Michael Riordon

the view from where I live


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The Forces of Know

In darkening times, bright sparks of inspired resistance.  In this case, to dangerous pipelines that threaten earth, water, air, and life.

In northwestern Canada, people of the Lax Kw’alaams First Nation are resisting not only a proposed liquid natural gas (LNG) pipeline and coastal shipping terminal, plus a voracious transnational corporation and two enabling governments, but also the toxic ideology that drives these entities.  At its stone cold heart it has only one premise: there is no person or thing on earth, in the sea or sky that can’t be bought and sold.

Despite escalating attempts to buy them off, apparently the majority of Lax Kw’alaams people hold to deeper values and a longer view.

Lax Kw'alaams resistLax Kw’alaams: Just say no.  Photo: The Guardian.

Henry Lickers also takes a longer view.  He’s a Seneca First Nation biologist at Kawehno:ke, Akwesasne Mohawk Territory, not far from another pipeline that people are fighting in eastern Canada.  In writing Bold Scientists, I explored with him the deep gap that separates his point-of-view, in line with the Lax Kw’alaams’, from the powerfully seductive one that drives the surrounding society.  He replied, in part:

“Our society is responsibility-based, so that means I’m responsible for taking care of the environment.  The outside society is rights-based – this is my land, so I have a right to do what I want with it…  So we’re always in this fight with Canada or the US – over here we’re talking about our responsibility to protect the environment, and over there you’re saying it’s your right to do what you want.  That’s not a good way to function, especially in relation to the environment.  You should be aiming really high to protect your environment.  Oh no, you say, that would cost too much, it can’t be done at present, et cetera.  Is it any wonder the world is going the way it is?”

For more on Henry Lickers’ life and work, see Bold Scientists, chapter 1, When the river roared.  Excerpt here.

Two more responsibility-based initiatives oppose yet another dangerous pipeline, Line 9.  It’s a 40-year-old pipeline that’s due to transport high volumes of corrosive tar sands bitumen and volatile fracked shale oil from Sarnia, Ontario to refineries in Québec.  Along the way, the pipeline crosses many First Nation territories, municipalities, and waterways that provide drinking water to millions of people in the most densely populated region of Canada.

The Chippewas of the Thames First Nation have launched a landmark challenge to Line 9 at the Supreme Court of Canada.  It’s an initiative that could have enormous impact.  It’s also a costly proposition to take on wealthy corporations and governments.  Support is needed, and welcome here.

And Tar Free Toronto, a citizens’ group, has launched a petition to the Prime Minister of Canada, demanding a halt to Line 9.  https://petitions.parl.gc.ca/en/Petition/Details?Petition=e-248

Further information on the campaign: Write to tarfreetoronto@riseup.net

Pass this message along.  Keep the sparks flying.

 

 

 

 


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The leap manifesto

In this dark age of dead ends, here is a bold, urgent initiative.

Leap manifesto

The leap manifesto offers real grounds for real hope.  Not the fast-food Hope marketed by cynical politicians, but the real thing, deeply transformative, built by all of us with open eyes, compassion, imagination, and yes, hard work.

Please leap in.  And pass it on.

 


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How low can we go?

October 19, 2015.  Election day in Canada.

Engineered illusions have fueled the Harper regime’s dangerous grip on power.  Here’s good insight into how some of these illusions are collapsing along with international crude oil prices.

Tar sands blight

Stephen Harper’s toxic legacy. (Photo: via PriceofOil.org)

The tar sands corporations and the Harper regime are hard to tell apart.  Both believe that plunder is their right, even their duty.  Both are obsessed with greed and power, their religion.  Both do harm on an almost numbing scale, and call it “good management.” Both depend on each other in myriad ways for their survival.  Both hate democracy.

In addition to the tar sands nightmare, the Harper regime has presided over a full spectrum of unnatural disasters, including: systematic assaults on environmental protections and honest science, starvation of the national health care system, massive surveillance, escalating military budgets and eager participation in criminal wars wherever US authorities choose to attack.

In a sane society, all of these would be considered major crimes.  In Canada, the current regime hopes they will be grounds for their re-election.

I have no illusions about elections as a solution to the enormous problems we face.  I know that once in power, none of the parties on offer will go nearly as far as I think they should to address these vital issues honestly, fairly, and adequately.  But:

By now we know from bitter experience that if the Harper regime can fool enough Canadians into voting for it in October, the disasters will only deepen and multiply.

