises or prescriptions for the future. The present is rarely better; to ascribe permanence to particular moments of instantaneous perception is literally illogical, yet innately human. So in Clive’s case, and in our own, where does meaning come from? As Quirk asks, what can be said about a person’s soul if one side of the mind-body duality is destroyed?

This is where Deborah Wearing Enters.

 

In his state, Wearing’s wife Deborah is the only human being he recognizes- and enthusiastically greets at every opportunity. That is when he and Deborah share in familiarity and love safe from the amnesia-induced void always a few moments behind him.

Alex Quirk’s visual thought experiment and musical homage to Clive and Deborah Wearing is simultaneously moving and grounding. It takes on that void; it’s a testament to what Clive is reliving through those seconds of clarity with Deborah, definitive of his experience though well beyond articulation.

 

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Visit Alex the Quirk on Facebook.

 

Q&A: Dr. Jill Stein on human rights in the US, the Green New Deal, and millennial voters

Dr. Jill Stein is tireless, fearless and just won’t stop… watch video of the interview or scroll for the Q&A.

Are you tired from your trip throughout North Carolina?

“Well, it’s been like an unending trip for four or five months. I just have very little time in between trips, and I was just in Maryland. Before that, I was in Texas, and it’s been almost non-stop for the last…I did have like a week break a ways back.”

It sounds like you’ve had a very busy schedule.

“It is busy but it’s really fun. It’s very, very fun. When you’re doing campaign travelling, it’s not like you get to sightsee (laughs) or anything. It’s more just meeting with people but it’s been so exciting how there’s a real sea change going on right now.”

One of the things that a lot of people are very passionate about is voting for Bernie Sanders, but few of them have heard of you.  They’re like, ‘Yeah, I agree more with Jill,’ particularly on your military policy, not giving money to Israel for weapons, but they’ll say that, kind of what you were saying, voting for Bernie is the lesser evil compared to Republicans. What would you say to them? Why would you encourage them to not go be trapped between those two parties?

“Yeah, in terms of Bernie, I think what Bernie is doing is great inside the Democratic Party and he’s really stirring up a hornet’s nest of discontent that was already there. He’s just really elevating that discussion and that’s really wonderful. The downside is that the Democratic party has a kill switch for rebellious candidates, and they’ve done this for decades ever since George McGovern managed to get the nomination since 1972. Democrats created Super Tuesday and Super Delegates, which are both things that ensure that the nomination will go to an insider, not to a reformer. So, it’s unfortunate that Bernie’s going to get knocked out, and you can see the resistance growing now, and Bill Clinton is recruiting the Super Delegates, which are basically delegates that ensure that Hillary has the margin of difference, if she should need it. So it virtually ensures that Bernie is going to be knocked out of contention. I think it’s great for people to support his campaign, but at some point they’re going to need a plan B, so that all their work doesn’t get dumped down the drain.

Bernie has already said he’s going to support Hillary when she gets the nomination and I think most of his really ardent supporters don’t want to go there. They don’t want to support the banks. They don’t want to support this–”

Wal-Mart?

“Yes, Hillary, board member of Wal-Mart, and they don’t want to support the devastating foreign policies that have created failed states and have created ISIS to start with the blowback of terrorism from the beginning.

I think people with insight don’t want to go there, so people need a plan B with Bernie’s campaign, and I say go for it. Give Bernie his best shot. Fingers crossed that he gets it, but I wouldn’t hold my breath and if he doesn’t get it, you’ve got a place to go. So, I don’t feel like we have an argument with Bernie supporters. It’s a different strategy. So, I think your question had two parts. It was sort of, what’s our relationship to Bernie? And why not the lesser evil? Bernie  aside, why should young people not support the lesser evil?

Well, one reason is that the lesser evil is not going to get them out of debt. The lesser evil, you know, Hillary is not really proposing free public higher education, which is what we’re calling for. Why is that? Because we shouldn’t treat the younger generation like a cash cow to squeeze maximum dollars out of. Young people should have a secure start in life, which is what a high school degree used to represent. Now, you need a college degree, so, in my view, that is the responsibility of the older generation. However, it’s an investment that pays for itself. We know that from the GI Bill, every dollar that we put into college education for returning soldiers following the Second World War. We get back seven dollars in return for every dollar we put in. So, this is not just like a nice thing to do. This is the really profitable and practical thing to do.

So, there is another reason why young people should not support the lesser evil. The expanding wars and the chaos that’s being created, that is blowing back at us in a very personal way. We’re not going to see that get better under Hillary. The Trans-Pacific Partnership, Hillary may be talking the talk. However, she has decades worth of walking the walk, and it’s clear what Hillary’s policies are. Hillary and her husband brought us NAFTA, that closed tens of thousands of factories and sent millions of jobs overseas. The Trans-Pacific Partnership is more of the same. Hillary might tweak something about it, but she’s a supporter of these corporate trade deals.

So, you know, if you want a job, if you want to get out of debt and have a future, and if you want to do something about the climate so that we actually have a planet we can inhabit, those are all reasons why you don’t want to settle for the lesser evil. The lesser evil is getting lesser all the time, and we say, you know, it’s time to forget the lesser evil and fight for the greater good.”

Jill Stein

 

So in terms of the attacks in Paris, what do you think was behind Europe’s failure to close their borders or not recognize that these attacks were imminent and that they were a threat?

“It reflects how the security state totally misses the target. In this country, the security state has been challenged actually by a Congressional committee to exactly identify what terrorist threats have been aborted thanks to the security state, and they couldn’t come up with any. The NSA couldn’t come up with any examples of success. Basically, it creates a much larger haystack in which to try to find the needle.

So I think there are two points here, which is that, you know, we need old-fashioned intelligence but blanket surveillance, dragnet surveillance of everybody, is not effective and it’s extremely expensive. We’re barking up the wrong tree here. We should raise questions and investigate people for whom we have warrants, for whom there is reason to suspect that they are engaged in illegal or dangerous activity and who are actually threats. But to consider everyday citizens a threat basically annihilates the essential tenets of democracy, and we’ve seen that it makes finding the valuable information even more impossible. So, it’s a failed system.

