Progressive Calendar 10.02.09
From: David Shove (shove001tc.umn.edu)
Date: Fri, 2 Oct 2009 06:46:46 -0700 (PDT)
            P R O G R E S S I V E   C A L E N D A R   10.02.09

1. Alliant/Gandhi       10.02 7am
2. Progressive mag/KFAI 10.02 11am
3. FFUNCH               10.02 11:30am
4. Palestine vigil      10.02 4:15pm
5. Fong Lee justice     10.02 5:30pm
6. Art for choice       10.02 6:30pm
7. Immigration/film     10.02 7pm
8. Philippines/rights   10.02 10.02 7pm
9. Moore/capitalism/f   10.02

10. Sen John Marty    - Turning to jail for a better life
11. Stuart Littlewood - The comic genius of Netanyahu
12. Arundhati Roy     - What have we done to democracy?
13. ed                - Hope you!  (poem)

--------1 of 13--------

From: Women Against Military Madness <wamm [at] mtn.org>
Subject: Alliant/Gandhi 10.02 7am

AlliantACTION's Annual Celebration of Gandhi's Birthday

Friday, October 2, 7:00 a.m. Outside Alliant Techsystems, 7480 Flying
Cloud Drive, Eden Prairie. Join AlliantACTION's Annual Celebration of
Gandhi's Birthday. Theme this year is: "Warfare or Healthcare. Choose
One." Sponsored by: AlliantACTION. Endorsed by: WAMM. FFI and directions:
Visit www.alliantaction.org or call 612-701-6963.


--------2 of 13--------

From: Lydia Howell <lydiahowell [at] visi.com>
Subject: Progressive mag/KFAI 10.02 11am

NOTE: You can hear my interview with MATHEW ROTHSCHILD, editor of THE
PROGRESSIVE and the new anthology 100 YEARS of THE PROGRESSIVE, Fri.Oct.2
11am on "CATALYST: politics & culture" on KFAI RADIO. He talks about the
social justice movements that have been the ONLY way to make REAL change
in this country. PLEDGE YOUR SUPPORT to KFAI on CATALYST and you can get a
copy of this new book! Call FRI.11am:612-375-9030 Lydia
Howell,host/producer "Catalyst"

Listen on-line live-streaming/archived for 2 weeks after broadcast:
http://www.kfai.org/catalyst
KFAI Radio 90.3fm Mpls/106.7fm St.Paul

Published on Monday, September 28, 2009 by The Progressive
<http://www.progressive.org/wx092809.html>
http://www.commondreams.org/view/2009/09/28-9

Ralph Nader Throws His Hope in with Enlightened Billionaires
by Matthew Rothschild

I saw Ralph Nader yesterday, indefatigable as ever.

He was on tour for his new book, and his first work of fiction, "Only the
Super-Rich Can Save Us

The plot is about how seventeen famous billionaires, like Warren Buffett
and Ted Turner, all of a sudden come to their conscience and spend some of
their money to bring about the anti-corporate and pro-democracy changes
that Ralph Nader has spent his life campaigning for.

This is a Hail Mary pass for progressive change, and it is an expression
of Nader's frustration-even desperation-at our inability to tackle what he
rightly calls "the permanent corporate government" in Washington.

His approach, in the book, is about as top-down as you can get, though he
says it's top-down, bottom-up-the billionaires spend the money so that
people at the grassroots can effectively organize.

He seems to have lost hope in the labor movement and the environmental
movement and the citizen's movement and the broad civil rights movement
getting together or a new progressive movement rising up organically.

Throughout most of his career, Nader acted on a theory of social change
that centered around establishing citizen groups in Washington and across
the country that could act as a counterforce to the corporate powers.

Then, when that didn't succeed, and when the Democratic Party became
increasingly corporatized, Nader ventured into third party presidential
politics.

In 2000, he ran as a Green, and talked of establishing that as a durable
third party that could act as centrifugal force against the Democratic
Party moving ever rightward. But Nader became disenchanted with the
Greens, and decided to go it alone the last two times.

And in a sense, he's going it alone this time in this book.

Rather than rely on the citizen's movement, rather than rely on the labor
movement, or a unified progressive movement, Nader is relying on the
George Soroses of this world to save us, as the title says.

"The progressive movement is good at documenting corporate power," he said
in his talk in Madison, Wisconsin. "It's good at diagnosing. It's good at
coming up with proposals. But that's the end."

The problem, he says, is one of resources. "You cannot fight trillions of
dollars in big business money with a few millions and expect to win."

The citizen movement, he said, is "totally amateurish" compared with how
well organized and funded the corporations are. "This mismatch is a
disaster," he said. "The progressive movement is going nowhere if it does
not address the problem of resources."

Nor does he have hope in a new youth movement.

Nader was addressing a couple of hundred people in a classroom at the
University of Wisconsin, but there weren't many students there. Maybe that
was a good thing, since he was harshing on them.

"If people are too busy updating their personal profiles on their facebook
page," they won't engage in civic action, he said.

"The screen is the opium of the masses," he said. He added that we have a
whole generation living a virtual existence, and we haven't come to grips
with the negative consequences of that.

