Dec 26, 2011

privilege as dehumanizing

“The oppressors do not perceive their monopoly on having more as a privilege
which dehumanizes others and themselves. They cannot see that, in the egoistic
pursuit of having as a possessing class, they suffocate in their own possessions
and no longer are; they merely have”
- Paulo Freire

but is all privilege dehumanizing?
how can privilege be used in ways that make us all more human?

Dec 17, 2011

what is privilege?

I recommend the article over at Left Turn entitled

Occupy Opportunities for Collective Liberation - Catalyst Project’s Anti-Racist Organizing Strategy

by Chris Crass. To give you a small taste of it:

"“White” is not a category of who I am as an individual person. Rather, white is an historically developed social position I was born into within this country.My relationship to the state and the economy shapes what I have access to, how society interacts with me, and how I understand myself in relationship to others.This is not just a relationship between myself as an individual white person and the state and economy. It is the accumulated experience of hundreds of years of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.In short, white supremacy is internalized within me and has profound impacts on how I relate to the world around me.This internalized white supremacy is based on the material reality of political, economic, and social privilege I and other white people, experience every day as a white citizen of this nation.

It is important to make a distinction here between privilege and power.Most white people in the United States experience economic, political, and/or cultural oppression based on class, gender, sexuality, and ability, as well as race-based privilege.Privilege generally refers to rights, norms, standards, and attitudes that should apply to everyone, but that many people are denied.For example, for most of the history of the U.S., people of color were denied access to most jobs, legal protections, social services, civic participation, and neighborhoods (except to work in them).Additionally, violence against people of color has been social and in many cases de facto legally sanctioned. ..."

read on here

image by Melanie Cervantes, this and many other fab posters available at dignidad rebelde

Dec 12, 2011

mining, displacement, and accompaniment

check out this great media work by Moira over at PBI that gets to the heart of what accompaniment does - the following article ran in colombia reports:

Colombia's mining boom overshadowed by human rights violations: NGO


The apparent success of Colombia's mining boom is being overshadowed by human rights violations and mass displacement from mining areas, international human right organization Peace Brigades International (PBI) said Monday.

"80% of the human rights violations that have occurred in Colombia in the last ten years were committed in mining and energy-producing regions, and 87% of Colombia’s displaced population originate from these places," a report by the organization published last week said.

According to PBI spokesperson Moira Birss, mining activities are frequently accompanied by a disregard of the constitutional rights of minorities and threats and attacks on leaders of these communities.

"Community leaders who oppose mining projects, or the organizations that accompany those leaders and communities, have at times been targeted with threats and even attacks in what would appear to be a result of their opposition, as was the case with the priest who was killed in Marmato," said Birss, referring to an area where mining company Gran Colombia Gold and the local community are at odds over who has the rights to mine for gold.

Birss also expressed concern over suspicions that "companies may take advantage of, or potentially even pariticipate in, incidents of forced displacement in order to exploit that newly-available land."

"After its most recent visit to Colombia, the mission of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues stated that indigenous peoples are often subject to forced displacement as a strategy to impose megaprojects on their lands without having to undergo the process of prior consultation," Birss told Colombia Reports.

PBI did not look at whether Colombia's judicial authorities are investigating the possible role of multinational mining companies in human rights violations, but according to Birss, "the conflict has always been about control of resources."

"The case of Curbarado and Jiguamiando is the quintessential exmple of this: communities were forcibily displaced, then palm companies came in and set up shop. And thanks to the tireless work of the communities and those who accompany them, direct links are being proven between the displacement and the economic projects; several palm company owners have recently been condemned, and others are under investigation.

"Many experts, like the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, have alerted that there is every reason to believe that the pattern is or will be repeating itself in the mining sector," said Birss.

Dec 6, 2011

privilege and accompaniment

I have been reviewing again the very little that is posted online by organizations about how the international accompaniment work they do uses privilege. One of my favorites is a 2008 post by Liza Smith, who works with FOR.

The full post is here and well worth reading, but here is a snippet:

… Our first day in Colombia we began a conversation about the reality of international solidarity work. A number of people in the circle had (and continue to have) serious concerns about the nature of this work — why is that so many white, upper-middle class activists turn towards the romanticized struggles of the third world to “help” when we have our own atrocious situations to deal with at home? How can we justify solidarity work in Colombia when we have a prison population of African American men that equals the number of un-free African American men at the height of slavery? How can we go to a far away place to accompany threatened human rights leaders when 120 veterans commit suicide every week in the United States? How can we think about inequality elsewhere when young people in our own country have to offer themselves as cannon fodder in Iraq in order to get money for college? These issues merit our attention, hard work and passion.

Theoretically, we all know that our struggles to overcome oppression are deeply interconnected and that we must learn from one another’s struggles to make each stronger. This delegation felt like bringing theory to practice. We were not approaching Colombia as the problem and arriving as gringos with the helping hand. We were exchanging experiences of problems that are fundamentally linked and which manifest differently in our different contexts. … I can hardly claim that our delegation resolved any of the questions about international solidarity and I know I’m not off the hook as a white activist doing solidarity work with Colombia. But we did attempt to explore a different kind of model of transnational community building that deconstructs a traditional set up which assumes solidarity goes in one direction. Because our solidarity work there and here is to support each other in our collective development as activists, leaders and human beings. Because our work here and there is to build a stronger global movement to end war …”

Read the whole thing here.

Liza is also a great singer songwriter, check her out singing at the vigil to close the SOA in the video below.

Nov 28, 2011

international solidarity activists unwittingly support USAID in Bolivia

This article was published on Green Left and is reproduced in its entirety here - I'm particularly intrigued by the argument that it was by falling into romanticized notions of indigeneity that activists fell into this.

Bolivia's first indigenous president celebrates winning a recall referendum in August 2008.

The recent march in Bolivia by some indigenous organisations against the government’s proposed highway through the Isiboro Secure National Park and Indigenous Territory (TIPNIS) has raised much debate among international solidarity activists.

Such debates have occurred since the election of Bolivia's first indigenous president, Evo Morales, in 2005 on the back of mass uprisings.

Overwhelmingly, solidarity activists uncritically supported the anti-highway march. Many argued that only social movements — not governments — can guarantee the success of the process of change.

However, such a viewpoint is not only simplistic; it can leave solidarity activists on the wrong side.

Kevin Young’s October 1 piece on Znet, “Bolivia Dilemmas: Turmoil, Transformation, and Solidarity”, tries to grapple with this issue by saying that “our first priority [as solidarity activists] must be to stop our governments, corporations and banks from seeking to control Bolivia’s destiny”.

Yet, as was the case with most articles written by solidarity activists, Young downplays the role of United States imperialism and argues the government was disingenuous in linking the protesters to it.

