Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Thing about Deniers: Holocaust and Global Warming

My daughter, who is a toddler and loves to dance, is addicted to the Weather Channel, particularly the local forecast because the music they play is fantastic to dance to. So while we do not quite have the TV on as wallpaper, often it's on for her to dance.

This morning I saw on that channel yet another chat with David Suzuki talking about global warming. This time he was talking about how the media does a poor job of covering global warming. He says that as a member of the media we always try to be balanced and provide both sides of a story. That can be a problem.

His view, the correct view [and I know the risk in saying that, but keep reading], is that humans are contributing to global warming. He talked about thousands of academic studies that support that the planet is on a warming trend and we are part of it. Never before in human history have we had the power to influence the planet's operation. And he talked about 980 recent studies that ALL agree that we are part of global warming. Further, many scientists who do not agree with the vast majority of those who recognize the truth of global warming are not climatologists and many of them are funded by fossil fuel industries, so they are possibly [or almost certainly] biased. I would add that many of the global warming deniers also have a stake in the status quo and don't want to give up our lifestyle that direly exploits and abuses the planet [and the 4 billion or so of the poorest serf humans we keep impoverished with our global political economic system].

George Monbiot's book Heat is considered to do a much better job than Al Gore's Inconvenient Truth in addressing far more than the ridiculously cosmetic solutions Gore argues for, in part I think because Gore falls into the category of being concerned, but not enough to recognize that Americans and the OECD world are responsible for a disproportionate amount of the sources of global warming so it is our responsibility to absorb a disproportionate amount of the lifestyle change to stop the problem. But Gore can't argue that because doing so means telling Americans and the rest of the OECD world that our birthright is based on economically enslaving billions of humans and critically wounding our planet.

But back to the deniers. In its attempts to be balanced the media [which also has a stake in the status quo and is funded/owned by global corporations that even though they aren't always in the fossil fuel sector depend on their products for the operation of the global feudal economy and their profit] spends far too much time presenting the skeptics' side. Just by sheer numbers, the vast majority of scientists are recognizing the truth, which is far more than inconvenient, so you would think the media would reflect this. Not so much. The deniers and the politicians and celebrities who base their arguments on them get a ridiculously large share of air time.

And then I remembered Dan's post about the Holocaust conference in Iran. If the media gave as much air time to the biased, often anti-Semitic, self-serving Holocaust deniers as they do global warming skeptics, the FCC and CRTC would not be able to answer all the phones or ever open their email ever again. The uproar would destroy media empires.

And when I said before that Suzuki's view is the correct one, I mean that with all the sincerity of someone who says that the Holocaust did exist while there are some who for self-serving motives argue that it is something else entirely.

I now have a new level of disdain for global warming deniers. I just lump them in with Holocaust deniers and act accordingly.

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Saturday, January 06, 2007

Privatization and the Creation of Humanity's Prisons

Privatization and the Creation of Humanity’s Prisons

Traditionally defined as the selling off of public assets to the private sector, over the years the term ‘privatization’ has taken on a variety of meanings, none of which leaves a palatable taste in the mouth of the tenderhearted. Take for instance British Columbia, a province redolent with fishes and trees and waters, soon to resemble those hapless African countries ravaged by colonization and forced to sell off everything to international sharks, whose citizens have been left with nothing accept some silver strands of hope and the spirit to fight for anything resembling a sane quality of life. Our salmon runs are being served in body bags to the Scandinavian companies who own BC’s murderous fish-farms, while an accidental dump of 40,000 litres of chemical soda into the Cheakamus by the mismanaged, privately owned CN Rail has turned a river once resembling an emerald-sapphire ribbon into a brown death soup. If that isn’t enough, Terasen gas is soon to be sold off to the Texan company Kinder Morgan Inc., despite the fact that its faulty pipelines have killed hundreds of people.

However, it is not only this well-known type of privatization that is decimating the world, sectioning it off to ill-intentioned stewards in tidy little packages, but a type which literally forces people into sick private pockets, cutting them off from the rest of the world. The best example of this sort can be seen in Palestine, where a hideous concrete wall, ridden with graffiti pleading its abolishment and firing bombs at whomever approaches it before its gates open, twists like a python around Palestinian villages. Severed from 70% of their wells and 45 % of their agricultural land, sorrow and pain swelling within them like broken roses, these Palestinians who cannot even view the sunrise and sunset are bereft of hope. And if Sharon’s purpose of confining Palestinians to 12 % of their traditional land is to reduce suicide bombings, to say he is in for a colossal surprise would be an understatement.

To unearth another case in point of people being forced to remain private from the mainstream, one needn’t look further than Canada, wherein the First Nations have been blotted out from the centre in no less callous ways than those experienced by the Palestinians. Like their Eastern counterpart, they have been deemed invisible and at best a problem to be swept like dust into miniscule pockets of land called reserves. There, the government attempts to appease them with tax exemptions and other monetary recompense, ironically slaughtering their lifelines to true wealth, namely, the forests and fishes and waters, through the traditional form of privatization. The story of the Cheakamus may have faded from the news, but the plight of the Squamish community living there will throb for years to come.

The effects of sectioning resources and humanity off into private spheres of dysfunction are pernicious: war, poverty, and perhaps worst of all, alienation from nature and each other. When we hand over public assets to a select rich few, when we hand over the right to participate in society to only certain individuals, we become fearful of each other. The end result is all of us becoming imprisoned in private worlds behind our locked doors. Armed with emotional and physical weapons lest our fellow human attack or threaten us, we shiver in dark isolation. And for a species that thrives on community and togetherness, that is a true tragedy.