He also criticized today's students for their weak grasp of U.S. history.
For them, "The Vietnam War is like the Peloponnesian Wars."

Nader had some sharp criticism for Barack Obama, too. "It's very sad to
see the continuity between Obama and Bush," he said, rattling off
"Afghanistan, renditions, No Child Left Behind, and the faith-based
initiative." But he's not surprised that Obama is doing the bidding of the
corporate establishment. "In 100 ways, he signaled he was their man"
during the campaign, Nader said. "Did ever talk about corporate crime,
even when Wall Street was collapsing?"

Nader said Obama "learned too much from Bill Clinton" about the need to
compromise with corporate power. And he said that Obama's personality is
not right for the times. Unlike FDR, Obama "does not like conflict," he
said. Instead, he wants to please.

There is a poignance in listening to Ralph Nader these days. Here is a man
who, for the last 45 years, has hurled his body at the engine of corporate
power. He's dented it more than anyone else in America. But he knows it's
still chugging, even more strongly than ever.

Nader understands that he's losing. He understands that we're losing-we
who believe in democracy, we who care about justice.

But if our only hope is with a handful of billionaires, we're in a lot
worse shape than I thought.

© 2009 The Progressive

Matthew Rothschild is the editor of The Progressive
<http://www.progressive.org/> magazine.


--------3 of 13--------

From: David Shove <shove001 [at] tc.umn.edu>
Subject: FFUNCH 10.02 11:30am

Meet the FFUNCH BUNCH!
11:30am-1pm
First Friday Lunch (FFUNCH) for Greens/progressives.

Informal political talk and hanging out.

Day By Day Cafe 477 W 7th Av St Paul.
Meet in the private room (holds 12+).

Day By Day has soups, salads, sandwiches, and dangerous
apple pie; is close to downtown St Paul & on major bus lines


--------4 of 13--------

From: Eric Angell <eric-angell [at] riseup.net>
Subject: Palestine vigil 10.02 4:15pm

the weekly vigil for the liberation of Palestine continues at the
intersection of Snelling and Summit Aves in St. Paul.  the Friday demo
starts at 4:15 and ends around 5:30.  there are usually extra signs
available.


--------5 of 13--------

From: Michelle Gross <mgresist [at] visi.com>
Subject: Fong Lee justice 10.02 5:30pm

FUNDRAISER FOR FONG LEE FAMILY
Friday, October 2, 5:30 p.m.
Lao Family Community Center
320 W University Ave, St. Paul

Fellow friends and community leaders, we need your support to raise $5,000
for the Lee family's appeal to the Federal court so they can continue to
fight for justice for Fong Lee, who was gunned down by Minneapolis cop
Jason Andersen.  Cops later placed a gun on the scene to justify the
shooting of an unarmed man.  The Lee family would also like to take this
opportunity to thank everyone of you who had supported Fong Lee case in
the past and hope you all will continuing doing so until we win the case
for the name of Hmong.

This event with band is $15.00 per person including food and beverage,
Please come and support as we are one Hmong nation in the world.  For more
information, contact Nhia Vue Lee at (651)774-1451 or Vang Meng Lee at
(651) 329-3172.

UP IN ARMS: A NIGHT OF HIP HOP AND SPOKEN WORD TO HONOR FONG LEE AND END
POLICE BRUTALITY
Saturday, October 3, 2009, Doors open 7:30pm, Show begins at 8:00pm
Macalester College, Kagin Commons, 1600 Grand Avenue, St. Paul
http://www.macalester.edu/about/mapbynumber.html
Suggested Donation: $5-$10
All proceeds will to go to the family of Fong Lee to assist with legal
and case related fees

Up In Arms: A Night of Hip Hop and Spoken Word to Honor Fong Lee and End
Police Brutality seeks to raise awareness and support of Fong Lee's case
while also uniting and activating communities around the issue of police
brutality.

In July 2006, bicyclist Fong Lee was killed by a Minneapolis police
officer in front of a north Minneapolis elementary school.  Last May, an
all-white federal jury exonerated officer Jason Anderson of using
excessive force on the teenager who was shot eight times in the back.
Allegations that a gun was planted near Lee's body were ruled irrelevant
to the case. For more information about the trial
http://www.hmongtoday.com/page11504436.aspx

The Lee family's quest for truth does not end with the ruling given in
May, and the family has continued the long path towards legal justice.

The evening will be emceed by Tou Ger Xiong and Amy Hang. DJ Nak will be
on the one's and two's with performances by Magnetic North (from New York
City), Nomi of Power Struggle (from the Bay Area), Michelle Myers of
Yellow Rage (from Philadelphia), Maria Isa, Blackbird Elements, Kyle
"Guante" Myhre, Rodrigo Sanchez-Chavarria, e.g. Bailey, Tou Saiko Lee with
PosNoSys, True Mutiny, Shá Cage, Kevin Xiong with Pada Lor, Tish Jones,
MaiPaCher, Logan Moua, Bobby Wilson, Poetic Assassins, Hilltribe, and
other special guests.