Others went further, denying any connection between the protesters and US imperialism.

The Confederation of Indigenous Peoples of the Bolivian East (CIDOB), the main organisation behind the march, has no such qualms. It boasted on its website that it received training programs from the US government aid agency USAID.

On the site, CIDOB president Adolfo Chavez, thanks the “information and training acquired via different programs financed by external collaborators, in this case USAID”.

Ignoring or denying clear evidence of US funding to such organisations is problematic. Attacking the Bolivian government for exposing this, as some did, disarms solidarity activists in their fight against imperialist intervention.

But biggest failure of the solidarity movement has been its silence on US and corporate responsibility for the conflict.

The TIPNIS dispute was not some romanticised, Avatar-like battle between indigenous defenders of Mother Earth and a money-hungry government intent on destroying the environment.

Underpinning the conflict was the difficult question of how Bolivia can overcome centuries of colonialism and underdevelopment to provide its people with access to basic services while trying to respect the environment. The main culprits are not Bolivian; they are imperialist governments and their corporations.

We must demand they pay their ecological debt and transfer the necessary technology for sustainable development to countries such as Bolivia (demands that almost no solidarity activists raised). Until this occurs, activists in rich nations have no right to tell Bolivians what they can and cannot do to satisfy the basic needs of their people.

Otherwise, telling Bolivian people that they have no right to a highway or to extract gas to fund social programs (as some NGOs demanded), means telling Bolivians they have no right to develop their economy or fight poverty.

Imperialism aims to keep Third World nations subordinate to the interests of rich nations. This is one reason foreign NGOs and USAID are trying to undermine the Morales government's leading international role in opposing the grossly anti-environmental policies, such as Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD).

REDD uses poor nations for carbon offsets so corporations in rich countries can continue polluting. Support for REDD was one of the demands of the protest march.

Young says “our solidarity should be with grassroots revolutionaries, anti-imperialists and defenders of human rights, not with governments or parties”.

But, as the TIPNIS case shows, when governments are trying to grapple with lifting their country out of underdevelopment, the demands of social movements with competing sectoral interests may clash.

In fact, some of the most strident supporters of the highway were also the very same social movements that solidarity activists have supported in their struggles against neoliberal governments during the last decade.

In such scenarios, you can only choose between supporting some social movement demands by dismissing legitimate demands of others, as many did with the TIPNIS case.

Lasting change can only come about when social movements begin to take power into their own hands when social movements become governments.

It is this objective that Bolivia's social movements set. They forged their own political instrument through struggle ― commonly known as the Movement Towards Socialism ― and won a government they see as their own.

Having gone from a position of “struggle from below” to taking government from the traditional elites as an instrument to achieve their goal of state power, these social movements have begun winning control over natural resources and enacted a new constitution.

Converting the constitution’s ideals into a new state power remains a task for the Bolivian revolution.

But its success depends on the ability of “grassroots revolutionaries, anti-imperialists and defenders of human rights” ― operating within and without the existing state ― to struggle in a united way.

Our solidarity must be based on the existing revolutionary struggle in Bolivia, not a romanticised one we would prefer.

A permanent state of protests may be attractive for solidarity activists, but ultimately can only translate into a permanent state of demoralisation unless social movements can go beyond opposing capitalist governments and create their own state power.

Refusing to support the struggles as they exist illustrates a lack of confidence in the Bolivian masses to determine their own destiny. It also displays an arrogance on the part of those who, having failed to hold back imperialist governments at home, believe they know better than the Bolivians how to develop their process of change.

Mistakes are made in any struggle. But such mistakes should not be used to try and pit one side against another. We should have confidence that these internal conflicts can be resolved by the social movements themselves.

[Federico Fuentes edits Bolivia Rising.]

See also:
Bolivia: Rumble over jungle far from over

Nov 17, 2011

great video by PBI about the U'Wa's struggle for land in Colombia

An important part of accompaniment is using various sorts of privilege to magnify the voices and struggles of those less likely to be heard. Videos like this one by Peace Brigades are a great way to do that.

Nov 12, 2011

accompaniment in the Guardian

the Guardian ran an article last week hailing Peace Brigades as "An NGO fit for the future"

Kudos to PBI for this great coverage! Here's a taste of it:

"In his latest book, Steven Pinker argues that there are strong reasons to believe that we live in a more peaceful age than ever before. But, he warns, that clouds on the horizon to do with resource scarcity could undermine this apparent progress. I agree. The future challenge for international NGOs will be to discern the new threats to the interests of the poorest and most marginalised that emanate from an increasingly unequal, volatile and resource-scarce world.There will be a need for a strong and principled global civil society if this is indeed what the future holds, and while some engage in the perennial tension between closeness to power and co-option by it, many others will be needed simply to stand alongside the poorest. Which is exactly what PBI do."

Nov 3, 2011

another empathy gadget

first the empathy belly to feel what it's like to be pregnant

now AGNES (see photo), to feel what it's like to be old.

I admit to being a gadget geek. I'm both fascinated by and a bit dubious about empathy gadgets. As I've written before, there is some danger after using them that you will think that now you've actually walked in their shoes and really "know" what it's like - i.e. appropriative empathy. But of course all you have is a tiny taste of it. Does it really take all this expensive gear to have a little imaginative empathy of what it's like to live in an older body?

Oct 23, 2011

the term 'decolonization' as I use it in this blog is a metaphor

"In historico-geographical terms, colonization involves the conquest, inhabitation, possession and control of a territory by an external power. It is predicated on the deliberate, physical, cultural and symbolic appropriation of space. ..... Metaphors of colonization rescript this territorial incursion as an invasion and insidious habitation of the social and psychic space of oppressed groups, while decolonization becomes a metaphor for the process of recognizing and dislodging dominant ideas, assumptions and ideologies as externally imposed - literally of making a cultural and psychic place of one's own" - Katz and Smith, page 70-71

N. Smith and C. Katz, “Grounding metaphor: Towards a spatialized politics,” in Place and the Politics of Identity, ed. Michael Keith and Steve Pile, 1993, 66-83.

I would argue that those of us who are on the more privileged end of various systems of oppression also have an 'insidious habitation' of our 'social and psychic space' and that if we are truly going to work in meaningful solidarity across divides of power then decolonization is just as important on this end, inside the belly of the beast.

Oct 16, 2011

liberatory occupation?

There have been great articles on colonial patterns cropping up in the occupy movement and how to avoid them. Dissertation is looming so I'll just point to two:
  • a good short analysis of this screwy stereotyped Indian image being used to argue against using the term 'occupy' is here. Talk about needing to decolonize our minds!

  • a good overall analysis of the issues by Harsha is here.