But I think the other point here is that the answer here is not simply find the bad guys before they attack, but let’s actually pull the rug out from them to start with. We can dismantle ISIS. We created ISIS. We can dismantle ISIS and we can dismantle further, future security threats by undoing what is creating ISIS. So that means these horrific wars and massive slaughter of civilians, just the horror that just took place in Paris, is much like the horror that’s been taking place in Iraq and Afghanistan and Syria on a daily basis. That is the best recruiting tool imaginable for the terrorist groups.

So, our current foreign policy is our own greatest enemy right now, and, furthermore, our allies have been funding ISIS. So, we need to get the Saudis to stop funding ISIS. We ourselves have been directly or indirectly supplying arms to ISIS. The people that we train then defect and move over. Yes, they are the troops in ISIS. We supply 80 percent of the weapons to the Middle East, so we could lead an arms embargo to basically disarm ISIS. We can do that now. We can ask our friends, Turkey, to please close their border to the flow of militias to support and reinforce ISIS. We can ask our allies in Iraq to please stop buying the oil of ISIS on the black market and that is a pretty complete plan to essentially cut the legs out from under of ISIS and dismantle it.

To go in with more bombs and drones or special-ops, which are all in practice right now, is to ensure that we are guaranteeing the next ISIS. You have to ask, how much amnesia do these guys have on Capitol Hill? Democrats and Republicans, who are talking about doing more of what has been failing us since Vietnam, going in and shooting ‘em up when you’re talking about, you know, not your old-fashioned army that’s dressed in their red coats. That doesn’t work. You cannot assault a guerilla army using old-fashioned techniques. You have to stop funding them. You have to stop arming them. You have to stop allowing reinforcements to cross the border. It’s not rocket science how to do this. Unfortunately, we have a foreign policy, and that is to sell weapons.”

To wreak havoc.

“Wreak havoc and therefore sell more weapons for the weapons industry and likewise to ensure routes of fossil fuel, either supply or transportation. So between the weapons industry and the fossil fuel industry, we’ve got the wrong guys calling the shots in Washington, D.C. on foreign policy. We need a foreign policy that actually serves the American people.

Our plan for the Green New Deal basically ensures that wars for oil become a thing of the past. It ensures that we will have abundant, healthy energy resources here — wind, water and sun — by 2030. So it takes the momentum out. It takes the steam out from this disastrous foreign policy aimed towards total economic and military domination, which is blowing back at us madly, creating failed states and terrorism and massive refugee migrations, all of which is coming home to roost. So, we don’t have a choice now. We really need to stand up and do the right thing and join the community of nations that has been trying to do the right thing in spite of the hammer and the U.S. and the largest military — more than the next seven biggest all combined world-over — this hammer that we have been bringing down over the rest of the world that is destroying the climate, that is destroying any semblance of peace and security, and has also now rendered nuclear confrontation another real and present danger.

So, on the basis of those three really dramatic dangers, we need an about-face to a policy based on international law, human rights and diplomacy.”

What would you say to someone who’s thinking about moving? Why would you encourage them not to move? Or would you encourage them to move and be an activist from the outside?

“So, one thing I would say is that you can move away geographically but you cannot move away politically. The problems that are raging inside of America are really raging everywhere else and on the pathway that we’re on, you know, you have a multi-national corporate government, which is essentially taking over everywhere. If it’s allowed to continue, you’re not going to have free education around the world or healthcare. So, it’s not like you can leave this battle behind. This battle has dimensions that not go far beyond our borders. So, it’s not as though that’s even an option.

“But the other one I would say is really important, is, well, a couple of them. One is that we have to fight this battle here because the corporate predators, these multinational predators, are really coming out of America and they have to be conquered here in America. We have to regain human rights and end the usurping of human rights by corporate rights. We need to restore our rights and put an end to the rights of corporate personhood and, just the political battles that have to be fought anywhere have to be fought here as well. So, we need you here, and, furthermore, let me say this, you know, people have been brow-beaten into thinking that we’re powerless. In the words of Alice Walker, ‘The biggest way people give up power is by not knowing we have it to start with.’

One out of every two Americans now is in poverty or low-income, heading into poverty. 40 million young people are in debt, with no way out. One in three African-American men is held hostage by the prison state. Latinos and immigrants in general are facing the threat of deportation, and, yes, terrible mistreatment. Likewise, in the Black Lives Matter movement, police violence is an issue. You start adding these numbers up, and we have not just a quorum. You know, we have a majority here, potentially even a supermajority.

There are 40 million young people alone, if they get into their rebellious heads the idea that they can come out and check the green box to end debt, because there’s only one campaign in the presidential race that will put an end to student debt. 40 million young people is actually enough to take over the election. I can’t fault young people at all for apathy in a system that has basically thrown you under the bus, so why should people pay attention?

However, it’s really important to get the word out that you don’t have to get thrown under the bus, in fact you can take over the bus. You do not need to be under the bus. You can be in the bus. You can be driving the bus. You can own the bus. You have the numbers to do that and we want to get that simple message out to young people. Just come out and vote. Register to vote now. Register green because that’s where debt liberation is. Register now. It’s not only debt liberation. It’s free public higher education. It’s health care as a human right and it’s the right to a job, a full-time job and a living wage job. So, we can bring the decency and security that they used to have over in Europe. We can ensure that we have it here by standing up now because we have the numbers. This is a wake-up moment. It’s a transformative moment. This is the Hail Mary moment. We’re going over the waterfall if we don’t act now. If we do act now, we have the numbers and we have the solutions to actually make this work, on jobs, on the climate, on global peace and security, on education and health care. This is not rocket science. This is about standing up, forgetting the lesser evil, and fighting for the greater good.”

There was an article in the Syracuse, New York newspaper about when you were handcuffed when you attended the Democratic debate. Would you go into detail more about what happened to you?