This event is sponsored by:  Speak!, Lealtad-Suzuki Center, Asian Student
Alliance, Ua Ke, DJ Club, History Department, Coalition for Community
Relations, The Loft Literary Center, Minnesota Immigrant Freedom Network,
Shades of Yellow, Take Action Minnesota, Communities United Against Police
Brutality, and Minnesota Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign.

For more information please visit Coalition for Community Relations on
Facebook or contact Tou Ger Xiong at 651-738-0141.


--------6 of 13--------

From: Erin Parrish <erin [at] mnwomen.org>
Subject: Art for choice 10.02 6:30pm

October 2:  Pro-Choice Resources Art for Choice. Bid on original artwork
by 35 of the Twin Cities most well-known artists while enjoying
appetizers, a cash bar, and live music by Bellebottom, DJTK, and DJ Eros.
Original art may be viewed online or in person from September 25 - October
1 at Nina Bliese Gallery. 6:30 - 9:30 PM at W Hotel in Minneapolis.


--------7 of 13--------

From: Stephanie Bates <Stephanie.Bates [at] americas.org>
Subject: Immigration/film 10.02 7pm

RCTA Friday Night Movies: "Roots of Migration"
Join us the first Friday of every month for an immigration themed movie.
Friday, October 2-7pm

October's movie will be Roots of Migration produced by Witness for Peace.
Follow-up discussion will be led by Robyn Skrebes of Witness for Peace Upper
Midwest.

Roots of Migration

If you're like us, you've wondered where the substance is in the ongoing
migration debate. Arguments are limited to border walls and enforcement.
Surprisingly lacking from this debate is one essential question: why? Why do
millions of Latin Americans make the unlikely decision to leave their
communities and cross a dangerous desert in order to live in a country with
increasingly draconian anti-immigrant laws? Why did the number of Mexicans
who made this decision multiply after the implementation of the U.S.-pushed
North American Free Trade Agreement? Why aren't we discussing the roots of
migration?


--------8 of 13--------

From: Gabe Ormsby <gabeo [at] bitstream.net>
Subject: Philippines/rights 10.02 10.02 7pm

FORUM: "THE STATE OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE PHILIPPINES": FRIDAY, OCTOBER 2 -
7 TO 9 P.M.

Amnesty International invites you to an educational forum:
"The State of Human Rights in the Philippines in 2009 & The Recent Torture
of a US Citizen"
with attorney Rex J. M. A. Fernandez
Friday, October 2, 7:00-9:00 p.m.
Hennepin County Government Center Auditorium
300 South Sixth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55112

Attorney Rex Fernandez talks about the human rights situation in the
Philippines, the struggle against impunity for terrible crimes of over
1000 extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances in the Philippines
under the current president, what Americans and President Obama can do
about the Philippines' human rights situation, and the recent abduction
and torture of Fil-American Melissa Roxas and her two colleagues.

He is lead counsel for national group, Karapatan, a Philippine
organization that finds the Disappeared, digs up unmarked graves, locates
political prisoners, stops torture, and helps the legal defense of
innocent nongovernment organization volunteers or union organizers in
trouble for simply helping the poor get their rights.

This Amnesty International event is free and open to the public. For more
information, call 763-571-7696.


--------9 of 13--------

From: Lydia Howell <lydiahowell [at] visi.com>
Subject: Moore/capitalism/f 10.02

OCT. 2;FILMS:Moore's CAPITALISM & Environmental film NO IMPACT MAN
BOTH OF THESE FILMS OPEN Friday OCT. 2 in MINNEAPOLIS
For screening times, go to:
 http://www.landmarktheatres.com/Market/Minneapolis/Minneapolis_Frameset.htm

Michael Moore's new film! CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORY at Lagoon Cinema, on
Lagoon, 1 block from Hennepin Ave. in uptown MINNEAPOLIS

In Capitalism: A Love Story, filmmaker Michael Moore (Sicko, Fahrenheit
9/11, Bowling for Columbine, Roger & Me) tackles an issue he has been
examining throughout his career: the disastrous impact of corporate
dominance on the everyday lives of Americans (and by default, the rest of
the world). Moore explores the root causes of the global economic meltdown
and takes a comical look at the corporate and political shenanigans that
culminated in what he has described as the biggest robbery in the history
of this country---the massive transfer of U.S. taxpayer money to private
financial institutions. 127 minutes. Rated R.

NO IMPACT MAN @ Lagoon Cinema on Lagoon, one block from Hennepin, uptown
MINNEAPOLIS

Author Colin Beavan /(No Impact Man, Fingerprints, Operation Jedburgh),
/in research for his new book, began the No Impact Project in November
2006. A newly self-proclaimed environmentalist who could no longer avoid
pointing the finger at himself, Colin leaves behind his liberal
complacency for a vow to make as little environmental impact as possible
for one year. No more automated transportation, no more electricity, no
more non-local food, no more material consumption...no problem. That is,
until his espresso-guzzling, retail-worshipping wife Michelle Conlin and
their two-year-old daughter Isabella are dragged into the fray. Filmmakers
Laura Gabbert and Justin Schein provide a front row seat into the familial
strains and strengthened bonds that result from Colin's and Michelle's
struggle with this radical lifestyle change.