Oct 10, 2011

If it were my home

Mamie and Richard, two accompaniers serving with the Presbyterian Church in Colombia, recently blogged about a fascinating tool called If it were my home which has me thinking again about how often these sorts of comparisons get made by solidarity activists.

As Richard puts it in his post, reposted here,

"So maybe it is our recent trip to the US, but I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the differences between living in Colombia and the United States. Of course there are lots of differences, and lots of them completely unquantifiable, but what can you quantify about living in another culture?

I came across a really interesting tool a while back which is a great help in thinking about this. It is called If It Were My Home and it uses demographic, health and economic data to compare lifestyles in different countries.

First – size. Finally, a wonderful size comparison of Colombia’s land size to the lower 48. Again, Colombia is not a small country! It is twice the size of Texas.

Second – the stats. What is fun about these is that after being here for a couple of years, I can actually check these out a bit more…

1) Have 2.7x higher risk of dying in infancy. It may be debatable, but I think I’m safe in escaping infancy unscathed.

2) Use 93% less electricity. Great! We can check this one. I looked back at our electrical use in the US and here. We averaged 470 kwh/month in the US; we average 291 khw/month here. That’s 38% lower. For reference, electricity here costs about 33% more, so that may account for some of it. But the facts shows that we end up using a lot less electricity here in Colombia, which is a good step for environmental sustainability!

3) Use 90% less oil. My guess is this one is pretty accurate. Without a car, using buses, taxis, and motorcycles as our primary transport, yeah, we probably use 90% less oil.

4) Make 80% less money. Hmm, we do make less money here in Colombia. I hesitate to put a % on it, but 80% is not out of the ballpark…

5) Spend 93% less on health care. Probably accurate… (e.g. I saw a blog post about the average hospital delivery in the US is $40,000. Ours here – about $2,500)

6) See a 30% more of a class divide. My impressions of this would be that the divide here is higher, but I think you are much more aware of class divides in cultures that are not your own.

7) Would be 29% more unemployed. Well, we did come here with a job, and have managed to keep it so far…

8) Have 28.42% more babies. Ahh! We can be concrete on this one! We have had exactly 100% more babies here in Colombia.

9) Will die 3.93 years sooner here in Colombia. We are hoping not to test this one out…"

Sep 29, 2011

putting hands together

I love this image - it's a great idea that could easily be repeated. Translation: no to sexual abuse - it's on the cover of the Amnesty report on sexual violence in Colombia, described briefly in this BBC article.

Sep 28, 2011

beautiful expression of solidarity

incredibly moving. well worth watching if you understand Spanish, my apologies to those who don't.

Sep 24, 2011

another take on the dangers of using empathy for solidarity

This is a segment of a longer post by Sahar Driver on the FOR site:

"Another job for a nonviolent ideological warrior is to honor the sanctity of difference. In my eagerness to meet the other of another history, culture, faith, place, gender, sexual orientation, class—. In my eagerness to look into the face of this other and extend my hand, I may look for similarities to which I can relate. This attempt at relating is of course a beautiful thing, but it too easily becomes dangerous when I make the assumption of sameness where it may not exist— or when I prioritize what is the same over what is different in ways that shut difference down, cap or suffocate it so that it can no longer breathe. What would it take for me to look into the face of another and accept the impossible difference it holds? What feeds a hubris so acute as to allow me to assume I could possibly know Other, the histories that shaped it, the legacies it inherited, the values it lives that have no words?

Not too long ago, I was chatting with a friend and shared a story with him about an encounter with a man who had physically restrained me in a way that shook me up quite a bit. He listened intently to me, and my explanation of what had been going on for me during that experience. I explained what I had learned and what the experience meant to me in the context of my life as a woman grappling with the very real physical and mental insecurities and threats to my safety that mediate every decision I make daily, what paths I will walk on my way home at night, whether or not I make eye contact with the man ahead of me in line, how often I ask a male acquaintance about his wife and kids to remind him of his place. To my frustration and surprise, my friend began to reinterpret my story for me, explain better what I had meant to say, and feed it back to me in the context of his own experience with women.

He wanted me to understand that my story was not about my experience as a woman but was very much like a series of other experiences he too was familiar with that had nothing to do with gender at all. He proceeded to describe some of those experiences to me. In fact, none of those stories resonated with me at all and not a single one even touched what I had been trying to explain to him about the struggles I face as a woman every day. The very real threat of rape and sexual violation that I must negotiate on a daily basis. I walked away frustrated, not because he didn’t understand, how could I expect him to? He is not a woman. How could he possibly know what it is like to be a woman in this world? I was frustrated and angry at his sense of entitlement, his arrogant assumption that he could understand, and his attempt to take my story and make it his own, to rewrite my story and project it outward as a representation of some universal human experience applicable to anyone anywhere regardless of the specifics of gender that I knew had mediated my experience.

And this happens so often. I know I fall into this trap sometimes, maybe we all do— and when I do it is because I was not thinking. So I am asking that we think. When we exoticize, naturalize or romanticize the Other, what we are doing is inflating or foregrounding certain aspects that are most interesting or appealing to us (such as religious or spiritual traditions) and thereby making less visible if not invisible other aspects. Suddenly rich traditions are disassembled, flattened, taken out of context or interpreted in ways that are at the very least unfair misrepresentations and at worst, the grounds for policies that violate their very being. In looking for what I wish to see or am capable of understanding, the world becomes a prism of the familiar. In so doing, I not only rob the other of his/her voice and space to exist, I do violence to myself, my possibility for imagination, for inspiration, discovery, creativity, surprise and beauty. To work hard to see difference and allow it room to breath; to work hard to allow room for the discomfort of not-knowing; to work hard to respect what I do not understand is the work of nonviolence. Would not a humble acceptance of the mystery of the other, and the limits of my understanding, be a beautiful act of generosity? Of nonviolence? Of alliance?

In my work as a social and cultural anthropologist, one of the things that has repeatedly come up in my research is the danger of universalizing certain Western values and assuming their relevance the world over. In many cases, the effects are relatively benign. But in other cases, they can be quite horrifying. A very simple and well-known example is article 17 of the universal declaration of human rights: the right to property. Of course on the surface of it this sounds good right? But would the first Native American nations or Hawaiian people have agreed that this is a universal right? These people found the notion of ownership of property absurd and signed away their lands thinking the white colonizer a fool. But decades later would witness the mass genocide of the indigenous people of the Americas, oftentimes under an assumption of property rights and a certain “manifest destiny,” a god-given right, that not all peoples impacted by it would be asked to weigh in on.

I am suggesting that the assumption of shared values is an assumption that a nonviolent activist should take very seriously and be very careful about. We cannot assume that what is good for us, is good for everyone— especially when so often, as in the case of the Congo, what is good for us has come at the expense of the Other."

