Every tool is a weapon if you hold it right

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(Some parts of the following post appear in Occupy this Book: Mickey Z. on Activism)

Often, the only way to learn if a battle can still be won is to keep fighting…with ever-evolving tactics, of course.

Our existing, mostly stagnant methods have left us with undrinkable water, polluted air, and inedible food [sic] and have most of us believing that coal is clean, nukes are green, and climate change can be reversed by switching to recycled toilet paper.

Suggestion: When faced with a daunting task, keep yer toolbox full.

Let’s say you’re a handy man/woman/human and you get hired for a job. I’m guessing you’d bring your full toolbox to the worksite. After all, you can never be sure what might pop up and what tools you’ll need. In other words, if we have a job to do, it would be illogical to decide beforehand that certain tools are off limits.

It would equally as illogical to not remain on the lookout for new and updated tools.

Take-Home Message: Keep all your tools at your disposal—even if some remain untouched—just in case.

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#shifthappens

Nazi Germany, Holy Grail, and Myths of Racial Superiority

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“I have come to believe that men kill in war because they do not know their real enemy and because they are pushed into a position where they must kill,” proposes peace activist, Thich Nhat Hanh. “We are taught to think that we need a foreign enemy. Governments work hard to get us to be afraid and to hate so we will rally behind them. If we do not have an enemy, they will invent one in order to mobilize us.”

In the case of Nazi Germany, it appears the propagandists themselves began their march toward genocide by inventing a past so mythical it could sway an entire nation. Even the leaders themselves couldn’t tell fantasy from reality.

handpointRTig Read my full article here

(Occupy this Book: Mickey Z. on Activism can be ordered here.)

“Strange Fruit”: Lynching By Any Other Name

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“People don’t understand the kind of fight it takes to record what you want to record the way you want to record it.” (Billie Holiday)

“Not many singers could claim to have ‘suffered for their art’ as Billie Holiday,” writes journalist Don Atapattu. “Born Elinore Harris…Billie certainly knew torment. As well as growing up black in the Jim Crow South; she endured sexual abuse; extreme poverty; homelessness; and (worked) as a prostitute before she began recording music at the age of 18.”

Southern trees bear strange fruit,

Blood on the leaves and blood at the root

Billie Holiday (1915-1959) did not write “Strange Fruit.”

Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,

Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

A former slave in America’s post-Civil War South did not write it.

Pastoral scene of the gallant south,

The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth

“Strange Fruit” began as a poem…written in the 1930s by a Jewish schoolteacher from the Bronx.

After viewing a photograph of a lynching, Abel Meeropol was moved to the pen the words Holiday would later make her own. Under the pseudonym “Lewis Allan,” Meeropol set the poem to music and saw it first performed at a teachers’ union meeting. It just as easily could have vanished into obscurity after that…but fate intervened.

Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh,

Then the sudden smell of burning flesh.

When Barney Josephson—the manager of Cafe Society, a popular, desegregated Greenwich Village nightclub—heard “Strange Fruit,” he arranged a meeting between Billie Holiday and Meeropol. After some initial hesitation, Lady Day decided to record the song but her record label refused. Her persistence landed the song on a specialty label and Holiday began performing it regularly in live shows in 1939.

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck,

For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,

Holiday’s passionate interpretation of “Strange Fruit” introduced white audiences to powerful images of racism, inequality, and hate crimes…images that were now more difficult to ignore.

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“‘Strange Fruit’ probably did more to put Billie on the map than anything she ever did,” wrote Michael Brooks in the booklet that accompanied the three-CD box: Billie Holiday – The Legacy. “It was totally unlike any song written up to then, and it enraged those people it didn’t scare.”

For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,

Here is a strange and bitter crop.

Postscript #1: According to the Center for Constitutional Rights, between 1882 and 1968, mobs lynched 4,743 persons in the United States, over 70 percent of them African-American.

Postscript #2: Today, 44 percent of the U.S. death row population is African-American, an ethnic group that constitutes a mere 12.6 percent of the nation’s people as a whole.

Postscript #3: Abel Meeropol and his wife Anne later adopted Robert and Michael Rosenberg, the orphaned children of the executed Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.

#shifthappens

(Occupy this Book: Mickey Z. on Activism can be ordered here.)