“Sure, and this is what they didn’t want you to know, and this is why we were taken to a dark site and held there until the press had all gone home. They’re terrified that people should get word that they actually have a choice.  We were at the Presidential debate. It might have been the last one. I think it was the last one. It was at Hofstra University on Long Island and my running mate and I attended with the hope of getting in to just be in the audience and bear witness because we should have been IN the debate. We were on the ballot for 85 percent of voters.

Voters deserve to know that they had a range of choices. They weren’t locked down to these two business-as-usual political parties that had minor differences around the margins. But if you listen to that debate, they basically agreed with each other on almost all counts, on warmongering, on more coal plants and pipelines. Obama was bragging about how many pipelines he built and miles of pipeline to wrap around the Earth, once or more, I don’t know. So we thought voters had a right. So, we tried to get into the campus to listen to the debate and we were arrested for trying to get in. They need to control their audience. They need an audience that’s going to cheer madly. So, they can’t, won’t, let any old member of the public come out and witness these debates, and certainly not a presidential candidate that represented another option.

So we were arrested trying to get in. We were handcuffed. We were taken by the security forces and Secret Service, actually, Secret Service and police, to a dark site and actually our campaign was able to find out by talking to undisclosed sources. They were able to track down where we were and they called a lot of police stations and found out where it was and they were able to sort of hone in on us. They showed up and they were told that they would be arrested if they didn’t leave the premises. They were not even allowed to stay in the parking lot or be anywhere near because they weren’t supposed to know where we were and they didn’t want anybody else to know.

So, we were taken to this dark site. There were approximately 16 Secret Service and police. It was a huge, converted police facility. It looked like an old gym or something that had been converted. My running mate and I were the only people there initially and eventually they brought in a reporter, a journalist and independent media journalist, who was supposed to be covering Chelsea Manning’s trial the next day. They arrested this journalist for taking pictures of Secret Service taking pictures. So, this journalist was taking pictures back at the spy state that didn’t want pictures taken, so they arrested him. So it was the three of us, basically political prisoners that were being held in this dark site. We were handcuffed to these metal chairs tightly for seven hours and we were released without cell phones, without jackets. We were basically turned out into the street without any way to contact anyone late at night in November out in the freezing cold, just sort of walking the streets until we could find some kind person that allowed us to use their cell phones for us to get back in touch.

That’s how scared they are that word should get out that people actually have a choice that is of, by and for the people.”

What did you say earlier about the press, like their mission, about the affliction and the oppressed? It’s to comfort the afflicted, and–

“Afflict the comfortable. Right. That is supposed to be sort of the moral mission of a free press. If a free press simply comforts the comfortable and afflicts the afflicted, that’s oligarchy. That’s aristocracy.”

It’s pointless.

“Really. A free press is supposed to ensure that the questions are asked to the powerful all the time. They’re not supposed to empower the powerful, but that’s what they do. So, that’s how, it’s not just independent campaigns that are locked out. It’s young people that are locked out. It’s African-Americans who are trying to walk down the street without being assaulted, or to drive a car without being shot. These are the kind of questions that should be asked, that, you know, where the press has given up the ghost, and when people say to me, ‘Isn’t it hopeless? Why are you bothering running?,’ I say, well, change the pronoun there.

It’s not me. It’s not me that’s at stake. What about young people who are at stake? Is it hopeless for them? You know, is it hopeless for African-Americans who want to end police violence? Is it hopeless for people who can’t afford health care, even through Obamacare? Are you telling us it’s hopeless? If you’re saying that, you are telling us that we do not have a democracy, which is reason for us all to rise up right now and fight against what you appear to be defending. ‘If you think it’s hopeless, Mr. representative of the corporate press, isn’t it your responsibility to make it hopeful by opening up this discussion?’

 

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In terms of universities and colleges, even with the UNC system, we can’t even have a free press here. We’re pretty much under the grasp and control of the administration, and then colleges all across the country have corporate deals that are funded. It just seems like a twisted web of bureaucracy and money. What do you think has to happen in order for the system to be dismantled?

“That’s exactly what they want you to think. They want you to think that you are marginal, that your values and your vision is at the fringe, and that it’s hopeless. That is their game plan. Because if you’re hopeless, then you’re powerless. But the reality is to reject the lesser evil, to reject their propaganda, to reject the powerlessness and the hopelessness that they’re trying so hard to convince you of, because they are quaking in their boots.

When I was tricked into running for office for the first time, back in 2002, running against Mitt Romney for governor, we were able to fight our way into a debate and inside that debate hall, which didn’t have an audience — it was just the candidates and the moderator — I spoke up for the everyday public interest agenda: jobs, healthcare and education as a human right, cutting the military, greening our energy system, even back then, educating the whole student for lifetime learning, not through a standardized high-stakes test. Those ideas went over like a lead balloon, inside this debate hall, which were just the candidates and moderator.

But when we walked out, I was mobbed by the press for the first time and the last time. They have since been otherwise instructed, and what they said to me was that, ‘You’ve won the debate on the instant online viewer poll’ and that completely changed my thinking about this whole process. I had the sense I was doing this out of kind of my moral responsibility, but felt like, oh, it was pretty hopeless, and then I realized, oh my god, it’s not hopeless at all. We have won in the court of public opinion, which is the hardest place to win. We have two public relations agents that you could not buy for billions of dollars. One is the climate, and the other one is the economy and they have been persuading people to win them over to the right side of history, and people have been won over.

So, the fact that the political establishment works so hard to silence us is evidence of their fear and how powerful we are. In my view, this is all about communicating to each other, mobilizing each other. 40 million strong, we are unstoppable. 40 million is the number of young people who are in debt. If we can just get the word out to young people in debt, come on out. Have a party. Go to your voting booth. Cancel your debt by voting green and let’s have an afterparty, a victory party. If 40 million people come out, debt is over, free public higher education is around the corner and all kinds of other things. But we can win a three-way-race with a little more than 40 million votes. It depends on turnout. Normally it’s around 120 million, possibly a little bit more. So 40 million is sort of what it takes. Throw in 25 million Latinos that have learned that–”

The Democrats are not the party for them?

