Tag Archives: peace

When It Comes, It Comes Slowly

3 Mar

Managed to watch some of the Academy Awards last night, even though ABC makes it difficult to do so unless you actually pay for cable. Remember paying for cable? When you had to pay a large monthly sum for the privilege of watching commercials on a bunch of channels you probably didn’t care about? Who still does that?

Ellen joked that 12 Years A Slave would win Best Picture because if it didn’t everyone in the Academy would be racist. It won Best Picture.

The Academy Awards used to be segregated.

Lupita won for Best Supporting Actress. This is after she graduated from Hampshire College. These two things probably aren’t related, but it’s neat that I “know” someone who was there. She gave a great speech.

Meanwhile nearly 400 (!) people were arrested for protesting the building of a giant pipe. One of them looks like Chelsea Clinton. It is almost certainly NOT her.

I wish humanity developed faster.

But at least we do develop. Better than stagnation.

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The Least of Three Evils (for MA voters)

13 Jan

In Massachusetts, a state where gay marriage is legal, the representatives of the state ought to believe that gay marriage being legal is a good thing, right? Joe Kennedy is sort of for gay marriage, but only in that the government shouldn’t really have a say and that churches ought to be allowed to decide for themselves. Scott Brown believes marriage is between a man and a woman.

Viewed through this lens Martha Coakley is the only viable candidate. But Martha reeks of standard party-line politician, and I hate the party system. Nearly everything she says seems like it was pulled from the “how to be a democrat 2010” handbook. Maybe she believes it all, but it all reads and seems like it’s just politics. It seems like she says things because they are the-things-you-say-to-get-people-who-believe-what-I-believe-to-vote-for-you, and not because they are her true beliefs.

Aside from gay marriage, what I want from my government is the, well, the governance, that will lead us to a humane world. Everyone wants a humane world. We’re human beings. We ought to have a humane world. That said, the three areas which I think are most important for a humane world – Health Care, Education, and the Environment – are all poorly represented by these three would-be-representatives.

Joe Kennedy is by far the most realistic candidate of the three. His website shows that he’s familiar with bills currently under review by the legislature, and that he understands what the job he’s applying for actually is: he’ll be reading a lot of complicated bills written in legalese. He’ll be writing other bills, filing bills, and voting on bills. That’s it. Promises like

“Martha will fight to ensure that people with disabilities have equal access to housing, education, health care, and employment opportunities”

or

“I believe we ought to strengthen our border enforcement and institute an employment verification system with penalties for companies that hire illegal immigrants (Scott)”

are un-detailed statements of large scope essentially beyond anything that a senator can actually do and they do little to convince me that Scott or Martha are actually aware of what the job is (odd for Scott, who is already a state senator). Joe Kennedy is, at least from the impressions he’s given, trustworthy. He makes his share of un-detailed statements of large scope too, like “I believe we must promote free trade and peace” (who doesn’t?) but he also includes detailed ideas about what bills he’s going to write and file, and how he’s going to vote on current ones. Unfortunately he seems to be wrong about Health Care, and claims to be against both income and sales taxes, which sounds nice but does beg the question of where he expects the government to get any money at all. China?

Like Joe, Scott is also wrong about Health Care. Both of them vehemently oppose the current Health Care bill (although only Joe claims to have actually read it) but neither of them provide any workable alternatives. The bottom line is that we absolutely have to change our Health Care system. It’s awful. It’s inhumane and utterly embarrassing that a country claiming to be civilized doesn’t provide healthcare to all of its residents. While Martha is at least vowing to support the reform the Obama Administration is hoping to pass, she doesn’t seem to be aware that it doesn’t go nearly far enough and that while changing what we have is extremely important (so important that we must change it even if it’s only for the sake of change), changing it into something which treats health care as the humane right that it is is even more important.

None of them seem to understand this.