Question is: How low can we go?

October 19, 2015.  A fateful day for Canada.


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First, do no harm

“I have seen what happens when standards of decency, human rights and ethics are thrown out in a wave of totalitarian or government zeal.” Steven Reisner, member of the Council, American Psychological Association, and co-founder of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology.

Torture, Guantanamo

A shining moment: On Friday, August 7 in Toronto, Canada, the American Psychological Association voted to bar its 80,000 members from any further collaboration in ‘national security interrogations,’ ie torture by the American government and its agencies.

This historic shift was hard won, after a decade of grassroots organizing to counter APA executive deceit and collusion with the CIA.

Details here, in three short videos from Democracy Now!

A report on collusion between the CIA and the former executive of the APA, is here.

For a provocative critique of psychological/psychiatric abuse of power, see Bold ScientistsAn excerpt is here.  Scroll down to chapter 7, ODD.


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Greece: It was a moment

Shining moments happen now and then. While the big ones demand attention, small ones often escape notice.  Some are in the eye of the beholder.

Lightning over parthenonThe Parthenon, Athens, Greece

For this beholder, a few of the big shining moments that come to mind: When years of massive popular uprising finally brought down the Marcos dictatorship in the Philippines. When Iceland defied the European bankers. When indigenous Bolivians forced US corporate giant Bechtel to drop its plan to make them pay for their own water, even for rain that fell from the Andean sky.  And then, just a week ago:

Despite a deluge of propaganda and threats, 61%of Greeks said Όχι, No! to financial-political strangulation by Euro-banks, Greek corporate gangsters and their wholly owned media.

That was a shining moment. It followed the January 2015 election of the Syriza movement to govern Greece, primarily on a promise to end imposed ‘austerity,’ a toxic mix of impoverishment and grand theft that had already devastated the country.

I am hungry for these shining moments, as I imagine many of us are. The big ones don’t come very often.  Our grasping at straws can make us naive, trip us up on our own illusions.

A week later, the Όχι moment is over.

Greek Prime Minister Alex Tsipras overrode democracy and the clear wishes of his own people to accept, behind closed doors, a set of conditions guaranteed to be even more viciously destructive to his country than the ones a strong majority of Greeks had just refused in their historic referendum.

In their castles today, the international bankers and politicians who serve them are surely celebrating. They have made an example of the Greek people, as kings used to do with heads on pikes: See what we do to those who defy us.

How Greeks who invested their hopes in the new government and its promises feel today, I can hardly imagine. The grief and rage of two other observers is eloquently expressed here, and here.

And in a rapidly growing international protest on Twitter, #ThisIsACoup, here.

But the story doesn’t end there. It continues where it always does, in Greece and everywhere else, often out of sight on streets, in markets, cafés and tavernas, in offices, schools and barracks.  People talk, they learn, they unravel the lies, patch the disappointments, share, organize, resist.  And so it goes.

The story also continues in the turmoil and the quiet of our minds, where many small shining moments are born.  Often they grow, and sometimes they bear fruit.


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Όχι, No!

July 5, 2015, Greece: The referendum.

9.8 million eligible voters.
62.5% voted.

38.69% voted ναι, Yes.
61.31% voted όχι, No.

Greeks celebrate NoAthens, Sunday night, July 5. Photo: ibtimes.uk.

This is a first, a historic moment. An act of defiance and great courage. A sharp rupture with business as usual.

I’m sure that in voting No, people rejected many different but ultimately connected things: The threats and unbounded arrogance of international bankers and Euro-bosses, primarily the German Chancellor; the lies and corrosive contempt of the mainstream media; the corrupt, discredited old ruling parties of Greece; an indirect but obvious attempted coup against the government that Greek voters had just elected in January; a weary apathy born of repeated blows and letdowns; fear of the unknown, and more.

But most directly, a strong majority of Greek voters rejected a power structure they know very well by now through bitter lived experience, a system that makes a decent, sustainable life impossible for the many in order to indulge the insatiable greed of the few.

For people like me in other countries where No’s that challenge this power structure are routinely ignored, mocked or punished, this is a rare, thrilling moment, to be savoured.

To me, the Greek Όχι echoes another famous No!  During the Spanish civil war, people defending democracy from fascism boldly declared: No pasaran. They shall not pass. Sadly, the fascists did pass, and they are still with us. Even so, the original call has lost none of its abiding power: No pasaran!