--------10 of 13--------

To the Point!
Turning to Jail for a Better Life
by Senator John Marty
September 29, 2009
From: jmarty [at] apple-pie.org
Apple Pie Alliance <http://www.apple-pie.org>

A July newspaper headline said it all: "Homeless man decides jail's better
than the streets." A 61 year old homeless man in Rochester decided that
the only way he could get food and a roof over his head was to go to jail.
So he broke some windows at an auto dealer, turned himself in at the
police department and asked that they put him in jail.

He told police that if they would not arrest him, he would go back and
break some more windows.

He realized that the only way he could get a fair shake was by going to
prison. Unfortunately, he is not alone in his struggle and despair. If you
talk to the volunteers and staff working at homeless shelters around
Minnesota, you will hear that many shelter residents go to work during the
day but return to the shelter each night, seeking a cot to sleep on
because they cannot afford housing.

There are many hard-working people who earn too little to pay for life's
necessities. Many face great mental and physical challenges which make
their chance of success slim. This was a reality for many people prior to
the recession. Now it is a reality for even more.

Health care is another struggle. Melissa Matthews, a 20-year-old inmate in
Washington State rejected parole, choosing to stay in prison because she
had no health insurance and couldn't afford treatment for her cervical
cancer. According to columnist Nicholas Kristof, Melissa said if they
release her, "I'm going to die from this cancer." In prison, she had a
right to health care; outside of prison, she had nothing.

Again, Ms. Matthews is not alone in her desperation to find health care.
Eighteen thousand Americans die every year simply because they cannot
afford the health care they need.

Some Americans -- prison inmates -- have a constitutional right to health
care and other necessities of life. Don't the rest of the people deserve
as much as prisoners do?

These stories merit outrage. And we need to turn that outrage into action;
action to ensure that our neighbors are treated with the dignity they
deserve.

The Legislative Commission to End Poverty in Minnesota by 2020 issued its
report early this year, but since then Minnesota has gone backwards. Some
of the backsliding was due to the recession, but some was due to
government decision making.

Perhaps the biggest step backwards was Governor Pawlenty's veto and
unallotment of funds for the General Assistance Medical Care (GAMC)
program. His own administration acknowledged that it would hurt the
poorest and sickest people in the state.

These men and women will be unable to get health care until they are sick
enough to need costly emergency room care. They would get better care if
they would break the law and go to prison. That's really sad.

The "Common Foundation" document that spurred creation of the Poverty
Commission called on everyone -- the business community, non-profits, the
faith community, government -- all of us -- to respond. The challenge was
straight forward: We are to ensure that "all people are provided those
things that protect human dignity and make for healthy life, adequate food
and shelter, meaningful work, safe communities, healthcare, and
education."

These aren't unrealistic expectations. For example, we could start by
delivering health care for all. Truly universal health care, like our
proposed Minnesota Health Plan, actually saves money.

We need to challenge political and business leaders when they ignore these
issues. When a corporate executive pulls in millions of dollars in stock
options, earning a ratio of 350 to 1 to that of a manufacturing worker
(compared to a ratio of less than 30 to 1 in western European countries),
ask them whether more pay for their workers would bring about a more just
society.

Or, when Governor Pawlenty travels the country hyping his leadership, ask
if he is proud that many of his constituents would get better healthcare
and housing if they commit crimes than they can get as law-abiding people.

The public recognizes this is wrong. Let's work together, build the
vision, and change it.


--------11 of 13--------

The Comic Genius of Netanyahu
by Stuart Littlewood
September 29th, 2009
Dissident Voice

Knowing that Iran won't surrender its right to civil nuclear power, the
schemers in Tel Aviv and Washington were bound to mount a hysterical
campaign to scare the rest of the world into believing this would bring
terror to our own streets.

And at the United Nations we saw the process swing into action as
Netanyahu tried to whip up support for another Middle East war for
Israel's benefit.

"Yesterday, the man who calls the Holocaust a lie spoke from this podium.
To those who gave this Holocaust-denier a hearing, I say on behalf of my
people, the Jewish people, and decent people everywhere: Have you no
shame? Have you no decency?"

Who with a speck of decency would have given Netanyahu a hearing after the
atrocities of the Gaza blitzkrieg and the Goldstone Report condemning
Israel's war crimes?

"This Iranian regime is fueled by an extreme fundamentalism - anyone not
deemed to be a true believer is brutally subjugated".

Netanyahu could be describing the Israeli regime.

"The greatest threat facing the world today is the marriage between
religious fanaticism and the weapons of mass destruction".

He should know. Israel is bristling with both.

"The most urgent challenge facing this body is to prevent the tyrants of
Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons".

That would be nice for the warmongers in Tel Aviv, who already have them.

"Will the international community thwart the world's most pernicious
sponsors and practitioners of terrorism?"

I do hope so. But are we all agreed who they are?

"Rather than condemning the terrorists and their Iranian patrons, some
here have condemned their victims. That is exactly what a recent UN report
on Gaza did, falsely equating the terrorists with those they targeted".