Martha is also weak on education, seemingly pleased with the foundation of “No Child Left Behind” stating that it just needs “several reforms” in order to “deliver the changes students deserve.” This is, of course, ridiculous. Joe thinks we should abolish “No Child Left Behind” as well as the Federal Department of Education and instead let each state innovate their own educational systems. It might work… it might not, but at least it’s an acknowledgement that our education system is in need of truly radical reform, something neither of the other two candidates seem to know. Scott is politically vague about education, saying he is “passionate about improving the quality of our public schools” (who isn’t?) and that he “support(s) choice through charter schools, as well as the MCAS exam as a graduation requirement.” Goodie. Let’s first give them a “choice” about which type of school to go to but then continue using standardized tests as a way to determine the education level of our citizens regardless of which school they chose. Great plan.

Nothing short of a complete redesign of our educational system is good enough. We need a system which acknowledges that each individual student has different interests, different ways of learning, and different levels of understanding which develop at different rates. Anything less is inhumane.

None of them seem to understand this.

As for the environment, here’s Martha:

“I support common-sense environment policy that will help to reduce pollution and preserve our precious open spaces. I realize that without action now, future generations will be left to clean up the mess we leave.”

Here’s Scott:

“Our planet is in trouble. I believe protecting our environment must be a priority, not only for today but for future generations.”

No, I’m sorry, that’s backwards. The first quote is Scott, not Martha, she’s the second quote. Point is they sound basically interchangeable.

Give Joe points for being different at least:

“I would consider myself an Environmentalist and I am a strong advocate of green initiatives… The Greatest Polluter in America is the US Government.”

I kid (a bit) about the similarity of Scott and Martha here but give Martha credit for at least being thorough and detailed and stating that “climate change is one of the most pressing moral issues of our time.” I’m not sure it’s a moral issue, but it’s certainly pressing. The only thing Scott’s website provides are vague promises and beliefs about the environment and his site doesn’t mention even once global warming or the climate crisis (neither does Joe’s) although I know from the debate that he’s not convinced it’s entirely caused by our actions. Scott says

“I support reasonable and appropriate development of alternative energy sources such as wind, solar, nuclear, geothermal and improved hydroelectric facilities”

as if there’s someone who doesn’t. Way to say nothing. I support the sky being blue. I support wheels being round.

Look, we can’t have a humane world if the planet our world is on is sick. It’s really more important than anything else. It doesn’t matter how well educated we are, how healthy, how safe, how peaceful, how anything, if our planet is sick.

None of them seem to understand this, though Martha comes out as the strongest of the three here if only because she’ll support the progress that the Obama Adminstration is trying to make in this regard.

So I’m genuinely stumped here. I have no idea which of these three represent the least of the three evils. I’ve read and heard that a lot of people are voting for Scott simply because he opposes the current party that’s in power. This is true, he does, but he represents the other party. Checks and balances aren’t supposed to work the way the party system works. If you really want to elect someone who is going to ensure that one party isn’t in control, vote for Joe. But is that even a good reason to vote? If I truly don’t want any of these people to represent me, shouldn’t I not vote for them? Isn’t that how a democracy is supposed to work? Votes are our way of saying “yes, I agree with you. You represent me.” Isn’t there more to you than just “I oppose large government” or “I oppose the currently-in-power party”?

How about “I support a humane world with an effective government”? I’d vote for the one who could back that up with details about how they’re going to do it.

Things to learn from history

1 Aug

A few facts we could learn from history:

– Making war, engaging in war, declaring war, etc. does not produce peace.

– Manufacturing goods in the most financially lucrative ways is destructive to the planet and to the human beings that live on it.

– An education system based on regimented levels and common-to-all curriculums does not result in citizens who are educated in humane well-being.

I wish I could wish away

29 Mar

Whenever my DVR happens to record one I’ve been watching the new computer animated Clone Wars show on Cartoon Network. I missed the “movie” that premiered the show in theaters last year, and I don’t think I’ve seen every episode, but it’s overall a rather enjoyable diversion that sometimes feels a lot like the best of Star Wars. But it makes me wish that George Lucas had learned one key thing about episodic storytelling before he embarked on making the prequels: write all the episodes first and not one-at-a-time. The Clone Wars, as well as the live-action Star Wars tv show that’s currently in production, had all the episodes written first. Not so with the Star Wars Prequels.