“Really. The Democrats are the party of deportation. Republicans are the party of hate and fearmongering. That’s 25 million Latinos who vote, and once students lead the charge, and students are always the ones who lead the charge, in a time of transformation and social upheaval. It’s always the younger generation that finds our way forward, which is why it’s so important that we liberate our younger generation from debt peonage right now because it knocks you out of political activity. Without the younger generation to re-envision and re-imagine our society and our future, all hope is lost. So it’s not good for the students. It’s good for all of us and it can actually win this race, and can change our political dynamics right now.

Starting on November 8th, we actually can have that political revolution. It won’t happen inside the Democratic Party, but it will happen because young people wake up to their power. It’s powerlessness that makes them indifferent. Once word gets out that the power is in your hands, we will see that turn on its head overnight.”

What is your position on banks? Would you bring back the Glass-Steagall Act if you could?

“And more. So the Glass-Steagall Act is a very important protection so that the investment bankers are not gambling with public money. Right now, they can do that and they can do all kinds of other abuses that are, well, they’re doing that. They’re doing that big time. In fact, the banks are bigger and more consolidated than they were before the crash in 2007. So, there’s every reason for us to bring back Glass-Steagall but not only that. We should break up the big banks right now. We need public ownership of the banks. We need banks in the public interest, not banks for the private interest. The same goes for the Federal Reserve, which needs to be a public institution, which is transparent and run on behalf of taxpayers and America, not on behalf of private banks and their profits, and we need to create those public banks, not only at the national level, but at the community level.

We need public banks which will be transformative in terms of our public budgets to basically reduce borrowing, essentially to the size of the loan and not have to pay enormous interest rates for municipalities, for public interests and state budgets. To be able to draw on our own banking system, not on a predatory banking system, will save us so much money and put dollars back into our budgets that enable us to meet human needs. This is a win-win. The Post Office used to provide this and there’s a movement now to restore public banking through the Post Office, which is one that we could get up and running right now.”

The Post Office has been kind of on the decline for a while. It’s really sad.

“Because it’s under attack. This is no failing of the Post Office. This was a specific attack by Congress to again privatize a public resource.”

If you were to say what the number one problem in America was, which one would you choose and why?

“I think we have two crises that come together. One is the climate crisis, and the other one is the economic crisis, and they are inseparable. Contrary to the mythology out there, you can’t just choose one, because you’ve got to fix them both. You can’t fix the economy without also fixing the climate and the ecosystems that the economy depends on and likewise, you can’t fix the climate unless you take care of the people and the economy, so they need to be fixed together. That’s what our Green New Deal is about. The Green New Deal basically creates 20 million jobs, full-time jobs, living wage jobs that green our economy to 100 percent clean, renewable energy by 2030.

That means declaring an emergency, as we did after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. It took us six months to transform the economy to a wartime footing. In 15 years, we can transform the economy to a totally green footing, 100 percent. Phase out nuclear and fossil fuel. Decommission them safely, now, while it can still be done and before the floodwaters seriously start rising and detonate the nuclear power plants, or by way of drought. There are just so many ways that they can become another Chernobyl.

So, these are catastrophes that are all sort of bound up in this one issue of the climate in our energy crisis, which can be fixed through the Green New Deal, creating the jobs that move us to 100 percent clean, renewable energy, also, to a healthy, sustainable food system and public transportation. Those are three areas of focus and we include in that meeting human needs as well, so we have social services, child care, home care, elderly care, etc. We train people up and we provide the funding for that, and it turns out to pay for itself, and I’ll explain in a minute. But in one fell swoop we revive the economy, we turn the tide on climate change, and, more importantly, we make wars for oil obsolete by moving to 100 percent clean renewable energy.

There is no longer a justification or a rationale for these horrific, immoral, catastrophic wars that are blowing back at us. So this is many solutions rolled into one, and the windfall from this is that our health gets so much better the minute we end the use of these toxic fossil fuels and all of their derivatives and pollutants. That savings alone from sickcare we don’t have to do is enough to actually pay the costs of the green energy conversion. It’s actually rather staggering. This has been worked out in detail, both by modelling studies but it’s also in real-world development that actually happened in Cuba when their oil pipeline went down when the Soviet Union collapsed.They got so much healthier. Their death rates from diabetes went down 50 percent. Their death rates from heart attacks and strokes went down 25 to 35 percent. Their obesity rates went down 50 percent.

All these amazing things happened when they had to transform overnight to a healthy diet, a healthy energy system, and a system of transportation that allowed them to integrate activity into getting where they were going. Again, we can do all of that. It cost them zero dollars to have a health revolution we cannot buy. Three trillion dollars a year is what we spend. It’s not a healthcare system. It’s a sickcare system that we’re spending $3 trillion a year on.

So the Green New Deal, it’s many solutions wrapped into one. If I’d have to say there’s one crisis, that is it. It’s this economic, ecological crisis, a systemic crisis of a predatory system. We can change that to a system that puts people over profit, that puts the planet over profit, and peace over profit.”

The Divestment Coalition on campus is very much against the university investing in fossil fuels. They went to speak to the Chancellor during her open office hours, and they confronted her not in an aggressive way, but in a very cordial way and they proposed divesting and how it would be good for the school because a lot of the schools, particularly in Asheville, promote green energy. But, it’s kind of like a pseudo-campaign and she said that she could praise their work, but not publicly support full divestment. They were kind of discouraged by that, obviously, and said, ‘Yeah, I don’t know about our campaign,’ but after awhile, they got motivated again. What do you think it’s going to take for students to realize they have to fight for the environment at all costs?

“I think the name of the game is linking these issues, and, for example, in the Green New Deal, we link jobs and the economy with the climate and we also bring in the need to liberate students in debt, so that we can get to that place. So, it’s very hard for people to think about the climate when they can hardly figure out where their next meal is coming from, and how they’re going to stay off the streets. This is why this system right now of debt peonage for young people is so dangerous politically.