Substitute American for Iranian and it begins to make sense.

"In 2005, hoping to advance peace, Israel unilaterally withdrew from every
inch of Gaza. We didn't get peace. Instead we got an Iranian backed terror
base fifty miles from Tel Aviv. Life in Israeli towns and cities next to
Gaza became a nightmare. You see, the Hamas rocket attacks not only
continued, they increased tenfold. Again, the UN was silent".

Defenceless  Gazans know all about nightmares. Israel, camped on their
doorstep and still occupying Gaza's airspace and coastal waters, lobs high
explosives into the tiny enclave's 1.5 million starving civilians, and
there's no escape.

"There is only one example in history of thousands of rockets being fired
on a country's civilian population. It happened when the Nazis rocketed
British cities during World War II. During that war, the allies leveled
German cities, causing hundreds of thousands of casualties".

The Nazis launched sophisticated rockets with huge destructive power at
London and Southern England from territory they had invaded and occupied.
They weren't firing makeshift missiles built in a garden shed to defend
their homeland.

"Israel... tried to minimize casualties by urging Palestinian civilians to
vacate the targeted areas. We dropped countless flyers over their homes,
sent thousands of text messages and called thousands of cell phones asking
people to leave. Never has a country gone to such extraordinary lengths to
remove the enemy's civilian population from harm.s way".

How considerate. But where were Gaza's terrified civilians supposed to run
to? Into the sea? Bombing their homes was the ultimate terror act. There's
no excuse.

"If Israel is again asked to take more risks for peace, we must know
today that you will stand with us tomorrow. Only if we have the confidence
that we can defend ourselves can we take further risks for peace".

What exactly are these "risks for peace" Israel has so bravely taken? In
61 years what peace dividends has Israel's risk-taking delivered?

The pot calls the kettle black

Netanyahu has a rare genius for irony, except that he himself doesn't see
it. That's what makes him such a comedian. The irony of what he says is
totally lost on him. Nearly every offensive remark he makes about Iran and
Palestine can be flung back in his face because Israel is no better and in
most respects far worse. Netanyahu's speech to the UN was the most
hilarious example in history of the pot calling the kettle black.

His scriptwriters evidently feed off the Zionists' propaganda training
manual, which teaches the art of lying and distortion and how to
sugar-coat it all for easy swallowing by gullible audiences. Notice how
everything Israel dislikes, and everything that thwarts their lust for
domination, is now labeled "Iranian-backed" - and how everyone else, too,
is in mortal danger from Iran and must therefore huddle together in
Israel's axis of aggression. Also note how situations are defined in
language that suit only Israel's case.

Less amusing is Netanyahu's arrogant rejection of the UN Human Rights
Council's Goldstone report condemning Israel's conduct.

[begin quote]
"By these twisted standards... [they] would have dragged Roosevelt and
Churchill to the dock as war criminals. What a perversion of truth. What a
perversion of justice. Will you accept this farce? If this body does not
reject this report, it would send a message to terrorists everywhere:
Terror pays; if you launch your attacks from densely populated areas, you
will win immunity. And in condemning Israel, this body would also deal a
mortal blow to peace. Here's why.

"When Israel left Gaza, many hoped that the missile attacks would stop.
Others believed that at the very least, Israel would have international
legitimacy to exercise its right of self-defense. What legitimacy? What
self-defense?

"The same UN that cheered Israel as it left Gaza and promised to back our
right of self-defense now accuses us - my people, my country - of war
crimes? And for what? For acting responsibly in self-defense. What a
travesty!

"Israel justly defended itself against terror. This biased and unjust
report is a clear-cut test for all governments. Will you stand with Israel
or will you stand with the terrorists?"
[end quote]

The false choice in that last sentence is a propaganda favourite. Why
would anyone with any sense wish to stand alongside either?

And how dare Netanyahu equate Roosevelt and Churchill's epic struggle
against the rampaging Nazis with Israel's brutal crushing of Palestinian
resistance against the illegal occupation of the Holy Land?

What has the UN come to when a regime that is armed to the teeth with
nuclear weapons and not even a signatory to the Nuclear Non-proliferation
Treaty can call on the world's nations to gang up against another country
for starting its own nuclear programme? Israel itself refuses to submit to
inspection and poses an alarming nuclear threat. It hasn't signed the
Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention either, nor the Chemical Weapons
Convention.

And is it not an insult to everyone's intelligence to hear the UN being
lambasted by the leader of a regime that is in open defiance of
international law and countless UN resolutions?

The UN Human Rights Council is due to debate the Goldstone report today,
when a vote will be taken on how its recommendations should be acted on.
There are fears that the British government plans to reject the report's
key recommendations. If that's the case and others follow suit, Israel
will be let off the hook and allowed to continue its crime spree.

It will hand Israel's comic genius a personal triumph. The Zionist network
will no doubt show their gratitude in the usual way.

Stuart Littlewood is author of the book Radio Free Palestine, which tells
the plight of the Palestinians under occupation. He can be reached at:
stu [at] f8.eclipse.co.uk.