I’ve also been slowly making my way through the transcript of the Raiders of The Lost Ark Story Conferences and I’m amazed at the job undertaken by Lawrence Kasdan. He listens to these two men pour ideas at him for a week, and while some things (he’s after the Ark of the Covenant) aren’t up for debate, nearly everything else was. Indiana’s last name, Marion’s role and name, the identity of Indy’s rival, the locations that he would visit on his quest, what he would do and find in said locations, it was all up to Kasdan. But the sheer amount of ideas meant that he could just pick and choose whichever ones fit the story best and go with them. (The leftover ideas like a goofy child sidekick, a jump from a crashing plane with an inflatable life-raft landing on snow and becoming a sled, a mine cart chase, a sexy german double-agent, etc. would end up being used later).

The wealth of ideas on display in the Clone Wars show make me wish that a similar process had been done when writing the prequels. George Lucas is not short of ideas, particularly ideas that take place in the Star Wars universe. There’s two ideas in particular that I wish he had though of prior to writing/making the prequels. There is a story-arc about a neutral planet inhabited by pacifist lemur creatures. The Separatists plan to send an occupying force there to test a new biological weapon that could kill all non-mechanical things on a massive scale. They figure this planet is the perfect place to do so since the natives won’t fight back. The Jedi, in an effort to keep peace in the galaxy (as they are wont to do), dispatch Anakin Skywalker and a crew of clones there to protect the innocent Lemur Folk from the imminent arrival of the destructive droids. Except that the Lemur folk don’t want them there. Peaceful as the intentions of the Jedi might be the Lemur-Folk declare that they are just as violent, evil, and war-mongering as The Separatists and want nothing to do with any of it. As far as the Lemur-Folk are concerned the unwelcome arrival of the Jedi is the arrival of the war. They demand that the Jedi leave and if this means they are all destroyed, then so be it. Another episode features Yoda trapped in a cave with a few clones who declare that they are expendable and interchangeable, and can save Yoda by sacrificing themselves. Yoda disagrees. They are beings of The Force, he says, and therefore they have individuality. They can be creative. They have a life-force and a value, and when they explore it and find ways to nurture and develop it they will prevail.

Both these episodes featured ideas that would have been welcomed and very effective in the prequels. Anakin is given a complex choice and asked to really explore how he feels about fighting as a means toward peace. He’s shown how effective it can (or can’t) be, and his actions have a direct impact on an entire species. Yoda teaches about the intricacies of The Force and how it relates to individuality, even if by outward appearances and origins you have none (and what does this mean for Anakin, a being possibly made by The Force?).

The writing of the three Star Wars Prequels is a challenge. Here you have three of the most beloved movies of all time. While essentially ensemble movies the main character is arguably Luke Skywalker. Now you set out to write three more episodes and change a trilogy into a six-episode Saga. Not only that but while the three new movies are essentially ensemble movies there is no Luke Skywalker and the underlying goal is to convert Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader into the main character of all six movies. Except that Palpatine is really the main character in the new three movies. How does that all work? How does it all get put together? The story of a peaceful Republic turning into an Empire and the story of Anakin turning into Darth Vader must both be told, but all six movies must work as a whole. It’s a tough thing to do.

I wish it had been done the way they did Raiders. I wish George and whoever else he thought had good ideas (Kasdan? Spielberg? Coppola?) all sat down for a week or two with a screenwriter and just threw out these hundreds of ideas that are now on display. The screenwriter could have then picked and chosen the ones that fit best into a three-movie story which then works together as a trilogy as well as the first half of a six episode Saga.

HOPE

21 Jan

Hope, Not Change, and Change
A three part response to Obama’s inauguration speech
In late December I wrote down the following:
“Now that we have an intelligent President, can we stop believing that the very foundational concept behind a “war on terror” is anything but a fallacy? Terrorism is an ideology. “The use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims” says the OED. I wonder how it defines war then?*
Terror is a feeling. An emotion. What effect will a bullet or a bomb have on terror but to increase it?
Fighting fire with fire results in a bigger fire. Fighting terror with war results in more terror. Can we perhaps fight fire with water?”

I ask and Obama answers, “we have chosen hope over fear.”

I managed to catch the end of Obama’s inauguration speech during my lunch break and was powerfully struck by how smart the man is. Perhaps it’s easy to appear smart in that venue in comparison to what had recently been there, but even so. My overwhelming initial response was a wave of gratitude for intelligence in power. Speaking of power (intelligently):

“our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please.”