[see the full post by Sahar Driver on the FOR site]

Sep 17, 2011

"We are not worth more, they are not worth less"

[this post was written by by and is entirely reposted from the great blog Waging Nonviolence]

Twenty-four years ago this morning—September 1, 1987—Vietnam veteran Brian Willson joined a handful of peacemakers on the railroad tracks at Concord Naval Weapons Stations to begin what they envisioned as a forty-day fast and vigil to protest arms shipments from this Northern California military base to US-backed forces in Central America.

Instead, a 900-ton munitions train, traveling at three times the legal speed limit, plowed into Brian and dragged him under. Standing a few feet away, I saw him turn over and over again like a rag doll and then (as the never-slowing train rumbled on toward a nearby security gate) sprawling in the track bed, a huddled mass of blood.

Miraculously, Brian survived (thanks, largely, to the tourniquets applied by his then-wife Holly Rauen, a professional nurse), though both legs were sheared off and his skull was fractured.

Now, over two decades later, he has published Blood on the Tracks: The Life and Times of S. Brian Willson, a new autobiography available from PM Press. This book does not simply recount a horrifying event from long ago. It offers, more importantly, a vivid example of a still-unfolding pilgrimage for peace that turns on a burning question: “What is my responsibility to make peace and challenge murderous violence in a direct and meaningful way?”

At a critical turning point in his life, Brian allowed this question in and everything changed. Of course, this question is not Brian’s alone. It is meant for each of us in the midst of the storm of horrific violence that continually bears down on our planet and its inhabitants.

Brian’s memoir recounts his journey from childhood in upstate New York (born on the Fourth of July, he enthusiastically shared his family’s pro-military and anti-communist convictions), to his decision to go to law school, and then his being drafted and sent to Vietnam as an Air Force captain, where two incidents changed his life.

One was a rocket attack in which he was saved by a quick-thinking companion who pushed him to the ground and out of the way of the blast. Though they survived, another soldier was blown to bits a few feet away. The second event even more clearly seared his soul. He had been sent out to do damage assessment of US bombing raids on villages and found a blackened mess that used to be huts, littered with bodies:

My first thought was that I was witnessing an egregious, horrendous mistake. The “target” was no more than a small fishing and rice farming community. The “village” was smaller than a baseball playing field. The Mekong Delta region is completely flat, and the modest houses in its hamlets are built on small mounds among rice paddies. As with most settlements, this one was undefended—we saw no anti-aircraft guns, no visible small arms, no defenders of any kind. The pilots who bombed this small hamlet flew low-flying planes, probably the A-37Bs, and were able to get close to the ground without fear of being shot down, thus increasing the accuracy of their strafing and bombing. They certainly would have been able to see the inhabitants, mostly women with children taking care of various farming and domestic chores … The buildings were virtually flattened by explosions or destroyed by fire. I didn’t see any inhabitant on his or her feet. Most were ripped apart from bomb shrapnel and Gatling machine gun wounds, blackened from napalm burns, many not discernible as to gender, and the majority were obviously children.

I began sobbing and gagging. I couldn’t fathom what I was seeing, smelling, thinking. I took a few faltering steps to my left, only to find my way blocked by the body of a young woman lying at my feet. She had been clutching three small, partially blackened children when she apparently collapsed. I bent down for a closer look and stared, aghast, at the woman’s open eyes. The children were motionless, blackened blood drying on their bullet and shrapnel-riddled bodies. Napalm had melted much of the woman’s face, including her eyelids, but as I was focused on her face, it seemed to me that her eyes were staring at me.

She was not alive. But her eyes and my eyes met for one moment that shot like a lightning bolt through my entire being. Over the years I have thought of her so much I have given her the name, “Mai Ly.”

I was startled when Bao, who was several feet to my right, asked why I was crying. I remember struggling to answer. The words that came out astonished me. “She is my family,” I said, or something to that effect. I don’t know where those words came from. I wasn’t thinking rationally. But I felt, in my body, that she and I were one. Bao just smirked, and said something about how satisfied he was with the bombing “success” in killing “communists.” I did not reply. I had nothing to say. From that moment on, nothing would ever be the same for me.

Thus began a deep transformation, which led him in the 1980s to notice with deep alarm the connection between what he had experienced in Vietnam and the Reagan administration’s war in Central America. He traveled to the region and saw a vivid parallel between the two conflicts, especially the wanton attack on civilians, and became convinced that he had to take action.

“We are not worth more, they are not worth less,” he declared, and joined the Veterans Fast for Life on the steps of the US Capitol in 1986, where he and three other former members of the US military fasted for 47 days. One year later, he and others formed Nuremberg Actions—named after the principles of international law enunciated in the wake of the Nuremberg tribunal following World War II that defined crimes against humanity and the responsibility and complicity in such crimes—and organized a 40-day fast at Concord in which he and others planned to block weapons trains. A Freedom of Information Act request had yielded concrete evidence that ships leaving this base were carrying 500-pound bombs, white phosphorus, and millions of rounds of ammunition, and Brian wanted to stop such shipments in their tracks.

He expected the train to stop, at which point he would be removed and arrested—in effect compelling the military to demonstrate the kind of care that should also be accorded to those at the other end of the line in Nicaragua and El Salvador. Instead, the government ran the train (in spite of the clear communication with the Navy over the prior ten days), thus dramatizing with palpable clarity what those at the end of the line faced every day.

We are not worth more. They are not worth less.

Brian’s autobiography details the aftermath of the Concord attack, including his activism, his own inner and outer growth, his comprehensive and embodied choices to live simply (on this recent book tour, for example, he traveled by pedaling a special bicycle that uses his hands instead of his feet), and his thoroughgoing critique of the American Way of Life (AWOL). (Less than three months after being run down by the train, Brian testified in Congress about this event. You can read his engrossing testimony here.)

What can we learn, after all these years, from Brian’s journey?

One lesson is the importance of “finding your own tracks and taking a stand there,” as he has often said. A catchphrase we used at the time held that “Stopping the war starts here”—stopping it at a weapons base, but also in many, many other places. Brian did so by taking this action “in person”: using the most powerful symbol at his disposal, his vulnerable, resilient, determined, and spirited body.

We can do this, too. This is not to say that we are all called to sit on train tracks (such action requires much discernment and training). But there are many places to stand nonviolently, withdrawing our consent and pointing our communities, our societies, and even ourselves in a new direction.

The world begins to change when we find this place.