So, it’s not so much to activate students, but rather to liberate students. We need to liberate students from debt and then they can take on all kinds of things, and they will take on all kinds of things. So, I will be supporting your efforts on campus. In fact, we’re really encouraging campus efforts for the campaign that allow us to bring this message there, this message of empowerment to young people that point out there’s a solution, and it’s not very many months away.

We can actually end student debt on Nov. 8th. Come out and end student debt and then we can deal with a whole bunch of other solutions for these problems they tell you just can’t be solved. ‘Please go home. Go to bed. Be depressed. Don’t get out. Because, it’s hopeless. Please believe me. I’m a politician. Trust me. It’s hopeless.’

That’s kind of the line that they are feeding young people. That needs to be rejected.”

It’s like fast food.

“Exactly. That’s our motto. Reject the lesser evil. Fight for the greater good and we need to liberate young people in order to do that.”

Thank you so much.

“Thank you. Bring some of those apathetic young people and challenge them. The solution to apathy and depression is power.”

At football games, even, you sit in the seats and realize the power of people in numbers. They were shoving fast food in their faces and painting their faces different colors for the team. It was an energy beyond so many other experiences. If people could actually be fighting in these numbers for their rights…

“Well, you know, what’s really interesting, I mean, football is a really good example, because that’s how the University of Missouri just showed their chancellor and their chairman of the board or the president, I think, showed them the door after all these horrible, racist developments on campus and the failure of the administration to take racism as a serious issue. The students stood up and then the football team stood up, which really gets to the pocket book, and it’s very interesting that you bring this up, because we’re seeing on the ground mobilization of the African-American community on climate change, recognizing that it’s African-Americans that paid the price with Katrina, who still haven’t come back. 100,000 have not been able to come.

You know, this environmental racism is what’s going on with the climate crisis. I think to start a dialogue with the football team, that’s another aspect of racism that we need their help on, that we need to engage them in the fight not only against racism and police violence, but racism in the climate crisis that is coming down on the heads of the community of color all over the world, harder than anywhere else. That would be a wonderful dialogue to begin.”

Did you see the video of the journalist who tried to get into the Mizzou group that was gathering? It was supposedly a safe space. It was really interesting because there was a discussion about this in class. It’s the issue of free speech, and then Mizzou’s cause to protest against the racism, but it was such an intersection of different things because the press represents so much negativity for people of color. What do you think of that incident?

“You know, I guess I don’t know the details of that incident. The one I was aware of was an independent journalist who wanted the cover the confrontation and it was the administration that threw him out. They got security to take the press out because they didn’t want the press reporting on what was going on. So, I think the bottom line is that we need an accountable press. We need a free press. We have a name for the corporate press. We call them the ‘O-press’ or the ‘Re-press,’ if you know what I mean, instead of the real press, which is the independent press. But I think the larger point here is that we need a unified coalition for people, planet and peace over profit and when we get together, whether it’s football teams, African-Americans, the climate justice movement, the living wage movement, you know, you bring us together, we are an unstoppable force and on campus, we can bring together that coalition and, I think, to engage the dialogue between Black Lives Matter or the Moral Monday Movement and the climate movement and the student debt movement. This is where we become that unstoppable force that can take our future back and build the world that we deserve that puts people, planet and peace over profit.

We can create that now. It’s not just in our hopes. It’s not just in our dreams. It’s in our hands.”

Thank you for sticking up for our generation. That means so much.

“Oh my god. Well, it’s for all of our sake. It’s for your sake. We gotta do that, and make it happen right now and we could turn this around by Nov. 8th. But we’ll get the word out, and whether you actually win the election, or you win the day, by establishing that there is now an independent base of resistance from which we can build, then we’re on our way.”

Drawing upon, especially our generation, their tentativeness toward the two-party system and just toward our country, in general, there are so many people who…

“Who want to engage? Yeah, and they are staying home in record numbers and I think for people to know that whether we get five percent or 25 or 55, in a three-way race, technically, 34 percent can win the vote. So, I mean, there are all kinds of ways that we can win. But, you can even win in a rigged system. You may not win the vote count around first time, you know, and there are all kinds of ways it’s rigged. But, you can establish a base from which you then really challenge power. Richard Nixon gave all kinds of concessions to the movement. He was a very repressive, oppressive warhawk President, but he, you know, he brought the troops home from Vietnam, he passed the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act and established the EPA and OSHA, and we got the women’s right to choose from the Supreme Court. How do we do that? Not by the lesser evil, but by standing up for who we are and what it is that we believe in. Democracy needs a moral compass. Silencing yourself and allowing a corporate, lesser evil to speak for you is a prescription for disaster because people will not come out and vote for the lesser evil.

So, it’s either evil, or it’s good, and I don’t mean that in sort of religious terms, but as a practical matter, we’re told to support the lesser evil all the time and it’s an absolute disaster. We need to stand up for the public good. We need to stand up for the greater good. It’s us or no one. Democracy needs that moral compass. If we silence ourselves, we’ve basically thrown in the towel and said, ‘Here, corporate America, who runs the corporate parties. You decide.’

In the words of Frederick Douglas, ‘Power concedes nothing without a demand.’ It never has and it never will. We need to stand up and be that demand. Then, we can build on that demand, and whether we get five percent or 55 percent, we have won the day. Once we stand up and we stand together, we will be an unstoppable force.”

It’s good to look forward and to be positive.

“–and to know our power.”

Thank you for your time.

“Yes, and thank you for leading the charge.”

 

The revolution will not be televised, will not be tweeted

My coworker turned to me today and said, “Oh, no. The New York Times. Tamir Rice.”

I wish I could say I was surprised at the results: no indictment in the case of a police officer who shot and killed unarmed/toy gun-armed/two-armed 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Ohio about two seconds – no exaggeration, watch the video – after arriving to the playground.

A few days ago, Sandra Bland’s murder in police custody was dismissed without indictment as well.

