Jan 2013: New Year’s Visions

Updates from the front lines of the Drug War insanity.

The number of people in prison in America declined last year for the second year in a row, according to a  new report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. The number of prisoners at the end of 2011 dropped to just under 1.6 million, a 0.9% decrease over the previous year. Of those 1.6 million prisoners, some 330,000 were doing time for drug offenses, including nearly 95,000 doing federal time. Drug offenders constitute 48% of all federal inmates, or some 94,600 inmates. There were 15,023 fewer inmates at the end of 2011 than a year earlier, but that number is more than accounted for by a single state, California, which reported a decline of 15,493 prisoners due primarily to an incarceration realignment program that has sent what would have been state prisoners to county jails instead. Counting just state prison populations, 2011 saw a decline of 21,164 prisoners, or 1.5%, again with California accounting for 72% of the decrease. (Source: Alternet, December 26, 2012)

From the Department of Inspiration – economic survival

On a trash dump in Paraguay, where a musical instrument costs more than a house, youngsters have made violins, cellos, flutes and other instruments from landfill cast-offs and are playing heavenly music. http://vimeo.com/52711779

Bolivian President Evo Morales on the meaning of the 2012 solstice

In a speech at the time of the Winter Solstice, Bolivian president Evo Morales said December 21 marks ‘end of an anthropocentric life and the beginning of a bio-centric life. It is the end of hatred and the beginning of love, the end of lies and beginning of truth’. In an open invitation to celebrate the day, Morales explained that “the Mayan calendar’s  21 of December is the end of the non-time and the beginning of time. It is the end of the Macha and the beginning of the Pacha, the end of selfishness and the beginning of brotherhood, it is the end of individualism and the beginning of collectivism.”

The Bolivian government has hailed the solstice as the start of an age in which community and collectivity will prevail over capitalism and individuality. Those themes have long been present in Morales’s discourse, especially in the idea of vivir bien, or living well. He has stressed the importance of a harmonious balance between human life and the planet, though some people question its application in Bolivia, where the economy depends heavily on mining, oil and gas industries. Source:  Friday, December 21, 2012 by Common Dreams

2012: Year of Indigenous Resistance in Mexico
In a almost step-by-step replay of their New Years’ Day 1994 uprising, tens of thousands of masked and uniformed members of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) marched in military formation into five Chiapas towns. A big difference between this year’s action and the one nearly 19 years ago is that the Mayan Zapatistas of 2012 did not carry guns or utter words. And according to Proceso magazine, their numbers this year- estimated between 30,000 and 50,000 people- were many-fold greater than the several thousand fighters who launched the 1994 revolt on the day that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) went into effect.The emblematic Zapatista spokesperson Subcomandante Marcos, who mysteriously vanished from the public limelight during the past four years, delivered a brief but ironic message issued by the EZLN’s Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee-General Command that declared in part, “Did your hear? This is the sound of your world being torn down, and of ours resurging…” Source: http://www.cipamericas.org/archives/8769. Posted on: 27/12/2012 by Kent Paterson And: http://www.cipamericas.org/archives/8775 Posted on: 30/12/2012 by Gloria Muñoz Ramírez

From the Department of Inspiration – political

An Israeli activist produced a 2-minute video on the Internet,  in which he speaks directly, heart-to-heart, to the Iranian people offering peace, love and understanding. Within days, the video peace offering produced thousands of responses with pictures, from Iranians in all walks of life, as well as citizens from other countries.

Lincoln and Django Unchained – a comparative review.

Two movies hit the big screens this year dealing with the history of slavery in the USA.  Lincoln, made by Steven Stielberg,  is focused on the battle Abraham Lincoln waged in Congress to pass the thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, outlawing slavery for ever. Django Unchained, made by Quentin Tarantino, situated in time two years before the start of the Civil war on a Southern Plantation, paints a vivid picture of the violence and human degradation endemic to the institution of slavery, through the eyes of an amoral bounty-hunter and a freed slave bent on revenge.  Both movies could be said to be “anti-slavery,” and thus pass the basic ethics test in film criticism.  Viewers and reviewers can then freely appreciate the dramatic flair,  cinematic  story-telling skill and acting, without any deeper reflection on what is being shown and what it means for our  common humanity.