Watching the whole speech later on I was struck by the thing that’s always impressed me most about Obama in the first place: for whatever reason(s) the man can inspire the masses. Two million people were there to watch this man take a 40 second oath and give a 20 minute speech. Two million people. Two million people heard him say in person that

“The nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous.  The success of our economy has always depended … on the reach of our prosperity, on the ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart — not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.”

Two million people stood in the cold and heard him say

“we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.”

Countless millions more heard and saw the speech on television, the internet, the radio, etc. Who knows how many billions of people heard him say that “we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.” All these people heard him present a nuanced and complex view of the state of the world, and America in particular. Even my mother, the devoutly pacifist hippie sex therapist, after hearing him say

“Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life.  They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions, greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction”

was ready to enlist. Seriously. My mother told me that if Obama asked her to, depsite being physically unable to carry a gun, she would enlist and do what she could. If you know my mother at all, that may blow your mind a bit, as it did mine. She heard him give a message laced with a spiritual undercurrent of a changing world and a new inspired generation of Americans. She saw hope. So did I.

I see hope that humanity will move beyond tribes, beyond political affiliations, beyond countries, and beyond all but our humanity. I see hope that we will move toward a common good, a common humane state of being.
I hope for this “new era of peace” to be of a peace that is more than the mere absence of violence but the presence of the humane art of living.

Part 2 of 3 tomorrow.

* a state of armed conflict.

Ideal President ’08

5 Dec

So I caught part of the Democratic debate on NPR yesterday while driving home. It’s the first one I’ve payed attention to, even though all they talked about (that I heard) was immigration.

Were I to generalize what I heard I would say that half the time they were agreeing with each other, saying things like “Well, my colleagues are right about this, but…” and “I agree with so-and-so about this, and let me say…” and then they’d spend the other half of the time trying to articulate just how different they are from each other. They spent a lot of energy trying to establish their own solid political pasts while undermining the political pasts of the others.

Each one said things I liked and each one said things that I didn’t. They all spent a lot of time and energy saying how the current administration is bad, and how they would be not as bad. Were I to continue generalizing I would say that I wouldn’t much mind if any of them got elected, though I can’t say I’m filled with enthusiasm to vote for them after hearing them all talk on the radio about immigration.

Except for one person. One candidate said something that finally made me understand why he has as many passionate followers as he does. This is what he said:

“My political philosophy — I see the world as one. I see the world as being interconnected and interdependent and there being an imperative for human unity.
And so we need to reach out and education is the way to do it. Let’s have our children learn languages and let’s grow our economy in a confident way: full employment economy, jobs for all, health care for all, not-for-profit health care for all.”

Bravo. That would be Dennis Kucinich.

To be fair, other candidates said similar things with different words. The two candidates I keep hearing referred to as the frontrunners, Obama and Clinton, said it this way:
Obama said “The basic concept (is that) increasingly, we have to view our security in terms of a common security and common prosperity with peoples in other countries” and Clinton said that the Clinton Doctrine would be “a doctrine that demonstrates that the United States is not afraid to cooperate; that through cooperation in our inter-dependent world, we actually can build a stronger country and a stronger world that will be more reflective of our values.”

The difference I see between the three quotes is that one of the speakers, Dennis, has passion for what he is saying. What he is saying motivates his every action. Passion inspires passion. He wants nothing short of “human unity.” Obama and Clinton sound like they’re saying what advisors have told them is a good thing to say. Being “not afraid to cooperate” or viewing our own security “in terms of common prosperity with peoples in other countries” is not the same as seeing the world as one.

Seeing us all as being interconnected and interdependent just seems more… true. I’d be interested to find out what the others would say if they were asked about that. Are we all interconnected and interdependent? What is America’s responsibility to humanity? What is peace? And it would be interesting to hear them answer who they would vote for if they couldn’t vote for themselves…

Also, what would be wrong with a “no-party system” where each candidate would have to define themselves by who they are and what they believe? Short of that we could at least have an all candidate debate and let the Republicans and Democrats mix. Listening to them all agree with each other is boring.