Sep 11, 2011

surprising quote about empathy

bell hooks,in “Representing Whiteness in the Black Imagination,” in Displacing whiteness: essays in social and cultural criticism, ed. Ruth Frankenberg (Duke University Press, 1997), 164-179 quotes Spivak as saying:

"what we are asking for is that the hegemonic discourses, the holders of hegemonic discourse should de-hegemonize their position and themselves learn how to occupy the subject position of the other." (in the post-colonial critic, no page number given)

Aug 31, 2011

Finally! A solution for structural violence and poverty in Honduras

[this post is copied in its entirety from - see also my previous posts on TOMS shoes]

Thank Goodness for NGOs, once again making the difference.

Or, as a friend who wishes to remain anonymous puts it:


Said friend, something of a shoe connoisseur herself, has a few pairs of the brand in question and notes that they are particularly quick to develop unpleasant odors and mold. I would never know these important ethnographic details on my own. She adds:

they are NOT conducive to walking from your soon-to-be-privatized elementary school through open sewage and maquila run-off to your house where your structural-violence-poor parents will not be able to throw them in the nonexistent clothes dryer

Aug 28, 2011

great coverage of the student movement in Chile

Roof Dancing from sitioquiltro on Vimeo.

I love teaching. One of the best parts for me is learning from and being inspired by my students. A former student of mine, Joe Hinchcliffe, has been in Chile for the last year and his blog is full of fantastic reports on the student movement, full of lots of fun short clips like this one.

If you haven't been following it, to quote Joe "its really exciting stuff. For the last few months students have taken to the streets to demand free and quality education. Hundreds of thousands of students. Many schools and universities have shut down and no one really knows what will happen next. Recently this movement has grown to include unions and many other protest groups. The movement enjoys the support of over 80% of the population and its fast becoming something much bigger, maybe the beginning of a new economic and political order for the country."

Want some inspiration? Read on!

Aug 13, 2011

study argues stimulating empathy reduces racism

from the Greater Good blog comes this report

In the study, published in the June issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers showed participants a five-minute video depicting a black man named Glen and a white man named John. Both shopped in a department store, tried to buy a car, and interacted with police, but Glen clearly experienced discrimination.

Some participants were then asked to imagine Glen’s perspective—what he might be thinking, feeling, and experiencing. Others were asked to imagine what thoughts and feelings they would have if they were in Glen’s situation. A third group was supposed to remain objective; they weren’t told to consider Glen’s thoughts or emotions.

Then the researchers gave the participants’ a sophisticated test that measures unconscious biases.

The results show that participants in both perspective-taking conditions were less biased than participants who were asked to be objective. What’s more, it didn’t seem to matter how the participants went about taking Glen’s perspective: Participants who imagined Glen’s thoughts and feelings showed the same reduction in unconscious bias as those who imagined how they would feel if they were Glen.

In a variation on this experiment, the researchers found that participants showed less automatic bias even when they were simply shown a picture of a black man and asked to imagine his thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Another experiment in the study showed that perspective taking did not lead participants to ignore racial inequality, as previous studies have suggested.

and it goes on

Aug 5, 2011

Three strikes against the Empire

Joint Solidarity Statement by the October2011 Movement, the National Catholic Worker Gathering and SOA Watch South Florida/ SouthCom Watch (reposted from SOA Watch)

Grassroots resistance actions are being coordinated around the country [the US] in early October. Three efforts in particular share common cause:

The October2011 Movement in Washington, DC to decry the start of the eleventh year of war on the people of Afghanistan and the onset of the federal austerity budget, and to stand up to corporate rule and militarism;
The National Catholic Worker Movement and Nevada Desert Experience to demonstrate at Creech Air Force Base near Las Vegas, Nevada where armed drone aircraft are headquartered and controlled on their "hunter-killer" missions around the world, and at the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS, formerly the Nevada Test Site) where various experiments are conducted which perpetuate the US nuclear arsenal;
School of the Americas Watch South Florida / SouthCom Watch to march to the new headquarters of the U.S. Southern Command (SouthCom) outside of Miami, Florida, which is responsible for all U.S. military operations throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.

Our struggles are interconnected and we organize in solidarity with each other.

The nonviolent resistance actions in Washington, DC will start on October 6, 2011, on the 10-year anniversary of the U.S. war in Afghanistan. Thousands of people have pledged to gather on that day, to nonviolently resist the corporate machine by occupying Freedom Plaza to demand that America's resources are invested in human needs and environmental protection instead of war and exploitation. Nonviolent direct actions at the NNSS and at Creech AFB are going to take place on October 9 at the culmination of the 3 day Catholic Worker gathering, also being coordinated with the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space's annual Keep Space for Peace Week, October 1 to 8. The march on the U.S. Southern Command, with the intention to close it down and to reclaim the sacred land for the peoples of the Americas, will also take place on October 9, 2011.

These actions are united in the effort to build a world in which the values of justice, cooperation, and respect for the earth are upheld. We believe that people power and grassroots organizing are essential for achieving lasting socio-political change.

October2011 Movement,

National Catholic Worker Gathering,

SOA Watch South Florida / SouthCom Watch,

Jul 29, 2011

don't send shoes

I recently posted about how problematic the TOMS shoe giving/wearing is.

Thanks to my friend Sarah for pointing me to the great counter-campaign: A Day Without Dignity.

Check out their counter video:

Jul 18, 2011

false empathy

In the fabulous article

Richard Delgado, “Rodrigo’s Eleventh Chronicle: Empathy and False Empathy,” California Law Review 84 (1996): 61.

(in a fictional conversation) Delgado describes false empathy this way:

"You've heard of Gramsci's concept of false consciousness?"29 "Of course," I said, a little sharply. (These impudent young pups sometimes think us old-timers haven't read anything!) "Gramsci coined the term to mean the kind of identification with the aggressor that a subjugated people can easily develop. They internalize the perspectives, values, and points of view of the very people who conquer and oppress them, thus becoming unconscious agents in their own subordination."30 "And so false consciousness is a danger for blacks, at least if we aren't careful.31 But have you ever wondered, Professor, if there is anything comparable for whites?"

"Comparable to false consciousness, you mean?" I wasn't sure what Rodrigo was driving at. "I think there is, and it's empathy. Or rather, what I call false empa- thy, in which a white believes he or she is identifying with a person of color, but in fact is doing so only in a slight, superficial way." "It is a kind of parallel," I said. "But I think I could use an example or two." "Sure," Rodrigo replied. "Consider the early Settlement House move- ment.32 The upper-class ladies who worked there professed to be highly concerned over the plight of the immigrants who lived in the houses. But their sympathies did not extend to learning their languages or ways. Instead, they taught them personal hygiene, housekeeping, English-how to be American.33 Lawyers make this mistake, too, even public interest ones. Maybe especially public interest ones."