 

Still, processing that this case would end so abruptly after a year had me at a loss for words, awkwardly chuckling, smiling, making ambiguous and disjointed comments about the future and the irrelevant fact that a new year is beginning…

I knew it was coming, yet the most disappointing about living in the United States since Trayvon Martin’s murder is the numbness. I vividly remember tearing up on my brother’s 12th birthday this year – he’s just gotten taller than us, too, and as the baby of the family, won’t let us forget it – when Tamir crossed my mind. So I know that there is emotion in here somewhere; begrudgingly, maybe, but it is there.

This resonating numbness makes me wonder if I’m growing less and less human, or into a stronger version of myself. Have I become like the disinterested public or the resilient few? Is my mind institutionalized or free? Thankfully, it’s impossible to know for sure, so I usually cope through thought experiments, bringing my bachelors-level political and social psychology theories to the forefront instead of my own experience.

Speaking in hypotheticals momentarily makes all of this just as surreal as it feels to refer to someone’s beloved with simultaneous distance and familiarity through something as intangible as a hashtag. Again and again.

 

Anyway.

 

Our conversation led me to say, “the revolution will not be televised” inspired by Gil Scott Heron. I first heard the song in The Black Power Mixtape, a documentary by a Swedish filmmaker (available on Netflix) covering the civil rights movement years 1967-1975. It remains relevant today as calls for justice grow, so I revisited the song for another thought experiment, in the age of twitter and television, will the revolution be “live”?

 

“You will not be able to plug in, turn on, and cop out.”

The good will not be televised and while the vigilant watch of social media is supportive, sometimes this constant stream of black deaths and their subsequent disregard through official statements of disinterest seem like a mechanism in itself, rather than a consequence of an unjust system. Author and activist Angela Davis describes the foundational role of violence in revolution and the inescapable presence of state-sanctioned race-based violence in a 1972 interview.

 

The effects of that theoretical onslaught are real in the black American experience, and manifests in as many ways as there are black Americans. For me, it’s been foggy, depressive periods, aggressive social media, and most recently channeling the anxiety into productivity – creative expression and a commitment to social justice through engaging others.

 

“The revolution will not give your mouth sex appeal.”

Here’s a thought experiment:

If a citizen dies in police custody and everyone is there to tweet it, does it make a difference?

 

We need to go beyond mainstream media narratives and phone screens, especially if we are ready to do better – and people of all races know that we must. This is a statistically reinforced race issue, which makes it a human rights issue. 

The revolutionary good that this country needs – and I believe wants – will not be televised. It is a blessing and a curse, as people are able to seek tangible improvements away from speculation that corrupts this message. However, they are largely unseen – community activists, attorneys, nonprofit organizations.

 

Conversations, then, are essential. People need to hear other people, see other people taking action, talk through this stuff; they need the opportunity to be wrong and be informed again from a face, not an avatar. They need to see that there is good being done, constantly. So, if you care, you’re gonna have to reach out to somebody. You’re going to have to stumble through awkward, meaningful conversations; it’s the only way to then stumble forward to action.

 

We have to become comfortable speaking for ourselves in an age of retweets, likes, and the multitudes of murmurs of the blogosphere. It starts among friends, then communities, then demanding to be heard at local levels. We have to call people out, call ourselves out, and call out the principles that matter to us.

 

“There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down brothers on the instant replay.”

On the contrary, there is constantly new footage of unnecessary lethal force. If video evidence is no match for the legendary “infallible, superhuman-yet-chronically-fearful, good guy” police officer, as we saw in the cases of Sandra Bland and Eric Garner, amongst others, then calls for dashboard and body cameras are meaningless. Surveillance has been vehemently opposed by officers, who claim they cannot do their jobs correctly if observed. Public officials are intended to be accountable to the public. To protect and serve citizens.

Yet, in this day and age, legal provisions still allow for the seizure of civilian property on arbitrary grounds, as John Oliver explores on Last Week Tonight: Civil Forfeiture.

(He also covers Ferguson and the history of police militarization, an important caveat.)

 

We have to demand better. Accountability is not too much to ask, and in a time where deadly force has replaced first response protocol, we would do well to demand de-escalation training. The case law term for Tamir Rice’s murder is “officer-created jeopardy”. That it’s justifiable in hindsight and through loopholes isn’t good enough, and police need to be held to a higher standard in their profession, to enter situations strategically to minimize, rather than create confrontations. Read more on the question of policing standards coming out of this grand jury decision from Jamelle Bouie at Slate.

 

The reality is that we don’t need thought experiments to get to revolutionary action, with scientists at Harvard categorizing police brutality in the US as an epidemic. We do have to take a revolutionary approach by demanding reform on the issue of police accountability. It’s an issue of human rights, an issue of public health – and in that sense, the bystander effect is our biggest challenge to overcome.

 

At this point, seeking out real policy reforms to support, speaking out through protests and/or conversations, and simply demanding better are revolutionary. Do it because it’s about what is right. Do it for the sake of a better place. Do it in a way that feels right to you, because it is up to you to do something.

The revolution will not be televised, will not be tweeted. The revolution will be live.

 

Metaphors, money in politics, and COP21: A global call to local action

Rondonia, Brazil.

Global leaders collected in Paris for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UN FCCC) Conference of Parties (COP21) in early December to resolve collective action on the issue. The Earth’s changing landscapes and the telling experiences of climate refugees are the tangible evidence of three decades of research. The Earth’s conditions are inching closer to a tipping point, and with building momentum. The Paris Agreement has so much potential, but it’s been met with a mix of optimism and cynicism given the history of these sorts of talks. Paris is talked about as our last hope, but has enough changed since the Kyoto Protocol of 1997 or Copenhagen in 2009?

187 countries’ Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDCs) have been laid on the table, as they collaborate to avoid the 2 degrees Celsius limit. That goal can guide collective action in theory, but every country is inherently different – there are developed nations and developing nations, capitalist states and socialist states, indigenous leaders and Western bureaucrats. Greenhouse gas emissions are tied directly to industry and in essence, the ways that individuals, communities, companies, and global markets use energy. Have those changed enough in the past twenty years?