--------12 of 13--------

What Have We Done to Democracy?
Of Nearsighted Progress, Feral Howls, Consensus, Chaos, and a New Cold War
in Kashmir
by Arundhati Roy
Monday, September 28, 2009
TomDispatch.com
Common Dreams

While we're still arguing about whether there's life after death, can we
add another question to the cart? Is there life after democracy? What sort
of life will it be? By "democracy" I don't mean democracy as an ideal or
an aspiration. I mean the working model: Western liberal democracy, and
its variants, such as they are.

So, is there life after democracy?

Attempts to answer this question often turn into a comparison of different
systems of governance, and end with a somewhat prickly, combative defense
of democracy. It's flawed, we say. It isn't perfect, but it's better than
everything else that's on offer. Inevitably, someone in the room will say:
"Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia... is that what you would
prefer?"

Whether democracy should be the utopia that all "developing" societies
aspire to is a separate question altogether. (I think it should. The
early, idealistic phase can be quite heady.) The question about life after
democracy is addressed to those of us who already live in democracies, or
in countries that pretend to be democracies. It isn't meant to suggest
that we lapse into older, discredited models of totalitarian or
authoritarian governance. It's meant to suggest that the system of
representative democracy - too much representation, too little democracy
- needs some structural adjustment.

The question here, really, is what have we done to democracy? What have we
turned it into? What happens once democracy has been used up? When it has
been hollowed out and emptied of meaning? What happens when each of its
institutions has metastasized into something dangerous? What happens now
that democracy and the free market have fused into a single predatory
organism with a thin, constricted imagination that revolves almost
entirely around the idea of maximizing profit?

Is it possible to reverse this process? Can something that has mutated go
back to being what it used to be? What we need today, for the sake of the
survival of this planet, is long-term vision. Can governments whose very
survival depends on immediate, extractive, short-term gain provide this?
Could it be that democracy, the sacred answer to our short-term hopes and
prayers, the protector of our individual freedoms and nurturer of our
avaricious dreams, will turn out to be the endgame for the human race?
Could it be that democracy is such a hit with modern humans precisely
because it mirrors our greatest folly - our nearsightedness?

Our inability to live entirely in the present (like most animals do),
combined with our inability to see very far into the future, makes us
strange in-between creatures, neither beast nor prophet. Our amazing
intelligence seems to have outstripped our instinct for survival. We
plunder the earth hoping that accumulating material surplus will make up
for the profound, unfathomable thing that we have lost. It would be
conceit to pretend I have the answers to any of these questions. But it
does look as if the beacon could be failing and democracy can perhaps no
longer be relied upon to deliver the justice and stability we once dreamed
it would.

                      A Clerk of Resistance

As a writer, a fiction writer, I have often wondered whether the attempt
to always be precise, to try and get it all factually right somehow
reduces the epic scale of what is really going on. Does it eventually mask
a larger truth? I worry that I am allowing myself to be railroaded into
offering prosaic, factual precision when maybe what we need is a feral
howl, or the transformative power and real precision of poetry.

Something about the cunning, Brahmanical, intricate, bureaucratic,
file-bound, "apply-through-proper-channels" nature of governance and
subjugation in India seems to have made a clerk out of me. My only excuse
is to say that it takes odd tools to uncover the maze of subterfuge and
hypocrisy that cloaks the callousness and the cold, calculated violence of
the world's favorite new superpower. Repression "through proper channels"
sometimes engenders resistance "through proper channels." As resistance
goes this isn't enough, I know. But for now, it's all I have. Perhaps
someday it will become the underpinning for poetry and for the feral howl.

Today, words like "progress" and "development" have become interchangeable
with economic "reforms," "deregulation," and "privatization." Freedom has
come to mean choice. It has less to do with the human spirit than with
different brands of deodorant. Market no longer means a place where you
buy provisions. The "market" is a de-territorialized space where faceless
corporations do business, including buying and selling "futures." Justice
has come to mean human rights (and of those, as they say, "a few will
do").

This theft of language, this technique of usurping words and deploying
them like weapons, of using them to mask intent and to mean exactly the
opposite of what they have traditionally meant, has been one of the most
brilliant strategic victories of the tsars of the new dispensation. It has
allowed them to marginalize their detractors, deprive them of a language
to voice their critique and dismiss them as being "anti-progress,"
"anti-development," "anti-reform," and of course "anti-national" -
negativists of the worst sort.

Talk about saving a river or protecting a forest and they say, "Don't you
believe in progress?" To people whose land is being submerged by dam
reservoirs, and whose homes are being bulldozed, they say, "Do you have an
alternative development model?" To those who believe that a government is
duty bound to provide people with basic education, health care, and social
security, they say, "You're against the market." And who except a cretin
could be against markets?

To reclaim these stolen words requires explanations that are too tedious
for a world with a short attention span, and too expensive in an era when
Free Speech has become unaffordable for the poor. This language heist may
prove to be the keystone of our undoing.