"Someone who is in the grip of false empathy has a shallow identification with the other," I added. "He or she walks on the surface, uses the wrong metaphors and comparisons.47 It's a little bit like false piety, like those folks who go to church on Sunday but don't allow themselves to be seized by real religion." "The most unsympathetic thing you can do is to think you have empathy with those of a radically different background. You can easily end up hurting them."

the article goes on - it's an easy and fascinating read. If you're interested and don't have academic access let me know and I can send it your way. (photo is of the "empathy belly" - another 'let me play you for a day and then I'll know your reality' exercise)

Jul 11, 2011

solidarity based on .... ?

in the book 'People Power' Howard Clark argues (p. 153) that

some solidarity is based on a sense of common identity (eg gender, race)

some is based on common interests (he gives the example of workers and small farmers)

and some on common moral or political beliefs (he gives pacifism and socialism)

and some on religious faith.

I had never heard it put quite that way. But what about solidarity around similar visions of a better world, of equality, dignity, justice, respect for life - even if you disagree on exactly how to get there?

Jun 29, 2011

going silent for a day

Rather than go barefoot for a day (see previous post) I just got a facebook fundraising appeal from a friend asking me to sponsor him to go silent for a day (well, as he put it, to shut up) to raise money for Videa, a Canadian organization doing development work in Africa.

Certainly better than the TOMS barefoot day, but it makes me queasy that one of their tag lines is "What does it feel like to be silenced"? Doubt that my friend will know after his quiet day. And it doesn't seem like his being silent is making much space for those who are silenced - none of whose stories appear on the site.

Jun 19, 2011

speaking of shoes

talk about walking in another persons shoes. TOMS literally suggests that you do so. one for one. you buy a pair, they give a pair a way.

the TOMS shoe for a shoe thing feels more like charity than solidarity to me, as much as they attempt to get folks to feel a sense of connection with others.

can we think about why folks don't have shoes? and maybe, um, support their local shoe making instead of flooding them with these weird shoes they wouldn't normally wear?

this article makes many of those arguments. My favorite line:
“TOMS Shoes is a good marketing tool, but it’s not good aid.” She has a long list of reasons, including: “It’s quintessential Whites in Shining Armor. It’s doing things ‘for’ people, not ‘with’ people.”

the weirdest TOMS phenomena is the barefoot solidarity thing. maybe you haven't been exposed to it, but once a year they urge folks to go barefoot for a day in solidarity with folks who can't afford shoes. commercialization of solidarity just maybe? but hell, they had 1,000 events in 25 countries. wow.

am I being a curmudgeon? comments?

Jun 13, 2011

in *whose* shoes?

"Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way, you'll be a mile from them, and you'll have their shoes." - Jack Handey, Deep Thoughts (via my friend Christy)

the current version of the last paragraph of chapter four of the dissertation, on why international accompaniment is a form of solidarity, and not 'non-partisan':

Walking side by side is such a clear embodiment of solidarity that it seems odd to have to argue for it. Perhaps the issue is different understandings of what solidarity means. Rather than engage in that broader theoretical debate here I have focused on the ‘doings’ of accompaniment and how these are and are not understood as solidarity by accompaniers. Yet I will end with a play on this image of walking together that the term acompañamiento conjures in Spanish. Solidarity does not mean walking in lockstep. It certainly does not mean walking ‘in their shoes’ (a phrase often used to describe empathy) – for then there would be no room in the shoes of the accompanied for their own feet. It does not mean the accompanier walking on top of the shoes of the accompanied, nor having the feet of the person accompanied ride on top of the feet of the accompanier - but rather simply walking alongside each other. Solidarity means walking together towards a broad vision of a different world that is possible, and accompaniment is a powerful way of doing that. To deny this and attempt to distance accompaniment from its social movement origins is to weaken a powerful solidarity strategy.

Jun 9, 2011

support the brave and inspiring folks in the peace community of San Jose with a quick signature

This is the community that I've posted about several times before. They could really use your support right now.

Jun 3, 2011

empathy and counter-topographies for solidarity

I keep coming back, again and again, to the question of empathy. Here is a paragraph from this article of mine. If you don't have academic access email me for the full pdf.

"Pratt and Yeoh (2003) argue for the power of “imagination” and “partial identification” in drawing counter-topographies. In a separate article, however, Pratt (2005) problematizes empathy and warns of the simplification of thinking, “oh that woman is really just like me” in a way that evades the specificity of their lives and their vulnerability to violence. I do believe there can be empathy that is not appropriative, but will we ever be able to imagine what it is like to be tortured? To have our child dismembered in front of us? Would we want to imagine it? Would those who suffered such a fate want us to imagine it? We do not need to move into another person's skin to draw lines of connection. We do not need to try to move them into our family, our homes (to imagine what it would be like if that were happening here). As Pratt argues, to try to move homo sacer back into citizen through seeing sameness does nothing to change the ongoing process of abandonment. It is enough to be moved by the stories. Rather than move homo sacer, it is we who move as we draw these lines of connection. We are transformed by witnessing, by mourning."

Oddly in that article I don't really define what counter-topographies are, other than to call them lines of connection. It's actually one of my favorite geographical terms. It was first used by the inimitable Cindi Katz (see photo) in “On the Grounds of Globalization: A Topography for Feminist Political Engagement,” Signs 26, no. 4 (2001): 1213-1234. She defines it more clearly in “Vagabond Capitalism and the Necessity of Social Reproduction,” Antipode 33, no. 4 (2001): 709-728. It's well worth reading the whole thing. As she puts it in the abstract, "The paper develops the notion of “topography” as a means of examining the intersecting effects and material consequences of globalized capitalist production. “Topography” offers a political logic that both recognizes the materiality of cultural and social difference and can help mobilize transnational and internationalist solidarities to counter the imperatives of globalization."

May 28, 2011

US media coverage of accompaniment

09 Mar 2011 18:19

Source: alertnet // Jon Stibbs

One of the Afro-Colombian community's buildings in Curbarado, which has fallen into disrepair amid the uncertainty surrounding their lives. PHOTO/PBI

BOGOTA (AlertNet) - Armed with little more than T-shirts, brave international volunteers are protecting Colombian human rights activists under threat because of their efforts to help people uprooted by the country's long-running internal conflict return home.

"You have to be constantly alert and remember if you weren't there, the person you are accompanying could be killed," says Hendrine Rotthier, a 28-year-old Belgian moral philosopher who is a member of Peace Brigades International (PBI), an organisation that provides security and moral support to individuals and groups whose human rights work puts their lives at risk.

The mere presence of unarmed PBI volunteers - a service known as accompaniment - can be enough to keep local human rights defenders alive. It shows they are supported by an international organisation with influence in the Colombian capital, Bogota, as well as in the United States and Europe.

Rotthier's own safety depends on being immediately recognisable as a PBI accompanier, thanks to her foreign appearance, white logo-printed T-shirt and car.