Keith Haring sez:

“Drawing is still basically the same as it has been since prehistoric times. It brings together man and the world. It lives through magic.”

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“Nothing is important… so everything is important.”

Never again?

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Having just finished reading a book on the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, besides feeling awe for those who courageously fought back, I couldn’t help but wonder: Would any of these freedom fighters or anyone who risked everything to take on the Nazis reject the state of Israel’s current methods?

Today, in a New York Times article, I learned of at least one man who has recently done so—in a very public manner.

Excerpt: “My sister lost her husband, who was executed in the dunes of The Hague for his involvement in the resistance,” he wrote. “My brother lost his Jewish fiancée who was deported, never to return.”

Mr. Zanoli continued, “Against this background, it is particularly shocking and tragic that today, four generations on, our family is faced with the murder of our kin in Gaza. Murder carried out by the State of Israel.”

He relinquished the honor “with great sorrow,” he wrote, because keeping an honor from Israel’s government would be “an insult to the memory of my courageous mother” and to his Gaza family.

He added that his family had “strongly supported the Jewish people” in their quest for “a national home,” but that he had gradually come to believe that “the Zionist project” had “a racist element in it in aspiring to build a state exclusively for Jews.”

handpointRTig Read the full NY Times article here

Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP): Pandora’s Box of Corporate Power

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TPP is a 12-nation agreement currently being negotiated between the governments of the United States and 11 other countries (Canada, Mexico, Peru , Chile, New Zealand, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Japan). TPP is being pushed by corporate interests seeking to enact a wide variety of policies into law that undermine the public interest on behalf of their profits, policies that would be vigorously opposed if presented as individual pieces of legislation rather than being lumped into a massive, obscure international trade agreement. 

TPP threatens to undermine environmental protection, prohibit financial industry regulation, encourage privatization of public services, offshore jobs to sweatshops, endanger wildlife, threaten food safety standards, destroy family farms while promoting industrial agriculture, limit access to lifesaving medicines by extending the life of corporate drug patents, ban government procurement policies like “Buy Green” and “Buy Local”, curtail internet freedom, and limit democracy by creating tribunals where corporations can attack governments for enforcing laws that protect the public from destructive corporate greed. 

handpointRTig Read my full interview with Adam Weissman here

High Noon for the Eco-System

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“The earth is not dying. It is being killed, and the people killing it have names and addresses.” (Utah Phillips)

We need a loud global alarm clock and we need it now. In fact, we could use a bunch of ‘em—tick-tick-ticking in every city and town on the planet to remind us humans that time is of the essence.

Our eco-system is finite and there is a point of no return. With this in mind, we could all kick things up a notch or three in terms of urgency, solidarity, and methods. Maybe such an escalation could begin with a showing of High Noon?

I watched this classic 1952 film for the thousandth time recently and found myself focused on the moment when Amy (Grace Kelly), the pacifist wife of Marshal Kane (Gary Cooper), shoots and kills a man to save her husband’s life. Earlier in the film, Amy had declared:

“My father and my brother were killed by guns. They were on the right side but that didn’t help them any when the shooting started. My brother was nineteen. I watched him die. That’s when I became a Quaker. I don’t care who’s right or who’s wrong. There’s got to be some better way for people to live.”

However, she not only ends up shooting a man, she also fights off the main villain, which allows Marshal Kane to finish him.

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Before you run and tell Gandhi on me, I’m not suggesting that you shoot anyone. However, I am urging you to recognize that those clock hands are inching towards noon and it’s high time to surprise yourself (as Grace Kelly’s character did) with your ability to take things to a new level.

3 Ways to Start Beating the Clock

1. Recognize the Urgency/Emergency

As highlighted above, when the stakes are high, we often react almost automatically. If you see a child wandering toward a busy boulevard, no one has to tell you what to do. If you see an entire eco-system in crisis, listen to your heart and respond.

2. Create Solidarity

A social system designed to keep us alone and staring at TV, computer, and cell phone screens all day—a system founded on privilege and hierarchy—is not conducive to collective action. Break the cycle and cultivate authentic, face-to-face community.

3. Discover New Tools and Tactics

As dynamics evolve, so must tactics. What’s in your toolbox?

#shifthappens

(Occupy this Book: Mickey Z. on Activism can be ordered here.)