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Coca-Cola: The Happy-time Beverage Made from Blood

Coca-Cola: The Happy-time Beverage Made from Blood

It is a hot summer day, the kind in which the sunlight splatters upon you like thick slabs of golden lava, running over your face and arms that long for a splash in a sapphire lake. However, you are drowned in the cityscape, the only respite being one of the hundreds of iced beverages available in stores and restaurants. So instead of a lake, you leap into a 7-11 and grab a Coke, salivating at the prospect of the fizzy, sweet liquid gliding in cool, bronze sheets down your throat. Only this time, you notice something a little peculiar about the taste, something sour and rank, like blood. And you think to yourself subconsciously, “It tastes like murder.”

Coca-Cola is on a war path against the world’s workers and underprivileged . For decades, it has been exploiting resources and people in countries such as Columbia and India, all for profit and corporate control. Columbians, for instance, have been struggling for years to boycott Coke due in part to the company’s responsibility for right-wing criminals who kidnap, torture and even murder trade unionists and activists fighting for labour rights. 4000 unionists have lost their lives in recent decades because they were seen as blocking development and investment in Columbia. However, they were fighting for something far more valuable than dollars and cents; over the years, working conditions at bottling plants have been detiorating at accelerating rates, with only 4% of jobs being permanent and full-time compared with 96% twelve years ago. So while Coke advocates casual, temporary labour, lower wages and poorer working conditions, it also squeezes the blood from those challenging the loss of basic human rights.
The horror story is no less grim in India, where people in over 50 villages are trying to extricate the fangs of the vampire-company from workers’ blood and the nation’s water. In India, the issue is not so much unionists’ rights at bottling plants, but the depletion of a resource already scarce. Coke has been draining villages’ water supplies and polluting ground water, so that farmers are unable to produce an adequate crop-yield in the summer months. As in Columbia, right-wing capitalists in India’s parliament are suppressing villagers’ pleas, allowing a foreign company to lay seige upon its own people for the sake of global militarism. In a nation ridden with poverty and class-division, many are terrified of corporate control of a life-support resource. They envision a future in which Coca-Cola buys India’s rivers and lakes, so that indeed, there will be no water for bathing and drinking to relieve one from the discomfort of a scorching summer day.

As bleak as this situation seems, concerned individuals around the world have been taking measures to eradicate Coke’s war on the the planet and its people. After Coke missed a deadlione to assess it practices in India and Columbia, 21 North American universities bannned Coke products from their campuses. Moreover, over 6000 Coca-Cola workers are behind the company adopting a human rights policy. And more and more, North Americans, for which the majority of Coke products are created, are realizing that bottled water from Coke-owned companies such as Dasani is hardly any better in quality than tap water and leads to devastating amounts of pollution due to the plastic and fossil fuels needed to package and deliver it. Indeed, they are realizing that a sugar high and a splash of cold fizziness are merely sensory propaganda for a blood-letting war against the innocent.

So on the next smouldering summer day with no lake in sight, or on your next work break when you want a high and nothing less than a sinful pleasure will do, think about boycotting the happy-time beverage that kills, and feel the cool, sweet rush of empowerment and compassion sweep through your veins. Realize you are facilitating the end of not only this war, but others waged by companies who wish to end their persuit for profit only when there is nothing left to fight for.

The Corporation Revisited

The Corporation Revisited

-Ameena Mayer

“A man who is in love declares that ‘I’ and ‘you’ are one, and is prepared to behave as if it were a fact” (Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents).

As I watched The Corporation for the third time, the key to humankind’s destructive path toward complete annihilation became apparent to me, bright as steel gleaming beneath the rays of our overly smouldering sun. Essentially, we are facing an identity crisis involving a heinous misunderstanding of what being human means. Embracing the illusory notion that we are all self-contained units for whom the world is a mining field for our adolescent desires, and that we are not a species that thrives on community, love-bonds and communion with nature, we have grown to abhor and shun our true essence. In other words, we are in a sick condition of self-hatred, leading to hatred for our fellow human and to infantile schemes for self-aggrandizement that stem from plain old low self-esteem.

The Corporation very enticingly defines corporate person hoods as psychotics. In today’s era of global militarism, the corporation has become the dominant ‘personality’ to which we look for succor. Our every transient desire is fulfilled by it, and it has catalyzed our quest to replace warm, soft human bonds and true emotional fulfillment with the obtrusive hardness of objects. The film provides much evidence in favor of corporations’ psychotic tendencies: the inability to sustain lasting relationships, lack of guilt or concern for others’ suffering, and the inability to look beyond their own inflated interests.

In essence, however, the corporation is a fiction, our own Frankenstein-like mirage, a mere manifestation of our subconscious negative impulses. Just as we can read our sicknesses and psychoses from dream analysis, so we can by regarding the corporation. As Theodore Roszak states, “the planet has become like that blank psychiatric screen on which the neurotic unconscious projects its fantasies” (Ecopsychology, 1995, p. 5). But at the same time that we watch this villain on the screen, munching Monsanto popcorn, slurping on Coca-cola and dawning Nike running shoes in glee, the monster reinforces and legitimizes these negative impulses that should have remained slumbering within the fat tissues of our sloping brains, so that our society is becoming more and more psychotic. One only has to regard the disassociation between driving a car and the little boy’s amputated leg to observe this, or at the way we use and discard each other in interpersonal relationships.

The destruction of our natural environment was perhaps the pioneering activity leading to our demise. By boxing ourselves off from the trees and grasses and bears in concrete wastelands, we have pushed away an integral part of ourselves. To say we are separate from nature and its inhabitants is to deny our true identity. And if we can clear-cut an ancient forest without wincing, we can just as easily eat Nestle chocolate while the African boy suffers, and, perhaps most easily, we can kill our own selves. Indeed, if we were to truly love ourselves, the corporation would disintegrate, leaving behind nothing but the wild wind and a thin silver glimmer of hope that we would find a path back to who we truly are.