She works in the sweltering heat of the Curbarado river basin's thick rainforest, an area in the impoverished western department of Choco. It has been greatly affected in recent years by the conflict between government troops, leftist rebels, cocaine smugglers and far-right paramilitary militias in the South American nation, which has lasted for more than four decades.

The Afro-Colombian community in Curbarado endure some of the world's highest annual rates of rainfall, building their basic wooden huts on stilts to avoid flooding.

They were among 20,000 vulnerable people displaced from their homes in 1996-7 by fierce fighting and intimidation by right-wing paramilitaries, left-wing guerrillas and the army, fleeing to safer parts of the country.

Hundreds returned between 2006 and 2008, but found their highly fertile land was being farmed by agricultural businesses.


Last year, the public prosecutor began investigating 24 palm-oil growers for their connections to the paramilitary groups that had displaced the community. And the Constitutional Court, Colombia's highest legal body, ruled in 2010 that the lives and land of the Curbarado people must be protected.

But they face ongoing threats of violence from the paramilitaries supporting the banana, palm-oil and cattle-farming firms that want to evict them and take over their land permanently. They have also suffered intimidation from left-wing guerrillas who have been fighting an insurgency against the government for decades.

Rotthier and her PBI colleagues are there to accompany members of the Inter-church Commission for Justice and Peace (ICJP), a high-profile group of human rights defenders with six young Colombians operating in Curbarado.

In its efforts to provide agricultural, social, psychological and legal support to the returned Afro-Colombians, ICJP finds itself pitted against the violent groups trying to stop them reclaiming their land.

It is dangerous work. One ICJP employee recently had to leave the area after a plan to kill him was uncovered. Amid such threats, the accompaniment offered by PBI allows ICJP staff to carry out their work in relative safety.

ICJP's Father Alberto Franco says PBI's "political impact and physical presence provides protection and strengthens the communities and human rights defenders".


In mid-December, the returned community faced a new threat when hundreds of unknown displaced people began to move in. "Weeks later, they are still coming, cutting down trees and dividing the land into plots," says Rotthier.

The identity and motivation of this new group of displaced people is unclear. But it is thought their unannounced arrival is designed to dislodge the Afro-Colombian community.

"Behind the invaders are the industrialists and people interested in sabotaging the work of the Constitutional Court, those linked to the judicial process ... (together) with the collaboration of the paramilitaries," says Father Alberto.

Despite the court order to protect the Afro-Colombian community, ICJP accuses the police, army and authorities in general of inaction regarding the new arrivals. Meanwhile, the paramilitaries have made fresh threats to ICJP members and local people.

Rotthier says it is "permanently tense within Curbarado, but the tension has recently risen to a higher level".

The latest developments could be a precursor to more violence in Curbarado, where nine leaders of the displaced community were killed last year.

Confronting the armed groups responsible for forcing more than three million Colombians off their land in the past few decades is extremely dangerous. Last year, 40 human rights defenders and community leaders were murdered, reported, a Colombian website specialising in the conflict.

Colombia has one of the highest levels of internally displaced people in the world. Its remote and vulnerable communities of Afro-Colombians - the descendants of slaves brought over by the Spanish - and indigenous groups have borne the brunt.

The government has an ambitious plan to resolve the crisis with a far-reaching law to return land to communities that have been forced to leave. But the obstacles met by the Afro-Colombians of Curbarado in their struggle to reclaim their land - despite high-level support from ICJP, PBI and the justice system - suggest that implementing a land-restitution programme across the country will be a tough challenge.

May 21, 2011

"you can't eat money"

I am so inspired by the peace communities and humanitarian zones in Colombia. I have heard about this one for years, was great to see images of it. PBI Colombia is doing a fanTAStic job of putting out vidoes these days! huge kudos!

May 14, 2011

great scenes of how to show solidarity and call out racial profiling

Wishing I had been more aggressive with the Border Patrol that was racially profiling folks as they got on to the San Juan Island ferries in Washington - making them miss the last ferry of the night.

May 7, 2011

bibliography of academic work on solidarity

For those geeky enough to use the fabulousness of zotero to manage their citations, please join me in adding readings to the collective 'solidarity' bibliography that I set up here. Inside zotero you can also sort and do all sorts of things with and to this list, but for those who don't use zotero you can see the list here. This is just an initial collection and missing all sorts of key readings - please help me add them.

I also set up other collective lists on Protective Accompaniment (one of the more dramatic strategies of international solidarity), and, given my fascination with whiteness in Latin America, one on Race and Space in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Zotero is a great tool for collaboration - please join me in adding to any of these lists! If you're wondering what zotero is, check out the short video below. I am now totally addicted to its ability to enter full bibliographic material with one click (thus these lists). I used to mostly click information in off of google scholar, but I find I get cleaner entries when using my university library.

Getting Stuff Into Zotero from zotero on Vimeo.

May 2, 2011

solidarity surprise

Maybe the traditions of Christian solidarity and Labor solidarity aren't actually all that far apart. The slogan
"An injury to one is an injury to all" sounds an awful lot like
"If one part suffers, every part suffers with it" - I Corinthian 12:26

Apr 28, 2011

Our pain does not need to be the same pain

“Solidarity does not assume that our struggles are the same struggles, or that our pain is the same pain, or that our hope is for the same future. Solidarity involves commitment, and work, as well as the recognition that even if we do not have the same feelings, or the same lives, or the same bodies, we do live on common ground.” - Sara Ahmed

Apr 23, 2011

solidarity across sameness or difference?

Lately I've been thinking about how international solidarity draws on both models of Christian and Labor solidarity. To super simplify it, it seems to me that Christian solidarity often talks about connection across difference, whereas labor solidarity emphasizes sameness, as do some other forms solidarity, like youth or black solidarity.

So how then do groups like School of the Americas Watch negotiate these different traditions? Thinking of our different takes on solidarity in this way sheds new light for me on the thinking I published in this article.

No quick answers yet, but for the record, my experience with folks who do Christian solidarity (eg CPT) is that it is not just about solidarity with Christians, and can be decidedly more radical than CSW. I'm looking forward to reading Jon Sobrino's work on Christian solidarity. All the more so now that the Vatican has officially said they don't like it!

International solidarity is “not an act of charity but an act of unity between allies fighting on different terrains toward the same objectives.” - Samora Machel

Apr 18, 2011

another accompanier killed in Palestine

This is a video of Vittorio Arrigoni, an Italian ISM accompanier murdered in Gaza on April 14 2011 by Palestinian militants.

Apr 12, 2011

the perils of privilege

The fabulous Naomi Klein uses the great turn of phrase "perils of privilege" in this talk, below. Well worth listening to while you wash the dishes or what have you.