Two decades of "Progress" in India has created a vast middle class
punch-drunk on sudden wealth and the sudden respect that comes with it -
and a much, much vaster, desperate underclass. Tens of millions of people
have been dispossessed and displaced from their land by floods, droughts,
and desertification caused by indiscriminate environmental engineering and
massive infrastructural projects, dams, mines, and Special Economic Zones.
All developed in the name of the poor, but really meant to service the
rising demands of the new aristocracy.

The hoary institutions of Indian democracy - the judiciary, the police,
the "free" press, and, of course, elections - far from working as a
system of checks and balances, quite often do the opposite. They provide
each other cover to promote the larger interests of Union and Progress. In
the process, they generate such confusion, such a cacophony, that voices
raised in warning just become part of the noise. And that only helps to
enhance the image of the tolerant, lumbering, colorful, somewhat chaotic
democracy. The chaos is real. But so is the consensus.

                    A New Cold War in Kashmir

Speaking of consensus, there's the small and ever-present matter of
Kashmir. When it comes to Kashmir the consensus in India is hard core. It
cuts across every section of the establishment - including the media, the
bureaucracy, the intelligentsia, and even Bollywood.

The war in the Kashmir valley is almost 20 years old now, and has claimed
about 70,000 lives. Tens of thousands have been tortured, several thousand
have "disappeared," women have been raped, tens of thousands widowed. Half
a million Indian troops patrol the Kashmir valley, making it the most
militarized zone in the world. (The United States had about 165,000
active-duty troops in Iraq at the height of its occupation.) The Indian
Army now claims that it has, for the most part, crushed militancy in
Kashmir. Perhaps that's true. But does military domination mean victory?

How does a government that claims to be a democracy justify a military
occupation? By holding regular elections, of course. Elections in Kashmir
have had a long and fascinating past. The blatantly rigged state election
of 1987 was the immediate provocation for the armed uprising that began in
1990. Since then elections have become a finely honed instrument of the
military occupation, a sinister playground for India's deep state.
Intelligence agencies have created political parties and decoy
politicians, they have constructed and destroyed political careers at
will. It is they more than anyone else who decide what the outcome of each
election will be. After every election, the Indian establishment declares
that India has won a popular mandate from the people of Kashmir.

In the summer of 2008, a dispute over land being allotted to the Amarnath
Shrine Board coalesced into a massive, nonviolent uprising. Day after day,
hundreds of thousands of people defied soldiers and policemen - who fired
straight into the crowds, killing scores of people - and thronged the
streets. From early morning to late in the night, the city reverberated to
chants of "Azadi! Azadi!" (Freedom! Freedom!). Fruit sellers weighed fruit
chanting "Azadi! Azadi!" Shopkeepers, doctors, houseboat owners, guides,
weavers, carpet sellers - everybody was out with placards, everybody
shouted "Azadi! Azadi!" The protests went on for several days.

The protests were massive. They were democratic, and they were nonviolent.
For the first time in decades fissures appeared in mainstream public
opinion in India. The Indian state panicked. Unsure of how to deal with
this mass civil disobedience, it ordered a crackdown. It enforced the
harshest curfew in recent memory with shoot-on-sight orders. In effect,
for days on end, it virtually caged millions of people. The major
pro-freedom leaders were placed under house arrest, several others were
jailed. House-to-house searches culminated in the arrests of hundreds of
people.

Once the rebellion was brought under control, the government did something
extraordinary - it announced elections in the state. Pro-independence
leaders called for a boycott. They were rearrested. Almost everybody
believed the elections would become a huge embarrassment for the Indian
government. The security establishment was convulsed with paranoia. Its
elaborate network of spies, renegades, and embedded journalists began to
buzz with renewed energy. No chances were taken. (Even I, who had nothing
to do with any of what was going on, was put under house arrest in
Srinagar for two days.)

Calling for elections was a huge risk. But the gamble paid off. People
turned out to vote in droves. It was the biggest voter turnout since the
armed struggle began. It helped that the polls were scheduled so that the
first districts to vote were the most militarized districts even within
the Kashmir valley.

None of India's analysts, journalists, and psephologists cared to ask why
people who had only weeks ago risked everything, including bullets and
shoot-on-sight orders, should have suddenly changed their minds. None of
the high-profile scholars of the great festival of democracy - who
practically live in TV studios when there are elections in mainland India,
picking apart every forecast and exit poll and every minor percentile
swing in the vote count - talked about what elections mean in the
presence of such a massive, year-round troop deployment (an armed soldier
for every 20 civilians).

No one speculated about the mystery of hundreds of unknown candidates who
materialized out of nowhere to represent political parties that had no
previous presence in the Kashmir valley. Where had they come from? Who was
financing them? No one was curious. No one spoke about the curfew, the
mass arrests, the lockdown of constituencies that were going to the polls.

Not many talked about the fact that campaigning politicians went out of
their way to de-link Azadi and the Kashmir dispute from elections, which
they insisted were only about municipal issues - roads, water,
electricity. No one talked about why people who have lived under a
military occupation for decades - where soldiers could barge into homes
and whisk away people at any time of the day or night - might need
someone to listen to them, to take up their cases, to represent them.