No illusions here: The bankers and their faithful servants in government and media are still with us. They are mightily offended by the defiance of the Greeks. They fear that this ringing No! will inspire people suffering under the bankers’ heel in other places: Spain, Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Ukraine and beyond.

Syriza and the people of Greece face an enormously difficult path, a new path with no map. They will be bullied, bribed and beguiled to bow down or sell out.

With humble thanks, I wish them the clarity and courage to find their own way to a more reasonable, more compassionate, more authentically democratic future.

 


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For the people of Greece, I wish…

Far too long, financial vampires in Europe and North America have had free access to the open veins of the Greek people. Little blood is left, but still the vampires want more. This is how they live, in castles called the IMF, the European Commission, the European Central Bank.  They call their brutal regime ‘austerity,’  but its true name is insatiable, murderous greed.

After years under this regime, and rising popular protests, in January of this year Greek voters elected the Syriza party to form a government. It’s still young, a coalition formed only in 2004.  Chief among its promises was to end the suffering and brutality of imposed ‘austerity.’

Greek rallyAthens rally, June 2015: Yes to freedom, no to austerity. Photo: NY Times.

The vampires hate the new government. They set about immediately to discredit, paralyze and ultimately to smash it.  An example must be made, subjects must be reminded of their place.

In power six months now, the Greek government has tied itself in knots trying to meet the insatiable demands of the vampires, while still keeping its promises to the people who elected it. Finally this past week it could no longer yield any further without cravenly betraying them.  Instead it asked the people of Greece to decide for themselves how to proceed.

Tomorrow, Sunday July 5, Greeks face a stark choice between two extremely painful paths, both imposed from outside. One path is to accept more of the same from the vampires, the other is to refuse them, and face the vicious retaliations that will surely result.  It’s a horrible decision that no one should ever have to make.  It’s a forced decision that people in other parts of the world also face, and very likely many more of us will have to face in the future.

This won’t be the first time Greeks have been forced to fight for their freedom, even their survival, against enormous odds. In April 1967, backed as usual by the CIA, Greek army officers launched a coup against the elected government. The military junta immediately abolished civil rights, dissolved political parties and exiled, imprisoned and tortured politicians and citizens who resisted, opposed, or even questioned them.

For most Greeks it was a nightmare, but the vampires thrived.

On February 21st, 1973, law students went on strike against the military dictatorship, barricading themselves inside the Law School of the University of Athens. They demanded the repeal of a law that imposed forcible military drafting on “subversive youths”, a fate already suffered by 88 of their peers. The police were ordered to attack.

By chance, I happened to be there.

Circling the Mediterranean on a quest of sorts, that afternoon I was heading for the Acropolis.  On a downtown building I noticed young people at the edge of the roof, holding up a banner in Greek. On the streets below, swarms of buses gathered, their flanks and windows painted dull grey. Men in uniform spilled out, clubs and guns on their belts. Streets emptied, shop doors slammed shut. Soon young people started disappearing from the roof. After awhile they emerged from the main entrance, staggering, choking and gagging – from tear gas, I assumed. They were forced through a gauntlet of police, who beat them with clubs. I saw and heard the impact on heads and backs, saw people hurled like sacks of grain into buses, caught glimpses of more beatings inside. On streets I watched ordinary looking men suddenly pull out small clubs from inside their jackets, beat young people, apparently at random, then run away. Here and there a shop door opened and hands pulled in a fleeing refugee. Behind other doors, people shook their heads, Go away!

That first uprising at the Law School is often cited as prelude to a much larger one in November 1973 at the Athens Polytechnic. Though it too was put down with even greater brutality, it sparked thousands of workers and youth to join protests across Greece.

In July 1974, the military dictatorship collapsed. Four months later, national elections were held, the first in seven years, won by the conservative New Democracy party.  Fatefully, one of its first priorities was to seek membership in the European Community, formed only a few years before.

The same forces I witnessed that day in Athens are still at work today. Now they wear suits. The uniforms and thugs stay in the background, to be called up as needed. Now the preferred weapons of mass destruction are international finance and trade agreements, negotiated over our heads and behind our backs. Like other dictators the finance vampires hide behind a veil of fake legality, to kill and destroy with impunity, smug in their ruthless power.

So long as these vampires continue to rule, by deception and force, people everywhere will continue to face the kind of torturous dilemma that Greeks face tomorrow, and worse.

For the people of Greece I wish the clarity of vision to see through the propaganda and threats that assail them, and the courage to refuse the vampires.