Deforestation

Brazil and the United States are influential in energy and industry, with a complex relationship.

(75%) of the Amazon rainforest is located within their borders and in the industrial boom that has positioned the country as a lead developing nation, (50%) of this vital ecosystem has been culled. The rainforest acts as the air conditioning unit for our planet, generating an atmospheric river of water vapor that helps to regulate the Earth’s temperature and purify the atmosphere of greenhouse gases. Deforestation weakens this regulatory cycle and the carbon sink that it functions as, therefore facilitating the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and Earth’s resultant warming. Thus far, Brazil has been forthcoming with their verbal commitment, and has actually reduced the rate of deforestation in recent years.

Deforestation_Brazil1
Deforestation in Brazil: Rondônia is part of the Brazilian Amazon, on the border with Bolivia. It is one of the peripheral areas undergoing expansion within Amazonia, growing from about half a million inhabitants in 1980 to more than 1.5 million in 2009. Within the Brazilian Amazon, Rondônia has the highest deforestation rate. It reached more than 34 percent in 2008, a drastic increase from 1978 when less than 2 percent had been cut. The principal causes of deforestation in the Amazon as a whole — and especially in Rondônia — are population growth due to government-promoted immigration, the growth of the wood-products industry in conjunction with the expansion of the road network, and burning for management of pastureland and agricultural fields. Source: United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). From Latin America and the Caribbean Atlas of our Changing Environment (2010).

 

Consumption of the Amazon rainforest is very much culturally ingrained, so the components of this issue are many-fold and interconnected: industrial agriculture and logging, illegal deforestation, job security, political expedience, lack of economic support for the existent environmental police. More than that, the United States has a stake in deforestation as well, as the primary importer of Amazonian wood, in addition to importing meat and soy. Local and global economies then merge, as coverage of deforestation in Brazil by NPR explored.

I reached out to my friend Jean, from Rondonia, to learn about things from his perspective.

3
Jean looking out at Rondonia across the Brazil-Bolivia border from the mountains of Bolivia.

Rondonia is a young state, formed when people migrated West in the 1980s to support their families through cattle ranching, logging, or agriculture. Ultimately, it has supported the development of the entire country into global trade’s current agricultural powerhouse.

Now, Brazil proposes to convert from deforestation to land preservation, reforestation, and a commitment to renewable energy. Garcia-Navarro’s coverage closes with a beckoning: “Brazil’s congress matters to us, all around the world.”, and it is true we need their commitment and follow through.

A rural area like Rondonia prospers, though unequally, thanks to the logging and cattle ranching industries on a global scale. Their ties are traditional and universal at the same time, affecting the livelihoods of vigilante rubber tappers and the international housing industry. It follows that the rest of the world’s actions matter to Brazil, given that their meat, soy, and timber exports go primarily to the United States. Intrigued by the dynamics at play, I asked a good friend from Rondonia to share his perspective.

Jean grew up on a cattle farm in Rondonia and has witnessed the depletion of the Amazon alongside the growing prosperity of his state. Jean says that the COP21 climate talks are too bureaucratic –  too far removed from the economic, political, and cultural realities of the rainforest – to have any real meaning for the fate of the Amazon.

Citing the 1988 decree that incentivized the migration and cattle ranching that led his father to Rondonia, Jean states, “It’s not to blame the farmers and people making money from it —  it isn’t their fault. The government allows it to be this way.”. Deforestation, largely by fire, was the foundation for Rondonia’s economic growth. The reality is as Jean explains, “The Amazon is impregnable, so that’s why any cities and communities can be there now: deforestation.” Actually, the narrative should be familiar: Western migration, subsistence cattle farming turned booming industrial growth at the expense of the environment. See the effects of industry on deforestation in the United States:

Source of 1620, 1850, and 1920 maps: William B. Greeley, The Relation of Geography to Timber Supply, Economic Geography, 1925, vol. 1, p. 1-11. Source of TODAY map: compiled by George Draffan, based on a map of the remaining roadless areas in The Big Outside: A Descriptive Inventory of the Big Wilderness Areas of the United States, by Dave Foreman and Howie Wolke (Harmony Books, 1992).

Industry money in politics

Ivo Cassol is a senator from Rondonia, wealthy cattle rancher, and member of the Brazilian Senate environmental committee. His position on the committee affords him a say in the climate talks and partial responsibility to implement Brazil’s commitment per the terms of the agreement.  He questions, “Is it fair to ask Brazil to do all the conservation when the United States made the mess to begin with? That’s very hypocritical of the Americans. … Are we to be the slave of other countries? The lungs of the United States?” He goes on indignantly, “Even though they send us only a pittance to pay for it? I won’t accept it. No.”

He may have a point, but his criticisms have personal and shallow political notes that seem to limit their applicability to the realm of the elite. He was found guilty of fraud by Brazil’s Supreme Court and Prosecutor General, so he is currently appealing his criminal charges on technical grounds. Previously mayor of Rondonia and governor, Cassol assumed his Senate office in 2011; the accusations: giving government contracts to associates, friends, and family members when he was mayor.

Herminio Coelho, one of the few opposition candidates and a member of the leftist party, calls their Senate assembly a “whorehouse” and “criminal enterprise” of leaders who would sooner see Rondonia without trees than help the environment, as landowners and profiteers of deforestation themselves. It resonates, then, when Jean states, “The bureaucracy is the problem,” and continues on about Brazil’s politics, clouded with corruption, bribery, and blackmail at local, state, and national levels.

In Jean’s personal experience and in his political participation (voting is mandatory in Brazil), citizens tend to favor the familiar. “People will see a name they know and choose it because they recognize it. It doesn’t matter what they would do or their politics; it’s a family name so they think they can trust it.” At the same time, those families have vested interests and long-standing relationships that lead to circles of corruption that rise louder than the voices of the people.

We saw it in the United States earlier in 2015, when money in politics as speech led to the funneling of $136 million into Republican candidates Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, and (at the time) Rick Perry from Southern oil corporations with a mix of financial and social ties. So when Cruz hosted a forum in the US Congress during the Paris climate talks to state that he doesn’t believe climate change exists, we have to ask: is there truth in what he’s saying and who is he saying it for?