The minute elections were over, the establishment and the mainstream press
declared victory (for India) once again. The most worrying fallout was
that in Kashmir, people began to parrot their colonizers' view of
themselves as a somewhat pathetic people who deserved what they got.
"Never trust a Kashmiri," several Kashmiris said to me. "We're fickle and
unreliable." Psychological warfare, technically known as psy-ops, has been
an instrument of official policy in Kashmir. Its depredations over decades
- its attempt to destroy people's self-esteem - are arguably the worst
aspect of the occupation. It's enough to make you wonder whether there is
any connection at all between elections and democracy.

The trouble is that Kashmir sits on the fault lines of a region that is
awash in weapons and sliding into chaos. The Kashmiri freedom struggle,
with its crystal clear sentiment but fuzzy outlines, is caught in the
vortex of several dangerous and conflicting ideologies - Indian
nationalism (corporate as well as "Hindu," shading into imperialism),
Pakistani nationalism (breaking down under the burden of its own
contradictions), U.S. imperialism (made impatient by a tanking economy),
and a resurgent medieval-Islamist Taliban (fast gaining legitimacy,
despite its insane brutality, because it is seen to be resisting an
occupation). Each of these ideologies is capable of a ruthlessness that
can range from genocide to nuclear war. Add Chinese imperial ambitions, an
aggressive, reincarnated Russia, and the huge reserves of natural gas in
the Caspian region and persistent whispers about natural gas, oil, and
uranium reserves in Kashmir and Ladakh, and you have the recipe for a new
Cold War (which, like the last one, is cold for some and hot for others).

In the midst of all this, Kashmir is set to become the conduit through
which the mayhem unfolding in Afghanistan and Pakistan spills into India,
where it will find purchase in the anger of the young among India's 150
million Muslims who have been brutalized, humiliated, and marginalized.
Notice has been given by the series of terrorist strikes that culminated
in the Mumbai attacks of 2008.

There is no doubt that the Kashmir dispute ranks right up there, along
with Palestine, as one of the oldest, most intractable disputes in the
world. That does not mean that it cannot be resolved. Only that the
solution will not be completely to the satisfaction of any one party, one
country, or one ideology. Negotiators will have to be prepared to deviate
from the "party line."

Of course, we haven't yet reached the stage where the government of India
is even prepared to admit that there's a problem, let alone negotiate a
solution. Right now it has no reason to. Internationally, its stocks are
soaring. And while its neighbors deal with bloodshed, civil war,
concentration camps, refugees, and army mutinies, India has just concluded
a beautiful election. However, "demon-crazy" can't fool all the people all
the time. India's temporary, shotgun solutions to the unrest in Kashmir
(pardon the pun), have magnified the problem and driven it deep into a
place where it is poisoning the aquifers.

                      Is Democracy Melting?

Perhaps the story of the Siachen Glacier, the highest battlefield in the
world, is the most appropriate metaphor for the insanity of our times.
Thousands of Indian and Pakistani soldiers have been deployed there,
enduring chill winds and temperatures that dip to minus 40 degrees
Celsius. Of the hundreds who have died there, many have died just from the
elements.

The glacier has become a garbage dump now, littered with the detritus of
war - thousands of empty artillery shells, empty fuel drums, ice axes,
old boots, tents, and every other kind of waste that thousands of warring
human beings generate. The garbage remains intact, perfectly preserved at
those icy temperatures, a pristine monument to human folly.

While the Indian and Pakistani governments spend billions of dollars on
weapons and the logistics of high-altitude warfare, the battlefield has
begun to melt. Right now, it has shrunk to about half its size. The
melting has less to do with the military standoff than with people far
away, on the other side of the world, living the good life. They're good
people who believe in peace, free speech, and in human rights. They live
in thriving democracies whose governments sit on the U.N. Security Council
and whose economies depend heavily on the export of war and the sale of
weapons to countries like India and Pakistan. (And Rwanda, Sudan, Somalia,
the Republic of Congo, Iraq, Afghanistan... it's a long list.)

The glacial melt will cause severe floods on the subcontinent, and
eventually severe drought that will affect the lives of millions of
people. That will give us even more reasons to fight. We'll need more
weapons. Who knows? That sort of consumer confidence may be just what the
world needs to get over the current recession. Then everyone in the
thriving democracies will have an even better life - and the glaciers
will melt even faster.

 2009 Arundhati Roy
Arundhati Roy was born in 1959 in Shillong, India. She studied
architecture in New Delhi, where she now lives, and has worked as a film
designer, actor, and screenplay writer in India. Her latest book,
Listening to Grasshoppers: Fields Notes on Democracy, is a collection of
recent essays. A tenth anniversary edition of her novel, The God of Small
Things (Random House), for which she received the 1997 Booker Prize, was
recently released. She is also the author of numerous nonfiction titles,
including An Ordinary Person's Guide to Empire.


--------13 of 13--------

 They used to say "F***
 You!" Now the even worse curse in
 the streets is "Hope You!"

 You hold out a prize,
 they reach out to take it, you
 yank it back. Hope you!

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   - David Shove             shove001 [at] tc.umn.edu
   rhymes with clove         Progressive Calendar
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