Apr 6, 2011

solidarity for the right to express solidarity

so inspiring! thanks to my fabulous stepmom Helen Fox for this one. this video is the first in a series of clips that the Coalition of Women for Peace has produced as part of their campaign against the Prohibition of Boycott Bill, which is currently in the Israeli Knesset and would criminalize the nonviolent action of boycott (which Palestinians have widely called for as an act of solidarity)

Some Background (from the Coalition)

According to the original version of this bill, persons who initiate, promote, or publish material that might serve as grounds for imposing a boycott are committing a crime may be ordered to compensate parties economically affected by that boycott, including fixed reparations of 30,000 shekels, without an obligation of the plaintiffs to prove damages. If the felon is a foreign citizen, he may be banned from entering for a period of 10 years or from doing business in Israel; and if it is a foreign state, Israel may not repay the debts it owes that state, and use the money to compensate offended parties; that state may additionally be banned from conducting business affairs in Israel. The measures shall apply one year retroactively.

The narrow version which eventually passed the first reading does not include clauses pertaining to foreign citizens and states. It also does not include anyone who provided information but rather anyone who actively partakes in a boycott.

The Ministerial Committee on Legislation rejected the chapters pertaining to foreign citizens and states, probably out of consideration for Israel’s foreign relations, and also rejected the retroactive clause.

On March 7 2011 the bill passed its first reading in the plenum. Will be further discussed in the Constitution Committee and prepared for its second-third (final) vote in the plenum.

Apr 2, 2011

solidarity photos

powerful. try to imagine a native person getting on TED and getting away with saying this. showing this. a great use of his access to this space. both spaces. very well done.

Mar 30, 2011

A Confession

I stand between the shame and relief
I breathe............
The missiles missed this time
Truth is , they didin't miss entirely
Someone's house is destroyed
but not the house I know so well
Someone's family is grieving
but not the one whose name I carry
I linger between my shame and relief
I breathe
I tell myself
"This flesh, torn and scattered,
is not flesh I have ever embraced,"
I soothe myself,
"nor are these small lifeless hands
the ones with a crayon I've traced".
I ...breathe...this time
the missiles missed
those whose names are engraved on my lips.
This time they didn't stop those hearts beating in my chest.
They live.....
I breathe.
But I must confess
Every time the bombs fall on Gaza
I search for answers
Where did they strike?
Which street did they blow up?
Which neighbourhood did they destroy?
Which lives did they steal?
Aware of my guilt I whisper a prayer
Dear God, please don't let it be the ones I love.
Ya Allah......
Ya Allah......
And when it's over
And when the less fortunate ones weep
I stand between shame and relief.
I breathe.....
I breathe.....
Thank God my loved ones....are spared
This time.
- Samah Sabawi

Poem published here by the Palestine Chronicle, a great resource. Thanks to Simon Dalby for pointing me to this poem and the book, "The Journey to Peace in Palestine" which Samah Sabawi co-authored, with Bill Baldwin. Samah was born in Gaza and lives as a refugee in Australia. Bill was in Palestine as an accompanier with Christian Peacemaker Teams.

Mar 26, 2011

solidarity fatigue

I have posted before about empathy fatigue, and heard the term 'compassion fatigue'used regarding caregivers - but is there such a thing as 'solidarity fatigue'? This article using the term got widely picked up by other sites, particularly in the Catholic network. The article does not explain the term but says:

""For many, Colombia equals coffee and drugs", said Presbyterian theologian Milton Mejía. Those stereotypes are compounded by a decades-long internal armed conflict that "seems to be worsening constantly", Mejía added, the result being "a widespread loss of interest and fatigue".

According to Mejía, who coordinates the Observatory of Church and Society at the Reformed University of Barranquilla, this solidarity fatigue affects even international organizations towards which Colombians turn for support. As a consequence, Colombians face difficulties when trying to explain the extent and urgency of the humanitarian crisis in their country."

Is there a difference between solidarity fatigue and empathy fatigue? I don't know, to me solidarity fatigue makes me think more of activist burnout than what Milton is describing above. As in being tired of making a fist, of holding hands up high.

Mar 19, 2011

crazy map of new US military construction in Latin America

Well, the map itself isn't crazy, it's quite smart. What's crazy is that the amount of military construction in Latin America planned by the Pentagon for this year has doubled since 2009. How often have you seen that mentioned in mainstream media coverage of Obama's trip? Kudos to FOR for developing an annotated map of current and planned U.S. military construction in Latin America based on publicly available information on federal contracts. Check out the map here or below. Looks like US Empire feels like it needs to retrench in its back yard.

View US military construction sites in Latin America, 2010-2011 in a larger map

Mar 15, 2011

Foucault on solidarity

Thanks to Wes for pointing me to this, previously posted here.

We are just private individuals here, with no other grounds for speaking, or for speaking together, than a certain shared difficulty in enduring what is taking place.

Of course, we accept the obvious fact that there's not much that we can do about the reasons why some men and women would rather leave their country than live in it. The fact is beyond our reach.

Who appointed us, then? No one. And that is precisely what constitutes our right. It seems to me that we need to bear in mind three principles that, I believe, guide this initiative, and many others that have preceded it: the Ile-de-Lumiere, Cape Anamour, the Airplane for El Salvador, Terre des Hommes, Amnesty International.

1. There exists an international citizenship that has its rights and its duties, and that obliges one to speak out against every abuse of power, whoever its author, whoever its victims. After all, we are all members of the community of the governed, and thereby obliged to show mutual solidarity.

2. Because they claim to be concerned with the welfare of societies, governments arrogate to themselves the right to pass off as profit or loss the human unhappiness that their decisions provoke or their negligence permits. It is a duty of this international citizenship to always bring the testimony of people's suffering to the eyes and ears of governments, sufferings for which it's untrue that they are not responsible. The suffering of men must never be a silent residue of policy. It grounds an absolute right to stand up and speak to those who hold power.

3. We must reject the division of labor so often proposed to us: individuals can get indignant and talk; governments will reflect and act. It's true that good governments appreciate the holy indignation of the governed, provided it remains lyrical. I think we need to be aware that very often it is those who govern who talk, are capable only of talking, and want only to talk. Experience shows that one can and must refuse the theatrical role of pure and simple indignation that is proposed to us. Amnesty International, Terre des Hommes, and Medecins du monde and initiatives that have created this new right-- that of private individuals to effectively intervene in the sphere of international policy and strategy. The will of individuals must make a place for itself in a reality of which governments have attempted to reserve a monopoly for themselves, that monopoly which we need to wrest from them little by little and day by day.

-Michel Foucault (1984)
On the occassion of the announcement in Geneva of the creation of an International Committee against Piracy