Money’s influence in politics is at the root of COP21 criticisms as well. Kumi Naidoo, head of Greenpeace, addressed the coinciding People’s Climate Summit in Montreuil, stating “isn’t it strange that the people that are sponsoring the COP are including oil, coal, gas, and nuclear companies?”. The metaphor he uses is an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting sponsored by alcohol companies. On the other hand, Greenpeace is the foremost environmental global NGO, with 30 million supporters worldwide – and they accept zero donations from corporations. Naidoo goes on to explain that the people most affected by climate change currently are underrepresented being from smaller nations, tend to be low-income, and are predominantly brown and black people.

 

 

Pew Research Center recently published a study of global concern about climate change. Latin America – specifically Brazil – reports the highest percentage of concern towards climate change and understanding that climate change is taking effect now.

Trends show that high CO2 emitters are less intensely concerned about climate change. Ivo Cassol’s accusations towards the United States may come to mind again when we consider that in US politics, we debate its legitimacy rather than legislation and policy to move towards sustainable processes. Meanwhile, this year Brazil has seen Sao Paolo, its largest city, deep in drought and 150 homes destroyed after two dams holding toxic waste from an iron ore mine burst in Minas Gerais.

Agriculture is largely rooted in tradition, so Jean helped me to understand by relaying his own experience in the geophysics field. When farmers are hesitant to accept soil analyses and chemical supplements he uses metaphors, most often likening it to medicine. He explains the combination of physics, math, and impressive technological equipment to eradicate contaminated liquid as identifying, locating, and treating cancer.

Jean points out, “People fear what they don’t know about”. Who will tell people on the ground to translate the global impact of their actions or to liken the principles of sustainability to everyday decision-making? Who will translate the climate agreement created by bureaucrats into practical terms for the people whose economic livelihoods and cultural traditions will be affected?

Bureaucrats used many metaphors used at the talks as well, although those can be reduced to strategically passionate political rhetoric. I prefer satirical coverage – its closer to the people’s commentary: telling, critical, and funny (see The Daily Show’s piece on Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz and the oil industry).

 

Is tradition the enemy of innovation, then? Are metaphors the only way to discuss these issues? Not necessarily.

It’s unreasonable and unfeasible to turn away from our traditions immediately – they have valid social and economic significance. We’re looking at changes in infrastructure, lifestyles, and legislation. We have to be selective about what we bring into this new era and comprehensive of human experience.

A human rights issue

“It’s easy to write a bill, but to enforce it outside of industrialized cities is different,” Jean finds. He recalls that when Lula, Brazil’s first working class president (2002-2010) set out to address poverty in Brazil, it was through cost-effective, well-targeted programs. Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva was the child of migrants and later a metalworker and trade-union leader. His two-term presidency cannot be confirmed corruption-free, but he left office with 90% approval ratings. His legacy is lifting 29 million Brazilians out of poverty and into the middle class through economic supports for the impoverished.

Jean adds, “I am a big fan of taxing people; it’s necessary to maintain the republic. It makes us closer to each other when the richer are closer to the poorer.” Poverty and climate change are both quality of life issues, with direct influence on immediate and sustained access to resources. Undoubtedly, either the costs or the responsibility to action fall on all of us. With the amount of money exchanging hands between the contributing industries and decision-makers in environmental policy, climate change and reforms like the Clean Power Plan could be the equalizer we need to bring local, community voices to the table.

 

If followed through, Paris is the beginning of the end of the fossil fuel and greenhouse gas emissions era, a change that will fundamentally alter the way we live – if it is to have any effect. The treaty does take the aforementioned lifestyle changes into account, providing supports for communities dependent on the fossil fuel industry, in anticipation of the impact of altering their economies.

Pew Climate-Change-Report-18We have reached the point (it could be argued that we reached it long ago) where life as we know it must change, due either to climate change or our response to it. 414 US cities and towns are guaranteed to be underwater as sea levels continue to rise. To respond proactively is no small undertaking; in reality nothing significant is.

During our Skype date, Jean expressed his cynicism through another metaphor, “When I see rich countries talking about deforestation, it’s like a mask for them, I know it.” There is hope in the spirit of this agreement, however: consensus was gathered through indabas: a South African method of mask-less, transparent group deliberation. Instead of repeating stated positions, each party is encouraged to speak personally and state their “red lines,” which are thresholds that they don’t want to cross. But while telling others what they cannot compromise, they must contribute to the collective goal.

 

A distinction must be made between the terms of the Paris climate deal as they are agreed upon and the terms as each country can actualize them. Being from the United States, I share in Jean’s cynicism towards results; we rarely agree to a course of action within the government, let alone in the global sphere. US Republicans have already threatened the work of the climate deal. So when it comes time to ratify and implement the terms of the Paris agreement in the United States, what can we expect? I am still hopeful in spite of that cynicism, largely because it is too soon to tell. If we do come up against more of the same corruption instead of capitalizing on this call for collaboration, the implications are huge.

As Elon Musk stated at Sorbonne during the Paris climate talks, what we incentivize is what happens. As we look to next steps in ratification and implementation, the people will need to have a seat at the table and hold decision-makers accountable for results, nuanced policies to provide everyone with the means to contribute solutions that combine industry, innovation, and tradition.

The talks in Paris are over; these leaders will return from the hill to the people, the other politicians, farmers and pundits, conversations and media narratives. What then? We’ll have to see – and act. The 192 world leaders who convened in Paris this year will revisit this project again in 2018, and in 5-year increments starting in 2020.

I’ve found the hope surrounding these climate talks, the textured history that led us here, even the crippling effects of greed on reaching agreement to be unabashedly human. We’re capable of great things through sustainable and innovative technologies, but without communication and collective action at various levels to back it up – I’m not sure what to expect.

Climate change and money in politics are both local and universal, social and industrial. Use whatever metaphor you will; in the end, we’re all in this together.