There is a world of difference however between the two films in how they present the ethical and human implications of the history of slavery in the US.  Spielberg’s film is framed, at the beginning and the end, by two scenes of masses of dead soldiers in the Civil War. It is as much an anti-war movie as an anti-slavery movie. The rest of the film plays indoors, focusing on the political struggle Lincoln and his allies waged in Congress to pass the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.

Tarantino’s film is filled from beginning to end with relentless, dramatic violence – slavers against slaves, liberators against slave owners. Fountains of blood gush spectacularly, in vivid red color, as our pair of amoral heroes go from one deadly encounter with repulsive bigots to another.  The two liberating heroes seem to never get hit themselves, though they regularly and casually shoot dozens of armed men. There is obvious exhilaration in the characters (and in the audience of the film) as really bad evil guys get their just deserts – and the liberated slave hero rides off into the sunset with the liberated female slave that he loves.  To my mind, Tarantino’s film is a prime example of what has been called the “pornography of violence. ” Under the guise of deploring violent abuse and killing of others,  it dramatizes and glorifies it, leaving viewers with a clear conscience to imagine how they too might have found satisfaction killing really bad, evil guys.

Patriotism as the propaganda mask for militaristic capitalism

In an article published January 3, 2013 by Common Dreams  Michael Moore scathingly skewers the hypocrisy involved in offical claims and calls to support our troops. Moore points to the ways our government utterly fails the young men and women it solicits to join the military – issues that are finally hitting the news with increasing urgency:

One – the staggering suicide rate among vets  – an estimated eighteen veterans kill themselves each day.  This figure is likely an underestimate, because the VA doesn’t keep records on those who have been discharged and choose not seek contact.

Two – there are more soldiers killing themselves than soldiers being killed in combat.  Military suicides jumped 50 percent between 2001 and 2008 and reached new highs this year (2012): The 26 suicides in July more than doubled the Army’s total from the previous month.  Fortunately, these numbers have led to alarming reports from Department of Defense and in Congress, and new funding allocated to the VA for suicide prevention and mental health and services.

Three – A staggering number of females in the military are raped by fellow soldiers: 19,000 (mostly) female troops are raped or sexually assaulted every year , and the rapes often officially ignored and unreported.  These figures too have recently become front-page news, and the services have taken some steps to ameliorate  the situation.

Four –  The Huffington Post reports http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/29/bank-of-america-illegal-foreclosures_n_1118471.html, that banks may have illegally foreclosed on nearly 5,000. This surely qualifies as a most devastating and callous blow to the soldiers and their families: go fight for your country, get killed or wounded, receive inadequate treatment, and while you’re over there, you and your family may lose their home to a bank.

Five –  A staggering number of veterans are homeless: on any given night, at least 60,000 veterans are sleeping on the streets.

The lessons from this situation are clear: One, for those young men and women who are considering joining up – think again, get informed, consult with Veterans for Peace and other groups, to find out what the wars are really like (refer to link on website). Two, as the hippies already said in the 1960s: Support the troops – bring them home! and let’s take care of the wounded and traumatized and help them re-integrate into their communities.

From the Department of Inspiration – cosmic/historical

Click on this link and you will see an amazing 2-minute video portraying, purely in images, the history of the cosmos, evolution and humanity. It was made by a pair of French videographers and is truly awesome. http://marcbrecy.perso.neuf.fr/history.html

The only film I can compare it to is Brian Swimme’s film Journey of the Universe – Epic Story of Cosmic, Earth and Human Transformation  which takes 55 minutes to tell the same story, with commentary of course. ( See review at GreenEarthFound.org)